Decorated with hearts and lights there are no better places to shop for perfume than The Burlington Arcade – its history and old-school charm make it beloved with Mayfair’s well-heeled locals, eccentric dowagers, Middle Eastern ex-pats and tourists alike. Formerly only famous for its jewellery shops and tailors, it’s recently become London's go-to olfactory sweet spot, with more and more luxury perfumeries moving in with each year. Among them is perfume maverick Frederic Malle, who commissions some of the world's finest noses to concoct some seriously memorable scents (with few creative or budgetary restrictions). While Penhaligon’s are a heritage London brand whose apothecary-style bottles are filled with equally offbeat and dazzling fragrances. Atkinson's are another classic perfumery who have recently undergone a revival, whose dapper scents used to be popular with 18th Century man-about-town Beau Brummel. And for no-holds-barred glamour, it has to be Roja Parfums, whose diamante-topped bottles are just as dazzling as their contents.Read More
Whilst I applaud ‘naturals’ in skincare and cosmetics (provided they are 100% or near enough and the company haven't just thrown in a few natural ingredients just to jump on the bandwagon), when it comes to perfumery I’ve always been on the fence. Discussing it with a perfumer a few years ago, he likened the issue to buying a t-shirt that’s primarily natural cotton but has a small percentage of polyester, to allow it to ‘bounce back’ after washing and help it retain its shape. Similarly with perfumery, while naturals are the stars of the show, you still need synthetics as the “special effects”, to add structure and 'seasoning' to the other notes. For example, Chanel No 5 wouldn’t be what it was without a good glug of sparkling aldehydes, a synthetic ingredient without which this concoction would just be another perfectly pleasant floral scent but nothing special (although saying that, Madame Chanel would have probably got people buying it anyway but that’s another story). Hence why up until now, I always thought fragrances were by and large a little dull without a few synthetics in the mix. That was until I stumbled across new British perfumery Prosody, who launched in Fortnum & Mason last week.Read More
For the uninitiated, René Lalique is the reason you have such beautiful jewel-like perfume bottles adorning your dressing table –the glassware and jewellery designer invented the concept (before perfumes were housed in medicinal style apothecary bottles). One iconic Lalique creation is Nina Ricci’s L’Air du Temps – René’s son Marc created the bottle with its iconic stopper bearing the beautiful doves of peace (to commemorate the end of WWII) which he designed in collaboration with Robert Ricci. These doves have provided the motif for the current 130th anniversary celebrations, which has been commemorated with the launch of their latest scent 'Mon Premier Cristal Hirondelles'.Read More
There’s no denying it - British perfumery is having a moment. Over the past few years we’ve seen earthy, timeless, beguiling perfumes and a number of heritage brands having a much-needed revival. We’re being treated to the kind of scents you can easily imagine the Mitford sisters dabbing behind their ears before being presented to London society, but now we’re spritzing them on to complement our Stella McCartney oversized cotton shirt. These types of fragrances seem to have a strange ability to conjure up a different England, at a different time but still remain stylish and relevant. Some of them – to go off on a tangent here - remind me of visiting my granny’s house in Winchester 25 odd years ago. Her remote rural bungalow was world away from our flat in the city suburbs. There was actually garden for one thing – throughout the year it smelled variously of hay, chopped wood, lavender, compost and other scents that seemed from a past era, as did the eerie silence of the countryside (punctuated by the occasional radiator clang and rustle of a field mouse running along the skirting boards).Read More
Sarah Rotheram, CEO of Miller Harris – is famed for her offbeat, somewhat maverick approach. We caught up over cheese and cocktails (our kind of girl) to chat all things fragrance...
I first met Sarah when she was Group CEO of Penhaligon’s, at a dinner party held in an NCP car park to launch the brand’s (now well-loved) fragrance ‘Juniper Sling’. They’d decked the place out to look like an underground speakeasy, complete with bathtubs full of gin. Needless to say, it was a memorable evening. Sarah held court, striking with her white-blonde cropped hair and red lips (reminding me of a childhood fixation with Annie Lennox) and knew this was someone I had to get to know better.Read More
Not many perfumers can lay claim to creating a scent for Jarvis Cocker “to keep by his bed for emergencies”. Once can only speculate as to the nature of these said emergencies. But it certainly gives a glimpse into the world of 4160 Tuesdays and its founder, self-taught ‘nose’ Sarah McCartney.
