Sunday 20 December 2020

Have Yourself a Funny Little Christmas!

Well, I promised I would return to a perfume theme in this post, after my woolly digression in the last one. I will be honest and say I am not really in the mood for writing a pure perfume post right now, as I am feeling a bit 'overwhelmed' by the prevailing existential angst and global gloom, which is regularly given a brutal fillip by the abrupt twists and turns, volte-faces (is that a plural? ;) ), and generalised rug pulling of our country's Covid strategy. I know it is a fast moving situation requiring a 'dynamic response', but the constant raising and dashing of expectations throughout the year is proving hard to absorb psychologically. So I will return to those themes I had planned when I am feeling 'more the thing', as my friend Lizzie is wont to say. I am also taking a variety of new supplements, and the promising early results of those may also spawn a future post, albeit one under the wider heading of skincare / health...

That all said, I will mention a few scent-related aspects of this year's festive season: for example, I have quite randomly rediscovered Ava Luxe's Love's True Bluish Light, and am finding its milky-amber-vanilla vibe most soothing. I fancy Undina might like this one too, if she doesn't already know it, due to its crossover with Jo Malone's Sweet Milk. 

I have also dug out my little decant of SL Fille en Aiguilles, with the specific intention of spraying my wooden Christmas tree ornament with it. I ended up on the receiving end of some collateral spritzing(!), and actually enjoyed the scent on me more than I would have imagined. I had previously dismissed pine out of hand as a note solely reminiscent of janitorial products, which I realise is very 'short-nosed' of me.

I am a big fan of joss sticks and burn incense year round. It does feel especially fitting at Christmas. My absolute favourite is nag champa, and not any nag champa either - Goloka, with its distinctive yellow and orange box.  Great for anyone who needs to make up the value of an Amazon order to qualify for free delivery. Assuming you don't eschew Amazon for being an evil behemoth, which I totally respect, even as I remain stubbornly pragmatic.

For any UK-based readers, I don't know if your Christmas plans have changed in the light of the new Tier rules that nobbled London and some of the South East yesterday; the effect in my town was not as drastic as to ban all household mixing, but you can now only see up to two other households on Christmas Day itself, instead of spread over five days. I get why they are doing it, though it will make catching up with friends more logistically tricky over the holidays. Basically we are back to outdoor one-on-one meetings, typically based around a walk, not least to keep warm!

I may end up celebrating on my own, which I have never done before, except for the first Christmas in this house, when I had a migraine and spent the day in bed. Even so, I rallied by the evening and ventured out to a friend's, who rustled me up a plated supper in front of Call the Midwife. If that is the outcome, it will be novel and interesting at least, and there may yet be fellow waifs and strays who come forward to suggest forming a festive bubble. This year has been so comprehensively strange that it almost seems appropriate for the big day itself to be a bit of a departure from the norm! 

Then I have a truly minuscule turkey crown in the freezer, which I bought intending to use to practise on ahead of the date, as I haven't interacted with frozen fowl before, but never got round to it. I will either brave the unknown, hehe, or buy a tried and tested chicken at the last minute instead. 

Truffle will be here, obviously. She is still not bringing in any prey for the Derbyshire Uni survey, the second month's lot of stats for which I am due to upload shortly. Another big fat zero hunting tally is my prediction. Truffle is currently in the doghouse - or cathouse, should that be? - after savaging a wrist warmer that had taken me all day to make and sew up. I was on Facebook, busy defending myself against a sudden outburst of 'microwavable rice shaming', and she clearly targeted that item as 'the last thing I had shown a keen interest in that wasn't her', and set about chewing it with gusto. Unfortunately the glove is beyond repair, but I have just enough wool to start the pair all over again. Up until now, Truffle has only shown an interest in balls of wool - never the finished product that incorporates all those hours of labour! - so this is a worrying development. I mention the cat's presence, for in the light of this delinquent behaviour I feel she may have forfeited her right to the usual festive morsels. By the same token, I reserve the right to relent nearer the time. ;)

To match the turkey, here is a photo of my equally tiny Christmas tree. I put it up on 5th December, which is completely out of character, having been brought up to resist the urge to decorate the house until Christmas Eve (blame Nancy Mitford, hehe). However, something about the pandemic has prompted people to bring that ritual well forward - even into November - so 5th December turned out to be almost fashionably late in our street. I guess whatever else is going on in the world, pretty lights never lose their ability to excite and delight, and so it is with me.

I think that for many, the holiday period - truncated and weird as all get-out though it may be - will be a time of reflection and taking stock. I recently came across this photograph of a gig in Barcelona from a few years back - the first one I have ever watched entirely from behind(!). The contrast between this scene and the masked and socially distanced world we live in now couldn't be more stark. I hope the 'old normal' - or something loosely approximating to it - will return one day, but I am not 100% convinced.

As well as knitting - and soon to be re-knitting, hehe - I have been enjoying reading lately. My current book is Mrs Bridge by Evan S Connell, a superbly understated study of a 1950s housewife's life in America. If you like the little period touches in The Queen's Gambit, this might well appeal. There are some priceless lines, such as this comment about Mrs Bridge's husband Walter:

"For a while after their marriage she was in such demand that it was not unpleasant when he fell asleep."

After I have finished this I am spoilt for choice, with several tottering tsundokus in the living room to dive into. For I am as much of a compulsive book buyer as I am of wool - and used to be of perfume. However, I promised my English teacher (with whom I am still in touch!) that I would read The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton, which I bought when it first came out. Just checked - the print is not too small, which often puts me off tackling books.

Then does anyone else do that thing where you buy yourself presents and put them under the tree unwrapped? I have got into the habit of doing this, and this year so far have bought myself a calendar, a diary - okay, they technically count as 'office essentials' - some socks, a little pottery bowl with a bottle of gin and a cat on it(!), and a bicycle pump.

