The Smelly Vagabond’s 1st Anniversary + Giveaway: Vintage L’Air du Temps

Happy Anniversary

It seems that I’ve missed out on celebrating my one year anniversary on the blogosphere, which was a couple of days back. I’m not typically the sentimental sort, not when it comes to festivities and traditions. I’m not the sort to make resolutions during the New Year, nor do I ‘look back’ at how the year has past. It’s not that I blunder through life blindly; I just believe we ought to engage in reflection frequently, anyway, and so we don’t really need special occasions to remind us to do so. But I guess I’ll break the rule for my perfumes, because, well, they occupy a special place in my life.

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Magnetic Scent – Tindrer

I’ve just been thinking back on my fragrant journey, and decided to re-read some of my earlier posts. This was my very first perfume review almost an entire year ago. I’m not sure if my writing style has evolved over the year, but that’s quite a difficult thing for me to judge! I’ve decided to reblog my thoughts on Tindrer because readers who have recently joined may have missed out on it – it’s definitely worth trying! I hope you enjoy 🙂

The Smelly Vagabond


Tindrer by Magnetic Scent opens with an unconventionally green, dewy violet that smells like it’s just been freshly cut at the stem. It’s vegetal and… is that a hint of soil? Mmmm. Ten minutes in, Tindrer segues into its heart. There’s definitely something marine going on here that makes Tindrer salty fresh while the violet continues strongly in the foreground. Strangely, I keep getting the smell of new, unused erasers

Tindrer evokes the image of a young child running freely through a field of violets. It has just rained and the smell of the earth and flowers and grass fill the air. He’s smiling, but why are there tears in his eyes? He lies in the middle of the field and takes a deep breath. It’s the first time in many years that he’s been allowed out to play in the field. Tiny raindrops fall on his cheeks and mix…

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Perfume Lovers London – A Vanilla Affair, with Neil Chapman

Thursday, 27 March 2014, happened to be the day of my very last lecture of my entire undergraduate life. And what better way to celebrate (or mourn) it than in the company of fellow Perfume Lovers? And I must warn you, there will be plenty of name-dropping in this post, seeing as there were many recognisable faces around as well as new friends made! As we squeezed into the cosy upstairs room of the New Cavendish Club, the pre-event chatter soon petered out and the proceedings of the evening commenced. This month, we had the pleasure of welcoming Neil Chapman, who writes over at The Black Narcissus, to present his selection of Vanilla Perfumes. I believe Tara of Olfactoria’s Travels will be writing about the very same event soon, so do keep a look out for it. In any case, I thought I would jot down my thoughts on the fragrances that were presented. I must apologise in advance for the lack of any pictures taken at the event itself; I had clean forgotten to do so due to the fascinating conversations I was having with my new-found perfume friends. Without further ado, here are the perfumes in the order that we smelt them:

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The Smelly Vagabond’s Adventures in Paris: Day 1

© The Smelly Vagabond

© The Smelly Vagabond

Last week, I took the plunge and went on my first ever solo holiday… and what better place to spend it than in Paris? I’ve always wondered why I’ve never been to Paris, especially since I’m a sucker for all things smelly and Paris is the perfume mecca of the world that is only a 2.5 hour train ride away from London! Suffice to say that I had the best holiday ever, and I’ve recorded some of my thoughts and observations here. They may not necessarily all be about fragrance and all things smelly, but I’ve weaved in some of my scented explorations as well. If you’re only interested in the perfume, I discuss Guerlain somewhere in the middle. So, let’s start from the very beginning…

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Interview with Elisabeth of Friedemodin

source: Friedemodin website Elisabeth is the one on the right.

I’m all dressed up in a formal black jacket for my interview with Elisabeth Modin of Friedemodin, a step-up from my usual hoodie and jeans ensemble (I am a Vagabond, after all!) because we are meeting in the bar of the very swanky 5-star Mayfair Hotel. I’ve decided that going in a full suit would be somewhat of an overkill, so I’ve paired the jacket with khaki chinos and brown leather shoes. I hope the outfit is appropriate for the venue, I think to myself, just before I step into the Quìnce Bar. Thankfully, I’m a perfume blogger, not the editor of Vogue magazine, so I shall lay off the uninspiring references to what I was wearing from now on.

I’m nowhere as dapper or well-dressed as this gentleman.

All traces of nervousness or worries about my outfit vanish when I meet Elisabeth. She is busy typing away on her phone, probably busy with work. After exchanging greetings, we order two pots of tea, mint for her and jasmine silver needle for me. It’s too early for alcoholic beverages, and it would have been disastrously comical if I had been tipsy, slurring over my questions and asking Elisabeth to repeat what she has said simply because I couldn’t focus.

