Mediterranean Mirage

It wasn’t even a real vacation: this year my vSO’s birthday fell on a weekday, and since we weren’t traveling this time, we decided to take a day off. In the new reality of working from home, unless we physically leave the house, it usually results in both of us taking a quick peek at work emails… and 3-4 hours later telling ourselves and each other that it’s not the right way to spend a day off. To avoid even a temptation, we decided to spend some time at Santana Row (“Silicon Valley’s premier destination for shopping, dining, living, and more.”) and even invented a goal of that visit: to actually see and touch a travel backpack that we were going to buy as a present for my vSO.

I say “invented” because we could have easily gotten it delivered to our place with a free delivery and return. But it felt like a special treat – going to a regular (not a grocery) store, touching things and choosing them not by magnifying each of the 1.5 (on average) available pictures and reading a dozen of reviews of the “I give it 3 stars because I thought it would be bigger” (despite clearly provided dimensions)-type. Not that I haven’t done all that before going to the store…

The mission was a complete success: the backpack was exactly as we imagined it based on pictures online and carefully measured our old one. It will perfectly fit two work laptops that we always bring with us to our vacation trips (those emails won’t read themselves, you know).

Tumi Backpack

Inspired by that, we decided to visit a recently built luxury wing of the mall. I’m not sure whether it happened before the COVID, or if they used that year to complete the project, but we haven’t been to that mall in a while, so both versions are plausible. My main goal was to see if there were any new perfumes to try at any of the shops that carry brands that I might be interested in.

Macy’s, through which we went to get inside the mall, smelled just awful of the cheap synthetic men colognes. It was disgusting, and we hurried to leave the area. I don’t remember when the last time was I stopped at any Macy’s cosmetics counter: for many years they’ve been so stingy with samples that I just stopped buying anything there. In general, I’m sad, but I think that Macy’s is on its way out: inside the stores, it feels like it was in Mervyn’s first and then Sear’s before they finally succumbed to inevitable. Oh well…

Nordstrom was slightly better, but there wasn’t a single new perfume to test. And then looking through the Directory I found a stand-alone Diptyque boutique, which hasn’t been in this mall when I was there last time. I remembered that there was a new Diptyque perfume that for some reason I couldn’t find at Diptyque counters in department stores.

I marched into that boutique and, instead of my regular “just browsing,” immediately inquired about “the latest one” (for the life of me I couldn’t remember the name, but even if I could, I wouldn’t be sure how to pronounce it). “Oh, yeah – Ilio,” replied a cheerful SA, “It is sold out.” I didn’t expect that, but since I wasn’t there to buy it, I was insistent, and he acknowledged that they still have a tester for it (but no samples, of course). Since that was all I wanted, I lavishly sprayed Ilio on my wrist, and we went to check out a new seafood restaurant.

As we were waiting for the order (the food was good, but the service was unexpectedly slow… though, I haven’t been to a restaurant in a long while, so maybe it’s a new normal?), I kept sniffing my wrist. It was quite nice. With the international perfumistas’ gesture, I shoved my wrist under my vSO’s nose and demanded to know what he thought. As usual, he thought it was “nice.” I authoritatively explained that it was a nice mimosa scent…

When I got home and checked both Fragrantica and the brand’s site, I discovered that there was no mimosa among the Ilio notes: prickly pear, bergamot, jasmine and iris. I can’t say that I was too surprised: as I keep repeating, I don’t think my nose is that well trained, I rarely smell notes announced in perfumes (and now clearly smell some that aren’t). According to Diptyque site:

Ilio is a tribute to this Mediterranean land bathed in light and fragrance.

And then I went to read Lucas’s (Chemist in the Bottle) review, and you can imagine my surprise when I read that he also thought that Ilio smelled of mimosa! We both saw (well, smelled) something that wasn’t there.

As I was investigating that mirage mimosa note happening, I discovered that Ilio was sold out almost everywhere. Of course, I wanted it!

Diptyque Ilio

If you are curious and haven’t read yet, for the review go to the link I provided above. But this perfume is almost impossible to buy now. And, to tell you the truth, it is not really worth it. It is pleasant. It is nice. It is not something that I would expect released as a celebratory perfume for the 60th anniversary of the brand. It is not something that you are missing out on. But if you feel like you are, you could get it on eBay for $200+.

On a separate note. What is with all these brands that for their anniversaries release super-limited editions in quantities that are being sold out within days (if not hours) from the release?! Did they actually not expect to sell them easily, so they decided to do just a gesture? Or do they try to condition consumers to be prepared to buy future releases without thinking much? I can’t imagine that they tried to create a business opportunity for all those eBay sellers who ask a double price for all sold-out special items?

