Monday 31 October 2011

Results Of The Bottega Veneta EDP Sample Giveaway!

The deadline for the Bottega Veneta perfume giveaway has passed! And so, shortly after midday today, the draw for these two samples took place using my tried and tested method of the "Mr Bonkers Random Number Generator". This completely impartial method of winner selection works as follows: I wrote down the names of all the commenters who had expressed an interest in acquiring a sample of this scent and assigned them each a number. Then I asked Mr Bonkers (who obviously did not have sight of the list of names) to call out two random numbers within that range.

I have pleasure in announcing that the winners are:

NANCY (yes, he picked you!!)


LINDALOO (another deserving winner)

Could you please both drop me a line via Facebook or to over the course of the next few days to claim your prize? Let me have your address and I will pop your sample in the post without delay!

Photo from

Friday 28 October 2011

Bonkers Is Two This Week! (And Giving Away Two Samples of Bottega Veneta EDP)

Yes, a quick look at the archives reveals that Tuesday 25th was the second anniversary of Bonkers about Perfume. When I tentatively wrote my very first post here, I little thought that there would be another 262 along to join it.

I had toyed with the idea of writing some kind of thoughtful retrospective piece to mark the occasion, but when Tuesday came I was mad busy getting tax stuff together for my accountant and packing to come away to Switzerland for a few days, so that idea went out the window - for the moment at least. So here I am instead three days later, writing this from a Starbuck’s in Basel, one of those rare establishments offering a uniquely appealing combination of tea made to my exacting prescription (because they leave you to make it yourself, basically) and complimentary Internet access. Actually, I haven’t quite trained the staff here to leave room for milk, but that is a small point.

Come to think of it, I did celebrate my second anniversary – though it wasn’t planned that way – by buying another fridge for my perfumes. A suitable one came up on Ebay last week within easy pick up distance, and I knew I had to move fast. Before I left I just had time to spread my collection between the two fridges in a very loose “summer / winter” sort of a way, and there was an audible sight of relief (no, not just the new fridge whirring, really) from the bottles as they found themselves with room to breathe – and to flex their bows and ribbons where applicable.

I will also celebrate the two year mark by offering a sample of Bottega Veneta (which I reviewed the other week) to two readers drawn at random out of suitable receptacle. Their names, I mean, not the readers themselves. And you can live anywhere to be eligible! Just leave a comment (with the exception of those persistent spammers on whose annoying account I have had to bring back the captcha rigmarole) to be entered in the draw, which will close at noon GMT on Monday 31st. A comment about anything really – why you are keen to try Bottega Veneta, what you would like to see on Bonkers in the coming year, whether you still don’t mind my not being as overtly interactive as other bloggers (now there’s a mouthful!), whether you would like to see a thoughtful retrospective at some point, haha - anything really.

Coming up next - airport sniffing and meeting the Swiss perfumistas (again!)

Photo of Bottega Veneta advertisement from, other photo my own

Sunday 23 October 2011

The Travalo: Trending Travel Tackle aka More Things On Poles

The Travalo seems to be everywhere these days. I hesitate to speak of it in the plural, because "Travalos" without an apostrophe sounds like a budget hotel chain (or its Greek equivalent). Now as some readers know, such is the vehemence of my opposition to the deployment of the grocer's apostrophe in plural nouns, as in: "it's raining cat's and dog's", that I will see how far I get without cracking and plumping for "Travalo's" after all. And while we are on the subject of grammar, I am not entirely comfortable with "trending" as a word, but it is a descriptor for topics on Twitter, so it is probably here to stay.

Back to the gizmo in question, a new take on the concept of a refillable perfume atomiser. Here is the description from the company's website:

•pocket sized perfume spray bottle that refills in seconds directly from a big fragrance spray bottle.
•no funnel, no spills, requires no skill
•over 65 sprays

As I observed at the top of the post, the Travalo seems to have taken the market by storm recently - in terms of its distribution at least - I can't speak for the sales side. I first came across one last May at Fascination perfumery - Lynn, the proprietor, let me sample Elie Saab from a pink Travalo she had filled up with the fragrance at the Esxence show in Milan. Then in the summer Penhaligon's kindly sent me 4ml of Juniper Sling in a pretty silver Travalo, and in between times I have spotted them by the till in various department stores and other perfume outlets, and also clocked ads for them in the duty free section of several in-flight magazines.

I have since invested in a pack of four of these refillable fragrance atomisers (there - I think I got away with it!), and plan to use them as travel-sized / purse sprays of a few of my favourite fragrances. For that is the first downside of the Travalo: you can't reuse it, any more than you can reuse a plastic or (I would argue), a glass atomiser. It will be impregnated with your chosen scent forever.

And unlike a conventional atomiser that you can unscrew to fill - such that if you had a number of smaller samples of a perfume you could consolidate them all in the one container - the Travalo only works with a full bottle of perfume. Consequently, when my Juniper Sling Travalo is empty, I can't top it up with my one remaining carded sample of the scent, because there is no way of opening the Travalo to pour the vial in.

No, the way the Travalo works is that it has a hole in the bottom, which you place over the "stem" - or "pole", as it seems to me - of the bottle's atomiser mechanism before pumping away to fill it. (Miraculously, the perfume doesn't then fall out of the hole again, which as far as I can tell is "open" at all times.) So basically, the Travalo is no better than any other pretty brushed metal atomiser except for the fact that you don't need a funnel to fill it. For a seasoned decanter this is no big deal, though I don't doubt that this is a major part of its appeal to the public at large.

As for the pumping action itself, it is straightforward enough. At the outset, I had doubts about whether all the bottles in my collection would really prove to have Travalo-friendly tops. I did my first "pumped decant" with a bottle of L'Agent (modelled below by Mr Bonkers) and that worked a treat. I knew it must also work with Penhaligon's bottles, of which I have four - though crucially not Juniper Sling - so if I want to reuse my Travalo of that I will have to bite the silver bullet it resembles and buy myself a full bottle for that specific purpose.

