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

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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

In the Search for the Perfect… By Kilian Perfume

Ever since I met Killian Hennessy and fell under his spell, I tried to find a perfume in his line that I’d like to add to my collection.

Thanks to the brand’s generosity to their FB fans, I got a chance to test the complete L’Oeuvre Noire collection without any pressure from SAs. I really wanted to love one of the perfumes: I liked Mr. Hennessy’s passion for his perfumes; I liked perfumes names and their packaging. After a thorough testing I found two perfumes I thought I wanted to wear – Prelude to Love and Love & Tears. I’ve got decants and after wearing both realized that I didn’t love any of them enough to go for a bottle.

Later I liked Bamboo Harmony and Water Calligraphy, which I also got from the brand’s FB fans club, but those light and cologne-like perfumes just didn’t feel substantial enough to warrant the price of the bottle.

With In the Garden of Good and Evil I came extremely close to splurging for a bottle but I had to stop myself when I realized that I was talking myself into buying it because of the serpent-adorned clutch while liking but not loving any of the perfumes in the line. And while I occasionally pay $200+ for perfume, I’m yet to pay that much for a clutch. I still haven’t tried Voulez-vous coucher avec Moi (and that clutch looks even more appealing!) but for now these two series stay on my “watch list”: I might eventually get a clutch partial bottle if I find one.

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Amber Oud wasn’t love at first sniff most likely because of the name: I’ve never been an agarwood fan so I was very cautious approaching this perfume. But on the second or third approach I fell in love with it.

Amber Oud isn’t about oud at all – and that’s probably why I like it so much. It’s soft and creamy and amber-y. I don’t get a harsh opening as some other wearers do. For me it goes from very pleasant to simply amazing. And whatever stays on my clothes after I wear this perfume makes me want to wear it again the next day, which doesn’t happen to me too often.

So, has it become a bottle in my collection? Well… First I went through a sample, then used up a decant generously gifted to me by Birgit (read her extremely sensuous review for Amber Oud). And finally last December I decided to reward myself for the hard year I had.

As I had previously confessed, I do care about perfume bottles and even bought a couple of perfumes mostly for the bottle and one actually for its bottle. Also, even though I can’t find it now, I remember Birgit’s comment to the effect that she regretted not getting a real bottle (I think) of this perfume and going for a more economical refill option.

Taking all that into the consideration, I browsed around for the best possible deal for Amber Oud until a combination of cash back and GWP brought me to saks.com. Everything seemed to be coming together perfectly… but I just couldn’t. So while my answer to the Portia’s question from her recent review for Amber Oud is “Yes, for me this amber is much better than many other ambers I tried, liked and use” (and its place on “Perfumes I love and don’t ever want to be without” list of My Perfume Portrait speaks to it), I still couldn’t justify paying extra $200 (!) for the real bottle and beautiful box. So the official refill bottle it was! It’s still expensive but a more reasonably priced then the “full presentation.” Plus, “the refill bottles of Kilian perfumes are not exactly ugly, they are better than many regular bottles of other lines” (©Olfactoria).

By Kilian Amber Oud

What are your relationships with this brand? Do you like any of their perfumes? Do you own any?

Mr. & Mrs. Tom Ford Noir

Tom Ford Noir released three years ago got mixed reviews (which perfume didn’t?) but since back then I was trying to test all new releases, to which I could get access, and I was a big fan of Tom Ford’s perfumes, I got a sample as soon as I saw the perfume on the counter. After that I don’t remember anything. Either I tried it then, didn’t write down my impressions and completely forgot about it or I just forgot to test it before putting the sample away.

Tom Ford is still one of my favorite brands but after the recent disappointment with Velvet Orchid I somehow missed even the fact of one more perfume being released, which didn’t stop me from asking for a sample as soon as an SA cheerfully shared with me the news. I am glad I did.

