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Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Crocuses and crow's feet: Aldi Lacura Expert Day & Night Cream review

To my great surprise, my eBuzzing Beauty ranking jumped up to 75 recently, after languishing in the over 100 doldrums for some time before that. For newer readers, I might just explain that I never intended to acquire this rating - it was a clerical error, more or less - but now that I am officially listed as a 'beauty blogger', I do like to lob in the odd post on beauty products just to keep my unintentional hand in.  Usually on the subject of skincare products that (also) suit 'mature' skin, as in the present case. Without further ado, I will therefore apologise to anyone solely interested in fragrance-related topics (however tenuously so), or who IS interested in skincare but does not have any Aldi stores in their part of the world.

So...shortly after I wrote my post about the Ladurée/Aldi macaron throwdown, Aldi's advertising agency, McCann (they appear to have lost their Erickson since I last looked) contacted me to ask whether I was interested to try their new skincare duo, launched earlier this year: Lacura Expert Wrinkle Filling Day Cream and Regeneration Night Cream. So, given that my moisturising regime has got more intensive since I hit 50 I said: 'Yes please!' to that. Hmm, if only I could top up my pension as readily at this late stage, and in fairness it may be too late for the complexion (some readers may recall my 'closing the stable door after the collagen has bolted' quip in this context).

Soon I was in receipt of a shiny blue metallic Jiffy bag containing the twinset of moisturisers: the day cream had a red cap and a clear glass pot, while the night cream had a slightly darker scheme, namely a silver cap and red glass pot. To be perfectly symmetrical, the glass on the day cream should have been silver really, but that would have been a bit weird, as would a glass top on the night cream. However, the outer boxes do keep this contrasting silver/red theme going as you can see, while the jars themselves are as matching as they can be, and the overall look is still pretty classy for £3.99 a pop.

Content-commensurate packaging - that's what we like to see

Now if I was a proper beauty blogger I would regale you with a detailed breakdown of the creams' ingredients and all the science about their effects. But here at least is an extract from Aldi's website, giving the topline:

Day Cream

- SPF 15
- 5-star UVA rating and antioxidative protective complex protects the skin from ageing caused by the sun
- Pro-vitamin B5 for 24 hour moisture

Night Cream

- Abyssinian oil and shea butter improves suppleness
- Regenerative and wrinkle reducing
- Hyaluronic acid for intensive moisture

Tamper-evident foil - no substrate spared
From my reading of the leaflet - I caved in! - both products in fact contain this antioxidative complex (is that even a word? ;) ), which is based on white tea.  There is additionally an anti-ageing peptide in both called Mimox X, as well as a 'Cell-to-cell Communicator' (though even Aldi thought fit to put that one in inverted commas). It is based (rather arcanely) on crocus extract. (Further details on application.)

I will also refer you to this article in The Daily Mail about how a group of women got on with the creams in trials (very well as it turns out!), and point out that the leaflet that comes in the box with each jar has the details of both products printed on it - one on each side. I did a double take initially, thinking I had been sent the night cream leaflet for both creams, when in fact all I needed to do was flip the blinking thing over. A slightly embarrassing phone call to the ad agency sorted that one out. It is actually a clever idea, because it obviously keeps costs down to have one multi-purpose leaflet across the pair.

The (perversely) more luxuriant day cream is on the left

Right, so the next thing to talk about is how I got on with the creams themselves, from an aesthetic / application point of view as well as in terms of their efficacy.

But first off, a word about the name, which makes me think of a slightly dated, top of the range saloon car - the Renault Lacura, say.  Wow, I note that there is actually a luxury car brand called Acura! So there you go - all my associations are automotive and I can't see any obvious link with skincare.

I have to say that while the scent is less lemon Pledge-y than the previous skincare range called Siana, which came in a blue pot as I recall, after sustained sampling it is still a bit harsh to my nose. Not lemony per se, more like a poor man's version of Clarins Eau Ressourcante body butter, say, by which I mean that it aspires to be a spa or sauna kind of smell, but the attempt doesn't quite come off. I accept that there wouldn't have been a lot of money left for an expensive fragrance after shelling out on these whizzy active ingredients - you don't get many crocuses to the pound, based on the price of freesias in my local Tesco, say - but it does rather let the products down.

Stark illustration of my relative product preference!

