Category Archives: Fig

How I Improved My Sense of Smell with The Perfume Society

sam smile

Some blog posts are very hard to write because I’m so afraid I won’t do them justice. This is one of them.  I was on such a high after coming back from the Perfume Society Improve Your Sense of Smell Workshop that I was neither use nor ornament for about 48 hours.

lucky scarf
If ever a scarf were the right scarf for an occasion, it was my perfume scarf. It smells good too!

First of all, The Perfume Society is three years old and is the only body of its type in the world.  They know this because they googled to find a perfume society before realising there wasn’t one. The Perfume Society is the brainchild of legendary beauty editor and writer Jo Fairley and her business partner Lorna McKay.  I have been reading Jo’s work since around 2000 ish,  before blogging was invented and  back when I was a One Scent woman.   10299686_1560529210840279_596234111_a

The workshops are not just exclusive to London, so it really is worth subscribing to The Perfume Society, if only to get access to The Scented Letter and Discovery Box discounts.  The workshop I attended was in the basement of The New Moon Tapas Bar in Clifton.

It was a wonderfully informative, but informal session that made me feel like I was BFFs with everyone around the table, and not just my real life BFF Lisa, who was also there.  Jo is an engaging speaker and delivers the workshop in an accessible and inclusive way that felt like a chat with a friend except with far more “Wow! I never knew that” moments.

You may think that having written 817 blog posts about perfume that I might know a lot.  Well I know about  1% of what I actually want and need to know.   However, you very much do NOT have to be a blogger in order to attend.   For one thing, the amount of experience and knowledge you need to attend the workshop is ZERO.  No experience required.

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My perfect afternoon. Jo Fairley took this so is sadly not in it. Photo courtesy of The Perfume Society.

So, what happens? Well, we were made comfortable with  refreshments and introduced ourselves, which wasn’t cringy like work training, but friendly like meeting your tribe. There were six of us altogether and it was especially lovely to meet Claire, who I have been following on Instagram and talking to on the perfume group Eau my Soul.

Jo explained that part of the mission of The Perfume Society is to put us back in touch with our sense of smell, referred to by Helen Keller as “The Fallen Angel of the Senses” and she was right.   Back when we were cavewomen, we could sniff out herbs, non-toxic berries and woolly mammoths, but now our sense of smell has been blunted by modern conveniences.

The workshop goes about starting us on the path to putting this right.  We did some very interesting sniffing, giving our impressions in an atmosphere in which there was no right or wrong.  There was also a very interesting exercise in which we tried minty Green and Black’s chocolate to see if it was smell or taste that gave us the minty hit.  The answer really surprised me.  Plus, you know, Green and Blacks. *swoon* (something else we have Jo to thank for).

The third section was the bring a bottle party.  Some of it was 80% proof. Yes, I’m talking fragrance.  Prior to attending, we were asked to bring a bottle of our favourite scent.  I had to be very strict with myself and put the wheelbarrow back before leaving the house with just one: Art de Parfum Gin &Tonic.

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Recognise any favourites?

My adorable colleagues, as I now thought of them,  brought a few each, so we had great fun diving on the stuff we hadn’t smelled yet and sharing opinions. On top of that we were given goody bags to take home. Reader, this was better than my birthday.

As if that wasn’t enough fun, we then got the chance to buy Discovery Boxes and the gorgeous Perfume Society Scented Skincare set at big discounts.  As if that wasn’t enough, we then go to visit a brand-new niche perfumery called Shy Mimosa, which I will write about separately, and where we also had a big discount.

aedes de venustes
The tempting shelves at Shy Mimosa

So, was it worth it going?  Did I improve my sense of smell? Yes, and yes and it was wonderful and I had several OMG moments where I made surprising discoveries and oh, my stars, what a day!

If you ever get the chance to attend one, go.  Just go.  They’re not just in London and you don’t need to know anything beforehand. If there’s not one near you, then email The Perfume Society and tell them.   They will listen.  Unless you live alone on a remote island that can only be reached by catamaran at high tide.  Apart from that, if enough people clamour, then you never know…

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Art de Parfum: A Perfume House to Watch

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Recently I was sent a set of samples from those nice people at Art de Parfum. It’s a small British House, that currently just has five  fragrances. Wisely, they have started small, but what that they have done so far, they have done very well indeed. All scents are unisex and all are highly concentrated pure perfumes made with oils, so you’re getting quality and longevity right from the first drop.

