Saturday Question: Which Giveaways Do You Not Participate?

Recently, I was hesitant to use any question with negative connotations – just not to contribute to the “naturally occurring” negativity of these times. But I hope that this topic is light enough not to stir any unpleasant feelings. And I still feel a surge of positivity brought by the last week’s Saturday Question topic – thank you hajusuuri and everybody who participated.

Saturday Question on Undina's Looking Glass

Saturday Question #54:

Which Giveaways Do You Not Participate?

How do you feel about giveaways? Is there any type of giveaways where you do not participate on principle? Or are there any conditions that you wouldn’t want to meet? Why?

My Answer

If you were wondering what brought out this topic, I got annoyed by conditions of a giveaway on one of the makeup-related YouTube channels that I watch. In addition to the regular and expected “to be a subscriber” and “to leave a contact information,” strangely there was a question based on the content of the video. I’m not sure I would have entered this giveaway otherwise, but that now-children-what-is-the-secret-word-type question just completely irked me. It’s not a “who names it first competition.” It’s not a closed submission where each person will submit either the right or the wrong answer. It’s an open public forum where once the first person publishes the answer, whoever is there just to throw the hat in the ring does not need to watch the video to enter the giveaway. And loyal subscribers who usually watch those videos for the content itself should feel quite stupid pretending that they are answering the question on their own without reading the previous 50 answers. At least I would have. So, I didn’t enter the giveaway.

But that prompted my thinking about this topic in general. So, that’s what I came up with:

  1. I do not participate in draws if I suspect that results will/might be rigged. I won’t name names, but there was a blog that I caught once on falsifying results. I haven’t participated in any giveaways there since.
  2. I do not participate if I think that the requirements are stupid (as in my example above), “not proportional” to the prize offered (follow me, follow the brand, share on FB or IG story, tag N friends, etc. – and all that to get a sample of perfume you’ve never heard of before from a brand you don’t know) or unreasonable (releasing IP rights to your creation by submitting it as an entry into the competition/giveaway).
  3. I do not participate if I think that somebody else should get a chance to win (e.g., even if I could use one more free sample of perfume I tried and liked but not ready to commit yet, if it’s a private giveaway by a blogger or perfumer, not by a brand, I wouldn’t try to get it).
  4. I do not usually go for a giveaway of a full bottle of something I do not like and want already because with the number of perfumes in my collection and the success rate of testing new perfumes, I just don’t have any space for bottles that I won’t use.

Now it’s your turn.

Rusty and a Toy

Rusty is not jumping through any whoops…

 

Which Giveaways Do You Not Participate?

Saturday Question: How Is Your Winter?

As someone who lived through a couple of really awful winters and knowing about rolling blackouts not just in theory, I am deeply concerned about people who had to experience the recent winter storm that hit Texas. But I know that all over the world these last days or even weeks were quite challenging, being either too cold or too hot, thus affecting negatively a quality of life – as if the ongoing Covid situation wasn’t enough. So, while I’ll add on a lighter perfume-related question (this being a perfume blog and all that), the main question I want to ask is how you are doing.

 

Saturday Question on Undina's Looking Glass

 

Saturday Question #52:

How Is Your Winter?

Are/were you in any area that had serious weather anomalies or especially harsh days (even if it’s not something unheard of in your area)? And, just in case I don’t know that (or you want to share with others), tell us at least your approximate location (city, state or country – whatever you keep comfortable with). Were there any negative consequences related to weather? How are you dealing with your winter in general?

What was the “warmest” perfume you wore recently?

My Answer

I know that we will be crying the next fire season, but at this point I feel really lucky: if anything, the temperature in San Francisco Bay Area was pleasantly cool this winter, and we even got some rain (though, we’re still in the state between “abnormally dry” and “moderate drought” in areas around where I live and with even more severe conditions throughout the state of California). But we have power, water and gas to heat our houses. I must say, though, that to cause the same devastation as Texas is currently experiences, in my area all you would need is a week of 0C/32F (hopefully, it’s scientifically impossible).

As to perfumes, after 10 days on a rose kick, I suddenly caught a whiff of Amouage Ubar from one of my scarves in the closet… so I’m wearing and tremendously enjoying it today. It is so warm and soft and cozy. It smells like a nice cashmere sweater feels against my skin. Today it is definitely my #3, but at any time it is in the Top 10. BTW, have you heard anything about it being discontinued? I seem not to be able to find it at online stores. I still have half of my bottle (picture below is several years old), but it scares me that I might run out of it in my lifetime…

Amouage Ubar

How Is Your Winter?

A Rose By Any Other Name?..

Historically, I like Tom Ford. The brand, not Tom Ford as a person. I mean, I don’t know much about the man to have any feelings about him, and I prefer it this way. Though over the years seeing some of the provocative ads for his perfumes here and there, I thought that those were rather disparaging and misogynistic. But since usually I do not see them (I’m not even sure where exactly those were published in the US other than somewhere on the Internet), I was telling myself that those weren’t the worst images anyone (who would want to) might find on the Internet and didn’t allow it to affect my attitude towards Tom Ford’s perfumes.

