Second Sunday Samples: Penhaligon’s Endymion and Savoy Steam

Most of my posts on this blog are stories related to perfumes. As I keep telling brands that offer me perfumes for reviews, even if I like perfume, I might never write about it if it doesn’t have a story to tell. Usually that does the trick – they do not send samples, I do not feel guilty not writing anything about those perfumes. But I spend a lot of time testing samples that I get either from stores or from fellow perfumistas. So I decided that once a month – the second Sunday – I will do a small feature, Second Sunday Samples, in which I’ll be sharing just short impressions of perfumes I tested.

Until a couple of years ago, Penhaligon’s was a brand, about which I knew and some perfumes from which I tested but at that time there were just a couple of not too accessible stores. But then Penhaligon’s moved into my area with several boutiques. And since they are new players on the local market, they are still in the phase of being not too close-fisted with the samples.

Penhaligon's Savoy Steam and Endymion Samples

I was curious to try Savoy Steam because of Cynthia’s (The Fragrant Journey) review of this perfume. She made it sound so appealing that the SA at Penhaligon’s saw right away that I needed that sample.

Savoy Steam has just been released. I tried the EdP concentration. From what I read, the EdC version is quite different – so make sure to try both. EdP is spicy and warm. I know that there’s citrus in it but it’s lost on my nose. I can smell rose and geranium but the rest of the notes I cannot identify (according to Fragrantica, top notes are bergamot, lemon, eucalyptus, mint, pink pepper and rosemary; middle notes are rose, geranium, cardamom, hedione and tea; base notes are benzoin, incense, vanilla and white musk). Savoy Steam stays right on the border where a proper gentleman might still wear it without feeling conscious that it’s too sweet, too feminine. But for me it is too sweet without being feminine enough. Also, I don’t know why but I keep calling it in my head Savoy Cream – not the kind you eat but the one you shave with. I like it the most in about 2 hours after the application but, in general, it is not perfume I would consider wearing.

I knew nothing about Endymion released in 2003 until it almost jumped at me yesterday. I mean, it was the last sample in the sample basket in front of the Penhaligon’s store – how could I pass by?

Endymion for me smells like a classic masculine perfume, which is not surprising with notes of lavender, sage, geranium and vetiver (other notes are mandarin orange, bergamot, coffee, leather, musk, myrhh, nutmeg, black pepper, cardamon, sandalwood, incense and olibanum). I do not smell any leather – at least not the kind you expect nowadays when you read “leather” as a note. Coffee? Not either. It is beautiful, elegant and well-blended perfume. There is nothing “unisex” about it; and it is probably not perfume I would consider wearing myself but I would love to smell it on a man.

Rusty and Penhaligon's Savoy Steam and Endymion Samples

Images: my own

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Lily of the Valley – Once Again

Since my first Single Note Exploration post about lily of the valley perfumes five years ago, I weren’t exploring the note much: the rumor about Malle’s possible venture into featuring this note in his next creation proved to be just that – rumor. Instead, he released magnolia perfume and sold the brand (not sure, in which order).

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Back then I had three perfumes in the “Lily of the Valley I Loved” category.

I still wear my favorite Dior Diorissimo – not as often as it deserves but then I do not wear any of my perfumes too often.

Instead of a mini bottle that I thought of buying, I got a full bottle of Lily of the Valley by Penhaligon’s (thanks to a kind friend).

Even though I liked Guerlain Muguet and was contemplating getting a decant, later I realized that perfume itself, though nice, wasn’t what was driving the price. The main part of it comes from the unique, limited edition bottle. And I was admiring from afar yearly updates of those bottles but I decided that paying the proportionate price for juice without getting at least a chip off that bottle just wouldn’t make much sense.

Lily of the Valley

Last year, when I read that Thierry Wasser created a new perfume for 2016 LE of Muguet, I was mildly curious – but never got around to trying it. This year, when I saw the announcement for the new edition, I’ve got a strange reaction: I felt offended.

Perfume prices went up significantly in the recent years: what was labeled as an “aspirational price” in 2010, became a mundane reality of new releases today. Guerlain, on the other hand, kept their limited edition perfume at the same price point all these years – around $500, give or take, dependent on the Euro rate, which isn’t cheap if you were to think about what goes into its production. It is Eau de Toilette – so about 10% of aromatic compounds, main of which, lily of the valley, is not even something that can be sourced naturally – it is a chemical compound. All of that was secondary while Guerlain was producing a limited number of special collectors bottles of that concoction: even if one wears that perfume as a signature scent, I doubt 125 ml of it will be gone in a year, in time for the next bottle, so, most likely, people were buying it not really for the juice itself.

