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Tuesday, 19 May 2015

The Milano, The New Classic, and a rainbow range of classic Classics - news Travalos slowly!

Back in February I wrote a post about the chronic difficulty I have when choosing perfumes to 'commit' to a Travalo. In passing, I happened to remark that you don't come across the more vibrant coloured Travalos anymore - the reds and pinks and golds, for example - other vivid shades I am more shaky on, as I may be getting genuine Travalos confused with their many imitators. Anyway, very soon after that post, the PR company which represents the brand offered to send me samples of a couple of new products, as well as pointing out that I was mistaken on the colour front, for the Classic Travalo model is in fact available in no fewer than 10 shades!

So I had this information, and sat on it, partly because I got the urge to blog about other thing first - the German tour and whatnot - but also because I figured that a post about atomisers is a fairly specialist subject, and people might want a little pause before I weigh in with another one. Then, just the other day, Bonkers reader Crikey left a comment on that post from February, with a link to Escentual, and the amusing remark:

'Oh, appears the colours are blooming again.'

Well, as I say, I am not quite sure from the PR lady's email whether the colours went away and have now come back again, or whether they have always been in the range, but I have just been living in a monochromatic backwater.

Anyway, the nudge from Crikey was enough: it was high time to share with people the good news that there is in fact a veritable rainbow palette of Travalos - and maybe there was all along.

The next piece of news concerns two new products in the Travalo stable - The Milano and The New Classic. Well, The Milano has been available in Duty Frees and on board a number of airlines since last October, but presumably it is now hitting the wider retail world.

These two Travalo variants are based around a different design principle, for while they still sit on the top of a perfume bottle and draw the liquid up using a pumping action, the actual cartridge inside the Travalo is detachable. This doesn't mean that any less commitment is involved - oh, no, the new plastic cartridges are not intended to be cleaned out and reused - however, you can take the cartridge of the New Classic Travalo out of its original housing and swap it with the one inside The Milano. (This luxury model bears an uncanny resemblance to the Hermes perfume travel cases, though it retails for £35 and has some kind of leatherette fabric rather than calfskin - it is, however, also available in bright orange!)

Source: Hermes

So yes, The Milano might come into its own if you happened to be in Milan, or if you wanted a more refined-looking style of atomiser to whip out in the toilets of a smart restaurant, say, as you touch up your makeup and reapply your perfume. A little bit along the lines of a lipstick case, not that I have ever used one of those. But in this way you can 'dress up' your perfume in the evening, toggling between night and day in packaging terms. I guess we are back to that Italian perfume I blogged about last year - Social Parfum - that came with a variety of extra boxes you could buy as accessories, and which I dubbed the 'Sindy doll school of perfumery'. Well, this is effectively its little sister, the 'Sindy Travalo'...

Oh, and of course if you had multiple New Classics, you could also switch between them. I wonder if I would swap the New Classics over, say if I wanted to take two scents away with me that both happened to be in silver Travalos before. I could pop one of the silvers in another colour for ease of identification during my trip - and/or a bit of variety. I foresee a problem with that though, namely that I have just about memorised what scents are in each of my existing Travalos(!), and the same would apply if I committed perfumes to a bunch of New Classics some day. Yes, given my aversion to labels, if I swapped the housing on them I could get mighty confused about what was where. ;)

Gargoyle doing the honours again

Additionally, The New Classic has 'a new spray head technology, which produces a finer mist to disperse perfume efficiently over a wider area'. I'll be honest, I have yet to test this out, as I haven't put any perfume in it (commitment problems!), but I'll also be honest and say that I don't think I have any need to disperse perfume over a wider area, though it might be more economical to do so rather than hitting my 'décolleté' (I use the term loosely) with multiple squirts instead. Yes, I think I should conduct some field trials on this and get back to you, keeping an open mind on the matter.

L to R: Classic, The Milano (case & cartridge), New Classic (ditto)

I cracked! I decided that it is half a job if I don't put this claim to the test, so I committed a New Classic Travalo to En Voyage Perfumes Zelda and compared it with a regular Classic containing Kenzo Flower Oriental. Off the bat I must say that I am not wild about the plastic cartridge, which looks a bit cheap to my mind, but not only does the New Classic definitely spray a finer, more widely dispersed mist(!), but it filled up much more quickly than the traditional Travalo, or so it seemed to me.

New Classic - just one spray!
You can just about see in the photos that a larger patch of skin is covered by one spritz, albeit it will be weaker where it lands. So I guess it comes down to personal preference whether you want a light sheen of scent across more of your person or a few stronger concentrations at pulse points. My hunch is that you would probably end up spraying fewer times, so it could be a good way of eking out your stocks if that was an issue with a particular scent, not that the New Classic is being marketed that way.

