Got Milk?

This is not a post about COVID-19-related shortage of milk, though the last time I checked, my local store was out of condensed milk, and at least some of Amazon prices for it tripled recently.

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From what I read, it’s international: children do not like milk. When I was growing up, I was a strange child (probably, more than in one respect, but for this story I’ll mention the one that matters): not only I liked milk, I liked hot milk and even milk skin. Besides keeping my mother and grandmothers happy, it made me popular in my class.

For the first three years of the elementary school, children were given hot milk after the second period. I suspect that it was an attempt to provide nutrition to everyone, so that children from poor families would not go hungry. Most of my classmates came not from those families, so after having a good breakfast at home a couple of hours earlier, by the time milk was served they weren’t hungry yet. And did I mention it was hot milk? So, most kids in my class hated it. But drinking milk was mandatory, and our teacher would pressure pupils to empty their glasses. And almost every day, after finishing my glass, I would drink at least one or two more instead of my classmates (and they would bribe me with cookies or candies that they were given by parents to go with milk). And since I almost never had anything with me (I’m not sure if there was a reason for that, or if my mom just didn’t think of doing that), both parties were quite happy with the arrangement.

In addition to regular milk that I liked, I loved condensed milk. Nine years ago, I told a couple of stories from my childhood and teenage years that had a strong olfactory connection to Jo Malone’s limited edition perfume Sweet Milk (“Here’s a photo I’ve been looking for…”: Sweet Milk by Jo Malone), and I still have a strong bond with that perfume.

 

Sweet Milk by Jo Malone

 

My bottle is almost empty, and all these years I was on a lookout for another milk scent. Thanks to my perfumista friends, not only I got to try many great perfumes, but I think I found several excellent replacements for my favorite perfume – or at least something that I enjoy wearing.

Neyronrose from NST was very kind to send me her sample of Demeter’s Condensed Milk. Fragrantica lists just 2 notes: milk and sugar. I’m positive it has more. If you are familiar with Yves Rocher’s Pur Desir de Rose, it has a similar artificial spicy note as I can smell in Condensed Milk; and I do not care for it in either perfume. Still, as an exercise it was interesting.

Brigitte shared with me samples of two perfumes that fit this Single Note Exploration topic: Fichi e Panna by Kyse and Milk oil by Ava Luxe.

Fichi e Panna (notes: fig, milk, sugar, vanilla and sandalwood) is more about fig than milk, but it’s so delicious that I couldn’t stop sniffing my wrist as I tested it. If you like fig in perfumes, do yourself a favor and try Fichi e Panna: it’s very warm and naturally smelling fig and vanilla custard. It comes in a variety of sizes and very reasonably priced. Now you see that I just had to get a travel spray.

But the second perfume, Ava Luxe’s Milk, was a clear winner: not identical, but it smells very close to Jo Malone’s Sweet Milk. Comparing them side by side, I think that Milk is slightly sweeter but otherwise – a perfect match. Since Brigitte’s sample was for oil, I decided to buy a small bottle of Milk oil perfume as well. But I was curious, so I also ordered a sample of EdP. I’m glad to report that they both smell identical. And both formulations have a good longevity. So, you can decide what you want to try based on your preferences for the medium without sacrificing the experience.

 

Ava Luxe Milk

 

I got a small decant of Fresh Cream Warm Cashmere by Philosophy from hajusuuri. Notes listed: coconut, cashmere wood, vanilla, sandalwood and musk. Initially I dismissed it because it didn’t smell like Sweet Milk. But it wasn’t intended to! And once I accepted that, I realized that I liked that warm vanilla scent with milky undertones. A small travel bottle of Fresh Cream Warm Cashmere is making its way to me as I’m writing this.

You would think I would have stopped after finding not one but three milk-related perfumes, while still having my favorite perfume. But no. As I was recently placing an order with DSH Perfumes, I just couldn’t resist ordering a sample of her Au Lait VdP (notes deconstructed from the brand’s site: ambrette seed, buttercream accord, French vanilla, sweet cream, tonka bean, milk). If to go just by the opening, I think, I like Au Lait more than all other perfumes covered in this post: to my nose, in the very beginning it has some boozy quality that I just love. Had it been even slightly more tenacious, I would have bought a bottle already. Alas, this wonderful stage lasts just a couple of minutes. What is left after that is still eminently enjoyable: a beautiful gourmand scent that doesn’t project much but warmly enfolds you. But what I get from it is very close to Ava Luxe’s Milk that I already have. And for some reason I’m still not completely on board with the new Voile de Parfum format. I still plan to get a 3 ml sample spray of Au Lait the next time I order something from DSH.

