Hitting On All Sixes

Today is my blog’s sixth anniversary. And since I like anniversaries, classifications and numbers, I prepared six by six groups of the blog-related observations and topics.

Six Lessons I Learned

When blogging and reading other blogs occupies a significant part of your free time, it’s inevitable to spend some time thinking about the dynamics of the blogs’ lives as well. The thoughts, as subjective as they might be from somebody who’s looking from inside the system, are based not only (or necessarily) on the experience with my blog, but on observations I made in the perfume blogosphere over the last six years. I do not think these are topic-specific, but that’s the topic I’m familiar with.

  1. Unless you provide a valuable “public service”-type content (such as a constant stream of in-depth reviews, industry news or reviews of the most recent releases that are “it” at the moment either in the Perfumeland, or in the mass-market); or your blog is an accepted community hangout; or you run frequent giveaways, you have to build personal relationships with other bloggers and perfumistas: that’s almost the only way to “meet people” who might be interested in what you have to say. I do not remember ever becoming a reader of any small blog from finding them on Google. Have you?
  2. Readers who come to the blog just to participate in a giveaway rarely stay as active participants. So unless you’re making money from ads on your blog or help some brand you like with their promotion, there is no reason to widely advertise giveaways.
  3. While in the author’s head some posts, series or topics are inter-connected, for most readers it’s “here and now,” so you have to repeat that your whole life you hated the smell of milk, were afraid of butterflies or loved purple things if it’s important for your current story. You’ll weed it all out later if one day you decide to turn your blog into a book.
  4. Neither loyal readers, nor more recent comers, as a rule, follow links to the previous posts, even when those links are not just formal linking to some back review but a part of the current story (hence lesson #3). Keep linking! Once in a while you get a curious reader.
  5. Very few people read blogs out of friendship or loyalty, most read them out of habit. Once the blog stops posting regularly (whatever the regularity was for the particular blog), readers disappear. Names do not matter, but I saw at least several previously more or less popular (or at least “inhabited” in the past) blogs’ attempts to come back after a hiatus – and there was never a huge cheering crowd welcoming them back. It has always surprised me: I visit blogs, to which I subscribe, whenever I get the notification about a new post (sometimes a week later – it happens if I’m busy, but I get there), so for me it doesn’t matter if I get that notification in a month, in half a year or in a couple of years. Lesson? Make sure you have all the possible subscription options – e-mail, bloglovin, Twitter, Facebook and whatever else you might think of.
  6. People who comment meaningfully on your posts regardless of the topic; who were there when you first published the post, to which you refer today; who remember that you love everything purple even when you come back after the absence, which they’d noticed – these are people who give the true meaning to all the efforts we put into our blogs year after year after year…

Six Friends I Made

Over the years I made many more than six friends but they are my virtual friends. I hope to meet eventually with each one of them (you) though I’m a little worried: out of six people I did meet in RL, half stopped blogging (I hope, it wasn’t something I said) – Birgit of Olfactoria’s Travels, Natalie of Another Perfume Blog and Judith of the Unseen Censer.

On the other hand, the other three are still going: Vanessa of Bonkers About Perfume, Suzanne of Suzanne’s Perfume Journal and Val of Australian Perfume Junkies.

Just in case, not to disturb balance in the blogosphere, I should probably stay away from significant perfumistas gatherings but I can try some targeted strikes. Are you game?

Six Perfumes I Found

If I were to tell you that in six years I found just six perfumes, you wouldn’t believe me – and you’d be right. But my list consists of six perfumes that are not available at any of the regular stores where I live or travel. If it weren’t for my perfume hobby, I probably would have never tried these or fallen in love with them. In posts, to which I link, I tell the stories of these perfumes and people who introduced me to them: Puredistance Antonia (Mals of Muse in Wooden Shoes), Serge Lutens De Profundis (Ines of All I am – a redhead), Mona di Orio Vanille (Suzanne of Suzanne’s Perfume Journal), Krigler Lieber Gustav (Natalie of Another Perfume Blog), Ormonde Jayne Tsarina (Kafka of Kafkaesque) and Shaik Chic Shaik No 30 (Birgit of Olfactoria’s Travels).

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Six Samples for a Giveaway

I want to say “Thank you!” to hajusuuri, Vanessa, Lucas, Asali, Tara, Portia, Steve, Juli, Ines, Renee, Birgit, Natalie and many others who made it easier for me during these years to test perfumes, to which I do not have easy access. Most of the perfumes that you shared with me I would have never tried otherwise.

