Friday 27 December 2013

The Scent Crimes Series: No 11 - Perfumed packages in bombastically big boxes

So Christmas is well and truly over, though the forest of little pots topped with tin foil lids and housing cold turkey and its concomitant roasted bits and bobs doesn't seem to diminish with each passing day - the contents of the pots just look a little less appetising as the week wears on...

On the gift front, I hope that Santa 'delivered', and that he conscientiously worked his way through your wish list.  If he had any wit, he would embed half a dozen reindeers in Amazon's Swansea warehouse, and have them on permanent standby.  My own presents included a Chanel mascara, a fat bottle of gin and a Black & Decker crevice tool, so I am well happy.

Now, newer readers may not be familiar with this long running mini-series mentioned in the title, which recounts sundry crimes against perfume - or perfume related things - that have particularly exercised me.  I wrote a flurry of posts back in 2009-10 - about anything and everything from confusing Stella flankers to the evils of bathroom storage, trigger-happy sales assistants and opaque perfume receptacles. I must have felt I got a lot of things off my chest back then in a relatively short space of time, for it is getting on for two years since I filed my last report in this sorry canon. Though I did make reference to a scent crime post in my recent piece about the new perfume shop in Stafford, called Vienna.  The one about my friend Clare's fruitless attempt to find a stockist of Mitsouko in our town, and how a sales assistant witheringly dismissed the entire house of Guerlain as 'old stuff'.

I have touched on perfume bottle - or sample vial - design a few times in this series, and now find myself increasingly bothered by the packaging of promotional products, unsolicited yet consensual consignments of which I am receiving more and more these days.  I may revisit that theme - and how I should approach such offerings (aka 'PR swag', to put it bluntly) - in my upcoming 'end of year' musings.

Then in my review of Puredistance BLACK not so long ago, I couldn't resist having a mischievous pop at the heavy duty laquered-look box that had been used to present a sample of Opardu, the brand's previous release. This was more on weight rather than size grounds, it must be said.  On an impulse, I just stuck the Opardu box on the scales and it topped out at almost 1 lb, a hefty receptacle indeed for a 2 ml sample vial!

Looks a little bigger if allowed to stand on its own box

However, the prize for the most disproportionate packaging to product has to go to a scented candle I was sent recently from a company called Rive Sud in Cannes. The one I received was a highly spiced, church incense-y number called Via della Basilica, featuring (declared) notes of incense, pepper and myrrh:

"Like a poem by Pavese, the streets will open out onto a pine-clad hill and stones, leading to the silence of the basilica."  (My rendering of the French blurb on the Rive Sud website.)

The collection of four candles was created by Cannes-based interior designer Christine Bodino in tandem with perfumer Delphine Thierry, the nose behind Cloon Keen Atelier's Castaña, which I happen to own!  I was intrigued to smell any scented product inspired by the Mediterranean, having lived on the Riviera for a year in my student days, teaching in a school in Cannes in fact, just a hop and a skip behind the Croisette. My morning commute from Antibes featured dark silhouettes of palm trees against unfeasibly lurid peachy-pink sunrises, exactly like those holiday postcards I reject on a point of principle for being too gaudy.

I haven't burnt the candle yet, but other bloggers who received the same press package as me have lit the wick and recorded their thoughts, notably Kevin of Now Smell This and Gaia at The Non-Blonde.

What surprises me is that no one has been similarly struck by the humungous big box the candle came in - or seen fit to mention it at any rate.  Compare the candle's small size on the table with a standard vase!

Possible negative 'splay' effect of the (albeit matching) roses?

And see how lost it looks amongst the polystyrene packing peanuts!

That very same outer box ended up being sent to a friend in Canada, where it comfortably transported a present for her and three further gifts for her children. So at least it was appropriately sized for that journey...

Do you have any examples of extraordinarily OTT packaging to share?  I'd love to hear about them!

Tuesday 24 December 2013

Happy Christmas everyone!

Christmas is almost upon us - well, it already is for many people who celebrate today, like The Queen and much of continental Europe.  I can tell it is Christmas in my house, because it is the only time of year I suffer from 'overflowing fruit bowl syndrome' and have recourse to the decommissioned perfume fridge in the garage, which whirs into life to receive its consignment of party Prosecco and the pared down limbless dome that I have bought this year by way of a turkey.

I am about to launch a final assault on the shops this morning - well, more of a surgical strike at this point to be fair - to secure strategically important items such as bread for the stuffing, Sellotape, and sherry for general coping with the inevitable stress of the occasion.

So I would like to take this opportunity to thank Bonkers readers everywhere for your support in 2013 and to wish you 'happy festivities', whatever and however you celebrate.

I will be back with another post on a vaguely Christmassy theme shortly.   Meanwhile, here for your enjoyment is a photo of a present I bought myself, proving once and for all - as if anyone ever doubted it! - that there is such a thing as 'tea towel porn'.

Monday 23 December 2013

Results of the Puredistance BLACK sample draw!

Source: Puredistance
Right, so the shortest day of the year is past, and with it the deadline for this latest sample giveaway hosted by Puredistance - for three 2ml vials of their new BLACK perfume.  I have done the biz using, omitting those readers who opted out of the competition for various reasons.  By my reckoning this leaves eleven people who are both interested in receiving a sample and have met the conditions set by Puredistance of either following them on Twitter or liking their Facebook page.

These readers all went into's virtual tombola and the winners have been drawn.

Come to think of it, because Bonkers attracts relatively few comments compared to the larger blogs that host giveaways, you do get particularly good odds on here!  Just saying...;)

And now without further ado, I can announce that the three winners are:




Congratulations to the three of you and I hope you like BLACK as much as I do!

