Sunday, 3 August 2014

Papillon Perfumery Angélique: reprising the notions of the 'suggestible schnoz' and 'unrepresentative squirt'

An animal-loving perfumer piqued the toys' interest
This is not the post I had planned to write next. It is not even the one after that, or the one after that again - in fact I never intended to write about Papillon Perfumery's Angélique at all. And maybe I still won't, or not very much.  There are numerous bloggers who have done far more eloquent justice to this softly elegant scent than me. I am, however, conducting an interesting experiment with two samples of Angélique right now, so I feel I should log my thoughts more or less as they occur.

But first a few words about Liz Moores herself, starting with the fact that it takes some considerable discipline to remember to put the 's' at the end of her name.

So yes, Papillon Perfumery was launched just the other week, with Liz Moores' (note careful placing of apostrophe) trio of scents - Tobacco Rose, Anubis and Angélique - available exclusively in Les Senteurs (in the UK) and Indigo Perfumery in Cleveland, Ohio. Liz has, however, been gradually building up a following in the perfume community on social media networks in the run up to the launch, engaging (sorry, that most annoying of words just slipped out!) in a completely natural and 'regular' way with bloggers and perfumistas. This is in stark contrast to the more pointed tactics of some PR people, who bluntly ask you to collaborate with the companies they represent, or who send you a Facebook friend request, only to fire off an invitation to 'like' a brand's page about two milliseconds after your acceptance. Even though I have often never heard of the fragrance house / distributor / pop-up shop / trade fair / bar of artisanal soap with trailing olive foliage motif in question. Nooo.... Meanwhile Liz is more likely to chat to you about mowing the lawn or the fact that the bananas are on the turn in the village shop. So refreshingly organic was Liz's approach to creating interest in her upcoming fragrance line that Nick Gilbert felt moved to devote a whole post to the success of her marketing approach.

'Would you like some Mr Muscle with those?'

Moreover, Liz is what my late mother would have termed "an absolute hoot". She is charmingly unstuffy and informal, glamorous and flamboyant, with boundless energy, a supreme ability to multitask, and a bee-stung pout to die for. She operates her perfume company from her "open house" home in the depths of The New Forest, a location so remote that you are lucky to have Internet access a couple of hours a day, and where it is a matter of conjecture whether the aforementioned village shop will actually stock the item of which you have just run out. You know you live in a far flung spot when you instinctively check the best before dates on staples such as pasta and tinned food. I should also mention that Liz has five children, including a floating graduate daughter and a baby (for a while I seemed to be continually stumbling across additional offspring on Facebook - typically pictured holding pets or interfering with the printer - but I think I have logged them all now). It is worth noting that all the children are commendably named after flowers and trees.

And yes, let's not forget the pets...there's a tabby cat called Jicky, a pure white cat called Miss Golly Gosh, and a visiting cat called Hero (at the time of writing); there are two retrievers, umpteen "snakelings" (Liz's word) - including a fat pink "ivory morph", which looks like a disconcerting cross between chicken fillets and a Pirelli tyre, or an extruded frankfurter that went a bit wrong. Oh, and not forgetting two tawny owls, one of them called Freckle. As Liz explains:

"If you've never taken a selfie with an owl, you haven't lived."  

Then there are horses, though not in the house, as far as I could gather. There used to be chickens, which mostly succumbed to a fox, while the remaining one, Cherry, died a while later of natural causes. In short, Liz presides over a vibrant, tumbling, Noah's ark of a household, and how she manages to run a business at the same time is a minor miracle. Well, the children do their bit, to be fair. Her little boy has been pressed into service tidying up her studio and doing a spot of clerical work. If you ask me, positioning chores as fun is absolutely the way to go in modern parenting.

But back to the experiment...this involves a vial which Liz Moores sent me a month or two ago, and one which arrived  the other day, to help me check out my theory that different samples of Angélique may smell different. This whole notion was prompted by my experience in store at Les Senteurs the other day, when I sprayed my skin from the tester of Angélique and (at last) found the opening to be more iris-y - in line with what I took to be the general view - and less aquatic-metallic-angelica-y than on my very first trial from the original vial I received. Though this watery opening chimes with Tara's finding in her review on OT:

"There's a gorgeous spring-like, dewy freshness at this opening stage that is no doubt due to the champaca." Tara goes on to note - of the perfume's later stages, I infer - that "there's a feeling of melancholia about it too. It's bittersweet, like a smile tinged with sadness."

