Wednesday, 8 February 2012

A Knightsbridge Sniffing Blitz With Tara Of Olfactorias Travels: Part Two - Harrods Perfume Hall & Harvey Nichols

Following our thoroughly enjoyable session at the Roja Dove Haute Parfumerie, sniffing obscure, expensive and variously bejewelled fragrances, Tara and I made our way down the preposterously opulent escalator to the main perfume hall of Harrods on the ground floor. We were chatting animatedly at this point about our respective personal lives and as a result got ourselves thoroughly lost in the handbag department, which is preferable to losing one's handbag, I suppose.

When we finally found the perfume hall, there were a number of tester-toting promotions girls loitering with intent in the main walkways, but we managed to dodge all their proferred blotters and homed in on a few specific brands of interest: Guerlain, Cartier & Dior, as well as checking out the new exclusive range of Dolce & Gabbanas which Marcel had mentioned, and - despite all our best intentions - getting waylaid by a limpet-like sales lady at the Bond No 9 counter.

Once again, please take all these observations as broadly indicative at best, as they are based on fast dwindling recall and faded smelling strips...


I was keen to try Angélique Noire from the L'Art et la Matière range on skin, having famously smelt it on Birgit in Austria in December, and been struck by how glorious it was on her. The notes look deceptively simple - angelica, bergamot, vanilla - yet the overall effect is complex and I'd almost say "rich". I liked the opening of Angélique Noire best - it struck a nice balance between the flinty greenness of the angelica and the creamy warmth of the base, but as the scent wore on it got just a tad boozier than I would have liked, as if someone had slipped a bit of Spiritueuse Double Vanille in there while my back was turned. Tara, meanwhile, sprayed SDV on her own arm and it was quite pleasant on her, especially the later stages, but still too boozy for my taste. We also tried Oriental Brûlant from the Elixirs Charnels range on card, which I can't remember clearly except that it wasn't on fire or in any sense as full-on as you might think, and I would like to try it properly some time. I have now clocked the notes and am not surprised I liked it, notwithstanding the presence of styrax, which I associate with some fierce scents - here it is muffled in fluffy dessert ingredients. (I keep coming back to vanilla fragrances...!)

Notes: tonka bean, almond, vanilla, styrax, clementine


Next, Tara and I were keen to do a systematic sampling of the Les Heures scents, as we had each smelt some - though not the same ones. To this end, a flower-shaped Baiser Volé blotter (aka "Cart-ier Wheel") was pressed into service - now that I am aware of there being more elaborate styles of perfume cards, I have started to see them all over the place... : - ) We managed to spray a different scent on each of the six tips of the flower's petals, for which it was ideally designed! My memory is very hazy of this range, except to say that L'Heure Convoitée was a definite no-no for both of us on account of its pronounced carnation note, while L'Heure Défendue was a double thumbs up on account of its chocolate note, something of a "Must-have" in any Cartier scent collection...

Tara has just been in touch with some more thoughts on the range:

"I already liked L'Heure Fougeuse and L'Heure Brilliante (the gin one)... We didn't care for the lychee one (L'Heure Diaphane) or the new carnation one. The Mysterious one didn't come across on paper, but I understand it's incense so should try it again. The 13th hour was just birch tar and not much else."

Aha - I had forgotten the gin one - I feel sure I must have liked it though! : - )


It was at the Dior counter that Tara's effortlessly nonchalant sample-scoring skills were deployed to great effect, for she managed to procure us each two large sample pots: Ambre Nuit and Milly-la-Forêt in my case, and Milly-la-Foret and Eau Noire in Tara's. I wasn't particularly bothered about trying Milly-la-Forêt, but the SA seemed keen to further its cause, and having tried it, I can see that it needs all the help it can get. Am retesting Milly-la-Forêt as I type, and it is a quiet inoffensive floral with a pronounced citrus opening, which could easily be a designer release - very nondescript!

Then I wore Ambre Nuit all day yesterday, and have decided that I like it as much as New Look 1947. It is an understated blend of soft amber, rose, wood, and a light dusting of spice. For occasions where L'Air du Désert Marocain or OJ Ta'if might feel a little "out there", I can imaging that Ambre Nuit would make a great substitute.

