Pickles et al and the house of Jo Malone

This time for the guest post Pickles came with a company. (Undina)

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Hello, my human and fur friends! My cousins, Wedge Licorice and Squirrel Jolie, came for a visit, and I decided to introduce them both to the house of Jo Malone.

My nana tells me it is probably the most popular fragrance house in our humble abode. Each of her human children was gifted a full bottle when they turned eighteen (Peony & Blush Suede for the eldest, Ginger Biscuit for the middle one and Wood Sage & Sea Salt for the youngest). My great-grandma and great-grandpa love all the Jo Malone offerings as well. And I know for a fact that Undina does too.

Over the years the entire family has drained three 100 ml bottles, ten 30 ml bottles and probably forty or more of those 9 ml travel sprays. As you can see from the photos we still have plenty in all sizes in the house.

Do you have a favorite Jo Malone? If not, what is your favorite perfume house?

Until next time, furry kisses and hugs,

Pickles Bella
Wedge Licorice
Squirrel Jolie

Scent Semantics #7: BRILLIANCE

A couple of days behind the schedule (again), presenting the seventh episode of the collaboration of six bloggers: Portia (A Bottled Rose), Elena (The Plum Girl), Sheila (Alembicated Genie), Daisy (eau là là !), Old Herbaceous (Serenity Now Scents and Sensibilities) and Undina (Undina’s Looking Glass). If some of the participating blogs are also running late, please keep checking (or even better – subscribe!): we all are trying not to skip the month.Scent Semantics Project Banner

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This month’s word is: BRILLIANCE

How difficult do you think it would be to persuade an average “civilian” consumer to buy a 50 ml bottle of perfume for $375 or even $195? With Chanel Chance at $90/50 ml and Dior J’adore at $112/50 ml (with 100 ml bottles for both being still under $200), I wouldn’t be too optimistic in my forecasts. And it seems even less probable for the younger generation who just recently graduated from BodyShop or Fresh perfumes.

And yet, they are buying those more expensive Heretic, By Killian and Tom Ford perfumes. Why? Because of the brilliance of the Sephora‘s Merchandising Department (or whatever it’s called there): they were the first who realized that first Millennials and now Generation Z customers, who prefer YouTube to blogs and Instagram and TikTok to YouTube, would rather spend $30-$75 on a 10 ml travel spray from a luxury brand than do research and commit to a larger bottle of perfume that would get a much better “per ml” ratio.

It is not a rant about a younger generation. I actually applaud Sephora for their input into proliferating interest in “used-to-be” niche perfumes in the masses. I know that these days all smart brands and retailers try to follow the suit, and finally, we started seeing more and more of what I for years called “perfumista-size” bottles. But no other single retailer has the same number of “travel” options as Sephora does. They didn’t focus on the sets of either the same perfume or a pre-selected combo (a complete waste of money – unless someone plans to split the set) or gift sets with both a full bottle and its mini travel companion (slightly more interesting if the mini size is added free to the full bottle price, and that full bottle can’t be bought somewhere else at a discounted price). Instead, they went directly to stocking up 200+ single travel bottles of 7.5-10 ml within a price range between $22 and $75. 

Even though I wasn’t their target audience, I benefited from that brilliant marketing plot: even knowing that the brand was leaving the US, I wouldn’t have bought a full bottle of this perfume. But with a cute 10 ml bottle for around $30 – how could I have resisted?

Atelier Cologne Iris Rebelle

Iris Rebelle by Atelier Cologne, created in 2018, with the notes Calabrian bergamot, orange blossom, black pepper, iris, lavender, May rose, white musk, guaiac wood and patchouli, is a nice addition to my collection. It is perfect if I’m in the mood for a short-lived scent (pleasant, mind you!) that I can either discreetly reapply in approximately an hour from that pen-like bottle that fits any purse or replace it with another scent without risking them clashing.

I’m not sure if Iris Rebelle is still available anywhere (other than from discounters), but if you need more information, see the review from Lucas (Chemist in the Bottle) that pushed me to try this perfume. But whatever you do, do not check Sephora’s  “Mini size” section for Fragrances: you might be blinded by the brilliance of the offered selection.

