Saturday, 25 June 2016

Another Bonkers perfume putsch!

It's been a while since my last perfume bottle cull, which you may remember was prompted by a major decluttering exercise at the end of last summer. I do need to have periodic putsches, mind, for even though I am very strict with myself when it comes to buying new bottles, I still seem to be in a permanent SABLE situation (Stash Above and Beyond Life Expectancy).

Then work has been patchy this year, compounded most recently by the Brexit verdict, which has led to a major project being kicked into the long grass.  So I am trying to sell all manner of stuff to keep myself busy and help cash flow. So far this has included small hand knitted garments (you know who you are!), jewellery, bits and bobs of foreign currency I found down the back of the sofa (figuratively speaking), and now perfume. Old handbags, evening dresses - and a couple of Edwardian chimney pots! - may be up next, though mercifully for readers, not on the blog...;) I fear the postage on chimney pots might be punitive.

Right, so all prices are net of postage. Add on £4 within the UK for second class recorded, and 'at cost' for anywhere else in the world. I would pre-weigh items and let you know upfront. Various postal options are available on request, also discounts on multiple bottle purchases. Free samples come with every purchase!

If you are not familiar with some of these scents, feel free to check out the reviews to see if they might be something you fancy.  I know Boisdejasmin, Katie Puckrik Smells, and The Non-Blonde have featured some of them. (Examples in the links.)

Partial bottles

Kenzo Eau de Fleur de Magnolia EDT (boxed): c10/50ml - £10

Diptyque Eau Duelle EDT (boxed): 70/100ml - £41

Oscar de la Renta Esprit d'Oscar EDP (boxed): 49/50ml - £15






Jo Malone Lotus Blossom & Water Lily Cologne (Kohdo Day) (discontinued): 65/100ml - £36





Jo Malone Dark Amber & Ginger Lily Cologne (Kohdo Night): 12/30ml - £12 [SOLD]

(Clock not included...)





Donna Karan Gold EDP: 32/50ml: £23

Annick Goutal Grand Amour EDT: 60/100 ml - £31

Lostmarc'h l'eau de l'Hermine EDT (boxed): 64/100ml - £25 [SOLD]




L'Agent Provocateur L'Agent EDP (boxed): c40-45/50ml (hard to tell, obviously!) - £20 [SOLD]

L'Agent Provocateur Strip EDP (boxed): c20/50ml (best guess, given the shape!) - £20 [SOLD]

(Higher price of Strip reflects its relative scarcity vs L'Agent ;) )





The Different Company Bergamote EDT (refill bottle) (boxed): c20/50ml - £16

La Perla by La Perla EDP (boxed): 25-30/50 ml - £16 [SOLD]

B by Boucheron EDP (Calling osmanthus lovers! Box available but a bit bashed, sorry): 45+/50ml - £21




Coty L'Aimant Flacon Mist 50g (vintage, unopened till a couple of years ago): nearly full (see photo) - £12

Sonia Rykiel Rykiel Woman - Not for Men! EDP (boxed) (discontinued): 17/40ml - £20




Emporio Armani White For Her EDP (boxed) (discontinued/rare): guess at least 35/50ml but hard to tell! - £26

L'Eau par Kenzo Eau Indigo pour Femme EDP (boxed): c28/50ml - £18

Hugo Boss Deep Red Limited Edition EDP: guess at least 20/30ml but hard to tell! - £11






Estee Lauder Intuition EDP (boxed): c17/30ml - £10




I do additionally have a number of decants I may sell at a later date, plus job lots of samples etc. But I thought I'd see how the bottles fare first.


Perfume-related 'merchandise'

And finally, an item which should appeal to petite Caron fans everywhere! A rare perfumista T-shirt - tried on a couple of times, but not worn. Size S / Small: £20. One of a limited edition made by a Basenotes member whose name escapes me. Let me know if you would like precise dimensions. [SOLD]




So yes...urn, spend. And if you are not urning, sell!


Drop me a line at flittersniffer at gmail dot com if you are interested in anything featured.


Monday, 20 June 2016

How mad is that? There's another Bonkers perfume site...!

Source: Bonkers Fragrance
Do you ever google yourself? No really, the urge to do so isn't at all narcissistic, but rather driven by curiosity about one's own wider family. Well, if you have an unusual surname like Musson, you assume that anyone you might stumble upon in the Interwebs is related in not that many lateral hops across the family tree. Which admittedly doesn't always lead to the most felicitous of discoveries. There are at least two other Vanessa Mussons in the world: one is a waitress in a branch of Taco Bell in Michigan - very happy to be her distant cousin, especially given my endorsement of their slogan: 'Think outside the bun' - while the other is a convicted felon in Florida, who most recently acted as an accomplice in the brutal beating of a disabled man in his home. In the Nyle Magazine (full version here) we read:

'According to the Bay News 9 article, “Did Musson dye hair to avoid capture?,”Musson has been arrested six times in six years. In 2010, Musson was arrested on drug charges and she spent a year in Florida’s state prison....“We have already had to send our SWAT team out once to a location we thought she was at, and when we find other locations we are prepared to send our SWAT team out again because she’s proven she can be violent.”.... After Musson was arrested, she was placed in the Hillsborough County jail on the charges of attempted murder, false imprisonment, aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, grand theft of a motor vehicle, and grand theft.'


