You may know Val the Cookie Queen from her occasional Sunday Foodie posts here on OT as well as her regular contributions to Australian Perfume Junkies. She lives in Austria and we met for the first time in February of this year when Portia came to town. Although we didn’t get to chat for long, I felt an instant connection with her and we have been messaging ever since. So as you can imagine, I was very excited when Val said she would be returning to London in July.On our second day together, we met at 11 o’clock at the Guerlain counter in the Black Hall at Harrods. We immediately honed in on the display for the new Royal Extract which is a 900 bottle limited edition. This “worldwide exclusive” is said to be extremely similar to none other than the much-missed Attrape Coeur/Guet Apens.
We had to ask for a tester which the sales assistant brought out from behind the counter, administering us with a light spritz each. We weren’t going to waste it on paper so straight onto skin it went. Royal Extract is an eau de parfum described as a fruity amber, featuring rose, jasmine, tuberose, peach, vanilla, iris and balsamic notes.
Admittedly it has been years since I had a sample of Attrape Coeur but I was surprised to find Royal Extract opens with very fresh florals. Just five minutes later however and that familiar, singing amber came through. It lacked the richness and throw of the original version, but there was still a strong resemblance. If you can imagine what Attrape Coeur’s summer flanker might smell like, you’d be on the right track. If it were less than £280 for 125ml I may have snapped up a bottle, but that’s a bit much for an impulse buy.
Val had already been to the Ormonde Jayne stand before I had arrived and spotted another Harrods exclusive - Black Gold. So we hopped back there and again the SA issued a single spray onto my forearm. It was extremely good at first but over time settled into a not very distinctive oud/woody scent. A concentration of 50% perfume oil (according to the SA) is certainly very high and I’m sure the ingredients are top-notch but for me it didn’t warrant anywhere near £420 for 100ml.
The notes for Black Gold are bergamot, lemon, mandarin, clary sage, juniper berry, orchid, rose, water lily, jasmine, carnation absolute, oud, tonka, sandalwood, patchouli, vetiver, vanilla, labdanum, moss, musk, cedar, ambrette seed and amber. Strangely, despite the extremely high concentration it is labelled as an eau de parfum. Unlike Royal Extract, it’s available from the Harrods website.
Next, I managed to drag Val kicking and screaming to Roja Dove’s Haute Parfumerie on the 5th floor. Okay, maybe I exaggerate, but blinged-out bottles at eye-watering prices are not her thing. They’re not mine either but it’s fun to experience and there are a few quality luxury brands there including Puredistance and Parfums MDCI.
We had a nice chat with sales assistant Benjamin, who told us the Parfumerie is due to move temporarily into the Urban Retreat spa until its new home is ready in the forthcoming Salon de Parfums. Harrod’s is currently building the Salon on the 6th floor and it sounds like no expense is being spared. A number of brands will have their own fragrance boutiques including By Kilian, Xerjoff, Chanel, Guerlain and Dior. It’s due to open at the end of September and I can’t wait to have a nose around.
Benjamin was so charming that he even managed to spray Val with one of Roja’s “semi-bespoke” Private Collection fragrances, which are limited to 50 bottles. Val liked No.9 at first but it faded to something much less interesting after just a couple of hours. A serious case of front-loading all the good stuff, it seemed.
Back on solid ground, we strolled down Sloane Street with its luxury designer boutiques and on to the Amouage stand-alone store on Lowndes Street, Belgravia. I had expected the interior to be very cool, modern and white but it was actually very in keeping with the Georgian building and much more English or Parisian in style than Middle Eastern. Vanessa, the French SA, was beyond lovely and super knowledgeable.
Being pretty familiar with the fragrance line, we had intended to try the attars. Sadly they are no longer available. Vanessa explained this is because some people were buying them, diluting them with alcohol and then selling them on Ebay by the millilitre. Unhappy buyers would then to complain to Amouage. Apparently they are still available in the Middle East but I think it’s a great loss to us, having experienced the beauty of Homage.
