A Postcard from Undina: From Mendocino with Love

Nothing restores feeling of inner balance better than 3 days at ocean shore, almost “unplugged.” It was a wonderful mini-vacation full of serenity and beauty.

Mendocino July 2019

I’m sorry I had to come back that soon. I’m glad to be back – back to Rusty, to my blog, even to work. I missed you. I hope summer is treating you well. Is it?

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In memory of a dear friend

For a week I went back and forth on whether I should write privately to several people or write about it here. In the end I chose to do it publicly.

Suzanne Keller who some of you know from the Suzanne’s Perfume Journal (formerly Eiderdown Press) passed from this life on May 5th.

Suzanne was a wonderful friend – kind, supportive, attentive and generous. We met just once but we periodically exchanged e-mails, and I hoped to spend more time with her in the upcoming years. I believed we had all those years ahead of us, so what is 3-4 months of missed comments or even just “likes” on posts when my life was so busy and hectic, right?

I didn’t know her illness came back. I didn’t know she was dying. And it was only when a note I sent to her to inquire whether everything was fine returned to me, undelivered, I discovered that both of her sites were down (her perfume journal and a site about her pet rabbit Boxer whom you met last December at Rusty’s 10th anniversary), ran some searches and found out what happened.

I assume that taking sites down was Suzanne’s choice, and she didn’t want to leave her thoughts out there in the digital Universe after she’d be gone. But it makes me even sadder: she was such a talented writer! And she wrote not only about perfumes: once she shared some chapters of the book she was working on – one more thing that I was sure would happen at some point in the future…

Since we met and communicated a lot on the topic of perfumes, I have dozens of perfume connections with Suzanne: if you were to run a search in my blog, you’d see how often she came up in my posts (and it’s not even counting her thoughtful and extremely kind comments). But at the moment all that doesn’t feel significant enough to write about (maybe in several months).

I could write about how her death has affected me – but it seems wrong too because there are so many people in her family for whom it’s an enormous loss, so compared to their grief whatever I feel is just a tiny prick.

I am grieving but I feel a little like an impostor: I’m not sure if Suzanne needed me in her last months, but I didn’t even try to be “there.” I was busy, I was sick, I didn’t know she was sick again, I thought she just lost interest in perfumes since she wasn’t wearing them any longer, I was waiting for her next post about Boxer, I was very busy, and there supposed to be tomorrow, next month, next year… I don’t have regrets that I didn’t get to talk to her, say or do something. But I regret if there was at least a moment when she would have felt even a tad better had I found time to send the same note I sent a month too late.

While Suzanne’s perfume stories would probably disappear forever, I want to remind those who read these before and share with those who hadn’t links to two interviews Suzanne gave 6 years ago: one at the Purple Paper Planes and one at the Olfactoria’s Travels. Who’s better to tell us about her than she herself?

She was such a beautiful person, so whether you knew her or not, if you’re reading this, please do something beautiful for somebody in your life with her name in heart. And send warm thoughts into the Universe to those who is affected the most by Suzanne’s untimely death.

Do “Bad” Perfume Samples Circulate Better?

What does a perfumista do while being sick to the degree that wearing any perfume is temporary out of question? She thinks about them. And thoughts might flow in an unpredictable direction.

But first let me explain what I meant by the title. Did I mean samples of bad perfumes or perfume samples that are bad? Either. Of course, “bad” is a subjective term: tastes differ, and for almost any perfume there is someone out there who adores it. But we all know that some perfumes get everyone’s love while others pass by to be forgotten half a year later. These “others” are those that I called “bad perfumes.” Besides, most people (though, not all) prefer spray samples, hence, the other ones (those messy 0.7 ml dabbers from Luckyscent and other similar places) are “bad samples.”

What I’ve noticed over years of swapping perfumes: when it comes to exchanges not with friends and usual “sparring partners,” percentage of perfumes that I didn’t care for at all would go up significantly. When I started thinking about it, it made sense. I’ll share with you my train of thought.

 

Small Perfume Samples

 

A perumista (let’s call her P.) gets a sample, tries perfume and likes it. If she doesn’t love it enough to buy, P. wears it until it’s finished (or keeps in her collection planning to finish it eventually). This sample never leaves P.’s possession.

