Visiting Three Monarchies, Part 2: Barcelona

“Oh, Barcelona…” or “Barcelona? Why?..” – those were the two most common responses I was getting from people with whom I spoke about our upcoming vacation’s destinations (nobody questioned London though).

I cannot explain why we had chosen Barcelona. I guess, we’d heard it was a beautiful city and thought of visiting it one day. Looking from here, Barcelona seemed really close to London – so we decided it was a good combination.

Since on that trip I didn’t have any fellow-perfumistas to rely upon their account of events, this part shapes to be a longer post.

Gaudi Casa Battlo

Accommodations

I’ve spent disproportional amount of time trying to find a nice place to stay: though it was a couple of months in advance, there were almost no vacancies in the suggested areas; and owners of those several acceptable apartments that I found were not responding in a timely manner (I have to mention that with the London flat everything worked like a clockwork – through the same sites). Finally, I rented something that seemed like a good choice.

We had a late flight in, so to the arranged place of meeting with the owner we got closer to midnight. We got from him keys and instructions to our taxi driver as to where to take us; and that was when we learned that we’d need to walk to the apartment since it was on a pedestrian street.

The taxi dropped us off next to some church in the old town. Night, small groups of people walking around or finishing their drinks is empty street cafés. Narrow dirty streets with graffiti-covered shutter doors. Google Maps app sending us into a different direction every 10 steps we attempt to take. Two of us with two suitcases trying to figure out how to find the address we need…

I don’t know how it is in areas where you, my readers, leave but in both countries, in which I have experience living, a neighborhood that looks like that would not be considered safe by any stretch . So we didn’t feel safe at all.

I think we looked so miserable that a group of young tourists passing by took a pity on us and helped us to locate the building we were looking for.

Once in the apartment that looked exactly as described in the ad and depicted in photos but still felt uninviting and soulless (IKEA at its best and worst): a loud portable A/C on, quick shower, A/C off and out to bed around 1:00 in the morning. A couple of hours of dripping A/C, humming in-unit water heated replenishing hot water and occasional excited tourists walking by… Between 6 and 7 in the morning unmercifully loud metal shutters of the local shops going up just under our windows and across the street…

Around 8, when we gave up the attempts to get any more sleep, my vSO announced: “I want to go home.

After a quick search confirmed that there were no vacant hotel rooms guaranteed to be quieter (and I didn’t even check how expensive it would be to come home a week earlier), we decided to give it a chance…

That was the lowest point in our trip, and from there it went kind of up: we were still sleep-deprived because of the combination of all the above-mentioned factors, plus remains of jet lag, plus a heavily walking neighbor above us, but we were impressed with this city’s architecture (and I’m not talking just about Gaudi), figured out that the area where we lived (El Born) was quite safe, and found things around to enjoy. On the picture below is the nicer end of the street where we lived (it was closed by the gates during the night and on weekends).

Barcelona Street

Perfumes I took with me

I discovered that I didn’t have that many Spanish perfumes in my collection that I wanted to wear or to test on this trip. Carner Barcelona El Born, which I brought also thinking about the possible bottle purchase, smelled better than the namesake area where we stayed, but I’ll need some time to disassociate these two to start enjoying this perfume again. Ramon Monegal Impossible Iris was just perfect, and I enjoyed wearing it but I already have a bottle of it. I’m not sure why I didn’t bring any other samples of Monegal’s perfumes that I have: I’m sure I could have worn Cuirelle or Pure Mariposa but somehow I didn’t think of them. But I compensated not bringing enough perfumes to wear with testing.

Perfumes I tested

Before I came to Barcelona, I didn’t realize how many good perfume shops that city had. I visited three exceptional niche perfumeries, and each of them was worth the time spent. Even if one comes from such place as London!

Perfumeria Regia

Situated in the extremely touristy place (a minute walk from Gaudi’s the Casa Batlló, it feels more like a perfume department in a luxury department store than a true niche place: though it carries a lot of niche lines, SAs are not too personable, and the space looks impassive. But I managed to test many perfumes, including the line I hadn’t had a chance to test before – Memo. I liked at least several “leathers” and plan to buy some samples to get to know those better. One more line, about which I haven’t heard before – Rosendo Mateu Olfactive Expressions. I liked a couple of their perfumes on paper – No 2 Lavender Spicy Chocolate (Fragrantica chose to put commas between all three ingredients in the name, and I wonder what they thought “spicy” meant in this enumeration) and No 3 Neroli Iris White Musk, but didn’t get a chance to try them on skin.

Perfumeria Regina is also a home for the Perfume Museum. There’s not much to tell about it but a lot to show – so I’ll do a separate post to share pictures I took there.

