My Blog’s 10th Anniversary: Interview with the Creator of My White Rabbit

If not to count job or user interviews I conducted as a part of my job, this is my first ever interview with someone in the perfume industry. And if 10 years ago, when I started this blog, anybody would have told me that I would be in a position to interview Linda Pilkington, a creator of Ta’if, my second all-times favorite perfume, I wouldn’t have believed them.

Last November, I was offered an opportunity to participate in the series of mini-interviews Ms. Pilkington was conducting as a part of the Worldwide launch of La Route de la Soie, a new collection that was created to celebrate Ormonde Jayne 20 years of perfumery. But since by that time I’ve already bought and reviewed the collection on my blog, I asked if I could do something slightly different – 20 Questions for 20 Years interview. And Ms. Pilkington agreed.

With the end-of-the-year rush and all holidays it took me a while to transcribe the conversation we had and put it into a post format. And then I thought that it would be very fitting to publish it for my blog’s 10th anniversary, since, as I told in the story for my blog’s 3rd anniversary, Ta’if was that perfume, from which my journey down the rabbit hole of niche perfumery started.

Also, I think it is serendipitous that Narth came up with the Saturday Question: Which Perfumer Would You Like to Meet In Person? around this time because, not being a fan-girl-type, the only perfumer I’ve ever wanted to chat with was Ms. Pilkington and only because of her role in creating perfume I fell in love with and everything that followed. We didn’t physically meet but it was the next best thing that can happen these days: we talked for more than an hour in Zoom.

My Ormonde Jayne Taif Family

On the photo above please meet my Ta’if family starting from the very first decant from The Perfumed Court and including the latest addition – Ta’if Intensivo, about which I’ll probably do a separate post later.

* * *

Since I knew that predominantly people who were already familiar with the brand would be reading this interview, I skipped the traditional “let’s educate our readers about the brand” part and asked those questions that I was curious about and answers to which I didn’t know.

 

Ormonde Jayne: 20 Questions for 20 Years

Undina (U): Do you wear perfumes daily?

Linda Pilkington (L): I do. Even through the lockdown I wore perfume every day. I decide what to wear based on the combination of “How do I feel?”, “What is my day ahead?”, “What am I going to wear?” and a little bit to do with weather. For example, if I have a day when I know that I have to be on the ball, I put on Ormonde Woman: it makes me feel powerful; it makes me feel like I’m in control; it makes me feel that I’m my own person.

U: Do you re-apply your perfume during the day?

L: Yes, I do. In my office in the boutique I have that “emergency kit” next to my computer – a hairbrush, lipstick and perfume. If I’m called downstairs to chat with somebody, it takes about 5 seconds – brush my hair, put lipstick on, apply perfume – and I’m ready.

U: I realize that it’s like asking a mother which of her children she loves more, but still – is there any one perfume in the line that is especially dear to you? It’s not necessarily perfume that you like the most, but maybe there was something significant during the creation process, or the perfume that holds strong emotional connection?

L: It’s not Ormonde Woman, even though I like it, and everyone in the industry recognizes that it’s a good perfume. Many years ago, in my travels in the Middle East, I had come across oud. I was quite intrigued by that horrible pungent scent that people actually wanted to wear. I found it disgusting but decided to investigate because nobody wore it as perfume in Europe.

I brought some oud from Laos back to my studio in London, and we tried to decide what to do with it. “Nobody will want to wear that,” I said… so we put 0.06% into Ormonde, and we decided then to make Ormonde Woman and Ormonde Man (because before it was just Ormonde). Back then in Europe nobody had put oud into a fine fragrance. A journalist from Financial Times got interested; I sent her samples, I sent her pictures, and she featured it in the How to Spend It Magazine, back in 2004. So, Ormonde Man put the company on the map. And people from the perfume industry were saying: “We’d like you to consult about it; we want to know what it is.” So, I think that was my defining moment.

Ormonde Man and Ormonde Woman Perfumes by Ormonde Jayne

U: So, you are that person who is responsible for the expansion of agarwood in European perfumery in the last 15 years!

(Linda laughs)

U: While most perfumes are “unisex” and can be worn by anybody who likes them, by traditional classification there are more feminine-leaning perfumes in your collection. If you agree with this statement, why is that? Was it an economical decision (women buy more perfumes)? Or is it more natural for you to create feminine perfumes? Or is there some other reason?

L: You’re right: there are slightly more floral, oriental perfumes – I’d say, floriental is the palette I desire. But we did that “gender-free” aspect to the company through experience. When we started, we had a masculine and feminine side. But after two bad experiences with the clients to whom we had sold perfume after they wore it on their skin and liked it, but later discovered online that perfume they bought was on the feminine side and got upset, we realized the sensitivity of this issue. So, I contacted our web designer and told him to take off the “feminine” and “masculine.” We retrained all the staff not to use these descriptions. And if you’re asking about the sales, the women/men customers’ ratio is 60/40.

U: Is there any single perfume that outperforms all others in terms of popularity/sales?

