Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Merry Christmas Everybody

A merry Christmas and a fragrant new year to all of my readers. Thank you so much to everyone who has supported the Odiferess blog in it's first year. I am most grateful.

Monday, 23 December 2013

Review - Yves Rocher, Secrets D' Essences Neroli - A Killer Cheapy.

This week I’ve been flabbergasted by the fragrant marvel of Yves Rocher’s latest addition to the Secret D’Essences range – Secrets D’Essences Neroli. Regular readers will know that I’m a devotee of the ‘killer cheapy’ but the phenomenon of creating something splendid and pricing it under £30 is a rare event. It’s a delight to find one.

 My 50 ml bottle and 15 ml purse spray (purse spray already well ravaged!)

Neroli/orange blossom ‘soliflore’ scents (i.e. scents with a dominant single floral note) have been a significant trend in recent years, with releases such as Tom Ford’s Neroli Portofino and Guerlain’s Nerolia Blanca gaining an enthusiastic following. Of course Neroli has been around for hundreds of years as a key ingredient of the traditional eau de cologne, so it’s revival as a focus note in costly niche perfumery will inevitably lead to comparisons with much cheaper creations. A look at Neroli Portofino’s Fragrantica page shows that 89 readers think it smells like the heritage classic - 4711 Cologne. 4711 costs about £10 for a 50 ml bottle, Neroli Portofino costs upwards of £150. I know which one I’d be testing first..

Secrets D’Essences Neroli is not particularly cologne like, yes it does give us that uplifting citrus burst in the top notes, but it’s warmer and muskier than expected. If I were to compare it to another scent I would suggest either Penhaligon’s Castile, Miller Harris’ Petitgrain or Evody’s Fleur D’Oranger.

The note list is rather confusing, it is composed of; orange blossom, neroli, bitter orange, petitgrain and musk. Here’s my potted explanation.

Orange blossom and neroli are exactly the same thing, the flowers of the bitter orange tree. The only difference between the two is the extraction method. I won’t bore you with geeky tech about this but the outcome is that one smells citrus bright, mildly floral and uplifting (neroli) and the other smells slightly citrusy but more indolic white floral, luxuriant and pleasantly slutty (orange blossom). Petitgrain is an extraction from the leaves from the same tree, one of my favourite notes, it is both sharp citrus and woody/oily/soapy. As for the bitter orange, I think this is an essential oil from the rind of the fruit.

Secrets D’Essences Neroli, unsurprisingly, smells like all of the above. Which is a very fine smell indeed. It manages to be at once luminous and euphoric in the manner of sparkling citrus, whilst retaining a deeper and somewhat saucier element of creamy indole and musk. It lasts for absolutely ages and possesses impressive projection abilities. In fact, on the first day of it’s public wear, I attracted the olfactory interest of a cyclist whilst queuing for a coffee in the park. Said cyclist was a Tom Ford aficionado who was astonished by my admission of it’s price (cue one of those rambling half an hour conversations we fumies get into when we find a stranger who shares our obsession).

Here’s how to buy it. Yves Rocher exists on the high street of most mainland European cities. In the UK and (possibly?) Internationally, you have order from the online shop. Yves Rocher advertise retail prices that are dropped all the time. Expect to pay about 40% less than the rrp during most months. I bought a ‘green dot’ priced gift set of a 50ml bottle and 15 ml purse spray for about £29 (green dot prices don’t change) but currently the £44 50ml bottle is being sold at £24.50.  

In addition, Yves Rocher always ask you to choose from a selection of free gifts with each order. Today (this runs out soon as it was the gift that I got nearly a month ago) ‘Surprise gift no.2’ includes the beautiful neroli scented argan oil body balm that layers magnificently with the perfume.
The free neroli scented body balm

If you are intrigued by this post you might also like to click here to read about some superb quality body products from the same brand that help to amp up the projection and longevity of wimpy scents.  

Thursday, 12 December 2013

A Strange Tale of Vermin Love - Lostmarc'h, Eau D' Hermine

Can you pass a skip without peeking inside?

I certainly can’t.

