Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Vintage Shalimar winner

The winner of the vintage Shalimar EDC sample is Victoria Sheppard, congratulations Victoria! 
Please email your address to my email on the right hand side of this post so I can post it to you.

Monday, 29 July 2013

The Scent of British Spirit, Part 2: The Majestic Fragrance of Grossmith and Floris

Last week I began to investigate the spirit of British perfumery. Part 1 of my 3 part series considered an introductory take on the industry and focussed on the innovative humorous marketing and contemporary creations of Penhaligon’s. To read the post click here.

In this, Part 2, I will explore the connection between fragrance and the concept of royalty and patriotism.

Firstly, I must explain that I’m not much of a royalist, which has made this article especially tough to write! My disdain was probably forged when, as a small child, I waited enthusiastically, drenched in rain with my fellow soggy school mates, to watch the Queen’s procession down our lane. After 3 hours of chilly sodden anticipation, her vehicle passed. Expecting her gracious smile and stately wave to lift our spirits we waved our flags with grinning abandon. We soon deflated at the sight of the back of her head viewed in a 50 mph blur. With questioning eyes we turned to our cross looking parents, how could she ignore us, a hoard of eager little children? Crushed! However, despite this non-event, it would be perverse of me to dismiss the importance of the royal patronage of perfumery, particularly when we look at the birth of perfume retail.

In Sixteenth century France, a fashion arose for wearing attractively fragranced gloves to keep the skin soft and protect the hands of the upper classes from the filth and squalor of the city. Indeed even now, our Queen dons a pair of gloves when out greeting the crowds (and even when shaking the hand of the Pope, who I’m sure is unlikely to give her scabies/warts/flees/the plague etc..) 

Naturally, the perfuming of gloves progressed to the practice of perfuming the environment and body. As Europe’s highly influential royal and courtly citizens patronised the development of bespoke perfumery, this of course ultimately filtered down to ‘off the shelf’ products that could be purchased by less majestic customers. What better way than to be viewed as flourishingly successful than by donning an exotic smell rumoured to be gracing the courts of the reigning family?

Today, the ownership of a royal warrant signifies a connection to royalty, specifically that a company with a warrant has supplied a product to a royal family for a minimum of 5 years. Floris gained their first royal warrant as suppliers of a ‘smooth pointed comb’ to King George the IV. Today, one of their warrants is held as perfumer to our own Queen Elizabeth. I wonder which one she wears? I can imagine her in a traditional floral such as Lilly of The Valley, though you never know, she could be secretly anointing herself in Etat Libre D’ Orange’s ‘Malaise of The 1970s’ or some other such fabulous eccentricity.

Another company trading with a royal warrant are Grossmith, launched in 1825, Grossmith ceased trading in 1980 and rose again in 2009 back under family ownership. For an enchanting tale of the company’s resurrection with detailed photographs of the ornate vintage bottles, read an article from The Telegraph by clicking here.

Grossmith deserve an entire post to themselves really as I was overwhelmed by the gorgeousness and raw pungency of their fragrances. Most interestingly, their collection of three classic orientals (Phul-Nana, Shem-el-Nessim and Hasu-no-Hana) which were composed using the original Victorian formulae without a budget restriction, are highly reminiscent of classic era Guerlain. The curious aspect is that all 3 were released BEFORE Shalimar, L’Heure Bleu and Vol De Nuit. Interesting eh? As I sit here writing, I have Hasu-no-Hana on one wrist and Shalimar on the other. It’s astounding to think that Hasu-no-Hana, ‘killer oriental’ preceded Shalimar by 33 years. I’m wandering off the point again but it does make me question the originality of what I thought were groundbreaking leaders in the genre. Did the Brits at Grossmith actually invent what we know as the benchmark oriental?
  Contemporary bottles of Betrothal and Diamond Jubilee Bouquet

The original Betrothal bottle
Grossmith currently produce two scents associated with royal events. Diamond Jubilee Bouquet was released in 2012 to mark the Diamond Jubilee, the astute amongst you may have already guessed that! Betrothal was launched in 2011 to mark the wedding of William and Kate. Though this was an update of the original Grossmith Betrothal, which was created in 1893 to celebrate the marriage of Queen Mary and King George.

I expected to yawn at Betrothral. The idea of a royal wedding scent to me conjures imagery of ‘pretty pleasantness’. Indeed Kate herself is the ideal PR girl for the modern Royal. She is sweet natured, intelligent, politely charming and highly unlikely to get them into scandalous trouble, in short ‘nice’.