So I think that is all for now - for those who are celebrating I would be interested to know whether you buy yourself presents on top of the ones you receive from family and friends, and also, crucially, how different your Christmas will be this year...

Monday 7 December 2020

'Multi-coloured Monday': a cyber sale of woolly wares (aka Bonkers knits).

Following on from Black Friday, and my custom perfume purchase for my friend during 4160 Tuesdays' Hot Pink Weekend, I decided to invent a new cyber sale colour of my own - or rather, a multi-coloured one, to reflect the nature of the items on offer. And they are not merely multi-coloured on aggregate, but some are individually variegated to boot, Jacob's Technicolour Dreamcoat-style.

I have never really featured my knitted output on Bonkers before, because it is supposed to be a perfume blog after all. That said, the number of readers who come here for the perfume posts is doubtless vanishingly small, as they know what a motley collection of other topics I have been wont to cover. And as it happens, the next two posts I have in mind are about perfume, properly speaking, so that should cheer any hardliners amongst you, hehe. ;)

Ear warmer / headband

What prompted me on this occasion to draw attention to my knitting venture - under the brand name of Runraglan Knits - is the fact that the pandemic has forced my friend Gillie to cancel the traditional craft event she holds at her house around this time, at which I also sell some of my knitting. The money I generated in that weekend was a similar proportion of my overall sales in a year as it would be for those benighted restaurants also in Tier 3, who do the bulk of their trade in the festive season, and can't serve so much as a Scotch egg at the moment. By the same token, I can't even go in Gillie's garden, never mind any potential customers, though had we fallen in a lower tier, we had seriously considered having an al fresco sale there!

'Band tour scarf' from Germany last year!

Thus it is that I am adding a link below to the public Facebook page for my crafty side hustle, in case anyone has not finished their Christmas shopping and is still on the lookout for a gift idea or two. Assuming they aren't a knitter themselves, obviously.

Runraglan Knits

You would need to scroll down quite a bit to the heading 'OTHER POSTS', where I have uploaded collections of items by category. There are five different sub-groups of scarves alone! Prices start at £6 for a pot holder / small dish cloth or a book mark, and go all the way up to £60 for a pure cashmere scarf that may have taken me two series of Happy Valley (and a fair few Panoramas and train journeys) to make. ;) But there are many things in between. Message me (through the page or on my blog email of flittersniffer at gmail dot com) for individual prices where it is not clear. For they do vary quite a bit in categories like scarves, for example, depending on the length, yarn type etc. One or two of these are in fact discounted for being 'rather vivid, veering towards neon', and while I enjoyed making them, their commercial appeal is a mite moot.

I can post anywhere in the world, and will include a quirky novelty with each package, unless explicitly asked not to.

Now I am very mindful that many of my fellow bloggers and friends have already bought - or been given - my woolly wares, so this post is really directed at people I don't know, who may not even be reading. So to say this is a bit of a wild punt on my part is an understatement. But hey, nothing ventured...

Oh, and Undina suggested the other week that I could consider covering fewer topics in one post and generally making posts shorter. Possibly even blogging more often as a result. Well, I don't know about the more frequent blogging, hehe, but I am definitely going to try keeping posts a bit shorter, so as not to overface people, like Victor Hugo's Les Miserables. It recently came to my attention that that book is a whopping 1200 pages long - fancy that! 

Saturday 28 November 2020

The Rare Witch Project: A REEK Perfume Damn Rebel Witches hunt - with a lot at stake...!

Source: REEK Perfume

I say, did you go a bit mad this Black Friday? I didn't buy an enormous telly, an Amazon Ring Stick Up Cam Battery (in contrasting white!), a Ninja Foodi 7-in-1 Multi-Cooker, or anything of that gadgety ilk, but I did do some impromptu Christmas shopping, the nature of which I obviously can't reveal. I also scored some bargain health supplements - neither vitamins nor minerals as such, but offbeat vegetal things that purport to cure oxidative stress, lower cholesterol, and generally finetune your brain like the Holland & Barrett equivalent of WD40.

Oh, and I stocked up on no fewer than three jars of Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel for my particular type of normal/combination skin, about which I wrote a mini-review a year ago. It is usually about £12, occasionally discounted in Boots by a third to around the £8 mark, but these pots were £6.99 each, so had to be snapped up. I am indebted to Caroline Hirons for this moisturising epiphany, and have been using it non-stop ever since I saw her talking about it on a morning TV show. It is fantastically hydrating, and though goopy going on, soon dries to a silky soft consistency. It doesn't contain any SPF, so I apply a tinted moisturiser by Paula's Choice that has SPF30 in it on top. It truly is like an instantly plumping bath for my increasingly crepey skin.

Source: Amazon

Then the other day a friend contacted me (he features in a number of past posts, including this one), to say that his daughter had fallen in love with a REEK scent I had given him to try in one of my lucky dip bundles of samples, and which he had in turn passed on to her, to wit Damn Rebel Witches - not to be confused with its rhyming stablemate, Damn Rebel Bitches. She had tried to google it with a view to buying a bottle for herself, but drew a blank.

Should anyone need reminding, this duo of perfumes was the brainchild of historical novelist Sara Sheridan and her daughter Molly, in collaboration with perfumer Sarah McCartney of 4160 Tuesdays. They wanted to honour the feisty exploits of Jacobite women, whom the brand describe as "powerful" and "unapologetic". The two REEK scents were sold in the Urban Reivers pop-up store in Edinburgh, which opened at the time of the Edinburgh festival in 2016, and sold a variety of Scottish-themed "luxury treats and gifts".

As an aside I simply must mention that my friend Clare had a dog Meg - no longer with us, sadly, but who has been featured on Cafleurebon! - and was also the offspring of a pedigree spaniel rejoicing in the patrician canine name of Whaupley Reiver. This list of his equally whimsical progeny is easily as absorbing as anything you will read on here!

