Friday 29 April 2011

Kate Middleton's Wedding Perfume: The Stopper's Out Of The Bottle...

Well, as my Facebook friends will know, I enjoyed the coverage of the Royal Wedding today enormously. Mrs Bonkers Senior and I celebrated in style by drinking Kusmi leaf tea out of proper china cups, Charlie Bonkers the cat had two helpings of festive turkey leftovers, while Mr Bonkers sat on the sofa furthest away from the TV pretending (with an unconvincing display of bluster) not to watch. I wore Floris Wedding Bouquet (which I recently reviewed here on Ça Fleure Bon) because it is pretty and weddingy, and I just thought someone ought to. I cried loads, laughed at "for richer, for poorer" in the vows, and scoffed at Princess Beatrice's ghoulish make up and outlandish cookie cutter fascinator, which I also heard compared to antlers, and even explained away as an integral part of her head. It was in fact yet another Philip Treacy hat, which - according to one rather generous commentator - "rose like a modernist building from her hair".

Then I looked in vain for evidence of bra straps under Kate's lace bodice, while others marvelled at the seamless contours of her sister Pippa's frock, fuelling mischievous speculation that she may have gone commando and/or have copped off with Harry by the end of the night. A Facebook page has even sprung up today, devoted specifically to the appreciation of Pippa's shapely rear. Oh, and there was also that funny moment when the little flower girl on the royal balcony put her hands over her ears to block out the noise of passing tornadoes.

But at the back of every perfumista's mind was the burning question of what perfume Kate Middleton ended up wearing on her big day. It now turns out that it wasn't Wedding Bouquet or Grossmith Betrothal, or a specially engraved Clive Christian, or even the His and Hers duo of scents from the Hamburg perfumer Kim Weisswange, which she claimed had been specially commissioned by the palace for the occasion.

No, I have it on good authority from British Beauty Blogger that Kate - or the Duchess of Cambridge as we must learn to call her now - actually wore:


On Illuminum's website, there is a description of this scent:

"As fragrant as a vase of white flowers quivering in the breeze by an open window, this is a delicate and nuanced scent. The top note of coconut evokes a seaside location, while heart notes of muguet, ylang ylang and jasmine breeze bring a trio of white flowers into play. Amber wood underscores this capricious and light bouquet."

Okay, so that all sounds very summery and lovely, though I am not sure that a "capricious" scent is an ideal choice for a bride... After all, Kate didn't just promise to have and to hold Prince William until a better idea strikes her. But other than that it sounds perfect. And well, she certainly slipped that one past us, for I had never heard of the brand, never mind the scent itself. It is available only from Roullier White in London.

Here's the full article from British Beauty Blogger, a respected industry insider, so I am going with her version of events. I would also be interested to know what Kate's lip gloss and eyeshadow were, come to think of it. And I wouldn't mind her teeth and eyebrows either. Damn it - I just wish I looked like her altogether. But meanwhile, I'll see if Luckyscent has got any samples of this in yet...

Photo of Illuminum perfume from, photo of "hat" from, photo of wedding car from

Thursday 28 April 2011

Berlin Sniffathon: Galeries Lafayette, KaDeWe, And Our Man From Havana

I have been to Berlin about five times in as many years and I always find it an exciting, energising city to visit. It is young, hip and edgy, radical, grungy and a bit dark. Don't ask me what exactly I mean by "dark", but I know it is the right word. It may be a reference to people hanging out in underground clubs or the graffiti-defaced courtyards of tenement buildings till very late at night. It may be a way to describe the austerity and bleakness of some of the buildings, especially the derelict ones - or the patches of waste ground, piles of rubble and random artefacts you come across here and there.

Between my hotel and the train station, for example, was a grassy area where someone had "installed"/abandoned?? a long length of old gas pipework that had been painted a hot pink with a cartoon picture of a sperm swimming up it. The pipework was still there from my last visit in September, though there was less of it now and some of the paint had flaked off since the photo below was taken. This suggests to me that no one in the Stadtwerke had seen fit to dispose of it in the meantime, possibly because it was in fact not detritus - not even facetious detritus - but rather street art, which, given what else passes for art in Berlin, seems eminently plausible.

But Berlin is not just about grunge and dereliction - it is about regeneration, as exemplified by the gleaming glass facades of the Reichstag cupola. It also boasts several major department stores, notably Quartier 206, Galeries Lafayette and KaDeWe (short for Kaufhaus des Westens). Now, just as the remnants of the Berlin Wall are a palimpsest of torn posters and graffiti, so it is that I merely scratched the surface of the fragrance offering of these stores - and only found the perfume department in two of them! But in my defence, I shoehorned my visits in at the end of the day, and even so managed to more than sniff my socks off, such that I probably couldn't have faced an even larger selection of brands than I came across in the course of my random wanderings.

First up was the über-chic Quartier 206 in the Friedrichstrasse (thanks are due to Lady Jane Grey for the tip off!). With its graceful spiral staircases, black and white Italianate tiles and elegant armchairs, it oozed sophistication and luxury. I am sorry to say that despite repeated inquiries no one was able to direct me to a perfumery department or individual perfume shop within Quartier 206 - which appeared to be a collection of designer boutiques rather than a department store in the normal sense of the term. Instead I was despatched next door to Galeries Lafayette, where I spent most of my time in the concession of Sahling best of beauty, a chain specialising in an intentionally small selection of high end cosmetics and niche fragrances. These included Penhaligon's, Floris, Lalique, Annick Goutal, Costume National, Caron, Comptoir Sud Pacifique and Amouage. From the off I was captivated by the enthusiasm of the sales assistant, a lissom young man from Cuba called Alain.

