Monthly Archives: March 2016

Ostara by Penhaligon’s

The scent of spring…

 

Top notes: Clementine, Bergamot, Red Berries, Juniper, Spearmint, Blackcurrant Bud, Violet Leaf Absolute, Leafy Effects, Aldehydes

Middle notes: Hyacinth, Narcissus , Beeswax, Cyclamen, Ylang-Ylang, Hawthorn, Wisteria

Base notes: Vanilla, Benzoin, Musk, Amber, White Wood Effects

 

Ostara is the Goddess of spring and in Britain this season is synonymous with daffodils. Bright yellow, open-faced and standing tall, daffodils are the ultimate “happy flower”. They embody the qualities of joy, hope and optimism. For a long time I had a field of daffodils as my screensaver.

Superstar perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour was inspired to create Ostara by his childhood memories of the narcissus fields in Auvergne, France. I’d describe it as a green floral.

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Ostara wakes up cool and crisp with bight greens and just a touch of citrus. It echoes the fresh feeling of those early spring mornings, when the sun is shining but there’s still a bite in the air. In accordance with this, the fragrance has a touch of galbanum bitterness.

I know the scent of daffodils well and I must say Duchaufour has done a skilful job of capturing the aroma. To sniff Ostara is really to hold a big bunch of daffodils in your arms. The flowers mostly smell green and pollen-y and in Ostara you get that green, plant stem aroma along with stamens and dusty pollen.

You could break it down further but you just have to inhale it and you immediately think “daffodils” and “springtime”.

A montage starts rolling in my mind’s eye involving scampering bunny rabbits, birds nesting in budding trees and of course, rolling hills covered with a host of golden daffodils.

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As with many of Dauchaufour’s fragrances, it is a transparent composition with lots of light and air. More than likely as a result of the use aldehydes, Ostara has tremendous radiance.

The fact that it is photorealistic is perhaps what will attract some people and disappoint others.  I had hoped that Ostara would contain some of the earthy, cow pat richness of narcissus absolute, but that’s not the story here.  This is a fragrant ode to green shoots, brilliant sunshine and the buoyant feeling that comes with renewal.

If the scent of daffodils brings back happy childhood memories for you, then Ostara would make a great “emotional button” for whenever you want to recall those carefree days and the feelings connected with them.

 

Do you have a fragrance that sums up spring for you? 

 

 

 

 

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You Can Find Me In The Gym

It used to be that you were about as likely to find me in the gym as you were to find me “in da club”. Things have changed.

For the majority of 2014 I suffered from persistent negative thoughts. I tried various ways to cope with these, from the very old (Buddhist worry beads) to the very new (unfriending a load of people on Facebook). Nothing worked which meant I would need to take drastic action the following year. 2015 subsequently became my year of living dangerously – well compared to how I had been living, anyway.

In February last year I sat silently quaking on a 2 hour flight to spend time in Austria with a good friend. By December I was sitting relatively calmly on a 10 hour flight to a retreat where I didn’t know any of the 130 other attendees. I made lots of changes inbetween those two events but the pivotal one was joining the gym last July.

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The person responsible for holding my hand and encouraging me every step of the way was Val the Cookie Queen. Like all the best role-models she didn’t preach or cajole, she was just a great advert for what an active life-style can do for you.

Up to that point I’d heard countless times how exercise helps with low mood. I just couldn’t identify with working-out in any way and didn’t consider it to be an option for me. All I’d done in the past 20 years was a spell of Kundalini yoga: call me hardcore, but I don’t think anyone should be snoring during their exercise session (I swear it wasn’t me).

When I tentatively brought up the idea of following her example and going to the gym, Val plainly stated it would change my life. That was the final push I needed to at least give it a try.

To say I had low expectations on taking out a gym membership is to put it mildly. I felt like a fish out of water and thought it unlikely that it would be for me. But in the spirit of my drive to step out of my comfort zone, I’d give it a proper go for the next 6 months.

After two weeks my obsessive thoughts had decreased by about 90%. I was amazed. Considering they had been intense and constant for the previous year and half, I don’t think this is a coincidence. I doubt I was pushing myself hard enough to release the required amount of endorphins but I do think I sent a strong positive message to myself that I was prepared to do whatever it took to improve my well-being.