Anyway, my friend's daughter drew a blank with stockists of her new favourite perfume, Damn Rebel Witches, so turned to me for help via her dad. Always happy to help foster the cause of niche perfume in any way, shape or form, I thought to contact Sarah herself, to inquire if she knew of any stock still knocking around the UK - assuming the REEK brand had indeed been discontinued.

Sarah did confirm the demise of REEK, but gave me the good news that she was now poised to resurrect the Damn Rebel perfume pair under her own brand, and pointed me in the direction of her Hot Pink Weekend sale. Knowing Sarah to be an individualistic canoe paddler, I am not at all surprised that she wouldn't be so dull and conformist as to stick with Black.

Source: 4160 Tuesdays

Having consulted with my friend as to his daughter's quantity requirements, and bearing in mind the very attractive discount applying this weekend, I custom bought a couple of bottles, which should last her a good long while. You never know when things might be discontinued again for one reason of another, so it made sense to stock up, I felt.

It was nice to reconnect with Sarah through this quest: she has the rare distinction of being the only perfumer ever to visit Bonkers Towers (on her and her husband's way down from Morecambe). I was very glad to help track down this proxy lemming, and it was a happy coincidence that I knew Sarah and was able to get to the bottom of the supply situation.

Then I learnt from a piece by Suzy Nightingale for The Perfume Society, that another one of Sarah's scents, Maxed Out, is amongst Molly Sheridan's top five smells, along with bread, petrol, Chanel No 5 and Elnett hairspray - august company indeed. I have a sample of Maxed Out somewhere and am curious to give it another go, even though I am not at that point, despite my Black Friday splurge...;)

The empty vial that sparked the hunt!

Saturday 14 November 2020

Covid Nose: can we all still smell?, plus a lockdown medley

Brandon Gregory [CC BY-SA 4.0] via Wikimedia Commons

Covid Nose

The other week one of the tenants in the house next door popped his head over the garden wall - rather too close(!), looking back, and announced that he had just had a Covid test delivered, as he was suffering from flu-like symptoms, and had lost his sense of smell. I dived back inside my house sharpish, hoping that the virus wouldn't be able to leach through the wall, like the occasional whiff of weed. I never did find out if he had the illness or not, but the exchange got me thinking about this quite distinctive symptom of Coronavirus, present apparently in about 60% of cases. From ENT UK:

"Post-viral anosmia is one of the leading causes of loss of sense of smell in adults, accounting for up to 40% cases of anosmia. Viruses that give rise to the common cold are well known to cause post-infectious loss, and over 200 different viruses are known to cause upper respiratory tract infections. Previously described coronaviruses are thought to account for 10- 15% cases. It is therefore perhaps no surprise that the novel COVID-19 virus would also cause anosmia in infected patients."

The phenomenon is more common in women than men apparently, and can sometimes even be the only symptom of Covid. I know of two other young people and someone of my own age to whom that happened when they fell ill with the virus, and in all three cases they recovered their sense of smell after some weeks. From what I have read to date, I don't think the anosmia is irreversible, but obviously this is a very individual disease, so there may be exceptions to the rule. I thought to mention the matter, as losing one's sense of smell is such a blow for a perfume lover, and I wondered if anyone else had had this experience. 

NIAID [CC BY 2.0] via Wikimedia Commons

Reading more, and judging a book by its cover

According to the little black notebook I keep for this purpose, in 2019 I read a paltry 12 books in the whole year, or one a month on average, while so far in 2020 I am up to 21 books, with seven weeks of the year still to go. Two were admittedly slimmish volumes of poetry, and one an even slimmer self-help-type book - Derren Brown's 'A Little Happier', which I highly recommend by the way - but many were in the 300 page range, with a few doorstopper thrillers half as long again.

The other day I felt moved to post an 'unbook review' of a recent read on Facebook, 'Everything Under' by Daisy Johnson. It was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2018, which didn't sway me either way, for the winners often write works I find as impenetrable as their names unpronounceable, and having now read 'Everything Under', I find the accolade frankly baffling. Yes, I have to confess that I picked the book out in a charity shop purely on account of its beautiful retro cover.  

"Now I am as liberal as they come, but 'Everything Under' proved to be an outlandish case of minority bingo. The story featured not one but two cross-dressers, one of them living in a shed, the other a child murderer with a limp, learning difficulties, two different identities, and an unfortunate start in life in a wheelie bin. There is also a bisexual woman with Alzheimer's, incestuous tendencies, and a surprise ability to do handstands, a number of grumpy fishermen, a floating female butcher, and a peripatetic river monster called The Bonak. None of which is a spoiler. I should perhaps have spotted the two reviews which both described the book as 'unsettling'."

What the cat hasn't dragged far!

At the start of this month, I received a tip off from my former lodger about a study being conducted by Derby University, amusingly entitled: 'What the cat dragged in'. They were appealing for feline volunteers, so I enrolled Truffle immediately. I also put her forward for a camera and/or GPS experiment, about which Truffle would be appalled if she knew, as she is the kind of cat who sloughs off a collar minutes after it has been forced on her. The study requires me to upload her prey stats (dead and alive) every month, and bone up on the difference between a mouse, a shrew and a vole, using a handy illustrated pdf they have supplied. Not sure what I am meant to do if Truffle only leaves me a spleen or a tail, as has been known. I am also mindful that her kill rate is massively down since the Covid crisis - to almost nothing in fact. It makes me suspect that much of her hunting in the last couple of years was attention-seeking behaviour, for there was a steady procession of Airbnb guests over that period, and she may have felt left out. By contrast, I have only been to France since Covid struck, and the cat has had me around far more than she is used to. That is not necessarily a wholly positive thing, mind, for she seems to have switched to hunting me, and has an annoying habit of biting my arm at the drop of a hat.

Truffle may also have found another outlet for her attention-seeking tendencies, namely crashing Zoom calls!

