Monday, 4 September 2017

Eiderantler, a fougère visualised.

Winning a prize draw is thrilling. Even when it’s just a little sample that’s affordable to buy in the first place. There’s something about seeing your name appear on a winners list that feels deliciously victorious. 

The fortuitous win of a sample set from The January Scent Project lifted my scorched mood, as that morning I’d awoken to discover that part of my outbuilding roof had been stolen. Creator John Biebel’s generosity went someway to rebalance the bad karma instilled by the cretins that pinch anything made out of desirable Yorkshire Stone around these parts. I’d planned to spend the rest of the day sitting out back in a deckchair with a rusty rake in hand in case they returned for the rest of the roof. I saw sense and shelved my plan. 


theft hole


good karma package

The January Scent Project is a line of three unisex fragrances created by John Beibel, an Artist from the USA who is well known amongst the fragrance community for his regular columns at Fragrantica. Each of the three fragrances has a corresponding artwork which has been published in the form of gorgeous little postcards. 

John describes the concept:

“The "vintage" artworks for the perfumes was a really fun side project that I wanted to include as part of the creative process. The idea that I could envision the scents in a different time context was so appealing, and it kind of plays on both the timely and timeless, if you know what I mean.”

I know what he means.

My favourite of the three scents - Eiderantler is certainly ‘timely’. It feels neatly into the current resurrected trend of the aromatic fougère genre and yet could easily invoke a spirit of the seventies when airy outdoorsy scents such Alliage and Diorella graced our tanned outdoorsy skin.



Eiderantler is described as an ‘Ivy fougère’. Fougère translates as ‘fern’, a term used to categorise fragrances that contain green notes associated with nature, they tend to feature lavender and coumarin (a derivative of tonka bean). Here are the notes for Eiderantler:

Lavender, green leaves, moss, pink pepper, lavandin, champa leaf, ivy, elemi, fir cone, hay, oak wood, cashmere, vetiver, and musk.

Ivy is essentially an abstract composition, a clever combination of ingredients that create a cool and crisp atmosphere reminiscent of dewy woodland foliage.

What struck me about Eiderantler is it’s vibrancy. Lavender rich scents have a been a trend in recent years with Chanel - Boy (an elegant version of Brut) and Guerlain - Mon Guerlain (muggy sugared lavender) being perhaps the most discussed releases. Both of them feel ‘dull’ to me. Not dull as in boring, but dull in the true sense of the word in that any sparkle or radiance has been eroded. Eiderantler feels sparkly and volatile. It hasn’t been mugged by the blanket of tonka bean that so often occurs in a fougère  I asked John how he created the sparkle effect and received a wonderfully detailed answer:

“In answer to the question about "sparkle" I attribute that to a few different things. There are a number of small elements in the perfume that add a nice touch. In this case, a small bit of ultrazure, a mixed aquatic/air molecule that has a very bright and faceted quality, and other small bits like templin fir cone (which is like a bright pine lemon), pink pepper (which has a lot of sparkle.) There are some key ingredients that help this all along too, primarily champa or champaca leaf. It's related quite closely to magnolia and to the magnolia flower (also known as champaca flower, usually imported from India.) it shares a fairly primary component that is found in a number of greens and flowers called linalool. It's an incredible substance, which has a scent somewhere between lemon, pepper, orange flower and very gentle wood. That, I believe, is at the heart of the perfume and helps it keep its sparkly quality.”

If his paintings are indicative of personality, I imagine that John is a sparkly man. Whilst his artworks vary significantly in subject matter and medium, the character that links each of them is an energetic vibrancy. These hurried brushstrokes and clashing colours certainly speak of a man that fizzes at great speed!

City Afternoon, John Beibel 2016

I shall stow away my sample of Eiderantler until the 29th of October. The occasion upon which the clocks move forward in the UK. When the first dark night of the season closes in I shall spritz myself with Eiderantler and be transported to a forest where dappled light graces my skin.

You can discover The January Scent Project by clicking here
If you love to sparkle you might also enjoy reading about Clinique Wrappings and Perles de Lalique. 


Thursday, 3 August 2017

Guest blogging at Thompson & Morgan - On the glorious scent of the sweet pea



I've been busy growing stuff, lovely smelly stuff to fragrance my home.
You can read all about my gloriously whiffy sweet peas at Thompson and Morgan's gardening blog by clicking on the link here.




Thursday, 20 July 2017

The extra-sensory library book campaign, scent your reads!