In honour of the royal wives, or dare I say divorcees? Those of you old enough to recall Sarah Ferguson’s exploits will remember her extraordinary sense of fun. Whilst the Internationally adored Diana was busy being photographed in portraits of beauty and enigma by the world’s press, Fergie was pictured in The Sun roaring with laughter, gob wide open, eyes goggling in the manner of a serious thyroid problem. She wasn’t ‘nice’, she had the manic air of someone who you’d probably have a darn good laugh with holed up in a pub for a night. I rather liked her.

I’m wandering off the point here, but what I’m trying to say is that nice contains connotations of boring and Betrothral is definitely not boring. It’s unexpectedly unusual and enormously sexy. Grossmith’s press pack describes Betrothal as:

“Betrothal is a romantic, floral bouquet combining Rose de Mai and Jasmine from Grasse to create a sensual bridal scent.” Grossmith

I agree with this in that it certainly contains extremely high quality natural ingredients (as you would expect from a Robertet creation, a company famous for it’s use of predominantly natural raw ingredients) and it does have a noticeably floral feel. What the statement doesn’t do is reveal the myriad of other fine notes that take it from ‘pretty floral’ to ‘decadent musk bomb’. This is how it works for me:

A striking opening is composed of citrus and ylang-ylang, both fighting each other for dominance. I’ve never been fond of Ylang but in balance with the citrus zest it’s wonderfully ‘shouty’, you certainly notice that you’ve just covered yourself in a perfumey perfume. See? It’s already more Fergie.. Quickly, a whopping great musk appears. Rather than lurking in the base it joins the scrum for immediate note dominance. I’ve not managed to work out what type of ingredients have formed the musk but whatever it may be is convincingly animalistic. I would love to smell genuine civet musk for comparison but these days we consumers baulk at the idea of an unlucky creature having it’s perineal gland scraped out for our olfactory pleasure. I smell very little in the way of standard Jasmine and wonder if this almighty animal whiff could be therefore caused by the combination of Jasmine’s notoriously filthy/lovely indole molecules and a synthetic musk, ultimately creating a highly carnal whiff? With this in mind, Betrothal is distinctly more ‘wedding night’ than ‘marriage’.

As it dries down, the initial notes remain easily detectable but a vanilla/heliotrope accord joins in to project a powdery softness reminiscent of that of Guerlain’s Vol de Nuit and the famous Guerlinade base that formed the structure of so many great Guerlains. At this point you can feel the shift from exuberant to romantic.

This little sample has made it to my ‘keep and eek out by micro milliliters’ box, where it shall be taken out with great care only in moments when I need to smell something extraordinary.

Ultimately Kate did not walk down the isle in Betrothral, she chose White Gardenia Petals by Illuminum. I haven’t smelt it but I imagine it was very much more polite than Betrothral.

In stark contrast is Floris’s Victorious. This isn’t strictly a royal celebration scent, their adaption of Royal Arms (originally created to mark the birth of the Queen and adapted to mark her Diamond Jubilee) is the most relevant for this post. However, I’m bending the rules as I much prefer Victorious! Victorious seems to echo the military connection of the royals, in particular the seafaring naval voyage aspect.
The patriotic artwork of Victorious
“Exclusively launched in 2012 to celebrate the spirit of Great Britain. Bringing together five fragrances families in a complex harmony to symbolise victory through endeavour. Marine, the oceanic freshness of a sea breeze. Citrus, the zest of mandarin and grapefruit. Floral, a heart of neroli, jasmine and petitgrain. Woody, deep enduring notes of sandalwood and vetiver. Oriental, comforting vanilla and warm spices weave through from the top notes to the base” Floris catalogue

Complex indeed, a veritable eton mess of notes (chuckling at my own toff pun). Somehow it works though, with the most dominant of the fragrance families being the marine and spices. Ordinarily I find marine scents a little lacking, in that they are not as ‘fresh’ as the sensation of citrus and cannot possibly replicate the beauty of hyper charged ozonic atoms rushing off the sea. What Floris has created is essentially a marine with unexpected note partners. If you cannot replicate the wonder of the sea and the exoticism of the early colony seeking voyages of our sea faring nation simply by making an Aqua Di Gio, why not stick a load of other stuff in there to make it more interesting. A very good idea.