 

Images: my own

A Rose By Any Other Name?..

Historically, I like Tom Ford. The brand, not Tom Ford as a person. I mean, I don’t know much about the man to have any feelings about him, and I prefer it this way. Though over the years seeing some of the provocative ads for his perfumes here and there, I thought that those were rather disparaging and misogynistic. But since usually I do not see them (I’m not even sure where exactly those were published in the US other than somewhere on the Internet), I was telling myself that those weren’t the worst images anyone (who would want to) might find on the Internet and didn’t allow it to affect my attitude towards Tom Ford’s perfumes.

And then he (a person, since all that rotated about his personality, not just the brand) came out with that juvenile stunt of a perfume name…

In my native culture, the use of explicit language had been reserved for “uncultured” and “uneducated” social strata. So, it was unacceptable and not expected from people of “our circle.” And seeing it in writing or hearing on TV was completely out of the reality realm.

Times changed, and these days it’s much less strict even in the country that I left decades ago. And it has been different from the beginning of my life in the U.S. with the “TV-MA” rating being an Indulgence to use all those taboo words on cable TV shows. But somehow there still was some resemblance of propriety: words frowned upon by the FCC, clothes (or the absence thereof) not expected during the Super Bowl, etc.

I know that the language is fluid, and norms change over time. But I didn’t see a good reason for this particular change. My main objection to that name was trivializing misbehavior. And I was right: if three years ago, when perfume in question just was released, department stores would “modestly” cover the first word by rubber bands over the bottle and shorten the name online to just “Fabulous,” now, three years later, nobody gives a second thought to flaunting said bottle in all its unadulterated glory in front of family shoppers and other unsuspecting audiences.

I tried that perfume once, thought it was quite nice but decided that I didn’t want to support that type of behavior. And I voted against writing anything, even negative, about it – not to propagate even bad publicity for that perfume (yeah, I know, my blog is such a significant blip on the scale of Tom Ford/Estee Lauder’s PR machine…).

The next one had a still juvenile and cringe-worthy but less offensive, in my opinion, name. I also liked it but decided still not to buy any, even a decant.

And then came THE ONE. Not being a native English speaker, in the case of Rose Prick, which had absolutely no connotations for me, good or bad, until I read some explanations. I don’t even know how common that slang is compared to the literal meaning of the phrase or what is its degree of vulgarity. And while this name didn’t offend or bother me, I just habitually expected to dismiss it after sniffing at a store. But it smelled nice… so, I asked for a sample.

What I especially like about Rose Prick is that for me, while being nice in the opening, it smells wonderful in drydown. And probably from the first time I realized how much I liked the drydown, I wanted to get this perfume. But I disliked the 50 ml pink bottle, didn’t need 50 ml of either this or any other perfume, and wanted to get a travel bottle… that wasn’t available anywhere at the time.

In the Saturday Question for Black Friday, I shared with my readers my conundrum, and several people advised me to wait. Which I did. So, a travel spray of Rose Prick that appeared at the end of January on the Sephora site became my first fragrance purchase of the year.

Tom Ford Rose Prick

It is a very likable perfume, and I’m sure it is doing well in sales. Should you try it if you haven’t yet? If you can do it without paying – definitely: as far as sampling goes, 9 out of 10 perfumes we regularly try are worse than this one. Will you want to buy it? Most likely, no: it’s too expensive for what if offers, and there are other great rose perfumes that cost less while not making you pause before answering a co-worker’s question: “What are you wearing today?” (though, with the current state of getting back to any kind of normal, that aspect might not be an issue for many of us for a while).

 

Image: my own

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

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

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

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

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

My Ormonde Jayne Taif Family

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

* * *

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

 

Ormonde Jayne: 20 Questions for 20 Years

Undina (U): Do you wear perfumes daily?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ormonde Man and Ormonde Woman Perfumes by Ormonde Jayne

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

(Linda laughs)

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

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

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

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

Montabaco Intensivo Perfume by Ormonde Jayne

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

U: When will be the next new release?

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

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

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

U: What about hair mist?

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

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

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

Ta'if Perfune by Ormonde Jayne

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cats Teddie and Freddy

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

Puredistance Rubikona: Iacta alea esto!