The second thing to mention is that I have used each product at very differential rates - and that is an understatement. Basically, I am almost through the night cream after two and a half months or so, while the day cream is largely unused. I must have had about ten go's with it and on at least six of those the product got into my eyes and stung like crazy, even though I took care to avoid the eye area, and applied it in exactly the same parts of my face as the night cream. I would love to know if anyone out there has tried the day cream and had the same experience. I can't believe it is anything I am doing wrong, or I would have had the same issue with the many other brands of daytime moisturiser I have tried lately. Actually, I did have it with Boot's Sanctuary Illuminating Moisture cream, but that is the only other one that I can think of that migrated (most painfully) into my eyes.

The third thing to mention on the aesthetic / application front is that the day cream is much richer than the night cream, which might have had something to do with the getting into my eyes business, I don't know. You may or may not just be able to see the difference in the first photo showing the pots side by side, but trust me on this one. And intuitively it all seems wrong. By day I want something lighter that is going to sink in quickly and not look too greasy, go under foundation etc, whereas by night I can slather on any kind of thickness of cream and it doesn't matter as my eyes will be shut and I will hopefully be asleep.  So I don't know how that came about.

'Does my skin look smoother, firmer, tighter in this?'

Finally, in terms of how I got on with the products, I can say that my skin feels hydrated all right, but then any moisturiser might have done that. I didn't take any before pics, though here is an 'after' one, in which I don't notice any difference in terms of my skin appearing 'smoother, firmer, tighter' or 'more young-looking', like the women in the trials reported in The Daily Mail, nor any obvious improvement to my wrinkles. But my skin is certainly in a holding pattern. So I think the product probably did as good a job as my usual brands of night cream - which range from the usual high street suspects of Nivea and Garnier to the cheap luxury brands you find in T K Maxx (notably Lange in my branch). I prefer the Aussie brand Dr Lewinn best of all the face creams I have tried, as it smells and feels very pampering. But again, I have no idea whether my wrinkles were improved by any of them.

My hunch is that it is the heavy duty anti-ageing products containing retinol that have had a really noticeable effect in the past on my forehead and lip to mouth lines - to wit Roc Retinol Correxion and Indeed Retinol Reface. But I haven't been using those in the period when I was trialling the Lacura creams. So I would say that the Lacura products would keep your hydration levels topped up at the very least, and save you a lot of money versus the dearer brands if hydration is your main goal.

Personally, I can't recommend the day cream because of its overly rich texture and the stinging business, but if you don't mind the harsh scent the night cream was a pretty good buy. Actually, I could always try using the day cream at night, as it may not migrate into my eyes so easily if they are shut. And there's SPF15 sun protection with that, in case it turns out one day that not only is there a risk of sunburn through cloud, but also darkness.

Ooh, but look - there is a new cream on the block - from rival chain Lidl: OSIRIS AVISE, which costs under a quid for a pot while stocks last.  I may have to test that next - I mean how bad can it be for 99p?

Have you tried either of these Aldi creams?  Or the Lidl one pictured - or any other bargain basement brands or non-brands for that matter?

If so, I would love to know how they worked out for you on the general moisturising and wrinkle filling fronts...

Saturday, 19 July 2014

'Per fumum': passive vaping - a surprisingly fragrant experience

The Lexington ~ Source:
In my previous housekeeping post I said that a 'normal' post would be along soon. I may have overplayed the normal aspect, but not to worry.

So last weekend I found myself in the curious position of having booked a train and a hotel to London to go and see a gig for which my friend and I had no tickets, owing to an early sell out some months previously. We were resigned to an evening of disconsolate loitering outside the Victorian pub where the gig was being held, when we got a lucky break an hour before the doors opened - a friend in one of the bands, The Would-be-goods, had managed to squeeze us both onto their guest list!  They shared the bill with The Clientele and Birdie, who appear to be the regrouped remnants of Saint-Etienne.

I enjoyed all three bands' sets, but an unexpected highlight was watching - and smelling - the cloud of smoke (or vapour, to be technically correct) that swirled around a man standing diagonally in front of me. He was nonchalantly brandishing and puffing on a 'portable vaporiser' (as opposed to a 'vaping stick', the simpler style of e-cigarette). It was the first time I had seen one of the ones that look a bit like a fountain pen and come with an illuminated tip, like the lantern room of a lighthouse. Actually, the array of devices is even more complicated than I suggest - there are about half a dozen types of e-cigarette, to wit: rechargeable electronic cigarettes, disposable electronic cigarettes, E-Go electronic cigarettes, personal vaporisers and electronic cigars.  The really fancy personal vaporisers may also be known as 'Advanced Personal Vaporisers' ('APVs'), of which I suspect the one I saw was an example.

