Saturday Question: What Is Your Favorite Rose Perfume?

Regardless of how you feel about the upcoming Hallmark holiday, you’d agree that traditionally it is associated with roses more than with any other flower. So, I thought it was a good enough reason for this week’s question.

 

Saturday Question on Undina's Looking Glass

 

Saturday Question #51:

What Is Your Favorite Rose Perfume?

Do you like perfumes with a predominant rose note? If yes, which ones come to mind first? If no, what is the closest to the rose-centric perfume in your collection?

Do you do anything special for Valentine’s Day? Do you acknowledge it in any way or ignore completely?

My Answer

Even though Valentine’s Day came into my life just a couple of decades ago, I rather like it (though, I like most of the holidays, so it’s not representative). I like it despite the fact that it interferes with my personal celebration: even though my birthday is a couple of days before, everything gets harder because of the upcoming holiday. Everything – plane tickets, hotels, flowers – are more expensive and harder to get, restaurants are busier, and any possible activities are sold out if you didn’t think about it at least a month in advance.

Nevertheless, I’m trying to do something nice to celebrate Valentine’s Day, and not just as a romantic couples holiday, but in wider meaning. I think it comes from the fact that when I was growing up, similar holidays (one for men and another one for women, on different dates a couple of weeks apart), while having some romantic component, also incorporated what in the U.S. is celebrated as Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, including future/potential mothers and fathers. And being that inclusive, while still slightly forced (though, is it really that different from celebrating veterans on the Veteran’s Day or parents on the mentioned above designated days?), were readily celebrated both at work, in schools and in private settings.

At home, we always make a nice dinner on February 14. If I have time, I might decorate our living room a little. Sometimes we exchange small presents. Usually I’m getting flowers. Nothing obligatory or too elaborate, but nice and quiet.

This year, since we’re not back to the office, I didn’t get to do anything “publicly” in RL, so I decided to do “the next best thing” – a mini-project on Instagram: Rose Countdown to Valentine’s Day.

I did Mini-Monday with a mini bottle of Neela Vermeire Creations Mohur EdP, Travel Tuesday with a travel spray of Hermes Rose Ikebana, Throwback Thursday with Lancome Mille et Une Roses and Favorite Friday with Ormonde Jayne Ta’if Elixir (and later I wore Ta’if Parfum for the birthday dinner). I skipped Wednesday – and not because I couldn’t think of any day-appropriate secondary project (which I didn’t – any ideas?), but because an unexpected plumbing emergency didn’t leave me any energy to even wear perfume – let alone stage a photo. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll see what I’ll be doing for Saturday and Sunday (and if you don’t, check back here in the upcoming days to see the latest picture on the sidebar (web)/below (mobile)).

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Happy Valentine’s Day if you celebrate – either with someone or alone. Have a restful weekend if you don’t, and do something nice for yourself, because you do love yourself, right? You should.

Cat Rusty and Roses

What Is Your Favorite Rose Perfume?

Evening Water

Sisley Paris isn’t one of the brands I’m closely familiar with: their skincare prices were always outside of my budget, and their makeup has never been considered anything to aspire to (at least, I haven’t read or heard any accolades for their lipsticks or mascaras). So usually I was passing by that counter at the local Neiman Marcus without even stopping.

And then I got a tiny mini bottle of Eau du Soir in a subscription box, and that was the first time I though about approaching this brand’s perfumes at a store counter to try it sprayed. I liked it and contemplated getting it one day if I found it cheaper at a discounter site. But I was in the very beginning of my niche perfumes exploration discovering plenty of great perfumes every month, so there was no urgency.

And then one day a travel bottle of Eau du Soir was offered for a swap, and I got it in exchange for some niche decants. Several years later I thought the bottle spoiled, and I stopped wearing it. But since the bottle was nice – a small round bottle with that recognizable sculptured cap and a suede pouch – so I couldn’t make myself to through it away… When I tested it a week ago, I was amazed: I can’t smell there any more the qualities that persuaded me those years ago that it was off. I can’t explain it since it couldn’t have been wasn’t just in my head: on both occasions I compared it to the same mini bottle. Nevertheless, I put that round travel bottle back into the active rotation part of my collection. Though, I might still prefer a dab application from the mini bottle.

Sisley Eau Du Soir mini bottle

Recently, when I decided to join Mmkinpa in her “Mini Monday” Instagram sub-project, I was surprised once again by how much I liked Eau du Soir and felt slightly guilty for discounting it because of the perceived issues with that travel bottle. So, I decided to write about it again.

If you were to run a search, you’d see that Eau du Soir usually gets quite high ratings on different sites, both mainstream and more niche oriented. But at the same time, for perfume publicly released more than 20 years ago (created in 1990, until 1999 it said to stay as a personal perfume of Countess Isabelle d’Ornano), it hasn’t got too many blog reviews. And I have a feeling that had Eau du Soir been released by a niche brand, it would have been much more spoken about.

Eau du Soir is green chypre that reminds me Chanel No 19 EdT and not only in the notes combination but also in that sharpness of the scent that is present in No 19 EdT but is much rounder and smoother in EdP or extrait.

Every time I put it on, I wish it were just slightly less harsh in the opening, but half an hour later it smooths out and smells very classy and elegant. It might lean just slightly feminine but not even remotely close to requiring any audacity from a man to wear it. But regardless of your gender perfume preferences, if you are not familiar with Eau du Soir and decide to try it, make sure to apply it very sparingly: it’s extremely tenacious, so you better like it!

Rusty and Sisley Eau Du Soir

If you have tried Eau du Soir, do you like it? If you haven’t, why?