A couple of years ago I worked in a historic school that migrated to a new building. The exodus caused a mass ‘chuck out’ as we departed our faded but charming 1930s institution to enter a cramped contemporary design monstrosity.

As I dumped a hoard of broken ring files into one of the numerous skips, I saw a hairy little tail poking out from under the detritus. Curious, I gave it a tug and out popped a rather battered stuffed weasel. We bonded instantly. Upon questioning my colleagues, I discovered that he hailed from the 1940s when a taxidermy display was donated to the school’s Science Department.
Manky displaying his stuffing loss and ferocious teeth

The weasel has suffered years of excited teenage manhandling and a long time in forgotten storage. He was dusty, furless in places and the straw stuffing poked out from his belly. His funny little legs had become bandy and drunken after being yanked from his original stand. Despite this, he was eminently lovable. I named him Manky, apt eh? A note to my international readers – the colloquial manky means ‘funky’ or ‘dirty’.

Manky appearing somewhat more cute wrapped up in bed

Manky often wears perfume, being rather furry, his coat holds onto scent and makes it lasts for eons. This is a curious way to subtly scent my living room. He is currently sporting Comme de Garcons 2 which smells a little inky. I imagine he'd love to amble amongst the treasures of old book shops. It suits him.

I cherish weasels and indeed all of the musky mustelidae family of creatures; stoats, ferrets, minks, pole cats and pine martens. My first encounter with these beautiful beasts was in the discovery of a ferret rescue stand at a country agricultural fair. If you paid 10 pence you were allowed to hold one for a few minutes. I risked the potential of finger biting and spent several pounds and a good hour in a blissful embrace with these cuddly creatures. Although I think it was really supposed to be a treat for kids..

The beautiful stoat

I recently met up with fellow fume writer – Vanessa, the author of the enchanting Bonkers About Perfume blog. We spent a long and joyous afternoon waffling about scent and swopping samples and decants (gaining the curiosity of drinkers in the packed pub who caught thick wafts of the rare and the quirky). Amongst the decants donated by Vanessa, was a little spray of Eau de L’Hermine by Lostmarc’h. The name suggested to me that it was one of those glamorous musky creations that are designed to be worn on a fur coat, the word ermine being another name for the stoat or ‘short tailed weasel’ as it’s also known.

On the day of testing the scent I doused myself liberally and revelled in the vibrant citrus musk. As always at work, citrus scents are valued for their ability to revive my spirits in the often pungent and stale air of the school environment. Although I initially liked it, I didn’t think to save any for a review being as I’ve written plentifully on this genre. At lunchtime I emptied the last of the decant onto my skin and grew increasingly regretful as it developed into something I REALLY liked. 

Upon my return home I googled the scent and was gobsmacked to find that Eau de L’Hermine sported a rather dandy illustration of a non-tatty version of Manky running across it’s bottle. I was delighted! If ever a scent was meant for me.. I quickly emailed Vanessa and told her of my obsession with weasels and attached photos of Manky.


To my surprise, she emailed me back with photos of her beloved Max Rat. “ I raise you Max Rat, the 'vermin with ermine', who I take on my trips and who hails from Hamelin, of Pied Piper fame.  The local beer there is called Rattenkiller, for obvious reasons..”

Vanessa's characterful little chap - Max Rat

Max Rat travels with Vanessa on her numerous business trips and has even been known to accompany her to the odd gig. This pleased me. I felt that perhaps I wasn’t so alone in my love of an old dead stuffed weasel (charming as he is). The fact that she is over attached to ‘not alive’ verminous pet somehow seems to lessen my own eccentricity.
I won’t review Eau de L’Hermine as Vanessa has done it so eloquently here, plus, I’ve run out!

Read Vanessa's article by clicking here.

Photos of the delightful Max Rat kindly supplied by Vanessa, photos of Manky daftly posed by myself. Reckon it's a blogger thing?

Monday, 9 December 2013

On The Lure Of The Perfume Pendant - A Guest Spot At The Penhaligon's Journal.

Occasionally, I'll be overcome with a desire to buy something I can't afford. I usually tend to see sense and keep my credit card stashed safely away. But on this occasion, I caved. I thought about it, wrote about it, then obsessed about it. Then I bought one. It made me happy.

