Every White has its Noir

I do not travel much for business. So when I was delegated from my office to attend a trade show in Denver to where I’ve never been before and with co-workers from other offices, none of whom I knew in person, it was a reason for anxiety on its own. But on top of that, as I checked the forecast, I was unpleasantly surprised.

Weather in Denver (end of April 2019)

First I thought it was a fluke, a software glitch, which would be fixed soon: look at the temperature change from Sunday to Monday (the day of my arrival). It was hard to accept because at the time I checked the weather there was similar to what we had – and where I live it felt already like late spring if not summer. The picture below was taken just 2 days before I left for Denver.

 

Blossom in CA Park (April 2019)

 

But as the trip was nearing, I accepted the unpleasant reality, packed my suitcase with warmer clothes and took out of the closet a leather jacket that I had previously hidden away. One positive side, a so-called silver lining in all that, was that it was another chance to wear “winter” perfumes.

On arrival, I acknowledged that it was cold and even put on a hat while waiting for a car at the airport, but it was a bright sunny day, so my thoughts about a mistake in the forecast ran through my mind again. But a car ride to the hotel, registration there and a quick drink with a group of co-workers later (about a couple of hours in total), when I looked out of the window, the view changed dramatically. I needed a winter perfume (and it was April 29th!).

 

Snow in Denver (April 2019)

 

Nappa Noir was created for SixScents Parfums by Calice Becker in 2012 as a part of their Series 4: Characters. Notes include: Ylang Extra Moheli, Violet Leaf Absolute, Violet Flower Accord, Tobacco, Coffee Co2 Extract, Indonesian Patchouli, Florentine Iris Resinoid, Speculoos Cookie Accord, Cistus Absolute, Styrax, Leather, Birch Tar, Saffron, Vanilla Beans Resinoid, Serenolide. It is characterized as a floriental gourmand leather perfume.

I tried Nappa Noir for the first time years ago. A perfumista friend bought a sample pack of the series, liked this perfume and shared a tiny dab sample with me. Not thinking that the same perfumer created both Nappa Noir and, six years earlier, Cuir de Lancôme, from memory I thought that they had a lot in common. But as I tested them in parallel, I confirmed that while having a lot of commonality, these two were quite different: Nappa Noir was much softer and somewhat sweeter, while Cuir de Lancôme’s leather wass more pronounced.

I liked Nappa Noir but it was time when I was trying many new scents, so when my small sample was gone, I moved onto other perfumes, finding new favorites and adding them to my collection. I kept coming back to that perfume but nobody carried the brand any longer, and the only format you could buy Nappa Noir was a 50 ml bottle, which I wasn’t prepared to do without additional testing, which I couldn’t do because nobody carried the line. And then it was sold out even on the brand’s site.

Same as Rusty, who after finding once a cabinet with treats opened keeps coming back to check, even though months after that we make sure to keep it closed, I kept running Internet searches hoping that maybe Nappa Noir would re-appear. I was almost positive that it was gone for good: when was the last time you heard about SixScents Parfums, a brand that at some point was popular in the perfume Blogosphere? I don’t remember, so I thought that they’ve probably disappeared for good. But just in case…

One day my search had returned a result from the brand’s updated (so, no dead!) site. I bought a sample of Nappa Noir, confirmed that I still liked it, and was glad that the site, while still listing a full bottle as “sold out” (and I don’t think it ever comes back), offered a “Lab Sample” bottle (15 ml). Since 15 ml is more than I need of any perfume these days, I went for it. And the bottle has arrived shortly before my trip – so it went to Denver with me.

With that weather outside and inviting fireplaces burning inside the hotel, Nappa Noir felt right in place, and I loved how it developed on my skin providing so necessary comfort and support. And I know that if it weren’t for that white snow, I probably wouldn’t have got a chance to wear Nappa Noir until autumn.

 

Rusty and Nappa Noir

If you like leather perfumes and are in the US, I recommend getting a sample: $5 for 2 ml, including S&H, is not bad price to test interesting perfume. And if you like it, it’s still available in that plain 15 ml bottle (Disclaimer: No affiliation, just a grateful customer).

