Tuesday 29 July 2014

Blistering heat with matching feet: Tara, Val and I 'stick together' on a London sniffathon

The Gang of Three at Les Senteurs ~ Photo by Callum on Val's phone
Last week saw the return to London of Val the Cookie Queen of APJ - she was over in England (which I am flattered to report she calls 'home') for a week's holiday, staying with friends in North London.  Tara hooked up with Val on both Wednesday and Thursday (her report is now up on Olfactoria's Travels!), while I joined the pair at lunchtime on Day Two for an eight hour perfumery crawl. Okay, that is rather a grand term for a visit to Penhaligon's and Les Senteurs, but Tara and Val had done a lot more crawling that morning, as you will learn.

The day started quite early for me, with only a minor clothing crisis by the standard of Val's last visit in February (the bedroom devastation scene on that occasion was captured here). It has been so hot lately that I was naturally drawn to a tiny sub-section of my wardrobe, namely my most insubstantial (while not overly revealing) outfits. This is quite a tricky combination to pull off as it turned out, 'pull off' being the operative term. In the end I went for an apricot, cream and black patterned sundress I bought in Majorca in 2007, which I had only ever worn once! I was particularly gratified to find a use at last for an...ahem...foundation garment featuring apricot coloured straps. That item of clothing has been waiting 20 years or more to come into its own, and last Thursday was the day. On the flip side, my matching cream shoes were chafing terribly before I even made it to the station, prompting an earlier than expected switch to the emergency footwear I had packed in my rucksack for just such an eventuality - a pair of black plimsolls that rather undermined the floaty tea dress look I was going for, but which were endlessly forgiving on the feet.

Piazza pitstop purveying pricey but perfect bagels

Just before the appointed time of 1.30pm, I emerged from Covent Garden tube station to find Tara and Val already outside waiting for me. After ginger hugs all round (on account of our generalised stickiness), we repaired to the nearest eaterie, an al fresco Italian restaurant in a prime spot (read 'tourist trap') on the square. Privately we were all thinking: 'Bring on the robdog prices!', but frankly no one really minded what it was going to cost, so grateful were we for shade, fluid and food, in approximately that order. Oh, and a toilet, mentioning no names... As it happens, our predictably expensive snacks were extremely good - Tara and I had the absolute non-pareil of smoked salmon and cream cheese bagels, and I have tasted a few non-pareil pretenders in my time. As it happened, Val's very generous husband treated us to lunch - and yes, it was indeed one of those 'card holder not present' scenarios. His card was actually present, but not the holder. Thanks, Val and Herr Sperrer!

Revictualled and revitalised, at my instigation we decided to track down the stand of British perfumer Tom Kosmala, whose Rose Amber Musk perfume I featured in a recent post. His address was listed as 'Apple Tree Market', which refers to a collection of stalls under cover, bang in the centre of the Covent Garden complex. We systematically walked the length and breadth of the market, but there was absolutely no sign of the man - or his stand. I checked the opening hours on my phone, in case it was 'Sunday to Tuesday' rather than 'Tuesday to Sunday', but no, this was technically a day when he should have been there. What can I say?  The man is chronically elusive, with his light-as-a-feather Google footprint and conspicuous absence on the ground. Maybe it is all part of a marketing ploy, to whip perfumistas up into a frenzy of pent up curiosity? Meanwhile, the three of us shrugged and ambled into Penhaligon's instead.

The Covent Garden branch of Penhaligon's - formerly a L'Artisan Parfumeur store which I visited two years ago almost to the day for the launch of Séville a l'aube! - is a thing of great beauty.  I am not sure I have ever set foot inside a more lovingly curated and aesthetically pleasing retail space. It has been merchandised to within an inch of its life, with exquisite attention to detail and quirky architectural motifs and artefacts at every turn.

Penhaligon's perfume bottle pendant lamps!

