Song of the Sea

There is a term “false friend of a translator” – words in two languages that look or sound similar, but differ significantly in meaning (see Wikipedia). These words do not even have to look/sound exactly the same but as long as they somehow “click”, one’s mind does the rest.

My first encounter with this phenomenon was a word “complexion”: it sounds similar to the word in Russian “комплекция” that means “build” (as in “the dimensions or proportions of a person’s or animal’s body”). The next one was even more drastic: English “pathetic” just begs to be used as a translation for Russian “патетический” (“grandiloquent”).

As I’ve discovered, it doesn’t even have to be a foreign-native pair; foreign-foreign works as well. For a while in my mind “Sogni del Mare” was associated with “Song of the See.” I don’t know if for a native speaker (reader?) “sogni” looks anything like “song”, but for my eye it was (and is) close enough – even now when I know that it means “dreams.”

I tried Sogni del Mare (Dreams of the Sea) by Antonia’s Flowers for the first time many years ago from a dab vial that I bought from the brand’s site as a part of a sample set*. I liked it very much and was even considering a bottle purchase (in my regular “think ten times” manner). Then one day I saw Sogni del Mare at Barneys and was about to buy it but decided to spray it first – just to see how I like it in that form.

It was awful! Not just different from how I remembered or less interesting but plainly awful. There were some very unpleasant herbal notes I never smelled in it before… Of course, I didn’t buy it then.

At some point later at home, when I remembered about the incident, I re-tested my old sample: I still liked it. I couldn’t believe it was the same perfume! “Maybe they’ve reformulated it since I got my sample?” – I asked myself and ordered another set of samples. Reformulation wasn’t the case: I still liked Sogni del Mare from the new vial. Then the only explanation I could think of was that Barneys had a turned tester bottle.

A year later, while at Barneys again, I decided to try Sogni del Mare again – with the same result, believe it or not. I was amazed and I couldn’t explain how it could happen (it couldn’t have been the same tester, could it?). But I asked for a sample, which I brought, together with the other two, to my recent Maui vacation.

Antonia's Flowers Sogni del Mare

I wasn’t imagining things: the sample from Barneys’ bottle was clearly off. I do not know how exactly they managed to do that, but even remains of my ancient first sample (from 2007!), though slightly changed, smells closer to the newer sample than what I smelled twice at Barneys (a year apart).

Sogni del Mare isn’t a statement perfume: it’s soft, tender and … dreamy. I’m not a big fan of colognes but this perfume’s citrus opening charms me. I do not like rhubarb in any of its uses but it doesn’t bother me here. I love black currant and like lotus note in perfumes but I do not distinguish them in Sogni del Mare. All that said, every time I try Sogni del Mare, I realize that I still like it. The only reason I haven’t bought it yet is my fear that samples were from the “old batch” while the perfume was reformulated and “what you smell [at Barneys] is what you get.” But maybe I should still risk it?..

I’m not sure I have a notion about how exactly dreams of the sea might smell, but if you would tell me they smell like Sogni del Mare, I would say: I don’t see why not…

Maui: Dreams of the Sea

Images: my own

* It looks like the sample set is still offered from the brand’s site for a nominal price. They do not ship to Europe but if you’re in the U.S. and haven’t tried their perfumes, you have to!

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Wearing White After Labor Day

I don’t think I’ve heard that expression before I moved to the U.S., but once I did (moved and heard) it felt intuitively understandable and logical. I knew that it wasn’t a rule actually imposed or followed anymore, but it came naturally for me since I didn’t wear white clothes either before, or after that arbitrary check mark in the calendar.

I don’t have anything against the color white per se (unless we’re talking about cars: for whatever reason it’s my least favorite color for a car exterior), but I grew up thinking of white clothes and shoes (especially shoes!) as of completely impractical and wasteful.

