Friday, 27 December 2013

The Scent Crimes Series: No 11 - Perfumed packages in bombastically big boxes

So Christmas is well and truly over, though the forest of little pots topped with tin foil lids and housing cold turkey and its concomitant roasted bits and bobs doesn't seem to diminish with each passing day - the contents of the pots just look a little less appetising as the week wears on...

On the gift front, I hope that Santa 'delivered', and that he conscientiously worked his way through your wish list.  If he had any wit, he would embed half a dozen reindeers in Amazon's Swansea warehouse, and have them on permanent standby.  My own presents included a Chanel mascara, a fat bottle of gin and a Black & Decker crevice tool, so I am well happy.

Now, newer readers may not be familiar with this long running mini-series mentioned in the title, which recounts sundry crimes against perfume - or perfume related things - that have particularly exercised me.  I wrote a flurry of posts back in 2009-10 - about anything and everything from confusing Stella flankers to the evils of bathroom storage, trigger-happy sales assistants and opaque perfume receptacles. I must have felt I got a lot of things off my chest back then in a relatively short space of time, for it is getting on for two years since I filed my last report in this sorry canon. Though I did make reference to a scent crime post in my recent piece about the new perfume shop in Stafford, called Vienna.  The one about my friend Clare's fruitless attempt to find a stockist of Mitsouko in our town, and how a sales assistant witheringly dismissed the entire house of Guerlain as 'old stuff'.

I have touched on perfume bottle - or sample vial - design a few times in this series, and now find myself increasingly bothered by the packaging of promotional products, unsolicited yet consensual consignments of which I am receiving more and more these days.  I may revisit that theme - and how I should approach such offerings (aka 'PR swag', to put it bluntly) - in my upcoming 'end of year' musings.

Then in my review of Puredistance BLACK not so long ago, I couldn't resist having a mischievous pop at the heavy duty laquered-look box that had been used to present a sample of Opardu, the brand's previous release. This was more on weight rather than size grounds, it must be said.  On an impulse, I just stuck the Opardu box on the scales and it topped out at almost 1 lb, a hefty receptacle indeed for a 2 ml sample vial!

Looks a little bigger if allowed to stand on its own box

However, the prize for the most disproportionate packaging to product has to go to a scented candle I was sent recently from a company called Rive Sud in Cannes. The one I received was a highly spiced, church incense-y number called Via della Basilica, featuring (declared) notes of incense, pepper and myrrh:

"Like a poem by Pavese, the streets will open out onto a pine-clad hill and stones, leading to the silence of the basilica."  (My rendering of the French blurb on the Rive Sud website.)

The collection of four candles was created by Cannes-based interior designer Christine Bodino in tandem with perfumer Delphine Thierry, the nose behind Cloon Keen Atelier's Castaña, which I happen to own!  I was intrigued to smell any scented product inspired by the Mediterranean, having lived on the Riviera for a year in my student days, teaching in a school in Cannes in fact, just a hop and a skip behind the Croisette. My morning commute from Antibes featured dark silhouettes of palm trees against unfeasibly lurid peachy-pink sunrises, exactly like those holiday postcards I reject on a point of principle for being too gaudy.

I haven't burnt the candle yet, but other bloggers who received the same press package as me have lit the wick and recorded their thoughts, notably Kevin of Now Smell This and Gaia at The Non-Blonde.

What surprises me is that no one has been similarly struck by the humungous big box the candle came in - or seen fit to mention it at any rate.  Compare the candle's small size on the table with a standard vase!

Possible negative 'splay' effect of the (albeit matching) roses?

And see how lost it looks amongst the polystyrene packing peanuts!

That very same outer box ended up being sent to a friend in Canada, where it comfortably transported a present for her and three further gifts for her children. So at least it was appropriately sized for that journey...

Do you have any examples of extraordinarily OTT packaging to share?  I'd love to hear about them!

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Happy Christmas everyone!

