Tag Archives: Clary Sage

Ruth Mastenbroek Oxford: Students, Spires and Smoke


An explosion of fresh, green, basil and peppery notes bursts from a herbal heart of clary sage with sensuous jasmine; vanilla, amberwood, and oudh bring a cashmere texture to the base.

Oxford (the fragrance) was inspired by those heady student days when you leave home for the first time and everything feels edgy, daring and slightly scary.   Its creator, Ruth Mastenbroek, read Chemistry at Oxford in 1970., hence the name.    I went to Exeter University, not Oxford ( couldn’t get in!) , but I can recall that butterflies-in-the-tummy excitement in the blink of an eye, and this fragrance  encapsulates those halcyon student days.

photo of naked man on the banks of the River Thames, Oxford by Paddy Summerfield
photo of naked man on the banks of the River Thames, Oxford by Paddy Summerfield

Oxford opens with Clary Sage, which I often mistake for lavender.  Clary Sage is no weakling: it is robust and muscly and borders on the smell of weed or filter-less cigarettes.   Cigarette smoke played a huge part in my student memories, and from this scent, I’m guessing it did for Ruth too.   That’s not to say this smells unpleasant: far from it- but there’s a brash masculine, herbal feel to it that reminded me of bristly chins and smoky  late night adventures.

The clary sage mixes with woods and oudh and to my nose, this has a sort of unfinished roughness, again- no bad thing.  It’s that unfinished shape that your student years  form you into.  You think you’re fully formed but you’re nothing like the finished product that you need to be.  Not yet.

Ruth Mastenbroek

When the herbs and woods have settled down, this leaves a beautiful and very long-lasting impression in its wake.   The clary sage smells more like lavender now, and there’s a heady herbal thing going on (man).  Patchouli stays put like a slightly unwashed squatter.  If you want squeaky clean and generic, you’ve come to the wrong place.

Oxford goes from rough and dirty, to clean and earthy, like the morning after, as you walk home to birdsong after a long dark night of excess.  It grew and grew on me like a persistent suitor, and  has now become my favourite scent from Ruth’s collection.   Oxford has changing facets, like a kaledoscope, and that’s just one of the many things I love about it.

About Ruth

Ruth and her new friend Sam.
Ruth and her new friend Sam.

Ruth Mastenbroek has been making fragrance and fragrant products for far longer than you may realise. Her signature range only has three fragrances, yet Ruth was the brains behind many of the Bath House products and has worked on scented candles for Jo Malone, as well as being a former President of the British Society of Perfumers.

Complete the trilogy

I have previously reviewed Ruth’s RM Signature fragrance, and the wonderful Amorosa. Today I am competing my trilogy.

From the Times Educational Supplement
From the Times Educational Supplement


RM Oxford is available from the Ruth Mastenbroek website and from Fenwick and Rouiller White.


My sample was kindly provided by Ruth, for which, many thanks. Opinions are my own and this is not a sponsored post. In fact, I’ve never written a sponsored post!


Tauer Cologne du Maghreb: I Want Every Room in My House to Smell Like This All Year Round

photo borrowed from ChemistInTheBottle.wordpress.com
photo borrowed from ChemistInTheBottle.wordpress.com

I am a big Tauer fan, as regular readers may have noticed.  There are very few gaps in my Tauer sample collection, and now, thanks to Andy, I have everything.

I was recently sent a sample of Cologne du Maghreb by Andy Tauer himself.  He knows, and I know that just because the sample is free doesn’t mean I have to like it. Thankfully, (and luckily, as I hate being rude) Cologne du Maghreb is wonderful.  In fact it’s about time there was a full time cologne on the Tauer books ( Maghreb made a temporary cameo in 2010) as there are florals, chypres, spices and well, let’s face it, he can do things with a Rose you never thought possible.

Firstly, it’s important to say that Maghreb is made of all natural materials.  Secondly, it’s cologne.  I’m saying this because it is not the same as other Tauer scents.  Longevity is not the same, and the refreshing opening tang is unapologetically botanical and zesty.  On his blog, Andy suggests a tip for longevity: spray chest liberally and add a cotton shirt or top.  The cotton will retain the scent all day as the skin heats up and burns off the scent, as hot skin does with colognes.

The balance of characteristic Tauer Bergamot and the seemingly freshly grated lemon zest is so exhilarating that I want every room in my house to smell like this all year round. It’s stunning.

jw054-350a-cocktai-gin-and-tonic_1920x1200_69161 Then it smells more grown up, as if you should wear it to an expensive gentleman’s club. There is something about it that suggests an Oriental, but the spice is so elusive, it’s almost like a fleeting clue.  Nevertheless, this hint of exotic heat helps to set this apart from your usual colognes.

After half an hour  it fades a little more, leaving traces of lemon zest and the kind of lavender you only get when you pick a bud and rub it together in your hand.  It’s that heady, almost vodka-like fresh lavender smell that would be in HD if you could see it on TV.

Add a bit of bitter into the mix: it’s clary sage- used (in my opinion) so disastrously in LUSH’s Gorilla perfume Euphoria that it almost put me off for life, but used with a light hand here. All this fades after it blooms, leaving a memory on skin after around say, two hours.

In fact an odd thing happened after that.  My skin smelled like my skin, but kind of stronger and sweeter, a bit like a sweet fern. I was sniffing for ages, wondering what it was until I realised the scent was only in the places where I had sprayed Cologne du Maghreb.  It was like overheated skin, a faint hint of herbs and a lick of honey, and then finally, it went away altogether.

Spray liberally and often and soak it up with clothing or a scarf. The bottle is different, the juice is pale green, and the experience is a tangent away from the usual fourteen hour longevity of a Tauer EDP.  As a cologne, it is in a different league from other colognes and I heartily recommend it.  As for male or female?  Pah!  Great on everyone.

