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

 

Saturday Question: What Perfumes Do You Associate with Your Loved Ones?

Only positive thinking today: we have enough negativity from all over the World, so let’s think of something nice and pleasant, even if slightly melancholic.

 

Saturday Question on Undina's Looking Glass

 

Saturday Question #37:

What Perfumes Do You Associate with Your Loved Ones?

Are there any perfumes that always remind you of one of your parents, grand-parents, siblings, close friends, etc.? We’re talking only about positive associations here, so please no evil stepmothers that killed the otherwise brilliant LBEV for you!

Name just one or all of them (well, unless your cool aunt was/is a perfumista) and tell us whether you like those perfumes. Do you own them? Do you wear them?

My Answer

I’m in a slight disadvantage here since it’s my perfume blog where I tell perfume-related stories, so in all the years I’ve already told most of the stories closely connected to people in my life (but not all yet – can you believe it?!). And many of you had previously read those stories and even commented on them. But I’ll link to the older posts for those who is newer to my blog or has missed my previous 10 linking back.

Those of you who read NST daily threads might have thought that this topic was brought by this week’s CP – Nostalgia Friday (“wear something that takes you back to a happy moment in your childhood”), but no. I’ve been so busy this week that the first time I read about the topic was only this morning. The CP just coincided with my Grandma’s “would-have-been-100” birthday on November 3rd. In her honor that day I wore my life-long perfume love – Lancome Climat, which she wore and to which she has introduced me when I was a child. I wrote about that connection four years ago in the post The Sillage of Rosa. I still love, own and wear this perfume.

 

Grandma and Climat

 

The second perfume I want to mention is Dior Diorella. While the story I published almost 10 years ago First Love: Love (the title was a logical continuation to the title of my very first post on the blog – First Love: Perfume dedicated to the above-mentioned Climat) was about my childhood crush, I associate Diorella with my mom, from whom I got that perfume without asking permission to scent the “love note” to my future first boyfriend. Last week, thinking philosophically about the blessing of childhood selfishness and self-centeredness, I remembered that episode and wore Diorella thinking of my late mother and trying to evaluate whether, as an adult, I sufficiently “paid back” for the childhood shenanigans. I hope I did… but of course I wish I could had done more. I never loved Diorella, but I like it and wear once or twice a year.

 

Mom and Diorella

 

What Perfumes Do You Associate with Your Loved Ones?

Which 20 Would Portia Keep?

Hi there Crew,

Recently Undina (What Are Your Top N Perfumes?) and Tara (My Perfume Collection – Top 15) have done their “which would I keep” posts, following on from from Vanessa (‘Be more Undina’). After you’ve read this go have a squiz at theirs too. Who doesn’t love lists, right? So, I’m thinking “Damnit! I want to do this too.” It’s such a mind blowing, freak me right out, dumb assed thing to want to try because invariably my head explodes. Then the next day I instantly start second guessing my choices and that can rattle around my head for a couple of weeks before my brain lets it go. BUT! I also love doing it, just to see what my head and heart come up with this time.

Jin and I have often talked of buying a van and travelling through Europe for a couple of years. As part of that adventure my mind instantly goes to “How many perfumes would I take and which would they be?” So I’m kind of experienced at it now. Problem is some of them change, HA! Impossible, right. Usually I say 25 bottles and a bunch of samples/decants but in all honesty I think it will more likely be 10. So today I’m formalising my ideas for you all and myself. Subject to change at a moments notice.

You might want to grab a cuppa or a boozy bevy. This post is LONG! Continue reading

A Magical Greenery Tour

Hello friends!

I have had a very exciting week: after my post, in which I talked about how green and I don’t always get along in perfume, Portia sent me 11 numbered samples of some of his favourite greens. I tested two a day and journaled my immediate feelings and impressions. When I began, I had no intention of trying to guess what they were, but the allure of numbered mystery vials was too much for my brain. Often an immediate association came to mind, whether fragrance or house. Some might find this useful, and though none of my speculations were correct, I think you could take them as “in the style of” recommendations.

And now, to the perfumes!

 

Green Samples

 

Green No. 1

A lovely melon note under fresh green spiciness. Ma Griffe? Something of that era. Very gentle, reminds me of humid spring day. And I love humidity.

