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).

In the Search for the Perfect Mimosa, Take 4

It’s spring again, and again I’m drawn to mimosa and mimosa-centric perfumes. Of course, our spring comes after our winter, so the change is not as drastic as it happens in many other areas. It reminds me of those make-believe magazine recommendations where a model in a perfectly fitting “simple” frock effortlessly “dresses it up” with a tiny accessory – which would never work for us, mere mortals, for whom anything like that requires careful planning and meticulous execution. Same happens with the season change here: our nature just carelessly put on a floral lace wrap – and got all beautiful for the spring party.

Mimosa and Palm Tree

I have enough mimosa perfumes in my wardrobe: Givenchy Amarige Harvest Mimosa, Frederic Malle Une Fleur de Cassie, Guerlain Champs Elysées and Jo Malone Mimosa & Cardamom are perfumes I discovered during my previous three takes on the topic.

One would think that it should be sufficient – and it is: I do not actively seek that note any more. But every time I hear about a new mimosa perfume, I just cannot pass on it. Especially when it comes from brands I like.

Prada launched Infusion de Mimosa last year in their Les Infusions de Prada collection. Thanks to a friend, I’ve got to test it long before a couple of luxury retailers started offering it in the U.S. (and I’m yet to see it in the actual store). I like it a lot. It doesn’t always work – to combine two good things, but in this case it does: it is still unmistakably the beautiful Infusion d’Iris’s relative, even though there are almost no notes in common listed, but also it has a wonderfully true to natural mimosa aroma – airy and intense at the same time. What I especially like about Infusion de Mimosa is that it feels summery without being citrus-y cologne.

Mimosa

When I smelled Mimosa Indigo by Atelier Cologne for the first time, I was utterly disappointed: it was not what I expected or wanted it to be; and I could smell absolutely no mimosa in it. Since I do not write perfume reviews, I do not always give perfumes another chance if I didn’t like them on the first encounter, especially if I don’t have a sample at home. With the number of new releases out there, I just do not usually bother with getting a sample of something that didn’t wow me on the first try. But I like Atelier Cologne, and that purple color just spoke to me… After a couple of shopping trips, during which my nose stayed glued to my wrist, I bought a bottle of Mimosa Indigo (thankfully, they have 30 ml bottles). I like it and enjoy wearing it. I think I can smell some mimosa in it but I wouldn’t be able to call it without reading a list of notes. It’s an interesting floral perfume on a gentle almost suede base.

Rusty and Atelier Cologne Mimosa Indigo

I do not need more perfumes – with or without prominent mimosa note. But I know that the next time one of my favorite brands releases their take on this flower, I’ll be tempted – the same way I was tempted by Chanel’s limited edition nail polish called Mimosa. They got the color perfectly: it’s definitely spring in a bottle.

Chanel Mimosa Nail Polish

Images: my own

Frog Prince(ss)’s Kiss

Did you grow up with the Frog Prince or the Frog Princess? Not only I (and my whole generation, I think) grew up with the female version of this character but I don’t think I heard about the existence of the other one until I was in my late twenties. It’s especially surprising because we had other Brothers Grimm’s tales translated and published. It might be that the local version – The Princess Frog (or Tsarevna Frog) was one of the popular and loved folk tales: there were books, movies, animated films and predecessors of the modern audio-books – vinyl records. There even was a painting by the famous Russian neo-romanticism artist Viktor Vasnetsov.

Vasnetsov Frog Princess

Just in case anybody is curious, you can read The Frog Princess in English. For the rest I want to mention that, interestingly, there were no kisses involved as well even though, as you can see, the heroine of this tale is older than characters of Grimm’s version. But our folklore also had that kissing frog theme played out in many ways.

***

Lipstick Queen is one of my favorite brands: I love their quirky names and colors (I previously posted about Hello Sailor and Black Lace Rabbit), and I’m constantly on the look-out for their new products. So when last year I saw their Frog Prince lipstick (since then they’ve launched two more product in that line), I had to have it!

Lipstick Queen Frog Prince

While I liked the idea of a green lipstick, and from my experience with the lipsticks mentioned above I knew that on lips they do not stay blue or black, I wasn’t sure what color I’ll get from that green beauty, so when I saw the holiday set of mini-lipsticks, one of which was Frog Prince, I leaped.

