Friday, 6 March 2015

Puredistance WHITE review: honky-tonka yellows and lazy hazy daisies

'Tonka beans blogger's own'
I seem to start every review of a Puredistance scent by saying what a fan I am of the house: their friendly people, their relaxed PR style and unstuffy approach to the very concept of luxury products which is the backbone of the brand. It may not be the case anymore, but for a while there I was the only blogger to have made the trip to their offices, tucked away in a lofty converted church in Groningen, where I  (very loosely) interviewed Jan Ewoud Vos over tea and apple cake. Of the six perfumes they have launched to date, I was very taken with Puredistance 1 and the startlingly upper case BLACK, but didn't get on so well with Opardu, much to my chagrin, as everything about its concept and composition should have appealed. And it wasn't just me - two fellow bloggers have sniffed me wearing it, and pronounced it to be pleasant, but not spectacular - and not to smell of very much beyond a veil of white musk. But more of that subsequent volte-face on this wistful lilac beauty deserves a post of its own, I sense.

So nowithstanding my underwhelmed reaction to Opardu, I was very excited about the release of WHITE, the capitalised counterpart to BLACK, one infers. It is a tribute to the palpable enthusiasm and verve of the staff at Puredistance that they can still whip me into a fervour of anticipation at this semi-jaded plateau stage in my hobby. I must admit that some of that excitement is due to the exquisite way in which they present their press packs. Well, I wasn't so keen on Opardu on that score actually, as the sample vial arrived in a clunky big black lacquer box, which frankly seemed like overkill, also on the postage front. But my sample of WHITE arrived in a flattish white box, which opened to form a sort of 3D picture frame-stroke-diarama, in tones of white and gold / cornfield yellow, featuring a white silk lining - and oh joy! - an actual dried daisy!

Readers, I inspected this flower very thoroughly, and its very fragility (I accidentally dropped it twice on the floor) tends to confirm that it is REAL. That fact is worthy of upper case letters, I feel. It instantly took me back to my childhood, when I used to make collages of 'found things', as well as pressing the coloured foil wrappers of sweets between the leaves of weighty novels - or flowers (and once infamously, a roadkill lizard!) in the pages of a beloved scrapbook. The whole pack had a lovely aura of an adorable interactive educational toy-cum-ornament-cum-picture. The company had also generously enclosed a coffret of all the Puredistance scents, which is a great aide-memoire, not least because I had drained my vial of Opardu and was keen to try it again.  But I will save that story for another time, as I say...;)

Accompanying the box was a rather attractive flyer with a radiant sun design in this same buttery, muted yellow veering to old gold. It features a handwritten note from Puredistance's PR lady, plus sketches of the key ingredients in the new scent for handy identification! Who knew that vetiver looked like a shaving brush?! (Or it does when it is in a bundle, say, while patchouli looks surprisingly like vetch.) There is also an account of the inspiration behind the fragrance, and a list of its 'ingredients' (unexpectedly partly capitalised!) and their provenance, to wit:

"Rose de Mai from France, Tonka bean absolute from Venezuela, Orris absolute from Italy, Sandalwood from Mysore, Bergamot from Italy, Musk, Vetyver from Haiti and Patchouli from Indonesia."

I am not usually one for backstories - or let's say I approach them with a certain degree of caution - but I rather like the premise for WHITE. Here is an excerpt from the leaflet:

"The main idea behind the creation of Puredistance WHITE Perfume has been to create a perfume so beautiful and positive that it gives the wearer an instant flow of happiness. We asked Master Perfumer Antoine Lie (who also created Puredistance BLACK for us) to create a white and golden dream; an intimate escape from harsh reality....In this era of global negativity our aim is to give our customers a positive, mood transforming perfume. We hope WHITE will make many moments in your life a little bit more beautiful and colour your world in shades of serene white and warm gold - instead of grey. ;)"

My bedroom: fortuitously in this exact colour scheme!

I like the addition of the smiley face - possibly also a reference to a certain film doing the rounds at the moment, hehe...? ;) But anyway, I like the concept - I have blogged myself recently on the subject of bad stuff in the news and the current, rather downbeat Zeitgeist - so it is a nice thought that Puredistance are seeking to yank people out of that slough of despond, and neatly bridge the gap between winter and spring with WHITE's combination of white and gold tones. For this perfume doesn't evoke simply white to me - it is richer than that. A fitting crossover scent for the chilly yet sunny days of early March we are experiencing at the moment...there are some yellow coloured flowers in gardens - daffodils, crocuses, tulips - but it could just as easily hail at any moment, and did do on Sunday! So the timing for a fragrance launch with that message - both weatherwise and in terms of counteracting negative events in the media - is spot on.

