Monday, 30 April 2012

Scent of the day - Angeliques sous la Pluie

After days of seemingly endless rain today we finally had a day that verged on glorious, a fitting end to April, with the darling buds of May beckoning.

Feeling in a light-hearted mood, I decided to wear Angeliques sous la Pluie. Just saying that name makes me feel good. I've reviewed the fragrance before, see here. What I said then still holds true, except that today it was even more of a skin scent than previously. This time I also detected a lot more musk. The strange thing about this perfume is that it is so light that you really do have to hold your nose right up to your skin to detect it, yet it genuinely does last all day.

In a way, it is perfect for spring, capturing that most fleeting of seasons.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Roja Dove Diaghilev and 400th post

I've had a teeny bit of Roja Dove's Diaghilev for close on six months now, possibly even longer, yet I have never tried it. Courtesy of Carol from waftbycarol refer to this link for her great review. I'm not sure why I hadn't tried it until yesterday. Possibly it is a case of increasing numbers of samples, with the inevitability that some get missed. I had it in a drawer at work, but every time I looked at it, I thought that I would struggle to pull it off in a work environment, having read that it is a chypre in the grand old style.

I needn't have worried. Like other classic chypres (and Diaghilev obviously isn't, in the sense that it was only created in the last couple of years) it can be worn by a man, in my opinion. I wear Mitsouko quite often, although I must admit that it is easiest to wear the current eau de toilette, which I think is the most man-friendly, for want of a better expression. Anyway, I digress.

Diaghilev surprised me in the sense that it was full-on chypre goodness, with plenty of florals and oakmoss, yet had a sensuousness (perhaps an almost oriental feel) later on in the base, no doubt as a result of the vanilla, and patchouli possibly. Like Carol mentions in her review, there is a definite  animalic-ness to it, which makes it feel quite classic and vintage in feel, despite its recent heritage. This is possibly no surprise, considering Roja Dove's love for a lot of the classic perfumes.

I was wearing Caron's Nuit de Noel a few nights ago and was struck by the similarity between the two, at least to me. While the Caron perhaps differs slightly by having that distinctive Caron base (by the way, I can find a definite correlation between Nuit de Noel and Tabac Blonde, ignoring the smoke and leather aspects, but that's another story) they are both essentially excellent old-school-in-feel chypres, which can't be a bad thing.

Sorry to be so vulgar as to not only keep tabs on my post count, but also to have the temerity to draw attention to it, but today is my 400th post. I'm not obsessed with post counts, but having reached the 400 milestone I was struck by how quickly time flies - it really does seem sometimes like it was just the other day that I posted for the first time on From Top To Bottom!

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Scent of the Day - ELDO Antihero

I am seldom left without an opinion (or a strong one) when it comes to ELDO's perfumes. There are some I like and some that, quite frankly, I don't.

Trying Antihero today, I should state from the outset that a lavender-dominant perfume has to have something different to attract me - if I want the true smell of lavender, unadulterated, I would prefer during the summer to stand next to my path lined with lavender bushes in full bloom.

Two lavender perfumes that I do really enjoy both are by the same house, Serge Lutens, namely Gris Clair and Encens et Lavande. I also quite enjoy Caron's Pour Un Homme and Jicky.

Anyway, Antihero smells very lavender-y straight from the vial. The opening is also very much dominated by lavender, to the point that the perfume smells nose-searingly of the essential oil. After that, it smells a bit synthetic. I gave the perfume time to settle down, then when I smelled it again, I was struck by a smell that quite frankly smells like halitosis. I kid you not, and it is the first time I have smelled such an accord in a perfume; not a welcome one, mind you. I thought this would be a deal-breaker, unsurprisingly, yet this bad breath phase only lasts a few minutes, following which Antihero softens to a musk-and-lavender base that is not a million miles removed from Pour Un Homme actually, without ever smelling exactly like it.

I have to say that Antihero is a strange fragrance. I need to try it a few more times to see if that bad breath note comes back...

Friday, 27 April 2012

Scent of the day - Mazzolari Lui

Today I revisited a patchouli fragrance that I have often referenced to, yet for some reason have seldom worn over the last year, namely Mazzolari Lui. 

You can find a review of mine from a couple of years ago here. I'm not sure what more I can add to this, considering that since that review I have probably tried a dozen excellent patchouli-dominant perfumes, probably more. To be honest, Lui still strikes me as one of the best. Having said that, if you aren't a fan of a strong, distinctive patchouli note, then I'd be surprised if you will like Lui. 