Drop me a line on flittersniffer at gmail dot com with your address details, and Samira, the PR lady at Puredistance, will get your sample off in the post, fearlessly braving the postal regulations of your respective countries! Depending on when you clock this announcement, it will either be this side of Christmas or when the PD team come back to work on 30th December.

Sunday 22 December 2013

Oh, "Vienna": Olfactoria - and Val the Cookie Queen - travel to spirit at least!

While I was up in Scotland visiting my brother and sister-in-law this weekend, I spied a Facebook status update posted on my wall by my good friend - and perfumista protege-in-progress - Clare:

"Making a rare visit to the Big Town (Stafford).  When did we get a Guerlain shop?"

To which my instant and feverishly excited response was:

"Good grief.  Not JUST Guerlain, surely?  With the Paris Exclusives and everything?"

Clare let my mischievous riposte die a natural death, replying:

"Guerlain, La Perla and Wolford."

At this point our mutual friend Nicola chipped in, making the very understandable point:

"I think you must have stumbled into a different town, Clare...easily done."

But no, we do have a new, 'Guerlain-forward' perfumery: in Crabbery Street, on the site of a failed cake shop, and a failed shoe shop before it.  For anyone not familiar with my adopted town, I should point out the sorry fact that many shops fail in Stafford, including - to my great chagrin - its lone delicatessen.  Oh, and we have never been lucky enough to warrant a wool shop selling the sort of ball that doesn't give you an electric shock.

Frau Hermine Mayer, Proprietor of Vienna in Stafford

So today, notwithstanding an urgent need to recce Stafford's sherry and turkey crown options, I braved the intermittent hail to check out this latest retail phoenix, called "Vienna".  It turned out to be a tiny perfume shop carrying a variety of high end brands (principally Guerlain, Lalique, Hermes, Amouage, Cartier, Ruth Mastenbroek(!), Patou, Bvlgari and Fleurs d'Ombre), shoehorned into a small luxury clothing store.  The flacons nestle cheek by jowl alongside Wolford tights, La Perla lingerie, a selection of high end Austrian coats, a pile of Scottish wool blankets, some soft kid leather gloves (as worn by The Queen!), and an assortment of expensive handbags.  I also spotted a Filofax by The Bridge.  The proprietor, a pretty blonde lady called Frau Mayer, turned out to hail from Vienna, which explained the Schneiders coat collection - albeit they are technically from Salzburg. And Wolford is of course from Bregenz - I accidentally drove past their Head Office once as I was crossing several borders in short order (an occupational hazard in that part of Austria), and my eye was distracted by the forest of pedalling mannequin legs in the foyer.

Frau Mayer & daughter Monika - flanked by happily co-existing tights and Amouage scents

Frau Mayer and I got to chatting in a mixture of English and my rusty German. I learnt that her sister Elvira Birkin had been the proprietor of "Elvira", an eponymous 'perfume-in-a-coat shop' in Newcastle-under-Lyme,  some 15 miles from here.  I had been tipped the wink about this store by Ralph, a fellow fumehead I had a blind sniffing date with once in Stafford, but - for my sins - I had never got round to visiting it.  Now, after 25 years of trading, Frau Mayer's sister had sadly died earlier this year and she had come over to run the shop for a spell, before deciding to close down there and try her hand in a different location, namely Stafford.  Frau Mayer is not planning to stay for long, but rather is simply moving to fresh pastures for a spell.

I may have touched them before I saw the sign, but I think I got away with it!

The store's move to Stafford is an admirable yet bold one; and while I thought the Schneiders coats were well worth the c£400 they cost, I am not in the market for one at the moment, and I fear your typical Stafford shopper may not be either.  I am not even in the market for any more perfume indeed, though Frau Mayer is holding two testers she is selling off of Mitsouko and Nahema extrait de parfum for me in case I can find an interested party.  They are £90 each for what looks like 30ml, which is a bargain versus the typical retail for a new bottle of parfum of 270 euros approx. There was also one bottle each of Vol de Nuit and L'Heure Bleue in extrait, but they are spoken for, and all the Amouage (regular) perfumes are also sold. So that is encouraging, certainly.

As well as talking about local demographics and Frau Mayer's home town of Vienna, I couldn't not mention my meeting with Birgit of Olfactoria's Travels and the fact that another Austrian-based blogger, Val the Cookie Queen of APJ, must surely clock a number of Schneiders coats striding the chilly streets of Salzburg on her morning delivery rounds.  In short, it was all rather surreal.  Sampling Mahora and the latest Ruth Mastenbroek in Stafford while talking German was almost as bizarre an experience as if I had met Bertrand Duchaufour in Lidl during the turkey and sherry scoping exercise.  And in one of my Scent Crimes Series posts, entitled "Binning the classics", I relate the sobering tale of the bemused reaction Clare herself got in Stafford's Co-op department store (as it was then) when she inquired about Mitsouko...

Mahora - so unexpected and so not Lacoste Touch of Pink 

So there you go - a pop up shop that will pop down again shortly, as serendipitously as it came, so if you are within striking distance of Stafford, come and grab a bargain while you can!  Support local enterprise in this, the most worthy of product categories!  Oh, and there is 25% off all the standard perfume lines... ;)

And as I say, if you are after slightly sprayed testers of Mitsouko or Nahema parfum, please let me know in the comments or drop me an email at 'flittersniffer at gmail dot com'.  I probably have an option on them till Christmas, say, maybe a bit beyond.

Up next, in time for Christmas...the results of the Puredistance BLACK sample draw!

Sunday 15 December 2013

Puredistance BLACK sample draw - just in time for the LBD season!

Back in October, I wrote a very enthusiastic review of BLACK, the latest release from Dutch luxury perfume house, Puredistance.  I classified it under my 'Careful Whispers' series because it is quite distinctive, yet stays close to the skin - the PR copy is spot on in this regard:

"The essence of the concept was to create a perfume that is close to the wearer and releases elegant and sensual layers in a whispering way - without shouting."