Regia Barcelona

The Perfumery

This small shop in the Gothic area of Barcelona was probably one of the most surprising perfume shops I’ve ever visited: by rough estimate, I didn’t recognize 80% of everything they had to offer. From what I could surmise, they do not present the complete line from the brands they carry but rather handpicked fragrances. All of them are offered to smell from the funnel-shaped glass testers, which was more convenient that sniffing the sprayers. Either my perfume tastes did not coincide with tastes of their collection curator, or I’m just not prepared to discover a diamond in the rough with that number of potential diamonds but while I liked many of perfumes I smelled, especially their masculine part of the collection, I didn’t love any of them enough to put on skin. Two that I tried on my vSOs wrists I liked but not enough to even write down the brands or names properly.

Barcelona The Perfumery

La Basilica Galeria

The gallery claims to have the biggest selection of niche perfumes in the World. I don’t know if anybody questioned that statement but for all I know it might be true, especially if we talk about stand-alone perfume shops.

Once we came there, I dispatched my vSO to the relatively comfortable armchairs where he could wait for me and started methodically sniffing through the collection presented via sprayed crystal bell-formed testers, marked on top red, navy or half-and-half for feminine, masculine and unisex fragrances.

Barcelona Galeria Test Bells

After I’d been through a couple of cases, a very friendly SA asked me if she could help me to find what I was looking for. Hopefully, in the same friendly manner I informed her that I was just going to sniff my way through the collection (I didn’t feel bad because I wasn’t even spraying any of the perfumes, all bells were already pre-sprayed). “Are you going to go through all thousand and <I don’t remember the exact number> perfumes?” – I won’t try to describe the tone, with which she asked that, but you could probably imagine it. I was completely unflappable: “I’ll skip those, with which I’m familiar” – and I returned to my exercise.

I think that La Basilica Galeria has a nice selection of niche perfumes with a good mix of more and less popular brands. But the way they present perfumes isn’t suitable for finding perfumes on your own. As I discovered when I tried to spray one of the perfumes in its bell to refresh the scent and get top notes more prominently, I wasn’t supposed to do that: they spray those perfumes on some schedule, writing it down and checking for how long those lived on the glass. The SA proudly told me that some of the perfumes were sprayed once a week… While I agree that perfume should not be judged only by its top notes – the way that mass market perfume industry would like us to do, 2-3 days old leftovers on glass surface definitely isn’t what any perfume should be judged by either. At that point I realized why most perfumes I tried by then weren’t “my cup”: my favorite floral top notes just do not live that long. After I asked, I was given some paper strips to test those perfumes that I wanted to try fresh but I could test only those, base notes of which survived nicely and were to my liking – which probably also wasn’t the worst criteria for choosing what to test on paper or skin.

Barcelona La Baselica Galeria2

Perfumes I didn’t buy

Though between the three major perfume shops I visited, I sniffed my way through about 650-700 fragrances, there were just several that interested me enough to consider for a catch from my trip to Spain.

I considered buying Gaudi de Codibel perfume for the whole 15 seconds that it took from me spotting it in the gift shop of the Casa Batlló to locate a test strip, spray and smell it. Had at least the bottle been a little more imaginative or better quality, I could have bought it just as a souvenir since we both quite enjoyed this museum. But both the scent and the packaging were beyond the exploitation of the famous name.

Gaudi Perfume

S-Perfume 1499 smelled very pleasant (jasmine sambac, myrrh, labdanum, olibanum, vanilla and amber – what’s not to like, right?) but everything else worked against this perfume: brand being either American (created) or Japanese (located now); the name is as non-descriptive as they come when the brand that isn’t Chanel decides to use numbers; and finally the bottle design just doesn’t suggest the price point, at which they position themselves.

I liked Paul Emilien Premiere Danse but since it’s a French brand, with which I wasn’t familiar before, I decided I’d look for a sample and test it more.

A Bulldog in the Atelier from a Spanish designer Teresa Helbig seemed like a good fit for the purpose of my search. Why didn’t I go for it? I got distracted by the Memo line, perfumes from which I didn’t plan to buy in Barcelona, and didn’t get a chance to test it properly. So with me not being a fan of that breed, it felt like I needed more time with this fragrance before exposing Rusty to it (though I liked the name).

Both my vSO and I liked Ramon Monegal Next to Me but I got confused with the name: judging by the list of notes and packaging, this one isn’t the same as Dubai Next to Me but, other than on Fragrantica, I cannot find any information about this one… And I’m not a huge Monegal fan (Impossible Iris is the only perfume from the brand that I like and wear).