So how does WHITE smell?

Well, I have tried it three times now on consecutive days, with pretty consistent results, though I might get more or less of the floral notes poking through, like spring bulbs in our flowerbed analogy. My overriding sensation, however, is of a seamlessly blended nutty, woody, slightly peppery?, tonka-centric gourmand scent. The tonka itself has those characteristic overtones of coumarin and hay as well as vanilla, which lend it a slightly sterner, drier, more offbeat facet - possibly buttressed by the vetiver. Now I don't know what the scent of a daisy is exactly, but I imagine it might also be a bit austere and vegetal, so in that regard it is a fitting emblem to represent this scent, not least because of its teaming of these two signature colours within its own flower.

Then texturally - you know how big I am on texture ;) - WHITE is muzzy and musky - and warm in very much the style, if not the scent, of Puredistance 1. By the same token it is also quite tenacious. WHITE is 'thickish' and opaque rather than sheer, and although I did spot the odd appearance of iris, I can't say I detect rose at any stage. I should mention that my nose / skin tends to amplify anything on the tonka-heliotrope spectrum, and I see tonka as a halfway house towards heliotrope, although I may be completely wrong there. For me, tonka and heliotrope both hover around that vaguely almondy, milky foody territory, with just a hint of a bitter or anisic twist.

In terms of any other perfumes WHITE resembles, the only one that sprang to mind was PG Tonkamande, though it is a while since I sniffed that, and there is only partial crossover, notewise. On my skin, WHITE is so tonka-forward, at least initially, that it sets itself apart in that way. So overall I would say that I like WHITE quite  a lot; it does fit the brief of being warming and comforting in these troubled times. I particularly like its quieter phase about 1-2 hours in, when the coumarin-y aspect of the tonka has settled down, and the composition becomes a little sweeter and more floral (more the iris than the rose, in fairness). The feel of the scent on skin is also more silken and smooth than at the outset. This is when WHITE truly slips into its lazy, hazy, dreamy phase. And after my unexpected bonding with the later stages of MAAI, readers will not be surprised to hear that I am well up to a bit of waiting now when it comes to a perfume's development. ;) I can see myself progressively warming to WHITE, indeed. I would say that it is not an obvious perfume, but strikes me rather as something of a grower.

In the Puredistance literature, I note that the people on whom WHITE was tested 'immediately started to smile and then started to smell again, telling us WHITE filled them with happiness.' I would imagine they must be bigger fans of tonka bean than me. For that reason, I doubt that I will ever feel mad love for WHITE in its entirety, as I am not that keen on tonka bean when it's centre stage like this, and I think you really have to be to fully appreciate WHITE. But props to Puredistance for going a rather unconventional route with this latest release, nailing their white and yellow colours to the tonka mast!

Then on a whim, I googled the origin of 'Honky-tonk blues' which inspired the first part of my title. I knew it was a song, but didn't know what about. I learnt that 'honky-tonk' refers to both a style of country music and the rather rickety bars in which it was performed. 'Honky' on its own, meanwhile, appears to have been a pejorative nickname used for white people, possibly originating in Chicago's meatpacking plants. Well, we'll draw a veil over this nugget of info, as that way lies more gloom and negativity(!), except to curious that 'honky' should mean white.  And of course WHITE is designed to drive away the blues, by suffusing the world in white and yellow. Of which it does a pretty good job, I'd say, all things considered.

Not the right yellow, but still ~ Source:

PS A props credit is due to Victoria Frolova of Boisdejasmin, who gave me the tonka beans when I visited Brussels in 2012. I knew they would come in handy one day!

My equally colour-coordinated bedroom wool stash!


Tara said...

Lovely stuff, V. The PR blurb does really appeal for once and I love that they included a real daisy!

Like you, I might not gel with the opening strongly tonka stage, but it sounds like it will find a lot of fans. I know B thinks well of it for a start.

Looking forward to your updated thoughts on Opardu at some point.

Vanessa said...

Hi Tara,

I am pretty sure B likes Tonka Imperiale more than me, so tonka lovers everywhere will be delighted. It feels luxurious and cosy and I do like it a lot more once it hits its less hay-like stride.

The Opardu thing was most surprising - I have a bit more research to do first before I have figured out what is going on here with my reaction to it!