Here’s a review of the four scents I received. Actually, I received Sensual Oud too, but I can’t currently locate it. As soon as I do, I will review it. In my defence, it was the summer holidays and with two primary aged kids around, I’m glad that one perfume sample was all I mislaid.  I still have my sanity.

I had a major love affair with one of these delightful fragrances but wouldn’t turn any of them down. Every single one deserves praise and a bright future. But as for me? I’ll take a bottle of the Gin and Tonic. No, make that a case. A lorryload! I’ll take it all.

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Sea Foam

The name of the scent was enough to have me reaching for it before all the others. I have been disappointed enough times in the past by perfumes that promise a marine accord but don’t deliver. Sea Foam does. It has that salty ozonic tang that I need and want from a scent that promises me crashing waves and seaside vibes. I wouldn’t call this oceanic- that has connotations of synthetic “blue” notes to me, but I would call this one of the best “sea notes” perfumes I have ever tried.

Opening with sharp, tangy citrus (bergamot and lemon), the middle blends into milky fig and seaweed. Now at this point, you might think that it would start to resemble Thierry Mugler’s Womanity, which is the only scent that ever made me physically retch. Sea Foam could not be further away from that. Think of salty skin, the dry greenery around the dunes and the actual, almost dirty scent of the waves. This beds down into dreamy sandalwood and vetiver, but those salty, fresh notes linger on.

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Excentrique Moi

Well this just has to be one’s new name for oneself when one goes all Third Person. Beautifully scented and named with a swagger, Excentrique Moi is all about the leather, which is ironic as according to Fragrantica, there’s no leather in it, but this is my blog and I say “leather!” There’s also deep, dark guaiac wood, which is a note I love ever since it was used in Hilary Duff With Love, now sadly discontinued. The patchouli is strong and earthy, and paired with dark tea and a bit more smoky, musky wood, this makes for a terrific scent that would suit anyone, especially as the weather turns colder. Buy it for the man in your life, and then use it all yourself. No guilt!

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Signature Wild

This smells both leathery and dirty at the same time. Don’t be put off, dirty is good in perfume. Signature Wild makes good use of artemesia, which has a touch of aniseed and booze to it- artemesia is famously used in absinthe. We’re not in Pernod territory, but more Gentleman’s Club with an extra dose of “your place or mine?”. The top notes smell like Christmas booze: rum or sherry. After that it’s sultanas, leather and woods. That tang of artemesia just takes it out of the ordinary and makes it unforgettable.

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Gin and Tonic

I wasn’t expecting to like this half as much as I did. I’ve smelled similar gin based scents before and have been left unmoved. However, this one had me in raptures and I’ve been wearing the sample spray for two days now, wondering if I can get a third day out of it. Yes, it opens with gin, or juniper to be more precise, but there is much more to it. The juniper is astringent, almost metallic, but it doesn’t stay that way, it just does a solo before joining the chorus. The grapefruit and lime zest give you that zing, and the middle note is just plain gin. It’s such a realistic take on a gin and tonic that you can almost feel the bitter bubbles popping on your skin. The drydown takes me into musky, woody territory with vetiver, woods, incense and ambergris. This base never gets too heavy though, because the gin and citrus just slices through until astringent and earthy sit together as one accord. Fantastic.

Stockists

You can buy Art de Parfum scents from the website, or from Bloom Perfumery in Covent Garden, which also does mail order. I would like to thank Art de Parfum for sending me these samples. Opinions are my own.

Balenciaga Rosabotanica: Roses Among The Greenery

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Now the kids are back in school, I finally had the chance to skulk around in Debenhams Perfume Hall without reprisals.  Bravely soldiering through the enticing displays, I managed to whittle my list down to Perfumes I Hadn’t Tried Before, rather than revisiting old favourites. I was aiming for Florabotanica, but the Tester wasn’t there. I’m quite glad, because today, reader, I found a fragrance to fall in love with. Call it serendipity, or call it Rosabotanica.

rosa-adRosabotanica opens with an abundance of green notes:  glorious leafy fig and tomato leaves. Even greener were the orange leaves, aka petitgrain, which added a zingy bitterness that was most welcome.  This delightful opening was enhanced by touches of citrus, namely grapefruit.  After this vibrant opening, the roses and hyacinth start to come in. The rose smells authentically deep: red and velvety.  I could almost feel those cool, waxy petals. The green figgy notes stop it from being cloying. Not that I mind cloying rose- I’ll take my rose in any old form, I’ve never turned one down. The rose hooks up with the fig and all settles down into a beautiful floral scent with a good dose of woody cedar and earthy patchouli as the base notes settle down for the day.

