On Cloud Nine

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

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

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

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

 

Barrels with wine

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

Sonoma Scent Studio Champagne de Bois

 

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

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

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

 

Les Liquides Imaginaires Bello Rabelo

 

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

 

Rusty and Bello Rabelo

 

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

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

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

 

Images: my own

Entertaining Statistics: 2019 Year Round-up

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

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

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

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

 

My Perfume Stats Year 2019

 

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

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

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

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

 

Rusty in a Bowl

 

Images: My own

Orange Cats in My Life – Part XI: They didn’t get away after all (and Happy New Year!)

With two recent Postcards and many previous posts about Rusty, I didn’t plan to write anything else this year. But a couple of days ago I got a new comment on my post Orange Cats in My Life – Part V: The Ones That Got Away from 5 years ago. For those who didn’t follow the link to check it out: in that pre-new year post (December 31st, 2014) I told about several cat-themed items that I had my eye on but for different reasons missed out on.

The commenter who found that post all these years later, asked me if I was still looking for those cat boots. I answered “No.”

I’m not looking for either the artwork or boots that I featured in that post. Not because I lost interest or hope, but because I’ve already found and bought both. It took me several years, but I was persistent, and it paid off (well, of course, it was I who had to pay for them but nevertheless).

You could see more detailed pictures in the original post, but on the postcard below you might notice a fragment of the Govinder’s lithograph, The Shining Sinners, that hangs over my fireplace. Since it wasn’t a planned post, I didn’t have enough time to bribe Rusty into posing with my boots, so you’ll have to trust me that they look exactly like on the picture in the linked post.

By now I know that not all wishes might come true; not everything depends on us and our resolve to fulfill what we wish for; and wishing for something material and then getting it is, probably, the simplest and easiest to achieve. But still, I think it’s a little symbolic, so I’d like to use it as a metaphor for the New Year wishes to you, my friends and readers, and to myself.

Welcoming year 2020, while wishing for health, prosperity and peace on a big scale, let’s think of something small(er) that we personally have control over and make that wish to realize by persisting and staying determined to get what we want.

Happy New Year to all of us!

Rusty and Xmas Tree and The Shining Sinners

A Postcard from Undina: Merry Christmas and Happy Birthday, Rusty!

I love Christmas.

Even if I were religious, this day (December 24th) wouldn’t have meant anything to me since my potential denomination would have been Eastern Orthodox Christianity, and they celebrate this holiday in the beginning of January. But I’m not religious, and before I moved to the U.S., Christmas wasn’t really celebrated in my native country (it has changed now). Since I live here now, and many people around me celebrate it, I embraced it. But Christmas for me is more of a social event than anything else.

I love Christmas, and usually I’m “all in” with decorations, gifts to co-workers and other festivities.

This year I was so busy at work trying to meet a crazy deadline that I could barely spare some time for decorating the office (but I had to do it since without me it wouldn’t have been done at all). And then I got sick, so decorating our house, either inside or outside, had to be sacrificed to just living through that. I feel better now, so we put up a Christmas tree, but that’s all I managed to do this year. I plan to write a “Thank you” note to those neighbors in our area who decorated their houses (with a large number of Chinese and Indian households around a decorated house is rather an exception – that’s why I feel especially bad for not doing it this year myself).

Merry Christmas to all my readers who celebrate this holiday. May it be filled with joy, piece and happiness.

 

Rusty and Chrismas Tree and Gifts

 

One more reason why I like Christmas is because this is the day when we celebrate Rusty’s birthday. Today he turned 11. He’s such a wonderful companion, and I hope that he’ll be healthy, hungry and happy cat for many-many Christmases to come.

A Postcard from Undina: Happy Hanukkah 2019!

I’m the third generation in our family who is not religious, any religion, though potentially I had two options from my parents.

Many years ago, my Grandma send me money for my birthday. She had extremely limited means, and we all kept telling her that she didn’t need to give us gifts, but she insisted, and since she couldn’t leave her apartment any longer to buy us something, for more important events she would send me and her other grandchildren a check.

I was standing firm on my feet by then, and I needed money much less than she did, so I wanted to buy something special, something to remember her by. So, I bought a menorah (hanukkiah). As I said, she wasn’t religious, so the menorah I got wasn’t a traditional one: Michael Aram, one of my favorite designers, made it as an olive branch.