My more notorious namesake ~ Source: florida.arrests.org

Now as well as googling myself in the hope of uncovering some more savoury Mussons to offset my recidivist relative, I have been known to google my blog. You see lately I have noticed a big spike in page views, though I cannot think of any reason why that should be so, and I thought to google the name in case it led me to some forum discussion or other citation that could possibly have generated this extra traffic.

I didn't manage to shed any light on that, but in the attempt I chanced upon another perfume site with 'Bonkers' in the name! It popped up at the top of Page 2 in the search results - 'Bonkers Fragrance' - an online retailer based in Johor Bahru, in Southern Malaysia. The link led me to a Facebook page, but strangely not to a website, though there is a postal address associated with the company, and a website for an associated fashion business called Bonkers Inc Shop.

Ooh, I just accidentally clicked to request a price list! There is also a phone number to call, so they may take perfume orders in a message or on the phone. Bonkers Fragrance carries a range of 'original perfumes' - for which read authentic? / brand new? - and another called 'preloved', which is of course the sexed up term nowadays for 'used' or 'secondhand'.

So there is this slight oddity of the company's low key presence, plus the fact that it should have chosen 'Bonkers' as part of its name - for I am not so presumptuous as to imagine that it is consciously copying my site. But to my mind the word 'bonkers' does carry connotations of eccentricity or something a bit startling at least - so I would expect offbeat or unusual products perhaps, whereas the ones illustrated in the Facebook photo albums are on the face of it unremarkable and mainstream.


The company's rather fetching cover photo

Ooh, the Facebook page just refreshed and I found some more information on my cyber-rival - here is an edited version:

"Selling Original, UK Grade Perfumes, body mist or anything related to smell great :D

Why spend more while you can have the same scent with us?

UK regular (lasts 8-10 hours) : RM160
UK Tester (lasts 8-12 hours) : RM170
UK Super Tester (lasts 24 hours) : RM220

More thicker, better & more lasting than the counter"


Seemingly they only sell within Malaysia, so that rules out most of my Bonkers readers, I should think. And I am now intrigued by the meaning of 'regular', 'tester' and 'super tester' in this context. The relative longevity of each version of a fragrance suggests that the testers are something more than simply bottles without a box.

For info, the Ringgit is worth 0.17 of £1, so the 'regular' price equates to £27 for an unspecified size of bottle! Hmm, maybe the perfumes are bonkersly bargainous after all?


HQ of Bonkers Fragrance ~ Source; propertyguru.com.my

And what's all this business about 'More thicker, better & more lasting than the counter'? I take 'counter' to be an example of metonymy, by the way, just as business executives are sometimes referred to as 'suits'. Are these copies / reformulations of branded perfumes but at a higher concentration? And then they go and take away the box?? Or there was never a box?

So yes, to answer the question I pose myself in the title of this post; 'Not very mad', but not a little baffling.'


If you have any insights into what these products might be exactly, do let us know in the comments!






Monday, 13 June 2016

(Bristol) Temple (Mead)s to Bath Spa(s): aroma M Geisha Vanilla Hinoki review

Source: Wikipedia
Okay, so the title of this post is a shamelessly contrived punfest involving two railway stations in the West Country. And though the journey between these stops is going in quite the wrong direction, it does at least nod towards the inspiration behind this latest release from aroma M perfumes, specifically Japanese hot springs or 'onsen', with their bathing tubs constructed of hinoki wood. To this I would add - by extension / association - impressive buildings fashioned from this revered species of cypress, such as Horyuji Temple (the oldest wooden building in the world, dating from 700-800 AD!), and the Ise Grand Shrine, aka Ise Jingu.

But why the West Country reference in the first place, given the strained and bracket-dependent nature of the puns in question? Well, quite simply because I am indebted to Val CQ Sperrer of Australian Perfume Junkies for sending me samples of this beauty - not once, but twice!  For I was so instantly smitten with Vanilla Hinoki that Val figured I could do with reinforcements sharpish, to enable me to spray with abandon. And Val once lived in Bristol, you see, and still has family connections there.

Going back to the point about liberal application, this is also what Maria McElroy, the founder of aroma M perfumes, likes to do with Vanilla Hinoki: in a video interview with Carlos J Powell (Brooklyn Fragrance Lover), she can be seen dabbing the oil version of the perfume onto a couple of strategic points either side of her neck, topped up with two generous spritzes of the edp to the same areas. Indeed the very act of being cocooned in a discreet cloud of scent already evokes the weightless sensation you feel when soaking in a hinoki bath, as the steamy hot water and minerals infuse with the aroma of the wood itself, gently coaxing mind and body into a dreamy, near-meditative state.

Source: aroma M perfumes

Notes: Moroccan vanilla, hinoki, bergamot, clove, cardamom, leather, incense-like patchouli, amyris and cedarwood

Not being a lover of scents at the foody, sweeter end of the vanilla spectrum, Maria deliberately set out to choose a vanilla material that was not overtly intense or gourmand, but rather 'light' and 'airy' and potentially unisex - to help convey this floaty sensation.