 

Milk Perfumes

 

And now I’m off to the store to see if they’ve restocked sweetened condensed milk. If no, I’ll have to drink my weekend coffee black while sniffing my wrist: luckily, as you can see, there’s no shortage of milk-inspired perfumes in my household.

 

Images: my own

Better than a New-Car Scent

Do you still remember those times when you could go to a department store, pick up a tester from a counter and spray it on a paper strip or on your skin? …

It was just a joke; I’m not practicing my March 2021 “A year in ‘shelter-in-place’” post. But when I started writing this post, I realized that I wasn’t sure what tense to use. Let’s pretend that life is (or very soon will be) what it used to.

In early days of getting acquainted with niche perfume world, as many of you probably did as well, on a single perfume shop trip I would use 4-5 spots on each arm to try multiple different perfumes after a quick sniff from a bottle or a test strip. But in the last 3-4 years I rarely test more than 2 perfumes at a time, and most days when I find myself at a store where I could try something, I am on my way to somewhere (a party, some theater or other performance or business trip) where I don’t want to reek of a cacophony of random perfumes.

So, what I normally do these days is: after sniffing from a nozzle (yeah, I know, extremely scientific approach), I identify perfumes that I want to try, spray those on paper, walk around, discard those that do not smell promising, try to get samples for a couple of those that I liked the most to test on skin at home and take away with me 5-6 paper strips with scents that I liked the most and want to check how they develop. If one day you happen to be around one of the “perfume centers” of San Francisco/Bay Area and see a woman walking the mall or adjacent streets with a fan of paper blotters in her hand who can care less how it must look like – there is a high chance it would be me. And then, when I get to my car, I use a vent grid to hold those strips separated until I get home.

 

Blotters in a Car Vent

 

That was exactly how it went last year when, on the spur of the moment, I went to Tigerlily Perfumery to try perfumes that are hard to get to test for free anywhere else around here. I went through, in my estimate, 40-50 bottles, bought several small samples (I love that they do that! I’d rather officially pay a small amount to take what I want to test at home than do all the dancing for maybe getting what I want) and left with 5 or 6 strips, mostly (but not all) of perfumes samples of which I bought.

At home I re-smelled the blotters and left them on the bathroom counter to re-visit the next day to see what remained from the scents. Samples went into the “to test” box but I wasn’t in a hurry to reach for them: I already smelled all of them in the store, I had them – so what is a month or two before I put them on skin?

But my car smelled wonderfully the next day. And the day after that. And probably for the next couple of weeks from time to time I kept catching a pleasant waft… It took me a while to realize that one of the paper strips fell into the vent and kept emitting an unknown aroma from the depth of my car. But which one was that? I hoped it was one of those that I bought a sample of, but I wasn’t sure. I went on testing, two at a time, waiting for that magnificent drydown.

I got lucky: it was one of the samples that I had. Naomi Goodsir Or du Serail, created in 2014 by Bertrand Duchaufour (BTW, have you noticed that he almost disappeared from the perfume scene last year? According to Fragrantica, there were just 7 perfumes he released for 4 brands – and I’ve never heard of 4 of them. In 2014 there were 15 and in later years there were even more). With Or du Serail it was one of those times when you know that you want that perfume. So, I bought it.

 

Naomi Goodsir Or Du Serail

 

Or du Serail is rich and very warm perfume. It’s not timid – it’s loud and strong and present. And I love wearing it. If you want a fuller review, read Kevin’s (Now Smell This) impression. But if you haven’t tried it yet, I think it’s one of those perfumes that is worth trying whether you end up liking it or not.

 

Images: my own

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)

On Cloud Nine

It’s my blog’s ninth anniversary. As always, let’s do some stories and some perfumes (and probably some cat’s pictures).

* * *

I’m not a big drinker. My conundrum is: while I love the “taste” component of drinking, I do not enjoy being inebriated. Probably, it’s a control issue. But whatever the reason be, the fact is that I like drinking but hate feeling drunk. Despite all the cultural stereotypes, I do not ever drink vodka. Unless it’s a special occasion or a wine tasting trip, my usual drinking is limited to a glass of wine or a cocktail on the weekends.