Here is a little piece I wrote for the Penhaligon's Journal during the 'obsessing but not buying' period. Out of interest I filled it with Mitsouko, not whisky.. 


Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Review: Enchanted Forest - The Vagabond Prince and Fille En Aiguilles - Serge Lutens. The Scent Of Christmas Trees!

As I entered the supermarket this weekend I halted to marvel at the arrival of this season’s Christmas trees. I lingered over these aromatic wonders who looked a little trapped in their ‘easy carry’ netting, and took a deep inhalation. Not much entered my nose. I then crouched down and pushed my face into the prickly netting and tried again.. much better. I stayed for some considerable time and arose to the curious glances of my fellow shoppers and a security guard.

As a child we often had a ‘real’ Christmas tree. I wonder if it played a role in the development of my obsession with fragrance and the scents of my world? After my dad conducted some clever tinkering with something to prop it up, the tree would stand in the lounge awaiting decoration. The decorations themselves were an annual delight. I remember clearly ancient family baubles, in particular a glass teardrop dangler that shone with the same shade of purple as a Cadbury’s chocolate wrapper. It enchanted me. If you gave it a sharp twist it would spin rapidly and emit beams of otherworldly shards of light. All this magic took place within a great waft of forestry olfaction that to this day still renders me puddled with joy.
If you wish to smell tree in the absence of tree, or indeed year round, you can scent either yourself or your home. My urban flat is often transformed into forest with essentials oils of spruce or pine that I warm in a traditional aromatherapy burner.


My favourite oil is the Spruce (Tsuga Canadensis) which smells of authentic Christmas tree. Pine (Pinus Sylvestris) is harsher, with the same ‘back of the throat scrape’ that oud tends to give me.  That said, mixed with patchouli or rosewood, it retains the forestry feel and lends a meditative atmosphere to my home. 

Pinus Sylvestris does not really smell of what we perceive to be the pine made popular with cleaning fluids and in car air fresheners!

Two delightful (but very different) coniferous scents are Enchanted Forest by The Vagabond Prince and Fille En Aiguilles by Serge Lutens.

The first, Enchanted forest, is the result of a collaboration between Elena Knezhevich (founder of Fragrantica) and perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour. It was inevitable that I would relish this scent as it combines two of my favourite notes with equal billing; blackcurrant and fir (in this case - pine needle absolute). There are many notes so I wont write an exhaustive list, but in the top are two extractions of blackcurrant and a bright peppery coriander and carnation combination. It is utterly effervescent, if it were possible to drink this I’d be glugging bottles of it and growing giddy on it’s fizz! In the base is a whole bunch of deep ambery/balsamic notes that thankfully are obliterated by the overwhelmingly beautiful scent of fir tree. If this scent were to only smell of blackcurrant and fir it would be an acrid concoction, tart in the extreme. Although you cannot really detect a distinct and specific base note in the dry down other than the fir, the rich accompanying notes must effect a tenderness and depth that stop this bright perfume from becoming a forest feerie and spiriting away.
Enchanted Forest does exactly what the name suggests – it’s smells of forests and enchants you. It’s very straightforward.

A much more complex composition is Serge Luten’s Fille En Aiguilles. Ranking at number 3 of my (long and unpublished!) list of most beguiling perfumes, this should really deserve a fulsome review in it’s own right. However, in the interest of the Christmas tree theme, I shall keep it brief.

Fille En Aiguilles is as dark and opulent as Enchanted Forest is luminous. It’s forest notes are pine, balsam fir and bay (this herb echoes the aromatic feel of the conifers).  In addition, Fille contains potent spices, sugary dried fruits and incense adding an oriental genre vibe to what would otherwise be simply an outdoorsy aromatic wood. For me it is seasonally confusing.  Whereas most fans associate the smell of Fille with winter woods, cloves pierced oranges, the Catholic church and boxes of sticky dates i.e. the stuff of Christmas, Fille journeys me to summer holidays in the pine forests of the Mediterranean where the blistering heat warms the tree sap to scent the air with aromatic sweetness. As an ‘outdoors type’, this juice elates me, it’s almost spiritual. But that’s just me. For the rest of you, this could be mulled wine drunk under the boughs of your beautiful tree or a hunt through the woods to pick holly for the hearth (if of course you live inside a Victorian Christmas Card).

