Saturday 28 April 2012

Bonkers Is A Bit Behind - And Off To London (Again!)

I fully intended to write up my Berlin sniffing sortie (such as it was!) this evening, but got rather overtaken by events and a bit of a bad head. On balance, I would rather give that post my best attention on my return from another flying visit to London tomorrow, and spend the evening instead with a wet flannel and a couple of episodes of Desperate Housewives... An early night is probably also indicated. I don't seem to be managing any of these lately, but rather have been persisting in my attempts to be an American, which can only end - if not in tears necessarily - in chronic exhaustion at the very least.

But I will be back in a couple of days, and meanwhile here are a couple of pics of my latest perfume-themed garment (bringing the total to three now!). This one is the blingiest by a long chalk, though I like to think it redeems itself with the subdued taupe background and intriguing batwing sleeves. I wore this sweater on my recent sniffing outing with Hazel and Anna in Edinburgh, and neither of them appeared to be visibly fazed - or dazed - by its glittering central panel. The ensembles both my companions were sporting were of course also on the colourful side, but for sheer razzle dazzle, my jumper was in a class (I use the term advisedly) of its own.

Wednesday 25 April 2012

Bonkers "On Tour" In Germany: The Perfume Bit Proper - Part 1: Mußler Beauty, Stuttgart

Back in January I received a request from a fellow blogger for tips on perfumeries in several countries which I routinely visit for work. I was able to help out up to a point, but explained that Germany itself was more regional in nature and that I lacked a complete overview.

"Frankfurt, Cologne(!), Stuttgart, Leipzig, Kassel, Dortmund and Bonn are uncharted territory for me as far as perfume goes..."

Fast forward three months and where should I find myself but in Stuttgart, with a free day and no clue what high end sniffing options the city might harbour! The thought flitted through my mind to contact the blogger and inquire whether they had visited the city in the interim and could advise me on where to go. : - )

But email exchanges take time, so in the end I decided to walk a bit and follow my nose. I figured I could start with a decent department store and take it from there. I had a back up plan of making inquiries at the tourist office or in upmarket dress shops, but none of that was necessary. For after a cursory scope of Galeria Kaufhof - where I sampled Casmir by Chopard on skin and concluded that its amber-y vanilla warmth might bother me in a bit - I hadn't wandered more than a few yards when I struck gold in the form of Mußler Beauty, at Hirschstrasse 22.

That is something to watch out for in Europe in fact - shops that from the outside may just look like a beauty salon or a cosmetics store often carry a fine selection of perfume brands as well. And so it proved with Mußler Beauty, one of a franchise comprising five outlets: three Perfumery & Beauty Lounges (of which the branch I visited was one), and two stand-alone perfumeries, all within the greater Stuttgart area. Two more branches are scheduled to open later this year.

Inside, I more or less tuned out to the cosmetics and body care side of things - notwithstanding my newfound love of luxury lippies! - so overawed was I by the incredible range of niche scents, including several brands I knew but had never come across in store, plus a few complete unknowns.

Here's the list of niche brands I jotted down, which may not be comprehensive: Farmacia SS Annunziata, Carner Barcelona, Tann Rokka, Tocca, Atelier Cologne, Korres, Memo, Bond No 9, Organic Glam (Citron & Oud), Bois 1920, Heely, Vero Profumo (extrait and EDP!), Serge Lutens, Etro, Ineke, Creed, Les Parfums de Rosine, Linari, Il Profumo and a better than average selection of Mugler.

So given this cornucopia of scents, what did I actually sniff? Well, I reacquainted myself with Il Profumo Nuda, which Birgit and I sniffed in Vienna, for the first time in my case. The 50ml bottle was going for half price at 47 euros, and I nearly texted Birgit to see if she fancied going halves, before realising that I didn't have her mobile number in my new phone. Are you by any chance getting the impression that this was a day of "nearly" doing things? : - )

Here is Birgit's review of Nuda, with which I agree completely - it is not the fruity musky number it might appear from the note list, but a delicate, silky, cosseting wisp of a thing.

