Quarter-Life Crisis

As of July 26, I have officially hit late twenties! (Which makes Scents of Self eight years old, y’all. Scents of Self is A THIRD GRADER. If she’s following in my footsteps, next year she’ll have to switch schools after a few “recess incidents.” Eight year old Ari had not yet quite mastered that most crucial of lessons, “hitting is bad.”) Staring down the harsh reality of never again (or, uh, before) qualifying for “25 under 25” lists, I gave in to my quarter-life equivalent of the mid-life crisis red convertible: a new perfume display shelf! (I had a college roommate whose mom celebrated getting divorced by buying a helicopter. She ended up selling it almost immediately, because “there’s just no place to park a helicopter.” We’ve all been there, girl.)

Shall we stroll down perfume storage memory lane to see just how extensive the upgrade is?
The mini-fridge stage! Pros: protected the perfumes from a newly-adopted Zelda. Cons: it was actually a wine cooler, so the perfumes kept falling through the intended-for-wine-bottles slats.This bookshelf loyally served me from high school all the way through my first post-graduation apartment. That apartment, however, was located in New York, and just a few trips to The Strand quickly exceeded its capacity.A very cute step shelf from Target. Not even close to enough room for the books.

Back to the fridge! Yes, it’s the safest place for a perfume to be (protected from heat and light), but now no one else can see all my beautiful bottles!The most recent storage solution, an eight cube Ikea Kallax. There’s finally enough room for both the perfumes and the books, but it’s not the most elegant piece of furniture.

My previous perfume organizational systems were always pretty much just “prettiest bottles up front,” but I feel like I should be taking advantage of the shelf’s segmentation. Any advice on the best ways to sort a collection?

Jo Malone Whisky and Cedarwood

Pack it up, organized religion! Jo Malone just handed us definitive proof of reincarnation. Glory, glory, hallelujah!

The Arquiste for J. Crew saga is one of the great tragedies of our perfume times. In 2014, Arquiste created two excellent fragrances as a special collection for J. Crew. There appear to have been some major packaging issues (I bought a rollerball only to find that half of the perfume had already leaked out), and the line was rapidly, unjustly clearanced and dropped. My favorite of the duo was No. 57, a sultry whiskey fragrance with more spice than sweetness.

Three years later, Jo Malone taps Yann Vasnier, the dashing longtime Arquiste nose, for their new Bloomsbury collection. Yann must have missed No. 57 as much as I did, because lo and behold, his cinnamon-flecked hot toddy of a perfume has been reborn as Jo Malone Whisky and Cedarwood! As a whole, this is actually one of Jo Malone’s most solid collections in quite a while. (Yaaaay! We’re rooting for you, you crazy kids!) The hyper-realistic Blue Hyacinth is definitely not to be missed. But Whisky and Cedarwood is the one that I feel most compelled to wear myself.

The Bloomsbury collection is limited edition, so Whisky and Cedarwood is actually only the briefest of respites from fragrance oblivion (dang, that just got dark). If you were sorry to see No. 57 go the first time around, Whisky and Cedarwood offers a second chance at a lost love. (Although I have to say I much preferred the elegant Arquiste for J. Crew packaging to Jo’s tissue paper stained glass art project vibe. I’m also not 100% sure why “whiskey” needed to be misspelled. It’s always something with you, Jo Malone.)

Disclaimers: This post is not sponsored and does not contain affiliate links. I sampled Jo Malone Whisky and Cedarwood at my local Nordstrom. 

Maison Francis Kurkdjian Baccarat Rouge 540

Standard perfumista wisdom warns against wearing one of your favorite perfumes on first dates. That way, if the date goes badly, you don’t risk tainting one of your tried and trues with a negative association. (I still can’t touch Lush Tuca Tuca after a particularly rough OKCupid date at a Lord of the Rings-themed restaurant, during which I was lectured about the Singularity for longer than Return of the King. EXTENDED EDITION.)

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In keeping with this principle, I decided on Baccarat Rouge, a scent I had spent very little time with, for the first date with my now-boyfriend Garrett. (This is the first time I’ve mentioned a boyfriend on the blog since college. I will be so mad if he dumps me tomorrow.)

No turning back now- meet Garrett, everyone!

Perfumer Francis Kurkdjian has described Baccarat Rouge as “burnt strawberry jam”, and that’s wonderfully accurate. Baccarat Rouge opens with a mouthwatering caramelized effect, candied with just a touch of savory. Fascinatingly, Baccarat Rouge is based around a very common ingredient, ethyl maltol, the sweet core of mainstream blockbusters like Thierry Mugler Angel and Viktor & Rolf Flowerbomb. But where Angel and Flowerbomb are massive, hulking fragrances, Baccarat’s sweetness is airy, streamlined. It’s candy, but it’s polished, subtle candy, like a delicate toile of sugar on a Michelin-rated dessert. The burnt strawberry jam never fades away, but it’s gradually given depth by a quiet, fresh jasmine note, which just so happens to be the only kind of jasmine I can tolerate.