The last two perfumes seriously tempted me despite the wrong country of origin and stupid names: 1831 and 1926. For those of us who is not versed in music history: I’m talking about 1831 Norma and 1926 Turandot by Histoires de Parfums. I tried and was completely enchanted by these two in the parfum extrait version. They both smell to me like classic perfumes. My vSO and I had different preferences for these two (I liked Norma a little more), it is a French brand, and they were more expensive than I felt comfortable spending on the spur-of-the-moment bottle. But only a coupon code, which I hope to get in e-mail soon, stands between me and the Order button on one of the decanter sites for these samples.

HdP 1831 Norma

Barcelona leg of our trip was … trying. On the first morning we were ready to cut the losses and try to find our way back home. On the sixths morning, as we were leaving, we didn’t feel sad. But in between we had some positive experiences, and we both agreed that this city was worth re-visiting one day – provided we can find some more modern and soundproofed lodging. Until then I have perfume to remind me about the good, the bad and the ugly of this vacation. Which one? I’ll tell you soon.

 

Images: my own

Entertaining Statistics: Desert Island Perfumes

From time to time one of my blogger friends covers a topic that prompts more than just a comment, however lengthy one might be tolerated (or even appreciated).

Making lists of desert island scents is a well-known and loved pastime of many perfumistas, so that alone could send me packing boxes writing my own list. But the methodical way Vanessa (Bonkers about Perfume) approached the project could not have left me indifferent.

Vanessa, a market researcher by trade, considered multiple approaches to coming up with her list. She described those approaches (I’ll be referring to those, so if you haven’t yet, you should read her post to learn the details about each); but then she discarded some of them because of the complexity or data unavailability. Since all of my perfumes and perfume usage are documented in the homegrown database, I thought that I could pull off calculating some of the aspects that she abandoned.

I started with “the burning building speed grab method” (or as I call it – “Grab ‘n’ Run”) and came up with 20 perfumes I would be happy to have on that island if I had to evacuate without much time for packing.

* * *

Then I moved to the “systematic review of ALL perfumes owned” but decided to limit it only by those perfumes, which I own as a full or travel bottle or a large decant. I went through the list choosing carefully, which perfumes to include into the final list. As it always happens to me with these lists, I take it very seriously – as if I will have to actually live with those decisions. It wasn’t easy: I like, wear and want to keep wearing many more than 20 perfumes I chose for my list. But if I really had to choose… So I did – and I’m sticking by that Brute-force Search List (a.k.a. “Don’t Ever Want to Be Without”) and using it as a base for all further comparisons.

First I compared two lists – the Grab ‘n’ Run and Brute-force Search Lists. Surprisingly, even after careful consideration my final list still has 18 perfumes from my spontaneous list. The two substitutions were a close call with the initially selected Jo Malone Mimosa & Cardamom and Guerlain Chamade (parfum).

* * *

Then I remembered that about five years ago I participated in a similar exercise on Birgit’s blog (Olfactoria’s Travels) and did one of my Entertaining Stats posts based on the results. So I was curious to see how my list of 10 desert island perfumes from that time fared against my recent list. Seven (7 of 10) from the 2012 Desert Island List are still on my current list, and I still enjoy wearing Annick Goutal Heure Exquise, Antonia’s Flowers Tiempe Passate and DSH Perfumes Vert pour Madame, even though they got voted off the island, so to speak.

* * *

My variation on Vanessa’s “travel bag ‘nuclear precedent’ method” was a Top 20/12 List: perfumes that I wore the most often in the last 365 days. Sixteen (16) perfumes from my Brute-force Search List were among perfumes I wore the most during the last 12 months. But I kept thinking: how about the last 6+ years that I write this blog? Since I didn’t own all of the perfumes featured on my current list 6 years ago, and they joined my collection at different time, it wouldn’t be either accurate or fair to do a straight-forward aggregation of the times I wore each of them. So I calculated a relative popularity: total number of occasions during the last 6 years when I wore each perfume from my list divided by the number of days from when I wore it for the first time until today. That’s how I got the Top 20 ‘All-Time’ Faves List. It includes 10 out of 20 perfumes from the etalon list.

The table below shows my Brute-force Search/Don’t Ever Want to be Without List (sorted alphabetically by brand) and how other lists compare to it.