Where I lived, people weren’t really poor but everything was a little scarce: nice(r) things were hard to get, so everybody used what they managed to buy for a long time. Many people did not have washing machines and there were no dryers – so there was a tendency to wear clothes longer between washes than we normally do nowadays. Most people used only public transportation, which was in a much worse state of cleanliness than those that I do not consider clean enough today. Somehow streets even in big cities were much dustier in dry seasons and muddier in wet ones than even in suburbia where I live now. And on top of that we didn’t have that many hot weather days compared to cold or at least cool months. So with all that in mind, it’s not surprising that many of us favored “not easily soiled” clothes.

Long after I moved to the U.S., started buying as much clothes as I wanted and even got my own washing and drying machines, I still steered clear of white in my wardrobe – just out of habit. Until several years ago, while on a vacation, I realized that I kept admiring white dresses, pants and tops that one of my friends was wearing. After some internal negotiations, I agreed (with myself) that I didn’t have to be practical any longer. I could afford (in all meanings) to start wearing impractical* white things from time to time.

Rusty and Puredistance White

WHITE by Puredistance was a strong “like” for me from the first spray: it was so bright, happy and sunny. And immediately in my head it became a summer time perfume – not as something I would wear in a heat wave’s afternoon but perfect for a warm summer night out. I tested WHITE, liked it, and told myself that I’d buy a bottle once my samples were gone. But then the fall came, I moved to wearing my colder season favorites, while waiting for the next WHITE-appropriate season.

I do not know what makes WHITE a summer perfume. When I’m thinking about it, I can’t say that WHITE is lighter or less opulent than, for example, Amouage Dia or Frederic Malle Iris Poudre, both of which I associate with autumn (or even with our NorCal winter). And still WHITE feels right for the white clothes season.

This summer I enjoyed WHITE again getting closer and closer to the end of my second sample, so I’ll need to get that bottle soon. But we’ve just celebrated Labor Day…

Rusty and Puredistance White

Have you seen already Puredistance’s new website? It’s white!

 

Images: my own (no, I didn’t allow Rusty to play with a bottle of WHITE – it’s a factice bottle sent to me by the brand together with the samples that I’ve been enjoying but from the fact that I plan to buy a bottle you can infer that I truly liked it)

* A curious coincidence: in the definition of the word “impractical” in Google, “impractical white ankle boots” is given as an example of use

Bargains That Hunt (Haunt?) Me

“The more you spend, the more you save” – we all heard this phrase or some variation of it. Every time I sigh, repeat in my head: “The more you spend, the more you spend” and resist buying things I do not need.

I’m very particular with brands I use in everyday life, so the “worst” I can do is to choose the one that is currently on sale if it’s one of those that I would buy full-priced.

Since I went down the proverbial rabbit hole, I haven’t been tempted by the deepest discounts different sites or stores like T.J. Maxx offer for mass-market perfumes. You won’t find those $20-$40 “couldn’t-pass-bys” in my collection: even though I like some of them while testing, every time I tell myself that I would buy a bottle as soon as I finish that sample – and I never do.

If to add all that to my cat-like “spontaneity” (I can wiggle for months or even years before pouncing on a bottle of perfume I loved when I tried it), one would expect my collection to be an extremely curated and tailored closely to my tastes. It could have been so if it weren’t for my Achilles heel – niche perfumes bargains.

Every time I come across a discount for the niche line that you cannot usually buy other than for the full price, or see a true bargain, I feel that I just can’t miss that opportunity! Or what, you’d ask? It’s not that I wouldn’t or couldn’t pay full price for a bottle of perfume if I really liked it. And the only risk of not having perfume to wear comes from me not being able to choose which one from my collection I want on that occasion. But at those times all my rationality goes out the window.

For a while I was able to dodge the bullet by buying perfumes that I would have probably bought anyway but recently I got a couple of “misses.” I still hope I’ll change my mind on one of them,  so I won’t mention it now. The second one was L’Artisan‘s La chasse aux Papillons. It was cheap (I think around $35 for a new 50 ml bottle), old design (who knows what happens with these perfumes now, when they’ve changed the bottles), and it was La chasse aux Papillons (nice perfume, everybody likes it – right?).