Horyuji Temple ~ Source: Wikimedia Commons

So how does Vanilla Hinoki smell to me? I have been wearing it a lot lately, with minimal variation between wearings. The opening is characterised by a sharp burst of bergamot, like shafts of sunlight piercing the tree canopy at one of the mountain-based onsens. Straight in behind it is an accord of musk, vanilla and lavender that is at once both fluffy and soothing and granular in texture, almost like the gritty mouthfeel of wedding cake icing. And I know of what I speak, having been to two weddings in as many weekends! Now icing can make for a rather intense hit of sweetness, but the lavender tones everything down and keeps it cool and a little herbal / green. With a bit of a 'pipe clearing' effect without being overtly mentholated, if that makes sense. The wispy incense and touch of earthy patchouli in the base also help to keep the scent grounded and outdoorsy.

Oh I say, check out the clouds on that mountain-themed wedding cake from the other Saturday! You could bolt a little hanging hot tub amongst the trees on the side there, no bother...;)

Now the odd thing is that at no point does my nose definitively pick up on the hinoki itself - it is something of a wood-of-the-wisp if you will. I sense it could be hiding behind the lavender, which can skew woody after all - not least the erstwhile bushes in my front garden! - or behind the delicate spice sprinkles, to stay with our cake image. It is a testament to Maria McElroy's deft hand in creating Vanilla Hinoki that she could weave two of my most notorious nemesis notes(!), lavender and clove, into the composition in such a beguiling way.

My mountaineering cousins' wedding cake! ~ Source: Hazel Martin

And that is all I can offer up by way of a description, for the perfume doesn't really evolve as such on me, but just becomes more attenuated, like scalding hot bath water gradually becoming tepid. But by the time that happens, some hours later, the 'spa treatment' has well and truly done its relaxing work - your skin is pleasantly prune-like, and your mind totally tuned out to all but the thought of whether to have sushi or ramen for dinner.

But if that was the end of the scented bit, I haven't finished talking about onsens yet, oh no. For on closer reading I learnt that the rubric surrounding taking a dip is much more elaborate than you might imagine - or maybe not, given that Japan is noted for its ceremonies and rituals. For starters, if Wikipedia is to be believed, around half of onsen operators ban bathers with tattoos, a rule that was designed to keep out members of criminal gangs 'who traditionally have elaborate full-body decoration'. Any tattooed readers will be glad to learn that about a third of onsen operators have a more laissez-faire policy, while a further 13% will allow tattooed guests to us the facilities as long as they cover the blessed thing up.

Source: holisticvanity.ca

Then in most onsens the protocol requires bathers to take off their shoes - swiftly followed by ALL the rest of their clothes, so I am not quite sure why shoes get a special mention! - and also to get washed before bathing, which is not as paradoxical as it sounds. Additionally, there is a whole etiquette around the correct deployment of your wash cloth or small towel. All very good advice from the See Japan website below, as you can...er...see. Or not see!

"You can bring a small towel with you into the bathing area, which can be used to wash your body and to hide your private parts (if you want) outside the water. You don't necessarily have to cover your parts, but it's a good idea to not show them off or draw attention to them anyway. It is recommended to take off your accessories and watches.... Don't put your towel into the water. Put it on your head, the edge of the tub or a rock near you."

Source: kashiwaya.org

I gather the real pros wear their wash cloths on their heads...;)

Speaking of pros, there are two other reasons for linking this post in with Val, apart from her kind gesture of fitting me up with ample supplies of Vanilla Hinoki: the first is the fact that her own review of the perfume is to be published shortly on APJ, and the second is that we are both keen fans of The Monochrome Set, who coincidentally have just been playing two gigs in Tokyo!


Shinjuku Marz ~ Courtesy of Ken Kinoshita

For going right back to the early 80s, the band have been 'big in Japan', as they say. Someone on Facebook asked whether I had thought of going along, so I explained that a long haul trip of that magnitude would drive a coach and horses through my 'acceptable cost per gig' algorithm. You can always count on fans who were at the concerts posting photos and videos, which is almost like being there...;)

Courtesy of Yuko Shimbo

In a further bid to 'get in the zone', I wore a T-shirt from the 2014 Japan tour at one point over the weekend (though not out, I hasten to add!), set one of my watches to JST so I could marvel at the to me unfashionably early times they went on stage - as in our lunchtime, imagine!- drank from my Japanese cat mug from MOMA, and got up to some Eastern-themed high jinks with my friend Gillie. In this photo she can be seen playing on 'wild foraged' percussion instruments in her zen garden.

Oh, and did I say I wore Geisha Vanilla Hinoki a lot...? Apparently the botanical name of hinoki cypress is 'Chamaecyparis obtusa', but teamed with Geisha and Vanilla that would be a bit of a mouthful.