Right, so I will just go and take a random selection of bottles out of my fridge and report back which ones have "easily flirt-offable tops".

Well, I am happy to say that very nearly all of them passed the test, even Ajne Calypso, in its atypical Bohemian filigree bottle. The tip to remember is to be assertive and assume the top WILL come off. If you are a bit of a wimp about it you may find the top resists, as happened to me intially with one of the Jo Malones.

The only top to cock a complete snook at the Travalo mechanism was my humungous bottle of IUNX Eau Frappée, which - let's face it - is more light sabre or police truncheon than perfume bottle.

So that was a happy discovery, though so far I have still only filled up the pink one with L'Agent. For the most significant thing about the Travalo - given its relatively high unit cost versus a conventional atomiser bought in bulk - is not the mere fact that it is a handy travel format. No, the Travalo's key function is to force you to decide which scents really are your favourites, and worth dedicating one of these refillable sprays to.

Which may be why the other three are still empty.

Would be interested to hear people's thoughts on this apparent trend.

Have you taken the Travalo plunge?

If not, are you *pumped up* to try it?

If so, what scents did you consider "TW" or "Travalo Worthy"?

And do you own any bottle with a non-compliant atomiser mechanism like my IUNX?

Over time I am standing by to compile a list of Travalo Refusenik bottles on this post - though maybe the IUNX bottle was a case apart.

And finally, seeing as the stem of the atomiser sticking up reminds me of a little pole, here again are the other things of poles I saw on my travels lately.

Photo of Travelodge from, other photos my own.

Thursday 20 October 2011

How Do You Make Tom Ford Santal Blush? Slap On A Bit Of Jasmin Rouge...!

Blink and you miss it.

You know how it is when people call you over to see a beautiful sunset (in this case, the view from my hotel room in Italy - the one with the rectangular toilet!), and by the time you get there the egg yolk orb of the sun is just dipping below the horizon, suffusing the sky with a delicate pink, which soon fades to grey? Well, I am sorry to say that that appears to be the problem with Tom Ford's new release, Santal Blush, of which I had the highest hopes, not least because of its evocative name. The choice of the French word "santal" is always a good start: two syllables are easier on the ear than the three in "sandalwood". Follow that with a wistful descriptor like "blush" and you've got a scent name dream team...

Then "Blush" is in fact the shade of wool I am knitting a cardigan with for a fumehead friend's baby; it also makes me think of pastel pink Cadbury's mini-eggs - and it is of course the colour of the scent itself! Hmm, thinking about that pink juice, you could be forgiven for mistaking Santal Blush for a high class Zinfandel - that's until you tried an experimental spritz down the old hatch. Which, after my incident with the 2.5ml glass atomiser, I wouldn't recommend.

So how does Santal Blush smell exactly and what's with the sunset analogy?

Notes: ylang ylang, cumin, cinnamon bark, carrot seed, jasmine, rose, cedarwood, Australian sandalwood, oud, musk and benzoin.

Okay, so for a full fifteen minutes, Santal Blush lived up to my expectations. The opening is woody in a faintly raw, packing-case-splinter kind of way, which is doubtless due to the cedar wood, which I always find more rufty tufty than the smooth operating sandalwood with which it is paired. I get a slight dusting of spice and something that I would characterise as vaguely "rosy". Thanks to my synaesthetic training at the Le Labo workship earlier this year, I can most definitely declare this smell to be pink!

On reflection, it's a bit like FM Portrait of a Lady for wimps. And it turns out there is also oud in there, though goodness knows the composition doesn't need any more types of wood - even the cinnamon is described as "bark"...; - ) The beleaguered rose note is woefully lacking in staying power and in no time at all it is like that disappearing sunset or some poor consumptive in a Bronte novel, fading away before your very nostrils.

I could also liken it to those "hint of" fruit drinks that are 99.3% carbonated water, but declare pomegranate and blueberry prominently on the label, which is - annoyingly - perfectly legal. I know, because I challenged Schweppes on this very point. But at least with those kind of drinks you can taste the ingredients in question at all times. In Santal Blush - in addition to this issue of the vanishing rose note - if ylang-ylang (a favourite note of mine) and jasmine did show up, I swear they were hiding behind a tree (and there's enough to chose from).

Which is such a shame, because in terms of its texture, once it gets going Santal Blush is as smooth as the drydown of Violet Blonde, if not smoother. And to achieve that whilst using not one but three woody notes, which can so easily veer into scratchiness in my experience, is quite masterly on the part of Yann Vasnier, the nose behind both fragrances.

Yes, I am afraid that apart from the first quarter of an hour, Santal Blush is merely a milky woody bass line, in need of a rosy melody. As well as being a bit like a pared down version of Portrait of a Lady, it also strikes me as a buffed up, sanded down version of Diptyque's Tam Dao (my original "trapped in a tea chest" scent), with a side order of cream.

Now I have gone on record many times as saying that no perfume could be too minimalist to appeal to me. "Send all your bland monotone scents in my direction", I have commented on blogs, "I'll give 'em a loving home." I am now going to have to eat my words, because there simply isn't enough going on with Santal Blush for me: the note pyramid is too bottom heavy, the rose too elusive and evanescent.

I am aware that it may well be my skin which is at fault, for I have a hunch that it amplifies wood notes to the exclusion of all else, especially cedar. In complete contrast, Octavian of 1000 Fragrances raves about Santal Blush, and his nose picks out all sorts of nuances and activity. I could easily believe that it is a combination of wayward skin and amateurish nose that prevents me from discerning the complexity of this fragrance, but that is just the way it goes! summary then, top marks for a flawlessly smooth foundation, but in my view Santal Blush seriously needs some colour in its cheeks to mitigate its woody pallor - now where's my pot of Bourjois?

Photo of Santal Blush from, photo of Blush Eco Baby wool from, photo of Zinfandel from, photo of model from, photo of blusher from, sunset photo my own.

