Sunday Self-care, Episode 3: Don’t Sweat It

Many years ago, when a multi-level marketing stormed the country where I lived, it could have done much more damage if it weren’t for the fact that many people who would have been gullible just didn’t have enough money to participate in the game.

Most people in my circle proved to be immune to the promises of health/beauty benefits and easy earnings, not in the last place because many of us were bad at selling things. But our close friend’s mother had succumbed to the temptation and, as it often happens with new converts, not only she fully embraced ideas and products offered by the brand but she also energetically started recruiting into the enlightened lifestyle all her friends and relatives, including her son and his wife (who were our friends).

Our friends weren’t really persuaded and took most of the things ironically. I remember how our friend was telling us that after using some either face products or supplements (it was a long time ago, so details are fuzzy), his mom got a skin rash that she was explaining “The body puts up a fight.” My vSO and I still jokingly use this phrase from time to time.

I don’t remember how it happened, but I ended up buying one product from our friend’s mom – a deodorant. And I liked it. So, I bought another one. And another.

* * *

The first year after I moved to the US, to my surprise I discovered that the brand I thought was some shady pyramid scheme was a legitimate brand with a long history, and it was sold in the regular stores. The brand was JĀSÖN.

So, for years I kept buying the same two deodorants by Jason that I liked “in my previous life” – Aloe Vera and Tea Tree. Both my vSO and I went through dozens of those before I realized I didn’t like them any longer. Thinking about it, I suspect that they were just reformulated at some point, without informing consumers, of course. Probably it became even “cleaner” and healthier than it used to be. But it didn’t work for me anymore.

For several years after that I switched to the deodorant that my vSO was using (I’ve chosen it for him): Terre d’Hermes. We both still like it, but it is very expensive, it contains several ingredients that are currently are considered… well, let’s say, they are controversial, and though I do not really subscribe under all the current trends, it is hard to ignore that completely. So, at some point, I decided that I wanted to find an alternative daily deodorant.

Terre d'Hermes Deodorant

What am I looking in a deodorant? I don’t know. I do not use antiperspirants. Not because I think those are unsafe or anything to this effect – I just do not like how it feels. I do not want perfume scent in my deodorant, but I do want a pleasant scent for the scent itself, as I apply but not as much for masking any odors. It needs to work to some extent, though I do not expect miracles. And whatever it does or does not, it should feel nice on my skin.

The first one I went for was from the same brand that started this story – Jason. But I decided to try their newer item – Men’s Forest Fresh. I’m sure that the “men’s” part is a pure marketing shtick, and not just because of the “anybody can wear anything,” but because the most “feminine” aspect of their other deodorants is the packaging, otherwise they are absolutely gender neutral.

Company’s claim: Men’s Forest Fresh contains Zinc Ricinoleate, Corn Starch, Baking Soda, Grapefruit Seed Extract, Cedarwood Pine and Eucalyptus Oils. No Animal Byproducts, No Artificial Colors, No GMO, No Parabens, No Petrolatum, No Phthalates, No Sulfates, Cruelty Free.

It glides on very nicely and smells good. I think it works to some degree, but it sits on my skin slightly sticky contributing to the feeling of being sweaty even if I do not sweat. I will finish it, but most likely I won’t repurchase it.

Jason Forest Fresh Deodorant

The next one that I decided to try was Death By Lavender – Organic Deodorant from North Coast Organics.

Ingredients, according to the brand, (Vegan): 100% organic coconut oil, 100% organic carnauba wax, 100% organic arrowroot powder, 95% organic shea butter, aluminum-free, natural baking soda, & Organic Essential Oils (Lavender, Lemon, Cypress, Rosemary). It is certified organic, certified vegan, certified cruelty-free, certified non-gmo, gluten-free, aluminum-free, soy-free, and handmade.