Becoming fitter and reducing my body fat was a great bonus. I do two sessions of cardio/resistance work a week plus a Hatha yoga class. Don’t misunderstand me, I don’t exactly enjoy being at the gym and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t check my watch regularly while I’m there. All the same, if I can’t go for any reason, instead of feeling relieved I feel uneasy. This is now an important part of my weekly routine.

Thanks Val, you were right; going to the gym changed my life.

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Me and Val at Fortnum & Mason last summer

Do you go to the gym or do any other kind of regular exercise? What have the benefits been? 

 

 

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A Bottled Rose on APJ

Please hop on over to Australian Perfume Junkies today for my write-up of Portia’s triumph at Perfume Lovers London in January.

She scented twelve “Great Women” from Cleopatra to Angela Merkel, with highly entertaining results.

I’ll see you there!

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Bottled Starlight – Vega by Guerlain

The brightest star in the sky…

Top notes: aldehydes, bergamot and orange blossom. Heart notes: jasmine, rose, ylang-ylang, blackcurrant blossom, carnation, iris and rosewood. Base notes: vanilla, sandalwood, musk and amber.

Last year I met someone whose taste in perfume perfectly mirrored their personality. While communicating online she told me a few of her favourite fragrances and it was then easy to pinpoint that she was drawn to aldehydic florals.

When we then met in person, it was clear that this category of perfume was a perfect fit for her. She is effervescent, bright and beautiful both inside and out. The correlation with her favourite fragrance genre was striking.

I gave her an atomiaser filled with Vega, which is my favourite floral aldehyde fragrance and as I anticipated, she fell in love with it. In her own words “I can’t even explain it to you…it transports me to an entirely new world. That is my heaven”.

I get a real kick out of being a perfume matchmaker so hearing this from someone who I felt an immediate connection with, was wonderful.

In the past, I never had much luck with floral aldehydes. They were usually too soapy for my taste and the bubbly effect irritated my sinuses. They just didn’t feel like me. Then Birgit generously gave me a decant of Vega and my eyes were opened. This was unlike any of the others, it was so soft and luminous: Pure aldehyde perfection.

This fragrance was first released by Guerlain in 1936 and relaunched as an exclusive in 2006. It shines like starlight and is as smooth as the most expensive champagne. You could separate out the different floral components but this is a fragrance that is more than the sum of its parts. I switch off and let it send me off into the ether.

I wear Vega for celebrations because it’s so sparkling; like bathing myself with a thousand tiny stars.  I picture it as pure white light and feel as if it’s shimmering off my skin. For me, it’s best applied by dabbing rather than spraying.

I wore it to my fabulous friend Thomas’s wedding and that was one of the few times someone’s complimented me on my perfume.

A great twist is that in the base there’s something warm and dark which contrasts so nicely with its cool and clean character. Truly intoxicating.

Unfortunately, Vega has been discontinued. Not only is it sad to lose such a transcendent scent but just look at that stunning Art Deco bottle!

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Do you think the kind of fragrances you like reflects your personality?

 

 

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The Wonderful World of Colognes – Perfume Lovers London, 17th March 2016

 

This was the last Perfume Lovers London event to be organised and presented by the fantastic Lila Das Gupta after starting the group back in January 2012.  Lila has done an amazing job and provided us with so many evenings of fragrant fun, we will be forever grateful.

But the good news is that the lovely Odette Toilette/Lizzie Ostrom will be taking over and Lila will continue to attend along with the rest of us, as a member. Yay!

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Lzzie and Lila

It was a great turn out (50 or more) with lots of familiar faces and a kind of a leaving party vibe. Though Lila led proceedings, it was a sort of Show and Tell.

Lila introduced the evening by saying we weren’t going to do a historical trip through colognes and in any case, as Michael Edwards says, there’s a lot of myths surrounding the origin of Eau de Cologne. So we tried a diverse group of fragrances from the genre and a good time was had by all.

Jean Marie Farina Eau de Cologne by Roger & Gallet

Notes: Bergamot, lemon, neroli, petitgrain, rosemary, cedarwood, sandalwood, myrtle, cedar, vetiver, musk and white amber.