Well, Alain was from Cuba to start with, certainly (I don't know if it was Havana specifically, but you can always rely on me to stretch a point in pursuit of a good pun!). His mother was a chemist and wore Hermès 24 Faubourg, of which he has fond memories. She instilled an appreciation of fine fragrance in her son at an early age, explaining that perfume is not just a luxury item, but that there is a secret behind each scent for the wearer to unravel... Then, when Alain was 10 his family relocated to Sweden, where he lived up until five years ago (so for at least 10 years, at a guess - maybe 15!). He learnt Swedish (no small feat) and worked as a fragrance SA in Åhlens, the mid-range department store chain, before moving to Germany about five years ago. "Right, so that is Spanish, Swedish and German you speak", I remarked admiringly. "And do you speak any English with that?" "But of course!" he replied in English, grinning broadly.

During the 40 minutes or so we spent chatting, Alain introduced me to a couple of Laliques I hadn't smelt, namely Equus and White. I particularly liked White, a light, peppery citrus, of which he gave me a sample. I also retested Fleur de Cristal, a pretty, powdery lily scent, and although he didn't stock it, Alain recommended I hunt down Flora Bella, created in 2005 by Bertrand Duchafour, and which he described as a hauntingly beautiful tropical floral with heady flowers like frangipani and tiare combined with a cold, salty vibe. Alain said that for him this scent conjured up a mysterious recurring dream set on a remote island paradise. It involved a surfer with long black hair and violet eyes whom - even in the dream, never mind in reality - he is not quite sure if has actually met... At least I think that is what he said: my German was starting to wilt a bit by that stage. : - )

Anyway, I ended up being completely caught up in the hypnotic effect that Flora Bella exerts on Alain, and on a whim tonight I went and bought it unsniffed from Cheapsmells! Haven't done such an impulsive thing in a long while... It was a snip (Schnäppchen) at £16.95 - and I'd say it will be well worth seventeen quid just to find out why the man is so bewitched. And if he loves Lalique White too, as I do now myself, the odds are surely good that I will like Flora Bella. And it is a Bertrand Duchaufour... Interestingly, 80% of Alain's scent collection are feminines. He suggested I try Bazar pour Femme from Lacroix, jointly created in 2002 by Jean-Claude Ellena, Bertrand Duchaufour and Emile Copperman. Well, if two of my favourite perfumers had a hand in it, how bad can that one be either?

This talk of Bertrand Duchaufour and Jean-Claude Ellena led on to a review of our all-time favourite perfumers. The others Alain particularly admires are Francis Kurkdjian, Christine Nagel of Encre Noir fame ("soft but present" was his summary of it), and Karine Vinchon Spehner, who wasn't on my radar at all, but turns out to be the nose behind Amouage Memoir Man, Opus III and L'Artisan's Coeur de Vétiver Sacré and L'Eau de Jatamansi. I have found a photo of her on the L'Artisan website, and as you can see, she doesn't look old enough to have even one perfume creation under her belt, never mind a handful!

What else? Well, I tried Annick Goutal's Le Mimosa which had been recommended to me - and it was quite pleasant, with an adorable polka dot bow, but it was not love: a sort of fruity, warm, woody, powdery floral - not as bright and sherbety as L'Artisan Mimosa pour Moi - and veering a little to the oriental richness of YSL Cinéma, the EDT version of which also features mimosa, come to think of it.

We also discussed the recent launches from Penhaligon's with Bertrand Duchaufour at the creative helm, and the way the brand is reinventing itself and moving away from its "traditional English" image in new and interesting directions. I tried Castile for the first time, a neroli scent of which I had read good things in a recent post on Katie Puckrik's blog, and found it fresh and soothing in a high quality soap kind of a way.

We also chatted about the imminent Royal Wedding, and agreed that on her big day Kate Middleton should go ahead and wear whatever perfume she feels good in, for example one that brings back memories of happy times spent with William. The olfactory equivalent of "our tune", if you will. I don't believe I asked Alain what his all-time favourite scent was - maybe it is Flora Bella - and, given our mutual appreciation of Bertrand Duchaufour, it was remiss of me not to ask if he likes Havana Vanille!

From Sahling best of beauty I popped next door to the concession of Intertrade Europe, which had a rather unusual selection of brands, including the more familiar Piguet and Miller Harris, but also Memo, Nez à Nez, Profumi del Forte and Ruinart, more famous for its champagne. I tested both the EDP fragrances in the Memo line and their selection of room scents (or "scented sprays", as they are known on the website). These were presented in regular perfume bottles and boasted whimsical travel-themed names ("I Miss Miami", "Ibiza Buzz", "Paris Passion" - and my personal favourite, "Kinky Kyoto"). Memo scents also come with helpful listings of the main notes on the bottle. I couldn't tell you which ones I liked best now, though I do remember a few scrubbers amongst the room scents: "Mad about Gstaad" (too piney?), "Back to Dubai Amber Ambush" (self-explanatory!), and the tuberose bombshell "Sexy St Tropez".

The Memo range, though extensive, doesn't have a scent set in Berlin. Elsewhere on the same floor, however, there was a display of Majathi "His and Hers" Berlin fragrances. The blurb on the back of the scent strip read:

"Open-minded like Berlin both fragrances start with fresh citrus notes. Berlin's variety and change are reflected in the fragrances after short time, too: the scent for women becomes sensual-feminine (eg vanilla, white musk, pimento), the scent for men aromatic-woody (eg sandelwood, lavender, thyme)."

I am sorry to report that the women's version of Berlin was crashingly generic and non-descript, and as ill suited to summing up the city as Swiss Army Perfume was to conveying the steeliness of a knife!

Time was running out by now, so I hared across to KaDeWe in Tauentzienstrasse for a quick whizz round their very well stocked perfume hall. There were too many brands to mention, including Les Parfums MDCI, which I had never seen in-store before. I was able to try La Belle Hélène at last, and gave it a resounding thumbs down - two treacly, I am afraid. Well, I am not even afraid, as MDCI are of course notoriously expensive. Then I tried Ananda and Black Ananda by Micallef, a duo of rich, fuzzy vanilla orientals that I didn't care for especially, also Clair Matin by Les Parfums de Rosine, a fruity rose floral I can't really bring to mind now, ditto Julia by Teo Cabanel. Finally, I scored a carded sample of Vivienne Westwood Naughty Alice (the peppery rose violet scent to which I am currently quite partial, and the only other sample of the day apart from Lalique White!).

