Sunday, 21 August 2016

'La vie est belle': thoughts on 'Lancôming' home to Limousin, and a curious confluence of perfume and porcelain - Part 1

I have just been away for a few days to France, visiting my friend L, who recently bought a house out there. Much of the travelling I do these days is gig-related, so it was unusual for me to go to a place where not only was no music involved, but where I was struck by the profound silence that reigned at night, though her village was also pretty peaceful by day. Lying in bed, the snuffling of barn owls in the eaves of the house opposite and the occasional gurgle of vintage plumbing were pretty much the only sounds I could make out. Ironically, I found the silence so extreme that I wore ear plugs anyway, to recreate more normal sleeping conditions. ;)

I left home on Wednesday morning, having managed to conceal the whereabouts of the suitcase from Truffle right up until the moment of departure.  From the baleful look on her face as I said goodbye I think she may have known all along anyway, the constant transferring of clothes and other assorted objects from room to room over several days in the run up to my trip being a bit of a giveaway.

I caught the train to Birmingham without incident, and had a luxurious amount of time to kill at the airport. Now that my hobby is in its 'mature' phase, I tend to walk straight through the perfume section of the Duty Free, but my resolve weakened at the sight of a bottle of Narciso Rodriguez Poudrée. I had been curious to try Poudrée ever since reading Ines of All I am a Redhead's glowing review, and it was as lovely - in that dreamy, cold creamy, and finely milled powder kind of a way - as I had expected.

Source: Fragrantica


Heartened by my favourable take on the Narciso, I decided to pop to the Chanel Exclusifs section to retest Misia. I also got my first sniff of Boy, and had a spritz of the already familiar Coromandel and No 22 for good measure. I am still not sure about Misia - it reminded me of a rosier version of 1932, and there was something slightly suffocating about its stereo cosmetic powderiness - from both the violets and the iris/orris. I also thought I got a hint of lavender and heliotrope, but maybe it was the tonka bean playing tricks. I guess it is not a good sign if you even think you smell notes you don't care for in a scent. Plus it didn't have half the staying power of Coromandel, not that that really warrants a black mark in my book.

I also had a quick whiff of Boy on card, which struck me as a refreshing, faintly fougèristic, broadly unisex cologne with a lavender(!) twist, that didn't seem to bother me unduly. I would like to give it another go, as I was distracted by my Misia musings.

And to be truthful, the most memorable part of the visit was chatting to Kelly, the very helpful and knowledgeable sales assistant, about their (I think relatively new?) porcelain 'dipper sticks'. If anyone knows the proper technical term for these, please do let me know in the comments!

Some readers may be aware of my longstanding interest in perfume sample delivery mechanisms - I can only find this post (on the subject of 'olfcartophiles'), but there have been several. Over time, I have detected a gradual evolution from giving physical samples away to encouraging people to make do with cards, blotters, lengths of ribbon, Frédéric Malle-style walk in fibreglass Tardises, IUNX- and Mugler-style trumpets, bell jars and so on. This was my first encounter with porcelain dipper sticks, mind, and as I was about to board a flight to Limoges, the ceramics capital, the Stoke-on-Trent if you will, of France - or do I mean the Dresden? - I took a lively interest in this novel and niche application. They are white tubular things, thicker at one end, and looked ever so slightly like a certain feminine accessory that enables you to play tennis, swim and canoe, even if you have never previously engaged in such active pursuits. Or perhaps like a deeply disappointing satay skewer. Anyway, they certainly did the job here.

