Sunday, 29 June 2014

'Perfumista protégé' progress reports: No 2 - my best friend Clare, and giving a perfume about fig

Clare in pensive mood on The Ridgeway last year
Regular readers of Bonkers will have come across my best friend Clare in a number of past posts, notably on the topics of spaniels, cakes and cycling.  Facebook friends may also be familiar with her pithy and amusing comments on my wall. A marketing executive by profession, Clare is a committed cyclist and dog lover in her spare time, and also raises chickens, defends badgers and communes with owls.

Here are her answers to my questions about her perfume j******. (I've got a grip again, Tara!)

My perfume collection before

"Clinique Aromatics Elixir - gosh, how many bottles of this must I have finished over the years...still a shock of pleasure when I spray.

Chanel No 5

Chanel Coco Mademoiselle

Clarins Eau Dynamisante - originally sent to me as a freebie when I edited a woman's page in 1989 and bought subsequently whenever I could justify the cost.

Acqua di Gio - can't find this bottle at the moment. It was bought in 1998 and doesn't look like any of the bottles that came up on a Google search to check the spelling. Have they had a redesign?

Howzat! Clare's beloved spaniel Meg

Kenzo Flower by Kenzo

Jo Malone Lime Basil and Mandarin - discovered in my early thirties, after reading one of those celebrity beauty profiles in the Observer Magazine, I think. I can't remember the celebrity and certainly wasn't interested in her favourite lipstick, but was intrigued by her description of her signature perfume and bought a bottle. I've had lots of bottles since and have also spent far too much money on the body lotion and even candles.

La Perla Creation - unearthed among the bottles provided in the loo at Chantilly after a leg wax, my wedding perfume, and I think the unwitting cause of your perfume obsession. When I wanted another bottle and Chantilly stopped selling it, you undertook to track one down online for my birthday. That night, in Pizza Express, you excitedly told Nicola and me that you had discovered that perfumes came in different groups (woody, floral etc) and attempted to categorize us. A slippery slope. So in a way, perhaps you are my protégé? In a 'What-have-I-done?!' kind of way."

Editor's note: My recall of this early phase of perfume mania is a bit fuzzy (mental fog again), but I believe the original trigger to have been a couple of (to my nose) rather sweet perfumes worn by another friend, which I googled to see if they contained similar notes (they did!). That said, the La Perla mission would have been entrusted to me very much around this time - for Clare's birthday would have been just three weeks from the exact date when perfume mania struck in early 2008.

Where it nearly all began ~ source:

What do I own now?

"All the above plus:

Guerlain Mitsouko, bought after Tony (husband) and I watched an amazing documentary about Guerlain.

Guerlain Acqua Allegoria La Collection (set of miniatures comprising Flora Nymphea, Bouquet No 1, Pamplelune and Herba Fresca).

Creed - still in search of the elusive one sampled in Selfridges in Manchester, I have had Spring Flower, Himalaya, Love in White and Fleurissimo.

L'Artisan Parfumeur- the wonderful, wonderful, Premier Figuier as first (and successively) given by you. Fleur d'Oranger, Dzongkha (a mistake).

Pecksniff's Iced Tea and Fig

Which brings me on to...anything figgy, thank you xxx!"

Editor's note - I have since given Clare small bottles / purse sprays of Sonoma Scent Studio Fig Tree and Ava Luxe Fig Wood, while Sarah McCartney kindly donated a decant of 4160 Tuesdays Time to Draw the Raffle Numbers to spur Clare on on her long distance cycle races.  NB I can only take credit for introducing Clare to the various fig-themed perfumes - all the others mentioned she winkled out herself.

The figgy trigger ~ source:

How have my feelings about fragrance changed?

"I think that as a result of owning more bottles and trying more 'stuff' I have understood more about what I really like. I describe this as a perfume that smells of a thing. Something organic, not something perfumey. This has probably always been the case - when I was at university I used to wear the overpoweringly strong rose perfumes that Boots (Number 7?) used to produce at the time. I just hadn't thought about it enough to appreciate what it was that drew me towards particular fragrances. I would definitely not have tried anything figgy, had you not steered me towards those and what visceral pleasure I would have missed!