I also tried Vaniglia de Madagascar from Farmazia SS Annunziata, and it was a very fine quality vanilla, but nothing groundbreaking - in similar vein to Sublime Vanille from Creed, maybe, ie not as "hardcore poddy" as Mona di Orio Vanille or that CB I hate Perfume one the Candy Perfume Boy kindly sent me recently - 7 Billion Hearts - yes, that's the one.

And then I sampled Atelier's Vanille Insensée, which was exactly as I imagined from the reviews, and not really my thing. Too rich and too butch basically. Stylistically, I would describe it as the vanilla equivalent of PG Cozé.

The only other scents I tested on skin were Vero Profumo's Rubj and Onda, in extrait this time. The Rubj wasn't vastly different from the EDP I will have tried with Tara in January in Harrod's - a bit more heady and intense maybe - but the Onda was an altogether different proposition. As in beast, even. Seriously animalic and oily and generally terrifying is about the size of it. It was only dabbed on one knuckle, but like Green Lantern's Power Ring it packed a radiant punch that left me feeling a bit sick for the rest of the day, and worried that I might repel potential punters at the merch table that night. So between the Casimir, whose sickly hum was gathering momentum at this point, and the "tidal wave" of civet in Onda, I wasn't feeling particularly inclined to test any more scents, and instead got chatting to an older sales lady in the store (or possibly the proprietor - I didn't find out her name).

This SA spritzed a couple of the Memos optimistically in my direction - her two personal favourites of Moon Safari and Sundance - but my tolerance was seriously impaired by now, and I was beginning to visibly recoil at the sight of a tester bottle. So I countered by taking some photographs of the interior, which the lady gave me permission to do. I had explained about being a blogger, and how I travel a lot and feature foreign perfumeries on my blog. To which she replied: "I understand exactly where you are coming from. You like to keep abreast of the newest things, to try them and write about them. It's all publicity for us at the end of the day, isn't it?"

And somehow we also got onto the subject of perfumes going off, and the SA said how to her mind scents on the turn smelt of the herb "Liebstöckel", which I now know to be lovage, though I am not sure if I have ever sniffed it.

Sadly, not all the SA's colleagues shared her enlightened view of bloggers, and a little while later she came up to me again and said that the others didn't like me taking photos and that she was sorry, but that that was enough now. And this despite the fact that there was only one other customer in the store at the time, who was browsing in the beauty section before moving towards the till, and never came near me. Which also tells me that this lady was probably not the proprietor after all, to have had to tell me to desist in such unequivocal terms. I felt I had outstayed my welcome and didn't therefore ask for a sample of anything to take away (which she had previously offered). Nor did I buy the bargain bottle of Nuda on an impulse in case Birgit had fancied a split after all...Sorry, B!

So I scurried out and headed back towards the main shopping area, though not without first taking a photo of the exterior, over which they had no jurisdiction. In the next hour I ambled in and out of a couple of branches of Douglas, the department store Müller and I think also Globus, but the Onda in particular had well and truly done my nose in for the day, and I just wanted to get back to my hotel and scrub it off. Yes, sadly I could not summon up any more lovage for my favourite hobby, or not for the rest of that afternoon, anyway...

Instead I stopped by Zara, where I bought a fine pair of black jeans, which I am happy to say smelt of nothing at all.

Photo of Zara jeans from (because mine are in the wash), other photos my own

Sunday 22 April 2012

Bonkers "On Tour" in Germany: The Scent Of The Underground

I am sure I have written posts in the past featuring the word "tour" before - as in "A Bonkers Grand Tour", to name one example. But last week I guess you could describe me as being "on tour". I wasn't doing my usual work, which has been quite scarce of late, though ironically I had several job inquiries just as I was packing to go away(!), ranging from phone interviews with van dealerships in the UK to so-called "intercept interviews" with German tourists on car ferries. But like a large ocean-going vessel myself, I cannot turn myself around that quickly, and ended up going over to Germany on the original mission. I guess you could call it a sort of "VSO work", the voluntary services in question being the manning of a merchandise stall at a series of gigs, which in turn explains the aptness of the phrase "on tour".