D & G Velvet Collection

Tara and I couldn't quite remember which of this new range Marcel had asked us to look out for, but I thought it was the patchouli and vetiver ones, while Tara thought it was one of the florals, so we tried the lot anyway just to be sure. They all struck me as well made, and with the exception of Velvet Patchouli I didn't dislike any of them, and would happily try the whole lot again in a more leisurely fashion. It is true that by this point in the afternoon our noses were feeling a bit jaded to say the least, and we hadn't even been to Harvey Nicks yet! I think I liked the florals Velvet Love and Desire best, followed by the orange-y Sublime and the woody Wood(!).

Here is a link to an overview of the range (with note listings) from NST. They definitely felt of a higher quality to my nose than that numbered collection, that has always struck me as a poor man's version of the Chanel Exclusifs.

Bond No 9

So as I explained above, Tara and I were reeled in by the Bond No 9 SA, who seemed hell-bent on finding a fragrance from the line for each of us to love, even though we were privately convinced that if it hadn't happened yet it probably wasn't going to happen. In fast and furious succession we were given at least seven scents to try - I am confident of that number, as I have the frisbee cards to prove it. It doesn't really matter now what we tried (though I think Chelsea Flowers was deemed to be the "least worst", and the Harrods amber one that smells like hot and sour soup was in there too). The best thing I can think to say about the range is that the blotters would double up as serviceable emergency coasters. And also perhaps serve as a desktop model of Swindon's notorious "Magic Roundabout", teaching learner drivers the correct way to negotiate its convoluted series of wheels within wheels. I speak from experience, having passed my test there myself!


The other thing Tara and I did in Harrods is a considerable amount of ogling of high end make up. More than ogling in fact, because at the Tom Ford counter I volunteered my services as an eyebrow model, so Tara could see the effect of brow pencils in different shades, with a view to getting one for her mother. She chose one called Espresso in the end, which was pronounced the closest to her mum's hair colour. It had all sorts of ingenious compartments, integral sharpeners and general built-in wizardry. Which is the least you would expect for what is clearly the Rolls-Royce of brow shaping tools.

And Tara and I also lingered for a long time at the Burberry Beauty section, to whose quirkily textured bullet lipsticks I had been alerted by a post on Katie Puckrik Smells. We lingered so long in fact, and looked so simultaneously eager and forlorn - for Burberry lipsticks comfortably bust the twenty quid barrier, costing nearly twice as much as I have ever paid for a lippie - that the very kind SA gave us not one but a total of three sample sets between us, comprising four different shades each! Three because the unstintingly gallant Tara scored me a second one with yet another disarmingly casual point-blank request, along the lines of: "So would you have another of the cards with Rosewood on it for my friend to try, because it isn't on the one you just gave her."

But the time and the free samples will not have been in vain. I have been conscientiously auditioning all eight of my own samples, and feel I am definitely moving towards a purchase - and possibly falling down the rabbit hole of luxury make up more comprehensively. Have got my eye on some Nars, Chanel and Sunday Riley eyeshadows as well...

After Harrods, Tara and I had tea (and in my case a bowl of very thick onion soup) in the Harvey Nichols cafe. We exchanged sample packages, and I was blown away when Tara also pressed upon me her cast off bottle of Tom Ford Voile de Fleur! Restored by the pitstop, we did a desultory scope of the downstairs perfume hall, securing a couple of By Kilian samples (including the lovely Rose Oud), and inadvertently nicking the SA's pen, which we duly returned on the way out.

Nothing much to report from this last stop on our itinerary, for we were both starting to flag now. As per Marcel's instruction, we sniffed Van Cleef & Arpels Precious Oud - which had just come in that day - and whipped through some Piguets that were unknown to us both, including Douglas Hannant (not a men's scent, as the name might imply), which Robin of NST has aptly termed a "diet Fracas".

And by then it was 7pm and I had to head back to Euston, so we parted at the barrier in Knightsbridge tube station - at the barrier rather than downstairs between the platforms, because the turnstile rejected my Oyster card! A small technical hitch at the end of a very full and fun afternoon with Tara. And with my Oyster card now flush with credit, I look forward to doing it all again sometime!

Photo of Harrods from Wikimedia Commons, photo of Angélique Noire from, photo of D & G Velvet perfume from fragrantica, other photos my own


Anonymous said...

Regular reader ruefully remiss re: Responding regularly

I haven't commented in a long time, but I've been following along with much pleasure and many grins. You always add the detail that makes it easy to feel as if one were there with you.

