|Hotel Forum, as was. Source: Wikimapia|
First I would like to pay tribute as ever to the superlative packaging in which samples of the new Puredistance releases are sent out. The company truly understands the sensuous power of the pretty parcel. Actually, my eye was drawn to this latest shipment before I even opened the cardboard outer, on account of the fact that it was addressed to 'Bonkers about PE'. However did the PR folk at Puredistance know that I am currently on a major exercise kick? ;)
Then inside was the by now customary hard shell white presentation box, swathed in bubble wrap. My eye went straight to the latter, but that is material - quite literally - for a whole other post... And there was the usual slinky ribbon, forest green this time. I am careful not to call it 'bottle', for fear of evoking unhappy memories of my school uniform. The sample itself was in the familiar black satin drawstring bag, laid on a rich backdrop of forest green velvet. Already, without even smelling the perfume itself, I had a good idea of how it was likely to smell from such opulent trappings. Something rich and luxurious, a special occasion scent to be worn in a grand setting.
The PR blurb inside the lid of the box, together with a fetching illustration of a lady in a coordinating green corset holding back heavy green curtains, left me in no doubt at all as to the creative inspiration and style of WARSZAWA:
"Inspired by the class and elegance of Polish women and the rich history of the city of Warsaw. WARSZAWA evokes the grandeur of the golden days of Fashion and Perfume. The perfume has style, warmth - great depth of character - and will make you feel beautiful in a lush way. If you care for classic feminine beauty, Puredistance WARSZAWA will unveil a dreamy world of old-time chic."
Before coming on to my own testing of WARSZAWA, I have to say right off the bat that the scent was always going to have to work hard to conjure up this romantic world, which is entirely outside my ken - and my era, obviously! Working in the field of industrial market research, I inevitably end up seeing a completely different side of the country, one far removed from the glamorous milieu conjured up by the press release.
By way of illustration, I have many memories to draw on from my various road trips in Poland. I have driven all over the country, and much of my Polish vocabulary is based around traffic signs warning of road surface deformities, the king of which is the dreaded 'koleiny'.
What I really like about Poland - due in part to my inability to speak the language - is its unstinting ability to surprise, wrongfoot, and disarm the traveller. Or me, anyway. Here are a few highlights:
- The time I bought postcards and was given a stock cube in with my change.
- Finding a shop entirely by mime that would photocopy questionnaires. (I drove to Poland specially, as Germany was having one of its many public holidays!)
- Staying in a discotheque with rooms, decorated from top to bottom in silver.
- Walking into the men's showers at a swimming pool (related to the point above about my limited vocabulary).
- A taxi driver in Krakow, who was a complete and utter star and lent me fifty quid's worth of zlotys so I could take the next train to Kielce and rescue a colleague bound for her first solo assigment, who had thrown up on the train and fainted. (This was before the days of cashpoint machines and the banks hadn't yet opened.)
- On that note, having a respondent suddenly abort a meeting, saying (via an interpreter) that he had to go to the bank. By way of apology, as he got up to leave he wordlessly handed me a set of highlighter pens, a large plastic bulldog clip, and a box of chocolates.
- The chipboard factory with a hotel attached, where almost everything in the hotel was also made of chipboard: the ultimate showcase - nay temple - to this versatile material.
- The incomparable splendour of Malbork Castle, with its atmospheric en suite amber museum.
- The scantily clad women standing at the edge of country roads, who I eventually 'twigged' were not in fact part of a Forestry Commission car pool.
- The beetroot at every turn. Which luckily I love!
- The plethora of 'stomatolog's, who - most counterintuitively - have nothing whatsoever to do with stomachs. (If Margo Kubiscik is reading, I do know that is not the correct Polish plural. ;) )
|Malbork Castle ~ Source: Wikimedia Commons (via DerHexer)|
So there you have a snapshot of my impressions of Poland, a country to which I would gladly return, though preferably with a phrase book, and not in winter. Apart from the castle in Malbork, I have not yet had the opportunity to play the tourist, not even in Krakow, which is a real shame. So given that I have no imminent plans to go back to Poland, I turned to WARSZAWA the perfume to transport me there...
Here without further ado are the notes, which I have taken the liberty of 'de-capitalising':
Notes: galbanum, grapefruit, violet leaf, jasmin absolute, broom absolute, orris butter, patchouli, vetiver and styrax
The first time I tried WARSZAWA was just before attending a hospital appointment with an elderly friend. Now bear in mind that by definition, a person at a hospital is not going to be on perfect form, which was also the case with my friend. Undeterred, I proffered my wrist for her to smell:
After a pause:
"It's very strong. Could you sit further away?"
