Sunday, 23 November 2014

The Scent Crimes Series: No 14 - Screw it or lose it...!

Yesterday, to my great chagrin and despite a torrent of indignant mutterings, they turned on the Christmas lights in Stafford. I had already spied the unsettling presence of chocolate snowmen in W H Smiths the other day, and a potted Christmas tree in a local nursery. It may still be a long way off the festive season in my own mind, but I will concede that it is finally getting a bit colder. And so it is that I have found myself increasingly drawn lately to those fuzzy aldehydic scents that envelop you in a warm, pétillant haze. I will not liken them to a cashmere shawl**, and if any reader attempts to do so, I will 'wrap' them over the knuckles for peddling the simile equivalent of giving red roses on Valentine's Day or supporting Manchester United. ;) And I have been wearing a fuzzy jumper this weekend, as it happens, a cast off from not one but two friends in succession, who were concerned that it might contain that ethically dodgy and ultra fuzzy fibre, angora. Some deep googling revealed that the sweater was in fact a perfectly ordinary mix of wool and acrylic, but the previous owners had gone right off it anyway - tainted as it now was by their lurid visions of spiky combs and rough-handled rabbits. So I guess I lucked out...evidently one woman's supposed unethically sourced garment is another woman's woolly windfall.

And the scent that I felt would go perfectly with this cream jumper was Chanel Les Exclusifs Bois des Iles, precisely because of its cosseting cloud of sandalwood and aldehydes. I noted that I had hardly any left in my small plastic atomiser, but was unconcerned, as I knew I had a larger back up in long term storage. This morning, having finally drained the little decant, I went in search of the bigger one, only to discover that the juice had vanished, though I had no recollection of using it lately.

My thoughts instantly flew back to the days when I lived with Mr Bonkers, and how he used to drink the first glass of wine I served him remarkably quickly. We had an amusing little ritual whereby he would extend the empty glass to me in his outstretched hand as a signal that he wanted a top up. This gesture would be accompanied by a comically sad face, and a faux air of bafflement. 'Oh look', he'd remark, 'my wine must have evaporated!'

Eek!! A driftwood Christmas tree from

And so it was that the sad realisation dawned on me that my beloved decant of Bois des Iles had pulled a similar evaporation stunt while my back was turned. The wood of the islands had drifted off, if you will...;( I examined the bottle closely and quickly established that the plastic collar was not very securely screwed onto the glass bottle itself, doubtless greatly facilitating the evaporation process. I don't know how it would have worked itself loose exactly - maybe by jostling against other decants in a box - but there wasn't a single drop left. I felt bereft. I could quite happily have gone on wearing Bois des Iles for another few days, especially if this cold snap kept up.

And then I spent the next hour or more systematically going through my decant collection, pulling out any other atomisers that looked as though they had also leaked their contents. (I am quite good at remembering roughly how much juice should be in there and whether I have worn a given scent recently.) I found a few more offendors, but still a happily small proportion of my decant collection. If I was Undina I would be able to tell you exactly how small, but I failed miserably on the census-taking front. Surprisingly, there were not one but two bullet-style atomisers of Séville a l'Aube that were completely empty. I suspect the first had leaked and I had filled another one thinking the first must just be faulty, only to have the same thing  happen all over again. Some bullet atomisers must not be air- / watertight, or 'dicht' to use the very versatile German word.

The other casualties were a pretty pink atomiser of Natori by Natori (there's a blast from the past!), Costume National 21, Tom Ford White Patchouli, and a glass barley twist decant of Armani Privé Rose Alexandrie. None of these had obviously loose collars as such, but evidently evaporation can occur given the smallest of 'gaps'. But a  half-screwed atomiser - as this Bois des Iles was - is clearly asking for trouble. I have now checked all the other decants for tightness, and they are as 'sealed' as that particular packaging format affords. To my mind the finger of suspicion points to the burnished metal atomisers in particular. Pretty as they look, I think the quality is quite mixed. Better off with the trusty Travalo.

Has anyone else experienced this phenomenon of unexplained evaporation - like ex-Mr Bonkers' wine glass ;) - or made the same mistake as me and left a precious decant in a semi-screwed state, with disastrous consequences?

** Note that I have historically been as guilty of the next person of using this descriptor, but I am now on a 12-step programme.


Undina said...

As it often happens with your posts, I have more than one topic, on which I want to comment.

I'll start with answering your question first. Yes, it had happened to me before and will happen to you again unless you take special measures. And I'm not talking about re-screwing tops. All of my decants are wrapped with parafilm. It almost* prevents an evaporation but creates another small problem: for 5 ml bottles I usually have to open and re-seal the atomizer again every 3-5 uses because after that it doesn't have enough air for the spray mechanism to work - this is how tight parafilm closes the connection. It doesn't happen to larger atomizers but keep in mind that some of them have nozzles wide enough to contribute to evaporation.

Now to the less important parts.
In here it's slightly better since we have Thanksgiving holiday this upcoming Thursday, so a lot of advertising concentrates on that and the traditional Black Friday sale extravaganza. But still some merchants managed to launch XMas theme. As much as I love these holidays (XMas & NY) I hate when they do it out of order.