 

Images: my own

My Blog’s 10th Anniversary: Interview with the Creator of My White Rabbit

If not to count job or user interviews I conducted as a part of my job, this is my first ever interview with someone in the perfume industry. And if 10 years ago, when I started this blog, anybody would have told me that I would be in a position to interview Linda Pilkington, a creator of Ta’if, my second all-times favorite perfume, I wouldn’t have believed them.

Last November, I was offered an opportunity to participate in the series of mini-interviews Ms. Pilkington was conducting as a part of the Worldwide launch of La Route de la Soie, a new collection that was created to celebrate Ormonde Jayne 20 years of perfumery. But since by that time I’ve already bought and reviewed the collection on my blog, I asked if I could do something slightly different – 20 Questions for 20 Years interview. And Ms. Pilkington agreed.

With the end-of-the-year rush and all holidays it took me a while to transcribe the conversation we had and put it into a post format. And then I thought that it would be very fitting to publish it for my blog’s 10th anniversary, since, as I told in the story for my blog’s 3rd anniversary, Ta’if was that perfume, from which my journey down the rabbit hole of niche perfumery started.

Also, I think it is serendipitous that Narth came up with the Saturday Question: Which Perfumer Would You Like to Meet In Person? around this time because, not being a fan-girl-type, the only perfumer I’ve ever wanted to chat with was Ms. Pilkington and only because of her role in creating perfume I fell in love with and everything that followed. We didn’t physically meet but it was the next best thing that can happen these days: we talked for more than an hour in Zoom.

My Ormonde Jayne Taif Family

On the photo above please meet my Ta’if family starting from the very first decant from The Perfumed Court and including the latest addition – Ta’if Intensivo, about which I’ll probably do a separate post later.

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Since I knew that predominantly people who were already familiar with the brand would be reading this interview, I skipped the traditional “let’s educate our readers about the brand” part and asked those questions that I was curious about and answers to which I didn’t know.

 

Ormonde Jayne: 20 Questions for 20 Years

Undina (U): Do you wear perfumes daily?

Linda Pilkington (L): I do. Even through the lockdown I wore perfume every day. I decide what to wear based on the combination of “How do I feel?”, “What is my day ahead?”, “What am I going to wear?” and a little bit to do with weather. For example, if I have a day when I know that I have to be on the ball, I put on Ormonde Woman: it makes me feel powerful; it makes me feel like I’m in control; it makes me feel that I’m my own person.

U: Do you re-apply your perfume during the day?

L: Yes, I do. In my office in the boutique I have that “emergency kit” next to my computer – a hairbrush, lipstick and perfume. If I’m called downstairs to chat with somebody, it takes about 5 seconds – brush my hair, put lipstick on, apply perfume – and I’m ready.

U: I realize that it’s like asking a mother which of her children she loves more, but still – is there any one perfume in the line that is especially dear to you? It’s not necessarily perfume that you like the most, but maybe there was something significant during the creation process, or the perfume that holds strong emotional connection?

L: It’s not Ormonde Woman, even though I like it, and everyone in the industry recognizes that it’s a good perfume. Many years ago, in my travels in the Middle East, I had come across oud. I was quite intrigued by that horrible pungent scent that people actually wanted to wear. I found it disgusting but decided to investigate because nobody wore it as perfume in Europe.

I brought some oud from Laos back to my studio in London, and we tried to decide what to do with it. “Nobody will want to wear that,” I said… so we put 0.06% into Ormonde, and we decided then to make Ormonde Woman and Ormonde Man (because before it was just Ormonde). Back then in Europe nobody had put oud into a fine fragrance. A journalist from Financial Times got interested; I sent her samples, I sent her pictures, and she featured it in the How to Spend It Magazine, back in 2004. So, Ormonde Man put the company on the map. And people from the perfume industry were saying: “We’d like you to consult about it; we want to know what it is.” So, I think that was my defining moment.

Ormonde Man and Ormonde Woman Perfumes by Ormonde Jayne

U: So, you are that person who is responsible for the expansion of agarwood in European perfumery in the last 15 years!

(Linda laughs)

U: While most perfumes are “unisex” and can be worn by anybody who likes them, by traditional classification there are more feminine-leaning perfumes in your collection. If you agree with this statement, why is that? Was it an economical decision (women buy more perfumes)? Or is it more natural for you to create feminine perfumes? Or is there some other reason?

L: You’re right: there are slightly more floral, oriental perfumes – I’d say, floriental is the palette I desire. But we did that “gender-free” aspect to the company through experience. When we started, we had a masculine and feminine side. But after two bad experiences with the clients to whom we had sold perfume after they wore it on their skin and liked it, but later discovered online that perfume they bought was on the feminine side and got upset, we realized the sensitivity of this issue. So, I contacted our web designer and told him to take off the “feminine” and “masculine.” We retrained all the staff not to use these descriptions. And if you’re asking about the sales, the women/men customers’ ratio is 60/40.

U: Is there any single perfume that outperforms all others in terms of popularity/sales?

L: The number one in all countries is Montabaco Intensivo. We have good sellers in different countries. For example, in Russia, they absolutely adore Champaca: for every 100 bottles of Ormonde Woman, we sell 1000 bottles of Champaca. In America, Ormonde Woman and Frangipani. In Europe, it’s Osmanthus, Ta’if and Ormonde Woman. But Montabaco Intensivo is in the top three in every country.

Montabaco Intensivo Perfume by Ormonde Jayne

U: While creating perfumes, do you ever have to compromise between what you like and what you think will sell better?

L: I always go with my nose, with what I like… except that quite often I’m “compromised” by IFRA. The original Amber Royal was outstanding. But it failed [the standards] completely. So, the best way to deal with it is to know the quantities you will be allowed to use and work around it.

