Gift that keeps on… lathering

Traditionally, before a concept of unisex perfumes appeared, or the notion that everyone can wear what they like re-emerged, perfumes were subdivided into masculine and feminine groups. In my native language, in the past, you would have never called creations for men anything other than “cologne”; while their feminine counterparts were called “parfum” (those were pre-spray-bottle times, which, as I suspect, in that country lasted longer than in the USA or some European countries).

Surprisingly, soaps – in the form we had them back then (I’ve previously shared some insights into experiences of my generation in older days so I won’t repeat it) – were strictly unisex before we even knew that term. There were some special “baby” soaps but everything else that I remember from my childhood was sexless. And even when later we were getting some coveted “imported” soaps – Palmolive or Camay – they were never thought of as feminine, and the most macho men had no issues using those fragrant soaps.

When I discovered soap for men (a German company Schwarzkopf & Henkel in 90s came up with the idea of targeting men with their products), a dark navy box with the inconspicuous name “Fa for men,” it was revolutionary! I loved that soap and bought it more than once, even though it was relatively expensive. It was marbled blue and white, and smelled wonderful though I wouldn’t be able to tell what it smelled of.

Fa Soap

They were probably before their time, so in a while it transformed into Fa Sport for Men first, then into something else (it had happened after I moved to the US, so I don’t know/remember what it was in between and cannot find since it was before mass Internet), and then into Far Energizing (the picture above shows the most recent reincarnation: both the box and the soap of  the original one were darker but this is the closest I could find).

In the US there were enough local mass-marker brands, so I completely forgot about that European brand… until many years later I smelled Caswell-Massey’s Sandalwood Soap on a Rope.

When I blind bought the first bar, I didn’t know what to expect from the scent: I was looking for soap on a rope to hang and use in the shower and liked how this one looked on the picture. Years apart, I cannot say with any certainty that Sandalwood and Fa for Men soaps smelled identical but in my scent memory they were very similar, and that made me predisposed to like Sandalwood even before I started using it.

 

Caswel-Massey Sandalwood Soap

 

Sandalwood soap surprised me: not only it perfumed my bathroom for months, felt pleasant while used and would leave a fine trace of sandalwood aroma on my skin, but it was a much better quality than I expected from that type of a product from some random brand…

Well, in my defense I should say that by the time I arrived to this country Caswell-Massey wasn’t a part of the shopping landscape any longer. But before ordering my second bar from Amazon, I decided to read about the brand. I discovered that, according to Wikipedia, the company, created in 1752, “is the first fragrance and personal care product company in America. […] is regarded as the fourth-oldest continuously operating company in America and the oldest American consumer brand in operation.”

If you’re interested, you can read more about the brand’s history from the link above, I’ll just mention that as of 2017 it was re-launched (still as a privately owned company), and they’ve re-released their perfumes and colognes line (with some “updated formula” – whatever it means).

I bought my second Sandalwood bar as a gift to myself and my vSO for Christmas 2016 – and for almost 16 months since then he’s been using it exclusively and I would rotate between this soap and several shower gels. And it still has probably another month of use in it!

 

Rusty and Soap on a Roap

 

Do you know Caswell-Massey brand? Have you tried any of their products – be that soaps, perfumes or hand creams? Have you ever used any soap on a rope?

 

Images: Fa – from the brand’s site; all others – my own

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Second Sunday Samples: Parfums de Marly Meliora and Athalia

With the flood of new brands appearing every year now, it is almost impossible to even be aware of them – leave alone smell their offerings. Some brands make it to the perfume blogosphere, others stay under the radar.

I learned about Parfums de Marly not too long ago: during my visit to the Nordstrom’s flagship store in Seattle in summer of 2016 I saw this brand for the first time and even got some samples from the overly enthusiastic SA (with whom we chatted about our favorite Tom Ford’s perfumes).

After I acknowledged this brand existence, I realized that I must have seen it before in a couple of male-dominating perfume split/swap FB groups. But since other than Creed/Tom Ford/Amouage (with occasional Roja Dove and Xerjoff) rotation, the rest of what gets mentioned there are mostly designer perfumes, I think I was glazing over Parfums de Marly because their bottles reminded me of Ferrari perfumes, for which I didn’t care at all.

