Yes, it’s National Fragrance Day 2017, although if you’re a fumehead like me, ( and you probably are if you’re reading this blog) then every day is Fragrance Day. Taking a #smellfie is all the rage on this special day , and I felt I must run with the pack.
However, being a bit of a luddite and not having fathomed out the selfie stick I had for Christmas, I was forced to use the least worst shots of a lengthy smellfie session. Plus I seem to either stare or blink- no middle ground.
Dear reader, you can see the conclusion I arived at. The scent I chose, by the way, is Mary Greenwell Fire. I bought it last year from The Fragrance Shop for the princley sum of £19.99 and it’s become a firm favourite. Do not ever throw the lid at anything fragile though, unless you are trying to escape from a dangerous animal. The lid weighs a ton and could smash a phone box. Remember phone boxes? That’s a #scentmemory I’d rather not revisit.
How about you? What would you take a smellfie with? Your SOTD or your favourite ever? Do let me know. I always love to hear from you.
Earlier this week, I asked you to send me your perfume problems. I then chewed the arm of my glasses and looked studious, whilst reading them, just like a proper Mumsy Agony Aunt.
I was so pleased to get so many questions, some of which I answer below. Incidentally, I also see questions on my WordPress dashboard which tell me what people type into Google in order to be led to my site.
There are two questions that I see every single day without fail. Yes, my friends, the two most popular questions are:
What’s the best Avon perfume?
What cheap perfume smells good?
Now you may have noticed that these two particular questions have entre blog posts devoted to answering them. Nobody can accuse me of not giving my readers what they want.
With that having been said, here are some other questions that I received this week.
I am very grateful to all who sent me a Dear Aunty Sam question. I wish I could tell you that there’s a T-shirt and a mug on the way to you, but I can’t. I think I may repeat this experience in future, so please do send any questions as they occur to you. I’ll be your olfactory DJ.
Dear Aunty Sam,
Like you, I miss Gucci Envy and only have a little bit left. What can I wear instead when this runs out?
A good question and one to which I still seek an answer myself. We’ve asked the Why Did it End? question but the wind took our words away and no answer was given. Meantime, here are some that I find have some of the Gucci Envy notes in common, namely green notes, lily of the valley and hyacinth.
I’ve fallen in love with Yardley’s Polaire. But as ever with Yardley 20 minutes in and unless I’ve gone nose blind I can smell nothing at all. Is there something out there that smells the same, but with actual longevity and a bit more sillage?
I haven’t smelled Yardley Polaire recently so I’m working blind here. However, I notice that the prominent notes are pear, freesia and rose. There are two scents that also contain these notes. One is Dior J’Adore and the other is Elizabeth Arden Fifth Avenue ( although more freesia than pear) However, if you want to stick with Polaire, there are a couple of things you can do to extend its life.
What I usually do is spray my hair. Hair carries scent very well- usually until bedtime! However, some people claim this dries hair out. Secondly, and I’m going to talk boobs here, spray it in your cleavage before you get dressed. As your body heats up throughout the day, you get nice little wafts under your nose. You can also make scent last longer by moisturising skin before applying it. Don’t forget a quick spray on your lapels or scarf.
There is another theory, however. Some people say that when a perfume really suits you, you stop being able to smell it. This is so subjective that I find it difficult to prove, but there may be some truth in it. Maybe Polaire just really suits you!
Dear Aunty Sam
I have begun to make some fragrances. I have at least three that are absolutely delightful, unlike anything else I’ve ever tried. I really feel there’s a market for these, especially in this size, being affordable for almost everyone.
How do I go about getting someone to be willing to sell my fragrances in their shop (either online or not) or work with me in promoting mine?
Firstly, congratulations on your perfumes. I do love an entrepreneurial spirit. Secondly, before you sell them commercially, do they meet the necessary compliance? There are many perfume ingredients that have been banned by IFRA in order to ensure that scents do not cause rashes or reactions. Forgive me if I’m preaching to the converted- you may well already know this. Thirdly, have you tried Etsy? There are many beautiful handmade scents there and it strikes me as a good starting point.
I would really recommend one of the Studio days run by Sarah McCartney of 4160 Tuesdays. What she doesn’t know about making and selling perfume just isn’t worth knowing. You can find out more from the 4160 Tuesdays website. Oh, and in answer to your question about promoting your scent, my advice is, as you might imagine, harness the bloggers!
That’s all I’ve got room for this week. I hope you enjoyed my first brave fumble into the mailbag. Do you agree with my responses? Do you have any questions of your own? Do let me know. I always love to hear from you.