U: Are there any perfume notes that you don’t like and because of that will not use in your perfumes?

L: I can’t work with tuberose in full quantity, and I would never do a full-blown tuberose perfume.

U: A woman after my own heart! I can’t stand tuberose.

L: It’s so heady, it’s so sickly, that it makes you feel a little bit ill. I can work with it in small quantities, but… No, I can’t take tuberose.

U: Was it for the same reason that you never did lily perfume? You have lily as a candle, but not as perfume.

L: No, it’s not that. I do like lily. But it’s too standard. I’ve never managed to achieve interesting lily perfume. With lily, after the top note dries off, it automatically goes back to standard lily – which is not really Ormonde Jayne. If you’ve got your signature Osmanthus, Frangipani, Ta’if, Tolu, Sampaquita or Champaca, all very beautiful, well put together, balanced, creative, artistic, abstract perfumes with lovely names. You can’t have a lily suddenly stuck among them. It’s not the style of the house. I tried. I put it with all kinds of ingredients, but in 5 minutes it’s a standard lily.

U: Why do you release perfumes in collections instead of just one new release at a time?

L: What happens is: we have a number of territories throughout the World. And they all want exclusivity. It’s hard. So, when we do a collection, it allows us to offer them a subset of it – what will work well for their territory.

U: How do you decide what perfumes to add to the line next? Are you filling in the gaps? Or something else? What goes into that decision?

L: I get feedback from my team, they are telling me if people keep asking about an ingredient. Sometimes I realize that something’s missing from our repertoire. For example, in my Signature collection I’d like to add a good musc perfume at some point when it feels right to me. And I’d like to add good patchouli perfume. And sometimes somebody sends you an oil that is interesting. It’s not something you’ve been looking for, not what I really need, but I’m particularly taken by it.

U: When will be the next new release?

L: I’ve got a couple of oils at the moment, and I’m launching two perfumes next year – they are practically finished now. I think they are absolutely fantastic. We won’t launch them at the same time. They’ll go into the Signature Collection, and we will launch them in 2021 as soon as we can travel again. I think they are absolutely stunning. Of course, some of my partners can still say to me: “They are not for my market.” I can’t speak for everybody, though I’ll try to persuade them because I know people would love these.

U: That takes me to my next question about different markets. I can’t believe people in the US do not want candles. But your US online store doesn’t have them. Why?

L: That’s not because they don’t want them. The rules and regulations are changing all the time. We have our own candle factory, so we were putting a lot of oil in candles, because we want them to smell nice. When those were tested, we were told that there was too much oil, and we had to change something. Since I didn’t want to compromise, it took me almost 18 months to recreate my candle oils so that they are just as good. And then I had to change the wick to be compliant. We just started making them again, so at the moment they are just in the UK. Maybe in a year and a half we’ll be able to supply them again.

U: What about hair mist?

L: With hair mists it’s, again, what our partners want. They have just that much space for the brand, and they say that they can sell our perfumes much faster than our hair mists. And they have their rent to pay…

U: In the past, there were body products in coordinated scents – shower gels, bath oils, if I’m not mistaken, even body lotions. Recently, I haven’t seen them either as stand-alone products or in sets. Do you have any plans for making more body products in future?

L: Before all the rules regulations I used to do all my shower cream and body lotions in my kitchen with an electric Moulinex baking mixers, not even industrial ones. 20 years ago I could do a body lotion myself and put it in a pot. But you’re not allowed to do it any more. It is expensive to have someone else to make all of my perfumes and body lotions. And then my partners would say: “For every 50 bottles of Ta’if perfume I sell, I sell 1 bottle of the body lotion. So, instead of giving up a shelf space to body lotions, I’d rather give it to perfume.”

Ta'if Perfune by Ormonde Jayne

U: Your regular line and made-to-measure – is the difference only in concentration, or do you “tweak” the formula as well?

L: The formulation is the same, and you chose 40 or 50 percent, whatever is allowed. It’s the same formula, but it smells different because at different concentrations different nuances come through. And, of course, it’s a lot more tenacious. And, when people get their favorite perfume at higher concentration for themselves or as a gift to loved ones and have their initials engraved, it makes that perfume more special for them.

U: Is there any classic or modern perfume about which you thought: “I wish I would have created it!”?

L: Not really… When I was younger, I fell in love with Diorella. I used to wear it all the time and thought it was the most magnificent perfume. I still have a bottle of Diorella in my bathroom now because I just love the smell of it. When I was a teenager and up until probably 18-20, I wore Diorella and made sure that all my boyfriends wore Eau Sauvage, also made by Edmond Roudnitska. I thought that it was a perfect match: I wear Diorella, you wear Eau Sauvage, and together we’re gonna smell so magnificent. So, maybe I wish it had been my creation.

U: Your collection is quite extensive now. Are there any plans to discontinue any of the current scents or concentrations?

L: We’d never discontinue any perfume. First, we like all the formulations. Second, it costs too much to bring the formula to market. So, sometimes when we want to reign in, we would just put some perfumes into our library. So, they just “go to bed,” they are going to get a little bit of a sleep, and they stay there. But 2-3 years down the road we might re-introduce them, maybe with a different name if a partner wants it for their market.

U: Do you have any plans to increase your brand’s presence on IG or YouTube?

L: I’m not too technically savvy, so my goddaughter takes pictures of our perfumes and posts them on our Instagram account. I don’t have any social media myself. So, I rely on my goddaughter: she’s level-headed, and she understands the philosophy of the company. I don’t think I’ll ever become a YouTube person. If anything, maybe for Cooking with Fragrance (you know, my Gourmande Jayne). Our social media person started building up this aspect, but we’re doing it slowly. We don’t want just to be doing endless “offers” because I think it can backfire. We’re really tiny, so we do not want to go “too commercial.”

