In The Search For The Perfect Mandarin

How often do you see print ads for a fruit? I’m talking not about store fliers, delivery service leaflets or motivational magazine collages about healthy eating, but actual ads that promote fruits. Not too often if you ask me. So, when I saw the ad in The New Yorker magazine, I registered it as something unusual.

Sumo Citrus

I’ve been seeing so-called Sumo Citruses/Mandarins for at least a couple of years, but it wasn’t until my vSO told me its story that I decided to try it (before seeing that ad). If you’re up to reading, here’s an article in the Los Angeles Times from a decade ago that gives a lot of details. But in short: it’s a Japanese hybrid citrus fruit known as Dekopon. Due to the high susceptibility to “exotic pests and diseases,” this fruit is prohibited from being imported into the US. It took a private grower many years to get trees grafted with legally imported branches cleaned off diseases, in quarantine, before those could be planted, legally but in secrecy, on 430 acres in California. So, now these are legally produced locally Dekopon fruit given in the US name Sumo (I really hope Japanese are secure enough not to claim “cultural appropriation”).

I like Sumo Citruses, but since they are two-three times more expensive than regular mandarins, I won’t eat them casually but will be buying them several times during the season (January – April).

What makes me even more fond of Sumo mandarin is that this hybrid is a “grand-child” of my most favorite mandarin – Satsuma. And my quest for the perfect mandarin perfume is based on it since I know it the best.

Of course, when the perfume pyramid mentions “mandarin,” it doesn’t usually clarify its variety or origin. So, I went just by the note in my database and selected a bunch of perfumes that I either remembered had that note as a prominent one or I thought they might.

* * *

I’ll start with samples.

Mandarin Perfumes Samples

From time to time, Antica Farmacista decides to step up from their usual ambiance scents ampluá and produce “Fragrance for Home & Body” or even “Le Parfum” version of their scents. These appear for a short period and then disappear, never to be seen again. I’m not sure whether they are different from Antica Farmacista’s Room Sprays. But if it says “body,” I feel better about spraying them on the skin. Vanilla Bourbon & Mandarin was one of such scents. I got it as a part of the sample set offer a couple of years ago, and I’m not sure if I tested it before, but now it seemed like a good occasion to finally get to it. Notes (according to the brand’s site): Crisp Satsuma Mandarin, Sweet Clementine, Orange Peel, Heliotrope, Bright Verbena, Spicy Bourbon, Warm Amber, Bourbon Vanilla, Labdanum Balsam. It’s a nice ambiance scent with juicy citrus in the opening and not overly sweet but boozy vanilla. I think it would be perfect in a diffuser, but there is no good reason to wear Vanilla Bourbon & Mandarin as perfume.

* * *

I’m not sure whether Atelier Cologne still produces Mandarine Glaciale: it’s “out of stock” everywhere I checked. But even if it has been discontinued, I won’t be upset since I’ve never warmed up to their Collection Azur, as a part of which Mandarine Glaciale was released. I don’t know if subconsciously I thought less of the collection because it appeared at Sephora first, or if it actually was less interesting than Atelier Cologne’s earlier lines. But whatever it was, I’m done with the sample. It is not mandarin I am looking for.

* * *

Pont Des Arts A ce soir was a “false positive” in my list: the promised “green mangarin” note was completely indiscernible. I’m mentioning it here only because it got into the “group photo” before I decided it wasn’t a part of this exercise.

* * *

BDK Parfums Citrus Riviera has an impressive list of notes (from the brand’s site): Essence of Moroccan Neroli, Essence of Italian Mandarin, Essence of Italian Lemon, Fig Accord, Moroccan Orange Blossom Absolute, Jasmine, Strawberry Neo Jungle Essence, Eucalyptus Essence, Everlasting Flower Absolute, White Musk, Patchouli from Indonesia, Vetiver from Haiti and Tonka Bean Absolute. For my nose, it opens with a nice citrus accord – bright, juicy and happy. I don’t get any fig, which surprises me since usually it’s a note I easily recognize. Citrus Riviera settles down to a drier composition with recognizable vetiver, but it’s not too insistent, like, for example, it feels for me in Hermes’s Vetiver Tonka. All the announced florals are probably there but blended without any prominent outliers. I’m a little bit annoyed by the promise of the strawberry note: as much as I do not trust my nose, strawberry is one of the most ubiquitous and recognizable aromas, so why to even mention it if it’s not really noticeable? It’s not like they put in some natural and extremely rare/expensive strawberry enfleurage or strawberry butter and now want us to know that, right? All-in-all, I like this perfume but… I’ll explain it while talking about the next sample.

