Thursday, 1 June 2017

A spritzing blitz in London with Tara and Undina: Day 2 - Ormonde Jayne, Selfridges, Les Senteurs, & opaque bottle overload

Avery scent animals
Day 2 of my London trip dawned sunny and warm. Obviously, in my windowless room I learnt this from my phone, not empirical evidence. I was due to meet Undina and her vSO at their Airbnb flat at whatever time we all surfaced, a relaxed arrangement of which I heartily approved. Just as well really, for having ascertained that it was in fact morning, and with devices fully charged, I soon ran into another logistical snag: the mirror in the bathroom misted up following my shower, and in the absence of ventilation took over half an hour to clear again, rendering makeup application a hit and miss affair involving a compact mirror propped up on a pillow. The cord of the hair dryer wouldn't have stretched as far as the en suite anyway, so I cut my losses and blow dried my hair from memory. It didn't look too bad, considering, albeit the ends were all pointing the same way - as in towards the hotel exit.

It was about 10.30am by the time I arrived at Undina's and her vSO's place, luggage in tow. Having stashed it in a corner of their living room, we sat down to an impromptu breakfast of cheese, crackers and truffles (I like the cut of their culinary jib!), washed down by two mugs of most superior Earl Grey. I was intrigued to see Undina put marmalade in her tea, which I hadn't come across before, but a spot of googling confirms it as a thing. Then I was excited to note that their accommodation had the exact same make and model of bathtub (Carron Delta!) as in my bathroom, along with towels the colour of the woodwork - Purbeck Stone, to any Farrow & Ball fans out there - which made me feel even more at home.

Before we set off, Undina helped rationalise my bags and applied a prophylactic blister cream to my heels, as I wasn't wearing any form of hosiery that day. I did say in Part 1 that I love being 'straightened out' by Undina, and I really meant it! I think I was quite good during the day at keeping my one remaining bag shut (and safe from robbers, a tip I learnt from Undina in Paris), but my persistent habit of walking fast and/or jaywalking between parked cars needed periodic reining in. Undina's vSO came with us, and did his usual thoughtful peeling off trick in search of blokey emporia at each of our perfume destinations.

Royal Arcade, Old Bond Street

Ormonde Jayne

First up was Ormonde Jayne's original store in Royal Arcade, Old Bond Street, where we quickly got chatting to two ladies from South Carolina - serious fragrance lovers who were just off the plane and ready to pound the pavements between perfumeries on a major acquisition offensive. Undina was able to help them out with information on reclaming VAT and/or getting their purchases past customs - I was only listening with half an ear at this point, as it didn't apply to me - and they were fulsome in their thanks for her seasoned advice.

At Ormonde Jayne, Undina was keen to sniff Jardin d'Ombre again - on skin this time - though it can only be bought at Fortnum & Mason. Meanwhile, my wrist was deployed as a scent mule for Ambre Royal, a Harrods exclusive. Jardin d'Ombre seemed promising to begin with - a citrusy green floral reminiscent of Tiare - but as the day wore on, it collapsed down to a nondescript blur of cleanish musk. Ambre Royal was a pleasant fuzzy amber, but we both felt we had that box ticked already in our respective collections, so it too was ruled out of our inquiries, along with Sensual Lover and Passionate Lover. The names alone of that pair might have done it for me, to be fair. And I speak as a huge admirer of Ormonde Jayne, one of the brands with which I have historically had the best 'strike rate'. I once likened their original range to a fragrance capsule wardrobe. I even thought up actual outfits to go with each one. ;) And Ta'if is possibly in my top two fragrances of all time - certainly my top five. However, Ormonde Jayne's range seems to have mushroomed since I last looked, as well as adopting an exclusive positioning (in terms of both distribution and pricing) on certain fragrances, and I must confess I find it harder to relate to the brand these days.

While in the Ormonde Jayne store we also sniffed the powdery, slightly oudy oriental, Rose Gold, which we both liked, even though it costs a wallet-whittling £345 for 120ml. Its manly counterpart, Black Gold, weighs in at a hefty £420 for 120ml, which would be exorbitant if it had in fact been actual oil. At Selfridges, our next stop, we encountered the third scent in the trilogy, White Gold, which was upcoming at the time of our spritzing blitz, but which has now been officially launched in that store, also on an exclusive basis. I liked White Gold even more than Rose Gold, to the extent that I shall post its notes, collated from Now Smell This.

