A Month of Roses: Week 1

First seven days of not only a specific theme but predefined set of perfumes. Surprisingly, it was much easier to do than I thought: I didn’t have to think about what I would wear the next day – it was already on the calendar.

I publish this post to sum up my impressions from the first seven perfumes and to remind you that for each comment, in which you tell us what rose perfume you wore that day (or any of the days before), you are getting one entry into the draw for two bars of chocolate from a local artisan brand (my choice) – milk, dark or mix (winner’s choice) sent anywhere in the world.

Just remember: one comment – one entry, even if you tell in it about multiple perfumes worn on different days. At the same time, two comments about the same perfume posted on two different days will give you two entries. What’s the catch? You’ve probably noticed that, other than standard WordPress’ ads, there are no ads or affiliated links on this blog, so I’m not trying to get any hits or clicks from my readers; I just enjoy your company and want you to come back more often – even if I do not publish a new post.

Red Roses

February 1: Neela Vermeire Creations Mohur Esprit de Parfum (Bertrand Duchaufour)

I know that it’s called officially Mohur Extrait now. But the sample I was wearing was from the period when it still had the old name that hadn’t become official. From the first trio of perfumes, Mohur was my least favorite: I didn’t dislike it but I didn’t feel I’d want to wear it. Mohur Extrait feels different than just a higher concentration of the EdP version: it’s deeper and smoother. And agarwood doesn’t jump out on me as it happened before with Mohur EdP. Just in case you’ve missed it somehow: Mohur Extrait is a limited edition, and I’m not sure if those gorgeous bottles will be available again once they are sold out.

February 2: Guerlain Rose Barbare (Francis Kurkdjian)

While I enjoy wearing this perfume from time to time, the small decant that I have is probably all I need. It is pleasant; it fits its Guerlain collection well; but, in my opinion, Rose Barbare is neither “barbare” (whichever English equivalent you choose) nor that much “rose.” I am not trying to say that there’s no rose in that perfume but smelling it blind, I would have never thought about it as a rose-centric perfume. But still, it’s a nice perfume to wear.

February 3: Serge Lutens La Fille de Berlin (Christopher Sheldrake)

I think it is a beautiful perfume. It was the second time I’ve ever worn it properly, and I will not be doing it again: I have ideological grievances against it. I decided to wear it on that day because it served two purposes: while it was a beautiful rose perfume that fitted this Month of Roses project, I used it as an anti-lemming perfume in NST’s community project. I do not feel bad if you choose not to read [into] this perfume pedigree or think of Marlene Dietrich while wearing La Fille de Berlin, but for me this is where our relationship with this perfume ends.

February 4: Amouage Lyric (Daniel Maurel)

According to the calendar, I was supposed to wear Tauer Perfumes PHI – une rose de Kandahar. I didn’t realize that my sample was empty: probably, it’s time to buy a travel spray. And since it was a weekend, and we were invited to the friends’ house for dinner, I wanted to wear something special, not just a quickly found replacement out of all the perfumes that didn’t make it to the calendar in the first place. So I moved Lyric to the earlier date hoping to find a replacement for it later.

A couple of Valentine’s Days ago I paired Lyric with one of the stories from my childhood (Ax +By = A Genetic Mystery).

This is one of classic Amouage perfumes that is worth trying even if one doesn’t like rose or Amouage perfumes: it doesn’t work for everybody, it shouldn’t (and can’t) work for everybody but it is a great illustration for opulence in perfumery. I happen to love Lyric, and I feel joy every time I wear it. I wonder though, whether I actually smell this rose as a dark one or is it a power of suggestion from the packaging?

Deep Red Rose

February 5: By Kilian Rose Oud (Calice Becker)

Agarwood and I are not really friends. There is a handful of perfumes with this note that work for my skin (or at least for my nose when I smell them on my vSO) but most of them I rather dislike. Rose Oud is one of a few that are not bad, which brings me to the conclusion that it’s not real agarwood that makes up for this perfume’s price. No, I haven’t suddenly developed better olfaction abilities. But I remember that every time I thought I liked perfumes with agarwood, those were perfumes based on the “oud accord” (if any at all). I won’t probably go beyond the sample I have but I liked wearing it for the project.

