Santal Nabataea by Mona di Orio

Stop acting so small. You are the universe in ecstatic motion. – Rumi

Notes: Black Pepper, Blackcurrant Leaf, Dried Apricot, Oleander, Opoponax, Clay, Sandalwood, Tonka Bean and Coffee Absolute,

Santal Nabataea captured me the moment I sprayed it. I’m grateful to Val the Cookie Queen for sharing her sample with me.

santal nab

Santal Nabataea is the last 2018 release from Mona di Orio. The perfumer is Fredrik Dalman who also composed Bohea Boheme and Suede de Suede for the same house. The fragrance was inspired by the ancient kingdom of Nabataea and its capital Petra, with its striking sandstone architecture.

petra

This is not the sweetened, creamy Samsara-style sandalwood perfume you may be used to: it is something much more desiccated.

The blend of Australian and Indian sandalwood is the golden glow at its core. This is overlaid by cooling incense which is resinous rather than smoky, with a nice bite of bitter green astringency to it. This is enhanced by the presence of dusty black pepper – forever a favourite note of mine.

There is no clichéd spice market on display here or the heavy blanket of amber that is often used to underpin this kind of fragrance. The foundation is actually a savoury base of roasted coffee beans which works beautifully. Multi-layered like the various coloured strata of sandstone, it is a thoughtfully crafted composition which doesn’t use shortcuts to achieve its aim.

I hugely admire and own a bottle of Bois des Iles but I find Mona di Orio’s offering more to my current mood. Santal Nabataea is transporting and produces a meditative effect. In contrast to the plush, velvet effect of the Chanel, it’s sun-baked with a sandy texture that echoes the landscape of Petra. The aridity of it feels cleansing and it does possess an air of antiquity. While its approach to sandalwood is more pared down, it is no less luxurious.

Projection is moderate and lasting power is excellent for an EdP. Unlike a lot of traditional sandalwood fragrances which have a tendency to lean masculine, I find it completely gender neutral.

whirling

The Sufi order of Mevlevi was founded by the followers of the 13th century Persian poet and mystic, Rumi. The initiates are commonly known as Whirling Dervishes and are devoted to a life of austerity. Their whirling is part of a ceremony that puts them in a profound state of spiritual euphoria. Santal Nabataea is a whirling dervish in a bottle, spinning an aura on the skin that is not a little transcendent.

How do you feel about sandalwood fragrances? Do you like the sound of Santal Nabataea?

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Portia’s Winter List

Hi there A Bottled Rosers. Thanks again Tara for letting me infiltrate you inner sanctum.

I come from Australian Perfume Junkies and would like to share some of my all-time favourite fragrances. Each season, according to your Northern Hemisphere weather, I’ll tell you what I have that gets quite a bit of wear. So Portia’s Winter List will be like an all-star list.

Here’s a pic of Tara and me on our 2018 holidays in the Australian Outback at Uluru with TinaG.

Portia’s Winter List

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2018 Reading Wrap Up

I hope it’s not too late to wish you a Happy New Year.

I moved home on the 17th December and then was ill all of Christmas week. The two things are probably connected but it didn’t spoil the holidays too much. I’m gradually settling in and I know it’s just a matter of time before I completely adjust.

I’m designating this month ‘Slow January’. I will be putting zero pressure on myself and doing little more than curling up with a good book.

With one thing and another, I missed my Reading Challenge goal for 2018 by 2 books. I managed 33 in all which is still perfectly fine with me.

Of these 33 books, I gave 18 a rating of five stars on Goodreads, which shows it was a good reading year overall.

The ten books that impacted me the most for various reasons were:

Rebecca by Daphne de Maurier

I finally found out what all the fuss was about. What a stunning novel. I want to read her other books now and will try Jamaica Inn next.

Self-Compassion by Kristin Neff

This book taught me that regularly practicing self-compassion can change your life. I will re-read it at some point.

