Second Sunday Samples: Penhaligon’s Endymion and Savoy Steam

Most of my posts on this blog are stories related to perfumes. As I keep telling brands that offer me perfumes for reviews, even if I like perfume, I might never write about it if it doesn’t have a story to tell. Usually that does the trick – they do not send samples, I do not feel guilty not writing anything about those perfumes. But I spend a lot of time testing samples that I get either from stores or from fellow perfumistas. So I decided that once a month – the second Sunday – I will do a small feature, Second Sunday Samples, in which I’ll be sharing just short impressions of perfumes I tested.

Until a couple of years ago, Penhaligon’s was a brand, about which I knew and some perfumes from which I tested but at that time there were just a couple of not too accessible stores. But then Penhaligon’s moved into my area with several boutiques. And since they are new players on the local market, they are still in the phase of being not too close-fisted with the samples.

Penhaligon's Savoy Steam and Endymion Samples

I was curious to try Savoy Steam because of Cynthia’s (The Fragrant Journey) review of this perfume. She made it sound so appealing that the SA at Penhaligon’s saw right away that I needed that sample.

Savoy Steam has just been released. I tried the EdP concentration. From what I read, the EdC version is quite different – so make sure to try both. EdP is spicy and warm. I know that there’s citrus in it but it’s lost on my nose. I can smell rose and geranium but the rest of the notes I cannot identify (according to Fragrantica, top notes are bergamot, lemon, eucalyptus, mint, pink pepper and rosemary; middle notes are rose, geranium, cardamom, hedione and tea; base notes are benzoin, incense, vanilla and white musk). Savoy Steam stays right on the border where a proper gentleman might still wear it without feeling conscious that it’s too sweet, too feminine. But for me it is too sweet without being feminine enough. Also, I don’t know why but I keep calling it in my head Savoy Cream – not the kind you eat but the one you shave with. I like it the most in about 2 hours after the application but, in general, it is not perfume I would consider wearing.

I knew nothing about Endymion released in 2003 until it almost jumped at me yesterday. I mean, it was the last sample in the sample basket in front of the Penhaligon’s store – how could I pass by?

Endymion for me smells like a classic masculine perfume, which is not surprising with notes of lavender, sage, geranium and vetiver (other notes are mandarin orange, bergamot, coffee, leather, musk, myrhh, nutmeg, black pepper, cardamon, sandalwood, incense and olibanum). I do not smell any leather – at least not the kind you expect nowadays when you read “leather” as a note. Coffee? Not either. It is beautiful, elegant and well-blended perfume. There is nothing “unisex” about it; and it is probably not perfume I would consider wearing myself but I would love to smell it on a man.

Rusty and Penhaligon's Savoy Steam and Endymion Samples

Images: my own

E-Word-of-Mouth and Le Jardin Retrouve Cuir de Russie

Three years ago in the Entertaining Statistics: On Tweeting I wrote:

I still do not see too much sense in tweeting but I still do it from time to time. I get some random news from there but mostly I use it as an announcement medium – for my new blog posts, other blogs’ giveaways and the like. The main reason I do it is the idea that I want those who actually read my posts to get a notification about them any way they prefer – by e-mail, through Facebook, Twitter, RSS, Bloglovin or Google+.

Nothing has changed since then other than me being even less active on Twitter. But one day recently I had a couple of extra minutes and as I leisurely browsed through the feed, I stumbled upon a tweet from Le Jardin Retrouve saying that during July they would have 15 ml travel flacons of all their perfumes (Yesss!!!). Available at their Paris boutique only (Arghhh…).

In this age of globalization, isn’t it annoying when some things you can get only at some special places? Luckily, a “personal shopper” Suzan of Shop France, Inc. who had previously helped me with my quest for a scent from my childhood, just sent a newsletter about her upcoming trip. So I asked her to get me in Paris perfume I wanted, if she could.

When she came back with my travel bottle, she wrote to me asking permission to give my name and e-mail to the brand owner she met at the boutique: he was curious how she knew about Le Jardin Retrouve, and, consequently, how I knew about the brand. I gave my permission and then told Michel Gutsatz, a current owner and a son of the perfumer and the original creator of the brand Yuri Gutsatz, a short version of the story I’m telling you.

Le Jardin Retrouve Samples

How often have you read somewhere a review for perfume from a completely new for you brand and not just remembered the name later when you saw it again but got actively interested and pursued it? It doesn’t usually happen to me. But something in Steve’s (The Scented Hound) review pushed the right buttons; and I ordered several samples.

