I went to London last week to give a talk at the London Perfume Lovers meeting (Tara wrote about it here.) and I decided to stay a day longer to enjoy my freedom for once and go on a little sniffing tour.
My tour was based loosely on Persolaise’s excellent London Shopping Guide.
My very first stop was the new location of Les Senteurs in Seymore Place, just around the corner of The New Cavendish Club, where the Amber event was to take place later that day.
I was greeted by the fabulous Nick (who blogs in 140 characters or less at Fragrant Reviews), the store manager. It was a pleasure to meet Nick, who is an old twitter friend.
The store is beautiful, giving a home to many different niche lines. I was later joined by Tara, Vanessa of Bonkers about Perfume and The Candy Perfume Boy with his lovely fiancé Nigel, and over a cup of tea, Nick let us smell some new and still top secret perfumes soon to be available at Les Senteurs. So, Londoners, keep your eyes peeled for some exciting new lines.
The next day, the talk and the attendant nerves behind me, I started out near Marble Arch, where I was staying, and made my way down Oxford Street that is home to the first big playground for perfume fiends – Selfridge’s. Here, I reaquainted myself with Dior’s La Collection Privée (New Look 1947 and Mitzah are firm favorites who are always in heavy rotation). I feel I don’t really need anything else from the line, although I like Granville (but prefer Chanel’s Bel Respiro) aside from the newest addition, Patchouli Impérial. I always thought it was very close to Coromandel, but side by side comparison showed the first to be lighter and more spring/summer appropriate than the more chocolatey Chanel. I resisted buying a bottle though, since another one beckoned louder at the time and had just recently helped through a hard day, that perfume was Chanel Sycomore.
You see there is a strong Dior/Chanel theme going on, that is because I promised myself not to get anything in London I couldn’t get at home as well. (Okay, that is not strictly true for Chanel, we do have a boutique in Vienna, but it is just nicer buying it in London…)
I went on to Regent Street, where Liberty’s is located. Liberty’s has a big selection of niche perfume lines. Frederic Malle, Le Labo and Diptyque have big counters. But there are several small niche lines you don’t see every day, like Henrik Vibskov, Antonia’s Flowers or Blood Concept. I just sniffed a bottle here and there, just happily browsing without a goal, which is sometimes a very relaxing and pleasant thing to do for a perfume blogger. Aimless sniffing is my vacation from the purposeful review-in-mind testing that I do all week. 🙂
After lunch (excellent sushi, my favorite food!), I set out to Knightsbridge and its perfume trifecta Harvey Nichols, Harrod’s and Roja Dove’s Haute Parfumerie.
At Harvey Nichols you can find lines like By Kilian or Memo. I smelled the Chantecaille scents (Kalimantan is a nice amber) and tried another amber, Memo Shams (that has won a FiFi award just the night before) and Manoa, a honeyed oriental. I would like to explore the Memo line more extensively in the future.
Then came Harrod’s, along with its massive crowds of tourists (I’m not a tourist, mind you, I was there to work after all 😉 ). The Black Hall is a miasma of scents and aggressive SA’s trying to blast you with the latest and greatest from the designer front. I managed to avoid all assaults and make my way to the Guerlain counter, where I tried Boisée Torride and Chypre Fatal from the Elixir Charnel line. Both did not leave a deep impression, the first being a nice sweet woody oriental, the latter a peachy modern chypre.
I trailed through the rest of the great hall merely looking not smelling, and soon I felt ready to escape to the haven of peace and calm that is Roja Dove’s fifth floor treasure trove: The Haute Parfumerie.
In a hushed and quiet atmosphere, few people are contentedly browsing, left alone by smiling SA’s that make you feel welcome without intervening. I got the feeling that someone would be there as soon as I needed them, but not before. That is how I like it.
The plush surroundings of this store are a perfect backdrop to such beautiful perfumes as Puredistance, Parfums MDCI, the Caron urns, Guerlain extraits, and many more niche lines and classic perfumes, all personally selected by M. Dove. I smelled Truly by Stephen Burlingham, a favorite of Vanessa’s. There are only two bottles left, one extrait, one Eau de Parfum. It is discontinued and those two bottles are probably the last on earth. I did not buy it, in case Vanessa makes up her mind (after the Plus Ques Jamais incident, you swore to never let a bottle you love go, didn’t you, V?).
Then I sniffed my way through Roja Dove’s own line. My friend and regular reader Lady Jane Grey has recently fallen for Danger and I can see why – it is a very lovely but definitely non-dangerous perfume. My favorite remains Unspoken, a jasmine chypre that I still find stunning. The famous Aoud (now available in various forms, Aoud Crystal, Amber Aoud, Aoud For Her) allegedly the best-selling perfume at Harrod’s, was quite nice, but didn’t have me in a frenzy to part with almost 500£ to have it.
On my way out I smelled the newest Armani Privé 1000 bottle limited edition, La Femme Nacré. An iris scent, it reminded me strongly of La Femme Bleue, its predecessor. I was relieved actually, since I would have hated to be tempted by something so expensive and restricted.
After leaving Harrod’s I met up with my friend E., who lives in London, to go to the Amouage boutique in Lowndes Street. Since I had only recently fallen for Beloved, E. was keen to smell it and thankfully the boutique just got the bottles in that day.
My highlight of the day was meeting Amouage’s Creative Director Christopher Chong. He is a lovely, warm and very, very interesting person. He told me about his latest project, which is still top secret, so although I was the first person outside of Amouage to smell the coming June release, I’m not yet allowed to talk about it. Only that much – it is going to be surprising!
Thoroughly tired after a day of walking and smelling, E. and I repaired to a pub, time flew by as we were catching up.
The next day, bright and early I flew home again to my lovely boys and my daily routine. But not without picking up that bottle of Patchouli Impérial, I had been contemplating. Presented with the unexpected luxury of finding Dior’s La Collection Privée at Heathrow duty free, I could no longer resist. Happy Birthday to me. 🙂
It is wonderful to travel now and again, to be able to newly appreciate both the new and exciting as well as the accustomed and familiar.