Lipstick Queen 3 Lipsticks

The first thought that went through my mind when I looked at the swatch was that mini-size was a good decision: with my pale complexion green lips would look rather unhealthy. But since it was in my hands I had to try it. The transformation was amazing! On my lips it became pink – sheer but with enough pigment. That frog clearly needed a kiss to reveal its true self. I can see more princes in my future.

And since I can’t show you the results of that transformation, at least I’ll leave you with the picture of Rusty trying to paw that frog.

Rusty and Lipstick Queen 3 Minis

 

Images: my own

Entertaining Statistics: Desert Island Perfumes

From time to time one of my blogger friends covers a topic that prompts more than just a comment, however lengthy one might be tolerated (or even appreciated).

Making lists of desert island scents is a well-known and loved pastime of many perfumistas, so that alone could send me packing boxes writing my own list. But the methodical way Vanessa (Bonkers about Perfume) approached the project could not have left me indifferent.

Vanessa, a market researcher by trade, considered multiple approaches to coming up with her list. She described those approaches (I’ll be referring to those, so if you haven’t yet, you should read her post to learn the details about each); but then she discarded some of them because of the complexity or data unavailability. Since all of my perfumes and perfume usage are documented in the homegrown database, I thought that I could pull off calculating some of the aspects that she abandoned.

I started with “the burning building speed grab method” (or as I call it – “Grab ‘n’ Run”) and came up with 20 perfumes I would be happy to have on that island if I had to evacuate without much time for packing.

* * *

Then I moved to the “systematic review of ALL perfumes owned” but decided to limit it only by those perfumes, which I own as a full or travel bottle or a large decant. I went through the list choosing carefully, which perfumes to include into the final list. As it always happens to me with these lists, I take it very seriously – as if I will have to actually live with those decisions. It wasn’t easy: I like, wear and want to keep wearing many more than 20 perfumes I chose for my list. But if I really had to choose… So I did – and I’m sticking by that Brute-force Search List (a.k.a. “Don’t Ever Want to Be Without”) and using it as a base for all further comparisons.

First I compared two lists – the Grab ‘n’ Run and Brute-force Search Lists. Surprisingly, even after careful consideration my final list still has 18 perfumes from my spontaneous list. The two substitutions were a close call with the initially selected Jo Malone Mimosa & Cardamom and Guerlain Chamade (parfum).

* * *

Then I remembered that about five years ago I participated in a similar exercise on Birgit’s blog (Olfactoria’s Travels) and did one of my Entertaining Stats posts based on the results. So I was curious to see how my list of 10 desert island perfumes from that time fared against my recent list. Seven (7 of 10) from the 2012 Desert Island List are still on my current list, and I still enjoy wearing Annick Goutal Heure Exquise, Antonia’s Flowers Tiempe Passate and DSH Perfumes Vert pour Madame, even though they got voted off the island, so to speak.

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My variation on Vanessa’s “travel bag ‘nuclear precedent’ method” was a Top 20/12 List: perfumes that I wore the most often in the last 365 days. Sixteen (16) perfumes from my Brute-force Search List were among perfumes I wore the most during the last 12 months. But I kept thinking: how about the last 6+ years that I write this blog? Since I didn’t own all of the perfumes featured on my current list 6 years ago, and they joined my collection at different time, it wouldn’t be either accurate or fair to do a straight-forward aggregation of the times I wore each of them. So I calculated a relative popularity: total number of occasions during the last 6 years when I wore each perfume from my list divided by the number of days from when I wore it for the first time until today. That’s how I got the Top 20 ‘All-Time’ Faves List. It includes 10 out of 20 perfumes from the etalon list.

The table below shows my Brute-force Search/Don’t Ever Want to be Without List (sorted alphabetically by brand) and how other lists compare to it.

Brute-force Search (A-Z)
Grab ‘n Run 2012 Desert Island Top 20/12 Top 20 ‘All-Time’ Faves
Amouage Lyric + +
Amouage Ubar + + + +
By Kilian Amber Oud + + +
Chanel №19 EDT + + + +
Dior Miss Dior +
Estee Lauder Bronze Goddess + +
Frederic Malle Portrait of a Lady + + +
Giorgio Armani La Femme Bleue + + +
Guerlain Cruel Gardénia + + +
Jo Malone French Lime Blossom +
Jo Malone Sweet Milk + +
Krigler Lieber Gustav 14 + + +
Lancome Climat + + + +
Les Parfums de Rosine Rose d’Amour + + +
Mona di Orio Vanille Les Nombres d’Or + +
Ormonde Jayne Ta’if + + + +
Puredistance Antonia + + +
Tom Ford Fleur de Chine + + +
Tommi Sooni Eau de Tommi Sooni II
Yosh Ginger Ciao + +
Brute-force Search Grab ‘n Run 2012 Desert Island Top 20/12 Top 20 ‘All-Time’ Faves