Notes: jasmine absolute, white musk, orchids, leaf green molecule, pink pepper, mandarin, bergamot, clary sage, carnation, orris, freesia, vanilla, ambrette, cashmeran, amber, moss, tonka, labdanum, opoponax, vetiver and cedar.


We had estimated half an hour to 'do' Selfridges' - now even more extensive perfume halls than when I was last there - but thanks to the indefatigable patience of Undina's vSO, managed to renegotiate this to nearer an hour. In that time we scored samples of Rose Gold (Undina) and White Gold (me), and I was able to study the opaque bottles of this trilogy for the first time. Rose Gold was in a hot pink bottle that wouldn't look out of place on a Bond No 9, and which was also not dissimilar to my small pink knitting indeed. My views on opaque bottles are well documented elsewhere on Bonkers, but it doesn't stop me loving Amouage Honour Woman, say, and it wouldn't put me off White Gold either, had the price been right.

Editor's note: A reader has kindly pointed out that the bottle in the centre of this display in in fact ONE. I think the SA must have whipped a tester of White Gold out from behind the counter.

There was heaps more of interest in Selfridges, not least these animal-themed ceramic scent diffusers offered by Avery. (See also the pair of dogs at the top of the post. Undina and I scoured the fixtures in vain in search of a cat.)

Avery turned out to be the surprise stable for a host of brands, including ROADS Fragrances, which I have reviewed on the blog. I should point out that throughout the day, Undina had far more stamina than me for the actual business of sniffing, mainly from nozzles and on card. From time to time she would encourage me to join her in appraising something she considered of interest, or to ask my opinion on the notes we were smelling. (Tara would have been a better person to approach, had she been with us!) And here and there I got a rush of blood to the nose and got stuck in myself, notably when we came across the highly original - and punning! - Italian concept brand, Jusbox, whose bottles, sleeve notes, blotters, and assorted promotional material were based around the theme of vinyl records, the whole thing executed with gloriously whimsical attention to detail.

Undina and I were deeply impressed by the novelty of this brand, which had an extra resonance for me on account of my musical connections, and we tried them all on record-peeping-coyly-out-of-its- sleeve-shaped cards.

I initially thought I liked a spicy number called 14Hour Dream, but was quickly troubled by a phantom heliotrope note that I still seem to smell on the card some 10 days later.

We both liked Black Powder best, which is inspired by the 90s Grunge scene and its iconic spokesman, the late Kurt Cobain, and both came away with a sample. The blackcurrant top note caught Undina's fancy - no surprises there!

Notes: blackcurrant, apple, pimento, suede, tobacco leaf, olibanum, sandalwood, tonka bean, patchouli

We also swung by the Jo Malone concession briefly, where Undina public-spiritedly paused to refresh the 'tester stoppers' of one or two of their scents. I reminded myself how much I like Mimosa & Cardamom, and noted in passing that 30ml now costs £44 instead of £30 odd back in the day. I don't know if that is down to rising costs of ingredients or general opportunism, but prices of niche (I use the term loosely) seem to have increased across the board in recent years, with Roja Dove's line famously seeing the price uplift equivalent of a Harrier Jump Jet taking off from a warship. And being a bit of a born again tuberose lover, I also tried Tuberose Angelica, part of the Cologne Intense range, but it was too intense, sadly, despite a flurry of card wafting attempts to quieten it down.

Other highlights from our Selfridges session were the male fragrances, Layton and Pegasus from Parfums Marly, though I was found the fussy pink livery of the top-selling feminine scent, Delina, a tad disturbing.

It reminded me of talcum powder or those rather garish opaque Xerjoff bottles, and to my eye looked cheap, to be perfectly honest.


Just around the fixture, I fell hard for Amouage Blossom Love, despite its also coming in a pink opaque bottle! The opening notes were like being in a pillow fight of orange-inflected petals, and again I feel moved to document the notes:

Notes: bergamot, heliotrope, amaretto, ylang, rose, cherry blossom, amber, tonka bean, vanilla and suede

Source: fragrantica

Well, well, I see there's an actual heliotrope note and it didn't bother me at all. Colour me inconsistent! We also smelt Bracken - again in Undina's case - and whilst I found it interesting, it was absolutely not my thing, and got progressively 'strange fruit-ier' as it wore on.

