Category Archives: Perfume Events

New Year, New You! – Perfume Lovers London, 17th January 2017

I am a self-improvement junkie so the idea of exploring the various ways scents have promised to enhance our lives over the centuries was right up my street. PLL has switched nights from Thursdays to Tuesdays so I had to miss yoga which might have made it counter-productive but it was well worth it.

 

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Callum introduced the topic by saying that perfume ads have become more and more infamous with increasingly outrageous claims. Therefore he and Laurin decided to look at the aromatic ingredients which were historically supposed to provide you with certain positive results and then match those notes to modern day perfumes for us to try.

 

Relax!

As Laurin pointed out, 2016 was a difficult year for many so what we needed first of all was to relax. She had looked into how laudanum had been drunk by the Victorians. Apparently Lord Byron was a laudanum addict and because it was opium based, it was associated with opium dens. However it was taken by respected authors to help them sleep and there was even a recipe for home use in Culpeper’s Complete Herbal (1653) which went as follows:

“Take of Thebane Opium extracted in spirit of Wine, one ounce, Saffron alike extracted, a dram and an half, Castorium one dram: let them be taken in tincture of half an ounce of species Diambræ newly made in spirit of Wine, add to them Ambergris, Musk, of each six grains, oil of Nutmegs ten drops, evaporate the moisture away in a bath, and leave the mass.”

Callum picked Musc Tonkin by Parfum d’Empire to represent the relaxing properties of laudanum because of all the animal ingredients mentioned in the recipe.  It’s as close to real musk as he’s experienced in a perfume. For Laurin “It smells a bit disreputable. I don’t mean this in a bad way, but it has a slightly dirty, soiled smell.”

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The Ancient Greeks believed that illness was a result of an imbalance in The Four Humors; black bile, yellow bile, phlegm and blood.

An imbalance in black bile was thought to cause conditions such as melancholia and nervousness: basically anything we’d treat with antidepressants today. The element of earth was associated with black bile. Vetiver being earthy and supposedly very grounding, we tried Lune de Givre by Cloon Keen Atelier. Callum described it as “a very easy, relaxing vetiver” which it was and I’m not usually vetiver fan.

 

Thwart Your Enemies!

 

Laurin had trouble finding revenge spells on the internet because those that practice magic don’t want you harming others. Although unsurprisingly, you can pay someone to cast a revenge spell for you.  Ingredients that did come up were often woods (particularly cedar) and hemlock. Hemlock paralyses the body and leads to a very unpleasant death.

Forest Walk by Sonoma Scent Studio features a hemlock note (though entirely safe!) and Callum called it “Weirdly witchy” with “a smoky base to represent the burning bodies of your enemies.” Unfortunately samples of this one weren’t available on the night but it’s the perfume I enjoyed the most.

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Achieve Great Wealth!

 

Laurin found that patchouli and cinnamon featured heavily in spells for attracting wealth although with patchouli you also run the risk of attracting unsavoury types.

As Callum pointed out, Behind the Rain by Paul Schutze is a cold, incensy, peppery fragrance with a very smooth patchouli note.

Laurin found a recipe for Money Oil which she made up and added a few drops to some green candles for us to take home. We’ll be millionaires!

“7 drops Patchouli oil, 5 drops Cedarwood oil, 1 drop Basil oil, 1 drop Clove oil, 10ml base oil, small piece of cinnamon stick- Blend all the oil’s together & bottle. Add the small piece of cinnamon stick to the bottle. Use to anoint candles in money / prosperity spells.”

 

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Callum had really wanted Robert Piguet’s Knightsbridge (a leather fragrance exclusive to Harrods) to represent wealth for obvious reasons.

Live Forever. Sort Of!

 

“If you can’t live forever you want to at least live forever in people’s minds.” Laurin told us that peppermint had been shown in tests to improve memory so the chosen perfume featuring this note was Memoir Man by Amouage.

Callum had a wonderfully specific picture of this scent. “I’m at a kitchen in the countryside where it’s raining outside and there are potatoes on the boil.” The spuds mirroring the earthy facet of Memoir Man.

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Laurin found there are many spells designed to keep you looking eternally youthful. They largely used rose which makes sense as it’s associated with feeling beautiful in aromatherapy. We tried Eau Rose by Diptyque which is a very nice, fresh rose with notes of bergamot and lychee.

 

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Find True Love!

 

Laurin told us that Sex Appeal by Jovan came out in 1975 and the advert featured a He-Man type. Callum read a little of the ad copy which included lines such as “Sex Appeal – Now you don’t have to be born with it” and “Attract women, at will”.

