Lily of the Valley – Once Again

Since my first Single Note Exploration post about lily of the valley perfumes five years ago, I weren’t exploring the note much: the rumor about Malle’s possible venture into featuring this note in his next creation proved to be just that – rumor. Instead, he released magnolia perfume and sold the brand (not sure, in which order).

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Back then I had three perfumes in the “Lily of the Valley I Loved” category.

I still wear my favorite Dior Diorissimo – not as often as it deserves but then I do not wear any of my perfumes too often.

Instead of a mini bottle that I thought of buying, I got a full bottle of Lily of the Valley by Penhaligon’s (thanks to a kind friend).

Even though I liked Guerlain Muguet and was contemplating getting a decant, later I realized that perfume itself, though nice, wasn’t what was driving the price. The main part of it comes from the unique, limited edition bottle. And I was admiring from afar yearly updates of those bottles but I decided that paying the proportionate price for juice without getting at least a chip off that bottle just wouldn’t make much sense.

Lily of the Valley

Last year, when I read that Thierry Wasser created a new perfume for 2016 LE of Muguet, I was mildly curious – but never got around to trying it. This year, when I saw the announcement for the new edition, I’ve got a strange reaction: I felt offended.

Perfume prices went up significantly in the recent years: what was labeled as an “aspirational price” in 2010, became a mundane reality of new releases today. Guerlain, on the other hand, kept their limited edition perfume at the same price point all these years – around $500, give or take, dependent on the Euro rate, which isn’t cheap if you were to think about what goes into its production. It is Eau de Toilette – so about 10% of aromatic compounds, main of which, lily of the valley, is not even something that can be sourced naturally – it is a chemical compound. All of that was secondary while Guerlain was producing a limited number of special collectors bottles of that concoction: even if one wears that perfume as a signature scent, I doubt 125 ml of it will be gone in a year, in time for the next bottle, so, most likely, people were buying it not really for the juice itself.

Muguet 2017 was launched in a differently colored but otherwise same bottle, in which they’d previously launched their perfume sprays for lingerie and wool/cashmere. They through in some “pristine white bells fashioned by the Maison Legeron are meticulously hand-embroidered by the Atelier and embellished with a fine, golden-beaded leaf.” But the result still looks much cheaper than their previous creations for this “special” perfume. We’ll never know, but I would be really curious to know how the sales of this year’s LE fares compared to other years. For one, I’m not even tempted.

Today, for the May 1st, I’m wearing Penhaligon’s Lily of the Valley. Its ribbon is not as impressive and definitely not hand-anything. Its original price is, in my opinion, still too high for what it is. But it is light, spring-like, very uncomplicated and believable lily of the valley perfume. And it can be had almost for a song from discounters.

Penhaligon's Lily of the Valley

Images: All but the last one – my own (I re-used pictures of Rusty from the previous post – just in case you haven’t seen them before); the last one – from FragranceNet (they have a really good price for this perfume – no affiliation).

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Dreaded D-word and Back-up Bottles

Discontinuation is a horrifying word for many of us. More than once I caught myself feeling sad when I heard the news about perfumes being disconnected – sometimes even if those weren’t perfumes I loved or wore.

A while ago in the post on this topic Blacknall wrote:

Anyone who loves perfume tends to complain about the arbitrary way in which one scent after another can bite the dust, but we have to remember after all these are businesses, not revolving exhibitions. Either perfumers manage to stay current with public tastes and fashions or they don’t, and when they don’t, sales decline.

Even though I agreed with her in principle, something bothered me – so I kept thinking.

While discontinuation might be a necessary evil, a conspiracy theorist in me has a lot of doubts. Are those perfumes that get discontinued really worst sellers? Or, with everything else being equal, do companies put on the chopping block something that is more expensive to produce – be that due to costs of raw materials, bottle production, packaging or any other components that affect the bottom line? And isn’t it a negative reinforcement: companies train customers to like simpler perfumes that are cheap(er) to produce, put much more into promoting those – and as a result get lower sales for better perfumes and then discontinue them?

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I’m not even sure that reasons are the same for different companies in the same market. But I’m wondering if it is really in companies’ best interest to silently kill off the scent that didn’t meet whatever criteria are required for staying on the show for the next season. Is there really any downside to letting loyal fans know that the discontinuation is coming, which would allow them to stock up on their favorites? (And if we’re talking about the U.S., those would be acquired at full price since perfumes never go on sale in big department stores here.)