February 6: Sonoma Scent Studio Velvet Rose (Laurie Erickson)

As with all Laurie’s perfumes, there is no doubt that it is a real rose you smell. More is going on in this perfume, but rose is at center stage from the big opening until the last curtain call, if I were to stretch that theater metaphor. Velvet Rose is very Sonoma Scent Studio perfume so if you like their floral perfumes, this one should work well for you. My bottle of this perfume is slowly nearing the end (so, 3-4 more years, and it’ll be done) – ask me then if I’m replenishing it.

February 7: Tauer Perfumes Une Rose Vermeille (Andy Tauer)

As I wrote in the post In the Search for the Perfect Berry: Raspberry, I cannot say that I love Une Rose Vermeille but I like it very much. It is fruity-floral perfume that is done the way this genre of perfumes should be done. It is a very strong and unapologetic lemony rose with the added raspberry sweetness. But unless you’re a [serial] monogamist when it comes to perfumes, do not go for anything more than 15 ml travel spray of this perfume: it is so potent that even that amount will serve you a decade.

Rusty and Une Rose Vermeire

I will be back in a week with a write-up on the next seven perfumes on my calendar. I hope you like rose perfumes (and chocolate).

 

Images: my own

Entertaining Statistics: 2016 Year Round-up

As I was reading farewell posts for 2016 (or celebratory ones for 2017), I’ve noticed that many people were very unhappy with the year and were anxious to see it off. While I acknowledge all the madness and unpleasantness that the year had brought us, on the personal level I don’t have much to complain. All-in-all, it was a good year for me, and I’m grateful for that.

But let me show you my 2016 in numbers.

98% – 100%

Northern California finally got some relief from the drought we are having. It’s still not over, and a part of the state is still in miserable condition, but the area where I live got rainfall between 98 and 100 percent of historic average, which makes me happy (I’m not sure about Rusty, though: since the picture below had been taken, he’s developed an inexplicable phobia of umbrellas – so that he refuses to be in the same room with it. Now I have to dry umbrellas in the garage not to traumatize him any further).

Rusty and Umbrella

164 Perfumes Worn

I wear perfumes on most of the days that I work from the office and on weekends. When I work from home, I tend to use those days to test perfumes instead of wearing my favorites. Since at the new job I get less WFH days, 2016 numbers for perfume wearing went up compared to 2015 (the difference is given in parentheses): I wore 164 perfumes (+8) from 61 brands (+5) on 333 occasions (+29). And before you ask: no, I do not own 164 bottles of perfumes; some of these are travel bottles, minis or decants.

Jo Malone with a Vengeance

For many years I have been a Jo Malone’s fan. It started long before my trip down the rabbit hole but during the first several years of my descent I was so mesmerized by all the marvels of the niche perfumery world that I wore much less of my favorite perfumes from this brand even though I own more full bottles from Jo Malone than from any other brand.

Since I wasn’t doing my monthly statistics posts this last year, I haven’t noticed the tendency, so it got me by surprise when my year numbers showed that Jo Malone was the brand I wore the most often, and it was the highest number for one brand in the last three years: I wore Jo Malone’s perfumes on 29 occasions.

My Stats Year 2016 Brands

Lucky Number 13

This is how many times I wore Lancôme Climat – my all-time favorite perfume in 2016. You might think it’s not a high number for perfume that I love my whole life: just 13 days out of 365… no, actually 366. But look at it from another perspective: this is the highest number for any single perfume I wore during any of the past six years.

Testing… Testing… 275, 100, 361…

Despite being very busy and wearing perfumes more often, in 2016 I did a lot more testing (compared to 2015): I tested 275 perfumes (+ 97) from 100 brands (+15) on 361 occasions (+134). Not all the testing I’ve done was for new perfumes, I do a lot of comparison testing (e.g., a new to me perfume with the one I own or two new perfumes against each other) or just re-testing something I’ve tested before. But I did test 118 new for me perfumes (+26), 31 of which were released in 2016 (+3), and I listed 10 of the new releases that I liked in the last post of the year.

