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.
One of the many highlights of my trip to the Jasmine Awards was the lovely surprise of bumping into Marina Barcenilla of MB Parfums. I had reviewed Marina’s beautiful scent India only last week, and in fact she had a phial of India body oil in her bag for me as a gift. Marina is as delightful as I’d imagined and it is a pleasure to write about her beautiful scents. Today I’m going to review MB Parfums Patchouli Clouds, because it stopped me in my tracks and made me say “Wow” out loud to an empty room.
Patchouli is a big old spectrum. The patchouli you find in the base notes of say, Chanel Coco Mademoiselle, will be nothing like the unctuous oil you might have bought in the 70s or 80s ( if you are as old as I am), but it’s all patchouli, in some form.
Patchouli Clouds has a wonderful mixture of spice, citrus, and damp woods. It starts off as an almost musty wet wood, and calms down into a beautifully aromatic earthiness that made me think of forests after the rain and slightly rotten wood. Believe it or not, I mean that in a good way. I love the smell of wood in all its stages: crumbly, freshly sawn, still with the bark on: you name it, I like it. There are flowers too: I found jasmine and roses entwined among the earthy bark.
In Patchouli Clouds, the scent has more in common with the oils from the Indian joss stick stall in Newport market that I hung around in during my teens. You know the sort of place: you could buy floaty skirts with tiny mirrored sequins on and leather purses with elephants on the front. The patchouli you could buy there was not in fancy packaging and it smelled more authentic and natural than anything I’ve ever sniffed over a pristine beauty counter.
Patchouli Clouds reinvents that in a less primitive way. It still has the patchouli kick of earthiness I seek, but it’s blended beautifully with rich florals and incense to ensure that the star of the show really shines with the right chorus in the background.
MB Perfumes Patchouli Clouds is available from the MB Parfums website, which also has a good sample service. My sample is from Marina herself, for which, many thanks. Opinions are my own.
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.
Avon has a knack of launching scents that are bang on trend and have the “IT”-notes of the moment. You could accuse them of bringing out too many and spreading them too thin, but perfume moves fast. What’s very NOW could be SO last month before you can use up a whole bottle. Some come and go, and some remain Avon classics. Only sales figures will tell.
Today I am reviewing one of the Little Black Dress flankers: in this case, Little Lace Dress. I bought a purse spray (can I just say yet again how much I love a purse spray?) for just 1.99 and a jolly good buy it was too.
Little Lace Dress opens with a burst of orange citrus and note-du-jour blackcurrant. Then the middle phase goes straight into big, creamy jasmine. It’s so rich you couldn’t eat a whole one. The patchouli flounces in and works its throaty magic, giving this an edge over a standard floral.
Little Lace Dress smells very similar to many best sellers that are currently flying off the shelves on the High Street. Over on Fragrantica, readers are comparing it to Coco Mademoiselle, Chanel Chance Eau Tendre and Estee Lauder Modern Muse. I’m on the fence a little bit here. This has a floral sweetness that is cranked up a few more notches than Modern Muse, and doesn’t smell exactly like Coco Mademoiselle, but certainly has the big jasmine and patchouli, giving it an instantly recognisable 2017 accord.. This would suit the young palate that thirsts for the big names but may not have the banknotes to capture one.
This month’s Avon brochure has about twelve purse sprays, each at 1.99, so expect more reviews in this vein. Purse sprays just thrill me to bits. It’s the hit of a new perfume, without the guilt of a big price tag. I would definitely recommend Little Lace Dress as a go to scent for not much money. It’s modern, on trend and ticks all the boxes except for the one marked “expensive”
You can buy Avon Little Lace Dress from Avon UK ( at the time of going to press, you can buy two bottles of selected Avon fragrance for just £14) or from your Avon rep, like I do. I bought this myself and views are my own. Follow
Dearest readers, it’s time I gave something back to you for your loyalty and readership since January 2013 when the whole thing began as a little WordPress blog with a lilac background. Incidentally, before I go on, I’d like to apologise if your comments have gone unmoderated or unanswered recently. There’s a glitch in the sytem which means I have to approve even my own comments. I’m on top of it now, though.
Back on topic- Yes, as promised, it’s time for the IScentYouADay giveaway, now that we are four- that’s the Royal “we”, in case you were wondering. Four years is giddy stuff!
There are four prizes up for grabs- one for each year of the blog. Due to postal regulations, I’m afraid this is only open to the UK and Northern Ireland.
So here’s what I’m giving away:
Library of Fragrance Nutmeg Ice Cream.