And then he (a person, since all that rotated about his personality, not just the brand) came out with that juvenile stunt of a perfume name…

In my native culture, the use of explicit language had been reserved for “uncultured” and “uneducated” social strata. So, it was unacceptable and not expected from people of “our circle.” And seeing it in writing or hearing on TV was completely out of the reality realm.

Times changed, and these days it’s much less strict even in the country that I left decades ago. And it has been different from the beginning of my life in the U.S. with the “TV-MA” rating being an Indulgence to use all those taboo words on cable TV shows. But somehow there still was some resemblance of propriety: words frowned upon by the FCC, clothes (or the absence thereof) not expected during the Super Bowl, etc.

I know that the language is fluid, and norms change over time. But I didn’t see a good reason for this particular change. My main objection to that name was trivializing misbehavior. And I was right: if three years ago, when perfume in question just was released, department stores would “modestly” cover the first word by rubber bands over the bottle and shorten the name online to just “Fabulous,” now, three years later, nobody gives a second thought to flaunting said bottle in all its unadulterated glory in front of family shoppers and other unsuspecting audiences.

I tried that perfume once, thought it was quite nice but decided that I didn’t want to support that type of behavior. And I voted against writing anything, even negative, about it – not to propagate even bad publicity for that perfume (yeah, I know, my blog is such a significant blip on the scale of Tom Ford/Estee Lauder’s PR machine…).

The next one had a still juvenile and cringe-worthy but less offensive, in my opinion, name. I also liked it but decided still not to buy any, even a decant.

And then came THE ONE. Not being a native English speaker, in the case of Rose Prick, which had absolutely no connotations for me, good or bad, until I read some explanations. I don’t even know how common that slang is compared to the literal meaning of the phrase or what is its degree of vulgarity. And while this name didn’t offend or bother me, I just habitually expected to dismiss it after sniffing at a store. But it smelled nice… so, I asked for a sample.

What I especially like about Rose Prick is that for me, while being nice in the opening, it smells wonderful in drydown. And probably from the first time I realized how much I liked the drydown, I wanted to get this perfume. But I disliked the 50 ml pink bottle, didn’t need 50 ml of either this or any other perfume, and wanted to get a travel bottle… that wasn’t available anywhere at the time.

In the Saturday Question for Black Friday, I shared with my readers my conundrum, and several people advised me to wait. Which I did. So, a travel spray of Rose Prick that appeared at the end of January on the Sephora site became my first fragrance purchase of the year.

Tom Ford Rose Prick

It is a very likable perfume, and I’m sure it is doing well in sales. Should you try it if you haven’t yet? If you can do it without paying – definitely: as far as sampling goes, 9 out of 10 perfumes we regularly try are worse than this one. Will you want to buy it? Most likely, no: it’s too expensive for what if offers, and there are other great rose perfumes that cost less while not making you pause before answering a co-worker’s question: “What are you wearing today?” (though, with the current state of getting back to any kind of normal, that aspect might not be an issue for many of us for a while).

 

Image: my own

Saturday Question: What Is Your Favorite Rose Perfume?

Regardless of how you feel about the upcoming Hallmark holiday, you’d agree that traditionally it is associated with roses more than with any other flower. So, I thought it was a good enough reason for this week’s question.

 

Saturday Question on Undina's Looking Glass

 

Saturday Question #51:

What Is Your Favorite Rose Perfume?

Do you like perfumes with a predominant rose note? If yes, which ones come to mind first? If no, what is the closest to the rose-centric perfume in your collection?

Do you do anything special for Valentine’s Day? Do you acknowledge it in any way or ignore completely?

My Answer

Even though Valentine’s Day came into my life just a couple of decades ago, I rather like it (though, I like most of the holidays, so it’s not representative). I like it despite the fact that it interferes with my personal celebration: even though my birthday is a couple of days before, everything gets harder because of the upcoming holiday. Everything – plane tickets, hotels, flowers – are more expensive and harder to get, restaurants are busier, and any possible activities are sold out if you didn’t think about it at least a month in advance.

Nevertheless, I’m trying to do something nice to celebrate Valentine’s Day, and not just as a romantic couples holiday, but in wider meaning. I think it comes from the fact that when I was growing up, similar holidays (one for men and another one for women, on different dates a couple of weeks apart), while having some romantic component, also incorporated what in the U.S. is celebrated as Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, including future/potential mothers and fathers. And being that inclusive, while still slightly forced (though, is it really that different from celebrating veterans on the Veteran’s Day or parents on the mentioned above designated days?), were readily celebrated both at work, in schools and in private settings.

At home, we always make a nice dinner on February 14. If I have time, I might decorate our living room a little. Sometimes we exchange small presents. Usually I’m getting flowers. Nothing obligatory or too elaborate, but nice and quiet.