And finally, I have a question: is there any notion that wool is more ethically sourced than rabbit hair? Not that I care - I love and eat meat, but I'm just curious why you thought your friend could have been persuaded by the "wool and acrylic" information.

Odiferess said...

It was me.
I've been using pagan enchantment to allow my terrestrial body to sneak unnoticed into your back up decant stash. Re: the Bois des Isles, my inner witch has expensive taste, sorry.
Bois des Isles sadly evaporates almost instantly on my skin. It's why I bought 31 Rue Cambon instead. Would you like a little bit of that posting to you to make up for the loss and my astral pilfering?
Do let me know.

Carol said...

Hey I resemble that Man U remark!

I haven't been looking much at my samples or decants, but a little while ago, something was all dried up (cannot remember which scent, though). I better start wearing my samples/decants before they all disappear!

Asali said...

Now you made me think about evaporation, it's rather crazy that I have had decants which seem to simply evaporate within a year, from what I thought was a reliable glass spray bottle, and on the other hand I've had vintages between 70-90 years old in old style glass stopper bottles which have hardly evaporated at all! Makes you think...

Tatiana said...

Sigh. Yes, I've had small decants evaporate. It's happened to a number of my small 2 to 3 ml decants. So I've been trying to pay more attention to my samples and decants. It would help if I were a more organized person.
LIke Undina, I've now started to wrap the necks of my favorite decants with parafilm in the hopes of limiting evaporation.

Tara said...

V, I had no idea decants could evaporate like this. Not being fond of them anyway I guess I don't have enough to notice this happening. What a pain.

I can sort you out with replacements for the Bois des Iles and Seville a l'aube this weekend.

Vanessa said...

Hi Undina,

As ever, you are the dispenser of very sound advice. I knew you used parafilm to wrap decants in transit, but I had no idea you also stored your decants that way. Nor would I have anticipated the breathing problem you mention because of the super tight closure. I think I may be too lazy to wrap and unwrap decants every time I wanted to use them though, and might be prepared to put up with the small number of casualties I have incurred so far - if that is typical. Probably only about 5% if I had to guess. I think I could really use some parafilm for shipping of perfume though. It is a lot more flexible than the insulation tape to which I am very partial.

Whoo, Christmas shenanigans before Thanksgiving?! That is shocking behaviour!

To your wool question, there is indeed a difference between angora fur and sheep's wool. Apparently, the combing technique used to remove angora fur from a rabbit - allegedly in China in particular - is quite brutal and can result in the animal's skin being ripped in places. Sheep are sheared in a different way, albeit I have heard that on some large farms there can be welfare problems in terms of how quickly and roughly the sheep are shorn. But angora has always been more of a hot topic as ethical fibres go. So yes, a purist would not touch any fabric made from an animal, but I guess there is a sliding scale of discomfort sustained by the animal.

Vanessa said...

Hi Odiferess,

How did I fail to suspect you and your inner witch? Though I would have thought Bois des Iles a bit sedate and twinset and pearls for your pagan tastes, hehe.

I have a little bit of 31 Rue Cambon already, thanks very much - funnily enough I was also wearing it yesterday, to console myself for the demise of Bois des Iles. LOL at 'astral pilfering' by the way. ;) x

Vanessa said...

Hi Carol,

Yes, I slipped that in as an afterthought after our recent footie conversation - hope you don't mind my mischievous joke? ;)

I think we should all wear as much perfume as we can as often as we can - after all, we aren't getting any younger!

Vanessa said...

Hi Asali,

You raise a very interesting point about the illogicality of the evaporation process, and I can relate to it, having inherited some vintage scents in all manner of different receptacles, with different styles of closure, that have maintained a full or near full measure. There must be an element of dumb luck about it all.

Then out of interest, I have just filled about a cm of Seville a l'Aube in one of the metal bullet atomisers and set it in the box with my full bottles, to see whether it does this stunt yet again! Fortunately I have a big bottle of Seville a l'Aube and I only put a little bit in the atomiser, so we will see....;)

Vanessa said...

Hi Tatiana,

'Sorry for your loss.' ;( I see you have detected a pattern with this happening more to your small decants, while half my casualties were of the metal atomiser type. Parafilm is the way to go, I am sure, but as I said above, I am not sure I can be bothered to apply the stuff and then keep unpeeling it to use them. But I have been warned at least!

Vanessa said...

Hi Tara,

I am glad you are not afflicted with this strange phenomenon - I had forgotten you are not a fan of decants. Now here's another reason not to be, hehe. I have a big bottle of Seville a l'Aube, thanks very much, and Val said she would let me have a decant later in December. A small sample to keep me going of Bois des Iles would be fab, though - it is what I fancy wearing most days at the moment!

Tara said...

It has rather cemented my decant aversion!

Good to know you are all set for Seville a l'Aube and that you have more BdI on the way. I will sort you out with a bridging decant, no problem.

Vanessa said...

Ooh, thanks in anticipation for my 'bridging decant'. What a great phrase!! ;)

Sarah Waite said...

If 'Astral Pilfering' were possible the shelves of Selfridges would be emptied...