Whatever the truth is, I don’t expect to learn it from any of LVMH or Estee Lauder‘s companies. And since the reasons would be different for those brands, for which economies of scale do not apply, there’s not much sense in asking them either. So I’ll have to keep wondering until somebody publishes an all-revealing memoir.

When I recently heard of three of the perfumes I like being discontinued – Diptyque Volutes, Bvlgari Black and Tom Ford Fleur de Chine, – I realized that I wasn’t ready to buy a second bottle of any of them. Eau de Tommy Sooni II has disappeared with the brand, but even if I could find a bottle now, I’m not sure I would buy it. I might regret it one day but for now it feels like I have enough of them, taking into the account SABLE (Stash Above & Beyond Life Expectancy – Vanessa ©) state of my collection. I thought about it more and realized that Ormonde Jayne Ta’if is the only one, about which with a 100% certainty I can say that I’d buy a back-up bottle (or two) in a heartbeat at the first mentioning of the D-word.

Ormonde Jayne Ta'if

Look at your collection. Disregard decants, samples and “to buy” lists and concentrate only on full bottle of perfumes that are still in production. Now imagine that you learn that those all are being discontinued (not all at once: that would be too cruel even for a hypothetical question). Are there any perfumes for which you would buy a back-up bottle?

Images: my own

Jul et Mad Love Dose

 

In January I ended my, very favorable review of Jul et Mad‘s Amour de Palazzo with the following passage:

My only complaint about Amour de Palazzo and the brand in general is that it’s only available in one size (50 ml beautiful bottle + 7 ml refillable travel atomizer that is also very nice). Most perfumistas (read – those who will know about the brand and are potential customers) do not need 50 ml of almost any perfume. We will be fine: we’ll do splits. But I think the brand might benefit from selling smaller sizes – even if those will be more expensive per ml than a bigger bottle.

I’m happy to report that starting today small 5 ml bottles of all three perfumes by Jul et Mad – Stilettos on Lex, Terrasse à St-Germain and Amour de Palazzo – are available for purchase from the brand’s website. These perfumes come in beautiful small bottles and boxes in Extrait de Parfum concentration.
The price of each is 22.50 € / $ 29 (including delivery).

Love Dose Palazzo 

Image: provided by Jul et Mad

The Perfume of Mystery: Black. Puredistance Black.

 

Puredistance, a niche brand from the Netherlands, has just announced the upcoming release of their fifth perfume – Puredistance BLACK.

From the press release:

Puredistance Black is an understated elegant and mysteriously charming perfume inspired by the concept of BLACK; a concept that for centuries has been associated with secrets, mystery and style.
[…]
The essence of the concept was to create a perfume that is close to the wearer and releases sensual and elegant scent layers in a whispering way – without shouting. A mysterious fragrance that stays in the shadow, giving away – only every now and then – part of its nature.
[…]
a sophisticated perfume full of charm with the same elegant personality as the timeless classic Puredistance I, but then more masculine and oriental.

Puredistance BLACK is created by Antoine Lie “[a]nd as a consequence of the concept of BLACK (that treasures the beauty of the unknown) we will not reveal the ingredients of Puredistance BLACK…. Envision, Smell, Feel. Don’t analyse”.

Puredistance Black

I am conflicted here. My first reaction to the announcement of this December release was: A new release from Puredistance? Great! I want to try it now! By the way, what’s in it?..

I have an utmost respect for the Puredistance brand but, from the market point of view, Chanel they are not. Their perfumes are available at very limited POSs. So even with the black bottle (hi to the last year’s fever for Chanel’s Coco Noir) it’s not like they can intrigue a huge segment of potential customers enough to go and sniff it at the closest department store. And with the brand’s price point I doubt there will be significant number of blind purchases. Then why all the mystery?

As soon as first bloggers get to test this new perfume they will start to speculate about which notes went into the composition. Well, ok, not everybody will – I, for one, won’t trust my nose enough unless it’s something very-very prominent (but then, again, we all know we can’t completely trust what we smell) – but just give it to Kafka, Lucas or Mr. Hound and they’ll immediately come up with a list.

