A Month of Roses: Week 3

Have you heard that it takes 21 days (3 weeks) to form a new habit? I wonder if I should start packing away my all other, not rose-heavy perfumes…

Did you wear any rose perfumes recently? Please share even if you are not interested in artisan chocolate, an entry into the draw for which each comment will secure for you. You have four more days – until the end of the month – to get four more entries for each comment about rose perfume you’re wearing. I’ll announce the winner in the Week 4 report post.

Chocolate Fountain

February 15: Le Labo Rose 31

I completely recovered from my olfactory fatigue with this perfume and now enjoy wearing it. I still think Le Labo’s bottles are ugly so when I’m done with my current decant I’ll go for the next one.

February 16: Tom Ford Café Rose

After wearing it one more time, I can confirm that it was as big of a disappointment as a rose scent as it was when I tested it for my In the Search for the Perfect Coffee post: it’s not unpleasant, it behaves well on my skin but it’s so not interesting… I don’t understand how this one stays in production while much more interesting perfumes from the line get discontinued.

February 17: Keiko Mecheri Mogador

Originally Amouage Lyric was scheduled for that day. But when earlier I ran out of PHI and decided to move Lyric to the first week, I got an empty spot, which I decided to fill in with Mogador – perfume, about which I completely forgot while arranging my calendar and about which I was reminded by rickyrebarco’s comment on the Lucas’ Month of Roses post. What can I say? I like it a lot. I will probably write more once my full bottle arrives.

Red Rose

February 18: Papillon Artisan Perfumes Tobacco Rose

This is one of perfumes that I wanted to love: these are “my” notes (rose, oakmoss, ambergris, beeswax and peru balsam); it’s a good brand, and Tara (A Bottled Rose) who generously sent me a sample of it loves it. But the heart… I mean, the nose wants what it wants, and while I appreciate Tobacco Rose, I don’t want to wear it.

February 19: Tauer Perfumes Rose Flash

I didn’t like the idea of the new line: I do not believe in “more affordable” versions of something that is good: usually it results in cheap knock-offs sold at half the price of something that was good but expensive. Besides, I disliked the previous experiment – Pentachords line. Thanks to hajusuuri, I got to try Rose Flash and I liked it. But I already have Rose Vermeille, which, in my opinion, is a better version of the same idea.

February 20: Dior Ambre Nuit

Ambre Nuit decant fulfilled its destiny: I wore the last of it for this project. I love this perfume – despite it being a misnomer: it is not amber perfume. But it is such a beautiful rose! Why do they have to produce it in those huge bottles?!! Who needs 125 ml of any single perfume?!  But if it weren’t for that small detail (there should be some pun in there), I would be buying a bottle at this point.

Amber Rose

February 21: Guerlain Rose Nacrée du Désert

I wasn’t thinking straight when I slotted this perfume for a work day: it is too strong for workplace. But since I didn’t want to change the plan (not that anybody would have noticed, I know), I applied just a tiny spritz from my small decant. I understand why many people like Rose Nacrée du Désert but for me it’s still only number two from The Déserts d’Orient line: unlike Songe d’un Bois d’Eté that just doesn’t work for me, I could wear this one if I didn’t have any other perfumes I love more.

Flowers

By the way, have you read that forming a habit in 21 days is a myth?

Images: my own

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Four Stories for the Fourth Anniversary

I love special occasions – birthdays, holidays and other revelries so I’m glad to have an extra reason to be festive – the fourth anniversary of Undina’s Looking Glass. Come over, let’s celebrate.

Happy Anniversary

For the previous anniversaries I told the stories of this blog’s name (and how Undina came to be) and of my falling down the rabbit hole. Today I decided to do a little show & tell session. I bribed Rusty with several treats to help me.