I admired the elegant solid perfume compacts (which cost £65 each) and I tried Opus VIII from the Library Collection on paper, which is largely jasmine, ylang ylang and orange blossom. I didn’t find the jasmine as overwhelming as Val had previously done, but it didn’t wow me. Val is very fond of Beloved and I know Birgit is fan of that one also. It’s a symphonic floral priced higher than the regular line at £285 for a 100ml EDP.
We were meeting Vanessa from Bonkers About Perfume at 1.30pm so we hot-footed it across town to Covent Garden. We joined up with Vanessa who was looking suitably summery for the temperature which was nudging towards 30 degrees centigrade. We put perfume on hold for lunch at a café on the piazza. You pay a hefty premium for the location but Val very generously treated us to our very filling smoked salmon bagels.
Refueled, we went into the Market Buildings where the Penhaligon’s store is located. Here we met up with Nick Gilbert who is Fragrance Ambassador for the brand. Great job title, right? Nick is as knowledgeable about perfume as he is great company so no one could be better for the position. If you haven’t checked out his perfume blog at www.nickrgilbert.com you really should.
Val hadn’t yet tried Tralala which she liked a lot and Vanessa sprayed the brand new masculine, Bayolea, on skin. We thought it was great, smelling fizzy and zesty on Vanessa and more like fresh herbs on Nick. It’s based on a classic Bay Rum fragrance from their archives. The modernised version features notes of mandarin, lemongrass, cardamom, black pepper, lavender, cedar, sandalwood, musk and moss and starts at £65 for a 50ml EDT. Bayolea scents an extensive line of male grooming products which is very fitting considering it originated as a hair tonic.
While there, we had to check out the basement where Nick will be hosting special events. There are display cabinets with collections of original Penhaligon’s bottles dating back to the 1950s and the fact that it was fantastically cool definitely helped. We sat and chewed the fat for a time, which included a good amount of gossip (par for the course when perfume people get together).
Our next and final perfume stop was Les Senteurs on Seymour Place, behind the Marble Arch end of Oxford Street. We had visited the previous day when Val had tried all three of the new Papillon perfumes on skin. After ricocheting between the three as to which was her favourite, she had eventually decided to take home Tobacco Rose. Unfortunately the last bottle had been bought the previous day so she was thwarted.
The manager, Callum told us it has sold out several times this month and so it seems to be the most popular of the three. It’s also my favourite and Vanessa’s too, although they are all top drawer.
Val’s spirits were lifted however once she had purchased a 100ml bottle of Frederic Malle’s latest release, Eau de Magnolia, which she has been longing for since first trying it. According to Callum, it’s been selling amazingly well and they were out of 50ml bottles. It’s a truly beautiful fragrance but no doubt the exceptionally hot summer we’re experiencing is helping to boost sales. Val sprayed liberally there and then. Few perfumes have sillage as swoon-inducing.
We rehydrated at a café round the corner and chatted until it was time for our evening meal. We went to Roti Chai, the Indian restaurant we had gone to when Birgit was with us in March for the vanilla perfumes event. The meal was great and Val went home with one of their T-shirts. When it was time for Vanessa to catch her train back to Stafford we checked that we all had the right bags.
Apart from the obligatory swapping of perfume, Val had brought us Austrian confectionary and tea-towels with a traditional design, while Vanessa had gifted me with a lovely mug depicting a perfume bottle. So off we trekked to the tube and went out separate ways. Val thought this worked out well because it gave her less opportunity for tears as the trains rolled in. Personally I was on too much of a high to get upset. It had been non-stop fragrant fun with some of my favourite people on the planet.
Attention! GIVEAWAY! Now here’s your chance to win a complimentary fragrance consultation (usually £75 redeemable against purchase) with Benjamin in the new Roja Dove Haute Parfumerie, when it opens on the 6th floor of Harrods.
Just leave a comment below stating which perfumery you would want to visit in person, no matter where in the world and that you’d like to be included in the draw. The closing date for entries is August 15th. Good luck everyone and many thanks to the Roja Dove Haute Parfumerie!