Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Lemmings and lemons reprised: a current capsule collection of 20 'desert island' scents

Every once in a while, I fantasise about having a smaller, more 'curated' collection of perfume bottles, instead of the sprawling, multi-plastic tub-, box- and drawer-filling monster it has in fact become, even though I hardly ever buy full bottles of perfume anymore. Such a notion remains a fantasy though, as I only managed to lose a few bottles in a recent two pronged sales push on here and on a Facebook selling and swap site. One of these bottles of course famously came straight back to me due to its missing top notes! Well, we are all getting on, my perfume included, and the ageing process is so gradual that you sometimes don't notice slight changes in your own appearance or that of your stash. So I may have to accept that however carefully I have looked after them - regular readers will remember the fridge years ;) - the potential to sell more bottles from my wardrobe aged 5 years and over, as most are, is probably limited.

So instead I thought I would just play a game with myself - as I did nearly exactly three years ago, it turns out! - to pick my Top 20 Desert Island Perfumes at the moment. A compact capsule collection, if you will, to last me until the next time I change my mind, as surely I will. Yes, I thought it would be interesting to compare the results of this latest exercise with my previous list, though this time round my focus has been as much on the possible ways to go about such a selection, and which methods I ended up choosing, as my fragrance choices in themselves.

I have just had a quick look back at my previous post to see which MO I used there: in 2014 the first phase of the process was to get all my bottles out and stare long and hard at them, then make a list of the perfumes I would actually buy again. I came up with 19 out of 70(!). Then I scratched my head and asked myself: 'Which perfumes do I wish I had bought instead?' and came up with a further 16. And promptly had to knock five off the first list to come up with a final (and somewhat luxurious, it now seems to me) tally of 30. Helped by the fact that I am probably in even more of a plateau phase of my hobby, three years on - assuming it is possible to have plateaus of varying degrees of flatness - I am going to limit myself this time to a whoppingly whittled 20.

There are some scarf albatrosses in there also.

So without further ado here are the MOs I used/considered:

The burning building speed grab method

Otherwise known as: 'Which perfume bottles would you save if you only had minutes to leave a burning building?' (You may rescue up to 20, and it doesn't matter if you don't own them in the first place.) By dint of including imaginary bottles, this is in effect a cunning fusion of the two methods I used in 2014. And is more or less what I did this time, namely, I took a sheet of blank paper and tried to come up with my top 20 perfumes in a spontaneous and fairly speedy brain dump. So that pretty much is it, and I could almost stop the post right here, except that I did go on to refine my selection by partially dabbling in other methods along the way...

The systematic review of ALL perfumes owned, including samples, to determine favourites

This goes beyond Phase 1 of the actual method used last time, and in 2017 fell at the first fence. I couldn't be bothered to even open the cupboard to look at a couple of boxes of full bottles, never mind my decant drawer and seven bulging bags of samples. I took all these photos after writing my post! So by setting the bar too high, I was quickly paralysed by inertia, preferring to rely on a much more knee jerk MO of what I could remember I liked off the top of my head. As a result, I may well have forgotten some major loves. Even though as a market researcher, I always maintain that unprompted beats prompted recall every time, so I may have been unduly swayed by my professional principles here. ;)

The travel bag 'nuclear precedent' method

Ex-Mr Bonkers used to worry about falling sick and a dep taking his place in one of the many bands he played in, on the premise that the last man to do a gig is likely to get the call next time. So by the same token, it could be argued that whatever scents are in my 'grab and go' travel bag - a variant on the burning building concept you might say - are ones that I have enjoyed wearing recently and which might equally serve as a capsule wardrobe 'going forward' (did I really say that, even in inverted commas? - shoot me now!). But I wasn't buying that argument and didn't even look in the bag, firmly believing I should cast the net of my mind more widely, notwithstanding its wide mesh (and the associated big holes of my recall).

The fragrance family method

I entertained this briefly, noting that there was nothing on my list that resembled a citrus cologne, and promptly dismissed it. Why should I have to include colognes or chypres for the sake of some vague impulse of deference to Michael Edwards? I mean wheely? And maybe some of them ARE chypres, you never know. I obviously wasn't going to take the time to find out, though it might have been quite revealing. I know in my heart that I am ineluctably and primarily drawn to wistful powdery orientals, sultry florals with a twist, and the odd soft leather, and if that means I end up doing the fragrance selection equivalent of buying 25 pinky nude lipsticks and nary a one in that orangey red that would also suit me, so be it. Or buying the same shirt in every colourway, as I observed last time.

My complete 'winter collection' against a backdrop of snowy duvet!

The scents for all seasons method

Now this is an MO I did toy with, and in the direction of which I do in fact partly nod, though not so slavishly as to segment my picks by all four seasons. I just kept a vague eye on whether I had wintery orientals and ambers in the mix as well as some summery florals - that could equally be springlike if we don't confine that season merely to scents with notes of hyacinth, daffodil and narcissus. I do actually keep both my full bottles and samples in bags for 'winter' and 'summer', so this split is clearly meaningful for me.

My complete summer collection' against a backdrop of blue blanket sky!

The scents for all occasions method

As I work from home, if I work at all, and the 'holidays' I take tend to be going on tour with The Monochrome Set and loitering on station platforms rather than lazing on sun loungers, I am more or less immune to the classic 'occasion-based' perfume wardrobe categories along the lines of 'office appropriate', 'beachy', 'kicking back on a Saturday in a crisp white shirt and jeans', 'dolled up to the nines for a Christmas party straight out of Love Actually' etc. I pretty much have 'sitting in the bedroom I use as a home office', 'going to Lidl', 'visiting my elderly friend', and 'going to gigs' scents - I shall resist adding 'poking round garages and hedges looking for the cat' scents, in the hope that those episodes are not to be repeated. So as you can imagine, this method barely flitted into my mind before flitting right out again.

The covering all my favourite notes method

Well, I entertained this one for a millisecond and it went straight onto the 'too hard' pile. There are so many notes I like, that to achieve a balanced collection where they are all represented with no undue weighting towards one or another would need the mindset of an investment manager balancing a portfolio of cash, gilts, property, bonds, bellwether tracker funds, slightly riskier ones in emerging markets, and a punt on the Health Lottery. I did vaguely notice along the way that certain fragrances had rose or lily or ylang ylang in - and I know I like those - but if I am picking scents I like overall in the first place you would think I must be homing in on my favourite notes, even if only at a subliminal level.