Brute-force Search (A-Z)
Grab ‘n Run 2012 Desert Island Top 20/12 Top 20 ‘All-Time’ Faves
Amouage Lyric + +
Amouage Ubar + + + +
By Kilian Amber Oud + + +
Chanel №19 EDT + + + +
Dior Miss Dior +
Estee Lauder Bronze Goddess + +
Frederic Malle Portrait of a Lady + + +
Giorgio Armani La Femme Bleue + + +
Guerlain Cruel Gardénia + + +
Jo Malone French Lime Blossom +
Jo Malone Sweet Milk + +
Krigler Lieber Gustav 14 + + +
Lancome Climat + + + +
Les Parfums de Rosine Rose d’Amour + + +
Mona di Orio Vanille Les Nombres d’Or + +
Ormonde Jayne Ta’if + + + +
Puredistance Antonia + + +
Tom Ford Fleur de Chine + + +
Tommi Sooni Eau de Tommi Sooni II
Yosh Ginger Ciao + +
Brute-force Search Grab ‘n Run 2012 Desert Island Top 20/12 Top 20 ‘All-Time’ Faves

* * *

Same as Vanessa, I didn’t even think that I needed to try and represent each of the main fragrance families in my least (I loved her joke on the topic!), but I inspected my existing list with “the fragrance family method” and discovered that the most common type was Oriental Floral (9), followed by Floral Green (3), Floral (2), Oriental Woody (2) and one of each – Floral Fruity, Oriental Vanilla, Chypre Floral and Woody Aromatic. Clearly, I like my florals.

* * *

“The scents for all seasons method” also inspired me to look at my list: 7 of 20 I can wear all year long; others came in different combinations of the seasons when I usually wear those perfumes, so it all boils down to 10 perfumes for the Winter rotation, 15 for Spring, 15 for Summer and 13 for Autumn.

* * *

Since I have special categories for my perfumes, I ran “the scents for all occasions method” test on my Brute-force Search List and confirmed that the two main categories – Office Wear and Special Occasion – were well covered: of the 20 I can wear 14 to the office and 12 to any dress-up party. I even have 2 in that list that I consider my Tropical Vacation perfumes.

Estee Lauder Bronze Goddess and Shoes

I don’t think “the covering all my favourite notes method” would work as a selection method (and I’m not talking about choosing an unknown scent based on the pyramid) since having a note in the list doesn’t necessarily mean that I could smell that note in that perfume. But it was interesting to see if my favorite notes were well represented in the list. So I came up with what I think is a list of the notes, to which I’m partial in perfumes, and then checked it against perfumes on my Brute-force Search List.

Favorite notes: linden, amber, lavender, iris, black currant, rose, mimosa, lily of the valley, narcissus, galbanum, sandalwood, cedarwood, vetiver.

Almost all (19) perfumes on the list had at least one of the notes mentioned, which isn’t a complete surprise since rose and sandalwood are very ubiquitous notes (I count each of these in 12 perfumes). Amber and vetiver were spotted in 8 perfumes, iris – in 5, galbanum – in 4, cedar, LOTV & Narcissus – in 3 each, and the remaining 4 notes were covered by 1 perfume. If to judge strictly by notes, Chanel No. 19 is the closest to my ideal: it has 8 of the 13 notes I deemed favorite. Lancôme Climat takes the second place with 6 notes. And the third one for 5 notes goes to Les Parfums de Rosine Rose d’Amour. And if you are curious as to which one perfume from my list didn’t have a single of my favorite notes – it’s Jo Malone Sweet Milk – go figure!

* * *

Even though I could relatively easy check “the ‘inclusive’ perfume house / perfumer approach,” I decided against it: it makes absolutely no sense to represent some abstract “known,” “famous,” or “established” perfume house in one’s personal preferences list; but to arrive at my personal list of favorite brands or perfumers I would have to use a list… of my favorite perfumes, which would just create a circular reference.

* * *

Whenever somebody on my Reading List rates perfume or even just expresses liking/disliking it, I pay attention. But I mostly do it just to figure out whose tastes are closer to mine to rely upon their future opinions to navigate the plenitude of future releases. So while I did look up ratings on Victoria’s (Bois de Jasmin) site, I did it only because it was one of Vanessa’s methods. I got 3 ***, 5 **** and 4 *****. No ratings for 8 of my favorites. And I don’t really care either way.

* * *

I think I wouldn’t be able to use “the scents I had happy times in method”: my all-time/long time favorites were with me through all possible times, so they are time-tested. With the newer additions to my wardrobe and my MO to wear a different perfume every day and rarely returning to the same one more often than once a month, it’s almost impossible to build that association between any particular perfume and the level of [un]happiness. Which is probably for the best: I can classify all of my favorites as my “happy times” perfumes.

Happy Times

* * *

The final approach – The Field Test – is my own method, which I plan to run in April. I intend to wear each of the perfumes on my Don’t Ever Want to Be Without List and see if “in practice” I feel about them the same I felt “in theory” while working on the list.