I could have stood there all day, gazing at the fixtures both upstairs and downstairs, a womblike subterranean cavern that serves as both office space and a customer 'lounge' where people can sit down at a long mirrored table to sample the entire range at their leisure. Fellow fumehead Nick Gilbert works for Penhaligon's of course, as their Fragrance Ambassador and Events Manager. He greeted us warmly and invited us to have a sniff of any of the recent releases we might have missed - it was Val's first trial of Tralala, for example, which is shaping up to be a full bottle lemming of mine - at this rate I might even have to make my peace with the scary doll's head. ;)

We also got to try the newest addition to the Penhaligon's stable, Bayolea. Bayolea is the colognic(?) - don't lose the 'g'! - centrepiece of Penhaligon's first ever men's grooming range. It is a reformulated classic scent from the company's archives, in which the citrus aspect has been amped up and the 'barber's shop' vibe toned down. All the products in the range are in fact scented with Bayolea, which is billed by Penhaligon's as 'zesty and invigorating'. And while the rest of the line may be aimed at men, we all agreed that Bayolea the fragrance could work just fine on a woman. It is probably worth a review in its own right once I have caught up with a sample, but while in store we sniffed it on our own and on Nick's skin, and it was variously lovely all round. On me it resembled Tauer's Cologne du Maghreb, with a similar lemon verbena brightness and herbal undertow. It really hit the spot on such a hot day.

Top notes: lemongrass, mandarin, tangerine
Heart notes: cardamom, black pepper, neroli, lavender
Base notes; cedarwood, sandalwood, musk, moss, patchouli, amber

Downstairs, we parked ourselves at the long table, catching up on the latest news and gossip on the perfume scene, such as Nick's recent trip to Paris where he got to hang out in Bertrand Duchaufour's lab - dream job or what?!

Val, Nick and Russian doll-effect Tara

A major highlight of the visit for me was a close encounter with this gorgeous French sink. Apparently the Regent Street branch of Penhaligon's boasts equally splendid sanitaryware from a venerable English manufacturer called Chadder. Well, given my keen interest in bathroom fixtures at the moment, it was an unexpected bonus, and from now on I vowed to pay more attention to this fundamental aspect of perfumery fixtures...

Me, starstruck by sanitaryware

From Penhaligon's we headed over to Nick's previous workplace, the Seymour Place branch of Les Senteurs. Liz Moore's Papillon Perfumery range had recently arrived, and was prominently displayed on a dear little perspex podium, which I signally failed to photograph.  I was too hot and bothered by this stage to do very much sniffing, though my nose was momentarily distracted by a new Creed called Vetiver Geranium, which may well appeal to my vetiver-loving teacher friend, Sheila.

Barefoot Val and no-foot Tara at Les Senteurs

The most enjoyable aspect of our visit to Les Senteurs was flopping on the regal looking sofa and chatting to Callum, the perfumery's Digital Marketing Manager. Val sprang for a bottle of the new Frédéric Malle, Eau de Magnolia, and on the spot gave Tara and me generous decants from her treasured purchase. Though not until she had (quite rightly) copiously anointed herself with the opening spray (or three). It is as beautiful a scent as I was expecting, and now that I have tried it for myself, I can wholeheartedly endorse Tara's evocative review. The comfy sofa also gave me an opportunity to discreetly attend to T's own emerging blister collection with scissors and bandage I had thought to bring along - well, she did have one angry-looking patch on her right? heel. (For anyone studying the photo above, Tara does have feet really...!)

Callum of Les Senteurs

By now, Val's coffee deficit was reaching critical levels, so we legged it round the corner to a cafe, where Tara treated us to the pick-me-up beverage of our choice - a big pot of tea in my case.  Here we chatted about life in general and got to know one another better. As is so often the way in Perfume Land, you could take our hobby away from us all and we would still have loads in common and ample foundation for a good friendship. Then it wasn't long till the first hunger pangs stirred, so we introduced Val to Roti Chai, the modern Indian restaurant round the corner, which a bunch of us had frequented on the night of Neil Chapman's talk on vanilla for Perfume Lovers London back in March. The food didn't disappoint this time round - Tara and I had the chicken curry I really rated from that earlier visit, while Val opted for a spicy dish involving chilli and paneer.

