… and I’ll be there…

A month ago Twitter’s meme “What 5 items would someone put in a salt circle to summon you?” got viral when J.K. Rowling answered it.

 Summonning JK Rowling

 

In other answers there were perfumes (that’s how I learned about it – from somebody’s mentioning it on the NST’s daily threads), books, snacks and a LOT of cats.

So of course I started playing this game in my head. My first thought was: “Rusty!” But then I realized that, first, Rusty wouldn’t sit still in any circle with or without other objects, and second, Rusty alone would be enough to summon me.

 

Rusty in a Circle

 

But since I still wanted to play this game, I decided to count Rusty out and go with inanimate objects. So, what would be a set of five things to summon me? I don’t think it would be a surprise to anyone who reads this blog that Climat by Lancôme would be the first thing to go on the list. The next one would be probably that quirky blue Hello Sailor lipstick by Lipstick Queen and The Fifth Element – one of my all-time favorite movies. Now, when we took care of my mind and my look, let’s attend to my body: dark chocolate lava cake and a cup of cappuccino. Yeah, looks about right: put these five together, and I’ll be there.

 

 Summonning Undina

 

What should I put in a circle to summon you?

 

Images: the salt circle from here; DVD cover – don’t remember; the rest – my own.

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Everything Has Its Time (and Place)

Soon after I’ve started this blog, I told a story of a newly found perfume friend – Tiare by Ormonde Jayne (A Friend in Need). At that point I had almost no followers, so not too many people read that post back then. In short: the traces of Tiare on my bath robe had supported me through hard time of being sick, and feeling grateful for that, I decided that I would bring that perfume with me when I go to a tropical vacation.

Later that year I fulfilled my promise and brought Tiare with me to Hawaii. As I wrote in the Scents of My Hawaii Vacation post:

In the evenings when an ocean breeze would put out a day heat, all dressed-up for dinner I would adorn myself with Tiare. I truly enjoyed her company. I think it is a perfect perfume for a tropical night out. It feels so right in place on the open terrace under the moonless starry sky, surrounded by palm trees and the sound of the invisible ocean just a hundred steps in front of you. And a slick travel spray will fit even into the smallest purse.

Since then Tiare had traveled with me to three different Hawaii islands – Maui, Kauai and Big Island. And every time it felt just right even though this tropical flower perfume doesn’t smell like a tropical-style perfume.

 

Maui 2014 Parfums

 

Last year instead of Hawaiian we went to Europe in summer and to Utah in winter, so Tiare stayed hidden away in my drawer. And since I wasn’t sure if we would go to Hawaii this year, I recently decided to wear it to the office. And it was a mistake.

My perfume wasn’t off or unpleasant. It wasn’t even NSFW. But in the office cubicle with blasting A/C and the fluorescent lights Tiare felt completely out of place. I was amazed by the dichotomy of the stern office environment and carefree perfume. We were in such different places that it was hard to stay friends…

That’s when I knew that I had to book the next trip to Hawaii – to restore our friendship, if nothing else.

 

Kawaii Perfumes 2013

 

Have you ever had that feeling that your favorite perfume wasn’t right for the place you wore it to?

 

Images: my own

Do You Thunk?

For those who do not follow NST’s daily SOTD threads, some time ago chocolatemarzipan8 announced she would not be pursuing new perfumes and would enjoy what she had in her collection already. Every time having finished something she would officially announce “Thunked it!” Over time many other participants joined her, and now almost every day somebody announces “THUNK.” Of course, most people do it with samples but sometimes they report decants or even bottles. It prompted me to look into my usage pattern.

Bottles are the hardest for me: once I decide that I want to have perfume in my collection, I never want to not have it. As a result, those perfumes that I like less stay in my collection because I do not use them often but do not want to part with; and with those that I do like I’m content… while I have more than one-fourth of a bottle. And as I approach that imaginary demarcation, I start feeling anxious and tend to use those perfumes less often or in an even more than usual office-friendly manner (1-2 tiny spritzes). But, in general, I’m fine with my attitude towards bottles: I keep using perfumes that I love on daily basis, even if I do not finish bottles. Alternatively, I end up buying a back-up bottle – and then feel better about finishing the previous one.

 

Les Perfumes De Rosine Roseberry

 

With decants I have a mixed case: I do finish some of them, though usually only those that graduate to a full bottle (at least in my plans). But decants that I plan to use and be done with rarely move below one-fourth volume left in a vial, whatever the size is. The reason, I think, is that I like having an option of wearing those perfumes more than actually wearing them. So I’m reluctant to finish those decants for the fear of losing that comfort of knowing that I have them. Used up 5-7 ml decant usually means I want a bottle. So, again, it looks like I wear perfumes that I like the most while “hoarding” those that I shouldn’t wear anyway since I don’t like them that much.