BLACK has now been launched, and I am one of the bloggers whom the friendly people at Puredistance have invited to host a sample draw.  There have been some other giveaways of BLACK samples already, but as with soap and tea towels, I don't believe you can have too many where this particular perfume is concerned, until everyone gets a chance to try it.  So if you weren't successful before, have another shot on Bonkers just in time for the Little Black Dress season! For I do think BLACK would add the perfect finishing touch to such an outfit - well, assuming you are female and someone who attends that sort of party, which wouldn't be me, for example.  As a matter of fact I have noticed an increase this year in 'bad taste Christmas jumper parties', so the traditional 'cocktail frock' may be on the wane.

Regarding the mechanics of the giveaway, there are 3 x 2ml vials up for grabs, which will be mailed out by Puredistance themselves.  Which is a bit of a relief, frankly, as my local post office has - most uncharacteristically - started to give me the third degree about the contents of my international packages, and I have even had to tell the odd outright fib.

In order to qualify, please leave a comment below answering any of the following questions:

What qualities / moods do you associate with the colour black?

When putting together an outfit, which colour do you feel works best with black - apart from more black!?  Or conversely, what colours would you avoid?  

If you had a black cat, what would you call it, and why?

Additionally, Puredistance have specified another requirement, namely that you 'like' Puredistance on Facebook ( or follow them on Twitter - '@puredistance'.

The draw is open to readers anywhere in the world, and you don't have to follow Bonkers - though followers are always welcome!  I have set a closing date of December 21st. Now I am not sure when Puredistance close for the holidays, so please be patient if they are not able to ship the samples to the winners till the New Year.  I will keep you informed of the logistics side of things as I get word, and you can contact me at any time for an update on 'flittersniffer at gmail dot com'.

Good luck!

Sunday 8 December 2013

The Soap Opera Series: No 2 - Clipped wings: Dove Supreme Fine Silk Beauty Cream Wash

Ever mindful of my flagging Wikio Beauty Blog rating, I started an occasional series on 'soap (and related cleansing products) behaving badly' with this post on my accidentally albino bar of Roger & Gallet sandalwood soap.  I was moved to follow it up today with a minor rant on Dove Supreme Fine Silk Beauty Cream Wash - one of those 'two-in-one' products, in this case a combined hand wash / liquid soap and moisturising cream.

Multi-functional products are nothing new: some were developed  for space-saving reasons, as with washer dryers or fridge freezers, while some pack in the benefits to get an edge over the competition, like the latest toothpastes which combat plaque, gingivitis, tartar build-up, cavities, bad breath, sensitivity etc - I believe some brands of toothpaste now also offer organic vegetable boxes and coach trips to York. Then in the case of many beauty and bodycare products - eg 'alphabet creams' (BB, CC - and now DD aka 'Dynamic Do-it-all' creams), shampoo & conditioner, moisturising hair removal creme etc - a key driver is to speed up the beauty regimes of our lazy and time-poor generation, as well as to thin out the forest of bottles lined up all round the bath, like slightly oozy skittles. I plan to do a separate post on some of those in due course...

The problem with combining the function of liquid soap (takes stuff off) with moisturising cream (puts stuff on) is that the product ends up being hopelessly conflicted.  This Dove cream wash doesn't finish the cleaning job before it starts to moisturise, or that is my impression.  It is like a runaway 'wash & wax' car wash, or a gibbering GPS stuck at the mid-point of an equidistant loop - or perhaps a rabbit that has darted half way into the road and the path of an oncoming car, and is unsure whether to complete the crossing or run back to where it came from.  As I wrote on Facebook the other day:

"Dove Beauty Cream Wash purports to combine the properties of a liquid soap and a moisturising cream, following the car 'wash & wax' principle. Epic multitasking fail. Hands feel sticky and unclean and I have an immediate Lady Macbeth urge to wash them afterwards."

Pashmina frenzy on local choir - one or two were slithering off by the end of the night!
And as for Fine Silk?  Pfft!  Silk slips off easily, whereas this Dove Fine Silk Beauty Cream Wash adheres unpleasantly.  I am racking my brains now to try to remember how I got on with Nivea Cashmere Moments Shower Creme, which may have shared this same phony 'smooth and caressing' fabric premise - or 'cashmere myth', if you will.  Comparisons between bodycare products - or perfumes for that matter - and the texture of cashmere are so overworked in beauty writing, apart from anything.  I am certainly guilty of them myself.  Yes, if I had a quid for every blogger who has compared perfume to a 'cashmere wrap' or 'stole' or 'sweater', I would be able to buy that 50ml bottle of Diptyque Volutes edt I have my eye on.  Even though I should probably spend the money on Perles de Lalique or something more overtly cashmere-esque.

But I digress.  That's all I wanted to say on the subject of this particular malfunctioning 'two-in-one' soap product.  Yes, for me this Dove product concept simply doesn't have legs - or a leg to stand on - or wings even.

And I would be interested to hear if anyone has had a better experience of the category, or has had similar epic fails with multitasking bodycare products.  Or who has tried a DD cream!  I am still stuck at BB, slow learner that I am.  And following my post on the subject, I never did find one that was less greasy or the right colour...

Hen, 'the loveliest chicken' in Britain - Source:

Oh, but I must just share this comment about a Dove product - presumably something in the general 'wash' family - by my cousin's wife Sue on my Facebook wall:

"It is however, very useful for conditioning championship chickens, it seems.  Good old Radio 4 useless information."

Only the white ones, mind - as Sue later qualifies her comment - for Clive Stephens, the poultry fancier featured in the broadcast, uses washing up liquid on the black ones.

Here is the very excerpt to which she is referring!

The picture above is of the imaginatively named Hen, Stephens' freshly washed and award winning bird, pictured next to a bottle of Fairy Liquid.

