A Week of Mainstream Perfumes

My closest friend (we were friends ON and OFF, but mostly ON from when we both were about 10 years old) lives half the World away. From when we both were young, both she and I liked and wore perfumes, though, as I remember, our tastes always were somewhat different: while my true love was Lancôme Climat, she preferred Magie Noir; and Diorissimo was more appealing to her than my favorite Dior at the time – Diorella.

Since my descent into the rabbit hole of niche perfumery, I periodically try to share my hobby with her in form of samples, decants, minis and information about different perfumes, notes and brands, but we live too far from each other (with no guaranteed parcel delivery and rare “perfume mules” occasions), English is not a language in which she’d read anything for pleasure (hence, no exposure to my blog), and perfume choices where she lives are much more limited. So, all these years later she’s still a “civilian” (© Tara) perfume user.

When she recently asked if I could suggest her anything powdery with a good sillage, one brand immediately jumped to mind: Narciso Rodriguez. Year and a half later after I wrote about my attraction to that white square bottle (Narciso [Rodriguez] Ed[P/T/Whatever]), I still haven’t pulled a trigger on buying it but from my memory it fitted the bill. Then I went to the site of the large high-end perfume chain in Ukraine to see what else to suggest… And I had to excuse myself because I realized that I wasn’t familiar enough with the most of mainstream perfumes that they offer.

 

Narciso Rodriguez Two Samples

 

That’s when my friend asked: “Do you ever try mainstream perfumes for yourself? Or do you consider it a waste of time?” I told her “Sometimes,” but also that I wasn’t that thrilled with the current niche or “niche” perfumes either (and these days it’s harder and harder to decide whether to [still] consider some brands as niche).

That conversation and especially her question provoked my thinking on the topic. These days I rarely try mainstream/mass-market perfumes; and even less often I like them enough to try on skin. But from time to time I come across something that seems nice, I get a sample and think for myself that I need to try wearing it and decide whether I like it enough to buy. Usually I end up designating the sample as “nice, will use what I have” in my database: as a rule, I do not wear perfumes from samples unless I’m trying to decide whether to buy a bottle, or when it’s marked with this category (meaning “do not need more but will wear”). And then I almost never wear those mainstream perfumes that I thought would be nice to wear a couple of times…

And that gave me an idea to do a mainstream week where I’d wear not just any mainstream perfumes but those that I kept in my collection hoping to wear someday.

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Since I recommended this perfume to my friend, I decided to start with Narciso (a “white cube” one). It was still as pleasant as I remembered it from the previous encounter. But I was surprised that in wearing it was much less tenacious than I would expect from such perfume – though, as a (questionable) plus side: I finished my sample while re-applying it throughout the day. And since I still don’t love it, my resolution is: I do not want any more of it.

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I liked Sisley Eau du Soir from when I tried it first from a mini bottle that I got in a Perfume Society box. At some point I even swapped for a travel bottle and thought it was quite suitable for wine tasting trips, but then the bottle went off. That taught me not to do bottle swapping (you never know how someone else had stored their perfumes), and somehow it put me off that perfume. Since I still had that first mini, I decided to wear it again. I still think it’s a very nice chypre, and I liked wearing it – even though I still think it’s a little bit “rough around the edges” but once it starts developing it gets a lot more… sophisticated.

 

Sisley Eau du Soir

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A sample of Marni’s first perfume, Marni, I got soon after it was released. It was getting a lot of love in Perfumeland, and the bottle was cute, so I persuaded myself that I liked it enough to wear at least from a sample that I got. I did it once many years ago, so it just stayed in my “to wear one day” box until I got it out for this project. I can’t say I disliked it, but now I know that I won’t be wearing it any more, and I definitely do not need any more of it.