 

Parfums de Marly and Ferrari Perfumes

 

Of course, if you look closely, it is obvious that the quality of Parfum de Marly’s bottles is much higher. The same, I assume, goes for perfumes, though I still haven’t tried a single perfume from Ferrari.

Don’t get confused by the year on the bottles: according to Fragrantica, Parfums de Marly was created in 2009. 1743 was the year Guillaume Coustou created Chevaux de Marly (The Marley Horses), which became an inspiration for the creators of the brand. The positive side is that Parfums de Marley doesn’t claim any historical connections or secretly held through generations formulas. It’s a fantasy, a tale, a recreation of something that, even if existed, was probably completely different from what any of us can imagine.

Through its original concept, Parfums de Marly rekindles the spirit of fragrances from the splendour of the XVIIIth Century, when the finest perfumes were created for King Louis XV as a tribute of the prestigious horse races he so fervently admired.

Meliora

Two and Half Sea Stars

Created by Nathalie Lorson in 2013, Meliora opens with a believable black currant note. Does it have promised raspberry? Probably. Or some other berry that gives Meliora its sweetness and smothers tartness of black currant after the first 30 minutes. Rose, Lily, Ylang-Ylang, Vanilla, Wood and Musk are probably there since the scent is more complex than just two notes that I can smell but for me these are just a list. After black currant settles down, not much is happening with Meliora: it is surprisingly linear for the price level brand positions their perfumes. Of course, if you happen to like exactly what you smell, it might be not the worst trait.

I think I would have liked Meliora more if I haven’t found already black currant perfume that works for me better – Enchanted Forest by The Vagabond Prince. Also, I read somebody mentioning that Meliora reminded them another perfume by the same nose – Lalique Amethyst. I couldn’t check it since my sample went AWOL but I do not remember it being that black currant-y.

 

Parfums de Marly Samples

 

Athalia

Three and Half Sea Stars

Athalia was created by Alexandra Kosinski in 2016. Notes (from the brand’s site) include orange blossom, iris, amber and musk. Sometimes I wonder how brands decide what notes to mention. I have no doubts that this perfume uses aroma chemicals. But usually when you read descriptions of those, each one often sounds like a finished perfume’s description, even if it mimics specific note. So why not to use a more nuanced description? I realize that whether you like the scent is the most important part. And I rather like Athalia. But somehow $290 for 75 ml for 4 ingredients seems not right. Luckyscent thought so as well, so their list sounds more traditional: Incense, rose, bitter orange, iris, suede, orange blossom, cashmeran, amber, vanilla, vetiver.

I liked Athalia even before Luckyscent’s attempt to save graces (both the story they tell and the perfume description are much more detailed than what brand provides on their own site), but I was puzzled by the promise of orange blossom: I can’t smell it in this perfume at all. It isn’t my favorite scent but I thought that I knew it well – at least how it’s usually represented in perfumery, be that natural or artificial ingredient. In general, it’s not surprising when some notes are not recognizable on their own in perfume (especially by my nose) but it’s a little unexpected when it’s one of four officially mentioned aromas in that perfume.

Since I liked Athalia, I’ll probably try to wear it once or twice from what is left in the sample – just to make sure that I do not need it in my collection.

 

Parfums De Marly

 

Parfums de Marly’s creations remind me of Mugler’s perfumes: loud, persistent and clearly not natural (which isn’t an issue for me). I like their masculine line much more (eventually, I’ll write about some of those), but if you were to try just one perfume from the feminine collection of this brand, I think Athalia is a good choice.

 

Images: my own

Small Things That Brighten Life: Wildflowers

I can’t believe it has been more than six months since I published something in this series. It was not because nothing good was happening but somehow I would get distracted – and then some other topic would come up. So this time I decided not to wait.

One of our local parks – Edgewood Park & Natural Preserve – is known for its wild flowers. We used to go there often in different seasons but in the recent years for many reasons, none of which is a good excuse, we stopped spending time in parks. This year we remembered in time about the wildflowers season and decided it was a perfect opportunity to re-institute some of better habits.

