OOOOHHHHH! Mood scent 4 week! YAY! This month we sniff some Well Named Fragrances! We are working in reaction to all those sweet nothings labelled noir and mundane scents saddled with pompous and overwrought titles. You know them, we don’t need to go back and catalogue them (though that could be fun another day).
There were a few ways I could take this. Maybe choosing fragrances that were named for their notes, juice or bottle colour, even the place of origin. Instead I wanted to go with fragrances that evoke the name they’re given. You spritz and suddenly understanding blooms.
Can’t wait to read about your fave Well Named Fragrances in the comments too.
Notes: Citrus, Ginger, Vetiver, Cedarwood and Ambrette Seed
I tend to approach vetiver fragrances with some trepidation. While I admire a few, a little vetiver goes a long way for me. I have always appreciated the depth and earthiness it can bring to a perfume but when that swampy facet is amplified, it’s a hard no from me. However, I do have confidence in Hiram Green as a perfumer. He approaches natural materials in a unique way, always bringing something new to the fore – and so it proved with his latest release, Vetiver.
I spray Vetiver for the first time and smile instantly. Instead of being swampy, it is the exact opposite: a buoyant blend that makes me feel alert and uplifted. The ginger is pitched just right, adding an aromatic, zesty brightness as opposed to a curried spiciness. The overall effect is joyously luminous.
Vetiver is known for its smokiness and here it is toned down and acts more as a kind of musty grey backwash with its presence being a constant throughout. It is used in such a way that it acts to complement and highlight the other notes in the composition. The citrus seems fresher, the ginger extra zingy and the base notes more sophisticated.
When I read that Vetiver was inspired by the heartthrobs of Hollywood’s Golden Age I thought it might lean heavily masculine with a kind of rugged, square-jawed feel. However, I see it as less Clark Gable/Burt Lancaster and more Gene Kelly/Marlene Dietrich. It possesses confidence and charm but also nuance and ambiguity.
When it comes to the base, the vetiver is prominent along with softly sweet resins and bone-dry woods. The ambrette lends a subtle vegetal, musky quality. Up close, it has a very pleasant balsamic stickiness. Vetiver perfumes tend to go towards clean or murky and while Vetiver leans more towards the former, it strikes a good balance being more sparkling than clean and having a base with darker, warmer depths that retains its smoothness.
I experienced very good longevity and moderate throw.
I admire Hiram Green’s deft touch with the eponymous material. He has managed to illuminate a perfume ingredient that in some hands, can make my stomach churn.
Vetiver has shedloads of light and shade. It has the feel of morning sunlight filtering through the curtains into a gloomy room, waking you up to the possibilities for the day ahead.
How do you feel about vetiver fragrances? Do you think you might get on with this version by Hiram Green?
OOOOHHHHH! Mood scent 4 week! YAY! This month Orange Blossom, Fruit and Branch frags are our choice of genre. Thanks Esperanza, super choice. Oranges play a huge role in perfumery and the whole tree has been used over the centuries. Orange blossom, fruit, neroli, leaves and pettigrain all have their place in the perfumers organ.
Can’t wait to read about your fave Orange Blossom, Fruit and Branch frags in the comments too.
Notes: Siberian Pine, Black Hemlock, Ylang-Ylang, Green Sacra and White Ambergris.
In line with its superstitious inspiration, this seventh anniversary Papillon perfume will be launched on the 7th day of the 7th month of this year. So just one week to wait.
Liz Moores has created a carefully curated collection of fragrances. Each earns its place by being her own take on a classic theme from a green chypre to a furry vanilla.
Spell 125 particularly intrigued me because it circles back to Liz’s first work, Anubis, albeit spinning off in a different direction.
Truth be told, while I admired Anubis, its sticky, tarry leather was not really my style. Therefore I was intensely interested to see how Spell 125 would work for me.
In the Book of the Dead, Spell 125 details ‘the weighing of the human heart’ ceremony overseen by the god Anubis. The perfume incarnation of Spell 125 represents this by creating tension between its contrasting facets; mirroring the weighing of the heart’s sins against its purity. Ethereal Green Sacra frankincense and Siberian pine are pulled downwards by the earthbound black hemlock and white ambergris.
The opening is a whoosh of pine needles and citrus peel. I love pine but the accents of lime and mandarin should assuage anyone who is less of a fan. In any case, it recedes quickly after that first jolt to the system. What’s revealed is a stark olfactory vista of smoldering ash with an undercurrent of something distinctly feral – the pine trees still visible, but at a distance.
