Category Archives: Vanilla perfume

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)

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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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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Top Ten Perfumes Under Ten Pounds 2018

If you’re anything like me in January, your credit card won’t be speaking to you and you’ll be searching coat pockets for loose change and forgotten fivers. It’s as traditional as losing the scissors when wrapping presents.

If you’re a perfume fan and feeling frugal, I bring glad tidings. There are perfumes out there that cost under ten quid and smell good. You heard me. It’s true. In fact, the majority of perfumes I reach for on a day to day basis are often cheap and cheerfuls that I don’t mind running out of and can be easily replaced.

So, my friends, clutch your tenners and follow me as I tell you about my top ten fragrances under ten pounds.

  1. Coty L’Aimant.

My £5.99 bottle reminds me of my late grandmother, who was such a lady and never went shopping without a brooch and a scarf.  She was class all the way and loved Coty L’Aimant. She was born around the time it came out in 1927 and wore it to dances in the war. It was made in similar style to the newly launched Chanel No 5 which had come out three years earlier in 1924, and smells very similar. I also adore the Art Deco bottle and deep pink box with the gold edging. All this for under ten quid.

  1. Elizabeth Arden Green Tea

Whether you opt for the pillar scent (which is a classic) or any of the excellent flankers, the Elizabeth Arden Green Tea range is a safe bet. Light, feminine, inoffensive, floral and citrussy, they make ideal summer or office perfume and almost always cost under ten quid, unless you see them in Duty Free where they cost a lot more. I particularly like Green Tea Revitalize and Green Tea Exotic

  1. Alyssa Ashley Musk

This is a perfect pocket money perfume that smells amazing, gets compliments and has a subtle but pretty sillage.  It was particularly popular in the 1970s but has a lot to offer the woman of 2018. It’s a warm, light, cosy musk that makes people want to nuzzle you. You can buy it here.

  1. Bronnley Eclectic Elements range

This range of fragrances was created to attract a younger crowd to Bronnley, and I’m certainly a fan of both the classic stuff and the Eclectic Elements Range.  In other words, I’m a dream customer. Bronnley gets my seal of approval for making rollerball fragrances. Although rollerballs are plentiful in Europe and the USA, they’re harder to get in the UK, so I’m hoping more brands will do this. The rollerballs are priced at under ten pounds, but if you go onto allbeauty.com today and sniff out their sale, you can find 50ml eau de toilettes at £10 too, although that’s sale price, not usual price.

  1. Yves Rocher Plaisirs Nature Range

My SOTD today is a little 20ml bottle of Yves Rocher Orange Flower-Lavender- Petitgrain EDT. It cost me £7.99 and I got two for the price of one. It’s wonderfully uplifting and pretty and combines white flowers with juicy nuances of orange and calming lavender. I also have the Mandarin, Lemon and Cedar, which is equally good and equally cheap. Check out my review here.

  1. Trust Yardley

The Yardley Collection of simple floral eau de toilettes are hard to beat. I own Yardley April Violets, Yardley English Rose and Yardley English Lavender. I wear them alone or for layering and I get compliments every single time I wear the rose.  The violet helps me “violet-up” fragrances that I feel are missing that…well, that violet note. I also recommend the Lily of The Valley and the Freesia. You can buy them here or in Boots.

  1. Avon Calling!

Of course, I can’t write about bargain fragrances without mentioning my old friend Avon.  Avon is my Go-To guilt free brand. I own about six and my favourites are Avon Perceive OasisFar Away Bella and Rare Platinum, which is a gorgeous tuberose and grapefruit combo. Every brochure has a bargain and I never need to wait long until my favourite is £6 or £7. I’ve converted several friends too. The list of perfumers who have worked for Avon reads like a Who’s Who of the Industry: Christine Nagel, Olivier Cresp and Christopher Sheldrake are just three that I can think of off the top of my head.  It’s a guilt free win/win pleasure. Here’s the link.  Products vary seasonally so if your favourite isn’t around this week, come back and check again.

8. Go Old Skool

amazon.co.uk 

By old school, I mean take a second at what your Mum wore growing up.

If I told you that Tweed reminded me a little of Jicky, would you be shocked? It does.

How about if I told you that Taylor of London Chique is a fabulous earthy, woody chypre that has much in common with Estee Lauder Knowing?

Neither are dupes, but both deserve more love and recognition. I’m also a big fan of Panache and I’ve only now finished a £3.99 bottle that gave me twelve hours longevity after two morning sprays. I have found all of these bottle for well under ten pounds, and even under five pounds. Try allbeauty.com or Fragrance Direct.

