There’s a bit of a back story here. A few years ago, dear Lisa Jones, my friend, mentor and bad girl enabler let me try some Vero Profumo Rubj EDP that she had. My dear friends, I’m sorry to say that I did not care for it. I haven’t tried it since and my only lingering memory of it was cumin with muscles.
So, in the random and serendipitous way that such things happen, I was recently offered a batch of “Naughty and Animalic” samples from dear friend of the blog Lânáis-Bambi, for which many thanks my friend. The scent bundle was one of the sample collections that you can buy from Bloom Perfumery in London, so I knew it would be good stuff.
I went straight for Rubj, thinking I knew what my reaction would be, but I was wrong.
Vero Profumo Rubj Voile D’extrait is a beautiful deep floral that I was convinced was as full of violets as Guerlain Insolence. But it’s not. In fact, the flowers, once they settle, are a classy bouquet of tuberose, jasmine and neroli. They don’t come in straight away though, there’s mandarina and bergamot giving this a much lighter entrance than the one I was expecting.
The base notes anchor the flowers with oak moss and musk, giving this a ladylike and classic feel that I wasn’t expecting. Oh, and the cumin? Well, it’s not there, but the cedar gives this a herby, woody nuance that takes a back seat and lets the flowers take centre stage. Its presence gives this a touch of supportive sobriety as the flowers get loud.
I loved this so much that I have taken a lesson from it; don’t write off a different formulation of a scent you didn’t take to. I could drench myself in this stuff and It wouldn’t be too much. It’s glorious and feminine and makes me feel like I am too. I’m so glad that serendipity led me back to it.
Check me out! I’ve been experimenting with editing sites. The world is my lobster. Watch this space for disastrous pixellated pics and clumsy graphics until I get the hang of stuff. I’ll soon be running with the pack.
Well, dear readers, it’s time for me to sum up a busy fragranced year and award plaudits to my favourites from 2016. These are purely based on my opinion, which is therefore The Law.
Not all of these are actually 2016 launches: some have just impressed me so much after four years of blogging that I have declared that they deserve accolades. Now, we’d’d best get on before all this power goes to my head and I start doing villain’s laughter.
The IScent Award for Best Longevity
This has to be a three way tie between
4160 Tuesdays Midnight in the Palace Garden
Andy Tauer Carillon Pour Un Ange
Papillon Perfumes Tobacco Rose
I sprayed 4160 Tuesdays Midnight in The Palace Garden into thin air yesterday and 24 hours later it is still there. This is despite eating a roast dinner in the same room and trying on various perfumes throughout the day. It smells like I have been burning very expensive incense among church pews and I love it.
I sprayed two sprays of Tauer Carillon Pour Un Ange on my neck three days ago. Since then I have had three showers and changed my bedding. This morning when I woke up, I could still smell lily of the valley. This is a bottle I purchased in May 2015 and it has barely gone down. I think a genie keeps refilling it.
Made by the delightful Liz Moores in her compound in the New Forest, Papillon Perfumes Tobacco Rose lasted over fifteen hours on me. Rich, woody roses that just stay put. I could bask in it. Two sprays and you’re wrapped in spiced, woody roses until bedtime.
So all three of these niche brands get the Iscent 2016 Award for Longevity. Isn’t it interesting how they are all niche and not mainstream? Just sayin’
Best Summer Perfume – Art de Parfum Gin &Tonic
Gin &Tonic by Art de Parfum stopped me in my tracks with its new take on Gin &Tonic. So much more than just refreshing juniper, I wore this until my sample ran out and had compliments every time. A full bottle is in my sights in 2017. Check out my reviews on the rest of the range here.
Most Original Launch –REEK perfume Damn Rebel Bitches
This has to go to Reek Perfume for Damn Rebel Bitches. It’s a scent that smacks of rebellion. Rustic touches speak of the heritage of the strong women it pays tribute to. With notes of malt, blood orange and herbs, you won’t be surprised to learn that Sarah McCartney was the nose behind the scent Her fingerprints are all over it! (NB That is not her hand in the illustration).
