Category Archives: luxury fragrance

The Perfume Society Velvet Discovery Box: My review

Perfume, beauty products and chocolate in the same box? Is it my birthday already? In the words of Maria von Trapp, these are a few of my favourite things.

The Perfume Society Velvet Discovery Box contains the following items, although I must apologise for the speed at which I went through the Green & Blacks. I don’t even have the wrapper any more. A mouse in a cattery stood a better chance of survival.

Here’s a list of what’s in it, and my verdict on each item.

Atkinsons Pirates Grand Reserve 1.2ml eau de parfum (full size £120 for 100ml)

First impressions: sticky wooden aromatic barrels. This is an interesting take on the gourmand woody genre. The wood smells like it once had brandy in it, or maybe the Pirate in the title is making me think of that? In any case, this has hints of exotic spices, chocolate, rich dark vanilla and patchouli. It has a wonderfully cosy wintery vibe going on, and those woods are addictive! Bravo.

Floral Street Chypre Sublime 1.5ml eau de parfum (full size £55 for 50ml)

This stunning chypre is my cup of tea. It opens as a spring floral with notes of violet and rose, before succumbing to the peppery charms of big geranium blooms. It has that earthy, green accord I always seek from my chypres, whilst some big bold floral notes.  This is a new perfume house that has just opened a boutique in Covent Garden (Guess what street it’s on?). If they keep this up, they’re going to be a roaring success.

Connock Andiroba Eau de Parfum 1.5ml eau de parfum (full size £75 for 100ml)

This beauty from young fragrance house Connock, opens with green tea like notes, but is actually bergamot and lemon. It’s a very clean scent and smells almost therapeutic.  After a few minutes, there are faint hints of my favourite flower- violet. I’d like them to have been a bit stronger if I’m honest, but that’s just me. Andiroba actually stays fairly linear. The opening notes don’t really leave, they just invite more people to the party. The lasting base note is pretty much the same as the opening note, but it’s so invigoratingly good that I don’t call that a criticism.

Avery ‘E’ 4ml pure perfume (full size £90 for 30ml)

My absolute favourite. It took me a long time to appreciate iris, and now I see it as a dove grey suede background. The iris in Avery “E” exudes class and this stunning fragrance reminded me of the glorious Annick Goutal Tenue de Soiree. It also kind of smells like a brand-new car interior, but don’t ask me why. This is full bottle territory.

Lalique Rêve d’Infini 1.8ml eau de parfum (full size £72 for 100ml)

Trusty Lalique has yet to make a fragrance that I dislike, and this is no exception. I can’t put my finger on why I love this brand so much, but maybe it’s because every fragrance makes an impact but is never heavy. Reve D’infini has this beautiful, almost ethereal lightness. Opening with two of my favourites, bergamot and freesia, this is light as chiffon. A touch of lychee seems to go perfectly with the freesia. The base is vanilla, musk and sandalwood, but to my nose, this never got rich, just a slightly warmer, more huggable version of the opening.  The word I’m looking for is diaphanous!

Map of the Heart Gold Heart v.4 1ml eau de parfum (full size £150 for 90ml)

Map of the heart is an Australian fragrance house whose trademark is putting sandalwood notes in every single perfume it produces.  This is no bad thins at all in my book, as I’m a huge sandalwood fan. I find it very clever how Map of the Heart fragrances are easily identifiable, yet so different from each other.  Gold Heart v4. is all about warm gourmand spices such as cardamom and saffron. It never quite goes into spicy food territory, more like aromatic woods. It’s a wonderful fragrance from a new house that is continually impressing me. Lasting power is excellent, and it will smell great on men or women.

Ruth Mastenbroek Firedance 2ml eau de parfum (full size £90 for 50ml)

Ruth Mastenbroek only produces one new scent every few years, but they are worth waiting for. Firedance is a celebratory perfume, heady with smoky roses, oud and leather.  You can read my review here. What can I say? I’m a fan. Also, I’ve met Ruth a few times now and she is gracious, warm and very elegant.

Vince Camuto Amore 7.5ml MINIATURE eau de parfum (full size £60 for 100ml)

The cutest mini bottle ever containing a light anf fruity fragrance that’s impossibly feminine. It opens with blackcurrants, lime and passion fruit, and takes those light as air notes and blends them with lily of the valley, freesia and lotus flower. If you like slightly aquatic hesperide florals, this is right up your street. Such a pretty fragrance.

