Thursday, 10 May 2012

No Unmarked Door Unpushed: Meeting Katie Puckrik Again And Cadging A "Smadge" Of Madonna Truth Or Dare

My recent merch selling duties in Germany meant that unfortunately I had to pass up Katie Puckrik's lively talk at the Perfume Lovers London meet-up in April. Comprehensive accounts of - and the next best thing to attending - the evening may however be found on Candy Perfume Boy and Olfactorias Travels.

As it happens, I was down in London the last weekend in April, so Katie and I arranged to meet on the Sunday afternoon for a "senior supper" and a bit of a catch up. I had just clocked her hilarious, no-holds barred article in The Guardian about her meeting with Stephen Nilsen, the perfumer behind Madonna's new fragrance release, Truth or Dare, and a few days ahead of our meeting dared to send a cheeky request of my own.

"Really enjoyed your Guardian piece and wondered if you could possibly bring a smidge ("smadge"?? : - ) ) of the Madonna scent on Sunday, as I am mad keen to try it, having recently enjoyed a bit of a white floral epiphany."

Katie replied that that would be no bother, but could I please bring a vial with me, as she hadn't got any decanting tackle with her in London. She gave me the address of a club in East London of which she was a member, and said she would meet me in reception, adding that the door was unmarked, but that I should just push it and go on in.

So I got to the address with five minutes to spare, only to find that every single door in that particular street was unmarked, not with building names or even numbers (though I only had the name of the street anyway). Suffice to say that if I was in the signage business, I would give that entire postcode a very wide berth. But okay, I thought, not to worry, I will push every last one of them and see if any yield to the touch and lead into something resembling a reception area. I say "resembling", because East London is noted for its trendy warehouse conversions and other quirky developments, so one should keep an open mind as to the possible layout of any given building.

Some eight doors later, I asked a passing American for help - on the principle that if Katie is an American living in London, there may well be others with good local knowledge, and so it proved. "That's the one you want" he said affably, "you see where those people are going in?" Aha - I suppose I should have taken the party of four club members filing in as a bit of a clue. After all, no one had made any attempt to gain entry to those other unmarked doors I was scoping in my ten perplexed minutes wandering up and down the street.

Shortly after that, Katie herself arrived, and after a quick tour of the building (also a warehouse conversion!), we ensconced ourselves on the squashy sofas of one of the lounges, and proceeded to "download" our news over a late brunch of portabello mushrooms and poached eggs, which we recast as a "senior brunch". This was washed down in my case by a pot of tea, because I had a lot of "catching up" to do on that front too to meet my copious daily requirement.

The meal over, we got down to the serious business of decanting my sample of Truth or Dare from Katie's handbag size bottle. We both had a go in the end - with and without funnel - and I ended up applying the not inconsiderable overspray to both wrists and neck. That was my SOTE sorted, then! We did finally coax a couple of ml into the atomiser I had brought with me for the purpose. My first thought was that the juice itself was a pretty peachy pink, not unlike Shalimar Parfum Initial, to which I have recently taken an unexpected shine.

Before setting out to write this post, I couldn't resist taking a peek at the reviews already out there, which are all favourable as far as I can tell, and with good reason. For Truth or Dare is a cut above your usual celebuscent all right.

As I type I am wearing a number of diva-ish floral fragrances at once to see which ones Truth or Dare most closely resembles. Robin of Now Smell This dubbed Truth or Dare "Fracas Lite" in her review, while Jen of This Blog Really Stinks likened it to "Fracas Candy" (as in Prada Candy).

Well, I'd say that those are two very good analogies: in the case of the latter, you've got a big white floral bouquet with tuberose and gardenia at its heart, like twin prom dresses with swishy, bouffant skirts, and underneath all that you have a sweet, candied, fluffy layer not unlike the base of Parfums MDCI Promesse de L'Aube. I detected a syrupy vanilla, and at one point could have sworn that a toffee apple accord flitted in and out again. "Miscellaneous calorific desserts", let's just say. Or one of those Ben & Jerry ripple-type ice creams with crumbled bits of pavlova.

