Saturday 28 May 2011

Bonkers Is Off Again...!

Now I did have a couple of posts in mind for this week, but what with being locked out of Blogger half the time, and frenetic preparations for my imminent work trip (to Belgium, The Netherlands, Germany and Poland), I am afraid that they rather went by the board. However, neither one was especially topical, so hopefully they'll keep.

And then today I have been working on and off most of the time, finding out about the companies I am going to visit. As ever, my research has thrown up some intriguing new technical terms that I must endeavour to convey in my best German, including "spandrels", "purlins", and "jig dwell time". In between all that I managed to nip out to run some last minute errands, catch up with a couple of friends for lunch, and intermittently acknowledge the remarkable stream of birthday greetings that have been coming through on Facebook. I really appreciate them all, and am sorry not to have replied individually to everyone who has left a comment.

I have to say that a major highlight of this birthday thread on Facebook has been the slew of new Bonkers coinages:

Little Bonks

Bönkchen ("Little Bonks" in German!)

La Bonk (a particular favourite)



Happy Bonksday

You can bet that I will try to work these new "Bonkersisms" into my future conversations - if not perhaps my interviews - at every possible opportunity, and it will amuse me to try and come up with one or two more on the long road ahead. I am back w/c 20th June, and will probably have to park Bonkers until my return, as is the way of these things.

But meanwhile here is my birthday card from Charlie the cat, whose paw-writing, spelling - and grammar - appear to be deteriorating markedly with age. As you can see, her deployment of the apostrophe is spectacularly arbitrary. Mr Bonkers generously made allowances for her, explaining away this rogue bit of punctuation as a backward flick of the "r". In fairness, the "a" also looks a trifle windswept, so perhaps I should give her the benefit of the doubt.

Photo of map from

Monday 23 May 2011

Pump Down The Volume: Farmacia SS. Annunziata dal 1561 Fiore Di Riso - A Careful Whisper Of A Scent

Over on Boisdejasmin the other day, Victoria had written a review of Christian Dior New Look 1947, which - relative to her expectations for this scent - she found disappointing and lacking in chutzpah: "Such a beautiful idea certainly deserves to make a grander statement." Along with several other commenters, I weighed in with my own liking for this scent, however flawed the olfactory interpretation of a "red lipstick glamour look". Sweet cold cream and talc accord, bring it on, I say! I don't mind if it is a silk slip scent and not a wasp waisted pencil skirt teamed with a fur bolero.

Yes, as anyone who knows me will tell you, as long as my nose can physically register a fragrance, it can't be too wispy and nuanced for me. I have already waxed wimpy on this very topic in my review of Calvin Klein's recent feminine release, Beauty, arguing my point that "blandness is in the eye of the beholder".

Which brings me next to an article in our local paper last week, defending my adopted home town of Stafford from a charge levelled at it in the latest edition of The Lonely Planet travel guide that it is "a quiet little place, overshadowed by other towns in the county". The indignant journalist entitled her rebuttal: "Why our town is far from quiet..." and went on to list a whole clatter of events in support of her argument, ranging from the annual open air Shakespeare production, to a half marathon, town centre cycle race, plus a music and arts festival. So far, so sporadic...of which more anon. But the bit she wrote that absolutely tickled me - for its sheer grandiose irrelevance - is this: "the award-winning Victoria Park, (and) our river Sow that runs through the centre of the town".

Since when did a park or a river constitute cultural hustle and bustle, never mind the beating heart of the town's night - or even daytime - life? It is a park, for goodness' sake. Flowers grow and die back. Old men sit on benches. One or two may attempt to lie on them, till a special constable politely moves them on. Oh, and the river running through? Well, in case anyone is wondering, Stafford is not a famous centre for white water rafting...the river Sow drifts along quietly, suffering occasional bouts of indigestion from clumps of weed and the odd supermarket trolley.

I said above: "So far, so sporadic", for when the only events you can wheel out as evidence of a jumping community are annual - or static/stagnant civic amenities such as parks and waterways - you know you are protesting too much. Take it from me, Stafford is an uneventful place. From Monday to Thursday the wind whistles eerily through the deserted town centre, while on a Friday and Saturday night there are plenty of people about, some baring unseasonal expanses of flesh, staggering, throwing up and/or looking for a fight.

Yes, Stafford is quiet, and that is fine by me. And quiet scents are also fine, like my latest discovery, Fiore di Riso, the new release from the snappily named Italian house, Farmacia SS. Annunziata dal 1561. Thanks to lovethescents for the sample of this one - the very name filled me with eager expectation: "rice flower" sounds so delicate and ethereal. That's never going to reek of camphor, or turps, or knock-your-block-off tuberose, or a badger's bottom - no, not with an apologetic name like "rice flower", surely. It sounds meek and demure and unassuming, and - unlike New Look for Victoria - the scent turns out to be wholly consistent with its name.

Luckyscent lists the notes as follows:

White flowers, ginger, vanilla, sandalwood, oakmoss

Then I found a completely different note pyramid on the website of an Italian online boutique:

Mandarin, bergamot, rose, jasmine, vanilla, tonka bean, benzoin

Which in turn prompted me to turn to the website of Farmacia SS Annunziata dal 1561 itself, where I found some very elegant shots of their premises, but next to nothing on the fragrances themselves.

So instead, here is an extract from the Luckyscent website:

"Fiore di Riso is a soft, sophisticated skin fragrance with dreamy vanillic facets. The lightness of the white flowers gives way to a comforting, sweet, sandalwood undertone.... Not overly sweet, not very floral, Fiore di Riso is creamy and warm..."

I would agree with this summary of Fiore di Riso, and to be honest, the uncertainty about the note listing almost doesn't matter, as I can't detect much in the way of specifics anyway! On me it starts out quite sweet - vanilla-y and noticeably woody, with a very muted hint of florals that keep the scent from veering into overt gourmand territory, not that I would have minded that. It is more restrained than Love's True Bluish Light, shall we say.

It is in fact a foody vanilla scent given the Illuminum White Gardenia Petals or the New Look 1947 treatment - ie majorly reined in (nearly wrote "reigned in" - must be the Kate Middleton connection!), before ending up as the merest wisp of a vanillic floral. The wood is very smooth and I don't get any ginger at all, though maybe it is working behind the scenes to nip any gourmand tendencies in the bud. Nor do I have the faintest clue what white flowers might be involved here, despite the mention of jasmine and rose in the second note listing. Fiore de Riso is less powdery than White Gardenia Petals, but belongs to the same olfactory demographic - a polite, dainty, barely there white floral.

