Category Archives: Summer fragrance

How my Perfume Dreams came True: A Chypre Workshop at 4160 Tuesdays

Sarah McCartney, Goddess of Love and Perfume.

I’m among friends here, aren’t I? So you’ll all understand how much of a big deal being let loose in a perfume lab with a pipette was for me last Saturday.

Yes, my scented chums, a little dream of mine came true when I attended the 4160 Chypre Workshop and made my own chypre.

With perfume being My Thing, and chypres being My Favourite Genre, it was pretty much an all-my-birthdays-are-happening-at-once sort of day.

So what goes on at a chypre workshop?

Sniffing

There were around six of us and the workshop took place upstairs at the 4160 Tuesdays studio in London. We were greeted with tea, coffee and goodies, and were allowed to fiddle about with the many 4160 Tuesdays purse sprays that were lying around. That would have kept me happy all day, but it was about to get even better.

We are ready.

We went upstairs to the studio and sat around the Big Table, whilst trying not to be distracted by The Wall of Scent: a cabinet full of vintage and modern scents. Some are  classics and some are just plain nigh on impossible to find.  I had to turn away or I wouldn’t have got anything done.

First of all, Sarah doesn’t so much teach, as blow your mind.  I won’t put spoilers in, but just for starters there’s a theory behind the disappearance of the Marie Celeste that may be related to something we handled at the workshop. There’s also a shocking list of chemicals that will make you think twice about natural ingredients.  NB I contain zinc, hydrogen dioxide and potassium, but you should see what’s in a kiwi fruit!

This is my “doing maths” face.

Learning

Random facts:

  • Some ingredients cost more than a kilo of gold bullion and tiaras.

  • There are Mysore sandalwood trees that have armed guards 24/7.

  • What I learned about the history of “powdery notes” very nearly put me off “powdery notes.”

  • Cocoa absolute smells and looks like Marmite, until you do stuff with it.

  • Orris butter will blow your mind in the same way wasabi paste once blew my head off.

    Making notes

The first thing we did was smell sniffing strips. As a perfume blogger of over five years standing, this was a new experience in that there were many ingredients I had never smelled on their own. For example, galbanum, used so beautifully in Chanel Cristalle, smelled much grassier and earthier than I imagined. ISO E Super on its own smelled faint and vaguely ozonic, but lined up alongside say, iris or veramoss (oakmoss substitute) and it emphasises the strength of its surrounding ingredients and brought out the best in them like a great backing singer.

Although my brain didn’t want to leave the studio, my stomach had other ideas and so we all crossed the road and had lunch together.

Eating

Despite having unbridled access to granola flapjacks and chocolate cookies, we headed to the divine Paolo’s Café on Vale Road for our lunch. The hardest part was choosing from the delicious brunch menu, and the easiest part was guzzling the delicious chips. there was a brief sleepy time period which my brain had to fight, but I put that down to an early Welsh start.  Paolo’s Cafe is worth the trip, trust me.

Making Your Own Perfume

The afternoon session was where we made our own perfume. Several things shocked me about this.

  • The lack of uptightness from Sarah when she let six fume heads loose on several jars of the good stuff without saying “Get off my things” as I probably would have.  In fact, she was highly encouraging and happy to get stuff out of the cupboard on request.
  • Making perfume involves a great deal of trying different combinations of fragrance together.

In case this sounds like stating the bleedin obvious, I’ll explain what this meant to me: I had a preconceived notion of all the perfume ingredients I would use in my dream perfume. When I tried this on sniffing strips, they didn’t “agree” with each other, much to my surprise. So the iris and galbanum that I had initially planned to include, stayed in the bottle since they didn’t get on, at least not on the day they met.  I also loved the Jasmine on the smelling strip, but again, it didn’t play nice with its new friends so it had to go. Along with all my preconceptions of how easy making perfume looks

  • .There’s an awful lot of maths and a bit of chemistry. I needed help from the teacher with the maths as I’d been up since 5 am. Luckily the teacher was very nice about it.
  • You start by making a “mod” in a little bottle. Once you’ve chosen your smelling strips and they smell like they all get on okay, you drop tiny drops of actual ingredients into your mod jar to see if they get on in person, as it were. Mine didn’t make enough noise, so I cranked up the Ambroxan and the violet and  added some stuff  from a new jar I came across called Karmawood. Thus Mod 2 was created.
  •  Lisa and I were both shocked that our bottles were topped up with the good stuff.  We had both thought that our mods would be added to some kind of suspension agent, but that wasn’t the case. The big pipettes came out and six of us went away with a combined total 300ml of very, very good ingredients between us. There’s no diluting. We used the proper big jars and filled our bottles to the brim.

It is worth noting however, that the ingredients we used were not 100% strength, as I am reliably informed that that would knock you out cold.  For perspective, a 5% rose is very, very strong. These are the jars that we used to fill our bottles.

  • Here’s the maths. You  divide the number of ingredients and proportion of those ingredients into 50ml so you can fill your bottle. Thus: You have say, five ingredients and you want double karmawood and violet, but single doses of everything else and your sheet looks like this: 8ml veramoss, 8ml bergamot, 16ml karmawood, 16ml violet, 8ml Ambroxan, In fact that came to 56ml so I under pipetted and topped up with a “blob of rose”.  If you had twelve ingredients you would…nope, sorry, can’t do it.
Maenad

My very own fragrance in my very own bottle to take home.