Notes: gardenia, tuberose and neroli, with jasmine, benzoin tears, white lily petals, vanilla absolute, caramelized amber, and sensual musk

Now Truth or Dare may sound a bit full on, but it really is soft and caressing in a little while, like a musky meringue - the drydown is reminiscent of the perfume Kate Middleton didn't in fact wear on her wedding day, ie the "wrong" batch of White Gardenia Petals that accidentally came my and Birgit's way... I am also wearing "correct" White Gardenia Petals, and it is not much like Truth or Dare - too sharply green, wan and metallic to my nose.

As well as being these variants on Fracas, another scent which I feel Truth or Dare resembles is Gardénia Pétale, from Van Cleef & Arpels' Collection Extraordinaire.

Notes: green notes, citrus notes, lily of the valley, jasmine, and gardenia

Like Truth or Dare, it is a plush white floral blend featuring lily, jasmine and gardenia. Okay, LOTV in this case, but at the risk of playing note bingo, that is still a fair bit of crossover.

For fun, I just tried layering Gardénia Pétale with its stablemate, Lys Carmin, which has a very sweet, gourmand facet that I thought might possibly mimic the edible drydown of Truth or Dare. And d'you know, it isn't a dupe by any manner of means, but there is a marked likeness between this layered combo and Truth or Dare - much more so say than between it and either of the Van Cleefs in isolation. Now Lys Carmin doesn't have the same kind of sweetness exactly - it is too spicy for one, and generally darker in feel - but texturally it is very similar in terms of the fluffy nimbus thing it has got going on. And it adds the vanilla in our note bingo game, and yet more lily!

Notes: Lily, pink peppercorn, ylang ylang, vanilla, and sandalwood

You may not be surprised to learn that the next day in Selfridges I came this close to buying a 50ml bottle of Truth or Dare, but ended up "fondling and replacing" it as is my practice these days. Even though it cost a mere £25 for 30ml, £32 for 50ml and £42 for 75ml. Clearly the more you spray, the more you save, to annexe Mr Bonkers' beer mantra for a moment. So that is a "Fracas Lite" price to boot!

I don't know what stayed my hand. Quite possibly the bottle, which looks a bit plasticky in reality, and reminds me of a kitschy replica of an altar my dad bought when I was a child - at Lourdes, or somewhere like that selling cheap religious souvenirs. I distinctly remember that this white plastic altar also had accents of gold, plus a red chalice (coated to look like burnished metal and concealed behind a little door, for all the world like a chocolate in an advent calendar). And Madonna was of course brought up as a Catholic, so it is perhaps not surprising that those early influences might assert themselves later - in a scent bottle with ecclesiastical overtones, or the dodgy outfit of her Like A Virgin video.

So it might have been that, or the fact that the sales assistant in Selfridges and I were discussing the intended demographic for Truth or Dare, whose upper limit of 45 stops a good 8 years short of Madge's actual age. The SA told me that it was in fact selling to ALL ages, including a lot of teenage girls, and maybe that was what put it beyond the pale for me. Which is plain daft - and cutting my nose off to spite my face - because this is a well-made fragrance, which I like a lot!

But meanwhile, I have a bit of my sample left, and thanks to Katie have also inherited a scented candle featuring the fragrance, which would doubtless have taken up her entire hold baggage allowance on the flight home. And if those two things are not enough to sate the Madonna scent lemming, I reserve the right to dare to crack - by which I mean "fondle and take to till" - the next time I am in Selfridges, which may very well be next week...

Photo of East London from, photo of Madonna Truth or Dare from, other photos my own


Carol said...

you've encourage me to actually try it. Thanks Bonks! (and hello Katie!)

Dionne said...

Tried this on Monday while killing time waiting for Archimedes' new lenses (well, along with Beyond Paradise, Cinnabar, Tuscany per Donna, Spicebomb, Voile de Jasmin, Infusion d'Iris Absolue, Insolence and Organza Indecence). Not bad, but didn't inspire a lemming in me. And that bottle is uuuug-ly! Really strange proportions, and odd cap.