Blacknall Allen said...

The only tonka perfume I habitually wear is Vanille Tonka, but that is a happy fragrance so maybe I get their point about WHITE. What Puredistance also gets -I think- is props for NOT releasing ten perfumes a year and taking a little time and trouble over the ones they do release.

Vanessa said...

Hi Blacknall,

That was the other prominent tonka scent I was trying to recall - of which you gave me a sample once - so thanks for spontaneously mentioning it. And I do agree that Puredistance release their perfumes at a pace that could almost be described as elegantly languid - it took Antoine Lie a year to complete WHITE, apparently.

Asali said...

Well this should bode well for me, since I see with Puredistance we are also in part evil scent twins :-) I didn't get on with Black but loved the subdued old fashioned lilac of Opardu. We both like 1, and now White... I think if the Rose is truly as discreet as you say it bodes well for me, even if the PG reference doesn't, but I don't worry about that, since with PG my issue is the anti-pyramid. Well, I have to try it so or so, because one can never have enough happy perfumes :-)
Oh at Btw i noticed more and more bloggers start using time as an exact frame, 'two hours in', after 25 mins, etc so funny, since the development will surely be different depending on when, who, where, how?

Unknown said...

What a nice coincidence. I'm wearing White today and I love the way you describe its texture. While I was reading your review (on the bus) the sun stood really low and blindingly on the horizon and made everything white and rich. I'm now a few hours into wearing it and the floral aspect of White reminds me strongly of Magnolia petals. I like it more than I thought I would.

Vanessa said...

Hi Asali,

Well, I am on board with Opardu now it has revealed itself to me in a completely different way compared to first time round, so that makes for even more crossover, hehe.

I don't get the rose at all in WHITE, to be honest, unless it is behind this pretty sweetness in the far drydown. And the Tonkamande was a very impressionistic comparison - I can't truly remember how it smells, other than milky? Tonka-esque?

Re the time thing, I wouldn't go mad with my increments, but I do tend to think of perfumes as having an opening, then 'the rest' which tends to get fainter and fainter with minor changes, maybe. I cannot stress enough how lovely the far drydown of WHITE is - silky smooth and sweeter, as I say. Now 25 minutes strikes me as rather precise as an interval, but I have heard of such a thing.;) Whether development in chronological terms has meaning across different people I have no idea, but it would be interesting to stage a test sometime! I kept my opening as 1-2 hours, not least because I don't think I was paying that much attention to the time...

Vanessa said...

Hi Sabine,

What a nice coincidence indeed. Glad you have been enjoying it and I look forward to your own review once you have found a suitable visual. I can relate to your magnolia petals aspect - in terms of the texture of the later stages, for me. Slightly sherbety sweetness at this point. I do think it is a grower. And what a marvellous setting in which to be wearing WHITE today - I do like its white and gold imagery a lot. Well, my spare bedroom is testament to that. ;)

Asali said...

Perhaps we're both 'coming 'round'- I to more tender fragrances and you to the hard-hitters (MAAI ) :-) And you're truly selling WHITE to me with your beautiful description.
And so glad for Opardu to get a second chance with you and succeeding.
I understand your 2 hours now, thanks for clairifying. That makes sense, the 'I didn't pay attention time elapsed and then it smelled like this'. I just keep seeing it everywhere, and it actually confuses me, like who sits with a clock in order to describe a fragrance? But you're right perhaps we need an experiment :-D

Anonymous said...

Servus Frau Bonkers
"Please Don´t Eat the Daisies" Doris Day and David Niven. Remember?
Bussi. CQ

Sun Fontaine said...

I love the packaging! I haven't tried a Puredistance scent yet, but there's several I really want to try. I also love that yarn stash!

Thinkingmagpie said...

I kept thinking I've got to try White but at this moment I keep reaching for my comfort fragrances. Maybe It's about time I should. I must say that the press pack is just gorgeous. ;)

Suzanne said...

Vanessa, your review has me looking forward to getting yanked out of my slough of despond by this lovely-sounding scent (hope you don't mind me borrowing your phrase, but I loved the way it sounded). The daisy is a favorite flower of mine, so if the fragrance matches it in spirit, I think I will get on well with it. (And I do like Tonka bean.) How exquisite that they included a preserved real daisy in the package!