L: The number one in all countries is Montabaco Intensivo. We have good sellers in different countries. For example, in Russia, they absolutely adore Champaca: for every 100 bottles of Ormonde Woman, we sell 1000 bottles of Champaca. In America, Ormonde Woman and Frangipani. In Europe, it’s Osmanthus, Ta’if and Ormonde Woman. But Montabaco Intensivo is in the top three in every country.

Montabaco Intensivo Perfume by Ormonde Jayne

U: While creating perfumes, do you ever have to compromise between what you like and what you think will sell better?

L: I always go with my nose, with what I like… except that quite often I’m “compromised” by IFRA. The original Amber Royal was outstanding. But it failed [the standards] completely. So, the best way to deal with it is to know the quantities you will be allowed to use and work around it.

U: Are there any perfume notes that you don’t like and because of that will not use in your perfumes?

L: I can’t work with tuberose in full quantity, and I would never do a full-blown tuberose perfume.

U: A woman after my own heart! I can’t stand tuberose.

L: It’s so heady, it’s so sickly, that it makes you feel a little bit ill. I can work with it in small quantities, but… No, I can’t take tuberose.

U: Was it for the same reason that you never did lily perfume? You have lily as a candle, but not as perfume.

L: No, it’s not that. I do like lily. But it’s too standard. I’ve never managed to achieve interesting lily perfume. With lily, after the top note dries off, it automatically goes back to standard lily – which is not really Ormonde Jayne. If you’ve got your signature Osmanthus, Frangipani, Ta’if, Tolu, Sampaquita or Champaca, all very beautiful, well put together, balanced, creative, artistic, abstract perfumes with lovely names. You can’t have a lily suddenly stuck among them. It’s not the style of the house. I tried. I put it with all kinds of ingredients, but in 5 minutes it’s a standard lily.

U: Why do you release perfumes in collections instead of just one new release at a time?

L: What happens is: we have a number of territories throughout the World. And they all want exclusivity. It’s hard. So, when we do a collection, it allows us to offer them a subset of it – what will work well for their territory.

U: How do you decide what perfumes to add to the line next? Are you filling in the gaps? Or something else? What goes into that decision?

L: I get feedback from my team, they are telling me if people keep asking about an ingredient. Sometimes I realize that something’s missing from our repertoire. For example, in my Signature collection I’d like to add a good musc perfume at some point when it feels right to me. And I’d like to add good patchouli perfume. And sometimes somebody sends you an oil that is interesting. It’s not something you’ve been looking for, not what I really need, but I’m particularly taken by it.

U: When will be the next new release?

L: I’ve got a couple of oils at the moment, and I’m launching two perfumes next year – they are practically finished now. I think they are absolutely fantastic. We won’t launch them at the same time. They’ll go into the Signature Collection, and we will launch them in 2021 as soon as we can travel again. I think they are absolutely stunning. Of course, some of my partners can still say to me: “They are not for my market.” I can’t speak for everybody, though I’ll try to persuade them because I know people would love these.

U: That takes me to my next question about different markets. I can’t believe people in the US do not want candles. But your US online store doesn’t have them. Why?

L: That’s not because they don’t want them. The rules and regulations are changing all the time. We have our own candle factory, so we were putting a lot of oil in candles, because we want them to smell nice. When those were tested, we were told that there was too much oil, and we had to change something. Since I didn’t want to compromise, it took me almost 18 months to recreate my candle oils so that they are just as good. And then I had to change the wick to be compliant. We just started making them again, so at the moment they are just in the UK. Maybe in a year and a half we’ll be able to supply them again.

U: What about hair mist?

L: With hair mists it’s, again, what our partners want. They have just that much space for the brand, and they say that they can sell our perfumes much faster than our hair mists. And they have their rent to pay…

U: In the past, there were body products in coordinated scents – shower gels, bath oils, if I’m not mistaken, even body lotions. Recently, I haven’t seen them either as stand-alone products or in sets. Do you have any plans for making more body products in future?

L: Before all the rules regulations I used to do all my shower cream and body lotions in my kitchen with an electric Moulinex baking mixers, not even industrial ones. 20 years ago I could do a body lotion myself and put it in a pot. But you’re not allowed to do it any more. It is expensive to have someone else to make all of my perfumes and body lotions. And then my partners would say: “For every 50 bottles of Ta’if perfume I sell, I sell 1 bottle of the body lotion. So, instead of giving up a shelf space to body lotions, I’d rather give it to perfume.”

Ta'if Perfune by Ormonde Jayne

U: Your regular line and made-to-measure – is the difference only in concentration, or do you “tweak” the formula as well?

L: The formulation is the same, and you chose 40 or 50 percent, whatever is allowed. It’s the same formula, but it smells different because at different concentrations different nuances come through. And, of course, it’s a lot more tenacious. And, when people get their favorite perfume at higher concentration for themselves or as a gift to loved ones and have their initials engraved, it makes that perfume more special for them.

U: Is there any classic or modern perfume about which you thought: “I wish I would have created it!”?

