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

Saturday Question: Do You Finish Soaps?

Following great tradition started by two wonderful bloggers, Birgit (Olfactoria’s Travels) and Portia (Australian Perfume Junkies), once a week I or one of the guest writers will keep the lights on in this virtual leaving room, but I hope that you, my friends and readers, will engage in conversation not only with me or the other host, but also with each other.

 

Saturday Question on Undina's Looking Glass

 

Saturday Question #21:

Do You Finish Soaps?

Nicely scented soaps are probably the easiest way of scenting our lives without commitment: they smell nicely while we use them and maybe for a couple of minutes afterwards, but then the scent is gone, and we’re free to use whatever perfumes we want.

But what about soaps themselves? Do you finish them? Do you use them until they are tiny slivers, or do you through them away before they reach that state?

Bonus question: What are your favorite soap bars?

My Answer

While I like scented soaps, I have problems with them: at the rate I use them, most of larger bars (standard size, I mean) lose their scent long before I finish them. Until now the only soap I’ve been able to finish is Caswell-Massey’s Sandalwood Soap on a Rope (I told about it in the post Gift that keeps on… lathering). I’m on the third bar of it, I still enjoy it and hope they’ll keep making it.

 

Rusty and Soap on a Roap

 

I had to throw away probably a third of the nice linden soap, about which I wrote in the post In the Search for the Perfect Linden, Take 2. It was nice while it lasted, and I felt bad throwing away the remaining part.

 

Linden Soap And Rusty

 

I told myself that probably I waited for too long before using it, and that it was too big for me. So, my next attempt was with a smaller Jo Malone Pomegranate Noir soap bought directly from the brand’s site and opened soon after it arrived (in the next second after the picture below had been taken, Rusty jumped up to closer inspect that soap). I was amazed with how long it lasted with daily use… but long before it got too small to use, it dried out, cracked and lost the scent. I had to throw it away, and now I’m hesitant to buy any other Jo Malone soaps.

 

Rusty and Jo Malone Pomegranate Noir Soap

 

Now I decided to try another approach: I bought a couple of sets of small guest soaps (50g each) by Pre de Provence – my favorite linden and an assortment of 7 different scents. They arrived today, and I hope that maybe in thit format I’ll be able to finish my soaps without either them losing their properties or me making myself to keep using something I don’t enjoy any more.

 

 

Do You Finish Soaps?

 

Disclaimer: this blog doesn’t use any affiliated links or benefit from any of the G-d awful ads that some of you might see inserted tastelessly by the WP engine inside the post and/or between comments. Encouraging readers to post more comments does not serve any purpose other then getting pleasure from communicating with people who share same interests.

If it didn’t work the first time…

I read that this perfume was about to be released. I’m a little surprised to see it on the counter already, but since it’s there, of course I want to try it. I do not expect much but, against all odds, I still have a faint hope that it will be good…

“It’s a great new perfume featuring … “<here goes a list of notes> – announces an SA materializing at my side, –“It’s not available yet, you know. It’ll release next month. But I can pre-order it for you…”

I’ve heard a variation of this line a dozen of times. And every time I feel baffled: why?!! Why would I possibly want to pre-order the scent that I just smelled for the first time? It’s not something exclusive or limited. They do not offer any type of deal or a discount. So why to pre-order now if in a couple of weeks it’ll be in all the stores for me to buy on the spot or to spray in abundance and think until the next holidays if I want it?

My standard reply usually is: “I’ll think about it, but meanwhile could I get a sample of this great new perfume?” Not a single time I left without it.

Jo Malone Basil & Neroli is a typical Jo Malone perfume: it’s not unpleasant, not complicated, and becomes a skin scent within a couple of hours, leaving you free to choose whatever you want to wear next. I think it’s rather appealing for the opening five minutes: it’s juicy, moderately sweet and very uplifting. But then it gets just flat on my skin.

While Basil & Neroli still might be considered a unisex perfume, at least initially it is more feminine then Jo Malone’s staple and “a modern classic” (even if they say so themselves) Lime Basil & Mandarin, which is strange, if you think about it: shouldn’t the fruit (mandarin) be sweater than blossom oil? But 30-40 minutes into the development I’m not sure I can really tell them apart unless I smell them side by side.