I like a pretty Rose scent at any time of the year and I quite like Givenchy Very Irresistible L’Eau en Rose. However, I would like to say one thing to Givenchy: You have not only made twenty nine Very Irresistible flankers but why are no less than EIGHT of them Rose flankers with slightly different names?
This is a serious turn off and if Givenchy was trying to date me, this alone would stop me from calling them back after the first date.
I always find too many flankers can start to look both self congratulatory and complacent. One or two carefully made flankers can be good (one example is Chanel Cristalle Eau Verte– a divine flanker that deserved to be made), but make too many and the original becomes devalued in a stack ‘em high sort of way.
However, having got that moan out of the way, I will say that Givenchy Very Irresistible L’Eau en Rose (what a mouthful!) is a delightful and fresh, clean smelling Rose that sadly goes a little bit vinyl on my skin after half an hour. It is described by Givenchy as a “frosted rose”, and that’s a pretty idea, but I’m not sure quite what that translates to. It makes me visualise frosted fruit with a faint sugary bloom.
There are only three notes listed on Fragrantica and they are: Blackberry, Rose and Musk. What I like about this is that the Blackberry, whist adding juice and a bit of weight to the airy Rose petal, is restrained enough to prevent this from being a fruity floral mélange.
L’Eau en Rose is pretty, feminine and lasts about, oh let me see now, nearly two hours. I do actually like it: there is a realistic feel to the initial blast of fresh rose petals, but sadly it cannot be maintained. If it could, I would be all ears ( and nostrils!). Longevity could do with a bit of a push as well. Conclusion? So nearly there and so nearly wonderful. And for Goodness sake, Givenchy, calm down on the flanker overkill!
As an escape from heavy woods and intense incense, sometimes I want to take sanctuary in a simple pleasant floral. In the same way that wearing something floaty and cool on a hot day offers relief, sometimes I want the simplicity of a floral like Yves Saint Laurent Paris.
Ignoring the faintly Turkish Delight overtones, to me , Paris has two notes: Violet and Rose. There’s other stuff too, like Soft Musk and a hint of Powder, but it is Violet and Rose, like two fragrant sisters, who sit firmly in the centre of this bouquet of a scent.
There’s no Fruit. There’s no Vanilla, no foody Praline, no cheap basenotes. I mean, this is Sophia Grojsman here! It’s simply fresh flowers, it’s pleasant to be around, and it’s light and airy.
Created in 1983, I have distinct memories of the Sixth Form Common Room in school in the late Eighties, and one co student in particular loved to marinate herself in this before 9am. However, unlike other Eighties heavyweights around at the time (yes I’m old), too much Paris was never as bad as too much Poison or too much Giorgio Beverly Hills *shudder*., which were also popular at the time.
Naturally, Paris the fragrance doesn’t smell like Paris the City. Paris the City actually smells of Body odour, cigarette smoke, wine, asphalt, traffic and wafts of expensive perfume and coffee. A wonderful smell actually, but it would never sell if you bottled it. Although having said that, I bet someone somewhere would create it and someone somewhere would buy it. Maybe Library of Fragrance could make “Dirty City”. I know they’d do a great job.
Paris the perfume is mainstream, easy to get hold of and frankly, adorable. The price stops it being totally ubiquitous and the fragrance trends of the last two years have changed, making Paris not so common now, and frankly, a refreshing change. There are flankers, but this is the original and best. Don’t makie the mistake of seeking this kind of classic quality among the flankers. (*cough* Mon Paris *cough*)
Chanel Cuir de Russie is part of the Chanel range of exclusive (and elusive) fragrances; “Les Exclusifs“. Originally made in 1924, Cuir de Russie was audacious even then, as it was created to complement the then shocking trend of women smoking in public.
In 2007, it was relaunched as part of the Les Exclusifs range, and is available at Chanel Boutiques and selected Chanel counters in larger stores, but not widely. Chanel are not in it for the money. They know it’ll sell even if it’s hard to get hold of and costs £200 a bottle.
I have been wearing Cuir de Russie today and throughout the day my opinion has been changing. When I first wore it, I thought it smelt vintage and also very similar to a Frederic Malle, with that same milky, stuffy base note that several of his perfumes have (according to me, at least). There is Iris in there, which maybe made me think of Malle’s Iris Poudre. (This is not a Good thing, I loathe Iris Poudre!). However, my heart was won over by the whiff of Leather and one of my favourite incense notes: Myrrh . Myrrh not only smells archaic and musty and beautiful, but is very hard to spell without a spell checker.
Disappointingly, Cuir de Russie does not have great staying power. I have had to reapply from my borrowed sample several times today (sorry Lisa!) to get the scent going. It’s worth it though, because after a while (and three sprays and a brisk walk), what I got was a new note that I have never smelt in a fragrance before: Horse.