Yes, I actually paid to try perfumes from a completely new for me brand: not much – they were having some promotion – but it wasn’t free, the brand didn’t reach out to me then. To my surprise, I liked all three perfumes that I tried. The only problem I had with Le Jardin Retrouve was that they had all of their perfumes in 120 ml refill format: I can barely talk myself into 50 ml of any perfume – what would I do with 120?! But when they came up with a reasonable perfumista size bottle I had to put my money where my mouth is.

If I had more time to think, I would have probably bought at least one more perfume from the three that I tested but on a short notice I went for the one I liked the most – Cuir de Russie.

Rusty and Le Jardin Retrouve Cuir de Russie

Until I read Steve’s review, got curious how Le Jardin Retrouve managed to get away with using the name, for which I assumed Chanel had a copyright, and started looking for the answer, I had no idea how many brands have or used to have perfumes with this same name! Evidently, one can get a copyright for the word “peace” but famous perfume(s) name is out there for whoever dares to use it.

According to Fragrantica, Guerlain (1872), Mury Paris (1920), Chanel (1924, 2007, 2016), L.T. Piver (1939), Creed (1953), Le Jardin Retrouve (1975, 2016), Mad et Len (2007), Anna Zworykina Perfumes (2009) and Art Deco Perfumes (2015) can claim Cuir de Russie as their perfume. And I don’t even count those that had perfume with the same name but in different language, for example, Russian Leather and Russkaya Kozha.

Both this perfume house and this perfume have history but I don’t want to repeat it: you can easily find it online. I just want to share my impressions.

Rusty and Two Cuir de Russie

Since my only reference point is Chanel’s take on this theme, I can’t help running a comparison. If you like Chanel’s Cuir de Russie, there is a good chance you’ll like Le Jardin Retrouve’s Cuir de Russie as well. I think these have a lot in common: they both are very refined leather perfumes with subtle and well-blended components. LJR’s one is greener and more floral, especially in the opening, but when you smell them side by side you have no doubts they both are telling a similar story. At the same time, these two perfumes are distinctive enough to own and wear them both.

Chanel & Le Jardin Retrouve Cuir de Russie

You can clearly trace a direct line from a blog post (through accessible samples) to a Twitter ad, then to a travel bottle and now to another blog post. Also I saw in today’s newsletter from Suzan the introduction of Le Jardin Retrouve and their perfumes to her clients. And if you “Like,” retweet or share this post, it’ll keep going further reaching more people. It will be a true e-word-of-mouth.

 

Disclaimer: I’m not affiliated with either the brand or the business mentioned in the post; I did not receive any free items or discounts not available to the public.
PSA1: Contact me for Suzan’s address if you’re in the U.S. and would like to order something from Paris or London: not only she brings stuff not available in the U.S. but also her prices for high-end brands are usually lower than you can get here.
PSA2: During August you can get 20% off any purchase (including samples) from the brand’s site: go to http://jardinretrouve-en.pagedemo.co/, choose the store for your country under “Need to Order Urgently?,” put the product(s) you want in the shopping cart and use the code JARDIN17. It’s a good time to try these perfumes because in Fall the brand is releasing their 15 ml bottles in custom sets of 3 perfumes of your choice. Rusty especially likes the bag, in which my travel bottle came.

Rusty and Le Jardin Retrouve Bag

 

Images: my own

The Perfume Museum of Barcelona

As I promised in the Visiting Three Monarchies, Part 2: Barcelona post, I’m sharing some of the pictures I took in the Perfume Museum of Barcelona while my stoical vSO was silently suffering from boredom. He admits that it wasn’t all bad: he enjoyed the first part of the exposition – bottles and other vessels from ancient times until the last century arranged by the origin and period. The rest, according to him, was also interesting – just not taking-240-pictures interesting, not counting time I was actually looking through the collection and pointing to him items I considered especially interesting and just had to share.

Lighting conditions were not the most favorable but I tried my best – sorry for shadows, reflections of my fingers and some color distortion. According to the museum’s website, the exposition holds 5,000 pieces – so even after you see all the pictures in this post, you’ll still have more than enough to look forward to on your visit to this museum. I decided not to do a slide show since it doesn’t allow enlarging images. To view larger images, click on any image in each section and keep clicking through.

The historical part of the exposition, while interesting, was not particularly unique: you probably saw similar vases, pots and other pottery in other museums that cover those time periods and geography. Can we imagine that some of these were used for something scent-related? We could thought I wouldn’t have thought about it if it weren’t for where I saw them.