So, if there isn't a Memo scent for Berlin, and the Majathi range is a poor attempt at civic branding, how would I describe my own scent associations with the city? Well, I will give that some more considered thought, but on the day itself I did so much sampling that I was a veritable patchwork quilt of perfumes as I headed back to my hotel. Indeed I was pretty much a scented version of this...

Photo of Berlin tenements from, photo of sperm pipeline from, photo of Quartier 206 from, photo of Havana from, photo of Flora Bella from, photo of White from, photo of Karine Vinchon Spehner from, photo of Castile from, photo of Memo Kinky Kyoto from, photo of Majathi perfumes from, photo of Berlin doorway from

Monday 25 April 2011

Up Against A Tauer Of Strength: Can Swiss Army Perfume Cut It?

I don’t know why it should occur to me to write about a Swiss perfume just as I was getting ready to go to Germany, but for some reason one popped into my head the other day. It is a sample I received from Wordbird during our four handed fumehead meet in Basel in March of last year. Or four headed fumehead meet, perhaps that should be. It is distinctive because it is in a little pillow pack packaging, like one of these bulky padded cases Swiss army knives come in – or Mr Bonkers’ knock off version does, anyway. I have had this sample for a full year without testing it, because I couldn’t bring myself to rip open the packaging and deflate the pillow, as it were.

But I was in one of those decisive moods on that particular morning, having a good old rummage in the paper horse’s nose bag that originally contained all my Gorilla perfume samples – and still does in fact, along with various waif and stray extras from swaps - when my hand pulled out this Swiss Army perfume and I decided that that was the day it would go pop! Obviously I had the foresight to photograph it first...

I guess part of my hesitation prior to trying this scent has to do with a fear of disappointment. I may be completely misguided in this belief, but apart from Andy Tauer’s line and my oddball love, Shared Water by Michel Comté – the subject of a post I wrote a while back on squirrelling away back up bottles – I don’t really associate Switzerland with iconic perfumes – what the French might term “parfums de grand standing”, but almost certainly don’t. If Potiron happens upon this, she will doubtless be able to put me straight on whether I am in fact overlooking some other famous Swiss brands.

And even Andy Tauer, who just the other week won a UK FiFi award for Orange Star, and who is something of a national – and international – treasure as perfumers go, mostly creates scents that aren’t up my alley, if I am honest, owing to my shifting but largely troubled relationship with Tauerade. That said, I love L’Air du Désert Marocain and actively like Carillon pour un Ange, to which Bloody Frida recently introduced me. So just based on those two scents, Tauer would be a tough act for another perfume house to top or even half way respectably follow (the keen-eyed reader may detect some German sentence construction creeping in here as I get linguistically into the zone…).

And what scent do we have in the ring pitting its mainstream molehill against the mighty Matterhorn that is the house of Tauer?

Answer: “a fresh, floral fragrance for active, contemporary ladies. Charismatic, inviting & sensual” according to one e-tailer, while another site describes this scent as “dedicated to female adventurers” – why, that would be me! (Not in a Gorillas in the Mist-Ellen MacArthur sailing single-handed round the world kind of a way… no, more your female adventurer taking a chance on a motel that – let’s just say – doesn’t have the most twinkly star rating in the galaxy.) Oh, and the same website describes Swiss Army perfume as “an ode to the lofty Swiss Alps”.

Well, that sounds fairly promising, given that I like Shared Water, which has a tranquil mountain stream and small alpine flower vibe, plus an intriguing if slightly incongruous steamed rice note. The note list for Swiss Army Perfume is in vaguely similar territory, though on the face of it mandarins don’t sound quintessentially Alpine. No, I have just checked, and the top three producers of tangerines, mandarins and clementines collectively (sorry that I couldn't find any more cultivar-specific stats) are in fact China, Spain, Brazil, Japan and Morocco.

Notes: edelweiss, blue buttercup, mountain daffodil, muguet, organic ginger root, crisp green watermint and fresh mandarin, with sheer woods.

Now I do worry when I see a muguet note listed, because it is one of those tricky customers which, when done cheaply or just badly, can be very bad indeed, and sure enough it wasn’t great in this scent.

My first impressions of Swiss Army perfume are of a fragrance totally at odds with any of the usual connotations of a knife, such as precision engineering, sharpness, rigour, cold metallic aloofness and so on. By contrast, this was a cheap smelling, chemically, fruity, ditzy fruity floral of the most forgettable kind. I guess I should be glad it is forgettable. If I had to choose between only wearing this perfume for ever and not wearing perfume at all, I would definitely go scentless...

So much for the massive build up as I deferred my testing of Swiss Army perfume for all that time. I can categorically state that it does not cut it vs Tauer’s range, though it did muster enough serration to burst the bubble of the pillow pack – and my expectations.

Photo of matterhorn from, photo of mandarins from, photo of Swiss army knife from vagabond, other photo my own

PS German sniffing report will be along shortly!

Friday 22 April 2011

New Post On Ça Fleure Bon: Perfumes Fit For A Future King - And Queen - And The Sweet Smell Of Succession...

I am travelling in Germany at the moment - on a trip of such modest proportions and relative logistical ease that I felt it didn't warrant the designation "bonkers" this time. And meanwhile over on Ça Fleure Bon my latest post appeared yesterday, a day earlier than scheduled, but it happened to coincide with the Queen's actual birthday, if my memory serves me, which seems rather fitting. My royal-themed post is a bit of a monster this month word countwise, so you may wish to make a drink and a snack before sitting down to read it.