I knew that the best time for this area is mid-late April but hoped that because of the warm winter we had and all the rain that has finally honored us with its presence in March blooming season would start earlier. It has started but it’s not in full swing yet. Nevertheless, there was a nice variety of flowers on sunny grasslands and just amazing greenery in the shade of woods. It was a well spent Easter Sunday.

 

 

When was the last time you saw wildflowers?

 

Images: my own

In the Search for the Perfect Mimosa, Take 5

Not counting roses and irises that got all the attention (and posts) during the corresponding Months, there is no other note about which I’d write that many times. Not only I like mimosa and its scent, but also I firmly associate it with spring. So every year about this time I get an urge to smell mimosa, wear perfumes with it as a dominant note and to write about it.

This winter was warmer than usually in our area, so I wasn’t surprised much when I saw blooming mimosa in the beginning of February. The tree was in such place to where I couldn’t easily get, so I snapped a couple of pictures but told myself that there would be plenty of opportunities in Sonoma where we planned to go for my birthday.

 

Mimosa

 

There was plenty of mimosa: we saw it everywhere as we were driving by on a highway. But as a cruel joke or some anti-mimosa conspiracy, wherever we stopped – be those wineries, small parks or the ranch where we stayed – there wasn’t a mimosa twig in sight! Think about it: when you want just to look at a tree (any tree, not some special and known one) from up-close, smell it and take a picture or two, there is no a search term you could enter into the map app or a search engine to find that tree. So even though I enjoyed my birthday trip enormously otherwise, I felt a little disappointed about not getting to experience mimosa in all its beauty.

But when I returned home, a pleasant surprise was waiting for me: Lucas (my perfume sibling and the author of the Chemist in the Bottle blog) sent me a birthday present. A couple of weeks earlier he reviewed a new Yves Rocher shower product – Cotton Flower & Mimosa. It immediately piqued my interest but at that time Yves Rocher US site didn’t stock it yet (for those of my European readers who don’t know that, YR doesn’t have B&M presence in the U.S., so the only way you can buy something is either from the website or a catalog). I prepared to wait and see if it gets here eventually (it did!), but Lucas was so sweet and surprised me with that package. Cotton Flower & Mimosa shower gel is wonderful even if you do not get it as birthday present, and it won’t break the bank – so I wholeheartedly can recommend it to mimosa lovers.

 

Rusty and Yves Rocher Cotton Flower & Mimosa Shower Gel

 

But that wasn’t the end of my mimosa saga for this year. A couple of weeks after that I received a package from another perfume friend, a rare guest author on this blog and the third person in our perfume sister/brotherhood, hajusuuri. Among the expected decants from the recent NST split and shared samples, there was another surprising item: a bottle of Elizabeth Arden’s Green Tea Mimosa. I remember reading about this perfume earlier and expressing interest, but I don’t remember if hajusuuri was present for that conversation. But she saw Green Tea Mimosa at Marshalls (store similar to TJ/TK Maxx) and thought of me.

 

Rusty and Elizabeth Arden Green Tea Mimosa

 

More than a decade ago I was deeply in love with the original Green Tea perfume. I went through at least a couple of bottles of it. It was light and green and happy. I don’t remember why I didn’t buy the next bottle once my last one was empty, but I don’t think it was because I stopped liking it – most likely, something else (probably Jo Malone’s scents) seemed more appealing at the time. In Green Tea Mimosa flanker I think I recognize the frame of the original scent. And it has a nice mimosa accord once the initial blast of a pleasant citrus calms down. I love it because it was a present. But besides, I know that I’ll get good use of it during the summer. And while if you’re new to the brand and this perfume, there is no good reason for you to hunt this specific flanker, if you were a fan of the original Green Tea and you like mimosa, check your local eBay listings.

Since the last post on the topic of mimosa, I discovered two more great mimosa perfumes. Unfortunately, Sonoma Scent Studio Bee’s Bliss, about which I wrote not long ago, is not available any more, which is too bad since it happened to be one of my most favorite SSS’s perfumes.

