A Gift Horse’s Mouth?

When was the last time you won anything at all? How about anything big? (It is kind of an introduction, but I am curious, so please share if you can.)

A couple of days ago I got a winning lottery scratcher from a local realtor with whom I’ve never had any dealings, but who keeps sending those red envelopes every year for the Chinese New Year. I’m not sure why: neither of us is Chinese, and she never recognizes any other holidays, for example, Christmas or New Year. But since she sends them, I dutifully scratch them. I haven’t won anything in the last 10 years. Until this year. I won $2 (two dollars!). I have no idea where I could get my prize, and My vSO suggested just to keep it for good luck. So, after persuading Rusty that he would get a treat if he stares into my phone camera for a couple of seconds, I put the ticket back into the envelope and pinned it to my documents board.

Rusty and Lottery Ticket

Last Saturday I asked you about giveaways you do not (or do) enter. One of the rules that I usually follow but forgot to mention is that I do not participate in social media giveaways that require providing my personal information, especially if it would be linked to my social media profiles that I try to keep separate from my RL persona. So, when a couple of months ago on IG I saw a draw for a gift certificate to one of the online perfume stores, which required my real name and address, I almost passed it by… but then realized that not only I could participate in it outside of IG, but also I’ve recently purchased perfume from that store, so none of the information that was required for the entry was new to them. I entered and forgot about it.

You can probably imagine my shock when in one of my Undina social accounts I saw a post that announced me, a person, as a winner. The first second I thought it was some type of a clever targeted/personalized ads that insert something saved in your cookies. I never click on those but do notice them. But then I worked out that it was quite unlikely that information was available to be used like that… and the next day I got an official confirmation in the email that my entry – one of more than 100K submitted – in fact, won the prize. $200 to buy whatever I want in the store.

I do not have an extensive wish list, if any. Given that sum of money to spend wherever I want, I would have probably come up with an idea or two. But trying to figure out what to get from a particular store proved to be an undertaking. I know, I know, it’s not even a First World problem. But I didn’t want to get just anything because I’m not good at either swapping or selling anything, so I’d be stuck with whatever I got.

After going back and forth, I decided on a bottle of perfume that was in my Top 10 Perfumes in 2020L’Aimee by Parfums MDCI. As of the time of that post, I liked it but didn’t plan on buying it. But as I tested it again (before I knew I won the prize), I liked it even more. And I didn’t have any perfumes from this brand in my collection. So, it seemed like a good choice, and I got that bottle just in time to think of it as my birthday present from the Universe.

If you were in this hobby 8-10 years ago, most likely you remember perfumistas being excited about the next new launch from Parfums MDCI but being conflicted about the “special edition” that for about $150 on top of the not that affordable regular bottle price offered a resin bust bottle cap. But since that additional decorative part wasn’t the only available option, its existence didn’t cause any high emotions. Those busts looked quite nice, and I remember thinking that “maybe one day…” If you’re interested, I found a story about these busts creation and inspiration.

Parfums MDCI

Parfums MDCI stand in Harrod’s

L’Aimee, created in 2020 by Nathalie Feisthauer for the brand’s new series “Painters and Perfumes,” isn’t offered in the “bust presentation,” so I wasn’t even tempted. But also, I didn’t expect what I got.

The box itself is made from very thin and flimsy cardboard. I don’t like the quality of the print, and it can’t even be argued that it’s a reproduction of an older painting because the same print on the bottle itself looks much nicer.

The insert for protecting the bottle and holding it in place looks cheap, and on top of that it’s cut the way that you cannot open or close the top flip without moving insert itself out of the box partially – you can see where that top part stops otherwise, and there is no possibility to close it (those uneven edges in the round hole are results of my attempts to do so).

And to add insult to injury, the bottle cap is beyond cheap. I didn’t take a picture, and it’s not obvious from photos, but it’s made from an extremely light and cheap-looking plastic painted in gold. It doesn’t have any heft when you hold it in your hand. It doesn’t have either a magnetic closure or a nice “gripping” layer inside that would normally snuggle the sprayer.

I compared them side by side and discovered that L’Aimee bottle and box are amazingly similar to those of Mimosa perfume by Monotheme Fine Fragrances Venezia sent to me as a gift by Lucas (Chemist in the Bottle). It does not sit well with me that perfume 75 ml of which retails for $250 has a packaging of a $50 perfume.

 

 

But what about the most important part, the perfume itself, you might still be curious even after all the points stated above?

I like L’Aimee. I wonder where Fragrantica gets their notes, but their list is more “colorful” than the one I can see on the brand’s site. I’m not sure if Fragrantica embellishes or clarifies, but many of the ingredients on their list are accompanied by the origin qualifier (e.g., it’s not just “jasmine” but “Egyptian jasmine” or “Australian sandalwood” instead of just “sandalwood”). I’ll go with the brand’s list: bergamot, mandarin, blackcurrant bud, rose, jasmine, champaca, lily-of-the-valley, orange, heliotrope, orris, raspberry, peach, cedarwoood, vetyver, patchouli, amyris, oakmoss, sandalwood, vanilla, amber and musks.

I often state that my nose isn’t sophisticated enough to pinpoint specific notes in perfumes, even when I have a list of those in front of me. But with this perfume, I would expect that all but very experienced “sniffers” wouldn’t be able to do much better. It’s a perfect blend that can be appreciated (or not) as a whole.

