Memo Tiger’s Nest

Even though there were at least a couple of guest writers on Undina’s Looking Glass, over the last couple of years I was a sole contributor, so for a while I will be reminding my readers to look at the By line (Undina).

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“A rabbit finds the tiger scary, whether it still has the teeth or not.”
Let’s Eat 2, episode 14

My friends, do you like tigers? I am not sure if many would say, “No, I do not care for such beasts.” I very much like tigers, in the way a little child likes a particular animal. I have one tiger tattoo (and a pussy cat, who all think themselves tigers). Is having a tiger tattoo tacky? Probably, but I do not care. If something brings you joy, enjoy it! Maybe your perfume was a huge sum you wouldn’t want to admit to friends, or maybe you bought it in a drug store. If you love it, it is beautiful. The same is true of tigers. Fine art or tacky emblem, I respect the image. Even in their dotage a toothless a tiger is still a tiger.

Memo Tiger’s Nest is one of those beautiful perfume bottles where you very much want to love the perfume inside to justify buying it. Having found myself tearing up at the beauty of the one Memo I owned, Shams Oud, I was hopeful. I’d been gifted a few samples of other Memos which I enjoyed. Very soon these things added up to a “you will blind buy this and you will do it fearlessly” conviction. Opening the box and feeling the heavy, enameled bottle with its beautiful beast I felt nothing but love. I have been rewarded tenfold for my leap of faith by the juice itself.

Memo Tiger’s Nest

Oil of Absinthe, Aldehyde, Lime, Amber, Safran, Incense absolute, Osmanthus, Ylang ylang, Rose, Papyrus, Vanilla, Balsam of Tolu

I’ve never been on the incense quest that many in perfume land pursue. I have some nice frankincense choices, and some weirder BPAL’s, and I do not need much else. I’m guilty of always wanting things to be more intense, to the point of possibly smelling like someone should call the fire marshal. Tiger’s Nest offers a different interpretation to my joss stick inferno fantasies. There’s a wonderful medicinal note weaving throughout this scent. Crushed leaves, a sticky frankincense mixed with camphor. Medicinal, it’s a thrilling note for perfume! In the middle of Tiger’s Nest there’s a lovely leathery floral with a sweet, warm rose. At this stage of wearing Tiger’s Nest I am getting a strong health food store vibe. Mother was a hippy and I spent many, MANY hours standing around health food stores as a child inhaling essential oils, wheat germ, raw blocks of eye watering soap and incense. Some incense perfumes smell only of the ingredients, Tiger’s Nest smells of the burning sticks as well. Underneath it all a gentle vanilla, lasting long into the drydown. Memo Tiger’s Nest is a very interesting scent and one you may find you bring your own associations to.

So, I am quite happy. I am enjoying my beautiful tiger bottle and its contents very much!

Memo Tiger's Nest

Image: Paintings are Korean Minhwa style tigers by Polish artist Małgorzata Bonas

Orto Parisi Stercus

Even though there were at least a couple of guest writers on Undina’s Looking Glass, over the last couple of years I was a sole contributor, so for a while I will be reminding my readers to look at the By line (Undina).

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The most sensual of aromas is the essence of a young raven
fed only boiled eggs for forty days, then killed and preserved
in myrtle and almond oil.
Tongue, by Kyung Ran Jo

Reading that quote my perfume loving friends are you not just dying to rub preserved raven all over your pulse points and inhale the magic? Let us take gourmands to the next level! Ridiculous and yet not ridiculous in the eyes (or copy) of some perfumers.

There is seemingly no end to permutations within current perfume trends. We’ll have rosy ouds and oudy roses and roses with stinky oud and clean oud with stinky roses. This one is rich! This one is sheer! This one has barely discernible notes and only if you squint! If a current perfume trend is something you dearly love then this can be quite enjoyable.You may have always wanted a rosy oud that was sparkling and a rosy oud that was liturgical. And then we have the creative perfumers who are here to help you discover things you never even knew you wanted.