With warm almondy notes, this reminded me of Bakewell Tart, warm and crisp and straight from the oven. It’s making me long for that marzipan covered Christmas Cake my mother made me for Christmas (I’m embarrassed to tell you how quickly it disappeared at my hand). Library of Fragrance Nutmeg Ice Cream smells delicious, and so will you when you wear it. 30ml Cologne.
Perfumer’s Choice- Valerie
This is a big hitter for fans of YSL Black Opium. There’s coffee, white flowers, vanilla, patchouli and OOOMPH. Guaranteed to last a minimum of six hours, a little goes a long way, making this excellent value. You can read my review here. 93ml EDP
Perfumer’s Choice- Victor
This is a gorgeous masculine scent (although I like it for me as well) with notes of grapefruit and vetiver. This smells like something far more expensive and famous but I’m blowed if I can name it! It’ll come to me at 3 a.m, no doubt. Guaranteed to last a minimum of six hours. 93ml EDP
Elizabeth Taylor Violet Eyes
Yes, the very bottle I reviewed the other day. Elizabeth Taylor Violet Eyes has notes of peach and cedar and a hint of jasmine. This bejewelled 15ml bottle has only been tested by me, but is otherwise full and boxed. I wasn’t a massive fan, but that doesn’t mean you won’t like it, or know someone who does. The bottle has a little diamante choker on! So cute.
How to Win
Just tell me which one you’d like to win and I will enter you into the draw. You can tell me in the comments scetion below, on Facebook or on Twitter. Closing date is one week from now- 16th January 2017 at midnight. Good luck!
Many thanks to the Library of Fragrance for the Nutmeg Ice Cream Cologne. Thanks also to World Class Fragrance for Perfumer’s Choice Victor and Valerie.
Dear readers, I am now back from what can only be described as an extravaganza of sniffage and olfactory wonder. Imagine a day spent in the most vibrant and beautiful capital city in the world (because I can’t fall out of love with London), add lots of like minded fume-heads, add perfumeries, boutiques and perfume halls, then stick afternoon tea on the end and fill your bag with samples ready to go home. You can see what I mean if I tell you it was as if all my birthdays had come at once.
The day was organised by Pia Long and Nick Gilbert, who you may know from social media where they have a strong and influential presence. Do try and visit their wonderful vlog : Love To Smell. What those two don’t know about scent, probably ain’t worth knowing.
You would be hard pressed to meet two lovelier, more generous people. The work that Pia and Nick put in to arrange this day, at no profit to themselves, goes some way to explaining what Good Eggs these two are. Also, Nick has a dirty laugh and gives good bear hugs.
My dear friend Lisa Wordbird (who is how I got dragged into this heavenly mess) offered to drive. This is because A) I cannot and B) because she knows no fear and is actually willing to cheerfully tackle central London in a car on a Saturday. Mad. Good driver, but mad. We left Wales at 8.30am and hit the M4 seamlessly. “Look at us!” we thought,”We’re on time!” we thought, fitting in a sugar’n’caffeine stop at the services. London, however, had other plans for us and decided to hide all its parking spaces from Lisa’s tiny, nippy car. So our trip was: two hours of motorway and two hours of driving round central London, which despite our frustration, didn’t bring us down, since London is The World’s Best Place For People Watching ( a.k.a trying not run over very rich people with shopping bags in Knightsbridge).
The Smells of London Town
We were due in Fenwicks’ at 11am but instead just about caught up with our group at 1pm. We were Moomins for the day, which meant our group was led by Pia. The other group were Flamingoes and led by Nick. We arrived at By Killian in Burlington Arcade and were given a talk by the beautiful Davina. Not only was she knowledgeable, but she let us sniff everything, whilst explaining the background and inspiration to the aromas that filled the little boutique. Funnily enough, the day was a bit like wedding dress shopping. I loved the first thing I tried on and even though I tried millions of others, I fell deeply in love with the first one. That scent was the first thing I smelled as I walked into the Killian Boutique: “Good Girl Gone Bad.” Nothing I smelled that day beat this and I left with a tiny sample in my sweaty paw.
There were all sorts of innovations going on in Killian: notably scented jewellery that means that people with sensitive skin can smell good all day. This involves a tiny unglazed ceramic disc that’s doused in scent and heats up with skin temperature. There were also home fragrance items: glorifiers, candles, scented paperweights and intriguing tasselled discs that you can hang anywhere, or if you’re Killian Hennessey himself, you can hang loads in your wardrobe. Because you made them. And your wardrobe is probably already very posh. There was some sniggering from me because I was standing next to the legend that is Val Cookie Queen Sperrer, who made some remark about tassels. I can’t remember the remark, but it gave me inappropriate mental images. #DitaVonTeese: that sort of image.
