Skin-Deep [Red] Chemistry

Skin chemistry is a debatable topic: purists will explain that there is absolutely no merit to using that term in reference to perfume-skin interaction; while numerous perfume lovers constantly refer to “my perfume-eating (or loving) skin,” complain about some notes or perfumes being nasty on their skin, or tell how great perfume in question smells on somebody else.

I might have listened to those who object to that definition had we been talking about a scientific publication or a presentation for the industry symposium. But “skin chemistry” is a good enough label to describe in layman’s terms the complex interactions perfumes have with our “soft outer tissue.” Our skin type (oily/dry), body temperature, foods we eat, products we use during and after shower, stress level, how well we slept and maybe even our clothes choice – all that can seriously affect how perfumes smell and develop on our skin, and I don’t think it really matters what is the exact nature of those differences.

Every time I read about perfume something that seriously contradicts my experience with it, I start wondering if it’s my nose or my skin to blame. I know that with different ingredients it might be either, but I had at least one experience when the “skin chemistry” explanation seems to be the most fitting.

Many years ago, in the office where I worked two other co-workers were also avid perfume devotees. All three of us, among many other scents, owned Hugo Boss Deep Red. And almost every time one of us was wearing it, the same dialog would ensue:

– You smell great! What are you wearing?
– Deep Red
– Really?!

It would happen in some variation again and again between any two of us, in any direction. We all liked Deep Red – both on ourselves and on each other, but we could never recognize it “in the wild.” From my side, I can tell that it didn’t smell even familiar – the way when you know that you smelled it before but cannot pinpoint what it was. Not only didn’t it smell on them like I it did on my skin, I couldn’t even tell that they both were wearing the same perfume. And back then neither my co-workers nor I had dozens of perfumes to wear or hundreds of samples. Eventually, I started guessing that it was that perfume just by recognizing the pattern of my reaction (“I like it very much, I do not know what it is but it smells really good on J… Oh, wait! It must be Deep Red again”).

 

 

Deep Red is one of a few mainstream perfumes that survived in my collection from the pre-rabbit-hole days. It is much simpler than most of my current favorites but I still like and wear it. Seven years after I mentioned it first in my post In Search for the Perfect Pear, I finished my third bottle of it (the red one on the picture above) and would have been thinking about getting the next one (hoping to find the older stock – just in case it has been reformulated beyond recognition in the recent years; I bet it was), but Vanessa (Bonkers about Perfume) had rehomed with me her partial bottle of Deep Red (limited edition, in a silver bottle). So I’m probably all set for the next seven years.

 

Rusty and Hugo Boss Deep Red

 

Has anything like that ever happened to you?

 

Images: my own

Just a reminder: You still have until 11:59 PM PST today, May 20, 2018, to enter hajusuuri’s giveaway for samples from the recent Sniffapalooza.

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Sniffapalooza: Samples, Glorious Samples

For this month’s Second Sunday Samples episode hajusuuri shares a short recap of the event she attended and gives you an opportunity to win your own mini-swag bag of fragrant goodies.

Undina

* * *

Before reading on, click on the link below, close your eyes, and listen to the beat of this 80s commercial:

 

 

What does cheese have to do with perfume? Nothing! The point is the joyful nature of the commercial jingle is how I feel about receiving scented product samples, perfume samples in particular. Imagine getting over 60 samples in one day! This is how I will always remember Sniffapalooza Spring Fling 2018.

This spring’s Sniffapalooza, held April 27-29, 2018, was quite the low-key affair, as compared with my first Sniffapalooza in 2014 (read all about it here); however, this did not diminish the delight of discovering new perfumes, revisiting old ones and meeting friends both new and old. Since my new iPhone 8 did not take very good pictures, you can see event photos at Sniffapalooza.com.