So. Stercus means feces. I’m feeling for Undina who wasn’t fond of Lush’s name “Dirty” for their mint fragrance. I think if I send her a sample of this one I shall have to rename it. Undina for the love of fragrance do not look at the Orto Parisi website!

The perfume house Orto Parisi was created by the man behind Nasomotto, Alessandro Gualtieri. He introduces Orto Parisi with this bit of hyperbole: “The parts of the body that carry more smell are those where more soul is collected. The strong smells have become unpleasant to us, because the excess of soul is intolerable to the extent that our innate animalism is repressed and breaking from civilization.” But forget all that (I’m sure you have already!).

I once had a craft beer whose name I’ve forgotten that tasted intensely and immediately of too ripe bananas and smoked meats. It was so ridiculous and disgusting I announced to the pub that this brewery was surely trolling it’s patrons with this concoction. Having read the ad copy for Stercus before I obtained a bottle I was convinced that I was going to repeat this experience in perfume. I was wrong. I am IN LOVE with Orto Parisi Stercus. It is beautiful and rich and comforting and dramatic all at once. Orto Parisi won’t give out notes so these are all my own impressions from my love affair with Stercus. We have chocolate and camphor and rotten fruit and oud and a sugared croissant. There’s a sharp jasmine in the top notes that almost magically hovers over all the bakery oudy goodness warming this fragrance. It’s quite an original scent and the deft creativity impresses me. But what of the name? Let’s just say I understand the connection being drawn between the name and the fragrance. I am unable to summarily dismiss this idea even while thinking it is a pretentious attempt at getting attention. If this were an abstract painting entitled “Stercus” I would nod my head and think a good job had been done.

Given these times I was tempted to just cave to the copy and take a photo of Stercus on a row of precious, precious toilet paper. But I resist as Stercus is too beautiful to be pigeonholed by its silly ad copy. Too beautiful and too complex.

 

Joan Miro Painting

 

Photo is of my beloved Stercus and Joan Miró’s “Painting”.

Discoveries: A Perfume Story

Even though there were at least a couple of guest writers on Undina’s Looking Glass, over the last couple of years I was a sole contributor, so for a while I will be reminding my readers to look at the By line (Undina).

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Discovery sets. Do you buy them? They seem like a great idea. A decent amount of each juice thematically selected by a perfume house, often nicely packaged. Sadly though I have sworn off discovery sets. Invariably in a set of five I will love two, talk myself into maybe liking one and outright dislike two more. Then I sit there looking at my discovery set thinking about how it costs half the price of a nice fat bottle of the one I like the most. Math is cruel. Last time I bought one it was out of some weird guilt after having sniffed every last thing in a shop and taken up the owner’s time and conversation. I had been unable to decide on any of the sale items so I sprung for a discovery set of the illustrious candle maker Cire Trudon’s perfumes. Trudon has been making candles since 1643 and perfumes since 2017. As discovery sets go, this one beat the odds.There are three I like, one I have no need of and then the subject of this post, Trudon Deux/ II (2017).

Notes: green leaves, pine, juniper, Ambroxan, Cashmeran

Deux perfectly captures one of my nature loves, the dark, viscerally bitter greenness of so many plants. There’s pine, but it’s not a sweet pine, no cozy winter associations here. If you’ve ever tasted pine sap because it was so pretty and recoiled at its bitterness, this is that pine. Now I LOVE bitter things. Bitter beer, bitter foods. Just thinking about cruciferous vegetables makes my mouth water. It’s watering right now with the visions of broccoli, my best friend vegetable, that popped into my head when I typed “cruciferous”.

Since I was a small child, I have loved bitter flavours. My dad used to give me non-alcoholic beer in order to get me used to the taste. Yes, I realize how this sounds! He was a true foodie, and he wanted to make sure my palate was ready for anything. We ate grapefruit many a morning and of course we did not put sugar on it, the bitterer the better! Fresh, bright, rindy, pithy grapefruit. I was naturally attracted to bitterness, and this was encouraged. People who put sugar on their grapefruit were weak!