Christmas is almost upon us - well, it already is for many people who celebrate today, like The Queen and much of continental Europe.  I can tell it is Christmas in my house, because it is the only time of year I suffer from 'overflowing fruit bowl syndrome' and have recourse to the decommissioned perfume fridge in the garage, which whirs into life to receive its consignment of party Prosecco and the pared down limbless dome that I have bought this year by way of a turkey.

I am about to launch a final assault on the shops this morning - well, more of a surgical strike at this point to be fair - to secure strategically important items such as bread for the stuffing, Sellotape, and sherry for general coping with the inevitable stress of the occasion.

So I would like to take this opportunity to thank Bonkers readers everywhere for your support in 2013 and to wish you 'happy festivities', whatever and however you celebrate.

I will be back with another post on a vaguely Christmassy theme shortly.   Meanwhile, here for your enjoyment is a photo of a present I bought myself, proving once and for all - as if anyone ever doubted it! - that there is such a thing as 'tea towel porn'.

Monday, 23 December 2013

Results of the Puredistance BLACK sample draw!

Source: Puredistance
Right, so the shortest day of the year is past, and with it the deadline for this latest sample giveaway hosted by Puredistance - for three 2ml vials of their new BLACK perfume.  I have done the biz using, omitting those readers who opted out of the competition for various reasons.  By my reckoning this leaves eleven people who are both interested in receiving a sample and have met the conditions set by Puredistance of either following them on Twitter or liking their Facebook page.

These readers all went into's virtual tombola and the winners have been drawn.

Come to think of it, because Bonkers attracts relatively few comments compared to the larger blogs that host giveaways, you do get particularly good odds on here!  Just saying...;)

And now without further ado, I can announce that the three winners are:




Congratulations to the three of you and I hope you like BLACK as much as I do!

Drop me a line on flittersniffer at gmail dot com with your address details, and Samira, the PR lady at Puredistance, will get your sample off in the post, fearlessly braving the postal regulations of your respective countries! Depending on when you clock this announcement, it will either be this side of Christmas or when the PD team come back to work on 30th December.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Oh, "Vienna": Olfactoria - and Val the Cookie Queen - travel to spirit at least!

While I was up in Scotland visiting my brother and sister-in-law this weekend, I spied a Facebook status update posted on my wall by my good friend - and perfumista protege-in-progress - Clare:

"Making a rare visit to the Big Town (Stafford).  When did we get a Guerlain shop?"

To which my instant and feverishly excited response was:

"Good grief.  Not JUST Guerlain, surely?  With the Paris Exclusives and everything?"

Clare let my mischievous riposte die a natural death, replying:

"Guerlain, La Perla and Wolford."

At this point our mutual friend Nicola chipped in, making the very understandable point:

"I think you must have stumbled into a different town, Clare...easily done."

But no, we do have a new, 'Guerlain-forward' perfumery: in Crabbery Street, on the site of a failed cake shop, and a failed shoe shop before it.  For anyone not familiar with my adopted town, I should point out the sorry fact that many shops fail in Stafford, including - to my great chagrin - its lone delicatessen.  Oh, and we have never been lucky enough to warrant a wool shop selling the sort of ball that doesn't give you an electric shock.

Frau Hermine Mayer, Proprietor of Vienna in Stafford

So today, notwithstanding an urgent need to recce Stafford's sherry and turkey crown options, I braved the intermittent hail to check out this latest retail phoenix, called "Vienna".  It turned out to be a tiny perfume shop carrying a variety of high end brands (principally Guerlain, Lalique, Hermes, Amouage, Cartier, Ruth Mastenbroek(!), Patou, Bvlgari and Fleurs d'Ombre), shoehorned into a small luxury clothing store.  The flacons nestle cheek by jowl alongside Wolford tights, La Perla lingerie, a selection of high end Austrian coats, a pile of Scottish wool blankets, some soft kid leather gloves (as worn by The Queen!), and an assortment of expensive handbags.  I also spotted a Filofax by The Bridge.  The proprietor, a pretty blonde lady called Frau Mayer, turned out to hail from Vienna, which explained the Schneiders coat collection - albeit they are technically from Salzburg. And Wolford is of course from Bregenz - I accidentally drove past their Head Office once as I was crossing several borders in short order (an occupational hazard in that part of Austria), and my eye was distracted by the forest of pedalling mannequin legs in the foyer.

