Category Archives: niche

Naturals and synthetics in harmony? by Lisa Jones

image by James Kennedy
At the 4160 Tuesdays studio, on the famous swing.

There is a lot of debate about the importance of using natural ingredients in perfumery. Some people maintain that they will not use any non-botanical materials in their skincare and perfume, and that is their prerogative – there are some wonderful creators who produce beautiful fragrances

I can personally vouch for the Roxanna Illuminated Perfume range – I’m a fan of their Vera and Greenwitch solid fragrances and I am intensely envious of the fact that Sam is going to visit Mandy Aftel’s Aftelier Perfumes studio in California when she goes on holiday.

Mandy Aftel, from www.aftelier.com

I can appreciate the hard work that goes into creating natural fragrances, where you can only use a handful of ingredients rather than the much broader range used in commercial perfumery. But to be honest, synthetics don’t scare me. (Your mileage may differ, as they say.)

Interestingly, a friend who has suffered with eczema for the last 40+ years, has recently been given a definitive allergen test that has confirmed she is allergic to Linalool. Now, while this is indeed a chemical, it is one that is present in an awful lot of plants. Lavender is a big ol’ Linalool producer, as are cinnamon, mint and basil, so a lot of very virtuous natural products bring my friend out in a hideous rash.

My friend is much safer using synthetically-fragranced products, as she can be certain about their contents. Sarah McCartney has developed a pair of non-allergenic fragrances that I tried recently and liked enormously. There is a lovely, cozy informality to the Alpha and Beta fragrances from Our Modern Lives.

Our Modern Lives

Sarah explained the concept of this fragrance brand as being a mix and match one, to suit a wearer’s personal preferences and lifestyle choices. Along with the two non-allergenic fragrances (which I will be sending to my currently unperfumed friend), she has created a lovely range of seven all-natural fragrances to have an effect on the wearer’s mood and energy – from an energising yellow to a meditation-enhancing blue – and if a wearer chooses, they can layer on the Alpha or Beta fragrance to add radiance and longevity to the naturals. All the fragrances in the collection are beautiful, and having discussed this with Sarah, I am tempted to try layering some IsoE-Super with my favourite naturals to try and extend their life on my skin and increase the sillage.

The Our Modern Lives range from 4160 Tuesdays
What Do You Think?

Where do you stand on naturals and synthetics? Are you happy to wear anything as long as it smells good? Or do you feel happier wearing something that is plant-based? All opinions are welcome and it would be interesting to know what you think.

PS  EDIT from Sam Check out Glastonbury based Marina Barcenilla’s superb award winning range of all natural fragrances at MB Perfumes.

How to Wear Perfume to Work

I have recently returned to full time work and now work in an open plan office. As the proud owner of many olfactory show stoppers that could kill a canary,  I have had to adjust my daily perfume wearing somewhat, now that I am no longer alone  for most of the day.

Working in an open plan office, and one that also serves as a Reception, means that the big sillages stay firmly on my dressing table. Not wearing anything at all feels a bit undressed to me, like leaving the house without hosiery or black eyeliner. So, what’s the solution?  My friends, I have it. ROLLERBALLS.

Yes, the humble rollerball will almost always stay close to skin, not spread molecules of scent into the air con and will, in theory, at least, only trouble those who have to lean over you to admire your incredible spreadsheet skill.

I have in my handbag a small collection of rollerballs that I alternate. Most often, I find myself wearing the Violets.  I’ve yet to hear anyone complain ( to my face), and you’d have to sniff my neck and my scarf pretty hard to know it was there.  Please note that I will go to Human Resources should strangers do this to me.  Whilst I am sure to never spray in the office, I do sometimes spray some 4160 Tuesdays Paradox on my neck and hair before leaving the house. Paradox is a herby violet fragrance that has a non-invasive and non-aggressive beauty, like a rather pretty garden. it lasts all day and has settled nicely by the time I get off the bus to work.

 

Rollerballs are generally more popular on mainland Europe and in the US than they are in the UK, but that seems to be slowly changing. For instance, Bronnley does a lovely range of affordable rollerballs- citrine lagoon is pretty and light for office wear and one I wear often. The three in the photo however, were from Al Aneeq via Amazon. None were over £4.99 and all are long lasting without going further than a few inches from skin.

