My dear Avon Lady Jill gave me a little perfume sample when she dropped off a late item yesterday. I’m used to this now- Avon launches wide and often, which is fine by me. However, when Jill said “This one’s called Imari” I stopped in my tracks. “Just a minute,” I thought, “that one’s only available in the USA.”
Dear reader, and fellow Avon fan (probably if you’re reading this) it is true. Imari is coming to the UK.
This has got me very excited because if they can bring Imari to us, then what else can they do? I have always thought that if Avon did a heritage range of old favourites, then the people in my age group, i.e. late forties (but we look younger) would snap them up before you could say Foxfire. Dare I hope for Eau Givree? For Odyssey? For Charisma? My wishes are not impossible dreams. They did after all, bring Timeless back when customer clamour deafened, and jolly good it is too.
But did you know for instance, that the USA Avon brochure has Sweet Honesty, Odyseey, Candid and Night Magic? Dare I hope we’re getting them too over here in the UK?
So what’s Imari like?
Well it opens with citrus for a clean, bright opening. There’s a nice bit of soapy aldehydes in the beginning, before this lurches into rose and patchouli territory, with some big noticeable white flower notes. It’s all rounded off with a bit of musk, incense and amber. Despite calling itself a chypre, this lacks the mossy note that qualifies it as one, but I’m not going to nit-pick, because I want more. There is a touch of vanilla in the finish, but its warm and cosy rather than sweet and cakey.
Avon has a particular talent for channelling into what’s hot on the high street and providing its own, more affordable take on current trends. What delights me about this one is that Avon is looking beyond its younger demographic. After all, they have all the vanilla and fruity florals and praline combos they could ever dream of. What joy then, to get something for me and my tribe of fellow grand dames of a certain age (but look younger). Imari was originally created in 1985, and we know how great all those fragrances were.
Avon Imari will be in the next brochure and you can queue behind me if you like. It won’t be expensive. Avon UK, if you’re reading this, please bring the others over too!
Welcome to the second post in the MoodScent4 collaboration! We are four perfume bloggers based France, Holland, England and Wales who will be posting on a different joint subject every couple of months. Each time we will individually pick a selection of five or so fragrances to fit a particular mood or occasion. You’ll find links to the other blogs at the end of the post.
We hope you have fun reading our different choices and adding your own in the comments.
Wherever you are in the world, you’re bound to have noticed that it’s wedding season: unless its currently Monsoon season where you are (i.e Wales), in which case, please read this later in the year when the sun’s out.
With a number of wedding invites thudding on mats (I’ve had three this year), we thought it only fair to help you out with an informal guide to what scent to wear if you are a wedding guest.
As a wedding guest, there are certain protocols one must stick to. For example, there’s the obvious blunder of wearing all white to a wedding, or wearing attention seeking outfits that may attract more looks than the poor bride gets. Also, as a wedding guest, this is no place for racy cleavage and skimpy skirts. If you’ve invited either of the Hadid sisters, you may want to pop a Post It note in their invitation. Call me old fashioned, but I’ve seen a bag of oranges wear more string than they had on at the Met Gala (hoiks bosom and clutches pearls).
Scent wise, the rules still apply, at least in my book. I wouldn’t wear anything loud or experimental that makes everyone look round in church for the wrong reasons. Neither would I always play it safe and stick with airy florals (although they certainly have a place).
Here then, are my own personal mainstays when I am invited to a wedding.
Nina Ricci L’Air du Temps
I wore this to the wedding I attended on Saturday. It’s a beautiful classic floral that will be familiar to many, yet in my opinion, has never been overexposed. It’s gentle, pretty, delicate and warm (dash of amber in the finish). This is one fragrance I will never allow myself to be without. Here’s my review.
4160 Tuesdays Raw Silk and Red Roses
With a name like this, this beautiful scent just cries out to be worn at a wedding, and it suits the occasion perfectly. This is my usual Go To scent for weddings but I couldn’t find it yesterday. Like Virginia Woolf, my box of minis and samples needs a Room of One’s Own. Raw Silk and Red Roses smells so deliciously of old fashioned roses, yet it has depth and facets that lift this away from any other rose scent that I have tried. You can read my review here.
Cartier Baiser Fou
I fell hard for this after not being enamoured of the original Cartier Baiser Volé. Where Baiser Volé was all about the lilies and not in a good way, Baiser Fou is the fun, more playful sister. Smelling like a cross between fresh raspberries, Milky Bars and expensive lipstick, this is perfect for a summer wedding where lipstick ends up on everyone. You can read my review here.