Rusty and La Chasse aux Papillons

When I got my bargain bottle and applied this perfume for the first time, I realized that I didn’t know or remember it. I’m positive that I tried it several years before and I thought that I liked it then, but the perfume I smelled from my wrist was completely unknown to me, and I couldn’t explain to myself what had possessed me to buy it without testing it one more time (I still had the sample!). It isn’t unpleasant, I do not dislike it, but with so many perfumes that I love in my collection why would I spend time wearing something that is just “nice” or “not bad”?! It seems Rusty shares my feelings: the picture above was the only one I managed to take of him and La chasse aux Papillons. After that he was totally not interested in that bottle.

Rusty and La Chasse aux Papillons

You would think that should have taught me… I am getting better. Once I read in Vanessa’s (Bonkers About Perfume) post that at The Fragrance Shop she “clocked the fact that Mary Greenwell Plum is on offer at £28.50 for a 100ml bottle, or £19.50 for 50ml. The more you spray, the more you save!” (emphasis mine), I immediately went for the sample I had.

I liked it. Probably as much as I did two years ago when I wore it from my sample for the last time. I went back to the shop’s site and put a 50 ml bottle in my “bag” (I’m curious, is “bag” a U.K. equivalent of the U.S.’s “cart”? Vanessa’s “on offer” was also a new form for me being used to “sale” or “deal” in similar context). The site immediately informed me that just for £9 more I could get twice as much perfume. I do not like 100 ml bottles. I think that even 50 ml is too much for most perfumes. But just £9 difference… I wore Plum for the next 2 days trying to figure out how I feel about it. I didn’t love it, so I decided to be rational and not to buy a 100 ml bottle… or a 50 ml one. “And this time I almost made it, came so close to saying no”, but Vanessa’s next post with a giveaway of the Mary Greenwell Plum bottle from Liz Moores of Papillon Artisan Perfumes (what is the chance of having two unrelated “papillon” mentioning in one post?!), who couldn’t resist the bargain but didn’t like it afterwards, had a strange effect on me: I felt a new surge of desire to buy this perfume. I struggled with myself for a while but finally capitulated and bought… two 8 ml purse sprays – one for me and one for the giveaway.

Mary Greenwell Plum

Since this perfume will arrive to me from the U.K., where you still can buy it for a song, I decided that one trip over the ocean should be enough, so the giveaway is open for anybody in the U.S. Other than letting me know that you live in the U.S., just tell me if you’ve already tried and liked Plum or want to try. The draw will stay open until the Labor Day, when the bottle is supposed to arrive. Either Rusty, or random.org will choose the winner.

Do you succumb to bargains? What was your best bargain haul ever? Which was the most regrettable?

 

Images: Rusty & La chasse aux Papillons my own; Plum – my friend’s A., also known as a “perfume mule”

In the Search for the Perfect Peony

What did we do when Fragrantica wasn’t around to helpfully provide a list of notes for perfumes we tried? I don’t know about you, but back then I didn’t think much about the notes. Usually I paid attention to whether the perfume reminds me of any other perfume I know (I still do that) but unless it was what we now know as a “soliflore”, I rarely thought twice about the composition of perfumes I tested or wore.

When I first smelled Estee Lauder Pleasures Intense soon after it was released, I immediately said that it smelled of peonies. I liked it and planned to eventually buy a bottle but it never came to it. And only a couple of days ago, when I started thinking about this post, I remembered Pleasures Intense and decided to check the notes. Peony is the first one mentioned in the Fragrantica’s list. I haven’t smelled Pleasures Intense in about 10 years so I don’t know how badly it was reformulated since then. But in 2002 it was unmistakably peony perfume. And so far it is the only one that I recognize as such.

Pink Peopny

When I was growing up, peonies were very popular flowers for summer bouquets. By my recollections they weren’t romantic flowers (that place was taken by roses, tulips or lily of the valley), but they weren’t too formal or official either (for that we had carnations, gladioli and calla lilies). Peonies were more in the home décor or hostess gifts category. But thanks to their great aroma, they were liked and appreciated.