 

Trudon Deaux II

 

Deux is sharp, linear, dark green and bitter, bitter, bitter. It smells exactly like a plant, impressively so. I’m not one to ask “but is it perfume?” however this phrase did jump into my head while wearing it. Though I love to eat bitterness, it seems I do not love to smell it, a confusing and sad revelation. I have always tried with green perfumes because they seem like I should love them, my personality is whispering “make that your scent… yes that green sappy one…”. But I can’t do it, the more realistic and dark green the fragrance, the more it bothers me. I can love a fragrance that is a water colour in a green wash, such as Diorella, but once we’re in niche or vintage territory where true greenery is the point I have to sadly bow out.

If you are on a holy grail for greenness I do encourage you to try Trudon Deux/ II. It doesn’t bother with smelling like a beautiful woman in a forest, or even the whole forest. It’s crushed dark leaves and pine, bright and bitter and good.

 

Image: my own

Turkish Delight? Yes, Please!

Even though there were at least a couple of guest writers on Undina’s Looking Glass, over the last couple of years I was a sole contributor, so for a while I will be reminding my readers to look at the By line (Undina).

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When I was a child, I loved to read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis, and I read it multiple times a year. In it a rather unpleasant child is offered a box of Turkish delight by a beautiful woman. He likes it so much he trades everything for more and more Turkish delight, everything being his siblings, Jesus, summer time, kittens… everything! I had no idea what Turkish delight was, but it was obviously very delicious since it was worth betraying everyone you ever met. For my whole childhood I imagined it was rum truffles, something I had tasted only a few times. They were rich and decadent, and you were never allowed to have as many as you wanted, so that to me was Turkish delight.

Many years later, I discovered what Turkish delight really was, and I love it far more than rum truffles! I’m also aghast that Edmund managed to eat boxes and boxes of it. I’ve always loved any foods with a perfumed note and rose flavour is the queen. Rose pastilles, rose truffles, rose gelato… I remember them all because they are not easy to find. Turkish delight, however, is readily available, and I buy it a few times a year and cover myself in powdered sugar eating far too many delightful cubes of rosy joy. So when a perfume smells like Turkish delight I am absolutely in LOVE.

My beloved favourite Turkish delight perfume is the original Boucheron Jaipur for women. It’s a beautiful bracelet (and confusingly one of the flankers is named “Bracelet” but that is a different perfume), and it I adore it. Sticky, candied rose and fruits created in 1994 by Sophia Grojsman. There are plenty of sweet rose perfumes that are delicious, such as Lush‘s Rose Jam, but to evoke Turkish delight you need that perfumey note. It’s more a caricature of rose than rose itself. Boucheron Jaipur just plainly makes me happy.

Top Notes: Pineapple, Apricot, Freesia, Peach, Plum
Middle Notes: Carnation, Iris, Jasmine, Lily of the Valley, Orchid, Peony, Black locust, Rose
Base Notes: Amber, Vanilla, Benzoin, Heliotrope, Musk, Sandalwood, Styrax

Turkish delight, or lokum can be flavoured with a variety of things, but the rose flavour made with rose water, which is a distillate of rose petals, is the most popular. There are synthetic versions as well and who knows which ones I’ve eaten. I’ve bought it in markets from huge slabs, as well as chucking it in the trolley from the supermarket. I have loved them all!

 

BoucheronJaipurAndLArtisanTraverseeDuBosphore

 

Though I have no idea if Sophia Grojsman ever thought about Turkish delight when creating Boucheron Jaipur, it was the inspiration for my other sticky perfume treasure, L’Artisan’s Traversee du Bosphore (2010) by Betrand Duchaufour.