For the record, I have never, ever, ever worn Anais Anais. It is, nonetheless, the perfume most gifted to me. I received another bottle at Christmas, which was presented to the 'Unwanted Gifts raffle' at work. An unfaithful boyfriend once picked up a bottle for me in a Duty Free. I don't know whether I was angrier that he turned out to have several other girlfriends at the same time, or that he had bought me Anais Anais. My dad and I disposed of it ceremonially, with my dad holding the dustbin while I attempted to get the bottle into the bin from ever further away.


 Editor's note: The notorious Anais Anais shot putting incident is also recounted in a Cake Club post here."

Figgy quiddity ~ source:

Then on the occasion of my birthday last month, there was an interesting twist to this story, when Clare gave me a surprise gift of perfume as one of my presents - from a British independent perfumer of whom I had not even heard, never mind tried his wares! A case of protégé turned mentor, you could say - the full account is coming up in the next post!

Dogs and cycling captured in one shot!



  1. Well, I guess you did your mentoring job right when Clare is now gifting you with previously unheard of perfumes. :)

    I can only say she obviously has great taste when she likes fig so much. :)

    1. Haha - she has taken the ball and run with it, that's for sure...

      And I do agree with you about her love of fig perfumes. Clare has also been known to spritz her spaniel in Fleur d'Oranger, which may strike you as another marker of great taste or wanton extravagance, depending on your point of view.

    2. Definitely great taste. ;)

    3. Haha! I am sure the pampered pet in question would agree with you. ;)

  2. Ah what better gift than that of "visceral pleasure". Great work, V. Although I see Clare is trying to credit for you, ha ha. It's nice she remembers your excitement that evening in Pizza Express.

    I was very impressed with Clare's wide range of brands from Creed downwards. Regarding fig perfumes, has she tried Philosykos? Otherwise there's Wild Fig and Cassis by Jo Malone as she likes LBM already and then I think Natalie liked Fig Tree by Senoma Scent Studio.

    Glad to see you are back to * form :)

    1. Hi Tara,

      So true about the visceral pleasure! And yes, I also spotted the protege table turning stunt, hehe.

      I gave Clare a sample of Philosykos in the initial batch of fig-forward scents she tried, and she did like it as I recall, but it was Premier Figuier that really stole her heart. I will mention the JM with fig in it though - that would be a fine example of fragrant multi-tasking, given her attachment to the JM line.

      Yes, I have got my * mojo back for sure. ;)

  3. Vanessa,
    I was every excited to read the words "Anais Anais shot putting". I have a couple of almost empty unfashionable bottles that I was going to give away but now I feel I shall say goodbye to with an olympic perfume sport. Thanks for inspiring me.
    Maybe I could launch some sort of synchronised swimming event in the canal? Or a perfumed Pooh Sticks race?

    1. Hi Sarah,

      Glad you liked the concept of competitive bottle chucking. Probably good for a few muscle groups while one is at it?

      Loving the idea of a perfumed Pooh Sticks race, but are you sure the bottles wouldn't sink? We could have fun with fragrance blotters otherwise at the very least.

    2. This is why someone has to invent a miniature perfume lilo..

    3. Hahaha! How impossibly cute would that be? ;)

    4. Hahaha! How impossibly cute would that be? ;)

  4. What a lovely way to celebrate perfume, by sharing the list of favorites of a perfume friend who has been with you while you, yourself, went down the proverbial rabbit hole. :)

    Clare sounds lovely. You introduced her to us before, of course, but it's nice to get to know her better through this profile. I got a kick out of hearing that she doesn't wear Anais Anais (and the reason for it!) but has had the strange misfortune of having it gifted to her over and over again. Here's hoping that cycle ends (and that her bi-cycling continues ... ok, this is why I usually don't attempt humor).

    1. Hi Suzanne,

      Clare has indeed been with me every step of the madness, hehe. And Anais Anais does seem to have been an unfortunate leitmotiv in C's life - a boomerang bottle, if you will. Even the name is repetitive, come to think of it...;)