Lila described this as classic cologne (it dates back to 1806) with no doubts as to what it is. That’s indeed how it came across – lots of zingy citrus and easy to recognise as an Eau de Cologne. Lila said it wasn’t her favourite and I think most of us prefer something with a twist.

Florida Water by Lenman & Kemp Barclay

Notes: Citrus, sweet orange, lavender and clove.

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The fabulous Katie Puckrik told us some of the background to Florida Water. It originates from 1808 and is an American version of Eau de Cologne with more of an emphasis on sweet orange as opposed to zesty citrus and with the addition of spice.

It was seen as suitable for young ladies in the Victorian era as it was deemed “nice”. It was marketed as an all-purpose feel-good aroma which could be added to your bath water and laundry. Lila commented that it smelt like Cola. KP agreed but qualified that with “cheap Cola”as it’s not terribly effervescent.

Interestingly, Katie told us that Florida Water had a second life which continues to this day as an item used in witchcraft. It has been used in purification rituals practiced by the Santeria religion and you can buy it in magic shops in New Orleans.

She read us some of the possible uses which included helping those in a “possession trance” (we’ve all been there) and attracting love by adding a few drops to a bowl of water and lighting a “red attraction candle”. Florida Water soap is also recommended for use after dealing with negative people. Katie quipped that she needed it after arriving via London Underground.

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The always entertaining Katie Puckrik

Agua Lavanda by Antonio Puig

Notes: Bergamot, lavender, rosemary, nutmeg, geranium, cedar, oakmoss, musk and tonka bean.

Lila said Agua Lavanda reminds her of her childhood in Spain. For her it’s the smell of sitting in church where incense merged with the lavender scented oil men used to slick back their hair.  Lila reckons the stuff sold in the plastic bottle is better, but the version in the glass bottle lasts longer.

She can’t understand why British people are generally adverse to lavender fragrances but as someone in the audience mentioned, here it’s associated with the older generation as well as men’s grooming products.

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Mugler Cologne by Thierry Mugler

Notes: Bergamot, neroli, petitgrain, orange blossom, S molecule and white musk.

Lila categorises colognes as scents at a high pitch (lacking base notes) and a lower concentration. She finds Mugler Cologne to be uplifting and well priced while not relying on citrus. Perfumer Ruth Mastenbroek, who was in the audience, commented that it smelt like lime to her. Others got grapefruit while Lila found it slightly green as well.

Drinkable Eau de Cologne

Lizzie told us she is a fan of a blog called Diseases of Modern Life which has an article entitled “Lady perfume drinkers of the late 19th century”. It explains that because well-to-do Victorian women couldn’t be seen drinking alcohol in public, they’d pour a little of their respectable Eau de Cologne onto a cube of loaf sugar and eat it.

So in this spirit, Lizzie had infused a bottle of vodka with rosemary, food grade bergamot oil, orange, lemon and some orange blossom water as a substitute for neroli (which is pricey stuff). We each put a sugar cube in an empty class and she poured a little of the vodka cologne over it, which was then topped up with Prosecco. I have to say it smelt amazing and tasted pretty good too.

 

Bergamote Soleil by Atelier Cologne

Notes: Bergamot, bigarade, ambrette, jasmine, lavender, cardamom, vetiver, oak moss and white amber.

Lila sees Atelier Cologne as a very interesting line. Bergaamote Soleil is a new release from them and it got a rather mixed reaction. While some focused on a grapefruit aspect quite a few got a “cat pee” note which was hard for them to miss once recognised.

Tea Tonique by Miller Harris

Notes: Bergamot, petit grain, lemon, smokey tea, nutmeg, mate abs, birch tar and musk

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Ever since Bulgari’s Eau Perfumée Eau Thé Vert people realised you could play around with colognes and put tea accords in them. Lila bought Green Tea by Elizabeth Arden when she first came across it in the States. CK One also contained a tea note.

Tea Tonique is a favourite of Lila’s from the Miller Harris line and we tried it on paper. It generally got a very good reception from the room. It reminds Lila of scent of the dry leaves when you poke your nose in the tea tin or the moment hot water hits the leaves. A member of the audience thought it had a rubbery facet. I liked Tea Tonique a lot.

