When Mandy Aftel makes perfume it’s often about a discovery or a facet of nature that Mandy wants to celebrate. Her scents evoke scenes and visions so vividly that I can’t shake the feeling that she is more alchemist than perfumer. There is magic in her fingertips the way some people have green fingers and some people don’t.
Curious was inspired by Mandy’s new museum of scent in Berkeley California. Here she invites you to explore the curiosities of olfactory natural history. The museum is very much hands on. You don’t just look at stuff- this is an all-round sensory journey: touch it, smell it, sniff it, try it. I haven’t been there yet, but in a year’s time, I will be visiting. I’m booking flights very soon and boy, will my blog have coverage!
Curious lives up to its name. It opens intriguingly, with a green note that smells almost medicinal, with a herby clary sage style bitterness. It reminded me of the glorious smell I once caught as a child, watching a neighbour creosote his fence. Many of my friends wrinkled their noses but I loved the tarry earthy scent and it remains one of my favourite aromas today.
Curious contains hay and tobacco: two notes which are not often as you might imagine in fragrance. Tobacco can veer from green and soapy (think Givenchy Amarige), to dry and oaky (think Serge Lutens Muscs Koublai Khan). Hay can smell sweet, grassy, musty, honeyed or dry, or a combination of all of them. In Curious, it smells damp to me, and coupled with woody tobacco it reminds me of a hot damp green field as the sun dries everything out. There is a deep earthiness to Curious which reflects its roots as a product of nature. After a while, the drying- out-in-the-sun feeling became an autumnal smokiness, like a bonfire in the distance.
Curious unfurls its layers like a tree in all seasons, merging from fresh bud to green bitterness, to dried leaves to twiggy stem, but always grounded by the earthiness from whence it came. It brings out the pagan in me. There’s nothing like it. Mandy has made a beautifully unique scent that I urge you to try should you ever get a chance. As with all of Mandy’s creations, every ingredient is natural.
Curious is available from the Aftelier website. There is also an excellent sample service. The museum details are also on the website. If you live within a ten-thousand-mile radius, it’s definitely worth a visit. My sample was kindly sent to me by Mandy, for which, many thanks. Opinions are my own.
We are the granddaughters of the witches you couldn’t burn
Reek is an independent Scottish brand who worked with prolific Nose Sarah McCartney (Um, I might have mentioned her a few times) to produce the fragrance Damn Rebel Bitches. The scent was created to honour and commemorate the women who fought back in the Jacobite rebellion and the name the English had for them is used to name the fragrance in a rebellious two fingered salute. You can read my review here.
This year, launching,appropriately on Halloween 2017, comes Damn Rebel Witches. At the march for women earlier this year, placards read “We are the granddaughters of the witches you couldn’t burn,” and that to me, is the demographic for this stunning statement scent. In other words, all of us.
Damn Rebel Witches is in a similar vein to Damn Rebel Bitches, but has a sharper opening and a darker finish. The blood orange comes out immediately, and the tobacco- here a rich woody note- adds an earthy finesse. There’s hearty malt, and a horsey whiff of leather. Both scents are created from ingredients that would have been around at the time of the women they celebrate i.e the 1700s (Okay, maybe not the oranges, but I’m happy to stand corrected). In both you’ll find malt, pink pepper, berries and blood oranges and they do have several similarities: these two are blood sisters for sure.
Witches is woodier than Bitches, and the orange is sharper. You know when you peel an orange and you accidentally get some in your eye? That’s the smell, although your eyes won’t sting if you smell this.
What I find curious about this is that when you think Damn Rebel Witches has left you completely, it disappears and comes back as a sort of light floral ghostie. I was sniffing my arm wondering what petal like scent I had sprayed earlier, only to realise that Damn Rebel Witches dies and comes back! How’s that for a party trick? And where did the dark orangey flowers come from? They’re not even listed as notes. It’s witchcraft, I tell you.
Damn Rebel Witches is currently available in a set of two: Bitches and Witches, which gives you a phial of each from the REEK website. Full size bottles of Damn Rebel Witches will be available from Halloween this year. You can already buy Damn Rebel Bitches in full size as well as purse size. My sample was kindly supplied by REEK in return for an honest review, which I have given. Opinions are my own and this is not a sponsored post.