I rarely participate in campaigns when new niche perfumes are launched: if I do not like them, I prefer to keep silence, and if I like them, I go through the careful testing first, then add perfume to my collection, and only after that I would write about that perfume – and only if I have a story. I have a few perfumes in my collection that I love and wear but have never covered in the blog.

With the new release from Puredistance, RUBIKONA, I had a conundrum: while I liked this perfume very much, I would not be buying it any time soon … because the brand sent me a beautiful travel spray of it. At the same time, in the “new normal” situation with perfume sales, any small brand needs all the possible help in promoting perfumes that are worth the attention. So, it wouldn’t be fair to “punish” the brand because I do not have to buy perfume now. Because of that, I am doing this post and a giveaway – as a part of the self-organized mini joint project between my scent triplets – hajusuuri and Lucas (see the details at the end of this post).

 

Rusty and Puredistance Rubikona

 

A couple of days ago Lucas (Chemist in the Bottle) published a comprehensive review for Rubikona, so I invite you to read it if you want to get a real review since from me you’re getting mostly impressions and pictures of Rusty.

Perfumer: Cécile Zarokian. Top notes – grapefruit, bergamot and mandarin; middle notes – rose, iris, ylang, clove, orange blossom and creamy notes; base notes – patchouli, cedarwood, vanilla, solar notes and musk.

Sometimes, trying to explain what something is, it is easier to describe what it is not. Puredistance Rubikona is not an exercise in edgy modern aroma creation. It absolutely cannot be described as “nice perfume.” And nobody would mistake Rubikona for an ambiance scent.

 

Puredistance Rubikona

 

I do not get any vintage vibe from Rubikona but at the same time the moment I smell it I know that it is perfume in its classical meaning: it is polished and elegant and complete, without any rough edges or artistic imperfections. Recently I find myself gravitating towards this type of perfume – neither too loud nor a whisper, not obnoxious but with enough confidence, not Angel-like revolutionary but distinct enough not to have close dupes in my scent wardrobe. And Rubikona fits the narrative perfectly.

 

Rusty and Puredistance Rubikona

 

I would like to briefly discuss the price. Historically, perfumes from Puredistance were expensive: these are not something one buys on a whim. But despite the format (spray flacons), these are extraits. And if we were to compare these to other brands’ perfumes in the same concentration, we’d see that Puredistance offers them more than twice cheaper than extraits from mainstream brands – and those sell perfumes in hundreds of thousands of bottles per year, if not more. So, it’s hard to expect a small niche brand to be able to produce high-quality perfumes cheaper.

As much as I like Puredistance’s colorful flacons, I think that even smaller volume of perfume in a glass dabber bottle à la mini bottles for Givenchy Extravagance, Organza or Organza Indecence for the current price would feel a more justified purchase. It looks though, one has to choose what to pay for – a beautiful bottle or high-quality composition.

But at that price, no matter how great and pure ingredients are, one must love perfume to justify paying this sum for a single bottle instead of 3-4-5 “instant gratifications” of discounter bargains or vintage eBay finds. And to have a chance to like it, one needs to try it first. Definitely on skin.

 

Rusty and Puredistance Rubikona

 

To help with promoting this perfume that we all liked, hajusuuri, Lucas and I are running parallel giveaways on blogs (Undina’s Looking Glass for the US and Chemist in the Bottle for Europe) and Instagram (my account is linked on the side (web)/below (mobile) and here is hajusuuri’s account – both for readers in the US). The US readers get to enter into any or all giveaways. Follow the instructions for each of the draws.

To be entered on this blog, all you need to do is to add in your comment that you live in the US. Otherwise, I’ll consider your comment as a “DNEM.”

 

Rusty's Tail and Puredistance Rubikona

 

What do you think about Puredistance bottles? Do you like them? Would you prefer glass bottles with extraits? Do you think they should produce less expensive EdP or even EdT versions of their extraits?

 

Images: my own

Narth’s Musings: Perfume’s Power

I’m sure we’ve all talked about this before, but it’s been on my mind of late: negative scent associations that mean a perfume will never work for us. Sometimes it’s obvious, a person we found difficult drenched themselves in a scent, and now we don’t care for it. But often it’s a more subtle and layered experience.

