Saturday Question: What Do You Do With Samples?

Following great tradition started by two wonderful bloggers, Birgit (Olfactoria’s Travels) and Portia (Australian Perfume Junkies), once a week I or one of the guest writers will keep the lights on in this virtual leaving room, but I hope that you, my friends and readers, will engage in conversation not only with me or the other host, but also with each other.

Last week we had 135 comments, and the winner chosen by is: rickyrebarco (it looks like it’s your lucky month – maybe you should consider a lottery ticket purchase?). Please contact me before the next SQ post with your e-mail and your choice of a decanter/samples site for the gift certificate.


Saturday Question on Undina's Looking Glass


Saturday Question #2:

What Do You Do With Samples?

It isn’t a question of getting, storing or categorizing samples. I’m curious about what you do once you got them and tested at least once. Do you only spot-test them, or do you give them a full wear? Do you finish samples? If not, how long do you keep them?

My Answer

In my pre-Perfumeland life, when I managed to get mainstream samples (usually with purchases or from store perfume events), I would either finish them using as my perfume (if I liked them) or share with friends and family.

When I started buying samples for niche perfumes, I kept wearing those perfumes that I liked until I would finish them or buy a bottle, but those that didn’t work for me would go into the “Library.”

Later, as my collection grew, I realized that I wanted to wear perfumes that I owned already instead of those that 9 out of 10 times I woudn’t want to add to my collection. So, after testing, I would wear and maybe even finish only those perfumes that I liked enough to consider a bottle purchase. Then there would be a handful of samples that I would mark as “Nice, will use what I have” – and then not really reach for them. But the majority of the samples banished to the “library” would stay there until many years later I’d discover that they either turned or evaporated (while being perfectly safe in those ammo boxes).


Ammo box


I still struggle with letting samples go, even when I know that I wouldn’t want to wear that perfume. To help myself, I’m getting the smallest possible samples to either finish them quickly or at least not to waste too much perfume. And if anything worth sending is left in my tiny samples, I’m trying to pass them on.

How about you? If we get to 100 comments, there will be a prize: 10 perfume samples of your choice from 20 that I’m ready to part with.


What Do You Do With Samples?


Disclaimer: this blog doesn’t use any affiliated links or benefit from any of the G-d awful ads that some of you might see inserted tastelessly by the WP engine inside the post and/or between comments. Encouraging readers to post more comments does not serve any purpose other then getting pleasure from communicating with people who share same interests.

Lush Dirty, a Very Minty Boy

Undina: Let me introduce to you Narth – the latest addition to this blog’s wonderful (though infrequent) guest writers’ team. Narth used to write for the Australian Perfume Junkies blog (now regretfully defunct), and now she plans to publish regularly her reviews, perfume and travel stories on Undina’s Looking Glass. What is noteworthy: in my estimate, our tastes in perfumes have just a small overlap (approximately 10%). So, it will introduce nice variety.

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The main drag in my city of Melbourne, Australia is like most main drags, a bit of a mess. Buskers, rubbish, bargain shops, fast food… A few years back they closed it off for cars and only trams can travel this strip in the heart of the city. This improved nothing and the pushy chaos continues.

Walking up this street to my favourite dumplings place I can tell how far I have to go by the two smells that are so overpowering you can smell them a block away. One is Subway whose strangely artificial bread smell makes my children gag. The other, god bless them, is Lush. For many years a cult company relying on the addictive powers of cupcake flavoured bath bombs and towering soap piles that look like cool art works Lush has also quietly been creating perfume. I’m late to the Lush perfume game and part of that I blame on the eye watering impact of the smell of a Lush store. Since I’m usually planning a spray and a sniff somewhere when I’m in the city, I have no intention of abrading my nose with Lush’s cacophony of soapiness before I get to the good stuff. And so it’s only been in the last year that I have discovered the wonders of Lush perfumes whose price point is perfect for impulse purchase.


