Friday 21 May 2010

APOM Pour Femme - And Another Bonkers Road Trip

For my 100th post I thought of doing a review of Ajne Calypso, on the basis that it is a perfume I love, and the most valuable one I own. Very little has appeared about it on the Internet, and I thought it might be fun to write the review equivalent of a Googlewhack, as my piece on Lidl Suddenly D'Or rather bizarrely turned out to be. When I started this blog at the end of last October, I would never have thought that the most viewed page would be one featuring a fragrance that costs just £3.99 for 50ml. So from that point of view it would have been fitting to have showcased a scent at the opposite end of the price spectrum.

But something else hijacked my attention this week, which felt even more apt as the subject of this milestone post: Maison Francis Kurkdjian's APOM Pour Femme. I received a sample in a swap the other day, and it really made an impression. This is partly because it is a lovely, if somewhat indeterminate scent, and partly because it sums up what has happened to me in the past two years, namely that I have incorporated fragrance into my daily life in a way that still surprises me. In short, perfume has become "A Piece Of Me", to give APOM its full title.
In naming the scent, that is not exactly what Francis Kurkdjian had in mind, though. As I understand it, he intended this soft, skin scent - the feminine counterpart of APOM Pour Homme - to be a fragrance you could transfer to your partner, presumably whilst snuggling up on the sofa. If Mr Bonkers got to hear of the rationale for APOM he would be appalled, as you might well imagine. The last thing he wishes to bring upon himself is the depositing of scent molecules on his person, whether deliberately or through an inadvertent affectionate gesture.

The notes for APOM Pour Femme which have been publicly released are:

Orange blossom, ylang-ylang, cedar wood

The description on Luckyscent has me baffled, mind, as do the reviews I have found elsewhere referring to this as anything remotely approaching a heady white floral:

"..the fragrance comes in a feminine and masculine version, both drenched in orange blossom as lusciously honeyed as a bite-sized oriental pastry."

I don't get honey or an oriental vibe from this, indeed if I hadn't googled the scent I would still be puzzling over what on earth was in it, as the notes are so subtly blended that not a single one is identifiable to my rather inept nose. There is a faintly powdery, faintly soapy feel to APOM, and the sense that it contains stronger notes simmering underneath that have been held in check. The net result is an elegant, restrained scent that leans towards the feminine side of unisex, but only just.

I would not compare it to Amaranthine, though both have ylang ylang in - APOM is much more muted and blurry - indeed the word "inchoate" springs to mind, probably for the first time ever. I do get a teensy resemblance to Penhaligon's Orange Blossom. But the orange here is so quiet and abstract that even this comparison doesn't get us very far. The slight soapiness could be due to the orange or possibly to an undeclared musk note. After all, old Francis did include a laundry product category in his new range, so suds may have permeated his creative thinking elsewhere.

I'd say APOM hovers agreeably and UFO-like over a no man's land between clean and soapy and "hint of sultry". Whilst it is gentle and indistinct, I can truly say that it is indistinct in a way I have never smelt before, in the same way that I find Byredo's Bal D'Afrique not to smell of its component notes particularly, and yet to be quite unique. So APOM Pour Femme is another such fuzzy conundrum.

The fact that I get a fuzzy conundrum rather than a big white floral may be attributable to my skin a) causing scents to "go splat" and b) amplifying cedar, thus taking the edge off any heady lusciousness.

Now although I was careful not to smear APOM on Mr Bonkers' person, I did ask him to sniff it on my wrist versus Byredo's Gypsy Water, which came in the same swap package. Of the two he preferred Gypsy Water: "That one is better because I can't really smell it."

Another thing to mention is that I am off early next week again on a Bonkers Road Trip - lasting nearly a month(!) - and covering similar ground (France, Germany, Switzerland), though I will be driving in an even bigger loop this time. There are plans afoot for a reunion of that redoubtable and cosmopolitan bunch dubbed by Wordbird: "Ladies Of Switzerland (Resident Or Visiting)", and Maurice the Mini has had new brake discs and two new tyres fitted in preparation for the long road ahead.

All of which means that I shall have to sign off from the blog for a few weeks, but any adventures from the trip - sniffing-related or otherwise - will be fully documented on my return.

And I shall of course be taking my sample of APOM Pour Femme along with me in my travelling packs of samples - for after all, like the world of perfume as a whole, it is a piece of me now...