Tara at Roti Chai

Val also tipped me off about the pretty groovy Ladies toilet downstairs, and so it proved. The compact sink was by the sleekly modern brand Duravit - oh, the one at Les Senteurs was by Laufen if anyone is curious, and there was additionally an amusing sign over the toilet which I resisted the urge to feature here...;)

Generous edge for putting stuff on this Duravit sink!

In no time at all, it was the parting of the ways again and I reluctantly headed back to Stafford.  As in February, the presence of a (by now half eaten) cookie on the train home reminded me that the day's events had not all been a pleasant dream.

Well, not just a cookie, even, for between the pair of them I had taken receipt of a number of decants and samples, a tea towel (Portia, what have you started?) and a tube of Bergsalz from Austria (mountain salt). Goodness, I have just read the label and it turns out to be very ancient stuff indeed. If I looked that bright and sparkly after 150 million years buried deep in the Alps, I'd be well pleased.

So yes, a big thank you to Tara and Val, Nick and Callum for a hot, happy and fragrant day out that I will remember for a long time to come...let's do it all again soon!

Wednesday 23 July 2014

Crocuses and crow's feet: Aldi Lacura Expert Day & Night Cream review

To my great surprise, my eBuzzing Beauty ranking jumped up to 75 recently, after languishing in the over 100 doldrums for some time before that. For newer readers, I might just explain that I never intended to acquire this rating - it was a clerical error, more or less - but now that I am officially listed as a 'beauty blogger', I do like to lob in the odd post on beauty products just to keep my unintentional hand in.  Usually on the subject of skincare products that (also) suit 'mature' skin, as in the present case. Without further ado, I will therefore apologise to anyone solely interested in fragrance-related topics (however tenuously so), or who IS interested in skincare but does not have any Aldi stores in their part of the world.

So...shortly after I wrote my post about the Ladurée/Aldi macaron throwdown, Aldi's advertising agency, McCann (they appear to have lost their Erickson since I last looked) contacted me to ask whether I was interested to try their new skincare duo, launched earlier this year: Lacura Expert Wrinkle Filling Day Cream and Regeneration Night Cream. So, given that my moisturising regime has got more intensive since I hit 50 I said: 'Yes please!' to that. Hmm, if only I could top up my pension as readily at this late stage, and in fairness it may be too late for the complexion (some readers may recall my 'closing the stable door after the collagen has bolted' quip in this context).

Soon I was in receipt of a shiny blue metallic Jiffy bag containing the twinset of moisturisers: the day cream had a red cap and a clear glass pot, while the night cream had a slightly darker scheme, namely a silver cap and red glass pot. To be perfectly symmetrical, the glass on the day cream should have been silver really, but that would have been a bit weird, as would a glass top on the night cream. However, the outer boxes do keep this contrasting silver/red theme going as you can see, while the jars themselves are as matching as they can be, and the overall look is still pretty classy for £3.99 a pop.

Content-commensurate packaging - that's what we like to see

Now if I was a proper beauty blogger I would regale you with a detailed breakdown of the creams' ingredients and all the science about their effects. But here at least is an extract from Aldi's website, giving the topline:

Day Cream

- SPF 15
- 5-star UVA rating and antioxidative protective complex protects the skin from ageing caused by the sun
- Pro-vitamin B5 for 24 hour moisture

Night Cream

- Abyssinian oil and shea butter improves suppleness
- Regenerative and wrinkle reducing
- Hyaluronic acid for intensive moisture

Tamper-evident foil - no substrate spared
From my reading of the leaflet - I caved in! - both products in fact contain this antioxidative complex (is that even a word? ;) ), which is based on white tea.  There is additionally an anti-ageing peptide in both called Mimox X, as well as a 'Cell-to-cell Communicator' (though even Aldi thought fit to put that one in inverted commas). It is based (rather arcanely) on crocus extract. (Further details on application.)

I will also refer you to this article in The Daily Mail about how a group of women got on with the creams in trials (very well as it turns out!), and point out that the leaflet that comes in the box with each jar has the details of both products printed on it - one on each side. I did a double take initially, thinking I had been sent the night cream leaflet for both creams, when in fact all I needed to do was flip the blinking thing over. A slightly embarrassing phone call to the ad agency sorted that one out. It is actually a clever idea, because it obviously keeps costs down to have one multi-purpose leaflet across the pair.

