Sunday, 17 February 2019

Serendipitous and subliminal sillage surprises, and functional fragrances punching above their product category

Apologies for another long hiatus between posts: if this keeps up, I will have to google the plural of hiatus to see if it is in fact 'hiati', and take great care not to get it muddled with the disaster-torn island in the Caribbean of the same name. In my flimsy defence, I was laid low by a flu-like entity for a couple of weeks, hard on the heels of the two sickness bugs I had in December. And I have also been busy lately with an unexpected flurry of work, which unfortunately overlapped with the most acute phase of the aforementioned viral entity. (Not a good combination, and one I hope never to repeat!) But more of the work would be great...;)

Now somewhere in that mix was a smattering of Airbnb guests, who were most congenial company, and two of whom are coming back soon. I have now had enough people to stay to start noticing a rather interesting phenomenon, of which more anon. The first point I wanted to explore is the smell of a house - any house. I couldn't tell you what my own house smells like - in a general, ambient kind of way, I mean - but I do know that when I step over the threshold into other people's places, such as the friends whose cats I feed, their homes have a completely different scent. I would love to do a blind test, whereby I am guided into one of these houses at random and asked to guess where I am purely by smell.

So that is definitely 'a thing'. And what I have also noticed, when I have gone into the bedroom where my Airbnb house guests have been staying, is that that room invariably also has a (new) smell of its own, most likely that of some toiletries they brought with them, with my money being on shower gel. On quite a few occasions now my nose has encountered a pleasant trail of scent, whether in their room, on the landing, or in the bathroom itself, that can last up to five days after the people have gone. Sometimes it is a sort of fruity, tangy fragrance - I spied a bottle of the Body Shop's Satsuma shower gel in the bathroom once - while other times it is more of a fresh, clean scent that I couldn't really place or describe, other than to say it is agreeable, and 'other' than how the room smelt before.

And my enjoyment of guests' (presumed) shower gel sillage reminds me of a recent post by Odiferess, in which she laments the explosion of new releases in the so-called 'niche' perfume market, dismissing many of them as cheap dross. She goes on to say that there are bodycare products that can easily hold their own with these pretentious perfume parvenus. And I couldn't agree more, indeed even before I had the experience of catching residual wafts of guests' toiletries, I had already been revelling in the scent of my own current shower gel, a bracking - bracking?...okay, bracing and cracking then - citrus and cardamom combo from Champneys. I cannot recommend it highly enough, especially at the price. The addition of cardamom is a nice counterpoint to the lemon and orange bouquet - or do I mean fruit bowl? - which could otherwise have lapsed into something blowsily generic. I am not a natural shower person, but I really could see myself turning into one with the enticement of this gorgeous product. What do you mean, I could just squirt some shower gel in the bath? I read labels, me. And for the record, I am not the sort either to defy social mores by having pancakes on Ash Wednesday.

Odiferess references the Elemis line of spa products - as Champneys is of course - which is another fine example. I have already blogged about the truly uplifting scent of my Label M hair mousse, into whose pot I could just bury my nose and inhale deeply, even if I have now reluctantly concluded that it makes my hair far too sticky to actually use. ;)

And finally, on a side note, I knitted a scarf as a Christmas present for a friend, who mentioned after wearing it for the first time that it smelt 'quite strongly' of perfume. I was taken aback to hear this, as I had smelt nothing myself, and had also knitted the entire thing on my lap, which is self-evidently unscented. Transfer of perfume from wrists to needles also seemed a bit of a stretch, so the only other 'transference occasion' had to be during the few seconds I tried the scarf on myself when it was finished, to check out its looping capabilities. For I cannot swear I wasn't wearing perfume then, albeit I would have applied it many hours earlier. The good news is that the scarf is washable(!) - and that the smell may wear off of its own accord eventually. Though I know perfume impregnating fabric can be pretty tenacious.

So there you have the guests may not know that their shower gel sillage lingers in the atmosphere after they leave - not that I mind at all! - while I had no idea I had 'knitted' my perfume into this scarf. Plus I have no idea what my house smells of generally, though if you have been there, you may do...!

Do you have a favourite bath or body product that is 'almost as good as perfume' - if not better in some cases...?


Unknown said...

You are so right Vanessa! I absolutely love a few body product scents - Kneipp Instant Peace showergel is heliptropey and gorgeous and their lavender is great and herbal. My favourites though are the Mandara Spa products in Sainsbury's - the Oriental Dream in the purple tube is absolutely fantastic and the body cream leaves a lovely sillage on the skin. I'm tempted to try the Amber Dream scent in the range.