Here are some highlights of the event…and a few asides:

Sniffing at Bergdorf Goodman (BG) – While I can visit BG any day, sniffing during Sniffapalooza day feels special because the SAs seem to be more welcoming and generous. Among others, Ex-Nihilo (3 travel sprays and 8 atomizer samples) and Armani Prive (custom selected by me) were over-the-top generous. I ended up getting two shower gels from Kilian and I received the new Miami Vice sample set (Love the Way You Feel and Love the Way You Taste) and a travel spray of Gold Knight. I actually liked Woman in Gold better but they ran out of it. What’s a girl to do? I got one from eBay (thanks to the Unseen Censer’s sharp eyes) AND took advantage of a coupon and ebates special at Saks and got myself a travel spray set.

 

SniffaMay2018 By Kilian

 

Lunch at Mangia – Not quite up to the standards of Brasserie 8 1/2 across the street, but with the low attendance, the organizers could not justify booking the private dining room. In any case, the food at Mangia was good and the portions generous. My only complaint was the wait staff ran out of steam at the end and only took coffee/tea orders from a third of the group. Speaker highlights included:

  • Barbara Herman / Eris Parfums – she highlighted the gender neutral Mx., a sample of which was included in the goodie bag. No flowers were harmed in the making of Mx. It is office-friendly and, on first sniff, is likely to rise up to my FB list. I will wear my sample to see how it goes. For a review of Mx., visit Megan In Sainte Maxime.
  • Jon Bresler / Lafco New York – How closely do you read the ingredients list of your body products? If you are like me, probably not often enough. He practiced what he preached by including a 15 oz. “sample” of Lafco olive oil based liquid soap in the goodie bag. As you can see from the picture, I have already started to use it (I filled another soap dispenser with the soap). The scent I got was Mint Tisane and it has a pleasant minty smell. I am going to try the Champagne scent next.
  • Mary Ellen Lapsansky / The Perfume Plume Awards – She acknowledged the winners of the 2018 Perfumed Plume Awards announced on April 11, 2018. I encourage you to read the winners and finalists’ work and perhaps it will inspire you to write something perfume-related and/or nominate a well-written work.

 

Sniffa May 2018 BG Samples

 

Visiting the Diptyque Boutique – Located at 971 Madison Avenue, the Diptyque boutique is way uptown, between 75th and 76th Street. We were greeted with mimosas and mini cupcakes. After indulging in the refreshments, I got down to business with sniffing. I liked the newest fragrance (Tempo) enough to buy a bottle on the spot! Then I spotted 34 Boulevard Saint Germain soap and a tote bag and I bought those as well. With these purchases, I received a travel-sized spray of Fleur de Peau, 2 candles and a bunch of samples. I’m eyeing 34 Boulevard Saint Germain in Black for FB purchase but I will test the perfume on skin first before making a decision.

 

Sniffa May 2018 Diptyque

 

Cocktail Party / Antica Farmacista at Bergdorf Goodman – As often as I’ve been to BG, I have never gone beyond entering from the street level and heading down to the beauty floor at the lower level. The Decorative Home Décor 7th Floor is a visual and olfactory delight; I will spend more time there in the future, as there are many nooks and crannies to explore! As to the Cocktail Party, it was held in a nice alcove with home scents galore. The featured home fragrance was Daphne Flower, delicately scented. A special Daphne Flower cocktail1 was concocted for the occasion. I would have bought the newest product, a car diffuser, but my 4 year old car still has a new car smell, which is the best smell a car could have, in my opinion. My favorite from this line is what I am currently using at home year-round – Vanilla Bourbon Mandarin.

 

Sniffa May 2018 Samples

 

Shopping at Hermes – This was not on the itinerary but I wanted to smell the new Hermessence. There were only two available for sniffing: Agar Ebene and Cedre Sambac. The SA was uncharacteristically stingy even though I bought a bracelet, but nevertheless, I came home with said bracelet, a sample each of the two Hermessence and two each of Eau de Citron Noir and Twilly.