Best Celebrity Launch-Sarah Jessica Parker Stash SJP
This one was easy. It goes to Sarah Jessica Parker Stash SJP. Breaking the mould of the usual celeb fare, SJP goes down the niche-style route of a churchy sandalwood incense unisex scent with not a hint of fruity floral fruitichouli in sight. It’s superb quality and I hope it will set the tone for other innovative celeb launches.
Best Flanker-Chanel No 5 L’Eau
It’s got to be Chanel no 5 L’Eau. Not a diluted version of the original, but a twiddling of the tuning knobs to bring out the lighter and muffle the darker. It’s divine and light and deserves classic status already.Oh, and lightness doesn’t mean a lack of longevity either: this really sticks around. Full marks to the beautifully simple marketing campaign showcasing the lovely Lily-Rose Depp.
Another three-way tie. I simply couldn’t choose! Here are the turkeys, the raspberries, the No-Nos. I don’t want to be mean but I’m going to be anyway. Dior Poison Girl,Estee Lauder Modern Muse Nuit and YSL Mon Paris left me wishing I’d never even taken the lid off. The prices are steep for what they are and the money seems to be going on the marketing rather than the ingredients (what’s new?) Least said soonest mended. Moving on!
Best Winter Fragrance- Le Jardin Retrouvé Sandalwood Sacre
This one has to go to Le Jardin Retrouvé. When I smelled Sandalwood Sacre for the first time, it was like cupid had shot me with an arrow. I simply had to own a bottle and now I do. You can read my review here. Don’t just keep it for winter though. I’m not.
Best Gourmand: Library of Fragrance Chai Tea and Library of Fragrance Tomato
Trust Library of Fragrance to come up with the goods once again. This was a tie between Chai Tea and Tomato. I am sure they won’t mind sharing the award with um…themselves.
Chai Tea combines lightness and spice to bring a new angle on the word “cosy.” if you don’t like your gourmands too sweet ( like me) then Chai Tea will win you over. Meanwhile, back in our very short summer of 2016, (it was a Tuesday afternoon as I recall) Library of Fragrance Tomato took me back to my grandfather’s greenhouse in the 70s faster than a Tardis. As fresh as a new bud and with accents of verbena, Tomato became one of my very favourite warm weather scents.
Best Chypre: DSH Mata Hari
Over the ocean in Boulder Colorado, Dawn Spencer Hurwitz brews and macerates her beautiful perfumes with skill and passion. I was floored by DSH Mata Hari Extrait and in a blind test I would have thought it a priceless original 1920s vintage. It made me want to wear long gloves and arch one eyebrow at people. Glorious! You can read my DSH reviews here.
Best New Scent 2016: Beaufort London Fathom V
Beaufort London Fathom V turned an unassuming day into a vivid montage of sea faring adventure. It transported me to the slimy flanks of a London ship and the distant calls of pirates in one sniff. This stuff is like letting a genie out of a bottle. It’s green times a thousand, with sea notes that you can almost hear. It’s the best sea scent ever, and I can’t see that anything will make me change my mind about that. You can read my love letter to Fathom V here.
Best Natural Fragrance 2016: Mandy Aftel – Aftelier Amber Tapestry
Using only natural ingredients ( and that takes some doing!) Mandy’s instinctive connection to nature transports you to another place, via taste and even flavour. Amber Tapestry unfurls, layer by layer, enveloping the wearer in the kind of warmth that has a uniquely human touch. You can read my review here.
The IScent Fellowship Award: The Perfume Society
I’ve invented a Fellowship Award because The Perfume Society defies other categopries. Not only do they provide white boxes of treasure that even the most jaded perfume palate would salivate at, but they’re a sort of Mothership that we can all turn to when we get a bit lost in the murky depths of fruity-florals-chypres-colognes-my-nose-is-confused-help! Ever had a day like that? I have. The Perfume Society Scented Letter magazine also makes me settle down with a contented sigh and think “I’ve found my tribe” as I read what other perfume obsessives are up to. Fumeheads, you are not alone.