Yes, this leathery beauty smells like Black Beauty. Or Champion the Wonder Horse. Or Trigger. But I happen to love it.
If you find the £200 price tag eye watering (and who wouldn’t? ) you could always try donning a Russian Cossack outfit, climbing on board a sweaty stallion, and riding a leather saddle from the Urals to Moscow. Rub some Myrhh into your legs and then sniff. What have you got? Cuir de Russie.
The Animalic Horsey smell is rather sexy and sets this apart from other Leather classics. Horses smell good, so it is either a stroke of genius or a happy accident that this earthy smell of Hay and Horse has made it’s way into a Leathery Incense fragrance. Fragrantica lists many notes that are contained in this fragrance, but I’m darned if I can smell Bergamot, Mandarin, Orange Blossom or Rose.
If you want to try Cuir de Russie and can’t get to one of the rare beauty counters that sell this, try looking for samples and decants on eBay or perfume forum sites such as Basenotes or Fragrantica.
It was shocking in 1934 and it’s shocking now. Horse notes? Shocking. Shocking but Great. With a capital “Gee Gee”.
Nipple flashing, crotch grabbing, rule breaking, trailblazing Madonna has surprised me in three ways with this fragrance. Not only has she turned up late in the game after everyone else has had a go, but she has produced a fragrance that is both traditional and ladylike and dare I say it, safe.
Truth or Dare was launched globally in May 2012. A flanker scent, Truth or Dare Naked, was launched in December 2012. My theory about why she is late is that she is so inhumanly busy that the team from Coty probably took two years to get an appointment into her watertight schedule. But that, of course, is conjecture.
The fragrance itself is overwhelmingly Tuberose and White Flowers, but especially Tuberose. It has been said that her mother, whom she lost at a young age, wore Fracas by Robert Piguet: the last word in Tuberose fragrance after which all-comers were a mere imitation.
Although Truth or Dare has other notes in it, it is the creamy Tuberose that dominates and almost sees the rest of them off. It’s not bad though, not bad at all, and smells more expensive than it is. It is worth buying if you like White Flowers and Tuberose and Gardenia all together in one place. Personally I don’t like it on me, but I enjoyed wearing the sample I purloined from a beauty counter. It’s rich and heady and feminine, and not at all what I was expecting from Madonna. The price was a surprise as well, since the woman has no qualms in charging fans around £200 a ticket to see her in a (short) concert. She is giving us a bargain here.
The third thing that surprised me was the bottle. It’s made of white plastic. It’s quite rare to have plastic perfume bottles these days. Even the cheapest brands manage to use glass bottles, but maybe the team at Coty blew the budget on the ingredients and ran out of steam. Like I said, it doesn’t smell cheap, but the packaging sure looks it.
So what I expected was Madonna being first off the block with an edgy unusual fragrance that nobody else had thought of, in some sort of dagger or crucifix shaped glass bottle that cost around £200 a pop.
What she has actually done is produced a classy and ladylike scent cheapened by a bobbly plastic bottle, that is both affordable and wearable.
I’ve seen her boobs and she’s flashed her crotch, but Madonna giving us a high quality, accessible fragrance that is even on the cheap side of affordable? Now that really was a surprise. Whatever next? Madonna Twinsets? Madonna pearls? You think you know someone…
With Love first came to my attention by having the dubious honour of being the cheapest fragrance in the window of my local bargain store. I thought it was probably awful if it was being flogged off so cheaply, but I went home and looked it up anyway.
The next day I was back and buying a bottle. Now that I’ve used that all up, I’ve just ordered another one. This stuff is pretty good.
I had no idea who Hilary Duff was, so I looked her up too. She was a Disney teen queen,aka Lizzie McGuire, and has sold over 13 million records worldwide. Still in her twenties, I was expecting some sugary sweet concoction aimed at the teen market. Well, it’s funny how the least likely people can end up really impressing you. Hilary Duff has created a wonderful woody, tropical scent that is nothing like anything else I can think of. In fact its top note, Cocobolo, is only used in this perfume and no other. In case you were wondering, Cocobolo is very hard rosewood used decoratively in knife handles and polished wood ornaments.
With Love smells like aromatic pipe smoke with a hint of mango and spice. It’s almost masculine, but has a base of musk and amber that make it a little more feminine. When launched in 2006, it was in the top three best-selling fragrances in USA department stores. It’s rich and unique and has been critically acclaimed. I think Ms Duff surprised everybody.
