Hello! Lisa Wordbird here. I’ve persuaded Sam to let me come and play, and I would love to know what you want to read about. I have a big box of samples and I’ll review things you’re interested in if I have them or I can get hold of them.
Like Sam, I’m a big fan of a bargain and I think an inexpensive perfume can be just as beautiful as something incredibly costly. Equally, I think that there are perfumes that justify a whopping pricetag. I’m a fan of artisan perfumers like Andy Tauer, Sarah McCartney and Liz Moores, and I appreciate how much goes into creating and producing their perfumes.
Equally, I recognise that some of the greatest geniuses in the fragrance industry are the ‘functional fragrance’ creators. These are the unsung heroes and heroines who produce delicious scents for shower gels, fabric softeners and shampoos on an ingredient budget of sixpence a kilo. Don’t believe me? I am eking out a Shower Crème from Lidl called Indian Summer, which is a gorgeous woody oriental. It cost less than £2 when I bought it 18 months ago.
Personally, I lean towards orientals, incense, chypres, leather and animalic fragrances. Some of the things I like make Sam say ‘Eurgh!’ and look at me as if I’ve left the house without my trousers. However, Sam likes some white flowery things that make me go ‘yikes!’ and feel like I’m a drag queen.
Some things we both love, like vintage Miss Dior. Oh, I love vintage perfumes, too. Partly this is because they can be so much cheaper on ebay, partly because things I bought years ago now count as vintage because they date back to before the IFRA made companies reformulate perfumes to reduce possible allergens. (They’ve done it a couple of times now. The IFRA are not my friends.)
So – what would you like to hear about? Vintage perfume? Scented toilet paper? My boundless love for the Yves Rocher Secrets d’Essences range? Please let me know, and I’ll do my best.
In 2015 I wrote a post entitled “How to Get Perfume Samples”. I felt it was necessary since these days, it’s easier to get unicorn droppings and hens’ teeth than perfume samples from Beauty Counters. My original article has proved very popular, but the Fragrant Firmament spins fast on its axis. My original article, written in 2015, needs updating for 2017.
A lot can happen in two years within the industry. Beloved favourites can be discontinued, new starts ups can arrive with a bang, and old lions can go out with a whimper.
Sample services serve two purposes: They avoid you making costly blind buys and they help you fall in love with stuff you might not have come across. Whilst I love to seek out samples of stuff I’ve heard of and never tried, I also love it when the choice is made for me. It takes me out of my comfort zone. This is one of the reasons why I am such a fan of discovery boxes, and the Perfume Society in particular. Their boxes are loosely themed and have really changed my mind about no end of scents I wouldn’t have otherwise sought out.
The other advantage is one I mentioned pre-Christmas, but which applies at any time of the year. When buying for others, why not offer them a choice? A mixture of samples and gift voucher is my idea of the perfect gift (It’s my birthday next month. I wonder if my husband is reading this?).
Here’s a roundup of sample services that are currently out there just waiting for us to knock on their door. This is a UK Guide by the way, so if I miss your favourite out, it’s just geography, not favouritism.
The Perfume Society.
Yes I’m a fan. No, they don’t pay me to say so and yes I have almost every one of the Discovery Boxes. In fact, I’m just waiting for the Heaven Scent one, due any day! You can buy them here. They usually contain around nine excellent, often hard-to-get samples and maybe a treat or two as well. They are my Number One favourite treat.
A new entry at Number Two. I’m very impressed with the diversity here and find the prices reasonable. I’m rolling my sleeves up and writing a long list. Here’s a link to their website.
There are two branches of this divine boutique perfumery in London, but the good news is that you don’t have to live in London to benefit from their sample service. The bad news is that its very, very hard to choose. Here’s the link.
Nobody can accuse Sarah McCartney of not being inclusive. 4160 Tuesdays means reasonably priced high quality artisan scents that cover every genre except “boring”. The 4160 Tuesdays website even has themed suggestions of sample sets in case you don’t know where to begin. My favourite is “Frocks and Hats.”
The Fragrance Shop Discovery Club.
Every quarter since 2013 I have received a box of samples from The Fragrance Shop. These usually include new releases and new flankers, but often they pop a classic or a well-beloved favourite in. The boxes usually include between 6 to 9 samples and a booklet of money off vouchers if you find one you want in full bottle size. Boxes are just £5 a quarter, and they make great gifts too. You can join in the fun here.