I was delighted to receive a little parcel via Fed Ex all the way from Berkeley California recently. It was from master perfumer Mandy Aftel and was wrapped like a piece of precious treasure. Mandy is a fragrant and flavourist expert who has the worldwide respect of customers and peers alike.
I received my sample spray phial of Amber Tapestry last week and I have been taking my time in getting to know it before reviewing it. After all, Mandy didn’t rush making it, so I owe it such courtesy in return.
Amber Tapestry is suitably named. Each component makes up the overall picture with splashes of colour and vibrancy that make this scent a constant unfolding enigma.
The heliotrope, which my nose mistook for lilac, speaks of springtime optimism. There was a note of pollen in there too, that reminded me of the dust you get on your nose when you sniff a daffodil (I should know, it’s the National Flower of Wales). The orange and the jasmine together give this a creamy and alluring opening act. The combination of the two makes for a sort of exaggerated orange blossom.
The middle phase is where this gets more tapestry like. The resin-y incense tones of benzoin (often used in cough mixture) seem to add a faded grandeur to the big white flowers that start so brightly. The heady white blooms are toned down by the warmth of golden amber as the base notes cast a sunset over this evocative scent. There is a subtle touch of animal in the finale, but rather than being a body odour animalic, its more of an intimate back-of-the-neck scent- if you’re familiar with my review of Aftelier Memento Mori, you’ll know the honeyed skin scent I mean.
Each note is interwoven to give an overall accord of a resinous, leathery vanilla. It was a real grower on me. The longer I have worn it, the more I like it
Amber Tapestry is a scent for all seasons. From Spring to Autumn in one fell swoop, the floral optimism of its opening gives way to a cosy richness that ends with the feeling of being hugged by an amber blanket of warmth.
Mandy uses natural ingredients and to my nose, these have an authenticity that makes for a deep and rich olfactory experience. It is my ambition to visit her perfume museum in Berkeley one day. Like Aftelier fragrances, I just know it will be unforgettable.
Le Jardin Retrouvé is a perfume house that’s both new and old. The nose behind the scents, Yuri Gutsatz, sadly died in 2005 and the brand closed. We owe Yuri a debt of gratitude, because not only did he create these beautiful scents, but he was also one of the founders of the legendary Osmothéque. His original work has been honoured and continued by his son Michel and his wife Clara, who have relaunched Le Jardin Retrouvé using Yuri’s original formulations.
The happy result is that the world gets to revisit these delightful, high quality fragrances anew, and what a joy they are!
I was sent a small selection and asked for my opinion, which I happily give, unburdened by bias or bribery. The tricky bit is choosing a favourite. That, my friends, is the hardest bit of all. Each scent comes with its own whimsical scenario that prompted my ever ready imagination to wander even further into colourful and fanciful territory.
Eau des Délices
1970: The garden of delight, painted in 1503 by Heironymous Bosch, intrigues everyone who comes to see it, including you
A bouquet of lavender, bergamot, mandarin, petitgrain and lemon makes this eau fraiche a classic cologne. Uplifting and invigorating, each ingredient is distinct, yet blended seamlessly. This makes me want to throw open the windows and belt out a Julie Andrews number. Fans of Eau de Cartier, O de Lancome and 4711 Aqua Colonia will love this.
1786:You walk towards a sacred grove that houses a small Hindu Temple…
This beautiful 70s style sandalwood reminded me of those wonderful ethnic market stalls I used to frequent as a teen. I’d buy pungent patchouli oil and floaty skirts with tiny mirrors on them. The sandalwood is soft with floral nuances (via orange blossom), a subtle undertow of patchouli and a delicately feminine white musk finish. It’s addictively sniffable and leaves a beautiful wake.
1878: You walk in the Summer Garden in the heart of St Petersburg…
With ingredients that smell so-fresh-it-tingles, this is a happy, playful scent in a similar vein to Eau des Délices above. With basil, lemon, bergamot and the all important verbena, this is the best verbena scent I have ever smelled, and I’ve smelled a fair few on my travels. There’s a trail of oakmoss in the basenotes, which makes me even happier.
