Secret Admirer, or In the Search for the Perfect Narcissus

When I was growing up, International Women’s Day, March 8th, was a good holiday: unlike most other holidays, it was a non-political one (well, almost); it was a non-discriminatory celebration (it didn’t matter if you were young or old, single or in relationships, with or without kids); and it was a public holiday, so nobody had to work or go to school.

Back then this holiday was like a combination of Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day but for women only. In days before the holiday, people would have a potluck lunch/happy hour at work; boys would bring sweets and flowers to girls in their class; there were special programs on TV and radio. On the day itself families or friends would have a celebratory dinner or a party. Husbands, sons, fathers, partners, male friends and co-workers would be presenting women in their lives with flowers and, sometimes, gifts. And did I mention it was a day off?

I was fourteen or fifteen. At that time I didn’t have a boyfriend, so on March 8 I spent half the day out with friends. When I came home, I found there a bouquet of narcissuses waiting for me. My mom told me that some boy dropped them off for me. She didn’t recognize him (it meant he wasn’t from my class since she knew all of them), he didn’t tell his name, and there was no card. Since flowers were expensive at that time of the year and not that easy to get, I was sure it wasn’t a practical joke of any kind. So I was intrigued and thrilled: I had an actual secret admirer out there! You normally read about it in books or see it in movies, it doesn’t happen in real life!

For the next month or so I was trying to figure out who that might be, waiting for him to make the next move, hoping it would be somebody I liked.

Narcissuses

This story doesn’t have an ending – happy or otherwise: nobody ever admitted bringing me that bouquet. But several decades later I still remember those flowers better than I remember many dozens of bouquets I got over years from people I knew and loved.

* * *

After I moved to the U.S., I stopped celebrating International Women’s Day. But since I enjoyed so much our recent Month of the Roses project, I decided to run on my own a mini-project for the first week of March – Week of Narcissuses.

I didn’t realize I liked narcissus in perfumes until I started noticing it again and again in the notes lists of my favorite perfumes. Climat, Miss Dior, Chanel No. 19 – these all have narcissus. But this week I focused on perfumes, in which I thought that note was more prominent.

Hermès Eau de Narcisse Bleu attracted my attention (see Birgit’s review) because it had galbanum and narcissus, and it came in a blue bottle. It is a true spring perfume with wonderful combination of greenness, blossoms and wood. My 15 ml bottle looks cute and will probably serve me for a while.

If Penhaligon’s The Revenge Of Lady Blanche perfume’s opening stage would hang around for at least 2-3 hours, I would have probably be contemplating the purchase of that 75 ml bottle – I love the opening that much (panther head top doesn’t hurt either). But [un]luckily, the opening gorgeousness disappears within the first 30 minutes, if not faster, which would probably justify the size of the bottle but not its price. But you should definitely try this perfume to experience a beautiful combination of iris and narcissus. Galbanum is not one of the notes either listed or mentioned by anybody else, so if I were you I wouldn’t trust my nose, but I smell galbanum there as well.

I sought and tried Parfums DelRae Wit because it had Daphne – my dream note in perfume. While it smelled nothing like Daphne odora blossom, in general it was pleasant enough for me to go for a decant. It’s a beautiful spring bouquet with narcissus prominent enough to fit into this quest for the perfect narcissus. I wish DelRae would finally release their perfumes in 15 ml bottles: I would buy Wit and at least one more perfume from the line in a heartbeat!

I have strange relationships with Tom Ford Jonquille de Nuit: when I wear it, I think that I like it – but then I never choose to wear it unless it’s for some special reason like comparing it to other perfumes, doing a brand week or, like now, for the Single Note Exploration series. Jonquille de Nuit is very floral, with a prominent narcissus note, but despite that it doesn’t read like early spring when blossom aroma interweaves with greenery and earthy scents but rather a warm pre-summer bouquet with everything in full bloom.

Both Yosh White Flowers and Jo Loves No. 42 The Flower Shop I wore from samples. I had White Flowers for years, tested it briefly and completely forgot about it. Recently when I decided to send one of the two vials of White Flowers to a parfumista friend, I tested them to make sure they didn’t turn and was amazed at how much I liked it. It smells beautifully of a lot of flowers, and so does The Flower Shop sample, which I have “on loan” (for testing) from another parfumista friend, and which, in my opinion, is one of the cases of the name perfectly fitting the scent. These two perfumes are different bunches of flowers – thus have different aromas but they both have a similar feeling of the presence of that bunch, and I like both scents. Enough to do anything about it? I’m not sure but I plan to do more testing.