The (perversely) more luxuriant day cream is on the left

Right, so the next thing to talk about is how I got on with the creams themselves, from an aesthetic / application point of view as well as in terms of their efficacy.

But first off, a word about the name, which makes me think of a slightly dated, top of the range saloon car - the Renault Lacura, say.  Wow, I note that there is actually a luxury car brand called Acura! So there you go - all my associations are automotive and I can't see any obvious link with skincare.

I have to say that while the scent is less lemon Pledge-y than the previous skincare range called Siana, which came in a blue pot as I recall, after sustained sampling it is still a bit harsh to my nose. Not lemony per se, more like a poor man's version of Clarins Eau Ressourcante body butter, say, by which I mean that it aspires to be a spa or sauna kind of smell, but the attempt doesn't quite come off. I accept that there wouldn't have been a lot of money left for an expensive fragrance after shelling out on these whizzy active ingredients - you don't get many crocuses to the pound, based on the price of freesias in my local Tesco, say - but it does rather let the products down.

Stark illustration of my relative product preference!

The second thing to mention is that I have used each product at very differential rates - and that is an understatement. Basically, I am almost through the night cream after two and a half months or so, while the day cream is largely unused. I must have had about ten go's with it and on at least six of those the product got into my eyes and stung like crazy, even though I took care to avoid the eye area, and applied it in exactly the same parts of my face as the night cream. I would love to know if anyone out there has tried the day cream and had the same experience. I can't believe it is anything I am doing wrong, or I would have had the same issue with the many other brands of daytime moisturiser I have tried lately. Actually, I did have it with Boot's Sanctuary Illuminating Moisture cream, but that is the only other one that I can think of that migrated (most painfully) into my eyes.

The third thing to mention on the aesthetic / application front is that the day cream is much richer than the night cream, which might have had something to do with the getting into my eyes business, I don't know. You may or may not just be able to see the difference in the first photo showing the pots side by side, but trust me on this one. And intuitively it all seems wrong. By day I want something lighter that is going to sink in quickly and not look too greasy, go under foundation etc, whereas by night I can slather on any kind of thickness of cream and it doesn't matter as my eyes will be shut and I will hopefully be asleep.  So I don't know how that came about.

'Does my skin look smoother, firmer, tighter in this?'

Finally, in terms of how I got on with the products, I can say that my skin feels hydrated all right, but then any moisturiser might have done that. I didn't take any before pics, though here is an 'after' one, in which I don't notice any difference in terms of my skin appearing 'smoother, firmer, tighter' or 'more young-looking', like the women in the trials reported in The Daily Mail, nor any obvious improvement to my wrinkles. But my skin is certainly in a holding pattern. So I think the product probably did as good a job as my usual brands of night cream - which range from the usual high street suspects of Nivea and Garnier to the cheap luxury brands you find in T K Maxx (notably Lange in my branch). I prefer the Aussie brand Dr Lewinn best of all the face creams I have tried, as it smells and feels very pampering. But again, I have no idea whether my wrinkles were improved by any of them.

My hunch is that it is the heavy duty anti-ageing products containing retinol that have had a really noticeable effect in the past on my forehead and lip to mouth lines - to wit Roc Retinol Correxion and Indeed Retinol Reface. But I haven't been using those in the period when I was trialling the Lacura creams. So I would say that the Lacura products would keep your hydration levels topped up at the very least, and save you a lot of money versus the dearer brands if hydration is your main goal.

Personally, I can't recommend the day cream because of its overly rich texture and the stinging business, but if you don't mind the harsh scent the night cream was a pretty good buy. Actually, I could always try using the day cream at night, as it may not migrate into my eyes so easily if they are shut. And there's SPF15 sun protection with that, in case it turns out one day that not only is there a risk of sunburn through cloud, but also darkness.

Ooh, but look - there is a new cream on the block - from rival chain Lidl: OSIRIS AVISE, which costs under a quid for a pot while stocks last.  I may have to test that next - I mean how bad can it be for 99p?

