Saturday, 17 January 2015

The Little Cat With A Surprising Belly - Avon Occur, Vintage Civet

My little stinker

The most thoroughly obsessed of the perfume community will understand that a scent purchase often stems from a peculiar chain of events that takes place online. The route that led me from Guerlain’s Vol de Nuit to a 40 year old Avon pussycat can be explained thus:

  • My beloved Vol de Nuit EDT had almost run out.
  • I searched the Escentual sale to price up a new bottle but was seduced by my long yearned love - the Parfum Extrait.
  • Whilst waiting for my golden propellers to arrive I perused the web to read discussions about the extrait concentration of  Vol de Nuit and noticed that Avon’s classic cheapo chypre – Timeless has been likened to Vol.
  • I performed an Ebay search for Timeless and discovered that it was winsomely populated by the kitsch novelty bottles of vintage Avon colognes from the 60s and 70s, Timeless, Occur, Moonwind, Charisma and Sweet Honesty were abundant.
  • I encountered a curious little glass cat who had no box and despite being nearly full of ‘Occur’ was likely to have gone off given that he’s roughly my age, perhaps older. I found him charming and bought him simply for his quirky feline wiles.
  • He arrived, he hadn’t gone off.

I was stunned. I even emailed to seller to ask the provenance of the whiffy feline. Apparently he came from an elderly aunt who collected cat figures. She must have displayed him so I can only guess that the opaque milk glass bottle somehow managed to deflect the ravages of light and kept his liquid belly in tip top condition.

He’s very pungent. On first whiff I smelt an archetypal fougère, so close to Brut that I wondered if the splash-on style hole could have been refilled at some point? Comparing notes on Fragrantica, the similarity could be explained. Both share a whopping dose of oakmoss, musks and bergamot, peppery floral notes (carnation for Occur, geranium for Brut), plentiful herbs and spices and a sweet base of all sorts of sticky tonka-tastic and honeyed wonders.

When the initial Brut sensation wore off, up crept (or pounced) the feral animalistic heart of the fragrance for which it is famed; civet and (the now banned) nitromusks. I knew at this point that I was certainly smelling the wondrous filth that is Occur.

If you’ve ever smelt Francis Kurkdijan’s Absolue Pour Le Soir or Parfum D’ Empire’s Musc Tonkin, you’ll recognize the heady whiff of animalic uber-notes. In fact Occur contains an even stronger dose of ‘eau de urinal’ than either of them. It takes at least half an hour for it to emerge, but when it does I am walloped by the wonder of pre-IFRA fragrant toxicity. I am very happy to poison my skin with this stinking brew. Fortunately, a creamy combination of white florals and milky sandalwood sit alongside this pissy whiff, recalling aspects of Arpege and Ma Griffe that render it more splendid than rancid.

Fittingly, my first ever perfume was by Avon. I can't remember which one as I was less than ten years old. My mum sold Avon and gifted me a plastic daisy shaped brooch filled with a solid scent that I recall smelling deliciously of honeysuckle. Perhaps Avon was responsible for the inception of my obsession?

My lucky American readers will be able to pick up these quirky Avon vintages for a mere few dollars on the USA Ebay site. They are collectible but not valuable given the enormous number of them produced in the 60s and 70s. In Europe prices are a little higher given that, although very common, Avon was not quite as mightily prolific over here. 

Take a peak at these curious Avon creatures lifted shamelessly from Ebay, I wonder what scented wonders their bellies contain?

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Saturday, 3 January 2015

2014 - My Year In Perfume, Moments Of Beauty In A Saturated Market

Looking back over my 2014 fragrance habit, I’m reminded of a feature written by Tania Sanchez in Perfumes, The A-Z guide. Sanchez describes her concept of our journey through a fragrance obsession in 6 specific stages leading from the childhood curiosity of our parent’s fragrances through to an enlightened conclusion. In this, the 6th and final stage, she suggests that we might experience:

“Stage 6: Enlightenment.
Absence of ideology. Distrust of the overelaborate, overexpensive and arcane. Satisfaction in things themselves”.

This resonates with me.

In 2014 I was grateful to get my nose around a number of inventive and complex creations from the world of ‘niche’ fragrance (whatever that words means nowadays). However, I smelt a much larger number of ‘The Emperor’s new clothes’. By this I mean the fragrances that were churned into the market at high prices and high speed, often trading on the concept of ‘niche’ to justify the hoohaa. People talked about them and bought them. No doubt caught in the decadent grip of Sanchez’s earlier Stage 5:

"Stage 5: Decadence.
An ideology of taste, either of the heavy-handed or the barely there. The age of leathers, patchoulis, tobaccos, ambers; or, alternatively, the age of pale watercolours in vegetal shades. An obsession with the hard to find."