Don't ask!

It was way past lunchtime by now, and so we popped into the cafe on the corner by Les Senteurs for a quick snack to fortify us for the final leg of our sniffathon. And here we had another of those comedy moments when Undina and I discovered we were both carrying Dior Paris it had been a case of 'Burberry bingo'. What are the chances of that? So obviously Undina's vSO had to photograph this uncanny coincidence...

'I'll raise you Pisanelle Pink!'

Les Senteurs

Undina's vSO sat on the famous stripey sofa to the rear of the store that is the ideal base for resting spouses, while Undina and I went for one last testing 'push', aided by the chatty and helpful Harley, who turned out to be proprietor Claire's niece. I daubed myself in Superstitious, the much talked about new release from Frederic Malle, in the hope that it would come up as prettily as on Tara; an hour or so into its development Undina and I remained to be convinced. I did come away with a sample to try further at my leisure, ditto one of ELDO's Fils de Dieu du Riz et des Agrumes, a bottle of which I definitely see in my future. Or more likely a split bottle with my friend Rachael Potts. I was also delighted to introduce Undina to Caron's Parfum Sacre, which I was hopeful she would like, and so it proved.

By five-ish we really were all sniffed out - okay, speaking for myself, I mean - for back at base, Undina went on to roll up a trouser leg and spray a sample I had brought for her to try on her knee (one of the few remaining clear spots left), before quickly rustling up a reviving meal of salmon and sour cream tortilla wraps. I will definitely try replicating that back home. I also extracted all Undina's blotters from between the leaves of my notebook where I was keeping them carefully separated for her, collected my luggage, and said my goodbyes. It was a real wrench, no question.

Not the ones we ate, but we discussed all meanings of 'tortilla'

Unfortunately, due to a conspicuous absence of tubes at Bayswater, I missed my (specific!) train back to Stafford. It took me eight conversations with staff at two rail companies and London Underground to extract a chit that confirmed the delay on the Circle Line (which they vehemently denied, but gave me the benefit of the doubt anyway!) to get my non-transferable ticket authorised for use on the next service, so I didn't have to buy a whole new single for the same money as my return. So that was a result, and only added an extra hour to my journey time.

So what did I learn over the course of the two days about the stage I am at in this hobby? Well, that I am somewhat less eager to try new scents than I was a few years ago, probably because I have so many things I feel I should use up first. However, I still have the capacity to get excited about new perfumes (and even crave bottles of them), though I might struggle to integrate them into my oversized collection without pangs of guilt.

And I also had further confirmation - not that it was needed - that it's the people in our perfume world who matter most. And that while fragrance is the catalyst for our bonding, if you took it away, the friendships would still have a momentum of their own...

NB Val gave me this bunny via Tara. It didn't make it beyond Rugby.


  1. I always get mildly envious when I read about these shopping and sniffing sprees. We don't have as much of a variety here in Oslo.

    The ELDO fragrance has citrus (agrumes) in the name, not vegs.I've used up a few samples, it is really nice and cosy and not too foody.

    1. Hi Ingeborg,

      That's a terrible typo, haha - I know it is agrumes, really! Will amend forthwith and thanks for spotting it. Glad you like it too, even with phantom veg. ;)

    2. Hi Vanessa, I know you know French really well, but I couldn't resist making that comment.

      Forgot to ask, does the Dior lipstick you have stay put (not "bleed") without using a primer or powder? I like Chanel for lipsticks, but have tried several other rather expensive brands, and not been too happy. However, I want to try something new to have a wider variety of colours available. I don't mind applying lipstick after lunch and such, but want something which is easy to use.

    3. I am glad you did, Ingeborg - I thought it was most amusing, and completely unintentional!

      I wouldn't say the Dior lipstick bleeds at all, if by that you mean goes outside the lip area? I have never been quite sure of the meaning of the term. It does, however, wear off with eating and drinking, so would need touching up. And I am afraid that particular shade appears to have been discontinued, but you may well find another shade you like in the range.