Tuesday 18 October 2011

Tom Ford Violet Blonde Review: Violets And Fizzle - Without The Swizzel

I have a fair bit of time for Tom Ford. What's not to like about a tall, dark, be-sunglassed man in a sharp suit? Or do I mean smooth? Simultaneously smooth and sharp, even. I also have time for some of his fragrances, though the Private Blends are horribly overpriced and tend to stray into "confusing Stella flanker" territory with their collection of musk scents and those ones with "oud" or "wood" or "bois" in the name - not forgetting the various "noir" things. It wouldn't surprise me to find an "Oud Wood Noir" in there too.

Now I did cop for a bottle of White Suede on Ebay, a steal at £50, and I'd happily pull a similar stunt on Neroli Portofino if the opportunity arose. I have yet to try Santal Blush, but the omens are good, not least because of its beguiling New-England-clapboard-house-paint-shade name.

The standard line is more affordable though, and had I not discovered Black Orchid Voile de Fleur so late in the day, I might have bought that one - you know, in an actual shop. As it is, I traded some Plum with Mals86 for a sizeable decant. I am still not sure about regular Black Orchid, though it gets brownie points for being one of the few perfumes to showcase Quorn.

Then White Patchouli is quite ghostly and atmospheric if a little high pitched, and of course we mustn't forget Velvet Gardenia, which deserves its own post if I ever get my hands on a sample again. I remember it as being a tour de force of loucheness and decay that evoked imagery of those dodgy "Eyes Wide Shut"-type parties in The Magus.

And the bottles in the standard range are also sleek and ultra-stylish. Simultaneously reminiscent of hand bells, salvage yard radiators and ribbed hot water bottles, they are beautiful and tactile, as I don't doubt Mr Ford would be if I were ever fortunate enough to get up that close. (To my chagrin, I missed his promotional appearance in Selfridges one time by just five minutes.)

So on to Violet Blonde... Here are the notes, for starters:

Notes: violet leaf absolute, orris, sambac jasmine, mandarin, pink peppercorn, benzoin, cedar wood, Haitian vetiver absolute, musk, suede leather.

On first applying Violet Blonde I got a strong burst of tingling iris, with violet just behind it, and I was not too sure initially where this was going to go and whether it would be for me. It reminded me of the slightly austere opening of 31 Rue Cambon, which is my least favourite part of that otherwise wonderful scent. It also made me think I should retry Annick Goutal Heure Exquise, as that was also ringing a small hand bell. There was a goodly amount of pepper, which may be a relative Johnny Come Lately in the grand scheme of perfumery notes, but feels like an old friend these days - or a friend you are forever bumping into in town, certainly.

Now the opening tingle must be due to the aldehydes, but they are not as pronounced as in Balenciaga Le Dix, which is the other fragrance that springs to mind if you say "violets" and "aldehydes" to me. Le Dix is like Violet Blonde doing a handstand, with all the aldehydes rushing to its head. I don't have a bottle of Violet Blonde yet, so will have to improvise with Le Dix instead. Let's see if I can coax my bottle to do a handstand too. Okay, we'll settle for the cheat's method in a deckchair, but you get the drift. Lovely as Le Dix is, it is way more of an aldehyde sneezefest to be much of an analogy. For me Le Dix is 80% fizz and 20% "violet and everything else" - and violet may not even be listed, but then again there are no aldheydes listed in Violet Blonde, but we'll pay no attention to that either. Violet Blonde, meanwhile, is 40-20% aldehydes and 60-80% "violet and everything else" (depending on when you catch it in its trajectory).

Apart from the creamy woods of the base, the jasmine is the only other thing I can detect, especially as the perfume wears on, and the drydown is spectacular. The texture becomes smooth as satin, and the violet-iris-jasmine trio is very quiet and heartbreakingly pretty. If I were to compare the vibe of the drydown to the beating of a bird's wing then it would have to be the gentle buzz of a humming bird. As opposed to what exactly?, you might well ask, as the needle on your Purple-prose-mograph gives a sudden lurch. Er...the raucous flap of a crow's wing?, I reply, clutching at metaphorical straws and racking my brain for a really loud violet scent. Insolence? One of those muddling "Aimez" ones from Caron? No, my mind's a blank. But anyway, let's skip the bird's wing analogy, violet-themed scent or not, and I'll just stick with smooth as satin for now; with the best will in the world it seems to be impossible to avoid cliches altogether.

Going back to the jasmine, it dominates the drydown for me, and has a juicy bite to it that is nicely counterbalanced by the primer (as in "more prim", as opposed to a basic textbook or that mysterious layer you are meant to put on under foundation) notes of violet and iris. I don't believe I have ever smelt a violet OR iris scent which is this smooth - maybe SL Bas de Soie, if you judge your moment, or Chanel La Pausa. To achieve that texture with both those potentially dusty/earthy/powdery notes in there is a masterstroke on the part of Yann Vasnier, whom I will forever associate with this scent now, along with his recent series of holiday snaps on Facebook. (At least I think that is what they were - everything flashes past so fast there...)

And what of the violets? In his own review of Violet Blonde, Candy Perfume Boy - who kindly thought to send me this sample - stated that the ones in this fragrance are not like those old-fashioned violet scents worn by the sort of grandma he wouldn't wish to have, namely "the dowdy kind that smells of Parma Violets". This got me thinking back to that childish "sweetie shop" style of violet associated with this retro confectionery line. I do find that the iris (in concert with the aldehydes, jasmine and the vetiver that I don't actually smell in its own right) manages to lift the violet note and makes it much more grown up and not remotely cloying or twee.

This talk of Parma Violets had piqued my curiosity now, so I had to go and buy a packet, didn't I, to see how they are today. Still made by Swizzels Matlow, in a factory tucked away in the heart of the Peak District, and costing a bargain 30p. They double up nicely as breath fresheners if, like me, you don't chew gum or care for the glacial blast of a Mint Imperial and its ilk.

Right, I am sucking on one now, and I have to say it is milder and less violet-y than I expected. Most confectionery - chocolate limes, wine gums, the chew formerly known as Opal Fruits etc - are now more outrageously artificial and strong-tasting these day, unless it is just my palate that has changed with age, though I don't think so. But I can report that Parma Violets today are not as sickly as I remember. That said, they don't resemble the violet note in Violet Blonde either, and still wouldn't be right for a perfume, but I think I have definitely found a successor to a TicTac, not to mention yet another Christmas list lemming...