The scents I had happy times in method

Now this one was quite appealing, but I tried to resist picking scents this way, confining myself to a selection based on a perfume's intrinsic appeal rather than experiential association. It is theoretically possible to have a brilliant time wearing a very mediocre scent, which then gets uprated just because it happened to be in the right place at the right time. So I ditched that as an MO, though I will say there are a handful of scents in my shortlist whose wearing does bring back happy memories, but which made the cut largely on their own merits.

The 'inclusive' perfume house / perfumer approach (I am a bit 'method'-ed out at this point)

This started out as a casual (retrospective) consideration of whether I had at least one scent each from Chanel and Guerlain in my shortlist (I do!) - just because they are behemoths, no more that that - and segued into musings on whether I should consciously include the work of indie perfumers I admire and/or like as individuals (whether I have met them or not - this exercise is getting more and more abstract :) ). But I decided that despite certain personal leanings, that shouldn't influence my fragrance choices, and concentrated solely on the perfumes, regardless of provenance. I have to say that there would be a slew of such scents bubbling under the top 20, but I have been very strict, sadly.

The Bois de Jasmin seal of approval approach!

Now at this point the plot thickens and takes an unusual turn...with my 20 perfumes more or less in the imaginary bag, I was googling the note lists at the end of Victoria's reviews of some of them on Bois de Jasmin - I know, I  know, I cracked a little bit about the notes! - and realised in passing that the first few perfumes I looked up were (quite fortuitously) either rated by her as four - or even five stars. So I immediately stopped paying any attention to the notes(!) and started googling reviews of my shortlist purely from a star point of view, to see how consistently my selection lined up with Victoria's seal of approval. And it transpired that all of the scents on my list had either been awarded four or five stars or were not featured at all, which may or may not be significant. I am sure I have seen three star reviews on BDJ, and I hope I haven't picked a mix of her favourites and a bunch of other ones she rates too poorly to feature, being as diplomatic by nature as she is erudite, dainty, and winsomely immersed in the culture of her native Ukraine.

So there you have it...a list completely conjured up out of nowhere, with a few backward glances at other selection approaches, which slightly influenced the outcome round the margins.

Drum roll...please feel free to heckle at me, with pained cries of: 'But hey, you forgot xxxx!' (Not least the accents, I know...)

Am splitting my list loosely into 'wintery' and 'summery', which is not to say I wouldn't break those rules too, obviously.

Wintery scents

Guerlain Attrape-Coeur
Chanel Bois des Iles
Caron Parfum Sacre
Hermes Doblis
Tom Ford Private Blend Fleur de Chine
Ormonde Jayne Ta'if
Parfumerie Generale Brulure de Rose
Dawn Spencer Hurwitz Cimabue
Flower by Kenzo Oriental
Christian Dior Ambre Nuit
House of Cherry Bomb Immortal Beloved**
Prada Candy

Summery scents 

Annick Goutal Songes
Ann Gerard Perle de Mousse
Editions de Parfum Frederic Malle Carnal Flower
Mona di Orio Tubereuse
Serge Lutens Un Lys
Estee Lauder Bronze Goddess
ELDO Fils de Dieu, du Riz, et des Agrumes
En Voyage Perfumes Zelda

**NB This was very nearly Aroma M Geisha Noire, and may yet flipflop to that some day.

And how many of these do I actually own? Er....four! (See top photo.) I did own Brulure de Rose, but it is all gone. Not that there is much left of three of the four fragrances in question. And I must still have 50-60 bottles in my collection in total, some of them inveterate albatrosses. The most distressing of these have been relegated to the cupboard under the stairs or a special plastic bucket dedicated to 'aspirational sales'.

I would love to know if you have had a go at compiling your own top 20 scents lately, and if so, whether it was a struggle, and what made the cut. In the light of people's comments, I could be mightily tempted to do mine all over again!

Hmm, yes, that is yet another possible selection MO, come to think of it:

'The what do my fellow perfumistas rate' method

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Guardian angel: how Truffle - and my stress levels - went through the (curate's garage) roof (twice!)

Source: Ebay
Back in January, at the height of the bathroom leaks and 'Crack-ageddon', I distinctly remember avoiding any further testing of the samples Mandy Aftel had sent me, including Vanilla Smoke and Amber Tapestry, for fear of imprinting them with bad memories. In an exchange after the event, Mandy agreed that "aromas get tinged with memory in both good and bad ways and are almost impossible to disentangle", adding that she appreciated my careful approach.

Now that is all very well if you happen to know in advance that you are going to have a bad day, but sometimes the crises - like my cracks when they first kicked off - come at you out of nowhere. By this time you may already be wearing your chosen SOTD, which, perforce, becomes caught up in the 'horror and terror of the first water' (to borrow my father's phrase) that subsequently unfolds.

Which is something that so easily could have happened with a bunch of Puredistance scents the other day. I was testing four of them at once to determine my favourite, progressively narrowing the field over the course of the weekend to WHITE and SHEIDUNA. (I am still struggling with the whole capitalisation issue, though writing the word 'capitalisation' in lower case is helping a bit.) And in a final wrist-to-wrist play off, my overall favourite emerged, as...but I will save that titbit for later. ;)

So yes, last Thursday I was engrossed in the fairly thankless business of cleaning windows. Oh my word, what a rich seam for a blog post window cleaning techniques that actually work would be. In my desperation, I tried Mr Muscle, vinegar, and an E-cloth and water - sometimes all on the same window, endlessly rotated until the smears looked marginally less noticeable through half closed eyes and with the roller blind pulled down a few inches - and am now that sad soldier who is actually lusting after a Karcher Vac. But the point about the window cleaning is that I was somewhat distracted, though on and off during the day I had wondered why Truffle had not come back in since breakfast...It was mild weather, so I tried to convince myself she had just wandered a bit further and was enjoying herself in the uncharacteristic sunshine, even though I knew deep down that that wasn't her usual MO.