It was just awful. The scent was fine, but it was so dry and gritty that it felt like I was rubbing a pumice stone over my armpits. My only hope is that the item I bought at the store spent too long on the shelf and that usually it is much better. But I will never know because I won’t be spending $15 more to confirm this hypothesis. Into the bin it went right after I took the picture.

North Coast Organics Death by Lavender

What I liked about (Malin+Goetz) eucalyptus deodorant was that I could get a small version of it. Of course, it is more expensive per gram than the full version and much more than many other full-size deodorants. But I hate wasting products, so after the fiasco with the previous deodorant, I was glad to get a mini.

According to the brand, it is vegan and cruelty-free. Includes eucalyptus extract and citronellyl.

eucalyptus deodorant is smooth in application and has a light, slightly medicinal scent – I wouldn’t have minded a stronger eucalyptus aroma. It absorbs well without an unpleasant residue. Once I finish the mini I have, I might come back to this deodorant if I don’t find anything better. It is good but not ideal.

(Malin+Goetz) Eucalyptus Deodorant

The most recent deodorant I tried is Sweet Pitti Deodorant Cream from Drunk Elephant. I had high hopes for this one: this brand has a good reputation, and I liked a couple of other products they make.

Brand says that Sweet Pitti contains Mandelic Acid, Arrowroot Powder, Shea Butter, Marula Oil, Mongongo Oil, Baobab Seed Oil. It has a pH of 4.0 and is free of baking soda and aluminum-derived ingredients, sulfates, silicones, essential oils, fragrance, dyes, and drying alcohols. Cruelty-free.

I’m not sure if Sweet Pitti works because I really dislike the scent. I’m not sure I care about how efficiently it combats my natural odor since what it replaces it with doesn’t smell much (any?) better. In addition to that, the way it dispenses: you have to turn the pushing mechanism extremely carefully to get just a tad of the content to appear from those four holes – otherwise, you’ll either waste the product or will be covered in it. I will probably finish the one that I have (I’ll use it for when I’m exercising), but under no circumstances will I repurchase it.

Drunk Elephant Sweet Pitti Deodorant Cream

My search continues. Luckily, working from home, I have a luxury of using a wrong deodorant, washing it off and trying another one. But I would love to find one or two deodorants to use for several years until I find something better. And I still plan to replenish my and my vSO’s favorite Terre d’Hersmes.

Do you have any deodorants you would recommend?

Deodorants

Images: my own

Chanel Paris – Edimbourg

Last weekend, as I stopped by the perfume counter at my local Nordstrom to quickly pick up a birthday gift for my friend (a nice Diptyque candle, if you’re curious), I experienced a light shock: I discovered a new addition to Les Eaux de Chanel collection.

Of course, it wasn’t the fact of its release itself that surprised me (after all, it’s the fifth installment in the series in less than that many years). What startled me and even made a little sad was that I was completely unaware of this release happening. Yes, I’ve been busy with work and spent even less than usual time on NST or other perfume-related platforms. But still… It shows how fragmented this world has become since the number of blogs and both people writing and reading them declined. Can you imagine missing a new release from Chanel (or, let’s say, Serge Lutens) five-six years ago?

I asked the friendly SA O., from whom I usually buy those rare perfume-related items that I buy at Nordstrom, if she could give me a vial so that I could make myself a sample (since they are not allowed to do it any more), and she conspiratorially told me that she had a real sample for me; but that, probably, it would be more to my vSO’s liking (who patiently waited not too far away for me to finish purchasing the gift and talking to O.) than to my. Than she stopped herself (probably remembering all the trainings they are getting these days) and said (without much conviction though): “Or you might like it…” That was how I got to try Paris – Edimbourg sample.

Chanel Paris-Edimbourg

She was right on both accounts. I kind of like it. And it is quite masculine.

I have to correct myself. Paris – Edimbourg is not masculine-masculine cologne that would be classified as such unequivocally. But compared even just to perfumes in that collection, not even talking about other Chanel perfumes, Paris – Edimbourg is the most masculine one. Had you smelled it blindly, you would have thought Atelier Cologne before thinking Chanel.

