Mary Greenwell Plum Giveaway Winner

Either most of my readers live not in the U.S., or everybody got all the Plum they bear, but I got just two entries for the giveaway.

It was easy for Rusty to choose the winner, and it happened so fast that I wasn’t able to take a picture of the process. But at least I managed to catch his tail seconds before he completely lost interest in my photo session and ran away.

Rusty and Mary Greenwell Plum

But probably at least a couple of people are curious as to who’s the winner.

Carol

Please contact me with your shipping address (Rusty played with my travel spray; yours is still in a shrink wrap).

crystesmom, if you’d like to get the remaining 2.5 ml of my Plum sample (and a couple more samples to keep it company), please send me your shipping address as well.

Image: my own

Wearing White After Labor Day

I don’t think I’ve heard that expression before I moved to the U.S., but once I did (moved and heard) it felt intuitively understandable and logical. I knew that it wasn’t a rule actually imposed or followed anymore, but it came naturally for me since I didn’t wear white clothes either before, or after that arbitrary check mark in the calendar.

I don’t have anything against the color white per se (unless we’re talking about cars: for whatever reason it’s my least favorite color for a car exterior), but I grew up thinking of white clothes and shoes (especially shoes!) as of completely impractical and wasteful.

Where I lived, people weren’t really poor but everything was a little scarce: nice(r) things were hard to get, so everybody used what they managed to buy for a long time. Many people did not have washing machines and there were no dryers – so there was a tendency to wear clothes longer between washes than we normally do nowadays. Most people used only public transportation, which was in a much worse state of cleanliness than those that I do not consider clean enough today. Somehow streets even in big cities were much dustier in dry seasons and muddier in wet ones than even in suburbia where I live now. And on top of that we didn’t have that many hot weather days compared to cold or at least cool months. So with all that in mind, it’s not surprising that many of us favored “not easily soiled” clothes.

Long after I moved to the U.S., started buying as much clothes as I wanted and even got my own washing and drying machines, I still steered clear of white in my wardrobe – just out of habit. Until several years ago, while on a vacation, I realized that I kept admiring white dresses, pants and tops that one of my friends was wearing. After some internal negotiations, I agreed (with myself) that I didn’t have to be practical any longer. I could afford (in all meanings) to start wearing impractical* white things from time to time.

Rusty and Puredistance White

WHITE by Puredistance was a strong “like” for me from the first spray: it was so bright, happy and sunny. And immediately in my head it became a summer time perfume – not as something I would wear in a heat wave’s afternoon but perfect for a warm summer night out. I tested WHITE, liked it, and told myself that I’d buy a bottle once my samples were gone. But then the fall came, I moved to wearing my colder season favorites, while waiting for the next WHITE-appropriate season.

I do not know what makes WHITE a summer perfume. When I’m thinking about it, I can’t say that WHITE is lighter or less opulent than, for example, Amouage Dia or Frederic Malle Iris Poudre, both of which I associate with autumn (or even with our NorCal winter). And still WHITE feels right for the white clothes season.

This summer I enjoyed WHITE again getting closer and closer to the end of my second sample, so I’ll need to get that bottle soon. But we’ve just celebrated Labor Day…

Rusty and Puredistance White

Have you seen already Puredistance’s new website? It’s white!

 

Images: my own (no, I didn’t allow Rusty to play with a bottle of WHITE – it’s a factice bottle sent to me by the brand together with the samples that I’ve been enjoying but from the fact that I plan to buy a bottle you can infer that I truly liked it)

* A curious coincidence: in the definition of the word “impractical” in Google, “impractical white ankle boots” is given as an example of use

If it didn’t work the first time…

I read that this perfume was about to be released. I’m a little surprised to see it on the counter already, but since it’s there, of course I want to try it. I do not expect much but, against all odds, I still have a faint hope that it will be good…

“It’s a great new perfume featuring … “<here goes a list of notes> – announces an SA materializing at my side, –“It’s not available yet, you know. It’ll release next month. But I can pre-order it for you…”

I’ve heard a variation of this line a dozen of times. And every time I feel baffled: why?!! Why would I possibly want to pre-order the scent that I just smelled for the first time? It’s not something exclusive or limited. They do not offer any type of deal or a discount. So why to pre-order now if in a couple of weeks it’ll be in all the stores for me to buy on the spot or to spray in abundance and think until the next holidays if I want it?

My standard reply usually is: “I’ll think about it, but meanwhile could I get a sample of this great new perfume?” Not a single time I left without it.

Jo Malone Basil & Neroli is a typical Jo Malone perfume: it’s not unpleasant, not complicated, and becomes a skin scent within a couple of hours, leaving you free to choose whatever you want to wear next. I think it’s rather appealing for the opening five minutes: it’s juicy, moderately sweet and very uplifting. But then it gets just flat on my skin.

While Basil & Neroli still might be considered a unisex perfume, at least initially it is more feminine then Jo Malone’s staple and “a modern classic” (even if they say so themselves) Lime Basil & Mandarin, which is strange, if you think about it: shouldn’t the fruit (mandarin) be sweater than blossom oil? But 30-40 minutes into the development I’m not sure I can really tell them apart unless I smell them side by side.