 

 

This is where it started getting interesting: these are still pre-industrial bottles and containers but they were clearly created for perfume, powder and other beauty products:

 

 

It was surprising for me to see that many perfumes from the USSR: I recognized just a couple of names – Красная Москва (Krasnaya Moskva or Red Moscow) and Шипр (Shipr) but most others I had never seen or heard of before. As I mentioned previously, perfumes were rare in my childhood.

 

 

The rest of the exhibition is organized by the brand, older and newer bottles together without the obvious rhyme or reason for perfumes or brands represented:

 

 

I couldn’t help taking multiple pictures of my beloved Miss Dior but was a little disappointed that my life-long love Lancome Climat was “mentioned in passing” – though, I should probably be happy that it made the cut at all:

 

 

There is absolutely no doubt as to which brand is the most dear to organizers: not only there is a full case of different Guerlain bottles from different time periods, but before you are done with the visit you can smell all the current perfumes:

 

 

It is a small museum – just a single large room in the back of Perfumería Regia. They do not have much space left for any of the modern brands; and with their admission price 5 Euro that didn’t change at least for the last 4 years (see Vanessa’s report here), I do not envision significant expansion – so you’re on your own making history of modern perfumery in your perfume cabinets.

 

Images: my own

Almost Newcomb’s Paradox

Everybody knows that people in the Perfumeland* are wonderfully generous and kind – towards friends and oftentimes to other members of their group who they don’t know too well.

I got my first sample of Serge Lutens Chergui from Suzanne of Suzanne’s Perfume Journal(read her perfect explanation why to wear Chergui in summer).

I liked this perfume though until recently for me it was a cold weather perfume. I finished Suzanne’s sample, then one more sample and was thinking of getting a decant, when Vanessa (Bonkers about Perfume) sent me her partial bottle of Chergui as an unofficial present for my birthday. I was happy to get it in a bottle: even though those take more space than decants, in the last years I noticed that I tend to favor actual bottles.

Several months later, while we were discussing samples exchange, Vanessa wrote to me that she would also send a box from Chergui that she recently found… As I read that e-mail in the office, I was anxious to get home: I clearly remembered that the partial bottle had come with a box…

I got home, confirmed that I wasn’t confused and even sent Vanessa a proof of having that box.

Rusty and Serge Lutens Chergui

Vanessa had no recollection of how she came to own that second box; and since she had no use for it she used it to send samples to me, making the answer to the post office clerk’s question “Are the bottles in their original boxes?” at least partially truthful: the box was original indeed.

Chergui is one of rare perfumes honey in which does not go urinous on my skin. As I started thinking about this post, I wore Chergui a couple of times, and I have to agree with Suzanne: it wears nicely in the hot weather. Too bad I cannot use a back-up box to even better protect perfume from that heat. I’ll have to rely upon a more conventional method – an A/C. I couldn’t even interest Rusty in checking it out: he clearly didn’t think it was that interesting the first time around when I tried to make a “proof of life” picture shown above.

Serge Lutens Chergui - Two Boxes

Speaking about back-ups… Are you getting any for your Serge Lutens favorites pre-repackaging/reformulation/moving to the Exclusives Collection?

 

Images: my own

* Of course, Perfumeland isn’t unique in that respect: people inside other groups with similar interests behave that way. But I’m writing about my current interests, so forgive me this … hmm… what would be the right antonym for “generalization” in this context?

** Here’s the link to the Wikipedia article about Newcomb’s paradox

Visiting Three Monarchies, Part 4: Perfumes I bought

More than three years ago, while describing my indecisiveness when it comes to buying perfumes, I wrote:

I have that dream of going into a perfume shop while on a vacation or at a fragrance event and finding perfume, without which I wouldn’t want to leave that store.

It hasn’t happen to me since then. If anything, I became even less spontaneous, which isn’t surprising taking into the consideration my steadily expanding collection and exponentially increasing number of new releases. But the dream lived on. So going on the vacation to London, Barcelona and Stockholm, I decided not only to take with me and wear perfumes created by the brands from the respective countries but also to bring back perfumes from each of the destinations – with the same caveat of the brand’s origin.

As I’ve described in the posts about each part of my trip, in our era of globalization it wasn’t easy to find perfumes that would fit the set criteria, even though I tried to cheat a little by bringing with me samples of perfumes that I’ve previously tried and… let’s put it this way – didn’t dislike.