Notes (according to Fragrantica): juniper berries, cypress, lavender, cedar, vetiver, vanilla and musk.

Perfumer: Olivier Polge

I can clearly smell juniper. Lavender in Paris – Edimbourg isn’t as prominent as it is in several other Chanel perfumes. And vetiver is much tamer than it usually is in masculine perfumes. It is fresh, uplifting, slightly woody (very slightly) and quite naturally smelling, which these days pleasantly surprises me since more and more perfume brands seem to have discovered financial joys of creating escentric-molecules-style perfumes. In addition to that, it is reasonably priced compared to many other modern offerings.

All in all, I’m not disappointed. I like Paris – Edimbourg, and I could wear something like that in summer, but I prefer other, more feminine numbers from that collection. So, I’ll pass the sample to my vSO, but I do recommend checking it out the next time you find yourself close to Chanel counter.

 

Image: my own

Second Sunday Sample: Tom Ford Soleil Brulant

As I’ve said many times before, I’m a Tom Ford fan. So, whenever the brand releases new perfume, I jump. And this weekend I drove to the nearby shopping mall to try the newest release from the brand – Soleil Brûlant. I’m glad that a friendly SA was there, so I managed to get a handmade sample (normally these days you cannot get any, because, “you know, we’re in pandemic,” and it’s not like take-out or even eat-in food that you put in your mouth, it’s much more dangerous if an SA would make you a sample of perfume that contains more alcohol than required by CDC for hand sanitizers).

New Soleil Brûlant releases sun-kissed florals warmed by amber – evoking the opulent, golden sun beaming over private islands. Your own private summer.

That was a quote from the brand’s advertising video. And, in my opinion, it sets up this perfume to fail. I do not mean globally or related to sales, but rather from the fan-base prospective (and since it doesn’t look like Tom Ford’s PR works with “Influencers,” it might backfire). What you smell is not what you’d expect to smell based on that description.

You know the type of reviews where the reviewers describe minute-by-minute how perfume smells on their skin? I never really understood that approach… until I smelled Soleil Brulant. Even for my nose, which isn’t the most accurate or educated, a lot is happening in this perfume within minutes.

Notes deciphered from the brand’s site: mandarin, bergamot, pink pepper, orange blossom, black honey, amber, resins, wood, vetiver, leather and incense.

Tom Ford Soleil Brulant

From the nozzle I smell mandarin, which I like very much and anticipate smelling on my skin, so when upon spraying I cannot detect it at all, I feel slightly disappointed. What I smell instead is some roasted nutty or maybe coffee note followed by slightly mentholated sweetness. It is replaced by scorched woodsy smell (maybe burning incense?). And resin. Then about 30 minutes into the development I can finally smell some citrus! Very briefly. Then wood returns. A couple of hours later, I can smell something that my nose qualifies as “tobacco,” but I know that sometimes that is how what is called “leather” smells to me. Since honey rarely works on my skin, and I do not like orange blossom, those are notes that I usually recognize. But not in Soleil Brulant. I don’t question their existence in this perfume, and I believe that some sweetness that I’m experiencing comes from it. But both those notes are not as prominent to me as I smell them in other perfumes, both when they work for me or don’t.

I don’t know in which Universe this would be considered summer perfume. OK, it is summer perfume in terms that its name describes summer (everywhere I see it translated as “Burning Sun,” in my head I call it “Scorching Sun”), but what I smell I wouldn’t either associate with that season or wear during it. But I will try to do it at least one – just out of curiosity.