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

I was worried I wouldn’t get on with this Japanese modern classic, but I was captivated by it. I felt so much affection and empathy for the main character and his angst.

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

I couldn’t get enough of the chilly, fantastical atmosphere of this novel set in medieval Russia. I read the second book and have pre-ordered the final instalment of the trilogy which is released on 10th January.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

I know some literary types look down their noses at this one but I found it to be a great tragi-comic read.

Eleanor-Oliphant-is-Completely-Fine-by-Gail-Honeyman

12 Rules for Life by Jordan Peterson

I don’t go along with all his views by any means but this book was what I needed at the time to push me into action.

Circe by Madeline Miller

Right up there with Song of Achilles, another wonderful Greek myth re-telling from Madeline Miller.

Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig

This personal memoir of severe depression coupled with crippling anxiety made me feel less isolated when I was going through issues of my own. Matt Haig comes across as hugely likeable. I’d like to read his fiction at some point.

The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry

This beautiful book set in coastal Essex in the late 19th century made me want to read more historical fiction. I loved the relationship between widow, Cora and vicar, Will, not to mention the mystery of the Essex serpent.

The Chimp Paradox by Dr. Steve Peters

The metaphors get a bit convoluted but the basic premise that our emotional brain is stronger than our rational brain – and how to deal with – will stay with me.

chimp

My most read genres were fantasy, self-improvement and classics, which is reflected above. I’m particularly glad I set the target of reading a classic a month because it led me to some amazing books I might not have got round to otherwise.

This year I want to continue reading classics I might have missed as well as more historical fiction. How about you?

Any literary highlights from 2018?

books

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2018 From the Cookie Kitchen

 

“House is haunted, I just wanna go for a ride, Out and on, before I set this room alight, Left alone, Forever, and for crimes unclear, With my patience gone, Someone take me far from here.”  Gasoline by Audioslave

April, 2018.  Tara invited me to guest post for the time that APJ was out-of-action.  Little did I imagine that I would still be writing here at the end of the year.  I returned to APJ in the summer and after talking with Tara, remained here to start my monthly Strange Tales From the Cookie Kitchen.

Today I’m sharing some of my 2018 highlights from the spheres of film, literature and music.

MOVIES

 

val black

BLACKKKLANSMAN Spike Lee’s true story of the first African-American detective to serve in the Colorado Springs Police Department, early 19070’s.  And how he sets out to infiltrate and expose the KKK.

The Dawn Wall  The story of free climber Tommy Caldwell, and his climbing partner Kevin Jorgeson and their climbing of The Dawn Wall, a 3,000 foot rock face in Yosemite. Six years of meticulously plotting and practicing their route.  It had never been done.

 

val dawn

Widows  Anyone remember the ITV series?  It is based upon that.  The basic plot follows four women, whose criminal husbands are killed on a botch job, planning a heist to pay back a crime boss.  Directed by Steve McQueen, (12 Years A Slave) who has the ability to allow you to see into a character with just a single frame.  Superb.  Go see it.

 

val widows

 

Isle of Dogs Wes Anderson’s stop-motion-animated science-fiction comedy-drama film.  It is set in a dystopian Japan, and it is the story of  young boy looking for his dog.   All dogs have been banished to Trash Island, to prevent a flu virus they have crossing over to humans.  It is a wonderful as every other Wes Anderson film.

 

val isle of dogs

Taken Yes, the movie with Liam Neeson.  I knoooow is is from 2009 and not 2018, but I only just watched it.  No, I have no idea what took me so long.  Cult.

 

BOOKS

 

The Handmaids Tale by Margaret Atwood

Chasing the Scream and Lost Connections by Johann Hari 

The Life and Rhymes of Benjamin Zephaniah – The Autobiography

How to Change Your Mind by Michael Pollan

Clothes, Clothes, Clothes, Music, Music, Music, Boys, Boys, Boys by Viv Albertine

 

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GYM TUNES

Gasoline x 1000, Audioslave.  Top Tune.

val audioslave

 

Lose Yourself and Venom, Eminem


val eninmen

 Wake Up, Brass Against

 London Calling, The Clash – the whole album.  Not one bad track.