I asked Kelly how long the dipper sticks sit in their little wells before the scent is refreshed - it turns out that they are redipped once a week in small screw cap bottles that live in a cupboard behind the counter. Well, I thought, that is interesting. Kelly also showed me her tray of raw material miniatures, which guide clients through the process of choosing a perfume by enabling them to discover which notes they are drawn to - like the Ormonde Jayne Perfume Portrait idea, but without the blind sniffing aspect. And there was also a table with samples of the complete Chanel range laid out on it, organised by fragrance style, to help the customer narrow the field further to specific perfumes that might match their olfactory leanings. Here it is, together with the examples Kelly gave me for each - or rather at least one that I managed to jot down:

Citrus - Cristalle
Green floral - Bel Respiro, No 19
Light floral - Chance (make that dull, insipid floral for me!)
Intense floral - No 5
Aromatics - Bleu
Soft woody - Bois des Iles
Intense woody - Sycamore
Enveloping oriental - Coco Mademoiselle
Oriental - Coromandel

Now I was tickled by the idea of an 'enveloping oriental', however for my money the categories are transposed and I'd call Coromandel the true enveloper of the two. I mentioned this to Kelly and we went on to discuss the ubiquity of Coco Mademoiselle, which is now the biggest selling perfume in the world, you won't be surprised to learn.

Finally, Kelly mentioned the imminent launch of No 5 L'Eau, a lighter version of No 5 aimed at a younger market, or anyone who finds the original a bit aldehyde-heavy. I was quite happy for Eau Première to fulfil that role, but am intrigued to try this new interpretation.


After Chanel, I spied a display of Armani Privé scents, which was definitely new since my last visit. They favoured the 'bell jar' system of perfume dispersal, and I dutifully picked them all up and stuck my nose inside. What really caught my eye though were the geologically lifelike bottles of Rouge and Vert Malachite. Well, I say that, but to be honest the green one reminded me a bit of Shield deodorant soap from the 70s if anyone remembers that. No, seriously, they did have the marbling and sheen of an actual geode of malachite, but there was also a fake and plasticky aspect to the bottles that put me right off the scents - though if you ask me what they smelt like I would be hard pushed to describe either.

I certainly wouldn't have recognised Rouge Malachite from the company's oddly capitalised PR blurb, for example, which I found on Now Smell This:

'The singular meeting of an opulent, voluptuous and carnal Tuberose and a wild Sage along with the surprising vibration of AmberXtreme.'

I have resisted the urge to put a comma in after 'Sage'! Actually, come to think of it, Rouge Malachite was a little like a more demure Coromandel, and I note that both scents have a big white floral, amber, and benzoin in them, albeit Rouge Malachite is more about the tuberose to Coromandel's jasmine, plus there is a shedload of patchouli in the Chanel. I did like Rouge Malachite though. And I didn't mind Vert Malachite, but my inability to classify it in any way whatsover rather spoilt my appreciation of how it smelled. (Ooh, there's a meaty behavioural topic for another time!)


Next up, I swung by the Tom Ford fixture, drawn by the blingy ribbed allure of the bottles of Orchid Soleil and Velvet Orchid. As I was spraying one or other of these on a blotter - yes, blotters are still with us!- a man came up behind me and asked: 'Are you looking for something for yourself or your husband?' And he didn't even work there. ;) Yep, he was just another punter, who reached for the tester of Noir and pronounced it not 'Extrème' enough. 'I only really like the Extrème' he added, deftly reinforcing his he-man credentials, before vanishing as suddenly as he had appeared. Maybe he should have given Rouge Malachite and its AmberXtreme a spin(!) - the pair are unisex after all.

On a side note, the number of Tom Ford scents with 'Orchid' in the name is spiralling out of control if you ask me, like the whole sorry busy of confusing Stella flankers, which I elevated to the status of a 'Scent Crime' in this post from 2009. My nose had sort of had it by this stage however, so I shan't attempt to describe my impressions, which would have been sketchy at the best of times...And now I am scratching my head about another perfume by Tom Ford that was discontinued, and that I thought was also called Velvet Orchid - it contained a notorious blue cheese-inflected gardenia note and oozed a general aura of sex and depravity that was straight out of John Fowles' The Magus. Like a more complicated and corrupt version of Versace Crystal Noir perhaps...Velvet Gardenia, that was it!! So 'Velvet' may be shaping up as the new 'Orchid' in terms of irritating iteration.