PS Thanks to Yuko for the tip offs about famous buildings made of hinoki wood, and to her and Ken of prettypop for letting me use their gig photos. ;)

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Quick (and slow!) skincare fixes: Part 1 - squaring dark circles and my acne 'hack'

Source: Wikimedia Commons
Topic(al) advisory - readers with perfect skin may wish to skip this post - something more conventionally scented will be along presently...;)

Now they do say that the eyes are the window of the soul. Well, that's as maybe, but chronic skin issues as well as sudden onset dermatological disasters (and I am no stranger to both!) can trigger a dark night of the soul in even the most mentally resilient person.

Squaring dark circles

I have been lucky up till now to have dodged problems such as bags or dark shadows under my eyes. It has all been kicking off lately in the upper eyelid area, mind you(!), but I will save that particular 'rag bag' of bother and doom for Part 2.

Then just recently I noticed dark circles appearing under my eyes for the first time. Having googled them - as you do! - I was pleased to learn that none of the myriad probable causes were fatal, as is of course the way of even the most minor of ailments on the morbidly inclined Interwebs.

But pretty much all of the reasons I found could have applied to me, barring eczema and being a 'person of colour', people of colour apparently being a little more prone to 'periorbital hyperpigmentation'. Yes, I could take my pick really from allergies (like hay fever, which I now have!), fatigue, rubbing or scratching my eyes - me and Truffle both - sun exposure (where do I start?), contact dermatitis (see Part 2!), and loss of fat and collagen due to age (which is rampant pretty much everywhere except my skull, knuckles, and Achilles tendons).


NB Only turn upside down for brief photo opportunities!

The problem was, though, that I noticed the dark shadows right before the gig in Preston documented here. That was one of the 'dermatological disasters' to which I obliquely allude in that post. And even though gigs are by definition held at night, I am sufficiently vain to not even want to run the risk of someone spotting my dark circles in the near pitch darkness of the beer garden. So instead of having a pre-gig lie down, as is my wont, I legged it to Debenhams in the pouring rain. Well, after a quick two minutes spent googling 'Sali Hughes best thing dark shadows' and seeing what that fetched up.

The answer is a ringing endorsement of Clarins Instant Concealer. I went for shade No 2, which is actually quite pale compared to the 110 Honey foundation of theirs that I also use, but seemingly that is the whole thing with concealer ie that you need it to be lighter in order to conceal the offending darkness. (I am a bit slow on the uptake, I know. ;) ) Then  in order to qualify for four free items of skincare and cosmetics worth about £50 in total, I was persuaded to spring for another product from the Clarins range, which had to be skincare. I went with a make up remover which will feature in my upper eyelid tale of woe, so I shan't do a spoiler on that here...

The lady at the Clarins counter applied a tiny blob of the concealer either side of my nose in small, patting movements, gradually building up coverage. You really don't need much, so caution is advised when squeezing the tube, especially in hot weather, as it seems to be bursting to come out of the nozzle! (I am in fact planning a separate post on tube-related issues.)


This way up at all times!

For anyone who would like a budget alternative to the Clarins concealer, Laura Davis of The Independent singles out Bourjois Healthy Mix concealer in this article as her top pick for the under-eye area. And would you believe, I had a similar pre-gig dark shadow incident some weeks later, and of course I had forgotten to bring my newly acquired Clarins remedy (makes a change from my usual hair gunk crisis!), so instead had recourse to a couple of testers in a big branch of Boots. I would have gladly bought a tube as back up, but they had run out of my shades except in tester form. There were at least two (one pale, one medium) that did a very decent job at only £7.99 a pop compared with £21 for the Clarins.

My acne 'hack'

Full disclosure - I have suffered from acne continuously for 43 years. A GP once described me, with perhaps a little more candour than was indicated, as, technically speaking - from a hormonal perspective - 60% man. Another breezily remarked that in my case, puberty might well segue seamlessly into the menopause and beyond. And blow me, but he was right too. I don't know what percentage of the population experience uninterrupted skin eruptions well into middle age, but I know that acne in adults, especially women, is more common than you might think. Spots tend to be confined to the jawline and chin in adulthood at least - when I was 18 I had them all over my face - topping out at 64 in total during the 'acme' of my acne, as it were. It is hard for non-sufferers to imagine the extent of pain and discomfort involved, not to mention the blow to one's self-confidence - even now, it isn't easy to socialise when I get major breakouts, as for one thing having acne seems downright incongruous at this time of life.

One unexpected upside of my problem skin was the fact that it turned out to be my passport to a year spent as a teaching 'assistante' in a school on the Riviera. At an interview to decide whereabouts in France I was to be deployed, I had a chance to defend my top choice of the Cote d'Azur. I think my reason surprised the judging panel, for instead of mentioning the usual suspects of a chance to 'swan about on yachts' or 'go celeb spotting at the Cannes Film Festival', I piped up: 'The sun will be good for my acne', and that was that.


As you can see, I did manage some yacht-swanning after all!