Speaking of Lime Basil & Mandarin, being a Jo Malone fan, for years I tried that perfume again and again hoping I’d change my mind but kept on strongly disliking it – until I got Lime Basil & Mandarin soap as a part of a GWP. I simply love it! The combination that felt too masculine as perfume is just perfect for daily washing rituals. A couple of months ago I got anxious that there would be soon just a sliver left from my current then bar of LB&M – and hurried up to buy a replacement bar. Today I’m still using that first bar, and from the way it looks, there is another month or two in it. So if you were to wait for one of the brand site’s good deals, which happen from time to time (like 3 samples or, even better, a 9 ml travel bottle with any purchase), with free S&H that soap might be the best $20 spent.

Rusty and Jo Malone Lime Basil & Mandarin Soap

As for Basil & Neroli, I can’t think of a reason to even try it – unless you’re looking for a citrus piece for your perfume wardrobe, or find yourself in a store or an airport’s Duty Free with absolutely nothing else interesting to test.

 

Image: my own

WASH ‘EM CLEAN

Long Live Fluffy Towel
And Toothpowder
And Fragrant Soap
And Fine-toothed Comb!
Let’s wash and slosh,
Bathe, dive and tumble
In basins, in bathtubs,
In ocean and river,
Always and everywhere
Hurray for Water!

As an epigraph I used loosely translated closing verses of Moydodyr – the poem for children by Russian poet Korney Chukovsky published in 1923. Moydodyr (Wash’em’clean) is an anthropomorphic washstand, a self-proclaimed commander of other washstands and sponges, who teaches an untidy boy (and the readers) “the virtue of hygiene“.

Mojdodyir

I doubt that in my childhood there were too many kids who didn’t read that poem or watched the cartoon. As Wikipedia correctly states, “Moydodyr character became a symbol of cleanliness.” But I must say that for the country, several generations of which grew up on this poem, we were quite unwashed masses. I’ll spare you horror stories about hygiene norms and routines from those times: hopefully, many of those are left in the past. But I want to share some of the less detestable but rather peculiar memories. Soaps.

I don’t know how it was in early 20s when the poem was written, but by 80s books were probably the only source of fragrant soap. Soap produced in the USSR was mostly functional but not something that would bring joy to any of your senses: usually it was a rectangular bar of some undefined light color and, if you were lucky, a faint unpleasant scent. I suspect that my dislike of natural/organic/handmade soaps has a root in those childhood memories.

Soviet Fir Soap

In today’s economy whenever I read in a product’s description “Imported”, I immediately assume that it’s a euphemism for “Made in China” so in my mind it’s a disparaging attribute: had it been a “respectable” producer, it would have been named specifically – “Made in Germany/France/Italy/the U.S./etc.” Faceless “imported” usually means “a country where labor is cheap and quality is corresponding.” But when I was growing up that property had the opposite effect: it would immediately raise the status of the item. “Imported X” was universally considered of a better quality and more desirable than locally produced X. “Imported shoes”, “imported furniture” and “imported soap” are just a few examples. Usually it didn’t even matter from where those were imported (unless it was perfume, in which case it had to be French).

If anybody was lucky enough to get them, those fragrant, perfectly molded and beautifully packaged representatives of remote civilizations “imported” soaps would usually lead a life of leisure surrounded by the finest things… in underwear drawers staying there for years – until finally making a guest appearance in the bathroom. I mean, appearance for some special guests – and only after that fulfilling their utilitarian destiny.

The situation with soaps (and other imports) had significantly improved even before I left for the U.S. Camay, Palmolive, Nivea and dozens of other soap bar brands came into our lives and became something mundane and ordinary – just like it should be. And since I haven’t lived there for a long time, I don’t know if the next spiral of craziness (all-natural, artisan and such) has reached them already.

But even now and here it’s hard to get rid of old habits: almost three years have passed from the time Rusty and I demonstrated to you the wonderful linden-scented bar until I let the first drop of water touch it. It still smells nice but I think it dried out a little while waiting for its show time.

Linden Soap And Rusty

Amouage Dia soap ended up in my stash by chance: there was a closeout sale at the online store and I just couldn’t pass on a great deal. For the last couple of years I was trying to decide when the time would be right to start using it: it’s so luxurious that it felt wasteful to open it without a special occasion. Well… It’s still in its original cellophane.

Rusty and Amouage Dia

I wanted to see what Rusty thought of the Dia soap’s scent. I’m not positive but does it look to you like he’s trying to show me the proper way of cleaning myself without a soap?