Lush Dirty


Rather than blathering on about the whole range, which has quite a few treasures, I want to talk to you about a beautiful minty masterpiece, Dirty. Spearmint, tarragon, thyme, lavender, sandalwood and oakmoss. So says the Lush website, not given to note pyramids. While refreshing in the heat, Dirty really blooms when it’s a misty cool day. The lavender and mintiness are more edible versions than you’d get in a classic barbershop scent, and the sandalwood is a quiet creamy constant under the sharper notes. And what’s that, an odd herbal accent? The tarragon is light but adds some important herbaceousness to the spearmint, you won’t for one minute be thinking this smells like gum. The drydown brings out a salty note, a fantastic fresh from the beach skin scent. I sprayed this on myself, walked out of the shop, turned around, went straight back in and bought the 100ml. No regrets. It’s been a very hot summer here, and I’ve been wearing this perfume in the intense heat and in the rains that follow. A relative of mine immediately bought a bottle for her partner who wants something fresh to wear at work. Mainstream freshies are more expensive and have annoying synthetic notes while not everyone wants to up their niche game in the freshie department. Lush’s Dirty is a stunner. If you have ever lamented a lack of mint in Perfumeland, I encourage you to brave the soap stacks and try Dirty. The sillage is good, and the lasting power (as it is with most Lush perfumes) is excellent.


Images: my own (Narth)

Winner(s) of the Puredistance Gold Giveaway

All four blogs that ran this mini-joint-project have announced the winners:

Bonkers About Perfume: Hayley

Chemist in the Bottle: Alen

Australian Perfume Junkies: Narth

And finally I went to run a random number generator, but when I typed the search in the search line (I have no idea why: isn’t that hard to remember, and it’s less typing than “random number generator”), Google just presented its own generator – and I decided to try it.

Puredistance Gold Winner

The winner is #11 – congratulations to rickyrebarco. Please, send me your shipping address.

ULG Saturday Question: Shall We?

Since I came to blogging from forums preceded by chats, out of all possible types of blog content, weekly free-form discussions always seemed the most attractive to me. But when I started my blog, Birgit (Olfactoria’s Travels) was already doing Monday Question series, and since the circle of my readers was mostly a small sub-circle of hers, it would have been strange to start a similar feature here. Over the 5 years, Birgit ran it 222 times, collecting on average 66 comments per question (ranging from 4 on her very first one to 169 comments on the pick of her blogging venture).

Almost two years after the last Monday Question on Olfactoria’s Travels, Portia (Australian Perfume Junkies) picked up the idea and successfully ran Saturday Question series for another 2.5 years, which translates in 132 posts with 103 comments on average (min 26/max 241).

With the same idea behind the two series, Portia’s implementation – a live chat/dialog between participants, often not involving the host, had an even stronger appeal to me. But, again, why would I try to compete with a place that many of my virtual friends and readers and I myself frequent? But when Portia announced the closing of the hospitable virtual APJ saloon, I decided finally to give it a try.

So, the question in the title is not the one I’m going to ask as the first question of the Saturday Question series on Undina’s Looking Glass. I am trying it, and by your participating in it or not you’ll let me know how the water in that river on the third time is.


Saturday Question on Undina's Looking Glass


I know that whoever participates in these posts does that not for any tangible prizes, but to honor the tradition and celebrate the pilot episode of the series, if the post gets 50 comments (I’m being reasonable), there will be a prize: a random draw for a $25 (or equivalent in pounds or euro) gift certificate to a decanter service of your choice.

Saturday Question #1:

Do You Know How Big Your Collection is?

Forget decants, minis, samples and even travel bottles. We’re talking big. I mean, full bottles. Not asking you to divulge the actual number of those bottles (unless you want to, of course), the question is: are you aware of that number? Do you know how many bottles you have?

My Answer

Since, as many of you know, I track my perfumes in the database, at any moment I could tell you exactly how many bottles of any kind, decants or samples I have (though, it doesn’t necessarily mean that I can easily locate all of them). But knowing that most of my readers do not have a formal filing system, I tried to guess first and only then checked.

