Second Sunday Samples: Sylvaine Delacourte Vanilla Collection

Do you feel annoyed when brands suddenly come up with a flurry of new perfumes or even complete new lines? I usually do: not only there is no real need in that many new perfumes launched at the same time adding the next wave to the already flooded market, but is it even possible to do anything worth releasing in those quantities in the time frame between previous and next releases? Theoretically – maybe, but I doubt.

But what if it’s a new brand? Well, it seems that launching a brand with just 1 perfume would be a very risky enterprise. One could do it if it were a side line, an addition to an established fashion, cosmetics or perfume reseller business. But when launching a “stand-alone” perfume brand, one has to start with at least 3 perfumes. And most small brands do exactly that. Five perfumes? Still reasonable, though already pushing my personal limits.

When Sylvaine Delacourte, a perfumer behind my favorite Cruel Gardenia, among other things (such as being a Perfume Creative Director at Guerlain for 15 years) that made me distinguish that brand from dozens of others appearing every day, came out with her first set of five – Musk Collection, I got curious, ordered a set of samples, tried, shrugged my shoulders and moved on.

Why have I decided to go for the second 5 perfume collection two years later? Three reasons: I didn’t hate the first collection just didn’t find anything to love; it wasn’t expensive; and finally, I was going to Hawaii and I thought that Vanilla Collection was a perfect companion to accompany me there.

 

Sylvaine Delacourte Vanilla Collection

 

Since all perfumes are centered on the same main ingredient – natural Madagascar vanilla beans (at least this is the claim on the website), I didn’t expect to like them all: that would have been counter-productive to simultaneously release 5 perfumes that would cater to the same taste. I was right: Vanori, Vahina (an unfortunate name for perfume for either Spanish- or Russian-speaking audience) and Vangelis were all quite nice (2.5 to 3 sea stars) but none of them called for more than a couple of lines in my perfume diary. So here I’ll share impressions of the two that worked for me.

 

Three and Half Sea Stars

Virgile, with official notes: rose, rosemary, clary sage, geranium, vanilla, leather, mandarin, cedarwood and bergamot, being the fifth (as in its position in the box) perfume, kept slipping my attention: even though I tested it several times, somehow by the time I would come to the end of the set, I’d be distracted by something and wouldn’t record my impressions. Recently I finally got to test it properly, and while I wish it was “woodier” on my skin, I liked both herbal opening and dryer vanilla drydown enough to want to wear it.

 

Four Sea Stars

Had I checked notes for Valkyrie beforehand, I would have thought that it was the least likely candidate from the bunch to attract me. But I haven’t. Valkyrie and I clicked almost immediately, and it happened thanks to a completely unexpected association.

In my childhood, as I can remember, ambient scenting wasn’t something usual or customary. Life wasn’t scentless: women wore perfumes and deodorants (if they could get them); men wore colognes and aftershave; dwellings smelled pleasantly of food, baked goods, or sometimes cut flowers or unpleasantly of mothballs and doubtful bathroom fresheners; and I’ve previously mentioned a peculiar use of nicely smelling “imported” soaps as drawer sachet. But I can’t remember any scented candles, diffusers or room sprays – it just wasn’t a part of the culture.

In my mid-teens there was a surge of exotic and unusual products from India. It doesn’t mean that they were readily available (nothing good was), but if you “knew right people” or just happen to be at a store at the right time (store employees just had to sell at least some quantity of goods to the public before they could re-sell the rest for higher prices to people they knew), you could get lucky. Somehow my grandmother (the same one who introduced me to my all-time perfume love Lancôme Climat) got several boxes of incense cones and shared them with me.

 

Insence Cones

 

Those were precious and cherished objects: none of my friends or classmates had anything like that, so I felt really special when I would burn one or two of the cones for a birthday or some other gathering at my place. I loved how those incense cones smelled but have never experienced the same scent after they were gone, even though since then I’ve tried dozens of incense sticks, cones and spirals. I put it to the normal change of perception with age… until I sprayed on Valkyrie.