Papillon Perfumery is the creation of Nose Liz Moores, perfumer extraordinaire (I’ve met her- she is small and beautiful) There are four scents in the Papillon range and you can sample of all four from here. There isn’t a single one I wouldn’t recommend, and a fifth scent is on its way later this year.
Another one I’ve not come across before, but I’m very impressed with their range and might be making an order soon. The huge range varies from Tom Ford, Chanel Exclusifs, Tauer and Roja to name but a few. I’ll let you know what I think if I can ever make my mind up! You can check the site out for yourselves here.
Pell Wall Perfumes
In the beautiful county of Shropshire, Chris Bartlett creates exquisite scents under the name of Pell Wall Perfumes. Sample sets and mini bottles are available at reasonable prices and you may well find a lifelong favourite among this imaginative range. I particularly like Pretty in Pink and Deep Purple. Check out the website here.
eBay has a vast range of samples from various sellers. I have never been let down or sold fakes on eBay- they are very strict about that. I have had some great bargains this way and even if you end up not liking the samples you order, they make great swapping currency.
Find Your Tribe
Join a group of like-minded fume heads: Sites such as Fragrantica and Base Notes have led to many firm friendships, as well as samples swapping. Alternatively, join a Facebook group such as Fragcom or Perfumeland For Fluffheads.
Have I missed any out? Have you had great sample service in the UK? Or have you discovered a favourite through random sample sniffage? Do let me know. I always love to hear from you.
2016 was a terrible year in many ways. It made my heart feel heavy. There was a marked increase in hate and prejudice, a colossal amount of celebrity deaths and the world in general seemed a darker place. Like many, I feel a need to accentuate the positive. I have been counting my blessings and feeling determined to put kindness back out into the world. Prozac and affirmations help too.
One of the things I am particularly thankful for is the fact that I have made several dear friends via my blog. I truly treasure them. It has always lifted my spirits to read your comments and share your scent stories.
The kindness and generosity of perfume loving people ( fumeheads? Perfumistas?) is legend. They would give you the shirt off their backs and their last drop of anything you “quite fancy trying.” Back in October, I was lucky enough to meet a gang o’perfumistas and ended the day feeling like I had taken part in a giant cuddle. Thanks to Pia Long and Nick Gilbert, we gathered in London and talked and sniffed all the day long, ending with a bellyful of cake and tea. Sheer bliss. People like that make me hopeful. Kindness is rife, rampant and contagious. Long may it ravage us all! Many tiny snowflakes make an avalanche.
Looking back, 2016 was an interesting year scent wise. I got to know several new brands and perfume houses. Perfume trends in general, are, I think, changing. Celebrity sales are down and niche sales are up. The tide is turning and I like it.
What I Am Most Looking forward to in 2017 Liz Moores of Papillon Perfumery has promised a new release sometime in 2017. Rumoured to be a chypre (claps hands and whoops) I am already in the line with a Thermos of tea and sleeping in Liz’s teepee so I can be first in the queue. Despite having made only four perfumes so far, Liz’s fragrances already have the permanence of classics. There are no weak links. Quality is outstanding. By the way, for some reason I always wear Papillon Angelique to christenings. It seems to “go”. New life, optimism, pearls…
In other news the Ruth Mastenbroek promises us a fourth scent in her range. I know little about it so far as it is still in development stage, but rest assured, it will be reviewed right here..
I also plan to head London-wards to drop in on the 4160 Tuesdays studio. I haven’t been since 2014 and I want to see if my new smaller bottom will fit in the swing. I’m hoping Sarah McCartney will let me sniff a few single notes that I sometimes get stuck on, and sell me a load of scent swag. (I’m taking a very large bag).
I am keen to see what Avon comes up with this year. They made two of my most frequently worn scents this year and neither cvost me more than £7. Rare Platinum is a tuberose lover’s dream and Perceive Oasis is peonies and roses on a summer day. I’m also excited to see what else Beaufort London has in store after the show stopping Fathom V. More to come from this audacious house and their wonderfully named “Hell or High Water” range.