Valeur Absolue Rouge Passion 1.5ml eau de parfum (full size £59 for 45ml)

The full bottle claims to have real garnets in it, which I will remain open minded about.  The sample I have here is a beautiful soapy floral. It opens with bergamot and white flowers, has touches of my favourite Lily of the Valley, and beds down into a warm vanilla patchouli base with a dominant white musk finish. The vanilla patchouli base is being done a lot lately, but this one is different. It radiates from my skin with the white flowers still present, making this a very ladylike fragrance that makes an ideal evening scent. I love the soapy nuances and the white flowers, so this is a winner for me.

philosophy purity made simple 3-in-1 cleanser for face and eyes 30ml lotion (full size £19 for 240ml)

Takes your make up off and leaves skin smooth and doesn’t make your eyes water like other cleansers I’ve used. This is a cute little bottle that would be ideal for a weekend away or a holiday. It’s a great way of seeing if you want to buy a big gone.

Cochine White Jasmine & Gardenia Hand Cream 5ml (full size £24 for 100ml)

A stunning white floral fragrance that lingers for along time after you’ve finished applying.  This really is a tiny little tube- you might get three or four applications from it if you’re not over generous. However, the stunning scent filled the room and made me want more. Cochine is a luxury Vietnamese fragrance house, by the way, and you don’t get many of those to the kilo!

Green and Black’s Velvet Edition Orange and Almond Dark.

There’s a way of eating this that helps you understand your sense of smell and taste more. It blew my mind when I tried it at The Perfume Society Improve Your sense of Smell Workshop. You hold your nose, eat the chocolate until it’s mushy, then release your nose. The impact of the flavour is like a punch (but doesn’t hurt). It makes you realise how closely taste and smell are interlinked. It also works with Green and Black’s Mint chocolate. And in fact, the Green and Black’s selection box I had for Christmas was of course, purely for experimental research and that is why it was gone so quickly.

Over to You

Have you tried this Discovery Box? Have you ever tried a random fragrance from a Discovery Box that has ended up being your favourite?

Stockists

You can buy the Velvet Discovery Box from the Perfume Society website. Subscribers get big discounts too. Warm thanks to The Perfume Society for supplying my box with no conditions attached.  This is not a sponsored post and opinions are my own/

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Dawn Spencer Hurwitz – When Yves Saint Laurent went to Denver by Lisa Jones

by Lisa Jones

I heard of this line years ago, when we perfumistas could post little parcels of decants and samples back and forth across international boundaries without a care. Stickers? Declaring dangerous contents? Pfft! Such ideas hadn’t been invented, and IFRA hadn’t spoiled our fun with their nasty old regulations about potential allergens.

The world is a safer and sadder place nowadays. Safer, because no postperson has to go to have stitches put in their hands while reeking of Shalimar after a flimsily-packaged bottle smashed in transit. Sadder, because I can’t just ask my buddies to send me ‘a little drop or two’ of something, drop a little parcel into the post in return, and find myself able to try things I can’t ever remember seeing in an actual shop in the UK.

I had tried a few of the DSH fragrances before and was impressed by their style. I like woods and spices, and she handles both well. And of course I had heard about her recreations of classic vintage fragrances such as Guerlain’s Jicky (DSH’s version is Passport a Paris and it’s very good! It has the ‘lemon and lavender floor polish in a posh house’ vibe to it that I love so much).

Photo from The Perfume Magazine

I knew Dawn had created a set of fragrances to complement a showing at the Denver Art Museum of the Yves Saint Laurent retrospective exhibition,  So when my American friend Joe pointed out that there was the annual 20% off sale on the whole DSH collection, I rather splurged. There were so many of her fragrances that I wanted to try – two from the YSL collection for starters. I was able to order from the US and have these sent to the UK because DSH offers what she calls a ‘Voile de Parfum’ format, which doesn’t contain alcohol and consequently isn’t considered dangerous to ship by air.

Le Smoking

“The Tuxedo for a woman was revolutionary and avant-garde at the time that YSL began introducing the style into his collection… Le Smoking is a gender-bending classic that’s great on both men and women.”