 

Images: my own

Advertisements

Second Sunday Samples: Sylvaine Delacourte Vanilla Collection

Do you feel annoyed when brands suddenly come up with a flurry of new perfumes or even complete new lines? I usually do: not only there is no real need in that many new perfumes launched at the same time adding the next wave to the already flooded market, but is it even possible to do anything worth releasing in those quantities in the time frame between previous and next releases? Theoretically – maybe, but I doubt.

But what if it’s a new brand? Well, it seems that launching a brand with just 1 perfume would be a very risky enterprise. One could do it if it were a side line, an addition to an established fashion, cosmetics or perfume reseller business. But when launching a “stand-alone” perfume brand, one has to start with at least 3 perfumes. And most small brands do exactly that. Five perfumes? Still reasonable, though already pushing my personal limits.

When Sylvaine Delacourte, a perfumer behind my favorite Cruel Gardenia, among other things (such as being a Perfume Creative Director at Guerlain for 15 years) that made me distinguish that brand from dozens of others appearing every day, came out with her first set of five – Musk Collection, I got curious, ordered a set of samples, tried, shrugged my shoulders and moved on.

Why have I decided to go for the second 5 perfume collection two years later? Three reasons: I didn’t hate the first collection just didn’t find anything to love; it wasn’t expensive; and finally, I was going to Hawaii and I thought that Vanilla Collection was a perfect companion to accompany me there.

 

Sylvaine Delacourte Vanilla Collection

 

Since all perfumes are centered on the same main ingredient – natural Madagascar vanilla beans (at least this is the claim on the website), I didn’t expect to like them all: that would have been counter-productive to simultaneously release 5 perfumes that would cater to the same taste. I was right: Vanori, Vahina (an unfortunate name for perfume for either Spanish- or Russian-speaking audience) and Vangelis were all quite nice (2.5 to 3 sea stars) but none of them called for more than a couple of lines in my perfume diary. So here I’ll share impressions of the two that worked for me.

 

Three and Half Sea Stars

Virgile, with official notes: rose, rosemary, clary sage, geranium, vanilla, leather, mandarin, cedarwood and bergamot, being the fifth (as in its position in the box) perfume, kept slipping my attention: even though I tested it several times, somehow by the time I would come to the end of the set, I’d be distracted by something and wouldn’t record my impressions. Recently I finally got to test it properly, and while I wish it was “woodier” on my skin, I liked both herbal opening and dryer vanilla drydown enough to want to wear it.

 

Four Sea Stars

Had I checked notes for Valkyrie beforehand, I would have thought that it was the least likely candidate from the bunch to attract me. But I haven’t. Valkyrie and I clicked almost immediately, and it happened thanks to a completely unexpected association.

In my childhood, as I can remember, ambient scenting wasn’t something usual or customary. Life wasn’t scentless: women wore perfumes and deodorants (if they could get them); men wore colognes and aftershave; dwellings smelled pleasantly of food, baked goods, or sometimes cut flowers or unpleasantly of mothballs and doubtful bathroom fresheners; and I’ve previously mentioned a peculiar use of nicely smelling “imported” soaps as drawer sachet. But I can’t remember any scented candles, diffusers or room sprays – it just wasn’t a part of the culture.

In my mid-teens there was a surge of exotic and unusual products from India. It doesn’t mean that they were readily available (nothing good was), but if you “knew right people” or just happen to be at a store at the right time (store employees just had to sell at least some quantity of goods to the public before they could re-sell the rest for higher prices to people they knew), you could get lucky. Somehow my grandmother (the same one who introduced me to my all-time perfume love Lancôme Climat) got several boxes of incense cones and shared them with me.

 

Insence Cones

 

Those were precious and cherished objects: none of my friends or classmates had anything like that, so I felt really special when I would burn one or two of the cones for a birthday or some other gathering at my place. I loved how those incense cones smelled but have never experienced the same scent after they were gone, even though since then I’ve tried dozens of incense sticks, cones and spirals. I put it to the normal change of perception with age… until I sprayed on Valkyrie.

I suspect that it’s some particular combination of sandalwood and vanilla that is responsible for the olfactory hologram, but sans smoke, what I smell from my wrist when I put on Valkyrie takes me back to those special moments that combined sensory joy and pride of possession.

