Friday, 20 April 2012

With Cymbaline in London - snifftastic

Cymbaline is a lovely lady who I've become friendly with as she has commented regularly on my blog and we've exchanged perfume samples. It also turns out that she is a Bob Dylan fan too, which is even better!

She and her friend Tanya were in London for a week's holiday recently and we agreed to meet up in London and I'd show them around the perfume 'sites', so to speak. I suppose one does not know what to expect when meeting someone for the first time, which is particularly strange when a friendship has developed over the internet. It was a first for me, but I can honestly say that Cym is as nice in the flesh as she is in cyber-world, and it turned out that Tanya was too.

I caught the train up to London and made my way over to Pimlico, meeting Cym and Tanya at their little hotel on Belgrave Road. I know the Pimlico/Victoria/Belgravia areas of London very well, having first stayed in a hostel in Victoria when my wife and I arrived for the first time in London way back in 2001. Later on, the company I worked for relocated to Victoria from Piccadilly, so I spent many a lunch hour traipsing the local streets, which coincided with the time when I first got 'into' perfume. It was just a matter of time before I discovered Les Senteurs in Elizabeth Street, not far away.

Anyway, we all walked the short distance from the hotel to Les Senteurs and spent a very enjoyable hour just sniffing and looking at what they stock. I think Cym and Tanya really enjoyed this little niche gem of a store. I know I certainly do and go back time and again. They've opened a new outlet near Marble Arch and I haven't been there yet, but I love the Belgravia branch. We sniffed so much stuff that it is hard to recall everything we tried. Tanya is a fan of leather, so I know she sampled quite a few leather fragrances, including Mona Di Orio's Cuir. Cym and Tanya must have sprayed perfume on almost every conceivable area of exposed flesh! Although my sense of smell was still not quite right on the day (still recovering from a cold) I did smell a lot too and ended up getting samples of ELDO's Rien and Antihero, MPG Iris Bleu Gris and Lorenzo Villoresi's Incensi. Cym and I also smelled the new ELDO Bijou Romantique and Fils De Dieu and Heeley's Agarwood. I have to say that none of the last three impressed me much on an initial sniff. The Agarwood in particular was very slight and to be honest, I am so over oud already, that it takes a very special oud perfume indeed to wow me.

We left Les Senteurs almost in a daze and moved on to the Amouage Boutique on Lowndes Street, not far from Harrods. Cym was very keen to visit the boutique and I must say that it is very elegant and well presented. Needless to say, it smells heavenly too. Cym ended up purchasing a solid perfume of what I think is Epic and also a cream. We also smelled the new Library Collection Opus VI. I think it is safe to say that all three of us loved it. Having tried Opus VI a few times now, I can reliably confirm that it is by far my favourite in the Library Collection and the best I have smelled from Amouage in quite some time. Its combination of dry smoky amber is potent and gorgeous. If you haven't tried it already, get your hands on a sample, I urge you!

It was lunchtime by now so we meandered over to a sandwich shop across the road from Harrods and had a quick bite to eat. Cym and Tanya found it very amusing that here in the UK most exit signs say 'Way Out' rather than 'Exit' and we also chuckled over some other British peculiarities and turns of phrase. We had a good chat about where they come from in Washington State. One thing we definitely seem to have in common is the weather!

After lunch we went into that curious temple of kitsch and style that is Harrods. After climbing about six flights of stairs we eventually made our way into Roja Dove's Haute Perfumerie. Again, I think I can safely say that we were in awe - so much good and rare stuff is on display here that it felt like a pilgrimage to me. A revelation to me was when Cym asked me to dab on Onda Parfum Extrait by Vero Profumo. Wowza! What a bomb of a fragrance and strong too. So strong that I still had it on my skin 24 hours later, but what a stunning perfume, so animalic and complex. Cym also steered me to trying Invasion Barbare by Parfums MDCI. Again, I liked it very much. I haven't tried much by MDCI but this is great. By this point we had tried so many perfumes that I honestly can't recall what else we looked at, but it was a fabulous experience.

We were so 'perfumed out' by now that we decided our last stop would be Ormonde Jayne's boutique in Mayfair, so we caught a tube to Green Park and on to the Royal Arcade. When we walked into OJ, it was empty downstairs and silent, save for the tinkling bell as we entered. We stood there and were immediately met with the distinctive OJ house note, coming no doubt from the many products on display. We heard a voice shout out from upstairs that she was coming down and soon were met by an exuberant and excitable short lady, who very charmingly started to explain the perfumes to us. Although I am sure that between us we had no space to spray, the lady began to spray us with Orris Noir, Zizan and Isfarkand and explained a bit more about her perfumes. It was only at that point that we all clicked that this was no sales assistant, but Linda Pilkington herself, the owner and creator of OJ! I am not someone who has met any perfumers, so it was a real treat to meet Linda. The thing that struck us most was how humble and gracious she was and she spent close on half an hour talking to us about where we come from, her perfumes and how they are made and sourced (only briefly of course - I doubt she would give away too many house secrets). All I can say is thank you Linda for your time and treating us like we were the most important people in your life for that short time. Charmingly, Linda had to dash, as she was about to receive a parking ticket!

And so ended our perfume extravaganza. I took Cym and Tanya through the streets of Soho to a pub, where we had a pint of good English Beer, while the rain pelted down outside as evening approached. Over a beer we chatted about lots of different things, including music and Bob Dylan, of course!

We headed back to Charing Cross Station, where I was to catch my train home. I was sad to say goodbye to Cym and Tanya, even though we had only just met really. I could have spent a few days with them. As I made my way home that evening, I ruminated on the day's events and couldn't help feeling that perfume fanatics are some of the nicest people out there.

Cym and Tanya, it was lovely meeting you in person and I sincerely hope we will get the opportunity to meet again in the not too distant future.


  1. I decided years ago that Paris was my favorite city, but this visit to London has turned that notion on its head! I had no idea how amazing London was going to be and I want to say a huge "thank you" to you, Michael for helping Tanya and I find our "London legs" : )

    Perfume-people really are the nicest people and if you ever decide to visit the PNW, Michael, I'll happily do the tour-guide duties!

  2. I like reading reports about perfumeetings: it's the next best thing after taking a part in those. I'm glad you enjoyed your day. The part about Linda Pilkington was the best! Thank you for sharing.

  3. Cym, glad you enjoyed London as much as you did. I'd love to visit the PNW - who knows, one can never say never!

  4. Undina, thanks. It was great to share this, as it was a lovely day!

  5. What a fantastic day's sniffing you had, and I agree that the chance meeting with Linda Pilkington must have made it complete. How great that you got to meet Cymbaline and Tanya in person - as Undina says, reading about meet-ups is the next best thing to being along with you all! : - )

  6. Vanessa, thank you. Having now experienced a perfume meet-up I can now put it into context after enjoying the posts you've done on similar experiences.

  7. How I missed this post, I have no idea! I loved reading this and what a blast you all had, esp meeting LP herself.

  8. Carol, it was great fun. If you're ever in my neck of the woods.... !

    1. I hope so - not sure how soon, but one of these years! :)



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