 

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It was very medicinal and I could almost taste it at the back of my throat. As Laurin confirmed, it’s very camphor-like but apparently does soften down. Marginally better was Apollo by Lynx (Axe in the States) which Callum told us was done by perfumer Francis Kurkdjian. As you may know, “The Lynx Effect” is supposed to send hoards of women chasing men down the street. No one in the room found Apollo sexy but it was nostalgic for one guy.

A higher end version for women is Scent of a Dream by make-up brand Charlotte Tilbury which was released last year. Laurin was pleasantly surprised by it and Callum thought it was “a perfectly nice scent”. However, it would be quite difficult for anything to live up to the advertising copy which Laurin perfectly described as “word salad” –

“SCENT OF A DREAM is a first-of-its-kind ‘floral chypre’ perfume harmony – featuring a blend of confidence-boosting JOY top notes, intoxicating FLEUROTIC heart notes, plus ‘pheromone’ base notes… It’s mind-altering ‘fleurotic frequency’ creates an emotional pathway to the body’s ENERGY CENTRES igniting and attracting LOVE, LIGHT, POWER, POSITIVITY and SEX to the wearer. IT‘S THE KEY TO ATTRACTION”

At the bargain price of £7 a bottle you can also buy Attract Men or Attract Women by Mojo Pro. Their scents are supposed to contain pheromones and despite there being no scientific evidence for them acting on humans,  Callum’s mate told him that a friend of his swore after he started wearing it, the most attractive girl in his year at uni wouldn’t leave him alone.

Two audience members (one male and one female) had been sprayed with the perfumes and we had to try and sniff them out from a group of six. We pretty much failed so make of that what you will.

Molecule 01 by Escentric Molecules  is another supposed pheromone perfume which is meant to smell different on everyone, although Laurin said she regularly recognises it on people. An audience member owns it but never had any man chase after her in the street to ask what she was wearing. Callum said pheromones are a load of nonsense and Laurin felt we were ending the evening on rather a sad note as a result, but we now had the scent solutions to relaxation, thwarting our enemies, great wealth and eternal youth. What more could you ask for?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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In Rotation – December

For the last couple of years my perfume of choice for the festive season has been Tea for Two. It’s the spices that make it feel Christmassy. Funnily enough, I got a lot of cinnamon when I wore it last year but this year I’m mainly noticing the star anise. I wear it pretty much consistently from the 1st December until the 25th. One exception this month was a Board Meeting for which I chose Bois des Iles parfum. The golden sandalwood scent seemed to provide the right combination of sophistication and comfort.

 

 

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Last week we had the annual Perfume Lovers London Swap Meet which always causes much excitement. The idea is that you bring along the bottles you rarely wear and swap them for something someone else no longer wants. You get one raffle ticket for each bottle you contribute and then the numbers are drawn out of the hat, with 5 or so people going up to the table at a time to choose from what everyone has brought.

I took three bottles for swapping: vintage Diorella marked up as having a faulty sprayer in the hope someone could either fix or remove it; L’Eau Froide by Serge Lutens, which is a nice airy incense but not a patch on my holy grail Passage d’Enfer and finally, Poivre Piquant by L’Artisan Parfumeur which is a peppery milk and honey perfume with a splash of rose, but something I just never reach for.

It was a while before my first ticket was drawn but I spotted Ô de Lancome which I remembered Neil of The Black Narcissus writing about in his usual exquisite fashion, so I scooped that up. For my second  pick, again I saw a fragrance that I had a feeling another perfume pal (Ines) was fond of, Eau de Rochas. Read a lovely review of it by Angela on NST here.

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I was happy with these two swaps because I do have a gap in my collection for summery colognes with character.

By the time my third ticket was called the pickings were pretty slim but I got Bottega Veneta Eau Légère because I thought my work colleague would like it and indeed she does.

As for make-up, I’ve been wearing Sephora’s liquid lipstick in 01 Always Red because it’s a bold, Christmassy red. Although I’m starting to conclude these brighter reds don’t suit me so well,.it bears up really well to eating and drinking. I have my eye on the shade Blackberry Kiss for a future purchase.  I’ve been applying an equally festive shade to my nails; Pillow Talk by Leighton Denny.

