Saturday, 30 June 2012

Sample mania and a giveaway

Oh dear. I post one of these little laments from time to time - sample storage hell. Like a lot of you, I have accumulated a seriously large collection of samples, and try as I might, I can't seem to stay on top of them. Yesterday I cleared out all the samples from my desk drawers at work and was shocked to discover a great many more than I first thought I had. I ended up hauling home two shopping bags' worth! Now, that is just the tip of the iceberg, as I have far more than this at home. Looking at the corner of my bedroom, I have boxes, bags and storage drawers full of samples.

A couple of months ago I started cataloguing my samples, but lost the will at the 300 mark, knowing I had plenty more to go. What also complicated matters is that since then, I have given samples away, lent some to others to try and received plenty more. Now, I am not saying that I don't like collecting samples, don't get me wrong, but I do struggle to keep on top.

So, onto crunch time. I'd be interested to hear from anyone who has similar problems, or has solved such problem, and would also be interested to find out what storage and cataloguing solutions you have! And to top it all, I will randomly select a comment to win samples of the following Serge Lutens:
  • Chergui
  • Sa Majeste La Rose
  • Gris Clair
  • Feminite du bois
  • Fleurs d'oranger
  • Vitriol d'oeillet
  • Arabie
I will also throw in two Annick Goutal samples, Passion and Le Mimosa, as well as a sample of the recently released Dueto Parfums, Lady Cool. Just ensure you provide me with a valid email address and I will contact the winner - comments open until midnight, UK time, on Wednesday 4 July.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Scent of the day - Parfumerie Generale Harmatan Noir

Today was an awfully humid, sticky, yucky day in Kent, England. Call me a grouch - I always complain about the weather here. Harmatan Noir seemed like an ideal scent to beat the humid horrors of a Thursday.

I've had a sample of Harmatan Noir for a long time and have always quite liked it, so was surprised at the number of negative reviews of the fragrance. I should say that I am not a huge fan of mint in perfume. Even some very good mint focused perfumes like Frederic Malle's Geranium Pour Monsieur and Cartier Roadster have me on the fence. 

Harmatan Noir opens with a very sweet shot of mint, too sweet, but it gets cut very quickly by a light smokiness and what smells like incense to me, before mellowing out into a green-and-mint tea with a touch of musk.

The Harmattan is a dry and dusty trade wind that blows from the Sahara and affects mainly West Africa. Smelling Harmatan Noir, it strikes me as neither very dry nor dusty (it's dangerous to think too literally, I know) and, thinking about it, not very dark either. So the name is a misnomer to me. If anything, I find Harmatan Noir to be quite a fresh and uplifting perfume, perfect as a pick me up for the sort of humid and warm weather I experienced today.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Guerlain Habit Rouge

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I had bought a bottle of Habit Rouge in a sale. The notes are extensive and include lemon, lime, bitter orange, mandarin, bergamot, rosewood, cinnamon, patchouli, pimento, basil, cedar, carnation, lavender, vanilla, amber, leather, benzoin, labdanum, olibanum and sandalwood.

Looking at these notes, it is no surprise then that Habit Rouge strikes me as the masculine counterpart to Shalimar, sharing notes like lemon, bergamot, vanilla and benzoin in particular. This is most evident in the early stages of development, when the zing and spiciness of the lemon and bergamot combine with the sweeter vanilla, a stage when Habit Rouge is at its most dandy. As it dries down, the more leathery and resinous facets come into play, but I detect the same structure throughout.

I chose Habit Rouge over Vetiver (I had been debating which to buy) primarily because I like it, of course, but also because it smells like no other perfume on the market. I understand that Habit Rouge has been reformulated, and also comes in a number of different concentrations or formulations. My bottle is the eau de toilette and smells very similar to how I recall it from a few years ago. The only change, possibly, is that the earlier version I smelled was a touch animalic, while the current version is a bit 'dustier' and drier.

While Habit Rouge is more masculine than Shalimar, I think it is perfectly wearable by a woman. In fact, I suspect there are probably a good few men out there who wouldn't wear it for fear of it not being masculine enough, but perhaps that is a bit presumptuous of me. One thing is clear however, and that is that I have no regret in buying one of the great classic men's Guerlain fragrances.