Frau Mayer & daughter Monika - flanked by happily co-existing tights and Amouage scents

Frau Mayer and I got to chatting in a mixture of English and my rusty German. I learnt that her sister Elvira Birkin had been the proprietor of "Elvira", an eponymous 'perfume-in-a-coat shop' in Newcastle-under-Lyme,  some 15 miles from here.  I had been tipped the wink about this store by Ralph, a fellow fumehead I had a blind sniffing date with once in Stafford, but - for my sins - I had never got round to visiting it.  Now, after 25 years of trading, Frau Mayer's sister had sadly died earlier this year and she had come over to run the shop for a spell, before deciding to close down there and try her hand in a different location, namely Stafford.  Frau Mayer is not planning to stay for long, but rather is simply moving to fresh pastures for a spell.

I may have touched them before I saw the sign, but I think I got away with it!

The store's move to Stafford is an admirable yet bold one; and while I thought the Schneiders coats were well worth the c£400 they cost, I am not in the market for one at the moment, and I fear your typical Stafford shopper may not be either.  I am not even in the market for any more perfume indeed, though Frau Mayer is holding two testers she is selling off of Mitsouko and Nahema extrait de parfum for me in case I can find an interested party.  They are £90 each for what looks like 30ml, which is a bargain versus the typical retail for a new bottle of parfum of 270 euros approx. There was also one bottle each of Vol de Nuit and L'Heure Bleue in extrait, but they are spoken for, and all the Amouage (regular) perfumes are also sold. So that is encouraging, certainly.

As well as talking about local demographics and Frau Mayer's home town of Vienna, I couldn't not mention my meeting with Birgit of Olfactoria's Travels and the fact that another Austrian-based blogger, Val the Cookie Queen of APJ, must surely clock a number of Schneiders coats striding the chilly streets of Salzburg on her morning delivery rounds.  In short, it was all rather surreal.  Sampling Mahora and the latest Ruth Mastenbroek in Stafford while talking German was almost as bizarre an experience as if I had met Bertrand Duchaufour in Lidl during the turkey and sherry scoping exercise.  And in one of my Scent Crimes Series posts, entitled "Binning the classics", I relate the sobering tale of the bemused reaction Clare herself got in Stafford's Co-op department store (as it was then) when she inquired about Mitsouko...

Mahora - so unexpected and so not Lacoste Touch of Pink 

So there you go - a pop up shop that will pop down again shortly, as serendipitously as it came, so if you are within striking distance of Stafford, come and grab a bargain while you can!  Support local enterprise in this, the most worthy of product categories!  Oh, and there is 25% off all the standard perfume lines... ;)

And as I say, if you are after slightly sprayed testers of Mitsouko or Nahema parfum, please let me know in the comments or drop me an email at 'flittersniffer at gmail dot com'.  I probably have an option on them till Christmas, say, maybe a bit beyond.

Up next, in time for Christmas...the results of the Puredistance BLACK sample draw!

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Puredistance BLACK sample draw - just in time for the LBD season!

Back in October, I wrote a very enthusiastic review of BLACK, the latest release from Dutch luxury perfume house, Puredistance.  I classified it under my 'Careful Whispers' series because it is quite distinctive, yet stays close to the skin - the PR copy is spot on in this regard:

"The essence of the concept was to create a perfume that is close to the wearer and releases elegant and sensual layers in a whispering way - without shouting."