Yes, over the course of four nights, I single-handedly clocked up quite a respectable sales total, selling to about 25% of the audience each time, which Mr Bonkers tells me is a very good ratio. I have known this particular group for 30+ years: the music critic of the German broadsheet, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, last year dubbed them "the best unknown band in the world". I suppose I inhabit a comfortable no-man's land somewhere between fan, friend - and now "crew". : - )

As it happens, I have had two prior stints of retail experience in my life, in a cheese and a fruit & veg shop respectively, also some 30 years ago. However, this was a whole new category of merchandise to me - one bearing that very name indeed - though it was typically shortened to "merch". I basked in my newly-coined job title of "Head of Merch etc, Germany", the "etc" referring to ad hoc assistance with the provision of maps, in-train snacks, and deciphering the more arcane paragraphs in the Terms & Conditions of the Deutsche Bahn website.

As well as honing my retail skills, I learnt a new set of vocabulary unrelated to my usual business milieu. This included such up-to-the-minute German terms as the splendid "bemannen" ("to man!"), "Album", "CD", "Song", "T-shirt", "Drummer", "Backstage", "Download" and "Vinyl" (for which there are currently no plans, in case you were about to ask). Yes, I fielded so many requests for old-style vinyl in fact, that if I had had a euro for every one, I could almost afford to press the blessed things myself. While speaking German, I don't think I fooled anyone as to my real nationality, though one lady complimented me on my "good endings".

As time went by I started getting quite creative with my sales techniques, positioning the silver-coloured CD as a "handy emergency compact mirror". To some people I mentioned that if you bought nine of the CDs and arranged them in a rectangle you would have a pretty sizeable bathroom mirror. It would cost you an arm and a leg, mind, and the actual CDs might warp in the condensation, but you won't find anything like it in IKEA.

Then the album lyrics were printed on a folded pocket version of the band poster, tucked inside the sleeve, and I lost no time in pointing out how the CD - especially factoring in its reflective characteristics - was tantamount to a complete "activity pack", perfect for long car journeys - assuming you aren't driving, that is.

Then when the small T-shirt size sold out, I began to extol the versatility of the M and L sizes to the more petite customers, explaining how they would make a first rate nightie or even a mini-dress if you teamed them with a stylishly low slung belt.

"Bemanning" the merch table gave me an opportunity to meet and chat to fans from all over Germany and further afield, including a man from Nuneaton who was thrilled to find himself in Frankfurt on business on the day his favourite band happened to be playing down the road.

In terms of my "Scent Of The Gig" choices, I wore just two all week: Orris Noir, as it seemed suitably dark for the unrelenting gloom of my working environment, and Guerlain Plus Que Jamais, which struck me as an amusingly ironic choice for the grungy outfits I had taken to wearing. Well, my best efforts in a grungewardly direction - I may not have been layering perfumes, but I was layering T-shirts like a pro!)

Now I was only dimly aware of other scents - ambient or otherwise - over the course of the week. I do recall the burning smell of brake fluid on Berlin trains, and the smell of crusty egg rolls, but that is about it. I guess the trip was more about sounds than scents, and maybe it is good to switch sensory track sometimes...

Well, I say that...the band did half-jokingly wonder if they should have a perfume of their own, which could be another potential merch idea. They have already come up with its name: "The Monochrome Scent", a rather nifty play on "The Monochrome Set".

Well, I was instantly reminded of Tarleisio and The Devil Scent project, though in that case the scents being created are for an individual band member who is a character in Tarleisio's book, Quantum Demonology, albeit one based on a real musician of her acquaintance.

So on the long train rides - I was travelling independently of the band - I gave the idea of The Monochrome Scent some more thought. It occurred to me that whilst it might well be overcomplicating this hypothetical creation to do so, it could be fun to have top, heart and base notes in the perfume that not only characterised the traits of each musician but also correlated with the role of their respective instruments in the overall musical composition. That way, the notes associated with the bass player would be base notes (of course!), ditto the drummer, and so on.

Or if that was too tricky and restrictive (and it almost certainly would be!), one could just ensure that the scent included at least one note that was strongly
associated with each band member. So the drummer asked for something to denote curry and sweat - cumin? : - ) ), then the guitarist (who is from Quebec) requested maple syrup and pipe tobacco...and I am thinking some kind of Canadian lumber might also hit the spot? The singer is half-Indian so he could be Mysore sandalwood (not least because he complained about his feet a lot!). Then the female violinist likes magnolia and citrus notes, while to represent the bass player it would not be beyond the realms of possibility (Christopher Brosius-style!) to replicate the odour of his signature mac...