After all the sniffing Tara, Vanessa and I and then Vanessa and I did in London, on the last evening in the city I was still hesitant. I might have ended up not buying anything at all if it weren’t for the serendipitous circumstances.

One of the most pleasant memories from our previous visit to London was a restaurant on the corner of the same street where we happened to stay then in a tiny hot room under the roof. For the whole week in London this time we kept planning to go there but something else would come up. So finally I reserved a table there for the last evening.

When you spend the day walking the city, it’s hard to plan perfectly. We arrived to the restaurant almost an hour earlier but since we weren’t hungry yet, instead of checking with them if they could seat us immediately, we decided just to walk around and see the area where we spent time seven years ago.

We went by the B&B where we stayed – it looked the same. We checked out a bakery that seemed very appealing back then – probably not the fairest comparison with it being after 5 P.M., but the selection of baked goods didn’t impress. We walked by the private park for the residents of one of the buildings – it was still very charming and inaccessible. Then we came across the second location of Les Senteurs. Since Vanessa and I went through everything at the other location the day before, I just sprayed again Tom Daxon’s Magnolia Heights to give it one last wear before going for a bottle. And then I saw it…

Jo Loves London Boutique

Of course, later I remembered Vanessa’s suggestions to the fellow-shoppers in Ormonde Jayne store to visit this area for Les Senteurs and Jo Loves boutiques. But it completely went by me at the time. Since I still kept my grudges against this brand for offering to send me scented blotters in response to my inquiry to purchase samples when the line had been launched (six years later I think I can safely reveal the brand, about which I wrote that post), I didn’t even think of visiting that store. But there we were – so I just couldn’t pass it by.

It wasn’t the first time I smelled Jo Loves’ perfumes: a year after the launch they had some limited promotion where you could request 2 samples. My friend and I each requested two – so we got to try four perfumes. “Nice but nothing special” was a verdict for three of them, and I liked but didn’t love the forth one (Gardenia). Several months ago I got hajusuuri’s “traveling samples set” – so I was able to try 7 more of their scents and really liked one of them.

Even though I came partially prepared, it took me some time to make a decision. In the end I decided to go with perfume that I liked from the hajusuuri’s set – No. 42 The Flower Shop.

Rusty and Jo Loves The Flower Shop

Most of you who have been around for a while saw on my blog many beautiful bouquets (usually in Rusty’s company). Those we created in one of the local florist shops, which both I and my vSO like. He usually goes there on his own (to order flowers for me, not trusting online ordering) but from time to time we visit it together – not to buy anything but just to check what they’re offering. There is a cold room in the shop – a walk-in floral refrigerator for pre-made floral arrangements and buckets of different flowers. No. 42 The Flower Shop smells exactly like that room: greenery with mixed floral bouquet, light and pleasant (Notes from Fragrantica: green leaves, mandarin orange, peony, lily of the valley, freesia, jasmine, narcissus, iris, white musk, moss and patchouli). I plan to put the bottle in the fridge and use on hot summer days. The name of this perfume was inspired by the flower shop, in which Ms. Malone worked as a girl. Many years later she opened her boutique on the same street where that flower shop used to be.

Jo Loves No. 42 The Flower Shop

There was a close second contender – Mango Thai Lime. But since I’ve never tried it before on skin, the store was closing, and we were getting late for dinner, I decided to go for the safer choice, but tried to get a sample of this one – to test later and see if I would want to get a bottle. Would you care to guess what I was offered?

Rusty and Jo Loves The Flower Shop

And if you were curious, dinner at the restaurant, which happened to be just one short block away from the Jo Loves shop, was just alright: the food was edible but much simpler than 7 years ago (and as I happen to still have a menu from that first time, I was able to confirm that my memory wasn’t playing tricks on me). But those memories brought me back to that street, that boutique and to that perfume. And the picture below is what I saw first today when I went to the Jo Loves site to look-up something for this post. A magical coincidence indeed.

Jo Loves 42 The Flower Shop

The story of the next perfume will be not as poetic and a little shorter.

In Barcelona, predictably, I didn’t have any “prospects” until the last day. When I got to La Basilica Galeria (the one with 1,000+ perfume), I told myself that if anywhere, I should be able to find there something to fit the criteria I imposed on this perfume hunt. Luckily for me, local perfumes were thoughtfully marked as such, so while methodically sniffing through all the shelves, I paid additional attention to those with “Made in Spain” labels.

