Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Christmas themes from The Library of Fragrance: Mistletoe, Frankincense and Christmas in New York


How’s your Christmas shopping going?

Here in Manchester, the city is awash with it’s usual gaggle of frantic shoppers, many of whom have taken advantage of big discounts in department stores. I myself was almost seduced by the reduced as Selfridges dropped it’s prices on Amouage and Robert Piguet. A whopping great car insurance bill enabled me to be sensibly frugal though. This Christmas I shall be driving along (safely insured) in my existing scent wardrobe, with the last few drops of the seasonally pine scented Fille en Aiguilles reserved for the big day.

Frugality has inspired this post.

At £15 a bottle, The Library of Fragrance (Demeter in the USA), sell a set of Christmas themed eau de colognes that would make for a quirkily stuffed stocking.  Feature here are Mistletoe, Frankincense and Christmas in New York.

The Library of Fragrance's scents are minimal. In a similar style to Jo Malone or Shay and Blue, they are (predominantly) single note scents designed for layering. They don’t have a pyramid of notes, they simply are what they say on the bottle.

Frankincense however, doesn’t smell exactly like frankincense, which annoyingly disproves my last point! Natural frankincense (Boswellia Carterii) is a sharp and penetrating whiff reminiscent of church incense. It’s oddly smokey and sparkly concurrently, a most peculiar sensation, which tends to initiate a gargantuan headache if I burn the essential oil in my apartment. 

Frankincense resin

In The Library of Fragrance’s Frankincense, the aggressive nature of the natural essence has been toned down with evidence of it’s namesake being most apparent in the vibrant first squirt of the opening. Instead, a sensation of amber oozes throughout, a soft vanillary custard with just a hint of smokey labdanum to darken the desert. This is essentially a ‘gourmand frankincense’, ideal for those who desire an exotic oriental with an indie vibe. It’s rather lovely.

Christmas in New York replicates the gourmand theme. It smells of cinnamon, vanilla and apples. I accidently wiped some onto my top lip a few seconds ago, an action I deeply regret as I do not like the bluergh-esque whiff of cinnamon, vanilla and apples. Those of you who adore densely sweet and lush gourmands will swoon at this scent. I’m off to the bathroom to try and get it off with Clinique’s Clarifying Lotion (otherwise known as scent destroyer).

Distinctly ‘more me’ is Mistletoe, which is basically just a bottle of green vegetal sap. At this time of year, I crave vegetal green sap. Regular readers will be aware of my seasonal slump and know that my morale sinks fathoms when darkness falls so early in the afternoon. I’m not a winter person, I’m a spring baby who needs to be shone upon in order to sustain functional mental health. Mistletoe hints at regeneration, sticky new buds and the joy of a late winter sun warming your face as you take your first long country walk of the new year.  It’s immensely joyful. An antedote to darkness. It’s no wonder that it’s reputed to be lucky to kiss underneath this prettily parasitic plant (and woeful if you refuse).

A Victorian lurker

Mistletoe’s ‘green’ scent shares similarities with lily of the valley. Indeed the scent is slightly reminiscent of the drydown of Caron’s historic 1st of May celebratory fragrance – Muguet de Bonheur, particularly in it’s astringent and anisic qualities. Add to this a general watery green quality with notions of cucumber, broken plant stems or savory celery and you have an idea of this eau de cologne’s effect.

Further info on the scents can be found at: http://thelibraryoffragrance.com.

You might also like to take a peep at a previous seasonal post on scents that smell like Christmas trees.

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Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Aromatherapy recipes to banish the gothic horrors of Autumn

 Ivon Hitchen, 'Autumn', 1941

I almost got there, Autumn half term that is. Every year I never quite fulfill eight weeks of teaching without falling quarry to some vile change of season/oozing child bug. Just 3 days before I break up for half term and I’m sick with a throat the colour of an overripe Persian pomegranate and a doddering demeanor. I blame Autumn, after all it is the season of vegetal death and loss of light. Unless you live in Technicolor New England, it’s rubbish.