The other day someone told me that men wear aftershave and women wear perfume. Now, as you can imagine, I begged to differ. My opponent was adamant. Men can’t wear perfume and women can’t wear after shave. Since my adversary was my seven-year-old son, I couldn’t help feeling that I’d failed him as a mother. He also told me there’s no such name as Kenneth and that he can outrun a Jaguar, but I was less worried about that.
Let me be clear, as a politician would say (can’t remember which one, probably all of them), after shave is fragrance. Perfume is fragrance. Whatever it says on the label, if you like how it smells on you, you can wear it.
I do occasionally stage a heist into my husband’s side of the bedroom, but seeing as I chose them all for him, that shouldn’t come as a surprise.
Those nice people at The Perfume Society recently sent me the Men’s Edit Discovery Box, and discovery is the right word. Reader, I have been enlightened. It’s all very well my bemoaning the fact that men don’t wear enough roses, but how about I put my money where my mouth is and wear more so called “mascs” myself? Well, after trying the Men’s Edit box, I can assure you that there are at least three I will be buying full bottles of. Join me why don’t you?
I’m going to write mini reviews below and shall focus on some in more detail later in the blog. Here’s what’s in the box:
Parfums de Marly Layton 1.2ml eau de parfum (normally £145 for 75ml)
Parfums de Marly is a brand that’s new to me. In the previous Perfume Society Discovery Box- Latest Launches, the women’s fragrance, Delina, was a classy and distinctive mélange of rhubarb and the pinkest of flowers. Layton is of the same high quality and classy distinction. It opens with apples and lavender and calms down into a multi layered wood-fest of every wood from light to to dark to smoky. A flourish of vanilla warms it up. It reminds me of a cosy oak panelled tobacconist. Beware- the middle phase blew my socks off.
Dunhill Icon Elite 2ml eau de parfum (£95 for 100ml)
The nose behind this is Carlos Benaim, who also made Dior Pure Poison, Viktor anf Rolf Flowerbomb and the original Ralph Lauren Polo fragrance, to name but a few from his staggeringly prestigious portfolio.
My primary reaction to Dunhill Icon was “Aha! Suede”. It’s a leathery nubuck scent, somehow stronger than suede, which I always identify as a softer toned down version of leather. I con is dark and tarry, and so leathery that it almost tipped me over into liquorice territory. Addictively sniffable, this smells like the bare chest of a man who has just removed his leather jacket. Trust me, that’s A Good Thing.
Miller Harris Feuilles de Tabac 2ml eau de parfum (£95 for 100ml)
I adore this classic (pronounced Foy de Tabac) and declare it totally unisex. I reviewed it a while back and remember that I rather fancied making my whole house smell this way. It’s the scent of a wood panelled gentleman’s club in Paris. Smoky, woody, herby, lovely.
Escentric Molecules E 032ml eau de parfum (£72 for 100ml)
This opens with big stringent, clean scented lime, with a hint of black pepper. The vetiver comes out straight away, and the whole thing stays that way for a few hours. After that, the base is sandalwood and clean musk. The lime and vetiver combo never quits though, and this had me thinking of dazzling white shirt cuffs and expensive suits. Yum.
Escentric Molecules M 03 2ml eau de parfum (£72 for 100ml)
The only note listed fior this is Vetiver. However, I beg to differ. This stunning fragrance smelled like scorched palm leaves for a few seconds then disappeared. Then it came back as a sort of sharp, green citrus with a bitter orange edge. Throughout the day, it gradually morphed into what I can only describe as a grapefruit chypre. It’s the most vivid grapefruit scent: pith, juice and peel, with an earthy green base. I completely fell headlong in love with this and I’m so glad I wandered out of my comfort zone, because I would never have stumbled across this otherwise. Definitely a full bottle scent.
Clive Christian Nobile VIII Magnolia 1.5ml eau de parfum (£350 for 50ml)
Getting my mitts on a Clive Christian sample is always a rare treat. They don’t come along every day, that’s for sure. This magnolia fragrance is utterly transporting, and as a magnolia fan, I loved it. Again, I call this unisex. I’d marinate in it if I could. Longevity is outstandingly good. I shall be reviewing this one in more detail soon.
