Sunday, Foodie Sunday With Val – It’s Not Rocket Science

By Val, the Cookie Queen

After the chocolate overdose of the last post I thought I would share what we eat at mealtimes, regardless of current dietary disorders.

We never have dinner without a plate of chopped fruit and vegetables in the middle of the table. We have eaten this way for nearly thirty years. Whether it’s a curry, or pasta, or Mexican, or meat, it’s there. Of course it changes with the seasons.

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My choice of stuff.

I always have a minimum of one type of fruit. It seems to be only tradition that say we can’t have a plate of apples, or sliced oranges or whatever, as well as salad and the main course. This works especially well with young children as it’s colourful and there is always something to pick at. Kids like picking!

Today’s method is very easy. Get a pile of vegetables and a couple of fruits. Chop up to look attractive. Put on plate. Cook whatever you had in mind. Eat.

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Mixed green salad. Fresh pineapple. Tomatoes separate with pumpkin seed oil and balsamico.

Nothing in your mind to cook? Then grab some bread and eat the fruit and veggies then. It’s good for you.

I salt the veggie plate, yes apples, too (they are so good with salt on) and squeeze lemon juice over the whole lot. That’s it. If I am not serving a green salad as well, then I might drizzle olive oil over them too. Sometimes vinegar. I mean, it’s not rocket science. Do whatever blows your skirt.

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Ready to eat. Yes, that’s killer hummus, hope you are not confused. We’ll cover that next time!

Now because most people like to have pictures, I took some of our family meal yesterday. Bear in mind that I was feeding two body builders as well, and they loved it, so you dear readers might love it too.

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Burgers from the barbecue ……. and they’re off!!

Have a nice Sunday.

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Posted in Food | Tagged , , , , | 12 Comments

Lovely Ladies And Little Luxuries – A Few Unusual Images Of London

If you want to know what London looks like, if you want to see pics of the sights and buildings of Britain’s capital, I have to send you on to Google. New technologies make it so easy to see what is there to see and the world doesn’t need me to add my own, mostly wobbly photographic perspective.

I don’t like breaking up moments by whipping out my camera, I usually forget all about it until the moment has passed, which may only be a convenient excuse for my lack of phtographic prowess or even interest.

I only managed to snap a few pictures of things I want to remember just as they were.

Here are a few people and places I love…

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Hermès does fantastic window displays. I also photographed these toy scenes for my boys. :)

For both Mums and perfume lovers...

For both Mums and perfume lovers…

I was sorely tempted to order of each on the menu.

At Ladurée I was sorely tempted to order one of each on the menu.

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Lovely Lila Das Gupta, organizer of PLL

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“Our man in London” Tara Smith – a bit blurry, sorry!

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My dear friend Vanessa Musson of Bonkers about Perfume.

Hyde Park in the sun

Hyde Park in the sun

I spent those three days among friends, wandering about in the sunshine on my own and feeling perfectly free. I walked everywhere, I admired the architecture, the trees in bloom, the blue sky. I shopped for pretty things (more about that next week!) and ate wonderful food.

I had to get up at 3.15 actual time on Sunday morning (thank you summertime!) to catch my flight back home, but that is a price I gladly paid for those few days of re-energizing, feeling young and independent again and being someone else besides Mummy, if only for a short period of time.

If you had three days for yourself, what would you do? Where would you go?

Posted in Travels | Tagged , , , , , | 34 Comments

Vanilla Perfumes: The Best of The Best Presented by Neil Chapman, Perfume Lovers London, New Cavendish Club, Thursday 27th March 2014

By Tara

Neil Chapman is a British perfume obsessive living in Japan. His blog The Black Narcissus is a great read but be warned, you may turn green with envy at the regularity with which he picks up vintage gems at flea markets for a pittance. He is an extremely talented writer and his article “Perfume Haters” for Odou magazine recently won the coveted Jasmine Literary Award.

Neil, The Black Narcissus and Birgit aka Olfactoria

Neil, The Black Narcissus and Birgit aka Olfactoria

You may recall Neil’s wonderful series on vanilla perfumes for Olfactoria’s Travels last year. His vast knowledge and pure passion for vanilla are both endearing and contagious. He has a great way with words and his descriptions of the perfumes we tried during the evening were brilliantly unique, as you will soon see. It was also extra special because our own Olfactoria was in attendance.

