Six of One, Half a Dozen of the Other

I don’t know why stores keep changing floor plans or re-arrange goods on the shelves. I know that there are numerous studies on the psychology of a shopper, on focal points of layouts and foot paths of the people flow. But, provided that the first (or second, or third) time around the store did follow all the best recommendations in their floor plan design, are there people who actually buy more as a result of these subsequent revamps? For me it’s always a hassle to find to where a brand or a type of items I’m looking for has been moved: when I know what I want/need to buy, I prefer to go directly to where that “what” is; and when I’m in the explorative mode, I’ll go around just checking out everything without being forced into doing that while looking for the item, for which I came.

Order of the Addends

Recently one of our local Neiman Marcus stores, after “being open during the construction,” finally reopened completely reworked beauty & fragrance section. After the renovation they’ve introduced several brands previously not available at that location – Byredo, Armani Prive and MFK, which is good. But it seems I cannot find some of the previously available brands, and since the layout changed, I’m not sure if they stopped carrying those, or if I just don’t see them. Since all I want is to sniff new offerings and I doubt I’ll be buying anything there, I’m reluctant to ask – so a couple of times I just left feeling slightly annoyed.

When I visited the store after the renovation, one section just jumped at me: Hermès. I think they always had that brand just scattered among others (I vaguely remember seeing some of the perfumes in the store before), but now it’s a big designated counter with all non-boutique perfumes (I had a hope that they might carry Hermessence line – but no). On that counter – for the first time at a retail store – I saw Rocabar. The bottle was different from the one I knew (it’s now a part of the latest repackaged set of perfumes with ugly plastic caps), but it was there on the counter! I immediately sprayed it on a paper strip … and didn’t recognize the perfume. “Reformulated! They’ve changed it!!!” – I announced with dismay… to my vSO and proceeded with getting a sample to properly test it at home.

***

For the first time I approached Hermès perfumes probably about 15 years ago. At that point I didn’t know much about that house in general, be that their perfumes or anything else. I am not sure if I even knew there was anything else: the brand didn’t make it behind the iron curtain while I was growing up and then, when I moved to the U.S., for a while luxury brands weren’t much on my radar.

I don’t remember which perfumes I tried then, but I assume those were whatever big department stores carried at the time. 24 Faubourg? Caleche? Rouge Hermes? I’m not sure but I didn’t like any of those and decided that this brand wasn’t for me.

Hermes Rocabar

I smelled Rocabar while visiting friends in Germany. Either my friend wore it, or it was a sample that his wife got with some other purchase, but I liked the perfume and returned home with that sample. Rocabar was so much better than all other perfumes my vSO was wearing at the time that it was a very short path from a sample to a full bottle. For several years Rocabar was my vSO’s “dress-up” perfume, and I loved it on him. Later it took a back seat to other great perfumes “we” added to his perfume wardrobe, so the remains of the last bottle stayed hidden in the drawer unused – until I got it to run an impostor shaming parallel test.

***

The conclusion? After years of wearing and testing great perfumes, I am not in love with Rocabar any longer, but I like it enough to still want to smell it on my vSO from time to time. But with two perfumes on my wrists – old and new – I couldn’t tell the difference… Well, not exactly… These two are slightly different but, for my uneducated nose, the difference is not such that I couldn’t explain it by the age of the original bottle. And, frankly, I can’t say that I like one of them more or less than the other. So it must have been that cheap plastic top of the new bottle that suggested the reformulation to my untrained nose.

Rusty and Hermes RocabarIf you haven’t read before about the meaning of the name and are curious why Hermes chose this unusual packaging approach, which Rusty liked so much, read Kevin’s (NST) review here.

Last Week the President of the U.S., my vSO and I visited Seattle

With the workload of the last five months both my vSO and I needed some change of scenery, and Seattle seemed to be a perfect destination for a three night trip.

It’s just a 15-minutes’ drive to the airport but you can’t predict how bad the traffic will be, so we left 15 minutes earlier. There was no traffic.

We had just carry-on bags and checked in a day earlier but with the recent situation with TSA you can never know how long the security check will take, so in my calculations I allowed 60 minutes before boarding time for waiting for the privilege to take your socks (but not shoes!) through a full-body scanner. It took us only 15 minutes.

The boarding had started just 15 minutes later than it was supposed to, but it was well-organized, and “a full flight” (lingo used by flight attendants to scare people into checking in their carry-on bags) managed to play the luggage puzzle game in a record time and without odd pieces.

