Visiting Three Monarchies, Part 3: Stockholm

“Vacation” is usually not the first association when you hear “Stockholm.” On our itinerary this city got by chance: we live so far away from Europe, that there is a limited number of direct flights between us and the Old World. Barcelona did not have any, so to get back home we’d have to do a plane change. If you were to add an extra flight and a couple of hours for transfer, the trip would easily stretch for 17+ hours – something that I try to avoid whenever possible. So while planning the vacation, we decided we’d do a couple of days’ stopover in one of the direct-flights-reach cities. Stockholm was the one with the best combination of schedules and fares. The fact that all three destinations were monarchies had dawned on us much later – at Livrustkammaren (The Royal Armory in Stockholm) as we were discussing that not a single Royalty has acknowledged our presence in any of the visited countries…

Accommodations

For a change, for that last part of the trip we went for a hotel room. It was a pleasant hotel decorated in the style of Roaring Twenties. Our room was quiet, had heavy curtains and a very comfortable bed, in which we finally had a good night sleep (the first night we slept for 12 hours straight).

Haymarket Hotel Stockholm

It was rather cold (+14C after +26C in Barcelona) and raining; we discovered that Stockholm was a very practical and minimalistic city, even its old town part; but somehow it felt very comforting and friendly. The first evening as we walking in the rain enjoying clean and orderly streets, we came across a small park inside the Art Nouveau building of Stockholm’s Central Pool (Centralbadet) built in the beginning of the previous century. It was an absolutely magical experience: beautiful lilacs and other blossoms in the drizzle of evening rain. I felt happy.

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Three days that we spent there was a delightful coda to our vacation.

Perfumes I took with me

Following the idea of bringing to this vacation only perfumes local to the destination, I packed a couple of decants and a sample from the only Swedish brand I had in my collection – Byredo. La Tulipe was just amazing, and I might re-consider wearing it only as a summer perfume: it was wonderful in the colder weather. Pulp was predictably good. I hope these both perfumes are still available once I finish the decants I have. Bal D’Afrique, which I brought with me for further testing, was nice but not enough for me to go for a bottle.

Perfumes I tested

After my London and Barcelona perfume escapades, I didn’t plan to do much more perfume testing but I still managed to visit a couple of perfume spots – a perfume department in the luxury department store NK and a standalone perfumery Insanto.

Both places had interesting selection of perfumes but not too many of the brands not available elsewhere, and I concentrated my testing mostly on those brands, to which I do not have an easy access.

Insanto Stockholm

Perfumes I didn’t buy

Perfume prices in Sweden do not impel spontaneous perfume purchases. Also, there weren’t that many Swedish brands – so most of the tested perfumes did not fit the original intent to get “souvenirs” from the countries I visited. But several perfumes that I liked while testing on skin are worth mentioning: were they “Made in Sweden,” I would have considered buying one of these.

I love and own two perfumes by Keiko Mecheri but because this brand is not available where I live I’m not too familiar with their line. That’s why I was interested to try at least some of the perfumes – even though I didn’t think I’d buy them there. I thought that Bois Satin smelled very nice, and I hope to be able to test it again soon.

For a long time I stayed away from Xerjoff: even though I tested occasionally some of their perfumes that came my way one way or the other, I didn’t make any conscious attempts to follow their new releases, and of those perfumes that I tried before I didn’t warm up enough to any to go even for a decant. They clearly like Xerjoff in Sweden: I saw it in both stores where I tested perfumes (and I want to remind you that one of them was a department store). So I gave up and tested some of the perfumes. I liked several on paper and then one on my skin. I don’t know why I happen to like the one that is sold out almost everywhere – XJ 1861 Naxos. Now I’ll have to locate a sample to test it again before I start scavenging eBay and FB groups for a bottle.

I’ve never heard of either the “famous Costes Hotel in Paris” (Fragrantica) or the eponymous perfume that Olivia Giacobetti created for that hotel in 2004, but when I tested Costes for the first time, I liked it. I’m not completely sure yet how I feel about perfumes that perfume shops create under their own brands – let alone perfumes for hotels, so I will try Costes again if I come across it somewhere but I won’t probably be actively looking for it.