As you can imagine, I thought Fiore di Riso would be an ideal contender to present to Mr Bonkers for his critique. I have been on a bit of a roll, frankly, since the surprise hit of Le Labo Labdanum 18, and was quietly hopeful that he couldn't object to this one.

"Is it soap? It's not bad. It's inoffensive."


"Yup, I guess in your terms an 'inoffensive' from me counts as a raging endorsement."

(He means compared with "fly spray", "craft shop", "eugh, take it away!" and "GET OUT OF THE ROOM NOW!")

Yes, and "inoffensive" is a raging endorsement from me too. Let's make some noise for quiet scents!

Photo of Fiore di Riso from, photo of Stafford town centre from, photo of Victoria Park from flickr, photo of rice flower from, photo of Farmacia SS Annunziata dal 1561 shop from

Friday 20 May 2011

Carner D600: Ambles On Las Ramblas – The Perfect Scent For El Paseo

Ask anyone in Britain over the age of 45 what is the first thought that pops into their head when you say “Barcelona”, and they may well reply: “Manuel from Fawlty Towers”. Played by Andrew Sachs, Manuel was the mightily confused and browbeaten waiter in the long running sitcom, for whom John Cleese famously tried to make allowances:

“You'll have to forgive him. He's from Barcelona.”

I am sure that the choice of the Catalan capital on the part of the scriptwriters was completely arbitrary. It could have been Cuenca or Salamanca or Valladolid, which – as never ceases to amaze me – does not rhyme with “stolid”, but is in fact pronounced “Bi-ya-doe-leeth”. The point being quite simply that Manuel was foreign, and so in Basil Fawlty’s warped view of the world, inherently defective as a human being. His poor language skills can’t have helped.

But that was way back in the 1970s, when package holidays were in their relative infancy. Nowadays, Barcelona is one of the top destinations for a city break, with its flamboyant and quirky architecture, museums, nightlife, chorizo- and churros-centred cuisine, parks and broad Las Ramblas boulevard. The recent popularity of the gothic works of literary fiction "The Shadow of the Wind" and "The Angel’s Game" has served to put Barcelona even more firmly on the map.

As for me, I have only ever driven through the city to get to the airport, though I would very much like to visit at more leisure. This is for all the usual reasons and also because I own the picture above, painted by an artist friend in 1991; it depicts a statue in a Barcelona park, and I would love to go some day and find the original. In preparation for this post, I quizzed my friend about the exact location, and after a modicum of head scratching and googling, he is pretty sure that the statue is from the gardens of the Palau Reial de Pedralbes. I just looked this palace up myself, and found it in the middle of the city, on Avenida Diagonal 686.

Which seems spookily fitting, because the perfume I am reviewing – the other main hit from my Düsseldorf sniffathon apart from Truly by Stephen Burlingham – is Carner D600. Yes, you’ve guessed it, the name stands for the address of the company’s offices, on Diagonal 600, just a stone’s throw from the site of the statue….

Carner, a perfume house founded last year by Sara Carner, was not on my radar before my German trip. Its two début scents, Tardes and D600, were created respectively by Daniela Andrier and Christophe Raynaud. D600 is inspired by a morning scene, Tardes (as its name suggests), by an evening one. Actually, rereading the description on the carded sample of D600, it is associated with both ends of the day…

“The early buzz of the city mixes with a gust of fresh morning air. Las Ramblas and La Bouqueria full of fresh picked bouquets, ripe fruits and spices, release an exotic mixture of aromas. As the Mediterranean sun warms the day, all senses are captivated by the dynamism of Avenida Diagonal and the grandeur of Paseo de Gracia…A seamless blending of old and new. At night, the pulse deepens and darkens as the city reveals its mysterious and most sensual side.”

I shan’t focus on Tardes, whose almondy/heliotrope-y/geranium accord disagreed with me rather, so it would be better to allow someone partial to that note combination to give the scent a fair critique. It reminded me of Fleur Oriental meets Barbara Bui meets SL Louve, which as anyone who knows my taste will tell you, is not a good thing.

But D600 was a different proposition altogether. According to Frau Berchem of Beauty Affair, both scents are positioned as unisex, and while I think D600 is the more masculine of the two, I could definitely see myself wearing it. I also think that it lives up to its PR blurb and is simultaneously a bright and piquant day scent and a sultry choice for evening.

Top notes: Madagascan black pepper, Sicilian bergamot, grapefruit

Heart notes: Guatemalan cardamom, Italian iris, Egyptian jasmine absolute

Base notes: Virginian cedar wood, Madagascan vanilla absolute, vetyver

So what is it like? Well, the opening is the most masculine part – a whiff of pepper and spice and possibly the cedar and vetiver poking through – the overall effect is quite dark and green – I’d almost be inclined to say a note like cypress, though I see none in there. But even this, my least favourite stage, is still beautiful. The overall effect is soft and rounded, not scratchy or overly resinous as those notes can be. If there is bergamot and grapefruit in the opening I can’t say I can detect them, though maybe they are keeping it from being too sombre and butch.

Then by and by, the iris and jasmine assert themselves and the composition becomes perfectly balanced between the more feminine floral notes and the manlier spice and woods. The iris and jasmine are like the fondant cream in a dark chocolate. Faintly sweet, yielding, and contrasting in taste with the bitter exterior of the candy shell.

All the perfumes in the ever changing kaleidoscope that is my top 5, 10, 20, whatever scents, share one thing, regardless of style: they are all affecting in their own way. D600 is one of very few unisex scents to move me like this, an all the more impressive feat for a scent that is “dark green” in my mind’s eye. Ormonde Jayne Man or Woman and Chanel Sycomore are all impressive compositions, but don’t stir my emotions as this one does. How does the strapline for that ad go for SEAT cars? You know, the one with the play on the words “automatic”, “emotion” and “motion”? “Auto Emoción”, that’s it. One whiff of this, and I am instantly filled with Auto Emoción!