Clive Christian Nobile VIII Immortelle
1.5ml eau de parfum (£350 for 50ml)
This stuff really packs a punch. Immortelle is also known as the everlasting flower- a bit like a yellow cornflower. It has a spicy, faintly curry like nuance, but here it is overtaken by the robust vetiver. It’s a strong, statement fragrance that shouldn’t be worn before breakfast, but should be strongly encouraged for evening.
Jimmy Choo MAN ICE2ml eau de toilette (from £30 for 30ml)
This is an invigorating grapefruit and lemon scent that reminded me a little of Annick Goutal Eau D’Hadrien. It’s fantastically light and revitalizing with a mossy finish and I’ve no idea why it’s “For Men” because I am seriously getting myself a full bottle.
Initio Parfums Magnetic Blend 7 1.2ml eau de parfum (£154 for 90ml)
Amplifying the power of pheromonal molecules to provoke instinct through a sublime breed of violence.
It’s a lofty claim and one that’s hard to talk about objectively. On Fragrantica, the description doesn’t do it justice- the only note listed is musk. However, this musk will react differently on your skin than it will on mine. On mine it smells like plasticine. On you it may smell different. The jury’s out, but I remain intrigued. Maybe in six hours’ time I will become irresistible to all. I’ll get back to you.
EDIT- six hours later my cats keep sniffing my arm where I sprayed this but I can smell nothing. Don’t be put off, I get the feeling this is like one of those lipsticks that changes colour according to your body heat. Results will vary.
Bentley Momentum1.8ml eau de toilette (£59 for 100ml)
This has huge sillage and longevity and is full of ambergris, sandalwood, moss and musk. Described as an oriental Fougere, the Nose behind it is the legendary Nathalie Lorson, who has created more major fragrances than I could list, but I can tell you that she made Black Opium, so she knows a thing or two about big hitters, as this one certainly is.
Cristiano Ronaldo Legacy 2ml eau de toilette (£29 for 30ml)
Finally, my sons and I have some middle ground to talk about. Football meets fragrance. This is a very decent offering in Ronaldo’s name (let’s not even pretend celebrities make them, OK?). This is a leathery floral musk with daring hints of peony and violet. I say daring because football fans are not known for their penchant for peony. I am happy to be corrected. This is nothing too edgy or original, and you can only find the flowers if our nose seeks them out, but it is the same vein as a good David Beckham scent, only with more fuzzy violets. The Jury’s out on whether it helps you win football tournaments.
A generous sample in manly grey packaging. I like that there are other goodies in Perfume Society Discovery Boxes in sizes generous enough to have a decent trial of the product.
Penhaligon’s No. 33 Moisturiser 5ml (normally £38 for 75ml)
This comes in the cutest tube in the world. It’s perfect for an overnight stay and smells divine, as you might expect.
Where to buy
You can buy The Perfume Society Men’s Edit from The Perfume Society website for £19 or £15 to subscribers. Subscribing costs just £25 a year and gives a wide range of benefits of which discounted Discovery Boxes are just one. My box was sent ot me by the Perfume Society in exchange for an honest review. Opinions are my own and this was not a sponsored post.
This fragrance came about as the result of a mad idea: capture the scent of the original shop at 34 boulevard Saint-Germain and make it into a perfume. Diptyque
Diptyque’s 34 Boulevard St- Germain was created to honour and remember the original shop where it all began: the scent of its wooden panels, resins and that unmistakable scent that only a cloistered interior can seem to conjure and retain.
The idea behind this fragrance was that it would take many of the classic facets of Diptyque bestsellers and wrap them into one fragrance, in order ot recreate the air inside the shop. Imagine if they did it with LUSH (sherbet flowers) or L’Occitane (fruited tea and roses) or Starbucks (coffee beans and chocolate). I’d buy them all.
I am woefully unfamiliar with many Diptyque scents so I can’t comment on whether this is an olfactory collage or not. However, what I can tell you is that the notes did not represent my impressions at all. In the same way, you can look at music score and hum the tune, but it won’t sound the same when it’s played by a symphony orchestra.
I was expecting a masculine, spicy, woody scent, reminiscent of a Savile Row tailor. After all, there were wooden panels and resins and spices within. However, what I actually get from this fragrance is an uplifting and feminine scent.