 I read a lot of novels.

My love of books was instilled at an early age by my mum who took me to Garstang library every week to borrow an armful of magical free words. 

 The peculiar 60s architecture of Garstang Library

Each night I send myself to slumber via another world; a curious country, an eerie haunting, a torrid love affair or simply the complexities of someone else’s life. My arms cradle the book ‘praying mantis’ style whilst Joseph purrs away under an elbow. 

Most towns in the UK had a library until about 5 years ago when the government cut funding under austerity. Big cities had many branches with the largest ‘central’ library housed in a grand municipal building. Many of the smaller suburban libraries closed forever whilst others now survive on limited hours as volunteer run organisations.

On average, I read about two novels per week, they are free. If I bought them, my reading habit would likely cost me at least £100 per year assuming that I shopped thriftily in charity shops, or up to £700 if I bought shiny new ones from Waterstones. 

We need to support them.

My local library in Huddersfield is a quirky venue where alongside newly releases titles, you can find a selection of the bizarre and unconsidered. Whilst browsing the health and beauty section this morning I discovered that alongside Lizzie Ostrom’s ‘Perfume - A century of scents’ and Sally Hornsey’s two make your own skincare and perfume manuals, you can find books about both DIY welding and the history of arsenic. This could be handy if you are planning a murder and an evidence burial in a skilfully sealed metal box. 

Bonkers genre combo

Library books can smell a bit stale. Whilst new releases still retain a delicious inky print whiff on their fresh unblemished pages, older titles can sometimes carry an ‘eau de damp portacabin’ or more worryingly ‘unidentifiable fragrant stain’ which might be a bit of spilt Ovaltine if you’re lucky.

I scent my library books, and I choose their fragrance with great consideration. 

I imagine that most of my readers have a sizeable stash of promotional fragrance smelling strips as a quick sniffing to trip to the department store usually results in pockets full of the things. They’re pretty, I keep them. But best of all, they make wonderful bookmarks. 

One night I sprayed the last dregs of my Serge Lutens Fille en Aiguilles onto a smelling strip and allowed it’s pine sap fragrance to seep into my book. The book was Eowyn Ivey’s haunting forest populated novel ‘The Snow Child’. By the following night the isolated atmosphere of it’s Alaskan location was amplified by the harmonious whiff. I recently read the wonderfully spooky ‘Dolly’ by Susan Hill (of Woman in Black fame). I fragranced this with Antonia by Pure Distance, allowing it’s vintage dusty greenery to evoke the ivy clad derelict house conjured in the story.

I like to imagine that the next borrower will pick up on the fragrance, perhaps so subtly that instead of detecting a ‘perfume’, my scenting activities will simply add to the power of the words, providing an extra-sensory dimension. Perhaps if we all start to do this library books will take on new powers to thrill the imagination?



Caron whiffing cards have the perfect dimensions for a bookmark

In discussion with friends, suggestions were made about possible perfume partners for their favourite books. War and Peace was partnered with a fragrance fit for nobility - Zibeline by Weil, Practical Magic amped it’s spells with Moonlight Patchouli by Van Cleef & Arpels and 50 Shades of Grey was sullied by the notorious Secretions Magnifique. A wonderfully vile idea!


I hope that my readers might join me in my guerrilla book scenting campaign. However, if you’ve gone over to the dark side and become the owner of an e-reader, your local library has oodles of free e-books in it’s catalogue so at least you can support their 21st century service updates by joining up and helping to promote literacy in the UK.

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Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Scent your home with flowers - a post for the green fingered.



£48. That’s how much it costs to scent your home with Diptyque’s beautiful Rosa Mundi candle. If it’s the middle of winter, or you live in a flat and have money to burn (literally) I understand the desire to buy this object of loveliness.

However, £48 buys a hell of a lot of real flowers. Not the rubbish ones that don’t smell of anything from the florist, I’m talking about growing your own.

Last May I moved from my sky high urban flat to an old Victorian terraced cottage. It’s tiny and a little bit knackered, but there is a garden. As the proud owner of green fingers I couldn’t wait to plan my much missed outdoor space. I have only a miniscule front garden, South facing and elevated from the lane by rickety stone steps.  Its patio area is just big enough for a few planters and a deck chair from which I can tipple gin in the summer. At the rear of the house is a yard filled by an old outdoor toilet shed. I plan to sow a ‘cut flower’ patch in grow bags upon its roof when the sun rises high enough to battle for daylight dominance with the neighbouring woods.

