perfume lover’s london: 4 posts

The Wallace Collection

One day Richard Wallace found out two things that changed his life–that he was the illegitimate son of the Fourth Marquess of Hertford and that he was the heir to an invaluable collection of antiques, including paintings by Titian, Frans Hals, and Rubens. He worked as a secretary for the Marquess, but discovering the true nature of their relation was a shock.  When he inherited his father’s collection, the apartment in the rue Laffitte, the chateau of Bagatelle, and the estates in Ireland, he was living in Paris. He married Julie Castelnau, a former perfume seller, and set about taking care of the collection. It was to become his life’s work.

wallace

The Franco-German war of 1870-71 and the uprising of the Commune precipitated his move to London, and that’s where his collection currently resides. What is more, its treasures are available to visitors free of charge; Lady Wallace bequeathed most of the collection to the nation.

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Beautiful Afghanistan

Raven were her locks, and her hair’s perfume like Ambergris;
Rose-coloured, gold-embroidered, is the raiment that she wears,
Like a light her beauty shineth ; has no one seen her? Tell me, pray.
Favour me, O my good fortune, as thou didst when she came with me,
Show me now the footsteps of my loved one that is lost.

— Khush Hal Khan Ichatak, the 17th century Afghan poet

Since I posted about the Matisse exhibit at Tate Modern in London (17 April – 7 September 2014), I thought I’d share news about another special event–Steve McCurry’s Afghanistan photography at the Beetles + Huxley Gallery, 12 May-7 June. Although most of us associate Afghanistan with grim violence and war, it has some of the most stunning landscapes in the world–craggy ravines, lush green valleys, golden deserts, and remnants of old civilizations. But above all, its proud people who’ve weathered centuries of invasions and occupations make this country unique.

mazar

All of these nuances are revealed through McCurry’s photography. His “Afghan girl” for National Geographic has become one of the most recognized images, but his whole body of work on Afghanistan is exceptional and gives more insights into the country than reams of news reports. He doesn’t avoid violence and today’s realities, but he also presents Afghanistan’s extraordinary nature and people and gives a glimpse into local traditions. If you aren’t in London or can’t make it to the exhibit, it’s worth taking a look at the selection of photos via the Beetles + Huxley Gallery website. Some of them are sad, others are beautiful, but all are bound to leave a lasting impression.

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The Essence of London : In Perfume Bottle

I have a new article in the Financial Times Magazine’s fragrance column. Titled The Essence of London, it describes my quest for a fragrance that captures the scent of London, a city I once called home. Once I left London, I missed it so much that I longed even to get a whiff of The Thames at low tidy (yes, that’s how much I longed for London!)

bottles-ft

When I mention to people that I love the smell of London, they usually make a quip about smog and exhaust fumes. Like most big cities, London has its fair share of unsavoury odours. The musty smell of the Thames at low tide is the least irksome of them, but I would paint an olfactory portrait of London with the freshness of daffodils in Kew Gardens, the antique-wood sweetness of the National Portrait Gallery and the pungency of the spices at Portobello Road Market. I would add the heady, creamy accent of Neal’s Yard Dairy for the rich base notes. Please read the rest by clicking here.

What environmental scents do you experience on a daily basis? Please don’t hesitate to tell us about the unpleasant ones! Brussels often smells like vanilla thanks to the ever-present waffle stands, but you only need to enter the subway to experience that ineffable musty rag odor hovering in the underground passages.

Photo via FT

Touring London Perfumeries : A Bonkers Bike Ride

clockwise from top left: patriotic flag over Carnaby Street, Bond Street shops, bike docking station in Soho Square, Vanessa's friend and guide Alberto

Today’s guest post is brought to you by Vanessa Musson, the charmingly eccentric author of Bonkers about Perfume. Vanessa is a freelance market researcher, specialising in industrial products.  She was struck down by “sudden onset perfume mania” relatively late in life, while googling a couple of scents worn by her friend.  As she puts it, “then before you could say ‘Michael Edwards Fragrance Wheel’ my inner researcher was totally hooked, and what began as an intellectual pastime quickly exploded into full-blown ‘fumehedonism’.  Eighteen months later I started my blog, Bonkers about Perfume.  Blending trivia-filled travelogues with a sideways look at the world of fragrance, it subjects everything in its path – from behemoths to Britney – to the same bonkers spin.” Vanessa is taking us on a tour of London’s perfumeries in her guest contribution to Bois de Jasmin.

This long weekend marks The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee: London is bedecked with bunting and a packed programme of events is in full swing, including exhibitions, processions, a grand flotilla on the Thames and countless street parties. I was down in London two weeks ago as the preparations were underway, and as my friend Alberto Umbridge and I wandered around the city and admired the exuberant decorations, we decided that it might be fun to cycle between some of my favourite London perfumeries using the free bicycle hire scheme championed by London’s mayor, Boris Johnson.  It turned out to be a great day full of adventures and discoveries, and I would love to share my route with you. I will also include Tube station information for anyone who would prefer a more sedate method of getting around, together with some suggestions of good places to stop along the way for a drink or a bite to eat.

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From the Archives

Latest Comments

  • Karen A in Cherry Blossom Haiku: Mine too! They are such wonderful shrubs/small trees. Yes, except the Burkwoodi is a pale pink, but the others are all native to this region. April 27, 2017 at 4:04pm

  • ana in Recommend Me a Perfume April 2017: Oh, thank you, the vetivers sound very, very good — I’m going to have to find myself a better-paying job soon! 🙂 April 27, 2017 at 4:00pm

  • Aurora in Cherry Blossom Haiku: I enjoyed this mix of poetry and humour, Victoria, and well done on the gardening, but take good care of your back! Lilacs across the street are in bloom, purple… April 27, 2017 at 3:03pm

  • Maria in Three Ultimate Iris Perfumes: It really is a nice iris!! I also like the Absolue and Iris-cedre versions, but the on and off effect is better done,for me, in the original Infusion d’iris 🙂 April 27, 2017 at 1:27pm

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