I am just off now to meet in Lüneburg, so I daresay the subject of perfume will inevitably come up at some point...! And there will also be a sniffing report from Berlin's finest emporia when I get back, and possibly also one from Düsseldorf, asuming I make it down there tomorrow before the shops shut. : - )

Wednesday 20 April 2011

Going The Puredistance: A 200th Post Retrospective

This may technically be my 206th post on Bonkers about Perfume, but for logistical reasons the marking of my 200th post milestone was deferred until after my recent US trip. For my 100th post, as the odd reader may dimly recall, I chose to review Maison Kurkdjian's APOM pour Femme, which neatly symbolised how perfume now permeates every aspect of my life in a way I would never have imagined prior to being struck down with sudden onset perfume mania at the start of 2008. And now for my 200th post I have decided to write about a perfume which isn't totally "me" in the way A Piece Of Me is, but which is in all other respects pretty darn remarkable: Puredistance 1. This scent has already been extensively reviewed, but as with Nuit de Tubéreuse, which arguably didn't need another review from me by the time I eventually caught up with it, there are some perfumes which move me to write about them regardless of the risk of duplication / redundancy / "adding to the noise"... : - ) Let me say right off the bat that, like a number of my fellow bloggers, I was sent a 17.5 ml "test tube"-style vial by Puredistance. This niche house has its main offices in The Netherlands and an opulent showroom in Vienna, the famous Perfume Lounge, where the most expensive presentations of the range - in crystal column bottles - are put on pedestals (literally and metaphorically) and curated in glass cabinets. I have to say that my own "vial" already came in jolly luxurious packaging by my standards: a lavish white leatherette presentation box with magnetic flaps, all lined with padded white satin not unlike a top of the range coffin - not that I have ever seen one close up - oh, and for the record, when the day does come for me to pop my clogs (to stay with our Dutch theme), I would be quite happy with the "one up from least expensive" coffin, following the same principle I apply when ordering wine in restaurants. Inside the left hand panel, tucked into four satin hinges in a manner that reminded me vividly of my stamp collecting youth, is a Certificate of Authenticity, bearing the flamboyant signature of the Founder of Puredistance, Jan Ewoud Vos, and attesting to the fact that this is a genuine vial of Puredistance 1, with a concentration (that must be approaching parfum strength?) of 32%. I am intrigued by this reassurance of authenticity, because to be honest it would never have occurred to me that there might be fakes about. To my knowledge, the pirates and fraudsters on Ebay are still gainfully employed knocking off the entire Creed line and Coco Mademoiselle, but I may be behind the times. Now, no disrespect to The Netherlands, which is a fine country - if a trifle flat and with a surprisingly congested road network - and is where I spent New Year with friends this year - but it is not the first EU member you would perhaps associate with fragrance, any more than Cleveland springs to mind as an obvious tourist destination for British visitors to the States. Be that as it may, the Puredistance brand is headquartered in Groningen, a town noted for its prestigious university dating back to 1614, the second oldest after Leiden (of cumin seed-y cheese fame). Created by Anne Buzantian, the perfumer behind one of my favourite mainstream fragrances, Estée Lauder Sensuous, Puredistance 1 was originally intended to be her signature scent. However, when she chanced upon the first fragrance concept of Puredistance by Jan Ewoud Vos, which chimed exactly with the inspiration for her own perfume, happily for the rest of us she changed her mind and decided "to share her personal masterpiece with the world". Notes: tangerine blossom, cassis, neroli bigarade, magnolia, rose wardia, jasmine, mimosa, amber, vetiver and musk. Now when I first sprayed Puredistance 1, two other fragrances simultaneously came to mind, though I would like to stress that Puredistance 1 doesn't smell markedly like either and is very much its own scent. One is - now please don't shoot me - Hugo Boss Deep Red, in which I detect a similar fruity opening, plus they both also share an overtly musky base. HUGO BOSS DEEP RED Notes: tangerine, blackcurrant, blood orange, pear, ginger, freesia, hibiscus, sandalwood, cedar, vanilla and musk. Why, both have tangerine, blackcurrant and miscellaneous other orange! But, notwithstanding its musky base, Deep Red is shriller, thinner and unmistakably of its day - as in today - more or less, whereas Puredistance 1 is sumptuous, rich, and manages to feel both current and timeless. Of all the reviews I have read, I would align myself most closely with Patty White's assessment - for I also mean "lush" with my "sumptuous": “It’s stunning and beautiful - lush and rich without falling into the uber-rich notes that scream “expensive!”. Anyone not too shocked by my comparison with Deep Red to be curious about the second perfume which reminds me of Puredistance 1...well, it is Yves Rocher Voile d'Ambre. Here is a scent with comparable depth and heft: it covers off the amber aspect - at least I assume it does from the name alone - and its notes also include "green mandarin", echoing the vetiver in the Puredistance - or it does if you push the envelope of your fruit analogies as far as I do. YVES ROCHER VOILE D'AMBRE Notes: green mandarin, myrrh, incense, opoponax, vanilla, patchouli, sandalwood So these two scents share an aspect of Puredistance 1 (tangerine/blackcurrant/musky! / amber/green tangerine-equivalent!), but I wouldn't say that you would get anything approximating to it if you were foolhardy enough to layer them. I used to own the Yves Rocher as a matter of fact, but gave it away because the pronounced coumarin note bothered me. Forgetting the other scents for a moment, how does Puredistance 1 smell - and develop - in isolation? Well, the opening is very tangy and fruity, but just underneath it is a fresh, green accord which cuts through the fruit nicely, ensuring that the cassis in particular doesn't get too sweet and Ribena-y. Then beyond that I get a warm fuzzy, musky amber base that lasts for absolutely ages... Yes, this is a sumptuous and perfumey perfume, in the way Ormonde Jayne Tolu and Cartier Le Baiser du Dragon - and arguably Mary Greenwell Plum - are all "sumptuous and perfumey", with Plum being the most citrussy and the least sumptuous, and Tolu the other way about. I'd place Puredistance 1 between Plum and Le Baiser on the sumptuous spectrum - it has considerably more body than Plum on account of the amber. And there is something else I should mention about this scent, because it is remarkable - I did think of it independently, but note that other reviewers had the same impression - namely that Puredistance 1 is simultaneously sumptuous AND perfumey AND ozonic/airy. Now I am no perfumer, but this strikes me as a really hard stunt to pull off, and may explain why I like this scent as much as I do, because if it didn't have this airy wateriness it might all be a bit much, what with the juicy fruits and the amber and the musk, plus a bunch of florals I don't really smell at all, though the mimosa may be adding to both the "tangy fruity" and the "powdery fuzzy" vibe, because it has those two facets, strangely perhaps for a small yellow flower. Additionally, Puredistance 1 is an amber colour, and given my propensity to smell with my eyes, I might have picked up on the amber base disproportionately, were it not for the damp breeze mysteriously blowing through it - and who knows? - it might have gone the way of the Voile d'Ambre. As an example of how differently scents may behave on different people, Olfacta of Olfactarama, in her review of this scent here, describes it as "subtle" and lacking in "va-va-voom", whereas on me the opposite is true. Now "foghorn" sounds too derogatory a term, but to my nose this scent is a tad on the loud side. Let's call it an airy, ozonic foghorn, and I mean that in a good way - picture yourself standing in the bows of the ship, Kate Winslet in "Titanic"-style, and the ship's foghorn may be sounding behind you, but your arms are outstretched and the wind is in your hair... I would also like to say that when I first wore Puredistance 1, I was having a bad day, as in a really bad day. My Internet connection had crashed, and I spent 4-5 hours on the phone to India configuring a new router. About 4pm, in between engineers, something prompted me to take the test tube out of its "sumptuous" coffin and spray it on, and I felt immediately comforted by its rich, fruity warmth and muzzy musk. Putting on Puredistance 1 feels like a very deliberate act of applying perfume, unlike so many of the more understated scents I normally favour. In conclusion, whatever similarities I may have drawn between this and other scents, there is considerable distance between Puredistance 1 and other perfumes remotely like it. Moreover, whilst wearing it, I was also able to distance myself from the technical crisis that was raging at the time, thanks to its dreamy cocooning quality. A critic called Sands, whose name I don't recognise, feels Puredistance 1 has the makings of a successor to the iconic No 5, with which I would tend to agree. “If Puredistance was aiming for a sort of Chanel No. 5 classic, I think they have found it...” So all in all, a fitting choice to mark the distance I have come since my 100th post... UPDATE: Since writing this post, my work has taken me to Groningen, so I took the opportunity to call in at the Puredistance offices. The account of my visit, and my impromptu interview with Jan Ewoud Vos, is here