Or - the simplest of all routes - one could just stick in a load of notes
that the band members collectively associate with being on tour: after a quick brainstorm, curry and sweat predictably topped the list! Now...even if The Monochrome Scent ever saw the light of day - or the gloom of night on a merch table, rather - I shan't promise to sell it to one in four punters unless this madcap, olfactory "camel designed by a committee" ends up smelling half-way decent...

And finally, here are some more "tour snaps": Germany does a nice line in eclectic venues (an Art Nouveau villa, a former hospital, a Lost Property Office, a punk squat) - actually, most of them look like a punk squat on the inside, which in the case of the Art Nouveau villa was particularly unexpected.



And no round up of tour photos would be complete without an example of one of the doors, for finding your way into an alternative music venue is the ultimate initiative test.

For anyone who may be curious, here is a review by John Robb (formerly of The Membranes) of a recent UK gig, which also looks back at the history and influence of the band.

And thanks to one of those surprise Google coincidences, I have just learnt that Tigrushka, known to many as one of the moderators on Basenotes, is also a fan. I stumbled upon this review on her blog (in Finnish!) and the following tweet of hers:

"Listening to the new Monochrome Set album Platinum Coils for the first time. It's stunningly good."

And this unexpected collision of two fumeheads' musical and fragrance interests is - you might think - further strengthened by a mention of perfume in the opening lines of "On My Balcony", one of my favourite tracks on the new album:

"Through the perfume of sweet velvet sleep
I glide into the afternoon"

Except that the singer tells me the use of the word perfume is quite gratuitous, and he probably just liked the sound of the word without any reference to what it meant. Ah well, you can't have it all. : - )




Now I did hope to meet up with a couple of perfumistas on my travels, but sadly it didn't work out in the end due to illness and a job move. A round up of my solo sniffing experiences follows in the next posts!

Photo of villa from, other photos my own

Sunday 15 April 2012

Fracas On The Dance Floor: A Friend's Fabulously Fragrant Fortieth Birthday Bash

My friend Sharon (my first and most resounding convert to Roja Dove Scandal, as some readers may recall), turned 40 on Friday 13th and celebrated in style. It turned out to be a more auspicious date than it may sound, for some 30 family and friends converged on her home town from all over the country, bearing gifts and trailing party outfits in garment bags. Sharon's birthday haul included some beautiful pieces of jewellery, flowers and champagne, while I gave her a bottle of Piguet Fracas, having noted that it was her favourite of the "big white floral" samples I had given her lately to try.

As I was getting changed at Sharon's parents' house (from whom I am equidistant in age!), I cast my mind back to a few of my own milestone birthdays, which went roughly like this:

18th: Revised for my English Literature A-Level on the fire escape. Parents gave me a suitcase. Was that a hint?

21st: Cleaned the bungalow I had been sharing with two other teaching assistants in France, my housemates having already cunningly skipped the country. Then treated myself to a solo moped ride and a picnic.

30th: Unintentionally played gooseberry on a yomp in the New Forest with a friend and her...person of interest. Ended up lost - possibly deliberately shaken off - and covered in nettle stings and scratches. This was in those dark pre-GPS days when (as I learnt to my cost) orienteering skills really counted for something.

40th: Checked into a spa for a day of solo pampering. Failed dismally to crack any of the yoga positions, and had a blart in the grounds when I realised I would never receive another greetings card from my mother, who had died a few months previously. Spent the evening doing serious damage to a bottle of Bollinger, which rallied and ended up doing considerably greater damage to me.

So in view of my own mixed bag of mostly solitary birthday celebrations, I was pretty confident that Sharon's 40th would comfortably top them, and so it proved. She had booked a table at a popular nightspot with panoramic views of the sea from its upstairs bar. When we arrived, we were already several sheets of pink cava to the wind, and if I am honest, not all the squinting I found myself doing could be attributed to the dazzling rays of the setting sun.