Yes, this is a moving scent in every sense - also for ambling along Barcelona’s wide boulevards. It is the perfect pick for that typically Spanish custom of “el paseo” - “walk”. But not just any walk, mind, as in one that gets you from A to B. No, Spaniards walk to be seen out walking. It is the custom for whole families to go for a stroll in their Sunday best with no particular aim in mind other than to wander where the mood takes them, as long as it is down the main arteries of their town, for maximum visibility. Or that is what our teacher told us in my Spanish classes 20 years ago… Maybe they do in fact all jump in their SEATs now...

And this scent would be good not just for walking, but for standing still, and taking in the buzz of city life all around you...from the early morning markets till the last tapas bar kicks you out at 3am or 4am, four glasses of Rioja to the wind. And when I say standing still, I don’t mean like the woman in the painting – even though the mysterious dark greenness of the painting perfectly conjures up the overall vibe of D600 for me otherwise. The thing is, I don’t reckon she can get down off that plinth, not to mention her apparent lack of an upper torso.

No, if I were you I would apply a generous spritz of D600, get on down to Las Ramblas, and put your best foot forward...

Photo of Gaudi architecture from, photo of Palau Reial de Pedralbes from, photo of D600 from, photo of fondant creams from, photo of Las Ramblas from, photo of statue my own.

Tuesday 17 May 2011

Fascination Perfumery - Part 2: L’Agent Provocateur L’Agent, Elie Saab Le Parfum, And Boudoir Scents That Are Basque-ing For Trouble

So...back to Fascination Perfumery, and the second instalment of my sniffing report.

Next up Lynne had me trying drugstore brand Alyssa Ashley’s 2009 launch, Essence de Patchouli. Alyssa Ashley I associate with her 1968(!) fragrance, Musk, which I am not even sure I have tried. It always seems to fetch up on those clearance tables in my local department store, along with the weirder shaped Anna Sui bottles and unloved scents from various Elizabeths (Arden, Taylor). Now Alyssa Ashley could be the reference musk for all I know, yet I had studiously avoided the brand till Lynne pressed me to try Essence de Patchouli in its admittedly rather sleek white canister.

Notes: rose, geranium, iris, cashmeran, cedar, guaiac, patchouli, musk, labdanum, coumarin, vanilla

The initial burst of patchouli struck me as rather loud and rough, but it softened considerably into a poor man’s L’Ombre Fauve or Labdanum 18. Oh yes... A very indigent man maybe, but there was a resemblance. I wish I had tried it on skin. I mean, don’t those notes look lovely to you? (Okay, maybe not the coumarin.) And doesn't the bottle remind you a little of the Tom Ford White Patchouli one? Er...chopped into three, lengthways, say? Oh, and if Alyssa is thinking of going on the pull wearing this scent, she might want to consider losing the beanie.

Staying with our emerging theme of geranium – you don’t see it emerging? Trust me, it will! – Lynne gave me a sample of the new Agent Provocateur L’Agent to try.

My immediate thought on smelling this dark, brooding, powdery diva of a scent was that it was as though regular Agent Provocateur had provoked Strip to strip, and the resultant love child was L’Agent.

Without further ado, the notes are as follows:

Top: davana oil, baies rose, ylang ylang, rosewood, angelica

Heart: geranium bourbon, rose de Mai, jasmin sambac, tuberose absolute, osmanthus

Base: patchouli, sandalwood, amber crystals, tonka beans, rock rose, myrrh, black incense, musk

Additionally, Lynne explained that L’Agent contains pheromones! I found this titbit reported on both Now Smell This and Fragrantica (see quote below), so I am going to take it on good faith – after all, if it is good enough for Escentric Molecules...but hold on, didn’t that turn out just to be Iso E Super in the end?

“In addition to the pyramidal structure, the perfume composition also contains a new secret ingredient of pheromones, guaranteeing heart-winning excitement.”

Wow, guaranteeing heart-winning excitement - it must be really something, then...

Returning to my love child theory again, having cross-referenced the notes, I can confirm that L’Agent shares amber and ylang-ylang with both original Agent Provocateur AND Strip, then rose and jasmine with original AP and geranium bourbon with Strip. So that looks like a fair old helix of common DNA to me.

As with Strip, L’Agent kicks off with a “Geronimo!” of a geranium opening, however, it subsides more quickly, and the scent doesn’t majorly change after that, beyond getting quietly powdery. If the character I would associate with original AP is a Betty Boo, Benefit make up-using 50s starlet perched demurely on her dressing table stool, the person I would associate with L’Agent is wearing two-tone black and pink lace underwear under a black silk kimono - while the wearer of Strip is wearing a red basque under a black nylon peignoir...and carrying a whip.

Now the keen-eyed reader will spot nuances there on the “lingerie louche-o-meter”, but in truth Strip and L’Agent are very close in persona, if not in scent. L’Agent is more feminine and girlish, but still packs a hefty seductive punch. It is definitely more of a hard hitter than regular AP, which I know a number of people think nothing of wearing to work!

Would I wear L’Agent out? Sure I would, and I am not saying that just because someone once indirectly referred to me as a “pious old fluffer” (in a debate loosely about sex in advertising, in case anyone's curiosity is overwhelming!).

Which leads me finally to Elie Saab Le Parfum, the new signature fragrance of the Lebanese designer of that name, of whom I must confess I had never heard till the other day.

On Wikipedia I learnt that Saab – whom, given my history of automotive component projects, it is hard not to think of as a Swedish car - became an overnight success after he dressed Halle Berry at the Oscars in 2002. His other celebrity clients now include Catherine Zeta-Jones (whose name is weirdly starting to look like the new Andy Tauer scent...), Victoria, Crown Princess of Sweden, Queen Rania of Jordan, Beyoncé, Christine Aguilera and Angelina Jolie.

Elie Saab Le Parfum isn’t due to be launched in the USA till July, according to Now Smell This, never mind here, and Lynne didn’t have a tester of it yet, or even a manufacturer’s sample. However, she had squirrelled away some of the lovely stuff in her Travalo atomiser at the recent Milan fair, and let me test it on skin. The perfumer is one of my very favourites, Francis Kurkdjian, and the rather thin note listing tells us that it contains orange blossom, jasmine, patchouli and cedar. I have read elsewhere that there is a honeyed rose note in there too.