Strips of candied angelica ~ Source:

To recap, in my initial sprays from the first vial - and without any reference to the notes - I thought I was dealing with a sparkling bright floral, but one which was blended with a flinty, watery facet that smelt like angelica. Angelica is a note with a slightly offbeat, spiky quality, so I seem to have got Tara's melancholic vibe from the outset.  Whereas in Les Senteurs my first spray from the tester went straight into the fuzzy, powdery iris and mimosa accord, which is what triggered the idea of conducting a side-by-side sample test back home.

I can now report that the new sample smells just like the tester ie quite intense, soft, powdery, and noticeably iris-y from the off.  It has the wistful quality of an Après L'Ondée - or a L'Heure Bleue that has thankfully gone easy on the heliotrope. What is more interesting though is that I have now sprayed the first vial on several further occasions, and each time it gets more and more like the tester in store and Sample 2 and less like my intial impression of angelica rather than iris.

Following repeated testings of Sample 1, the difference between its successive openings has now progressively morphed (not unlike the Moores snake) from "90% more like angelica vs iris" to 40% to its current (comically low!) level of around 10-20%.  I am now so befuddled by the whole business that I have got to the point where I don't even understand my own percentages, so please don't ask me to clarify. When I compare it with Sample 2, I do still detect a slight difference between the vials even now, though it is becoming harder and harder to put my finger on. A less fuzzy, more lucid aspect maybe?


But what of those early sprays from Sample 1, which had reminded me a little of my first exposure to an angelica note, in FM Angéliques sous la Pluie? That also has cedarwood in it, but is more manly and plangent - I'd go so far as to liken it to the olfactory equivalent of the Moomin Groke, a big lumpen grey gloomy hulk, but in a good way - you know, like rolling fog in Northern California on a November morning. I really don't wish to overplay the FM analogy though, for while Papillon Angélique also has a poignant facet due to the angelica and cedarwood, the mimosa mitigates it with a much more cheerful, springlike vibe.  And though I can't actually pick out the osmanthus, it is doubtless contributing to the warmer, more gourmand character overall - at no point does Angélique stray into full-on funereal, cryogenic or overly carroty territory like some other famous iris scents.

Anyway, to answer that question I dived back into a post of mine from 2009 that few if any readers will remember, I don't suppose, entitled "A Probably Preposterous Notion - The Unrepresentative Squirt" (I was big on capitals back then).  In it I puzzle over why I initially thought Guerlain Idylle a run-of-the-mill fruity floral, only to later discern its pretty rosy musk accord and see resemblances to Narciso Rodriguez for Her and JHAG Lady Vengeance. Having given the matter due consideration, in that post I dismiss the notion of suggestibility, ie that I might have been influenced by the opinion of other bloggers who had drawn this comparison with NR for Her et al - because I was aware of that view at the start when it came off to my nose as a more indifferent mainstream scent. So in the absence of any other theories, I defaulted on that occasion to the apparently preposterous notion of the 'unrepresentative squirt' - check out the post itself for further specifics and some rather silly imagery about pooling musk molecules and bottom feeders in vintage scents.

So in that case I knew of the generally received comparison with those other musky scents from the outset, but couldn't see it at first. Here, I had an open mind to start with, but by the time I got to London, I was aware of 'the iris opening faction', as it were.

'Those are LIME NUTS, obviously' ~ Source:

Now even if peer influences were not at work in the Idylle instance, I do have previous for being easily led. Witness, for example, the 'shamelessly suggestible schnoz' incident with the Le Labo City Exclusive Baie Rose 26, which the SA mistakenly told me was Tubereuse 40. And for a few moments, white floral overload is what I smelt!  Or the time as a kid when my father swore blind that my pistachio ice cream was in fact lime, because he knew I hated pistachio as much as he abhorred waste.

And then, just to complicate matters, Liz messaged me to say I hadn't dreamt the angelica note after all!:

"You're not imagining the Angelica note, it's definitely there, but I didn't use Angelica to achieve it", later adding: "I always get Angelica in the top notes."
It is kind of Liz to give me the credit for detecting the angelica note, but even now that I know angelica to be officially in the composition, I may still have been imagining it, simply because the name Angélique sounds like angelica. In other words, I may have been smelling with my brain rather than my nose. Which adds another layer of suggestibility to proceedings, this time for the angelica note itself!