L: Not really… When I was younger, I fell in love with Diorella. I used to wear it all the time and thought it was the most magnificent perfume. I still have a bottle of Diorella in my bathroom now because I just love the smell of it. When I was a teenager and up until probably 18-20, I wore Diorella and made sure that all my boyfriends wore Eau Sauvage, also made by Edmond Roudnitska. I thought that it was a perfect match: I wear Diorella, you wear Eau Sauvage, and together we’re gonna smell so magnificent. So, maybe I wish it had been my creation.

U: Your collection is quite extensive now. Are there any plans to discontinue any of the current scents or concentrations?

L: We’d never discontinue any perfume. First, we like all the formulations. Second, it costs too much to bring the formula to market. So, sometimes when we want to reign in, we would just put some perfumes into our library. So, they just “go to bed,” they are going to get a little bit of a sleep, and they stay there. But 2-3 years down the road we might re-introduce them, maybe with a different name if a partner wants it for their market.

U: Do you have any plans to increase your brand’s presence on IG or YouTube?

L: I’m not too technically savvy, so my goddaughter takes pictures of our perfumes and posts them on our Instagram account. I don’t have any social media myself. So, I rely on my goddaughter: she’s level-headed, and she understands the philosophy of the company. I don’t think I’ll ever become a YouTube person. If anything, maybe for Cooking with Fragrance (you know, my Gourmande Jayne). Our social media person started building up this aspect, but we’re doing it slowly. We don’t want just to be doing endless “offers” because I think it can backfire. We’re really tiny, so we do not want to go “too commercial.”

U: And the final but important question. Do you share your dwelling with any furry family members?

L: Yes! Two cats, called Teddy and Freddie. They are from the cat home. I got them when they were kittens. They are brothers, but they don’t look like each other. One is a big fat ginger cat. He looks like Garfield. And the other one is black with green eyes. They snuggle up in front of the fire, sleeping in the daytime but turn into psychotic murderers by night. They go out every night. They kill anything that comes into our garden. They are working cats.

Cats Teddie and Freddy

Teddy, the ginger one, is very greedy. As he goes along, everybody likes to stroke him, he stops and lets them do it. And then he goes to the restaurants, down the steps to the kitchen, all feed him. And he just works his way down the street getting fed.

U: My cat Rusty is really food-oriented, so if he had been permitted to do something like that, by now he probably wouldn’t have been able to walk.

L: Teddy is getting a bit big. I might have to put him on a little regime.

U: And my last question: Where do you see your brand in 5 years?

L: Hopefully, it still will be my brand. And it will be just bigger, and better, and more beautiful. It’s still privately owned today, after 20 years, and it stays that way. I enjoy what I’m doing. I feel quite lucky: I have great relationships with my partners. We meet with each other all around the world. So, it’ll be the same company as you know today but with a little bit more presence.

* * *

U: And now, concluding my 10th Blog’s Anniversary post, I want to ask myself: Where do you see Undina’s Looking Glass, in 5 years?

U: Health and life permitting, hopefully, still here. Based on decades of experience, I don’t expect to stop loving perfumes. Will I want to write about them? Will I have any stories to tell or numbers to crunch? Will there still be anyone who prefers to read about perfumes rather than watch videos and scroll through beautiful pictures? We’ll see, won’t we?

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

Saturday Question: What Perfume did You Wear on Christmas Eve?

It’s the last Saturday of 2020. Some of the winter celebrations are already behind us, but we still have some to look forward to, so let’s keep the spirit of the holidays high and talk about them a little more.

 

Saturday Question on Undina's Looking Glass

 

Saturday Question #44:

What Perfume did You Wear on Christmas Eve?

In fact, I’m curious not only what perfume you’ve chosen (for the celebration or just for that day, if it wasn’t your holiday), but I’d also want to know about the reasoning behind that choice.

Also, if you do not mind, share what you did this Christmas Eve. Did you eat anything especially great and worth mentioning? Did you get any gifts that made you happy (not necessarily perfumes, but please share if you got those as well).

My Answer

We celebrated Christmas with our “extended bubble,” even though none of us can “claim” this holiday as ours. But it’s a long-standing tradition for us, so we celebrate it every year. Since I tried my hardest to make this holidays season as great as possible despite everything that’s happening in the World, I chose to wear Ormonde Jayne Ta’if, my all-times love #2, for the holiday that I adopted after moving to the US, saving my #1, Lancome Climat, for the New Year celebration, since that perfume was with me through many new years, some of which were probably even harder for me personally than 2020 was.

When we were much younger, our traditional New Year celebration would start with a festive dinner… around 10 PM to be done by midnight, toast the New Year – and then spend the rest of the night celebrating. As we grew … up, first we stopped going through the whole night of celebration, cutting it short at 3-4 AM first and recently rarely making it to after 1:30-2 A.M. With that, our evening meals started getting lighter and lighter: the older we get, the harder it gets to eat a big dinner 3-4 hours before going to bed. At some point we figured out that Christmas Eve dinner was a much better time to eat all of our traditional New Year celebratory dishes – and that’s what we’ve been doing this year. A highlight of the dinner this year was a roasted duck that our friend cooked.

