Smelling in Geneva

Magpie at a fountain in Old Town, Geneva | Illustration by The Perfume Magpie

Magpie at a fountain in Old Town, Geneva | Illustration by The Perfume Magpie

 

Recently my travel bug has been nudging me to leave the confines of my office walls and see somewhere new again. I think EasyJet employs a psychic to target people like me; timely I found an email waiting in my inbox with great flight deals. Normally emails like this will go straight into the bin but this time, the bug made me click the link. The return flight to Geneva was too cheap to ignore. All the excuses popped up in my head; I have never been to Switzerland so it will be a good experience, I haven’t seen snow for a good few years, Geneva is only a short flight so it won’t affect my work schedule, etc. When I came out of my hypnotic daze, my mini holiday was already booked and confirmed. Go with the flow, seize the opportunity, I say.

Travelling is smelling. I enjoy smelling everything; the air of new places, the aroma of local food, and the scent of each shop I walk in. A lot of them are pleasant, some not so, but every single smell is a strand of memory.  They will be woven into an eternally complex tapestry of life experience and stay with us forever. The olfactory sense, the most primitive of our five senses, produces memories that are incredibly powerful and everlasting and smells can rekindle all the experiences as vividly as the first time when we encounter the same smell elsewhere later in life. As we headed for the airport, I promised myself to be conscious of smells for next two days to add a few more strands to my unfinished tapestry.

When I settled myself into my seat on the plane, I had to ask myself why I made that daft promise. I mean the “conscious smelling” thing. Monsieur 21C, who sat next to me for the duration of the 1-hour-40-minutes flight, smelled out-of-this-world awful. Whatever perfume he was wearing, whatever he had been doing before boarding this plane, he smelled putrid, overpowering, and absolutely torturous in the confined space. Sadly, once a perfumista, always a perfumista. While a part of me was thinking about pulling down the oxygen mask above me, another part of me started analysing his perfume. The dominant note was tobacco but it was too acrid. Also there were cinnamon, cumin, oakmoss and some woody notes…  A dash of rose? Maybe. OK, it shouldn’t smell too bad BUT WHY EVERYTHING SMELLED SO SOUR AND FERMENTED ON HIM!? I’ve smelled perfumes that had past its time and had turned but this was on another level. It’s got to be something to do with his body chemistry. I had never appreciated the arrival of inflight coffee so much in my life. I buried my nose in the cup as long as I could for the rest of the flight.

To my relief, once in Geneva, my olfactory experience improved significantly. The city was filled with a lot of pleasant smells – fresh bread and croissants from the boulangeries, damp streets, grass, malty aroma from the brewpubs, leather, coffee, sweets, and cold air. One of the smells I truly enjoyed was the crisp air in the falling snow. It was a pure bliss.

Now, this is a so-called perfume blog, let’s move onto the subject of perfumes. I did, of course, try some perfumes while I was in Geneva. In total, including the time at the airport, I tried 14. Most of them were “nice” but nothing outstanding. I felt most underwhelmed by Poison Girl. It’s not a bad perfume but it’s so caramel sweet with syrupy jam, just like other trendy perfumes on the current market. Definitely a younger sister of La Vie Est Belle.

Perfume Related Places I Visited In Geneva

Bongenie: Rue du Marché 34

At Bongenie | Photo by The Perfume Magpie

Bongenie | Photo by The Perfume Magpie

Sniffing... | Photo by The Perfume Magpie

Sniffing… | Photo by The Perfume Magpie

I didn’t check if there were any worth visiting perfume stores in Geneva before the trip. But the goddess of scent was smiling on me. While we were walking around the streets of the old part of the city, I spotted something pink and green gleaming in the store window. I backtracked a few steps. There I saw Candy Aoud and Fruity Aoud by Roja Dove. I’m sure you can see what was going on in my mind. Yes, I was thinking, “if they have Rojas in the window, what else is in this shop.” Inside? It was Seventh Heaven. I was so dazzled by the huge selections of perfumes and I just staggered from one shelf to another like a drunken bear. For those who are used to visiting good perfume shops, this might not be anything out of ordinary but 400-500km radius of where I live, there are no perfume shops carrying anything other than mainstream designer brands. Actually this was the first time I saw Bond No. 9, Goutal, Juliet Has A Gun, Il Profumo, Amouage, Creed, Monegal, Malle, Roja, and so on all under the same roof. Ladies at the store were so forgiving and let me loose to spray from bottles to my heart’s content. Among the perfumes I tried there, I rather liked Ashlemah and Lazulia by Bvlgari (Love the bottle!).