  1. Al Aneeq, Crown Perfumes and Al Rehab.

These are all brands that sell rollerballs of high quality, no alcohol fragrance.  I own the White Musk and the Al Aneeq Violet, which is a big generator of compliments. (“Yum. I smell Parma Violets!”). Prices start at £1.99 for the delectable Choco Musk, and my trusty 10ml (very strong) violet rollerball was 3.99. Find them on Amazon or eBay. Great for handbags.  Prices vary.

  1. Marks and Spencer

And so, we arrive at the perfume shelves of Marks and Spencer. Your ten-pound note will serve you well here.  First of all, there are delicious 10ml  and 30ml purse-size sprays such as Autograph Blush (light roses and violets, powdery finish, ultra-feminine, not too sweet) or the new Belle.  I’ve also seen White Orchid and New York in purse spray sizes in store too. Then of course, there’s the classic pillar fragrance Florentyna, which I reviewed last year. Both flankers are worth a look too and any of them will give you change from your tenner.

How about you?

What are your favourite cheap and cheerfuls? Do you have any under a tenner? Do drop in and tell me . I always love to hear from you.

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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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How to Smell like Christmas

There are certain smells associated with Christmas that we don’t come across in the course of the ordinary year (i.e. the boring non-Christmas period). Now, I might be romanticising things here, but I have vivid Christmas memories of the exact smell of 1970s tinsel, the smell of roasting beef (we didn’t eat turkey) and Mum and Dad smoking all day. In the 1970s you were  encouraged to smoke all day and anywhere you pleased. Unimaginable now, I know, but the scent of cigarettes always takes me back to the family home back where chocolate advent calendars hadn’t been invented  and the internet was just a twinkle in the sky.

These days, any kind of foodie/boozy scent has me thinking wistfully of Christmas and I use it as an excuse to step outside my usual chypre scented comfort zone and into cosy, smoky gourmands.  Basically, I want to smell good enough to eat.

Here are five fragrances that have me salivating around Christmas time. They are rich, evocative, wintry and absolutely delicious. Dive in with me.  Sherry?

Zadig et Voltaire This Is Her

The plain white bottle from this achingly cool Parisian brand doesn’t look particular festive but it has dominant chestnut notes and lashings of whipped cream. This is an unusual fragrance, but I like it because of that.  They could have played it safe but no, they thought they’d confuse our brains with jasmine and chestnuts and whipped cream and cashmere wool and pink pepper and, did I say whipped cream? It sounds confusing but I promise you, this scent really works and I could happily plough through a whole bottle, and the body lotion and candle too. You can find it here.

4160 Tuesdays at Pitti

4160 Tuesdays Captured by Candlelight

With overtones of Cluedo and Agatha Christie in the intriguing title, this fragrance smells as Christmassy as a tangerine in the bottom of your pillow case. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to a Christingle service, but it reminded me vividly of that. What happens is that children attend a simplified Christmas service in a church (an old one for preference) and each child is given an orange with a candle embedded in it. Jutting out of the orange are cocktail stick with little Haribo gummy sweets on. Combine the old wood of church pews with the orange, the sweets, the candlelight and the flask of Baileys you have in your bag, and you’ve got Captured by Candlelight. Check it out here on the 4160 website, which is dangerously tempting at this time of year.

Hypnotic Poison

Christmas isn’t Christmas without some sort of marzipan encounter.  Hypnotic poison allows you to carry that scent around on your skin. With rich, boozy vanilla and thick, rich almonds, Hypnotic Poison is hard to beat, and very long lasting. By the way, just holding the pumpkin shaped bottle feels like magic. I keep thinking its going to turn into a tiny coach at midnight.  You can buy it here.

Hermes Elixir des Merveilles

The nose behind Hermes Elixir des Merveilles is none other than legend Jean Claude Ellena.  Famous for his blending, which is often described as having the delicacy of a watercolour painting, Elixir des Merveilles is a gourmand that has the kind of mouth-watering appeal that never feels too rich for a second helping.  To my nose, this smells like caramelised oranges, but without any stickiness.  Imagine a crème brûlée with slightly seared bitter orange fruit.  I’m not usually a fan of gourmands, except at Christmas, obvs, but this one has me drooling with undisguised avarice. You can buy it here.

Yves Rocher Bourbon Vanilla

Never let it be said that I don’t cater for all budgets.  This cheap and cheerful vanilla scent from trusty Yves Rocher stopped me in my tracks and made me check the price again. Twice. This is a rich, golden vanilla scent that smacks of boozy vanilla liquor, rather than the more commonly found synthetic cupcake note that sometimes poses as vanilla.  Not, this one, though, No Sir. Yves Rocher Bourbon Vanilla will make everyone ask what you are wearing. Even the most curmudgeonly perfume resister will be unable to stop sniffing you. Don’t blame me. Blame Yves Rocher! Oh, and the price? My 30ml bottle was the princely sum of £3.99 five weeks ago.

