In the Search for the Perfect Carnation

 

Through my childhood carnation was considered an official flower. Probably because of their resilience and color (red – the color of the 1917 Revolution, the anniversary of which was just a couple of days ago) carnation bouquets were traditionally brought to monuments of political leaders, used in decorating official gatherings and as funeral flowers. People were buying them for personal use as well but they always had a little stigma about them being too official and not personal enough. I remember one patriotic song’s refrain:

Red carnation is a troubled times companion;
Red carnation is our flower!

I didn’t dislike carnations but wasn’t too fond of them either. Those still were flowers, which meant better than no flowers at all, but not the first… let’s say five choices.

Soviet October Revolution Postcard

I have to mention also that the art of making real bouquets – as the opposite to just putting several stems in a bunch – didn’t come to the country where I grew up until I was well into my adulthood. Just so that you could feel the depth of it: I got married holding a cellophane cone with a bunch of (extremely expensive!) long-stemmed roses. And that was how it was done back then; it wasn’t some eccentricity on my part.

My perception of carnation had changed on my wedding day. In lieu of flower decorations it was customary for guests to bring flowers as a gift to the bride. There were many bundles of flowers, mostly roses. Some relatives brought me a huge bouquet of white carnations with greenery. It wasn’t done for me. They did it because they were very wealthy and wanted to stand out in the crowd (can you tell how I feel about them?). But regardless of their intentions they impressed me: it was one of the most beautiful bouquets I’d seen by then. And because of the mentioned above natural resilience of carnation that white-green composition well outlived all the roses we hauled home after the celebration. The bouquet below is just an illustration, “my” was three times bigger and even more beautiful.

Carnations Bouquet

Carnation isn’t the most popular note in perfumes. There are not that many soliflores or carnation-centered perfumes. I wasn’t really looking for the perfect carnation scent but I tested those that came my way.

Vitriol d’oeillet by Serge Lutens – created in 2011 by Christopher Shedrake, notes include clove, pepper, carnation, Gillyflower, woody notes, powdery notes and sweet notes. I won a decant of Vitriol d’oeillet in a giveaway on Ines’ blog (All I am – a redhead). Carnation – check! Woody notes – check! Sweet notes (whatever it means) – check. Altogether… it’s a nice and calm (despite the name) carnation perfume that I wish had a better longevity. I like it and wear sometimes but I do not see myself going beyond a bigger decant that I bought recently.

Terracotta Voile d’Ete by Guerlain – created in 1999 by Jean-Paul Guerlain and Mathilde Laurent, notes include bergamot, jasmine, mint, carnation, heliotrope, lily, pear, rose, iris root, vanilla and ylang-ylang. Lovely Tara (Olfactoria’s Travels) sent me a generous sample of this perfume. Terracotta Voile d’Ete is a warm and spicy perfume with a prominent carnation note. It’s not as transparent as Vitriol d’oeillet and has a much better tenacity. I like it as a scent but I’m not sure if I want to wear this perfume.

Eau Eternelle by Poncet – created in 2011, notes include grapefruit, jasmine, lemon, mandarin, petit grain, carnation, lavender, pink lotus, rosemary, water lily, clove, guaiac wood, moss, patchouli and sandalwood. Eau Eternelle is one of those perfumes with which I feel puzzled comparing the notes list to what I smell. The first second after the application I smell an interesting floral burst but really for just a second. Then – a relatively boring scent. Some lily, some carnation… It’s never unpleasant, just completely unremarkable and not memorable. Did it really require all those ingredients to create this?!

Oeillets Rouge by DSH Perfumes - created by Dawn Spencer Hurwitz, notes include bergamot, green peppercorn, nutmeg, beeswax, carnation, amber, ambergris, myrrh and vanilla. My sample came from Joanne (Redolent of Spices). Oeillets Rouge is a very believable carnation scent. I liked it when I tested it first but now it smells to me as a prototype, a pencil draw for the perfume I describe next.