* * *

If it weren’t for the current situation, for this post I should have got a sample of Tom Ford’s Mandarino di Amalfi. But I don’t know when I get to the store next time, so I decided to go with Neroli Portofino, a sample of which I had at home: after all, it has a mandarin note listed. I like this perfume, same as many other Private Blend variations in “blue bottles.” But I always felt like all these aromatic, aquatic, etc. perfumes, while quite nice and not simple or linear, in my book were “lesser” perfumes than, let’s say, chypres, orientals or even florals. So, leaving aside the absolute price of each perfume (e.g., Citrus Riviera is much cheaper than Tom Ford’s offerings), I could never justify paying any luxury brand’s “standard” price for their citrus perfume. I know, it’s not rational, but this is how I feel.

* * *

For someone who proclaims herself not a citrus perfumes fan, I discovered that I had quite a few perfumes featuring mandarin in my collection.

Mandarin Perfums

I had a small bottle of Annick Goutal Eau d’Hadrien for the last 10 years, and I’m not done with it yet. I don’t think it has enough mandarin to be a contender in my search – it’s more lemony and rather astringent than sweet. But today when I smell it, I like it much more than I did back then. I blame the industry! Compared to hundreds of releases of similar genre perfumes in that period, this 40-years old creation seems like a masterpiece.

* * *

Jul et Mad Aqua Sextius was a wrong choice for this post since official notes on the brand’s site do not even claim mandarin, but that note got into this perfume description in my database from Fragrantica – and that’s how it ended up here. If you haven’t tried this perfume and are curious, read Lucas’s review. From me, I want to add that I find it a little bit on the masculine side (but not overly) and that I think it wears much better in warmer weather. And if you like the scent, the combination of its longevity with the available bottle formats (7 ml, 20 ml and 50 ml) makes the price almost tolerable.

* * *

Hermès Eau de Mandarine Ambrée is one of my most favorite Hermes perfumes. And it is a great mandarin. Recently I wore it “hajusuuri-style” – 8 sprays. It produces a pleasant burst of mandarin in the opening, and in a couple of hours, it’s just a sheer amber with a hint of the initial fruit. I do not mind: the cute bottle that I have can easily fit into the smallest purse for the re-application (in case I ever again need to go anywhere for longer than a couple of hours, that is).

Rusty and Hermes Mandarine Ambree

Prada Infusion Mandarine is probably my perfect mandarin perfume. It combines wonderfully juicy and very realistic mandarin with some recognizable aspects of the “Infusion” line, which makes it more interesting in the drydown than many other citrus-centric perfumes. I plan to finish this small (8 ml) bottle in the next couple of months and will probably buy a FB – luckily, it can be found for a very reasonable price online.

* * *

I previously published a post about Atelier Cologne Clementine California (When Life Gives You Clementines, Enjoy Them), but I want to mention it here again since, as I admitted then, I have no idea what fruit I smell – it can be either a mandarin, a clementine or both. But I enjoy it every time I wear it, and it’s one of those perfumes that I would consider repurchasing if I ever go through the bottle that I have. It is extremely juicy, bright and uplifting.

Mandarin Samples and Perfums

Have you tried Sumo citrus? Do you like mandarins? Do you have a favorite mandarin perfume?

 

Images: my own

December! WTF

December! WTF

Hey there Undina’s Looking Glassers. Portia from the sweltering heatwave that is Sydney, Australia. We have already had two 42C/110f days and today was the official start of summer. Hot is an understatement, especially coming out of nowhere like it did. How on earth have we already arrived at December 2020? WOW!

First day of December is always a little melancholy for me. It’s World AIDS Day. For anyone who lived in or around the gay community in the 1980s and 90s it is a day filled with quiet sorrow. It’s also filled with some of the most extraordinary memories of fundraising, community coming together, marching, getting our government on board (Australia was one of the first acknowledges and responders) and partying like we wouldn’t see tomorrow. For so many people that was the bleak truth. We lost nearly a whole generation and the gay community has never really recovered. Fortunately, getting HIV is now far less of a death sentence and people are being medicated into effectual remissions. Also, with the discovery of PrEP the transmission rates have slowed too.

It’s been so hot I’m having trouble trying to get my head to think of things you in the Northern Hemisphere could all be wearing to snuggle up to. Here are a few things you might want to spritz if you’d like to remember what summer feels like through scent.

 

Lys Soleia by Guerlain

The ultimate tropical white floral. Smooth, creamy and elegant. Nothing makes me feel more in tune with summer. Fruity white flowers, yang and vanilla with a bare hint of salt.

