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?

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

Entertaining Statistics: 2017 Year Round-up

Strictly from the personal prospective, 2017 wasn’t a bad year: it had its share of unpleasantness and hardships but nothing to be really unhappy – so I won’t complain or even mention that. Instead, I would rather remember that year by good things that happened – short and long trips, wonderful time spent with my friends, successful projects at work and wonderful perfumes I got to test and wear in 2017.

As I usually do it in the beginning of the new year, I’m looking back to my perfume records and sharing with you my insights.

 

How I do it

Years ago I created a personal database (using MS Access) to hold information on all the perfumes I own or test. Whenever I get a new sample, I add it to the database – below I give an example of the entry form I use. I do not always get all the information but I add what I can find. Perfume name, launch year and notes are free-text entry; designer (brand), perfumers, notes and some other data points are coming from the pre-defined lists, so there can be no discrepancies.

 

Sample DB Record

 

Whenever I wear or test perfumes, I record it in the Perfume Diary. In the form below, “Purpose” is one of the choices for when/why I wore or tested that perfume, e.g., “office wear” or “weekend day” or “Work from home.” Type of use is either “wore” or “tested”; “Response” is a formalized evaluation of how I reacted to that perfume on that day – e.g., “Enjoyed it a lot” or “Mixed feelings” or “I hated it,” etc. And finally “My notes” contain a short free-form comment, whatever I want to write about that time I wore or tested perfume.

 

DB Diary Entry

 

For those readers who haven’t been around when I was doing this series regularly, I want to explain what I mean when I say “tested” or “wore”: for testing I apply perfume to one area on my arms easily available for the repetitive sniffing. I can test two, sometimes even more perfumes at the same time. I do most of my testing in the evenings or while working from home. When I wear perfume, I apply it to at least three-four points, and usually I plan to spend at least 4-8 hours with the same scent so I’m prepared to re-apply if the original application wears off. After wearing a less tenacious perfume in the morning I might wear another one later. I wear perfumes mostly from bottles and decants; I wear perfumes from samples only when I consider buying a bottle or decant.

So, now when I explained how I collect data, let’s take a look at my 2017 in numbers.

 

178 Perfumes Worn

This year I wore more different perfumes than the year before – 178 (vs. 164 in 2016) from more brands – 72 (vs. 61) but did it less often – on 314 occasions (vs. 333).

Second year in a row Jo Malone was a brand I wore the most. I think it’s because these are my most “office friendly” perfumes. Neela Vermeire Creations made its way back into the Top 10 chart (last time it was here in 2014); while Le Labo fell completely off. The rest of the group just moved around but stayed on the chart, which isn’t surprising since I do not either update or expand my collection significantly any longer and keep wearing my favorites.

 

My Stats Year 2017 Brands

 

I tend to rotate perfumes I wear daily so I usually do not wear the same perfume even twice the same months – that’s how I go through that many different perfumes in a year. But I still managed to wear 67 perfumes more than once during 2017. Five perfumes I wore the most – Chanel No 19 (EdT, EdP and extrait), Lancôme Climat, Ormonde Jayne Ta’if, Krigler Lieber Gustav 14 and Armani La Femme Bleue.

 

Testing: Recording 300 and “carrying over” 1,000

This year was remarkable in regards to testing: in addition to the cursory testing of about 1,000 perfumes during my LondonBarcelonaStockholm trip (those didn’t go into my database – unless I scored a sample to bring back with me), I recorded testing at home 300 perfumes (vs. 275 last year) from 103 (vs. 100) brands. 134 of them were completely new to me (the rest I had tested before). I really liked/loved 24 of them, liked 20, thought that 56 were just not interesting and disliked 34.

Out if the 134 new for me perfumes that I tested, only 45 were released in 2017. Two of the 45 I liked enough to buy – Ineke Idyllwild and Sonoma Scent Studio Bee’s Bliss.