The sight of the black Lanvin Arpege bottle with its gold embossed mother and child will always make me feel a combination of guilt, sadness and anxiety. My mother wore Arpege, and this bottle has an almost claustrophobic effect on me. I prefer my perfume to be, at its very worst, dreadfully dull. I do not like it when perfume triggers a horrible flashback of feelings, a sudden reminder that yes, you have these feelings, and here they are in a big feeling vomit, enjoy! Many years ago, I bought a bottle of Lanvin Arpege after convincing myself I would redeem it, and it would be only about good associations. Sadly, the mother and child motif was too much, and when I finally swapped it away, I was relieved. I think if you had a great relationship with your mom, and she wore this scent the bottle would be the sweetest thing! Maybe you can’t bottle maternal love, but for myself personally Lanvin Arpege mockingly bottles the absence of it. I do not have a rational relationship with this perfume.

Another Odor Horribilis for me is anything with a whiff of campfire. I like my smoke scents to smell like an ashtray left rotting under the couch in a sharehouse. The moment we trek out into the woods with a bonfire burning I shut down hard. Having lived through several bushfires and known beautiful folk who didn’t make it, I absolutely cannot abide this smell, this burning, burning smell. It will never be a scent of pleasure again. I do remember a time in my childhood when it was one of those “best smells ever” and all about camping, singing and eating too much sugar… But that’s another Narth. There is a Naomi Goodsir fragrance I’ve never tried because of the bonfire note. As the SA was enthusiastically listing the notes, I said “NO” rather too firmly and then sheepishly mentioned bushfires. She immediately understood, and we moved on to something happily floral.

Perfume is powerful stuff. I’ve had several long perfume breaks where I stopped thinking about it at all, but negative associations would still throw themselves at me against my will. Smell, the sense most people value the least, has been busy building a personal history with us all our lives.

I’d love to hear your own associations, if you want to share, of scents you would rather not revisit.

Bushfire Smoke AZ

Photo by me, during our long summer of bushfire smoke. This was reality for many weeks and the smell filled the house.

Perfumes of My Hawaiian Vacations

I realize that a vacation at a tropical destination is a luxury, and many people cannot afford those or even going to the seaside. But since both my vSO and I work and work hard, as a rule, we try to go to Hawaii every second year. Last year we had a business trip combined with visiting relatives back in our country of birth followed by a week in London. It wasn’t the easiest trip (if not to count the UK portion of it, which was fabulous in all respects), but it ate up most of our travel budget and time off, so I was looking forward to going to Hawaii this year.

When the pandemic started, I was still hopeful that it would get resolved in the next several months, so I even booked a plane part of the trip late in March, and as September/October (the planned time for the trip) was approaching, I was still optimistic that the 14-days quarantine mandatory in Hawaii would get eased up, and we wouldn’t have to postpone the trip (the air tickets these days are easy to be moved or canceled – no penalties or change fees). The closer we got to the time, the less likely it seemed that we would be able to go, but it wasn’t until August when our airline sent me a notification that the flights have been canceled. They offered to move our itinerary to different days… But that’s when we decided that we should move that trip to the next year.

It was a disappointment, but on the grand schema of things, it’s not the worse what could have happened or is happening to many, so I’m trying to be positive about it and hope that we’ll go there next year (and I might even be able to shed some pounds by then – well, one can dream, right?).

But one thing that struck me as something sad and depressing was that, in addition to clothes that I wear only while in Hawaii, I have a list of perfumes that I also tend to wear mostly when I’m on a tropical vacation. And not going there meant that those perfumes would be waiting one more year for the skin time.

 

Perfumes for a Tropical Vacation

 

So, I decided to do a mini-project: a week of perfumes of my Hawaiian vacations. I thought about doing this project during my staycation, but then I figured that to keep reminding myself that we had to stay at home instead of enjoying time somewhere else would be too depressing. Besides, the week of my staycation promised to be pleasantly cooler (and it was). But the week before was hot, so it was just perfect for the project.

Almost all these perfumes I wore in Hawaii before (the picture above is from one of the previous trips), and I even wrote about some of them before – so, I knew that I liked them and would enjoy wearing them again. So, I’ll share just a couple of thoughts here and there, as well as several pictures from the previous visits to Hawaii – not paring those images to perfumes, just using them to set the mood.

 

Estee Lauder Bronze Goddess Eau Fraiche Skinscent

Bronze Goddess is one of those perfumes that could have completely gone by me if it weren’t for Perfumeland. But thanks to a perfumista friend who shared a decant with me many years ago, this perfume became a staple of all my Hawaiian vacations. Working from home, I didn’t follow my usual vacation ritual of getting the bottle cold from the fridge and using it as a body mist, but it was extremely enjoyable still.

 

Sunset Big Island Hawaii

 

Ormonde Jayne Tiare

Two years ago, I complained that Tiare, my proven friend and companion on many tropical vacations, felt completely out of place in the office environment. This time, worn for the evening neighborhood walk on a warm evening, it was pleasant again, and we rekindled our friendship.