Lui is animalic, fur-like, musty, earthy and dry. Then in the dry down it becomes warmer, slightly sweeter, almost polished in feel, without losing its sexy, distinctive character. Lui means 'him' if I'm not mistaken, but to me Lui is not necessarily that masculine. Personally I often find that patchouli has a more masculine character about it anyway, particularly the stronger ones, though that isn't to say that I think a woman can't wear patchouli. On the contrary  I would positively encourage anyone to try Mazzolari Lui. It is that good.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Fenwick fumeheads

I've mentioned a few times on this blog that I regularly visit the two department stores in my hometown, Tunbridge Wells. 

Over the last few weeks I've got to know a little better three of the lovely ladies who work in the perfume section of Fenwick. It's always refreshing when I meet people who actually enjoy and appreciate the products they sell. I am not cut out to be in any retail business, but if I were, I think I would struggle if I could not be excited by my product. Not everyone is like that of course - walk through any department store in a big bustling city and you will encounter just as many people who couldn't give a monkeys about it. I'm not judging, but just saying...

Anyway, Fenwick has got in some interesting perfumes recently. I think it must be difficult sometimes to cater to varying tastes. Fenwick stock a lot of very mainstream perfumes and there is nothing wrong with that at all and they also try to get in some of the more interesting lines out there which I reckon must involve  a fair amount of judgement  in trying not to stock something that is so niche that it doesn't sell, particularly in a smallish town, albeit a fairly affluent one.

It is nice to see that they are stocking Tom Ford's Neroli Portofino, which I personally think smells great. It is a citrus cologne, but has good lasting power. Also new are two Creeds, Bois de Cedrat and Zeste Mandarine Pamplemousse, both perfect for spring weather, speaking of which, has deserted the UK, quite sadly. Also in is Boucheron Jaipur and Jaipur Homme, which I haven't seen a lot of in recent years. Jaipur Homme is an oriental, and used to be talked about quite a lot on the Basenotes boards a few years ago, but doesn't seem to garner as much attention these days. Another fairly recent addition is Uncle Serge's L'eau Froide, which I prefer to the original, with a more interesting twist of icy incense.

So, to my friends at Fenwick's perfume department - keep up the good work, and enjoy the samples!

Monday, 23 April 2012

On perfume 'compliments'

I don't receive a lot of perfume compliments. Actually, on reflection, I don't receive any perfume compliments. 

What I can rely on though, is honesty from my good wife.

Today I wore Lorenzo Villoresi's Patchouli, which I've written about briefly before. I personally think it is quite a nice patchouli perfume, but I always subject my perfumes to the acid test - the scrutiny of my wife's nose.

When I got home this evening I presented my wrist to her in the usual fashion, saying: "smell this, I'm sure you'll like it."(I'm forever an optimist)

My wife's brief but eloquent response was: "Ew, you smell like rat poison!"

Thinking about it, patchouli, with its musty, mothball-like odour, could smell like some sort of pesticide.

For the record, I still like Lorenzo Villoresi's Patchouli. Lorenzo, if you're reading this post, no offence mate, my wife is just like that sometimes...

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.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Scents of the day - Ormonde Jayne Tolu and Orris Noir

I recently acquired the Ormonde Jayne discovery set, not by any endeavour on my part, but thanks yet again to the generosity of a good friend and perfume fanatic. Thank you so much!

I have tried a few from the OJ line in the past, including Ta'if, Isfarkand, Ormonde Woman and Champaca. Having tried Orris Noir now too, I can quite easily recognise a very distinct house note. It's an elegant, slightly peppery, slightly woody, slightly floral accord. If that seems strange, its because I can't really pin it down and describe it. Those of you familiar with the OJ line may know what I mean by this. 

Orris Noir is very good. It strikes me, like all the OJs I've tried, as cool, sophisticated and elegant. I can't claim to detect a massive and distinctive iris note here, but it smells great. I wouldn't describe Orris Noir as a dark or black fragrance, but it does feel like a smell of the night, rather than the day.

Tolu is interesting, because along with Ta'if, it doesn't seem to have as much of that house note that the others in the line do. Tolu is all about balsams and resins and it is fairly sweet too, but balanced. I like it a lot. It stands out in the line as one of the more irreverent of the bunch, the one who likes to let their proverbial hair down. In a line of sophistication and restraint, this is refreshing.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Scent of the day - Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier Iris Bleu Gris

This iris offering for men from MPG is interesting, yet I think I need to wear it a few more times to form a proper opinion. The hefty iris accord is masked somewhat by florals (jasmine), citrus, musk and a herbal/vegetal accord that could come from vetiver and oakmoss.