By 8pm, after more pre-dinner drinks, we were seated at our table in a prime spot close to the stage, all set to tuck into a surprise three course meal (surprise in the sense that none of us could remember what we had pre-ordered back in February...), and to be entertained by a Robbie Williams tribute act with the disappointingly normal name of Paul Reason. Now I am not saying we would have preferred the more punningly satisfactory "Blobbie Williams" instead - that's with or without "Gary Lardo" in tow - for that particular Robbie Look-alike-ish is reputed to be quite large, and this Paul chappy was on the stocky side as it was. He did, however, have the obligatory weird eye/eyebrow combo, and a lot of Robbie's moves.

Understandably, given our high liquid intake over the course of the night, repeated trips were made to the ladies, not least by me. Both in the toilets and on the dance floor, I was struck by how fragrant the air was, and enjoyed deeply inhaling this pleasant pot pourri of contemporary women's scents. Everyone at the venue was very dressed up (well, I say that, but we did also spot one or two vertiginously high hemlines, which skimmed their wearers' bottoms more by luck than design. Which in its way I suppose is a sort of dressing "up".) And though people may have skimped on fabric (not in our group, obviously), crucially, no one seemed to have skipped the finishing touch of applying perfume.

For example, in our party there was birthday girl Sharon, wafting her freshly opened bottle of Fracas on the dance floor, Angela in Gucci Guilty, Ruth in Chance Eau Fraîche, Max in Parisienne, Sarah Jane in Gucci II, while I gave Amouage Honour Woman another spin (chosen with care for its tuberose note, which Sharon loves, but no vanilla, which she hates!). And beyond our table there was the throng of unknown women contributing to this beguiling cocktail of scent...

And my overriding feeling at that moment was one of pride. Pride in my relative sobriety such that I could capture highlights of the night on my camera phone. And I'll admit to a bit of self-satisfaction at the part I had played in helping Sharon find another diva scent to love.

But most of the pride I felt was directed towards women in general - all these unknown women at large having a great night out, myself included. Proud that they cared enough to wear fragrance - any fragrance - not that I smelt a duff one.



Now they say that alcohol oils the wheels of a great party, and it would be fair to say that the wheels of ours were pretty darn lubricated. Yes, we bonded through sharing a drink, through making fools of ourselves on the dance floor, and through making light of the burnt bacon (my fault!) at our fry-up breakfast the next morning.

But over and above that I felt an invisible extra connection with every woman in the room who had chosen to put on a Scent Of - and For - The Evening.

Yes, it was as fabulously fragrant a fortieth bash as you could wish for, and I look forward to doing it all again in ten years. Which gives us ample time to find a Robbie act with a snappier name. And next time, I shall remember to smell him as well when he does his mock stage diving routine...

Photo of Fracas from, other photos my own

Thursday 12 April 2012

Bonkers "In Edinburgh": An Easter Saturday Sniffathon With Anna - "Hello", "Cheerio", And The Bit In Between

In her recent tour de force of a post on content theft, "Phantoms in the Fumosphere", Tarleisio wrote (and once again, I swear I am not scraping, but quoting!):

"In Internet social interaction, it is a general rule of thumb that 90% of any given group in any given setting will enjoy the online content they have access to. They will enjoy it, they may even share it with each other. That’s all they do. Nine percent more will comment and interact with…the one percent who actually provide that content..."

As many of you know, Anna in Edinburgh is one of those nine percent, who follows a number of perfume blogs and interacts with their writers by leaving a comment on nigh on every post she reads, or that is my impression. A delightfully whimsical, pun-rich, alliterative and witty comment to boot. In short, Anna is a blogger's dream reader, and I was lucky enough to finally get to meet her in Edinburgh last Saturday.

Mindful of the fact that I had had trouble spotting Tara outside Harrods in January - who said she would be wearing a "dark grey wool coat" (of which I only retained the word "grey"), so that when, at the exact moment of our appointed meeting, a dozen grey-coated women didn't hove into view, I was royally flummoxed - Anna thought she would leave no margin for error, and donned a cream mac adorned with red poppies atop black stems. Armed with this titbit of sartorial intelligence, and the additional info that Anna was short, with brown hair tied back in a pony tail and glasses, I was confident that my sister-in-law Hazel and I would have no bother picking her out at the main entrance to Jenners (Edinburgh's most famous department store, now owned by the House of Fraser group). Well, that was always assuming we had correctly identified which WAS the main entrance....we had, and Anna's coat, with its cheery splashes of colour, was unmistakable.

