European Trip 2013: Day 9 (London)

geo-f-trumperMy body woke me up early, it knew that there was a lot I wanted to do on my last day in London.   Taylor of Old Bond Street was open before Geo F Trumpers, so I called there first and was able to secure a 10am appointment for a shave.  I took the bus down there and enjoyed the ride completely.  Walking up the street, guided perfectly by Google Maps, I came across so many classic British brands – Czech and Speake, Floris and enough classic British tailors to dandify anyone.

taylor-of-old-bond-streetThe shave was good, but honestly wasn’t as good as the one I received in Paris or Milan.  The barber was young, seemed a bit inexperienced, and a tad bit rushed.  I also got a few small cuts on my neck and because of this, I declined my head shave.  I will know for next time to try a shave at Geo F Trumpers or make an appointment in advance and request a more experienced barber.   I did pop my head into Geo F Trumpers and sniff several of their scents – really good stuff they have in there.

saville-row-dandy-styleWhile I was in the more classic, old style section of London, I figured I should pop into Fortnum and Mason.  Last year, I splurged on Xerjoff Oud Stars Alexandria, the limited edition exclusive to F&M.  That sold out and they had Alexandria II – which smelled just like the original but was apparently made with a different piece of oud.

florisThey had several other Xerjoff that I had not seen before – Emery (a very pretty floral, sweet rose),  Aubres (citrus and pine), and a boxed set of Amber Star and Star Musk.  Amber Star was a boozy sweet amber with a bit of the sickening top of Alexandria.  Star Musk was a really sweet musk.  All were really nice but with prices north of 300 pounds, I wasn’t even going to let them touch my skin.

czech-and-speakeFrom Fortnum and Mason, I made a quick stop at Selfridges to pick up the Yohji Homme and Maison Margiella Jazz Club that I liked from the night before.  Then it was off to Les Senteurs.  Nick Gilbert no longer works there (he is now at Penhaligons, where he had just won an award for best window display the night before) and so I was greeted by the charming Callum.

ron-les-senteursAt Les Senteurs, I was looking for stuff that I hadn’t seen before and especially the 4160 Tuesdays line.  This is a really great line with interesting scents at reasonable prices.   What I Did On My Holidays is a ummy mix of minty sweet jasmine and sandalwood.  Kiss by the Fireside was a smoky clove scent (apparently there is a “naughty” version which has a lot of cinnamon oil that ignores IFRA regulation).  Inspired by the perfumer’s dad’s closet, The Lion Cupboard smelled of peppermint and gin, or an alcoholic with good oral hygiene.  Sunshine and Pancakes was fresh mix of citrus, jasmine, wood, and honey.  Evil Max was a dirty, filthy animalic leather.

From Cloon Keen Atelier, I was instantly in love with with Castana which mixed chestnuts and jasmine.  Line de Gigre was a nice airy violet.  Other lines carried by the store which were new to me were Bex (kind of an entry line like Scents of Departure) and Ruth Mastenbroek (two really nice and pretty floral femmes).

After letting several of these work on my skin for a while, I knew that Castana was coming home with me along with two of the 4160s (A Kiss by the Fireside and What I DId On My Holidays).    While we were chatting, I  asked what their biggest seller was and the quick reply was Lorenzo Villoresi Teint De Neige, because the Arabic tourists buy more than 10 bottles each when they visit.   In addition to the lines I mentioned, the store also carries the full lines of Parfumerie Generale, Nu_Be,  Atelier Cologne, Tauer, Kilian, Frederic Malle, Creed, Aoage and others.  If you are in the London area, a visit to Senteurs should definitely be on your to do list.

ron-tina-cousins-2My next stop was a highlight of the whole trip – lunch with Tina Cousins. Backstory- I’ve maintained her website for a long time, yet we had never face met. People who’ve followed me on the radio and at the club know how her songs “Pray” and “Mysterious Times” are two of my all time favorites.  We met at the Brasserie Blanc in Covent Garden where we (she, her fiance, and I) enjoyed a wonderful and decadent lunch and even more enjoyable conversation.  She is every bit as sweet and lovable as you would imagine –  I am hoping to bring her to the states for Winter Music Conference and some performances…  Wish me luck.