As usual, the lovely Lila Das Gupta organised the event and passed around paper strips sprayed with each perfume. Here is an abbreviated version of a very fun evening:


Lila: So Neil, what first got you into vanilla?

Neil: My school organised a French exchange visit and while I was living with a French family, one evening the mother brought in a vanilla dessert flecked with pieces of vanilla bean. I was in ecstasy. Then at 17 I got into Obsession for Men which was more amber, cinnamon and vanilla rather than pure vanilla but I was obsessed with it. At university, a friend of mine wore Guerlain’s Shalimar and that made me realise that men could wear feminine fragrances. It’s been Shalimar and vanilla all the way since then.

I have a big sweet tooth. I like the sickly, full-on vanillas. Sick bag vanillas.

Vaniglia Del Madagascar, SS Anunziata

Neil: Some people think this doesn’t smell of anything. It reminds me of Japanese hot springs with negative ions in the air. It has a mineral, salty quality to it. At first it’s refreshing and sheer but as time goes on it gets richer and the vanilla grows and grows. It’s a 24 hour experience.

Audience member: It smells of sugared almonds.


Vanilla Marble, Agonist Parfums

Neil: I call this one a “Play-Doh Cathedral”. The play-doh vanilla is undercut by vetiver and patchouli. I find it quite atmospheric, it has a ghostly quality.

Audience member comments: “Coconut” “Pina Colada” “Bacardi hairspray” “Peachy”

Neil: I think the peach you’re picking up on is the fig note. It’s quite stylish. It has a wet clay aspect. I’m not sure I like it. It’s crepuscular and gothic. I imagine brides fleeing down corridors with billowing white veils surrounded by bats.

Lila: You went to stay at a vanilla plantation, didn’t you?

Neil: Yes, we actually wanted to go to Madagascar because they make the best vanilla however we heard they had an influx of locusts so we went to Java instead. We stayed at a family-run business and actually did a course in vanilla. Each vanilla plant has to be fertilised by hand and it was a slave called Edward Albous who discovered how to do this in 1841. The cultivation of vanilla spread around the world after that.

It was really something to see the amount of effort that goes into producing one bean. The vanilla plant only flowers for a few hours so the workers are regularly inspecting the fields. The process of gestation takes 9 months in all. There was a vanilla curing room in the house we were staying in and I almost passed out with excitement. It was extraordinary. I do have some vanilla pods from different regions to pass around.

(Tara: The pods were quite an eye-opener. Nothing like the sweet vanilla we are used to, they actually smelt more like raisins.)

Neil: I like all forms of vanilla. Even the synthetic vanillin.

7 Billion Hearts, CB I Hate Perfumes

Neil: This one is like the plastic wrapping being taken off furniture in IKEA. I call it “The Pod and The Plank”. The vanilla develops through a veil of smoke.

Lila: There’s something unfinished about it. It’s missing something, as lovely as it is.

Neil: If you look on the internet some people are fanatical about it. To me it’s like floor polish and wax.

Audience member: It’s like the inside of the new Globe Theatre in London which is made of all that wood.

Songes, Annick Goutal

Neil: Songes is frangipani, ylang-ylang and jasmine on a vanilla base. It’s heady, beautiful and creamy. Is it a vanilla perfume? It’s a white floral founded on vanilla. I think it’s divine, dreamy and lovely.


Vanille, Mona di Orio

Neil: Vanille is known as a vanilla for non-vanilla lovers.

Audience Member: It’s vanilla for pirates.

Audience Member: There’s a lot of galbanum. Another: And orange.

Neil: I think it’s very elegant. It has orange and petit grain on a burnished base. It’s smoky, woody and peppery with a strong rum note. It’s supposed to represent a ship carrying cargo like rum barrels and sandalwood to Madagascar or the Comoros Islands.

Vanilla is sweet, comforting and mildly addictive. It encourages adrenaline in the body.

Lila: It goes to the core of us.

Neil: It completes me.

Lila: What do the Japanese think of vanilla?

Neil: They hate it. While teaching at school on weekdays I have to stick to very light florals, so at the weekends I go mad. It’s very much frowned on to wear strong perfumes in Japan but on the weekend I’m like a perfume terrorist on the trains!


Orchidee Vanille, Van Cleef & Arpels

Neil: Orchidée Vanille is an orchestral vanilla. It’s a bit tame and pliant.

Lila: It’s gorgeous. Class in a bottle.

