Scented Gift Ideas 2015

I always wanted to do a post about winter holidays gifts (for my family and close friends it’s more about the New Year gifts than those for Christmas). But usually I was doing my shopping in B&M stores, so whichever interesting items I would find there I usually couldn’t recommend to my readers. This year in general and November-December in particular were so hectic for me that most of my holiday shopping was and still is happening online. So I decided to share with you my scented gift ideas.

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post in any form and it doesn’t contain affiliate links.

***

While choosing perfume for somebody else is a very tricky task, some brands make it easier for both the giver and the recipient. So I’ll start with the brand that had changed my attitude towards gifting people with perfumes.

Ineke offers two discovery sets – Scent Library and Deluxe Sample Collection – both are beautifully presented and, at the price of $25 including S&H and $15 coupon towards the full bottle purchase, are perfect stocking stuffers. And if you’ve previously bought one of these and are thinking about a bottle, now is great time to go for it to take advantage of the free shipping until December 25th.

Rusty and Ineke Scent Library

Atelier Cologne, the brand that I really appreciate, offers a good variety of stocking stuffers and gifts, starting from $18 (I’m still contemplating trying one of their soaps) plus free US & Hong Kong delivery until December 25th and free personalization for travel sprays. And if you’re serious about giving somebody special a gift of perfume, I think that their latest offering – a gift card (minimum $70) that includes 12 samples – is a great idea.

Atelier Cologne Gift Card

Concluding the perfume-giving part of this post, I want to mention that Dame Perfumery‘s 5 ml trial size of Black Flower Mexican Vanilla for $10 including S&H is an absolute steal! Other perfumes are also available from that link.

For those who would still rather not venture into gifting perfumes, there are other options:

Perfumed Lace Garden bracelet or Alahine scented ceramic tile from Teo Cabanel. None of them will break the bank. And for those who’s looking for something more indulgent, there’s always By Killian with his scented jewelry collections (these are new ones) and Frederic Malle’s rubber incense.

Teo Cabanel Lace Garden Bracelet

I’ve recently discovered Beautyspin online store and I want to share it with you. You’ll have to overlook the percentage they promise you’re saving or the referenced “retail price” – those are pure fictional numbers. But their prices are very good (and sometimes you can find an additional discount code).

Check out these perfect stocking stuffers: Myrrhe Ardente, Encens Flamboyant and Musc Nomade shower gels ($3.35$5.19) by Annick Goutal or Bottega Veneta Pour Homme shower gel ($29).

Annick Goutal Shower Gels

After Rusty showed to me what I should do with the beautiful Amouage Dia soap, I decided that it would be a great holiday gift and bought Memoir and Epic perfumed soaps from Beautyspin ($24 each). Now I’m trying to persuade myself that those are great holiday gifts for somebody else since I still haven’t opened my Dia soap.

Rusty and Amouage Soaps

The person for whom you’re shopping for gifts is not into perfume-y scents? How about a fresh cut pine or coffee smell? Try these firestarters ($10 each):

Firestarters

And finally, if you want to steer clear of imposing any scent choice on your giftees, you might consider Blue Q You Smell Delicious socks ($9.99).

You Smell Delicious Socks

 

Will you be giving any scented gifts this year?

 

Advertisements

ScentBird, ScentTrunk and Olfactif – Who’s the Fairest of Them All?

On more than one occasion I tried to dissuade my readers from blind buys – be that full bottles based on somebody else’s reviews or sample sets selected by unknown authorities. But then recently I came across an article in Luxury Daily about Opulent Box, a jewelry subscription program

“While most people shop for jewelry they love, they’re missing out on the surprise factor, and that’s what we’re wanting to achieve with the Opulent Box,”

said CEO Jon Yedwabnik, Opulent Jewelers, the company that for mere 25K per quarter ($100K per year) offers their affluent consumers a surprise box with brand name estate and vintage jewelry.

I suspect that most of my readers do not have a perfume budget that amounts to even one tenth of the quarterly jewelry subscription cost but if you decide to spend $25-$100 to get a surprise factor or want to wear some popular mainstream perfumes without committing to a full bottle, one of these services might be exactly what you need.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

In all years I’ve been running Undina’s Looking Glass the only time I used my “perfume blogger” status to get anything from a brand was 4 years ago when I tried to buy from a new niche line samples they haven’t offered at the time. I didn’t succeed then.

The second time I attempted that recently when I started working on this post. On the ScentBird‘s website I noticed a section For Bloggers. It offered bloggers to get their subscription free. I provided the required information – my blog address, number of subscribers, FB & Twitter accounts – and explained in the note the purpose of my subscription. I think, I even suggested holding a draw for whatever perfume I would receive. I got rejected. I don’t remember the exact polite phrasing (and for some reason I can’t find the letter now), but it was clear that my blog wasn’t big enough for their purposes. I was slightly offended (they kind of offered themselves!) but mostly amused: both services that specialize in much more expensive niche perfumes – Olfactif and ScentTrunk – had previously offered me their subscriptions (I haven’t accepted) while the mass-market-oriented one decided to save ten bucks on me.