I suspect that it’s some particular combination of sandalwood and vanilla that is responsible for the olfactory hologram, but sans smoke, what I smell from my wrist when I put on Valkyrie takes me back to those special moments that combined sensory joy and pride of possession.

 

Sylvaine Delacourte Vanilla Collection

 

I do not think I need a full bottle of any of these perfumes but luckily Sylvaine Delacourte offers several great options: you can buy mix/match sets of refill travel sprays 2 x 7.5 ml or 4 x 7.5 ml (this one comes with a holder). I went with travel sprays of Valkyrie and Virgile. If you haven’t tried these collections yet, currently the site offers both sets for $15, including S&H, and that price can be deducted from your future purchase. When I placed the order, I got my personal link to share with friends: LINK . It’s the same offer as you can get directly from the site plus some extra in future if you decide to buy any of perfumes after you try the samples (if you do, contact me after you buy a bottle, so I could provide information you’ll need to get your free candle).

 

Images: discovery set – my own; incense cones – from some online store that sells them

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Mimosa Week

Winter was uncharacteristically cold in our area this year, so we’ve got to experience almost real spring with warm rays of sun in cool air intervened by returning rains and cold spells. And since I was reminded of springs from my childhood, I got an urge to smell mimosa – blossom that used to encapsulate that time of the year for me.

Over years (and five posts in my Single Note Exploration series devoted to that note) I accumulated enough mimosa perfumes to cover more than a week, but I decided not to overdo it.

 

Mimosa

 

Jo Malone Mimosa & Cardamom is still one of my most favorite mimosa perfumes, though now I think that it is rather Fall than spring perfume: it’s too warm and spicy for the “life awakening” atmosphere. But I enjoy it every time I wear it. I think Mimosa & Cardamom was one of Jo Malone’s successes.

When I was thinking about perfumes to include into this project, I struggled to remember the name for Frederic Malle’s mimosa scent despite having it in my collection. For a while I got stuck between En Passant (“No, it’s lilac not mimosa,” I kept telling myself) and Mimosa pour moi (“No-no, it’s L’Artisan, I finished that sample already”). Une Fleur de Cassie (I had to look it up) this time didn’t work for me: it was too dirty. I think I like this perfume better when it’s warmer.

Once again I had a reason to bemoan the closing of Sonoma Scent Studio: Bee’s Bliss is such a sunny and joyful perfume with a nice prominent mimosa but with a lot more going on, it’s such a pity others won’t be able to experience it.

I finished my small decant of Prada Infusion de Mimosa: it’s a light and pleasant mimosa with some undertones from my favorite original Infusion d’Iris (though, I’m not sure if they even have a single note in common… alright, I checked – “orange mandarin” whatever it means). I think that it’s time to look for a reasonably priced bottle… unless I decide to go for…

Fragonard Mimosa. A friend of mine shared with me recently a sample from her bottle. I’ve never seen or tried it before, so it was a pleasant discovery. Official notes are bergamot, violet, gardenia, mimosa, orange blossom, heliotrope and musk, but for the price it sells I don’t expect or get much of anything but mimosa, which, ironically, in drydown to my nose is a dead ringer to drydown of Infusion de Mimosa. And since I do not suspect Prada in using too many natural ingredients, even at their price, I wouldn’t be surprised if it actually was the same aroma chemical.

What does surprise me is thatt Givenchy Harvest 2007 Amarige Mimosa still impresses me every time I wear it. Unlike many other old favorites that just evoke nostalgia, Amarige Mimosa is perfume that I enjoy wearing… whenever I remember to wear it. Rusty also looks somewhat surprised.

 

Rusty and Givenchy Harvest 2007 Amarige Mimosa

 

The last perfume I wore for the project was Atelier Cologne Mimosa Indigo: it’s a nice perfume with a good name quite fitting the topic, and in the end of the Mimosa Week I especially enjoyed wearing it since, to my nose, it doesn’t smell of mimosa (or of lilac to that matter). Interestingly, saffron in this perfume doesn’t bother me and works nicely with the soft leather and not too sweet vanilla.

