Tag Archives: Perfumer H

Perfume: A Sensory Journey Through Contemporary Scent – Somerset House, 24th June 2017

When I first heard about the perfume exhibition at Somerset House I wasn’t that bothered about going. I scanned the list of perfumes to be showcased and didn’t feel tempted. I was totally missing the point though. This isn’t just about the individual perfumes, it’s about interacting with fragrance in a new way.

Rather than a traditional exhibition, this is an interactive experience that seeks to open up your mind and give context to what you’re smelling, as well as chart the evolution of scent through recent times.

“Multi-sensory exhibition featuring ten extraordinary perfumes and their pioneering creators, who have radically changed our perceptions of fragrance over the last 20 years.”

I’m grateful to Megan of Megan In Sainte Maxime for suggesting we went along last Saturday. It was lovely to get to hang out with her and we had a lot of fun.

I know it’s only just opened but it was nice to see a queue of people waiting to go in for the 3pm session.

SPOILER ALERT: I mention which perfumes the rooms represent, so if you are planning on going along, you may want to read this post after you’ve been.

 

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The exhibition’s content was selected by Senior Curator Claire Catterall and fragrance expert/writer Lizzie Ostrom (Odette Toilette).

 

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The first room was a brief run through some landmark scents of the last century starting with L’Origan by Coty from 1905 and ending with CK One in 1994. They included Chypre de Coty, Shocking, Vent Vert, Youth Dew, Georgio and Opium.

 

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Megan sniffing L’Origan by Coty

 

At the start of the 10 perfume rooms we were offered a piece of card and a pencil to write down our thoughts on each scent. What an excellent idea!

 

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Room 1 had a trough of small dark beads strewn with black balls that had scent inserted into them. One of the staff told us we’d go through the first 5 rooms before we’d find out what the scents were and this process would then be repeated with a further 5.

The first perfume turned out to be Comme des Garcons 2 by Mark Buxton which aims to capture the scent of ink used in the Japanese art of Calligraphy. CdG were ground-breaking in developing personal fragrances inspired by synthetic substances.

 

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Those beads felt nice!

 

Room 2 held a big metal cube with vents at each corner, releasing the fragrance. Maybe it was the delivery system which made me note down “hot radiator” but there was a definite whiff of paint and dust. The actual perfume was Escentric Molecules Molecule 01 which I didn’t recognise at all.

 

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Next, in room 2, was a suspicious looking rumpled bed in a dimly lit room and I quickly twigged that this was Secretions Magnifiques by Etat Libre d’Orange. What at first seemed like balled-up tissues impregnated with scent, were attached to the covers and I had to push myself to pick one up and sniff it. There was that stomach-churning aroma of bodily fluids and metal mixed with white flowers.

 

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In sharp contrast to the previous room, Room 3 had billowing white linens at the windows and a dream-like video playing on the wall. I recognised Olivia Giacobetti’s En Passant the moment I lifted one of the lengths of white fabric to my nose. A lovely wistful scent of fresh, watery lilacs by Frederic Malle Editions de Parfums.

 

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Room 4 had little scented bean bags and two purple chaise longues which were being hogged by a reclining couple. The perfume was very faint on the fabric but I got an iris-tinted powder. It turned out to be Olfactories Purple Rain by Prada: a high-end reworking of their Infusion d’Iris perfume.

 

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After the fifth room the fragrances were revealed with descriptions, notes and a chance to try them again.

 

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The fragrance I found the most intriguing was up next, although the room wasn’t quite as inspiring. There was a narrow shelf which seemed to be decorated like a desert floor the day after hipsters had been camping out – like a scene from Burning Man. The aroma on the little pyramids was smoky and dusty but I also noted pine needles. There was a cool vibe created by a speaker playing an American voice talking about perfume over the top of a Velvet Underground-style soundtrack.

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El Cosmico by D S & Durga contains notes of dry shrubs, desert pepper, pinyon pine, creosote, dry sand accord, oak and khella.

 

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Scented bean bags were used again in room 7 which contained bark benches and a tree stump. The scent was not too dissimilar to that of the previous one to my nose but nowhere near as complex.  I noted down that I wouldn’t want to wear it as personal fragrance but would love it as a scented candle.  It was Charcoal by Lyn Harris for Perfumer H.