Since my blog is my hobby and I make a living from other sources, I paid for ScentTrunk and ScentBird subscriptions (3 and 2 months correspondently, with some %% off of the first month with coupons I found online). I didn’t have to pay for Olfactif since I had a box gifted to me by Jeffrey Dame, when one of his perfumes was featured there. So here’s how these subscriptions stack up against each other.

Features Comparison Table for ScentBird, ScentTrunk and Olfactif

Name
ScentBird (https://www.scentbird.com) ScentTrunk (https://scenttrunk.com/) Olfactif (http://www.olfactif.com)
What you get
8 ml glass spray decant (you choose your scent from the list). With the first month you get a travel case that can be used later with the following months’ decants 3 x 2 ml plastic spray samples (selected presumably based on your profile), in a box, information cards for each scent, a drawstring bag and testing strips 3 x 2.25 ml glass spray samples (the same set per collection for everybody)
Collections
Feminine and masculine. There are more than 60 brands, mostly mainstream but there are a couple of niche brands Unisex, masculine and feminine. About 40 niche and indie brands Unisex (“for women and adventurous men”) and masculine (“traditionally masculine scents”). There are about 35 niche and indie brands
Base cost
$14.95/month including S&H. US only $18/month including S&H. US & Canada. +Tax if you’re in Canada $18/month including S&H. US only
Subscription options
$84/6 months ($14/month); $162/12 months ($13.50/month) $96/6 months ($16.5/month); $180/12 months ($15/month) $51/3 months ($17/month); $96/6 months ($16/month); $180/12 months ($15/month)
Delivery
Once a month, ships on the 15th regardless of when the subscription starts Once a month; ships within several days after the subscription starts and then every 30 days Once a month, around the 1st. Subscriptions made before 15th of the month get that month’s subscription box
Payment
Credit Card only Credit Card and PayPal Credit Card and PayPal
Cancellation
Online; any time before 5th of the month. Subscription can be put on hold for a month By e-mail request, at any time By email request; any time before 15th of the month. Subscription can be put on hold for a month
Returns/Refunds
Not offered Full refund by e-mail request if you’re not satisfied for any reason Not offered
Referral program
Get a friend to subscribe – get one month free (plus a friend gets the second month free) Points offered for recommending to a friend (see Coupons & Discounts) Not offered
Full bottles
Not offered There’s a small collection of full bottles offered for purchase. Online shopping is in its infancy: all you can do is to scroll the page to browse the selection sorted in the descending order by price Bottles for perfumes featured in the subscription are offered. Filter by price, brand, note, season or category.
Coupons & Discounts
Search Internet for a one time discount code Search Internet for a discount code for the subscription. You will also get some points for different actions on the site – placing the order, reviewing perfumes you tried, referring friends, etc. After you collect enough of these points, you can convert them into a $10 or $25 discount for the full bottle purchase from the site $18 credit toward the full-bottle purchase of a featured fragrance every month (even for discounted subscription options). You can also find a 15% off the subscription price coupon online
Customer Service
After I reported the wrong perfume sent to me this month, I got a replacement within three days and they suggested keeping the wrong perfume After I reported the duplicate box sent to me in the second month, I got an immediate refund. Unfortunately, the next box I got only the next month (and with a delay), which slightly defeats the purpose of a monthly subscription N/A (since I didn’t subscribe, I didn’t have any experience with it – please chime in if you did)
What I like
You know exactly what you’re getting and 8 ml is more than enough for most perfumes if you’re not prepared to get a full bottle

Ease of cancellation (though they cleverly offer to put the subscription on hold when you’re cancelling)

Packaging that is both cute and functional. Rusty gave the highest approval to the testing strips (see the picture below)

They try hard to be nice to customers and to engage them

During the sign-up you go through some type of personalization where you get express your preferences of some aspects of perfumes – “fresh”, “floral”, “woody”, “oriental.” These are supposed to be taken into the account while preparing your monthly box. It didn’t work in my case (I got twice exactly the same box – even though after getting the first one I changed the profile) but I think it’s a good direction and hope they’ll improve with time

You can buy additional samples (the same 2.25 ml size) for any of the perfumes they sell as well as the previous collections (unless sold out) and perfume books

If you think of starting the subscription, you have until the 15th of the month to decide if you want to do it that month and get the samples offered

Very well-written and informative FAQ section

What I do not like
It’s an unusually deferred gratification: you pay (or at least decide that you’ll be continuing the subscription) by the 5th of the month and your order arrives around 19th. And it’s even worse if you subscribe in the end of the month: it takes almost a month to get your first order Perfumes that I got in the first two boxes were all on the cheaper/cheapest side of the offerings, with which the site teases (not even mentioning Amouage samples used as main images all over the main page). With my final box they’ve redeemed themselves though: all three samples were “top shelf.” But I would have preferred a better mix for each of the boxes

