Question Time with The Smelly Vagabond

source: keepcalmandposters.com

I’ve been sorely lacking in inspiration to write in the past few months, which I suppose comes along with having to write an economics dissertation and a sociology essay about the art critic, the latter of which I’m trying to bring in something perfume-related: What is the role of the critic in the production of art? How did the critic come about in the first place? What is the interaction between the critic and the artist? How have technological advances changed the nature and content of criticism? The essay is coming along fairly nicely, albeit nowhere near complete, but when I do finish it I’ll probably rewrite it for a perfume audience (at the moment, it’s just about art critics in general), and maybe even get it published somewhere 😉

I’ve just returned to New Haven from a weekend trip to New York, where I got to meet perfumer Hiram Green at Twisted Lily as well as attend a macaroni and cheese takedown competition! More on them at a later time…

In the meantime, though, how about some Q&A? Since I’m lacking in inspiration, why not you help me out by asking me some questions, and I’ll answer them as best as I can? It doesn’t necessarily have to be perfume-related. I’m hoping it will be fun, and I’ll update this post as we go along so that the questions get featured in the post. Time to get creative with the questions!

You can post your questions in the comments of this post, on Twitter, or on Facebook. I’m looking forward to hearing from you!

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Best of 2014 + Andy Tauer Sotto La Luna Gardenia

I’m not one to do Best Of lists, although they sure are fun to read. Don’t ask me why, I just never get round to doing so. However, I did say in my article on MiN New York that I’d written a short review of Andy Tauer’s Sotto La Luna Gardenia for Basenotes. You can find it here, along with other my fellow perfume stalwarts: Basenotes Best Fragrance Discoveries of 2014. I have also reproduced my own mini review here:

Andy Tauer’s Sotto La Luna Gardenia was this year’s love-it-or-hate-it fragrance, and it fell resolutely in my ‘OHMYGOODNESS THIS IS MAGICAL I LURRRRVE IT’ category. I had been more than disappointed with this year’s releases, with most of my perfume budget going towards vintage scents. Legend has it that when the full moon hangs high in the sky, the witches come out to play. And Sotto La Luna Gardenia is indeed a witch’s brew that casts its spell upon all who smell it. Forget about a plain, boring soliflore: the gardenia goes into the cauldron, for sure, but along with it go a narcotic jasmine to amp up the sex, a clump of earth to keep it grounded, some cheese to keep it edgy and an overripe banana, which leaves us with a potion that teeters on the verge of decomposition – a quality that made Diorella so compelling to me in the first place. But Tauer doesn’t stop there; he throws tonka bean and vanilla into the mixture, whose gourmand natures leave me wondering if Sotto La Luna Gardenia belongs in the trash or in my mouth. The answer, as with any other perfume that is considered a masterpiece, is that it belongs on every inch of skin that I can spare.

Have a Happy New Year and a great year ahead!

MiN New York

© The Smelly Vagabond

© The Smelly Vagabond

Around 3 weeks ago, on the Saturday after the day of crazy mad shopping stampedes also known as Black Friday, I dragged my luggage behind me as I trudged around SoHo, New York, in search of MiN New York, a perfumery that I had long heard of, but never had the opportunity to visit until now. I had taken the train down to Manhattan a couple of days before with a few objectives in mind:

  1. To visit a friend and celebrate Thanksgiving over the Thanksgiving break (although in my case the “break” involved plenty of studying)
  2. To keep in my tradition of participating in an annual celebration of excessive consumerism (Boxing Day in London, where I was previously based; Black Friday in the US)
  3. To meet up with Portia of Australian Perfume Junkies and the rest of the gang (more on that later!) for some sniffing and catching up at Osswald NYC later that very same Saturday afternoon

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I’m BACK! Histoires de Parfums TubĂ©reuse 1 Capricieuse Review

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“Did you miss me? Did you miss me? Did you miss me?”

“But he’s dead, you told me he was dead… so how can he be back?”

