Saturday, 9 April 2011

Going The Puredistance: A 200th Post Retrospective, And A Fragrance Blending Kit Giveaway!

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.


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.


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.

And as I have come quite a way, output-wise, I thought it might be time for my first giveaway. Now I am aware that giveaways are becoming increasingly customary on fragrance blogs, much like the trend in women's magazines to give away - in those cellophane flowpak thingies - a free novel/lipstick/sarong/clutch bag/chocolate bar with virtually every issue, sso for all I know readers of Bonkers may now be suffering from giveaway fatigue, plus I am awfully late to the party.

But anyway, I am going ahead and holding a draw for a fragrance blending kit from The Perfume Studio worth £20. You may choose from either the FRESH or FLORAL varieties (see contents list below - the floral version is pictured). Each kit comprises a 20 ml brushed metal atomiser and 6 x 5 ml mini-perfume blends that you can mix and match further to create your own scent - or multiple scents, if you have spare atomisers, given that there is 30ml of product to play with!:


Ozonic, Gentle Floral, Citrus, Musky, Green, Fruity


Heady floral, Balsamic (vanilla), Gentle Floral, Aldehydic, Rose Floral, Floral Floral

This giveaway would best suit a perfumista who has some decanting tackle, ie blank fragrance strips, say, a pipette or two and some spare atomisers, as the set only comes with the one large atomiser and the scent blends themselves. I can throw in a few plastic spray vials and a pipette if a non-decanter happens to be the winner!

All you have to do to be eligible is leave a comment, mentioning your preferred kit variety somewhere in there. I thought about setting a silly multiple choice question of the kind commonly associated with those "Win a holiday of a lifetime!"-type competitions, maybe something along the lines of:

Which of the following women would you associate with the House of Chanel? Is it:

a) Coco Chanel

b) Choco Chanel

c) Cocamidopropyl Chanel

but I don't want to make people jump through any hoops to be eligible, even patently obvious hoops! Why do they set those idiotically simple teasers, does anyone know? Is it to weed out the robots, as with captchas? If any robot is interested enough to have got to the end of this post without blowing a gasket, it is more than welcome to enter! Why, some people might argue that robots are no strangers to the business of perfume creation why shouldn't they be eligible to win a perfume-themed prize here? : - ) (Sorry, that was a low blow - I know it is mainly about budgetary constraints, really - but I couldn't resist it...!)

Oh, and I will post worldwide, by the way, in case anyone is wondering. This is an Equal Opportunities draw, also in terms of geography.

The closing date is Tuesday 12th April, and the winner will be selected by some dispassionate means/agent, possibly even Mr Bonkers, if he is about and can be roped in to help. At least it doesn't involve smelling anything, so he may well be up for it. Otherwise, I could enlist the services of an online robot, perhaps!


Anonymous said...

Congratulations on your 206th post! ;)

I love Puredistance I and I really feel it is a masterpiece.

No need to enter me in the giveaway, I have the Osmoz kit, so I am set.
Reading all the way to the end of your post was a hoot, as always, for robots and humans alike! ;)

Anonymous said...

This would be an interesting opportuity to make the first attempt for a personal creation. Thanks for entering me Vanessa ;-)Alica -

Anonymous said...

Don't ever think you're "adding to the noise." Each reviewer's perspective is interesting to me, because each of you has different likes and dislikes and that helps me to decide if I'm really interested in trying a scent now that so many are flooding the market.
More importantly, I would miss phrases such as "lined with padded white satin not unlike a top of the range coffin." Nor would I know your burial wishes and wine ordering habits are so closely aligned. Your wry and humourous perspective on any topic is much appreciated AND better than any giveaway.
I also laud you for not discriminating against robots, although in my more paranoid moments I worry that if they start wearing perfume (especially niche) we will not recognize them as they walk among us.
Thanks for the link back to your Choco Chanel article -- it's truly an oversight that there are no chocolate perfume bottles.
In perfume preferences I lean towards "Fresh" -- I am, however, neither a decanter nor one who layers or blends my own perfumes so this would be purely a learn to identify notes set for me and would likely better suit a more experienced fumey.
Your four-part travel series was great, but it's good to have you back home doing reviews.


Marie said...

Should I become the lucky winner, I'd prefer the floral kit.