It was supposed to be a two-hour flight. “An hour and a half once we’re flying” kept repeating our captain while explaining first that “a technical crew needs more time to go through <inaudible>”, then “it’ll be at least another hour” and then “it looks like we’ll need to change planes.”

We landed in Seattle almost 2.5 hours later than scheduled and 15 minutes after the gourmand tour, for which we had tickets, started.

But from this point on everything went just perfect: nice hotel, great food, a couple of pleasant evenings with friends who live in Seattle. We even got to see some rain (we loved it!) and the President’s Motorcade (we had to wait for it to pass to get to the hotel).

Mr President

I brought with me enough perfumes to change them twice a day (I didn’t) and I planned to do some perfume sniffing (I did). But if I had to name just one scent/note that lingered over my stay in Seattle, it would be lavender.

If you were wondering, no, we didn’t visit any of the lavender farms near Seattle, we stayed mostly within a short walk or taxi drive from the downtown; the picture below is from one of my trips to the local wine country last year. But lavender somehow sneaked into our urban retreat.

Lavender

It started the first evening when after dinner at a seafood restaurant I was brought a bowl of water with lavender and lemon to wash my hands. It smelled divine and turned my thoughts towards the Chanel counter at the flagship Nordstrom store nearby, which, as I remembered from the previous visit, had Les Exclusifs line, and where I hoped to try their new perfume featuring that note… So there we went.

An SA at the Chanel counter was very nice and completely went along with “smells-interesting-but-I-need-a-sample-since-I’m-wearing-something-else-now” (I was!), and Boy Chanel sample landed in my purse.

I like both lavender and rose that I can smell in the Boy Chanel‘s opening. It is unmistakably Chanel, and I felt a surge of that excited feeling: “Is this the one? Will I love it?” But within half an hour it develops on my skin into a soapy but strangely dry scent. I dislike it at that stage but mercifully it goes away in the next 30 minutes. Unfortunately, together with the rest of the perfume. I won’t say that Boy Chanel has the worst longevity out of all Les Exclusifs but it will be a close competition with some of them. Robin (Now Smell This) in her review of this perfume wrote: “Boy would make a great no-brainer summer cologne if you needed such a thing” – clearly not for me: I wore it on a mildly warm day of leisure walk in Seattle and each application lasted barely a couple of hours.

Boy Chanel wasn’t the only or the best lavender perfume I came across during that jaunt, so I could have probably made a sequel to the last year’s In the Search for the Perfect Lavender episode if I hadn’t tried to sneak Mr. President into the title. But since I couldn’t resist, I will probably leave my other lavender discovery for the next post.

 

Images: my own

Byredo Samples Draw Winner

I tried persuading Rusty to help me with selecting a winner but it didn’t happen so hajusuuri had to do it an old-fashion way – using random.org. And we have a winner!

Byredo Samples Draw Winner

Juli B.! Please contact me with your address.

And for the rest – one of the pictures from the photo shoot session for the original post: I think Rusty feels obligated to keep the image.

Rusty and Byredo Samples

I wish everybody a good weekend and hope to be back soon with another post – maybe even a perfume-related one.

Six by Byredo: Two Perfumistas’ Impressions

Undina: When hajusuuri who went to the recent Sniffa event had approached me suggesting a joint post about Byredo scents, I immediately agreed: since our tastes match, by my estimate, 80-85%, I was curious to see how we’ll do with testing the same perfumes almost at the same time.

hajusuuri: Sniffapalooza Spring Fling 2016 was but a memory, but the goodie bag samples live on!  This year we got a bonanza of manufacturers’ samples with lots of extras for sharing.

Undina: I was surprised when I realized that I hadn’t previously tested on skin five out of six perfumes hajusuuri offered to share even though I probably saw them all at a store and maybe even smelled from the bottle.

hajusuuri: In this episode of Weeklong Test Drive we’ll share our impressions of six Byredo perfumes.  These are not reviews, just first impressions.

Byredo Samples

Undina: I rarely can smell any specific notes in perfumes, whether I read them or not, so I wasn’t too strict about when I looked up the notes: for some of the perfumes I did it while testing, for others – later, as I was adding them to my database.

hajusuuri: Since my method of perfume application is spray and walk into the mist, having small atomizers presented a bit of a challenge for a proper wearing.  I decided to develop my impressions through the speed testing method – two sprays on each forearm, 5 minutes apart.  I wrote my impressions after 15 minutes of wear. I did not look up the notes prior to testing so be aware that I wrote down what each perfume smelled like to me and what I smelled may not necessarily match any of the “official” notes.