Classic - look bottom left!

To complete the test drive I then took the cartridge of Zelda out and popped it very gingerly - and with considerable trepidation! - into The Milano, which has a hole at the bottom for the end of the atomiser to breathe maybe, and help prevent collateral scenting of the metal housing. I even plucked up the courage to stick the top back on The Milano, albeit only for a few seconds. I can truthfully say it did not impregnate the Milano housing with Zelda in that time, though I did wonder if repeated use of The Milano with different scents might end up leaving traces here and there.

Then a couple of things bothered me about The Milano, namely that once the cartridge clicks into place, which it does do quite securely, the nozzle swivels round more easily and quickly than you would expect - the full 360 degrees, like something out of The Exorcist. And the overall weight of The Milano troubled me - it is very heavy for its size, and I would not want that weight in my handbag, especially not in a smaller evening purse such as one might well be carrying in the smart restaurant of my imagining. ;)

UPDATE! I have just weighed The Milano (in its empty state) vs a Travalo of the classic kind (filled with perfume) - 58g plays 15g, so a lot heavier all right.

So in summary, I was pleasantly surprised by the faster pump action and impressively well distributed spray mist, but I don't truly see the need to swap the cartridges around into a rather clunky, if undeniably stylish holder.

On a side note, I did really like the layout of the email from the PR company, which looked exactly like a blog post, with the pictures integrated into the body of the text, rather than having to go off and click on some big images in pdfs and what have you.

Look at all those colours! I feel the atomiser equivalent of a kid in a sweet shop moment coming on...! Oh and Crikey, did you place your order yet....?

Thursday, 14 May 2015

An earthy yet unworldy scent: Bright Earth Parfums Eau de Earth review, and another milestone giveaway!

Now that I have been blogging for a while, I find myself at the receiving end of more and more emails from brands and PR companies - and sometimes directly from perfumers - notifying me of this or that launch, or special offer, or what have you. I am genuinely excited to receive news from some of my favourite brands, while tuning out to some of the others, to be honest. These emails often comprise a press release about the fragrance in tastefully lyrical 'PR-esque prose', and usually sign off by asking me to get in touch if I have any queries or would like any further information. I never have any queries or want any further information. Oh, and there may additionally be a pdf containing some high resolution pack shots that they are probably hoping I will use on the blog, but I mostly prefer to use my own, which is more in keeping with my Bonkers 'house style'.

So last month I was quite taken aback - in a good way - to receive a very personal, direct approach from the owner of Bright Earth Parfums - a 'down to earth' approach, if you will. The gentleman in question, Nicolas Fromanger, is a French national living in New York. I was immediately drawn to his surname, which is just a surplus consonant away from Fromager, or 'cheese-maker', a subject close to my heart, having worked for a dairy company and in a specialist cheese shop. I even wrote my postgraduate thesis on cheese. But I digress...Monsieur Fromanger is crucially NOT a cheesemaker, though 'manger' means eat at least. I spy the makings of a fine pun in there.

Here is the introductory email which caught my attention:

"i am French based in NYC, made a perfume 'Eau de Earth', all natural flowers scent, eau de parfum, 1 oz, built like a classic, i would like to send you a bottle, enclosed please find some photos
i just started a small ecommerce, you can find the fragrance at
please let me know where to send a bottle
you are a woman, it was made for you too!!!"

'Do I look small next to these lilies?'

Various things intrigued me about this opening gambit: the reference to the scent comprising just 'natural flowers', the blithe disregard for upper case letters, the fact that Monsieur Fromanger (hereinafter known as Nicolas, as we got quite pally, by and by) was selling perfume on Etsy, which I associate primarily with a myriad of handicrafts - it is where I found ex-Mr Bonkers a zombie sock monkey, for example! - and last but not least, the fact that he assumed that the perfume would be to my liking because I am a woman. With the email Nicolas had sent two photographs of the bottle and its box, posing alongside two different types of lily. A clue to the notes, as I later learnt...It was very much the sort of homemade photo I just said I like to use on Bonkers!, but it is unusual for the perfume brand itself to eschew the glossy hi-res shots of a typical press pack. One photo landed in my inbox on its side, while the other was upside down ;) - and the lilies did rather dominate in one picture, but still. If anything, I liked Bright Earth Parfums all the more for these minor malfunctions.

So yes, this refreshingly unslick introduction to the brand worked like a charm, and I accepted Nicolas' kind offer of a bottle, which duly arrived. Even the packaging was splendidly basic, much as I would expect to receive a used bottle I had bought on eBay or scored in a swap. There wasn't even a note inside, or a comps slip.

