Gift that keeps on… lathering

Traditionally, before a concept of unisex perfumes appeared, or the notion that everyone can wear what they like re-emerged, perfumes were subdivided into masculine and feminine groups. In my native language, in the past, you would have never called creations for men anything other than “cologne”; while their feminine counterparts were called “parfum” (those were pre-spray-bottle times, which, as I suspect, in that country lasted longer than in the USA or some European countries).

Surprisingly, soaps – in the form we had them back then (I’ve previously shared some insights into experiences of my generation in older days so I won’t repeat it) – were strictly unisex before we even knew that term. There were some special “baby” soaps but everything else that I remember from my childhood was sexless. And even when later we were getting some coveted “imported” soaps – Palmolive or Camay – they were never thought of as feminine, and the most macho men had no issues using those fragrant soaps.

When I discovered soap for men (a German company Schwarzkopf & Henkel in 90s came up with the idea of targeting men with their products), a dark navy box with the inconspicuous name “Fa for men,” it was revolutionary! I loved that soap and bought it more than once, even though it was relatively expensive. It was marbled blue and white, and smelled wonderful though I wouldn’t be able to tell what it smelled of.

Fa Soap

They were probably before their time, so in a while it transformed into Fa Sport for Men first, then into something else (it had happened after I moved to the US, so I don’t know/remember what it was in between and cannot find since it was before mass Internet), and then into Far Energizing (the picture above shows the most recent reincarnation: both the box and the soap of  the original one were darker but this is the closest I could find).

In the US there were enough local mass-marker brands, so I completely forgot about that European brand… until many years later I smelled Caswell-Massey’s Sandalwood Soap on a Rope.

When I blind bought the first bar, I didn’t know what to expect from the scent: I was looking for soap on a rope to hang and use in the shower and liked how this one looked on the picture. Years apart, I cannot say with any certainty that Sandalwood and Fa for Men soaps smelled identical but in my scent memory they were very similar, and that made me predisposed to like Sandalwood even before I started using it.

 

Caswel-Massey Sandalwood Soap

 

Sandalwood soap surprised me: not only it perfumed my bathroom for months, felt pleasant while used and would leave a fine trace of sandalwood aroma on my skin, but it was a much better quality than I expected from that type of a product from some random brand…

Well, in my defense I should say that by the time I arrived to this country Caswell-Massey wasn’t a part of the shopping landscape any longer. But before ordering my second bar from Amazon, I decided to read about the brand. I discovered that, according to Wikipedia, the company, created in 1752, “is the first fragrance and personal care product company in America. […] is regarded as the fourth-oldest continuously operating company in America and the oldest American consumer brand in operation.”

If you’re interested, you can read more about the brand’s history from the link above, I’ll just mention that as of 2017 it was re-launched (still as a privately owned company), and they’ve re-released their perfumes and colognes line (with some “updated formula” – whatever it means).

I bought my second Sandalwood bar as a gift to myself and my vSO for Christmas 2016 – and for almost 16 months since then he’s been using it exclusively and I would rotate between this soap and several shower gels. And it still has probably another month of use in it!

 

Rusty and Soap on a Roap

 

Do you know Caswell-Massey brand? Have you tried any of their products – be that soaps, perfumes or hand creams? Have you ever used any soap on a rope?

 

Images: Fa – from the brand’s site; all others – my own

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Small Things That Brighten Life: Wildflowers

I can’t believe it has been more than six months since I published something in this series. It was not because nothing good was happening but somehow I would get distracted – and then some other topic would come up. So this time I decided not to wait.

One of our local parks – Edgewood Park & Natural Preserve – is known for its wild flowers. We used to go there often in different seasons but in the recent years for many reasons, none of which is a good excuse, we stopped spending time in parks. This year we remembered in time about the wildflowers season and decided it was a perfect opportunity to re-institute some of better habits.

I knew that the best time for this area is mid-late April but hoped that because of the warm winter we had and all the rain that has finally honored us with its presence in March blooming season would start earlier. It has started but it’s not in full swing yet. Nevertheless, there was a nice variety of flowers on sunny grasslands and just amazing greenery in the shade of woods. It was a well spent Easter Sunday.

 

 

When was the last time you saw wildflowers?

 

Images: my own

Crossover Episodes of SSS and MQS

This month Lucas (Chemist in the Bottle) and I decided to run our regular features – my Second Sunday Samples and his Monday Quick Sniffs – on each other’s blogs. Just in case you do not subscribe yet to Lucas’s blog updates, follow this link to see my guest appearance there. And tomorrow come back here to see the new episode of MQS by Lucas.

Week 2 post stays open for SOTD comments, and I will be answering to all comments, but I’m taking two days off from daily updates to celebrate my birthday.