 

Tiare Big Island Hawaii

 

Ormonde Jayne Frangipani

Whenever I wear Frangipani, I realize how much I like it. But then I forget about it again until the next time I pack for my trip. It blooms wonderfully in hot weather, and I know that when I’m done with the last travel spray, I’ll want more.

 

Byredo Pulp

I don’t think I can wear Pulp where I live: even in hot weather these overripe fruits seem too much and almost nauseating. But I know that I feel completely differently about it when I put it on in Hawaii. Conclusion: I need to go to Hawaii.

 

Tropical Fruit

 

L’Artisan Parfumeur Traversee du Bosphore

Traversee du Bosphore works for me only when it’s hot. I checked: it doesn’t have to be Hawaii, as I proved to myself this time wearing it in hot Californian weather. But it needs heat to bloom. So, as much as I like this perfume, it’ll be a while before I finish my decant, and until then I probably do not need a bottle.

 

Kawaii Hawaii

 

Neela Vermeire Creations Bombay Bling!

As I discovered the last time when I wore Bombay Bling in Hawaii, it smells the best in A/C’d environment. This time I wore it again on a hot day in the house with working A/C, and it was beautiful. So, I think in future I’ll keep wearing it at home and let one of the two new to my collection perfumes mentioned further to take up its place in my holiday wardrobe.

 

Volcano Maui Hawaii

 

Parfums DelRae Bois de Paradise

Many years ago, one of the bloggers sent me a small sample of Bois de Paradise, and I thought it was the right choice for my vacation wardrobe. I brought that vial with me on one of my trips and used it up there. Since then I had it somewhere on the back of my mind that I wanted to buy it. But I was waiting for the brand to release it in a smaller bottle (I hoped it would be released since they were asking opinions on the size on Twitter, I think). It had never happened, and once I saw it on sale at Luckyscent last year, I immediately bought it. I was right: the brand went out of business later that year. Since then I’ve been waiting for the chance to wear Bois de Paradise in Hawaii… Since it didn’t happen, I’ll wear it at home. It’s great, and I even got a compliment from a friend (from my “extended bubble”).

 

Tropical Forest Maui Hawaii

 

Byredo Bal D’Afrique

I’ve never tried Byredo Bal D’Afrique in Hawaii, but it was very pleasant both in humid heat or New Orleans and in drier Californian heat, I suspect I will like it in tropical environment as well. If I ever get to go there again.

 

I didn’t get to wear one more of my “usual suspects” for tropical vacation – Yosh Ginger Ciao. But unlike all other perfumes in this mini-project, I wore Ginger Ciao several times this summer, so I didn’t feel like I abandoned it. But whenever I go to Hawaii the next time, this Vacation in a Bottle is coming with me.

 

Palm Trees and Moon Maui Hawaii

 

Images: my own

Perfume True To Its Name

As I mentioned once or twice before, I love orchids. But since I had almost no encounters with fragrant orchids, my love to them lives in the universe that is parallel to my perfume love: I enjoy looking at them and keep searching for perfect jewelry pieces with the orchid theme but I do not think of them as an olfactory experience. Though, once I came across a fragrant orchid.

 

Rusty and Orchids

 

Sensual Orchid created by Jerome Epinette for Laurent Mazzone Parfums in 2012 is one of those perfumes that, very likely, I wouldn’t have ever tried if it weren’t for my (rarely visiting) guest author hajussuri. Considering her my scent twin, I decided to participate in the split she hosted, even though I haven’t tested it before then.

The first thought that popped up in my head once I applied Sensual Orchid was that the name fitted it perfectly. I cannot explain what qualities of this perfume prompted the thought (it’s an I-know-when-I-see-it-type feeling), but it was a positive thing since, in general, I do not like when brands exploit sex for marketing purposes.

I didn’t even finish my small decant before I found and bought a bottle of this wonderful perfume. My quick take on it: I enjoy wearing it, and a couple of years ago it inspired me to write a haiku for the NST haiku project (which is very telling if you consider that you can count any type of poetry I ever wrote with fingers on one hand):

Sensual Orchid –
Perfume true to its name…
His heartbeat agrees

If you haven’t tried Sensual Orchid yet and want to know more, you should read Kafka’s (Kafkaesque) review.

