Secret Admirer, or In the Search for the Perfect Narcissus

When I was growing up, International Women’s Day, March 8th, was a good holiday: unlike most other holidays, it was a non-political one (well, almost); it was a non-discriminatory celebration (it didn’t matter if you were young or old, single or in relationships, with or without kids); and it was a public holiday, so nobody had to work or go to school.

Back then this holiday was like a combination of Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day but for women only. In days before the holiday, people would have a potluck lunch/happy hour at work; boys would bring sweets and flowers to girls in their class; there were special programs on TV and radio. On the day itself families or friends would have a celebratory dinner or a party. Husbands, sons, fathers, partners, male friends and co-workers would be presenting women in their lives with flowers and, sometimes, gifts. And did I mention it was a day off?

I was fourteen or fifteen. At that time I didn’t have a boyfriend, so on March 8 I spent half the day out with friends. When I came home, I found there a bouquet of narcissuses waiting for me. My mom told me that some boy dropped them off for me. She didn’t recognize him (it meant he wasn’t from my class since she knew all of them), he didn’t tell his name, and there was no card. Since flowers were expensive at that time of the year and not that easy to get, I was sure it wasn’t a practical joke of any kind. So I was intrigued and thrilled: I had an actual secret admirer out there! You normally read about it in books or see it in movies, it doesn’t happen in real life!

For the next month or so I was trying to figure out who that might be, waiting for him to make the next move, hoping it would be somebody I liked.

Narcissuses

This story doesn’t have an ending – happy or otherwise: nobody ever admitted bringing me that bouquet. But several decades later I still remember those flowers better than I remember many dozens of bouquets I got over years from people I knew and loved.

* * *

After I moved to the U.S., I stopped celebrating International Women’s Day. But since I enjoyed so much our recent Month of the Roses project, I decided to run on my own a mini-project for the first week of March – Week of Narcissuses.

I didn’t realize I liked narcissus in perfumes until I started noticing it again and again in the notes lists of my favorite perfumes. Climat, Miss Dior, Chanel No. 19 – these all have narcissus. But this week I focused on perfumes, in which I thought that note was more prominent.

Hermès Eau de Narcisse Bleu attracted my attention (see Birgit’s review) because it had galbanum and narcissus, and it came in a blue bottle. It is a true spring perfume with wonderful combination of greenness, blossoms and wood. My 15 ml bottle looks cute and will probably serve me for a while.

If Penhaligon’s The Revenge Of Lady Blanche perfume’s opening stage would hang around for at least 2-3 hours, I would have probably be contemplating the purchase of that 75 ml bottle – I love the opening that much (panther head top doesn’t hurt either). But [un]luckily, the opening gorgeousness disappears within the first 30 minutes, if not faster, which would probably justify the size of the bottle but not its price. But you should definitely try this perfume to experience a beautiful combination of iris and narcissus. Galbanum is not one of the notes either listed or mentioned by anybody else, so if I were you I wouldn’t trust my nose, but I smell galbanum there as well.

I sought and tried Parfums DelRae Wit because it had Daphne – my dream note in perfume. While it smelled nothing like Daphne odora blossom, in general it was pleasant enough for me to go for a decant. It’s a beautiful spring bouquet with narcissus prominent enough to fit into this quest for the perfect narcissus. I wish DelRae would finally release their perfumes in 15 ml bottles: I would buy Wit and at least one more perfume from the line in a heartbeat!

I have strange relationships with Tom Ford Jonquille de Nuit: when I wear it, I think that I like it – but then I never choose to wear it unless it’s for some special reason like comparing it to other perfumes, doing a brand week or, like now, for the Single Note Exploration series. Jonquille de Nuit is very floral, with a prominent narcissus note, but despite that it doesn’t read like early spring when blossom aroma interweaves with greenery and earthy scents but rather a warm pre-summer bouquet with everything in full bloom.