Sarah started out in business at age 7, “buying wooden beads, making them into things and selling them on to my friends.” That is until her mother found out, was aghast and swiftly put a stop to it. Fortunately this didn’t dampen her entrepreneurial and creative spirits, and after stints writing for The Guardian, and LUSH (as editor of ‘The LUSH Times’) she set up in Acton as 4160 Tuesdays. (The name is taken from the number of Tuesdays we should expect to see if we live to see 80 – stressing the importance of making the most of every day).Read More
There are few perfumes I return to in times of strife more than Le Labo’s Santal 33. Inspired by The Marlboro Man – Santal 33 is that country song you listen to again and again to get over your lost love. It’s for those times when life hits you like a gut-punch and you’re left floundering, with a strange feeling comparable to homesickness when you were little, except this time you’re not sure if or when you’ll be going home. And then somehow, you find the strength to put one foot in front of the other and just hope you’re headed in the right direction. If you’ve had your heart broken, Santal 33 is the scent to move on with. But more than just a mere rebound fling, it imbues the wearer with a “masculine” strength and resilience; attributes you thought you’d have to seek out in a soul mate, but - like clicking your heels together - you yourself were capable of summoning all along.Read More
... La Baie Des Anges showcases pretty notes of grapefruit and rhubarb, with a heart of jasmine and vanilla. The type of scent you’d wear to take a lazy walk down Santa Monica Beach (or Harringey in my case). It’s bright and easy-going, much like former interior designer Hervé himself. “I wanted to create something addictive, very happy. The type of scent where I think - I want to show everyone I am happy today!” ....
As well as perfume, we're pretty passionate about all manner of beauty loot here at Scents and the City. So as well as the latest fragrant offerings to make city life a little more bearable, we thought we'd give you a quick run down of our favourite hair and skincare saviours to have caught our attention too...Read More
Originally conceived to mimic an Eastern Bazaar, Liberty London is beloved for its scarves, haberdashery and accessories. The fragrance hall is not as legendary as by rights it should be, but with the growing interest in niche fragrance, all that should be about to change.Read More
I’ve had my ups and downs with Creed. The ups have included paying a visit to the beautiful Creed boutique in Mayfair and trying some of their lesser-known concoctions such as Green Irish Tweed and Vetiver. The downs – getting into the BMW of a friend’s new boyfriend who was driving us to a house party and the whole car reeking of Aventus. Almost as if he’d removed the spray top from the bottle and sloshed it around. But aside from that olfactory assault, I do have a soft spot for this hitherto under-the-radar perfumery, which brings us to the launch of their latest scent, Viking at Mr Fogg’s Gin Parlour in Mayfair where Les Senteurs’ perfume archivist and expert James Creed was to be speaking about it.Read More
During a grey, overcast morning (to match my state of mind), I’m trying one of Floraïku’s scents called First Dream of the Year. It’s a cheery concoction of grapefruit and orange blossom oils, as well as iris concrete absolute as the Floraiku assistant explains, “In Japanese it’s said the first dream of the year is the most important dream, as it indicates how the rest of your year will go. If you dream of egg plants, or the phoenix bird, or Mount Fugi it means you will have a very lucky year ahead of you.”Read More
I have to say, I’m not a huge fan of gourmande scents. If I have to choose between starter and dessert I’m a “chicken satay/prawn dumplings/soup of the day” kind of girl and the same goes for my perfume choices. I wrote a piece recently for the scented letter on my love for salty accords in scent, and although I’m not averse to the occasional sweet floral fragrance or four, the sugar rush a gourmande brings is borderline nauseating.