Speaking of Lime Basil & Mandarin, being a Jo Malone fan, for years I tried that perfume again and again hoping I’d change my mind but kept on strongly disliking it – until I got Lime Basil & Mandarin soap as a part of a GWP. I simply love it! The combination that felt too masculine as perfume is just perfect for daily washing rituals. A couple of months ago I got anxious that there would be soon just a sliver left from my current then bar of LB&M – and hurried up to buy a replacement bar. Today I’m still using that first bar, and from the way it looks, there is another month or two in it. So if you were to wait for one of the brand site’s good deals, which happen from time to time (like 3 samples or, even better, a 9 ml travel bottle with any purchase), with free S&H that soap might be the best $20 spent.

Rusty and Jo Malone Lime Basil & Mandarin Soap

As for Basil & Neroli, I can’t think of a reason to even try it – unless you’re looking for a citrus piece for your perfume wardrobe, or find yourself in a store or an airport’s Duty Free with absolutely nothing else interesting to test.

 

Image: my own

Bargains That Hunt (Haunt?) Me

“The more you spend, the more you save” – we all heard this phrase or some variation of it. Every time I sigh, repeat in my head: “The more you spend, the more you spend” and resist buying things I do not need.

I’m very particular with brands I use in everyday life, so the “worst” I can do is to choose the one that is currently on sale if it’s one of those that I would buy full-priced.

Since I went down the proverbial rabbit hole, I haven’t been tempted by the deepest discounts different sites or stores like T.J. Maxx offer for mass-market perfumes. You won’t find those $20-$40 “couldn’t-pass-bys” in my collection: even though I like some of them while testing, every time I tell myself that I would buy a bottle as soon as I finish that sample – and I never do.

If to add all that to my cat-like “spontaneity” (I can wiggle for months or even years before pouncing on a bottle of perfume I loved when I tried it), one would expect my collection to be an extremely curated and tailored closely to my tastes. It could have been so if it weren’t for my Achilles heel – niche perfumes bargains.

Every time I come across a discount for the niche line that you cannot usually buy other than for the full price, or see a true bargain, I feel that I just can’t miss that opportunity! Or what, you’d ask? It’s not that I wouldn’t or couldn’t pay full price for a bottle of perfume if I really liked it. And the only risk of not having perfume to wear comes from me not being able to choose which one from my collection I want on that occasion. But at those times all my rationality goes out the window.

For a while I was able to dodge the bullet by buying perfumes that I would have probably bought anyway but recently I got a couple of “misses.” I still hope I’ll change my mind on one of them,  so I won’t mention it now. The second one was L’Artisan‘s La chasse aux Papillons. It was cheap (I think around $35 for a new 50 ml bottle), old design (who knows what happens with these perfumes now, when they’ve changed the bottles), and it was La chasse aux Papillons (nice perfume, everybody likes it – right?).

Rusty and La Chasse aux Papillons

When I got my bargain bottle and applied this perfume for the first time, I realized that I didn’t know or remember it. I’m positive that I tried it several years before and I thought that I liked it then, but the perfume I smelled from my wrist was completely unknown to me, and I couldn’t explain to myself what had possessed me to buy it without testing it one more time (I still had the sample!). It isn’t unpleasant, I do not dislike it, but with so many perfumes that I love in my collection why would I spend time wearing something that is just “nice” or “not bad”?! It seems Rusty shares my feelings: the picture above was the only one I managed to take of him and La chasse aux Papillons. After that he was totally not interested in that bottle.

Rusty and La Chasse aux Papillons

You would think that should have taught me… I am getting better. Once I read in Vanessa’s (Bonkers About Perfume) post that at The Fragrance Shop she “clocked the fact that Mary Greenwell Plum is on offer at £28.50 for a 100ml bottle, or £19.50 for 50ml. The more you spray, the more you save!” (emphasis mine), I immediately went for the sample I had.

I liked it. Probably as much as I did two years ago when I wore it from my sample for the last time. I went back to the shop’s site and put a 50 ml bottle in my “bag” (I’m curious, is “bag” a U.K. equivalent of the U.S.’s “cart”? Vanessa’s “on offer” was also a new form for me being used to “sale” or “deal” in similar context). The site immediately informed me that just for £9 more I could get twice as much perfume. I do not like 100 ml bottles. I think that even 50 ml is too much for most perfumes. But just £9 difference… I wore Plum for the next 2 days trying to figure out how I feel about it. I didn’t love it, so I decided to be rational and not to buy a 100 ml bottle… or a 50 ml one. “And this time I almost made it, came so close to saying no”, but Vanessa’s next post with a giveaway of the Mary Greenwell Plum bottle from Liz Moores of Papillon Artisan Perfumes (what is the chance of having two unrelated “papillon” mentioning in one post?!), who couldn’t resist the bargain but didn’t like it afterwards, had a strange effect on me: I felt a new surge of desire to buy this perfume. I struggled with myself for a while but finally capitulated and bought… two 8 ml purse sprays – one for me and one for the giveaway.

