Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Burn, Barbershop. Burn.

Perfume names are - at best - a subtle suggestion of what the scent inside has to offer, but in general the name is just another marketing tool. It is therefore really refreshing to find a perfume house that labels its bottles in a does exactly what it says on the tin manner with a humourous twist. 
Meet Burning Barbershop by D.S. & Durga:

My visualisation of Burning Barbershop by D.S. & Durga

If you ever wondered how it would smell if you set fire to the old school barbershop around the corner, now you have the answer. BB is a spearmint shaving cream brûlée that has been torched too long. And that is a good thing. A very good thing. Modern, unique, urban, old fashioned, clever. Verging on the masculine side, but getting softer after a few hours. Given notes are spearmint, lime, spruce and lavender followed by rose, vanilla, burnt oil and hay. Brilliant. 

How and where to wear:
This separates the men from the boys, and that goes for all genders,  make sure you have the confidence to pull it off.

Monday, 30 November 2015

Perfume and Colour

Last week I was invited to host an evening of Perfume and Colour for the  Perfume Lovers London meet up group and the lovely Tara has written a guest blogpost at Undina's Looking Glass.
I have to say, that after a moment of panic a few minutes before the event, I enjoyed myself and loved talking about colour, art and perfumes, and I'm grateful for the opportunity. You can read about it here:

and see a few more photos of the evening here:

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Frau Tonis aus Berlin

The things we buy on holidays!!
Over the years I have collected a few weird and questionable items whilst being brainwashed by sun, beautiful beaches, vibrant colours looking good on other people and drinks that tasted really great at the time. I did read somewhere that after about 7 days of holiday your brain sort of goes into relax-mode and even the simplest task, like doing the maths and convert the currency correctly, can become too much of an effort. I am not overly guilty of buying anything really daft...

"Oh, look! A hand knitted Minion in pink!!!
Can I have it?!"

... but of course the perfume and beauty aisles and shops in far away places are difficult to resist. We are just back from a trip to Japan where I bought a few skin care products that I have still to figure out what they're for. As convenient it is to be able to buy (almost) everything online, nothing beats browsing around and finding something beautiful to take home. And if it's a bit tacky and touristy - so what? Which brings me to:

My visual for Frau Tonis Violet

Frau Tonis perfumes. Based in a shop conveniently close to the famous Checkpoint Charlie, it is mentioned in about any guide book that prises itself on being up to date with the local lifestyle. The range is pretty impressive, may be too impressive actually, and they offer mini sets with a bit of local folklore. There's an Eau de Berlin, a Linden based perfume and... the one that I ended up buying: a Violet that claims in a very wishy washy way to be Marlene Dietrich's favourite scent. 

Is it tourist tacky? Yes, it is a bit, but that doesn't prevent me from wearing it from time. It's a very sweet powdery violet with a lot of raspberry and a kick of a bit spice/pepper on a base of hairspray. It's not the world most refined scent, and very likely entirely synthetic, but it smells nice. Juicy pink, light purple and grey. Bright, but not without a hint of elegance. The violet feels, despite the sweetness, rather modern and urban. Uncomplicated, pretty, doesn't cost an arm an a leg. What's not to like? I bought it because I really wanted to bring back a bit of Berliner Luft with me, and I don't regret this souvenir purchase at all. I could have done much worse and end up with a Berlin bear in drag.

How and where to wear:
Channel your inner Barbie

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Love Exposure

It's difficult to judge a perfume that's based on a movie you haven't seen. It's also difficult to ignore that backstory if the movie is labelled "notorious". A four hour tour de farce of religion, lust, teenage angst and pop culture isn't exactly Cinderella and while my knowledge just stems from a few youtube trailers, it's probably fair to say that a perfume based on that comes with a few expectations. Mark Buxton isn't the Disney type of perfumers either, so that only adds to it.

So when I did start smelling Love Exposure, I was slightly surprised. What a delicate Magnolia! Light, a bit bitter-creamy, and very, very wet. 