If perfume goes onto the “to buy” list, P. continues using that sample waiting for a bottle, especially if it’s a convenient spray sample. By the time that bottle finally joins P.’s collection, the sample is either gone or is so depleted that it feels wrong to send it to anybody else. The sample stays with P.

Unless it was a dab sample because then it wasn’t worn as much; or let’s say it was, but even a 0.25 ml in a dab vial is still suitable for testing, especially it it’s a “freebie” that P. adds to a split or a swap.

On the other hand, if P. didn’t like perfume, a nice spray sample of perfume that everyone else praises has a better chance to go into a “maybe” or “try again later” pile (and die in it), while a sample of perfume that nobody else proclaimed to love, especially in a dab vial, seems like a good candidate to be sent unsolicited and, most likely, not to one of the friends whose tastes P. knows. It is easier to just throw it in than spend time asking if the recipient even wants to test it.

… Another perfumista, S., gets a sample from P. – and everything repeats. In the end, those “bad perfumes” and/or “bad samples” get to move from one perfumista to another much more often than “good” ones amplifying the common perception of the recent years that niche perfumery becomes worse and worse.

What do you think? Were those just feverish emanations of my perfume-deprived brain?

Yuzu Overload

I came across Demeter Fragrance Library more than 10 years ago while searching for a linden perfume. First I was inspired by the number of different perfumes they offered (as I was researching the brand online) and then completely disappointed by the simplicity of their creations, once I tried some of them at Sephora. Since then I tried several of them, even bought a couple (they were $5/30 ml at TJ Max, so I couldn’t resist but I use them as a room spray), but since then I never considered that brand again for personal perfume.

I’ve never been a huge marmalade fan. Most likely, because those that I tried were too over-processed to the degree where it was just sugar syrup soured by citric acid. But also because it was so far from what I used to love as a child. When I was growing up, lemons were scarce: as with a lot of other things and produce, one had to be in the right place at the right time to buy some. So, of course, nobody would be buying just one or two lemons if they were to happen upon them. But since lemons did not keep well for too long, I remember my grandmother slicing them, mixing with sugar and storing in a jar. And since no heat was involved into creating these preserves, they still smelled and tasted very natural.

 

Citrus and Honey Tea

 

So when a friend offered something that was called Yuzu Hot & Cold Tea and looked like most citrus store-bought marmalade I’d tried before, I was skeptical, but being a polite guest I got a couple of spoons… WOW. I’ve never eaten or smelled a real yuzu fruit before, so I have no comparison point, but that Yuzu “tea” was so fragrant that I wasn’t sure whether I should eat it or slather over my pulse points.

Since then couple of times my friend managed to get me that “tea” from some San Francisco store, but we don’t see each other often enough to make it a steady delivery channel, so I tried to find it around where I live first and then online – without much luck. I don’t remember how exactly I came across Yuzu Marmalade on Amazon, but I decided to give it a try – even though it was a different jar (much smaller) and it wasn’t “tea.” Luckily for me, it was exactly the same taste and aroma. So now I keep ordering it online, even though $11-12 for a 10oz (300g) jar seems a little steep.

Recently, while running a search to see if any other online retailers had it cheaper or in a bigger jar, I discovered that Demeter had perfume called Yuzu Marmalade. Of course I wanted to try it! While I was thinking of checking if Sephora still carried the line, a kind NST’er offered to send me her small spray bottle of this perfume, with which she wasn’t that enamored. From her I got also the idea of the post title, as she wrote in her note:

Not my favorite frag, but I like the experiment of yuzu marmalade overload–in fragrance and on toast.

Despite not that glowing recommendation, I had high hopes: not because Demeter makes great perfumes, but because how hard could it be to create an artificial citrus scent representing just one note, right? Demeter did it so many times to other notes, often relatively convincing even if not the most naturally smelling. I’m surprised to report that Demeter failed miserably: not only Yuzu Marmalade wasn’t even close to that zesty and aromatic marmalade that I had in my mind’s nose, but it barely might be classified as a citrus scent. All I can smell is that over-processed orange marmalade’s flat sweetness. Extremely disappointing.

I’m not even sure if I really want to wear yuzu soliflore, but I would love to find perfume where it’s recognizable. Any recommendations?