Rusty and Bouquet of Irises

Results of Two Draws

From hajusuuri:

Woop woop! I saw the perfume unicorn! I finished my first Chanel No. 19 EDP bottle on December 27. I predicted I would finish before the end of the year and I did, wearing it exclusively in the past week and a half.

Empty Bottle Chanel No 19

tiffanie guessed the date correctly; however, since she has her own miniature L’Air du Desert Marocain, she chose to not be included in the contest. This means that everyone who guessed a date and did not opt out was included in a random drawing.

And the winner is …

LDDM Draw

Old Herbaceous!
Congratulations, Old Herbaceous. You have until 11:59PM PST on January 2, 2018 to get in touch with hajusuuri with your mailing address or the next person will win the prize.

From Undina:

I couldn’t find the right lighting to take a picture of Rusty with my newly arrived Bee’s Bliss travel bottle, so I’ll just go with the functional picture of the draw while admiring hajusuuri’s empty bottle of Chanel: it’s not something that I see often.

Bee's Bliss Draw

The winner of the Bee’s Bliss sample is Richard Goller. Please contact me with your shipping address.

This year I’m not doing “Best of 2017” post but if you haven’t seen it yet, I invite you to take a look at the list that Lucas (Chemist in the Bottle) has posted: out of the 20 he’s chosen, I’ve tried 9 and liked all of them, so taking into the consideration that fact as well as our known “triplets” tendencies (Lucas, hajusuuri and I have a lot of perfume favorites in common), I can wholeheartedly endorse his list.

I’ll be back early next year with my yearly statistics post.

 

Happy New Year to all my friends and readers!

Rusty: Happy New Year 2018

Math Revised: A Minus and a Plus Make a … Plus

From the early school years we learned that multiplying or dividing negative and positive numbers results in negative numbers. Recently I witnessed a social interaction that proved that math rules do not always apply to outcomes with people instead of numbers.

A month ago I wasn’t participating in the NTS’s community project “Reeking Havoc Friday” because while in my spare time I periodically test 5-6 perfumes at once, to the office I can barely wear one. But since the idea itself was not foreign to me (unlike, for example, one of the previous projects – skanky perfumes), I still enjoyed reading what other people were doing that day.

When I came across a totally unexpected strange passive-aggressive comment:

In #confessyourunpopularopinion, I have to say that I hate perfume samples. I am a grown woman, not a child. I don’t need freebies in plastic vials like some cheap concert giveaway. And I’m certainly not going to pay 10 dollars just to try some fragrance. I either buy the bottle or pass. I have also never bought a perfume bottle from a sample. So, I must sadly miss out on these challenges, but instead, adore my full-size collection on my vanity.

… then level-headed Robin’s response:

There is nothing at all wrong with confessing unpopular opinions, but perhaps you could have found a way to say that you disliked samples without implying that the rest of us were children? Just a thought.

Anyway, to each his own! The majority of my bottles were purchased after trying a sample.

… and an even stranger rebuttal from the “offender”:

Yes, apologies for any offense. I was just expressing my frustration with this entire blog and should have chosen my words more carefully. It just seems to have more and more name dropping as free advertisements rather than essays, articles, and meditations on perfumes. It is a fun blog, no doubt, just not for me. Forgive my interloping.

… my knee-jerk reaction was to strike back. In my head I was constructing some sarcastic remark about sending rescue to the poor commenter who had obviously been chained to the computer with access limited to only the NST site… But since my office life not only prevents me from wearing loud perfumes but also urges me to spend most of the time actually working, I had to postpone the fight until later.

 

Rusty ready to jump

 

When I came back, I was amazed by the responses from other members! There was no hostility or combativeness, people were trying to engage that strange commenter – either joking (“Personally every time I sample first before jumping in to the cost of a full bottle, I congratulate myself on my maturity! :)”), or telling their stories (“I need to try something fully before I buy. I’m not a risk taker, I just can’t blind buy, no matter how much I think I’d like something. […] I wouldn’t have a fraction of my FBs without samples.”), or asking friendly questions (“What perfumes have you collected and like to wear?” and “Are you reeking havoc with your full size bottles?”). She never came back to respond, but it felt really good to see the kindness and high spirits of the group. It was totally unexpected and I’d even say unprecedented in my virtual life. I don’t want to say that Perfumeland is inhabited only by good-natured kind and considerate people – we probably all know examples of the opposite, – but there are such oases where you are more likely to come across that level of positivity that cannot be negated by random remarks of strangers.

A minus and a plus produced a plus – despite everything we learned in math classes. And it felt really good and positive. It is great to be a part of the environment that allows you to slow down, relax and smell the roses (or daisies, or great perfumes) and share your delight of doing that with others.