Sunday 17 April 2011

Blogorexia: Could A Repurposed Spoon Holder Be Partly To Blame?

In my previous post about a thumbnail deformity, where I speculated that I may in fact be a mutant life form after all, the conversation turned to possible diagnoses of this unusual condition, which turned out not to be all that unusual in fact. Of the explanations under consideration, malnutrition topped the list as the most likely suspect. Now Mr Bonkers will tell you that he thinks I don't eat enough. There are sporadic references in this blog to my rare bouts of cooking, and to the cupboards in our house being bare, most notably when I go away on my trips and Mr B is left to forage for himself, gnaw on empty pizza boxes and so forth. You see, Mr Bonkers is not one to interact much with kitchen appliances - or even shops selling provisions. On the rare occasions when he used to accompany me to the supermarket, ostensibly to push the trolley and manhandle cases of UHT milk, he would while away the time quite happily in the CD aisle as I did the actual shopping bit. Since the advent of iTunes, however, the CD aisle has lost its allure and if any groceries do get bought - which isn't often - it is invariably by me on my own.

And the upshot of this is that I've lost a fair bit of weight in the past 12 months. I always used to hover between 112 and 115 lbs (or for British readers, 8 stone to 8 st 3), and currently I am only 106 lbs or 7 st 6. That might not sound like a big drop, but it is when you are quite small to start with.

One cause is doubtless the intermittent stressful phases associated with my work - I say "intermittent" because being self-employed, the work itself is intermittent - the jobs are continuously stressful when I am doing them! But I have been doing the same job for 25 years now, and my weight has mostly stayed constant, so I reckon the main reason for my recent weight loss is "blororexia", the term for being so absorbed by the act of blogging that you forget to eat. I am definitely that soldier, for it can be 10 or 11pm at night before my mind turns to thoughts of food, and it is not unknown for Mr Bonkers and me to be sitting down to our evening meal around midnight. Being a musician, Mr B is at least used to erratic hours, and for the most part he is ridiculously grateful for offers of food at any time of night or day.

I think my own level of distraction by the blogosphere is disproportionate - and exceptional. Although a number of you "weighed in" (no pun intended) to tell me that you also have groovy thumbnails, I am not expecting a similar response here. Case in point: Olfactoria of Olfactoriastravels is one of the most prolific bloggers in the fumisphere, yet she looks very bonny and of perfectly normal size in a recent snap taken in London last week, from which I deduce that she still finds time to eat. By her own admission, she has "mastered the art of scheduling", and with two young children to look after, that figures.

But without comparable responsibilities, I can be much more cavalier about meal times, bed times, and any other kinds of times. I do partly blame any Americans out there - the fact that so many US bloggers/readers are just getting into gear with their bloggery at about midnight our time does tend to nudge me into staying up later than is advisable.

So what has all this to do with spoons, I hear you ask? Or, for that matter, perfume? Well, at Christmas my friend gave me this cute little pouch containing a number of miniature, jewel-like teaspoons. I am inclined to call them "microspoons", so tiny are they - the sort that would be ideal if you were one of those people who takes a fifth of a spoonful of sugar in their tea. Or for eating dwarf boiled eggs chickens? Are there such things? By analogy with bonsai trees, I reckon there must be. There's a project for Bloody Frida, if not.

I hadn't ever seen a spoon holder like this one. The only spoon holders I know are the metal standy sort you prop up a wooden spoon in while you are cooking. As you can see from the picture, my own spoon holder has been repurposed as a kitchen timer and vitamin bottle holder. So it willl come as no surprise to you all to learn that the moment I saw this little holder for the dinky teaspoons, my mind immediately turned to other possible applications. Now I sense that dinky spoons are not the way to go if you are looking to put on weight rather than severely curtail your portions, for arguably, dispensing with eating utensils altogether - and by implication eating - and just finding yet more convenient ways to store and transport perfume instead isn't going to help me lose my Beau's Lines...

