Scent Sample Sunday

Scent Sample Sunday

Having plunged into perfumes a little over two years ago, I now have dozens of samples of fragrances that I haven’t yet explored beyond the initial spritz at a store, let alone written about them. So I’m going to try to clear some of that backlog by posting short comments on at least one scent sample every Sunday, and posting longer reviews or essays on a Fragrance Friday once a month. Let’s see how it goes!

To get started, here is a great article about how to get perfume samples, from the website lovetoknow.com: Places to Find Free Perfume Samples. Many of the leading perfume bloggers have also posted at least once about getting, using, and storing perfume samples.

My favorite ways to get perfume samples: 1) from department or specialty stores; 2) choosing one or more as a gift with purchase; 3) buying discovery sets from a single brand, or ordering a group of related samples from a service like Surrender to Chance. I have even found some great sample lots on ebay, though I rarely look for samples there. A Scentbird subscription is another great way to try new fragrances, although the monthly travel sprays are much larger than the usual “sample.”

Shout-out to the stores that have been particularly generous with samples and where I try to direct my business when buying fragrance (or other items) in person: Sephora, Nordstrom (where they put out ready-made samples, even of Tom Ford, on the counter with a note that says “Take one, it’s yours!”), Neiman Marcus, among department stores. My local Nordstrom even puts out empty spray vials so you can make your own samples from their testers! Saks has been a bit more stingy, but if you find a nice sales associate and communicate that you are serious about fragrance and may actually buy something, you can get some very nice ones, like the By Kilian samples I was given last weekend, after a failed trip to buy Guerlain’s Terracotta. I’ve also had good luck at some, but not all, Jo Malone counters in various department stores, and purchases have followed! (I don’t actually understand why these stores don’t give out manufacturers’ samples more freely, as they are provided to them by the manufacturers for the express purpose of encouraging people to try their fragrances, and maybe buy them).

Among independent or freestanding perfumeries: Les Senteurs, in both of its London locations, have been generous both with samples and with information. Their staff are clearly knowledgeable and passionate about fragrance, and their stores are lovely. Go visit if you can! I may be asking my husband to stop by to pick up the new Papillon Perfumes Dryad for me on his next trip to London, as one of their sales associates spent quite some time with me two years ago describing Liz Moores and her work (and yes, gave me a couple of samples); and last fall’s visit to their Belgravia location was equally pleasant.

Niche perfumery Les Senteurs in London, Belgravia. Knightsbridge

Les Senteurs niche perfumery; photo: http://therealknightsbridge.com/les-senteur/

In London’s Burlington Arcade, the Penhaligon’s boutique staff kindly offered several samples, both of their newest, high-priced line and of my beloved, late lamented Ostara. The sales associate also insisted that I take a sample of Blasted Heath, the more masculine companion fragrance to another of my favorites, Blasted Bloom.

Penhaligon's perfumery in London, Burlington Arcade

Penhaligon’s

The Perfumery, in the old Barri Gotic, or Gothic Quarter, of Barcelona, is a charming store not to be missed, often staffed by one of its owners, who is happy to share his knowledge, passion, and samples with purchase. The fragrances carried there are very unusual, although I recognized brands like Aedes de Venustas, Making Of, and J.F. Schwarzlose. I bought a full bottle of the gorgeous Orquidea Negra, by the perfumer Daniel Josier, as a souvenir of our trip, and also brought home some lovely samples of ZiryabKaleidoscope, and Santa Eulalia.

The niche store The Perfumery Barcelona, in the Barri Gotic.

The Perfumery Barcelona; photo: https://manface.co.uk/perfumery-barcelona/

A local perfumeria near our hotel, the source of a heavily discounted bottle of Serge Lutens’ Chypre Rouge, also gave me manufacturers’ samples of L’Orpheline and Bapteme du Feu. I had not expected to find so much Serge Lutens in a little neighborhood store filled with celebrity and designer scents!

A note about samples: once you have a more educated olfactory palate, you can likely understand much about a fragrance from just one small sample, and that is by far the most affordable way to go. My nose isn’t that well educated yet. I often need to try a fragrance more frequently, in larger amounts than the usual 1-2 ml sample, to learn the fragrance and its notes, its development. Each one I try is a lesson. One current solution is to look for small travel sizes of various fragrances, in a wide range of types, notes and prices, for as reasonable a price as I can find. Some manufacturers sell sets of their fragrances in sizes from 5-15 ml, which is ideal for me. I’ve been able to try several from Miller Harris, Annick Goutal, Penhaligon’s, Byredo and others that way. Among cheaper brands, good for learning though not longevity, Yves Rocher also has very reasonably priced miniatures and frequent online sales.

Set of three Miller Harris fragrances, Fleurs

Miller Harris “Fleur” set; photo from http://www.millerharris.com

Scentbird is another good option for me, because I can choose from among their offerings for the fixed monthly subscription price, and recent choices have included scents from Amouage, Arquiste, Histoires de Parfums and other high-end brands. If I want serendipity, I can explore local discounters like T.J. Maxx or Marshall’s and see what they’ve got for, say, under $15. Case in point: a 1.6 oz bottle of TokyoMilk Dark No. 28 Excess, for $7.99. It has notes like amber, patchouli and oak that I’m curious about but don’t want to spend a lot on before I know more about how they strike me. I can happily spritz away with this one without guilt, and maybe even cajole my daughters into trying it! Honestly, at this stage, I’ll try anything, because I am enjoying the learning curve. I don’t have to fall in love with each one or even like it much to appreciate the lesson it offers.