Image credit -

Monday, 25 June 2012

Parfum d'Empire Azemour

Yesterday I wore Parfum d'Empire's Azemour again. My initial impressions of it, back in February can be found here

I still think Azemour is a very decent perfume, but find that my skin seems to eat it up very quickly. The initial half an hour is wonderful, with the oily, fragrant orange oil full of zing and zest. However, after that it dies down to a very muted, lightly spiced skin scent, at least on me. I've recently read reviews commenting on the cumin facet of this perfume and while I do detect some spice, including a touch of cumin, it is by no means a cumin-fest on me. Having said that, I have a high tolerance for cumin and love cumin-heavy perfumes such as Declaration and Kingdom, so perhaps it is just me.

What I need is an Azemour Intense, me thinks...

Friday, 22 June 2012

A midsummer night's nightmare

The 20th of June was the summer solstice in the northern hemisphere. Forget about new-age druids dancing around Stonehenge, the bright rays of sun skimming the horizon. Forget about elfin characters and pixies gliding through verdant glades. Instead, if you live in the UK, the midsummer night's dream turns swiftly into the midsummer night's nightmare, as the wind howls across the land, threatening to tear up trees in full leaf and rain floods southern villages and summer music festivals. That's Britain for you.

Now that I've vented my spleen, frustrated at our lack of summer, I don't have anything more exciting to say, other than today I wore no perfume at all. It happens occasionally, especially when work hits its peak and for some reason, I can't bear to wear anything when I'm in a bad mood.

The good news is that I am not really in such a bad mood. It's Friday night and and at least we have a weekend to enjoy!

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Scent of the day - Teo Cabanel Alahine

Teo Cabanel Alahine is a gem of a perfume, a sample of which I received kind courtesy of Cymbaline. 

I've read quite a few reviews of Alahine in the past and most describe it as a cozy, feminine amber-and-ylang perfume. I have to say that while it does possess warmth from the oriental-style amber, it does have a resinous 'tang' to it that is almost incense-like at times. I think it is a wonderfully balanced perfume.

I don't know what it is about Alahine, but it possesses something that reminds me (but nothing really alike) of Serge Lutens' Feminite Du Bois, but with less cedar-plum facets and more ylang-ylang and resins. There is something common to both though and I can't quite place it.

While Alahine is feminine, I have to say that I feel I have no difficulty in managing to wear this. At no point do I feel self-conscious. Today was a cooler, rainier day in England and Alahine felt very well suited to such a day. I see it as more of a cooler weather fragrance.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Scents of the day - DS & Durga Petitgrain and The Different Company Sel De Vetiver

Today was one of those rare days in England - a warm sunny day. I needed cheering up this morning, so sprayed Sel de Vetiver on one wrist and DS & Durga Petitgrain on the other. 

I've reviewed both these beauties before, so don't aim to say much here, except that I think Sel de Vetiver is an absolute modern classic. One of my all-time favourites. On a warm, slightly humid day, it sings and hums along, feeling refreshing without ever smelling like a hackneyed marine scent from the nineties.

DS & Durga Petitgrain hits it out of the park as well. It is a citrus scent that has excellent longevity and lasting power. Another thing I love about it is that the petitgrain smell lasts for the duration - it does moderate of course, but it still manages to retain an element of that zingy, slightly bitter petitgrain smell, lightly sweetened and rounded off with woods. Gorgeous.

Monday, 18 June 2012

Department store stinginess and Guerlain La Petite Robe Noire

I mentioned last weekend that while in London I popped into the House of Fraser store in Victoria, found they were having a Father's Day special and bought a bottle of Habit Rouge (very nice by the way). 

While paying for my purchase, I asked the lady behind the counter if she had any Guerlain samples she could throw in. She looked at me hesitantly and then said she could give me some Dior or Chanel samples instead if I liked. I replied by saying that I had tried a lot of Chanel and Dior in the past and was keen to try a few more Guerlains (very politely of course). Eventually she disappeared, rummaging through the drawers, only to re-emerge and state that they did not have any men's Guerlain samples. I replied by saying that I was perfectly happy to try some of the lady's samples. She disappeared again and at long last presented me with my package and said she had put some samples in the bag. 

Once I was out the store I looked in the bag, to discover two samples. One of which was actually a night cream or moisturiser of sorts. So make that one perfume sample. Namely, La Petite Robe Noire. Before moving onto the perfume itself, I have to say I was disappointed with the attitude of the sales assistant. I know I only spent £40 in the store, but honestly, could she have not spared a couple more samples, particularly as I asked her nicely? One would think these stores would want loyal, returning customers and go out of their way to please. When I was in the department store, I could literally count ten customers. There was more staff than paying customers. Could it have hurt to perhaps give me a smile, a thank you for purchasing and perhaps even make an effort? I know I sound a bit cynical and grumpy, but still.