As a gift I got a funny t-short (see the picture below) that I plan to wear the next time I’m forced to participate in an early morning meeting. I bought a perfume gift for myself, but since it’s not here yet, I’ll tell you about it next year when it arrives.

Since the birthday boy refused to fully participate in my perfume photo shoot (despite my promises to reward him with treats), I made a picture of Ta’if with the Old World Christmas‘s Santa Kitty ornament, which we bought as one of the two yearly additions to our ornaments collection.

What Perfume did You Wear on Christmas Eve?

Holiday Gift Mini-Guide 2020

I’ve been thinking about doing this post for a while, and suddenly I realized that we’re almost out of time: with the volume of products delivered via all possible carriers, and with many places heading into the next wave of lockdowns, it’s hard to predict how long any of the purchases will roam this season. I recently had a box traveling from somewhere around LA to South San Francisco’s sorting facility, then to somewhere in Minnesota and then again to South San Francisco before arriving at my place 15 miles away from that last mentioned hub. So, it might be that we have days rather than weeks before it’s too late to bring some holiday joy to ourselves and our loved ones.

One more “complication”: probably more than half of my readers live either in Europe or in Australia, so some of my recommendations wouldn’t probably work for them (but some would). And I thought that they still might spark some ideas. None of the links are sponsored or affiliated.

* * *

For many years we kept talking how niche brands should be releasing perfumista-friendly bottles. And some of them listened. So, I’m including several brands in my list.

Olfactive Studio has just recently released many of their perfumes in 15 ml bottles (available in the US and in Europe). These might be too expensive for a blind buy/unsolicited gift, but if you like any of these, you’ll get a chance to get something beautiful for yourself. I plan to find some of the newest “shots” under my tree (Iris Shot, Violet Shot and Rose Shot are especially calling my name). But if you haven’t tried this collection yet, then this sample set might be a good idea (you’ll get $25 off your next purchase of a 100 ml bottle).

Olfactive Studio Perfumes: Three Shots

Masque Milano has also launched 10 ml travel sizes for their perfumes. Currently available from their EU site, but they ship Worldwide. I already have in my collection a couple of perfumes that I love from this brand, otherwise I would have been tempted.

Ormonde Jayne is now doing mixed travel sets 5 x 8 ml. These are not “mix-and-match” but the combinations are good (if you like the brand), and an occasional one or two you do not care for should be not that hard to do in a split with fellow perfumistas. I would have bought the Set 3 if I hadn’t owned already 4 out of 5 perfumes.

Ormonde Jayne Travel Lab

I think, Parfums Dusita released their 7.5 ml travel bottles last year, but now they are available from Luckyscent. This is one of travel bottles about which I’m hesitant: while I like an idea of an original bottle, it is slightly less than I’d like to have of perfume that I like (Splenderis), and at the same time it’s twice more expensive per ml than a full bottle. But if I cannot find a decant to buy at a better rate, I still might consider it at some point.

Since perfumes are more likely to be gifts for ourselves, let’s see what can be either a shared pleasure (if you buy it for someone in your household) or would make a sensible gift.

Tauer Perfumes has released this year perfume in a soap again – Data Miner, Mandarines Ambrées and Majestic tuberose are available from the brand’s site with Worldwide shipping.

 

Tauer Soaps

 

Bruno Fazzolari (Fzotic) has also created several soaps. You can buy a set of three soapsHoney Cedar, Black Suede, Toasted Lilac or one of each.

Fzotic Soaps

If a soap bar isn’t something you normally use, as some of the readers mentioned in comments to one of the Saturday Questions, Thymes has a very season appropriate Frasier Fir hand wash. And if you’re a fan of fir scent, they have an extensive range of everything fir scented, including hand cream, linen spray, room spray, reed diffusers, candles in multiple different sizes and even laundry detergent.

Thymes Frasier Fir Liquid Soap

No gift guide would be complete these days without a new wardrobe item – a mask. Even though wearing those relaxed not only make-up routines but also perfume wearing restrictions, one might opt for wearing perfumes proudly not only on their body but also on their faces.

I found one design by Loralee Lewis. I’m not familiar with the brand, but reviewers seem to like these. On the picture (see below) I recognize Miss Dior and Prada Candy, but the rest aren’t too familiar, which, most likely, speaks to how well I know mass market perfumes. If you want something more subtle, Etsy offers this one (I recognize Shalimar and J’Adore bottles). Or if you want an even less obvious choices, here is another one with unidentifiable vintage bottles.

 

 

And just in case you have some time on your hands and consider remodeling, here is an idea: “Perfect for bathrooms and bedrooms alike, this romantic wallpaper features fancy bottles of perfume. A colorway emphasizes its classic style.” My guess: Chanel (probably 19), Guerlain Shalimar (EdT or Initial), Marc Jacobs Daisy EdT, Miss Dior, Elie Saab Le Parfum and one of Guerlain’s classic bottles (not sure which perfume). Not sure I recognize tall bottle to the left from Chanel.