And one last thing.. oh yes,. Watchthis space as I put my very shy self into YouTube territory. I’m scared just writing that, but one has to move with the times. Scary!
Dear readers, I am now back from what can only be described as an extravaganza of sniffage and olfactory wonder. Imagine a day spent in the most vibrant and beautiful capital city in the world (because I can’t fall out of love with London), add lots of like minded fume-heads, add perfumeries, boutiques and perfume halls, then stick afternoon tea on the end and fill your bag with samples ready to go home. You can see what I mean if I tell you it was as if all my birthdays had come at once.
The day was organised by Pia Long and Nick Gilbert, who you may know from social media where they have a strong and influential presence. Do try and visit their wonderful vlog : Love To Smell. What those two don’t know about scent, probably ain’t worth knowing.
You would be hard pressed to meet two lovelier, more generous people. The work that Pia and Nick put in to arrange this day, at no profit to themselves, goes some way to explaining what Good Eggs these two are. Also, Nick has a dirty laugh and gives good bear hugs.
My dear friend Lisa Wordbird (who is how I got dragged into this heavenly mess) offered to drive. This is because A) I cannot and B) because she knows no fear and is actually willing to cheerfully tackle central London in a car on a Saturday. Mad. Good driver, but mad. We left Wales at 8.30am and hit the M4 seamlessly. “Look at us!” we thought,”We’re on time!” we thought, fitting in a sugar’n’caffeine stop at the services. London, however, had other plans for us and decided to hide all its parking spaces from Lisa’s tiny, nippy car. So our trip was: two hours of motorway and two hours of driving round central London, which despite our frustration, didn’t bring us down, since London is The World’s Best Place For People Watching ( a.k.a trying not run over very rich people with shopping bags in Knightsbridge).
The Smells of London Town
We were due in Fenwicks’ at 11am but instead just about caught up with our group at 1pm. We were Moomins for the day, which meant our group was led by Pia. The other group were Flamingoes and led by Nick. We arrived at By Killian in Burlington Arcade and were given a talk by the beautiful Davina. Not only was she knowledgeable, but she let us sniff everything, whilst explaining the background and inspiration to the aromas that filled the little boutique. Funnily enough, the day was a bit like wedding dress shopping. I loved the first thing I tried on and even though I tried millions of others, I fell deeply in love with the first one. That scent was the first thing I smelled as I walked into the Killian Boutique: “Good Girl Gone Bad.” Nothing I smelled that day beat this and I left with a tiny sample in my sweaty paw.
There were all sorts of innovations going on in Killian: notably scented jewellery that means that people with sensitive skin can smell good all day. This involves a tiny unglazed ceramic disc that’s doused in scent and heats up with skin temperature. There were also home fragrance items: glorifiers, candles, scented paperweights and intriguing tasselled discs that you can hang anywhere, or if you’re Killian Hennessey himself, you can hang loads in your wardrobe. Because you made them. And your wardrobe is probably already very posh. There was some sniggering from me because I was standing next to the legend that is Val Cookie Queen Sperrer, who made some remark about tassels. I can’t remember the remark, but it gave me inappropriate mental images. #DitaVonTeese: that sort of image.
Lost in Fortnum and Mason
There was a break in the timetable for lunch-on-the-go before the next talk at Miller Harris on Monmouth Street. Lisa went to move the car before the charges matched her mortgage payments, and I filtered towards Fortnums with a splinter gang. The Perfume Hall at Fortnums is a sight to behold. I could spend hours there and not even look at my watch. Even as a perfume blogger having written 730 reviews, there were brands and bottles I had never even heard of. However, from the corner of my eye, I saw the Clive Christian salesperson giving out samples so I sidled up and flashed hungry eyes at her. I can’t afford Clive Christian but I collect samples like a miser. The lovely Tamara gave me a long tour of the brand and I was indeed rewarded with some treats to take home at the end. Unfortunately when I looked up, the other fume-heads had gone.
I used to live in London in the 90s so I have a fading muscle memory of routes, which led me vaguely towards Covent Garden Plaza. It wasn’t where I thought it was. Someone had moved it, surely? I ended up power walking around three miles through the throngs and masses. It was actually very liberating and a big change from my usual school run routine. I rang Lisa, who was somewhere completely different and she told me I was heading to the wrong Miller Harris branch. I eventually used an old fashioned method of navigation that you don’t see much these days- I looked at a map on the wall. I was back on track.