 

 

Images: my own

In the Search for the Perfect Daphne

Many years ago I told the story of me chasing Daphne Odora – both in perfumes and in real life. The plant that I got then didn’t survive. But a couple of years ago I got another one. And I kept dreaming about the perfect recreation of that magnificent aroma in perfumery.

 

Rusty and Daphne Odora

 

Soon after I published the post referenced above, Parfums DelRae released Wit, in which Daphne was listed as one of the notes. While I liked Wit, bought a decant (well, chronologically, I first bought the decant in friendly split, and then liked what I smelled) and enjoy wearing it in spring, it was a huge disappointment in my search for Daphne in perfumes: it didn’t smell even remotely like that wonderful plant, which surprised me since it was a local brand, so I expected them to be familiar with the plant and its scent.

At some point I concluded that it wasn’t probably meant to be, so I wasn’t actively looking for that note any longer when it found me: hajusuuri, a rare guest writer of my blog, shared with me one of the samples she got from a Sniffa event – a strange creation from the brand I had never even considered before, Antica Farmacista, “fragrance for the home and body” (sic) Daphne Flower.

I did read about it before and even attempted looking for it at the local Nordstrom. But since that particular scent wasn’t offered there, most likely I would have missed it completely if it weren’t for hajusuuri’s generosity.

Daphne Flower was probably the first perfume from that package that I tried without even thinking of running a paper strip test. I sprayed it on my wrist, inhaled and literally laughed with joy: it smelled exactly as I remembered Daphne Odora smelled! The next day a bottle was on its way to me.

 

Antica Farmacista Daphne Flower Perfume

 

I read a lot about Daphne Odora, so I knew that it was impossible to get any natural ingredient from it. But Antica Farmacista managed to recreate that scent perfectly. Official notes: Meyer lemon, dewy green accord, Daphne flower, sparkling orange blossom, honeysuckle, jasmine, Baltic amber, rosewood and clean white musk.

I do not see that “home and body” product on their site any more, instead now they have Daphne Flower Perfume, which, as they claim, “is created with a higher percentage of essential oils than most commercially made fragrances providing a longer lasting scent on the body (up to eight hours).” I’m not sure if it’s the same one as what I have (I asked through the form on the site and awaiting their reply), but mine does lasts for a very long time. And I love it.

… The replacement bush that I planted in my backyard is struggling despite all my efforts: it’s still alive but this year the only flower I could see there was my new Daphne Flower bottle. But Rusty and I keep an eye on it hoping for bloom next year (or maybe he hopes it’ll transform into a laurel tree that he could climb?)

 

Rusty and Daphne Odora

 

Images: my own

Small Things that Brighten Life: The Beautiful Duck(ling) 2

Almost four years ago I wrote about the unusual inhabitant of the nearby pond: a domestic white duck.

Since then I kept watching him (for whatever reason I decided it was a drake) almost daily, feeling happy when I saw him in the company of other birds or sad when he was alone. Unlike other birds, this domestic duck seemed to be more “stationary”: most of the days he would be somewhere around the pond. Some days he wouldn’t be there, and I’d be worried that something had happened to him. But the next day he would be back, and the order of things would be restored.

One day, while walking in the neighborhood about a mile from our place, we came across another group of ducks with one white domestic duck. Was it our duck that got that far away from his regular spot? Could it be another white duck that also joined a wild life (after escaping from the same farm from the legend we came up with for the previous one)? We weren’t sure. I took a picture of that other group. As we came back that evening, our duck was back where it usually was, in the company of wild mallards, very similar to the one that we saw thirty minutes earlier. I took another picture and spent some time comparing the two birds. “Our” seemed bigger but then the distances from which I took those pictures were also different, so I couldn’t be really sure one way or the other.