I am just going off my memory on the day, but Elie Saab was simultaneously bold and pretty, powdery yet shot through with a radiance that must have been the orange, while the patchouli grounded it and added depth. This one was like the offspring of APOM pour Femme - whose equally evasive note listing merely concedes orange blossom, cedar and ylang-ylang(!) - and the new L’Agent, say. Or if we could make it a three way love child – it’ll be a right mutant, granted, but in good company on this blog – I'll add a splash of Jo Malone Orange Blossom for a bit of brightness, as APOM pour femme is quite heavy on the old cedar, much as I love it. Ah, Elie Saab was lovely, and I would probably have bought a bottle there and then if one had been available. Not as "provocative" as L’Agent, but prettier and more of a statement scent than APOM pour Femme.

So there you have it - a few foxy scents to suit the whole gamut of seductive styles, from peeping-under-your-fringe-coyness at a film premiere a la Princess Diana back in the day (Elie Saab), to the full-on basque and suspenders raunchfest of Strip. Which all feels a world away from the quiet week I am spending at my desk, ringing an assortment of European users of polyurethane (PUR). I have yet to do a job in PVC, but fancy it might lead down some exotic lines of inquiry...

Photo of L'Agent from, photo of Alyssa Ashley from Facebook, photo of bra from, photo of basque from, photo of Elie Le Parfum from, photo of Halle Berry from

Sunday 15 May 2011

Lazy Sunday Open Poll Thread Question Thingy: Should Bonkers Be More Interactive? Noooo, Don’t Answer That….!?!

Right off the bat, I should say that the title of this post in no way sets out to make fun of the various forms of rubric by which other bloggers introduce an interactive post. Rather, by combining all the customary terms for such things in one strangely lumpen phrase, my aim is to emphasise the fact that posts which invite a reader response are in fact the norm, and I am out on a limb here for mostly eschewing them.

Thinking across the many blogs I enjoy reading, you’ve got Now Smell This with its Monday Mail to help find someone a perfume – it was commenting on one of those posts that led to my friendship with lovethescents, one of the search subjects back in 2008! And of course, Now Smell This also has its Lazy Open Threads and Quarterly Damage Polls about bottle purchases. Olfactoria has her Monday Question, Boisdejasmin recently conducted a poll on the most popular scents amongst perfumistas, while not so long ago Josephine invited readers to think up a comedy name for her nose, which was a lot of fun! (Daphne). And then more blogs than you can shake a stick at (myself included - see below!) also invite a comment on a specific aspect of a post to qualify for a prize draw.

And apart from all the above, there are the ad hoc questions lobbed in at the end of a post on anything, pretty much. Every blogger worth their salt does that. As a bit of a maverick, however, I tend to prefer more oddball lines of questioning to the perennial suspects about how you store your perfumes, or your top spring/summer/”cosy sweater” scents etc. This is not to say that these aren’t perfectly valid questions to which people’s answers might change from year to year, even if they feel a bit Groundhog Day to me.

And when it comes to this more “left field” style of questions, Katie Puckrik’s zany blog offers us rich pickings:

Fumies, what's your favorite "yacht perfume?"

Fumies, help "un homme fatal" out. Your best "beautiful and cruel" perfumes for the gent, if you please.

Fumies, what garbage dump perfume might we smell at Ms. Edwards' barbecue?

Now for the occasion of my 200th post, I did take the plunge and dip my toe in the interactive arena with a prize draw of my own – I was quite apprehensive about doing so, but the draw drew a good response in fact! But if my memory serves me, that was pretty much the lone exception to my general custom of merely talking to myself. ("Bonkers" by name, bonkers by nature, you might say....)

Right, time for the psychoanalysis bit – let’s hope Potiron, our resident fumehead-cum-shrink is reading this... - why do I not overtly invite readers to participate in posts on Bonkers? Is it because I am not interested in what people have to say?

(Don’t worry – those were both rhetorical questions!)

No, that's not it at all, indeed when readers comment of their own accord, they come up with all sorts of intriguing titbits on topics as diverse as their own Beau’s Lines, teeth and sinus cavities, to Scottish travel aspirations, wedding dress bra arrangements and thoughts on the brand extension strategy of a penknife company. I love all these comments, I do!!! I just can’t bring myself actively to solicit them in any shape or form (except for that 200th post, when I broke through, swallowed my reserve and connected with people in the conventional manner on such milestone occasions).

Hmm...the reason I think I feel shy about asking readers to participate on Bonkers is the exact same reason why, down the years, I have hardly ever had a dinner party, never mind a proper party party. I barely ask individual friends if they want to do things, but wait to be invited. Yes, I may appear a gregarious soul - and I am, when I get to where I am going - however, I am incredibly timid about making social overtures in the first place. The bottom line is that I am afraid that people will not want to come to my party or whatever, and will say no, or just fail to get back to me with an answer. You know, a touch of Groucho Marx club syndrome may be at work here. It is a defence mechanism to preempt disappointment, like taking a book with you along to a speed dating event.

So it’s official then – as far as blogging goes, I am a shrinking violet – “in and proud”. Only I am not proud, because clearly I am questioning my stance on the matter – it has prompted this post, after all. No, I am “in and indecisive", more like.

Okay, so I had got right to the end of this post, and was just looking for images to illustrate it, when I came upon an article on the subject of comments, which gave the following tips to bloggers to make their site a more friendly environment, and encourage readers to de-lurk. Here are the headings of note:

Invite comments (as discussed!)

Compel them to comment(!) (eg discuss Tiger Woods' philandering in a bid to draw your readers out - : - ) )

Reward your readers (that's the prize draw business)

Tried and tested subject (okay, well, we don't quite see eye to eye there, though I quite take the point, and it says here that it's also winner in SEO terms)

Reveal your soft underbelly (done?!)

Be nice! (I do hope so, and if not, someone usually pops up and bites me on the nose)

Sooooo….do people already feel there is an open invitation to comment on any post – or shoot the breeze in an off-topic way as the spirit moves them – or should Bonkers be more overtly interactive, posing specific questions of the reader? Eek! Did I just ask a question? Oh no, was that another one?? How many is that now?! Double eek!

Fascination Perfumery Part 2 up next…

Photo of shy girl from, photo of comments label from, photo of dog from, photo of Katie Puckrik Smells from, photo of poll figures from, photo of shrinking violet from, photo of poll form from

Friday 13 May 2011

Fascination Perfumery - Part 1: On The Prowl In Fougère Royale, Le Mimosa Le Mishmash, And What The Duchess Wore Next...

