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...