I find it hard to describe the wear of this scent as it’s so incongruously quirky (I could see it sitting comfortably amongst Etat Libre D’ Orange’s range rather than on the polished genteel shelves of Floris). So, here is a list of things it reminds me of:

Biscuits containing bits of ginger and candied citrus like those lovely Scottish ones that I can’t remember the name of, lovely old fashioned waxy furniture polish in National Trust properties, dried coriander seeds and fresh coriander stalks, iodine infused seaweed after it’s attached itself to rocks on the beach. There you go, not entirely to do with it’s listed notes but that’s how it appears to my nose!

Some final thoughts on what the other royals should wear:

Princess Anne: Bottega Veneta – Bottega Veneta (highly natural chypre with notes of hay and leather, obvious equine associations).

Prince Charles: Gorilla Perfume from Lush – Flower’s Barrow (all natural ingredients with a charitable donation from it’s geranium oil, ideal for the champion of organic agriculture)

The Queen Mum were she still with us: Penhaligon’s - Juniper Sling (she notoriously adored gin and was a very pretty girl in the Art Deco period).

Prince Harry: Adidas - Sport Fever (self explanatory)

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Wednesday, 24 July 2013

The Scent of British Spirit, Part 1: Penhaligon's and The Reinvention of Heritage

Is there a ‘British spirit’ in perfumery? With so many of our fragrances originating in France, why are so few home grown? A possible answer is that we, as a nation, are less avid fragrance wearers than our European neighbours. Within my own social circle and family there are folks who would only don a spritz of fume when making preparations for a night out, rarely bothering with scented adornments as part of their daily wardrobe. It simply isn’t a National obsession unless you count the hoards of teenagers sporting the latest celebrity concoction (although the online presence of the niche fragrance community has sparked a recent wave of interest that appears to be growing rapidly). 

Another feasible answer could be that the source of many perfumery ingredients originate in France, with floral absolutes abounding in Grasse and innovations in synthetics being created by companies such as Firmenich.

Whatever the reason, we associate the notion of ‘French’ perfume as being essentially, luxurious, sometimes decadent and of exceptional quality, essentially – the best.

Despite the seat of fragrant power reigning in France, I believe we do have our own identity in Britain. I see our industry as falling into two distinct territories: The first of these being ‘The Historics’ e.g. Penhaligon’s, Floris and Grossmith who can be thought of as creators of fine fragrances and toiletries, each with at least one Royal Warrant and over one hundred years of trading. I imagine this is how tourists who adore our Royal Family and travel to see Big Ben view Britain i.e. steeped in history, class and tradition.

A friend hailing from my teenage years came from a ‘posh’ family. On her ornate Victorian dressing table sat a great many fragrant hand-me-downs from her stepmother. Amongst these were Penhaligon’s Bluebell and Lily of The Valley by Floris. Both scents remind me of Sarah’s grand house and the rather stuffy atmosphere of Middle England. That said, taking a bath with their decadent oils and lotions was quite wonderful.

The second category could be considered ‘The Indie Spirit’ where independent perfumers have created small lines with limited distribution and the DIY ethic that comes with the lack of major commercial backing. Britain leads the world in the indie music scene with bands on tiny labels creating masterpieces of originality appreciated by ‘real’ music aficionados. Likewise, small indie fragrance companies such as Miller Harris and Ormonde Jayne and really small lines from Ruth Mastenbroek and Sarah McCartney of 4160 Tuesdays have gained cult status, with the last two being stocked by London’s ultimate retail shrine for fume junkies – Les Senteurs. In itself Les Senteurs reeks of indie spirit. With it’s delightfully playful atmosphere, hugely knowledgeable sales staff and enormous range of quirky fragrances, it’s absolutely opposite to Harrods snooty rarefied atmosphere. If I lived close to London I’d probably visit weekly and most definite beg them for a job.

In part 1 of this exploration of British scent, I’ll discuss Penhaligon’s and ponder the enormous shift in marketing and mood. Part 2 (coming soon) will take a look at Grossmith and Floris and the idea of ‘the scent of royalty’. Part 3 will reveal the DIY-ers and their contribution to the world of niche.

Part 1: Penhaligon’s

Established in 1870, Penhaligon’s is one of Britain’s oldest perfumeries. Although concessions exist large stores, Penhaligon’s boutiques exist in towns associated with wealth, heritage and tourism such as Chester, Edinburgh and Cambridge in addition to plentiful London locations. As the proud owners of two royal warrants, they have historically traded as a luxury brand for those with an appreciation of heritage and quality raw materials. I can hear you yawning. Stifle the boredom and read on as change has occurred..
At some point recently, a very clever thinker has turned Penhaligon’s from ‘posh shop’ into ‘niche Brit darling’. Their website states:

Our fragrant adventure began in the Victorian era of decadence and carries us into the future as we strive to create original scents for the discerning eccentrics of today. True modern dandies and bold women who are proud to go their own way. .”