My negative review for one of the perfumes is still awaiting an approval (for the last 2.5 months) while the positive one had no problem being approved

Beautiful but extremely wasteful packaging
~ ~ ~

Rusty plays with Scent Trunk's test strips

Conclusion

Personally, despite the rejection from their marketing people, I found ScentBird‘s service the most useful: I got two decants I wanted (GHAG‘s Miss Charming and Montale‘s Intense Cafe) much cheaper than I could find them elsewhere (not counting split groups but they don’t always have what you want). But then it’s not really a subscription, is it? Still, if you see something you like in their online store, it might be a good value for the money. Also I think it might be a good gift (the offer is 3 months for $44) for a “civilian” (© Tara) friend.

As to the actual subscription services, I still think that you’ll be better off testing perfumes in stores (if possible), exchanging samples with other perfume enthusiasts or buying them from brands’ sites or in split groups. But if you live too far away from the stores that carry high-end mainstream or niche perfumes and you’re not too big on communicating with others to arrange exchanges or splits, I have a couple of recommendations on how to decide whether you want to play with one of the services and with which one.

If you’ve tried and/or do not want to try 50% or more of perfumes, full bottles of which a service offers in their online store, do not subscribe.

Since ScentTrunk sends “customized” boxes without disclosing who gets what, there’s a good chance that you’ll get three of the perfumes that are already in their store at the moment you’re checking it out before signing. So just look at what they offer and think how many of those you haven’t tried yet or tried and wouldn’t mind using for $3/ml.

Olfactif, on the other hand, offers for sale perfumes from their previous collections, so you do not know what you’ll get next but can try predicting the future performance by calculating the ratio of the perfumes you tried and disliked to all perfumes you tried from their collection. The smaller the result, the better chances that going forward they’ll keep selecting something that is closer to your tastes.

If you are not familiar with most of the perfumes in both stores, go with the service that offers more brands that are new to you: if you’re making a leap of faith, at least you’ll get exposed to something completely new.

Have you ever tried any subscription services (not necessarily perfume-related)?

 

Images: my own

Thinking outside the Box

Several years ago I read a post on Olfactarama blog about bottles collectors*. The following paragraph made me thinking:

Even as a young girl I hoped to someday have a vanity, on which there would be a mirrored tray, full of fine perfumes in their beautiful bottles. The bottles atop my cabinet now — Agent Provacateur comes to mind, in its pink ceramic egg crowned by a plain metal spray nozzle — aren’t the most appealing ones. Those are stashed safely in the dark interior.

As I was reading that passage, I realized that from an early age my idea of storing perfumes was somewhere in the dark – a cupboard, a dresser or a cabinet. A mirrored tray hadn’t been a part of our culture: usually there was not enough space in the bedroom to have that tray and nothing to put on it. Since perfumes were rare and expensive women tended to store them in the original packaging. Opening a box, getting a bottle out and sparingly applying a perfume – all these were parts of a ritual.

After moving to the U.S., for years, while coming across perfume bottles in my friends’ bathrooms and on their dressers, I would wince. I never offered any unsolicited advice but it felt like a sacrilege to leave unprotected perfume out in the open. But over time I came up with a rationale why it was an acceptable MO: with those 2-3 bottles that my friends owned they were much more likely to run out of perfume than have perfume running out on them (through evaporation or turning bad).

While I think it is fine for “civilians” to store and use their perfumes as they pleased – be it even on a windowsill or in a glove compartment – I still get distressed every time somebody demonstrates pictures of their poorly protected collections in perfume-related FB groups. I do not comment but I feel bad about those bottles. And I do not buy partial bottles without a box any more.

My Perfume Storage

The picture above shows how my collection is stored. In the walk-in closet, away from direct light, covered by a curtain from a blackout fabric (the cat-Christmas-themed towel on top is for decorative purposes only) and in their original boxes. And, as I recently commented on Vanessa’s post on a similar topic (Through the keyhole…a peek at some of my friends’ perfume collections…), in summer for those couple of days when it gets especially hot I turn AC on during the day to keep my perfumes safe. It’s interesting because Rusty doesn’t mind hot weather and it’s much cooler in the room where he spends most of his time while we’re away working.

After this substantial preamble I want to admit that for a while now I’ve been thinking how unfair it was that I get to see those beautiful bottles that I have in my collection so rarely and how great it would be to have some of them out on my dresser. After all, many of the bottles are beautiful and unusual – unlike most boxes, I must say.