Top Notes: Apple, Pomegranate, Tulip
Middle Notes: Iris, Leather, Saffron, Rose, Pistachio
Base Notes: Vanilla, Musk

The heart of Traversee Bosphore is a plasticky, perfumey rose, without a doubt more cheap rosewater than the actual flower. This is what makes it a true Turkish delight scent, that the rose is all about confection. There’s a powdery iris that speaks of the powdered sugar very well without altering the perfumey rose heart. Violet would have created something quite different here. However fear not, this is still a grown-up scent. Saffron and leather are very sexy skin scents in this creation, and the brightness of the top notes keeps it surprisingly fresh.

Rose is a constant perfume love for me, but I have a special place in my heart for the ones that evoke Turkish delight. I’ve tried some that claim to do so but add an almond marzipan note, which moves the creation firmly away from the simple joy of lokom and into a fancy cake shop. I want an indulgent sticky mess!

 

Images: my own (Narth)

Lush Dirty, a Very Minty Boy

Undina: Let me introduce to you Narth – the latest addition to this blog’s wonderful (though infrequent) guest writers’ team. Narth used to write for the Australian Perfume Junkies blog (now regretfully defunct), and now she plans to publish regularly her reviews, perfume and travel stories on Undina’s Looking Glass. What is noteworthy: in my estimate, our tastes in perfumes have just a small overlap (approximately 10%). So, it will introduce nice variety.

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The main drag in my city of Melbourne, Australia is like most main drags, a bit of a mess. Buskers, rubbish, bargain shops, fast food… A few years back they closed it off for cars and only trams can travel this strip in the heart of the city. This improved nothing and the pushy chaos continues.

Walking up this street to my favourite dumplings place I can tell how far I have to go by the two smells that are so overpowering you can smell them a block away. One is Subway whose strangely artificial bread smell makes my children gag. The other, god bless them, is Lush. For many years a cult company relying on the addictive powers of cupcake flavoured bath bombs and towering soap piles that look like cool art works Lush has also quietly been creating perfume. I’m late to the Lush perfume game and part of that I blame on the eye watering impact of the smell of a Lush store. Since I’m usually planning a spray and a sniff somewhere when I’m in the city, I have no intention of abrading my nose with Lush’s cacophony of soapiness before I get to the good stuff. And so it’s only been in the last year that I have discovered the wonders of Lush perfumes whose price point is perfect for impulse purchase.

 

Lush Dirty

 

Rather than blathering on about the whole range, which has quite a few treasures, I want to talk to you about a beautiful minty masterpiece, Dirty. Spearmint, tarragon, thyme, lavender, sandalwood and oakmoss. So says the Lush website, not given to note pyramids. While refreshing in the heat, Dirty really blooms when it’s a misty cool day. The lavender and mintiness are more edible versions than you’d get in a classic barbershop scent, and the sandalwood is a quiet creamy constant under the sharper notes. And what’s that, an odd herbal accent? The tarragon is light but adds some important herbaceousness to the spearmint, you won’t for one minute be thinking this smells like gum. The drydown brings out a salty note, a fantastic fresh from the beach skin scent. I sprayed this on myself, walked out of the shop, turned around, went straight back in and bought the 100ml. No regrets. It’s been a very hot summer here, and I’ve been wearing this perfume in the intense heat and in the rains that follow. A relative of mine immediately bought a bottle for her partner who wants something fresh to wear at work. Mainstream freshies are more expensive and have annoying synthetic notes while not everyone wants to up their niche game in the freshie department. Lush’s Dirty is a stunner. If you have ever lamented a lack of mint in Perfumeland, I encourage you to brave the soap stacks and try Dirty. The sillage is good, and the lasting power (as it is with most Lush perfumes) is excellent.

 

Images: my own (Narth)

Second Sunday Samples: Jo Malone Vetiver & Golden Vanilla

Years pass, I come across many new brands and new perfumes from old favorites, but it seems that Jo Malone (brand, not the person) still manages to produce, among the avalanche of new releases, something that attracts my attention.

Unfortunately, my attention span shrank recently, so unless I come to the store right when a new offering takes the central stage on the stand, I might completely miss it.