For the anniversary draw I tried to come up with perfumes that are hard(er) to get for the testing. One winner will get a set of 6 x 1 ml samples of the following perfumes: Amouage Ubar* (vintage), Armani Prive La Femme Bleue (limited edition), Krigler Lieber Gustav*, Ormonde Jayne Tsarina, Shaik Chic Shaik No 30* and Tommi Sooni Eau de Tommi Sooni II* (discontinued).

There’s nothing to do: I will enter into the draw every commenter unless I’m explicitly asked not to.

* I have posts about these perfumes easily accessible from My Perfume Portrait but I won’t link to them here.

Six Pictures of Rusty You Haven’t Seen Before

It wasn’t that hard to find pictures of Rusty I haven’t shared on my blog before. But it was hard to choose, which to show: he’s so photogenic! I went for more unusual poses and photos that have less chances to appear on the perfume blog otherwise.

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Six Things I Plan to Change

Nah… Just kidding. I like this blog “as is.” I’ll keep writing when I have any story to tell, want to share something nice, or feel I haven’t had enough interactions in a while with you, my friends and readers.

Today I’ll wear my all-time favorite Lancôme Climat and drink one of my favorite wines – Paradise Ridge Sparkling Shiraz. Please join me (at least virtually) in this celebration.

Rusty and Red Champagne

Images: my own

The Sillage of Rosa

My Grandma’s name was Rosa (“rose” in Russian). Today we would have celebrated her 96th birthday.

I had two months to come to terms with this loss, and this post is not a call for sympathy. Thinking about my grandmother and her role in my life, I realized that most of you who reads this post today would have never met me, had I not inherited my Grandma’s love for perfume and decades later decided to write a story about my first and everlasting fragrant love – Lancôme Climat, the first bottle of which was gifted to me by her. So I want you all to “meet” her and help me to celebrate her life.

Rosa

Image: I doubt any other pictures of my grandmother are out there, so I wanted to leave a digital sillage of Rosa in the Universe. I took a picture of one of my favorite photos of her and Climat bottle that she gave me all those years ago.

Perfume and Colour, Perfume Lovers London – November 26th, 2015

***

Tara, previously of Olfactoria’s Travels, while being on the move to her own new virtual home, decided to visit a couple of friends’ blogs. I have the honor of hosting her first. Here’s one of her great reports on the PLL’s event.

Undina

***

I was particularly looking forward to this evening at Perfume Lovers London because firstly, it was being led by my mate Sabine of Iridescents and secondly, we were going to have fun drawing our scent impressions.

Instead of the usual rows of chairs, we were seated at tables laid out with paper and various art materials. Sabine had also provided some inspiration with print outs of various images and colour palettes.

As you can imagine, there was less talking and more colouring going on than at a normal PLL event, but here’s an idea of what was said and some of the wonderful images from Sabine’s blog.

Sabine at PLL's event    

Sabine: I went ten years without wearing perfume, then when I went back to it – wow – there had been an explosion in niche perfumery. I needed a way to organise and make sense of it.

I am a graphic designer so I tried to translate perfume into colour. There are quite a lot of similarities between the two. Both are very subjective; my rose is not your rose and my red is not your red. We can describe both as being opaque, bright, transparent and so on.

Sometimes there are not enough words. Colour is a way of creating a multi-sensory dimension which enhances your experience. You can train your perception of colour in the same as you can train your perception of smell.

This is why I started my blog, Iridescents, where I reproduce the images digitally. We can’t do that tonight but we do have paints, pencils and pastels so we can play around with how scents relate to colour.

Aedes de Venustas Eau de Parfum, Aedes de Venustas

Notes: Rhubarb, vetiver, red berries, tomato leaf, incense, green apple, hazelnut, honeysuckle

Lila: This is the first of the Aedes de Venustas fragrances and the perfumer is Bertrand Duchaufour.

Sabine: Try to think of a palette of 2 or 3 colours. What colours does it make you think of?

Audience members: “Pink”, “Green”, “The colours of a stick of rhubarb”.

Sabine: The pinks and greens come and go in my composition and the notes in the perfume do the same. I think of it as very jazzy. There is not a structured top, middle and base.

Lila: It’s very crisp and tart.

Sabine: If a perfume makes you think of yellow say, try and think which yellow.

The next one is not a perfume but a perfume ingredient. It’s vetiver oil. What colour does it make you think of?

Audience members: “Dirty brown”, “Khaki”, “The colour of mould.”