As much as I would love to see my collection more often, there is no way I could put perfumes I love “in the harm’s way.” First I decided I would buy several perfumes just to use bottles. I didn’t want to spend too much on this project but I thought of a couple of brands that were perfect candidates: I liked the bottles and didn’t like those perfumes. First I bought Van Cleef & ArpelsFeerie EdT. Feerie EdP (a beautiful dark-blue bottle) was next on my list and I even found it for an extremely good price… It was too good to be true: the seller was confused and sent me the second bottle of EdT, which I returned. Then I was too busy to keep looking for it. The second brand I wanted to use for the purpose of displaying was Salvador Dali. But even though many of their perfumes are sold at discounters online, I don’t remember when I saw any of the bottles last so I was afraid that by now they might look really cheap. So I kept postponing the purchase hoping to come across them one day somewhere. And I had the same problem with a mirrored tray: while there were many online offerings, I just couldn’t buy any of them without actually looking at them: there are so many cheap-looking objects produced nowadays.

Perfume Bottles on my Dresser

In the end I decided – at least for now – to use what I already have:

  • Instead of a tray I put on my dresser a decorative plate “J’adore Parfum – I Love Perfume” that I got as a gift with purchase.
  • Mentioned above bottle of Feerie EdT
  • Two empty bottles: Annick Goutal‘s Petite Cherie (I used up this one but couldn’t throw it because I like these colored AG’s bottles) and Salvador Dali’s Laguna (20 years ago I got it from my friend after she finished it: I liked the bottle but not enough to splurge on the perfume)
  • Two partial bottles (perfume gone bad): Les Parfums de Rosine‘s Roseberry and Yves Rocher‘s Nature (it’s one of my old favorites so I have another bottle with good perfume but I like this leaf design and kept this bottle for no good reason – probably for this project
  • Vintage mini-bottle of Chamade by Guerlain that I bought at a thrift store (perfume is marginally usable but I prefer a modern version).

I like my arrangement. It looks nice on my dresser and I think for now I scratched that itch. But those Dali bottles and Feeri EdP…

Do you buy unboxed bottles? Do you have any bottles on display?

Images: my own

* I cannot give you a link to that post because there’s something funky going on with that blog, it has some strange redirect happening and I suspect malware.

Float Like a Butterfly, Sting Like a Bee: Caron Boutique – New York City

When I was nine, dad took my brother and I out of school to attend a pre-heavyweight boxing championship sparring match featuring Muhammad Ali, one of the greatest, if not THE greatest, boxer in history. I don’t know if my mom knew we played hooky that day and since she does not read this blog, we’ll continue to keep it a secret. Although I don’t remember much about the sparring session itself, I knew that it was a privilege for me to have seen Muhammad Ali and whenever his name or the sport of boxing comes up, I think of dad and that day.

As unusual as it sounds, boxing and perfumery have some things in common: Undina wore Serge Lutens Boxeuses (female boxers in French) to fortify her before meetings and won Round One (and I bet, all rounds thereafter). Lucas over at Chemist in the Bottle wrote a review of Atelier Cologne Santal Carmin, and described the bright red boxing gloves in the ad visual as a metaphor of fighting for his dreams. Coincidentally, I happen to enjoy these two perfumes and have full bottles in my collection!

What does this have to do with Caron? For me, the classic quote by Muhammad Ali “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. The hands can’t hit what the eyes can’t see.” describes the textures of Caron, from the softness and barely there lightness of the down puff to the sharp spiciness of Bellodgia.

My fascination with House of Caron started a little over a year ago. My visit to the Caron boutique in New York City was prompted by reviews of Caron perfumes by Steve, blogger extraordinaire of The Scented Hound. I have never explored the brand and its perfumes; I did not even know there was a Caron boutique, the only one outside of Paris, in my own backyard! And so it was with eager anticipation that I arranged to meet a perfumista friend at the Caron boutique (715 Lexington Avenue @ 58th St. New York, NY 10022; 212-308-0270). To my surprise, my friend was waiting outside the building and she told me that the boutique closed early because of a private event at the Phyto Universe Spa, where the boutique was co-located. Determined to get the Caron experience, I went back the next day and have been back several times since then.

Hidden Caron Boutique

The boutique is on the 3rd floor of 715 Lexington, entrance on 58th Street (see an updated address in the end of the post). You will not see a Caron sign anywhere. You know you are at the right place when you see Phyto Universe. Go through the street level double door entrance; let the receptionist know you are going to the Caron boutique and head straight to the elevator to the 3rd floor. The elevator doors open to a waiting area and – TA-DA – the boutique is on the right.

If you can imagine angels heralding visually with crystals instead of blowing trumpets, it was exactly the feeling I got upon entering the boutique. The chandelier is perfectly centered between spotless right-angled mirrors and brightens the boudoir-like space. Six lion-head claw foot legs support a display counter filled with all sorts of accessories – Caron Picot travel sprays (colored glass, gold covered, Swarovski Crystal-studded in a myriad of colors), Limoges Egg perfume bottle holders, and weightless goose-down powder puffs.