Nasal fatigue notwithstanding, I couldn't walk on past the Jo Malone concession, yet another niche-ish line to have popped up at Birmingham airport in the past year. They didn't have any long porcelain dipper sticks, but they DID have short white porcelain cork-like stoppers adorned with black ribbons, also resting in scent wells. So obviously I had to ask the assistant how often they refresh / redip the stoppers in the perfumes, and the answer is every day! Make of that what you will - there may be a correlation with the relative evanescence of the Jo Malone range versus the Chanel Exclusifs in terms of adhering to the porcelain surface, or something to do with how the scent wells are designed to minimise evaporation - or it may be an arbitrary frequency on the part of each brand!, I don't know. I would be interested to sniff a Jo Malone 'cork' that has not been redipped for six days, say, to see if you can still smell the perfume in question or not. (And in case you were wondering, I failed to ask about the receptacles in which the dipping supplies are housed. ;) )

The assistant, whose name I also didn't catch, allowed me to smell a tester of the upcoming September release, Basil & Neroli, which is billed as a more modern take on the bestselling Jo Malone classic, Lime, Basil & Mandarin. As with the latter, I sense that Basil & Neroli may work beautifully on the right skin; but even if I had the right skin, I don't care for basil in a perfume, though I love it on the plant and in the mozzarella and tomato salad, so I was destined not to like this. The neroli gives the basil a good old run for its money, mind. To be honest, the basil seemed more sage-like to my nose, though I am not big on sage either. Anyway, please don't be put off by my lack of enthusiasm - if you like herbal citrus compositions it may be just the ticket.

After all of that, there was just time to grab a takeaway tea and rush to the gate as instructed, only to be kept waiting on the steps down to it - and in the bus to the plane - for a further 40 minutes or so, as you do.

PS Interesting factoid about Narciso Rodriguez!....My friend's niece, whom I met at dinner the other day, used to work for Kenneth Green Associates, which has Narciso Rodriguez in its marketing portfolio. During her time there she had the job of pre-spraying the ribbons-in-lieu-of-samples with perfume, and also did a stint of promotional work. Her top tip for clinching the sale was to give the ribbon to a small child, assuming there was one available, from whose possession the ribbon would eventually get transferred to the mother's handbag, who would marvel at this lovely smell wafting up from its interior when they got home, and go back to the store to buy a bottle! This lady is also one of the world's top experts in voodoo culture (no kidding), so she clearly knows a thing or two about making stuff happen...

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Vial bodies*: how I seem to diss scent samples in sprayers with white tops

70s Go-Go boots ~ Source: eBay
This week on A Bottled Rose, Tara posted some mini-reviews of the new range by Art de Parfum. She had a better strike rate than me - I liked one quite a bit once it dried down (Sensual Oud - I know, it has Oud in the title, but it was really rather nice!). Then another one I found 'interesting' (Signature Wild), though by rights I shouldn't have liked it because it has the dreaded davana note in it - hey, Jasper Conran Mister, that I ordered by mistake instead of Mistress and ended up giving to my brother, who is using it as an air freshener, here's looking at you! And does anyone even remember Jasper Conran Mistress or Mister, such is the evanescent nature of the perfume scene...?

But the other new releases in the Art de Parfum range seemed more like oddball mainstream rather than niche scents to my nose, and I even thought one or two smelt overtly aromachemically, if you know what I mean, such that the overall composition failed to engage / mesh, let alone wow. Tara and I chatted about this afterwards because she has a much superior nose to mine and did not get a synthetic vibe from this range, something I know she would normally pick up on straight away. So I vowed to try the quintet of scents again, because I was disappointed by my own lacklustre reaction to them.

But there's more...!