Mary Greenwell Plum

Since this perfume will arrive to me from the U.K., where you still can buy it for a song, I decided that one trip over the ocean should be enough, so the giveaway is open for anybody in the U.S. Other than letting me know that you live in the U.S., just tell me if you’ve already tried and liked Plum or want to try. The draw will stay open until the Labor Day, when the bottle is supposed to arrive. Either Rusty, or random.org will choose the winner.

Do you succumb to bargains? What was your best bargain haul ever? Which was the most regrettable?

 

Images: Rusty & La chasse aux Papillons my own; Plum – my friend’s A., also known as a “perfume mule”

In the Search for the Perfect Peony

What did we do when Fragrantica wasn’t around to helpfully provide a list of notes for perfumes we tried? I don’t know about you, but back then I didn’t think much about the notes. Usually I paid attention to whether the perfume reminds me of any other perfume I know (I still do that) but unless it was what we now know as a “soliflore”, I rarely thought twice about the composition of perfumes I tested or wore.

When I first smelled Estee Lauder Pleasures Intense soon after it was released, I immediately said that it smelled of peonies. I liked it and planned to eventually buy a bottle but it never came to it. And only a couple of days ago, when I started thinking about this post, I remembered Pleasures Intense and decided to check the notes. Peony is the first one mentioned in the Fragrantica’s list. I haven’t smelled Pleasures Intense in about 10 years so I don’t know how badly it was reformulated since then. But in 2002 it was unmistakably peony perfume. And so far it is the only one that I recognize as such.

Pink Peopny

When I was growing up, peonies were very popular flowers for summer bouquets. By my recollections they weren’t romantic flowers (that place was taken by roses, tulips or lily of the valley), but they weren’t too formal or official either (for that we had carnations, gladioli and calla lilies). Peonies were more in the home décor or hostess gifts category. But thanks to their great aroma, they were liked and appreciated.

In the Northern California peonies are rare: I don’t think I’ve ever seen them growing here and in the last several years I would occasionally come across peony bouquets at a store or somebody’s house. So the flower wasn’t on my mind too often, and I wasn’t purposefully looking for perfume with peony in a leading role. But I would try those that happen to come into my orbit.

Vert Pivoine by Histoires de Parfums was supposed to be all about peony: as little as one can trust a list of notes, when you see the same “peony” mentioned three times – once for each position of the pyramid – it is hard not to expect to get at least some recognizable scent. But no. The closest it gets to peony is by being awfully soap-y – exactly the way some rose perfumes turn out on my skin (and peony are said to have a sweet rose-like scent). I’ll give them the “green” part thought.

Peony & Blush Suede by Jo Malone got into my perfume wardrobe by chance. I find it rather pleasant and wear from time to time but to some extent it was a disappointment: before I tested it for the first time I expected it would be more like Blackberry & Bay or English Pear & Freesia (in terms of intensity) than one of those evanescent blooms that the brand releases every year. I think I hoped for a love child of the original Bottega Veneta and Cacharel‘s Noa fleur. Unfortunately, Peony & Blush Suede is rather a delicate whisper than an assertive statement. Jessica (NST) in her review says that it “might not win over anyone who was really looking forward to a fruity fragrance, or who likes her florals to be very airy and clean, but it will probably appeal to wearers of feminine florals who have just browsed the Chloé and Balenciaga counters and not found anything quite to their liking,” and I completely agree with her, especially after testing perfume I’m covering next.

Peonies

Nobody will accuse Pivoine Suzhou from Armani Prive line of not being fruity enough. On application it feels like it’s dripping with juice. Pivoine Suzhou is young, bright and uncomplicated. Compared to it, Peony & Blush Suede seems like a very adult perfume. Interestingly, while both perfumes smell nothing like peonies I know, about an hour into the development, when Pivoine Suzhou‘s fruitiness subsides a little, for a while these two smell very similar, which makes me think that either they use the same artificial ingredient that is supposed to convey “peony” note, or they recreate the same peony cultivar, with which I’m not familiar. I would recommend this perfume for those who like the fruity-floral genre. Read Steve’s (The Scented Hound) review: his take on this perfume is very close to how I feel about Pivoine Suzhou.

Though I haven’t found perfume with a perfect peony note, the search wasn’t completely in vain: I discovered perfume that I liked very much. Peony Angel by Thierry Mugler. I had the sample of this limited edition perfume for many years but, discouraged by my experience with Violet Angel, I kept this one classified “One day when I have absolutely nothing to test” (it is an actual category in my perfume database, if you were wondering). I tested it for this post and discovered that I like it very much. While having many facets in common with the original Angel (which I love), it’s softer, less gourmand and more floral (the Mugler’s “not-a-single-flower-has-been-harmed” type of floral, I mean). Oh, and it doesn’t smell of peony either.

White Peony

Images: my own

Six of One, Half a Dozen of the Other

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

Order of the Addends

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

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

***

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

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

Hermes Rocabar

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mr President

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

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

Lavender

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

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

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

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

 

Images: my own