Since now I had both samples, I decided to make it up to the one I neglected. So first I tested TF Noir on my skin. Out of the cornucopia of notes mentioned on Fragrantica, I can smell some spices, citrus, vetiver, leather and vanilla. Then I persuaded my vSO to give it a try – just to check if it smelled better on him. It is a nice perfume; I have absolutely nothing bad to say about it and I welcome it as a great addition to the mainstream perfumes stable. Moreover, I would recommend it to “civilians” of both genders before most other modern offerings. Unfortunately, it’s so… unremarkable that I can’t imagine circumstances, under which I wouldn’t want my vSO to wear TF Noir instead of my other favorite Tom Ford’s perfumes – Tuscan Leather, Oud Wood or Tobacco Vanille.

Tom Ford Noir Pour Femme, on the other hand, was a pleasant surprise. For a perfume that hadn’t even gotten its own name (I couldn’t help the feeling that she was referred to by her married name), it’s very self-reliant. Many hours into the drydown I can smell some similarities between two perfumes – probably the way long-married couples come to resemble each other, but out of the two Mrs. Noir… I mean, Tom Ford Noir Pour Femme is the real killer who deserves the “noir” part of the name. It’s sweet and smooth and captivating. And though I do not need any more perfumes, I’m not sure I’ll be able to resist the fatal attraction of the 30 ml bottle…

Mr and Mrs Tom Ford Noir

lebaB fo rewoT or Found in Translation

Not knowing a language usually creates difficulties in many aspects of life: doing business, traveling or trying to appreciate not visual forms of art. But sometimes the confusion of tongues produces amusing results.

A couple of months ago Vanessa (Bonkers about Perfume) in one of her travel reports shared a joke:

We didn’t encounter any ‘Geisterfahrer’ on tour though – so-called ‘ghost drivers’ who drive the wrong way down the motorway, causing a major risk to other traffic. Oh, and the bass player remarked that for a long time he had thought ‘Ausfahrt’ was a major city in Germany, as so many roads seemed to lead to it…

It reminded me of my own road-signs-related confusions. One of them also involved German language. The first time I was in Vienna, for a good five minutes I stood next to a street name sign on a building trying to put a mental “You’re here” on the map in my hands. Finally I willed together all the shreds of my year-and-half of the German technical translation course and had an epiphany: it wasn’t a street name!

Einbahnstrasse sign

When I moved to the U.S., the first time I saw a road sign “$1000 FINE FOR LITTERING”, it enthralled me: I didn’t realize it was a regular road sign. I thought it was a custom-made board by clever city officials who chose that sarcastic way of fighting against garbage on the road to their city. You see: I didn’t know the “penalty” meaning of the word “fine.” So in my head I read it as a short version of: “If you have extra $1000, go ahead, make all the mess you want – it’s gonna be just fine!”

1000 dollar fine for littering sign

But sometimes foreign language might play tricks even with well-known words. As I was descending down the rabbit hole I kept reading about Lush/Gorilla perfumes but there were no shops close to where I lived and buying Amouage or Tauer‘s samples seemed like a better idea. But one day, while on a vacation, I spotted a LUSH shop.

Have you been to a Lush store? In my opinion, it’s an offense on the olfactory system (Body Shop and Body Works are in the same boat) and I try to pass those stores while holding my breath. But I really wanted to try their perfumes – so I braced myself and went in. I don’t remember much. I think at the time they had five perfumes – The Smell Of Freedom, Tuca Tuca, Orange Blossom, Lust and … Breath of Dog. At least that was how I read it back then. And while it didn’t surprise me much (what else would you expect from Gorilla Perfume?), I wasn’t in the mood to subject my nose to that experiment on top of everything that was going on scent-wise in the store. So after quickly trying the other four I left.

It wasn’t until a couple of years later that I realized my mistake. But the damage had been done: I could never bring myself to testing that perfume. I see that it’s still (well, again) in production though new packaging looks beyond cheap and doesn’t inspire me to overcome my preconception.

