|Avery scent animals|
It was about 10.30am by the time I arrived at Undina's and her vSO's place, luggage in tow. Having stashed it in a corner of their living room, we sat down to an impromptu breakfast of cheese, crackers and truffles (I like the cut of their culinary jib!), washed down by two mugs of most superior Earl Grey. I was intrigued to see Undina put marmalade in her tea, which I hadn't come across before, but a spot of googling confirms it as a thing. Then I was excited to note that their accommodation had the exact same make and model of bathtub (Carron Delta!) as in my bathroom, along with towels the colour of the woodwork - Purbeck Stone, to any Farrow & Ball fans out there - which made me feel even more at home.
Before we set off, Undina helped rationalise my bags and applied a prophylactic blister cream to my heels, as I wasn't wearing any form of hosiery that day. I did say in Part 1 that I love being 'straightened out' by Undina, and I really meant it! I think I was quite good during the day at keeping my one remaining bag shut (and safe from robbers, a tip I learnt from Undina in Paris), but my persistent habit of walking fast and/or jaywalking between parked cars needed periodic reining in. Undina's vSO came with us, and did his usual thoughtful peeling off trick in search of blokey emporia at each of our perfume destinations.
|Royal Arcade, Old Bond Street|
First up was Ormonde Jayne's original store in Royal Arcade, Old Bond Street, where we quickly got chatting to two ladies from South Carolina - serious fragrance lovers who were just off the plane and ready to pound the pavements between perfumeries on a major acquisition offensive. Undina was able to help them out with information on reclaming VAT and/or getting their purchases past customs - I was only listening with half an ear at this point, as it didn't apply to me - and they were fulsome in their thanks for her seasoned advice.
At Ormonde Jayne, Undina was keen to sniff Jardin d'Ombre again - on skin this time - though it can only be bought at Fortnum & Mason. Meanwhile, my wrist was deployed as a scent mule for Ambre Royal, a Harrods exclusive. Jardin d'Ombre seemed promising to begin with - a citrusy green floral reminiscent of Tiare - but as the day wore on, it collapsed down to a nondescript blur of cleanish musk. Ambre Royal was a pleasant fuzzy amber, but we both felt we had that box ticked already in our respective collections, so it too was ruled out of our inquiries, along with Sensual Lover and Passionate Lover. The names alone of that pair might have done it for me, to be fair. And I speak as a huge admirer of Ormonde Jayne, one of the brands with which I have historically had the best 'strike rate'. I once likened their original range to a fragrance capsule wardrobe. I even thought up actual outfits to go with each one. ;) And Ta'if is possibly in my top two fragrances of all time - certainly my top five. However, Ormonde Jayne's range seems to have mushroomed since I last looked, as well as adopting an exclusive positioning (in terms of both distribution and pricing) on certain fragrances, and I must confess I find it harder to relate to the brand these days.
While in the Ormonde Jayne store we also sniffed the powdery, slightly oudy oriental, Rose Gold, which we both liked, even though it costs a wallet-whittling £345 for 120ml. Its manly counterpart, Black Gold, weighs in at a hefty £420 for 120ml, which would be exorbitant if it had in fact been actual oil. At Selfridges, our next stop, we encountered the third scent in the trilogy, White Gold, which was upcoming at the time of our spritzing blitz, but which has now been officially launched in that store, also on an exclusive basis. I liked White Gold even more than Rose Gold, to the extent that I shall post its notes, collated from Now Smell This.
Notes: jasmine absolute, white musk, orchids, leaf green molecule, pink pepper, mandarin, bergamot, clary sage, carnation, orris, freesia, vanilla, ambrette, cashmeran, amber, moss, tonka, labdanum, opoponax, vetiver and cedar.
We had estimated half an hour to 'do' Selfridges' - now even more extensive perfume halls than when I was last there - but thanks to the indefatigable patience of Undina's vSO, managed to renegotiate this to nearer an hour. In that time we scored samples of Rose Gold (Undina) and White Gold (me), and I was able to study the opaque bottles of this trilogy for the first time. Rose Gold was in a hot pink bottle that wouldn't look out of place on a Bond No 9, and which was also not dissimilar to my small pink knitting indeed. My views on opaque bottles are well documented elsewhere on Bonkers, but it doesn't stop me loving Amouage Honour Woman, say, and it wouldn't put me off White Gold either, had the price been right.
Editor's note: A reader has kindly pointed out that the bottle in the centre of this display in in fact ONE. I think the SA must have whipped a tester of White Gold out from behind the counter.
There was heaps more of interest in Selfridges, not least these animal-themed ceramic scent diffusers offered by Avery. (See also the pair of dogs at the top of the post. Undina and I scoured the fixtures in vain in search of a cat.)
Avery turned out to be the surprise stable for a host of brands, including ROADS Fragrances, which I have reviewed on the blog. I should point out that throughout the day, Undina had far more stamina than me for the actual business of sniffing, mainly from nozzles and on card. From time to time she would encourage me to join her in appraising something she considered of interest, or to ask my opinion on the notes we were smelling. (Tara would have been a better person to approach, had she been with us!) And here and there I got a rush of blood to the nose and got stuck in myself, notably when we came across the highly original - and punning! - Italian concept brand, Jusbox, whose bottles, sleeve notes, blotters, and assorted promotional material were based around the theme of vinyl records, the whole thing executed with gloriously whimsical attention to detail.