 

Sylvaine Delacourte Vanilla Collection

 

I do not think I need a full bottle of any of these perfumes but luckily Sylvaine Delacourte offers several great options: you can buy mix/match sets of refill travel sprays 2 x 7.5 ml or 4 x 7.5 ml (this one comes with a holder). I went with travel sprays of Valkyrie and Virgile. If you haven’t tried these collections yet, currently the site offers both sets for $15, including S&H, and that price can be deducted from your future purchase. When I placed the order, I got my personal link to share with friends: LINK . It’s the same offer as you can get directly from the site plus some extra in future if you decide to buy any of perfumes after you try the samples (if you do, contact me after you buy a bottle, so I could provide information you’ll need to get your free candle).

 

Images: discovery set – my own; incense cones – from some online store that sells them

Mimosa Week

Winter was uncharacteristically cold in our area this year, so we’ve got to experience almost real spring with warm rays of sun in cool air intervened by returning rains and cold spells. And since I was reminded of springs from my childhood, I got an urge to smell mimosa – blossom that used to encapsulate that time of the year for me.

Over years (and five posts in my Single Note Exploration series devoted to that note) I accumulated enough mimosa perfumes to cover more than a week, but I decided not to overdo it.

 

Mimosa

 

Jo Malone Mimosa & Cardamom is still one of my most favorite mimosa perfumes, though now I think that it is rather Fall than spring perfume: it’s too warm and spicy for the “life awakening” atmosphere. But I enjoy it every time I wear it. I think Mimosa & Cardamom was one of Jo Malone’s successes.

When I was thinking about perfumes to include into this project, I struggled to remember the name for Frederic Malle’s mimosa scent despite having it in my collection. For a while I got stuck between En Passant (“No, it’s lilac not mimosa,” I kept telling myself) and Mimosa pour moi (“No-no, it’s L’Artisan, I finished that sample already”). Une Fleur de Cassie (I had to look it up) this time didn’t work for me: it was too dirty. I think I like this perfume better when it’s warmer.

Once again I had a reason to bemoan the closing of Sonoma Scent Studio: Bee’s Bliss is such a sunny and joyful perfume with a nice prominent mimosa but with a lot more going on, it’s such a pity others won’t be able to experience it.

I finished my small decant of Prada Infusion de Mimosa: it’s a light and pleasant mimosa with some undertones from my favorite original Infusion d’Iris (though, I’m not sure if they even have a single note in common… alright, I checked – “orange mandarin” whatever it means). I think that it’s time to look for a reasonably priced bottle… unless I decide to go for…

Fragonard Mimosa. A friend of mine shared with me recently a sample from her bottle. I’ve never seen or tried it before, so it was a pleasant discovery. Official notes are bergamot, violet, gardenia, mimosa, orange blossom, heliotrope and musk, but for the price it sells I don’t expect or get much of anything but mimosa, which, ironically, in drydown to my nose is a dead ringer to drydown of Infusion de Mimosa. And since I do not suspect Prada in using too many natural ingredients, even at their price, I wouldn’t be surprised if it actually was the same aroma chemical.

What does surprise me is thatt Givenchy Harvest 2007 Amarige Mimosa still impresses me every time I wear it. Unlike many other old favorites that just evoke nostalgia, Amarige Mimosa is perfume that I enjoy wearing… whenever I remember to wear it. Rusty also looks somewhat surprised.

 

Rusty and Givenchy Harvest 2007 Amarige Mimosa

 

The last perfume I wore for the project was Atelier Cologne Mimosa Indigo: it’s a nice perfume with a good name quite fitting the topic, and in the end of the Mimosa Week I especially enjoyed wearing it since, to my nose, it doesn’t smell of mimosa (or of lilac to that matter). Interestingly, saffron in this perfume doesn’t bother me and works nicely with the soft leather and not too sweet vanilla.

 

 

Images: my own

Perfume Roulette

In the post for my blog’s 8th anniversary I asked my readers to name a date from the last 8 years that had some significance for them with the idea of checking my records for perfumes I wore on those dates and wearing those perfumes during February as a personal project.

