Friday, 3 February 2012

Doorstepping Nick Gilbert At The New Les Senteurs Store, And My Mona Di Orio Epiphany

The morning after the Perfume Lovers London event covered in my last post - well, more like lunchtime in fact by the time I had got my arse into gear - I doorstepped Nick briefly at the new branch of Les Senteurs. I have "previous" for doorstepping perfume people: there was that time with MyBeautyBlog in November, for example. Though in fairness Nick was half expecting me to turn up at some point.

The new branch of Les Senteurs is in a quiet Georgian street just a hop and a skip from Marble Arch tube station. It looks almost identical from the outside to the store in Belgravia on account of its regulation "Les Senteurs Blue" paint and potted bay trees. The colour is a rich petrol blue / teal, a few pantones down from Barclays Blue. Come to think of it, I have never seen petrol or the duck in question in that exact shade, but no matter.

Nick had a client with him for the first part of my visit, so I hovered on the sidelines for a while, before it became apparent that this gentleman was a regular customer, who was quite happy to chat and even allow himself to be sniffed at one point, while wearing PG Eau Guerrière.

First off I bought a bottle of Fracas for a friend with an upcoming milestone birthday, which I was glad to do, for my high ratio of sniffing to actual shopping does trouble me periodically. Business out of the way, I got down to a bit of sniffing, though I was mindful that I needed to leave some nostril capacity free for my Big Harrods Blitz with Tara straight afterwards, so I didn't go overboard.

Most scents were tested on card (where the usual massive caveats apply, especially following the incident with Dior Bois d'Argent, which turned out to be a totally different animal on skin vs card), but Nick kindly gave me samples of Mona di Orio Ambre and Tubéreuse to test at my leisure, along with Huitième Art Myrrhiad.

Right, so for what it is worth here is the low-down from my whistlestop testing:

Andy Tauer Pentachords

I didn't expect to get on with these at all for some reason, and in the event I didn't dislike them, but - a bit like the Andrea Maack range I tested in Basel - they were curious without striking me as being something I would want to wear. They don't have the trademark "Tauerade" medicinal wire wool vibe going on, so from that standpoint alone they were off to a flying start. I remember Verdant as unexpectedly minty, and Auburn as an offbeat spicy number, which put me vaguely in mind of DSH Nouroz (the Scent Formerly Known As Tamarind Paprika), and then White I can't bring to mind at all. Sorry - complete "white out". The fragrance strip smells sort of gourmand and reminiscent of JM Blue Agava & Cacao, but that could be the high quality paper used by Parfumerie Générale (to avert any confusion, I am not slavish about coordinating my blotter brands with the scent being tested!)

So those impressions - I won't even dignify them with the term mini-reviews - are highly suspect, but the non-Tauerade aspect should encourage anyone to try them who is not a fan of the usual Tauer style.

Then I had quite a strong reaction to the nozzles of a couple of scents, which I am sure would have been confirmed by a skin trial.

Les Parfums d'Empire Fougère Bengale - urinous curried straw (sorry, Dee, I know you rock this one, so you may have even more magic skin than Birgit, which is saying something!)

Mona di Orio Cuir - like the inside flap of a cheap leather satchel, only much worse

But hold on a minute, I said this post was about my Mona di Orio epiphany, right? Epiphanies are not supposed to be bad. Well indeed, and my 180 on this line - coming to appreciate it now that the post-traumatic stress of my Nuit Noire necklacing assault in Paris has at last subsided - started well before my visit to Les Senteurs in fact. For Birgit of Olfactorias Travels had given me a starter kit with several samples from Les Nombres d'Or, and I was already very taken with Musc. Then Nick sent me some more samples in January, including Vanille and Oud. The former struck me as a "true" vanilla ie with a slightly granular, burnt sugar smell, but not cloyingly so, while the latter was a wonderfully ethereal oud, perfect for someone as rampantly oud-averse as I am. The L'Artisan Timbuktu of ouds, if you will.

And now, with my sampling of Ambre and Tubéreuse - partly in store and later at home - the epiphany was confirmed and complete. I now LOVE five of the seven scents in the Les Nombres d'Or range. The vetiver one is also fine as it goes, but I am just not big on the note.