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I felt bereft after finishing His Dark Materials but I’ve made a start on Wild: A Journey From Lost to Found by Cheryl Strayed. It’s the true story of a woman who decides to trek the length of the Pacific Crest Trail in the States when at her lowest ebb. I’m hoping it will inspire a less arduous adventure of my own next year. Ideally I’d like a Christmassy novel but aside from re-reading A Christmas Carol, I can’t think of anything.

 

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What have you been enjoying this month? Any Christmas themed books to recommend?

 

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Spice World: The Meetup – Perfume Lovers London, 24th November

We were greeted by a spice themed soundtrack at the October Gallery last Thursday with tracks from Salt-N-Pepa and of course, The Spice Girls. Our fragrant leader Odette Toilette/Lizzie is nearing her due date so we were in the capable hands of Laurin and Callum. As you will see from the abbreviated sequence of events below, they also have a great way with words.

 

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Cardamom

Intoxicated, By Kilian

Laurin: Intoxicated is part of the Addictive State of Mind collection from By Kilian which features three fragrances based around a substance that can be addictive: coffee, tobacco and weed.

Callum: Intoxicated is supposed to evoke Turkish coffee and although that is usually teeth rottingly sweet, this has dark bitter spices. The green, bracing note of cardamom is particularly noticeable.

Laurin: I find it dry.

Audience Member: I get some lavender, similar to A*Men.

Callum: It’s a good example of a very strong cardamom note.

Audience Member: It’s getting sweeter with time.

 

Lumiére Blanche, Olfactive Studio

Callum: Each fragrance by Olfactive Studio is inspired by a photograph. Lumiére Blanche is the opposite of Intoxicated. Here the cardamom is in a setting which is really creamy and it’s much easier to wear.

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Audience Member: I’m picking up anise and mint.

Laurin: I think it’s like a milky drink at bedtime; like spicy Horlicks.

Callum: Does anyone think it’s like the photo? It has the bright white feel.

Audience Member: It reminds me of the sea.

Audience Member: It reminds me of Lovehearts. There’s something sherbet-y.

 

Ginger

Classique EdT, Jean Paul Gaultier

Laurin: I get lots of orange blossom and ylang ylang from Classique but once I found out there was was ginger in it, it became a lot more noticeable. When I smell it, I picture ginger root complete with its hairy bark.

Callum: I used to wear it a lot in my teens. Over time the shape of the bottle has changed. It now has a bigger derrière and smaller breasts – The Kim Kardashian Effect.

Laurin: I’d put it in the bombshell category along with Fracas.

Callum: It’s huge. Do we like it?

General murmurs of “No”.

Audience Member: It’s very dated.

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The Smell of Freedom, Gorilla Perfumes

Callum: This is a sunny ginger fragrance.

Laurin: I always think it’s like when you’re grating ginger and some of the juice runs down your hand.

Holly from LUSH: This is a triptych of a perfume. It’s a combination of three other perfumes about inspirational people, so it has a lot of notes.

Laurin: I get more lemongrass as it goes along.

Callum: It’s the opposite of Classique. It feels more stripped back.

Audience Member: It’s quite earthy.

Vanilla

Love, By Kilian

Callum: One of my favourite vanillas is the one by Mona di Orio but most are very sweet so I thought I should pick one which is representative of that. Love is pink, frilly knickers. It’s bright and sickly but amazing. It’s softened by orange blossom. It’s crazy sweet.

Laurin: I always think vanilla is too needy. You’d break up with it and it would still come round to your house and knock on the door. I like this one though because there’s something a bit scratchy about it.

Audience Member: It’s like raw cookie dough.

 

Black, Bvlgari

Laurin: This is one of my favourite fragrances of all time. It’s leather, petrol station forecourts and gimp masks. It’s a good example of an edgy fragrance that uses vanilla to make it more wearable. The perfumer is Annick Menardo and she’s very good at using vanilla in compositions such as this, Hypnotic Poison by Dior and Morn to Dusk by Eau d’Italie.

Black wouldn’t get past a focus group these days. It’s Resting Bitch Face in a bottle. It’d slit your throat if you rubbed it up the wrong way. I admire anyone who bought it when it first came out. People say it’s discontinued but you can still get it on Amazon. It also comes in this great bottle shaped like a tyre.

 

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Clove

Esprit du Tigre, Heeley

Callum: All Heeley’s fragrances are very bold in that they have a very clear idea. This is centred around the idea of Tiger Balm. It features a very pure use of clove; tarry, methylated and smoky.

Would you wear it?

Generally well liked and quite a few people would wear it except for those with memories of Tiger Balm.

