Traveling Perfume Box : European Journey

Our European perfume box is ready to make its next round. Thank you, Awfulknitter! So, if you are in Europe and would like to participate, here is how you can do it. And whether you’re participating or not, please read Awfulknitter’s perfume descriptions below.

sample box

How does it work: To enter, please answer these questions: 1) are you in Europe, and if you’re a winner, can I share your email address with Awfulknitter? ; 2) do you agree to pass the box onto someone else (add a couple of your own samples and share your sampling notes with the rest of us)? and 3) what perfume are you wearing today? I will pick the next person to receive the box via a random number generator. I will announce that person in this spot and contact them via email. Aurora is the person to receive the box!

When a winner is ready to pass the box onto someone else, they should get in touch with me. Please include the list of samples and your sampling notes (what you’ve discovered, what you’ve liked/disliked, any observations you care to include).

To check the progress of our boxes, please click on the Traveling Sample Box tag.

“The Europe travelling perfume is ready to go to the next person! I have had a lovely three weeks of sampling and sniffing and thinking – I was determined to try everything in the box, as some of the brands are quite difficult to find near to home for me.

As Megan alerted me to issues with posting perfumes to/from the UK, I would like to make a recommendation for the box’s future: that its travels are restricted to mainland Europe. I have been checking out the rules for the post in Britain, and while it appears that perfumes can come into the country in the post, they cannot be sent out. I was really dismayed to realise this: if I had known before, I never would have gone into the draw for the box. From what I can find out, this is because there are restrictions about what can be carried on planes and they can’t guarantee that things sent outside the UK will only be sent surface mail. What I don’t understand is that these restrictions seem to apply to all parcels sent in Europe, but European companies are still able to send perfumes into the UK with no particular trouble – I had some Roger et Gallet shipped from France with no issues recently.

I will send the travelling perfume box by surface mail if I can find a courier company that offers this for restricted items, but if I can’t there is a chance that it will be scanned, confiscated and destroyed.

I was wondering whether you think there would be enough interest to do a UK-only travelling perfume box? I could start one off, I have about 19 fragrances that could go in. It’s okay to send perfumes within the UK under certain conditions and as long as you declare it’s perfume so that they can put a huge label on the parcel.

Anyway, on to the happier, fun stuff!”

Perfumes I’ve added to the box:
Alexander McQueen, Kingdom (I’m pretty sure it’s the EdP concentration)
Burberry, Brit Rhythm
Cacharel, Loulou
Donna Karan, Gold
Olfactive Studios, Autoportrait
Roger et Gallet, Amande Persane
Serge Lutens, Jeux de Peau
Serge Lutens, Santal de Mysore
Yves Rocher, Rose Absolue

The two I’m choosing to keep:
Chanel, Coromandel
Serge Lutens, Féminité du Bois

The perfumes continuing on their way (there were a few stowaways that weren’t on the last list on Bois de Jasmin, so I’ve added them here):
A Lab on Fire, What We Do in Paris is Secret
Acqua di Parma, Eau de Cologne Essenza
Annick Goutal, Eau d’Hadrien
Annick Goutal, Ninfeo Mio
Annick Goutal, Sables
Atelier Cologne, Grand Neroli
Atelier Cologne, Mistral Patchouli
Atelier Cologne, Silver Iris
Bottega Veneta, Knot
By Kilian, Back To Black
By Kilian, Forbidden Games
By Kilian, Playing With The Devil
By Kilian, Vodka on the Rocks
Caron, Lady Caron
Caron, Piu Bellodgia
Chanel, Coco Mademoiselle
Comme des Garçons, Blue Cedrat
Comme des Garcons, Bleu Santal
Diptyque, L’Eau de Neroli
Diptyque, L’Ombre Dans L’Eau EDP
Diptyque, Tam Dao EDT
Etat Libre d’Orange, Noel au Balcon
Etro, Shaal Nur
Grossmith, Amelia
Grossmith, Floral Veil
Grossmith, Golden Chypre
Grossmith, Saffron Rose
Hermes, L’Ambre des Merveilles
Hermes, L’Eau des Merveilles
J.F. Schwarzlose Berlin, Treffpunkt 8 Uhr
Miller Harris, Noix de Tubéreuse
Neela Vermeire, Ashoka
Neela Vermeire, Mohur
Neela Vermeire, Trayee
Olfactive Studios, Lumiere Blanche
Ormonde Jayne, Osmanthus
Rouge Bunny Rouge, Cynefin
Rouge Bunny Rouge, Embers
Rouge Bunny Rouge, Silvan
Serge Lutens, Douce Amere

And now my sampling notes. I found it harder than I expected to write down my impressions and thoughts into something that other people would be interested to read, rather that the usual jottings that I alone can interpret! I still feel like a bit of a newcomer to perfume appreciation, so at the moment I find it very useful to see other people’s reviews and consult lists of notes to help me clarify what I’m thinking and experiencing. I do try to do this after I have made some notes of my own, though, so as to get my own opinion and not somebody else’s!