Moving back to La Petite Robe Noire (the little black dress), I can't help but feel hopelessly underwhelmed by the perfume. To me it smells like a candied fruitchouli - it could have been released by half a dozen far less venerable houses than Guerlain. Unoriginal, too sweet and frankly disappointing. I don't expect to always encounter the Guerlinade, and I can understand Guerlain's need to modernise and move with the trends (no easy task for a house with such history and pedigree) but a boring dumb fruity cocktail is not the way to go in my opinion.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Layout change

I have been experimenting with some different blog layouts recently (not live) and am now trying something quite different to what I have used before.

I'd appreciate it if regular users (or otherwise - always happy to have new visitors) could provide me with some feedback on how easy it is to navigate and read generally. I'm not the sort of person who tinkers much with the visuals of my blog - anyone who has followed my musings for the last couple of years will know that I seldom bother with bringing in all the pictures and poetry. This is possibly down to laziness as much as anything else!

Today I did not wear any perfume. In a strange way (pathetic, I know) I feel slightly bereft and out of sorts. Could my perfume passion actually be an addiction?

Enjoy the weekend everybody.


Ok I haven't had much feedback, but irrespective, I am finding it difficult to navigate my new layout, so it is a change back to the old, with a slightly new background. I had high hopes... Sob.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Bex London

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.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

A serendipitous gift

I should qualify the title of this post by stating that the 'gift' I received in the post was not serendipitous in the true sense of the word. Rather, I received a perfume parcel that I knew I could receive, but had forgotten about entirely.

It's hardly the most earth-shattering story, but about a month or so ago, I 'put my name down' on Basenotes to receive samples from a perfume house called Dueto Parfums. I promptly forgot all about it, so was surprised to find a small perfume parcel waiting on my doorstep when I arrived home on the weekend. It contained simply four samples in a small bag. No message, no background information. It took me about an hour to work out why I had received it. Only after Googling 'Dueto Parfums + giveaway' was I directed to Basenotes, which is when the penny dropped.

Anyway, I haven't tried any of the samples yet, but the line includes City Oud, City Love, Golden Boy and their latest, Lady Cool. They seem to be based in Paris, but state that the concept came about by 'four citizens, living in four mega cities teamed up talents to create a new perfume brand', to 'design hype and cool perfumes for trendy people around the world'. I'd prefer to ignore the marketing crapola and concentrate on the perfumes themselves - the proof of the pudding is in the eating - I am not cool or trendy, but I do like a good perfume.

So watch this space...

Monday, 11 June 2012

A trip to London

My family and I went to London on Saturday, which was really a spur-of-the-moment decision, mainly just to get away from home and do something a little different for a change. 

London, as always, was extremely busy. Perhaps more so following the recent Jubilee celebrations. It was also the Queen's birthday, so the Trooping of the Colour was taking place down the Mall, so many surrounding roads and areas were closed off for the morning. My older child, Hannah, is currently learning about the Olympic Games and seeing as it is being held in London this year, she is also learning about famous London landmarks. Therefore we concentrated on walking past most of the famous sites, including Tower Bridge, Tower of London, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, and of course, the London Eye. 

One thing that always strikes me when taking children to London is how un-user-friendly the London transport systems are, particularly the Underground. I know most of the system was built in Victorian times but it is an absolute mission to get anywhere without a hassle, especially when taking along a push chair and two young kids of course. Transport issues aside, we had a great time and the children also enjoyed going to Hamleys, which is a very large toy department store on Regent Street. 

Of course, being in London meant that I had to pay a short visit to two of my favourite perfume stores, Les Senteurs and the fragrance section of Liberty. Whilst at Les Senteurs I picked up samples of the new Bex London perfumes, including SE1 and EC2. At Liberty I tried the new Annick Goutal, Nuit Etoilee, which to my mind is very good indeed. It is very green, particularly at the start and reminded me of the smell of a lush garden, while later it dried down to a fir balsam and pine accord, which fortunately did not recall bathroom cleaning products. My description probably doesn't do it justice, but it is very nice. I see that Liberty is now stocking Santal de Mysore by Serge Lutens. 

Later on I passed a House of Fraser store and purchased a bottle of Guerlain Habit Rouge, which was on special, for Fathers' Day I presume. It was a snap-decision purchase, although I should state that I have tried and enjoyed Habit Rouge for a long time now. As regular readers will know, I don't buy full bottles of perfume very often, and when I do, funnily enough they are almost always mainstream fragrances. I don't know why. I think the only non-mainstream bottles I own are Gris Clair and Tam Dao, and one could argue that Lutens and Diptyque are hardly niche perfume lines these days. Still, when I buy a perfume, I like to think that I go for quality and I really do think that Habit Rouge is an absolute classic. Even nicer is that I am highly unlikely to smell like anyone else in Tunbridge Wells, which is a good thing as far as I am concerned.