Cologne Reloaded by Bogue Profumo

Antonio Gardoni, the man behind Bogue, took centre-stage to tell us the story behind his Cologne Reloaded which was a limited edition and unfortunately no longer available.

It all started when fifty vintage bottles of bases used by pharmacists to make up colognes came into his possession. He found out they dated back to the 1950s and got the original recipe from the manufacturer. After making up the bases at the intended 4% concentration he started to experiment.

To create Cologne Reloaded he mixed together all 5 bases (light to dark) and made them up to 15%. He added citrus, spices and herbs and a flowery heart. There’s also roasted vetiver and roasted patchouli in the base but what really stood out to me was the white birch tar. A leathery cologne!

Antonio had also brought along his own homemade cologne cocktail of gin, soda, rosemary, lavender, orange blossom water, vanilla and citrus peels with yellow food colouring to make it look like cologne. Hmm, this may become a trend…

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The very engaging Antonio Gardoni

 

Pell Wall Perfumes

Chris Bartlett of Pell Wall Perfumes introduced us to a perfume he is working on for release this summer. He came across a wild orange oil he really liked and created the fragrance to showcase it. It’s 15% orange oil, with an aldehydic top and though it lasts longer than most citrus colognes, it’s still relatively short-lived. Chris said “it’s a big hit and then it’s gone” but he believes if it’s long-lasting then it’s not really a cologne. It doesn’t have a name yet but someone suggested he call it “Lila” and I couldn’t agree more 🙂

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Thanks once again to Lila for all her hard work and enthusiasm in running the Perfume Lovers London group for the past 4 years. It’s been an absolute blast and this evening was one of the very best.

 

 

 

 

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Paradox by 4160 Tuesdays

The scent of hope for someone who could no longer enjoy perfume…

 Notes: Citrus fruits, Iris, Violet, Petitgrain, Woods and Musks

Today, British beauty and perfume blogger, Louise Woollam, is attending the Fragrance Foundation’s Jasmine Awards. She has been short-listed for three articles including one about the creation of Paradox Eau de Parfum on her blog Get Lippie. Two years ago, things were very different.

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Louise Woollam

It’s not hard to empathise with just how traumatic it would be to have your sense of smell distorted so much that scents that used to make you swoon now make you want to be sick.

After what seemed like a pretty run-of-the-mill cold, Louise lost her sense of smell (anosmia). Then when she started to regain it, she experienced parosmia which made most food – let alone perfume – smell horrendously unpleasant. In her article for The Guardian, Louise wrote “I have had days when everything smells like faeces, making me retch. I thought I was losing my mind.”

During this disturbing time Louise went on a trip to the Osmotheque (which I also attended) during which she discovered she could smell violets and citrus the same way she always had. Sarah McCartney, perfumer of 4160 Tuesdays, then set out to work with Louise to create a fragrance based on these notes which she could actually enjoy.

Through a process of elimination and trying a few different combinations they hit upon a composition of bright yuzu and cubeb (a fruit of the pepper family), three different types of ionones (which smell like violets) and orris/iris to smooth out the citrus and amp up the violets.

The perfectly named Paradox was born.

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The opening of the fragrance is a thicket of dense grass; the blades parting to reveal tart, yellow, citrus fruit.  The feel is cool and breezy as the violets come through. They aren’t the sweet Parma variety but the chilly, green kind.

The orris is very much in the supporting role of providing backbone to the violets, giving them even more of a bluish purple hue. When I press my nose in close I get deep green foliage. The base comprises clean woods and musk but as often happens, I don’t register this.

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Last year, Sarah decided to make the fragrance available for sale with at least £5 from every bottle sold being donated to the charity Fifth Sense which provides support to those affected by smell and taste-related disorders.

Thankfully, matters are now much improved but Louise’s sense of smell is still far from what it was. She says that working with Sarah on Paradox gave her more than a perfume she could wear, it gave her hope that recovery was possible.