As I tried everything in the box, there are a lot of notes – maybe too many? I am happy for you to edit them down, or I will do this if you’d like.

Atelier Cologne, Silver Iris
– Opens cool, metallic/chemical, almost inky – something warm too, papery-vanillic but not quite: overall the impression is of a new book. Heart is cool, aloof as the iris comes through more. Drydown is has plenty of powdery iris (unfortunately the powdery sensation I associate with musky-clean laundry products), but I also get a hint of warm amber that doesn’t seem to sit very well. Stays very close to the skin, very subtle.
– Ah! Inkiness would have been the blackcurrant, the warm paperiness the pink pepper. In the drydown, amber warmth was tonka and nose-tickling power the ‘white amber’ and probably a bit of patchouli too.
– Curiously, only a little earlier I was out in the garden pruning some blackcurrant bushes. Even in the cold, I could smell the distinctive combination of rubbery-phenolic and fruity notes from the cut wood.

Rouge Bunny Rouge, Cynefin
– Immediately, sloe gin! (fruitiness + juniper + alcohol) Then, maybe a hint of apple – then herbal dryness (lavender, rosemary). A really disagreeable note appears: watery, but with something swampy (flowers in a vase when the water needs changing) – eurgh! The ozonic note rubs me up the wrong way, like trying to cover a bad smell with cheap air freshener. After a while it is fresh floral in an entirely unremarkable way. Eventually it signs off with a clean musky thing, but still with the off note lingering.
– I see the comparison with Un Jardin Après la Mousson – that watery thing.
– Visiting the website was a mistake – it’s full of product description waffle that’s so incomprehensible it almost might have come out of Google Translate. Now I don’t feel so enthused about trying their other fragrances!

By Kilian, Vodka on the Rocks
– Opening is photo-realistic cold vodka! Lemon slice soon after – citrus long lasting through the heart, acompanied by floral notes (I imagine this is what you would get if you could have lemon blossom water like orange blossom water!); drydown includes something peppery but remains fresh and clear. A really nice fragrance – although it does make me wonder, who wants to smell so much like a drink?

Comme des Garçons, Blue Cedrat
– Immediate impression: I like this! Second impression: this would smell great on my husband. Third thought: if I bought some for him as a present, how often could I get away with borrowing it to wear? Bright opening, not at all sweet, refreshing. Opens into somthing woody but also salty (slightly marine)? A little later, a resinous herbal/pine smell. If you wanted to be mean, you could say that it smells like the best men’s shower gel ever.

Annick Goutal, Sables
Dry and fruity – cigars and fruitcake! Possibly a hint of anise (fennel seeds?) later on; also a bit of funky spice, slightly musty (fenugreek-like). Something piercing, sweet, almost as if it could cause a headache – is this the immortelle? Dryness – a particular inflection of black pepper? Slightly camphoraceous/herbal. Very late on in the drydown, a burnt-sugar aspect (sure that this is the immortelle).

Chanel, Coromandel
Immediately it smells expensive – super-smooth! (Almost too smooth, nothing to ‘get a grip on’.) Something curiously savoury teasing at my nose – can’t tell what it is. Drydown very vanillic-amber – gorgeous, but perhaps not very complex? Some reviews describe it as “plush” – this is exactly the right word! Didn’t get the frankincense or the cocoa in the drydown until they were pointed out – but they are there (the cocoa is particularly faint). The second time around I detected (imagined?!) something papery after the top notes die down.

Hermes, L’Eau des Merveilles and L’Ambre des Merveilles
L’Ambre starts with a brilliant candied orange-sherbet accord, but with a rich amber already apparent. By contrast, L’Eau starts more straightforward citrus. L’Ambre develops richer, more straightforward; L’Eau fresh white floral. L’Ambre – develops a salty/savouriness, but flags a bit; L’Eau retains the white floral freshness as it develops its saltiness. At the very, very end of L’Ambre’s drydown the vanillic warmth becomes quite chocolatey.