 

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I can’t finish 2018 without thanking my amazing, kind, patient, seriously batshit crazy trainer, Eric.  He has changed my life.  And the incredible Crikey/Slowlight who has cyber-motivated me to push myself to the limits, as she pushes beyond hers.  Big love to both of you gorgeous things.

And eternal thanks for the enduring friendship with Tara and Vanessa;  who keep me sane.

CQ of APJ

Hop over to APJ if my top perfumes of the year are of any interest!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Merry Christmas – Dealing With Overwhelm

I love Christmas but I’m looking forward to the break more than ever this year. I’m coming to the end of the long process of moving home which started at the beginning of September. I will finally get the keys today and move in this Wednesday.

The whole thing has been stress-inducing but for about 3 weeks in November/December the anxiety was so extreme it was unbearable. Being unable to sleep for more than a few hours a night, waking up with a racing heartbeat and a never ceasing feeling of panic, was horrendous. This was no doubt exacerbated – or more likely caused – by my negative thoughts spiralling out of control. I kept thinking I’d done everything wrong and couldn’t stop going over and over the poor decisions I thought I’d made.

I had support from the GP but she said that the anxiety was too acute for medication make a difference unless I was all but knocked out, which I didn’t want.

What did help:

  1. Talking. Sharing how I felt with friends and family was really important. I needed the reassurance they gave me that I was doing the right thing. On a couple of days when I felt beside myself, I called two amazing friends on the phone and they talked me down.
  2. Anchors. Having a few points during the day that gave me some comfort/distraction made a difference. In the mornings I would listen to podcast focusing on tackling anxiety, at lunchtime I’d connect with nature by taking a walk in the park near my office and when I got home I’d make a cup of lapsang suchong with extra sugar and watch YouTube videos for a while.
  3. Reconnecting with my ‘why’. I was in such a cycle of self-doubt that I had completely forgotten why on earth I was putting myself through all this. Running through all the benefits of moving away from my current home and into the new one was something I did at night when I couldn’t sleep.
  4. Writing. This one was huge. I’ve learnt that when all these fears and worries are at fever pitch, it’s hopeless trying to sort them out in my head. I have to rationalise my thoughts on paper. I wrote to that terrified part of me, telling her I understood exactly how she felt and told her that although what we were doing was tough there were many reasons that it was for our ultimate benefit. I felt radically different afterwards for the rest of that day.
  5. Self-help books. I binged on self-help books. I couldn’t concentrate on novels anyway and knowing that other people had gone through the same thing (and worse) made me feel less crazy and isolated.
  6. Extreme self-care. Like a lot of people, I tend to put a lot of pressure on myself. Considering acute anxiety puts a lot of strain on your nervous system (mine felt as if it was on fire) it can have a knock-on effect on your body. High levels of cortisol take a toll as well as all that muscle tension. I was desperately looking round for an alternative therapy that might give me some relief but in the end, settled on a good old-fashioned massage. It was physically and emotionally restorative. I spent evenings just lying in bed listening to audio books. I didn’t stress over what I ate, watched escapist boxsets and yes, that old self-care cliché, took long, hot baths.  True self-care is deeper than that though. It’s about self-compassion: telling yourself it’s okay to feel the way you do, you’re not the only one who feels like this and giving yourself permission to do whatever it takes to get through it.
  7. Yoga. I’ve been doing yoga once a week for several years now but this has been the first time I’ve noticed the dramatic effect it can have on my mental health. It felt like an hour-long therapy session where I released all that built-up anguish. I’d come out feeling like I’d hit the re-set button on my troubled mind.
  8. This too shall pass. Knowing that these feelings wouldn’t last forever and I just had to get through them, one day at a time.