 

Image: my own

Scent Semantics #6: VERNAL

Today is the sixth episode of the collaboration of six bloggers: Portia (A Bottled Rose), Elena (The Plum Girl), Sheila (Alembicated Genie), Daisy (eau là là !), Old Herbaceous (Serenity Now Scents and Sensibilities) and Undina (Undina’s Looking Glass). Because of all the events happening in Ukraine, I missed the fifth episode – even though it was my word, and I have a story to tell! Maybe I’ll do it anyway later. And this month I’m a little late, but I decided to do it. Hopefully, by now you’ve read all other participating blogs (I haven’t yet – will do now) and still don’t mind to check out one more take on the topic.Scent Semantics Project Banner

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This month’s word is: VERNAL

This month’s word surprised me: after more than two decades in the US, I didn’t have it not only in my active vocabulary but even in the passive one. Considering its quite mundane (though poetic) meaning, I’m amazed I haven’t come across it until now. A small consolation: Google search returns 4.6B of results for “spring” and just 15.9M for “vernal.”

As I was thinking about what that word means to me (after checking its meaning), I started thinking of Spring and remembering how it was back when I was experiencing it. I realized that living in an almost unvarying climate, while I do not miss Winter or cold weather, I miss that longing for the end of Winter and happiness from watching the Spring awakening of nature from the frozen sleep.

In my childhood and adolescent years, winter clothes that most of us got to wear were ugly. Those for adults usually weren’t much better, but at least theoretically better choices existed. But for the ages until late teenage years, those clothes weren’t something one would look forward to wearing. So, at first glimpses of Spring sun, we were eager to start taking off at least hats and scarves or maybe even putting on something less bulky and shapeless. And since by that time our immune systems were suffering from the lack of sun (read vitamin D3) and almost complete absence of fruits and vegetables (we won’t count potato, onions and beets, will we?), oftentimes that combination was enough to bring us down with a cold or flu.

Getting outside after a week spent in bed was magical: you could see and feel how Spring had sprung while you weren’t watching. And then, with every next day, Spring was claiming more and more territory with warmer days, longer days, young foliage and of course blossoms and flowers.

And if the early Spring days (those pre-flu ones) mean tender snowdrops, shy mimosa and timid daffodils, real, “full-fledged” Spring came with lavish lilac bushes.

One other drawback of not having cold weather in our area is that lilac grows here very reluctantly. In decades of living here, I saw a couple of sparse bushes in gardens and bought three or four bouquets of lilacs – far more expensive and smaller than what I used to see in my childhood.

Last weekend, while still playing with the word of the month in my head, for the first time while living in the US, I saw a white lilac bouquet. That was my vernal moment! And I immediately thought of a very fitting perfume for it.

Ineke After My Own Heart

After My Own Heart by Ineke is the first perfume in their Alphabet line. Notes: bergamot, raspberry, green leaves, lilac, sandalwood, heliotrope and musk. When I tested it the first time… 11 years ago, I thought it was nice, but I didn’t love it: the lilac seems too simple and soapy. My first discovery set went off at some point, so I had just my memory of how that perfume smelled. But recently I got a fresh sample set (with the purchase of Field Notes From Paris for my father), so I was able to revisit After My Own Heart.

After My Own Heart is a beautiful lilac, still slightly soapy in the opening, but this time it didn’t bother me much. It is a lush, warm, slightly green and quite a realistic lilac. It smells stronger than my small white lilac bouquet in my bedroom. And seeing that bouquet while wearing After My Own Heart conjures that feeling of happiness from the Spring that has finally arrived to stay.