Described as “a sophisticated green chypre tabac fragrance” Le Smoking has a deep emerald green opening that has a little rasp to it but no bite as so many vivid green top notes do. This brightens as it opens up, becoming slightly soapy, in a good way. The heart has a spicy aspect to it, with some flowers, but there’s a green woodiness that is pure chypre and that sings like a crystal bell. I adore this heart, it’s gorgeous and wonderfully retro but modern.

It is unisex, and it certainly speaks of classic chypre fragrances to me. The base is lovely and this is one fragrance from DSH I need in a larger size. I’d like to try the eau de parfum spray to see if it’s any different from this formulation, and perhaps has more throw, as the voile de parfum stays close to the skin.

John William Waterhouse

Fou d’Opium

Not to be confused with DSH’s Euphorism d’Opium, from the Denver art exhibit mentioned above, which is a recreation of the eau de toilette strength of the famous fragrance, this is a recreation of the original Yves Saint Laurent Opium parfum extrait from the 1970s. I am a huge fan of the pre-reformulation Opium and have a significant stash, and I have to tell you – this isn’t it. This isn’t even slightly like it. I was deeply disappointed the first time I tried it so I have come back and will give you my impressions of it as a fragrance, pure and simple.

Well for starters, this one isn’t unisex, it’s definitely a feminine fragrance; in fact it’s a vavavoom sort of feminine fragrance. It has round and creamy topnotes, with something a little lush and ripe in there, possibly a rich gardenia note? It is certainly oriental, definitely retro, and possibly a little dark for mainstream tastes (this is a very

Fanpop

good thing to many readers, I know). There’s a funk to it that is indolic and slightly rude – I suspect Sam will have one of her eyebrow-raising responses to this, which always make me laugh. I shouldn’t wear it to work, unless you are Dita von Teese.

I couldn’t restrict myself to just two samples of course, so I shall return shortly with more delights from Dawn Spencer Hurwitz.

Stockists

You can buy DSH perfumes from here. 

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Smoke in the Winter: Serge Lutens Fille en Aiguilles

It is now the 118th day of January. Christmas was five years ago and winter is positively Narnian in length. It’s cold, it’s miserable and it’s time to crack open the heavy hitters.

I have owned Fille en Aiguilles for just over a week. It’s not a full bottle, but it was pressed into my hand by friend and co-blogger Lisa Wordbird, who said “better give you this whilst it’s still cold.” Everyone needs a friend who does this.

Now although the thinking behind Fille en Aiguilles is that of pine needles in the hot sun, its deep resinous heat is inescapably both cosy and sophisticated.  It makes me feel like a proper grown up and temporarily alleviates the suspicion that I may actually be a frump in winter.

Fille en Aiguilles is the work of genius, and I mean genius, perfumer Christopher Sheldrake. He  also had a hand in the stunning  Serge Lutens (initially Shiseido) Feminite du Bois, as well as the majority of the Serge Lutens back catalogue, for which I thank him daily.

photo by exportportal

Fille en Aiguilles means girl on needles, which also translates, idiomatically, as girl in stilettos (hence the pic of Louboutins). It is primarily an incense scent, but the spiky pine needles give it refreshingly green edges, which appeals both to my love of all green scents and my love of the smell of a very Old High Church. Thuribles are non-negotiable, as far as I’m concerned..

I bet she’s wearing it. Photo from Bergdorf Goodman archives.

Fille en Aiguilles opens and ends with incense, as if it were the cover to a book. I don’t know about sun baked pine needles, but the combination of sharp, bitter green leaves alongside the incense is a heady mixture indeed. Add in some dusty dry black pepper, grassy vetiver and a hint of sultana, and you can see why I have a full bottle in my sights.

Fille en Aiguilles is spice, sophistication and balsam-y incense.  It’s totally unisex. If you were a man I would sniff you to levels that are incompatible with being a happily married woman.

Stockists

You can buy Serge Lutens Fille en Aiguilles from Amazon UK, Lucky Scent in the USA or from Liberty London. 

 

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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.

 

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.

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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.