Introductions over, we headed for the perfume section, where the assistants let us browse at our own pace, and even allowed me take a few photos - contrary to the store's policy - so a big thumbs up to them for that!

We loitered happily at the fixtures for some time, and had as much fun joking about the names and presentation of some of the scents on display as we did actually sniffing them. Hazel in particular, who is still only just the wrong side of "normal" in terms of her own budding interest in perfume, brought a refreshingly down to earth perspective to the topic.

"'Forbidden Euphoria'? 'Euphoria' will always be a shrub to me."

"'Eternity Moment'? That's a contradiction in terms!"

"You like Esprit d'Oscar? Sorry - I just get marzipan...yes, it is channelling Battenberg cake."

Then thanks to Anna, we also identified yet another "perfume delivery system" to add to the list that Tara and I compiled on our visit to Harrods. For when she tested the indeterminate fruity pink floral that Signorina by Ferragamo turned out to be, she sprayed the tester in the air, stepped back for a second, before leaning into the fragrant cloud.

We also discussed Jean Paul Gaultier, which I have gone on record as saying is the house which could put me off perfume for ever if I was condemned only to wear fragances from its range. Whereupon Anna revealed that she had "dithered about Fragile", strangely drawn to its kitschy snow globe presentation. Basenotes members may recognise Anna's screen name over there of Kitsch!

Then we had a bit of a snigger about Kokorico, with its strange, un-PC black head bottle in a Le Creuset casserole tin. Anna held the bottle side on for me to photograph, demonstrating that it does indeed look like the trademark JPG torso (of Classique) from this angle.

Next up, I found myself reeled in by the make up counters, and Anna and Hazel kindly withdrew to one side while I had a lipstick makeover at the Bobbi Brown counter (Nude Rose topped with Rose Gold gloss). Well, I say lipstick makeover...having done my lips, the SA muttered something about my cheeks needing a bit of colour, and just as she was about to apply blusher, reached first for some kind of primer and foundation "to even it all out a bit", meaning the skin on my cheeks, I expect. Oh dear, I thought. The SA probably felt uncomfortable letting me walk out with even these minor touch ups, and was probably itching to slather me in full coverage foundation, building it up to at least three coats, before popping me in a kiln dryer for half an hour or so.

While I was gone, Anna and Hazel got talking about their mutual love of knitting and wool. It turns out that all three of us collect wool, and enjoy fondling it both in shops and at home - a practice for which Hazel coined the term "wool worrying". It was agreed that a "wool worrying session" would broadly equate to the yarn version of a "sniffathon".

From Jenners we went to Harvey Nichols, and tested their exclusive range of unisex colognes from Gandini 1896 Maestri Profumieri. Released in 2010, it is positioned as a more affordable alternative to Jo Malone that lends itself to layering. Gandini even supplies an Olfactory Menu for this very purpose, though we didn't get that far in our own investigations of the line. Here are the perfumes:

Lime and Basil (sounds familiar to anyone?)
Red Roses and Peach
Blue Musk
Lavender and Gold Amber
Teak wood
Grapefruit and Citrus
Pomegranate and Incense
Orange Blossom and Leaves

I tried all of these on card, and the last two (my favourites) on skin. The Orange Blossom and Leaves was promisingly bright and juicy to start with, but went a bit sharp and indolic later on. The Pomegranate and Incense was reminiscent of JM Pomegranate Noir, and while pleasant, didn't blow me away.

Next door to the Gandini counter was Armani, where we sampled the new Armani Privé release, Figuier Eden. The SA told us that it contained notes of papaya, melon and fig, yet it managed to smell rather like Philosykos and was generally extremely soft and subtle. More so than PG Bois Naufragé, say, so on balance far too quiet to warrant the high price tag. According to Now Smell This, the notes are as follows (which I could much more readily believe!):

Notes: bergamot, mandarin, pink pepper, tea accord, green fig accord, iris and amber.

