Perfumes, Wine and Ocean

This was planned for the previous week, but time just ran away from me. So, it’s a Second Sunday Samples post on the third Sunday of the month.

* * *

As we were planning a short getaway with friends, I was facing the usual perfumista’s dilemma: which perfumes to bring. Not only we had really vague plans that included wine and cheese tasting (not at the same time), eating oysters and beach walks, but also those activities were spread in two distinct temperature-wise areas – wine country (+32C/90F) and oceanside (23C/73F). Since I wasn’t sure how long each part of the trip would take, I didn’t want to subject any of my favorite perfumes to hours in a hot car trunk, so I didn’t consider either full bottles or even travel ones. At the same time, as a rule, I do not wear perfumes from samples that I test – unless I’m trying to decide whether to buy more. So I took with me samples for perfumes that I’ve either already included into my collection or considered for that.

 

Perfume Samples

 

I ended up wearing just one of the perfumes featured in the picture above – Jo Malone English Pear & Freesia: it was wonderful on a hot day and somehow managed not to clash with aromas from wines that we tasted that day, even though theoretically I wouldn’t recommend this perfume for the activity. I did a mini-review for it almost seven years ago in my post In the Search for the Perfect Pear, and I still enjoy wearing it but I still haven’t bought a bottle because I haven’t finished the decant and several samples that I got. It is though one of my strong favorites from this brand, and just in case you missed it in the sea of Jo Malone’s releases I encourage you to try English Pear & Freesia. Unless they change it beyond recognition, I see a bottle in my future.

 

 

One more Jo Malone perfume – Wood Sage & Sea Salt – I brought with me because it seemed like a good fit to the aquatic part of our trip. Created by Christine Nagel in 2014, with a short list of notes – ambrette seeds, sea salt, sage, seaweed and grapefruit, it felt right in place during our walk on the beach and later for the oysters and champagne dinner at the house that we rented with our friends. Wood Sage & Sea Salt wears nicely both on the tropical beach and on a cool NorCal shore (but I’m glad that I do not smell seaweed in the composition: even though I do not mind smelling it from time to time in nature, I wouldn’t want to smell of it). Will I buy a bottle once I finish my decant? I’m not sure but I might.

 

 

The biggest surprise for me was Mito EdP by vero profumo: I have tried it soon after the release and even remember liking it, but somehow I didn’t go through with the thorough testing – and the sample just stayed in my library for the last several years. It felt right for the occasion, so I took it with me, wore it on a sunny warm day for another round of wine tasting – and loved-loved-loved it.

Most of my readers had probably tested Mito before (and some even reviewed it), so I won’t go through the complete list of notes. But I want to mention my most favorite moments in this perfume development: prominent citrus opening that manages not to take this perfume into the summery cologne territory, slightly bitter greenness of galbanum in development and sweet warmth of … I have no idea what produces that effect but I keep bringing my wrist to my nose trying to figure it out… I think my almost empty sample isn’t enough to finish my study of this beautiful perfume, so I’ll just have to do something about it – in the interest of science, you know.

 

Vero Profumo Mito

 

Images: my own

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Skin-Deep [Red] Chemistry

Skin chemistry is a debatable topic: purists will explain that there is absolutely no merit to using that term in reference to perfume-skin interaction; while numerous perfume lovers constantly refer to “my perfume-eating (or loving) skin,” complain about some notes or perfumes being nasty on their skin, or tell how great perfume in question smells on somebody else.

I might have listened to those who object to that definition had we been talking about a scientific publication or a presentation for the industry symposium. But “skin chemistry” is a good enough label to describe in layman’s terms the complex interactions perfumes have with our “soft outer tissue.” Our skin type (oily/dry), body temperature, foods we eat, products we use during and after shower, stress level, how well we slept and maybe even our clothes choice – all that can seriously affect how perfumes smell and develop on our skin, and I don’t think it really matters what is the exact nature of those differences.

Every time I read about perfume something that seriously contradicts my experience with it, I start wondering if it’s my nose or my skin to blame. I know that with different ingredients it might be either, but I had at least one experience when the “skin chemistry” explanation seems to be the most fitting.