It was interesting to see which events my readers chose to offer as a significant date in their lives. Birthdays are probably the easiest when it comes to selecting dates (so, just a reminder: do not use them as your passwords or pin numbers!), and it was the most popular reason for selecting a date (6): 3 personal, one mom’s, one son’s and one friend’s birthday (I liked that reason because February is my and my mother’s birthday month). Romantic occasion was the second most popular reason (5): a first date, meeting a boyfriend, two weddings and one wedding anniversary, which also was very fitting for February (Valentine’s Day). Three readers considered meeting with perfumista friend(s) special enough to offer those dates for my list. Two commenters didn’t specify the occasion for their date choice (though, I’m sure those were some special events). And one date was related to the move to a new country (or, maybe, it was returning to that country – it wasn’t clear from the comment).

In total, I got 17 comments with dates, some even with several, so I had a good set to choose from (thank you!).

It was just the fifth time in my life when I planned perfumes to wear for a month ahead. But previously I did it for a specific note: twice I wore amber perfumes for a month of November (Perfume Diary: NovAmber and I did it again: NovAmber 2018 ), once I participated in Lucas’s (Chemist in the Bottle) project of wearing rose perfumes (A Month of Roses) and once for my own project (A Month of Irises). This time I had no rhyme just reason for selecting these perfumes, so it felt a little strange. But I decided to go ahead with the project.

Did I learn anything new from it? I did!

First, even though I do not officially rotate my perfumes and haven’t got (yet?) to adding a seasonal attribute to perfumes in my database, my perfume wearing is seasonal intuitively. So being “forced” to wear in a colder season (and our winter this year is uncharacteristically cold for the area) some of the perfumes that I normally choose to wear in spring or summer, I enjoyed them less. The lesson: I should probably stick to wearing perfumes that feel right for the moment even when choosing them for some project.

Then, I realized that I didn’t like saffron in a leading role. For a while I wasn’t sure and tried to persuade myself that I liked it but the most recent experience with Jo Malone Saffron Cologne Intense confirmed what I suspected for a while: I get tired of saffron soon after I stop being amused that I recognized the note (as I mentioned before, it doesn’t happen too often with me, so when it does I tend to transfer my feeling good about that occurrence into false positive impressions about perfume itself). So, after coming to that realization, I’m happy that I have just a decant of this perfume and not a bottle.

And finally, I really really like Vol de Nuit in extrait concentration, so I should probably just bite the bullet and buy it. Rusty clearly votes “Yes!”

Rusty and a Test Strip

Images: all but Chanel No 19 (hajusuuri) are my own

Groundhog Day Perfume

Living in the area where the weather is great most of the time (if not to count drought that we had for several years, but it didn’t feel like bad weather, I just knew that it was bad for us), I have only a memory of how awful cold weather might be, and how tired one gets with the winter and wishes it to finally end. But from the time when winter and cold weather were still an unpleasant part of my life, Groundhog Day movie has been one of my absolute favorites. I won’t claim that I re-watch it every year but I watched it more times than most other movies in my life, which is both ironical and symbolic if you’re familiar with the plot of the movie.

What I find interesting about this movie is that while it is a comedy, there are no that many one-liners in it. And still for me it’s one of the best comedies ever.

Just in case you’ve never seen the movie: “Phil Connors, a cynical TV weatherman (Bill Murray) finds himself reliving the same day over and over again when he goes on location to the small town of Punxsutawney to film a report about their annual Groundhog Day.”

In one of the scenes, after many-many repetitions of the same miserable day, Phil says:

I was in the Virgin Islands once. I met a girl. We ate lobster, drank piña coladas. At sunset we made love like sea otters. That was a pretty good day. Why couldn’t I get that day over and over and over?

That made me think about… well, perfumes. Neither I nor most (all?) of you are a signature-perfume-wearer-type. When five years ago I invited my readers to participate in an experiment of [thinking of] wearing the same perfume for a week, most of the readers admitted to not being able to do that. I barely went through the experiment myself (with 1-day interruption). But what if I were to get stuck in February 2nd somewhere away from home (and my collection) on a one-day trip (so no back-ups) – what perfume would I want to be wearing?

Any choice would be an impossible one: I don’t want to be wearing any one perfume for days or months, leave alone years (according to different sources, Phil Connors spent from 8 to 10 years in Punxsutawney). But if I had to choose, I would probably go with one of the original Miss Dior perfumes in my collection.