Samples. Since I do not usually wear perfumes from samples, I rarely finish them even if I liked them. Small vials might naturally get used up during a couple of testing sessions; or I would give perfume several wears before committing to a full bottle. But otherwise samples just stay in my “perfume library” for years – until they either evaporate or turn. It wasn’t an issue for me until recently when I decided that, going forward, those perfumes that I didn’t like I should pass on to others for testing, and those that I liked, I should try again to see if my opinion about them has changed…

 

Empty Samples

 

I’ve just emptied two samples I had forever: L’Artisan Parfumeur Mimosa pour moi and Arabian Oud Kalemat. Guess what. I’m upset that those are gone and already started questioning that “don’t need them” decision. So it seems safer not to “thunk” those perfumes that I liked but didn’t love enough to put on the mental “to buy” list.

 

Do you finish any of your perfumes?

 

Images: my own

Narciso [Rodriguez] Ed[P/T/Whatever]

I’m not much into fashion. Not that I do not care about the clothes I wear – I do, and I like clothes, – but I do not follow the trends and barely know luxury brands if I do not see them in stores where I shop.

Narciso Rodriguez is one of those brands that I knew only from peripherally seeing the name on bottles on perfume counters. I remember coming across people mentioning that they liked NR’s perfumes in FB and on other blogs. But as I’m not much interested in mainstream perfumes, I’m not sure if I’ve ever tried any of them until recently.

I was buying something at a cosmetics counter when a bottle with Narciso Rodriguez name on it attracted my attention. I sprayed it on a paper strip and went on shopping. As time was passing, I kept on sniffing the strip and I liked what I smelled.

The circus started once I got home and tried to figure out what exactly I tested and liked… Narciso Rodriguez For Her (EdT) – regular and anniversary editions, Narciso Rodriguez For Her Eau de Parfum – regular and anniversary editions, Narciso Rodriguez For Her Eau de Parfum Delicate Limited Edition, Narciso Rodriguez For Her Eau de Toilette Delicate Limited Edition, Narciso Rodriguez For Her in Color, Narciso Rodriguez For Her Iridescent, Narciso Rodriguez For Her L’Absolu, Narciso Rodriguez L’Eau For Her, Narciso, Narciso Eau de Toilette – and all that not counting several additional variations of these name with the additional “musk,” “Poudree,” “Rouge” and probably a couple more.

 

Narciso by Narciso Rodriguez

 

After going through all the pictures and comparing perfume names, bottle shapes and colors, I came to the conclusion that it was Narciso (EdP), a sample of which I happened to have (it was one of those “Take one” free samples you can get from time to time at Nordstrom) but had never come around trying.

Narciso, created in 2014 by Aurelien Guichard, is easy to like for those who are not into shy perfumes. Official notes are Bulgarian rose, gardenia, white and black cedar wood, musk and vetiver but I can’t say that I smell either of the floral notes. I mean, it is a floral perfume but flowers are rather abstract. Narciso is warm and powdery scent. It is feminine to the degree where it might be worn by a man who’s into bold perfumes.

I’m debating whether I want to get a bottle, or if I should go with a decant from ScentBird. On one side, I don’t think I’ll wear it often enough to warrant more than 7 ml ($14.95 including S&H). On the other, I find that white square bottle strangely appealing (especially since it can be found online at $45 for a 50 ml bottle).

 

Narciso by Narciso Rodriguez

Have you tried any perfumes from the brand?

 

Images: my own

Unique New Orleans Perfumes

Before leaving on a vacation I usually research honey holes for perfume sniffing at the destination, and then during the trip I keep my nose to the wind, figuratively speaking, not to miss any perfume shop, counter or corner.

For my New Orleans visit I’ve read hajusuuri’s post (can you believe it – it was almost 4 years ago!) but for some reason I wasn’t really looking forward to visiting any of the perfume places she described. So I decided that I would be probably fine without planning anything and would see how it goes.

My vSO was the one who spotted that shop not too far from the hotel we stayed on our evening stroll. It was already closed but we decided to come back the next day.

We all know those new brands that resurrect some ancient history, buy it from heirs of defunct brands or even invent it? So when you come across a brand with a genuine almost 90 years and 4 generation history, you can’t help feeling some admiration.

 

Hove Parfumeur

 

Hove Parfumeur is an interesting small store in French Quarter (434 Chartres St.) that sells perfumes, jewelry, soaps and other bath products. They carry about 50 (fifty!) perfumes available in perfume and cologne concentration as well as solids.