The billowy smoke is like that released by a booklet of incense papers slowly being devoured by a stealthy flame, one page at a time, releasing its vapor into the air. It has a mineral quality that is much quieter and more reverent than many incense fragrances but because of its weighty base, it also has more depth.
I find Spell 125’s palette of grey ash, green pine and white ambergris to be striking in its sparseness. The coniferous, smoky and musky tones meld together effortlessly bringing together vegetable, mineral and animal.
The base however, is all about the animal with the musky aroma of ambergris taking over now the spirit has broken free. This is a perfume without extraneous ornamentation so there is no sweet amber or soft woods to make it more obliging.
It’s hard to convey just how atmospheric this perfume is. There is a hushed tone to it that adds to the transporting, ceremonial mood. Where Anubis is thick and oily, Spell 125 is airy and resinous.
It veers away from the traditional perfumery territory inhabited by previous Papillon releases and leads the wearer to a place seemingly outside of time and space, as if forged in a primordial soup of earth, water, wind and fire, it is arrestingly elemental.
It also feels deeply personal, the kind of fragrance you wear for yourself, entering its sacred space. It adheres to the skin and doesn’t budge, remaining close.
Spell 125 is an experience more than any of your typical spritz-and-go perfumes. One that can only be fully appreciated by trying it for yourself.
Are you tempted to order a sample when Spell 125 becomes available?
N.B. Sample gifted to me by Liz Moores with no expectation of review.
OOOOHHHHH! Mood scent 4 week! YAY! This month we sniff some spices. Spicy frags are up to bat. Now spice is a HUGE genre, so much choice. Some very fine houses got completely ignored today, sorry. I do think we have a nice cross section of price, availability and designer or niche. Some are pretty new and others are world builders. I’m hoping a couple will be new to you and at least one a total surprise.
Can’t wait to read about your fave spicy frags in the comments too.
“While she looks at you so cooly, and her eyes shine like the moon in the sea, she comes in incense and patchouli, so you take her, to find what’s waiting inside, the year of the cat. AL STEWART.
It was not until last week when I went to Vienna with a girlfriend that I bothered to really try the Coromandel EdP. It fell into the “it cannot possibly be better than the EdT, oh my gosh what did Chanel do?” category.
The service and knowledge in the stand-alone Chanel beauty store in Vienna is excellent. Totally welcoming, you can spray everything, and all of the parfum extraits are out to try. (That has not been my experience in the Chanel Boutiques, you know, the ones that have security on the door, and take your backpack when you walk in.) We were sprayed top to bottom with Le Lion and Coromandel, each given both perfumes in the cute mini form, and sent off to breakfast and truck around town whilst the fragrances settled. Who knew if we would even go back? I also grabbed a few drops of the Coromandel Extrait and off we went.
My girlfriend knew before exiting the store that she would be back for Le Lion. We returned in due course, and she made the purchase. We both received more cute minis, and as the fabulous SA said, one can never have too many. I was enjoying the Coromandel EdP, but not enough to justify buying it, I still have the EdT after all.
I came home and spent the next four days wearing the EdP. Well well. It is much smoother than the screechy EdT. Screechy does not mean I don’t like it, I love it. But it can be wearing on the nose. Several years ago Tara and I tried a number of the EdPs in the store in Covent Garden. My Coromandel impressions at the time were that they had taken the incense out, an integral part. Uhm, nope. So I never bothered again.
Fast forward five years. The incense is there, but in the base notes, and to my nose it was in the heart notes of the EdT. Therein lies a really big difference. The EdP is not as tenacious and what is not to love about a rich patchouli, benzoin, and incense base? Infinitely more wearable, not as tenacious, divine dry down. Chanel Patch don’tcha know?
I WhatsApped Chanel Vienna and ordered a bottle. Two days later I had it. WhatsApp? Of course, Why? How do you order your Chanel?
*Yep, Chanel here have a WhatsApp number. I’m screwed. Thank you Peter.
What is the novel that made the biggest impact on you? I was reminded of mine by one of the books I read this month.
I read Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro well over a decade ago but it has stayed with me and I have thought about it on and off ever since. It revolves around three characters that grow up in an unusual boarding school together and explores what it means to be human. It’s best not to know more about than that going in. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it but know that you may never fully recover from it. Well, I didn’t.
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
“We need not to be let alone. We need to be really bothered once in a while. How long is it since you were really bothered? About something important, about something real?”
