In the Search for the Perfect Vanilla, Part 2

Topic of vanilla perfumes periodically circulates in the Perfumeland, and two-three years ago I could probably be observed commenting on those with the statement of not being a vanilla fan. I never seriously disliked the note, but for a long time I thought that vanilla-centric perfumes weren’t my cup of tea.

In some sense I was right: until recently the only two bottles of vanilla perfume in my perfume collection were Vanille Noire by Yves Rocher and Eau Duelle by Diptyque – a mini bottle and a travel bottle, correspondingly. But the “mystery” vanilla perfume that I came across on the last day of my Maui vacation (see the Part  1* post) has triggered my vanilla cravings. And while I was searching for that brand first and then waiting on the La Maison de la Vanille’s sample set arrival, I discovered that over the years I accumulated a wide variety of decants and samples of vanilla perfumes. So for the next month I wore and tested perfumes with the prominent vanilla note.

There are many great Guides to Vanilla Perfumes in the Blogosphere, so I won’t even attempt to write any serious comparison of the perfumes I tried. I’ll just share some personal numbers, observations and conclusions.

Diptyque Eau Duelle

During that month I sweetened the bitterness of the returning from my vacation with 22 vanilla perfumes. Only one of them – Eau Duelle doesn’t have one or the other variation of the word “vanilla” in the name. But Eau Duelle is unmistakably vanilla perfume, and I like it, especially in the heat of tropics (and that’s where I actually wore it on the onset of my vanilla kick).

Out of 22 perfumes in my experiment, I disliked 11 – so probably I wasn’t that wrong in thinking that I didn’t like vanilla perfumes. I won’t list them all, but mention just several where I have any additional comments. I confirmed to myself that Atelier Cologne’s Vanille Insensée does not work for me, which still surprises me since I find most of their perfumes pleasant even when I do not love them. I also suspect that my sample of Vanille Absolument from L’Artisan Parfumeur is off: though I don’t know how it’s supposed to smell, I don’t think it smells right (or I’ll be extremely surprised since I read many good reviews for it).

Five perfumes I neither liked nor disliked: Montale Chypre Vanille, Van Cleef & Arpels Orchidee Vanille, Serge Lutens Un Bois Vanille, Jo Malone Vanila & Anise and M.Micallef Vanille Orient. They were quite nice but all of them were the type that I might wear, in principle, but having so many other great perfumes I would probably never finish even those decants/minis that I have now (Rusty didn’t care much for them either: I couldn’t persuade him to play with them for my camera).

Rusty and Vanilla Samples

That leaves us with 6 perfumes that I quite liked. None of them were new to me: they were my favorites from the previous encounters with them. In addition to the mentioned above Eau Duelle, I liked Guerlain Spiritueuse Double Vanille. I have a decant of it but once it’s gone, I won’t pursue it. Unexpectedly I loved Tobacco Vanille by Tom Ford. “Unexpectedly” – because this is one of the perfumes that I love on my vSO but I’ve never considered it for myself. Now I think that once we finish his decant, I should go for a bottle – to share, of course. I also liked Ormonde Jayne’s Vanille d’Iris though I have some uneasy feelings about it since I think I smell Iso E Super** in it. Good news: I do not smell carrot in it any longer. So I might consider getting one of the 10 ml bottles from their travel set. Or not.

By the end of this Single Note Exploration episode I got down to two contenders for the perfect vanilla title – Le Labo Vanille 44 and Mona di Orio Vanille. Thank you, hajusuuri and Suzanne (Suzanne’s Perfume Journal): if it weren’t for your generosity, with me not being a big fan of vanilla perfumes (and absolutely not a fan of Mona di Orio’s creations), I might have never actually tried these two. But I did, found both to be wonderful perfumes and decided to add one of them to my collection. Why not both? Even not talking about the price, these two fit exactly the same niche for me, and I just do not see how I would be deciding every time, which of the two to wear. So after many evenings of the parallel test runs on both wrists, as well as a couple of days of actually wearing each of them, I declared the winner: Vanille by Mona di Orio is my Perfect Vanilla.

