Friday, 4 January 2013
Bonkers Does Barca: A Bijou Perfume Museum, Eight & Bob At Perfumeria Regia, And The Carner Barcelona Trail
APPARENTLY YOU TAP THEM AND PRESENTS SPILL OUT - I REMAIN SCEPTICAL
For Barcelona is also a prime destination for the travelling perfumista, not least on account of its small but perfectly formed perfume museum, or MUSEU DEL PERFUM in Catalan. Housed at the back of one of a chain of niche perfumeries called Perfumeries Regia, you have to ask one of the sales assistants for the key and pay an entrance fee of 5 euros. I usually go out of my way to avoid fee-charging museums, but decided to bite the bullet and enjoy having this one all to myself for what was by no means an excessive entrance charge.
RARE EVIDENCE OF BONKERS SPENDING ON CULTURAL PURSUITS
And am I glad I did! The place was a veritable Aladdin's cave of vintage perfume bottles and other artefacts charting the evolution of perfume vessels - nearly 5000 of them all told - from the very beginnings of fragrance. As regards the exhibition of industrialised perfumery, the scent bottles were arranged (very loosely) by brand and chronology, or so it seemed to me - and to fully appreciate this arcane and somewhat bizarre collection you really needed to press your nose right up against the glass. As no one was looking, I did just that.
I noticed a couple of sub-themes (not all intentional) to the exhibits, eg PERFUMES WITH PROVOCATIVE BOTTLES OR NAMES. In this category fell the now controversial series of Golliwog perfume bottles, and a handful of scents with the amusingly unsettling names of ORGIA, SNUFF, GONG, COCAINA & ECHO TROUBLANT.
HERE TODAY, GONG TOMORROW
MORE SHOCKING THAN SHOCKING!
There was also a cabinet devoted to perfumes from different countries, one devoted to puffer bottles, and here and there, examples of arrestingly beautiful packaging whose inventor had truly thought outside the box.
Another thing that struck me forcibly about the collection was the sheer number of vintage brands of which I hadn't heard - these may even have outweighed the ones I did know, though it was a close call. I noted down a small sample of perfume house names that were unknown to me including:
MADELEINE DE RANCH
ZOFALY (not a high end wallpaper brand, as you could be forgiven for thinking)
MORABITO (not to be confused with an inner city district in Berlin)
After the sensory overload of the museum, where I must have spent a good three quarters of an hour gaping in wonder, I emerged into the body of the Regia perfumery, with its fine collection of contemporary niche scents.
I had rather shot my bolt, however, in terms of absorbing any kind of information - olfactory or otherwise. So rather than sniff any of the testers that were new to me (of which there were a goodly number), my eye was drawn to the curiously named scent, EIGHT & BOB. A pamphlet explaining the charming story behind this cologne - which involves the son of a French aristocrat turned amateur perfumer, Albert Fouquet, his trusty butler Philippe and a young J F Kennedy - was placed on the display and the full text is also reproduced here.
Sadly, the scent itself was not to my liking - a rather soapy cologne that put me in mind of Maison Kurkdjian's Cologne pour le Matin - but it gets huge props for the off the wall nature - and origins - of its name. I do urge you to read the full story!
EIGHT & BOB - ONE SAMPLE WOULD BE QUITE ENOUGH FOR ME, THANKS
Apart from visiting as many tourist sights as I could cram in in the time, there were two other things I had hoped to do during my stay in Barcelona: identify the statue in this painting of mine, which inspired my review of Carner Barcelona's scent D600, and visit the headquarters of the Carner perfume house itself.
Well, I kind of failed on both counts! I did visit some gorgeous parks, and scrutinised the feet of the many female statues contained within, but failed to locate THE ONE.
SIMILARLY SVELTE, BUT NOT WEARING ENOUGH CLOTHES, BASICALLY
Aborting the statue quest, I turned my attention to the Carner Barcelona trail, but though I spied my first Carner nameplate pretty smartly at the bottom of La Rambla, it was a red herring.
So I got out my map and pinpointed the offices of Carner on 600 Avenida Diagonal (the clue in the name D600, hello??), and hotfooted there by metro and bus, only to find them shut. Doh! Well, it was a Saturday, after all. Turns out that this address is the administrative office of the company, but there is no associated perfumery, like that time I went to the wrong address of L'Artisan Parfumeur for the launch of Séville à l'aube.
Not to worry, I thought to myself, and repaired round the corner for the crepe of my life and a cup of tea. Not even a crepe so much as a farinaceous mixed media food collage.
And finally, here are a couple of snaps of OTHER people posing with the "kimono dragon" at the Parc Güell. It was impossible to get near the poor creature, he was in such demand!
Oh, and one last snap of someone I met in the street...
Photo of Eight & Bob from roullierwhite.com, other photos my own