I remembered that I had a similarly mixed reaction to the ROADS collection of fragrances, a number of which I featured in a post here. I quite liked several, but the rest sadly left me cold. I couldn't imagine buying a bottle of any of them. Why am I not surprised that piece didn't make the Jasmine shortlists this year? Well,for starters it is more of a travelogue than a set of perfume reviews, never mind its less than reverent tone...;)

And then there was another coffret of samples I was kindly sent by Jeffrey Dame of Hypoluxe - a capsule collection of scents under the aegis of Thorsten Biehl's Kunstwerke, by perfumers Geza Schoen, Mark Buxton and Patricia Choux. I featured a Mark Buxton composition (mb01) that particularly caught my fancy in this German-themed post from 2014, but again I was underwhelmed by the set as a whole, notwithstanding the pedigree of the perfumers whose work it showcased. I remember one perfume reminding me forcefully of  Dior's J'adore L'eau cologne florale, for example, a resolutely mainstream flanker of the ever popular J'adore.

It was the same script - only more so - with a range called Aura Soma, the least said about which the better.

And yesterday it dawned on me that the common thread between all four sets of samples is the fact that they have WHITE TOPS. It seems that at some subliminal level, my brain does not equate white tops with 'niche' / 'luxury' / 'high end' scents, regardless of their actual quality and how they may or may not smell.

A quick delve into my 'samples in progress'  boxes and bowls reveals that the scents I do regard highly mostly have black tops, or little stoppers. One range (not pictured and yet to be featured) even has classy blue apothecary-style vials!

In the bowl above are samples from the following brands:

Ormonde Jayne
Mona di Orio
4160 Tuesdays
Papillon Perfumery
Hermes - translucent!
Aftelier Perfumes
Ex Idolo
Acqua di Parma - a sort of mother of pearl finish, but definitely not your bog standard white!

So then I scurried off to find my presentation box of Puredistance samples, which - whether I like each and every one of their range or not - is a house which resoundingly epitomises quality ingredients for me. I was reassured to see the serried ranks of black tops, giving further weight to my theory.  Yes, I know M is missing - I gave it to a friend who gave it to her colleague.

And to put the lid on my research, I opened a big box of atomiser samples that I had collected at the start of my perfume hobby. Verdict: of the seven white plastic-topped sprayers that came to hand, six were mainstream designer scents, including a couple of 'regular' Chanels. The only high end brand that had gone for white was By Kilian (Forbidden Games), and I am now racking my memory as to whether they may actually use black tops on their other collections?

Well, what a turn up! I am not saying that I have never loved a perfume in a sample sprayer with a white top, or never disliked one in a black top, but I can say that in the main my perception of perfume in quality terms really does seem to be a black and white issue. ;)

Finally, here is Serge Lutens, taking absolutely no chances with an opaque brown number, similar to the (black?) vials of Keiko Mecheri. Which is all very well, but these come with their own issues, namely that you have no clue about fill levels. Until they finally stop working. An annoying phenomenon which I have addressed in this Scent Crimes post - from six and a half years ago, no less!

So I have to ask - is it just me whose perception is influenced by sample top colour, or can anyone else relate?

It sounds a pretty preposterous theory on the face of it, but I toss it out there notwithstanding. Maybe top colour is in fact some kind of  unspoken 'code' in the perfume industry that I have only now tumbled to?!

And yes, I did own a pair of boots like that in the 70s - white patent, which I teamed with my pink (you heard right!) wet look coat. Personally, I am not sure that white boots - or white atomiser tops - or white shoes on men, even on a golf course - were ever a good thing...

*With apologies to  Evelyn Waugh. (It shouldn't really be 'bodies', come to think of it, being more about the tops, but I shall push the envelope of poetic licence.)

Actually, in the case of that Art de Parfum sample pictured above, we are also talking a bit of the body as well as top... Maybe it was the additional - and substantial - plastic 'shoulder' that tipped me over the edge?!

Monday, 8 August 2016

Results of the Papillon-hosted (and -posted) - Plum prize draw!

Last night's deadline for the Plum prize draw has Mary Greenwell and truly passed, and in time-honoured tradition I have had my usual recourse to that trusty number tumbler,, to pick the winner.

So without further ado, I can reveal that the bottle of Plum is going to:


Congratulations, Angie! I hope you will like Plum, or find a good home for it otherwise. Please drop me a line with your address, which I will forward to the powers-that-be at Papillon Perfumery.