Many years ago, in the office where I worked two other co-workers were also avid perfume devotees. All three of us, among many other scents, owned Hugo Boss Deep Red. And almost every time one of us was wearing it, the same dialog would ensue:

– You smell great! What are you wearing?
– Deep Red
– Really?!

It would happen in some variation again and again between any two of us, in any direction. We all liked Deep Red – both on ourselves and on each other, but we could never recognize it “in the wild.” From my side, I can tell that it didn’t smell even familiar – the way when you know that you smelled it before but cannot pinpoint what it was. Not only didn’t it smell on them like I it did on my skin, I couldn’t even tell that they both were wearing the same perfume. And back then neither my co-workers nor I had dozens of perfumes to wear or hundreds of samples. Eventually, I started guessing that it was that perfume just by recognizing the pattern of my reaction (“I like it very much, I do not know what it is but it smells really good on J… Oh, wait! It must be Deep Red again”).

 

 

Deep Red is one of a few mainstream perfumes that survived in my collection from the pre-rabbit-hole days. It is much simpler than most of my current favorites but I still like and wear it. Seven years after I mentioned it first in my post In Search for the Perfect Pear, I finished my third bottle of it (the red one on the picture above) and would have been thinking about getting the next one (hoping to find the older stock – just in case it has been reformulated beyond recognition in the recent years; I bet it was), but Vanessa (Bonkers about Perfume) had rehomed with me her partial bottle of Deep Red (limited edition, in a silver bottle). So I’m probably all set for the next seven years.

 

Rusty and Hugo Boss Deep Red

 

Has anything like that ever happened to you?

 

Images: my own

Just a reminder: You still have until 11:59 PM PST today, May 20, 2018, to enter hajusuuri’s giveaway for samples from the recent Sniffapalooza.

Timeless Beauty

I have a friend whose hobby is to lead guided tours in San Francisco. Last weekend she invited us to join one of her tours – San Francisco Waterfront Walk. I had no idea what topic she had chosen but it didn’t matter because we went mostly for a walk itself and to spend some time with her and her husband later that day.

The tour started from The Palace of Fine Arts. It was designed by Bernard R. Maybeck and constructed for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition as a temporary structure to exhibit works of art. It was intended to last for a year or so and be torn down after the exposition was over. But the Palace was so beloved by citizens of San Francisco that it was spared the demolition. Consistent with his design concept (it was supposed to evoke the impression of a Roman ruin), Maybeck had intended that the Palace should just fall into ruin, and so it did for a long time while serving all possible purposes – housing multiple exhibitions, lighted tennis courts (1934-1942), storage of trucks and jeeps (during the WWII), limousines motor pool for the UN representatives after the war, and other odd uses. By 50s “the simulated ruin was in fact a crumbling ruin” but in 60s it was rebuilt to its current state and is being maintained since then.

 

 

From the Palace we passed the streets that replaced the exhibit halls in the years that followed the exposition. We went by beautiful Art Deco buildings, through blooming jasmine, lilacs and irises, all the way to the Marina from where you can see one of the world’s largest examples of the Art Deco style – the Golden Gate Bridge on the left and Alcatraz Island on the right.

 

Up the hill, through the park and Fort Mason Community Garden, to the Haskell House and back down to the shore. It was a wonderful 3-hour walk on a sunny, breezy and, surprisingly for San Francisco, clear day.

What perfume does one choose for such tour?

 

Paris, 1926. ‘Art deco’ is all the rage, exoticism fascinates, and jazz stirs passions. People dream of faraway lands and precious woods. Once again, Coco Chanel shakes up the history of perfume by launching the first woody fragrance for women. An intoxicating, enveloping, warm, sensual, spiraling scent. It’s all there: the precious woods, the opiate scents and magnificent, languid flowers. The fragrance is a mysterious, faraway continent in itself.

