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.


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.


Perfume Bottle Splitters: Friends or Foes?


Recently Elena (Perfume Shrine) has published an interview with Andy Tauer, the owner of and the nose behind Tauer Perfumes brand. I like Andy Tauer and I enjoy reading what he says – in that interview, on his blog and in other media. But there were a couple of points in that interview that made me thinking.

Now to your question “Do perfumistas form the bulk of niche perfume buyers in your experience?” No, they don’t. By far not. An educated guess might be: 1/4 of niche perfume buyers in my experience are perfumistas. For sure not more.

My first reaction was: “It can’t be true!” 25%? It’s an extremely high estimate. There are not that many of us… Or are there? I started looking around. Probably there are not as many perfume-related blogs as there are blogs about fashion, books or cooking. By rough count we’re talking about a hundred blogs – give or take a few. The largest Facebook group I’m a member of has just 3,775 members. But then I went to two most popular perfume sites/forums. I do not know what Fragrantica calls “Perfume lovers” but 385K+ of those mentioned there. And Basenotes says they have 100K+ members. Of course, those numbers accumulated over time, many of the registered users aren’t active any longer but still it’s a huge number. So unless most of brand’s sales are done exclusively through high-end B&M boutiques, how is one to know what percentage of the sales should be attributed to perfumistas?

Perfume Enthusiasts On The Web

The second point felt outright wrong:

[…] bottle splits and doing decants is pretty much not good and you hurt the creator. It is actually worse than not buying a bottle.
[…] It hurts because I do not only create a scent that I launch one fine day. As creator, I am constantly building on a universe, a brand universe. I put my scents in a context of values, and esthetics, and experiences. And these I try to communicate through everything that is around the scent. The flacon, the packaging, the hand written note, the way how and where you can get the scent.|
[…]Getting a decant in a simple spray bottle is nothing of all that. It is like a stripped down to the bones scent experience. The scent is still the same, but everything else that I wish perfume lovers to experience is gone. I feel it would be better, from time to time, to just get one fragrance, instead of 5 splits.

First of all, let’s do away with small decants (5 ml) – the size I see a lot in both private decants exchanges and Facebook splits. Nobody sells perfumes without samples and/or testers calculated in the price of the product. And I feel that in case of 5 ml decants we, perfume enthusiasts, are paying our own money for niche brands’ marketing. So that cannot be bad for a brand. A small brand cannot expect too many blind buys (unless you’re an heir of the rich dynasty or a spin-off of a behemoth conglomerate strategically positioned in places where people habitually pay for the novelty itself), so allowing more people to try niche perfumes we increase the probability of the future full bottle purchases.

Now to bigger sizes of decants.

As a consumer, I do not really care if, acting within the law, I find a way to save money at the expense of an entity that tries to make money off me. But I won’t use that as an argument since as a perfumista I do care about brands and perfumers who produce perfumes that I love, especially when we’re talking about small brands and perfumers who are as nice as, for example, Andy Tauer, Laurie Erickson or Dawn Spencer Hurwitz. But I do not think that selling/ buying decants hurts them.

In order for somebody to buy five decants somebody else still has to buy those five bottles. So for each split there is still a person out there who has the “complete experience” – the original bottle, box and a hand-written note (or whatever else the brand chooses to use for creating their universe).

Rusty and Une Rose Vermeire

I will argue that for people who really cannot afford much, having five decants of perfumes they like is better than having just one, even a super special, bottle of perfume. And these people, once their circumstances change, will buy a full bottle of the perfume decant of which they used up and wished they had more. If more companies followed the suit and released their perfumes in smaller bottles like Sonoma Scent Studio‘s travel sprays or Tauer Perfumes’ Explorer Set (by the way, I was surprised that nobody has mentioned it in the discussion on Perfume Shrine), I would buy only official bottles.