Caron Boutique

Along one wall are a series of curio cabinets filled with more of the travel sprays, unusual perfume bottles and a scale model of the Baccarat Crystal urn that you can own if you have about $4,000 to spare. There are two tables with tester bottles of the Caron perfumes. Of the fragrances that are not dispensed through the urns, my favorites are: Aimez-Moi, Parfum Sacre and Montaigne. Some of the perfumes come in unusual bottles, such as the one for Lady Caron that has a cutout of the head of the Statue of Liberty on the face of the bottle and a pointed cap to represent the crown. The Caron website has several more limited editions that are worth a look.

The iconic Baccarat crystal urns are presented on top of marble pedestals at various heights, and, together with their reflection on the mirrors, makes it look like there’s double the number of urns than in reality. Take a guess at how many urns are displayed!

Caron Boutique

To satisfy my curiosity as to how the urns dispense perfume into a flacon, I decided to purchase a Caron Picot travel spray in my favorite green color. I chose N’aimez-que Moi for this experience. If you look at the gold band on the lower third of the urn, you’ll see a spigot and a swan’s head/neck. With the opening of the flacon directly beneath the center of the swan’s head, a turn of the spigot opens the tap, filling the container. Seeing my travel spray filled with haute couture perfume gave me a thrill. If I have an unlimited budget, I would probably want one of each of the urn perfumes but I want to be there when they’re filled to experience the thrill over and over again.

Caron N'aimez-que Moi

The Caron boutique is a must-see when you’re in New York City. Caron perfumes are not widely distributed and you’ll be glad you visited. For an in-depth write-up on the House of Caron, see The House of Caron: Love, War and Perfume in Fragrantica written by Michelyn Camen.

***

To continue her enabling ways, hajusuuri offers a giveaway. There will be two winners; each will get one of two sets. Set 1: samples of Caron perfumes; Set 2: a sample of vintage Caron Bellodgia extrait, a sample of Serge Lutens Boxeuses AND a 4 mL decant of Atelier Cologne Santal Carmin. This giveaway is open to everyone worldwide. The giveaway is open until 11:59PM PST on May 2, 2015. The winners will be chosen via random.org separately for each set and announced in the next statistics post. Please note that neither Undina nor hajusuuri is responsible for replacing the samples and decants if they were to get lost or damaged.

To be entered answer the question below AND tell in what country you live.

If you do not want to participate in the draws, there’s no need mentioning the country where you live but please answer the question below for Undina’s statistics post.

We’re polling only your perception, there is no right or wrong answer so no need to run any research, do a real count or see what others have answered:

How many perfumes do you think Caron has currently in production (in all lines)?

Caron Boutique

 

Images: hajusuuri

UPDATE: (4/9/16) New address for the boutique:

One Grand Central Place
60 E 42 St  54fl
New York, New York 10165

212-308-0270
877-88-CARON

Beyond Mardi Gras – Perfume Shopping in New Orleans

For those who prefer quiet to over-the-top Mardi Gras celebrations, fall is the perfect time to visit New Orleans: the worst of the heat is over, restaurant reservations are fairly easy to get and the streets are passable, perhaps with the exception of Bourbon Street at night.

Mardi Gras Countdown

I recently spent 5 days in New Orleans. My home away from home was Hotel Mazarin, a lovely French Quarter boutique hotel on Bienville Street, half a block away from Bourbon Street. I highly recommend it for its central location, well-appointed and spacious rooms and common spaces, friendly staff and extensive breakfast spread.

As with most of my vacations since falling into the perfume rabbit hole, I keep my eyes and nose open for perfumes. Two perfumeries stand out as quintessential perfumeries and worth a visit (or two, or three…):

Hove Parfumeur  (434 Chatres St.)

In a Now Smell This Lazy Weekend Poll, I asked for New Orleans perfumery recommendations and someone mentioned Hove Parfumeur. The boutique is surprisingly boudoir-like despite the dark wood furnishings and stone floors. Hove carries its own line of fragrances; these are available in different formats and concentrations (perfume, cologne, solid) and can be added to lotion, shower gel and body oil. Some of the perfumes have a matching soap, candle and room spray. There are over 50 different fragrances split between the Standard Line and Luxury Line. This bifurcation did not make a difference to me other than the Luxury Line is a little bit more expensive than the Standard Line.

Hove Parfumeur

So how does one smell through 50 fragrances in one visit? On top of the counter, pre-dipped tester strips marked with the perfume names are laid out on top of a sheet of glass. As you cycle through the perfumes, push forward the strips you are interested in. The staff will then pull out the perfume bottles from the cabinets on the back wall and give you an opportunity to get up close and personal with the perfumes. Most of the perfumes had a classic feel and I had a difficult time narrowing them down but narrow down I did. I ended up with a shower gel fragranced with Corduroy, a travel atomizer of Mantrap, ½ dram each of Heliotrope, Spring Fiesta and Fascinator, plus a bunch of soaps (yes, I have a soap obsession).