The Would-be-goods 

And for anyone not familiar with the mechanics of vaping, it involves a battery-powered atomiser which vaporises a mixture of distilled water, propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin, nicotine and flavouring. Nicotine is addictive of course, but the manufacturers of e-cigarettes market their wares as safer alternatives to inhaling the myriad of toxins contained in conventional tobacco products. I have never been and don't plan to become a smoker, but for anyone interested in the health aspects of vaping versus tobacco smoking, here is the NHS take on this whole e-cig phenomenon.

Now I couldn't put my finger on what the vapour smelt of exactly - it was a fruity, slightly smoky scent, with a gourmand twist - maybe cherry - there was also a fluffy quality like a hint of a marshmallow note, but it was all tempered by a darker base of chocolate? Tobacco? Pass! All I can say is that it was not at all as synthetic as I would have expected - now I realised that these e-cigarettes are evidently flavoured - and that. I was happy to sniff it all night. Looking back, I may have got a bit of a collateral nicotine hit with that - ah well. Indeed, my further reading has uncovered a bit of a controversy over the etiquette of vaping in public places - even if it is legal to 'light up' wherever you like, not everyone may wish to inhale your vapour, whether on health grounds or because of a simple dislike of your chosen flavour, a bit like breathing over someone after you have eaten a highly spiced meal. So in principle, I am not sure if it is right that people should be able to vape in confined spaces like bars, but in my own particular case I enjoyed the experience!

The following week, while walking to the supermarket, I passed a shop-cum-'cafe'-cum-'smoking shelter' I had never noticed before: Colls Vapour Lounge. It was closed, but I peered in the window, which was covered in adverts for e-cigarettes and all the associated tackle. People would obviously go to such a place to buy their supplies and hang out with like-minded vapers in a comfy seating area. There were also drinks available, though to call it a full service 'cafe' might be stretching a point. But here was a lounge where vapers could congregate and not bother anyone - how very thoughtful!

Intrigued by the market gap that Colls Vapour Lounge had spotted, I rang them up a few days later, and chatted to the manager, Gez. I was especially curious to learn more about the range of different flavours available. I also asked which were the most popular. 'Strawberry and Sex on The Beach' he answered, quick as a flash. That's a flavour based on the cocktail, Sex on The Beach, I should perhaps clarify - not on the scent of marram grass, brine and gritty bits of sand in every bodily nook and cranny.

Then Gez proceeded to rattle off a whole clatter of other flavours of e-liquid (ie the juice you vaporise - my list may not be exhaustive!). These could broadly be grouped in a number of sub-categories:

Tobacco ie similar in aroma to the brands Tropical Gold,  Virginia and Benson & Hedges, as well as out-and-out cigar.

Menthol eg cherry

Fruits eg watermelon, blackcurrant, blueberry, elderflower, passionfruit etc.

Confectionery/desserts eg candyfloss, pecan pie, Love Hearts(!), pear drops, rhubarb & custard sweets, chocolate orange, mint chocolate, mint humbugs, marshmallow mocha.

Alcohol eg beer, whisky, rum


In another amusing twist (as noted earlier), one of the key components of an portable vaporiser is its atomiser, which brings us back to perfume again...But this aspect is also a semantic minefield. For the hardcore subset who might be curious, I will just point you in the direction of an article explaining the difference between 'atomisers', 'clearomisers' and 'cartomisers'....;)

Gez said there are some 200 flavours of e-liquid in all, plus people may mix them to create a custom vaping blend.  Then as I was googling 'mocha marshmallow', I came across The Flavorist Section of the Perfumer's Apprentice website, where customers can buy flavours for their own vaping concoctions. So there is another unexpected crossover between the worlds of smoking and perfumery! Actually, although nicotine features in his recipe, the commenter, Todd, says he is trying to wean himself off coffee. It confirms the popularity of mocha-caramel-marshmallow blends though.

So yes...'per fumum' - I bet the Egyptians didn't see this trend coming....? ;)


PS Oh...the keen-eyed reader may have clocked my stubborn refusal to use a 'z' instead of an 's' in '-iser' suffixes.throughout this post. 

