Friday, 22 August 2014

'Eat my scent': The Three Degrees of perfume ingestion, featuring some far from 'precious moments'

Elvis comes to Stafford
Earlier in the summer, I had the good fortune to go and see Elvis's crown. Yes, Elvis was not in fact 'down the chip shop', but - for one day only at least - at a dentist's surgery round the corner from my house. By way of refreshments, the staff had knocked up a plate of Elvis's favourite cookies, based on a somewhat eclectic combination of banana, peanut butter and bacon. Here we have biscuits that are the quintessence of what Elvis liked to eat - but crucially, not how he liked to smell. Cue the Estée Cookie, heralded in the New York Daily News.

"As part of the new lifestyle channel launched last month, Estée Edit, beauty giant Estée Lauder has commissioned rising star Christina Tosi of Momofuku Milk Bar to whip up the cookie version of Ms Lauder's personal perfume, 'Private Collection'. To evoke the perfume's signature Bulgarian rose scent, the Estée Cookie is made with rose extract and freeze-dried strawberries."

Okay, so the cookie recreates a facet of Private Collection the perfume, but not its distinctive green character, I infer. Even so, the Estée Cookie is a foodstuff that smells consciously of a fragrance.

The Estée Cookie ~

This in turn got me thinking about that rather oddball restaurant in Spain I featured on Bonkers last year - El Celler de Can Roca - which set out to capture famous scents in pudding form eg Shalimar, Eternity, Terre d'Hermès etc. Here is the description of the Hermès dessert again, taken from a Thai gastro blog called Sfreelife:

"Jordi had to distil the earth and pour the clear liquid over the chocolate-orange heavenly combination. The other key elements include patchouli, jasmine, pomelo, shiso and beetroot leaf."

So there are further examples of foods that deliberately set out to replicate a perfume - I'll call this 'the third degree' of perfume ingestion, on the basis that - as with burns - 'first' is the strongest / most severe.

Then the other day I clocked this comment on Carlos J Powell's Facebook wall - also, as it happens, on the subject of Shalimar. In this instance his friend was inadvertently reminded of the iconic scent by a drink:

Shalimar-alike ~ Source:

"Tasting perfume, funny you should mention it. My sis made me a Dark and Stormy - ginger beer, dark rum, and lime - and my first reaction was, Good Lord, I'm drinking Shalimar!"

Clearly this was a pleasant experience for Carlos's friend, and to all intents and purposes this may be no different from the dishes at El Celler de Can Roca, because no actual perfume is used there either - not even in the Estée Cookie, for that matter - the perfumes are consciously or unconsciously conjured up using what are, broadly speaking, 'normal' culinary ingredients. I put 'normal' in inverted commas, as the recipe for Terre d'Hermès sounds a mite weird if you ask me. ;)

But...Carlos's original post was about a less pleasant experience, namely that of ingesting actual perfume in a crowded subway, which I will term 'the second degree'. He probably is eating the stuff in the atmosphere, albeit in fairly dilute form. Kind of fitting, given that Angel was such a ground-breaking gourmand perfume...


"Truth be told, I'm a fan of Thierry Mugler Angel, it's just a shame that most women who wear it tend to over apply. Coming home on the 6 train after work, I stood next to a woman all dolled up, obviously going out tonight, but I could taste how much Angel she was wearing." (Italics are my own)

Which brings me to 'the first degree' of perfume ingestion, which happened to me this week with some fragrance oil samples that arrived from a London-based company much given to hyperbole (thereby hangs a tale for another day), and called Signature Fragrances. The samples had very small plastic tops relative to the overall proportions of the vial, and they were terribly tight. And I mean terribly. I am quite resourceful in matters of taking tops off - only this lunchtime I channelled my mother and used the boiling water technique to loosen the lid on some homemade chutney. In other words I am not usually daunted by a plastic stopper. Till now.

The Riddle of The Terribly Tight Vial Top

So in the end, I used my teeth, didn't I? There simply was no other way. The sample I had the particular problem with was thankfully the less potent of the two. I would counsel readers under no circumstances to remove the top of a vial containing 'Overbearing Desire' by Déjà Vu Oils with their teeth. No, I bit off the top of the other sample of Modern Touch. Rather ironic, when you consider how low tech and primeval my grappling touch was in the end. Modern Touch is described as 'sensual, salient, calm, fruity, sweet'. Oh my goodness, I missed the strapline on the bottom of the sample cards:


So, sod's law that I ended up eating a perfume oil described in these alarming terms. Well, obviously I wasn't intending to eat it, but that is the unfortunate consequence of wrenching a stopper off in this way. There is an unavoidable degree of collateral ingestion. So how did it taste? Um...pass. It was sweet and oily is about the best you are going to get from me. It really wasn't an experience I would like to repeat, and I may be trying to erase it from my memory.  It stayed in my mouth for a fair old while, though I did rinse with water and whatnot.

Oh, this amused me...the Yahoo answers to 'wat happens if u eat perfume':

"am pretty sure it won't harm you"

"why the f*** would you eat perfume" (Asterisks are my own)

"if it was dangerous they wouldn't be Abel to sell it"

No, they'd get 'cained' for that, no doubt...

And the moral of the story? Pliers, probably. Or get Elvis's redoubtable gnasher on the case...!