PS If anyone knows of a violet scent with a rough, crow's wing-like feel to it, I would be glad to hear your suggestions!

Photo of Violet Blonde bottle from, photo of Tom Ford from, photo of bell from, photo of Parma violets from, photo of hair model from, Le Dix photo my own.

Sunday 16 October 2011

Bottega Veneta EDP Review: Cashmere Mist Goes To Finishing School

Not long after "sudden onset perfume mania" struck in early 2008, I progressed from printing out sheaves of fragrance pyramids of individual scents from Osmoz to setting about acquiring samples to try. The very first of these was a twin pack of DKNY Delicious Night and Cashmere Mist. The steel wool and Ribena disaster that is the former nearly put me off my nascent hobby for ever, while the latter appealed to me primarily on account of the name. Back then, I wouldn't have been able to tell benzoin from a bento box or Benny Hill.

I wore the spray vial of Cashmere Mist on the first day of a long work trip, to meetings with shoe factories on the Dutch/German border. It was a grey, damp, mizzly kind of day that makes you feel cold to your bones, and the perfume acted as a cosy scarf. I shan't say cashmere, because it was a bit rougher than that - let's go with mohair for now, but that is really a bit too far along the scratchy spectrum.

Notes: bergamot, jasmine, lily of the valley, suede, sandalwood, vanilla, amber, musk and cashmere

And before long I discovered the swap scene, and thanks to lovethescents Cashmere Mist became my first full bottle of perfume (if you discount the seven year old bottle of EL Intuition, which had gone quietly rancid on my bedroom windowsill at some point between 2001 and 2008).

Fast forward three and a half years to the launch of Bottega Veneta EDP. I have now looked this house up and clocked that it is a luxury Italian brand of leather goods. I rather like the look of the ones with a basket weave effect. The name is a bit of a mouthful, mind. The word "Bottega" made me think of "bodega", which in turn makes me think of Spanish wine bars and that place in Northern California where they shot The Birds.

With mounting interest, I read Denyse of Grain de Musc's account of her visit to Paris to meet the perfumer, Michel Almairac, at the launch event - also attended by Katie Puckrik - and each subsequent review I have come across has served to fuel my anticipation further.

Katie sums up this scent in a tweet as: "a secret leather accord femmed up with jasmine". I realise that I am drawn to perfumes with a secret accord of any kind - it is becoming clear to me that I like a hint of mystery in a fragrance... It was Katie indeed who pointed out the secret leather accord in another recent love of mine, L'Agent by Agent Provocateur, and I am pleased to report that I have finally detected it! I'd say that Ormonde Jayne's Ta'if smells mysterious too, though I couldn't put my finger on why exactly. Secret date accord? Accord for a secret date, more like. : - )

Anyway, back to Bottega Veneta and its link to Cashmere Mist. Here is the leatherless note list:

Notes: "bergamot, pink pepper, jasmine, plum, patchouli, benzoin and oakmoss"

The overall vibe of Bottega Veneta is very soft and tender. It's quite rich and fruity initially - possibly the pepper and plum, or maybe even the patchouli? peeking through - but this fades fast. The benzoin gives it that vanillic, fuzzy aspect, but it is less fuzzy and more refined than in Cashmere Mist, which has a slightly synthetic feel if I am honest. Yes, this is Cashmere Mist that has gone to finishing school. The leather note in Bottega Veneta is suede-y rather than leathery, as Olfactoria also found, dubbing it "graceful suede". Cashmere Mist has suede too, but it is quite muted and I get more benzoin than leather of any kind.

Bottega Veneta is also reminiscent of Daim Blond, another fuzzy scent that was sadly raspy on me - in my review I described it as "suede-scented white noise". And then there is a peachy/apricoty note in Bottega Veneta which isn't in Cashmere Mist and which - dare I say it - makes me think of YSL Belle d'Opium. And that also ties back to Daim Blond, which is fuzzy, suede-y AND apricot-y, though not in a good way. And of course apricots have a slightly furry texture, and that is about the level of "nap" we are speaking of in Bottega Veneta.

Notes: "Leather, Iris, Apricot Kernel, Musk, Hawthorn, Jasmine, Cardamom, Heliotrope"

Crucially, there is no apricot or peach listed in Bottega Veneta, and I am struggling to spot the jasmine: it's plum, apricot, patchouli, suede and benzoin for me, but way smoother than those notes connote!

So anyway, between those three fragrances, I think I have covered off the other scents Bottega Veneta reminds me of...Okay, maybe also a teeny bit of Indult Isvaraya (jasmine, plum patchouli), but that is heavier and darker by comparison. Good winter choice, though, while Bottega Veneta fits this time of year perfectly.

In summary then, Bottega Veneta is a sophisticated Cashmere Mist with added fruit and a more pronounced suede note. So nothing like it then, I hear you cry, but it was an inspirational starting point, so that counts! I guess Bottega Veneta also deserves a more ethereal name, if DKNY's more mainstream offering gets one. Hmm, something like "Suede Mist", say. Yes, that is perfect.

The day I tried Bottega Veneta for the first time, I met up with a friend at pilates, who had stopped wearing perfume - distracted by the needs of her growing family - but is keen to experiment now. I surprised her with one of my carded samples (I bought a few, in lieu of a bottle), and she thanked me. "It's very soft and soothing", I said, "so I thought it might be a good place for you to start."

"Oh great!" she replied. "I've got a big day tomorrow, with loads of people coming to an event that I have organised. So I might just wear your perfume then, as I need to stay calm."

I inquired where this event was taking place, and it turned out to be IN A LEATHER MUSEUM...My friend could have just done with that nice statement bag and she'd have been all set.