Last year was very stressful at work (mostly due to the deadlines, not people-related, which is better, as far as work stresses go), so I found myself having a little wine (less than a glass) late in the evening 3-4 times a week. In this case, what I usually don’t like about alcohol would rather help me: I’d relax and fall asleep easier. But I knew that I didn’t really need those extra glass or two per week and could easily give them up.

That was before I got sick in December and had to take antibiotics that categorically couldn’t be combined with any alcohol (as in not just being less effective but being poisonous). So, I had to stop drinking. Period. I had a break between two courses around Christmas, so I had some wine for that celebration, but on the New Year Eve all I had was a sip of champagne at 12. That was my soberest New Year celebration in several decades! And it was hard: I wanted my glass of wine. Or two.

 

Barrels with wine

 

So, it’s fair to say that drinking was on my mind as I was thinking about the blog’s anniversary.

There are many beverages represented in perfumery, and I might do another post to cover some of them in future, but today I want to talk about what I missed the most in the last month – wine.

Sparkling wine/champagne/prosecco is usually associated with special events or leisure time. My favorite moment with this drink is the first couple of sips. So, when it’s just two of us, it feels almost wrong to open an expensive bottle: I rarely enjoy drinking more than a glass of champagne, and it doesn’t keep well. But when it comes to perfumes featuring this note, none of the two I want to mention will break the bank.

Antica Farmacista is a brand that is known for their ambient products – candles, diffusers and room sprays. From time to time they produce “Home and body” sprays that, as it’s clear from the name, can be used for either (last year I finally found an almost perfect Daphne scent done by the brand). Prosecco was their last year’s limited-edition scent. It’s light and sparkling, and it fits the name perfectly. While I still plan to finish the sample I’ve got, I think that as a diffuser or a candle scent or even as body products it should be even better. And they all are still available, so give it a sniff if you come across it.

Champagne de Bois from Sonoma Scent Studio was getting so much love when I was just starting the descend into the rabbit hole of niche perfumery. I stopped hearing (reading) much about it long before Laurie Erikson decided to move away from the business. And it’s a pity because it is a very good perfume, and I think that having a chance to try it, many more people would enjoy wearing it. My biggest complaint with many of SSS’s perfumes was… their concentration. In my opinion, the way they were created, they should have been used as extraits of the past – dabbed, not sprayed. And for spraying there should have been a much less concentrated version. Recently I was diluting some of the SSS’s perfumes with perfumer alcohol and using them like that. Champagne de Bois, in my opinion, is one of such perfumes. But otherwise, if dabbed or sprayed after being diluted, it is gorgeous. In my head I classified Champagne de Bois as a “winter champagne”: it’s sparkling and festive but not refreshing. I wonder if its formula stays the same under new ownership (I plan to check it out soon).

 

Sonoma Scent Studio Champagne de Bois

 

If you prefer something sweeter, may I interest you in Tokay wine?

Tom Ford Champaca Absolute is one of my favorite perfumes for the last 8 years. I’m not sure how Fragrantica comes up with their notes lists (and usually I do not question them), but Tokay (Tokajii) wine note isn’t in their pyramid, even though it was mentioned in the perfume’s description from the start, and TF’s website still lists it. Champaca Absolute is a big floral perfume that balances well between light and darkness. Similar to those versatile pieces in one’s wardrobe that can be dressed up or down, Champaca Absolute, applied with a lighter hand or sprayed with an abundance, would perfectly fit a business function or a big party. Exactly like Tokay wine would.

While I enjoy both champagne and white wine, having a choice between [expectedly] good white or good red wine, nine out of ten times I’d go for red (by the way, with [presumably] bad wines, I choose the opposite, because, as a rule, white cheap/bad wine is more drinkable than red one).

 

Les Liquides Imaginaires Bello Rabelo

 

Les Liquides Imaginaires was one of the brands that I’ve discovered on my own: before seeing and trying them for the first time at Barney’s, I’ve never read anything about their perfumes and had no expectations. Bello Rabelo was probably the most spontaneous purchases I’ve ever made. But I was in a good company (another perfumista who had left Perfume blogosphere since), I was buying this perfume rather for my vSO than myself (and he liked it, though he’s much less discriminatory against perfumes in general on account of allergy-induced stuffed nose), and I was “due” to buy something from the store (there are only that many times I feel comfortable trying perfumes/asking for samples without buying something when the store has the same SAs over years). Luckily, both my vSO and I still like it. Bello Rabelo is not phenomenal or groundbreaking, but I find it quite original – at least I don’t have anything like it in my collection. Different sources cite slightly different notes, but they all rotate around dried fruits, vanilla, benzoin and wood. I can equally imagine either a “red wine” (Fragrantica) or a “porto accord” (brand’s site) note in Bello Rabelo, and whatever it is, it smells good. And same as wine, it is quite gender neutral.