Both Yosh White Flowers and Jo Loves No. 42 The Flower Shop I wore from samples. I had White Flowers for years, tested it briefly and completely forgot about it. Recently when I decided to send one of the two vials of White Flowers to a parfumista friend, I tested them to make sure they didn’t turn and was amazed at how much I liked it. It smells beautifully of a lot of flowers, and so does The Flower Shop sample, which I have “on loan” (for testing) from another parfumista friend, and which, in my opinion, is one of the cases of the name perfectly fitting the scent. These two perfumes are different bunches of flowers – thus have different aromas but they both have a similar feeling of the presence of that bunch, and I like both scents. Enough to do anything about it? I’m not sure but I plan to do more testing.

It was Penhaligon’s Ostara that reminded me about my secret admirer and gave me the idea of doing post for this note. This perfume actually epitomizes narcissus flower for me: it’s sunny, and bright, and happy, and uncomplicated. It doesn’t come even close to be worth Penhaligon’s full price but last year’s sale deals invited Ostara into many homes, from what I’ve read on different perfume forums. I bought a bottle for myself. I bought another bottle as a present to my friend. I enjoy wearing Ostara as my spring perfume, and this year I wore it as an anti-#BeBoldForChange: even though it’s not my holiday any longer, I refuse to politicize it because it’s still a nice and loved holiday in my native country. I am a feminist the other 364 days of the year; I do not have anything to fight for on this one extra day.

Rusty And Narcissuses

Do you like narcissuses – in perfumes or in a vase? Did you ever have a secret admirer? Have you ever been one?

 

Images: my own

In the Search for the Perfect Grapefruit

 

I think I was about ten years old when grapefruits first appeared in our grocery stores. Nobody knew exactly what they were but the rumor had it they were a hybrid of orange and lemon. Since beside those two the only other citrus known to the population was mandarin, the information didn’t seem all that absurd.

Masses hadn’t appreciated the novelty: even though it was bigger than an average orange it was too bitter. The idea to peel each wedge didn’t occur to people at first and once it did seemed like too much work.

Fruits were scarce and expensive and there were hardly any I didn’t like. So I liked grapefruits as well.

Rusty and Pomelos

Since then I’ve tried many more different varieties of citrus including grapefruit’s real parent pomelo but grapefruit is still one of my favorite fruits and I enjoy it in many forms.

 

Perfumes

This is a perfume blog so I’ll start with the perfume-related part (though for whatever reason – holidays? – my thoughts are all over the place). Grapefruit is a popular note in both supporting and leading roles so I am not trying to cover even all grapefruit perfumes that I’ve ever tested and still have samples of but will mention only several in-you-face grapefruit fragrances that I liked the most.

Aqua Allegoria Pamplelune by Guerlain is probably one of the best-known grapefruit perfumes. If you want a real review, I suggest reading Suzanna’s (Bois de Jasmine) five-star rated review. If you’re familiar with the perfume, I recommend reading Vanessa’s (Bonkers about Perfume) post Bonkers “In Edinburgh”: The Guerlain Pamplelune Sniff-Off And A Bid To Rescue Birgit’s Grapefruit Scent Squeeze – just for laughs. I like Pamplelune and two mini bottles will satisfy my grapefruit cravings for a while. Once they are gone I suspect I’ll want more.

Guerlain Pamplelune

Not surprisingly, Grapefruit by Jo Malone is the second perfume that comes into the conversation every time somebody raises the topic of perfumes with the homonymous note. Gaia (The non-Blonde) in her review was even more generous towards this perfume than I would have been: I think it’s nice but not interesting enough to tolerate the usual Jo Malone perfumes’ vanishing act and too expensive to use it in, again, usual for the brand’s DIY layering games. But I love Jo Malone’s Grapefruit Body & Hand Wash Gel. My travel-sized bottle is gone so now I’m thinking about buying the real bottle. I do not like the price but I enjoyed taking showers with that gel so much that I might just take the plunge.

JM Grapefruit‘s half-sibling, Pomelo by Jo Loves… (same perfumer but different brand and relations become even murkier if to consider fruits themselves), starts like a juicy grapefruit (well, technically pomelo but those two are close enough) but the drydown on my skin is very similar to the older brother’s one. And with an even higher sticker price this one isn’t making it into my collection. For real review of Jo Loves… Pomelo read Lucas’ (Chemist in the Bottle) post.