Mandragore by Annick Goutal

This is another of the weird ass Annick Goutal fragrances. Spearmint, pepper, star anise and ginger combine in the most cooling and refreshing gourmand I’ve ever met. Sweet, tart and spicy but like a cool wash.

Pichola by Neela Vermeire Creations

Another white floral, this time spicier, sparkling and backed by vetiver for depth. It may not be the most summery wear but it will always remind me of times spent staying in the Lake Palace in Undaipur, surrounded by the glittering Lake Pichola.

Pimiento by Miller et Bertaux

If you dream of that scent as you cut into a bell pepper/capsicum, then this is that make believe and magical first cut. All the reminders of summer salads, happy, healthy meals full of fun and laughter. A job I loved to do growing up.

Sakura by DIOR

OK, OK, OK! I know. Cherry blossoms are spring. Sure, but this is much more than blossom. Here we have the cherry fruit, roses, some soft woods and musk. A perfect summer spritz if ever there was one. Surprisingly long lived.

Scent by CoSTUME NATIONAL

Soft white flowers sit atop an amber and stuff base. A perfect fit for sweaty nights, trying to sleep under the ceiling fan. The base is dry and smells like a cross between electrical sparks and drilling concrete.

 

Hopefully some of these can help you get through the dark and cold of winters up north.

Do any of them sound like a good fit for you?
Portia xx

 

Scented Gift Ideas 2015

I always wanted to do a post about winter holidays gifts (for my family and close friends it’s more about the New Year gifts than those for Christmas). But usually I was doing my shopping in B&M stores, so whichever interesting items I would find there I usually couldn’t recommend to my readers. This year in general and November-December in particular were so hectic for me that most of my holiday shopping was and still is happening online. So I decided to share with you my scented gift ideas.

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post in any form and it doesn’t contain affiliate links.

***

While choosing perfume for somebody else is a very tricky task, some brands make it easier for both the giver and the recipient. So I’ll start with the brand that had changed my attitude towards gifting people with perfumes.

Ineke offers two discovery sets – Scent Library and Deluxe Sample Collection – both are beautifully presented and, at the price of $25 including S&H and $15 coupon towards the full bottle purchase, are perfect stocking stuffers. And if you’ve previously bought one of these and are thinking about a bottle, now is great time to go for it to take advantage of the free shipping until December 25th.

Rusty and Ineke Scent Library

Atelier Cologne, the brand that I really appreciate, offers a good variety of stocking stuffers and gifts, starting from $18 (I’m still contemplating trying one of their soaps) plus free US & Hong Kong delivery until December 25th and free personalization for travel sprays. And if you’re serious about giving somebody special a gift of perfume, I think that their latest offering – a gift card (minimum $70) that includes 12 samples – is a great idea.

Atelier Cologne Gift Card

Concluding the perfume-giving part of this post, I want to mention that Dame Perfumery‘s 5 ml trial size of Black Flower Mexican Vanilla for $10 including S&H is an absolute steal! Other perfumes are also available from that link.

For those who would still rather not venture into gifting perfumes, there are other options:

Perfumed Lace Garden bracelet or Alahine scented ceramic tile from Teo Cabanel. None of them will break the bank. And for those who’s looking for something more indulgent, there’s always By Killian with his scented jewelry collections (these are new ones) and Frederic Malle’s rubber incense.

Teo Cabanel Lace Garden Bracelet

I’ve recently discovered Beautyspin online store and I want to share it with you. You’ll have to overlook the percentage they promise you’re saving or the referenced “retail price” – those are pure fictional numbers. But their prices are very good (and sometimes you can find an additional discount code).

Check out these perfect stocking stuffers: Myrrhe Ardente, Encens Flamboyant and Musc Nomade shower gels ($3.35$5.19) by Annick Goutal or Bottega Veneta Pour Homme shower gel ($29).

Annick Goutal Shower Gels

After Rusty showed to me what I should do with the beautiful Amouage Dia soap, I decided that it would be a great holiday gift and bought Memoir and Epic perfumed soaps from Beautyspin ($24 each). Now I’m trying to persuade myself that those are great holiday gifts for somebody else since I still haven’t opened my Dia soap.

Rusty and Amouage Soaps

The person for whom you’re shopping for gifts is not into perfume-y scents? How about a fresh cut pine or coffee smell? Try these firestarters ($10 each):

Firestarters

And finally, if you want to steer clear of imposing any scent choice on your giftees, you might consider Blue Q You Smell Delicious socks ($9.99).

You Smell Delicious Socks

 

Will you be giving any scented gifts this year?