 

Rusty and Bello Rabelo

 

And now I’ll get a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon and return to my cloud nine. It’s your turn.

Are you a wine drinker? What is your favorite wine? Do you have any of the favorite perfumes that either officially include champagne/wine/port/etc. or remind you of one of these drinks?

Also, if you’d like to be entered into a draw for a 5 ml decant of (one of your choice) Champagne de Bois (“new stock”), Champaca Absolute or Bello Rabelo, just state your choice in the comment. Otherwise, I’ll assume “DNEM.”

 

Images: my own

Entertaining Statistics: 2019 Year Round-up

2019 was crazy busy at work. I hope not to repeat it this year. Most likely because of all the stress, I had more health issues than usually. I hope not to repeat that either. But I got to travel much more than I usually do, both for work and pleasure, including a visit to London during which I had a chance to spend some time with Vanessa (Bonkers about Perfume) and Tara (A Bottled Rose), as well as visit all the usual places that this perfume Mecca offers. I hope to keep this trend up in 2020. So, I’d say that the difference between all the great experiences I had last year and any negatives is still positive. 2019 wasn’t a bad year for me.

But let’s look at the last year perfume numbers.

In 2019, compared to 2018, I wore slightly less different perfumes (190 vs. 196) from significantly more brands (91 vs. 79) on less occasions (351 vs. 372). It means that I wore perfumes not every day. Partially, it was because there were some days when I didn’t want to risk associating how I felt with any of perfumes I love. Also, on some days, while working from home, I would test several new perfumes instead of wearing one.

Since I tend to wear favorite perfumes from my collection, the same seven brands stayed on my Top 10 Brands chart, changing places, for the last 8 years that I’ve been keeping detailed records. Between any 2 years usually only 2 brands fall out from/appear on the list. New contenders this year were Houbigant Paris (because of the new favorite Summer Iris and one more perfume, about which I’ll write soon) and Tauer Perfumes (no special reason, just felt like wearing 3 of my favorite perfumes).

 

My Perfume Stats Year 2019

 

Top three perfumes that I wore the most often during 2019 – two of my all-time favorites, same as top perfumes from 2018, Ormonde Jayne Ta’if (9 occasions) and Lancôme Climat (8) and a new favorite Houbigant Quelques Fleurs Royal Collection Privee (8). I see a pattern here with wearing more often perfumes newly added to my collection (in 2018 it was Chanel Bois des Iles).

Despite all the hurdles describing which I started this post, I managed to do enough testing: 272 perfumes (vs. 380 in 2018) from 128 brands (vs. 139). Out of 272 perfumes tested, only 107 were new to me: the rest was either repeated testing of older samples or comparison testing between new samples and either older samples or perfumes I own. These numbers do not include my London sniffing sessions since most of perfumes that I tried there had never made it to skin.

I’ve done once, I think, “The Best N New Perfumes of the Year” post. But this year, even had I wanted to do that, I wouldn’t have been able to: out of just 16 new releases that I managed to try in 2019 (Sixteen! It’s almost a quarter of what has been released just in 4 days of 2020!), there were only 5 that I liked and 3 that were not spectacular but not bad. I think, you’ll agree that Top/Best 5 (or even 8) perfumes of 2019 sounds somewhat pathetic. But I’ll mentions those 5 here: Bengale Rouge by Papillon Artisan Perfumes, Puredistance Gold, Paris – Riviera by Chanel, Mon Boudoir by Houbigant and I am not a flower by Floraiku.

In the 2018 Year Round-up post for the first time I started counting pictures of Rusty that I used in my posts during the year. I decided to continue this tradition. In 2019 I used 39 pictures of Rusty, which was significantly fewer than in the previous year (51), but I managed to publish just 29 posts (vs. 48), so the ratio of picture to posts is much higher.

 

Rusty in a Bowl

 

Images: My own

Liquid Sunshine: Chanel Beige

I do not favor adjectives as perfume names in general, and use of color names feels even less inspiring, though I like, own and wear Amouage Gold, Puredistance White and Bvlgary Black, to name a few. I might have considered perfumes with some of the names Vanessa (Bonkers About Perfume) came up with while discussing a related topic, but as a rule when I see those “Happy,” “Guilty” or especially “Young Sexy Lovely” (don’t start me on punctuation!), I wince.