Photo courtesy of Sarah Rayne

Remembering The Non-Blonde

Facebook reminded me this week that Gaia Fishler, aka The Non-Blonde, who died suddenly in late November last year, would have been 50 the other day. A Non-Birthday, if you will, and how poignant that Gaia didn't even make that modest middle-aged milestone. I have a soft spot for her, not least because of her great work caring for all those cats, our shared love of MAC Taupe Satin eyeshadow, and the fact that when I was starting out with Bonkers, Gaia was possibly the first 'senior blogger' to add me to her blog roll, and give me that bit of a leg up through her endorsement.

Gaia and Lizzy via her blog

My ongoing Olive Oyl transformation

Okay, now I don't mean to overplay this, but I have been inspired by fellow blogger, born again DJ, and all-round good egg Val The Cookie Queen to carry on using the piece of gym equipment I inherited a while back from ex-Mr Bonkers - to whom I had originally given it 20 years ago! - and have been working out more on than off since March, with noticeable results. My thighs are somewhat more solid (though obviously not up to Val's steel pylon standard  ;) ), instead of being a flaccid mass flanked by a jodhpur flap. I also have discernible bulges on my shoulders and upper arms, although my underarms are still a bit batwing-y, and I hope to find more exercises to specifically target those areas. 

'But I would walk 10,000 steps'

And now that we are in fullish lockdown again, one of the few things we still can do apart from grocery shopping is go for a walk with one friend. I have been doing quite a lot of long walks in and around Stafford, both on my own and accompanied by a series of singletons seeking company. The not being able to be inside other people's homes is a mighty inconvenience though. For yesterday after a particularly long walk on the local marshes (18,200 steps!), my companion went into her house to warm me up some soup, which I proceeded to stand and drink on the pavement outside her house(!). But it is what it is, and I do have the lockdown to thank for the fact that I have been devoting a lot more time to exercise indoors and out, not least for its mental health benefits, which are considerable.

'Chase View'

Knitting for England

I have no comparative statistics on my knitting output in 2019 versus this year, but I can say with confidence that 2020 will have massively dwarfed it. ;) I have been knitting non-stop in fact, and find the action of the needles meditative and calming. This year I have added a couple of new categories to my repertoire, namely bookmarks and ear warmers. Yesterday I had a flask of tea on the allotments with the friend known as Crafty Kate, and she went home with this pale cream and beige number, which she thought nicely wintery in its colour scheme. "For when you don't want your whole head to be hot", she went on to explain. I may upload an album of photos on Facebook of my latest projects sometime soon and link to it on the blog, in case anyone who is not a knitter themselves fancies picking up any handmade items for themselves or as Christmas presents.

I would be most interested to learn how everyone is doing in terms of dodging the virus - or not! - and also how your life has changed due to the pandemic, and what coping strategies you are deploying to get through this 'unprecedented' time.

Thursday 5 November 2020

Results of the Puredistance RUBIKONA giveaway!

Now that lockdown is upon us, I am getting on with indoor activities, including the all-important task of selecting two winners of the Puredistance RUBIKONA samples.

I promised readers that the odds were excellent, as Bonkers receives very few comments, plus I am mindful that other giveaways had preceded my post, heading off some of the demand. 

The last time I held a draw - for a Puredistance GOLD sample - there were eight participants who wished to be entered, and one vial up for grabs. This time there were only four such readers living in the UK - at least I think they all do - and TWO samples, giving entrants a 50% chance of winning. How much better is that than the National Lottery! Or even the throw of a dice. 

I used again, which seemed surprised that the number range was so short I could almost have flipped a coin. If there had been three winners, I really could have picked the last one that way. ;)

Without further ado I can reveal that the winners of the RUBIKONA samples are:





Drop me a line on flittersniffer at gmail dot com with your postal address and I will happily brave the lockdown regulations to get your perfume off to you. I will choose a Post Office that is also a shop and construe the sortie as a unit of exercise or a foray for milk.

Sunday 25 October 2020

Hidden gem, aka a corundum conundrum: Puredistance RUBIKONA review (eventually!)

Source: Puredistance

Ever since I was a little girl, I have loved secret things. I don't mean secrets as such, though goodness knows I have kept a few of those down the years(!), but things in secret places...usually, but not always small things. The miniaturisation aspect contributes greatly to the objects' sweetness, it always seemed to me. But I also mean something observed from afar, so it appears mysterious or elusive. Take the puppets you watch longways in a shoebox theatre, for instance. Then on childhood holidays in Ireland on the way to our seaside caravan, we would pass a house at the end of a long drive. It had a wrought iron gate which was overgrown with creeper, and the drive itself was more like a tunnel due to the intertwined branches of trees on either side. You could just about spy a glimpse of the house itself in the distance, which massively piqued my brother's and my curiosity...A good everyday example of 'small secret things' might be an advent calendar. (It's nearly that time!) I haven't had one since I was a kid, but I can imagine I'd still get the same frisson of excitement on opening each little door and viewing the picture behind. Or finding the piece of chocolate, to which the secret may well have upgraded these days. Not forgetting nests of Russian dolls - the littlest one in the set was impossibly sweet! - and roos in kangaroo's pouches.

Source: Amazon

One of the most memorable illustrations of this principle was a plastic souvenir altar my father brought back from his travels to Spain or Italy, which stood on the mantlepiece of his study. Despite its being unashamedly cheap and kitsch, I derived endless fun from opening the little door in the centre of the altar to reveal a tiny gold chalice - in my memory it is against a red background and backlit, but that is perhaps the embellishment of my imagination. I may be getting muddled with this votive candle I lit in St Therese's basilica in Lisieux last year. The candles in the photo are actually a bit blurry, but that serves my purpose in fact, as will become clear. But you can tell a red theme is at least forming, with a side of religious imagery that may also prove significant in these meandering musings. I thought I might be able to play on the perfume's namesake of the Rubicon river and its wandering course, but having consulted a map I see that the river believed to have been the ancient waterway so famously and irreversibly crossed by Julius Caesar is in fact shortish and disappointingly straight.