Cuir de Russie
1920:The opera ball is packed. Diaghilev is presenting his Ballet Russes.
For some reason, I always get cuir (leather) mixed up with cuisse (thigh), so I initially read this as Russian Thigh. Actually, I’m not far off since this scent was inspired by the Russian Ballet. Cuir de Russie reminded me of those wonderful vintage chypres with strong powdery notes muffling the oakmoss in time honoured fashion. Specifically, this reminded me of the day I entered the chypre portal via Balmain de Balmain and never looked back. Cuir de Russie is violets, cinnamon, wood and styrax. The wood and spice gives it muscles and the violets give it delicate fairy wings. This is a stunning juxtaposition.
1935: Behind you, the Eiffel Tower. Before you, the Trocadero Palace.
Rose Trocadero is not your typically pretty rose petal scent. It’s darker than that. Using hefty Bulgarian Rose Absolute, this stuff will fill a room (in a good way). There’s something spicy and dark at the heart, but it may just be the genre of the rose. Fans of Miller Harris Rose En Noir will love this take on roses. I found hints of spice and heady jasmine. This rose is rich and deep and makes a bold statement.
2000: The view of Florence is stunning, but a grotto on your right draws you with chilled air.
This is another lemon based scent but has the distinction of added spice, namely cloves and black pepper. Opening with greener than green petitgrain, and bursting with the freshness of citrus, the spiciness gives this an almost sherbetty kick. I loved it.
1689:You are headed towards the Trianon in the garden of Versailles where the King has had a profusion of flowerheads planted.
I have somehow gone nuts for tuberose lately and cannot get enough. This may have begun back in October when I entered the By Kilian boutique in London and was greeted by Good Girl Gone Bad. Tubereuse Trianon opens with both tuberose and jasmine. The creamy headiness of both brings out the best in each other and this gives me an almost exaggerated soapiness that I cannot get enough of. The blurb says “your heart just encountered love. It melts” It did. It melted. I love this so much I think I may have to marry it.
You can buy these fragrances from the website, which launches November 2016 ( i.e now)
Acknowledgenments: samples kindly supplied by Le Jardin Retrouve. All photos are my own.
Nobody can accuse Andy Tauer of not being good to his fans. Whilst the Tauer range remains one of the highest quality niche fragrance brands in the world, the price tag isn’t always within everybody’s reach. This doesn’t mean they’re not worth every penny: Andy sources ingredients, makes it, bottles, it and posts it himself. With niche, you know the money you spend goes on ingredients and not the supermodel fronting the ad campaign.
There are now five scents in the Tauerville Flash range and at around £50 for a 30ml bottle, I call them all excellent value. Under the Tauerville banner, Andy has made a series of cheaper scents that are consistently high quality with excellent longevity, yet the price makes them accessible: so accessible, that I’m thinking of getting the lot (eventually).
Today I am reviewing Rose Flash. What makes Rose Flash powerful is that this rose has many facets. It opens like a kitchen in which strawberry jam is being cooked. There’s a hint of burnt sugar before the strawberries fade into roses. The rose segues from jam into Turkish Delight, yet manages to never be too sweet.
The Turkish Delight, in turn, starts to bloom like a flower fresh from the garden: similar to a chrysanthemum: that spring time “clean” scent. Then the rose, still on its journey, turns into the familiar deep red rose of Valentine’s Day, with a sweetness that reminds me of rose creams, but thankfully, and this is the real saving grace for me- no vanilla! This would have become a cliché if vanilla had been added as a co-star, as it has been in mainstream scent way too often lately, but with Rose Flash, Andy lets the rose speak for itself.
There is additional support from woods and resins, and I got some musk and amber in there too, which serve to enhance the smoky, woody base that borders on rose incense sticks. This is rose to the core and gets very addictive once it’s on your skin. I love the way it unfolds, like a dance of the seven veils.
This is a superb rose perfume and I would go as far as saying that this is one of the best ways you can spend £50 on perfume. Quality, long lasting artisan perfume at these prices? It’s a steal.