In essence, this means that they are holding onto their quality products but having a great deal of fun poking fun at the notion of heritage and poshness (yes, I know that’s not really a word but I am a Northerner and it means something to us). Embracing the daft manners of stuffy old Britain, they have injected a huge dose of humour into their marketing and encouraged customers (who might now be ‘commoners’ who simply love perfume, the chaps and chappettes who appreciate a little comic eccentricity) to get involved with social media and communicate via reviews and commentary on the website.  

Some cheeky snippets of smelly fun currently gracing the website include:

Perhaps my favourite tongue in cheek touch is the ditching of stars to indicate popularity. Instead they have a star rating with moustache icons, genius!

 In addition to the shift in mood, there is a change in the actual products. Classics such as the infamous Bluebell or the magnificent eau de cologne – Douro will remain eternal. However, perhaps influenced by sister company L’ Artisan Parfumeur, the fragrances are becoming much more artistic and brave. Employing the services of highly creative perfumers such as Olivier Cresp and Bertrand Duchaufour, the fragrances are moving into distinctly niche territory.

If you take a tour round the Penhaligon’s website, there is much to play with for the ardent fume junkie. Each scent’s page delivers plentiful information including detailed note descriptions and historical information. The ‘journal’ area is an intimate blog that invites us into their world, a welcoming place, even offering us ‘stories’ (see new release ‘Vaara’ for a video and wonderful drawings from Duchaufour’s own sketchbook). As a Penhaligon’s customer, you feel connected to the products, as if you know them without even smelling them. I imagine that more companies will try to emulate this intimacy as it definitely builds curiosity and enchantment.

My sample set included a range of scents from the historic to the new. Here are some of my impressions:

Penhaligon’s most popular historic scent is the 1902 creation, Blenheim Bouquet.

Blenheim Palace

An aristocratic citrus, dry and aromatically anchored with woods and lavender, Blenheim Bouquet takes it inspiration from the iconic Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire, the ancestral seat of the dukes of Marlborough whose illustrious descendants include Sir Winston Churchill.”

With references to royalty, power and the implication of genteel masculinity, this scent certainly possesses the aristocratic heritage that we find in traditional British perfumery. But can it be worn by a Guardian reading, left-leaning, feminine (ish!) fume junkie such as myself? Yes, despite my long standing ex art school ethics I can ‘posh-up’ and accept the snooty whiff with great enjoyment. This is how it wears:

Initially, a prominent lemon and lime note effervesces, providing a citrus stimulant in the tradition eau de cologne style. Underneath lies a peppery sharpness that complements the refreshing top notes of the scent with a little longevity. Further into it’s wear, a markedly natural combination of woody herbaceous notes mingle together to give an oddly ‘savory’ feeling. Within this savory blend are clear whiffs of lavender, pine and rosemary and although they aren’t actually there, I also smell thyme and oregano, with an atmospheric nod to Mediterranean cuisine. I don’t really smell any muskiness as listed in the base, nor any hint of warmth or sensuality. Although it’s not amongst the most exciting scents I’ve smelt, it’s certainly a great ‘classic’ masculine that would be appreciated by those who adore Guerlain’s Vetiver or any in the manner of ‘clean and natural’.  

More symbolic of Penhaligon’s quirky new identity, is the delightful Sartorial. Created in 2010 by the much revered Bertrand Duchaufour, this fragrance is appealing to both my nose and my appreciation of creativity in story telling. I was amazed to see that they sell Sartorial scented 'beard oil' and thought of the trend for fulsome beards amongst Manchester's young Creative community. It would make a fabulous gift for an arty chap who I imagine is probably one of Penhaligon's current target market.

“Sartorial is a contemporary interpretation of the fougère family of fragrances, a line of rich masculine scents tracing a lineage back to the original Fougère Royale made in 1882 by Houbigant. In Sartorial, the classic fougère notes of moss, tonka bean and lavender have been exquisitely stitched together with woods, leather, violet, honey, musks, ginger and black pepper. The thread running through Sartorial is beeswax, echoing the blocks of wax each thread is run across before stitching. This sweet smudged note ties together beautifully cut notes designed to create the perfect illusion of a tailor’s workroom – metal shears, steamed cloth, tobacco-tinted cabinetry, tailor’s chalk, dust and vintage paper patterns.”