In 2014, brands that were initially marketed to the wealthy Middle Eastern consumer continued to be devoured by folk on ordinary incomes as online discussion groups were often dominated by ‘an ideology of taste’ that favoured the skilfully manipulated desire for the ‘private blend or the exclusif’. Additionally, some superstar perfumers increased the number of products in their own ranges at flabbergasting speed. This led to vast spending, often resulting in fragrance fans leaving Facebook groups to avoid the excessive shopping temptation created by discussions (and then giving in and coming back again such was the lure!).

The sheer number of 2014 releases from niche brands meant that many scents replicated what we have already smelt before. I found myself opening sample packages without the thrilling anticipation of the possibility that they could contain some sort of nose nirvana. This is not a good mental state for a perfume blogger!

However, it wasn’t all bleak.

Occasionally I’ll smell a perfume that penetrates my imagination so thoroughly that I can type up an article swiftly and with great excitement. Others require much pondering and a painful number of hours at the screen. When I smelt the smouldering Anubis by Papillon Artisan Perfumes, the imagery it created for me was instant and exhilarating. It was by far the most thrilling post to write this year. Click here to take a peek at David Hemmings’ marvellously wild face, some fatally seductive sirens and one of the most successful indie releases of the year.
Danger for lost seamen - Anubis

Thrills aside, my favourite article of the year was my post on Guerlain’s understated masterpiece - Idylle. I believe this rarely discussed scent is deserved of the accolades that Guerlain’s stable of historic classics receive in profusion. Click here to read why I thought it to be the misunderstood outsider.

The relationship between fragrance, music and celebrity continued to excite me as my imagination frequently allotted a musician to my perception of a scent. The gargantuan floral punch of Byredo – Flowerhead brought indie powerhouse singer Beth Ditto to mind which resulted in one of the odder of the Odiferess reviews. Whilst Nobile 1942 – Infinito evoked decadent sensations of late nice dancing in the woods at summer music festivals.

Betto Ditto in technicolour

My own wardrobe in 2014 gained some pleasing additions, with an increased fascination for floral, green and aldehyde notes occurring. My most appreciated new entry was Clinique - Wrappings, an overwhelmingly picturesque outdoorsy whiff, sparkling with aldehydes and unlike anything I’ve ever smelt in a perfume bottle. Its originality was amplified by my perceived stagnation of the overfilled market. That Clinique have not released this scent on their standard counters is bizarre.

The feeling of Wrappings, a bracing bottle of oxygen and nature

More greenery arrived in the form of a new bottle of Guerlain - Vol De Nuit, when I say ‘a bottle’ I actually mean the extraordinary object of great glassy desire that is the Parfum Extrait. Whilst I adored my (nearly empty) EDT, I felt a compulsion to be able to hold this gilt propellored creature in my hands and stare lovingly at it whilst anointing myself. I wasn’t disappointed.
My pretty thing

I clearly went through some sort of ‘grown up lady’ phase befitting for my forties as I frequently reached for Lanvin - Arpege, Chanel – No 5, Van Cleef & Arpels - First and Lubin - Nuit de Longchamp. Interestingly, my new job in September inspired me to dress with increased sophistication for work and make the effort to apply make up at stupid-o-clock in the morning. Perhaps these scents helped me to feel suitably groomed?

To round up, here is a list of my most frequently worn and adored scents of 2014 (you can click on those in a different colour to read a review) :

Gucci – EDP (The discontinued caraway & leather oriental)
Guerlain – Vol de Nuit
Chanel – 31 Rue Cambon (which has now been outdone by a last days of December purchase of the blissful Cuir de Russie)
Lanvin – Arpege
Yves Rocher – Voile D’ Ambre

And a list of those which I do not yet own but seduced me at first whiff:

Scent on Canvas – Brun Sicilien
Guerlain – Idylle (in EDP form)
Clinique – Aromatics in White
Narciso Rodriguez For Her – Musc Eau de Parfum Intense (the flanker with the dusky pink metallic bottle that smells oddly like the opening of Serge Lutens – Tuberuese Criminelle)
Serge Lutens – L’ Orpheline
Hermes – Santal Massoia
Parfums Nicolai – Maharanih
Chanel – Jersey

As I consider my 2015 articles for Odiferess, I shall be searching for the magnificent amongst the mediocre and aim to bring you some reviews of genuinely innovative scents. As usual I’ll be letting my imagination investigate some eclectic cultural nonsense in which to tell you about them! In the meantime, I’d love to hear about your favourite scents of the year.