Yes, a big thank you is due to Liz Moores for kindly donating her bottle of Plum to this giveaway. As mentioned in my previous post, it has the added cachet of having spent some time in her 'never a dull moment' home and company HQ.

Daisy may well have had fun taking the top off and putting it on again, or at the very least a Bengal cat will have brushed past it with its tail. It is to be hoped not a snake at least.

PS That plum picture was the closest I could find to those multi-coloured lottery balls. ;)

Sunday, 31 July 2016

Papillon Perfumery is poised to post a Plum prize in the latest Bonkers giveaway!

So in my review of Hermès Muguet Porcelaine last week I compared Jean-Claude Ellena's craggy looks to a softer, more approachable version of Samuel Beckett. It was one of those random similes that seem to pop into my head all the time, for better or worse.

Imagine my surprise then, when I received an email from Sue Phillips, the CEO of Scenterprises. Scenterprises is the US equivalent of The Perfume Studio over here, of which I used to be an associate. I helped people create their own custom perfume from 'building blocks' in the form of 18 pre-prepared accords / blends, which had in turn been created by a UK perfumer, whose name escapes me now(!), but who had worked with The Body Shop, and whose understated style had garnered praise from Luca Turin himself. And here my blog post about my own experience as a punter, which is what prompted me to become involved as a facilitator.

Sadly, I gave up the job after about a year, because I couldn't make any money from it after the cost of materials and packaging - it was taking me three hours in all, half of which was spent on the session with the client, and half in setting up the room to create a nice ambience, making up their chosen scent afterwards, and clearing away after they'd gone.  We were encouraged to offer the experience for one person at about £40 - having just checked the website, that seems to still be the case.

By contrast, I see that Scenterprises charges $500 for what I take to be a broadly equivalent one-to-one service in the US. This is in New York, mind you, where people clearly have a lot more disposable income than in The Midlands, and where the venue would be be subject to higher overheads. On the face of it, it does still strike me as a big differential between our two continents, though.

Some of the blends as they were in 2010

So that was by way of background...I am getting to the bit about Ellena Sue mentioned in her email:

"I loved your post about Jean Claude Ellena and met him and his wife Susanna (who is the niece of Samuel Beckett), so I got the reference!"

The thing is, the reference was quite fortuitous! Sue elaborated further in the course of our email exchange:

"I worked with Jean Claude when I was at Elizabeth Arden and he had worked on Lagerfeld for Men in collaboration with a US perfumer friend of mine, and when I visited him and Susanna I was overwhelmed at all the Beckett first issues and books."

Well, what a remarkable and satisfying coincidence, for I had no idea that Jean-Claude Ellena had any family connection - even by marriage - to Samuel Beckett!

So that was one surprising thing. But there's more... For while at The Fragrance Shop chatting to the sales assistants about Muguet Porcelaine, I clocked the deep discount on Mary Greenwell's range of fragrances, including Plum,which is the only one I have tried personally. I mentioned it in my previous post, and also on Facebook, where it prompted a small stampede(!) of people worldwide, availing themselves of this offer, partly on a blind basis, which readers know I don't normally condone, haha.

Anyway, Liz Moores of Papillon Artisan Perfumes was one such who took the plunge and found that Plum wasn't in fact quite her cup of tea. And she has kindly offered to donate her bottle to a giveaway on Bonkers, and post it from Papillon HQ free of charge to the winner. So not only do you bag a bottle of Plum - it may even be the 100ml size, I can't recall - but one which has spent a little while in the lively menagerie which is Liz's home and studio, which I am betting will considerably increase its cachet!

So many thanks to Liz for her generosity. Then in order to be eligible for the giveaway you have to be in the UK, alas, after my recent overseas mailing misdemeanours, painfully documented here.

And please also leave a comment saying why you would like to win a bottle of Plum, whether you know it already, and if not, what you plan to do with the bottle if you don't like it when it comes! ;)

The draw will close on Sunday 7th August at midnight, UK time (well, obviously). Liz will mail the bottle at her earliest convenience once I have notified her of the winner's details.