Neil: It has a bit of a rose and violet layer and a gourmand vanilla layer. It’s beautiful but it lacks a backbone. It’s a good pulling perfume.

Vanille Insensee, Atelier Cologne

Neil: Vanille Insensée is perfectly constructed. It’s very enigmatic and very popular. It’s a shadowy, subtle vanilla. It has a dark, woody edgy to it. It has personality. It’s too woody for me though. I’d never wear it.

Audience member: It’s too modern for me.

Lila: It’s better on skin. It’s uncomplicated and easy to reach for in the morning.

Spiriteuse Double Vanille, Guerlain

Neil: Spiritueuse Double Vanille is simply beautiful. It smells of hummingbirds. There’s cherry brandy and pipe tobacco. The beginning is stunning – it’s the best part – whereas most vanillas get better as they go on. It’s the smell of pure happiness.

Tihota, Indult

Neil: Tihota is full on, creamy Madagascan vanilla. Lasts for a full 24 hours on the skin. If you hate sweet, buttery scents you won’t like it.

If you want a less sickly vanilla you could try Molinard’s Vanille. It’s vanilla vodka, cool and refreshing. Or Vanille 44 by Le Labo which I call a wooden meringue. It’s a stripped down, light vanilla. Another would be Vanille Galante Hermessence which is ylang-ylang and vanilla. It’s aquatic and quite beautiful.



Neil kindly gave us a hand-out listing various kinds of vanilla perfumes and I thought it might be interesting to share those that weren’t mentioned above:

Oriental Vanilla
Shalimar, Guerlain
Ambre Sultan, Serge Lutens
Labdanum 18, Le Labo

Gourmand Vanilla
Safran Troublant, L’Artisan Parfumeur
Un Bois Vanille, Serge Lutens
Tendre Madeleine, Laurence Dumont

Almond-note Vanilla
Tonka Impèriale, Guerlain
Kiss Me Tender, Parfums di Nicolai

Budget Vanilla
Vanille Noir, Yves Rocher
Vanille Noire, Laurence Dumont

Powdery Vanilla
Vanille et Coco, E Coudray
Ambre et Vanille, E Coudray

Vetiver Vanilla
Vetiver Spice, Bella Bellisima

Rose Vanilla
Roses Vanille, Mancera

Sheer Vanilla
Vanille Exquise, Annick Goutal

So it was a fascinating evening of hummingbirds, billowing white veils with bats and a play-doh cathedral. Hopefully you can get an idea from the above of what a hugely entertaining and engaging host Neil was. I very much hope this won’t be the last time he visits us at PerfumeLoversLondon.

I really appreciated that he chose a wide range of vanillas showing varied treatments of the starring note, from sheer to super rich. Personally, I liked Spiriteuse Double Vanille and Orchidée Vanille, taking home a sample of the latter.

If, like me, you enjoyed hearing about his total immersion at the vanilla plantation, I urge you to read the wonderful detailed account on The Black Narciuss.

Many thanks to Neil, Lila and Grant from for a fabulous evening.

Are any of these vanilla perfumes favourites of yours?

Olfactoria, Vanessa, Lady Jane Grey

Olfactoria, Vanessa, Lady Jane Grey

Editor’s Note: As I sit here on my desk, formatting Tara’s detailed account, I can still smell the amazing conglomerate of the many mouillettes I took away from this wonderful evening that are lying here beside me. My whole suitcase – and now my office – smells of vanilla and this memorable evening. I was lucky to be there and meet Neil in person. He is just as I imagined him – hyper-intelligent, passionate, a tiny bit weird and wacky in a wonderful way and absolutely lovely. I’m sure it was not the last time we crossed paths. I was also honoured to meet Neil’s parents and best friend Helen as well as Duncan, Neil’s partner of 21 years, who we often read about on his blog.

Tara and Thomas, The Candy Perfume Boy

Tara and Thomas, The Candy Perfume Boy

Seeing old friends like Tara, Vanessa of Bonkers, Thomas, The Candy Perfume Boy, Liam of Odou, Lady Jane Grey who many know from commenting, new acquaintances Sabine and Joshua and loyal readers like dear Olivia made this evening fantastic and one I will remember fondly.  I already miss London and wish I could come to every PLL meet up, but from now on I just have to smell a vanilla perfume and I’m right back…

Olfactoria and Vanessa

Olfactoria and Vanessa enjoying each others company as well as some excellent Indian food

Photos by Tara.
Posted in By Tara, Travels, Vanilla | Tagged , , , , , , | 60 Comments

People In Perfumeland – Nathalie Fedorova From Beautycalypse

Today I want to welcome the gorgeous Nathalie from Berlin. She runs the eco- and health-conscious beauty blog Beautycalypse. Nathalie is a self-confessed geek, sci-fi, fantasy and computer game fiend who has a background in writing and photograpy who now works as a media and digital strategist.