 

Laurent Mazzone Sensual Orchid

 

Have you tried any perfumes from this brand? What did you think? I was tempted by their Radikal collection (Radikal Iris sounds interesting, right?), but nobody I know ever mentioned trying those, none of the decanter sites here has them, and I’m not adventurous enough for a blind buy.

 

Images: my own

Portia’s Theory of Fragrant Relativity

Hi there, ULG Perfume Buddies. I have a theory. Well, I’ve called it a theory, but that’s because I suffer delusions of grandeur. It’s just a thing that’s been rattling around in my brain for a while. It didn’t really have much fom till I mentioned it to some mates, and they all piled on with thoughts and japes. It was kind of out-of control. What came out of it was a crystallising of my thoughts, and then I thought it might be fun to discuss it with you all.

In 20-40 years time, the perfumistas will be reminiscing about their love for perfumes from Juicy Couture, Jessica Simpson, Agent Provocateur, Lady Gaga and Benefit.

They will dream of fruitchoulis, calone and rose/oud combos like we do about oak moss and musks.

The prices of these scents will skyrocket on the future equivalent of eBay, and we will finally get our long lost fougere, chypre and galbanum rich beauties for next to nothing.

Now, I also have a confession.

When I heard that Agent Provocateur had gone bust, I went straight to FragranceNet and bought two 100ml of three from their range. Maitress, Lace Noir and Blue Silk. Then I went searching high and low for their original Agent Provocateur EdP, found two bottles of that for quite good prices and am awaiting their arrival. Finally, I saw Fatale Intense in my local chemist and snaffled that too.

NOW I have to find somewhere to put the damn things…

Also, have you noticed Jessica Simpson frags getting harder to find? I might have panic bought some of them too.

 

 

The only bottles already in my collection were original Agent Provocateur EdP and Jessica Simpson Fancy Nights (not pictured). They have been long standing regular use perfumes in collection, and I’ll be sad to not have them. So, buying them makes sense, right? Backing up your disappearing beauties is a perfumistas stock in trade. Everything else, though, is a freaked out blind buy. There is no rhyme or reason to this. Suddenly the urge was upon me, the hunt was on, my cart full, checked out and sent. It’s like all my impulse control goes flying out the window.

Do you ever panic buy stuff just because it’s going, going, gone? What do you think of my Theory of Fragrant Relativity? What will you want to hoard?

Portia xx

 

Image: my own

Portia Reconnecting with Serge Lutens

Hey crew,

Last time we chatted I told you about bringing my Serge Lutens open, now old style, 50ml export bottles out of their box and onto my easy reach tray next to my desk. It’s been spritz changing, even in these few short weeks. With them lined up before me I think about them much more often and am revisiting long languished loves again. It’s like a fragrant voyage of rediscovery. It reminds me how deeply the brand changed the way I thought about scenting myself. The possibilities, choice and intricacies of scent. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not fooling myself that every release or even favourite of mine is a boundary pushing masterpiece. Some are merely beautiful, easy wear interpretations of old tropes, but always with an interesting twist and/or perfectly balanced symmetry.

 

 

As luck would have it, I’ve had the opportunity to do two masterclasses in the Yellow Room upstairs in the Palais Royale store in Paris. The first was Jin and I with Elvire. Over the course of an hour or two we were introduced to the entire bell jar range, her favourite exports and the history of Féminité du Bois. It was an unbelievably jaw-dropping event. We already had some orders to fulfill from Aussies, and then I dropped a very large wad of cash on bell jars and travel sets for both Jin and myself. Jin fell madly in love with Muscs Koublaï Khän and is now on his second bell jar of it. He lovingly decants it into a beautiful black octagonal Serge Lutens travel spray and spritzes with gay abandon. I’ve never let him see how much it cost, he’d be horrified.

The second visit a couple of years ago was with a crew of perfume buddies. It was a much louder, more raucous affair and our hosts were not prepared at all to explain fragrance to frag nerds. BEDLAM! It was still fantastic though, and I was reintroduced to a couple of fragrances that I suddenly needed to own immediately. Chene and La Myrrhe. They sit in my collection, still in their cellophane. I don’t want to dab them, and I don’t want to decant them. What I do though is look at the boxes and reminisce. I wasn’t the only one to bust out the credit card and shop. I think there were 16 of us, and everyone purchased at least one bottle. Some people, who knew this might be their only visit to the grande purple emporium, splashed out on much more. While I didn’t learn much on this occasion, it is the one I smile to myself about so much more. Nothing compares to sharing the love of perfume with frag heads, made exponentially magic because we’d come from all over the world to meet in Paris.