Have you tried either of these Aldi creams?  Or the Lidl one pictured - or any other bargain basement brands or non-brands for that matter?

If so, I would love to know how they worked out for you on the general moisturising and wrinkle filling fronts...

Saturday 19 July 2014

'Per fumum': passive vaping - a surprisingly fragrant experience

The Lexington ~ Source: geograph.org.uk
In my previous housekeeping post I said that a 'normal' post would be along soon. I may have overplayed the normal aspect, but not to worry.

So last weekend I found myself in the curious position of having booked a train and a hotel to London to go and see a gig for which my friend and I had no tickets, owing to an early sell out some months previously. We were resigned to an evening of disconsolate loitering outside the Victorian pub where the gig was being held, when we got a lucky break an hour before the doors opened - a friend in one of the bands, The Would-be-goods, had managed to squeeze us both onto their guest list!  They shared the bill with The Clientele and Birdie, who appear to be the regrouped remnants of Saint-Etienne.

I enjoyed all three bands' sets, but an unexpected highlight was watching - and smelling - the cloud of smoke (or vapour, to be technically correct) that swirled around a man standing diagonally in front of me. He was nonchalantly brandishing and puffing on a 'portable vaporiser' (as opposed to a 'vaping stick', the simpler style of e-cigarette). It was the first time I had seen one of the ones that look a bit like a fountain pen and come with an illuminated tip, like the lantern room of a lighthouse. Actually, the array of devices is even more complicated than I suggest - there are about half a dozen types of e-cigarette, to wit: rechargeable electronic cigarettes, disposable electronic cigarettes, E-Go electronic cigarettes, personal vaporisers and electronic cigars.  The really fancy personal vaporisers may also be known as 'Advanced Personal Vaporisers' ('APVs'), of which I suspect the one I saw was an example.

The Would-be-goods 

And for anyone not familiar with the mechanics of vaping, it involves a battery-powered atomiser which vaporises a mixture of distilled water, propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin, nicotine and flavouring. Nicotine is addictive of course, but the manufacturers of e-cigarettes market their wares as safer alternatives to inhaling the myriad of toxins contained in conventional tobacco products. I have never been and don't plan to become a smoker, but for anyone interested in the health aspects of vaping versus tobacco smoking, here is the NHS take on this whole e-cig phenomenon.

Now I couldn't put my finger on what the vapour smelt of exactly - it was a fruity, slightly smoky scent, with a gourmand twist - maybe cherry - there was also a fluffy quality like a hint of a marshmallow note, but it was all tempered by a darker base of chocolate? Tobacco? Pass! All I can say is that it was not at all as synthetic as I would have expected - now I realised that these e-cigarettes are evidently flavoured - and that. I was happy to sniff it all night. Looking back, I may have got a bit of a collateral nicotine hit with that - ah well. Indeed, my further reading has uncovered a bit of a controversy over the etiquette of vaping in public places - even if it is legal to 'light up' wherever you like, not everyone may wish to inhale your vapour, whether on health grounds or because of a simple dislike of your chosen flavour, a bit like breathing over someone after you have eaten a highly spiced meal. So in principle, I am not sure if it is right that people should be able to vape in confined spaces like bars, but in my own particular case I enjoyed the experience!

The following week, while walking to the supermarket, I passed a shop-cum-'cafe'-cum-'smoking shelter' I had never noticed before: Colls Vapour Lounge. It was closed, but I peered in the window, which was covered in adverts for e-cigarettes and all the associated tackle. People would obviously go to such a place to buy their supplies and hang out with like-minded vapers in a comfy seating area. There were also drinks available, though to call it a full service 'cafe' might be stretching a point. But here was a lounge where vapers could congregate and not bother anyone - how very thoughtful!

Intrigued by the market gap that Colls Vapour Lounge had spotted, I rang them up a few days later, and chatted to the manager, Gez. I was especially curious to learn more about the range of different flavours available. I also asked which were the most popular. 'Strawberry and Sex on The Beach' he answered, quick as a flash. That's a flavour based on the cocktail, Sex on The Beach, I should perhaps clarify - not on the scent of marram grass, brine and gritty bits of sand in every bodily nook and cranny.

