Perfume Tour, or Love to Smell Live, 2016 Edition


Penguin burlesque at Bloom Perfumery (representing the ‘daring’ fragrance cabinet, according to the store).

Ever since 2009 there has been a bit of a tradition of a ‘Smelly, Cakey Perfume Meet’ (as it unofficially became known) – the first one was a Basenotes meetup which I helped co-hosted with Grant and Dani and it was such fun that I started arranging tours (almost) every year since. I actually met Nick at the first one, and he has helped co-host the last couple because they’ve been steadily getting bigger. They’re no grand affairs. There’s no ticket price, no formal invites; we all know each other and the theme is very much “we all love fragrance” and that’s a great equaliser – every year the group is a fantastic mix of people.

Since Nick and I have been running our YouTube channel for a few months now, we called this year’s tour “Love to Smell Live” and took some video footage of the day (which you can check out below, though expect a very ‘found footage’ style video rather than high production values).

You’ll find links to blogs written by others about the day in the video description.

I’ve gathered some photos of the day here for your enjoyment and would like to thank everyone who came to have fun with us – I’ve said it many times before and will say it again here – one of my favourite parts about fragrance is smelling things with other people and comparing notes. Smelling through other people’s noses is a fab way to learn more and a great source of entertainment, too.

We visited Fenwick of Bond St, Lalique, By Kilian, Miller Harris, Bloom and B Bakery. Thank you to everyone who hosted us (officially and unofficially).

Ruth took us through her fragrances and had brought along two raw materials to smell, too.

Some people couldn’t smell Javanol.

Fenwick of Bond St were kind to let a group of over 20 people spend a morning occupying their perfumery department.
The cheeky cherub at Zadig & Voltaire. We’ll be reviewing these scents soon at Love to Smell.
Chanel wasn’t part of our official route, but we had some free browsing time at Burlington Arcade, so some of us popped in to shop.
The brand new (2 days old at the time of our visit) Lalique boutique were very welcoming and took us through their brand history. It was the highlight of the tour for many.
Just one of the enormous flower displays at Lalique.
Lalique is more famous for its glass and crystal than for its perfumes, but the fragrances deserve a bit of attention.
Everyone adored Frederick.
We smelled the new fragrance L’Insoumis which had not officially launched yet. A very interesting herbal accord.


We stopped at By Kilian, too, and were shown several fragrances, plus their scented jewellery and candles.
Davina looked after us very well.



This perfume smells of liquorice…
It’s still a Cakey meet as well… so we had afternoon tea at B Bakery, Covent Garden.

Here are some photos from two of the members of our group this year:

Phoebe’s gallery:

Laurin’s gallery:


Holy Grail Interlude – these are the beauty products I never want to run out of

Holy Grail must-have beauty products

There are a few hair and beauty products that I don’t like to run out of. In fact, I get so twitchy about the prospect of being without these that I have been known to buy back-ups. There are a couple of tubes of Vichy Normaderm and several bottles of Matrix Biolage Hydrating Shampoo ‘in stock’ in my bathroom cupboard at the moment.

I’ve spent most of my life involved in beauty some way – and it’s given me plenty of opportunities to try things out. One of the most frustrating things about searching for and then finding a so-called Holy Grail (the ultimate; the perfect match for you in its category) product is that it’s not immune from being discontinued.

I’m looking at you, Clinique Gentle Light loose powder and you, Chanel Pro Lumiere foundation and you, Maybelline Lash Stiletto, and you Chanel Incognito lipstick…

And let’s not get into discontinued fragrances or I might just break down.

Sometimes it’s possible to find a replacement for a discontinued favourite; sometimes not and you have to make do with what’s available. On the Clinique Gentle Light front, I’ve come up with my own blend 50% Bobbi Brown Pale Yellow Loose Powder + 50% No7 Perfect Light loose powder. Where Pale Yellow is too yellow and too flat on its own, and the No7 powder too pink and too sheer – together they form the HG loose powder I never want to go without. (I’m a stickler for trying to get as close to my real skin tone as possible when wearing make-up. That can be challenging, when doctors have been known to squint at me and say: “are you always this pale? Let’s test you for anaemia just in case.”)

Being Finnish, I’m not as pale as our Celtic cousins, so there are some warm yellow and neutral tones that need to be carefully matched. Too ‘ivory’ and I look like a freshly awoken vampire – too ‘neutral’ and I look like a waxwork doll. Too ‘warm’ and my face looks dirty. Enter Bobbi Brown Warm Ivory Creamy Concealer – the perfect shade and the perfect concealer. It’s a creamy fully pigmented product that glides on, stays on, and blends incredibly well. No cakey appearance, no bulk, no problem.

