Saturday 6 April 2024

Meet the new perfumistas...aka the public at large!

Photo courtesy of N

Sorry for the longer than usual gap between posts - I have managed a monthly frequency for a while now, but I have been slightly distracted by another round of health investigations(!). Last year, having exhausted the suggestions of my local chemist, I sought out a nurse at my GP practice to advise on an effective cream for chilblains, from which I had been suffering for several months, occasionally to the point of not being able to walk. The nurse took one look at my feet before escalating them to a GP at my practice, who outsourced them to a doctor at another surgery, who ordered a battery of blood tests, which threw up a strong suggestion of an unspecified autoimmune condition, for which I was referred to a rheumatologist, who has not managed to determine what may be amiss, though the last consultation segued unexpectedly into an apparent diagnosis of middlingly problematic kidney disease just as I was going out the door. I say "apparently", as that remains to be confirmed by another battery of tests. The moral of the story being that if your feet are playing up in any way, on no account seek medical help, as you don't know where it will all end up. ;)

But anyway, this post is not about that, but rather about where I am up to in my perfume hobby. Long gone are the days when I would be invited to launches of fragrances or sent samples for review (or not for review, if I wasn't moved to write about them). I have slipped quietly out of the official scene in recent years - but I really don't mind, as my curiosity about perfume is at a much reduced level and I largely tune out to the constant churn of new releases. These days my information sources are more likely to be friends and other people I come into contact with. Or random finds in shops, especially at the cheaper end of the spectrum. I have recently made another discovery on a par with those scents by Jeff & Co I posted about last time, and will probably feature it soon.

Indeed I have been so impressed by these ultra cheap imitations that I think they have affected my whole relationship with the niche sector, possibly irrevocably. I remind myself that there is a lot of time, skill and artistry involved in creating the fragrance that might go on ultimately to be copied, on which you can perhaps not put a price? Still, I realise I would find it difficult now to spend more than £50, say, on a bottle of perfume. When I was building up my collection nothing seemed to cost more than £65! My last acquisitions were secondhand bottles of discontinued scents or vintage formulations which cost exactly that - Cuir de Lancome and Caron Parfum Sacre in the purple "shagreen" bottle - and they were the only FBs (or almost FBs) I've bought in years. So it is fair to say that these cheap knock offs you find in discount stores like Lidl and Aldi and Home Bargains have rather spoilt me, and also distanced me psychologically from the full price market I used to move in quite happily. And maybe the feeling will pass, and I will become more interested in branded (as in real McCoy) releases again, but we'll see.

Meanwhile, here is a round up of some of my recent exchanges with friends, acquaintances and total strangers on the subject of perfume:

My hairdresser

My hairdresser (who is a man) told me that he and a few 50-something male friends are part of a WhatsApp group called "Good Smells" that is devoted to swapping perfume tips. Recently he was singing the praises of ELDO Fat Electrician in the group to the point where two of his friends went out and bought it blind(!).

My acupuncturist

On hearing I was into perfume the lady I go to for acupuncture announced that she is a "Chanel girl", but also loves Jo Malone, a brand she perceives as "clean" and less likely to trigger allergies than some scents. This is an interesting - and I suspect common - perception of the brand, and probably accounts in no small part for its runaway success. 

My friend N

N recently showed me her collection of Chanel bottles, which occupy an upper shelf in a towel cabinet, while the rest of her collection lives in a cupboard in her study. 

Photo courtesy of N

They take the prize for being the most beautifully presented bottles in a domestic setting I have ever seen. NB The rest of her house is equally showstopping!

Photo courtesy of N

Diane, an American fan of The Monochrome Set

Diane and I have been corresponding about perfume on and off ever since the US tour in 2019. She is a big vanilla lover, and features in this post, which describes our first meeting, and a rather primal three-way sniffing exercise with a band member. Anyway, every email Diane sends is full of links to articles about scent she thinks I might like, or reports on her own sampling sessions in high end department stores in her home city of Philadelphia. 

"I just looked at and checked the newer Tom Ford vanilla perfume in the pretty tan bottle, but mannnnn, it's overpriced at 400dollars."

"Are you familiar with Ellis Brooklyn perfumes?  They have a few nice perfumes, one of their vanilla type scents is Vanilla Milk and another is called Sweet, they're pretty good!" 

Well, needless to say I am not familiar with Ellis Brooklyn perfumes, but in my defence I don't think they have made it across the pond.

C, the wife of the drummer in TMS

C tipped me off the other day that a company called Noted Aromas do a very passable clone of Le Labo Santal 33.

My friend C's friend C

C came to have a sniff-in with my collection the other day, and brought along her quartet of scents: Balmain Jolie Madame (she was surprised I knew it - go me!), D & G Feminine (a lovely but sadly discontinued floral woody musk), YSL Y (empty and discontinued) and Givenchy Amarige. I liked the Feminine quite a lot but couldn't think of anything similar, whereas Papillon Perfumery's Salome is in the same territory as Y. Moreover, C has actually seen a rock hyrax in South Africa(!), and likes badgers, so it really was made for her, and I gave her a sample to try at home. C also loves ylang-ylang and orange blossom, neroli, bergamot and lilies, so I tried her with Donna Karan Gold and Serge Lutens Un Lys. C put me straight when I wrongly stated that Un Lys was the scent of Casablanca lilies, when it is of course LOTV - she practises aromatherapy, so between that and her keen gardener's nose she was not fooled. ;)

A man in T K Maxx

As we were standing in the queue to the checkouts the other day, a man behind me started picking up a set of bargain scents by Olivia Blake that were only about nine quid each - they looked like copies of Jo Malone perfumes, in coloured boxes. I asked him if they were perfumes and not room scents or something and he confirmed that they were. In the absence of testers the man surreptitiously sprayed each scent into its box lid and stuck his nose in that to smell it - a trick I have never seen done before. I just hope it didn't stain the box. ;)

Source: The Fragrance Shop

Which brings us back to the notion of the rights and wrongs of knock off perfumes, something I sense I may wrestle with for some time to come. What do you think of these imitations - a triumph of economic engineering, or a parasitic scourge?

(PS Sorry for the surfeit of friends coyly called C.)

Photo courtesy of N - a woman with two bottles of Fame to her name!