Photo of skeleton from, photo of woman at computer from, other photos my own

Friday 15 April 2011

Bonkers As "God's Mistake": Did I Speak Too Soon?

Earlier this week I mentioned the fact that I had been "flamed" by an indignant reader in a comment on an old post. What sparked their outburst is this review of a Damien Bash scent, which is - in all fairness - at the odder end of the spectrum as my posts go:

"I find it absolutely fascinating that we have someone like Mark Zuckemberg and then we have someone like you who seats around and smells fragrances and state her! And they say GOD doesn't make a mistake. Boy were they wrong; How it must feel to live in your head."

I left the comment up and added one of my own, in which I defended the whimsical house style of this blog in what I hoped was a conciliatory tone:

"Hello Anonymous,

Bonkers about Perfume is a little left field, I'll be the first to admit (there's a bit of a double entendre in the title...). Perfume sniffing is of course a subjective matter and I certainly don't claim to be an expert. I hope, however, to stay the right side of monster and mutant, and I also hope - but am not entirely sure - that your comment was meant in good part!"

But there has been a development in the past couple of days which is giving me pause for Beau's Lines have returned - but only on one thumb. For anyone not familiar with the condition, Beau's Lines are pronounced horizontal grooves in the nail. I was born with them on both thumbs apparently, but not on the other nails, and lived with them quite peaceably for 50 odd years. They were even recorded in my old passport as "severely ridged thumbnails" in the days when data on "distinguishing marks or features" used to be collected. I always thought to myself that whilst they weren't ideal for applying nail polish, if I was ever completely disfigured in a fatal car crash my thumbnails would be a handy way for the forensic people to ID me.

But then, most mysteriously - and after all this time - the lines disappeared last year from both thumbs, and I started to get excited about the prospect of wearing nail varnish. To this end, I instigated a major international sourcing operation in a bid to secure a pot of the much sought after shade, Chanel Paradoxal.

But this week, the lines have suddenly come back on my right thumb? How so?

Well, as for the causes of Beau's Lines, the Interwebs have as ever been a mine of (dis)information:

"Beau’s lines are transverse depressions of all of the nails that appear at the base of the lunula weeks after a stressful event has temporarily interrupted nail formation. The lines progress distally with normal nail growth and eventually disappear at the free edge. They develop in response to many diseases, such as syphilis, uncontrolled diabetes mellitus, myocarditis, peripheral vascular disease, and zinc deficiency, and to illness accompanied by high fevers, such as scarlet fever, measles, mumps, and pneumonia."

Another citation I found had the lines linked to chemotherapy, infection, metabolic problems and malnutrition, while deep saturation diving doesn't seem to be the nail care routine of choice either.

"A researcher found Beau's lines in the fingernails of two of six divers following a deep saturation dive to a pressure equal to 305 meters of sea water, and in six of six divers following a similar dive to 335 meters."

Crikey! Right, so my money's on the zinc deficiency, which I am addressing with Vitamin C + Zinc tablets, hopefully warding off Mr Bonkers' cold while I am at it. And okay, my diet is probably a bit erratic too, though "malnutrition" sounds a bit harsh. Then the timeline for the flaming doesn't fit as a "stressful event", not that it was that big of a deal anyway. But what is going through my mind is that by implying I was one of God's mistakes, the commenter may just have been on to something...

Photo of passport from, photo of divers from, other photo my own (sadly)!

Wednesday 13 April 2011

The Perfume Studio Fragrance Blending Kit Prize Draw - The Winner Is Chosen!

Mr Bonkers has come down again this week with one of his special colds, but struggled valiantly this afternoon to click the "Generate" button on the random number generator gizmo, and the winner is......



Contact me on with your address, and a note of whether you would like me to include some decanting tackle with the kit. Please also let me know if you are already familiar with Puredistance 1 or would like a sample to try.

In due course I would be most interested to learn what formulations you come up with! It is fun to give your scent creations a name too, the way clients do as part of the "full service" Perfume Studio experience.

(NB Please claim your prize by April 27th, or I will enlist Mr Bonkers' services again to pick another winner. : - ) )

Tuesday 12 April 2011

L'Oréal Men Expert, Mr Bonkers, And The Slippery Slope To Male Grooming

Back in February, I wrote this post, marvelling at how Wikio's mysterious searchbots had seen fit to award me the ranking of No 44 Beauty Blog. At the time, I was No 3396 in the "General" category, which doesn't have nearly the same ring to it...I have just checked, and I have now slumped to a shaming 4122! How did that happen, I wonder? Could it be due to the hiatus during my recent US work trip? Or perhaps my rather leisurely blogging frequency even when I am at home simply doesn't cut it anymore in today's increasingly fast paced, media-rich world. But I will try not to be unduly concerned by things like rankings, and carry on blogging when the mood takes me about random stuff loosely related to perfume, even if it does prompt the occasional backlash from an outraged reader:

"I find it absolutely fascinating that we have someone like Mark Zuckemberg and then we have someone like you who seats around and smells fragrances and state her! And they say GOD doesn't make a mistake. Boy were they wrong; How it must feel to live in your head."

So you never know, the slip in rankings could be due to the uncompromising whimsy of the Bonkers "house style". As it happens, the editors at Cafleurebon considered including my first piece for them along with their other submissions for the FiFi awards, but quickly ascertained that it wouldn't have fitted the entry criteria. I am, however, delighted for the team that three Cafleurebon features were amongst the five finalists for the category "Editorial Excellence Fragrance Coverage/Blog".

And then for a while now I have been meaning to report on a recent surprise development in Mr Bonkers' personal grooming routine. In choosing to write about this topic now, I would like to stress that I am in no way attempting to arrest the decline in my Wikio Beauty ranking, though to the cynical observer I realise it may look suspiciously like it!