The box, sadly, was a disappointment. I had been enjoying the lack of obvious commercialism up to this point, but found I couldn't embrace the dark blue box, with its graphic of the earth seen from space - or specifically the sea seen from space - the photo was given to Nicolas by NASA, no less. The bold graphics put me more in mind of a cigarette packet, or a packet of playing cards - or the box containing a boy's toy or game, maybe. It just didn't compute for me as the container of a perfume bottle...


Luckily, the bottle itself did look perfectly like a perfume bottle, and I rather liked its circular shape, doubtless to denote the earth again, with the swirly white overlay evoking cloud cover seen from space - or, for that matter, the spray from the sea - for the scent itself definitely has a feeling of rain or droplets of water of some kind to it, without being remotely 'aquatic', if that makes sense.

Which leads me neatly on to my experience of Eau de Earth, into which name I feel an urge to insert an apostrophe, by analogy with Eau d'Hadrien, Eau d'Italie. Eau d'Orange Verte, Eau d'Hermes or Eau d'Eden. So that was another quirky aspect to the perfume, come to think of it.

I have given Eau de Earth at least half a dozen wearings now: the first time I sprayed it I was vividly reminded of Bourjois Soir de Paris, on account of a big, sweet, heady, rather vague floral bouquet, that was decidedly retro in style. I thought I smelt violets and also picked up on a powdery cachou note. I have no sample of Soir de Paris to hand anymore, but I remember it as being a bit 'too much', almost headache-inducing, whereas Eau de Earth is way more restrained than that comparison might suggest, being tempered by what I can best describe as a 'rained on' quality, coupled with a sort of flinty, mineral aspect.

My mini of Soir de Paris, sadly no longer extant
I wrote back to Nicolas with my initial impressions, as he had expressly asked me to do. I also quizzed him about the note list (see, I do have queries after all!), which he was reluctant to divulge for fear of "copycats", though over the course of several more email exchanges he did reveal quite a lot about the composition of Eau de Earth, including the fact that it took him a full year to finetune. The main flowers are jasmine and lilies, plus some citrus, while the base is "a classic built like Guerlain, and in between the top notes, the medium and the base, I assembled a few so to hold those 3 basic levels together, and one of the hard part was to recreate the mist or spray smell of the sea, that instant pure freshness that you encounter as soon as you reach or are near the sea!!!"

So I was right about the 'watery' aspect...

Nicolas then suggested I spray Eau de Earth on a piece of paper or card, leaving it in a room where I would walk past it often, to see how it attracted my attention and whether I spotted anything new or different about the scent when appreciated on a different medium to skin, and in a more ambient way. So I wrote back, accepting this challenge:

"I will try that wafting trick to see what happens. Your spray smell of the sea could be what I mean by the 'flinty' / 'mineral' aspect."

Well, I had a good go at this, leaving a folded sheet of paper liberally spritzed with Eau de Earth on the edge of the dining room table, and wedging another piece of paper in a drawer in one of the bedrooms, but I can't truthfully say I noticed anything very much - I really had to lean in to catch a whiff, and it was broadly the same as on skin. And this despite Nicolas' assurance that:

"It is an aerial perfume, it has the ability to spread himself thin into the air and expand to reach for attention and capture it!!!"

Well, I cannot confirm the aerial aspect, but the watery one for sure, and both perfume and creator had certainly captured my attention!

On the next wearing, I was hit right between the nostrils - would that be the septum, maybe? - by a resemblance to Guerlain Apres L'Ondee. There was the same olde worlde, wistful, powdery yet watery feel to it. I was still getting (as it turned out) phantom violet, though wondered if it might be iris. Anyway, the Apres L'Ondee analogy really stuck in my brain, and now that I have worn the two scents side by side about four times, I am more than ever convinced of the resemblance. Eau de Earth is more of a 'regular floral' and less offbeat and anisic than Apres L'Ondee, but the distinction between them is much more blurred when it comes to the perfumes' respective drydowns, and they both have a spookily similar 'atmosphere'. I immediately emailed Nicolas with this latest impression.

It seems my nose was on the money this time, for Nicolas wrote back and said that Apres L'Ondee was "one of the perfumes I deconstructed in order to put together later different parts of different perfumes for a new one!" He asked if I could spot Chanel No 19 for the green accord or Hermes (unspecified) for the citrus combination. I now think the No 19 connection might explain the bee in my bonnet about a violet/iris facet. But Eau de Earth isn't terribly citrusy on me at any point. And I was not able to pick out any Herbes de Provence or cistus, although they are all in there too apparently.