Ben Gorham founded Byredo in 2006.  He was inspired to create fragrances from a trip to his mother’s hometown in India.  With a fine arts degree but no training in perfumery, he collaborated with perfumers Oliva Giacobetti and Jerome Epinette to compose his fragrances.  In 2013, a private equity company, Manzanita, acquired a majority stake in Byredo.  You may recognize some of the companies in Manzanita’s portfolio, including SpaceNK and Diptyque.

Perfume and official notes hajusuuri’s impressions Undina’s impressions
Bullion

Top: Black Plum, Pink Pepper
Heart: Leather Accord, Magnolia, Osmanthus
Base: Dark Woods, Sandalwood, Sensual Musks

Review: Chemist in the Bottle

Woody pencil shavings, almond, slightly sweaty, plasticky Play-Doh If I had liked this perfume a little better, I would have run one of my déjà vu  posts: I swear Bullion is a slightly more masculine version of Annick Goutal’s Mon Parfum Cheri, par Camille. Plum + leather aren’t my thing in either of them
Flowerhead

Top: Angelica Seeds, Lingonberry, Sicilian Lemon
Heart: Dewy Tuberose, Rose Petals, Wild Jasmine Sambac
Base: Fresh Amber, Suede, White Rose

Review: The Scented Hound

 

Watered-down Frederic Malle Carnal Flower with tuberose and jasmine; has a grating chemical woody base (“Byredo base”) A lot of jasmine but it’s less pleasant than in Dior‘s Grand Ball, only comparing to which I can smell tuberose in Flowerhead. It gets more pleasant in a couple of hours of development but not enough for me to want to wear it.
Mister Marvelous

Top: Mandarin Leaves, Neroli Flower
Heart: Bamboo, Green Lavender
Base: Black Amber, White Cedarwood

Review: Cafleurebon

Initial blast of pepper, then lemon, then an unrelenting bitter artificial sweetener smell; has the Byredo base.  Unisex, despite its name I put it on: citrus. I put my wrist under my vSO’s nose: “It smells like a cleaner” he says. In my head it immediately transforms into the jingle “Mr. Clean! Mr Clean!”
Oud Immortel

Top: Cardamom, Incense
Heart: Brazilian Rosewood, Papyrus, Patchouli
Base: Moss, Tobacco Leaves

Review: The Non-Blonde

Leans masculine.  Starts fruity minty nutty woody with warmth threaded all throughout; has the Byredo base The opening blast of sweetness was even pleasant but it disappeared quickly and the remaining medicinal scent was what I usually do not like in agarwood perfumes
Pulp

Top: Bergamot, Blackcurrant, Cardamom
Heart: Fig, Red Apple, Tiare
Base: Cedarwood, Peach Flower, Praline

Review: Now Smell This

Juicy Fruit, sugar, yuzu. Fruit cocktail run amok As I previously wrote, I don’t think I can tolerate Pulp‘s rotten fruits anywhere but in Hawaii where it felt just right
Sunday Cologne (previously released as Fantastic Man)

Top: Bergamot, Cardamom, Star Anise
Heart: Geranium, Incense, Lavender
Base: Moss, Patchouli, Vetiver

Review: What Men Should Smell Like

Leans masculine, smells like Oud Immortel but much thinner and then devolved into Lemon Pledge Opens very citrusy but then I smell some wood and resin. I think it’s a little too masculine for me but it smells nice and I wouldn’t mind smelling it on my vSO – too bad he didn’t like it when I asked him t smell it

Undina: I have two Byredo decants – Pulp and La Tulipe (for those of you who weren’t reading my blog five years ago, I promise: it’s a cute story) and I think I might eventually get a couple more – Bal D’Afrique and Black Saffron. But even with these four I do not see a bottle in my future and the rest of the line that I tried left me cold. And I don’t like their standard bottles and labels: they don’t spell $150 perfume to me (it seems Rusty on the picture below can’t believe it either).

Rusty and Byredo Samples

hajusuuri: Overall, based on first impressions, I found none of these interesting enough to pursue further; however, I do have a decant of Gypsy Water that I enjoy.  Do you have any favorites?  Which perfumes from Byredo should I try next?  I generally enjoy amber, benzoin, birch tar, heliotrope, iris, tonka and vanilla.

Undina: Would you like to try these six perfumes? hajusuuri is still in a sharing mood, and she has an extra set of six samples to send to one randomly selected winner (with all usual disclaimers on either of us being responsible for anything that happens after samples are sent). You do not have to do anything other than confirming that you want to be entered into the draw, but I will appreciate if you share a link to this draw on FB, twitter or any other place where it’s done these days.