With this in mind, I’m going to share my favourite aromatherapy recipes for the season. Some feel medicinal and others deliciously decadent.  All recipes are for 20 ml, a small portion for sampling.

Autumn mist defying anti-frizz hair oil:

10 mls Golden Cold Pressed Jojoba carrier oil
10 mls Argan carrier oil
10 drops of essential oils of your choice. I like a fresh barbershop vibe in a hair oil so I use:
5 drops High Altitude Lavender + 5 drops Neroli

Uses – You can massage a generous amount into your hair and scalp half an hour before washing as a deep conditioning treatment. This essential oil combination has excellent antibacterial and soothing qualities for an irritated scalp. After blow drying, apply a small amount as a serum to the mid lengths and ends to add shine and anti-humidity protection. Additionally, you can massage it into the nail bed to strengthen the nails and even shave or condition your beard with it. 

Man-flu bath oil (an invigorating, de-congesting and anti-bacterial blend for poorly times) 5 to 10 ml dose per bath

20 mls Fractionated Coconut oil (disperses in water unlike some carriers)
4 drops Peppermint
4 drops Rosemary
4 drops Tea Tree

Lie in the bath, read Vogue/GQ. Enjoy.

The Tea Tree plant - Nature's cure all wonder

Staying in on a cold wet night posh oil for face, hands, morale and libido

10 mls Golden Cold Pressed Jojoba carrier oil
10 mls Rosehip carrier oil
2 drops Jasmine Absolute
2 drops Rose Absolute (I prefer Damascena to Centifolia)
1 drop Neroli

This is an expensive elixir, but not nearly as expensive as a night out. There - I’ve enabled you. 
These powerful absolutes are known for being deeply comforting, anti-depressant, uplifting and sensuous. Perfect for making you feel serene and perhaps a tad more frisky after a long day. I use this as a facial massage oil and take great pleasure in doing the routine whilst listening to Bach’s Cello Concertos. This excellent video on Youtube will teach you how to do it effectively:

I also use a Jasmine, Rose and Neroli combo neat as an aroma-therapeutic perfume if I’m feeling low. Neat skin application is not recommended (I’m not recommending it) but I expect it’s not as dangerous as crack cocaine or gin.

Heartthrob Guerlain Perfumer Thierry Wasser raises his libido by sniffing some Rosa Damascena (any excuse)

Hurry up Christmas room fragrancing essential oils

Using a burner (I like a standard tea light ceramic model), try these oils to get in the festive spirit:

Hemlock or Black Spruce (on it’s own) – of all the coniferous plants, Spruce is the most evocative Christmas tree smell, you’ll love this if you wear Ormonde Jayne Woman or Man.

Mulled spice oil:

1 drop Bay Leaf
1 drop Cinnamon Leaf
2 drops sweet or blood orange

Practical tips and sensible bits for newbies:

Although I love many inexpensive perfumes, I don’t recommend buying cheap aromatherapy supplies. In this instance, you get what you pay for. Cheap absolutes in particular are often awash with solvents that have not been removed properly after the extraction process and are often cut with cheaper synthetic substances. Yuk. Buy from a reputable supplier, not some charlatan offering it half price on Ebay.

As a general guide, you can use essential oils at around a 5% dilution on the body and 2% on the face. I stick to this rule on my sensitive facial skin and when making remedies for other people. However, I use whopping great doses in my personal use bath and body products and it hasn’t killed me yet.

Longevity – Essential oils don’t perish for a very long time (apart from some citruses). Carrier oils do. Jojoba oil is a superb natural preservative meaning that blends made with Jojoba don’t require any additions. You can mix it with cheaper carrier oils such as Sweet Almond or Grapeseed to make large quantities for the body. A 1% dose of Wheatgerm oil will extend the life of anything else.

Essential oils are powerful medicines, some of which can be dangerous. Aromatherapy expert – Julia Lawless wrote two superb books which are great for beginners to gain a good level of both safety and aroma-therapeutic knowledge. These are:

The Complete Illustrated Guide to Aromatherapy - the best for beginners, including lots of tips about making your own medicinal and cosmetic preparations and a chapter about the psycho- aromatherapy and it’s application to perfumery.
The Encyclopedia of Essential Oils - an essential reference for anyone who has been seduced by exotic and rare oils used in perfumery, includes lots of information about how to avoid irritation and brain damage (Wormwood, that’s you I’m referring to). An excellent book for those with some existing knowledge wishing to extend their oil collection.