Friday, 18 July 2014

Blogger's got the munchies again - an apology and a couple of tips

It has come to my attention that Blogger has been up to its tricks again, eating readers' comments when they hit 'Post' - or possibly even before. I am very sorry about this - the 'dark logarithms' of the software's workings are sadly 'outside my sphere of competence', as Mr Bonkers used to say of most domestic chores except putting the bins out. It is ironic that these problems should recur just when the captchas are at their all time simplest, often consisting of just three (perfectly legible) numerals.

I might tell you that I also have the same problem replying to the comments that people do manage to leave! What I find though - which may or may not be unique to my browser / PC - is that it is invariably only swallows the comment the first time I try to leave it. It tends to publishes on the second attempt.

The tips would therefore be (if you can face that extra step):

a) Copy the comment to your clipboard before hitting 'Post'

b) Try a second time (but if that fails, by all means give it up as a bad job ;) )

Next (normal!) post coming up soon...

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Bonkers, Another Perfume Blog and Persolaise are featured in a summer fragrance post on Beautifinous

Back in April, I received an email out of the blue from a British Beauty Blogger called Zoe W:

"My name is Zoe and I am a Beauty Blogger with a huge passion for perfume. I have been asked by Base Magazine to write an article on summer perfume and I was wondering if you would be able to help me with it.

Base Magazine is a brand new, UK-based, beauty publication that is written by Beauty Bloggers and not journalists. The aim is to provide honest opinions from real customers who haven't been paid to promote particular products over others.

To follow this theme, my angle for the summer perfume article is to ask true perfume lovers their opinions on what they love and will really be wearing this summer."

Zoe approached a number of perfume bloggers - together with several beauty bloggers - for their contributions, asking us each to answer five questions:

What olfactory groups do you enjoy wearing in the summer?

What are your top picks for new summer releases?

What is your all-time favourite fragrance for summer?

Which fragrances will you really be wearing this summer in the day and which at night?

What fragrances can you simply just not wear during the hotter months?

As things transpired, the resulting article did not appear on Base Magazine, for reasons which Zoe herself never managed to fathom, despite her best efforts. Anyway, rather than leave our collective copy on the cutting room floor, she went ahead and published her summer fragrance piece on her own blog, Beautifinous. So hop over here to read what Natalie of Another Perfume Blog, Persolaise and I had to say on the subject of summer fragrances.  We three fumeheads have a marked leaning in our selections towards niche perfumes as you will see, while the beauty bloggers' preferences are resolutely mainstream.  All 'bases' are covered, you could say!

Sunday, 6 July 2014

A perfume house under a bushel - Tom Kosmala Rose Amber Musk review

Couldn't find a bushel
As mentioned in my last post, my friend Clare surprised me with a birthday gift of a bottle of a perfume from a house I had never heard of - Rose Amber Musk by Tom Kosmala. Kosmala is a British independent perfumer, whose scent collection seems to be available exclusively at the Apple Tree Market in Covent Garden, though I found the odd additional outlet for his cute looking soaps at least. These are shaped like cupcakes, and may be the products for which Kosmala is currently better known.  They feature a goodly number of what we used to refer to in my food marketing days as 'particulates'. Oh, and judging by this photo, he is also rather easy on the eye, in a dashing, Tom Ford / Terence Stamp kind of a way..

I didn't manage to find a note listing for Rose Amber Musk, for example, but I am assuming there is a clue in the name.  To my nose it reminds me vividly of Ralph Lauren's extravagant rose perfume, Love, that I once tried in Harrods and have never seen since - perhaps a tad less sweet, but plush and opulent like Love.  


Notes: Chinese magnolia, mimosa, Bulgarian rose, ylang-ylang, May rose, amber, iris root, patchouli, vetiver, musk and vanilla.

Photo courtesy of Ian Phillips-McClaren
If you are not familiar with that particular fragrance, imagine the 'love' child of the original Stella McCartney and Narciso Rodriguez For Her, give it a luxe twist, and you won't go far wrong. Shades of Guerlain Idylle as well - the original one I mean, if anyone can remember that far upstream.

All three key notes are readily discernible, and while Rose Amber Musk smells straightforward like its name, it does come off as luxurious. I could almost picture it as a Roja Dove creation - 'Rose Amber Musk Extrait', say ;) - for the ingredients feel very high quality. Yes, I will wear it quite happily - good spot, Clare!