For those of us who chooses which full bottles to buy and when to go with a decant, it’s usually not a question of buying a full bottle of the one out of five perfumes, decants of which we entertain using for a while, but rather of not buying any of the five at all. For example, currently there are no perfumes I really want to add to my collection but do not do that for financial reasons. But there are several perfumes that I know I want to get to know better and see if they grow on me. If I can’t buy or swap small decants of those I won’t buy them at all.

My conclusion on this part is: if anything, while buying decants we are helping perfumers, not hurting them. We increase the number of full bottles sold and people exposed to the experience brands had in mind while creating their perfumes. And then we talk about those perfumes we got to try. Five reviews should be nothing on the marketing scale of Guerlain or Hermès but I can’t imagine them not being important in our Internet age for tiny brands with no budget for a two-page spread in Allure or a live ballet presentation at Saks.

A separate note on experiencing a brand universe.

While I like a nice perfume bottle and on a several occasions even went for a bottle of a perfume that I merely liked, not loved, because of the “everything that is around the scent” (see my post Does the size… (strike that) bottle matter? Yep!) and I was one of the first to object to Chandler Burr‘s experiment of stripping perfumes off their packaging and substituting brands’ marketing with his own (see my post (Open)Sky is the limit?), my experience shows that when it comes to actually wearing perfumes I equally enjoy those perfumes that I spray from the original bottle and from the decant (earlier this year I had a statistics post about it).

In the last week’s poll Lucas asked his readers which shape of a perfume bottles they preferred. Most people voted for a “fancy” type, which was a catch-all type for everything that didn’t go into other categories. So the next point I’d like to make is: it’s harder to have any special experience with standard bottles in line. I have to really like the perfume to add a second identical bottle to my collection. With Chanel Exclusiffs, Dior La Collection Privee or Serge Lutens perfumes I feel like after buying one real bottle it’s enough to have just decants for other perfumes from those collections. Had they been unique – like Shalimar, Angel or Flower, – I would have felt a much stronger urge to have them in my collection. So since it’s economically more feasible for small brands to create their universes around standardized bottles they shouldn’t hold a grudge against us for not being too impulsive about buying every next perfume released and finding a more economically sound solutions for experiencing those perfumes. I promise: we’re trying to put them into the best available atomizers and create nice labels.

Rusty and decanting bottles


Images: my own

In the Search for the Perfect Lily of the Valley

I grew up with May Day being an International Workers Day. Even though it was a holiday, it was an official holiday and people were required to participate in parades officially held in all major cities and translated by all TV stations. In my city, I remember, all traffic would be blocked for those demonstrations in the downtown area from early morning and until 2-3 p.m. My room’s window was facing one of the major streets and I would be woken up by music, megaphone announcements and other human noises. And then, for hours, non-stopping streams of people with flags, banners, balloons and artificial flowers would flow by my window toward the main city square. As a child I liked that holiday: it was a real beginning of the spring, we would get two days off school, kids weren’t a part of those demonstrations (unless their parents took them to their groups formed by places of work) but it was festive, different from regular weekends and there always was something interesting to do during or after the main event (like shooting balloons with a slingshot, for example).

Lily of the valley

I haven’t been not only celebrating but even acknowledging this holiday for many-many years and this year with everything going on under the sign of this day I’d be even less inclined to feel any nostalgia towards May Day if it weren’t for my hobby. Starting last year, when I read about it for the first time, I chose to associate this day with a beautiful French tradition of giving bouquets of lily of the valley.

I’m fascinated by this flower. I’ve always been. It looks fragile and lusty at the same time as if those tiny flowers were carved out of a very white ivory and carefully placed against a backdrop of flat wide leaves. And I love a very distinct lily of the valley aroma unmistakable with any other.

For a while I was collecting samples of perfumes built around this beautiful flower and testing them for this post in my Single Note Exploration series. Then I was struggling with a horde of lemmings born after I read an announcement about this year’s limited edition bottle of Muguet by Guerlein. How cool would it have been to make a picture of that gorgeous bottle for the post about lily of the valley note in perfumery?! It wasn’t easy but I won with the moral support from Victoria (Bois de Jasmine) and Natalie (Another Perfume Blog) despite Tara’s subversive actions! Instead I bought the last in the store pot with lily of the valley and took pictures of my very photogenic cat Rusty playing with it.