Tuesday 18 May 2010

Tai Chi And The "Great Fist" Of Mortality

I know this is supposed to be a blog about perfume, and mostly it is, but just occasionally a "secular" snippet appeals to me on account of its superlative bonkersness, and so it is with this recent article in my local paper:


"Stafford residents over the age of 50 are being invited to join Staffordshire's Older People's Partnership Board for an information session on May 17th.
It will cover learning courses available from the University of the Third Age, computer courses for the over 50s, the benefits of Tai Chi to prevent falls, and Staffordshire's preparations for the London 2012 Olympics."

So many things popped into my head when I read this, as someone who turns 51 next week. Firstly, I am an "Older Person" in the eyes of the authorities, as opposed to an overgrown 20-something who feels she is not long out of New Romantic pantaloons and suede pixie boots. Secondly, I am deemed to be computer illiterate and in need of training. Well, fair play - it took me ages to figure out how to dump photos half way down the text of my posts, and I still haven't cracked hyperlinks. Thirdly, I am prone to falls. That is the bit that really made me sit up.

I felt compelled to read up a bit on Tai Chi, or Tai Chi Chuan as I understand its full name to be. On one website offering tutorials I found the following description:

"Tai Chi (Tai Tzi) means 'the great limit'. Tsuan (Chuan) means 'fist'. The fist of the great limit. The 'limit' is a metaphor here - as with many other things in Chinese philosophy, there is no limit, but only our quest for it."

There is no limit? Let alone any great limit? My local council deciding that I am now officially old and tottery sounds remarkably like a limit to me. I am surprised they think such a physical infirm target group would have any interest in the 2012 Olympics - assuming of course that we live long enough to see them.

I found another translation of Tai Chi Chuan as "supreme ultimate fist". I may have to attend one of these meditative martial arts sessions, so I can go into the council offices afterwards and throw a well-aimed punch in their direction for such supremely ageist policies.

But then again, apparently "Tai Chi helps us to gain control over our emotions" so in the act of learning to strike the pose, I might in fact draw in my horns. Not so much a case of:

Step Forwards, Deflect Downwards, Intercept and Punch


Embrace Tiger and Return to Mountain .

So is there absolutely no link to perfume in this post, I hear you ask? Well, I could say that there is a style of Tai Chi called Yang, which made me think not of Ying, but of Ylang. Which is a feeble connection I grant you - but then again, I am over 50 and by definition seriously senescent.

: - )

Sunday 16 May 2010

Parfums MDCI Rose De Siwa: The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Quality Controller

When I acquired my wine and beer chiller last year to take better care of my scent collection (intermittent icicle issues notwithstanding), I spoke of how keeping products chilled was something by which I set great store - something "in my blood", almost - ever since my stint as a Brand Manager at St Ivel. Exploding yoghurts, mouldy cheese and rancid orange juice were regarded as signs of professional and moral failure, and to this day I remain keenly vigilant about things going off - whether food, or now perfume.

However, where the job of self-appointed Quality Controller becomes tricky is when faced with a perfume which is mutating in an unfamiliar way. It doesn't smell as you remember, but it doesn't have all the hallmarks of a completely "turned" scent - the brown, viscous liquid, the strong alcoholic smell and so on.

This is the problem currently troubling me in the case of Rose de Siwa by Parfums MDCI. I have an 8ml decant of it, which I loaned to a friend for nine months, and which has recently come back into my possession.

Here is a rather lyrical description of Rose de Siwa from Luckyscent:

"Named after the flowers of the Siwa Oasis in Egypt, the perfume is delicate and fresh, truly an exhausted traveler’s dream of a paradise in the midst of a hot desert…with beautiful fountains, and luxurious trees and roses fresh with the morning dew. The scent is a charming, playful rhapsody in pink, a joyful, flirty, truly feminine composition that features pink peonies, pink roses, and pink fruits, with violets adding a darker depth to the blend. It winks, it smiles, it twirls in its gauzy, pink dress…what a little charmer!"

And for more empirically minded readers, without ado here are the notes:

Lychee, peony, hawthorn, Moroccan and Turkish roses, violet, cedar, musk and vetiver

So overall the vibe of this scent is "fresh" and "limpid". The lychee alone rather points in this direction. And that is in fact how I remember it - quite modern in feel, and linear - a straight up rose like Lancome's Mille et Une Roses.

And this seems to be the feeling of Abigail in I Smell Therefore I Am:

"Rose de Siwa is the truest sweet pink rose in fragrance form. There’s nothing soapy or powdery – all you need to do is bend down, feel the heft of the petals in your hand and inhale deeply."

But.....and it is a big but....this is not how it smells anymore. It does smell powdery - but not in a way that seems deliberate. More in a slightly choky way that makes me think of inhaling all those clumps of dust lurking amongst the writhing tangle of computer cables on the floor beneath my desk. I was vividly reminded of these yesterday, when I had to crawl on my back down there to reconnect the fax line. There may also be a sharp alcholic note, though I am less sure of this. But it doesn't smell of an oasis, or like burying your face in dewy rose petals. It is acidic and powdery and depresses rather than lifts the spirit.