Rusty and Ramon Molvizar Sun Sol

No, I didn’t bring back with me a toy for Rusty instead of perfume though I came close to that. Perfumes that I liked the most were in the case before the last. Before that day I have never heard of this brand – Ramon Molvizar, though the first fragrance in the Fragrantica’s database is dated as 1999. Probably, it was for the best because had I read the brand’s claims of “exquisite luxury” and “taking the perfumer’s art to its extreme where it becomes a masterpiece,” I would have felt much more skeptical. But since I was blissfully ignorant, I approached these perfumes practically with an open mind: I almost didn’t hold against them those strange shiny fragments inside the bottles.

Ramon Molvizar Sol Sun

After trying several of Molvizar’s perfumes on paper, I pared down my choices to two. Those went on my wrists, and we went to sleep eat on it. I tried to be discreet in the café, but since I spent equal time sniffing and chewing, I suspect I didn’t fully succeed. But I made up my mind.

Rusty and Ramon Molvizar Sol Sun

Sol Sun on my skin opens with a cheerful citrus – perfect for that summer day in Barcelona. In the development I recognize lotus (not as a real flower but as a note I know from other perfumes) and some hints of wood. Those of you who have better nose would probably be able to recognize other notes from the list: lemon, ginger, bergamot, rose, orchid, jasmine, musk, wood and sugar cane. It is not one of those perfumes that everybody needs to experience: there’s nothing groundbreaking, unique or even quirky about Sol Sun. But I like this bright and sweet floral perfume with warm amber-y drydown – despite of the slightly tacky, in my opinion, 23-karat gold flakes (c’mon, for $8 you can get Beverly Hills Gold with 24 (!) kt gold flakes). And, as an additional bonus, Sol Sun comes in a beautiful wooden box, also made in Spain (which impressed my vSO in our made-in-China century). That packaging will allow me to keep this perfume on my dresser, which is valuable given the aforementioned collection proliferation. Nothing else would fit into it though besides the bottle – Rusty has checked.

Rusty and Ramon Molvizar Sol Sun

As to the last leg of the trip: I drew a blank. By that time I tried and liked so many great perfumes that it didn’t feel right to buy anything less interesting than those perfumes from the “Perfumes I didn’t buy” sections of my travel posts only because it was local. But when I finish my La Tulipe decant, I’ll buy a bottle in memory of how wonderful this perfume was on a cold summer day in Stockholm.

 

Images: all but the one from the Jo Loves site, my own

Visiting Three Monarchies, Part 3: Stockholm

“Vacation” is usually not the first association when you hear “Stockholm.” On our itinerary this city got by chance: we live so far away from Europe, that there is a limited number of direct flights between us and the Old World. Barcelona did not have any, so to get back home we’d have to do a plane change. If you were to add an extra flight and a couple of hours for transfer, the trip would easily stretch for 17+ hours – something that I try to avoid whenever possible. So while planning the vacation, we decided we’d do a couple of days’ stopover in one of the direct-flights-reach cities. Stockholm was the one with the best combination of schedules and fares. The fact that all three destinations were monarchies had dawned on us much later – at Livrustkammaren (The Royal Armory in Stockholm) as we were discussing that not a single Royalty has acknowledged our presence in any of the visited countries…

Accommodations

For a change, for that last part of the trip we went for a hotel room. It was a pleasant hotel decorated in the style of Roaring Twenties. Our room was quiet, had heavy curtains and a very comfortable bed, in which we finally had a good night sleep (the first night we slept for 12 hours straight).

Haymarket Hotel Stockholm

It was rather cold (+14C after +26C in Barcelona) and raining; we discovered that Stockholm was a very practical and minimalistic city, even its old town part; but somehow it felt very comforting and friendly. The first evening as we walking in the rain enjoying clean and orderly streets, we came across a small park inside the Art Nouveau building of Stockholm’s Central Pool (Centralbadet) built in the beginning of the previous century. It was an absolutely magical experience: beautiful lilacs and other blossoms in the drizzle of evening rain. I felt happy.

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Three days that we spent there was a delightful coda to our vacation.

Perfumes I took with me

Following the idea of bringing to this vacation only perfumes local to the destination, I packed a couple of decants and a sample from the only Swedish brand I had in my collection – Byredo. La Tulipe was just amazing, and I might re-consider wearing it only as a summer perfume: it was wonderful in the colder weather. Pulp was predictably good. I hope these both perfumes are still available once I finish the decants I have. Bal D’Afrique, which I brought with me for further testing, was nice but not enough for me to go for a bottle.