Puredistance is one of the brands that have my loyalty and brand recognition to the point where I’d test anything from them regardless of the notes choice. But it’s for me. As Robin at NST said: “What if all 1500 fragrances a year did this?”

I’m really curious what went into that advertising model. Do you have any thoughts as to how Puredistance Black benefits from that approach?

 

Image: from the Puredistance press information kit

Olfactif: Yay or Nay?

 

I’m constantly on a lookout for new perfume-related … everything: brands, lines, perfumes, services, media coverage and other events. Naturally I got curious about the new service offering a subscription-based access to niche perfumes samples.

There are many ways to obtain samples for perfumes you want to try. I won’t be covering here getting samples from B&M stores, swapping with other perfumistas or participating in splits, all of which are my preferred methods. I want to look into different options for purchasing samples.

Lorraine (Dear Scent Diary) has recently compiled a list of the brands that offer samples. But it’s always a good idea to look for an official website and see what their samples policy is. if I’m interested in the particular brand, all other things being equal, I always try to buy samples from the brand directly.

Sonoma Scent Studio Samples

There are many services and online perfume stores that offer perfume samples of your choice, sometimes in a selection of sizes. Some of these companies have been around for a while, others are relatively new.

So let’s take a look at the new kid on the block: Olfactif. Three dab vial samples (0.7 ml or 1 ml, I’m not sure and they don’t provide that information on the site), perfectly packaged, delivered monthly for $18 subscription fee. First month was offered free (I’m not sure if they plan to do that for future new subscribers). There is no obligation to keep the subscription for any minimum number of months. Steve (The Scented Hound) wrote about his experience with the first installment.

$18 for three 0.7-1 ml niche samples including S&H is neither an outrageous price nor a bargain. For $17-$19 you can get 3 samples of your choice (including the latest releases) delivered from Luckyscent, Surrender to Chance, The Perfumed Court or The Posh Peasant. Aedes de Venustas offers 7 samples of your choice for $20 including S&H ($5 of which is refundable with any full bottle purchase within the next 3 months). Luscious Cargo offers 7 samples for $25 including S&H. MinNY offers 5 samples for ~ $28 including S&H or sells individual samples for $5.

Perfume Samples

So what makes Olfactif different or unique?

A good deal? One month’s subscription fee can be applied to a purchase of a full bottle of one of the featured perfumes. Taking into the account that it’s a full retail price plus shipping charges it’s not too exciting.

Interviews with perfumers and information about perfumes? Look to the right: most blogs listed on My Reading List do it for free with a lot of passion and talent.

A surprise? You pay $18 by the end of the month and then for a couple of days might enjoy not knowing what you’re getting (until your package arrives or the reveal – whatever comes first since according to the site’s FAQ you’ll get the package “a day or two before the first of the month or a day or two after”). I saw some comments from people being excited about that part – not knowing. I remember thinking that there was something in Chandler Burr’s blind sniffing idea but I just couldn’t get past $50+ for a blind buy of 50 ml of a perfume and a chance to play guess games for a month on Mr. Burr’s say-so*. Olfactif offers a speed-dating: 1 ml# x 3 for $18 and you can close your eyes and still do a blind testing.

And that brings me to the last point. Curation. It’s an appealing concept. But who is Tara Swords and why would anyone rely upon her taste in choosing perfumes for them? She might be Turin, Burr and Coifan all-in-one but we don’t know that.

There must be something in the air: it looks like there is market for that type of service.

Last year there was a press release about MinNY launching Fragrance Flight, a Global By-Invitation Private Members Club with Privileged Access to Information, Luxury, & Curated Scents. Since then all I could find was a closed door and not a single mentioning of it. The first rule of Flight Club?..

Recently I saw on Twitter “bergamot: Curated fragrances delivered to your door. Launching Spring 2013.” You can sign up to get notified about the launch.

I have no real objections to Olfactif’s doing what they plan to do: it’s just a business, not worse than other businesses, and I hope that eventually either Olfactif improves: more customized approach, selection based on a user’s profile and previous months’ feedback, better deals, pre-releases, etc.; or there will be another service that does it better. In the end we, consumers and perfume enthusiasts, might benefit.

But if you are [still] reading this you do not need Olfactif in its current form: whether you know anything about niche perfumes or not, I believe you can do better. But if you see in that service something that I’m not seeing (other than nice boxes for storing samples) please share.