Care to guess, which line I tested the most? Told you – “with a vengeance.” I was surprised myself, and I blame it on their Garden Collection: probably I just couldn’t believe I couldn’t find a single perfume to like in those cute green bottles, so I kept trying them.

A Year of Zen [Gardens]

A year ago I changed jobs and I got myself a desk Zen Garden, about which I dreamed for years. Looking back, I can tell that it was a good decision. On both accounts – the job and the garden. It was a challenging busy year but I enjoy what I do, I like my job, and I still had time for changing my Zen Garden at least seven times (I can’t find a picture of the very first one I made but it was more traditional than the next six).

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As you can see, I used all my favorite things – cats, perfumes, chocolates and holiday decorations. Yesterday I took off Christmas ornaments, and I’m ready for the next chapter in my Zen-gardening. Any ideas for what I should do next?

Zen Garden 8

Images: my own

Serge Lutens Boxeuses: Hanging Up My Gloves

Several days ago Tara (A Bottled Rose) linked her great review of Serge LutensBoxeuses to my post from 2014 (Serge Lutens Boxeuses: Round One – I won). I remembered what I wrote back then in the conclusion of the story:

The year isn’t over yet and it looks like I’ll need to consider either changing my job or buying a bottle of Boxeuses

Since the situation in 2015 didn’t improve, I welcomed a bottle of Boxeuses into my collection and it proved to be one of my Top 10 perfumes that got the most skin time in 2015, which on its own attests to what a year it was.

Serge Lutens Boxeuses

Yesterday I wore Boxeuses on my last day at my job of many-many-many years. The irony was that it wasn’t even just symbolic: I actually attended my last meeting of the type, for which this perfume was meant.

Changing jobs after that many years at the same place is a scary step. So even though I made this important (and long overdue) decision a while ago, it took me some time to go through with it. I liked many aspects of that job and people with whom I worked day-to-day. I’ll miss them. I’ll miss a great view from the window of my office. I’ll miss traditions I’ve created and fostered over the years (I’ve told on my blog a couple of stories before – about Halloween Nail Decoration contest and holiday ornaments). I’ll miss other small things that aren’t that important in the grand scheme of things but still are important on the personal level.

Next week I’m starting a new job. As with everything new, there is an excitement, worries and, of course, hopes. Even though I like Boxeuses, in future I hope to wear this perfume just for pleasure of experiencing the scent and not as a coping strategy. I also hope that maybe this time I will be able to make this beautiful orchid – a farewell gift from a coworker – bloom more than once. As the first step I should probably hide both from Rusty.

Rusty and Serge Lutens Boxeuses

Images: my own

In the Search for the Perfect Lavender

Because of the perfume, war clearly was on my mind that day.

When in my office’s vestibule I almost ran into a guy carrying a long box, my thoughts immediately went to the mall scene from Terminator 2:

 

I’d never seen him in our building before so I was suspicious:

– I hope it’s not a shotgun in there…
– ???
– In the box…
– Oh, no. Those are just fluorescent light tubes.
– Ah, I see. That’s reassuring.

We smiled at each other and, as I passed him, he dropped casually:

– Nice perfume!
– Thank you!

I was wearing Lieber Gustav 14 by Krigler. You might wonder how the perfume, notes of which include lavender, black tea, tonka bean, geranium, leather and sandalwood, prompted those violent thoughts.

I could have told you that it was because the perfumer created Lieber Gustav in memory of his daughter’s fiancé who had been killed in WWI.

Or I could have drawn a complex association “Lieber Gustav” -> “Ach, du lieber Augustin” song that in the war mythology with which I grew up stereotyped fascists played on their harmonicas during WWII. Or…

But everything was much simpler: I chose Lieber Gustav as a perfume for the NTS’s Gender Wars Friday community project.

Krigler Lieber Gustav

While in the U.S. lavender is one of the most ubiquitous scents used in … everything (alongside with lemon/citrus, strawberry and rose), it wasn’t cultivated or widely used where I lived as a child. So until I moved to the U.S. in my late 20s the only thing I knew about lavender was the word itself. I’m not sure if that played any significant role in my affection towards lavender. Or maybe it was thanks to Yves Rocher‘s lavender oil that I used on pulse points when I or my vSO couldn’t sleep – and it seemed to help. Or was it a wonderful gift from a friend – “Do not Disturb” Lavender Spa Relaxation Heat Wrap* – that over years soothed many of my pains and left me feeling warm about that scent? Whatever it was, I like the smell of lavender – in body products, sachets and even food. I was surprised when I realized that I also enjoy lavender in perfumes.

