Wednesday 2 December 2015

Sillage in the sky: road testing ROADS Fragrances on Ryanair routes

Photo courtesy of Jim Fogarty
If someone were to ask me what I consider to be my greatest achievements, I would probably predicting meteoric growth in the curved shower door market (back in 1995!), and co-developing apple & mango juice with my old boss at St Ivel - in a lab in Walthamstow some ten years previously. We did also launch apple & pear and apple & banana at the same time, but while apple & mango stuck to the wall and is a steady seller in supermarkets to this day, the other two variants promptly dribbled down it into oblivion. Then the third thing would have to be extracting compensation out of Ryanair for repeated cancellations to a flight from Gothenburg to Stansted in 2006. I successfully invoked the 'passenger rights in the event of denied boarding' enshrined in EC No 261 / 2004 at a time before these had been widely publicised in the media. It wasn't as easy as it may sound though, taking the combined forces of my own pretty dogged badgering and the intervention of a champion within the Air Transport Users Council at the CAA, to a) winkle out a senior, named individual within Ryanair Customer Services to complain to, and b) to get them to cough up. This was the winning paragraph from the AUTC's letter on my behalf:

"In accordance with the Regulation, we ask that Ryanair reimburse Ms Musson those expenses incurred only because of Ryanair's failure to comply with its obligations. The total to be reimbursed for this would be the equivalent of SEK 900.00. We won't ask you to pay for Ms Musson's no doubt stress-busting beer!"

A nice reliable tram in Gothenburg ~ Source: Wikimedia Commons

In the end I received the 900.00 SEK to cover the costs of staying on in Sweden an extra night (minus the beer!), plus a further entirely discretionary 253.93 euros to cover my flight with a different airline which I ended up buying in desperation, due to Ryanair's serial inability to mend planes. Result.

Fast forward to last year, when Tara (formerly of Olfactoria's Travels) kindly loaned me a sample set of a new collection of perfumes created by Danielle Ryan. Danielle is the founder of a prestigious drama academy in Dublin - and intriguingly, also the granddaughter of Tony Ryan, founder of Ryanair. ROADS struck me as an amusingly ironic brand name for a scion of an airline dynasty to light upon. And to be fair, it would have been amusingly ironic even if it had referenced air travel, which is of course famously hostile to the transport of perfume.


For it is because of the - to my mind, bonkers and unnecessarily draconian - new postal regulations that we can no longer send perfume overseas without a fair degree of subterfuge and moral turpitude, and even shipments within the UK (travelling by ROADS presumably!) are heavily flagged as 'hazardous' thanks to the requirement to affix an ID8000 label.

And even when personally accompanying your perfume on its plane trip, it must of course be either safely stowed in the hold or taken on as hand luggage in a transparent Zip-loc bag. Well, for bottles up to 100ml. If you are planning to take one of those stonking 450ml bottles of a Dior Collection Privée scent, think again. Or make a particular point of coshing the X-ray machine operative over the head with it on your way through security. Yep, as my friend David observed, it's very much a case of a 'Cologne No Fly Zone' where the airlines are concerned. Hmm...remarkably, Ryanair do actually fly to Cologne-Bonn. Eerily close to civilisation for them, you would have thought.

And then when you think of the notion of a fragrance range linked to the budget airline we all love to joke about, you can't help but wonder if you might have to pay extra for the box to go with your perfume bottle, never mind the carrier bag it comes in.

All joking aside, I actually fly Ryanair a lot even now, as they go all over the shop, including to countless places you have never heard of, plus they are pretty darn cheap and do mostly land on time. So when I sat down to test this set of ten perfumes, I thought that it might be fun to pick out scents to talk about which I associated with a particular Ryanair destination (not all from personal experience!), kicking off each mini-review with extracts from the descriptions accompanying the collection.

Harmattan - OUDJA

"The scent of the wind as it crosses the Sahara desert..."

Notes: lavender, vetiver, oud, saffron, black pepper, tuberose, rose, ylang-ylang, sandalwood, bourbon, tonka bean, frankincense, patchouli and myrrh was a bit of a challenge finding a Ryanair airport in the flight path of the Harmattan wind, which is apparently a 'cold-dry and dusty trade wind, blowing over the West African subcontinent'. So I came up with Oudja, near the Moroccan / Algerian border. To be honest, it's a fair bit north of the windy action, but my guess is that there would be some sand within striking distance at least, even if it is not notably breezy.

Now I read somewhere that Harmattan is the bestseller of the line; it certainly chimes with the oud-y, 'wind wafting curtains of a hotel room overlooking a souk' Zeitgeist, which famously inspired Andy Tauer's L'Air du Désert Marocain. Between the pepper, oud and incense, Harmattan comes off as a somewhat masculine-leaning, arid and austere scent to my nose, making it a good fit for my choice of Oudja - which doesn't seem to go out of its way to attract visitors, though I note that a techno-pole is under construction near the airport. Going back to our trade wind, Harmattan definitely has an overall vibe of 'dusty' and 'cold-dry'. It's not particularly original, but the oud with its medicinal facet nicely scratches that 'English Patient' itch.