BLACK has now been launched, and I am one of the bloggers whom the friendly people at Puredistance have invited to host a sample draw.  There have been some other giveaways of BLACK samples already, but as with soap and tea towels, I don't believe you can have too many where this particular perfume is concerned, until everyone gets a chance to try it.  So if you weren't successful before, have another shot on Bonkers just in time for the Little Black Dress season! For I do think BLACK would add the perfect finishing touch to such an outfit - well, assuming you are female and someone who attends that sort of party, which wouldn't be me, for example.  As a matter of fact I have noticed an increase this year in 'bad taste Christmas jumper parties', so the traditional 'cocktail frock' may be on the wane.

Regarding the mechanics of the giveaway, there are 3 x 2ml vials up for grabs, which will be mailed out by Puredistance themselves.  Which is a bit of a relief, frankly, as my local post office has - most uncharacteristically - started to give me the third degree about the contents of my international packages, and I have even had to tell the odd outright fib.

In order to qualify, please leave a comment below answering any of the following questions:

What qualities / moods do you associate with the colour black?

When putting together an outfit, which colour do you feel works best with black - apart from more black!?  Or conversely, what colours would you avoid?  

If you had a black cat, what would you call it, and why?

Additionally, Puredistance have specified another requirement, namely that you 'like' Puredistance on Facebook ( or follow them on Twitter - '@puredistance'.

The draw is open to readers anywhere in the world, and you don't have to follow Bonkers - though followers are always welcome!  I have set a closing date of December 21st. Now I am not sure when Puredistance close for the holidays, so please be patient if they are not able to ship the samples to the winners till the New Year.  I will keep you informed of the logistics side of things as I get word, and you can contact me at any time for an update on 'flittersniffer at gmail dot com'.

Good luck!

Sunday, 8 December 2013

The Soap Opera Series: No 2 - Clipped wings: Dove Supreme Fine Silk Beauty Cream Wash

Ever mindful of my flagging Wikio Beauty Blog rating, I started an occasional series on 'soap (and related cleansing products) behaving badly' with this post on my accidentally albino bar of Roger & Gallet sandalwood soap.  I was moved to follow it up today with a minor rant on Dove Supreme Fine Silk Beauty Cream Wash - one of those 'two-in-one' products, in this case a combined hand wash / liquid soap and moisturising cream.

Multi-functional products are nothing new: some were developed  for space-saving reasons, as with washer dryers or fridge freezers, while some pack in the benefits to get an edge over the competition, like the latest toothpastes which combat plaque, gingivitis, tartar build-up, cavities, bad breath, sensitivity etc - I believe some brands of toothpaste now also offer organic vegetable boxes and coach trips to York. Then in the case of many beauty and bodycare products - eg 'alphabet creams' (BB, CC - and now DD aka 'Dynamic Do-it-all' creams), shampoo & conditioner, moisturising hair removal creme etc - a key driver is to speed up the beauty regimes of our lazy and time-poor generation, as well as to thin out the forest of bottles lined up all round the bath, like slightly oozy skittles. I plan to do a separate post on some of those in due course...

The problem with combining the function of liquid soap (takes stuff off) with moisturising cream (puts stuff on) is that the product ends up being hopelessly conflicted.  This Dove cream wash doesn't finish the cleaning job before it starts to moisturise, or that is my impression.  It is like a runaway 'wash & wax' car wash, or a gibbering GPS stuck at the mid-point of an equidistant loop - or perhaps a rabbit that has darted half way into the road and the path of an oncoming car, and is unsure whether to complete the crossing or run back to where it came from.  As I wrote on Facebook the other day:

"Dove Beauty Cream Wash purports to combine the properties of a liquid soap and a moisturising cream, following the car 'wash & wax' principle. Epic multitasking fail. Hands feel sticky and unclean and I have an immediate Lady Macbeth urge to wash them afterwards."