Other scents of interest:

Ormonde Jayne - Ormonde Woman (a true forest and somewhat witchy scent, to read my review click here)
Parfum D’ Empire – Wazamba (a more biblical version of Fille En Aiguilles, with abundant incense and myrrh)
Pino Silvestre – Original for Men (classic fougere with intense pine)

And for the bath:

Dr Haushcka – Spruce Bath Oil (exactly like bathing in a Christmas tree, emotional rescue)

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Sunday, 24 November 2013

Review: Jovoy - Psychédélique. The Best Patchouli Ever Created?

It’s uncommon for me employ the term ‘the best’. ‘The best’ is a grand declaration that allots influence and superiority to it’s recipient. However, when Jovoy’s Psychédélique found me, I found the best ‘true’ patchouli. So enchanted am I, that I will be creating a new page for Odiferess called The Best. On this page (which I’ll post this week on the page bar) you’ll find what I believe to be the greatest scents of their genre. They’ll appear rarely, as the Eureka moment occurs very infrequently. Here’s the Inception:

Jovoy - Psychédélique

The aroma of patchouli suggests all of the following;

‘Crusties’ at festivals, typified by white folk with dreadlocks, art students (I once was one, I can make this sweeping statement with authority!), art studios e.g linseed oil, turpentine and oil paints, goths, vintage shops, joss sticks, dirty hair/ greasy scalp, old leather jackets, narcotic, euphoric, sedative, erotic, soil and decomposing leaves in Autumn, damp/fustiness/junk shop books, barnyards, sex in the 60s (I imagine Nico of Velvet Undergound fame reeking wonderfully of this note).

Niko, the blonde bombshell of Warhol's darling band.

This demure little plant crops up everywhere in perfumery. In recent years it replaced Oakmoss as an IFRA friendly ingredient for chypres prompting the rise of best selling ‘fruitchoulis’ and frequently providing the ‘noir’ in the noirs. The big cosmetics and designer houses have of course used it for years, Aromatics Elixir, Dioressence, Givenchy Gentlemen and Cabochard to name a few of the classics that reek of the earthy and heady qualities of this spirit in a bottle. Many of the niche perfumeries have a patchouli in their range, the dry and bitter Patchouli Patch by L’ Artisan Parfumeur and the leathery Patchouli 24 by Le Labo are good examples of edgy interpretations.

What rarely occurs is the use of patchouli simply as patchouli. There’s not a lot of difference between a bottle of Jovoy’s Psychédélique and a bottle of pure patchouli essential oil. So why bother spending the extra £80 or so? It’s worth it for the journey. Psychédélique is a transformative perfume that develops and morphs within it’s wear, providing a fragrant ride through distinct states. For this reason, it’s impossible to grow bored of an over familiar note.

My mum, ardent patchouli lover, upon sampling Psychédélique exclaimed “cow muck”! That’s the second time cow muck has been spluttered to me on a sampling session, the first was in relation to a sample of castoreum fragrance oil. I don’t quite get cow muck from this fragrance but I do get my mum’s point. It’s feral ad a little bit filthy. The opening shares the same barnyard quality that a potent Shiraz wine emits i.e. a beautiful but slightly beastly whiff. One of it’s prominent notes is labdanum, often a component of what perfumers pair with vanilla to become an ‘amber’. As the vanilla doesn’t play much of a role in the opening, the labdanum appears as a leathery nuance, could this be the cow hide that connotes the feral whiff?

The slightly dirty opening soon calms into the heart of the scent, where we feel the truly spiritual side of patchouli. There’s a good reason why it’s used in aromatherapy, rituals and incense - it’s deeply relaxing and sensual. It’s also a little trippy, I’m once again drawn back to Nico and her melancholically ethereal Germanic drawl through the lyrics of All Tomorrow’s Parties. Alike Nico’s voice there is a baritone depth and darkness to Psychédélique that makes you want to recline in a state of semi conscious reverie, probably wearing something from Biba.