Perfumes I tested

After my London and Barcelona perfume escapades, I didn’t plan to do much more perfume testing but I still managed to visit a couple of perfume spots – a perfume department in the luxury department store NK and a standalone perfumery Insanto.

Both places had interesting selection of perfumes but not too many of the brands not available elsewhere, and I concentrated my testing mostly on those brands, to which I do not have an easy access.

Insanto Stockholm

Perfumes I didn’t buy

Perfume prices in Sweden do not impel spontaneous perfume purchases. Also, there weren’t that many Swedish brands – so most of the tested perfumes did not fit the original intent to get “souvenirs” from the countries I visited. But several perfumes that I liked while testing on skin are worth mentioning: were they “Made in Sweden,” I would have considered buying one of these.

I love and own two perfumes by Keiko Mecheri but because this brand is not available where I live I’m not too familiar with their line. That’s why I was interested to try at least some of the perfumes – even though I didn’t think I’d buy them there. I thought that Bois Satin smelled very nice, and I hope to be able to test it again soon.

For a long time I stayed away from Xerjoff: even though I tested occasionally some of their perfumes that came my way one way or the other, I didn’t make any conscious attempts to follow their new releases, and of those perfumes that I tried before I didn’t warm up enough to any to go even for a decant. They clearly like Xerjoff in Sweden: I saw it in both stores where I tested perfumes (and I want to remind you that one of them was a department store). So I gave up and tested some of the perfumes. I liked several on paper and then one on my skin. I don’t know why I happen to like the one that is sold out almost everywhere – XJ 1861 Naxos. Now I’ll have to locate a sample to test it again before I start scavenging eBay and FB groups for a bottle.

I’ve never heard of either the “famous Costes Hotel in Paris” (Fragrantica) or the eponymous perfume that Olivia Giacobetti created for that hotel in 2004, but when I tested Costes for the first time, I liked it. I’m not completely sure yet how I feel about perfumes that perfume shops create under their own brands – let alone perfumes for hotels, so I will try Costes again if I come across it somewhere but I won’t probably be actively looking for it.

Stockholm Blotters

Speaking of hotel perfumes, the only perfume I was seriously considering on this part of the trip was perfume sold in the hotel’s gift shop: No 1 Haymarket Eau de Parfum. The scent is described as: “Velvetly vanilla, powdery ambergris, and smoky sandalwood united with modern and surprising tones of bergamot, citrus and a hint of pepper.” For a couple of days I would be stopping by the gift shop to apply this perfume and then would keep smelling my wrist… for the next couple of hours while perfume was still discernible. I thought it was nice. It was local. And it wasn’t even expensive (less than $30 for a 30 ml bottle). Why didn’t I buy it? I realized that with all the great perfumes that I already had in my collection (and several more that I might be considering after more tests), I would just never have time for this pleasant but nondescript little number – no matter how warm I felt about that hotel that sheltered us in the final part of our turbulent vacation.

Haymarket Hotel EdP No1

Just in case you got drowned in the endless parts of my trip: it was the last one, and in the next post Rusty and I will finally reveal what perfumes I brought back with me.

 

Images: all but the last one – my own; No 1 Haymarket EdP – from the hotel site.

Visiting Three Monarchies, Part 2: Barcelona

“Oh, Barcelona…” or “Barcelona? Why?..” – those were the two most common responses I was getting from people with whom I spoke about our upcoming vacation’s destinations (nobody questioned London though).

I cannot explain why we had chosen Barcelona. I guess, we’d heard it was a beautiful city and thought of visiting it one day. Looking from here, Barcelona seemed really close to London – so we decided it was a good combination.

Since on that trip I didn’t have any fellow-perfumistas to rely upon their account of events, this part shapes to be a longer post.

Gaudi Casa Battlo

Accommodations

I’ve spent disproportional amount of time trying to find a nice place to stay: though it was a couple of months in advance, there were almost no vacancies in the suggested areas; and owners of those several acceptable apartments that I found were not responding in a timely manner (I have to mention that with the London flat everything worked like a clockwork – through the same sites). Finally, I rented something that seemed like a good choice.

We had a late flight in, so to the arranged place of meeting with the owner we got closer to midnight. We got from him keys and instructions to our taxi driver as to where to take us; and that was when we learned that we’d need to walk to the apartment since it was on a pedestrian street.