Bourbon French Parfums (805 Royal St.)

Bourbon French Parfums was a serendipitous find. At the library, I came across Dollbaby (by Laura McNeal), a fictional coming-of-age book set in 1960s New Orleans. Normally, I would dive right into Chapter One but this time, I decided to read the Foreword. Lo and behold, the author mentioned that the perfumery in the book is based on a real perfumery that had since moved to Royal Street. You can just imagine my excitement when I found out that Bourbon French Parfums has a custom-blend perfume service!

Bourbon French Parfums is located on Royal Street, a 13-block stretch of fine jewelry stores, antique shops and boutiques, art galleries and restaurants. Upon walking into the nondescript storefront, there’s an eclectic mix of colorful perfume bottles and atomizers, counter tops and shelves full of perfume and perfumed body products. Similar to Hove, Bourbon French carries house perfumes (Parfums de Maison), soliflors and blends with names like Voodoo Love, Kus Kus and Quadroon.

Bourbon French Parfums

I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to consult with custom-blend specialist Jasmine. The custom-blend perfume corner has several trays of dropper bottles, consisting of what looks like about 100 different essences. After asking me questions about my scent preferences, she smeared 3 essences on my forearm: spicy, sweet and powdery. We went through 4 mods over 40 minutes until I got my scent. Although the minimum size of a custom blend is 1 oz., I was able to get two ½ oz. bottles since the 4th mod is different due to the addition of fig to mod 3 to brighten it. My custom-blend included: white tea, lily-of-the-valley (those who know me are probably gasping right now), tuberose, vanilla, musk, black cherry, sandalwood, amber tobacco, patchouli and citrus.

I asked Jasmine for tips for others who may visit and utilize the custom-blend service. She strongly suggests making an appointment and don’t wear perfumed lotion the day of the appointment. The store closes daily at 5PM so make sure you allow time for your visit even if you are not going to get a custom-blend.

Custom Blend Perfume

Other stores I visited that sold perfumes:

Forever New Orleans (301 Royal St.) – Would you believe this store does not have a web-shop? In addition to New Orleans themed merchandise, the store also carries the Royal Apothic line of perfumes, hand creams and candles. I bought a travel spray of Royal Apothic Plains of Thistle in a beautiful green bottle and package. Do read Undina’s post on “minor brands” to see which Royal Apothic perfume she recently bought.

Dollz & Dames (216 Decatur St.) – This is a women’s wear and accessories boutique. It carries two lines of perfume: Juliette Has a Gun and Alice & Peter. Not many stores carry these brands so this is an opportunity to spritz and test instead of buying samples.

Dollz & Dames

Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo (739 Bourbon St.) – While searching for Day of the Dead rubber duckies (don’t ask), I walked into this shop and the counter-top had perfumes for sale – Magnolia, Sandalwood, Musk, Vanilla, Patchouli and Jasmine. The shop was really crowded and I was very uncomfortable inside and left without buying anything.

Day of the Dead Duck

My New Orleans Food Experience

As someone who cannot stand hot & spicy foods, I was concerned about not being able to enjoy the New Orleans Cajun and Creole foodie scene. And boy, was I wrong! Cajun is country-style food, a combination of French and Southern cuisines, with the most common dishes being jambalaya and crawfish etouffee, both served over rice. Creole food is a refined combination of European and African cuisines with rich sauces, herbs and more extensive use of seafood. While I ultimately stayed away from Cajun food, I had my share of Creole food, including lots of gumbo. There is no shortage of restaurants in the French Quarter. I particularly enjoyed dinner at Red Fish Grill (115 Bourbon St.) and Olivier’s (204 Decatur St.).

On the sweeter side, a visit to New Orleans is not complete without a visit to Café du Monde (800 Decatur St.) and enjoying a plate of powdered-sugar coated beignets while sipping aromatic chicory café au lait.

Tip: Don’t wait to be seated. Look for an open table, sit down, and the server assigned to your section will stop by to get your order. Also, if you are planning to visit Café du Monde’s store, it is across the street from the Café and it closes at 5.

Pastry

I hope you enjoyed reading about my perfume shopping, with a side helping of eating in New Orleans. I went to many more places worth visiting – the Louisiana State Museum at The Cabildo and at The Presbytere, the Ogden Museum of Southern Art and the World War II Museum, among others. I also had a chance to tour the Lower 9th Ward, the area devastated by Hurricane Katrina. Almost 10 years later, the area is still a ghost town with empty lots, perhaps every 10th house raised or rebuilt, but there are still no businesses (grocery stores, banks, gasoline stations) in the vicinity.

Tennessee Williams once wrote:

America has only three cities: New York, San Francisco, and New Orleans.

Everywhere else is Cleveland.

He may be right.