From there, I wasted my time going to the Paul Smith outlet. Unlike the Etro outlet in Milan, the store was a mess, disorganized with very few interesting or desirable items there.  My advice, don’t bother going.

One of my Facebook fragrance friends suggested that I go to Roullier White.  I checked out their site and noticed they had several lines that I had never heard of.  Getting there is a bit of journey, including an overground railroad and a nice walk.  Walking into the store, I saw Slumberhouse bottles and knew that I had found someplace special.

Catching my attention was the Florascent line, orient-inspired scents that were organic and handmade in Germany.  Kokiku was love at first smell – sweet juicy lychees grounded with teas.  When it hit my skin, I knew it would be an impulse buy.

Officina delle Essenze had a Caldo line which had two scents that caught my eye.  Oriental was a rubbery, leafy spicy scent with anise on the top which became a decadent ambery vanilla.  Legnoso smelled like hot chocolate made with white chocolate instead of milk or dark chocolate.

Ex Idolo  Thirty Three was a unique take on oud – dark and soft at the same time with sweet orange and roses laying the groundwork for the soft oud to come in.

pet-perfumeThe Maison Des Reves line became one of my favorite discoveries of the whole trip.  All three scents were wonderful.  Poudre was a glorious powder bomb.    Mousse Au Cafe was sweet coffee with vanilla and milk.   Gourmandise was sweet candied leather.  If I hadn’t had just bought the Naomi Goodsir Cuirs Velours, I probably would have gone with Gourmandise but it was Mousse Au Cafe that came home with me (along with Kokiku).

Roullier White is also worthy of a visit for some of the other interesting and unique products they stock – most notable pet perfumes.  Yes, think about that.


marc-jb-djingAfterwards, I met up with Marc JB of Bimbo Jones for a nice chat with him (and his lovely mum).  It was really the perfect way to end my European experience – a good discussion about music, life, and adventures that framed the previous two weeks in a wonderful perspective.  I was planning to go out to XXL or G-A-Y and instead decided to call it a night because I was yawning the whole way back.  Granted, I missed out on a surprise appearance by Lady Gaga at G-A-Y but I think I made the right choice to be well-rested for my flight back to the states.


European Trip 2013: Day 8 (London)

olympic-stadium-view-homerton The way husbands of pregnant women have sympathy morning sickness, at the end of a long trip I start to have pre-jetlag.  This causes me to sleep in later and later. Or it could be me enjoying the luxury of sleeping in and not having to wake up early in the morning…

ron-denis-2I started the day by heading out the Homerton (no relation to the Simpsons) in East London to visit my good friend Denis Flannery.  He was a visiting professor at Vandy back in the ’00s and after hanging out all year, we’ve kept in touch.  From the balcony of his apartment, I could see the Olympic stadium.  We had quite a nice lunch and an even nicer chat.  Seeing him and other friends is always a highlight.

london-pizza-before-afterGoing back and forth to Homerton was also nice because I was able to ride on the overground trains and see more of London.  Don’t get me wrong, the tube is wonderful- but to see more of London, the overground trains and buses add a really nice touch.

ghostly-and-ghastly-bootsWhile on the Eastside, I took a stroll around the Westfield mall.  It is massive, over three levels, and houses everything from Pinkberry to Arabian Oud.  Probably my most fragrant encounter was when I walked by the Sunnamusk booth in the middle of the mall and was accosted by an overaggressive salesperson.  I thought the people at Arabian Oud near Harrods were intense… these guys were even more intense.  While Golden Dust was nice vanilla, I wasn’t about to support such aggressive sales tactics.