Euphorisme d’Opium by DSH Perfumes  - created in 2012 by Dawn Spencer Hurwitz as a part of the Tribute to YSL collection, notes include aldehydes, bay leaf, bitter orange, mandarin, peach, pimento, pink pepper, Bulgarian rose, carnation, cinnamon, clove, amber, Atlas cedarwood, benzoin (styrax), civet, incense, Indian patchouli, musk, myrrh and vanilla. Don’t let that plethora of notes confuse you: this is a carnation-centered perfume. Too bad that “pissed-off carnation” name had been already taken: in my opinion, it would have suited this fragrance much better than Serge Lutens’ one. I sample it from a dab vial sent to me by the perfumer and thought it was a very powerful perfume. I’m not sure I could stand it sprayed – this is how intense it is. I’m still testing Euphorisme d’Opium trying to figure out if I should go for a bottle of it – while it’s still available.

I tried Bellodgia by Caron but either my sample is too… vintage or my nose isn’t trained enough but I’m not getting a carnation from it.

Carnations

Do you like carnations?

 

Images: not a single one is mine, I found them all through a search engine but I can’t find proper attribution.

In the Search for the Perfect Linden, Take 2

 

I’m not much of a spontaneous person, if you haven’t noticed yet. I try to plan most things in my life. It gives me the feeling of comfort and control. But, as with many other things we crave because we do not have them – straight/curly hair, lighter/darker skin, etc., from time to time I wish I would do something on an impulse, without going through every detail in my head first.

My vSO is even less spur-of-the-moment man. So when a couple of weekends ago he told me: “Let’s go to Santa Cruz mountain wineries!” in less than an hour we were on our way there.

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I just couldn’t pass by a small boutique named Scentsations# – a tiny soap and cosmetics shop. An older gentleman, most likely an owner, peeked over the newspaper he was reading to greet me. A usual small shop small talk (as I keep sniffing different soaps):

- It’s a nice day. What are you doing today?
- Yeah, it is. We’re here for the wine tasting.
- Are you even old enough to drink?
- (I laugh: I know I’m old enough to have a kid of a drinking age but since he’s old enough to be my father I do not feel bad about his obvious flattery) Thank you, I appreciate it.
- Where are you from?
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(my habitual answer to such questions) I live in the Bay Area, my accent is from…
- I thought so. You should try this one…

He hands me a bar of soap. It is tender green and smells of linden. On the paper wrap it says “Tilleul” and “Made in France”. How could I not buy it?

Linden Soap And Rusty

In my last year post I told the story behind my affection towards linden blossom and reviewed briefly perfumes that I tried while looking for the perfect linden-centric perfume: French Lime Blossom by Jo Malone, Linden by Demeter, Tilleul by Provence Sante and Zeta by Tauer Perfumes. I didn’t find the perfect perfume then so I kept looking.

Waltz No. 14 by Tokyo Milk – notes include linden, honeyed rose, wisteria petals and white musk. To my nose it’s a bitter green scent. I can smell what is supposed to be a linden note (it’s not a bad representation of linden if smelled alone without comparing to other takes on the same scent). I do not smell rose in Waltz – honeyed or otherwise. It’s nice and crisp on my skin for the first 10-15 minutes but then gets a little soapy for a while. Like most Tokyo Milk’s perfumes that I tried it doesn’t stay for too long. The sample sent me by Victoria of EauMG (thank you!) will stay in my scents library. Read her real review for Waltz.

Tilleuls au Vent by L’Artisan Parfumeur isn’t really a perfume, it’s a room spray but it usually doesn’t stop a real perfumista in the search for a perfect scent (thank you to Vanessa of Bonkers about Perfume for sending me this sample). What can I say? It’s a room spray. Tilleuls au Vent is a very pleasant scent but it’s too single-dimensional and lacks depth.