In the following seven months we kept meeting a white duck here and there on our evening walks. We even found a “feeding spot” where two women from the apartment complex said they were feeding that white duck almost every evening. And we knew that there was a woman who fed all the birds next to our pond in the morning. And since after that one time it was back to seeing the white duck just once a day, I finally decided that probably it was the same one bird just migrating between several places that provided morning or evening meals.

A couple of weeks ago, driving by, we suddenly saw TWO white ducks in the same group of birds. I thought my eyes were playing a trick since there are other while birds around here – egrets or seagulls – whom from the distance I confuse with our duck from time to time. So we had to stop, I got out from the car, disappoint all the birds that rushed towards me expecting treats – but now I have a proof that at least two domestic white ducks live around here among wild birds. So, the title of this sequel post should have rather been: The Two Beautiful Duck(ling)s but that would have given the plot away.

White ducks and other birds

Image: my own

Perfume Roulette

In the post for my blog’s 8th anniversary I asked my readers to name a date from the last 8 years that had some significance for them with the idea of checking my records for perfumes I wore on those dates and wearing those perfumes during February as a personal project.

It was interesting to see which events my readers chose to offer as a significant date in their lives. Birthdays are probably the easiest when it comes to selecting dates (so, just a reminder: do not use them as your passwords or pin numbers!), and it was the most popular reason for selecting a date (6): 3 personal, one mom’s, one son’s and one friend’s birthday (I liked that reason because February is my and my mother’s birthday month). Romantic occasion was the second most popular reason (5): a first date, meeting a boyfriend, two weddings and one wedding anniversary, which also was very fitting for February (Valentine’s Day). Three readers considered meeting with perfumista friend(s) special enough to offer those dates for my list. Two commenters didn’t specify the occasion for their date choice (though, I’m sure those were some special events). And one date was related to the move to a new country (or, maybe, it was returning to that country – it wasn’t clear from the comment).

In total, I got 17 comments with dates, some even with several, so I had a good set to choose from (thank you!).

It was just the fifth time in my life when I planned perfumes to wear for a month ahead. But previously I did it for a specific note: twice I wore amber perfumes for a month of November (Perfume Diary: NovAmber and I did it again: NovAmber 2018 ), once I participated in Lucas’s (Chemist in the Bottle) project of wearing rose perfumes (A Month of Roses) and once for my own project (A Month of Irises). This time I had no rhyme just reason for selecting these perfumes, so it felt a little strange. But I decided to go ahead with the project.

Did I learn anything new from it? I did!

First, even though I do not officially rotate my perfumes and haven’t got (yet?) to adding a seasonal attribute to perfumes in my database, my perfume wearing is seasonal intuitively. So being “forced” to wear in a colder season (and our winter this year is uncharacteristically cold for the area) some of the perfumes that I normally choose to wear in spring or summer, I enjoyed them less. The lesson: I should probably stick to wearing perfumes that feel right for the moment even when choosing them for some project.

Then, I realized that I didn’t like saffron in a leading role. For a while I wasn’t sure and tried to persuade myself that I liked it but the most recent experience with Jo Malone Saffron Cologne Intense confirmed what I suspected for a while: I get tired of saffron soon after I stop being amused that I recognized the note (as I mentioned before, it doesn’t happen too often with me, so when it does I tend to transfer my feeling good about that occurrence into false positive impressions about perfume itself). So, after coming to that realization, I’m happy that I have just a decant of this perfume and not a bottle.

And finally, I really really like Vol de Nuit in extrait concentration, so I should probably just bite the bullet and buy it. Rusty clearly votes “Yes!”

Rusty and a Test Strip

Images: all but Chanel No 19 (hajusuuri) are my own

In the Search for the Perfect Magnolia

Those of you who like me grew up in pre-Internet era, probably can remember a phenomenon of knowing about something from books, articles or even songs but never actually seeing those thing or knowing how those looked. I’m talking not about remote planets or exotic places but about rather mundane objects – plants, foods or articles of clothes.