 

Rusty and Daisies

 

Images: my own

Everyone Likes a Good Story, Right?

Last week, when I read the title of L’Esperessence’s post (How important is the story of a perfume to you?), I had a feeling of déjà vu: I could have sworn that not only I previously read something on that topic on the same blog, but even planned a post prompted by thoughts on the topic. After I failed to locate that post on my own, I asked the author, and she was very kind to point me into the right direction: it wasn’t a topic of that post 10 months ago but in conclusion of the review of a “story-less” perfume she did pose that same question.

So this time I decided not to wait another year and write my thoughts on different types of stories that accompany perfumes. Since I do not want to draw attention to perfumes, descriptions for which I use to illustrate the idea, and would like to make reading these blobs of text more entertaining, I’ll use pictures of Rusty that might or might not convey same ideas.

Descriptive Stories

This type includes more or less poetic description of the actual smell that perfume is trying to recreate.

[…] the smell of fresh bread from the bakery takes us back. The feel of warm bread against the cheek even more so, evoking a familiar sensation from my childhood.

I like these descriptions: they give me enough warning of what to expect (or to avoid).

 

Rusty and Lilac

Lilac always smells of lilac

 

Associative Stories

These stories describe not as much the actual scent but rather circumstances, places or events that perfume intends to remind of, images it conjures.

You don’t need to be Proust to let an aroma surround you with memories – sometimes, it can be a simple as the fresh, aromatic cologne of a departed lover, filling a room with bergamot, herbs, and a uniquely compelling whiff of rosemary. Even more than on his skin, the scent lingers and lingers, compelling us to eagerly wonder if and when he might return…

I do not mind these but I know that I’m easily suggestible, so I would rather read something like that after I tried that perfume: my nose isn’t that great as is, so I prefer to give it a chance to have a “blind sniff impression” first.

 

Rusty

Actual picture, no post-processing

 

Motivational/Inspirational Stories

These usually tell you what kind of a person wears such perfume or what one would feel while wearing it.

The new XXXX man […] is a modern dandy. Blessed with an instinctive sense of style and elegance, he effortlessly blends sophistication and casualness. Unbound and free, he remains true to himself in every circumstance and never needs to pretend. Confident without arrogance, naturally seductive, he radiates a form of charisma that leaves a deep imprint in the hearts and minds of the people around him. For him, life is like music and he is perfectly in tune with its inner rhythm and melody.

or

XXXX – the best ingredients for flirting and seduction, skilfully mixed into one unique scent. It’s the fragrance that remains at your side while you’re making your move, boosting your self-confidence in that all-important moment.

I’m still not sure if these are better or worse than the one for Amouage Blossom Love that I quoted in the recent Second Sunday Sample post, but I dislike this type of stories. Luckily, these usually accompany mainstream releases, which I avoid anyway.

 

Rusty and Doors Motivator

 

Fictional Stories

Whimsical, romantic or philosophical, these stories, abstracts and quotes from non-existent literary works are created to illustrate and enrich perfumes they are attached to.

She would do anything to climb the social ladder still further.

Her latest scheme is to poison her husband, Lord George, inheriting his wealth and burying his secrets for ever!

Her fragrance reflects her very essence: a green floral narcotic.

This type of stories usually amuses me more than anything else and neither add to nor subtract from the perfume’s appeal.

 

Rusty in a Hat

In my defense: it was Halloween; normally I do not dress up Rusty

 

“Real” [hi]Story

It belonged to a queen in the Trianon rose gardens, far from the splendors of the Court, before the turmoil of history was unleashed. Entrusted to a noblewoman and very dear friend, it has come down to us through the ages to be reborn today.

Usually I’m skeptical about any historical references, be that Marie Antoinette secret recipe or scented theater curtains, which makes me immune to this type of stories. But once I believed the story…

When I read that Edmond Roudnitska created what is now known as Le Parfum de Theresa for his wife, and it was publicly released only after his death, I was enchanted. Not only it was a truly romantic story, but it had some parallels to my own love story (I used Roudnitska’s Diorella to scent a secret note to my first love). From everything I read, it was an amazing perfume!

I tried it and was greatly disappointed: it wasn’t unpleasant or bad but I wasn’t in love with it. If to think about it, it wasn’t unexpected: nothing can live up to an image in one’s head…

When I came back to it several years later, I liked it much more. Not sure I want to wear it but I appreciate it and think I could have loved it, had I been exposed to it from my childhood. Or had I tried it without expecting the most romantic perfume ever based on the Story.

 

Rusty "helps" me to work

Eight out of ten lines on the screen were typed by Rusty. True story.

 

Have I missed any other types of perfume stories? Do you usually read official stories before trying perfumes? Do they influence you?