After all this, I will be spending the next couple of weeks unpacking, recuperating from the past few months and acclimatising to my new home. Hopefully I’ll get the sense of excitement I’ve been missing and know with certainty that I’ve done the right thing.

Val the Cookie Queen will be back with another Strange Tale tomorrow and we will then see you again on the other side of the New Year. The 1st January marks 3 years of A Bottled Rose. I can’t quite believe it’s been that long already and am incredibly grateful to all of you who consistently read and comment. It means a lot.

Wishing you all a peaceful Christmas and all good things for 2019.

 

dove

 

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Reading Diary – Autumn/Winter 2018

2018 is the first year I’ve set a reading goal to be achieved by 31st December. I’ve done it on Goodreads and it’s currently telling me that at 30 books read so far, I’m two books behind schedule. I’m aiming for a total of 35 but at this rate I’m not going to make it.

I like having the incentive to read and I’m trying to catch up. I know a lot of people switch to short books if they’re falling behind at the end of year. I might resort to that.

 

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A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

The BBC’s modern day adaptation of Sherlock Holmes is one of my favourite TV programmes. I felt I should therefore get round to reading the stories and started at the beginning with A Study in Scarlet. I enjoyed seeing Watson and Holmes meet for the first time and the latter’s deductions were as brilliant as I’d expect. Reading about Victorian London was also a joy. However, when we went back in time to America, I felt a bit thrown and the characterisation of the Morman community was nothing short of horrific. On top of this, the way the name of the culprit was discovered was less than thrilling so it finished on a flat note for me. I don’t feel compelled to read the next in the series but if you think I should, please let me know in the comments. 3/5

 

12 Rules for Life by Dr Jordan Peterson

Dr Peterson must be the most controversial intellectual in the world today. His views relating to women frequently make me absolutely livid. However his knowledge and research in the field of clinical psychology is formidable. This book does largely stick to the personal development theme and once I got past the long section about lobsters (yes, really) I found much of value. Its message of the importance of personal responsibility and meaning are both concepts that resonated with me and what I’m going through right now. I even found myself in the pages at one point and it was a stark reminder of why I continue to push myself outside of my comfort zone despite the anxiety it causes. 4/5

 

The Mistborn Trilogy – Books 1 & 2 by Brandon Sanderson

This epic fantasy series has been majorly hyped so it was always going to struggle to live up to expectations. It’s set in a world where some people can consume one of a number of metals which will give them a corresponding power. Then there are the Mistborns who can consume all the metals and therefore have all of the powers. It’s the most well thought out magic system I’ve come across and the plotting is great. I could have really done without YET ANOTHER female assassin, but that’s just me. I have to say though, I preferred the world created in the Darker Shade of Magic trilogy by V.E. Schwab and liked the characters more. All the same, this is top quality high fantasy. I will finish the trilogy and probably continue with series at some point now more books have been released. 4/5

 

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

I’ve never read this classic and decided to rectify that for Halloween. I had no idea about the personal anguish the protagonist, Viktor Frankenstein, goes through. Or for that matter, his monster. It’s a highly emotionally charged book as well as a horror story. The depiction of despair and torment experienced by both the man characters was intense to the point of melodrama. I had a tough time suspending my disbelief at times even though it’s a fantastical story. How did the monster manage to follow Victor from Switzerland to the Orkney Islands unaided and unobserved?!  I was hooked all the same. 3.5/5

 

frankenstein

 

Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E Frankl

I’ve been putting off reading this classic in the field of psychology for over 20 years. I’ve  always avoided anything connected to The Holocaust, however it’s time to ditch this naïvety and read what people had to endure in the Nazi death camps. The first half of this slim book details Frankl’s experience in Auschwitz in relation to the way he and others reacted and coped psychologically with the terror and daily deprivations of life in the camps. The second half is a meditation on how his experiences informed his professional practice of “logotherapy”. He was a remarkable individual and it’s hard to feel you can’t find meaning in your own suffering when Frankl and (a few) others managed to achieve this in the harshest of circumstances imaginable. 4/5