 

Rusty and Ineke Idyllwild

 

Has any of the 2017 releases joined your collection?

 

Images: my own

A Month of Roses: Week 2

The second week of the Month of Roses went very fast because it included a 3-day weekend (I took an extra day off to celebrate my birthday) and Valentine’s Day. Rose perfumes felt extremely appropriate.

White Rose

February 8: Floris Snow Rose

Since Vanessa (Bonkers about Perfume) mentioned in her comment on my A Month of Roses post that her bottle of this perfume, from which my sample came, went off, I felt uneasy as the date scheduled for wearing Snow Rose was approaching: I had just a little of perfume left in the sample after the previous testing, so I didn’t want to try it before the time to wear it came, so I decided to risk having to look for the last moment replacement. Surprisingly, I didn’t have to! I don’t know how it could have happened but a small part somehow had a better fate than a “whole” (whatever was left in Vanessa’s bottle).

I feel bad telling you what an interesting perfume Snow Rose is since it was a limited edition in 2009, and it doesn’t look like they are going to re-issue it. But I want to mention something that attracted my attention: it started out cold and very fitting to the name, but then it melted into very warm and cozy scent.

February 9: Les Parfums de Rosine Rose Praline (Francois Robert)

I had a couple of meetings in a small conference room so I was very discreet with the application. It’s not a bad perfume, and I might even finish my small decant but with many other great perfumes I have Rose Pralines seems a little too ordinary. I would still recommend trying this perfume if you’re looking for rose perfume with just a pinch of gourmand flavor.

Mrs Robert Shewell

February 10: Frederic Malle Portrait of a Lady (Dominique Ropion)

Portrait of a Lady is one of my favorite perfumes. Normally I wouldn’t wear it to the office but since Lucas chose a work day for hajusuuri to wear this perfume, I was going to keep her company. But then I couldn’t help the urge to wear my favorite Lieber Gustav for the NTS’s community project (lavender perfumes): not only I love it but it’s much more office-friendly.

I still wore Portrait of a Lady that evening when I came home. It is such strong and elegant perfume! I think it calls for evening attire and pearls, though it might be an interesting contrast to jeans with a turtleneck – just not in the office.

February 11: Juliette Has A Gun Miss Charming (Francis Kurkdjian)

It was a perfect charming perfume for a pre-birthday trip on a beautiful sunny day to a couple of wineries, a brewery and a coffee shop in Santa Cruz. As I previously wrote, Miss Charming is my absolutely favorite strawberry perfume. I enjoy wearing it on any occasion but that Saturday it was just perfect, and it accompanied well roses that were on my mind, cider with a distinct rose flavor that I tried during lunch and my favorite rose truffles that I had with coffee from my favorite coffee shop.

Rose Truffle

February 12: Ormonde Jayne Ta’if (Geza Schoen)

Ta’if is perfume, to which I attribute to my nosedive into the proverbial rabbit hole of niche perfumery. I love this perfume and think of it as my number two all-time favorite. It is so special for me that I wear it only for special occasion – such as my birthday this year. I started my morning with Ta’if oil, then later during the day switched to Ta’if EdP, and for the evening I went with Ta’if parfum. It is such a beautiful rose! I need to come up with more special occasions to wear it.

February 13: Jo Malone Velvet Rose & Oud (Fabrice Pellegrin)

Judging by the fact that I like this perfume, no real trees had to suffer to produce this agarwood. Velvet Rose & Oud is pleasant and plays nicely on my skin. And Jo Malone just started selling their Cologne Intense collection in slightly more reasonable 50 ml bottles. If they ever go for 30 ml, I’ll probably get it. Until then my small decant should do.

February 14: Les Parfums de Rosine Rose d’Amour

I chose this perfume because I like it very much, and because I thought it would be hard to find a more suitable name for Valentine’s Day perfume. This is one of a few aldehydes perfumes that work for me. It’s a bright beautiful rose, for which I can see myself buying the next bottle when my current one is empty – it’s not something that I can definitively say about too many perfumes in my collection.

