Pia’s (almost) annual perfume tour, 2014 edition

This has become an almost accidental tradition. I helped arrange the first ever Basenotes UK meetup (back in, uhh, 2008? 2009?) and since then, I’ve arranged an annual perfume tour for nose-nerd friends. I’m fortunate to know a lovely bunch of people who not only don’t mind, but positively relish spending the whole day talking about perfume, sniffing them, sniffing each other, and eating delicious things (sometimes all at once). I’ve also got to meet new people because  friends bring other friends. There are usually 8-12 of us and we tend to include a lunch or afternoon tea reservation into the day (somewhere decadent).

4160 Tuesdays before we trashed the place

4160 Tuesdays before we trashed the place

This year our group (Nick, Tara, Irum, Sarah, Ella + my husband Timo until his Arsenal match started + me) started at Sarah McCartney’s 4160 Tuesdays perfume studio and spent a couple of wonderful hours there, sniffing her new releases (absolutely adorable vintage-inspired scents and a completely bonkers bubblegum-ice cream-cola-mint bespoke perfume she made for a wedding recently); choice delights from her Wall of Scent (I feel like that should have a little tm after it); her latest Guerlain acquisitions (Sarah’s enviable lifestyle has recently taken her to Paris again; to the Friedemodin launch at Sens Unique; to the flat of Michael Edwards to deliver her fragrances; to the Guerlain boutique). Sarah served us some L’Heure Bleue tea (which tasted like a nice cup of tea with some animalic notes), chocolate caramel popcorn and boozy chocolates.

Sarah recently created a wonderful vintage-style perfume, “Goodbye Piccadilly” for an event at the London Transport Museum. I left the studio with a 30ml bottle of it – instant love. I’ve come to realise I have somewhat of a suede and leather fragrance fetish (only in dry, powdery, fruity, iris and tobacco contexts. The overly animalic leathers and ones with a sweet, honeyed, herbacious tones cross the line from expensive-perfume-spilled-inside-a-leather-handbag to unwashed leather jacket). I like Daim Blond, Tabac Blond, Cuir Beluga (which is really a tarted up vanilla) and Iris Prima. In fact, I was going to buy Cuir Beluga yesterday but decided to spread my treat budget instead of blowing it on one purchase.

Nick and his G&T float at Fortnum & Mason

Nick and his G&T float at Fortnum & Mason

We had a lunch reservation at The Parlour restaurant at Fortnum & Mason and had savoury snacks, ice cream sundaes and alcoholic ice cream floats (the gin & tonic float was a huge hit. Try this at home: make a large G&T, drop in a lemon slice and a scoop of lemon sorbet – and enjoy!). The savoury snacks were nothing to wax lyrical about (small and overpriced for what they were, though tasty), but we were so hungry at that point that an ice cream on its own would not have been enough.

Sarah decided to try the most outrageous ice cream sundae on offer – the “Ultimate White Chocolate Gold” with salted caramel and white chocolate ice cream, honeycomb, dark chocolate sauce, gold leaf and Sevruga caviar.

The Ultimate Ice Cream at Fortnums

Caviar on ice cream? Yes, really.

I think Mugler missed a trick with Womanity marketing there; a caviar ice cream? Ok. The portion did look wonderful, with rose petals, gold leaf and a myriad of colours and textures. Sarah says she may be inspired to create a perfume based on it.

We had a lovely surprise at Fortnum’s perfume hall – the lovely Amanda Brooke from Grossmith was there in person. We had just met at the BSP functional fragrance evening two days ago, but it was great to see her in action and animatedly describing the perfumes.

After Fortnum’s, we headed to Selfridges and I splurged on Guerlain Aqua Allegoria Nerolia Bianca – a fresh neroli-orange-petitgrain citrus floral which is not too unlike Dior’s Escale a Portofino, minus the almond aspect. Nerolia Bianca fulfils my current everyday perfume criteria by being fresh, subtle, and luxurious. When working with fragrance materials during the week, I rarely get days when I can wear perfume to work (it would interfere with quality control and perfumery), and after work, I tend to be nose-fatigued and not in the mood for perfume anyway. On the days I am doing something else at work, or at weekends, I love to shop my perfume collection for something to cover myself in. With summer threatening to arrive in Britain, what better way to celebrate it than a scent bursting with every aspect of the orange tree.

My plan was to replace some favourite make-up items while we were at the Selfridges beauty hall but all three items I had hoped to buy had been discontinued! Distraught, I sought solace at the Shu Uemura counter and was served by a competend and friendly member of staff who managed to find replacements for two out of my three previously beloved products. Some of the other counter staff were either overly eager (thereby losing the sale by pushing too hard) or completely disengaged (one of the products which had been discontinued could perhaps have been replaced by another product from the same brand, but the sales assistant just stood there and didn’t even try).

Guerlain_Aqua_Allegoria_Nerolia_Bianca_and_4160Tuesdays_Goodbye_PiccadillyI also explored the express version of the Fragrance Lab, which probably wasn’t a good representation of the whole experience in which you’re taken through a sort of perfume exploration tunnel of love. In the express version, you do a personality test on an iPad by choosing one of three pictures presented and choosing one of three options shown (there are a couple of dozen questions in total); then you queue for a sales assistant in a lab coat to tell you what your personality is like and which scent matches it. They’ve developed scents specifically for the lab and mine was 267. Alas, the trouble about prescribing a scent without involving the sense of smell is that it’s quite hard to get it right. There were people ahead of me in the queue, absolutely delighted at their result and eagerly lapping up every word – so I am sure this will work for many, and it’s yet another way to push the boundaries of how perfume is sold and marketed.

On the other hand, a perfumista is going to be a nightmare customer for such an experiment – with my 70+ fragrances, each of them could be seen as representing an aspect of my personality but I wouldn’t say any are “it”. If pushed, I’d probably pick Mitsouko as a signature scent, but I feel it’s much nicer to choose a fragrance based on mood and circumstance rather than as a rigid representation of an image.

We’ve already decided on the main venues for next outing and the plans do seem just as fun as this year’s. Thank you to everyone who came this year for a wonderful day out in great company!


8 thoughts on “Pia’s (almost) annual perfume tour, 2014 edition

  1. Utterly fabulous write-up, Pia. Enjoyed every word of it and what great photos! So much fun to re-live such a great day.

    I’m glad the Shu Uemura SA was more helpful than the others at Selfridges. Very disappointing.

    So interesting that you tried the express Fragrance Lab. I did smile when you wrote “Alas, the trouble about prescribing a scent without involving the sense of smell is that it’s quite hard to get it right.” So true and very diplomatically put!

    Enjoy your Nerolia Bianca. I think it suits you beautifully and will be perfect given your work at the moment.

    Oh and Timo’s Arsenal won!

  2. I was 267 on express questionnaire too. Still that after the full experience but guy after talking to me suggested I may also like 257 which I ended up having but know will have to get 267 as love its out there metallic notes. See my Twitter for description

  3. Nice day out!!Jealous!Can I join you next year pls??Hehe…(just let me know in advance,Im in South Africa…lol)

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