Truffle on the roof of the shed next to the garage....

First thing the next morning, 24 hours after Truffle had been gone, and following a completely sleepless night, I could no longer think of her as merely being 'out', and reported her as missing to the vet, an animal search charity that also had some useful online tips, and the insurance company - just in case you have to notify a missing pet the way I had to get a crime reference number off the police that time my luggage was stolen(!).

I also downloaded a 'lost cat' poster template, and was faffing about trying to resize photos when a friend messaged me from a train - having seen my Facebook status about Truffle's disappearance - and kindly offered to do the artwork for a poster. I explained that I was in fact nearly there with that, but he was able to combine two photos and make them fit the template, so his intervention was most timely. Not that I needed the posters in the end, as you will see!

Next up, I did some reading on the Interwebs, and learnt that for an 'outdoor access' cat like Truffle, the most likely outcome was that she had become trapped, probably within a short distance from home. The site recommended conducting an 'aggressive physical search' of her primary territory, comprising a five-house radius. It so happens that I am adjacent not only to five houses, but also to 33 lock up garages(!). I had already been round these a couple of times, calling Truffle's name and trying to listen out for any sound, which was tricky, given the ambient traffic noise.

View from the neighbour's garden

Then on a third circuit later that morning, I was passing the garage nearest to my house, which belongs to people in the next street, when I heard a cat crying. I also felt a paw underneath the garage door, though a short while after, the crying stopped and the paw was withdrawn. I still had proof that a cat was in there, even if it didn't turn out to be mine....

BUT I didn't know who the owners of the house were, so I loitered in that street for a few minutes and chanced upon a man unloading his shopping. I asked him if he knew the names / jobs / routines of the home owners. He told me that the wife was a part-time curate at the local church, so I jogged over there at the double, disturbed the vicar's wife, who was in bed, ill!, but gamely staggered downstairs because I had kept knocking. She texted the curate, asking her to ring me, and staggered back to bed, though not before letting slip that the curate's husband was a GP in the next county. And that the couple mostly lived there, only occasionally coming to Stafford.

Well ventilated garage of doom

There was no response from the curate, and of course I was frantic by now, as Truffle had been shut in the garage for nearly 30 hours already with no food and water. I know animals can survive for much longer, but obviously you don't want your pet to suffer for a moment, never mind a day and a half. So I promptly googled all the GP surgeries in and around the town the vicar's wife had mentioned, and found a doctor with a surname matching the curate's. Bingo! I rang the surgery, only to be told it was his day off. I asked the receptionist to try to reach him on his mobile and explain the urgency of the situation.

And thus it was that two hours later, the husband duly arrived and opened up the garage. Even on those odd times the couple come to Stafford, they hardly ever use it apparently! Moments before, my friend, Jim - he of the fine quips in my shortlisted entry for the 2015 Jasmine Awards - had turned up unprompted with a length of rope and a general air of reassurance. I stood outside to catch the cat if she ran out, and it was Jim who found Truffle cowering in a corner - collarless, filthy, frightened, and smelling of 'old stuff in garages' and p*ss. And no, that isn't 'puss', though she was back to her normal smell after a few (self-administered) washes. ;)

This is so going on her next collar...

That evening, I went round to thank the vicar's wife and the man who had been unloading his shopping, both of whom had given me such crucial pieces of information that led to Truffle's successful release. Well, I put a card through the door of The Rectory, knowing the wife was poorly, and the following morning, had a hand delivered letter back from her!

"I'm so pleased that you got your cat back. You wouldn't know how much your thank you card meant. I was feeling low after being in bed for the majority of the day. My husband came and gave me your card. It made me smile."

Oh, I don't feel so bad for getting her out of bed now. ;) Plus it sounds as though she is on her feet again. Unless the vicar played postman?

Then on the vet's advice I kept Truffle more or less indoors over the weekend, just letting her out briefly and under my watchful eye, but by Sunday she was feeling a lot more adventurous and events took another disastrous turn.

Source: Pixabay appears that while dogs have a short term memory span of five minutes, cats have a whopping 16 hours! But I am afraid that is nowhere near enough. For notwithstanding her earlier ordeal, Truffle managed to fall in the hole all over again! Even though I had already spent an hour supervising her outdoor access without incident, suddenly she leapt up onto the garden wall, and from there it was a mere hop, skip and a jump to the garage with the holey roof. Down which she promptly fell. The roof is made of full asbestos(!) and is really friable and crumbly as you will see, but I am running ahead of myself.

As the hideous and distinctly Groundhog Day-ish news sank in, one of the lodgers who lives next door (I'll call him 'L' - not his real initial  ;) ), and who happened to be loitering in the service road, offered to take a look at the hole. 'I'm only small', he said, 'I could probably get down there' - which despite his slight physique I privately thought unlikely. In a flash, L had shinned up the ladder like a rat up a drainpipe, and before he could get anywhere near the hole, he suddenly created a much bigger one of his own...' I've done that, I might as well go and get the cat?' he volunteered, with an uneasy smile. A second later there was a sickening thud as L jumped to the concrete floor some six foot or so below. He promptly opened the garage door before I could tell him not to and Truffle shot under it like the proverbial bat out of hell! Luckily, she darted back home while the pair of us set about clearing up the bits of asbestos on the floor.

Sun glinting on the polythene sheet

In vain did I try to persuade L to use gloves like me. 'I'm 45, I've had a good innings', he said phlegmatically. Well, I for one would like to live long enough to see Truffle wear out / lose the three replacement collars I had just bought her. ;) Oh, make that four, as I later found the one she lost under a tree. Anyway, after sweeping up the debris, L and I managed to do our own rather nifty roofing job, though I say it myself, involving 'found' things from my own garage - two bits of board from picture frames, a huge piece of plastic groundsheet folded in half, and my old airing cupboard door to weight the whole lot down! I had kept it because it was too big to fit in my car to take to the tip - never thinking it might actually come in handy one day.

Our improvised roof covering in place, I rang the owners to confess what we had done, lump in throat. Luckily they weren't at all mad at us for technically trespassing and damaging their property, and have said that this second incident - which is fast turning into that lost parent business in The Importance of Being Earnest(!) - will galvanise them to get the roof fixed properly as a priority.

