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A blink of an eye, snap of a finger, BANG, it’s winter. It’s way too early but it’s here, freezing and windy today. Tomorrow morning’s forecast is snow. Driving will be ugly. 

But that’s OK. I’m in an optimistic winter state-of-mind. I have Shaal-Nur by Italian design house, Etro. If I took my most favourite fragrance notes, swirled them together in a cloud and floated it past my nose, I bet I would smell Shaal-Nur.  It will keep a smile on my face for the next few months.

Etro is a family-owned haute design house started in 1968, based in Milan, Italy, which, like Prada, has come to define Italian style. Through the years the brand has become identified with their unique richly-coloured textile designs with the iconic paisley motif. Etro not only creates haute couture clothing for women and men, fashion accessories, and home decorations, but they have also curated a range of exquisite perfumes which brilliantly reflects the colour and texture, the luxury and detail found in their distinctive styles. 

Shaal Nur was released in 1997,  inspired by the female Indian ruler, Nur Jahan, “the Queen of Light”, a woman who ruled in place of her Mughal husband, Jahingir, (r. 1607 - 1628) who, preferring to seek the pleasures of drinking and hunting, left the business of the nation in his wife’s capable hands. Uniquely beautiful architecture in northern India is a result of her about her hereShaal-Nur, the fragrance is exotic but airy, enigmatic but expansive, and in its heart, glows with the gentle heat of an incense which soothes the soul. 

I love incense fragrances in the cold air of winter, and I’m definitely more partial to bright and airy rather than dark and gothic incense scents, although those have their appeal in the right moment. The scent of incense is created from a blend of notes from various groups - woody, floral, herbal, spicy, resinous – so the character of any incense scent you smell is a result of the perfumer’s creative vision. Shaal-Nur is in the bright and airy category – it’s dry and woody and floral and spicy, with subtle undertones of vanillic sweetness and a smoky darkness which give it an appealing mystery.

I absolutely love the opening. It is a synesthetic burst, a citrus rainbow of tangerine orange, lime green, lemon yellow, grapefruit pink, followed by peppery green herbs and spicy florals, like rose and karo koumande, which resembles the white florals, narcissus and jonquil. The scent feels playful and bright, with a commanding crispness that tells me there is a strong core to Shaal-Nur

And I’m right. The citrus top-notes begin to fade, and through the heart and into the dry-down the incense accord intensifies, with resins like opoponax, warm balsamic and honey-like, and distinctive cedarwood; sweet spices like nutmeg and coriander, leafy green herbals and grasses like patchouli and vetiver. In the end, a faint wash of dark vanilla and soft musk and myrrh corrals these notes into an incense that has warmth and light, is dry and inviting and so very different from the cool meditative character of Messe de Minuit, another incense fragrance from Etro listed in our Decant Store.  

Shaal-Nur is a veritable pot-pourri of notes, a perfect mix of my favourite notes, a multi-faceted fragrance that almost tricks my senses. It’s not a floral, or a woody, or a spice, or an aromatic but it reminds me of all of those types of scents. It is quite simply a vibrant uplifting warm incense, one that I’ll wear, one that anyone can wear happily during the dark cold days of winter. 

Shaal-Nur EdT is listed in our Decant Store, Decants are $5.00 for 1 ml.

Image of Shaal-Nur packaging -

Ballet shoes used by Margot Fonteyn - Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto, Ontario 

The past week has been busy – in a good way. We have had a cherished friend from London staying with us. We met when we were in our twenties, when she was a ballet dancer, and I was in publishing.It didn't take long for us to become close friends. Eventually, She settled in London, and once husbands, kids and life happened, getting together hasn't happened as often as we’d like over the years. Still, whenever and wherever we get together, it’s as though no time has passed at all.

At one point during her visit, she asked about and wondered if some sniffing was on offer. Glasses of cava in hand, we went into my office. Looking around the room, she spied a bottle of Fonteyn.

“What’s this?” she asked.

“It’s a fragrance named after Margot Fonteyn, inspired by her solo in a 1970 recording of Frederick Ashton’s Nocturne ballet," I said.

Looking at the bottle, she said, “I see it’s made by IIUVO. Never heard of them.”

“IIUVO is a young London-based fragrance brand started by Leo Gibbon and Tomi Ahmed in 2015. Leo is a musician and Tomi, worked for Comme des Garcons creative.” I said.

“London-based?” she said, exasperated. “I can’t keep up with everything going on in the fragrance world.”

“Well, that’s where I come in.” I said.

“Go on then,” she said.

“Well, I began, IIUVO comes from the Latin verb iuvo, meaning to help or assist and to gratify or delight.”

“Hmmm. What’s the connection with Fonteyn?” she asked.

“It’s here on their website,” I said, as I read aloud from the IIUVO website. “In Frederick Ashton’s Nocturne ballet, the legendary prima ballerina, Margot Fonteyn, seems to dance a beautiful solo, until the camera pans left and reveals a shadowy figure behind, for whom Fonteyn’s performance is a desperate entreaty.

When the shadowy figure finally advances into the light, Fonteyn falls to her knees in tears before him, undone. Inspired by the impulses explored by these two artists, Fonteyn is a scent of tender delicacy, laced with depravity.”