But before I get on to Mr Bonkers' skin care issues, there has been a change in my own thinking on moisturisers. For every January my New Year's Resolutions look something like this:

Eat more fish
Drink more water
Drink less alcohol

And of course each year goes by with me signally failing to do any of the above, though I have at least taken up Pilates once a week. I remember reading a blog post by Josephine on moisturising routines (which I couldn't find again, or I would have linked to it), and thinking that I never actually feel the need to apply body lotion ie my skin never feels dry - except possibly after shaving my legs - though not always even then.

Then in the last few months all that changed, and if not every day, certainly every other day or so, my shins feel taut and dry and I do now apply body lotion - sometimes even on the rest of my legs - and if I am feeling very conscientious, my stomach. Sadly, my stomach never ever feels taut, (though arguably it might if I upped the Pilates classes), so I am applying the moisturiser to that area just for the hell of it! Fortunately I have a huge collection of moisturising lotions to choose from: a mixture of unused gifts down the years to mineswept toiletries from hotel rooms.

And so around the same time as I was starting to adopt a moisturising régime - even one that is only partial / intermittent - Mr Bonkers also complained of dry skin one day, and actually said that he wondered if he should use some kind of cream on his skin. Well...needless to say I nearly fell off my chair at this, as he has resolutely eschewed all forms of "added value" toiletries for as long as I have known him, preferring to stick with what I believe is now rather coyly termed a "cleansing bar", but which you and I know is just a lame attempt to sex up soap.

Yes, Mr Bonkers is a major advocate of soap and water - a combination as natural in his eyes as vegetable jalfrezi and vegetable pilau rice. In fact one of the few household chores for which he is happy to assume complete responsibility is the dying but important art of "soap joining", as in pressing the slivers of several cakes of soap together, rather than just throwing them out at this point.

I don't wish to give the misleading impression that soap is the only toiletry he uses, for Mr B will also engage with basic versions of shampoo, anti-perspirant and shaving foam, however, he favours "functional" toiletries as opposed to any that might be construed as having a "vanity" dimension: things like moisturiser, hair putty, guyliner etc, namely all the grooming products that fall towards the metrosexual end of the spectrum.

For till now Mr Bonkers was proud of his sandpapery, salty seadog complexion, and associated moisturiser with urbane posers wearing messenger bags (or would have done, had he known what a messenger bag was). In the end, though, the sensation of physical discomfort eventually won out and he asked me to find him a moisturiser that would make his skin feel hydrated (not his exact words), while being non-greasy, easily absorbed and preferably unscented.

A couple of hours' intensive googling led me to L'Oréal Men Expert Hydra Energetic Daily Anti-Fatigue SPF 15 Moisturising Lotion Active UV Defence Vitamin C + Antioxidant(!). It seemed to get a pretty good press on review sites and men's magazines like Men's Health, so the next day I popped into Boot's and presented Mr Bonkers with his own tube of this wonder goop! He said he would use it after shaving...

....a week or so went by...

....whereupon the by now lightly bearded Mr B finally decided it was time for a shave, following which he broached the product for the first time.

On the plus side, he declared that it didn't smell of anything in particular to his nose, but it stung slightly and was a bit "slimy". Now, I think that someone not used to applying any kind of unguent is bound to think a moisturiser is slimy, even though to most people it might just be "smooth" or even "silky". So Mr Bonkers has agreed to use the gel sparingly after shaving, but that is probably the extent of his new metrosexual skin care routine for now. I was quietly hoping that thanks to its "hydra energetic" properties Mr B might mow the lawn a bit more often, but the early signs are not promising. Maybe it takes time for the cumulative effects of an occasional session to build up and have an impact. Much like my Pilates sessions indeed.

So on balance the L'Oréal Men Expert moisturiser probably isn't a slippery slope to male grooming in the sense of the thin end of the wedge, or an inevitable trajectory on which Mr Bonkers is now embarked. More of a slimy slope that he will tread as lightly and infrequently as his parched skin permits. So I sense that he won't be relinquishing his soap joining duties any time soon...

Photo of L'Oreal Men Expert from, photo of mutant tomato from, photo of vegetable jalfrezi (minus the rice!) from, photo of salty sea dogs from, photo of green slime from, other photo my own

Thursday 7 April 2011

Back From The Bonkers Fly Drive Trip – Part 4: The Scented Bit (Bloody Fridaville, Ohio)

Right, so I know what you are thinking about the title of this latest instalment in the Bonkers Fly Drive trip report: why refer to Chicago and Cleveland by name, but invent a fictitious place to describe where Bloody Frida lives? Well, I figured that Chicago and Cleveland were both big enough cities to protect the privacy of ScentScelf and Beth respectively, who live somewhere in that metropolitan area. Ohio, however, felt too broad a descriptor (after all, Cleveland is also in Ohio, so we run into some Venn diagram-type problematics there), while the small college town in which Bloody Frida lives in Ohio - is, well, simply too small.

Put it this way, if you compared the act of randomly walking the streets of downtown Chicago or Cleveland keeping an eye out for ScentScelf and Beth to looking for a needle in a haystack, the equivalent search for Bloody Frida in her town is more akin to fleetingly fingering two blades of grass. To illustrate this point, in the course of my weekend there, we bumped into Frida's friend Steve crossing the road (I think I can confidently name him, on the basis that even a town as sparsely populated as BFV is likely to have at least two Steves), no fewer than three times at the exact same spot.

So all things considered, Bloody Fridaville it will be...

Backtracking slightly, after my meeting with Beth I drove out to BFV and checked into my hotel, which had a stripey awning that ran the entire length of the building, of the kind more commonly associated with barbers and butchers. Shortly after I had unloaded my bags, Frida rang to say she was in the lobby. I was happy it was her, and not the front desk asking me if everything was all right with my room, which I had not had time to fully assess. Later I did in fact flag up a missing plug, only to find it later, lurking in a fold of the shower curtain.

Frida - unmistakable from her avatar, and sporting one of her many eclectic knitted hats - had arrived bearing a bunch of flowers, so after a warm exchange of greetings we set off in search of a vase, or other receptacle that could serve as an approximation for one. Within no time, we scored a large plastic pitcher from the hotel bar, and having installed the flowers in my room (which for all I know may have received a courtesy call after we went out, inquiring whether everything was all right with their jug), we adjourned to Aladdin's for a late lunch. This popular eatery has a vaguely alternative menu and specialises in Middle Eastern cuisine, despite having the decor and ambience of a National Milk Bar.