 

Images: my own

The draw is closed now. A winner will be announced in a separate post soon.

The Royal Nonesuch of Perfume

Several years after we moved to the U.S., we found our friend F. who we knew back in our student days. He emigrated about 8 years before we did, and we lost each other. So it was great to re-connect. But since we settled down on the opposite coasts, we visited each other several times over the years, but mostly our communications were over the phone.

Most conversations with F. revolved around the topics of trips and theater attendance – mostly F.’s since my vSO and I, being new immigrants, weren’t traveling or going to theaters much. We would also talk about books and movies, and there we probably still had a lot in common, though sometimes during those calls I had that strange feeling as if I was being quizzed on how interesting our life was. Most likely, it was all in my head and F. was sincere in his attempts to share with us cultural experiences and impressions but I do remember the feeling and my limp attempts to keep up. And then one day F. told me about a wonderful new film they’d just seen: a very unusual, avant-garde and so forth…

Today I don’t have much patience to waste time on something I dislike, if I can help it. But 17 years ago I patiently sat through the complete 81 minutes of The Blair Witch Project, going through the stages of confusion, disbelief, annoyance, anger and – did I mention disbelief? I couldn’t believe F. actually liked that and recommended it to us! And he wasn’t the only one who raved about it: there were enough high ratings and favorable reviews and articles online. It was beyond my comprehension… And then something clicked: I knew what it was!

AT THE COURT HOUSE!
FOR 3 NIGHTS ONLY!
The World-Renowned Tragedians
DAVID GARRICK THE YOUNGER!
AND
EDMUND KEAN THE ELDER!
Of the London and Continental Theatres,
In their Thrilling Tragedy of
THE KING’S CAMELEOPARD,
OR
THE ROYAL NONESUCH ! ! !
Admission 50 cents.

LADIES AND CHILDREN NOT ADMITTED

I’m not sure if you were as impressionable as I was when I read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to remember what that handbill was about, but I was so captivated by the psychological component of the scam that it stayed in my memory for decades.

In short, a couple of scoundrels announce that performance in a small town. First night, when it proves to be not much of a performance, the audience figures out that, in addition to losing money, they will be ridiculed by their peers. So instead of beating up the con artists right there and then, the first half of the town goes out and tells the second half how hilarious the play was. Then the rest of the town’s population pays for the same questionable experience. So the third night the whole town comes to the performance anticipating the revenge and armed with things to throw. But the con men disappear right after collecting the entrance fee.

My theory is that with The Blair Witch Project it just took too long for the “whole town” to watch it, so meanwhile the “first half” had time to cool down.

Recently, after reading Mals’ (Muse in Wooden Shoes) review of Oriza L. Legrand‘s Chypre Mousse, I started thinking that for the last couple of years I was participating in another adaptation of The Royal Nonesuch. And while it’s definitely not on the TBWP’s scale, I would say that it covers a population of at least several Twain’s towns.

The Royal Nonesuch

Mals was the first blogger (out of those whose blogs I read) who openly described how awful her experience with Chypre Mousse perfume was. Until then I read only positive reviews and I paid my “admission fee” (I got a 5 ml decant in a friendly split). The first test was such a shock! I actually hated the scent but suffered through the development hoping it would get better – it didn’t. Then it took me some time to get around testing it once again – the same result but that time I quickly retreated to the shower.

I do not plan to ever test Chypre Mousse again and, just in case, I will probably stay away from the brand altogether. But for some strange reason not only I didn’t write about that experience in my blog, I don’t think I’ve ever commented on any discussion of this perfume. I call it strange because I don’t have any loyalty towards this brand, I didn’t get it as a gift from somebody’s deeply loved bottle and it’s not even a small indie company, which I would be afraid to harm by saying something negative. Of course, it means I wasn’t saying anything good about it either so analogy isn’t complete but still I feel like with my silence I helped propagating the illusion of the consensus about this perfume being great, and one day we may end up in the “third night” crowd, as it was described through the eyes (nose?) of Huckleberry Finn:

I see that every man that went in had his pockets bulging or something muffled up under his coat – and I see it warn’t no perfumery, neither, not by a long sight. I smelt sickly eggs by the barrel, and rotten cabbages, and such things; and if I know the signs of a dead cat being around, and I bet I do, there was sixty-four of them went in.

 

Now, when I feel that I’ve done everything I could to warn “the rest of the town”, I do not mind hearing how great Chypre Mousse works on your skin. Does it?