Rusty and Mona di Orio Vanille

Now I want to “pay it forward”: I have one 5 ml decant of Mona di Orio Vanille to share. To be entered into the giveaway, let me know in your comment whether you’ve tried and liked it, or want to try it (I assume, if you didn’t like it, you won’t need more of it, but I do not mind your entering into the draw even if that’s the case). There are no other requirements. Open until 11:59 P.M. PST, December 11, 2016.

Question to everybody (not related to the giveaway): Can you name just one vanilla perfume that is hands down your favorite?

 

*I doubt anyone would have noticed, but I wanted to explain that usually, when I re-visit the same note in my One Note Exploration series, I name the consequent episodes “Take 2, 3, etc.” But in this case both episodes were the parts of the same tasting spree – hence Part 1 & 2.

** Recently I finally formulated how I feel about this aroma chemical: while I like it on its own (and have a bottle of Molecular 01 to prove it), and I do not mind it in perfumes, I prefer not to be able to pinpoint this ingredient in my perfumes.

 

Images: my own

Scented Gift Ideas 2016

Last year I enjoyed writing a Gift Ideas post so much that this year I decided to do it again and early enough for you to have time before holidays to shop. By now (I mean time in your life, not of the year) you’ve probably identified people in your surroundings who might appreciate perfume-related gifts and, unless you’re extremely lucky, your list of such recipients isn’t much longer than mine. But if you like any of the things I found, maybe you could get them – just in case you later think of somebody who you want to give that as a gift? And, worse comes worst, you’ll have to toughen up and use it yourself. I chose $35 as an arbitrary upper limit for the gift ideas I shared below.

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post in any form; and it doesn’t contain affiliate links.

***

Atelier Cologne keeps coming up with great ideas for popularizing their perfumes: in addition to the last year’s great way of presenting a gift card in a company of 12 samples (it’s still available with the minimum GC amount $70), this year they offer a $35 Discovery Set that includes 32 colognes (their full range) with 32 postcards + $35 gift voucher towards any $70 future purchase. But if you already know most of their perfumes, and do not plan any full bottle purchases from the brand, you might want to check out their new hand creams in Orange Sanguine, Pomélo Paradis, Bergamote Soleil and Rose Anonyme scents. $25 is probably too expensive for a daily hand cream but it’s a nice gift to somebody else or small indulgence for yourself if you like one of the four perfumes.

Atelier Cologne Postcards

I spent about five minutes at the spa shop debating if it was an acceptable gift for somebody outside of the close family circle. I’m not sure yet – so I left without buying any – but I still might go back, even if to get one of these cute and pleasantly smelling shower sponges by Caren for myself. As it says on the brand’s website, “sponges have been infused with our luxurious body cleanser enriched with aloe vera, olive oil, lemon grass, sea kelp extracts, and abundance of creamy that insures the ultimate in pampering.”  Each one has different fragrance. I liked the Snowflake Limited Edition Blue Linen the most.

These last for 15+ washes, so at $12.50 a piece they are more expensive “per wash” than many luxury soaps, but it’s something different, and with the seasonal packaging those might be nice stocking stuffers.

Caren Shower Sponges

Modern artificial Christmas trees can be surprisingly natural-looking. Last year our friends didn’t realize we had one of those until I mentioned it to them. What those man-made wonders cannot replicate yet is a wonderful scent of the drying pine needles and resins from the cut branches. But fear not – Scented Christmas Ornaments to the rescue! (There are many brands available in the price range from $7 to $25 for a pack of 6 to 18 ornaments)

Scented Ornaments

If your Christmas tree is as natural as they come but you still want to add festivity to the ambience, many brands offer special candles for these holidays – but hurry: the small ones go fast. Take a look at Holiday Ornament Scented Candle or Birchwood Pine Scented Candle from NEST ($16 each), Le Roi Sapin (The festive fir tree), Épices et Délices (Delicious Spices) and Un Encens Etoilé (Sparkling incense) from Diptyque ($35 each) or Maison Holiday Travel Tin Candles (Set of 4) from Voluspa ($32; mini-candle also available separately for $9 each).