 

Images: my own

A Postcard from Undina: Sonoma – Love and Tears

Almost 10 years ago our friends took us to one of the wineries that they liked – Paradise Ridge. It was the last day of a beautiful 3-day Sonoma trip mid-December, right in between two big holidays with inevitable crowds, so we had most of the places to ourselves. It was a magic trip.

There are many good wineries in our region. Some of them look like a small castle or château. It wasn’t the case with Paradise Ridge: it looked quite ordinary from the outside.

 

Paradise Ridge Winery Tasting Room

 

If you expected that the next phrase would be about the great interiors, I tricked you: while it was very nice and perfectly suitable for their specialty – wine tasting and weddings, a large second floor banquet room, a ground floor tasting room and even a wooden deck with tables for picnic under a huge oak tree – weren’t the best part of this winery experience. But the view that opened from each of those areas was just breathtaking.

 

View from the Paradise Ridge Winery Tasting Room

 

That view alone would have been probably enough to visit that place from time to time, but they also produced wine that we liked very much. And about 8 years ago we became Paradise Ridge Wine Club members. Since I haven’t been to wine regions in any other country, I do not know how common are wine club memberships in countries where my readers live, so I’ll just quickly explain that in the U.S. it usually means that you “subscribe” to get a certain number of bottles during one year, and the winery sends you those bottles (of their choice but with 15-20% discount from their regular prices) 3-6 times a year. This is done either prepaid for that year or in installments when they ship (or, as we prefer to do, when we pick up our shipments). Small family owned wineries like Paradise Ridge rarely sell their wines to retail stores: they do not produce enough to benefit from volume sales. So wines that they produce are sold mostly to the club members and in their tasting rooms.

 

ParadizeWine haul from the Paradise Ridge Winery

 

Over years we went there dozens of times – just two of us, with local friends and with friends and relatives visiting from other states. We became… not friends but very good acquaintances with the wine maker and several people who worked at the Paradise Ridge winery. So we kept coming back for great wine, beautiful views and an improvised park with periodically changing strange metal sculptures – just a perfect setting to spend time walking and taking pictures in between visiting other wineries and doing more tasting. One of those sculptures became Paradise Ridge’s trademark (and I shared it with those who were here five years ago in one of my “postcard” posts).

 

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On October 9, when we heard about fires that broke out Sunday night in that region, my first thoughts went to Paradise Ridge and Sunce (our second most favorite winery). As always in such cases, at the same time there was too much and not enough information. I kept telling myself that what were the chances that the fire happens there? Moreover, Paradise Ridge was on the top of the hill, away from other houses and structures… Midday their Facebook page brought the news I feared: the winery completely burned down. I cried. It felt like a personal loss. Pictures below are from their Facebook page taken hours after the fire. You can see all the smoke in the air.

 

 

It was Monday last week. We didn’t know yet how bad the fire would get. Eleven days later, it’s about 80% contained. By estimate, so far it scorched more than 210,000 acres, burned 6,000 houses/buildings and killed at least 42 people, most of them elderly residents of the area who couldn’t evacuate in time – the fire moved extremely fast. 50 people are still considered missing, and about 20,000 people still didn’t return from the mandatory evacuation.

Official air quality in the area where I live (70 miles from the closest affected area) is back to green “Good” (from scary red “Unhealthy” last week) and it is “Moderate” in the area of fires. It a big catastrophe from which we will be recovering for months if not years to come.

When we hear or read about such events somewhere in the world, we sympathize and feel sad, on some level, but we do not feel it as acute as when it happens close to us or to somebody we actually know – and its normal, otherwise we wouldn’t be able to live and function in our age of communications, where every week brings bad news from somewhere, hopefully far-far away from us and people we love.

So while I predict bad fallout from this situation for the area and many-many people, I can’t help feeling relieved and rejoicing from (finally) good news: all people who I care about are fine: Paradise Ridge owner families are alive; Laurie Erikson (Sonoma Scent Studio) safely returned to her house and studio after a week of evacuation. And, according to the most recent reports, Paradise Ridge vineyard survived – so there will be crop next year.

 

SSS Samples

 

Drinking “boutique wines” is luxury (same as wearing perfumes), and we would have been fine with or without our favorite wines. But running wine business, same as producing artisan perfumes, is not a luxurious undertaking: it’s a lot of hard work and very low profitability (at least until a big brand comes and buys you out). So I’m happy not as much for the fact that we’ll get to enjoy Paradise Ridge wines or Sonoma Scent Studio perfumes but mostly that they will be able to keep creating them.

 

Rusty and Paradise Ridge Wines

 

As I’m finishing writing this post, it has started raining outside. It would have helped much more had it happened a week ago but I’m happy about this rain: it is time the Nature joined us in crying.