 

Images: my own.

 

* BTW, OpenSky is still running Burr’s project; there will be the ninth offering in May. I wasn’t following it after the third episode but from what I gathered now a year later they still haven’t figured out all the quirks.
# UPDATE: Now Olfacif offers 2.25 ml spray samples, which is a huge improvement.

“What’s in a name?” Once again about Miss Dior

 

Feeling emotionally connected to Miss Dior perfume for a while I considered risking an eBay purchase of another bottle of it. But then I finally tested a decant of the modern (pre-renaming-nonsense) version sent to me by Natalie (Another Perfume Blog) – and I liked it. So I figured I’d try to find Miss Dior not marked as “Originale.” It might be not as great as the older version but it would have taken away possible disappointment that comes with a spoiled vintage purchase.

Last year, when the news about Dior‘s decision to use the name of this classic perfume for the reformulated beyond recognition Miss Dior Cherie hit the Blogosphere, there was no lack of strong emotions. Perfume enthusiasts thought it was an awful decision that was really unfair towards both consumers and perfume’s legacy. I remember commenting somewhere that the next generation of customers will have no idea they smell a completely different perfume and will be really puzzled reading older reviews.

Little did I know how fast my prediction would come true!

In November I participated in the Perfume Posse’s swap event. It was mostly successful for me (one full bottle and multiple decants exchange). One of the perfumes I tried to add to my collection was Miss Dior. A member who offered a bottle for a swap mentioned that it had been bought from Saks and was definitely not Miss Dior Cherie. Since I was fine with any of real Miss Dior‘s existing formulations I asked only if it came with the original box – and we agreed on the swap terms.

When the package arrived I didn’t even have to smell it (though I did) to realize that I’ve got the officially authorized imposter.

Miss Dior Cherie

The sad thing was that the sender was genuinely surprised: she was sure she had real Miss Dior that just didn’t work for her. Yes, she’s probably not the most experienced perfumista but she reads at least Perfume Posse. There is nothing to expect from a regular consumer. Dior has successfully rewritten the history.

Off to eBay for the vintage Miss Dior hunting.

 

Image: my own.

“H” for Hothouse Flower by Ineke

 

Say “rose”, “peony”, “jasmine”, “lily-of-the-valley” or even “tulip” – and I immediately imagine both a flower and its scent. I hear “gardenia” and I draw a blank: I’m not sure I’ve ever seen it in nature and I can’t imagine how it smells. I saw gardenia petals at the Bouquets to Art exhibition (pictures two and tree in the post) but that was the closest I’ve ever come to the real thing.

Probably because I have no preconception of gardenia I like many gardenia-centered perfumes – Cruel Gardenia by Guerlain, Gardenia by Jo Loves and White Flowers by Yosh. These perfumes do not smell similar to me so I’m still not sure how close to a gardenia flower these are.

Hothouse Flower by Ineke

For the first time I smelled new gardenia soliflore perfume Hothouse Flower by Ineke in July of this year at the First Artisan Fragrance Salon in San Francisco. It smelled nice but I was so overwhelmed by everything I tried this day that I knew I wouldn’t be making it any justice. It was the end of the day and they were out of samples but Ineke Ruhland was very kind to make one for me. Since then I kept testing it.

Hothouse Flower notes include Earl Grey tea, green foliage, cypress, absinthe, gardenia, galbanum, fig, frankincense, guaiac wood, musk and corn silk.

Hothouse Flower smells green. But it’s not No 19 or Silences type of green. It’s more like a green apple green. It’s floral but not sweet – at least to my nose. It’s fresh but not ozonic. Hothouse Flower stays on my skin for at least five hours gradually fading out but not changing much. Despite of that it doesn’t seem overly simple.

I’ve mentioned it before: Ineke has a great sample set. For $25 (shipping included) you’ll get the first seven perfumes of the line. Plus once Hothouse Flower is released in September they will send you a sample of it. Plus you can redeem the price of the set against a full bottle purchase later. But wait, there’s more! If you call in the next… Ok, just kidding. It’s not a commercial post, I just feel really excited about this release. I think I’ll need a bottle of Hothouse Flower.

Ineke Delux Sample Collection

Images: my own