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I liked Tom Ford Noir Pour Femme when I was testing it for the post several years ago (Mr. & Mrs. Tom Ford Noir). Since at that time it was a new release, I decided that I’d wear it from the samples that I’ve got and wait for it to get to discounters. And I completely forgot not only about this plan, but also about the sample. When I wore it again for this project, I realized that I still liked it very much. I even got a compliment when I wore it (from a dentist’s assistant). I think it’s time to find a, hopefully, highly discounted bottle.

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Seven years ago, I wrote (In the Search for the Perfect Leather) that I would see if I need more of Bottega Veneta Parfum (the first one) once I’m done with a mini bottle that I’ve got. At the rate I’m using it (once or twice a year), it will be a while before I’ll have to decide.

*

By the end of my experiment I was slightly bored, so the last two perfumes I wore in parallel. Luckily, these two weren’t contradicting each other much: Jour d’Hermes and Jour d’Hermes Absolu. It’s one more case when a “peer pressure” and samples that fell into my lap had influenced my decision to keep samples to wear those perfumes (“will use what I have”). If I absolutely had to choose, I would have probably worn Jour d’Hermes Absolu. But since I hope never to be in such situation, I should pass on both samples.

 

Perfume Samples

 

All in all, it seems like a good result: out of 7, I’ll buy TF Noir Pour Femme, will continue wearing from time to time perfumes from two minis that I have (Eau du Soir and Bottega Veneta), and downgrade the other three to the “Library” category (while passing on the remaining samples on someone who might enjoy them more).

What are your relationships with mainstream perfumes?

 

Images: my own

In the Search for the Perfect Magnolia

Those of you who like me grew up in pre-Internet era, probably can remember a phenomenon of knowing about something from books, articles or even songs but never actually seeing those thing or knowing how those looked. I’m talking not about remote planets or exotic places but about rather mundane objects – plants, foods or articles of clothes.

Magnolias came into my life with a song of a popular band Ariel from 70s. It was one of those songs that are catchy and pleasing – as long as you do not think much about the lyrics (translation is approximate, just to give you the impression):

Without sorrow, sorrow, sorrow
Sea splashes in the land of magnolias
Young boys are sitting on the fence
Stirring melancholy feelings in me

Couples are dancing, dancing, dancing
Tune is familiar and even old-fashioned
And sweet sound of a bass guitar
Brings back memories… Oh, well…

If you’re curious, listen 20-30 seconds of this video: this is exactly how I remember hearing this song (though I’m not sure I’ve ever seen it before I found it recently).

 

 

It wasn’t before I moved to the U.S. that I saw the actual magnolia tree and flowers. The first encounter I remember was many years ago in a park to where we went for a walk on my birthday. It was amazing to see those huge and untidy flowers on bare branches mid-February.

Since then I saw magnolias many times and took numerous photos of this unusual bloom but when I realized how many magnolia perfumes I tried and decided to do this Single Note Exploration post, I realized that I didn’t remember how real magnolias smelled. So I waited until I spotted a blooming tree not far from my office, and today walked to it to check the scent of live magnolia flowers. On the positive side, I know now that I wasn’t just absent-minded or not curious: magnolias that grow around here just do not smell. It means that, on one hand, I have absolutely no reference point in my search for perfect magnolia perfume. But on the other, I’m not limited by the realism factor. So, to balance it out, I decided to consider only perfumes that were unequivocally designated by their creators as magnolia-centered ones (judging by the names).

 

Magnolia

 

Two years ago, while in London, I almost bought Tom Daxon Magnolia Heights. The notes include gardenia, violet leaf, ylang ylang, magnolia, jasmine sambac, cedarwood and musks. Perfume was created in 2016. It is a beautiful floral bouquet, and I like it very much but, as I mentioned in the post then, being a floral perfumes fan, I have at least several perfumes in this genre that I like more. But give it a try if you ever come across Magnolia Heights, or if you’re looking for another floral favorite.