As a conclusion, I do not think Soleil Brulant is bad perfume. I find it original and not boring. But I’m not in love with it, and I don’t think I would have been buying it even at the lower Private Blend’s price level, but definitely not as their premium tier price of $350 for 50 ml. I still think it will sell well, not in the least thanks to that golden bottle (I don’t like it, but I read many praises for it). I also wanted to note that if we all keep buying these perfumes and cosmetics, someone at Estee Lauder will be able to afford not just a private summer on a private island, but with a little effort maybe even a private sun. I, for one, has recently “contributed to the cause” by getting their new Sunlust Lip lip gloss from the same collection as this perfume. I do not need it. But in my mind it somehow was a precursor to my Hawaiian vacation that I really want to happen. Well, I’ve got the lip gloss – so, I’m half-way there, right?

Tom Ford Sunlust Lip glossImages: my own

Jaipur Homme by Boucheron

Jaipur Homme by Boucheron

Jaipur Homme is 20+ years old, Boucheron wasn’t really on my radar at that time. It wasn’t till late 2000s that I smelled it. In the early 2000s, I was living with a man who came from halfway between Delhi & Jaipur. He took me to the Rambagh Palace for a few nights on our first holiday to India, and he knew every nook and cranny of the town, so I got a really fabulous look at it. After we had broken up and he’d returned to India, I found the Boucheron fragrance. It was so subtle compared to the reality of India but there were lovely reminders and the name itself conjures happy memories. Over the years, I’ve brought or sent him bottles of Jaipur and it’s been his signature scent.

Anyway, thought I hadn’t bought myself a bottle of Jaipur Homme in years, so I grabbed a super cheap EdT from FragNet recently and have been wearing it a bit. It’s still very nice.

Parfumo gives these featured accords:
Top: Bergamot, Heliotrope, Cardamom, Lime, Lemon
Heart: Amber, Jasmine, Carnation, Nutmeg, Rose, Vanilla, Cinnamon
Base: Benzoin, Clove, Patchouli, Tonka bean, Cedarwood

If you know ground cardamom from your spice cupboard then you’ll instantly recognise it in the opening of Jaipur Homme. The citrus creates an initial sparkling, zingy opening, and the cardamom becomes apparent almost immediately. It stays after the citrus burns off, and the cool powdery fluff of heliotrope is then a tangible note that leads us into the heart.

I’m drinking chai as I write this post, and the heart of Jaipur Homme is a softer, more French perfumery armchair dream of it. Very softly animalic, vanilla-heavy amber with spices. Clove is more noticeable than anything else, but I definitely get the sweet milky tea reference. It’s not the MAIN heart accord, but it plays alongside everything else.

The dry down is sweet amber woods. I become nose blind to it after a couple of hours, but it stays on my clothes for days. When I pick up a top to wash it, I am hit gently with a beautiful spiced wood fragrance. It’s really lovely, so I know that’s what I’m wafting at the end of a day.

Don’t let the homme fool you. Jaipur Homme is unisex. It doesn’t even lean towards a modern traditional masculine. It could be brought out as a women’s fragrance today, and no one would have questioned it. Longevity is excellent, projection after about 30 minutes is moderate to low but oh so lovely.

Did you ever try Jaipur Homme?

Portia xx

Sunday Self-care, Episode 1: The First Year into Quarantine: Embracing Silk

Time Traveler: What year is this?
Me: 2020
Time Traveler: Oh, the first year of quarantine…
Me: … The … WHAT?

 

For a while, I tried to come up with a title for this first post of the (hopefully) new series to be a variation on the phrase “sleepy bliss” or “blissful sleep” constructed from the names of the two rival brands of silk goods. But I gave up having realized that “Blissy Slip” or “Slippy Bliss” would be probably even less transparent for my English-speaking readers than my last year’s exercise with “lilac” and “luck.” So, instead, I decided to play on the joke/meme that resonated with me when I saw it the first time last year and many times since.