Meeting My She-roes
I reached Miller Harris out of puff, but not too late, and what joy! I finally got to meet someone that both Lisa and I had been looking forward to seeing for the first time. I met Liz Moores of Papillon Artisan Perfumes. We have been Facebook friends for a good while and it was a delight to meet her in person. She is tiny and witty and I like her enormously.
If you are reading this, you are most likely already a perfume fan, so you will know that to people like us, the perfumers are our pop stars.
As the group fondled their generous Miller Harris goody bags and moved to Bloom Perfumery, I also managed to meet another perfumer I admire and have reviewed: Ruth Mastenbroek. Unfortunately we missed Ruth’s talk in Fenwick, but she was wonderfully friendly. She is elegant and softly spoken with a reserve that I suspect may be a soupçon of shyness. Ruthwas a pleasure to meet and very kindly completed my missing RM sample collection for me. I adored her third scent:Oxford but have yet to try her first signature: Ruth Mastenbroek so watch this space for a review of both soon. A fourth scent is currently in development.
I was also delighted to meet fellow blogger Vanessa Musson from Bonkers About Perfume. We have been Facebook friends for a long time now, and have a mutual friend in Lisa. Vanessa was immensely generous to me with samples, and not for the first time. She is responsible for much of the content in the photo of my swag. Vanessa and I also share a love of cats and I always enjoy seeing the photos of the Bonkerscat, Truffle on social media. You can read Vanessa’s beautifully written account of the day here.
It was a pleasure to see the charming Thomas Dunckley again a.k.a The Candy Perfume Boy. Thomas is great company and deserves all his Jasmine Awards. Some days his writing is so good it makes me jealous.
Bloom on, Bloom
Bloom is a fascinating perfumery that arranges it scents not by brand, but by family. So you’ll have all the sandalwoods, then all the leathers, then the spices and so on. It is fairly Spartan inside, which is refreshing after the opulence of the perfume halls and the bling, but this makes for more of a studio feel.
Shortly after Bloom, the group split into fragments again. Some of us were heading off to the afternoon tea which Pia had booked for us, and some were making their way home. Many fond goodbyes were said and many Facebook friendships began that day.
Food, Glorious Food
At B Bakery in Covent Garden, we were treated like VIPs with our own individual pots of tea, (which were readily replenished) and a three tier cake stand. I had to compose myself when I saw it, rather than allow my greedy eyes to pop out on stalks. I am still fantasizing about that baby Lemon Meringue Pie. I have become firm friends with my two fellow diners who donated their pistachio macarons to me. Lisa didn’t give me hers, so that’s thirty years of friendship out the window. Her fault. Kirk and Nafia are my new best friends now. Hi guys!
Homeward Bound (small discreet burp)
Groaning with full tummies and sloshing with tea, we bade a reluctant farewell to a wonderful, but tiring day and headed back to Wales. The next morning when I woke up in bed in my house in South Wales (covered in sons who had missed me), I wondered if I had dreamed it all. And then I smelled my pillow. Tuberose, aldehydes, leather and incense. It was all true.
2014 has been a prolific year for launches and perfume news and I thought I would take a break from all the frenzied wrapping and posting and reflect on what my fragrant highlights were from the past year. These are in no particular order- I am equally delighted with them all! In 2015 I am looking forward to seeing more from Papillon, 4160 Tuesdays, and of course, the launch of the latest Tauer which I believe will be Sotto La Luna Hyacinth later in the year. Stay tuned my fragrant friends!
Visiting 4160 Tuesdays and meeting Sarah McCartney.
Yes, Lisa Wordbird and I actually got to nose* around the 4160 studio and sniff lids with the Maestro. An unforgettable day, in which I left clutching my beloved new bottle of Tart’s Knicker Drawer in its posh tin.
*nose around! Accidental pun!
Visiting Les Senteurs in Mayfair
The pavements were too posh to walk on, and even the Christmas lights on Elizabeth Street were understated and classy. Les Senteurs is like a carefully curated Aladdin’s cave for frag-heads. This to me, was as Willy Wonka’s factory was to Augustus Gloop. Everything I’d ever read about was here, and some I hadn’t even heard of. It’s Nirvana for Perfumistas.
