A Gift Horse’s Mouth?

When was the last time you won anything at all? How about anything big? (It is kind of an introduction, but I am curious, so please share if you can.)

A couple of days ago I got a winning lottery scratcher from a local realtor with whom I’ve never had any dealings, but who keeps sending those red envelopes every year for the Chinese New Year. I’m not sure why: neither of us is Chinese, and she never recognizes any other holidays, for example, Christmas or New Year. But since she sends them, I dutifully scratch them. I haven’t won anything in the last 10 years. Until this year. I won $2 (two dollars!). I have no idea where I could get my prize, and My vSO suggested just to keep it for good luck. So, after persuading Rusty that he would get a treat if he stares into my phone camera for a couple of seconds, I put the ticket back into the envelope and pinned it to my documents board.

Rusty and Lottery Ticket

Last Saturday I asked you about giveaways you do not (or do) enter. One of the rules that I usually follow but forgot to mention is that I do not participate in social media giveaways that require providing my personal information, especially if it would be linked to my social media profiles that I try to keep separate from my RL persona. So, when a couple of months ago on IG I saw a draw for a gift certificate to one of the online perfume stores, which required my real name and address, I almost passed it by… but then realized that not only I could participate in it outside of IG, but also I’ve recently purchased perfume from that store, so none of the information that was required for the entry was new to them. I entered and forgot about it.

You can probably imagine my shock when in one of my Undina social accounts I saw a post that announced me, a person, as a winner. The first second I thought it was some type of a clever targeted/personalized ads that insert something saved in your cookies. I never click on those but do notice them. But then I worked out that it was quite unlikely that information was available to be used like that… and the next day I got an official confirmation in the email that my entry – one of more than 100K submitted – in fact, won the prize. $200 to buy whatever I want in the store.

I do not have an extensive wish list, if any. Given that sum of money to spend wherever I want, I would have probably come up with an idea or two. But trying to figure out what to get from a particular store proved to be an undertaking. I know, I know, it’s not even a First World problem. But I didn’t want to get just anything because I’m not good at either swapping or selling anything, so I’d be stuck with whatever I got.

After going back and forth, I decided on a bottle of perfume that was in my Top 10 Perfumes in 2020L’Aimee by Parfums MDCI. As of the time of that post, I liked it but didn’t plan on buying it. But as I tested it again (before I knew I won the prize), I liked it even more. And I didn’t have any perfumes from this brand in my collection. So, it seemed like a good choice, and I got that bottle just in time to think of it as my birthday present from the Universe.

If you were in this hobby 8-10 years ago, most likely you remember perfumistas being excited about the next new launch from Parfums MDCI but being conflicted about the “special edition” that for about $150 on top of the not that affordable regular bottle price offered a resin bust bottle cap. But since that additional decorative part wasn’t the only available option, its existence didn’t cause any high emotions. Those busts looked quite nice, and I remember thinking that “maybe one day…” If you’re interested, I found a story about these busts creation and inspiration.

Parfums MDCI

Parfums MDCI stand in Harrod’s

L’Aimee, created in 2020 by Nathalie Feisthauer for the brand’s new series “Painters and Perfumes,” isn’t offered in the “bust presentation,” so I wasn’t even tempted. But also, I didn’t expect what I got.

The box itself is made from very thin and flimsy cardboard. I don’t like the quality of the print, and it can’t even be argued that it’s a reproduction of an older painting because the same print on the bottle itself looks much nicer.

The insert for protecting the bottle and holding it in place looks cheap, and on top of that it’s cut the way that you cannot open or close the top flip without moving insert itself out of the box partially – you can see where that top part stops otherwise, and there is no possibility to close it (those uneven edges in the round hole are results of my attempts to do so).

And to add insult to injury, the bottle cap is beyond cheap. I didn’t take a picture, and it’s not obvious from photos, but it’s made from an extremely light and cheap-looking plastic painted in gold. It doesn’t have any heft when you hold it in your hand. It doesn’t have either a magnetic closure or a nice “gripping” layer inside that would normally snuggle the sprayer.