Vanessa said...

Hi Lisa,

I thought Kneipp was a brand of umbrella - oops, that is Knirps, sorry. Rewind! Glad you have found some fragrant body products - the JS range would certainly be accessible to me here, though I have a lot of toiletries to get through before I am in the market for new ones. I remember I also like Bayliss & Harding's Mandarin & Grapefruit range of unguents, which is cheap as chips anywhere you see it.

Ines said...

I completely agree that different houses have different smells. And if I go on a trip and stay long enough from my place, I can smell it when I come back. But only in those scenarios, everyday work doesn't have the same effect.
As for shower gels, I love it when I can smell their sillage afterwards and now I'm looking forward to using the Nivea one I have that smells exactly like sunscreen, the childhood one.

Vanessa said...

Hi Ines,

Was interested to read about your 'house sniffing' experiences. I am going to try very hard to smell my own, after the next time I go away.

Fragrant sillage is one thing, nostalgic sillage takes the pleasure to a whole new level! Enjoy your Nivea. ;)

crikey said...

While you'd expect aluminum not to absorb scent, I suspect my laptop smells strongly of perfume given that my wrists sit against the slightly warm areas either side of the trackpad for several hours a day, and have done for several years.

I love the scent ghosts that people leave behind them in rooms. Well, usually. I make exceptions for the Stinkers on the Bus, for example.

I miss being able to use shower gels--coconut derivatives that I can't tolerate in all of them. A couple of the Molton Brown ones were lovely, and the citrusy-cardomom you mention sounds *good*. But my wash-time delights are the Tauer soaps. Very long-lasting complex scents, and lovely texture too. Oh, and the amazing Rose Ispahan soap that the awfully nice Dior SA gave me as freebie. I used that down to the very last sliver.

Anonymous said...

The Champneys Citrus Blush is lovely and smells sooooo much more expensive than it is - the Body Butter is great for parched legs and that scent is quite addictive.

Absolutely agree that every dwelling has its own particular odour, good and bad, and I always liked returning home and breathing in the familiar smells. Since moving to the new house this is a bit difficult - there is a fight between our aromas and those that linger from the previous owners (no matter how much I clean), but I know that eventually we will win. Just takes time.

Crikey reminded me that there are other "ghost" smells, ie perfumes that actual supernatural spirits release into the air .... we lived in a very haunted house when I was a child, and every so often there would be an overwhelming fragrance of lily of the valley wafting through the rooms ......


Vanessa said...

Hi crikey,

LOL at the thought of your laptop getting impregnated with scent. That really is a fragrant feat. What an extraordinary notion about ghost scents. You and Jillie should get together and pool your knowledge in a spooky post next Hallowe'en!

I remember your coconut issue - that was why I became the delighted recipient of your cast off Emma Hardie balm, I think?

I do love a good scented soap. My favourites to date are Roget & Gallet sandalwood, not that you can find it anymore, and the rose one in the Savons de Marseille range. Not tried the Tauer ones, but they sound divine.

Vanessa said...

Hi Jillie,

Firstly, thanks so much for mailing me that link to the Champneys set for the bargain price of £10! I posted it on my Facebook wall, where there is another mini-discussion going on about this topic. I wasn't sure if you are on Facebook unless you are the lady in Kent? ;)

How interesting about the clash of aromas in your new home. I do recall Tara has/had a similar phenomenon going on in her new flat, albeit a localised one in the hall!

Ghost smells... As I say above to Crikey, that is a whole other subject for a post, though you two would have to write it, as I have no supernatural scent experience. ;)

Tara said...

Hi V,
As you know I've been most disconcerted about the flat not snelling like mine when walk in the door but hopefully it will at some point.
I love Aesop bath/shower products the most for scent but they cost a bomb. Will get The Body Shop and Champneys ones now though.

crikey said...

I didn't really mean ghost-ghosts, more the echo of someone's presence that you get when you can smell that they have been in a room even though they have left.

Though, some scents do persist for such a very long time I suppose they act as ghosts. There are a few things of my father's... there's one box I still can't unpack and sort because it has some old jumpers in it that, though clean...aye, well. Yes.