 

That is an old quote from Chanel’s website. They’ve changed the description at least a couple of times over the last several years (I wonder if it coincided with reformulations) but you have probably guessed already that I chose Bois des Iles as my Waterfront Walk perfume. Since I didn’t know any details of that walk in advance, my perfume choice was just a serendipitous one. But it felt just right – airy, with a whiff of lilacs, jasmine, iris and rose, warm, slightly sweet and woody. Same as The Palace of Fine Arts and the Golden Gate Bridge, this beauty has survived all the years and reconstructions and is still mesmerizing and awe-inspiring.

Chanel Bois des Iles

 

Images: my own

Too Special to Enjoy … Ever?

Recently I read an article in NY Times “Aging Parents With Lots of Stuff, and Children Who Don’t Want It

As baby boomers grow older, the volume of unwanted keepsakes and family heirlooms is poised to grow — along with the number of delicate conversations about what to do with them. […] As […] older adults start moving to smaller dwellings, assisted living facilities or retirement homes, they and their kin will have to part with household possessions that the heirs simply don’t want.

This reminded me of how things were in my childhood.

I suspect that life was better in large cities than in more provincial towns or rural areas, but I can speak only about what I saw or experienced: I lived in a large city.

There wasn’t poverty around: you could buy food, clothes and other products one needed for the day-to-day life. But almost everything was not of the best quality, and even that you had to “procure” – spending hours in lines to buy something, moving from one store to another in hope to catch a delivery (of very limited quantities of goods), or “knowing” people who could “get” something for you – either in exchange for favors or for extra money. Demand always exceeded supply, so everybody was on a constant hunt for something. Official prices for small items weren’t extremely high but anything bigger or better required months or even years of savings.

Because of all that, most clothes and household items were used for decades. And even when our parents or grandparents managed to obtain something newer and better, they would usually save that for special occasions or a rainy day.

Nicer china, stemware and flatware were used 2-3 times a year for very special occasions with guests while in everyday life families kept using odd items from previous decades – chipped, discolored, missing parts and their set “relatives” but still perfectly usable. But at least those “special” sets got some use. It was worse when it came to towels and bed linens: while old sets were used until you could see through them (and sometimes beyond that), the new ones stayed in dressers for decades waiting for weddings, funerals or some very important guests. So usually it was the next generation who would get to use something that stayed new for a decade or two.

 

Spoons

 

By the time I grew up, the old life came to a sudden halt: within one year inflation ate up our parents’ life savings; fresh out of university and working for a private company, I was making 5 times more than highly educated and experienced people of my parents’ generation who worked for government-owned enterprises; and goods that flooded the market were … awful if you look back from today but so much better than everything that the older generation was saving carefully hoping to pass onto us one day.

We moved to the U.S. with two suitcases leaving behind most of the things we got passed on from a couple of generations.

 

Rusty and Two Suitcases

 

Many years later, I have “dress up” clothes but my daily outfits are nice as well (because I can afford it, which wasn’t the case for many people back in my childhood years). I have special dinnerware but I try to use it more often – for evenings with friends or even for more special dinners just with my vSO.

I also have many “special occasions” perfumes. A couple of them were designated as such: since I love them very much, I prefer to wear them for celebrations. But I’m talking not about these few.

When I started my current job, I became more perfume-conscious because in a smaller office I have a couple of people who [think they] have sensitivity to perfumes. I started using less and lighter sprays but would still get (very polite) complaints from time to time.

And recently I realized that I’ve changed not only my office environment but also my perfume habits and wardrobe. For years I had “daywear” (aka “office friendly”) and “dress-up” perfumes, and I wore those according to their designations. Daywear perfumes were light, pleasant and non-intrusive while perfumes that I wore away from the office were much more dramatic. But over time I accumulated too many perfumes that I put into that latter category, since those perfumes attract me the most. And when a large part of your perfume wardrobe consists of not-so-office-friendly perfumes, you end up wearing them more and more often. So, if to think about it, it’s surprising that co-workers do not object more often.

A year or so into my trip down the rabbit hole I was concerned that my testing got out of control pushing me to test new perfumes instead of wearing those that I already had. Back then I made a resolution to wear my favorite perfumes at least three times a week. With the collection growing, I quickly came to the schedule where I would wear perfumes from my collection during work days reserving evening and weekends to testing. But now, I think, I’m ready to the next step: I decided that I will be wearing numerous “safe-for-work” perfumes to the office and will make a conscious attempt to wear my “special” perfumes in evenings and on weekends, even if I’m stuck at home doing mundane chores.