DON'T BE FOOLED! ~ Source:

PS Here is the video to which Tara refers in her comment below!


  1. Fab post, V. I hope B's hubby isn't reading though!

    I guess it probably tasted better than an alcohol perfume would have if that's any consolation :)

    Those yahoo answers were too funny.

    I have one of those rubber mats for taking off tight lids. It's blooming brilliant.

    1. Oh and I LOVE that Kirsty McColl chip shop Elvis song. You should put in a clip from YouTube!

    2. Hi Tara,

      Oh goodness me yes, there will be trouble if Dr O gets to hear of my shameful misuse of my central incisors...;)

      I am not familiar with the rubber mat device of which you speak, but it sounds dead handy.

    3. PS I had trouble embedding the Kirsty McColl video for some reason, but was able to link to it at least!

  2. When I started reading the part about the vial I kept saying: "no, no, you didn't!!!" - and, of course, you did. Eating perfume oil isn't the worse what could have happened when you use your teeth instead of pliers!

    As much as I like perfume, I would probably prefer not to taste it. I wouldn't mind though perfume-inspired drink or dessert.

    1. Hi Undina,

      Of course I did...this is Bonkers, after all. ;) I realise it was a foolhardy use of my teeth though, and could have had worse consequences than an oily taste. An emergency trip to Vienna at worst!

  3. Hahaha, like Tara I was thinking of Mr. O too, but funniliy not because of your poor teeth but the banana-peanut-BACON cookie...

    Here comes a link to a cocktail bar where you can order drinks based on famous fragrances. Someone told me the best one there is the Shalimar - one day I'll have to try it myself. Mabe the next time you visit Berlin???
    Have a nice weekend

    1. Hi Anka,

      Yes, the bacon theme made me think of him too, hehe. That is an amazing link to that cocktail bar. I would be game to go and try the Shalimar one with you next time, having just rediscovered the scent yesterday in fact. My friend Gillie is off to Berlin tomorrow till Wednesday - she is going with her son, a jazz musician, and they are staying in an Austrian viola player's flat. Sounds wonderfully bohemian, as I would expect from Berlin. In fact, you have reminded me that I was going to lend her my Stadtplan!

  4. Enjoyed your post, Vanessa. Like you (or at least I'm assuming you feel this way), I found the Estee Lauder Private Collection cookie disappointing. Not only because it doesn't capture the greenness of the scent, but because the chef surely had the ability to make the cookie look as elegant as the perfume, and she didn't. It looks terribly rustic and dowdy.

    1. Hi Suzanne,

      Oh I say, someone who has actually tried the Estee Cookie. I am not familiar with them myself so was very interested to get your take on their appearance and taste. I did think the lack of the green facet was a major let down, for Private Collection is far more about the galbanum for me than just any old rosiness. ;)

  5. I heard about Fauchon making an éclair celebrating Thierry Mugler Angel Eau Sucrée , and there was a Tentation de Nina Ladurée macaron. There was some mention of (Guerlain?) scented teas somewhere as well. --AnnieA

    1. Hi AnnieA,

      I think Victoria of BDJ featured those Guerlain teas on her blog a while back, though I can't bring any of the flavours to mind. The other 'fumie foods' you mention were new to me, so thanks for those - on the list they go...;)

  6. Having gone back on Weight Watchers YET AGAIN. I may resort to eating my Penhaligon's Tralala. It smells of whisky fudge. I did once make a butter icing with lavender absolute in it mind, it was lush..

    I googled some pictures of Denyse Beaulieu today after finishing my second read of her brilliant book - The Perfume Lover. In it, she mentions that she was never slender, I can't quite remember how she phrased it. Anyhow, the pictures confirmed that she is a curvaceous 'normal size' woman rather than a size 10. The fact that she is utterly gorgeous and not size 10 almost made me sod the idea of dieting again. But then I saw sense and realised that the fact that Denyse is lovely in her very slight chub, is not an excuse to stop overeating.
    Rant over.
    Off to sniff Tralala..

    1. Hi Sarah,

      Good luck with the Tralala ingestion - rather you than me, though I understand the impulse! I wouldn't wish to put myself off it by sampling through the wrong bodily organ, hehe.

      A butter icing with lavender absolute sounds delicious and a bit special. I melted a load of Lidl chocolate on my cakes today, which kind of worked, I think!

      Having met both Denyse and you in the flesh, I wouldn't have said either of you need to diet. You both look completely 'normal' sized just as you are. Me, I need to lose 2-3lbs at some point, specifically because I can't get into three of my best pairs of jeans. (Though obviously not while I have these two cakes on the go...; ) ) So if you have a similar issue with your favourite clothes I'd say fair enough, but not otherwise.

    2. Thanks Vanessa,

      Good luck with the best jeans issue. I have a pair of yellow 'ABBA bum' trousers that I never made it into. I intend to. I can just about do it but they render me obscene. When they are less so, I'm going to need something very 70s to scent myself with. They are rather Jean Couturier - Coriandre..

    3. Hi Sarah,

      'ABBA bum' trousers? Do they have the log emblazoned on the seat or are they designed to fit people with Agnetha's bum? Or do they give you Agnetha's bum if your proportions are just a little bit out of kilter? Take care not to wear a black top with them when the time is right, but they could be amazing in the right setting!