So, belatedly, to Boadicea the Victorious fragrances. Let’s start with a confession: the packaging’s always put me off. Mea culpa. Thou shalt not judge a fragrance by its ‘cover’, is the important lesson learned. Just because the Celtic-esque ‘medallions’ on the front of Michael Boadi’s bottles are a bit too Medieval-battle-re-enactment, let’s-raise-a-tankard-of-mead for my personal, rather girlier taste – well, that’s a very bad reason not to meander through this extraordinary collection of scents.
Out of choice, I might not have started with a rose scent – which Glistening is (based on the Ta’if rose, which is also the star of Ormonde Jayne’s eponymous creations). But I was doing some research into rose perfumes, and this landed – serendipitously – in my lap. It’s not your typical rose. More rose geranium, at times. (Sniff, press life’s rewind button – and I’m back in my grandma’s greenhouse). It’s not lush, or dewy, particularly – more misty and intriguing, rather like something out of a dream. I can imagine Ophelia wearing this. Or Guinevere. And no, it’s not the packaging: there’s something truly other-worldly about it.
Occasionally, it goes a little metallic on me – in synaesthesia terms, like putting a spoon in my mouth off which the silver’s been rubbed, in places. Know that taste…? After the perfume equivalent of a bit of a lie-down, a pretty softness and a powderiness settle on the skin – rose dusting powder, with a vague reminiscence of the Floris store in St. James’s, in its heyday. (Before they gave the packaging a makeover to try to bring it into the 21st Century, and just about wrecked the brand, if you ask me.) Mostly, it’s cool and damp and green and leafy, offering the relief of stepping into a shady glade on a baking afternoon.
Importantly, it lacks the sickliness which is what puts me off so many rose scents. If it was a colour, it would be dark silver. If it was a fabric, it might be the metallic lace that I photographed it on, here – a legacy from the 20s, via my grandmother. If it was a place, it would be – oh, probably Camelot.
And above all, it doesn’t smell like anything else, because Michael Boadi’s fragrances just don’t. The Scent Critic recently whiled away a couple of sense-drenched hours in the lair of this charming, soft-voiced former hairdresser: a 100% self-taught perfumer, who has spent the last few years putting together extraordinary, unexpected blends. (Not just any old hairdresser, mind: a favourite of magazines like Vogue, and good buddies with make-up maestro François Nars.)
The Boadicea the Victorious collection spans a couple of dozen scents – all in these hip-flask-esque flacons – which are worth setting aside a serious chunk of time to explore. (You can find them in Selfridges and Harrods, as well as Bendel’s department store in New York.) Why Boadicea? Boadi. Boadicea. Geddit? Mind-blowingly, Michael explained that although some of his scented confections feature as many as 200 different ingredients, steering clear whenever possible of synthetics in favour of natural ingredients. He blends the essences himself (in that very apartment), and often only takes two or three shots till it’s perfect. The ‘noses’ of Grasse might look down their – well, noses, at that, not to mention his lack of formal training (which nowadays is almost a degree in maths, in itself, for calculating the formulas). But The Scent Critic is blown clear away: what Michael Boadi has is simply a gift.
I could go on, but I’ll simply exhort you to sniff out Boadicea’s scents, next time you’re in their vicinity. And keep an eye – and both nostrils – open for Michael’s next collection, too: Illuminium. It’s is utterly different to the Boadiceas: no more than eight ingredients in each fragrance. Illuminium, too, is a triumph. Lighter, sheerer, but still incredibly interesting (and probably much more commercial, if truth be told.) Oh, and no Celtic vibe going on with the packaging: Illuminium has sleek lines, frosted glass and sexy matte black boxes.
May perfume-lovers send both of Michael Boadi’s collection victorious. Because there surely can’t be a ‘nose’ who is more deserving.