I’ve been circling this one for a while and wondering how to review it. It sort of does and doesn’t fit into a neat category. It’s sort of a fruity floral and a spicy woody scent. It’s sort of provocative but you could wear it to work without inadvertently turning anyone on. In other words, it has cast its net very wide.
Created in 2004, the Elizabeth Arden Provocative Woman campaign was fronted by my fellow Welshwoman Catherine Zeta Jones. We also happen to be the same age, but the similarity ends there. We won’t get confused as twins anytime soon.
Provocative Woman opens with quince, raspberry, peach, ginger and lotus. The middle notes are apricot, freesia, papaya and orchid. The basenotes are hinoki wood, amber, red amber, sandalwood and cedar.
So you can see my problem. All the fruit from the fruit salad is in here, but with added spice and heat from the ginger and a warm woody finish. It’s hard to pick out the individual notes. It’s sort of a fruit Pimms accord with a touch of chai tea . There’s a lovely clean whiff of freshly washed hair in among the jelly but the flowers struggle to come to the fore.
All in all, I can’t help liking this crowd pleasing effort, even if it is a little bit of a mish mash. I didn’t used to be a fan of fruity florals but I smelled so many different ones that I was won over, and this one has won me over too.
I think the youth market is missing a trick with this fruity number and may well rule it out as being a “Mum” perfume. In fact, the fruitiness is fun and light and even playful. The woods don’t get too dark or deep and the faint, faint flowers offer a little flourish of girliness. I wouldn’t call this provocative, but it’s certainly womanly. It’s also a massive bargain. My bottle is a 30ml EDP and lasting power is not bad at around four hours.
Elizabeth Arden Provocative Woman is widley available. Try Amazon UK and Half Price Perfumes to name but two. Opinions are my own, as is this bottle.
Ironically, I have in the past complemented two strangers on smelling fabulous, only to find out it was YSL Black Opium. I guess, like stilettoes, it’s good on other people but not for me.
Recently I came across the latest Black Opium flanker, Floral Shock. Anything with Shock in the title is always worth a punt and I tried two squirts on skin, one on sleeve and one on a blotter. Reader, if I told you that the blotter is still going strong after a week, would you believe me? It is true. This stuff has nuclear longevity, which makes it a curse or a blessing depending on your preference.
Personally, I could define very few differences between Floral Shock and Black Opium. The opening of Floral Shock is lighter than the opening of Black Opium and has more florals, as the name would suggest. Both open with pear and vanilla and sweet syrupy fruit, at least to my nose. Both have strong coffee notes and thick vanilla. In fact, the main difference between Black Opium and Black Opium Floral Shock is that the top notes of Floral Shock are slightly more floral. The flowers do a little shimmy number, and then Floral Shock turns back into Black Opium again.
Apparently, Floral Shock has no patchouli in it, but I discerned plenty, or maybe I was getting confused because Black Opium has it and this is very similar. What I know for sure is that if you already own a bottle of Black Opium then you probably don’t need this one too. There’s not much to play for. In a fight it would be a draw.
This review is, of course, just my opinion and not gospel. You may be one of the strangers I stopped and said “Sorry to bother you, but you smell amazing. What is it please?” If you do wear this, you probably smell great, but trust me, on my skin this was red syrupy fruit, pears, coffee, vanilla and a little touch of migraine.
Fans of YSL Mon Paris and Dior Poison Girl may well enjoy this too.
Stockists: I found this in House of Fraser. You can also buy it from The Fragrance Shop UK among other places.
How About You?
Have you tried Black Opium or Black Opium Floral Shock? or are you a fan of the original? Or even the original original? Do let me know. I always love to hear from you.
I was given a bottle of this at the recent Fragrance Foundation Awards, and I’m glad I was because the packaging and general image wouldn’t have otherwise tempted me. However, a good sniff of Babe Power converted this curmudgeon into a surprise fan.
Babe Power is the first fragrance from fashion label missguided. It’s a hot on trend label for hot on trend people and this fragrance is no exception. It steps out of class and sticks two fingers up at boring old glass perfume bottles and comes in a tin can that looks and feels exactly like a can of energy drink.
