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...

Sunday 13 September 2020

The Scent Crimes Series: No 21 - The lion sleeps today, and sales assistants who are not up to speed

Source: Tony Brierton via Wikimedia Commons
Ooh, it is several years since I last did a post in The Scent Crimes Series - this may be partly due to having covered most of the usual egregious suspects already, and partly because I have been wearing my 'Visor of Ennui' for some time now. It takes a very special perfume to penetrate it, and by the same token a very poor show in some aspect of our perfume scene to make me sit up and complain. And at an undisclosed airport last week, there was a perfect confluence of those two factors...

But before I start, may I interject an update about train and air travel. From my limited experience to date during the pandemic of five trains, one tube journey and one flight, I can announce that it feels safe to use these modes of transport at the moment. Fares are cheap! There's no b****r on them! Moreover, if we don't rise up and use collective means of travel soon, I suspect many of the air and rail companies won't be there when we decide we are psychologically ready to come out from under our Covid-secure rocks and want to use them. So just as the Chancellor urged us all to "Eat out to help out", I would add: "Take the strain off the train/plane" by going on one. End of transport-related homily, sorry(!), and obviously this is very much an individual thing, but for anyone in two minds about the whole conundrum of getting from A to B I wanted to say that these modes of travel still seem to be lightly used and pretty consistently socially distanced. In my post about masks at the end of July I reported a more mixed experience on one leg of a train journey, but I think people are 'getting with the programme' as time goes on and mask wearing becomes more widespread and normalised. I would imagine you might actually be more likely to catch Covid in a gastropub where people are eating in even closer confines than on a three quarters empty train or plane, and with masks off (for obvious reasons).

So on to my Visor of Ennui, that was recently breached by the latest release from Chanel's Les Exclusifs range, Le Lion. Well, slightly released, as it is still a Middle East exclusive. As I know now, it is coming into general distribution in the early New Year, hopefully straight into the January sales, though I won't hold my breath, hehe. I am indebted to Val and Portia for the fact that a sample reached me via a highly circuitous route from Dubai to Australia to Austria to England. We won't consider the air miles involved in getting Le Lion to me, and however many they were, they were totally worth it. Which in these days of climate change concerns, you may rightly infer is praise indeed...

I don't propose to review Le Lion, as I am away at the moment and don't have my sample to hand. Also because Le Lion is a shapeshifter of a scent that skews differently on different people, and even differently on the same person(!); most of its key 'personae' have already been admirably covered by Val and Portia in their reviews (which I did originally link to, but a corrupt bit of blog code means they are not showing, sorry). From memory I can say that on me Le Lion is firstly a leather scent, with a warm hum of amber and vanilla, and the animalic vibe of PG L'Ombre Fauve asserting itself here and there, with which there is significant note crossover. Le Lion is lighter, less earthy, and more 'edible' (I use the term advisedly!) than L'Ombre Fauve, though I am a big fan of that one. Oh, and not forgetting Le Lion's hints of Shalimar thanks to the lemony facet. So yes, I love Le Lion, which has promptly shot to the No 1 spot on on my vanishingly small list of lemmings, along with Nars Audacious for which Val has also fallen hard, and back up bottles of a few things.

Source: Fragrantica

Le Lion

Notes (via Fragrantica): bergamot, lemon, labdanum, amber, vanilla, patchouli, sandalwood, musk

L'Ombre Fauve

Notes (via MimiFroufrou): amber, musk, woods, vanilla, patchouli

No, this post is rather about my experience of the duty free at the unspecified airport in question. Perfume sampling in that excited state of anticipation before your holiday is a thing of the past now...there are no promotions ladies lying in wait with testers, trying to forcibly spray you as you pass. (see Scent Crime Series: No 5 - The Tester as Tommy Gun). You can't even try fragrances unilaterally, for the testers and blotters have long been put away. The perfume hall is more like a supermarket than the sensory playground of yore. There again, for the past several years I haven't been bothered to test things anymore (see Visor of Ennui above ;) ), so it doesn't make much of a difference to me in practice. At best I might have sprayed a familiar favourite to wear that day, having invariably got up too early to apply perfume before setting out.

On this occasion, I made a beeline for the Chanel concession, and approached the SA who was hovering with no role left other than to dispense product information to would-be customers. I asked her when Le Lion was coming to the UK and she said she hadn't heard of that one. "Have you tried 1957?" she countered cheerily. I assured her I had, and that I liked it a lot, notwithstanding its goodly percentage of musk.

The sales assistant inquired how I had come to try this new scent which was not yet on her radar, and I briefly explained its complicated itinerary to me, glossing over the controversial aspect of the homemade sample, hehe. I don't think the details quite registered, for she summoned a colleague over to answer my question, who was in the middle of training a new recruit. "When is Le Lion coming to Britain?"

The more senior SA said: "Next year", before turning in my direction and adding that she had tried it already.

"So has this lady - she was in Dubai", piped up her colleague. I feebly tried repeating a shorter version of the sample's backstory, before swiftly aborting the attempt.

Ignoring the fact that I could possibly have tried Le Lion - in its exclusive sales territory or by any other means - the senior SA proceeded to tell me what it smelt like:

"It's a cross between Coromandel and Sycamore."

Hey, I know I said Le Lion was a shapeshifter, but that is some shifting of shapes to come up with such a startling comparison. I am not sure whether it might have qualified as an additional 'crime' or not, but it certainly left me puzzling over the odd lovechild such a coupling would make.

Have you tried Le Lion? Were you in Dubai? If not, does it sound like your thing?