This year, since we’re not back to the office, I didn’t get to do anything “publicly” in RL, so I decided to do “the next best thing” – a mini-project on Instagram: Rose Countdown to Valentine’s Day.

I did Mini-Monday with a mini bottle of Neela Vermeire Creations Mohur EdP, Travel Tuesday with a travel spray of Hermes Rose Ikebana, Throwback Thursday with Lancome Mille et Une Roses and Favorite Friday with Ormonde Jayne Ta’if Elixir (and later I wore Ta’if Parfum for the birthday dinner). I skipped Wednesday – and not because I couldn’t think of any day-appropriate secondary project (which I didn’t – any ideas?), but because an unexpected plumbing emergency didn’t leave me any energy to even wear perfume – let alone stage a photo. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll see what I’ll be doing for Saturday and Sunday (and if you don’t, check back here in the upcoming days to see the latest picture on the sidebar (web)/below (mobile)).

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Happy Valentine’s Day if you celebrate – either with someone or alone. Have a restful weekend if you don’t, and do something nice for yourself, because you do love yourself, right? You should.

Cat Rusty and Roses

What Is Your Favorite Rose Perfume?

Saturday Question: Do You Like Skin Scents?

Tara (A Bottled Rose) has recently published a post about a newish perfume she tried Diptyque Fleur de Peaua skin scent with an iris twist. And that prompted my thinking about that category of perfumes.

 

Saturday Question on Undina's Looking Glass

 

Saturday Question #50:

Do You Like Skin Scents?

I’m not sure if there is a strict definition for the type – “your skin but better” or perfumes that sit close to skin or perfumes that do not smell perfume-y – but whatever you imagine when you hear that term, do you like skin scents? Do you own any of them? When do you wear them?

My Answer

While I do not dislike perfumes that would be characterized as a skin scent, I gravitate to louder, more pronounced perfumes. It is ironic since for the last many years I had to carefully choose what to wear to the office, not to disturb a couple of co-workers sensitive to scents. So, I would have benefited from having more of those in my collection. Instead, I have many Jo Malone perfumes that just disappear in a while, not leaving any trace, but most are quite prominent and unapologetic.

The closest I get to perfume that matches that category is probably sadly discontinued Tiempe Passate by Antonia’s Flowers. There is a chance that when I think it stays close to my skin, in reality it projects much better (follow the link to read more about the phenomenon in my older post), but for me it is beautifully quiet perfume.

Another one that comes to mind when I think about skin scents is Tauerville‘s limited edition When We Cuddle And I Can Smell Your Perfume On My Clothes. I wouldn’t have ever tried it if it weren’t for the wonderfully generous enabler, hajusuuri. Now I’m not sure whether to thank or “curse” her: I enjoy it so much, despite my preconception about that line and general dislike of such lengthy names. I regret not buying this perfume during the short time when it was available. I think it is a perfect skin scent and enjoy wearing it in the evening – so that I can take it with me to bed. But other than these two, I can’t think of any others. Considering the size of my collection, obviously it means that I don’t really like the type. How about you?

 

Do You Like Skin Scents?

Evening Water

Sisley Paris isn’t one of the brands I’m closely familiar with: their skincare prices were always outside of my budget, and their makeup has never been considered anything to aspire to (at least, I haven’t read or heard any accolades for their lipsticks or mascaras). So usually I was passing by that counter at the local Neiman Marcus without even stopping.

And then I got a tiny mini bottle of Eau du Soir in a subscription box, and that was the first time I though about approaching this brand’s perfumes at a store counter to try it sprayed. I liked it and contemplated getting it one day if I found it cheaper at a discounter site. But I was in the very beginning of my niche perfumes exploration discovering plenty of great perfumes every month, so there was no urgency.

And then one day a travel bottle of Eau du Soir was offered for a swap, and I got it in exchange for some niche decants. Several years later I thought the bottle spoiled, and I stopped wearing it. But since the bottle was nice – a small round bottle with that recognizable sculptured cap and a suede pouch – so I couldn’t make myself to through it away… When I tested it a week ago, I was amazed: I can’t smell there any more the qualities that persuaded me those years ago that it was off. I can’t explain it since it couldn’t have been wasn’t just in my head: on both occasions I compared it to the same mini bottle. Nevertheless, I put that round travel bottle back into the active rotation part of my collection. Though, I might still prefer a dab application from the mini bottle.

Sisley Eau Du Soir mini bottle

Recently, when I decided to join Mmkinpa in her “Mini Monday” Instagram sub-project, I was surprised once again by how much I liked Eau du Soir and felt slightly guilty for discounting it because of the perceived issues with that travel bottle. So, I decided to write about it again.

If you were to run a search, you’d see that Eau du Soir usually gets quite high ratings on different sites, both mainstream and more niche oriented. But at the same time, for perfume publicly released more than 20 years ago (created in 1990, until 1999 it said to stay as a personal perfume of Countess Isabelle d’Ornano), it hasn’t got too many blog reviews. And I have a feeling that had Eau du Soir been released by a niche brand, it would have been much more spoken about.