Then Gez proceeded to rattle off a whole clatter of other flavours of e-liquid (ie the juice you vaporise - my list may not be exhaustive!). These could broadly be grouped in a number of sub-categories:

Tobacco ie similar in aroma to the brands Tropical Gold,  Virginia and Benson & Hedges, as well as out-and-out cigar.

Menthol eg cherry

Fruits eg watermelon, blackcurrant, blueberry, elderflower, passionfruit etc.

Confectionery/desserts eg candyfloss, pecan pie, Love Hearts(!), pear drops, rhubarb & custard sweets, chocolate orange, mint chocolate, mint humbugs, marshmallow mocha.

Alcohol eg beer, whisky, rum

Source: cafepress.com

In another amusing twist (as noted earlier), one of the key components of an portable vaporiser is its atomiser, which brings us back to perfume again...But this aspect is also a semantic minefield. For the hardcore subset who might be curious, I will just point you in the direction of an article explaining the difference between 'atomisers', 'clearomisers' and 'cartomisers'....;)

Gez said there are some 200 flavours of e-liquid in all, plus people may mix them to create a custom vaping blend.  Then as I was googling 'mocha marshmallow', I came across The Flavorist Section of the Perfumer's Apprentice website, where customers can buy flavours for their own vaping concoctions. So there is another unexpected crossover between the worlds of smoking and perfumery! Actually, although nicotine features in his recipe, the commenter, Todd, says he is trying to wean himself off coffee. It confirms the popularity of mocha-caramel-marshmallow blends though.

So yes...'per fumum' - I bet the Egyptians didn't see this trend coming....? ;)

Source: starbucksmelody.com

PS Oh...the keen-eyed reader may have clocked my stubborn refusal to use a 'z' instead of an 's' in '-iser' suffixes.throughout this post. 

Friday 18 July 2014

Blogger's got the munchies again - an apology and a couple of tips

Source: scratch.mit.edu
It has come to my attention that Blogger has been up to its tricks again, eating readers' comments when they hit 'Post' - or possibly even before. I am very sorry about this - the 'dark logarithms' of the software's workings are sadly 'outside my sphere of competence', as Mr Bonkers used to say of most domestic chores except putting the bins out. It is ironic that these problems should recur just when the captchas are at their all time simplest, often consisting of just three (perfectly legible) numerals.

I might tell you that I also have the same problem replying to the comments that people do manage to leave! What I find though - which may or may not be unique to my browser / PC - is that it is invariably only swallows the comment the first time I try to leave it. It tends to publishes on the second attempt.

The tips would therefore be (if you can face that extra step):

a) Copy the comment to your clipboard before hitting 'Post'

b) Try a second time (but if that fails, by all means give it up as a bad job ;) )

Next (normal!) post coming up soon...

Thursday 10 July 2014

Bonkers, Another Perfume Blog and Persolaise are featured in a summer fragrance post on Beautifinous

Source: freefoto.com
Back in April, I received an email out of the blue from a British Beauty Blogger called Zoe W:

"My name is Zoe and I am a Beauty Blogger with a huge passion for perfume. I have been asked by Base Magazine to write an article on summer perfume and I was wondering if you would be able to help me with it.

Base Magazine is a brand new, UK-based, beauty publication that is written by Beauty Bloggers and not journalists. The aim is to provide honest opinions from real customers who haven't been paid to promote particular products over others.

To follow this theme, my angle for the summer perfume article is to ask true perfume lovers their opinions on what they love and will really be wearing this summer."

Zoe approached a number of perfume bloggers - together with several beauty bloggers - for their contributions, asking us each to answer five questions:

What olfactory groups do you enjoy wearing in the summer?

What are your top picks for new summer releases?

What is your all-time favourite fragrance for summer?

Which fragrances will you really be wearing this summer in the day and which at night?

What fragrances can you simply just not wear during the hotter months?