The taxi dropped us off next to some church in the old town. Night, small groups of people walking around or finishing their drinks is empty street cafés. Narrow dirty streets with graffiti-covered shutter doors. Google Maps app sending us into a different direction every 10 steps we attempt to take. Two of us with two suitcases trying to figure out how to find the address we need…

I don’t know how it is in areas where you, my readers, leave but in both countries, in which I have experience living, a neighborhood that looks like that would not be considered safe by any stretch . So we didn’t feel safe at all.

I think we looked so miserable that a group of young tourists passing by took a pity on us and helped us to locate the building we were looking for.

Once in the apartment that looked exactly as described in the ad and depicted in photos but still felt uninviting and soulless (IKEA at its best and worst): a loud portable A/C on, quick shower, A/C off and out to bed around 1:00 in the morning. A couple of hours of dripping A/C, humming in-unit water heated replenishing hot water and occasional excited tourists walking by… Between 6 and 7 in the morning unmercifully loud metal shutters of the local shops going up just under our windows and across the street…

Around 8, when we gave up the attempts to get any more sleep, my vSO announced: “I want to go home.

After a quick search confirmed that there were no vacant hotel rooms guaranteed to be quieter (and I didn’t even check how expensive it would be to come home a week earlier), we decided to give it a chance…

That was the lowest point in our trip, and from there it went kind of up: we were still sleep-deprived because of the combination of all the above-mentioned factors, plus remains of jet lag, plus a heavily walking neighbor above us, but we were impressed with this city’s architecture (and I’m not talking just about Gaudi), figured out that the area where we lived (El Born) was quite safe, and found things around to enjoy. On the picture below is the nicer end of the street where we lived (it was closed by the gates during the night and on weekends).

Barcelona Street

Perfumes I took with me

I discovered that I didn’t have that many Spanish perfumes in my collection that I wanted to wear or to test on this trip. Carner Barcelona El Born, which I brought also thinking about the possible bottle purchase, smelled better than the namesake area where we stayed, but I’ll need some time to disassociate these two to start enjoying this perfume again. Ramon Monegal Impossible Iris was just perfect, and I enjoyed wearing it but I already have a bottle of it. I’m not sure why I didn’t bring any other samples of Monegal’s perfumes that I have: I’m sure I could have worn Cuirelle or Pure Mariposa but somehow I didn’t think of them. But I compensated not bringing enough perfumes to wear with testing.

Perfumes I tested

Before I came to Barcelona, I didn’t realize how many good perfume shops that city had. I visited three exceptional niche perfumeries, and each of them was worth the time spent. Even if one comes from such place as London!

Perfumeria Regia

Situated in the extremely touristy place (a minute walk from Gaudi’s the Casa Batlló, it feels more like a perfume department in a luxury department store than a true niche place: though it carries a lot of niche lines, SAs are not too personable, and the space looks impassive. But I managed to test many perfumes, including the line I hadn’t had a chance to test before – Memo. I liked at least several “leathers” and plan to buy some samples to get to know those better. One more line, about which I haven’t heard before – Rosendo Mateu Olfactive Expressions. I liked a couple of their perfumes on paper – No 2 Lavender Spicy Chocolate (Fragrantica chose to put commas between all three ingredients in the name, and I wonder what they thought “spicy” meant in this enumeration) and No 3 Neroli Iris White Musk, but didn’t get a chance to try them on skin.

Perfumeria Regina is also a home for the Perfume Museum. There’s not much to tell about it but a lot to show – so I’ll do a separate post to share pictures I took there.

Regia Barcelona

The Perfumery

This small shop in the Gothic area of Barcelona was probably one of the most surprising perfume shops I’ve ever visited: by rough estimate, I didn’t recognize 80% of everything they had to offer. From what I could surmise, they do not present the complete line from the brands they carry but rather handpicked fragrances. All of them are offered to smell from the funnel-shaped glass testers, which was more convenient that sniffing the sprayers. Either my perfume tastes did not coincide with tastes of their collection curator, or I’m just not prepared to discover a diamond in the rough with that number of potential diamonds but while I liked many of perfumes I smelled, especially their masculine part of the collection, I didn’t love any of them enough to put on skin. Two that I tried on my vSOs wrists I liked but not enough to even write down the brands or names properly.

Barcelona The Perfumery

La Basilica Galeria

The gallery claims to have the biggest selection of niche perfumes in the World. I don’t know if anybody questioned that statement but for all I know it might be true, especially if we talk about stand-alone perfume shops.

Once we came there, I dispatched my vSO to the relatively comfortable armchairs where he could wait for me and started methodically sniffing through the collection presented via sprayed crystal bell-formed testers, marked on top red, navy or half-and-half for feminine, masculine and unisex fragrances.