 

 

Images: Lemons from my friend’s recipe, (if you’re into cooking, I highly recommend looking through her blog); the rest – my own

If It Looks Like Perfume, If It Costs Like Perfume…

During my trip to Barcelona two years ago perfume was constantly on my mind, which wasn’t surprising since I managed to try about 700 perfumes while there.

One evening, while walking aimlessly in the neighborhood where we were staying, I noticed an interestingly looking small shop with some unfamiliar perfume bottles on display. I came in and tried several perfumes that, as I discovered, were all from the Spanish brand Daniel Josier.

 

 

We walked in, I sniffed perfumes from the bottles and tried some on paper. I liked several but they were quite expensive, and since none of them immediately spoke to me enough to risk putting them on my skin, I kept sniffing. One bottle that I noticed in a slightly unusual basket arrangement attracted my attention.

 

Barcelona Vintage Eyewear Shop

 

I picked it up and started examining… I’m not sure if I would have sprayed it before reading the label but the store owner couldn’t risk it: “Wait! It’s not a perfume!”

 

Chateau D'Estoublon Olive Oil

 

I know, I should have bought it as a souvenir from that trip but somehow it didn’t even occur to me then. I took a picture planning to write about it – and then forgot about it since I had enough perfume-related material for several posts. But recently I came across that brand’s condiments on the Neiman Marcus site. I know that readers do not usually click on the links, but I do recommend checking out this one to see how much all Chateau D’Estoublon products’ packaging looks like perfumes.

But if until that trip I haven’t seen that type of chameleon packaging, since then, as it often happens, encounter one more example of that approach. From a friend of mine I got a Christmas present – a 50 ml bottle of Linea Solitario Limited Edition 8 year old Italian Balsamic Vinegar.

This limited edition, unique and intense flavoured balsamic, aged for 8 years in oak barrels. Linea Solitario Ltd Edition 8 year old Italian Balsamic Vinegar comes in a glass bottle, elegantly boxed with a synthetic diamond on the label. […]

For 160 years, tradition and production secrets have been passed down through the family. Today Massimo, who represents the 5th generation of the family, is the current president of Acetaia Malpighi. Acetaia Malpighi is internationally recognised as “Made in Italy” brand taking its products on the main markets all over the world.

Linea Solitario Balsamic Vinegar

 

As with many of my “special” perfumes, I still wait for the right occasion to try this vinegar. Maybe this upcoming tomato season…

 

Rusty and Linea Solitario Balsamic Vinegar

Have you ever encountered anything that looked like perfume while not being perfume (or some body product)?

 

Images: my own

Feeling Li-lucky

I want to start with the story that was told to me by a friend who came to the US a couple of years before we did. In the first year of living here, when not only one’s vocabulary and pronunciation but also lack of familiarity with mundane things make communications with locals difficult for both parties, one evening while buying something at a grocery store, my friends asked the cashier:

– Do you sell XXXXXXX?
– What?
– Do you sell XXXXXXX?
– Sorry, I don’t understand…
– I need these things to light up a cigarette.
– Ah, you mean < XXXXXXX>… You need to go to the Customer Service.

As you have probably guessed, my friend was trying to buy matches. He swears that the way that clerk pronounced it was, to his ear, exactly the same way he asked. Since then that “Ah, you mean “matches” became an internal joke we use every time we find ourselves in a similar situation.

If you were wondering why I shared this story with you – I was trying to explain the title. When it came to me (the play on words “lilac” and “luck” that, to my ear, sounded similar enough to use them like that), I was positive somebody else has already used it. It wouldn’t have prevented me from doing it as well (after all, it’s just a blog, I wasn’t concerned with a copyright), but I wanted to make sure that it wasn’t a real cliché. “Feeling lilacy” returned me “whopping” 3 (three) hits. “Feeling lilac-y” produced 7, and out of the 10 combined only one person was actually referring to flowers. That brought the realization that for the native English speakers these two words don’t really have a similar auditory pattern. But since my mind had been already set on that title (it really described how I felt!), I decided to modify it even further – so that even the almighty Google gave up.