I called mine Maenad, which is the name of the handmaidens to Bacchus, God of Wine.  Lisa named hers Watson because it has a “lemon entry”. (“Elementary Dear Watson.”) Sarah recommended a spray or three, and then put them to bed for two weeks to mature.

Having my very own custom-made perfume was a deep and gratifying thrill, and trust me, I’m going back to make more.  I wasn’t very good at perfume making, but the wonder of it all was the biggest olfactory thrill of my life. Usually, only Sir David Attenborough can make my jaw drop like that.

By the way, if you’re familiar with the 4160 Tuesdays Naughty Cupboard ( sale page), I am here to tell you that it is an actual cupboard and I stood in front of it drooling for a good twenty minutes. ( I also bought stuff, more of which anon.)

Photo by kind permission of Sarah McCartney

I would like to thank Sarah McCartney from the bottom of my heart for a breathtakingly memorable and exciting day. In case you haven’t gathered, I would recommend these workshops as a must for anyone even remotely interested in scent. You won’t be sorry and  the thrill of holding your own bottle of fragrance  feels amazing.

I also want to thank the wonderful people I met that day Jo, my scent twin and editor of .Cent magazine  Lily,  Claire the Sit Down Comedian, and Justin. And of course, my darling Lisa who picked me up at 7am, drove to London, found a parking space and drove us back, getting home to Wales at 10.30pm, and stinking joyfully.

How to get on the course

You just book it here on the website. You don’t need to know anything beforehand. I’m going again next year. I might see you there.

 

Follow

Guest Blogger Lisa Wordbird at Your Command!

At the 4160 Tuesdays studio, on the famous swing.

Hello! Lisa Wordbird here. I’ve persuaded Sam to let me come and play, and I would love to know what you want to read about. I have a big box of samples and I’ll review things you’re interested in if I have them or I can get hold of them.

Like Sam, I’m a big fan of a bargain and I think an inexpensive perfume can be just as beautiful as something incredibly costly. Equally, I think that there are perfumes that justify a whopping pricetag. I’m a fan of artisan perfumers like Andy Tauer, Sarah McCartney and Liz Moores, and I appreciate how much goes into creating and producing their perfumes.

Tauer.com

Equally, I recognise that some of the greatest geniuses in the fragrance industry are the ‘functional fragrance’ creators. These are the unsung heroes and heroines who produce delicious scents for shower gels, fabric softeners and shampoos on an ingredient budget of sixpence a kilo. Don’t believe me? I am eking out a Shower Crème from Lidl called Indian Summer, which is a gorgeous woody oriental. It cost less than £2 when I bought it 18 months ago.

Personally, I lean towards orientals, incense, chypres, leather and animalic fragrances. Some of the things I like make Sam say ‘Eurgh!’ and look at me as if I’ve left the house without my trousers. However, Sam likes some white flowery things that make me go ‘yikes!’ and feel like I’m a drag queen.

Some things we both love, like vintage Miss Dior. Oh, I love vintage perfumes, too. Partly this is because they can be so much cheaper on ebay, partly because things I bought years ago now count as vintage because they date back to before the IFRA made companies reformulate perfumes to reduce possible allergens. (They’ve done it a couple of times now. The IFRA are not my friends.)

So – what would you like to hear about? Vintage perfume? Scented toilet paper? My boundless love for the Yves Rocher Secrets d’Essences range? Please let me know, and I’ll do my best.

 

Top Ten Perfumes Under Ten Pounds 2018

If you’re anything like me in January, your credit card won’t be speaking to you and you’ll be searching coat pockets for loose change and forgotten fivers. It’s as traditional as losing the scissors when wrapping presents.

If you’re a perfume fan and feeling frugal, I bring glad tidings. There are perfumes out there that cost under ten quid and smell good. You heard me. It’s true. In fact, the majority of perfumes I reach for on a day to day basis are often cheap and cheerfuls that I don’t mind running out of and can be easily replaced.

So, my friends, clutch your tenners and follow me as I tell you about my top ten fragrances under ten pounds.

  1. Coty L’Aimant.

My £5.99 bottle reminds me of my late grandmother, who was such a lady and never went shopping without a brooch and a scarf.  She was class all the way and loved Coty L’Aimant. She was born around the time it came out in 1927 and wore it to dances in the war. It was made in similar style to the newly launched Chanel No 5 which had come out three years earlier in 1924, and smells very similar. I also adore the Art Deco bottle and deep pink box with the gold edging. All this for under ten quid.

  1. Elizabeth Arden Green Tea

Whether you opt for the pillar scent (which is a classic) or any of the excellent flankers, the Elizabeth Arden Green Tea range is a safe bet. Light, feminine, inoffensive, floral and citrussy, they make ideal summer or office perfume and almost always cost under ten quid, unless you see them in Duty Free where they cost a lot more. I particularly like Green Tea Revitalize and Green Tea Exotic

  1. Alyssa Ashley Musk

This is a perfect pocket money perfume that smells amazing, gets compliments and has a subtle but pretty sillage.  It was particularly popular in the 1970s but has a lot to offer the woman of 2018. It’s a warm, light, cosy musk that makes people want to nuzzle you. You can buy it here.

  1. Bronnley Eclectic Elements range

This range of fragrances was created to attract a younger crowd to Bronnley, and I’m certainly a fan of both the classic stuff and the Eclectic Elements Range.  In other words, I’m a dream customer. Bronnley gets my seal of approval for making rollerball fragrances. Although rollerballs are plentiful in Europe and the USA, they’re harder to get in the UK, so I’m hoping more brands will do this. The rollerballs are priced at under ten pounds, but if you go onto allbeauty.com today and sniff out their sale, you can find 50ml eau de toilettes at £10 too, although that’s sale price, not usual price.