Unfortunately, to my left was a thicket of wheelchairs, their brakes locked, so it was not practical to distance myself from her sensitive nose.
So that was the first learning point: WARSZAWA is without question a big production scent, a bosomy, womanly, all-enveloping kind of perfume. What Odiferess in her recent review calls a 'proper perfume' and a style which I am wont to describe as a 'perfumey perfume'. Apply sparingly to start with (I had doused myself rather liberally for the hospital run), and see how you go. Being pure perfume extrait @ 25%, WARSZAWA already packs a punch in terms of its concentration.
Thanks to the violet, WARSZAWA starts out as a sweetish floral; big as it is, it is also characterised by an airy feel, with a faint hint of powder. A scent that it reminds me of from the era which inspired it is vintage Bourjois Soir de Paris - aka Evening in Paris for non-French speakers - created by Ernest Beaux (the nose behind Chanel No 5, no less) in 1928. The original formulation of Soir de Paris, which was discontinued in 1969, was markedly sweeter than WARSZAWA to my nose, and made to a price point using far less luxurious ingredients, but I was nevertheless struck by a certain similarity in vibe, though I wouldn't wish to overplay it. There is some interesting note crossover too, of violet, jasmine, vetiver and styrax. Both Soir de Paris and Warszawa are what the French call 'capiteux' or 'heady' scents, and if you were feeling at all delicate like my friend, it would perhaps be better to desist from wearing this - and probably any perfume, to be fair.
|My vintage mini, now irrevocably congealed|
And while the opening of WARSZAWA is sumptuous and full on (in a paradoxically airy way!), the drydown is in a quieter register. The cloudy sensation burns off, leaving a sensual concoction I would be at a loss to parse. I suspect the combination of galbanum and broom keep the composition from veering into cloying territory. Soir de Paris rather lent that way, owing to the inclusion of violet AND lilac - but with WARSZAWA we are talking a cleaner, greener 'direction of travel' (did I really just say that??!!), especially in the later stages. It is positively juicy and sappy, and becomes progressively smoother in feel, with a tantalising hint of sherbet in the far drydown. The galbanum fades to a warm hum in the end, and there are echoes of Antonia, which Jan Ewoud Vos famously said I was 'too fragile' to carry off in terms of my build. (This was the time I met the team while on a big road trip in 2011 that took me to Groningen - and also to Poland indeed!) I sense I may well be physiologically unsuited to WARSZAWA too...more on that anon.
Going back to Soir de Paris, it was interesting to me to read what Victoria of Bois de Jasmin had to say about Ernest Beaux and this classic fragrance, for I feel the same could be said of WARSZAWA and its creator, Antoine Lie, also in the fact that WARSZAWA presents different facets - and different atmospheres/textures - as it develops.
"His style is elegant and graceful, but with a strong character. Soir de Paris, a fragrance he created for Bourjois, doesn’t just skip from one note to another; it shimmers, revealing in one moment a peppery citrus and green leaves, and in another a velvety rose and wood shavings."
So have Puredistance delivered their brief of 'a dreamy world of old-time chic? Absolutely they have. WARSZAWA is dreamy in the same way that Opardu is, without having the extra dimension of muskiness in that scent. In its unashamed, blowsy femininity, WARSZAWA seems the anthithesis of perfumes made today - or since the 80s, perhaps. Sarah spotted some kinship with the 'shoulder pad' style of fragrances from that decade, and I see where she is coming from. A few scents from that period also create this airy, 'big cloud' sensation that WARSZAWA does, initially at least. I also detect a mossy rasp - that catches in the nostrils slightly, and reminds me of chypres from that period or even earlier, at different points along the austerity spectrum. I couldn't probably name one though. A Givenchy, maybe? But for all that I am (half!) reminded of other fragrances from down the decades, WARSZAWA is an original and striking creation in itself. It is no shrinking violet, and neither will its wearers be at a guess. I'd liken it to the olfactory representation of a forest green corset - sexy in a refined way, like Ava Gardner, say. Very much an off the shoulder number, with no padding required elsewhere by the looks of it! (Now you see why on balance I feel physiologically unsuited to this scent. ;) )
|"What is that scent she is wearing?" Source: Wikimedia Commons|
To close, even if my own experience of Poland is a far cry from gas lamps, carriages to the opera and cobblestoned streets - though as I say I can certainly relate to rugged road surfaces of every stripe - I can well believe that WARSZAWA captures the essence of this bygone era, when even the Hotel Forum would have been a twinkle in a town planner's eye.