Another half-sibling, Assam & Grapefruit by Jo Malone (same brand but different perfumer), much more subtle with grapefruit, was a limited edition a couple of years ago (it’s still available online) so even though I have a bottle of it and wear it in summer from time to time, I don’t think it’s special enough to recommend hunting for it.

Eau de Pamplemousse Rose by Hermès in its opening is an unmistakably grapefruit perfume. Every time I try it, for the first couple of minutes I have to hold myself from leaking my wrist – so believable Eau de Pamplemousse Rose smells of sweet and juicy grapefruit! But then it dries down to a floral skin scent. It’s pleasant but the only reason I might go for a small bottle is because I like those colored bottles from the line. Birgit (Olfactoria’s Travels) thinks that Eau de Pamplemousse Rose can be trusted to revive the spirits, even if the rain keeps falling.

Rusty and Guerlain Pmplelune 

Drinks

I’m not a tea connoisseur (so if you are please disregard this part of my post) but I like tea and throughout the years I found different teas that I enjoy drinking. One of such teas is Lupicia Grapefruit Green tea. It’s very fragrant and has a very believable grapefruit smell. I bought this tea more than once which I do only with teas that I really liked – otherwise I just move on.

 

Food

Several years ago at Out The Door restaurant in San Francisco I ate Jicama and Grapefruit Salad with Red Cabbage, Candied Pecans and Sweet Soy Dressing salad. It was created by a known master chef Charles Phan (Slanted Door). I liked it and started making a variation of it at home. You can simplify the preparation by buying candied pecans instead of making your own. I found a blog with detailed instructions and pictures for this salad, so I won’t reproduce it here but rather give you a link.

 

Do you like grapefruits?

 

 

Images: my own

WTD, Episode 3.5: Orange Blossom by Jo Malone

Orange Blossom by Jo Malone – created in 2003, notes include clementine leaves, orange blossom and water lily.

CitrusesI got a sample of this perfume a while ago, tried it once, didn’t register either “like” or “dislike” and put it aside. Then last summer when we were having “themed” Fridays in my office, I decided to match my perfumes to the clothes I wore for each of those days. Deep Red by Hugo Boss went for the Red Friday, Pure White Linen by Estee Lauder – for the White Friday, Beyond Paradise by Estee Lauder I wore for the Hawaiian Friday, and when it came to the Orange Friday I chose Orange Blossom. There was just a little perfume left in the sample vial and I used it all up – just for the concept, without thinking about it. And unexpectedly I liked it very much. It starts sweet on the skin but then gets dryer and stays like that for hours. A friend of mine uses Orange Blossom cologne layered with Vanilla & Anise by Jo Malone and it smells very good on her but I still use it “straight”. I didn’t go for a full bottle (at least yet) but I bought several samples and it’ll do for now.

There are many other colognes in the line, I’ve tested more than I covered in my weeklong test drive but I decided to leave some of them for other stories I would tell one day. I’m sure that there is at least one perfume by Jo Malone for everybody.

I realize that Jo Malone brand doesn’t require my protection: it’s not a niche brand any more and Estee Lauder that owns it now will eventually kill whatever good there is in it. I’m looking forward to see what will come from the new company created by Jo Malone – Jo Loves. And still I feel bad when fellow perfumistas dismiss the brand completely.

Read a real review for Orange Blossom by Jo Malone at Bois de Jasmin.

Image: my own

See all episodes:
Weeklong Test Drives, Season 3: Jo Malone
WTD, Episode 3.1: Kohdo Wood Collection by Jo Malone
WTD, Episode 3.2: Tea Fragrance Blends by Jo Malone
WTD, Episode 3.3: Nectarine Blossom & Honey, Lime Basil & Mandarin and Pomegranate Noir by Jo Malone
WTD, Episode 3.4: In the Search for the Perfect Linden