My visual interpretation of Love Exposure by Mark Buxton

I am pretty sure that without knowing anything about the film, my perception and the visual for the scent would be somewhat different - brighter, lighter and more innocent- but it's impossible to revert myself back to not-knowing. Yes, there is certainly an edge to the fragrance, it has an urban feel and there is this spicy incense and amber base, but how much of that impression really comes from the scent...? Having said that, I really, really like it. To the extend that I would consider a bottle. (All the fragrances in Mark Buxton's new cinema inspired La Folie a Plusiers range come in 12ml quantities) I am also very intrigued to watch the movie now, and will go and hunt for it on amazon. I had great pleasure creating the image, and wanted to capture the delicacy, wetness and urban style of the perfume in colours that evoke the wet petals of magnolia trees in dirty rain.

How and where to wear:
Rainy Sunday afternoon, watching the teardrops on the window

Wednesday, 12 August 2015


A few months back I declared Absolue Pour le Soir the kinkiest scent around. It still might be the kinkiest, but it's not the sexiest anymore. Not since the creation of Salome by Papillon Perfumes. This is the ultimate olfactory celebration of female sexuality. Mysterious, dangerous, bloody, sweaty and voluptuous. Daring. Addictive. Wonderful.

My visual interpretation of Salome by Papillon Artisan Perfumes

How and where to wear:

Friday, 24 July 2015


A lovely gesture. That's exactly what it is. A pillow of violets on a bed of pine. Intimate and soft, but intriguing. Very modern in feel and gender free. Really beautifully done. 

My visual interpretation of Geste, by Humiecki & Graef

How and where to wear:
The perfect first date scent for an introvert

Saturday, 20 June 2015

A comparison of colours - Shalimar, Musc Ravageur and Meharees

I have recently discovered that I do have a desert island perfume, one that I could probably wear forever if I had to make that choice. And despite the fact that this revelation is a relatively recent one I don't think it's going to be short-lived. A bit like finding the person you want to spend the rest of your life with. OK, not that life changing, I admit, but exciting and quite a surprise. The perfume in question is Musc Ravageur, by Edition Fredric Malle, and I hope that I never fall out of love with it. Bought on the spot after sniffing it for the first time, it gives me everything I want in perfume. It makes me feel all comforted and warm, illuminates me, gives me a posture and makes me smile. It's luxury, filth and self confidence in a bottle.

It been said, that when Maurice Roucel created it he wanted to pay homage to Guerlain's grand old dame Shalimar, and I can absolutely see that. Musc plays on the same themes without ever trying to copy. Needless to say that I love Shalimar as well and the idea to compare those two visually was very tempting. But there is another fragrance out there that will make an excellent comparison companion - L'Erbolario's Meharees. At a fraction of the price of Musc Ravageur, this offering from the Italian natural beauty company is considered as an extraordinary dupe. But is it really? I will try to compare these three by using my visual imagination. Let's start with the predominant colours. For me these are warm, golden yellow, rose, orange and earthy ochre. 

Another aspect that all three fragrances share is their softness. Don't get me wrong, they are powerful perfumes and make the statements they want to make, but they do so without too many sharp angles and coarse textures. To make it easier to compare them I chose a similar way of 'painting' for all three, with lots of layering and over lapping gradients.

They seem pretty similar so close together, don't they? But even in the scaled down versions you can see that the openings and dry downs are decidedly different. Shalimar is the only one which bursts in citruses, and it also has a stronger floral heart. Musc Ravageur is edgier, dirtier than the other two, here represented by the ochre at the top and bottom of the image. and Meharees is the most linear of the three. Let's look at them in detail:

My visualisation of Shalimar

The initial citrus already sets the tone. Fresh, but never clean, Shalimar from then on makes one of those long journeys we often associate with old school  perfumes. It goes and flows from yellow to orange to amber to pink to purple to brown. A powdery floral heart is kept from being overly pretty by strong bodied animalic side kicks and in the last stages it develops the wonderful Guerlinade mix of vanilla, resins and incense. Shalimar is a beautiful lady and I couldn't care less about her age. 