Anyway, so far, so very interesting, especially given the fact that the perfume contains no aromachemicals, only the flowers themselves and alcohol. As for how exactly the flowers have been processed, I don't know enough about it to speculate, though assume some combination of essential oils, absolutes, concretes, tinctures etc.

In one of his later emails, Nicolas reveals more about the idea for Eau de Earth - it was inspired by a chance find in a bazaar in Egypt of a little bottle of perfume which was "very much the smell of the Earth after it rained...that scent could remind you of Apres L'Ondee, because it is one of the closest perfumes that gives you that rainy feeling..."

Importantly, however, Nicolas is trying to break away from the melancholy vibe of Apres L'Ondee:

"it is ephemeral, like catching a glimpse of something that you long for! let say a pang, but with joy! and that is what the Earth is for me!!!"

I will be honest, for me - because of the major similarity with Apres L'Ondee that I just can't get out of my head now - Eau de Earth is more melancholic than not, but that is no bad thing in my book. A 30ml bottle of an all-natural perfume that smells like a Guerlain classic and is selling on Etsy for just £18.27! That sounds like a bargain to me.

The perfume is only available in the USA at this time, though the brand would like to find outlets in Europe.

NOT the Bright Earth bottle ~ Source: polyvore

Oh, and I note that Bright Earth Parfums is going for a more 'earthy' (as in 'raunchy'!) positioning on Etsy, describing it as a LOVE ELIXIR (I see we have abandoned the lower case now!), that is "mysterious and enchanting" and liable to "take you where no women has been before!"

So the packaging and Etsy copy - which is its only sales presence at the moment I gather - are a bit cheap and cheerful / cheesy to my mind, but if you can see past that the perfume itself is quite lovely, in that wistful, attenuated, mournful kind of way.

Finally, I thought that Eau de Earth might be a good - and very rare ;) - scent to feature as a giveaway to mark Bonkers reaching one million page views. I am really busy with work at the moment, so will leave the draw open till midnight GMT on 22nd May. If you would like to be entered in the draw to receive a decant of this (men may also apply!), just leave a comment, explaining why you like the sound of Eau de Earth. I don't wish to overplay the Apres L'Ondee similarity either - for as the scent does draw on elements from a range of other classics, you may well get something else again. NB I don't mind posting to the USA and Canada, using the standard wily ruses to fox the customs officials, but obviously I can't guarantee the perfume's safe passage.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Bonkers has clocked up a million hits!

I was on the phone to Vodafone just now, querying some WAP charges on my phone bill, when I spotted that my blog was only four page views off a million! I had realised over the weekend that this was imminent, and wanted to be around to photograph the moment when the counter clicked through into a number with lots of noughts - just as my brother and I used to eagerly anticipate the odometer in the family car reaching each milestone (quite literally!) of 20,000, 30,000 miles etc. Probably more, as we always had rather second hand cars growing up.

Anyway, it has only taken five and a half years to get to this point** ;), but it feels quite momentous all the same, possibly because of the fact that - so far! - I have been the only writer on Bonkers. And coincidentally, my 500th post was only the other day, which also felt like another milestone.

So I took a wee look at my stats out of interest, and wasn't surprised to learn that one in six of all the hits I have ever received has been on a post about Lidl's range of perfumes! Just on their own, the two posts I wrote on the Coco Mademoiselle dupe, Suddenly Madame Glamour, account for about 1 in 9 of all hits, ie 113,610 between them. The only other post to have notched up a serious amount of page views is one I wrote on a retinol cream, Indeed Labs Retinol Reface, which came in at 23,131. I wasn't expecting that piece to have had so many readers, as there are many noted beauty blogs out there you would think people would find before me. But such are the vagaries of Google!

I will be back shortly with a review of a new perfume that came to my attention recently, from a house that seems refreshingly quirky and trend-bucking in every way...

And meanwhile, it remains to thank everyone who has been reading Bonkers on whatever frequency - including the many thousands of people who landed here by mistake ;) - for taking this tally to its nought-intensive total today! I may well host a giveaway soon to mark this occasion...

**Editor's note - I didn't actually install the Google statcounter until quite some time after I started the blog - I don't recall exactly when, possibly even a couple of years later, when Bonkers was still very small anyway. I was hoping it might manage to pick up past hits retrospectively, what with Blogger being part of Google, but I never figured out whether it had or not, because I forgot to look at the stats until much later, by which time you could no longer tell if this was a complete count or not. So I just accepted its tally as being my total hits, whether from the start or whenever. A bit like a child not being two till it's four, type of thing. Bonkers being Bonkers, you could say that such statistical oddities are no less than you would expect.