New York Art Rock - All Tomorrow's Parties.

As we reach the dry down stage (or perhaps in the spirit of Nico, the ‘come down’ stage), the sweetness kicks in. Although still abundantly psychedelic, an opulent vanilla takes over and tames the trip of this narcotic journey. In contrast to the roaring opening, it exits our skin with tenderness.

Upon my first wear of this extraordinary scent, I was instantly convinced that it was ‘the best’ patchouli I’ve ever smelt. However, if confirmation were needed, this happened;

At my day job (in an inner city comprehensive), smells abound and they are rarely good ones. Perfume has to be really quite a phenomenon to get noticed amongst the smell of teenage feet, hormones and stagnant air breathed by too many hundreds of people. As I walked towards the staffroom to drink my breakfast coffee, a colleague emerged from the lift and stopped still, wearing a look of bewilderment.

“What’s are you wearing? It’s incredible?”

This wouldn’t be such a strange occurrence had said colleague been the sensitive literary type that is the English Assistant or any of the Art or Music Teachers, just hippie enough to appreciate a good patchouli. But it wasn’t. It was an overtly laddish IT Teacher who openly admits that his primary passions are football, fast food and computer games, upon whom I’ve never detected a perfume. As far as I’m aware he doesn’t even particularly like me.
So surprised was I that I don’t think I actually managed to tell him what it was, I think I just uttered something along the lines of “Erm.. thanks, it’s a patchouli”.

Proof indeed.

If you’re a patchouli fan, you might like to peruse my review of a very different one, M/Mink by Byredo. Though you’ve been warned, it’s a challenging scent! Click here to read it.

Monday, 18 November 2013

The Lure Of The Christmas Perfume Gift Set, Some Tips For The Festive Season

It’s that time of year, when we fumies are bombarded with emails advising us of ALL THE DAZZLING FRAGRANT STUFF WE CAN BUY when we really should be shopping for our loved ones i.e. Christmas gift set season.

If only Harrods sold penguins at Christmas..

When we signed up to the ‘yes, send me news of offers and promotions’ box at the online stores of our favourite perfume houses through the year, we forget about the chronic agony of repeatedly denying ourselves the joy that is buying a perfume + body lotion + shower gel + fantastically designed box etc.. that would render us unable to pay for other people’s presents.

Gift sets are an extremely good deal. Most of the mainstream houses offer at least one free subsidiary product for the price of just the perfume. This is especially useful if you are a lover of the ‘projection beast’. One Christmas I received a YSL Opium body lotion that when used alongside the perfume, could burn off the olfactory organ of a person half a mile away. It was a very pleasing present.

Niche houses are less generous at Christmas, probably due to the fact that not all of them actually create body or home fragrance products. Those who do however, should really join in the festivities and stop being scrooges.

Here is a round up of some of the best sets from the larger niche houses and mainstreams on sale this year. But before you take a look, consider your approach to the gift set season. I think there are 4 ways you can benefit from it:

  1. Buy a set before Christmas but wait until you are offered a discount. For instance, last week Debenhams announced 10% off all beauty and fragrance effectively making an already bargainous set more bargainous. No doubt the other department stores will make similar bids for our custom. 
  2. Buy a set in store after Christmas. In last year’s January sales, sets from YSL, Clinique, Lauder and Guerlain were all reduced by about 30%. You had to be quick to grab one though.
  3. Buy a set from Ebay. This is a graveyard of unwanted gifts in January. You can pick up a set that might have been sprayed once or twice to test and then discarded in disgust by someone who was gifted something brilliant that was not to their taste. Used scent = cheap scent.
  4. Lastly, you could sod it and just buy everything you want and worry about later when the obscenely greedy energy companies send you your extortionate January heating bill. At least you can scent your chunky knit jumpers with something beautiful as you shiver at home.