Rose particulates ~ Source: Lang Yee via Pinterest
Now not only is Tom Kosmala very much under the perfumista radar, but his footprint in Google is light to point of imperceptible, and I was able to glean next to nothing about this house on the Internet. I found a Tom Kosmala who is a a field engineer with 1'st Rail, but I am guessing that isn't our man. At the time of writing the brand doesn't appear to have its own website, and I can find no note of prices on the Covent Garden page for the store. I guess I could ask Clare, but that would be rather impolite! When I compare Tom Kosmala's low key marketing approach to Liz Moore's careful nurturing of her brand on social media in the run up to the Papillon Perfumery launch, the contrast couldn't be more marked. Though maybe that is all about to change...?

Well, I ended up ringing the professional portrait photographer who took this shot, Ian Phillips-McClaren - first off to ask his permission to use it, for he seemed to be the only source of images on the Internet(!) - and secondly to ask him if he knew any more about this rather reclusive nose.

A pro like Ian would have lost the bit of teal sofa in the corner

I learnt from my chat with Ian that Kosmala has a new range in the wings, soon to be launched in the Middle East, and comprising two scents - one for day and one for evening - in an extremely high end presentation. The scents come in highly lacquered boxes - one white, one black - lined with sumptuous red velvet. Perhaps Kosmala will be majoring on the export scene and the UK perfumes - why, I don't even know what other scents are available here! - were more of a toe in the water before the big push overseas. Time will tell, perhaps.

Ever the interviewer, I quizzed Clare herself about her visit to the store. She confirmed that she had met Kosmala, who was very chatty and friendly and surrounded by an eager throng of customers / admirers. She recalled there being other scents in the line, but couldn't name a single one. Half a job, Clare!

So... if you like rose scents in the general territory of Vera Wang, Chloe, RL Love, Stella, NR For Her or Guerlain Idylle, I would imagine there's a good chance you'd like Rose Amber Musk. Like a fragrant Ronseal, it 'smells what it says on the bottle'.

Sunday, 29 June 2014

'Perfumista protégé' progress reports: No 2 - my best friend Clare, and giving a perfume about fig

Clare in pensive mood on The Ridgeway last year
Regular readers of Bonkers will have come across my best friend Clare in a number of past posts, notably on the topics of spaniels, cakes and cycling.  Facebook friends may also be familiar with her pithy and amusing comments on my wall. A marketing executive by profession, Clare is a committed cyclist and dog lover in her spare time, and also raises chickens, defends badgers and communes with owls.

Here are her answers to my questions about her perfume j******. (I've got a grip again, Tara!)

My perfume collection before

"Clinique Aromatics Elixir - gosh, how many bottles of this must I have finished over the years...still a shock of pleasure when I spray.

Chanel No 5

Chanel Coco Mademoiselle

Clarins Eau Dynamisante - originally sent to me as a freebie when I edited a woman's page in 1989 and bought subsequently whenever I could justify the cost.

Acqua di Gio - can't find this bottle at the moment. It was bought in 1998 and doesn't look like any of the bottles that came up on a Google search to check the spelling. Have they had a redesign?

Howzat! Clare's beloved spaniel Meg

Kenzo Flower by Kenzo

Jo Malone Lime Basil and Mandarin - discovered in my early thirties, after reading one of those celebrity beauty profiles in the Observer Magazine, I think. I can't remember the celebrity and certainly wasn't interested in her favourite lipstick, but was intrigued by her description of her signature perfume and bought a bottle. I've had lots of bottles since and have also spent far too much money on the body lotion and even candles.

La Perla Creation - unearthed among the bottles provided in the loo at Chantilly after a leg wax, my wedding perfume, and I think the unwitting cause of your perfume obsession. When I wanted another bottle and Chantilly stopped selling it, you undertook to track one down online for my birthday. That night, in Pizza Express, you excitedly told Nicola and me that you had discovered that perfumes came in different groups (woody, floral etc) and attempted to categorize us. A slippery slope. So in a way, perhaps you are my protégé? In a 'What-have-I-done?!' kind of way."

Editor's note: My recall of this early phase of perfume mania is a bit fuzzy (mental fog again), but I believe the original trigger to have been a couple of (to my nose) rather sweet perfumes worn by another friend, which I googled to see if they contained similar notes (they did!). That said, the La Perla mission would have been entrusted to me very much around this time - for Clare's birthday would have been just three weeks from the exact date when perfume mania struck in early 2008.