Lost in Fortnum and Mason
There was a break in the timetable for lunch-on-the-go before the next talk at Miller Harris on Monmouth Street. Lisa went to move the car before the charges matched her mortgage payments, and I filtered towards Fortnums with a splinter gang. The Perfume Hall at Fortnums is a sight to behold. I could spend hours there and not even look at my watch. Even as a perfume blogger having written 730 reviews, there were brands and bottles I had never even heard of. However, from the corner of my eye, I saw the Clive Christian salesperson giving out samples so I sidled up and flashed hungry eyes at her. I can’t afford Clive Christian but I collect samples like a miser. The lovely Tamara gave me a long tour of the brand and I was indeed rewarded with some treats to take home at the end. Unfortunately when I looked up, the other fume-heads had gone.
I used to live in London in the 90s so I have a fading muscle memory of routes, which led me vaguely towards Covent Garden Plaza. It wasn’t where I thought it was. Someone had moved it, surely? I ended up power walking around three miles through the throngs and masses. It was actually very liberating and a big change from my usual school run routine. I rang Lisa, who was somewhere completely different and she told me I was heading to the wrong Miller Harris branch. I eventually used an old fashioned method of navigation that you don’t see much these days- I looked at a map on the wall. I was back on track.
Meeting My She-roes
I reached Miller Harris out of puff, but not too late, and what joy! I finally got to meet someone that both Lisa and I had been looking forward to seeing for the first time. I met Liz Moores of Papillon Artisan Perfumes. We have been Facebook friends for a good while and it was a delight to meet her in person. She is tiny and witty and I like her enormously.
If you are reading this, you are most likely already a perfume fan, so you will know that to people like us, the perfumers are our pop stars.
As the group fondled their generous Miller Harris goody bags and moved to Bloom Perfumery, I also managed to meet another perfumer I admire and have reviewed: Ruth Mastenbroek. Unfortunately we missed Ruth’s talk in Fenwick, but she was wonderfully friendly. She is elegant and softly spoken with a reserve that I suspect may be a soupçon of shyness. Ruthwas a pleasure to meet and very kindly completed my missing RM sample collection for me. I adored her third scent:Oxford but have yet to try her first signature: Ruth Mastenbroek so watch this space for a review of both soon. A fourth scent is currently in development.
I was also delighted to meet fellow blogger Vanessa Musson from Bonkers About Perfume. We have been Facebook friends for a long time now, and have a mutual friend in Lisa. Vanessa was immensely generous to me with samples, and not for the first time. She is responsible for much of the content in the photo of my swag. Vanessa and I also share a love of cats and I always enjoy seeing the photos of the Bonkerscat, Truffle on social media. You can read Vanessa’s beautifully written account of the day here.
It was a pleasure to see the charming Thomas Dunckley again a.k.a The Candy Perfume Boy. Thomas is great company and deserves all his Jasmine Awards. Some days his writing is so good it makes me jealous.
Bloom on, Bloom
Bloom is a fascinating perfumery that arranges it scents not by brand, but by family. So you’ll have all the sandalwoods, then all the leathers, then the spices and so on. It is fairly Spartan inside, which is refreshing after the opulence of the perfume halls and the bling, but this makes for more of a studio feel.
Shortly after Bloom, the group split into fragments again. Some of us were heading off to the afternoon tea which Pia had booked for us, and some were making their way home. Many fond goodbyes were said and many Facebook friendships began that day.
Food, Glorious Food
At B Bakery in Covent Garden, we were treated like VIPs with our own individual pots of tea, (which were readily replenished) and a three tier cake stand. I had to compose myself when I saw it, rather than allow my greedy eyes to pop out on stalks. I am still fantasizing about that baby Lemon Meringue Pie. I have become firm friends with my two fellow diners who donated their pistachio macarons to me. Lisa didn’t give me hers, so that’s thirty years of friendship out the window. Her fault. Kirk and Nafia are my new best friends now. Hi guys!
Homeward Bound (small discreet burp)
Groaning with full tummies and sloshing with tea, we bade a reluctant farewell to a wonderful, but tiring day and headed back to Wales. The next morning when I woke up in bed in my house in South Wales (covered in sons who had missed me), I wondered if I had dreamed it all. And then I smelled my pillow. Tuberose, aldehydes, leather and incense. It was all true.