U: And the final but important question. Do you share your dwelling with any furry family members?

L: Yes! Two cats, called Teddy and Freddie. They are from the cat home. I got them when they were kittens. They are brothers, but they don’t look like each other. One is a big fat ginger cat. He looks like Garfield. And the other one is black with green eyes. They snuggle up in front of the fire, sleeping in the daytime but turn into psychotic murderers by night. They go out every night. They kill anything that comes into our garden. They are working cats.

Cats Teddie and Freddy

Teddy, the ginger one, is very greedy. As he goes along, everybody likes to stroke him, he stops and lets them do it. And then he goes to the restaurants, down the steps to the kitchen, all feed him. And he just works his way down the street getting fed.

U: My cat Rusty is really food-oriented, so if he had been permitted to do something like that, by now he probably wouldn’t have been able to walk.

L: Teddy is getting a bit big. I might have to put him on a little regime.

U: And my last question: Where do you see your brand in 5 years?

L: Hopefully, it still will be my brand. And it will be just bigger, and better, and more beautiful. It’s still privately owned today, after 20 years, and it stays that way. I enjoy what I’m doing. I feel quite lucky: I have great relationships with my partners. We meet with each other all around the world. So, it’ll be the same company as you know today but with a little bit more presence.

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U: And now, concluding my 10th Blog’s Anniversary post, I want to ask myself: Where do you see Undina’s Looking Glass, in 5 years?

U: Health and life permitting, hopefully, still here. Based on decades of experience, I don’t expect to stop loving perfumes. Will I want to write about them? Will I have any stories to tell or numbers to crunch? Will there still be anyone who prefers to read about perfumes rather than watch videos and scroll through beautiful pictures? We’ll see, won’t we?

My Long Road to Houbigant

We all have some brands that for whatever reason stay out of our realm of interest despite appearing on our radar one way or the other. And then one day…

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Almost half a lifetime ago, my father who came from the US to visit me in my native country, brought me a present – Raffinee by Houbigant. Back then it was a very valuable gift (from the U.S.!), I didn’t have too many perfumes (two, maybe three), and all I could afford to buy was maybe one more mini bottle if that. And still, I didn’t like Raffinee to the extend that I wouldn’t want to wear it even from time to time, as a daily scent, to save my more precious perfumes for a special occasion. So, after a while, I passed that bottle onto my older friend and kind of a mentor, thanks to whom I eventually abandoned the idea of a signature scent and started exploring different perfumes. She loved Raffinee and was happy to re-home it.

I completely forgot both that perfume and the brand and have never thought about it either in my pre-perfumista years in the US or even after this hobby expanded my perfume horizons. Until one day I found myself on the sniffathon in San Francisco with a fellow-perfumista. She was extremely excited about the re-release of Quelques Fleurs l’Original by Houbigant that we could try at Nordstrom. I didn’t mind going there since that Nordstrom carried many other interesting brands and, what was even more attractive, allowed you to make samples without having to “dance” for 10-15 minutes before that with an SA. We went there, tried everything we wanted, made a dozen of samples each and went on our way. Since my partner in crime was so enamored with Quelques Fleurs, I made a sample of it as well. I tried it at home, thought it was nice, put the sample away to retry at some point… and completely forgot about it for the next three years. When I came back to it, my sample almost completely evaporated. The last half-drop that I tried was quite nice but not enough to form an opinion. So, once again, I stopped thinking about Houbigant.

And then hajusuuri sent me a decant of Iris des Champs, and I fell in love with it (I told a story of my Summer Iris here). That brought the brand to the foreground of my interest. But the only other bottle that I saw in the store – Quelques Fleurs Royale – seemed too simple for the price asked at the department store, and the counter was so uninviting… so I didn’t even test it.

And then on the next trip to the store I saw this bottle…

My cat Rusty's tail and Houbigant Quelques Fleurs Royale Collection Privee

Quelques Fleurs Royale Collection Privee (QFRCP). I tried it and immediately fell in love with it. Fragrantica’s notes don’t match those given on the brand’s site, so let’s go by what the brand has reported:
HEAD NOTES: Blackcurrant, Grapefruit.
HEART NOTES: Jasmine Absolute, Rose Absolute, Violet, Tuberose Absolute, Beeswax Absolute.
BASE NOTES: Sandalwood, Cedarwood, Vanilla, Musk

What can I smell in QFRCP? Probably a bright citrus-y rose (it reminds me of my favorite Rose d’Amour by Annick Goutal). Maybe, just maybe I can agree about black currant, but it’s in there not in the Enchanted Forest’s concentration, but rather as it usually smells in niche perfumery when the note is listed. That’s it. I’m not saying that it’s a simple fragrance with just a couple of notes. On the contrary, QFRCP smells quite rich and complex. But even when I’m smelling it with my wrist glued to my nose and eyes scanning the list of notes, I cannot dissect the composition. I disagree though with several reviewers on Fragrantica who smell amber in this perfume.

Cat Rusty and a bottle of Houbigant Quelques Fleurs Royale Collection Privee perfume

I bought this bottle in 2019 when Neiman Marcus had its first on my memory 20% off fragrances and cosmetics sale. I know that it’s not something unusual for my European readers since I know that large department stores in many countries used to have beauty sales periodically. But for many years here, all stores – regardless of their luxury meter readings – were selling beauty products strictly for MSRP without any discounts offered ever. The only way one could get some of those brands’ products cheaper was Duty-Free shops, brands’ outlet stores, or when they went to online discounters. There were Value Sets, Gifts With Purchase or Gift Card Events (e.g., spend $100 get a $20 GC for future use). But never %% off. I think that Sephora was the first who started their yearly Friends & Family events that allowed customers to buy high-end cosmetics and fine fragrances with 15-20% off. But in recent years, even before the pandemic, these large stores have capitulated, and I saw several sales from each of them. But that NM sale was the first one I experienced, so I just had to take an advantage of it, haven’t I? But back to perfume.

