Thursday, 3 September 2015

Papillon Perfumery Salome (not a review): thoughts on my f***h j*****y, eponymous ancestors, and nasal literacy

I'm aware that I've taken my time getting round to not reviewing Salome, the latest - truly skanktastic - release from Papillon Perfumery. I had a sample, tested it a number of times on my own skin, focus grouped it after a fashion with my friend Lizzie and her (over 18!) children - that's their age, not their total number - and took it abroad with me, despite its being the furthest thing imaginable from an 'office appropriate' scent. Well, I suppose it depends where you work... ;) And now, sadly, Salome has gone the way of my mascot Max Rat and the luggage. A light-fingered tea leaf in Tipton may be stepping out on a Saturday night in a cloud of hyraceum for all I know. At the Lyceum, even. No, wait, that's in Sheffield. Anyway, my Salome sample has gone the way of all flesh, 'all flesh' being the operative words.

You might think that it is a bit of a risky undertaking to even not review a perfume I haven't sniffed in a while. I have to say though that such are the indeterminate impressions formed by my nasal receptors even with the perfume actually present(!) that 'an emotion triggered by a scent and recollected in tranquillity'to adapt Wordsworth only slightly, is arguably enough of a basis and certainly as much as there is ever likely to be. Then I was going to call this post something like a 'Fearless Fandango of Filth', but the 'f' word has been well and truly harnessed by my fellow bloggers in their stellar reviews of Salome, and no one but no one can top The Candy Perfume Boy's masterly coinage in his review of the fragrance of a 'trifecta of filth', in reference to the three animalic notes in Salome of castoreum, hyraceum and a rather louche 'tobacco-like facet' .

Source: Papillon Perfumery

What I remember of my several testings of Salome is broadly as follows: a bright, verging on sparkling opening with a citrus and floral bouquet of some kind, which segues within a very short space of time into a phantasmagorical wallop of f***h. Said wallop starts out like the pornolfactory equivalent of a heavy velvet door curtain, but gradually dies down to the texture of shimmying satin camisoles - those very wispy ones whose straps are forever falling down, by no means always by design. Salome is a big production animalic chypre that reminded me of YSL Y and Jean Desprez's Bal a Versailles, yet Salome feels smoother, creamier, more seamlessly blended, and more classically timeless than either of those somewhat dated scents in my view, just as Joy feels 'wrong' to me nowadays. On my skin there's jasmine and there's civet in Joy, and never the twain shall meet, whereas the notes in Salome are impeccably choreographed. Bal a Versailles is also a soprano to Salome's purring alto register, and it feels less substantial, more tinny and watery. Well, in fairness I do have the EDC concentration so it is hardly a fair comparison!

I must point out, however, that on me Salome is markedly more f***hy than on my friend Lizzie and her two children. They all said that I should categorically not wear it. Then, on Lizzie's son, Salome smelt completely different - it had more of a citrus-sandalwood-leather vibe which reminded him right off the bat of Geo F Trumper's Spanish Leather. I must say I was impressed that a young man just turned 18 would even have heard of Geo F Trumper! Then on Lizzie and her daughter I detected a much expurgated version of Salome compared to on me. Even so, there was the inevitable moue of distaste from her daughter, with comments like: 'Oh no, it reminds me of the dreaded halibut eye!', a reference to the legendary coldness of her grandmother's gaze - whether in life or death I am not quite sure - who apparently wore the formidable vintage Miss Dior (as it would have been at the time), so go figure. There were further associations of Salome with fur coats and old people's homes, not all of them printable. So yes, Lizzie and her daughter also pegged Salome as vintage, but not in a way that they cared for, whereas I think Salome is an example of the floral animalic chypre genre which nods towards the past, is firmly rooted in the present, and yet will still feel relevant in decades to come, assuming you like that sort of thing. Judging by the deferred gratification being barely contained on the blogs, I'd say that Salome will most definitely 'hit the spot' (no, I did not say 'G-'!) of many a fumehead who's a fan of f***h.