Where it nearly all began ~ source:

What do I own now?

"All the above plus:

Guerlain Mitsouko, bought after Tony (husband) and I watched an amazing documentary about Guerlain.

Guerlain Acqua Allegoria La Collection (set of miniatures comprising Flora Nymphea, Bouquet No 1, Pamplelune and Herba Fresca).

Creed - still in search of the elusive one sampled in Selfridges in Manchester, I have had Spring Flower, Himalaya, Love in White and Fleurissimo.

L'Artisan Parfumeur- the wonderful, wonderful, Premier Figuier as first (and successively) given by you. Fleur d'Oranger, Dzongkha (a mistake).

Pecksniff's Iced Tea and Fig

Which brings me on to...anything figgy, thank you xxx!"

Editor's note - I have since given Clare small bottles / purse sprays of Sonoma Scent Studio Fig Tree and Ava Luxe Fig Wood, while Sarah McCartney kindly donated a decant of 4160 Tuesdays Time to Draw the Raffle Numbers to spur Clare on on her long distance cycle races.  NB I can only take credit for introducing Clare to the various fig-themed perfumes - all the others mentioned she winkled out herself.

The figgy trigger ~ source:

How have my feelings about fragrance changed?

"I think that as a result of owning more bottles and trying more 'stuff' I have understood more about what I really like. I describe this as a perfume that smells of a thing. Something organic, not something perfumey. This has probably always been the case - when I was at university I used to wear the overpoweringly strong rose perfumes that Boots (Number 7?) used to produce at the time. I just hadn't thought about it enough to appreciate what it was that drew me towards particular fragrances. I would definitely not have tried anything figgy, had you not steered me towards those and what visceral pleasure I would have missed!

For the record, I have never, ever, ever worn Anais Anais. It is, nonetheless, the perfume most gifted to me. I received another bottle at Christmas, which was presented to the 'Unwanted Gifts raffle' at work. An unfaithful boyfriend once picked up a bottle for me in a Duty Free. I don't know whether I was angrier that he turned out to have several other girlfriends at the same time, or that he had bought me Anais Anais. My dad and I disposed of it ceremonially, with my dad holding the dustbin while I attempted to get the bottle into the bin from ever further away.


 Editor's note: The notorious Anais Anais shot putting incident is also recounted in a Cake Club post here."

Figgy quiddity ~ source:

Then on the occasion of my birthday last month, there was an interesting twist to this story, when Clare gave me a surprise gift of perfume as one of my presents - from a British independent perfumer of whom I had not even heard, never mind tried his wares! A case of protégé turned mentor, you could say - the full account is coming up in the next post!

Dogs and cycling captured in one shot!


Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Penhaligon's Tralala review - the dressing up box, bottled

Source: fragrantica
This isn't going to be another medical post (promise!), but it is relevant to mention that the health issues I have at the moment - with their common theme of 'lowness' (low iron, low blood sugar, low thyroid function) - are also associated with symptoms variously described as fuzzy thinking, poor concentration, confusion and my personal favourite, 'mental fog'. And based on a set of blood results from a few years back, which have only just caught the doctor's eye, I can in fact legitimately claim to have been suffering from mental fog for some considerable time now. A retrospective excuse might come in handy too, I sense.

In parallel, I am starting to wonder if I may also be afflicted with nasal fog, for my nose is not as sensitive as it used to be, and goodness knows it has never been great.  I struggle to pick out more than one or two notes in perfumes these days, or completely misinterpret the basic composition of a scent. Case in point - I just bagged a bargain part bottle of Aftelier Perfumes Haute Claire from Freddie of Smellythoughts, who is selling off a fair chunk of his collection.  That's a perfume I thought was based around the scent of narcissus, Le Temps d'une Fete-style, but its main notes turn out to be galbanum, ylang-ylang and orange. At least galbanum conveys greenness of some kind! Interestingly, another scent of which Haute Claire reminds me is DelRae Debut, which also smells of narcissus to me, and which contains lime, linden blossom, green leaves and ylang-ylang - so maybe I register ylang-ylang + miscellaneous greenness as narcissus.


But what of Tralala, I hear you say?  This quirky new release is a collaborative venture between fashion label Meadham Kirchhoff and Penhaligon's.  Meadham Kirchhoff was founded by Edward Meadham and Benjamin Kirchoff in 2006, and the relationship between the two brands goes back some time. Meadham Kirchhoff have been using Penhaligon's perfumes to scent their fashion shows, notably with Hammam Bouquet, which both designers cite as their all-time favourite scent. And now they have their own edp, created by Bertrand Duchaufour.

