Friday, 9 July 2010

Testing frenzy at Liberty, London

I had the pleasure of spending a morning in London yesterday, attending a thrilling course entitled "How to extract profits from owner-managed businesses". London is one of those cities that for me is hateful in the summer. I find it overcrowded, thronging with tourists wandering aimlessly around getting in the way, hot to the point of stifling on the public transport systems and most of all, smelly. Not smelly in a good way, but one is overwhelmed by the smells of unwashed sweaty bodies, sewers and drains that are putrid and faecal and then the assault of fumes; of exhausts, tar, building rubble and hot food. Perhaps this is a bit unfair, and I'm sure thousands of people adore summery London, but I'm glad I don't work or live there anymore. Rant over, but staying with smells, I was able to visit Liberty, the department store near Oxford Circus, which has a fantastic selection of niche and other perfumes. Just to give you a flavour for what is there, they stock Frederic Malle, Le Labo, Diptyque, Rosinne, Comme de Garcon, Serge Lutens, Caron, L'Artisan, Nasamotto, Francis Kurkdjian, Etro, Essentric Molecules, Keiko Mecheri, Annick Goutal, Miller Harris, Byredo,  Costume National, Ineke, and um, I can't remember the rest, but there is more. For those of you who haven't been to London before, or perhaps have visited the usual haunts, like Harrods or Selfridges, I can heartily recommend popping into Liberty if you are in the West End.

I was like a kid in a sweet shop yesterday, spraying crazily onto scent strips and I got to the point where I reached sensory overload, but it was brilliant! I'm setting out below a brief note on what I tried, all on scent strips with the exception of Nuit de Tuberose, so these are only initial impressions and could quite easily develop differently on skin.

Le Labo Labdanum 18 - I was pleasantly surprised. I've read a lot of mixed reviews but it is very interesting. True, it is sweet and for a good time it smells uncannily like Johnsons Baby Powder to me, but it veers into some interesting territory. I can understand the comparisons with Shalimar and even Musk Ravageur.

Le Labo Neroli 36 - again pleasantly surprised. This is about as true a Neroli scent I think you can get. It's quite dry and restrained, but I think would wear brilliantly in summer.

Serge Lutens Bois et Violette - it was immediately obvious the connection with and progression from the original bois progenitor, Feminite du Bois. Tasteful and elegant. My wife liked it, so it must be a winner....

Francis Kurkdjian Lumenier Noir Pour Homme - better than I thought it would be. Quite musky, with little nods to Le Male here and there, but thankfully far less synthetic. I quite liked the little ginger fizz that mingled with the laundry-like musk. Another hit with my wife, hooray!

Nasamotto Black Afgano - quite pungent and to my nose mainly a vetiver fragrance. I actually loved this on paper. My wife recoiled in horror. Tick.

Byredo Baudelaire - another vetiver, quite smoky. Again, I liked this. Byredo has been hit or miss with me, but this one is nice. Would like to get my hands on a sample.

L'Artisan Tea for Two - a typical L'Artisan scent, slightly exotic but a bit too restrained. It is interesting though, with a nice spiced chai mingling with a subtle milky accord. A smidgen of incense to perk it up.

L'Artisan Passage D'enfer - not quite sure about this. It is even lighter than Tea for Two, and reminds me a little of the style used in Timbuktu.

Marrakesh Musc Le Orientalist - starts off intensely sweet but luckily turns to more familiar musk territory. A decent musk, I'd like to test this on skin. I wouldn't call it skanky, but it did wander into territory that was quite sexy.

L'Artisan Nuit de tuberose - this was the only one I tested on skin and I was quite impressed. This is another one that has either received rave reviews (Grain de Musc) or disdain (Peredepierre). I was expecting more tuberose but it was very subtle. Definitely could be worn by a man. I liked the spicy and peppery opening and again, I'd love to get a sample to test properly. On paper the tuberose was more evident and there was a slighly strange, almost 'off' or rotting note that emerged, which I never detected on skin. Worth a try I reckon.

Robert Piguet Fracas - I've read a lot about Fracas in the past. It's nice, but honestly I think Frederic Malle's Carnal Flower was far more interesting. Fracas is tuberose straight up, slightly fleshy, a bit coconutty, but that's it, in my opinion of course! My wife recoiled - I don't think she likes white florals...

So that was it. I really enjoyed this visit and I'd love to get back to Liberty as soon as possible. Next time I'm in London I need to get over to Selfridges to try the new Amouage Library fragrances. Have a good weekend everyone.


  1. Michael, I am green with envy. My city has diddly for perfume shopping and I have to travel if I want to actually browse and smell, rather than order samples online.

    Enjoyed your London rant - well done!

    Fracas is lovely to me in its black inkiness. There's something oily and over-the-top about it that is very sexy.

  2. Thanks Josephine. Get yourself over to Blighty if you can! I'm sure Fracas is very nice, and admittedly I only smelled it on a paper strip, so would be different on skin. As a man, I doubt I am best placed to judge tuberose fragrances.

  3. Very envious of your perfume frenzy at Liberty - I haven't done that in a while. Think you're drawn to completely different fragrances to me - I haven't tried any of the ones that you mention! Yikes - think I need to get back to Liberty pronto.

  4. Sounds like you had fun. It's just a shame that we non-Londoners have to rely on some conference or other finishing early so that we can snatch an hour of more pleasurable pursuits.

  5. MyPerfumeLife, I guess that is what is wonderful about individuality - the fact we are all drawn to such different perfumes. Keeps it interesting.

    Persolaise, if I had the money and guts (and knowledge) I'd love to open a niche perfume shop in my neck of the woods, but I think it would be a very risky venture. I only get to London probably 4 times a year, so when I am there I make a point of trying to squeeze in an hour of personal time, by hook or by crook!



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