Appropriate to the brand, it references history (Saville Row and the British tradition of gentlemen’s tailoring) and adds some contemporary quirk via the inclusion of the olfactory imagery of tailor’s tools. It’s not just PR blah, you can genuinely detect the metallic facets of shears, the laundry-esque sensation of a hot iron searing steam into fabric and most prominent of all – the beeswax. I use natural beeswax for candle making, in here I can smell the wax as it liquefies at melting point, a warm and almost ‘muggy’ smell as if it’s animalistic scent is smothered by heat.

On my skin, the lavender and tonka/coumarin notes reside with equal billing amongst this waxy whiff. Leather additionally has a very brawny presence which renders the scent rather sensual. Towards it’s closure, a sweet, almost gourmand nuance is apparent with tonka and honey welding into gloopy delight. It does, without doubt, remind me of Faberge Brut, the most memorable Fougere for my generation. Before you baulk at ‘Brut’, try to ignore the memories of your Dad’s ablutions and ponder what it actually smelt like. It was good, damn good! Sartorial however, is a much subtler interpretation of the Fougere. Imagine that Brut is a full orchestra reaching the clanging crescendo of a gung-ho marching composition, Sartorial is the part where all the other instruments fall silent and the wood wind section delivers a cheeky scamper through the melody.

To further highlight the contrast between the ‘old and new’ of Penhaligon’s, take a look at the packaging of their beautiful samples. On the reverse of Blenheim Bouquet, we see two icons signaling formal royal warrants. Whilst on the reverse of Sartorial we see a continuation of golden waxed thread leading to a tiny sewing machine. Sartorial clearly carries connotations of conceptual perfumery with a hint of humour and a great deal of creativity – exactly what we’d expect from Duchaufour. 

I chose to talk about the more masculine side of Penhaligon’s here, partly because they are very good at men’s scents (I think both detailed here are a moustache too far to be considered gender neutral) and partly because I haven’t had the opportunity to delve my nose into many of those suitable for sharing or feminine wear. 

In summary, my preconception of the brand's stuffiness has been thoroughly shattered. I look forward to trying Vaara, their new oriental release which promises to be a romantic oriental in the contemporary style i.e. More ‘travel’ than ‘Victorian tour’. 

The King is dead, long live Penhaligon's!

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Dark, fragrant fiction - Jean Lindsay, Guest Writer

Those of you who read Jean Lindsay's fragrant memoir of her mother's precious Soir de Paris (Evening in Paris), enjoyed her evocative descriptions of life as a young girl in the 1950s. Writing once more for Odiferess, Jean reveals the darker side of her literary works. 
Be warned, you may never wear Lutens Gris Clair or Penhaligons Bluebell again!