If you’d like to join me, do your own list (of 10 – 15 – 20 – your choice) your most favorite perfumes and wear each one them at least once before the end on April – and we’ll compare notes in May.

Images: my own

A Month of Roses: Conclusion, Statistics and the Draw Winner

It was a great month filled with great perfumes. I’m so glad Lucas came up with this idea. While I’m not sure I’m ready to do another month of any particular note, I’m thinking about a couple of note-themed weeks (and even doing one already – but that’s the topic for the next post).

Peach Rose

Rose Perfumes for Week 4

February 22: Le Jardin Retrouvé Rose Trocadéro

A beautiful and extremely realistic in the opening rose. And it has my favorite black currant. I like it and actually plan to wear my sample, which I don’t do too often. But I’m not sure if I want more: it’s a rose soliflore, and it comes only in a HUGE 125 ml bottle. But it’s very nice, and I recommend testing this perfume if you get a chance.

February 23: Keiko Mecheri Mogador

I was supposed to wear another perfume but I couldn’t find the sample in the morning, so I decided to wear Mogador again. Loved it.

February 24: Atelier Cologne Rose Anonyme

I had a large sample of Rose Anonyme, which I was testing periodically when I wanted to compare it to something else. When I scheduled it for wearing, I didn’t realize how little I had left in my sample. When I applied it first, very sparingly, I thought that I didn’t like it at all and was surprised since I remembered liking it more. But in the evening when I didn’t try to save it and put on the remains of my sample, it smelled much better – the way I remembered it from before. But I don’t think I need more Rose Anonyme in my life.

Rusty and Ineke Scent Library

February 25: Ineke Briar Rose

This is the only perfume from Ineke’s Floral Curiosities Collection, for which I do not have a travel bottle-book. It wasn’t by choice: they didn’t have it on sale at the time when I bought the other four, mostly just to have those “books.” But I had a sample in the set (the one, with which Rusty is playing on the picture above). I didn’t remember what I thought about Briar Rose but I remembered that Blacknall (aperfumeblog by Blacknall Allen) liked this perfume enough to go through the full bottle at some point. So I decided to give it a go. It’s not bad but I won’t want to wear it.

February 26: April Aromatics Rosenlust

One more change of plans: I got this sample with my purchase and wanted to re-test it. It’s a lemony rose – very natural and beautiful. But it’s just a rose. With many other rose-centric perfumes in my collection Rosenlust does not cross that line from “nice to have” to “need to have.”

Roses

February 27: Lancome Mille et Une Roses

This is one of my favorite perfumes; I enjoy wearing it every time. And I love its color. A couple of years ago I paired it with the second equation in my post A Simple Equation Or In the Search for the Perfect Rose.

February 28: Hermès Rose Ikebana

I left Rose Ikebana for the last day of the month because I thought it would be warm by then. I was wrong. We are having an unusually cold for our area winter (not that I’m complaining: it’s nice for a change; and it comes with long-expected rain), so Rose Ikebana was a little too light for the weather. But it still wore nicely.

February Statistics

Rose perfumes I wore: 27 (but two of them I wore twice)

Rose perfumes I tested: 5 (yes, it wasn’t enough that I wore a rose-centric perfume each day, I managed to test 5 more rose perfumes during that month)

Samples finished: 4

New bottles of rose perfumes: 1 (bought); 3 (being considered)

23 people left 75 comments for the Month of Roses posts. 34 of those comments had mentioning of the rose perfumes worn in the spirit of the Month of Roses – and, as I promised, they all were included into the draw for two bars of local artisan chocolates.

And the Winner is…

According to random.org, the winner is the most diligent commenter – hajusuuri! Congratulations! Now it’s your time to choose whether you want two bars of dark chocolate, milk chocolate, or one of each.

Chocolate Fountain

Shall we do it again next year?

 

Images: my own

Entertaining Statistics: 2016 Year Round-up

As I was reading farewell posts for 2016 (or celebratory ones for 2017), I’ve noticed that many people were very unhappy with the year and were anxious to see it off. While I acknowledge all the madness and unpleasantness that the year had brought us, on the personal level I don’t have much to complain. All-in-all, it was a good year for me, and I’m grateful for that.

But let me show you my 2016 in numbers.

98% – 100%

Northern California finally got some relief from the drought we are having. It’s still not over, and a part of the state is still in miserable condition, but the area where I live got rainfall between 98 and 100 percent of historic average, which makes me happy (I’m not sure about Rusty, though: since the picture below had been taken, he’s developed an inexplicable phobia of umbrellas – so that he refuses to be in the same room with it. Now I have to dry umbrellas in the garage not to traumatize him any further).