* * *

With everything that was happening in the last 12 months, I’m a lucky one: my work kept me so busy all that time that I barely noticed most of the negative sides of the situation we all are more or less in. I did miss my Hawaii vacation and some gatherings with friends, and for a while it was scary… to watch dwindling supplies of TP and, joking aside, just getting out to get groceries for the next couple of weeks. But in general, I didn’t get the anxiety many others experienced. On the other hand, I didn’t get the “free time” that many people weren’t sure how to occupy while staying at home.

But as time goes by, and probably mostly because of a couple of big time-measuring life milestones that have occurred within these last 12 months, more and more I started thinking about getting that free time to take care of myself. This series is the result of my attempts to follow through with these thoughts.

* * *

For some time I was noticing that in the morning my face would have some creases from the contact with a pillow. While telling myself that, probably, it attested to how soundly I slept without turning or changing my position, I didn’t appreciate what I saw in the mirror, especially since I started having video meetings in the morning – often before those signs of agi healthy sleeping would disappear from my cheeks.

I don’t remember how the idea of a silk pillowcase came into my orbit, but once it formed, I, in my usual manner, being skeptical about most miracle cures and hacks, spent probably months reading reviews and trying to figure out whether to buy myself one and, if yes, which one. I could have easily kept doing it until now, but one day a friend of mine decided to show me her new favorite pillow (I was in the process of looking for a replacement pillow). I didn’t like the pillow at all (it was one of those new creations stuffed with shredded foam-like material), but I noticed that it had a silk pillowcase. When I asked my friend about it, she, completely casually, mentioned that she switched to those a while ago and now wouldn’t even consider sleeping on anything else. That did it for me.

I still wasn’t sure which brand to go with: if you try looking for any comparison reviews, you’d end up with very similar affiliated-links-ridden articles equally praising both “luxury” and “budget” buys (all claiming that though they will get a commission from you shopping through those, opinions, surely, are their “editors’”).

When in doubt, I tend to pay rather more than less (which is not necessarily a winning strategy but it has its merits). So, I went for the “luxury” side, but out of the two more expensive brands, Blissy and Slip, I’ve chosen Blissy because it was offering a better deal.

Rusty and Blissy Silk Pillowcase

If you happen to come across ads for silk pillowcases recently, you are probably familiar with all the claims they make (some of those ads are just outrageous, but I won’t dignify them even with negative publicity). Regardless of whether you have tried them yourself, you might be curious what I think about those claims.

After sleeping on silk pillowcases for three months, I can tell that I didn’t notice any changes with my hair, I do not have enough evidence yet to say that it feels cooler (I’ll see how it performs in summer), and I can’t say that it had any effect on acne outbreaks I still have from time to time. But I’m not going back to my old(er) cotton pillowcases, though, I have to clarify that those were of a very high quality, which might explain my hair not being overly impressed by the change. Then why?

Because not a single morning after switching to Blissy silk pillowcases had I seen any signs of my pillow on my cheeks.

Rusty and Blissy Silk Pillowcase

If you are considering this experiment, read multiple “infomercials” to understand in principle the difference between a “silk pillowcase” and a “silk pillowcase” and choose what you feel comfortable with quality-, price- and reviews-wise. If the description doesn’t mention something, assume that whatever that something is, it is not present in the particular item.

I have several suggestions in addition to those that you’ll read everywhere:

  • Resist buying golden, pink, plum, etc. colors: “marbled” or “tie-dye” colors will hide spots in-between washes better than solid colors (and there will be spots – from your skincare, tears, etc.). Mine are white and silver, and I regret my choice.
  • Disregard the “hand wash” instructions: put it into a mesh bag and wash it in a washing machine in cold water on a gentle cycle. Notice: I’m not saying that you could do it; I mean that you should: the manual washing itself is fine, but short of just hanging a pillowcase straight after rinsing and letting it drip, there is no way to remove any water from it without causing wrinkles that are much harder to iron out. And a washing machine’s centrifuge does it with much less wrinkled results.
  • Speaking of ironing, the way you see all those smooth and shiny silk pillowcases in the ads, you will never see them on your bed (unless you steam a new pillowcase from the box to remove folds and put it on your pillow “as is” without washing first, which I wouldn’t recommend): the picture on the left is a pillowcase freshly laundered and ironed while still damp – and I love ironing and do it very attentively. But whatever the result of the ironing was, the next morning (or a couple of days later) your pillowcase will look like the picture on the right. Which doesn’t seem to matter in how it affects your skin, but it doesn’t look pretty.