I remembered from reading an announcement on NST that new Jo Malone would be released. I even remembered that it was supposed to be vanilla. On my first visit to the store I looked around, tried reading multiple labels – and didn’t succeed. Since I couldn’t remember the name (and for whatever reason it’s almost impossible to get Internet connection from inside our Nordstrom store), I just left without even asking.

The next time I got to the store, I couldn’t spot anything new … and I couldn’t remember the name again. But I told myself it would be silly to go away without trying. So, I surprised the SA agreeing that I needed his help (you could see in his body language that he was already half-way turning away fully expecting my polite “I’m just browsing”). I said: “You are supposed to have a new vanilla perfume, but I seem not to be able to notice it.” He immediately resolved the mystery: Vetiver & Golden Vanilla is released in the Cologne Intense collection – I wasn’t even looking there.

The SA complimented me on being adventurous because I wasn’t afraid to try the Intense Collection, which “most women avoid.” Really? I was surprised: out of all the brands that ventures in the unisex perfume territory Jo Malone seemed like the one that leans more feminine. But since he works there, he might know better (or not), I’m not familiar with “civilian’s” tastes.

 

Jo Malone Vetiver and Golden Vanilla

 

Neither brand’s site nor Fragrantica are too generous with the notes: cardamom, grapefruit tea accord, vetiver bourbon and vanilla bourbon. Perfumer (according to NST): Mathilde Bijaoui, who previously created for Jo Malone Myrrh & Tonka.

To my nose, Vetiver & Golden Vanilla is all about vetiver. I don’t think I can smell cardamom, and vanilla is surprising in this composition: it’s much less sweet than you might expect both from the material and from the brand. But it’s not a bad thing, don’t read it as a criticism. It creates an interesting “adult” composition that keeps your mind far away from the cupcake territory. On my skin perfume has moderate to good projection and moderate tenacity (and I’d expect it to be even better if sprayed from a bottle instead of a small sample).

Since I like vetiver in perfumes, Vetiver & Golden Vanilla smells good to me but, unlike most of Jo Malone main collection’s offerings, it is not the one that everybody will either like or stay indifferent: I expect some people to actively dislike it or (virtually waving Hi to that SA) feel that it’s too masculine. But if you enjoy vetiver (and especially if you, as I, like but get tired of Hermes’s Vetiver Tonka), give Vetiver & Golden Vanilla a try: if not a bottle, it might be worth a 10 ml decant space in your collection.

I’m thinking that I still don’t have a single bottle from the Cologne Intense collection… I could probably take a closer look at one of those 50 ml black bottles (I’m glad Jo Malone finally moved away from 100 ml only, but I wish they’ve done them in 30 ml black bottles – I still remember how great the Dark Amber & Ginger Lily 30 ml bottle looked).

 

Images: from the brand’s site (my sample vial looked not interesting to warrant bribing Rusty; if I end up buying a bottle, I’ll find a reason to publish a picture of Rusty with it)

A Smell of Home

I was contemplating getting back to blogging for a while now. I want to do it. I miss thinking my posts through, choosing pictures for them, waiting for and then answering your comments. I even have pages of ideas for topics in my “Next” file. But the longer you postpone that next post, the harder it is to choose the “right” topic. After a seven weeks’ silence I couldn’t return with a post about the next lipstick I picked up for the cute name or with the next episode of my “Small Things That Brighten Life” series. I mean, of course I could, but it seemed wrong with this one being a perfume blog.

I traveled half of the time I was absent, mostly for work, and while I brought many perfumes with me and wore them daily, perfumes stayed at the back of my mind. Primarily I thought about staying awake (I hate jet lag!), keeping concentration that I needed to perform my duties (sleeping aids help to sleep but totally mess up cognitive functions) and Rusty who we left with a new cat sitter for such a long time. Rusty looked somewhat sad on daily reports’ photos but at least he was taken good care of.

