Friday, 9 May 2008

#72 Tears in Heaven

It was an odd reaction. A spritz of Miller Harris' Jasmine Vert onto the wrist, a deep inhalation, and before I knew it I had tears in my eyes. I was back, in the Mediterranean, the site of so many soil-baked summer holidays with my family, a hand-picked mound of jasmine blossoms cupped between my hands, some in my hair and a small bunch scattered across my pillow... summer for me, will always be linked to the smell of jasmine. Within seconds, I was crying - like a fool, in the middle of the Bruton Street store - and apologising, dashing tears away through a dazed, peaceful smile. Despite that day's rain and the biting wind, for a few seconds in the middle of London, I was back, my toes dipped in my parents' swimming pool, scattering blossoms onto the water. So yes, Jasmine Vert is absolutely a signature scent - significant, evocative and loaded with precious memories.

It was also the last scent I sniffed after an hour-long introduction to the Miller Harris library - to which I am no stranger - that yielded an array of surprises:

L'air de Rien - Jane Birkin's signature scent that was rude, musky, intimate, corporeal and redolent of, in my mind, a long night's lovemaking. Divine - but dangerous.

The exquisite Coeur d'été , created by Lyn Harris during her first pregnancy - a fresh, sunny and enlivening scent that also conjured up whispers of the sea.

Finally, Geranium Bourbon - a confident, colourful, nostril-filling bouquet that tirelessly metamorphoses, all day long. By the evening, it was all damp stems with a hint of dried rose petals.

In a world of overnight stars with their accompanying celeb scents, Miller Harris stand guard over the art of the Parfumer, yes, but they also create magnetic, magical experiences that chime beautifully with modern life. And if it's a toss up between a little-researched bottle of crowd-pleasing notes and a dash through a maze of memorable, challenging accords, I know where I'm headed. For me, it's always been Miller time.

Thursday, 1 May 2008

#71 Alley Up

There's nothing novel about - but that doesn't alter just how wonderful a site it is. Millions of product reviews, millions of worldwide readers and writers and the biggest cross-section of tried-and-testeds anywhere on the web. I've come to double-check it everytime I write a product review... and the truth always speaks volumes.

Before logging on and reading up, ensure that you always check the number of reviewers against the percentage of people who would buy again. The higher the percentage AND number of reviewers, the closer you'll get to finding a great product.

It's also worth checking MUA's Top Picks from time to time, to get an idea of which products are being consistently praised. Two of my favourites - MAC Fluidline and SK-II Air Touch Foundation - do very well indeed, despite the latter being expensive.

It's reassuring, in a very basic, humanistic way, to read reviews that reiterate your personal opinions and, even more so, to try something that has been proclaimed an 'HG' (that's Holy Grail in Makeup Alley speak) by the press, try it for yourself and hate it and then log on to see it denounced by hundreds of users too.

It's also fascinating for another reason. When something is really good, it's often universally acknowledged to be so. There are of course users on the site who get miffed when a recommendation doesn't work for them - again, proving that there are always exceptions - but on the whole, when a product lives up to its promises, the praise it attracts borders on fervent.

And given the amount of poorly performing products out there, that's just the way it should be.