It was Penhaligon’s Ostara that reminded me about my secret admirer and gave me the idea of doing post for this note. This perfume actually epitomizes narcissus flower for me: it’s sunny, and bright, and happy, and uncomplicated. It doesn’t come even close to be worth Penhaligon’s full price but last year’s sale deals invited Ostara into many homes, from what I’ve read on different perfume forums. I bought a bottle for myself. I bought another bottle as a present to my friend. I enjoy wearing Ostara as my spring perfume, and this year I wore it as an anti-#BeBoldForChange: even though it’s not my holiday any longer, I refuse to politicize it because it’s still a nice and loved holiday in my native country. I am a feminist the other 364 days of the year; I do not have anything to fight for on this one extra day.

Rusty And Narcissuses

Do you like narcissuses – in perfumes or in a vase? Did you ever have a secret admirer? Have you ever been one?

 

Images: my own

Entertaining Statistics: September 2013

 

After a cool summer September arrived warm and very pleasant. And to make it even better I spent the last week of it in Hawaii.

I was so looking forward to that vacation that soon after I booked our flight and rented a house I started playing that choosing game in my mind: what perfume should I take with me? I ended up taking with me 12 (twelve) perfumes. And even though some of them were samples I didn’t take any unknown perfumes just for testing: all of them were to wear.

Black Vetyver Café by Jo Malone I chose as our shared travel perfume for this trip. Partially it was because I suddenly got tired of the scent that we used on many previous trips (Voyage d’Hermes) but mostly because after reading about it being discontinued I wanted to figure out if I should buy a bottle of it before it completely disappears. I do not love it but I like it enough not to let go just yet.

My travel companions from the previous Hawaii vacationEstee Lauder Bronze Goddess, Ormonde Jayne Tiare and Frangipani had joined me again. So after recently relegated Voyage d’Hermes these three are the best-traveled perfumes in my collection. I still enjoyed Bronze Goddess whereas my reaction to Frangipani and Tiare switched places: I enjoyed the former very much and was surprised that the latter felt somehow off.

Perfumes for a Tropical Vacation

Other perfumes that kept me company on that humid tropical island were: L’Artisan Parfumeur Traversee du Bosphore, Byredo Pulp (I need to get a decant of this one), Yosh Ginger Ciao (Birgit, thank you for the idea), Jo Malone English Pear & Freesia, Neela Vermeire Creations Bombay Bling!, By Kilian Forbidden Games, Atelier Cologne Orange Sanguine and M.Micallef Royal Vintage. The last two were for my vSO but the others nine were all for me. Good thing about hot humid weather and swimming was that I could easily wear 3-4 perfumes in one day.

All the perfumes I brought were just perfect for the vacation though, completely unexpectedly, Bombay Bling! wasn’t a fan of that climate: it would disappear from my skin within an hour after the application. It has never happened before in cooler Californian weather. It made me curious how it would behave in, let’s say, Bombay. Any upcoming trips? Anybody?

Since my vacation was filled with fruits – both in perfumes and in my diet, I got curious which fruits my readers like the most. Here’re the results:

Nineteen (19) people answered my questions naming seventeen (17) of their favorite fruits to eat (13) and to smell (8) in a perfume form. I decided to be strict and if more than one fruit was mentioned I took just the first answer.

September 2013 Statistics

Mango was an absolute favorite with eleven (11) votes (six (6) for eating it and five (5) for smelling). Black currant took the second place with five (5) votes and fig got four (4) votes but both were named only as perfume notes. Mangosteen, peach and cherry got two (2) votes each (one in each category). And raspberry got two (2) votes but both in food designation. All other fruits – durian, loquat, olallieberries, papaya, mandarin, grapefruit, banana, pomeo, plum and grapes – were mentioned just once.

Even though I had so many perfumes with me after I came back I kept thinking: “I wish I thought of taking <…> as well” about different perfumes. If you were to recommend one more perfume for me to take on a tropical vacation which one would it be?

 

Images: my own

Entertaining Statistics: 2012 Year Round-up

 

Wearing and testing perfumes every day and getting monthly statistics numbers create some general feeling about where you stand on your likes and dislikes but nothing puts it into prospective better than the complete year data. As I was contemplating this post I was both excited and scared: what would I discover about myself when I compile all the results?

In 2012 I wore and tested more perfumes than in 2011: 414 vs. 376 perfumes from 119 vs. 110 brands. But since starting from December 2011 I was recording the type of use – wear1 vs. testing2 I’m able to get deeper into from where those numbers come.