I’ve been trying to read more sci-fi since the pandemic derailed that resolution last year. I just wasn’t in the mood for it. Now I’ve been enjoying it a lot. Portia inspired me to pick up this particular classic of the genre. It’s amazing to me that it was written in 1953 although I always smile when these old sci-fi books are set well into the future but still use names of the time they were written, for example, here the main character’s wife is called Mildred.
Anyway, this has such a brilliant central concept. In this America of the future, fireman are used to start fires rather than put them out and their job is specifically to burn books. No one is allowed to own them and you may get your entire house burnt down if you do. People are kept compliant by mind numbing leisure activities such as the huge TV-like screens taking up whole walls of their homes. When away from them, they can plug ‘seashells’ into their ears for constant distraction. Not a million miles from us today. Our protagonist, Guy, is a fireman who starts to question his life after meeting a young woman who has not succumbed to the brainwashing.
Not as good as 1984 but much better than Brave New World. 4/5
Revelation by Russell Brand
“There is no end or separation, merely new notes played in the ongoing symphony of existence in which we all play our part.”
This is an Audible Original audiobook that Russell wrote during lockdown. The pandemic does crop up throughout the book but it is concerned with spirituality. Russell has been heading this way for a while now but here he goes Full God. This was a bit of a surprise as it’s quite a risk for a public figure to talk so explicitly on this topic, purely because it so polarising. I was up for it but was more interested in his personal revelation than the esoteric. For someone to change their life as dramatically as he has is quite something and I’d like to hear about that in detail but maybe he felt he covered that in his book Recovery. In Revelation we get a lot of meandering around Jungian psychology, Indian mysticism, the 12-steps programme and – yawn – politics. It just felt a bit muddled for the most part although he’s always engaging. Its best bits were towards the end where he shares his experiences at shelters for addicts and homeless families. 3/5
A Close and Common Circuit (Wayfarers 2) by Becky Chambers
“Owl had been good to her. She stayed on the screen by the bed all day, and she taught Jane about something called music, which was a weird bunch of sounds that had no point but made things feel a little better.”
This is the second book in the sci-fi Wayfarers series. I did miss the main characters from the The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet but I knew they wouldn’t feature in it before I began which stopped me from being disappointed. The first book wasn’t plot filled but this is an even slower burn, focusing on just two main characters as they both try and navigate new environments and come to terms with who they are. About a third of the way in I felt it wasn’t really going anywhere but I connected with the characters and their struggle with being displaced. It also helped that I find the ethical issues around advanced Artificial Intelligence interesting (anyone else captivated by the series Westworld?). I was completely invested by the last quarter of the book when the plot speeds up and it was emotional towards the end. It’s an added bonus that Val the Cookie Queen is hooked by the series too. I will be reading the last two books in the series before long. 4.25/5
Six of Crows (Book 1) by Leigh Bardugo
Well this was a mistake: I really should have known as I’d previously DNFed it. However I’d enjoyed the fantasy fun that was the Netflix show Shadow and Bone and thought this connected novel would be a light read after a bit of a stressful time when I didn’t read for almost 2 weeks. It’s a YA fantasy with good characters and an Amsterdam-style setting, but it based around a heist plot which I could care less about. The characters are all around 17 years old (as seems to be the law with YA) however they act at least 10 years older. Everyone fancies someone else but no one talks about it which got tiresome. To be fair I am 30+ years older than the target audience. Needless to say, I won’t be continuing with the second part of the duology. 2.5/5
Child of the Prophecy (Sevenwaters Book 3) by Juliet Marillier
“Good and bad; shade and sunlight, there’s but a hair’s breath between them. It’s all one in the end.”
I took another stab at a comfort read and this one hit home. Returning to a fantastical medieval Ireland with familiar places and characters was soothing. This third book (and end of the first plot arc) follows the granddaughter of the heroine of the first book. Fainne is interesting because she is also the granddaughter of the evil sorceress of the Daughter of the Forest. Therefore she is torn between dark and light as she is coerced into bringing down not just the inhabitants of Sevenwaters but the Fair Folk themselves. At times it got frustrating when she was about the tell someone the truth and ask for their help but then didn’t, several times over. She’s also not the most likeable protagonist and this instalment features much less of the Fae and forest than the previous books. However, I loved the writing, enjoyed seeing familiar characters again, and it became gripping as events drew to a conclusion. 4.25/5
Please share the book or books that have stayed with you in the comments as well as any other recent finds you’d like to recommend.
I’ve fallen for a few amazing products over the course of the last few months so I thought it would be fun to share.
OSKIA Renaissance Cleanser
I avoided this cult cleanser for ages thinking it was a gel formulation for oilier skin types. It’s actually suitable for all including dry skin and comes out as a pink emulsion that feels lovely on the face.