 

 

So, I know you’re dying to know what’s been put up on the tray. I’d be chomping at the bit if I was reading your posts and it had gone this far without a list.

Arabie

I love the spicy opening that reminds me of ginger beer. When that settles down, I get a fruity, resinous melange that some days dips into apple pie territory and others into the scorch of spices sizzling in the pan in a sweet curry. Arabie lets me dream of Bedouin life from my comfortable couch.

Bas de Soie

I had been using a decant of this from Surrender To Chance, there was about 1ml left. I sprayed it all on and then wanted more. So I finally opened my bottle and gave myself a dousing. Something amazing happens to Bas de Soie at that level of heft. Suddenly it is a huge breath of spring. Even in our cold, rainy autumn here in Sydney I was transported to a springtime wonderland. Hyacinth, iris and musk blowing on a cool breeze.

Chergui

Chergui is the fragrance I most recognise as a Serge Lutens. It seems to capture and embody the spirit of the brand perfectly for me. Spicy and honeyed herbal opening, sweet tobacco and amber woods to close, and it runs the gamut of olfactory gorgeousness through its heart. It gives me visions of the legend travellers of the Middle East all the way down through Mongolia to the Far East.

Daim Blond

This was my favourite Serge for a while, but along came Bottega Veneta EdP, and I was like “Daim Blond who?” Fruity almonds and leather. It now smells dank and dated to me. Sad face. The dry down of softest, well loved leather is very nice next morning if you wear Daim Blond to bed.

Datura Noir

I wear Datura Noir quite a lot. First in decants and now in a bottle. I thought it wasn’t me. Too clean and fresh, a creamy white floral without the breath or skank seemed pointless. Yet, there I was/am, reaching and spritzing and loving it.

Féminité du Bois

My bottle has less than 10ml left. It’s got the Palais Royale logo on the label. Still smells fabulous, but I rarely wear it because I’m scared to not have it in this eras bottle. Spicy stewed fruits and woods. It’s absolutely heartbreakingly gorgeous.

Fille en Aiguilles

Also in the Palais Royale logo. More stewed fruit, but this time backed by incense and sharp pine. i love this so much for winter that I bought a few bottles and gave them out as gifts to various friends. Every one of them (non-perfumistas all) has re-bought it for themselves after using up that first bottle.

Five O’Clock au Gingembre

My favourite Serge Lutens fragrance so far. 10% into my second bottle. There is something about that opening zing of fruity ginger that I find so invigorating. You know I haven’t read the note list for years, and my nose tells me it is a ginger, tea, white flower and honey fragrance. I’m surprised to see no white flowers or tea mentioned, and find chocolate and patchouli there. WOW! My nose is clearly broken and has been for years.

L’Orpheline

The only notes given for L’Orpheline are incense and musk. To me they miss out on the smell of icy cold, snow filled winds in the monasteries of the Himalayas. Funnily, I get cold incense like you’re standing outside the temple shop, and the breeze is stealing most of the scent but it’s there.

Sa Majesté la Rose

This is not my favourite rose perfume. It does smell like you’ve stuck your nose in a particularly fragrant bloom early in the morning while it’s still got the dew on it and the scent hasn’t had time to burn off. The problem is that I find myself wanting a rose perfume to do a few more tricks than that. I need rose +++. This has rose. When the mood takes me, I look for and wear this but it’s a rare thing.

Santal Majuscule

That creamy, soapy sandalwood smell. So smooth and elegant. None of that rough, eucalyptus like opening of the Aussie stuff. This smells like the grown up, wealthy, settled down, gravitas version of Samsara. I have a really happy memory associated with Santal Majuscule. When it was first released I went in a split and bought 10ml. After wearing it twice I was about to write a review. As I reached for the decant, I knocked it over, and it smashed all over my desk. I was so upset at my clumsiness. Jin rushed in and saw the problem, after asking if I was OK and hearing the story, he said very calmly, “Well, you better buy a bottle. It smells fantastic” or some words to that effect. So I did.

Un Boise Vanille

The last of my Palais Royale label bottles. A thick, rich, crunchy vanilla that goes on strong and stays all day. Its simplicity hides depths and layers, if you bother to look, but for most non-perfumista wearers I imagine it just smells fabulous.

 

So that’s how I’ve been spending my lockdown time lately. Our restrictions ease gradually. One of my club groups got in touch, and they are hoping to reinstate trivia nights in late July. So, I’m a ways off working again. Maybe I’ll finally get to the mending pile on the floor in front of my sewing machine this week. It’s getting so big, I think it might take two full days.