But here's the other funny thing. The perfumer for Mary Greenwell is François Robert, and blow me, if he isn't the new perfumer behind the blends for The Perfume Studio!

I have had a look at the website and the notes in the different blends have changed since I worked with the company, so I would be curious to smell Robert's creations and see how they compare to the ones I remember. In the absence of myself, it seems I would have to go to Manchester, Stratford-upon-Avon or Nottingham to find out firsthand...;)

Friday, 22 July 2016

Premium Melon Chameleon: Hermès Muguet Porcelaine review

Giant Cavaillon melon, Provence ~ Source:
I like Jean-Claude Ellena. He has a likeable air of weathered cragginess. A bit like Samuel Beckett, but tanned, more approachable, and without the slightest trace of demented woodpecker. I watched an interesting documentary about Ellena a while back, which showed him at work in his airy studio in the pine-covered hills near Grasse. Having lived on the Riviera myself for a year, with frequent forays into the Provençal hinterland, I can well imagine what a sensory paradise that would be. Then I once met up with Denise Beaulieu of Grain de Musc the day after she had been to a launch-related Hermès jolly in Brittany, where the great man was in attendance, so I felt I'd come a little bit closer to him in an asynchronous, 'one degree of separation' kind of a way. Oh, and I have read Ellena's book, 'The Diary of a Nose, A Year in the Life of a Parfumeur' - in the original French, even. I also lapped up 'The Perfect Scent', Chandler Burr's fascinating account of the making of Jardin sur le Nil, one of Ellena's numerous aquarelle compositions on which I cut my neophyte perfumista teeth.  And I could cite a number of perfumes he created for which I have a very soft spot to this day.

Jean-Claude Ellena's village of Cabris

But the latest addition to the Hermessence line, Muguet Porcelaine, the very delicacy of whose name unleashed a flutter of anticipation when the über-generous enabler Val the Cookie Queen of APJ said she had scored a sample with my name on it, did not quite work for me. Or rather, the opening is sufficient to put me off the later stages. Specifically, it's the mahoosive melon and cucumber accord that whooshes up on first application which floors me. I am not partial to either note in perfumery, and in Muguet Porcelaine they are very big, very juicy and in your face - or 'up your nostrils', to localise the phenomenon a bit more precisely. And though it pains me to say so, for it feels like heresy, given the prestigious nature of this line and the high regard in which I hold Ellena, but this big fruity explosion also comes off as noticeably synthetic to my nose.


And I do love lily of the valley, I really do. I have a soft spot for this particular flower too because it was my mother's favourite. She copped for many a tin of Yardley talc with that scent from me as a child. Plus I know that lily of the valley can only be replicated by artificial means, which adds an extra layer of difficulty to proceedings. Once Muguet Porcelaine settles down I do think it comes a very close second to Diorissimo, having conducted a number of side-by-side trials with an old sample of the EDT from The Perfumed Court. Or rather it is in a soprano register to Diorissimo's alto. But crucially Diorissimo is not remotely synthetic smelling from the off. If anyone is curious as to how this compares to Van Cleef & Arpels Muguet Blanc, I would say that that one is much softer and musky - the Puredistance Opardu of LOTV scents, if you will.

Source: Hermès

Yes, to my chagrin the opening of Muguet Porcelaine is too strident for my liking. To my mind, the word 'porcelain' conjures up whiteness and stillness, not shrillness. I think of Birgit of Olfactoria's Travels' serene and milky-white complexion, for example, And also of course the delicate little white bells of the flower itself, so tiny and dainty you would assume them to be constitutionally incapable of producing a scent that loud. Though I do concede that the slight indolic facet you get with lilies in general can readily translate as decibels rather than harebells, or flowers in that general neck of the woods, say. The opening of Muguet Porcelaine is a china bowl that you have vigorously pinged with your fingernail, creating a booming soundscape that fades away (eventually, though not nearly fast enough imho) to a more pleasantly muted frequency.