 

Mizensir Genève: Rue Verdaine 4

Mizensir Genève | Photo by The Perfume Magpie

Mizensir Genève | Photo by The Perfume Magpie

Do you know this brand? In the heart of the old town, I stumbled across this charming little shop. They specialise in home fragrances and candles but recently released nine Eau de Parfum as well. Apparently Mizensir is the only manufacturer of perfumed candles and home fragrances to have an in house nose to create the fragrances for each product. I was pretty surprised to hear that the nose in question was Alberto Morillas. I love many of his creations such as Penhaligon’s Iris Prima, By Kilian Voulez-vous Coucher Avec Moi, and Acqua di Parma Colonia Intensa. The shop had a lovely atmosphere. Also having a friendly good looking guy was a huge plus. I’m going to talk more about their home fragrances in the next post.

 

Flea Market of Plainpalais

Eau de Cologne Impériale | Photo by The Perfume Magpie

Eau de Cologne Impériale | Photo by The Perfume Magpie

On the edge of the old town, we found this flea market. When I come across flea markets, I tend to pop down for a wander to see if any of the stalls happen to have old perfume bottles. Indeed they did. Among boxes after boxes of old household items and some peculiar art objects, I spotted some empty bottles; mostly Soir de Paris and Samsara. There were a few minis and some relatively new partial bottles but they were not what I was hoping to find. Eventually among the junks I spotted something made my heart skip. A Guerlain’s bee bottle. OK, it was a little dirty and the stopper was well stuck but I really wanted this bottle of Eau de Cologne Impériale. I assumed that the perfume itself would have already turned but the bottle itself would be a charming display on the dresser. Haggled? Not half! I also talked the stallholder into throwing a mini bee bottle in to keep it company. When we got home, my partner somehow managed to get the stopper out without breaking it. I didn’t expect the perfume inside to be intact but to my surprise, a bright summer day like lime scent rose up and enveloped us immediately. It smelled so drinkable. I guess I have to keep this lovely little find somewhere dark to protect it from going off. Now I need to find something else for my dresser.

The flea market takes place in Plainpalais on Wednesday and Saturday mornings.


Our time in Geneva involved lots of walking. We were there only for two days and most of our time was spent exploring the old town wearing our shoes out, listening to the sound of the city life, admiring the snow-capped mountains, smelling, and indulging in beer and chocolate while people watching. It was a little break happened on the spur of the moment but we loved it.

Do you travel just for adventure or always with a purpose and a plan?

Vanilla Fiesta: 11 Mini Reviews

Magpie had a enough of vanilla... | Illustration by The Perfume Magpie

Magpie had enough of vanilla… | Illustration by The Perfume Magpie

To tell the truth, I haven’t been a big fan of vanilla fragrances. Don’t get me wrong, I do love the smell of vanilla itself. I have a whole bunch of vanilla beans that I brought back from Zanzibar stashed in my kitchen cupboard and I sometimes open the jar just to enjoy their heavenly sweet smell. But I like vanilla in something edible, not in something I put on. I don’t enjoy smelling like a little cupcake.

Recently when I was digging through my perfume samples, I discovered that I had quite a few un-sniffed ones with vanilla as an important part of their compositions; they were all lying at the bottom of my sample boxes, buried and forgotten under the other little vials. I suddenly felt kind of pity for them. Whether I was feeling mellow in the recent cooler weather or merely trying to escape from my workload, I gathered them around and decided to have a good vanilla sniffing session. People say that life will never give you more than you can handle. Well, I certainly survived through it and managed to find a few vanilla fragrances I could wear.


