Last weekend I went home to Valencia for a family celebration. It was brilliant to be able to pop home for three days, soak some sunshine, go to the beach and see the people I love most, my mum and brother. Both their birthdays are in May, and when I asked my brother a while ago what he wanted as a gift from me, I wasn't surprised he asked for a fragrance. In recent years he has developed a bit of an obsession with perfumes (or aftershaves, I am never sure what word to use!), including a few that are very niche and difficult to get hold of. This isn't about buying a nice perfume that you wear every day or for special occasions, but more of an interest and hobby. He is often reading up about them online and is even part of an online community where they discuss them and swap impressions. I guess it's no different from the beauty or lifestyle blogging community. It is huge.
I love listening to him talk about them and handing over a sample bottle to smell them. Some of them I really don't like because they're too strong, but some are beautiful, like nothing you've smelled before. Some are obnoxiously expensive and some not at all. One thing that surprised me is that quite a few of these niche fragrances are unisex, and I liked that, mostly because it means I can sneak into my brother's bathroom and spritz myself with one of his treasures!
Last weekend I asked him to tell me what his top 5 were, and he reeled them off without stopping to think for a second, so I thought I would share them here. Fragrances are notoriously difficult to describe, so I did a bit of research into the different components to avoid talking about fruity, sweet or floral scents, and in the process I learnt all about top, middle and base notes. The first are what you instantly notice when you spray it, the middle notes are revealed after 10 minutes or so, and then they both fade (but don't disappear), leaving you with the base notes.
1. Tom Ford's Tobacco Vanille
This, he says, is what started everything. Before he bought this he didn't know there was a world of niche fragrances out there. I recommended this one to him because one of my friends wears it and it is so distinctive that I had to ask him what it was. Tom Ford has two fragrance lines, one which is in most department stores and the Private Blend line, which you can easily find online, some duty frees and in places like Selfridges or Liberty's in London. Tobacco Vanille is in the Private Blend category.
Top notes: tobacco leaves and spices
Middle notes: vanilla, tonka bean, tobacco blossom and cacao
Base notes: dried fruits and woody notes
2. Diptyque Eau Duelle
I was never a fan of the smell of vanilla because I found it too sickly. However, this and the previous one are the two exceptions to the rule. Eau Duelle has bourbon vanilla, but it is offset with citrus bergamot, pink pepper and black tea. It also has cardamom, elem. resin, frankincense and musk. The result is a very sexy fragrance that lingers but in the most wonderful way. Out of all these, this is the one I would actually buy for myself. Despite having vanilla it isn't sweet and it has a lot of depth. I love it!
3. Frederic Malle Carnal flower
Now, this is the obnoxiously expensive one, so I won't for a second advocate that anyone buys it unless you are really into this sort of thing. It does smell pretty special though. My brother bought it during a visit last summer, and we walked into Liberty's and felt very special talking to the lady at the Frederique Malle counter. My brother doesn't speak English so I had to be the interpreter, and in the end she gave me a few samples of some of their other fragrances because I had earned it, ha!
What you first notice in this fragrance is the bergamot and melon, but quite quickly it turns deeper and reveals the more floral notes of jasmine, tuberose and orange blossom. Musk and ylang-ylang make it last forever on your skin.
4. Diptyque Volutes
Tobacco is one of those ingredients that I would have never expected to find in perfumes, but it actually features in lots of them, and they smell gorgeous! In Diptyque's Volutes it is mixed with pink and black pepper, saffron, honey and iris flower, as well as one of my favourites, myrrh. My brother says this is more of a winter or evening fragrance, and I agree with him.
5. Carner Barcelona D600
One of my very first posts was about perfumes I loved, and I remember talking about particular scents that appeal more to Southern Europeans, like citrus or jasmine. Valencia is full of orange and lemon trees and their blossom is similar in fragrance to jasmine, so it is no surprise that this is by a Mediterranean perfume house, Carner Barcelona, and that it is in this list. It has cedar and vanilla in the base notes, but it is fresher than some of the others, partly because of the jasmine, iris, bergamot and grapefruit. Probably trickier to find outside of Spain, but I included the link to their website, should anyone be interested.
I really hope you have enjoyed this. I've been sitting on it for a week, because every time I re-write it and read it it sounds so pretentious that I am embarrassed to post it. I guess it is because usually I write about things I use and buy, whereas this is something different that I enjoy learning more about. I hope the balance was right and you found it interesting.
Every now and then I ask for comments. Part of it is because it is nice to hear from people who read the blog, but mostly it is because feedback (whether positive or constructive) is so helpful! So if you have a few spare seconds, I'd really like to know what you think!
Finally, for those of you having a long weekend, hope you're making the most of it.