 

Sniffa May 2018 Hermes

 

That’s it for this edition of Sniffapalooza! To thank you for your readership, I am giving away 2 packs that include: manufacturers’ samples I received from the event, extras from other sniffing adventures AND a 5mL decant of the newest addition to my collection – Diptyque Tempo. All you have to do is leave a comment with the perfume that is on top of your To Buy List and the country where you live. Anyone in the world can enter. There will be one winner from the U.S. and one winner from the rest of the world. You have until 11:59 PM PST on May 20, 2018 to enter the draw. Neither Undina nor hajusuuri is responsible for lost packages.

 

1 Daphne Flower Cocktail: Stoli Orange Vodka, Grapefruit Liqueur and Raspberry Lime juice

 

Images: my own (hajusuuri)

Timeless Beauty

I have a friend whose hobby is to lead guided tours in San Francisco. Last weekend she invited us to join one of her tours – San Francisco Waterfront Walk. I had no idea what topic she had chosen but it didn’t matter because we went mostly for a walk itself and to spend some time with her and her husband later that day.

The tour started from The Palace of Fine Arts. It was designed by Bernard R. Maybeck and constructed for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition as a temporary structure to exhibit works of art. It was intended to last for a year or so and be torn down after the exposition was over. But the Palace was so beloved by citizens of San Francisco that it was spared the demolition. Consistent with his design concept (it was supposed to evoke the impression of a Roman ruin), Maybeck had intended that the Palace should just fall into ruin, and so it did for a long time while serving all possible purposes – housing multiple exhibitions, lighted tennis courts (1934-1942), storage of trucks and jeeps (during the WWII), limousines motor pool for the UN representatives after the war, and other odd uses. By 50s “the simulated ruin was in fact a crumbling ruin” but in 60s it was rebuilt to its current state and is being maintained since then.

 

 

From the Palace we passed the streets that replaced the exhibit halls in the years that followed the exposition. We went by beautiful Art Deco buildings, through blooming jasmine, lilacs and irises, all the way to the Marina from where you can see one of the world’s largest examples of the Art Deco style – the Golden Gate Bridge on the left and Alcatraz Island on the right.

 

Up the hill, through the park and Fort Mason Community Garden, to the Haskell House and back down to the shore. It was a wonderful 3-hour walk on a sunny, breezy and, surprisingly for San Francisco, clear day.

What perfume does one choose for such tour?

 

Paris, 1926. ‘Art deco’ is all the rage, exoticism fascinates, and jazz stirs passions. People dream of faraway lands and precious woods. Once again, Coco Chanel shakes up the history of perfume by launching the first woody fragrance for women. An intoxicating, enveloping, warm, sensual, spiraling scent. It’s all there: the precious woods, the opiate scents and magnificent, languid flowers. The fragrance is a mysterious, faraway continent in itself.

 

That is an old quote from Chanel’s website. They’ve changed the description at least a couple of times over the last several years (I wonder if it coincided with reformulations) but you have probably guessed already that I chose Bois des Iles as my Waterfront Walk perfume. Since I didn’t know any details of that walk in advance, my perfume choice was just a serendipitous one. But it felt just right – airy, with a whiff of lilacs, jasmine, iris and rose, warm, slightly sweet and woody. Same as The Palace of Fine Arts and the Golden Gate Bridge, this beauty has survived all the years and reconstructions and is still mesmerizing and awe-inspiring.

Chanel Bois des Iles

 

Images: my own

Too Special to Enjoy … Ever?

Recently I read an article in NY Times “Aging Parents With Lots of Stuff, and Children Who Don’t Want It

As baby boomers grow older, the volume of unwanted keepsakes and family heirlooms is poised to grow — along with the number of delicate conversations about what to do with them. […] As […] older adults start moving to smaller dwellings, assisted living facilities or retirement homes, they and their kin will have to part with household possessions that the heirs simply don’t want.

This reminded me of how things were in my childhood.

I suspect that life was better in large cities than in more provincial towns or rural areas, but I can speak only about what I saw or experienced: I lived in a large city.

