Live reporting from tonights Scratch + Sniff : Valentine's Special

14th February, 2011

Basenotes is once again live reporting from Scratch + Sniff. Tonight's sold-out event is a Valentine's Day special and is focusing on "Scent, Desire and Decadence". Hosting the event is Odette Toilette (aka Lizzie Ostrom) who is joined by Dr Rowan Boyson, lecturer at Kings College, Cambridge.

According to S+S: "This event is all about the scent of desire. We’re going to be exploring the world of animalic, indolic and hypnotic (dare we say disturbing) perfumes, almost dangerious to wear in too large quantities…. and that have been used to express sexuality, romance and love.

We’ll be exploring the definition of ‘decadence’ in olfaction, and what it’s meant for scent to fully express a lifestyle of excess, from Ancient Egypt, to the 18th century, up to the present day. For this edition of Scratch+Sniff, come with a gang of friends, come as a couple, or come on your own and meet new people. One thing is sure, you’ll leave smelling wonderful and we can’t take responsibility for the consequences."

[HR][/HR]Live Reporting starts here (newest updates will be at the bottom, excuse typos!)

18:44 We're ready. Laptop set up. Just had a sneaky whiff of some of the scents we are trying tonight. I think the attendees are going to have fun...

19:45 Lizzie is handing out a mystery scent - attendees are being asked to describe it and whether they are drawn to it or repulsed. "clean, fresh" say people that were drawn to it. The people repulsed by it say it is sweet, overwhelming, like the 1970's, smells like medicine.

The fragrance is Muscs Koublaï Khän by Serge Lutens

19: 52 Rowan Boyson is on stage to explore the link between scent and pleasure.

She introduces extracts from "The Song of Songs",

Kiss me, make me drunk with your kisses!

Your sweet loving

is better than wine.

You are fragrant, you are myrrhs and aloes.

All the young women want you. (1.2-3)

My king lay down beside me.

And my fragrance wakened the night.

All night between my breasts

my love is a cluster of myrrh,

a sheaf of henna blossoms in the vineyards

of Ein Gedi.


Who is that rising from the desert

like a pillar of smoke,

more fragrant with myrrh and frankincense

than all the spices of the merchant! (3:6)

There is a discussion of the use of fragrance in the extract. Boyson is now talking about the use of spice and scent in ancient Arabia.

19:58 We are now smelling Arabie, by Serge Lutens

Comments from audience: Fly spray, cardamom, minty, fig, anise...

20:03 - we're having laptop and server issues. Going to try to continue on Twitter

20:46 - I think we're back - each table is being given a 'pleasure thermometer' which is based on an illustration by Hogarth. We've all been given four fragrances to smell, describe and plot on the thermometer.

20:53 The pleasure thermometer...

It's annoyingly turned up the wrong way round - but from top to bottom (top being most pleasurable...)

  • Madness

  • Convulsion Fits

  • Extacy

  • Lust

  • Love Heat

  • Luke Warm

  • Low Spirits

  • Sorrow

  • Agony

  • Settled Grief

  • Despair

  • Madness

  • Suicide

I like the way Madness appears at the top and near the bottom!

21.02 The fragrances are labeled 3-6, and we don't know what they are. We'll update with comments from the audience shortly... Before the break, while we were away with technical problems we also smelt Charogne by Etat.

Fragrance 3 is described by the audience as:

  • A beautiful 17 yr old gay boy drunk on gin and searching for love at the Venice carnival

  • A 'catholic moment'

  • "transvestite fresh"

  • Carpenter's workshop - burying your nose in the chest of a carpenter, with sawdust on his chest.

21.22 The fragrance is revealed as Frapin's Passion Boisee

Fragrance 4:

  • Sex Shop

  • "big granny's knickers"

  • "wet wipe wonder"

  • granny sex

  • national trust drawer liners

  • a depressing Xmas because your granny's died

Revealed as Rose Kashmirie

Fragrance 5:

  • Candlelit wank in a shower

  • Lynx

  • Shower Gel

  • Chocolate Orange

  • Sexy Sailor

  • Teenage Boy

  • "My Brother"

  • Having a threesome with a mechanic and his pornstar wife

  • You've just crashed your plane and left your dying wife in a cave

  • synthetic flowers and formaldehyde at a funeral parlour with a hint of eyeliner

Lizzie asks if any of the guys like it. She reveals it as Delicious Closet Queen to much laughter.

Fragrance 6:

  • Rotting Fish

  • A dead man on a beach with his dead dog

  • Ill person sweating

  • Mouldy Orange

  • Fishing Net

  • Robert Pattinson vampire self has an STD

  • Almost dead sex

  • It makes me want to die

No surprises with this one... (and everyone picks 'suicide' on the thermometer) Secrections Magnifiques

21:35 Lizzie's rounding up now and hoping any couples on a first date aren't put off!

Round of applause's all round...


Next week's Scratch + Sniff is entitled "Rakes to Rambo: Male Identity and Scent" Until about 100 years ago, there were no fragrances specifically for men. You’d wear the same as women, usually a floral, bouqueted creation, a far cry from today’s myriad range of aftershaves. Now, men have their own ‘smells’, from fine colognes right though to that peculiar phenomenon, Lynx.

There are still a few tickets available so if you're in London next Tuesday, why not pop over to the S+S website and book your place.

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About the author: Grant Osborne

Grant Osborne is the founder and editor of Basenotes. Grant has two children, and a dependence on tea, haribo and bacon.


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    • MysteryBuff40 | 15th February 2011 03:23

      So much fun! This is the way to evaluate fragrance. Sniff it anonymously, then describe the images it conjures up, then find out what it is. It frees you from the tyranny of brands, what's trendy, what has snob appeal, and ascribing quality (or lack thereof) based on a price tag.

      I wonder how our fragrance collections might change if we had to acquire them based on this method.

    • Ratfink | 15th February 2011 13:29

      Strangely, none of the above descriptions inspire me to rush out and make a purchase! Although I now have a hankering for a chocolate orange.

    • liamjmoore | 17th February 2011 08:48

      Damn! Wish I could have been there for that one :) I love the "It makes me want to die" comment on Secrections Magnifigques