Stockholm Blotters

Speaking of hotel perfumes, the only perfume I was seriously considering on this part of the trip was perfume sold in the hotel’s gift shop: No 1 Haymarket Eau de Parfum. The scent is described as: “Velvetly vanilla, powdery ambergris, and smoky sandalwood united with modern and surprising tones of bergamot, citrus and a hint of pepper.” For a couple of days I would be stopping by the gift shop to apply this perfume and then would keep smelling my wrist… for the next couple of hours while perfume was still discernible. I thought it was nice. It was local. And it wasn’t even expensive (less than $30 for a 30 ml bottle). Why didn’t I buy it? I realized that with all the great perfumes that I already had in my collection (and several more that I might be considering after more tests), I would just never have time for this pleasant but nondescript little number – no matter how warm I felt about that hotel that sheltered us in the final part of our turbulent vacation.

Haymarket Hotel EdP No1

Just in case you got drowned in the endless parts of my trip: it was the last one, and in the next post Rusty and I will finally reveal what perfumes I brought back with me.

 

Images: all but the last one – my own; No 1 Haymarket EdP – from the hotel site.

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Know-How: Brands with Perfumista Size Bottles

For years I keep repeating that more brands should release their perfumes in perfumista size bottles – 10-15 ml. Of course, for somebody who has a signature scent or alternates 2-3 perfumes in their day-to-day life, 50 ml, 100 ml or even 200 ml bottles might make more sense both economically and logically. But for anybody who has been “into perfume” for at least several years, not too many perfumes warrant the vats, in which most perfumes nowadays are sold.

Sure, big bottles are great for splits; and decants are nice for getting to wear something without committing your heart or money to a full bottle. But even the best decant – with well-made labels and a good sprayer – is still not as good as a real bottle. And I suspect that, as a rule, it has a shorter shelf life, even if you use parafilm or electrical tape to prevent evaporation: the act of spraying perfume from the original bottle into a smaller receptacle introduces additional oxidation to the juice, which cannot be healthy (should we add a blueberry or two?).

For all these reasons for anything more than 3-5 ml I would rather pay extra price per ml but get a travel bottle from the brand – if the brand has that option.

Surprisingly, when it comes to niche brands, those that offer smaller sizes are still rather an exception than a rule. So I decided to put together a list of the brands that offer smaller (perfumista size) bottles of their perfumes. I won’t include links since those change but it’s easy to find them through a search engine.

Perfumista Size Bottles

The following brands have single bottles for all or most of their perfumes (bottle size is given in parentheses):

  • April Aromatics (15 ml)
  • Frederic Malle (10 ml)
  • Hiram Green (10 ml)
  • Histoires de Parfums (15 ml)
  • Le Labo (15 ml)
  • Sonoma Scent Studio (4 ml & 17 ml)
  • Jul et Mad (5 ml & 20 ml)
  • Cognoscenti (5 ml)
  • Dame Perfumery (5 ml)
  • DSH Perfumes (multiple sizes)
  • EnVoyage Perfumes (15 ml)
  • 4160 Tuesdays (9 ml)
  • Roja Dove (7.5 ml)
  • The Different Company (10 ml)
  • Puredistance (17.5ml)

Several brands have smaller sizes just for some of their perfumes:

  • Atelier Cologne (12 different perfumes in 7.5 ml at Sephora)
  • Juliette Has A Gun (4 different perfumes in 7.5 ml at Sephora)
  • Ineke (15 ml, Floral Curiosities line only)

More brands recently have introduced the “travel” option – probably as a response to the air travel regulations. Unfortunately, those come in sets either of single perfume or of pre-selected (or all) perfumes from the brand. Single perfume sets are easier for friendly splits. Mixed sets defeat the purpose: how often does someone like all the perfumes in the set? I also found two brands that offer customizable mixed travel sets.