Peau d’Ailleurs by Starck (2016, Annick Menardo). I had never heard of this house, but I’m looking forward to wearing my sample again, as apparently it features geosmin heavily. Perhaps that was the humidity?

Green No. 2

While it begins light and crisp, the drydown is potent and long-lasting. Quite stiff and proper though sweet. Too high pitched for me, but a crowd pleaser, I suspect. O de Lancome-esque.

Sampaquita by Ormonde Jayne (2004, Geza Schoen). Oh my! I have tried to like this so many times due to its name and being on sale rather often. I’ve always found Ormonde Jayne to be too proper for me, I like them, but I feel I cannot love them. And no, I don’t just like the wild ones, but my proper quota has been fulfilled by quite a few classics. I’d recommend Ormonde Jayne as a house to others, but it seems we are not to be.

Green No. 3

Sweet like a green apple. Fruity, galbanum on a pillow of musk. It reminds me of Fidji, or rather my image of Fidji, which I haven’t smelled in 15 years. Very charming and young, the youth of another era before the invention of fruitchoulis.

A Scent by Issey Miyake (2009, Daphne Bugey). I remember trying this when it came out as the bottle was so appealingly minimalist. I liked it, but having little interest in greens or fresh at that point (I was deep into gothic orientals) a quick spray was as far as we went. Now I’m thinking this is a fun one to keep an eye out for, if it is still around.

 

Greenery

 

Green No. 4

I feel this one is thoroughly modern and playing homage to vintage. There’s a definite touch of cumin in there under the mossy forest floor. I would like very much to wear this scent, it has many secret qualities that appeal to my imagination.

Eau de Gloire by Parfum d’Empire (2003, Marc-Antoine Corticchiato). And straight to the top of the want list this goes! I would like to carry Eau de Gloire in my purse, always at the ready to secretly bolster the day. This was one of two standout favourites during my magical greenery tour. I was so enthralled with it that I emailed Portia begging to know what it was, but he held out until I had sampled everything!

Green No. 5

Chanel No. 19?

Futur by Robert Piguet (1960, presumably reformulated since then; Aurelien Guichard). It was a little sweeter than No. 19, but if you’re a No 19 fan you might like to spend some time with this one to see if you also love it.

Green No. 6

A tart fuzzy green with a touch of heliotrope to begin with. I immediately thought “Zoologist”, though not one I’ve smelled. Strong black tea. Smoke. Absolutely charming and interesting, reminds me of a great reading experience. 6 is the stand-out for me, it’s just so drinkable and fine. It made me a little emotional, the play of tea and fruit and smoke.

Eau de Givenchy, vintage (1980, Daniel Moliere and Daniel Hoffman). This was my favourite of the whole collection. I absolutely loved it. Looking up reviews, there’s a lot of talk about “a perfect spring day” and no talk of tea and tartness. Perhaps trying things without reading about them first has a lot of merit. This one I tested for two days.

 

Greenery

 

Green No. 7

A vile and antiseptic concoction infiltrated by sweaty cumin. A sweetness develops. By the drydown, it’s quite rich and acceptable. Amouage?

#2 Spiritus/Land by Miller et Bertaux (2006). I had quite a visceral dislike for this, but by the drydown it had mellowed into a well thought out fragrance, but not something I enjoyed. I see it has teak in it, which may contribute to my antiseptic response. Amouage and I have a troubled relationship, but one factor that brought Amouage to mind with Spiritus/Land was the high quality of the ingredients.

Green No. 8

Oh my! I want to say Cristalle, or rather the fantasy of Cristalle that I had when I began my perfume journey. It’s luminous! It reminds me of a beautiful yellow wine. I’m wondering why I don’t have whatever this is in my collection!

Cœur de Vétiver Sacré by L’Artisan Parfumeur (2010, Karine Vinchon-Spehn). One of the few L’Artisans I have not tried and yet another reason to adore the early L’Artisans, full of quirky masterpieces. I will be tracking down this sadly discontinued wonder to join my L’Artisan beloveds. I am quite thrilled to have tried this beauty, since it has always been on my radar as a L’Artisan I had missed out on.

Green No. 9

Guerlain Vetiver?