I compared them side by side and discovered that L’Aimee bottle and box are amazingly similar to those of Mimosa perfume by Monotheme Fine Fragrances Venezia sent to me as a gift by Lucas (Chemist in the Bottle). It does not sit well with me that perfume 75 ml of which retails for $250 has a packaging of a $50 perfume.

 

 

But what about the most important part, the perfume itself, you might still be curious even after all the points stated above?

I like L’Aimee. I wonder where Fragrantica gets their notes, but their list is more “colorful” than the one I can see on the brand’s site. I’m not sure if Fragrantica embellishes or clarifies, but many of the ingredients on their list are accompanied by the origin qualifier (e.g., it’s not just “jasmine” but “Egyptian jasmine” or “Australian sandalwood” instead of just “sandalwood”). I’ll go with the brand’s list: bergamot, mandarin, blackcurrant bud, rose, jasmine, champaca, lily-of-the-valley, orange, heliotrope, orris, raspberry, peach, cedarwoood, vetyver, patchouli, amyris, oakmoss, sandalwood, vanilla, amber and musks.

I often state that my nose isn’t sophisticated enough to pinpoint specific notes in perfumes, even when I have a list of those in front of me. But with this perfume, I would expect that all but very experienced “sniffers” wouldn’t be able to do much better. It’s a perfect blend that can be appreciated (or not) as a whole.

L’Aimee is done as a classic perfume – well-rounded, without unexpected twists or complex development. I’m not saying that it’s linear. No, it has noticeable development during its lifespan (it is quite tenacious), but it is an expected progression of the scent living on your skin, without any surprises. The composition seems muted, which you don’t expect after reading the list of notes. But the way I visualized it in my head (and it is not based on any scientific knowledge of the process, just an image): if you were to take a couple of dozen of paints from a painter’s palette and mix them all, you’d end up with some kind of a brown color, more or less mudded (dependent on what went into the mix). So, this overly polite blend of 20+ notes reminds me of that paint-mixing experiment.

L’Aimee is not a controversial perfume: I don’t expect either a strong “dislike” or “love” for it. To be fair, it doesn’t go into the territory of “pleasant scent” either, where anyone at least does not mind wearing it. I mean that it is complex enough not to be a universal pleaser, which (I realize that) might be a good thing only in perfumista’s book, but I wanted to mention it.

Do I regret getting L’Aimee? No. Since I like the fragrance itself, I still think it was a good choice as a gift. Would I recommend it? Given a chance (meaning “for free”), try it – just out of interest and to see that I was right in its description. As to buying it… I would have never paid full price for it, even before I had a chance to look at the packaging: I think it is not… well, controversial or even “just pleasant” enough to justify that price. But even with enough money to spend on any, even the quietest and simplest perfume, I would still say “No.” Because, in my opinion, when a luxury brand while selling luxury products at a luxury price cuts corners this way, they disrespect me as a customer. And to afford that they should be releasing more than a blurred classic-painting-themed illustration (I’m talking not about the box).

MDCI L'Aimee

As to the really big wins (just “material” ones – happiness, health an other more important things highly appreciated but not counted here), many-many years ago I won in the Green Card Lottery.

 

Images: my own

36 thoughts on “A Gift Horse’s Mouth?

  1. What a shame they have stinted on the packaging Undina. My only bottle from them I bought from a perfumista without packaging so I never got to notice it. LOVE that you won it for FREE though, that is wonderful news.
    Hug Rusty from us please. What a good model he is today.
    Portia xx

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Congratulations on your big win!! L’Aimee’ sounds lovely, but I agree that box and cap are something I’d expect on a basic fragrance, not a very expensive brand. I used to own Rose de Siwa by MDCI. I liked it, but I ended up thinking the lychee was too sweet and I swapped it. I had the basic bottle, too. The cap on my bottle was more substantial and the box a bit thicker, but not much better. I like nice substantial bottles and caps, with sturdy boxes like Ormonde Jayne makes.