Thursday, 30 April 2015

Daring to dice with expiry dates: Ormonde Jayne Ta'if Hydrating Bath & Shower Crème and REN Guerande Salt Exfoliating Body Balm, versus some old soap or other

Readers who made it to the end of my recent spate of band tour posts will have noticed that towards the end of the trip - to use Tara's excellent word - I went a bit 'feral', neglecting my usual standards of personal grooming, not that these were particularly high in the first place. This slatternly behaviour felt like a small act of rebellion, and now that I am home, I find the mentality to challenge convention and generally 'kick against the pricks', however they may manifest themselves, is still with me. I am especially exercised at the moment by (to my mind) spurious expiry dates. For example, ex-Mr Bonkers gave me some dried pasta the other night that was six months out of date. My reading on the Interwebs suggests that in the absence of obvious weevils, it will be just fine for at least another 6 months or so, possibly more. And only this morning I had some porridge (best before October 2014), sweetened by honey that I should allegedly have tossed in April 2013. In the light of such high risk behaviour, it will be interesting to see if I make it to the end of this post.

And in a parallel exercise, I have also been testing some out-of-date toiletries, to see how injurious and/or efficacious they are, long after they notionally expired. For the increasing complexity of modern skincare regimes, with specific products for this or that step - preferably several indeed, so you can toggle between products offering different active ingredients / benefits - inevitably leads to a greater stock of bottles and tubes etc in the bathroom, many of which have a life expectancy of just 12 months - expressed as a PAO (Period After Opening) date. Cue Wikipedia:

"In the European Union, cosmetics products with a shelf life of at least 30 months are not required to carry a 'best used before end of...' date. Instead, there has to be 'an indication of the period of time after opening for which the product can be used without harm to the consumer'."

Source: Pinterest

So from the off, it becomes a bit of a race against time to use the blinking things up before they 'turn' in some way. Which is more or less difficult, depending on whether you are meant to use a pea-sized blob or a generous palmful per application. I simply don't have enough eyes to get through an eye cream in its allotted lifespan.

But that all said, I am not completely reckless about my health, and am prepared to believe that sun creams lose their efficacy over time, for example, such that it would be foolish to slather old lotion on and expect the SPF factor to be anything more than a shadow of its former self. And by the same token, maybe the dizzying array of acids and peptides and retinol and hydraluron etc that are in so many hero serums and creams nowadays also degrade over time, I don't know.

But when it comes to more basic cleansing / exfoliating products, I figured that they might still be up to the job, and decided to test my rather old tube of Ormonde Jayne Ta'if Hydrating Bath & Shower Crème and equally senescent tub of REN Guerande Salt Exfoliating Body Balm - in the same bath session, no less, how brazen is that?! As for how old these products each are, I can date the Ormonde Jayne Shower Crème quite precisely, as it was a freebie at a Basenotes event in 2009. And yes, that IS an expensive freebie, but it was a very expensive event to start with, including a seminar and lunch with Roja Dove. I wouldn't drop that kind of money to see him today, I might add, but I was 'young' and impressionable back then...So yes, the shower creme is six years old, and carries a 12 month PAO symbol. The REN exfoliating balm is from a similar era at a guess and carries a PAO of just 9 months.

So how did they perform?

Ormonde Jayne Ta'if Hydrating Bath & Shower Crème

Well, the Ta'if shower creme left my skin clean and silky smooth - the gel is a pale yellow now, but to be honest I don't remember what colour it was when I first got it. The main difference between how it used to be and how it is now is that it no longer smells of Ta'if!! Or anything. The perfume has definitely left the building. But as a substitute for soap that has a very nice hydrating effect, nothing wrong with it at all.

NB I had such a job squeezing any more gel out of this one for photographic purposes that I think I can confidently say it is more or less finished at last!

REN Guerande Salt Exfoliating Body Balm

The REN scrub - 'balm' is such a misnomer for such a vicious toiletry! - looks okay in the tub. I detect a little bit of a darker cream colour in a streak across the middle, but nothing offputting like a puddle of ooze or major 'separation' issues. When I first used it, it really stung and left my skin a bright red colour, and also had a sort of salty, sauna-ish scent to it. It was very sticky and awkward to clean off, but left my skin feeling nice and smooth like the proverbial baby's bottom. Six years on(!?!), it doesn't sting nearly as much, though is as gritty and generally gunky as it ever was. Overall, I'd say it still seems to work in terms of the exfoliating aspect, but like the Ormonde Jayne it doesn't have a scent anymore - well, other than that generic kind of wallpaper paste smell which these scrubs tend to have in their base.