Unfortunately blemishes don’t always vanish when you get older – at 40-something I’d really have hoped to only have to worry about wrinkles and sunscreen. But no, that would be far too easy. I struggled to find a skincare product that would somehow, magically, take care of both problems and turns out Vichy had one. I couldn’t have created a better night cream for myself if I tried. Vichy Normaderm Anti-Age is a lightweight hydrating cream with glycolic acid and I use it as a night cream for about half of the time (at other times I either use a lightweight serum with a moisturiser on top, or am treating my face with a retinol product).

With any kind of acid or retinol treatment (never mind with pale Nordic skin), you absolutely have to look after the sunscreen side of things. In fact, out of all the ‘anti-ageing’ products out there, sunscreen is the most effective. Yes, we need sunshine to be healthy and yes, a light tan can look attractive, but I don’t know a single skincare expert who doesn’t wear sunscreen on their face all year ’round and increase the SPF for holidays. With paler complexions, the SPF has to be quite high – I burn to a crisp in half an hour in full sun and even with a high SPF, I’ll get freckles no matter what. Finding a high SPF product that doesn’t turn any make-up you try to put on top into a gloopy mess – not so easy. Until you try Shu Uemura Underbase Mousse SPF35. I use the Beige one (there are shades for almost any skin tone). It’s the perfect base product  – it evens out skin tone,  makes my make-up last longer and takes care of the sunscreen problem. Now I just have to take vitamin D supplements to ward of deficiency.

There’s another primer I can’t be without – Urban Decay Primer Potion – the best eyeshadow primer in the world. One of the things they don’t tell you is that when you get a bit older, your eye make-up starts to misbehave. Eyeliner smudges. Eyeshadow gathers into creases. Not a good look. The UD Primer Potion stops this nonsense entirely. Your eye-make up will last until you’re ready to take it off.

Mascara can also run and smudge – even when it claims to be waterproof. Not so with the mascara that sounds like someone from the Fast Show invented the name of it for a Japanese sketch: Kiss Me Heroine Make Long & Curl mascara (try eBay and Amazon – I bought my first one in Tokyo a few years ago and have been schlepping it over by any means necessary ever since). It contains fibres and makes your lashes look like you’ve pinched them from an anime character. It does not smudge…or come off at all for that matter until you remove it with its special remover (which I suspect is mostly mineral oil in mascara packaging). Do not buy this mascara without getting the matching remover. Due to the difficult removal, this is not an everyday mascara (that discontinued Maybelline was… sigh), but for special occasions, it’s my HG product in this category.

Speaking of being Nordic, there’s the hair. Fine, mousey – high maintenance if you want to do anything adventurous with it. I’ve always been adventurous (even when I’m giving my hair a rest from colour and bleach, I still can’t resist getting highlights), so it requires a lot of looking after and well-chosen products. Matrix Biolage Hydrating shampoo is my Holy Grail shampoo, no doubt about it. There are others which are okay and I switch around sometimes (like the Klorane range, Redken and a few others), but I always have a bottle of the Biolage shampoo in my bathroom (and a back-up bottle or three in the cupboard). It leaves my hair feeling like hair. Like healthy, strong, clean, shiny hair. I know this sounds like it should be the basic function of all shampoos, but let me tell you – most shampoos leave my hair feeling like straw. Or stretchy plastic. Or fluff.

I use a number of ‘everyday’ conditioners which are fairly interchangeable (my shortlist of favourites: the matching Biolage conditioner, Matrix colour care conditioner, Redken, Klorane and Pureology), but when I feel my hair needs a treat or I want it to look as perfect as it can be, I reach for the Redken Heavy Cream hair mask. It might seem a little counter-intuitive to use such a product on fine hair, but a little goes a long way, and nothing makes my hair feel as healthy and soft as this product. I also have the matching leave-in conditioner for straw-hair bad hair day emergencies (though it’s easy to overdose, so go easy on it if your hair is fine like mine).

It’s not a good idea to wash your hair every day if you can at all avoid it – it’s one of the most damaging things you can do to your hair – so in-between washes, I like to use the Label M. Protein Spray to straighten out any kinks, refresh and protect in one go. Over-using a protein spray is not recommended because it’ll make your hair feel crisp and brittle, but moderate use every couple of days is just right. One of the bonus features of this product is its light and refreshing, herbal-style scent. It isn’t sickly or overwhelming like so many scents for these types of products (I don’t want my hair products to compete with my perfume and when working in the lab or evaluating other people’s scents, the last thing you want is for your hair to be a fragrant foghorn right near your nose).