L’Aimee is done as a classic perfume – well-rounded, without unexpected twists or complex development. I’m not saying that it’s linear. No, it has noticeable development during its lifespan (it is quite tenacious), but it is an expected progression of the scent living on your skin, without any surprises. The composition seems muted, which you don’t expect after reading the list of notes. But the way I visualized it in my head (and it is not based on any scientific knowledge of the process, just an image): if you were to take a couple of dozen of paints from a painter’s palette and mix them all, you’d end up with some kind of a brown color, more or less mudded (dependent on what went into the mix). So, this overly polite blend of 20+ notes reminds me of that paint-mixing experiment.

L’Aimee is not a controversial perfume: I don’t expect either a strong “dislike” or “love” for it. To be fair, it doesn’t go into the territory of “pleasant scent” either, where anyone at least does not mind wearing it. I mean that it is complex enough not to be a universal pleaser, which (I realize that) might be a good thing only in perfumista’s book, but I wanted to mention it.

Do I regret getting L’Aimee? No. Since I like the fragrance itself, I still think it was a good choice as a gift. Would I recommend it? Given a chance (meaning “for free”), try it – just out of interest and to see that I was right in its description. As to buying it… I would have never paid full price for it, even before I had a chance to look at the packaging: I think it is not… well, controversial or even “just pleasant” enough to justify that price. But even with enough money to spend on any, even the quietest and simplest perfume, I would still say “No.” Because, in my opinion, when a luxury brand while selling luxury products at a luxury price cuts corners this way, they disrespect me as a customer. And to afford that they should be releasing more than a blurred classic-painting-themed illustration (I’m talking not about the box).

MDCI L'Aimee

As to the really big wins (just “material” ones – happiness, health an other more important things highly appreciated but not counted here), many-many years ago I won in the Green Card Lottery.

 

Images: my own

Entertaining Statistics: 2020 Year Round-up

We all said probably everything that could be said about the year we just saw out of the door. So, I’ll go straight to the perfume-related numbers.

Since I haven’t done a statistics post in a long while, I’ll remind the basic terms I use.

My Definitions

I wear perfumes and test perfumes. Both refer to applying perfume to my skin and staying with the scent for a while, observing its development over hours of its life. But I realize that different people understand different things under these terms. So, I prepared a short infographic that would explain what I mean when I say “wear” or “test.”

Perfumes Wear vs. Test Infograph

One more term that requires definition is Occasion. The continuation from the time I apply perfume (including continuous re-application) until it completely disappears is counted as one occasion.

Most days I wear one perfume and test two. But, theoretically, for one day I could record two occasions of wearing perfumes or up to eight occasions of testing.

So, let’s see my 2020 in numbers (in parentheses is a comparison to 2019).

Perfumes I Wore

In 2020, I wore more different perfumes (210 vs 190) from more brands (96 vs. 91) on more occasions (367 vs 351). I still didn’t reach a 2018 level when I wore perfumes on 372 occasions, but still, on average

I wore one perfume every single day of the year!

Last year I realized that the most popular brands for each year keep repeating with minor variations of the brands’ positions on the chart and 1-2 different brands temporarily replacing one another. I’m showing my standard Top 10 Brands chart but mostly to keep the tradition. The only surprise there was Byredo: it’s the first time ever the brand made it into the Top 10. It happened because I paired Ouai Super Dry Shampoo x Byredo Mojave Ghost with the same perfume, which I wore from the sample trying to figure out if I wanted to get a bottle. I haven’t decided yet.

My Stats Year 2020: Top 10 Brands

As always, with the number of perfumes I wore, I didn’t repeat the same perfume too often (my most worn perfume was worn on 9 occasions only – less than once per month). And the trend I observed for the last several years continues: the top 2 most frequently worn perfumes were 2 of my all-time favorites, Lancôme Climat (9) and Ormonde Jayne Ta’if (8). And the third place went to the new addition to my collection – Masque Milano Love Kills (6). In two previous years that place was taken by Houbigant Quelques Fleurs Royal Collection Privee (2019) and Chanel Bois des Iles (2018).

 

 

Perfumes I Tested

Staying at home, I tested more perfumes than in a year before – 327 perfumes (vs. 272 in 2019) but from slightly fewer brands – 126 brands (vs. 128). I still haven’t got to the numbers from 2018 (380 perfumes from 139 brands). Since access to new perfumes was even more limited than usual, a big chunk of my testing was done on perfumes I tested previously but decided to revisit to get one final impression before passing them on someone else, finishing them (“thunking”) or binning them. Still,

In 2020, I tested 103 perfumes new to me

Undina’s Top 10 Perfumes in 2020

In 2020 I managed to improve the number of new releases that I tested (thank you to all my friends who shared some of these): I tested 22 perfumes released in 2020 (vs. 16 in 2019). And, unlike a year ago, I even managed to count 10 that I liked, which allows me to do this “top 10” list. And what was even more surprising, I didn’t dislike a single 2020 release that I tested. So, my subjective top 10 releases of 2020 (in the order of my preferences):

Puredistance Rubikona

DSH Perfumes L’Or{ris}

Tom Ford Rose Prick

Ormonde Jayne Tanger

Jo Malone Yuja

Parfums MDCI L’Aimee

Ormonde Jayne Byzance

Hiram Green Vivacious

Jo Malone Vetiver & Golden Vanilla

Ormonde Jayne Damask

In green, are perfumes I already have in my collection; in blue, are those that I consider buying. But after more testing of the rest, I might decide to get one of Ormonde Jayne’s perfumes as well.

Pictures of Rusty

Finally, an important number – a count of pictures of Rusty that I posted in 2020: 61, the highest number for the last 3 years (and this is not counting Instagram pictures that appear on the sidebar or the bottom of the blog!).

Rusty and Yellow Submarine

How was your perfume year? Do you have any numbers to share?

 

Images: My own; infograph created using Venngage