Perfumista Size Bottles

Single perfume sets:

  • Neela Vermeire Creations (2 x 15 ml)
  • Ormonde Jayne (4 x 10 ml)
  • Amouage (3 x 10 ml)
  • By Kilian (4 x 7.5 ml)
  • Byredo (3 x 12 ml)
  • Maison Francis Kurkdjian (3 x 10 ml)
  • Aedes de Venustas (3 x 7.5 ml)

Perfumista Size Bottles

Customizable mixed sets:

  • Hermès (4 x 15 ml sets for both their regular line and Hermessence)
  • Tauer Perfumes (3 x 15 ml)

Perfumista Size Bottles

Pre-set mixed perfumes sets:

  • Viktoria Minya (5 x 15 ml)
  • Maison Francis Kurkdjian (8 x 10 ml)
  • Miller Harris (3 x 14 ml and 2 x 7.5 ml)
  • Aedes de Venustas (3 x 7.5 ml)

If you know any other brands that offer small bottles in one of these categories, please share in comments. And if you agree that more brands should have perfumista size bottles, keep repeating that whenever you publish a review on your blog or comment on perfume reviews and discussions on blogs, forums, FB or Twitter. Somebody might be reading…

Rusty and NVC Pichola

Updates from comments:

  • Maria Candida Gentile (7 ml and 15 ml single bottles)
  • Zoologist (11 ml single bottles)
  • Parfums MDCI (5 x 10 ml customizable set)
  • Memo (3 x 10 ml same perfume set)
  • Imaginary Authors (14 ml single bottles)
  • Maison Anonyme (10 ml single bottles)
  • Olympic Orchids (5 ml and 15 ml single bottles)
  • Soivohle (10 ml single bottles)
  • Ormonde Jayne (10 ml single bottles if you call)
  • Profvmvm Roma (18 ml single bottles for some of their scents)

Images: my own

Six by Byredo: Two Perfumistas’ Impressions

Undina: When hajusuuri who went to the recent Sniffa event had approached me suggesting a joint post about Byredo scents, I immediately agreed: since our tastes match, by my estimate, 80-85%, I was curious to see how we’ll do with testing the same perfumes almost at the same time.

hajusuuri: Sniffapalooza Spring Fling 2016 was but a memory, but the goodie bag samples live on!  This year we got a bonanza of manufacturers’ samples with lots of extras for sharing.

Undina: I was surprised when I realized that I hadn’t previously tested on skin five out of six perfumes hajusuuri offered to share even though I probably saw them all at a store and maybe even smelled from the bottle.

hajusuuri: In this episode of Weeklong Test Drive we’ll share our impressions of six Byredo perfumes.  These are not reviews, just first impressions.

Byredo Samples

Undina: I rarely can smell any specific notes in perfumes, whether I read them or not, so I wasn’t too strict about when I looked up the notes: for some of the perfumes I did it while testing, for others – later, as I was adding them to my database.

hajusuuri: Since my method of perfume application is spray and walk into the mist, having small atomizers presented a bit of a challenge for a proper wearing.  I decided to develop my impressions through the speed testing method – two sprays on each forearm, 5 minutes apart.  I wrote my impressions after 15 minutes of wear. I did not look up the notes prior to testing so be aware that I wrote down what each perfume smelled like to me and what I smelled may not necessarily match any of the “official” notes.

Ben Gorham founded Byredo in 2006.  He was inspired to create fragrances from a trip to his mother’s hometown in India.  With a fine arts degree but no training in perfumery, he collaborated with perfumers Oliva Giacobetti and Jerome Epinette to compose his fragrances.  In 2013, a private equity company, Manzanita, acquired a majority stake in Byredo.  You may recognize some of the companies in Manzanita’s portfolio, including SpaceNK and Diptyque.