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I Have A Tinted Moisturiser Problem

I have recently KonMari’ed my home to great effect. I thoroughly enjoyed my “tidying festival” but following her advice to keep similar things in the same place, I discovered just how many tinted moisturisers I actually own. It wouldn’t be so bad if I hadn’t opened and part used them all.

I include BB Creams in this category because they are essentially tinted moisturisers with good PR. Having said that, I never use them without a moisturiser underneath. I wear them in place of foundation, mostly on weekends or when the weather is very hot (i.e. usually abroad).

I currently have 6 on the go and here’s a rundown of my thoughts about them.

 

Garnier Skin Perfector All-in-One Daily BB Cream SPF 15 – Medium

This was the first BB Cream I bought but it really makes my skin look far too shiny. Like all BB Creams, it is supposed to even skin tone and blur imperfections but doesn’t provide me with enough coverage. The one plus point is that is it feels very moisturising, unlike a lot of tinted moisturisers/BB Creams. I tend to use it when I’ve been out late the night before and my skin is feeling really dehydrated.

Estee Lauder DayWear Antioxidant Beauty Benefit Creme SPF 35 – Medium

Unlike a lot of BB Creams, this one is pretty much matte on me. It’s also verging on light make-up so I wear it to work on days I don’t have the energy or the time for proper make-up application. It does have quite a strong cucumber scent which doesn’t bother me too much but I could do without it. I love the SPF 35 and wore it in Vienna last summer when the temperature was edging up to 40 degrees C.

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Me in beautiful but scorching hot Vienna

Olay Total Effects 7-in-1 Touch of Sunshine Moisturiser – Medium, SPF 12

I thought I’d cracked it when I found this moisturiser on the high street. It’s anti-ageing and contains sunless tanner so I would never need to worry about looking pallid again. However, my friend and beauty role-model, Birgit, advised me to embrace my natural skin tone and she was quite right. I won’t miss the awful strawberry/biscuit smell, that’s for sure.

Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturiser SPF 20, Illuminating – Natural Radiance

Laura Mercier is the brand which brought the tinted moisturiser to my attention in the first place and now offers a range of formulations and shades. This one gets the job done very nicely. It illuminates thanks to its “Dewy Complex” but isn’t too shiny. It provides some coverage, although it is buildable. I like it but it doesn’t wow me.

Decleor Hydra Floral BB Cream SPF 15  – Medium

I have actually had compliments on my skin while wearing this one so it’s currently my favourite. It illuminates beautifully but in a nice glowy way, not an odd, shiny way. My skin tends to look very dull so this is a huge positive for me. If I’m not wearing make-up people tend to ask if I’m feeling okay.

Vichy Idealia BB Cream – Medium, SPF 25

I hear good things about Vichy’s Idealia range. Their BB Cream veers more towards the moisturiser end of the BB spectrum as opposed to the make-up end. It’s nice and hydrating but I don’t see anywhere near the positive effect on my complexion as I do with the Decleor. I put it in the same category as the Garnier.

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My current “collection” of tinted moisturisers and BB Creams.

So there you have it. To sum up, I would re-purchase the Decleor Hydra Floral BB Cream for weekends and the Estee Lauder DayWear Antioxidant BB Creme for use in hot weather.

Do you wear tinted moisturisers or BB Creams? Any to recommend?

Do you buy the same beauty product again before you’ve run out?

 

 

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Rose of No Man’s Land by Byredo

Red rose of hope…

Notes:  Pink pepper, Raspberry blossom, Turkish rose, Papyrus and Amber.

Byredo is a relatively well known Swedish niche brand but I only just found out that the name comes from the Old English word for “redolence”.

Unfortunately – or perhaps fortunately considering their price point – I’ve yet to connect with any of the Byredo fragrances. Although what niche brand is these days?  Maybe their 2015 rose release will win me over.

Rose of No Man’s Land was composed by perfumer Jerome Epinette as an homage to the nurses who worked at the front lines of the First World War. So I was pleased to read that a proportion of the profits from the sale of this fragramce go to Doctors Without Borders.

“Their story is one of selflessness and compassion.