As for me, given my well-documented penchant for all things quiet and understated, I feel as though I have "come home" with Bottega Veneta. It's early days of course, and I should factor in my Flittersniffer Flibbertygibbet persona, but Bottega Veneta may have all the credentials to be that alien construct of a signature scent, were I ever so self-denying as to assign myself such a thing. Yes, if any perfume could whip me into scent monogamy submission, this floral leather chypre might just be the one.

Photo of Bottega Veneta from the company's website, photo of Cashmere Mist from, photo of bag from, photo of gloves from, photo of gaiters from the leather museum's website.

Friday 14 October 2011

Illuminum White Gardenia Petals Review: Update

Back in early May, I reviewed Illuminum White Gardenia Petals, the perfume worn by the Duchess of Cambridge on her wedding day. My review was based on a carded sample supplied by Roullier White, the single UK stockist.

In July I received a complimentary bottle of White Gardenia Petals, and was startled and disappointed to find that it seemed to bear little or no resemblance to the sample I already owned. I enlisted the help of Olfactoria of Olfactoria's Travels, who had herself purchased a full bottle around the time of the wedding, and together we were able to compare old and new versions, and were both convinced that the two scents were not the same.

As a first step, I sent my bottle and the original sample back to Roullier White, asking them to investigate this curious discrepancy. The store referred my query to Illuminum's PR company, with whom I have kept in regular touch over the past few months. They agree that there is a clear difference between the two versions of the scent and inquiries into the matter are ongoing. So far the version reviewed by Olfactoria and me (and quite possibly by others) has been traced to a small production batch - the second one made.

So if the soapy, musky "demure white floral in a veil" which I reviewed here is not White Gardenia Petals, how does the correct version of the scent smell?

For reference, here are the notes again:

Notes: gardenia, lily, ylang ylang, muguet, jasmine, amber woods.

Well, I am sorry to report that on my skin official White Gardenia Petals is a sharper, greener, more metallic scent. I do detect a gardenia note in the opening, but it is not veiled and softened by powdery musk as is the case with my original sample. Instead, it comes off as a tad strident and indolic. The early sample of White Gardenia Petals sits on my wrist like a muzzy, soapy cloud with a pretty floral bouquet at its heart, while the correct version of White Gardenia Petals feels more sheer and airy somehow. I see a slight crossover with Annick Goutal's Un Matin d'Orage, but it does not share that scent's limpid, dewy facet, and is at times reminiscent of a functional fragrance like fabric softener. Of the two, I will say that the correct version of White Gardenia Petals smells more like gardenias, possibly because the floral notes are not hidden behind a musky haze, or maybe because there weren't any gardenias in the erroneous batch of this scent anyway. Time will perhaps tell, but meanwhile I just wanted to draw readers' attention to the fact that my review - like that of Olfactoria - is based on the same fragrance, which is not, however, the official version of White Gardenia Petals available to buy today.

Photo of The Duchess of Cambridge from, photo of gardenias from

Wednesday 12 October 2011

Dogs In Heats: Please Help Meg, The Perfumista Pin-up Pooch, In Her Canine Calendar Comeback!

The Internet - and Perfumeland is no exception - is awash with gratuitous photographs of cute looking dogs and cats. One of ChickenFreak's obsessions is with quirky cat pictures, as I am sure she would readily admit. Sometimes, however, the animal in question is firmly linked to a particular cause, as with Ari's recent quest to raise enough money to buy her kitten a Roomba. I totally understand where she is coming from - every cat needs a whimsical mode of motorised transport.

And if anyone was reading Bonkers about a year ago, they may recall my debut post on Ça Fleure Bon, featuring Meg, the perfumista pin-up pooch, and her bid to win the coveted spot of Ms November in the MetLife canine calendar competition.

Well, sufficient time has passed for Meg to have got over her acute disappointment at losing on that occasion, and she is back with a vengeance, supported by her equally photogenic daughter Flossie, and running in the March heats.

If you like dogs - or even if you don't, but can appreciate the fact that these two are very fetching specimens of their breed WHO ALSO WEAR NICHE FRAGRANCE!! - please take a moment to click on the link and vote for Meg and Flossie under the March section. There is no need to register or leave your email address or anything tricky like that - you just vote "Yes" when you get to their photo. (Assuming it works the same way in different countries.)

MetLife Calendar Competition - Vote Here!

And here is an update on the dogs' perfume preferences from Clare, their owner:

"Special occasions only for the Fleur d'Oranger. Meg is quite partial to Mitsouko because she's a traditional kinda gal. Flossie prefers essence of sheep poo but please don't let that stop you voting for her."

If further encouragement were needed, note that Flossie's official name registered at the Kennel Club features perfumery ingredients and was chosen by yours truly: LILY PETITGRAIN.

NB Clare tells me Meg and Flossie are currently losing to a boxer, a breed not known for its elfin beauty or alluring sillage.

"The Boxer's ahead again, by a short-and-stubby nose. For heaven's sake, it hasn't even got its eyes open. The plucky spaniels not only have their eyes open, they are actually SMILING for the camera. I can only assume the boxer is owned by Simon Cowell."

So please help Meg and Flossie "march" to victory, and may the most fragrant dog(s) win!!

Sunday 9 October 2011

The Scent Crimes Series: No 9 - "Snapped: Women Who Fill" - 2.5ml Glass Atomisers Behaving Badly (Again)

Mr Bonkers recently suggested that we kick Sky, our satellite channel provider, into touch, as we aren't watching nearly enough TV to warrant the £60 a month. One of the programmes I will miss is a crime series called "Snapped: Women Who Kill". Apart from anything, I have always appreciated the portentous semi-colon in the title. The other day my friend Clare wrote on Mr Bonkers' Facebook wall, warning him that he may regret this decision:

"Having watched all those episodes of 'Women who Kill', Vanessa knows all the best techniques. You don't want to upset her...I'd restore Sky, smartish".

But really, it is okay. I am fully behind the decision and not about to run amok in the living room wielding a semi-automatic rifle. Or for that matter a knitting needle, mini-stapler or Estée Lauder lip gloss, all of which items sundry airlines down the years have construed as offensive weapons and summarily confiscated from me.