There is an excellent review over on the lovely Lucas’s site ChemistInTheBottle  from  where I cheekily nicked the top photo.

Thanks Andy!
Thanks Andy!

LUSH Euphoria: Terrible Thing, Bitterness


The latest Gorilla range from LUSH is full of typical LUSH originality. With marvellous 70s style line drawings on the labels and simple clear glass bottles, the packaging is no fuss and retro. The usual off-on-a-tangent range of names is all in order: Sikkim Girls, Furze, Voice of Reason and Euphoria to name but four.

 I was confident that I was going to love Euphoria. Could it really be Woodstock in a bottle? A Summer of Love happening right under my nose? It contains Clary Sage, a wonderfully evocative hippy scent from my early 20s.  What could possibly go wrong?

 Firstly, the opening note is so high pitched and bitter that my nose could not forgive it.  I like a bit of bitter, especially in a green scent, but there are extremes that should not be overstepped. The bitterness made my eyes scrunch up, like when you eat a tart orange first thing in the morning. The bitterness made me think of poison, and I don’t mean the one that Dior makes. More like Hemlock or Bitter Aloes.

 Usually I love Lime and Grapefruit in a scent, but this is nasty, like drinking Fairy liquid (I only did that once by accident and can still remember the soapy bitter taste). Euphoria was created by Mark Constantine, who makes up the father and son team of Mark and Simon Constantine, who are the LUSH “Noses”, and based in Poole, where it all began. In fact, Mark is the co-founder of LUSH, so even if I don’t like Euphoria, I feel I ought to thank him for all my other favourites: Sea Vegetable Soap, Fairy Jasmine bath bombs, the Smell of Weather Turning fragrance, and the wonderful Dream Cream.

 But Euphoria? No. All that bitterness had the opposite effect on me. Euphoric I was not. If something smelled like this, I wouldn’t want  to eat it for fear of dying a long Gothic death by poison.

Miller Harris Fleurs de Sel: Or Antiques Sur la Mer


 Miller Harris Fleurs de Sel seemed to be exactly right for today’s blazing hot weather. It was new to me, and liking the name is very often enough to make me choose a  Scent Of The Day (SOTD) However, the results were an incongruous surprise.

With a name like Fleurs de Sel I was expecting something lazy and Mediterranean. I wasn’t disappointed, but Fleurs de Sel was far more masculine and Leathery than I was expecting.

Firstly, it has lasted almost seven hours on my arm today, giving it a good score for longevity. Sillage is subtle. I applied it from a sample bottle dabber across the table from my husband who couldn’t tell I had just applied perfume (until I shoved my arm under his nose. He is used to this now).

Top notes are Thyme, Clary Sage and Rosemary. I certainly had visual images of a cook’s kitchen, all herby and aromatic. There is a salty note in there too, making me think of scrubby dunes by the sea, with their herby plants clinging to the sand. The drydown is strong Vetiver and Leather. I much prefer Leather to Vetiver and these two were neck and neck in strength. Vetiver won.

The base note lasts for hours and is a peppery Vetiver with the Leather in the background, having come second in the race to dominate . With the combination of Herbs, Salt and Vetiver, this is a very masculine scent. However, since I am going through rather a masculine Leathery phase at the moment, I rather like it just how it is.

Whilst the opening Act is all herby sea salt and scrubland, it beds down into a scent that is reminiscent of old worn leather. Imagine opening the door of an Antiques shop by the sea. The warm leather is in front of you, with the sea at your back. Add some Vetiver in a vase by the door, and there you have it. Miller Harris Fleurs de Sel.

Yardley Lavender Eau de Toilette: Sometimes Simple Is What You Need


It’s no coincidence that aromatherapists and masseurs use Lavender as a therapeutic scent, nor that it is a sleep inducing pillow spray. To me, it is also no coincidence that Yardley Lavender (along with or instead of Eau de Cartier) is the perfect hangover fragrance.

When you’re full of toxins and feel nauseous with overindulgence, Lavender steps in like a pure Angel come to visit and carry away those troubles like an open window in a stuffy room.

Lavender is also regarded as an “old lady” scent and this would be a good time to debunk that myth. The old ladies of today were the glamourpusses of yesteryear, and we have them to thank for being unswayed by modern trends and for keeping the market alive for the classic scents that are still being made to meet the demand of  “old ladies”.

These matriarchs are to be respected, as not only were they young once, but some day we will be the old ladies buying the Lavender and the good perfumes that are wasted on the youth. And maybe it was Oscar Wilde who once said “Youth is wasted on the young,”? Or maybe it was me the other day muttering at today’s modern teens? In any case,  calling a scent “old lady” is, to my mind, another way of saying “Classic”, and nowhere is this term more apt than  when used to describe Lavender.


So what makes Yardley Lavender so special? Well for a start, the price is right at less than 10GBP a bottle on the High Street, and even cheaper online.  However, as well as Lavender (and I can promise you it smells authentic), I can also pick out Geranium and Clary Sage, making this a very green, slightly hippy Hesperide.  Sillage is arm’s length but pleasant. I think people will notice this simply because it will arouse nostalgia, and because it is so simple that it will stand out from today’s commuter trains of fruitchoulis and fake vanilla.

This is a soothing blast of cool summer which, along with it’s slightly  prickly and spicy Geranium, will be ideal as a summer time cleavage cooler straight from the fridge.   I have spoken before about layering and I think this will go very well will other scents: Just go with the flow, don’t let me boss you around!

As much as I love fragrances in all its forms and complexity, sometimes I like to go back to basics.  A Lavender fragrance in a scent wardrobe is akin to a walk in the country after a year in a city.  Sometimes we need that, no matter how beautiful the city.