Ingeborg said...

Sorry to hear you lost some favourite scents due to evaporation. I have so far not bought anything bigger than 2 ml samples from StC, because I have only a few scents I love so much that I feel I cannot go without them while saving up for a full bottle or waiting for the right moment to purchase. Decants from other collectors usually are sealed with tape, and I have ony a few. Even so, I already know there is a problem with evaporation. Since I do not like the black insulation tape (or rather the residue it leaves) it would be logical to try parafilm. I would be happy if someone could point me in the direction of a supplier willing to ship smaller quantities to Europe outside EU.

Vannesa: Loved your comment about a twinset and pearls perfume. However, lambswool twinset and a string of pearls was rather usual when I first started studying law in the 80s, but no shy perfumes at the time!

Off topic: Still enjoying the sight of the cushion with perfume theme on my sofa, and the extra samples you had included. The Le Labo Iris 39 looks much like it is going to become a new favourite (however much I find their marketing a little silly, I have to say they have some interesting scents). But getting a full bottle from Le Labo is not in the near future, again a brand with limited distribution.

Vanessa said...


Vanessa said...

Hi Ingeborg,

I am sorry that you have also encountered this problem with evaporation, and I agree that insulation tape isn't an ideal way of sealing decants, but it is easily available in any hardware store. The residue you mention - is it the stickiness that is the problem or does it affect the scent in any way?

LOL at the twinset interpretation - I guess it is more multi-faceted than I gave it credit for. After all, look at Christine Hendricks in Mad Men - she is a bit of a smouldering bombshell in whatever she wears!

Always problematic to fall for a Le Labo scent...;) I hope you can track down some of the others I suggested, but sadly most of those were not super cheap either as I recall.

Undina said...

I have to correct you: you do not have to unwrap parafilm every time you want to use your decant. But once in a while you'll "run-out" of air - and that's when you need to do it. With the number of decants you have and intensity of use, you won't have to do it more often then 2-3 times a year (at best). For those decants that you use a lot, on the other hand, you do not need to use parafilm since evaporation normally happens over months, not days - so you'll use the decant up before that. Parafilm is mostly for storring and occasional use. And I put it around those glass stoppers that Asali mentioned below - just in case ;)

Thank you for explanation about rabbits. I do not like angora (I end-up with it in my eyes if I wear it) so it's not a problem for me but it was an interesting bit of information.

Vanessa said...

Oh, thanks a lot for clarifying that. I mistakenly thought the parafilm was wrapped completely round the atomiser, including the nozzle, so that you would have to unpeel it whenever you wanted to use that scent, like undoing a mummy. But I infer that the collar is taped, not the actual nozzle? Sorry if I am being a bit slow to visualise where the parafilm is placed.

Undina said...

Parafilm goes just around the connection between the glass and plastic.

Vanessa said...

Thanks! That is perfectly clear now - like parafilm itself indeed. :)

Anonymous said...

Oh, what an interesting topic! Yes, with bullet atomizers that happened to me, but up to now I thought I did something wrong or the atomizers were undicht or something like that. Have to make a long-term experiment, too...
After reading your article, I, too, went systematically through my samples and - what a shock - from my intentionally saved 20 drops of beloved Acqua di Parma preformulated Profumo sample there is only one tiny drop left! So, on the occasion of today's "evaporation day" I now indulge in my last tear of Profumo.
Thanks to Undina's tip above, I'll soon order Parafilm for my samples, seems very helpful!!!
Greetings from Anka

Vanessa said...

Hi Anka,

Oh, so you have had a bad experience with the bullet type of atomiser? Maybe they are indeed 'undicht'? ;)

So sorry about your lost Profumo - I wouldn't wish an 'evaporation day' on anyone. ;( Funnily enough, I told ex-Mr Bonkers he had got a mention in this post, and he said that that very same ritual occurred down the pub with his mates on Sunday night, only this time it was a whole pint of beer that mysteriously evaporated! Well, several in quick succession, indeed...;)

I think I should investigate parafilm too - it must be available over here somewhere. Or shippable to Europe at least.

Ingeborg said...

The residue is indeed only the stickyness remaining after the tape has been removed, no harm to the content of the small vials. That electrician's tape seems to be what is used by most people when mailing samples.

Yes, I do hope I can track down samples of some of the scents you suggested to me, I love buying full bottles of anything I really, really love, but want to test before buying! Usually it can be arranged, since most perfume people are of the generous sort. Often a one ml sample is enough to be more sure about a purchase.

Vanessa said...

Got it - though no stickiness would be better still... Testing before buying is of course highly recommended, though some people enjoy the thrill of a blind buy. I agree that a 1ml sample can be enough for a few wearings to make up one's mind.

Anonymous said...

Avoiding checking my decants and spray samples for fear of discovering the worst. (Yes, I will be re-incarnated as an ostrich). Meanwhile, instead of parafilm you could look for a good quality stretchable plastic food wrap in your local food market. Perhaps not as perfect but workable.

-- Lindaloo

Vanessa said...

Hi Lindaloo,

LOL at the ostrich comment. ;) And that's a nifty tip about the clingfilm, thanks.