Rusty & lily of the valley

That was a hell of a preamble. But don’t worry: since I’m not doing real reviews I’ll try to be laconic. I’ll skip usual “created by” and notes lists since most of these are well-known perfumes.


All perfumes I tested can be divided into three categories: Lily of the Valley I didn’t Like, Lily of the Valley I couldn’t Smell and Lily of the Valley I Loved.

Lily of the Valley I didn’t Like

Muguet Blanc by Van Cleef & Arpels – I smell an apple in it even though it’s not mention in notes. An artificial apple. It’s wrong. On paper I remember it being more lily-of-the-valley-y but on my skin it smells rather unpleasant in the first 45 minutes even though I think I recognize the scent of the flower. For my nose Muguet Blanc smells of a cheap synthetic lily of the valley air freshener brought in the room full of not just wilting but decaying in water floral bouquets. Then the freshener wins.  In 2 hours it’s a perfectly nice scent on my skin. I’m not sure I’ll ever finish my sample.

Le Muguet by Annick Goutal – in general, it’s nice, slightly more perfume-y than other believable lily of the valley renderings but still very recognizable. Le Muguet has some sweetness but it’s not overly sweet to my nose. Unfortunately, during one of three testing I got some plastic-y note. It might be my skin reaction but understanding that doesn’t make Le Muguet more wearable for me. I will give my sample another try but I do not see this perfume joining my collection in any form after that. You should try Le Muguet since it might behave differently on you (and if it does it smells really nice and natural).

Idylle by Guerlain – for the first couple of times when I tested it (a year ago) I was sure it was a rose scent. And then one day my nose picked out a prominent lily of the valley note. Since then I always think of Idylle as of a lily of the valley perfume. When tried in parallel with the other perfumes that are closer to being a soliflore Idylle feels more complex, more perfume-like and less lily-of-the-valley-centric creation than the rest perfumes I tested. I do not think Idylle is bad, it’s just not special enough for me to go beyond the sample I have (if even that).

Rusty & lily of the valley

Lily of the Valley I couldn’t Smell

When I read about Andy Tauer’s lily of the valley perfume I was very excited. There are just several Andy’s perfumes that work for me but I thought: how bad can it be if a talented perfumer creates a perfume with one of my favorite floral note in the middle of the composition? Well…

Carillon pour un ange by Tauer Perfumes – I smell pollen, a lot of sweetness and, I think, some mimosa. It has a great tenacity and I think it’s a very nice, very masterfully created perfume. But I couldn’t smell lily of the valley in it at all! I was so upset when I tried Carillon pour un ange for the first two times, I felt so cheated that I gave away my sample.

It wasn’t until several months later when, after trying DSH’s Muguet de Mai Perfume and Muguet Cologne, I realized that while I couldn’t smell lily of the valley in there either it seemed to me that both Andy and Dawn smelled (tried to re-create?) the same flower. Muguet de Mai starts very lemon-y plus some earth note. Muguet Cologne starts earthy and then turns into more floral composition… Both without much lily of the valley how I know it. I got another sample of Carillon pour un ange just to confirm my impression. And I can tell that though these three are completely different perfumes I smell more in common between them than between any one of them and lily of the valley. Compared to the real flower (I think I spent hours doing that for all perfumes I tested for this post) I kind of “see” the idea but all three don’t smell as lily of the valley to me. It should be my nose, right? Samples will stay in my scents reference library.


Lily of the Valley I Loved

For the First of May this year I wore Diorissimo by Dior. I own a bottle of the current EdT and a vintage mini that has problems with top notes but then it’s fine. Diorissimo is so nice and spring-like!  I do not love it but I like it enough to enjoy wearing from time to time. Even though Diorissimo has a prominent lily of the valley accord I do not think of it as of a soliflore. When I wear it I wear a perfume. But only when I smelled Diorissimo together with the real flower I realized how close they were. I always knew that Diorissimo was an iconic lily of the valley perfume; I wore it knowing it smelled of lily of the valley but I’ve never realized how much it smelled like lily of the valley. Wow.