Perfume and official notes hajusuuri’s impressions Undina’s impressions
Bullion

Top: Black Plum, Pink Pepper
Heart: Leather Accord, Magnolia, Osmanthus
Base: Dark Woods, Sandalwood, Sensual Musks

Review: Chemist in the Bottle

Woody pencil shavings, almond, slightly sweaty, plasticky Play-Doh If I had liked this perfume a little better, I would have run one of my déjà vu  posts: I swear Bullion is a slightly more masculine version of Annick Goutal’s Mon Parfum Cheri, par Camille. Plum + leather aren’t my thing in either of them
Flowerhead

Top: Angelica Seeds, Lingonberry, Sicilian Lemon
Heart: Dewy Tuberose, Rose Petals, Wild Jasmine Sambac
Base: Fresh Amber, Suede, White Rose

Review: The Scented Hound

 

Watered-down Frederic Malle Carnal Flower with tuberose and jasmine; has a grating chemical woody base (“Byredo base”) A lot of jasmine but it’s less pleasant than in Dior‘s Grand Ball, only comparing to which I can smell tuberose in Flowerhead. It gets more pleasant in a couple of hours of development but not enough for me to want to wear it.
Mister Marvelous

Top: Mandarin Leaves, Neroli Flower
Heart: Bamboo, Green Lavender
Base: Black Amber, White Cedarwood

Review: Cafleurebon

Initial blast of pepper, then lemon, then an unrelenting bitter artificial sweetener smell; has the Byredo base.  Unisex, despite its name I put it on: citrus. I put my wrist under my vSO’s nose: “It smells like a cleaner” he says. In my head it immediately transforms into the jingle “Mr. Clean! Mr Clean!”
Oud Immortel

Top: Cardamom, Incense
Heart: Brazilian Rosewood, Papyrus, Patchouli
Base: Moss, Tobacco Leaves

Review: The Non-Blonde

Leans masculine.  Starts fruity minty nutty woody with warmth threaded all throughout; has the Byredo base The opening blast of sweetness was even pleasant but it disappeared quickly and the remaining medicinal scent was what I usually do not like in agarwood perfumes
Pulp

Top: Bergamot, Blackcurrant, Cardamom
Heart: Fig, Red Apple, Tiare
Base: Cedarwood, Peach Flower, Praline

Review: Now Smell This

Juicy Fruit, sugar, yuzu. Fruit cocktail run amok As I previously wrote, I don’t think I can tolerate Pulp‘s rotten fruits anywhere but in Hawaii where it felt just right
Sunday Cologne (previously released as Fantastic Man)

Top: Bergamot, Cardamom, Star Anise
Heart: Geranium, Incense, Lavender
Base: Moss, Patchouli, Vetiver

Review: What Men Should Smell Like

Leans masculine, smells like Oud Immortel but much thinner and then devolved into Lemon Pledge Opens very citrusy but then I smell some wood and resin. I think it’s a little too masculine for me but it smells nice and I wouldn’t mind smelling it on my vSO – too bad he didn’t like it when I asked him t smell it

Undina: I have two Byredo decants – Pulp and La Tulipe (for those of you who weren’t reading my blog five years ago, I promise: it’s a cute story) and I think I might eventually get a couple more – Bal D’Afrique and Black Saffron. But even with these four I do not see a bottle in my future and the rest of the line that I tried left me cold. And I don’t like their standard bottles and labels: they don’t spell $150 perfume to me (it seems Rusty on the picture below can’t believe it either).

Rusty and Byredo Samples

hajusuuri: Overall, based on first impressions, I found none of these interesting enough to pursue further; however, I do have a decant of Gypsy Water that I enjoy.  Do you have any favorites?  Which perfumes from Byredo should I try next?  I generally enjoy amber, benzoin, birch tar, heliotrope, iris, tonka and vanilla.

Undina: Would you like to try these six perfumes? hajusuuri is still in a sharing mood, and she has an extra set of six samples to send to one randomly selected winner (with all usual disclaimers on either of us being responsible for anything that happens after samples are sent). You do not have to do anything other than confirming that you want to be entered into the draw, but I will appreciate if you share a link to this draw on FB, twitter or any other place where it’s done these days.

 

Images: my own

The draw is closed now. A winner will be announced in a separate post soon.