Tuesday 3 December 2013

Blind gift buying reprised - selfish scent suggestions for someone else's son

I am not managing to post as often as I used - or would like - to, but as many fellow bloggers find, work and general life 'stuff' have a habit of getting in the way.  Another factor in my own case is that I have a ton of penpals - both regular and fumie friends - and can easily while away a whole evening catching up on emails.  Like last night indeed, when I received a request from my old English teacher - she of The White Company Noir tip off in my previous post - to help her pick out a perfume for her middle son, aged approximately 30.  I might add that I have not seen this chap since he was a baby, when I famously tried to change his nappy as he scuttled round the living room, defiant and gurgling with glee:

"I am going to buy P aftershave for Christmas and was wondering what you would recommend - blind as it were, as you don't know his tastes. The thing is, he is very easily made happy so will be pleased whatever I get, so I could just go into a shop and buy something with a respectable name (at about £ that reasonable?...though he is like me in that he enjoys a bargain!) but I thought I would run it past you."

At this point I should perhaps rewind and take a quick look at my recent statements about the whole business of blind buying...and how my stance has since softened slightly, but with caveats! The notion has been in my mind this past month or so, ever since Undina's post at the end of October - and subsequent statistics - on blind perfume gift buying.  She was more or less against the idea until she encountered Ineke's Scent Library, which she figured was so easy to like it could safely be given to family members who had either minimal interest or indeterminate taste in perfume.  In fairness the set comprises five different samples, so there is an element of bet hedging going on. ;-)

Then just the other day Persolaise published some 2013 Christmas perfume gift recommendations, featuring perfume suggestions for generic characters such as a 'distinguished older lady' - and 'gent' - or a 'little prince' and 'princess' etc.

My distinguished older great-grandmother 

So I left a slightly waggish comment:

"At the risk of sounding a Bah Humbug note, is it wise to be buying perfume gifts for other people in the first place? A voucher for Selfridges / Liberty etc might be the way to go, though it would make for a shorter post!..."

Then in my piece on The White Company's Noir, I boldly asserted that I would feel comfortable giving Noir to a friend, which understandably struck Natalie of Another Perfume Blog as 'pretty amazing'.  I did, however, qualify this comment by saying that I would only give Noir to a person whose taste I knew to lie in that general Jo Malone Dark Amber & Ginger Lily direction.  My point about Persolaise's picks was that they were rather blanket / typecast in nature - all distinguished older ladies, all young boys etc - though he probably didn't mean them to be taken too seriously either. ;-)


And now here I was faced with another scenario in which I would potentially be recommending a blind buy and going against my usual principles on the matter.  The twist though was that my friend's son was being positioned as "very easily made happy", which gave me rather a lot of free rein!  I realised I could therefore approach this task from my friend's perspective, as in: "What male colognes would I like to smell on my son?", or even from my own standpoint:  "What male colognes would I like to smell on my friend's son if I were ever to meet the adult version of the baby of my distant recollection?"  And on this basis I wrote straight back as follows...

"Okay, that is easy, as there are some wonderful classy classics that are within your budget that I would personally like to smell on any man.

My top pick is Chanel pour Monsieur, which is subtle and soft, yet with a beautiful citrus opening totally unlike the horrible synthetic 'tonic sport accord' you get in so many men's aftershaves these days.  I saw a small bottle of that in Boots for just £22.50!


Equal favourite - but in a different, somewhat more feminine style - is Dior Homme, created by a Chanel perfumer as it happens.  It is a soft iris floral for men and quite swoonworthy in my view, and would suit someone comfortable with his feminine side.  My friend C's husband has both of these and he is a real A-type man, so I was most encouraged.  They smell terrific on him.


Other nice scents would be Guerlain Homme, which has a famous mojito top note(!), and Gucci II pour Homme, which has violet leaf, bergamot and a little soft spice.  


Am attaching photos of all of these, as the scent market is such a minefield with so many similar sounding fragrances.


And lastly, if P would prefer something more overtly butch, more nodding towards Sean Connery or Antonio Banderas - who I think does indeed wear this! - there is Dior Eau Sauvage, a classic from the 60s that still smells good today. All the above should be available in Boots or a reasonable department store.


I have avoided extremely spicy or woody scents in case that is too 'far out' for P.  Another good cologne is in fact Acqua di Parma's Colonia, come to think of it, or Colonia Intensa, but I would still go with Chanel myself.

Oh, and I smelt the AdP Oud scent at the weekend, and liked it a lot, but oud is a bit of a specialist taste. Here's a review of it...

You might want to consider that as a possible future bottle, having established if P cares for really woody notes? And whether you do indeed - I think it is important that you should like what you have bought him - for when he comes to visit! - so I suggest you try to smell all the main recommendations above.

That should keep your vetting nose busy...

Oh, and on the subject of bargains here's a great Lidl tip for men - G Bellini X-Bolt smells just like Hugo Boss Bottled (the original)!  So that is a bonus cheapie stocking filler option if you wanted - for £3.99 as usual...;-)"

(NB As you may have inferred, with the exception of the wild card Lidl pick, I stuck to mainstream brands for reasons of name recognition, budget, and ease of in-store testing.)

And today I heard back from my friend, who was pleased with my suggestions and pronounced them "worthy of publication".  So here it is - a blog post based on the very hobby of writing to friends that so readily (and agreeably) diverts me from blogging.

So... I would be interested to hear what scents you (would) like to smell on your menfolk?  
(If it was left up to you I mean, rather than factoring in the man's personal preferences, as in our present 'easily made happy' case...;-) )

And do you think it is necessary to take account of age or lifestyle - more so than I have done, say?
P is an advertising professional based in the South East - that's all I know about his grown up self.  I must admit that I haven't really taken his age into account if it is a factor - as I say, I am coming at the exercise from a selfish point of view!