Now this scent was created by Francis Kurkdjian, who doesn't like working with rose notes apparently, prompting Abigail to go on to say:

"I think this makes me like Rose de Siwa even more, like it’s an unwanted child, left on my doorstep in a basket, that I’ll gladly take in and care for. I’ll put pink ribbons in her hair, and dress her up in the cutest pink gingham outfits, oh we’ll have so much fun me and little Rosie de Siwa."

Well, something tells me that she wouldn't feel so inclined to adopt this particular Rose de Siwa. Our little girl has aged rapidly and would look most incongruous in pink ribbons or gingham. She is considerably older than Kate Moss, who is also doing a spot of writhing in the back of a taxi wearing Parisienne. This is the scent my Rose de Siwa most closely resembles in its current degraded state. But at least Parisienne smells intentionally powdery - it doesn't conjure up musty corners and household neglect, or unidentified tangy fluids.

It's a shame. I can't remember how I came by this decant, whether in a swap or bought from a split site, but its trading value would have been quite high, Parfums MDCI prices being what they are. And I cannot blame my friend necessarily, who kept it at ambient temperature in a bedroom as far as I know, though not in a provocatively sunny spot.

But my disappointment is also compounded by my uncertainty. For when your experience of niche scents is mostly through mail order and occasional forays to major cities, you lack the opportunity to re-sniff something to verify how it is meant to smell. I can only compare this decant to my hazy memory of how it used to be, and am greatly helped here by these reviews on the Internet, which tend to confirm my suspicions once you decode the fanciful imagery. If this were a vial of No 5, I could just toddle down to Boots to refresh my memory of what it is meant to be like, but when it comes to niche scents I am woefully isolated and lacking in such points of reference.

The upshot of all of this is that if anyone out there has a sample of Rose de Siwa in good nick, I would be happy to send them my decant for forensic examination, to see if I am genuinely on to something - as in on to something being off. Assuming I am right, this wouldn't restore my Rose de Siwa to its previously dewy glory, but I would at least have closure...

My Alien Handbag

Well, I did say I would post a photo of my ludicrously impractical evening bag from T K Maxx. It is by Bulaggi, which appears to be a Dutch brand, and on their website I found one heart shaped sparkly clutch-style bag, which could loosely qualify as a minaudiere...

Mine is made of a satin fabric, however, and is unembellished. It looks more like an exotically coloured alien insect than anything as remotely functional as a bag. Check out that proboscis strap!

As for the curious sphere on top - which is in fact the bag's small concession to glitz! - it looks somewhere between a cherry, a child's spangly hair bobble, and a 70s disco ball.

Thursday 13 May 2010

The Art Of Wearing Perfume Ironically: Leiber EDP

Some months ago I received a sample of Leiber EDP as a freebie in a swap. Now as anyone who engages in perfume swaps will know, 90% of the unsolicited freebies that are included in swaps are dross, some quite distressingly so - Demeter New Zealand, I am looking at you! Others you never actually get round to trying, so sure are you that they will also be dross. Which is perhaps shortsighted, but scents called "Melissa" and "Moonstone" don't exactly inspire me with confidence.

I umm-ed and aah-ed about trying this Leiber EDP for some time before I finally sampled it. I had never heard of the perfume or the individual, Judith Leiber, after whom the fragrance was named - I have since found out that she's a luxury bag designer - and was nervous of courting a scrubber. Then one day I took the plunge...

And to be honest, it isn't great. There is a peculiar vinyl note going in. It is very much in the same vein as David Yurman and Ralph Lauren's wickedly overpriced Love. The similarity with David Yurman is interesting, as he is a high end designer of rather ostentatious jewellery, while Judith Leiber's uniquely flamboyant handbags LOOK like jewellery, as does the bottle for her eponymous scent.

Leiber is an oriental floral, created in 2007 by Karine Dubreuil, who isn't one of my favourite noses, and whose claims to fame include Lanvin Eclat d'Arpege, Gianfranco Ferre Rose Princesse, Gucci Envy Me and Celine Dion Paris Nights(!).

Here are the notes, stripping away the rather purple padding I found on Fragrantica ("voluptuous pineapple", "shy vanilla").

