The wonder of big cities is that each person makes it their own. The tourist, the foreign student, the immigrant, the born-and-raised—and the city is a bit of all the experiences.
London by Gallivant was a perfume that I really wanted to love. It’s described as an interpretation of some of the “uncelebrated” parts of the British capital near and dear to my heart, not your typical touristy view. Like other Gallivant perfumes, it comes in a box with a map of the city on it. To boot, it was a finalist for the Art and Olfaction Awards in 2018.
I requested a sample with a purchase of Mariage Frères vanilla rooibos tea from Luckyscent’s website and waited a few days.
According to Gallivant, the notes are:
- cucumber, violet leaves
- rose de mai absolute, rose oil, orris root
- suede, leather, sandalwood, patchouli, cedarwood
The opening of London is fresh and green, true to the cucumber note, and brought back youthful memories of high-street shopping—or, most often, window shopping on the high street. It’s the smell of relatively new independence conjoined with a knack for making the most out of things while not having money. It’s the quintessential cloudy day with “earthy lush wetness” in tow, as promised by the brand.
My other half had recently discovered an olfactory association by first wondering why the toiletries in a particular hotel all vaguely smelled like cigarette smoke, and then finding out that they were scented of cucumber.
As the day wore on, the cucumber in London intensified, helped along by heavier notes I couldn’t isolate, to form exactly this effect. It wasn’t until several hours later that my nose started turning to the rose notes—a tea-like, withering-petaled bouquet. This could easily be a hand soap or body wash used in a grittier part of London. The leather jacket was more of an inferred item based on the diluted smoke and slightly soapy elements against a backdrop of dampness that you just get used to.
I tried it again another day, and this time, the rose facets were apparent right away. Still tea-like and crisp, reminiscent of a confident young person dressed for chic comfort walking into a familiar shop on a day when it’s a bit chilly outside. The way the coolness tends to cling to the hair. Again, it never quite revealed the blatant leathery or woody notes for me.
My perception of this perfume is handicapped by my nose not being well-trained enough to separate some of the base notes and my brain being biased by my expectations of a “London” perfume based on the description. (My own London—quite different—is a mosaic of the grittiness of the East End before it became hip, the unattainability of the West End, and the maze of all the colorful juxtapositions of new and old that Zone 1 had to offer. One day, maybe… my London can be expressed in a perfume.)
(OK, this image isn’t journalistic of my experience of London, but I love the vibrancy of it.)
Gallivant’s London is a nice pick-me-upper for sure, and maintains the brightness throughout its wear. Just when you need a break from walking through several lesser-trafficked neighborhoods, the darker facets invite you to have a seat, but not get too comfortable.