Two Days Away – A London Sniffing Tour

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?).

I also tried a few MDCI perfumes, but none struck me as quite as lovely as my two favorites of the line: Enlèvement au Serail and Promesse de l’Aube.

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.

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39 Responses to Two Days Away – A London Sniffing Tour

  1. Lady Jane Grey says:

    Sounds pretty amazing, Birgit !
    And now I’m even more sad I wasn’t able to attend your talk, plus meet Tara, Vanessa and Thomas …

  2. Undina says:

    What a perfect trip! And you told the story so wonderfully that I don’t even feel envious, I just plan a similar trip in my head for future.
    Once again – Happy Birthday to you and congratulations on your successful talk, great trip and a good duty-free find. I’ll test Patchouli Impérial tomorrow in your honor 🙂

  3. Thank you for taking us along with you on your shopping trip!

    I am glad that you had such a good time, although I am slightly jealous that you got to meet Christopher AND sniff the new Amouages 😛

  4. Natalie says:

    Thanks for taking us along, B! I agree that it feels almost like I could be there myself, weighing the potential purchases and happily sniffing. I prefer leisurely sniffing, myself, which usually means I forget everything by the time I walk out of the stores, but it’s still nice. 🙂

    • Olfactoria says:

      It is nice, isn’t it? I hardly ever do that, I’m always driven by some blog-related purpose, but leisurely sniffing is truly relaxing and I shall do it more often from now on.

  5. andreawilko says:

    I wish I could have made it to the talk, it sounds like a good time was had by all, I can not wait till my next trip to London, I think it would be far easier to go by myself though, all that sniffing I am sure would test the bf’s patience to the max. Great news on your new bottle, I have still to add one of the Dior’s to my collection. 🙂

    • Olfactoria says:

      I didn’t realize quite how far York is from London. 😦
      If I were you I’d go alone, you’ll have much more fun if you don’t have to try to appease the lamenting BF all the time. 😉

      • andreawilko says:

        It’s a lot nearer than your journey. 🙂
        If I could have, I would have come, the train journey would have been worth it to meet everyone that I speak to in the vitual world.
        The trip by myself will probably be less stressful but far more expensive.;-)
        Bois d’ Argent is the one I am lusting after at the moment, of course this is totally unsniffed, but then what else is new.

        • Olfactoria says:

          BdA is great, unfortunately last time I tested it there was a note that bothered me, so while I’m all for taking a risk, I wouldn’t go unsniffed there. New Look 1947 on the other hand… 😉 Just joking, I’ll send you samples of the ones I have next time.

          • andreawilko says:

            Thank you, that would be great, funny you should say that about new look, I may have the chance of a mini bottle. I have bois naufrage and dans tes bras that were unsniffed and total loves now. I am also on the hunt for Vero rubj, this is sniffed as even I am not that brave all the time.;-)

          • Olfactoria says:

            Hmmm, Rubj is good. Good luck with the hunt. 🙂

  6. Persolaise says:

    I’m so sorry we couldn’t meet, but I’m glad you had a good time. And thank you very much indeed for mentioning my shopping guide. If you’ve got any comments to make about it, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

    Happy birthday again 🙂

  7. tara says:

    I wondered if you had bought the Dior! Happy Birthday to you indeed. Did you go for it over Bois d’Argent in the end?

    Very exciting to have had an exclusive preview of the new Amouage. “Surprising” has me intrigued. Did you get a chance to try the attars? I really want to do that propertly one day.

    • Olfactoria says:

      Strangely Bois D’Argent didn’t sit well with me that day. So I didn’t want to spend money, when there was the danger that I went off it for some reason…

      I talked to Christopher, so the attars were totally forgotten. Maybe we could smell them together one day. 🙂

  8. Kimberly says:

    Sounds like a fabulous, perfume-centric trip! Add me to the list of people who wish that I could have been at your meet-up. What perfume did you wear give the lecture?

    • Olfactoria says:

      Hi Kimberly,

      I wore Chanel 31 Rue Cambon. It is a true and tested favorite that makes me feel good about myself and works on every occasion. We all ended up in a cloud of amber though, by the end of the evening. 😉

  9. flittersniffer says:

    I very much enjoyed reading about your action-packed day on Friday on the London sniffing trail, and am glad that you were in the right mindset to enjoy it and not feel overfaced with the wealth of things you could potentially be sniffing on what was quite an ambitious itinerary.

    Congratulations too on your bottle of Patchouli Imperial – I did think you should have a birthday bottle of something, because you could construe the trip itself as “work” after all, with having the talk to give! I am well stocked up on New Look and Bois d’Argent thanks to Tara – those are my two favourites, plus Ambre Nuit.

    And what fun that you got to meet Christopher Chong – I was sorry to learn that Honour Woman got pipped in the awards yesterday. : – ( A slight on her honour! I didn’t get to sniff Beloved or La Femme Nacre on Friday, but they are on my radar following your reviews. And I appreciate the heads up about the dwindling stocks of Truly. I must give that some serious thought, for as you say, I lived to regret my failure to move on PQJ in a timely fashion! Thanks also for the linkage business – it was wonderful to see you again. (In all weathers now, eh?… : – ))

    • Olfactoria says:

      I had dismissed Ambre Nuit, but now upon sniffing it again, I really appreciate its beauty. I have a feelong that it is not yet over between AN and me. 😉

      I know that Truly is expensive, but it is also unique. If you really love it, I say go for it.

      • flittersniffer says:

        Oh, I await further developments in your relationship with AN with interest… : – ) And I do agree that Truly is unique, in the same way as Puredistance is unique. It is “thinner” and greener than Puredistance1, but both are super high end fruity musky scents, I felt!

  10. Suzanne says:

    This will probably seem like an odd comment, but when I see that color of blue that the Les Senteurs is painted on the exterior of the store it just thrills me! I look forward to going there someday, as well as the other places on your list. Leisurely sniffing is the best, and it sounds like you had a really terrific time, Birgit. And lucky you to have met Christopher Chong and to be privy to the top secret June release! I would consider that an extra special birthday gift in itself. 🙂

  11. flittersniffer says:

    He is all of those things and more! : – )

    • flittersniffer says:

      Oh funny – that may look like a comment about CC, but is in fact about Nigel! I was on the CPB site and it toggled back to OT as I typed. I am sorry about that…and apologies to Christopher for any confusion caused…. ; – 0

  12. Alexandra says:

    Oh what a dangerous post – it just makes me want to go shopping! I can’t believe I have never made it to the Amouage shop or tested the Roja line, your post has made me reconsider my postion immediately! It sounds like you had a wonderful time, I am so glad.

  13. Philipp says:

    Hello Birgit, I purchased the complete Memo sample set last year and have now sampled and discarded most of them. If you want to I can send you my spray vials… just drop me a note.

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