So in summary, I wouldn't say that the experience of using either product is quite as pleasurable as if they were scented still, but I don't think they have lost their functional benefits, and I am assuming that they are not doing me any mischief either. I would be more wary of old sunscreen, as I say, or a product I am going to use on my face. Old shampoo is probably okay, thinking about it.

And maybe I could also do my bit to increase my throughput of toiletries washing more...;)

Oh, and finally, here is a toiletry product that comes without any kind of best before date - soap. I don't know how old this bar is, but evidently if you let it hang about for too long, it will crack, split and turn into a pair of upturned coracles.


Monday, 27 April 2015

Beyond Hate: By Kilian Beyond Love, Prohibited, and my Love and Tears Janus moment!

Source: Hayley Armagost on Pinterest's a strong word. There are very few people in the world, if any, whom I would say I have ever hated. Oh, maybe the former colleague who slammed the door in my face after I had pulled an all-nighter at the office. I'd been editing a report that was chock full of someone else's typos, for which I took the rap, even though the person in question was knocking on thirty at the time and perfectly capable of proofing his own work. So yes, I probably wouldn't rush to meet her again.

As for my reaction to the By Kilian line, every blogger who has ever posted about their perfumes has probably had a comment from yours truly bemoaning the headache-inducing 'house fug acccord' that killed this range for me. Liaisons Dangereuses - which I would liken to Poison for the Noughties - was the worst offender, but I remember having 'fug issues' during my brief encounters with Love, Beyond Love and one or two others. Interestingly, I have experienced no such problem with later releases, such as Love and Tears or Sweet Redemption, to name but two, so I can only assume it is a stylistic hallmark of the early years. By a similar token, the early Mona di Orios were all kinds of wrong on  me - I still shudder at the memory of my Nuit Noire 'necklacing' incident - but I went on to love several of the Nombres d'Or collection.

The other slightly annoying thing about this brand - apart from the price and the preposterous promo shots of a snake-draped Kilian Hennessey - is the opaque packaging. Very unhelpful for anyone attempting to sell a partial bottle at a later date. Though props to the brand for its tassles. Yet overall I have largely tuned out to By Kilian, and though I was recently in Augsburg, where the niche perfumery Naegele has a whole wall devoted to the line, I didn't make any effort to go there this time - and didn't even point it out to Val, though we passed close by. 'Friends before perfume'...? Well, before By Kilian perfume, for sure.

NO, IT ISN'T!!!!

But two things happened recently to prompt me to revisit this brand. Firstly, not so long ago, Tara was sending me some bits and bobs, and enclosed a packet of my own By Kilian samples which I vaguely remembered having given to someone. Not to Tara, as it transpired, but to Holly Cranmer at the time of her visit in August, and now she was giving them back, having presumably also had a poor hit rate with the line. So for a while the little bag of vials, with their distinctive calligraphic script, sat on my desk, awaiting transferral to long term storage / purgatory. But before I got round to doing that, a chance reference to the tuberose note in Carnal Flower during the German tour - which was greeted by a chorus of 'Oh, tuberose, that's a nice scent' - made me think to tentatively retry the (to me, still) very scary tuberose perfume in the By Kilian stable, Beyond Love, Prohibited.


And guess what? It wasn't scary. There was no discernable fug. No headache ensued. But rather, I fell hard for this heady, coconut-tinged, almost gourmand tuberose soliflore, which Luca Turin dubbed 'tuberose tuberose' in Perfumes The Guide, citing it as the greatest example of the note.

"Calice Becker has composed a straight-up tuberose using the best absolute from India, with touches of other notes (magnolia iris) used only to narrow the gap between the extract and the fresh flower. The result is the best tuberose soliflore on earth."

Notes: coconut accord, Egyptian jasmine absolute, tuberose concrete, tuberose absolute, green tuberose, tuberose petals accord, ambergris, tonkin musk.

Um...would you like a side of tuberose with that? ;)


Yes, it was creamy, in an oozing patisserie kind of a way. I pictured a cream slice, but with white custard. To my mind's eye, this is a very white, yet warm and enveloping scent. Evocative of a tropical beach holiday, so arguably not the best fit for a rainswept night in Bristol, which is where I decided to give my sample its first ever public outing.

Then I remembered that Caryne had asked me to wear Love and Tears, its jasmine-foward counterpart, at a gig some time, so she could gauge whether that was the intensity of jasmine she was looking for on her own, vegan jasmine perfume quest. (Ongoing, and a bit of a tall order it seems.) So anyway, Janus-like, I decided to wear Love and Tears on the back of my neck, and Beyond Love everywhere else. I sense that there may be a piquant psychological metaphor in the near juxtaposition of these two scents, but I can't quite put my finger on it. It certainly made for some comedy moments in the pre-gig milling as I proffered both the front and nape of my neck for interested parties to sniff. Both perfumes got the thumbs up, with Beyond Love deemed more suitable for evening wear.