 

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Jungle L’Elephant, Kenzo

Laurin: I tried this at Lizzie’s house recently and took the bottle home with me.  It’s a more rounded use of clove. It’s a Christmas pudding in a marshmallow. It has a lot of warmth. I picture a helix of clove and cardamom.  There’s a huge amount of plum and cedarwood in there too.

It was done by Dominique Ropion who is very good at doing huge perfumes which are very fine-tuned (Portrait of a Lady, Carnal Flower). Lizzie isn’t getting her bottle back.

 

Cumin

Hellstone, Gorilla Perfumes

Laurin: I read that cumin is associated with faithfulness. It can stop chickens and lovers from straying, apparently. Hellstone is rounded and has a little of that body sweat cumin but it’s also peaty and has a bit of whisky. I was thinking earlier it would be perfect for the Central Line at rush hour.

Holly from LUSH: A lot of men like to wear it in their beards.

Callum: I like it the more I wear it – the more the terror fades away.

Audience Member: It smells a bit like old books.

 

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Fareb, Huitième Art Collection

Callum: Fareb makes me think of the desert and cola. It’s dry but has a fizziness to it.

Laurin: It’s more foody. Customers at Les Senteurs used to stay they couldn’t wear it because it reminded them of their mother’s cooking.

Callum: It’s sweeter than Hellstone.

Audience Member: It’s brighter.

Callum: It’s doesn’t have the dark, peaty aspect of Hellstone.

This one was generally approved of by the room and preferred to Hellstone. Overall Fareb and Black seemed to be the hits of the evening.

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Do you like spicy fragrances? Which are your favourites?

 

 

 

 

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A Scented Supper With Mandy Aftel

Last Wednesday evening, I was fortunate to attend a Scented Supper hosted by The Perfume Society in honour of artisan perfumer Mandy Aftel.

Mandy was visiting London with her lovely husband, Foster, for their anniversary. Her all-natural fragrances for Aftelier Perfumes – such as the wonderful Vanilla Smoke – are highly creative and have won her a loyal following as well as widespread acclaim. Furthermore, her beautifully written books on the topics of fragrance and food have inspired many, including myself.

The location was the North London HQ of Michelin restaurant trained Pratap Chahal known as That Hungry Chef. He explained to us that he started the Scented Suppers after reading Mandy’s book Fragrant: The Secret Life of Scent which brought his attention to the connection between fragrance and food. He began to experiment and his wife quipped that at first the house smelled like “A Mexican brothel!”. A couple of years down the line though and he has perfected his art. Last August he actually visited Mandy’s studio in California: there was a lot of synergy going on…

 

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The menu was scented with a perfume made up of the various scented elements used in the meal.

 

I have to be careful about what I eat and wondered how I would cope with so many strong flavours. However, each dish was subtly balanced and it was one sensory delight after another. Highlights were the patchouli pearl barley, frankincense cream with chickpea and apple crumble, chocolate tartlets with silver leaf and the most tender beef imaginable cooked with tobacco and patchouli (a l’Aftel). Even the slate the butter rested on was infused with fir oil. Not shown was a mini pistachio and saffron kulfi which somehow was in my mouth before I could take a photo.

 

Above from top left shows the beetroot starter, beef main and dessert of frankincense cream.

Inbetween courses Mandy was more than happy to answer questions from The Perfume Society’s Jo Fairley as well as other guests. What came across most strongly was her passion for the materials she works with. It seemed to me that her perfumes act primarily as conduits which allow her to express herself through her beloved naturals. She loves hunting down new materials and says she gets just as much of a thrill from them now as she did when she started out 20 years ago. Mandy feels perfume is intrinsically interesting and finds smell “primitive and sexy”. She is fascinated by all odours, whether others label them good or bad.

 

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Instagram moment of the evening: Chocolate tartlets on a bed of smoking hay infused with vetiver

 

Mandy thinks of smell as “disembodied flavour” and as we know, smell is a huge part of taste. She collaborated on the book Aroma: The Magic of Essential Oils in Food and Fragrance with the chef Daniel Patterson and has another book entitled The Art Flavor coming out next summer. She believes the smell of cooking is the ultimate home fragrance. Her Chef’s Essences are concentrated flavours which enliven dishes with just a couple of drops and are used by artisanal producers of items such as chocolate, ice cream and candles. The Essences include Basil, Pineapple, Peru Balsam, Frankincense and Ylang Ylang, among others.