You can buy Rose Flash from Tauerville (check shipping regs) In the UK Rose Flash is also available from Les Senteurs. In the USA, you can find it in Lucky Scent. My sample was kindly given to me by friend of the blog Lisa Wordbird. Thank you Lisa! x
Photos: Top photo: Fragrantica, Turkish Delight from RosannaPansino.com, Photo of a rose from happyvalentinesday2015.org, photo of rollerball from tauerville.com
Pell Wall perfumes, based in Shropshire, is the brain child of Chris Bartlett, who left his job to become a full time perfumer. Don’t you just love people who do that? If people like Chris and other great indie perfumers didn’t take the plunge, we’d all be missing out on original and exciting niche fragrances.
Pell Wall Perfumes Anjin is not like anything else I have smelled before because it has very dominant chillies in it, or pimentos to be precise. I’ve never been one for gourmands in particular, but when they are as astringent and spicy as Anjin, I take it all back. This could not be further away from your cupcakes and candy floss, which just goes to show how vast the gourmand spectrum can be.
This is no one trick pony though. As Anjin’s citrussy, almost stingy-eyed opening dries down, it becomes smooth yet prickly, a bit like sharp lemony patchouli. With bold styrax adding an almost-but-not-quite creosote touch ( not a criticism, I love it), and clove and coriander making their spicy and herbal presence felt, Anjin is a long-lasting treat that smells equally good on male or female skin. I loved it on me, but it smells even better on my 17 year old nephew, who also loved it, and now has the bottle. I am always pleased when young folk try a fragrance that steps away from the High Street norm- and what a pleasant surprise to find a 17 year old who is NOT marinated in scent du jour Paco Rabanne One Million!
One of the things I admire about Pell Wall is the sheer versatility: Chris has produced a range that includes violets, (Deep Purple), Lily of the valley and roses (Pretty in Pink), earthy leather (Sticky Leather Sky) and Red Hot Chilli Peppers (Anjin) without stinting on quality or showing any weak links. Anjin would make an original choice for summer and refreshingly, didn’t smell synthetic. In fact wearing this when you have a cold might even feel therapeutic. That chill just cuts through everything. Anjim impressed me and I would wear it myself had I not given it away in the name of olfactory education earlier today.
Anjin is available from the Pell Wall website for the reasonable price of £23 for 10ml or £36 for 50ml. Fret not about taking a gamble based on my word alone though, Chris offers great sample sets and discovery sets and I can vouch for the quality and longevity. My particular favourite is Pretty in Pink, which I reviewed earlier in this blog.
If you’d told me a few months ago that I would be actually choosing to buy a perfume that apparently smelled like vanilla ice cream and candy floss, I would have rejected the idea with an unladylike snort.
However, this week I have done just that and I am proudly wearing my brand new bottle of 4160 Tuesdays New York 1955. It was first the violets that captured me and the rest of the scent sat around as if to say “it’s all or none. We come as a pack”. In actual fact, I began to see how well violets, candy floss and vanilla worked once the violets had got their foot in their door.
New York 1955 is one of a range of four vintage cities from 4160 Tuesdays. Each one is very different from the other. Friend of the blog Lisa Wordbird adores Rome 1963 (“and I’m not normally a tuberose-y person” she said), and I liked New York 1955 and London 1969. There is also Paris 1948 but I haven’t got round to that one yet.
Not only do the names alone capture a whimsical vibe that makes my mind’s eye turn me into Julie Christie or Gina Lollobridgida depending on which city I’m trying, but these cities have made both Lisa and I step out of our comfort zone and like it.
I have swerved, sworn off, and dodged with comic elaborateness the vanilla/candy floss invasion of the Noughties Fragrance Fad, but Sarah McCartney is kind of in my brain saying “yes, but if you try it with THIS, it’s totally different” and she’s right.
What I smell of today (I will explain in visuals rather than notes as is fitting with this brand) is this: Central Park, a raspberry ripple ice cream, a mouthful of parma violets, a vintage Laura Ashley dress and a very blue sky with nary a cloud.