Friday, 8 June 2012

Post-Jubilee blues

Following our four-day weekend to celebrate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee (which by the way,  was great save for the depressing grey and wet weather) I feel that this working week, which was only three days long, felt more like thirty three days. It's funny how that works sometimes - perhaps its the mental idea that the week will feel short, but in reality one tends to try to squeeze five days work into three, in my experience.

The good news is that it is weekend again! As with last week, I have felt myself slip into a bit of a perfume slump, feeling less motivated to write about perfume. I'm sure it will pass. I've worn some perfume and particularly enjoyed the new Mahon Leather by Floris (more to come on the Floris line next week). I also revisited Frederic Malle's Un Rose, which I am fairly certain is still my favourite in the line. 

I ended the working week by wearing Delrae's Panache. It's a really good perfume. It was created by Yann Vasnier, who has done some great work with Divine in particular, and is essentially a slightly spicy floral woody-musk, with vetiver, amber and honey to round it off. The wood is oak, which is a nice twist on the woody theme. Panache is one of those perfumes that improves with each wearing, I think. When I first smelled it, it was nice but hardly blew me away. As I wear it more, I've come to appreciate its understated sophistication. While it is quite floral, it is nicely balanced and easily gender-neutral.

Whatever you get up to this weekend, have a good one!

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Annick Goutal Mon Parfum Cheri Par Camille

Do you ever encounter a perfume that the moment you sniff it, in whatever form, on whatever medium, be it skin or paper, you know that it is not going to be for you?

Well, I experienced this with Annick Goutal's Mon Parfum Cheri. I'll be totally upfront and state that I have not given this perfume a fair chance. However, the reason for this is that I can't get past first base - one sniff and I'm gagging. I know this perfume has received some very good reviews, but I cannot tolerate it. Why, you ask? It's difficult to put into words, but I feel as if this perfume is literally choking me, with a powdery, sneeze-inducing haze. 

To call Mon Parfum strong is an understatement. To give you some idea, I had a strip of paper sprayed with some and after throwing the paper away about 10 days ago, my suit pocket is still emitting this most awful, choking, cloying smell of Mon Parfum. It just doesn't fade.

The interesting thing for me is that Mon Parfum has notes of heliotrope, violet, plum, patchouli and iris but smells bone dry and very peppery, for want of a better word. Aesthetically I can visualise (or olfactorise?) what this perfume could be, but isn't, for me and I can also understand why others may find it compelling and lovely.

I will end by saying please don't take my word for it, but rather try it for yourself, if you haven't already. It may turn out to be wonderful for you. You may ask why I bothered to write about Mon Parfum at all. I really wanted to convey how strange it still is to me how some perfumes, no matter how good (or not) they are, can almost repulse me, or trigger a viscerally negative response. It is at times like this (and equally when  a perfume blows me away) that I truly believe perfume has a magical element to it.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

A Jubilee Weekend and Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier

Well, today was the start of the Jubilee bank holiday weekend here in the UK, which means a four-day break and lots of festivities to mark the Queen's diamond jubilee, a 60-year reign as monarch. I can't say I'm complaining. Of course, this being England, the weather has now changed from gloriously sunny to much cooler and damp, which is par for the course for any holiday on the muddy isle!

I've had a bit of a quiet time this week, perfume-wise. I've worn perfume of course, but haven't really felt too inspired to write or note much for some reason. Yesterday I wore two perfumes from Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier, Eau des Iles and  Parfume D'Habit. The first is essentially a green coffee, herbal and woody fragrance, while the second is a woody-leather, to my nose. I find both of these MPG creations very complex, very masculine and, if I'm being honest, quite difficult to wear. If you don't like them, be warned: they both stay around a long time on skin.

I'll say one thing about all the MPG masculine fragrances I've tried, which include the two above as wells as Santal Noble and Iris Bleu Gris, and that is that they are uncompromising masculine. I don't generally like to genderise perfume, but I do find these ones very much like this.

What's interesting about Jean Laporte, the man who first founded L'Artisan before starting MPG (and now sadly no longer with us) is that I don't find much of a link, or bridge between the style of L'Artisan and MPG, in terms of actually fragrance. Aesthetically yes (both houses seem to have a quality, vision and integrity to me), but the perfumes don't seem inspired by the same person, although this could just be my personal perception.

What also interested me is I read that Jean Laporte was the founder of Sisley.


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