But what did get me mad the other day were some more technical difficulties while decanting. I don't know this for sure, but I may be the most prolific blogger in perfumeland on the subject of various decanting issues: from bottles that only spray at a funny angle, to swivelling nozzles and overspray problems, tricky viscosities and curious arrangements of insulation tape. On this recent occasion, a 2.5ml glass atomiser was getting up to its tricks again - well, different tricks, in fact.

Yes, the usual trick of these particular vials is to resist having their tops put on altogether, even if you follow to the letter the method outlined on the Accessories For Fragrance website.

No, this time something most peculiar occurred. I was trying to consolidate my small samples of Armani Sensi - an underrated jasmine floral I have already reviewed on Bonkers - into a single 2.5ml atomiser, as I quite fancied spraying it for once. My only other stocks of this scent are in the form of a miniature with a tiny aperture, so there was no hope of transferring its contents - that will forever remain strictly a dabbing receptacle.

But I had a couple of ml in 1ml vials to combine and managed to get them into the 2.5ml atomiser okay. Then I had some trouble getting the top on, but in the end I managed to bodge it in after a fashion, applying lots of brute force (though I didn't deploy the geode this time). But the fit bothered me still - for some reason I doubted whether it was properly in - I hadn't heard it do that click thing it is meant to do, and it was also sitting at a slightly funny angle.

So I set about trying to take the top section off again: pulling it this way and that, trying to twist it or prise it off with my fingers. I was just about to go and take a knife to it when I had the bright idea of trying to bite the top off . Apart from anything it felt like a way to release the annoyance I was by now feeling - and after all, it is a tried and tested method I use with those dangly plastic tags from the dry cleaner's that you remember to remove just as you are going into an important meeting.

Well, I am not sure I would recommend biting as a technique of atomiser disassembly, because the whole top sheared off, leaving the rest of the mechanism still firmly stuck inside the vial, like the stinger a bee deposits into your skin. I have not yet tried to get it out again. other than half-heartedly upending the darn thing to see if any perfume comes out the tiny hole in the atomiser tube / "stinger equivalent" (it doesn't). I will have to try taking a knife to the plastic rim embedded in the glass base at some point, but I sense it may be messy.

And the worst part about biting off more than I could crunch? Getting perfume in my mouth - not much, obviously, as you can see from the photograph, but enough to know it is not something that - notwithstanding its alcoholic base - will displace my favourite tipple of G & T any time soon.

Mugshot photo from, photo of a vial having its top inserted from, photo of bee sting from Wikipedia, photo of Sensi mini from Ebay, other photo my own.

Thursday 6 October 2011

Penhaligon's Juniper Sling: Thirst Aid For The Roaring Twenties - Or Hotter!

I like a drop of gin. Several drops indeed. Okay, one of those little 40ml metal measuring cup things is my usual portion. Yes, it is mother's milk to me since you are asking, though to my knowledge I have never been known to reek of the stuff. I take gin with lime for preference, though limes shrivel sooner than lemons, I find. Whatever citrus fruit I go for, I always wipe a few cells around the rim of the glass as a finishing touch. "Cells" being a technical term (that doesn't get out nearly enough) for the actual little fibrous globules of fruit.

I also drink Pimm's (another gin-based drink) very happily, though it is more labour-intensive with all that fruit chopping and dashing out to the garden to see if you have any mint, and the only other hard liquor I like is vodka. Well, "like" is overstating it, for what's to like in this most self-effacing and chameleon-like of spirits? No, gin is best, because it has a definite flinty taste of its own. Not unlike the measuring receptacle indeed.

If you are in any doubt about my penchant for gin, here is a statement of personal interests I posted in an Internet forum:

"Messing about on computers (obviously), trashy TV, improving fiction, gym, swimming, writing postcards, drinking gin."

The only thing that has changed there is the sports bit, which I have let lapse, plus I don't really read much improving fiction these days. But to my credit I have conscientiously kept up the gin drinking!

So when the nice people at Penhaligon's announced the launch of Juniper Sling:

"a playful, chilled and mysterious homage to the Bright Young Things of London’s roaring twenties..."

...I was very excited. I think Rose Beyond The Thames's review was the first one I read, right after she attended the launch back in July. Then in August Penhaligon's sent me a decant in a cute little Travalo (of which more later) just as I was leaving for my third trip of the summer to Central Europe; I wore it often over several weeks in the sweltering 35 C heatwave.

In finally getting down to reviewing Juniper Sling I am so late to the party (or "shindig", rather), that not only has everybody gone home, but someone has already painstakingly picked up the discarded cocktail parasols and hoovered up the canapé crumbs. I have to question whether the blogosphere really needs another review, as I did with Nuit de Tubéreuse that time. However, I will stick by my rule, which is that if I love a fragrance, no matter how many other reviews may have gone before me, I will add my own two pennyworth.

Because I do really love Juniper Sling. So much so that I tried to get my brother to let me buy him a bottle for his birthday at the weekend, with the aim of blagging a 5ml decant when I have finished my own samples, but sadly he didn't care for it. It is possibly too light for a man, granted. Partly in staying power (in the conditions in which I wore it, certainly), but also in style. If Chanel's classic cologne were a soprano, Juniper Sling would be a falsetto. Not an ear-piercing one (thought I think the opening of Voyage d'Hermès is that), but Charlotte Church singing Pie Jesu, say.

Juniper Sling belongs to my category of "prickly citrus fragrances" - "pétillant", as the French say - initially at least. Just like tonic water, frankly. It is also very, very cold, again like tonic water - assuming you remembered to put a few tins of Schweppes in the fridge first and also to freeze the ice cubes. So it has a foot in the "cryogenic perfume" camp too, along with other physically cooling scents like Chanel's La Pausa, Ava Luxe No 23 and L'Artisan's Timbuktu.