The same applies to oils and solid perfumes. A little subtle application won’t fill a commuter train or bus nor an office. A dab on the neck and in the cleavage will suffice.

Here’s my handbag sized  collection:

Al Aneeq White Musk- not as clean a laundry musk as say, The Body Shop White Musk, but a sophisticated 70s s style musk that lasts all day and makes my daily scarf smell delicious.

Al Aneeq Gardenia- a strong white flower that skips over the big creamy Not Tuberose note and becomes a rather traditional linear white flower scent with a hint of honey.

Al Aneeq Violet- My favourite. This is a pure Parma violet violet that I’ve had for about a year and doesn’t seem to go down. I also use it for layering over other fragrances I have which I feel are not violet enough. (Bit not for work).

Bronnley Citrine Lagoon– smells as fresh as stepping out of a clean marine scented shower. Light, pretty and smells a bit like outdoors.

So here are my humble dos and don’t for wearing fragrance in the work place:

Do

  • Check nobody in your office will object to fragrance (some offices are scent free)
  • Go small- a few dabs of a rollerball or oil are plenty.
  • Use light florals or citrus notes

Don’t

  • Don’t wear the big ones: Opium, Giorgio or Shalimar. It hurts me to write that, so please go nuts at the weekend and marinate in them.
  • Don’t spray any perfume in the toilet or everyone will associate your perfume with toilets.
  • Don’t spray perfume in an open plan office, or you will get looks, mutterings and people saying “what’s that smell?” Not the effect you were going for.

Exceptions

If you are a secondary school teacher, you can probably wear whatever you like. The chorus of Paco Rabanne and Lynx will drown you out anyway. Spray with abandon!

What’s your take on perfume at work?

Let me know your opinion.  Where do you work? Do you slather it on or hold back?

Stockists

You can buy Paradox from 4160 Tuesdays.  You can buy perfume oils from The Body Shop.  Bronnley rollerballs are available from Boots. Al Aneeq Rollerballs are available from Amazon UK.     

photo from office politics

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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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4160 Tuesdays: Three Newbies for 2018

actual poster at the 4160 Tuesdays studio

On my recent trip to the 4160 Tuesdays Mothership in London, I was privileged to sample the new stuff that’s a -brewing for 2018. You may have tried them already, but in case you haven’t and you’re curious, here are my thoughts on Eat Flowers, Amberama and Amber Mambo.  SPOILER ALERT  I love them.

Eat Flowers

Fig one: actual poster at the 4160 Tuesdays studio

Eat Flowers is, as the name would suggest, unapologetically floral.  However, floral is a very wide spectrum so I could be blathering on about anything. I’ll narrow it down. Eat Flowers has a retro vibe in a Biba sort of way, or maybe that’s me thinking of the poster that inspired it? (see fig one). It’s dusty and pretty, like pot pourri, but still with moisture in the petals . I sniffed iris, possibly violets and basil in there too, along with faint nuances of rose.  By rose, I mean the old fashioned faded pink roses from a tablecloth. It’s feminine in a terribly proper way, and smells as if it would make a terrific soap and candles.  My son says it reminded him of Autumn, but to me, it’s bedtime in Spring, with a powdery warmth, like brushed cotton pyjamas. It has a delightful retro feel. It’s pre-digital age. It’s from back when we wore dresses and read books and had bubble baths. In case you’re not into iris- this one’s safe.  It has smooth classy touches of it but won’t overwhelm.

retrosweets.co.uk

Amber Mambo

My son’s very first unedited impression? “lemon fudge.” He’s not wrong. Nobody’s impressions of a scent are ever wrong.  In fact to my nose, the citrus and  warm amber combo gives this a hint of the cola cube.  Remember them? 20p a quarter from the sweet shop? (Yes, kids, I’m nearly 50). Amber Mambo is a wonderful coca cola sort of scent and has a spicy fizz in its heart.  It reminded me of the wonderful Mrs Gloss’s Lemon Sherbet, but this has more heat and  is more golden. To me, this is pure, welcome, idyllic nostalgia. Bring on those cola cubes!

from BestPartyEver.com

Amberama

Now this one has sandalwood, amber and citrus, and if I’m not mistaken, a welcome flash of rose like a bowl of Turkish delight in a wood panelled study. It has a cheerful fruitiness about it that gives it a modern, playful finish, as if bringing a bunch of pink balloons into a dusky gentleman’s club and blowing raspberries. Just a minute- raspberries! That’s the fruit that’s in here. Yummy, delicious, tart/sweet raspberries. Glorious! Raspberries, amber and sandalwood. Irresistible. PS If you like Eau My Soul and  fancy a  a fruited up version, then this one’ll do nicely.