Nathalie is on a mission to combine both her beauty and perfume obsession and her ideal of toxin-free, good-for-you products. Her credo is “I believe that you can only make better choices by being aware and having access to knowledge. I believe that there’s no beauty without kindness, intelligence, freedom or community.”

Regular readers may also know her because she did an interview with Barb Stegeman of The 7 Virtues here on OT. Today let’s hear more from Nathalie…


A good day starts with… the birds chirping, the sun shining through the curtains, and me looking into my sweetheart’s beautiful bright blue eyes.

I’d never leave the house without… clothes on and my smartphone. Everything else is actually optional! :D

As for beauty or perfume, I never go out without a dab of toxin-free, gorgeously “retro” packaged Wolkenseifen Deo in their limited edition scent version – a perfume so deliciously cosy and powdery, you want to cuddle up inside that very jar! Loving the completely clean and super-powerful formula.

I always feel good when… there is a connection between people, when ideas are born, plans forged, knowledge shared, progress made, issues resolved, problems fixed and beauty acknowledged. This is when I’m the happiest.

My favorite thing in the world is… enjoying life with all my senses is the first thing that comes to mind.

But then the next favourite thing in the world is actually talent. When I have the luck to experience talent from near or from afar – perfume or science, acting or writing, painting or singing, you name it – I truly feel blessed.

The next thing I want to buy is… perfume-wise, it will be Green Love.


I only just discovered this small vegan and organic brand from Sweden, and fell in love with their perfume oil Wild Strawberry. It’s a green, lush, tart and yet a sweet fragrance. I love it to bits.

Next I need to check out more of their fragrances, and I think Jasmine Deluxe, Black Knight, Men’s Cologne and Cacao Truffles are calling my name.

I also happen to need a new desk! But since I look for something very specific in design (either completely sci-fi, or wooden and heavy like in a fantasy world of Harry Potter or The Elder Scrolls) and ethically manufactured, I feel like this journey will last a while. Maybe your readers happen to be design mavens and in the know? I’m glad to hear suggestions! ;)

The place I always come back to is… my family’s long gone summerhouse. In my imagination, I see the impressive dark pinewood, hear the owls sing at night, feel the wind in the birch grove, smell the rain on the surface of a small, green, willowy river, and taste the sweetness of wild raspberries and strawberries that grew simply along our, the children, secret paths in the forests. Summers and winters alike were magical there.
I don’t think the place still exists today, and I would be sad to see what it has become, so I’m only coming back there in my dreams.

My personal style is… reduced to ethical options but with strong aesthetics, with extravagant, edgy elegance meeting high functionality. I believe that you can only make better choices by being aware and having access to knowledge. I believe that there’s no beauty without kindness, intelligence, freedom or community. Among my favourite designers are Graz’ own Lena Hoschek., des artistes, manomama from Augsburg, Germany and Anthracite, a super-talented designer from Berlin who offers custom designs like a sci-fi business suit for me.

My favorite perfume… used to be Humiecki & Graef Bosque; everything Monsieur Ellena would come up with except Un Jardin Après La Mousson; Tom Ford’s Violet Blonde; Thierry Mugler’s Womanity; Cadjméré by Parfumerie Generale; Fiori di Capri by Carthusia; Insensé by Givenchy.

I also loved Forever by Jean Patou to bits; a sparkling, “roaring twenties” cocktail of berries and pineapple in bed with sandalwood. Despite the name, they discontinued it. Another discontinued darling is Cristobal by Balenciaga.


Right now I’m exploring organic and ethical fragrances, which is quite an interesting journey. My daytime favourite is Spearmint Single Note by Balm Balm. It’s a stunningly well-done, scintillating, faceted soliflore.


My best pick for date nights is a custom blend by The 7 Virtues: 2 whiffs Noble Rose of Afghanistan, 2 whiffs Afghanistan Orange Blossom and 2 whiffs Middle East Peace. It makes a lush, woody, spicy white flowers explosion.