Lush Breath Of Dog perfume

But as I have recently discovered, when it comes to perfumes and their names, someone’s native language can also be the culprit.

I realize how hard it is to come up with a name for a new perfume and maybe I’m being too partial when it comes to perfumes based on Russian culture or references (remember my rants about Swan Princess or Russian Tea?) but the name of the latest perfume from Suleko (a brand reflecting strong Russian heritage of its creator) – Baba Yaga – makes me shake my head every time I see it: What were they thinking?!!

On the brand’s site they tried to give it a spin: “Baba Yaga is the terrifying witch, which appears in the Russian tales. Since our childhood, she lives deep inside us and represents this dark force, which encompasses all our fears, our doubts, our anxieties. This force gradually grows upon our head and will get so powerful one day that we will have no other choice but to face it if we want to live instead of survive.” It’s such hogwash! (Should I have said “hagwash”?) Unlike the English word “witch”, which can bring any associations from the Hansel and Gretel‘s hag to the sexy trio from The Witches of Eastwick (and for which in Russian there is another word with the similar plenitude of meanings), “Baba Yaga” means one thing – “a hag who lived in the woods in a house on chickens legs. She would often ride through the forest on a mortar, sweeping away her tracks with a broom.” Together with the description of the bottle –“Two eyes are coming out of the wood, they watch you and challenge you, and Baba Yaga’s tortuous hands appear on one side; she is gradually coming out of the bark of the tree which one can feel with its coars [sic] and rugged touch.”- it makes me think of some bizarre hybrid of LOTR’s Gollum (psychobabble about living inside us) and Fangorn (the appearance).

Sand Baba Yaga

Baba Yaga on the picture above was made from the sand but it’s a good depiction of what comes to mind when a Russian-speaking person of any age hears that name. Would you like to wear this old lady perfume (literally!)?

Speaking of perfume, I can’t say it’s bad. It doesn’t smell cheap or artificial. But I didn’t find it interesting or appealing to me. And then again, that name…

Have you ever misjudged perfume or decided not to test it based on its name? If yes, which perfume was it and why?

Images: the first sign from here; the second sign from here; BOG – from Fragrantica (edited by me); Baba Yaga – my own.

In the Search for the Perfect Berry: Raspberry

I picked up a large jar of raspberry preserves at a local ethnic food store. It has been a while since we had any so the moment we opened that jar it sent my vSO and me down memory lane.

In our childhood there were no mass-produced fruit preserves or jams. The only way to get those was to make them during summer when fruit and berries were in season. City dwellers had a limited access to any produce so each family would make just a few jars. Usually those preserves were saved for winter, when you couldn’t get almost any fresh fruit.

Raspberry

In mental hierarchy of preserves those made from raspberries were probably on the top. Not just for their taste or because raspberries were more expensive than some other berries, but also because raspberry preserves were believed to serve as a natural cold remedy. So even in winter we normally didn’t get to eat raspberry preserves “just because.” But once you got cold, the sacred jar would be summoned from the depths of the storage cabinet and you’d be treated with (and to) a cup of hot tea with several tea spoons of raspberry preserves in it. I’m not sure if it worked or not but it was the best part of being sick. Well, after not going to school, of course. And getting to finish preserves in the open jar after you got better.

I remember that distinct aroma of raspberry coming from the cup. It was so strong that it would get through the worst nasal congestion, which I cannot say about the content of the jar I bought recently. I don’t know what torture those strawberries went through but they had completely given up their identity: with my nose almost pressed against the opening of the jar all I can get is a faint smell resembling raspberry. My vSO couldn’t smell anything at all. We didn’t test it on Rusty since all he has for the point of comparison is a raw raspberry.

Rusty and Berries

I could keep looking for better preserves/jam (and I might still do it) but meanwhile I decided to concentrate on perfumes featuring raspberry note.