Miller Harris, Noix de Tubéreuse
– Things don’t start well – I am baffled by the name. Tuberose nuts? Pat of tuberose? Tuberose nuggets? First impression: TUBEROSE! TUBEROSE! TUBEROSE! It’s like being smothered by Barbara Cartland in a particularly seductive mood. Powdery and then some in the middle. Creamy and soapy (this would probably be rather nice for lathering up in the bathtub when in a particularly girly mood). An odd off note that may or may not be the perfume itself. It’s hard to be interested. Certainly there’s a lovely rosy-amber scent lingering on my cardigan from another day that I find much more interesting. I’ve read another reivew that suggests that this is basically a soliflore, with the other notes bolstering aspects of the tuberose – this makes me feel better about finding rather uninteresting.

Diptyque, Tam Dao EDT
Green pepperiness, cool grassiness; curious plasticky note; segues into black pepper; woody smoky earth thing going into the drydown proper (cedar), with a bright/illuminating touch of rosewood (I confess I couldn’t name this until I looked it up).

A Lab on Fire, What We Do in Paris is Secret
Interesting at first – no idea what the notes are! – and then gets weird: faintly antiseptic, possibly some waxy white flowers; growing powderiness; definitely tropical white flowers (frangipani?) and a rice-like note – sweetly creamy.
– After looking up the notes and reading some reviews, it appears it must be heliotrope, not frangipani.
– Is the off note: honey? (Honey in beer usually smells ‘wrong’ to me.)

Acqua di Parma, Eau de Cologne Essenza (note not just the Eau de Cologne as the original list suggests)
Bright, bitter hesperidic (showing off my exanded vocabulary) opening – what I think of as textbook cologne. I have been trying other colognes and citrus-led scents recently, and this opening puts them all in the shade: it has the full orchestra of citrus (both powerful and nuanced) while the others just have single instruments (or even worse, synthesizers!). A salty grapefruit thing appears in the middle for a little while; a soapy impression (white musks?) is longer lasting. There’s also some toasted coconut. Drydown is longlasting and not textbook cologne: woodsy, powdery, sweet balsamic. Really super, love this (but also another one that I think I might like even more on my husband).

Grossmith, Saffron Rose
Opening: can’t remember. Quickly turns into a terrifically dense smell, almost tarry. Dark-edged rose appears – for a brief time, sort of illuminated so that a clear true rose note comes through. Spicy amber-rose drydown, with a hint of a rubbery note (is this an indolic rose?!). I really expected to like this one (just because of the name and the expense of the fragrance), but found it diffcult to get to grips with and in the end it just seemed a bit dull. It’s probably a good thing I’m not struck by it, I’d find it hard to spend so much on a perfume!
– Didn’t get any cinnamon, nor any tobacco (a shame, I rather like tobacco notes).

Annick Goutal, Ninfeo Mio
Sharp green opening, a quick hint of something warm that soon goes away. Lemony, with a curious note that I can’t place behind – cheating and looking at the notes, this must be a combination of both the herbaceous and floral aspects of lavender with green leafiness – both can be almost peppery. Also the milky fig with the green is curious. Is there some vanilla in the late drydown – maybe an effect of some sweet woods?

By Kilian, Back To Black
I was looking forwards to this, despite the name making me think of poor Amy Winehouse. (This can’t be deliberate, who would risk reminding their customers of a woman who drank hersefl to death?) The first thing I think of is apple crumble: tart-sweet fruit, toasty cuttery crumbs on top. It quickly becomes terrifically, unbearably sweet. I can hardly bring my wrist to my nose – it is sickly, cloying, piercing powdery floral, and I’m thinking much more of Barbara Cartland again.
– Things make a bit more sense when I read the list of notes: honey and tobacco together are producing the sweetness.

Serge Lutens, Douce Amere
Powdery, milky, nutty, with a dry bitter undertone. A relief after Back to Black on the other wrist! it feels very straightforward, not puzzling, and pleasing. I find it really surprising that some people find this challenging to wear.

Etat Libre d’Orange, Noel au Balcon
At first am not sure whether I like this, or whether it is just interesting. The opening of warm-cool-green, with spices, something resinous, and a plasticky note (waxy white flowers?). But I also wonder whether it could all get too much.
http://www.nstperfume.com/2010/12/17/etat-libre-dorange-noel-au-balcon-fragrance-review/
– Some reviews suggest that there is honey in this, but given the other two honey-heavy fragrances I’ve tried and disliked, I’m content with not detecting this!

Caron, Piu Bellodgia
This is perfume, old school style! I don’t mean that as a bad thing, I don’t mind it – but I can see how some peoeple would find it too conventional or boring. Aldehydes, then soapy-clean white flowers. It reminds me of Nina Ricci L’Air du Temps, which was the very first perfume I ever had (it was bought for me when I was, oh, about twelve).
– Some vaguely spicy carnation in there?