Featured image from: makeup.lovetoknow.com

Fragrance Friday: Flor y Canto and Scentbird

Fragrance Friday: Flor y Canto and Scentbird

In a feeble attempt to control my fragrance hobby, I signed up for the Scentbird subscription service, which sends subscribers a sprayer with about .27 oz. of a fragrance you select from among their offerings. You can pre-select several months’ worth at a time, and the monthly charge is $14.95. My first delivery arrived yesterday. It is Arquiste’s Flor y Canto, a fragrance that sounded as if I would like it very much, but which is VERY expensive, so a size less than a full bottle is warranted.

Reader, I loved it. Fragrantica lists its notes as: Mexican Tuberose, Magnolia, Frangipani and Marigold; Arquiste lists the notes with plumeria instead of frangipani; they are the same flower, often used in leis. Created by perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux, Flor y Canto made its debut in 2012; its name means “flower and song”. It opens with a lemony greenness that I associate with magnolia. I seem to smell that more than I smell tuberose, but there is definitely a creamy white flower lurking behind the magnolia. The Arquiste website says:

On the most fragrant festival in the Aztec calendar, the rhythm of drums palpitates as a wealth of flowers is offered on temple altars. Billowing clouds of Copal act as a backdrop to the intoxicating breath of Tuberose, Magnolia, Plumeria and the intensely yellow aroma of the sacred Marigold, Cempoalxochitl.

The Mexican marigold is also locally called the Flower of the Dead, because it is traditionally used to decorate altars in Oaxaca, Mexico on the Day of the Dead (or “Dia de los Muertos”) in early November, and also used in the past to form garlands for the worship of Aztec gods. Flor y Canto, however, is meant to evoke a summer festival in the ancient Aztec city of Tenochtitlanthe religious and political capital of the Aztec civilization. It was destroyed eventually by the Spanish conquistadors in the 16th century, according to the Ancient History Encyclopedia, but apparently it was so remarkable and beautiful, with its towers, canals, and floating gardens, that the Spanish chroniclers left very detailed descriptions of the city. There is even a surviving Nahuatl poem about it:

The city is spread out in circles of jade,
radiating flashes of light like quetzal plumes,
Besides it the lords are borne in boats:
over them extends flowery mist.

Mexican quetzal bird in flight

Quetzal bird in flight; photo from Mexico News Daily

“Flowery mist” is an apt description of Flor y Canto. It is purely floral with a slightly green, fresh note like fragrant leaves or the marigold flowers. This is a creative and effective use of marigold; its astringency cuts the sweetness of the white flowers and enhances them. It is much lighter and greener than the image at the top of this post, from the Arquiste website, suggests.

Tenochtitlan and its sacred precinct were also the site of human sacrifices to the Aztec deities; one is thankful that Arquiste chose NOT to evoke those in the fragrance itself in spite of the reference to death and altars in their illustration. Flor y Canto is an elegant, soft, summery floral. It wafts gently from one’s wrists without overwhelming. Bravo, Arquiste and M. Flores-Roux!

Featured image from http://www.arquiste.com

Scentbird?

Scentbird?

One of the tags I follow is “Perfume”. I have always loved perfume and even saved up my money in eighth grade to buy my mother a small flacon of Chanel No. 5, her signature perfume. An early memory of mine is sitting on her bed watching her get ready to go out with my father, as she sat at a real dressing-table whose lid, when lifted, revealed a mirror and a deep compartment filled with mysterious bottles of fragrance, lotion and makeup. I am firmly convinced that scent and fragrance can help transport us to a different (better?) state of mind, as the sense of smell connects to the most primitive, unconscious parts of the human brain, the ones that process emotions and memories. Let’s use that power for good!  Serenity now!

Today, another blog featured a subscription service called “Scentbird.” I loved that name so much, I had to read more just to find out what it was. Turns out it is a service where you pay a monthly fee to receive a decanted sample of a different named fragrance each month. This has clearly been given a lot of thought; subscribers get a special container to hold their samples, which come in small glass vials. Very creative! I had heard of another subscription for beauty supply samples — “Birchbox” — but not for fragrance. Where do they get these great names, by the way?

Anyway, Scentbird also has a blog where contributors comment on various fragrances: Scentbird. And today’s post included a fragrance I just tried myself in a store and liked very much: Hermes Jour d’Hermes. The blog aptly describes it as taking its wearer into a beautiful garden — and you know how much we love gardens here at Serenity Now. It was very appealing, with its white florals, green notes, sweet pea, citrus and water notes. And yes, it made me feel more serene.

Next up for me to try: Hermes Jour d’Hermes Absolu, pictured above with my favorite roses!

jourdhermes-bottle