Fans of the hit BBC series Sherlock will immediately get the reference to the return of Moriarty (Sherlock’s arch-nemesis) at the end of the final episode of Season 3. I do suppose I should be allowed to provide this ‘spoiler’, seeing as how the episode came out at the very beginning of the year in January, so fans of the show would already have known about it. In any case, it feels good to be back. A number of reasons have made it difficult for me to blog about perfume for some time now:

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Basenotes Article – Interviewing Mark Buxton (The Fun Edition)

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If you haven’t already read my interview with Mark Buxton, do pop on down to Basenotes to read it! You can click here to be directed to it. Also, this wasn’t in the article, but I had a fantastic time hanging out with Sabine who writes over at Iridescentrics. It was especially memorable for me because this was the last opportunity I had to meet up with a dear friend before leaving the UK. We talked about everything and everything, both in Roullier White and over dinner at the Italian restaurant near by, which served quite an excellent pasta.

Let me know what you think of Mark Buxton and his fragrances! Also, should I do more Fun Interviews with perfumers, or stick to the serious stuff?

Moving to the USA
 and some fragrant musings.

source: avdoeswhat.com

I haven’t posted in a gazillion years, not because I don’t want to, but because I’ve been swamped with my move to the USA. First there were the visa applications, which involved so many bureaucratic processes that I must be wholly covered in sticky red tape at this point. Then there was the packing – how do you fit your entire life for one year in one suitcase that can only weigh 23kg? And finally, there was the meeting up with friends and spending time with family whom I wouldn’t be seeing for an entire year. So yes, blogging kinda took a backseat.

Right now, though, I’m sitting in a room in New Haven, Connecticut, with plenty of time to spare before University Life starts (I’m doing a Masters program at Yale University), so I can share a bit about what it’s like down here. After a grueling flight that lasted more than 24 hours, followed by a 3.5 hour shuttle bus ride from JFK Airport to New Haven, I was exhausted beyond belief. Checking in to the student dormitory wasn’t the breeze I expected it to be, as I had to lug my suitcase up and down three times – the first time I went up, I realised they hadn’t given me the keys to my room, the second time, I thought my keys didn’t fit, so I went down again to get them changed, whereupon they checked and told me that it DID fit, so I went up a third time and voila, fit they did.

source: cannygranny.org

I was pretty sure I smelt quite funky at that point, so the first thing I did was to hit the showers. After getting cleaned up, and upon returning to the room, I noticed that the room smelt rather strange (and it still does), with the odor emanating from the mini-fridge that sat in the corner. I suppose that’s what you get when you let mould grow in a fridge and when you leave a jar of mayo to rot over the summer. Not the most fragrant of starts. I cleaned out the fridge, but the smell still remains. I’m just waiting for Tuesday to arrive, when I can take the bus out to the nearest mall (which is an hour away) to perhaps get some room scents from Bath and Body Works.

Then there are the fragrances I brought over. I didn’t bring any full bottles over due to a lack of luggage space, but I packed some decants to hopefully last me the year. It was an agonizing process to whittle down my choices down to 10, but eventually I managed. I made my decisions based on a number of criteria:

  1. Wearability. Would I wear these fragrances often? Being the fickle-minded person that I am, I rarely repeat the fragrances I wear in a month, so the fragrances I chose would have to be those I wouldn’t mind wearing more frequently.
  2. Uniqueness. The fragrances had to be somewhat different from one another. No point choosing 10 vetivers to wear, or 10 tuberoses.
  3. Likeability. I had to really like these fragrances, which seems kind of like a no-brainer, but when you’re limited to 10 choices, you want to make sure that you do feel really happy whenever you wear any of them.
  4. Versatility. These were the fragrances that I had to wear all the time, be it summer or winter, day or evening. They had to be fragrances that I could wear whenever, wherever.
  5. Emotional Resonance. The fragrances have to move me emotionally.