Muguet by Guerlain – is a fresh and very… clear scent – not in the sense “airy” but rather “without impurities” like a diamond or “not distorted” as in “clear sound”. As I’ve mentioned earlier, I fought off the urge to buy a full bottle of this perfume but I’m amazed at how much I liked it and how true it is to the real lily of the valley. I get everything – sweetness of the flowers, greenness of the leaves, general warmth of the scent. The only component that isn’t there is earthiness but I do not miss it, I’m fine with the pure floral part of the plant. I want a full bottle but will have to settle for a small decant of Muguet if I can find it. It’s so beautiful!

Lily of the Valley by Penhaligon’s – I like it a lot. It’s bright, warm and very realistic. I’m not too familiar with this brand, I’ve tested just a few of their perfumes and I haven’t formed any opinion about the house yet. It was the last perfume I tested for this episode and I think I didn’t expect it to be as good as it proved to be. I suspect that I like Muguet slightly better not even because it’s Guerlain but because I loved the bottle and all that “one day only” marketing BS (sorry, Guerlain, I start liking you more and more but this February Muguet 2011 was still available at the boutique). But I’m not sure if in a blind sniffing I would be able to tell them apart. I plan to add a mini bottle of Penhaligon’s Lily of the Valley to my collection.

I read a rumor some time ago that Frederic Malle had a plan to add a lily-of-the-valley-centric perfume into their line-up. If it happens I will definitely try it. Other than that I do not plan on actively seeking any more perfumes with that note being a dominant one.

Rusty & lily of the valley

How about you? Do you like lily of the valley – as a flower or a perfume note? Do you wear it? And, what I’m mostly interested in, if you tried perfumes from my Lily of the Valley I couldn’t Smell category, did you smell lily of the valley in them?


Images: my own (I hope there was enough of them to compensate for the long story)

WTD, Episode 3.4: In the Search for the Perfect Linden

Early summer of my High school graduation year. Blooming linden trees in the downtown of the city where I lived. Bitter-sweet scent fills the air. Bitter-sweet feelings overflow me: I’m done with all the tests and school is almost over; he doesn’t love me anymore and isn’t coming to my graduation party. Even though I asked him to do it as a favor from a friend; even though I wasn’t creating any drama and behaved very mature (well, that was how I imagined behaving mature): most of our mutual friends had no idea we broke up more than two months ago, we didn’t want to complicate the group’s dynamic.

My heart was broken; it felt like the end of the world. And at the same time I fully realized it wasn’t the end of the world. But I hurt and it felt lonely and empty at the moment.

I remember walking the streets, inhaling the bitter scent of linden blossom and wanting to be happy… It was a very abstract thought. I didn’t define what exactly “happy” would mean, I didn’t have any specific wishes; I just wanted to change that one component of my life. I was longing for a combination of a warm evening, problems left behind, wonderful bitter scent of linden and a feeling of a complete happiness.

Many years later, while I still knew almost nothing about perfumes other than that I enjoyed using them and a couple of the most known brands and names, I thought it would be great to get a perfume that smelled like linden. You can imagine how much luck I had in late nineties asking SAs in department stores for this specific note in perfumes. Several years later I tried running Internet searches for that scent and again didn’t succeed.

French Lime Blossom by Jo Malone – created in 2005, notes include bergamot, tarragon, French Lime Blossom and some generic “floral notes”. This was the first Jo Malone’s colognes with which I went beyond samples. I bought a small 9 ml bottle of it. I do not remember if I liked it the most out of all I tested then or if I just happened to get a good deal on it, but I got it and enjoyed it … for a year (or even more) before I learned that the perfume I liked was actually based on the note I was looking for. I had no idea that French lime blossom and linden blossom were synonyms. I won’t even claim English not being my mother tongue because as I’ve learned since then many natives think French Lime is just some variety of citrus. Does it smell citrus-y? Not at all. But I wasn’t analyzing the scent, I liked it and wore often. I didn’t recognize it but after I knew what it was supposed to be, I could agree that it somewhat reminded me of a linden blossom. French Lime Blossom has an average sillage and a surprising tenacity – it stays on my skin for more than 8 hours with a very distinct smell, not just the remaining base notes.

This month I again decided to combine my Weeklong Test Drive and Single Note Exploration posts, so here are several more linden-centered perfumes I had a chance to test.

Linden by Demeter – as many Demeter’s creations this one is a soliflore. I couldn’t find any information on when it was created. All I can say, it’s an uncomplicated, slightly chemical scent that survives for two-two and a half hours on my skin. It’s too simple for me to want to wear it alone but I found at least one interesting combination for it.

Tilleul by Provence Sante (EauMG – thank you for the sample) – no information on notes or creation date available. This perfume doesn’t work for me. On my skin it smells too sweet. For some reason when I smell it I think of pollen. Tilleul lasts for about three hours and then goes away leaving just that slightly nauseating sweet scent. Since I read many good reviews of the perfume I assume it’s my body chemistry to blame.

When I first read about the upcoming release of Andy Tauer’s linden blossom theme perfume I was very excited. I didn’t have a good reason to expect to like it (since so far I found just one Tauer’s perfumes that works for me out of five I tested) but I had a hope. I was lucky to win a sample from Scent less Sensibilities (Tarleisio, thank you – I enjoyed the excercise) and was waiting anxiously for it to arrive, I even postponed this post to allow myself to wear it two-three times before reaching a verdict.

Zeta by Tauer Perfumes – created in 2011, notes include lemon, bergamot, sweet orange, ylang, orange blossom, neroli, linden blossom, rose, iris root, sandalwood and vanilla. The first time I applied it I was very disappointed: it smelled nothing like linden blossom to me (I’m not sure why I was surprised since for the life of me I cannot smell lily-of-the-valley in Carillon pour un Ange). But I was insistent. I kept trying it again and again – alone and alongside with other linden perfumes. I still do not smell enough linden but I rather like the scent than not. It’s the best perfume – as a perfume – among all I tested for this post. It’s very complex, unique and fascinating. As many (all?) Andy’s perfumes are. I like it as a scent that I test. I’m not sure if I want to wear it as a perfume. And I am sad: I like that green pentagonal bottle and really hoped I would love the scent enough to warrant a full bottle purchase. I didn’t. In addition to everything said, Zeta completely dies on my skin after just four hours of wearing. All five previously tested Tauer’s creations “wore me” (I don’t remember who was the author of the phrase but when I read in some blog “I wasn’t wearing the perfume; the perfume was wearing me” I felt it described exactly how I felt for most Andy’s perfumes and especially those that didn’t work for me).

I haven’t found the perfect linden perfume yet and I’ll keep looking. But recently I bought a nice tea with linden. It reminds me of the linden flower tea that my grandmother used to harvest from the linden tree in her garden. In my childhood it was used as an herbal analog of Theraflu.

Read more: French Lime Blossom review at I Smell Therefore I Am, Tilleul review and Loving Linden from EauMG; reviews for Zeta at Perfume Shrine, the Non-Blonde, Perfume Posse and WAFT.

Image: my own

As always, feel free to post a link to your blog’s post(s) related to the topic.

See all episodes:
Weeklong Test Drives, Season 3: Jo Malone
WTD, Episode 3.1: Kohdo Wood Collection by Jo Malone
WTD, Episode 3.2: Tea Fragrance Blends by Jo Malone
WTD, Episode 3.3: Nectarine Blossom & Honey, Lime Basil & Mandarin and Pomegranate Noir by Jo Malone
WTD, Episode 3.5: Orange Blossom by Jo Malone