Well, obviously I had to google this pair,to get a feel for their aesthetic, and very flamboyant and outlandish it is too.  And colourful and a lot of fun: its latest collection features tweedy boxy suits accessorised with glittery and feathery bits, and clumpy platforms reminiscent of geisha shoes or something Dave Hill might have sported in the heyday of glam rock. In past catwalk shows, the models' pallid complexions were daubed with bright splashes of lipstick - not always on the mouth, I might add - evoking a geisha vibe. There are echoes of that - and also of marionettes and circus side shows - in the clownish doll's head on the bottle, which to me looks like a slightly creepier version of a Harajuku Lover doll, though The Black Narcissus finds it cute enough.  He references Punch & Judy in his review, and the grotesque element in carnival entertainment. There is also a teasing tension between the extrovert outfits and make up and the inscrutable expressions on the models' faces.   I had a look at a video of the Tralala launch and thought: 'Golly, those girls all look very young', only to realise it was a collection for Top Shop.


Watching that video, the overriding impression of the clothes being modelled was that it looked as though the young teens had raided their mum's - or grandmother's - dressing up box and make up stash. I had a real throwback to my own childhood, when I would top off some oversized, overly grown up outfit featuring tulle and fur and kitten heeled slingbacks with the ludicrous application of emerald green eye shadow - in matt pressed powder form - along with powdered rouge in a little round cardboard pot, powder being a significant theme here to which I will return.

And while researching the Meadham Kirchhoff label, I chanced upon this piece in Vogue, whose author had had the exact same take on this Autumn/Winter 2014 collection:

"Shapes were exaggerated, and things took on a dressing up box feel. It looked like they had each been sourced after a raid from a wealthy great aunt's wardrobe or a vintage shop in Knightsbridge or some other nice neighbourhood..."


And so to the scent itself, which has proved a particularly keen challenge to my blunted schnozz.  The first time I tried Tralala all I got was a whoosh of aldehydes and an ambience of FM Lipstick Rose - something powdery and retro - quite literally the smell and texture of the vintage make up I was using in my dressing up games. At the same time, it was what I can best describe as self-consciously artificial rather than synthetic in a cheap drugstore perfume sense. The next couple of times I tried Tralala I didn't really get much more, which was the catalyst for this whole notion of my 'nasal fog'.  Then at the weekend I detected a third accord, hot on the clumpy enormous heels of the Lipstick Rose impression - a sort of darker, liqueur-y whiff, mixed into the cosmetics scent.  And as the scent wore on, it dried down to a powdery, faintly boozy and softly suede-y whisper.  And finally comes what Tara so aptly described as the 'comfy jogging bottoms' phase, with a sweetish vanilla and incense accord uppermost to my nose, and not a lot else.  Slight shades of Eau Duelle at this point, which is probably why I like it a lot. If Tralala was a woman, she would be a heavily made up blonde swathed in a cloud of Chanel No 5 propping up the bar in a speakeasy, knocking back shots. Someone looking like Marilyn Monroe springs to mind - because of the No 5 connection, I mean - though I gather her preferred tipple was champagne, if she even frequented bars that is.

Source: Wikiipedia

And that is all I have to say on the matter of the scent's development, but I do think it is a great fit with the fashion aesthetic of Meadham Kirchhoff which, on the face of it, is fairground fantasy meets geisha house meets granny's wardrobe and Slade stage wear c1971.

Here are the notes, which are impressively odd.  I salute Penhaligon's for having come up with a surprisingly wearable fragrance, notwithstanding its eclectic kitchen sink note list and retro vibe.  But 'vintage' is having more than a moment at the moment, and old may be the new new...