I was going to call this post: "My Go-To 'Oh My Gosh It Is So Incredibly Hot' Scent", but it seemed like even more of a mouthful than my usual titles, so I thought better of it. And there is also a parallel with Wimbledon I'd like to mention, namely with the incomparable thirst quencher that is Robinson's Barley Water. And just as tennis players need to repeatedly knock back pints of this iconic lemon squash, so I found myself frequently reapplying Juniper Sling in August. Every time the juice hit my skin, it was instantly and wonderfully cooling. As I said in a tweet somewhere from my travels, this stuff should be available on prescription - for headaches and general heat-induced malaise! It is the scent equivalent of 4Head, which is my constant companion and deserves a post in its own right sometime.

Without further ado, here are the notes:

Head Notes: Cinnamon, Orange Brandy, Angelica, Juniper Berry

Heart Notes: Cardamom, Leather, Black Pepper, Orris Wood

Base Notes: Brown Sugar, Black Cherry, Vetiver, Ambrox

I should explain that the icy opening is not really created by classic citrus notes as such, but more a mix of angelica, juniper and shedloads of pepper, which is fine by me. I also love the powdery iris heart and the gourmand notes in the drydown (Olivier Cresp was the nose behind Angel, so you would expect nothing less).

It was inspired of Cresp to team up this cooling tingling cologne with a warmer base, for it could have ended up a bit thin and one-dimensional, which is the beef I have with Voyage d'Hermès, sadly. The lime note there is also too sharp, but I do see similarities in "vibe" with Juniper Sling, not least the cool metallic bottle. Which neatly takes us back to our gin measuring cup - or jigger, as I believe it is properly known.

Now here's a funny thing...I have just reapplied Juniper Sling today, and the weather is downright wintry outside, some 20 degrees cooler than when I last wore it. I still get that cold gin-like blast in the opening, but it warms up much quicker and I am already at the muzzy iris and leather stage after a minute or two. Which is perfect for the prevailing conditions.

So is Juniper Sling also an "intelligent" perfume, like those windscreen wipers that come on automatically or washing machines that instinctively detect a small load? Does this perfume sense the ambient temperature and bypass the chilly stage to suit our suddenly dreary British weather?

In the time it has taken me to type the paragraph above, I have moved on to a phase that is boozy and liqueur-like. Not too sickly, mind, possibly thanks to the vetiver or the cool woody undertow of the ambroxan. All the facets of this scent are enjoyable in fact, and it is squarely in my "understated" camp, which is why I love it so much.

I shall be wearing Juniper Sling tonight and enjoying my usual G & T. I might just push the boat out with a small bowl of Twiglets and watch a bit of the Jackson trial on Sky News. Why, that almost qualifies as a little shindig of my own!

Below is Rose Beyond The Thames's review (complete with luscious photos), and some other reviews I have enjoyed over the summer.

Rose Beyond The Thames

Perfume Shrine

Nick's review - my evil gin twin!

G & T and That

The Candy Perfume Boy

Finally, though I am not very good at embedding things, here is a link to the Penhaligon's site and its whimsical promotional "mockumentary" for the scent:

Penhaligon's video

Photo of gin jigger from, roaring twenties poster from, photo of G & T from, photo of Robinson's Barley Water from google images, pack shot from Penhaligon's, photo of Hendrick's gin from, other photos my own.

Tuesday 4 October 2011

The Frantic Antics Series: Fulfilling Favours For Fellow Fumeheads - No 2: Olfactoria's Parcels And My Mail Mule Muddle

Regular readers of Olfactoria's Travels will be familiar with her benevolence: for in addition to hosting giveaways and the occasional bottle split, she is noted for thoughtfully sending out samples to anyone curious to try a particular scent. Back in the summer, however, the Austrian postal service increased its international rates to ludicrous robdog levels - I believe they quoted a figure of 25 euros for one small Jiffy bag, which in most EU countries would comfortably cover a whole bunch of packages of that size.

When this came up on Olfactoria's blog, I offered to act as mail mule and post her packages from one of the countries I was visiting on my penultimate work trip of the summer, given that we were planning to meet up in Vienna not long after the problem of the price hike first arose.

The zeal with which I embarked on my proxy postal mission was further fuelled by Olfactoria's generosity when we met, for she totally spoilt me with perfume gifts. I batted aside her offer to pay for the postage after the event, and set off for my next destination with a carrier bag from Le Parfum full of padded envelopes of assorted thicknesses and weights, bound for perfumista friends in Europe and the States.

I felt I had been entrusted with a big responsibility, because although I didn't know the contents of any of the packages or their value, I do enough decanting myself to know that Olfactoria would have spent a long time getting them all together.

On the Sunday after our rendez-vous, I found myself in a smallish town in northern Slovenia. Mindful that I was not going to be in a town larger than smallish for the next week or so, I decided to suss out the post office options where I was. Funnily enough, there was a small PO right opposite my hotel, and in my wanderings round the town centre I came across a larger office with similar yellow signage.

The next morning before my first meeting, I headed across the road to the small branch, where the two clerks spoke very little English. So I decided to start the mail-out with the packages to Italy and Croatia. As these two countries were adjacent to Slovenia, I figured they would be the most straightforward to post in a near wordless fashion. When I saw how much they cost - something like 45c and 75c respectively - I remembered thinking that that was exceptionally cheap, but didn't think to query it there and then, as I had no prior experience with which to compare it.

I then drove an hour north to my first appointment, and clocked another post office as I was entering the village, where I returned after my meeting with my six remaining parcels. I was pleased to find that two of the three clerks spoke pretty good English, and decided to send the other packages from here: five to the USA and one to England.

The male clerk weighed them all, and the prices of the ones to the USA still seemed awfully reasonable. This time I decided to take the matter up with him, and he explained that weight rather than distance was the key determinant of Slovenian postal rates. That accounted for the similarity in price between the English package and the ones to the US, but they still felt worryingly inexpensive.

The clerk may have picked up on my puzzled expression, for he suddenly inquired: "Ah, now did you want priority service or normal?" It seemed that "priority service" equated to our "air mail", so I immediately said yes to this - the higher the price, the more reassured I felt. The switch to "priority" doubled the rates he had originally quoted, so I started to relax a bit.