I first noticed it last Tuesday when I came home from work. Imagine you are painting a stormy seascape. Take some Paynes grey, mix a loose wash and then with a large brush, say a hake, drag the wash right along the top of your paper. Part of it will seep in and part of it will run down. Thats exactly the effect on the wall. Running right along, under the cornice, which incidentally is beautiful, left white thank goodness, very ornate, early Victorian I would say.
s very elegant- my flat- well bed sitting room I suppose. In its halcyon days, when the house contained a family, before its main artery was severed and it was chopped into several dwellings, it must have been the master bedroom. It has a wide bay window looking out onto the front garden where a large beech tree spreads its fingers and they almost touch the window. I feel as if Im in the middle of a wood.
My bed is in one corner, covered in an old silk bedspread; Vermillion with Chinese embroidery in Jade and gold. The carpets are ancient and the furniture is carved walnut, heavy and dark but in keeping with the house.
s a large table under the widow and the light is excellent, ideal for my painting. The whole place exudes an aura of faded grandeur. It will suit me for a while anyway. Until I get over things.
Anyway, I stood on a chair to get a better look at the mark, relieved to find it wasn
t damp. I was afraid that the water tank may have burst in the loft.
By the weekend the grey had spread down the wall. The landlord had given me his number, only to be used in an emergency, but this seemed serious enough to me. He lives out in the dales somewhere. In a stately pile I should think, if all his rents are as high as mine. He said that my room was the best in the house on account of it being over his private apartment, thought I might like the peace and quiet, being a bit older than his usual bed sit tenants. He collects the rents on the first Saturday of the month and stays over in the flat. Probably has a floozy on the side. He seemed a touch off hand when I rang him. Assured me there was no damp in the house and had I been doing some DIY that had gone wrong. I replied that I certainly had not. I
m not the DIY type. He said hed come and inspect it, but not for a few weeks as he was going off on a golfing holiday to the Algarve and would I put the rent cheque through his letterbox.
Yes this room will be fine. I
m glad I made the move. I couldnt bear to stay in the house without her… How can you live with someone and not realize theyre in love with someone else? They were going to live in Ireland - her and the new man, some where remote on the West coast. She didnt want any thing from the house - new start she said.
I couldn
t get rid of her perfume after shed gone. I could smell it every where. I put all her clothes in bin bags and took them down to the RSPCA shop. She loved her clothes -always immaculate - that was one of the first things I noticed about her. Jewellery too, all of it went. The cosmetics went in the bin, bottles jars, hair dye - that was a surprise. Id no idea she had so much stuff and even when I got rid of I could still smell her perfume. It seemed to have permeated deep into the drawers and the wardrobes and the bed - especially the bed, the place where we had made love…passionately… right up until the time that she told me she was leaving - shocked me that.
I put the house on the market straight away. It sold quickly as I knew it would. It was a lovely house. Ten years we
d been there. Id planted an orchard with bluebells, always thought wed have kids one day and pictured them picking apples in the autumn.
The young couple who bought it were starting out, so I left them everything,
carpets furniture - the lot. They were grateful.
Morris called me into his office today. Asked me how I was coping on my own. I told him fine. He said but on a scale of one to ten. I said oh about six, and he said why didn
t I go home with him tonight and have a meal. Wednesdays his wifes Yoga night and she leaves him a casserole in the oven, we could have a chat over a good bottle of shiraz. I told him thanks but I had to get home to the flat. I had a problem with my walls they were going grey.
The bus was crowded tonight. It
s unnerving being in such close proximity to strangers. I dont like my personal space being invaded, but I expect Ill get used to it.
I got rid of the car, there didn
t seem much point in keeping it. Im only a couple of miles from the office, the bus is handy and its a relief not having parking problems.
I went into the City last weekend, bought lots of new clothes, a suit for work, shirts ties, that sort of thing and some casual stuff for weekends. I binned my old things, I could still smell her perfume on them. The grey has spread to the other walls now. It
s most odd.
There must be other people living in the house although I never see them. Their entrance will be round the back. I occasionally hear music through the adjoining wall, but only faintly. That
s the advantage of an old house. The walls are very thick. I suppose I could go round one night and see if any one else is having problems with the walls, but I dont really want to get involved with neighbours.
I got soaked tonight walking from the bus stop. It looked like a nice day, so I didn
t take my umbrella. Ill put my take away in the oven and have a shower, thatll warm me up. I can eat in my dressing gown. Its quite liberating knowing that no ones going to call. Theres a Chinese take away, a curry house and a chip shop all near by. I never need to cook. The grey is in the shower cubicle now. It has a strong smell I cant quite place.
Morris called me into his office again today. Asked how I was progressing with the plans for the new ring road. Said he thought I
d have had the outline plans finished by now. I told him Id get a move one, but Id been having headaches these last few weeks and theyd slowed me down a little. I said I was still having problems with my walls. He said that he thought some time off was in order, he knew Id been under a lot of pressure lately and why didnt I pop along and see my GP and hed get David Carter to finish off the plans as the City Council were pushing for completion.
I won
t set the alarm tonight. Ill have a rest in the morning. I am feeling a little stressed, but theres no need to the see the doctor.
The grey has started to creep across the ceiling now. I lie on my back and watch it travel.
s strange being home in the daytime. Ive been sitting by the bay window painting the beech. Its so beautiful. The leaves are fully out now and when the sunlight hits them theyre almost fluorescent. I struggled getting the exact green, I got it eventually - Lemon Yellow with just a spot of Viridian. Its a lovely window, very elegant; long panels with opening lights in stained glass above. The problem is that when I open them the noise of the traffic is unbearable, so I have to keep them closed and it gets hot. I still dont understand why she didnt tell me she was unhappy. She said that shed tried to, but I didnt listen. I said how can you just fall out of love with some one, and she said it was easy when they were on another planet. I still dont know what she meant by that.
s so hot this morning. Ill lie on the bed for a while. I dont even need to get dressed, Im not going any where. All the walls are grey now and so is the ceiling. Id have a shower but the waters grey and smells too. I dont feel clean however hard I scrub.
s getting dark now. It might be late or it might be the grey, Its shading the windows like a veil. I recognise the smell now. Its the smell of earth and bluebells. Yes… of course thats it,…wet earth and bluebells. It was raining that afternoon and I got drenched to the skin. She was only about five foot, petite I suppose youd call her, but the grave took a lot of digging. I picked the bluebells first, she loved bluebells. I covered her with them, all except her beautiful face. She looked so serene.
I can smell her perfume on the pillow again. I thought I
d got rid of it - so strong - Its’s as if she’s here in the room.
The grey is covering the carpets now and rising like fog. I can feel the chill and smell the stench.
s on my feet now, theyre going numb. I raise my hands and note the distended grey veins. Its found its way into my bloodstream. Up my legs now. I cup my testicles in my right hand and grasp my flaccid penis. There is no feeling. I’m floating in a cloud of perfume, I can hardly breathe. Ill lie here quietly and wait. It wont be long.