If not to count some “stray” bottles that joined my collection not by my choice (novelty-type gifts or relatives’ cast-offs I couldn’t refuse) or almost empty pre-rabbit-hole bottles that I never plan to finish but keep for sentimental reasons, my estimation was not that far off: I guessed my full bottle collection to be just 7% smaller than it actually is. But even if I were 100% correct, it still would have been a number that does not make any practical sense. And yet, I don’t think I’ll stop completely any time soon.


Do You Know How Big Your Collection Is?

Rusty the Cat: On Food and Treats

I’m not sure if this post will become the first in the series. It may, since I like series, Rusty is a tireless provider of amusement in my life, and, in general, Internet runs on cats. But I won’t promise any regularity since these posts require pictures, which, in their turn, require good lighting, which is not easy to catch with my crazy work hours that do not promise to be much better this year, despite all my attempts. But we’ll see.

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I’ve heard of the cats who can leave half-full bowl and come back to it later or refuse to eat something. Rusty isn’t one of those cats: any food stays in his bowl for two minutes or less. He inhales* whatever we put there and wants more. All his life he gets cat food, but I’m not sure he understands the difference. For him all food is food, but for some strange reason we refuse to share with him as much of our food as he’d like us to. So, he resorts to begging or … I can’t even say “stealing” since he doesn’t try to do it covertly – prying it from us.


Rusty asking for Treats


Since we feed him canned food, mostly pâtés, I was worrying that he didn’t get to chew anything, and his teeth weren’t being cleaned. The only things that he normally chews on are tiny treats I give him as a bribe or a reward for taking pictures for my blog or as incentive to do a trick (he does those for treats). But those tiny things take him a second or two. I hear: “crunch-crunch” – and he’s done.


Rusty eats a Treat


Friends recommended special dental treats that were supposed to be good for cats. I must say that those are quite expensive treats (approx. 50 c per treat). But what won’t we do for our feline friends, right? These treats are much larger than usual “one bite” cat treats: they are about a size of a wine bottle cork (see the picture below). But they are relatively soft and easy “bitable,” so one would expect a cat to spend some time biting smaller pieces off of it allowing enzymes in it to work on plaques to improve cat’s oral hygiene.


Treat for Rusty and Wine Cork


Rrright… When I gave it to Rusty for the first time, he was extremely excited: he got it from me, spent a couple of seconds re-arranging it in his mouth, after which, with a visible effort, he… just swallowed it whole. I was watching him in terror thinking what to do if he starts choking. Even though he was fine, I didn’t have the courage to repeat the experiment. But since I still wanted to get some health benefits for Rusty from the treats I bought, I started feeding them to him while holding them in my fist and allowing Rusty to take a smaller bites of it, preferably with his molars.

You should have seen the expression on my cat’s face when I started doing that! He couldn’t understand what I wanted from him, and why he couldn’t just gulp the thing, but “food is food,” so in a while he learned what I wanted him to do – even though he still clearly thought his human had some issues. The disadvantage of this method, though, was that in his enthusiasm Rusty could not always distinguish the treat from my fingers…


Treats for Rusty


You can understand my excitement when last Christmas Lucas (Chemist in the Bottle), in addition to wonderful gifts for me (and not only of the perfumed kind), sent some treats for Rusty (picture above). Being much longer and denser, those looked like something that Rusty would definitely have to chew on. (sigh) Nope. I’ll give him that: he didn’t swallow it in one piece. But he quickly bit it in half – and then swallowed. I was petrified: the way he was swallowing it, I was sure it wouldn’t go through, and I’d have to rescue my cat from suffocating. To my relief and amazement, he was fine. But that was the last time I experimented with making him to bite something off: I cut or tear smaller pieces before giving it to him. He doesn’t mind.