Perfume Wallpaper

Are there any perfume-related items in your nearest holiday future?

Images: from the sites to which I link for each of the products cropped or compiled by me

Perfumes of My Hawaiian Vacations

I realize that a vacation at a tropical destination is a luxury, and many people cannot afford those or even going to the seaside. But since both my vSO and I work and work hard, as a rule, we try to go to Hawaii every second year. Last year we had a business trip combined with visiting relatives back in our country of birth followed by a week in London. It wasn’t the easiest trip (if not to count the UK portion of it, which was fabulous in all respects), but it ate up most of our travel budget and time off, so I was looking forward to going to Hawaii this year.

When the pandemic started, I was still hopeful that it would get resolved in the next several months, so I even booked a plane part of the trip late in March, and as September/October (the planned time for the trip) was approaching, I was still optimistic that the 14-days quarantine mandatory in Hawaii would get eased up, and we wouldn’t have to postpone the trip (the air tickets these days are easy to be moved or canceled – no penalties or change fees). The closer we got to the time, the less likely it seemed that we would be able to go, but it wasn’t until August when our airline sent me a notification that the flights have been canceled. They offered to move our itinerary to different days… But that’s when we decided that we should move that trip to the next year.

It was a disappointment, but on the grand schema of things, it’s not the worse what could have happened or is happening to many, so I’m trying to be positive about it and hope that we’ll go there next year (and I might even be able to shed some pounds by then – well, one can dream, right?).

But one thing that struck me as something sad and depressing was that, in addition to clothes that I wear only while in Hawaii, I have a list of perfumes that I also tend to wear mostly when I’m on a tropical vacation. And not going there meant that those perfumes would be waiting one more year for the skin time.

 

Perfumes for a Tropical Vacation

 

So, I decided to do a mini-project: a week of perfumes of my Hawaiian vacations. I thought about doing this project during my staycation, but then I figured that to keep reminding myself that we had to stay at home instead of enjoying time somewhere else would be too depressing. Besides, the week of my staycation promised to be pleasantly cooler (and it was). But the week before was hot, so it was just perfect for the project.

Almost all these perfumes I wore in Hawaii before (the picture above is from one of the previous trips), and I even wrote about some of them before – so, I knew that I liked them and would enjoy wearing them again. So, I’ll share just a couple of thoughts here and there, as well as several pictures from the previous visits to Hawaii – not paring those images to perfumes, just using them to set the mood.

 

Estee Lauder Bronze Goddess Eau Fraiche Skinscent

Bronze Goddess is one of those perfumes that could have completely gone by me if it weren’t for Perfumeland. But thanks to a perfumista friend who shared a decant with me many years ago, this perfume became a staple of all my Hawaiian vacations. Working from home, I didn’t follow my usual vacation ritual of getting the bottle cold from the fridge and using it as a body mist, but it was extremely enjoyable still.

 

Sunset Big Island Hawaii

 

Ormonde Jayne Tiare

Two years ago, I complained that Tiare, my proven friend and companion on many tropical vacations, felt completely out of place in the office environment. This time, worn for the evening neighborhood walk on a warm evening, it was pleasant again, and we rekindled our friendship.

 

Tiare Big Island Hawaii

 

Ormonde Jayne Frangipani

Whenever I wear Frangipani, I realize how much I like it. But then I forget about it again until the next time I pack for my trip. It blooms wonderfully in hot weather, and I know that when I’m done with the last travel spray, I’ll want more.

 

Byredo Pulp

I don’t think I can wear Pulp where I live: even in hot weather these overripe fruits seem too much and almost nauseating. But I know that I feel completely differently about it when I put it on in Hawaii. Conclusion: I need to go to Hawaii.

 

Tropical Fruit

 

L’Artisan Parfumeur Traversee du Bosphore

Traversee du Bosphore works for me only when it’s hot. I checked: it doesn’t have to be Hawaii, as I proved to myself this time wearing it in hot Californian weather. But it needs heat to bloom. So, as much as I like this perfume, it’ll be a while before I finish my decant, and until then I probably do not need a bottle.

 

Kawaii Hawaii

 

Neela Vermeire Creations Bombay Bling!

As I discovered the last time when I wore Bombay Bling in Hawaii, it smells the best in A/C’d environment. This time I wore it again on a hot day in the house with working A/C, and it was beautiful. So, I think in future I’ll keep wearing it at home and let one of the two new to my collection perfumes mentioned further to take up its place in my holiday wardrobe.

 

Volcano Maui Hawaii

 

Parfums DelRae Bois de Paradise

Many years ago, one of the bloggers sent me a small sample of Bois de Paradise, and I thought it was the right choice for my vacation wardrobe. I brought that vial with me on one of my trips and used it up there. Since then I had it somewhere on the back of my mind that I wanted to buy it. But I was waiting for the brand to release it in a smaller bottle (I hoped it would be released since they were asking opinions on the size on Twitter, I think). It had never happened, and once I saw it on sale at Luckyscent last year, I immediately bought it. I was right: the brand went out of business later that year. Since then I’ve been waiting for the chance to wear Bois de Paradise in Hawaii… Since it didn’t happen, I’ll wear it at home. It’s great, and I even got a compliment from a friend (from my “extended bubble”).