Mona di Orio Ambre

Like Oud, Ambre is a minimalist scent: a creamy woody amber with faintly spicy notes. The opening was a little potent, mind, and almost leathery to my nose, which broadsided me a little! In fact the amber note isn't very pronounced at all, not if your yardstick is Ambre Sultan or Ambre Russe. It is more in the ballpark of a very quiet Guerlain Bois d'Arménie - which I love, yet which seems quite rough and loud by comparison. Hmm, maybe the love child of Bois d'Arménie and Marc Jacobs Amber Splash, then diluted loads more and dusted with spice. The mental images I have of this scent is of the sun streaming into a room full of dusty wooden furniture and of a lump of mica glinting in the sun.

Notes: cedar, ylang ylang, benzoin, tolu, vanilla

Mona di Orio Tubéreuse

Dewy, fresh and green like Carnal Flower, but more citrus-y and with none of the oppressiveness that I get with that scent - and which I get in an even more marked way with By Kilian Beyond Love. I find Beyond Love positively suffocating (the tuberose knocks you out and as you sit there stunned, someone finishes you off by whacking you over the head with a coconut). Tubéreuse, meanwhile, could turn out to be my Holy Grail tuberose scent, and I never thought I would ever want one, never mind find one. So yes, I think I may be having a bit of a tuberose epiphany along the way as well, notwithstanding the heliotrope note I have just noticed in the list! Who'd have thought that Mona di Orio would be the perfumer to bring about such a transformation in my tastes? And it sounds as though Olfactoria did a bit of a U-turn of her own as a result of smelling Mona's collection - or was nudged a bit further in this new direction, say.

Notes: Pink Peppercorn, Bergamot, Absolute Tubéreuse from India, Benzoin, Casmeran, Heliotrope

I did smell one or two other scents briefly (nozzle or card), including a couple of bracing Heeleys (Verveine & Sel Marin), the new Glam Rose from Les Parfums de Rosine (not unlike Lipstick Rose), and PG Tonkamande (not a whole lot going on with this one - it was the tonka equivalent of those high pitched whistles only Alsatians and teenagers can hear).

Huitième Art Myrrhiad

I also tried Huitième Art Myrrhiad on a blotter in store and later on skin, and it is louder on my skin: licorice-y vanilla, reminiscent of Lolita Lempicka and Diptyque Eau Duelle with added licorice - or maybe even a toned down, much more minimalist version of Kenzo Jungle L'Eléphant. Myrrhiad was quite pleasant, but I kept wishing there was less licorice in there (or none, preferably). Let's just say that this is as nice as a perfume can smell with licorice in it!

I have only just googled the notes, and am pleased to confirm that my nose is on the right track - that really was licorice - ha!

Notes: myrrh, leather, black tea, vanilla and licorice

And then before I knew it, it was time to say goodbye to Nick till the next Perfume Lovers London event later this month, and head off to Harrods to meet Tara, where we embarked on a sniffing and makeup-ogling session of epic proportions...

Photo of Mona di Orio Ambre from, photo of Mona di Orio from, other photos my own


Olfactoria's Travels said...

Loved this virtual trip to Les Senteurs II. I can't wait to go there myself, you made beautiful pictures.

But I have to take issue with your analysis of Tonkamande. Being neither an alsatian nor a teenager, but the proud owner of an already half-empty bottle of Tonkamande, I must come to its rescue. It is a wonderful perfume that has a lot going on! The aldehydes ingeniously frothing up the milknote, the delicious almond cookie, the delectable tonka vanilla drydown - in short, it is the nicest sweet breakfast in a bottle I can imagine.
So, there! Don't you diss my Tonkamande! :D

Vanessa said...

Hi Olfactoria,

Hello? Did somebody speak?

: - )

Seriously though, I have only given this the blotter test (in Vienna) and the nozzle test in London, so it *could be* that my opinion would change if I tested it properly on skin. And I love bland as a rule, though I don't go a bundle on almonds, admittedly.

Also, I don't like Barbara Bui, Musc Maori or the opening of Carner Tardes, if that helps illuminate the matter at all.

Promise that the next time I am in Les Senteurs I will give this one a more considered appraisal.

: - )

lovethescents said...

Aren't these Monas exciting! Well I adore Vanille and Musc. I still haven't tried Cuir and Ambre. Tubereuse was fine but not particularly interesting on my skin.

That Myrrhiad is a dream. Am guarding every precious drop :-)

Cymbaline said...