 

Thinking outside the Box

Several years ago I read a post on Olfactarama blog about bottles collectors*. The following paragraph made me thinking:

Even as a young girl I hoped to someday have a vanity, on which there would be a mirrored tray, full of fine perfumes in their beautiful bottles. The bottles atop my cabinet now — Agent Provacateur comes to mind, in its pink ceramic egg crowned by a plain metal spray nozzle — aren’t the most appealing ones. Those are stashed safely in the dark interior.

As I was reading that passage, I realized that from an early age my idea of storing perfumes was somewhere in the dark – a cupboard, a dresser or a cabinet. A mirrored tray hadn’t been a part of our culture: usually there was not enough space in the bedroom to have that tray and nothing to put on it. Since perfumes were rare and expensive women tended to store them in the original packaging. Opening a box, getting a bottle out and sparingly applying a perfume – all these were parts of a ritual.

After moving to the U.S., for years, while coming across perfume bottles in my friends’ bathrooms and on their dressers, I would wince. I never offered any unsolicited advice but it felt like a sacrilege to leave unprotected perfume out in the open. But over time I came up with a rationale why it was an acceptable MO: with those 2-3 bottles that my friends owned they were much more likely to run out of perfume than have perfume running out on them (through evaporation or turning bad).

While I think it is fine for “civilians” to store and use their perfumes as they pleased – be it even on a windowsill or in a glove compartment – I still get distressed every time somebody demonstrates pictures of their poorly protected collections in perfume-related FB groups. I do not comment but I feel bad about those bottles. And I do not buy partial bottles without a box any more.

My Perfume Storage

The picture above shows how my collection is stored. In the walk-in closet, away from direct light, covered by a curtain from a blackout fabric (the cat-Christmas-themed towel on top is for decorative purposes only) and in their original boxes. And, as I recently commented on Vanessa’s post on a similar topic (Through the keyhole…a peek at some of my friends’ perfume collections…), in summer for those couple of days when it gets especially hot I turn AC on during the day to keep my perfumes safe. It’s interesting because Rusty doesn’t mind hot weather and it’s much cooler in the room where he spends most of his time while we’re away working.

After this substantial preamble I want to admit that for a while now I’ve been thinking how unfair it was that I get to see those beautiful bottles that I have in my collection so rarely and how great it would be to have some of them out on my dresser. After all, many of the bottles are beautiful and unusual – unlike most boxes, I must say.

As much as I would love to see my collection more often, there is no way I could put perfumes I love “in the harm’s way.” First I decided I would buy several perfumes just to use bottles. I didn’t want to spend too much on this project but I thought of a couple of brands that were perfect candidates: I liked the bottles and didn’t like those perfumes. First I bought Van Cleef & ArpelsFeerie EdT. Feerie EdP (a beautiful dark-blue bottle) was next on my list and I even found it for an extremely good price… It was too good to be true: the seller was confused and sent me the second bottle of EdT, which I returned. Then I was too busy to keep looking for it. The second brand I wanted to use for the purpose of displaying was Salvador Dali. But even though many of their perfumes are sold at discounters online, I don’t remember when I saw any of the bottles last so I was afraid that by now they might look really cheap. So I kept postponing the purchase hoping to come across them one day somewhere. And I had the same problem with a mirrored tray: while there were many online offerings, I just couldn’t buy any of them without actually looking at them: there are so many cheap-looking objects produced nowadays.

Perfume Bottles on my Dresser

In the end I decided – at least for now – to use what I already have:

  • Instead of a tray I put on my dresser a decorative plate “J’adore Parfum – I Love Perfume” that I got as a gift with purchase.
  • Mentioned above bottle of Feerie EdT
  • Two empty bottles: Annick Goutal‘s Petite Cherie (I used up this one but couldn’t throw it because I like these colored AG’s bottles) and Salvador Dali’s Laguna (20 years ago I got it from my friend after she finished it: I liked the bottle but not enough to splurge on the perfume)
  • Two partial bottles (perfume gone bad): Les Parfums de Rosine‘s Roseberry and Yves Rocher‘s Nature (it’s one of my old favorites so I have another bottle with good perfume but I like this leaf design and kept this bottle for no good reason – probably for this project
  • Vintage mini-bottle of Chamade by Guerlain that I bought at a thrift store (perfume is marginally usable but I prefer a modern version).

I like my arrangement. It looks nice on my dresser and I think for now I scratched that itch. But those Dali bottles and Feeri EdP…

Do you buy unboxed bottles? Do you have any bottles on display?

Images: my own

* I cannot give you a link to that post because there’s something funky going on with that blog, it has some strange redirect happening and I suspect malware.