My visualisation of Musc Ravageur

Musc Ravager doesn't really bother with much of a top note. It is, basically from the start, a dirty little number. The animalic aspect is stronger than in Shalimar, and there is a slight edge to it. Instead of florals it has a handful of spice, but how they toned down by musk is similar to the effect Guerlain used on Shalimar's floral notes. It is dirtier and obviously a modern creation. Urban, if you like. To illustrate that I have used a few sharp lines and 'furry' brush strokes. I've already mentioned that I love it and I find it has just the right level of silage. Won't get unnoticed, but doesn't harm the sensitive types. 

My visualisation of Meharees

Now Meharees did really surprise me. It is, to a certain degree, a perfect dupe of Musc Ravageur. The opening is softer and much sweeter, but after half an hour it stays were it is and it stays there long. I find Meharees a bit  grating in the end. It simply doesn't do much. What is does is nice enough, don't get me wrong, but it doesn't excite me. Some reviewers find it more palatable than MR, and that is certainly the case, but it is a bit flat. If you're looking for a sweet and spicy amber that doesn't break the bank it's an excellent choice. It has far less in common with Shalimar and it wouldn't have occurred to me to put the two together in one post, but Musc Ravageur adds as the missing link here. All three are lovely orientals, I just happen to love the dirtiest of the trio. 

I hope you did enjoy this little comparison post, it was an interesting experiment for me, not least because I created the images with a new application. Anyone who needs or likes to use Photoshop and Illustrator but is frustrated by Adobe's subscription only policy, have a look at Affinity Design and Affinity Photo (currently in beta). I am well impressed by them. 

Wednesday, 13 May 2015


Tomorrow is the night of the Fragrance Foundation Awards, and what better opportunity to post about one of this years' finalists: Angelique, by Papillon Artisan Perfumes. Liz Moores is not only a great perfumer, but also a really wonderful woman and I'll keep all my fingers crossed for her tomorrow. Given that she managed to get all her three creations in the final round, it would be a small miracle not to see her on the stage. Go, Liz!

My visualisation for Angelique, by Papillon Artisan Perfumes

Angelique is a sparkling, melancholic and luxurious iris. It is both elegant and modern, timeless would be the best description. What I enjoy most is the really sheer beginning, where everything is in place but waiting to play its part. It never overpowers, and more importantly, never overpowders neither, as it can happen with irises sometimes. Incredibly feminine, this is a satiny glowing ripple on slightly powdered skin. 
Absolutely beautiful and a must have if you love your iris. 

How and where to wear:

Iris and early evenings belong together. 
A cocktail dress and a cocktail glass will do nicely

Monday, 4 May 2015

Perfume shopping in Frankfurt

"Off to somewhere nice?" asked the ueber cheerful sales assistant behind the Boots counter at London City airport. "Frankfurt", I replied, marginally less cheerful because  7 o' clock in the morning is not my time.  "Ah..., OK" he muttered with a traceable slight of pity in his voice. "Hope you have a nice day anyway." 
This brief encounter sums up my hometown's image problem quite nicely. Considered nothing more than a necessary business trip location, it doesn't have Berlin's cool or Hamburg's elegance, isn't conveniently close to Italy like Munich, and its only claim to fame is the European Central bank and questionable sausages. *

But of course, I have to differ. Frankfurt is, despite its skyline, a very human sized and pleasant to live in city. Much smaller than most visitors anticipate, it has a village feel with added skyscrapers. It boasts tradition in an ironic way, knowing full well about its lack of picture perfect. A bad image can be a very liberating thing, and Frankfurt has made the most of it during the decades I lived in it or nearby. When homesickness strikes, it's the local cider pubs (Apfelweinkneipen) and the easy going summer evenings on the greens near the riverbank that I miss the most. So, if  for some reason you find yourself in Frankfurt and you don't know what to do with all the museums, the best opera house and the largest botanical garden in the country, the bars, the theatres, the timber framed cuteness of Bornheim and the grandeur of the Westend, the splendid cathedral and all the tragic history of a 1200 year old German city there is always: Perfume!

Parfuemerie Albrecht was founded in 1732 as a 'drugstore', selling all kinds of ointments and tinctures to the people of Frankfurt. It's now in the good hands of the Albrecht family and has three stores dotted around the inner city. One in the elegant Goethestrasse, one just across the road in the "Fressgass" (this one also has a beauty institute) and the latest one in the 'MyZeil' shopping gallery. The latter is the biggest and more modern in feel and decor, paying tribute to the rather different customer base. 