So there you have it. In the space of four days, Truffle and I lost at least two lives apiece, and I also learnt that herding cats is an utterly doomed venture. And was also touched by the tremendous support I received on- and offline from concerned friends, as well as the community spirit on the ground that led to both the happy outcomes.

Home Sweet Home

Now I had carried on testing the Puredistance samples meanwhile - well, applying them at least, and occasionally remembering to sniff them. I figured that if they had been tainted by Truffle's first fall through the roof, that feeling wasn't going to get any worse from this point on, besides which, she had been repeatedly rescued!, neatly cancelling out the bad associations from before.

And unexpectedly, Truffle and I seem to have a much closer bond now, I would say - or I do to her at least. Presumably she has no memory of either incident by now, hehe. She has slept on my bed for a total of five nights so far, without spending half of it jumping on my head, as happened the last few times we attempted - and quickly aborted - a 'co-sleeping' arrangement. If she continues to be so well behaved, we might even be able to entertain this cosy regime on a more regular footing.

Then Monday was happily uneventful...Truffle went in and out of the garden unsupervised numerous times, and I have almost stopped worrying that she won't come back...

Oh, and the favourite Puredistance? - the one that really 'went the distance' during this strange r*****coaster of a long weekend, and which not only came out the other side unscathed, but had the power to subliminally comfort and shore up my fragile mood? It was that creamy, fruity, at times discordant, yet mesmerisingly fizzy amber and myrrh-fest that is - SHEIDUNA.

PS Proper perfume posting resumes shortly...

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

The top 50 (websites and) perfume blogs according to Feedspot: a blogger / market researcher's view

Charlie Bonkers, a capital cat
A few weeks ago I was contacted out of the blue by a chap in San Francisco, though I didn't clock his location at the time. It will later turn out to be significant in this story though.

"My name is Anuj Agarwal. I'm Founder of Feedspot.

I would like to personally congratulate you as your blog Bonkers about Perfume has been selected by our panelist as one of the Top 50 Perfume Blogs on the web.

I personally give you a high-five and want to thank you for your contribution to this world. This is the most comprehensive list of Top 50 Perfume Blogs on the internet and I'm honored to have you as part of this.

Also, you have the honor of displaying the following badge on your blog. Use the below code to display the badge proudly on your blog."

He inserted a link to the Feedspot site in the body of the email - you can find it here.

Well, there was much to puzzle over in this email, even before I studied the list in more detail. Does he really only have one panelist compiling these rankings? Isn't three a minimum quorum of judges in these sorts of things? And isn't a "comprehensive list of Top 50" anything a contradiction in terms? To my mind, the word 'comprehensive' inherently suggests all-inclusion, rather than a subset of something.

Tree top Truffle

But hey, these are minor hair-splitting points compared to what I went on to find on checking out the list. I appeared at # 41, which is perhaps surprising given my near total disregard for all matters SEO-related, but as you will see I wonder if I should even have been in the Top 50 at all...

The first thing that struck me about the list was that although many of the big behemoths of perfume blogging - old and new - were present and correct, and highly ranked as I would expect: Now Smell This, Bois de Jasmin, Cafleurebon,The Candy Perfume Boy, The Scented Salamander, Perfume Posse etc, there were a number of key blogs missing, while a whole slew of 'other entities' had been included, which are not what I would call blogs as such.

For starters there was Reddit, which I understand to be another social content aggregator site just like the one this chap is seeking to compile!

Then there were various retail chains that came pretty high up the list, such as The Perfume Shop, and and Perfume Click. On closer inspection, it turns out that their websites do in fact have a blog attached, but more in the way a motorcycle might have a sidecar, or I might wear an earring. I can't believe the retailers' blogs have all that traffic in their own right, though I can well believe that the sites overall do, as they are online shops! But I could be wrong - because I am judging things only from the perspective of the perfume blogosphere as I know it, not ALL internet writing on perfume.

Pillar puss surveying the blown over fence

Then Basenotes was in there, which is not a standalone blog either, but it IS an absolute core perfume website in our world. But in that case where oh where was Fragrantica??!! Or Osmoz, on which I cut my fragrance family teeth back in the day, if we are going to get a bit fluid with our categories.

And the anomalies kept coming. There was a site featured called The Perfume Expert which may well be huge, though I had never heard of it, and which also covered makeup. Which is fair enough, but if we are including make up, surely The Non-Blonde should be in there too? And Get Lippie, who will shortly be on our TV screens!

Kafkaesque was on the list, though she has been on hiatus since the end of last year. So if dormant blogs can be included, why not the gigantically rich archive that is Olfactoria's Travels? And where is Katie Puckrik Smells and Grain de Musc!?!?!

And there were also a number of perfume houses in there, such as Eurofragrance, Tijon Fragrance Lab & Boutique, and All Good Scents (an Indian brand). I may be remiss for not having heard of all of them. Though good old Andy Tauer also featured at #16: he is one of a number of perfumers like Roxana Illuminated Perfume (ranked #25) and Ayala Moriel with her Smellyblog (ranked #28), whose blogs are very much a key feature of their overall online presence.

Oh, and I spied an entry for a product called FragranceLock, a 'perfume setting spray' of all improbable things:

"...a new fragrance finishing spray that gives your fragrance longer lasting staying power, leaves a breathable mesh on the skin decelerating fragrance's natural evaporation cycle making fragrance last longer".

And that came in one notch after Undina's Looking Glass, and ahead of Perfume Shrine. Eh??

More tops of fixtures to conquer

And if we are going to be modern about all this, why not include the video blogs? - Katie Puckrik's YouTube channel and the new vlogs on the block, We Love to Smell and Fume Chat, being clear contenders for inclusion.

So of course me being me, I had to write to Anuj and point out to him a) that some of these sites were not blogs per se, b) that there were all sorts of notable omissions and c) that I post once a week, not once a month(!). I am not overly bothered if that affected my ranking or not, but if I see a mistake I have to correct it, obviously. ;)

And given my conviction that some at least of the missing blogs would have made it into the Top 50 - especially if Feedspot ditched some of the shops and 'other entities' - I asked how many Anuj had come up with in total. I haven't done the exercise, but have a hunch that if you were to take the combined blog rolls of a dozen perfume bloggers or so - even selected at random - you would probably generate another 30+ names, who could at least be put through the screening process to see if they might have made the cut.

