Scented Snapshot- Day 7. Woodsmoke.

The final instalment of my intensive seven day blog challenge. It has been a brilliant exercise for both my memory and my nose, so much so that I’m thinking up ways in which to do another one! I hope you’ve enjoyed reading them as much as I’ve enjoyed writing. 



We used to live here. Can you believe it? I’m struck every time I look back at photos just how much of a dream cottage it was. 

We decided to get a little bit more peace and quiet after living right in the centre of Exeter in a rubbish flat for six years together. Recently married, we figured it was time to ‘move into the next phase’. After months of scouring the Internet, seeing dozens of properties that weren’t quite right with extortionate rent (that’s Devon for you) I finally came across the Coach House. It was a perfect late summer’s day when we went to view it and I think anyone would have fallen in love with the place there and then. 

We moved in November 2011. The cottage had a log burning stove, which was both a novelty and a neccessity, living on Dartmoor during winter months. The scent of woodsmoke was everywhere in the village, drifting from all the chimneys and cocooning our little idyll in warmth and fragrant fire. 

I can honestly say that we felt more still and peaceful during the 18 months that we lived there than we had ever felt before. It was truly magical. A nurturing, healing environment at the perfect time. Then along came a little baby girl and suddenly there weren’t enough rooms, only one car and an intermittent bus service to the nearest shop. We knew we’d have to move back to the city at some point, so we did it before we fell out of love with the cottage. The day we left I swear the house closed its eyes as we drove away. 

I’ve never felt so connected to a building before and there are times when I feel extremely nostalgic for those granite walls, with their little nooks for house sparrows and wisteria clinging in the crevices. Although our terraced house now is more suited to our current lifestyle, I often long for the soft stillness of the countryside and the warmth of a log fire. Every time I catch a drift of woodsmoke on the breeze, I’m carried straight back to our magic cottage.

Scented Snapshot- Day 6. Ivy.

Here you will find the penultimate entry in my seven day blog challenge- to write every day about a place or a thing that is linked with a scent memory. 



It is really the wrong time of year to be photographing Hedera Helix at its most potent. English ivy flowers in September and October in the UK, so those are the months when my nose is most assaulted. I can recall the scent at any moment though, such is my hate/love for this dark and clingy creeper.

Ivy totally stinks. It smells fetid and dirty, like sheets left for days in the washing machine. It grew in abundance all over the high, red brick garden wall of my childhood home. When we first moved a big, ugly garage dominated the outdoor space, which my parents knocked down at the first opportunity, leaving behind a concrete slab perfect for riding a tricycle around on.

It must have been early autumn and I remember it had rained heavily. There were slugs and snails and fallen ivy blossom all over the concrete and I got in a right strop because I couldn’t ride my tricycle without squashing all the snails. I parked myself under the overhanging ivy and sulked. The smell under that canopy was intense and disgusting, I had never experienced anything like it. Damp, sweet, rotten, mulchy. Awful.

Even now the smells makes me feel a little angry. It’s just such an assault on the nose. As with everything scent related now though, I kind of love it because it smells so horrid.

Scented Snapshot- Day 5. Sweeties.

This series of seven daily blog posts explores the links between everyday places/things and the scent memories connected to them.



I was a very idealistic kid. I read a lot of books, had an active imagination and often I would find myself disappointed that my internal pictures could not live up to reality. I remember having a collection of illustrated stories, in Enid Blyton style (although I can’t recall if it was actually her) about children learning lessons in morality through misguided actions.

The story I remember most was about a little girl who found a penny in the street. Instead of giving it to her mother she went to the sweet shop and bought some delicious, brightly coloured sweeties, ate every single one and had a tummy ache all night long. 

The illustration in the book depicted those tempting tooth rotters as Dolly Mixtures, a mix of tiny pastel coloured sugar paste and jelly sweets aimed at very young children. You can still (and I do) buy them now. Up until I read the story I hadn’t really had Dolly Mixtures, but suddenly I was overwhelmed with the need to sample these saccharin delights that had been so irresistible to the main character. So I took my pocket money to the corner shop and purchased a paper bag of them from the big glass jar behind the counter. I can remember quite clearly the sound of the metal scoop clanging inside the glass, and the sticky, sugary, slightly fruity aroma wafting from inside the bag as I carried them home.

I sat on the swing in the garden and ate them, enraptured by their colours and perfect miniature cuteness. They were possibly the best sweets ever at that moment in time and absolutely lived up to the dream. I remembered the moral of the tale and saved half the bag for the next day though, of course. 

