I mentioned just the other day that while at Les Senteurs in London, I picked up a couple of samples from the newly-released Bex London range, SE1 and EC2.
According to Bex London's website, the founder of the line is Rebecca Goswell, and the four perfumes (SE1, EC2, N6 and W1X) were developed by Francois Robert, the nose behind Lanvin Vetiver, Mary Greenwell Plum and a number of Rosine fragrances and the son of the recently departed great, Guy Robert. As the perfume names suggest, each perfume has been named after a well known London post code.
SE1 is meant to evoke the spice trade. SE1 is an area south of the Thames River, encompassing a fairly wide area, but includes some very well-known sites including the London Eye, Tate Modern and the South Bank in general. The South Bank is well known for its massive array of arts complexes, including the Royal Festival Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall, Purcell Room and the Hayward Gallery. When I first arrived in London in 2001, the South Bank already had these sites, but it still felt a bit like the poorer cousin of the northern side of the Thames. Just over ten years later, and the area has a buzz like no other, with cafes, restaurants and other attractions popping up all over the place. At the far end of this strip, towards London Bridge, lies the great Borough food market. The spice trade left SE1 decades ago, but the feel of the area in some ways doesn't seem to have changed - there are still many wharves and warehouses remaining, although most of these have been converted into trendy apartments or shops. Some say that when the wind blows right, one can still smell the spices delivered here over the centuries.
EC2, according to the advertising, is meant to evoke the rejuvenated artistic feel of London's East End. This may be true to an extent, but if one looks technically at this post code, most of the area it encompasses is actually the eastern half of the City of London, such as Barbican, Broadgate, Liverpool Street and the oh-so-trendy Shoreditch (or perhaps not so trendy anymore - fashions and fads change regularly). It is only on the far east and northern stretches that the district seeps into grittier (and rejuvenated) but really artistic areas like Hackney and Bethnal Green. Most of EC2 pays homage to the Bank of England, futures and the suited high life.
Anyway, so what do these smell like?
SE1 has notes of bergamot, citrus, cardamom, pimento, amber, seamoss, driftwood and Tahitian Vetiver. It opens, unsurprisingly, with quite a shot of citrus notes. They aren't industrial-strength citrus fortunately, so SE1 manages to avoid the cliched mens' cologne territory. As it develops, it becomes essentially a woody-vetiver fragrance. The vetiver note is not particularly strong, but has a hint of the vetiver in Vetiver Extraordinaire. SE1 is perfectly decent, and I enjoyed wearing it. I think it is a perfect fragrance for the warmer months, with its light, slightly dry woods, vetiver and light spices. To be honest though, it is hardly groundbreaking, and at £80 for a bottle (ok, not massively expensive by today's standards - £175 for a bottle of Kurkdjian's possibly over-rated oud perfume anyone?) I want these sorts of pricier perfumes to have a bit more 'wow' factor possibly. Still, as I said, not a bad perfume at all and it must be said that the tone of the perfume does capture the mood of water and wooden wharves quite well.
EC2 has notes of lemon, lime, grapefruit, juniper berry, bay, nutmeg, cedar, tonka, black pepper and amber. I found EC2 to be a bit more complex that SE1, probably due to some stronger spices and the sweeter base notes. I have to say that it was my favourite of the two. Like SE1, it ends up essentially as a spicy woody fragrance, with hints of oriental accords. It is certainly not sweet though, and the juniper and bay lend it a slightly aromatic feel that at times makes it smell like it is going to teeter over into bay rum territory, but never does. Les Senteurs says that it is a modern fougere, and thinking about it, I suppose it could be actually. Although I like it, I am not in love.
So I think these perfumes are worth seeking out, and I haven't managed to smell the other two yet, so can't comment on those, of course.