The Guerlain La Petite Robe Noire collection is a step away from the heritage Guerlains, giving the brand a modern twist to a new younger audience. However, being an old fashioned sort, I never really took to either the raspberries or cherries in the EDT or the EDP. I was also miffed at how misleadingly different the EDT and the EDP are. Usually an eau de parfum is a stronger concentration of an eau de toilette, but in the case of La Petite Robe Noire, they were two totally different scents. This annoyed me in light of the twenty hundred flankers that followed. Surely if the EDP was so different from the EDT it should have been given the name of a flanker? But there we are. To use a diplomatic phrase in Blogging, I guess they didn’t make it for me.
To add to the constantly evolving long list of flankers, which in terms of numbers is giving Givenchy Irresistible a run for its money (27 flankers and counting), Guerlain has launched La Petite Robe Noire Ma Robe Pétales Eau Fraiche. Or LPRB Eau Fraiche for short.
There are no cherries or raspberries, but just so the nougat factory doesn’t go out of business, there are a lot almonds and pistachios, which to me, seem an odd choice for an eau fraiche. The flowers are there too: noticeably heady Jasmine Sambac, some orange flower, and two types of rich rose, but the juxtaposition of these over the nuts and Tonka bean makes for a gourmand-lite. Not something I want to wear in summer.
There is a bit of sparkly fun as it opens- like clean soapy talcum powder that turns into space dust when it hits your skin, but it is quickly drowned by the naked praline.
I wouldn’t presume to tell genius Thierry Wasser (who can be deliciously blunt!) what to do, but I cannot help questioning the combination of gourmand and heady flowers in an eau fraiche. It’s not one I would choose to buy and if I had around £40 to spend on a bottle of Guerlain La Petite Robe Noire Ma Robe Pétales Eau Fraiche, I would probably spend it on something else.
I was underwhelmed and in a blind test, I would never have had this down as a Guerlain.
4160 Tuesdays is the brainchild of Sarah McCartney. Indpendent perfumers are to be cherished, and Sarah’s doing a pretty good job of being a treasure. The school of thought is that in an average life, we have 4160 Tuesdays and that we should make them count. Creating your own brand of perfume is a pretty good start, Sarah,
Here is the longer review: I don’t know if you, like me, ever used to consider a nibbled sugar cube from a bowl a big treat as a child. I wouldn’t do it now (sugar tongs, my dears!) but I remember clearly that white, almost nothing-y smell of white processed sugar. Well, here is that smell again, only this time it’s combined with Tobacco, Coffee, Fruit, and a faint spiky hint of Geranium.
Imagine a dark Latin night, with music coming out of a brightly lit door, passing pavement cafes with Night Owls sipping Espresso and smoking in the night air. If that’s what Sarah McCartney was imagining when she created this scent and this name, then she succeeded. It’s one of those scents that takes you to a place in your imagination, rather than just changing your smell for a day.
Sarah is emerging as a British niche brand to watch. I have others to review from 4160 Tuesdays, so watch this space and if you can get hold of samples then do have a try. Her Facebook Page tells me she gets around a lot (in the nicest possible way, of course) and also that she does perfume day courses, so it would not be unreasonable to think that one day you could meet her and do sniffage together. I like accessible brands and I like indie perfumers and I like The Dark Heart of Havana.
My dislike of Iris has been a running theme throughout this blog, possibly because my first experiencew with Iris was the legendary Iris Poudre by Pierre Bourdon. It’s hard core Iris and brings out the root like vegetable smell of it, like a flower bulb.
However, despite valiant attempts to like Iris, I couldn’t pretend any longer. Like a long polite lunch with disagreeable in laws, I decided me and Iris were through, and I wasn’t going to try anymore.
So how come an Iris fragrance has just rocketed to the top of Christmas Wish List? Step forward Prada Infusion D’Iris, you gorgeous creature you.
You may recall that I was recently enamoured with Miller Harris Terre D’Iriswhich was a citrussy Mediterranean take on the flower. The zing brought out a prettiness in Iris I hadn’t smelled before but I assumed it was a fluke.
Looks like it wasn’t a fluke after all, for Prada Infusion D’Iris has just knocked several competitors off the top spot and Mr IScent will shortly be directed towards a large bottle of it in time for Christmas.
Maybe it’s because the notes are extracted via the soaking method, producing a sweeter result, or maybe it’s because citrus, in this case, orange, brings out a bright, floral side to Iris that I found too grey and powdery before.
The basenotes are Incense, vetiver and galbanum, and whilst they all come through in their own measured way, at the top of the pile is iris, ladylike and prim and sophisticated. All the carotty, dry root smell has gone, and in its place, a perfect, supremely chic flower.
Superb, excellent, marvellous, splendid and wonderful. Je t’aime, Iris.
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*)