I was very tempted to call this post: "Visit To The* Scent Bar - 'I Should Be So Lucky / Lucky, Lucky, Lucky'...!", but editorial consistency prevailed, and this last instalment has defaulted to Part 3 of The Scented Bit instead. I know what, I will create a sub-heading instead...
Visit To The* Scent Bar: "I Should Be So Lucky..."
I believe I left off the saga at the point where I returned to my hotel in Venice from the Strange Invisible Perfumes store to select an outfit for my sniffing session that afternoon at the Scent Bar in West Hollywood. I had taken advice in advance from Qwendy/Wendy about dress code, because I was aware of that general neck of the Hollywoods being the affluent epicentre of LA. I didn't want to look too much of a hobo, though at the same time I knew I had zero hope of competing with the top-to-toe designer-clad "ladies who feebly push their lunch around their plate with a fork" brigade. You see them striding purposefully down Beverly Boulevard, long golden locks bouncing over razor-sharp clavicles like those flappy streamer things that smear rather than dry your windscreen in a car wash. They are invariably clutching six rope carrier bags in each hand - or five bags in each hand and one beribboned Yorkie - a pink I-phone cupped to one ear in the crook of a surprisingly supple elbow.
So anyway, Qwendy said the uniform at such events was pretty much de rigueur skinny jeans and T-shirts, adding - to put me at my ease - that she routinely flouted the trouser convention. Now I don't own any skinny jeans as such, but instead donned my least bootleggy Gap jeans, which are called "Real Straight" - see photo (legs not my own).
I teamed this with chocolate brown suede high heels, a chocolate brown lace trimmed cardigan and this T-shirt: perfume-themed, accented with a bit of bling, and a steal at £12 in New Look! Then I did my best to style my hair in the artfully mussed way to which I so often find myself referring on this blog, and jumped on the I-10 freeway, heading for the Scent Bar and the worldwide HQ of Lucky Scent...
Regular readers may have inferred from my many posts about road trips that I am not averse to a bit of driving. I do, however, suffer from parking phobia, and allowed an extra half an hour to scope the vicinity of the store looking for a legitimate parking spot. It took me 20 minutes of cruising round and round the block to spot a free parking meter associated with a space into which I felt comfortable manoeuvring my sub-compact - yet to my mind still rather large and boxy - car. And though I lacked the requisite quorum of quarters to pay for my projected stay, I was ecstatic to find that the parking meter accepted foreign credit cards!
I arrived at the Scent Bar a little ahead of schedule, and was surprised at how tiny and bijou it was! But they had maximised the available space all right: each wall was shelved from floor to ceiling, and on each shelf sat dozens of bottles of niche scents - all jumbled up together for the most part - though a few houses were grouped by collection eg Xerjoff from memory.
Qwendy was unavoidably held up and arrived fashionably late and full of apologies - or rather the couture version of "fashionably late" - which is slightly later. But it is a measure of how welcoming the staff were and how un-conspicuous I was made to feel, that I was perfectly happy to browse the rich layers of stock on my own until Qwendy was able to join me. I also had sporadic chats with Rachel and Steve, the two sales assistants, when they were in between serving the serious punters, who came not just to sip champagne (just one small flute in my own case, obviously) and "sniff till they dropped", but to...yes, strange to tell...actually conduct themselves like proper consumers and buy stuff...
And then Qwendy arrived, and there were rapturous greetings, as though we had known each other much longer than one phone call's worth and a mutual trip to the Post Office with our respective swap parcels way back whenever. As I expected, she was wearing a distinctive and stylish skirt-based ensemble, but we needn't have worried about our outfits, for there was one lady there in red Wellingtons.
So what did we smell? Oh dear, I was worried you might ask that... May I fall back again on my "Witnesses sought to a fatal car crash" excuse in trying to reconstruct a list of what we smelled, never mind an impression of said scents. As I recall, the majority of perfumes I tested fell into the "okay" category, with "possibly worth a retrial" in one tapering section of the bell curve, and "meh" in the other. There were only a couple of outright scrubbers in the "very thin bell end", so to speak(!) - as noted below - and only a couple I really liked, or which otherwise impressed me in some way.
HUMIECKI & GRAEF
(Rachel kindly fetched these out for me from under the counter? And that is a good tip in The Scent Bar - given that this is the shop front of Lucky Scent, you can ask for pretty much any perfume you want to try and they should have a tester tucked away somewhere...)
Hasu-no-Hana (retro sneezy scrubber! Grossmith by name...)
Lua (tested on skin)
Notes: bergamot, orange, lemon, melon, Bulgarian rose, Florentine iris, pink pepper, lily, cedar wood, vanilla, musk
This was a very pretty floral woody musk, with many of my favourite notes in it, though I would probably lose the melon and swap the cedar for sandalwood. It is almost certainly not worth the money, mind you. I didn't even bother to inquire! Update - I just peeked at the Lucky Scent website - I was right not to bother to inquire!