Oudja ~ Source: Wikipedia

Graduate 1954 - PARIS

"This represents the woman who, as a result of the limited freedoms offered to her, had to use her femininity and elegance to achieve her goals. Strength through femininity..."

Notes: tuberose, frangipani, old rose, heliotrope, mandarin, muguet, clove, green moss, cedarwood, Virginian sandalwood and patchouli

I am not quite sure why a woman who went to university as long ago as 1954 should still need to use feminine wiles to get anywhere, but assuming that she does, she can start by hitching a lift from Beauvais to actual Paris, a journey of an hour and a half by bus apparently. I chose Paris to be twinned with this pretty scent, because it is a wistful, old-fashioned floral with a feel of Bourjois Soir de Paris about it: watery, sweet and unashamedly girlish - though if one were to cast it in ladies' hosiery terms, it would be more of an 'Ambre' or 'Beige Doré' I sense, rather than fishnets or the implicit bluestocking of the fragrance name.

My vintage mini, since jettisoned due to chronic black gunge issues

Neon - KAVOS

"Fluorescent and alive. This fragrance bursts with fun and style. For the things that make us smile..."

Notes: nutmeg, cinnamon, heliotrope, wild iris, vanilla, and a reassuring woody base

Trust me, there is nothing about this perfume that is 'reassuring'. The clue lies in the name and the description(!), hence my choice of Kavos. For Neon is a brash, vibrant, bubblegum kind of scent, that smacks you over the head with a double whammy of heliotrope and vanilla, not unlike the sort of sickly cocktails being downed by the pitcherful in the pulsating nightspots of this Greek party resort, leading to a general divesting of inhibitions and clothes, and a hangover the size of Colossus (sorry, that's Rhodes, not Corfu) in the morning.

Kavos ~ Source: Wikimedia Commons (they must have been up early!)

White Noise - KRAKOW

"The static calm of white noise inspires a sense of stillness and reflection..."

Notes: green apple, lemon balm, mandarin, grapefruit, iris, violet leaf, heliotrope, tuberose, jasmine blossom, old rose, cedarwood, sandalwood, leather, amber and vanilla

My first thought about White Noise is that it might be the very thing you need a CD of in order to sleep in Kavos, assuming you are not one of the revellers. My second thought was that the perfumer must have a jolly big tub of heliotrope on the go, as this is the third perfume to feature it in a row. But I am going to go with Krakow, which I visited in January 1996, when it was buried under drifts upon drifts of pillowy snow. Sleep does come into this recollection, for I was training a young colleague on that trip, and shortly after setting off for Kielce, some 75 miles away, to conduct her first solo interview, she fainted on the train, kiboshing my lie in and day off in one fell, hypoglycaemic swoop. As with actual white noise, I couldn't pick out any individual notes in this perfume - or even have a stab at describing it - but it is similar in style to Olfactive Studio's Lumière Blanche - a creamy, woody, numinous mantra-type fragrance, and one of my favourites of the bunch.

Krakow ~ Source: Wikimedia Commons

Bitter End - KNOCK

Bitter End is 'inspired by the west of Ireland, a beautiful barren place of isolation...'

Notes: wild grasses, cooling mints and wet bracken, fig leaf, olive, wild thyme, oakmoss, violet leaf, vetiver

Well, though I grew up in the North, I have holidayed extensively in the West of Ireland, and have vivid memories of its wild grasses and wet bracken, not to mention soggy socks, permeable kagoules, and the sharp tingle of relentless drizzle on your cheeks. I picture craggy landscapes shrouded in low cloud, sheep hunkered down by dry stone walls bordering fields of peat, and endless vistas of sludgy grey and brown. The sort of area that is so remote that it pays to trail bread vans so you get a loaf that has a best before date later than yesterday.

Bitter End (is the name some kind of veiled political comment, hehe?) I wouldn't class as bitter. To my nose it smells more of damp violets and some vaguely muddy greenery, shot through with the faintest hint of mint, though your air miles may vary and I don't wish to 'Knock' it.

Connemara ~ courtesy of Clare Chick

Which brings me neatly to the last scent in my virtual olfactory recce of Ryanair routes, namely Cloud 9, which needs no destination...

Cloud 9 - UP IN THE AIR

"A clean, calm scent. A feeling of floating happiness. Clean air, hot milk, comfort and lightness..."

Notes: chamomile, geranium, jasmine, vanilla, amber, musk and sandalwood

I have nothing much to say about Cloud 9, except that it is very pleasant rather than transcendental, though none the worse for that. I am not sure you would find hot milk on a Ryanair flight come to think of it, and the floating happiness only kicks in once they have got that scratch card routine out of the way - not to mention the push on duty free deals. Which do of course include perfume. ;) Hmm, somehow I doubt that the ROADS range - imaginative and amusingly quirky though it is - will displace the designer bellwethers in Ryanair's in-flight magazine any time soon...