 

Circe by Madeline Miller

I loved Miller’s Song of Achilles and I ate up Circe with a spoon. What a treat. I love the Greek Myths and Circe interacts with many of the well known gods and heroes. It was particularly enjoyable to observe her relationship with the ever-fascinating Odysseus. She starts out a timid youth, craving the attention of her father (Helios) but her character transforms once she’s exiled. It’s an archetypal hero’s journey but with a woman as the protagonist. The exquisite writing is a beautiful bonus. 5/5

 

circe

 

Have you read any of these? Do you set an annual reading goal? How are you getting on?

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Hyde by Hiram Green

Notes: Lemon, Bergamot, Birch, Cassie, Labdanum, Vanilla and Oakmoss

 

I only drift off easily at night these days when listening to recordings of turbulent weather, such as squally winds, heavy rain or a rumbling thunderstorm. It may seem odd that these restless sounds soothe me to sleep, but I find something calming about the wildness of nature when I’m safe inside.  Wearing Hyde, the new EdP release by indie perfumer Hiram Green, gives me the same feeling.

 

hyde

 

The fragrance opens a little medicinal and those citrus top notes don’t hang around as we leap headlong into the warming arms of leather.

Most fragrances in this category smell like molten tar but this is much more of a bonfire on the breeze. It has that quality of smoke in the air that regularly occurs here in autumn/winter, which I love and look forward to at the end of every summer.

Hyde is not as heavy as many leathers. It possesses all of the atmosphere with only half of the weight. It doesn’t have that same level of dense meatiness you often find in similarly themed scents either.  It has real presence but exhibits a lightness of touch, and it’s that sinuousness in a normally rugged style, that really captivates me.

There is a savoury and moreish aspect to Hyde, although it’s not in the least bit edible.  It’s also considerably more parched than a lot of birch leather fragrances, with the feel of charred wood rather than sticky tar. I picture it as deepest brown rather than inky black.

I find myself breathing it in deeply. I like the burnt facet that hits the back of my throat at the end of the inhale. Bois d’Ascese by Naomi Goodsir is a conflagration but Hyde is a smouldering slow burn.  Where Cuir de Lancôme is plush, Hyde is unworldly. The fragrance wraps itself like smoke rings around the body and the sense of intimacy is alluring. The lasting power – particularly for a natural perfume – is superb.

The soft malt vanilla in the drydown can only be enjoyed through the lingering wisps of woodsmoke and I like it all the more for that. In common with a lot of base-heavy fragrances, Hyde is best experienced at one remove.

I’ve been thinking about how, when the shadows lengthen or the internal darkness falls, it makes sense to step down a couple of gears to ease the pressure.  It’s time to take some respite from the rat-race, either with your loved ones or alone. Hyde is the perfect perfume to hibernate with. It is as reassuring as it is addictive and would make a wonderful shared scent.

It is a must-try if you like burning/smoky scents. It’s not going to appeal to everyone but the best fragrances often don’t. Hyde isn’t trying to please the crowd. It walks its own path, leaving a trail of smoking footprints scorched into the moss-covered earth.

 

hyde pic

 

How do you feel about smoky perfumes? Will you be seeking out Hyde?

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Strange Tales from the Cookie Kitchen

Roast Fish, Collie Weed & Cornbread

“Some plant coffee, some plant tea, So why can’t I and I plant collie?  If you stray from the root, Then you’ll never know the truth right now, Ca’ the war can’t solve no problem, love is the emblem, Instead of hate and malice, we should be sipping chalice, And giving praises to His Most High Jah Jah Rastafari …….”    ‘Free Up The Weed’ from the album Roast Fish, Collie Weed & Cornbread by Lee Perry 1978
jam lee

Kingston, Jamaica 1988

Our end destination was the Dominican Republic, way before the “package holiday and get shit-faced on all-the-free-rum you want” days made it popular for the masses.  We had friends there and were gonna stay for five months.