Know-How: Making Perfumes Last Longer

Most of us own enough perfumes to last us if not for the rest of our lives but at least for a decade or so. We have supplies to make ourselves any number of decants and purses to carry those decants for perfume touch-ups during the day. But still again and again a question of how to prolong life of those fleeting substances is raised in blogs, perfume forums and magazines. Every time I hear about making anything last longer, I think of this Garfield cartoon:

Garfield June 30 1998

On a more serious note, one of the constantly repeated advices is the same one that is usually given for a general well-being and skin care, namely hydration/moisturizing.

Before you apply your perfume, make sure that your skin is super moisturized.

Fragrance lasts much longer on moisturized skin.

Applying fragrance-free moisturizer to your body is an excellent preparation for applying fragrance

If you have dry skin, moisturize it before applying your perfume (use a fragrance free moisturizer); it will help your scent last a lot longer.

Do these sound familiar? For many years for me it was a given, I never questioned the wisdom. Besides, I routinely apply body moisturizer after each shower so I never actually had a chance to check the supposition.

A couple of months ago in a post on Andrew Smells I read a passage that surprised me:

By applying moisturiser after applying your fragrance spray you significantly increase the longevity of the fragrance, in other words you smell good for longer.

I questioned the author if he just misspoke while describing an application order, but Andy replied: “No, that’s the order we were taught.” (and even gave me a link to an article with the same advice; you can look it up in his comment if you follow the link). “Maybe it doesn’t make much difference? Have you tried both orders?” he asked.

It got me curious and I conducted a series of experiments. Petite Cherie by Annick Goutal was a perfect candidate: I like it a lot but it doesn’t last on my skin for too long.

Annick Goutal Petite Cherie

I tried several different combinations (all after shower): 1) just perfume on bare skin; 2) an unscented body lotion and then perfume on top of it; 3) perfume directly on skin and then a layer of an unscented body lotion; 4) a matching body lotion and then perfume on top of it; 5) perfume directly on skin and then a layer of a matching body lotion. Out of these five runs I got just two distinct results:

Perfume placed (#1) directly on bare washed skin, (#2) on top of an unscented body lotion or (#3) under an unscented body lotion stayed on my skin its usual 2 hours and then became a pleasant skin veil noticeable only if to press my nose into my wrist.

Perfume applied either (#4) on top of or (#5) under a matching body lotion, even though loosing projection within the same 2 hours (maybe 2.5), stayed as a well-recognizable skin scent probably twice longer than from perfume not layered with a matching lotion.

But the most important result was that I didn’t notice any improvement in longevity due to added moisturizer – be it on top of or under perfume. Of course, mine is just anecdotal evidence. That’s why I’m asking you:

Have you personally experienced a prolonged perfume life on your skin after applying a moisturizer?

 

Images: Garfield from the official site; perfume – my own.

How Do You Take Your Amber?

We had a really strange winter this year*: it has never actually got cold. When I say “cold” I mean, of course, our Californian cold – something like 10C/50F. Instead of it the average high temperature in February, for example, was 16C/60F. I’m not really complaining especially after hearing about record levels of snow and cold weather all over the world. After all, no matter how much I realize that warm weather in absence of rain makes our drought situation even worse, objectively if feels nice.

But there was one serious negative consequence for me: this past winter I couldn’t wear almost any of my favorite amber perfumes. Even though I do not do a conscious season rotation of perfumes, my wearing habits gravitate towards the commonly accepted practice of lighter scents in summer and heavier members of my collection in winter. So the only amber I wear in hot weather is my amber necklace.

Amber Necklace

As winter approached I was eager to start wearing my favorite ambers again. The first disappointment came when I put on Ambre Russe by Parfum d’Empire. This perfume was on my “to buy” list for a couple of years so I decided to finish the sample I had and finally buy a bottle. Actually, I would have bought it not waiting for the last drop to leave the sample vial if it weren’t for an unavailability of more reasonable 50 ml bottles. Now I think that maybe it was a sign: the last time I wore it from the sample I felt almost like washing it off. Now I’m not sure any more if I even want it.

After that I was very careful approaching the rest of the usual suspects: Ambre Sultan by Serge Lutens, Ambre Fetishe by Annick Gotal, Amber Absolute by Tom Ford and Mitzah by Dior – each got just one wear, if that. I didn’t dislike them but I didn’t get the same warm feeling I used to get from them before. Even L’eau d’Ambre Extreme by L’Artisan Parfumeur felt too heavy for the weather.

There were just a couple of ambers that worked better and didn’t scare me. Unexpectedly, two of those were Ambre Orient by Armani Prive and Amber Oud from By Kilian. I am surprised because both have agarwood – the note that is difficult for me. But this time amber + agarwood combination seemed exactly what I needed. One more perfume that suddenly came into favor was Calamity J by Juliette Has A Gun. After I deplete the decant I will consider adding a bottle to my collection.