 

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On the subject of perfume, Mandy told us that her favourite material is probably ambergris because she loves everything about it. She’s also noticed that the combination of patchouli with benzoin crops up in a lot of her perfumes and is very fond of gardenia/tiare. While she adores absolutes, Mandy doesn’t tend to work with essential oils that have a camphorous facet, such as tea tree and eucalyptus.

I admire Mandy for sticking to her personal values and not being afraid to take risks. She decided not to play it safe with her recent release Memento Mori which she acknowledged is a polarising scent “partly putrid, partly pretty”. Mandy has intentionally kept her business small-scale, turning down large orders for her Chef’s Essences and maintaining relationships with her customers.

 

 

An exciting project that Mandy is working on at the moment is her perfume museum. This will showcase the large collection of fragrant materials she has amassed over the years. It will be open to no more than 6 people at a time, by appointment. They will be able to smell the items on display and Mandy is particularly looking forward to seeing their reactions. She showed us photos of a cache of 100 year-old Rimmel perfumes she obtained from France. It is hoped that the museum, which is on Mandy’s property in Berkeley, will be open by the end of January next year.

 

Above shows Thomas, The Candy Perfume Boy, sniffing Pratap’s bottle of oud wood and then Nick Gilbert before and after finding out it was worth £1,500.

 

 

Mandy’s first book about natural perfumery, Essence & Alchemy, was life-changing for me when I read it about ten years ago, so it was a complete joy to be able to finally meet her. She was just as warm, thoughtful and interesting as I imagined her to be, if not more so.

 

 

Huge thanks to Mandy Aftel, The Perfume Society and That Hungry Chef for a magical evening.

 

 

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Fragrant Fictions – Perfume Lovers London, 29th September 2016

I loved Odette Toilette’s Imbibliotheque event earlier in the year, so I was really looking forward to another evening of perfume and literature.

This time, Lizzie (Odette) told us we would be looking at perfume in movies and TV as well as books. She mentioned that two perfumes seem to come up more than others; Chanel No.5 and Guerlain’s Shalimar. No.5 seems to feature in tales of coming-of-age while Shalimar is worn by the seductress. Natalie Portman’s ballerina-on-the-rise in the film Black  Swan takes the fading prima ballerina’s bottle of No.5 from her dressing room. While in the British film The Education, a 1960s schoolgirl dates an older man who brings her back a bottle of No.5 from Paris.

We’d also be getting a preview (or presniff?) of the forthcoming fragrance by Papillon Perfumes and hearing from Sarah McCartney about the new Four Mysteries collection by 4160 Tuesdays.

 

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Meticulous Murderers

Zagara, Santa Maria Novella

Notes: Bergamot, grapefruit, petit grain, lime, sweet orange, verbena, lavender, orange blossom, carnation, jasmine, geranium, oak moss.

Laurin read us an extract from Hannibal by Thomas Harris; the sequel to The Silence of the Lambs. Hannibal Lecter is at Santa Maria Novella in Italy where he buys an almond soap for Clarice. He is on the run and has undergone extensive cosmetic surgery to conceal his identity. However, he has not altered his nose to protect his much valued sense of smell. He really knows his perfumes and is quite the connoisseur.

The book doesn’t mention him wearing a particular scent but Laurin chose Zagara from Santa Maria Novella for him. It’s classy but not too flashy . As Laurin said “It’s probably a bad idea for a murderer to have a signature scent”. Lizzie commented that the manager of SMN told her “men in Armani suits like Zagara”.  She also quipped that “because of its laundry facet, the orange blossom is good for after you’ve done the murder”.

 

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Menthe Fraiche, Heeley

Notes: Mint leaves, Sicilian bergamot, mate, green tea, lotus leaves, white cedar

The second murderer was someone with no identify: Patrick Bateman from the novel American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis. Laurin read an extract which details his very extensive grooming routine. However, he never reaches for fragrance because this would denote an identity and he doesn’t have one.

Lizzie told us that in the film version you see L’Occitane products and the now discontinued YSL Pour Homme.

For Patrick Bateman, Laurin chose Menthe Fraiche by Heeley. She could see him sipping green tea at a sushi restaurant and the minty toothpaste note fits in with his meticulous grooming. Callum said he always thought he’d wear Creed’s Aventus in order to fit in with what the other investment bankers were wearing.

 

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Christian Bale as Patrick Bateman

James Bond

Limes, Floris

Notes: Lemon, petitgrain, lily of the valley, lime blossom, neroli, musk

Lizzie told us Limes by Floris was a fragrance from the 1830s meant to cool the wearer down in the heat. However it’s unlikely to have stayed the same over the years. Bond is obsessed with British brands such as Floris and Limes is mentioned in the 1957 book, Doctor No. Bond is captured by Doctor No who has gone to great lengths to learn Bond’s tastes. Therefore when Bond is shown to a bathroom he finds Limes Bath Essence.