The ultimate proof of Baccarat Rouge’s allure? After a few months, Garrett ordered his own bottle.

What are your go-to date fragrances? Any scents you’ve had to banish after bad first dates?

Disclaimers: This post is not sponsored and does not contain affiliate links. 

An Economic Anxiety Diary

Two weeks of national chaos, as charted by my retail therapy.

January 22, 2017

Retail Therapy: Everlane Sweater Dress

My beautiful friend Katri stops by the shop for tea. I show her my pictures from the Women’s March on Washington the day before. “You look just like your mom,” Katri says. My mother’s smile in the picture is as wide as her “Feminist” sticker.

January 26, 2017

Retail Therapy: Crazy Sexy Wool in Stonewash Blue, The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #15, Snotgirl #2

My current nervous habit, brutalizing my cuticles with tweezers, has one fatal flaw: eventually you run out of cuticles. Knitting seems like a healthier way to keep my hands busy, even if the only thing I currently know how to knit are increasingly long rectangles (“scarves” seems overly generous). As rumored, Looped Yarn Works (a very cute yarn shop in Dupont Circle) is 100% sold out of pink yarn.

My favorite D.C. comic book shop, Fantom Comics, is just a few blocks away, and today they’re donating 15% of the days’ sales to Planned Parenthood in honor of the March for Life downtown. I pick up the new Squirrel Girl and a back-issue of Snotgirl. (Don’t let the gross name scare you away from a delicious murder mystery!)

January 27, 2017

Retail Therapy: The Ordinary Retinol 1% and 100% Cold Pressed Virgin Marula Oil

Woke up to an executive order banning Syrian refugees. Donated to the ACLU between bites of cereal. Both sets of grandparents are WWII refugees; my father’s father from Ukraine, my mother’s mother from Sicily. Are we still the country that welcomed them? I decide that I will face the coming days with clear goddamn skin. Will report back on the retinol.

January 28, 2017

Retail Therapy: Jane Mai Motivational Notebook

The first day of the Lunar New Year. The shop is pleasantly busy all day, and my boyfriend and parents meet me for shabu-shabu after work. Life feels more full than I could ever deserve. Apparently pomelos symbolize abundance and prosperity during the Lunar New Year, so I make sure to hose myself down with Atelier Cologne Pomelo Paradis. It’s a charmingly familiar tradition as a Jew; pomegranates (with their many seeds) are a Rosh Hashana symbol of abundance.

January 31, 2017

Retail Therapy: Bond No. 9 New Haarlem

A lot of my first fragrance loves have drifted back onto my radar recently. Lipstick Rose, the first Frederic Malle I ever tried, sweet-talked me into bringing it home at Aedes de Venustas last month. And when New Haarlem, which I wore to freaking prom, dropped below $100 on FragranceNet, I had to click “buy”. Is it nostalgia? An escape to years that felt less troubled and uncertain?

The night of the inauguration, the unsinkable Alyssa Harad visited Arielle Shoshana for a reading of her memoir, Coming To My Senses. The last passage she chose was a list of inalienable rights to which every perfume wearer is entitled, which ends, “The right, when she wants it, to take up some space.” New Haarlem, for better or for worse, sure does take up space. This brazen frappachino of a perfume is a talisman around my wrist, a reminder that I have space to fill and ground to hold, too.

Alyssa Harad + enraptured audience.

Disclaimers: This post is not sponsored (could you tell?) and does not contain affiliate links.

Bulgari Omnia

I never expected to be able to write this post! The perfume gods are cruel and fickle, and Bulgari Omnia (the 2003 original) is one of their many casualties. Omnia was discontinued years before I ever knew I needed it. (Inexplicably, a good seven Omnia flankers are all still on the market, fruitfully multiplying.) So when Omnia popped up in an unusually great RueLaLa sale last week, I pounced! It was a risky little blind buy, but Omnia is everything I could have hoped for: an unsweetened chai latte of a scent, with gorgeous heaps of saffron, a splash of almond milk, and the gentlest dusting of spices.

Its closest living relative is probably Etat Libre d’Orange Tom of Finland (switch out the leather for woods), or a much paler L’Artisan Parfumeur Tea for Two. Omnia is very light, but has surprisingly decent lasting power.

If I had to guess why such a gem was discontinued, I’d speculate that Omnia might not have fit particularly comfortably into the mainstream feminine fragrance mold. With little sweetness and no florals, it lacks any of the more obvious “THIS IS A LADY PERFUME WE PROMISE” signifiers. Which reminds me a little of Marni, another quality sheer, spicy perfume that quickly disappeared from department store shelves despite adorable packaging and aggressive marketing. Maybe someday, mainstream perfumery will have more of a space for more androgynous beauty. Until that day comes, $48.29 on FragranceNet, y’all!

Disclaimers: This post is not sponsored and does not contain affiliate links. My Omnia decant comes from a split with lovely fragrant friends.