So here we go, more ways to spend your money this month:


Ormonde Jayne: The Sloane Square shop are offering a 20% discount on everything by phone and in store this Wednesday (20th November). UK postage costs £8 so this would effectively make an £80 50 ml scent cost £72 by post or £64 in store. Plus if you go to shop between 6pm and 8pm there's a party with champers. Phone to enquire about International postage which they are attempting to make reasonably priced. Tolu, Ta'if, Ormonde Woman and Orris Noir are stunningly well crafted scents that I imagine would appeal to anybody. They are not challenging, just beautiful. To read my review of the marvelous pagan fantasy - Ormonde Woman, click here.

Belle of The Ball Gift Set in Orris Noir - £115
(reduced to £92 with the 20% discount)

Penhaligon’s: have a truly covetable range of gifts sets this year in beautifully illustrated tins, my favourite is the Gentlemen’s Miniature Collection at £35 including Sartorial and Blenheim Bouquet. To read my review of these two masculine lovelies, click here.

Gentlemen’s Miniature Collection

L’ Artisan Parfumeur: The ‘pop up’ style gift boxes of the season are a fine example of contemporary design in the perfume industry and a treat for those who collect the brand, however they don’t offer the grandest saving. This is a good option for those on a budget who are fond of purse size fumes:

Christmas Discovery Gift Set £35 with 4 x 7 ml vapo tubes of:
•Mûre et Musc 
•La Chasse aux Papillons 
•Premier Figuier 
•Nuit de Tubéreuse 

I’d rather smell of festival toilets than the death by Jasmine that is Le Chasse aux Papillons (Luca Turin gave it 3 stars so my opinion may not be definitive!), but the others are wonderful and it’s a collectible box.

Discovery Gift Set

A quick search brings up very little in the form of niche gift sets but an alternative is a large sample set which is huge treat for a fumie. The most diverse and exciting ones come from: Ormonde Jayne, Parfum D’ Empire, Le Labo, Olfactive Studio, Amouage, Les Parfums De Rosine, Scent On Canvas, Jovoy and Histoires De Parfums. To read my post on the Olfactive Studio sample set, click here.
A browse on their online boutiques will reveal the goodies. It’s useful to know that the French word for sample is Echantillons. Though I imagine that if you’re geeky and obsessive enough to read Odiferess you’ll probably know this already..


This is where the real bargains are to be had.

Givenchy: I maintain that the original Givenchy Gentleman is the greatest masculine Patchouli ever made (not to be confused with Givenchy Gentleman Only which is scent nonsense). A set containing 100 ml EDT and 75 ml All Over Shampoo is available for about£56.50 at all of the main department stores.

Miller Harris: Yes, I don’t consider them mainstream either, but the range is being sold in Debenhams. For £60 you can buy a miniatures collection in either ‘Woody’ or ‘Citrus’. Woody contains 3 x 15 ml EDPs of: La Fumée , Feuilles de Tabac and Fleurs de Sel. All delightfull.
Estee Lauder: Queen of the gift set. They’ve released several desirable sets this year. Though be warned, I tested Youth Dew with my Mum this weekend (both of us wore it in the past) and we agreed that it is a reformulated shadow of it’s former self. That said, Knowing and Cinnabar are still projection beasts of the highest caliber. Knowing is an epic mossy/woody/aldehydic chypre, well worth a try if you love Mitsouko/Aromatics/Paloma Picasso etc.  At £39 for 30 ml of EDP and 100 ml of body lotion this is the one that I shall be hunting come January.

Acqua Di Parma: As always, are gifting us their full range of fumes in a quirky hat box style presentation with 75 ml tubes of shower gel and body lotion for the price of the just the perfume. £78 from all the big stores and online at Escentual. Grazie!

Other sets of note this year come from Cartier, Bottega Venetta, Carven (who have re-released the superb Ma Griffe in a pretty new bottle), YSL, BVLGARI, Guerlain and Hermes.

Now, get yourself on ebay, flog anything you can live without and start re-spending!

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Review: Celtic Fire By Union Fragrance - The Scent Of Bonfire Night

As bonfire night approaches my thoughts turn to the smells of Autumn. A peculiar season full of contrasts, autumn provides both a little romance (in the joy of rooting out your warmest woolly jumper or sipping a good malt whiskey by a pub fireside) and a sense of foreboding (as the green leaves turn to mudded sludge in the gutters and the trees transform into skeletal bare branched ghosts).