February 1988 saw us leaving Amsterdam, heading for Jamaica for a two week stop-over before continuing on over to the Dom Rep.   I don’t remember when we landed in Kingston but it was dark already.   We had specially booked a well known chain hotel, not knowing our arses from our elbows in Kingston, with the intention of seeking out somewhere else on the island to stay from there.  We hopped into a taxi, the driver assuring us he knew where the hotel was.

It was about a half hour drive into Kingston and we sat back.  As we thought we were getting close, the driver abruptly took a right hand turn down a road that narrowed quite quickly and street lights disappeared.  He pulled up in front of a bungalow, everything dark, and informed us that we had reached our destination.  It definitely did not look like the Four Seasons Hotel in downtown Kingston.  When we questioned him, he said that this was his friend’s place and suggested we might want to stay there. Cheaper.  Chris yelled at him and said absolutely not and take us to the hotel now.  He turned around and proceeded to do exactly that.  I still wonder if we were lucky to make it.

Irie Vibes and Weed in the Trees

We took a walk into downtown Kingston the next day.  Reggae booming out everywhere. Dancehall, Ska, Johnny Clarke, Dub, The Congos, Mighty Diamonds, U-Roy, I-Roy and a hundred other tunes.  I loved – and still love – the reggae from the seventies and eighties. At no point on our way there or back, did we pass any other white people.  A lot of dreadlock Rastas.  And yeah, we walked through Trenchtown too, which kind of surprised the receptionist back in the hotel later.  Irie vibes and pounding loud music everywhere, bass to shake the foundations of the earth.

Heading back to the hotel we were stopped by a guy who asked if we might want some grass.  Mirrored shades, very cool.  We talked for a while before agreeing to take him up on his kind offer.  At which point he snapped his fingers and yelled something, looking up into the tree we were standing under.  We raised our eyes too and were surprised to see about eight dudes sitting in the branches and sixteen eyes looking down on us.  One of them threw down a package.  Deal.

Strawberry Fields, Robin’s Bay

We asked in the hotel where we could go to be in the real Jamaica, as far away as possible from the Montego Bay scene.   They sent us up to Strawberry Fields. How could we resist the name?  About a three hour drive, due north, through the Blue Mountains, in a taxi.  Beautiful.   The driver took us right up to a wooden hut, Bobby`s hut, where Bobby himself greeted us with a handful of weed and a Red Stripe beer.

We were to eat there every day for a week; breakfast and dinner.  Roast fish, cornbread, breadfruit, mangos, avocados, beans, plantain, ackee and a shit ton of ganja. Bobby cooked.  Bobby was the main man.  He rented us a bamboo hut down near the beach. Strawberry Fields was named in the seventies and supposedly became a popular tourist destination.  But when we were there, there was not another tourist, let alone white person to be seen. Again.

 

jam hut

Bobby’s hut

 

We met a number of the local guys that same evening, I have no memories of seeing another woman.  None of that mattered though.  We sat around having a smoke together.  A chalice was filled and passed to me to light (basically what we call a bong.)  I smoked the whole thing in one toke. My lungs as big as my mouth.  I was not showing off, we smoked huge pipes in Amsterdam and I did not know I was supposed to pass it on.

You have to picture this.  There were about six of us sat around, totally high, and it was time to introduce ourselves.  There was one guy, fat dreads, who looked up and slowly said  “I am the Bush Doctor”.  We became friends with him.  He was the only guy who had been out of Jamaica, and he had visited New York.

We paid one of the men a few bucks a day to keep an eye on us. He called himself a bodyguard.  We were told that a couple of weeks earlier some German guys had had a run in with a guy with a machete.  That may or may not have been true.

 

jam joint

The bodyguard

Two weeks up there saw us forming some friendships.  Some of the dudes took us deep sea fishing. We were out on the boat for a few hours.  Everyone was too off of their heads to actually catch anything.  Smoking with these guys was wicked.