One thing I found humorous was a comment one of the SA's said. We were visiting, and as is usual, she asked me why I wasn't selling perfume myself. My response was, "I'd be a terrible salesman, because I'd never be able to push the latest thing. Instead I'd be saying, 'No, this stuff is crap, try this instead.'" She laughed and said, "Yeah, that's how I feel about the new Madonna. Way too floral, I hate it."

I didn't have the heart to tell her all the love it was getting in perfume-land.

Vanessa said...

Hi Carol,

Yes, do see what you reckon! It is sweet, make no bones about it, and it is a big ole feminine floral, but these are two styles I find myself increasingly drawn to - you could say that Madge pushed all my buttons with this one! And for the money it is pretty impressive.

Vanessa said...

Hi Dionne,

Love your comment about why you would make a terrible sales person, and the SA's reply. I am with you both, only in this particular instance I like Truth or Dare well enough to push it with a clear conscience!

If anyone is looking for a budget diva white floral with a gourmand twist, it's a good bet, I'd say. And think of the saving on those two Van Cleefs bought individually! (Well, assuming anyone else tries that layering experiment and agrees with my finding).

Olfactoria's Travels said...

I did the fondle and replace routine as well with Truth or Dare (it's working like a charm lately, thank you!).
The bottle is horrible, I think I would have gone for a 30ml sized one if it had a pretty bottle. :(

Vanessa said...

Hi Olfactoria,

Isn't it a shame about that cheap looking bottle? Plain glass would have been an improvement.

Glad you like the juice - I will see if you have reviewed it already - haven't managed any blog reading this week, but I hope to catch up soon!

Undina said...

I will try this perfume (on paper) once I see it at a store but only because I try almost everything new if I have time and nothing else to try but 1) I dislike the idea of celebrity perfumes in general, regardless of the quality of the specific one and 2) I really dislike the bottle: every time I see a picture of it all I can think of is a coffin.

Vanessa said...

Hi Undina,

I hear you! Not mad about celebuscents either, and there are only a handful of them with real merit imho.

Oh boy, yes, that bottle is funereal all right. Let's just hope it doesn't kill the product because the juice deserves a chance. : - )

The Candy Perfume Boy said...

Truth or Dare is great - a smudge of Madge might not do me though, the way I'm working through my 75ml bottle :P

I agree that the bottle is all kinds of fugly.

Vanessa said...

Hi Candy Perfume Boy,

We are as one on both juice and bottle, I see, and I suspect that I may yet cave in and buy the 50ml size... The 30ml sounds cute, but is nowhere near as good value... ; - )

Tara said...

Just caught up on this post, V. Your fondle and replace technique is serving you well and has even spread to Austria!

It is very annoying when you read that a perfume is aimed at a younger age group than yourself. I kind of think "well I don't want you either in that case"!

I may wear my sample of this tomorrow (that TCPB kindly gave me). The while floral with the gourmand base does sound appealing. I will think of myself as a "budget diva" :)

Vanessa said...

Hi Tara,

I am indeed full of missionary zeal where the "fondle and replace" gospel is concerned. After all, it could save us all a packet!

And yes, I must admit to being sensitive to the stated demographic profiles of scents - or the ones you may readily infer because of the "Hello Kitty" packaging or whatever. : - )

I LOVE the thought of you being a "budget diva"! I shall join you, if I may!

Natalie said...

Glad to read your thoughts on this, V. I have also applied your fondle and replace methodology on this trip. Unfortunately, in one case I tried it on a bottle of Shalimar Ode de la Vanille, and now I'm regretting it. But overall, I agree it works like a charm!

Vanessa said...

Hi Natalie,

The only real downside to overzealously applying the "fondle and replace" tactic is where you don't have a second chance to go back and pick up that item and take it to the till. So for your sake I hope Shalimar Ode de la Vanille is not very rare and that you have blown things by your restraint on this occasion!