I’ve decided to find out about Elisabeth the person first, before finding out more about the brand. Elisabeth tells me that there haven’t been very many typical days. She’s been busy with a whole range of things, including press meetings, discussions with agents about new market strategies in Europe, and meetings related to the supply-chain side of things (warehouse stock levels, logistics etc.), which she informs me resolutely is not the glamorous side of the business, but an integral and necessary one. Just last night, she had to stay up to prepare goodie bags for an event – some British supermodel awards – that they were sponsoring. It’s a small operation, so Elisabeth and Nina (the other co-founder of Friedemodin) have to be very hands-on and manage every aspect of the business. The two of them try to split the work; for example, Nina focuses on the German market whereas Elisabeth focuses on the Swedish market, but there’s usually so much to do that they work on many things together. Recently, they’ve also started getting into social media – in fact, it was a random tweet about their recent launch party at the Buddha Bar that led me to contact them about the possibility of an interview in the first place.

Both Nina and Elisabeth currently have their own day jobs, with Nina doing something related to amenity products for hotels and Elisabeth doing product management for an online company. “Don’t you get tired juggling both Friedemodin and your day job?” I ask, curious to find out what keeps them going. Elisabeth shares that they’ve got a big passion for perfumes and for creating something that’s their own, as well as the feeling that comes when other people appreciate and like something that they’ve created. She recalls the first time Friedemodin was launched in Germany – the very first customer was a guy with a big beard who bought Roseé de Nuit. “The feeling when someone bought something was amazing,” she exclaims.

“What about yourself? How did you feel when you bought your first perfume? What got you interested in perfume?”

Note: this isn’t Elisabeth, but I thought it was a lovely picture.

Elisabeth shares that the first perfume she ever bought was the original Kenzo by Kenzo – although that was something she owned when she was very young. She opines that when she grew up in Sweden, she used to cycle through the forest quite frequently, appreciating the different smells she experienced in the forest. She also recalls visiting a perfumery in Grasse when she was younger, where she had the opportunity to see the flower fields and look at how perfume was processed; however, she didn’t really think that she could work in perfume until a few years ago, because she never thought that she would have a chance to do so. The interest was always there, she assures me, but that interest only manifested itself more strongly as she grew older.

In fact, things really kicked off only when Elisabeth met Nina five years ago through mutual friends in London. Being neighbours, they bonded over long sessions of coffee where they smelt the perfume samples that Nina got from her job with the hotel. They also attended numerous new perfume launches. Unsurprisingly, it was at Harrods’ The Perfume Diaries exhibition when the idea of starting their own brand began to take root. There, they met the current owner of Lubin, Gilles Thevenin, whom Elisabeth describes as someone who is very passionate and enthusiastic about perfumes, and an inspiration in the perfume industry. Gilles encouraged them to follow their heart and reach for their dream, and so they did.

source: Friedemodin website
Perfumer Francois Robert.

The perfumer behind the perfumes of Friedemodin is Francois Robert, who is the son of perfumer Guy Robert (Francois is also the perfumer behind many of the fragrances in Les Parfums de Rosine). As we delve deeper into the often-murky subject of fragrance development, Elisabeth shares how the idea for the Jardin Mystique collection was described in a brief containing images, some ingredients, colours and emotions to Francois, in such a way that he would have freedom to interpret the imagery they had in mind. She describes have many long brain-storming sessions together; in particular, she recalls going up to Brighton, where Francois lives, for a full day in order to describe the entire concept to him and to smell some of the plants in his garden. After plenty of back-and-forth between them and Francois, during which Francois would prepare samples and then get feedback from Elisabeth and Nina before modifying the juice further in order to achieve the concept of a mystical garden.


Which brings us to the fragrances themselves. With the first three fragrances (Jardin Mystique, Vertine, and Rosée de Nuit), it took close to a full year to develop them. Jardin Mystique was the one they started with and encapsulates the garden as a whole. The other perfumes evolved from this first scent and revolve around different things that can be smelt as one walks through the mystical garden. An interesting tidbit that Elisabeth shared was that Vertine required the most mods and was hard to get right because, as a green perfume, it tended to swing between two extremes – on the one hand, it would become too botanical, which made it interesting as a smell but not as an elegant perfume, and on the other, it would become too much like a fine fragrance without any defining character. I was curious how Feu Follet would fit into the mystical garden theme – wouldn’t having a fire in a garden burn everything down? (Trust me to ask bizarre questions like this!) Elisabeth reassures me that it’s a small midnight fire, one that’s dancing in the wild garden, not a huge bonfire à la Guy Fawkes night. It was created as a counterpoint to the other perfumes as it was darker, smokier and heavier.

I’ve always wondered how those involved in perfume creation know when a fragrance is just right, with no further need for modifications. Elisabeth tells me that one gets a visceral reaction when one likes it. Another important thing is for the perfume to develop nicely in all stages, and to be balanced. With Vertine, it required more than 30 iterations, with them having to start from scratch at times. With Feu Follet, it was a lot quicker, requiring only 6 iterations.

Does combining two perfumes make for a better one?