La chasse aux Papillons by L’Artisan Parfumeur – created by Anne Flipo in 1999, notes include linden blossom, lemon tree blossom, orange blossom, jasmine and tuberose. I tested it for several times and even though I couldn’t smell too much linden in it, I enjoyed the scent. And then I read Victoria’s (EauMGreview for La chasse aux Papillons and now I cannot help smelling in it tuberose to which I didn’t pay attention before. I do not like tuberose and now it haunts me in this perfume. I’ll try to test it again in a while but for now a sample in my scent library is all I need.

Linden Soap And Rusty

Unter den Linden by April Aromatics – created by Tanja Bochnig in 2012, notes include linden blossom, mimosa, frangipani, honey extract, bergamot and gardenia. I haven’t heard about this brand until I read Asali’s (All I am – a redhead) beautiful review for Unter den Linden. Asali was very generous and sent me a sample. I’m very grateful to her but I’m not sure if I’m glad that I’ve got to try it. It’s a very pretty perfume and I take back my original impression that Unter den Linden smelled like a more lemon-y version on one of my favorites Jo Malone’s French Lime Blossom. Unter den Linden is lighter, more refined and blended more seamlessly than French Lime Blossom (I still like the latter though). What makes me unhappy is the price: however beautiful, this perfume isn’t unique enough or using really expensive and rare ingredients to justify to me $7/ml price for EdP. But if it weren’t for that I’d love to add a bottle of Unter den Linden to my collection. I still might.

Honey Blossom by Aftelier Perfumes – created by Mandy Aftel in 2010, notes include linden blossom, orange blossom, ambergris and benzoin. It is not a linden perfume. For my nose it’s a very sweet honeyed floral bouquet, warm and soothing scent. I like smelling it from my wrist but I do not want to wear it as a perfume. It makes a perfect sleep scent for me though. So once my small parfum sample that I’ve got from Mandy via Natalie (Another Perfume Blog) – thank you both – is gone I’ll probably buy the next one. For a real review read Victoria’s (Bois de Jasmin) Aftelier Honey Blossom : Natural Fragrance Review.

Ma Plus Belle Histoire d’Amour by DSH Perfumes – created by Dawn Spencer Hurwitz in 2012 for the YSL Retrospective Collection, notes include bergamot, lemon, ozone, Bulgarian rose absolute, Dossinia orchid, French linden blossom (accord), honeysuckle, linden blossom absolute, lily of the valley, sambac jasmine, wisteria, ylang ylang, Australian sandalwood, civet, East Indian patchouli, musk and vanilla. This perfume got me by surprise: it was the last perfume in the collection and I didn’t expect it to be a linden scent. I like it. Will Ma Plus Belle Histoire d’Amour become a full bottle in my collection once I’m done with the sample sent to me by Dawn (thank you!)? I don’t know yet.

Linden Soap And Rusty

I still can’t say that I found the perfect linden perfume but I will suspend my search until I get a chance to smell a real blossoming linden tree to re-acquaint myself with the aroma of my youth. On my recent trip to Baltimore I saw those pre-bloom linden trees and almost cried – two more weeks and I could have smelled something I hadn’t smelled in 15 years. Maybe next year…

If you are looking for a linden-centric perfume definitely give a try to Unter den Linden and Ma Plus Belle Histoire d’Amour and judge for yourself. You might just fall in love.

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# Address for Scentsations: 402 Ingalls Street, Santa Cruz, CA 95060, (831) 423-8900

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Images: my own

In the Search for the Perfect Lily of the Valley

 

I grew up with May Day being an International Workers Day. Even though it was a holiday, it was an official holiday and people were required to participate in parades officially held in all major cities and translated by all TV stations. In my city, I remember, all traffic would be blocked for those demonstrations in the downtown area from early morning and until 2-3 p.m. My room’s window was facing one of the major streets and I would be woken up by music, megaphone announcements and other human noises. And then, for hours, non-stopping streams of people with flags, banners, balloons and artificial flowers would flow by my window toward the main city square. As a child I liked that holiday: it was a real beginning of the spring, we would get two days off school, kids weren’t a part of those demonstrations (unless their parents took them to their groups formed by places of work) but it was festive, different from regular weekends and there always was something interesting to do during or after the main event (like shooting balloons with a slingshot, for example).