 

Image: my own

Pickles and L’Ether de IUNX

This second guest post from Pickles told by her human was planned for almost a month ago. Then life happened. I wasn’t sure if it was too late to publish this post, but Brigitte reassured me that it was still snowing yesterday where they live. (Undina)

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Hello again to my human and furry perfume pals! The part of the world where I reside experiences substantial changes in temperature throughout the four seasons so I am happy to have a warm and loving home when the thermometer drops. My friend the groundhog saw his shadow this year, which means we will probably still have more winter weather on the horizon. We’ve been experiencing some significant snow and ice storms lately. My poor nana woke up this morning to an ice covered car and driveway.

She thought it would be the perfect opportunity to pull out her Olivia Giacobetti 2003 masterpiece, L’Ether de INUX, a gift to her from a dear auntie of mine. This soft, resinous, sweet, powdery scent has an underlying presence of incense and is composed of rosewood, myrrh, benzoin, saffron, sandalwood and maple.

L'Ether de INUX

Not only does L’Ether de INUX smell amazing, but the original bottle is utterly unique. It’s shaped like a black teardrop, lays flat and the sprayer is on the tip with the button to activate the sprayer on the back of the bottle. It’s probably the most unusual bottle in my nana’s collection. And it makes a great pillow to boot.

Pickles & L'Ether de INUXWhat is your most unusual perfume bottle? What do you like to wear in the cooler weather?

Until next time, furry kisses and hugs,

Pickles Bella

Scent Semantics #4: TASTE

Today is the forth episode of the collaboration of six bloggers: Portia (A Bottled Rose), Elena (The Plum Girl), Sheila (Alembicated Genie), Daisy (eau là là !), Old Herbaceous (Serenity Now Scents and Sensibilities) and Undina (Undina’s Looking Glass).

Most of you probably already know that, but just a quick explanation for the project: once a month one of us selects a word (any part of speech, no guidelines), and we all try to find and describe a perfume association that we come up with. The initial idea was to choose just one perfume, but it was a guideline, not a strict rule – so, anything goes.Scent Semantics Project Banner

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This month’s word is: TASTE

Finally, we’ve got a word that was along the line of what I expected when we were discussing the collaboration. I mean, not this specific word, but the form. In my mind, the words we would be choosing were nouns, singular. Why? Because that was how it was traditionally done for crossword puzzles in my native language. I’ve never got used to the local way of using different word forms, and The New York Times crosswords have never made sense to me. So, it was a noun! Has it made it easier? Nope. Had I known in advance that we’d have this word, I would have saved Angel Taste of Fragrance for today. And it would have been very fitting both to the topic and the occasion of honoring Mugler‘s memory. But I “used” it up already for one of the previous episodes. (Interestingly, Mugler’s Angel was the first perfume that kept popping up in my head in response to each next word offered for the project. Think of it, isn’t it “brave,” “angelic” and “luscious”? And, as the first gourmand, of course, I could make parallels with “taste.”) So, since the simple route wasn’t available any longer, I kept thinking about it, and as the result, I came up with a story that takes a somewhat unexpected twist on the topic. (And you tell me if reading this month’s word you expected anything like that.)

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I don’t remember exactly how young I was: it was during my middle school, age before any dating started (at least customary for that time and place), but with romantic feelings in their pre-blooming phase and the onset of the relationships building.  When thinking about this time, I imagine characters from the King‘s book It or the recent TV show Stranger Things. While reading the story below, it is important to remember that we were children/pre-teens.

N. was one grade above me. He wasn’t a bad boy (I’ve never been attracted to those) but rather an artistic type. I remember that he had a good voice and impossibly beautiful brown eyes. I wasn’t interested in him (at that time I was still unrequitedly in love with my classmate), but he started demonstrating some interest in me: I would be catching his gaze at me in the school corridors during the breaks.

Back then and there, you would expect a boy to look away once his glance was “caught,” if he was shy, or a girl to avert her eyes pretending not to notice the attention (a ritual of submissive modesty). N. wasn’t shy. And I’ve never been submissive. So, once I realized that he was staring, I took it as a challenge and stared back. It became a game for the next several months. I don’t remember if we had any other communications, but any day when our scheduled classes happen to be on the same floor, we would engage in the eye “sparring.” Additional points went to the one who didn’t blink first during those encounters. I was still sweet on my classmate, but these silent duels became a part of my daily routine boosting my self-confidence and raising my status among my girlfriends.