My Miss Dior Family

And if you were wondering why I haven’t chosen my eternal perfume love Lancôme Climat or one of the later top favorites, e.g., Ormonde Jayne Ta’if or Amouage Ubar: these three are too special for me to wear any of them every day – and I would want to wear perfume even under those dire circumstances, but I’d need something I think I would be able to tolerate for many days. And with Miss Dior I have a long history of warm relationship. So, I hope it would support me during the endless winter (and as an added bonus: I would have never risked running out of it since every morning the bottle would be full to the same level as the morning before).

 

How about you? What would be your Groundhog day perfume choice?

 

Image: my own

Infinity in Blog Years, or Undina’s Looking Glass is 8

This year, as seven years before, I was thinking about what to do for my blog’s anniversary. And then I missed it. I didn’t forget about it, I wasn’t busy with something else (well, I was busy but it wasn’t a reason) – I just mixed dates. Somehow in my mind the 8th anniversary was supposed to be on January 28th whereas in reality I published my first post on 24th, which I realized only two days after the date. For some reason it upset me so much that I couldn’t make myself to finish this post even for the wrongly remembered date. I was I know that I’m not the first blogger to miss a blogoversary. But I find it ironic that I managed to publish something else on the date (though, serendipitously, it was a story about Ormonde Jayne Tsarina – one of the perfumes I previously mentioned in my blog’s sixth anniversary post; back then it was the only perfume in the list without a story).

Anyway, what is a couple of days compared to the infinity of the Universe… or even to 8 years of blogging (which, if you were to tilt your head, would look like the infinity symbol ∞)?

Eight

When I started this blog eight years ago, I didn’t plan to do perfume reviews. The idea was to tell life stories that were more or less related to perfumes. All these years later I still do not think I can do what many of you, my readers, easily do in your blogs or comments to other people’s posts: describe in details how perfumes smell to you. From time to time I venture into putting what I smell into words, especially when it comes to perfumes with which I do not plan to go beyond samples, since that minimizes their chances to become one of my stories. But I do it as an added feature, to be more diverse in topics but not because I ran out of stories: to my surprise, I still have a Word file with pages of ideas for future posts. I just wait for the right time or mood to tell those.

Also, as I was planning this blog, I didn’t know Rusty would become such a star. But I’m glad to have such an adorable mascot (mascAt?).

Rusty MascAt

Since I’ve just recently done a year round-up statistics post, I don’t want to play with numbers for the anniversary post. But out of curiosity I looked up what perfumes I wore on that date in the past: on four occasions I wore Lancôme Climat – purposefully to mark the date; one time for each Chanel No 19, Amouage Lyric, Mona di Orio Vanille 44 and Parfumerie Generale Felanilla. And the day I published my very first post on this blog I wore La Prairie Life Threads Platinum.

In 2010, as I get from my notes, I’d already started the descent into the rabbit hole of testing niche perfumes, so I wasn’t specifically looking for another mainstream perfume to add to my collection. There were other precious metals and gemstones in La Prairie’s perfume lineup, but only Life Threads Platinum attracted my attention, and after trying it several times at a store I ended up buying a box of 1.5 ml samples from eBay (for less than $10!).

La Prairie Life Threads Platinums Samples

I enjoyed wearing it for a while and even thought I would buy a bottle eventually. But then Perfumeland happened. How many of you knows about this perfume or tried it? The brand wasn’t popular with perfumistas. Nobody discussed it or wrote posts about it. And there were so many interesting new perfumes to try and discuss!

January 24th, 2011, the day I published the first post on my blog was the last time I wore Life Threads Platinum. In the following years I shared some of the samples from my box with others during samples exchanges, probably secretly hoping that someone else would also find it interesting and validate my feelings. It never happened. And when I found the remaining 7 samples recently, I discovered that they evaporated leaving just a half-drop of a very concentrated liquid on the bottom of the plastic vial, not enough to do an actual testing but maybe just to give a vague reminder of how it smelled.

Thanks to the records of each wearing that I keep, I can tell that, without comparing them side-by-side, Life Threads Platinum reminded me of Chanel No 19. I checked: they have just 5 officially listed notes in common – rose, oakmoss, galbanum, iris and vetiver. These are 5 out of 7 notes of my rainbow colors mnemonic perfumista-style from my seventh anniversary post.