Andy Tauer Noontide Petals
I have yet to find anything that smells similar to this aldehyde beauty. It’s bright with citrussy lime and clean soapy aldehydes, but changes throughout the day. By the time the evening party comes around, you’ll be smelling of tuberose, jasmine, frankincense, patchouli and roses. It has the added bonus of giving you the sure knowledge that nobody else will be wearing it. Unless you are going to a wedding full of perfume peeps. You can read my review here.
Sarah Jessica Parker Lovely
This one gets lots of mentions on my blog and that’s because it’s wonderfully versatile, long-lasting, and as girly as pigtails. I adore Lovely. The florals give way to rich creamy woods and patchouli and the whole shebang lasts all day. I spray mine in my cleavage and the back of my neck and I was still catching delightful wafts at bedtime. It’s not overpowering and I guarantee it will go with your dress. For the price, this remains one of the best value fragrances I know. It’s usually around £20 a bottle and I’m wearing it today.
How about you?
What scent do you wear to weddings? Do you have a favourite or do you choose as you go? Do let us know. We’d love to hear from you.
I am chuffed to beans to have three international colleagues to collaborate with. Find out what Tara, Esperanza and Megan all had to say on the subject of wedding guest perfumes. Between us we cover Wales, England, the Netherlands and France, which makes us the last word on European fragrances. We decided.
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.
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.
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…
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.
The problem with celebrity fragrances is that they keep getting discontinued. Out of my favourites from just three years ago, around six are impossible to get now. The rumour on the grapevine is that celeb fragrances are on the way out, or at least on the way down, and I have mixed feelings about this. Firstly, if all celeb fragrances were of the fruity floral fruitichoulil smellalike genre that so many were, then fine. See ya. No problem here. However, celebrity fragrances are like jumble sales. It might look like a load of junk but when you rummage, you find gold and treasure.
The other great thing about celebrity fragrances is that they are not expensive. They’re competing with other celebrity fragrances which are also not expensive, so they can’t risk sky high prices. That’s not their demographic. Oh, and don’t forget that the celebrity doesn’t actually make them. Celeb fragrances are made by respected houses such as Givauden, Coty and Elizabeth Arden. I really can’t see Beyoncé in a lab coat with a pipette moaning about the price of orris butter, can you? Lovely mental image though.
I have found some absolute gems among celeb fragrances and I am genuinely sad not to be able to buy some of them anymore.
What follows below is an up-to-date, up-to-the minute round up of celebrity fragrances that you can definitely easily buy at the moment at the time of going to press, I promise. Some are old faithfuls that have been around a while, and show no signs of leaving, and some are new. All of them are jolly good, at least in my opinion.
Sarah Jessica Parker Stash SJP
This is my number one favourite. SJP is rare in that she is deeply involved in the scents she creates and her own tastes influence what she launches. In the case of Stash, I applaud her for taking a risk. This smoky sandalwood and incense treat was never going to be a mass market crowd pleaser, but critics and fumeheads love it, as do I. Here’s my review and here’s where you can buy it.
Sarah Jessica Parker Lovely
I wear this regularly and now that my 100ml bottle is going down, I’m looking to replace it. It suits just about everyone and to me, it has a wonderful 50s retro feel. You can read my review here. Many compare it to Narciso Rodriguez For Her. You can buy Lovely in many places at varying prices. I bought mine from here.
A wonderfully clean scent that reminds me of freshly washed hair and clean laundry. It lasts for ages too. Launched in 2002, this shows no sign of going anyway and has become a classic for good reason. You can buy it here.
Britney Spears Curious
This was launched way back in ’04, which is a long time ago in the perfume universe.. I complimented a friend on this and asked her what she was wearing- I was surprised when I found out it was Britney Curious as I’d written it off. Its use of magnolia and pear sets it apart from the usual pink sugary fruity florals and it has a lovely light feel to it with no stickiness. Extra points for the beautiful blue glass bottle, and if you can get one with the puffy squeezy atomiser, even better. You can buy it here.
Rogue made an impact on me because it didn’t go in the obvious direction that it could have. I t could have gone all pink pepper and red berries and vanilla, but it didn’t. In fact, it reminded me of Serge Lutens Daim Blond, which is all about the unusual but genius combination of suede and apricots. Here’s my review of Rogue and here’s where you can buy it.