At this point, my and Frida's accounts of the weekend coincide: she mentions the great soups - they were indeed hearty to the point of virtually solid (this is good), and chock full of "particulates" ie bits of - in my case - blackened chicken, blackened no doubt all the better to match the sludgy shade of Puy lentils. We ordered smoothies to wash the soup down (smoothies not being noted for their Middle Eastern antecedents, but delicious nonetheless), and spent a disproportionate amount of time - in the waitress's eyes at least - messing about with our perfume samples, with which the table was by this stage liberally strewn. I suspect there was a direct correlation between the waitress's proactive proffering of the bill and the perceived oddball nature of our impromptu sniffing session.

After lunch and a stroll round the major arteries of Bloody Fridaville ("arteries" being the operative word - "operative" being another operative word!), I returned to my hotel to catch up on work emails and have a little rest, before our big Friday night out on the town. Now you may think I am being ironic here, given the diminutive nature of BFV and its likely dearth of night spots / flesh pots...but you would be wrong. I had the biggest night out in years... and quite possibly ever!

7.30pm saw us ensconced at a window table upstairs at The Feve bar, as Frida mentions in her account. I met her husband, the MOTH (another woolly hat aficionado), and was introduced to a steady procession of her lively and interesting friends, who turned up at staggered intervals over the course of the evening. Indeed, staggering was also involved in people's departures, along with wobbly bike manoeuvres and the odd collision with lamp posts, but I am running ahead of myself, plus I was planning to draw a veil over most of our late night antics.

So anyway, I met Frida's friends in this jumping but rather noisy bar, with its relaxed wooden furniture and stylishly backlit optics. One friend turned out to be from Yorkshire originally, so I tugged the fabric of my sweater in his general direction, and exclaimed: "Look - my jumper's from Whitby!" It may be a small town, but random weird stuff like this, or the multiple bumpings into Steve, can clearly happen at any moment.

As the night wore on, and my two bottles of beer somehow managed to be chased down (note the careful use of the passive voice) by a vodka martini that had been abandoned by one of our party (rude not to drink it, really), I started to feel a bit merry. Indeed I was probably not far off the state to which I refer in my 1984 diary rather more bluntly as "pissed". The rest of the evening is a fabulous blur, but we ended up back at the house of the Yorkshireman and his wife, who lived in a warehouse conversion tastefully decorated with a surreal assortment of art works in every conceivable medium, vintage 50s furniture, and reclaimed industrial materials repurposed as quirky ornaments - in short, a stunningly strange collection of artefacts that had been lovingly curated over many decades. We sat cross legged on the floor knocking back - and partly also, over - rather too many glasses of red wine, munching whole grain crackers with the gusto of people who hadn't eaten for a week, not just a few hours earlier, and spraying the entire length of our hostess's arms with the assortment of perfumes we had had the foresight to bring with us in case just such a consultancy opportunity should arise. We also got to try the only two perfumes she currently owned: Demeter Snow and Fireplace, and empathised over a lost chypre scent she had once loved.

Fast forward to Saturday morning and a mumbled phone conversation between me and Frida, which quickly established that we both felt a trifle delicate - me more than Frida, I sense - as I had mixed my drinks rather more flagrantly. Our planned meeting time of 11am was promptly put back to 3pm, when Frida picked me up and took me on a sightseeing tour of the town in her car. We poked around a fine specimen of Frank Lloyd Wright's architecture, and I also photographed a curious house nearby that looked like a scrumpled up tissue.

Next up, I was craving tea, so Frida had the bright idea of dropping in on her friends Nick and Elizabeth, who could be relied upon to have my preferred beverage in stock, not least because Nick turned out to be another fellow Brit, from Chichester no less. This time I couldn't muster an item of clothing from that part of the world, but I could raise him an aunt who sewed hassocks for the cathedral and a deceased uncle who had collected the offering plates.

It was only 5pm by now, but I was flagging fast, the excesses of the previous night by now catching up with me. So I returned to my hotel and we agreed that I would go over in the morning, giving me a chance to see Frida's house, her menagerie of pets, and the all-important nerve centre of Bloody Frida operations!

Refreshed after 12 hours' sleep, I was packed, checked out and ravenously hungry by 10.30am on Sunday, and went over to Frida's for a delicious brunch of blueberry smoothies and scrambled eggs from their very own hens on home baked bread, fresh from the oven, all rustled up by the MOTH without batting an eyelid - or a wing. I had two mugs of tea (Frida had seen me coming and swung by the supermarket on Saturday night!), and felt fortified for the journey ahead: a flight to Chicago, followed by a 250 mile drive to Iowa.

Not before I had had a good old nosey round the house, mind: I played with Frida's very fetching bottle collection, which lives on her bedroom dresser and includes several dainty Annick Goutals. She was wearing La Chasse aux Papillons that day, her girly perfume "exception". I laid eyes on Bloody Frida's computer (small, glossy black, perched on a shelf in the spare room, dangerously encroached by books and crafting materials). We also rifled through some jumbled tupperwares of decants and bottles (I spotted the mini of Lauren I sent her!), and of course no tour would be complete without being comprehensively jumped up on by the bouncy and ebullient Sephora. The canine equivalent of an eager and importunate sales assistant, but without the free samples!

I was very sorry to leave Bloody Frida and her namesake town after such an eventful weekend, and lingered on the front lawn for a few moments, taking exterior shots of her handsome Victorian house. But the working week beckoned, so we exchanged parting hugs and I went on my way, armed with a clutch of new decants (including Murray & Lanman's Florida Water, BBW Sandalwood Rose & Creed Fleurs de Bulgarie, to name but three), and some great memories. I would just lose the hangover, perhaps.

Photo of awnings from, photo of Aladdin's from, photo of The Feve from flickr, photo of Demeter snow from, photo of La Chasse aux Papillons from, other photos my own