After the end of the school year, we had a couple of weeks of strange semi-compulsory activities: children from all classes from one or two grades were bussed to a summer camp outside of the city where we would do some agriculture work for several hours in the morning and then have sports, music and other group activities in the evening. My main romantic interest’s parents managed to excuse him from these exercises, but most of my friends were going to be there, so I didn’t mind going. And I was pleased to find out that N. was also on that trip: our silent matches would continue!

But suddenly something unexpected happened: within a day or two, N. joined a small group (6-7 girls and boys, my class-mates) that we formed at the camp (which was quite unusual since he was older – so, the boys from our group were happy to include him and girls didn’t mind either), then he completely lost any interest in me and switched his full attention to another girl from our group, V. I watched him performing the same routine of watching her attentively, catching her eyes and making sure she notices this. And it was all intensified by the fact that we were spending most of the time together.

I was crushed and confused, both by what was happening and my reaction to it. I knew that I wasn’t romantically interested in him, and going out with him wasn’t in my plans or dreams. But he was my admirer! And suddenly he wasn’t. I was hurting. And the worst part was that saving my pride, I had to hide those feelings. I remember that all I wanted was to get back home or at least to spend some time alone to cry. Ironically, I had so many friends in my class, that I just couldn’t get any time on my own: someone would immediately join me. So, I pretended that nothing had happened and kept spending time in that group with my ex-admirer, V. who had quickly fallen for his charm, and the boys who were clearly impressed by his maturity and bravery to express his feelings. Every evening, we would gather on the porch of one of the cabins where we stayed, play some games, laugh and sing. N. had a great voice. And he would sing with us, but you could tell that he was singing for V. while not taking off his beautiful brown eyes of her. And she looked beautiful and happy. If I’m not mistaken, their relationships progressed to the public hand-holding territory.

And then V. got sick, and her parents took her home several days before the end of the camp. That’s where the next chapter started. I did mention that V. was an artistic type, right? He was publicly suffering in such a way that we all, including me who came to terms with his change of heart, my other girlfriends and our boys, were sympathizing with him and trying to cheer him up. He was sighing, singing sad songs (especially the one that, by coincidence, had the name V. in it, which he previously sang to V.) and even holding a scarf she forgot when leaving. And then, as the oldest of us all, one evening he announced that he needs to drink (to drown his sorrows, I think, though don’t remember). Not only at that age, but for several years after that none of us, most likely, drank anything (unless trying something at home from the parents’ glasses). And of course, there was absolutely no alcohol at the camp. But.

In the country where I grew up, there was a well-known phenomenon of drinking surrogate alcohol. Of course, it was something in which people engaged when they didn’t have other choices (e.g., alcoholics or people in incarceration), and not only for us, children from good families, but in general for the majority of the population, it was something from the marginal subculture. But we all knew about it. So, when N. proudly produced a bottle of the aftershave (I’m not sure why he had it with him – I don’t think he was even shaving yet), none of us was really surprised.

Wars AftershaveThis is not the exact bottle of what he had (his one was blue if I’m not mistaken), but it’s the closest I could find online. Back then it was a hard(er) to get aftershave from Poland, so on its own, it was impressive. I don’t remember what was used instead of a shot glass, I just know that we didn’t drink it from the bottle itself.

I was the only girl in our group who made a sip or two of that blue liquid. I’m not sure what I was trying to prove, but for some reason it was important to me not to blink, so to speak, in that strange game. I had nothing less exotic to compare that WARS aftershave to, but it tasted yucky – about which we all agreed. But we all felt a little proud of being such a badass. And I think it did cheer up N a little.

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Over the next two months of the summer break I completely forgot about N. When we came back to school, I noticed that N. and V. did not have any communications any longer, but I’ve never learned what had happened (if anything). And when during one of the bus trips where, for whatever reason, N. was again a part of our group, we started singing that song, I was watching N. and V.: he was completely nonchalant, and she was obviously hurting. His parents moved soon, so he transferred to another school, and I’ve never met him either as a teenager or adult. I wonder who he grew up to be.