 

Tom Daxon Magnolia Heights

 

Perfume that I keep testing and seem not to be able to put off my mind is Magnolia Grandiflora Michel by Grandiflora. It was created by Michel Roudnitska in 2013. Notes include lemon, bergamot, grapefruit, jasmine, ylang-ylang, rose, magnolia, vetiver, patchouli and musk. Michele is beautifully blended, and I like the composition though I can’t tell most of the listed notes; maybe some citrus in the opening. And in development it reminds me of tea. I think it is jasmine that gives me that impression. Had the brand launched it as a travel spray, I would have bought it already. But even with the only offered size 50 ml I still might go for it (though I must say that I really dislike their new bottle design and cannot explain the change by anything but a desire to save money on packaging).

A sister perfume, Magnolia Grandiflora Sandrine, created the same year by Sandrine Videault, is one of rare perfumes that actually repulse me. It evokes a smell of something overripe, maybe even decaying. Interestingly, for a while I thought that this scent might be characteristic of magnolia flower. Why? Because I smelled it (and disliked there as well) in another magnolia-centric perfume – Sud Magnolia by Atelier Cologne. But as I discovered, Sandrine’s notes do not even list magnolia! So, I’m not sure what smells that unpleasant to me: lemon, grapefruit, white pepper, fresh garden accord, dry wood accord, marine-aquatic accord or musky accord.

As I mentioned, Atelier Cologne’s Sud Magnolia didn’t work for me either. Jerome Epinette who created it in 2015, is a nose behind several perfumes that I like both from Atelier Cologne and other brands, but Sud Magnolia, after starting even nice, develops unpleasantly on my skin. I thought of listing all nine notes mentioned on Fragrantica but since that site doesn’t allow copying, I went to the brand’s site where I learned that the only notes they cared us to know about were Magnolia accord, Grapefruit from South America and Cedarwood from the Americas (sic). Well, since the brand doesn’t want to overwhelm customers with these details (other than with the required by law, I assume, list of used chemicals), I won’t bother either.

 

Magnolia

 

I wanted to love Eau De Magnolia created in 2014 by Carlos Benaim for Frederic Malle: I like the brand, and I was looking for another perfume from them to cross that like/love line. Bergamot, magnolia, vetiver, patchouli, cedarwood, moss and amber sounded promising but, in my opinion, Eau de Magnolia hasn’t become to magnolia what other perfumes of the brand have done to the respective flowers. It is quite pleasant and wearable but I don’t find it memorable.

Bottega Veneta’s Parco Palladino I: Magnolia seems to be even less memorable. Floral perfume with some green notes. It is nice, but I did expect much more from the first perfume in the “high end” collection of the brand whose first perfume was as impressive as their one was. But since the notes list proudly and openly mentions Iso E Super that I like in perfumes (in addition to bergamot, grapefruit, orange, lily of the valley, magnolia, rose, green notes and white musk), I urge you to give it a try if you can do it without paying for it.

After running all these tests, I think I recognize how magnolia note is represented in perfumery. But until I smell real flowers or find perfume that I’d like even more, I’ll consider Magnolia Grandiflora Michel the perfect magnolia perfume.

 

Magnolia

 

Have you ever experienced aromatic magnolias? Do you like this flower in either natural or recreated form? Do you have a favorite magnolia-centric perfume?

 

Images: my own

In the Search for the Perfect Leather

 

It was one of the first cool days of the last fall. We were driving home after a pleasant evening at our friends’ house. I kept sniffing the air thinking to myself: I haven’t noticed before that my leather jacket smells that nice… Too nice… What’s going on?

That’s when I realized that the smell was coming from a blotter sticking out of the vent grid where I affixed it several hours earlier.

 

Tom Ford Tuscan Leather

 

That evening before going to the party I stopped by Neiman Marcus to sniff several perfumes. I didn’t want to put anything on my skin to avoid arriving to the party smelling like a perfume counter. So after sniffing from a blotter Tom Ford’s Tuscan Leather (I missed it somehow in my previous tests) and talking for a while to the SA I asked him: “How does it develop on the skin?” thinking of asking next to make me a sample. In response he silently took a fresh blotter, sprayed it with Tuscan Leather and handed it to me… I was so amused that all I could do was to thank him and leave.