 

Quick 2012 stats:

* Different perfumes worn1138 from 50 brands on 348 occasions;

Brands I wore in 2012

* Different perfumes tested2356 from 114 brands on 572 occasions;

Brands I tested in 2012

* Perfumes I tried for the first time: 245 (it was 303 in 2011);

I wear perfumes I like and own almost every day. Perfumes I reached for the most in 2012 (with times worn): Dior New Look 1947 (11), Chanel №19# EdT & parfum (10), Chanel Cuir de Russie (8), Guerlain Cruel Gardénia (8), Antonia’s Flowers Tiempe Passate (7), Tauer Perfumes Une Rose Vermeille# (7), Yosh Ginger Ciao (7), Hermès Voyage d’Hermès (6), Les Parfums de Rosine Rose d’Amour (6), Tom Ford Violet Blonde (6), Chanel Bois des Iles (5), Guerlain Encens Mythique d’Orient (5), Lancome Climat (5), Neela Vermeire Creations Bombay Bling! (5), Parfum d’Empire Ambre Russe (5), Tom Ford Amber Absolute (5).

 

Counting my Lemmings (don’t fall asleep!)

In the Weekly Roundup series this year I mentioned 46 perfumes I was looking forward to testing. I still haven’t tried 19 of those (5 haven’t been released yet). My most cherished lemmings are: Ann Gerard Perle de Mousse, Ramón Monegal Impossible Iris, Parfumerie Generale L’Ombre Fauve and Armaini Privé Cuir Noir. I’m still trying to avoid paying for samples so if you have any extras for those mentioned above – let’s swap!

Out of those 27 lemmings that I managed to try I liked 15 and thought that the rest were fine – so no big disappointments.

2012 in Statis Pictures

Seeing 2012 off

Speaking of disappointments, I was surprised to read on many blogs that 2012 wasn’t a good year perfume-wise for many perfumistas. My feeling was that there were many perfumes that I liked. I went through the list of perfumes from 2012 (only those that I’ve tried, not all 1,300+). I liked very much at least 25 perfumes released last year: Amouage Beloved and Opus VI; Annick Goutal Nuit Étoilée; By Kilian Amber Oud, Bamboo Harmony, Forbidden Games and In the City of Sin; Cognoscenti Scent No.16 – Tomato Leather and Scent No.19 – Warm Carrot; Dior Grand Bal; Diptyque Volutes; DSH Perfumes Euphorisme d’Opium, Ma Plus Belle Histoire d’Amour and The Beat Look; Guerlain Encens Mythique d’Orient and Myrrhe et Délires; Ineke Hothouse Flower; Jo Malone Blackberry & Bay and White Lilac & Rhubarb; Jul et Mad Amour de Palazzo; L’Artisan Parfumeur Seville a l’aube; Parfums MDCI Chypre Palatin; Serge Lutens Santal Majuscule; Six Scents Napa Noir and Tom Ford Ombre de Hyacinth. I have four full bottles and seven decants to show for these “likes” and I’m considering several more. Another 15 were not bad; I just didn’t love them.

I’ve done two full years of these monthly stats posts. I wonder if I can still find an interesting angle of analyzing data I collect. We’ll see.  

 

1 For the testing I apply a perfume to one area on my arms easily available for the repetitive sniffing. But, most likely, I’m the only one who can smell it. I can test two, sometimes even more perfumes at the same time.

2 When I wear a 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.

# These were in the Top 10 of 2011 as well.

 

Images: my own

First Artisan Fragrance Salon in San Francisco

 

Last Sunday, July 8th, I spent the day at the First Artisan Fragrance Salon in San Francisco. You’ve probably read something about it already so just to recap: twenty artisan perfume companies presented their perfumes at the Gallery 4N5. There were also wine and chocolate tasting as well as some talks and presentations.

In the next couple of weeks I’ll try to write more about some of my personal discoveries at this Salon but I want to share with you pictures of those stands that I managed to take before there were too many people. Keep in mind that pictures on walls were a part of the Gallery decor and participants weren’t allowed to change those. Notice how perfectly some of the stands and art came together. I’m not sure if there was any special thinking behind those designations or if they just happen to come together by chance but some of them really played out. Click on pictures to see more details.

Yosh

Yosh at SF First Artisan Fragrance Salon

Both Yosh (above) and Sonoma Scent Studio (below) found an elegant solution to the over-perfuming the small space: pre-sprayed glass containers. I really like the idea because in addition to the benefit mentioned there are multiple others: you do not need to remember which paper strip you sprayed with each perfume (which is even harder if you were given a blotter sprayed by a perfumer); you can revisit scents multiple times without trying to juggle those multiple paper strips and, finally, if you didn’t like the scent you do not need to decide if it’s polite to discard it right there, in front of a perfumer/presenter, or if you have to take it with you.

Sonoma Scent Studio

Sonoma Scent Studio at SF First Artisan Fragrance Salon

Many people were disappointed that Laurie Erickson, the nose behind Sonoma Scent Studio, couldn’t attend the event. On the positive side, there was her newest addition to the line Forest Walk and the stand looked very elegant.