We were also informed somewhat tantalisingly that the next fragrance release would be "a gold one" (top? bottle?), but the SA didn't have any other details as to its style/notes.

By this point, we were sorely in need of refreshments, and decided to call it a day as far as the in-store sniffing part was concerned. At Hazel's suggestion, we decamped to the cafe of the National Portrait Gallery, where we stayed put for some two and a half hours, on just one round of drinks and a cheese scone! I must say I was tempted by the "hot cross scones", which would have nicely compensated for the previous day's "hot crossless buns" (only kidding, Hazel! : - ) ), but I can never pass up a savoury scone, especially one featuring intriguing speckly bits of green matter.

In the cafe, I upended the contents of my travel bags onto the table, which took up most of the available space, so Anna progressively fished out interesting novelties for us to try from the capacious depths of her mauve vanity case.

Here is a brief summary of what we sniffed from Anna's stash and what we all thought of it.


Green - "green Radox" (Anna)
White - "sugared almond" (Anna)
Auburn - "big whoosh of air from a dryer in a launderette" (Anna) / "bubble gum" (me)
Zeta - "hmmm...abrasive" (Hazel)

ALOHATHERAPY (a Hawaiian company specialising in perfume oils)

China Rain - instant love all round, though I am blowed if I can call any specifics to mind now! (Can't find any information on this one - Anna can perhaps confirm if it is discontinued.)

Plumeria - as above (a really pretty floral and the stand out highlight of the day!) This was all I could find by way of a description of the oil on the Alohatherapy website:

"The first plumeria plant was brought to Hawaii in 1860 by the famous botanist Hillebrand. Hawaii’s best loved flower overflows with an irresistibly sweet and enticing fragrance."


Love etc - "cedar overlaid with fugitive raspberry" (Hazel) / "carrot cake" (Anna)

In case it is not obvious, this was a big hit.


Fiori d'arancio - lush orange blossom scent

Additionally, Anna kindly let me pick out a handful of scents to take away and try at more leisure from a vegan range called Dolma, based in Nottingham. I was particularly taken with the florals in their broad selection, notably Andromeda, Anahita, Keltina and Calista, and may well report on these separately, as I haven't had a chance to retest them yet. You may well ask what ingredients are omitted in a vegan scent, given that animal-derived musks have largely been supplanted by synthetics. Anna cited beeswax as one example, while the leaflet accompanying the discovery set takes adds that animal substances such as ambergris, castoreum, civet and musk are strenuously avoided, pointing out that some expensive perfumes still use these in low concentrations.

By 5pm or so, Anna and I were both sniffed out, and we walked back together to a bus stop close to my B & B, from where she could catch a bus home. (Hazel had left us mid-way through the cafe session, having done well to have stayed the course as long as she did in the company of two hardcore fumeheads!)

After a parting hug, I set off across the road and realised that in our final exchange Anna and I had said what a good time we had had, and maybe the word "Goodbye" had even been uttered - I can't be sure now. Crucially, however, I forgot to ask Anna point blank if she would grace my ear with her signature sign off of "Cheerio".

Later that evening, I received a lovely email from her, entitled "Happy Easter, and travel safely back to Bonks central", and which ends on that immortal word:

"cheerio (which I forgot to say!)


And look - the "in Edinburgh" is missing for the first time! But not to worry, for now I have met this most charming and supportive of blog-reading perfumistas, I shan't forget her exact location - or the fun afternoon the three of us spent together - any time soon...

Photo of Armani scent from Fragrantica, other photos my own

Tuesday 10 April 2012

Bonkers "In Edinburgh": Seeing Doppel - A Towering Tauer-alike

Since my last post, my sister-in-law and I have now met and comprehensively gone sniffing with the delightful Anna of "Anna in Edinburgh" fame. However, I have only briefly popped home before heading off again on a couple more short trips, so I will defer the account of our meet-up until I have a bit more leisure (by which I mean "stationary-and-with access-to-a-desktop-PC" leisure, that special variety which is conducive to blogging. : - )

But meanwhile I just wanted to share with readers the highlight of a night out with friends at the weekend, when I chanced upon this exceptionally tall chap who (to my eye) bears a striking resemblance to Andy Tauer. (I should add that he did kindly give me permission to post these photos!)