A hyrax predictably coming over all unnecessary ~ Source:

Now I didn't love Salome, but I could appreciate it as the finest example of its kind I have smelt.** Also on the plus side, I didn't run a mile, even if Lizzie's daughter made a bolt for her bedroom rather sharpish. I doubt very much that I would wear it outside the home - much like Bogue Profumo's Maai in that regard - but I could see myself enjoying the far drydown in crafty lascivious huffs at my desk, say. If I still had my sample, obviously. And coming from someone whose Basenotes handle was once 'VM I hate civet' - nay, still is, though I no longer go on there - that is praise indeed. Not that there is civet in Salome, but I could equally well have called myself 'VM I hate f***h in all its bawdy and scatalogical manifestations' back in the day. And now I am much more open-minded - and open-legged you might say, but I really hope you won't - to the notion. Salome is a cornucopia of carnality, a pot-pourri of pudenda odour, and on that lewdly alliterative note I am going to park this non-review right there.


As it happens, I lost my sample of Salome not once but twice - for I left it behind at Lizzie's house following that group testing session, prompting mild alarm in the family. She agreed to put it in the porch in a flower pot for me to collect at my convenience. Readers may notice a car key in the foreground, which annoyed the heck out of me when I first looked at the photo, until images of 'car keys in bowls' made me think it might in fact have been a photographic Freudian slip.

Salome sample in organza bag partially obscured by phallic key

And maybe the fact that I feel unfreaked out by Salome's raunchy underbelly - well, I use the term advisedly as the underbelly reaches all the way up to the be-tasselled nipples of my feverish imaginings - is partly due to the fact that the name Salome is very much in the family. No, really. I was the first generation not to be called Salome, at least as a middle name. The belly dancing, head on platter-toting buck stopped (figuratively) with my aunt Rowena Salome, now aged 95. But the Salomes on my father's side stretch back several centuries. And while we are on this earthy theme, I can also reveal that the Salome pictured at the top of the post had a mother who rejoiced in the name of Susan Cock, whose mother in turn was Martha Prickman. You couldn't make it up. None of the Salomes of whom there are extant photos look particularly 'unbuttoned', if you know what I mean, but you never know. They do say the quiet ones are the worst.

Oh look - two Salomes in one screenshot!, although my other aunt, Hilda Salome, sadly died as a baby. Though her aunt Salome Musson (are you keeping up? ;) ) - who married Henry George Coombs and emigrated to New Zealand - lived to be 90 and is pictured below, looking every inch the winsome - and wholesome! - spit of Jenny Agutter in The Railway Children.

And finally, what of 'nasal literacy'? By that I mean that my inability to parse individual notes in scents - or even sometimes to tell you what it makes me think of in the most loosely conjured metaphorical terms - intermittently troubles me. It did so with a vengeance in the case of Salome, because after the initial nuanced but unknown flurry of floral and citrus notes, I was left with a chypre-esque construct that I could evoke in textural terms, but otherwise had nary a clue what I was smelling beyond the catch-all term of a wall of 'f***h'. I mention it here because there are a number of perfumes I have tested lately that I really like, but my inarticulacy with those, should I attempt to feature them on Bonkers, would be even more marked. I would have recourse to the lamest statements about 'a very nice floral blend' or 'kind of masculine leaning, but I like it'. And yet I am so taken with these perfumes that I would like to commend them to you. Maybe I could do a post full of tiny 'unreviews' of unprecedented vacuousness. Because - paradoxically perhaps - it seems a shame not to write about them at all because I am stuck for words.

Anyway, I mention this issue of nasal literacy because I think my nose is getting worse in this regard and I am not sure it is acceptable to do a post along the lines indicated above. And I haven't even got the excuse of nasal cautery, like a good friend of mine. She had a special knack of making her nose bleed on demand to get out of Maths class, and didn't have the bottle to explain that there was really nothing wrong with it, so they went and flame gunned the offending blood vessel before you could say 'Matilda!'.

Spot the Salomes - two more above!

UPDATE: Since I wrote this post, I have become the proud owner of a 'bespoke' kitten - well, one carefully selected to meet a raft of physical and temperamental attributes after weeks spent trawling the small ads on Gumtree. So as a tribute to this strikingly singular perfume and to my near extinct ancestral line of Salomes, I decided it would be fitting to include Salome in the kitten's list of (moderately preposterous) names.

Here then is Miss Truffle Ganache Salome Bonkers at nine and a half weeks(!), practising her Odalisque pose while I endeavour to change the duvet.

PS The term 'j*****y' is an X Factor thing, about which I cannot bring myself to elaborate.