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Same as Vanessa, I didn’t even think that I needed to try and represent each of the main fragrance families in my least (I loved her joke on the topic!), but I inspected my existing list with “the fragrance family method” and discovered that the most common type was Oriental Floral (9), followed by Floral Green (3), Floral (2), Oriental Woody (2) and one of each – Floral Fruity, Oriental Vanilla, Chypre Floral and Woody Aromatic. Clearly, I like my florals.

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“The scents for all seasons method” also inspired me to look at my list: 7 of 20 I can wear all year long; others came in different combinations of the seasons when I usually wear those perfumes, so it all boils down to 10 perfumes for the Winter rotation, 15 for Spring, 15 for Summer and 13 for Autumn.

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Since I have special categories for my perfumes, I ran “the scents for all occasions method” test on my Brute-force Search List and confirmed that the two main categories – Office Wear and Special Occasion – were well covered: of the 20 I can wear 14 to the office and 12 to any dress-up party. I even have 2 in that list that I consider my Tropical Vacation perfumes.

Estee Lauder Bronze Goddess and Shoes

I don’t think “the covering all my favourite notes method” would work as a selection method (and I’m not talking about choosing an unknown scent based on the pyramid) since having a note in the list doesn’t necessarily mean that I could smell that note in that perfume. But it was interesting to see if my favorite notes were well represented in the list. So I came up with what I think is a list of the notes, to which I’m partial in perfumes, and then checked it against perfumes on my Brute-force Search List.

Favorite notes: linden, amber, lavender, iris, black currant, rose, mimosa, lily of the valley, narcissus, galbanum, sandalwood, cedarwood, vetiver.

Almost all (19) perfumes on the list had at least one of the notes mentioned, which isn’t a complete surprise since rose and sandalwood are very ubiquitous notes (I count each of these in 12 perfumes). Amber and vetiver were spotted in 8 perfumes, iris – in 5, galbanum – in 4, cedar, LOTV & Narcissus – in 3 each, and the remaining 4 notes were covered by 1 perfume. If to judge strictly by notes, Chanel No. 19 is the closest to my ideal: it has 8 of the 13 notes I deemed favorite. Lancôme Climat takes the second place with 6 notes. And the third one for 5 notes goes to Les Parfums de Rosine Rose d’Amour. And if you are curious as to which one perfume from my list didn’t have a single of my favorite notes – it’s Jo Malone Sweet Milk – go figure!

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Even though I could relatively easy check “the ‘inclusive’ perfume house / perfumer approach,” I decided against it: it makes absolutely no sense to represent some abstract “known,” “famous,” or “established” perfume house in one’s personal preferences list; but to arrive at my personal list of favorite brands or perfumers I would have to use a list… of my favorite perfumes, which would just create a circular reference.

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Whenever somebody on my Reading List rates perfume or even just expresses liking/disliking it, I pay attention. But I mostly do it just to figure out whose tastes are closer to mine to rely upon their future opinions to navigate the plenitude of future releases. So while I did look up ratings on Victoria’s (Bois de Jasmin) site, I did it only because it was one of Vanessa’s methods. I got 3 ***, 5 **** and 4 *****. No ratings for 8 of my favorites. And I don’t really care either way.

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I think I wouldn’t be able to use “the scents I had happy times in method”: my all-time/long time favorites were with me through all possible times, so they are time-tested. With the newer additions to my wardrobe and my MO to wear a different perfume every day and rarely returning to the same one more often than once a month, it’s almost impossible to build that association between any particular perfume and the level of [un]happiness. Which is probably for the best: I can classify all of my favorites as my “happy times” perfumes.

Happy Times

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The final approach – The Field Test – is my own method, which I plan to run in April. I intend to wear each of the perfumes on my Don’t Ever Want to Be Without List and see if “in practice” I feel about them the same I felt “in theory” while working on the list.

If you’d like to join me, do your own list (of 10 – 15 – 20 – your choice) your most favorite perfumes and wear each one them at least once before the end on April – and we’ll compare notes in May.

