So last week I treated myself to a mini-break in Switzerland, which I split across two centres (Basel and St Gallen), with an afternoon's sniffing in Zurich in between. Basel was the first stop, where that week perfumista friend Potiron was celebrating what is known in German as a "round birthday". Meanwhile, my other fumie friend Alicka61 had celebrated a "round birthday" of her own last summer (there's a clue in her name...). So we decided to get together for a joint birthday bash with added perfume sniffing. Conspicuously missing from our party was the former Swiss resident, Wordbird, who "migrated" back to Wales a year ago. She was with us in spirit though, and had also engaged my mail mule services to send on a gift for Potiron that equated to half her body weight at a guess, a worthy second to her being here in person! : - )
We met at our usual tram stop in the Marktplatz, and after a quick hug and mutual clocking of hair colour changes (Alicka61 darker, me lighter), we repaired to the Roter Engel cafe, where we had sat outside in June of last year, though the weather was a bit too nippy for that on this occasion. The Roter Engel is noted for its outlandishly HUGE tea cups, its ability to serve up a small portion of cold milk on the side without batting an eyelid, and its fine selection of fruit tarts.
I actually opted for a croissant myself, because the Swiss know how to make them properly and they couldn't be further removed from the lumpen yeasty parodies you get in Germany. I suggested we sit at the largest trestle table at the back, thinking that we would need all the space we could annexe for the present-opening ceremony and the subsequent pooling of samples. As you can see from the photo of our "on-table vial jumble", the biggest available surface was a good call.
The session kicked off with Potiron opening her presents, including my gift of an OJ Tiare decant and a few other items loosely connected to perfume storage and reporting - all of them (quite fortuitously) black in colour. And then there was the enormous box from Wordbird, containing a host of goodies, notably several perfumes and chocolate from the Caldey Island range, and some decants and samples from Fragonard, Molinard and Ava Luxe (or Ava Luxard as she is properly known).
I am something of a lavender-phobe as a rule (Ava Luxe No 23 being a shining exception to this rule), and didn't really care for one of Potiron's gifts, the classic Caldey Island Lavender scent, which Luca Turin famously gave five stars, and which is one of the 100 classic fragrances featured in "The Little Book of Perfumes".
The highlight of the Caldey Island range for me was a cute little 5ml mini of the "Number One" perfume from its skin scent range, a very soft and barely there fragrance that I have now got on order myself. : - ) On the company's website the only notes listed are jasmine and rose, and I would be hard pushed to say that they were or they weren't in it, because the scent is so very light and fresh - and frankly ineffable!
Another item from Wordbird's package to which we all took an immediate shine was a sample of Ava Luxe Johri, a crisp, citrusy-green scent which I have since found out has fig in it, though we didn't spot that at the time. It is showing as temporarily out of stock on the Ava Luxe website, but I will be checking back in to see if it reappears - what's not to love about those notes?!
NOTES: Green Fig, Sicilian Lemon, Chinese Pepper Blossom, Galbanum, Coconut Milk, Cedar Virginia, Sandalwood, Tonka, Bourbon Vanilla, White Musk
After the present opening, it was time to toss all our spare samples in a heap in the middle of the table, and take what we fancied, employing the same method as on our first meeting, which I described as follows:
"It was like a leisurely version of supermarket sweep, or perhaps like a swinger's party - where (I believe) you toss your car keys into a bowl. On balance, going away with a clutch of new scents rather than someone else's husband probably offered less potential for emotional discombobulation."
Out of the three of us, I think I may have come off best, for here is my personal grab-fest haul:
The Luckyscent website describes this as a "lush autumnal fragrance" and I would agree with that. It pushes the boundaries of my liking for gourmand scents, but never quite strays into that Serge Lutens house style which Abigail of I Smell Therefore I Am so brilliantly dubbed "icky stewed things". It is not as spicy as Aomassai, for example, and has a dusty smoky character to it offsetting the sweetness. It isn't quite me, but I will enjoy dallying with it as the weather gets colder.
Notes: honey, candied fruits, quince, pain d’epice, white flowers.
The name of the scent derives from a type of fungus (or "noble rot") used in wine-making, as I have now learnt in Wikipedia:
"..the fungus removes water from the grapes, leaving behind a higher percent of solids, such as sugars, fruit acids and minerals. This results in a more intense, concentrated final product. The wine is often said to have an aroma of honeysuckle and a bitter finish on the palate."
(Photo of Botrytis cinerea growing on a plate with a ring of visible sclerotia (dark brown balls)!)
Potiron made both me and Alicka61 a decant of this - I look forward to trying it when I am in an aldehydic mood.
PERLES DE LALIQUE
Classic "fuzzy sweater" scent that will be good in winter when my tolerance of powder peaks.