Now in my 40+ zit busting years, I wouldn't say I have tested every single remedy out there - I shied away from Roaccutane, for instance, the heavy artillery of acne treatment, though it was offered - and I also didn't try the specialist range of skincare by Proactiv, with which some people reportedly get good results. Over that time, however, I did try umpteen formulations of the contraceptive pill, of which Dianette was the (relative!) gold standard for the condition, as well as umpteen kinds of antibiotic, Dalacin T (a salicylic acid preparation in roll-on form), benzoyl chloride in various strengths, witch hazel, tea tree oil, all manner of toners and cleansers and astringent gels from Guerlain to Clearasil and everything in between - plus a weird calamine lotion that dried like white plaster on my face, such that I had to stay home for three days.  Luckily I was revising for my A-Levels at the time. Oh, and following an overnight explosion of some 30 pustules(!) the day the Pope died in 2005, I managed to secure an emergency appointment with a German pharmacist, who - using only an enormous encyclopaedia and a winning smile - knocked up a wonder blend of two antibiotics in cream form, that had the rash subdued within a week or so. Meanwhile, I kept my back to the window in meetings at all times, and cupped my erupting chin pensively in my hand.

Then lately I would say I have had a few breakthroughs - and fewer breakouts - and my current regime is working pretty well. I still get spots - why, only yesterday I found a whitehead in the middle of my cheek, which was most irregular! - but they do feel more under control. I cannot say that anything that works for me will necessarily do the biz for you, as everyone is different, but I can certainly recommend giving some of these things a go. And no, I am not happy about being on antibiotics, but they still really seem to work, as I discovered to my cost when I went cold turkey for two months a few years ago.




My acne armoury:

Oxytetracycline - 250mg x 2 once daily (have got down to half the daily dose at least!)

Nature's Best Acidophilus Extra 4 or 10 Billion - (just take a lot of the beggars, basically, and it does pay to go for a decent brand,  I have no idea if probiotics are any good for acne in themselves, but I feel it is important to offset the damage being wreaked to my 'microbiome' by the antibiotics!)

Nature's Best High Strength Fish Oil - 1 capsule of 1100mg a day, though you can take up to 3. It is specifically since starting on the fish oil - I found a bit of science on it here - that I have been able to knock back the antibiotics. The fish oil supposedly has anti-inflammatory properties, which I can well believe.




La Roche-Posay Effaclar Astringent Lotion Micro-Exfoliant - it contains salicylic acid which is good for tackling spots, albeit its alcohol-based formula isn't ideal. For though it may seem counter-intuitive, drying the skin out too much with alcohol-containing lotions stimulates it to produce more sebum, whereupon you get locked into a sort of vicious cycle of oily secretions. ;)

La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo - the best spot zapping gel I know, and goodness knows I've tried a few!

La Roche-Posay Serozinc - an aerosol spray containing zinc, which is good for calming angry complexions. Thanks to Louise Woollam of Get Lippie for the tip off.




Artnaturals Jojoba Oil - I use this at night to counteract any over-drying from the astringent lotion above. It felt very strange putting oil on my oily skin, but I genuinely think it is helping my overall skin condition, and since this...er...lubricious epiphany(!) I truly haven't looked back. ;)




PS I have historically squeezed and picked my spots - hey, it is one of the few pleasures associated with the whole wretched business! - but luckily my bad behaviour has not led to significant scarring - well, aside from a permanently discoloured area on my chin, maybe. I do, however, have quite a few brown spots on my cheeks that are doubtless due to the combination of antibiotics and/or Dianette AND sun exposure down the years. But for longest time - rightly or wrongly - I thought the drying effects of the sun would be good for my skin, and even now I am a big believer in the morale-boosting benefits of sunshine, enjoyed in moderation, with appropriate sunscreen applied!

PPS I have never tried excluding dairy from my diet, but if anyone thinks this might really help, I'd consider giving it a go.


Do you suffer from either dark circles under your eyes or acne (anywhere?!) 

If so, I would be most interested in learning any good fixes you have come up with - whether instant or longer term...




Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Bengals, birthdays, and blotters galore: another visit with Liz Moores of Papillon Artisan Perfumes

It was my birthday last weekend. Since hitting 50, I have been hopelessly in denial about getting older. If you ask me, your 50s are not the new 40s - they are very much the 'How come nobody ever thought to tell me about (insert debilitating physical or mental malfunction)!' decade. And I just turned 57. Now I am quite sure of this, because I counted the rings on my neck. ;) No really, it's not just trees you can date in this way. Worryingly, turkey necks may turn out to be for life, not just for Christmas, but such gloomy thoughts didn't stop me moisturising that general 'neck of the woods' - or 'woods of the neck', even - for the very first time ever this week.

Speaking of woods, that is also where I was headed on my birthday, to visit Liz Moores in her forest hideaway again, along with my dear friend and fellow blogger Tara of A Bottled Rose. The run up to the big day was full of excitement, though sadly not of the pleasant anticipatory kind.  I stupidly locked myself out of my house the night before(!), but managed to break back in using only a screwdriver and an armpit-swivelling yoga posture I didn't even know I knew. My relief at this cat burgling coup - and yes, the cat flap was also involved! - was shortlived, however, for I spent a near sleepless night thanks to an unholy rumpus next door, the least said about which the better.