Pashmina frenzy on local choir - one or two were slithering off by the end of the night!
And as for Fine Silk?  Pfft!  Silk slips off easily, whereas this Dove Fine Silk Beauty Cream Wash adheres unpleasantly.  I am racking my brains now to try to remember how I got on with Nivea Cashmere Moments Shower Creme, which may have shared this same phony 'smooth and caressing' fabric premise - or 'cashmere myth', if you will.  Comparisons between bodycare products - or perfumes for that matter - and the texture of cashmere are so overworked in beauty writing, apart from anything.  I am certainly guilty of them myself.  Yes, if I had a quid for every blogger who has compared perfume to a 'cashmere wrap' or 'stole' or 'sweater', I would be able to buy that 50ml bottle of Diptyque Volutes edt I have my eye on.  Even though I should probably spend the money on Perles de Lalique or something more overtly cashmere-esque.

But I digress.  That's all I wanted to say on the subject of this particular malfunctioning 'two-in-one' soap product.  Yes, for me this Dove product concept simply doesn't have legs - or a leg to stand on - or wings even.

And I would be interested to hear if anyone has had a better experience of the category, or has had similar epic fails with multitasking bodycare products.  Or who has tried a DD cream!  I am still stuck at BB, slow learner that I am.  And following my post on the subject, I never did find one that was less greasy or the right colour...

Hen, 'the loveliest chicken' in Britain - Source:

Oh, but I must just share this comment about a Dove product - presumably something in the general 'wash' family - by my cousin's wife Sue on my Facebook wall:

"It is however, very useful for conditioning championship chickens, it seems.  Good old Radio 4 useless information."

Only the white ones, mind - as Sue later qualifies her comment - for Clive Stephens, the poultry fancier featured in the broadcast, uses washing up liquid on the black ones.

Here is the very excerpt to which she is referring!

The picture above is of the imaginatively named Hen, Stephens' freshly washed and award winning bird, pictured next to a bottle of Fairy Liquid.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Blind gift buying reprised - selfish scent suggestions for someone else's son

I am not managing to post as often as I used - or would like - to, but as many fellow bloggers find, work and general life 'stuff' have a habit of getting in the way.  Another factor in my own case is that I have a ton of penpals - both regular and fumie friends - and can easily while away a whole evening catching up on emails.  Like last night indeed, when I received a request from my old English teacher - she of The White Company Noir tip off in my previous post - to help her pick out a perfume for her middle son, aged approximately 30.  I might add that I have not seen this chap since he was a baby, when I famously tried to change his nappy as he scuttled round the living room, defiant and gurgling with glee:

"I am going to buy P aftershave for Christmas and was wondering what you would recommend - blind as it were, as you don't know his tastes. The thing is, he is very easily made happy so will be pleased whatever I get, so I could just go into a shop and buy something with a respectable name (at about £ that reasonable?...though he is like me in that he enjoys a bargain!) but I thought I would run it past you."

At this point I should perhaps rewind and take a quick look at my recent statements about the whole business of blind buying...and how my stance has since softened slightly, but with caveats! The notion has been in my mind this past month or so, ever since Undina's post at the end of October - and subsequent statistics - on blind perfume gift buying.  She was more or less against the idea until she encountered Ineke's Scent Library, which she figured was so easy to like it could safely be given to family members who had either minimal interest or indeterminate taste in perfume.  In fairness the set comprises five different samples, so there is an element of bet hedging going on. ;-)

Then just the other day Persolaise published some 2013 Christmas perfume gift recommendations, featuring perfume suggestions for generic characters such as a 'distinguished older lady' - and 'gent' - or a 'little prince' and 'princess' etc.

My distinguished older great-grandmother 

So I left a slightly waggish comment:

"At the risk of sounding a Bah Humbug note, is it wise to be buying perfume gifts for other people in the first place? A voucher for Selfridges / Liberty etc might be the way to go, though it would make for a shorter post!..."