  1. Yves Rocher Plaisirs Nature Range

My SOTD today is a little 20ml bottle of Yves Rocher Orange Flower-Lavender- Petitgrain EDT. It cost me £7.99 and I got two for the price of one. It’s wonderfully uplifting and pretty and combines white flowers with juicy nuances of orange and calming lavender. I also have the Mandarin, Lemon and Cedar, which is equally good and equally cheap. Check out my review here.

  1. Trust Yardley

The Yardley Collection of simple floral eau de toilettes are hard to beat. I own Yardley April Violets, Yardley English Rose and Yardley English Lavender. I wear them alone or for layering and I get compliments every single time I wear the rose.  The violet helps me “violet-up” fragrances that I feel are missing that…well, that violet note. I also recommend the Lily of The Valley and the Freesia. You can buy them here or in Boots.

  1. Avon Calling!

Of course, I can’t write about bargain fragrances without mentioning my old friend Avon.  Avon is my Go-To guilt free brand. I own about six and my favourites are Avon Perceive OasisFar Away Bella and Rare Platinum, which is a gorgeous tuberose and grapefruit combo. Every brochure has a bargain and I never need to wait long until my favourite is £6 or £7. I’ve converted several friends too. The list of perfumers who have worked for Avon reads like a Who’s Who of the Industry: Christine Nagel, Olivier Cresp and Christopher Sheldrake are just three that I can think of off the top of my head.  It’s a guilt free win/win pleasure. Here’s the link.  Products vary seasonally so if your favourite isn’t around this week, come back and check again.

8. Go Old Skool

amazon.co.uk 

By old school, I mean take a second at what your Mum wore growing up.

If I told you that Tweed reminded me a little of Jicky, would you be shocked? It does.

How about if I told you that Taylor of London Chique is a fabulous earthy, woody chypre that has much in common with Estee Lauder Knowing?

Neither are dupes, but both deserve more love and recognition. I’m also a big fan of Panache and I’ve only now finished a £3.99 bottle that gave me twelve hours longevity after two morning sprays. I have found all of these bottle for well under ten pounds, and even under five pounds. Try allbeauty.com or Fragrance Direct.

  1. Al Aneeq, Crown Perfumes and Al Rehab.

These are all brands that sell rollerballs of high quality, no alcohol fragrance.  I own the White Musk and the Al Aneeq Violet, which is a big generator of compliments. (“Yum. I smell Parma Violets!”). Prices start at £1.99 for the delectable Choco Musk, and my trusty 10ml (very strong) violet rollerball was 3.99. Find them on Amazon or eBay. Great for handbags.  Prices vary.

  1. Marks and Spencer

And so, we arrive at the perfume shelves of Marks and Spencer. Your ten-pound note will serve you well here.  First of all, there are delicious 10ml  and 30ml purse-size sprays such as Autograph Blush (light roses and violets, powdery finish, ultra-feminine, not too sweet) or the new Belle.  I’ve also seen White Orchid and New York in purse spray sizes in store too. Then of course, there’s the classic pillar fragrance Florentyna, which I reviewed last year. Both flankers are worth a look too and any of them will give you change from your tenner.

How about you?

What are your favourite cheap and cheerfuls? Do you have any under a tenner? Do drop in and tell me . I always love to hear from you.

Follow

Avon For Men: Three Of My Favourites ( And bargains all!)

Avon

As you may have noticed, I’m a die hard Avon fan and have  written so many Avon reviews that I should get some sort of badge or professorship or something. What I haven’t mentioned much is how good the men’s fragrances are.  The price point is kept low  and yet quality is not compromised.

I’ve reviewed three of my favourites here, but there are many more worth a try, and even blind buys won’t break the bank.

Avon

Avon Attraction for Men

First of all, let’s clear this up. The male version of Attraction does not smell even remotely related to the female counterpart, which is a fruity floral with a patchouli base. Oh wait, hang on, there is patchouli in both male and female versions. Hold the phone. Right, but apart from that, Avon Attraction for Him is not similar, but that’s not to say it’s not good either. It is good. In fact, for the tiny price that Avon asks for it, it’s pretty damned good indeed.

 Avon Attraction for Men opens with cardamom and ginger. There’s also juniper, which makes this smell a bit like gin, but that’s OK.  After that, the clary sage came out.  Now, I sometimes have a problem with clary sage as it does have a tendency to show its muscles to everyone, and I have to say, this is no exception. It’s kind of got a fougere thing going on, with bits of lavender and herb garden, only more medicinal. The clary sage kind of takes over and hits a peak before dying down into a clean, shaving foam style spicy skin scent with hints of clean musk.  All in all, it’s quite an adventure for under a tenner. Lasting power is about four hours on my skin, longer on my husband’s furry forearm.

With thanks to the Avon PR team who sent me this with no conditions attached. Opinions are my own.