Top notes: Italian bergamot, mandarin leaves, osmanthus, pineapple

Heart notes: Turkish rose, white gardenia, jasmine, cyclamen, magnolia, pimento leaves

Base notes: vanilla, musk, ambergris, patchouli, cedar

And here are the notes for DAVID YURMAN:

"Mandarin, fresh green petals, cassis, peony, water lily, natural rose otto, patchouli, exotic woods and soft musk."

And for RL LOVE:

"Champagne accord, goji berry, cool green water accord, rose, magnolia, amber, iris, sandalwood, vanilla and patchouli."

So whilst the notes are by no means identical, the vibe is similar, for they all feature sundry fruits and rose, patchouli and some combo of vanilla, woods, amber and musk. They are all heavy and sweet to wear, in a blurry, borderline furry, kind of way that is doubtless due to the patchouli and/or the musk.

I mind Leiber a lot less after the plastic top note has blown off, plus it becomes lighter and less sweet as it gets going, which I know may sound like the argument for stopping hitting your head against a brick wall, but I mean that I would rather be wearing the latter stages of Leiber than no perfume at all.

Why I am delighted to have received this scent in a swap has little to do with the fragrance per se, and everything to do with Judith Leiber herself and her fantastical bags.

Born Judith Peto in Hungary in 1921, she was the first woman to join the handbag-makers' guild in Budapest. She sought refuge in a safe house in Switzerland during the war, and emigrated to the US with her American husband in 1948. After initially making handbags for other companies, she founded her own business in 1963. And what extraordinary creations, nay confections, they are! Witness the cupcake bag, famously featured in Sex and The City. And thanks to Judith Leiber, I have learnt the term "minaudière":

"a woman's small handbag, often decorated with costly material, used for formal wear."

Well, let me tell you that "decorated with costly material" is something of an understatement. For here is one of her so-called classic range:

Leiber bags are so exclusive that there are only a handful of boutiques in the world - well, all in the US, actually - unsurprisingly in the blingier cities like LA and Las Vegas(!).

I was pleased to note that certain models have ended up in the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art in New York and our own Victoria & Albert Museum in London, which is accolade indeed. For whilst some of these bags are without question unashamedly and rampantly kitsch, others are gloriously whimsical works of art, such as this bird bag:

I am also beginning to wonder if this was where Damien Hirst got his inspiration for that notorious £50m skull...

Tuesday 11 May 2010

Hermès Eau des Merveilles - The Wrong Kind of Wonderful

On Saturday I did that thing I am trying so hard not to do - I accosted a stranger in a shop again. Two strangers in fact: a lady of a certain age, and her mother, who was of an even certainer age. It is not very long since I approached that other lady in T K Maxx and asked if she was wearing Coco Chanel, prompting her to scuttle round to the fixture for shoes several sizes too large for her. So following that incident, I really had made a conscious effort to rein in my impulse to strike up perfume-related conversations with innocent members of the shopping public.

Until Saturday that is, when I was hovering aimlessly by the Hermès display in our small and rather time warpy department store. It is actually part of the Midlands Coop - the Cooperative Movement being better known historically for its bulk buying of sacks of oatmeal, and more recently for its loyalty-inducing "divvy" stamps. But though it may appear a bit homely and tired-looking, it is the only department store we've got. Plus I have days like that, so who am I to talk? : - )

So there I was hovering by the Hermès table, together with these two ladies, who were clearly considering sampling one or two bottles from this unknown line. I am afraid I couldn't help myself:

"I can give you a guided tour if you'd like?"

Upturned faces smiled blankly, which I didn't take as an actively discouraging sign. The younger lady fingered the bottle of Un Jardin Sur Le Nil.

"Ah, that one is very fresh, with a note of green mangoes, and was inspired by the perfumer's boat trip down the Nile."

The lady quickly sniffed the nozzle and hastily replaced it, before picking up Un Jardin en Méditerranée.

"Okay, that one is a bit in the same vein but different - more vegetabley, I guess you'd say."

It was replaced unsniffed, and before I could say anything, the lady had sprayed the back of her mother's hand with 24 Faubourg.

"Oh, now that is a whole other ballgame - a classic powerhouse of a scent." I volunteered nervously.

Both women sniffed it and wrinkled their noses. "Oh no, too sweet!", exclaimed the daughter with a visible 'moue'. Then suddenly, on a whim, she grabbed a bottle of Eau des Merveilles and sprayed her own hand liberally with it.

Notes: elemi, bitter orange, Italian lemon, Indonesian pepper, pink pepper, “ambergris accord”, oakwood, cedarwood, vetiver, balsam of Peru, benzoin

"Eugh!" They both exclaimed.

"Er, yes, that one is quite unusual - it is sort of salty and orangey and woody - you either like it or you hate it, as a rule. The name means 'Marvellous Water' or 'Water of Wonders' or something along those lines, you know."