Here is the altar, or one just like it, which does indeed have a red back panel. This is from a Worthpoint auction site, so it may have been worth a bob or two, had we known!

And lastly there is the miniature cargo that came with one of my favourite childhood boardgames, Buccaneer. How adorable are those gemstones and little ingots and barrels of rum! How many attractive combinations there are to play around with of boat colour and pirate swag. ;) These little plastic replicas still thrill and excite me, like the chalice in its niche. Check out those tiny rubies...

Source: Shpock

And now - rather circuitously - we have at last come to the gemstone itself which inspired the creation of Puredistance's latest release, RUBIKONA.

I do actually have some professional experience of the jewellery business, having worked all over America for De Beers on a project mapping the supply pipeline for diamonds. Coloured stones were mentioned in passing, but diamonds were the main focus. A quick google of industry websites has confirmed that the market for rubies, like diamonds, is every bit as arcane and insiderish, with its own impenetrable jargon. ;) Here are a couple of fun facts I gleaned:

1) Burmese rubies are the most prized of all. The Prince of Burma weighs in in its raw state at 950 carats. If it were cut, it would produce a stone of 300 carats, which the jeweller from whose website I learnt this staggering nugget, wrily observed is: 'possibly not realistic for a stud earring'.

2) The most desirable colour for rubies is 'pigeon blood red', which is a very deep shade, though I have not dissected a frog in biology class, never mind a pigeon. Interestingly, if you google 'pigeon blood red' you get a whole slew of pictures of rubies - loose and set in rings etc - and absolutely nary a one of pigeons, wounded or otherwise. Oddly, there are pictures of fish, which appear to have annexed the name. Then some rubies have their colour enhanced through heat treatment, which arguably involves the same cheat factor as acquiring your sunkissed look in a tanning salon.

The 25.59 carat Sunrise Ruby, via Wikiwand

And now on to some specialist terms from and the GIA website, which are every bit as eclectic as in the diamond world, and which I see include the term 'inclusions', meaning anything naturally occurring which gets trapped inside a mineral as it forms:

3) Rubies and sapphires are the same mineral, known as 'corundum' - they just differ in colour. And there's more...

"Typical ruby clarity characteristics include thin mineral inclusions called needles. When the mineral is rutile and needles are present in intersecting groups, it is called silk...Some inclusions can actually contribute positively to a gem’s appearance. The presence of rutile silk causes light to scatter across facets that might otherwise be too dark. This adds softness to the color and spreads the color more evenly across the ruby’s crown."

I will spare you asterisms, cabochon cuts and pleochroism(!), about which the article goes on talk, or we really would be here all day.

But hey, 'rutile silk' - wasn't the detour worth it for that gem of a term!?

There is much more on this mineral phenomenon here, in which the author - amongst other gloriously offbeat revelations about the formation of silk inclusions - quotes Joni Mitchell, and also likens these 'daggers of rutile' to a 'beguiling silk lattice'; meanwhile The Natural Ruby Company speaks of the 'sleepy transparency' conferred to rubies by the little needles. 

Source: Lotus Gemology


I apologise for that monster preamble before getting down to the nitty gritty of what RUBIKONA is like. But I would make a case for all the foregoing being relevant, for one of the key powers of scent is to trigger memories, and as you can see, that has happened to me in spades here! And there is also the alchemy of how RUBIKONA conjures the impression of this red jewel in olfactory terms. Where is it in the composition, when does it emerge? As the fragrance unfolds, there is a secret, hidden, trompe-nez of a gem, glimpsed from afar - and occasionally close up - which teases and fascinates my nose in equal measure.

The first thing to clear up is the actual inspiration for RUBIKONA, as oppposed to my own gemological and other riffings. 

"The creation of this perfume started with the word RUBIKONA that combines the deep and warm colour red of a RUBY with the timeless beauty of an ICON...RUBIKONA is 'Chic inside Out'".

The word 'icon' is meant here in a couture sense, rather than my religious take on it, but Jan Ewoud Vos, Puredistance's founder, is not the sort to mind where the mind takes the wearer of one of their fragrances. Though this post may test him to the max(!).

Source: Puredistance

I say, does this dress look like rutile silk to you? ;)

The perfumer behind RUBIKONA is Cecile Zarokian, who created SHEIDUNA for Puredistance.  As ever, the fragrance is extrait strength, at 28%.


Top notes: Grapefruit, bergamot, mandarin

Middle notes: Rose, iris, ylang, clove, orange blossom, creamy notes

Base notes: Patchouli, cedarwood, vanilla, solar notes, musk

When I heard the name of the new scent, I wondered if it might be diva-esque like Vero Kern's Rubj, with its vampish teaming of narcotic white flowers and an exotic fruit bowl. It isn't, and doesn't smell remotely like Rubj, which I do like, but which is quite full on. I note that Vero Kern's scent also has bergamot, mandarin, orange flower, cedar and musk, which information I will park for now and possibly feed into my 'ruby detection matrix' by and by.

A perfume I thought of fleetingly when I first sniffed RUBIKONA was Guerlain Shalimar Parfum Initial. Here there are seven crossover notes: bergamot, orange, rose, iris, patchouli, vanilla and musk. The only similarity that struck me though was its patchouli-forwardness, notwithstanding the many notes in common. The vetiver and green notes - and possibly what Robin of NST cleverly identifies as its "flat" feel and "ever so slightly almond-y" facet - take Parfum Initial in a dull, vegetal and relentlessly patchouli-driven direction. I am so with Robin when she says: "It's something else entirely, and whatever that something else is, I don't find it all that compelling."