Rusty and Umbrella

164 Perfumes Worn

I wear perfumes on most of the days that I work from the office and on weekends. When I work from home, I tend to use those days to test perfumes instead of wearing my favorites. Since at the new job I get less WFH days, 2016 numbers for perfume wearing went up compared to 2015 (the difference is given in parentheses): I wore 164 perfumes (+8) from 61 brands (+5) on 333 occasions (+29). And before you ask: no, I do not own 164 bottles of perfumes; some of these are travel bottles, minis or decants.

Jo Malone with a Vengeance

For many years I have been a Jo Malone’s fan. It started long before my trip down the rabbit hole but during the first several years of my descent I was so mesmerized by all the marvels of the niche perfumery world that I wore much less of my favorite perfumes from this brand even though I own more full bottles from Jo Malone than from any other brand.

Since I wasn’t doing my monthly statistics posts this last year, I haven’t noticed the tendency, so it got me by surprise when my year numbers showed that Jo Malone was the brand I wore the most often, and it was the highest number for one brand in the last three years: I wore Jo Malone’s perfumes on 29 occasions.

My Stats Year 2016 Brands

Lucky Number 13

This is how many times I wore Lancôme Climat – my all-time favorite perfume in 2016. You might think it’s not a high number for perfume that I love my whole life: just 13 days out of 365… no, actually 366. But look at it from another perspective: this is the highest number for any single perfume I wore during any of the past six years.

Testing… Testing… 275, 100, 361…

Despite being very busy and wearing perfumes more often, in 2016 I did a lot more testing (compared to 2015): I tested 275 perfumes (+ 97) from 100 brands (+15) on 361 occasions (+134). Not all the testing I’ve done was for new perfumes, I do a lot of comparison testing (e.g., a new to me perfume with the one I own or two new perfumes against each other) or just re-testing something I’ve tested before. But I did test 118 new for me perfumes (+26), 31 of which were released in 2016 (+3), and I listed 10 of the new releases that I liked in the last post of the year.

Care to guess, which line I tested the most? Told you – “with a vengeance.” I was surprised myself, and I blame it on their Garden Collection: probably I just couldn’t believe I couldn’t find a single perfume to like in those cute green bottles, so I kept trying them.

A Year of Zen [Gardens]

A year ago I changed jobs and I got myself a desk Zen Garden, about which I dreamed for years. Looking back, I can tell that it was a good decision. On both accounts – the job and the garden. It was a challenging busy year but I enjoy what I do, I like my job, and I still had time for changing my Zen Garden at least seven times (I can’t find a picture of the very first one I made but it was more traditional than the next six).

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As you can see, I used all my favorite things – cats, perfumes, chocolates and holiday decorations. Yesterday I took off Christmas ornaments, and I’m ready for the next chapter in my Zen-gardening. Any ideas for what I should do next?

Zen Garden 8

Images: my own

In the Search for the Perfect Vanilla, Part 2

Topic of vanilla perfumes periodically circulates in the Perfumeland, and two-three years ago I could probably be observed commenting on those with the statement of not being a vanilla fan. I never seriously disliked the note, but for a long time I thought that vanilla-centric perfumes weren’t my cup of tea.

In some sense I was right: until recently the only two bottles of vanilla perfume in my perfume collection were Vanille Noire by Yves Rocher and Eau Duelle by Diptyque – a mini bottle and a travel bottle, correspondingly. But the “mystery” vanilla perfume that I came across on the last day of my Maui vacation (see the Part  1* post) has triggered my vanilla cravings. And while I was searching for that brand first and then waiting on the La Maison de la Vanille’s sample set arrival, I discovered that over the years I accumulated a wide variety of decants and samples of vanilla perfumes. So for the next month I wore and tested perfumes with the prominent vanilla note.

There are many great Guides to Vanilla Perfumes in the Blogosphere, so I won’t even attempt to write any serious comparison of the perfumes I tried. I’ll just share some personal numbers, observations and conclusions.

Diptyque Eau Duelle

During that month I sweetened the bitterness of the returning from my vacation with 22 vanilla perfumes. Only one of them – Eau Duelle doesn’t have one or the other variation of the word “vanilla” in the name. But Eau Duelle is unmistakably vanilla perfume, and I like it, especially in the heat of tropics (and that’s where I actually wore it on the onset of my vanilla kick).

Out of 22 perfumes in my experiment, I disliked 11 – so probably I wasn’t that wrong in thinking that I didn’t like vanilla perfumes. I won’t list them all, but mention just several where I have any additional comments. I confirmed to myself that Atelier Cologne’s Vanille Insensée does not work for me, which still surprises me since I find most of their perfumes pleasant even when I do not love them. I also suspect that my sample of Vanille Absolument from L’Artisan Parfumeur is off: though I don’t know how it’s supposed to smell, I don’t think it smells right (or I’ll be extremely surprised since I read many good reviews for it).

