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


Undina said...

It was so nice to "meet" Anna through your story. I was smiling through the course of your post.

I wanted to comment more on the "perfumes" bits but it's too late now - I'll be back tomorrow.

Vanessa said...

Hi Undina,

And I am glad to have arranged for Anna to "meet" you in this way!

Anna has a pretty eclectic perfume stash, and her collection of full bottles is considerably more substantial than mine (which I find reassuring!).

scentandshinythings said...

How nice to read about a sniffing session in my home town! I have walked down those aisles many times. My own Easter Saturday was spent in B&Q, enough said.

Olfactoria's Travels said...

How lovely to get to meet Anna in Edinburgh.
It looks like you had a great time!
Cheerio to you both! :)

Vanessa said...

Hi scentandshinythings,

Oh wow, I am sorry - I had no idea! I didn't know you were a reader of Bonkers or we would most certainly have invited you along.

Hope you got some useful bits in B & Q.... : - )

Vanessa said...

Cheerio Olfactoria!

It was the best fun I have had in ages, and I made some unusual discoveries on the scent front.

Suzanne said...

As evidenced by both your post and your pictures, Anna in Edinburgh is as delightful as all get-out. Love her coat and her big smile.

Hazel offers more than a spit-spot of fun, too, doesn't she? Loved hearing her comments on perfumes -- she has the trademark Bonkers sense of humor down pat.

Thank you for bringing us along on your charming outing, Vanessa. And since Birgit has already said Cheerio, I'll just say Toodles!

Hazel said...

Ah, I love the perfume/ makeup section in department stores: all tinted mirrors and little fancy bottles in backlit niches and as great a degree of hush as is compatible with actual commerce. And I like being in a group of character fully dressed women (I was treating them to my purple frock and red and gold jacket), talking and laughing and snorting the merchandise.

It was, as they say in Vanessa's and my home town, a quare geg.

scentandshinythings said...

Anthropologie on George St is also worth a visit as they stock Carthusia and Histoires de Parfum as well as some Inekes. They used to stock Teo Cabanel but haven't seen it there for a while. Happy sniffage Edinburgh folk.

Anonymous said...

Eeek! You've posted already, Vanessa!

I had a great time with Vanessa and Hazel, and my OH is more than happy for me to meet "strange blogging Women" now because they gave me a Lindt Chocolate Bunny to share out at home;-)

It was fun and a good laugh throughout, and I'm happy to repeat the experience, "scentandshinythings", should you care to be seen with me in That Coat in Public!

cheerio, Anna in Edinburgh

Michael said...

Seems like fun was had by all, great read. By the way, I haven't heard of half the perfumes you mentioned in this post, for example organic ones from Nottingham, etc...

Vanessa said...

Hi Suzanne,

Oh, I do love your uniquely American turns of phrase!

: - )

Anna reminds me of a dark-haired version of Barbara Bach, one of the Bond girls, though I can't remember which film now. Or a brunette version of the TV presenter Anneka Rice, who used to hare round the country in helicopters, and whom I once spotted in a tracksuit at Gatwick.


Vanessa said...

Hi Hazel,

You totally cracked me up with your phrase: "as great a degree of hush as is compatible with actual commerce"!

And it was indeed a "quare geg" as you say. I may post a photo of my own characterful pullover soon - I had quite forgotten about that... : - )

Vanessa said...

Hi scentandshinythings,

Yes, Anna mentioned Anthropologie, a store chain I discovered in the States and am so glad to see open up some branches here. And there is a Penhaligons too round there somewhere, if I am not mistaken?

I guess we simply ran out of time...But now Anna's husband has been reassured that fumeheads are not aliens - okay, we probably *are* aliens, but of a benign disposition - she is available for future sniffing sorties!

Vanessa said...

Hi Anna,

It was so good to meet you too - and That Coat!

I should perhaps mention that the Lindt bunny was a seasonal item and may not come as standard on perfumista outings. Hopefully your husband would still be amenable to your going on sniffing sorties with fellow fumeheads in the absence of bunny booty. Chocolate can always be proffered in other formats out of season...!

: - )

Vanessa said...

Hi Michael,

Thanks for stopping by. Yes, it was a great afternoon, and like you, I hadn't heard of most of the samples Anna whipped, rabbit-like, out of her vanity case-cum-hat box!

Natalie said...

All of you UK perfumistas seem so lovely. I hope I am able to meet more of you on my next trip over. This was another of those posts that left me with a warm fuzzy feeling about our little community.

I think you could easily devote your entire blogs to the witty one-off statements of today's threesome. Who needs a perfume review when we now know that Love etc. is "cedar overload with fugitive raspberry"? Not me!

Thanks for bringing us along virtually, V.

Vanessa said...

Hi Natalie,

Would be so great to meet you when you next come to Europe - anywhere in Europe, even. Lovethescents and I have been plotting a meet-up in Denmark next year, for example. : - )

"Warm fuzzy feeling" is exactly it. For my part, I am envious of you and Undina being close by, and the fumie folk in the Pacific North West or the LA area are of course not so very far away, relatively speaking...

Tara said...

I'm so glad you got to meet up with Anna in Edinburgh. I love her comments and she is much better at choosing first perfumista meeting attire than I!

Oh, your mini makeover nearly made me choke on my grapes it was so funny. I have had that kind of reaction from many a beauty SA. It's like when I go the hairdressers and they hold up a frizzy lock and ask "would you like a deep conditioning treatment?"!

Wow, that Gandini line are sailing close to Jo Malone aren't they? They could be identical if you add or substract one word from most of their fragrance names.

Laters from London!

Vanessa said...

Hi tara,

Your choice of attire for our meeting was absolutely fine - it was my recall of your description that was woefully fuzzy!

Haha, am glad I am not the only one to be deemed in need of more "work" by a beauty SA. "Deep conditioning treatment" made me smile - with the emphasis on the "deep" of course!

Gandini is a definite knock off range all right, but they are in such limited distribution that I don't suppose they will do the JM brand much harm.

Yes, laters from London - look forward to the KP report!
: - )