Lily of the valley

I haven’t been not only celebrating but even acknowledging this holiday for many-many years and this year with everything going on under the sign of this day I’d be even less inclined to feel any nostalgia towards May Day if it weren’t for my hobby. Starting last year, when I read about it for the first time, I chose to associate this day with a beautiful French tradition of giving bouquets of lily of the valley.

I’m fascinated by this flower. I’ve always been. It looks fragile and lusty at the same time as if those tiny flowers were carved out of a very white ivory and carefully placed against a backdrop of flat wide leaves. And I love a very distinct lily of the valley aroma unmistakable with any other.

For a while I was collecting samples of perfumes built around this beautiful flower and testing them for this post in my Single Note Exploration series. Then I was struggling with a horde of lemmings born after I read an announcement about this year’s limited edition bottle of Muguet by Guerlein. How cool would it have been to make a picture of that gorgeous bottle for the post about lily of the valley note in perfumery?! It wasn’t easy but I won with the moral support from Victoria (Bois de Jasmine) and Natalie (Another Perfume Blog) despite Tara’s subversive actions! Instead I bought the last in the store pot with lily of the valley and took pictures of my very photogenic cat Rusty playing with it.

Rusty & lily of the valley

That was a hell of a preamble. But don’t worry: since I’m not doing real reviews I’ll try to be laconic. I’ll skip usual “created by” and notes lists since most of these are well-known perfumes.

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All perfumes I tested can be divided into three categories: Lily of the Valley I didn’t Like, Lily of the Valley I couldn’t Smell and Lily of the Valley I Loved.

Lily of the Valley I didn’t Like

Muguet Blanc by Van Cleef & Arpels – I smell an apple in it even though it’s not mention in notes. An artificial apple. It’s wrong. On paper I remember it being more lily-of-the-valley-y but on my skin it smells rather unpleasant in the first 45 minutes even though I think I recognize the scent of the flower. For my nose Muguet Blanc smells of a cheap synthetic lily of the valley air freshener brought in the room full of not just wilting but decaying in water floral bouquets. Then the freshener wins.  In 2 hours it’s a perfectly nice scent on my skin. I’m not sure I’ll ever finish my sample.

Le Muguet by Annick Goutal – in general, it’s nice, slightly more perfume-y than other believable lily of the valley renderings but still very recognizable. Le Muguet has some sweetness but it’s not overly sweet to my nose. Unfortunately, during one of three testing I got some plastic-y note. It might be my skin reaction but understanding that doesn’t make Le Muguet more wearable for me. I will give my sample another try but I do not see this perfume joining my collection in any form after that. You should try Le Muguet since it might behave differently on you (and if it does it smells really nice and natural).

Idylle by Guerlain – for the first couple of times when I tested it (a year ago) I was sure it was a rose scent. And then one day my nose picked out a prominent lily of the valley note. Since then I always think of Idylle as of a lily of the valley perfume. When tried in parallel with the other perfumes that are closer to being a soliflore Idylle feels more complex, more perfume-like and less lily-of-the-valley-centric creation than the rest perfumes I tested. I do not think Idylle is bad, it’s just not special enough for me to go beyond the sample I have (if even that).

Rusty & lily of the valley

Lily of the Valley I couldn’t Smell

When I read about Andy Tauer’s lily of the valley perfume I was very excited. There are just several Andy’s perfumes that work for me but I thought: how bad can it be if a talented perfumer creates a perfume with one of my favorite floral note in the middle of the composition? Well…

Carillon pour un ange by Tauer Perfumes – I smell pollen, a lot of sweetness and, I think, some mimosa. It has a great tenacity and I think it’s a very nice, very masterfully created perfume. But I couldn’t smell lily of the valley in it at all! I was so upset when I tried Carillon pour un ange for the first two times, I felt so cheated that I gave away my sample.