Holiday Candles

I’ve been eyeing this next item for a while: I love the idea but I do not have any practical application for Scented Inks by J Herbin ($21.95). The set contains the following colors (scents): red (rose), orange (orange), green (apple), purple (violet) and blue (lavender). If I were to use something like that, I might also consider Blue Supple Wax with Lavender Scent from the same brand ($24.40).

J Herbin Scented Ink Samples

And for those situations when you cannot wear your favorite perfume (“scent-sensitive” relatives, no-fragrance work environment or pesky insects) but still want to make a statement, take a look at these t-shirts: they come in four colors (olive, black, brown and cranberry) and two cuts (men and women) for $19.99. The text says:

1 frag-head
noun | frag•head | \’frag-hed\
: a fragrance obsessed person
(see: the one wearing this shirt)

frag-head T-shirt

If you do not plan on posting your own Gift Guide somewhere, please share any interesting “giftable” perfume-related items you came across recently.

 

Images: only the first one is my own; the rest are from the products’ sites, sometimes re-arranged a little (I thought it was a fair use since I linked to the products).

Nature vs. …

The first thought I had while testing Puredistance Sheiduna was: it’s beautiful, I really like it! And the next one: Whatever I smell, it just cannot be natural…

Earlier this year Lucas (Chemist in the Bottle) reviewed a couple of perfumes by Nomenclature – a project by Aedes de Venustas‘ founder Karl Bradl and an interior designer Carlos Quintero. The project showcases some aroma chemicals. I’m not sure why they felt compelled to do it: not only has it been done before (as a concept) – all of Escentric Molecules‘ perfumes, Not a Perfume by Juliette has a Gun or Tauer‘s Pentachords – but also all of the above-mentioned perfumes had a much more appealing packaging. Nevertheless, they did it, and I’ve got to try four out of five perfumes from the line recently (thank you, hajusuuri). The verdict? I thought they were rather nice, but I had to agree with Steve’s (The Scented Hound) comment on that Lucas’ post:

I have no problem with synthetics and their use. Actually, the natural perfumes for the most part aren’t to my liking. That said, I have a hard time rallying around a conceptual perfume that is marketed to look like a chemistry set. Wrap it up in a pretty bottle with a pretty name and maybe I’ll come running.

Rusty and Nomenclature perfume samples

That was exactly what I was thinking. While I usually prefer everything natural in other areas of life (I recently touched it in the topic of the clothes’ fabric), when it comes to perfumes, I’m not so sure. No, actually strike that: I am sure that “all-natural” doesn’t work for me in perfume form. So far, I came across a single all-natural perfume that I really liked: Unter den Linden from April Aromatics (I did a mini-review of it in one of my Single Note Exploration posts). Absolutely all other all-natural perfumes that I’ve tried were “OK” at best…

But back to Sheiduna. I want to clarify that my thinking about it not being natural wasn’t a criticism – I was just stating the fact. The third though that was an organic continuation of those two, with which I started this post, was: I don’t really care about that fact.

I know bloggers who take offense at brands using aroma chemicals, especially when it’s done in excess, in their opinion. I’m a wrong person to judge: Molecule 01 – a pure Iso E Super – is still one of my favorite perfumes (and I fell in love with it without even knowing what I smelled). But my opinion is: if I like what I smell, I do not care about the origin of the scent I like – as long as it is… well, original.

Angel Perfumes

While I loved (and still do) Angel (I challenge anyone to tell me, which natural ingredients made it an icon – and while you’re at it, you might also try persuading me that Marilyn Monroe was a natural blonde), I never cared for all angel-wannabes that came after. The same goes for other ingredients: once they become ubiquitous, I lose my interest. But I do not hold it against those perfumes that used them first: before something has become a cliché, at some point it must have been original and … catchy.

