Wednesday 29 August 2012
Bonkers In Belgium - Part 1: Meeting Victoria Of Bois De Jasmin - Well Worth The Wegomlegging
Now I may have a special interest in perfume, but one of the most impassioned pieces of writing on Bonkers has to be this post on traffic congestion in Belgium - or, as Wordbird aptly dubbed it the other day on Facebook - Flem. On this latest trip the roads were relatively "fluide", however, my optimistically named TomTom Go (which mostly thinks in German if it thinks at all), was "totally over-demanded" by the current spate of roadworks throughout the country. I drove aimlessly for long stretches when my sat nav lost the signal, and even when it seemed to have found it again, it was sure to lead me up blind alleys or the wrong way down one-way streets. Yes, the drive to Brussels proved to be more of a wiggly wegomlegging - or detour - than I bargained for, but as noted in the title of this post, the end more than justified the meandering means...
Bois de Jasmin . I visited her in her rooftop apartment, which had dormer windows and panoramic views of the city. It wouldn't have surprised me to have seen Nicole Kidman perched on the terrace, straddling the glittering sickle moon of the Chanel logo. We ended up spending the day in Victoria's flat, sniffing things from each other's collection and pausing only to wolf down the delicious and nutritious meals my hostess knocked up in less time than it takes me to snap the top on a 2.5ml atomiser. Actually, that takes rather a long time, if I even manage it, indeed - so maybe make that a 1ml vial...
In the course of our conversation I was intrigued to learn that Victoria and I had a number of key things in common apart from a love of fragrance: for instance we both had all our wisdom teeth out at once - with complications!; we both fortify ourselves with By Kilian Sweet Redemption on challenging days, and for reasons primarily of pigmentation, neither of us would ever be seen dead in lemon yellow. Beyond that, the similarities are more tenuous, for while I do consider myself a bit of a linguist, Victoria speaks more languages than you can shake a stick/Stock/bâton/палочка/kij etc at, has the honed physique of a classically trained ballet dancer (that's because she is one!), the nuanced nose of an industry insider, and the wrist action of someone used to deploying a pestle and mortar in the supreme act of alchemy that is an impromptu vinaigrette.
I brought along a number of somewhat obscure, discontinued and/or vintage scents from my collection for Victoria to try, including my beloved Plus Que Jamais and the sandalwood-tastic Damian Bash Lucifer #3. Victoria was especially interested to sample my bottle of Elizabeth Arden Blue Grass from the 70s, pronouncing it to be in very good nick, and remarking on the expensive jasmine absolute used. Conversely, she confirmed the demise of my vintage Chloe and a couple of niche decants, so I entrusted those to her for humane disposal after I had gone.
For her part, Victoria had prepared samples of a couple of scents I was interested to try, namely Serge Lutens Santal Majuscule and Chanel Coco Noir (of which more in the next post). If Hermès Santal Massoia is a soprano, Santal Majuscule is definitely an alto. From its reddish browny colour, I feared it might smell like one of those Serges Abigail of I Smell Therefore I Am famously described as "icky stewed things", but while Santal Majuscule is sweet and gourmand, it is not too heavy. It reminded me of a sandalwood-forward version of L'Artisan's Vanille Absolument or Tom Ford's Tobacco Vanille, but I don't care for either of those the way I liked this (I am not keen on boozy scents, that's probably why). It was "Santal Absolument" for sure though, as the name Majuscule of course suggests - as in "Sandalwood Writ Large" or "Sandalwood With A Capital 'S'", type of thing.
Victoria also introduced me to a couple of Olfactive Studio perfumes, of which I was particularly taken with Lumière Blanche - more than taken in fact - smitten more like. It is a soft, milky and musky, sandalwoody wisp of a thing, and would make an excellent understated day scent. It was milkier and more rounded than Santal Massoia, which - much as I love it - does retain a slight "planky" bite to it, without ever lapsing into "trapped in a tea chest" territory (Tam Dao, I'm looking at you!).
Notes (from Now Smell This): cardamom, star anise, cinnamon, iris, almond milk, cashmere woods, cedarwood, sandalwood, tonka bean and white musks.
And as a souvenir of one of the key ingredients in Lumière Blanche, Victoria kindly gave me a couple of tonka beans encrusted with coumarin to take away, along with a pot of the wonderfully toffeefied speciality from Normandy, "confiture de lait", aka "milk jam".
In the course of our sniffing session, I also got to sample the duo of Amouage Interludes, which were not my thing at all - the men's version was too birch tarry, while the opening of the women's (which has notes of mown grass, apparently), was muddled and harsh and reminiscent of something in the solvent line that might well be the subject of one of my work projects...yes, it was not unlike paint stripper, to be brutally frank.
At five o'clock I headed home to my hotel, and it struck me that this enjoyable meeting with Victoria had nicely kickstarted my interest in perfume again. I have been so caught up in the aftermath of the move and its attendant setbacks that my hobby has had to take a back seat. In a comment on a recent post by Tara of Olfactoria's Travels about the stages of the "perfume journey", I aligned myself with those who felt they were on a "perfume plateau, admiring the view". To that I would now add that thanks to Victoria, my particular plateau appears not to be as flat as all that.
Photo of wegomlegging from brusselblogt.be, aerial view of Brussels park from karine*imagine via Wikimedia Commons, photo of Santal Majuscule from news-parfums.com, photo of Victoria Frolova from boisdejasmin.com, other photo my own