As for the bottle? It should definitely be a prize winner in itself. The chiselled glass bottle is based on an antique ring design that Duff found in an antique shop. The stopper is faux Citrine, and the overall effect is of something created in the 1920s. Unfortunately a common fault across the brand is that the atomiser lid comes off and you need to keep sticking it back on again, but apart from that, this a real hidden gem in every sense.
This has been discontinued so buy it now before it disappears. This is the perfume that told me not to judge a book by its cover. Or a fragrance by its price tag.
I bought Halston Catalyst blind. Attracted by its amazing floral notes, many of which are favourites, and tempted by its attractive price, what could possibly go wrong?
The notes listed which are among my favourites are: Gardenia, Hyacinth, Bergamot, Carnation and Lily of the Valley. Base notes include Musk, Amber and Sandalwood.
What I actually got was this little scenario:
Imagine you had a curry in the 1970s, decided you didn’t like it, so hid it in the drawer of an antique wooden dresser, then poured cheap Men’s Eau de Cologne over it to hide the smell. Then imagine you opened the drawer in 1993, (the year Catalyst was created) and decided “Mmm, that’s nice, I’ll call it Catalyst and sell it to ladies for money”.
When I tried this, I was convinced there was cumin in it, or spice, although neither of these are listed. I did get sandalwood, in spades, but that is the only note listed that I picked up on. There was not a whiff of so much as a flower petal. My beloved Bergamot wasn’t even in the same time zone, let alone in this bottle. The notes don’t seem to match the accords, which are listed as “Woody, Warm Spicy, Floral, Powdery, White Floral”. I got Woody and Spicy, but I have no idea where the others went.
This is what I refer to as a Howler. Not only could I not wash it off fast enough, but it was listed on eBay within 24 hours of receiving it. As if to back me up, there are currently 51 of these babies listed for sale on eBay. I am not alone. You will be if you wear this.
All reviews are of course, subjective and by no means a final word. This might smell great on you. Let me know your worst ever “Howler”, I’d be interested to know.
Great perfumes may be more accessible than you think. Niche is nice work if you can get it, but sometimes you want instant gratification ( and testers!) and that’s where your local High Streets and Retail Parks come in handy. Without a doubt, the fragrance market is half drowned in mainstream celeb-tastic fruity florals and foodie florals, but if you look carefully, you might just strike Gold (and I do not mean Paco Rabanne 1 Million *shudder*).
Argos is currently selling an excellent mini set of perfumes that contains Rumeur, Arpege, First, Paul Smith Extreme and C’est la Fete. You might now see why I have reviewed all five. They come in 5 ml mini bottles and I was excited to see at least three good quality names in there. This does not happen very often. Mini sets usually have Anais Anais, a Ted Baker, and two others of no consequence. Contents may vary slightly. Get it while its hot. Or before I buy them all, whichever is quicker.
Meanwhile, in Bodycare, you can buy a 100ml bottle of Grès Cabochard for a mere £8.99, (instore only) which often retails at twice that price even on eBay. Buy it if you like classic leather notes. Superdrug usually has a range of fragrance special offers, plus lots of lovely testers, so pop in if you’re passing. I’ve picked up several bargains there in the past, including Elizabeth Arden Green Tea Revitalize for ten quid.
I often pop into my local Perfume Shop and although there prices are not competitive, every now and then they have a bargain box to rummage through and there are random bargains to be had if you get lucky.
Don’t overlook your local Boots either: the old time classics such as Tweed and Coty L’Aimant can be had for a song.
These are for UK stores only, but if you hear of any other bargains anywhere, I am all ears.
One of my favourite smells is the inside of an ancient Church or Cathedral. High Anglican Churches or Roman Catholic Churches are best for this as they use thuribles, or incense holders, often swung on a chain during procession. Combine this smell with ancient wood, slightly musty old stone walls, and a sense of humbling awe, and you have Comme Des Garcons Series Three: Incense Avignon. The fragrance was named after the commune of Avignon in the South East of France. Once upon a time, this ancient town was the Papal seat during the Catholic Schism from 1309 until 1377 and today the Papal Palace is still there in the old walled town. The fragrance is from a series of five:
Ouarzazate – Islam
Zagorsk – Orthodox Christianity
Jaisalmer – Hinduism
Kyoto – Buddhism and Shintoism
My only very slight misgiving about this outstandingly evocative scent is the question of whether I want my skin to smell like an ancient church? It’s unquestionably beautiful, but it jars very slightly that the smell on my wrist smells of bricks and mortar and ceremony. But then again, I haven’t been able to get my nose off my wrist since trying it, so I guess we revert to the old perfume rule and that is: There Are No Rules. This smells so alarmingly like a church that vicars should wear it when playing truant. You will always smell like you’ve just left Mass. And it will always make you feel a little bit guilty without knowing why.