More toys get wind of this perfumer-cum-animal whisperer

So suggestibility remains a possible explanation for these variations along the 'iris-angelica' axis. But there is another possibility which may shed light on the 'unrepresentative squirt' conundrum and blow out? / confirm? my molecule-clumping hypothesis. It turns out I may not be going mad by getting different notes coming to the fore in successive sprays, for in our most recent exchange Liz alludes to the fact that Angélique may be a bit of a shape shifter in itself anyway...

"It changes more than any perfume I know. I literally smell different aspects on different days. One day the orris note is more pronounced and another day it's the cedarwood. A few days ago I wore it and the osmanthus was huge. It's a weird one but I liked it for its weirdness!"

So who knows what exactly is going on here?  Personally, I'd like to run with Liz's kaleidoscopic take on Angélique, which makes me feel no more bonkers than usual. And however Angélique presents to your nose, if you are after something in the general territory of 'pale and interesting angelica-cum-iris with a powdery, faintly fruity vibe and a tendency to toggle between facets with no prior warning', look no further. You're guaranteed hours of entertainment trying to figure out what you are smelling, and a lot of pleasure in the attempt. And I may yet have my own osmanthus moment.

Oh, and a quick PS about the name of Liz Moores' perfumery. Speaking as someone called after a genus of brush-footed butterflies, and whose blog handle is flittersniffer, I was always going to have a soft spot for a brand called Papillon! ;)

Have you ever experienced variations in how a perfume smells from spray to spray, and if so, how have you explained this phenomenon? Nasal suggestibility, an inherently shape shifting scent, or a 'shake before use' malfunction, which may or may not be related to point 2?

And can anyone tell me if I have missed any of the Moores family pets?  I feel sure there must be a brace of gerbils tucked away somewhere, and possibly also a pet bat, rat or wombat.


Unknown said...

Thank you for the post, Vanessa. Other than you I had planned to write next about Angelique, but was so confused about smelling different things all the time that I didn't know how to do it justice (never mind creating an image..) I suspected hormones (mine, not the perfume's) or my over cautious sample spritzing to be responsible. Glad to learn that it is a shape shifter for you and others as well, albeit a beautiful one.

Carol said...

I must go to that shop in Cleveland! Well if ever I have a working vehicle again. Le sigh. I don't think I can bike that far.

Vanessa said...

Hi Sabine,

Well, how interesting that you got this shape shifting phenomenon as well - I am not surprised you are finding Angelique tricky to choose an image for that captures its essence. I think I have a shade of blue in my mind at least, which is a tad darker than Tara's baby blue - more a sort of periwinkle or air force, maybe. And LOL at your suspecting your hormones were responsible - I could well have used that excuse too. ;)

Vanessa said...

Hi Carol,

I must say I was delighted to see Cleveland as the US gateway stockist, with it being the first place I ever visited in the States, exactly 30 years ago. I guess you are bedevilled by the lack of public transport where you are. That wouldn't happen over here, wherever the stockist was. Any friends from your town who have business in Cleveland and could swing by the store and pick up some samples?

Tara said...

This was fantastic, V. What a lucky bonus post we got!

Loved your description of Liz and the fact that you keep logging additional children and pets in her FB pics (which was the same for me).

On to perfume, I was puzzled when Nick kept referring to Angelique as an iris perfume because that was just one note in the mix for me. It's reassuring that Liz confirmed there is an "angelica effect" in the opening and that it is indeed a shape-shifter. I remember Val kept changing her opinion of it on the day she first sprayed it, so it seems to shift over time as well on different wearings. Must try it again!

And that final summation of Angelique must be the best description of a perfume EVER, particularly "...a tendency to toggle between facets with no prior warning". Brilliant.

Anonymous said...

Hi Vanessa,

Smelling with the brain and not the nose is an interesting topic!
At the beginning of my perfume journey it happened quite often that after reading a promising review, I smelled with having all the alluring words in my mind and in a way smelled some notes into perfumes.
Or, when I first tested the wonderful Arabian Wood (Tom Ford), it took me quite a while to realise that it's more a chypre than a woody scent so distracted was I from the completely misleading name.