The recipes in this are unlikely to cause any reactions, but as with all aromatherapy products exercise caution or avoid if you are up the duff and check the encyclopedia for contra-indications if you have a serious medical condition.

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Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Review: Clarins - Eau Dynamisante, my eldest fragrant friend.

This Saturday was probably some sort of scented anniversary. I say ‘probably’ as I’m being a bit over-romantic - I think it’s roughly the 25 year anniversary of the onset of my dependable and satisfying relationship with Clarins' stalwart scent - Eau Dynamisante. It has lasted longer than any of my relationships with men and seen me through life stages of goth, shoegazer, raver, art school libertine, festival queen, indie kid, grown up indie kid and whatever hybrid of nonsense I am now.

I marked it by buying yet another bargainous bottle.

What makes it’s so worthy of commitment? To me, it possesses all the qualities of a traditional European eau de cologne. It offers abounding refreshment (alike most lemony colognes) but has the addition of a whopping whiff of personality, a grand charisma far beyond what you would expect from something generally squirted to offer relief from heat or fatigue.

Clarins describe it as a ‘treatment fragrance’;

Aromatic essential oils with treatment properties (Lemon, Patchouli, White Thyme, Petit Grain and Rosemary): scent, promote a wonderful feeling of freshness, vitality and well-being”

It’s true. It does. What they neglect to say is that it also offers a sense of exoticism, enabled by truly spicy elements of cardamom, carnation and coriander seed, which make it feel extraordinarily warm after the initial lemony blast dissipates. In fact it’s almost oriental, a kind of schizophrenic scent borrowing from several genres; the earthy dry patchouli offers a serious chypre quality, the spices a heady oriental nuance, and a citrus herbal blend reminiscent of a historic eau de cologne in the manner of Guerlain or Roger and Gallet. This multifaceted feel renders it a more riotous experience than the rather medicinal marketing bumph implies.

The original invigorating eau de cologne, Jean Marie Farina

What is curious about this scent is that very few menfolk wear it. Although often criticised for being ‘too masculine’, it remains firmly in the female domain. I assume that its sales point is the problem. It takes a brave man to approach the department store Clarin’s counter. Whilst us females happily play amongst the lotions and lipsticks, comfortable in a world of feminine luxury, men can often feel a bit shifty. I’ve seen it in action. Whilst shopping with boyfriends I’ve hurried my purchases to reduce the inevitable uncomfortable bloke syndrome. I don’t understand why they fail to feel the lure of sticking their fingers in a sample pot of cream and instead stand at least a good 3 feet away from the counter looking nervous. It’s as if touching a product will make their manhood shrink (possibly permanently).

Fountain of fearsome girliness

If you can get over the fear boys, please do go and take a whiff next time you find yourself in a department store. If you adore the Blue Acqua di Parma range or the Guerlain Eau de Colognes, you might be quite smitten with Eau Dynamisante. The only negative is that (alike most citrus rich colognes) it doesn’t emit its grandness for more than a couple of hours, so if you require a long lasting scent this is the wrong genre for you. However, a gift set with shower gel, body lotion and 100 ml of fragrance costs just £32 so you can layer the products to give it a bit more tenacity.

Maybe the act of making my boyfriends accompany me to Clarins counters could be the reason why Eau Dynamisante has stayed with me for so many more years than they have. To 'Insert multiple names here', I'm sorry...

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Jean Patou - Joy EDP, shot in the face with jasmine

An episode of The Simpsons featured a storyline where Homer decided to become an Inventor. Amongst his failed concepts was a double barrelled rifle that had been adapted to apply a full mask of make up. He shot Marge in the face with it. This is how I felt 3 hours ago in House of Fraser when I sprayed a large dose of Joy Eau de Parfum towards myself.