They don’t smell the same anymore (or maybe that idealistic child still lingers within) but I still buy them, just for a little trip down memory lane.

Scented Snapshot- Day 4. Basil.

This is the fourth in my series of seven blog posts, each focused on a particular place or object which provokes a strong olfactory memory.



Most people would associate the scent of fresh basil with the kitchen, Italian pasta dishes, a pot of fragrant green leaves growing upon a sunny windowsill. My scent associations with basil do include the obvious, but also a rather more obscure memory. 

I became fascinated by herb lore and hedgewitchery when I was a teenager, buying what books I could and experimenting with oils and candles and potions. I have never been particularly green fingered but the idea of growing my own herbs had a kind of mystical appeal. I got a little pot of basil and placed it on the windowsill in my parent’s kitchen, but refused to let anyone use it for cooking. I bestowed a lot of care on that little plant, watering it, turning it so it would grow evenly all the way round. I would take a leaf to bed with me at night and place it inside the pillowcase, having read somewhere that basil was good for headaches and relaxation. 

I don’t really know what I wanted to achieve exactly, I just felt that the vibrancy of this plant might somehow rub off on me. Even now I have a funny little suspicion that basil smells like magic.

Scented Snapshot- Day 3. Shower Gel. 

Here you will find the third instalment of my seven day challenge to photograph and write about places/objects in my everyday life that are associated with strong scent memories.


Shower Gel.

This is a bottle of Original Source Lavender and Tea Tree Shower Gel. The number of bottles I’ve bought probably run into triple figures and there has rarely been a time when my bathroom was not inhabited by at least one. 

The first time I smelled this was on a  september morning in 2002, waking up in my new room in halls at university for the first time. My mum had taken me to the supermarket the day before to pick up food and other essentials. My halls were newly built and still smelt of fresh paint, the bathroom of new plastic and grout. I can remember climbing into the shower, full of anticipation for the day ahead, In equal parts elated and absolutely crapping myself. 

Oddly, although my first memory of the scent of this shower gel is connected with a time of great change and anxiety, I find the smell extremely soothing. I’ve always loved lavender, it was the first essential oil I was allowed as a child, using one of those ceramic rings that fits around a lightbulb. 

Perhaps the familiarly of lavender will always take me to a safe place, no matter the situation, and that’s why I go back to it over and over again. I suppose this is a memory within a memory. 

Scented Snapshot- Day 2. Sewing box.

This is the second in my series of seven snippets of olfactory memory. An exercise in capturing the day to day places and objects that are connected with scent in some way.


Sewing box.

This sewing box belonged to my husband’s grandmother. It was handed down to me after she passed away a few years ago. When I opened the lid and started to explore the contents, a huge rush of memory flooded in from my childhood, sitting beside a similar sewing box at my own grandmother’s house in Portsmouth. 

My mother’s mother was a seamstress, a skill she passed down to her daughters and granddaughters. Her house was decorated in greens and browns and beige and peach and grey, with lots of fascinating nooks and crannies to explore. Her sewing boxes and tins were stuffed full of buttons and pins, needles and thread, binding and trimming and elastic and zippers and tailor’s chalk. All of it smelled old and dry. A bit dusty and woody and fibrous. It smelt like an age gone by that seemed far away and faded, yet there were the remnants nestled inside various containers. I would spend rainy afternoons rummaging around, making tiny doll dresses and mandalas out of colourful buttons. 

Now, when I need scissors or a piece of thread, all I need to do is open this sewing box and all those afternoons come back to me. The pins might have rusted but the memory is sharp and bright as brass buttons.  

Scented Snapshot- Day 1. Window

I’ve set myself a challenge. For the next seven days I will be posting a picture- a scented snapshot if you will- of something or somewhere in my everyday life that is connected with a scent memory. I’m doing this as an exercise in blogging daily, but also to increase my awareness of the way in which I’ve made connections to things/places via my sense of smell.



This is the window in the bathroom of the delicatessen where I work. For four years I have looked at this rooftop view whilst washing my hands with Carex Moisture Plus hand wash. I have stood here whilst recovering from an overload of stress, I have stood here whilst planning my wedding, I have stood here whilst pregnant and I have stood here contemplating a complete change of career. 

It might be a dull view, the scent of hand wash ordinary and uninspiring. But this spot on my personal geographic map has witnessed so much change and so many life altering plans. I’m soon to leave this place, but should I ever wash my hands with this particular soap elsewhere, I’ll be transported straight back to this place behind the flaking window pane, staring at slate roofs and planning my future.