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Four Candles: The Best Candles at Christmas

Or is it Fork Handles? (If you like the Two Ronnies you’ll be nodding.) I’m going a bit off piste here and writing a post that’s not actually about a bottle of perfume. It’s still about fragrance though, and I’m dying to add a joke about waxing lyrical, but I won’t. Yes, my dear scented chums, today I’m writing about my absolute favourite candles. Do join me. There’s tea in the pot and a cat will be on your lap in just a moment. After this, I want you to tell me what your favourite candles are so I can tell Father Christmas to get me some too.

Crabtree and Evelyn White Cardamom

Crabtree and Evelyn can always be relied upon to produce fabulous scented goodies in irresistible packaging and this beautiful candle is no exception.  I chose White Cardamom. The thought of cardamom in a Christmas candle really appealed to me and this does not disappoint. The candle burns cleanly with no flickering or spitting and after a few minutes, a distinctly clean and spiced waft permeates the room. When I say spiced, I’m not talking about the mulled wine or mince pie kind of spice, but a kind of aromatic, nutty woody spice with a faint pine tree nuance. Actually, it reminded me slightly of my recent trip to the Celtic Manor spa. The aroma there was a waxy, clean, pine scent very much like this one. Delicious.  Also, you can get a room spray and a reed diffuser in the same range. Try the website.

Safety warning: If you spill a reed diffuser and you have cats, make sure it doesn’t get near their skin as it can really cause them some damage.  Keep our fluffy friends safe from seasonal harm! Also, don’t burn candles near tinsel. I’ve only done it for the photos and it made me nervous.

 

Parks London Gingerbread

This stood out as my absolute favourite. When I hear the word gingerbread I  always think it will smell like rich dense cake. Gourmand scents don’t particularly appeal to me for fear of smelling as if I’ve been cooking all day ( which I often have). Parks of London Gingerbread, however,  manages to take all the best bits of gingerbread i.e the warmth and the uplifting gingery spices, and add a dash of smoky woods to keep everything both spicy and fresh at the same time.  You can buy them here.

True Story: When this arrived in the post I put it on the mantel piece, unlit. When the kids got home the response was thus: “what’s that nice smell? Have you made cookies?” “What’s in the oven?”. This was before I had even lit the candle. It is the nicest candle I have ever owned.

photo from Clive Christian

 

Clive Christian 1872 

What a treat! Clive Christian candles! Due to budget anomalies, I can only admire this brand with my nose pressed against the glass, but I’m a big fan.

I recently received the 1872 top notes candle as a no-strings gift, but of course, I can’t resist telling you about it anyway. Clive Christian 1872 (see my review) smells very similar to the eau de parfum, but has a thicker quality to it, almost like a scented wool blanket. I’ve been keeping the candle next to my bed (again unlit) and the whole room smells as if I wear Clive Christian (I wish). The most prominent notes are the white florals and the mossy herbs and that’s before you light it. When lit, it gives 22 hours burn time and the floral notes come out on top. Utterly gorgeous. You can get these in a trio from here.

True story This may be the second time I’ve mentioned this, but I was lucky enough to meet Clive Christian’s daughter, Victoria at the FiFi’s in May. She was warm and engaging and smelled unbelievably gorgeous. She was wearing her initials: Clive Christian V and Clive Christian C.

Baylis and Harding Pink Prosecco and Cassis

From Clive Christian to Baylis and Harding, there’s something for all budgets here. This pink prosecco and cassis may sound slightly gimmicky (prosecco slogans are everywhere this Christmas) but actually it makes for a lightly floral and fruity scent that would go perfectly next to your bath. And a glass of prosecco. The candle is white and come in a glass jar.  I got mine from Amazon UK

Answers on a postcard If you have ever succeeded in using a candle jar as an actual jar after the candle has finished, please tell me how. I am convinced it is not possible.

Over to you

So that’s my favourite four candles, what are yours? How do you scent your home at Christmas? Do let me know. I always love to hear from you.

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Mood Scent Four: Night Out Perfumes

Photograph by kind permission of Alison Oddy of World of Oddy. Miss Meow and Lola-Showgirl

Moodscent Four is a collaboration between four bloggers from four different countries.  There’s Megan in France (who is actually from New Zealand), Esperanza in the Netherlands, Tara in England and me, Sam here in Wales.  Every few months, we all blog on the same theme and share what scents we use for different moods and occasions. There’s no right or wrong, and every time we collaborate I love to see what the others have written as we keep our choices a surprise form each other until the time of going to press.