Molecule 01, Escentric Molecules

Sabine: This is a completely synthetic perfume, mostly made up of Iso E Super. So what colours do you use when you have a material not found in nature? Try and think of how much of one colour and how much of another. Think about the proportions.

Liquid Night, A Lab on Fire

Notes: Bergamot, lime, saffron, sage, lavender, Hinoki wood, incense, vanilla, musk

Sabine: Liquid Night is neither hot nor cold. It has hard shapes but it also has a softness to it. It’s very urban. It makes me think of driving in the rain and the reflection of the raindrops on the windscreen.

Liquid Night

Liquid Night ((c) Sabine)

Felanilla, Parfumerie Generale

Notes: Vanilla absolute, saffron, orris, banana wood, hay absolute, amber

Sabine: Felanilla is cosy and a little powdery from the iris. It’s also animalic but not too much.

Audience member: Do people in different countries relate to colours differently?

Sabine: Yes, for example people in warmer countries tend to wear warmer colours because their surroundings are brighter. People have different associations with colours, as they do with scents. People in cities tend to wear more muted and subdued colours.

Felanilla

Felanilla ((c) Sabine)

Sel Marin, Heeley

Notes: Lemon, Italian bergamot, beech leaf, sea salt, moss, algae, cedar, musk, leather

Sabine: If you think of Sel Marin as a scent representing the sea, which would it be in terms of colour – the Atlantic or the Med?

[Most people said the Atlantic.]

Audience member: Would you wear it?

Sabine: My husband is wearing it, and therefore it is a perfume I associate with him.

The Odd Fellow’s Bouquet, Atkinsons

Notes: Heliotrope, tobacco, ginger, pepper, benzoin, labdanum.

Lila: The Oddfellows is a club that anyone can join. It’s pretty great. They have premises all over the country. It’s not a gentlemen’s club but it might have been at some point in the past.

Sabine: The Odd Fellow’s Bouquet is one of those fragrances that doesn’t change much.

Lila: It’s a bit masculine for me.

Audience member: It’s very tobacco-y.

Odd Fellow's Bouquet

Odd Fellow’s Bouquet ((c) Sabine)

Jicky Parfum, Guerlain

Notes: Lavender, bergamot, lemon, mandarin, rose, vetiver, patchouli, vanilla, amber, musk.

We know perfumes can change as they develop and I try to put that into my images. Jicky definitely develops over time so you might want to leave room in your picture for how it smells in 10-20 minutes time.

Noir Exquis, L’Artisan Parfumeur

Notes: Chestnut, orange, orange blossom, coffee, maple syrup, ebony, heliotrope, vanilla, tonka, sandalwood.

Lila: This is the latest release from L’Artisan.

Sabine: I looked on the Basenotes database and the number of perfumes with black in the name hugely outweighs white. I haven’t done an image for Noir Exquis but I would use just a little black. I’d mostly use toffee, caramel and beige.

Salome, Papillon Artisan Perfumes

Notes: Jasmine, carnation, bitter red orange, Turkish rose, orange blossom, tobacco, hyraceum, styrax, vanilla, hay, patchouli, bergamot, oakmoss, cumin, birch tar, castoreum.

Sabine: We’ve saved the best till last.

Lila: You won’t be able to smell anything else after this!

Sabine: I used a lot of red in my image. Not a rose red but a fleshy red. It was blurred on Facebook for a while because it was thought to look like female genitalia.

Lila: We’ll put all the Salome pictures together and share with Liz Moores of Papillon as she’s a friend and supporter of PLL.

Salome collage

It was a great evening and we were all engrossed in creating our own visual interpretations of the fragrances. It was interesting to see how different our impressions were. Most people saw vetiver as green or brown while I saw it as grey. Sabine’s husband and I saw Sel Marin as the Atlantic sea under a slate sky, while two other people on our table saw it as a blue sea and bright yellow sun.

When you’re trying to visualise the scent as colour it really makes you think and analyse the aroma in a different way. I found this fascinating and it has definitely added to the way I interact with fragrances.

Tara's Perfumes Visualization

Tara’s Perfumes Visualization

Many thanks to Lila and Sabine for such a novel, interactive evening and to Roulier White for supplying a couple of the bottles.

***

Please answer the question for Undina’s Entertaining Statistics post: What perfume do you most associate with a colour/colours, which one(s) and why?