The garden was a mess, an overgrown patch of shrubs that had never seen a blade and waist high grass on a mission to self-seed dandelion clocks and sadistic thistles. My determined Dad spent several hours ‘strimming’ the grass, pausing every few minutes to rethread the machine as its exhausted cord broke repeatedly. Meanwhile I destroyed my back digging up a plethora of eye pokingly sharp cordyline plants. I have a fear of spikes…

Hardcore strimming event

Whilst it was too late in the season to grow many seeds, I couldn’t resist giving life to some sweet peas. I spent 99p on a packet of ‘Spencer Mixed’ variety which by August grew into a 5 foot high pot of scented glory. For the next couple of months my house was filled with their intoxicating fragrance and I slept soundly lulled by bedside vases of this frilly wonder.

My Mum divided her old fashioned carnation plants and gave me clumps to plant up by the patio. If you’ve never smelt a garden grown carnation you will be astounded by its peppery floral fragrance. Imagine a Caron boutique in the 1950s and that’s about it. They smell exactly like Bellodgia. A single bloom can fill a room with a strident Oeillet olé such is its bold exuberance!

Carnation and Sweat Pea Spencer Mixed spicing up the dining table

The neglected white Rosa Alba that lived here had bolted to a giant straggle. Although a few Dior-esque petals remained it needed lopping almost to the ground to encourage healthy new growth next year. Meanwhile I headed to the garden centre and chose a David Austin ‘Generous Gardener’ climbing rose to satisfy my craving. Chosen for its scent, this pink beauty smells like the finest Rose Damascena absolute with a teeny hint of sugared almond. Sadly I knocked its heavily budded head off in a clumsy car exit but it rapidly grew back.

My Generous Gardener in full bloom

My plans for 2017

It will be a summer of vivid scented annual flowers. My ‘Spencer Mixed’ sweet peas are growing vigorously. In October I transformed a worn out G-Plan side table into a miniature bubble wrapped greenhouse to see if it really is possible to ‘overwinter’ annual seedlings in the cold damp Pennine winter. It is. In May I will plant a second variety ‘Sweet Pea Promise’ – a posh one from Thompson and Morgan that promises to be hugely whiffy.


G-Plan greenhouse


Sweat Pea Promise from the Thompson and Morgan website

Early flowering scent will come from Stocks ‘Appleblossom’. Stocks have a heady narcotic whiff, which with just a few stems is intoxicating. More than a few is a whopping migraine.

                                          Stocks Appleblossom from the Thompson and Morgan website

My perennial white Phlox plants will hopefully reawaken and battle the slugs to bring some elegance once again. Their scent is a marvelous combination of the skanky indole that we devour in our white floral fragrances and a more delicate and fresh green nuance that brings brightness and vivacity and makes the plant smell ‘youthful’.

Phlox

Some shrubs inherited from the previous owners have proved to be seasonally boring. They will be dug up and replaced by lavender, the foliage of which will make an excellent 'leafy bit' in my indoor arrangements. 

Last year I waged war on slugs. I had millions of the little thugs. With Joseph and his neighbouring cat friends around, the use of toxins was not a possibility. This year I’m conducting an experiment. I am collecting my own hair in order to create hairy rings around the base of tender seedlings. I never brush it so a hair wash yields lots of useful strands! Apparently slugs hate the dry texture of hair and wool and won’t cross it. The witchy side of me loves the idea of having a part of myself lurking sentinel like in the garden. My grandmother would have approved of this frugal and somewhat pagan approach.

Joseph strolls his territory wall

I’ll post an update in early summer and let you know which plants yield the greatest fragrance. I would dearly love to hear from any of my readers who tend a fragrant garden. Your recommendations would be gratefully received in the comments box.

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Thursday, 19 January 2017

Estee Lauder - Private Collection Tuberose Gardenia, gateway to a new me

January is a bleak month for those of us residing in Northern Europe. It’s chilly, the days are diminutive, and we crave the onset of the light and energy delivered by Spring. Following the excited delights of the pre-Christmas credit card binge that is ‘Black Friday and Cyber Monday’, January brings us ‘Blue Monday’, rumoured to be the most depressing day of the year.