Eau du Soir is green chypre that reminds me Chanel No 19 EdT and not only in the notes combination but also in that sharpness of the scent that is present in No 19 EdT but is much rounder and smoother in EdP or extrait.

Every time I put it on, I wish it were just slightly less harsh in the opening, but half an hour later it smooths out and smells very classy and elegant. It might lean just slightly feminine but not even remotely close to requiring any audacity from a man to wear it. But regardless of your gender perfume preferences, if you are not familiar with Eau du Soir and decide to try it, make sure to apply it very sparingly: it’s extremely tenacious, so you better like it!

Rusty and Sisley Eau Du Soir

If you have tried Eau du Soir, do you like it? If you haven’t, why?

 

Images: my own

Saturday Question: Who/What Sent You Down the Rabbit Hole?

Today’s post is slightly unusual: there will be no “My Answer” since a week ago, in the post for this blog’s 10th anniversary, not only I answered it (and, for those who missed it, even managed do do an interview with the “who” responsible for “what.” But now it’s your turn. (The question was suggested by Brigitte.)

Saturday Question on Undina's Looking Glass

Saturday Question #49:

Who/What Sent You Down the Rabbit Hole?

Rusty

My Blog’s 10th Anniversary: Interview with the Creator of My White Rabbit

If not to count job or user interviews I conducted as a part of my job, this is my first ever interview with someone in the perfume industry. And if 10 years ago, when I started this blog, anybody would have told me that I would be in a position to interview Linda Pilkington, a creator of Ta’if, my second all-times favorite perfume, I wouldn’t have believed them.

Last November, I was offered an opportunity to participate in the series of mini-interviews Ms. Pilkington was conducting as a part of the Worldwide launch of La Route de la Soie, a new collection that was created to celebrate Ormonde Jayne 20 years of perfumery. But since by that time I’ve already bought and reviewed the collection on my blog, I asked if I could do something slightly different – 20 Questions for 20 Years interview. And Ms. Pilkington agreed.

With the end-of-the-year rush and all holidays it took me a while to transcribe the conversation we had and put it into a post format. And then I thought that it would be very fitting to publish it for my blog’s 10th anniversary, since, as I told in the story for my blog’s 3rd anniversary, Ta’if was that perfume, from which my journey down the rabbit hole of niche perfumery started.

Also, I think it is serendipitous that Narth came up with the Saturday Question: Which Perfumer Would You Like to Meet In Person? around this time because, not being a fan-girl-type, the only perfumer I’ve ever wanted to chat with was Ms. Pilkington and only because of her role in creating perfume I fell in love with and everything that followed. We didn’t physically meet but it was the next best thing that can happen these days: we talked for more than an hour in Zoom.

My Ormonde Jayne Taif Family

On the photo above please meet my Ta’if family starting from the very first decant from The Perfumed Court and including the latest addition – Ta’if Intensivo, about which I’ll probably do a separate post later.

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Since I knew that predominantly people who were already familiar with the brand would be reading this interview, I skipped the traditional “let’s educate our readers about the brand” part and asked those questions that I was curious about and answers to which I didn’t know.

 

Ormonde Jayne: 20 Questions for 20 Years

Undina (U): Do you wear perfumes daily?

Linda Pilkington (L): I do. Even through the lockdown I wore perfume every day. I decide what to wear based on the combination of “How do I feel?”, “What is my day ahead?”, “What am I going to wear?” and a little bit to do with weather. For example, if I have a day when I know that I have to be on the ball, I put on Ormonde Woman: it makes me feel powerful; it makes me feel like I’m in control; it makes me feel that I’m my own person.

U: Do you re-apply your perfume during the day?

L: Yes, I do. In my office in the boutique I have that “emergency kit” next to my computer – a hairbrush, lipstick and perfume. If I’m called downstairs to chat with somebody, it takes about 5 seconds – brush my hair, put lipstick on, apply perfume – and I’m ready.

U: I realize that it’s like asking a mother which of her children she loves more, but still – is there any one perfume in the line that is especially dear to you? It’s not necessarily perfume that you like the most, but maybe there was something significant during the creation process, or the perfume that holds strong emotional connection?

L: It’s not Ormonde Woman, even though I like it, and everyone in the industry recognizes that it’s a good perfume. Many years ago, in my travels in the Middle East, I had come across oud. I was quite intrigued by that horrible pungent scent that people actually wanted to wear. I found it disgusting but decided to investigate because nobody wore it as perfume in Europe.

I brought some oud from Laos back to my studio in London, and we tried to decide what to do with it. “Nobody will want to wear that,” I said… so we put 0.06% into Ormonde, and we decided then to make Ormonde Woman and Ormonde Man (because before it was just Ormonde). Back then in Europe nobody had put oud into a fine fragrance. A journalist from Financial Times got interested; I sent her samples, I sent her pictures, and she featured it in the How to Spend It Magazine, back in 2004. So, Ormonde Man put the company on the map. And people from the perfume industry were saying: “We’d like you to consult about it; we want to know what it is.” So, I think that was my defining moment.