Notes: aldehydes, saffron, whisky, ambrette seed butter, galbanum, violet leaf absolute, carnation, leather, tuberose, ylang ylang, orris, incense, myrrh, resinoid, opoponax absolute, patchouli, vetiver, cedarwood, heliotrope, musk, vanilla

Dave Hill of Slade ~ Source:

And no assessment of this perfume would be complete without some discussion of the name. 'Tralala' is first and foremost a happy-go-lucky refrain denoting general merriment, yet the name caused a bit of a PR incident earlier this year, because of reported darker associations in the minds of Meadham Kirchhoff with the prostitute called Tralala in the book/film Last Exit to Brooklyn. Suffice to say the Tralala in question met an extremely nasty end.  The relevant quote was in a now excised article in Cosmopolitan, and the controversy is explored in Robin's post on Tralala (and the ensuing comments) on Now Smell This. Matthew Huband of Penhaligon's also chimed in to nudge the brand back towards its official - and entirely wholesome - positioning:

"We'd just like to clarify that the name Tralala is simply an innocent and musical expression which reflects the fragrance. The perfume is rich, whimsical and nostalgic in Penhaligon's best tradition, as you'd expect."

And here is a video of Bertrand Duchaufour talking about the development of Tralala, in which he homes in on the myrrh and leather in the base of the composition, harnessed to conjure up old photos, artefacts and textiles from the early 20th century.

Hmm, I feel uncomfortable now about my image of the trolleyed blonde at the bar, though that is what popped into my head when I was contemplating the aldehydes-make up-whisky axis. I was even starting to wonder whether the lopsided bow was not merely a kooky touch, but suggestive of clothing in a state of disarray? Even the expression on the doll's face looks almost supplicatory - or not particularly happy at least. Though hold on, my mind may be running away with me....

Plus I have not finished with the meanings of Tralala yet, not at all.

In French, 'en grand tralala' means 'dress up' (we are back to my charades image), while 'tralala' on its own in French can mean pomp and ceremony, a lot of extravagance and publicity designed to impress - or it may mean complexity, fuss and general hoohah, every nuance of which sounds to me like an excellent description of the Meadham Kirchhoff brand.  So those connotations would have resonated with Bertrand Duchaufour once the name had been chosen, which was admittedly some time into the development process.  Though it doesn't quite explain the whisky note.

And then there is this excerpt from an interview with Duchaufour on Fragrantica in January, which sheds more light on the perfumer's interpretation of the Tralala brief - I could imagine that there might well be a decanter of whisky on the grandparents' sideboard, for every other facet in the composition now falls into place:

"And I came to work on purpose on an old-fashioned accord reminding of L'Heure Bleue de Guerlain, L'Aimant de Coty, things like that. They wanted something powdery, deep, even dark, leathery, with animalic connotations, evoking nostalgia of childhood (linked with the grandparents' moods), old stuff, old lace and lacework, old images, icons under broken glass, as sepia-toned pictures and relics under glass bells."


Meanwhile, over on Colognoisseur, Mark Behnke remains conflicted by the composition:

"Except I've smelled the fragrance and 'rich, whimsical, and nostalgic' doesn't accurately describe it. The adjectives I would use are 'dangerous, edgy and retro'. Which is where the disconnect happens: this fragrance clearly is going for danger as whisky, leather and patchouli are not the ingredients of nostalgic whimsy. They are exactly as was stated the milieu of Tralala, the fictional character."

I have since found an interview Penhaligon's conducted with Meadham Kirchhoff in April, several months after the pre-launch kerfuffle.  In it the duo explain that the name is just a bit of lighthearted tomfoolery.

Edward: "I woke up the morning after our show and I just knew that we should call it 'Tralala' and could envisage exactly how it should look. I loved Tralala because it had no pretensions, no specific connotations, it just sounds sort of humorous and nonchalant but looks really good written. It has a nice rhythm to it."

Source: Wikimedia Commons via Wilhelm Joys Andersen

Oh, and who knew that 'tralala' is also a euphemism for a male body part?, as featured in the 'Ding Dong Song', a chart hit for Swedish pop singer Guenther.  It was originally released as 'Tralala' by the Dutch band Phil & Company in 1984, so whether such musical precedents will kibosh sales in those countries, I couldn't begin to speculate.

Then of course 'tralala' is also what you say when you have your fingers in your ears - metaphorically or otherwise - and are tuning out to someone who is saying things that you don't wish to hear.

As for me, I shall tune out to any controversy surrounding Tralala's backstory and enjoy the perfume on its own merits.  I think Tralala is a very original and striking scent - sinister head, wonky bow and all.  I do really like the box, mind, which was modelled on an old-fashioned musical jewellery box.

Oh, and I have just received a sample of a perfume called 'Junky', which takes its inspiration from the novel of that name by William Burroughs.  Now Burroughs wasn't the most savoury individual to put it mildly, but a spliff-themed whiff is surely worth a sniff.