 

Tropical Forest Maui Hawaii

 

Byredo Bal D’Afrique

I’ve never tried Byredo Bal D’Afrique in Hawaii, but it was very pleasant both in humid heat or New Orleans and in drier Californian heat, I suspect I will like it in tropical environment as well. If I ever get to go there again.

 

I didn’t get to wear one more of my “usual suspects” for tropical vacation – Yosh Ginger Ciao. But unlike all other perfumes in this mini-project, I wore Ginger Ciao several times this summer, so I didn’t feel like I abandoned it. But whenever I go to Hawaii the next time, this Vacation in a Bottle is coming with me.

 

Palm Trees and Moon Maui Hawaii

 

Images: my own

Not Such a Silk Road…

I have “dysfunctional relationships” with Ormonde Jayne (brand): while I love it and have been loyal to it for many years, it seems that it doesn’t love me back. I do not mean me as a blogger – that is normal and expected even from a much “blogger-friendlier” brands. But I always had a feeling that they didn’t love me enough as a customer either.

Being a fan, over years I bought numerous perfumes directly from the brand, both full bottles and travel sets, in store and from their website, full-priced and discounted. And in all these years, with all perfumes bought, I got a single free sample.

I do not think it happened by chance: it seems like a rather well calculated business approach. And while I disagree with it (I would expect that someone who’s already paying for one perfume from the line is more likely to buy another one, given a chance to try it, but what do I know about business?), obviously, it has worked well for the brand, at least for the last 10 years that I’ve been following it. So, I do not hold it against them.

Recently, I got a scare: on one of the blogs I follow I read about a possible discontinuation of Ta’if – one of my top three all-time favorite perfumes. It was a false alarm, we confirmed right away that it was still available on the brand’s site. But I immediately decided that, just in case, I would need to get a back-up bottle of it soon, which I recently did, taking advantage of the sale the UK site had.

Even having to pay for the shipping via DHL (dangerous goods and all that), the price was much better than I could get from the US distributors. And since I was already paying for the shipping, and because who knows when I will get to travel to the UK next time, I decided to participate, again, in the brand’s favorite game: buy a discovery set. This time it was a discovery set for their newest line – La Route de la Soie (The Silk Road).

 

Ormonde Jayne La Route de la Soie (The Silk Road)

 

The collection includes four already released perfumes and three perfumes that will be launched this Fall.

Byzance

Top notes: Blackcurrant Buds, Milky Accord, Pink Berries; middle notes: White Wood, Wood of Cashmere, Iris Butter; base notes: Moss, Suede, Madagascar Vanilla, Balsamic Accord.

Damask

Top notes: Blackcurrant, Italian Lemon, Pear; middle notes: Rose, Jasmine, Pink Berries; base notes: Mineral amber, Musk, Vetiver.

Levant

Top notes: Bergamot, Mandarin, Tangelo, Rose Petals; middle notes: Lily of the Valley, Peony, Orange Blossom, Jasmine; base notes: Cedarwood, Amber, Musk.

Tanger

Top notes: Ylang Ylang, Italian Mandarin, Italian Bergamot; middle notes: Rose Petals, Wood of Cashmere, Neroli; base notes: base notes: Moss, Dry Amber, Madagascar Vanilla, Balsamic Accord.

Indus

Top notes: Blackcurrant Buds, Lychee, Nutmeg; middle notes: Persian Rose; base notes: Musk, Chinese Patchouli, Incense, Armenian Plum.

Xandria

Top notes: Rum, Rosewood, Apple; middle notes: Ceylon Cinnamon, Tonka Beans; base notes: Dry Amber, Musk, Guaiacwood, Earthy Accord, Oudh.

Xi’an

Top notes: Black Pepper, Nutmeg; middle notes: base Cedarwood, Rhubarb; base notes: Musk, Indian Sandalwood.

 

If you are in the mood for reading reviews, you’ll easily find several for the first four, and Neil (The Black Narcissus) has just posted a quick review for all 7. If you were to ask me, for myself I liked Tanger (cheerful and the most classical-Ormonde-Jayne perfume from the collection) and Byzance (I don’t know how, but for my nose it has the same strange “hot iron note” that I like in Serge Lutens’ Gris Clair), and I think Xandria smells nice on my vSO. Damask is quite pleasant, I’m just not sure if it’s different enough from other roses I already have (though, since the FB price isn’t that bad, it might be worth trying if you are looking for an ambered rose). The other three… None of them was offensive or even unpleasant.

 

Rusty and Ormonde Jayne La Route de la Soie (The Silk Road)

 

If these perfumes are ever offered in OJ’s new 30 ml format, I might be tempted to buy a bottle or two. If no, then most likely we’ll part our ways once the samples are gone: even though I still have warm feelings toward the brand, I think they are doing just fine without my support.