In all the shops you will find an impressive range of niche perfumes plus skincare and make up from brands like Chanel and Co. This mixture of niche and high end main stream is relatively unique in the perfume world, and can sometimes lead to customer confusion as to why they do have Chanel lipsticks but not the perfumes. I met David Albrecht in his Goethestrasse shop and he very kindly took his time to chat about perfume and perfume shopping in Frankfurt. He explained that his parents believed in niche perfumes from its very beginnings and took the risk to change their stock accordingly. Over the last 20 years the perfumery grew and with it its customer base. Frankfurt might be small, but it's the financial hub of Europe and with it comes an international clientele that isn't all that different from shoppers in London or Dubai. Tourists also make up a high percent of perfume shoppers. Herr Albrecht couldn't give the exact number of brands they have on offer, but it is pretty impressive, especially in the MyZeil shop, where space really isn't an issue. If you're coming from the UK you will be happy to find Ramon Monegal, Profumum Roma, Santa Maria Novella and German brands like F.J.Schwarzlose and Nasengold. There is also F.Malle, Byredo, Etat libre, Dyptique, Amouage, Etro, Lubin, SoOud, Lutens, Ormonde Jayne, Creed, Caron, MMK, CdG, Knize, Patou, Isabey, Lalique, Friedemonin, Clive Christian, Kilian etc etc. 

On top of that, the Parfumerie has created a Frankfurt inspired range  of scents which I sampled only briefly and will keep for my next home visit. The Albrechts also organise smell inspired events throughout the year, a lecture and discussion about how pregnancy can change your sense of smell and perception of perfumes sounds particularly interesting, although I'm nowhere near pregnant myself. 

You can always sense when you meet someone who is genuinely passionate about perfume and not just selling it, and David Albrecht (his favourite scent is Philosykos) and his family certainly fall firmly within the first group. In terms of preference, I like the myZeil shop because you can wander around forever and sniff here and there (you will be asked if you need assistance, but it's not a problem at all if you prefer to be left alone). The Goethestrasse in contrast is more intimate and cosy, but wherever you go - the sales staff is charming and knowledgeable. All shops are just a few minutes walk apart and there are plenty of cafes and eateries along the way. So, if you happen to have urgent business in my hometown, take a stroll and have a sniff. 

* I can get incredibly agitated about proper Frankfurters, which I assume most of my readers never ever tasted. It is sad that the city lost the fight for a PDO against American fast food chains. Whatever they sell you in those hot dogs: It's not the real thing! 

Friday, 3 April 2015

A Shropshire Lad with added scents

As I have mentioned in my post about the Gorilla perfume exhibition, I have a "thing" about interdisciplinary co-operations. The creative impact of two or more different concepts/ideas/fields of expertise coming together can be incredibly inspiring. In a way it's what I do with this blog, but that is still a very solitary affair. (apart from your comments, of course) So when my friend and neighbour Jeni Toksvig asked me to take part in a theatrical production I was both massively thrilled and silently scared. Jeni is a musical writer, director, lecturer, fasciliator of wonderful things. A world that I know next to nothing about. In true creative passion Jeni often sees connection where others don't, and she wanted me to bring "smell" to her latest theatrical adventure: AE.Housman's poem collection "A Shropshire Lad" put in a song and dance structure by Niall Ashdown. The poems, first published in 1896 "struck a chord with readers most pointedly as the events of World War One became known. It is said that many a soldier in the trenches carried a copy of Housman's poetry with them as they waited.*

The concept of the dramatisation is to allow and encourage audience participation and community involvement, both in setting up the stage and during the play. Factual information about the war combined with personal stories about emotional experiences of loss, farewell and home are going to be shared throughout the event. As I am usually terrified when I get asked to participate on any stage I wasn't sure how much this open structure aspect of the show would work for me, but I could see that a community involvement could add another dimension once the show will go on tour. My job was supposed to be that of a responder, someone who comes and observes the workshop and adds something from their own field of creativity. Jeni gave me total freedom how to respond, it only had to relate to smell in some way. 
The journey of the Shropshire Lad begins in an ideal English countryside in spring, with country fair and love and dance and carries on to the bitter farewells, all the way to the terror of the trenches and the loss of the lives of young men. My idea was to capture the smell of those events and the emotions involved in little bottles. I am of course not a professional perfumer, and I have no intention of becoming one, so after reading the script for the Shropshire Lad I got working on the idea of translating key elements of the story and my general associations with WWI into smell with all the things I had at hand.