Same as it was when hajusuuri visited the store, they still have pre-dipped paper strips with printed names laid out on glass trays. I went through sniffing all of them in several iterations, noting those that I liked. Either I looked like I knew what I was doing (which might be), or the girl who manned the store wasn’t really interested in perfumes, or she misread me as not a potential buyer, but I was left alone to sniff all I wanted for probably half an hour. I’m not complaining, I prefer it this way but it felt a little unusual for any store of that size where I was the only customer.

 

Hove Parfumeur

 

Testing perfumes the way this shop offers is quite the opposite to what we usually do at most other places: you get to smell perfumes in their drydown phase first, so instead of judging them on the opening 15 minutes burst, you get to decide what you want to test on skin from liking the base notes. None of the two seem sufficient to make a final judgement on perfumes. But at the same time I wasn’t about to put even 2-3 perfumes on my skin and walk out into the 32C/90F humid street not knowing when I’d get to the shower.

The store sells perfumes in multiple sizes starting from a dram (~3.6 ml), but for the price of 3 you can get a set of 6 dram bottles – and that was what I went with.

For my set I got Bayou D’Amour, Diverti, Fascinator, Grandee, Mantrap and Rue Royale. Neither the brand’s site nor Fragrantica provides a detailed list of notes for these perfumes, and I’ve never been too good picking notes out – even when listed – so I’ll share brand’s descriptions for these perfumes and my impressions.

 

Hove Parfumeur

 

After testing them for several times, I can see how that paper testing works for the brand: all of their perfumes smell very good in drydown.

Rue Royale was my last pick for the set. It smelled good but mostly I was influenced by the description: “A hint of musk pervades this basically dry and light fragrance, selected most often by fair brunettes who wish a quiet elegance.”

Testing proved that “quiet” isn’t a thing that this fair brunette wishes for. Rue Royale has a beautiful opening (I smell strong rose), and then it’s quite pleasant in the 4th hour of drydown. But in between I get something slightly dusty and dull. I might try it once or twice under different weather but I do not expect to fall in love with it enough to wear it.

Diverti (“Light and refreshing, this blend of sandalwood, cedar and a mixture of floral notes creates a divertissement of its own”), Fascinator (“The rich warm notes of Oak Moss, blended with a hint of musk, this fragrance is sure to fascinate both men and women”) and Grandee (“An elegant and grand blending of floral notes topped by a fruity note to add a bit of happiness. For those who are outgoing and who like bright colors”) are rather unisex perfumes that from time to time suddenly veer masculine. All three are worth trying but I’m a little wary about perfumes that do not perform consistently on my skin: I do not want to be stuck with something I’m not enjoying for the whole day in the office.

My most favorite of the six is the one with the name that doesn’t resonate with me – Mantrap. For my not native English ear it sounds like a contrivance to catch men (even though I know that it’s a gender-neutral term). But nevertheless, I liked this perfume.

Official description: “Made provocative by its high resinous notes, made alluring by its underlying spice notes, this is truly a heavy Oriental fragrance.”

Mantrap reminds me of Alahine and maybe a little of Coco though I wouldn’t go as far as calling it “heavy oriental,” at least not in the dab format. But it is definitely a floral oriental perfume that smells like a classic perfume – well blended floral bouquet and warm spices. It wears nicely in hot weather, and I look forward to trying it in winter as well.

Bayou D’Amour, “An exotic blend of floral notes dominated by notes of the luscious fruit, mango,” is my second favorite in the brand’s line-up. I tried hard but I cannot detect mango. For me it’s a big white floral perfume. If I were to guess, I would say that I smell plumeria but I’m not sure, it might be some other tropical flower. Bayou D’Amour smells great in hot weather.

 

Hove Parfumeur

 

While I do not think that any of these perfumes are worth paying for blind testing (almost no perfumes these days are), but if you happen to visit New Orleans, I think stopping by Hove Parfumeur is a worthwhile diversion from main activities (such as eating and listening to music).

 

Images: my own

The Big Easy: Food, Music, Cats and Perfumes

New Orleans seems to be one of those places to where everybody either always wanted to go or had been to and remembers it fondly. Somehow nobody I spoke about New Orleans had mentioned the local weather.

Neither my vSO nor I like hot weather. Hot and humid is even worse. So I’m not sure how it happened that we agreed to go with our friends to New Orleans mid-June. It just hadn’t crossed my mind to check in March when we planned the trip what to expect. Most likely, I wasn’t paying attention because the dates were set (our friends had an annual event to attend there, and we were just piggybacking on their special hotel rates). So for the six days we spent there it was above 30C/90F during the day, which put a strain on our ability to explore the city. But we did our best.