 

 

 

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Charcoal scented bean bag.

 

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Next we were met by a room of people studiously painting away in silence. There were little jars of what Megan correctly identified as L’ Air du Desert Morocain by Andy Tauer and you were encouraged to paint your impressions of it.

 

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We had the most fun in the Avignon room. With its hanging black, leather-look pouches and little cubicles, Megan understandably got a 50 Shades vibe. It transpired that it was actually seeking to represent confession booths at Catholic church. Through the lattice-work in the walls we could hear who I assume was perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour, talking about the composition process.

 

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In Room 10 you picked out a scented cuddly toy and had your photo taken with it. We concentrated so much on selecting our toy and getting our photo taken (which wasn’t easy as there didn’t appear to be a flash or countdown) that we didn’t spend much time focusing on the scent.

It was Dark Ride by Xyrena which seeks to replicate the aroma of theme park water rides and includes notes of chlorine and fog machines. Our picture was sadly too appalling for public consumption.

 

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As before, the next room contained information about the perfumes in the last 5 rooms.

 

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It was great that at the end of the interactive experience there was a chance to talk to some perfumers from Givaudan. They were also doing demonstrations of how to put together an accord. People were really interested and one woman even asked if they had any civet for her to smell.

 

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There were some individual ingredients to try from the previous 10 perfumes.

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They were collecting and taking photos of people’s notes at the end.

 

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Of course, you exit via the gift shop but even this was a cut above the rest. You could buy all but one of the perfumes in the exhibition (which is exclusive to Selfridges, possibly Purple Rain?) and lots of fragrance books, as well as a booklet about the exhibition and large scented postcards.

 

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You could tell it was a well thought out project with a great deal of time and effort put into the details and presentation, all with the aim of eliciting maximum engagement.

They’ve done a brilliant job of compelling us to interact with fragrance differently; to think about what we’re smelling and what associations it brings up before discovering the name, brand and notes.

Visitors really seemed to be enjoying themselves, comparing their thoughts and making the most of the interactive opportunities. I was totally impressed.

 

Perfume: A Sensory Journey Through Contemporary Scent is on at Somerset House until 17th September.

 

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I got to meet another online perfume pal for the first time!

 

What do you think about the exhibition and the perfumes selected? Let me know your thoughts in the comments. 

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A London Sniffathon with Tina G of APJ – Photo Essay

I was so excited to finally meet Tina G from Australian Perfume Junkies for the first time last weekend. We’ve been virtual friends for a while now – we were introduced by our mutual pal Portia – and I really like the way she writes about fragrance. Tina’s been travelling across Europe and I couldn’t wait for her to get to London

For our intensive tour of some of the city’s fragrant hot-spots, Tina made the decision to concentrate on perfumes not available back home in Sydney, which was very wise. Believe me when I say the following highlights only cover a fraction of what we tried.

 

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Tina and I very happy to be together at Les Senteurs

First on our list was Les Senteurs where the lovely Murray spent ages filling us in on new-to-us brands.  Tina was drawn to the Tom Daxton display and we tested his new fresh floral, Magnolia Heights. I was keen to try the latest addition to Frederic Malle’s Editions des Parfums, Monsieur, which was not animalic the way I envisioned but a very suave patchouli.

Murray took us through Irish brand Cloon Keen Atelier from which Tina was intrigued by Castana which features the novel pairing of vetiver and chestnut, while I particularly enjoyed the bergamot tea of Infusion Assam.

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Tina hadn’t seen French house Les Eaux Primordiales before so we tried all of those, out of which she loved Iris Palladium and almost went for a full bottle. The whole range was very well done, including a vetiver and rhubarb scent in Abstraction Raisonnee and a very natural, wearable lavender with blackberry in Moment Perpetuel.

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Les Eaux Primordiales

Tina is a fan of minty notes so Murray suggested Geranium Pour Monsieur by Frederic Malle which she liked, but was most impressed by Menthe Fraiche from Heeley.