From the Cutting Room Floor: Perfume? What Perfume? Where??!

Initially I planned to use this series for sharing with you pictures of Rusty that I made for my posts but ended up not publishing because I had more good pictures than I needed. But Scented Hound’s comment “Where’s Rusty??!” on my recent post gave me the idea to show you why it is tricky to get a good shot with both Rusty and perfume in one frame.

First, here’s the only one more or less sharp picture of Rusty and perfumes that I managed to take that day:

Rusty and Climat, Chamade and Chanel No19

After that he uncooperatively laid down on the chair and fell asleep completely ignoring all my attempts to attract his attention. I was rearranging the bottles, making noises and even pretending that I had some food in there – it didn’t work. To test a suspicion that it was Climat that cast a sleeping spell on him (the last time I was taking pictures of that perfume, Rusty also ended up napping – see the proof below), I removed that bottle and ended up with just Chamade and No 19 in the post picture, but it didn’t interrupt Rusty’s beauty nap.

Rusty and Climat

And even on those occasions when Rusty would get curious enough to get closer to a perfume bottle I was shooting and not fell asleep, he would keep turning away, checking out the walls behind him or the ceiling above as if asking “Where did you say that perfume was??”  I swear he doesn’t do it “in real life” when camera is not present.

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And one more of my cat’s favorite poses, with which many of you are already quite familiar, is his back to the camera:

Happy Mother's Day 2016

Happy Mother’s Day to all my U.S. readers!

Dab, Spray or Roll-on?

As I was writing about Guerlain Chamade extrait, I realized that as much as I love the bottle it comes in, I never use perfume directly from it: I transfer a couple of milliliters at a time into a small sample bottle and spray it. That made me thinking about how I normally use perfumes and the reasoning behind that.

Dabbing is good for applying a discreet amount of perfume without creating a serious projection. It is also a more sensual and “lady-like” ritual – a stereotype created by decades of ads and perfume-featuring movie scenes; though in recent years the industry was working hard on changing that.

A couple of years ago Birgit (Olfactoria’s Travels) shared her feelings about applying a special perfume:

The application alone feels terribly luxurious and sophisticated. It is almost an anointment, the ritual of application is very important here. It is certainly not a spritz and go thing. Applying Amytis needs time, respect and love for what you are doing and you are rewarded with the feeling of having done something special, of being part of age-old rites and not least of all – you smell divine.

It was a powerful image and I remembered it better than I remembered the name of that perfume (I had to look through the list of reviews to find it). Reading it makes you want if not to go for that super-exclusive perfume with a 24K gold-plated applicator, then to have at least a similar ritual with one of your own perfumes.

The disadvantage of that approach is that a stopper transfers oils and skin particles into the perfume, which leads to it getting clouded and going off faster than with a spray application. I think that using a stopper (or, for tiny bottles, your own finger, which is even more intimate) made sense for perfumes that were meant to be used up and replaced with a new flacon within a short period of time. But with a collection of perfumes…

Guerlain Chamade and Chanel No 19

Spraying is good for applying perfumes that you like when you are not afraid to overdo it. It also keeps both your fingers perfume-free and perfumes fresh(er). But it’s harder to control the amount, especially for bottles that you do not use too often and do not remember how their sprayers work: more than once I managed to gas co-workers in a small meeting room with just a couple of sprays – completely unexpected for me. And it feels not as glamorous as applying perfume from a splash bottle – unless, of course, you have one of those old-fashion bulb atomizers, though after I read in one of the Fragrantica’s threads about those atomizers being blamed for perfume evaporation, I keep mine safely tucked away in the dark closet. Separately from perfumes. But, in general, spraying is my preferred application method for perfume wearing.

Guerlain Cruel Gardenia

Using roll-on bottles is also good for the “portion control” and minimizing the projection, but, in addition to the same “contamination” issue as with the dab applicator, it seems even less romantic and more functional than spraying. I use those for air traveling but usually I do not consider roll-on perfumes for my collection.

Pacifica FrenchLilac and Arquiste No 57

Solid perfumes are one more option that didn’t even make it into the title since I do not own a single solid perfume, and I completely forgot about that choice until I was half through the post. Since other than Diptyque and Teo Cabanel’s, I don’t remember any other real brands that make solid perfumes, and I rarely use indie perfumes, this form isn’t much of a choice for me anyway, but even if there were more offerings, I don’t think I’d gone for those and mostly for the same reason: I do not like touching my perfumes.

What about you? What application method do you prefer when you wear perfumes and why?

 

Images: my own