You look lovely in the pic (including your hair) -- is that the Rosewood?

If you do fall down the luxury makeup rabbit hole, enjoy! After all, there's not much more room in the perfume fridges.

I always knew the Brits were way smarter than us -- here in Vancouver drivers can barely mange to drive the right/correct way around a simple traffic calming circle on a quiet residential street. I don't drive, but I can imagine many a terrified tourist trying to manage that Magic Roundabout and "on the wrong side of the street" at that.

Contented Reader aka Lindaloo

Tara said...

Wow, you like Ambre Nuit as much as New Look 1947? That's really saying something! I'm pleased you found a new love on our blitz. I thought Angélique Noire was fabulous on you too. Most seem agreed that Milly-le-Foret is pretty non-descript and not worth the price tag.

I wish those Les Heures weren't so extortionate - £203 for 75ml is way out of my league.

Agree with Lindaloo that you, your lip colour and your hair look great in that pic!

Olfactoria's Travels said...

You are very pretty in that photo! I have the Rosewood lipstick too, and it is a very nice shade. The Lip Mists are amazing as well, I also have two of those (full disclosure here).

Milly La Foret is indeed a bit bland, but in a way I like it, it is to be had a lot cheaper though - Il Profumo Nuda is a close dupe.

You liked Ambre Nuit - very interesting.

And I was surprised that Tara didn't lke l'Heue Convoitee because of the carnation note? I though she loves carnation?

Such a lovely day you two had!

Ines said...

A lovely day! :)
And very generous to both of you, I'd say.

Btw, I'm wearing SDV today and when I sprayed it this morning, no booze came out, only vanilla. :( And I love it for the boozy aspect (maybe the cold killed it...?).

Tara said...

B, I do love carnation essential oil and hope to find a warm spicy carnation perfume one day but sadly L'Heure Convoitee isn't it!

I wonder if it was actually the strawberry top note that put us off when we first sprayed it, but seeing as Victoria of Bois de Jasmin calls it a "lipstick floral" and compares the drydown to Estee Lauder's Beautiful I don't think it's worth me perservering with unfortunately. Or maybe not unfortunately considering the price!

Le Critique de Parfum said...

Oriental Brûlant deserves its chance.

It's an incredibly powdery amber, and the best Elixir if you ask me ;-)

Vanessa said...

Hi Lindaloo (aka recently retiring / reticent / recalcitrant reader? : - ) ),

You are back with a bang and thanks for your lovely comment! I had "seen you around" and knew you would pop up here again when the spirit moved you to speak up - and how....!

That is indeed the Rosewood - probably doesn't go with the cardigan and possibly a touch pinker than my normal shade, but I am drawn to it, as is Tara - and it now turns out that Birgit owns this one, if further endorsement were needed!

You are absolutely right about the lack of space in the perfume fridges - there's a justification if ever I saw one to go forth and buy a whole other category of beauty products...

I am not sure if the Magic Roundabout is quite unique in Britain, but there are only one or two other such structures, if at all. My driving instructor told me that the safe way to negotiate it was NOT to signal at any point, because the changes in direction happened in such quick succession that other motorists would have a hard job working out which particular roundabout you meant by your indicator. It was more a case of darting in a fairly positive manner, keeping your eyes peeled and hoping for the best.

My approach to the Arc de Triomphe is much the same in fact. Well, I try to avoid driving round it altogether to be honest. : - )

Vanessa said...

Hi tara,

Yes, I do believe that Ambre Nuit will be as big a love as New Look, and that is saying something. For different occasions, mind. As I type, if you told me I can have New Look for summer and Ambre Nuit for winter, or New Look for day and Ambre Nuit for night, I would say: "Oh okay, then", and get on with my collection of two quite happily. : - )

I would like to try Angelique Noire at more leisure - I think that like Myrrhiad, the perfume is so remarkable that I could probably "get over" the aspects I am not so keen on - booze and licorice respectively.

The Heures cost that much??? Yikes! That would kill most inicipient lemmings stone dead. *Not all* but most (B has Fougueuse I think, and loves it to bits).

Thanks for saying the Rosewood does suit me - I think I would like to try the other shades (I always gravitate to a more peachy pink as a rule) before I make my move, as surely I will!

Vanessa said...