It wasn’t until several months later when, after trying DSH’s Muguet de Mai Perfume and Muguet Cologne, I realized that while I couldn’t smell lily of the valley in there either it seemed to me that both Andy and Dawn smelled (tried to re-create?) the same flower. Muguet de Mai starts very lemon-y plus some earth note. Muguet Cologne starts earthy and then turns into more floral composition… Both without much lily of the valley how I know it. I got another sample of Carillon pour un ange just to confirm my impression. And I can tell that though these three are completely different perfumes I smell more in common between them than between any one of them and lily of the valley. Compared to the real flower (I think I spent hours doing that for all perfumes I tested for this post) I kind of “see” the idea but all three don’t smell as lily of the valley to me. It should be my nose, right? Samples will stay in my scents reference library.

Diorissimo

Lily of the Valley I Loved

For the First of May this year I wore Diorissimo by Dior. I own a bottle of the current EdT and a vintage mini that has problems with top notes but then it’s fine. Diorissimo is so nice and spring-like!  I do not love it but I like it enough to enjoy wearing from time to time. Even though Diorissimo has a prominent lily of the valley accord I do not think of it as of a soliflore. When I wear it I wear a perfume. But only when I smelled Diorissimo together with the real flower I realized how close they were. I always knew that Diorissimo was an iconic lily of the valley perfume; I wore it knowing it smelled of lily of the valley but I’ve never realized how much it smelled like lily of the valley. Wow.

Muguet by Guerlain – is a fresh and very… clear scent – not in the sense “airy” but rather “without impurities” like a diamond or “not distorted” as in “clear sound”. As I’ve mentioned earlier, I fought off the urge to buy a full bottle of this perfume but I’m amazed at how much I liked it and how true it is to the real lily of the valley. I get everything – sweetness of the flowers, greenness of the leaves, general warmth of the scent. The only component that isn’t there is earthiness but I do not miss it, I’m fine with the pure floral part of the plant. I want a full bottle but will have to settle for a small decant of Muguet if I can find it. It’s so beautiful!

Lily of the Valley by Penhaligon’s – I like it a lot. It’s bright, warm and very realistic. I’m not too familiar with this brand, I’ve tested just a few of their perfumes and I haven’t formed any opinion about the house yet. It was the last perfume I tested for this episode and I think I didn’t expect it to be as good as it proved to be. I suspect that I like Muguet slightly better not even because it’s Guerlain but because I loved the bottle and all that “one day only” marketing BS (sorry, Guerlain, I start liking you more and more but this February Muguet 2011 was still available at the boutique). But I’m not sure if in a blind sniffing I would be able to tell them apart. I plan to add a mini bottle of Penhaligon’s Lily of the Valley to my collection.

I read a rumor some time ago that Frederic Malle had a plan to add a lily-of-the-valley-centric perfume into their line-up. If it happens I will definitely try it. Other than that I do not plan on actively seeking any more perfumes with that note being a dominant one.

Rusty & lily of the valley

How about you? Do you like lily of the valley – as a flower or a perfume note? Do you wear it? And, what I’m mostly interested in, if you tried perfumes from my Lily of the Valley I couldn’t Smell category, did you smell lily of the valley in them?

 

Images: my own (I hope there was enough of them to compensate for the long story)

In the Search for the Perfect Mimosa, Take 2

 

“She was carrying repulsive, alarming yellow flowers in her hand. Devil knows what they’re called, but for some reason they’re the first to appear in Moscow. And these flowers stood out clearly against her black spring coat. She was carrying yellow flowers! Not a nice colour.”
M.Bulgakov, The Master and Margarita

 

Last March I tested several perfumes with a dominant mimosa note in them. I tried Amarige Mimosa 2007 by Givenchy, Mimosa by Calypso Christiane Celle, Mimosa pour Moi by L’Artisan Parfumeur, Le Mimosa by Annick Goutal, Library Collection Opus III by Amouage. I didn’t find the perfect mimosa and stopped looking for a while.