Hanukkah is the only Jewish holiday that I kind of celebrate: for eight nights I light candles, think about my grandmother, and try to keep Rusty away from the fire.

So, today I lit the first candle, and three of us had a crab dinner (for those of my readers who knows about Judaica even less than I do: it’s not an acceptable food for observant Jews). SOTD Chanel Cuir de Russie (a subconscious nod to my other side of the family tree?).

Happy Hanukkah to everybody who celebrates! (And I’ll be back soon with the next postcard.)

 

Rusty and Menorah

Liquid Sunshine: Chanel Beige

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

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

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

 

Chanel Beige perfume

 

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

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

In conclusion I wrote:

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

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

 

Rusty and Chanel Beige

 

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

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

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

 

Rusty and Chanel Beige

 

Images: my own

Spreading the Negative Word-of-Mouth: Perfumarie

First thing first: if you ever decide to buy anything from Perfumarie, do it at your own risk. I will never do it again.

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A couple of months ago I shared with you how I talked myself into buying perfume when I learned that the brand was going out of business. I was so excited to find one of the last bottles of DelRae’s Coup de Founre out there! I didn’t even think about waiting for a sale or a discount for the fear of missing on it altogether. I should have.

I could have written a couple of pages describing in details how it went on, but I’ll give you a cliff notes version. Perfumarie sent me a brand-new bottle of rancid perfume, refused to deal with it and, when confronted via PayPal conflict resolution center, pretended to respond long enough to satisfy formal requirements but had never addressed the actual issue. PayPal’s resolution was that they couldn’t conclude that the “product was significantly not as described,” so I couldn’t use their “buyer protection.” And since I was leaving for my long trip, I just didn’t have any energy or time left to see if my credit card would be more reasonable. As the result, I’m out of $150 and acquired a bottle that isn’t that nice to use it even on my bottle display.

So, all I can do is to leave a word out there: in my opinion, Perfumarie behaved dishonestly. They didn’t argue that the product was fine (I offered to send it so that they could see it themselves – and they, positioning themselves as a “Discovery studio,” should have been able to tell that my bottle was off), they didn’t suggest any remedy to the situation. They chose a one-time profit over potential long-term relationship with me as a customer. So be warned.

 

Rusty and DelRae Coup de Foundre

 

In addition to plainly getting my hundred and fifty dollars’ worth of negative publicity to Perfumarie (I realize, I’m a tiny blogger but karma, you know…), I wanted to discuss the situation in principle to see what you think, and whether you agree with my arguments.

We all had our share of perfumes that turned while in our possession, as well as vintage “finds” on eBay or estate sales that weren’t what we expected them to be. But buying vintage perfumes and hoping for the best, we acknowledge the risk and are prepared to write off the losses. But what about getting a full-priced brand-new bottle from a real store (either with just online or, especially, with both B&M and online presence)?

What I tried to argue both with Perfumarie and PayPal: while I understand a general return policy for beauty and personal care products, and I, for one, wouldn’t want to buy any product opened and returned (though, in this particular case, I even suggested to Perfumarie that I would take an open tester if they still had it and thought that it was fine), the policy shouldn’t apply to the case of a spoiled product since after being returned that product should not be sold to anyone – be it opened or sealed. And since to determine that this type of a product is spoiled one must open and try it, doing so, logically, cannot void warranty/right to return the product if it cannot be used as intended.

It is impossible to determine that a sealed product without an expiration date printed on it is spoiled. And we all know that some perfumes stay stable for decades, so it’s hard to predict when any of them would go off. So, I understand that, in general, a store cannot really know that they are selling something that is past its prime. But a consumer has even less information to go on by: a store would at least know when they got a batch, how they stored it, and whether there were any other complaints about that batch or that brand. All-in-all, while it is a loss, I would expect it to be a store’s loss, not an individual buyer’s one.

On a separate point, as much as I am against what IFRA does to perfume industry and would prefer it (and similar agencies) to stay away from regulating what can go into perfumes (bar really dangerous ingredients), I would love if one of them would protect our rights by making beauty, cosmetics and perfume companies put production dates on packaging – as Givenchy did with one of my favorite LE perfumes (by the way, it’s still fine, 12 years later).

 

Givenchy Amarige Mimosa 2007

 

Images: my own