An Evening With Perfumer Patricia de Nicolaï

Madame de Nicolaï © thesmellyvagabond

Patricia de Nicolaï © thesmellyvagabond

On the evening of 23rd May, I had the immense pleasure of attending a Perfume Lovers London meetup session where we had the chance to chat with perfumer Patricia de Nicolaï. Now, Madame de Nicolaï should come across as no stranger to most who have a vague interest in perfume, given her well-received perfume company, Parfums de Nicolaï, and her esteemed title as the President of the Osmothèque perfume conservatory. She is also known for her perfumer’s “pedigree”, being the great-grand-daughter of Pierre-François Pascal Guerlain and niece of Jean-Jacques Guerlain. As a huge fan of her work, I was as excited as a besotted puppy the entire evening as I listened to the enchanting Madame de Nicolaï speak. Dressed in a purple top and grey pants, Madame de Nicolaï came across as effortless Parisian chic and won over the audience with her honest answers that were peppered with numerous anecdotal details. The evening was hosted by Lila das Gupta, journalist and perfume enthusiast, with the audience piping in with questions every here and then. I have endeavoured to reproduce the essence of what was spoken and preserve the details to the best of my shorthand recording ability. I have also rearranged some of the material in order to make the flow of the conversation more coherent. Presenting An Evening with Perfumer Patricia de Nicolaï:

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Greetings from Riga


To my dear friends and readers who have been checking my blog every once in a while, I thank you for your support. I haven’t had the time to write a post recently because I have been travelling all around Europe. But I assure everyone that I’m very much still around and would love to post save for lack of time and also because I’ve been taking the time to gather materials and thoughts for a massive write up on my scented travels. Some things you can look forward to:

Romping Round Rome in Search of Scent – A Guide to the Perfumeries in Rome, Italy

This should hopefully be up next week when I’m back. I’ve tried so many new scents that aren’t very well-known (I think) to even us perfume lovers and gathered many samples that I will be trying out in the weeks to come, so look forward to reading my thoughts on them. I’ll try to faithfully reproduce the route I took so that if anyone ever has the chance to visit Rome (and you should!), this guide should hopefully aid you in your perfumed travelling. After all, I am indeed called The Smelly Vagabond, so what I write should have some element of wandering around, right? 🙂

An Evening with Perfumer Patricia de Nicolaï – Perfume Lovers London

I have the immense fortune of attending a session on 23rd May where we get to talk to perfumer Patricia de Nicolaï, whose fragrances I enjoy thoroughly, so I’ll be reporting on the event and the night’s proceedings, which I’m sure will be a treat for every perfume lover.

A Flagrantly Fragrant Affair

On 25th May, I’ll be hosting a perfume appreciation workshop session for my non-perfumista friends where I introduce them to the world of fragrance and hold a mini blind-sniffing competition. I’ll be reporting on how the afternoon goes – hopefully some of you will be inspired to carry out your own perfume workshops for your friends/family!

So… definitely some good things to look forward to! In the meantime, I’ll be heading for Vilnius, Lithuania tomorrow. If anyone has been there before or has any information on what fragrant affairs I should look out for, feel free to let me know by commenting on this post.

Many Smelly Greetings,

The Smelly Vagabond

Phaedon – Coton Egyptien



I spent days trying to write
the perfect letter for you.

I wrote and scratched out
words. I crumpled paper
until my floor started to think
it was a cotton field,
and I thought of inviting you
to come pick through it,

to see if you could find
the softness I was trying
to tell you about

but I was too afraid
your fingers would wear raw
on the bolls, that you would grow
tired of stooping
to pick up the things I’d grown
in my head

so I put an empty envelope
in your mailbox, and wrote

Love me, please,

on the outside,

– Gabriel Gadfly

“I wrote and scratched out words”

I’ve been wondering for some time what to write about Coton Egyptien by Phaedon. Did I love Coton Egyptien? Well, yes and no.

Coton Egyptien opens with the sheerest, most delicate galbanum and freshly cut grass. It is to perfumer Pierre Guillaume‘s credit that he has managed to achieve such a soft, gentle opening using a note that usually comes across as sharp and spiky. Does it smell like cotton sheets? Perhaps not exactly, but Coton Egyptien conjures images of clean white sheets hung to dry in an open field.

“I thought of inviting you to come pick through it”

Coton Egyptien‘s beautiful opening doesn’t last for long, unfortunately. As it progresses into its heart, clean florals take over. The orange blossom, lily of the valley and jasmine blend together in a mildly sweet blend that is difficult to describe in any way other than “pleasant”. It’s not particularly interesting, but then again, neither are cotton sheets.

“you would grow tired”

As we reach the drydown, Coton Egyptien becomes a sheer (I seem to be describing the whole development of Coton Egyptien as sheer! Well it’s true!) white musk that’s rather non-descript. Although this makes it remain true to its theme of sheets, it comes across less as luxurious egyptian cotton than it does the cheap sheets one can get from IKEA.

“Love me, please, on the outside, instead.”

Ultimately, Coton Egyptien works best for me in its opening movement. Even then, the rest of the fragrance makes sense in that they are all related to the idea of ‘cotton’. Do I love it? Perhaps not entirely, but I’ll wear it on a warm spring day when anything else would be too heavy.

[Review based on my own bottle, purchased from Bloom Perfumery, London. Coton Egyptien has unfortunately been discontinued. It is being replaced by Lentisque, a reformulation of Coton Egyptien that smells more floral but does away with the lovely galbanum opening.]

~ The Smelly Vagabond

May 1 – Labour Day and I’m Actually Labouring

source: thebeautypress

Guerlain Muguet 2013
source: thebeautypress

It’s the 1st of May, so countries around the world are celebrating May Day. Here in the UK and back in Singapore we celebrate Labour Day, a holiday meant to celebrate the achievements of workers.

Being a student, I, unlike all you workers out there, am actually labouring on Labour Day. You see, I’ve got major examinations the next day, so by labouring I really mean studying. Yet my thoughts are preoccupied not so much with my studies, but what fragrance I should wear into the examination hall. Should I wear Comme des Garçons Incense Avignon to put me in a meditative and relaxed mood? Or how about Frederic Malle‘s En Passant which will conjure images of spring and the park as I write my essays?

Or maybe I should wear something extremely bombastic, such as Carnal Flower to distract the other students in the examination hall. You see, we are marked on a bell curve, so the worse someone else does, the better my grade will be 😀 But I jest. I would never do that, and I’d much rather rely on my brains and my hard work to do well.

Still, it’s an interesting question: what perfume should someone who’s sitting for an examination wear?

Please pray for me as I sit for my exams.

~ The Smelly Vagabond