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?


Anonymous said...

Haven't tried Le Lion, although would like to being a) a "Leo", and b) a cat person. Never been to Dubai but did work briefly (in London) as a temp for an airline based there ... was not a good experience, especially when the manager I worked for wouldn't sign my time sheet cos he didn't get his wicked way with me!!

I once had a sales assistant on the Guerlain counter telling me the most incredibly wrong things about the company and its fragrances - I started to quibble, but realised there was no point. It was then that the realisation dawned on me that employees don't necessarily have the training nor possibly the enthusiasm for their job.


Tara said...

V, I love the 'Visor of Ennui'! I've been wearing one for a while too. Le Lion is a great exception and it's a lot of fun to get everyone's interpretations. I know some people mention Coromandel but Sycomore is way out there. It's much closer to Shalimar on me.

Vanessa said...

Hi Jillie,

Oh well if you are a Leo - and I know you are a cat lover and multiple cat owner - this should likely appeal.

Your airline story was quite shocking, though not so unusual for the day I suppose, being long before the 'me too' movement.

Lack of correct product info does seem to be quite widespread in the industry - as you say, it could be down to training or enthusiasm. The pay may not be sufficiently motivating.

Vanessa said...

Hi Tara,

'Visor of Ennui' popped into my head the other day during an exchange with Val in fact, and it stuck. ;)

Regarding how Le Lion smells, I could certainly imagine people might get aspects of Coromandel, though for me it was much more like Shalimar due to the citrussy notes - glad you agree that Sycamore was right out of left field!

Mals86 said...

Apparently I've been wearing a Visor of Ennui as well. (In related ennui news, just this morning The CEO bade me discontinue our satellite TV service, because he no longer has interest in televised sports.)

Le Lion has no appeal for me given its notes, but I'm very glad to hear that it penetrated the Visor for you. XO

Vanessa said...

Hi Mals!

Lovely to hear from you and be suddenly reminded of the 'old guard' in blogging terms. Interesting that you are also in an ennui phase - maybe there is no coming back from it now, though I do occasionally feel a frisson of excitement about a new release, as with Le Lion. Like the CEO, I am not into watching TV as much as I used to - certainly not live TV - and most of what I do watch tends to be documentaries or boxed sets on Netflix. x

Undina said...

My friend (who you knew as a perfume mule) would have probably objected to those rhymed proclamations (he becomes slightly greenish color every time he sees a public announcement on a freeway “Click it or ticket” :) ), but I just loved your “Take the strain off the train/plane“ :) ). I was going to! But the airline has canceled my vacation. Oh, well... They haven’t returned my money, so sooner or later I’ll fly to somewhere.

Thanks to Portia :) I’ve also tried Le Lion, liked it and even participated in the split done by hajusuuri :). I think it’s funny how many different perfumes people compare it too. In addition to what you mentioned, I also saw Mitzah. And for me - it reminds me strongly of Tea for Two and Atelier’s Vanilla Smoke. Not identical, but similar enough for my nose.

That COVID situation had an unexpected effect on me: my wish/to buy lists have suddenly exploded. I’m trying to pace myself because I do not need any more perfumes, but I’m tempted. And I’m even looking at buying more samples because I can’t try anything at stores :(

Tatiana said...

I've been curious about this one ever since I heard about it from either Val's or Portia's review. If it indeed has that lemony smell of Shalimar it's a no-go for me. On the other hand if it smells like Tea for Two, I'm all in. I suppose I will just have to wait until it's released here in the U.S.
Unlike Undina, the Covid situation had made me realize I want less, so all my wishlists have been slashed dramatically. I'm even rounding up unloved items to do a destash.

AustralianPerfumeJunkies said...

Heya Vanessa,
LOVE Le Lion, as you know. Glad Val helped you out with a sample.

I always feel like the companies are gaslighting their staff. They aren't being taught the truth, or even shown the history. We know the histories because we have been passionate and involved for a long time. Most SAs aren't lifers or perfumistas and they also toe the company line.
It is so much more fun when I get an SA with knowledge. We can chin wag for ages.
Portia xx

Vanessa said...

Hi Undina,

I can't resist a rhymed proclamation, I am afraid, so am glad that one raised a smile. I think you are entitled to a refund on holiday or flight cancellations, but the holiday companies and airlines are doing a fantastic job of deflecting people and making them accept vouchers where possible. If you can use the voucher before it expires it doesn't make much odds though.

I can see where you are going with the comparison to Vanilla Smoke, which I also like. Le Lion really does seem to be getting some varied reactions, which is a tribute to its complexity, I guess.

Funny that you have a greater urge to acquire more perfume at the moment. I haven't had that experience as a result of the pandemic, but I have impulse bought way more masks than I really need, in my quest for the HGM (Holy Grail Mask), which may not in fact exist. ;)

Vanessa said...

Hi Tatiana,

Loving your coinage of 'destash', at least I hadn't heard that expression before! I am more of that mindset, also with clothes and belongings in general. Have been trying to give a load of stuff to charity, but a lot of them aren't taking donations anymore - or only in a limited way - due to Covid.

Hope you like Le Lion when you catch up with it! There's no predicting how it will smell for you. ;)

Vanessa said...

Hi Portia,

I agree that most SAs aren't lifers or perfumistas, but I have met a few like that, and it has been the most lovely meeting of minds and passions. Am thinking of a chap in Berlin in particular, to whom I could have talked all day.

Many thanks to you for organising the supply chain from which my sample came via its circuitous route! I could see a bottle in my future, or a seriously big split, say, if people are doing that when it is released everywhere.

Anonymous said...

This is a bit off topic, but the last time I was in a duty-free shop I had a sip of a flavoured vodka, and it was dreadful! The SA was disappointed that I didn't immediately pick up a bottle, bu that'll learn me to drink at 7 am --AnnieA

Vanessa said...

Hi AnnieA,

Sorry for the slow reply - am just back from holiday and still catching up with myself.

Ooh, flavoured vodka is probably not something that would reel me in at any time of day. To be fair, airports are the one place where it seems to be socially acceptable to drink before breakfast. ;)