Mazzie and Simon

I resniffed the same fans who had attended one of the Berlin gigs wearing Chanel pour Monsieur and Aromatics Elixir respectively. This time Simon was in Clinique Chemistry - which I thought was a wind up, but it turns out to be its real name! - while Mazzie was in a peppery poppy perfume from the Body Shop, which smelt delightful on her. Caryne herself was wearing a sample of a patchouli scent from L'Erbolario, purchased at the same time as my bottle of Méharées.

The next day, on a whim, I morphed into a reverse Janus, wearing Beyond Love on the back of my neck and Love and Tears everywhere else. ;) Oh, after further reading on the Interwebs I have just realised that these two are part a collection of love themed perfumes, which comprises: Prelude to Love, Invitation, Love, Don't be shy, Beyond Love, Prohibited, and Love and Tears, Surrender. Me being me, I appear to have skipped the preamble and jumped into this series just as it gets interesting...;)

So yes, beyond hate lay a surprise love for this tuberose beauty. I don't anticipate that there will be a 'beyond Beyond Love' phase, but I will soon have finished my sample at this rate, so - given the prices and general hoo-hah surrounding this brand - there will imminently be a 'Beyond Wearing' phase.  And possibly a few tears about that...

Source: fragrantica

Bonus tassle pic specially for Tara!

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Spargel Everywhere: The Monochrome Set Germany Tour 2015: Part 5 - Hannover & the journey home

Outside Faust, Hannover

I didn't see Val the next day, as we were due to leave at 9am, however, we had an animated exchange of messages via Facebook as I was getting dressed and packed. At one point I thought to send her a picture of my hotel room in complete disarray, by way of apology that I was not able to chat as much as I would like. Val took one look at the scene of devastation and said: 'I will leave you alone.' 

I should mention that by this stage in the tour, my normal standards of personal grooming had long since gone out the window. I hadn't ironed a single garment all week - not that I had an iron with me, but I could have made some kind of half-arsed attempt to borrow one from the hotels - and as a result, all my clothes were irredeemably crumpled aka 'zerknittert'.

I must say I was banking on the darkness of the venues obfuscating the worst of the creases, but the daytime just couldn't be helped. Then already by Frankfurt I had managed to sleep all night in my contact lenses. I was also washing less than my usual two showers a day - partly through lack of opportunity, partly exhaustion-induced apathy - and as a consequence the back of my left hand was a veritable palimpsest of inky venue stamps or 'Stempel'. Moreover, as the photo below shows, I was barely touching my travel-sized bottle of toner. It was simply an exfoliating step too far in my bleary-eyed morning - or evening - state!

Toner on the left, cleanser on the right...

And although I had brought actual shampoo with me, several times I went ahead and chanced those strange, multifunctional, 'one gel fits all' Hair & Body Shampoo dispensers affixed to shower walls. How bad could they be? Oh, and it is ironic that I was so worried on the first day about not having my usual hair 'product' on the trip, when by the last day or two I was leaving my hair to dry on its own rather than blow drying it. Which just a week previously would have felt like leaving the house with no clothes on. So yes, my personal care regime was fatefully on the slide, but I could at least construe this slatternly behaviour as 'rock 'n' roll'.

I don't remember very much about the drive up to Hannover, except that I had a very large piece of chicken at a service station somewhere near Fulda. Though I may even be wrong about that. And as this might have been our last visit to a service station, we all pooled our toilet vouchers and chucked them at Alaska - it costs 70c to use the facilities, of which 50c is redeemable against purchases in the shop or restaurant. He should have been able to buy himself a Wunderbar at the very least! ;)

Oh look - here's one that got away!


On this, the last night, there was no time to go to our respective accommodation - a mix of unspecified 'band flat' and an airport hotel - so we went to the venue and stayed put till the end of the night. This also meant that the notion of being on the guest list rather went by the board, for I wandered unchallenged into the auditorium through a side door. Indeed I realised by the time of the gig in Schorndorf that that old chestnut - 'ich bin mit der Band' (shameless Denglisch for 'I am with the band'!) - would probably have worked just as well at gaining me admittance. I guess you can't very well spend 10 days and several thousand km wodged in a van next to them and not consider that as being 'with'.