 

Images by Tara and Sabina

Maui Vacation: Perfumes, Flora & Fauna, Food and Perfumes

What perfume are you wearing? It smells great!” – I asked a flight attendant on my way to Maui. He seemed pleased by the question and told me that it was a custom blend made for him “by this great lady from Oakland.” He also told me that it was a very potent and tenacious perfume oil (“because it’s all-natural, you know“) that required only a tiny drop of it (he wore it on the neck below the collar line) to last for many hours – to that I can attest: I kept smelling it every time he would walk by. Later he brought me a note with the perfumer’s name and phone number. The scent was beautiful amber – completely wrong for Hawaii but perfect for the chilly flight.

We landed and the summery tropical atmosphere took my mind off ambers and fall on the calendar. As we were driving to the resort where we rented a condo, my vSO drew my attention to the words on a dashboard of our car and asked if I thought it was a sign.

Seek Cat

We followed the instructions but this time (unlike the previous Hawaiian vacation) our residence didn’t come with a ginger cat and the only feline we encountered during our vacation was scrawny black cat hunting a lizard.

 

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Choosing the right time to go to Hawaii is always a balancing game for me: I love swimming in warm ocean so if we go too late it might start cooling off (back to the temperature that most other people consider good for swimming) but if we go while water is still perfect by my standards, the weather is too hot for anything else but swimming in mornings and evenings. Last year I didn’t get to swim as much as I wanted to so this year we decided to err on the side of caution. We succeeded so to speak: we went a week earlier than we usually do; water was great but hot humidity kept us inside most of the time that we didn’t spend swimming or snorkeling. I still can’t complain: we’ve got to read, watch some shows from Netflix and just relax. And a view from our condo was very picturesque.

Maui 2014 Kaanapali Alii

Maui is my favorite island: its flora is more tropical than volcanic Big Island’s but at the same time it’s more developed than Kauai. The downside of the larger tourist population is a much poorer selection of tropical fruit at the local markets. But don’t worry: we didn’t go hungry. Or thirsty.

 

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Even though we didn’t move around the island much we got enough of the true Hawaiian flavor – tropical plants and fish, ocean sunsets, tropical penguins… Yeah, I also had to do a double take when I saw them first at Hyatt’s lobby pond. But they didn’t look psychotic so after some deliberation we decided not to look further for zebra, lion and hippo.

 

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Usually when I travel I do not take any perfume bottles bigger than 10 ml. But I make an exception for my vacations in Hawaii: I always bring my 50 ml bottle of Estee Lauder Bronze Goddess. It has previously traveled with me to Big Island and Kauai and this year it came to Maui. I think I gave a hotel maid a good story about “those crazy tourists” by putting the bottle in the fridge (I noticed that the box was rotated after her visit so she was clearly surprised to see it there). It felt extremely pleasant and refreshing to spray it all over my body after taking a shower.

 

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I hope you didn’t think that I brought just one perfume for the whole week on Maui. It was a single full bottle. But in addition to that I packed some travel bottles, decants and samples. As I usually do for vacations, I didn’t bring any new scents for testing – just those that I previously wore or at least tested and thought they would be nice on a tropical island.

Do you want to know how many perfumes I had with me on Maui this year? Take a guess in your comment (without reading responses from others). As a prize for the closest guess without going over I offer a small bottle of the custom blended oil perfume, with the story of discovering which I started this post. After coming back from the trip I contacted the perfumer who makes it and we’re trying to work out the ordering process (it is a very small company). I don’t have it yet so I have no idea if I like it on my skin but I thought that the story itself and the joy of smelling it during the flight were worth ordering two bottles – one for me and one as a prize for this guessing game. If there is more than one right answer I’ll let Rusty to pick a winner. The game is on until I publish the revealing post.

Maui 2014: Perfumes

 

Images: my own; new header is created from a gift picture I got from Asali (The Sounds of Scent) right after my first swim in the ocean. If you haven’t done it yet, check out her blog for wonderful illustrations to her evocative perfume reviews.

 

A reminder: you still have until 11:59PM PST on September 29, 2014 to enter into the draw and/or participate in the poll for this month’s statistics in hajusuuri’s guest post Make Way for hajusuuri – Perfume Shopping in Boston

A Postcard from Undina: A Smile a Day… (but may I still keep the Doctor)?

Yesterday Hugh Laurie (aka Dr. House) told me: “You smell great.

 

Ha! How great would that have been if I could just stop right there? Of course, he didn’t tell it to me personally. While opening his concert with The Copper Bottom Band at the outdoor stage of the Montalvo Arts Center at Saratoga, Hugh Laurie said referring to performing in the daylight (citing from memory):

You have no idea how unnerving it is being able to look out and see all your faces. Not that you have unnerving faces — not at all. In fact, you are uniformly chiseled and well moisturized. And you smell great.