Muguet 2017 was launched in a differently colored but otherwise same bottle, in which they’d previously launched their perfume sprays for lingerie and wool/cashmere. They through in some “pristine white bells fashioned by the Maison Legeron are meticulously hand-embroidered by the Atelier and embellished with a fine, golden-beaded leaf.” But the result still looks much cheaper than their previous creations for this “special” perfume. We’ll never know, but I would be really curious to know how the sales of this year’s LE fares compared to other years. For one, I’m not even tempted.

Today, for the May 1st, I’m wearing Penhaligon’s Lily of the Valley. Its ribbon is not as impressive and definitely not hand-anything. Its original price is, in my opinion, still too high for what it is. But it is light, spring-like, very uncomplicated and believable lily of the valley perfume. And it can be had almost for a song from discounters.

Penhaligon's Lily of the Valley

Images: All but the last one – my own (I re-used pictures of Rusty from the previous post – just in case you haven’t seen them before); the last one – from FragranceNet (they have a really good price for this perfume – no affiliation).

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.

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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 Lily of the Valley

I grew up with May Day being an International Workers Day. Even though it was a holiday, it was an official holiday and people were required to participate in parades officially held in all major cities and translated by all TV stations. In my city, I remember, all traffic would be blocked for those demonstrations in the downtown area from early morning and until 2-3 p.m. My room’s window was facing one of the major streets and I would be woken up by music, megaphone announcements and other human noises. And then, for hours, non-stopping streams of people with flags, banners, balloons and artificial flowers would flow by my window toward the main city square. As a child I liked that holiday: it was a real beginning of the spring, we would get two days off school, kids weren’t a part of those demonstrations (unless their parents took them to their groups formed by places of work) but it was festive, different from regular weekends and there always was something interesting to do during or after the main event (like shooting balloons with a slingshot, for example).

Lily of the valley

I haven’t been not only celebrating but even acknowledging this holiday for many-many years and this year with everything going on under the sign of this day I’d be even less inclined to feel any nostalgia towards May Day if it weren’t for my hobby. Starting last year, when I read about it for the first time, I chose to associate this day with a beautiful French tradition of giving bouquets of lily of the valley.

I’m fascinated by this flower. I’ve always been. It looks fragile and lusty at the same time as if those tiny flowers were carved out of a very white ivory and carefully placed against a backdrop of flat wide leaves. And I love a very distinct lily of the valley aroma unmistakable with any other.

For a while I was collecting samples of perfumes built around this beautiful flower and testing them for this post in my Single Note Exploration series. Then I was struggling with a horde of lemmings born after I read an announcement about this year’s limited edition bottle of Muguet by Guerlein. How cool would it have been to make a picture of that gorgeous bottle for the post about lily of the valley note in perfumery?! It wasn’t easy but I won with the moral support from Victoria (Bois de Jasmine) and Natalie (Another Perfume Blog) despite Tara’s subversive actions! Instead I bought the last in the store pot with lily of the valley and took pictures of my very photogenic cat Rusty playing with it.

Rusty & lily of the valley

That was a hell of a preamble. But don’t worry: since I’m not doing real reviews I’ll try to be laconic. I’ll skip usual “created by” and notes lists since most of these are well-known perfumes.

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All perfumes I tested can be divided into three categories: Lily of the Valley I didn’t Like, Lily of the Valley I couldn’t Smell and Lily of the Valley I Loved.

Lily of the Valley I didn’t Like

Muguet Blanc by Van Cleef & Arpels – I smell an apple in it even though it’s not mention in notes. An artificial apple. It’s wrong. On paper I remember it being more lily-of-the-valley-y but on my skin it smells rather unpleasant in the first 45 minutes even though I think I recognize the scent of the flower. For my nose Muguet Blanc smells of a cheap synthetic lily of the valley air freshener brought in the room full of not just wilting but decaying in water floral bouquets. Then the freshener wins.  In 2 hours it’s a perfectly nice scent on my skin. I’m not sure I’ll ever finish my sample.

Le Muguet by Annick Goutal – in general, it’s nice, slightly more perfume-y than other believable lily of the valley renderings but still very recognizable. Le Muguet has some sweetness but it’s not overly sweet to my nose. Unfortunately, during one of three testing I got some plastic-y note. It might be my skin reaction but understanding that doesn’t make Le Muguet more wearable for me. I will give my sample another try but I do not see this perfume joining my collection in any form after that. You should try Le Muguet since it might behave differently on you (and if it does it smells really nice and natural).