The second perfume came to me as a sample (again) from Lucas. He liked Jean Charles Brosseau Fleurs d’Ombre The Poudree and did a great review for it, so since I agree with his take I won’t attempt to find different words to describe Fleurs d’Ombre The Poudree. I’ll just say that only inaccessibility stops me from getting a small bottle for this spring. But most likely I’ll get it eventually. Meanwhile, I’ll enjoy ee’s Bliss and all other mimosa perfumes that I accumulated over the last seven years of search: Givenchy Amarige Harvest Mimosa, Frederic Malle Une Fleur de Cassie, Guerlain Champs Elysées, Jo Malone Mimosa & Cardamom, Prada Infusion de Mimosa and Atelier Cologne Mimosa Indigo (I won’t link to the previous posts but those who are interested can easily find those through My Perfume Portrait or Related posts below).

 

Rusty and Sonoma Scent Studio Bee's Bliss

 

Do you like mimosa perfumes? What is your current favorite?

 

Imaged: my own

SOTD: Choice Overload

Overchoice or choice overload is a cognitive process in which people have a difficult time making a decision when faced with many options.

Many years ago, when my collection was less than 10 bottles, every morning I would just look at all the bottles on my shelf and choose one of perfumes that spoke to me that day.

Angry Birds and 3 Demeter Perfumes

Once I fell through the rabbit hole, and number of perfumes increased, every night before going to sleep I would mentally sort through all my precious possessions and choose what perfume would get my skin time the next morning. Back then I would try new perfumes during the day, so I was equally wearing perfumes from my bottles and from samples. I enjoyed my nightly ritual, and it would save me some invaluable morning time.

As the collection … matured, a concept of wearing perfumes vs. testing them had been introduced: for me to consider an occasion of applying perfume as “wear” it should be a) applied to more than one point and b) at least for a while, be a single perfume on my skin. At that point I stopped wearing perfumes from samples: I had so many perfumes that I already loved and paid money to own that it made no sense to keep kissing an army of frogs instead of spending days with already realized kings. But even without samples the number of choices reached the level where going through them at night would have the same effect as counting sheep…

Serta Sheep

But since I face this first world problem every day (and even more so as the time goes, with every next bottle or decant joining my collection), I keep trying different methods.

Visual Inspection

If I’m not pressed for time in the morning (and sometimes even when I am), I would still try this proven method. The issue with it is that my bottles – still in their boxes – are placed on the shelves in several rows, so even thought I tried to arrange them the way that the taller ones go farther into the shelf allowing the shorter boxes to be visible, it’s not a completely unobstructed view. As to decants, being in drawers, they are not easily “readable” when I look at them from above. I even tried adding two-letter abbreviations on the caps, but good luck figuring out before the first cup of coffee what “AB” or “BA” stand for).

Plagiarism

Sometimes in the morning, while still in bed, I read through the SOTD thread on NST or APJ until I come across somebody mentioning perfume that I feel like wearing that day. The disadvantage of this approach is that a high percentage of the reports are for new releases: many of the participants are still in the phase of testing/wearing just released perfumes from samples, while for me it usually takes a while to get newly released perfumes to join the line-up for wearing (read: become a bottle or decant).

Projects

I participate in at least some NST’s community projects on Fridays but a week-long (as many of participants do) “wear your oddest fragrance” or “wear a perfume by ” is too much for me – though I did a full week of ambers recently to catch-up on wearing those before it got too warm.

Lucas’s A Month of Roses (February 2017), my NovAmber (2016) and A Month of Irises (February 2018) were fun and made it easier to choose what to wear (since I had to plan each month well ahead), but seemed too limiting – so I cannot do those projects too often.

Going Big Small Data

Since I have all my perfumes and their usage recorded in a database, I created a simple query that would produce a list of perfumes that I haven’t worn in the last 2 months. The drawback is that as it doesn’t take into account any additional aspects – season, office-friendliness or occasion (I explained my complex perfumes-for-occasions designation in the first part of this post) – the query would produce still a long list, inevitably trying to steer me into wearing Amouage Ubar (my “special occasion” winter perfume) or Estee Lauder Bronze Goddess (an ultimate tropical vacation perfume) all year round.

Rusty on Laptop

How do you choose what perfume to wear?

Jessica (Bonjour Perfume) recently covered this topic on her blog and told about the unusual precognitions that guide her in this important decision-making.