**Salome proved to be a surprise grower in the end!


Ines said...

Well, it seems everyone else is raving about this one, so I will definitely try and get my hands on a sample to try. :)

Vanessa said...

Hi Ines,

It really is a tour de force if you like animalic chypres, and based on early reactions may well turn out to be the most successful Papillon launch so far!

Unknown said...

What a great and very bonkers take on Salome...
Was Salome a "common" name in Victorian Britain? And a bit of a shame that the tradition stopped, because Vanessa Salome has a really nice ring to it.

Unknown said...

As you can imagine, I'm a HUGE fan of Salome, and given that there are a number of 'women of a certain age' who loved the big hitters of the 80s like Opium and Poison, I have warned Liz that I think this is going to be THE Christmas perfume this year.

Vanessa said...

Hi Sabine,

Thanks! Liz has since kindly offered to replace my lost sample, though I don't suppose having the perfume to hand will enhance my ability to describe Salome, hehe.

I don't know if Salome was a common name in Victorian Britain, but it was positively rampant in our family as you can see. ;)

Vanessa said...

Hi Birdie,

I am not surprised you love Salome, and I agree that this has Xmas 'smash hit' written all over it. I'd say 'stocking filler', but it's arguably more about the act of elegantly peeling them off... ;)

Tara said...

This was just a joy to read, V. Loved it. Your brilliantly witty writing hit new heights.

Did I already know Salome was a family middle name? Amazing. I think if you get a cat her middle name should be Salome. Floozy Salome Musson perhaps.

I couldn't pick Salome apart either and my review is very non-specific about notes. I think the filth adled my mind/nose. That's my excuse anyway .

Please do those min-reviews!

Vanessa said...

Hi Tara,

Floozy Salome Musson is just perfect for a female cat, I can't tell you how good!

I loved the languid sensuality of your review, and having refreshed my memory I see that you do indeed skirt around the note issue, assuming Salome has even got her skirt still on at this point, which is moot.

Those mini-reviews may yet appear, bland and uninformative as they will doubtless be! ;)

Anonymous said...

This non-review was a great deal of fun. It is good to know that you are increasing your ability to handle f***h, Ms "I hate civet".

While I understand the naming traditions in many families, I am suprised that Salome (even as a middle name) survived through the Victorian era, although one reads that Victoria was not just lying on her back thinking of England. And speaking of naming conventions I am wondering who Kathryn and Jane are?

I agree that Floozy Salome Musson is a great name for a cat, but if you have to call her outside I would suggest going with her middle name.

Thanks for all the giggles.

-- Lindaloo

Undina said...

Vanessa, you made me laugh. Several times. Aloud. Thank you. But beyond that... I think your "not a review" just put the period in the long sentence of me not being interested in that perfume.

Since you do not have a direct connection to the name, it's not too bad it didn't work for you - though it would have been interesting to wear perfume with the "family" name. I'm still "working" on one of the Teo Cabanel's perfumes hoping to like it... ;)

Vanessa said...

Hi Lindaloo,

Glad you enjoyed it! My tolerance for animalic notes does seem to have come on by leaps and bounds. ;)

Salome is rather at odds with the Victorian culture, I agree. I do have a relative called Mehitabel Musson, so Biblical names have other precedents. I think calling a cat outside 'Mehitabel' might also be a bit of a non-starter.

Am quite drawn to Myrrh as a cat name, on account of its alliteration with Musson and assonance with pyrrh. ;)

Vanessa said...

Hi Undina,

I am glad to have raised a smile. From memory, all the reviews of Salome with the exception of Kafka's have emphasised the filthy aspect of this scent - did I just say the 'f' word there? Hopefully nobody will notice it in the comments - so you will have formed a compelling composite picture of its style by now, and know if it is your thing or not.

I do plan to wear Salome now and again, probably only indoors, but we will see. I am pretty sure I know the Teo Cabanel scent in question and I must say I do quite like it, though it is perhaps rather too lightweight for you. ;)

Vanessa said...

PS Kathryn is my public persona(!) and Jane my grandmother's middle name.

Portia said...

Hey there Vanessa,
I don't worry what way you write your reviews, or anti reviews, it's you I love hearing about and your reaction to said scent; no matter what went into it.
Un Review away.
Portia xx

Anonymous said...