Jasmin (very full-on indolic jasmine, squarely and headache-inducingly in the A La Nuit, Jasmin de Nuit tradition. I would have to call this a scrubber, which in no way diminishes its authentic jasmine-ness. If it did, I might actually like it...)
NEZ à NEZ
Figues et Garçons
L'Antimatière (cousin of SIP L'Invisible - in name only!)
(Smelt on another lady's skin who was deciding which of these two to buy. The in-store consensus - we were all getting quite pally by this stage and sniffing one another uninhibitedly - was Peau de Pêche, which was deemed (relatively) more intense and interesting, on her arm, anyway.)
Peau de Pêche
Bois de Santal
Traversée du Bosphore (tested on skin)
I could not better Boisdejasmin's summary of this one as a "take on violet-orris in a gourmand oriental manner". She goes on to say: "It is opulent and voluptuous, and yet the signature dry amber touch of Duchaufour lends it a surprisingly diaphanous effect." It was possibly too opulent and voluptuous and even a little scratchy to appeal to me on that warm, sunny afternoon, but the drydown was smoother and quieter, and I would try this again. Stylistically I was reminded a bit of DelRae Bois de Paradis, though it is a long time since I last tried that one - the L'Artisan strikes me as more wearable on the basis of this cursory trial.
Love and Tears (tested on skin)
Notes: bergamot, petit grain, cypress, jasmine, orange blossom, ylang-ylang and cistus. Lucky Scent also detects lily-of-the-valley and gardenia.
A completely OTT feminine white floral in the style of Fracas or Joy or Roja Dove Scandal, but even more so. Even more what? Even more everything. It has that molten perfumey quality conjured up by soft porn ads for motor oil. I liked it and thought it very well done, but couldn't quite see myself wearing it.
Qwendy, who is currently morphing from my evil scent twin and lover of darkly robust compositions to someone unexpectedly gravitating towards feminine florals, gave Love and Tears the thumbs up. We also had major new crossover territory in APOM pour Femme by Maison Kurkdjian, which may conceivably be the bottle producing Qwendy's blissed out state in the shot above. : - )
Orange Star - no discernible Tauerade!
Rose Vermeille - Tauerade alert!
Carillon d'un Ange - as above!
So, after spending an incredible 1hr 40 mins in this small store, without feeling the least bit in the way, and given unlimited licence to take photographs, I said goodbye to the helpful staff and the charming Qwendy and drove back in the dark to Venice, navigating (rather well, I thought) by my rough sense of direction alone, as my GPS blacked out somewhere on Wilshire.
Visit To Ajne, Carmel: "The Road Not Taken"
My final scented stop on this trip was Ajne in Carmel, if you discount a fairly low key visit to a branch of Marshall's, where I copped for a bargain bottle of Juicy Couture Dirty English and promptly regretted the purchase (as you do).
I had a couple of morning meetings in Santa Barbara one day during the second week, and after doing some quick calculations, figured that if I really put my foot down on the 240 mile journey north I might just make it to the store before they closed at 6pm. To this end I opted to take the inland route, which is more direct but considerably less scenic than the famous coast road (Route 1).
Accordingly, on the afternoon in question I drove like a bat out of the proverbial hot place, parked up, and was outside the Ajne boutique in its pretty courtyard by 5.45pm, only to find the place in darkness and clearly shut. I have since made contact with the company, and found out that they had closed early because it was the night of their staff Christmas dinner at a location just down the street!
As I peered in the windows at the Louis XIV furniture within, I couldn't help but feel a sense of anti-climax, yet it was just one of those unfortunate things... If only I hadn't needed petrol and a comfort station at Kingsburg, pausing fatefully to examine the (to me curious) display of beef jerky, and choose a bar of confectionery with what now seems, looking back, to have been unnecessary care. Yes, if only I had shaved those vital 5-10 minutes off the journey, I would have bumped into the Ajne team in the act of shutting shop, and stayed their hand long enough to sample their latest releases and purchase a parfum petite of Printemps.
There again, knowing my track record with Ajne purchases, my "buy the smallest retail format available" resolve might have crumbled and I could have walked out with the half oz black heart flacon @ $200 instead of my intended mini, a fraction of that size. Though ml for ml, the larger sizes represent significantly better value. See - I clearly wasn't meant to be let loose inside that store!
That concludes the report on the Californian Road Trip - I am still trying to figure out if I am a closet travel writer who likes perfume or a perfumista who travels. You decide...
*NB The name of the store is "Scent Bar", but "I am going to Scent Bar" sounds so peculiar I can't bring myself to forgo the definite article.
All photos are my own except the perfume bottle shots which are taken (most fittingly) from Lucky Scent's website, the exterior of the Scent Bar (from Osmoz) and the photo of jeans from Gap's website.