In the Northern California peonies are rare: I don’t think I’ve ever seen them growing here and in the last several years I would occasionally come across peony bouquets at a store or somebody’s house. So the flower wasn’t on my mind too often, and I wasn’t purposefully looking for perfume with peony in a leading role. But I would try those that happen to come into my orbit.

Vert Pivoine by Histoires de Parfums was supposed to be all about peony: as little as one can trust a list of notes, when you see the same “peony” mentioned three times – once for each position of the pyramid – it is hard not to expect to get at least some recognizable scent. But no. The closest it gets to peony is by being awfully soap-y – exactly the way some rose perfumes turn out on my skin (and peony are said to have a sweet rose-like scent). I’ll give them the “green” part thought.

Peony & Blush Suede by Jo Malone got into my perfume wardrobe by chance. I find it rather pleasant and wear from time to time but to some extent it was a disappointment: before I tested it for the first time I expected it would be more like Blackberry & Bay or English Pear & Freesia (in terms of intensity) than one of those evanescent blooms that the brand releases every year. I think I hoped for a love child of the original Bottega Veneta and Cacharel‘s Noa fleur. Unfortunately, Peony & Blush Suede is rather a delicate whisper than an assertive statement. Jessica (NST) in her review says that it “might not win over anyone who was really looking forward to a fruity fragrance, or who likes her florals to be very airy and clean, but it will probably appeal to wearers of feminine florals who have just browsed the Chloé and Balenciaga counters and not found anything quite to their liking,” and I completely agree with her, especially after testing perfume I’m covering next.

Peonies

Nobody will accuse Pivoine Suzhou from Armani Prive line of not being fruity enough. On application it feels like it’s dripping with juice. Pivoine Suzhou is young, bright and uncomplicated. Compared to it, Peony & Blush Suede seems like a very adult perfume. Interestingly, while both perfumes smell nothing like peonies I know, about an hour into the development, when Pivoine Suzhou‘s fruitiness subsides a little, for a while these two smell very similar, which makes me think that either they use the same artificial ingredient that is supposed to convey “peony” note, or they recreate the same peony cultivar, with which I’m not familiar. I would recommend this perfume for those who like the fruity-floral genre. Read Steve’s (The Scented Hound) review: his take on this perfume is very close to how I feel about Pivoine Suzhou.

Though I haven’t found perfume with a perfect peony note, the search wasn’t completely in vain: I discovered perfume that I liked very much. Peony Angel by Thierry Mugler. I had the sample of this limited edition perfume for many years but, discouraged by my experience with Violet Angel, I kept this one classified “One day when I have absolutely nothing to test” (it is an actual category in my perfume database, if you were wondering). I tested it for this post and discovered that I like it very much. While having many facets in common with the original Angel (which I love), it’s softer, less gourmand and more floral (the Mugler’s “not-a-single-flower-has-been-harmed” type of floral, I mean). Oh, and it doesn’t smell of peony either.

White Peony

Images: my own

Six of One, Half a Dozen of the Other

I don’t know why stores keep changing floor plans or re-arrange goods on the shelves. I know that there are numerous studies on the psychology of a shopper, on focal points of layouts and foot paths of the people flow. But, provided that the first (or second, or third) time around the store did follow all the best recommendations in their floor plan design, are there people who actually buy more as a result of these subsequent revamps? For me it’s always a hassle to find to where a brand or a type of items I’m looking for has been moved: when I know what I want/need to buy, I prefer to go directly to where that “what” is; and when I’m in the explorative mode, I’ll go around just checking out everything without being forced into doing that while looking for the item, for which I came.

Order of the Addends

Recently one of our local Neiman Marcus stores, after “being open during the construction,” finally reopened completely reworked beauty & fragrance section. After the renovation they’ve introduced several brands previously not available at that location – Byredo, Armani Prive and MFK, which is good. But it seems I cannot find some of the previously available brands, and since the layout changed, I’m not sure if they stopped carrying those, or if I just don’t see them. Since all I want is to sniff new offerings and I doubt I’ll be buying anything there, I’m reluctant to ask – so a couple of times I just left feeling slightly annoyed.