By the way, I have since discovered that the Acqua di Parma oud scent is £135 for 100ml, so that puts it out of court, even for a future occasion.  What's with this big bottle trend?  I for one do not approve...

Not quite worth the money, even for the lining...! Source:

Friday 29 November 2013

The Monochrome Set: review of The White Company Noir and Blanc perfumes

No, it's okay, this is not going to be another of those band on tour-alogue posts, though I was down in London last weekend for another Monochrome Set gig, as it happens. This gave me the opportunity for a bit of early Christmas shopping in St Pancras to kill time before my train, which wasn't even going from there, but there's a limit to the shopping you can do in Euston in Upper Crust, Harry Ramsden's and Tie Rack, and believe me I have tried.

I made a beeline for The White Company, with two very specific missions in mind: to check out their new monochromatic scent range, Noir and Blanc, about which my old English teacher had recently tipped me the wink, and to buy a pair of ivory cashmere bed socks.  I have put these very same bed socks on the Christmas present wish list I issued to not one but two friends, yet so anxious am I to have another pair again that I decided to buy them myself to be on the safe side, and stockpile any bonus pairs I might receive at Christmas.  For I have been a serial user of bed socks from The White Company for many years, and have either ruined (I routinely put my big toe through them in the end) or lost countless pairs in that time: one went AWOL at a hotel at San Francisco airport, another in the DoubleTree on Walnut in downtown Philadelphia.  I am to bed socks what many people are to umbrellas, in fact.  Come to think of it, I have also played fast and loose with hot water bottles on my travels.  I left one in Slough in 1982 and never looked back.  Anyway, these bed socks are soft and loose and really let your feet breathe, unlike many others of comparable luxuriousness that feel overly hot and constricting.

An erstwhile bed sock doing a fine impression of The Scream

So that was one thing, though frankly The White Company is a lovely place to shop generally for scented candles, bath and body products, white pine cones, white Xmas balls, white lights, white teddy bears, white towels, white bedlinen and robes - are you getting the picture? It's basically got all your white product needs covered apart from icing sugar and milk.

And then my other mission concerned the Noir and Blanc duo.  My English teacher liked the Noir one so much she bought it on the spot, which was recommendation indeed I felt, as she is not given to impulsive behaviour.  No one could have clocked up so many novels by Walter Scott as she has on a mere whim. That takes graft, focus and sheer bloody determination, says she, having just about skim read Heart of Mid Loathian (sic) - and then only because it was on the A-Level syllabus.

Now I had done a quick google of Noir before going along to try it in store, and one of the few bloggers to have reviewed it (Fleur de Force - am liking her punning style!), said how much Noir resembled Jo Malone Dark Amber & Ginger Lily, which immediately made me prick up my ears.  For I own a 30ml bottle of Dark Amber & Ginger Lily from when it first came out, and it has since been discontinued and brought back again - possibly twice?  I do know that its current incarnation is in the Cologne Intense range, in just the 100ml and 200ml sizes.  This strikes me as utter lunacy, and would seem to have provided The White Company with a perfect opportunity to step into the breach with 30ml and 50ml bottles of its smell-alike offering.

So does Noir smell like Dark Amber & Ginger Lily?  Too right it does!  Not noticeably spicy - Noir is quite coy about its notes, and there is no mention (and no trace to my nose) of any ginger - but it remains very much in the same vein.  It is borderline aquatic AND sensual, which is an extraordinary stunt to pull off, yet it does. I would also describe Noir as ambery and meditative and quietly radiant.


Notes: black cardamom, ginger, pink pepper, jasmine, orchid, water lily, rose, leather, sandalwood, kyara incense, patchouli, black amber


Notes: mandarin, orchid, amber, sandalwood

The orchid is the smoking gun for me!

My Jo Malone bottle - rather a moody shot though I say so myself!

As for Blanc, created by Beverley Bayne of CPL Aromas, it won an award for Perfumery Excellence this year from the British Society of Perfumers.  Well, strictly speaking, this was in the category 'best fragrance in a personal care product' , but presumably they rated it as a stand-alone scent as well?  Have just checked on The White Company's website, and they describe the award as being for the 'best personal fragrance', which is a subtle difference of semantics, but there you go. They also call is 'fabulously crisp and spirited', with which I certainly wouldn't argue. Now I haven't been able to establish if Beverley Bayne is also the perfumer behind Noir, but she did create Jo Malone Pomegranate Noir, so you never know...Ms Bayne clearly has a bit of a track record in scents called 'Noir' for Jo Malone - or in a Jo Malone style!


Notes: lemon, mandarin, juniper berry, white geranium, mimosa, cedar, patchouli, musk, amber 

Now while the Noir scent is pretty darn evocative of Dark Amber & Ginger Lily, the comparison which springs to mind for Blanc is Jo Malone's Blackberry & Bay - but in more of a 'stylistically reminiscent' way, let's say, rather than a near dupe as such. As you can see, the notes are not remotely close, however, there is that same crisp sweet / tart / fruity / vaguely herbal thing going on with both.



Notes: grapefruit, grapefruit blossom, bay leaves, blackberries, jasmine, lily of the valley, cedarwood, sandalwood, vetiver, and musk

I reckon that The White Company may have shrewdly clocked that Blackberry & Bay marks a return to form by Jo Malone after the Herbal Essences aberrations of Plum Blossom, English Pear & Freesia et al, and decided to create something in that particular vein, which I think it has pulled off very well.