Despite all that I had more amber in my life this winter than ever before: last New Year I’ve got a gift from my vSO – Black Orchid Diffuser Set from my favorite designer Michael Aram. I’ve never had a diffuser before but was glad to get this one since I have some other items from this collection. Official notes are citrus, floral notes, tropical fruits, cedar, sandalwood and musk but for my nose it smells like a light amber perfume. And for a while, until I realized from where that wonderful scent was coming, I tried to figure out which of my perfumes left those traces and, which was even more important, where?!

Michael Aram Black Orchid Diffuser

So this year I take my amber light or very light. And, it seems, with agarwood. But I really hope that next year I’ll be able to enjoy the “heavy hitters” (© Olfactoria, Queen of Amber) again.

 

How do you take your amber nowadays?

* Ines recently started her post with the exact phrase but I swear I had this part already written by the time I read her post.

 

Images: my own

Entertaining Statistics: January 2014

 

I know how it sounds to the most of my readers but I have to say it: we had an unpleasantly warm January. Don’t get me wrong: I enjoy the light jacket weather as much as the next freezing east coaster would but we really need at least some rain. And +22˚C (71˚F) isn’t a normal temperature for this month even in our region. So now I can’t even pretend that it’s winter and time to wear my winter perfumes.

For this month’s statistics post I asked you to name five niche brands that, in their opinion, are in the “need to know” category for anybody who’s interested in perfumes. I asked the same question in one of the perfume groups on Facebook.

29 people participated on FB and 19 in the blog. 49 brands were named, 26 of them more than once.

Since I know that some people participated both here and there I thought of splitting results by the source but it didn’t change the outcome: both groups, as well as the total, returned the same set of 5 brands, just in slightly different order (numbers in parenthesis – places FB/Blog):

Serge Lutens (1/1)

L’Artisan Parfumeur (4/2)

Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle (2/3)

Amouage (3/4)

Parfumerie Générale (5/5)

Stats January 2014

The chart above shows actual number of votes for the top 10 recommended brands. From my original list only Ormonde Jayne didn’t make the cut and moved to the sixth place. I need to get more samples from Parfumerie Générale line and see why it made it to the fifth place.

Out of 52 perfumes I wore or tested in January 17 perfumes were from 5 out of these 10 brands. What was unusual: this month I tried only five perfumes for the first time. Did you come across anything interesting this year?

Rusty had nothing to do with any of the numbers but he has to requite all the compliments he got in the previous post – even without appearing in it! These are pictures of him with perfumes from the “need to know” list.

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Images: my own

“My” brand and “not my” brand

 

As I was updating My Perfume Portrait I looked closer at my favorite perfumes from the brands prospective.

In my pre-perfumista life I didn’t even think about brands. I would try all new mainstream perfumes, no matter who’d created them, choose those I wanted to get immediately and those for which I would wait to buy online discounted. Over years I wore Dior, Givenchy, Yves Rocher, Elizabeth Arden and YSL. I might have owned a couple of perfumes from the same brand at the same time but I’m not sure.

The first brand I recognized as such was Jo Malone. I can’t say that all of their perfumes immediately became my favorites but I kept finding more and more perfumes I liked and wanted to wear. Even today Jo Malone’s perfumes dominate my collection with at least 2:1 ratio to any other most popular brands.

Jo Malone in my collection

But while the number of bottles might be a sufficient condition to qualify a brand as “my“, it’s not a necessary one. Taking into the account prices of modern niche perfumes as well as bottle sizes and the size of my collection, a couple of samples or a small decant sometimes is all I need to enjoy the perfume I like. And sometimes I simply have the feeling that the brand is just right for me.

Do you remember how it was for you in the beginning? For me it was an enormous amount of information – names, notes, perfumers and brands.  The first brand I consciously approached three years ago, when I was just starting my voyage into the unknown world of niche perfumery, was Amouage. My first samples order consisted of seven perfumes from the brand; five of them were hits. Amouage is one of “my” brands ever since – even though I can’t add all the perfumes I like to my collection as full bottles.

Rusty and Amouage Memoir

Among other brands that I consider in the same category (not counting new(er) brands with less than five perfumes in the line) are Ormonde Jayne,  Annick Goutal, Atelier Cologne, Tom Ford, Chanel and Dior (exclusive lines from the last two). I do not love or want to wear all of the perfumes from these lines but on average these brands create more perfumes that I (at least) like. These are “my” brands.