Amber Xtreme or not, I enjoy Sheiduna and think that it’s more beautiful than hundreds of other perfumes I’ve tried – and I’m not talking only about natural perfumes. And Puredistance’s packaging is truly exceptional. I’ll happily wear Sheiduna this winter.

Rusty and Puredistance Sheiduna

Images: my own

The Sillage of Rosa

My Grandma’s name was Rosa (“rose” in Russian). Today we would have celebrated her 96th birthday.

I had two months to come to terms with this loss, and this post is not a call for sympathy. Thinking about my grandmother and her role in my life, I realized that most of you who reads this post today would have never met me, had I not inherited my Grandma’s love for perfume and decades later decided to write a story about my first and everlasting fragrant love – Lancôme Climat, the first bottle of which was gifted to me by her. So I want you all to “meet” her and help me to celebrate her life.

Rosa

Image: I doubt any other pictures of my grandmother are out there, so I wanted to leave a digital sillage of Rosa in the Universe. I took a picture of one of my favorite photos of her and Climat bottle that she gave me all those years ago.

In the Search for the Perfect Vanilla, Part 1

I realized how uneventful recently my day-to-day life has been when I started questioning myself whether I was going a little overboard with a number of posts based on a single week’s vacation… It made me thinking that, as much as I enjoy my work, I should probably at least try to do something about it taking up most of the resources in my life so that I would have inspirations without having to fly two thousand miles. Meanwhile, I won’t look a gift horse in the mouth and proceed with the post.

The last day of our Maui trip we spontaneously decided to go to Makawao – an old Upcountry town. A Guide book (yes, I still use a paper book despite Internet, smartphones and all other modern ways of getting useful travel information) highly praised town’s famous bakery (it was closed that day but we knew about it beforehand thanks to my iPhone) and promised “unexpected shopping finds” (not the exact quote since my book currently is traveling again with a friend).

Makawao Restaurant

Going from one small shop to the other, we agreed with the Guide: there were many interesting small boutiques selling not the usual touristy rubbish you see in most other places everywhere in Hawaii. One of the stores (Designing Wahine Emporium) surprised me by an unusual choice of perfumes. Most often in Hawaii you can find some local offerings that play on the most common ingredients – plumeria, pikake, coconut – or exploit ambience theme – Kauai or Maui Rain, Hawaiian Night Mist and so on. None of those that I’ve ever tried was good enough to come back with me even as a souvenir from the pleasant vacation. But in that store I came across a large selection from the TokyoMilk line and several Kai perfumes.

Since I’m not a big fan of either brand and I haven’t even heard about the third one I saw on the counter, I was a little skeptical about three perfumes from that unknown brand. I inspected them carpingly: the bottles reminded me of Comptoir de Sud (one more brand that has never won me over), and they had “Made in France” label but the name of the brand did not sound familiar. I smelled all three from a nozzle: they all smelled of vanilla, which wasn’t surprising since each of them had that ingredient in the name. I even liked what I smelled but there were no paper strips to try them and I was an hour drive away from the place where we stayed, so testing unknown perfumes on skin was completely out of question.

It was almost time to head back, so we left the store but decided to make a quick stop at the local coffee shop – Sip Me. If you ever get there, try their wonderful drink “Simply Coconut” – a smoothie-like blend made just from fresh coconut. As we were drinking it with vanilla shortbread cookies, I kept thinking how wonderful the cookies smelled… until I realized that the smell was coming from my fingers.

It was too late to return to the store and try to figure out which of the three perfumes transferred to my fingers; so for the last sunset of my vacation I had to satisfy my hankering for vanilla with Diptyque ‘s Eau Duelle, which was great in the warmth of Maui evening.

Maui Sunset

On the return from the vacation I spent some time looking for that brand, the name of which I completely forgot. Somehow I managed to figure it out, went to their website – and a week later I had a full set of La Maison de la Vanille‘s samples.