Magnolias came into my life with a song of a popular band Ariel from 70s. It was one of those songs that are catchy and pleasing – as long as you do not think much about the lyrics (translation is approximate, just to give you the impression):

Without sorrow, sorrow, sorrow
Sea splashes in the land of magnolias
Young boys are sitting on the fence
Stirring melancholy feelings in me

Couples are dancing, dancing, dancing
Tune is familiar and even old-fashioned
And sweet sound of a bass guitar
Brings back memories… Oh, well…

If you’re curious, listen 20-30 seconds of this video: this is exactly how I remember hearing this song (though I’m not sure I’ve ever seen it before I found it recently).

 

 

It wasn’t before I moved to the U.S. that I saw the actual magnolia tree and flowers. The first encounter I remember was many years ago in a park to where we went for a walk on my birthday. It was amazing to see those huge and untidy flowers on bare branches mid-February.

Since then I saw magnolias many times and took numerous photos of this unusual bloom but when I realized how many magnolia perfumes I tried and decided to do this Single Note Exploration post, I realized that I didn’t remember how real magnolias smelled. So I waited until I spotted a blooming tree not far from my office, and today walked to it to check the scent of live magnolia flowers. On the positive side, I know now that I wasn’t just absent-minded or not curious: magnolias that grow around here just do not smell. It means that, on one hand, I have absolutely no reference point in my search for perfect magnolia perfume. But on the other, I’m not limited by the realism factor. So, to balance it out, I decided to consider only perfumes that were unequivocally designated by their creators as magnolia-centered ones (judging by the names).

 

Magnolia

 

Two years ago, while in London, I almost bought Tom Daxon Magnolia Heights. The notes include gardenia, violet leaf, ylang ylang, magnolia, jasmine sambac, cedarwood and musks. Perfume was created in 2016. It is a beautiful floral bouquet, and I like it very much but, as I mentioned in the post then, being a floral perfumes fan, I have at least several perfumes in this genre that I like more. But give it a try if you ever come across Magnolia Heights, or if you’re looking for another floral favorite.

 

Tom Daxon Magnolia Heights

 

Perfume that I keep testing and seem not to be able to put off my mind is Magnolia Grandiflora Michel by Grandiflora. It was created by Michel Roudnitska in 2013. Notes include lemon, bergamot, grapefruit, jasmine, ylang-ylang, rose, magnolia, vetiver, patchouli and musk. Michele is beautifully blended, and I like the composition though I can’t tell most of the listed notes; maybe some citrus in the opening. And in development it reminds me of tea. I think it is jasmine that gives me that impression. Had the brand launched it as a travel spray, I would have bought it already. But even with the only offered size 50 ml I still might go for it (though I must say that I really dislike their new bottle design and cannot explain the change by anything but a desire to save money on packaging).

A sister perfume, Magnolia Grandiflora Sandrine, created the same year by Sandrine Videault, is one of rare perfumes that actually repulse me. It evokes a smell of something overripe, maybe even decaying. Interestingly, for a while I thought that this scent might be characteristic of magnolia flower. Why? Because I smelled it (and disliked there as well) in another magnolia-centric perfume – Sud Magnolia by Atelier Cologne. But as I discovered, Sandrine’s notes do not even list magnolia! So, I’m not sure what smells that unpleasant to me: lemon, grapefruit, white pepper, fresh garden accord, dry wood accord, marine-aquatic accord or musky accord.

As I mentioned, Atelier Cologne’s Sud Magnolia didn’t work for me either. Jerome Epinette who created it in 2015, is a nose behind several perfumes that I like both from Atelier Cologne and other brands, but Sud Magnolia, after starting even nice, develops unpleasantly on my skin. I thought of listing all nine notes mentioned on Fragrantica but since that site doesn’t allow copying, I went to the brand’s site where I learned that the only notes they cared us to know about were Magnolia accord, Grapefruit from South America and Cedarwood from the Americas (sic). Well, since the brand doesn’t want to overwhelm customers with these details (other than with the required by law, I assume, list of used chemicals), I won’t bother either.