Rusty and Paris-Paris Bottle

This was my first ever bottle of perfume. It was a gift but I can’t remember from whom – my grandmother or my father (I think it was from one of them). I was probably 13 when I got it. I had some vials of perfume oils before as well as was allowed to (or not but still did) use my mother’s perfumes but this was my own bottle. Actually, it was a set – perfume and deodorant. The name was Paris-Paris. No brand. It was a bright floral scent, I liked it very much and used often while the bottle was full. Deodorant went first. Then the perfume was nearing the end and I knew I wouldn’t be able to get another one (perfumes weren’t easily available for purchase even if I could save enough money from my allowance). So I started saving it and would wear Paris-Paris once in a while, for special occasions. During a summer break, when I was away on a trip, my mom used up the remaining drops of it. Back then I was very upset. Now, looking back, I smile softly: not only because I realize that my mother, not having her own perfume at the time, got some enjoyment from using mine, but also because I find some poetic justice in that: as a child I wasted enough of her precious perfumes. And not only for scenting love letters… Over the years I tried looking for this perfume but with the name Paris-Paris and no brand name… Have you ever seen that bottle or know anything about this perfume?

Rusty and Climat Bottle

With the story of Climat by Lancome I started this blog. On the picture above is that first bottle that my grandmother gifted to me when I was 16 or 17. When I moved to the U.S. years later, I left the empty bottle behind but brought it back with me (together with other bottles featured in this post) a couple of years ago when I went visiting there. Decades later, it still keeps a faint scent. If I had to choose just one perfume to use for the rest of my life, Climat would be my uncontested choice. I hope not to find myself in the situation where I have to make that decision but if I have to, I’m prepared:

Lancome Climat

For now I should be alright with a (presumably fake) parfum I bought 12+ years ago, a couple of EdP bottles from the 2006 Lancome’s anniversary re-issue as a part of La Collection and the most recent re-release of EdT version, but I still hope that one day I’ll come across a perfectly preserved vintage bottle of Climat (or win a lottery and allow myself to experiment with eBay’s offerings).

If you haven’t read it yet, here’s a post in which Vanessa (Bonkers about Perfume), Suzanne (Eiderdown Press) and Natalie (Another Perfume Blog) did a blind test/comparison of my beloved perfume and Amouage Gold. I’ll wear Climat today to mark this anniversary.

Rusty and Miss Dior Bottle

This is an empty Miss Dior bottle that I bought at 19. I told a story of this bottle (and of the bottle on the left in the picture below) in the post I’ll miss you, Miss Dior but then I didn’t have my first bottle to show to you (or to give to Rusty to play with). I still think of adding a pre-“originale” EdT bottle to my collection but for now please meet my Miss Dior family:

Miss Dior Family

The last bottle wasn’t technically mine… I was still living in my native country. My father, who had moved to the U.S. by that time, came to visit and brought us some gifts. I got Houbigant Raffinee but never learned to like it and gave it away to a friend who was ecstatic to get it. My vSO also received a bottle of perfume. It looked kind of masculine. So with English not being even our second language we both never questioned that perfume’s gender designation. Even the scent, which by my today’s views is unisex at best but leaning feminine, somehow wasn’t a giveaway to us. My father said it was a perfume for my vSO – and so it was. There’s nothing strange in the eau de toilette for men being called Black Lace, right? Right??! We both liked it a lot: he – to wear, I – to smell it on him. But not even once I thought of wearing it myself because back then even the idea of crossing gender boundaries with perfumes would have never occurred to me.

Black Lace Perfume Bottle

Black Lace, eau de toilette and “Made in England” were the only pieces of information I had about that perfume. Good luck running that search without a brand name. I tried. Many times. I know all the companies that produced perfumes with that name or had a special “black lace” edition one time or the other. That’s how I finally got a suspicion that most likely it wasn’t masculine cologne after all. I find it ironic that my vSO, who is “into perfume” mostly by association, was the first one in our family to have a gender-bending perfume fling while mine happened only years later.

A couple of months ago, after more than a decade of search, I suddenly found a bottle of “my” Black Lace on eBay. The seller had no idea what it was and was selling it “as is.” I bought it. On the picture above the bottle on the right is the original one, you can barely see the words; the bottle on the left is the one that I bought. Unfortunately, the perfume is spoiled but I can still recognize the smell and I would probably still like it had it been fresh.

Have you ever seen this bottle? Do you know anything about this perfume?

Rusty sniffs Miss Dior Bottle

Two years ago in the anniversary post I suggested you to ask me in two years if writing for my blog got easier over time. Did it? Not really. I think it means I should keep practicing.

 

Images: 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

In the Search for the Perfect Berry: Strawberries

 

Where I come from, in 1970s and ’80s students from schools and universities as well as clerks, engineers and even scientists from cities would be taken to work at kolkhoz (a form of collective farms) for days or even weeks during the summer and fall months – as a part of the yearly Battle of Harvest. It was a mandatory activity that most people hated but in which they had to participate.

One summer after the seventh grade I spent two weeks at such kolkhoz. Since we were children, we got the more pleasant work than digging up potatoes or weeding: we were picking strawberries.

Strawberry

We lived in large barracks with outhouse and outdoor washing sinks; food was awful and the only entertaining we had were a couple of movies we watched in the local club house. But we were young, our friends and class-mates were there and a long-awaited summer vacation was coming right after that so it was rather a pleasant adventure. In spare time we played badminton, cards and guitars. Life was good.

Being city kids, most of us could never get as much fruit as we would like to: those were scarce and relatively expensive. So for the first couple of days in kolkhoz strawberries that we were picking went into our bellies/baskets roughly in 50/50 proportion.

Since the whole day (well, it was probably just 4-5 hours but it felt like more) we were moving through the rows of strawberry plants looking for ripe berries, when we went to bed at night all we could think of was picking strawberries. I remember discussing it with several friends and we all had the same experience: as soon as we would close our eyes but before completely falling asleep we had visions of parting leaves with our hands to reveal an abundance of very large red strawberries.

By the end of our time in kolkhoz none of us could look at another strawberry.

Strawberry

Strawberry note in perfumes isn’t one of my favorite. Probably because it’s so ubiquitous not only in cheap mainstream perfumes but also in many other functional products. But as with any other note strawberry can be done well.

Miss Dior Chérie Originale (pun intended!) by Dior, created by Christine Nagel in 2005, from what I get reading multiple reviews, was a perfect example of the “good strawberry perfume”. It was never “my perfume”, I never wanted to wear it but I remember it smelling nice on one of my friends. Unfortunately it has been reformulated and renamed so many times that by now nobody can be sure what version they smell. If you didn’t live through all the transformations of this perfume you might want to take a look at a very useful comparison article from Perfume Shrine.

Miss Charming by Juliette Has A Gun, created by Francis Kurkdjian in 2006, is my absolutely favorite strawberry perfume. I do not like JHAG’s bottles. I do not like the brand’s name. So I tried their perfumes very reluctantly. Had I known who was the nose behind this perfume, there was a good chance I would have never tried it at all (since MFK doesn’t like perfumistas, I do not like him). But I didn’t know. And from the first test I loved how Miss Charming developed on my skin. It’s soft, bright, not too sweet or too fruity and… very charming. Many roses get very soapy on my skin, which I do not like. Miss Charming stays tender and beautiful until the drydown. If it weren’t for the above-mentioned reason I would have bought a bottle by now.

Are there any perfumes with a prominent strawberry note that you like?

 

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

If Johana by Keiko Mecheri were a shoe…

 

Being parfumistas we accept that most perfumes are unisex and even those that lean towards masculine or feminine designation might be worn by any gender. The same way there are no strict rules as to which genre of perfumes should be worn in which environment or on which occasion (breathing conditions permitting).

It might be a nice contrast to put on, let’s say, a vintage Vol de Nuit extrait while wearing jeans and sneakers and running mundane errands or to use some faint and subtle skin scent with a statement evening gown. But we often think of perfumes in terms of the occasion, something like:  office-friendly, night out, beach walk or my best friend’s wedding. I thought about that while trying to classify my recent favorite – Johana by Keiko Mecheri.

It’s not an elegant and graceful Dior New Look 1947 ready for an evening in symphony (even though Luckyscent describes Johana as “elegant perfume” – I disagree).