I’m yet to find a replacement for the discontinued Chanel foundation (that’s a whole other blog post – I’ve spent a lot of time and money searching and tried dozens of foundations in the process), nor have I found a lip colour as perfect as Incognito (it was a mauve-y pink with gold shimmer). I’ll live.

This list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning MAC Studiofix in NC15 which has been my trusty touch-up companion since it was first introduced in the 90s. I used to use it as an all-over foundation with just some concealer underneath, but with older skin, powder foundation starts to look ageing and flat, so this product has now taken a secondary role.

I have to mention some fragrances, too, or this just wouldn’t be a representative list – the three scents I have gone through several bottles of in the last few years are: Mandragore by Annick Goutal, Daim Blond by Serge Lutens and Alien by Mugler. Considering that my ‘regular rotation’ has 40 or so scents in it, and that I own over 80, going through a single bottle of anything is close to miraculous, never mind several.

What about you? Any products you simply *can’t live without?



[*clearly I don’t mean this literally. It’s good to acknowledge the fact that some of us are so privileged that a discontinued lippie can count as a ‘problem’. On the days when things seem gloomy, it’s good to remember how lucky we really are to get to play with beauty products and obsess over the perfect hair conditioner. ]



Scents for Scorchio

Scents for Scorchio - hot weather summer fragrances as recommended by Volatile FictionAs Britain swelters in a heatwave and is set to do so for another few weeks (if the weather forecasts are to be believed), I’d like to share my favourite hot weather summer scents with you.

1. In the green, citrus and herbal circle, we have:

  • 4711 Eau de Cologne (which I happen to be wearing as I write this). It’s crisp, bitter, fresh, cooling and fleeting. Apply liberally except to sensitive areas (so no splashing it into your armpits). This scent can be divisive because it’s so old-fashoned but I think it’s as relevant today as when my grandmother used it. We seem to be experiencing a bit of a renaissance of colognes anyway so why not start with this.
  • Eau de New York by Bond No9. I was given a bottle as a present and just as well, because I would not have been able to justify the price given that this mainly reminds me of a brand of Finnish bug spray. So why is it in my selection of summer favourites? Because I absolutely love that smell as it reminds me of being at our summer cottage. I don’t know what’s meant to be New York about it but to me this is a crisp, green citrus chypre with a citronella character.
  • Eau Dynamissante. A “treatment fragrance” from Clarins – the smell of which is medicinal, herbal, hesperidic and calming and it’s easier on the skin and less bitter than 4711. It’s wonderful on a really hot day and should be splashed all over. Also an excellent, inoffensive scent to take with you when travelling.
  • Citron Citron by Miller Harris is a very wearable, slightly bitter groomed and herbal citrus. Transparent and refreshing in hot weather. I wear it often if I’m not sure what I’m in the mood for and the weather is sticky.
  • Terre de Bois by Miller Harris – it flip flops between warm birch leaves and a boiled herbal sweet. It’s quite masculine but wonderful for anyone who wants to smell green and natural without the bitter edge.
  • Neroli Portofino by Tom Ford is my favourite neroli scent (so far); if I had so much money that I could throw it around without thinking about it, I would ensure there’d be a permanent supply of this all year round. Neroli scents are a perfect antidote to feeling exhausted or over-heated. Give this a try.
  • Le Chevrefeuille by Annick Goutal is a a sad story – the green, slightly rosy flower stem scent is one of my absolute favourites but this perfume lasts about 30 minutes on skin, if that. Another one for if you’re feeling wealthy. Reapplying often will be necessary.

Moving into the overlapping area we have:

  • Mandragore by Annick Goutal, which sits in the hesperidic and green area due to its top notes but moves to a sweet and warm blend of anise and ginger as it develops. This is one of my favourite scents of all time, full stop, not just for summer. I am on my millionth bottle.
  • Dior’s Escales is a series of transparent scents ideal for hot summer days and nights; I own Escale a Portofino which starts out as a Neroli Portofino dressed in a satin nightie and moves into its own thing when a powdery gourmand almond note begins to appear. I recommend exploring this range.