Avon Destination Grand Canyon

For a mere fiver, I bought this for my husband for Christmas.  Reader, I had an ulterior motive. I wanted it for myself but couldn’t justify yet more bottles popping up on the old dressing table.  Destination Grand Canyon is a fabulously woody, wood scent with lots of woody woodiness. What I love about this is that the almost ubiquitous violet leaf note that is inserted into so many mainstream masculines, is  a no show here.  You might know what I mean. Many over the counter male fragrances have a synthetic metallic tang in the base that can be very off putting. To me it reminds me of jangly tooth fillings.  In Avon Destination Grand Canyon however, it is about sharp citrus (grapefruit) woods, and  a hint of tangy patchouli musk in the base.  Don’t forget the elemi, also used in cough mixture, but fabulous for giving a deep gravelly voice to woody scents.

Many Fragrantica readers have likened this to the legendary Hermes Terre D’Hermes, and my friends, they are right. Longevity is fabulous and the price is small. I shall be borrowing my husband’s Christmas present until it is all gone and he will need another bottle for Father’s Day.

Avon Elite Gentleman Weekend

Avon Elite Gentleman Weekend is a flanker to the pillar scent, Avon Elite Gentleman and was launched in 2016. It opens with the sharp fresh green scent of cypress- or conifer to you and I. If you’ve ever rubbed a bit of conifer between your hands and sniffed (and who hasn’t, right? It’s not just me is it?) you’ll know the sappy, sharp green scent I mean. There’s grapefruit too- surely the zingiest of all zingy notes.  So far, so shower fresh.  After that there’s a burst of fougere style lavender, and the faintly metallic tang of the ‘ole violet leaf.

Avon

The violet leaf is quickly blanketed with warm spicy cardamom which lines the way for a leathery labdanum finish. All in all, not bad at all, especially for the tiny price.  I don’t know enough about male fragrances to compare this to anything, but I will say that it is easily as good as several male fragrances I have tried over the counter in The Fragrance Shop.

Elite Gentleman Weekend is overall a refreshing green scent, with a hint of lavender that calms down into leathery woods as the day goes on. Longevity is pretty good at four hours. Jamie Redknapp is the face of the scent.

With thanks to the Avon PR Team who sent me this with no conditions attached.

Over to you

How about you? Have you tried any Avon men’s fragrances? Does this post make you want to or have I put you off? Tell me about any male scent bargains I don’t know about yet!

Stockists

You can buy all of these fragrances from Avon UK or from your Avon rep if you have one.  Avon Destination Grand Canyon is currently not on Avon UK, but you can buy it from Amazon or eBay. At the time of publishing and or purchasing, prices were: £5 for Avon Destination Grand Canyon (brochure only), £7 for Avon Elite Gentleman Weekend and £11 for Avon Attraction.

Follow

The ISCENT Awards and Review of 2017

 

Welcome to the I Scents 2017! Find your seat. The drinks will be around in a minute. I hope you’ve got your glad rags on and are ready for a fragrant bonanza.

2017 has been a very interesting year for fragrance, with even the big hitters bringing out major new launches.  If I’m honest, I found far more to love in the world of niche and indie than I did over the beauty counters.  I also had some wonderful real-life perfume experience to break the loneliness of the long distance blogger.  It was a delight to meet up with Sarah McCartney, Jo Fairley, Suzy Nightingale (albeit briefly in the toilets at the Jasmines!), Marina Barcenilla, Ruth Mastenbroek, Stephan Matthews, Thomas Dunckley, Persolaise and Nick Gilbert.  If that sounds like star struck name dropping, that’s because it is.

Ladies and gentlemen, here are the awards, presented by your hostess, Samantha Scriven (applause. Whooping. Wolf whistles.)

Best mainstream

I was moved by very few mainstream launches this year and we saw some big ones come from Chanel, Mugler, Jean Paul Gaultier and Guerlain. Whilst I liked Chanel Gabrielle, I didn’t think it was worth the high price and I found longevity very poor at around an hour.  Can’t stop singing the Beyoncé song from the fabulous advert though.

There were, however four launches that really made me sit up and take notice. I’m not even going to pick a favourite, because they all were. If you pushed me into owning just one though, it would be Alberto Morillas’ Gucci Bloom for Gucci. I’m a sucker for a bunch of white flowers at the best of times and I’m pleased to see them hopefully capturing some new hearts with this beautiful scent and stunning campaign.

Gucci Bloom -winner

Gucci  really made me sit up  and take notice with this one. I have been in a sulk with them since envy was scrapped, but they may be back in my good books again. Gucci Bloom is a wonderful white flower fragrance that is unapologetically feminine and floral.  I love that it takes floral scents back to basics,  stripping away all sugary artifice, whilst showcasing all the best bits of nature. Read my rave review here.

Cartier Baiser Fou

Baiser Fou is the flanker to lily based pillar scent Cartier Baiser Vole, and in my opinion, the better of the two.  Baiser Fou is all about  raspberries, Milky Bars and posh lipstick.  I love this playful and lovable scent, which always makes me think of summer weddings. My review is here.

Mugler Aura

It’s not very often Mugler brings out a brand new pillar scent, although flankers are frequent.  Aura is one of the most wearable Muglers.  It doesn’t have the nuclear sillage of Angel or Alien, nor the  divisive  love/hate of the discontinued Womanity (shudder).  However, with new notes of Tiger Liana (my future stripper name) and Wolfwood, this makes for an unusual and audacious scent. You can read my review here.

La Vie Est Belle L’Eclat

from Lancome UK

Whilst I feel Lancome La Vie est Belle has become ubiquitous, spawning many homages and dupes in its wake, La Vie est Belle L’Eclat offers something new.