There wasn’t poverty around: you could buy food, clothes and other products one needed for the day-to-day life. But almost everything was not of the best quality, and even that you had to “procure” – spending hours in lines to buy something, moving from one store to another in hope to catch a delivery (of very limited quantities of goods), or “knowing” people who could “get” something for you – either in exchange for favors or for extra money. Demand always exceeded supply, so everybody was on a constant hunt for something. Official prices for small items weren’t extremely high but anything bigger or better required months or even years of savings.

Because of all that, most clothes and household items were used for decades. And even when our parents or grandparents managed to obtain something newer and better, they would usually save that for special occasions or a rainy day.

Nicer china, stemware and flatware were used 2-3 times a year for very special occasions with guests while in everyday life families kept using odd items from previous decades – chipped, discolored, missing parts and their set “relatives” but still perfectly usable. But at least those “special” sets got some use. It was worse when it came to towels and bed linens: while old sets were used until you could see through them (and sometimes beyond that), the new ones stayed in dressers for decades waiting for weddings, funerals or some very important guests. So usually it was the next generation who would get to use something that stayed new for a decade or two.

 

Spoons

 

By the time I grew up, the old life came to a sudden halt: within one year inflation ate up our parents’ life savings; fresh out of university and working for a private company, I was making 5 times more than highly educated and experienced people of my parents’ generation who worked for government-owned enterprises; and goods that flooded the market were … awful if you look back from today but so much better than everything that the older generation was saving carefully hoping to pass onto us one day.

We moved to the U.S. with two suitcases leaving behind most of the things we got passed on from a couple of generations.

 

Rusty and Two Suitcases

 

Many years later, I have “dress up” clothes but my daily outfits are nice as well (because I can afford it, which wasn’t the case for many people back in my childhood years). I have special dinnerware but I try to use it more often – for evenings with friends or even for more special dinners just with my vSO.

I also have many “special occasions” perfumes. A couple of them were designated as such: since I love them very much, I prefer to wear them for celebrations. But I’m talking not about these few.

When I started my current job, I became more perfume-conscious because in a smaller office I have a couple of people who [think they] have sensitivity to perfumes. I started using less and lighter sprays but would still get (very polite) complaints from time to time.

And recently I realized that I’ve changed not only my office environment but also my perfume habits and wardrobe. For years I had “daywear” (aka “office friendly”) and “dress-up” perfumes, and I wore those according to their designations. Daywear perfumes were light, pleasant and non-intrusive while perfumes that I wore away from the office were much more dramatic. But over time I accumulated too many perfumes that I put into that latter category, since those perfumes attract me the most. And when a large part of your perfume wardrobe consists of not-so-office-friendly perfumes, you end up wearing them more and more often. So, if to think about it, it’s surprising that co-workers do not object more often.

A year or so into my trip down the rabbit hole I was concerned that my testing got out of control pushing me to test new perfumes instead of wearing those that I already had. Back then I made a resolution to wear my favorite perfumes at least three times a week. With the collection growing, I quickly came to the schedule where I would wear perfumes from my collection during work days reserving evening and weekends to testing. But now, I think, I’m ready to the next step: I decided that I will be wearing numerous “safe-for-work” perfumes to the office and will make a conscious attempt to wear my “special” perfumes in evenings and on weekends, even if I’m stuck at home doing mundane chores.

 

Guerlain Perfume Bottle

 

What special things do you own that could use … some use?

 

Images: my own (and before you ask, those are not the suitcases we arrived with; and I do not own that Guerlain bottle)

Gift that keeps on… lathering

Traditionally, before a concept of unisex perfumes appeared, or the notion that everyone can wear what they like re-emerged, perfumes were subdivided into masculine and feminine groups. In my native language, in the past, you would have never called creations for men anything other than “cologne”; while their feminine counterparts were called “parfum” (those were pre-spray-bottle times, which, as I suspect, in that country lasted longer than in the USA or some European countries).

Surprisingly, soaps – in the form we had them back then (I’ve previously shared some insights into experiences of my generation in older days so I won’t repeat it) – were strictly unisex before we even knew that term. There were some special “baby” soaps but everything else that I remember from my childhood was sexless. And even when later we were getting some coveted “imported” soaps – Palmolive or Camay – they were never thought of as feminine, and the most macho men had no issues using those fragrant soaps.

