Monday, 27 April 2020

"She and Salv": two train-themed perfume mini-stories with a surreal soapy twist

The other day I heard I was going to be awarded a partial refund of £11.86 by CrossCountry Trains, to compensate me for missing my connection on a journey that seems like a lifetime, but was only in fact some seven weeks ago. I got very excited by this, for together with the £15 proceeds from selling an old half tin of paint to a friend of ex-Mr Bonkers, that's pretty much it for income at the moment.

And the email made me think back to the glorious era of train travel - or any travel indeed - and to a couple of perfume-related incidents which happened this year, one on a train in fact. In the first case I found myself sitting next to a lady of my own age give or take, when she suddenly fished a canister of YSL Rive Gauche out of her handbag, upended it, and proceeded to use the shiny metal base as a compact mirror to apply lipstick. The resourcefulness and nonchalance behind this gesture impressed me in equal measure, and I couldn't help but strike up a conversation with her, starting with a comment to the effect that you don't often come across people wearing Rive Gauche these days. My fellow passenger, who introduced herself as 'She' (you can readily guess what Christian name that was short for), was fulsome in her praise of Rive Gauche, which was no less than her signature scent. She was so worried that it might be discontinued that she had recently bought a back up bottle at Manchester airport, so we chatted a bit about that dismal phenomenon (discontinuing perfumes, I mean, not the airport, of which I have nothing but fond memories). I learnt that she was recently retired and off to see her sister, 'Mad' (you can guess her name too with relative ease!). There was a third sister, also with an amusing contraction, but it has slipped my mind now. Anyway, I had great fun shooting the fragrant breeze with She for as long as our journeys coincided. And no, Vanessa, it's not "shooting the fragrant breeze with Her", even if that is your understandable instinct.

The same weekend, I was given a present by a fellow fan of The Monochrome Set of a vintage set of Salvador Dali miniatures. I didn't inspect the contents of the box till the following day (on another train!), and it afforded that special kind of delight associated with small, secret things, somewhere between a doll's house, a shape sorting toy, and an advent calendar.

There were two perfumes from the 80s: a daytime diva-ish floral, and an evening diva-ish oriental, plus a tiny bar of soap, perfumed bath oil, and body cream - all of them shaped like Dali's trademark lips. That should perhaps be 'mouth of soap' then. The perfumed body cream container had a dear little swivelly lid like a sugar bowl that only fits snugly in one position, while the other three had pull off tops like the spikes atop a wrought iron gate.

At a guess the body cream is past its best, but still smells rich and opulent, as does the bath oil. You can hear a little bit swishing about if you shake it.

Thanks to Basenotes, I have found the notes for the perfumes, both by Alberto Morillas and launched in 1983:

Parfum (the orange coloured one):

Frankincense, bergamot, clove, rose, jasmine, mimosa, sandalwood, patchouli, oakmoss, musk

Parfum de toilette (the pale yellow coloured one):

Top notes: aldehydes, basil, bergamot, fruits, green notes, mandarin
Heart notes: orris root, jasmine, lily, lily-of-the-valley, orange blossom, rose, tuberose
Base notes: amber, benzoin, musk, myrrh, sandalwood, vanilla, cedar

You can readily tell from those notes how retro and big production the two perfumes smell - definitely of their time. But remarkably well preserved. If I am feeling bold one day - and let's face it, lockdown is the ideal occasion - I might give them an outing. Or the indoor equivalent, obviously. ;)

And I am getting through a lot of soap at the moment, however, I reckon that with it being so distinctive I'd have to be on my very last sliver before I broached the cute little lips bar...


Tara said...

Loved hearing about She and her ingenious use 9f the River Gauche cannister. A picture too! My mum wore it in the late 70s so it has fond memories for me.

More perfume/band crossover with the Dali minis. That delivery would be enough to cheer anyone up in these dark times.

Vanessa said...

Hi Tara,

She was happy to pose for the picture, and I took quite a few, all exactly the same as it turns out! Interesting about your mum wearing Rive Gauche. I have one friend of about your age who likes it.

I have reverted to little girlhood with the Dali minis, and love playing with them. In such good nick for nearly 40 years old.

Anonymous said...

Those Dali miniatures are so very cute. In those days of "yore" I didn't care much for that perfume - perhaps I found it too rich, but I wore Dali's Laguna; this came in the lip bottle and the glass was a beautiful pale greeny-blue (or bluey-green). The scent was light, citrussy, a little ozonic and a bit coconutty. In fact not my sort of perfume at all!

As for Rive Gauche ... how I loved it. I felt so sophisticated when I wore that. I think I have always been a fan of aldehydes and rose. And that distinctive stripey tin (only matched by a Charles of the Ritz fragrance which came in silver and burgundy metal).

That train journey must have sped by with you two chatting - how lovely for She to meet with someone who appreciated her choice.

Take care.


Vanessa said...

Hi Jillie,

The perfumes are very rich, I would agree! Don't know any others from the Dali house, though I see on Basenotes that it was quite prolific in terms of its releases. I like the sound of the Laguna bottle, if not the perfume so much. Well, not the ozonic aspect - I like all things coconutty!

I am a fan of aldehydes and rose but 'pre-perfume' I never encountered it. Though the metal canister was familiar at least. My fragrance knowledge was extremely sketchy before 2008 in fact.

Undina said...

It seems that for a while traveling will be mostly down the memory lane (sigh).
I can “see” you taking perfumes to She (not Her! :) ) - by the way, for those of us who isn’t that versed in British names, what would be her given name?

I tried only vintage RIve Gsuche and liked it very much, but since my rule is not to buy vintage perfumes if I haven’t loved them before they were discontinued, I stopped at that sample.

I never wore any Dali perfumes but I liked many of the bottles and even considered buying several perfumes to put those bottles on my dresser display. I still might. Now I have an empty bottle of Laguna on that display tray: I got it (back in my native country 20+ years ago) from a co-worker to whom we gave it as a gift, after she finished it. I must say though that my recollection of that perfume is very different from Jillie’s: the way I remember it, there was nothing aquatic about it. But I’m sure it has been changed so many times in the last almost 30 years, that the discussion is mostly academic: I doubt any of us would ever decide to wear it now. But those bottles are gorgeous, in my opinion.

Vanessa said...

Hi Undina,

Travelling is the stuff of fantasy at the moment, I agree. She is short for 'Sheila'.

As I was looking for that sample of Sweet Milk for you, I chanced across one of Rive Gauche so will try it soon.

Very interesting about your encounter with Dali perfumes, especially Laguna, the same as Jillie, though your takes on it differed slightly. For info here is Kevin of NST on the subject of how it smells:

"Laguna was created by perfumer Mark Buxton and lists notes of iris, lily of the valley, rose, pineapple, ambergris and vanilla. I can smell all of those (blatantly synthetic) notes if I strain my nose (‘pineapple’, ‘ambergris’ and see-through ‘vanilla’ stand out), but overall Laguna’s notes seem blended by a hurricane: a "blur" of slightly sweet aromas melding into a watery, fruity, sheer floral concoction, light and airy, but with good lasting power on skin. I don’t find Laguna too feminine for men; the dry-down of ambergris and vanilla (and a note that smells of fresh white bread sprinkled with sugar) sounds heavy but the perfume is “jaunty” — a good choice for warm-weather (and post-exercise) anointment. Though Laguna aims for a marine-beach-y, outdoor vibe, there are no obvious Calone/ozone notes present."