This month, appropriately enough for Christmas-tide, it’s Night Out perfumes. Get your glad rags on, and get in a cab with us. It’s going to be a very fragrant ride.

 

My Favourite Night Out Perfumes

When an invite lands on the mat, or more likely these days, on Facebook Messenger, I find myself devoting far more time choosing my fragrance than I do my outfit (probably something black. Whatever’s clean).

Photo of the Folly Dollies by kind permission of Alison Oddy of World of Oddy photography.

To me, going out means getting the special favourites out.  I like to make an impact and when you’re hitting the town, that’s OK.  At night, you can let your inner vixen off the leash.

Here are my five favourite Night Out fragrances.  Don’t make me choose a favourite.  I must own all of these, always.

4160 Tuesdays Killer Rose

I recently wore this to an all-day wedding.  It’s my party scent and my favourite evening wear. It grew from the equally sublime 4160 Tuesdays Raw Silk and Red Roses.   Killer Rose is a version of that with the volume turned up.  There’s big red roses, earthy patchouli, a hint of peach and spice and I even get a waft of violets, which may or may not be there.  I often superimpose the smell of violets into fragrances since my brain wants to put them in everything, so it could be ghost violet!

This is the fragrance that my eight-year-old son described as “the best you’ve ever smelled”. I’ve been blogging about perfume since he was four, so that’s a huge compliment.

PS  Mini back story: After much Prosecco, we decided that Killer Rose would be my beloved sister in law’s wrestling name. It was a helluva wedding.

Ruth Mastenbroek Firedance

Firedance is the perfect Night Out fragrance for Autumn and Winter. It makes me think of festivals and dark late nights when you stay out way after the taxi drivers have gone to bed. Ah, those were the days! Firedance has roses with sepia, smoky edges and generous swoops of oud and leather, that dart around you as you move. Gorgeous bottle too- very Brothers Grimm! Firedance is Ruth’s fourth fragrance and she is working on a fifth.

Papillon Dryad

Photo by Thomas Dunckley for Papillon Perfumery

Whenever I wear this I immediately feel elegant ( and I’m not).  I feel self-assured and at home in my own skin, which is rare for a seething mass of self-doubt like wot I am.  Papillon Dryad is the ultimate  in elegant and earthy green chypres and it makes me want to strut around like I’m IT.   Dryad has notes of earthy green moss and narcissus and jonquil and herbs and all sorts of mysterious things from the forest. When I wear Dryad, I feel confident and womanly. This is a feeling that gets me in the mood more than wine and nail polish.

Le Jardin Retrouvé Tubereuse Trianon

L-R, Me, Stephan Matthews, and Sarah McCartney. Fragrances we were wearing: L-R le Jardin Retrouve Tubereuse Trianon, Le Jardin Retrouve Cuir Russie and of course, 4160 Tuesdays Mother Natures Naughty Daughters. Photo by kind permission of Sarah McCartney

I can’t resist tuberose. After sidestepping it for years, tuberose and I have some catching up to do and I try to insert any opportunity to wear it into my life.  Le Jardin Retrouvé Tubereuse Trianon was my fragrance of choice for the annual Fragrance Foundation Awards in May 2017. In a room where every scent was literally competing with another, my trusty whispers of tuberose still snaked up to my nostrils as if to assure me that my chosen scent had not been wiped out by competitors. I still smelled of tuberose when I landed in bed that night. And I had sniffed A LOT of people.

DSH Chinchilla

I love Dawn Spencer Hurwitz’s fragrances.  She can turn her hand from spring flower buds to animalic retro via everything else you could wish for in Perfume Land. Chinchilla is a very animalic musky mossy chypre that smells like it was made in 1924. The name itself evokes a lost world of dark glamour and fur coats and cigarette holders and speakeasies. Now if that doesn’t make you want to go out, then I don’t know what will.

Find out what Night-Out fragrances my colleagues chose here:

Meganinsaintemaxime

L’Esperessence

A Bottled Rose

How about you?

What scent do you reach for when the bright lights beckon? Do you go for elegance? Audacity? Or do you give in to your animal instincts? Do tell!

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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!

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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.

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