When I discovered soap for men (a German company Schwarzkopf & Henkel in 90s came up with the idea of targeting men with their products), a dark navy box with the inconspicuous name “Fa for men,” it was revolutionary! I loved that soap and bought it more than once, even though it was relatively expensive. It was marbled blue and white, and smelled wonderful though I wouldn’t be able to tell what it smelled of.

Fa Soap

They were probably before their time, so in a while it transformed into Fa Sport for Men first, then into something else (it had happened after I moved to the US, so I don’t know/remember what it was in between and cannot find since it was before mass Internet), and then into Far Energizing (the picture above shows the most recent reincarnation: both the box and the soap of  the original one were darker but this is the closest I could find).

In the US there were enough local mass-marker brands, so I completely forgot about that European brand… until many years later I smelled Caswell-Massey’s Sandalwood Soap on a Rope.

When I blind bought the first bar, I didn’t know what to expect from the scent: I was looking for soap on a rope to hang and use in the shower and liked how this one looked on the picture. Years apart, I cannot say with any certainty that Sandalwood and Fa for Men soaps smelled identical but in my scent memory they were very similar, and that made me predisposed to like Sandalwood even before I started using it.

 

Caswel-Massey Sandalwood Soap

 

Sandalwood soap surprised me: not only it perfumed my bathroom for months, felt pleasant while used and would leave a fine trace of sandalwood aroma on my skin, but it was a much better quality than I expected from that type of a product from some random brand…

Well, in my defense I should say that by the time I arrived to this country Caswell-Massey wasn’t a part of the shopping landscape any longer. But before ordering my second bar from Amazon, I decided to read about the brand. I discovered that, according to Wikipedia, the company, created in 1752, “is the first fragrance and personal care product company in America. […] is regarded as the fourth-oldest continuously operating company in America and the oldest American consumer brand in operation.”

If you’re interested, you can read more about the brand’s history from the link above, I’ll just mention that as of 2017 it was re-launched (still as a privately owned company), and they’ve re-released their perfumes and colognes line (with some “updated formula” – whatever it means).

I bought my second Sandalwood bar as a gift to myself and my vSO for Christmas 2016 – and for almost 16 months since then he’s been using it exclusively and I would rotate between this soap and several shower gels. And it still has probably another month of use in it!

 

Rusty and Soap on a Roap

 

Do you know Caswell-Massey brand? Have you tried any of their products – be that soaps, perfumes or hand creams? Have you ever used any soap on a rope?

 

Images: Fa – from the brand’s site; all others – my own

Second Sunday Samples: Parfums de Marly Meliora and Athalia

With the flood of new brands appearing every year now, it is almost impossible to even be aware of them – leave alone smell their offerings. Some brands make it to the perfume blogosphere, others stay under the radar.

I learned about Parfums de Marly not too long ago: during my visit to the Nordstrom’s flagship store in Seattle in summer of 2016 I saw this brand for the first time and even got some samples from the overly enthusiastic SA (with whom we chatted about our favorite Tom Ford’s perfumes).

After I acknowledged this brand existence, I realized that I must have seen it before in a couple of male-dominating perfume split/swap FB groups. But since other than Creed/Tom Ford/Amouage (with occasional Roja Dove and Xerjoff) rotation, the rest of what gets mentioned there are mostly designer perfumes, I think I was glazing over Parfums de Marly because their bottles reminded me of Ferrari perfumes, for which I didn’t care at all.

 

Parfums de Marly and Ferrari Perfumes

 

Of course, if you look closely, it is obvious that the quality of Parfum de Marly’s bottles is much higher. The same, I assume, goes for perfumes, though I still haven’t tried a single perfume from Ferrari.