But do I think this set is worth buying? It depends.

If usually you do not buy perfumes for testing, or if Ormonde Jayne perfumes have never worked for you, you can safely skip this set.

I’m convinced that it is not worth £42 (plus shipping), which the brand does not offer to redeem even partially against a full bottle purchase (I know, it works for them, but I’m trying to be a voice of reasoning for others who are not in love with the brand).

BUT

If you are an Ormonde Jayne fan, as I am, and you have a sampling budget, I would suggest you took advantage of their current private sale*: until September 7th, this set is offered at £30, including free worldwide shipping (other sets are also on sale). These are generous 2 ml spray samples in a nice box. As far as sampling goes, not only you could – you probably often do do worse (at least, it’s true for me with those $4-$6 + tax + S&H 0.7 ml dabbers from Luckyscent and other similar places). And since it’s a very new collection, you should be able to partially recoup your losses would you decide to sell it after testing or offer it in a swap.

 

* If you are in the US and have a credit card that doesn’t take a fee for foreign currency transactions, check if their conversion rate is better than PayPal’s (true in my case – I used a Capital One card). Also, if for whatever reason the online checkout doesn’t work for you, contact the UK support directly (customerservices@ormondejayne.com).

Disclaimer: No affiliations whatsoever: I’m just a slightly grumpy customer of Ormonde Jayne (I paid the full price for the set!) and a happy customer of Capital One.

 

Images: my own

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)

Entertaining Statistics: 2019 Year Round-up

2019 was crazy busy at work. I hope not to repeat it this year. Most likely because of all the stress, I had more health issues than usually. I hope not to repeat that either. But I got to travel much more than I usually do, both for work and pleasure, including a visit to London during which I had a chance to spend some time with Vanessa (Bonkers about Perfume) and Tara (A Bottled Rose), as well as visit all the usual places that this perfume Mecca offers. I hope to keep this trend up in 2020. So, I’d say that the difference between all the great experiences I had last year and any negatives is still positive. 2019 wasn’t a bad year for me.

But let’s look at the last year perfume numbers.

In 2019, compared to 2018, I wore slightly less different perfumes (190 vs. 196) from significantly more brands (91 vs. 79) on less occasions (351 vs. 372). It means that I wore perfumes not every day. Partially, it was because there were some days when I didn’t want to risk associating how I felt with any of perfumes I love. Also, on some days, while working from home, I would test several new perfumes instead of wearing one.

Since I tend to wear favorite perfumes from my collection, the same seven brands stayed on my Top 10 Brands chart, changing places, for the last 8 years that I’ve been keeping detailed records. Between any 2 years usually only 2 brands fall out from/appear on the list. New contenders this year were Houbigant Paris (because of the new favorite Summer Iris and one more perfume, about which I’ll write soon) and Tauer Perfumes (no special reason, just felt like wearing 3 of my favorite perfumes).

 

My Perfume Stats Year 2019

 

Top three perfumes that I wore the most often during 2019 – two of my all-time favorites, same as top perfumes from 2018, Ormonde Jayne Ta’if (9 occasions) and Lancôme Climat (8) and a new favorite Houbigant Quelques Fleurs Royal Collection Privee (8). I see a pattern here with wearing more often perfumes newly added to my collection (in 2018 it was Chanel Bois des Iles).

Despite all the hurdles describing which I started this post, I managed to do enough testing: 272 perfumes (vs. 380 in 2018) from 128 brands (vs. 139). Out of 272 perfumes tested, only 107 were new to me: the rest was either repeated testing of older samples or comparison testing between new samples and either older samples or perfumes I own. These numbers do not include my London sniffing sessions since most of perfumes that I tried there had never made it to skin.

I’ve done once, I think, “The Best N New Perfumes of the Year” post. But this year, even had I wanted to do that, I wouldn’t have been able to: out of just 16 new releases that I managed to try in 2019 (Sixteen! It’s almost a quarter of what has been released just in 4 days of 2020!), there were only 5 that I liked and 3 that were not spectacular but not bad. I think, you’ll agree that Top/Best 5 (or even 8) perfumes of 2019 sounds somewhat pathetic. But I’ll mentions those 5 here: Bengale Rouge by Papillon Artisan Perfumes, Puredistance Gold, Paris – Riviera by Chanel, Mon Boudoir by Houbigant and I am not a flower by Floraiku.

In the 2018 Year Round-up post for the first time I started counting pictures of Rusty that I used in my posts during the year. I decided to continue this tradition. In 2019 I used 39 pictures of Rusty, which was significantly fewer than in the previous year (51), but I managed to publish just 29 posts (vs. 48), so the ratio of picture to posts is much higher.

 

Rusty in a Bowl

 

Images: My own

Use it or…

This post is not about one of the favorite perfumistas’ topics of [not] hoarding perfumes we love. It’s a great topic, and I have no doubt we’ll talk about it again soon. But today I want to talk about body care products.