British landscape painter - Ivon Hitchens portrays Autumn.

It’s no wonder that at this harsh and wind strewn time of year perfume lovers seek ‘cosy’ scents. The perfume houses, aware of this opportunity, market scents with a seasonal theme, for instance cashmere crops up in the title of scents by Donna Karan and Parfumerie Generale, providing a woolly jumper association to seduce us with the suggestion of comfort. As temperatures drop, we turn to notes that imply warmth such as vanilla and spices, redolent of the mulled wine of Christmas markets or a smoky birch tar to conjure up a real log fire.

The smell of bonfire night is superbly recreated in Union Fragrance’s ‘Celtic Fire’. Here’s the PR:

“Celts, bonfires, cold salty sea breeze, these are the strangely associated top notes of this fiercely tribal fragrance, combined with more familiar aromas of British hearth and home: log fires, leather, tea and toast!
To be sure ‘Celtic Fire’ contains some unusual and rather controversial ingredients. Tribal Bog Myrtle, known for firing the Vikings into battle, Peat Tincture, and Marmite™ (Britain’s iconic classic still produced to this day in Burton-on-Trent, Staffordshire), combine to produce this startlingly original fragrance.” 

The predominant note of Celtic Fire is most definitely fire smoke (birch tar). This tricky note appears in a number of perfumes; CB I Hate Perfume’s ‘Burning Leaves’ reeks of sooty chimneys/burning garden detritus and offers not a lot else to accompany it. Chanel’s ‘Sycomore’ is another ‘get your laundry off the line quick before your neighbour’s bonfire taints it’ kind of whiff. Though there is much to be said about the gorgeous symphony of Sycomore’s lush woody notes.

Bonfires smell brilliant. That is, as long as you’re not wearing one. What Union fragrance cleverly managed to do is select a quirky bunch of additional notes to quell the ‘recently on fire’ nuance that drifts around you. They are only just discernible in the opening but evolve beautifully further into it's wear as the birch tar recedes a little. Although sandalwood is not listed, there is a definite soft woodiness that I associate with this beloved note. Thankfully it doesn’t smell of tea, toast and marmite, but it does project a ‘warm butter’ sensation that feels cosy. It reminds me of a bitterer version of the Serge Lutens creation – Jeux De Peau, which is celebrated for it’s spiced patisserie notes. Marmite is surely a curious ingredient. Perhaps that is what Union refer to with the implication of ‘salty sea breeze’, for Marmite is indeed a salty little beast.

Perhaps the greatest thing about Celtic Fire is that it smells of two of my favourite olfactory sensations; single malt whisky and damp earthy woods. As I sat yesterday in Manchester’s finest chilly weather pub - The Briton’s Protection, I sipped at a peaty Laphroaig whisky and smiled at the thought of the Celtic Fire. Those clever folk at Union Fragrance have bottled my winter romance.
Odiferess recommends spending the cold months sozzled on good whisky.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Make Your Own Perfume - The Magnificent Perfume Making Experiment, Part 4, The Result.

 The view from my apartment at 10am, a very grey Manchester.

Last night the clocks went back, this seasonal shift arrived in collaboration with a morning of grey be-fogged rain. It’s exactly the kind of autumnal gothic horror that I wrote about when I began to compose my first perfume making experiment. It’s timely that today, the day I proclaim it ‘finished’, is a drab Mancunian soak-fest. If you recall my intention, it was to make a perfume that possessed a sparkly top note and a sense of ‘light’ through it, to counteract the sense of entrapment that comes to those who suffer with light depravation in the dark months - the fragrance equivalent of Vitamin D. As a reminder, click here to read the first article.
I am delighted to say that I think it works!

