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

Visiting Three Monarchies, Part 1: London

London is one of my top three favorite cities in the World, so I dreamed of going back there since my last visit 7 years ago. And since from this city my travel down the niche perfume rabbit hole has started, perfumes played a big part in this vacation.

Tara (A Bottled Rose) with whom I finally met and Vanessa (Bonkers about Perfume) who managed to get to London to spend time with us described our excursions in great details (see here, here and here), so I won’t repeat their wonderful reports but add to them some of my perfumed stories.

Accommodations

After the last visit’s fiasco with a “studio apartment” that turned out to be a tiny hot mansard shoe-box, I paid an extra attention to choosing a place to stay. We got a very nice and quiet flat, 2-minutes’ walk from the underground station and 4-minutes’ walk to the Hyde Park. On arrival we’d got a little scare from the nearby church clock’s Westminster Quarters chiming. But, as we discovered to my vSO’s relief, they would go silent during night. So we got as much sleep as jet lag would allow.

Flat in London

Perfumes I took with me

How does one choose, which perfumes to bring on a vacation? Any criteria are good – as long as they make sense to the wearer. This time I had an idea that I should bring only perfumes from the brands local for the countries on my itinerary. Also, since I ran out of decanting supplies, my choice was limited by perfumes, for which I had decants, travel bottles or at least samples. For the U.K., I brought English Pear & Freesia and White Lilac & Rhubarb from Jo Malone and Ta’if, Ormonde Woman, Vanille d’Iris and Sampaquita from Ormonde Jayne. I enjoyed wearing the first three (especially Ta’if, my love to which was born 7 years ago in London); Ormonde Woman unexpectedly didn’t work for me (though it might have been a side-effect of the sudden allergy attack I suffered that day); Vanille d’Iris was very pleasant but not enough to warrant a bottle purchase (determining that was the reason for bringing the sample with me); and Sampaquita was a straight-forward scrubber (initially I thought that the sample was off but on return I checked my notes and discovered that I had the same thoughts when I tested it on the previous occasion – and that time it was a different sample vial).

Perfumes I tested

Having visited Liberty, Harrods (including Salon de Parfums), Selfridges, Les Senteurs and Ormonde Jayne, I smelled at least a couple of hundred frarances. Of course, for most of them it was a quick “sprayer sniff”: I know that it is far from ideal but while on a testing spree, you need some approach to discriminating between perfumes that warrant a paper test or even your valuable skin “real estate” and those that should stay safely in their original vessels. So I want to mention just several perfumes that attracted my attention enough to get at least on signed blotters.

Salon de Parfums in Harrods

Out of all Ormonde Jayne perfumes I tested this time, I thought I liked Ambre Royal and Jardin d’Ombre but both happened to be more interesting and lasing on paper than on my skin. Tauer’s Amber Flash, which is times less expensive (and less exclusive!) than Ambre Royal, was so much more pleasant and unique that I almost feel obligated to buy a bottle of it. White Gold caught my attention, mostly, because it was Selfridges’ exclusive. But I wasn’t even tempted to try it on skin.

As I discovered when I returned home, I have previously tried Caron Parfum Sacré and didn’t like it then. But when I tested it this time, prompted by Vanessa who loves it, I liked it. I should probably dig out my sample and try it again.

I also tried a couple of Parfums de Marly fragrances, the names of which I kept reading in male-dominant perfume swap group on FB – Layton and Pegasus. I liked them very much, and I see this brand in my vSO’s future.

Perfumes tested in London

Perfumes I didn’t buy

Strictly speaking, I haven’t bought all those 200+ perfumes that I tested. What I mean is that since I had a plan to bring back with me perfume from each of my trip’s destinations, while sniffing and testing, I narrowed down the list of the favorites that I considered as candidates to accompany me back to the U.S. In the end I decided not to buy them – for different reasons.

By Killian’s Black Phantom – Memento Mori caught me by surprise: I didn’t expect to like it as much as I did. Lucas in his review of this perfume mentioned that he disliked “the presentation with a skull on a lacquered case.” That made me thinking about why it didn’t affect me the same way; and if I were to venture a guess, the answer lies in where I encountered Black Phantom for the first time: it looked quite àpropos amid exaggerated luxury of the Harrod’s Salod de Parfum. And it was presented by Kilian’s replica (if you haven’t yet, take a look at the picture in Tara’s post linked above). Though I liked Black Phantom, I decided to test it more first since it is kind of available where I live. Besides, By Kilian isn’t the U.K. brand.

By Kilian Black Phantom

Partially for the same reason (not a local brand) I decided not to buy Isabey Fleur Nocturne. But I liked that floral chypre (with the stress on “floral”), and I plan to spend more time testing it since I got a sample from Les Senteurs.

By Kilian’s Midnight in London, which I liked a lot from the first sniff on paper and through its development on my wrist, could have probably fit the bill despite the brand’s origin: it is a limited edition perfume, specific to the place. But Midnight in London takes the notion of “limited” to the extreme: according to Kilian’s double, there is just a single set of that perfume created (see the picture below), and once it is sold, there will be no more produced. In the conversation I heard the price as £50,000. Later Tara assuaged me that the price was mere £15,000 – had I but known!