Ormonde Man and Ormonde Woman Perfumes by Ormonde Jayne

U: So, you are that person who is responsible for the expansion of agarwood in European perfumery in the last 15 years!

(Linda laughs)

U: While most perfumes are “unisex” and can be worn by anybody who likes them, by traditional classification there are more feminine-leaning perfumes in your collection. If you agree with this statement, why is that? Was it an economical decision (women buy more perfumes)? Or is it more natural for you to create feminine perfumes? Or is there some other reason?

L: You’re right: there are slightly more floral, oriental perfumes – I’d say, floriental is the palette I desire. But we did that “gender-free” aspect to the company through experience. When we started, we had a masculine and feminine side. But after two bad experiences with the clients to whom we had sold perfume after they wore it on their skin and liked it, but later discovered online that perfume they bought was on the feminine side and got upset, we realized the sensitivity of this issue. So, I contacted our web designer and told him to take off the “feminine” and “masculine.” We retrained all the staff not to use these descriptions. And if you’re asking about the sales, the women/men customers’ ratio is 60/40.

U: Is there any single perfume that outperforms all others in terms of popularity/sales?

L: The number one in all countries is Montabaco Intensivo. We have good sellers in different countries. For example, in Russia, they absolutely adore Champaca: for every 100 bottles of Ormonde Woman, we sell 1000 bottles of Champaca. In America, Ormonde Woman and Frangipani. In Europe, it’s Osmanthus, Ta’if and Ormonde Woman. But Montabaco Intensivo is in the top three in every country.

Montabaco Intensivo Perfume by Ormonde Jayne

U: While creating perfumes, do you ever have to compromise between what you like and what you think will sell better?

L: I always go with my nose, with what I like… except that quite often I’m “compromised” by IFRA. The original Amber Royal was outstanding. But it failed [the standards] completely. So, the best way to deal with it is to know the quantities you will be allowed to use and work around it.

U: Are there any perfume notes that you don’t like and because of that will not use in your perfumes?

L: I can’t work with tuberose in full quantity, and I would never do a full-blown tuberose perfume.

U: A woman after my own heart! I can’t stand tuberose.

L: It’s so heady, it’s so sickly, that it makes you feel a little bit ill. I can work with it in small quantities, but… No, I can’t take tuberose.

U: Was it for the same reason that you never did lily perfume? You have lily as a candle, but not as perfume.

L: No, it’s not that. I do like lily. But it’s too standard. I’ve never managed to achieve interesting lily perfume. With lily, after the top note dries off, it automatically goes back to standard lily – which is not really Ormonde Jayne. If you’ve got your signature Osmanthus, Frangipani, Ta’if, Tolu, Sampaquita or Champaca, all very beautiful, well put together, balanced, creative, artistic, abstract perfumes with lovely names. You can’t have a lily suddenly stuck among them. It’s not the style of the house. I tried. I put it with all kinds of ingredients, but in 5 minutes it’s a standard lily.

U: Why do you release perfumes in collections instead of just one new release at a time?

L: What happens is: we have a number of territories throughout the World. And they all want exclusivity. It’s hard. So, when we do a collection, it allows us to offer them a subset of it – what will work well for their territory.

U: How do you decide what perfumes to add to the line next? Are you filling in the gaps? Or something else? What goes into that decision?

L: I get feedback from my team, they are telling me if people keep asking about an ingredient. Sometimes I realize that something’s missing from our repertoire. For example, in my Signature collection I’d like to add a good musc perfume at some point when it feels right to me. And I’d like to add good patchouli perfume. And sometimes somebody sends you an oil that is interesting. It’s not something you’ve been looking for, not what I really need, but I’m particularly taken by it.

U: When will be the next new release?

L: I’ve got a couple of oils at the moment, and I’m launching two perfumes next year – they are practically finished now. I think they are absolutely fantastic. We won’t launch them at the same time. They’ll go into the Signature Collection, and we will launch them in 2021 as soon as we can travel again. I think they are absolutely stunning. Of course, some of my partners can still say to me: “They are not for my market.” I can’t speak for everybody, though I’ll try to persuade them because I know people would love these.

U: That takes me to my next question about different markets. I can’t believe people in the US do not want candles. But your US online store doesn’t have them. Why?

L: That’s not because they don’t want them. The rules and regulations are changing all the time. We have our own candle factory, so we were putting a lot of oil in candles, because we want them to smell nice. When those were tested, we were told that there was too much oil, and we had to change something. Since I didn’t want to compromise, it took me almost 18 months to recreate my candle oils so that they are just as good. And then I had to change the wick to be compliant. We just started making them again, so at the moment they are just in the UK. Maybe in a year and a half we’ll be able to supply them again.

U: What about hair mist?