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Vent Vert, Balmain

Notes: Lime, orange blossom, green notes, asafoetida, peach, basil, lemon, bergamot, neroli, violet, freesia, jasmine, hyacinth, ylang-ylang, lily-of-the-valley, rose, galbanum, marigold, spicy notes, iris, sandalwood, amber, musk, oakmoss, sage, vetiver, styrax, cedar

Lizzie: “Vent Vert is so tart it’s like being zapped. It used to be a lot more sappy with green stems but it’s still worth a buy at under £35 online”. It’s mentioned in Goldfinger and in Live and Let Die. In the 1973 film of the latter, Bond is investigating a Tarot reader, Solitaire. When he finds Vent Vert in her bathroom, he is reassured that she can be trusted. He seems to like fresh, green scents and finds them appropriate for women.

 

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Identity Theft

We then turned to the theme of perfume as a marker of identity. You can use it to try on enhance your personality or take on the identity of someone else.

Poison, Dior

Notes: Coriander, tuberose, opoponax

In the 1992 film The Hand That Rocks The Cradle, Rebecca de Mornay’s character takes the job of a nanny to get revenge on the mother of the family. She uses her perfume, Poison, to try and seduce her husband. Lizzie felt that Poison wasn’t a good choice to represent the nurturing housewife. She’d wear something more unthreatening. A suggestion from the audience was Estee Lauder’s White Linen. 

 

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Bal a Versailles, Jean Duprez

Laurin informed us that apparently Bal a Versailles was worn by Michael Jackson. He’d send assistants out to buy up bottles of the stuff. However, we’d be focusing on its appearance in an American TV show form the 1980s, Dynasty.

Lizzie gave us a run-down of the perfume’s significance in terms of character and plot. Krystle Carrington, wife of Blake, receives a bottle of Bal a Versailles in the first series and exclaims “My favourite!”. Krystle is the good woman who is pitted against Blake’s ex-wife, Alexis (played by Joan Collins). In series two, Alexis sprays on Bal a Versailles and attempts to seduce Blake. She fails and can’t understand why because she doused herself in Krystle’s perfume. As far as she’s concerned, Krystle has no identity beyond her fragrance.

Lizzie felt it was a good choice for Krystle as it was very much a perfume of the time. Laurin described it as a sophisticated, complex perfume made of hundreds of ingredients although it’s hard to pick out anything other than the civet.

 

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Alexis, Blake and Krystle

Shagging and Seduction

Lizzie hosted a perfume event for The Jilly Cooper Book Club and found that although the books are set in the 1980s, Jilly usually mentioned perfumes from the 1940s-1960s.  She was very fond of peppering her prose with brands so specific perfumes are mentioned quite regularly.

Caléche, Hermes

Notes: Citrus fruits, aldehyde notes, ylang ylang, rose, jasmine, to wood chypre silage underscored by noble irises.

Lizzie described Caléche as a mossy, musky scent and summed it up as “outdoor sex”. Jilly Cooper uses it in scenes of seduction, “Caléche rose from her cleavage like morning mist from a ravine.

In Riders, on her way to an assignation, Helen puts on so much perfume in the taxi “it fights with the diesel fumes“.

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Fracas, Bobert Piguet

Notes: Tuberose, jasmine, violet, gardenia, orange blossom, sandalwood, vetiver, musk

According to Lizzie “Fracas is a monster of a perfume. It says I’m ready and open for business” . It’s the one she felt 75% of the members of The Jilly Cooper Book Club went out and bought after the event. Another perfume mentioned in the books a number of times was Jolie Madame, which one woman throws a bottle of at a cheating partner.

 

Desperate Housewives

 

Happy, Clinique

Notes: Fresh apple, plums, bergamot, fresh-air accord, freesia, lily, rose, morning orchid, musk, amber

 

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1997’s Happy was worn by Elle Woods in the 2001 comedy Legally Blonde. She is an eternal optimist so it’s a good match with her happy-go-lucky attitude. It’s also in the film Juno. The wife of the couple hoping to adopt Juno’s baby wears Happy and again, she is eternally optimistic, even in the face of adversity.

Lizzie views it as “uplifting – positivity in a bottle”. For Laurin, Elizabeth Arden’s Sunflowers has the same effect because it was worn by an upbeat friend when they were growing up.