So, what fragrant selections did I make for my stay in the USA?

  • Frederic Malle Carnal Flower

The diva tuberose that always brings me much joy, when I want to smell resplendent and to stand out. I have a thing for tuberose, and Carnal Flower is one of the best.

L’Eau d’Hiver is what I wear when I just want to smell good without offending anyone’s dainty olfactory sensibilities. With its amorphous, sheer haze of iris and heliotrope, it makes for excellent wearing in the heat.

Is there anything quite like bewitching as Ormonde Jayne Woman, with its unique note of black hemlock and woody witchiness?

I wear L’Heure Bleue everywhere, even when I’m out doing grocery shopping. I figure this is the one I’ll run out of first.

  • Guerlain AprĂšs l’OndĂ©e

This ethereal beauty is what I pop out when I’m feeling melancholic, sometimes when I’m lonely.

Is there anything quite as cheerful as SĂ©ville Ă  l’Aube? This orange blossom bombshell ticks every one of my boxes and lifts my spirits whenever I wear it.

  • Vero Profumo Rozy EDP

There’s something dirty and skanky about this rose that seduces me.

  • Vero Profumo Mito Voile d’Extrait

I had to have at least one green scent with me, and this was it.

Cherry-tinged iris, powder and blush. For a throwback to the past.

  • Le Labo Labdanum 18

My go-to powdery animalic scent that’s like a fur coat (not that I wear fur).

So that was it, my perfume selection for my move to the USA!

What perfumes would you bring along with you if you had to live abroad for a year? What criteria would you use to help you make your choices?

~ The Smelly Vagabond

Guest Post – “Why I don’t Wear Florals” by Andrew Smells

source: doobybrain.com

The Smelly Vagabond: Today we have my first ever guest blogger and fellow fragrance friend, Andy, who recently started writing at Andrew Smells. We first met at a an Arquiste evening with founder Carlos Huber at Bloom Perfumery. After exchanging contact details, we began emailing one another, but things really took off when we met up again in Central London for a bout of sniffing. Since then, we have been regularly corresponding via Whatsapp (it’s so convenient!), comparing notes on fragrances and enabling one another to buy more perfumes.

“This isn’t another old woman floral is it?”

Was the question I asked a few times of the Vagabond on our mini “Tour de Smells” in London.
I consider myself open minded and am willing to have my tastes challenged, but there are some notes and qualities I find off-putting in a fragrance.

That means I wouldn’t wear them but also I find them painful to smell and make a face like a scared cat upon inhaling.

I remember at school there was a joke where you would be asked,

“Do you like potatoes?”
no
“Do you like chips?”
Sure.”
“Then you like potatoes ahahaha”

Clearly they aren’t the same thing, even though they share an ingredient, and so it seems my disdain of florals has a similar pattern; I don’t like potatoes, I do like chips.

It’s powdery, clear, loud and petal-y florals that I bemoan.
Petal-y is my way of describing how a fragrance smells too much like a flower and nothing else. The flower is tangible and I want to spit it out as if someone had hidden rose petals in my sandwich.

It’s soliflores and bouquets that scream:

HERE ARE THE FLOWERS YOU ORDERED

They just seem uninspired, but that’s a reflection on my personal taste and what I like a fragrance to do (complexity and development). But if you like all of these things I am cracking the whip at, then good for you. I’m glad someone likes them.

It’s probably memory and evocation too. Stuffy old women that belong in a police lineup for Madame Bucket (It’s pronounced Bouquet!) who wear too much makeup and want to smell like the roses they are pruning all day long in their retirement village.
Too bitter of me?

Floral outift to match

They are linear, dull. It’s a flower.
An hour later; it’s still a flower.
Nothing wrong with a linear scent, but of all the things to choose to smell like!

So now I’m going to demonstrate how I like floral elements so long as they make up a small percentage of the total blend and are not pronounced or distinct.