My only wish is that it were stronger, because I wanted to really marinade in this. Rosabotanica has all the best bits from a fresh garden: grassy cuttings, fresh figs and green tomato vines. The rose is delicate yet rich and the hyacinth always says spring to me. I’d wear this all year round and every day.

Stockists

You can buy Rosabotanica from Debenhamsallbeauty.com or Amazon UK.

 

 

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Adam Levine For Her: An Unexpected Pleasure

adam levine

“Who is Adam Levine?” I thought, and “Why is this shaped like a microphone?”

Well, being a middle aged Mum who listens to Elaine Paige’s excellent Radio 2 show, I had to educate myself on Adam Levine when I was handed a bottle of Adam Levine For Her. He’s the lead singer of Maroon 5, has fully embraced yoga and is an outspoken supporter of same sex marriage. In other words, he sounds like he’s just my cup of tea. (NB I can only do three yoga things, but I’ve yet to meet a yoga person I didn’t like.)

Now I’m no snob when it comes to celeb scents: I’m never without Jlo Deseo or Jessica Simpson Fancy Nights or SJP Lovely, but I couldn’t help but wonder what Adam Levine was going to bring to the party.

Maroon 5 lead singer Adam Levine performs on NBC's "Today" show on Friday, June14, 2013 in New York. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)

Well, he has very kindly brought not a fruity floral, not a vanilla cup cake concoction, but a really excellent sandalwood fragrance that impressed me no end. The best thing about it is that it costs under ten quid. With this kind of high class white packaging and a bottle that reminded me of not so much a microphone as a sky scraper, I call this an unexpected delight.

Adam Levine For Her opens with  saffron, citrus, marigold and spices. I got green and juicy fig, which always smells like unsweetened sultanas to me. If that sounds like faint praise, it’s not. I love it. Combined with a hint of peppery spice, this was a promising First Act.  The drydown gave me a little fright when I had pencil shavings for about three minutes, (when it should be roses and jasmine) but then it righted itself and the musty, musky sandalwood emerged and stayed put for the next few hours. Oh, and then the jasmine and roses turned up, better late than never.

It’s so refreshing when a celebrity scent takes a different path from the blanket best seller genre of the day. This spicy, woody scent is so perfect for cold weather that I’ll be ordering it by the crate come winter. In fact, it’s also pretty good for Wales in August. It’s cardigan weather. Again.

Longevity could be better. I sampled the Eau de Parfum strength and was expecting a little more from it, but it stayed on my sleeve until the next day and smelled wonderful.

Big thanks to Lisa Wordbird, who loaned me her bottle for review purposes.

Stockists

You can buy Adam Levine For Her from Fragrance Direct for just £9.99 for 100ml or Amazon UK for only £8.28.

Photos: Top photo my own, photo of Adam Levine  from The Huffpost

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The Body Shop Black Musk

black musk

 

Today I tried Black Musk in my local Body Shop. I’ve always been a fan of The Body Shop White Musk and consider it a staple in my fragrance wardrobe. There have been several brave flankers, but I still rate the original as the best. After trying Black Musk today, nothing changed that view.

Black Musk opens with a tang of fruit: the red berry like pink pepper was super strength and combined as it was with pear and vanilla, I was not impressed. In fact this reminded me a little of Clinique Aromatics in Black ( overall consensus: meh). Black Musk did improve however, and as it morphed into something reasonable I noticed some pleasant sandalwood and vetiver.

The base notes were recognizably a relative of White Musk, and if it had just been wrapped in the vetiver and sandalwood, I would have liked it. But no. There had to be chocolate and vanilla lobbed in at the end. It’s not so bad now it’s really settled. The confectionery has settled to a pleasant background sweetness, tamed by an infinitesimal touch of sober heliotrope. It has a masculine finish in fact, which means little to me as I think that if you like it, ignore the label and slap it on, regardless of gender.