So I was up in Blackpool at the weekend, visiting my Scandal- - and now Flora Bella- and Plum- - loving friend (note exemplary use of the double hyphen there), and on the way home of course I couldn’t resist calling into Fascination Perfumery in Lytham, the Les Senteurs of the North, as I dubbed it once. Well, that is not strictly fair, as Fascination combines mainstream and niche in about a 50/50 ratio, and doesn’t carry some of the more limited distribution stuff like Parfumerie Générale, say, which is not to say they wouldn’t love to – and one day maybe will.

But anyway, I have got into the habit of popping into the store unannounced and the pattern I now readily drop into with the manager, Lynn(e) - still haven’t bottomed out the matter of the floating “e” - is that we engage in staccato bursts of conversation, which immediately subside if a customer walks in, whereupon I melt into the background. I will typically loiter behind the masculine fixture (as in shelves, obviously), or stand off to the side by the Acqua di Parma display. However many times I go – and in fairness this is still only my third visit – Lynne (let's settle on the “e” for now) never fails to ask me my top five or ten scents, I guess because they might have changed in the intervening period. She will also fire a barrage of questions at me about new releases:

"What do you think of Acqua Fiorentina? And what about Jimmy Choo? Have you tried Opus V? Mon Jasmin Noir? Le Mimosa? Via Verri? And the new Serge? Yes, Jeux de Peau, that one. How about Jardin sur le Toit? Houbigant Fougère Royale – you must smell that one! And where do you stand on the L'Artisan range in general?”

And much, much more in that vein, on and off for the hour and a quarter I was there.

And in between our chats Lynne meets and greets the steady stream of regular customers who wander in. It feels less like a shop and more like one of those open house parties – you know, where you drop in anytime, stay for a short while and amble off again – only this time the people were leaving with one of the store’s distinctive black and white polka dot carrier bags…

At one point, Lynne had sprayed two male customers with Fougère Royale, and there was some good humoured joshing about which of them would manage to "pull" the only female in the store at the time (staff and myself excepted!) whilst wearing it. The lady in question was well into her seventies at a guess, and was resting on one of the two chairs by the door when she overheard the scented gauntlet being thrown down. Mischievously rising to the occasion, she immediately leapt to her feet and threw her arms round one of the two men sporting the Houbigant. It was a pure comedy moment, for which hopefully you didn’t necessarily have to be there!

Now you know how when perfumistas meet, they get straight down to business, sniffing each other like dogs and lamp posts – no, hold on, lamp posts serve a different function – well, I forgot to mention that when I arrived I went up to Lynne as soon as she came free, held my wrist out and announced: “Guess what? I smell like a duchess!”, echoing my Facebook comment from a week ago when I first acquired this sample of Kate Middleton's wedding scent. Lynne laughed and both she and her assistant Emma buried their noses in my wrist. Emma was slightly more taken with White Gardenia Petals than Lynne, but both prefer more full-bodied scents as a rule. I think they thought White Gardenia Petals was pretty, occasion-appropriate, but otherwise unremarkable. No matter – it is very “me” all right!

As we were on the subject of the new Duchess, Lynne let slip the fact that her bridal make up – or some combination of it, as we didn’t go into specifics – was by Shiseido. So I may be getting closer towards identifying that specific shade of pink lip gloss... And Lynne also had a juicy nugget of info, namely that not long ago Kate had reportedly been staying at the Duke of Westminster’s house (okay, house may be an understatement), and the lady-in-waiting clocked a black bottle of Narciso Rodriguez For Her EDT on the dressing table!

Right, so I have said at the top of this post “what the Duchess wore next”, which arguably involves a bit of poetic licence, because I don’t know for a fact that she will wear Narciso Rodriguez in future – whether on her honeymoon, where she has apparently now gone, or ever again. But surely if she owns a bottle of this – even if she now also owns Cambridge, or the whole of Cambridgeshire, making a bottle of scent either way a tad expendable – I think on balance that she is not one to waste resources. Yes, I shall stick my neck out and say there's a reasonable chance of future royal wearings of NR for Her. Perhaps the Duchess will toggle between that and Dune, whilst keeping White Gardenia Petals for high days and holidays. And not forgetting that bottle of Creed she may still have knocking about in cupboard, the one that also has royal connections!

Okay, so much for what we talked about – what did I smell?

Well, I clearly wasn’t going to get out of the store without sniffing the latest reworking of that Ur-cologne or Grandaddy of all masculines, Houbigant Fougère Royale (Lynne was pretty indiscriminate in spraying men and women alike!). After it had settled down a bit on my skin I thought it was surprisingly soft and wearable for a masculine, especially one with "Fougère" in the name. The reference to “Royale” - which turns out to be part of the name of the fern, with no regal associations whatsoever! - always registers as an intensifier with me, as in “a right royal cock up”. So I was pleasantly surprised by this scent and would recommend it for male friends looking for a classic fragrance with a modern twist. Having just checked the notes, I bet the reason I find Fougère Royale acceptable and not too barber’s shoppy is because of the “feminised”, oriental-style basenotes counterbalancing the usual herbal suspects in the rest of the composition:

Notes: bergamot, lavender, rosemary, carnation, cinnamon, geranium, rose de Mai, amber, patchouli, tonka

I also had a quick whiff of Amouage Opus V, just on card. It was a fleeting impression, but I got a marked iris note and a tolerable oud-y aspect. Stronger than Le Labo’s Oud 27, say, but staying the right side of Homage Attar, my ultimate oud nemesis.

Then I had a retrial of Annick Goutal’s Le Mimosa, sadly with a similar verdict to before. It was too big somehow for a mimosa scent – too “busy” in a fuzzy, fruity way, and with none of that bright, sherbety quality I so appreciate in L’Artisan’s Mimosa pour Moi. Yes, there was a definite weird fruit note in there that I really didn’t care for. I am lost for words to put my finger on why this was so wrong, although Comme des Garçon’s Daphne was also wrong in a similar way, as was Dior’s Escale aux Marquises. The notes just didn’t mesh well. Fortunately, here is Kevin of Now Smell This, who isn’t lost for words at all, and gets straight to the heart of this discordant “wrongness”.

“Le Mimosa opens with a dry, flat note that smells like a combination of pencil shavings, cumin powder, and ‘hairy’ leather. This slightly ‘dirty’ aroma marches thru the entire composition…only soap will remove it from skin. As Le Mimosa develops, I smell artificial ‘peach’ and I detect, for a split second, a puff of iris, a speck of anise, and some vague ‘citrus’. There’s plenty of white musk and the aforementioned ‘peach’ in Le Mimosa’s base, but none of Le Mimosa’s notes produces a scent with the aroma of fresh mimosa blossoms (if that’s what you are looking for or expecting).”