Not only did they hate it, but the Eau des Merveilles experience cured them of any further curiosity about the Hermès range. Which was a shame, as I never got to point out the Calèches, which might have been more to their taste - regular Calèche at least - even if the Jardin range was too modern and fresh, and EdM downright peculiar (possibly on account of its "ambergris accord" - I must say I find the use of inverted commas in the list of notes strangely disconcerting).

As they backed away, the daughter quipped darkly: "Well yes, I suppose it does rather make you wonder..."

Sunday 9 May 2010

Avon Anew Ultimate Day Cream - When Things Go Bump In The Night...!

Back in November, I reviewed a moisturiser with Cher-style claims - as in "hold back time" generally, not as in "remodel your nose in a specific, near vertical ski slope kind of a way". The product in question was Avon Anew Ultimate Day Cream. Not a perfume, obviously, but in addition to an unpleasant taste, it had a strange "burnt flesh" scent, doubtless linked to its instant and unnerving efficacy.

"I spread some over my top lip, which was immediately yanked upwards into a bee-stung sneer."

I had not used this cream since last November, mostly because of the taste and smell issues, for it interfered with my chain tea drinking habit during the day. I was also concerned that the cream could cause my top lip to develop an offensive truculence without warning.

However, I couldn't quite forget the cream's claims to "restore the look of natural volume and cushion (sic)" in three days, so on a whim on Friday night, I decided to flout the instructions on the pot and apply it at NIGHT instead of by day.

On Saturday morning I noticed that the drag lines above my top lip had indeed been "visibly reduced", as the saying goes, at least provisionally. That area looked plumper and the contour of my lip was slightly swollen, though not in a strange way at this point.

Then this morning, after a second overnight trial, I woke up to find I had acquired a surly overbite worthy of Marge Simpson. The skin above my mouth looked smoother, but my whole top lip had been pushed down and out and if anything looked a little thinner overall, instead of fuller.

This evening, the lines are back and the top lip looks less protuberant, thank goodness. It may be that the complete, cumulative effect requires at least three days to work, but I am not sure if I am brave enough to try the cream a third night running. I have a business meeting tomorrow and don't want to appear needlessly pugnacious or otherwise bizarre.

I wouldn't be surprised if, after using this product every day for a fortnight, you turned into Courtney Love. Leslie Ash is probably just a week away.

(Photo of Leslie Ash is from StarkGossip Blog.)

Saturday 8 May 2010

Mother's Day Post On Cafleurebon

Michelyn Camen kindly invited me to contribute to a collection of people's scent associations with their mothers. (Sorry not to have mastered the art of the hyperlink here!)

The other contributors' stories make fascinating reading, and some are quite moving. My own entry for Lentheric Tweed is towards the end, below the cute sheep poster Michelyn found to illustrate it!

Thursday 6 May 2010

London Trip: The Perfumery, The Supermodel, The Lover, And The Pair Of Magic Jeans

Well, that was rather a silly post the other day, wasn't it? But it was in the spirit of the Third Thing on The Non-Blonde's list of "Five Things I Learned In 4 Years of Beauty Blogging", namely "Inspiration comes in many shapes and forms".

And the title of this post, with its feeble nod to Peter Greenaway, is also on the frivolous side... But anyway, on to the recent lightning trip to London last Thursday, lightning because we went down and back in a day. I cadged a lift with Mr Bonkers, who was going to pick up a new, custom-made bass guitar he had commissioned as a present to himself for his 50th birthday. It was some time in the making, for Mr Bonkers is now 51 and a quarter, but he didn't seem to mind the wait.

On the day, Mr B reckoned he needed about five hours in the store's workshop to preside over the finishing touches to the bass, and to brief the staff on some modifications to three other guitars he was leaving off with them - for the musical instrument equivalent of cosmetic surgery, as far as I could gather. So, seizing my five hour window, I jumped on a tube to Sloane Square, bound for Les Senteurs, the bijou niche perfumery in the smart back streets of Belgravia, if "smart back streets" is not a contradiction in terms.

I have a passing acquaintance with Claire, the proprietor of Les Senteurs, as we have a close mutual friend, who is a strange hybrid of my profession (market researcher) and that of Mr Bonkers (musician). My friend's signature scent is FM Angeliques sous la Pluie, and I have made it a bit of a mission to swap for samples of this on MUA and keep him permanently topped up.

As luck would have it, Claire was in that afternoon, along with two new SAs: Martin, who had worked there before (in my dark, pre-perfumista days), and who has recently come back, and Eva. Shelley, whom I had met several times before, was also around.