“OK. Now I’ve got to try this perfume,” she said and held out her upturned wrist to me.

And so we spritzed.

Fonteyn opens with a bright, elegant note of grapefruit alongside camphorous, herbal rosemary. Wormwood heightens the herbal greenness of the rosemary while sweet, resinous-tinged cardamom perfects the opening. The interplay among the top notes creates a charismatic and alluring start to the fragrance. The scent progresses to a heart of rose, blackcurrant buds, freesia and violet. The rose is lush and sensuous, the freesia is sweet and fruity and the violet is powdery and sophisticated. The blackcurrant buds are fruity and woody with a slightly animalic aspect, that’s the perfect foil for the flowers.  The base has so many beautiful dimensions of woodiness that comes from papyrus, moss, vetiver and Virginia cedar deepened with sweet, dark, earthy patchouli. A note of vanilla, soft and sweet balances the woods in a way that makes them more compelling then they would be on their own.

The drydown is elegant, rich and gorgeous and smells great on men and women.

“Oh, I do like this one,” she cooed.

“You knew Margot Fonteyn. What made her such a great classical ballerina? I asked.

“Well, to begin with, she had excellent technique and grace, but for me, it was her beauty and her charisma that set her apart. That gorgeous black hair. Look, I found a video of Nocturne on You Tube.”

“Let’s have a look at it.” I said.

Charismatic and beautiful – that’s Fonteyn.

Fonteyn is listed in our Decant Store. Decants are $6.00 for 1 ml.

Image from Wikimedia Commons, by Daderot, July 4, 2013



Welcome to

"She smelled the way the Taj Mahal looks by moonlight."

                                                                       Raymond Chandler

We are Gwen and Kay, two perfumistas making our scent journey in the cool, clear North.  We are also BFFs - we hang out together a lot, travel together - so we try, buy and share fragrances.

What started out as a shared interest grew into a hobby, and has now become our obsession.

We’ve spent many evenings with a glass of prosecco, a little cool jazz playing in the background, spritzing, sniffing - “How does this smell on you?” and, sadly, sometimes scrubbing.

We’ve tested and tried hundreds of samples over the years, and when we deemed a fragrance ”full bottle worthy” (FBW), one of us has tracked it down and bought it. We now own a lot of really great perfumes, and we continue to buy bottles of what we think is the best of "niche" as new scents are launched.

Also, we include many perfume "classics" that are the foundations of modern perfumery - like Shalimar, Chanel No.5, Eau Sauvage - plus other perfume "gems" that have been discontinued, or were ahead of their time when launched but now fit perfectly in the Niche category. 

With so many exciting discoveries, we can’t help but talk about our passion with other friends. Wherever we go, people ask “What is that perfume you’re wearing? Where can I get that?” So we end up sharing a bit of our “juice” with friends. But the circle has grown, so we've started this website to let others buy and try samples from our collections and experience the fragrant beauty we write about.


We blog

We blog once a week and post a story about a scent from our collections, and add it to our Decant Store. We're not scent critics, so these aren't negative reviews. We love all our fragrances  - that’s why we bought them! But we describe how we think they smell, and share our stories about why we love them - maybe you’ll rediscover an old flame, or fall in love with a new scent.

Or we post conversations about whatever has grabbed our attention recently. Or we write about a specific perfume note,  and offer a Decant Pack, which allows you to explore new territory by trying 3 or 4 fragrances in a special pack at a special discount price.

We sell

We sell 1 ml. decants - .7 ml volume once you allow for the stopper in the vial - filled from our own bottles in our collection because the only way to experience a fragrance is to try it on your own skin. We take the fragrance from its original bottle and decant it into a smaller brand-new, 1 ml sterilized glass vials so that you can try it on your skin to see if you like it.

Through our Decant Store you'll have access to some of the world’s greatest niche scents, hard-to-find fragrances, and classic favourites. 

When you click on the Decant Store tab you’ll find our personal descriptions of each of the fragrances we currently offer from our collection, then you can add them to your Shopping Cart.

Let's be clear (this is a disclaimer!!)

  • We don’t sell full bottles of any fragrance - just .7ml decants. We only sell decants  from the perfumes we've bought.... because we love them.
  • We don't re-sell manufacturers samples.
  • We don’t represent any perfumers or distributors, so we don’t have every scent from a whole line of perfume.
  • We aren’t being paid to promote any product or scent.

If, after sampling a fragrance, you decide that you must have it, i.e. it is FBW (full bottle worthy), and you can’t find it, e-mail us and we will direct you to the best source we know – retail store or online source.

We provide

A place for you to learn about scent, and to share your fragrance experience with others. Click on the section called Resources, under My Perfume Notes (see top right), where  you'll find a Glossary, and fragrance FAQs. You'll also find two great tools we've created - Handmaps and My Sample Perfume Notes - so you can keep track of, and record your own scent experiences.
We hope you enjoy, and visit us often. Leave your preconceptions behind, look around, see what’s on offer, read the Blog, share your experiences and discoveries, and join the circle.

It’s just us.