The floral notes are there but the sugary caramel of the pillar fragrance  has been toned down, leaving a rather classy floral scent, with a hint of sweetness. The bottle is stunning too- I can’t stop touching the elaborate chiselled glass.  Lancôme, I salute you.

 Fragrances I Can’t Live Without

It is frankly impossible to only issue one award in this category.  It’s like asking me which is my favourite cat (don’t).  To choose one implies I don’t love the others as much, and that’s not true.  I have therefore listed the fragrances I fell headlong in love with in 2017.  If you have to take away my whole collection, just leave me these and I’ll be happy.

Aftelier Velvet Tuberose

4160 Tuesdays Killer Rose 

4160 Tuesdays Eau My Soul

Photo by Thomas Dunckley for Papillon Perfumery

Papillon Dryad

Marina Barcenilla India

DSH French Lily

Ruth Mastenbroek Firedance

Aedes de Venustas Pelargonium

Best New Perfume House 2017

Gallivant -winner

Nick Steward founded Gallivant with years of experience in his pocket from his previous tenure at L’Artisan Parfumeur. Basing each scent on a city vibe, Nick has created a scent wardrobe that takes you all around the world. What I like about this brand is that he hasn’t gone for the obvious, but has suggested the unseen underbelly of a city.  He’s gone for Brooklyn rather than Central Park and has given Tel Aviv a feel-good optimism. Gallivant is innovative, evocative and original. I look forward to seeing more from this exciting new house.

Best bargain brand

Bargain perfumes are my speciality. I believe that everyone should be able to have affordable perfume and I eschew all snobbery on my blog. In fact, the perfume I reached for most often in 2017 was my trusty £5.99 of Coty L’Aimant.

Avon-Winner

Avon has been producing some wonderful fragrances that whilst recognisably Avon, are bang on trend and can easily stand shoulder to shoulder with more expensive mainstream brands. In fact, the list of perfumers that have worked for Avon read like a Who’s Who of fragrance; Christopher Sheldrake, Oliver Cresp and Sonia Constant to name but three. Most of my Avon fragrances cost me around £7. Unbeatable.

Bronnley

Some superb fragrances from Bronnley who are shaking up their image to attract the younger scent buyer. Whilst I will always be a fan of the classic lemon soaps and floral bath goodies, (don’t ever stop making them!) there are now innovative roller balls and  50ml eau de toilettes in the Eclectic Elements range. My particular favourites are Wild Green and Exotic Embers. The prices are right too with 30ml eau fraiche bottles, rollerballs and candles all within the £10 range (prices are current as from day of publishing this).

Marks and Spencer

My local Marks and Spencer is next door to The Perfume Shop and I find myself in  there far more often than I find myself in the Perfume Shop.  Also, The Perfume Shop deletes all your loyalty points if you don’t use them fast enough, which doesn’t make me feel very loyal anymore.  Marks and Spencer hosts some of my favourite brands such as Fragonard and Monotheme, but their own brand stuff is pretty good too. I’m a big fan of Autograph Blush, Florentyna White and Rosie by Rosie Huntington Whitely. With 10ml purse sprays starting from a fiver, you can cheer yourself up without breaking the bank.

Yves Rocher

My beloved Yves Rocher! Whenever I order from them, I am always sent a free gift (usually something good like perfume) three samples, some sort of BOGOF deal and usually some sort of little surprise or purse spray. I am currently awaiting an order in which I spent £30 and will be receiving four bottles of perfume, a Swarovksi necklace and three samples.  This is not because I am a blogger, but because I am a customer and they are all treated this well. Fragrance quality is very high and I have never been disappointed. Check out my most recent Yves Rocher review here.

 Perfume Superstars Award

The Perfume Society

The Perfume Society

For the second year in a row I hail the beloved Mothership.  The Perfume Society not only hosts workshops and events that are a delight to attend, but I have an addiction to the Discovery Boxes which always, without fail, introduce me to a scent or brands I have never come across before.  Alexander Pope once declared that the point of literature was to instruct delightfully and The Perfume Society certainly fulfill this edict. The Scented Letter is a brilliant read, with breathtakingly good visuals and superb guest writers.  The latest Discovery Box I had even contained Green & Black’s Chocolate. chocolate. #dreamcometrue

2017 Highlights

I’m giving all of these equal placing because every one is indelibly engraved into my memory for when I’m an old lady and don’t get out much.

The Jasmine Awards

What can I say? Such an honour to be a finalist and such a day of contrasts. I began my day at BAFTA, followed by tea at the former Simpsons on The Strand with Sarah McCartney and Ruth Mastenbroek and ended it with the 3.15pm school run in Cwmbran.  Unforgettable! You can read about it here.

FiFis

I shall remember my night at the Fragrance Foundation awards for many years to come. I was invited as a guest of Clive Christian fragrance and the team made me feel so welcome. I got to wear a long dress, which doesn’t happen very often to me anymore, and mingle with the movers and shakers in the Fragrance World. It also marked the start of a friendship with FiFi winner Marina Barcenilla and the lovely Stephan Matthews.

photo by kind permission of Sarah McCartney

The Perfume Society Improve your Sense of Smell Workshop

Photo courtesy of The Perfume Society.

The Perfume Society held a workshop fairly near-ish to me in Clifton.  Since this is nearer than London, it was easy for me to attend, being across the water from South Wales (we have up to two bridges now).

I learnt so much in that afternoon  from Perfume Society Founder Jo Fairley, and would wholeheartedly recommend these workshops to anyone, even if you’ve been before!  Read my review of the day here.