No, I think the stylistic register to compare RUBIKONA to might be Penhaligon's Iris Prima, which I included in my 'Careful Whispers' series. It has the same 'diffusive, indistinct' quality, which makes it so hard to parse. Funnily enough, I originally thought of dropping RUBIKONA into that series, before I even spotted the atmospheric likeness between the two scents, but what a waste of a good title that would have been...! ;)

Source: Puredistance

It is hard to parse, as I say, but here goes anyway...RUBIKONA opens with a noticeable showing of patchouli, but the earthy salvo is held in check by a wistful posse of powdery iris, sensual florals, and a creamy musky trail that persists throughout. It is not chilly or austere as some iris-containing scents can be, and strikes me as neither vintage nor especially modern. This is despite the mention of 'solar notes', which I first came across as a term in Guerlain's Lys Soleia, and which I associate with contemporary scents, even though I gather they have been used in perfumery in one guise or another for a long time. Here I am guessing they infuse the composition with a sunny radiance that helps connote the idea of a ruby catching the light. I am not really aware of any overt citrus element at any point in the fragrance's development, but I expect the rose (betcha they were red!) - and the various orange notes (as in Rubj) - together suggest the warmth and depth of a ruby. Of the requisite pigeon blood shade no less. Now RUBIKONA is not a dark scent, for it is of course refracted by our rutile silk inclusions(!), but it is 'darker' and more grown up than Iris Prima, while remaining resolutely subtle and staying close to the skin. Over time, RUBIKONA becomes a gentle, attenuated version of the aforementioned wistful posse, their having by now wrangled the patchouli into submission in fairly short order, not that it was ever loud to begin with.

So did I find the ruby in the composition? I am going with a combination of patchouli, orange, rose and solar note facets (see what I did there?) answer!

To sum up, I am a big fan of Puredistance 1, and BLACK, and GOLD in particular. Puredistance 1 reminds me nostalgically of the early days of my perfume hobby, coming out just a year before I fell down the rabbit hole; BLACK I associate with happy times touring with the band; GOLD makes me think of my work trips abroad, which once even took me to the HQ of Puredistance itself.

 And now the understated, hidden gem in the Puredistance stable that is RUBIKONA is definitely up in my top two or three of the eleven releases so far. It reminds me of so many things as you can see! Which may go a long way to explaining why I feel such a visceral connection to the Puredistance brand. Their scents are elegant, singular, wearable, and made from high quality materials, with exquisite packaging. And to be fair, prices to match - though as Undina points out in her post (see link below), considering the perfumes are extrait the price per ml is in fact very reasonable. And crucially they are also evocative - and as I said above in mitigation for my meandering memories - for me that is what the best perfumery is all about...

The Graff ring via


Source: Wikipedia

NB Note the Rubicon river above - a lot less wiggly than my review, as you can see - but if you have got this far, it is TOO LATE NOW! The die is cast, and the post is read...

er...not quite!

The forgotten anniversary

For it is only now that it has suddenly occurred to me that it might be my 11th blogging anniversary around about this time of year, and it turns out that it is in fact today. ;) Well, there is no point writing a separate post to mark that milestone, but I can think of no more fitting brand to devote this post to instead. I will celebrate with a virtual Ruby Red Buttercream cake. (Photo via Liggys Cake Co.)


Tuesday 13 October 2020

'Be more Undina': another full juice count and radical 'reorg' of my perfume collection - Part 2

I am a little bit behind with things, even by my own 'slow blogging' standards, but I did say the deliberations over my full bottle collection warranted a separate post, and so I think it will prove. In Part 1 I quoted some of my thoughts at the time of a collection 'reorg' in 2014, having completely forgotten that three years later I conducted another one, and wrote a post focusing on my decision-making MO, entitled: 'Lemmings and lemons reprised: a current capsule collection of 20 desert island scents'. I was clearly getting maximum mileage out of its pleasingly rhyming title...! And how could I even have missed that more recent post, which suggests that I am drawn to such existential musings every three years...;) Maybe it is good that it had slipped my mind, because I compiled my latest list of 'what I would keep plus what I would acquire' - aka 'my desert island scents' - without reference to the choices I made in 2017 or 2014. Or at least not until the very end, haha, when I succumbed to a spot of last minute tweaking. Nor did I consult the list of possible ways to make my selection, though looking back it is spot on, for this time round I did in fact use a haphazard melange of all the MOs mentioned in the 2017 post. These may bear repeating, namely:

  1. The burning building speed grab method
  2. The systematic review of ALL perfumes owned, including samples, to determine favourites
  3. The travel bag 'nuclear precedent' approach (that's nuclear in the 'capsule', not 'apocalyptic' sense)
  4. The fragrance family method
  5. The scents for all seasons method
  6. The scents for all occasions method
  7. The covering all my favourite notes method
  8. The scents I had happy times in method
  9. The inclusive perfume house / perfumer approach
  10. The Bois de Jasmin seal of approval approach
I have just thought of another one: 'The association with the early days of my perfume hobby method.' Jasper Conran Woman snuck onto my list that was discontinued for a while, but seems to be back in stock now on a number of internet retailer sites. Ooh look - my fourth post out of a current tally of 704...;)

Does anyone remember this? ;)

Eyeballing that method list, I think I mostly homed in on #3, #4, #5, #7, and #8, but I did have a bash at #1 and #2 before abandoning both: with #1 I feared I might miss things, and with #2 I ran out of patience pretty fast, limiting my research to anything in a bottle, in a decant with a metal top(!) (because that connotes value/importance in the receptacle pecking order, ditto Travalos), or smaller samples I could remember spontaneously. So given this slapdash, flip-flopping smorgasbord of scent selection methods, there is no way I could remotely liken myself to Undina, hehe. I am reminded of my Latin textbook, which was called: "The Approach to Latin". Five years into learning the language and it still seemed like a hazy mirage on the horizon - I may have been approaching Latin in tiny imperceptible increments, but I certainly never got close.