So anyway, the plan was that I would pick up Tara from Salisbury station, so we could travel down down to Liz's together. I was just half an hour into the journey, swigging water and munching on flapjack in a bid to offset that dastardly duo of sleep and glucose deficits, when the warnings of tailbacks on the M5 prompted a Gordian knot-type manoeuvre at Spaghetti Junction, and a radical rethink of my chosen route. This was a good call, as I made it to the station with twenty minutes to spare, even though this was not quite time enough to change, buy a compact to powder my nose (the obligatory forgotten item of the trip!) - or to take a photo of the sign for Nether Wallop.

On arrival at Liz's, there was a comprehensive exchange of presents, which would have made for an intriguing and densely plotted graph if you were to draw lines from donor to recipient: there were early birthday presents for Liz, late birthday presents for son Rowan, who turned 10 this week, and presents for Daisy for no particular reason other than that she is the baby, and impossibly cute. Then there were presents for me because it was my birthday that day, and presents for Liz in her capacity as hostess, plus a few extra random items I offered up to anyone who wanted them, including a set of lavender guest soaps and a jar containing what Tara confirmed to be an Indian condiment.


Lemon verbena soap in  a Papillon-themed box!

After I had changed into one of the several outfits I had hastily grabbed on the way out that morning, the three of us repaired to the patio with drinks; Richard E Grant-style, I demanded tea in the biggest mug Liz owned, as I set about addressing my caffeine shortfall - yes, make that a tricky triumvirate, not a dastardly duo of dietary and other deficits.

I should also mention that because of the immense floor plan of Papillon HQ, even though we stayed home the whole time, we hung out in three distinct zones over that time: patio, kitchen, and perfume studio, which felt almost like going to three different addresses. This periodic decamping to other parts of the house created the sense of an 'episodic' day - or of a 'sodding epic' day, as ex-Mr Bonkers was waggishly wont to transpose the term.

And epic it was! Our conversational topics lurched seamlessly(!) from hangover cures to genetic legacies, to the wonders of M & S and the mindset of artists - and everything in between. At one point Liz demonstrated the relative mobility of each of her arms, following her shoulder surgery earlier this year. On the plus side she is now able to rub sun cream into that awkward spot between the shoulder blades that eludes some of the most able-armed amongst us, myself included, however, anything around head height or higher remains a challenge. So no overhead jerks with dumb bells or pinning of fascinators on elaborate top knots any time soon.




The middle phase of our visit took place in Liz's humongously big kitchen - any bigger and we would have needed to have communicated via Messenger. I was delighted to see my friend Gillie's 'big jugs' gracing the long dining room table. It was here that Tara and I installed ourselves, as Liz went about making lunch, deftly navigating her way round the combined no-go lists of ingredients that Tara and I had submitted (of which more anon...).

Son Rowan sat at one end, and in an admirable display of diplomacy, got stuck into assembling Tara's present of a Lego Ninja figure, while simultaneously 'building a burger' out of the jelly sweets I had given him (one of several items of whimsically interactive confectionery that caught his attention).

'Burgers someone built earlier' ~ Source: emmalemmadingdong

In a matter of minutes the Ninja figure was finished, complete with retractable helmet and multilateral weaponry, and before you could say: 'That chap who played Cato Fong in The Pink Panther has just died', Tara and I were being showered with a hail of minute plastic pellets, which we dutifully retrieved from the interstices of our laps and handbags - not least to ensure they didn't stray into the burgers.


My newly Ninja-ed handbag

Apart from the sporadic pellet gathering, Tara and I were by no means idling all this while. No, we had been assigned the important job of testing Liz's pretty much finished mod of White Moth, together with a still 'potentially to be tweaked' one of a new chypre fragrance. Over the course of an hour or two, we would continually resniff our own and each other's wrists and report back to Liz about what the perfumes were doing at that point in their development, and how we felt about them at every stage.




So White Moth is a pretty summery floral, with a bouquet of frangipani and tiare and a tangy, sherbety accord (involving some kind of fruit of which I am sure Tara will have made a note) - the whole thing laid over a gauzy vanilla base. Or so it seemed to me!

Then the chypre has three distinct phases: a bright opening of a very unusual orange that presents as grapefruit(!), which segues into a spicy heart with cinnamon and clove, which Liz may well beef up with narcissus, followed by the most deliciously sweet and sultry musk, the like of which I have never smelt before.

And while all this was going on, family members and friends would turn up in dribs and drabs, starting with Liz's partner Simon and Daisy, zonked from her first swimming lesson, and followed at intervals by the three older daughters and their boyfriends. This drip feeding of arrivals smacked of those cumulative nursery rhymes-cum-memory tests that get progressively longer as they go on - the likes of 'Old Macdonald had a Farm' or do I mean 'The Farmer's in His Den'? So Liz and Ro, and Simon and Daisy, and Lily and C, and Jaz and...Poppy and T...and have I forgotten anyone? - and E.I.Adio, we all pat the bone! ;)




Speaking of farms, in my review of Angelique I have already reported on the eclectic menagerie that also lives at Papillon HQ: the horses and dogs, the Bengal cats (twice as many as before!), the snakes, owl(s) and cockatiels. Turns out I completely missed the tortoises, but Tara spotted them in a terrarium by the fridge as Liz was contemplating what to give us as a takeaway snack for the road (or rail).