 

Guerlain Perfume Bottle

 

What special things do you own that could use … some use?

 

Images: my own (and before you ask, those are not the suitcases we arrived with; and I do not own that Guerlain bottle)

SOTD: Choice Overload

Overchoice or choice overload is a cognitive process in which people have a difficult time making a decision when faced with many options.

Many years ago, when my collection was less than 10 bottles, every morning I would just look at all the bottles on my shelf and choose one of perfumes that spoke to me that day.

Angry Birds and 3 Demeter Perfumes

Once I fell through the rabbit hole, and number of perfumes increased, every night before going to sleep I would mentally sort through all my precious possessions and choose what perfume would get my skin time the next morning. Back then I would try new perfumes during the day, so I was equally wearing perfumes from my bottles and from samples. I enjoyed my nightly ritual, and it would save me some invaluable morning time.

As the collection … matured, a concept of wearing perfumes vs. testing them had been introduced: for me to consider an occasion of applying perfume as “wear” it should be a) applied to more than one point and b) at least for a while, be a single perfume on my skin. At that point I stopped wearing perfumes from samples: I had so many perfumes that I already loved and paid money to own that it made no sense to keep kissing an army of frogs instead of spending days with already realized kings. But even without samples the number of choices reached the level where going through them at night would have the same effect as counting sheep…

Serta Sheep

But since I face this first world problem every day (and even more so as the time goes, with every next bottle or decant joining my collection), I keep trying different methods.

Visual Inspection

If I’m not pressed for time in the morning (and sometimes even when I am), I would still try this proven method. The issue with it is that my bottles – still in their boxes – are placed on the shelves in several rows, so even thought I tried to arrange them the way that the taller ones go farther into the shelf allowing the shorter boxes to be visible, it’s not a completely unobstructed view. As to decants, being in drawers, they are not easily “readable” when I look at them from above. I even tried adding two-letter abbreviations on the caps, but good luck figuring out before the first cup of coffee what “AB” or “BA” stand for).

Plagiarism

Sometimes in the morning, while still in bed, I read through the SOTD thread on NST or APJ until I come across somebody mentioning perfume that I feel like wearing that day. The disadvantage of this approach is that a high percentage of the reports are for new releases: many of the participants are still in the phase of testing/wearing just released perfumes from samples, while for me it usually takes a while to get newly released perfumes to join the line-up for wearing (read: become a bottle or decant).

Projects

I participate in at least some NST’s community projects on Fridays but a week-long (as many of participants do) “wear your oddest fragrance” or “wear a perfume by ” is too much for me – though I did a full week of ambers recently to catch-up on wearing those before it got too warm.

Lucas’s A Month of Roses (February 2017), my NovAmber (2016) and A Month of Irises (February 2018) were fun and made it easier to choose what to wear (since I had to plan each month well ahead), but seemed too limiting – so I cannot do those projects too often.

Going Big Small Data

Since I have all my perfumes and their usage recorded in a database, I created a simple query that would produce a list of perfumes that I haven’t worn in the last 2 months. The drawback is that as it doesn’t take into account any additional aspects – season, office-friendliness or occasion (I explained my complex perfumes-for-occasions designation in the first part of this post) – the query would produce still a long list, inevitably trying to steer me into wearing Amouage Ubar (my “special occasion” winter perfume) or Estee Lauder Bronze Goddess (an ultimate tropical vacation perfume) all year round.

Rusty on Laptop

How do you choose what perfume to wear?

Jessica (Bonjour Perfume) recently covered this topic on her blog and told about the unusual precognitions that guide her in this important decision-making.

I do not possess similar abilities, so I decided to try to improve my perfume database to be able to ask that important question. But to get the right answer one should ask the right question – so I’m trying to figure out what question I should actually ask, and I’d like to get your help.