Diorissimo, Dior

Notes: Lily of the Valley, jasmine, white musk

Laurin introduced us to the second Desperate Housewife – Betty from the TV show Mad Men. Betty Draper is a bland trophy wife who is supposed to be seen and not heard. She’s very prim and proper so Laurin picked a lily fragrance for her, namely Diorissimo. She saw it as a good fit with Betty’s coldness and rigidity.

Lizzie felt Betty wouldn’t seek out something different, she’d probably just wear what her mother wore. Unlike Don Draper’s hip next wife, Megan, she wouldn’t wear a fragrance of the time or a power perfume like the va-va-voom redhead Joan, who wears Shalimar.

 

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Mystery Fragrance from Papillon Perfumes

We were lucky enough to be treated to a preview of the upcoming fragrance by artisan perfumer Liz Moores. She has already had great success with her three inaugural releases, Anubis, Angelique and Tobacco Rose and recently won several Basenotes Reader Awards for her last release, Salome, which Lizzie described as “a filthy carnation leather”.

Laurin said that autumn is her favourite season and the fragrance echoes the feeling that something good is going to happen as the leaves begin to fall. Lizzie shared that it made her think of a woman who was ready to turn her back on the finer things in life and retreat into the wilderness.

When Lizzie asked people to attach a fictional character to the scent one person said “A sprite from A Midsummer’s Night Dream” which is exactly what I thought. At the moment there is no release date for the perfume and the name has not been announced.

The Four Mysteries, 4160 Tuesdays

We finished the structured part of the evening with a reading by perfumer Sarah McCartney from two of the four short stories she is releasing in conjunction with four perfumes. Sarah is a fan of what she calls “1920s and 30s cosy crime”, where the details of the murder are totally glossed over.

We got to try two of the two perfumes . Flora Psychadelia is about two botanists in search of a rare flower which only blooms every couple of decades. It’s a psyhcotropic flower whose scent has the power to knock you out. She included lots of materials that are supposed to intoxicate including absinthe, hemp, black pepper and mushrooms, against a fleshy background.

Captured by Candlelight tells the story of two stage performers who perform at a Stately Home at Christmas and the scent is the rich aroma of Christmas pudding. The other two perfumes are Up The Apple & Pears and The Buddhawood Box.

 

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Thanks to the PLL team and everyone else involved for bringing us such a fabulous evening.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Rose By Any Other Name – Perfume Lovers London, 21st July 2016

This was the first “business as usual” PLL event hosted by Lizzie (Odette Toilette), Laurin and Callum at the October Gallery in London since taking over the group.

 

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The wonderful Nick Gilbert

 

Leading us through this rose themed evening was fragrance expert, Nick Gilbert. If you haven’t already checked out his YouTube channel Love to Smell with Pia of Volatile Fiction, you really should. Nick runs his own consultancy business and couldn’t be better placed to present us with the aromachemicals used to create rose scents along with examples of how each has been used in a particular perfume.

 

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Below is a rough reconstruction of some of the perfumed proceedings after an introduction by Lizzie.

 

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Lizzie, radiant in orange.

 

Nick: The reason I chose rose for this evening is because although there are are 300 molecules in rose absolute, there’s only 4 that humans can smell. That makes it an easy introduction to aromachemicals. The way a rose smells, whether fruity, earthy or citrusy, is all down to these molecules.

 

Phenyl Ethyl Alcohol

Nick: Phenyl ethyl alcohol is the main constituent of most rose extracts (oils and absolutes) but it’s not the most powerful. Perfumers use it to add a fresh, petal-y effect to floral perfumes. It can also add a sense of space. It’s very gentle and not very impactful. It’s not particularly rosy, it’s more vaguely floral. It gives a naturalist impression. Paul Smith Rose exemplifies this.

Paul Smith Rose

Laurin: This is what I’d expect a rose to smell like. Nick told me they used headspace technology to recreate the scent of a rose from Paul Smith’s garden.

Nick: It’s one of the best representations of rose in perfumery.

Audience member: It has a lot of petal-y freshness and there’s some green too. It reminds me a bit of bubble bath.

 

paul smith

 

Citronellol

Nick: This particular citronellol has a pronounced geranium aspect. It’s a little like bug spray.

Rosewater, Marks and Spencer

Nick: Citronellol is used by perfumers to add an uplifting, zingy effect.

Laurin: I picked up this rosewater from the food section of M&S. I thought it would be good added to fizzy water but it was disgusting.