Heavens to Betsey, Bonks! I'm shocked to bits by all this carnality, so I am.

And I can't quite credit ladies bearing the name Salome in Norn Iron: a bold step indeed. Susan and Martha were understandably not given that name as a forename, which spared them some blushes!

I'd love to see your other reviews since I'm not hung up on identifying notes at all - impressions are always welcomed by me, even when you dis "Y" and call it a "somewhat dated scent" ;-)

cheerio, Anna in Edinburgh

Vanessa said...

Hi Portia,

I am touched and encouraged by your comment, and whilst I don't normally hold with the verbification of nouns - 'to gift someone', I'm looking at you! - I very much like the sound of 'unreview away', haha, and feel emboldened to carry on...;)

Vanessa said...

Hi Anna,

LOL at the Irish touches to your comment... I must set the record straight, however, and explain that my parents were not from Northern Ireland but just moved to Belfast for work reasons. So my many Salome relatives were all from the West country, where things are a bit more Tess of the D'Urbervilles as it were. ;)

Sorry to any Y fans - or Joy fans for that matter! - for being a little dismissive. It's funny how to my nose Salome can be an old school chypre yet feel very much of the moment as well. I think it's growing on me, I have my new sample on as I type...!

Blacknall Allen said...

I remember Papillion and frankly this sounds like something much more wearable (curiously). Some of those old skankers sink into flesh and make you smell like a freshly saddled soaped handbag!

Love "pornolfactory" into which category lots of old stinker stankers fall, notably Femme in the original form. What does it remind us of...

Vanessa said...

Hi Blacknall,

From what I know of your taste I think you would not be challenged at all by Salome. It is vastly more wearable than many of those old time skankers as you say. In fact since I wrote my review and have reacquired a sample, I am really rather bonding with it. Lasts well into the next day I might add! The vestiges are particularly nice.

Anonymous said...

Ah, I'm relieved on their behalf that they were from the South-West/Hardy Country, where having a name like Salome wouldn't raise an eyebrow. Perhaps there's a Bathsheba or Jude or the like in your family too?
cheerio, Anna in Edinburgh

Vanessa said...

Yes, Salome is quite fitting for the area. No Bathsheba or Jude, but I can raise a Mehitabel and a Sepurgia. Actually, we are not quite sure Sepurgia is our branch of the family, but with a great name like that we are claiming her!

Asali said...

I LOVED the story of your family tree, and your ancestral Salomes. What a name- I suppose some names just are so tied to a character, like Samson or Scarlett. I still think it's a shame you are not Vanessa Salome though, it has a certain ring to it (pun unintended as it would have been far fetched and you'd have to know your 'Salome' well). Anyway, I loved your very evocative non-review ;-) And I was so lucky as to receive a sample from Tara, and unfortunately I have been 'perfume-busy', if you know what I mean, so the one day I wore it, I also wore other stuff, and so I can only say for sure that I found the opening like very indolic jasmine, but I really need to wear it properly.

Vanessa said...

Hi Asali,

You are quite right that the name Salome is very much tied to the character, and might have been difficult for me to pull off in this day and age, though my aunt Rowena wears it well. I am going to have to deep google that ring thing now, no pun intended, as there is a perfumista of that name.

Look forward to hearing/reading your impressions of Salome - I am pretty sure that given your love of vintage scents you will like this a lot!

Martha said...

I bought this! Well, Himself bought this for me as I was fluttering around Scent Bar (first visit eeeever!) the day after my birthday trying to decide what to do about three bottles. So he bought them for me. All three. Himself is extravagant for my birthdays.

Does buying a full bottle of Salome firmly cement my identity as a lover of the weird in scents?

Vanessa said...

Hi Martha,

I have been to Scent Bar, to which I always want to add the definite article, and have to curb myself. It is a temple to scent all right.

And good for Himself for being so generous. He's a keeper - though you probably knew that yourself. What were the other two bottles, may I enquire? Re your choice of Salome, it certainly cements you as a lover of the animalic. ;)

Vanessa said...

PS Belated birthday greetings!

Martha said...

Thank you!

The other two were L'Eau Scandaleuse (subtler animalic, I'd say) and Xerjoff Mamluk (honey! honey that doesn't know.)

Vanessa said...

I will have to look those up but they sound intriguing! I like honey that doesn't turn - as in Botrytis, for example.