By Kilian Midnight In London

Compared to that, Roja Dove’s semi-bespoke chypre No 5, which I unexpectedly liked after dismissing most of the brand’s creations as “not me,” seems almost a bargain. And it is a real British brand. But even if I had rumored £1,000 to spend on perfume, that commitment would have required more than just a cursory sniff. Since I didn’t plan on spending that much, I didn’t even go for a skin test for this No 5 (about which I slightly regret now).

Ormonde Jayne Rose Gold would have been a perfect choice: perfume from the brand that played such an important role in my perfume life! I think I tried to persuade myself that I liked Rose Gold. But the truth was: while I liked it probably the most of all the new perfumes from the line that I’ve tried, after wearing it a couple of times, I realized that it wasn’t perfume I needed. It’s with sadness that I have to conclude that Ormonde Jayne’s  new “luxury” undertakings leave me cold.

Ormonde Jayne Rose Gold

Tom Daxon Magnolia Heights stayed on my list for the longest time. I knew nothing about the brand until Vanessa and I discovered it at Les Senteurs with the perfume in question, as Vanessa had noticed and commented, placed appropriately on the top shelf in the store. I liked it, tested several times and seriously considered finding space for it in my suitcase: I have a soft spot for floral perfumes, if you haven’t noticed it; Tom Daxton is a brand from the U.K; and to get it I wouldn’t have to part with any of my extremities. Magnolia Heights seemed to tick all the boxes but in the end I decided not to buy it. Why? It might sound strange but that was what happened: at some point I thought that it smelled similar to my other favorite – Guerlain Cruel Gardenia, so I went to the store to do the comparison. While I proved to myself that I was wrong: Magnolia Heights gave me a similar vibe but it smelled different, at the same time I realized that I liked Cruel Gardenia so much more that it didn’t make any sense to buy Magnolia Heights when I could just wear Cruel Gardenia more often.

Tom Daxon Magnolia Heights

It was a great trip, and I enjoyed it immensely. Tara and Vanessa made it even more special than it was shaping out on its own. My vSO and I love London even more now, and we’ll be back there, hopefully soon. Oh, and if you were wondering, I did buy perfume in London. But it won’t be fair to it to introduce it in the end of the long post – so I’ll do it in a separate post after I finish with the other two stops on my trip.

 

Images: my own

Lily of the Valley – Once Again

Since my first Single Note Exploration post about lily of the valley perfumes five years ago, I weren’t exploring the note much: the rumor about Malle’s possible venture into featuring this note in his next creation proved to be just that – rumor. Instead, he released magnolia perfume and sold the brand (not sure, in which order).

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Back then I had three perfumes in the “Lily of the Valley I Loved” category.

I still wear my favorite Dior Diorissimo – not as often as it deserves but then I do not wear any of my perfumes too often.

Instead of a mini bottle that I thought of buying, I got a full bottle of Lily of the Valley by Penhaligon’s (thanks to a kind friend).

Even though I liked Guerlain Muguet and was contemplating getting a decant, later I realized that perfume itself, though nice, wasn’t what was driving the price. The main part of it comes from the unique, limited edition bottle. And I was admiring from afar yearly updates of those bottles but I decided that paying the proportionate price for juice without getting at least a chip off that bottle just wouldn’t make much sense.

Lily of the Valley

Last year, when I read that Thierry Wasser created a new perfume for 2016 LE of Muguet, I was mildly curious – but never got around to trying it. This year, when I saw the announcement for the new edition, I’ve got a strange reaction: I felt offended.

Perfume prices went up significantly in the recent years: what was labeled as an “aspirational price” in 2010, became a mundane reality of new releases today. Guerlain, on the other hand, kept their limited edition perfume at the same price point all these years – around $500, give or take, dependent on the Euro rate, which isn’t cheap if you were to think about what goes into its production. It is Eau de Toilette – so about 10% of aromatic compounds, main of which, lily of the valley, is not even something that can be sourced naturally – it is a chemical compound. All of that was secondary while Guerlain was producing a limited number of special collectors bottles of that concoction: even if one wears that perfume as a signature scent, I doubt 125 ml of it will be gone in a year, in time for the next bottle, so, most likely, people were buying it not really for the juice itself.

Muguet 2017 was launched in a differently colored but otherwise same bottle, in which they’d previously launched their perfume sprays for lingerie and wool/cashmere. They through in some “pristine white bells fashioned by the Maison Legeron are meticulously hand-embroidered by the Atelier and embellished with a fine, golden-beaded leaf.” But the result still looks much cheaper than their previous creations for this “special” perfume. We’ll never know, but I would be really curious to know how the sales of this year’s LE fares compared to other years. For one, I’m not even tempted.

Today, for the May 1st, I’m wearing Penhaligon’s Lily of the Valley. Its ribbon is not as impressive and definitely not hand-anything. Its original price is, in my opinion, still too high for what it is. But it is light, spring-like, very uncomplicated and believable lily of the valley perfume. And it can be had almost for a song from discounters.

Penhaligon's Lily of the Valley

Images: All but the last one – my own (I re-used pictures of Rusty from the previous post – just in case you haven’t seen them before); the last one – from FragranceNet (they have a really good price for this perfume – no affiliation).