Houbigant Quelques Fleurs Royale Three Versions

I think Houbigant did something extremely strange with the marketing of this perfume. Look at the picture above: all three are 100 ml of Quelques Fleurs Royale. The first one on the left is Quelques Fleurs Royale EdP. It retails for $200 but can be found much cheaper online. The next one – Quelques Fleurs Royale Collection Prevee (or, as it’s called on some sites, Quelques Fleurs Royale Extreme), the perfume that Rusty and I welcomed to my collection, retails for $285, and I’m not sure I’d trust the site that offers it less than 50% off the price. And the last bottle is Quelques Fleurs Royale Parfum with an eye-popping price tag of $600. The notes listed for all three are identical. I don’t think I tested the first one (as I said, I didn’t like the bottle), but I got a sample of parfum from the SA who were more than happy to oblige a paying customer and wore the two – Privee/Extreme and Parfum – in parallel. I didn’t notice any significant difference in either scent or longevity of the two. So, with almost identical bottles, the same volume and a very similar scent, I’m not sure how the brand justifies more than doubled price. But as always in such cases, I assume they know something I don’t.

Meanwhile, I enjoy wearing Quelques Fleurs Royale Collection Prevee very much. It is a very beautiful and pronounced floral feminine scent. It doesn’t mean that a man cannot wear it – I’m just mentioning it as a characteristic for those who prefer their perfumes that way (as I do) or, the opposite, tries to steer clear of those. These days every perfume is an everyday scent, but I wouldn’t probably wear more than a moderate spritz or two to an office where people don’t wear masks.

Rusty and Houbigant Quelques Fleurs Royale Collection Privee

That was a long way to accepting the brand. I think I’d like to try several more perfumes from this Collection Privee whenever I’m able to go to the store again because a cursory sniff of a couple of them left good impression (and having Jean-Claude Ellena and Luca Maffei behind those newer offerings didn’t hurt either). I wonder though: would I have liked that Raffinee today?

 

Images: all but 3 bottles (compiled from the official product pictures) – my own

Entertaining Statistics: 2020 Year Round-up

We all said probably everything that could be said about the year we just saw out of the door. So, I’ll go straight to the perfume-related numbers.

Since I haven’t done a statistics post in a long while, I’ll remind the basic terms I use.

My Definitions

I wear perfumes and test perfumes. Both refer to applying perfume to my skin and staying with the scent for a while, observing its development over hours of its life. But I realize that different people understand different things under these terms. So, I prepared a short infographic that would explain what I mean when I say “wear” or “test.”

Perfumes Wear vs. Test Infograph

One more term that requires definition is Occasion. The continuation from the time I apply perfume (including continuous re-application) until it completely disappears is counted as one occasion.

Most days I wear one perfume and test two. But, theoretically, for one day I could record two occasions of wearing perfumes or up to eight occasions of testing.

So, let’s see my 2020 in numbers (in parentheses is a comparison to 2019).

Perfumes I Wore

In 2020, I wore more different perfumes (210 vs 190) from more brands (96 vs. 91) on more occasions (367 vs 351). I still didn’t reach a 2018 level when I wore perfumes on 372 occasions, but still, on average

I wore one perfume every single day of the year!

Last year I realized that the most popular brands for each year keep repeating with minor variations of the brands’ positions on the chart and 1-2 different brands temporarily replacing one another. I’m showing my standard Top 10 Brands chart but mostly to keep the tradition. The only surprise there was Byredo: it’s the first time ever the brand made it into the Top 10. It happened because I paired Ouai Super Dry Shampoo x Byredo Mojave Ghost with the same perfume, which I wore from the sample trying to figure out if I wanted to get a bottle. I haven’t decided yet.

My Stats Year 2020: Top 10 Brands

As always, with the number of perfumes I wore, I didn’t repeat the same perfume too often (my most worn perfume was worn on 9 occasions only – less than once per month). And the trend I observed for the last several years continues: the top 2 most frequently worn perfumes were 2 of my all-time favorites, Lancôme Climat (9) and Ormonde Jayne Ta’if (8). And the third place went to the new addition to my collection – Masque Milano Love Kills (6). In two previous years that place was taken by Houbigant Quelques Fleurs Royal Collection Privee (2019) and Chanel Bois des Iles (2018).

 

 

Perfumes I Tested

Staying at home, I tested more perfumes than in a year before – 327 perfumes (vs. 272 in 2019) but from slightly fewer brands – 126 brands (vs. 128). I still haven’t got to the numbers from 2018 (380 perfumes from 139 brands). Since access to new perfumes was even more limited than usual, a big chunk of my testing was done on perfumes I tested previously but decided to revisit to get one final impression before passing them on someone else, finishing them (“thunking”) or binning them. Still,

In 2020, I tested 103 perfumes new to me

Undina’s Top 10 Perfumes in 2020

In 2020 I managed to improve the number of new releases that I tested (thank you to all my friends who shared some of these): I tested 22 perfumes released in 2020 (vs. 16 in 2019). And, unlike a year ago, I even managed to count 10 that I liked, which allows me to do this “top 10” list. And what was even more surprising, I didn’t dislike a single 2020 release that I tested. So, my subjective top 10 releases of 2020 (in the order of my preferences):

Puredistance Rubikona

DSH Perfumes L’Or{ris}

Tom Ford Rose Prick

Ormonde Jayne Tanger

Jo Malone Yuja

Parfums MDCI L’Aimee

Ormonde Jayne Byzance

Hiram Green Vivacious

Jo Malone Vetiver & Golden Vanilla

Ormonde Jayne Damask

In green, are perfumes I already have in my collection; in blue, are those that I consider buying. But after more testing of the rest, I might decide to get one of Ormonde Jayne’s perfumes as well.