 

Rusty and Lilacs

 

Work life has been hectic and tiresomely busy for a long time now with work days quietly encroaching on evenings and weekends, so one day we just declared a day off and ran away to the close-by wine country. Just the act of ditching work to visit our favorite wineries made me feel good. Combined with warm but not hot sunny day, much better than feared traffic and good wine the feeling was promoted to ”great.” And unexpectedly coming across a bush with a very modest by the standards of those areas where this plant blossoms more willingly but still fragrant and beautiful lilac flowers elevated the status of my experience to “perfect.” I felt wonderful. I felt lucky. I felt… li-lucky.

 

Lilacs in Sonoma 2019

 

And that’s when I got the idea to do a Lilacs Week. As I was mentally choosing perfumes to wear, I was sure that those would be perfumes I previously covered in two posts of the In the Search for the Perfect Lilac series – Episode 1 and Episode 2. And partially I was right: I wore three of the perfumes that I mentioned in those posts. But to my surprise I had two more perfumes to add to the list.

Whenever lilac perfumes come into conversation, inevitably somebody mentions Jean Patou Vacances. If it’s not to lilac what Diorissimo is to lily-of-the valley exactly, it’s close to that. But Patou is one of those brands that exist somewhere in the parallel universe: I know it exists but I don’t think I saw anything but Joy or 1000 in real life. And since it’s not the most popular brand these days, I’ve never thought of seeking out any of the perfumes. But then a perfumista friend sent me a vintage mini (not sure of the age) of Vacancies. It must have been beautiful while it was younger. If to put aside the “vintage” vibe that I do not like in any perfumes, it is still beautiful. It’s more than just lilac, even though that flower supposedly plays an important role in the perfume: hyacinth, galbanum and mimosa keep it a good company. But since I’ve never knew it in its heydays, I won’t scavenge eBay for vintage treasure or even attempt to find a more modern take on that perfume. But I wish I tried it 30+ years ago.

Last weekend there was a haiku contest at the NST blog. Coincidentally, one of the commenters, Aurora, wrote a haiku about Vacances, and she allowed me to share it with my readers:

Mauve and white shower
Lilacs, sweet heralds of spring
Their scent in the breeze

Lilacis

 

Last year I got curious about Lilas de Minuit (Midnight Lilac) from DSH Perfumes – inspired by Coty’s Chypre perfume from the Flowers for Men series. I don’t remember why it attracted my attention (most likely, it was spring, and I was in a similar mood for lilacs), but I requested this sample with my order.

When I tried two lilac perfumes from DSH for the second of the posts linked to above, I thought that those were lovely but didn’t seem like a finished product. Lilas de Minuit is the opposite: the composition is so complex that I can’t really say that I can smell lilacs in it, which isn’t really surprising with everything that went into it. Notes from the brand’s site: civet, East Indian patchouli, green oakmoss, incense notes, labdanum, musk, styrax, Bulgarian rose absolute, cinnamon bark, clove bud, Damask rose absolute, grandiflorum jasmine, summer lilac, ylang ylang, bergamot, black pepper and cassis bud.

If you like chypres, give Lilas de Minuit a try, and my recommendation would be to do it when your skin is warm: this perfume blooms with the body heat. I think it should be perfect for a warm late spring or early summer night after a hot day.

 

DSH Lilas de Minuit

 

Other perfumes that I wore that week – Phaedon Rue des Lilas and Puredistance Opardu I described in my previous posts, so I won’t repeat myself since I haven’t changed my opinion about them. But one more perfume I want to mention separately even though I wrote about it before: French Lilac by Pacifica. Whoever is looking for a lilac soliflore should look no further: since lilac is not reproducible naturally (at least not in a stable form), there is no good reason for such perfume to be as expensive as some of them are; and French Lilac is unbelievably cheap while being very beautiful. And from my experience French Lilac is better from a roller ball bottle than from a spray. And it’s surprisingly tenacious, so that small bottle should satisfy periodic lilac cravings for months if not years.

 

Pacifica French Lilac

 

P.S. I’ve lived in the U.S. for many-many-many years. People who know me or work with me got used to my accent, and I often forget how difficult it is for an “untrained ear.” But just last week during my trip back into winter I was reminded about it while on the morning ride to the conference trying to tell my co-worker who I met just a day before that I was dying to get XXXXX before we start.

– To get what?

– XXXX

– Sorry, what?