ron-beatles-pinkA few tube stops later, I landed at Bond Street intent on attacking Selfridges. In just one counter area, there are so many niche lines that are simply not available in the states.  I started with Bella Bellissima and sniffed every single one of them.  Precious amber starts off dry and gets sweeter.  Black Ebony is a chalky wood – moist and mossy.  Arabian Rose is an aldehyde burst which disperses into an airy rose that floats around you.  The Refined EDP Intense starts off woody and smoky but gets sweeter, quickly.  Number 3 is sweet bubble gum fruit – almost like Neza Nez Ambre A Sade, but more fruity and less amber.  There’s been a lot of buzz around the Bellisima ouds, and I can see why.  Noble Incense is dry myrrh with oud as a light background player.  Emerald Oud is basically Precious amber plus oud.  Blue Diamond Oud is minty, grassy, and mimosa.  Ruby Oud is Number 3 plus oud.   If there was a sample set – a la the Mona Di Orio box kit, I would have sprung for that because each fragrance deserved a much deeper exploration.

one-direction-perfumeNext up was Thameen – another British line that was just recently launched exclusively at Selfridges that ranges between 125-175 pounds for 50ml of extract de parfum.  Carved Oud is an oud-in-your-face bomb.  Noorlain Taif was cedar and vetiver that sweetens up a bit (pretty much the last scent that would ever touch my skin). Amber Room is a dry amber, but not so sweet that it felt oddly diffused.  Moon of Baroda is a peppery spice bomb.  Peacock Throne (the least expensive) was hidden under the counter because it was out of stock.  According to SA Ilhem from Algers, it continually sells out.  It’s a big champaca and white flower explosion. I can see why this one would be doing so well.

ghostly-and-ghastly-bootsKeeping with the British theme, I moved onto the Union which celebrates the “flora and fauna from the four corners of British Isles.”  While these were not really for me, they are all are worthy of a sniff. Gothic Bluebell is a big violet with a hint of what I guess is Bluebell.   Holy Thistle is as green as the liquid with a bit of fruit, pine, vine, and an oddly mature strawberry.  Celtic Fire is like going to a barbeque – smoky, with burning leaves and trees.  Quince, Mint, and Moss felt really fresh, but that is all I got from it.   Gunpowder Rose was powdery, soft, and felt really mature.

Then came the Yohji Yamamoto fragrances. First, I will say that I absolutely adore that these fragrances were available in 30ml, 50ml and 100ml sizes starting at 40 euros. I  wish more lines would offer 30ml bottles.  I think these are reissues, but the six scents they had ran the gamut from strong and obnoxious to atmospheric.  Yohji Classic was sickening, like the worst designer fragrance you could imagine. If you like it, more power to you, but I gagged.  Yohji Homme was minty, green, and quite soft and gentle.  Essential felt like a mix of flowers and wine.  Senses was a strong sweet amber.  Yohji for Men and Women were both airy with the male version being dry and the female version being sweet.

Located on the same counter was the Tola line which I saw at Elements but wanted to reexplore.  Misqaal was an odd mix of sweet and feral.  Anbar was surprisingly subtle with sweet overtones.  Shahzada smelled like dry and mossy wood.  Of the whole line, I predict Masha would be the biggest seller, appealing to the average person with its pleasant sweetness.  Misk Begum grabbed me as a sweet, intoxicating amber.  Luckily, I already have several of these in my collection so I wasn’t drawn into spending 198 pounds for a bottle.

As I was deciding which ones I wanted to skin test, I wandered around the floor (avoiding the obscenely huge Rihanna fragrance section) and happened the lovely Amanda from Liverpool who was reaping the Maison Martin Margiela scents.  Priced at a surprisingly reasonable 65 pounds, Jazz Club smelled just like advertised – tobacco, vanilla, and spicy rum.  I sprayed some on my upper arm and quite enjoyed the development of it.