Opus 1870 by Penhaligon’s is wood and rose. Decent fragrance. The powerful wood is at the fore so this is like a single rose on a log pile ready for the fire.

Fahrenheit 32 by Dior is a simple concoction of vanilla, vetiver, and orange blossom. Here it’s the sweetness that wins out for me whilst the blossom gives a clean white quality.

My two favourite fougeres, Eau Sauvage Extreme and Rive Gauche Pour Homme, both contain lavender and are great because they have balanced composition but pass me a paper strip of Lavandula and I’ll do my goat face.

Coco Mademoiselle, which has a hefty rose backed with vanilla and fruit, or Elie Saab that’s got orange flower, jasmine, and honey.

I like feminine florals so long as they come with something sweet, a jar of honey or lashings of vanilla, anything to prevent me thinking I’m just smelling a flower.

And so it was, as I was passed two paper strips that I sniffed deeply and exclaimed delight that the Vagabond also lit up with satisfaction in having shown me that actually, maybe I do like florals – Shalimar with it’s iris, jasmine, rose and Portrait of a Lady with a distinct yet palatable rose.

What have I learnt?

To be more specific with my complaints and to relax my rules. It’s not helpful for me to have “I don’t like florals” as a belief. It can only limit my scope of experiencing new fragrances and whilst it’s good to know what you like, if you hone that spotlight too narrowly you might miss a beautiful fragrance simply because you once said –

I don’t like florals

The Smelly Vagabond: Well it seems as though our dear friend Andy has learnt a thing or two about florals! I haven’t yet given up on my quest to get him to like soliflores, bouquets and “old women florals” (which are absolutely my thing). Do pay Andy a visit on his blog and welcome him to the blogging community! 🙂

Moving from the UK to Singapore

I’ve been really busy lately, between holidaying in Paris, then Milan, then Bologna, then Turin, and finally packing up my ENTIRE LIFE (including the perfume collection!) into boxes to be shipped back to Singapore. As such, I must really apologise for my lack of updates on the blog. I should be able to start writing again from 24th June onwards, which is when I’ll land in Singapore. I’ve started on a number of posts for the blog, so you can imagine what the backlog is like: a review of Vero Profumo’s Mito, my interview with Mark Buxton at Roullier White, my 2nd trip to Paris, including a guide to Le Marais, and vintage hunting in Milan, not to mention numerous other perfume reviews. Sigh. I wish I had more time to sit down and write, but as it is I’m exhausted and sleep-deprived. At the moment I have on my left arm Magnetic Scent’s Indigo and on my right arm I have Serge Lutens’ Fumerie Turque. I’m not quite sure what inspired that selection, but then again my head is mush.

I’ll make up for all of this with a huge giveaway when I’m finally settled in Singapore.

What do you wear when you’re just crazy busy?

<3,
~ The Smelly Vagabond

Off to Paris!

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Dear all, I’ll be off to Paris for a couple of days, and I’m looking forward to reporting on my fragrant finds when I get back! And this time I’ll remember to take pictures! I should still be able to post haikus from my phone, though. Till then, toodles and have a lovely weekend! 🙂

~ The Smelly Vagabond

Statistics – Taking Stock of My Perfume Decants

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Decants and samples galore!

Looking around at my room, I suddenly gained inspiration for a quick post that I could tap out in the midst of my examinations. Why not take stock of my burgeoning collection of decants and take a look at what I’ve collected since coming to the UK? The majority of the decants were from my own bottles, because it’s too much of a hassle for me to dig through my suitcase every single time I want to wear a perfume. Yep, that’s where I store my bottles because, well, I’ve only got my own room to keep them in! I’ve excluded the decants I made from my own bottles for the purposes of statistical analysis (I use this term very, very lightly), so the figures are of the decants that I’ve either bought, swapped for, or been given by generous members of the fragrance community. I’ve also stipulated rather arbitrarily that decants be at least 4ml in volume, and that large manufactured samples do not count as decants.

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