These days I could buy a bottle of Life Threads Platinum for half of its original price, if not less. I’m tempted but shouldn’t I rather wear No 19 more often? We’ll see. At this point I sniffed the remaining smidgen of perfume from the vial and let Rusty play with it (on the pictures below that out-of-focus object flying off the sideboard is a vial Rusty propelled to the floor and then watched it rolling there before jumping down to continue the hunt).

While writing this post, I came up with an idea for this year February. I previously did a Month of Roses with Lucas in 2017 and Februiris in 2018. This year, if you play with me, I’ll do a “Readers’ Choice Month.”

How would it work? It’s simple. Tell me any date (day, month and year) from the last 8 years that had any significance to you (you can elaborate on why you chose that date or leave it a mystery). I will check my perfume database and one day in February will wear perfume that I wore (or tested) on “your” date, and in the month’s round-up I will reveal perfumes chosen for me and tell you how my impressions of it these days compares to how I felt about it on the date you chose.

 

Images: my own

Change of Plans

For some perfumes you have a mental picture. For me Estee Lauder Bronze Goddess is strongly connected to a tropical vacation, Jo Malone Wood Sage & Sea Salt is a stroll on a NorthCal beach, and Serge Lutens Fille en Aiguilles reminds me of Christmas. And I always associated Ormonde Jayne Tsarina with winter and snow. Why? Beats me. Until last week I haven’t ever worn it in cold weather. Probably, some cultural stereotypes: tsarina -> Russia -> winter -> bears… OK, the last part has nothing to do with perfume but you got the picture.

Winter

Being not a morning person, I try to plan all of my trips to start not too early and prepare everything in advance. So for this New Year’s trip to New Mexico, with a flight scheduled in the afternoon and all our suitcases packed the night before, I felt pretty good: all I had left to do in the morning was to figure out what perfumes to take with me and pack them – after I slept in on my first day of vacation.

That morning, on December 28th, I haven’t heard anything because of the Do Not Disturb mode on my phone, but something made me check it out before it was time to get up. Text messages from the friends who were joining us on this trip from Texas urged me to contact them. A series of calls and messages between them and the other couple in our party painted not an optimistic picture: our friends got from Austin to Dallas, where they learned that their next flight was cancelled… until the New Year Eve. And even though the four of us from California could still fly into the airport 2.5 hours’ drive away from the destination, weather advisory for the area didn’t recommend traveling to there because of the strong snow storm, and our friends from Texas couldn’t get their luggage back from the airline to even attempt driving to the rented house in New Mexico.

It was shaping up to become a disaster instead of a pleasant holiday with friends, so we had to figure out something quickly. We changed everything and had just a couple of hours to get tickets to Austin (luckily, our friends could accommodate four more people at their house), rent a car, re-pack suitcases (clothes suitable for 5F/-15C mountain retreat would be out of place in a mild Texan winter) and choose perfumes for the trip. And same as wool underwear and snow boots, Tsarina didn’t get to accompany me to Austin because it seemed not quite right for the weather there.

Everything came together nicely, and we had wonderful time with our friends, but it was the second New Year trip where I didn’t wear Tsarina even though I planned to: since I was sick during my last year’s trip, I haven’t got to experience Tsarina in cold weather then as well. But at least last year with my friend’s help I managed to get an appropriate winter picture with it.

Ormonde Jayne Tsarina

On my recent short trip to the East Coast I finally managed to find the right weather to wear Tsarina: there was no snow but it was cold-cold-cold! And Tsarina was just right then and there.

Tsarina was created in 2012 for Ormonde Jayne by Geza Shoen. Official notes: mandarine, bergamot, coriander, cassis, hedione, freesia, jasmine, sambac, iris, suede, sandalwood, cedar, vanilla bean, labdanum and musk.

Tsarina is very polite suede, iris and amber perfume with each of the three named players being even more timid than the previous one. I’m not sure what the brand meant when describing it as “a powerhouse perfume” but on my skin Tsarina is gracious and well-behaved – as a true royalty. I wish iris and amber were more prominent but probably for that I’ll have to turn to Tsarina‘s relatives – Ormonde Woman and Vanille d’Iris.

If you haven’t tried this perfume yet and want to know more, read this review by Kafka, who is responsible for Tsarina in my collection: not only she did that nice review but she also shared a sample with me. And I liked it enough to buy travel sprays.

 

Images: my own