On the other end of spectrum there are brands, work of which I respect, find interesting and sometimes even love but in general I feel like those brands are “not my.” By Kilian, Guerlain, Tauer Perfumes, Serge Lutens or Frederic Malle are good examples of such brands. Even though I own several bottles and decants from all these brands, their perfumes don’t work for me more often than they do.

Perfume bottles

If you were to name just two brands – one that is totally you and one that mostly leaves you cold – what would those be?

 

Images: my own

Déjà vu, Episode 4: des pairs, dis-pair, Despair

 

In the Episode 1 of the o Déjà vu series to explain how I see those scents that I feature in the series I cited Daphne du Maurier‘s book The Scapegoat. The plot concerns an Englishman who meets his double, a French aristocrat, while visiting France, and is forced into changing places with him… Today’s episode calls for another literature reference but I’ll get to it later.

Half a year ago, soon after I introduced my lemmings for the upcoming release of Annick Goutal Nuit Etoilee in one of the Weekly round-up episodes, I was contacted by a person from Beauté Prestige International’s PR department. She asked for my address to send me press information and a sample. It was my first ever contact from PR people and it was about the perfume I was so anxious to try. Probably you can imagine my feelings. But being paranoid as I am, before responding I checked the name and the e-mail address. Everything was legit so I replied and started waiting… Well, the sample has never arrived but at least I felt thrilled for a while.

Annick Goutal Nuit Etoilee

A month later Natalie (Another Perfume Blog) brought a small vial of Nuit Etoilee to our perfume sniffing rendezvous. I applied it to my wrist, inhaled – and immediately thought that it reminded me of another perfume that I already had in my collection.

As soon as I bought Nuit Etoilee I contacted my blogo-friends who previously helped me with similar projects and asked them to participate in another blind testing. They agreed and I sent them two color-coded spray vials – green and blue. The main question I asked was: Do you think these perfumes smell similar? I have an input from three bloggers so I recruited Rusty to help with visuals (click to enlarge).

Rusty and Annick Goutal Nuit Etoilee

Natalie of Another Perfume Blog:

To start off, and hopefully this doesn’t matter, but I feel pretty sure I know both of these. I believe the blue one is Nuit Etoilee. It has that kind’ve minty orange feeling at first, and then it is sappy and piney and quickly dries down to a certain ingredient that I smell in a lot of things and cannot figure out what it is. I think I’ve mentioned it to you before. It smells to me like hot dry cleaned clothes. Whatever it is, this ingredient is very prominent in the blue one and in Chanel Jersey.

Wearing the blue one side by side with the green one makes me smell something in the blue one that I don’t think I would have otherwise (and if blue is Nuit Etoilee, I never smelled this before in it), and that is tobacco. I feel like I sense some tobacco in the blue one when I wear it next to the green one. The green one, though, to me is very much tobacco (and the blue one isn’t). And the green is very chewy and dense and sweet, with a thicker sweetness than the blue one.

I think they have something else in common as well for a little while. I don’t know what it is. The closest I can come to an association is very weird: maple and raisins. People sometimes speak about berry as a component of tobacco, and maybe this is what they are talking about. I don’t know. Then, it goes away and they are very different again.

Overall, they smell somewhat similar to me, but less so than Gold and Climat (the reference is to the Episode 2 – Undina).

Serge Lutens Fille en Aiguilles

Judith of the unseen censer:

The answer to your question is yes, I do think that right at the beginning they have a similar green-galbanum-carnation-peppery thing that could be considered similar. The stuff in the green vial is so MUCH MORE than the stuff in the blue vial that even that first shot of peppery green is a lot more three-dimensional, to my nose, than the blue vial; but there is a similarity, enough that I would believe some of the same ingredients were used to get the effect, though the blue vial develops so much more simply and sheerly and the green vial develops immediately into the “swamp accord” that makes me think it must be Amouage Honour Woman or something in that line.

The blue vial turns into a VERY powdery iris, which for some reason reminds me of Prada Infusion d’Iris but I think must be Iris Silver Mist or another one of those very classic irises that I have smelled but do not wear and do not like. IT’S A LOT OF IRIS. The green vial has more of a general floral quality to it (which is why I think it might be Honour rather than Interlude Woman) and at the far drydown, where the blue vial is just trying to hit me over the head with powdery iris and makes me want to walk away, the green vial has settled into more of a clean woody base and what might very well be a bit of iris might be what is filling in the background of the wood and giving it that “clean” touch without there being a musk or something similar (I don’t think the clean note is musk but would be willing to hear that I am wrong). I think that it’s iris because it has something of the feel of Chanel No. 19 about the cleanness – it’s not a modern laundry clean, more of a soft/crisp vegetal clean that I associate with iris.