So yes, I would like to stress that it is just the opening that bothers me. And not only me, it would seem, as I got a couple of sales assistants in my local branch of The Fragrance Shop to sniff my freshly spritzed wrists and give me their off the cuff observations in a blind test. Of the two ladies in question, one was about my age at a guess, the other still in her teens. She was rather shy and would only say she liked it and thought it was a young person's scent, so the following commentary is all from her older colleague.

Source: The Fragrance Shop

"It's a floral...I'm getting some fruit...a fruity floral, then. Is there honey in there? It reminds me of Marc Jacobs Honey. It's a bit young for me, and a bit too sweet - I don't think an older woman would wear it. That said, it probably settles down after a while."

When asked where she would position this perfume, in terms of brand or price point, she ventured, quick as a flash:

"Oh, Premium, certainly, I'd put it on a par with BOSS."

I am still struggling with my take on this one, as I did a while back with Alaia, where I seemed to be flying in the face of the consensus. At least I care enough to put the accent in in Hermès. Now there are some stellar reviews of Muguet Porcelaine out there from bloggers whose noses I respect far beyond my own, yet I still cannot come to terms with the 'fruitbomb' opening, to channel Viktor & Rolf for a moment. And I have dubbed this scent a 'melon chameleon' because I sense that other people's melonious mileage will vary.

And hey, the upside of the whole unfortunate saga is that if I hadn't gone into The Fragrance Shop to seek a second opinion, I wouldn't have clocked the fact that Mary Greenwell Plum is on offer at £28.50 for a 100ml bottle, or £19.50 for 50ml. The more you spray, the more you save!

PS Here I am in Cavaillon c1980, home of the giant melon pictured at the top of the post. So my inability to bond with the melon note in Muguet Porcelaine is clearly not due to a lack of early exposure to this refreshing fruit.

Friday, 15 July 2016


Source: Wikimedia Commons ~ by Stephen Pearce
Er, I know I am not noted for my punchy titles - two lines are pretty standard, with at least a modicum of alliteration / assonance, if not both. Nor am I prone to cryptic cliffhanger pronouncements, which in my view are one of the most annoying types of posts on Facebook. You know, where someone puts: 'How am I going to get through the night?!' or: 'Just when I thought it couldn't get any worse!', when you had no idea it was bad already, never mind the specifics of the badness - and here you are being casually served up a terse portion of worseness without so much as a by your leave. Yes, there are the non-specific misery posts, and also those 'whipping the reader up into a frenzy of anticipation' posts, where someone has great news but is not yet able to share it. Which I also find quite annoying, but hey, I am easily annoyed these days.

No, the reason for the laconic one-word title is to preempt the specifics of my sorry predicament being readily found in Google searches. If my embryonic SEO knowledge serves me, the title is far and away the most searchable aspect of a post, and therefore not the place to be too explicit about my fumie felonies. To the same end, I shall also eschew my usual labels, which help people find posts on a particular topic.

But now we are well into the body of this post, I don't have a problem in telling readers that I was busted this week: yes, indeedy, for being a slipshod, shifty shipper. My mailing misdeeds involved sending perfume abroad during my recent bottle sale, despite it being designated by the Royal Mail and IATA as a prohibited good.

Now just as the police don't usually disclose the precise MO of serial killers, for fear of inspiring copycat crimes, I shall draw a veil over the exact nature of my packages, their contents, and any description/declaration thereof. For I am a reformed character, grateful not to have copped for a hefty fine - or worse still, a stint in Stafford's slammer, where I could allegedly have watched convicted paedophile Rolf Harris fashion a makeshift didgeridoo out of some random bits of plumbing implements.

No, all that happened in the end was that I had my parcel returned to me - by Special Delivery, no expense spared! - even though it was by now on the...ahem...derisorily light side. The accompanying letter explained that the offending contents - some 100ml on aggregate of decants and a nearly full bottle - had been 'disposed of'. I am actually hoping that that is not a synonym for 'destroyed'. I would rather the sorting staff at the Belfast-based National Returns Centre smelt fabulously fragrant than that the whole lot got flushed down the sink. But I will never know.