I read people complaining about Chanel’s choice of the name Beige for that perfume many times (those weren’t objections to the part of the speech, though). And I could never understand it: maybe it’s a “language thing” but in my mother tongue (and culture, which doesn’t exist any longer, so it’s just a recollection) this word and color had a positive connotation. Somehow, it was more noble and superior than, for example, “pedestrian” brown. Also, it might be that in two different countries the color named as such was slightly different. “Beige” I think of is probably darker than the one those who find it too plain imagine. By the way, according to Chanel’s booklet I have, “[Mlle Chanel] loved all shades of this color, which evokes natural elegance and grace.”

So, when I was trying Beige for the first time, I had no preconception about that perfume: my positive feelings towards the color must have neutralized the negative attitude to the adjective use. I immediately liked Beige and bought it.

 

Chanel Beige perfume

 

I’m not sure if my cropping skills have fooled anyone, but just in case I want to clarify that what I bought was just a 4 ml mini (Chanel makes them extremely appealing). While being cute, those minis are not the best format for EdT concentration. For the most of Chanel Les Exclusifs, those splash bottles are nice for a discreet re-application on the go but not for wearing. I should have probably bought a bottle of EdT while I could. Instead, I participated in a split and got a 10 ml decant. I still have some perfume left in both. Once it’s gone, I’ll see what I think of the new EdP formulation.

Years ago, I published Perfume Purrfect?, in which I introduced my cat for the first time on this blog. Among other cat-and-perfume-related bits, I shared that Beige was one of Rusty’s favorite perfumes.

In conclusion I wrote:

While I was writing this post, I came across an article in a Beauty on the outside blog about the same phenomenon. After reading comments there, I realized how lucky I am: my cat at least doesn’t steal my clothes. Well, not yet – as far as I know.

Many years forward… Rusty does not steal clothes per se, but if any article is left where he can get to it, he’ll surely spend some quality time sitting or even sleeping on it. Knowing about it, I recently “donated” to him my old beige cashmere sweater. When he sleeps on it, I wrap it around him. He seems to enjoy it.

 

Rusty and Chanel Beige

 

I presume most of you have tried Beige and do not need any reviews, but I want to share with you what one of the commenters (Petunia) recently wrote on the NTS’s SOTD thread:

We started off the day overcast and gray. We had minor snow storm,
just a few inches.
I put on Beige earlier because it feels like liquid sunshine.

And I agree with her and hope she doesn’t mind my citing it here and in the title: Beige brings up that feeling for me to.

 

Rusty and Chanel Beige

 

Images: my own

Use it or…

This post is not about one of the favorite perfumistas’ topics of [not] hoarding perfumes we love. It’s a great topic, and I have no doubt we’ll talk about it again soon. But today I want to talk about body care products.

As much as I love good smelling products of all kinds, it might be challenging to follow a fragrant shower gel or a body lotion with perfume application. So, it’s a good idea to have products that match perfumes we love. I mean, it’s good as an idea. But with my perfume usage pattern where I wear another perfume every day, it’s not feasible to stock my bathroom with matching products.

The next seemingly good idea would be to get just those products that match one’s holy grail perfumes. It might work for some people who wear their favorites often, but since my most favorite perfumes are those that I wear only for special occasions, I would have not too many opportunities to enhance the experience by using a matching product. And yet… I couldn’t resist and got several wonderful though completely unnecessary items.

I thought about incorporating those body lotions or shower gels into my daily routine separately from matching perfumes but from the past experience I know better than to trivialize special things by relegating them to mundane use.

Last week, as I was going to put on one of my all-time favorites Ta’if by Ormonde Jayne, I thought it would be a great opportunity to use a wonderful matching bath and shower crème that I got a while ago as a gift with purchase.

 

Ormonde Jayne Taif Shower Creme

 

Several years ago Vanessa warned me what might happen, but I put those words of wisdom in the back of my mind: back then my tube was still fresh and smelled divine.

Today that at one time great bath product still has some vague pleasant aroma (unlike the one Vanessa portrayed in her post), and it still feels nice on skin. But it doesn’t smell of my beloved Ta’if, which probably isn’t such a bad thing since now I will be able to finally use it up since it doesn’t clash any more with perfumes I wear.

But you’ve been warned. And keep in mind: body creams have even worse shelf life.

 

Images: my own