The perfume is like a soothing balm; sophisticated elegance envelops the skin and strengthens the backbone.” – Byredo

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Rose of No Man‘s Land is unlikely to sway anyone who is not fond of rose perfumes because it’s essentially a rose soliflore and a rather linear one at that.  However, it’s definitely worth exploring if rose scents are your thing.

It opens up with a pleasant zap of pepper and a touch of red fruit which for once, isn’t too sweet. It features a very fine, subtly spiced, fruity Turkish rose which I find to be one of the most swoon-inducing aromas in the world. In that way, it’s hard to fault.

I like the fact that it’s relatively sheer and lacking in patchouli. I seem to be moving away from earthy roses of late, although I still enjoy Papillon’s Tobacco Rose  in the autumn.  Rose of No Man’s Land showcases the soft, spicy facet of Turkish rose in a subtle way and uses the flowers own dry leaves as accents

If you’re looking for a rose soliflore with a modern feel but unadorned by patchouli or oud, Rose of No Man’s Land could be the one for you. It doesn’t feel at all old-fashioned and has just a light smattering of soft powder.  I find the sillage to be lightweight but with a moderate amount of throw, while the lasting power is excellent.

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There is an argument for letting a material as beautiful as Turkish rose oil shine and not over-complicate matters. However, I have a demanding nose these days and I need a bit more. Therefore it won’t displace my two current favourites, both by Serge Lutens: the violet-powdered rose of La Fille de Berlin and the fur trimmed rose of Rose de Nuit.

The quality is certainly first rate and I find it enjoyable but it doesn’t capture my imagination or spark my emotions. All the same, as rose soliflores go, Rose of No Man’s Land is an extremely good one.

 

Do you own any fragrances by Byredo?

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Perfume, Books and Booze -The Imbibliotheque at Libreria, London

I think it was Robin writing on Now Smell This that said the one thing that all people with a passion for perfume have in common, is a love of books.

Thanks to Esperanza, I got a last minute ticket to an evening imbibing scents, alcohol and literature. This was held at the brand new bookshop, Libreria, on Hanbury Street (incidentally the same road as niche perfumerie, Bloom) in East London.

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Libreria bookshop, 65 Hanbury Street, London

Independent bookshops are having a tough time these days but Libreria is offering something  a bit different. They provide an internet-free zone where you can attend events and of course, browse the books, but you can also take a course on how to use the printing press in the basement and even print your own work.

The Imbibliotheque event was hosted by drinks writer, Henry Jeffreys and Lizzie Ostrom, author of “Perfume : A Century of Scents“. Lizzie runs regular perfume-themed soirées in the capital under her excellent nom de plume, Odette Toilette.

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Looking around the room, it seemed to be more of a literary crowd than a fragrant one (I won’t presume that anyone was there primarily for the booze). We started with a small sherry (to be followed by Marsala and gin) and then Henry and Lizzie proceeded to regale us with tales of literary works that mention either alcohol or scent. As this is mostly a perfume blog, I’ll be concentrating on Lizzie’s contributions.

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Lizzie Ostrom a.k.a. Odette Toilette

Lizzie started by saying that whenever she tells anyone about her interest in fragrance they usually respond with “Have you read Perfume by Patrick Suskind?”. Being the well-brought-up woman she is, Lizzie merely tells them that she has, while admitting to us “I hate it”.

These are the books with fragrant motifs that she prefers.

Wise Children by Angela Carter

Wise Children is the magical tale of two identical twins, Nora and Dora Chance, who were both chorus girls in their youth. The only way you could tell them apart was by their scent: one wore Shalimar while the other wore Mitsouko.

Lizzie points out these are clever choices because like the twins, both perfumes come from the same mother; Guerlain.  In the novel the girls swap scents and so manage to deceive their lovers as to their identity. This is because their scent is their identity.

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In the 1930s, when the novel is set, Lizzie tells us that scent was sold as a way to portray an  “amped-up” version of yourself. Perfume was about role-play.

The Lady in the Lake by Raymond Chandler

Apparently perfume is mentioned quite regularly in detective novels, sometimes as a plot device. It’s referred to in a number of Raymond Chandler’s works in which it has the ability to betray someone. It literally leaves a scent trail.

