Portia Fest 2014, London, Saturday 8th February

By Tara

I’ve never experienced the peace and love vibe of a music festival, but I think I got pretty close to that last Saturday. It was the uplifting feeling of being surrounded by fabulous like-minded people with a shared passion. Portia, Michael and Val the Cookie Queen of Australian Perfume Junkies landed in London and convened at Bloom niche perfumery in Spitalfields with myself and fellow bloggers Joshua (The Smelly Vagabond), Freddie (Smelly Thoughts), Thomas (The Candy Perfume Boy), Nick (Fragrant Reviews) and the lovely Vanessa (Bonkers About Perfume).


1st row: Joshua, Vanessa, Thomas
2nd row: Tara, Nigel, Val and Nick
3rd row: Freddie, Michael and Portia

I’m happy to report that Portia did not disappoint. With a big personality matched by an equally big heart and very cheeky sense of humour, he made the day a blast. Michael is a leather perfume fan and all round gorgeous person, while Val is a complete joy and someone I hope will become a firm friend. Now let the sniffing commence…


At Bloom Perfumery

At Bloom we tried Isparta, the new release from Parfumerie Générale, which we agreed was similar to Frederic Malle’s Portrait of a Lady only a bit sweeter and with less patchouli. We also sampled Rima XI by Carner Barcelona, which Vanessa is fond of and could be described as a rather wispy veil of nuttiness. Val purchased Rubj and Mito by Vero Profumo in Voile d’Extrait formulation. She had sprayed some of the Rubj on skin and it was just divine. I must try the Mito Voile d’Extrait next time.



I was curious to try Boutonniere No. 7 by Arquiste because it is currently a hot contender for Thomas’s wedding scent. It’s a luscious and creamy gardenia which I think would be absolutely perfect for the Big Day. I also tested Dzhari by Phaedon, a concoction of Malaga wine and dates, which Freddie (not unfairly) likened to prune juice. I took home a few samples from Arquiste and Phaedon seeing as they’re brands I haven’t tried before and aren’t easy to come by elsewhere.


Portia and Tara (looking absolutely fabulous!)

Next we made a pit-stop for lunch at the award winning Poppies fish and chip restaurant next door. Thanks to Val for booking this 1950s-themed gem. The top-notch food managed to convert even those who were not usually big fans of this traditional English staple. After the meal, out came the bottles and samples and we continued sniffing and swapping in earnest. The staff were very accommodating and didn’t bat an eyelid.

Vanessa had brought Zelda by En Voyage Perfumes and was happy to make up a sample on the spot for anyone who wanted one. She generously gave me samples of my current lemming Diptyque’s Volutes in both the EDT and EDP, as well as Puredistance Opardu and a lovely hand-knitted hat. I’m afraid the unloved sample of Puredistance Black I gave her in return was rather paltry in comparison.


Vanessa and Thomas

Thomas brought two of Dita Von Teese’s latest releases – Erotique and Fleur de Teese – and his recent purchase, Byredo’s 1996, which proved very popular. In addition to her delicious peanut butter cookies, Val shared out mini decants from Indult and I was the happy recipient of Tihota and Isvaraya. I had a bag of unwanted samples to give away but Joshua outdid me with an entire tin.


The tin of unwanted samples

Reinvigorated, we headed up west to the Seymour Place branch of Les Senteurs, a couple of roads behind Oxford Street. Here Freddie made a purchase of Mona di Orio’s Eau Absolue which he described as more pollen-like than the listed honey and Thomas picked up a bottle of Portrait of a Lady. I tried Bruno Acampora’s Musc Oil on skin, but on me it was less sexy and more mushroom-y. Oh well.


Parfumerie Générale

Downstairs in the Scent Salon we could hear bursts of laughter coming from a hen do hosted by Odette Toilette. She came up looking for perfumes that had been requested to smell like Kate Moss’s best friend and Cate Blanchett. Nick suggested Jasmin et Cigarette by Etat Libre d’Orange for the former and Osmanthus Interdite by Parfums d’Empire for Cate. Many of us went home with samples and I plumped for Lyric Woman by Amouage which I’m contemplating a purchase of.


Frédéric Malle at Les Senteurs, Freddie, Michael and Nick sniffing happily.