– A coffee drink that you had yesterday

– Ah, latte….

 

Rusty and Lilacs

 

Images: my own

Every White has its Noir

I do not travel much for business. So when I was delegated from my office to attend a trade show in Denver to where I’ve never been before and with co-workers from other offices, none of whom I knew in person, it was a reason for anxiety on its own. But on top of that, as I checked the forecast, I was unpleasantly surprised.

Weather in Denver (end of April 2019)

First I thought it was a fluke, a software glitch, which would be fixed soon: look at the temperature change from Sunday to Monday (the day of my arrival). It was hard to accept because at the time I checked the weather there was similar to what we had – and where I live it felt already like late spring if not summer. The picture below was taken just 2 days before I left for Denver.

 

Blossom in CA Park (April 2019)

 

But as the trip was nearing, I accepted the unpleasant reality, packed my suitcase with warmer clothes and took out of the closet a leather jacket that I had previously hidden away. One positive side, a so-called silver lining in all that, was that it was another chance to wear “winter” perfumes.

On arrival, I acknowledged that it was cold and even put on a hat while waiting for a car at the airport, but it was a bright sunny day, so my thoughts about a mistake in the forecast ran through my mind again. But a car ride to the hotel, registration there and a quick drink with a group of co-workers later (about a couple of hours in total), when I looked out of the window, the view changed dramatically. I needed a winter perfume (and it was April 29th!).

 

Snow in Denver (April 2019)

 

Nappa Noir was created for SixScents Parfums by Calice Becker in 2012 as a part of their Series 4: Characters. Notes include: Ylang Extra Moheli, Violet Leaf Absolute, Violet Flower Accord, Tobacco, Coffee Co2 Extract, Indonesian Patchouli, Florentine Iris Resinoid, Speculoos Cookie Accord, Cistus Absolute, Styrax, Leather, Birch Tar, Saffron, Vanilla Beans Resinoid, Serenolide. It is characterized as a floriental gourmand leather perfume.

I tried Nappa Noir for the first time years ago. A perfumista friend bought a sample pack of the series, liked this perfume and shared a tiny dab sample with me. Not thinking that the same perfumer created both Nappa Noir and, six years earlier, Cuir de Lancôme, from memory I thought that they had a lot in common. But as I tested them in parallel, I confirmed that while having a lot of commonality, these two were quite different: Nappa Noir was much softer and somewhat sweeter, while Cuir de Lancôme’s leather wass more pronounced.

I liked Nappa Noir but it was time when I was trying many new scents, so when my small sample was gone, I moved onto other perfumes, finding new favorites and adding them to my collection. I kept coming back to that perfume but nobody carried the brand any longer, and the only format you could buy Nappa Noir was a 50 ml bottle, which I wasn’t prepared to do without additional testing, which I couldn’t do because nobody carried the line. And then it was sold out even on the brand’s site.

Same as Rusty, who after finding once a cabinet with treats opened keeps coming back to check, even though months after that we make sure to keep it closed, I kept running Internet searches hoping that maybe Nappa Noir would re-appear. I was almost positive that it was gone for good: when was the last time you heard about SixScents Parfums, a brand that at some point was popular in the perfume Blogosphere? I don’t remember, so I thought that they’ve probably disappeared for good. But just in case…

One day my search had returned a result from the brand’s updated (so, no dead!) site. I bought a sample of Nappa Noir, confirmed that I still liked it, and was glad that the site, while still listing a full bottle as “sold out” (and I don’t think it ever comes back), offered a “Lab Sample” bottle (15 ml). Since 15 ml is more than I need of any perfume these days, I went for it. And the bottle has arrived shortly before my trip – so it went to Denver with me.

With that weather outside and inviting fireplaces burning inside the hotel, Nappa Noir felt right in place, and I loved how it developed on my skin providing so necessary comfort and support. And I know that if it weren’t for that white snow, I probably wouldn’t have got a chance to wear Nappa Noir until autumn.

 

Rusty and Nappa Noir

If you like leather perfumes and are in the US, I recommend getting a sample: $5 for 2 ml, including S&H, is not bad price to test interesting perfume. And if you like it, it’s still available in that plain 15 ml bottle (Disclaimer: No affiliation, just a grateful customer).

 

Images: my own