If you could ask an all-knowing Answerer to choose perfume for you to wear on any particular day, what data points would you want it to consider? I’m talking not about guessing your mood or predicting reaction of somebody you’d meet this day, but information about perfumes, your previous experiences with them or any environmental factors that can be put into some formula and calculated.

Images: my own

 

Celebrating Missed Opportunities

As I’ve mentioned more than once, I live in the area where we have two seasons: summer and the rest of the year. I do not complain: I love our weather (even when I wish we’d have more rain) and think that our climate is one of the best possible. But from time to time, especially around winter holidays, I get a pang of nostalgia for real winter with snow, icicles and colder weather. Then we go to nearby mountains – and it cures those feelings for the next couple of years.

Since neither my vSO no I are into the downhill skiing, on our winter trips we usually enjoy snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. Because of the drought we had in 2012-16, for several years we didn’t go “into winter”: while skiing resorts were making artificial snow for quite expensive downhill rides, our preferred winter activities were out of question. And without snow there wasn’t much sense in going there.

So when after five years of snowless New Year celebrations I wanted my snow fix, we decided not to rely on unpredictable California weather and planned a trip to Utah. Nobody in our “party of six” had ever been to there, and it was promising to be a perfect New Year getaway.

 

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Panoramic views from the dining room of the cabin where we stayed were spectacular, including what felt like a private viewing of the supermoon… And that was almost the full extent of my winter experience this time since, following my vSO’s steps (which almost never happens in these matters), I got extremely sick soon after the arrival.

 

Utah 2018 Supermoon

 

It was perfect winter outside: not too cold, fresh snow, sun during the day and full moon at night. And all I could manage was to crawl downstairs to the living room to spend time with our friends (when they weren’t outside), watch TV (re-watching Monk TV show was surprisingly comforting), work on a mystery puzzle (2 x 1000 pieces without a hint – and we solved the murder!) and eat great meals that our friends cooked. And these simple things would take up all of my strength and resolve.

 

 

Not long before the trip I bought two travel sprays from Sonoma Scent StudioWinter Woods and Fireside Intense. I had an idea that where we were going would be just the right setting for wearing both of those perfumes. I planned to take some appropriate pictures and make a post out of it once I got back.

Despite being sick, I wore some perfumes during this trip but none of the two SSS’s perfumes felt right to wear while being stuck in the cabin: both seemed too strong and intense. But what was even worse, I felt too weak to even try to put on warm clothes and try to go for a photo shoot outside. So my friend agreed to help and in between producing all that food pictured above spent 15 minutes outside taking pictures according to the general directions I gave her from my sick sofa.

 

Sonoma Scent Studio Winter Woods and Fireside Intense

 

I was barely out of the woods (both literary and figuratively speaking), when I got the news that Laurie Erickson was retiring from the business. Combined with my failed vacation, it seemed strange to write about perfumes that nobody could either try or buy any longer. Then my blog’s anniversary, a Month of Irises and my birthday came, and I put all that out of my mind.

March is being great this year: we got a lot of rain that we needed. And with it cold weather came, which allowed me to wear many of my winter favorites that I didn’t get a chance to wear earlier in the year. Including Winter Woods and Fireside intense. And I enjoyed them both very much.

Many years ago I wrote about Winter Woods. It took me 6 years to go through my 2.5 ml sample. So, I think I’ll be fine for a while with these 5 ml travel sprays. So, as much as it makes me sad to see this brand go (or changing hands, which, in general, is the same thing), I’m glad that I got to know it, and there will be many more chances for me to wear these perfumes – with or without snow around me. It’s a pity that those of you who haven’t tried them (or my most recent favorite Bee’s Bliss), won’t get to. But there will be other winters, other perfumes and other opportunities. And I hope that Laurie Erickson who created perfumes that touched so many people will be successful in pursuing her new opportunities.

 

Sonoma Scent Studio Winter Woods and Fireside Intense

 

Are there any perfumes that you wish you had bought before they disappeared?

 

Images: my own

Second Sunday Samples: Blocki

I’m not a big fan of resurrected perfume brands: in many cases there is nothing to really connect the reincarnated entity and the brand, from which the history was taken, other than a desire of new owners to have some history to show for the brand hoping that it’ll sell perfumes better.