Joy resides amongst the group of perfumes that no longer gain a great deal of attention online, aside from a dedicated following of vintage collectors who speak lovingly of it’s decadence. It’s a shame that niche lovers neglect these Grand Dames as they offer a whopping great explosion of perfumey perfume that many of us would find delightful, especially those with an Amouage habit, a brand most certainly influenced by the immense aldehydic florals of the twentieth century. If you haven’t smelt them recently, please do get your nose around Joy, Arpege, Ma Griffe and First. I insist.

As you may know, I have recently been exploring my increasing fascination for jasmine, which both enchants and repulses me. So today I revisited Joy for a dose of the heady white monster. I sprayed with abandon and found myself agog with the intensity of this action. I was rooted to the counter for a few seconds as I experienced a great excitement and an almost instant headache. The Homer Simpson imagery was immediate, the effect of the scent being almost gunshot like – BANG! It’s perfume.

As I wandered outside, the air on the street offered some relief and diffused the fragrance, allowing me to appreciate its complexity without the migraine factor. The overwhelming feeling from Joy is that of an endless floral bombardment. They are all in there; jasmine, tuberose, lily of the valley, rose and ylang, and crikey do they smell authentic! Add to this Joy’s marginally urinous drop of civet and it becomes the archetype of glamourous perfume.

My estimated jasmine content of Joy!

If you’ve ever cooked Indian or Pakistani curries, you’ll be aware of the importance of fat. Low fat curries do not work. A big dollop of clarified butter acts as a sponge to absorb the many spices and herbs and hold their fragrance within. Within Joy, I can sense the process of enfleurage, where particularly fragile flowers are initially suspended in fat to draw out their scent. I am sure that I can smell fat, not actual fat, but the idea of a rich substance holding the fragrance together i.e. the ‘concept of enfleurage’. This has never happened to me before. It’s possible that Joy has reawakened my slightly flagging enthusiasm.

As I take a whiff of my arm now (4 hours later), I smell the perfect perfume, I'm not scattering my words lightly here, I mean it. The floral elements have quietened and the civet has merged with sandalwood to create a creamy and honeyed effect, as gentle and velveteen as the opening in loud and bombastic. Is it possible that this is the most beautiful dry down that I have ever smelt?

If I can ever get through the shock of the initial spray, I will buy this.

Last month I wrote about Salome by Papillon Artisan Perfumes. I now realise that Salome is Joy’s purple haired punky granddaughter who is currently at art school. If you would like to take a peak click here.

Monday, 27 July 2015

Papillon Artisan Perfumes - Salome, and the lure of a filthy whiff

Much has already been written about Papillon Perfumery’s latest launch – Salome. Indie superstar perfumer - Liz Moores likes bloggers (we like her very much too). And as such, the launch samples we received have already been thoroughly applauded and appreciated in virtual print. With this in mind, I’m not going to write another meticulous review. Instead I’d like to direct you to The Candy Perfume Boy’s evocative post for a superbly detailed description of how it smells. 


I’m going to talk filth.

The overriding opinion of Salome is that it smells dirty. It has been celebrated for smelling dirty. Fans of the brand have lovingly exclaimed the word ‘filth!’ in discussion comments and a great excitement has whipped up around its skankiness. But why do we actively try to smell dirty?

The presence of a ‘dirty’ note has been detected throughout the great scents of the 20th century. Traditionally, ingredients of animal origin such as castoreum (leather/cowpats), civet (piss/honey) and musk (you know what musk smells like) were used give a corporeality and strength to more easily palatable notes. As an example, a predominantly floral bouquet could present as whimsical prettiness. Add a dollop of civet to it and it loses its girlish charms and becomes a ‘grown up’ woman’s scent. Classic examples of this include Joy, Diorissimo and My Sin.

Liz left no filthy stone unturned when it came to the animal tones of Salome. Featuring both castoreum and hyraceum, she has pushed the filth about as far as it could go without it turning into the olfactory fishy pun that is ELDO’s Secretions Magnifique.

