Friday 27 May 2022

Katie Puckrik's tales of perfume and persona - featuring the sniffs of The Smiths and a Bonkers quote

Illustration by Lydia Silver

Perfume expert and multi-media personality Katie Puckrik has written a feature in this week's Evening Standard magazine, in which she reminisces about wearing Revlon Intimate, a raunchy animalic floral pinched from her mother's dressing table; it made her feel all grown up and ready for the sort of carnal capers that my father used to collectively - and disapprovingly - dub "filthy slop". 

"Wearing Intimate was my introduction to the power of perfume to transform dubious raw material into the person I was nowhere near being."

Katie goes on to explore this theme of "wear the perfume and you can be the perfume" with the help of fellow contributors Denyse Beaulieu, Tania Sanchez, Sali Hughes, Alison Goldfrapp, and Johnny Marr. And there is even a quote from yours truly - I am not accustomed to being in such august company!

What tickled me most about the feature was the inclusion of Johnny Marr's perfume MO. So okay, one Smith rather than the sniffs of the whole band, as the title of this post might suggest. For as I may have mentioned before, Johnny Marr and Morrissey bonded over a shared appreciation of The Monochrome Set, and were influenced by their music when they formed The Smiths. They went on to become much more famous and commercially successful, and then many years later, in one of those strange twists of fate, The Monochrome Set found themselves supporting Johnny Marr at a festival gig in Bognor Regis, which I attended. Those meringue peak canopies at Butlin's are hard to forget. So given my own close association with TMS, it struck me that there is a curious and amusing parallel in my now randomly "sharing a bill" with Johnny Marr in an article on perfume!

And at that gig in Bognor, I wore the punch-packing Salome by Papillon Perfumery, following a visit to Liz Moores' house in the afternoon. Salome perfectly illustrates the notion of trying to assume a ballsy persona that may be a little incongruous or too big for one's boots. I let the band sniff it on me as well as one of Liz's raw ingredients, African stone - here is an extract from a post about that day.

"The band duly sniffed both the remnants of Salome AND the African Stone, intrigued by my explanation that it was the fossilised excrement of the rock hyrax, an animal I tried to big up by likening it to a robust yet endearing variant on the guinea pig. They continued to chew thoughtfully on slices of the family size pepperoni pizza several of us were sharing, and didn't bat an eyelid - or flare a nostril in disgust.

Now my wearing of actual African Stone may have been a lifetime one off, but in the light of this rock 'n' roll nonchalance in the face of the ne plus ultra of poo, I plan to wear Salome to the next gig without a backward glance..."

I shan't give away any more spoilers to Katie's article, which is full of memorable stories and insights into the transformative potential of perfume, so do check it out!

The Monochrome Set in sadly small print!

NB Note the perfume blotters tucked into the programme...;)

Tuesday 3 May 2022

Dare to Love?: Estee Lauder Beautiful Magnolia and Beautiful Magnolia Intense review

Source: Wikimedia Commons ~ Peter Deak

I have been thinking a lot about my interest in perfume lately...where I am up to with it now, and how that compares with the early days of my hobby. Then I was in Boots the other week buying benign emollients for my face - I will do another skin post sometime, as there have been further developments on that front - and succumbed to the prominently displayed tester of the new fragrance from Estee Lauder, "Beautiful Magnolia Intense", this year's flanker to last year's Beautiful Magnolia, which was in turn a flanker of the 1985 scent Beautiful. I find this hard to imagine, even though my recall of the original is sketchy - I feel sure Beautiful Mk I was a more robust and busy composition, with a list of notes as long as your arm, and a semi-retro feel, but there you go.

I asked to smell Beautiful Magnolia by way of comparison with the Intense version, not realising when I was in the shop that either of these newer releases was in any way related to its 80s ancestor. Beautiful Magnolia is a floral aquatic created by Anne Flipo and Laurent Le Guernec. It is a sprightly spring floral, but is too watery(!) for my taste - aquatics were never my thing...Issey Miyake, here's looking at you. I could only find one "print" review of Beautiful Magnolia, on Colognoisseur: Mark Behnke rates it as a new take on "debutante rose grilled cheese", though his wife was troubled by its distinctive aspect, namely a sharp note from the addition of mate tea. Which also bothers me, I have to say. I am minded of the spikiness of Illuminum White Gardenia Petals, the perfume that turned out to be Kate Middleton's actual wedding scent as opposed to the one we all got PR samples of that was a completely different animal altogether, and which I much preferred. I commend Mark's review to you, as he has a lovely turn of phrase, and to call Beautiful Magnolia "a grilled cheese with tea" is spot on.