I make some exception to brands reinvented by descendants of the original owners: my feeling is that there is something noble and romantic in bringing back to life parts of the family history, sharing with the world proud moments and achievements of one’s ancestors.

Blocki Perfumes is this kind of brand. You can look up this brand’s history milestones on the website (it’s quite interesting but I don not want to just regurgitate it here). What captured my imagination was their patent in 1907 for “novel method of placing a preserved natural flower within the perfume bottle.” They do not do it now – pity. I wouldn’t mind having a bottle of perfume with a real flower inside, though I completely understand why they cannot do it these days with perfumes being transported thousands of miles.

Previously I came across some reviews for this brand’s perfumes but it took me a while to get to testing some of them. I can’t remember what the turning point was, but I recently gave in and ordered a couple of samples.

This brand’s approach to naming their compositions is the opposite to the slightly annoying ALL CAPS take by my another favorite brand: Blocki does not use capital letters at all, which also annoys me. But since those names are supposed to be short passages, a couple of words from a sentence that landed on the bottle – without the beginning or the ending – I try to look at them as at something open to interpretation and leaving some space to our imagination rather than a nod to the modern World’s hasty messaging habits that I do not condone. And that thought reconciles me with them.

Both perfumes that I’m sampling today were created in 2015 by Kevin Verpsoor; and though they were inspired by the house’s history, they are not recreations of the previously existed perfumes.

 

for walks

Three and Half Sea Stars

for walks is a perfume for people who do not want to smell like they are wearing perfume. With the notes of violet leaf, mint, fir needle, violet, boronia flower, orris, vetiver, sandalwood and cedar, it presents like a completely unisex composition. I like fir in perfumes but in for walks I do not smell it at all. Neither can I smell iris or vetiver. Mint and violet are there, as well as some kind of wood (I’d say it is sandalwood sharpened by cedar wood). It is not linear, and develops over time, so you’ll have something to do if you decide to take it on a couple of hours’ walk.

While for walks is absolutely “not my” perfume (I take my unisex perfumes either citrus-y or dry amber-y), it is not boring or banal. It is not a perfume to gather compliments, but if you’re looking for a soft but present perfume that is not cologne or a quiet white musk number, give for walks a try.

 

Forest park

 

this grand affair

Four and Half Sea Stars

this grand affair fits its name very well: nobody would mistakenly assume that they smell your shampoo or a dryer sheet. It is unapologetically PERFUME, in the classic sense. Initially I thought of it as leaning feminine but since I think that Jicky Extract, about which I’m somehow reminded by this grand affair (not in the way it smells but in feeling it evokes), is also feminine, my perception might be off compared to conventional.

Official notes: grapefruit, neroli, davana, lavender, rose, petitgrain, lemon, mandarin, vanilla, musk, tonka bean and patchouli.

this grand affair smells like the most beloved today vintage perfumes must have smelled before they became vintage. One wouldn’t have to wear a gown to match this perfume but it would be a very appropriate combination.

I tend to like and buy this type of perfumes even though I do not have enough occasions to wear them (I’m working on that), so this grand affair has won me over from the first time I tried it. And since the brand smartly produces their perfumes in very reasonable 10 ml travel bottles, I could not think of a reason not to add it to my collection (but since it’s still in transit, I cannot bribe Rusty to pose with it for this post, so I’ll go with the floral composition that visually illustrates the name).

 

Flowers

 

Blocki line consists of four perfumes: 3 from 2015; and one more they released this year. I’m curious to try the remaining two.

Blocki perfumes come in 50 ml and 10 ml bottles. Also, you can buy samples from the brand’s site, which makes sense only if you want to try just one: you’ll be getting a 1.5-2 ml for $10, including S&H, which is the same price as you’d pay for a twice smaller dab vial delivered from perfume stores or decanter sites. Until April 1st, you can use the code AMOUR14 to get a 14% discount (no affiliation). Twisted Lily and Smallflower also carry these perfumes.

 

Have you heard about the brand? Have you tried any of their perfumes?

 

Images: my own