Sunday, 14 August 2011


Another girly post. Look away now if you prefer reading about hunting bears or whatever it is you boys do.

It is a sad legacy of smoking on and off since I was 13 that I now have a rubbish sense of smell and an insensitive palate.

I wish I had a better sense of smell because I really love perfume. Not much of a makeup person but nothing in the world makes you feel better than smelling gorgeous. I can't post on it much because I lack the knowledge and the descriptive skills, but I will give you a quick history of my favourites and invite you to share yours below.

Scents & sensibility...

1. Chloe - this was my big sister's. I didn't dare spray it on because she would have known instantly and beat me up, but when she was out would sneak into her room and open the bottle for a quick hit (whilst listening to her Doors albums & disco 12 inches no doubt). I think it was sweet and girly but at the time seemed highly sophisticated.

2. Body Shop, Roma. We all bought Body Shop perfume, because it was cheap and accessible (not like the scary makeup counters in department stores.) The Body Shop perfumes were often single note ones that made you smell like something to eat - vanilla, say.

Roma was my first experience of opening a bottle of perfume and having it speak your name. The others smell nice, yes, but this one is yours, it is made for you. It came in a little round pretend glass bottle and the lid had a kind of stick attached for you to apply it. It was a bit sticky and uncomfortable not to spray it, but we didn't know any better. Now discontinued, I believe.

3. Dioressence - Christian Dior
A present from my stepmother coming back from a trip abroad. Everybody liked to sniff me when I was wearing this, it is a dirty naughty Chypre and gave me lots of confidence when I was an awkward teen. I wore it til the bottle was empty but didn't clock that it might have enhanced my pulling chances & was worth investing in another. In fact I might get one RIGHT NOW.

4. Jean Paul Gaultier - Classique
This came out when we were at college and everyone fell in love with it, which meant that we all went around smelling of the same perfume. We'd moved on from the Body Shop. This was a step up, it was sexy and womanly but not so strong it would scare the horses (or the boys.) Before it became synonymous with Essex Girls with BIG HAIR, it enjoyed a vogue amongst the students who weren't immersing themselves in patchouli oil from the health food shop.

5. Pampelune Guerlain
I tell you something, you can't go wrong with Guerlain. Proper French perfume, no synthetic plastic crap. They only bring new ones out occasionally, because their quality control is more important than keeping up with fashion trends and quick sales. I found it when I moved to Spain and it still reminds me of Barcelona now. It has flavours of grapefruit, orange and (I was ashamed to find out) patchouli. I'm just a hippy there's no escaping it.

6. Angela Flanders Earl Grey
Angela Flanders has a beautiful little shop in Columbia Road market, only open on Sundays, but you can order her perfumes online. She is self taught, I think her story is fascinating. This is my current flame. It is another Chypre, as I get older I like that dryness more than sweet or flowery perfumes.

7. I'm not telling you. You have to guess.


  1. One of the annoying things about perfume is that increasingly, they get reformulated. Chloe today is completely different to the one your sister would have worn. No relation even. Dioressence has been toned down a bit but is still recognisable. You might want to trawl ebay for a vintage bottle if you want the original hit (and yes, veeerrrry sexy).

    You need to give us a clue about 7, surely?

    My favourites are:
    1) Diptyque Philosykos - figgy sunshine goodness in a bottle. The only fragrance I've ever had compliments on.
    2) Caron Alpona. Hard to find. Dates from the 1940s and makes me think of rolling in marmalade while wearing a fur coat.
    3) Guerlain Mitsouko - applied very faintly in the pre-reformulation parfum concentration, although the modern version isn't bad at all. Too much of this one is definitely too much. My devotion wavered slightly when I learnt that it was Thatcher's signature fragrance but I rallied.
    4) Le Labo Vanille 44. The only vanilla I can wear. Smoky and amazing.
    5) Andy Tauer L'Air du Desert Marocain - dry, ambery and sweet. Lasts on the skin for over 24 hours. Amazing.