When I travel I always… keep a diary; draw; take a horrendous lot of pictures; explore as much as I can – and I also get informed about the place in advance.


To relax I need… basically nothing. To relax I need to meditate and to sleep, and I can meditate and sleep under any circumstances! I can cuddle up and snooze away in trains, in planes, at a party. But if I can choose à la carte, I prefer a cosy bed by an open window; a firm mattress; fresh, crisp, cool, lavender-scented linens.

When I have a bad day… I suffer to the fullest, clutching to the knowledge that it will come to an end.
When I’m angry, I always avoid sharp objects and heavy machines ;)

I like to gift people with… artisanal products they wouldn’t discover otherwise. Example?
If it’s chocolate, I pick Blyss. If it’s tea, I head to Paper & Tea in Berlin, the best source of fantastic teas and tea accessories in town. If it’s wines, it’s my latest “crush”, really gorgeous histamine-free and vegan wines that most allergy sufferers can enjoy, Eller Finest Selections from Rhine Hessen.

I find my inspiration… I wish I could say something sweet like “in nature”!
I happen to find inspiration in my mistakes and flaws and in mistakes and flaws of others.
But hey, then it’s even partly true, because nature means constantly evolving and learning. Only efficient, elegant solutions pass the test of time.
Mistakes and failures are rigid, effective teachers.

Something I would never want to miss… A chance. My entry. My vocation. My loved ones.

My last mistake was… eating a cinnamon topped waffle on a Christmas Market in Dresden.
I’m allergic to wheat, but I grew so angry and frustrated over the fact that food options for people with allergies/food intolerances are next to nil at a Christmas market!
It then took a month to get rid of all the bad effects. Meh…

In my fridge there is always… gluten-free soy sauce; a glass of jam that’s never even half-finished because I don’t like jam; rice-coconut milk; tomato pulp and mustard; fine virgin oils that need to be refrigerated; lime and lemon juice, pomegranate juice, and applesauce.

On my nightstand I keep… only my iPad Air, and it’s not a real nightstand, because I don’t have any. But my iPad is my world: books, blogs, notes, drawings; it’s all there.

The perfect weekend starts with… a tabula rasa on a Friday night. Nothing’s more satisfying than the feeling of having accomplished everything scheduled for the ending week.

My role model is… Oh, that’s a hard one. Let me see.
I don’t think I have one. I admire a few people for their talent in art and business; but I don’t have an idol, an icon, or a role model.
The American actress Mae West is damn close to being one though.

Something I always want to be asked in questionnaires like this is…
I think this questionnaire is pretty sophisticated as is!

What I personally like to learn from interviews are books people read, their current playlists, the TV shows they love, things like that, to get inspired. So here are mine:

Books I read now:
Christopher Moore Fool, Anthony Horowitz The House of Silk, Ryan Holiday Trust Me, I’m Lying, Debra Lynn Dadd Toxic Free.

Current playlist:
David Bowie Next Day and Diamond Dogs, Zemfira Spasibo, Loreena McKennitt The Visit, Charlie Wilson Hobo, Mylène Farmer Avant Que L’Ombre.

TV faves:
Firefly, Sons of Anarchy, True Blood, Game of Thrones, The Big Bang Theory, 2 Broke Girls, Castle, The Mentalist.

What are yours? ;)


Nathalie is an impressive woman with strong ideals and opinions to which she adheres. We need more people like her to change our world, little by little. I take a lot away from this interview, like her travelling style, all those tips about sustainable clothes and products and the sense I get of her drive and power and will to change the world she lives in.

Which of Nath’s answers was most memorable for you?

Posted in Interview | Tagged , , , , | 18 Comments

Dragon’s Breath And Phoenix Rising – Review: Celtic Fire By Union

Hey Olfactoria’s Travelers,

Portia from Australian Perfume Junkies and Perfume Posse is in the Olfactoria house once more. I hope I find you happy and well, wishing them both for you if not.

Here I am in Sydney, Australia and summer is over. The temperature is cooling considerably and there will be no more swimming until the end of September. While sitting in my office I am reminiscing about my madcap holiday through Europe in Jan/Feb and how much great fun it was. While we were there I think it was Vanessa from Bonkers about Perfume who had read my review of today’s fragrance back in May 2013 from a sample. Clearly it was not enough to get a real feel so I was given a 5ml mini bottle. I am, sitting here with a great big delicious spritz of Celtic Fire and smiling at the memory of us all together in Selfridges and I had given myself a spritz there too. Now I wish I’d taken the plunge…

Celtic Fire was created by Anastasia Brozler for Union in 2012.