Some were easier than others. The seasons, for example, could be found in many perfume creations. I chose Lolita Lempicka for 'Spring', Une Rose by Frederic Malle for 'Summer', Patchouli 24 for 'Autumn' and Serge Lutens L'Orpheline for 'Winter'. I found a 'Hero' in Parfumerie Generale's L'Eau Guerriere and 'Bodily Fluids' in +MA by the aptly named Blood Concept. 'Melancholy' was the lovely Angelique by Papillon Perfumes, and 'Healing' was provided by Thyme Sacre by Parfumes de Saintete. But apart from proper perfumes I looked for other, less complex sources of scent that would work for the narrative.   'Wounded' was TCP, 'Courage' a good glug of Whisky. I wanted to have a 'Hell' and had bought some sulphur powder for that, but should have known that it doesn't actually smell all that much. Anyway, it was fun. A few essential oils also came into play and Mael's Whisky aroma testing box proved very resourceful with notes like 'Decay', 'Cut Grass', 'Earthy' and 'Smoky'. For the rehearsal I had decided on presenting the scents in small medicine bottles and only offer to spray on blotters and people's skin if they wanted. The smell of 'Decay' for example isn't something you want to linger. 
I was slightly nervous as to how my little display would be perceived, but I needn't have worried. Everyone tucked in and opened bottles happily, sniffing, recoiling, smiling, all chatting to each other and being very engaged. Smell does that to people. Comparable to music in that it opens some channels in a very spontaneous and unfiltered way. 

I then had the opportunity to listen to the songs and see the acting for the first time and it really moved me. Even in that rather uninspiring hall the power of the music and the play was incredible. Niall has found melodies that are simple and evocative in the best possible way. (He is also responsible for some strong ear worms I keep getting). And actors are a funny crowd. You can see who is an actor right away; there is a presence and awareness that is electrifying, and being so close to see them working their magic was pretty awesome. 

Whenever new people came into the room, audience/family and friends, we encouraged them to try some smells and again the ice breaking qualities of scent were interesting to watch. It would be amazing to have an element of smell for the actual tour of the production. I'm sure it will help the audiences to engage with the story in a playful way. I am absolutely thrilled by the experience and can't wait to do it again. 

And while searching for the image of the book cover, I found that A Shropshire Lad is also the name of a beautiful rose. What a lovely and fragrant coincidence. 

*quote from Niall Ashdown's website

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Liquid Night

I love it when a fragrance house offers the choice of small bottles. My last purchase was a 10 ml travel spray of Musc Ravageur, bought on the spot after wearing it for only a few minutes. I dismiss the pea counters (German for nit pickers)  who keep on telling me that the price per ml is such a bad bargain. I'm not buying a sack of potatoes to feed an army here, I just want to own a piece of something beautiful, and if it's a small piece, so be it. If I love it enough to empty the travel sized one I'm very probably going to buy a bigger amount as a result, and I wish more companies would see the benefit of  'small is beautiful'. Another one that does, albeit  with a very limited distribution, is US based A Lab on Fire, which also adopted a similar editorial style concept to FM. (But who doesn't, these days?)

Liquid Night wasn't an instant love; I had come to the achingly hip Paris department store 
Colette to try A Lab on Fire's "What we do in Paris is secret", but that was sadly out of stock. I liked LN though, and 20 something Euros for a 15 ml bottle was a good enough offer to buy it. I thought. And then it sat on the shelf for months, unloved and collecting dust. I still liked it, in theory, but never got round to wear it. And then suddenly a few weeks ago, I just didn't know what to try...and gave it a go.