All eight parcels were now shipped and I drove back to the first town, where I had an afternoon meeting. I parked up in the centre and popped into McDonald's to log onto my emails (which was conveniently located opposite the main post office I had recce-ed on Sunday afternoon). A couple of queries started to fester away in my mind: would the first two parcels of the day to Italy and Croatia - ie the ones that were the cheapest of all so far - go "priority" mail? And what was the position regarding the need for a customs declaration on the parcel declaring its value and contents, for the US packages at least, if not the ones within the EU? Seasoned swapper that I am, that aspect had totally slipped my mind.

So I quickly knocked back my tea and took my place in the queue in the main post office - now parcel-less of course - but anxious to get another opinion from a larger (and possibly more authoritative?) branch. Perhaps I should have come here with all my parcels in the first place...

Unfortunately the clerk at whose till I was queuing spoke even less English than the lady in the first office, and every time I said: "customs form?" she would reply: "sign for?" This game of verbal ping pong continued for a while until the clerk summoned reinforcements, but her colleague didn't speak any more English than she did. It suddenly dawned on me that they may have thought I was inquiring about some kind of registered or signed for service.

This impression was confirmed when, a few moments later, one of the ladies decided to ring the second post office where I had sent the US parcels, and discuss directly with the staff there the exact service I had used. This took some time, during which the queue behind me lengthened considerably and was starting to get restless. Eventually the clerk hung up and I got the gist of the conversation, namely me that if I wanted my mail to be signed for, I would have to go back to the second post office before the end of the day to action this request in person.

Oh dear, I thought, but I don't want the recipients to sign for their parcels; I just want to know if I should have filled out a customs form to avoid the packages being intercepted and, God forbid, opened by the US authorities and impounded. Does this mean that the second post office is now waiting for me to turn up before close of play? Will they send the parcels regardless if I don't go back there? (For it was a two hour round trip in the opposite direction to where I was headed that night.)

But by now it was time for my second appointment of the day, so there was nothing more I could do for the moment. It seemed clear though that I wasn't going to be able to sort out this growing muddle unless I could find out the Slovenian for "customs form" pretty damn quick.

After this meeting (having struck up a good rapport with the two respondents - do you see a pattern emerging?) I decided to ask them point blank for the word for customs form. I had by now thought to sketch one out on a bit of paper as a back up, but it wasn't necessary. Although my respondents had never had occasion to send any mail to the USA personally, and didn't know whether a customs declaration was required, they were able to tell me what it was. I have yet to see it written down but it sounded like: "zarina".

I thanked them very much for this information and hotfooted it back to the first post office where I had sent my super cheap parcels to Italy and Croatia some six hours previously. A different clerk was on duty, who spoke more English than her colleague from that morning.

I explained that I had posted two parcels there first thing, but was not sure if I had bought "priority" stamps. Without demur, this clerk (No 8 of the day!) fished them out of her plastic bin and started printing off extra sticky labels, charging me the difference for this "top up" fee. Yay! That was more like it. Still very reasonable, but twice the price of this morning's postage. As they were only going "next door" there would be no issue of customs forms anyway.

But that still left the matter of the five parcels bound for the US, as priority mail but with no customs form...and languishing in another plastic bin some 60 km away! So I judged this to be the moment to try out my newly acquired Slovenian. I said how I had posted some packages to America from another post office and hadn't put a "zarina" on them, whipping out my drawing to reinforce this point.

The new clerk didn't know the regulations on this point, but proceeded to rummage conscientiously through several Lever Arch files she retrieved from the cupboard behind her. After a good few minutes had elapsed, she gave that up as a bad job and decided to phone a friend! Or rather some colleague at the Slovenia postal service's HQ, by the sound of things. The conversation was prolonged, but at last the clerk looked up at me, grinning broadly: "No zarina!" I could have hugged her.

So all I had to do then was to ask the clerk to look up the phone number of post office No 2, and I stepped outside to call them on my mobile. I spoke to one of the two clerks who had helped me, and sure enough they were wondering whether I was going to drop by and switch to the registered service instead of just priority mail. I used the magic word "zarina?" again, with my by now well practised rising inflection at the end. They confirmed that this was not necessary, but - if I understood rightly - a customs form would have been needed had I opted for the signed for service. Aha! Thudding drop of penny ensued. So I told them to go ahead and send the US parcels just as they were (and obviously the one to England was okay anyway). Job done!

Well, there remained of course the small matter of whether the packages ever turned up at their destinations... It was a nail biting time for both Olfactoria and myself, but so far four of the eight parcels have been confirmed as received: two of the European and two of the US ones, so the omens are good.

And the moral of the tale? If you want to prevent frantic antics of any kind, do not assume that you can get by with English anywhere in Europe. As with the paprika story below, the onus was on me as the visitor to the country to have researched the key terms in the local language first. And given that I didn't, the back up plan was (and will be again, I've no doubt!) to ask the same questions of as many informed people as possible and take a consensus. Which is pretty much my day job, come to think of it...

Now I thought to tell this tale - and the one about the paprika - not because I am after pats on the back, for let's face it, nipping to the post office for someone or to the supermarket to buy one item is a very minor errand - but rather to illustrate the point that nothing in my world is ever that simple. I could liken myself (both professionally and in my perfumista life) to Harry Worth, a hapless comedian from the 60s and 70s who was perpetually in and out of scrapes, and "reduced all who came into contact with him to a state of confusion and frustration".

PS I am pleased to report that Olfactoria has now identified a more humanely priced domestic postal service, involving a different class of mail called the Maxi Brief, which (despite appearances) is in fact nothing to do with capacious - or in the case of the "Gross Brief" - tasteless or otherwise repellent underwear.

Maxi Brief Priority & Economy
Maxi Plus Brief Priority & Economy
Gross Brief Priority & Economy

PPS I am also pleased to report that my fringe has grown considerably since that shot was taken. I shall be speaking to my hairdresser about it next time, and may uses the photo as evidence.

Photo of Tito statue from, photo of post office from, photo of customs form from, photos of the first town from its own website, photo of post box from, photo of Austrian mail from, photo of Harry Worth from, other photos my own