Of note at the Hannover venue were the pert-looking 'arrival snacks' in the green room, whose vintage furniture was also reminiscent of the funky cafe in Freiburg. Yes, from the mozzarella and tomato balls on sticks to the sheaves of pretzels in jars, everything seemed to be erect and standing to attention. Yet again, I have signally failed to capture these in a photograph, but here is one of John chilling out in the adjacent 'sitting room'.

My missions that day were to take pictures of the band posing with Alaska and the van - for the former to use on his Facebook page - and to find the drummer a taxi to take him to the hotel he had hastily booked before the gig, with the help of his girlfriend back in England. For he had been around the block enough for the words 'band flat' to strike an ominous note in his mind, and with the benefit of hindsight, his instinct was completely vindicated. Our accommodation was billed as having four bedrooms: one each for Alaska, John, Caryne & Dave and me (being the 'elders' in the band, Bid and Andy were booked into the airport hotel). However, when we finally climbed up the five flights of stairs to the flat, it was quickly apparent that there were in fact four beds, not four bedrooms. Alaska very chivalrously offered to sleep on the couch and give me a bedroom with two double beds in it all to myself. This didn't feel right to me at all, though, a) because Alaska had just driven 600 odd km and worked all night mixing the sound and b) because it was a waste of a bed in the same room.

A very tired Alaska

I initially offered to take the couch myself, though it was in a bit of a thoroughfare, plus there was some talk of a couple of our party staying up late drinking in the very living room where I would be trying to sleep. So when Caryne & Dave kindly offered me the spare bed in their room, I jumped at the chance. After a week on the road together, the time had passed to stand on ceremony or insist on the usual levels of personal space. I actually slept better that night than I had for ages, make of that what you will!

Of particular note in the flat was the idiosyncratic toilet, which had pride of place in the middle of the narrow bathroom. The shower toggled viciously between scalding and freezing cold, but that would be my only complaint, and the whole stay felt like a huge adventure! Alaska surpassed himself by calling out: 'Bathroom's free if anyone wants to know!' at the very moment when I was lying in bed, wondering just that, and he also left cups of perfectly brewed tea outside our door. Not for nothing did we dub him the '5th, 6th and 7th emergency services'...


After a flurry of emotional goodbyes to Alaska at Hannover station, we got on the first of three trains home - or four in my case, if you include the last leg up to Stafford. Bid and I went to fetch drinks for everyone from Starbucks. He had taken to writing people's names on the lids to avoid confusion about whose particular style of coffee - or tea - was whose. I decided to keep mine, amused at the wholly accidental juxtaposition of 'Vanessa' and 'hot contents'.

I am lucky he spelt Vanessa correctly too, mindful of Cheryl Krueger's longstanding battle with a seemingly Protean set of bastardisations of her first name.

Photo stolen from Cheryl's Facebook page

Now I wasn't present at the time, but I heard that the band cookie bucket was finally jettisoned at Cologne Hauptbahnhof. Not in a careless way, mind - oh no. They set it on a podium in the main concourse for maximum ambient promotional value.

We had a quick bite to eat at Brussels station - anyone who has taken the Eurostar there will know exactly what I mean by the 'quiche cafe'. (Also memorable for its giant replica of a zebra.) I ate my slice of chicken, coconut and ginger quiche surreptitiously while Bid went off for a smoke, knowing that he considered anything other than Quiche Lorraine to be a complete travesty.


In what seemed like no time at all, we were at St Pancras, the main parting of the ways, though John and I headed off together to Euston, and stopped for a quick al fresco pint (or G & T in my own case) before it was time for me to catch my train. I would see him and the rest of the band the following Friday in Manchester, so the leaving wasn't as much of a wrench as it might otherwise been. I hopped off the train in Stafford at 10.30pm and went straight to my friend Gillie's 60th birthday party! It was the perfect way to 'come down' from the excitement of the trip, and help me reconnect with my normal life and the great bunch of friends I have in my home town. But would I go on tour again if I was invited? In a heartbeat! Though I would try to remember to cleanse AND tone next time...

Sign in the ladies' toilets at the Hannover venue
NB A number of readers have pointed out the lamentable lack of Spargel in most of these posts. To which I can only say that the punning opportunity with the new CD's title 'Spaces Everywhere' was irresistible. There again, you could argue that this is entirely consistent with the theme of the album, namely that there are spaces everywhere where Spargel ought to be. Be that as it may, I am sorry if any diehard asparagus lovers - like Andy with his foiled pig excursion - felt shortchanged, and will close this series of travelogues with a picture of that noble yet elusive vegetable.

Source: Caspian Blue via Wikimedia Commons

PS Oh, and here is a link to Alaska's company, Pop und die Welt. If anyone reading needs a driver / sound engineer for their tour, he's your man!