A Love Letter to Neroli

Is there one particular note in fragrance that you find yourself seeking out time and again? A flower, resin or fruit that you know will bring you instant joy and comfort? For me it is Neroli; the absolute obtained from the tiny white flowers of the bitter Seville orange tree, using steam distillation.

It has been a love affair that began when I started to experiment with essential oils as a teenager. The aromatic properties of neroli are said to soothe chronic anxiety and bring feelings of peace and euphoria. The beautiful white blooms are also used traditionally in wedding bouquets as a symbol of innocence and undying love. I find the scent of neroli exquisitely haunting, it is so much more than a simple citrus floral. There are multifaceted depths within it that are at once sharp and soft, green yet plump and lush, bright but also somehow slightly bitter and smoky.

As a popular ingredient in perfumery, there is a plethora of fragrances that feature neroli somewhere in the blend. My scent collection is heavily biased toward citrus, yet my olfactory appetite for neroli is insatiable. My two most recent favourites are Neroli Blanc Eau de Parfum from Au Pays de la Fleur d’Oranger and Grand Neroli from Atelier Cologne. Both encapsulate everything I love about the delicate white flower, in very different ways…

Grand Neroli, created by Cecile Krakower, is part of The Cologne Absolue collection and as such has all the splashy beginnings of the best cologne. It has sharp and brightly bitter notes of bergamot and petitgrain (also derived from the orange tree) which sparkle and fizz upon the skin during its opening moments. Deeper beneath are stirrings of galbanum, oakmoss and birch, which emphasises the perfumes’ shady green character. When the neroli arrives it is like a ray of sunlight, casting the shadows into sharper contrast and dominating the rest of the development. I love the razor edge that cuts through any sweetness here, how the scent only alludes to the sugary qualities citruses can have, rather than dissolving into orange soda after ten minutes. This is not a floral arrangement of neroli. Rather Grand Neroli is a portrait of bitter fruits and crisp leaves, chopped upon a wooden board in the morning sun. The flowers stand in a vase nearby, fluttering white petals in the gentle breeze.

Neroli Blanc is a collection of three fragrances, based around the different qualities of bitter orange, depending on the process by which the scent is extracted. I’m head over heels for all three and I particularly enjoy the gourmand deliciousness of the Eau de Parfum Intense. However the Eau de Parfum, created by Jean Claude Gigodot, features that true neroli that I crave, alongside petitgrain and a big floral bouquet of jasmine and rose. The opening of Neroli Blanc is, for a few seconds, similar to that of Grand Neroli. The petitgrain has the same sharp, green effect in both fragrances. However very quickly Neroli Blanc becomes an altogether softer perfume, the jasmine instantly blurring crisp edges with indolic voluptuousness. There is also a far more pronounced sweetness that is reminiscent of honeycomb, a little waxy and oozing with golden nectar. A woody base of cedar and benzoin keep the scent from becoming overly floral and the neroli is truly beautiful, a superb balance of delicate blooms and bitter bark. The rose becomes pronounced as slightly dry, bringing the perfume to a close in a very different place to Grand Neroli. It is a bridal bouquet left among the hay bales at the end of the day, the grass beginning to collect dew as the evening closes in.

I don’t believe I will ever tire of the multitudinous ways in which perfumers use neroli. It is a constant journey of discovery and one that I would happily continue to explore into infinity. If you adore neroli and orange blossom as much as I do, please seek these fragrances out, you won’t be disappointed. At the cusp of springtime, what better way is there to welcome the sunshine?

A Christmas Note


2014 has been a year packed full of minor achievements. When I look back over the things I have done and how they have impacted upon my life, I realise that almost subconsciously I have been building the foundations of something. It seems as if I’ve been moving steadily forwards, even when it’s felt like I’m going backwards.

I’ve worked harder than I ever have before, but in a very different way. In the past I’ve done very long hours in retail environments, which is totally exhausting. This year I have learned that when you are working towards something for yourself, the other demands don’t just stop because you are busy. I’ve worked at the deli 30 hours a week, done a six month writing internship, written for my own blog, for two other publications and most recently for CaFleureBon. I’ve also made and sold dozens of small felted animals and tried to be the best mum I can be to our daughter. At one point I thought my mind was going to split into too many pieces and I wouldn’t be able to put it back together again. I have had to force myself to switch off sometimes.

Please understand that I don’t mention these achievements in order to brag. I am genuinely amazed at myself that I have managed to do all these things. I’d always thought that I was rather a lazy person. It turns out that when I really want something I’m quite the opposite.