Jean Lindsay

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Thursday, 11 July 2013

Review: Caron - Eaux de Caron Fraiche, King cologne!

The Eau de Cologne resides at the heart of European perfumery. As we spritz ourselves with a revitalizing burst of citrus notes, we echo the fragrant habits of our ancestors, some of whom bathed in it and even drank it, believing it to be medically restorative!

Typically, notes of neroli, edible citrus fruits, bergamot, herbs and a little something musky or earthy to anchor the base, constitute what we know as an Eau de Cologne. The archetypal cologne could be said to be Maurer & Wirtz’s 4711, launched in the highly odiferous world of 1792. Retailing at a very low price it can be used as intended – to literally douse yourself in it with a vigorous splash. However, in our modern world we can use it daily after a shower instead of daily to disguise the musky stench of unwashed bodies.

I first became smitten with the lemony delight when (working as a sales rep for a magazine in the mid 90s) I attended a trade fair in Madrid. The definitive daytime scent of the Spanish man is Alvarez Gomez – Aqua de Colognia. Bought in enormous bottles, this citrus bomb 
plasters everything from men and women to laundry and babies.

The men of Madrid looked damn good, well these ones did. They were representatives from the casino industry; slicked back dark locks, well cut suits (including some sporting colonial white linen, something of a fetish for me), intense eyes, often of a startling blue, and a big wodge of attitude that comes from being wealthy and prominent in a rather dubious business. I did rather well in Madrid, picking up significant new advertising business and boosting dilapidated accounts. I can only assume that I must have flirted my way through the sales pitch, drooling figures and USPs whilst twirling my hair and acting coy. I assume that the reason I love cologne so much is that I find it sexy, long held associations with the casino crowd are anchored in the smell of lemons!

The best of my vast cologne collection is Caron’s relatively unknown and certainly uncelebrated Eaux de Caron Fraiche. As one part of a trilogy of fresh cologne style EDTs, it stands out as a unique interpretation of the genre. Why? Because it doesn’t stink of neroli, a note of which I am growing increasingly bored. Instead it offers the following notes:

“Lemon, fresh and bitter grapefruit, mandarin, sweet and fresh bergamot, artemis and balmy galbanum refreshes the top notes. The heart is made of narcotic rose, flowery sweet and clear jasmine spiced up with nutmeg and patchouli. Settled in the base are oakmoss and sensuous musk.” (quote from fragrantica)

To my nose, this is initially a lemon and bergamot fragrance with an air of sweetness that reminds me of quaffing sharp, fizzy sherbet lemons. Just like the sweets, it makes you suck in your cheeks with it’s first shot of acidity. But then, just when you are thinking ‘standard citrus cologne’ you notice something else – an edge of soft earthiness, a damp forest floor vibe, a rich peaty soil. This effect, in just a few minutes, transforms the scent into a magnificent oakmoss. It’s almost like the bones of chypre (bergamot and oakmoss), with very little else apart from a gentle spice. The floral notes listed here are barely discernible. Maybe this is what Mitsouko or Femme would smell like before the addition of their other powerhouse notes?

Alike my eternal Caron favourite ‘Eau de Reglisse’, this fragrance provides a real ‘journey’ from top to base with a dry-down that is unrecognizable from the first spray. This appeals to me enormously, perhaps because the sharp entry refreshes and uplifts whilst the tender exit comforts and calms.

The downside of Eaux de Caron Fraiche is that it’s a monumental mission to get hold of unless you live in France. My bottle was an online blind buy, inexpensive and exquisitely successful. If you love colognes this will definitely not disappoint you.