 

What are your favourite Serge Lutens? Which bottles do you have open and use?
Portia xx

Does Good Packaging Make the Perfume?

Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence.
Mark Twain

Ukiyo-e, shodō, ikebana, kimono, kabuki… I do not dislike culture of Japan, but I reject the awe some Europeans and Americans have towards it: yes, it is different and has interesting aspects. But by the same token as I do not think that being different means “inferior,” it doesn’t mean “superior” either. It is just different. So, usually I instinctively stay away from anything artificially Japonesque (I must admit, though, that I love California roll sushi that have nothing to do with traditional Japanese food).

Unrelated, I am usually skeptical when brands launch new sub-brands or lines under different names in parallel to their main brand: I see it as a plot to trick consumers into buying more because it’s something new and different.

So, how did it happen that I bought (!) a sample set from Floraiku – an “inspired by Japanese culture, traditions and ceremonies and named after haiku poetry” (©Fragrantica) brand created by the founders of Memo Paris?

In my defense, I can say that I was “vulnerable”: soon after my In the Search for the Perfect Magnolia post, I bought Magnolia Grandiflora Michel by Grandiflora – perfume that I found the most interesting during my magnolia note exploration quest. And, as much as I liked perfume itself, I thought that the bottle was hideous. The paper label looked extremely cheap, and today it seems to be pilling off that not even a year-old bottle. Which reminded me of new design for L’Artisan’s bottles that I saw recently at a department store: the testers were still probably half-full, but those paper labels were already in a dismal state. I have never seen anything like that happening to the original L’Artisan packaging. Greed is ugly.

So, while I was lamenting poor packaging of some nice niche brands, I read Cynthia’s (The Fragrant Journey) review of Floraiku set. I was curious about the line even before, but Cynthia’s praises for the presentation did it for me, and within days I placed my order.

 

Floraiku Sample Set

 

My impressions? Floraiku set is very beautiful, with a lot of attention to details. I’m not sure about names: I don’t like “I-s” and “My-s” in perfume names, so five out of 11 names using that form … is a little too personal. And most of the names seem not to have any connection to the notes used to compose them. I See the Clouds Go By featuring black currant leaves, cherry blossom and white musk – really? OK, maybe if I were to lay down in some garden watching the sky… though, when those cherries blossom, I would get cold quickly laying down.

I know that those note pyramids have very vague connection to what actually goes into those 15-20% of a volume of any given perfume. So I’d be fine with a brand not revealing the notes at all or giving just a general impression for the scent. But listing three notes?! Are they paying royalties to creators per an officially published note? At $350 for the set (50 ml full bottle plus 10 ml travel spray) I feel cheated.

I also do not care for pretend haiku. Actually, I’m not a big fan of haiku per se. I assume they sound better in Japanese, but English attempts usually rather perplex me: why to bother? It’s not poetry… But even more I’m annoyed by pseudo-haiku that do not even follow the formal rules of constructing those mini poems. And all that after naming the brand Floraiku!

The owl is watching
twilight
between two trees

Maybe if to think of them as of an abstract mood-setting description for these perfumes, they are not awful.

But what about the most important aspect – perfumes themselves?

You should read mentioned above Cynthia’s post for more detailed review on these perfumes. As for my impressions, Sound of a Ricochet and Cricket Song are my favorites, which isn’t surprising since they are oriental vanilla and floral (magnolia) woody musk respectively – and I usually like those. Three more – Sleeping on the Roof, Moon and I and My Shadow on the Wall I could probably wear. The remaining six – One Umbrella for Two, I Am Coming Home, I See the Clouds Go By, First Dream of the Year, My Love Has Color of the Night and Between Two Trees – are not something that I find interesting (though, none of them is unpleasant).

 

Floraiku Sample Set

 

Will any of these join my collection? Not unless I come across them at 70% off. I’m not discussing merits of selling these at $350 for 60 ml, it’s just that for me none of them is even close to be worth that price.

But I can wholeheartedly recommend getting the sample set because it is perfect for testing: it will be interesting to try the line, it’s aesthetically pleasing, none of the perfumes is challenging in any way, and, most likely, with any of them you won’t be tempted to get more than a 10 ml travel spray (which can be bought separately).

Eden Square (no affiliation, but I successfully ordered once from them – not this set though) offers the set for $25 + $5 S&H in the US (and you can get 10% off if you sign up for their newsletter).

 

Rusty and Floraiku Sample Set

Images: my own