When I read notes for Russian Tea, created by Julien Rasquinet for Masque in 2014 (mint, black pepper, raspberry, black tea, magnolia, immortelle, leather, incense, birch and labdanum), I was excited, partially because of that association with tea and raspberry preserves. I even bought a sample! Isn’t that a recipe for a disappointment more often than not? Russian Tea starts promising: I can smell a little bit of black tea and even some mint. But that’s it. I can’t smell raspberry at all. The rest of the perfume development is mostly birch tar and smoke. Since I do not plan to do a post on this perfume, I want to use this chance to say that I find the whole story for the perfume bizarre: Russia has never been known for its tea and there is no special significance for either this product or tradition of drinking it. OK, maybe using samovars in the past can be considered a distinct and distinguishable tradition but still 5 o’clock tea it’s not. The only association I get when I hear “Russian tea” is Kustodiev‘s painting Merchant’s Wife (the original name in Russian is something like “merchant’s wife drinking tea”).

Kustodiev Merchant's Wife

In the first post of this berries series – the one about strawberries – two people mentioned Ambre a Sade by Nez a Nez and one of them – Susan from now closed FineFragrants – even sent me a sample to try. While strawberry note is the most prominent berry in that perfume, raspberry is also noticeable and, in general, it’s a very interesting and quirky perfume. Too bad it seems to be discontinued. If you haven’t tried it, you can read Suzanne’s (Eiderdown Press) post Ambre à Sade by Nez à Nez: Berry Unexpected to see what you’ve missed (and to learn what Marquis de Sade’s wife would bring him to sweeten his time in prison).

Birgit (Olfactoria’s Travels) attracted my attention to Parfumerie Generale‘s Brûlure de Rose almost four years ago (if you haven’t tried the perfume yet, you should read her review… on the second thought, even if you tried the perfume, read her review anyway). I got a sample, tried it several times, liked it – and completely forgot about it. I tried it again several days ago and was amazed by how much I liked it. It’s beautiful on all stages – from the lemony rose in the opening to the warm ambered drydown. I’m not sure I’d recognize raspberry in Brûlure de Rose without reading the notes (Brazilian rosewood, amber, musk, raspberry, vanilla, cacao and rose) but the berry part in this perfume is a very mature one. And since my sample is empty, I think Brûlure de Rose will be added to my “to buy” list.

My absolutely favorite raspberry perfume – the one that isn’t ashamed of its association with raspberry – is Une Rose Vermeille by Tauer Perfumes. It is so powerful that sometimes I choose to wear it from a dab vial – even though I own a bottle, which is a little ironic knowing Andy Tauer‘s views on the importance of “the flacon, the packaging, the hand written note” for the complete perfume experience (for those few who weren’t around a couple of years ago, more on the topic in my old post Perfume Bottle Splitters: Friends or Foes?). I can’t say that I love Une Rose Vermeille but I like it very much and it’s one of my mostly complimented perfumes.

Rusty and Une Rose Vermeire

I’ve tried several more perfumes that feature raspberry note. Courtesan by Worth is nice but I’m not sure I’d recognize it if I smelled it even a couple of hours after I wore it. If raspberry is in there, it contributes to the general “fruitiness” and sweetness. By Kilian‘s Back to Black definitely has raspberry but, as many other perfumes from the line, is unpleasant on my skin. And Rose Oud by Parfums De Nicolai, for my nose, doesn’t have any raspberry and is very unpleasant on my skin.

Do you have any favorite perfumes with prominent raspberry note? Do you have any favorite raspberry preserves/jam brand?

 

Images: Merchant’s Wife from Wikipedia; the rest are my own.

“Orchids haven’t started blooming yet…”

I saw my first live orchid when I was about twenty years old. I knew about their existence, read about them in books and maybe even saw them once or twice on TV (not sure about that part though) but they just weren’t present where I grew up.

As I tried to remember from where I knew about orchids, Nero Wolfe mysteries by Rex Stout were the first suspects that came to mind. Those who read the novels know the important part that the orchid greenhouse plays in the stories: the fact that the famous detective was spending in there four hours daily making clients, police and everybody else adjust their schedules around that activity is one of the common elements of most books in the series. I liked these mysteries and read many of them. So it was hard not to get intrigued by the orchids.

