It’s a funny game, life as a freelance beauty journalist and sometime fragrance blogger in London. It certainly has its pros and cons, but being invited to glamorous places like Harvey Nichols for a fragrance launch is definitely a plus. As I step into the “express lift” that takes you straight to the top, I have one of those Cinderella moments, convincing myself I have indeed "made it" – even though the rest of the afternoon will be spent working from my tiny North London flat, checking emails, drinking tea and occasionally covering my ears while the landlord sends people round to test the fire alarms on the ground floor. (Again.) Coach back into pumpkin, etc.
But luckily, it’s still the morning, and I’m still swanning around the department store of my dreams. To me, Harvey Nichols reminds me of how Holly Golightly describes Tiffany’s: “It calms me down right away, the quietness and the proud look of it; nothing very bad could happen to you there, not with those kind men in their nice suits, and that lovely smell of silver and alligator wallets.”
Harvey Nichols is indeed a beautiful place to shop for perfume – not least due to the fact that it champions niche brands and its latest addition Hervé Gambs is no exception. The launch is in the bar on the 5th Floor and within the first five minutes, I'm inhaling one of the most swoon-inducing scents I’ve ever encountered. La Baie Des Anges showcases pretty notes of grapefruit and rhubarb, with a heart of jasmine and vanilla. The type of fragrance you’d wear to take a lazy walk down Santa Monica Beach (or Harringey in my case…). It’s bright and easy-going instantly putting you in a good mood, 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!”
That sense of joie de vivre is evident throughout the entire range, yet every one of these fragrances is different. It’s interesting to note that Hervé uses very few top notes, so there is – in his words – a “clean intensity of the heart and the base.”
Hotel Riviera is another pretty potion that would probably fare well with the St Tropez set. “The tangerine note along with the mint makes this very fresh. But the cedarwood gives it that longevity - it’s easy to understand on the skin. It’s simple and pure this one. It’s is popular because it’s easy to sell.” But a personal favourite of mine has to be Pink Evidence, reminiscent of the powdery rose smell you get from inside a well-worn make-up bag. “There is a moment you have, when you are natural and when you put on make-up,” Gambs explains to me. “You transform. You can be natural or sophisticated. You smell the lipstick, you smell the powder... The lipstick smell comes from violet leaves, the powder is from oris fruits. Mixed together, you have something very sweet and it feels like you’ve done your make-up. That’s why you don’t need to wear make-up with this perfume. ” (Ok, whatever Hervé…)
Domaine du Cap is probably the most polarising of all of them – a beguiling blend of green tea, lime and fennel. “Very natural, very raw and aromatic. The white fennel is a new ingredient in perfumery. Some customers love it, others hate it. There is a popular drink in the South of France called Pastis. This is based on a similar construction.”
On the darker end of the spectrum is the likes of Infusion Noir, described as a “deeply disturbing” concoction with sage, lavender and star anise, while Bois Dahman is a smooth operator of saffron, sandalwood and incense.
In terms of unusual but incredibly wearable scents, this brand ticks a lot of boxes. Plus you get the delight of visiting Harvey Nichols where they’re stocked, so it’s win-win. Definitely worth sniffing out.
Hervé Gambs are stocked in Harvey Nichols (nearest tube: Knightsbridge)