34 Boulevard Saint Germain opens with citruses which are vivid and restorative. These team up with bright, fresh green notes from fig and eucalyptus giving the impression of the world’s most uplifting herbal tea. I smelled grapefruit, lemon and orange. This bright, feel-good opening is almost immediately coupled with a feminine bouquet of peppery geraniums, along with roses, jasmine, iris and violet. I found the floral accord to be the most dominant of all, and radiantly beautiful.
The base is wood, resins and eucalyptus, but to be honest t, this stays true and sharp and never falls into heavy woody territory as I imagined it would. Towards the final act, I could smell that wood panelling, but this remained an intriguing unisex mélange of flowers, citrus and a lightly spice woody finale.
Diptyque 34 Boulevard St Germain is an intriguing scent that I’ve spent three days wearing and trying to describe. It’s full of contradictions and utterly addictive. It also has a hugely sunny outlook- maybe it was all those citruses that radiate and linger. I would definitely buy a great big full bottle.
You can buy Diptyque 34 Boulevard Saint Germain from John Lewis or the Diptyque website. There is of course, a matching candle too. Sample is my own, as is my opinion.
Look at that! Two Marks and Spencer reviews in two days. As you may gather, I didn’t leave empty handed yesterday. I came away with a tiny 15ml bottle of Rosie for Autograph Summer Rose.
Rosie Huntingdon Whitely is the face of many M&S lines, namely her lingerie and make-up range. In 2015, the first scent, Rosie for Autograph, was launched, and jolly good it was too. You can read my review here. I’ve recently run out and need another one. It’s a fabulous centifolia rose scent. After that, came Rosie for Autograph Nuit (which I haven’t tried) and in summer 2106, the latest flanker Summer Rose was launched, which is what I’m reviewing today.
Summer Rose opens with pear and blackcurrant which hooks up with the sandalwood straight away. I’m afraid I got a few whiffs of pencil shavings before this settles down, but no matter, that phase didn’t last long.
The middle is all about the heady jasmine sambac,: a highly popular ingredient lately which appears in many bestsellers. If you read between the lines, you may see me roll my eyes (it’s in everything right now!). There are roses which are fairly prominent, and lily of the valley, which I couldn’t pick up at all- shame, because lily of the valley is one of my favourite notes.
The grand finale still has pear, roses, a bit of woody stuff and some heady jasmine. In a blind test, I would have said this was peony and patchouli, which gives you some idea of how it comes across. Even if the notes don’t match. This is of course, subjective- you may have a different experience.
Summer Rose is pretty and light and will be a big crowd pleaser. I applaud the availability of 10ml and 15ml bottles in Marks and Spencer. It puts perfume treats within everyone’s reach and it’s a great way of testing a scent before committing to a full bottle. The rest of the perfume department is pretty good too: check out the Monotheme range, the Fragonard and the Roger & Gallet.
Stockists You can buy Rosie for Autograph Summer Rose instore or online. It’s exclusively stocked at Marks and Spencer. A 30ml bottle is just £14 and makes a great gift.
Marks and Spencer Florentyna has been there for so long that it was almost off my radar. I tried it many years ago, declared it old fashioned and never bothered again. Until today. With a new attitude, I took another look at Florentyna, and if you’ve ruled it out, as I did, then I encourage you to re-sniff with new eyes- or should that be nostrils? Because, my dear fellow sniffalots, Florentyna is actually pretty good stuff.
For years, I was convinced that this was mainly a rose scent. I’d even heard people say it smelled similar to Estee Lauder Beautiful. It sort of does-ish, a bit. Slightly. In fact, I went into my nearby House of Fraser and tried Estee Lauder Beautiful for comparison. I would say they are the same family, but not close relatives.
Florentyna opens with big, white, creamy, feminine Gardenia. Almost immediately all the other white flowers burst in then: jasmine, orange flower and lily of the valley. The base note is musk, but a clean laundry musk, not a sexy animalic thigh-sweat musk. This is so respectable it should wear pearls.