Here’s the recipe to make roughly 35 ml (I know that’s a bonkers size but that’s how it worked out). 
EO = essential oil, PF = synthetic from Plush Folly

6 drops of Grapefruit (EO)
4 drops of Petitgrain (EO)
8 drops of Bergamot (EO)
18 drops of Rhubarb (PF)
15 drops of Aldehyde 2 (PF)

3 drops of Orris (PF)
5 drops of Ylang Ylang (EO)
15 drops of Rosewood (EO)

12 drops of Vanilla Bourbon (PF)
10 drops of Atlas Cedar (EO)
8 drops of Frankincense (EO)
6 drops of Ambrettia (PF)
20 ml of Perfumer’s Alcohol (PF)

So what does it actually smell like? It’s impossible to review my own scent in the effusive manner that I write of the atmospheric effect of others. Though I do know that it smells original. Having experienced a lot of genre mutations recently i.e. amber this, oud that, it smells very different to current trends.  It does however have a slight feel of the Miller Harris creation - Figue Amere if the fig were replaced by rhubarb.

Rhubarb - green, sour and earthy, a delight to smell and eat.

The rhubarb is delicious. It imparts a sourness and earthiness that is recognizably rhubarb. Because it’s used in combination with equal amounts of ‘the green side of’ citrus notes (comprised of bergamot, petitgrain and grapefruit), it has a real sensation of cut sap and oily greenery. The soapiness imparted by the aldehyde softens the zing of the citrus and keeps it from being too acidic.

As the top notes evaporate you are left with a woody, soapy, sappy and (very vaguely) green floral scent where you can’t really pick out the individual notes. I think this is positive as the word ‘seamless’ is often used to describe harmonious scents where notes don’t jar for attention. A base of frankincense and cedar give a little weight to the otherwise flighty volatile quality. Although there is a hefty quantity of Vanilla in here, you can’t really smell it. It acts to ‘smooth’ the scent rather than literally smell of vanilla.

The beautiful (and endangered) tree from which Frankincense is harvested.

In the process of making it, a genuine intuition arose. After many initial experiments, I gained a significant sense of what to drop in next, or what proportions to alter. It was no longer a random trial. This experience has given me a great drive to play at perfumer again, with the next experiment (a woody coffee, as dark as number 1 is light) already sitting in the fridge waiting for my next move. I don’t think Odiferess 1 is a masterpiece. I think it’s a first attempt that’s inspired me to keep going.

The difficulty with creating your own scent is that you are inevitably going to compare it to your favourite perfume. Judged on it’s own merits, I feel Odiferess 1 is a curious and original creation. Hold it up against Mitsouko or Eau de Reglisse and it smells like the pointless kitchen lab foolery of an amateur!

If my experiment has inspired you to play at perfumer, here’s my advice based upon my own experience:

  • Spend money, you can’t truly experiment unless you have enough notes to blend together.
  • Unless you have cash to waste, consider how you’ll use the rest of the ingredients. I burn essential oils at home and make my own candles. My investment will become hand made Christmas presents.
  • Read books. Mandy Aftel’s Essence and Alchemy is practical, informative and entertaining. She writes of the history and culture of scent with grand atmosphere and provides a ‘how to’ guide to creating your own scent.
  • Start with ‘easy’ notes. Notes such as citruses, patchouli and vanilla are really easy to work with. Rare floral essential oils will cost a fortune and be hard to combine unless you know what you are doing, which I don’t. I really wanted to play with undiluted rose absolute and immortelle but managed to reign myself in before committing a frightening credit card transaction.
  • Consider your aim. Are you making it for you and your friends, as a hobby or do you have a real desire to become a perfumer? I came to it from a ‘fun in my kitchen with cool stuff’ perspective so I won’t be devastated if it the resulting perfume is not a ground breaking master work. If you want to become a perfumer there are some restrictive issues to contend with, in particular, finance and EU regulations. You are going to need money and tenacity in addition to a natural ability to blend scent.
Readers, if you have made, or intend to make, your own scent I'd love to hear from you. For those who are inspired to have a go, I wish you a fruitful time!

I’m giving away a small sample of Odiferess 1 to a lucky reader. If you would like to enter the give-away, simply leave a comment below or at the facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/odiferess). 
I’m so sorry to my international friends but our postage rules here in the UK prevent us sending perfume abroad. Please do join in the comments though!