2. In the sweet fruity and fruity-floral circle we have:

  • Sugar by Fresh is a lemon scent but it’s a fermented lemon – to me it smells exactly like a Finnish May Day beverage called sima (a fermented summer drink made of lemons, brown sugar and raisins).
  • Ralph by Ralph Lauren is quite a juvenile shampoo/alcopop-type scent but it’s one of the best ones in this style and incredibly refreshing if it’s one of those days when you need another shower after you’re done drying yourself. Avoid if mature and afraid of mutton-scented-as-lamb syndrome (I don’t worry about age and gender boundaries too much although I wouldn’t wear this to seduce or to a serious work meeting).
  • Laguna by Salvador Dali is the first aquatic scent I not only tolerated but really liked; it has a spicy and a kind of dried-fruit undertone which balances the aquatic elements. I find it extremely wearable and the bottle is just fantastic.
  • The Marc Jacobs giant splash cologne bottles are not only beautiful to look at but a great option if you’re not really after a perfume but a nice smell. They also come with a refillable travel bottle which is absolutely perfect. I’ve tried several and currently own the Pomegranate splash. All of them lend themselves to be worn when nothing too heavy or stifling will do.
  • SJP NYC – the incredibly tacky (but kind of cute) plastic bottle with, uhh, animal prints and what looks like 70s wallpaper, contains a scent reminiscent of strawberry alcopop. It’s the perfume equivalent of blonde bimbo stereotypes but you know what? Some days when everything is sticky and the air seems to have developed a texture, this scent is really fresh and pretty and leaves your skin smelling like you’ve been eating strawberries.

3. In the floral, sweet and sexy category we have:

  • Juicy Couture by Juicy Couture. Yes, really. This is a tuberose handled extremely well; the fruity characteristics have been emphasised, some of the green vegetable elements remain but all of the mushroom tones are gone – and the result is a kind of prom dress tuberose. Wearable, young, attractive. And surprisingly fantastic in hot weather.
  • Eau de Shalimar may be an abomination to purists but I really enjoy the re-balancing of this scent for two reasons: the top half of Shalimar was always my favourite and my mother wore Shalimar so I am simultaneously drawn to it but don’t necessarily want to smell exactly like my mother used to either. This offers the perfect solution. And it smells sexy on a summer night.
  • Datura Noir is a syrupy tuberose wine gum, dripping with booze and seduction. It’s the opposite of the Marc Jacobs splashes; where they are a water jug into which a watercolour brush has been lightly dipped, Datura Noir is a jar of tuberose jam. I love it and it can work in the summer heat surprisingly well.
  • Fleurs d’ Oranger by Serge Lutens. It pretends to be chaste and soapy and a bit blousy and then whooshes you into candied musky orange peel and skanky orange blossom and the vegetable aspect of tuberose. It’s a honeyed, intense experience but wearing it during a hot day can make you irresistible if the scent happens to suit your skin. It can be divisive due to the skank emphasis but if it works for you, it’s absolutely marvellous.

P.S. Scorchio!

Send more Mandragore, ASAP

From the moment I started using perfume (so, age 12 or thereabouts), I’ve had more than one bottle of the stuff in use at any one time. This idea of having more than one scent on rotation is often referred to as “the perfume wardrobe”. I currently have around 70 scents in mine, give or take a few. Here are the bottles I finished in 2012:

Daim Blond by Serge Lutens

Daim Blond photo via Luckyscent

Daim Blond by Serge Lutens. It’s a unisex dry apricot wrapped in white suede. Absolutely glorious on my skin and I kept saving the last few drops until I had to give in. Serge Lutens is one of the perfume brands I really clicked with straight away. I don’t like all of their scents but this one hit me like a long-lost memory. It’s as though I had known it in another life and here it was, my perfume, home again.

Alien by Thierry Mugler. I ran out of this last year, too. I wrote about that the other day. When my Alien EdP was running low, my husband very kindly bought me a replacement (only it was the new EdT instead).

Mandragore by Annick Goutal

Mandragore photo via Luckyscent

Mandragore by Annick Goutal. It’s a play between anisic sweetness, aromatic ginger and bitter citrus. It has a translucent, fresh quality which is just so perfect for hot days or when you’re simply in the mood for something uplifting. The scent feels like it’s cleansing the air around you and making you think more clearly. I love it and reach for it often.

Terre de Bois by Miller Harris. Unisex, although probably more aimed at men, this scent reminds me of a herbal boiled sweet. Possibly not the most elegant description of this wondeful green scent but the sweetness of fennel and earthy tones of patchouli stop this being a straight-forward “green” perfume and add a unique twist. Citrus is present but doesn’t dominate. It seems that there is an aniseed-fennel-citrus bridge between Mandragore and this, so if you’ve tried one but not the other, perhaps you ought to explore.