Phew! It isn’t just me then. See how Kevin is using inverted commas to physically distance himself from the distasteful ingredients. And what a criminal waste of a cute ribbon!

I also tried Cartier de Lune on card which was pretty and effortless – a clean, sparkling, radiant, marine? floral of some kind. It reminded me rather of Kenzo L’Eau par Kenzo, though the notes don’t really coincide.

Notes: pink pepper, juniper berries, honeysuckle, wild rose, cyclamen, bindweed (morning glory,) lily of the valley, musk, and woods.

It would be a pleasant office scent, but for lunar mystery and a kick in the solar plexus, I'll stick to Flora Bella. : - )

To be continued...

Photo of Lytham from, photo of Houbigant Fougère Royale from, photo of dressing table from, photo of NR for Her from, photo of Le Mimosa from, photo of Cartier de Lune from, store photo my own

Wednesday 11 May 2011

Lalique Flora Bella - The Sequel: Our Man From Havana & My Dreamt Up Dream Sequence

Since writing my last post, I have received a surprise email from Alain, "Our Man from Havana" in Sahling best of beauty, Berlin. Right off the bat I should set the record straight and tell you that he is not in fact from Havana, but from Santa Clara, but that wouldn't have made nearly such good copy, so I am glad I didn't know as much at the time I wrote my Berlin Sniffathon post.

Anyway, Alain has now caught up with that post and the Flora Bella review. He agrees with my assessment of the scent and adds:

"It's a very unique 'floral', completely strange but still in some way very simple. Heavy, cool, salty, milky, capable of always touching my heart and soul and opening my eyes to my exotic and tropical dream-scenario. For me it is definitely one of Bertrand's best fragances ever."

I am also pleased to report that Alain was fine about being featured in this way - indeed I have a standing invitation to drop in any time I am passing, so that is all good!

He did, however, point out that either he misexplained the dream sequence which he associates with this scent, OR I misheard or misunderstood it, a much more likely explanation if you ask me. Yes, it was late in the day by this point and my German just wanted to knock off and go back to the hotel and put its blistered feet up. Moreover, I have become so accustomed to using a dictaphone in my interviews that when I have to listen and take notes without that safety net, I am liable to end up with a scrappy and muddled version of events.

So here is the dream evoked by the scent Flora Bella, straight from the horse's mouth. And look - we could have spoken English all the time! : - )

Oh, and as you will see, I assigned the raven hair and violet eye colour of the Flora Bella character to the surfer dude, and managed to lose her altogether! Also, I did struggle to find a photo to illustrate Flora Bella. It was jolly hard to find any picture that wasn't Elizabeth Taylor, to be quite frank, who actually brought out a perfume called Violet Eyes, as I have now learnt! Yes, you may need to morph the two women's faces into one mental image for optimum verisimilitude.

"A tropical island paradise. No big hotels, no luxury resorts. A small village where the tourist of the west world are coming to practice diverse aquatic sports, diving, fishing and of course surfing. A young surfer man (maybe from Germany or the Scandinavian countries) with blond hair and ice-blue eyes falls in love with a beautiful young woman. She has long wavy black hair and deep violet eyes. Her skin has been tenderly touched by the sun and her juicy lips always reveal the most beautiful smile. She's very warm and sensual but at the same time so feminine, so sweet, so delicate and fragile. They see each other and they both fall in love immediately. They spend a beautiful night together at the beach, in which she gives him all her heart and only the knowledge that her name is Flora Bella.

The next day he searches for her. He asks other people in the village. Nobody knows her. They never heard of her! He desperately searches for her, completely sad and devastated without any results. Was it real or was it a dream? The day he had to return to his home-country, he stood in front of the sea with his feet deep buried in the sand there where the waves die. It was morning. An old lady is passing by with a bouquet of frangipani flowers. He asked the old lady. She looked at him and smiled back very politely. Then in the same kindly and lovely way that a grandmother looks at her grandson she answered:

'My dear child, of course I know her. She's everywhere. Can you feel it? Smell it...'

She took a deep breath and then let it out in a very pleasant way like she had smelled the most beautiful perfume ever. A tear ran down his cheek and the morning breeze took away a frangipani flower from the old lady's bouquet making it disappear in the blue space between sea and sky. Maybe it was a dream, maybe it was really real. But the truth is she will always be there: in the flowers of the island, in the foaming waves, in the salty sea breeze, in the tropical rays of the sun, in his heart... Flora Bella."

So that is rather a lovely story for any romantics out there, and, as you can appreciate, it would have been rather a lot to scribble down on the back of a fragrance blotter and a folded up bit of google map...

And the humour of my mix up was not lost on Alain:

"Oh! And Vanessa, since I read your reviews now I have two dreams of Flora Bella. The other one involves the raven-haired surfer boy with violet eyes... and moonlight! It's beautiful and it's real! Thank you for that too."

Meanwhile, such was the hypnotic effect of Flora Bella on me, that I thought it worth getting some feedback from Mr Bonkers in this instance (I am quite selective these days, as he does reject 99% of what I ask him to sniff). This was his reaction:

"Baby powder."


"Yes, milk and babies."


"Why, that is almost an endorsement!"

A perfume Mr Bonkers almost endorses? Surely that is yet another reason - if one were needed - to blind buy this with confidence!

Photo of island from, photo of Santa Clara from, photo of violet eyed girl No 1 and of frangipani from flickr, photo of violet eyed girl No 2 from

Monday 9 May 2011

Lalique Flora Bella: A Four Star Sleeper Bought With Eyes Wide Shut...

In the very early days of Bonkers, I wrote a review of Jasper Conran Woman, a super cheap citrussy chypre of which you can still pick up gift sets (with body lotion!) for under a tenner in UK supermarkets. Tania Sanchez gave it four stars in Perfumes: The Guide, and likened it to Chanel pour Monsieur, yet it remains lost in obscurity and condemned to a slow death languishing in the bargain bins of Asda.