I don't have samples of either Noir or Blanc, so please make allowances for my fading recall, however, of the two scents - and notwithstanding Blanc's award(!) - Noir was much more 'me'. I always have time for a 'subtly sensual' scent, and sometimes I am in the mood for something even more overt, which I am not sure is a box that any of the Jo Malone line tick.  Dark Amber & Ginger Lily has always been my favourite of their large and rambling range, and is the nearest contender, on a par with others in the Cologne Intense line such as Amber & Patchouli, Oud & Bergamot and Saffron, say.  Amber & Patchouli might just pip it in the sultry stakes, thinking about it!

So in short, well played, The White Company - if the word gets out amongst Jo Malone fans about Noir in particular, I think it could nicely plug the gaping 'small bottle' hole in the Cologne Intense line.  If you do end up liking one of the fragrances, The White Company also has an ongoing discount programme - check it out here.

Me, I ended up spending over a ton on an assortment of bed socks, slippers, Verveine hand wash, Noir itself... and, er...the bath oil.  I may give the perfume to someone for Christmas, as I still have some of the Jo Malone left...And Noir is so easy to like that that would be one blind perfume gift I think you could give with confidence, and I don't say that lightly.

Sunday 17 November 2013

The box that keeps on giving...The tale of the poet, the painter, Undina and me

Now I do have a number of 'proper' review posts in the pipeline - as ever, I use the word 'proper' advisedly, ditto the term 'review' for that matter - but I am in the middle of a manic work phase, compounded by a cold of epic proportions, the ongoing sprained hand and a chipped tooth.  And my iPhone isn't feeling too clever either since I poured tea on it the other day, and only emits sound on an erratic and occasional basis.  All of which preamble is by way of saying that I can only manage short snippety posts at the moment, so please bear with me.  'Bear with me' - such a horrible overused phrase these days, and there I go using it. Too busy to bear with myself long enough to think of an alternative...!

Anyway, I did want to share a surprising and rather sweet tale that happened the other day, when I popped round to my artist friend David's house to deliver his birthday presents - to wit a bunch of drying bay leaves, five lukewarm falafel balls wrapped in tin foil (not homemade), and two Wedgwood teacups and saucers commemorating technological milestones from the last century.  The usual sort of stuff you give a bloke, basically.

As David was making us a cup of tea, I spied a box on his kitchen work surface containing a collection of tiny sea shells, nestling on some kind of foam layer.  The box looked instantly familiar...

"Wow", I exclaimed, "I had a box just like that!  A perfume blogger in California sent me some samples in it a while back.   I distinctly remember the little green cake thing."

David explained that our mutual friend Lizzie - poet, teacher, and owner of these unintentionally perfume bottle-shaped earrings - had given it to him.  She wondered if he might fancy doing a picture featuring the shells, though in painting terms it might only have been one step up from writing the Bible on a grain of rice. The mention of Lizzie instantly reminded me of how I had recycled the box sent to me by the perfume blogger in question (who was none other than Undina of Undina's Looking Glass), and used it to transport two vials of Vero Profumo Mito that I had bought for her at Bloom Perfumery in London in July.  I popped the box with the samples in through Lizzie's door in August, having finally established that she was away for much of the summer - it had previously spent a number of weeks sitting in a dish on my hall table.

Home of Undina's box - mid-July to late August

So there you have it - in four degrees of separation (Undina - me - Lizzie - David) Undina's box turns up unexpectedly in a friend's kitchen, forging a touching and piquant link between the perfume scene and my regular pals in Stafford.

And David is very eco-minded, so I have no doubt that it still has a few more miles left to travel...

On a related theme, this post from the early days of Bonkers explores the notion of well travelled sweets in perfume swap parcels, not to mention the unwanted extras that circle the globe looking for an appreciative home.

And before I left, David sportingly allowed me to recycle something else, namely a painting of a statue's feet in a cemetery in Barcelona.  I have owned that picture for nigh on 20 years - and it features in a review I wrote about Carner Barcelona D600 - but I fancied a change, and have swapped it for this one of a Persian rug and a tulip.

Sunday 10 November 2013

Beyond 'elevator clearers' - the man who was felled by the smell of Chanel

Glynn Parry and his wife Carrie: Source ~ News North Wales
My friend David sent me a link the other day to this remarkable news item about a 36-year old man from Coedpoeth in North Wales who has only to catch a whiff of his wife's Chanel No 5 perfume to drop like a stone.  For Glynn Parry suffers from a rare genetic condition called familial hemiplegic migraines, where each attack lasts about 24 hours and is accompanied by weakness and paralysis on one side of the body, numbness, speech difficulties and vision problems.

Glynn has suffered from these episodes for some 20 years, and has learnt to recognise the signs of one being imminent:

"If I'm lucky, I get a warning and see blurred lights and then self-preservation kicks in.  I try to find a bench, a chair or a bed to land on and lie down on, because I know I've got a matter of minutes before I collapse.  It leaves me completely paralysed down my left side and the attack can be so bad I can't move a muscle, I can't even blink.  I have two to three attacks a week."

Sadly, Glynn's worsening condition has meant he had to give up his job in the financial sector, and his wife is now a full-time carer to him and their three children.

"It's a difficult thing to live with and it impacts on every aspect of my life."

The triggers for these migraines vary from individual to individual and include chocolate, cheese, alcohol and caffeine.  Glynn has now cut all of these out to be on the safe side, but for him smell remains a particularly key cause - including, on one memorable occasion, his wife's perfume.

" of my strangest and strongest triggers is smells.  I'm very sensitive to them...My wife Carrie once wore some Chanel No 5 and I just dropped."

Unexpectedly hazardous material: Source ~

Well, this sobering tale certainly takes the notion of a person's scent being 'overpowering' to a whole new level... ;-(

And presumably there is now a used bottle of Chanel No 5 looking for a new home in the Wrexham area...

Read the full story in News North Wales here and listen to Glynn Parry talking about his illness in an interview with the BBC here.