It’s an infamous Black Friday in a couple of days. For Undina’s monthly statistics post please tell: 1) in which country do you live? and 2) have you ever done any Black Friday or Cyber Monday perfume shopping (with Internet there are no borders for a good deal, are there)? You will be entered into the draw for 2 ml of hajusuuri’s custom blend perfume and a block of Pumpkin Spice soap. The draw is open until 11:59 PM PST on (Cyber) Monday, December 1st. The randomly selected winner will be announced in the next statistics post.

Images: all by hajusuuri

Know-How: Making Perfumes Last Longer

Most of us own enough perfumes to last us if not for the rest of our lives but at least for a decade or so. We have supplies to make ourselves any number of decants and purses to carry those decants for perfume touch-ups during the day. But still again and again a question of how to prolong life of those fleeting substances is raised in blogs, perfume forums and magazines. Every time I hear about making anything last longer, I think of this Garfield cartoon:

Garfield June 30 1998

On a more serious note, one of the constantly repeated advices is the same one that is usually given for a general well-being and skin care, namely hydration/moisturizing.

Before you apply your perfume, make sure that your skin is super moisturized.

Fragrance lasts much longer on moisturized skin.

Applying fragrance-free moisturizer to your body is an excellent preparation for applying fragrance

If you have dry skin, moisturize it before applying your perfume (use a fragrance free moisturizer); it will help your scent last a lot longer.

Do these sound familiar? For many years for me it was a given, I never questioned the wisdom. Besides, I routinely apply body moisturizer after each shower so I never actually had a chance to check the supposition.

A couple of months ago in a post on Andrew Smells I read a passage that surprised me:

By applying moisturiser after applying your fragrance spray you significantly increase the longevity of the fragrance, in other words you smell good for longer.

I questioned the author if he just misspoke while describing an application order, but Andy replied: “No, that’s the order we were taught.” (and even gave me a link to an article with the same advice; you can look it up in his comment if you follow the link). “Maybe it doesn’t make much difference? Have you tried both orders?” he asked.

It got me curious and I conducted a series of experiments. Petite Cherie by Annick Goutal was a perfect candidate: I like it a lot but it doesn’t last on my skin for too long.

Annick Goutal Petite Cherie

I tried several different combinations (all after shower): 1) just perfume on bare skin; 2) an unscented body lotion and then perfume on top of it; 3) perfume directly on skin and then a layer of an unscented body lotion; 4) a matching body lotion and then perfume on top of it; 5) perfume directly on skin and then a layer of a matching body lotion. Out of these five runs I got just two distinct results:

Perfume placed (#1) directly on bare washed skin, (#2) on top of an unscented body lotion or (#3) under an unscented body lotion stayed on my skin its usual 2 hours and then became a pleasant skin veil noticeable only if to press my nose into my wrist.

Perfume applied either (#4) on top of or (#5) under a matching body lotion, even though loosing projection within the same 2 hours (maybe 2.5), stayed as a well-recognizable skin scent probably twice longer than from perfume not layered with a matching lotion.

But the most important result was that I didn’t notice any improvement in longevity due to added moisturizer – be it on top of or under perfume. Of course, mine is just anecdotal evidence. That’s why I’m asking you:

Have you personally experienced a prolonged perfume life on your skin after applying a moisturizer?

 

Images: Garfield from the official site; perfume – my own.

Make Way for hajusuuri – Perfume Shopping in Boston

The title for this post was inspired by the Make Way for Ducklings bronze sculpture at the Boston Public Garden. The sculpture by Nancy Schön was installed in 1987 to honor Robert McCloskey and his most popular book, “Make Way for Ducklings”. In the book, Mr. & Mrs. Mallard were looking for a place to start a family, flying over Boston and landing in a few places that did not meet their approval until they reached an island in the Charles River. After the ducklings hatched and had time to learn to be ducks, the family decided to take a field trip to the Boston Public Garden and along the way, policemen had to stop traffic to allow the family to cross safely. Make way for hajusuuri as I take you perfume shop hopping in Boston’s Back Bay and North End neighborhoods. By sheer coincidence, an “Island” met my approval. Read on!

Make Way For Ducklings

I went to Boston several days before embarking on a cruise1. Although I had visited Boston previously on vacation and on business trips, they were before I became a perfumista. This time around, I paid more attention to places that sold perfumes. I was particularly motivated to seek out samples to participate in the Now Smell This Scent of the Day Friday Community Project. The highlight of my Boston visit was a meet-up with fellow perfumista Patricia, a contributing writer at Bois de Jasmin and with whom I had often swapped perfumes.

I stayed at the Westin at Copley Square, right at the heart of Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood and within a short walking distance from the Back Bay Station. I took the train into Boston from New Jersey and I have to say that despite it taking 5 hours end-to-end, it was more pleasant than flying and all its security preambles and cramped seats. The hotel is connected via sky bridge to Copley Place (100 Huntington Ave.), an upscale mall featuring Neiman Marcus and Barneys. At Neiman Marcus, I only stopped by the men’s perfume section where Francis Kurkdjian, Tom Ford and Acqua Di Parma perfumes were prominently displayed. The Barneys perfume section was tiny as compared with the store in New York; however, it does have those Frederic Malle smelling tubes where you can experience how the perfume projects around you. On a rainy day, Copley Place is an ideal place to browse around.