L: With hair mists it’s, again, what our partners want. They have just that much space for the brand, and they say that they can sell our perfumes much faster than our hair mists. And they have their rent to pay…

U: In the past, there were body products in coordinated scents – shower gels, bath oils, if I’m not mistaken, even body lotions. Recently, I haven’t seen them either as stand-alone products or in sets. Do you have any plans for making more body products in future?

L: Before all the rules regulations I used to do all my shower cream and body lotions in my kitchen with an electric Moulinex baking mixers, not even industrial ones. 20 years ago I could do a body lotion myself and put it in a pot. But you’re not allowed to do it any more. It is expensive to have someone else to make all of my perfumes and body lotions. And then my partners would say: “For every 50 bottles of Ta’if perfume I sell, I sell 1 bottle of the body lotion. So, instead of giving up a shelf space to body lotions, I’d rather give it to perfume.”

Ta'if Perfune by Ormonde Jayne

U: Your regular line and made-to-measure – is the difference only in concentration, or do you “tweak” the formula as well?

L: The formulation is the same, and you chose 40 or 50 percent, whatever is allowed. It’s the same formula, but it smells different because at different concentrations different nuances come through. And, of course, it’s a lot more tenacious. And, when people get their favorite perfume at higher concentration for themselves or as a gift to loved ones and have their initials engraved, it makes that perfume more special for them.

U: Is there any classic or modern perfume about which you thought: “I wish I would have created it!”?

L: Not really… When I was younger, I fell in love with Diorella. I used to wear it all the time and thought it was the most magnificent perfume. I still have a bottle of Diorella in my bathroom now because I just love the smell of it. When I was a teenager and up until probably 18-20, I wore Diorella and made sure that all my boyfriends wore Eau Sauvage, also made by Edmond Roudnitska. I thought that it was a perfect match: I wear Diorella, you wear Eau Sauvage, and together we’re gonna smell so magnificent. So, maybe I wish it had been my creation.

U: Your collection is quite extensive now. Are there any plans to discontinue any of the current scents or concentrations?

L: We’d never discontinue any perfume. First, we like all the formulations. Second, it costs too much to bring the formula to market. So, sometimes when we want to reign in, we would just put some perfumes into our library. So, they just “go to bed,” they are going to get a little bit of a sleep, and they stay there. But 2-3 years down the road we might re-introduce them, maybe with a different name if a partner wants it for their market.

U: Do you have any plans to increase your brand’s presence on IG or YouTube?

L: I’m not too technically savvy, so my goddaughter takes pictures of our perfumes and posts them on our Instagram account. I don’t have any social media myself. So, I rely on my goddaughter: she’s level-headed, and she understands the philosophy of the company. I don’t think I’ll ever become a YouTube person. If anything, maybe for Cooking with Fragrance (you know, my Gourmande Jayne). Our social media person started building up this aspect, but we’re doing it slowly. We don’t want just to be doing endless “offers” because I think it can backfire. We’re really tiny, so we do not want to go “too commercial.”

U: And the final but important question. Do you share your dwelling with any furry family members?

L: Yes! Two cats, called Teddy and Freddie. They are from the cat home. I got them when they were kittens. They are brothers, but they don’t look like each other. One is a big fat ginger cat. He looks like Garfield. And the other one is black with green eyes. They snuggle up in front of the fire, sleeping in the daytime but turn into psychotic murderers by night. They go out every night. They kill anything that comes into our garden. They are working cats.

Cats Teddie and Freddy

Teddy, the ginger one, is very greedy. As he goes along, everybody likes to stroke him, he stops and lets them do it. And then he goes to the restaurants, down the steps to the kitchen, all feed him. And he just works his way down the street getting fed.

U: My cat Rusty is really food-oriented, so if he had been permitted to do something like that, by now he probably wouldn’t have been able to walk.

L: Teddy is getting a bit big. I might have to put him on a little regime.

U: And my last question: Where do you see your brand in 5 years?

L: Hopefully, it still will be my brand. And it will be just bigger, and better, and more beautiful. It’s still privately owned today, after 20 years, and it stays that way. I enjoy what I’m doing. I feel quite lucky: I have great relationships with my partners. We meet with each other all around the world. So, it’ll be the same company as you know today but with a little bit more presence.

* * *

U: And now, concluding my 10th Blog’s Anniversary post, I want to ask myself: Where do you see Undina’s Looking Glass, in 5 years?

U: Health and life permitting, hopefully, still here. Based on decades of experience, I don’t expect to stop loving perfumes. Will I want to write about them? Will I have any stories to tell or numbers to crunch? Will there still be anyone who prefers to read about perfumes rather than watch videos and scroll through beautiful pictures? We’ll see, won’t we?

My Long Road to Houbigant

We all have some brands that for whatever reason stay out of our realm of interest despite appearing on our radar one way or the other. And then one day…

* * *

Almost half a lifetime ago, my father who came from the US to visit me in my native country, brought me a present – Raffinee by Houbigant. Back then it was a very valuable gift (from the U.S.!), I didn’t have too many perfumes (two, maybe three), and all I could afford to buy was maybe one more mini bottle if that. And still, I didn’t like Raffinee to the extend that I wouldn’t want to wear it even from time to time, as a daily scent, to save my more precious perfumes for a special occasion. So, after a while, I passed that bottle onto my older friend and kind of a mentor, thanks to whom I eventually abandoned the idea of a signature scent and started exploring different perfumes. She loved Raffinee and was happy to re-home it.