Monday 4 November 2013

Bonkers 'On Tour' again - The Scent of The Underground II

Readers may recall that back in April 2012, I went 'on tour' in Germany with my favourite - and recently reformed - band, The Monochrome Set.  I had the job of singlehandedly selling the merchandise (including their newly released album, Platinum Coils) in German, and in the sepulchral gloom of the various eclectic and grungy venues on our circuit: an old hospital, an Art Nouveau villa, a Lost & Found bureau under a railway arch - you get the picture. This year saw a UK tour to mark the launch of The Monochrome Set's latest album, Super Plastic City, and I decided to catch as many gigs as was practical in the week I shoehorned in between the end of one work project and the start of the next.  For as I always say: 'No fan went to their grave regretting that they had been to too many Monochrome Set gigs'.  In fact I wasn't sure if ANY fan had gone to their grave yet, as all of us who have grown up with the band since they emerged from the 'ridiculously nutritious ooze of the post-punk milieu' are still in our mid-50s like them.

In the end, I made it to a borderline embarrassing seven(!) gigs - an itinerary of some 1050 miles - and managed to combine the concerts with seeing another of my top bands, The Would-Be-Goods, and meeting fellow fans from as far away as Ireland and Denmark, several of whom came to multiple gigs.  I also visited four(!) sets of cousins on Teesside and caught up with a fumehead friend, Anna from Edinburgh.

I wasn't involved with the merchandise this time, as a husband and wife team of equally diehard fans was doing the honours.  They did sometimes press me into service at the end of the night as a 'part-time Blu-tack removal operative', helping out with the very important task of taking down posters and collecting the Blu-tack and White-tack - it was by no means straightforward! - and squidging it all back into two large blobs. For the record, the wife was wearing Lush Gorilla Flower's Barrow for much of the tour, an oddly herbal, fruity scent with geranium and a cosy, powdery, almost Playdoh aspect.

On the perfume front, I took a little pouch of vials with me, carefully selecting my scent of the day/evening with the deliberate aim of imprinting the good times that lay ahead with perfume memories, each relating to a different town or city.  This is the reverse of the more random - and retrospectively - associative way in which scent memories are often formed, ie where you happen to be wearing Perfume A on a day which turns out to be enjoyable. Here I was making a conscious or 'concerted' effort if you will, to stick with our musical theme ;-), to elevate a perfume I already liked to an even higher status by wearing it on an occasion I knew in advance would be memorable.  I suppose that is true of holiday perfumes in general, however the changing locations on this trip arguably made the associations for each perfume more distinctive than they might have been on a beachy holiday spent in the same spot, say.

So, without further ado I will endeavour to combine a 'mini-scentalogue' with an abbreviated travelogue, featuring some of the more noteworthy and amusing events of the week, including a surprisingly varied assortment of ailments and mishaps on my part, which really do deserve their own sub-headings.

Voodoo Rooms, Edinburgh


Ailments: Headache, then later cut my finger on the spoke of my umbrella and sought first aid in a nearby pizza restaurant.

Mishaps: Forgot my styling mousse, necessitating a breathtakingly brazen bit of parking in George Street and a lightning dash into a Tony & Guy salon moments before closing time. Hotel bed sloped at a funny angle, leading to a sleepless night.

Scent of the evening: Shalimar Parfum Initial.  When this first came out, I found the patchouli loud and overpowering, but have gradually bonded with it after many wearings, culminating the other day in the purchase of a boxed set for just £25 in my local mall.  A friendly more than foxy rose-patchouli-vanilla number.  I think of it as a poor woman's JHAG Lady Vengeance, now that my sample of that is drained.

Highlights: The Voodoo Rooms was the nightspot where I spotted the towering Taueralike last year, but he was not in evidence this time, and goodness knows you wouldn't have missed his lofty physique if he had been there.  A high point of the night (apart from the gig, obviously) was sniffing two friends who were wearing FM Carnal Flower and Lolita Lempicka (both supplied by me ;-) ).  Another highlight was the shortbread in the hotel room, a welcome touch that adds value well in excess of the nominal cost involved.

What Mr Bonkers used to refer to generically as 'Peruvian fishing cats' (with or without rod)

The next morning I met up with Anna from Edinburgh, resisting the urge to say 'Cheerio' until the end of our meeting. We had tea in a Fairtrade cafe just off Princes Street, after browsing in the adjacent shop while waiting for them to open up.  We did the usual 'tipping stuff up on the table' trick - Anna had brought some Lush / Gorilla scents with her with which I was not familiar, while I had the contents of my travel bag to proffer, plus the gift of a bar of soap.  ('No one ever went to their grave regretting that they had accumulated too much soap', I also say, with possibly less justification.) Unfortunately, this turned out to be a bit of a thoughtless present, as Anna's neighbourhood had just had its water cut off due to a burst main, with no indication of when supplies would be resumed.


Ailments: Headache, involuntary consumption of raw onion, nocturnal hunger pangs so bad it felt like dozens of tiny men with forks gouging the tines against my stomach wall.  I should just have got up and braved the driving rain to retrieve a cereal bar from the boot of my car.

Mishaps: Persistent distrust of the satnav added some 10-15 miles to the journey, compounded by gridlock in Gateshead and ongoing lashing rain.  On arrival in Stockton the satnav was completely foxed by the one way system to the point of emitting staccato gibberish for minutes at a time.  Later stopped by the police for driving without lights in an area reserved for taxis.  (They were nice about it, mind!)

Scent of the evening: En Voyage Perfumes Zelda.  A tender magnolia centre in a crisp shell of galbanum. Felt a bit blowsy and Southern Belle-ish, which was somewhat at odds with my conspicuous lack of flouncy underskirts. Or any skirts indeed.  Could still smell it on my sheets the next morning.  Was tempted to take them with me, but Housekeeping might have noticed.