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I had never tried to drink another cologne or perfume since, but I think I still can imagine that taste.

Pickles and Reglisse Noire

Recently, in the post for the 11th anniversary of this blog, I invited my regular readers to do a guest post on Undina’s Looking Glass. When Brigitte contacted me to accept the invitation, I didn’t realize that she wasn’t going to write the post herself, but rather she was an agent of a talented feline. (Undina)

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Hi perfume pals! My name is Pickles. I spent the first seven years of my life in a no-kill shelter until I found my forever family two years ago.

Pickles

Like Rusty, I earn treats by being a fragrance model for my Nana. My very first photoshoot was for Reglisse Noire by 1000 Flowers. Reglisse Noire is one of my Nana’s all-time favorite fragrances, and she has several bottles of it (a vintage travel bottle from Portia, a vintage splash bottle from AnnieA and the current formulation of bottle number 4). My Nana tells me that she thinks of me when wearing it because it’s black licorice (reglisse noire) and sweet but sassy like me. A unique cacophony of notes (bergamot, spearmint, fresh ozone, shiso leaf, white pepper, black licorice, ginger, allspice, star anise, cocoa, patchouli, vetiver, musk, cedarwood and vanilla) that play extraordinarily well together. “An under the radar masterpiece,” to quote my Nana.

 

 

I’m curious to know if any of you have tried Reglisse Noire? What’s your favorite licorice fragrance?

I look forward to popping in from time to time to visit with Rusty, Undina and all of my Nana’s perfume pals here on Undina’s Looking Glass. Thanks for inviting me. Until next time, furry kisses and purrs.

Pickles

Xoxo

Pickles Bella

Up To 11?

Yes, it has been another year. Today Undina’s Looking Glass turns 11. Since my blog’s anniversary falls that close to New Year, by this time, as usually, I’ve already published my yearly perfume stats. So, today I’ll peek into my blog’s statistics.

I don’t do that too often since I’ve never intended this blog to be anything but a private place to talk to friends (and make new ones). That’s why I only smile every time I get the next email offering to “undina.com team” to boost this blog’s SEO or to place a “guest post” of some marketing type.

But this time I checked it out just to confirm my feeling that this year was the most active in the history of the blog. And I was right: “with a little help from my friend” Portia, Undina’s Looking Glass published 118 posts. It comes to 2 posts per week with an extra post occasionally. For me, it feels like an ideal flow that allows my friends and readers to participate whenever they like the topic or feel like doing so but isn’t too fast-paced where one feels “left behind” if they were to comment a day or two (or a week) later.

Of course, non-commercial blogs are mostly about their authors and for their self-expression. But as with those trees falling unattended in proverbial forests, without you, my readers, this would have been a very lonely journey. So, I’m extremely grateful to all of you who comes back to engage in the conversation, validates my thoughts, ensures a steady flow of treats coming Rusty’s way (I try to reward him for every compliment he gets on my blog for his participation) and shares their experiences. Though, to tell the truth, I would love my readers to communicate more with each other and not just with me.

Speaking of communication with each other. I’m not sure if this idea will interest any of you, and my blog isn’t extremely popular or actively visited (that SEO won’t improve on its own!), but if any of my regular readers who do not have their own blogs but have a perfume story to tell would like to publish a guest post on ULG (without any further commitment of obligations), please contact me via email from the About Me page. If you’re not much of a writer but have a bunch of perfume (or your pet) pictures that didn’t get enough attention when you published them on Instagram (or you do not have an Instagram account) and you’d like to do a post here with a mosaic of your photos and a link to your IG account, I invite you as well. Any other ideas along these lines are also welcome. Let’s together make Undina’s Looking Glass 12th year even more active.

But even if everything else stays “as is,” I still plan to keep going. I enjoy having this blog, trying new perfumes and talking to all of you – be that every week or just once in a while.

Happy Anniversary

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.

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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.

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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?