Or so I thought, until Juliette Has A Gun’s latest concoction was sent to me. The yellow and white bottle is as chip and cheery as an Easter chick. The contents inside are like the olfactory equivalent of a Ladurée macaroon as opposed to a slab of chocolate cake i.e. sweet and delicate enough without being overly sickly.Read More
There’s one designer whose perfumes I’ve always considered the very antidote of a “fashion house fragrance”. You know the sort – a campaign featuring some leggy doe-eyed whippet skipping through a meadow, whispering some inane comment about “being true to myself” whilst the end shot is her staring coquettishly at the camera while clutching the scent bottle. (The contents of which are inevitably some pear and Ylang Ylang blandless…) The same can’t be said for Bella Freud’s punchy, potent concoctions – as one would expect from such a fascinating character coming from such a creative and eccentric family.Read More
What real 'celebrity scents' actually smell like ...Read More
What do Queen Victoria and David Beckham have in common? Well, aside from a fondness for wearing black? Both can be counted among Creed fragrance's many famous fans. Beckham apparently wears Aventus - a bold number which comes swaggering in with patchouli and cedar, it has a loyal following among aspirational modern dandies (to go with their Ferrari F12 and Gucci loafers...). While the Queen Vic was presented with Fleurs de Bulgarie, a voluptuous concoction of Bulgarian rose and musks. Although we might be living in the age of ‘celebrity scent’ – Creed is one of those stunning, hitherto under-the-radar lines that celebrities actually do wear. They were the perfumery responsible for Grace Kelly’s wedding scent: Fleurissimo – as dreamy and feminine as Kelly’s famous ankle skimming skirts, while one of their best-sellers Green Irish Tweed, was originally concocted for Cary Grant.Read More
Patchouli has been given a bad rep over the years – dismissed as a hippie scent, you’re likely to find some form of oil being flogged from every other stall in Camden Market. Indeed, so strong are the connotations, one whiff makes you want to start singing “My Sweet Lord”, tambourine in one hand, spliff in the other.
But in fact, there’s so much more to this humble herb than covering up the smell of hash. It’s present in so many scents, whether nestled among oakmoss and labdanum to form the enveloping base of many chypre fragrances, or having a starring role in many modern classics (Tom Ford’s White Patchouli and La Labo’s stunning Patchouli to name but a few). You’ll know patchouli if you smell some – there’s nothing else quite like it, and the potency is second to none, giving it somewhat of a polarising, “Marmite” quality. We were very lucky to be invited by The Perfume Society to an evening they’d dedicated to exploring the history and use of patchouli – aptly titled “Patchoulimania” – to find out more.Read More
Perfume has changed a whole lot since the end of the 20th Century. Back then it was “celebrity scents” (ugh!) that was the perfume trend of the late nineties/ early noughties. Mass-market scents have taken a backseat as niche perfumery has come to the fore – together with the people responsible for concocting it. With customers wanting to know more information, where their perfume has come from, who has made it and what’s in it etc. the world of fragrance has become a whole lot more exciting and in-depth, offering the consumer a lot more than just a pretty smell and a celebrity marketing campaign.Read More
You can have a bit of a love-hate relationship with London’s department stores. The better known ones can feel a bit like an amusement park: lengthy queues, jostling crowds, bright lights – you get the idea. If you have the energy for all of this it’s great, but these aren’t places you want to frequent for some relaxing retail therapy.
Luckily there are some stores that are the antithesis of all of that – Fenwick’s being one of them. Tucked away on New Bond Street, as opposed to the busting Oxford Street or Knightsbridge, it’s less of a tourist trap and are all the better for it.Read More
The cologne has got a sophisticated update over the years – no longer just the scent equivalent of a cold flannel, they’ve become exquisite concoctions in their own right, with many perfumers giving them more of a punch and greater lasting power than ever before. Few brands do this better than Atelier Cologne, whose scents pack more of a punch than traditional colognes but still retain the same citrus components. Founded by husband and wife Sylvie Ganter and Christophe Cervasel, everything about this perfumery is bright and summery – from the bottles to the store decoration to the beautiful leather perfume holders, which customers can have engraved with their initials.Read More