Anonymous said...


Checking my email one last time before settling down to read myself to sleep when I saw this post. Your travel writing, whether perfume related or not, is always fun.

Is Ryanair the one where they strap you in standing up?

-- Lindaloo

Unknown said...

Hahahaha. I'm glad that you managed to wriggle some money out of fecking Ryanair. I try to avoid them at all cost.
Unfortunately the perfumes are now tainted by bonkers association :)
Am I guessing correctly that you weren't overly impressed by them but liked the angle they provided for writing the post?
This song is the best thing anyone ever said about Ryanair:

Tara said...

Creating a new juice flavour is quite the achievement, V. You should get free cartons for life. I do hope you invested in the curved shower door market before it took off.

Well done on getting money out of Ryanair. I'm assuming 900 SEK isn't the equivalent of a tenner.

Great idea to pair the Roads scents with travel destinations. Your descriptions are as wonderfully vivid and unique as ever!

P.S. What is the "scratch card routine"? I'm hoping to never find out for myself.

Vanessa said...

Hi Lindaloo,

Hope I didn't keep you up too late, and I am happy you enjoy the mix of travel and perfume writing on here.

Ryanair is the one where there was talk of them strapping you in standing up. Am pleased to report that seats are still very much the norm. ;)

Vanessa said...

Hi Sabine,

Oh dear, I didn't mean to influence anyone about this range or any other perfumes - that was the gist of my last post, haha. Hence why I said that your air miles may vary a propos of Bitter End. I liked four of the six featured here, two quite a lot, and only *disliked* Neon, though I am arguably not the demographic. I will take a look at that link now...!

Vanessa said...

Hi Tara,

Ah no, sadly I have to buy my juice these days like any other punter. Any involvement of mine is well and truly lost in the mists of time. I missed a trick with the shower door market too, hehe.

It was about 90 quid as I recall, but the discretionary reimbursement of my extra flight was a lot more, so that felt like a bit of a coup.

Ryanair sell these scratch cards linked to a charity lottery, and push them quite hard on flights. It's a good cause all right, but I never win these things and am glad when they have passed down the aisle with them. ;)

Asali said...

Ha- the Neon description, love it!
I'm not sure how a niche perfume brand feels about being tied to the low cost airline family business, (hehe). Some of the truly grim airline experiences I've been through have come mainly from Ryan air, so not something I personally would like to associate with my perfume. I am happy they don't fly from Copenhagen so I am no longer tempted into flying with them.
As for ROADS, I knew of the name, but our 'roads' have never crossed ;-)

Asali said...

Ps I feel that Truffle would have made a great ROADS model...

Vanessa said...

How d'you mean, model? She does fly through the air sometimes when she is particularly hyper, hehe.

Vanessa said...

Hi Asali,

It's a good point, and I am not sure to what extent the brand plays up or down the airline connection. I would have thought it isn't mentioned at all, but the founder's ancestry is bound to come out in reviews.

I know I had this one really bad experience in Sweden with Ryanair, but most of the rest of my (many!) flights since have been absolutely fine, in terms of getting from A to B on time. You really can't beat the budget airlines for value for money - I am also a regular user of Easyjet, Flybe and Germanwings.

LOL at your 'roads' not crossing these perfumes...

Asali said...

Exactly! Flying Truffle.

Vanessa said...

Haha - the problem is, she is so hard to photograph when she is on the move!

Undina said...

Even though I have never flown with Ryanair (they don't fly here), I've heard a lot of bad things about them :) And I'm glad you were able to get them to pay.

I've got to try Roads thanks to Natalie (APB). It was interesting that for at least several perfumes you and I had a very similar impressions. I'm surprised (and pleased) mostly with myself since what you wrote validates my notes on the testing. Harmattan was masculine and peppery; for White Noise I wrote: "I don't know where they hide all the notes that are listed" and I found Cloud 9 to be pleasant. In general, I was rather disappointed with the line: do you really need to produce 10 (ten!) perfumes none of which is actually either original or striking?! And now they have a new collection - something African, I think, though I'm not sure and I'm not tempted in the least to find any for testing.

Vanessa said...

Hi Undina,

I will carry on happily flying Ryanair myself - this was a bad do, but it was nearly ten years ago and I have had next to no problems since with them. Okay, a very hard landing in Eindhoven in the summer, so much so that I even wondered if there were actually tyres on the axles.

I remember Natalie reviewing this range but not much about her individual thoughts - though I seem to recall Graduate 1954 was one of her favourites. I am pleased that you had a similar response to the ones I featured, and I do agree that I couldn't detect all those notes in White Noise! And Harmattan is peppery all right.

Ten perfumes is a lot of perfumes to launch all at once. I wonder which other ones are doing well in addition to Harmattan. I did test all of them for the purposes of this post, but the others didn't instantly conjure up a destination in my mind...;)