Salome is also rich in floral notes, especially the densely indolic combination of jasmine and orange blossom. My nose detects jasmine above all others. I used to be a committed jasminophobe but have found myself recently become as attracted to it as I was previously repelled. After purchasing a small bottle of Hermitage Oils’ Jasmine Absolute, I learnt to appreciate the complexity of the smell that was absent in cheaper essential oil blends. Yes, it still retains an abhorrent whiff of milk based diet nappies to me, but there is extraordinary beauty in there too. In fact, I’ve been known to dab a little on my pillow at night and fall to sleep in gag reflex-less pleasure. I’m not alone in thinking that jasmine smells shitty. Its down to a chemical constituent in the flower – indoles, molecules that are also present in human feces. If you would like to know more about them you can read an early Odiferess post (from my jasminophobe days) here.

So why would a perfumer want to combine these potential things of vileness in order to create beauty?

I can’t speak for the intentions of Liz here, but perhaps it’s because dirtyness is deemed sensual and clean is boring. Before a potential sexual encounter we are all likely to shower away our natural smells and replace them with a carefully chosen scent. Modern manners require purity, at least at first. But as the body biologically prepares for sex, it heats up and produces hormones. Our increased heart rate helps our skin and sex organs to radiate the scent. This makes us smell. So why not smell a bit hormonal to begin with, perhaps it could aid our powers of attraction?

I received my Salome sample in the few minutes between arriving home to dump my work bags and nipping out to see my local Doctor. Without much thought I gave myself a liberal squirt and left the apartment. Upon reaching the lift I could smell myself, a lot. I smelt distinctly pissy and far too glamourous to present myself in the surgery of my rather frumpy, pallid and somber GP. I have no idea if her sense of smell is acute, but she appeared to treat me with her usual decorum.

There’s a lot more than dirtiness going on with Salome. In fact, it’s really rather beautiful. I encourage you to read The Candy Perfume Boy's article in order to fully appreciate this naughty whiff. You may also like to read my post on another scent in the Papillon line up. One that truly seduced me, the leathery delight that is Anubis.

I’m going to leave you with a list of some renown stinkers to enable you to seek out comparative filth for your delight:

My pretty little Avon 'pissycat' - A vintage bottle of Occur

Stinkers that please me:

Carven – Ma Griffe (An old fashioned aldehyde white floral with more than a hint of urine. I wore this to a wedding a couple of years ago and felt elegant and otherworldly).

Roja Dove – Enigma Pour Homme (I’m typing through gritted teeth due to the ridiculous price point of this scent but it’s a stunner. Again, a urinous whiff, this time with a wodge of honeyed cognac which adds to the dirtiness).

Avon – Occur (Discontinued many years but the white milk glass collector’s bottles have often kept the vintages alive. Another honey and urine combo with the addition of fabulous banned nitromusks). You can read my review here.

Elvis Presley's actual pants, auctioned a few years ago in Stockport, United Kingdom.

Stinkers of the very worst olfactory nightmares:

Etat Libre D’ Orange – Secretions Magnifique (watch Katie Puckrick’s hilarious video for your likely response).

Etat Libre D’ Orange – Jasmine et Cigarette (What it says on the tin. Cold, dry and vile, and I like cigs).

Parfum D’ Empire – Musc Tonkin (A terrifyingly disgusting creation from one of my favourite brands. I sprayed my sample during a work lunch break and spent the next hour worrying that a person in my vicinity had soiled themselves. It manages to smell of both wee and poo concurrently).

Kiehl’s – Orginal Musk (Sweet floral watery nappies. Somehow both subtle and repulsive, perhaps it’s the ‘light’ water effect that makes the muskiness so unpleasant to me).

Do you have a beloved or feared dirty scent? I’d love to hear about it, and indeed your opinion on why filth scents are popular.

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Guest Writer - Clive Sax, on how perfume can evoke significant life events

YSL, depict a statue in real (ish) man form

Recently I conducted an experiment which was designed to discover if inexpensive scents could be loved as much as their costly brethren. You can click here to read the results.
Upon recruiting my scent lover testing panel, I asked each person to name their favourite five scents (simply to enquire if they had breadth in their tastes). What I wasn’t expecting to receive was a literary delight written by my friend Clive. I invited him to take part because I admire his taste greatly, particularly the fact that he appreciates scents for their value to him, not for their current hype and bluster. What I didn’t know was that he was superbly engaging writer. With his permission, I give you unedited access to his correspondence. Thanks Clive.