While I was over in Berlin recently, I had a good old chat with the male sales assistant at Sahling best of beauty in Galeries Lafayette, whose unbridled enthusiasm for Lalique Flora Bella (which he didn't stock, sadly) made a major impression on me. It prompted him to dream of a tropical paradise, where a handsome, raven-haired surfer dude with violet eyes crests the waves and flits in and out of view like a tantalising chimera.

You won't therefore be surprised to learn that one of the first things I did when I got home from Germany (after the usual suspects of unpacking, washing, emergency plant rescue and placating the cat, who always pretends not to recognise me if I have been away for more than a couple of days), was to get onto the Cheapsmells website and snag a bottle of this for under £17, including shipping. As I said in my Berlin Sniffathon report, it was well worth that amount just to see what all the fuss was about - or wasn't...And of course Flora Bella was created by Bertrand Duchaufour, who surely must be incapable of having an off day and creating a duffer.

Now I haven't blind bought anything for a very long time - in fact, I can't remember what the last bottle was, it is so long ago - but sometimes the thrill of the gamble is worth the risk, and if you do end up liking the scent in question, you really are quids in. Well, I have now worn Flora Bella a few times and what can I say? I thought I had smelt it all...but then this lactonic beauty came along. Hmm, I can't seem to find two note listings that agree, but here are a couple to kick us off:


Top Notes: mandarin, bergamot, baie rose

Middle Notes: Daphne flower, frangipani blossom, vanilla, sweet almond

Base Notes: amber, vanilla, white musk


Notes: mandarin, bergamot, rose, violet, frangipani, freesia, cassia flower, mimosa, tuberose, carnation, orchid, tiare flower, white musk, vanilla and spices

I had to google Daphne flower and came across an authoritative article on the subject by Octavian of 1000 Fragrances, of which this extract seemed the most relevant:

"Daphne mezereum is maybe the best known type, but there are other scented Daphne flowers like Daphne alpina, Daphne cneorum, Daphne striata, Daphne philippi, Daphne blagayana, Daphne laureola, etc. They are all scented, covering many types of notes: rather strong, heavy, vanilla-like around an aromatic spicy concept, and there is even one that has a violet note."

That's assuming there is Daphne flower in here, of course, and the lack of congruence in note listings suggests that the jury is not only "out", but has long since dispersed and toddled off home. I have just googled a few more note lists and found sporadic additional references to lilac and blackcurrant! What an olfactory shapeshifter this scent is turning out to definitely has a "pick your own" style of note list, so I am going to keep Daphne flower for starters.

A word on the packaging next: for example, the box is a rather nasty shade of mauve - I say nasty, though that is in fact the colour of the bedroom carpet in the spare room, which is also picked out in the curtains, so I must have liked it at one point. As for the bottle, it has those pleasingly square and chunky Lalique "house" contours, with hobnail studs on the edges, not unlike a musician's flight case, or the milk jug pictured further down. (I will come back presently to these twin themes of metal rivets and dairy products...)

Now here's another shapeshifting dimension to this scent - if you google pictures of the bottle, 90% of the images you find show the juice to be blue or mauve! How mad is that? I found just one or two where the perfume looks its actual colour, which is in fact a sort of washed out plum. Why should that be, I wonder?

On to the smell of the fragrance - not before time, I hear you clamour! The first thing that struck me is its lush, enveloping warmth. Texturally, I was reminded of Puredistance 1, another ambery-musky scent, but this struck me as a much airier version - and I said Puredistance 1 was airy in my recent review of it!

And I am of course assuming that Flora Bella does have amber in it, which it seems to to me, so I'm going to appropriate amber too in my pick 'n' mix note list. Oh and on my friend at the weekend - who also fell in love with this one and has probably bought her own bottle by now from the same site - it smelt remarkably similar to DKNY Gold. Once again it seemed lighter and airier than Gold, while still managing to be potent and lush. Now for sure, that is a clever stunt to pull all right - to be simultaneously full-bodied and airy - but Flora Bella is that contradictory chameleon!


Notes: patchouli, balsam, acacia flowers, jasmine, Casablanca lily, clove, amber

Okay, so those notes looks nothing like Flora Bella on paper, but they share a beguiling sensuality, and even in the absence of lily in Flora Bella, the similarity was compelling on my friend's arm. I don't get any particular development with Flora Bella, just this initial big whoosh of gorgeous sweet florals, suspended in an airy, milky cloud over a musky, amber base. And for the record, my friend doesn't care for overtly vanilla-y scents, so this manages to be milky without straying into Yankee vanilla candle territory.

In a Facebook exchange, Olenska of Parfumieren drew my attention to the fact that Tania Sanchez also gives this scent four stars in Perfumes: The Guide. Which was an additional source of "post-purchase cognitive assonance", not that any was needed by this point, as I was well and truly smitten.

Tania's overall caption for this scent is "milky metallic", and she goes on to speak of its "dreamy, dense, milky note, which reminds me of a Filipino dessert of sweetened condensed milk poured over shaved ice", later summing Flora Bella up as "Silver, chilled cream, and a far-reaching transparent glow: it should have been called Luna Piena instead".

So now of course I had to google "Luna Piena", whose preeminent incarnation in Google seems to be an Italian restaurant in Whitby. I don't suppose Tania had that in mind at all. I have now quickly consulted an online dictionary and confirmed that this phrase is simply the Italian for "full moon". : - )

I had already formed my thoughts before reading this review, but I totally agree with the dessert-y aspect. And there is definitely a steely, flinty edge to Flora Bella too (cue rivets and milk jug!). Alain in Sahling spoke of a saltiness counterbalancing the lush tropical flowers, but it may well be this helional-"sucked spoon" note Luca Turin has identified, and to which Tania makes reference in her review.

Olenska picks up the lunar theme in her own review of Flora Bella, describing it as: "truly a lunar phenomenon, unsettling and alien."

Now that I have lived with Flora Bella for a while, I can totally see why Alain the SA is captivated by it, and why it is his favourite scent of all. I would also urge anyone who normally shies away from blind buys to take the plunge on this one. It is dreamy and creamy, and it is a bit metallic, though I personally find it warm rather than chilled. Maybe it's my age - a lot of things feel warm to me these days!

But anyway, my advice is simple: "There's a full moon, so do something a little lunar/loony - close your eyes and hit "Add to cart"...

Photo of island from, photo of surfer from, photo of Daphne flower from, photo of flight case from, photo of jug from, photo of Flora Bella bottle (blue) from, photo of full moon over water from, other photo my own

Saturday 7 May 2011

Truly By Stephen Burlingham: An Emerald Cut Scent In A Cluster Of One...