give-peas-a-chanceI went back to the first table and decided to test Belle Bellissima Blue Diamond and Emerald Oud, Union Gothic Bluebell and Quince Mint & Moss, and Yohji Homme.  I wore them overnight and the decisions were made for me.  Blue Diamond Oud went very dirty and caustic on my skin – as in need to scrub it off.  Emerald Oud was a sweet amber, nice, but something I already had.  Both the Unions were disappointing – Gothic Bluebell felt standard and QMM just didn’t agree with me.  The clear winners were the least expensive – a refreshing change – Yohji Homme felt really classy and modern and just kind of floated nicely.  Martin Margiela Jazz lasted a good six hours and really gave the impression of an underground bootleg bar from the ’30s – the scent matched the imagery.

pre-clubbing-dnnerWandering around the clothing section, I happened upon Taylor of Bond Street and thought, maybe I should get a shave tomorrow. Since it was already 6pm – both Taylor and Geo F Trumper were already closed, but I made a mental note to wake up early and see if I could get an early appointment – especially for my special date with Tina Cousins.


European Trip 2013: Day 7 (London)

Could I rock a Versace suit?

It might just be my OCD, but I always like being early for trains and planes – because you simply never know what is going to happen.  My train to London was uneventful but did allow me to have a nice nap.  I dropped off my bags at the Tune Hotel and ventured to Harrods to meet Marion (a friend from a Facebook group).  While waiting, I popped in and stopped by the Tom Ford counter to smell the two new ouds. Katargena from Poland was a gracious SA who gave me samples (a rarity), and I enjoyed Tobacco Oud and Fleur Oud. I was hoping that Tobacco Oud would be Tobaccao Vanille plus oud – but instead it was Tobacco + Bois Marocain +  Oud.  It is one that I will have to skin test.  Fleur Oud was a prettier take on By Killian Rose Oud – a classic floral oud combination.  I asked about the London Private Blend and was told it was only at the boutique up the street.  I found my way to the boutique and sniffed London – smoky, woody, and dirty – yes, that smells like London.

cock-fostersMarion called to say that she arrived, so I rushed back to Harrods to meet her.  We headed directly up to the Roja Dove Perfume Lounge on the fifth floor and sniffed our way around.  You could spend all day in there.  I was enchanted by Salvador Dali Fragrances and tested two of them on skin.  We realized that Roja Musk Oud should have been titled Civet Oud.  My inner 8th grader (the one who laughs every time he sees Cock Fosters) couldn’t help by realize that the Dorin bottles look like a penis. We also couldn’t help but realize that the jeweler Charriol was releasing expensive fragrances that smell like Avon quality.

ron-marion-harrodladuree-treatBefore we hit the main floor, we took a break to enjoy some macaroons and coffee at the Laduree restaurant.  Totally decadent and delicious, it was a great place to chat.  We walked around the main floor of the Perfume Hall exploring everything.


aerin-harrodsAt the Guerlain counter, I presented all the fragrances and I am pretty sure that the SA thought I was a guerlain rep from my explanations.  They had the Stephan Humbert 777 which I showed to Marion as well – insanely expensive, but gorgeous.  More reasonably priced was the Aerin line which had a very pretty Evening Rose and a soft Lilac.  I also liked the Terry Ginzburg scents – Lumiere Depices and Ombre Mercury.  Aramais had their Calligraphy Oud which was a typical oud in your face – but their amber rose was nice.


ron-too-matchyWe headed over to Harvey Nichols where I proceeded to try on an obnoxious matching outfit and we shared a nice meal at Wagamama.  For some reason, I was feeling really tired about this time so I headed back to my hotel and called it a night.


ron-marion-harvey-nicholsThank you Marion for spending the day with me in London!



European Trip 2013: Day 6 (Paris)

le-petit-dejeuner-paris-hotelMy body was obviously tired, but thankfully I woke up in time to make it to L’atelier Gentlemen for my 11:30 shave. Hey, it’s my vacation – if I want to sleep in, I will do so.

avant-apres-french-shaveEmanuel did a great job with the shave and introduced me to two new things.  First, an incredible herbal preshave from Somersets.  I asked him where to get it – of course, Planet Rasoir.  Then after the shave, he wet an alum block and rubbed it all over my face.  I was going to ask him why he did that – but with my broken French and his broken English – I didn’t bother.