But I think that very old houses do hold traces of the lives lived in them. I once visited a bronze age archaeological site in Syria, they were still working down through the layers. The earth bricks in one room in the palace still had a faint trace of the scent of oranges--scented oil had been worked in as it was built. Four thousand years ago.

So maybe there *are* scent ghosts...

crikey said...

oh. yes. the balm! I hope you enjoyed it :)
Those R&G soaps are lovely. I keep one of the old carnation ones in my t-shirt drawer, even though I can't use it. Yep, again, silly coconut issues...

The Tauer ones are, sadly, on hiatus at the moment and Les S. are out of stock... if you know anyone who is going to be in a country he posts to, however, i can't recommend them highly enough.

Portia said...

Blogger just ate my long winded and lovely comment.
Basically it said, try Tabu Shower Gel. Cheap, smells amazing, makes good bubble baths and lingers for more than a day.
Portia xx

Odiferess said...

Hi Vanessa,
Thank you for feedback on my blog post, I must admit I was a bit nervous when I hit the publish button.
I love the idea of your guests leaving a scented ghost of themselves behind. I have so many memories connected to toiletries and it was interesting to read of your connection to Roger and Gallet. In my youth when I was working as a Sales Rep for a magazine publisher, I rather fell for one of my advertisers. When we met up at a trade fair in Madrid we stayed at the same hotel. The weekend was punctuated with the whiff of a freebie bathroom goodie, a Roger and Gallet 'oat' themed shower gel that had some astonishing sillage. I don't think they make it anymore but if I ever smelt it again I would be reminded of the peculiar sensation of milky oats being extraordinarily sexy!

Undina said...

I’m also familiar with the phenomenon of houses smelling differently. I think it’s especially true for those households where people cook a lot.

I previously wrote about a Sandalwood soap on a rope that smells wonderful. Since then I saw that the brand also has it as a cologne but I doubt it’ll be good - so I’m not pursuing it (I would have tried it but not as a blind buy, no matter how inexpensive). I also use Stash body oil in my shower, and it smells good - though I’m not sure I’ll go that far to say that it’s better than perfume itself. Let’s say, each application has its own merit. And then I remembered one product that, in my opinion, is better as a body wash than as perfume - Jo Malone Grapefruit. Admittedly, I haven’t tried any of the two in a last 2-3 years, but from the previous experience that was the case.

Vanessa said...

Aha, *metaphorical ghosts*, I am disappointed now, hehe. Though the 4000 year old orange oil is nearly as good.

I love the balm so much I am eking it out, and saving it for 'treat cleansing occasions'. Yes, there are such things! Your coconut allergy was my gain, thank you.

Vanessa said...

Hi Tara,

I do hope you eradicate the hall smell eventually - I thought it might already have shifted. Are the diffusers not quite cutting it?

Aesop is not a brand I have come across - I see they look a bit 'fashionably clinical' like The Ordinary.

Vanessa said...

Oh I am sorry, Portia - you didn't copy it to clipboard first, as Undina always advises? I wouldn't trust Blogger NOT to eat a comment, frankly.

Tabu would not be my thing I don't think - isn't it rather animalic and retro? But I know it is seen as a classic all right. xx

Vanessa said...

Hi Odiferess,

I am now adjusting to the reality of these 'ghosts' not being actual supernatural phenomena, haha.

Ooh, that R & G shower gel sounds amazing, and I am not surprised you associate it with some very fond memories. ;)

Vanessa said...

Hi Undina,

Oh, I am glad you can also relate to houses having their own smell - I hadn't thought of the cooking angle, but that makes sense.

I remember your soap on a rope - there is something about sandalwood soap that just works so well. LOL at 'each application has its own merit' - a splendidly measured response.

Now I can well imagine that that Jo Malone works better as a body wash - I do not like grapefruit in perfumes, but am very partial to Bayliss & Harding's Mandarin & Grapefruit line of body products, which I mention above in my comment to Lisa.

Anonymous said...

Hi Vanessa!! It was so nice meeting you last week!! What a pleasure. I dont have a FB or Twitter account. Can you possibly write to my email when you get a chance? Thank you, Diane

Vanessa said...

Hi Diane,

Sorry, I only just received notification of your comment(!). I so enjoyed meeting you too. See also my latest wil be featured in Part 2!

Will check if I have your email.

Vanessa said...

Oh, Blogger isn't showing me your email. You didn't give it to me on the night did you, and I have lost it? Try me on flittersniffer at gmail dot com and I will reply!