    I’ve won some nice things from draws by bloggers (I won a nice Puredistance vial from your drawing (thank you) and another one from a Chemist in the Bottle drawing a couple of years earlier) and I won something on APJ. I’ve done pretty well with drawings on Fragrantica. Usually the Fragrantica drawings are for sample sets and quite a few are offered. I have a pretty good win record there. My best win was 2 bottles of very nice perfume that a reader was offering on Bois de Jasmin’s site to people in the US. One was a Nobile 1942. That was the biggest win for me and I enjoyed those lovely bottles very much.

    Not many wins in the Lotto department here. We’ve won $2 and $5 from time to time on the scratch-offs, but nothing more than $10 once. I’m generally pretty happy with anything I get for free. I can always give it away, swap or sell it if I find I don’t fancy it later on. Rusty is the winner in your photo!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I also like substantial bottles and caps. And boxes should be at least adequate.

      I can’t do swapping of full bottles because I rarely see anything I would want to have and I can’t imagine anyone wanting something that I don’t want :)

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  3. Well, congrats on being a winner and congrats on your new perfume. It’s a shame that the way the perfume is presented/packed doesn’t make it feel luxurious enough to justify the price. At least the juice is good and you will enjoy wearing it, right?
    From MDCI I only tried Invasion Barbare and Chypre Palatin years ago but I have a tendency to not test the fragrances with a price that is too high- thats my measure of precaution to avoid falling in love for a scent that I can’t afford.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Undina, congrats on your price. I had expected a whole different review from your opening, but I would have written this ( little MDCI defence) anyway.
    As you say, MDCI has been there for a good while now, and we remember talking about them back when the market didn’t see 30 new releases from 3 new niche brands a week.
    I have and love a few of them, and I remember in ordering one of the perfumes I got to write with Claude Marchal, the brand founder, himself. It was a very nice conversation from a man who clearly knew his stuff and loved perfumery. I do actually believe that the perfumes are of a high standard, and that is what you are paying for, rather than packaging. For me, that’s the right call :)
    The perfumes I own, promesse de l’aube, Enlèvement au serail and Vêpres Siciliennes, are the way you describe your perfume, neither groundbreaking nor strange, but classic French perfumery, and I absolutely love especially the two first, which are in fact well made and plain beautiful perfumes of a standard you don’t see everyday. Had my collection not been quite large enough, I would have added some of the more recent oriental fragrances from the line. I haven’t tried the paintings perfumes.
    I suppose it does come down to what is most important for you, and though I have experienced bottles that annoyed me in their cheapness, MDCI is not among them. Much higher rates bottles with bad sprayers ( too much or too direct) for example.

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    • One day, if you get a chance, please make a point to take the lid off one of the “paintings” perfumes and tell me that 1) it’s of the same quality as those that you own and 2) if you agree that it is not (that would be my bet), you still don’t find it annoying ;)

      Had the cap been nicer, I would have probably been much more “forgiving” for the box since the bottle itself isn’t bad. But in combination… BTW, I suspect that their first/main collection boxes are/were also nicer that for this new line.

      I agree that the quality of perfume is much more important than everything else. And please notice that I didn’t even use my standard argument about cutting corners on packaging making me suspicious of other aspects. Because here it’s not the case of a sloppy work or absence of attention to details, as it happens in those cases when I use that argument. Here it is an economical decision, and I see many companies doing that (have you seen inside the box of new Chanel’s Eaux (Paris – Venice, etc.)?). But I disagree with that decision. Had it been Andy Tauer, Hiram Green or any other small indie brand, I would have been much more tolerant. But MDCI tries to play in a big boys league, they sell their perfumes at Harrod’s, and they charge more than many other niche perfume brands. So, they shouldn’t skimp on such things as bottles, caps and boxes. Those don’t need to be covered in Swarovski blingies or have lacquered “coffins” for the box, but it can’t be that cheap-looking either.

      I’m still happy with my winning, and I plan to wear this perfume for years to come.