For the record, I don’t think these scents smell at all alike, but these two structural elements – the opening green, and the iris – seem to make them something like third cousins once removed, or something.

Rusty and Annick Goutal Nuit Etoilee

Suzanne of Eiderdown Press:

If I were a betting woman, I’d bet the farm that the perfume in the green vial is Serge Lutens Fille en Aiguilles.  The first words I wrote down on smelling the green vial fragrance were: “woody, spicy, amber, rum raisins, cedar or some kind of really dry wood … so dry and camphorous, it reminds me of oud.”  The first two fragrances it made me think of were Amouage Opus VI and Serge Lutens Borneo 1834.  In fact, it was hard for me to get off that track for a while … I kept thinking, deep, woody amber with patchouli.  But after a while, the camphor seemed more like the tingliness of pine, and the scent was so spicy that I began to focus in these two directions, which is what led to pull out a dab sample that Birgit once sent me of Fille en Aiguilles.  Funny thing is, when Birgit sent me that sample, I remember not liking the combination of sweetness and woods — and now, I am utterly infatuated.  If indeed the fragrance in the green vial is Fille en Aiguilles, then all I can say is, what a difference spraying makes!  In either case, I now madly want Fille en Aiguilles and whatever is in that green vial you sent.  Deep, sensuous, masculine leaning … I’d better stop there. ;-)

The fragrance in the blue vial has pretty much thrown me for a loop.  It smells so familiar, as if its name ought to be on the tip of my tongue, yet I can’t figure it out. To my nose, this is a very light and airy fragrance that smells of tea, citrus, hay-like greens, spice that leans heavily on anise (with hints of other spices I’ll mention in a minute) and lots of clean white musk.  It reminds me of Cartier L’Heure Fougueuse in some ways, but I know it’s not that one, as it lacks leather and is sweeter than L’Heure Fogueuse. I thought in some ways it resembled Annick Goutal Mandragore, but Mandragore is deeper.  The blue vial fragrance also strikes me as cologne-like, and I find some resemblance to the samples you once sent me from Atelier — Trefle Pur and Bois Blonds — as it has elements of both of those in it.  In the end, I can’t identify it and I can’t detect much in the way of resemblance (or smell-alike notes) with the green vial fragrance, except for this: mid-way through its development, it has a similar smell in terms of spice notes: in both fragrances, I get hints of anise, wormwood/absinthe (which is obvously not a spice, but I’m lumping it here anyway), ginger, bay leaf, and a faint trace of lavender.  I find the anise and absinthe smell — a very green-like spicy smell — the thing that seems most common to both fragrances (in the green and blue vials).

Rusty and Serge Lutens Fille Aiguilles

Natalie was right: the blue vial contained Nuit Etoilee – created in 2012 by Isabelle Doyen, notes include citron, sweet orange, peppermint, Siberian pine (balsam fir and everlasting absolutes) and angelica seeds. And Suzanne was right: in the green vial it was Fille en Aiguilles – created in 2009 by Christopher Sheldrake, notes include Pine needles, vetiver, sugary sap, laurel, fir balsam, frankincense, candied fruit and spice. And all three contributors did not think these two perfumes had too much in common.

As I said in the beginning, the situation reminds me of a fiction book. Despair. It’s a novel by Vladimir Nabokov. Hermann Karlovich, a Russian émigré businessman, meets a tramp in the city of Prague, whom he believes to be his exact double. […] After some time, Hermann shares with Felix a plan for both of them to profit off their shared likeness by having Felix briefly pretend to be Hermann. After that, though, Despair unwinds differently from The Scapegoat. After Felix is disguised as Hermann, Hermann kills Felix in order to collect the insurance money […]. But as it turns out, there is no resemblance whatsoever between the two men, the murder is not ‘perfect’, and the murderer is about to be captured by the police […]. If you keep reading Wikipedia article you’ll see from where I’ve got the idea of the title though I do not think they are correct: even though Nabokov is known for his love for playing with words in multiple languages, the novel was written in Russian and the English word used by him later in translation is just that – a translation the original title.

Nuit Etoilee and Fille en Aiguilles Twins

By now I wore both perfumes many times. I know that they aren’t identical. Perfumes I covered before in this series were much closer to each other than Nuit Etoilee and Fille en Aiguilles. I can tell one from the other and won’t mix them. I do not think owning both is redundant (did you see that beautiful blue bottle?!) But again and again when I test them in parallel I can’t help but thinking how much they have in common for my nose: they both smell of pine and fir – the scent I was looking for last year’s holiday season. This year I have two perfect perfumes for the upcoming season. I’m prepared.

 

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.

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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.

Diorissimo

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)