Pictures of Rusty

Finally, an important number – a count of pictures of Rusty that I posted in 2020: 61, the highest number for the last 3 years (and this is not counting Instagram pictures that appear on the sidebar or the bottom of the blog!).

Rusty and Yellow Submarine

How was your perfume year? Do you have any numbers to share?

 

Images: My own; infograph created using Venngage

2020: What Went Well

For the last probably 5 years, as the next new year celebration was approaching, I kept reading/hearing from people that they were glad “this year” was ending and looking with hope for the next one. And all those years I was thinking – and even using it as a celebratory toast more than once – that I hope that personally for me the next year would be at least not worse than the year we were seeing off.

Several years ago, I came across What Went Well Wednesday series on the Serenity Now Scents and Sensibilities blog. As Old Herbaceous has described, it is a gratitude exercise when you’re on a regular basis list three things that went well and explain why (“Adding “why” allows one to pinpoint times when acts of one’s own or others contributed to what went well”). I mentally played that game for a while, and even contemplated “borrowing” the idea for my blog but had never implemented it.

As challenging as 2020 was for everyone, believe it or not, I still stand by my New Year mantra: I hope that for me and my loved ones the next year will be at least not worse than this awful, strange, “unprecedented” and totally unexpected 2020. And I want to share with you what went well for me this year.

Health

First, nobody from my close circle of family and friends got sick so far. Mostly, it is just luck (though we all are trying to do our part), and I realize that we’re not out of the woods yet. But I’m glad that until now we’ve been lucky.

Second, an unpleasant health issue that started for me last December has finally resolved (at least temporary) without a surgery that seemed inevitable mid-year. I’m so relieved! I did all I could, including some folk remedies and postponing the surgery until I found a surgeon I trusted (we had a hilarious conversation about those folk remedies, none of us really believing in them but not completely dismissing either) and not going with the one who suggested to go ahead with the surgery right there and then. My vSO was so helpful, supportive and patient through the whole ordeal, that whatever role the moral well-being might have played in fighting infection, he deserves all the credit.

Finally, Rusty who had some stomach issues, seems to be better now when he doesn’t shed as much. And his lab work results are all good, which was a huge load off our minds. But it reminds me that I should brush him more regularly.

Rusty on the Bed

Job

We both stayed employed, and our jobs allow us to work remotely. Moreover, though much better than it was the previous year and with a better staffed team, my work kept me so busy, that I barely noticed the “stay at home” part.

Also, this year I got a great performance review from my manager. I’m mentioning it because it was the first time ever in my life. I’m quite used to not getting any feedback or getting (and, frankly, giving) formal and meaningless reviews. The fact that somebody made an effort and expressed in written words what I know I did good was an absolutely new experience. If I ever write a performance review for anyone again, I’ll need to remember how it feels to get a deserved acknowledgement.

And the last in this section, this year we finally were able to take time off during the winter holidays and get some so needed rest.

Family

Our state was partially open just in time for the local trip that my vSO and I planned for our big anniversary this year. Originally, the plan was just for two of us to get away for several days – spas, wineries, eating out. But after four months at home and most places still take-out only or outside seating, it felt less of a getaway. And since the house we rented was big enough for more people, we invited four of our closest friends whom we knew for decades to join us – and they did. It was a very pleasant mini trip. Picture below is taken from the balcony of the rebuilt tasting room of our favorite winery – Paradise Ridge, that burned down three years ago in the first big North Cal fire. They opened earlier this year, which I also write down in the positive column.

Paradise Ridge Winery

Friends and Hobbies

I’m lucky to have friends to talk to, exchange news and share worries. These are people I’m ready to help, and who is ready to help me. I miss seeing many of them, but I hope we’ll have more time to spend together, to travel and celebrate important events next year or the year after that or…

I’m also glad I have my Perfumeland friends. Not only we share our love of perfume, which is even more important now than it ever was, but we also help each other to stay informed about what’s happening in different countries and parts of the World, which allows us to better understand the situation, compare experience and get prospective.

Thanks to Portia who passed on me the APJ’s weekly Saturday Question series, I got what I always wanted for my blog – a continuous conversation with perfumista friends and loyal readers. And thanks to, again, Portia, Narth, hajusuuri and Christine W, my wonderful guest writers, the blog got more inhabited and diverse. I’m also thankful to all who’s reading this and other posts, commenting or not (though, I would prefer to have a chance to talk to everybody, even from time to time).

Thanks to Tara’s (A Bottled Rose) Beauty Reviews, I revisited my skincare routine. I don’t know if I’m getting any results, but at least it’s something new and it’s a pastime that I enjoy. The next thing will be to follow her and Vanessa’s (Bonkers about Perfume) suit and start reading again.

I’m thankful to Lucas (Chemist in the Bottle), my scent twin (well, triplet with hajusuuri, to be precise), who keeps reviewing new perfumes, even in this environment with limited access to new releases, so that I do not have to wonder whether to get samples for any of those: our tastes do not coincide 100%, but they overlap significantly, especially on perfumes that can be qualified as “unisex.”