To my nose Iris Bleu Gris does translate as a bit on the powdery side. I have it from a good source that the reason iris and violet can smell powdery in perfume is because perfumers often reconstitute the roots from a powdered form. In any event, the powderiness is not off-putting to me, but I do tend to prefer iris in a rootier, woody form. I have read some reviews that complain of the soapiness of Iris Bleu Gris. I get what they're saying - if I catch a whiff of the perfume, it does smell a bit soapy, but when I sniff really close up, I realise it is actually the iris accord and it doesn't smell soapy so much as astringent and powdery. I don't know.

The dry down shares a few similarities with a couple of other masculines in the line, in my opinion, in particular Eau Des Iles and Parfum d'habit, in the sense that one realises they share the same pedigree.

I will say that Iris Bleu Gris is complex and interesting. I'm not convinced I'm sold on it yet, but it holds enough intrigue that I will return to it.

Monday, 16 April 2012

Scent of the day - En Voyage Perfumes Go Ask Alice

A sample of Go Ask Alice came to me recently courtesy of my kind friend Cymbaline, whom I met last week in London (post to follow in due course).

I can't say I know a lot about En Voyage Perfumes and Shelley Waddington, the creator behind the perfume. I vaguely remember following the Summer of Love patchouli project last year, but having not encountered any of the perfumes, I didn't pay much attention to it after that. However, now that I've tried Go Ask Alice, I am sure to pay more attention.

Having only worn Go Ask Alice once, I can't provide a lot of detail or opinion at this stage, suffice to state that the way patchouli is presented here is highly unusual and original, in my opinion. Upon first application, Go Ask Alice reminded me strongly of something I've smelled before, but not a perfume. It opens with an accord that I think smells a lot like an orange soft drink I recall from my childhood, but I can't quite pin it down. It's not really orangeade, but sort of like it. The patchouli is not that obvious to my nose until much later, but when it does appear, it isn't in the usual stereotypical accord of cocoa and mothballs. And that is where it becomes difficult for me to state much more, particularly on a first go - the use of patchouli is so unique that I need to think about it some more and also test some more, so watch this space for a later update!

What I will say though, is that Go Ask Alice is a very original and enjoyable perfume, with enough development and complexity to make me want to try it again. 

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Scent of the day - Etat Libre D'orange Rien

Like quite a few people, probably, ELDO's range of perfumes tend to be hi-or-miss with me. One thing I can state though, is that the line seldom fails to elicit some sort of reaction, irrespective of the risque names and packaging, which is a good thing.

Although this is only the first time I've tried Rien, I have to say that straight off the bat it is likely to be a hit. A hard-hitting, slightly smutty leather and patchouli perfume, Rien is definitely not a wilting flower. Personally, it was just the sort of tonic I needed today to perk up my olfactory senses. I can sense that Rien is a perfume that could wear me if I'm not careful or in the wrong sort of mood, but so far, I love it.

At this stage, I don't want to say much more about Rien, other than it contains a lot of leather, patchouli and what has a feel of civet, balanced with sweeter ambery notes and some florals. However, to me it is not really feminine and I didn't feel uncomfortable wearing it. I suspect if you love patchouli or leather, this may just be right up your alley.

Friday, 13 April 2012

A selection of quotes from Michael Edwards French Feminine Fragrances, part two

Following on from my first post a few weeks ago, I thought I'd share a few more quotes from this excellent fragrance book. These quotes cover a slightly later period of the 20th century, up to about 1976. While I could add a few more as a subsequent installment, I think I will stop here. I think these quotes serve to illustrate amply that perfumery is an art!

Guy Robert on Ernest Daltroff: "Today, when copycats make money, and perfumers are discouraged by lawyers and toxicologists from using some of nature's most fascinating products, Daltroff's creations are a reminder of what true perfumery is all about. He devoted his unique taste and sense of balance to a quest for fragrance perfection."

Elsa Maxwell, Jean Patou's press agent, on being told Joy could not be used commercially, as it contained too expensive ingredients (possibly apocryphal): "That's our angle. We'll promote it as the most expensive perfume in the world, a perfect peg for us. And I've got the perfect name for it, Joy. Joy, it conveys a meaning understood all over the world. Wherever perfume is sold, Joy will be the standard of excellence, just as the Rolls Royce is to cars." Hmm, I wonder if Clive Christian tried to take a leaf from this book?

