Category Archives: perfume

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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Yves Rocher Orange Flower Lavender Petit Grain: So Nice I Bought it Thrice

Yes, this little bottle of light as air scent smelled so nice the first time I bought one that I stocked up and bought another three. If fairy wings had a smell, this would be it. Orange flower, lavender and petit grain are three of the prettiest scents you can get (aside form peony, but would that be overkill?), so when you put them all together, you have an impossibly pretty fragrance, that won’t break the bank.

This smells so good that if I didn’t already know its name, I would follow a stranger home until they told me their fragrance. It’s one of those that won’t fill a room but will leave subtle wafts of the prettiest petals in your wake. It’s light, airy and clean and if you like citrus colognes or light florals this is right up your street.

Fragrantica

Lavender can sometimes smell a bit herbally and even a little bit metallic to my nose, but here it is buffeted by gentle orange flower and its close relation petit grain, which is the steam distilled scent of the leaf of the orange tree. Couple this with the orange flower and you can see how the lavender is flanked by sheer piquant petal-like prettiness. I’d swear there was a hint of clean laundry musk in the finish too because this smelsl squeaky clean and pure.

The best bit about this though is that it smells incredible yet costs so little.  I bought mine for £5.90 from the Yves Rocher website and it was buy one get one free. Somehow, I ended up buying four and only spent less than £12., making this incredible value.  The scent of this is so moreish that  our dear friends at YR could have charged me a lot more and I’d still pay , but thankfully I can buy this and still afford my son’s ridiculously top of the range goalkeeper gloves. Not very perfume-y or romantic, but jolly practical, and if I’m happy, everybody’s happy. Trust me.

Stockists

You can buy Yves Rocher Orange Flower Lavender Petit Grain from the Yves Rocher UK website. It is also known by its French name of Fleur D’oranger Lavande Petit Grain. The range is called Les Plaisirs Nature and they are ALL equally good. (OK, this is my favourite, but I’d still buy them all)

My Guilty Pleasure, Sorry Not Sorry: Avon Mesmerize Red for Her

I’ve been strangely drawn to this beauty of late. I say strangely because fragrances like these are not usually my cup of tea, but I can’t seem to leave this one alone.

Maybe it’s a reaction to the fact that I am wearing tame day time scents now that I have re-entered the world of full time work again? Maybe I just love the fact that this was only £7 a bottle and I can therefore spray to my heart’s content and still afford school shoes and dinner money? or maybe I’ve changed my curmudgeonly mind and decided that actually, I rather like a fruitichoulil with a playful fruity edge?

Avon Mesmerize Red for Her had me at hello when I saw the glossy crimson flanks of its red glass bottle. With a filigree gold pattern and a co-ordinating box, this is clearly meant to add a bit of eastern magic to your dressing table.

Scent wise, it goes thus: red berries, flowers (I would say jasmine at a guess, although it’s not listed) bergamot to keep it zingy, spices, aldehydes (you heard me) and then a woody patchouli fruity sort of base that lingers beautifully on my pyjamas (cleavage spraying is an unbreakable habit of mine.)

The overall effect is a fruity and sweet floral, without the syrup or stickiness or (praise be!) the ubiquitous caramel note that dominates everything from hand cream to high streets these day. Deep sigh. Mesmerize Red packs a spicy patchouli punch with enough florals to keep it girly and pretty.  Fragrantica members reckon it smells like Cacharel Amor Amor and it does, although its not a dupe.

Now although Avon can’t, at this price, use world class high quality ingredients, it’s worth remembering that they often use world class noses, and world class fragrance institutions. For seven quid, I don’t think anyone can do better. This stuff is fabulous.

What can I say? Avon does it yet again.

Stockists

You can buy  Mesmerize Red For Her 50ml EDP from Avon UK. It was £7 when I bought mine. Prices vary .

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Welcome to Mood Scent Four: First Love Perfumes!

The Good Old Days- photo from youbeauty.com

Do you remember your first love? I’m talking about perfume of course, not Morten Harket or Patrick Swayze (Just me? Surely not!).

Fragrance has been proven to give your memory a powerful jolt  and one sniff of these first loves and I can tell you what I was wearing, where I was going and what I was doing as far back as the late eighties.

Welcome to Mood Scent 4!

MoodScent 4 is a blogging collaboration in which four perfume bloggers from four different countries write on the same theme. My colleagues are meganinsaintemaxime, Tara from ABottled Rose, and Esperanza from L’Esperessence.  Follow the links to find out what their first loves were ( except dear esperanza, who has sadly had to sit this one out. Get well soon!).  Here are mine. Do  any of them match yours?

 

Avon Pretty Peach

The very first fragrance I ever owned was Avon Pretty Peach.  I had a little splash bottle, and splash I did. I must only have been around six or seven years old, but I thought I was the kitten’s mittens smelling of fresh peaches and wearing my very own perfume.  Check out the gorgeous packaging. Who could resist?  Not me!

Avon Eau Givree

In my early teens, it was another Avon fragrance that scented several formative years of uncertainty, crushes and trying to imagine a future where we all wore silver space suits. Space 1999 was on the telly and it felt utterly possible, folks.

Avon had a beautiful green hesperide scent out around this time that was called Eau Givree. It had a frosted pale green bottle, a black lid and silver lettering.  Long since discontinued, my retrospective nose would guess that it was full of grapefruit, bergamot and lemon. Divine in summer!

The Good Old Days- photo from youbeauty.com

The Body Shop White Musk

Surely the scent of every High Street and college in the 1980s, along with the ubiquitous Dewberry! I  remember every bus in Exeter smelling of Dewberry around this time. Personally, I was a Body Shop White Musk girl, and to this day I am never without a bottle. I much prefer the oil to any of the sprays, and find a little goes a long way, not to mention the nostalgia it evokes in men my age!

LouLou. Oui? C’est Moi.

Once I hit seventeen, Cacharel LouLou was invented and I would wear half a bottle at a time (sorry train passengers!) and replace it as casually as if it were shampoo. I still love that plummy aniseed tuberose and the wonderful art deco bottle.

Givenchy Amarige

Towards the end of my LouLou era (I’ve still got a bottle), I experimented with high street launches of thee early nineties and enjoyed a whole summer smelling of Givenchy Amarige.  With its massive sillage, its huge bouquets of jasmine and tuberose, and that soapy green tobacco accord, Amarige still offers much to enjoy, although I  find today’s version a little thinner than the old cloying blousy days of it.

Chanel Cristalle

Once my experimental phase was over, I settled down with Chanel Cristalle from the age of 21 until I was 36. After that I entered a period of olfactory promiscuity and a blog was born. These days? I have a wandering eye and Pretty Peach and Eau Givree have long since gone, along with the bespectacled daydreamer who wore them.

How about you?

What were your first perfume loves? Do you still wear them? Or have they long gone now? I’d love to know.

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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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