Oddly, tuberose, the Queen of the white flowers, is missing. Now this is actually an appropriate omission in the case of Florentyna, because, as much as I like tuberose, it can take over, and when it’s really strong, it can have that vegetal/celery note which I love, but not everyone does. Here, all the “naice” white flowers are included. That’s a deliberate misspelling by the way- you’re saying “nice” in a genteel voice with your pinkie finger sticking out as you hold your bone china tea cup.
The background and frame of these white flowers is a beautiful and very noticeable white soapy note. It’s good old fashioned pure white, very posh, thrice milled luxury soap, and along with the bigwhite flowers, it smells terrific.
Thinking about it, it reminded me of an eighties fragrance- remember how Dior Poison was all giant tuberose and Givenchy Amarige was all big jasmine and green soapy tobacco? Well this is massive too.
As for longevity? Well, three squirts should last you an entire weekend.
Florentyna is worth a second look and worth a lot more than its small price, but please keep that price where it is M&S!
Stockists: You can buy Florentyna from Marks and Spencer. I also recommend Florentyna White, which I reviewed here. Florentyna is available at prices starting at £3.50 for 10ml.
I often find Yardley scents off the beaten track on the High Street and this is a shame because they deserve to be centre stage. If you go into Boots for example, there’s a wall of testers (all locked up these days. Humph) and a totally separate shelf around the corner for the lower budget scents, including the Yardley range. Needless to say, I spend more time in this aisle than I do pressing my nose agaisnt the locked glass shelves of testers.
Yardley Royal Pink Diamond is an excellent fruity floral that deserves to sell like hot cakes on a cold day. Let’s start with that darling little bottle: it’s cute as a button with its fancy lid and pink juice. I can see that it’s designed to appeal to the, shall we say, under forty-seven age group, but I really like this and am sorely tempted to add it to the many bottles on my groaning dressing table.
Yardley London Royal Pink Diamond opens with tempting summery fruits: peach, cassis and mandarin. These are juicy and clean, rather that sickly and sticky.
Early on in this, the cedar pops up and adds a few woody notes to the melange of fruit. Just as I’m getting used to fruity and woody together, along come the peonies and orange flower. There is also pink pepper, which is pretty much a ubiquitous note in fruity florals and is a tiny sweet berry, not a spice. The woodsy base seems to get bigger and bigger until the cedar pretty much takes over. Personally, I don’t mind this, but you might. However, there’s a lovely clean white musk note that turns up later and hangs around for a while., keeping the flowers and fruit company as they fade.
At under £20 for a 50ml bottle, this is a great gift for someone else or for yourself, and I’m a big believer in gifts for oneself!
I feel quite protective about the Yardley name. So many um…under forty sevens might think of it as a “Nan-brand” but it takes talent, stamina and innovation to have been making fragrance since the 1770s and still be going strong. Yardley London Contemporary Classics has produced some of the best single note florals ever. I swear by Yardley April Violets,Yardley English Lavender ( which Marilyn Monroe wore, fact fans- not just Chanel No 5) and Yardley Jade. I also loved Yardley Bluebell and Yardley Freesia. They’re reasonably priced and you can wear them alone or layer them for a little bouquet on your skin. What can I say? I’m a fan.
Annick Goutal Tenue de Soiree is inspired by a Parisian woman getting ready for a night out. It’s the anticipation of the evening ahead with a squoosh of this modern chypre adding a final touch to a presumably chic outfit. Also- check out that pompom! Oh la la.
Tenue de Soiree is an unusual scent in that it professes to have only two notes: iris and patchouli. I love it because it is a chypre (pronounced sheep-ruh) for the millennial palate and for old bats like me at the same time. That’s not easy. These days, the old bats want chypres and the millennials want vanilla and fruit. Tenue de Soiree manages to meet in the middle without being too um “classic” nor too sweet. Applause.
The notes are iris and patchouli. Just those two. Nothing else. However, I definitely get a whiff of sandalwood and the faintest hint of warm vanilla or tonka. In any case, there’s a subtle cosy note that doesn’t wander into cupcake territory. Strictly, speaking this doesn’t adhere to the usual chypre make up: usually but not always bergamot, oakmoss and patchouli. Tenue de Soiree however, does have that chypre style finish which is dry and woody and slightly earthy, thanks to the patchouli.