  • Since you will probably iron those pillowcases at least in the beginning, to make it easier, take them out of the washer, turn inside out and iron on the setting that feels right to you: on my Rowenta iron I would have been ironing on the recommended “Silk” or “the lowest” setting ’til the cows come home.
  • If you decide to buy anything from Slip, don’t spend time looking for coupons for the brand’s site: I don’t remember seeing any in a long-long time. Your best bet would be to get 15% off for your first purchase by subscribing on their site or wait for a general beauty sale at Nordstrom, Sephora or other similar stores that carry Slip brand.
  • If you decide to buy anything from Blissy, if you don’t have an account with them yet, use this link to subscribe and get a coupon for $20 off your purchase (if you use it, I’ll also get a $20 off coupon). But if you were to buy anything this week, don’t use that coupon because they have the best sale I’ve seen so far – 35% off with the coupon BLISSYMOM35. The Nordstromrack site also carries Blissy pillowcases, but always check which of the two has a better price (including S&H, since both have a minimum for free shipping).

Rusty and Blissy Silk PillowcaseEvery time I look at the picture above, I start yawning. I should probably go and check how my Blissy is doing…

 

Disclosure: Just to be clear, this post is not sponsored or compensated in any way by any of the mentioned brands or stores.

Images: my own

“All that is gold does not glitter…”: Parfums Dusita Le Pavillon d’Or

As I started writing this post, it dawned on me how prescient were the lines that inspired Pissara Umavijani to create Le Pavillon d’Or: “… to live more happily in just any confinement” (Montri Umavijani, a Thai poet and the perfumer’s father). In just several months after the perfume release, the whole World suddenly had to slow down and start learning how to live in confinement and if not be happier but at least survive.

Le Pavillon d’Or is very fitting to the circumstances: it is not manifestly shiny, so you don’t have to rationalize to yourself wearing it while working from the kitchen table or blitzkrieging through a grocery store in search of TP, but it possesses an internal beauty that elevates your spirit and contributes to the feeling of well-being and… well, happiness.

Dusita Parfums Pavillon d'Or

Do you remember how Parfums Dusita brand appeared on the scene? It came seemingly from nowhere around 2015, released 3 perfumes by a new perfumer, and those perfumes were offered at a price point that not that many niche brands dared to put on their price tag back then. Especially not those without some history/standing in the community or at least done by renowned “noses.”

While I do not think that perfumes (or any luxury goods for that matter) should be accessible or even reasonable in their price setting, I remember being slightly annoyed by that launch. (Little did I know that from that point on there will be dozens of brands springing up like mushrooms and flooding the market with perfumes at astounding prices.)

But since back then many blogs that were reviewing and discussing new perfume launches were still around, I got curious about the brand because of the general buzz those reviews created. So, as soon as I got a chance, I tried those first three perfumes and … let me put it this way: I still didn’t get either the prices or the buzz. I guess, the fact that two out of the first three perfumes were built around ingredients I usually dislike (agarwood and tuberose) didn’t help.

The next three perfumes that were released I found interesting, but I didn’t want to wear any of them – so, I decided that Parfums Dusita wasn’t “my brand” and could have never tried another perfume from this brand if it weren’t for my perfumista friends. Cynthia (The Fragrant Journey), after in comment to her wonderful review, I expressed interest in testing Le Pavillon d’Or, had shared with me the remaining portion of her tiny sample. And it was enough for me to fall in love with Le Pavillon d’Or.