Anuj replied:

"Overall we found Top 50 Perfume blog."

So there you have it. It's not the Top 50 Perfume Blogs, but all the perfume blogs he found...

Moving on to how the blogs are ranked, the criteria are stated as follows:

  • Google reputation and Google search ranking
  • Influence and popularity on Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites
  • Quality and consistency of posts
  • Feedspot's editorial team and expert review

'And while I am on the wardrobe, here's another thing...!'

On Feedspot itself, each site's Alexa ranking is mentioned, but not its Google page ranking, which I do think is an important complementary yardstick, but maybe it is factored in. Hell will freeze over before I install an Alexa toolbar. Then I see that I am listed as having no Facebook presence: while it is true that I have no page specifically for the blog, I do publish links to all my posts under my own name, so they are potentially seen by upwards of 700 friends on there all the same. I decided against having a dedicated Bonkers presence on Facebook because I truly can't be bothered to repeat my blog post updates in two places. But hey, I am someone who never ever has a party in case nobody comes, so go figure.

So there are SEO factors that are more tangible, if you will - though I believe even Alexa rankings are based on estimates where blogs don't have the toolbar installed?- but of particular interest to me were the last two criteria. I wondered who the Feedspot editorial team are exactly. Maybe Anuj has a particular interest in perfume. Certainly Feedspot are not perfume specialists. You will find lists of the Best Bag blogs, the Best Recycling blogs, Lupus blogs, Lyme Disease blogs, Melanoma blogs, Divorce blogs, Feng Shui blogs and many, many more.

And I may have had a bit of influence on the list as well, for if my memory is not playing tricks, Feedspot seem to have quietly amended their title to "The top 50 Perfume Websites and Blogs", whereas I  am sure it was originally just "blogs". Hence why I went off on one to them! ;)

And if you leave aside my quibbles about the rights and wrongs of the rankings, it may well be dead handy for readers to use these consolidated 'RSS reader sites' as a way of accessing their favourite blogs. I would be interested to know if that is so, or how you follow / read the blogs you like.

Here's the badge I have not added

Meanwhile, I have no plans to display the badge, mind, proudly or otherwise. Also because I don't take kindly to being 'badge-ered' to do things.

"Hi Vanessa,

I emailed regarding your blog Bonkers about Perfume which was selected by Feedspot as one of the Top 50 Perfume Blogs on the web.

Can you help us spread the word by adding the badge on your blog.

If you can briefly mentioned about the Top 50 Perfume Blogs list in any of your upcoming post, we would greatly appreciate it."

Well, I did do that! 

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

The Scent Crimes Series: No 18 - Tantalising convex bottoms

'Does my bottom look convex in this?'
I have just had a quick look at past entries in The Scent Crimes Series, and of the previous 17, a surprising seven tackle assorted irritating aspects of perfume packaging. I was saying to Val the Cookie Queen only the other day that I seem to be becoming more and more easily annoyed these days, and that it doesn't take much for something on Facebook to set me off: from the eerily well targeted ads for brow lifts, wide fitting shoes and funeral plans, to the generalised ranting, humble bragging, cryptic cliffhangers, inexplicably inflammatory terms of endearment (especially 'my lovely' and 'hun'), not forgetting the self-help memes - and even (when I am feeling particularly curmudgeonly) the surfeit of cute animal videos. Though sometimes it is a video of a squirrel nibbling on an acorn before falling over in ecstasy, or an otter doing backstroke with its baby on its tummy that is precisely the tonic I need for these unfortunate bouts of misanthropy.

But yes, it would seem that perfume packaging also has boundless ways to wind me up. For those who have come latterly to Bonkers, here are a few of the past titles to give you an idea:

No 6 - Opaque Perfume Receptacles
No 11 - Bombastically Big Boxes
No 12 - Impregnable Perfume Miniatures

And possibly my top peeve!:

No 15 - The infuriating shape sorting puzzle that is Cuir de Lancôme packaging

And then the other day I was thwarted by perfume packaging in yet another way - namely by a miniature bottle of Estee Lauder Amber Ylang Ylang, to be exact - when it failed to yield up its remaining drops on account of the convex surface of the inner bottom of the bottle. In vain did I tip the mini this way and that; the precious few drops of scent simply slid out of reach to one or other corner, beyond the pumping range of the admittedly very short tube.

Now it is because I so rarely finish anything bigger than a sample or small decant - most of my full bottles will probably have gone off before I do so, with a handful of notable exceptions - that I was caught on the hop by this. But it was all the more frustrating as I was in the mood to wear Amber Ylang Ylang at the time, and there was no other way apart from activating the nozzle to get the juice out. In fairness I do also have the same issue currently with a bottle of Clarins Foundation, to which I am quite tempted to take a hammer in my piqued state. Such drastic action would only hasten the run off of the last drops of Amber Ylang Ylang, mind, so I am well and truly snookered on this one. All that is left is to take a moment to enjoy the beaten gold top, whose stippled allure partly drew me to this scent in the first place...

Hmm, on closer inspection, I see I have a concave bottom problem going on with the Clarins...

Have you found yourself thwarted by this troubling phenomenon of tantalising convex bottoms?

It is of course also a problem if you are estimating fill levels prior to hosting a split or selling on a partial bottle of perfume - how do you account for the missing juice where the glass bows out? All oddly shaped bottles are tricky in this regard, come to think of it - well anything that isn't rectangular or squarish and with an even thickness of glass throughout.

Argh! I just learnt that this Amber Ylang Ylang has been discontinued - cue more annoyance! That is a great shame, as it was a fine example of a sweetly comforting gourmand scent with its tenacious base of amber, sandalwood, and vanilla.  Here is a link to Angela's review on Now Smell This. She does admittedly call it the ultimate 'cashmere sweater scent', but I will overlook that ;), as it was back in 2008, and Angela may well have been one of the first people to use - if not indeed coin! - the phrase that has gone on to become the doyenne of perfume cliches (well, if you are a crabby old stick like me, that is).