I spent a most enjoyable hour and a half there (it flew, honest!), sniffing some new things and some things that were new to me, and shooting the breeze generally with Claire and the team. I have bought FBs on two of my previous visits: PG Brulure de Rose and Les Parfums d'Empire Osmanthus Interdite, so I didn't feel under any particular pressure to make a purchase on this occasion, and didn't.

Here is my test list, with comments on each (somewhat sketchy in places!):

Grossmith Shem-El-Nessim - retro, powdery iris floral of the most headache-inducing kind.

Annick Goutal Ninfeo Mio - third attempt to "get" this, but it still too sharp (though there is a lot of interesting stuff going on beneath the astringency).

Les Parfums de Rosine Secrets de Rose - retro powdery rose - not headache-inducing as such, but not my thing.

DelRae Mythique - third attempt to "get" this one too, and I did! Wish I had tried it on skin now, as it was a beautifully soft and powdery iris - not in a retro way.

L'Etat Libre d'Orange Like This - documented in my earlier post.

LesNez Let Me Play The Lion - a cool green scent I would like to try again. Not as cryogenically cool as Unicorn Spell, and mercifully also lacking the "peapod peeping through a freshly creosoted fence" vibe of the latter.

Honore des Pres Bonte's Bloom - a soft, greenish and rather distinctive floral, which I must revisit. Here is a description of this scent from Les Senteurs' website (penned by the perfume house, I would like to hope):

"Girls in muslin on summer afternoons when the fields are white with daisies, conjuring thoughts of corn fields, sunflowers, garlands of meadow flowers and tedded (sic) hay. Iris butter, camomile, fragrant herbs and Paraguayan leaves - green, soft, aromatic and delicate."

Honore des Pres Nu Green - another cool green floral, with a slightly weird opening, but it soon got into its stride. Another delightfully purple blurb follows:

"A beautiful all-purpose ambisexual green cologne to make you feel clean, re-born and vital: like diving into cold sea-water and then drying out in the sun on red rocks. A melange of green mint, plant musc, Indian herbs and tarragon is enveloped in sparkling dewy leaves and supported by drifts of pure white cedar."

Parfumerie Generale Louanges Profanes - a warm oriental floral - not noticeably profane!

Notes: neroli, hawthorn, lily infusion, incense smoke, benzoin and lignum vitae (guaiac) wood.

Parfumerie Generale Papyrus de Ciane - this has been fully reviewed elsewhere, notably by 1000 Fragrances, so I will just say that it struck me as a complex and interesting vegetal kind of floral, and reminded me of Diptyque's Eau de Lierre or a less sharp Ninfeo Mio.

Notes: bergamot, galbanum, neroli, broom, solar notes, lavender, mugwort, clove, incense, cistus labadanum, hedione, vetiver, Mousse de Saxe, Silvanone, white musk

Parfumerie Generale Gardenia Grand Soir - a good representation of gardenia, simple but unremarkable.

Parfumerie Generale Bois Naufrage - fig and driftwood. Very interesting, reminiscent of Ava Luxe Fig Wood, but slightly more saline and attenuated.

I found notes listed as fig tree, fleur de sel and ambergris. My impression of woody notes must come from the tree, though the fruit of the fig is also quite marked.

There is a superb review of this scent - the highlight of the afternoon - here, together with the story behind it:

During all this testing, a funny thing happened, which proves how suggestible the human mind is - or my mind, anyway. I was re-smelling the Gardenia Grand Soir strip, thinking it was Papyrus de Ciane, and blow me if it didn't SMELL like Papyrus Ciane, until Martin pointed out my mistake. How weird and gullible is that?

It reminded me of the time when I was sixteen and on holiday with my father, who had ordered me pistachio ice cream in error instead of lime. Rather than send it back, he told me it WAS lime and I ate it all up quite happily - it really did taste of lime. Afterwards, my father confessed to the stunt he had just pulled and I was retrospectively furious!

After Les Senteurs, I had planned to go to Harrods next, so only tested Bois Naufrage on skin, saving space for a bunch of whatever took my fancy there. Which is a shame, because I never made it to Knightsbridge, but instead wandered the wrong way down the Kings Road. However, I did find a great pair of straight jeans in Gap, with magic slimming powers!

And I bumped into Claudia Schiffer! "Bump" being the operative word, as she is 8 months' pregnant. She was surrounded by a clutch of small blonde schifferlets, some of whom may have belonged to her tall blonde friend, who was the one not wearing "I'm a celebrity, please don't stare at me" sunglasses.
Summoned by a call from Mr Bonkers, I hotfooted it back to the guitar shop in Camden, and we set off for home. I kept sniffing the one spot on my hands with perfume on it all the way back up the M1, imagining tangled heaps of driftwood, salty breakers and ripe figs. By about Corley Services, the last trace of it had vanished.