    4. Thanks, that's exactly what I was wondering, if it stays where you put it on! Rather essential when using lipstick with darker colour.

      I wasn't thinking of copying the shade of lipstick you have, I'm not sure it would look good on me. Colder colours usually suits me better.

    5. Very essential, indeed! I wasn't sure if you were more interested in the brand as a whole or that particular shade, but thought to mention its lack of availability just in case. I really loved a lipstick Undina was wearing on the Sunday - Laura Mercier Patchouli - but she has paler pigmented lips, so it might look completely different on me.

  2. Loved reading about your perfume shopping Ms Bonkers. Amouage Blossom Love has been calling to me - it sounds delicious. Just to say that i agree totally with your last comments about the friendships that build up via an introduction through perfume - it has led me to many beautiful souls, which i may (or may not ever) meet one day! x

    1. Hi Pats,

      Lovely to hear from you! I really think Blossom Love would appeal to any lover of pretty feminine florals that aren't specifically geared to the young.

      If I make it back to Northern Ireland one day to scatter my mum's ashes, it would be good to hook up. I once went sniffing with a Basenotes pal called Donna - do you know her by any chance? Blogged about it too. I don't know if you would have seen it back then?

      I would definitely call my mum a beautiful soul, not that she was ever a perfumista. x

  3. Echoing what you and Pats say about the perfume community - such kind and generous people. And agreeing with you on the worrying trend that sees perfume houses raising their prices exorbitantly .... there is profit, which of course one expects them to make, and then there is pure greed!

    Thanks for sharing your perfume-sniffing adventures which gives me the chance to experience a London trip vicariously (I doubt I would have the stamina to do that myself these days), and please could you tell me how to make the salmon wraps?

    1. Hi Jillie,

      I am not sure I had the stamina either, hehe, but I had fun trying. The salmon wraps were more of an assembly job as far as I understood - cold salmon chunked up and spread with sour cream to taste (and extra capers in the Undinas' case) and rolled up in a tortilla that I think you can buy ready made. But if I am wrong Undina can advise. A very tasty and quick meal.

      I am finding the price hikes increasingly offputting, but that could be partly to do with my drop in earnings in recent years...though I suspect the opportunistic prices would bother me anyway. I guess it is a case of 'what the market will bear' pricing, and there are pockets of that who will bear an awful lot. Sadly, they may not also be looking for small knitted goods such as I make, hehe.

    2. Yum. Thank you so much - an assembly job sounds ideal in the heat we are experiencing at the moment!

      I think we could all do with an Undina in our lives .....

      I have to say a word (or two) in defence of OJ's Passionate Love: at first I hated it and thought it was everything I dislike in a perfume and (despite its name) suitable only for sweet, innocent young things (not for crabby "mature" types such as I!). But it actually grew on me and I find its strange mentholated note to be refreshing right now. Yes, it smells a bit pink, but there is a sharpness that I rather like. It's certainly different to the scents I usually wear. But it's not worth its price, and I would never have paid that sort of money, ever, not for the best fragrance in the world (even if I had that money) and I am grateful to a certain auction site for giving me the chance to get a big sample.


    3. Hi again, I was most interested to learn that I may have dismissed Passionate Love too hastily - not that I am one for a strange mentholated note as a rule. Though it doesn't bother me in Tubereuse Criminelle or Carnal Flower for that matter, so never say never to menthol. I can see how it would be refreshing in the heat with its slight sharpness. Though sharpness isn't normally a quality I am drawn to either. I would definitely give it another go next time I am in an OJ store again. Not least because I also consider myself 'crabby' and 'mature'. I think we would get on famously. The price is a stumbling block, I agree. I remember the days when most niche perfumes - OJ included, also Parfumerie Generale and the like - cost about £60-£65 for 50ml. Now it's really a case of pick a number.

      Good old certain auction site. I may just know the one you mean, hehe.

  4. Oh, but I have to ask. ��

    -- Lindaloo

    1. Are you on the wraps too, Lindaloo, or does your question relate to an earlier matter left dangling that I can't immediately pinpoint?

