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

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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

In the Search for the Perfect Pear

In my childhood August a month before the school started and a month when an old pear tree in my grandparents’ garden was ready to share with us the best pears I’ve ever eaten in my life.

August Pear

I was too little to think of such things as variety so all I can remember now: it resembled Comice pear – green-yellow with an occasional red blush. The tree was tall, with a lot of branches. Low hanging fruits … were allowed to ripe on the tree. Whenever I felt like it I could go there and choose which one I wanted to eat. Pears that grew higher on the tree would be usually picked slightly immature and left to ripen in the summerhouse. My Grandfather had built it himself and I loved spending time in it – playing when I was younger or reading when I got older. A wonderful smell of dozens ripening pears accompanied me in those hot summer days when tired of running around in the sun I would resort to the shade of the summerhouse.

Unlike mimosa, linden or lilac – all scents which I always loved and wanted to wear as a perfume, I’ve never considered pear to be a wearable scent. I like eating them in the season, don’t miss them off-season and definitely don’t want to smell of them.

I like Petite Cherie by Annick Goutal – created in 1998, notes include pear, peach, musky rose, fresh-cut grass, vanilla. But I wore it for years before I learned it had a pear note. Even after that I thought I couldn’t smell a pear note. I tried to describe how Petite Cherie smelled and I couldn’t. I can’t come up with words to represent what I smell and the scent doesn’t remind me of anything else so I can’t even offer an association. I do not have any special memories connected to Petite Cherie, so probably I really just enjoy the scent. If you’ve tried it you know how it smells and if you haven’t – try because whatever description you’ll read will not give you the right picture of what to expect from this perfume. For years I thought of it as of a universal darling but recently I met a couple of people who, to my surprise, found this perfume to be unpleasant. I wore it again while working on this post and I still love it.

Deep Red by Hugo Boss – created in 2001 by Alain Astori and Beatrice Piquet, notes include black currant, pear, tangerine, blood orange, ginger leaves, freesia, hibiscus, sandalwood, Californian cedar, vanilla and musk (fragrantica.com). This is one of my favorite perfumes from my pre-perfumista period of life. I know Perfumeland’s attitude towards that brand. I realize that it probably isn’t that great and stands out both in this post and in my current collection. And I do not care: I liked Deep Red for many years; I went through two bottles of it and still have some juice left in the third one; and I still enjoy wearing it.

English Pear & Freesia by Jo Malone – created in 2010 by Christine Nagel, notes include pear, freesia, rose, amber, patchouli and woods (from jomalone.com; other sources mention quince, rhubarb and white musk). Sweet, almost gourmand but not quite because of the strong floral component. It’s a bright and warm scent but at the same time it maintains transparency usual to Malone’s colognes. It doesn’t develop much on the skin (as most of other perfumes in this line) but if you like what you smell it’ll stay with you for hours. I got a small decant of English Pear & Freesia from a co-worker and I will buy a bottle once it’s gone.

La Belle Hélène by Parfums MDCI – created in 2010 by Bertrand Duchaufour, notes include pear accord, aldehydes, tangerine, lime blossom, rose essence, osmanthus absolute, ylang-ylang Madagascar, orris butter, hawthorn, Mirabelle plum, myrrh, vetiver Haiti, patchouli, cedar Virginia, amber, oak moss absolute, white musks, sandalwood, licorice wood (luckyscent). It’s a true gourmand scent, sweet but with some dirty note in the drydown. For me La Belle Hélène smells not like a pear fruit but like a pear tart (love those). It’s much more complex than English Pear & Freesia. I got my sample from a draw at Persolaise – A Perfumer’s Blog. I like how it smells and develops on my skin but I’m not sure if I want to wear it as a perfume. The price is also a stopping point. So when I’m done with the sample I won’t probably be seeking even a decant (read the review that inspired me to test this perfume again recently).

Mon Numéro 1 by L’Artisan Parfumeur – created in 2009 by Bertrand Duchaufour and re-launched in 2011 (though I can’t find it now on L’Artisan’s website), notes include pear, basil, bergamot, violet leaves, black currant buds, mimosa, osmanthus, magnolia flower, hay, musk, vanilla. I have a strange relationship with this perfume. I thought I would like it. I wanted to like it. It opens very nice and fresh on my skin but then in one out of three times it becomes too soapy – and not in a nice, clean way. It always dries down to a more pleasant and well-balanced scent but it doesn’t excite me, I do not feel compelled to wear it more. I’m very grateful to my perfume friends for the opportunity to try it (Suzanne shared with me some Mon Numéro 1 from Birgit’s sample) and want to assure them that it wasn’t a total waste: even though I do not like it as much as they did (read their reviews through the links above), Mon Numéro 1 helped me to learn what is called “pear” in perfumery. I do not recognize it as a pear scent but I smell it in all tested perfumes with that note listed in the description. So now I know. And I do not mind smelling like that “pear.”

Honey Pear Tea

What is your perfect pear?

Mine – Honey Pear by Golden Moon Tea.

 

Images: my own