And if you aren't bothered by tantalising convex bottoms particularly, do you by any chance find yourself more readily irritated these days? I blame middle-age hormones - what's your excuse if so?

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Super furry animals and the cat's peignoir (including a mini-review of House of Cherry Bomb Immortal Beloved)

Source: Poshmark
Undina's recent 'month of roses' project - in which I have greatly enjoyed participating, even if I did fall off the wagon a few times by testing samples that had nothing to do with the romantic topic in hand - reminded me that 'roses with a twist' are one of my top two favourite fragrance styles. I'll call them 'rosientals', as the scents I like best tend to be a subset of floral orientals. Which is also why I found the task of looking for a rose perfume in that vein for my friend Jessica so rewarding, even if we never came up with a definitive contender in the end.

And my top category of perfumes - or Holy Grail genre, if you will - is those faintly animalic woody orientals that connote furriness and intimations of what a male friend of mine persists in calling 'rude business'. Or 'intimations of intimate business', even. My prim father's slightly more opaque term for this was 'filthy slop'. Now for reasons of semantic sensitivity I am reluctant to talk about my 'louche perfume j*****' - obviously I am more sheepish about the actual journey than the louche bit (eek, it slipped out!) - but you may be interested to learn that there has in fact been one.

My first introduction to the 'WAV-style' of fragrance (Woody-Amber-Vanilla - with or without patchouli) was probably PG L'Ombre Fauve, or Bestial Shadow, as it is amusingly known in English.

PG L'Ombre Fauve

Notes: woods, incense, amber, musk, patchouli

Now L'Ombre Fauve is wonderfully hoochy, but the patchouli lends a rough edge to the scent going in. I don't mean hoochy in a Hooters way exactly, but the opening is certainly not refined. It's earthy and ragged and a bit clod- - as in sod- - hopping. I never reviewed L'Ombre Fauve, because despite being such a fan of woody orientals, I find myself even more tongue-tied than usual in describing what I smell. What I can give you, if you can 'take it' (as all good mediums say), is an image of me sitting on a stool in a moodily lit tapas bar in Hamburg with my Swedish perfumista protegee Louise and several of her friends, while wearing L'Ombre Fauve. The whole party couldn't stop sniffing my wrist, having clearly succumbed to the perfume's animal magnetism, which proved more irresistible than even the dates wrapped in bacon and dainty morsels of chorizo.

Schankwirtschaft, now sadly closed. Source: Yelp

For a good while L'Ombre Fauve stood alone as the exemplar of this category. Bvlgari Black has some crossover with it in note and mood terms, but to my nose it is ultimately more (good) weird than louche. I also tried Paloma Picasso around that time, but it is a retro animalic chypre - a classy face slap with a beaver's business end.

The other scent from my early exploration to provoke a similar sensual shiver was the discontinued Damien Bash Lucifer #3. I am indebted to Louise - by now up and running on her own perfume quests! - for the introduction to this one. Uncharacteristically for me, I did manage to review Lucifer #3, but only because I was reeled in by the association between elemi, one of the key notes in the composition, and boat caulk. However, it cannot be included in 'The WAV files' proper, for it doesn't appear to contain vanilla, or any other note with a vanilla inflection...!

Damien Bash Lucifer #3

Notes: rose, jasmine, frankincense, black pepper, sandalwood, myrrh, labdanum, ylang-ylang, elemi

In these early years I also dallied with PG Felanilla and Le Labo's Labdanum 18, fellow furry numbers - quite literally in the case of Labdanum 18.

PG Felanilla

Notes: vanilla absolute, saffron, orris, banana wood, hay absolute, amber

Le Labo Labdanum 18

Notes: French labdanum, castoreum, civetta, musk, vanilla, birch resins, cinammon, patchouli, gurjan balsam, tonka bean

Source: Pinterest

Both fragrances are sultry, but these days I find the latter a tad too 'out there'. Looking at those notes, I can see why that might be - there are several ingredients that would collectively conjure a resinous and va-va-voom vanilla vibe. Labdanum 18 lacks the mysterious quality shared by L'Ombre Fauve, Lucifer #3 and Bvlgari Black, which is so key to the genre. The same could be said of Felanilla, which is from the same stable as L'Ombre Fauve, and fittingly has a barnyard quality to it.

Fast forward a fair few years to my discovery of Ramon Monegal's Ambra di Luna while visiting Jovoy in Paris with Undina in 2013. We are firmly back on terra furra with that one, and I could best describe Ambra di Luna as a 'roughed up' Prada L'Eau Ambree (insert your own accent):

Ramon Monegal Ambra di Luna

Notes: amber, labdanum, Egyptian jasmine, castoreum, sandalwood

Then last year I discovered yet more prime WAVs: Aroma M's animalic amber Geisha Noire and By Kilian's Amber Oud. Thanks to Undina for the tip off about the By Kilian via her review (from a year ago today!).

Aroma M Geisha Noire

Notes: amber, sandalwood, tonka bean

By Kilian Amber Oud

Notes: amber, oud, bay leaf, cedarwood, vanilla

Of the two, Geisha Noire is the furrier and loucher, and though I didn't review it either, I made reference to my growing attachment to Geisha Noire as a gig-going scent in this rag bag of a post that is also about old books, a dishwasher, and my ongoing battle with eczema. Ooh, leitmotif Louise makes a cameo appearance in it - that was the last time we met, in fact. And I did at least describe Geisha Noire as a 'smouldering, furrily sensuous, ceremonial cupcake of a scent'. Geisha Noire is more sensual and sweeter than Amber Oud. Crucially, it oozes mystery.

Val (who also gave me a mini-bottle of Ambra di Luna she inexplicably didn't need!) has kindly been keeping me topped up with samples and decants of Geisha Noire. But just when I was limbering up to possibly buying my own bottle - eminently desirable on account of the decorative Japanese paper alone! - a sample of Immortal Beloved arrived. Immortal Beloved is the latest release from House of Cherry Bomb, a creative collaboration between Brooklyn-based independent perfumers Maria McElroy of the aforementioned Aroma M and Alexis Karl of Scent by Alexis. And now all bets are off as to which way my cash will fall...Though it goes without saying that owing to my chronic SABLE (Stash Above and Beyond Life Expectancy) situation, I am trying to resist all additional purchases until some of the extant bottles are either used up or go rogue on me, which can only be a question of (not very much) time.