Hi Olfactoria,

I take a rubbish photo as a rule - nine times out of ten I end up looking like a pinched rodent - so that one (from my phone) is uncharacteristically flattering. In person I am probably somewhere in between the two - well, you know, you've met me too! (Also in specs...)

Am trying to guess which Lip Mists you have now... : - ) I am quite taken with Feather Pink myself, though have yet to try Stormy Pink and Burnt Sugar. I see you as more of a pink lipstick person rather than the cinnamony / blueberry / red end, but I could be wrong. The Copper Lip Mist just comes out as clear on me, it is weird!

Seems like Tara is still on her carnation quest, and the Cartier was not her HGCS after all.

Vanessa said...

Hi Ines,

How interesting that SDV was not yielding its booze this time. Maybe your theory about the cold is correct - it is a bit early for it to be giving it up for Lent... : - )

Vanessa said...

Hi tara,

I'd say that your initial reaction in the store to L'Heure Convoitee, coupled with Victoria's description of this one, do tend to confirm that it is probably not for you! : - )

Vanessa said...

Hi Le Critique de Parfum,

Thanks for dropping in!

Oriental Brulant is the first of the Elixirs to catch my attention - it is a long time ago since I tried the others, but I think I found them too sweet or generally gourmand, but this one was a different animal. Could be that styrax whipping it into shape?

Anyway, I will definitely give it a go on skin next time I see it - probably on another visit to London.

Marie said...

Hi Vanessa,

that looks like a wonderful sniffing marathon with Tara!
Still, I hope that it's ok and no perfume -blasphemy when I say that my new lemming is none of the perfumes you mention but the Burberry lipstick! I have read only recommendations for this colour and it looks great on you ;)

I have not been interested in high end make up until a friend of mine gave me a Nouba lipstick. It seems that sometimes higher prices really indicate higher quality. At least that is what I get with this one so I am more open-minded now when it comes to luxury make up.

Back to perfume matters: I enjoyed your description of Carner Barcelona D600 and recently got a sample. God, it's terrific! The 2.5ml sample will last a while but I already see myself buying this one for my birthday, haha.
Have your feelings changed or do you still prefer the scent over Tardes? xx

Vanessa said...

Hi Marie,

The Burberry Beauty fan club grows apace! Rosewood is getting a lot of love - it may be one of those shades that suits people of varying colourings. It still doesn't feel like an instinctive choice for me.

Nouba - must google that one!

I did quite like the drydown of Tardes, but the opening was overly almondy so I gave my sample to B, who loves it all the way through. So pleased you also like D600 - it is great on a man too. I foisted it upon a friend for him to actually wear in Barcelona! If you run out between now and June I have about 10ml so I am sure I could top you up.

The Candy Perfume Boy said...

That is a very lovely picture of you Vanessa :D

The sight of that magic roundabout almost sends me into a panic attack, we have one not too far from us (in Hemel Hempstead) and it is by far the most terrifying roundabout on the planet. I avoid it at all costs!

It looks like you had a great sniffing trip with Tara and I'm impressed by her sample blagging techniques.

Vanessa said...

Hi Candy Perfume Boy,

Thanks - that photo is a happy exception to the usual ones I take!

I can imagine Hemel Hempstead having a similar roundabout - I thought there might be one or two knocking about somewhere - probably in the so-called New Towns. It is remarkable I passed my test in Swindon first time, looking back, not least because I did a seven-point turn!

Tara is both great company and an A-List sample blagger, a winning combination which makes her an asset to anyone's sniffing trip. It is her disarmingly sweet manner that is the clincher, I reckon. And looking like an Auto-Enhanced Julia Roberts can't go amiss either... : - )

Undina said...

I like this lipstick on you - well, at least on this picture. I'm lucky: Chanel is the most expensive line of lipsticks easily available close to where I live so I was tempted with Burberry only in magazines - which is much easier to resist :)

I just smelled Mille today for the first time and I liked it. I'm glad I haven't seen this post before... Though, with the price of this line maybe it would have been better? ;)

Vanessa said...

Hi Undina,

I suppose if a lipstick is not available locally, you would resist the temptation of buying blind on the Internet in a way that doesn't apply to other "must-have" products that you don't need to try out first. I am in the same boat really, only I get to go to London now and again, where I am tantalised by luxury goods of all kinds!

Yes, the Rosewood does look like that on me, pretty much. Interesting that you like Milly-la-Foret - I did think it a bit bland, but will give it another go!