"After a little contemplation and soul searching my top 5 fragrances (at this time) are....

Zelda - En Voyage Perfumes
(vintage) Kouros - YSL
Ambre 114 - Histoires de Parfums
Fleur de Matin - Miller Harris
Centrepiece - 4160 Tuesdays

That was such a painful process! I just keep thinking about all the beauties that didn't make the list.

 It's interesting to me that the selection I have made really does speak strongly to memory. Not specific events but rather periods in my life, realisations and developmental milestones. I'm going to describe how I experience the scents rather than listing notes. For me a scent is alive and so much more than it's component parts. 

Zelda represents the matriarchal and the love of mothers, grandmothers and aunts along with all the women in my life I called aunt (even though they weren't my aunties.) Auntie Win, Auntie Kitty, Auntie Brenda. All the women who worked together to raise one another’s children and grandchildren. Visiting their homes and the first time I understood that peoples houses all smelled different along with clothes, furniture, handbags, bed linen and skin. Zelda represents that to me and is a testament to family, longevity, difference, individuality, community and love.

Kouros is the period of anarchy, finding my own path, experiencing liberation and fighting against the status quo, the norm and the expected. It represents my own sexual awakening and the beginning of a time when my own hedonism became uncontrolled. Looking back to that period I could so easily have fallen and not got back up, but I was somewhat lucky or blessed or just wise enough to pull back from some precipice on the edge of a gaping chasm. Kouros represents that period. With its overbearing grandiose statement of maleness it worked to give me courage to explore darker aspects of my own psyche, and in doing I was able to expand into life. Kouros is the scent of a time when I questioned nothing and jumped in feet first. And yet it gave me a period after of reflection and with that came wisdom and knowledge.

Ambre 114 is the unconditional love of family. It is the warm cozy smell of intimacy in childhood of stories and books, of archetypes made real through AA Milne, Disney, Brothers Grimm. The magic of being thrilled and scared by the dark and monsters under the bed. It is the oversized teddy bear I held in the dark as I let my imagination run wild. Trolls under bridges, the wicked, the cruel. All made real because love was the saviour. Ambre 114 is that love. A safe haven and a constant in a wicked world of childhood.

Fleur de Matin is the summer weekend mornings of childhood in our South London back garden. When as young children we explored everything with our noses. We were small and everything within reach was touched and sniffed. We got into everything, we hid under bushes, we crawled under sheds, rooting around as the sun warmed the earth. It's the sparkle of morning dew and the sound of Terry Wogan on the radio while across the sky vapour trails melted into blue skies. It's ants, bees and birdsong. It doesn't have great longevity, but the times we spent in the garden was also limited, a morning garden becomes an afternoon garden and so time is somehow a poignant aspect of perfumery, and for me this perfume in particular.

Centrepiece represents appreciation, serenity, balance and a holding together of all the experiences of the lived life. It's the scent of acceptance and gratitude, of coming full circle, of the ouroboros and the recognition of the continuous and eternal. Interconnectedness and spirituality. For me it is the scent of wisdom without words, the benign overseer of the active mind and the intellect, the watcher of the ego and it's desperate fight to justify it's existence. Centrepiece is the antithesis of the selfish and the self absorbed. Expansive and knowing.

And there we have it."

What thrilled me about Clive’s revelation was his great ability to describe the evocative nature of scent, i.e. the capability of a little bottle of smelly water to adorn a significant moment in time, the reawakening of feelings and long lost adventures, beloved people and places. Isn’t this ultimately what it’s all about?

Monday, 15 June 2015

Does a high price tag signal a 'superior' scent? (No, of course it bloomin doesn't!) Here's an experiment...

Joy, once the most costly perfume in the world, 
now mere pennies in comparison to it's niche contemporaries.