And I’m grateful to hajusuuri who, in addition to being an inspiration with her daring 8-spray perfume application, just single-handedly provided me with a month-worth daily testing subjects. So, not only I got a wonderful gift under my New Year tree (see the photo below), but I also have something interesting to look forward to every day in January when all the holidays that I love so much are behind us.

NY Tree and samples

Speaking of Christmas/New Year trees. This year, we managed to decorate not only our house outside (seeing decorated houses makes me happy, so I wanted to help brightening this gloomy year to others who also enjoy holiday decorations) and inside (spending that much time at home, I wanted to make it more festive), but in addition to the big tree in the living room (on the postcard below), I decorated a tiny one for the bedroom (that’s where all those samples went to be safe from Rusty). And for the latter I used ornaments that are more than 4 decades old: my grandmother bought them for my tiny plastic tree when I was a child, and I saved them and brought with me when I moved to the US. The wooden decoration with a reindeer is a gift from Lucas, and the orange cat is an ornament that I bought in Hawaii several years ago and painted to resemble Rusty.

And finally, this year allowed me to wear my favorite perfumes more freely, not worrying whether it would bother my co-workers. I re-tested many of the samples I accumulated over the years, finished some, passed on some, got new ones to test, and found new perfume loves. Same as in years before, I haven’t tested enough new releases to do my own top N releases of 2020, but I will be back early next week with my 2020 Year Round-Up Entertaining Statistics post, in which I’ll mention my favorites from this year.

Rusty and New Year Tree 2021

Happy New Year to all my friends and readers! I will take mine 2021 at least not worse than 2020, but to all of you who felt that this year was too much of a leap (pun intended), I wish 2021 to be kinder, calmer and more joyful.

Will you share at least one thing in your life that went well this year? (But you do not have to stop at one)

Saturday Question: What Perfume did You Wear on Christmas Eve?

It’s the last Saturday of 2020. Some of the winter celebrations are already behind us, but we still have some to look forward to, so let’s keep the spirit of the holidays high and talk about them a little more.

 

Saturday Question on Undina's Looking Glass

 

Saturday Question #44:

What Perfume did You Wear on Christmas Eve?

In fact, I’m curious not only what perfume you’ve chosen (for the celebration or just for that day, if it wasn’t your holiday), but I’d also want to know about the reasoning behind that choice.

Also, if you do not mind, share what you did this Christmas Eve. Did you eat anything especially great and worth mentioning? Did you get any gifts that made you happy (not necessarily perfumes, but please share if you got those as well).

My Answer

We celebrated Christmas with our “extended bubble,” even though none of us can “claim” this holiday as ours. But it’s a long-standing tradition for us, so we celebrate it every year. Since I tried my hardest to make this holidays season as great as possible despite everything that’s happening in the World, I chose to wear Ormonde Jayne Ta’if, my all-times love #2, for the holiday that I adopted after moving to the US, saving my #1, Lancome Climat, for the New Year celebration, since that perfume was with me through many new years, some of which were probably even harder for me personally than 2020 was.

When we were much younger, our traditional New Year celebration would start with a festive dinner… around 10 PM to be done by midnight, toast the New Year – and then spend the rest of the night celebrating. As we grew … up, first we stopped going through the whole night of celebration, cutting it short at 3-4 AM first and recently rarely making it to after 1:30-2 A.M. With that, our evening meals started getting lighter and lighter: the older we get, the harder it gets to eat a big dinner 3-4 hours before going to bed. At some point we figured out that Christmas Eve dinner was a much better time to eat all of our traditional New Year celebratory dishes – and that’s what we’ve been doing this year. A highlight of the dinner this year was a roasted duck that our friend cooked.

As a gift I got a funny t-short (see the picture below) that I plan to wear the next time I’m forced to participate in an early morning meeting. I bought a perfume gift for myself, but since it’s not here yet, I’ll tell you about it next year when it arrives.

Since the birthday boy refused to fully participate in my perfume photo shoot (despite my promises to reward him with treats), I made a picture of Ta’if with the Old World Christmas‘s Santa Kitty ornament, which we bought as one of the two yearly additions to our ornaments collection.

What Perfume did You Wear on Christmas Eve?

Rusty the Cat: 12 Years Young (And Merry Christmas!)

I’m positive that even smartest of our feline companions (or even canine, for that matter) do not have a notion of birthdays and celebrations. So, I realize that Rusty is blissfully unaware of his age and surely isn’t expecting anything from us on that day. I mean, not more than he usually expects, daily.

But since we, humans, anthropomorphize, of course my vSO and I feel that we need to do something special for Rusty’s birthday, so again and again we’re trying to find him gifts. How do they call doing the same thing and expecting different results? Yeah, I know.

In almost 12 years I know our cat, he exhibited almost no interest in the cat toys bought at a store. We went through soft and crunchy and bouncy and… (you got the picture) toys with the same result: at best, Rusty would sniff it and, maybe, bat it once or twice – to never touch them again. In the worst cases – like an iPad-navigated running sphere promised to amuse your cat for hours – Rusty would be scared of it and try to hide every time we attempted to play with him.

I rarely react to ads, be that TV, radio or online pop-ups. I’m even less inclined to believe any of those infomercials promising you miracle devices that help you to lose weight, while growing hair and learning a new language. But somehow, I let my guard down while playing one of the games on my phone: they showed how enthusiastically cats played with that toy… And it was just $14.95… (clip below might take some time to load)

Rusty playing with a Toy

To be fair, Rusty might have played with it for longer, had they thought through the mechanics. In a couple of minutes, he figured out that he needed to catch the wire, not the bird. Besides, even if he catches the bird, once he pulls it, the stand falls, and it stops flying. There are stickers on the bottom to stick the base to… not sure, what to, but even if I could figure it out, the issue is that both an ON/OFF switch and the opening to change batteries are there, on the base. So, Rusty played with it a couple of times with my help to reposition it every time after falling, but then both of us got tired.