 

 

Going to Ukraine, I had some hopes to check out their perfume offerings since I had 3 major cities on my itinerary. But time ran away from me, and the only true olfactory experience I got there was an extremely pleasant ambient scent in the lobby of the Hyatt Regency hotel in Kiev. But everything was so hectic that I hadn’t checked if they had anything with that scent in their gift shop (or if they even had a gift shop, for that matter).

And then there was London. It was a wonderful week of vacation that started with what felt like half an hour but probably was three times longer meeting with Vanessa who, once again, arrived at the place we were staying ahead of us, though this time, unlike it happened in Paris, not only she didn’t get to talk to the owner but she couldn’t even get a confirmation from the person holding they keys whether we’d already collected them (to be fair, it wasn’t for Vanessa’s not looking trustworthy or that person being super careful – she just had no idea who I was since the key was dispatched in response to the code, no names asked).

While exchanging small gifts with Vanessa, I showed her some pictures and videos of Rusty who by that time got acclimated with his new nanny enough to enjoy staying on her lap, purring and allowing her to scratch his belly. “Aren’t you jealous?” Vanessa asked me.

 

 

By that time, I was asking myself the same. Every day, seeing the next portion of pictures and video clips, my vSO and I were, jokingly, exclaiming: “Traitor!” But while we acknowledged that we were somewhat jealous, the prevailing feeling was that we were happy that he befriended his stand-in (well, live-in) human and wasn’t lonely. For the first time in many years, while away on a long trip, I wasn’t missing Rusty so badly to want to cut the trip short. But still, I was pining for his company, his fluffy tail, his “meow” language that he trained my vSO and me to understand and the smell of his warm fur.

I rarely read reviews for perfumes that I haven’t tried because I don’t want reviews to influence my impressions of them when I finally test them. But since I usually do not care for hand-made perfumes and rarely get to try them, I read two inspiring reviews for Bengale Rouge, the latest creation by Liz Moores of Papillon Perfumes, published by my friends – Tara (A Bottled Rose) and Vanessa (Bonkers about Perfume). I wasn’t paying much attention to notes but I did remember that it was “about the cat” or “Your Cat But Better.” So, when Vanessa shared her sample with me, even though normally I would have preserved “a sample in the hand” for later while fully exploring all opportunities provided by London, missing my cat, I started testing this perfume almost immediately.

I thought I was predisposed to like this perfume. I was wrong: I loved it. Since then I looked up the notes more than once (sandalwood, Turkish rose, honey, vanilla and sweet myrrh), and I still can’t really make them out. But does it really matter? Bengale Rouge is perfectly blended, elegant and complex perfume that purrs on my skin – maybe not as sweet as Rusty sitting on my lap but warm and comforting nevertheless.

When we returned home, Rusty behaved a little strange: he looked like he recognized us but still was not completely sure who we were, and he kept sniffing the air. And only after I showered, changed into clean clothes, put on Bengale Rouge and started smelling of home, Rusty conceded that he knew me.

Had Bengale Rouge been offered in smaller size, I would have bought it already. Actually, I was trying to buy a full bottle soon after coming home but, luckily, it was sold out everywhere I checked. Since the impulse has gone (and no full bottles are available yet anyway), I’ll probably try to buy a decant and then see if I need more. If I’m not the last one who tried it, I do recommend you, keeping up with a cat theme, get your paws on a sample: even if in the end you decide not to buy and wear Bengale Rouge, it’s one of the releases this year that is worth trying.

As I’m writing this, Rusty sits on my lap. And since he’s much more photogenic than an almost empty 1 ml vial of Bengale Rouge, and this post was “about the cat” at least as much as about perfume, I’ll finish this post with his picture – even though the only connection to Bengal cats he has is the animosity between him and a cute neighbor Bengal who comes to the door window from time to time to hiss at Rusty. On a couple of occasions Rusty and I formed a coalition and chased him away (well, I did while holding my indoor fluffy warrior).

 

Rusty on my lap

 

Images: my own