Tzora by Anat Fritz (2012, Geza Schoen). Well, isn’t that interesting. I was very careful during our green tour to only test two a day and not confuse my nose. I wore nothing else. Being in lockdown helped, as there are no other scents in the air, and the mood and temperature plodded on at a steady sameness. I’ve tried Tzora before, and I own Guerlain Vetiver. I ended up testing both side by side. Other than Tzora being a little richer and missing that delicate nutmeg, they were so close I thought it was my imagination that they were even different scents.

Green No. 10

Minty. Camphor. Sugar. Heeley Esprit du Tiger? It’s lovely, I could bathe in it! It is sugared in the most delicate and lovely way.

Oriental Mint by Phaedon (2011, Pierre Guillaume). This features “resins”, which, I suspect, is where the tiger balm accord comes in. I think it’s better than the Esprit du Tiger, not as simple. A very fun scent! I could see this being a bottle I wore excessively for a summer.

Green No. 11

I have spent some hours thinking on what this reminds me of. Lovely lemon, very fresh and bright to begin with. It then magically develops into a delicious sherbet! It’s as if a gelato maker sniffed the orchard air and rushed to capture the wonderful citrus and springtime scent in a gelato. I think this is a Hermetica, it feels like Hermetica DNA.

Granville by Dior (2010, Francoise Demachy). Oh my, how fantastic this is. I hope you all are able to try Granville, especially if you love lemon. Vividly natural ingredients.

And so we end our magical greenery tour. Through the testing phase and the reveal, I’ve been inspired, besotted, perplexed and gobsmacked. It has been a very enjoyable journey during this time of no travel (one of perfume’s secret powers). Thank you, Portia, for your samples and your wonderful enthusiasm to share your loves.

 

Greenery

 

Images: samples (Narth), greenery (Undina)

Groundhog Day Perfume

Living in the area where the weather is great most of the time (if not to count drought that we had for several years, but it didn’t feel like bad weather, I just knew that it was bad for us), I have only a memory of how awful cold weather might be, and how tired one gets with the winter and wishes it to finally end. But from the time when winter and cold weather were still an unpleasant part of my life, Groundhog Day movie has been one of my absolute favorites. I won’t claim that I re-watch it every year but I watched it more times than most other movies in my life, which is both ironical and symbolic if you’re familiar with the plot of the movie.

What I find interesting about this movie is that while it is a comedy, there are no that many one-liners in it. And still for me it’s one of the best comedies ever.

Just in case you’ve never seen the movie: “Phil Connors, a cynical TV weatherman (Bill Murray) finds himself reliving the same day over and over again when he goes on location to the small town of Punxsutawney to film a report about their annual Groundhog Day.”

In one of the scenes, after many-many repetitions of the same miserable day, Phil says:

I was in the Virgin Islands once. I met a girl. We ate lobster, drank piña coladas. At sunset we made love like sea otters. That was a pretty good day. Why couldn’t I get that day over and over and over?

That made me think about… well, perfumes. Neither I nor most (all?) of you are a signature-perfume-wearer-type. When five years ago I invited my readers to participate in an experiment of [thinking of] wearing the same perfume for a week, most of the readers admitted to not being able to do that. I barely went through the experiment myself (with 1-day interruption). But what if I were to get stuck in February 2nd somewhere away from home (and my collection) on a one-day trip (so no back-ups) – what perfume would I want to be wearing?

Any choice would be an impossible one: I don’t want to be wearing any one perfume for days or months, leave alone years (according to different sources, Phil Connors spent from 8 to 10 years in Punxsutawney). But if I had to choose, I would probably go with one of the original Miss Dior perfumes in my collection.

My Miss Dior Family

And if you were wondering why I haven’t chosen my eternal perfume love Lancôme Climat or one of the later top favorites, e.g., Ormonde Jayne Ta’if or Amouage Ubar: these three are too special for me to wear any of them every day – and I would want to wear perfume even under those dire circumstances, but I’d need something I think I would be able to tolerate for many days. And with Miss Dior I have a long history of warm relationship. So, I hope it would support me during the endless winter (and as an added bonus: I would have never risked running out of it since every morning the bottle would be full to the same level as the morning before).

 

How about you? What would be your Groundhog day perfume choice?

 

Image: my own

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

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