Rusty and Roses Bouquet

With the extra day off and then Valentine’s Day, half of the third week just ran away from me, but I don’t want to crumble extra three days into this post – so February 15-17 will appear on the Week 3 post.

How was your week? Did you celebrate Valentine’s Day? Or Singles Awareness Day? Did you wear any rose perfumes recently since you commented on one of the previous posts in this Month of Roses series? Did you eat any good chocolate?

Images: my own

Dreaded D-word and Back-up Bottles

Discontinuation is a horrifying word for many of us. More than once I caught myself feeling sad when I heard the news about perfumes being disconnected – sometimes even if those weren’t perfumes I loved or wore.

A while ago in the post on this topic Blacknall wrote:

Anyone who loves perfume tends to complain about the arbitrary way in which one scent after another can bite the dust, but we have to remember after all these are businesses, not revolving exhibitions. Either perfumers manage to stay current with public tastes and fashions or they don’t, and when they don’t, sales decline.

Even though I agreed with her in principle, something bothered me – so I kept thinking.

While discontinuation might be a necessary evil, a conspiracy theorist in me has a lot of doubts. Are those perfumes that get discontinued really worst sellers? Or, with everything else being equal, do companies put on the chopping block something that is more expensive to produce – be that due to costs of raw materials, bottle production, packaging or any other components that affect the bottom line? And isn’t it a negative reinforcement: companies train customers to like simpler perfumes that are cheap(er) to produce, put much more into promoting those – and as a result get lower sales for better perfumes and then discontinue them?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I’m not even sure that reasons are the same for different companies in the same market. But I’m wondering if it is really in companies’ best interest to silently kill off the scent that didn’t meet whatever criteria are required for staying on the show for the next season. Is there really any downside to letting loyal fans know that the discontinuation is coming, which would allow them to stock up on their favorites? (And if we’re talking about the U.S., those would be acquired at full price since perfumes never go on sale in big department stores here.)

Whatever the truth is, I don’t expect to learn it from any of LVMH or Estee Lauder‘s companies. And since the reasons would be different for those brands, for which economies of scale do not apply, there’s not much sense in asking them either. So I’ll have to keep wondering until somebody publishes an all-revealing memoir.

When I recently heard of three of the perfumes I like being discontinued – Diptyque Volutes, Bvlgari Black and Tom Ford Fleur de Chine, – I realized that I wasn’t ready to buy a second bottle of any of them. Eau de Tommy Sooni II has disappeared with the brand, but even if I could find a bottle now, I’m not sure I would buy it. I might regret it one day but for now it feels like I have enough of them, taking into the account SABLE (Stash Above & Beyond Life Expectancy – Vanessa ©) state of my collection. I thought about it more and realized that Ormonde Jayne Ta’if is the only one, about which with a 100% certainty I can say that I’d buy a back-up bottle (or two) in a heartbeat at the first mentioning of the D-word.

Ormonde Jayne Ta'if

Look at your collection. Disregard decants, samples and “to buy” lists and concentrate only on full bottle of perfumes that are still in production. Now imagine that you learn that those all are being discontinued (not all at once: that would be too cruel even for a hypothetical question). Are there any perfumes for which you would buy a back-up bottle?

Images: my own

Unfashionable me: Past, Present and Future

Last week Natalie of Another Perfume Blog dedicated to me one of her RSP (Runway, Sidewalk, Perfume) posts. She depicted me much better than I am in the real life – so you should go and read it if you haven’t done it yet! (UPD: APB is closed now)

Natalie’s post sent me sorting not only through my closet to streamlining my wardrobe but also through my memories.

I grew up in a fashion-challenged country: there were almost no fashion magazines, no advertising of any kind, runway TV shows or even sales catalogs. Still somehow everybody knew what was in fashion at any given time. And most women tried to follow that fashion. So the whole country would be wearing miniskirts, maxi skirts, banana pants, leg warmers, turtlenecks or wedges. Well, maybe not the whole country but inhabitants of big cities definitely would.