Liquid Night, my visualisation

Surprise, surprise: this time I love it. It immediately grabs me with an effortlessly chic aesthetic that is totally wearable but unique enough not to be boring. A creamy saffron note binds dry hinoki woods to aromatics and abstract floral accords and everything dries down to a subtle vanilla. Despite the name, it's actually a rather clear cut fragrance, not sharp, but not floating either. When I created its image I started with very fluid and organic shapes, but after hours working on it and not getting it right I realised what it needed was a very simple geometric structure to emphasise on the contemporary elegance. I took inspiration from neon lights glistening and sparkling on wet asphalt. My colours are very muted, but in principal it's a cold green/warm pink perfume. I find it incredibly suited for this in-between-two-seasons-weather we're having, where spring is on the cards and a few daffs are out, but the wind is still icy and biting enough to wear a big comfy scarf. 

Some reviews complain about the synthetic nature of Liquid Night. I personally couldn't care less. As long as they don't charge me Roja Dove prices for a bottle of ISOE super, I can live with a bit of chemical wizardry in my fragrances. 

How and where to wear:
Not so much a how or where, but with what this time.... my newest fashion find and love is German brand Oska and Liquid Night is a perfect match. A bit of a Japanese influence, urban and edgy, but incredibly comfortable.

Monday, 9 March 2015

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Maai by bogue, pregnant with meaning

I hadn't planned to write about Maai. Highly praised, this recreation of a classical chypre by Italian artisan house bogue appeared in many of the Best of 2014 reviews I had read. From the descriptions and the notes it looked like a winner, and I was fairly disappointed that it didn't work for me. But as I rarely write negative reviews, I simply made a few remarks to perfume friends and moved on to sampling something else. And then a few days ago, while dusting the bookshelf in the bedroom my eyes fell on the Anselm Kiefer catalogue of last year's grandious exhibition at the Royal Academy.

And I then remembered that I had initially intended to use one of his paintings as a starting point for a review about Chypre Palatin by MDCI perfumes. These days I have the memory of a small sized rodent/goldfish/fly so that post never happened, but then a train of associations started and it lead me back to Maai.

But first, let me be a bit tedious and express my thought about Anselm Kiefer: Considered as one of the most important living artists, his ouevre is steeped deeply in German culture/history. His use of Nazi iconography and his, let's say, tendency for the bombast makes him a difficult choice. There are references to the war, mythicism, blood and soil, Wagner, death and decay, and a dark forest or a bleak field are never far away. Many of his paintings have taglines and scribbled notes on them, leaving you under no doubt that here is an artist who has something to say! Bedeutungsschwanger - we call that in German  - pregnant with meaning.

I realise that it seems that I'm not exactly selling him here, but I do actually adore his work. His canvasses are gigantic in size, and often oddly decorative in a graphic/reduced palette sort of way. I feel a resonance and strong sense of connection when I see them in real life. I also feel incredibly German, and I'm unsure what to make of that. The exhibition at London's Royal Academy was eerily beautiful and evocative. But would I want to live with one of his works? Never mind the questions of affordability, practicality and insurance - the answer is: No. His art radiates a heaviness and intensity that I would find troubling and irritating around my personal space.

I would very much prefer to be surrounded by the works of other, less angst ridden Germans, Gerhard Richter and especially Sigmar Polke spring to mind. The latter was given a massive retrospective at Tate Modern at the same time than the Kiefer was on. Polke made fun of the world and himself ( yes, Germans do have a sense of humour...) via his art and although he didn't shy away from difficult subjects, he handled them in a way I find much more palatable.

So all this to tell you why I didn't like a perfume? Well, sort of. When I tried Maai again I   knew it would make an even better match for Kiefer's forests and fields. Composed like a back to front version of Chypre Palatin, this one offers no comfort. The forest it evokes is not a place I'd like to be any time soon. It might lure me in with all this cold freshness but I'm  aware that there is something hidden. A troll, using this particular aftershave to cover his scent before he has me for breakfast. The oakmoss/musc phase lasts forever on my skin and when the perfume eventually develops into something a bit more floral and soft I am almost exhausted. This is intense, retro and BIG perfumery. And like Kiefer's paintings, I very much admire the way it's done. My skin feels just too small to wear it.