Rouge Bunny Rouge, Silvan
Smoky start. Drydown settles into a pretty amber (with a bit of rose? something floral, at least), but doesn’t seem to last long (gone by lunchtime from a morning application) – surprising for a fragrance that starts pretty boldly.
http://www.thenonblonde.com/2013/09/rouge-bunny-rouge-embers-silvan-cynefin.html#.VNTufyy3Frs

Neela Vermeire, Trayee
Incense! Cool and spicy, but warming up. Possibly a resinous-herbal edge – rosemary? As it gets to the drydown, it is very sweet and powdery, with a good dose of vanilla and some lovely lovely soft sandalwood – a very different feeling to the start, but still with a wisp of smoke! The price might keep this one off my wishlist, though.
– On second try, I dod wonder whether this is more fascinating than wearable. The incense is accompanied by a musty, almost dank (maybe also mossy?), note rather like a cool old church that intrigues me but might get a bit difficult.

Chanel, Coco Mademoiselle
Wow, so what’s the point of Chance? They really are very similar! There’s a watery-fruity note early in the heart, and a toasty-nutty note at the start of the drydown. Creamy white flowers have a slightly milky aspect.

Serge Lutens, Féminité du Bois
Old books! After the top notes, the woods (cedar/pencil shavings), leather and vanilla create the olfactory impression of old books! A soapy-clean musk later on.

Diptyque, L’Eau de Neroli, Atelier Cologne, Grand Neroli
An interesting compare-and-contrast! L’Eau starts fresh, sparkling and soft while Grand Neroli is sharper, greener and a bit oily. They develop in this way for a while, and then seem to switch – L’Eau retains its citrussy character for longer, while Grand Neroli softens with gentle woods. Then a while later, they have switched back to their original characters: L’Eau fades out on floral softness, while Grand Neroli deepens into a woody bass-notes finish. I am totally in love with L’Eau de Neroli, it’s just so pretty.

Bottega Veneta, Knot
Remarkably pretty, but also remarkably similar in character to Chloe Eau de Parfum and Sarah Jessica Parker Lovely. Goes very soapy – I’m off to eBay to see if there’s a shower gel, as I think it would be perfect in this form.

Rouge Bunny Rouge, Embers
Sloe gin again! I think this is pink pepper plus fruit. As the name implies, things get smoky quickly, but once that fades there’s not much else going on. Rather unusually, the sloe gin impression persists right into the drydown, much longer than I’d expect.

J.F. Schwarzlose Berlin, Treffpunkt 8 Uhr
Very sweet vanilla/creme brulee by lunchtime (so much so that I really wonder whether I’m really getting the handcream I put on yesterday), and not much more. Previously there is some fruity leather, pleasingly dry, but not much else that I can remember.
– Second try: the dry, smoky-leather opening is pleasing, but feels a bit muddled. The strong creme brulee impression is there again, and I haven’t been near the vanilla handcream today! Overall it seems like a frarance that doesn’t know what it wants to be and can’t resolve the tension between vintage roots and contemporary mass appeal.

By Kilian, Playing With The Devil
Opens with a huge mango! The heart smells of a fruit tart, one of the sort with vanilla patisserie cream under syrup-glazed fruit (ie, pastry-buttery, creamy vanilla, and sweet mango).

Atelier Cologne, Mistral Patchouli
Once the alcohol evaporates, there is a horrible waft of dry, musty, dirty patchouli. This is joined by a minty-anisic note that bolsters the mustiness – this stage is really disagreeable. After a while the mustiness settles to be more musky, although the patchouli is still very evident. In the later drydown, there’s a patchouli-cocoa thing.

Grossmith, Amelia
Pretty amber-rose. Moderate silage.

Etro, Shaal Nur
Dry, culinary spice, slightly musty.

Grossmith, Golden Chypre
The first thing I notice is a fizzy, slightly artificial orange sherbet note that I’m not sure I like. This persists as the fragrance gets leathery – it’s nose-ticklingly powdery and dry. (I think this would be labdanum, or materials approximating it.) The development is typical, classical chypre. So interesting to have an amber drydown with practically no sweetness (not something I’ve come across before, but I’m sure many other chypres are like this.) Didn’t detect any mossiness.

Olfactive Studios, Lumiere Blanche
An almond note comes through clearly, before developing into something with a pleasing powdery-milky tension. There is a pleasing floral aspect that I can’t pin down enough to name. After a couple of hours, the milkiness has an accompanying nuttiness (or is it the other way around?). not particularly long-lasting (nearly gone by lunchtime).

Annick Goutal, Eau d’Hadrien
Oh dear, didn’t take any notes and now can’t remember anything.

