Tag Archives: Lizzie Ostrom

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.

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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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