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


Marie said...

Vanessa, I so truly enjoyed reading this post! It was a breath of fresh air for me today like you wouldn't believe. I'm happy you brought us along on your visit in the perfume heaven of the North.

Fundamentally, I'm also on the light and pretty side of fragrances with the odd detour to more exotic terrains. But beautiful and pretty appeal to me. As does lunar mystery - so come pay day Flora Bella will be on its way to my little merry circle of fragrances. I'm convinced that I will like it. Also, I need the adventure involved - especially if there's lunar mystery to be had.

What's is your opinion on mimosa in itself in a fragrance? I once ordered an Yves Rocher inexpensive scent named Mimosa but did not want to wear it after all - too dusty somehow. Perhaps Mimosa was not a fair representation of mimosa - I don't know.

Vanessa said...

Hi Marie,

Well, I am glad you liked it. The air up in Lytham is pretty bracing too, as it happens!

Sounds as though our perfume tastes are quite similar - I will see if I can PM you with a possible swap idea concerning Lady Vengeance.

I like mimosa well enough in a fragrance - it is powdery yet bright and upbeat and sherbety to my nose, and the L'Artisan's rendition in Le Mimosa pour Moi is the finest example I have come across. I haven't tried many scents with the note in them, but it is the "reference" mimosa for me. I almost bought a bottle, but seduced by what later turned out to be a near phantom linden note, foolishly got L'Ete en Douce instead.

Vanessa said...

Aha, you don't appear to have a contact email on Blogger. If you see this, would you be kind enough to drop me a line at and I'll explain in more detail!

Marie said...

Line dropped. Looking forward to hearing about you ideas for a swap!

Angela Cox said...

If I'd lived with Prince William for so long and my dressing table wasn't groaning with niche niffs that wedding would not have happened. What do these people get Civil list money for ? Kate get thee to Roja Dove that is an order .I once read what both The Queen The Duke of Edinburgh wear and loved both lists .

Vanessa said...

Hi Marie,

Got it, ta!

Vanessa said...

Hi Angela,

"Niche niffs" is excellent! I see what you mean - William could easily afford one of Roja Dove's semi-bespoke thermos flasks, for sure.

Where can I read the royal whiff list?

Angela Cox said...

That is a good question Vanessa , I can't recall . I shall investigate , I do remember it was a famous blog and the subject was what fragrances famous people wear not just royals.

Vanessa said...

Aha, Angela, I think I know what you mean now. I once saw something similar - like you, I can't recall where - but I was so preoccupied with the perfumes the likes of Juliette Binoche and Alan Rickman wore that I overlooked any royal entries that might also have been in there!

Undina said...

Not too long ago I realized that I enjoyed reading well written stories about sniffing events not much less than participating in those events myself. This one is a very entertaining report, I almost spent that hour with you and Lynne at the store.

Vanessa said...

Hi Undina,

Thanks for that! I am aware that these sorts of sniffing trips are quite personal, and my write ups are partly a diary of my travels that I can look back on down the line to keep track of what I smelt where. I am happy to hear that you felt you *didn't* have to be there to find this of interest, which is something I have been wondering about lately ie should I focus more on straight reviews? Though I don't really feel those are my forte.

Anonymous said...

Keep on with the sniffing adventures. They are so much fun to read.

Michael said...

Vanessa this perfume store sounds great. Nice and personal, which is what Les Senteurs is like too, in my experience. I must say, I tried Fougere Royal recently and I thought it was rather good, considering I am not a huge fan of fougeres in general. The price tag is monstrous though - the eau de parfum is not too bad, about £100 I think, but the special edition pure parfum package is going for about £350 if I'm not mistaken!

Vanessa said...

Thanks, Anonymous! Appreciate your dropping by to say so.

Vanessa said...

Hi Michael,

Yes, I have had great service at Les Senteurs too - loitering and sniffing for ages with only a 1 in 2 visit purchase rate!

Speaking of purchases, I didn't get as far as investigating the price of the Houbigant, I must say. £100 is not too steep for 100ml, I suppose, on a ml for ml basis - some Pradas are in that ballpark - but as you say, the parfum is off the scale!

lovethescents said...

Hi V! It's a shame that you don't like Le Mimosa, as I was almost certain you would. I don't get that fuzzy quality, thankfully. Actually, I recently sampled two fuzzy frags, Soliani's Il Tulipano and SoOud's Ouris. They reminded me of the fuzzy Allure and when looking at the notes of all three, I decided it was peach, the fuzzy culprit.

Can't wait to try that WGP!

Vanessa said...

Hi lovethescents,

I was sad about Le Mimosa, not least for the cute bow! Peach can be a tricky customer, I agree, as can plum, though not usually in a fuzzy way.

It can't be long till your WGP is here! Olfactoria had very similar impressions to me, so here's hoping you like it too.

lovethescents said...

Yes, V, I agree that plum can be tricky, but can also be aplomb :-i Love it in Natori, hate in Fiorentina

Vanessa said...

Oh dear yes, Fiorentina - what a mess. For a Creed, anyway!