When I visited the store after the renovation, one section just jumped at me: Hermès. I think they always had that brand just scattered among others (I vaguely remember seeing some of the perfumes in the store before), but now it’s a big designated counter with all non-boutique perfumes (I had a hope that they might carry Hermessence line – but no). On that counter – for the first time at a retail store – I saw Rocabar. The bottle was different from the one I knew (it’s now a part of the latest repackaged set of perfumes with ugly plastic caps), but it was there on the counter! I immediately sprayed it on a paper strip … and didn’t recognize the perfume. “Reformulated! They’ve changed it!!!” – I announced with dismay… to my vSO and proceeded with getting a sample to properly test it at home.

***

For the first time I approached Hermès perfumes probably about 15 years ago. At that point I didn’t know much about that house in general, be that their perfumes or anything else. I am not sure if I even knew there was anything else: the brand didn’t make it behind the iron curtain while I was growing up and then, when I moved to the U.S., for a while luxury brands weren’t much on my radar.

I don’t remember which perfumes I tried then, but I assume those were whatever big department stores carried at the time. 24 Faubourg? Caleche? Rouge Hermes? I’m not sure but I didn’t like any of those and decided that this brand wasn’t for me.

Hermes Rocabar

I smelled Rocabar while visiting friends in Germany. Either my friend wore it, or it was a sample that his wife got with some other purchase, but I liked the perfume and returned home with that sample. Rocabar was so much better than all other perfumes my vSO was wearing at the time that it was a very short path from a sample to a full bottle. For several years Rocabar was my vSO’s “dress-up” perfume, and I loved it on him. Later it took a back seat to other great perfumes “we” added to his perfume wardrobe, so the remains of the last bottle stayed hidden in the drawer unused – until I got it to run an impostor shaming parallel test.

***

The conclusion? After years of wearing and testing great perfumes, I am not in love with Rocabar any longer, but I like it enough to still want to smell it on my vSO from time to time. But with two perfumes on my wrists – old and new – I couldn’t tell the difference… Well, not exactly… These two are slightly different but, for my uneducated nose, the difference is not such that I couldn’t explain it by the age of the original bottle. And, frankly, I can’t say that I like one of them more or less than the other. So it must have been that cheap plastic top of the new bottle that suggested the reformulation to my untrained nose.

Rusty and Hermes RocabarIf you haven’t read before about the meaning of the name and are curious why Hermes chose this unusual packaging approach, which Rusty liked so much, read Kevin’s (NST) review here.

Guerlain Chamade: Surrender? In a Heartbeat!

When I started thinking about this post, I couldn’t remember the exact occasion when Chamade came into my life. I have a documented evidence of the time when I didn’t have a single bottle of Guerlain perfume in my collection and was looking for guidance and inspiration from my readers. Then in the post that I published just a week later to report the success of my search, I mentioned that Chamade was the most recommended perfume by my readers and that I liked it and considered it as a “back-up” purchase should I have not found something even more desirable. So I assume that Chamade won me over lighting fast (“in perfume years”, I mean). Looking back I think that I might have gone for Chamade for my-first-Guerlain-perfume quest (instead of Cruel Gardenia, which I still love), had I seen in that Las Vegas boutique the real Chamade bottle and not the standard square store tester. But once I saw it several months later, the resistance was futile.

There are many great reviews for Chamade out there, so if you somehow missed the story of the perfume, both romantic and not so much connotations of the name, origin of the bottle, revolutionary use of some ingredients and a lot more, I want to refer you to the comprehensive six-part series published on Perfume Shrine (start here), concise but informative entry on Monsieur Guerlain‘s site and poetic (and useful if you’re curious about different reformulations of this perfume) 5-star review on Bois de Jasmin.

I’m positive that I tried the EdT version at some point but since my heart was taken by the modern extrait, I’ve never pursued real testing of any other concentrations or vintages. Chamade extrait feels very refined, elegant and poised. And the bottle… Even after I already had the real one in my collection, I couldn’t pass a vintage mini bottle in an antique shop. Since the perfume in the mini was slightly off, first I used the bottle in my Thinking Outside the Box project. But recently I found an even better use for it.