Rihanna Reb’l Fleur
I have a full 100ml bottle of this. I wouldn’t normally have thought of buying it, but my dear brother picked it out for me himself for my birthday. I was so touched. I hardly ever get perfume as a gift (violins!) and I was delighted to get this whopper. Reb’l Fleur is a heavy hitting, patchouli rich fruity floral with a hit of coconut and vanilla. Sillage is massive and longevity huge. Two sprays in the morning and you’ll be sorted till tea time. You can buy it here.
Celine Dion Sensational
By a happy turn of fate, I stumbled across this in my local Lloyds Pharmacy when I was picking up my husband’s prescription. There was a tester at the till and it was on special offer at 9.99. I didn’t buy it that day, and when I went back, it was gone. However, I fell in love with it. It lasted at least seven hours and was a delicious melange of pear, plum, freesia, lily of the valley and violet. It opens like a juicy tropical fruit scent and segues into a stunning musky floral. The nose behind it is the legendary Maurice Roucel. This one is at the top of my Wanted list. You can buy it here.
Elizabeth Taylor White Diamonds
This opens like an aldehyde and ends like a chypre. Full of old school Hollywood glamour, this is bursting with all the rich white flowers: tuberose, jasmine, neroli. It’s not really one for the young palate of today, but as a fan of classic chypres and big eighties sillage, this is right up my street. It’s cheap as chips and widely available. Round of applause for the diamante choker round its neck. You can buy it here.
9. Adam Levine For Her
This is a real gem that often goes under the radar. Lisa Jones let me borrow her bottle and I was very impressed. This comes in a smart white box in a bottle that’s shaped like a microphone. This is a woody, slightly spicy scent with a long, langorous sandalwood base. It is so cheap I was suspicious, but I can vouch for its fabulousness. Plus you know, Adam Levine. Cor. You can read my review here and buy it from here for less than ten quid. Oh, and it’s totally unisex, so ignore the “For Her” label.
Jessica Simpson Fancy Nights
This has featured on my previous best celeb scents list and it qualifies for this one because it is still available and still cheap. It has patchouli, papyrus and amber, and many say that it is a dead ringer for Prada Amber ( and it is!). Still available on Amazon for under £20 for a big bottle. Here’s my review.
The ones I miss
The following celeb fragrances are either available but three times the price they were, or impossible to find. Reader, I mourn them: JLo Deseo, Hilary Duff with Love, Sarah Jessica Parker The Lovely Collection- Dawn, Endless and Twilight, Queen by Queen Latifah, Manifesto by Isabella Rossellini.
The ones I want to try
Antonio Banderas’s vast range (he has been launching scent since 1997), Drew Barrymore’s new ones, Joan Collins’ new ones for Marks and Spencer, Sofia by Sofia Vergara and Elizabeth Taylor Gardenia and Passion, which I still haven’t tried.
How about you?
What celebrity fragrances do you like to wear? Which ones do you miss? Which do you want to try? Do let me know. I always love to hear from you.
Dear reader, I am now in my fifth decade and due to toast the start of my sixth in 2020 when I turn 50.
To me, scent is like a Tardis. It takes you back in time so fast that you can be stepping out the Tardis door into 1976 after one whiff of Panache. More instantly evocative than a photograph or a song, a fragrance can whisk you back to the scent of the primary school teacher whose name you forget, but whose perfume you can recall as if a switch has been flicked in your head.
Please join me on my mini odyssey through the smell of the 70s, 80s, 90s, Noughties and Twenteens and do share your #scentmemories below.
The Smell of the 1970s.
I was born in 1970. The first ten years of my life can be summed up, at least in the olfactory sense, as a combination of cigarette smoke (not mine), the smell of a roast cooking, mud, ferns, bluebells, Woodleigh Green Apple Shampoo, Avon Pretty Peach and Avon Occur, in a giraffe shaped bottle, no less. Quite how giraffes and perfume go together, I never thought to question, but he literally had some brass neck.
My teachers wore Cacharel Anais Anais, which hasn’t changed to this day, as long as you sidestep the “Delice” version. I can’t remember what scent my mother wore, but she always smelled nice. My grandmother wore Coty L’Aimant, which I didn’t recognise then, but which moves me to gusty sighs of melancholy now she isn’t here.
The Smell of the 1980s.