Hugh Laurie at Villa Montalvo

I would love to say that Fleur de Chine by Tom Ford that I wore has contributed to the collective perfumed aura at the concert but in reality the wonderful aroma that filled up the evening was coming from a couple of big linden trees in bloom. It was … breathtaking.

House M.D. is one of my all-time favorite TV shows. And the main reason I went to the concert was to see Hugh Laurie live. I got much more than I expected: the concert was glorious and Mr. Laurie was charming, witty and scintillating. He plays piano and guitar, sings, dances tango and drinks whiskey (he said he’d invented the tradition for the band: mid-concert they were served a shot of whiskey – right on stage).

If all that weren’t enough for me to be completely enchanted by the artist, there was more: during the concert Hugh Laurie made my vSO laugh several times (which doesn’t happen too often!). Also he invited me for a dance of Argentine tango… Wait… That part wasn’t real. I went to bed thinking about the concert and this post and in my dream Hugh Laurie and I just happened to be at the same milonga. Cabeceo, I nodded, he smiled – and we started dancing. None of it – dancing or dreaming about people I do not know – happens to me too often. But that was how much that performance influenced me. See the tango that made such a strong impression on me (video isn’t mine):

 

Image: my own

What we did in Paris… in less than 48 hours

 

When I planned a three-day … well, I won’t even call it a trip – stopover in Paris I knew it would be not enough even to scratch the surface of everything that this city has to offer to a tourist, a perfumista or a foodie (who I am not but just saying). But when French air traffic controllers’ strike gave me a chance to meet Birgit and Sandra in Vienna at the same time it ensured I would have to revise whatever modest plans I might have had initially for Paris.

From Paris With Love

The lady who rented us the apartment was a little strange: she refused to talk to me on the phone claiming that “I do not see the need to call me. You have all the necessary information, and I am an honest and respectable 61-year French.” Persuasive, right? But I went ahead and signed the contract.

I’m not sure how we would have got into the apartment if it weren’t for Vanessa of Bonkers about Perfume who came to Paris on a train earlier (the last-minute change of plans because of the above-mentioned strike) and offered to meet us at the apartment. She was entertaining the landlady and not letting her leave for some important errand while our taxi driver first maneuvered through the Friday traffic and then tried to figure out how to get to the required point on the one-way street (I refused to do it on feet with suitcases!).

After we got in and the landlady left Vanessa and I discussed for a while if the woman could be 60+. We both agreed that even for a Parisian who doesn’t age the same as us, mere mortals, the woman to whom we just paid money for the stay looked suspiciously young… My vSO and I agreed that we weren’t sure what would upset us more – having paid to an impostor or acknowledging that the woman we saw was actually 61.

***

They say: Be careful what you wish for. I’d add: be careful what you do not wish for.

While we were planning our itinerary for the rest of the day, I mentioned that I didn’t really need to go to either Guerlain or Serge Lutens stores since I were up to date with the most current offerings and didn’t plan of buying anything there. But since I was in Paris it was just plainly wrong not to take a look at those legendary places…

You can read more about the events that followed that day in Vanessa’s post (the link above) but from me here are two pictures of the famous stores taken from the outside.

Guerlain store in Paris

Serge Lutens store in Paris

Vanessa was such a great company that I didn’t want to let her go. But after the last excuse – helping us to book a taxi drive to the airport for the departure day – we had to say good-byes hoping to meet again one day.

The second (and the only full) day in Paris we spent alternating walking the streets and eating/drinking. In about eleven hours we covered a lot including an incredibly pleasant meeting with Neela Vermeire of Neela Vermeire Creations and the second in two days trip to Jovoy to finish the methodical sniffing Vanessa and I had to halt the day before because of the store closing and to purchase my vacation perfume.

Neela proved to be to the every last bit as nice as all interviews with and stories about her portrait her. I was glad she found time to meet with me despite her busy schedule. Now I look forward to testing the newest perfumes from the line – Mohur Esprit de Parfum and Ashoka – samples of which Neela was kind to bring for me.

Paris

It seems that my vSO enjoyed all the perfume-related interruptions during this trip. Or at least he was a good sport – and I’m grateful to him for that.

Oh, and if you were wondering what perfume I bought to remind me about this – my first – trip to Paris, I’ll tell you without asking you to guess: Bombay Bling! by Neela Vermeire Creations. As I said in my story about three perfumes from the line, “It is a full-bottle worth perfume for me.”

Rusty and Bombay Bling

 

Images: my own