I did the sniff test on my family and gleaned the following verdicts: “bubble gum” “Haribo” and the rather unimaginative response: “perfume.”
The very first thing I got from Babe Power was sour cherries. Don’t be put off by the “sour” bit. This is a sharp cherry scent, unlike a sweet sickly “normal” cherry scent. The vanilla is almost indistinguishable from the cherry note as they are so co-dependent and entwined. In fact, just for fun, there’s also apple, pineapple, grapefruit and candy floss in here. The ingredients remind me of a very colourful beach hut style kiosk. There’s flowers too: very girly ones- jasmine, peony and orange flower. The jasmine and peony just peek through, but frankly the big bright fruity notes are partying too loud to answer the door.
This may sound like a mish mash, but actually it really, really works. I love the fact that it doesn’t take itself too seriously whilst getting the balance right. The sour cherries had me at hello, and the slightly play doh vanilla makes me love it even more.
I would like to predict that this will be a big success, but before I could even review this, it has become a huge bestseller in The Fragrance Shop. I wouldn’t sound very mystic and prophetic when this is already flying off the shelves so fast that passers-by have to duck.
Bravo missguided. Encore!
Missguided Babe Power is available from The Fragrance Shop for 27.50 for 80ml EDP. Opinions are my own.
If you’re in a floaty peony sort of mood, I’m afraid you’ve come out of the wrong lift. But if you’re looking for Black Osmanthus, follow that woman with the black lipstick. Follow her into that unmarked door with the smoky jazz drifting out of it. You’ll find what you’re looking for in there.
Black Osmanthus by Marina Barcenilla won this year’s Fragrance Foundation Award for Best Independent Perfume, and I for one, was jolly pleased. It’s not just because Marina does everything herself, including sourcing the absolutes and extracts that she makes her potent potions with, but because Black Osmanthus is not your usual dab it on after a shower and wear it to work fragrance. Black Osmanthus breaks the mould and gives a rude salute , which appeals to the rebel in me that so often, by necessity, gets supressed.
Osmanthus is the name for a genre of around 30 types of blossoming plants. Petals are usually white and the scent is likened to fruity, leathery blossom, often with apricot or peachy cadences.
Black Osmanthus is heavy, leathery, smoky and to my nose at least, has a hint of gorgeous creosote, like a freshly painted fence. This is by no means a criticism- creosote is one of my favourite scents ever.
Black Osmanthus opens with all the subtlety of an Avon Lady knocking your door down with a sledgehammer. On my skin, it takes me straight into smoky, leathery tar territory and I pretty much stay there. I should tell you that Marina wore this the night of her win and in a room full of fume heads wearing their favourite scents, this beautiful smoked leather was distinct and true throughout the evening.
This is made from layers of leathery notes: There’s rich saffron stamens, dark patchouli, almost sticky in its depth, bay rum and myrrh.
The flowers are, if you’ll pardon the pun, no shrinking violets: there’s tuberose and jasmine and they’re not dainty. The oakmoss sits with the other tough guys and makes this the ultimate dark, leathery spicy scent for those who have been seeking exactly this. It reminds me of those little vials of Middle Eastern attar with its amber juice that let the fumes escape like snakes.
Lasting power is fantastic. Spray at dawn and enjoy wafts of it until dusk. And then stay up all night.
As you may have gathered, last Thursday was the UK Fragrance Foundation Annual Awards Night (aka the Fifis) and saw a major gathering of the great and the good in the perfume industry. By a happy turn of events, I found my little old self there too.
I attended as a guest of the Clive Christian team, which was both an honour and a privilege and I thank them warmly for inviting me.
I hadn’t been sure that attending would even be possible, with the night being on a school night, during term time and in London, around 150 miles from South Wales where Fort Scriven is situated. After rearranging my family’s lives in order to facilitate my attendance, and a last-minute ear infection at 5.50am from my poorly son who failed to guilt me into cancelling, I was off.
