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.

Entertaining Statistics: August, 2012

 

August was nice: we had several hot days and the rest of the month was on the cooler side. But perfume wear/test-wise it was a strange month for me: as I was trying to figure out if perfumes contributed to my persistent cough (I think they didn’t) I took a break from any perfumes for a while; in addition to that, at least several perfumes I wore during the month had such staying power that testing anything else the same day was out of question. As a result, I both tested and wore fewer perfumes.

So I decided to entertain you with another type of statistics data.

Do you remember the fun question Birgit of Olfactoria’s Travels asked last year: Guerlain or Chanel? and the results we compiled? So when last Monday Birgit asked to choose ten “deserted island perfumes”, I got curious to see if answers to this question correlated to the previous results. But when I started I couldn’t stop just there.

Stats August 2012

Our deserted island will be populated by at least 45 perfumistas, though there was some dissension as to the climate choice: concerns were voiced that not all favorite perfumes were tropic-friendly.

Future settlers named 310 unique perfumes from 91 brands (when a concentration or vintage were mentioned I counted perfumes as unique). See the chart above for the total number of selected perfumes for top 15 brands.

Two most popular perfumes were Guerlain Shalimar and Frederic Malle Carnal Flower11 voices each; Chanel No 5 got 6 votes (including one for parfum); Amouage Lyric, Chanel Coromandel, Lancome Cuir de Lancome, Serge Lutens Ambre Sultan and Chanel No 19 (counting EdP, EdT, parfum and vintage) got 5 voices each. 79 perfumes were named by more than one perfumista. It means that we’ll have 231 unrepeated perfumes to enjoy ourselves or swap – not bad for a group of 45.

Only 4 out of 10 perfumes on my list were unique (Climat by Lancôme, Tiempe Passate by Antonia’s Flowers, Vert pour Madame by DSH Perfumes and Sweet Milk by Jo Malone). Only Chanel No 19 though was among the most popular selections. The other five were on two to three people’s lists.

Deserted Island Perfumes

I wonder how good my swapping chances would be.

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)

My Blog’s First Anniversary

Most of you are probably familiar with, I’m positive a well-studied and explained, phenomenon of the time going faster as you get older. I wasn’t curious enough to look for those explanations so at some point I came up with the one that seemed logical and left it at that.

In our earlier years time is very discrete and structured: we always know which grade we are in, what semester (or quarter as it was in the country where I went to school) it is and when we’ll have the next break. Our years are distinctive in terms of classes, class-mates and teachers. And each year constitutes a significant part of our self-aware life.

As we get older, finish our education and start working full-time, our lives become more unified,  “continuous” and provide much less range poles for memory to measure against. Also a year becomes smaller and smaller relative to life lived. Small kids might improve that situation for their parents for a while but it’s still not the same and it goes away as they grow up.

First BlogoversaryI didn’t know that at the time, but starting my blog a year ago served as an antidote to that acceleration tendency (probably just a temporary one but still). My life became much more structured. I’m constantly aware of not only a month (“Is it time for a monthly stats post?”) but also dates and days of the week (“I haven’t posted since the last Tuesday” or “I’m reading a six-days-old post – Is it still Ok to comment?”).

This first year was veeery looong and really good for me. I published much more posts than I planned I would. I found much more blogo-friends than I hoped I would. And I discovered much more great perfumes than I thought I would.

I’m thankful to all my friends, supporters and enablers influencers.

Suzanne, lyu, Vanessa, Michael, Ines, Victoria, Ari, Diana, Joanne, Tara, Olga, Elisa, Thomas, Lavanya, Carol, Laurie, Meg, Krista, Asali and Christos – thank you. For reading, commenting, writing inspiring reviews and sharing perfumes. I appreciate every token of your support and value your friendship.

And now a special spotlight on my perfume godmothers:

Five Bottles

Natalie of Another Perfume Blog: as far as I know she was the first one to report on upcoming Chanel No 19 Poudre release. She kept publishing updates and impressions the topic and it resulted in My First Unsniffed Purchase. (UPD: APB is closed now)

Dee of beauty on the outside: after I won a drawing for a decant of Estee Lauder Bronze Goddess perfume on her blog, I liked it so much that I bought the last bottle at the store and then brought it with me on the trip to Hawaii – how often do you haul a FB to a vacation? (if you haven’t seen it yet, take a look at the Bronze Goddess’ picture from that trip, I think she looked great).

Birgit of Olfactoria’s Travels: she described Annick Goutal Ambre Fetiche in such a way that I just had to try it! (well, Birgit does it a lot). I got a sample (thanks to Carrie), tried it and fell in love. So now finally I have a colored Annick Goutal’s bottle in my collection.

Tarleisio of The Alembicated Genie: her beautiful writing resulted in not one but two new bottles in my collection: Serge Lutens Ambre Sultan and DSH Vert pour Madame. If you haven’t read The Incomparable Khadine and Vertesimilituda yet I dare you to do so and see if you can resist the urge to try these perfumes if you haven’t tried them yet or re-try if you have.

Mals86 of The Muse in Wooden Shoes: here I told the story about my bottle of Puredistance Antonia and what role Mals played in it.

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What else did this year of blogging give me? A complete realization of how great the climate where I live is.

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Images: my own