The Jardin Mystique collection is also marketed as ‘Combination Perfumery’ – on the leaflet accompanying the fragrances, it is mentioned that “The ingredients of each perfume within the Jardin Mystique collection have been carefully chosen and balanced to ensure they interact harmoniously however they are combined”. Playing the devil’s advocate, I ask, “Are the fragrances are better when combined, and if so, why haven’t you simply combined them in the finished product?”

Elisabeth is quick to clarify that the perfumes were meant to be standalone perfumes; however, as they share a common base and certain common ingredients, they would work well if they were layered, for a different fragrant experience. She concedes that they would probably have to work on bringing across this message better in their marketing in order to avoid misconceptions. Since we are on the subject of layering, I ask Elisabeth if she layers other fragrances, and if she does, what her personal combinations are. Elisabeth hesitates, then admits that she doesn’t normally combine her perfumes, although she has started doing so with the Jardin Mystique collection.

The power of social media?

As our tea starts getting cold, we begin discussing Elisabeth’s thoughts on the industry. Being a blogger, I am curious about how she feels stepping into an industry where the power of the Internet is becoming increasingly important. Elisabeth replies that they are starting to get more involved with social media. With their Twitter account, for example, which they started relatively recently, they discovered a completely new way to reach out to people – they’ve had a store in the US that discovered them on Twitter. She muses that it’s different from networking in the real world, but concludes that both definitely take quite a lot of time.

source: Crowded market, literally.

Does she think the perfume market is oversaturated? I inform Elisabeth that there were approximately 1,200 new perfumes launched in 2011 and 1,400 new perfumes launched in 2012. How does this affect her as someone who’s started her own brand? Elisabeth opines that it’s a challenge to get in the market and to get people to discover their fragrances, and that it’s not too different from other businesses where one has to ride the wave of consumerism. Thankfully, she says, people do want to try new things, and she is positive that there are people who will be interested in the Friedemodin style, which is classic with a contemporary twist.

As we draw near to the end of the interview, I ask Elisabeth what the brand’s plans for the future are. Here, a gleam comes to Elisabeth’s eye as she reveals that they are excited to start working on the next collection soon, on top of focusing on getting the brand known and out there. That said, she adds that while more is better, having too many fragrances in the collection makes it hard for people to choose.


I throw in one last question as we wrap up the interview, “If you weren’t so busy with Friedemodin, what would you be doing?”

“I would probably be doing something fashion-oriented… some things go quite well together, for example, scarves and perfumes. I like scarves a lot, so I’ll probably be designing scarves.”

At the moment, Friedemodin is stocked in the stores found here. If you’re in the UK, the perfumes are only available online at the moment.

~ The Smelly Vagabond

Winner of the Culti Giveaway!

The winner of the Culti Giveaway is… Ben Gan! My sincere apologies for taking so long to select a winner, I had clean forgotten about it after leaving for a holiday soon after posting about it. Please drop me an email at with your address so that I can get your scented sachet mailed out to you.

~ The Smelly Vagabond

Etat Libre d’Orange: Antihéros


The anti-hero knows himself. He has no need for subterfuge – his unconventional elegance, centered around the lavender flower, is expressed with wit and natural charm. He is Everyman and Superman, fighting the battles of daily life with incomparable style. He knows who he is, and so will you…

I quote PeredePierre‘s hilariously short but accurate review of Antihéros, because I was tempted to write it myself: “Lavender. The End.”

Antihéros is a clean, minty lavender. The lavender is strong, and as it’s one of my least favourite notes, I find that it tends to drown out the cedar and musk that underpin it. Antihéros is very linear, with little if no development, and its sillage is rather weak. However, it’s longevity is moderate. This makes it rather appropriate for the person who’s got a 9-to-5 office job who wants a fragrance to wear but who doesn’t really care what. To Etat Libre d’Orange‘s credit, they managed to modernise and streamline lavender by somehow removing the mustiness that I seem to get from most lavender-dominated fragrances. Even so, Antihéros remains firmly in safe and pleasant, but boring territory.

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Christopher Sheldrake on Iris… and the beginning of an attempt to make a synthetic iris accord

I saw this video over on Bois de Jasmin. I found it informative and a great delight to watch, as iris is one of my favourite notes. To quote Christopher Sheldrake:

“Unlike many fragrant products, the scent of the iris increases over time. It’s amazing! It wears off extremely slowly. It actually increases before disappearing.”

I learnt that the molecule responsible for this is irone. The sad news is that orris butter is extremely expensive! Thankfully, a good friend of mine (she recently started blogging at aromatisity), who’s had some experience working with perfumery materials, suggested the following synthetics as a substitute for orris butter:

Isoraldeine 70
Alpha irone
Alpha/Beta/Methyl ionone
Gamma nonalactone
(other lactones)
(other woody notes)

As I’ve mentioned, I absolutely love the smell of orris, so I shall purchase these materials and experiment to make my own iris accord. When I’m satisfied with the results, I’ll post an update and probably do a giveaway draw for a sample, so do keep a lookout!

~ The Smelly Vagabond