I may have mentioned before how kind perfume people are. Their generosity and thoughtfulness is legend, and tonight was no exception. I was invited to join brilliant perfume writer Stephan Matthews and Fifi award winner and perfumer Marina Barcenilla for a meet up and catch up prior to the noise and chaos. This meant I did not have to walk in alone and when we reached the venue and I saw the sheer enormity of the event, I was wholeheartedly grateful to have people to walk in with.
There were proper paparazzi and a big sponsored backdrop for better known people than I to be photographed on. Red carpet was everywhere- I have some on my stairs at home, but it doesn’t have the same effect and it’s a sod to hoover. There were sequinned hosts and black tie waiters with champagne holders that could hold about thirty glasses, unlike me. I only had one and stuck to soft drinks thereafter. I had names to remember and an early bus and I could not figure out where my hotel was from a map. Adding champagne would have been a disaster. I might still be there now, looking for the exit.
Stephan and Marina are a hoot to hang out with and I was in awe of their knowledge: not just of the industry but of the process and raw materials. Marina, as you may know, is a talented perfumer and very modest with it. Plus hilarious and sweary also.
I had a chance to catch up with the charming Dariusz, aka Persolaise and a met a jolly good looking chap who looked very familiar. I asked him what he did for a living “I’m a model” replied the charming model Oliver Cheshire. If I was as good looking as him, I’d be a massive big head, but he wasn’t in the slightest and was delightful.
My chum and fume-idol Sarah McCartney arrived around then: a finalist in two categories for Mother Nature’s Naughty Daughters, and looking splendid in vintage couture, with vintage buttons gleaming like jewels. We founded a two-strong campaign to restore the evening glove. Check out our YouTube video above that’s snowballed into double viewing figures.
It was soon time to herd us upstairs to dinner and I was separated from my companions to join my hosts on the Clive Christian table. My eyes had popped out on stalks when on seeing goody bags on every chair, so I popped them back in and tried to look gracious and not like a goody bag greedy guts. Which I am.
The Clive Christian table were a truly lovely team of people and I was particularly bowled over to have a chat with Victoria Christian herself who, let me tell you, smelled INCREDIBLE. (She was wearing Clive Christian V and C together). Luckily, fragrance gatherings are one of the few occasions where you can sniff people you have only just met without getting arrested. Also on my table, I was delighted to see Jo Fairley of The Perfume Society, who I hadn’t seen since I attended her workshop last Saturday.
You will hear more from me about Clive Christian throughout the year as there are exciting launches coming up soon, so watch this space.
After being entertained 1950s style by the fabulous Bye Bye Baby- a superb Frankie Valli style singing act, the awards began in earnest. There isn’t room here to list all the winners, so follow this link to Now Smell This, but we had a lovely compere in the form of Natasha Kaplinksy, who looked great but was too far away to sniff.
I was disappointed that Sarah McCartney didn’t win, but delighted that Marina Barcenilla won for Black Osmanthus. Marina and Sarah are true perfumers who make their own stuff, source their own materials and get their hands dirty. I love perfumers who do that and if it were up to me, I’d create a special category for the dirty hands gang.
The Fragrance Foundation was celebrating its twenty fifth birthday that night and it was fascinating to watch a showreel of perfume ads over the last 25 years. How things have changed! The night was finally over, all bar the dancing, but this tired Cinders could bear no more after a very long day. Finding the exit was like trying to leave Ikea but I just about made it out of there before I turned into a pumpkin.
Them Fragrance Foundation people sure know how to throw a party.
Goodnight, Nos da, Pyjamas.
Who are you wearing?
Samantha Scriven was dressed by The Ty Hafan Children’s Hospice Charity Shop, Cwmbran and the YMCA Shop Blackwood. Jewellery by Marks and Spencer from four years ago. Make up by Avon and Rimmel. Hair by Salon Scriven and two hotel mirrors. Scent of the Night was Le Jardin Retrouvé Tuberose Trianon.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
I would never have thought that Tel Aviv would have ended up as a fragrance to love, but it really is. Out of the four, I think it is my favourite. My preconceptions were way out of kilter: I was imagining concrete and bombsites and traffic. Hardly a premise for a fragrance, right? Not for the first or last time where fragrance is concerned, I was wrong. Wrong with a capital “W.”
