Thursday, 19 December 2013

Histoires de Parfums Tuberose 1, the Capricieuse

Sometimes I think it would be great if our political leaders would have the bynames of old. While they are all undoubtedly hoping for being labelled the newest reincarnation of  "The Great", or "The Magnificent", it's far more likely that history and the Internet will judge them as "The Incompetent" or "The Fence sitter". Mocking people for their physical features is not very P.C., but names like "The Bald" or "The Hunchback" always striked me as rather flattering in their unimaginative directness. If you did nothing noteworthy you probably did well, because there is an abundance of kings and emperors whose actions deserved them labels such as "The Bloodthirsty" and "The Impaler", or simply "The Mad". 
Unsurprisingly, you can also find dozens of "The Good", "The Wise" and several "Holy" ones, demonstrating quite nicely that spin doctoring wasn't invented by the Labour Party in the 90's. By now you probably wonder why I am bothering you with all this history stuff. It will lead to the perfume eventually, promised. My top three royal nicknames are:

Unfortunately I couldn't find a "The Capricious". That would have been really handy. I'm sure there have been plenty of men and women of influence whose unpredictability and impulsive nature qualified them for such a by-name. It's a description mostly reserved for women, in that slightly patronising :"What goes on in her little head ..." way, but it works formidably for Histoires de Parfums Tuberose No.1 "The Capricieuse".
Histoires de Parfum, a French niche house, have created a fragrance library based on historical events and characters, with perfumes like 1804, George Sand, 1725, Casanova and their newest, 1899, Ernest Hemingway. They have, however, derived from the year/person pattern a few times and in 2010 they've created a trilogy of tuberose scents, named No.1 Capricieuse, No.2 Virginal and No.3 Animale. Tuberose is not very high on  the list of notes I  like and therefore I would normally not pick a scent that is especially dedicated to it, but I am a big fan of Iris.  So when I read on various blogs that this perfume is more of an Iris with a mere hint of tuberose, I ordered a sample. 

My interpretation of Tuberse No 1, The Capricieuse

One could argue that the nickname is already justified by the fact that what's written on the bottle is mischievously misleading, and if you are a fan of tuberose that might very well be the case. For me it is capricious in more than one way. It hits me with that iris note, quite powdery and rooty, a bit sweet, a bit dry. And then it makes a jump, or the olfactory equivalent of one, and it's suddenly stripped of all its melancholy elegance and smiles at me like a tooth gapped, x-legged 13 year old girl wearing a polka dot dress. I have no idea why, or how, but that is what it does to me. It then changes quickly back to the violet powdered lady in the purple velvet gown. And this little magical trick continues as long as the scent lasts. Back and forth, back and forth. In terms of colour it has to be a red bordering on purple against bright pink, and those colours come with their own special textures. The suede/velvet for the purply red and a shiny plastic for the pink. When I wear it I feel slightly giddy, in a good way. It does something to my mind, pokes me when I had just forgotten that I wear it. This is the essence of capriciousness, with a capital C. And that doesn't make it an everyday perfume, but it's a delicious and strong minded little thing, this "Non Tuberose" and a fantastic addition to my perfume collection. I also have to applaud HdP here for their 50 ml bottle and moderate price policy. Not universally done in the niche world. 

How and where to wear:  
For the days when your outfit doesn't "match" and the colours are "clashing". The only pair of tights you have found in the morning has a ladder (female version) or your tie has a big marmite stain (male version) and your hair could do with a hat. 
Do you care? Not a lot. 

Monday, 9 December 2013

4711, the gift that kept on giving

The run up to Christmas: the busiest time of the year for the fragrance industry. What exactly is it that makes us reaching for nice smelling things as presents for loved ones and not so loved ones in equal and enormous quantities? Is it the lack of fragrant flowers and plants during the winter? (works only in the Northern hemisphere...) Are perfumes and soaps just conveniently universal and independent of tricky matters like clothes sizes? Is it the way the bottles and boxes look luxurious and presentable? Can it be that many perfume get bought simply because they are usually located at the ground floor of massive department stores, close to the entrance, making it easy to get in, buy and get out in less than 5 minutes? Perfumes certainly make very good last minute presents, and I did read in an article not long ago that it's not uncommon for panic stricken husbands to buy entire perfume ranges because they have forgotten the name of their wives' favourite perfume. In these cases I wish that the wive wears a Roja Dove or Bond No.9 to make that lack of attention and respect at least painfully expensive. I wonder what the women who get gifted in that way do with the unwanted scents. Ebay? The Tory party's xmas raffle?

I certainly know what happened to Undesirables in our family. They went into the Christmas tombola held by my parent's local choir. Every year at the beginning of December choir members and local shopkeepers would drop packages and gift vouchers at our house. My mum would then pack them up nicely and sometimes make gift bundles if the objects in question were just too embarrassingly cheap. For that reason we had a very good idea of what horrors were lurking behind the shimmery paper and lovely ribbons when all the boxes were laid out at the table reading for the new owners with the lucky numbers. It was a 4711 gift set that we aptly named the Wanderpokal, because it got donated again and again and again, over years and years without exception. We knew it was the always the same one because of a characteristic scratch mark on the box. 
In my youth 4711 Eau de Cologne was a regarded as a traditional cheap smelling scent that could be found in every German household, collecting dust on the bathroom shelf. For me it never registered as a fragrance that should and could be worn, more like a medicinal all round "thing" that grandmothers would spray on a handkerchief and dab on their temples when they felt a bit faint and nauseous. Why that vile smelling stuff would be any good in these instances I never understood. But some things , like spinach, just need time to get appreciated.

My interpretation of 4711 Eau de Cologne

Fast forward some 20 odd years, the house of 4711 had undergone a miraculous transformation. Like other weird and old fashioned icons of Germanity, the herb liqueur Jaegermeister for example, the brand had started to regain a certain cult status and sales had started to rise accordingly. It was then that I took my first unbiased sniff. And surprise, surprise, I actually liked it. The freshness was not as medicinal as I remembered and all in all it was nicely balanced and totally wearable. An orange, bergamot and lemon layer over a floral, and slightly woody base. It's not only not offensive, it actually does give you a wake me up moment, so my grandmothers had a point with their fragrant handkerchiefs. It's also a good dupe for Tom Ford's Neroli Portofino
I smell clean and proper when I wear it and that's usually not something I aim for when reaching for a perfume, but there are moments when this scent is just right. It's a bit like a watercolour, sparkly and transparent, but with a solid geometrical structure. I haven't tried to layer it with something else and have the feeling that might go horribly wrong, but if any of you have done so with success, let me know. These days a 4711 gift set would not get re-wrapped and thrown into the next tombola. I'd rather keep it for myself.

How and where to wear:

Walk the walk of shame with an air of innocence (but still have that shower...)