Oh, and I may have made up The Lover for reasons of filmic verisimilitude....

(Photos of Les Senteurs are from Basenotes. Photo of Claudia Schiffer by Bauer Griffin. Jeans modelled by Freja Eriksen!)

Tuesday 4 May 2010

When It Is Senseless To Be Scentless

Back in January I was feeling very rough with a suite of ear, nose and throat complaints, and wrote a post about the occasions when I might be disinclined to wear perfume: illness, death of a relative, domestic strife etc. I can now add another one to the list - being horribly sidetracked.

For yesterday I had all manner of useful things planned: a bit of weeding, the interment of some dead succulents, a cycle ride over to Mr Bonkers' mother, maybe even a major grocery shop.

But none of these things occurred. Instead I remained at the computer most of the day, editing a non-fiction book that I have uploaded on to the Authonomy website, which is a sort of self-adjudicating slush pile administered (in a distinctly hands off fashion) by the publishing house Harper Collins. There are 8000 books on there, and their authors read and critique one another's works and the most popular are supposed to rise to the top in accordance with a cunning algorhythm. At the end of month, Harper Collins selects the top five books for review and decides whether or not they are worthy of a publishing deal. None has been awarded in the time I have been involved with the site (four months), I suspect because the books which are the most actively promoted by their authors tend to rise fastest. Which is not to say they have no merit, but they are not necessarily the best of the bunch.

Anyway, what this means is that to avoid plummeting like a stone in the rankings, you have to put in a good few hours every day reading other authors' works and commenting on them. I don't have that kind of time, though there was one chap who spent so long on Authonomy every day that he ended up in hospital with an embolism. That didn't help his ranking, I can tell you! Like him, I have done a fair bit of plummeting lately and yesterday I was piqued by a slightly snippy comment from another author, prompting me to disappear most of yesterday down a black hole of editing and re-editing. I was still unwashed and in my dressing down at 9.30pm - and crucially, SCENTLESS! Mr Bonkers quipped that the house was the better for it, but to me it was the lack of scent rather than the failure to wash or dress that constituted the most flagrant sign of self-neglect.

Moreover, I cannot help but wonder whether this dysfunctional day (on all other fronts but my book project) may have prompted a bizarre dream last night.

In this dream someone's mother had just died (no one I knew) and a bunch of other people (whom I didn't know either) were applying a great deal of pressure on me to construct an enormous wreath for this lady out of daffodils. Not only was it to be huge, but in the shape of a sou'wester, owing to some connection the deceased had with the Royal National Lifeboat Institution. I cried, I stamped my foot, and protested tearily that I had no experience with flower arranging on this scale - nothing really beyond plonking a bunch of carnations in a vase, indeed. And though I had owned a Peter Storm mac as a child, I had only the fuzziest of ideas of how a sou'wester was constructed, let alone how to replicate one in daffodils.

Much has been written about perfume as "therapy", as a mood enhancer, a confidence booster and so on, but I think this story clearly demonstrates a fundamental link between perfume and mental health...

Saturday 1 May 2010

Etat Libre D'Orange Like This - A Jolie-Laide Ginger Scent

I am on a bit of an orange kick this week, what with the review of Penhaligon's new Orange Blossom EDT, and now this latest acquisition of a sample of Etat Libre D'Orange's new scent, Like This. I was going to post about my impromptu trip to London on Thursday, which included a visit to Les Senteurs (where the sample is from), but I have Like This on, so I wanted to write about it while it is fresh on my skin and in my mind.

I should firstly point out that I have only a slight - and distinctly timorous - acquaintance with the ELD'O line. Ginger, even. I had two ghastly sampling experiences with Putain des Palaces (disagreeable in a flat, dead, oddly discordant way I am at a loss to describe) and Divin' Enfant (tobacco and cold marshmallow is not the most felicitous note combo imho).

Then I couldn't steel myself to sample Sécrétions Magnifiques, but as a person who has not led a completely cloistered life I have a feeling I may not need any more hands-on experience of that particular fragrance style.... : - ) As for Jasmin et Cigarette and Encens & Bubblegum, the hideous juxtaposition within their names is red flag enough for me. While Fat Electrician is simply too silly for words. I daresay there will be a slew of flankers along shortly called things like Cadaverous Undertaker, Ruddy Publican, Slimy Salesman and Tattoo-ed Trucker.

