Friday, 22 July 2016

Premium Melon Chameleon: Hermès Muguet Porcelaine review

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


Jean-Claude Ellena's village of Cabris

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


Source: zeppy.io

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


Source: Hermès

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

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


Source: The Fragrance Shop


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

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

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

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

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

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





Friday, 15 July 2016

Busted!

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

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

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

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




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

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

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


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


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

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




Sunday, 10 July 2016

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

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

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

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


Flecky Flora Bella


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

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


Source: fragrantica.com


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

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

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

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


Source: fragrantica.com



Have you ever observed any floating detritus in a perfume? 

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


Saturday, 2 July 2016

The Scent Crimes Series: No 15 - The infuriating shape sorting puzzle that is Cuir de Lancôme packaging

It's been a while since the last instalment of The Scent Crimes Series. Looking back through my archives, I had a massive flurry in the early years of Bonkers, before the posts became much more sporadic. For no good reason though, as I am still as irritated by things in the fumisphere as much as ever I was, if not more so, haha. This and the next post in the series were directly inspired by my recent perfume bottle sale, as part of which I decided to save underbed storage space by reuniting bottles with their boxes (where I had them) - both the ones I was selling and those that stayed behind.

One of these was the very wonderful Cuir de Lancôme - the only scent of which I have a back up bottle. Um...except Lidl Suddenly Madame Glamour, that is, which I am sure must be a mistake. One bottle is quite enough to meet my Coco Mademoiselle Doppelgänger needs. Anyone want the other one? BNIB for £4 plus postage!

Yes, Cuir de Lancôme is an unctuously sumptuous leather scent, one I find sufficiently bewitching to warrant my being bothered to give it its circumflex, so go figure. But I only rate the perfume, mind, and categorically not the box. The bottle top is also a bone of contention, and I have had a moan before about its woeful wobbliness, and inability to screw tightly, or snap shut, or remotely achieve hermetic closure in any way whatsoever.

But it is the box itself for which I reserve my greatest opprobrium - or the maddening shape sorting puzzle apology for one. For anybody not familiar with the Cuir de Lancôme packaging, it comes in two parts - three if you include the cute yet ultimately annoying concertina product leaflet, that is shaped like the bottle and vaguely reminiscent to readers of a certain age of paper dollies.

The box itself consists of a plinth and a cover, which has a cut out recess in the inside to accommodate 'Mr Weeble Top', as he shall henceforth be known, while the plinth has two cut out recesses - one to accommodate the base of the bottle and one to house the foldy-out leaflet. Once opened to its full extent, the leaflet seems to gain a mm or two in the process, and proves a tad tricky to slot back into the slit.



However, this fiddly procedure pales into insignificance compared with the Herculean task of inserting the bottle in the plinth recess, while simultaneously ensuring that Mr Weeble Top goes into the one in the 'roof' of the box. It is not unlike those fights we have all had inserting toilet rolls into toilet roll holders with a spring mechanism. Or batteries into devices, if you are one of those people who are career dodgers of toilet roll changeovers. No sooner do you get one end in when the other one promptly pops out.

Not only this, but the recess in the top of the box is nearer to one side than the other, ditto the one in the plinth for the bottle base. So you have to take care to put the box on facing the right way round, which isn't necessarily immediately obvious to anyone like me with less than optimal spatial awareness.




And I bet that if we all totted up the collective minutes we have spent trying to return our Cuir de Lancôme bottles to their boxes, we'd have enough time to exfoliate or make our own pesto or read the Sunday supplements. Or take up artisanal pencil sharpening (cue the most entertaining and informative nine minutes I've spent in a long time)...or stuff a mushroom, even.

Yes, Cuir de Lancôme may be one of the finest leather scents out there, but the packaging designers most certainly deserve 'a taste of the cat'. And I don't mean Truffle!

What are your pet packaging peeves? Do share in the comments!




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 [SOLD]






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. ;)