Ambiance

When arriving to a new city, nothing puts you at ease better than seeing a new security feature introduced by Uber…

 

Uber Safety Feature

 

I swear: it wasn’t there several hours earlier when I used the app to get a ride to the airport in San Francisco! So, while I thought it was a clever idea, and whenever I used Uber before, I was always making sure to inform somebody where I was, I started questioning immediately how unsafe it was there that they felt like running the onboarding for the feature specifically on my first use of the service in New Orleans. But during the stay everything seemed to be quite safe, even though (or thanks to?) I’ve never remembered seeing that much of police presence on the streets anywhere else.

Food

Food we had during our stay in New Orleans was good. I wouldn’t say it was spectacular but it was good. Expensive but good. We even found a place that served an afternoon tea. What pleasantly surprised me was that practically all cocktails we had in different places were well made, which I cannot say about many restaurants around where we live. Looking back, the day was broken into small chunks of doing something else in between finding ourselves at the next café or restaurant – to cool off while eating or drinking something.

 

 

Entertainment

Recommendations we got from friends and colleagues were food (everyone started with food!), swamps (it was too hot to attempt that), a couple of museums (did that) and music events. We were too busy before the trip to research where we’d like to go, and it was a mistake. The first night in New Orleans a group of us went to some jazz club for a drink and some music. Drinks were fine. Music… Some people just do not understand that “improvisation” doesn’t mean producing random sounds with a saxophone. For the next 6 days, as we were coming across different musicians on the street or at different venues – be those marching or seating bands or even lonely drummers, I kept saying: “Even that is better than what we heard the first night!”

 

 

I get easily bored at museums: there’s that fine line between keeping me interested for 2-3 hours and making me yawn in 15 minutes, and I rarely can predict the way it would go with one museum or the other. But since it was very hot outside, Louisiana State Museum seemed like a good alternative to just returning to the hotel room and trying to watch Netflix streaming of some next show episode.

It wasn’t the most interesting or entertaining exhibition but it had its moments, so I cannot really complain about it (it was much better than numerous museums I’ve visited in different parts of the world before). But one stand captured my attention, and I spent probably more than 5 minutes in front of it.

New Orleans Music

 

I did read the text (and you can too if you open the picture: I purposefully didn’t resize it); but what attracted me the most, were two telephone handsets (wired) that you could use to listen to the same song – The Battle of New Orleans – performed by Johnny Horton and Lonnie Donegan. I still can’t say which one I like more. Can you?

 

 

 

Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium wasn’t something that anyone had recommended but one night while walking around our hotel we came across a bright lit window with live butterflies, got curious and came back the next day. I have no idea how it came to that, but this museum, the largest free-standing American museum dedicated to insects, is located at the U.S. Custom House Federal Building. The security measures to get into this museum were stricter than those we went through at the airport. But I really enjoyed the exposition. We all probably read about mimicry and saw some nature documentary about it on TV, but when you see up-close insects that resemble flowers (Orchid mantis) or leaves (Dead Leaf mantis or walking leaf Phylliidae) it is very impressive. (Can you spot all of them on the pictures below?) And butterflies that just float all around you and sit on any available surface (including you) were just beautiful.

 

 

Cats

Even while on the best vacation, we miss Rusty a lot. I wish he could travel with us. But I doubt either one of us would enjoy it. So he usually gets a cat sitter to keep him company. And while we were getting the “proof of life” as I called those daily pictures that a cat sitter was sending us, we kept coming across New Orleans cats everywhere – on the street (either sleeping in shadow or even walking on a leash), in the store (in an eyewear shop Art & Eyes where we went because our friend wanted to get a new frame, we met Hamilton, a store cat; another one we saw sleeping on a half-finished carpet still on a loom), or on pictures and prints sold at the art fair on Frenchman street (I couldn’t pass that orange cat print – so now it hangs over my Zen Garden in the office).

 

 

Perfumes

I plan to do the next post focusing on perfumes I discovered while in New Orleans: it won’t make them justice to cram them in the end of a long post. But since it’s a perfume blog, I cannot not to touch on the subject completely (and it wouldn’t be true to the story since perfumes do play an important role in my life).

Since I knew it would be hot and humid, I brought with me perfumes that I thought would work well in that weather. And all of them were great and added to positive side of the trip. But the one that stood out was Byredo Bal D’Afrique.