Nick: Rosewater is a by-product of the distillation process and is used in cookery, especially sweets. I thought it would be interesting to see if we can spot the citronellol in it.

 

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Nick and Laurin

 

Damascone (Beta)

Nick: It’s not massively present in rose but it’s very impactful. It adds a berry, sweet facet to rose perfumes. Some roses can smell like raspberries.

Audience member: It smells a bit minty.

Liz Earle Botanical Essence No.20

Nick: This has that gently fruity aspect. I’ve been spraying this one a lot ,especially in the hot weather. It’s quite smooth.

Audience member: It reminds me of those sherbet sweets, flying saucers.

Laurin: There’s a lot of pink pepper in it.

 

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Rose Oxide

Nick: A lot of people find this very unpleasant. It gets to the back of your throat.

Laurin: This is disgusting. It’s like the bottom of a rusty skip with some sludge in it.

Audience member: It’s a rose shot out of a cannon.

Nick: It has a metallic tang, it’s a post-apocalyptic rose.

Audience member: “Terminator Rose”

Audience member: Perfumer Mark Buxton used it in quite a few of his perfumes for Comme des Garcons.

 

Mad Madame, Juliette Has A Gun

Nick: You get the metallic tang of rose oxide in Mad Madame. It’s kind of a bitchy rose.

 

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Geraniol

Nick: Without geraniol you wouldn’t have a rose with scent. It’s used by perfumers to create the leafy impression in rose, but not too much or you end up with geranium. It has a nice mint effect.

Audience member: It’s so green.

Nick: It’s very crisp.

Geranium pour Monsieur, Frederic Malle Editions de Parfums

Nick: Here you get the minty effect played up with peppermint. It’s like geranium toothpaste, in a great way.

Lizzie: It’s very good when it’s frosty. I love it.

geranium pour monsieur

 

Ionone (Alpha)

Nick: This is more violet-y with a green effect. It’s used at high dose in YSL’s Paris. It’s quite powerful – you only need to use a little to get a violet-y rose. Ionones were discovered in the late 19th century and so violet fragrances became wildly popular at that time.

Lizzie: There were so many violet scents, perfumers usually had more than one in their line.

Nick: Penhaligon’s had four.

Lizzie: Violet was the oud of its day. [Much laughter]

Lipstick Rose

Nick: Lipstick Rose is the example I’ve chosen for a violet rose. It’s very traditionally French.

Audience member: It reminds me of my grandmother’s lipstick.

Audience member: It reminds me of Shalimar.

Nick: It does have a vanillic undertone.

lipstick rose

 

This concluded the guided sniff-along portion of the evening. As usual we were then free to try a wide variety of rose fragrances and request a sample of our favourite. We were very helpfully given a list of those available.

 

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I was so pleased Nick decided to talk us through some aromachemicals because it’s topic I know very little about and I found it extremely interesting. I hope there will future talks on this subject.

Huge thanks to Lizzie, Laurin and Callum for keeping the group going and continuing the fragrant fun. I’m really looking forward to seeing where we go from here.

 

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Are you a fan of any of these rose fragrances? Are you interested in aromachemicals?

 

 

 

 

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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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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.

florida water

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

tea t

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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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

leopard

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.

rebecca

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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Portia & Pals at Perfume Lovers London! – Photo Essay

Having so many dear friends in the perfume community living far away from my home is tough, but tonight most of them were in the same room as me and I couldn’t have been happier if I tried.

Portia of Australian Perfume Junkies was in town to host Perfume Lovers London and so many friends from far and wide turned out to celebrate the fact. It was quite the party 🙂

I’m writing the whole event up for APJ and will let you know when it’s posted, but in the meantime I wanted to share some photos from the evening. Even if you couldn’t be there, I hope you agree it’s nice to see people having fun and communing over a shared love of fragrance.

Oh and of course, Portia was a roaring success!

 

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The start of a stellar evening hosted by Portia Turbo!

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Portia, Val the Cookie Queen and Me having way too much fun.

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Organiser Lila with Portia in full swing.

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Portia and the wonderful Lady Jane Grey.

 

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My great mates, Sabine of Iridescents and Vanessa of Bonkers About Perfume.

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The fabulous Nick “Spunk” Gilbert with Portia. 

 

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Antonio Gardoni of Bogue, Me and Portia.

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The beautiful Pia of Volatile Fiction with Portia.

 

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Val and Portia’s super cute partner, Jin.

 

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Val’s version of the trademark Portia Turbo pose!

 

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