Rusty and Krigler Lieber Gustav

In perfumes that I like lavender can’t be too “simple”: both Yves Rocher’s and Demeter‘s lavender scents went directly to the linen closet.

For a while I thought I liked Brin de Réglisse from the Hermessense collection. I even bought a travel bottle. Unfortunately the first couple of hours of licorice are killing it for me since I strongly dislike licorice in any form. By the time it subsides enough for me to tolerate it (or maybe I just get used to it), like most perfumes from this line it’s barely noticeable on my skin. I should probably consider Brin de Réglisse as my first official “albatross” (© Olfactoria).

Before I tried Lieber Gustav 14, I didn’t know anything about either that perfume or that brand. I didn’t know the perfume had lavender as one of the main notes. A friend of mine gave me a sample and offered a bigger decant later from her bottle if I liked it, in which she wasn’t sure since Lieber Gustav isn’t too popular in the Perfumeland. It was love at the first sniff! I decided not even to go through that illogical stage of getting a decant but saving the last couple of drops and not using it up completely and at the same time not buying a bottle because decant hasn’t been finished yet.

With just the right combination of lavender, leather and woodsy notes Lieber Gustav is a truly unisex perfume. Leather in this perfume isn’t harsh or strong but it’s definitely leather, not suede. Lavender is aromatic but not medicinal. It’s the second perfume in my collection that I equally love on me and on my vSO (I haven’t tried it on Rusty).

Rusty and Krigler Lieber Gustav

Serge LutensGris Clair is another lavender perfume that I like. In several reviews (both positive and negative) Gris Clair was called cool or even cold, which was very surprising to me because it wasn’t how I perceived this perfume. It smelled like lavender and heated… heated… but what? Not soil or grass or road – something cleaner. For a long time it bothered me that I could distinctively smell a certain note but even though the recognition was on the tip of my tongue (nose?) it kept slipping away. And then I found and re-read Christos’ (Memory of Scent) review of Gris Clair. He called it “hot iron note.” Of course! It’s exactly what I smell. And since I like ironing (yes, I know how strange it sounds for most people), I’m not surprised my small decant is almost empty. I’m not sure though what to do next: I recently tried another Luten’s lavender perfume – Fourreau Noir – and liked it even more than I like Gris Clair. And since it’s a bell jar perfume, I should probably save my lavender-allocated budget for it and get my hot iron note directly from the source.

Serge Lutens Fourreau Noir

Do you like lavender? Do you wear lavender-centered perfumes?

 

Images: all but the special edition Fourreau Noir – my own

* Do not Disturb wrap on the pictures is the “second generation”: after I wore out the first one I bought a new one here (I’m not affiliated).

Serge Lutens Boxeuses: Round One – I won

A while ago I did a post on several perfumes’ performance under extreme temperatures. As posting a picture from my Bikram yoga studio was out of question, I used a shot of Kathleen Turner from Body Heat (and mentioned her in the post). Since then different combinations of “Kathleen Turner “, “hot” and “body” brought to my blog more than six hundred visitors – just twice less than my blog’s traffic from the word “perfume” among the search terms, which is ironic since it is a perfume blog. And, as I checked out, not a single visitor came to Undina’s Looking Glass by searching for “Serge Lutens” or “Boxeuses”, both of which were mentioned (and tagged!) in the same post with the hot actress named above.

It’s not my attempt to improve my search engine ratings or attract more visitors (I’m not sure if I got even a single returning reader from native search traffic) but rather a quest to improve the balance of these search terms out there that I influenced unintentionally.

Radio Pictures Chorus Girls

Have you ever tried explaining to somebody who has almost no understanding in something that you know well why it takes exactly the amount of time you say it will and can’t be done twice faster? I do not write much about my day job on my blog but to give you a better idea of how I felt I want to mention that it’s a technology-related job in a non-technological company.

