Louise is a regular blog-commenter here (and if you think this blog is all about the posts, and not the comments, you’ve gone wrong somewhere. No offence, team, but them there posters add a little spice to my life and I’d be lost without ’em), and she happened to be in London until yesterday. So I hooked up with her there on Monday to seek out new lines and new sniffalizations.
First of all (and I know, blahdiblah, sheeshkebab guacamole yahdayah etc., here we go again), Louise is fantastic. Instant clickage. Delightful company. Funny, elegant, strikingly beautiful – a woman who glows life and living like it’s her breakfast cereal (it isn’t – she likes eggs and lasagne or something). And like you, dear reader, she’s deliriously obsessive about scent. But never enough that she loses sight of courtesy, warmth and all those other things that make knowing people that little bit more worthwhile. We sniffed. A heck of a lot. Here, once again, are my hazy recollections (will I ever make notes?) with one or two exciting tidbits of news and new lines, buried in there – so yes, you do have to read to the end.
We started in Les Senteurs of course – where else? This is only the second time I’ve gone sniffing with an accomplice, and this time round I noticed everywhere how fascinated the SAs were by our behaviour, facial responses, and exclamations. Les Senteurs is great because they let you get on with it, know how to make you feel comfortable and don’t assume you’re daft. And all the while you’re in a beautiful boutique with comfy chairs feeling like this is where you belong. Perfect. It’s in a rather exclusive neighbourhood and though I’m a frequently softly spoken chap, I am from the wrong side of the tracks. But I’m very welcome there. East and West (London) do meet. So, we tried a little of everything. We braved the MPGs that the Basenote boys rave about being out there on-the-edge hardcore punk ‘fumes or something – Parfum d’Habit and Route de Vetiver. They didn’t hurt us, but neither held our interest. I enjoyed Caron’s Eau de Reglisse for the first time, and agreed with Louise’s description of Le Parfum de Therese’s top notes – ‘like you’ve reached into the refrigerator for that canteloupe, only to feel your hand go straight through it’. The embarrassment of riches here can tend to make you seek out the old faithfuls once in a while, just to refresh your jading palette.
And for me, that was Chypre Rouge. Now, I know this isn’t a crowd-pleaser, but March loves it, as does Louise, and I’ve been pining for it ever since my decant ran out. I have these bottles of Serge Lutens that I wish I’d never bought – Gris Clair, Cedre, Daim Blond – I like ’em enough, but they’re just not me. Chypre Rouge is EXACTLY me somehow, in all its twists and turns and immortelle goodness. So those three might go up for swap or something to fund a bottle of this deep russet beauty. I need it in my autumnal arsenal.
The real reason I’d wanted to hit Les Senteurs was for the Mona di Orios. They’re exclusive to there in the UK (or so I thought – see later) and I’ve been pining for a bottle of Nuit Noire – its glorious celebration of the carnal and decay thrills me like nothing else. Before I got to the transaction though, we were told a couple of things. First that Mona (I use her first name; we’re friends after all) is bringing out a new fragrance early next year, based on the scents and sensations of Amsterdam. The SAs had smelled it – totally different to her other four, which do share a common touch I think, at least in the drydown. They wouldn’t be pressed on notes, but said it was watery – natch – and floral. I’m imagining an En Passant with splashes of bong extract, but who knows. Exciting though, at least for me, as I’m a big ole fan.
Second thing: that Mona herself recommends men should wear Carnation and give themselves 30 minutes before they rule it out. Now, Carnation was the one di Orio I had tried that had done little for me. In fact, I recalled it slightly repulsing me. But sprayed: a revelation. Louise and I retired to the charming Chocolate Society cafe for a coffee whilst I let the drydown do its thing. We couldn’t stop sniffing. On Louise, it became rounded, soft, feminine without shouting about it; on me, there was a sharper, more animalic quality. We were both addicted. It’s a phenomenal act of blending, and defeats my descriptive capabilities. All I can muster is this: if Lutens’s Chàªne is sunbaked skin in one direction – a lithe muscular torso damp with sweat; this Carnation is its softer counterpart – a pinker hue to the curves and folds, and perhaps some powder to cover up the beads of perspiration emergent with the first flush of pleasurable exertion. I decided that Carnation could be worn any time (I must be a lascivious old goat), but that Nuit Noire, although more limited, was still where my heart sang loudest. But, they were out of stock of the latter; fate intervened; Carnation was mine.
I’m going on a bit, aren’t I?
We moved on to Fortnum’s where Simon, the Micallef associate (Frances was there in the background, March!), chatted to us. I hope he pops in to see us here – we told him of the online world and he felt so much less the freak. I’ve probably given him the wrong advice…
Anyway we sniffed more without much real excitement, until we stumbled on a line neither of us had seen before or heard of, Bella Bellissima. There were four scents, bath oils, candles, the whole kit and caboodle. We sniffed the perfumes and three were okay, but not exciting. The fourth, Perfect Night, smelled great in the bottle. On the tester strip, it was strangely scentless. Louise decided to go for it, and used what I consider to be the most precious part of any sniffer’s perfumeable anatomy – the back of the hand – for a full-on couple of squirts. It was wonderful from the off, ginger, spices, warmth and depth, drying into the most glorious incense. We repeat sniffed as we walked from Piccadilly to Soho – it got better and better. She went back for a bottle. I recommend a visit to the website, though it looks like they’re only available in the UK for now.
At Liberty, the fragrance area have kindly thought of worried male buyers: they’ve gathered a selection of masculine fumes by the entrance so that blokes can do a quick ‘In. Out. Nobody gets hurt.’ kind of thing. I sniffed three or four things I can’t remember clearly, the best of which was one of the Anvers with a geeky lad on the packaging looking all scarved up and heroin chic. And I was pleased to hear that they’ll be getting the Stephanie de Saint-Aignan line soon, as I’ve been, like, desperate, for like totally forever (well, since December 06), to try Berberiades, and Stephanie herself emailed me to say that they don’t do sample vials….
Biggest surprise though was that the Mona di Orio four, exclusive at Les Senteurs, were also exclusive at Liberty. Would you believe it? I now had the opportunity to break my perfume budget and get eye rolls as well as tuts from my sweet man Matthew. Did I do it? What do you think?
To celebrate – a sample of Lux, Nuit Noire and Carnation to the lucky commenter who gets picked out of the hat / shopping bag / makeshift whatever… I’ll announce it in Fourplay next week. So get commenting. And if you never normally do, please dive on in, even just to say hello. The water’s lovely, and there’s a whole world of delightful smellfriends out there for you to meet!