Five perfumes I neither liked nor disliked: Montale Chypre Vanille, Van Cleef & Arpels Orchidee Vanille, Serge Lutens Un Bois Vanille, Jo Malone Vanila & Anise and M.Micallef Vanille Orient. They were quite nice but all of them were the type that I might wear, in principle, but having so many other great perfumes I would probably never finish even those decants/minis that I have now (Rusty didn’t care much for them either: I couldn’t persuade him to play with them for my camera).

Rusty and Vanilla Samples

That leaves us with 6 perfumes that I quite liked. None of them were new to me: they were my favorites from the previous encounters with them. In addition to the mentioned above Eau Duelle, I liked Guerlain Spiritueuse Double Vanille. I have a decant of it but once it’s gone, I won’t pursue it. Unexpectedly I loved Tobacco Vanille by Tom Ford. “Unexpectedly” – because this is one of the perfumes that I love on my vSO but I’ve never considered it for myself. Now I think that once we finish his decant, I should go for a bottle – to share, of course. I also liked Ormonde Jayne’s Vanille d’Iris though I have some uneasy feelings about it since I think I smell Iso E Super** in it. Good news: I do not smell carrot in it any longer. So I might consider getting one of the 10 ml bottles from their travel set. Or not.

By the end of this Single Note Exploration episode I got down to two contenders for the perfect vanilla title – Le Labo Vanille 44 and Mona di Orio Vanille. Thank you, hajusuuri and Suzanne (Suzanne’s Perfume Journal): if it weren’t for your generosity, with me not being a big fan of vanilla perfumes (and absolutely not a fan of Mona di Orio’s creations), I might have never actually tried these two. But I did, found both to be wonderful perfumes and decided to add one of them to my collection. Why not both? Even not talking about the price, these two fit exactly the same niche for me, and I just do not see how I would be deciding every time, which of the two to wear. So after many evenings of the parallel test runs on both wrists, as well as a couple of days of actually wearing each of them, I declared the winner: Vanille by Mona di Orio is my Perfect Vanilla.

Rusty and Mona di Orio Vanille

Now I want to “pay it forward”: I have one 5 ml decant of Mona di Orio Vanille to share. To be entered into the giveaway, let me know in your comment whether you’ve tried and liked it, or want to try it (I assume, if you didn’t like it, you won’t need more of it, but I do not mind your entering into the draw even if that’s the case). There are no other requirements. Open until 11:59 P.M. PST, December 11, 2016.

Question to everybody (not related to the giveaway): Can you name just one vanilla perfume that is hands down your favorite?

 

*I doubt anyone would have noticed, but I wanted to explain that usually, when I re-visit the same note in my One Note Exploration series, I name the consequent episodes “Take 2, 3, etc.” But in this case both episodes were the parts of the same tasting spree – hence Part 1 & 2.

** Recently I finally formulated how I feel about this aroma chemical: while I like it on its own (and have a bottle of Molecular 01 to prove it), and I do not mind it in perfumes, I prefer not to be able to pinpoint this ingredient in my perfumes.

 

Images: my own

How Mainstream Are You (In Regard to Niche Perfumes)?

Recently Elena (Perfume Shrine) published a list of fourteen most popular perfumes (as in “samples or bottles bought”) from Luckyscent for 2015. As I was looking through the list, I realized that I haven’t tried most of the perfumes (13 out of 14!). The only one I tried was Penhaligons’ Ostara.

Here’s that list:

4160 TuesdaysMaxed Out
A Lab on FireMon musc a moi
Andree PutmanL’Original
DS & DurgaDebaser
Eau d’ItalieMorn to Dusk
Naomi GoodsirIris Cendre
Parfum d’EmpireTabac Tabou
Papillon Artisan PerfumesSalome
PenhaligonsOstara
Shay & BlueFramboise Noire
SlumberhouseKiste
Stephane Humbert LucasMortal Skin
TauervilleRose Flash
The Beautiful Mind SeriesPrecision and Grace

Take a look at the list and tell me:

  • How many of these perfumes have you tried?
  • Which one(s) did you really like and would recommend me to try?

Rusty and Door

I know: I was very busy in 2015 and after all these years of testing I’m very selective and a little jaded when it comes to chasing new perfumes. While it didn’t bother me much that I hadn’t tried many of the Top N perfumes from other blogs’ year round-ups, strangely after reading this “consumer” list I feel a little bit excluded (probably like Rusty on the picture above). Can you help me to figure out if I actually missed anything worth trying?