Thomas, his fiancé Nigel, and Vanessa sadly left us to get the train home at this point, while the rest of us walked around the corner to Selfridges.

We browsed the Chanel perfume counter and I took Portia to check out the Hermessences which are located within the Hermès concession. He tried the new Epice Marine on skin which surprised me by just how very spicy it was. I must say it suited Portia but unfortunately they didn’t have any samples left. He settled instead for Brin de Réglisse and Santal Massoia. On the way out, the stunning Hermès enamelled bangles caught his eye and I was happy to model a few for him. Finally he checked in with Dior to see if they still had any stock left of the sadly discontinued Mitzah, which they did (for the moment anyway). He and Michael had already each bought a bottle on their travels.


Joshua and Freddie in the foreground, Val and Portia in the back.

So here the sniffing ended and we parted company. Our wonderful organiser in chief, Val, was taken off to Zara, while Freddie went back to Portia and Michael’s hotel to pick up the bottle of Blask by Humiecki & Graef they had purchased for him in Austria.

I have to say it was hard for me to let them go. I hope our overseas friends will come back and join us again very soon. This has to become a regular event.


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49 Responses to Portia Fest 2014, London, Saturday 8th February

  1. Undina says:

    Tara, as always – thank you for the detailed report. I envy you all and wish I could be there.

    Lyric is a beautiful perfume. I’ll wear it tomorrow – thank you for the idea.

    • Tara says:

      I wish you were there too. As fun as these get togethers are, it’s always a shame that some fragrant friends are missing.

      Enjoy wearing Lyric. I’m looking forward to getting to know it better.

  2. cookie queen says:

    Tara ….. I especially left my mascara off this morning because I didn’t want streaks down my face as I perform Cookie Queen deliveties today. You got it down to a T. I have been to many festivals, and sniffed many things but NOTHING comes close to what we had on Saturday, and having your skin sniffed ……….. Duuuuude!!
    Firm friends already. xxxxxxxxx

    • Tara says:

      Well Val, we are all indebted to you for putting together such an amazing day. I’m glad you think I captured the feeling.

      Hope your deliveries go well today and look forward to spending more time with you in the future.

      By the way my SotD is Tihota. Thanks to you I am in tropical vanilla heaven.

  3. Tara!!
    You forgot to tell everyone how downright freaking fabulous YOU are. You are so generous, warm, friendly and made us Aussies feel totally welcome. Can’t wait to come back and see you all again.
    It was like a sniffing rock festival.
    Portia xx

    • Tara says:

      Ha! Portia you are so good for my ego, I need you around all the time 🙂

      It’s great when an event exceeds even your highest expectations.

      Enjoy the rest of your trip and hurry back!

  4. Lady Jane Grey says:

    Sounds like a fun & fab day ! And the photo with you, my dear, and Portia looks absolutely gorgeous

  5. Michael says:

    You are amazing and generous Tara. It was a pleasure to meet. Such a fun day. I’d love to see you in Sydney if we don’t make it back to London first.
    Again, props to Val for organising it all.

    • Tara says:

      Michael, it was great to meet you too. I’m glad you had fun in my hometown. Val is a star for putting ti all together. If I could drag someone to Sydney with me, I would! Come back soon x

  6. Sandra says:

    What a wonderful day you all had! Thank you Tara for taking me there with you. Your words capture the spirit beautifully.

  7. What a lovely perfume “gang”. I wish I could have been there. It sounds you had incredible fun!

  8. Sounds like a blast. Glad you all had such a fantastic time.

  9. Ines says:

    After reading and seeing pics, I couldn’t agree more. 🙂 It definitely has to become a regular event.
    SOunds absolutely fantastic!

  10. Vanessa says:

    Oh Tara, what a spot on account of a memorable, heart-warming day – even if the weather was cold and inhospitable. It was fantastic to meet the APJ crew in person and all the other fumeheads who made the trip. And I would like to go on record as saying you would give Miss World a run for her money – that is a stunning shot of you with Portia!