Let’s be honest though: perhaps the main reason I love it is the smell. It’s a soft rose scent accented with chamomile. I like it so much I can’t imagine the pleasure I get from it wearing off. I usually change my cleanser every time one runs out but I can see this one being a keeper. It has a pump but oh how I wish it had a flip top. Taking the lid off irritates me every use. Maybe I should leave it off.
C.E.O. Serum by Sunday Riley
I’ve tried many vitamin C serums but this is hands down my favourite. It used to be that I’d go for the highest percentage of the strongest form (say 30% L-Ascorbic acid). This meant they were often unpleasantly grainy and stung my skin over time, if not immediately.
I’ve now learnt my lesson. Using a lower concen tration on a regular basis can be just as effective and doesn’t punish your skin barrier.
C.E.O. 15% Vitamin C Brightening Serum contains THD Ascorbate which converts to L-Ascorbic acid on contact with the skin and doesn’t oxidise. It also smells like oranges and has a pump dispenser, not a dropper. The search is officially over.
OSKIA Renaissance Mask
This British skincare brand is knocking it out the park. Along with the cleanser, I’ve fallen hard for this award winning mask.
Skincare gurus don’t usually bother with masks because they say it’s what they do day-to-day that counts. However, I enjoy a face mask on a Sunday while soaking in the bath. This one has resurfacing properties with 9 active ingredients. I don’t have an acid in my daily routine, partly because I use tretinoin and partly because I can’t be bothered with another step.
This thick pink gel turns white when properly massaged onto the skin, which I get a kick out of (hey it’s the little things). It gently exfoliates but never leaves my skin feeling tight or irritated, even if it’s feeling fragile. It simoly leaves me with super soft, radiant skin.
Reviving Pine Bath Milk by Weleda
I bought this after seeing it recommended by Lisa Eldridge in one of her videos. I love aromatic scented bath products and this has an unusual milky pine aroma that makes me feel like I’m bathing in a forest pool of tree sap. That may not be everyone’s idea of good time but it is mine.
Geranium Leaf Body Scrub by Aesop
No one needs to spend £27 on a body scrub but this was gifted to me for my birthday and it’s a real treat. It comes out as a transulcent gel but you really feel its exfoliating grains when applied to the skin. It contains milled pumice and micronised bamboo stem, fragranced with geranium leaf, mandarin and bergamot oils. Again, the scent is wonderful: the greenest leafiest geranium you can imagine.
Balance – Restoring Bath and Shower Gel by Cowshed
I can’t imagine there is a Cowshed bath and shower scent I wouldn’t like and intend on trying them all. This restoring blend features essential oils of rose geranium, linden blossom, frankincense and ylang-ylang. It smells lovely and completely natural.
Have you tried any of these? Do you have a recent discovery you’d like to share?
Hey there A Bottled Rose, It’s a Mood Scent 4 week. WOO HOO! This month the crew are looking at Roses, Roses, Roses. I’m a total rose fan and there seem to be loads of them in my wardrobe. I think it stems (see what I did there?) from my Mum’s love of roses in the garden. She had two major favourites, Mr Lincoln (deep red) and Freesia (yellow) both fragrant. My personal favourite (narcissistically) is a David Austin rose, Wise Portia, which is mauve/pink and if you cut one and have it in a room the whole room is suddenly full of sweet, peppery rose.
Can’t wait to read about your favourite Roses, Roses, Roses fragrances in the comments too. Please let me know the ones you thought I’d put in that didn’t make the list too.
How much do you push yourself out of your reading comfort zone? It’s a question I’ve been contemplating lately. I don’t want to constantly dwell in a genre fiction ghetto, but I also don’t want to spend a lot of time reading books I don’t enjoy. I did find in March that books dealing with real life issues aren’t confined to Booker Prize winners. I read a brilliant sci-fi book covering all the same topics but in a much more subtle and entertaining (for me) way.
The Examined Life by Stephen Groz
“Closure is just as delusive-it is the false hope that we can deaden our living grief.”
This is a collection of stories from the couch of a London psychiatrist. Most end with some kind of twist or revalattion. Unsurprisingly, a lot of them show people in denial, consciously or unconsciously, about what is going on in their lives. I can’t say they gave me any insight into my own life, being more a diverting read than a tool for self-reflection. They do shine a light on psychoanalysis as well as human nature and shows what can be achieved with the process although these are short summaries and usually feature more extreme cases which is understandable. I found the child cases most interesting although there were only two of these. 2.75/5
A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet (Wayfarer 1) by Becky Chambers
“All you can do, Rosemary – all any of us can do – is work to be something positive instead. That is a choice that every sapient must make every day of their life. The universe is what we make of it. It’s up to you to decide what part you will play.”