So, the only store-bought cat toy that manages to hold his attention for quite a while is a simple plastic spring. He went through 20+ of those. We do not know for sure what happens to them in the end: after a day or two of playing, we never see them again. I suspect that once we replace a refrigerator or a stove, we’ll find a plastic springs cemetery. Meanwhile, for this birthday I ordered for Rusty the next set of those springs. They are supposed to be delivered before Christmas – not that Rusty would care one way or the other.

Cat Toy

Below is a collection of pictures of Rusty – one picture from every year of his life. But if you want more, just filter posts by the Category “Four legs good” to see all photos of Rusty that I used in the blog, as well as all the posts about the cat who keeps bringing endless joy to my and my vSO’s lives.

Happy Birthday to our Christmas cat and Merry Christmas to all my friends and readers who celebrate this holiday.

Rusty and Christmas 2020

Saturday Question: Are There Mere-exposure Effect Perfumes in Your Collection?

If you are not familiar with a psychological phenomenon called the mere-exposure effect or familiarity principle, you can read more about it in this Wikipedia article. I am using it rather jokingly, as a conversation starter for this week’s Saturday Question.

 

Saturday Question on Undina's Looking Glass

 

Saturday Question #43:

Are There Mere-exposure Effect Perfumes in Your Collection?

The idea behind that phenomenon was: “After repeated exposure, the observing organism will begin to react fondly to the once novel stimulus.”

Do you have any perfumes that you like more now then you liked them when you first bought them or got them as a gift? We’re not talking about the situation when you tested a sample or a small decant, didn’t like it, then tested more, liked and bought perfume. Or didn’t like perfume initially then tested years later and fell in love.

Can you think of any perfume that you liked but didn’t love … until you got used to it?

My Answer

I knew I would buy Annick Goutal Nuit Etoilee as soon as I saw an announcement about its launch: I liked the brand, I was very partial to their old-style colored bottles, and especially I liked that dark blue color. So, once I found it at a store, I bought it. It wasn’t a blind buy, I liked it, but at that time there were so many other great perfumes that Nuit Etoilee seemed somewhat simple and … not challenging (?). It wasn’t a statement perfume (I gravitate to those). And for a while I thought that it reminded me of Serge Lutens Fille en Aiguilles. I even solicited blind testing experiment from three fellow-parfumistas (if you weren’t around then and curious or want to read objective impressions of this perfume from reviewers who didn’t know what they were testing, take a look: Déjà vu, Episode 4: des pairs, dis-pair, Despair).

Rusty and Annick Goutal Nuit Etoilee

Starry Night? Where?!!

I wore Nuit Etoilee for a while, but then somehow forgot about it and didn’t wear it for at least 4 years. I didn’t change my mind about it. I didn’t dislike it. I just never chose to wear it.

A couple of months into the lockdown, I thought of wearing it – I don’t remember what prompted it. It was almost a shock: I liked it very much. It surprised me. What was that? Have my tastes changed? Does this perfume seem so much better now compared to endless modern concoctions? Or was it a true case of the mere-exposure effect?

[…] analysis found that the effect is strongest when unfamiliar stimuli are presented briefly. Mere exposure typically reaches its maximum effect within 10–20 presentations, and some studies even show that liking may decline after a longer series of exposures. For example, people generally like a song more after they have heard it a few times, but many repetitions can reduce this preference. A delay between exposure and the measurement of liking actually tends to increase the strength of the effect.

 

Are There Mere-exposure Effect Perfumes in Your Collection?

Saturday Question: What Perfume Is Really Noir?

Have you ever heard anyone complaining that perfume called [Something] Light or [Something] Fraiche wasn’t light or fresh enough? I haven’t. But with rare exceptions, most of the reviews for [Something] Noir ends up mentioning that perfume in question does not live up to the proud “Noir” part of its moniker. So, I got curious: What perfumes in your collection or out of those that you have tried don’t cause cognitive dissonance?

 

Saturday Question on Undina's Looking Glass

 

Saturday Question #41:

What Perfume Is Really Noir?

My Answer

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was … Noirvember.

After playing on this month’s name a couple of times in the past (Perfume Diary: NovAmber and I did it again: NovAmber 2018), I thought of using this new variation to wear in November perfumes with the “Noir” as a part of the name.

I started with the list of such perfumes that I have. My database showed that I either have or at least used to have at some point enough perfumes with that name to sustain me for longer than a month. Unfortunately, most of them were samples that I tried at some point and didn’t like much, so even if I could dig them out from wherever that final destination for such samples that I call “Library” is, I wouldn’t have enjoyed wearing them – and with enough negative things going on in our day-to-day life I decided against making that sacrifice “in the name of science” (besides, who would have patience to read through 30 even one-paragraph descriptions for random perfumes?).

But since I liked the idea (well, mostly I liked the Word), I collected only those perfumes that I either liked or wanted to try again. And while wearing them and writing down my impressions, I realized that out of eight perfumes that I went through for this mini-project, just two or maybe three didn’t feel like a misnomer – Tom Ford Noir Pour Femme (I previously wrote about it in Mr. & Mrs. Tom Ford Noir), SixScents Parfums Nappa Noir (my story here) and maybe Ormonde Jayne Orris Noir.

I’m not sure what makes these three “noir” (and we all understand that when talking about perfumes, we do not think of a literal translation of this French word), but they somehow fit into the image in my head, most likely created by the Film noir genre, definition of which itself is still being debated.

 

Rusty and Sixth Scents Nappa Noir

 

What Perfume Is Really Noir?