How about you?

What will be wearing this Christmas? Something cosy? Something new? Do you always wear the same fragrance at Christmas? Do let me know. I always love to hear from you.

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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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Avon Imari Elixir: The Flanker Hall of Fame

You know the trouble with flankers? You love the original and it’s so flankered to death that you can barely remember the first and best and then you lose track of which ones you need to buy and which you missed completely.  Then there’s the other side of the coin: the flankers that are so good that you end up saying “Can’t even remember the original. Love this more.”

Avon Imari Elixir falls firmly into the second category.  Now don’t get me wrong, I like Avon Imari, but it left me feeling a little wistful about its lack of longevity. As a light office friendly floral, it’s spot on, but it didn’t last as long as I hoped.

Avon Cosmetics

Avon Imari Elixir says “Stand back and get used to me, because I’m here all day.” And it is.

Imari Elixir opens with unmistakable blackberry notes. These are berry notes that add the juiciness without all the sugar. They have none of the bitterness of blackcurrant, and none of the sickliness of the frequent plethora of sugary sweet pink pepper. Good choice, Avon. The blackberry joins in with jasmine and deep red roses. The vanilla is very much more than a walk on part- it’s warm and buttery but again, not too sickly.  Then in the base, along comes the patchouli, which gives this real staying power and “oomph”, for want of a better word.  Coupled with amber, this rounds off this dark fruity rose with a flourish of warmth and earthiness. Some Fragrantica members have said that this reminds them of Lancôme Hypnose, so if you like that, stock up on this. Imari Elixir is  a fabulous “going out” perfume.

Despite being an eau de toilette, this really has staying power. I call this great value at just £6.

Stockists

This is available from Avon UK or from your Avon rep. My Avon Lady is called Jill and we are on Christmas card swapping terms now, as you can imagine.   Avon Imari Elixir was just £6. I paid for it myself and this is not a sponsored post.

Avon cosmetics

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Avon Far Away: Here’s why it’s Number One

Avon Far Away is Avon’s best-selling fragrance in the UK.  Avon daren’t discontinue it for fear of riots .  It also has the distinction of being the fragrance I smell most when out and about here in South Wales. The women who love it REALLY love and most of them are repeat buyers.

It occurred to me that I have reviewed many, MANY Avon fragrances but not this one. In the past I have dismissed it and not paid it much heed, but last night I sat down and  really paid attention to it.  Reader,  I learned a thing or two along the way.

Firstly, I once dismissed this as so vanilla-y that it borders on coconuts (true-ish, there are coconut notes and vanilla). However, last night, as I let it unfold on my skin, I noticed many facets I hadn’t previously found. First of all, this is a grand white flower fragrance. It bursts with jasmine and gardenia. I thought I could discern tuberose, but no, it was jasmine and gardenia- a pretty heady combo at any time of day. Also present is karo karoundee- a white flower that has similar nuances to tuberose and is often paired with it. No, I hadn’t heard of it, and yes, I did have to look that up. (Thanks, Fragrantica!).

Before the flowers go anywhere, the peaches emerge, coupled with apricotty osmanthus, giving this a very peachy, powdery accord. This gets stronger until it peaks at freesia, peach and white flowers before relaxing into a base note you will recognise when you walk down my local High Street.

The base notes ares rich in vanilla, musk and woods, but mainly  settle to a sweet, peachy and powdery vanilla.

Far Away reminds me of another early Nineties fragrance: Cassini by Oleg Cassini. I wore it a lot as I worked in the evening wear department of  a House of Fraser store. There was a display bottle on a stand and we sales assistants all drenched ourselves in it. The peaches, vanilla and flowers have a sweetness in common with Far Away.

Far Away was created in 1994 and its popularity shows no signs of dipping. There have been several flankers, and the one most like the original is Far Away Gold, which is very similar, note by note, but has stronger amber notes and less fruitiness.  Also, fact fans, Far Away Infinity smells very similar to Paco Rabanne Olympea but is less than ten quid. Just saying.

To sum up, Far Away is not my favourite Avon, but taking a good look at it really opened my eyes to what a great scent this is. Avon has made a wonderful peachy, powdery, vanilla classic that puts good fragrance into an accessible price range. I couldn’t ask for more.

Stockists

Avon Far away is widely available. Try Avon UK, Amazon UK and eBay.  I get mine off my Avon Lady because then she gets commission and she is lovely.

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