Bulgari Parfums Le Gemme Reali

Bulgari Parfums Le Gemme Reali

As  Ms. Monroe famously sang, "diamonds are a girl’s best friend" – but if you can’t afford said sparklers, perfume is your next best option (in my humble opinion). Especially when it comes to the latest dazzling offerings from Bulgari which are as mood-lifting as any pretty gem.

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London Literary Salons with Alice-Azania Jarvis

London Literary Salons with Alice-Azania Jarvis

While scents remain an all-consuming obsession, I haven’t focused on ‘The City’ part of this website for some time – which is a shame as there are so many wonderful things currently happening in the capital – especially when it comes to books and literature (I’ve yet to meet a perfume-lover who isn’t also a bookworm).

Case in point is the literary salons run and hosted by journalist Alice-Azania Jarvis, which at the moment take place at The Ned. A relatively new hotel and members club, described by CN Traveller as “a bank reupholstered as a bordello”, it doesn’t seem the obvious choice for bookish gatherings. But there’s something about these slightly surreal, larger-than-life - and incredibly glamorous - surroundings that lends itself rather well to storytelling (I imagine the likes of Dorothy Parker and Nancy Mitford would have felt right at home here). Previous salons have taken place in the old bank vaults below ground (which feel like you’ve wandered onto the set of Ocean’s 11), as well as the roof conservatory, which affords glorious views of the cityscape. In short, there are worse places to find yourself on a slow Sunday morning. It's here (for the present) where Alice speaks to different new female authors each month, not just about their books, but also their journey into getting published and any advice they have for others hoping to do the same.

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Talking Scents and Stones with Paolo Lai

 Talking Scents and Stones with Paolo Lai

More and more in this digital world where we're glued to screens, we're searching out ways of feeling more grounded, energised and attuned with how our bodies and minds are feeling. I've written before about how scent can be instrumental in helping to drown out digital 'noise', but there's also something magical and alchemic in combining essential oils with healing crystals. Case in point is facial reflexologist Paolo Lai's Moon Mist, which he mixes up himself and hands out to clients post-treatment (but hopefully he'll make them available to buy on his website - hint hint!). Misting a halo of this clever concoction of essential oils (like uplifting neroli) in crystal-charged waters is just the thing before a big meeting or just before bed, to help restore equilibrium and diffuse tense emotional states.

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New Hermès Fragrances: Agar Ébène, Cardamusc, Cèdre Sambac, Musc Pallida & Myrrhe Églantine

New Hermès Fragrances: Agar Ébène, Cardamusc, Cèdre Sambac, Musc Pallida & Myrrhe Églantine

Designer scents can be inevitably much of a muchness, as is often the case when perfumes are predominantly presided over by marketing committees. Happily, this isn’t the case with Hermès who allow their perfumers complete creative freedom, resulting in modern classics that stand head and shoulders above today’s typical fashion house fragrance. (E.g. you can normally detect the famous Eau de Merveilles on anyone wearing it.) What's more, the type of scents we wear are changing, less ‘pretty perfumes’ with more animalic concoctions coming to the fore, and in-house perfumer Christine Nagel’s five new creations are case in point. These are gutsy affairs for the seasoned fragrance fan - three eaux de toilette (£180 for 100ml) and two oil-based perfume essences (£275 for 20ml) - showcasing historic notes like musks, agarwood, cedar and myrrh.

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The Burlington Arcade, Mayfair

The Burlington Arcade, Mayfair

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. 

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Prosody London

Prosody London

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.

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Mon Premier Cristal Hirondelles by Lalique

Mon Premier Cristal Hirondelles by Lalique

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'.

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Lawn by Angela Flanders

Lawn by Angela Flanders

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).

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Bohemian Rhapsody

Bohemian Rhapsody

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.

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4160 Tuesdays

4160 Tuesdays

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).

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Santal 33 by Le Labo

Santal 33 by Le Labo

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.

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Hervé Gambs, Harvey Nichols

Hervé Gambs, Harvey Nichols

... 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!” ....

 

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Liberty, London

Liberty, London

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.

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Viking by Creed

Viking by Creed

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.

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Floraïku, Harrods

Floraïku, Harrods

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.”

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Sunny Side Up by Juliette Has A Gun

Sunny Side Up by Juliette Has A Gun

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.

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Bella Freud – Psychoanalysis

Bella Freud – Psychoanalysis

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.

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Creed, Mayfair

Creed, Mayfair

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.

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