I've always had a "thang" for a blue and white decor so I love the Les Senteurs look, no matter what that blue is called :D

I thought the MdO Tubereuse was lovely also and will have to revisit again, especially when our weather gets a bit more spring-like. My true-love is MdO Vanille. I actually bought a FB which was quite a big deal as there are no other vanilla fragrances in my collection!

Looking forward to the "Vanessa and Tara Do Damage In London" post!

thecandyperfumeboy said...

Hassling Nick whilst he is at work is one of my favourite past times! But on a serious note, he really knows his stuff and he's introduced me to loads of new perfumes (and even entire lines) that I hadn't tried before.

The Pentachords are a bit weird aren't they? I love White, it's a beautiful, powdery, rooty and boozy iris/vanilla. Verdant is amazingly green and Auburn is just well, brown I guess.

You make Ambre by Mona di Orio sound so good! The idea of a minimalist amber really appeals to me.

Asali said...

Thanks for yet another virtual trip to a must-go destination. I enjoy reading them so much, and can't wait for the follow-up on you and Tara @ Harrods :-D
I am very glad that the pentachords weren't a complete miss with you, and that Mona's Ambre got some love. People seem to pick other ones from her Nombre d'Or line over it, but although I am generally not one for quiet scents, this one is truly special. Actually, I might go as far as to call it my favourite of the line. But, then again that might be a bit too bold ;-)

Vanessa said...

Hi lovethescents,

Ambre is amazing, but I don't think you are missing much in the Cuir, personally.

Am retesting the Myrrhiad today - I think it is very special, notwithstanding the licorice. It is funny how this one has caught people's imaginations in a way that the earlier releases didn't seem to.

Vanessa said...

Hi Cymbaline,

Yes, I think Mona di Orio's Tubereuse will be especially nice in spring. Congrats on your Vanille bottle - vanilla scents abound in my own collection, but am still working up to that one, or any of the range... : - )

The Harrods Blitz report will be along soon! We tested so many things that I am mindful I may have forgotten what half of them smelt like, but Tara is standing by to assist with the dredging of the olfactory memory banks. Hmm..."Harrods Blitz" sounds like the title of another Downton Abbey series. : - )

Vanessa said...

Hi Candy Perfume Boy,

Nick is so good about being hassled, isn't he? I hassled him for two and a half hours straight in Boots one time when he was still in Bristol. I became such a part of the fixture after a while that customers even started to approach me with questions. : - )

Thanks very much for filling me in on my mental blank about the White Pentachord in particular. I think the Auburn one was the most intriguing, but I need to resniff all three on skin really.

The Ambre is a minimalist amber and a minimalist woody vanilla at the same time, so it is highly recommended!

Vanessa said...

Hi Asali,

I am glad you enjoy these sniffing reports, as I did yours and Ines's from Paris, when our paths so nearly crossed.

I think Ambre may be shaping up to be my favourite too, though I won't stick my neck out and say so just yet. It could be Tubereuse or possibly even the Vanille or Oud!

Kate said...

"Urinous curried straw" - choke! I've been away for far too long, hope you're well. Have just followed you on Twitter. Kate

Vanessa said...

Hi Kate,

Nice to hear from you again, and hope your greens are small and various. Have just been out for a bag of salad myself - quite an undertaking in this snow!

Tara said...

It's so great to have Nick at the Marble Arch Les Senteurs store. He's not only really knowledgeable and helpful but he's done such a gorgeous table display too!

I haven't tried Mona di Orio's Tubereuse or Ambre but I'm thinking now maybe I should. As you know I'd like less licorice in Myrrhiad too but that stuff is gooood. I'm hoping the up-and-coming Guerlain myrrh perfume will be more wearable for me. Oh and I've remembered another troublesome note you and I have in common - grapefruit!

Natalie said...

I was here. Blogger needs a like button. :)

Vanessa said...

Hi Natalie,

Thanks for being here! : - )

A like button would be handy - indeed Blogger needs a lot of things, including a smack in the face tonight, when I lost three hours' work...!

Vanessa said...

Hi tara,

Yes, Nick did a great job of merchandising the store and is an asset to the company, as I am sure they know.

So we have a dislike of grapefruit as well? I should start a list...

I think I might get over the licorice problem in Myrrhiad, it is just so remarkable overall - hard to put my finger on why. Something about the vanilla, maybe.

Do try the Tubereuse and Ambre Monas - I think you might like the Ambre at least!