La Maison de la Vanille is a relatively new niche brand from France: they started in 2006. Based on how they allude to exotic locations and “distant shores” citing those as inspiration, either their perfumes do not contain specific vanillas from those destinations, or their marketing department’s not doing a great job. My money’s on the former.

Even though 10 out of 11 perfumes in the set contain vanilla, only 6 of them are vanilla-centric, so I concentrated on testing those 6 – Vanille Givree de Antilles, Vanille Noire du Mexique, Vanille Fleurie de Tahiti, Vanille Divine des Tropiques, Vanille Sauvage de Madagascar and Absolu de Vanille. I can’t say that I disliked any of the six I’ve tested.

Vanille Fleurie de Tahiti and Vanille Sauvage de Madagascar are too sweet for me to wear. Somebody who’s more tolerant to this type of sweetness might find more nuances in these two but most of the notes listed on Fragrantica are lost on me.

Vanille Noire du Mexique and Absolu de Vanille are less sweet than the previous two and have some additional facets that make them a little more interesting to wear but probably I won’t: they are just not distinct enough. But, again, your mileage…

I like Vanille Givree de Antilles: it reminds me a lot of Angel. But I already love, own and do not wear the original Angel and its Taste of Fragrance flanker, so I should probably skip this one (after I test the remaining juice in parallel with Angel – just to confirm my impression).

And Vanille Divine des Tropiques is a winner for me. I should admit: out of the promised amber, jasmine, hyacinth, tuberose, gardenia, heliotrope and vanilla I think I can smell amber, vanilla and some floral component though I fail to recognize. And if tuberose of any kind – be that the most natural or a Fracas-style one – is in there, it hides well from my tuberose-adverse nose. I’m thinking about getting the smallest bottle of Vanille Divine des Tropiques for the next time I crave vanilla or want a reminder of the great vacation I had this year.

La Maison de la Vanille Samples Set

If you like vanilla perfumes and haven’t tried this brand yet, at 10 euro for the set, including S&H, I do not see a good reason not to (if French isn’t your strong suit, I’d suggest using Chrome’s “Translate this page” functionality as I did).

Images: samples from the brand’s site; the rest – my own

Black Lace in Tropics

If I were to name the best material for tropical clothing, I would be choosing between cotton, linen or silk, and I would be looking at it from the point of the comfort of wearing it in the heat and aesthetic. But, as I discovered, in the beginning of the last century there were serious debates in the Great Britain on that subject from the prospective of health and hygiene in tropical climates. People were writing serious articles in the Journal of Tropical Medicine arguing pros and cons of those fabrics that I mentioned above plus wool, about which I wouldn’t even think despite the existence of the term “tropical wool” (now I actually know what it means). The best color for tropical clothes was also widely discussed: wearing less heat-absorbing white/light colors was supported by one camp, while the other one advocated the idea of mimicking “black” skin (for the health reasons).

Also, it was interesting to learn that Burberry was producing and advertising clothes for working and traveling in the colonies, and that those weren’t cheap back then either.

Burberrys' Tropical Clothing Ad

From when I was a child, I knew that skin doesn’t “breathe” in clothes made from synthetic fiber (one of those wisdom that is passed from the older generation and usually isn’t questioned). A couple of years ago I had a chance to actually prove it to myself: as I was using a steamer on the clothes I had with me on a trip, I noticed how great it worked with my wool sweaters and my vSO’s cotton shirts but was completely useless for my blouse made of one of rayon’s variations.

It pains me to see that more and more summer clothes are produced from the synthetic or semi-synthetic materials. I understand that it’s cheaper than natural fabrics but how greedy are those companies that charge $100+ for a “summer” dress made of polyester?!

So why would I bring a black lace with me on my tropical vacation? I wouldn’t have if it hasn’t been … a lipstick.

Lipstick Queen Black Lace Rabbit

When I read about the upcoming release of Black Lace Rabbit, which was “playing on the idea of “going down a rabbit hole where nothing is what it seems” (a nod to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland), I immediately felt drawn to it. And since I love Lipstick Queen‘s Hello Sailor (I’m finishing my second lipstick and plan to buy the third one), I ordered Black Lace Rabbit online without trying to find it in a store first.

