Wednesday, 1 October 2014

An Ealing Comedy? Holly Cranmer *and* Sarah McCartney (of 4160 Tuesdays) come for tea at Bonkers Towers

I just learnt that Ealing is the third largest of Greater London's 32 boroughs, with a population of 318,500, spread in turn across 23 wards each with c13,800 residents. The population of Greater London meanwhile is 8.3m, meaning that a mere 4% of Londoners live in Ealing Borough, the widest definition I could find of the place! In view of these compelling population statistics, it is all the more remarkable that in the space of 10 days, not one but TWO perfumistas from Ealing made the detour to call in on me in Stafford....I make the odds of that happening - using London (rather than the whole universe ;) ) as our universe - 0.000016. But in fairness it is a long time since I did probability at school.

Yet come they did, Holly on her way back from some family history inquiries n Shropshire, and Sarah and her husband Nick on their drive home from a vintage fair in Morecambe. There are a number of similarities between the two visits: both prompted a flurry of house cleaning; especially the bathroom, as I had been bigging up my house as a more well appointed alternative to the nearby Stafford Services - you know, boasting that there were no broken hand dryers in the Ladies or stainless steel teapots with chronically dripping lids. Both also prompted a flurry of baking - the same cake in fact, with slightly different decoration. Holly additionally brought some macarons from a baker in Market Drayton, as a humorous nod to my recent post on the subject. They weren't quite comparable to Ladurée, but they were certainly the nearest match I have tasted.

Holly pre-perfume pandemonium

Holly had brought a few batches of things for me to try, while I lugged my plastic containers of bottles and decants from out under the hall stairs. The usual chaos and scented cacophony ensued, and we both ended up with a little bag of decants from our respective stashes. Holly had given me her sample of Tauer Perfumes Une Rose Vermeille, but in an amusing turn of events - not unconnected with the aforementioned chaos - she accidentally tidied it away and took it home with her again. As luck would have it, I have won a decant of this very scent in Natalie's 'closing down giveaway' on Another Perfume Blog, and when it comes I will be grateful to Holly for alerting me to this beauty.

Stock photo of the garden!

Sarah and Nick's arrival was delayed by the usual holiday snarl ups on the M6, which is just as well really, for moments before they were due to turn up, I was still scrubbing tomato and pepper soup with a toothbrush out of the sisal rug on the kitchen floor. And swabbing gory blobs off every single cupboard door, plus a few walls and skirting boards, with balls of damp paper towel. I wasn't planning to serve soup, I might add, but as household objects are wont to do, it just kind of leapt out when I opened the fridge door to get some milk.

It was a pretty warm day, so we were able to have tea and cake (the Smartie variant pictured) in the garden. Having clocked the elaborate hospitality rituals that go on at The Wall of Scent functions, unbeknownst to Sarah, I had been having practice runs on and off all morning with my £10 bargain Wedgwood teapot and some little cups, on the assumption that Sarah would be too refined to be a 'bag in the mug' kind of person. In the event, Sarah opted for an elderflower spritzer (ha - didn't see that coming!), while Nick asked for coffee. Luckily I keep some individual plastic filter cups for just such an eventuality (don't drink the stuff myself), and Nick pronounced it very acceptable.

A parade of 4160 Tuesdays scents 

Sarah and I chewed the cud about the perfume scene in general, and I remarked on the excellent press coverage her indie brand 4160 Tuesdays has been enjoying lately. We also chatted about the vintage event they had just attended in Morecambe, about Nick's work - and my lack of it. ;) I am sure I must have bored them with tales of my home improvements at some point - Sarah certainly copped for the full house tour. And as they were leaving, Sarah left me a serried rank of purse sprays of her scents, namely:

Doe in the Snow
Tart's Knicker Drawer
The Sexiest Scent On the Planet Ever (IMHO)
New York '55
Rome 1963
London 1969

Nick's sofa-toning teal shirt - he can come again!


Of these, my favourites are the first two: Doe in the Snow is a chilly, citrus-forward, peach chypre, not unlike a sort of lemony Mitsouko, with a glacial blast of aldehydes and a crystalline, candied peel effect in the opening. I was also reminded a little bit of scents like Guerlain Sous le Vent and The Party in Manhattan, but it was less herbal than the former, and less filthy than the latter. And generally more citrus-y and modern in feel than either, though the chypre structure does give it a classic twist.