I don’t know how they (we) did it: light industry wasn’t the country’s strong suit (I haven’t decided if to consider that a pun); you couldn’t just go to a department store and buy nice clothes – you had to either come across new arrivals and stand in line for a couple of hours or “know somebody” (a sale assistant or a store manager). There was a third option – engaging in the hand-to-hand sale. The problem with the latter was that it was illegal and very expensive: a pair of fashionable boots, for example, could cost a monthly salary of a school teacher. Nevertheless, many women of all ages managed to get the desirable item into their wardrobe. Peculiarly you could unmistakably tell that year’s “it” from just walking the streets or riding a subway. Interestingly, when it came to fashion, looking like everybody else was considered a good thing.

Soviet Fashion in 60s

For the first several years after I moved to the U.S. I thought I was in heaven: not because of the abundance of nice clothes for almost any price range but because it seemed nobody cared for fashion. Most people around wore whatever they felt like wearing, in many cases just jeans and tops – comfortable clothes. Comfort has never been a priority for me (or my ex-countrymen) but what I actually enjoyed was the newly found freedom to wear what I wanted without the pressure to follow the trend or be like everybody.

Of course later I realized that fashion agnosticism that I, following my previous experience, projected on the whole country, was rather a reflection of the area where I lived: soccer moms and computer geeks are not much into hot couture or even just fashion trends.

I still do not care much for what is in or out of fashion. I like beautiful things and would wear something I like without thinking twice if others might think of it as dated. My taste and wardrobe changed a little over the years but I’m still more on the classic and conservative than modern and hip side. And, most likely, I’ll stay that way. If you want to know more, I touched upon my present attitude towards clothes (including a bizarre classification of things I wear) in the last year’s post For Every Occasion: Jul et Mad Amour de Palazzo.

As for the future, what I’m trying to change about my clothes is what I do already, more successfully, with perfumes: I think I will be happier with twice or even three times fewer items bought for the same money. I like variety but I don’t get as much joy from five $40 mainstream perfumes from a discount store as I would get from one even full price bottle of niche perfume of my choice. Two more issues I’m working on: overcoming my preconception that, borrowing from Mr. H. Ford, shoes might be in any color as long as they are black (an aftermath of having just one or two pairs at a time, which had to go with everything) and almost physical handicap preventing me from buying and wearing anything white, especially pants and skirts (I’m still not sure how people do that while using public transportation!).

I also decide to try my hand at making a fashion collage to pair with one of my favorite perfumes – Ormonde Jayne Ta’if (if you missed it, I told the story of this perfume in this year’s anniversary post Down the Rabbit Hole through the Looking-Glass).

Ormonde Jayne Ta'if Collage

Images: Soviet fashion, shoes and clutch for the collage – borrowed somewhere (can’t find owners), necklace, dress and perfume in collage – my own.

Down the Rabbit Hole through the Looking-Glass

 

I don’t like changes and there have always been many constants in my life. Today, on the third anniversary of Undina’s Looking Glass, I want to write about two things I liked for almost as long as I can remember myself: perfumes and storytelling.

At six, my mother and I had a ritual: she would read me a chapter from Alice in Wonderland before bed time, and the next day I would tell it in front of my group in a kindergarten. I think our teacher just appreciated 10-15 minutes of the calm time while she didn’t have to entertain us but I felt very proud to stand in front of the other 12-15 kids and tell the next part of the story.

Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There I read already on my own when I was nine. I don’t remember if I shared that book with anybody at the time but clearly it imprinted in my mind and many years later transformed into the idea behind the idea of this blog’s name.

Alice in NY

It has been long time since I was a kid but I still like telling stories: not fiction but rather something I’ve read, heard or experienced. And since I have the perfect audience (thank you, my friends and readers!), here’s the next chapter of my perfumed story for you.