  2. Yes, I'm starting to understand that - looking up Dioressence I found some very cross people talking about the new formulation. (Also I found according to one blogger the Body Shop Roma was a copy of YSL's Paris.) How does the perfume stay fresh if it's vintage? I always thought it went off,or is that just if it's open?

    My friend had Philosykos, it is delicious.

    I dragged my family around Fortnum & Mason's recently, they stock Caron (though I don't know if they have this one.) My nephew liked a Caron scent - rah! but it was a bit pricey for a 13 year old.

    I love the glamour of the early Guerlain perfumes - in Angela Carter's Wise Children, her identical twin chorus girls use Mitsouko and Shalimar to distinguish themselves from each other (and to play tricks on their lovers.)

    I don't know these last two, they sound amazing. I think it's the esoteric nature of perfume that is appealing, it's like being on the hunt and tracking down something secret...

    A clue, it's a less well-known quite recent Dior.

  3. Look at this! I want to go...

  4. Perfume can stay good for years if stored in a cool dark environment. Keep them in their boxes, however pretty the bottles. Even if you do buy a vintage one that is slightly off it's normally only the top notes that change and Dioressence isn't really about the top notes. I've bought stuff on ebay dating from the 50s that is still wearable.

    One of the Escale a fragrances? Or Dune?

    That event looks so much fun.

  5. Oh noes. I will stop throwing the boxes away then.

    Blimey, you are good! It is one of the Escale ones, I'd never seen it before, saw it in the airport in Berlin, thought it was rare... But now I've just seen it in Boots, doh.

    Well they are on monthly on a Tuesday, if you are ever in town again let me know.

  6. Will do, although it's unlikely to be before December.

    The Escale bottles are so pretty! I have Portofino and like it very much indeed. In Boots is good - means you can replace it using points when the time comes.

    Incidentally, there's a great selection of interesting fragrances in Anthropologie - I think my next purchase will be from there - Belle de Soir.

  7. Portofino, that's the one! It's the smell of summer.

    I didn't know Anthropologie did perfume. You are a bad influence.

  8. It's on the top floor, towards the front of the store.

  9. I think every girl at my school stank of Body Shop dewberry for a while - White Musk for the adventurous. I moved on to Loulou purely because of Louise Brooks, and then Body Shop Vanilla (I have a weakness for smelling like a cake).
    Two lady friends bought my Coco Mademoiselle for cat sitting, and I wore and loved that for ages. Currently I'm back with Body Shop Vanilla (if you read the Story of V by Catherine Blackledge this choice makes more sense).
    I did once get sniffed by a perfume nose who told me that my personal base note was ambergris, and that I should select scent accordingly. Can't remember what he recommended.

  10. And a quick rummage on Wikipedia tells me that ambergris is often paired with vanilla. So does that mean that when I chose vanilla I was instinctively choosing something that complimented my natural scent? Fascinating. I wonder if Coco Mademoiselle is also vanilla/ambergris, and that's why my lady friends (a couple who took perfume very seriously), knew it was right for me.

  11. I remember White Musk, also Loulou - and Anais Anais, which all the girls in our year pronounced 'Anus Anus'. I do love Chanel too, though I find most of them too va-va-voom for every day. I will read the Story of V. And I remember you telling us about the perfume nose,how fabulous to have one sniff you.

    According to one perfume site "Most commercial perfumes today use a synthetic substitute, because the real thing is so expensive. Dioressence used to use real ambergris back in the day. Eau de Merveilles by Hermes is suppossedly one of the few that contain some raw ambergris , which is usually used in tincture form in perfumery due to its sheer potency. Creed is also insisting that they use real ambergris in their perfumes.'

  12. It has tonka bean, which is vanilla...

  13. If you want to waste hours of time, check out the advanced search on the fragrance directory. You can type in 'vanilla' and it will find them for you.

  14. If you want to get a good feeling for what ambergris smells like, check out L'Air de Rien by Miller Harris.

  15. Ooh, L'Air de Rien is next on my wishlist. I find it really subtle but addictive.

    According to Katie Puckrik it is foul though, interesting how differently people can perceive scents.

  16. I'm with Katie on this one - smells like dirty feet on me.