Now before presenting my list of 20 (so much for the 15 target!), I have had to revise the figures of my bottle count, as a few more came to light, plus one had gone off**, and one I decided was more of a purse spray, when larger quantities were available. 30ml is therefore my chosen cut off to be classed as a 'bottle', unless the brand don't do a bigger size. Hence the inclusion of HOCB Immortal Beloved, for which the largest size appears to be 10ml. 

Source: HCOB

(**There might be more scents that have turned in fact, but I haven't the heart to try them all to find out, hehe.)

The total (excluding the perfumes I can't bring myself to include for reasons touched on in my earlier post) was 63 in the end, though a few are nearly finished. 

Of these, I bought 31, so about half. As I mentioned, the remainder were a mix of gifts from friends (mainly fellow perfume lovers), and the brands themselves, plus a handful I inherited (from my own -and somebody else's - mother).

For reference, here is my modest list of 20 from 2017... To which I retro-added a seasonal split, though I don't think it was a major driver of the final cut. I have added italics to the ones I actually owned at the time, so you can see the lemming proportion (quite high!).


Wintry scents

Guerlain Attrape-Coeur
Chanel Bois des Iles
Caron Parfum Sacre Hermes
Hermes Doblis
Tom Ford Private Blend Fleur de Chine
Ormonde Jayne Ta'if
PG Brulure de Rose (have run out of this now, but used to own it)
DSH Cimabue 
Flower by Kenzo Oriental
Christian Dior Ambre Nuit
House of Cherry Bomb Immortal Beloved
Prada Candy

Summery Scents

Annick Goutal Songes edt
Ann Gerard Perle de Mousse
FM Carnal Flower
Mona di Orio Tubereuse
Serge Lutens Un Lys
EL Bronze Goddess
ELDO Fils de Dieu, du Riz, et des Agrumes
En Voyage Perfumes Zelda

And here is today's selection, with only very minor amendments, when I realised I had forgotten a few things.



DSH Foxy
Chanel Bois des Iles
Caron Parfum Sacre
Hermes Doblis
PG Brulure de Rose
DSH Cimabue
House of Cherry Bomb Immortal Beloved
Prada Candy
EL Bronze Goddess
Mona di Orio Tubereuse
Ann Gerard Perle de Mousse


Scents I already own

Annick Goutal Songes edt
Annick Goutal Chevrefeuille
Flower by Kenzo Oriental
Bvlgari Black
Jasper Conran Woman
Papillon Perfumery Bengale Rouge
Ormonde Jayne Ta'if
Diptyque Volutes edt

I think I am disproportionately leaning towards wintry fragrances, although these are not flagged up as such. This is likely in response to our current dismal weather. ;)

Note that the two lists have a lot of crossover, even though they were largely compiled independently and several years apart - 13 of the 20 (or two thirds approx) are the same as last time - and if you said I could only have 2017's list I wouldn't lose any sleep over it. I came very close to including five of the perfumes on that list, in fact! The same goes for the more generous list from 2014 with 30 perfumes in it. Because as we perfumistas know, so many alternatives would fit the bill we'd probably be happy if a friend picked us out the scents we had to wear. After all, it is through friends (you know who you are!) that I have discovered most of my recent fragrant loves. 

Then bubbling under the twenty are a number of what I called 'podium-hustlers' in one of my earlier posts - some of these are from the earlier list; others are sadly discontinued, so it seems a bit pointless to include them, but I have strong feelings for those scents regardless. Thinking of Balenciaga Cristobal - the edible fig scent - Damien Bash Lucifer #3, Guerlain Plus Que Jamais, and Prada L'Eau Ambree to name but a few. Strictly speaking, I shouldn't have Hermes Doblis, as it was released as a Limited Edition, and the chances of finding some today are vanishingly small. If I shouldn't be breaking my own rules again, I would substitute Cuir de Lancome instead. 

And of course I reserve the right to change my mind the moment I hit publish!

As you feel about your 'wardrobe' today, could you limit yourself to 20 perfumes? I'd be interested to know...

Editor's note: Oh dear...I spilt a full mug of tea on a pale carpet in my efforts to take this photograph of the bottles I already own that made the list without getting a shadow of any of my body parts in the frame! All the photos I have subsequently taken are a bit blurry, probably due to the artificial light. It does at least show the lengths to which I go to try to illustrate my posts with appropriate images. ;)

Sunday 27 September 2020

'Be more Undina': another full juice count and radical 'reorg' of my perfume collection - Part 1

I am confined to barracks at the moment, for reasons which will become apparent in a later post (in case you are wondering, no, I'm not ill ;) ). I would challenge the notion that staying in - whatever prompts this - is the new going out, and I soon began to feel a little odd and 'not myself', as evidenced by uncharacteristic flurries of decluttering. On a whim one day I decided to move the half dozen or so full bottles which had somehow insinuated themselves in my decant drawer and store them with the other bottles. Then before you could say "leaky atomiser", I had knuckled down to a comprehensive reorganisation - or 'reorg' as they say in the aerospace company where my friend works - of every bag, box, and tray containing every bottle, decant and sample I own. This took all day, and even the cat wearied of it after a while, and she does like boxes as a rule.

It is six years since I undertook anything comparable, so I have scurried back to look at that post and see how I approached things last time. It seems the theme of it was more about 'fantasy collection whittling' than the process of reorganising per se: 

"...following a recent massive reorganisation of my perfume collection - the tedious and largely illogical principles of which I will spare you - I kept coming back to the idea that I would really love to own far fewer full bottles - maybe around 30, say, instead of well over twice that number. I couldn't quite face sitting down with a blank piece of paper and compiling a list of which scents should be in the 30, so I decided to approach the question from another, more intellectually - and emotionally - forgiving angle. I took a long hard look at my current collection of full bottles and asked myself which ones I would buy again if I had my time over...I decided to strip price out of the equation and focus purely on which perfumes I would wish to hold on to for themselves, and not because - when considered in the round - they represented 'good value for money'."