Narciso Rodriguez for Her

Narciso Rodriguez for Her photo via Escentual

Narciso Rodriguez for Her. This feminine musk perfume is pretty, very wearable and widely available. It’s accessible without being trashy. Although there are hints of typical fruity-floral-shampoo of modern mass-market trends, the effect is not shrill and childish. It’s a subtle, sexy fragrance that would probably suit most women.

I tend to have about a dozen scents out on display at any given time and the rest are hidden in a dark drawer in the bedroom. This way I can “shop” from my own perfume collection when I get bored of my current rotation and the scents won’t deteriorate as fast as they would if I had all of them out at the same time. Generally, it’s a good idea to keep your perfumes away from light, temperature changes and moisture. Once you get to the last few drops, though, it’s no point saving them up because they will just spoil faster the emptier the bottle becomes.  I often dream about a perfume, smelling it in my sleep and wake up wanting to put it on. I’m hoping to avoid Daim Blond, Mandragore, Terre De Bois and For Her dreams until I am able to re-stock. Incidentally, running out of a scent doesn’t automatically mean a re-purchase but in the case of all these, it does.


Le Snob: Perfume

Hardie Grant’s Le Snob series is like a collection of beautifully designed travel guides to various luxury destinations. Except, that in the case of this series, the destinations are Champagne, Cigars, Lingerie, Perfume, Shoes, Tailoring and Whisky.

I’m going to tell you a little bit more about Le Snob: Perfume because I have had the opportunity to get to know the author and although he doesn’t need my help (the book has received rave reviews), I really do think this is a good addition to every perfume library.

Le Snob: PerfumeThe book itself is beautiful as an object and compact enough to slip into your handbag as you pop to London for a spot of perfume shopping. As much as I adore Perfumes, The A-Z Guide by Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez, it IS a hefty volume in its dead-tree form and not all that convenient to carry with you and whip out on the perfume counter (I have tried).

Beautiful perfume bottle illustrations by Tonwen Jones are scattered throughout and the rest of the book design is pleasing to the eye and actually makes the guide easier to use.

The book is split into nine sections:

  • Fundamentals
  • Mainstream: Feminine
  • Manstream: Masculine
  • Mainstream: Unisex
  • Niche: Feminine
  • Niche: Masculine
  • Niche: Unisex
  • Possess
  • Discover

There are helpful “Words From The Wise” sections with advice from such industry illuminaries as Francis Kurkdjian, Andy Tauer, Linda Pilkington, Christopher Chong and Roja Dove, covering issues from “the sex of a scent” to “the pros and cons of synthetics.”

Author Dariush Alavi deftly summarises complex topics into easy-to-understand glimpses behind the scenes of a still rather secretive industry. His background in teaching helps here, I think.

The perfume recommendations are clearly a selection of personal favourites and must-mention classics. Although the book is aimed at the luxury consumer its tone is far from snobbish. All you detect is a burning passion for perfumery and an appreciation for style and quality, regardless of the brand. It clearly cannot be a comprehensive guide to the best of everything perfume has to offer, but think of it as the equivalent of taking a knowledgeable friend out with you to explore perfumes. It would be a good place to start for any budding perfumista.

There are a few obligatory luxury details, such as highlighting the £7000 gold-etched Baccarat bottles of Phul-Nana, Shem-El-Nessim and Hasu-No-Hana from Grossmith.

I did know most of the perfumes covered in the book but was so drawn to the author’s description of Comme Des Garçons 2 Man that I had to sniff it at the earliest opportunity:

It wouldn’t be accurate to say that Mark Buxton’s creation is about snuffed candle smoke: the note is present, but it isn’t the driving force behind the perfume’s effect. It wouldn’t be right to plump for incense either. Again, that would indicate a rudimentary comprehension of the scent, as would cedar and leather (although both are noticeable). The truth is that this is a mysterious, elusive piece of work. If you can imagine some sort of quasi-mythical apparition composed of the aforementioned elements, you might begin to get some idea of how the fragrance operates, but the best thing would be just to smell it.

Overall, I would encourage every perfume afficionado to to get a copy of this useful little guide. You will learn something new and quite possibly discover new favourite scents.

The Scented Net

I’ve created a hand-picked list of perfume-related links, categorised into:

  • Blogs
  • Communities
  • Perfume event organisers
  • Good indie perfume brands
  • Perfume courses
  • Perfume shops

You can find it as a permanent feature of this blog by clicking on the “My Scented Bookmarks” page above.

I’ll create a similar list of nerdy links, too.