The Scent Critic has never been to a real speakeasy – but (in the nicest possibly way), I’m still in recovery after a perfumed version, hosted by the knowledgeable and highly entertaining Odette Toilette as the latest in her series of Scratch+Sniff evenings.
Think: fragrances overdosed with ‘lost’ or banned (or at least, under IFRA, restricted) ingredients – like storax and angelica.
Think: a whiff of actual musk. (PETA supporters will hate this, of course, but the real, warm, indescribably sexy thing is almost enough to make even a long-term bunny-loving veggie like The Scent Critic want more, more, more. Though I did say ‘almost’.)
Think: an encounter with an incredibly gifted and entirely off-the-wall self-taught perfumer, Sarah McCartney (more of her anon), who single-handedly gives the finger to those who sniffily say you need a chemistry degree and several years hanging around the great and the fragrant good in Grasse, to become a ‘nose.’
Oh, and I had gin. In a Negroni. On a Tuesday. I never drink during the week. Never. But heck: what’s a speakeasy for…?
It was, quite simply, the most fun I’ve had with my clothes on for quite some time, and The Scent Critic came away beaming from ear to ear (never mind nostril to nostril) having discovered some seriously exciting new left-of-field names in perfumery, who I’ll be exploring further over the coming weeks and months: Pappillon Perfumery and Darasina. We had to shout out what crime we thought their fragrances might have committed. (Which degenerated into a bit of Miss-Scarlet-in-the-Library-with-the-Iron-Bar Cluedo-ness, suggestions-wise.)
And then the second half of the evening was given over to Ms. McCartney.
Don’t bother Googling ‘Sarah McCartney Perfume’: the first approximately million and a half entries are for her near-namesake Stella – but I predict we’ll be hearing much, much more about this particular McCartney. Provided she decides to take this career swerve seriously: for now, her scents are pretty much under-the-counter purchases by those-in-the-know.
They glory in titles like The Lion Cupboard (she wanted to create a scent that reminded her of her late dad, who kept his things in a piece of furniture called – yes – ‘The Lion Cupboard’: all tobacco and woods and general masculine dad-ness). Then there’s Evil Max – what a name! – which was created for her co-writer in her copywriting business: turns out, Ms. McCartney used to edit Lush Times, which neatly explains why she could basically do stand-up as a fall-back career choice, if a) the copywriting and b) her new career as a perfumer don’t pan out.
The Scent Critic walked out with several little vials, having opted to buy the larger version of Urura’s Tokyo Café. It’s probably the ‘easiest’ of her scents to wear: a gorgeous fuzzy marshmallow of a perfume, baby-powder pretty but with a touch of green grass. And then when you’ve had it on for a while, quite a while, it gets quite sexy. But it’s probably the hardest of the 4160 Tuesdays fragrances to review: so seamless it’s virtually impossible to identify any one note. To me, it is essence-of-spring blossom. Imagine lying under a cherry tree in a dream, while petals gently float down and shroud you in their floral sweetness, as if on time-lapse. It smells like all the edges have been lovingly buffed off this perfume, till it’s smooth and soft as a baby’s bottom. (Only a lot more deliciously-scented.) It is also quite seriously, seriously addictive. I’ve spritzed my way through almost a quarter of the reasonably-sized bottle of (cloudy) juice in barely a fortnight.
It was named, so she explained, for a colleague who opened a café in Tokyo, where Sarah went to help with a fund-raising event after the earthquake/tsunami. The Negroni had kicked in by then so I can’t honestly remember if they sold the fragrance to raise money, or cooked rice and vegetables, or unicycled topless across the Ginza, but there’s a definite Japanese link somewhere. (And you wonder why The Scent Critic doesn’t drink, mid-week…?)
She calls her company 4160 Tuesdays because if we’re lucky enough to live till we’re 80, we have exactly 4160 Tuesdays to make the most of. (As well as the other days.) As she puts it, ‘Whether you fritter them, sleep through them or work all the hours you’re awake, do it with awareness. And on a Tuesday, do something different. The 4160 Tuesdays project is about mindful observation, nerd-like fascinating, endless exploration and – fingers crossed – mixing it all up and having good ideas. At least once a week. If we can’t be bright and brilliant every day of the week, let’s have a crack at making Tuesdays more interesting.’ (Or in my case, more gin-soaked, which may not be what she meant at all.)
Sarah started playing with perfume ingredients when her boss, Lush founder Mark Constantine, gave her his encouragement – and some ingredients. (He’s a lovely man, and like that: no ego, just a great sense of fun and bottomless creativity.) Who could have predicted, though, that she’d turn out to be quite so bloody good…?
Thus far, her website (www.4160tuesdays.com) doesn’t sell Sarah’s fragrances. My only advice for trying to get your own hands on Urura’s Tokyo Café is to e-mail her via the GET IN TOUCH section on her site. What I will say is: you won’t regret it.
And if she’s reading this, I have only one thing to say. (Slur?)
‘Sarah McCartney: DO give up the day job.’ Because the world of perfume needs shaking up, and you’re the gal to do it.