Somewhat surprisingly, the Customer Services representative who wrote to me apologised for any inconvenience caused. Less surprising was their urging me 'to ensure you do not send items classified as dangerous goods in the post'.

Meanwhile, another overseas parcel has failed to arrive, nearly three weeks after it was sent. I can only conclude that it has suffered  a similar fate, but because I had purchased extra tracking on the one to Europe, I could read on the Royal Mail website that the package had been 'identified as suspicious' and was being 'subjected to examination'. And the rest is history / put down to experience / a crying shame - and waste.

The non-dangerous contents returned to me...;

So there you have it. I don't want to say any more about what I have done in the past, or what I have thought or said on the subject of perfume as a dangerous good. I am taking this as an expensive shot over my bows, which it assuredly is, even without any additional fine, and I am going to be good from now on. Or not good necessarily, but compliant on this particular point. ;)

PS Waves to Martha of Rambling Chicken!, whose postal phobia - even within the US - is the stuff of legend. I am now officially, and somewhat belatedly, much closer to you along the regulatory line-toeing spectrum...

Sunday, 10 July 2016

The Scent Crimes Series: No 16 - Lalique Flora Bella and unexpected flecks in the spritzing area

As I mentioned in my last post, there were two perfume related incidents during my recent bottle sale which I felt warranted inclusion in the Scent Crimes Series. Having got them both off my chest, I will revert to 'normal trading' on Bonkers, whatever that might be, as Prince Charles famously said of 'love'.

So one of the perfume packages I was making up comprised a full bottle and a few decants, including one of Lalique Flora Bella. The very last of the bottle, as it happened. For anyone not familiar with this languid, milky, tropical-leaning floral, I have uncharacteristically featured / reviewed it twice here and here!

But the subject of this post is not how Flora Bella smells, but rather its consistency or texture. Specifically, the fact that as I was decanting the last 15ml for a fellow perfumista, I couldn't help noticing that there were...ahem...'particulates' suspended in the juice, to borrow the technical term for those little 'bits' in soup and yoghurt. I might be inclined to describe them as 'foreign bodies', only it seems inconceivable that anything could have entered the bottle after manufacture. Which left the twin theories of the perfume itself separating out and emitting? / spawning? a shower of tiny white flecks, or some kind of partial disintegration of the plastic atomiser tube, my preferred theory.

Flecky Flora Bella

This curious phenomenon reminded me fleetingly of those gold sparkle-type perfumes - Thierry Mugler Alien Eau Extraordinaire Gold Shimmer being one example that springs to mind, though there are others. You know, where the perfume has little flakes of gold shimmer deliberately added, so that it resembles a snow globe when you shake it, and the little gold bits add a glint to your skin. Come to think of it, the very best execution of this concept simply has to be Jean-Paul Gaultier's discontinued tuberose scent Fragile, where the bottle was an actual snow globe, but with gold rather than white flakes!

Anyway, this was not that, and the white flecks were certainly not some kind of 'late onset snow' that suddenly appeared out of nowhere.


Obviously I 'fessed up to the prospective recipient that the Flora Bella was strangely adulterated in this way, and she gamely agreed to take it anyway, assuming it smelt the same, which it does.When I carried out a few test sprays, I had no sense of little white pellets landing on my skin like fine gauge ammo or - God forbid - dandruff! Or should that be the other way about in order of disagreeableness? images of White Shoulders by Elizabeth Arden have just popped into my head. ;)

The parcel is still en route to my friend, but should make landfall this week. If there are any developments, either in terms of the flecks having disappeared - or multiplied(!) - in transit,I will be sure to do an update.

And in a curious coincidence, not only do we have an instance here of 'flecky Flora Bella', but there is a rather fine bluegrass / jazz fusion / funk rock band called Béla Fleck and the Flecktones.

Okay, so that was a bit contrived, but I toss it out there, much as this atomiser seems to be doing with its little white specks...


Have you ever observed any floating detritus in a perfume? 

If so, whether 'small bore', or big chunks of flotsam or jetsam, do share your experiences of unexpected items in the spritzing area!