I think that Tuscan Leather is a gorgeous masculine fragrance. Can a woman pull it off? Of course! I would have worn it myself if I haven’t had somebody else to put it on. My vSO likes it so I’ll use a decant I have on him. And then I’ll want more.

I like leather perfumes but do not own too many of them. Cuir Ottoman by Parfum d’Empire – a bottle that I bought for my vSO (he likes it a lot) but he doesn’t mind sharing.

The only full bottle of a “leather” perfume that I have for myself is Cuir de Russie by Chanel. It’s such an elegant perfume!

 

Chanel Cuir De Russie PdE Cuir Ottoman

 

Tabac Aurea  by Sonoma Scent Studio doesn’t smell too much of leather but it’s a very pleasant dry woodsy scent that works well on my skin in cooler weather. Once I’m done with my 2.5 ml spray bottle I’ll probably get a purse spray.

Boxeuses by Serge Lutens – one of my Bikram yoga favorites and recently I discovered that I liked it as a sleep scent as well. I haven’t tried wearing Boxeuses sprayed but once my roll-on sample is empty I’ll want a decant of this strange and interesting perfume.

Another Serge Lutens’ leather perfume, of which I have a decant already, Cuir Mauresque unfortunately doesn’t work for me. I tried to wear it several times and still no. It smells harsh, dirty and somewhat unpleasant on me.

I reviewed Scent No.16 Tomato Leather by Cognoscenti a couple of months ago (You say ‘Tomato’, I say ‘Leather’). I still like it but I’ll wait for Cognoscenti to release their perfumes in a smaller bottle.

I didn’t like Traversee du Bosphore by L’Artisan Parfumeur when I first tried it but it grew on me. It wears nicely in warm weather and one day it might join my collection.

Another perfume I wasn’t a fan of initially – Bottega Veneta. Last year when everybody praised it I just shrugged my shoulders. What changed my mind was me testing recently Cuir Amethyste by Giorgio Armani. It started harsh and too leather-y to my taste but then mellowed down to a very smooth and buttery suede accord that reminded me of Bottega Veneta. I thought I found another smell-alike for my Déjà vu series but while I was trying to compare notes (there are just two in common among declared) I found out that the same nose, Michel Almairac, was behind both. I’ll see if I need more of Bottega Veneta Parfum once my mini bottle is gone.

Cuir de Lancome by Lancome – everybody seems to love this one. I want to like it but I’m not sure if I do. Sometimes I think that maybe my sample is off.  Nevertheless, I want this bottle in my collection – not that there was any logic in that.

 

Leather Perfumes Samples

 

Other perfumes with prominent leather that I’ve tried and liked: Cuir Beluga by Guerlain (it’s growing on me, I want to get a decant to test more), Cuirelle by Ramon Monegal (starts a little too sweet but develops nicely; needs more testing preferably from a spray bottle), Napa Noir by Six Scents (I had a tiny, one application sample, but I liked what I smelled), Lonestar Memories by Tauer Perfumes (have to get a new sample since the one I have become too concentrated as a result of evaporation) and Vanille Cuir by M.Micallef (something appeals to me in this fragrance; I’ll keep testing it and see if I want to werat it).

Perfumes that didn’t work for me: Leather Oud by Dior (it’s nice on my vSO but a little too much on me), Songe d’un Bois d’été by Guerlain (it’s too harsh on my skin; I find something pleasant two-three hours into the development but I won’t wait for that long to enjoy my perfume), Mon Cuir by Ramon Monegal (a strange combination of leather and what I think of as a traditional men cologne) and Kelly Calèche by Hermès (I can smell no leather at all. Do I have a wrong sample?)

What is your favorite leather perfume?

 

Images: my own.