I completely forgot both that perfume and the brand and have never thought about it either in my pre-perfumista years in the US or even after this hobby expanded my perfume horizons. Until one day I found myself on the sniffathon in San Francisco with a fellow-perfumista. She was extremely excited about the re-release of Quelques Fleurs l’Original by Houbigant that we could try at Nordstrom. I didn’t mind going there since that Nordstrom carried many other interesting brands and, what was even more attractive, allowed you to make samples without having to “dance” for 10-15 minutes before that with an SA. We went there, tried everything we wanted, made a dozen of samples each and went on our way. Since my partner in crime was so enamored with Quelques Fleurs, I made a sample of it as well. I tried it at home, thought it was nice, put the sample away to retry at some point… and completely forgot about it for the next three years. When I came back to it, my sample almost completely evaporated. The last half-drop that I tried was quite nice but not enough to form an opinion. So, once again, I stopped thinking about Houbigant.

And then hajusuuri sent me a decant of Iris des Champs, and I fell in love with it (I told a story of my Summer Iris here). That brought the brand to the foreground of my interest. But the only other bottle that I saw in the store – Quelques Fleurs Royale – seemed too simple for the price asked at the department store, and the counter was so uninviting… so I didn’t even test it.

And then on the next trip to the store I saw this bottle…

My cat Rusty's tail and Houbigant Quelques Fleurs Royale Collection Privee

Quelques Fleurs Royale Collection Privee (QFRCP). I tried it and immediately fell in love with it. Fragrantica’s notes don’t match those given on the brand’s site, so let’s go by what the brand has reported:
HEAD NOTES: Blackcurrant, Grapefruit.
HEART NOTES: Jasmine Absolute, Rose Absolute, Violet, Tuberose Absolute, Beeswax Absolute.
BASE NOTES: Sandalwood, Cedarwood, Vanilla, Musk

What can I smell in QFRCP? Probably a bright citrus-y rose (it reminds me of my favorite Rose d’Amour by Annick Goutal). Maybe, just maybe I can agree about black currant, but it’s in there not in the Enchanted Forest’s concentration, but rather as it usually smells in niche perfumery when the note is listed. That’s it. I’m not saying that it’s a simple fragrance with just a couple of notes. On the contrary, QFRCP smells quite rich and complex. But even when I’m smelling it with my wrist glued to my nose and eyes scanning the list of notes, I cannot dissect the composition. I disagree though with several reviewers on Fragrantica who smell amber in this perfume.

Cat Rusty and a bottle of Houbigant Quelques Fleurs Royale Collection Privee perfume

I bought this bottle in 2019 when Neiman Marcus had its first on my memory 20% off fragrances and cosmetics sale. I know that it’s not something unusual for my European readers since I know that large department stores in many countries used to have beauty sales periodically. But for many years here, all stores – regardless of their luxury meter readings – were selling beauty products strictly for MSRP without any discounts offered ever. The only way one could get some of those brands’ products cheaper was Duty-Free shops, brands’ outlet stores, or when they went to online discounters. There were Value Sets, Gifts With Purchase or Gift Card Events (e.g., spend $100 get a $20 GC for future use). But never %% off. I think that Sephora was the first who started their yearly Friends & Family events that allowed customers to buy high-end cosmetics and fine fragrances with 15-20% off. But in recent years, even before the pandemic, these large stores have capitulated, and I saw several sales from each of them. But that NM sale was the first one I experienced, so I just had to take an advantage of it, haven’t I? But back to perfume.

Houbigant Quelques Fleurs Royale Three Versions

I think Houbigant did something extremely strange with the marketing of this perfume. Look at the picture above: all three are 100 ml of Quelques Fleurs Royale. The first one on the left is Quelques Fleurs Royale EdP. It retails for $200 but can be found much cheaper online. The next one – Quelques Fleurs Royale Collection Prevee (or, as it’s called on some sites, Quelques Fleurs Royale Extreme), the perfume that Rusty and I welcomed to my collection, retails for $285, and I’m not sure I’d trust the site that offers it less than 50% off the price. And the last bottle is Quelques Fleurs Royale Parfum with an eye-popping price tag of $600. The notes listed for all three are identical. I don’t think I tested the first one (as I said, I didn’t like the bottle), but I got a sample of parfum from the SA who were more than happy to oblige a paying customer and wore the two – Privee/Extreme and Parfum – in parallel. I didn’t notice any significant difference in either scent or longevity of the two. So, with almost identical bottles, the same volume and a very similar scent, I’m not sure how the brand justifies more than doubled price. But as always in such cases, I assume they know something I don’t.

