European Trip 2012 – Day 4 (London)


So, I ran around London today, got back to my hotel and realized that I had misplaced my notes. This really kills me because I had a great day and took good notes. On the upside, I have a pretty good memory, oh wait- what was I talking about?

I started with a list of places I wanted to go to and then ended up wandering around and finding other great places.

First stop was Oxford Circus for Fred Perry. I love their polo shirts and normally get a wild one each year. While the cycling ones were cute, none really stood out. I forgot the exact path but I ended up at Taylor of Old Bond Street – a quite lovely old school shave shop. I picked up the Coconut Oil shaving cream, which I have previously tested, and took some pictures for you wet shave fanatics. I know that I passed the Guess store and saw the Tiesto line of clothing – which made me wonder which superstar DJ will be the first to have a celebrity scent… hmm. I passed by a Santa Maria Novella store in the arcade and popped in. Their scents do nothing more and feel really overpriced for old word charm – but the store is beautiful.

When I was at the Paris Etro store, they told me to check out the store in London for the artwork. The top floor installation has insane architectural photographs. The whole house is extremely classic with historical paintings on the walls. The clothes are gorgeous, of course, but since I had just bought four shirts at the Paris store, I knew I’d better escape quickly.

Next up was Fortnum and Mason. The first time I went a few years ago, I was a little put off by the arrogance. However, I realized that that was my own projection. Its not a snobby store – the sales staff are so incredibly friendly and even the customers are nice. I had a fun chat with a charming pair of strangers in the elevator who were bordering on bubbly. I complimented the younger girl (20s) about the way she has a braid – and she gushed and thanked me for the compliment. Then when she got off the elevator, I turned to the older lady and said that I wished I could do that with my hair (I shave my head). She said, “Sweetie, that will take you a long time to grow out” and we both laughed.

I looked around the men’s grooming floor, another worthy stop for you wet shave fanatics, and then went down to fragrance. I’m almost done with a decant of Xerjoff Oud Stars Alexandra so I went for it and bought the full bottles. While at 225 pounds, it wasn’t cheap, compared to the price of other Xerjoff, it was reasonable. The Hungarian SA was quite intelligent and was telling me the story of love of Micallef. I complimented her on her knowledge and she said that she learned all that when they were in the store recently. She said that I should talk to this other guy (and I am kicking myself that I lost my notes) because he blew me away with how much he knew about every line – Parfums Marly, Clive (well I told him to skip that), Linari, Agonis, Profumi del Forte, Micallef, etc. He must be the lead perfumery SA or manager – because he was quite amazing. He told me stories about the royals – that Michael Jackson used to buy up all the Bal A Versailles, the royalty who visited, etc. A young (and cute) chap offered me a card from Illuminum – Arabian Amber and I noticed it was from the Vaporiser line. I asked if they had the haute line. He said they were only available at the Illuminum lounge on Dover Street, and gave me directions.

illuminum-2Ok – if you visit London, the Illuminum lounge is a MUST see. Not only is it gorgeous and serene but the fragrances are amazing and the SAs (or as I would call them, Brand Experts) are the most knowledgeable for any line I have ever spoken to. Bart showed me around and invited me to sit down. I asked him about the limited editions that are at Henry Bendel and he said, yes, those are exclusive to HB and are not even for sale in Europe yet. He even knew exactly which 9 of the Illuminum scents were available at HB. He brought the LEs out for me to experience – Rosewood, Majestic Oudh, Tonka Oudh, and Black Amber – and all four of them are incredibly special. I wore Black Amber and Tonka Oudh for the rest of the day (and they even survived the shower the next day). BA goes a little femme on me but I could still pull it off – it is resinous and sweet, and of course, strong. Tonka Oudh is really well-blended, it is not an “oud in your face,” but a quite well-blended fusion of the two main notes, with a nice vanilla. One thing I really appreciated about Bart is that he respected my opinions. When he handed me the White Oud, another special edition, I commented that it was a bit too spicy in the way vetiver/cumin react in my skin – like a sweet and sour sauce with too much sour and hardly any sweet. His reaction was intelligent and measured which made me respect him even more. I took some great pictures which I will post later today.

Time for some more wetshaving, and I found Geo F Trumpers down a winding road. Another great old school barber shop, if I hadn’t shaved that morning… I picked up the Almond shave cream (smells like marzipan) and got samples of the Rose/Violet shave cream and their preshave oil (lime is exceptional).

laduree-ispahanI found the tube and headed to Harrods. Yes, Harrods is amazing, but I had a run-in which unfortunately I am taking as a racial insult. I was wearing a backpack (as were two guys walking next to me). For some reason, I was singled out by an aggressive security guard and told that backpacks were not allowed to be worn in the store – that I would need to carry it. I noticed that the other two guys were wearing backpacks the same way I was, were not stopped by the security guard and were of Asian descent. Hopefully, I am taking this this the wrong way but it kinda tainted the start of the visit.

laduree-macaroonsI popped into Laduree and got some macaroons and an Ispahan cake (inspired by the Dior scent that made me sick – well, it tastes amazing) for later. I went up to the Roja Dove room on the top floor – amazing. Granted, I had seen everything while I was in Paris (except the RD scents – which are on every floor of Harrods, mind you), it is an impressive display. I thought it was really cool that they had the Arquiste scents there along with all the insanely expensive, classic scents (and new ones as well). Definitely worth a visit (and a few hours of worship).

Back to the main floor, I sniffed around and found the Robert Piguet – of course trying the two ouds – Oud (a mix of saffron and oud) and Bois Noir (amber oud – much better than Killian – but I still think the Body Shoppe version gives it a run for the money). The lovely Hungrarian girl at the Bond counter was quite sweet. Speaking of Bond, James Bond (that is meant to be just as cheesy as it sounds), James Bond is being hyped all over London right now and Harrods had an SA sniffing people with 007 cologne. I sniffed it and handed it back. While it’s a fun laugh – and the 007 SA was a charming character – I wasn’t sure if it was lightening the serious or cheapening the room.

Outside Harrods there is a Skins, I tried their male store brand scent, a nice sweet masculine. Nothing mind-blowing, but not bad.

A friend called and I went to meet her at Selfridges. Lots of great scents – designed and niche. The Tom Ford SA was really good – she knew her stuff. All of the Chanel and Dior exclusives are there if you haven’t seen them. I might go back for another look around – or might not, because I think I am getting spoiled and enjoying the smaller niche boutiques/branded stores rather than huge department stores.

Walking down the outside street, we walked by the Arabian Oud shop. The guy outside was aggressive in a charming way. I want to go back with someone else who knows scents because I want to explore, but have a feeling that as a dumb white guy from the US, I will be marked as an easy target.