Dusita Parfums Pavillon d'Or

I’m a little confused with the notes for Le Pavillon d’Or. The brand’s site has the following list (explanations in parentheses are mine): Wild Menthe Citrata (bergamot mint), Honeysuckle Extrait, Boronia Absolute, Frankincense Green Sacra, White Thyme Oil, Vanilla, English Oakwood and Sandalwood Spicata (Australian sandalwood). I do not smell mint, but Cynthia in the review linked to above shares what she discovered about the ingredient used. Fragrantica, Luckyscent and the perfumer’s older posts on Instagram also mention fig leaves, heliotrope and orris butter. I wouldn’t recognize heliotrope (in general, not specifically here), but I thought that I know both fig and iris enough to distinguish them in the composition, and I can’t. So, I’m not sure if they are there, were there before but not anymore, or if they are created by some other ingredients that I don’t recognize as such. Le Pavillion d’Or starts as a very green perfume – a tad herbal, slightly bitter and somewhat uplifting. It develops through sheer resinous frankincense into a woody base, though my nose isn’t sophisticated enough to recognize which wood. But when you like what you smell, it doesn’t really matter what you smell, does it?

Rusty and Dusita Parfums Pavillon d'Or

The pavilion is golden not because it’s made of gold. Imagine a late-Spring morning when a rising sun reflects in dewdrops on the wooden beams of a pavilion making them sparkle through the leafy branches of the old tranquil park.

 

Images: my own

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

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

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…

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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

Review by Christine W: Several Patous, Old(ish) and New

Dear friends and readers, let me introduce to you the latest addition to the ULG contributors: Christine W, a guest writer from Melbourne, Australia. Having collected vintage perfume for over a decade, Christine finally took the plunge and came out with her first-ever blog post. I hope we won’t scare her away, and she’ll fill the gap of vintage perfumes coverage on this blog. Undina

* * *

Seven years ago, Maison Jean Patou released Collection Héritage; reworkings of nine of the house’s much older fragrances. While stocks last, they can be found online for a fraction of the original price. In 2019, when LVMH bought Jean Patou, the new owners discontinued production of Patou fragrances. Since then, fragrance fans have been snapping up the remaining stock of classics such as Joy, Sublime and 1000. But are the more obscure Collection Héritage scents also worth buying? Are they anything like the earlier fragrances upon which they were based? I will attempt to answer these questions by comparing seven of the Collection Héritage scents with their corresponding, older Ma Collection versions. The prices I mention are based on my location in Australia. If you are in another country you might pay more, or less, than I did.

Before my reviews, I need to outline what I will be comparing.

The Collection Héritage (CH) series consists of nine 100ml EDPs released in 2013 and 2014. Patou’s last in-house perfumer, Thomas Fontaine, composed each of them as re-imaginings of older “archived” Patou scents of the same name. The series (in random order) comprises: Adieu Sagesse, Colony, L’Heure Attendue, Chaldée, Que Sais-Je?, Vacances, Deux Amours, Eau de Patou and Patou Pour Homme. I am not reviewing the last two because I didn’t buy them.

The Ma Collection (MC) series was released in 1984. Consisting of 12 fragrances (which I own as a boxed set of minis, pictured below with its accompanying book), these were themselves re-workings of selected early Patou scents created between 1925 and 1964, mostly by in-house perfumer, Henri Alméras (1892-1965). The MC recreations were composed by Jean Kerléo, who had taken over from Alméras in 1967. The MC scents that I will examine for comparison have the same names as the first six listed above, plus Amour Amour (the original name for Deux Amours). In case you were wondering, these MC titles didn’t make the cut for CH: Moment Supréme, Cocktail, Divine Folie, Normandie and Caline.

Patou Ma Collection boxed set

To supplement (and guide) my impression of each CH scent and its corresponding MC version, I will include notes lists from Fragrantica (unless otherwise noted) and information supplied with packaging.

So, let’s dive in!

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