Idylle by Guerlain – for the first couple of times when I tested it (a year ago) I was sure it was a rose scent. And then one day my nose picked out a prominent lily of the valley note. Since then I always think of Idylle as of a lily of the valley perfume. When tried in parallel with the other perfumes that are closer to being a soliflore Idylle feels more complex, more perfume-like and less lily-of-the-valley-centric creation than the rest perfumes I tested. I do not think Idylle is bad, it’s just not special enough for me to go beyond the sample I have (if even that).

Rusty & lily of the valley

Lily of the Valley I couldn’t Smell

When I read about Andy Tauer’s lily of the valley perfume I was very excited. There are just several Andy’s perfumes that work for me but I thought: how bad can it be if a talented perfumer creates a perfume with one of my favorite floral note in the middle of the composition? Well…

Carillon pour un ange by Tauer Perfumes – I smell pollen, a lot of sweetness and, I think, some mimosa. It has a great tenacity and I think it’s a very nice, very masterfully created perfume. But I couldn’t smell lily of the valley in it at all! I was so upset when I tried Carillon pour un ange for the first two times, I felt so cheated that I gave away my sample.

It wasn’t until several months later when, after trying DSH’s Muguet de Mai Perfume and Muguet Cologne, I realized that while I couldn’t smell lily of the valley in there either it seemed to me that both Andy and Dawn smelled (tried to re-create?) the same flower. Muguet de Mai starts very lemon-y plus some earth note. Muguet Cologne starts earthy and then turns into more floral composition… Both without much lily of the valley how I know it. I got another sample of Carillon pour un ange just to confirm my impression. And I can tell that though these three are completely different perfumes I smell more in common between them than between any one of them and lily of the valley. Compared to the real flower (I think I spent hours doing that for all perfumes I tested for this post) I kind of “see” the idea but all three don’t smell as lily of the valley to me. It should be my nose, right? Samples will stay in my scents reference library.

Diorissimo

Lily of the Valley I Loved

For the First of May this year I wore Diorissimo by Dior. I own a bottle of the current EdT and a vintage mini that has problems with top notes but then it’s fine. Diorissimo is so nice and spring-like!  I do not love it but I like it enough to enjoy wearing from time to time. Even though Diorissimo has a prominent lily of the valley accord I do not think of it as of a soliflore. When I wear it I wear a perfume. But only when I smelled Diorissimo together with the real flower I realized how close they were. I always knew that Diorissimo was an iconic lily of the valley perfume; I wore it knowing it smelled of lily of the valley but I’ve never realized how much it smelled like lily of the valley. Wow.

Muguet by Guerlain – is a fresh and very… clear scent – not in the sense “airy” but rather “without impurities” like a diamond or “not distorted” as in “clear sound”. As I’ve mentioned earlier, I fought off the urge to buy a full bottle of this perfume but I’m amazed at how much I liked it and how true it is to the real lily of the valley. I get everything – sweetness of the flowers, greenness of the leaves, general warmth of the scent. The only component that isn’t there is earthiness but I do not miss it, I’m fine with the pure floral part of the plant. I want a full bottle but will have to settle for a small decant of Muguet if I can find it. It’s so beautiful!

Lily of the Valley by Penhaligon’s – I like it a lot. It’s bright, warm and very realistic. I’m not too familiar with this brand, I’ve tested just a few of their perfumes and I haven’t formed any opinion about the house yet. It was the last perfume I tested for this episode and I think I didn’t expect it to be as good as it proved to be. I suspect that I like Muguet slightly better not even because it’s Guerlain but because I loved the bottle and all that “one day only” marketing BS (sorry, Guerlain, I start liking you more and more but this February Muguet 2011 was still available at the boutique). But I’m not sure if in a blind sniffing I would be able to tell them apart. I plan to add a mini bottle of Penhaligon’s Lily of the Valley to my collection.

I read a rumor some time ago that Frederic Malle had a plan to add a lily-of-the-valley-centric perfume into their line-up. If it happens I will definitely try it. Other than that I do not plan on actively seeking any more perfumes with that note being a dominant one.

Rusty & lily of the valley

How about you? Do you like lily of the valley – as a flower or a perfume note? Do you wear it? And, what I’m mostly interested in, if you tried perfumes from my Lily of the Valley I couldn’t Smell category, did you smell lily of the valley in them?

 

Images: my own (I hope there was enough of them to compensate for the long story)