I do not possess similar abilities, so I decided to try to improve my perfume database to be able to ask that important question. But to get the right answer one should ask the right question – so I’m trying to figure out what question I should actually ask, and I’d like to get your help.

If you could ask an all-knowing Answerer to choose perfume for you to wear on any particular day, what data points would you want it to consider? I’m talking not about guessing your mood or predicting reaction of somebody you’d meet this day, but information about perfumes, your previous experiences with them or any environmental factors that can be put into some formula and calculated.

Images: my own

 

Celebrating Missed Opportunities

As I’ve mentioned more than once, I live in the area where we have two seasons: summer and the rest of the year. I do not complain: I love our weather (even when I wish we’d have more rain) and think that our climate is one of the best possible. But from time to time, especially around winter holidays, I get a pang of nostalgia for real winter with snow, icicles and colder weather. Then we go to nearby mountains – and it cures those feelings for the next couple of years.

Since neither my vSO no I are into the downhill skiing, on our winter trips we usually enjoy snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. Because of the drought we had in 2012-16, for several years we didn’t go “into winter”: while skiing resorts were making artificial snow for quite expensive downhill rides, our preferred winter activities were out of question. And without snow there wasn’t much sense in going there.

So when after five years of snowless New Year celebrations I wanted my snow fix, we decided not to rely on unpredictable California weather and planned a trip to Utah. Nobody in our “party of six” had ever been to there, and it was promising to be a perfect New Year getaway.

 

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Panoramic views from the dining room of the cabin where we stayed were spectacular, including what felt like a private viewing of the supermoon… And that was almost the full extent of my winter experience this time since, following my vSO’s steps (which almost never happens in these matters), I got extremely sick soon after the arrival.

 

Utah 2018 Supermoon

 

It was perfect winter outside: not too cold, fresh snow, sun during the day and full moon at night. And all I could manage was to crawl downstairs to the living room to spend time with our friends (when they weren’t outside), watch TV (re-watching Monk TV show was surprisingly comforting), work on a mystery puzzle (2 x 1000 pieces without a hint – and we solved the murder!) and eat great meals that our friends cooked. And these simple things would take up all of my strength and resolve.

 

 

Not long before the trip I bought two travel sprays from Sonoma Scent StudioWinter Woods and Fireside Intense. I had an idea that where we were going would be just the right setting for wearing both of those perfumes. I planned to take some appropriate pictures and make a post out of it once I got back.

Despite being sick, I wore some perfumes during this trip but none of the two SSS’s perfumes felt right to wear while being stuck in the cabin: both seemed too strong and intense. But what was even worse, I felt too weak to even try to put on warm clothes and try to go for a photo shoot outside. So my friend agreed to help and in between producing all that food pictured above spent 15 minutes outside taking pictures according to the general directions I gave her from my sick sofa.

 

Sonoma Scent Studio Winter Woods and Fireside Intense

 

I was barely out of the woods (both literary and figuratively speaking), when I got the news that Laurie Erickson was retiring from the business. Combined with my failed vacation, it seemed strange to write about perfumes that nobody could either try or buy any longer. Then my blog’s anniversary, a Month of Irises and my birthday came, and I put all that out of my mind.

March is being great this year: we got a lot of rain that we needed. And with it cold weather came, which allowed me to wear many of my winter favorites that I didn’t get a chance to wear earlier in the year. Including Winter Woods and Fireside intense. And I enjoyed them both very much.

Many years ago I wrote about Winter Woods. It took me 6 years to go through my 2.5 ml sample. So, I think I’ll be fine for a while with these 5 ml travel sprays. So, as much as it makes me sad to see this brand go (or changing hands, which, in general, is the same thing), I’m glad that I got to know it, and there will be many more chances for me to wear these perfumes – with or without snow around me. It’s a pity that those of you who haven’t tried them (or my most recent favorite Bee’s Bliss), won’t get to. But there will be other winters, other perfumes and other opportunities. And I hope that Laurie Erickson who created perfumes that touched so many people will be successful in pursuing her new opportunities.

 

Sonoma Scent Studio Winter Woods and Fireside Intense

 

Are there any perfumes that you wish you had bought before they disappeared?