In one story, a potential suspect is eliminated because the perfume found on a handkerchief at the crime scene is too vulgar for her to possibly wear.

In The Lady in the Lake, Philip Marlowe visits “The Gillerlain Company” (Hmm sounds familiar). Here’s an excerpt.

“The cream of the crop seemed to be something very small and simple in a squat amber bottle. It was in the middle at eye height, had a lot of space to itself, and was labeled Gillerlain Regal, The Champagne of Perfumes. It was definitely the stuff to get. One drop of that in the hollow of your throat and the matched pink pearls started falling on you like summer rain.”

Riders by Jilly Cooper

Lizzie had recently done an event for the Jilly Cooper Book Club and found that her bonkbusters are peppered with references to scent. Women are always pouring perfume over themselves in anticipation of meeting their lover. It gives the impression of “putting on the glitz”. It’s also used to show how extravagant a character is when another quips that she pours “God knows how many bottles of Diorissimo” into her swimming pool.

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When describing the character, Mrs Walters, Jilly Cooper writes “Caleche rises like morning mist from her ravine of a cleavage”. We tried some Caleche by Hermes on paper strips, which Lizzie says makes people treat her like a bitch whenever she wears it.

The Loved Ones by Evelyn Waugh

Published in 1948, The Loved Ones is a short novel set in Los Angeles. In it, Waugh satirises how perfume is being sold to women at that time.

“With a steady hand Aimee fulfilled the prescribed rites of an American girl preparing to meet her lover — dabbed herself under the arms with a preparation designed to seal the sweatglands, gargled another to sweeten the breath, and brushed into her hair some odorous drops from a bottle labelled: “Jungle Venom”- “From the depth of the fever-ridden swamp,” the advertisement had stated, “where juju drums throb for the human sacrifice, Jeannette’ s latest exclusive creation Jungle Venom comes to you with the remorseless stealth of the hunting cannibal.”

The Leopard by  Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa

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For a book full of descriptions of scent and smell, Lizzie reckons you can’t do better than The Leopard. This novel is set in Scilly in the 1860s, during the upheaval caused by the unification of Italy. Its theme of a decaying way of life is reflected in the depiction of the aristocratic family’s garden with its “oily emanations of magnolias” and a multitude of other scents clamouring for attention.

The garden has beauty but it’s also squalid, with the body of a soldier buried within it. The scent descriptions intoxicate the reader but they also send them reeling from the olfactory cacophony.

Lizzie matched The Leopard with a roll-on jasmine scent from Hyderabad which was indeed both captivating and repulsive, being both fleshy and plastick-y.

Snowball by Brigid Brophy

Snowball is a comedy of manners set at a New Year’s Eve Ball in a fancy house in London. Lizzie read us a description of how a perfume’s presence disappears from a room – it “shrivels like a corpse entombed”. One of the characters also consumes peppermint creams so this was a nice excuse to pass a box around the audience. I have to say I didn’t do any much sniffing before I wolfed one down.

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Books, glorious books: The shelves at Libreria

Doting by Henry Green

The wife of an adulterer in Doting isn’t sure of what she saw, but when dismissed by her cheating husband during a confrontation, she says “I smelt you, Arthur”.  She was born with such a strong sense of smell that she has utmost confidence in it.

Set in post-war London, the writer lets the reader experience the novel’s environment solely through the senses of the characters.

Brighton Rock by Graeme Green

Graeme Green drops in various uninspiring aromas from dead fish to creosote in order to remind the reader of how dreary the setting is. It creates a shorthand for a whole environment in this classic 1930s murder thriller.

Lizzie obtained one of the scents from IFF’s “Living Portfolio” which uses headspace technology to recreate everyday smells. The one that we tried was “Living Motor Oil” and it was incredibly realistic.

Ghost Stories

In Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, the new Mrs De Winter is haunted by Rebecca’s perfume. There are also references to scent in the work of Edgar Allan Poe.

Fragrance can be used to represent the ethereal presence of someone long gone or inspire grief when encountering the scent associated with a lost loved one.

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Have you read any of these books? Do you have any novels with scent references to share?

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern is a favourite of mine with wonderful descriptions of various aromas sprinkled throughout.

 

 

 

 

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