For more perfume focused reviews of Maai I point you towards:

And if you want to read up on Anslem Kiefer I recommend this article from the Guardian:

Images in order of appearance: 
Aschenblume, 2004 
Böhmen liegt am Meer, 1995
Parsifal III, 1973
Winterland, 2010

Thursday, 12 February 2015


If you google the words "Ragu recipe" and read everything that comes up at least 4 pages in, you will find yourself puzzled and probably slightly frustrated. While for many of us a ragu, or Italian meat sauce, is the ultimate comfort food, the steps leading to this simple pleasure are slippery, because EVERYONE has an opinion and they all differ. What type of meat, wine, or no wine, red or white, stock or no stock, milk???, passata or puree, how much celery, and how many bloody hours does it need to simmer? 
People swear that theirs is the one and only, handed down from a long line of ancestors since the beginning of the Italian Renaissance, found in barely legible recipe books hidden away from Barbaric hordes during the siege of Rome.... you get the gist. And then there are the modern preachers of innovative cooking, like Heston Blumenthal and his molecular disciples. They ask you to use sous-vides here, and dried ice over there, to pulverise your meat and to explode your toms, just for the fun of it.
Needless to say that in this household we have our own, ultimate version. Developed over a few years, tweaked to perfection. Our perfection, that is. Because the beauty of a ragu is that it makes you feel at home, save and at ease with the world. Whatever is needed to achieve your personal meat sauce heaven is allowed. (Having said that, the idea of putting milk in it is  of course just plain weird!)

Interestingly, not many perfumes actively seek out to smell of savoury dishes. All the gourmand scents I know cater to the sweet toothed amongst us and there is a fair amount of fragrant love for alcoholic beverages, but a scent that smells of cooking is a rare thing, indeed. It therefore takes some guts to call your creation "Italian meat sauce" and Ragu by Gabriella Chieffo, certainly is an unusual scent, not just for the name.

My visual interpretation of Ragu, by Gabriella Chieffo

Ragu opens with a burst of orange and pink pepper. And quite some burst it is. Fresh, tingly and aromatic. And then the perfume seductively asks you if you want some more pepper with it, grinding the mill before you even had a chance to answer. Now it's the black variety - strong, direct, and not taking any prisoners. At this stage the fragrance feels dry, sharp and even a  bit grainy, be aware that if you don't like pepper you will not enjoy this ride. After an hour or so on my skin, other spices come to play, mainly nutmeg and cloves, and their deeper, sweeter aromas give the perfume now a gentler and more feminine touch. It mellows, presenting itself in a different texture now, far creamier, and rounder. I cannot really detect any tomato notes in the perfume, but there is  a fleshier, juicier aspect to this stage of the scent and it more and more feels like a good ragu sauce has just come together. The final phase of the perfume involves leather and woody notes and a slowly simmering solidity takes over the earlier bursts and bubbles. In terms of colour it wasn't easy to pin down, Ragu delights more in its textural aspects, but I've decided to stay with mostly red and earthy hues to emphasise the warmth the fragrance offered me. Nice. Very nice, and more than a bit more-ish. 

How and where to wear:
In the privacy and comfort of your own space.


Wednesday, 4 February 2015

An old couple on holiday: Pomegranate Noir and me

I am just back from 2 weeks in Thailand and the cold weather is really biting. Post holidays blues - here we come... But I won't bother you with Cry me a river tears about feeling the lack of light, warmth and sand, don't worry. Instead, I'm trying to concentrate on the good things about being back in London, and those are: the cats, good friends, and perfume. Not that I didn't bring decants and samples to keep me entertained, far from it, but wearing perfume when it's hot and humid didn't come very high on my daily routine list. While we stayed in the northern city of Chiang Mai with temperatures in the high 20's, pleasant enough and even cooler in the evenings, I did manage to apply perfume and even a bit make up, but over the course of 2 weeks and a location change to the island of Koh Phangan, standards did slip very quickly. When you shower 3 or 4 times a day perfume really isn't all that practical, and in the evening strong DEED overpowered any other scents.