It occurred to me this week that I should perhaps not bother writing about anything else for the time being, at least not until the current royal wedding fever has died down. For notwithstanding the fact that some people are entering search terms like “Aluminium”, “Kathryn” (which is my own first name, funnily enough!), and the sublimely sloppy "prefume Keit”, 96% of page views on Bonkers are currently of my posts about the Duchess of Cambridge’s choice of Illuminum White Gardenia Petals as her wedding day scent.

While this is gratifying from a traffic point of view, it has perversely also had the opposite effect of making me question the relevance of the rest of the content on my blog that nobody is looking at now, and possibly never will again. But no, that is ungrateful, self-indulgent talk! This is just a weird temporary spike of interest eclipsing everything else I have written in the past 18 months. I should just carry on doing what I do, even if my typical subject matter is under everybody’s radar, instead of THE big thing on it.

And so to Truly, one of my key discoveries during the Düsseldorf sniffathon. Stephen Burlingham, the creator of this green floral chypre, is a New York-based designer of luxury goods including jewelry, accessories, textiles, wallpaper and fragrance - for companies such as Cartier, Brunschwig & Fils and Tiffany & Co. Yes, most significantly, Burlingham is also a scion of the Tiffany dynasty. He is the great-grandson of Louis Comfort Tiffany no less, designer of the famous stained glass, from whom – according to the website of Burlingham’s company, Luxe Design Associates - he may have inherited his artistic flair:

“Like Louis Tiffany, Mr. Burlingham creates designs that are boldly original and beautifully crafted in prestigious materials. From his family, Mr. Burlingham learned about the primacy of artistic beauty in utilitarian objects.”

Speaking for myself, the luxury good category I most instantly associate with Tiffany is jewelry, in particular diamonds. It just so happens that I have carried out a couple of research projects in the industry, and know my 4 grainers from my stars and my melee, my G SI2s from my J I3s, and my emerald cut yellow fancies from my marquise chocolate off-sizes.

Inspired by the jewelry heritage of the Tiffany brand – in terms of bottle design and certainly price point - Burlingham teamed up with Patrick de Givenchy and set about creating a trilogy of exclusive scents under the auspices of a new luxe label, Laurelton Hall. The new brand maintains close links with the Tiffany family, for it takes its name from the country estate of Burlingham’s great-grandfather, the aforementioned Louis Comfort Tiffany.

The Truly scent dates from 2004, and was to have been followed by its two trilogy stablemates, Madly and Deeply. I got myself mightily confused trying to google Nos 2 and 3, for there are lots of references to them, and yet they continued to elude me. Well, I did find a trio of scents of that name (see below), but these are not they...If the picture didn’t do it - and granted, the jade one is a bit deceiving - the price might have be a bit of a clue…

“Truly Madly Deeply......three new fragrances that pay homage to the passionate and the young at heart. The three fragrances combine to give you a blend of floral, musk and woody notes; a combination we are confident will bring out the romantic in you.”

Price: £12.00

So in the end I decided to ring the Haute Parfumerie at Harrods for clarification on the matter and they confirmed that the other two scents in the trilogy basically never happened! Truly is truly a one of a kind! It's a one whiff wonder!

Notes: hyacinth, jasmine and peach, woodland musk

Now trust me - this can’t be the half of it – for the dominant note to my mind in the opening of this scent is something very pronounced and green: Vetinum? Galbaver? Something blatantly green that I can’t quite place. Hyacinth can have a bit of a crisp edge to it, as in Penhaligon’s Bluebell, but there is no accompanying sweetness here at all. Hmm, I just checked the notes of Bluebell, and it also has galbanum in it! Think Miller Harris Fleurs de Bois as well and you will be in the right general ballpark. Just checked the Fleurs de Bois notes and it has vetiver AND galbanum, haha! So I think my bets are thoroughly hedged here….

In my phone conversation with the sales assistant in Harrods, I said I thought Truly was a bit like a lighter version of Puredistance 1, which does have vetiver in it, as well as jasmine and musk, though there the similarity between the note lists ends. Puredistance 1 is more ambery and has a lusher, richer vibe overall, but I'd say they are both unusual and distinctive green-fruity-musky scents.

Puredistance 1 notes: Fresh tangerine blossom, cassis, neroli bigarade, magnolia, rose wardia, jasmine, natural mimosa, sweet amber, vetiver, white musk

But the lady in Harrods said not so much Puredistance 1 but Antonia, which got me thinking. I must say I found Antonia too stridently green and severe generally, but there again Antonia doesn’t feel lush, as Truly doesn't, so the answer probably lies somewhere between the two.

Antonia notes: Jasmine, rose essence, ylang ylang, orris, ivy greens, galbanum, vanilla, vetiver.

As Truly wears on the skin, the sharpness of the vetinum subsides, though it remains present at all times, balancing out the warmer fruity musky notes of the base.

In terms of the inspiration for the scent, in an interview with Lance Avery Morgan last year, Burlingham reveals that he created this perfume to appeal to him, as he finds many women’s scents positively offputting – or negatively offputting, more like. He envisioned the wearer of Truly as follows:

“She is pure and full of innocence. And yet very alluring. The suggestion underneath is that fragrance still has to be powerful. To me, it’s really a clean scent.”

To me, it would work equally well as a masculine, if not more so. I always find vetinum / galbaver quite unisex at the best of times.

So whilst I do like Truly very much – surprisingly given that I am not a lover of green scents as a rule – I do not think it is worth the high ticket price of....wait for it!.... £230, which I was quoted by the Haute Parfumerie and which I presume is for the 15ml Extrait de Parfum pictured at the top of the post. No, not even if the bottle is hand-blown and personally numbered and signed by Burlingham himself. There is additionally a limited edition bottle that comes in an emerald-coloured crocodile case and costs a whopping $800 (don't know the sterling equivalent, but in round numbers let's just call it silly money!). It is a very nice case though. Hopefully no crocodiles were harmed in the making of it, but at that price I rather fear they might have been.

Photo of Truly bottle from, photo of Stephen Burlingham from, photo of marquise cut ring from, photo of loggia of Laurelton Hall from, photo of Truly Madly Deeply perfumes for £12(!) from, photo of Puredistance range from, photo of nymph from, photo of limited edition of Truly from