Overall, I’ve yet to find a Body Shop fragrance as classic as White Musk, although I do rate Italian Summer Fig, Atlas Mountain Rose, Fijian Water Lotus and Honeymania. I don’t seem to be able to write any Body Shop review without mourning the Body Shop of the 80s and 90s. Oh Perfume Bar, how I long for you!

Stockists

You can buys Black Musk online or try it in store. I have noticed that they do lots more special offers online so you might like to try in the shop then buy from the website.

Agonist Vanilla Marble: This is How Vanilla Should Be Done

 

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Agonist is a Swedish perfume house that is the brainchild of Christine and Niclas Lydeen. With Christine’s fashion background in Paris and Niclas’s design flair, together they launched Agonist in 2008 and their popularity as a major niche house is snowballing.

This is the first Agonist scent I have reviewed, although not the first I’ve tried. I shall be revisiting the other two I have after this, since Agonist Vanilla Marble really piqued my interest.

You may know of my oft lamented vanilla ennui, but believe it or not, this new take on vanilla has won my heart. Agonist Vanilla Marble somehow manages to use the warm butteriness of vanilla with none of the added sugar.

agonist creators
Christine and Niclas Lydeen

Top notes are tiare flower, vanilla and almond. Now despite not being a fan of gourmands, I really like almond in vanilla scents. It seems to make this one more of a liqueur and is a welcome step further away from the smell alike confectionery scent that we are currently saturated with at beauty counters. Tiare flower always smells like floral coconuts to me and in this instance, it gives Vanilla Marble a lovely hint of pipe smoke.

Middle notes are orchid, white fig, amber and patchouli. I didn’t catch orchid, but the hint of sultana like fig is in there, along with the welcome warmth of amber and the subtle spikiness of patchouli. The base notes are tonka bean, sandalwood, more vanilla and benzoin.

All in all, this is has a coolness as well as a warmth, reminding me of a milky bar straight from the fridge , but with a grown up tobacco vibe and a golden heat that makes for a cosy, unfussy, not overly sweet vanilla scent that becomes slightly addictive the more I wear it. Equally good on men or women, this is a real gem and gives me hope that a good vanilla scent, done well, will still always be worth doing. Imitators need not apply. This is how vanilla should be done.

Stockists:

My sample was from The Perfume Society Scent With Love Discovery Box, available from here.  You can buy Agonist Vanilla Marble from the Agonist website or from Liberty or Selfridges.  The full list of international stockists  can be found on the Agonist website, where they also provide a sample service and a rather nice discovery box.

The Body Shop Italian Summer Fig EDT

 

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I popped into my local Body Shop today and was delighted to see a classy display of fragrances in beautiful faceted glass bottles.  There were the regulars: Atlas Mountain Rose and Fijian Water Lotus among them, and a new fragrance I hadn’t seen before that had a summery looking green juice.  That fragrance was Italian Summer Fig and I can report that it is truly scrumptious.

 

Telegraph.co.uk
Telegraph.co.uk

Fig works very well in summer,  after all, its good enough for our continental cousins who know a thing or two about heat.  It reminds me of perfumed sultanas:  the fruit is deep and rich, yet aromatic and tangy too. With obvious comparisons of L’Artisan Parfumeur Premier Figuier drifting in and out of my scent memory, I helped myself to several squirts and ten hours later I can still smell traces of it- not bad for an eau de toilette.

The notes, according to our trusty friends at Fragrantica, are:

 Top notes: Fig, green notes and vine

Middle notes: Rose, saffron and floral notes

Base notes: Oak and amber

In fact, on me, although it opens and closes with fig, there are definite traces of flowers, especially rose, and I got a whiff of woodiness at the end, which I always thinks  complements fig so well

Italian Summer Fig makes a refreshing choice for summer and I applaud the Body Shop for going down this route rather than the more traditional mainstream routes so often found in summer. My only criticism is that I like to see purse spray versions of new scents available so you can make your mind up before buying a full sized bottle.  Marks and Spencer does this and I love treating myself to an affordable handbag spray. You can get purse sprays containing some of the other fragrances in the Body Shop range for £5 for 10ml, so maybe this plan is in the pipeline.

 Stockists

 Italian Summer Fig  is available from the Body Shop in store and online and retails at £18 for 50ml. Ancillary products are also available so you can layer the fragrance  nicely.