Formative years mean a thirst to both stand out and blend in at the same time. I was groping for an identity and slowly moving into and out of adolescence. It was 1981 before I gradually weaned myself off
playing with Sindy dolls. I can still vividly recall the smell of the vinyl heads and strange nylon hair, inevitably knotted to all hell within a week of ownership.
My first ever scent that I paid for myself was a splash bottle of Bluebell perfume from Boots No 7. Long since discontinued, I have sought that bluebell scent ever since. My mother bought me a bottle of Jontue from a trip she went on, and one Christmas I had a bottle of Cachet. I wore this A LOT. I also remember Avon Eau Givreé: a beautiful green hesperide that has long since been discontinued.
My teens saw me receive my first ever bottle of proper fragrance from my father for my 18th birthday. It was Estee Lauder Beautiful and I still love it now. 1988 saw me leave home at go to Exeter Uni, where the most memorable scents were Marlboro cigarettes, red wine and lashings of Cacharel LouLou.
Meanwhile, over in Denver Colorado, Alexis Carrington was cracking the whip. Excess, big shoulder pads, big hair and big smells were all the rage. On the High Street, there was the unmistakable cloud of Giorgio Beverly Hills and a miasma of Dior Poison mingled with Body Shop White Musk and Dewberry. The Nightclubs smelled of Calvin Klein Obsession, and my one little egg shaped bottle took me into the 1990s.
The Smell of the 1990s
The caring, sharing Nineties sobered everyone up and made us wear ozonic scents in an urge to cleanse ourselves of the Eighties excesses. All my friends smelled of Issey Miyake L’Eau D’Issey, which is no bad thing. I had discovered Chanel Cristalle, also a light scent that was the opposite side of the spectrum to Poison, Obsession and Giorgio. The 1990s saw me graduate and move to London, which smelled very different to Devon. London air is thicker, dirtier and there were more cigarettes smoked and more traffic fumes, but reader, to me it was the smell of freedom and wonder and possibility.
1992 saw the launch of the iconic Thierry Mugler Angel. I remember smelling it for the first time in Harrods Perfume Hall and thinking “but why would I want to smell like chocolate?” I appreciate it now of course, for the multi-faceted classic it is, but back then it was revolutionary among the ozonic and airy fairy Nineties scents. Meanwhile, in 1997, Gucci launched the now much-mourned Gucci Envy. So good was this floral green scent with a vein of metal running through it, that I dumped Cristalle and remained almost exclusive to Gucci Envy until it was cruelly taken from us in 2007.
The Smell of The Noughties
The Noughties saw a revolution in celebrity fragrance. Elizabeth Taylor had been churning them out since 1991, but they were largely seen as fan fodder until 2002 when Jennifer Lopez launched the brilliant Glow. It was a clean, white fragrance that pleased the crowds and began a snowball of celebrity fragrances taking off. Britney Spears got in on it, as did many of her contemporaries and soon the perfumeries were chock full of celeb scents. Sarah Jessica Parker brought new possibilities with SJP Lovely and some of the snobbery dissipated when we realised that celebrity stuff can be pretty darn good. (I’m still a celeb scent geek)
The noughties also mark the only two years of my adult life where I have been without any fragrance and that’s because I had my sons during that decade. Their first scent memory is of my skin. No deodorant, no perfume, just me. It wasn’t easy getting those babies, but it was worth it.
The Smell of the Twenteens
Now things really start to spice up. I started my blog on January 2nd 2013. It was a combination of an urge to write and a channel for my reawakened perfume passion. This was brought about by a lean period, during which Chanel was very much out of reach. As a result, I developed a bit of a cheap and cheerful habit as my receipts from allbeauty.com will attest. From that, and the three huge boxes of samples that dear Lisa Jones let me borrow, the floodgates opened.
The biggest scent launch of the Twenteens has to be the seminal Lancome La Vie est Belle. The fruity floral explosion of the early ‘teens segued into a river of caramel and praline Hot on its heels was YSL Black Opium , which dismayed many Opium fans, but brought a cohort of new fans to the brand.
In recent times, I’ve been coming across the semi-ubiquitous jasmine sambac note that seems to be so popular right now. You can find it in Paco Rabanne Olympea, Givenchy Dahlia Divin and Versace Eros. The big launch of 2017 is Mon Guerlain, and whilst it’s not my cup of tea, I do harbour hopes that it will lead us into a big lavender trend.
As we point in the direction of 2020, I’m looking forward to the alleged forthcoming trends of milk notes, peony and a renaissance of my favourite genre: green notes.