Btw, I also enjoyed seeing your bedroom linens and your box of wool. Yellow is one of those colors that is tricky: I saw a yellow house yesterday that was too canary-bright for its setting, but I once had my bedroom painted in a buttercup yellow that was so cheerful to wake up in. And the muted cornsilk yellow of your linens is the color of yellow I like to wear (used to have a sweater that color); with its goldish tones, it really has a wonderful antique-like feeling about it that is elegant and calming.

Nice post!

Vanessa said...

Hi Val,

I don't remember, but have googled it! ;) Very apt. Or drop them, for that matter.

Vanessa said...

Hi Sun Mi,

Puredistance surpassed themselves with their packaging this time. Which scents of theirs appeal to you? And I am happy you like my wool basket. Carefully 'curated' as you can see, hehe.

Vanessa said...

That is an interesting theory - we will meet in the middle at this rate, hehe. WHITE is definitely growing on me. Did some more side-by-side tests in the company of Tara and Birgit, which may feature in another post.

That is exactly what I meant by the time interval thing - it's really loose in my mind. A timed experiment involving several people might be a giggle at least - or maybe it would throw up some interesting empirical conclusions!

Vanessa said...

Hi Yuki,

WHITE is comforting too. ;) It has a projection and radiance that is also cosy, if that makes sense. As Puredistance 1 did for that matter, but the scent of WHITE is cosier than PD 1 I would say.

Vanessa said...

Hi Suzanne,

Please feel free to borrow my phrase - well I can't take credit for 'slough of despond' - might it be Biblical, even? But the yanking bit is my own. Anyway, I hope you find this latest release as springlike and comforting as it is billed, and as I also found, barring a bit of tonka overload going in. Yes, the daisy was a particular highlight.

I also greatly enjoyed your musings on the colour yellow. I looked long and hard for accessories and bedlinen in precisely that muted shade of buttercup / cornfield yellow that veers to gold and has an antique-y feel to it. There are a lot of lemon, primrose and canary yellows about as you mention, but the more faded tones are more restful. I have some pillowcases in the same shade that also work with the scheme, and the duck that sits on the bedroom chair made the cut because of his gold breast! ;)

Carol said...

Yarn squeeeee!!!

Gil said...

Great review, Vanessa! This seems like a very exciting review. The PR package is so pretty!

Vanessa said...

My yarn buddy!!!

Vanessa said...

Hi Gil,

Thanks a lot! I think WHITE will do well for them and isn't the package beyond cute?

Sarah Waite said...

Hi Vanessa, Great review. I also got the lovely lacquered box and I'm wondering what to keep in it, samples? jewels? buttons? posh (small) knickers? I did like WHITE but tonight I am writing on my two favourites from the line - Opardu and Antonia (memories of Antonia appearing in the pub here!).
I can't get enough of florals at the moment and you'll be shocked to hear that I have had a breakthrough with my jasminophobia, it's helping me through my own 'semi-jaded plateau stage'. More to follow on that some other time.
Enjoy your box.

Anonymous said...

I am pretty sure it's from Pilgrim's Progress, which of course might have done some biblical borrowing...AnnieA

Vanessa said...

Hi Sarah,

Jewels or buttons would work. Or jewellery, certainly, if not jewels, hehe. My knickers are not quite that small, even the posh ones.

Did we have Antonia in the pub when we met, d'you mean? I remember the Neela Vermeires making an appearance. Am pleased to hear you have overcome your jasmine issues - I didn't have you down as 'semi-jaded' yet, or even at a plateau, so that is interesting to know. And maybe you are not now anyway!

Vanessa said...

Thank you, Annie!

The Scented Hound said...

Promises of packages from overseas have yet to be realized at least by me. I am very eager to give White a whirl as this sounds like my kind of floral. I'm sorry, but I'm a sucker for great packaging which always makes the juice just a tad sweeter :)

Undina said...

"... which opened to form a sort of 3D picture frame-stroke-diarama, in tones of white and gold / cornfield yellow..." Are you sure the packaging was white and gold and not black and blue? ;)

I need more time for testing but now I realize that I have no idea how Tonka been smells.

Vanessa said...

Hi Steve,

Oh, can't wait to hear what you think of it. The other reviewers who have reported their take on WHITE so far have found it much more floral than me. I didn't spot any rose at all, for example. And I do agree that pretty packaging rather predisposes you to like something, though ultimately the scent still needs to stand up on its own. ;)

Vanessa said...

Hi Undina,

Hahaha! No, I guess I can't be sure at all...

You would know how tonka smells if you smelt WHITE on me - I turn the tonka up to 11. ;)