Last twelve months were extremely busy and stressful for me: we were working on a big project. It started with a series of meetings during which I had to fight for the realistic schedule. Preparing to those meetings was nerve-wracking: I knew the project would be a much more complex than my audience could comprehend or was willing to acknowledge; I knew they would be pushing for a shorter cycle and expecting an enthusiastic “Yes, we can” but I just couldn’t promise them something that wasn’t achievable.

One morning while dressing up for the Big Meeting I tried to choose what perfume to wear. Normally I would wear something discreet (e.g. Chanel No 19 parfum) but I knew that meeting would be a fight. Boxeuses! I do not wear perfumes as mood enhancers, I consider them ornamental. But in this case the name itself made me smile: it fit just perfectly!

Serge Lutens Boxeuses

I’m not sure what it was – a combination of the birch tar smokiness and dark fruit sweetness, an extra smile I got from the perfume name or my brilliantly performed presentation but I won that round and my schedule was approved.

Since then Boxeuses by Serge Lutens became my perfume for tough meetings. With that complex project my technical group was right on schedule while the data group, the manager of which was one of those pushing for unrealistic deadlines, spent extra seven weeks after that finishing their part. It took me a small-decant-worth number of unpleasant meetings and a lot of efforts.

The year isn’t over yet and it looks like I’ll need to consider either changing my job or buying a bottle of Boxeuses

 

For real reviews read Grain de Musc, Bois de Jasmin and Kafkaesque.

Images: Women boxing on a roof, 1938 – I’m not sure who is the author, but here I found the best information about it; perfume – hajussuri (from whom I also received the decant that got me through this year – thank you!)

War’s Unwomanly Face: Serge Lutens La Fille de Berlin

Even though I was born to the generation born to the generation that went through the War, we grew up knowing about that war, remembering it and not leaving it behind us. Not only around holidays and special dates, but all year round we were watching movies about that war, reading books, listening to songs. We had our own mythology that became a common knowledge, the uniting force. Fascism wasn’t an abstract term: we knew a lot about it and hated it. Even people who opposed the Soviet regime held that war sacred. It was our war.

Of course, we knew about World War II, allies, joint effort to defeat Nazi Germany but in the country we always thought and talked about it as of the Great Patriotic War 1941-1945.The USSR lost twenty million people to this war. There were probably no families not affected by that war. It was our War. It was our Victory.

One important part of that patriotic mythology was an image of the Russian Soldier – the Defender, the Protector, the Liberator.

Soviet War Memorial in Berlin

So when I first read the explanation behind Serge LutensLa Fille de Berlin perfume in Kafka’s review, I was appalled: how could he?! How dared he?!! They had started it! They were enemies who invaded our country, who methodically exterminated civil population, destroyed cultural heritage and stole everything they could steal – and they did it not even on an individual level but as an organized and controlled plan.

I understand that any war has multiple faces and that regular people who might have not contributed to their country’s decision to start a war might suffer from it as a result. I understand that horrible actions of one side do not justify those same actions from the other. But while Nazi Germany for years tortured and killed millions of civilians – just for belonging to the “wrong” nation or ethnic groups – as well as employed forced laborers, killed POWs and bombed hospitals, Germany got to endure the hardship of the regular army occupation for a couple of months (I’m talking just about the after war chaos since later both the Soviet and the U.S. authorities put an end to an uncontrolled violence) – and we should pay a tribute to their women’s resilience and hardship they went through?! I sympathize but … cry me a river. You don’t want to pay homage to women of the country that brought communism affliction to Europe? Fine. How about Polish women who suffered greatly from Nazis? Or Jewish? Not sexy enough, Mr. Lutens?

Serge Lutens La Fille de Berlin

Yesterday, on May 9th, the Victory Day, I wore La Fille de Berlin. I did it as an act of a symbolic protest against current Russia’s actions against Ukraine and its attitude towards the rest of the World. I like this perfume. I like the disturbing color of the juice. I like the opening rose burst and the metallic undertone of the scent. I wish I hadn’t read Kafka’s or Victoria’s (EauMG) reviews: I usually do not care for an ad copy or perfumer’s commentary so if it weren’t for those reviews, I would have skipped them (and I promise to myself never to listen to those pseudo-philosophical mumblings again). But what I read about La Fille de Berlin is imprinted in my mind now and I just cannot bring myself to wearing it.