Chamade & Zen Garden

For many-many years I pondered the idea of getting a desk Zen garden. The problem was that, while I liked the idea, I’d never seen any of them in real life, so fearing disappointment, I kept postponing an Internet purchase in hope to come across it in a B&M store one day. When I started in the new office earlier this year, I decided that after a leap of faith I’d taken with that move, I was desensitized enough to take a risk with Zen garden kit that I had in my Amazon wish list for the last decade.

The set that arrived promptly was exactly like I imagined it! I unpacked everything, raked sand into some waves and circles, and carefully placed six rocks and two plastic cranes that came in the box in some deeply meaningful arrangement. I was happy probably for a couple of weeks. But then those plastic cranes started annoying me: they felt completely foreign – wrong size, poor liking and, in general, too much “made in China.” And then I figured out that I didn’t have to be limited by the original kit – and that was when the fun really began.

Chamade & Zen Garden

I think Chamade looks very zen in my garden.

Images: my own

In the Search for the Perfect Mimosa, Take 3

There are scents that we like on their own – because they smell nice, make us feel good or appeal to our sense of beauty. Other scents (while being all that as well) are linked to pleasant memories, positive experiences or special occasions. Mimosa is one of the scents of the second kind for me.

Mimosa

I told my mimosa story short after I started this blog in the first post of this “In the Search for the Perfect…” series (since most of you weren’t here back then, you could look over the first two paragraphs of that post so I do not repeat myself). At that time I tested several perfumes – Amarige Harvest Mimosa 2007 by Givenchy, Mimosa by Calypso, Mimosa pour Moi by L’Artisan Parfumeur, Le Mimosa by Annick Goutal and Amouage Library Collection Opus III. The conclusion was that I really liked only the one, a bottle of which I already had – Amarige Harvest Mimosa (though as time showed it became one of my “tsundoku” perfumes).

A year later I approached the subject again (you can skip this post unless you want to see a picture of Rusty playing with mimosa) and realized that as much as I enjoyed the scent of real flowers on a branch mimosa note in perfumes interested me mostly as a part of a bouquet and not as a soliflore. I wasn’t sure then if I liked it enough, but several years later a travel bottle of Une Fleur de Cassie by Frederic Malle has joined my collection.

Mimosa

I still like mimosa and can’t pass by a blooming tree without stopping and smelling it. I would gladly buy a bunch of mimosa but I’ve never seen it in a shop so I don’t know if it’s sold anywhere in the U.S. And I’m still drawn to mimosa-centric perfumes.

When I came across Jo Malone‘s Mimosa & Cardamom in a store for the first time I immediately had two thoughts. The first one was: why have they decided to release it in September when there was absolutely no chance to get real mimosa to decorate the stand (so they used artificial flowers, which looked a little weird)?! And the second one was: I want it!

Mimosa & Cardamom is just a mimosa perfume I was looking for: its mimosa note is sunny and happy but there is something beyond that note that makes this perfume not boring. Same as for Victoria whose review I recommend you to read if you haven’t tried Mimosa & Cardamom, it stays on my skin for a long time – and I enjoy every minute of it.

Mimosa

This year’s mimosa season brought me one more pleasant discovery. A friend of mine from Texas who came to California last month to celebrate her and my birthdays, while in wine country, collected mimosa flowers, pre-processed them, hauled them around on the trip, then back at home made them into an amazing confiture and sent me a jar of it as an extra birthday present. Did I say already it was amazing? It’s real mimosa in a jar! It’s light, not too sweet and a little bitter. And it’s great with ricotta cheese. I don’t think everybody would like it: you have to like mimosa to appreciate this confiture. I happen to love mimosa.

Rusty and Mimosa Jam

I’m not sure if it’s possible to buy mimosa confiture (and even if it is possible, I doubt it would be as great as my friend’s creation) but if you have access to mimosa and would like to try making it yourself (or if you just want to see how it looks out of the jar), I refer you to my friend’s recipe.

Images: my own