|Photo by Tom Haroldson of MLive.com - just add creosote|
There isn't that much negativity in perfume reviews, as I say, people in our community being by and large of the 'if you can't think of anything nice to blog, don't blog anything' persuasion, to slightly adapt all our mothers' adage for these social media-savvy times. I will qualify that though. I don't like swingeing critiques of perfumes from smaller houses, as they feel more personal somehow, a bit like mugging your neighbour and nicking their wallet rather than shoplifting in T K Maxx, if you get my drift - or not taking back the extra fiver you were mistakenly given in your change in John Lewis. Not that I would condone these activities either, obviously. So in my view there is a time and a place - and a sliding scale of appropriate targets - for wicked perfume putdowns.
Luca Turin is of course the master of these, though he has occasionally strayed into 'neighbour mugging' territory, most controversially in his dissing of Mona di Orio's original range. There is still much to savour in 'Perfumes: The Guide' without feeling you are rubbernecking at said mugging. Also, I would contend, if you disagree with his views, as I frequently do.
Two of my all-time favourite quotes from The Guide have to be:
"Like getting lemon juice in a paper cut" (Caroline Herrera 212)
Why, I don't mind this one at all!
"Powerfully cloying and nauseating. Trails for miles. Frightens horses. Gets worse." (EL Spellbound)
Ooh, I totally agree with him here, also his sub-heading for that one of "medicated treacle".
Then I am sure Turin had another corker about a perfume that smelt of molten plastic bottles floating down river, but I am blowed if I can find it.
I was actually moved to write this post by a chance comment of my brother's on Facebook the other day. He was reporting on a dream he'd had, in which someone was offended by another person's perfume, likening it to "last Friday night's spectacle cleaner". Now I know the subconscious is noted for its kaleidoscopically random firings, but the originality of this phrase is as startling as it is enigmatic. I don't know about you, but I tend to clean my glasses with a little slippery cloth from Sunglass Hut et al. What are these pungent cleaning products on which I am missing out? And is Friday night typically a time to make whoopee, as it were, with one's spectacle cleaning regime? And how long ago was Friday, in this particular instance? Also, does spectacle cleaner have a poor shelf life such that once opened, it deteriorates at an alarming rate - like flat tonic water, the dreaded occupational hazard of committed gin drinkers, only smellier? Who would have thought five words could be so gloriously baffling?
Then I thought back to some of my own perfume putdowns - mostly (but not all) from back when I was VM I hate civet on Basenotes eight years ago or so, and lived in terror of any scent that was remotely animalic or overly spicy. For the record, I don't suppose I would still endorse these images, but they will serve to get the ball rolling.
"Sticks of celery coyly peeping over a freshly creosoted fence" (LesNez The Unicorn Spell)
"Like being trapped in a tea chest" (SL Tam Dao)
"Vintage embalming fluid" (Dioressence)
"Tuberose fright wig" (Givenchy Amarige) I stand by this one!
So today's 'Hunting the Snark' challenge is: hit me with your favourite perfume putdowns - your own, or favourite ones by other writers.
Then after the customary time has elapsed - say a week from today - I will hold a draw from those who have entered, and offer the winner a choice of prize:
- Cite a perfume that is a pet dislike of yours, and if I happen to have any of it in the house, I will ceremoniously throw away a sample of it in your name(!). ;)
- OR I will send the sample to a friend of your choice who you think might like it. Not out of mischief, obviously.
- OR I will consult with the winner as to their favourite styles / houses, and devise a decant prize that would appeal.
- OR (for anyone who has enough perfume in their life) there is the option of a notebook in which to record your perfume wearings / musings / smart one-liners!
NB I will gladly ship within the UK, while Undina of Undina's Looking Glass has kindly offered to post the winner's item within the US, thanks to the good offices of an associate who regularly shuttles across the pond. It might delay the delivery a little until we can coordinate with his next visit to England, but it won't get me into trouble with the customs authorities again.
And I would also be most interested to hear whether you think there is enough negativity / frankness in perfume reviews - or too much - and/or whether it is more about how the criticism is conveyed rather than whether or not a negative view is expressed. Though wishy-washy comments like: "It doesn't work on my skin, sadly" (of which I am as guilty as the next man) are surely the equivalent of having your boyfriend break up with you by saying: "It's not you, it's me", or "You will make some guy very happy one day".
Editor's note: I happen to agree with LT's assessment of Mona di Orio's Nuit Noire - or I did in my civet-averse days at least. I even had a pop at it myself, so I will put my hand up and say that I am by no means squeaky clean myself on the mugging front. By way of defence, my main issue at the time was with the amount of the scent with which I was forcibly sprayed by the sales assistant, though I suspect I wouldn't have cared for it back then anyway. I really like a number of her later creations, mind, notably Tubereuse, Musc and Vanille.