Top notes: grapefruit, cedrat, yuzu, peach aldehyde, snow
Heart notes: cedarwood, rose, jasmine, musk
Base notes: opoponax, oakmoss, leather, green tea absolute


Tart's Knicker Drawer (formerly 'Tart's Boudoir') is billed as a 'floral amber oriental', and is quite sweet, with a pronounced raspberry note, and generally powdery and aldehydic at all times. It has a retro vibe, like the cosmetics brand Benefit or its cheaper imitation, Soap & Glory. Here I saw a slight resemblance with Lyn Harris's La Poudrée for M & S (review here), though Tart's Knicker Drawer is more approachable and easy to like. Now the expression 'smelling of a tart's boudoir' is traditionally an insult levelled at someone reeking of too much perfume, but notwithstanding the lengthy note list, Tart's Knicker Drawer doesn't feel 'too much' at any point. Nor, despite its raunchy name, is it remotely animalic or smutty. At the risk of being coarse, one can only conclude that the tart in question was having a bit of a slow day.

Top notes: bergamot, orange, grapefruit, pink peppercorn
Heart notes: raspberry, rose, jasmine, sandalwood, cedarwood, violet, tuberose
Base notes: amber, musk, vanilla, benzoin, tobacco

A pensive and sunlit Sarah

I accompanied my visitors to their car, which was filled to the gunwhales with luggage, purchases and all manner of vintage paraphernalia. I was particularly interested in some Liberty fabric squares Sarah had bought at a mill (or a cheap fabric emporium of some kind!) on their way down here, along with several bolts of floral fabric.

I will end this post with a photo of a tea room in Chester I visited recently with my friend Gillie - it reminded me vividly of Sarah and her devotion to pretty vintage style..

Correction - I will end this post with a new infographic Sarah has designed to help people pick out scents from the 4160 Tuesdays range that will best match their personal taste and the wearing occasion. If you look closely, you will spot that there is (quite fortuitously) a scent category with my name on it!

PS The lowdown on Ealing Comedies may be found here...


Carol said...

How nice that you had two lovely friend-and-fragrance-filled fun!

Vanessa said...

Hi Carol,

Thanks - it is always enjoyable attending perfume events or meeting fellow fumeheads in London, but it made a nice change to have a perfume-themed experience in the comfort of your own home (and garden). ;)

Tara said...

Lovely! It's too funny how many of us perfume fiends live in Ealing. I hope we are making it the best smelling borough :)

Doe in the Snow sounds my kind of thing. Must try it next time I get a chance. Those brightly coloured purse sprays look so appealing. Such a great idea. I love that Sarah has a Bonkers scent category!

That cake looks yummy.

Vanessa said...

Hi Tara,

Oh my goodness yes, you are another Ealing denizen! I bet you are making it the best smelling borough too. It may also be a sign that you will make it up one day - I would love that anyway. ;)

The bright purse bottles (they are splash rather than spray in fact) are very jolly I agree, and so distinctive. I wonder if Doe in the Snow is in Les Senteurs?

That was one of my better attempts at making a cake, it must be said - a baker I am not!

Undina said...

I wonder if you could guess which part of the post interested me the most? ;-)
Probably you would guess correctly: numbers. I don't know how you did the probability (did you calculate those 10 days into it somehow?), but my calculations gave a much more favorable number - 0.00147 :-) Still, it's impressive.

I have to admit that this post (well, rather the visuals that accompany it) was rather disturbing for me. Why are those labels placed on bottles in different directions? Why does a tea room serve tea brewed from a bag and in not matching cup and saucer?

So, what are the scents in "your" category?

Vanessa said...

Hi Undina,

I thought of you as I played with those numbers, and am glad to enlist your help on refining the probability figure. I must admit I did not factor in the 10 days - I wondered for a while how I might go about that, then promptly gave up. Am happy that it is still a low likelihood even on the revised figure!

As for the non-uniformity of the labels, that must be all part of the brand's quirkiness - I didn't have them round the wrong way, hehe.

And the same probably applies to the tea room - either that or the waitress got the crockery muddled. ;) Though that doesn't explain the bag, not that I mind a bag. It was a Tea Pig, I think.

As for the Bonkers scents, if my eyesight serves me, they are The Dark Heart of Havana, The Great Randello and What I did on my Holidays. ;)

Undina said...

The last name is just perfect for you! :)

Vanessa said...

Haha, very true! ;)

Blacknall Allen said...

Oh I do like the sound of Doe in the Snow. I always like chypres and ever since Eau de Hadrian became a shadow of its former self I have hoped for another good citrus chypre. Maybe this is it??

Vanessa said...

Hi Blacknall,

I didn't know Eau d'Hadrien had changed, but Doe in the Snow has more body I would say, so it might well be your thing. ;)