January in the North, a bleak etching I created in 2009

It’s not all blue though. January often gives us an opportunity to make personal changes. We are more likely to ditch an overly stressful job, rethink our personal goals or make good on our seasonal gluttony and get healthy. Although I didn’t make a list of New Year resolutions (I’d inevitably break them), I definitely feel a positive force for change.

With this in mind, I’m shedding some flab.

I’m not obese, just a bit podgy. An auf wiedersehen to half a stone would set me free to wear my favourite ‘brilliant arse’ jeans that lie forlornly at the bottom of my thin clothes drawer. It wasn’t really Christmas that piled on the pounds, more the proximity of a work canteen that sells fabulous sausage rolls and the forgiving nature of winter clothing. It just crept on.

My diet is not strict, I’m simply cutting down on the usual adversaries; booze, sugar, cheese and the occasional foray into pies. Vaguely based on Slimming World but without the culinary dreadfulness that is 1 calorie cooking spray and Quark.

I took a jaunt to the January sales and purposefully left tight fitting clothes well alone, I’d already dropped a couple of pounds and was excited at the prospect of delving into my thin clothes drawer in the near future, no point buying new ones. However, in the sale I found an ideal motivator. Nestling amongst the Estee Lauder counter’s sale shelf was a discounted purse spray of Private Collection Tuberose Gardenia. I bought it, took it home, and promptly decorated the package with a chastising post-it note. I will not unwrap and spray the perfume until I get half way through the diet. It will be freed from it’s bondage when the scales display 10 stone 6. As I write this, I’m 1 pound away. Tomorrow might be the day.

Motivation

Ironically, Tuberose Gardenia is a fulsome fatty scent, the fragrance equivalent of one of those delicious custard pastries that accompany your Espresso in a Parisian café. A Gardenia petal is firm and waxy to the touch, clustered tightly in a heavy globe, there’s no frailness here. It’s a voluptuous flower. Tuberose is often likened to the scent of bacon fat, as rancid and corpulent as it is beautiful.  In Tuberose Gardenia, the Lauder labs have synthesised the concept of gargantuan white flower decadence. If it were a woman, she would not be thin.

The Gardenia flower

10 stone 6 will mark the occasion of the first ‘well done you’ spray. From that point it will be consigned to the fabulous arse/thin clothes drawer. It won’t be properly allowed out until those jeans fit. By this I mean that I can actually sit down in them without the zip bursting or instigating the onset of bleeding from my kidneys.


By then it will be spring. And I’ll burst into fragrant flower as the narcissus in my garden open their faces to greet the sun.

Monday, 12 September 2016

Keiko Mecheri - Bois de Santal, the sogginess saviour






As a concept, ‘dry’ is currently highly desirable to me.

Usually, the word dry implies an absence, an emptiness, perhaps a lackluster landscape. But right now, dry means the opposite of damp. And for that reason, it’s a beautiful word.

My new (ancient) cottage is distinctly soggy. Nestling amongst woods at the bottom of a steep scar, it seems to suck the moisture from the land. The cellar is a spooksome little hole, with steps that descend to a mouldy stone room. 5 minutes in the cellar and my hair has absorbed the moisture and achieved the wild manifestation of life before styling products. Not that I’m really complaining. I’ve swopped my trendy city flat for a historic Victorian home and the new walls (despite their often moist tendencies) feel to be enveloping me in cosiness. I sleep well here. And so does Joseph after his errant nocturnal adventures with the neighbourhood cats.

Recently, a friend posted me a decant of a well timed scent, Keiko Mecheri’s Bois de Santal. After a bleak and rain sodden drive over Holme Moor, I made myself a cup of tea and sat down to test the contents of the little package. It soaked up my waterlogged mood.
Bois de Santal is the fragrant equivalent of those little silica bags that you get inside packaging, it’s dryer than an own brand Cream Cracker. Sandalwood rich scents always radiate warmth but somehow Bois de Santal manages to bypass warmth to the point of becoming parched. 

An anorak walk over over Holme Moor

I’ve smelt the perfumer’s synthetic creation of ‘hot sand’ several times, perhaps my favourite interpretation being in Estee Lauder’s summertime rerelease – Bronze Goddess. However, Mecheri’s perfumer has out-beached even Bronze Goddess by adding a bossily dominant ambergris note to transport the salt to this sun bleached olfactory location.