Then in my piece on The White Company's Noir, I boldly asserted that I would feel comfortable giving Noir to a friend, which understandably struck Natalie of Another Perfume Blog as 'pretty amazing'.  I did, however, qualify this comment by saying that I would only give Noir to a person whose taste I knew to lie in that general Jo Malone Dark Amber & Ginger Lily direction.  My point about Persolaise's picks was that they were rather blanket / typecast in nature - all distinguished older ladies, all young boys etc - though he probably didn't mean them to be taken too seriously either. ;-)


And now here I was faced with another scenario in which I would potentially be recommending a blind buy and going against my usual principles on the matter.  The twist though was that my friend's son was being positioned as "very easily made happy", which gave me rather a lot of free rein!  I realised I could therefore approach this task from my friend's perspective, as in: "What male colognes would I like to smell on my son?", or even from my own standpoint:  "What male colognes would I like to smell on my friend's son if I were ever to meet the adult version of the baby of my distant recollection?"  And on this basis I wrote straight back as follows...

"Okay, that is easy, as there are some wonderful classy classics that are within your budget that I would personally like to smell on any man.

My top pick is Chanel pour Monsieur, which is subtle and soft, yet with a beautiful citrus opening totally unlike the horrible synthetic 'tonic sport accord' you get in so many men's aftershaves these days.  I saw a small bottle of that in Boots for just £22.50!


Equal favourite - but in a different, somewhat more feminine style - is Dior Homme, created by a Chanel perfumer as it happens.  It is a soft iris floral for men and quite swoonworthy in my view, and would suit someone comfortable with his feminine side.  My friend C's husband has both of these and he is a real A-type man, so I was most encouraged.  They smell terrific on him.


Other nice scents would be Guerlain Homme, which has a famous mojito top note(!), and Gucci II pour Homme, which has violet leaf, bergamot and a little soft spice.  


Am attaching photos of all of these, as the scent market is such a minefield with so many similar sounding fragrances.


And lastly, if P would prefer something more overtly butch, more nodding towards Sean Connery or Antonio Banderas - who I think does indeed wear this! - there is Dior Eau Sauvage, a classic from the 60s that still smells good today. All the above should be available in Boots or a reasonable department store.


I have avoided extremely spicy or woody scents in case that is too 'far out' for P.  Another good cologne is in fact Acqua di Parma's Colonia, come to think of it, or Colonia Intensa, but I would still go with Chanel myself.

Oh, and I smelt the AdP Oud scent at the weekend, and liked it a lot, but oud is a bit of a specialist taste. Here's a review of it...

You might want to consider that as a possible future bottle, having established if P cares for really woody notes? And whether you do indeed - I think it is important that you should like what you have bought him - for when he comes to visit! - so I suggest you try to smell all the main recommendations above.

That should keep your vetting nose busy...

Oh, and on the subject of bargains here's a great Lidl tip for men - G Bellini X-Bolt smells just like Hugo Boss Bottled (the original)!  So that is a bonus cheapie stocking filler option if you wanted - for £3.99 as usual...;-)"

(NB As you may have inferred, with the exception of the wild card Lidl pick, I stuck to mainstream brands for reasons of name recognition, budget, and ease of in-store testing.)

And today I heard back from my friend, who was pleased with my suggestions and pronounced them "worthy of publication".  So here it is - a blog post based on the very hobby of writing to friends that so readily (and agreeably) diverts me from blogging.

So... I would be interested to hear what scents you (would) like to smell on your menfolk?  
(If it was left up to you I mean, rather than factoring in the man's personal preferences, as in our present 'easily made happy' case...;-) )

And do you think it is necessary to take account of age or lifestyle - more so than I have done, say?
P is an advertising professional based in the South East - that's all I know about his grown up self.  I must admit that I haven't really taken his age into account if it is a factor - as I say, I am coming at the exercise from a selfish point of view!

By the way, I have since discovered that the Acqua di Parma oud scent is £135 for 100ml, so that puts it out of court, even for a future occasion.  What's with this big bottle trend?  I for one do not approve...

Not quite worth the money, even for the lining...! Source: