In the Search for the Perfect Berry: Black Currant

As a child I spent summers at my grandparents’ house. When I wasn’t playing with my summer friends* or hiding from the heat in the house, I would be reading in the garden’s summerhouse.

As many children do, every year I would re-read some of my favorite books. One of such books was a collection of Polish fairy tales. Fern Flower (Kwiat paproci) by Józef Ignacy Kraszewski was the first story in the book so I probably read it every time before I would get bored and start skipping stories.

Book Tam Gde Visla Reka

It’s a grim story about a young guy who got obsessed with finding a fern flower that, according to Slavic mythology, blooms once a year deep in the forest on the Kupala Night (around Summer solstice) and promises great wealth and granting any wishes to whoever finds it. He attempts it three times. Every year he goes into the forest next to the village where he lives. And every year he doesn’t recognize the forest that he knows well – it is darker and scarier than usually and plays tricks on him: trees are taller, bushes are thicker; he hears strange noises and sees things. Twice he almost gets the illusive flower but it disappeared at the first light of dawn. The third time he succeeds but here comes the fine print: he cannot share his luck with anybody. He abandons his family and leads a life of luxury but it doesn’t bring him joy. He’s torn between keeping his wealth and helping his family but by the time he decides to come back it’s too late: his parents and siblings are dead from the poverty, he wishes to die as well and disappears from the face of the Earth with the flower that all these years was rooted in his heart. Curtains down.

Mysterious forest with pine trees around which you go forever just to see that they are not that huge once you pass them and unexpected deep marshes that disappear once you get through – is what I always imagine when I think of enchanted forest. Nowhere in that mental picture can I find black currant: probably because that berry doesn’t grow in the forest – enchanted or otherwise. Wild strawberry, raspberry – yes, I can easily imagine those but not black currant.

And still Enchanted Forest by Vagabond Prince makes total sense to me: there were three black currant shrubs next to that summerhouse in which I read and re-read Fern Flower year after year. So the smell of black currant leaves (I always liked it) and berries (I wasn’t a big fan of those as a child) somehow weaves in my mind with that fairytale image of an enchanted forest, Kupala Night and magic.

Redwood

Enchanted Forest created by Bertrand Duchaufour for Vagabond Prince in 2012 includes notes of pink pepper, aldehydes, sweet orange (traces), flower cassis, blackcurrant leaf, hawthorn, effects of rum and wine, rosemary, davana, blackcurrant buds absolute (by LMR from Grasse), CO2 blackcurrant (by Floral Concept from Grasse), Russian coriander seed, honeysuckle, rose, carnation, vetiver, opoponax resinoid, Siam benzoin, amber, oakmoss, fir balsam absolute, Patchouli Purecoeur®, castoreum absolute, cedar notes, vanilla and musk. If you haven’t smelled it yet and want a real review, here Kafka does a great job describing the scent – even though she doesn’t really enjoy it on her skin. Me? I love this perfume! The tartness and juiciness of the black currant and fir opening, the warmth and smokiness of the amber and incense resinous development – I enjoy them immensely. The drydown reminds me of one of my winter rituals – drinking Peet‘s Black Currant black tea with honey. Add to this picture a Christmas tree or pour the tea into a thermos and go to a close-by redwood forest – and you’ll get a perfect gustatory illustration of Enchanted Forest.

Black Currant tea and Honey

I urge you to try both – the perfume and the tea+honey combination: I think they both are very interesting, unusual and, if it’s your cup of tea (take it figuratively or literally, as you wish), very enjoyable. But even though I like both, I can’t drink that tea all the time and I can’t imagine wearing Enchanted Forest daily.

I used up a couple of free samples I got. I swapped for another sample that I’m using now and I paid for a small decant. I would buy a 30 ml or maybe even a 50 ml bottle of Enchanted Forest in a heartbeat – I like it that much and the bottle itself is quite appealing. But there is no way I’ll buy 100 ml of this perfume. And I still can’t believe that founders of Fragrantica (out of all people!) thought it was a good idea to launch this perfume in a single size – 100 ml.

 

* I’ve never seen them during the school year since my grandparents lived 8-hours bus ride away from us.

 

Previous posts in the series In the Search for the Perfect Berry: Strawberries and Blackberry. Also see other posts in the Single Note Exploration category.

 

Images: book – found somewhere; the rest – my own.

Advertisements

In the Search for the Perfect Berry: Blackberry

 

I was in my late 20s when I tried blackberries for the first time. Before than I knew of them but where I lived they weren’t grown commercially so I wasn’t even sure how blackberry looked or smelled.

Blackberries

I still do not know how blackberries smell. I checked just yesterday: at least those that I buy have almost no detectable scent. Are there any other varieties that actually have a smell?

So it’s fair to say that I wasn’t really looking for a perfect blackberry scent. What I was (and actually still am) looking for was a limited edition bottle of L’Artisan Mure et Musc Extreme that looked like a blackberry.

I wanted this bottle. I found a special bottle of Premier Figuier Extreme but for the last year I’ve been stalking eBay for that blueberry bottle without much success. But to be ready to jump on a bidding game if a bottle is offered for sale I wanted to try the perfume: at least to know what to expect.

Mure et Musc Extreme by L’Artisan Parfumeur, created by Karine Dubreuil in 1993, includes notes of … all sources agree on blackberries and musk, and some type of citrus. But then I saw “red berries”, “black currant”, “hint of raspberries”, etc. I don’t smell any of those. I can smell some citrus in the opening; I can smell something that I classify as musk. If you want, I can say it has a blackberry note – but only to the extent of it’s not smelling of anything distinctive, same as those blackberries I buy to eat. Mure et Musc Extreme isn’t unpleasant but I do not see any reason to buy and wear it. Not unless I find that cute bottle.

Mure Et Musc

I still wasn’t looking for a blackberry perfume when an SA at Nordstrom almost forced a Trish McEvoy No 9 Blackberry & Vanilla Musk sample on me. Created in 2000, Blackberry & Vanilla Musk includes notes of blackberry, vanilla, rose, musk and Cashmeran. I can’t believe how much I disliked that perfume! Of course, I rarely test mainstream offerings nowadays so I lost my immunity towards that type of perfumes so I should have expected that could happen. But I didn’t. And I wanted to test different perfumes for this post. Blackberry & Vanilla Musk is sickly sweet on my skin. Once I applied it I did not want to smell any nuances or trace changing notes. All I wanted was for it to go away. Right… You know how persistent those synthetic musks are. Never again.

Still not looking for a blackberry-centric perfume I unexpectedly got one. It was a gift from a friend who got persuaded by an SA at Heathrow airport that this perfume wasn’t available in the U.S. It wasn’t true: by that time I’ve already tested and liked Blackberry & Bay by Jo Malone. But I don’t complain: it was a great gift.

Jo Malone Blueberry & Bay

Blackberry & Bay by Jo Malone, created by Fabrice Pellegrin in 2012, includes notes of blackberry, grapefruit, bay leaf, floral accord, vetiver and cedar wood. Fruity perfumes are not widely represented in my collection but Blackberry & Bay is one of a few that I truly enjoy. I like the sweet and tart mixture of this perfume on my skin. It’s fruity, bright and dark, deep and playful at the same time.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

 

Images: my own (all but L’Artisan blueberry bottle)

For Every Occasion: Jul et Mad Amour de Palazzo

 

Ross: All right, Monica categorizes her towels. How many categories are there?
Joey: Everyday use.
Chandler: Fancy.
Joey: Guest.
Chandler: Fancy guest.
Ross: Two seconds…
Joey: Uh, eleven!
Ross: Eleven. Unbelievable. Eleven is correct.
.
TV show Friends, Episode 4.12

 

I’m not sure from whom I got it – maybe it was my grandmother since mom has never been like that – but as long I remember myself I always put things into categories. For many years I had Work Clothes, Weekend Wear, Evening Attire and some smaller categories in between (e.g. Tropical Vacation Wardrobe).

Tropical Vacation Wardrobe

Usually those categories didn’t intersect: to the office I would wear mostly suits (not because it was required but because I liked to); my party clothes were very dressy and my weekend-running-errands clothes were something comfortable and not demanding. As you can imagine, there wasn’t much ground for a crossover between categories.

Over years I noticed that the most willingly I would be buying clothes for going out. It was much easier to justify spending money on a beautiful cocktail dress or a dressy “dry clean only” blouse than on a sweater or a top I would wear while shopping or going for a walk in the city. The irony is that I don’t have that many occasions to wear my nice clothes. But when you have something hanging in your closet for years, even though you’ve worn it on counted occasions, you still feel it is old and want to buy something new.

My perfume collection follows the same trail: I have a group of perfumes that I never wear to work; I consider them my “special occasions wear,” and I feel more inclined to buy those. The problem is that my life doesn’t consist of those special occasions in the proportion to the number of perfumes designated for that purpose.

To give you an idea, my dress-up perfumes are Amouage Ubar, Gold and Memoir; Ormonde Jayne Ta’if, Guerlain Cruel Gardenia, Puredistance Antonia or Frederic Malle Portrait of a Lady. And daily perfumes are Jo Malone (almost anything), Annick Goutal Petite Cherie, Prada Infusion d’Iris or Byredo La Tulipe.

Jean Paul Gautier Mermaid Dress

Once I realized I had that attitude problem with my wardrobe, I started shifting the shopping emphasis from the for-when-the-Queen-comes-to-dinner to I-wouldn’t-mind-meeting-my-most-judgmental-girlfriend-now apparel. I’m just in the beginning of my transformation but I hope I’m heading there.

But while with evening gowns and my day-to-day life I have just one choice: not to buy … more than two of them for each occasion I actually get to wear them, with perfumes it’s slightly different. I can either persuade myself to wear my “dressy” perfumes more often, or I can start buying those perfumes I think are appropriate to wear without a Royal Presence.

Or I can wear Amour de Palazzo by Jul et Mad.

Amour de Palazzo by Jul et Mad – created in 2012 by Dorothée Piot and Maison Robertet, notes include pepper, cloves, ginger, nutmeg, absolute of violette, Atlas cedarwood, leather, Indonesian patchouli, labdanum, musk, oud, amber, papyrus and animal castoreum.

I discovered this perfume during my visit to MinNY last year (see my “New York, New York, it’s a wonderful town!”). I mentioned in the post that I liked Amour de Palazzo but didn’t get a sample of it. Soon after that I got a very kind offer from Madalina Stoica, the brand’s co-owner, to send me a travel spray of this perfume. Not for the review, just because.

Jul et Mad Amour De Palazzo

Amour de Palazzo is an amazing perfume. It is both very pronounced and discreet at the same time. It is rich but not loud. It is luxurious but not bling-y. I’m not a huge agarwood fan but in this perfume it’s just in the right dose for me. When I wear it I feel as if I’m wearing the most delicate silk lingerie and it doesn’t really matter if it’s under a sheath dress or jeans and a chunky sweater (but the latter of a very good quality, of course – my imaginary friend might be very judgmental).

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.

 

Images: my own.

Update: Jul et Mad introduced two new sizes for their perfumes – 5 ml and 20 ml bottles. Both are extremely cute. Bravo!

Entertaining Statistics: 2012 Year Round-up

 

Wearing and testing perfumes every day and getting monthly statistics numbers create some general feeling about where you stand on your likes and dislikes but nothing puts it into prospective better than the complete year data. As I was contemplating this post I was both excited and scared: what would I discover about myself when I compile all the results?

In 2012 I wore and tested more perfumes than in 2011: 414 vs. 376 perfumes from 119 vs. 110 brands. But since starting from December 2011 I was recording the type of use – wear1 vs. testing2 I’m able to get deeper into from where those numbers come.

 

Quick 2012 stats:

* Different perfumes worn1138 from 50 brands on 348 occasions;

Brands I wore in 2012

* Different perfumes tested2356 from 114 brands on 572 occasions;

Brands I tested in 2012

* Perfumes I tried for the first time: 245 (it was 303 in 2011);

I wear perfumes I like and own almost every day. Perfumes I reached for the most in 2012 (with times worn): Dior New Look 1947 (11), Chanel №19# EdT & parfum (10), Chanel Cuir de Russie (8), Guerlain Cruel Gardénia (8), Antonia’s Flowers Tiempe Passate (7), Tauer Perfumes Une Rose Vermeille# (7), Yosh Ginger Ciao (7), Hermès Voyage d’Hermès (6), Les Parfums de Rosine Rose d’Amour (6), Tom Ford Violet Blonde (6), Chanel Bois des Iles (5), Guerlain Encens Mythique d’Orient (5), Lancome Climat (5), Neela Vermeire Creations Bombay Bling! (5), Parfum d’Empire Ambre Russe (5), Tom Ford Amber Absolute (5).

 

Counting my Lemmings (don’t fall asleep!)

In the Weekly Roundup series this year I mentioned 46 perfumes I was looking forward to testing. I still haven’t tried 19 of those (5 haven’t been released yet). My most cherished lemmings are: Ann Gerard Perle de Mousse, Ramón Monegal Impossible Iris, Parfumerie Generale L’Ombre Fauve and Armaini Privé Cuir Noir. I’m still trying to avoid paying for samples so if you have any extras for those mentioned above – let’s swap!

Out of those 27 lemmings that I managed to try I liked 15 and thought that the rest were fine – so no big disappointments.

2012 in Statis Pictures

Seeing 2012 off

Speaking of disappointments, I was surprised to read on many blogs that 2012 wasn’t a good year perfume-wise for many perfumistas. My feeling was that there were many perfumes that I liked. I went through the list of perfumes from 2012 (only those that I’ve tried, not all 1,300+). I liked very much at least 25 perfumes released last year: Amouage Beloved and Opus VI; Annick Goutal Nuit Étoilée; By Kilian Amber Oud, Bamboo Harmony, Forbidden Games and In the City of Sin; Cognoscenti Scent No.16 – Tomato Leather and Scent No.19 – Warm Carrot; Dior Grand Bal; Diptyque Volutes; DSH Perfumes Euphorisme d’Opium, Ma Plus Belle Histoire d’Amour and The Beat Look; Guerlain Encens Mythique d’Orient and Myrrhe et Délires; Ineke Hothouse Flower; Jo Malone Blackberry & Bay and White Lilac & Rhubarb; Jul et Mad Amour de Palazzo; L’Artisan Parfumeur Seville a l’aube; Parfums MDCI Chypre Palatin; Serge Lutens Santal Majuscule; Six Scents Napa Noir and Tom Ford Ombre de Hyacinth. I have four full bottles and seven decants to show for these “likes” and I’m considering several more. Another 15 were not bad; I just didn’t love them.