Tel Aviv (the fragrance) made me think of open air markets selling melons and flowers. It evokes a blue sky and greenery and big blousy flowers and fluffy clouds. It’s poetic and whimsical and not at all how I imagined. It’s irresistibly optimistic and reminded me that every city has a fluffy tummy if you make it roll over for you.
Tel Aviv opens with bergamot and oranges, giving a citrussy blast of sunshine and freshness. The middle blends into roses, jasmine and beautiful, light freesia. The freesia and roses are particularly prominent, but the citruses in the opening stick around, giving this a beautiful airy and pretty feel. It’s irresistibly feminine.
The base adds a sort of sugar free sweetness in so far as there are touches of vanilla without any of the sticky sweetness that can sometimes happen. The base is sandalwood, benzoin and deer tongue, or liatrix, also known as wild vanilla (thank you Fragrantica, you fount of all knowledge, you!).
Tel Aviv is bright and summery and lightly floral and pretty. It’s the exact opposite of how I would expect a scent called Tel Aviv to smell, but Gallivant is all about going off the beaten the track. It’s more Lonely Planet than Thomas Cook and thank goodness for that. This is the pretty underbelly of a sunny, seaside city, and not the busy towering, skyscraper beehive we see on the news.
Forgive me for sounding like a tourist brochure when I say take a closer look at Tel Aviv.
You can buy Tel Aviv from the Gallivant website. My sample was kindly sent to me by the Gallivant team, for which many thanks. Opinions are my own.
You may have seen my recent post about celebrity perfumes in which I nailed my colours to the mast. I’m a fan. Celebrity fragrances are made by experts and priced to sell. What’s not to love?
Today I am reviewing my new bottle of Still by Jennifer Lopez. It was recommended to me by friend of the blog Rachael, who is a fan of Still and told me she would love to read a review. Like an olfactory DJ, I’m always happy to do requests. Rachael, this is for you.
Still opens with Earl Grey Tea and oranges, giving this a lovely fresh and clean opening straight away. My first thought is that this would make the perfect work scent. It’s light and clean and surely would offend nobody. The light opening pretty much stays put throughout, just gathering some lily of the valley, fressia and jasmine along the way. None of this becomes rich or cloying; the orangey citrus notes keep everything light and zingy.
The base is allegedly sandalwood, amber, musk and pepper, but this really doesn’t end up as rich and spicy as those notes might suggest. In fact, I would say some nice clean musks, like freshly shampooed hair, and the faintest tang of clean spices, like a chai tea for example.
All in all, my bottle of eau de parfum was jolly good value at just over £10 for 30ml from Amazon UK. This would make a great gift for a teen since it is no way provocative, but clean, light and pretty. Don’t worry if your teenage years are an embarrassing distant blur of cringiness- you can wear this even if you’re, ooh, I don’t know…47? (Ahem).
JLo Still is absolutely bang on the money for summer, for work or for a young perfume recipient. Or an attractive older woman. From Wales.
You can buy this from Amazon UK like I did. Opinions are my own and I bought this for myself.
It’s a wet spring. Roses from Columbia Rd. Georgian architecture. A hint of dustiness. An earthy lush wetness you can almost taste.
Gallivant is a new niche fragrance brand with a capsule collection of four city inspired scents. Gallivant is the brainchild of Nick Steward, who is perfectly placed to go solo having been Product and Creative Director at the legendary L’Artisan Parfumeur. Gallivant aims to embody a sense of adventure and exploration. Each scent seeks to capture the spirit of the city after which it has been named, and I don’t mean just the pretty touristy bits. The noses behind the range are Karine Chevallier and Giorgia Navarra.