The Tulip

I love flowers.

On the morning of my birthday I’ve got the most beautiful bouquet from my vSO delivered to our house. The same evening for the party many of my friends brought me more flowers. Mostly roses. One of them, V. decided to be original: he brought me a bouquet consisting of a single tulip.

It was a wonderful party, we came home late, tired and with an armful of flowers. As quickly as I could, I found vases for all the flowers so that they would not die and we were off to bed.

TulipFor the next couple of weeks I was throwing away all the beautiful flowers as they were wilting. And only the tulip was holding up stoically in its vase on a mantel shelf (high away from my cat’s reach). I didn’t remember tulips being that lasting but I was glad it outlived roses, lilies and other more noble flowers. I didn’t dare to check how firm it still was having experienced on more than one occasion that one touch was all a tulip needed to become a pile of petals. Even my vSO, usually not too observant when it comes to anything flowers-related, finally noticed an unusual longevity of this tulip. And was told immediately to not even think about touching it.

Almost four weeks after my birthday, while talking to V., I mentioned that I was still enjoying his gift and almost went on discussing how extraordinary it was but stopped because he was laughing and saying something like: “Of course! Anybody can bring a real flower but not everyone is bold enough to bring an artificial one”… He wasn’t laughing at me, he clearly thought that I knew it wasn’t a real tulip and was joking. I forced a laugh out as I was hurrying to the fireplace. Still not believing it completely I touched a pink petal…

 

La Tulipe by Byredo – created in 2010, notes include rhubarb, cyclamen, freesia, tulip, blonde woods and vetiver. Only reading reviews for this perfume I discovered that there were tulips that had no smell (“Contrary to popular belief, there are fragrant tulip species…”). For me, my whole life I knew that tulips smelled, I knew tulips’ scent. I remember that scent, I imagine now how exactly they smell – green, fresh, slightly bitter, more vegetal than flowery. Does La Tulipe smell like a real tulip? No. How does it smell? Green, fresh, slightly bitter, more vegetal than flowery. The ideal “idea of the tulip”. And I like it as an idea. I’m not sure if I would even like to have a more realistic tulip perfume. This one is just right. Also it has a surprising longevity for such a fresh and light scent.

 

I still keep that silk tulip in the same vase (I just poured water out), on the same cat-proof shelf. I know it’s not real. I’m not sure if I would even like having a real tulip there all the time: I like tulips but they are not my favorite flowers. But every time when I notice it up there I like the idea of the tulip that it represents for me. And I smile remembering its story.

 

One of these upcoming days my blogging friend from Another Perfume Blog is getting married and she’d chosen Byredo’s La Tulipe as her wedding scent. I got to love this perfume because of her so I dedicate this post to her and wish her a lot of happiness and love. And many more occasions to choose and wear great perfumes.

 

Image: my own (yes, that very tulip)

Lock, stock and barrels

Customs official: Anything to declare?
Avi: Yeah. Don’t go to England.
Snatch

I’m lucky not only to live in the area with a great climate but to live really close to two wine regions in California – Sonoma and Napa. Being wine enthusiasts, my vSO and I belong to several wine clubs in Sonoma and three-four times a year we take short trips there “to pick-up our shipment”. Of course, we could use a mail delivery option since if to add up the cost of gas, hotel and meals for those trips there will be no savings whatsoever – quite the opposite. So we use that reason just as a pretext to go away from a daily life for a couple of days.

Napa, CANormally during Sonoma trips we would go to one-two new (for us) wineries, visit two-three places we liked and wanted to see which new wines they’d released and also stop by those wineries where we had a pick-up. This time we decided to stir thing up and go to Napa.

We’ve been to Napa before many years ago and had some warm memories about that visit so the idea was to just spend some time there, do some tasting and go to those places we liked from the previous time.