Blotter monitor

After a hearty lunch of asparagus risotto (completely free of anchovies, offal, squid, gherkins, onion, sweetcorn and Tiramisu!), followed by birthday cake for me with one(!) tactful candle, we adjourned to our final destination, Liz's perfume studio. I covered Liz's business generally - and the wonders of her studio at every turn! - in more detail in my earlier post, but there were still new things to sniff and see this time around. For example, I was interested to know how Liz handled the alcohol side of her perfume business, not least from a H & S point of view, and she showed me the plastic jerrycans she buys the alcohol in, which reminded me of oversized packs of screenwash, though mercifully not blue.


Alcohol to the right, blotters just about everywhere! ;)

I spied a couple more of those comically named materials on Liz's shelves this time round - there was one that looked like 'Aggression' and another that I read quickly as 'Frank Sinatra'. I think it was in fact something ending in 'Serrata' - a type of frankincense, perchance? ;)

Under Liz's expert guidance, Tara and I sniffed a ton of fragrance materials, from fruity notes like apricot, plum, rhubarb and pear, to florals such as jonquil, narcissus, lilac and tiare, to vanillas and musks of every stripe, as well as black tea, jade, a markedly clean patchouli, and the specific orange used in the new chypre.




At one point we also stared out an unsettling lump of ambergris floating in a murky liquid in a see-through tub. At another, Liz warmed a canister of hyraceum - and one of a Persian rose material - between her thighs(!). Tara captured this 'money shot' on camera and I look forward to seeing it on her post. ;) And as she had done for me, Liz scooped out a generous spoonful of orris concrete for Tara to take home - you get a quality goody bag at Papillon, I can tell you! None of your lame Sherbet Dip-and-balloon combos, oh no.




And all too soon it was time to take Tara back to Salisbury, and drive on to the pub where I had booked in for the night. Many thanks are due to Liz and Tara for giving me a fun- and family- and fragrance-filled birthday to remember!

And I simply can't wait for White Moth and the chypre to see the light of day - I am sure they will be winners. For to reprise the names of Lego figures for a moment, Liz Moores may not be the Ninja of the perfume world exactly - she doesn't have the range of movement in her arm to do all that abseiling business, for one thing - but she most certainly is its Aroma Transformer...





Sunday, 22 May 2016

Fountains and firemen's hoses: En Voyage Perfumes Rainmaker review

Source: wweek.com
The other day I entrusted a king size mattress protector to the genial proprietor of my local launderette, which offers service washes for bulky items. He quoted me £15 before adding gnomically: "We pray for rain." "Well, you can stop now", I thought to myself, for it had absolutely chucked it down not twenty minutes previously.

How odd that a man in Posh Wash in Stafford should try to conjure up rain, just like those Native Americans whose shower-charming ritual is referenced by the name of the perfume I was about to review - Rainmaker, the upcoming release from En Voyage Perfumes. Then in modern parlance, a rainmaker is also someone who drums up business with rabbit out of a hat aplomb, or who is the 'creator of something valued'. As Shelley Waddington, En Voyage's founder, elaborates:

"In expanding my creative work, I wanted to provide a fragrance of beauty and attraction that would in turn become a 'Rainmaker' for the wearer."

And then Rainmaker the perfume also gives a humorous nod to the clouds hanging over Shelley's adopted home town of Portland, which she wryly describes as "some of the best rainmakers in the world".  ;)

Ha! I can relate to that here all right. For when I sat down later in the week to gather my thoughts about Rainmaker, in a fine show of pathetic fallacy the weather promptly obliged with another downpour. Which, like the Portland clouds, it often does with or without the supplications of the faithful.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

On to the perfume itself, a "woody-amber chypre for men and women".

Top notes: Rose leaf, Silver Pine Tips, Wild Citrus
Heart notes: Incense, Patchouli, Iris, Rhododendron
Base notes: Mossy Rain Forest Notes of Cedar, Fir, Redwood Needles, Petrichor, Oak Moss and Amber

As regular readers know, I am the world's worst deconstructor of perfumes, able only to articulate the vaguest of impressions - which reminds me, I still have to do that set of "tiny 'unreviews' of unprecedented vacuousness" that I promised Portia in my review of Papillon's Salome.

But eyeballing those notes, it is not hard to imagine that Rainmaker was inspired by the "forested terroir" of the Pacific Northwest, as well as its "Bohemian lifestyle". 'Imagine' is the operative word, mind you, for despite having spent a week in the state (on a mission to do with a fairly niche kind of plastic), I didn't encounter any Bohemians, and the terroir I stayed in - a suburb of Portland called Beaverton - was forested largely by the signs of nail bars, used car lots, and branches of Taco Bell. That was where I first came across the fast food chain's  masterly slogan  of "Think outside the bun", a mantra I have been trying to live up to ever since.

Source: yelp.com

So what do I make of Rainmaker? Well, I was drawn to it right off the bat: it felt obviously 'niche' in quality terms, and seamlessly blended. I note that Rainmaker has a "high percentage of pure extraits, natural materials, and proprietary blends", which are perfectly well behaved here, the epitome of suave urbanity indeed. In truth, the scent doesn't feel particularly Bohemian or 'indie' in the sense of quirky to me. I could picture the wearer as a go-getting professional, who likes to kick back at the weekends, don some high end walking gear by The North Face or its Pacific Northwest equivalent (Trew?, Poler?, Holden?), and get amongst nature.