One day we had the privilege of being taken on a long hike, up through the woods and into their hidden fields of green.  High point.  Pun intended.

jam chris and guide

Chris and guide on the hike

 

We had our own beach, not another soul to be seen for miles. We were in bed each night by eight and up again with the first pipe at four.  I am surprised I remember anything.

 

jam beach

The beach

 

After eleven days living this free life, experiences too numerous to mention, the guys walked us to get a bus back down to Kingston.  We maybe left them with some LSD.  It was a minibus for 12 and there were 22 people on it.  Three hours, and winding mountain roads until we were back at the hotel for our last night.  I was so desperate to get off the bus I forgot my sleeping bag.

Dead Bodies and Valium

Next day we flew to Port-au-Prince, Haiti, with a two day stopover, before we would be able to fly on to Santa Domingo.  There was no straight connection between Amsterdam and the Dominican Republic.

As the plane came into land over Port-au-Prince, all you could see was slums. Corrugated iron shacks; thousands of them, right up to the perimeter of the airport.  A country with no tourists, and not because they were in Montego Bay.  There were none.  Well us and a bizarre American woman with her two daughters.  The five of us stayed in the Royal Haitian Hotel.  200 rooms, a full staff, and us.  Voodoo weird.

 

jam slums

 

As we left the airport, pushing our way through throngs of people, a couple of kids asked us if we wanted to see a dead body.  For five bucks.  Maybe that explained why you could buy Valium over the counter.  Most counters.

 

jam weed

About eighteen months later, we received a letter from Jamaica.  Upon opening it, a small piece of paper fell out with the words “More LSD” written on it.

“Nothing is real, and nothing to get hung about, Strawberry Fields forever.”  The Beatles 1967

CQ of APJ

 

 

 

 

 

 

All memories approximate, due to …..

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Stash by Sarah Jessica Parker

Notes: Grapefruit Zest, Black Pepper, Sage, Atlas Cedar, Patchouli, Ginger Lily, Pistachio, Olibanum, Massoia Wood, Vetiver and Musk

 

I first met my friend Anna Maria on holiday with Portia in Venice a couple of years ago, then in Paris, and in her home town of Austral, Sydney last July.  She very generously gave me a bag of beauty products and jewellery, plus a bottle of her latest fragrant discovery, Stash by Sarah Jessica Parker. Anna Maria said she was really impressed by it and was interested in my thoughts – so here we are.

 

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I had been curious about Stash partly because I like SJP but also because I had heard good things about it when it was released in late 2016. I had also thoroughly enjoyed reading The Perfect Scent in which Chandler Burr charts the development of Sarah Jessica Parker’s first fragrance.  What we learn during the book is that while Lovely is the first perfume that was released, she actually wanted what we find in Stash: something decidedly darker.

It couldn’t be much further from the pink ballet slippers of Lovely, coming across as positively niche in character.  I had tried Stash on paper once but the difference on skin is considerable. It’s grimy and musky in the best way but wears close, like a greasy leather glove. I was happy to discover that despite the connotation of its name, Stash smells nothing like weed.

I’ve occasionally found grapefruit reminiscent of body odour but here in the opening it’s perfectly pulpy and zesty. Stash‘s heart is cedar of the dense variety found in Tam Dao by Diptyque, but there are also the nutty, milky woods of massoia and a nice base of mineralised vetiver. The incense of olibanum is what marks this fragrance out for me. That spike of burning joss sticks gives it a twist and saves it from smelling like a run-of-the-mill masculine.

The musks make it feel a little oily rather than skanky. It’s attractive in an undone, dirt-smeared kind of way. Stash is much more intimate than I expected and I like the fact it feels slick. If you prefer more throw, you’ll have to lean heavy on the sprayer. Now we’ve reached the depths of autumn, it feels just right for “sweater weather” and ideal for spritzing on a scarf.