Celtic Fire Union FragranticaPhoto Stolen Fragrantica

Fragrantica gives these featured accords:
Top: Oak, balsam fir, pine needles
Heart: Fern, (Marmite unnamed on Fragrantica)
Base: Birch, myrtle and peat

Can I say that I find these bottles are absolutely freaking killer? I love the flag, the feel, the whole shebang. It is fun, festive and a perfect Objet d’art to sit in a modern bathroom, yet still could be very at home in an old fashioned tiny tile floor and lilac porcelain features. I can see it on a steel and nylon dresser or a Queen Anne looking either completely at home or exquisitely out of place, both images make me smile.

Woods, fire, peat, smoke, bracken, leather. This is hard-core scent that creates a wall of fragrance. Hefty, deep and opaque from the outset, Celtic Fire is like a burning battleground, right down to metallic tang and gunpowder/fireworks smoke.

Could it be that Union has discovered the secret scent of dragon’s breath or perhaps the smell of a phoenix rising? This is what an old wool jumper would smell like after a back yard burn and a few BarBQs and though I don’t get Marmite, I do get a lanolin edge and some salt. Interestingly the birch in Celtic Fire doesn’t smell like soft plush leather in the heart, but like hides that have just come from the tanners/dyers. Even in modern times the smell is ferocious and this is a softer version of it. And through everything comes peat: earthy, boggy, slightly dank and dark peat and more smoke from peat fires.

Celtic_Fire Union Dragon_Tatoo DeviantArtPhoto Stolen DeviantArt

Further into the heart of Celtic Fire the whole cacophony calms to a softer, less strident feel. The leather now could be processed, a handbag or shoes, something elegant from Bottega Veneta perhaps. The fires are banked and we have a warm glow but almost no smoke, the peat and birch are playing nicely and this is how I know the end is near, maybe a couple of hours though till I lose all sense of fragrance.

The story is short and more about progression than real change and the lifespan good, projection feels very big when I sniff my hand and I can smell wafts while I type but when I spritz a touche and make a coffee my return is not greeted with as much fragrance as I expected. This is a fragrance for someone fearless and perfectly put together, or on the other hand it would be excellent on a complete lad.

Celtic_Fire Union  Phoenix_by_Ruth_Tay DeviantArtPhoto Stolen DeviantArt

Further reading: here on Olfactoria’s Travels and on Now Smell This
Celtic Fire is exclusively available at Selfridges & Co
Surrender To Chance has samples starting at $5/ml

I’m sure many of you have tried the line, what were your impressions?
Portia xx

Posted in By Portia, Fragrance Reviews, Union Perfumes | Tagged , , , | 24 Comments

Monday Question – Do You Like To Buy Perfume When Travelling?

Do you usually buy perfume when you travel abroad?

Is a new city a good excuse for a new bottle?

Do you enjoy exploring the fragrant scene in other countries or do you prefer the unhurried pace of decision-making at home?

Do you return from your travels with new perfume as a souvenir?


My Answer:

I usually plan a good part of my travels around perfume. I deliberately time my perfume purchases to coincide with travels, even if I could get the same one at home or online. When bought abroad, it is somehow a bit more precious, a bit more romantic.

I brought a perfume home from London that I wanted to have for at least two years, but somehow I never actually bit the bullet. It is an expensive perfume, and therefore it is a purchase not to be undertaken lightly. When I was in London I still didn’t quite feel ready to part with my money although I know this is a perfume I will wear gladly on a daily basis if I had to. When I saw an Hermès boutique at Heathrow Terminal 3 (I usually fly out of Terminal 1, so I didn’t expect one), I knew now was the time.

So I am the happy owner of Hermessence Vetiver Tonka, smooth vetiver and toasty hazelnuts evoke a cool, calm and collected air of quiet dignity and efficiency. It is love.

Do you buy something on vacation of business travels? What was your last acquisition?

Posted in Monday Question | Tagged , , | 49 Comments

I’m In London! – Olfactoria On the Road

I flew to London yesterday to attend the lovely Neil’s ( of The Black Narcissus) fabulous talk about vanilla for Perfume Lovers London.