So here we go, the list and mini reviews of vanillas I tried:

Love – don’t be shy – by By Kilian

Peppery Orange Vanilla
This is a seriously sweet fragrance, peppery nonetheless. You’ve got to love gourmands to enjoy wearing this one. Very strong orange blossom and neroli, and a touch of jasmine and rose with a blast of sugar and vanilla. It is pretty, not beautiful, and it has an amazing lasting power. I don’t hate it but I won’t be able to wear it. I think you need to be twenty-something & bubbly to get away with this.

Nose: Calice Becker
Released in 2007.
50ml EDP | $260 from By Kilian.

Back to Black – aphrodisiac – by By Kilian

Moody Vanilla
First of all, I like smoky and powdery fragrances. Back to Black is sweet, smoky, powdery and yummy, all at the same time. I’m not too keen on its opening with raspberry but the smoky drydown is rather attractive. I quite enjoyed the honeyed gingerbread notes in this one. Yes, it’s sweet but I can wear this in winter. I don’t love it but I like it. Some people suggest that it smells like Tobacco Vanille by Tom Ford and Hedonist by Viktoria Minya but I didn’t find it so.

Nose: Calice Becker
Released in 2009.
50ml EDP | $260 from By Kilian.

Amour Liquide by Memoire Liquide

Milky Vanilla
This is a sugary vanilla that you will either love or hate. The vanilla itself smells quite authentic but it’s all about vanilla and nothing else. There are three notes listed in this one; vanilla, tonka, and incense. I was hoping to smell more of the incense note but it was very weak and completely overpowered by the sweet notes. If you are very careful, you might be able to catch a whiff of it. There is something woody-musky smell in the background, like sandalwood, and it adds to the milky-ness of this fragrance. Great longevity. This is too “edible” for me to wear.

Nose: Ilias Ermenidis
Released in 2009.
50ml EDP | $95 from Memoire Liquide.

Seven Veils by Byredo

Country Kitchen Vanilla
It’s nothing like other fragrances I’ve ever smelled in my life. The opening is a mixture of slightly bitter wisteria and orchid, soon taken over by vanilla, carrot seeds, and pink pepper, then it settles straight into sweet and tangy spiciness. It smells like a lovely country kitchen with a wooden spice cupboard on the wall, occasionally catching a whiff of flowers through the open windows. The vanilla is prominent but it isn’t in your face. I don’t love it but I somehow appreciate it. I might wear it on a golden autumn day.

Nose: Jerome Epinette
Released in 2011.
50ml EDP | €95 from Byredo.

Vanille Insensee by Atelier Cologne

Edgy Vanilla
Like other Atelier Colognes, it is clean and very wearable. The mixture of woody incense, amber, and vanilla is fairly cozy but there is a sort of edginess to it.  It’s not a cute vanilla fragrance, more for the grown-ups. The citrus notes at the beginning don’t last long; it soon reveals vanilla and exotic coriander with velvety vetiver and amber in the background. It might work in the spring to summer seasons.

Nose: Ralf Schwieger
Released in 2011.
30ml Pure Perfume | €65 from Atelier Cologne.

Un Bois Vanille by Serge Lutens

Dark Vanilla
Another woody vanilla but totally different to Vanille Insensee. It is much darker and deeper. I was a little bit worried about trying this one at first because of the coconut and liquorice notes. Actually they coordinate with each other very well and it didn’t give me the choking effect that I was concerned about. Vanilla is on the sweeter side but the strong wood note keeps holding it back. There is a strange plasticky smell in it and it disturbed me a little. I can probably wear this, maybe in late autumn to winter.

Nose: Christopher Sheldrake
Released in 2003.
50ml EDP | €90 from Serge Lutens.