Images: my own

Know-How: Brands with Perfumista Size Bottles

For years I keep repeating that more brands should release their perfumes in perfumista size bottles – 10-15 ml. Of course, for somebody who has a signature scent or alternates 2-3 perfumes in their day-to-day life, 50 ml, 100 ml or even 200 ml bottles might make more sense both economically and logically. But for anybody who has been “into perfume” for at least several years, not too many perfumes warrant the vats, in which most perfumes nowadays are sold.

Sure, big bottles are great for splits; and decants are nice for getting to wear something without committing your heart or money to a full bottle. But even the best decant – with well-made labels and a good sprayer – is still not as good as a real bottle. And I suspect that, as a rule, it has a shorter shelf life, even if you use parafilm or electrical tape to prevent evaporation: the act of spraying perfume from the original bottle into a smaller receptacle introduces additional oxidation to the juice, which cannot be healthy (should we add a blueberry or two?).

For all these reasons for anything more than 3-5 ml I would rather pay extra price per ml but get a travel bottle from the brand – if the brand has that option.

Surprisingly, when it comes to niche brands, those that offer smaller sizes are still rather an exception than a rule. So I decided to put together a list of the brands that offer smaller (perfumista size) bottles of their perfumes. I won’t include links since those change but it’s easy to find them through a search engine.

Perfumista Size Bottles

The following brands have single bottles for all or most of their perfumes (bottle size is given in parentheses):

  • April Aromatics (15 ml)
  • Frederic Malle (10 ml)
  • Hiram Green (10 ml)
  • Histoires de Parfums (15 ml)
  • Le Labo (15 ml)
  • Sonoma Scent Studio (4 ml & 17 ml)
  • Jul et Mad (5 ml & 20 ml)
  • Cognoscenti (5 ml)
  • Dame Perfumery (5 ml)
  • DSH Perfumes (multiple sizes)
  • EnVoyage Perfumes (15 ml)
  • 4160 Tuesdays (9 ml)
  • Roja Dove (7.5 ml)
  • The Different Company (10 ml)
  • Puredistance (17.5ml)

Several brands have smaller sizes just for some of their perfumes:

  • Atelier Cologne (12 different perfumes in 7.5 ml at Sephora)
  • Juliette Has A Gun (4 different perfumes in 7.5 ml at Sephora)
  • Ineke (15 ml, Floral Curiosities line only)

More brands recently have introduced the “travel” option – probably as a response to the air travel regulations. Unfortunately, those come in sets either of single perfume or of pre-selected (or all) perfumes from the brand. Single perfume sets are easier for friendly splits. Mixed sets defeat the purpose: how often does someone like all the perfumes in the set? I also found two brands that offer customizable mixed travel sets.

Perfumista Size Bottles

Single perfume sets:

  • Neela Vermeire Creations (2 x 15 ml)
  • Ormonde Jayne (4 x 10 ml)
  • Amouage (3 x 10 ml)
  • By Kilian (4 x 7.5 ml)
  • Byredo (3 x 12 ml)
  • Maison Francis Kurkdjian (3 x 10 ml)
  • Aedes de Venustas (3 x 7.5 ml)

Perfumista Size Bottles

Customizable mixed sets:

  • Hermès (4 x 15 ml sets for both their regular line and Hermessence)
  • Tauer Perfumes (3 x 15 ml)

Perfumista Size Bottles

Pre-set mixed perfumes sets:

  • Viktoria Minya (5 x 15 ml)
  • Maison Francis Kurkdjian (8 x 10 ml)
  • Miller Harris (3 x 14 ml and 2 x 7.5 ml)
  • Aedes de Venustas (3 x 7.5 ml)

If you know any other brands that offer small bottles in one of these categories, please share in comments. And if you agree that more brands should have perfumista size bottles, keep repeating that whenever you publish a review on your blog or comment on perfume reviews and discussions on blogs, forums, FB or Twitter. Somebody might be reading…

Rusty and NVC Pichola

Updates from comments:

  • Maria Candida Gentile (7 ml and 15 ml single bottles)
  • Zoologist (11 ml single bottles)
  • Parfums MDCI (5 x 10 ml customizable set)
  • Memo (3 x 10 ml same perfume set)
  • Imaginary Authors (14 ml single bottles)
  • Maison Anonyme (10 ml single bottles)
  • Olympic Orchids (5 ml and 15 ml single bottles)
  • Soivohle (10 ml single bottles)
  • Ormonde Jayne (10 ml single bottles if you call)
  • Profvmvm Roma (18 ml single bottles for some of their scents)

Images: my own