But there is a scent that I have worn on and off during all our trips to Thailand so far and a bottle of it will never be amiss in the suitcase: Jo Malone's Pomegranate Noir. First sniffed and bought before boarding a plane to Bangkok at Heathrow airport, then worn in Chiang Mai (yes, we like the city a bit and go there almost every year) it has become my go to perfume for Thailand. There isn't anything in it that justifies that. No lemongrass, lime, hot tarmac, sticky rice, ylang ylang, fish sauce, sea salt, coconut, orchid, ginger or chili notes. PN has spice and freshness, but they're firmly rooted in the Northern hemisphere. Objectively, that is. For me, it's the fragrance of Thailand simply by association and conditioning and a spritz can transport me back there in an instant. I have never bothered to read up the notes for it, and now I couldn't possibly tell you what it smells of, which is, I suppose,  a bit weird on a blog  about perfume. 
As for the colours: They have to be taken from a holiday snap, of course. 

Thai squid boats representing Pomegranate Noir by Jo Malone

How and where to wear:

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Seven Veils by Byredo

Byredo, the Swedish perfume house was one of the first niche brands I encountered and sampled in full, thanks to the generosity of the Byredo staff at Liberty. I already wrote about M/Mink, which is one of the most daring scents I've ever smelled. Today's candidate is a much more wearable choice. Seven Veils. It bursts open with an abundance of colour and spice - a marvellous ouverture - and then leaves me alone with a rosy heart that's neither here nor there, and falls exhausted onto the cushions as a creamy vanilla.  The sillage is stronger and darker than the smell on skin, a dance of seven veils, indeed. But you won't lose you head over this. A floriental that pretends to be far more dangerous than it actually is. Pretty though...

Seven Veils by Byredo, the picture

How and where to wear:
Belly dance class in North London

Monday, 5 January 2015

Puredistance Black, and other colours

     First things first: Happy New Year. 

I haven't posted anything for a while, a fact for which I can partly blame an over indulgence in all things Christmas and Kuscheligkeit. But my absence from perfume and the blog was also for another, rather different and  unpleasant reason. After trying out a new scent I had developed a severe skin rash. Both arms and hands were covered in itchy little bumps. My skin is always super sensitive in winter, but this was something new and unexpected. And also worrying. Not wanting to risk a full blown perfume allergy, I decided not to try any new fragrances for a while, sprayed any old favourites only sparingly on scarves and clothes, and kept the cortisone creme nearby. I'm glad that it went away and everything seems to be fine now, but I will probably be a bit weary about new perfumes and use less delicate areas of my skin for testing. The last scent I did test (not the one which gave me the rash) and wanted to write about was Puredistance Black, of which I had won a sample from the lovely Vanessa of bonkers about perfume
Puredistance, a Dutch fragrance house, had released the scent in 2013 with some rather unusual marketing. "Do not try to pick out notes and dissect, just emerge and enjoy." Not their exact words, but in essence that was what they wanted us to do. Needless to say, it annoyed a few people. Nobody likes to be told how to enjoy a perfume, me included, but for two reasons this didn't bother me all that much. 1.) It was a gift, 2.) Sometimes I like to create an image for a perfume but can't find an interesting angle for writing about it. Black is one of those perfumes. The idea for the image was there right from the beginning, but I failed when I tried to put it into words. And since it's the New Year, and all things New are allowed: I have decided that image only post are fine from now on. You might see quite a few of those in the future. I also want to introduce something like the Colour of the Day, which might not actually be linked to any perfume but just an image to illustrate my mood and thoughts. This is, after all, a blog about perfume AND colour. 
Today this colour happens to be Black:

My visualisation of Black by Puredistance
The inspiration for the image came from something I learned in primary school many, many years ago: Use waxy crayons and randomly fill your entire page. Then paint a thick layer of black ink top top. Once the ink has dried, use a sharp, pointy tool to draw and scratch away the black layer. The lines will make the underlaying colours appear. Good fun. This simply technique feels like a suitable way to visualise this perfume, which is a bit mysterious, warm and deep. It stays very close to skin and lasts forever. When I scratched at the layer of Black I got sour cherry and whiskey, with a hint of chocolate. (Cheating now, I know...) What you will get might be, no, will be totally different. 

How and where to wear:
Skin scents don't get much deeper than this, surprise those who will get close enough to smell you.