Stockists

You can buy all of these from the 4160 Tuesdays website.  They are currently limited stock, but if there’s a clamour, more will get made.  With warmest thanks to Sarah McCartney for giving me an early preview.

This is actually what Sarah looks like when at work. She didn’t know I was taking this.

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

Sarah McCartney, Goddess of Love and Perfume.

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

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

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

So what goes on at a chypre workshop?

Sniffing

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

We are ready.

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

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

This is my “doing maths” face.

Learning

Random facts:

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

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

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

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

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

    Making notes

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

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

Eating

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

Making Your Own Perfume

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by kind permission of Sarah McCartney

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

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

How to get on the course

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

 

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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.

 

Jack by Richard E Grant: My Review

Photo from richard-e-grant.com

There are celebrity perfumes and then are perfume lovers who make perfume and also happen to be celebrities.  Richard E Grant created his own perfume brand and also happens to be an actor, writer and director. As much as I love a good sleb bargain, they are usually about noughts and dollar signs and not usually driven by a lifelong love of all things olfactory. Jack very much falls into the latter category,  and is the culmination of Richard’s self-confessed obsession with scent and all its visceral triggers.

Backstory

Manchester Evening News

First of all, the creation of Jack Perfume was coaxed out of him by the incredible Anya Hindmarch (yes, the creator of the handbag brand). It was when she stumbled across him with his nose in a gardenia bush that she more or less asked him if there was anything he needed to talk about?  You can the read the full story on the Jack blog.

Secondly, and this sets Jack apart from many celeb scents, Richard funded this himself.  He risked his own money, (after all, we may have hated it), and  tracked down the right people so he could scratch this itch that wouldn’t quit.  (I’m sorry for the imagery there, I’m trying to think of a more elegant way of saying that.)

The result of Anya Hindmarch’s nudge in the ribs and pep talk, and of Richard’s drive and passion, is Jack Perfume, which I am reviewing today.  There are now two more in the series, Jack Covent Garden and Jack Piccadilly, which I shall review presently.

Now I’m a bit late to the party having only just got around to getting my mitts on these. Cwmbran is not a hub for perfume samples, unless you count my four mini suitcases in the dining room. It’s never too late to review a scent though, so here we go.

So What Does Jack Smell Like?

Jack opens with an immediate and thirst quenching blend of mandarin and lime. One dab has my son asking if I “have sherbet over there.”   It’s delightfully refreshing and  a great first impression.

There is a cannabis in the opening symphony too. How could it be left out after Richard’s iconic role in Withnail and I? I cannot say the name of the film without so many quotes flying into my head, I fear I may bore you if I don’t get back on track.  Rather than being a joint the size of a large carrot (as in the film) the cannabis is a light herbal touch, slightly earthy and grassy and rather pleasant: its not unlike vetiver, which is also here.

The cloves come in shortly after that, accompanied by nutmeg, giving this a wonderfully aromatic spiced wood warmth.  The lime and mandarin from the opening act seem to cut through the richness of the pepper, oud, resins and woods, which stops this from getting too dark or too rich. There are clean musk nuances in the finish and the sniffability factor goes off the scale.  I can’t seem to type more than three words without having another sniff.

Jack is a wonderful unisex fragrance that would serve you in summer or winter. It is a scent of contrasts: dark and light, with a glossy wooden shell and a soft belly.   My overall impression is that this is very much a feel good scent.  It’s both uplifting and  cosy, like a hug, and  I shall be ordering several gallons.

Stockists

You can buy Jack from Liberty  in London, as well as in Europe and the USA. See here for a full list. My samples were kindly sent to me by Richard E Grant, for which, my warmest thanks.  I completely failed to be cool when I received them.

 
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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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