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      • I tend to agree with Asali. There are so many of these perfumes from MDCI I love, and as long as I like what is inside I can be somewhat forgiving about the exterior. I do remember the last one I got thinking the box was flimsy. I can’t remember the cap, though, so I’ll have to check. And speaking of Green Card lotteries, my husband got his just before the end of 2020!

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        • Did your husband won a green card? Congratulations! I know that people who didn’t have to go through the process of getting a legal status (or didn’t see someone close to go through that) won’t understand the significance.

          If I love perfume, I’ll get it even in a mason jar. But unless I know for a fact that the brand put everything they got into perfume and just couldn’t afford to do any better on packaging, I will complain.

          When a perfumer starts his or her own brand, I’m much more forgiving: if they can create a great scent, they are not necessarily savvy in business. They do the creation because they have something to tell the world. It’s like with poetry or music – talented people would create those even if they cannot sell it or figure out how to turn that into something profitable for them. But when people start a business and invite well-known perfumers to do their scents, they do it not for love. And as long as they want me to spend money on a luxury product, I don’t feel bad expecting that they should deliver a product that meets my expectations from a luxury product. It’s not like they offer great perfumes at a bargain price.

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  5. Wow I didn’t know you won the Green Card lottery, that’s amazing. I’m presuming the chances of that are pretty low.

    It sounds like you are happy with the perfume you chose even if the packaging is less than luxury standard, to put it mildly.

    It’s funny, in that pic of Rusty you can just tell he’s posing under sufferance for his treat. There can’t have ever been a more expressive feline.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I actually had to keep repeating “treat” (he knows this word) to get him to look into the camera – because he kept turning away, studying ceiling or the wall behind him :)

      My vSO and I were always saying that there was no reason for us to buy lottery tickets or participate in any serious draws because we’ve already won big (the green card), so we have exhausted our allowance for luck :)

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’m not on facebook, or any other sites like that. I share pics with family only on Insta, but I don’t follow anybody else. I dont do Twitter either. I only belong to perfume blogs.

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  6. Congratulations on the wave of good luck! I seldom enter draws so haven’t won anything random for a long time that I can recall. I think gas stations or convenience stores will redeem your lotto ticket.

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  7. I would be disappointed in that too, for over $200. My budget is pretty strict, I expect a lot for that kind of price point. In any case; i have won several samples on IG giveaways (including Rubikona from the 3-way giveaway you, Lucas and hajusuuri did); several decants from Lucas; samples from Portia/APJ and Perfume Posse. Also twice won travel size perfumes on cafleurebon but I don’t enter there anymore, too hard to keep up. The biggest thing I ever won was a spring break trip in college. Unfortunately they announced the win so late that all of my friends had plans – I took my brother with me to Martinique. We ate meal a day because the trip only included airfare and hotel and we were pretty broke, but it was memorable nonetheless.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow… I bet that trip was memorable! And usually those difficulties and limitations contribute to the enjoyment of memories from the event (even if in the process it was less than enjoyable :) ).

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  8. I agree, for that price level I’d want lovely packaging too. I’ve only ever bought one fragrance with a price tag of $200+, and that was a rare Guerlain bought with Amazon points (with a spectacular silver-framed bottle, btw). I’m not nearly as interested in packaging and bottles as many perfumistas (which is good, because I’m usually quite happy to buy a lower-priced tester), but if I’m paying for a regular, new full bottle, I want it all to look and smell nice. And I also agree that caps matter! Rusty does look very intent upon his treat, I hope he thoroughly enjoyed it. May your red envelope continue to bring you good luck!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! I’m hoping it’ll bring me luck, and I won’t be selected for a jury duty, the letter to appear for which is now hanging next to that envelope on the document board.

      Rusty got multiple treats at the conclusion of the photo shoot. I think on his 13th year he finally started suspecting that me bringing to that sideboard something unusual and him getting treats might be somehow connected… :)

      Liked by 1 person

  9. My only big win was over 30 years ago, two tickets on Air France to Paris. That was fun! Other than that, a $100 gift card to a fragrance discounter site and some samples from a couple of blogs, but given how little I enter contests, I’m not disappointed.