Being featured on the legendary Tauer Advent Calendar for 2014
What a privilege!. Andy is never less than courteous and generous to Tauer fans ( and there are many of us, right?) and it was a great honour for my blog to be chosen to “host a post”. – watch this space on the 21st December!
Finding Gucci Envy on Amazon UK
It’s right here! I’m about to bag my second bottle so that I’m not so scared of wearing the first.
Discovering the flowery botanical world of Cath Collins
In a quiet pocket of beautiful Devon, Cath Collins runs a bijou business where flowers rule the day. With reasonable prices, and beautiful ingredients, Cath kindly sent me some samples and I reviewed Lily Fandango, Morning Flowers and Flowers of the Orient. Here’s the website link.
Papillon Perfumery launched!
Papillon started small but good with only three scents (for now). I was kindly sent samples of all three- Angelique, Tobacco Rose ( see my earlier reviews) and Anubis. No weak links here- all are superb and I am the very proud owner of a full bottle of Angelique. It was love at first sniff. I predict big things to come from this little outfit. ( …and I have just found my Anubis sample after looking everywhere so watch this space for a forthcoming review)
When Marks and Spencer became my Go-To Perfume Bar
Yes, even my teeny local Marks and Sparks has obligingly started to stock Fragonard, Monotheme and Roger & Gallet. I’m afraid I stride past the Perfume Shop now, in my hurry to try more stuff in M and S. Such reasonable prices too.
The Library of Fragrance launched in Boots in September
At last grown women are trusted to mix’n’match instead of being fed the same old same old. Library of Fragrance has an eclectic selection of scents that are good enough to wear alone, and classic enough to mess about with and blend yourself. It doesn’t make us perfumers, but it does give us a bit of autonomy. If I want more musk in my perfumes, I can do that. If I’m missing a plain, unadorned Jasmine scent to layer over other stuff, I can get that too. It’s like a little fragrant playground after being force fed ready made rent-a-scents.
10. And then Avon got good…
I have been a Moaning Myrtle about Avon in the past. A year or so ago I was on a downer with their fragrance range and had experienced far too many disappointments. However, something has changed: either them or my attitude- and I even ended up doing a top ten. Yes, there are at least ten Avon fragrances that I would happily own, and upstairs on my dressing table are Avon Citrus Burst, Tahitian Holiday and Little Black Dress. I particularly warmed to Avon when they listened to their customers and brought back Timeless.
Oh and don’t get me started on the three new Avon room spritzes I have in Orange Blossom, Jasmine and Magnolia. They are terrific.
So there you have it. Ten perfume highlights of my year. What were yours?
There are rose perfumes and then there are rose perfumes. In the former category comes the good Yardleys and the not bad at all Marks and Spencer EDT. In the latter category comes the Andy Tauer
roses and the Serge Lutens/Miller Harris roses. And now to that category you can add Papillon Tobacco Rose. Tobacco Rose, by Nose Liz Moore for Papillon, opens with an abundance of good things straight away. From the first sniff I had tender dried tobacco leaves- not the Golden Virgina sort, but the not quite dried, still curling damp leaves: imagine a pot pourri made of leather rose petals. There’s a hint of powder, a whiff of fresh violets and the beautiful star of the show: the rose itself. The opening is radiant.
The middle phase goes a bit gourmand, and usually I’m not a fan of gourmand, but I do love a nuttiness in scent and that’s what we have here. There is a hint of almonds and richness that reminded me of Andy Tauer’s PHI Une Rose de Kandahar. The base notes are more tobacco and almond rich, but the rose is steadfast and you can wear this for eight hours and still know that it is a predominantly rose perfume.
I particularly like its lack of sweetness. I’m so over over-sugared scent, but this is pitched just right, with a clean greenness to it. The oakmoss gives it a chypre style base that smells so classic that it feels like its been around for years.
The quality of ingredients shines through: this is not cut and paste on the cheap like a lot of mass market High Street stuff these days. These bottles are investment bottles and perfumistas will want them. Of that I am certain. I recommend Tobacco Rose without any concern or doubt that you will love it. If you want some samples, try the Papillon website or our friends over at Les Senteurs.