Newbury Street, near the Boston Public Garden, is one of the best-known retail shopping destinations in Boston. When my sister and I visited many years ago, we stumbled upon Essence Studio, a perfumery that sold custom-blended perfumes and essential oils, but which had since closed and moved to Colorado. These days, although there are still many art galleries and designer boutiques, the national chains have crept in and the shops I visited also have locations in other cities:

Chanel (8 Newbury St.)– Color me surprised when I saw testers for Les Exclusifs Parfum Extrait Chanel 1932 and Jersey! The SA was attentive and willingly gave out samples of the Les Exclusifs. Per the SA, Chanel allowed 6 boutiques in the U.S. to make 2 extraits available for testing although she did not know which other locations had the testers. I’m so impressed with this Chanel boutique that if ever I have a “need” to purchase any Chanel item, I will order through this Boston location.

Cartier (40 Newbury St.) – This Cartier location looked more posh than the one in New York. Unlike the New York boutique where the perfumes were tucked away in a corner, this location has the perfumes prominently displayed near the entrance, facing the cashier; however, only two of the 13 Les Heures collection were available for testing.

Bluemercury (160 Newbury St.) – Bluemercury is a luxury beauty products and spa retail chain. The chain is frequently compared to Ulta and Space NK with their breadth of choices of higher-end branded beauty products. The SA generously gifted me with La Mer, ReVive and Jo Malone samples. I should note that I was initially reluctant to walk in because my experience at a Bluemercury in New Jersey was quite opposite – despite having bought perfume, the SA refused to give me any samples; I’m glad I went in to this Bluemercury and my view of Bluemercury improved.

Other Shops in the Back Bay neighborhood near the Boston Public Garden:

Hermes (320 Boylston St.) –Boylston St. borders the Boston Public Garden. As with other Hermes boutiques in the U.S. and in other countries, the service at this Hermes boutique was top-notch. I happily left with a handful of samples.

Blackstone’s of Beacon Hill (46 Charles St.) – This store beckoned to me with its display of collectibles, ornaments, bags, stationery and other gift items. It carries the Soap Paper Factory products including solid perfumes, candles, hand creams and bar soaps.

Officina189

Boston’s North End neighborhood is best known for its Italian-American flavor. I met Bois de Jasmin contributing writer, Patricia, for lunch at Gennaro’s (5 North Square), a quaint restaurant serving Italian soul food. After a sumptuous lunch, we walked to Officina 189 (189 North St.). From the outside, it looked like a second hand boutique, but upon walking in, we were met with an eclectic mix of jewelry, watches, leather bags, bicycles (bicycles? yes, bicycles, with brightly-colored frames), candles, body products and perfumes. The SA welcomed us warmly and helped us smell through the range of perfumes. Officina 189 carries only Italian-made products; the perfume brands available include: Acqua dell’Elbe, La Collina Toscana, My Inner Island and Nobile 1942. We left without purchasing anything – Patricia liked several perfumes but since she is in the area often, opted to take her time deciding; I, on the other hand, was itching to get one of the perfumes but was concerned I could not fit it into my luggage. We then walked off our meal with a stroll by the water and parted ways with a promise to continue enabling each other and other perfumistas.

Before walking back to Back Bay, I stopped in Mike’s Pastry Shop for people watching, Boston Cream Puff and coffee. When I got back to the hotel, my mind was still on one of the perfumes I smelled at Officina 189, so I weighed my luggage and determined that I do have room. I went back the next day and bought an Island that I approved – My Inner Island Vaniglia Sopraffina e Rhum.

Officina189

And now – a giveaway!

To continue her enabling ways, hajusuuri offers a 3 ml decant of My Inner Island Vaniglia Sopraffina e Rhum AND 3 other vanilla-based perfumes in her collection. This giveaway is open to everyone worldwide. To be entered answer the question below AND tell in what country you live. The giveaway is open until 11:59PM PST on September 29, 2014. The winner will be chosen via random.org and announced in a future post. Please note that neither Undina nor hajusuuri is responsible for replacing the decants if they were to get lost or damaged.

If you do not want to participate in the draw, there’s no need mentioning the country where you live but please answer the question below for Undina’s statistics post.

Which city in the World is your mecca for perfume shopping: not sniffing, testing or getting to know brands and their offerings but actually buying perfumes – based on your previous experience?

Images: hajusuuri

1 Holland America New England Cruise from Boston to Montreal, with stops in Bar Harbor (Maine), Nova Scotia (Halifax, Sydney and Prince Edward Island) and Quebec City.