shave-oil-to buyNext stop was Planet Rasoir to pick up – yes, the preshave oil.  Then a quick metro and a nice walk brought me to Sens Unique, where I picked up two scents from the night before – the extrait of Oliver Durbano Amethyst and Au Pays La Fleur D’Oranger Lavande Ombre.  I was quickly getting addicted to the Verveine candy – the grass dried out and sweetened. The lovely sales associate gave me a bag to bring home with me and snack on (along with a lot of samples).

neela-ron-2013Again, thanks to Google Maps – I found my way to the Brasserie to lunch with the always witty Neela Vermeire.  While most of what we spoke about was off the record, we had a great fun chat exchanging stories and experiences.  She gave me a sample of the figgy Ashoka that I look forward to testing really soon.  Seeing her each year in Paris is always a treat and I felt really honored that she came even though she wasn’t feeling well.  One thing that was funny, is that I kept asking her if her phone was vibrating.  We realized that I was extra sensitive to the motion of the underground metro and I kept mistaking that for her phone buzzing.

Since I had back-to-back meetings, I had to hug Neela goodbye and rush back to Jovoy to meet Joyce Corduray (PR Rep for Von Eusersdorff).  I was instantly taken by his double-zippered vest and I realize that he was a rep for several fashion houses, and was about to move to London.  I asked him for a suggestion of where to go and he suggested Merci.  He brought me a nice sample of the new Von Eusersdorff Orange to test.  After a nice chat, he had a meeting and I had more places to go…

From a window display.. and people call me shiny and tacky..
From a window display.. and people call me shiny and tacky..

I went back to Maison Francis Kurkdjian to buy the Ciel du Gum which I fell in love with the day before and Anastacia pulled two more things out of the back.  Pas de Deux is a scent he made for the Paris Garnier Opera.  Crystal is the infamous marigold/jasmine/rose/incense scent that was limited to 20 flacons – 10 with gold engraved with gold and 10 with gold engraved with platinum. I don’t remember what the prices was but I remember it was insane.  While both of these were pretty incredible, lucky for my bank account, I didn’t fall for either.

Here’s where I had to start watching my time.  I headed back to my hotel so that I could pick up my laundry at the shop up the block. Then I found Merci and walked around a bit.  It was really cool and curated – like Corsi Como or Collete in Paris.  Not really my style, but still really cool – and they seemed to have custom Annete Goutal fragrances.  On my way to Bon Marche, I stopped off for a sandwich and found myself playing translator for some hopelessly befuddled Americans trying to order at a restaurant.  Not that I speak perfect French, but I was able to help her get a coffee with milk at least.

missoni-converseAt Bon Marche, I walked around the men’s clothing section and a pair of Missoni x Converse jumped out at me until I realized how impractical the fabrication was.  In the housewares section,  I imagined if I could redo my house with Missoni (or even Etro) textiles then I realized I would be too afraid to use anything because of the insane cost.

The fragrance area had sections for Acqui di Parma, Memo, Killian, Robert Piquet, and Miller Harris along with the big brands Tom Ford, Armani, Chanel, etc.  I sniffed the new Armani Prive Myrhhe Imperial – a really nice, but familiar-smelling spicy incense.  The new Memo Italian leather smelled really sweaty on my skin.  A few of the Miller Harris scents grabbed me – La Fumee Arabie was surprisingly sweet, and Rose Noir was exactly like it was titled.

ron-denyse-bealieau-1I ended the evening with a nice drink (yes, I had a Mimosa) with Denyse Beaulieu.  Author of The Perfume Lover, I refer to her affectionately as a bawdy broad.  She and I chatted for a few hours about everything from living as an expatriate, to fakery in the fume world and her new projects in the art world.  Denyse is definitely a character – as you can tell from the expression on her face in the picture.  Seeing her and Neela each year in Paris is always a highlight.

eiffel-towerIt was dark out, I was tired and my morning train to London meant it was time for me to pass out again.  That’s exactly why I did when I sat down on my hotel bed.