 

Images: my own

Second Sunday Samples: Blocki

I’m not a big fan of resurrected perfume brands: in many cases there is nothing to really connect the reincarnated entity and the brand, from which the history was taken, other than a desire of new owners to have some history to show for the brand hoping that it’ll sell perfumes better.

I make some exception to brands reinvented by descendants of the original owners: my feeling is that there is something noble and romantic in bringing back to life parts of the family history, sharing with the world proud moments and achievements of one’s ancestors.

Blocki Perfumes is this kind of brand. You can look up this brand’s history milestones on the website (it’s quite interesting but I don not want to just regurgitate it here). What captured my imagination was their patent in 1907 for “novel method of placing a preserved natural flower within the perfume bottle.” They do not do it now – pity. I wouldn’t mind having a bottle of perfume with a real flower inside, though I completely understand why they cannot do it these days with perfumes being transported thousands of miles.

Previously I came across some reviews for this brand’s perfumes but it took me a while to get to testing some of them. I can’t remember what the turning point was, but I recently gave in and ordered a couple of samples.

This brand’s approach to naming their compositions is the opposite to the slightly annoying ALL CAPS take by my another favorite brand: Blocki does not use capital letters at all, which also annoys me. But since those names are supposed to be short passages, a couple of words from a sentence that landed on the bottle – without the beginning or the ending – I try to look at them as at something open to interpretation and leaving some space to our imagination rather than a nod to the modern World’s hasty messaging habits that I do not condone. And that thought reconciles me with them.

Both perfumes that I’m sampling today were created in 2015 by Kevin Verpsoor; and though they were inspired by the house’s history, they are not recreations of the previously existed perfumes.

 

for walks

Three and Half Sea Stars

for walks is a perfume for people who do not want to smell like they are wearing perfume. With the notes of violet leaf, mint, fir needle, violet, boronia flower, orris, vetiver, sandalwood and cedar, it presents like a completely unisex composition. I like fir in perfumes but in for walks I do not smell it at all. Neither can I smell iris or vetiver. Mint and violet are there, as well as some kind of wood (I’d say it is sandalwood sharpened by cedar wood). It is not linear, and develops over time, so you’ll have something to do if you decide to take it on a couple of hours’ walk.

While for walks is absolutely “not my” perfume (I take my unisex perfumes either citrus-y or dry amber-y), it is not boring or banal. It is not a perfume to gather compliments, but if you’re looking for a soft but present perfume that is not cologne or a quiet white musk number, give for walks a try.

 

Forest park

 

this grand affair

Four and Half Sea Stars

this grand affair fits its name very well: nobody would mistakenly assume that they smell your shampoo or a dryer sheet. It is unapologetically PERFUME, in the classic sense. Initially I thought of it as leaning feminine but since I think that Jicky Extract, about which I’m somehow reminded by this grand affair (not in the way it smells but in feeling it evokes), is also feminine, my perception might be off compared to conventional.

Official notes: grapefruit, neroli, davana, lavender, rose, petitgrain, lemon, mandarin, vanilla, musk, tonka bean and patchouli.

this grand affair smells like the most beloved today vintage perfumes must have smelled before they became vintage. One wouldn’t have to wear a gown to match this perfume but it would be a very appropriate combination.

I tend to like and buy this type of perfumes even though I do not have enough occasions to wear them (I’m working on that), so this grand affair has won me over from the first time I tried it. And since the brand smartly produces their perfumes in very reasonable 10 ml travel bottles, I could not think of a reason not to add it to my collection (but since it’s still in transit, I cannot bribe Rusty to pose with it for this post, so I’ll go with the floral composition that visually illustrates the name).

 

Flowers

 

Blocki line consists of four perfumes: 3 from 2015; and one more they released this year. I’m curious to try the remaining two.

Blocki perfumes come in 50 ml and 10 ml bottles. Also, you can buy samples from the brand’s site, which makes sense only if you want to try just one: you’ll be getting a 1.5-2 ml for $10, including S&H, which is the same price as you’d pay for a twice smaller dab vial delivered from perfume stores or decanter sites. Until April 1st, you can use the code AMOUR14 to get a 14% discount (no affiliation). Twisted Lily and Smallflower also carry these perfumes.

 

Have you heard about the brand? Have you tried any of their perfumes?

 

Images: my own