As things transpired, the resulting article did not appear on Base Magazine, for reasons which Zoe herself never managed to fathom, despite her best efforts. Anyway, rather than leave our collective copy on the cutting room floor, she went ahead and published her summer fragrance piece on her own blog, Beautifinous. So hop over here to read what Natalie of Another Perfume Blog, Persolaise and I had to say on the subject of summer fragrances.  We three fumeheads have a marked leaning in our selections towards niche perfumes as you will see, while the beauty bloggers' preferences are resolutely mainstream.  All 'bases' are covered, you could say!

Sunday 6 July 2014

A perfume house under a bushel - Tom Kosmala Rose Amber Musk review

Couldn't find a bushel
As mentioned in my last post, my friend Clare surprised me with a birthday gift of a bottle of a perfume from a house I had never heard of - Rose Amber Musk by Tom Kosmala. Kosmala is a British independent perfumer, whose scent collection seems to be available exclusively at the Apple Tree Market in Covent Garden, though I found the odd additional outlet for his cute looking soaps at least. These are shaped like cupcakes, and may be the products for which Kosmala is currently better known.  They feature a goodly number of what we used to refer to in my food marketing days as 'particulates'. Oh, and judging by this photo, he is also rather easy on the eye, in a dashing, Tom Ford / Terence Stamp kind of a way..

I didn't manage to find a note listing for Rose Amber Musk, for example, but I am assuming there is a clue in the name.  To my nose it reminds me vividly of Ralph Lauren's extravagant rose perfume, Love, that I once tried in Harrods and have never seen since - perhaps a tad less sweet, but plush and opulent like Love.  


Notes: Chinese magnolia, mimosa, Bulgarian rose, ylang-ylang, May rose, amber, iris root, patchouli, vetiver, musk and vanilla.

Photo courtesy of Ian Phillips-McClaren
If you are not familiar with that particular fragrance, imagine the 'love' child of the original Stella McCartney and Narciso Rodriguez For Her, give it a luxe twist, and you won't go far wrong. Shades of Guerlain Idylle as well - the original one I mean, if anyone can remember that far upstream.

All three key notes are readily discernible, and while Rose Amber Musk smells straightforward like its name, it does come off as luxurious. I could almost picture it as a Roja Dove creation - 'Rose Amber Musk Extrait', say ;) - for the ingredients feel very high quality. Yes, I will wear it quite happily - good spot, Clare!

Rose particulates ~ Source: Lang Yee via Pinterest
Now not only is Tom Kosmala very much under the perfumista radar, but his footprint in Google is light to point of imperceptible, and I was able to glean next to nothing about this house on the Internet. I found a Tom Kosmala who is a a field engineer with 1'st Rail, but I am guessing that isn't our man. At the time of writing the brand doesn't appear to have its own website, and I can find no note of prices on the Covent Garden page for the store. I guess I could ask Clare, but that would be rather impolite! When I compare Tom Kosmala's low key marketing approach to Liz Moore's careful nurturing of her brand on social media in the run up to the Papillon Perfumery launch, the contrast couldn't be more marked. Though maybe that is all about to change...?

Well, I ended up ringing the professional portrait photographer who took this shot, Ian Phillips-McClaren - first off to ask his permission to use it, for he seemed to be the only source of images on the Internet(!) - and secondly to ask him if he knew any more about this rather reclusive nose.

A pro like Ian would have lost the bit of teal sofa in the corner

I learnt from my chat with Ian that Kosmala has a new range in the wings, soon to be launched in the Middle East, and comprising two scents - one for day and one for evening - in an extremely high end presentation. The scents come in highly lacquered boxes - one white, one black - lined with sumptuous red velvet. Perhaps Kosmala will be majoring on the export scene and the UK perfumes - why, I don't even know what other scents are available here! - were more of a toe in the water before the big push overseas. Time will tell, perhaps.

Ever the interviewer, I quizzed Clare herself about her visit to the store. She confirmed that she had met Kosmala, who was very chatty and friendly and surrounded by an eager throng of customers / admirers. She recalled there being other scents in the line, but couldn't name a single one. Half a job, Clare!

So... if you like rose scents in the general territory of Vera Wang, Chloe, RL Love, Stella, NR For Her or Guerlain Idylle, I would imagine there's a good chance you'd like Rose Amber Musk. Like a fragrant Ronseal, it 'smells what it says on the bottle'.