    2. Sorry. The "don't ask" label under the Bond No 9 picture forces me to "ask." Inquiring minds want to know. :;)

    3. Silly me - I was being a bit slow on the uptake there. Those are either urns, like Caron has, or a blingy prop / factice, and I can't quite remember which. But I am going to go with urn. I am confident that Undina will be able to elucidate matters on her return.

  5. Oh what a wonderful write-up of another brilliant day! All the photo captions are also priceless.

    I'd love to have Undina with me always. Not just for her company but also to spot I have lipstick on my chin etc.

    Val and I had EXACTLY the same experience of Jardin d'Ombre as you.

    If only Amouage had called that perfume "Pillow Fight" instead of Blossom Love. Don't get me started on Passionate Lover and Sensual Lover. *gags*

    Fils de Dieu is great and would be perfect for a muggy day like today.

    N.B. The bunny was from me. Very sorry for not sending you a breakdown of what was from whom in that bag!

    1. Hi Tara,

      Firstly, apologies for the wrong attribution of the bunny! Val has given me these in the past - at least I think so? ;) - so I rather jumped to conclusions. A breakdown would have been handy, also so I didn't wrongly allocate the muslin cloth, hehe.

      Jardin d'Ombre was a damp squib indeed - a textbook warning not to spring for a bottle based on its promising opening, as I have seen 'civilians' (to reprise your wonderful word) being urged to do by SAs in Boots.

      Everyone should have an Undina escort for the reasons you mention: the pleasure of her company is of course the big one, but there are so many more. Her good offices also extended to warnings about putting things down in shops (like mobile phones and notebooks!) and potentially walking away and forgetting them, also putting things away generally that you don't need anymore (like a perfume sample scored from another store), and removal of hairs stuck to my cheek - a recurring issue on that rather hot day.

      Blossom Love is not a great name, is it?, and makes me think of SJP's 'Covet Pure Bloom' or whatever her purple one was called.

      Fils de Dieu is definitely a major lemming at the moment!

  6. Well I can quite see going to Les Senteurs of course, but no Jo Loves?
    In honor of all this sniffing, I put on the last drops I had of Ta'if. It reminds me of my insane old perfume Poivre, which is a compliment. Also pleased to hear that Undina liked Parfum Sacre!

    1. Hi Blacknall,

      Funnily enough, the American ladies were heading for Jo Loves and I suggested they take in the branch of Les Senteurs that is in the same street. I have never been there myself and would be curious, but as Undina has limited opportunities to visit London perfume outlets, we went to the ones on the top of her list. Next time, maybe, as Undina is a big Jo Malone fan.

      Poivre by whom? I have a Le Labo one of that name, that also has a number attached, obviously.

      Parfum Sacre is very close to my heart, so I was glad about that too!

    2. The Poivre is predictably the old Caron one, full of cloves, iso eugenol and jasmine. I do know the Le Labo because you kindly sent me some.
      Parfum Sacre is a sort of grandchild of Poivre and Or et Noir.

    3. Ha! I thought as much right after I left my last comment. Not sure I would care for anything full of cloves. I had no idea I had sent you any of the Le Labo. Mind like a sieve. I like your description of Parfum Sacre and can see exactly how that would work, even without knowing Poivre.

  7. I protest! Those were not peasant tortillas! Those were noble crêpes! :) Your confusion came from our prolonged discussion of the difference in the meaning of that word in Mexican and Spanish cuisine.

    I thought it was a funny that for the second meeting, without any coordination, we both chose the same brand of lipstick again.

    And I did some online research: it looks like Avery used to have a cat figurine as well. If they bring it back, I might consider getting it - though I do not use diffusers too often.

    1. Hi Undina,

      My bad re the tortillas. As I was writing this I tried to recall their exact textures, and did wonder if they had been crepes, but that thought was quickly eclipsed by my extensive recall of the tortilla discussion, as you surmised. ;)

      I am not sure we could pull off a hat trick on the lipstick front, but I am game to try.

      Avery should bring the cat back, no question. They had several breeds of dog, so how can that be right?