I recently spent the 'whopping sum' of £18.95 on a brand new bottle of one of the most enjoyable scents that I have worn this year - Moschino's 80s classic, Moschino Femme. This bargainous whiff struck me as far more elegant, creative and wearable than many of the significantly more valuable vials competing for space in my sample boxes.

The fact is this, magnificent scents exist at both ends of the price spectrum. Equally, boring and unpleasant ones do too. A luxe name and a huge price tag does not necessarily equate to olfactory beauty or 'quality' ingredients (whatever that means).

I rant about this a lot.

So I decided to create an experiment to see if the tastes of other dedicated scent lovers detected a superior nature in more costly scents. I ensured that my panel had broad tastes (i.e. wore and appreciated several different genres) to encourage a fair outcome. I asked them to blind test an unmarked numbered sample, give it a rating out of five, and estimate the retail price of a 50 ml bottle.

I purposely selected four scents for the experiment that I personally appreciate, with the cheapest creation coming from Yves Rocher and the most costly from Grossmith. These are two of my favourite lesser known brands. There was no point including famous beauties from my Guerlain or Chanel collection as my panel would possibly be familiar with their wares and therefore be biased. A fifth scent was my own invention, included as a kind of decoy or placebo, to see how an unbranded personal creation would fair against commercial products.

Here are the results:

Scent No.1 MoschinoMoschino Femme EDT 

RRP £32 for 45 ml (actual price £18.95 recently from Allbeauty.com)

Clive"Something here makes me go weak at the knees. I get beautiful white florals (frangipane) in the opening and an almost immediate strong sense of the past. A classical structure where exemplary balance, blending, and note separation make for a deeply enjoyable wear. I think this might be Centrepiece by 4160 Tuesdays, but I’m not sure!" 
Estimated cost per 50 ml £110, 5/5

Alice: "Pleasant enough creamy floral opening. This creaminess really thickened up and I thought it was going to become cloying but then it just disappeared! Very familiar, almost ubiquitous. Smooth with some quality but felt like it was trying to be more expensive than it probably is?"
Estimated cost per 50 ml £40, 2/5

Holly: "Fresh, not very floral, woody, quite smooth and subtle. Rather bland nondescript – destined to appeal to the high street masses and offend no one ?"
Estimated cost per 50 ml £100, 3/5

Claire: "A polite and thoroughly pleasant citrus opening, with white florals. Nicely constructed though to about 2 hours then it changed drastically to sweet caramel vanilla with a little musk. I felt like they ran out of money to do the scent they wanted."
Estimated cost per 50 ml £30, 3/5

Scent No. 2 Lubin - Nuit de Longchamp EDP
RRP £85 for 50ml 

Clive: "Soft fruits, juicy, complex and faceted, quite busy opening, lots going on, cough syrupy, resins, Iris, florals. Different notes grabbing attention in the first 5 minutes. On skin the fragrance has integrity, the green and floral notes come forward, polite and balanced on skin. Very different to Card"
Estimated cost per 50 ml £45, 2/5

Alice: "A plush fruity blast that made me think of green and purple. Slight medicinal note stopped it being too sweet. Very enjoyable, if I thought it had good sillage (need to spray) and wasn’t too expensive would probably buy this for fun!"
Estimated cost per 50 ml £35, 3/5

Holly: "More floral than No1. Brighter, Rose. Smells like Agent Provocateur which I like."
Estimated cost per 50 ml £80, 4/5

Claire: "Very soft spicy oriental,with some Iris? This felt like it didn't want to offend, maybe I didn't put enough on, it didn't lift off my skin. Again I found this changed to basically just give of musk after 3 ish hours. Not a cheap musk but not a perfume."
Estimated cost per 50 ml £25, 2/5

Scent No 3 Grossmith - Shem el Nessim EDP
RRP £170 for 50 ml

Clive: "Vintage, old school, heliotrope floral, summer hay note, Habanita without the dirtier aspects, reminded me of French perfumery, vanilla, maybe labdanum, bold aldehydes. Like a Piguet or a Caron."
Estimated cost per 50 ml £120, 5/5

Alice: "I got nothing from this at all, inoffensive with no development. There was a smell there but what it was or how it made me feel? Nothing! Maybe its my skin’s fault but this didn’t even really appear on me or affect me on any level."
Estimated cost per 50 ml £20, 1/5

Holly: "Has a classy vibe - something by Chanel? Powdery, iris/orris root."