 

Image: my own

Entertaining Statistics: 2015 Year Round-up

It has been a while since I did my last statistics post, so I want to report that we finally got some rain. It’s not as strong here, in the Bay Area, as it is in Southern California and it still hasn’t put an end to the 5-year drought but it definitely helped. It’s interesting how circumstances might change someone’s perspective: even 10 years ago I would have never thought that I would ever feel genuinely happy because of the consecutive rainy days.

2015 was one of the busiest years in my adult life. And in addition to that I was fighting persistent cough for about three months. It proved to be an allergy not related to my perfume usage but for a while I wasn’t sure. As the result both my perfumes testing and wearing went down significantly.

Since I wasn’t actively seeking new releases, I’ve got to try meager 28 perfumes released in 2015. As I was reading “Best of 2015” on different blogs, I kept shaking my head: no, nope, didn’t try this one either… It doesn’t upset me much: I have a great collection of perfumes that I enjoy wearing and last year I managed to test 64 more new (for me) perfumes, which makes it 92 new perfumes tested – not that bad. And I was doing some re-testing of previously tested perfumes. That brings me to 178 perfumes from 85 brands tested on 227 occasions. The numbers are the lowest out of the last four years during which I track perfumes testing separately from the perfume wearing. I wonder if this downhill trend continues this year or have I reached a plateau?

My Stats Year 2015: Testing

Before I looked closer at the perfumes I tested for the first time I had a feeling that I disliked most of the perfumes I tried. It’s not so in reality: I liked more perfumes that I disliked (29 vs. 23), but mostly I felt indifferent (40). Either I’m getting pickier or perfumes are getting worse or it’s some strange statistical anomaly and I managed to get mostly boring perfumes to try last year. Even among those 29 perfumes that I liked only one became a bottle in my collection (Jo Malone Mimosa & Cardamom), one more will probably end up there as well this year (Puredistance WHITE) and I think of re-testing six or seven to see if I actually would want to wear any of them (Atelier Cologne Jasmin Angélique, Frapin 1270, Giorgio Armani Myrrhe Impériale, NVC Pichola, Ormonde Jayne Vanille d’Iris, L’Artisan Parfumeur Noir Exquis and, maybe, Dame Perfumery Black Flower Mexican Vanilla).

I wrote the above paragraph before I read the following observation on Vanessa’s blog (Bonkers About Perfume):

So I wonder if I have simply tried too little this year for the odds of an epiphany to be stacked in my favour, or whether I am too hardboiled, or have just reached a more mellow phase in my hobby where nothing is going to get my heart racing.

Interestingly, that as much as I’m of the same mind with Vanessa on that notion, I’m completely opposite on the topic she covers next:

I am racking my brains to remember if I have ever felt completely transported by a scent – you know, a feeling of being utterly blown away. I’d like to think so, but as I sit here I can’t connect with any such feelings from the past. Even my all-time favourite scents don’t move me now to that degree.

When I wear my all-time favorites almost every time I feel amazed how much I like them.

In 2015 I wore 156 perfumes from 56 brands on 304 occasions.

My Stats Year 2015: Top 10 Brands

2015 was the first year (out of four), in which not a single new brand made it to my Top 10 Brands list. The first seven brands from 2015 appeared in each of the previous three years’ round-ups as well. Number eight made Top 10 in 2012 & 2013. Number nine and ten appeared once in 2013 and 2014’s lists correspondingly.

As to the perfumes that got the most skin time in 2015, there weren’t any surprises other than, maybe, Bois des Iles – but only because it’s the only perfume on the list that I used from the decant. Maybe it’s a sign?

Brand Perfume Times worn
Lancome Climat (parfum + EdT) 9
Ormonde Jayne Ta’if 9
Giorgio Armani La Femme Bleue 8
Diptyque Volutes 8
Chanel Bois des Iles (EdT + extrait) 8
Tom Ford Fleur de Chine 7
Serge Lutens Boxeuses 7
Creed Jasmin Impératrice Eugénie 5
Ormonde Jayne Tsarina 5
Les Parfums de Rosine Rose d’Amour 5
By Kilian Amber Oud 5

Looking back at the patterns of my perfume behavior in 2015, I don’t think I need to make any significant changes. The only New Year resolution I made is to think if I have any “albatrosses” (©Vanessa) in my collection and, maybe, to try to let them go. As an alternative, I consider freeing up one additional shelf in the closet…

Rusty and SL De Profundis

Do you have any perfume-related New Year resolutions?

 

Images: my own