 

Magnolia

 

I wanted to love Eau De Magnolia created in 2014 by Carlos Benaim for Frederic Malle: I like the brand, and I was looking for another perfume from them to cross that like/love line. Bergamot, magnolia, vetiver, patchouli, cedarwood, moss and amber sounded promising but, in my opinion, Eau de Magnolia hasn’t become to magnolia what other perfumes of the brand have done to the respective flowers. It is quite pleasant and wearable but I don’t find it memorable.

Bottega Veneta’s Parco Palladino I: Magnolia seems to be even less memorable. Floral perfume with some green notes. It is nice, but I did expect much more from the first perfume in the “high end” collection of the brand whose first perfume was as impressive as their one was. But since the notes list proudly and openly mentions Iso E Super that I like in perfumes (in addition to bergamot, grapefruit, orange, lily of the valley, magnolia, rose, green notes and white musk), I urge you to give it a try if you can do it without paying for it.

After running all these tests, I think I recognize how magnolia note is represented in perfumery. But until I smell real flowers or find perfume that I’d like even more, I’ll consider Magnolia Grandiflora Michel the perfect magnolia perfume.

 

Magnolia

 

Have you ever experienced aromatic magnolias? Do you like this flower in either natural or recreated form? Do you have a favorite magnolia-centric perfume?

 

Images: my own

Groundhog Day Perfume

Living in the area where the weather is great most of the time (if not to count drought that we had for several years, but it didn’t feel like bad weather, I just knew that it was bad for us), I have only a memory of how awful cold weather might be, and how tired one gets with the winter and wishes it to finally end. But from the time when winter and cold weather were still an unpleasant part of my life, Groundhog Day movie has been one of my absolute favorites. I won’t claim that I re-watch it every year but I watched it more times than most other movies in my life, which is both ironical and symbolic if you’re familiar with the plot of the movie.

What I find interesting about this movie is that while it is a comedy, there are no that many one-liners in it. And still for me it’s one of the best comedies ever.

Just in case you’ve never seen the movie: “Phil Connors, a cynical TV weatherman (Bill Murray) finds himself reliving the same day over and over again when he goes on location to the small town of Punxsutawney to film a report about their annual Groundhog Day.”

In one of the scenes, after many-many repetitions of the same miserable day, Phil says:

I was in the Virgin Islands once. I met a girl. We ate lobster, drank piña coladas. At sunset we made love like sea otters. That was a pretty good day. Why couldn’t I get that day over and over and over?

That made me think about… well, perfumes. Neither I nor most (all?) of you are a signature-perfume-wearer-type. When five years ago I invited my readers to participate in an experiment of [thinking of] wearing the same perfume for a week, most of the readers admitted to not being able to do that. I barely went through the experiment myself (with 1-day interruption). But what if I were to get stuck in February 2nd somewhere away from home (and my collection) on a one-day trip (so no back-ups) – what perfume would I want to be wearing?

Any choice would be an impossible one: I don’t want to be wearing any one perfume for days or months, leave alone years (according to different sources, Phil Connors spent from 8 to 10 years in Punxsutawney). But if I had to choose, I would probably go with one of the original Miss Dior perfumes in my collection.

My Miss Dior Family

And if you were wondering why I haven’t chosen my eternal perfume love Lancôme Climat or one of the later top favorites, e.g., Ormonde Jayne Ta’if or Amouage Ubar: these three are too special for me to wear any of them every day – and I would want to wear perfume even under those dire circumstances, but I’d need something I think I would be able to tolerate for many days. And with Miss Dior I have a long history of warm relationship. So, I hope it would support me during the endless winter (and as an added bonus: I would have never risked running out of it since every morning the bottle would be full to the same level as the morning before).

 

How about you? What would be your Groundhog day perfume choice?

 

Image: my own