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!


Anonymous said...

Pun-tastic post, Vanessa.

I'm glad that you've tried the Swiss Army edt for Her; I was curious about the notes and wondered how they could work together - the potential for a lovely Alpine freshness seemed there - but I held back. Such a shame that the end result doesn't deliver on that promise.

cheerio, and take care on your travels,

Anna in Edinburgh

Vanessa said...

Hi Anna,

Thanks for that! I do sometimes wonder if I missed my calling as a headline writer for one of the red tops... : - )

I agree that the notes sound rather pleasant, so am wondering if this scent fell down on the cheapness of the ingredients used?

potiron said...

As much as it hurts to admit but not everything that carries the label "Swiss made" deserves to call itself "well made".

To be honest, though I have not tried Swiss Army for her, I would have been very surprised indeed if it would have been a hit for you. I confess, I do not really understand the branding strategy behind Victorinox' perfume release. A brand that is best known for pocket knifes...

They have extended their product range to cutlery (supposedly because of their expertise in blade making...?) and outdoor clothing and sports watches (consistent with their outdoorsy image, one supposes). Then came travel equipment, bags etc. Now, that's already quite a stretch but ultimatly with a little fantasy still connectable to the brand concept. But perfume? Perfume?!

Victorinox should be carefull lest their label becomes as dilluted as their perfume releases.

And you're right about Switzerland and perfume. We have a few good brands in the cosmetic sector but I'm not aware of any Swiss brands producing perfume (other than Tauer of course). Though Nestlé may have its sticky fingers in the perfume market (as they own half the world anyway, or so it seems) but I suppose that wouldn't count. ;-)

Vanessa said...

Hi potiron,

Thanks for that very interesting overview of the Victorinox product range / strategy. I agree that perfume seems an odd fit.

There is a Swiss company behind the creation of Michel Comte Shared Water - Mibelle AG Cosmetics - but maybe they are also a cosmetics company with a toe in perfume development rather than a fine fragrance house first and foremost?

Nestle may well have its sticky fingers somewhere - it's the Honey Nut Cheerios that do it...

Anonymous said...

You forgot Vero Kern!
I am glad Andy Tauer was not dislodged from (or even nudged at) his summit by a fragrance from a knife producer! ;)

Vanessa said...

Hi olfactoria,

DOH!! Truth to tell, I knew the name, but not her scents or that she was in fact Swiss. I stand corrected and will investigate further. That is a very useful nugget to come out of what was always going to be a fairly frivolous post.

: - )

Anonymous said...

There is the Swiss company Magic Helvetia. They have two scents, La Base and La Base for Him, the latter is a powerful dry herbal scent.

lovethescents said...

I don't think I've ever tried this one and am really not going to now. Your review was fun to read, though!

Anonymous Steven: I have a small sample of La Base. I remember trying it once and thinking, wildflowers and grass. I should try again...

Undina said...

Thank you for the review, I enjoyed reading it even though I wouldn't have even thought of trying this perfume - even on paper. You are a brave woman!

Vanessa said...

Hi Steven,

Thanks for dropping by with the heads up on La Base - this has been an educational post for me! "Powerful dry herbal" is not calling my name particularly, but it might be just the thing as a men's scent.

Vanessa said...

Hi lovethescents,

How interesting that you have a sample of La Base. Is it the men's one, then? Or is the women's scent also a bit grassy?

Vanessa said...

Hi Undina,

I boldly go so you don't have to, haha!

ScentScelf said...

Ah ha! Does not cut it! May I say I enjoyed watching this post, erm, unfold?

Sorry that the Swiss Army perfume was not all that. I kind of wanted the odd contradiction of bon-bon packaging and pocket tool of war to bring it, as it were. I do appreciate that you went through the exercise, and saved my attentions for other, uncharted waters.

As for Andy Tauer's works...I'm getting a little worried that perhaps the backcatalog will disappear. I am one of the quiet but steely fans of Reverie au Tauerade in there, though, and if that were to drop off the map for some reason, I would be so, so sad.

Which leads back to the back up bottles discussion...

Thanks for another Bonkers good 'un.

Vanessa said...

Hi ScentScelf,

"...odd contradiction of bon-bon packaging and pocket tool of war" - I hadn't thought of this, but you are right, it is a curious combination!

If Reverie au Jardin has no Tauerade, I wonder why I didn't care for it. It was so long ago that I tried it, mind, that perhaps I should give it another go.

ScentScelf said...

Reverie is awfully rooty, as it were--it's all about what some refer to as the "medicinal" aspects of the lavender plant. I find it refreshing at first, and then as it wears on, deeper and actually having a certain warmth. But if the upfront blast puts you off enough, I can see why maybe what comes next would be thoroughly informed by the start.

But if you do try, let us know how it strikes you. :)

P.S. A ha ha ha ha! My captcha was "agooff"!! Indeed! :)

Vanessa said...

Hi ScentScelf,

It was most likely the medicinal rootiness that put me off then. I didn't care for the opening for sure, though I can no longer remember why - but what you say all figures. I can easily imagine being totally "agooff" and dismissing Reverie from the start.

Wordbird said...

Oh, this made me cackle, as you'd expect. :)
So glad you tried it, so sorry it was glum. Good job I didn't give you a bottle of the fabulously cheap "Swiss Esoteric Musk" edt they sell for cheap cheap in the perfume shops in train stations. (Not bad body products, in fairness, but the edt... Noooooo!)

Les Nez - as in The Unicorn Spell - is also Swiss. And very interesting, quirky and intelligent. I think that's what links the good independent Swiss perfumers.

And as an addendum to Potiron's very illuminating and erudite thoughts on the extension of the Victorinox brand ad infinitum, I too think the feminine perfume was a step too far. I could, however, see them releasing a successful 'Axe/Lynx' masculine bodyspray product, capitalising on the rugged manly thing. But perfume? Nooooooo. Not even with eidelweiss notes. :)

Vanessa said...

Hey up, Wordbird!

Glad you were cackling rather than offended at your gift to me falling "flat"!

"Swiss Esoteric Musk" edt sounds a bit scary all right. Like the 99p musk scent in my local chemist.

Les Nez - well, well... I knew the name, but not the nationality. Now we have added a few more names, "quirky and intelligent" seems a good summary of the Swiss perfume scene.

And I see where you are going with rugged manly bodyspray idea. The masculine route seems the only logical one, I agree!