Wednesday 25 October 2023

Serge Lutens Santal Majuscule for a Minuscule price! - sampling the sample sites as Bonkers turns 14


Well, that's unusual...I am writing this post on my actual blog anniversary as opposed to a few days or weeks later, or not at all. I shan't make a big deal of it, as it doesn't seem warranted now I am only posting once a month or so, and I am sure I have lost some of my regular readers and commenters because of this sparse frequency. But people I will never know are still finding their way to the archives with their 756 posts - not necessarily meaning to, mind, as I suggested in this piece about blogging 11 years ago (see the full thing here):

'And the other important point to mention – and the final reason for keeping a sense of perspective - is that, crucially, many of your readers will land on your blog by mistake… Some of the more peculiar search terms that have directed people to Bonkers include: “leopard fantasy”, “Bo Derek naked”, “Anne Hathaway’s cottage opal flash parfum”, “Slovakian hobbits biscuits”, “swingos hotel Cleveland”, “card nuisance call boss telling her to do some work”, “kidnapping lillies” (sic), “what is the landform of Ohio”, “avocado” and “slime”.'

The weird thing is that we get tourists fetching up in Stafford by mistake who are also looking for Anne Hathaway's cottage, albeit not its associated perfume, if there even is one? Traffic is still traffic though, so I will cheerfully take all-comers. 

And though I am not posting often, I have been doing quite a few perfume "consultations" for friends or even friends of friends behind the scenes - one chap bought a bottle of L'Air du Desert Marocain on the back of his epiphany at my house - so fragrance is very much an ongoing interest. I have, however, largely lost any curiosity about new releases, as my tolerance for plethoras is much reduced these days. Plus I am only dimly aware of the latest crop of perfume blogs, because I still cling to those of my "generation" of 10-15 years ago. My blog roll is a frozen tribute to them, even though some of the titles are dormant now, and a few of the links may not work. I am even a bit out of touch with my cherished clutch of perfume friends - the aftermath of Covid and the chaos in the world generally may have played a role in that.

Despite this backdrop of drifting in my own becalmed backwater, and having more to do with fragrance wearers "in the wild" than the personalities in the blogosphere, occasionally, very occasionally, a new scent hits me in the solar plexus that I come across by some other route than a tip off from a fellow blogger, my usual source of information in recent years ever since I fell off a cliff as far as the brands / perfume houses were concerned, and they stopped sending me things to try.

To explain how this discovery came about, I need firstly to mention that I have recently joined a Qigong and a Mindfulness class. There is a bit of meditation tacked on at the end of the Qigong class and a bit of Qigong incorporated into the Mindfulness one. I didn't get on with Tai Chi which I also dabbled in - it was like a slo-mo version of Pan's People, with choreography that far exceeded my powers of coordination, but Qigong I can do, and it does wonderful things to me in return. "Postural diazepam" I called it. As things have turned out, this post from 2010 was eerily prescient, as the class I now attend is indeed under the auspices of the u3a (University of the Third Age).

Anyway, at the end of a recent Mindfulness class the leader started reminiscing about the smell of pure sandalwood oil from Mysore, and asked me if it was still used in modern perfumery, and whether I knew of current perfumes with a goodly dose of quality sandalwood of whatever provenance, so I said I would go away and have a think. I consulted a few blogs and YouTubers who had done their "Top 10 sandalwood fragrances" - there was quite a bit of crossover with the ones I had thought of, such as Guerlain Samsara, Diptyque Tam Dao, Hermes Santal Massoia, Le Labo Santal 33 etc - but several by Serge Lutens were not on my radar, including the one that most piqued my curiosity, Santal Majuscule. What's not to like about sandalwood being "writ large", in capital letters? ;) I had a sudden urge to try this apparent behemoth, and checked its availability on the sampling sites. 

Source: pinterest

First off, I bought a 1ml sample from Fragrance Samples came promptly, and knocked me sideways. I immediately rushed to run Santal Majuscule through the Boisdejasmin-ometer, as my taste in perfume is spookily aligned with Victoria's. Sure enough, she gives it four stars, and I will leave her to parse this beautiful rose and sandalwood scent, with its creamy, dusty base and meditative quality, making it the perfect accompaniment to a Mindfulness class!

Notes: sandalwood, rose, cocoa, tonka bean

Serge Lutens Santal Majuscule : Perfume Review - Bois de Jasmin

I quite agree with her use of the word "tender", which is exactly how it reads to me - a gentle murmur, a dreamy romantic scent, not shouty or scratchy or majuscule at all! I expect I am drawn to it because I love PG Brulure de Rose, which also has a powdery rose and chocolate accord. But Santal Majuscule is quieter and more refined somehow, much as I love Brulure.