Estimated cost per 50 ml £150, 3/5

Claire: "Suspect this has Guerlain DNA but it's one I don't have! I'm getting jasmine Ylang Ylang, peach Vanilla, darlings… anyway I like it. Drydown smells more consistent with the rest of the fragrance. This got a compliment from the husband too."
Estimated cost per 50ml £60, 4/5

Scent No. 4  Mine, no name This was my 'placebo'. It's a floral chypre that I created solely using essential oils. I estimate it would cost me about £50 to £60 to make 50ml (there is a lot of rose and jasmine absolute in here) but a professional perfumer would obviously pay a lot less when buying ingredients in bulk quantities.

Clive: "Big bold camphor note, unctuous rich and tear inducing. Patchouli on steroids with a beautiful mint note, quite linear. Leans eastward."
Estimated cost per 50 ml £90, 4/5

Alice: "Lush and layered like an underwater iris, this wouldn't necessarily be my thing but I appreciated it a lot. Was scared it was going to end up disappearing into powder but that didn't happen and I happily kept sniffing my arm. My family thought it smelt really nice!"
Estimated cost per 50 ml £50, 3/5

Holly: "Very Dubai? Masculine? A heavy hitter with a urinous note and oud in there. Herbal, Resins. Best part was the dry down with Patchouli coming through."
Estimated cost per 50 ml £150, 2/5

Claire: "A style of perfumery I have trouble wearing. High in essential oils this is either a skilled artisan (cheers Claire!) selling for peanuts or someone like Bogue. The camphoraceous patchouli hits you hard and I didn't enjoy wearing it until an hour had passed, amazing lovely dry down. Quality ingredients!"
Estimated cost per 50 ml  "Hmmm, £15 or £100 per 50ml?", 3/5

Scent No. 5 Yves Rocher - Secrets D' Essences Voile D' Ambre EDP
RRP for 50ml £52 (which is nonsense as they always sell all of their scents with at least 40% off RRP, todays mail order price is £26.)

Clive: "Citrus lavender  tonka and almond with a hint of something that resembles pear drops, banana note. Gourmand, edible.   Beautiful tonka, Amber whilst retaining a sweet  benzoin note right to the end. The drydown is stunning!!"
Estimated cost per 50 ml £80, 4/5

Alice: "The most familiar smell! Which is probably why it was my favourite out of the whole bunch. There was something moorish about it and I even got some compliments! Quite linear but there was a depth to it I loved. Can’t wait to find out what this one is so I can explore it further…"
Estimated cost per 50ml £60, 4/5

Holly: "Weak, little impact,dilute. Hard to detect any notes in this wan insipid floaty floral."
Estimated cost per 50ml £50, 1/5

Claire: "This felt like a classic perfume. Herby citrus top, with some flowery and animalic benzoin showing through so you know the journey, felt creamy and rich. this got the most compliments too. Sadly this one leaked so I only got to wear it once!"
Estimated cost per 50ml £60, 5/5

Our winner

Score summary

Yves Rocher - Secrets D' Essences Voile D'Ambre 14/20 Winner
Moschino - Moschino Femme 13/20
Grossmith - Shem el Nessim 13/20
My unnamed scent 12/20
Lubin - Nuit de Longchamp 11/20

So, with only 3 points separating the winner from the loser, I can summarise that my panel, in this instance, agree with me. Superb! It also highlights the extremities of taste, ultimately suggesting that there is no such thing as a universally appealing scent. I will also reveal that the winner cost me nothing, it was a free gift when I spent £15 on some foundation.

If you want to find out more about Yves Rocher, you may enjoy this post featuring another scent from the Secret D' Essences line - Neroli

Enormous thanks to my panel for both their time and their honest opinions. It was greatly entertaining to read your responses. 

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