Notes: magnolia, lotus, mate, magnolia (again!), gardenia, solar notes, rose, musk, sandalwood, cedar

I looked up Anne Flipo's other past work to check that my recall of her style as leaning towards light airy feminine scents is correct. Interestingly, Lancome's La Vie est Belle is one of hers (with Dominique Ropion), also L'Artisan's Mimosa pour Moi (which I regret not buying while I still could), and Fleur d'Oranger, plus the sweet ambery leather number, Sonia Rykiel Woman, of which I have a small decant left somewhere. Laurent le Guernec meanwhile has created a slew of Bond No 9s (not a favourite brand of mine), but intriguingly was also one of the two noses behind Sarah Jessica Parker's Lovely, which shares the same demure style as Beautiful Magnolia, to which I would add Hugo Boss Femme.

Femme was one of the first perfumes I discovered as a newbie: I found myself in Dusseldorf late one Saturday afternoon, and was suddenly possessed to sniff a tester in a branch of the Douglas chain of perfumeries (in Flingerstrasse ;)) just before closing time. I only went in to look for a bag to keep samples in, which I still have in fact. Hugo Boss Femme is a simple, innocently girlish scent, and though I have long outgrown it it brings back potent memories of the excitement I felt back then at the start of my fragrant j*****y. I scored a carded sample that day and went on to buy a bottle, which I later sold after falling deeper down the rabbit hole of niche.

I didn't care for Beautiful Magnolia as much as Lovely or Femme, but how much of that is down to the intrinsic qualities of the perfumes and how much to my happy associations with the latter two is a moot point. I had smelt so little back then, whereas my nose is pretty jaded nowadays and Beautiful Magnolia has a much higher bar to beat.

Moving on, Beautiful Magnolia Intense is a chypre floral and a somewhat darker (relatively speaking!) proposition. The perfume isn't dark by any means, or only the degree of dark that can be obtained by drawing diaphanous net curtains rather than the heavily lined black out variety. I couldn't find the name of the perfumer(s), but will assume it is the same duo unless someone knows any different. 

Notes: violet leaf, mandarin orange, cardamom, iris, magnolia, patchouli, musk, leather, Virginia cedar, vanilla bean

Beautiful Magnolia Intense (I'd abbreviate it to BMI if it wouldn't risk possible confusion with the more well known acronym for Body Mass Index), is a subtle and fairly fleeting skin scent, a tender floral with a powdery dusting of iris. It is smoother and creamier than its aquatic cousin, so more to my taste, and the addition of cardamom and leather lends the composition more interest and sophistication. For anyone who finds La Vie est Belle too sweet, or who likes the subtle take on leather of Bottega Veneta, I'd say this might hit the spot. I also prefer BMI (am going to risk it!) to Guerlain Shalimar Parfum Initial, which is quite heavy on the patchouli.

Now while I like the perfume - and its pleasingly rounded and chunky bottle - the marketing campaign for Beautiful Magnolia Intense is the usual trope-ridden guff to which the industry remains hopelessly wedded. Like almost all advertising nowadays, the promotional video features a racially diverse couple: an arrestingly beautiful brunette in a pale pink off-one-shoulder pleated gown, cavorting in some romantic paradise with her equally handsome beau. The strapline is "Dare to Love", and each stage of the scent's development purports to mirror those of a relationship: "A whirlwind of emotions, An intense love affair, note by note". You may just be able to make out the exact pairings in the photo above, which imho are only more of the same fragrant flimflammery.

But Beautiful Magnolia Intense the perfume is very pleasant indeed, and if I hadn't been ruined by niche scents - am on Hera autopilot most days at the moment! - I'd be happy to wear it a lot in the summer, with frequent reapplications, mind. I dare to like it, if not quite love it, and I say "dare", because there is a fair bit of sniffiness in the blogosphere about mainstream scents (to which I am not immune), but I do like to lob one in here from time to time when it distinguishes itself from the cookie cutter herd. I'd conclude by saying that Beautiful Magnolia Intense is "grilled magnolia cheese" topped with the merest smear of mango chutney. Any thicker, and you might have to start worrying about your actual BMI...;)

[Samples kindly provided by @staffordbeauties in Boots, Stafford.]