Other recommended cologne style fragrances in my collection:

Yves Rocher – Cedre Bleu (delightful cedar/sandalwood, fresh themed wood cologne)
Dior – Escale aux Marquises (bitter orange and spice, very long lasting)
Caron – Eau de Reglisse (my ‘signature’, lemon verbena, liquorice and spices)
Guerlain – Eau Imperiale (lime/lime blossom, beautiful but shockingly short lived)
Comme de Garcons Series 4 Cologne: Vettiveru (weird, slightly medicinal vetiver)

With the temperature this week set high and rising, tell me, what are your favourite colognes?

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Shalimar Eau de Cologne, my first vintage. Plus a giveaway!

This week marked my foray into a new and potentially expensive fragrant habit – vintage scent.

I’ve always been wary of buying a dud, a vessel once lovely, that’s been open for an age or has sat looking pretty (and turning rancid) in the sunlight of somebody’s equally vintage dressing table. That, alongside the possibility that you are wearing the scent of a deceased stranger, put me off.

But spurred on by multiple readings of Elena Vosnaki’s wonderful descriptions of vintage Shalimar at Perfume Shrine, I decided to look out for a safe bet. My safe bet came in the form of a completely sealed early 1980s Shalimar EDC in an elegant Art Deco style watch bottle. As the ebay seller had only photographed the box and not the bottle, it became mine for a fortunate price.

As the days passed since the auction, I waited with torturous impatience for it to land in my hands. I was curious to test it, fearful of it’s potentially stale juice, yet desperately hopeful to be overwhelmed by leather, civet and sandalwood from a time when they might be profuse. Daft really as I’m old enough for the bottle of Shalimar I bought in my late teens to be considered vintage!

Upon it’s arrival I sat staring at the package on the floor for some time. I wanted to delay it’s unveiling with a sense of ceremony, so I reached for my camera to document the grand opening..

I love the screw box, so incongruous!

The first glimpse of 80s Glamour

A peak of the metallic minaret, I emit a gasp as I clock the perfect untampered seal..

.. and at sigh at the beauty of this Art Deco wonder

 I sit and stare for some time before daring to break the seal.

So what does it smell like? Well, unsurprisingly it smells like Shalimar. However, there is an extraordinary opening that projects mighty lemon and bergamot notes. Not sharp, but copiously bright and euphoric. I adore citrus, and this bottle gives it to me underpinned with the depth that you’d expect from Shalimar’s army of pungent smoky balsamic notes. I’ve never thought of Shalimar with the same adoration as I allot to Mitsouko. Mitsouko is supernaturally beautiful, while Shalimar is a bit gaudy and wanton.

This EDC bottle however, provides a Shalimar ‘for me’, in that a lot of the vanillin is missing and is replaced by a stronger slap of the leathery/musky/animalic dirtiness, less sweet – more erotic. I think I smell the sandalwood as much as the iris because the powdery quality of Shalimar, whilst still there, seems tempered and creamier. The smokiness is unexpected in a cologne (more wood smoke than incense) and it adds a magnificent androgynous depth to the otherwise uber femme concoction. I really need to smell a current EDC to see exactly how different (if at all) the 80s version is to it’s contemporary daughter.

Is this how it will be for me now? A fixation with comparing formulations over the years? A beef with IFRA for restricting beloved ingredients? A search for sealed bottles at lofty prices? I’m going to try not to get too involved, there are enough perfumery playthings in the world to satisfy me for now.

I’m giving away a small sample of my delightful Shalimar EDC to one lucky reader. To enter the draw, simply leave a comment below. Sorry, but due to postal regulations it’s only available to readers in the UK.

To end this article, I’ll refer you to a wonderful post from Club Fragrantica by perfume enthusiast – Jacster, writing of the lure of vintage:

“You'll be amazed to find that your spending priorities will undergo a gradual change. What was - perhaps just a few months ago - an indulgent and irrational purchase will begin to assume the status of an essential purchase.
You may find that you'll endure the shame of wearing old clothes and down-at-heel shoes as long as you can accompany them with a generous splash of vintage Mitsouko parfum, applied of course from a bottle you unsealed yourself.
Living in a candle-lit and wood-fired home so that you can save on power bills and thus wear Dior-Dior will become second nature. An added advantage of this is that you'll look totally gorgeous and line-free when you catch a glimpse of your faintly illuminated self in a mirror.
Watery home-made soup will taste so delicious when you're wearing your original No. 19.
And truly - who needs a car when you can walk in your Vent Vert?
Oscar Wilde was spot-on!”

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