Your review of Puredistance1 is really interesting to me, as I am a long time lover of no. 5 and anything that is compared favorably to no. 5 immediately has my attention - and the notes of Puredistance1 sound lovely!

A question from the depths of my ignorance: What does coumarin smell like?

Incidentally, Cleveland was the first city I visited when I went on my first and only visit to the US.

Unknown said...

Wonderful post, Elaine. Very entertaining and informative. Yes, please enter me in the giveaway!


lovethescents said...

Congratulations to you again! Your fan base is growing and deservedly so :-)

I'd love to try that kit. Never done anything like it. Should I win, I would love the floral program please :-)

Isa said...

Congratulations! :)

I enjoyed your review a lot. I appreciate that you compare Puredistance to other famous fragrances. It helps a lot.

I would love to be entered in the draw. I bought one of the Osmoz kits just lo learn about the notes. It is very useful for starters like me. So bad that the essences can't be used on skin...

I would love to try the Fresh kit. Thank you!

Undina said...

This review came out at the exactly right moment: I'm expecting my sample of Puredistance I to arrive any day now. I am so curious to try it since I have both perfumes you mentioned and loved dearly Deep Red for the last many years.

I'm scared of the idea of mixing anything but since the probability that I win isn't too high I'll enter into the draw for the Floral Kit.

Ines said...

I agree with you, I don't think Puredistance I lacks va-va-voom, it's just a very sophisticated and elegant va-va-voom. :)

And I would love to enter your give-away for the Floral kit.

Vanessa said...

Hi olfactoria,

I enjoyed your review of Puredistance 1, also the account of your visit to The Perfume Lounge - which is on your doorstep, of course!

The Osmoz kit sounds more squarely educational, whereas this is a fun way to play with making scents from blends that are half way to being finished perfumes already - indeed some could be worn just as they stand in my view. It is a little like the "Betty Crocker Add An Egg" cake mix idea, but with the potential to make many different permutations of cakes from the same base ingredients!

Vanessa said...

Hi Alica

I think the Floral kit might be more "you" from what I know of your tastes, but we can discuss your preferences if you are the winner!

Olfacta said...

Hi Vanessa -- Um, I didn't say it was lacking va-va-voom, just that if one were looking for a "Hello World! fragrance, this probably wouldn't be the one for them, more or less...that it's subtle.

Interesting how the niche perfumes seem to have more variation on individuals' skins. Hope mine doesn't seem too thin here!

Vanessa said...

Hi Lindaloo,

Thanks for your kind comments, and as you can see from my more detailed description of how the kit works, it doesn't help note recognition as such, as each blend already contains a number of different notes along a particular theme or accord. I will put you in the draw and if you should win I can supply some bits and bobs so you can have a proper play with it - there is scope to make quite a few scent combinations out of the 30ml provided, you see. It is as simple as painting by numbers, so although you say you are not a blender (and I am not either!), you might decide to have a go after all.

Regarding the issue of multiple reviews of the same scent, I am in fact planning a blog post some time on the value of critique (both positive and negative) in helping people sort out which scents they might like, say if they know that their tastes are more aligned with one blogger than another. So it is good to hear that you find the diversity of opinion useful rather than overkill!

Ah yes, the trip to Bruges...chocolate everything, including some quite unmentionable items - but no choco flacons, sadly. : - )

Vanessa said...

Hi Marie,

I would say Puredistance 1 smells nothing like Chanel No 5, yet has the elegance and presence of a "big", iconic scent in the making. : - )

Coumarin smells of vanilla, but in a very particular grassy way that I don't care for.

You went to Cleveland first when you visited the States? I sense we may be a very select group, haha!

Vanessa said...

Hi Felicia,

You're in the draw, even though you called me Elaine, LOL! I think you may be thinking of Redolent of Spices? : - )

Vanessa said...

Hi lovethescents,

I think Floral would be a good choice for you, if you win. Good luck!

Vanessa said...

Hi Isa,

Thanks for dropping by! As you can see from my earlier comment, this kit works in a different way from the Osmoz one, so I think you could have different fun with it... : - )

The perfumer behind these blends is Andrew Kobus, by the way, whom Luca Turin rates highly for his understated style. He is somewhat under people's radar though, even in the UK, where he is from.

Vanessa said...