As much as I love good smelling products of all kinds, it might be challenging to follow a fragrant shower gel or a body lotion with perfume application. So, it’s a good idea to have products that match perfumes we love. I mean, it’s good as an idea. But with my perfume usage pattern where I wear another perfume every day, it’s not feasible to stock my bathroom with matching products.

The next seemingly good idea would be to get just those products that match one’s holy grail perfumes. It might work for some people who wear their favorites often, but since my most favorite perfumes are those that I wear only for special occasions, I would have not too many opportunities to enhance the experience by using a matching product. And yet… I couldn’t resist and got several wonderful though completely unnecessary items.

I thought about incorporating those body lotions or shower gels into my daily routine separately from matching perfumes but from the past experience I know better than to trivialize special things by relegating them to mundane use.

Last week, as I was going to put on one of my all-time favorites Ta’if by Ormonde Jayne, I thought it would be a great opportunity to use a wonderful matching bath and shower crème that I got a while ago as a gift with purchase.

 

Ormonde Jayne Taif Shower Creme

 

Several years ago Vanessa warned me what might happen, but I put those words of wisdom in the back of my mind: back then my tube was still fresh and smelled divine.

Today that at one time great bath product still has some vague pleasant aroma (unlike the one Vanessa portrayed in her post), and it still feels nice on skin. But it doesn’t smell of my beloved Ta’if, which probably isn’t such a bad thing since now I will be able to finally use it up since it doesn’t clash any more with perfumes I wear.

But you’ve been warned. And keep in mind: body creams have even worse shelf life.

 

Images: my own

Change of Plans

For some perfumes you have a mental picture. For me Estee Lauder Bronze Goddess is strongly connected to a tropical vacation, Jo Malone Wood Sage & Sea Salt is a stroll on a NorthCal beach, and Serge Lutens Fille en Aiguilles reminds me of Christmas. And I always associated Ormonde Jayne Tsarina with winter and snow. Why? Beats me. Until last week I haven’t ever worn it in cold weather. Probably, some cultural stereotypes: tsarina -> Russia -> winter -> bears… OK, the last part has nothing to do with perfume but you got the picture.

Winter

Being not a morning person, I try to plan all of my trips to start not too early and prepare everything in advance. So for this New Year’s trip to New Mexico, with a flight scheduled in the afternoon and all our suitcases packed the night before, I felt pretty good: all I had left to do in the morning was to figure out what perfumes to take with me and pack them – after I slept in on my first day of vacation.

That morning, on December 28th, I haven’t heard anything because of the Do Not Disturb mode on my phone, but something made me check it out before it was time to get up. Text messages from the friends who were joining us on this trip from Texas urged me to contact them. A series of calls and messages between them and the other couple in our party painted not an optimistic picture: our friends got from Austin to Dallas, where they learned that their next flight was cancelled… until the New Year Eve. And even though the four of us from California could still fly into the airport 2.5 hours’ drive away from the destination, weather advisory for the area didn’t recommend traveling to there because of the strong snow storm, and our friends from Texas couldn’t get their luggage back from the airline to even attempt driving to the rented house in New Mexico.

It was shaping up to become a disaster instead of a pleasant holiday with friends, so we had to figure out something quickly. We changed everything and had just a couple of hours to get tickets to Austin (luckily, our friends could accommodate four more people at their house), rent a car, re-pack suitcases (clothes suitable for 5F/-15C mountain retreat would be out of place in a mild Texan winter) and choose perfumes for the trip. And same as wool underwear and snow boots, Tsarina didn’t get to accompany me to Austin because it seemed not quite right for the weather there.

Everything came together nicely, and we had wonderful time with our friends, but it was the second New Year trip where I didn’t wear Tsarina even though I planned to: since I was sick during my last year’s trip, I haven’t got to experience Tsarina in cold weather then as well. But at least last year with my friend’s help I managed to get an appropriate winter picture with it.

Ormonde Jayne Tsarina

On my recent short trip to the East Coast I finally managed to find the right weather to wear Tsarina: there was no snow but it was cold-cold-cold! And Tsarina was just right then and there.

Tsarina was created in 2012 for Ormonde Jayne by Geza Shoen. Official notes: mandarine, bergamot, coriander, cassis, hedione, freesia, jasmine, sambac, iris, suede, sandalwood, cedar, vanilla bean, labdanum and musk.

Tsarina is very polite suede, iris and amber perfume with each of the three named players being even more timid than the previous one. I’m not sure what the brand meant when describing it as “a powerhouse perfume” but on my skin Tsarina is gracious and well-behaved – as a true royalty. I wish iris and amber were more prominent but probably for that I’ll have to turn to Tsarina‘s relatives – Ormonde Woman and Vanille d’Iris.

If you haven’t tried this perfume yet and want to know more, read this review by Kafka, who is responsible for Tsarina in my collection: not only she did that nice review but she also shared a sample with me. And I liked it enough to buy travel sprays.

 

Images: my own