Barcelona Galeria Test Bells

After I’d been through a couple of cases, a very friendly SA asked me if she could help me to find what I was looking for. Hopefully, in the same friendly manner I informed her that I was just going to sniff my way through the collection (I didn’t feel bad because I wasn’t even spraying any of the perfumes, all bells were already pre-sprayed). “Are you going to go through all thousand and <I don’t remember the exact number> perfumes?” – I won’t try to describe the tone, with which she asked that, but you could probably imagine it. I was completely unflappable: “I’ll skip those, with which I’m familiar” – and I returned to my exercise.

I think that La Basilica Galeria has a nice selection of niche perfumes with a good mix of more and less popular brands. But the way they present perfumes isn’t suitable for finding perfumes on your own. As I discovered when I tried to spray one of the perfumes in its bell to refresh the scent and get top notes more prominently, I wasn’t supposed to do that: they spray those perfumes on some schedule, writing it down and checking for how long those lived on the glass. The SA proudly told me that some of the perfumes were sprayed once a week… While I agree that perfume should not be judged only by its top notes – the way that mass market perfume industry would like us to do, 2-3 days old leftovers on glass surface definitely isn’t what any perfume should be judged by either. At that point I realized why most perfumes I tried by then weren’t “my cup”: my favorite floral top notes just do not live that long. After I asked, I was given some paper strips to test those perfumes that I wanted to try fresh but I could test only those, base notes of which survived nicely and were to my liking – which probably also wasn’t the worst criteria for choosing what to test on paper or skin.

Barcelona La Baselica Galeria2

Perfumes I didn’t buy

Though between the three major perfume shops I visited, I sniffed my way through about 650-700 fragrances, there were just several that interested me enough to consider for a catch from my trip to Spain.

I considered buying Gaudi de Codibel perfume for the whole 15 seconds that it took from me spotting it in the gift shop of the Casa Batlló to locate a test strip, spray and smell it. Had at least the bottle been a little more imaginative or better quality, I could have bought it just as a souvenir since we both quite enjoyed this museum. But both the scent and the packaging were beyond the exploitation of the famous name.

Gaudi Perfume

S-Perfume 1499 smelled very pleasant (jasmine sambac, myrrh, labdanum, olibanum, vanilla and amber – what’s not to like, right?) but everything else worked against this perfume: brand being either American (created) or Japanese (located now); the name is as non-descriptive as they come when the brand that isn’t Chanel decides to use numbers; and finally the bottle design just doesn’t suggest the price point, at which they position themselves.

I liked Paul Emilien Premiere Danse but since it’s a French brand, with which I wasn’t familiar before, I decided I’d look for a sample and test it more.

A Bulldog in the Atelier from a Spanish designer Teresa Helbig seemed like a good fit for the purpose of my search. Why didn’t I go for it? I got distracted by the Memo line, perfumes from which I didn’t plan to buy in Barcelona, and didn’t get a chance to test it properly. So with me not being a fan of that breed, it felt like I needed more time with this fragrance before exposing Rusty to it (though I liked the name).

Both my vSO and I liked Ramon Monegal Next to Me but I got confused with the name: judging by the list of notes and packaging, this one isn’t the same as Dubai Next to Me but, other than on Fragrantica, I cannot find any information about this one… And I’m not a huge Monegal fan (Impossible Iris is the only perfume from the brand that I like and wear).

The last two perfumes seriously tempted me despite the wrong country of origin and stupid names: 1831 and 1926. For those of us who is not versed in music history: I’m talking about 1831 Norma and 1926 Turandot by Histoires de Parfums. I tried and was completely enchanted by these two in the parfum extrait version. They both smell to me like classic perfumes. My vSO and I had different preferences for these two (I liked Norma a little more), it is a French brand, and they were more expensive than I felt comfortable spending on the spur-of-the-moment bottle. But only a coupon code, which I hope to get in e-mail soon, stands between me and the Order button on one of the decanter sites for these samples.

HdP 1831 Norma

Barcelona leg of our trip was … trying. On the first morning we were ready to cut the losses and try to find our way back home. On the sixths morning, as we were leaving, we didn’t feel sad. But in between we had some positive experiences, and we both agreed that this city was worth re-visiting one day – provided we can find some more modern and soundproofed lodging. Until then I have perfume to remind me about the good, the bad and the ugly of this vacation. Which one? I’ll tell you soon.

 

Images: my own