Thursday, 3 November 2011

Meeting The Swiss Perfumistas (Again!): Part One - Caldey Island Gifts And Another Perfume Vial "Grab-Fest"

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.


Classic "fuzzy sweater" scent that will be good in winter when my tolerance of powder peaks.


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).


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.


For when I am feeling braver and have got over my memories of the curry note from the last sampling.


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!


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.


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!


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.


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 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


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, photo of Caldey Island Lavender from, photo of noble rot from Wikipedia, photo of Jil Sander Style from, photo of fig tree from, photo of Realm perfume from, other photos my own


Anonymous said...

It sounds like a great time was had by all! And you got Le Feu!!!!!! That is amazing!

Vanessa said...

Hi Olfactoria,

I know, wasn't I lucky? It was the first scent I grabbed - after quickly checking that no one wanted it more than me (which was unlikely, I thought!).

Wordbird said...

Hi Bonks
I was indeed with you all in spirit. Wish I had a passport! Glad you liked Johri. It's another of Ava Luxe's little growers, like No.23. She's a talented girl.

The Caldey Island shop in Tenby is fabulous. So totally NOT perfumista territory, but all the better for that. Their perfumes are very nice. I liked the Island Gorse as well as the No.1. And their stuff is cheap as chips.

That Molinard Fleur de Figuier is great, isn't it? Creamy and green. How they do that, I have no idea.

BTW, nope, it wasn't me with the Nina Ricci. I'm going to have to smell it now though. :)

Got to say, I'm jealous of you going to St Gallen. I never managed to visit and I hear the library is ah-may-zing. I'm just going to have to go back for a visit some day. :)

Wordbird said...

PS I hooted with laughter at the sound of Realm. I can only imagine the conversation you 3 must have had over it! :)

Vanessa said...

Hi Wordbird,

I have seen Caldey island from afar, but should try to visit next time I am in the area, as it sounds like Lindisfarne with added perfumes!

The Ava Luxe was a definite highlight - we came back to it on Potiron's wrist later, keen to identify it in the melee.

Just thought - given that it is by Molinard, the Fleur de Figuier may in fact have been *part of Potiron's present*, in which case I have inadvertently nicked it in the "on-table vial jumble".

Oops! ; - )

Hmm, Love in Paris may have been a fave of Farah's then. It is surprisingly pleasant - I associate Nina Ricci with sweeter, heavier scents for some reason, but this was airy and light.

St Gallen does have an amazing library, I understand, as well as an interesting museum of textiles and beer bottles. Sadly, all these attractions cost about a tenner, so I contented myself with the baroque cathedral: it more than made up for its lack of books with a profusion of pointy embellishments.

Undina said...

Vanessa, it sounds like a great day!

You need to try Lyric when it's cold outside and warm inside. This perfume might grow on you if you give it time.

Vanessa said...

Hi Undina,

Thanks for the advice about trying Lyric under specific climatic conditions. I think the watchword with this one - and Potiron said as much - is to go easy with it...

Tara said...

Sounds like a lot of fun! That really was a result with the Le Feu d'Issey. I'm also glad you got Botrytis. I'm reviewing it on Olfactoria's Travels next Friday. Seems like you have a least a couple of winners in your haul.

I feel the same as you about lavender-heavy perfumes. I like it as a plant and for scenting drawers or whatever, but not so much as a personal fragrance.

Vanessa said...

Hi tara,

I look forward to reading your Botrytis review! That was my biggest decant of all - Alicka61 gave me the remains of her bottle and it is a good 10ml at a guess.

Yes, me and lavender don't get on as a rule. I have just been venting about Jersey this morning over on Boisdejasmin. That was quite ghastly I thought.

Anonymous said...

My, that's quite a haul of samples you've got there! Congrats on getting hold of some Le Feu, that stuff is like gold dust.

I'm interested to hear your thoughts on Anglomania, it has been panned on the whole which is a shame, it's quirky.

Also, I can't quite wrap my head around Orange Star, sometimes I like it and sometimes it gets on my nerves.

Vanessa said...

Hi Candy Perfume Boy,

Those are the three scents awaiting a (re)trial over the weekend - will let you know about the Anglomania. I am never too hopeful of liking Tauers (because of the Tauerade thing or that metallic aspect some of them have), but will keep an open mind.

It was an excellent haul I agree, but I should perhaps point out that "grab" is a slight misnomer: all samples were reallocated with the full consent of the other members of our party. ; - ) I think I may just have broader tastes than the others!