Also featured in…

Check me out! I feel wanted and special. I got to work with all these delightful people this year and feel extremely flattered to be on their radar.

Stephan Matthews

Stephan’s Six- I join the ranks of hallowed predecessors and felt very flattered to be included in this legendary column.

Escentual.com

Escentual-  Perfume Expert Thomas Dunckley, (aka The Candy Perfume Boy)   called me a perfume expert too! I’m not in the same league as  Thomas, but I am thrilled to bits anyway. This is where I give my opinion on the most Christmassy perfume ever: Serge Lutens Arabie.  The photo is Thomas’s own.

 

My Beauty Matches– I’ve written several pieces for My Beauty Matches. You can check them out here and here.  A lovely team of people.

 

WOW Beauty– the amazing Denise of Wow beauty asked me to contribute to her fabulous site and I was delighted to join the fun. If you haven’t checked it out, do drop in. Such a lovely environment!

 

Collaborated with…Moodscent Four

This year saw me collaborate with  my wonderful Mood Scent Four colleagues, Esperanza, Tara and Megan. It was all Megan’s idea, so blame her. Megan is a Kiwi, based in the south of France  (meganinstsemaxime) and came up with the idea that four bloggers from four different countries could share their perfume recommendations for different moods and occasions. Every few months we all write about what to wear as a wedding guest, what scent to wear when uplifting is called for, and most recently, our favourite Night Out perfumes. They’re a joy to work with and I am honoured to be their colleague.

Over to you

What were your perfume highlights of 2017? What are you hoping to see more of in 2018? Do let me know. I always love to hear from you.

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year and thank you for taking the time and trouble to read my blog posts and follow what I’m up to. it would be very lonely without you all and each one of you is appreciated.

Follow

Falling Through the Chypre Portal

Marie Helene Arnaud in Chanel from Marie Claire

As I drench myself in Papillon Dryad (ensuring full 36 hour coverage, I’m not kidding) I breathe a sigh of relief that I managed to make it through the chypre portal and didn’t miss out on a fragrance genre that is now essential to the finished  “Me” when I leave the house each day.  Clothes, to me, are less important than scent. If it’s black and it’s clean I’ll wear it. In summer, stripes. That’s it.

Photo by Thomas Dunckley for Papillon Perfumery

My scent however, speaks for me more than the black slash neck tops I own six times over. Chypres to me, speak of Dior’s New Look, Cecil Beaton’s photography, fur stoles, lost eras, face powder, lipstick on a wine glass. Gloves. They speak to the teenager inside me, who sat in a bedroom in Cwmbran, flicking through a hardback book of Vogue covers and thinking that glamorous world was still out there for the taking.

Prior to becoming a blogger I often labelled chypres as Old Lady perfumes, a term that makes me twitch now and which I have banned from my blog. To me, chypres were those musty, powdery scents that made me think of Dame Edith Evans rather than Anais Nin.

So how did it change? Well I was enabled and pushed through the chypre portal like a nervy parachutist by my friend Lisa, who knows much more about perfume than me.  Everyone needs a fairy Godmother in the Fragrant Firmament and Lisa was mine.

Lisa plonked her bottles of Balmain Jolie Madame and Balmain de Balmain in their fading cardboard boxes onto my table and let me spray and judge. I duly sprayed and I duly judged. Something happened. The fragrance, was somehow, put in context all of a sudden. The penny dropped. The band began to play and the ticker tape parade began.

This scent, right here, that mossy, earthy scent, suddenly turned me into the woman I wanted to be from the elegant line drawings of my Vogue book. It made me join Dorothy Parker’s Round Table, it made me strut like Renee Breton in Dior, it made me wreathe my fur stole in cigarette smoke and immerse myself in other decades, far away from the fast-moving digital era in which I found myself.

The Round Table at The Algonquin photo from NEA

Chypres connected me to the teen I used to be and to the beguiling, bohemian world I imagined in my bedroom in the early 80s.  No matter what I wear (black top, trousers), no matter what I do (school run, housework, blogging, cooking) and no matter where I am (not Paris) I still smell of the woman I dreamed of being. Who knew that a blend of oakmoss, patchouli, and bergamot ( and often labdanum) could conjure such a cloak around me?

Vogue

Chypres make me feel like me again. It puts me back in touch with the dreaming teen I was, despite that fact that the world has done its best to bring me down to earth. Chypres, along with Oscar Wilde, remind me that we are all in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars.

Discover Chypres on Your High Street

There are several excellent chypres that you can find on most High Streets. If you’re curious to find out more, check out Lancome Magie Noire,  Estee Lauder White Linen, Estee Lauder Knowing, Chanel Cristalle, Paloma Picasso by Paloma Picasso and Miss Dior Originale (make sure it is the Original and not the new Miss Dior with the bow on its neck).  If you smell all of those ( not all at once), you’ll start to see what they have in common. That earthy green, musty, powdery accord? There’s your chypre.

Follow

Fragrance Selection Boxes: How to Let Them Choose at Christmas

 

Marks and Spencer

I don’t know about you but I like all selection boxes. From chocolate to fragrance, I’ll take the lot.  I am in no way advocating that fragrance selection boxes should replace chocolate ones, but rather that they should be avidly encouraged in addition to chocolate selection boxes.

The chocolate sort is strongly encouraged in my house

Right then, now we’ve cleared that up, let’s begin.