Highlights: The fact that there were as many as 50 people there on a wet, windy Sunday night in Stockton, including a woman in tight humbug-striped jeggings in a shiny fabric.  My first thought was: 'That's not Natalie either.'  Owing to exceptional logistical issues I shan't trouble you with, another highlight was playing that well known game of 'How many musicians can you cram into a Mini?'  I managed 3 out of 4, though the drummer's head was entangled with my in-car hanging wardrobe, while the bass player was obliged to hold the satnav box, a bag of rhubarb and custard sweets and my tatty old driving cardigan.  The lead singer sat up front and teased me about my oversized rev counter (which in fairness had been fitted by the previous owner) and the fact that I had named my car Maurice.

A family interlude in the Stockton area ensues...

Bass player looking suitably monochrome and perfectly bissected by the mike stand 


Ailments: Headache, chronic indecision at the salad counter of Marks & Spencer.

Mishaps: Flies accidentally came undone at an unknown point in the evening.

Scent of the evening: Diptyque Volutes edt (Sample courtesy of Tamsin) A cosy, sensual, snuffed out kind of scent with honey, iris, tobacco and incense.  A bit like Dior's Bois d'Argent, but with more powder and less vanilla.

Highlights: Afternoon walk with The Would-Be-Goods around the architectural gems of Preston.  We spotted a former Turkish Baths!  I told them about Preston's Harris museum being home to Britain's largest collection of perfume bottles...  (No takers, though in fairness it was coming up to closing time, and you do need a good couple of hours to take them all in...;-) ) The other highlight was the double bill featuring The Would-Be-Goods and The Monochrome Set - the bass player (who is in both bands) thoughtfully changed his shirt in between.

Here is Too old - possibly my favourite track of The Would-Be-Goods and another contender for the 'beautiful' UK music category in Lavanya's interview on Purple Paper Planes.  I am not sure why there is a man holding a broken guitar in this video, but I hope the curious visual doesn't impair your listening pleasure.


Ailments: Blisters from walking too far on aggregate in inappropriate party shoes.

Mishaps: Putting my dress on backwards - I think I got away with it! - these places are always on the dark side.

Scent of the evening: Ormonde Jayne Ta'if - haunting, dusty, desert rose.

Highlights: Finding a large selection of Annick Goutal in T K Maxx that afternoon, albeit mostly priced between £50-£60, so no bargains to be had.  Fondled and replaced Musc Nomade several times.  Venue was bang next door to the Cavern Club!


Ailments: See mishaps.

Mishaps: Slipped on the way out and fell hard, spraining my hand which I used to break my fall.  Waiting for the results of some X-rays to see if I have fractured anything.  Many simple tasks have been proving challenging since, from changing gear to tucking in bedding to squeezing ketchup and doing up buttons.  You just wouldn't credit how useful a thumb can be till it's limp and useless.

Scent of the evening: Puredistance Black - review here.

Highlights: My friend Gillie came along! She enjoyed the set much more than I expected, even saying she'd go another time.  Bit of banter with the band at the end, involving thinking of British place names that are also breakfast items. Bass player won hands down with 'Towcester' (pronounced 'toaster').


Ailments: Ongoing sore hand - conventional clapping eluded me, so had to hit the inside of my arm instead, which attracted one or two odd looks.

Mishaps: Ordered a very, very dry piece of chicken at a motorway services and failed to gauge the correct amount of school dinner gravy to go with it.  Later made the grave error of trying to recce the venue in daylight at the height of Oxford's rush hour.  Satnav was totally thrown by the 'dreaming spires', and sent me into a pedestrian zone where I nearly came a cropper against some bollards outside the iconic Blackwell's bookshop. It took all my concentration not to mow down several dozen cyclists during the tricky process of extricating myself from the town centre.

Scent of the evening: Dior Ambre Nuit - softly spicy, ambery rose scent - mini-review here.

Highlights: The Would-Be-Goods were in the audience this time!, leading to bonus chat.  Fry up breakfast of the finest calibre at my B & B.  You know you are in Oxford when there is both ground black pepper AND ground sea salt at the table - the height of sophistication in condiment terms.

The ne plus ultra of full fry ups


Ailments: Ongoing sore hand, insufficient dinner of cashew nuts and shortbread (snaffled from the Edinburgh hotel).

Mishaps: Cheery bloke from Essex kicked over my glass of cranberry and soda before I had time to drink it. It was admittedly in a silly spot on the floor by my feet.  He was good enough to buy me another, while I promised to use the bar or other serviceable ledge next time.

Scent of the evening: L'Arte di Gucci - bombastic dark rose chypre with a retro twist.

Highlights: Crabtree & Evelyn toiletries in my hotel room, plus an unexpected chaise longue in grey corduroy!  Without batting an eyelid, the lead singer forged the drummer's signature on my copy of the album. The breakfast item word game had by now segued into one about renaming models of Fender guitars - the bass player set the bar high with 'Fender Doncaster'.  I decided to branch out into basses and came up with the 'Fender Derision' (to reflect the backlash in some quarters about the brand's overexposure / ubiquity).

So, to reprise my opening theme, I would be interested to know whether you also do this deliberate imprinting of a particular perfume with anticipated happy memories?  

NB Since my last post, in which I mentioned that Susanna Pellinen - aka Tigrushka on Basenotes - is also a fan of the band, I have discovered that Valerie Sperrer of Australianperfumejunkies - aka Cookie Queen - is one too!  If any more of you come to light, it may be worth drawing a Venn diagram of perfumistas, Monochrome Set fans and 'The Intersecting Set'. ;-)

PS I just realised that Bonkers turned FOUR on 29th October, but as I have already celebrated my 3.6th anniversary back in the summer, I don't feel it warrants too much of a 'song and dance' so soon afterwards. Maybe I'll mark my 5th anniversary in more style, if Bonkers is still going then!