Treats for Rusty and Wine Cork


* As I was writing this post, I got curious about different synonyms for “eating quickly” and in my search came across a discussion in the WordReference forum in 2007 where a number of people, especially from the U.K., claimed they’d never heard the verb “to inhale” to be used in that meaning, even jokingly. I was surprised because for me it was something given. I asked my vSO, and he reminded me from where it came into our lexicon:

Ross: I’m just saying, if you can’t eat by yourself, how do you expect to have a baby by yourself?
Rachel: I can too eat by myself!
Ross: When have you ever?
Rachel: When certain people leave the table and I am not finished!
Ross: Well, certain other people take 2 hours to eat a bowl of soup!
Rachel: Oh, please, you inhale your food!
Ross: I grew up with Monica. If you didn’t eat fast, you didn’t eat!

Friends, Episode 8.03, 2001

Out of many synonyms suggested on that forum, I really liked the idiom “to wolf down” and thought that in our household it could be transformed into “to cat down,” as in “He catted down his lunch and hurried back to the office.”

What phrases or idioms do you use for “eat fast”?


Rusty asking for MORE Treats


Images: treats – my own; all pictures of Rusty – from our wonderful cat sitters

Paying it Forward: (in) Puredistance Gold

This post is a part of a joint mini project, a.k.a. giveaway, held by Undina (Undina’s Looking Glass), Vanessa (Bonkers about Perfume), Lucas (Chemist in the Bottle) and Portia (Australian Perfume Junkies) – see details at the bottom of the post.

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In this age of advertising in social networks and working through influencers, vloggers and instagrammers (ha! MS Word’s spell checker knows the former but objects to the latter while Firefox browser’s spell checker doesn’t think any of the three terms are grammatically correct), it is hard to justify spending marketing resources on a handful of “old school” bloggers with quirky blogging styles and limited outreach via followers or organic search.

Most brands stopped doing that silently. Some were quite vocal about it (I will not name names now, but will mention that even years later I still hold a grudge – not for the decision not to provide free samples itself but rather for the publicly provided “justification” for that decision, but I digress). And a very few keep doing that through the years for whatever reasons – be that gratitude for the role perfumistas in general or particular individuals played once in popularizing niche perfumery or the brand; or out of sentimental feelings towards the “dying art” of blogging; or even pragmatical calculation that people who spend hundreds, sometimes thousands dollars per year on their hobby and who “talk” to others with the same predisposition might be a better target audience for a “free sample” than an average perfume counter visitor. I don’t know the reasoning, but I know that those brands are still out there.



Puredistance is one of such brands that – as long as I remember, even before I started blogging – was extremely friendly and generous with bloggers, and not just with press release samples that would promote their newest perfume but with acknowledgement of bloggers contribution to spreading good word about the brand, their time in communications and some unexpected surprises for the brand’s milestones.

Late last year Puredistance sent me a travel spray of their newest perfume Puredistance Gold. As always, no strings attached.

I tied and I liked Puredistance Gold, which made me happy and thankful to the brand for bringing me joy that holiday season. And at the same time, I felt bad because there was no story or topic in my head that I could use for a post, and since I don’t do regular reviews, it meant I wouldn’t be able to make my tiniest input into promoting this perfume to the World.


Puredistance Gold


And then I thought that even if I were to review this perfume, in my opinion, it wouldn’t be enough because while it is like that for many good perfumes, for Puredistance Gold it is particularly true: to fully appreciate it, one needs to wear it. Even if I were to tell you that it’s great, since the only place where you could test it would be a niche shop with dozens of other perfumes that compete for your attention, you’ll spray it on paper, sniff and, most likely, move to the next bottle.

And that’s how the idea of this joint mini project came to live. We, several bloggers who were lucky to get some preview samples from Puredistance, decided to share what we got – just to make sure it reaches more people who might otherwise never try it.

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Puredistance Gold Sample(s) Giveaway

One ~ 1.5ml handmade sample of Puredistance Gold is offered in a giveaway on each blog for a reader from the specific geographical region:

Undina’s Looking Glass (this blog) – the US and Canada

Chemist in the Bottle – Europe (without the UK)

Bonkers about Perfume – the UK

Australian Perfume Junkies – Australia


While you’re invited and encouraged to comment on any/all of the participating blogs, to be entered into the draw you should leave comment on “your” region’s blog following the instructions given there.