I’ve done two full years of these monthly stats posts. I wonder if I can still find an interesting angle of analyzing data I collect. We’ll see.  

 

1 For the testing I apply a perfume to one area on my arms easily available for the repetitive sniffing. But, most likely, I’m the only one who can smell it. I can test two, sometimes even more perfumes at the same time.

2 When I wear a perfume I apply it to at least three-four points and usually I plan to spend at least 4-8 hours with the same scent so I’m prepared to re-apply if the original application wears off.

# These were in the Top 10 of 2011 as well.

 

Images: my own

You say ‘Tomato’, I say ‘Leather’

 

When people who had been living in the same country for the most part of their lives and hadn’t traveled much move to a new and unfamiliar place, it’s a common situation that, at least in the beginning, they try not to embrace new environment but to adapt it to their needs and expectations. And they get frustrated when new environment pushes back.

One of my complaints after I moved to the U.S. was a taste of tomatoes. I remembered how great tomatoes that my grandmother grew in her garden were. I could eat them as is or with a little salt just biting from the fruit. Of course, at Grandma’s those were special variety tomatoes grown with love and care. But even those tomatoes that we would pick up at farms to where we were taken from schools and colleges with some strange notion to teach us to work were great.

Tomatos

With the experience of living in the new place comes the understanding that sometimes if you can’t find something that was so popular in another country it’s because there is no demand for it; if you do not like something, there’s a chance that you’re getting that something of not the best quality; and if something isn’t as good as you remember it to be, it might be because you are not in your twenties any more.

So at some point I persuaded myself that I was just buying wrong tomatoes and switched to local heirloom tomatoes during the season. Those tasted better but still not exactly how I remembered ripe tomatoes from a vine. “I’m not twenty anymore; tomatoes are just fine…” – I told myself and stopped thinking about it… until I read this article. I wasn’t that far off after all: American tomatoes suck.

What does it have to do with perfumes? – are probably asking those of you who made it to this point.

For a while cluster tomatoes were my answer to the lost tomato quest. They weren’t much better than any other variety I tried but at least the scent of the vine, on which they came, reminded me of those wonderfully flavorful tomatoes from my childhood. And when I tried this new perfume it reminded me of the scent of a tomato stem.

Cognoscenti Tomato Leather

Scent No.16 Tomato Leather by Cognoscenti – created in 2012 by Dannielle Sergent, notes include tomato leaf, clary sage, linden blossom, leather, black agarwood, benzoin, frankincense, myrrh and tobacco. I don’t know what is that with different companies and the numbers, but, in my opinion, it’s an awful idea to name perfumes with numbers if you’re not Chanel. I’m glad Cognoscenti decided to go with a subtitle for at least two of their perfumes.

Other than tomato leaves (stem), I do not smell any of the notes listed. I’m not saying there are no other notes there, the perfume has some complexity but the notes are blended in such a way that I do not recognize even those that I usually can easily pick out – linden, agarwood and tobacco. I smell something that I attribute to the “leather” part of the name but leather in Tomato Leather doesn’t remind me any other leathers I’m closely familiar with.

Tomato Leather is a truly unisex perfume: there is nothing daring in wearing it either by a man or a woman. I wonder if it has any sweetness to it: I cannot smell it at all but there might be something that my nose doesn’t register.

Cognoscenti launched its line just a couple of months ago during the First Artisan Fragrance Salon in San Francisco; and recently they’ve added an online store where you can buy samples* for all three perfumes from the line. You can buy bottles as well but I assume you’d like to test them first.

Cognoscenti Perfumes

I like almost everything about Cognoscenti – the reasonable number of perfumes in the initial collection, design of their bottles, packaging and samples availability. “Almost” because I wish they had smaller bottles – 30 ml (or even less). I think that Cognoscenti’s perfumes are very interesting and unusual. I’m just not sure that I need 50 ml of any of the two scents that I liked. But I’m tempted because I like them and would love to wear from time to time. I’ll see what to do once my samples are gone.

 

Images: tomatoes – my friend M., perfumes – my own.

* Disclaimer: I got my samples from the brand at the Fragrance Salon not for the review; recently I won the random draw for another sample set at Cafleure Bon where you can read Tama’s review for the line. I haven’t been approached by the brand or compensated in any way.

UPDATE: Now the brand offers 5 ml travel bottles