Undina and I were deeply impressed by the novelty of this brand, which had an extra resonance for me on account of my musical connections, and we tried them all on record-peeping-coyly-out-of-its- sleeve-shaped cards.
I initially thought I liked a spicy number called 14Hour Dream, but was quickly troubled by a phantom heliotrope note that I still seem to smell on the card some 10 days later.
We both liked Black Powder best, which is inspired by the 90s Grunge scene and its iconic spokesman, the late Kurt Cobain, and both came away with a sample. The blackcurrant top note caught Undina's fancy - no surprises there!
Notes: blackcurrant, apple, pimento, suede, tobacco leaf, olibanum, sandalwood, tonka bean, patchouli
We also swung by the Jo Malone concession briefly, where Undina public-spiritedly paused to refresh the 'tester stoppers' of one or two of their scents. I reminded myself how much I like Mimosa & Cardamom, and noted in passing that 30ml now costs £44 instead of £30 odd back in the day. I don't know if that is down to rising costs of ingredients or general opportunism, but prices of niche (I use the term loosely) seem to have increased across the board in recent years, with Roja Dove's line famously seeing the price uplift equivalent of a Harrier Jump Jet taking off from a warship. And being a bit of a born again tuberose lover, I also tried Tuberose Angelica, part of the Cologne Intense range, but it was too intense, sadly, despite a flurry of card wafting attempts to quieten it down.
Other highlights from our Selfridges session were the male fragrances, Layton and Pegasus from Parfums Marly, though I was found the fussy pink livery of the top-selling feminine scent, Delina, a tad disturbing.
It reminded me of talcum powder or those rather garish opaque Xerjoff bottles, and to my eye looked cheap, to be perfectly honest.
Just around the fixture, I fell hard for Amouage Blossom Love, despite its also coming in a pink opaque bottle! The opening notes were like being in a pillow fight of orange-inflected petals, and again I feel moved to document the notes:
Notes: bergamot, heliotrope, amaretto, ylang, rose, cherry blossom, amber, tonka bean, vanilla and suede
Well, well, I see there's an actual heliotrope note and it didn't bother me at all. Colour me inconsistent! We also smelt Bracken - again in Undina's case - and whilst I found it interesting, it was absolutely not my thing, and got progressively 'strange fruit-ier' as it wore on.
It was way past lunchtime by now, and so we popped into the cafe on the corner by Les Senteurs for a quick snack to fortify us for the final leg of our sniffathon. And here we had another of those comedy moments when Undina and I discovered we were both carrying Dior lipsticks...in Paris it had been a case of 'Burberry bingo'. What are the chances of that? So obviously Undina's vSO had to photograph this uncanny coincidence...
|'I'll raise you Pisanelle Pink!'|
Undina's vSO sat on the famous stripey sofa to the rear of the store that is the ideal base for resting spouses, while Undina and I went for one last testing 'push', aided by the chatty and helpful Harley, who turned out to be proprietor Claire's niece. I daubed myself in Superstitious, the much talked about new release from Frederic Malle, in the hope that it would come up as prettily as on Tara; an hour or so into its development Undina and I remained to be convinced. I did come away with a sample to try further at my leisure, ditto one of ELDO's Fils de Dieu du Riz et des Agrumes, a bottle of which I definitely see in my future. Or more likely a split bottle with my friend Rachael Potts. I was also delighted to introduce Undina to Caron's Parfum Sacre, which I was hopeful she would like, and so it proved.
By five-ish we really were all sniffed out - okay, speaking for myself, I mean - for back at base, Undina went on to roll up a trouser leg and spray a sample I had brought for her to try on her knee (one of the few remaining clear spots left), before quickly rustling up a reviving meal of salmon and sour cream tortilla wraps. I will definitely try replicating that back home. I also extracted all Undina's blotters from between the leaves of my notebook where I was keeping them carefully separated for her, collected my luggage, and said my goodbyes. It was a real wrench, no question.
|Not the ones we ate, but we discussed all meanings of 'tortilla'|
Unfortunately, due to a conspicuous absence of tubes at Bayswater, I missed my (specific!) train back to Stafford. It took me eight conversations with staff at two rail companies and London Underground to extract a chit that confirmed the delay on the Circle Line (which they vehemently denied, but gave me the benefit of the doubt anyway!) to get my non-transferable ticket authorised for use on the next service, so I didn't have to buy a whole new single for the same money as my return. So that was a result, and only added an extra hour to my journey time.
So what did I learn over the course of the two days about the stage I am at in this hobby? Well, that I am somewhat less eager to try new scents than I was a few years ago, probably because I have so many things I feel I should use up first. However, I still have the capacity to get excited about new perfumes (and even crave bottles of them), though I might struggle to integrate them into my oversized collection without pangs of guilt.
And I also had further confirmation - not that it was needed - that it's the people in our perfume world who matter most. And that while fragrance is the catalyst for our bonding, if you took it away, the friendships would still have a momentum of their own...
NB Val gave me this bunny via Tara. It didn't make it beyond Rugby.