Interestingly, celebrity fragrance sales are on the wane, but guess what’s on the up? Niche perfume. Which is very good news indeedy.
How about you?
What scents bring back instant memories for you? It doesn’t matter how random or everyday they are, I always love to hear from you.
One of the many highlights of my trip to the Jasmine Awards was the lovely surprise of bumping into Marina Barcenilla of MB Parfums. I had reviewed Marina’s beautiful scent India only last week, and in fact she had a phial of India body oil in her bag for me as a gift. Marina is as delightful as I’d imagined and it is a pleasure to write about her beautiful scents. Today I’m going to review MB Parfums Patchouli Clouds, because it stopped me in my tracks and made me say “Wow” out loud to an empty room.
Patchouli is a big old spectrum. The patchouli you find in the base notes of say, Chanel Coco Mademoiselle, will be nothing like the unctuous oil you might have bought in the 70s or 80s ( if you are as old as I am), but it’s all patchouli, in some form.
Patchouli Clouds has a wonderful mixture of spice, citrus, and damp woods. It starts off as an almost musty wet wood, and calms down into a beautifully aromatic earthiness that made me think of forests after the rain and slightly rotten wood. Believe it or not, I mean that in a good way. I love the smell of wood in all its stages: crumbly, freshly sawn, still with the bark on: you name it, I like it. There are flowers too: I found jasmine and roses entwined among the earthy bark.
In Patchouli Clouds, the scent has more in common with the oils from the Indian joss stick stall in Newport market that I hung around in during my teens. You know the sort of place: you could buy floaty skirts with tiny mirrored sequins on and leather purses with elephants on the front. The patchouli you could buy there was not in fancy packaging and it smelled more authentic and natural than anything I’ve ever sniffed over a pristine beauty counter.
Patchouli Clouds reinvents that in a less primitive way. It still has the patchouli kick of earthiness I seek, but it’s blended beautifully with rich florals and incense to ensure that the star of the show really shines with the right chorus in the background.
MB Perfumes Patchouli Clouds is available from the MB Parfums website, which also has a good sample service. My sample is from Marina herself, for which, many thanks. Opinions are my own.
My dears, I returned from the Jasmines only yesterday and it has taken until now for me to process the explosion of glamour and excitement that happened to me.
It was a thrill to receive that first email from the Fragrance Foundation back in January, letting me know I had been shortlisted. Since then, it has been the biggest event in my calendar.
But What Fragrance to Wear?
I wasn’t too worried about what clothes what to wear, although I had a last-minute lingerie malfunction which meant I ended up looking like I was going for a job interview in an undertaker’s. Still, wearing black all the time never hurt Margot Fonteyn or Edith Piaf (is what I keep telling myself). The biggest problem I had was what scent to wear? That one kept me awake for a while, I can tell you. *
The Awards were to be hosted at Bafta, and due to its early 8.45 am start, I had to come up the night before. I stayed in a hotel near the most beautiful station in the world, St Pancras. This was rather handy since there was a large branch of Pret a Manger in St Pancras station. We don’t have Pret in Wales (violins) so, it’s my eatery of choice when I’m back in the Big Smoke.
The Big Day Arrives. I’m All a-Quiver!
Being a swot, I arrived in Piccadilly an hour early on the morning of The Jasmines and made use of a nearby Costa (This is why London is never cheap when I visit). I was as nervous as if I was going to a job interview. As a natural introvert, networking makes my armpits prickle, but perfume people are outrageously lovely, as was the case later on.
Crossing the Bafta threshold was a thrill. Seeing the big gold mask on the wall and seeing uniformed doormen made my heart go all fluttery.
When I arrived, there was a huge floral centrepiece with scented rose petals a-wafting through the air, along with coffee and posh pastries (sorry for the food writing. I’m really hungry). My nerves left me as conversation began to flow.
Here I am, Name Dropping
At one point, I shook hands with a dapper looking Roja Dove. Yes, he was wearing silk slippers, and no, he hadn’t heard of my blog.
I was delighted to see the impossibly glamorous Suzy Nightingale again, and chuffed to beans to meet one of my sheroes, Jo Fairley of The Perfume Society. I have been reading Jo’s writing since the year 2000 and never thought I would be acquainted with her in real life. I also met lovely Penny from The Perfume Society, but it was in the Ladies Toilets so we didn’t get to chat more, sadly. The Perfume Society is my mothership.