The fragrance line of Liz Moores (to avoid any apostrophe) sounds very exciting and Freckle, the owl, looks like a "Mitsouko" to me...

Vanessa said...

Hi Tara,

Aw, thanks for your lovely comments - glad you enjoyed the post. It really did rather come out of nowhere. ;)

Yes, that is coming back to me now about Nick saying it was an iris perfume. So glad you got the 'dewy' opening like me, though it is weird that I am not getting it anymore from that particular sample vial. Maybe it has cycled through its angelica phase, hehe. Also interesting to learn of Val's varied experience with Angelique.

Vanessa said...

Hi Anka,

Smelling with the brain is a good topic to debate, for sure. I do think that names can be influential - we'll see how I go on with Tobacco Rose when I review that one. I gather there is no tobacco in it, but we'll see! Arabian Wood would distract my brain into woody territory I bet. 'Ablenken' - is that the word?

Freckle as Mitsouko - very good.;) He is also a hoot, it goes without saying.

Blacknall Allen said...

Oh angelica and iris, yes please! What a combination. Unfortunately I am so far from Cleveland that trips bicycle or otherwise a la Carol are not feasible. Drat!

Undina said...

I haven't encountered any perfumes from this brand (yet?) but it was fun reading about all the inhabitants of the perfumer's household.

As to the phenomenon you described, I experienced it with... Idylle :) On my initial tries I thought of it as of a mainstream rose-y scent. Then one day I suddenly discovered a prominent LotV accord in it - and now I cannot "unsmell" it: it's a LotV-centric scent for me. There was at least one more incident related to that but I'm still investigating it and maybe one day it'll become a post.

Vanessa said...

Hi Blacknall,

Oh dear, so you are. Maybe they will do a mail order sample service, especially if the groundswell of demand in the US continues to gather pace?

Vanessa said...

Hi Undina,

I am sure the brand will gain a greater foothold in the US by and by. I think it is going to be another Neela Vermeire in terms of buzz and gradual built up of B & M distribution.

How interesting about your experience with Idylle! I must try it again myself to see if I detect the LotV note, though if I did, it may of course be through the power of suggestion now. ;)

Look forward to reading about your other incident if you do decide to publish it.

Asali said...

Man, I want a pet owl! and a cat! The owl and the pussycat :-) I think this post has my favourite photos thus far; Liz and her owl and the Moomin Groke :-D Ok, as for the Angelique that I was finally able to test thanks to lovely Tara, I definitely need to test it some more because the first time I tried it, I got lots of angelica too, and very little iris- now my skin also eats most sweet notes, so all in all the first trial gave a quite herbal perfume on me. I'm wearing it for the second time now spraying perhaps a little more lavishly and I do get more iris now, although it's still a very different perfume from what I thought it would be. I like it, but I think it's one of those that need time to grow on me, which is fine, I like to have perfumes that intrigue me enough to come back and test them again and again.

Vanessa said...

Hi Asali,

Owl and the pussycat! How did I not spot that...? ;) Ex-Mr Bonkers had that Groke mug but gave it away. I meanwhile have hung onto my Hattifatteners mug, in rather fetching tones of orange and white.

How fascinating that you also got a lot of angelica in your early trials - that was exactly my experience. The iris just progressively snuck in on repeated wearings. I would agree about the almost herbal aspect. Did you get a watery vibe at all? I guess metallic notes can be associated with both angelica and iris so that could swing either way. I think it is a grower and a shape shifter. Liz has subsequently conducted some experiments on her children, the results from which I can post here:

"Jasmine - Heavy mimosa and iris
Lily - Mimosa, cedarwood and iris very pronounced
Poppy - Iris, iris and more iris, osmanthus peeking out
Rowan - cedarwood and iris

I think my findings are that Angelique literally shifts from moment to moment. It's always done this on my skin but your findings have made me investigate this phenomenon on others."

Anonymous said...

I get that sometimes with some perfumes - especially the 'lighter' ones. The ones that plays tricks on me are usually by JCE, like Jour d'Hermes. When I initially bought it I got all the white flowers and gardenias, but now annoyingly I only get lemon.
Suggestibility is a big issue for me, to the extent that I'd rather not read about a perfume before I sample it. Not possible with FM perfumes seeing that I'm not in London.