Grossmith, Floral Veil
More of a floral blanket than a veil! Soft and heavy. Also something quite fruity (creamy peach?).

Ormonde Jayne, Osthmanthus
A light spray didn’t give me much to go on.

By Kilian, Forbidden Games
Yawn!

Comme des Garcons, Bleu Santal
A very nice sandalwood. The same ‘good shower gel’ note as in Bleu Cedrat, then soft and creamy woods.

Neela Vermeire, Ashoka
Didn’t take any notes at the time and now I can’t remember anything, darn it!

Caron, Lady Caron
Old school (clean white flowers, musk), perfectly pleasant, but nothing to write home about.

Diptyque, L’Ombre Dans L’Eau EdP
I did a side-by-side comparison with the EdT, and couldn’t really tell much difference! The leaf-green opening is more muted in the EdP, and I think I prefer the vibrancy of the EdT.

Neela Vermeire, Mohur
Austere, smoky. All the Neela Vermeire fregrances seem to be more perceptible further away from the skin, a very curious effect: waving my wrist in front of my face gives a stronger scent than bringing my wrist right to my nose. And yet I wouldn’t say they have a big silage.

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13 Comments

  • Karen: Not in the contest (live in the US), just wanted to say that I love your notes Megan! February 26, 2015 at 7:49am

    • Unpaletteable: Seconded, these were a fun read, thanks! February 26, 2015 at 11:54am

  • Caroline: “like being smothered by Barbara Cartland”–thanks for the laugh! February 26, 2015 at 11:34am

    • Karen: I had to look her up, my mind went to Barbara Cartwright (???) from the old 60’s tv show Bonanza. Couldn’t quite get my mind around the image of a frontier woman smelling like sagebrush and camp fires!

      Ummm, not *quite* the same as Barbara Cartland….. (after I saw her photos!) February 26, 2015 at 7:12pm

  • Aimée: yes to questions 1 and 2. to 3: i am wearing Jardin Blanc from Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier February 26, 2015 at 12:21pm

  • Aurora: Awfulknitter: Your notes are so entertaining and informative.

    I am in the UK alas, so, if I understood well, my entry should only be counted if a British sample box is started; it is so very nice of you to suggest it, let’s see if others are interested.

    Of course if selected my email address can be shared, I would add samples of my own, share my notes and pass on the box. February 26, 2015 at 1:53pm

    • Aurora: Forgot to add my fragrance of the day: Fleur d’Oranger by Fragonard topped up this evening by some Amor Amor, both very cheerful on this grey day. February 26, 2015 at 2:23pm

    • Victoria: Everyone’s entry will be counted! I will just draw a name randomly. Awfulknitter was thinking of starting another UK only box, if there was enough interest in that. February 26, 2015 at 2:44pm

  • Rosie: Thanks for the entertaining notes Megan
    I’ve really enjoyed reading them,
    Especially the tuberose/Barbara Cartland
    description!
    I’m in the UK, & would love to take part
    In a uk only travelling sample box.
    I agree to share my notes, & my email address
    I was wearing Frederick Malle’s deliceous Lipstick
    Rose before my shower, & now a couple of sprays of Tam Dao, which I find really soothing. February 26, 2015 at 4:17pm

  • Rosie: Sorry, I got names muddled, I meant Awful knitter, not Megan! February 26, 2015 at 4:20pm

  • Rosie: .. And I would be happy to pass on the box! February 26, 2015 at 4:23pm

  • Reg: Jeez, you have put in a lot of effort to describe all of the fragrances. Very enjoyable to read. Surprised that you found Mistral Patchouli so disagreeable. I find it a really soft & tamed Patchouli. Sometimes it seems to me that scents are more polarizing than food, art, fashion or anything else.

    1. yes
    2. yes
    3. I put on Love, the Key to Life from a sample this morning. The perfumer calls it a “modern classic” which I do find a bit of a bold statement. It is not unpleasant at all, but too weak in my view to leave a lasting impression. Later on I sprayed Chanel Cristalle on top of it. February 26, 2015 at 8:04pm

  • angeldiva: Hi Megan!
    I’m in California , so can’t participate in this amazing selection…
    But, if I could I would send you a Pulitzer Prize for your wonderful descriptions! Barbara Cartland, LOL- I sooo get THAT!!!
    Best of luck with a UK box- sorry it’s so complex. Heaven forbid these scents get delayed in any way!
    I always learn so much from the European box- it is different than our US scent selections.
    Maybe it’s because I would love to live in France, and spend the rest of my days discovering her beauty and the gifts France has given to the rest of our planet! 🙂

    P. February 26, 2015 at 9:25pm

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