If it weren’t for all the people in the perfume community and everyone who visits Epiphany to read my ramblings, I would not be at the stage I’m at now. I feel confident enough to tell people I’m a fragrance writer, which at the beginning of the year I was still struggling to do. I’m proud of myself for the first time in a very long time and I want to continue to feel this way.

So thank you, all of you, for your support and encouragement and your faith in me. You may not know the impact you have when you read a piece I have written, but let me tell you that it makes a huge impact on me. This blog doesn’t have the enormous reader views of some, I wouldn’t be able to keep that up, but the very fact that anyone comes here at all is still such a thrill for me.

Happy Christmas everyone. Let’s see what’s possible in 2015.

Love Susie x

The Architects Club- Arquiste

Architects Club

Arquiste is a fragrance house constructed around a single strong ideal. Curated by Carlos Huber, an architect specialising in historic preservation, the brand focuses upon moments in time; each perfume designed to capture an olfactory vignette, a scented snapshot from history.

My first introduction to Arquiste came in the form of The Architects Club, the newest release created in collaboration with perfumer Yann Vasnier and one that I have become most infatuated with. I’m excited to explore the whole line in more detail as this sort of perfumed storytelling greatly appeals to me. The Arquiste website describes The Architects Club in vivid strokes:

Cocktail time, March 1930, London. A group of architects gather for cocktails at Mayfair’s smartest Art Deco smoking room. As they settle in the warm interior of dark woods, leather and velvet, London’s bright young things burst in, frosted martinis in hand, surrounded by a cloud of laughter, white smoke and fine vanilla.

The note list includes Juniper berry oil, Angelica root, Lemon peel oil, Bitter Orange, Pepperwood, Guaiac wood, Oakwood, Vanilla Absolute and Amber. 

Sometimes I find that living with a fragrance for a while can change my understanding of it. I’ve been tempted to sit down and write about The Architects Club ever since I received the sample but for some reason I’ve been holding the words back. I now realise that whatever I might have chosen to write two months ago would be markedly different to the description I’m now contemplating. The weather has turned wintry and the perfume has different qualities in the chill gloom of late autumn, ones that I feel suit it better.

The scent begins it’s life in a tall glass of juniper, tumbled with ice and lemon wedges. The top notes do not sparkle as many cocktail citruses can; it’s not a fizzy, alcoholic sensation but one of clarity and brightness; of polished bar tops and buffed-­up brass. It’s a smooth, hushed opening of leather shoes whispering over velvet carpets and the genteel tinkling of iced tumblers.

This smooth, bright beginning brings warmth into the room with it from amber and vanilla, which both sit down comfortably at the bar alongside that chilly juniper. Citrus and sweetness are a winning combination in my book, yet here it should be stressed that there is not a hint of lemon meringue. Incredibly elegant soufflé maybe, light as air and only for grownups. The Architects Club does sweeten swiftly onto the skin but amber does an excellent job of evoking fireside warmth and flushed cheeks, as apposed to a more gourmand effect.

It’s the woody qualities of the perfume that I have found to be most disparate now the winter has arrived. During the late summer months, The Architects Club became a vanilla haze with gentle touches of brand new leather. I believe I likened it to a heavenly cloud, one to float through the day on in fluffy comfort. The chilled temperature of my skin has now slowed the development of the fragrance right down, only reaching the fluffy cloud in the dying stages. There is a whole new phase of the perfume appearing, one which is all about smoke and dark wood. I love the amber and vanilla together, gold and orange with a green citrus trail. Those woods are deep and polished and impregnated with the smoke of a thousand cigars. One can almost imagine beaded gowns, twinkling in the firelight, brushing against velvet seat covers and gentleman’s leather gloves.

The Architects Club is mightily restrained for a fragrance featuring the exuberant and raucous glamour of 1930’s youth. However we must remember that Carlos Huber is first and for most an architect himself. The perfume isn’t about people, it’s about place. Art Deco design is bold, clean and still, yet opulent and inviting. The Architects Club is an accurate rendering of this in olfactory form, if that’s how you choose to think about it as you wear it. In the warmer weather this conceptual imagery was somewhat lost on me, I felt more as if I was enveloped in a whipped mist of fuzzy yellow. Now I’m enjoying the depths of the scent so much more; the amber and woods glow and the juniper and bitter citrus seem in sharper, cooler contrast.

The Architects Club is a delightful fragrance whatever the weather, but for me it is a perfume for colder days and a slightly introspective mood. It’s a subtle piece of work that needs a little time to express it’s full intent. Thank goodness I have a large sample, I wouldn’t want to be without this at the moment.