If it’s possible for a sci-fi book to be cosy, then this is it. Set in a time when humans have left Earth for good, Rosemary gets a job aboard a spaceship called the Wayfarer. It has a small crew made up of humans and other species, who – with one exception – are more like family than colleagues. That’s what makes this novel so feel-good. It’s mainly character focused and the relationships between those characters – including the ship’s A.I. – are really special.
There was more than enough of a plot to keep me interested and it got tense towards the end. I’ve long been curious about the sci-fi sub-genre of space operas and apparently this falls under that category. To be honest, I’m still none the wiser but I loved it.
Can’t wait to read the rest of the 4-part series, although I believe they can all be read as standalones 5/5.
Can’t Hurt Me by David Goggins
“You are in danger of living a life so comfortable and soft, that you will die without ever realizing your true potential.”
I have so much love and respect for David Goggins. He is the most mentally tough person on the planet but he wasn’t born that way; he MADE himself that way. By the age of 8 he’d endured hundreds of beating by his pimp father. As a teen he cheated his way through school and was going nowhere fast. The racism he suffered in his small Indiana town didn’t help either.
He gradually began to turn his life around by realising that no one was coming to save him and he needed to be accountable to himself. Through strict accountability and self-discipline he ‘calloused his mind’ to the point where he no longer relied on motivation to achieve his goals. He became a Navy SEAL and went on to hold a number of endurance records. He has more than his fair share of haters for having such an extreme fitness regime but they are seriously missing the point. Goggins doesn’t expect others to do what he does. He is showing you that you can do better than you are doing now – immeasurably better. That if he can transform his life, you can too and begin to fulfill your potential.
I knew his story well already but wanted to hear the Audible audiobook because I heard it has a unique format. It is narrated by the writer who worked on the book, but every few pages he breaks off and interviews David about what has just happened and where his head was at the time . This gives an incredible level of additional insight. There are also 10 challenger throughout the books which are intended to help you become the hero of you own life. It was the bestselling audiobook on Audible last year for good reason. 5/5
The Mermaid of Black Conch by Monique Roffey
‘How does a man accept a woman, any woman into his house? Just like that, let alone a mermaid. Life changed quick, boy, I never plan it so. Later I saw that change came as change always comes, from a chain of events with a long history, too long to see from back to front, till it come.’
This was an odd one. It has been shortlisted for a number of prizes and won Costa Book of the Year 2020 so I expected it to be pretty accessible with relatively broad appeal. I think that’s what threw me and I might have enjoyed it more otherwise.
This is a deeply strange tale set on the fictional Caribbean island of Black Conch where a mermaid is caught by white American tourists in 1976. She is treated brutally by the tourists (and some of the locals) when she is strung up on the shore. This beginning was unpleasant to read. However she is rescued by a local fisherman, David, and they fall in love.
It is written in the local parlance and partly in verse but readable for the most part, plus it’s only short. I came to like the characters that helped the mermaid but wasn’t captivated by it. Maybe I am too skewed towards gentle fairytales and myth re-tellings so one set in the in the 1970s was a bit too jarring for me.. I can appreciate how inventive it was though and it is much praised so go for it if it sounds intriguing to you. 3.25/5
Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo
“You see, Megan, I learnt first hand how women are discriminated against, which is why I became a feminist after I’d transitioned, an intersectional feminist, because it’s not just about gender but race, sexuality, class and other intersections which we mostly unthinkingly live anyway”
I usually avoid winners of the Booker Prize but I’d heard so much about this one and my sister really enjoyed it so I gave it a go. I also liked the fact it was structured as a series of stories about the lives of 12 girls, women and one non-binary ‘other’. They span the twentieth century and follow a broad range of Black people from a suburban teacher, to a feminist lesbian playwright, to a high-flying banker. Some were more likeable than others, all were interesting and I liked the way the stories interconnected; the best friend of the main character in one story, became the protagonist in the next and so on. The writing is exemplary and I liked the way most of the characters came together at the end.
I still prefer to escape into the distant past or future or a fantasy land, but it’s good to spend some time in the real world. It dealt with a range of issues including race, gender and sexuality. I’ll just always struggle with literary fiction, particularly when the ‘political’ issues are upfront and centre. 3/5
Do you tend to stick with the genres of fiction you love? Do you see any problem with this?