Just as the word Tauerade - as in the "signature" metallic/fuzzy base characterising many of Andy Tauer's fragrances - has now passed into the perfumista vocabulary thanks to March of Perfume Posse, I now find myself unexpectedly coining the term "Tauer-alike".

Spotting him across the crowded room in a popular restaurant-cum-nightspot, I went over and came straight out with my request:

"Excuse me, but I wonder if you wouldn't mind my taking your photograph, only you happen to be the spitting image of a well-known Swiss perfumer."


Graeme (as I later learnt his name was) was predictably taken aback, and immediately asked if this was a wind up. I whipped out my iPhone and googled images of Andy Tauer, some of which Graeme felt were a better likeness than others, but he definitely could see my point.

Then I asked if he would mind my featuring him in a "Doppelgänger post" on the blog, and promptly called up Bonkers on my phone to prove that I did in fact have a blog of that name, and to give him an idea of the sort of whimsical spin I might put on the story (or its title, at least!), to which he gallantly agreed.


Has anyone else seen a look-alike of a top perfumer?

Do let us know - we could start an online gallery!

Photos of the real Andy Tauer from Basenotes and, other photos my own!

Friday 6 April 2012

Bonkers "In Edinburgh": The Guerlain Pamplelune Sniff-Off And A Bid To Rescue Birgit's Grapefruit Scent Squeeze

Bonkers has headed up north for the Easter break, and is currently staying with Sibling Bonkers and sister-in-law, Hazel (in life, as in screen name). Hazel has just baked a batch of hot crossless buns, and we have been speculating as to a suitable alternative name for them: "Hot Contented Buns"? "Hot Atheist Buns"? Though as Hazel pointed out: "They'll be jolly annoyed when we eat them!" I should also mention that they did technically have crosses on them when they went into the oven, but every last one failed to rise to the occasion. And obviously at Easter rising is very much the name of the game. Hazel has sampled one of these buns and says they do in fact taste fine.

As ever I am staying in a spare room which is decorated with all manner of intriguing artefacts, including some Bohemian perfume bottles, brought back from holidays and work trips in the Czech Republic.

Then on my bed I was unexpectedly reunited with a crocheted throw I made in 1977, that had somehow wound up in my brother's possession. The moths have been at it here and there, but it still manages to combine all the functionality of a blanket with what the ELDO perfume house might well have had in mind when - in one of its trademark fits of whimsy - it settled on the title for its latest perfume release of "Malaise Of The 1970s". (Review by The Candy Perfume Boy here.)

The other main excitement of the morning was staging the "Guerlain Aqua Allegoria Pamplelune sibling skin sniff-off". This was in response to a distressing post by Birgit of Olfactorias Travels about how this formerly cheerful, uplifting perfume she owns was ruined early on in her perfumista "journey", when she came across reviews likening the scent of Pamplelune to the smell of BO.

"Even if this is not true, and I never got any complaints, the image is burned into my brain and there is no way I could ever wear it again."

Concerned at the fact that these dismissive comments had prompted Olfactoria to consign Pamplelune to outer albatrossery, I offered to launch a rescue intervention, in the hope that she might yet be reconciled to her former grapefruit scent squeeze - IF its reputation could be restored through a series of positive testings.

So I wrote in a comment on her post:

"My brother owns this and I am seeing him later in the week – so will conduct a trial… Brotherly BO molecules hold no terror for me!"

To which Olfactoria replied:

"Thank you for your selfless commitment to perfumery, V! I shall look forward to your report!"

Well, I am happy to report that I sniffed my brother wearing Pamplelune immediately after application and then a couple of hours later on our return from the shops.

Our first reaction was along the lines of "warm, golden grapefruit", and over time it has merely muted down to a softer version of the same glowing citrus bouquet - or not "bouquet" maybe, but something like "bowl" or "stylish wire basket with a handy integral hook for bananas". We got no maladorous impressions, certainly.

Which begs the question...had the people who tore Pamplelune segment from segment in these negative reviews squirted it in their own armpits by any chance? Stranger application tactics have been known...

Coming up soon...meeting "Anna in Edinburgh" for a Scottish sniffathon!