I knew I needed more of the stuff, but the price of a 10ml decant on Fragrance Samples UK was £27.50 approx, so I googled some more suppliers (there are loads here these days, unlike the old days when you had to send off to The Perfumed Court or Luckyscent in the States!). Next up I landed on Scent Samples UK, who were offering the same amount for a mere £15, including p & p. Well, that seemed too good to be true, given that 50ml of this perfume retails for £125, which should work out at £25 per 10ml, much closer to the Fragrance Samples UK price. I googled reviews of Scent Samples UK on Trustpilot, and they were a bit mixed, but not worryingly so - or rather not to the point where I didn't dare risk an outlay of £15...

The decant also arrived very quickly, but on my first spray I couldn't detect the lovely dusty base - it was thin and very topnote-y - like a designer take on Santal Majuscule for a younger audience, if you can imagine that. I was disappointed and couldn't decide whether to send the perfume back or keep it for "casual spraying", with it being so relatively cheap. Then I had the idea to buy one more small decant from a private seller in a Facebook group, to help me figure out which was the true version, "best of three"-style. I was sure this person's bottle would be kosher, as the culture of that group is very straight and honest.

I also wrote to Scent Samples UK, explaining what had happened, and how I was going to wait till I had a third sample to test before taking a final view, and they were fine about it, saying I could send the decant back for a full refund if I wasn't happy after doing that comparison, whilst also drawing my attention to the possibility of natural variation between batches. The bit about the fragrance being crafted by skilled artisans amused me for some reason.

"It's essential to note that variations in the scent and colour of Santal Majuscule may occur due to its unique composition and craftsmanship. Each batch is carefully blended and crafted by skilled artisans, which can lead to subtle differences between batches."

So sample No 3 duly arrived, which smelt close to No 1 from Fragrance Samples UK...but meanwhile, I kept spraying the decant from Scent Samples UK, and lo and behold I suddenly got the full dusty, powdery experience! I think that very first spray must not have had all the ingredients in it, a bit like a vinaigrette bottle that you need to shake first, haha. Then I remembered that I had covered this very topic in an old post somewhere, which took some finding, but here it is:

Bonkers about Perfume: A Probably Preposterous Notion - The Unrepresentative Squirt

I do believe that I may have been experiencing the same phenomenon of "the unrepresentative squirt", and wrote back to Scent Samples UK accordingly, thanking them for their offer of a refund but saying it wouldn't be necessary after all. How they manage to sell 10ml for £15 is still a mystery though...did they get a bulk discount from Serge Lutens, or acquire some old stock on the grey market, or a job lot of testers, or are they having a fire sale prior to shutting up shop? Maybe Santal Majuscule is their loss leader, but if so it seems an odd one to choose. 

So there you have it...I am delighted to have enough Santal Majuscule to be going on with, and to have discovered a scent to which I have the same visceral attachment as I do to Brulure de Rose, yet which is softer and more "Mindfulness class-appropriate".

Monday 2 October 2023

My interview on Olfactoria's Travels revisited, ten years on...

2013 me

Another month has passed - I am taking the notion of slow blogging to the most leisurely extremes, I know, but I do feel I should only post when the muse moves me, and it seems to be on a bit of a go-slow these days, for the reasons I mentioned last time, topped off with another round of health investigations. Though as I can testify, a degree of slowing down is probably normal for most aging organisms! I certainly won't post more frequently simply to placate the cyberbots that measure that sort of thing. On a whim I put my URL into one of those Google page rank checker sites, and my ranking has in fact gone up a point to 4(!), so maybe less is more after all. I honestly don't mind if I slip all the way down the SEO snake to zero though, like the way I lost my Superhost status on Airbnb by taking time out with my neck last year.

The unexpected trigger for this post, which jump-started my mojo, was a recent Facebook message from a US friend (not a perfumista):

"Sooooo, I was looking you up thinking I was on my email and not general Google search and this came up. Fun read. Anytime you want to see the sea, come visit us in Ireland."

She had copied the link to an interview I did with Birgit of Olfactoria's Travels ten years ago today(!), so I decided to make this the subject of my current post, and to reflect on how far my answers would be the same now. I shan't reproduce B's interview in full, obviously, as that would infringe her copyright, so if you didn't see this first time round - or can't remember what I said (I only remembered fragments myself!) - may I trouble you to take a look so that what follows below makes sense?