If you are in the US or Canada and wish to enter the giveaway, all you need to do on this blog is to state in your comment “I live in [country]. That’s it. The draw on this blog will close on February 23rd. You know all the disclaimers, etc.

Regardless of whether you participate in my draw or not, I would love to know: Have you tried any of Puredistance perfumes? Do you have favorite ones? Are there any you haven’t tried yet but want to?


Images: my own

Second Sunday Samples: Jo Malone Vetiver & Golden Vanilla

Years pass, I come across many new brands and new perfumes from old favorites, but it seems that Jo Malone (brand, not the person) still manages to produce, among the avalanche of new releases, something that attracts my attention.

Unfortunately, my attention span shrank recently, so unless I come to the store right when a new offering takes the central stage on the stand, I might completely miss it.

I remembered from reading an announcement on NST that new Jo Malone would be released. I even remembered that it was supposed to be vanilla. On my first visit to the store I looked around, tried reading multiple labels – and didn’t succeed. Since I couldn’t remember the name (and for whatever reason it’s almost impossible to get Internet connection from inside our Nordstrom store), I just left without even asking.

The next time I got to the store, I couldn’t spot anything new … and I couldn’t remember the name again. But I told myself it would be silly to go away without trying. So, I surprised the SA agreeing that I needed his help (you could see in his body language that he was already half-way turning away fully expecting my polite “I’m just browsing”). I said: “You are supposed to have a new vanilla perfume, but I seem not to be able to notice it.” He immediately resolved the mystery: Vetiver & Golden Vanilla is released in the Cologne Intense collection – I wasn’t even looking there.

The SA complimented me on being adventurous because I wasn’t afraid to try the Intense Collection, which “most women avoid.” Really? I was surprised: out of all the brands that ventures in the unisex perfume territory Jo Malone seemed like the one that leans more feminine. But since he works there, he might know better (or not), I’m not familiar with “civilian’s” tastes.


Jo Malone Vetiver and Golden Vanilla


Neither brand’s site nor Fragrantica are too generous with the notes: cardamom, grapefruit tea accord, vetiver bourbon and vanilla bourbon. Perfumer (according to NST): Mathilde Bijaoui, who previously created for Jo Malone Myrrh & Tonka.

To my nose, Vetiver & Golden Vanilla is all about vetiver. I don’t think I can smell cardamom, and vanilla is surprising in this composition: it’s much less sweet than you might expect both from the material and from the brand. But it’s not a bad thing, don’t read it as a criticism. It creates an interesting “adult” composition that keeps your mind far away from the cupcake territory. On my skin perfume has moderate to good projection and moderate tenacity (and I’d expect it to be even better if sprayed from a bottle instead of a small sample).

Since I like vetiver in perfumes, Vetiver & Golden Vanilla smells good to me but, unlike most of Jo Malone main collection’s offerings, it is not the one that everybody will either like or stay indifferent: I expect some people to actively dislike it or (virtually waving Hi to that SA) feel that it’s too masculine. But if you enjoy vetiver (and especially if you, as I, like but get tired of Hermes’s Vetiver Tonka), give Vetiver & Golden Vanilla a try: if not a bottle, it might be worth a 10 ml decant space in your collection.

I’m thinking that I still don’t have a single bottle from the Cologne Intense collection… I could probably take a closer look at one of those 50 ml black bottles (I’m glad Jo Malone finally moved away from 100 ml only, but I wish they’ve done them in 30 ml black bottles – I still remember how great the Dark Amber & Ginger Lily 30 ml bottle looked).


Images: from the brand’s site (my sample vial looked not interesting to warrant bribing Rusty; if I end up buying a bottle, I’ll find a reason to publish a picture of Rusty with it)