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Murray and Tina

Tina liked Ambre Russe and Tabac Tabou from Parfum de Empire, the latter being a great hay/narcissus/tobacco scent (review to follow). I was very taken with Yuzu Fou. I rarely click with citrus fragrances but this is very concentrated with loads of depth.

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After a meander through Marylebone we found Perfumer H, the new venture of Lyn Harris (of Miller Harris) which has been open for about 8 months now. The store smells of essential oils which is really lovely compared to the synthetic fug of mainstream fragrance shops. The very engaging Caroline told us about the Perfumer H concept. Lyn Harris is really going back to the craft, mixing up the fragrances in a small lab on the premises.

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Caroline in the lab at Perfumer H

They release two collections a year containing five perfumes (each from a different fragrance family), one for Spring/Summer and one for Autumn/Winter. When they’re retired from the current collection they go into the Archive but are still available to purchase. I wear perfume in line with the seasons so this idea appealed to me.

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The current collection of Cologne, Rain Cloud, Atlas, Leather and Musk

We tried the current collection (released in February) and were very impressed with all of them but particularly Atlas, Leather and Musk. On the other side of the room Caroline showed us the Laboratory Editions which are available to buy outright for your sole use (from £1,500) but until then, are available for sale as single bottles (from £140 for 100ml). So if you fall in love with one, you better start saving or stockpiling. From these we tried Ink, Smoke and a few others.

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Tina in front of the Laboratory Editions

Tina tried four Perfumer H fragrances on skin – Leather, Velvet, Atlas and Musk. I liked the cottony iris of Musk the best and as It happened, this is the one she decided to buy. The hand blown blue bottles are gorgeous but you can buy the perfumes in ordinary bottles for a lot less, which is what Tina did as it’s better for transporting home.

Next on the list was Selfridges where we enjoyed salt beef sandwiches before hitting the fragrance floor. After a pit-stop at Chanel we went to the Dior fragrance boutique. Tina hadn’t seen Les Elixirs Precieux before so we sniffed all four (Oud, Rose, Musc and Ambre). They are concentrated oils for layering and Rose is stunning, but so is the price at £225 for 3ml.

I was eager to try Dior’s new Le Colle Noire from La Collection Privée because it’s also a rose. It’s very pretty but I couldn’t detect anything particularly exclusive about it and I like my roses with more depth. There were no samples available but to my and Tina’s amazement the SA offered to spray the lining of my leather jacket. Thanks but no thanks!

 

 

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Dior La Collection Privée

Union sources its materials from around the UK and Tina had been impressed by her friend’s bottle of Celtic Fire so we went through the range of five fragrances. We liked Gunpowder Rose a lot and although tempted, Tina didn’t buy smoky Celtic Fire in the end. The heavy bottles were a factor.

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Union at Selfridges

Tina spotted A Lab on Fire so we sampled a few of those – including What We Do in Paris is Secret – which were surprisingly mainstream in scent. I was also disappointed to find you couldn’t pull the trigger on the Moschino Fresh bottle but had to take off the top and use the bog standard sprayer. Shame.

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Off to Covent Garden and Bloom next. Tina had been the first to tell me about British brand Beaufort and picked up a candle of 1805 Tonnerre for her friend back home. She tried all three fragrances in the line and admired Vi et Armis, which is way too much spicy smoke for me, though very striking.  Owner Oxsana kindly gave us a sneak preview of the forthcoming Beaufort release Lignum Vitae which is, to my surprise, a gourmand. We also tried a few from Turkish perfume house Nishane after which I got nose fatigue and left Tina to browse some more.

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Tina at Bloom, Covent Garden

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We finished off this fantastic day at Aqua Bar on the 32rd floor of The Shard where we met Mazz, a long-time friend of both Tina and Portia. I know Tina is partial to a cocktail and it’s hard to beat the views from here. I also love their Charcoal Cobbler cocktail which has charcoal sugar around the rim of the glass. I drank it rather too quickly and went home on the tube tired but merry.

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The view!

Perfume is a lot of fun and meeting up with perfume friends like Tina is just the best.

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The London weather did me proud!

Do you already love, or like the sound of, any of the perfumes mentioned here?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do you already love, or like the sound of, any of the perfumes mentioned here?

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