Accommodations

There are not too many nice hotels to stay in Napa area so I was very proud of myself when I managed to score a “four star” Silverado Resort through priceline.com for $120/night. Plus tax. Plus, as I found out the day we checked out, a $20/day “resort fee” and $2/day “occupancy tax”. Whatever. On the plus side, they had very nice bath robes – not that I needed it since I always bring something to wear in the room, but it was nice. On the minus side, even though the room was clean the carpet was way beyond its natural life span and the fact that we could get some sleep should be attributed entirely to the nice weather (have I mentioned how lucky we are with our climate?): had it been a little warmer or colder, the sound from the cooling/heating unit strategically placed almost above the bed wouldn’t have allowed us any night rest… Well, after some thinking I have to take that “strategically” back: our neighbors’ AC, for all ten minutes they thought it was hot enough to turn it on, produced the noise that wasn’t much less irritating than the unit over our heads did.

Tasting Rooms

St. Clement wineI still remember those times when tasting was free at most places. I didn’t like it because every time I felt obligated to buy something after a nice person poured me some wines and entertained me for ten minutes throwing in appellations, terroir and other very important words. I always felt I’d preferred to pay for trying those wines and then decide if to buy anything on its own merit. Should I have been more careful with my wishes?

We deliberately chose several well-known wine producers and decided to try their reserve/exclusive/etc. lines. We knew about $20-$35 tasting fees non-refundable with purchase and we were fine with that. What we weren’t prepared to was a complete lack of attention and service that you get (should I say “didn’t get”?) for that fee. I can’t believe people who work at Silver Oak’s or BV Private Reserve’s tasting rooms really think that anybody drives all the way out there to drink 3-4 ounces of wine in silence. I could have stayed in the hotel gone to a bar and had a better drink for cheaper (I refer to the process, experience and not the quality since everywhere we went wine itself was very good. Overpriced but good).

Sequoia Grove winery testing roomI want to mention two places that stood out in the positive way: St. Clement Vineyards and Sequoia Grove winery (see picture on the right). At both places stuff was knowledgeable and friendly.

Food

Since this visit wasn’t connected to any events or celebrations we decided not to spend time researching restaurants and both evenings in Napa we just walked in the downtown from one menu to another until we found something we wanted to eat. We enjoyed eating at both places we chose, so I want to mention their names – Zuzu Tapas & Paella and Angèle Restaurant.

Perfumes

As much as I love our trips to the wine country I always struggle with the self-imposed limitations on wearing perfumes to wine tasting. This time I realized the vacation wouldn’t be as enjoyable as it could without perfumes. I decided to find perfumes that wouldn’t interfere too much with wines. The idea was to use perfumes that were as far from the wine smell’s components as possible. I chose La Tulipe by Byredo and Eau du Soir by Sisley.Both scents worked perfectly for the occasion. One night to the restaurant I was wearing Chanel No. 19. This one works for me always.

During our walks in Napa we stopped at the Baker Street Downtown“Tobacconist and Lifestyle store for Discerning Men and Women”. I didn’t realize it was a tobacco store until we were inside and I was about to leave when I spotted some perfume bottles. This store carries perfumes by Lubin. I sniffed them from bottles and then went there the next evening and tried two – Gin Fizz and Idole. Gin Fizz was exactly like I imagined it would be – sparkling, citrusy, uncomplicated. It wasn’t interesting enough for me to pursue it in future even to try again. With Idole it was a different story. I liked it from the first wear. It was woodsy, smoky and spicy. I will try to get a sample to test it more.

On our way back we stopped at the Mill Valey’s shopping center to visit Nicole Grey & Co. gift store. I found it during one of the previous trips. It carries several rare perfume brands: Boadicea the Victorious, Carthusia, Juliette Has A Gun, Profumi del Forte and some others. After a couple of rounds of sniffing from bottles I moved to blotters and then by the elimination process chose four contenders to go on my skin. By the time I arrived home I had a winner: I will be seeking By Night, White by Profumi del Forte for the further testing. I liked it through all the stages – from the top notes to the drydown.

Do I have anything to declare? Yes! Don’t go to Napa. Sonoma is a much friendlier and more enjoyable place.

What is your drink of choice? Does it go with your perfumes?

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

Images: my own