Truffle savaging the bag, eager to access its contents

And never mind the fact that I am smitten with Immortal Beloved, my trusty familiar has clearly marked it out as Her Favourite Perfume Yet. Readers may remember that I featured Truffle's fetishistic reaction to perfume packages in my recent Winter Special post about her, in which she was pictured nuzzling a FedEx parcel sent by Undina. I also showed her mouthhandling the little drawstring bag containing the vials of edp and oil of Immortal Beloved. A feat I filed under Agility, whilst noting that it could equally sit with (Dis)-obedience and Fetishes.

But what I omitted to mention was that not long afterwards I caught Truffle lasciviously licking the bag, which is an absolute first where any possession of mine is concerned. From which I take it that she really, really thinks this is the cat's pyjamas - or 'peignoir' perhaps, to coin a more suitably slinky phrase. Eyeballing that note list, there is a lot going on in Immortal Beloved, but after a surprising start, it settles into WAV-ish territory.

Immortal Beloved

Notes: tobacco blossom, lily-of-the-valley, henna, ambergris, labdanum, vanilla, agarwood, beeswax

Yes, when I applied Immortal Beloved, my first thought was of similarities to Serge Lutens Eau Froide...with its frankincense / lemon accord; that is too extreme a comparison, but it's all I've got! At this stage I wouldn't class Immortal Beloved as an oriental, or any kind of furry animal. It is most unusual and reads on my skin as a soapy, fresh and prickly thing I am going to call incense - which I know sounds like an oxymoron, given the more immediate association of incense with death. But that impression is fleeting in any event, and must be due to some playful alchemy between the LOTV and tobacco blossom. Or even the henna listed in the notes, to which in my perplexed state I have had retrospective course! I have no idea how any of those smell, mind, apart from the LOTV, though it is not quite itself here, conveying a spring-like backdrop rather than a marked muguet scent per se.

When Immortal Beloved reaches its cruising altitude it wears incredibly close to the skin - it is far and away the most delicate and 'barely there' of all the WAV perfumes featured in this post. A WAV-wisp of a scent no less, which you really wouldn't expect from the notes. It's an immemorial murmur like old Tennyson and his bees, which figures, as there is of course beeswax in it. Oops, my bad - it's the elms that are immemorial!

"The moans of doves in immemorial elms,
And murmuring of innumerable bees."

Strange to relate, Immortal Beloved melds with my skin so completely that it feels as though it was telepathically tailormade. Maybe that is why Truffle is so taken with it - as her besotted owner, I like to think she loves me - or any olfactory associations with me - back, hehe. Though perhaps she is merely high on tobacco blossom. ;)

Thinking of the HOCB name, funnily enough one of The Monochrome Set's members used to play in a football team called The Cherry Bombers, named after their record label at the time, Cherry Red. The Cherry Bombers were pitted against a team of jocks from the BBC, including John Peel. Perhaps the Beeb team should have worked 'satsuma' into their name somehow.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

And I note on Wikipedia that a cherry bomb is in fact an 'approximately spherical exploding firework', also known as a 'bangarang', which sounds like an 80s pop group of ill repute.

Also - and this is timely given that it was Shrove Tuesday only yesterday! - "during an episode of The Simpsons entitled 'The Crepes of Wrath', Bart discovers an old cherry bomb among his things and proceeds to ignite and flush it down a toilet at school, resulting in his deportation to a foreign exchange program in rural France."

In short, I can highly recommend a walk on the WAV side. And this compilation of 'WAV files' is by no means exhaustive, so please mention any further furry faves in the comments!

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Votive duet: Aftelier Perfumes Vanilla Smoke & Amber Tapestry mini-reviews - plus an Ajne retrospective

Made by me - a rare gift TO my elderly friend!
Strange to report, I didn't develop a liking for wine till I was at least 22, and olives still remain a challenge too far today. In the nine years of my perfume hobby, I have also come late to appreciating natural perfumes - that's with the exception of Carmel-based Ajne, a house to which I was introduced by Michelyn Camen early on in my perfume j*****y, before she founded Cafleurebon. I still possess a small bottle of Calypso - a woozy blend of frangipani, jasmine, cardamom and vanilla - which doesn't seem to have turned yet, despite being at least eight years old. Ajne* had quite a low profile in the blogosphere back then, and I never hear tell of them now. For a while though the range exerted a hypnotising pull over me, due to the hyper-realism of the luxurious ingredients, coupled with the delicate filigree of the Bohemian bottles, and the ritualistic way I would dab on my precious collection of samples. There was even one called Om, described as 'a consciousness-altering blend of smoke-laden sandalwood, Himalayan heart incense cedar, deep forest lichen and smooth musk'. I remember liking Om quite a lot, but I was busy chasing samples and splits of the other heady florals in the range apart from Calypso, notably Printemps (gardenia, linden), and Fleur Blanche (gardenia, stone fruit). It all feels like a lost chapter in my life, with only the increasingly amber-toned remnants of Calypso as testament to my ever having had this intense but fleeting dalliance with natural perfumery...

Ajne Calypso

Then something happened recently to ignite a spark of interest in naturals again, namely an email from Mandy Aftel, explaining that she had spotted my comment on a blog post by Tara of A Bottled Rose, expressing an interest in trying Amber Tapestry and Vanilla Smoke, both of which Tara had reviewed. Mandy invited me to pick a couple more samples to go into the package, and after an enjoyable evening spent reading the reviews of fellow bloggers with tastes congruent to mine, I settled on Wild Roses and Honey Blossom (which I may feature one day).

But before getting to my impressions of the scents themselves, I must devote a paragraph or two to the packaging, which greatly contributes to the 'devotional' aspect of my response to them - though not before mentioning the lightning speed with which the package arrived. It took an astonishing three days to come by FedEx Express all the way from Berkeley, California (including a brief pitstop in a depot in Cannock!). Why, I have known Christmas cards take longer to get from Littleworth to the other side of Stafford.

After the speed, I was completely smitten by the packaging...the golden Jiffy bag, the dear little cardboard box with its charming country scene and the tiny scent pots nestling in paper 'straw' at each corner.