This is simply done and very effective and out of all the very good fragrances in the Perfume Society Latest Launches Discovery Box, this one really stood out for me. It’s a bit different and a bit daring, but it can also make a cupcake fan look twice. I hope so, anyway.
I have to admit, the sum total of my Missoni knowledge prior to this is posh stripy knitting, so I apologise in advance for my ignorance. You can find out more about the origins of the brand here in this superb round up from our trusty friends at Fragrantica.
I was recently given a sample of Missoni Eau de Parfum as part of a goody bag from my Perfume Society Improve Your Sense of Smell workshop ( see my write up here) . The brand came to my attention again when it won a FiFi for best packaging back in May at the annual Fragrance Foundation UK Awards ( see my write up here. Again) . Sure enough, its simple white background and coloured stripes are certainly eye-catching and immediately says Missoni across a crowded perfume shop. The bottle itself is a fabulous unicorn blend of irridescent colour, and since it’s pretty cheap (around £20 for 30ml) you could do a lot worse for your dressing table.
So what does it smell like?
Well I have to admit, it’s not smashing any barriers or covering any new ground. However, if you want a pretty “pink” scent that doesn’t dominate a room, this is just the ticket.
It opens with pear and citrus, which straight away makes it blend in like a school uniform in a school. In the middle, there’s a big batch of florals: namely synthentic “petalia” i.e man-made general petal scent, along with floral notes and the ubiquitious note-of-the-year jasmine sambac. Then there’s a sort of woody cedar base where the sweetness of the pear and the synthetic florals kind of blend in with a floral woody finish and… voila! A generic pink beauty counter fragrance that fits right into summer 2017.
The pear/ jasmine sambac/woody base thing has been done to death lately so either this lacks originality or it taps into what the kids are buying. No harm done, but I’ll sit this one out.
Sorry Missoni. I guess you won’t be sending me a free stripy jumper any time soon. Good price and great bottle though.
If you wear this perfume and someone says, as they probably will do, “You smell nice, what are you wearing?” you will then answer “four one six oh Tuesdays (OR four thousand one hundred and sixty Tuesdays- both are correct) Mrs Gloss’s Lemon Sherbet” and you may get looks, because the compliment giver was probably expecting something like “Lemon Dream” or “Citrus Sparkle.” When you’re a 4160 Tuesdays fan, you get used to giving admirers a gob full of whimsy in answer to their compliments, but that’s how we roll.
Mrs Gloss’s Lemon Sherbet came about after Sarah McCartney (all her fault, again) collaborated with the hugely popular Facebook group, Mrs Gloss and The Goss. The group is very friendly and exchanges beauty and fragrance advice in a warm environment where women bare their souls and post make up free selfies and new hair dos. It’s like a bunch of cyber sisters, basically.
A Mrs Gloss splinter group spent the day at the 4160 Tuesdays HQ and made a scent called Mrs Gloss Made Me Do it, which was named by Sarah because Mrs Gloss made her do it. Willingly, I should add. There were no ligatures or blackmail involved.
The result was such a success (I haven’t smelled it so can’t comment) that offshoots, or flankers were created. One of them is Mrs Gloss’s Lemon Sherbet and I am wearing it today.
Here’s the Goss on Mrs Gloss (Lemon Sherbet version)
Mrs Gloss’s Lemon Sherbet opens with the kind of lemon that seems to go in two directions.
Firstly there’s a fizzy sherbet scent, which will be familiar to those who like the sweets, but shortly after, limes come in and make this a refreshing lemon/lime drink with ice cubes on a hot day. As this citrus note melts down onto your skin, it melts into a citrussy vanilla. Now, I like this because the vanilla is warm without being sweet. The lemon and lime stick around, but they’re softened and their edges are fuzzy now. The scent is refreshing but not cold: clean but not sterile, sweet but not sticky. The lasting impression is a musky vanilla with that lovely hint of lime keeping it summery. Perfect for Summer. Or Winter. Or Autumn. Or Spring.
Stockists- You can buy this from 4160 Tuesdays here, along with many other treats. Prices start at £15 for a 9ml EDP purse spray. Samples are also available for a small fee. Prices correct at time of pressing “Publish”.
My sample was included with an order for which, many thanks. Opinions are my own.