If you were to ask me what my ideal day would consist of, somewhere in it (perhaps after breakfast with Hugh Laurie and lunch with Robert Plant) would be an hour spent smelling perfumes with someone who knows what they are talking about. So when Linda Pilkington, the brains (and nose) behind Ormonde Jayne, the London perfumery, invited me along to trial the Perfume Portrait service in her new Sloane Square store, I was absolutely one happy girl.
The idea behind the Perfume Portrait is that Linda, or Monica, her right hand nose (I’m sure that’s not the technical term for it but you get my drift) helps you choose a perfume that you LOVE, which is harder than it might appear. When I was 45 I read Luca Turin’s Perfumes, The Guide and everything changed. I ditched my old perfumes and went off on a sniffing orgy through all the five star perfumes he recommended, which was fun but inevitably confusing, because along the way I lost my hold on what I really loved, scent wise.
Linda sits you down and makes you smell a massive assortment of raw smells, which she gauges your reaction to and after asking you lots of questions, eventually curates a selection from her range for you to choose from. Along the way (the process is supposed to take about half an hour but we nattered on for well over this) she told me stories about the perfume industry, how Chanel never owned her company, gave me a recipe for cooking basmati rice (it’s one of her favourite smells, recipe at the bottom of the post), pointed out that I was unable to smell ambroxan (the synthetic version of ambergis, some people can’t smell it) and gave me tips on how to make a good perfume choice. ” You’ve got to really LOVE the smell” she said “It’s when you open your wardrobe and you get a waft of the perfume and you feel love for it, when you smell it on your clothes and it makes you happy”. There’s no point buying something you ‘quite’ like.
She does not agree that perfumes smell differently on different people ‘ I have smelt enough arms in my time to know that Ta’if (her best seller) smells pretty much the same on everybody” but does point out that your diet will make your skin smell different and will mix with the perfume in a specific way. For example if you eat lots of curries and garlic, it does come through on your skin, ask anyone who lives in the east and they’ll tell you they can smell the milky scent of a dairy diet on westerners.
After picking me apart, ollifactorily-speaking she suggested Tolu, a sophisticated “fur coat and lipstick” smell (Goldie Hawn wears this), Sampaquita, which is botanically related to jasmine and dries down to a dusty, warm floral, Orris Noir, a rich spice-and-pepper oriental (Nick Foulkes wears this) and Champaca, an abstract floral that had a fair whack of basmati rice in it. Unbelievably they all felt very me, but I refined the choice to Tolu and Orris Noir -which I finally settled on.
Linda gave me the Orris Noir in four travel spray bottles, which is a genius way to use perfume, as you can squirrel them about your handbag collection and still have one by your bedroom mirror (or where ever you spritz from home). As soon as I got it home, Middleagedad loved it so much he nabbed it off me, so I nipped back to buy the Tolu, which feels like my smell of the year (and I’ve been through lots of perfume this year).
If you have reached that time in your life when you are in need of a change of smell. then I would really recommend booking an appointment at one of Linda’s stores for a perfume portrait . It’s complimentary, with no pressure to buy and really opens you up to understanding what you do and don’t like with smell. It’s not easy swapping from a perfume you’ve always worn and help from an expert is definitely my favourite way to make a decision. It would make a brilliant birthday present (buying the perfume you select at the end), with or without Robert and Hugh.
Ormande Jayne’s new boutique is at 192 Pavilion Road, London SW3 2BF Tel: 02077301381, there’s also a store on 28 Old Bond Street, London W1S 4SL and it has just opened in Senteurs d’Ailleurs in Brussels ( In case Belgian Waffle is reading this). You can also buy on line
Basmati Rice by Linda Pilkington
Wash your basmati rice in cold water, drain it well. Add a thumb sized knob of butter in a pan and melt. Add the rice and toss until it is all coated with butter and warmed through. Add water as normal and one crushed cardamon pod. Cook until tender. Delicious.