Artemisia Natural Perfume, perfumer Lisa Fong

Artemisia Natural Perfume at SF First Artisan Fragrance Salon

For a while I was considering one of Artemisia‘s perfumes – Ondine because of the name (it means the same as Undina, just a different spelling) but I’m not too good with all-natural perfumes, usually they don’t work for me. I should have probably bought a sample (though now I cannot remember if this table offered any for sale) but I was so overwhelmed with everything that I wasn’t thinking straight.

Ineke, perfumer Ineke Rühland

Ineke at SF First Artisan Fragrance Salon

Ineke had a very nice spot and they decorated it just perfectly. Do you see the stack of sample sets on the left? They were all sold out quickly. On the off-chance somebody doesn’t know that, this is one of the best discovery sets out there: for $25 including shipping you’re getting the cutest box with seven 2 ml individually wrapped samples and that price is redeemable for a purchase of a full bottle.

Ineke Discovery Set

Probably half of all participants didn’t have any samples for sale and I think it’s a mistake. I understand that for a small company it might be prohibitively expensive to give away samples and I didn’t expect them to do that. But it’s also hard to expect that people who have never smelled this brand’s perfumes (and sometimes haven’t even heard about its existence) before will distinguish any of the perfumes out of literally hundreds, fall in love with it and decide to spend $40-$135 on the spot for a full bottle. Some brands at least offered purse sprays under $20 (Sonoma Scent Studio and Olympic Orchids) which is a much more reasonable option.

En Voyage Perfumes, perfumer Shelley Waddington

En Voyage Perfumes at SF First Fragrance Salon

Shelley Waddington presented her newest The Cosmologie Collection. I liked A Study in Water on a blotter but I didn’t have a chance to test it on skin. I’ll need to revisit it one day.

Olympic Orchids

Olympic Orchids at SF First Artisan Fragrance Salon

Ellen Covey, the perfumer, in addition to the main collection, also introduced her new collection created for the Devilscent Project. I found my favorite out of five – Dev 2.

Olympic Orchids at SF First Artisan Fragrance Salon

Roxana Illuminated Perfume, perfumer Roxana Villa

Roxana Illuminated Perfume at SF First Artisan Fragrance Salon

The name 40 notes perfume seemed somehow familiar but I couldn’t remember where I read about it or what. I liked brand’s esthetics and thought that Miriam, the perfumer, was really charming. But I caught her later in the day, she was tired and wasn’t sure it was the best time to pose for a picture. I promised her not to use it, so here’s just a picture of the stand:

40 notes perfume

40 Notes at SF First Artisan Fragrance Salon

Those beautiful green and gold paper boxes are sample sets. Since perfumes are oils they are expensive. While I understand $5+ for 1 ml, there was just one perfume in the line to which I was immediately attracted so I just couldn’t justify paying $40 for the sample set. Maybe I should have… Well, I have time to think about it since those can be ordered from the website.

Velvet & Sweet Pea’s Perfumery

Velvet And Sweet Pea's Perfumery at SF First Artisan Fragrance Salon

Leila Castle Botanical Fragrance

Leila Castle Botanical Fragrance at SF First Artisan Fragrance Salon

smell bent

SmellBent at SF First Artisan Fragrance Salon

Smells & Bells Organics

Smells And Bells Organics at SF First Artisan Fragrance Salon

Rebel & Mercury Pure Botanical Perfumes

Rebel & Mercury Pure Botanical Perfumes at SF First Artisan Fragrance Salon

Sarah Horowitz Parfums

Sarah Horowitz Parfums at SF First Artisan Fragrance Salon

Persephenie

Persephenie at SF First Artisan Fragrance Salon

One more brand that decided to use glass as a medium for perfumes testing (though it bothered me a little that there was three glasses of one form and one of another). If I ever come across this line I’ll test it more: I was too tired by the time I got to them.

And, finally, there was one brand new brand that launched that day at the Fragrance Salon – Cognoscenti. There are just three perfumes in the line (that is how brands/lines should be launched!) and I liked one of them enough to put on the skin. I will test all three more and see if I have a story to tell.

COGNOSCENTI, perfumer Danniel Sergent

Cognoscenti at SF First Artisan Fragrance Salon

There were several more stands – Ayala Moriel Parfums, Divine Life Perfume and Parfums DelRae but my pictures of those tables are too blurry to share.

I enjoyed the event: friendly and warm atmosphere, beautifully decorated stands and an unimaginable variety of perfumes, perfumed oils, body products and other scent-related items.

On the negative side – music in some areas was too loud, it was hard talking to people; too many perfumes were sprayed in the area without a proper ventilation and just simply NOT ENOUGH TIME to try even brands about which I knew before – leave alone completely new ones. But I really tried.

I hope this will actually become an annual event because I want to go to the next one already.

Images: my own