Meanwhile, I enjoy wearing Quelques Fleurs Royale Collection Prevee very much. It is a very beautiful and pronounced floral feminine scent. It doesn’t mean that a man cannot wear it – I’m just mentioning it as a characteristic for those who prefer their perfumes that way (as I do) or, the opposite, tries to steer clear of those. These days every perfume is an everyday scent, but I wouldn’t probably wear more than a moderate spritz or two to an office where people don’t wear masks.

Rusty and Houbigant Quelques Fleurs Royale Collection Privee

That was a long way to accepting the brand. I think I’d like to try several more perfumes from this Collection Privee whenever I’m able to go to the store again because a cursory sniff of a couple of them left good impression (and having Jean-Claude Ellena and Luca Maffei behind those newer offerings didn’t hurt either). I wonder though: would I have liked that Raffinee today?

 

Images: all but 3 bottles (compiled from the official product pictures) – my own

Entertaining Statistics: 2020 Year Round-up

We all said probably everything that could be said about the year we just saw out of the door. So, I’ll go straight to the perfume-related numbers.

Since I haven’t done a statistics post in a long while, I’ll remind the basic terms I use.

My Definitions

I wear perfumes and test perfumes. Both refer to applying perfume to my skin and staying with the scent for a while, observing its development over hours of its life. But I realize that different people understand different things under these terms. So, I prepared a short infographic that would explain what I mean when I say “wear” or “test.”

Perfumes Wear vs. Test Infograph

One more term that requires definition is Occasion. The continuation from the time I apply perfume (including continuous re-application) until it completely disappears is counted as one occasion.

Most days I wear one perfume and test two. But, theoretically, for one day I could record two occasions of wearing perfumes or up to eight occasions of testing.

So, let’s see my 2020 in numbers (in parentheses is a comparison to 2019).

Perfumes I Wore

In 2020, I wore more different perfumes (210 vs 190) from more brands (96 vs. 91) on more occasions (367 vs 351). I still didn’t reach a 2018 level when I wore perfumes on 372 occasions, but still, on average

I wore one perfume every single day of the year!

Last year I realized that the most popular brands for each year keep repeating with minor variations of the brands’ positions on the chart and 1-2 different brands temporarily replacing one another. I’m showing my standard Top 10 Brands chart but mostly to keep the tradition. The only surprise there was Byredo: it’s the first time ever the brand made it into the Top 10. It happened because I paired Ouai Super Dry Shampoo x Byredo Mojave Ghost with the same perfume, which I wore from the sample trying to figure out if I wanted to get a bottle. I haven’t decided yet.

My Stats Year 2020: Top 10 Brands

As always, with the number of perfumes I wore, I didn’t repeat the same perfume too often (my most worn perfume was worn on 9 occasions only – less than once per month). And the trend I observed for the last several years continues: the top 2 most frequently worn perfumes were 2 of my all-time favorites, Lancôme Climat (9) and Ormonde Jayne Ta’if (8). And the third place went to the new addition to my collection – Masque Milano Love Kills (6). In two previous years that place was taken by Houbigant Quelques Fleurs Royal Collection Privee (2019) and Chanel Bois des Iles (2018).

 

 

Perfumes I Tested

Staying at home, I tested more perfumes than in a year before – 327 perfumes (vs. 272 in 2019) but from slightly fewer brands – 126 brands (vs. 128). I still haven’t got to the numbers from 2018 (380 perfumes from 139 brands). Since access to new perfumes was even more limited than usual, a big chunk of my testing was done on perfumes I tested previously but decided to revisit to get one final impression before passing them on someone else, finishing them (“thunking”) or binning them. Still,

In 2020, I tested 103 perfumes new to me

Undina’s Top 10 Perfumes in 2020

In 2020 I managed to improve the number of new releases that I tested (thank you to all my friends who shared some of these): I tested 22 perfumes released in 2020 (vs. 16 in 2019). And, unlike a year ago, I even managed to count 10 that I liked, which allows me to do this “top 10” list. And what was even more surprising, I didn’t dislike a single 2020 release that I tested. So, my subjective top 10 releases of 2020 (in the order of my preferences):

Puredistance Rubikona

DSH Perfumes L’Or{ris}

Tom Ford Rose Prick

Ormonde Jayne Tanger

Jo Malone Yuja

Parfums MDCI L’Aimee

Ormonde Jayne Byzance

Hiram Green Vivacious

Jo Malone Vetiver & Golden Vanilla

Ormonde Jayne Damask

In green, are perfumes I already have in my collection; in blue, are those that I consider buying. But after more testing of the rest, I might decide to get one of Ormonde Jayne’s perfumes as well.

Pictures of Rusty

Finally, an important number – a count of pictures of Rusty that I posted in 2020: 61, the highest number for the last 3 years (and this is not counting Instagram pictures that appear on the sidebar or the bottom of the blog!).

Rusty and Yellow Submarine

How was your perfume year? Do you have any numbers to share?

 

Images: My own; infograph created using Venngage