Edmond Roudnitska on Rochas Femme: "The most intense emotion I have ever known was the day Femme was presented in the couturier's salon on Avenue Matignon. They had sprayed the models, the curtains, maybe even the carpets, with the perfume. It was all over, everywhere! The impact shocked me."

Marcel Carles on his father, Jean Carles, who created Ma Griffe for Carven: "He lost his sense of smell after the war. He had nasal polyps and was always catching colds. They cauterised his nose, but must have damaged his 'yellow spot', because he could no longer smell. He continued to create perfumes in his head without ever smelling them, just as Beethoven lost his hearing, yet continued to compose. I'd say he probably never smelt a lot of the great perfumes he made after the war (including Ma Griffe)".

Edmond Roudnitska on creating Diorissimo: "To me, simplicity is the consecration of an artist - any artist in any domain - be it painting, or sculpture, or perfume. Only when they reach the peak of their talent do artists begin to simplify their work."

Marcel Carles recalling Paco Rabanne's brief for what became Calandre: "Imagine its spring. A rich young man arrives in his E-type Jaguar to pick up his girlfriend. Imagine the scent of fast air, speed and leather seats. He takes the girl for a ride along the seaside. He stops in a forest. There he makes love to her on the bonnet of the car."

Philippe Guerlain: "Events such as this (Paris uprising 1968) influence a perfumer, because it is not an artificial creation from an artificial world. Perfume is a work of art, a work of creativity and inspiration, linked to something that has actually happened."

Roja Dove: "Perfumers still study Chamade because its evaporation curve is considered so exceptional."

Jean-Paul Guerlain: "For me, Chamade was Guerlain's first modern perfume after Shalimar and Mitsouko. I am still in love with it."

Jacque Polge on Chanel No. 19: "The key to No. 19 is a very special grade of iris selected by Henri Robert. It accounts for only 1% of the formula, but it makes No. 19."

Jean-Claude Ellena on Roudnitska: "His perfume breathes, has rhythm, and his unique fragrance notes arouse the desire in us to experience it again and again. Edmond Roudnitska thus proves that a perfume is not merely a mixture of fragrance materials, but a work of the human spirit."

Jean-Claude Ellena on First: "We did not test the submissions on the customer to see if they worked. The only test we did was to spray from time to time in the Van Cleef & Arpels shop on the Place Vendome - just spray, to see people's reactions. I believe that First was the last major perfume of this century which was developed in the classical manner, the last perfume not to use marketing. All our thinking was intuitive. Just two people who took responsibility for the fragrance, for everything, for the world! That's a risk no one takes today."

Saturday, 7 April 2012


Some of you may remember a post of mine a couple of months ago when I mentioned that our closest friends in the UK, Darren and Carmen, were moving back to Australia after having lived here for ten years. 

Today was the day we said our farewells. A sad day, made all the stranger and slightly awkward by the fact that we also got together today with other friends to celebrate the birthdays of my wife Wendy and my younger daughter Daisy. So it was happiness mingled with sadness.

Part of me still can't quite believe that this is it and that we are only likely to see them every other year, if we're lucky, or more likely far less frequently than that. Ten years of friendship - it has been a blessing and we will of course continue to be friends from afar, which is easier these days in an age of electronic communications, but still, it hurts, let it be said.

So here's to Darren and Carmen, wishing them all the best for their new life together in Australia.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

April - a damp squib and a cold

I am on holiday for the next week and true to form, after days of glorious spring sunshine, the weather turned, reverting to a much colder, breezy and wet early April. Oh well, that's weather for you, but strange how often it snows during Monday morning rush hour, rather than on the weekend, when we can all enjoy it, or how the whole working week can be sunny and warm, with it turning cold and damp by the weekend!

On the subject of cold, I have 'acquired' one myself, which is mildly irritating at the start of a holiday. Of more concern to someone like myself (and you, dear reader, I am sure) is how a cold affects one's sense of smell. On this occasion, I have completely lost my sense of smell. I am not exaggerating; I literally cannot smell a single thing, foul or otherwise. Even my taste has been affected a bit, although not to the same extent. I could walk into a public toilet that would usually have me wanting to put a peg on my nose and it would smell like the most sanitised, neutral space in the world! I can only hope that this is a very temporary affliction, otherwise I am in trouble.

I hate to start April on such a negative note. I am sure it will get better. For example I am looking forward to meeting a fellow perfumista from the USA next week, who will be in London for a few days.

Happy sniffing, all.


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