But Like This was always going to be different. For it is associated with the actress Tilda Swinton, the ethereal, cerebral, pale skinned, freckly and ginger star of films like Michael Clayton, Orlando and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. The fact that her Christian name is a brand of rice and her surname a leading insurance company in no way takes the edge off her mystique and general otherworldliness for me.

Two more interesting facts about TS (not to be confused with Tania Sanchez) are that she has a son called Xavier and is in an open relationship. On her biography on Yahoo! Movies, under the heading "Significant Others", her husband and her lover are both listed as "Companions". How fabulously modern! The only small skeleton in her cupboard is arguably her being the face of Pringle. Only because the brand is indelibly linked for me with the likes of Val Doonican and Ronnie Corbett sporting pink golfing sweaters with bold diamond patterns. But maybe Tilda's fresh, angular beauty will turn the brand around. I wouldn't be at all surprised.

So, thanks to my admiration for TS, I had no hesitation in trying Like This, or LT for short (not to be confused with Luca Turin). ELD'O is an orange house and this scent is All About The Orange, with notes as follows, according to the concertina promotional material that came with my sample:

"Yellow tangerine, ginger, pumpkin, immortelle flower, Moroccan neroli, Grasse rose, vetiver, heliotrope, musks."

"Yellow tangerine"?? Right off the bat we note that that is an oddball fruit. It is like a green lemon or a lemon lime or a pink grapefruit or a blood orange. These are not normal specimens in my book - personally I avoid non-regulation coloration and want my satsumas, mandarins, clementines, tangerines AND mineolas to be perfectly ORANGE, thank you, but the fact that there is a yellow one in this scent speaks volumes. You are not going to get the type of mandarin so commonly found in fruity florals, like Caroline Herrera 212, say. Oh no, this is a much edgier tangerine, a tangerine with attitude...

And so to the smell. Well, first impressions were not at all good. There was a strange, musty quality to the opening, like herbs that have been sitting in the pantry since 1982. And I know about these things, having cleared out my late mother's house some 17 years after the expiry date of her store cupboard staples. Of LT I thought: "Hmm, this is unusual, a bit vegetal, a bit dusty, a bit werrrr - and I did want and hope for edgy - and this IS edgy, just not in a good way."

I wondered if it could have been an unhappy blending of the vetiver and the heliotrope. I do generally proceed with caution around heliotrope, as it can be headache-inducing when overdone in a scent or teamed with unnatural bedfellows. (Barbara Bui and Herve Leger would be examples of the former to my nose, Lalique Le Parfum of the latter, the bedfellow in question being cumin!). Or the villain might have been the immortelle, a dour little flower which I have yet to warm to in any scent I can bring to mind. So my first impressions were that I DO NOT want a perfume to smell LIKE THIS. Indeed I will go so far as to say that it didn't even smell particularly like a perfume, merely peculiar.

But I waited and waited, and I also jogged (intermittently) to the corner shop to get a paper, and as my skin warmed up, so did LT! I started to get the pumpkin note, which I liked the sound of so much in the description, and the ginger came through strongly at this point. I made some pumpkin soup last weekend, as it happens, and it had that wonderful orange colour and velvety, creamy texture. By the same token, whilst the scent didn't quite tip over into "creamy" territory with the appearance of the pumpkin, it did get fuller and richer, and the weird vegetal mustiness fell away. If it stays like this for the rest of the day I will be very pleased, for I so wanted to like Like This. Tilda is such a free spirit, with great bones, and she flies the flag for the not classically beautiful in a society where those with regular features are by and large more likely to succeed.

So if you want a warm, spicy, rounded, pumpkin fragrance and you are prepared to wait a little while for the metamporphosis to occur, I can commend LT to you, though I doubt if it will make me more daring as regards the house in general.

Finally, I have to mention the strange poem featured on this promotional pull out thingy. It is by the author of "The Essential Rumi", whose name I will not even attempt to type. Some verses are quite poetic, if a little impenetrable:

"I am a sky where spirits live. Stare into this deepening blue, while the breeze says a secret.

Like this."

Some verses are just impenetrable:

"How did Joseph's scent come to Jacob? Huuuu. How did Jacob's sight return? Huuuu.
A little wind cleans the eyes.

Like this."

And some verses are frankly a bit risqué:

"If anyone asks how the perfect satisfaction of all our sexual wanting will look, lift your face and say,
Like this."

Well, our Tilda's the one with the open relationship, so I defer to her greater knowledge in such matters, but for me we are still talking about a perfume smelling of pumpkin. Slightly tingly pumpkin, thanks to the ginger, but still pumpkin.

(Picture of TS and her companion is from Hollywire, the others are from Google images.)