It was a meeting of many great bloggers and readers and perfume lovers and our reporter at large and local London hero Tara will bring us a write-up of this fabulous evening next week.

image via

image via

I am staying for a few days all by my lonesome, meaning I am without husband and kids, but certainly not alone as I am meeting all my friends, attempting to eat my body weight in macarons, walking the city, taking in art and beauty at the museums, sniffing perfume and generally enjoying myself (hopefully all that without the ubiquitous English rain!).

Have a great weekend, I’ll see you Monday!

B xx

Posted in Shopping, Travels | Tagged , , | 30 Comments

Swirling – Review: Diptyque Volutes

By Tara

Launched in 2012, Volutes was created by perfumer Fabrice Pellegrin who is also the nose behind Diptyque’s tuberose and vanilla fragrances, Do Son and Eau Duelle respectively. Top notes for Volutes are iris flower, honey, tobacco and dried fruits; middle notes are pink pepper, black pepper, saffron, hay and immortelle; base notes are opoponax, myrrh, styrax and benzoin.


I was grateful to Vanessa of Bonkers About Perfume for giving me samples of both the EDT and EDP because I understood that there were significant differences between the two concentrations. Both turn out to be predominantly honey, iris and tobacco on a bed of slightly smoky vanilla, but there are differences aside from strength.

On spraying the EDT a bright iris steps up first, quickly joined by a natural-smelling honey note. The first time I tested Volutes, the honey was overwhelming but it’s been fine on subsequent wears. As it settles, it becomes a little powdery and the iris and honey are joined by a very mild, medicinal tobacco accord. The tobacco mellows into the scent of dried tobacco leaves, as opposed to the aroma of a lit pipe.

A few hours later and the opoponax adds a subtle smokiness to the vanilla base, which gradually rises up through the layers. At this point I can understand the comparisons with the much heavier oriental, Shalimar. It’s that distinctive combination of iris, vanilla and opoponax.

Compared to the EDT, the EDP has more tobacco, some leather and a hint of spice. It’s drier and a little acrid but still honeyed. The EDT is fresher and more diffusive while the EDP is quieter and deeper, though still quite sheer. On balance I prefer the EDP because it’s darker and less powdered but both formulations have just a bit too much honeyed sweetness for my current tastes. Vanessa and Undina however, both went for full bottles of the EDT.

Volutes means “swirls” in French and the name is very apt. It is a scent caught on the breeze rather than inhaled up close. Unlike the much stronger honey tobacco fragrance Back to Black from By Kilian, you could easily spray Volutes in either concentration and not think twice about it. It’s interesting, yet unobtrusive and wearable.


Volutes is currently available in 50ml and 100ml EDT (white packaging) and 75ml EDP (black packaging)

Have you tried Volutes? Do you have any favourite fragrances from Diptyque?

Posted in By Tara, Diptyque, Fragrance Reviews, Honey, Iris, Vanilla | Tagged , , , , , , , | 37 Comments

People In Perfumeland – Elena Vosnaki Of Perfume Shrine

Today I am honored to have Elena of Perfume Shrine in my People In Perfumeland series.

Elena writes her blog since 2005, she is an incredibly accomplished perfume connoisseur with a huge knowledge that she shares with us through articles on ingredients, interviews with industry figures, perfume reviews and not at least news and a little gossip of the perfume industry.

She is a historian, art historian and archaeologist living in Athens, Greece, she has two little boys and her perfume hobby has led her to pursue some perfumery training. She writes for her own blog as well as Fragrantica and several other perfume publications. She is the kind of multi-tasking person who would give you an inferiority complex if she wasn’t so very kind and lovely.

Let’s see what she says in answer to my 20 sentences…



elena vosnaki

A good day starts with… a smile from my significant other.

I’d never leave the house without… my brains!

I always feel good when… I feel loved.

My favorite thing in the world is… my family. If we’re talking material things, it’s my MAC Book Pro.

The next thing I want to buy is… a battery replacement for my computer. And possibly a deep orangey coral lipstick for spring.

The place I always come back to is… Greece. There’s a reason it was chosen by the Gods.

My personal style is… classic dramatic, clean lines with contemporary accents. I like to mix accessories and good jewels to make a statement.

My favorite perfume… used to be vintage Opium, but obviously I love many others as well. I’d love to have Doblis by Hermes re-issued; I’d take a lifetime supply!


When I travel I always… avoid what tourists would do. I like to be a traveller, not a tourist.

To relax I need… classical music and ideally a full body massage.

When I have a bad day… I try to avoid talking with people lest I quarrel with them.