    Thanks to your (as ever) detailed reporting, it is good to catch up with what other people sniffed, as I was rather inert on the nasal front, happy just to hover and mingle, and sniff the odd thing that was waved around in my vague direction. I missed Thomas’s Byredo bottle somehow between the vinegar and the tomato ketchup, so that was remiss of me, as I was curious to try its quirky cherriness. And was Joshua’s tin really of unwanted samples? Oh my, I would have grabbed a few for sure as it was brimful of quality gear. 😉 I assumed it was for test purposes, like having a whole other shop scaled down to fit on our laden lunch table.

    As regards the quid pro quo of our sample exchange, you forget that I have an irresistible compulsion to give people hats at the moment – no reciprocation required. Moreover you have been a real brick of late during a stressful period with work, so it was the least I could do to keep your head warm in this inclement weather.

    • Tara says:

      Vanessa, you are so kind to me!

      I was also more interested in the people – the perfume felt like a bonus. I also missed the 1996, there was a lot going on. Yes, you’re probably right that Joshua’s samples were more to try than to nab. People were so polite I almost had to persuade them it was OK to take mine!

      I just love my new hat, so professional looking. Plus it matches my wrist warmers perfectly.

  11. Suzanne says:

    Tara, you look so foxy and, as always, I enjoyed your report. Here’s wishing a reunion get-together for all of you soon.

    It looks like some impressive purchases were made as well, and I’ll be hoping that you eventually get yourself a bottle of Lyric. It is exquisite, and I think it fits your tastes and your style. (Said as if I’m an authority … forgive me. It’s just that I’m a big fan of it, and I can envision it being a Tara perfume!) 🙂

    • Tara says:

      So lovely to “see” you Suzanne, thanks for commenting. I’m pleased you enjoyed the report.

      I am even more inclined to fall in love with Lyric after what you’ve said. I’m going to wear it tomorrow for sure.

  12. SallyM says:

    I’ve read all of the reviews of your fab day and its been so interesting to see the individual experiences of those there. I know I’m not known by any of you, but I would have so loved to have been there – what a great learning experiencing for a vintage gal like me to be introduced to the niche world! I’ve been seriously thinking of signing up for the Perfume bus thingy that was done in LA last year if it happens again.

    • Tara says:

      Sally, if it happens you should definitely sign up. Being part of the online fragrance community is great but meeting up is so much fun. You’d love it I’m sure. Besides I bet a lot of people would be glad to learn about vintage from you.

  13. nukapai says:

    Sounds like a wonderful day out and I completely agree with you – the social aspect of hanging out with fellow nose nerds is THE BEST. 🙂

  14. Tora says:

    I love this! All you wonderful perfume bloggers together for so much fun. EPIC play date!!!!!

  15. fruwinther says:

    Me oh my, that sounds like the most amazing day!

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  17. Jordan River says:

    Big Fun! What a meet.

  18. ‘Portia Fest’ is a wonderful name for what really was a wonderful day. I hope it becomes an annual festival.

    Excellent write up as always, Tara. I shall have to make some samples of the 1996, seeing as everyone was so keen to try it. How are you getting on with your Lyric sample?

    • Tara says:

      I hope it’s an annual event too. I could see it growing and growing 🙂

      The 1996 was super popular and I missed the chance to try Marni, though I can probably try that locally. I am still undecided about Lyric. I like it a lot but there’s something there that’s bothering me. I can’t put my finger on it.

  19. Nemo says:

    I love it! Such a whirlwind and so many perfumes tried in one day 🙂 I think my favorite part is imagining all of you sitting in the fish and chips shop, sniffing away! It seems like it would be hard to get a good idea of a perfume with the smell of fried fish and fried things everywhere, but surely that wouldn’t stop you guys. Thank you for sharing!

    • Tara says:

      I’m glad you enjoyed it Nemo. I honestly mentioned only a fraction of the perfumes we tried. Others keep reminding me of those I’d forgotten about like Corromandel, Celtic Fire and Marni. It was mad. Funnily enough Poppies didn’t smell overwhelming of fried food at all. I guess it was well ventilated, which is just as well 🙂

  20. What a fabulous day! Thank you so much for sharing! It sounds like an outing filled with wonderful perfume and fried food. My kind of day 🙂

    • Tara says:

      Ha ha! Non perfume lovers might not agree, but I think it’s a perfect combination too.

      Thanks for reading and commenting, Daisy.

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