As I sniff my sandalwood infused arm I don’t really smell ‘perfume’. I smell youthful summer skin. As a child I would holiday in North Wales. Usually in a shabby rented caravan. Being a kid, I’d race into the sea, ignorant to the icy temperature and dustbin sized jellyfish that would wash up on the shoreline. I’d spend hours hunting rock pools for soon to be captive crabs and random beach detritus. Back at the caravan, baths were out of the question. I imagine that I probably got away with not washing at all. I remember smelling my arms and marvelling at the way they retained the scent of the sea, I even licked them to taste the salt.

Llanbedrog Beach - site of my salty arms


I imagine that the brief for Bois de Santal was to create an exotic oriental, to conjure a sun scorched picture of India and the 1960s hippie trail. That it certainly does. But for me, the fragrance creates a significantly more valuable olfactory image – autumnal armour. Although Bois De Santal won’t win any awards for innovation, it will certainly keep me dry as the humidity begins to rot the annual leaf suicides.  

Joseph enjoys lurking on my Victorian wall

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

The personality of scent, essence or armour?

Have you ever considered how your choice of fragrance reflects your personality?

Marketing folk certainly do. There’s a reason why the sultry young Jerry Hall was once chosen to front YSL’s most exotic and decadent scent – Opium. Hall was the epitome of edgy glamour, spandex clad lover of Roxy Music’s Bryan Ferry - uber-groupie. She led the life that we could picture only in the most vivid corners of our imagination, far away from the reality of trudging down a grimy high street to our local branch of Boots to pick up a relatively cheap bottle of (albeit wonderful) mass market scent.

From Bryan Ferry to Murdoch, oh Jerry!

This raises a question. Do we choose our scents to complement who we are or who we aspire to be?

I recently revisited one of my favourite scents, Antonia by Pure Distance. Reviewed back in 2015, my first experience of Antonia moved me. It felt like as if it had been created just for me. I described it thus:

Antonia is a floral of cool intentions. She is an ivy draped ethereal character who conjures a rain sodden landscape of picturesque melancholy. Sap fuelled green florals are my favourite genre, capable of summoning the outdoors in, they evoke in me an otherworldly serenity that belongs far away from my urban life. Opening with the vivid green bite of galbanum, Antonia is uplifting and spiritual depicting spring’s abundant fertility in full force.”

Cool atmospheres and outdoorsy notes dominate many of my favourite scents. I feel both serenity and invigoration in earth goddess whiffs. The forest ritual lure of Ormonde Jayne’s Woman, the mountain stream chill of Clinique’s Wrappings and the mossy earthiness of Guerlain’s notorious Mitsouko, they all echo the experience of existing deep in the countryside.
Holman Hunt captures the rural Idyll 

Nowadays I’m a city dweller, living on the edge of Manchester’s central district, I neither see nor smell trees. The view from my flat features fashionable living in converted Victorian mills, immaculately dressed young urbanites heading off to long hours in offices and a brashly plastic looking tram stop. However, my childhood was one of wellies, cowpats and nature books. I led the country life and I can probably identify most things you’d find in a hedgerow. It’s likely that my passion for outdoorsy scents is filling a gap. Essentially, Antonia and her similarly green friends are taking me home. I’m aspiring to be me. 

Joseph models the view from my window

However, sometimes I need ‘not to be me’. And in those instances, I dress myself up in an alter ego. I am not, not will ever manage to be, a cool and calculating type. I am the polar opposite of a Hitchcock Blonde. There are times in your life when you could benefit from having a personality different to your own.  And right now, I need to be someone else.

I’m currently in the middle of a house purchase. The complexities of this transaction have been stressful. I’m far too passionate and direct to handle the process with the sort of cool and detached businesslike approach required to out-swim the shark-infested system.

One particularly bitey shark is the estate agent. A few weeks ago I had to visit her office to provide mortgage documents. After some testing encounters on the phone, I’d envisioned her as heavily made up with cartoon eyebrows and an air of someone who could throw a good punch in a pub. In reality, I’d got the image spot on. In preparation for our meeting I selected tailored black clothes, properly blow dried hair and ‘business bitch’ perfume. I was masquerading as someone else, someone capable of making a huge financial investment with success. Not, my techni-colour print clad, wonky haired and kindly self. My scent of choice was the Lanvin classic – Arpege. Nothing implies control more than a stern floral aldehyde.


It didn’t work. I’m still haggling my way through the complications of buying a very old house. But at least I felt protected by my formidable scented armour for one day.  If I ever get there, I will be returning to the wilds of the Yorkshire Moors. Perhaps I shall rename myself Antonia?