Which is not to say that I don't feel I could wear Rainmaker too, even though I don't exactly fit that profile(!) - I like the scent for its own sake and because of my own memories of that region - and further down the Pacific coast (of which more anon). The dominant aspect is fairly full-on woodiness,  as you would expect from that quintet of tree species, but as its creator intended, to my nose Rainmaker stays bang on the gender divide, This is no Marc Jacobs Bang or whichever Comme des Garcons scents are particularly woody - you know the ones I mean(!). Its glowing amber core and rich earthy/patchouli base lend a warmth and softness to Rainmaker that tone down the woodiness, and also ensure that the delicate inflection of damp forest foliage never tips into anything remotely resembling strident janitorial pine.

Mount Hood ~ Source: pinterest

Also, foresty scents can sometimes skew plangent and austere - arguably Ormonde Jayne Man and Woman lean that way, ditto FM Angeliques sous la Pluie. Of the latter I once wrote that it reminded me of "rolling fog in Northern California on a November morning". But I'd say Rainmaker captures the spirit of this general neck of the woods more comprehensively - and without being at all bleak!

And Shelley Waddington has also pulled off quite a coup in making Rainmaker authentically foresty, whilst incorporating more feminine facets, thanks to the iris and rose leaf. Carner Barcelona's D600 walks a similar line with its inclusion of jasmine and iris in an otherwise resolutely woody composition, so if you like that scent, I'm willing to bet you will like Rainmaker too. They are very much in the same vein / 'register', albeit D600 is possibly a little sweeter.

So would I wear Rainmaker? Sure! Would I like to smell it on a man? Oh, yes.... Has it displaced my current top three from the En Voyage Perfumes stable - Zelda (review here), Captured in Amber and Fiore di Bellagio? Well, noooo, but that is because genre-wise I happen to be more drawn to florals and orientals - I do think Rainmaker is very well done. It is polished, smooth and naturalistic, and thanks to the addition of incense, verging on meditative and cosy too. Not so much your well worn 'cashmere wrap' kind of cosy, as that afforded by donning a bolero of sphagnum moss maybe - a short garment which obviously I can't resist shortening further to 'sphag bol'.


Ron and Nina's house! Source ~ zillow.com

So yes, back to memories of the region... First off, when I see redwood trees mentioned anywhere I am immediately transported back to my childhood, to afternoons spent reading Look & Learn magazine and gawping at images of (what would now be vintage!) cars driving through the lofty pines' humongously thick trunks. I also remember more recent visits to my Swiss cabinet maker friend Ron and his wife Nina, who lived in the middle of a redwood forest in a Hansel & Gretel-style house they built themselves(!) out of local timber (see above). Strictly speaking, this was NorCal rather than the Pacific Northwest, but I imagine that the general ambience - and scent - of the forest might have been similar to the more northerly 'terroir' Shelley had in mind.


California again, but it's down the road (and through the tree!) ~ Source: Pinterest

Going back to my trip to Oregon, I based myself in Beaverton as it was closest to the headquarters of a well known sports brand, which incorporated the plastic in question in some of its running shoes. I stayed at the Shilo Inn and Suites, noted for its gardens - and fountains. I would lie in my room at night listening to the soothing plishing sound - not of rain, admittedly, but falling water for sure. And of course some other people who are in the business of 'falling water' would be the fire service. Thus it was that I also drove south to Medford to interview a group of fire fighters about the performance of this plastic in their hoses. (No, really!)


Shilo Inn and Suites ~ Source: booking.com


Then on my way to the airport, I chatted with the shuttle bus driver who took me from the rental car lot to the terminal. He asked how long I had been in the area. "A week!" I answered brightly. 'So did you go to the Crater Lake National Park? The Columbia River Gorge? You must have seen Mount Hood?' Dismayed to learn I had missed all these 'must see' sights in the state, he tentatively inquired where I had been. "Um...mainly Beaverton?" He shook his head in disbelief, at what clearly struck him as an epic tourist fail.

But though I didn't manage to breathe in the scent of the forest floor in the actual Pacific Northwest, or hang out in the boho cafes of downtown Portland - famous for their coffee I believe, if that is your thing - and though I don't remember it raining the whole time I was in Oregon, or even being noticeably overcast, I did at least have a brush with the wet stuff in my own bonkers way....plus the road that Ron's house was on is called Bohemian Highway...


Hoses stowed ~ Source: Wikimedia Commons

PS It is a further testament to this perfume's instant appeal that I felt moved to write about it so promptly after receiving the sample from En Voyage. As anyone who follows the blog will have noticed, I might take weeks or months to review a new release - if I ever do at all, even if I like it - but once in a while the muse is pretty much perched on the postman's shoulder.

PPS My elderly friend's verdict in a blind testing of Rainmaker: "It's a strange smell. It's quite strong to start with, though it's softer after a while. And it's not as...as scented as Fleur de Shanghai."

PPPS I did also buy this woody pen out there...