Before falling in love with it, I tried it several times. The issue was that two samples that I got from friends earlier stayed neglected in the pile “to test” until they went off leaving rather unpleasant impression and regret about wasted skin “real estate” once I finally got to test them. And then I got a fresh sample – and it was a completely different story.

Even then I, being me, did not go for a bottle but instead bought a decant from one of the split groups on FB. Partially it’s explained by the fact that I think that Byredo’s minimalistic bottle and packaging design doesn’t suit this perfume. Those clean lines, good for the tender La Tulipe, seem wrong for this bright and sexy perfume.

I do not see myself wearing it too often since most of my life goes at work, and Bal D’Afrique is not even remotely office-friendly, but it is an extremely interesting oriental woody perfume that should work equally well both in the dead of winter and on a tropical vacation. It seems like a truly unisex perfume but not one of those anemic citrus-y numbers that can be considered as such just because none of genders would claim the ownership, but rather a bold statement that perfectly fits anyone who wants to wear it.

If you find interesting such perfumes as Byredo Pulp, L’Artisan Traversee du Bosphore or DelRae Bois de Paradise, definitely give Bal D’Afrique a try.

 

Rusty in Grass

 

Since my decant of Bal D’Afrique isn’t too picturesque, and I do not have any Africa-inspired or related items to make a nice shot, I decided to illustrate it with the photo of Rusty on my backyard (à la African Savanna stroll).

 

Is New Orleans on your bucket list?

 

Images: my own

My Favorite Linden Perfumes and the Eternal Question: To Back Up or Not To Back Up?

Being a fan of floral perfumes, I like many flowers and blossoms and enjoy many perfumes in that genre. But if by some cruel turn of events I were to choose just a single floral note for my perfumes, it would probably be linden.

Partially it is the scent itself, partially an emotional response to memories associated with it, but linden holds a special place in my mental olfactory catalog.

Linden Blossom

Years ago I did a couple of posts on the topic (In the Search of the Perfect Linden linked to above and Take 2). I can’t say that I found an ultimate linden perfume then or since: real tree in full bloom smells so much better than any perfume I’ve ever tried, but until anything even more realistic is created, I have two perfumes that come close, about which I want to remind you and warn you.

Linden and Perfumes: Jo Malone French Lime Blossom and April Aromatics Unter den Linden

French Lime Blossom from Jo Malone is one of the oldest perfumes in my collection that I still love and wear. People who are not familiar with the smell of linden blossom often talk about citrus component and sweetness from the (provided by Fragrantica but not mentioned by the brand) beeswax note while both of the facets are characteristic of the true linden blossom.

I was very sad to learn that French Lime Blossom has been discontinued (a kind reader informed me and then an SA at Heathrow airport Jo Malone duty-free store confirmed the news). You can still buy a bottle online from large department stores’ sites but it is the remaining stock. Jo Malone website does not have it any longer, so once gone I doubt it’ll ever be resurrected: it’s not one of those anemic “blossoms” they’ve produced in the recent years and keep redressing in pretty bottles. I’ve got a back-up bottle of French Lime Blossom but I would have been much happier knowing that it is still in production.

Rusty and April Aromatics Unter den Linden

In the Take 2 post I mentioned the second linden-centric perfume I discovered – April Aromatics Unter den Linden. Since nobody usually checks links to older posts, I’ll cite what I wrote back then:

It’s a very pretty perfume and I take back my original impression that Unter den Linden smelled like a more lemon-y version on one of my favorites Jo Malone’s French Lime Blossom. Unter den Linden is lighter, more refined and blended more seamlessly than French Lime Blossom (I still like the latter though). What makes me unhappy is the price: however beautiful, this perfume isn’t unique enough or using really expensive and rare ingredients to justify to me $7/ml price for EdP. But if it weren’t for that I’d love to add a bottle of Unter den Linden to my collection. I still might.

And I did: once April Aromatics started offering a smaller bottle (15 ml), I bought one a year ago. It was the first all-natural perfume in my collection. Unter den Linden has a recognizable linden note but I wish it had a bit more of that sweet floral component of the real blossom. I also have a concern that all-natural perfumes might not be for me even if I like them because even with proper storage (cool closet, out of light), just a year after I bought it, I can smell changes in Under den Linden: there is a hint of dry linden blossom – the one that is used for tea. I do not dislike it but I’m afraid it’s a sign that my perfume turns, and I do not wear it often enough. I guess back-up bottles of Unter den Linden would be out of question, no matter what. Interestingly, the remaining French Lime Blossom in my 10 years old bottle is still fine.

So if you are, like me, mostly used to mixed media perfumes, go check on anything all-natural you might have and start enjoying those perfumes before it’s too late.

Linden Tea

Images: my own