During the Great Patriotic War my mother’s mom was brought to Germany against her will to be a Fremdarbeiter. She died young after the war and her sister, who during the war served as a nurse in front-line duty unit, raised her. I knew her as my grandmother. My father’s mother, a medical school student at the time, helped in the hospital in Evacuation. So I’d rather stick to my Portrait of the Lady rose – it suits me better.

Al Farrow The Spine and Tooth of Santo Guerro 2012

War’s Unwomanly Face is a name of one of my favorite books written by Svetlana Alexievich. You can download it in PDF from here (author’s site):

A woman is the giver of life; she safeguards life, so “Woman” and “life” are synonyms.
But during the most terrible war of the 20th century a woman had to become a soldier. She not only rescued and bandaged the wounded; she also fired a sniper’s rifle, dropped bombs, blew up bridges, went reconnoitering, and captured identification prisoners. A woman killed. She killed the enemy who, with unprecedented cruelty, was attacking her land, her home, and her children.

 

Images: The Soviet War Memorial from here; the rest – my own.

How Do You Take Your Amber?

We had a really strange winter this year*: it has never actually got cold. When I say “cold” I mean, of course, our Californian cold – something like 10C/50F. Instead of it the average high temperature in February, for example, was 16C/60F. I’m not really complaining especially after hearing about record levels of snow and cold weather all over the world. After all, no matter how much I realize that warm weather in absence of rain makes our drought situation even worse, objectively if feels nice.

But there was one serious negative consequence for me: this past winter I couldn’t wear almost any of my favorite amber perfumes. Even though I do not do a conscious season rotation of perfumes, my wearing habits gravitate towards the commonly accepted practice of lighter scents in summer and heavier members of my collection in winter. So the only amber I wear in hot weather is my amber necklace.

Amber Necklace

As winter approached I was eager to start wearing my favorite ambers again. The first disappointment came when I put on Ambre Russe by Parfum d’Empire. This perfume was on my “to buy” list for a couple of years so I decided to finish the sample I had and finally buy a bottle. Actually, I would have bought it not waiting for the last drop to leave the sample vial if it weren’t for an unavailability of more reasonable 50 ml bottles. Now I think that maybe it was a sign: the last time I wore it from the sample I felt almost like washing it off. Now I’m not sure any more if I even want it.

After that I was very careful approaching the rest of the usual suspects: Ambre Sultan by Serge Lutens, Ambre Fetishe by Annick Gotal, Amber Absolute by Tom Ford and Mitzah by Dior – each got just one wear, if that. I didn’t dislike them but I didn’t get the same warm feeling I used to get from them before. Even L’eau d’Ambre Extreme by L’Artisan Parfumeur felt too heavy for the weather.

There were just a couple of ambers that worked better and didn’t scare me. Unexpectedly, two of those were Ambre Orient by Armani Prive and Amber Oud from By Kilian. I am surprised because both have agarwood – the note that is difficult for me. But this time amber + agarwood combination seemed exactly what I needed. One more perfume that suddenly came into favor was Calamity J by Juliette Has A Gun. After I deplete the decant I will consider adding a bottle to my collection.

Despite all that I had more amber in my life this winter than ever before: last New Year I’ve got a gift from my vSO – Black Orchid Diffuser Set from my favorite designer Michael Aram. I’ve never had a diffuser before but was glad to get this one since I have some other items from this collection. Official notes are citrus, floral notes, tropical fruits, cedar, sandalwood and musk but for my nose it smells like a light amber perfume. And for a while, until I realized from where that wonderful scent was coming, I tried to figure out which of my perfumes left those traces and, which was even more important, where?!

Michael Aram Black Orchid Diffuser

So this year I take my amber light or very light. And, it seems, with agarwood. But I really hope that next year I’ll be able to enjoy the “heavy hitters” (© Olfactoria, Queen of Amber) again.

 

How do you take your amber nowadays?

* Ines recently started her post with the exact phrase but I swear I had this part already written by the time I read her post.

 

Images: my own