Love books?  Love perfume?

My friend Lilias just sent through this: Paper Passion.

I want to smell it!

Recently I got a small bottle of Comme des Garcons 2 which I adore – it’s meant to smell of Japanese calligraphy ink.

Having never smelled Japanese calligraphy ink, I can’t say if it’s an exact match but it does smell completely gorgeous and makes me think of scribes copying out texts in a temple while incense burns and paper walls glow with the heat of candles.

I think these would make an excellent pair for a poet who loves perfume!



JUS perfume interview


Your name – Ali Forbes

Your work – Marketing Officer at the Traverse Theatre



  1. What first attracted you to the world of perfume / scent / fragrance?


One of my first jobs was working as a perfume girl for Harvey Nichols.  Every day I would try and wear a different one, the good, the bad and the ugly!


  1. What perfume would you rescue from your collection if an evil perfume tax collector came round and said he was going to take every scent but one?


Serge Lutens, Jeux de Peau


  1. If you won the lottery, what would be the first perfume in your shopping bag?


All of Andrea Maack’s perfumes.


  1. If you could only wear one scent for the rest of your life, what would it be?


I think I would blow the budget and have a scent created for me.


  1. What is a smell, or combination of smells, you wish was a perfume that you’ve never come across in any bottle before?


Hot grass and the smell of going on holiday.


  1. Can you describe a moment of passion or poignancy in your life linked to a scent?


I think it was probably becoming aware of just how emotive scent can be.  My mum is a New Zealander and I spent a lot of time visiting there while I was growing up, especially the farm she grew up on.  There was an enormous Jasmine plant by the gate to the farm.  I remember smelling that scent back in Scotland and being instantly transported to being barefoot in the dry New Zealand heat by the Jasmine plant.


  1. What is your earliest memory of perfume?

In terms of my first awareness of perfume, that probably came from being a younger sister!  One of my most distinct memories is being in Hong Kong with my sister, who is eight years older than me.  We were in a beautiful black marble effect lift in probably the tallest building I had been in and she was wearing Obsession.  Of all the sensory experiences of being in Hong Kong, one of the smells that has stayed with me is of her perfume.


  1. Is there a perfume you wore in the past that you no longer wear, and why?


O dear…lots of Tommy Girl, Ralph Lauren Light Blue, Cool Waters….


  1. Is there a particular figure or house in the world of perfume that you admire, and why?


I think Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez – purely for their ability to write to eloquently and evocatively about perfume.


  1.  Is there any art (literature, poetry, theatre, visual art, music, etc) that you have experienced that uses scent in a provocative or beautiful way?  If not, can you think of an idea for scent in art?


Karla Black – although not using scent directly, the use of cosmetics or soaps in her art creates a particular smell that becomes indistinguishable from the art itself.  The art creates both a visual and a sensory memory.



Apologies for being silent for so long.  My new job as Programme Manager of the Scottish Poetry Library started in May, and I’ve been so busy planning delicious poetry events that I haven’t had a moment to write about my other obsession, perfumes.

The marvellous poet and perfume aficionado Elspeth Murray kindly just sent me an amazing link however, which is so wonderful it’s forced me to break the silence!

Have a read of this: There, In Your Drink, a Drop.

My friend The Silver Fox wrote a delicious blog recently about Vera Wang’s Princess Night.  I did give Princess Night a try the other day when i was through in Glasgow and had popped in the House of Fraser’s perfume gallery.  The kind saleslady who accosted me asked what I was looking for, and when I asked for Princess Night she thought at first it wasn’t out yet, then discovered the black glitter encrusted bottle for me.  She sprayed it generously onto a card and waved it in front of my nose – BLACK CURRANT JAM.  I sprayed it all over myself as well – BLACK CURRANT JAM, and much later that evening a friend leaned over and said, you smell like BLACK CURRANT JAM.  Which is not a bad thing to smell of, though I did feel more sticky than elegant somehow.  But it’s really yummy.  Oh yes, and it rather wonderfully brought me back to my days as a student in Bristol, drinking black currant and cider in the student union.

An important aspect of the Fox’s post, I think, is that there’s no point in being snooty about fragrances.  There are great cheap fragrances and awful expensive ones (and this goes for art too of course).  There is a way of making art (and perfume) that comes from an original and beautiful vision, and there is a way of making these things that is burdened by commercialism, critical opinion, supposed views of the masses, and so on, that often ruins the thing.

I’ve been meaning to write about Donna Karan’s Gold perfume for ages.  I’ve discovered, much to my surprise, that in my increasing (let’s not say old yet) age I have gone from being someone who doesn’t like the smell of lilies (fresh, perfume, whatever) to the point of feeling a bit ill over them to someone who LOVES the smell of lilies.  I’m saving my pennies for one day getting a bottle of Frederic Malle’s Lys Mediterranee.  I’ve got a bottle of Penhaligon’s beautiful Lily & Spice, which always makes me think of Marlene Dietrich in a black and white tux leaning against a baby grand, singing some unbearably deep heart-breaker of a tune between puffs of a hand-rolled cigarette.

I love Gold.  It’s one of my most favourite perfumes in my current collection.  I felt a little guilty about it at first, as it was mainstream rather than niche, as I got a couple bottles of it really cheap off eBay, as it seems as if it was being discontinued because of, I don’t know, I’m assuming a lack of sales?

It’s the one perfume that every time I wear it my boyfriend says, “You smell beautiful.”  It gets four stars from Tania Sanchez in the A-Z Guide, and she describes a sense of the perfume cycling ever upwards, “like those audio illusions of tones that sound like they’re climbing infinitely higher even though the series is actually repeating.”  I love that description as I do get the sense of white lily and sweet amber cycling or rotating in a sensual dance throughout the wearing of this fragrance.  The image that always comes to mind for me is of a woman on a pedestal in front of a roaring fire in a massive country mansion.  The woman is in a floor-length gown of white silk.  You see her as you enter the room and she is pale, cool, pure silken sensuality – the white mouth of the lily.  You walk toward the fire, lean against the warm stone of the hearth, and she turns to face you, glowing, golden, her dress now a sheath of dripping honey.  Walk back toward the door, turn, and see her silken whiteness, walk back to the fire, turn, and see her molten, golden sexuality.  That’s what Gold does for me!  The fact that it keeps changing throughout the day keeps me interested, delighted – one minute calmed by the cool white lily, the next warmed by the sweet as honey amber.  Just.  Gorgeous.

Exciting news…  my friend Ali is teaming up with me to (fingers and toes crossed) bring you the JUS Scent Art Festival in Edinburgh, February 2013.  We’re currently working on many bits and pieces (like trying to get some funding) in order to get this off the ground, but I will keep you updated as hopefully it will happen and you will be able to come check it out!

If all goes well, we’ll have a perfume trade fair, tons of art installations and performances based on or inspired by scent, master classes, panel discussions and a poetry reading.  If you have any good suggestions for sources of funding, sponsorship or want to get involved in some way, do get in touch.

Yesterday we purchased a domain name for the festival’s website, so as soon as that’s up and running I will post it.

Super scent fun!


July 2012 Note:  The Scent Festival is on hold at the moment, but we have high hopes for the future…  if you have any good ideas about scent events or how to help make the festival come to life, do get in touch!