JIL SANDER SENSATIONS
Alicka61 is a fan of Jil Sander (who is much bigger on the continent than over here). Sensations is a warm yet sheer oriental dominated by a sweet, orangey accord. Again it is very modern in feel and reminds me a bit of EL Intuition without the grapefruit (mercifully).
JIL SANDER STYLE
Notes: freesia, mango, cardamom, pink pepper, iris, jasmine, magnolia, woody notes, vanilla, amber and musk
Those notes look very pretty to me (even allowing for the mango), and it is nicer than Valentina on a retrial, but with the same resolutely modern, slightly synthetic feel to it also found in CK Beauty and Caroline Herrera 212.
AMOUAGE LYRIC WOMAN
For when I am feeling braver and have got over my memories of the curry note from the last sampling.
LE FEU D'ISSEY BY ISSEY MIYAKE
A discontinued lactonic ambery woody treasure recently reviewed by Candy Perfume Boy here. I was delighted to pick up a sample of this in our grab pile!
MOLINARD FLEUR DE FIGUIER
Grabbed on the strength of the name alone and it doesn't disappoint. Neither juicy and fruity like PG Jardins de Kerylos nor woody and dry like Philosykos (both of which I also like), it has more of an in-between greenness about it. L'Artisan's Premier Figuier might be the nearest to it though even that is more woody, I think, and also boasts a phantom coconut matting note entirely absent here.
Keep thinking this is called Nirvana and hoping it will send me there. Alicka61 explained that it has been compared to Angel. There is an enormous peach note in the opening, and am currently waiting for chocolate and candyfloss to join it.
ANDY TAUER ORANGE STAR
Briefly tried at the perfume store to which I so badly want to add a definite article but which is in fact called Scent Bar. In the fog of war (aka my extensive sniffing session with fellow perfumista Qwendy), I recall being pleasantly struck by the complete absence of Tauerade in this one, but it was a fleeting impression so a retrial is indicated!
NINA RICCI LOVE IN PARIS
Someone in Perfumeland likes this one very much - it may be my friend Farah or possibly even Wordbird herself. So I will keep an open mind, even if the name doesn't particularly endear this scent to me. Couldn't resist a quick spritz and the opening strikes me as pretty and feminine. And I note that the nose behind Love in Paris is the extremely personable Aurelien Guichard. Definitely now added to my list of easy to wear daytime scents.
Notes: bergamot, star anise, apricot, jasmine, peony, rose, crystal musk, woodsy notes, vanilla.
VIVIENNE WESTWOOD ANGLOMANIA
As the only Brit in our party I was urged to take this one. And on the card it actually says: “The bewitching empire of the senses for a modern nomad, mixing British eccentricity and Asian intensity to express extrovert femininity.”
“You should take it”, my friends said: “You’re a modern nomad with all your trips and you’ve got the Asian eyes too!”
Not convinced I have the extrovert femininity to go with this one, but I'll gladly give it a whirl.
LIZ CLAIBORNE CURVE
Liz Claiborne is one of those famous US mainstream houses I have heard of but never tried, being woefully behind the curve. : - ) I think it is at the more downmarket end of designer, and the notes are a little sparse - did the budget only run to three? - but it smells all right actually, a sort of clunkily yoked together aquatic woody floral. The wood has quite a kick to it and is faintly spicy:
Notes: citrus, water lily, and sandalwood
REALM FOR WOMEN
And last but not least, in terms of the concept certainly, if not the scent itself, we have Realm for Women perfume, from Erox Corporation. It proudly describes itself on the card that came with the sample as: "the only fragrance with a synthesized human pheromone component. Only Realm adds that extra dimension of human pleasure." I thought there were more perfumes made with pheromones nowadays, but then maybe that sample is quite old. Anyway, Alicka61 was giving it away, and there was some lively debate as to who was the most deserving recipient. In the end it fell to me: as the eldest in our party I could use all the hormones I can lay my hands on at the moment. Realm for Women is a deep and disconcerting shade of orange and smells like a rich oriental of some description. Aha, just found the notes:
Notes: mandarin, water lily, sandalwood, vanilla and honey.
Well, as we know, some men are attracted to vanilla perfumes. So even if I don't particularly care to wear Realm (which has an annoyingly tingly spice in it somewhere), the addition of a synthesized human pheromone component may tip the opposite sex completely over the edge. Sometimes you have to suffer to be beautiful.
Up next - sniffing in Parfumerie Hyazinth...
Photo of Basel Marktplatz from switzerland-traveling.com, photo of Caldey Island Lavender from roullierwhite.com, photo of noble rot from Wikipedia, photo of Jil Sander Style from gimahot.de, photo of fig tree from figtrees.net, photo of Realm perfume from 99perfume.com, other photos my own