 

Carthusia Capri Forget Me Not: Unforgettably Marvellous

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Carthusia was, until recently, a brand I had only heard of in passing.  An Italian brand, Carthusia shows us that what the Italians don’t know about perfume ain’t worth knowing.  The origins of  Carthusia make such a lovely story that I have to share it with you.

In 1380, the Abbot of St James in Carthusia prepared the best flowers in the region in preparation for the visit of Queen Giovanna.  The flowers were kept in water for three days and the Abbot was so taken with the fragrance that he sought expert help in a fellow scholar who knew a thing or two about chemistry.  Fast forward to 1948 and the Abbot of St James rediscovered these ancient formulae and created the beginnings of the brand we know today.

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I told you it was a lovely story!  Anyway fast forward again to 2014 and I’m sitting in a rain lashed house in Wales reviewing the unforgettable Carthusia I Profumi di Capri Forget me Not.  I know it’s a mouthful and sounds very obscure,  but before you give up hope of ever getting hold of any, you can get it in Liberty in London and they also do mail order.  In the USA you can pop down to Neiman Marcus  next month and find it there.

So what’s it like?  Well it reminded me of Hermes Un Jardin en Mediterranee and a little of Papillon Perfume Angelique.  The combination makes for a top note of oranges and bergamot with a hint of mint and herby leaves.  The middle phase enters fairly soon after this with unmistakable fig.  It’s fig Jean Claude Ellena style though, not fig Womanity style, so its safe to come out from behind the sofa (or is that just me?).  In the middle are some nice salty, bitter greens that reminded me of the plants you find on sand dunes.

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The base notes remind me of Miller Harris Fleurs de Sel with a distinct tang of sea salt, and the fig and the Mediterranean orange grove vibe still going on. I musn’t miss out the hints of violets and hyacinths- two of my favourite notes.  It’s easy to see that it was inspired by Capri, and in my mind’s eye I can see Taylor and Burton snogging on a yacht in the harbour in the golden age of glamour and sunglasses.

Carthusia Capri Forget Me Not lasts longer than a sunny day and comes in the cutest little coffret ever as well as nice big bottles.  They will be launched next month in Neiman Marcus, or you can find them here in the UK.

I have more to say on this range and more samples to get through, so watch this space.

L’Artisan Parfumeur Premier Figuier: Fig, Fig and More Fig, followed by the Fig.

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Let’s talk Fig.  I only recently discovered Fig, which is frankly a scandal nine months into a perfume blog, but I have never claimed to know it all.

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The portal through which I entered the World of Fig was Hermes Un Jardin En Mediterranee. It knocked me out. It was marvellous.  I was as desperate as Eve to find more Fig stuff. Obligingly, my dear colleague Lisa Wordbird, presented me with her bottle of L’Artisan Parfumeur Premier Figuier to see what I thought.

One thing’s for sure. Having spent a few days alone with this, I can now Fig spot from ten feet away.

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telegraph.co.uk

To me, Fig is rich and creamy with heavy green notes around the edges. The fruitiness is like smelling the dried fruit of a Christmas cake before you add it to the mix. Fig equals Sultanas, Milk and green leafery.  However there is one caveat that stops me fully embracing the figginess of Premier Figuier.  There is to my nose, an animalic or musky note that vividly reminds me of a scene in my life many years ago. No names, no pack drill.  Gather round for a fireside story with ole IScentYouADay.

Many moons ago I knew someone who had sterling family ancestry, pots of money and was quite the aristocrat.  However, he had the most appalling personal hygiene. So shocking was it, that the entire abode in which he lived smelled to High Heaven.  Clothes, furniture and air carried the unwashed stench around  from room to room and even onto the street Imagewhen the door was open.  This man, who was terribly nice, and is massively unlikely to be reading this (I hope), had a girlfriend who doused herself in Guerlain Samsara. You may notice I have never reviewed Samsara.

The end result is that  despite Samsara having no fig, Premier Figuier reminds me of that brief window in time when my nose was trying to divide the musk of stale BO from the Green,  fruity rich Samsara.

This is in no way the fault of this lovely Fig perfume, since Premier Figuier is beautifully put together. There are many non fig notes listed: Asfoetida, Fruity notes, Fig leaf, and Sandalwood.

But all I can smell is Fig and Musk, and that rather fetid London Spring of 94.