Oh, and the distinctive use of priestly purple as Aftelier's 'house colour'. (Which reminds me of the time my father - not known for his largesse - bought me a colour TV on a whim, purely so he could watch a televised procession of bishops in New Zealand in all their ecclesiastical finery.)

Then there are other dainty touches to savour: the mysterious motif of a long stemmed retort, like a spindly garlic bulb, and Mandy's characterfully spiky calligraphy on her little note, enclosed in a glassine bag to protect the ink from the elements.

How much did I love all these thoughtful trappings? It activated whatever part of my brain - somewhere deep in the amygdala, perhaps? - is excited by miniaturisation, and brought back happy memories of dolls' houses and advent calendars of yore.

And there is something very significant too about the little pots; the Ajne samples were similarly presented, though it was all so long ago. I do believe these tiny receptacles predispose one to a mood of solemn reverence when applying - nay, anointing oneself with - the perfumes. And Vanilla Smoke in particular had the meditative quality of Ajne Om, or the Om at least of my distant recall.

So without further ado, here are my impressions of these two - I must stress that they were both written without reference to the note list!:


Vanilla Smoke 

I was not too sure about the first few seconds of Vanilla Smoke, as it was all about the smoke initially. A resinous puff of something like birch tar - or gunpowder? - in a quiet register, but still a bit too 'medicinal smoky' for me, if that makes sense. Very slightly like burning Band-Aids. But I was not at all daunted, having read enough reviews to be confident of a more seductive sequel, and so it proved. Soon a veiled sweet note emerged, like jaggery sugar or a dark, veering to treacly, vanilla, and smoothed out the smokiness. The texture of the scent was now silken and soft and comforting, the stern opening quite forgotten.  Who knew a bonfire (for there is smouldering wood still going on in the base) could be so cosseting? If anyone knows Om, cross it with Mona di Orio's Vanille and you would be in the right general ballpark. Vanilla Smoke is a judicious blend of austere smoky backbone and yielding vanilla vulnerability, if I may lapse into purple prose for a moment. Given the purple livery of Aftelier, I am hoping this may be excused! Vanilla Smoke is at once haunting and calming, and unlike any take on vanilla I have ever smelt - and vanilla being my favourite note, I have made it my mission to sample as many of its incarnations as I can find. I am not religious, but as I intimated earlier, dabbing a drop of this on my wrist borders on the spiritual. Hmm, I sense the dabbing part is key. Maybe Aftelier perfumes should only be available in tiny, dabbable quantities to foster this association. Now there's a radical idea... Or if my reference to transcendental experiences sounds a bit un-bonkerslike of me, at the very least Vanilla Smoke would be the perfect accompaniment to one of those Headspace apps where you sit still in a chair, scan your body parts one by one, and generally try to feel floppy. I  loved it, and wouldn't mind if I never smelt any of those 'straight up gourmand' vanilla scents (of which I have so many iterations in my collection) again.

Notes: yellow mandarin, Siam wood, saffron absolute, vanilla absolute, lapsang souchong tea essence (for which the tea leaves were smoked over pinewood), coumarin and ambergris

Source; pixabay
Amber Tapestry

Now although I didn't peek at the note list before marshalling my thoughts on this one, I remember reading somewhere that Amber Tapestry had jasmine in it - very likely in Tara's review - and was also waiting for a cosy, more amber-forward drydown. Instead I got a whoosh of fresh, green, vaguely mentholated, mahoosive and slightly bubble gummy phantom tuberose! And I promise I mean this in a good way! It was really, really interesting, and transported me back to the Palm House of Belfast's botanical gardens, inhaling the dewy, fleshy, otherworldly scent of some unspecified and faintly triffid-like plant. Think the blowsy Vero Kern Rubj crossed with Tubereuse Criminelle and you won't be far off, though I have only smelt the latter once. I see Tube Crim contains jasmine AND tuberose, as well as orange blossom and vanilla. And an eclectic collection of spices. And it is amber coloured to boot! So yes, those two...and maybe lob in a soupcon of Nuit de Tubereuse for good measure.

Source; Wikimedia Commons

Amber Tapestry is a highly unusual scent: odd and shapeshifting and not at all what I expected. Now that I have spied the note list, I reckon the faux-tuberose effect may in fact have been created by the combination of heliotrope (which can read big and 'plasticky') and the jasmine. And how intriguing that both Vanilla Smoke and Amber Tapestry should contain yellow mandarin and coumarin, not that I could have picked either of those out unaided. I suspect the coumarin could also be amping up the heliotrope and helping it stage this surprise tuberose stunt. I can't honestly say I get amber. Or even a drydown as such. The compelling tuberose chimera simply becomes more attenuated and finally fades away.

To compensate for my strange take on this scent, which I realise is way off the reviews I have now caught up with(!), I am inserting pictures of tapestries I have made - or co-made with my mother in the case of the footstool. Both feature an orange colour that could loosely be called amber.

Notes: heliotrope, yellow mandarin, jasmine, jasmine sambac, pear and cinnamon, amber, labdanum, benzoin, castoreum, ambergris and coumarin

The full footstool!

*Ajne did of course famously mark their card by unexpectedly closing early on the day I said I was coming to visit, hehe.

Monday, 13 February 2017

'Hunting the Snark': results of the perfume putdown flingaway / giveaway prize draw

Source: Living
So I threw down the gauntlet last week, asking people to dish up their favourite perfume putdowns and creatively snarky critiques. A lively and entertaining discussion ensued, in the course of which a consensus emerged about the style of perfume review people favour, namely one that steers a diplomatic line between bland deferential puffery and mean spirited thuggery, ideally with a bit of humour thrown in.

Once the deadline for the competition had passed - a little later than loosely advertised, it must be said - I compiled a list of the entrants who did not officially exempt themselves and did the aleatory biz with Random-org.

Accordingly, I am now in a position to announce the winner:


Congratulations, Crikey! 

Please get in touch to let me know which of the prize options you would prefer, from a ceremonial chucking away of a loathed scent to a decant of a lemming to have and hold, not forgetting the notebook option.

In other news, a perfume review post is up next - no, really!