Dior New Look and Shoes

But, on the other hand, neither it is a carefree and relaxed Estee Lauder Bronze Goddess on a tropical vacation.

Estee Lauder Bronze Goddess and Shoes

Following the idea above, to describe how I see it, I pared Johana with shoes. This perfume is more than just comfortable casual loafers but rather fun and playful (well, as far as “playful” goes for my clothes) Mary Jane shoes. Johana is a dramatic but at the same time airy perfume. It doesn’t make a shocking statement but keeps grabbing my attention as I wear it.

Keiko Mecheri Johana and Shoes

When I was planning my visit to MinNY last Fall I had no intention to test Keiko Mecheri line. Did I have any particular reason? Not really, it’s not one of the lines I’m boycotting. Other than MinNY having plethora of other brands to which I normally have no access, there is that strange feeling that there are too many perfumes in the line – and until then I haven’t tried a single one.

How did it happen that after I’ve tested a dozen of Xerjoff‘s, all available Mona di Orio‘s, as many as I could Miller Harris‘ and many other perfumes I ended up leaving with Amour de Palazzo on the wrist and a single sample of Johana in my bag? It must have been fate!

In several month I went through a couple of samples, liked the perfume more and more, went to MinNY site hoping to buy it, panicked since not only they didn’t have it in stock any longer but I also couldn’t find it on the brand’s website – I thought it was some kind of an unannounced limited editions or promptly discontinued perfume. So when I saw a partial bottle of Johana sold in one of the FB perfume-related groups I immediately grabbed it. It’s available again from MinNY and Luckyscent (it’s still not mentioned on the official website!) but I’m glad I got it.

Rusty and Johana

Johana by Keiko Mecheri – created in 2012, notes include Japanese chrysanthemum, galbanum, rose, wisteria, iris, cocoa, patchouly, incense, vanilla and sandalwood. I love most of these notes in perfumes. In Johana I cannot smell any of these! But I really enjoy this perfume even without being able to deconstruct it. Or maybe because of it?

If you want a real review, I liked very much Brian’s take on it (be patient, it takes a while for this site to load – I don’t know what widgets they use there but each time it’s a pain…)

 

Images: my own

“What’s in a name?” Once again about Miss Dior

 

Feeling emotionally connected to Miss Dior perfume for a while I considered risking an eBay purchase of another bottle of it. But then I finally tested a decant of the modern (pre-renaming-nonsense) version sent to me by Natalie (Another Perfume Blog) – and I liked it. So I figured I’d try to find Miss Dior not marked as “Originale.” It might be not as great as the older version but it would have taken away possible disappointment that comes with a spoiled vintage purchase.

Last year, when the news about Dior‘s decision to use the name of this classic perfume for the reformulated beyond recognition Miss Dior Cherie hit the Blogosphere, there was no lack of strong emotions. Perfume enthusiasts thought it was an awful decision that was really unfair towards both consumers and perfume’s legacy. I remember commenting somewhere that the next generation of customers will have no idea they smell a completely different perfume and will be really puzzled reading older reviews.

Little did I know how fast my prediction would come true!

In November I participated in the Perfume Posse’s swap event. It was mostly successful for me (one full bottle and multiple decants exchange). One of the perfumes I tried to add to my collection was Miss Dior. A member who offered a bottle for a swap mentioned that it had been bought from Saks and was definitely not Miss Dior Cherie. Since I was fine with any of real Miss Dior‘s existing formulations I asked only if it came with the original box – and we agreed on the swap terms.

When the package arrived I didn’t even have to smell it (though I did) to realize that I’ve got the officially authorized imposter.

Miss Dior Cherie

The sad thing was that the sender was genuinely surprised: she was sure she had real Miss Dior that just didn’t work for her. Yes, she’s probably not the most experienced perfumista but she reads at least Perfume Posse. There is nothing to expect from a regular consumer. Dior has successfully rewritten the history.

Off to eBay for the vintage Miss Dior hunting.

 

Image: my own.