Half a year later I got a vial of mimosa absolute as a part of Laurie Erikson’s (Sonoma Scent Studio) Nostalgie testing. That was when I started questioning my memory of the scent. Mimosa absolute didn’t smell the way I remembered real mimosa blooming branches did. To my nose mimosa absolute smelled flat, single-dimensional and dusty.

Mimosa

There are several mimosa trees not too far from where I live. I was driving by them all February long planning to stop one day and smell real flowers. Ten minutes drive plus two minutes walk and I could smell all the mimosa I wanted… Mid March I realized that I almost missed it. I drove there, walked to the tree, reached the branch, pulled it to my face, inhaled… and had to admit that I waited for too long. Flowers were still there, I could see and touch them but the scent was almost gone. Despite my vSO’s protests I snapped off a twig and pressed it against my nose.  There was a faintest scent of mimosa flowers mixed with the smell of greenery and a twig itself. I could barely smell mimosa itself but it helped me to figure out why both mimosa absolute and many perfumes with mimosa smelled “wrong” to me: mimosa from my childhood was a full tree experience, not just flowers on their own.

I tested several more perfumes with a prominent mimosa note. I think now I can appreciate better the more complex compositions that feature mimosa but go beyond being a soliflore.

Une Fleur de Cassie by Frederic Malle – created by Dominique Ropion in 2000, notes include mimosa absolute, jasmine absolute, cassie absolute, rose absolute, carnation, vanilla and sandalwood. I think I like it but it’s not an airy floral perfume: I smell something heavy, grounded and substantial. I’m half way through the official sample and still don’t know if I need a travel bottle of it in my collection. If you need information, read Victoria’s precise and very descriptive review. If you need an inspiration you just cannot miss Suzanne’s captivating piece.

Mimosa by DSH Perfumes – created by Dawn Spencer Hurwitz, notes include acacia, broom, cassie, French linden blossom, mimosa, iris, sandalwood, tonka bean and vanilla. I can’t find it any longer on the DSH Perfumes’ site so I’m not sure if it’s still in production. I think it’s a pleasant but not distinct enough scent. One of those perfumes that you pick up on the spur of the moment from a boutique during your vacation in a small town by the sea, enjoy wearing it while it lasts and keep a warm memory of it once it’s gone.

Tiaré Mimosa by Guerlain – created in 2009, a part of Aqua Allegoria collection, notes include lemon, pink pepper, tiare, mimosa, musk and vanilla. Warum was kind to send me a sample of it when I was on my quest for a new Guerlain love. I liked the nice combination of citrus and flower notes and even contemplated skipping all the wish list’s lines for an affordable bottle of this perfume… but then I got to test the perfume I’ll describe next…  and I do not want Tiare Mimosa any more.

Champs Elysées Parfum by Guerlain – (re)created by Jacques Guerlain and Jean-Paul Guerlain in 1996, notes include peach, melon, violet, anise, mimosa, rose, peony, lily of the valley, vanilla, benzoin, cedarwood and sandalwood. I told the story of me falling in and then out of love with Champs Elysees. Recently I decided to try it again. I wore Champs Elysees in two concentrations – EdT and parfum. For my nose they are very similar but I like parfum a little more – it’s smoother and more blended. I think I might be falling back in love with this bright, loud and cheerful perfume. Victoria (EauMG) also likes Champs Elysees.

Next year I won’t miss it! Now I know that two different types of mimosa grow close-by.

Rusty plays with mimosa

If you previously reviewed any of these perfumes please share links.

Images: my own.