It’s a common refrain. People want perfume, after shave and toiletries for Christmas. You ask them what sort and they may say “I don’t mind” or “anything.”

The sheer volume of unwanted fragrances on eBay the day after Christmas tells me that this system of vague politeness doesn’t work for anyone. So what’s the solution? Fragrance selection boxes.

These will offer a variety of fragrances that your intended recipient can then choose from.  If you can add a full bottle gift voucher, even better.

I’ve scouted around and made a list of my absolute favourites, none of which I would turn down (are you reading this in the North Pole Mr S.Claus?)

The Marks and Spencer Ferris Wheel

Marks and Spencer

I salivated when I saw this. Not just miniatures, but generous 12ml bottles of 12 fragrances.

Marks and Spencer

It’s currently reduced to the bargain price of £22. The box is beautiful and your recipient (or you, if you’re weak willed like me and end up keeping it) may find a new favourite. If I was a betting woman I would say this will sell out.

Whilst you’re in there, check out the mini Fragonard sets. I had one a few years ago and the longevity was incredible. You honestly can’t go wrong with Fragonard. Trust me, I’m a perfume blogger. I know this stuff.

The Perfume Society Discovery Boxes

These smart white boxes from The Perfume Society are my guilty pleasure throughout the year. I don’t think there’s a single one I’ve missed since they began. They’re beautifully wrapped so you can give them as they are, and inside there are between eight and ten perfume samples, often with generous beauty treats too such as shower gel or hand cream and I’ve even had  a tiny perfume bottle keyring and a nail polish.

Each box contains postcards with notes about the perfumes within, so it’s a great way to learn what you like and discover new brands.

I’m not on the pay roll, but as a grown up, they are my absolute favourite toy and I love to sit there playing. They also do them for men too- try the Men’s Edit or For Him and there’s a sharing box for couples, which, teamed with a bottle of champagne, makes a fine wedding/anniversary/Christmas gift.

Buy British and Smell Good with 4160 Tuesdays

4160 Tuesdays

4160 Tuesdays is one of my favourite perfume houses. Probably in the top three but don’t make me choose, okay? Too hard.  With delightfully named sets of samples such as “Frocks and Hats” (my favourite), “Love & Life Stories” and “Best of British”, you get seven spray samples and then you add your gift voucher so your recipient can fall in love with his or her favourite and buy up a big bottle with their voucher. Here’s the link.  

4160 Tuesdays

The samples will be wrapped up like little Quality Street in brightly coloured tissue so this is a very user-friendly Christmas gift. There’s no extra charge for the wrapping, it’s all part of the normal service. with 4160 Tuesdays. My favourites are Raw Silk and Red Roses, Killer Rose, Doe in The Snow, Tarts Knicker Drawer and Fruits of The Tree of Knowledge.

Pell Wall: Nine Beautiful Bottles from A Shropshire Lad

Pell Wall Perfumes

Over in beautiful Shropshire, Chris Bartlett of Pell Wall perfumes makes and sells beautiful fragrances  made with his own hands. If you haven’t heard of Pell Wall, you’re in for a treat.  I have tried several from the range and thoroughly recommend them. Best of all, you can buy a Pell Wall Discovery Set containing NINE generous 10ml spray bottles, for only £70.  They come in a box ( see above) and these nine bottles should see you through at least a whole year. My personal favourites are Pretty in Pink, Deep Purple and Anjin.

Jo Malone

My local Jo Malone shop (nearest is Cardiff) is always very busy, no matter what time of year you go there. Fans are die hard and devoted. At Christmas, there is a wide choice of mini sets and selection boxes from which to choose your gift.

Jo Malone

You can buy the London Cologne Collection from Jo Malone or John Lewis, and there’s also the Intense Cologne Collection, and a scented candle selection box too.

Jo Loves

Jo Loves

Jo Loves is a smaller company, also founded by Jo Malone MBE, long after Jo Malone the company was sold to Estee Lauder in 1999.  Jo Loves is a smaller, more personal fragrance house, but no less addictive.  Try the “Can’t Go Wrong” Discovery Set which involves ten sample sprays and a voucher for either a 50ml or a 100ml bottle of scent.  Check out the site here.

This Year’s No Shows

Walter Langley Never Morning Wore to Evening 1894

Sadly, this year there is an absence of the Perfume Shop Viva Boxes, and also of the similar set at Boots, which is also no longer available. Both shops do little mini sets of branded scents (i.e Estee Lauder, Lancôme) but the little mixed sets with a gift voucher are no longer there.  Also, the Fragrance Shop no longer does the Discovery Club, but they do have a new subscription service where you can “date” a fragrance before buying it. You can find details here, but I do miss my little quarterly box of surprises. Sniff. I’ll have to cheer myself with some more chocolate.

PS Try TK Maxx. The stock is always changing, but you sometimes get wonderful variety sets around Christmas time. Last year I saw a Juicy Couture Rollerball set for around £12. This year they have Chloe mini sets, Modern Muse and  Marc Jacobs. Quick!

How about you?

Have you discovered any variety boxes that i’ve missed? Share your tips and insider knowledge!

Follow

Fragrance Shopping for Boys and Teens: The Perfume Society For Him Discovery Box

Many people ask me what to buy the beloved youngsters in their life as their first fragrance. It’s a tricky one. You like that they are taking care of the appearance and image, but  because they’re still young, you definitely don’t want anything provocative. All the seductive and alluring stuff can stay on the shelves, thank you.