Hi Undina,

Would be most interested to know how you like Puredistance 1 when your sample arrives. I will include a sample with the blending kit for anyone who hasn't tried it, or doesn't think they will get the opportunity to do so any time soon.

Re Deep Red, of which I own the silver edition bottle, it was good old Roja Dove who piqued my interest in this one:

"Over-the-top sexy. Men will instantly want to go to bed with women wearing this."

Hasn't worked yet, but it smells nice!

Vanessa said...

Hi Ines,

You're in the draw - I think you were one of the first people to review the Puredistance range in fact. It is sophisticated and elegant, I agree. I think it was Marina who found it elegant and "cool", but I have to say it reads more as warm on me - possibly due to the orange colour!

Vanessa said...

Hi olfacta,

Sorry about that - I just lifted the first bit of your phrase - the full sentence was:

'If you’re looking for a va-va-voom “Here I Am, World!” fragrance, this one probably isn’t for you.'

I took this to mean that Puredistance 1 also lacked va-va-voom, whereas you meant the emphasis to be more on the "Here I Am World!" aspect. I stand corrected, though on me it is both va-va-voom and "Here I am World!" - though that would be "Here I am World!" with a breeze blowing through it... : - ) : - )

Anonymous said...

Congrats on the 200(+) posts, Vanessa, and I'm impressed that you're up to posting at all after all the travelling you've done.

Fancy Puredistance having headquarters in Groningen! I've been there (in the days before the perfume, I think).

Groningen was a top town when OH and I visited. I recall passing a sunny day admiring massive beds of massed tulips in colours I couldn't credit, whilst OH was busy doing university-related conference things. Some tulip blooms were bigger than my cupped hands - astonishing, perfect, every colour represented, every tulip immaculate.

Not surprisingly, the Floral kit seems to attract my attention, so please count me in.

cheerio, and I hope you awarded yourself a treat or two for reaching the 200+ post mark?

Anna in Edinburgh

Cymbaline said...

It was really interesting for me to read your review of Puredistance 1. I tried a sample, loved it and bought a bottle! I don't think I've ever moved that quickly to a FB before. I didn't even spend any time trying to analyze what I was smelling, didn't care,just knew it was perfect and unlike any of my other perfumes.

Of the many reviews I've read since, your opinion/explanation is the easiest to understand and jives perfectly with how this perfume makes me feel. Thank you for expaining myself to me! I know what I like, but often don't know why :)

Please enter me in the draw. I'll choose the Fresh packet. No need to send any decanting supplies.

Congrats on your blogging milestone!

Vanessa said...

Hi Anna!

You are one up on me, having been to Groningen, though I have passed by it a few times. Never sadly during the tulip season. Indeed I am not sure I have ever seen a live tulip in situ on all my trips over there. Plenty of wooden ones at Schiphol and that's about it.

You are in the draw! As for treating myself, I hadn't thought about that...though the other day there was another small - and shortlived - scented breakthrough where Mr Bonkers was concerned, which sort of counts as a treat. Details may follow in a future post, if I reach a quorum of cumulative small breakthroughs!

: - )

Vanessa said...

Hi Cymbaline,

Nice to meet another fan - as you found yourself, Puredistance 1 was an instant hit with me, and I wish you much joy from your new bottle. : - )

I am glad my description of PD1 struck a chord with you. I am rubbish at identifying the notes in a fragrance, and find it easier to compare scents to other scents or think of some other daft image as a way of conveying its general vibe!

I'll put you down for a Fresh in the draw!

Meghan said...

The fresh kit appeals to me...playtime! Also a great opportunity to work on scent identification/profiling, which I find so tricky. Crossing the fingers.

taffynfontana said...

Congratulations Vanessa
Love your blog its full of passion and quite enjoyable to read. I have yet to sample PureDistance 1, you did peak my interest it sounds elegant and timeless a must try. The kit is a great idea I'm leaning towards the fresh.

Vanessa said...

Hi Meghan,

You're in the draw. The set is great for playing with - I particularly like the ozonic accord in the Fresh kit, which has violet leaf, geranium, mandarin, bergamot and galbanum: not sure I could identify any one element, but as an overall ozonic vibe, it works!

Vanessa said...

Hi taffynfontana,

Thanks for reading Bonkers! If you win the Fresh kit, I will include a sample of Puredistance 1.

Anonymous said...