Orchids

But no, these books came into my life later and they weren’t my first encounter with the fascinating flowers. I think the first impression – or rather imprint on my psyche – had been left by the film based on Arthur Conan Doyle‘s novel The Hound of the Baskervilles. Do you remember the scene when Miss Stapleton meets Dr. Watson for the first time and, thinking he was Sir Henry Baskerville, tries to warn him?

“Man, man!” she cried. “Can you not tell when a warning is for your own good? Go back to London! Start tonight! Get away from this place at all costs! Hush, my brother is coming! Not a word of what I have said. Would you mind getting that orchid for me among the mare’s-tails yonder? We are very rich in orchids on the moor, though, of course, you are rather late to see the beauties of the place.

That is the only scene where orchids are mentioned in the book and it’s not too captivating. So why did it have such an effect on me? As I mentioned, it was a film not a book and orchids played a much more prominent role there.

Unlike that character in the book, Sir Henry in this film version was depicted as a slightly goofy and peculiar man. I would go so far as defining him as a comic relief. There is a scene in the movie – a totally original one, there’s nothing even remotely close to it in the book: Sir Henry and Dr. Watson, while waiting in Sir Henry’s room to discover the reason for the secret night journeys of the butler, Mr. Barrymore, to the window, got drunk and Sir Henry, for a minute and a half of the screen time, kept asking Dr. Watson what exactly Miss Stapleton, with whom he was falling in love, told Dr. Watson about orchids and Dr. Watson kept answering: “She said: it is too early to see the beauties of the place since orchids haven’t started blooming yet.” And they went on and on about it (see the video clip below; it doesn’t have subtitles but body language and manner of speech is clear enough to understand what is going on).

That last part about orchids became a popular expression. I’m not sure if others caught the season swap – I didn’t. It wasn’t until I looked up the original quote for this post that I realized that there was a switch.

I don’t know with any degree of certainty why the script writer or the director decided to do that: I doubt it was done for the phrase. But knowing where the movie was filmed, my guess is that they’d decided it would be easier to depict Devon’s nature in early spring without any greenery. And did I mention we had no orchids whatsoever?

I like orchids. Not only they are utterly beautiful but they are also very enduring: they bloom for months. But orchids do not like me: the longest I managed to keep one of them alive was about two years and it never bloomed again. Usually, though, it ends up like this (giraffe finger puppet optional):

Orchid post bloom

So while I still get real orchids in my house from time to time, I decided to focus my attention on more … durable objects. Who would have thought I could find a context to classify perfume as durable? But compared to orchids…

Black Orchid by Tom Ford does not require an introduction: by now everybody has tried it and made up their minds (but for those who landed on this post right after returning from a desert island, Kafka’s review provides all the information for this perfume you might crave). I just want to touch on a couple of aspects.

First, Black Orchid is one of a few perfumes that live up to the qualifier: it smells deep and dark. It’s not a day-wear perfume and it even smells differently in the evening (OK, I know that this part is subjective but I had to share how I feel).

Second, I fail to smell chocolate in Black Orchid. Usually I’m not surprised when I cannot get some notes since my nose isn’t too good with discerning them. But chocolate?! Do you know how many kilograms of dark chocolate I’ve consumed?!!

Speaking of chocolate, are you aware that there is an orchid variety that smells like chocolate? I encountered it on my Hawaiian trip – in a greenhouse though, not in nature (see the picture below). Black Orchid doesn’t smell like it either.

Orchid that smells like chocolate

Back to durability… I’ve recently discovered that my mini bottle of Black Orchid has gone bad. I got it in a swap so I’m not sure how old it is but it reinforces my bias against dab mini bottles. If I go through the remaining spray sample I might consider a small bottle since I like both the scent and the bottle. And I like the idea of a black orchid.

 

Images: my own