Six years on, I reckon I could easily be happy with a collection of 20 full bottles rather than 30 - perhaps as few as 15. But we will see...I'd like to come back to that later in Part 2 and see what has changed in my collection itself and my preferences within - and outwith - it.

So the focus of this post will be the 'tedious and largely illogical principles' of my perfume reorg, for though I agree wholeheartedly that it has been just as illogical this time round, I think its very illogicality might conceivably be entertaining. Well, you can be the judge of that, hehe...

Step One - Remove full bottles from boxes, and store boxes in a separate container

Except, that is, where the footprint of the box with bottle in it is minimally extra (Crabtree & Evelyn Iris), or where I am especially drawn to the box for some reason (Papillon Perfumery Bengale Rouge and those novel-looking Tauer tins), or I want to keep the box and bottle together as I might sell the perfume in question soon (Miller Harris Fleurs de Sel), or I have an irrational fear that the bottle might fall over on its own (no examples, due to aforesaid irrationality of the idea). In short: 'Store some boxes in a separate container'.

Step Two - Group all full bottles together, whether or not they are still in their boxes

Except, that is, the ones I wish to disown, because I don't like them, or because they are in some way not worthy of being counted as 'proper perfumes' - these will be stored with the boxes and not included in the final tally. (I am trying to give them away to charity, but it is hard to get charity shops to take donations these days, if they are even open.)

For reasons of discretion, I shan't name names, as most were gifts or PR freebies. The remaining two bottles are vintage Lancome Magie Noire, my visceral attachment to which in the 1980s I am at a complete loss to explain, and Lidl's Suddenly Madame Glamour. Sure it is a great dupe of Coco Mademoiselle and all that, but at £3.99 it is without question much too cheap to count. In case anyone is interested at this point, the tally (excluding pariahs) is 62. This includes a nearly finished 30ml bottle of Jo Malone Vanilla & Anise, and another of vintage Rochas Femme parfum. So if I got a wiggle on, nostril-wise, the total could be down to a round 60 in no time.

NB The keen-eyed observer may spot that there is a sub-set of bottles grouped together by square or rectangular top design.

Step Three a) - Divide the 'book-shaped' carded samples into thematically meaningful categories

This is interesting...and further evidence that packaging format is 'shaping' up to be a key driver in determining where a perfume ultimately lives. The three way split turned out to be:

Designer / Niche / Samples in the little blue cards from Les Senteurs ;)

Step Three b) - Keep all other carded samples of whatever shape together 

To this I added 'samples in paper bags from meetings of Perfume Lovers London', as they didn't fit anywhere else.

Step Four - Throw away empty or leaky vials, and any I vividly remember being disagreeable 

This was hugely satisfying - you wouldn't believe how many things had evaporated in the four years since I last inspected my collection up close! NB If I couldn't remember clearly whether a perfume was disagreeable or not, it got a last minute reprieve. I did not venture to retest it..oh no...

Step Five - Isolate vials with just a tiny bit of juice left in them

The aim here was to keep this set of nearly finished samples to hand in my bedroom to encourage me to 'thunk' a sample a day until further notice. I should move the Jo Malone and Femme to join them really.

Step Six - Bag up big collections of samples by brand and keep in a box

The thinking behind this was logical, while appearing somewhat arbitrary...for while small bags of samples such as those belonging to En Voyage Perfumes or Vero Profumo could be comfortably housed in little compartments in my wooden drawer divider, the bigger bags needed to go elsewhere - the likes of Papillon Perfumery, 4160 Tuesdays, and Geza Schoen, who kindly donated lots of samples to the band when he memorably attended a gig in 2018.

Staying with the system (I use the word loosely) for the wooden drawer divider and beyond:

Step Seven - Group decants by colour of metallic top(!) 

Step Eight - Keep miniatures and Travalos broadly together

Step Nine - Group atomisers by body material - glass / plastic - and by length (in any material!)

Step Ten - Keep vials in individual poly bags together

I am not sure why these samples were ever in poly bags in the first place, except where the perfume names were too long to write on a label on the vial itself - these being all 1ml.

Step Eleven - Bag up remaining spray samples, split by niche and designer

BUT don't bother doing that with the 1ml samples! - being of a lower order, on account of their size and lack of sprayability, they just got stuffed in bags with no theme, though to be fair in that size they are more than likely all going to be niche - eg from The Perfumed Court or Lucky Scent (ah, those were the days...;) ).

Step Twelve - Keep unlabelled / unknown samples together 

(Oooh, I came very close to chucking these.  For I will never run so short of perfume that I will need to resort to sniffing anonymous samples...though I suppose it could be fodder for a blog post some day.)

Hmm, a Twelve Step Programme, I see, hehe...

Yet one so haphazard as to make the comparison with Undina and her rigorously methodical cataloguing almost blasphemous. Though you could also say that the 'Be more Undina' injunction still holds for that very reason.

And I am not sure that this account of my sorting MO was even slightly entertaining after all. In terms of its illogicality, however, it was arguably right up there with some of the Covid guidelines.


Now, going back to the full bottles, out of the 62, 31 I bought; 13 were gifts from friends and fellow perfumistas; 13 were PR freebies, and 5 I inherited - quite literally - from a deceased person.

I only paid full retail on about 10 of the c30 bottles, and bought many on eBay, Amazon or discount sites.

Of the 62, I probably would only wish to own about 10 of them again, but I do have quite a few additional lemmings, which would take my tally to something approaching the 20 I mentioned. But that might be better explored in Part 2...

Do you have a more logical system to storing your decants and samples? It could hardly be less logical! I would be curious to know...