Ooh, Vanessa - speaking of small scented breakthroughs concerning Mr Bonkers, OH is in China with the 3 Ormonde Jayne masculine scents from the Discovery Set. Whether he'll use them or remember to bring them home again is another matter, but he didn't argue and *approved of my idea*! Colour me flabbergasted.

Just because it makes sense (20 degrees C upwards there, so scent offers a chance to cool down and smell refined to boot) didn't mean that I thought he'd agree so readily. Must be "Alien Burt", masquerading as OH.

Incidentally, the Tulips extravaganza must have been at the Hortus Haren near Groningen. Wonder if they still do those huge tulip displays now? It was quite a sight.

Keep accumulating the points that enable you to reward yourself:-)

cheerio, Anna in Easter Holidays Edinburgh

Vanessa said...

Hi Anna,

"Colour me flabbergasted" - what an excellent expression. I will adopt it forthwith! : - )

Fingers crossed that OH/Alien Burt will knuckle down and do his fragrant duty whilst overseas. Perhaps the change of scenery / cuisine / business culture will prompt uncharacteristic grooming behaviour...

I do love tulips - have a friend who is an artist and I am forever nagging him to paint some more, not that my budget quite runs to one of his pictures if he did. :- ) If you click on this link under "paintings", there are a couple with pink ones in!

Now that would be a fine way to reward myself...

Enjoy your holidays!

Anonymous said...

Hi V,

congrats on all your posts! Gosh, it sounds like I really have to try Hugo Boss Deep Red. At least it is very easy to get hold of.

I'd also like to out my hat in the ring for the floral set.


Vanessa said...

Hi Farah!

Hat duly in the ring - I think the Floral one is more your thing, so good call.

Deep Red is resolutely commercial, but very wearable.

Marie said...

Hi Vanessa,
I did indeed go to Clevand first - not counting a stopover in the airport in Baltimore. I was visiting Danish friends who were staying in Clevand for one year. It looked like I had imagined an American big city from what I'd seen on TV, and it was quite windy. And there was a monument of some sort.

Vanessa said...

Hi Marie,

It was windy when I was there the first time! Just 10 degrees in May, would you believe? I brought quite the wrong wardrobe.

Feel reassured by your own vague recall of "a monument of some sort". I remember a "waterside development of some sort" that was a trendy district at the time, and may still be.

Vanessa said...

That would be 10 C, 50 F...

: - )

Anonymous said...

I love the Puredistance fragrances! Antonia and M especially, but I apprecite "I" as well. It very much jives with my idea of "classic," and could easily replace no. 5 for a sophisticated lady.

If I win, I'd love to have the floral blending kit! :)

Vanessa said...

Hey Dee!

Glad you like this range too, and "classic" is the word. I am sure this one will be around for a long time to come.

You are in the draw!

Anonymous said...

I really hope so! It seems like the Puredistance strategy is a long term one---at least in my non-professional assessment ;)
Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for pointing me towards the website of David Paul Gleeson's paintings, Vanessa.

"Dodgy Lychee" is the painting that caught my eye, after I viewed the ones with tulips. The items included resonate with me (poppy seed case, Jammy Dodger - OH's fav biscuits! - and the distinctive pebble and the lychee too), all exquisitely represented. Lovely textures. I can quite see why you like your friend's work. Fellow after my own heart.

cheerio from Anna in Unseasonably Sunny Edinburgh

Vanessa said...

Hi Anna,

Glad you liked David's stuff - here he is in his (unfeasibly tidy) living room, complete with random pumpkin and balled up tissues. I bet all those Jammy Dodgers made him "agitated and unresolved". They are indeed a biscuit I am partial to myself in moderation and a favourite motif after the tulips! : - )

Rose said...

Ha! Coco! but really I just wanted to say I haven't tried this yet because I am bad but if you say it cured IT problems then it must be amazing and I must try some!

Vanessa said...

Rose, you're spot on with Coco!

Puredistance 1 eased the stress of IT problems, certainly - I don't wish to make wild overclaims that could do the techies at PC World out of a job... : - )

Carol said...

I've been out of touch lately - congrats on your blogging anniversary!!! I will be testing some Puredistance in the near future and am glad I have your handy review to educate me!

Vanessa said...

Hi BF,

Thanks for that! I am glad you have some Puredistance 1 on the way and will be interested to get your verdict on it in due course.