I like to gift people with… things I find either beautiful or intelligent or both!

I find my inspiration… in everything. I’m a magpie. Humble things hide gems inside.

Something I would never want to miss… the laughter of my kids growing up.

My last mistake was… missing a friend’s nameday. I have since amended.

In my fridge there is always… fresh lemons.

On my nightstand I keep… books (predictable, I know), a glass of water (ditto), Sous la Glycine candle and whatever bracelet/bangle/necklace I was wearing that day that prevents me from sleeping well.

The perfect weekend starts with… kisses, lots of kisses!

My role model is… my maternal grandmother who survived through the worst and came out victorious without losing her dignity or her kindness.

Something I always want to be asked in questionnaires like this is… do you believe in beauty existing in destroyed things/people? I do.


I truly enjoyed seeing a more private side of Elena though this questionnaire. I have to admit that I used to be a bit intimidated by her knowledge, but getting to know her better has shown me what an approachable and down-to-earth woman she also is.

Finding beauty in destroyed things – how beautiful a concept that is. I will surely take that sentence with me.

Posted in Interview | Tagged , , | 36 Comments

A Roman Secret – Review: Bruno Acampora Musc Oil

By Sandra

A secret was passed on to me last year when I was in Rome and silly me did not stop and listen. Sweet words were spoken in hushed tones about this magic elixir that will keep me and those around me alert and yet comforted. It was hyped up to be warm, intoxicating, sensual and also comforting. Was I intrigued? Of course.

acampora musc

Reverently the sales assistant showed me the metal vial holding Bruno Acampora’s Musc and let me smell the cork lid. I liked it well enough but for some reason or another I did not want to test it on my skin. In all honesty the smell from the cork lid was pleasant enough but nothing of what was promised.

These words kept whispering to me over the course of the year. In fact they haunted me and even entered into my dreams. I dreamt of a skin scent which lasts for the better half of a day but with low sillage. Something for me alone! It seemed almost too perfect to be true. At some point during the course of last year I bought a sample pack of Bruno Acampora’s essential line of oils.

The samples are housed in a metal silver toned tin (sounds horrendous but is actually quite elegant). Seven small glass vials contained the smallest amount of oil. Gingerly I pulled the top open and swiped an ever so little amount onto my wrist. My first impression was unremarkable as I could barely smell the Musc oil. So back to the cupboard of samples it went and I had considered the whole experience moot.

Fast forward to the other night when I was sitting down and watching The Great Beauty. It is quintessentially Italian and the cinematography and music simply stunning. Have you seen the movie? It is an artistic movie in an existential nature full of gorgeous and hideous people, stunning shots and fun music and it all ended up being addictive, intoxicating in a way – drawing me in wanting to know more.

I quickly ran to my cupboard and pulled out Musc again, this time however, using a proper amount of oil on my pulse points. I wanted to finally understand what this perfume is about. It goes on thick and immediately this time around I got the vegetal earthy beginning of the perfume and wondered why I had so casually dismissed this before.

About an hour in the cloves come in and warm the entire composition up. This is when I fall madly in love with the stunning perfume. There is a bit of rose, jasmine and violet all swirling on a bed of musk and cloves. This is in my humble opinion totally unisex and could easily be worn by a man due to the spices. About 10 hours in I get a beautiful sandalwood and vanilla mix combined with the musk. At this point it is very much a skin scent and one has to lean in quite a bit to get a good sniff. This perfume lasts well past the 12 hour mark and I could still smell traces of it in the morning.

Musc is a rich, spicy and sexy perfume. It is definitely intoxicating and hypnotizing and has me quite dazed. It transforms beautifully through the day. This sends me to another world that has me dancing and celebrating and living in the Mediterranean climate. I have on my stilettos and don my deep dark red lipstick and I am part of the party hypnotizing those around me with my wit, glamour and perfume.

Now I have to decide when I should buy the bottle – now or in Rome in the summer. Perhaps I will wait until Rome so that this can be associated with my fond memories of the trip. On a side note, this also layers beautifully. So far I have layered it with Indult Tihota and Jul et Mad Terrasse a St. Germain. It is the best musk perfume that I have tried.

Have you tried Acampora’s Musc? Do you wear the oil or the Eau de Bruno? Do you ever layer it with a second musc? What is your favorite musc perfume?

Posted in By Sandra, Fragrance Reviews, Musk | Tagged , , , , | 31 Comments