While it’s much better than I imagined, I still need to layer something floral over the top to make it suit my style. The incense-flecked orange blossom of  Seville a L’Aube by L’Artisan Parfumeur works fantastically well.

It’s pleasing that there is a niche-style perfume like Stash on the high street for a bargain price. It may be unlikely to revive the fortunes of celebrity fragrances but at the very least it offers an alternative to the candy dross that passes for a lot of mainstream output these days.

SJP may have had to wait just over 10 years to launch her dream perfume but I have no doubt she feels it was worth the wait.

 

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Do you admire Stash or do you prefer another SJP fragrance? Are celebrity perfumes really over?

Photo © Alex Buts/Alamy

 

 

 

 

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A Mini London Meetup – Photo Essay

Last weekend Val the Cookie Queen and her fabulous daughter Hannah (aka Blondes Wunder) landed in London for a flying visit. I met them on Friday afternoon and we had a chilled time after healthy fast food at Leon.

We got on the tube to Oxford Circus and similar to last time, Val and I installed ourselves in the Topshop cafe while Hannah trawled the rails. We had goods to exchange. Val brought me perfume but I was more excited about the world’s best cookies. I immediately ate three which showed great restraint on my part.

 

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Val’s first sniff of the vintage Chanel No.5 I brought back from Sydney for Portia.

 

 

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On Saturday morning I met Val at the back entrance of Liberty on Canaby Street. We’d be spending the day with Nick of fragrance consultancy Olfiction and Thomas, The Candy Perfume Boy who was coming down from Milton Keynes with his lovely husband, Nigel.

 

 

Before they arrived, we went into the store and had a look at Le Labo. The new Tonka 25 is very soft and quiet – likely to appeal to those craving something comforting. Val checked out Vetiver 46 which was better than most in that genre for me. (Later Thomas and I had a laugh about the fact that people regularly tell him that they wear a perfume called Santal 33 that nobody else knows about).

 

 

 

We spent some time at the Frederic Malle counter where Val and I always seem to gravitate. As a collection, it’s hard to beat, especially when it comes to niche.

 

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Val’s friend Rosie joined us and became totally smitten with Portrait of a Lady. We were shown the new 30ml atomisers which are a nice addition. Prices vary depending on the perfume: Musc Ravageur is £85 while Carnal Flower is £122.

 

 

 

Thomas and Nigel arrived.

 

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Thomas checked out the Christmas limited edition coloured bottles.

 

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Nick found us after having to get an Uber thanks to a cancelled train. He was due to be on QVC at 6pm for Miller Harris. We regrouped outside and decided to head to Muji to buy some atomisers for Val.

 

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Lunch was at Nando’s. I rarely eat there but luckily I was with aficionados. I had the Fino Pitta with Peri Peri salted chips and it was so good I didn’t stop to take a photo. Before the food arrived we did what my friend Natalie calls ‘table spritzing’. Not to be encouraged in public but we were seated in a corner away from other people. Nick had brought the strangelove nyc perfume samples for Val. Believe me when I tell you the vicinity smelt of oud from then on (it was good oud though).

 

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Next stop was the bakery Crumbs and Dollies in Kingly Court for Nigel. Hannah found a vegan cupcake too.

 

 

 

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Nick and me outside the bakery. He gives excellent advice and is a great listener.

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At this point it began to rain. We made it to Champion for Hannah to get some jogging pants and then went on to Selfridges as the downpour got considerably heavier. Nick had to shoot off to QVC once we got to Oxford Street.

Our last sniff was at the Chanel counter. Bien sûr! We looked at the limited edition red bottles which photograph beautifully but I found a little underwhelming in reality.

 

 

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Check out Blondes Wunder’s excellent beauty channel on YouTube here.

 

I’m currently experiencing extremely high levels of anxiety thanks to a house move so to spend time with such wonderful people was just what I needed.

 

 

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