Surprisingly, this collection also put me ina position I’d never thought I’d find myself in: I’ve been gallivanting around my home county of Torfaen smelling like Tel Aviv. Who knew? Reader, I love it. Today I’m reviewing London. The other three will follow: Istanbul, Brooklyn and Tel Aviv.
London the fragrance opens with cucumber and roses on my skin. Don’t be put off by the cucumber- it doesn’t remind me of teenage spot treatment and cleanser in this context. Gallivant London is Inspired by the flower market of Columbia Road. The rose de mai flourishes from the first spray and sticks around throughout. Touches of leather come through- funnily enough, a smell I often associate with London, especially the market on Petticoat Lane.
This leathery rose pretty much stays as a leathery rose, but the cucumber melts away, having made its introduction. Enter stage left a pleasant earthy woodiness in the form of patchouli, cedar and sandalwood. That rose never waivers though, which gives this a pleasing juxtaposition of male and female, soft and hard, gentle and tough. In other words, a perfect capture of this eclectic and multi faceted city.
London is available from the Gallivant website and in the USA, from Luckyscent. My samples were very kindly sent to me by Gallivant, for which, many thanks. Opinions are my own.
Once again, I am putting on my glasses and trying to look important Yes, indeed: it’s time for more of your perfume problems!
I must apologise to poor Charlotte who wrote in with this week’s problem. It’s taken me so long to respond and I apologise profusely. I do hope you still like me Charlotte! I blame the Easter Holidays, a camping trip, several writing jobs, my two children, four workmen, a drain, a flood and a loss adjustor. I’ll be quicker next time, so do write in! You can email me on email@example.com or comment below or on my Facebook page.
Here is Charlotte’s letter:
Dear Aunty Sam
I absolutely love Viktor &Rolf Flowerbomb but it is SO expensive! Can you suggest other scents that are very similar but not quite so pricy?
My dear Charlotte,
This is an excellent question and I’m sure you’re not alone in wanting an answer. Viktor and Rolf Flowerbomb is much beloved, but as you point out, not very cheap. Many perfume fans reckon it smells similar to mega blockbuster Lancôme La Vie est Belle. To give credit where it’s due, Flowerbomb got there first, way back in 2005, whereas La Vie est Belle didn’t emerge until 2012.
So what can I recommend that will make you smell amazingly Flowerbomb-like and still be budget friendly? Here goes:
World Class Perfumes Perfumer’s Choice “Natalie”
The World Class Perfume Group owns Milton Lloyd and Taylor of London, who make a lot of the Lentheric and Yardley stuff of yesteryear such as Panache and Chique.
The Perfumer’s Choice arm of the business has a small range of very long-lasting fragrances which are guaranteed to last at least six hours, and I can vouch that they definitely do. Natalie is so similar to La Vie est Belle that I thought I’d sprayed the wrong bottle. It lasted around eight hours and has the combo of flowers and warm, sweet gourmand notes that make it so similar that this blogger was fooled. The packaging ain’t fancy, but, boy, it’s value for money. I reviewed it here and at the time, I couldn’t quite make the connection as I don’t think I was familiar with its doppelganger at the time, but I smelled it recently and thought YES.
Coming in at the very reasonable price of £14 for 83m of EDP, or £7 for 50ml of Parfum de Toilette (to me PDT is stronger than EDT, not quite as strong as EDP) Perfumer’s Choice Natalie is available from this website or from Amazon UK.
Agent Provocateur Fatale
This has the big white flowers and the patchouli and orchid of Flowerbomb. Imagine Flowerbomb with an accent of grated dark chocolate and you’re not far off AP Fatale. Available for just 12,95 from one of my favourite sites : allbeauty. com, this is far cheaper than Flowerbomb and possibly cheap enough to risk a blind buy.
I hope this helps you Charlotte, and again, I do apologise for the lengthy delay
Ask me for help!
Are you pensive about perfumes? Fanatical about fragrance? Addled by aldehydes? Confused dot com? I’m here to answer any questions you might have, whether it’s a smellalike, a reformulation question or a where-can-I-buy-it query. Just ask. I always love to hear from you.