    As for MDCI, I own 4 bottles and never noticed or cared that the cap was plastic, and since I throw all my boxes away I don’t remember the packaging well but definitely didn’t remember thinking how cheap it was. I guess I have low standards. :-). All I care about is how it smells. Congratulations on your win!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re the second person in this post’s comments who won air tickets! I never knew anyone who did before. What were the terms for entering that giveaway?

      If I were a betting person, I would have betted that both your boxes and your caps were of a better quality than those I’m complaining about.

      How do you transport your perfumes? Or do you keep 2 different parts of your collection in 3 different countries?

      Like

  10. Hello, Rusty, and thank you for brightening my day! I’m with you on the packaging-it’s a beautiful house, and they know how to charge: I think that the care and quality needs to be extended to the bottle and packaging.

    I’ve won lots of things-back in 2014 I won Grandiflora Michael, and L’artisan Jour de Fete, and a set of Rosie carded samples, all from the same site. I stopped entering their draws after that because I wanted other people to have the chance to win something good. But did I ever appreciate winning-I was broke after paying some expenses during my mom’s last illness, and to win something beautiful was just amazing.

    I’m glad you like your scent, and wish the packaging was a bit nicer.

    Liked by 2 people

    • After reading your comment, I decided to wear my Grandiflora Michele today. And it’s one more grudge I have: I really enjoy this perfume (and I paid, I think, full retail), but I strongly dislike their new bottle and especially label: it’s a paper label that started pilling within months of me buying the bottle. Grrr! I hope your bottle is of the original “domed” style.

      To be fair, L’Aimee’s bottle itself is not bad. And even the cap looks fine – until you take it off. But perfume is good, so the rest is tolerable :)

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      • Mine is the older, domed bottle. But once some fragrance leaked from around the sprayer, ran down over the label, and spoiled the label. And I really wish that had not happened lol. It doesn’t look as nice. :)

        Liked by 1 person

  11. “Am I done?” 😼

    Nice that you won a gift certificate and of course the biggest Green card prize! It is so disappointing though when a more luxurious perfume turned out to have cheap packaging. At the end of the day, as long as the perfume is very nice and the atomizer spritzes well, part of the pain is offset.

    My biggest prize won recently was a bottle of perfume but only because I already have the same perfume and was able to guess correctly. Skill or luck? I’ve also won other perfumes, both also from indie brands.

    As to cash prizes, I’ve mostly lost on the scratch offs but my winnings, if there were any, were usually from $1 to occasionally a larger amount no more than $50. This is not a good investment so I rarely buy them. I have given them as gifts and two to the same person yielded $100 each – of course I was jealous but it is what it is. 🤷🏻‍♀️

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t think I’ve ever bought a lottery ticket in the US. But I enjoy scratching the one that I get every year. I was tempted a couple of times when we had those mega million draws in the previous years. But a while ago I heard someone’s joke and it stuck with me: if you buy a ticket, your chances to win are approximately the same as if you don’t buy it.

      Bad atomizers are my worst enemies: I think that no perfumes, at any price point, should have poor sprayers. And part of why I love Chanel is their excellent spray mechanisms on all perfumes I tried so far.

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  12. I agree that the Green Card is the best ‘prize’ you could have ‘won’ – in the regular way, I mean. How disappointing about the cheap packaging to L’Aimee – I would also have found that very annoying and sneaky of the company. I loved your coinage of ‘bust presentation’ and description of all the notes being like colours added together to make a muddy brown. Did I ever tell you my story about doing that as a kid when colouring in a fawn’s tail, and the merry dance my brother led me by applying the laws of physics and light to crayons, and assuring me I would get white!?

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    • I have a vague recollection of that “white trick,” though I can’t remember whether you told this story to me personally or in one of the posts. Oh, joys of having siblings! ;)

      After sharing my annoyance with my readers, I feel better about the bottle :)

      Like

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