  8. I commented on part1 by mistake about the OJ perfumes. The photo in Selfridges is of black and rose gold and their exclusive ONE (can see names on boxed stocks behind) so I wondered which you tested... also, in the photo in OJ, there are bottles of jardin d'ombre AND jardin d'ange... a new Fortnum exclusive...and so I am wondering if it is ange you tested and not ombre....(top is off on ange too) as I get a very different dry down from ombre to what you describe. Not that I mean to be picky, personally I hate testing in shops as beyond 2 - one on each arm - they merge on me and I can't tell if I like them.or the mix of them..... I was just interested in your impressions of them as there is so little on line about any of their new releases. Incidentally they have had a great offer on at the moment , free postage on 2 x 8ml sprays for £30 (paying plus £5 each on any of the more expensive four corners picks). I love your blog and especially loved the trousers saga...

    1. Hi Anonymous,

      Ah, that was my mistake for misremembering which bottle that was in the middle of the trio. I had better amend my post accordingly. We definitely sniffed ONE, and retained a strip of that. I remember a conversation with the SA in Selfridges about its notes - Undina had spotted the cardamom. I did like ONE, but didn't mention it as my recall was even more indistinct than of the others I did speak about. ;)

      White Gold must have been a bottle the SA brought out from behind the counter, as it was not quite out at the time. I got a sample of that, with the name on the vial, so no possibility for confusion.

      Then we did also try both Jardin d'Ange and Jardin d'Ombre in the OJ store. Very carefully, hehe. ;) I was with Undina after all. I can't recall what I made of Ange. I don't think I cared for it, but can't remember why. Then I didn't try Ombre on skin, but sniffed it on Undina, so maybe it would have had more ooomph on me - or you - who knows? However, Val and Tara both had the same experience, I believe. I do think people's mileage with perfumes varies enormously though, but I can confirm we did try the right one.

      Glad you like the blog! Sorry I don't know your name.

  9. I am called Helen. I appreciate you taking the time to give me all the extra detail. I agree about how different perfumes are on different people as well as the fact that there are differences in how much one notices different elements. Musks are especially strange and I have recently noticed that my current shampoo must strip off all of any perfume on the back of my hands except for what them turns into a piercing underlying musk in some perfumes and yet If I did not use this particular shampoo I know the whole thing would - and does - just fade out unobtrusively. I enjoyed your stories about your lost cat and thought of this a few weeks ago when a magazine (the Saturday edition of the Guardian I think) had an article about a rescue dog who has subsequently been trained as a cat rescuer. They made the point that trapped cats can just lose hope and this dog was trained to follow their trail and then lie down when he found them so as not to startle them and to show his handler they had been found. It was fascinating. Thanks again and glad you and your helpers were able to rescue your cat.

    1. Hello Helen!

      Nice to put a name to a commenter. I often get different impressions of perfumes on different wearings. I did do a blog post - ooh, ages ago - on my half baked theory that what you spray each time may not be the same, as though the mixture were not quite homogeneous, but sometimes different elements floated to the top, to put it in crude terms. And I do still sort of belief in this, in a tooth fairy kind of way.

      Agreed on the musks. Opardu by Puredistance was a particular shapeshifter in this regard.

      How interesting about that rescue dog. I could really do with him next time, and I sense there may be one, Truffle being the feisty cat she is. It was a long ordeal for her all right, being trapped for 32 hours. ;(

  10. Hey Vanessa,
    Sounds wonderful. One day I hope to meet Undina too.
    Portia xx

    1. It was...and you're also on her bucket list. ;) xx

  11. Dear V, I enjoyed this post so much, like being there from first to last. And what a great point at the end, I feel it mirrors my own place of perfume excitability and friendships exactly. Also, the whole sniffing new releases I can't really keep up, and find that whenever people of Perfumeland gosh about something and I do proactively search out a sample, it disappoints. However, as you say yourself that doesn't mean that you can't still crave the buying of FB of perfume that you come across along the sniffing path...

    1. Hi Asali,

      Glad you enjoyed the post and that it struck a chord with you as to where you are on your own perfume 'j*****y'. You've got a major sniffing/friendship meet up in just a week of course, which will be fantastic!

      I like some of the things that appear to be universally admired on the blogs, but by no means all. I have not blogged about entire houses because their scents have not reeled me in. But yes, sometimes you just find 'the one' regardless of how it is generally regarded.