Don’t get confused by the year on the bottles: according to Fragrantica, Parfums de Marly was created in 2009. 1743 was the year Guillaume Coustou created Chevaux de Marly (The Marley Horses), which became an inspiration for the creators of the brand. The positive side is that Parfums de Marley doesn’t claim any historical connections or secretly held through generations formulas. It’s a fantasy, a tale, a recreation of something that, even if existed, was probably completely different from what any of us can imagine.

Through its original concept, Parfums de Marly rekindles the spirit of fragrances from the splendour of the XVIIIth Century, when the finest perfumes were created for King Louis XV as a tribute of the prestigious horse races he so fervently admired.

Meliora

Two and Half Sea Stars

Created by Nathalie Lorson in 2013, Meliora opens with a believable black currant note. Does it have promised raspberry? Probably. Or some other berry that gives Meliora its sweetness and smothers tartness of black currant after the first 30 minutes. Rose, Lily, Ylang-Ylang, Vanilla, Wood and Musk are probably there since the scent is more complex than just two notes that I can smell but for me these are just a list. After black currant settles down, not much is happening with Meliora: it is surprisingly linear for the price level brand positions their perfumes. Of course, if you happen to like exactly what you smell, it might be not the worst trait.

I think I would have liked Meliora more if I haven’t found already black currant perfume that works for me better – Enchanted Forest by The Vagabond Prince. Also, I read somebody mentioning that Meliora reminded them another perfume by the same nose – Lalique Amethyst. I couldn’t check it since my sample went AWOL but I do not remember it being that black currant-y.

 

Parfums de Marly Samples

 

Athalia

Three and Half Sea Stars

Athalia was created by Alexandra Kosinski in 2016. Notes (from the brand’s site) include orange blossom, iris, amber and musk. Sometimes I wonder how brands decide what notes to mention. I have no doubts that this perfume uses aroma chemicals. But usually when you read descriptions of those, each one often sounds like a finished perfume’s description, even if it mimics specific note. So why not to use a more nuanced description? I realize that whether you like the scent is the most important part. And I rather like Athalia. But somehow $290 for 75 ml for 4 ingredients seems not right. Luckyscent thought so as well, so their list sounds more traditional: Incense, rose, bitter orange, iris, suede, orange blossom, cashmeran, amber, vanilla, vetiver.

I liked Athalia even before Luckyscent’s attempt to save graces (both the story they tell and the perfume description are much more detailed than what brand provides on their own site), but I was puzzled by the promise of orange blossom: I can’t smell it in this perfume at all. It isn’t my favorite scent but I thought that I knew it well – at least how it’s usually represented in perfumery, be that natural or artificial ingredient. In general, it’s not surprising when some notes are not recognizable on their own in perfume (especially by my nose) but it’s a little unexpected when it’s one of four officially mentioned aromas in that perfume.

Since I liked Athalia, I’ll probably try to wear it once or twice from what is left in the sample – just to make sure that I do not need it in my collection.

 

Parfums De Marly

 

Parfums de Marly’s creations remind me of Mugler’s perfumes: loud, persistent and clearly not natural (which isn’t an issue for me). I like their masculine line much more (eventually, I’ll write about some of those), but if you were to try just one perfume from the feminine collection of this brand, I think Athalia is a good choice.

 

Images: my own

Small Things That Brighten Life: Wildflowers

I can’t believe it has been more than six months since I published something in this series. It was not because nothing good was happening but somehow I would get distracted – and then some other topic would come up. So this time I decided not to wait.

One of our local parks – Edgewood Park & Natural Preserve – is known for its wild flowers. We used to go there often in different seasons but in the recent years for many reasons, none of which is a good excuse, we stopped spending time in parks. This year we remembered in time about the wildflowers season and decided it was a perfect opportunity to re-institute some of better habits.

I knew that the best time for this area is mid-late April but hoped that because of the warm winter we had and all the rain that has finally honored us with its presence in March blooming season would start earlier. It has started but it’s not in full swing yet. Nevertheless, there was a nice variety of flowers on sunny grasslands and just amazing greenery in the shade of woods. It was a well spent Easter Sunday.

 

 

When was the last time you saw wildflowers?

 

Images: my own