Stockists I bought my bottle for the ludicrously agreeable price of £10 for 18ml directly from the 4160 site. The price is a sale price though so be quick, but have a browse around whilst you’re there as there are some good deals on samples and discovery packs: a great way to explore the brand before you commit to a full bottle.
I have reviewed several 4160 Tuesdays scents before, but in case you missed them, here’s what you need to know: Perfumer Sarah McCartney founded 4160 Tuesdays and says that if we live to be 80 we will have 4160 Tuesdays. Use them to do something you love. Sarah uses Tuesdays to make perfumes. And I’m jolly glad she does.
4160 Tuesdays Urura’s Tokyo Café now called Tokyo Spring Blossomopens with grapefruit and mandarin, then beds down into the heart notes: rose and violet, before merging gloriously into the base notes: raspberry leaf and myrhh.
It was intended to smell like a Spring Breeze and was made for a charity event at thec Café of Sarah’s friend Urura, whose name, spookily enough, turns out to mean Spring Breeze. In other words, this was meant to be!
Tokyo Spring Blossom does indeed open with citruses and then beds down into strong rose and violet. They are almost as one, and you can hardly tell them apart, which I love. It reminds me of a cross between those little violet breath sweets and a gob full of top quality Turkish Delight at the same time. However the Myrrh ( or Opoponax if you will) gives this a nice churchy feel, as if you have entered a medieval church at a Christmas Market whilst eating Narnia street food.
The quality is excellent: resonance and longevity both get 10/10 and the price is right too: £40 for 30ml. Bear in mind that this lasts as long as a winter, so you don’t need frequent top ups like you do with other cheaper scents.
What sets 4160 Tuesdays apart from other brands is that there is a hand made artisan vibe about the scents. It’s as if the ingredients still have their rough edges and haven’t been over processed. The rose really smells like sticking your nose in a rose, rather than smelling like an impression of synthetic roses. If these scents were drawings, they would be pavement oil pastels and they wouldn’t stay in the lines.
Urura’s Tokyo Café is available from the 4160 Tuesdays website, and if you’re in the USA or Canada, you can buy a selection of 4160 Tuesdays scents from Rouiller White ( though sadly not this one, at least not yet) Also check out the cute sample sets– good British niche that needn’t break the bank.
Musc Ravageur was created by prolific nose Maurice Roucel in 2000 and I think it’s safe to say that it has enjoyed cult success among perfumistas. Today and yesterday I have been wearing a roll on sample (thank you Lisa Wordbird) and here’s what I think:
Top notes: Lavender, mandarin and bergamot: you would think this would make for a cologne-y opening number à la Jo Malone Lime, Basil & Mandarin, but it doesn’t. In fact, it is warm and soft like blankets. I often find lavender quite a cold scent but I barely detect it here.
Middle notes: Cinnamon and clove: the faintest hint of cinnamon and no cloves.
Base notes: Sandalwood, tonka bean, vanilla, Guaiac wood, amber, cedar and of course, musk: It’s the base note that seems to last longest with me. In fact, the whole thing merges seamlessly into one long base note right from the get go.
When reviewing Miller Harris L’Air de Rien, Lisa Wordbird, who is a die hard fan of it, says it reminded her of flannelette sheets- you know those warm brushed cotton affairs that fall somewhere between fluffy and towel-y? Well that’s what Musc Raveguer makes me think of. There is a slept-in staleness about it that is not unpleasant. There are flowers peeking out (is that the lavender emerging finally?) and the musk has a muffled sharpness like skin after soap.
Sillage is close to skin. You could spray this liberally and only those who hug you would probably comment on your incredible smell. It’s the smell of someone up close, or the smell of someone who has got out of bed after retiring following a scented bath the night before. It is the smell of intimacy and closeness. It doesn’t smell of sex the way Worth Courtesan does, and although it has some faint, vague similarities to L’Air de Rien, Musc Ravageur stands alone as the comforting, intimate smell of longing and romance.
You can imagine a misty eyed lover sniffing his girlfriend’s coat and saying “ahh, it smells of HER”. And that, my dear friends, is Musc Ravageur.
Have you experienced Musc Ravageur? What did you think? Do let me know. I always love to hear from you.