I was lucky enough today to press gang my own son, Freddie, aged eleven ( on the right), and his lovely friend Morgan, aged twelve (on the left), into trying out a few scents for me.  I launched them onto the Perfume Society For Him Discovery Box and let them spray with abandon. I absolutely loved their reactions, although our dear chums at Jovoy did not fare so well among this age group!. They both smell great today and Morgan went away with a freebie.

I did not sway them and their responses are unedited.

L-R, Morgan and my son Freddie

Cartier L’Envol 1.5ml eau de toilette (50ml normally £63)

“Smells like a garden centre.” “Not sure.”

 

Cristiano Ronaldo CR7 2ml eau de toilette (30ml/£19.00)

“Smells lush”, “really nice, I love this one.”

This one was a favourite of both boys. Morgan went home with the sample and both were a-sniffing with impressed looks on their faces.

It may have something to do with the fact that they are both excellent football players and avid fans, so this may have swayed them. In any case, a resounding success

Coach For Men 2ml eau de toilette (40ml/£39)

“Oh yeah. That’s nice.” “The Coach one is good.”

Morgan and Fred both liked this one. Cool, fresh and clean, and not remotely provocative.

Dunhill Racing 2ml eau de parfum (50ml/£63)

“Nice.” “Clean” “My joint favourite.”

As for me, I think Dunhill Racing was my favourite, although I was taking a back seat today.

Ferrari Man in Red 1.2ml eau de toilette (50ml/£42)

“Lush,” “I like this one.” “sort of sweet. I really like it.” “Yeah the Ferrari one is my favourite. That and the CR7.”

Jaguar Black Chromite 1.8ml eau de toilette (100ml £55.00)

“Joint favourite” “I like this one, the Ronaldo and the Ferrari one.”  “Can I keep this one, Mum?”

Aww. Of course he can keep it.

Jovoy Private Label 2ml eau de parfum (100ml £125)

Jovoy, my apologies in advance. The exact response was “minging”, “disgusting”, “wash it off”, “rank” “smells like tar.”

Well, thank goodness, they didn’t like this one (It was the most expensive of the lot). Parents stressing over bank accounts will breathe a sigh of relief if they have to get an iPhone as well this Christmas (cough) I imagine.

I’m sorry Jovoy, I still love you!

Kenneth Cole Mankind 1.5ml eau de toilette (£30 for a 30ml)

“Oh wow.” “Yep. it’s good.”

 

Missoni Parfum Pour Homme 5ml eau de parfum (50ml £45.00)

“What’s this for?”  “There’s no spray on it.” “I can smell it now.  Not bad.” “That bottle’s really cute.”

 

Vince Camuto Homme 1.5ml eau de toilette (£45 for a 50ml)

“That smells amazing!” “Like it.” “Who’s Vince Camuto?”

NB The box also contains a 150ml Heath face wash and a mini size Missoni after shave balm and bath and shower gel, making this a great gift set.

The verdict?

Favourites were CR7, Ferrari and Jaguar, with Dunhill Racing, Vince Camuto and Coach coming up close seconds. Sadly Jovoy was not quite for this age group, but their faces were a picture!

Stockists

You can buy this fabulous gift box from The Perfume Society. Mine was sent to me as a gift with no conditions attached.  Opinions are those of my son and his friend.  Thanks boys! Take your pick as a reward.

Follow

Inis: The Energy of The Sea

If you like sea notes, this is your lucky day.  Fragrances of Ireland is a company that makes an impressive perfume collection, along with scnted accessories such as diffusers, soap and lotions.  They are also kind to dolphins, which makes them heroes to me. There are many fragrances in the range, often with whimsically Irish names: Connemara, Patrick and several Inis fragrances.  Incidentally, Fact Fans, it’s pronounced in-ish and means Island.

Today I am reviewing Inis The Energy of The Sea. My very first impressions were that this reminded me of two now discontinued fragrances: Avon Perceive Dew and The Body Shop Oceanus.

from GoNautical.com

It opens, of course, with sea notes. There’s salt and a generic, clean “ocean fresh” scent, which some object to, and which others seek out. The sea note differs from brand to brand but they will usually smell watery, salty and have a refreshing aquatic note that varies between crystalline and citrus.

With Inis, The Energy of The Sea, the sea notes dominate and stick around throughout the beginning, the middle and the ending. Despite this, there are other characters on stage. The opening is enhanced with zingy citrus notes. I found distinct lemon and bergamot.  The middle starts delicately, with pretty neroli (distilled orange blossom) and heads into peppery, spicy territory with geranium (which I LOVE in fragrance) and hints of nutmeg and cloves. This is all rounded off to smell a bit like a grassy sand dune. The oak moss is definitely there, along with clean laundry musks to give this a very wearable finish.

From Fragrances of Ireland

In the main, this is primarily a sea note scent. If you miss Avon Perceive Dew, The Body Shop Oceanus and if you like The Body Shop Fijian Water Lotus, Davidoff Clear water, Issey Miyake (male AND female) then you’re pretty much in safe hands here. If you don’t like oceanics and aquatics, you might like to sit this one out.

Stockists

Dear friend of the blog Patsi sent me this a while ago and I thought I’d sit down and have a good sniff. I seem to want the sea more in winter than in summer.  Does anyone remember nostalgia? It was great wasn’t it?

You can buy Inis The Energy of The Sea from the Inis website which ships to Ireland and the USA. You can also buy it from Amazon UK, where a 30ml bottle starts at around £20.

Follow