In a tube Black Lace Rabbit looks solid black with golden flecks but on lips, unlike those cheap Halloween makeup lipsticks, Black Lace Rabbit is just a sheer and slightly shimmering tint – like a veil over the natural lip color. It seemed very appropriate for the tropical evening attire.

Lipstick Queen Black Lace Rabbit and Hello Sailor swatches

As I was taking pictures of Black Lace Rabbit, a perfectly color-coordinated with my photo session local cat visited our lanai. I think that with his third eye he perceived how much by that time in our vacation I was missing Rusty…

Maui Cat

Images: Burberrys’ ad – from the article referenced above; others – my own

Song of the Sea

There is a term “false friend of a translator” – words in two languages that look or sound similar, but differ significantly in meaning (see Wikipedia). These words do not even have to look/sound exactly the same but as long as they somehow “click”, one’s mind does the rest.

My first encounter with this phenomenon was a word “complexion”: it sounds similar to the word in Russian “комплекция” that means “build” (as in “the dimensions or proportions of a person’s or animal’s body”). The next one was even more drastic: English “pathetic” just begs to be used as a translation for Russian “патетический” (“grandiloquent”).

As I’ve discovered, it doesn’t even have to be a foreign-native pair; foreign-foreign works as well. For a while in my mind “Sogni del Mare” was associated with “Song of the See.” I don’t know if for a native speaker (reader?) “sogni” looks anything like “song”, but for my eye it was (and is) close enough – even now when I know that it means “dreams.”

I tried Sogni del Mare (Dreams of the Sea) by Antonia’s Flowers for the first time many years ago from a dab vial that I bought from the brand’s site as a part of a sample set*. I liked it very much and was even considering a bottle purchase (in my regular “think ten times” manner). Then one day I saw Sogni del Mare at Barneys and was about to buy it but decided to spray it first – just to see how I like it in that form.

It was awful! Not just different from how I remembered or less interesting but plainly awful. There were some very unpleasant herbal notes I never smelled in it before… Of course, I didn’t buy it then.

At some point later at home, when I remembered about the incident, I re-tested my old sample: I still liked it. I couldn’t believe it was the same perfume! “Maybe they’ve reformulated it since I got my sample?” – I asked myself and ordered another set of samples. Reformulation wasn’t the case: I still liked Sogni del Mare from the new vial. Then the only explanation I could think of was that Barneys had a turned tester bottle.

A year later, while at Barneys again, I decided to try Sogni del Mare again – with the same result, believe it or not. I was amazed and I couldn’t explain how it could happen (it couldn’t have been the same tester, could it?). But I asked for a sample, which I brought, together with the other two, to my recent Maui vacation.

Antonia's Flowers Sogni del Mare

I wasn’t imagining things: the sample from Barneys’ bottle was clearly off. I do not know how exactly they managed to do that, but even remains of my ancient first sample (from 2007!), though slightly changed, smells closer to the newer sample than what I smelled twice at Barneys (a year apart).

Sogni del Mare isn’t a statement perfume: it’s soft, tender and … dreamy. I’m not a big fan of colognes but this perfume’s citrus opening charms me. I do not like rhubarb in any of its uses but it doesn’t bother me here. I love black currant and like lotus note in perfumes but I do not distinguish them in Sogni del Mare. All that said, every time I try Sogni del Mare, I realize that I still like it. The only reason I haven’t bought it yet is my fear that samples were from the “old batch” while the perfume was reformulated and “what you smell [at Barneys] is what you get.” But maybe I should still risk it?..

I’m not sure I have a notion about how exactly dreams of the sea might smell, but if you would tell me they smell like Sogni del Mare, I would say: I don’t see why not…

Maui: Dreams of the Sea

Images: my own

* It looks like the sample set is still offered from the brand’s site for a nominal price. They do not ship to Europe but if you’re in the U.S. and haven’t tried their perfumes, you have to!