People in Perfumeland - Vanessa Musson of Bonkers about Perfume

There are 20 questions (I never noticed that before), and I shall confine myself to commenting on whatever caught my eye, either because I am the same, or have changed in some way...

First up then...sleep. Ah dear, I am still that intermittently insomniac soldier, though my sleep difficulties tend to come in waves (like sadly elusive sleep itself!). I was thinking of writing a piece specifically on this topic in fact, as I have tried everything under the sun (and moon!) to address the issue, and am having some success with melatonin at the moment, especially the kind that is bundled in with soporific herbal ingredients like valerian, lemon balm, and Californian poppy. Do let me know in the comments if a post on sleep would be of interest - I even came up with a title already: "Chasing Morpheus". I could always shoehorn lavender into it somewhere to meet the "minimum perfume content threshold", hehe.

As for my morning cup of tea, it is exclusively decaffeinated now, following the advice of an A & E doctor two years ago, though I have no idea if that was really necessary for the organs he was trying to placate at the time. I figured that reducing my caffeine intake right down might at least help me sleep. I have no idea if that worked either, haha. But I persist with decaf tea. Having tried half a dozen brands, I can unequivocally recommend Yorkshire Tea (with the blue stripe on the box). Some of the rest taste like insipid dish water, with or without a disagreeable metal tang, giving the variant a bad rap.

Moving on, I still have key-related anxiety, which is if anything worse than ever. I must go back and lock my car three times if I lock it once. I am still in a committed relationship with kitchen towel, or "roll" if you prefer, and I still feel good when sitting in the sun, though the pleasure is more ambivalent these days: I didn't sunbathe once this year for the first time ever, and probably only once or twice in previous summers - as opposed to every time the sun came out when I was younger. ;) I am much more conscious of the harmful effects of UV rays, and can feel my skin getting drier and acquiring more and more brown spots and other examples of "hyperpigmentation". Recently, I have also come out in a startlingly scarlet smattering of cherry angiomas, though they are nothing to do with the weather. 

Then I do still love Germany, but haven't been there for years, and now I have a house in France I am going there instead every opportunity I get! I am mindful that while my French is coming on by leaps and bounds, notably  in terms of vocabulary to do with woodworm, roof repairs, and steel struts in masonry for hoiking up wisteria, my German is withering on the vine (or "Rebe", should that be?). I probably could still describe my dress style as "preppy grunge", and the French charity shop in the village where my house is is a treasure trove of quirky examples of the style...perhaps more grungy than preppy in the main.

As for my favourite perfume, I do still love Guerlain Plus Que Jamais, and wore it only the other day indeed, but as time goes by I find it more difficult to declare any perfume my absolute favourite. 

I still spend way too much time on social media, which I think is partly responsible for my fragmented attention span and sapping of creative juices - as well as being quite depressing after a while. On days when I notice my phone battery dipping below 50% I definitely feel more flat and listless than when I engage in low tech activities like going for walks - or even hoovering!

What else? I still do lots of research favours for people - most recently identifying companies specialising in bathroom renovations for an elderly (and increasingly immobile) friend; it has become a substitute for my old job, which I quit when I was 60. Well, it quit me, more like, as the work dried up, and by the time it appeared again post-Covid, I wasn't in the right headspace to carry on.

Then I still have tottering piles of books everywhere - the front room in particular is Tsundoku Central! 

Lastly, I drink much less than I did ten years ago - I only have one drink twice a week, or maybe three times (except when on holiday, of course). I can't say I feel any better for it, but my bones or other organs may tell a different story. I do still take to my bed in the afternoon if I am having a really bad day (or a migraine, which is grounds for a bad day in itself). 

Coincidentally, at a mindfulness class I now attend once a week, we were talking about the "continuity of the self" throughout one's life, and the same day I happened to spot this quote in a post by Maria Popova in The Marginalian, talking about the poet Mary Oliver:

'She identifies three primary selves that she inhabits, and that inhabit her, as they do all of us: the childhood self, which we spend our lives trying to weave into the continuity of our personal identity (“The child I was,” she writes, “is with me in the present hour. It will be with me in the grave.”); the social self, “fettered to a thousand notions of obligation”; and a third self, a sort of otherworldly awareness.'

So yes, although ten years is not a big time difference to chart one's own changes, I can see a strong thread of continuity between the 64-year old me and the 54-year old one, and confidently predict that the child I was will be with me in the grave, wrapped like a mummy in kitchen towel.

Editor's note: I'd also like to say a big thank you to Birgit for including me in her Perfumeland series. It was a rare treat for me to be on the other side of the interviewing process...;)