Even though perfumes were always in my life, until recently I was mostly familiar with the mass market variety. Over the years I’ve approached the proverbial rabbit hole a couple of times without realizing it (several harder to find or niche perfumes made it into my collection without me knowing the significance of that) but every time I would return to the safe ground of mainstream perfumes.

Four years ago, I had a small collection of perfumes, arrogant notion that I knew about most of new releases (my world was limited by local Macy’s, Nordstrom and Sephora) and a firm belief that everything smells like everything else. I still loved and wore perfumes that I owned but I felt apathetic about new releases and didn’t expect to find anything interesting and worth my attention.

In summer 2010, my vSO and I spent four days in London. The trip didn’t start well: due to an oversight we ended up staying in a tiny and extremely hot mansard room. 12 m2 for everything, including a bathroom and the advertised “kitchenette.” It was so tight that the bed was the only place one could spend time on while being inside. So we tried to spend as much time in the city as we could to get back after dark when the temperature inside would become more tolerable.

London Apartment

The idea to visit Harrods came from my vSO: he read about it in the guide book and thought it would be interesting to see the biggest department store in Europe. We were walking there as in a museum for a while before we came across the perfume department – the regular one, I hadn’t even heard about Roja Dove’s Haute Parfumerie until after we returned from that trip.

I wasn’t looking for a new perfume; I was just leisurely browsing the selection when a new perfume found me. An SA almost forced a scented paper strip on me. I knew nothing about the brand. I had never seen their perfumes before. But it was easier just to take that blotter… The brand was Ormonde Jayne. And the perfume was Ta’if.

I liked it so much that I was seriously considering an on-the-spot purchase but remembering an unpleasant experience described in My First Scrubber I decided that I needed to give it some skin time first. Shall we say, the whole 15-20 minutes? I sprayed my wrist, put the blotter in my purse and we went to the next department – just to wait for Ta’if to develop.

That next department happened to be a Jewelry Department. I was looking for anything in that department even less than for new perfume… You know where the story is heading, right? I found a perfect ring that I just had to have. And the more I smelled my wrist the more I liked that perfume. And the store was closing, so I had to decide quickly what I should get. I knew that once you pass on a jewelry you like, it would be almost impossible to find it again. And with perfumes you should be able to find anything online and even cheaper (yeah, I told you I was a little arrogant). I left Harrods with a ring.

Shaun Leane Cherry Blossom Ring

Ta’if had transferred in my purse from the blotter to my phone and stuck to it for days (who knew about that property of gorilla glass?!) haunting me but at the same time making my evenings at that shoebox of a room a little better.

I came home, started looking for Ormonde Jayne, realized it wasn’t available in the U.S., and while at it I discovered The Perfumed Court, perfume blogs and the whole world of niche and indie perfumes.

Ta’if by Ormonde Jayne is my White Rabbit following whom I started my adventures in the Perfumeland. Had I been more spontaneous (which I’m still not), I would have gotten that bottle right then and there and who knows when or even if I would have come to where I am now. But it took me a couple of months to find a decant, a couple of years to get a travel bottle of Ta’if EdP and another year to add a bottle of Ta’if parfum to my collection. It took me three years and 240 posts to write my down-the-rabbit-hole story.

Ormonde Jayne Ta'if Parfum

There are many reviews of Ta’if EdP out there, so I won’t even attempt to do a review. But I’ll share the opinion on the difference between the two versions – eau de perfume and parfum. They are very similar; the latter is a little smoother and has a slightly better longevity but all that isn’t worth an almost 2.5 difference in price ($126 vs. $300). Ta’if is gorgeous perfume, and if you like it go for the eau de perfume concentration.

So this is the story of Ta’if, one of my top three all-time favorite perfumes with the other two being Climat by Lancôme, the story of which started this blog three years ago, and Ubar by Amouage, a story of which I’ll probably tell one day.

 

Images: my own