Eau Duelle by Diptyque

Well Behaved Vanilla
Surprisingly, I liked this one as soon as I opened the vial. It is resiny and earthy vanilla with a touch of greenness. I was so sure that I could smell floral note in it but it’s not listed. It is delicious but not in a cakey way. It is one of the most inoffensive vanillas I’ve tried. Actual vanilla in this one is very rounded and not too sweet. I think this one works all year round.

Nose: Fabrice Pellegrin
Released in 2010.
75ml EDP | €105 from Diptyque.

Shalimar Souffle de Parfum by Guerlain

Lemon Meringue Vanilla
Shalimar Souffle opens with bright citrus notes. It is a delicious vanilla fragrance with the bitterness of citrus peels and a fraction of white florals. Somehow it’s a little ozonic too. It’s decidedly sweet but not sugary. As so many people already suggested, Shalimar Souffle smells like a lemon meringue pie and makes me feel hungry. Very light weight and airy for a vanilla fragrance.

Nose: Thierry Wasser
Released in 2014.
50ml EDP | around $100. More information: Guerlain

Tobacco Vanille by Tom Ford

Smoky Vanilla
Tobacco Vanille is a spicy and smoky vanilla fragrance. I usually enjoy tobacco fragrances but, at the beginning, I wasn’t sure about this one at all. I kept smelling something tart and ripe besides rich tobacco, vanilla and spice mixture and it was a little unnerving. But after 15 minutes or so, it turned into more luscious sweet tobacco fragrance and I could enjoy it better then. Towards the end, sweetness of vanilla intensified a lot and it was a bit like a combination of ice cream, cigar, and Pepsi. I quite liked it.

Nose: Olivier Gillotin
Released in 2007.
50ml EDP | $220 from Tom Ford.

The Sexiest Scent on the Planet. Ever. IMHO by 4160 Tuesdays

Spicy Vanilla
It doesn’t match with my idea of sexy scent but it’s not bad at all. The vanilla wasn’t sugary sweet and merged well with the citrus note. Also the woodiness of this fragrance was down to earth and comforting. It’s not listed but I could smell something like patchouli and strong peppery/spicy notes – could there be ISO E Super or something similar in this fragrance? Whatever it is, it’s nicely blended into it and gives warmth to it. Definitely an autumn to winter fragrance.

Nose: Sarah McCartney
Released in 2013.
50ml EDP | £60 from 4160 Tuesdays.

Baiser Vole Essence de Parfum by Cartier

Flowery Vanilla
A flower shop right next to a patisserie; loads of lily, loads of vanilla. You’ve got to love the smell of luxurious lily and gourmand vanilla to appreciate this fragrance. There is something green and spicy in this fragrance, like fresh juice seeping out of the cut carnation stem. The vanilla is sweet and strong but it’s a proper vanilla pod smell. At first it was too intense for me to enjoy fully but the combination turned creamy and a little bit woody after a while. If I can manage to stand the initial stage, I might be able to wear this one. I’ll try again.

Nose: Mathilde Laurent
Released in 2011.
40ml |around €50. More information: Cartier


Eleven Vanilla Fragrances | Photo Collage by The Perfume Magpie

Eleven Vanilla Fragrances | Photo Collage by The Perfume Magpie

Now I can feel approaching autumn in the air, I long for something evocative and snuggly to wear. Vanilla certainly has those qualities – warm, cuddly and nostalgic – and it would be pretty appealing in the cool autumn days.

After experiencing the different takes on vanilla by ten perfumers, I came to the conclusion; I don’t hate vanilla fragrances, I just prefer the vanilla to be in the background and not on the main stage. A whispering level would be nice. I’ll be re-trying some of the fragrances again in the coming seasons when I swap my sandals and summer dresses for boots and jumpers.

Do you like vanilla in fragrance? What is your favourite?

Wildflowers and Mini Review – Shalimar Initial L’Eau

Yellow Flower

This gallery contains 18 photos.

The sky is blue, the blight coloured bee-eaters are glistering in the sky as they fly, orange is in full blossom and filling the air with its sweet scent, and the countryside is filled with wildflowers. Now it’s late spring, … Continue reading