I had a lovely surprise when I saw perfume guru Nick Gilbert and perfumer Sarah McCartney of 4160 Tuesdays arrive. I wasn’t expecting them and I was over the moon to see familiar faces. An added bionus was that I also got to meet the delightful Marina Barcenilla, who I wrote about only last week.
If I tell you that Sarah McCartney was wearing colour block fortuny pleats with dragon fins on, would you believe me? She was and she pulled it off, although rumour has it she startled a dog earlier in the day: and comedian Jeremy Hardy, but that’s another story.
The Big Moment
At 9.30am we were ushered into the awards room. There was a big screen and a stage at the front, where the judges and hosts were seated. The category I was shortlisted for was the “Best Digital Experience” award for my article about Mandy Aftel’s Memento Mori. I had stiff competition, and was honoured to be among them. Thomas Dunckley, aka The Candy Perfume Boy won, and deservedly so.
Thomas is a gifted writer who manages to combine unimpeachable expertise with wit and warmth. He won two in total, leading me to ask him to please start writing badly in order that I may have a chance one year. He gallantly agreed, but reader, I think he is incapable of writing badly.
There were many winners that morning, and all of them deserving and worthy of the beautiful Lalique awards. What struck me most, however, was the atmosphere. It was friendly, celebratory and warm. The perfume world has people from all walks of life, including a mum of two from Cwmbran who grew up in a council house (ahem), and Roja Dove.
Earl Grey at Simpson’s
I felt deeply honoured to be treated to a pot of Earl Grey at the former Simpson’s on the Strand by perfumer extraordinaire Sarah McCartney, Sarah is fantastic company and so curious about the world and the people in it.
We were joined by another very talented perfumer, Ruth Mastenbroek. I tell you, I was not ignorant of the privilege this affords to a perfume blogger and I felt quite tongue tied despite them both being engaging and lovely.
They did lose me when they started talking about parabens, but I was thinking “Wow, look at me. With them. Up here!” We were also, by pure coincidence, just a few tables away from comedian Jeremy Hardy. Sarah had bumped into him a total of four times that day and I can promise that none of it was planned, officer.
Like the best dreams, the bubbles popped and by 3.15 I was back in Cwmbran collecting my son from school, wondering what to make for tea and thinking “This is what Pam Ewing must have felt like when Bobby got out of the shower” It couldn’t have been a dream. It felt too real.
My dear chums, I am financially poorer after the hotel and train bill, (and Pret and Costa) but I don’t think I have ever felt richer or luckier. Thank you to the Fragrance Foundation for letting me experience such an unforgettable day.
*My SOTD was Sandalwood Sacre by le Jardin Retrouvé.
And the Winners are…
Best Digital Fragrance Experience
‘Six Scents to Put Hairs on Your Chest’ by Thomas Dunckley for The Candy Perfume Boy
Jasmine Literary Award
‘Every Scent Tells a Tale’ by Joanne Harris for Good Housekeeping
Best Digital Article on Fragrance
‘A Scent for Self-Appreciation’ by Lizzie Ostrom for The Pool
Jasmine Soundbite (News Press) ‘Smells Like Tom Hiddleston (I Wish)’ by Lesley Thomas for The Times
Jasmine Visual Award
‘A Perfume Paints a Thousand Words’ by Jan Masters (words & creative) and Roberto Greco (creative) for Harrods Magazine
Best Article in a Consumer Magazine ‘The Wearing of the Green’ by James Craven for Les Senteurs
Most Creative Visual Award
‘All of a Quiver’ by Jan Masters (words) and Rebecca Baio, David Newton & Barney Pickard (creative) for Harrods Magazine.
Jasmine Soundbite (Independent)
‘Eau so Masc – Thoughts on Gender in Perfumer & the Rive Gauche Rebellion’ by Thomas Dunckley for The Candy Perfume Boy
Jasmine Rising Star Award
‘2017 – The Year of the Milk Notes’ by Lauren Crabran for Scents Blog
Jasmine Soundbite (Magazines)
‘Midnight Garden’ by Jan Masters for Harrods Magazine
Jasmine Independent Literary Award
‘Scenting my Mental Illness’ by Laurin Taylor for Basenotes
Jasmine Soundbite (News Press)
‘Smells Like Tom Hiddleston (I Wish)’ by Lesley Thomas for The Times
Best Practical Guide to Fragrance
‘The Top Ten Niche Fragrances Every Beginner Should Sample’ by Clare Vukcevic for Basenotes