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If your visit to Belgrade starts at the main bus station as I did, just remember that it’s not a great place to start your olfactory journey…it is rarely anywhere, so just endure.

The whole city is a busy construction site. We could hardly find a taxi driver willing to wrestle cracked and demolished Slavija Square on the way to our apartment but that’s where famous Serbian hospitality kicks in. We could have walked but my high heels said no, no…

Belgrade On the Water, on the banks of river Sava, a bit farther away, is a huge project as well and it seemed to me that the scent of dust and fresh asphalt lingers in the air above the city.

Once finished, I bet Slavija will be a point of pride. Fountains and lights and all that jazz.

The new Museum of Contemporary Art just had its grand opening night when I arrived and it is very impressive.

One construction site less, yey!

Yes, the city is worn and rugged with history but it is certainly getting a facelift. Note: just be patient. Eventually, everything will work out, no need to get all worked up and again: yes, the people here are very helpful.

As you walk down the main street and shopping strip – Knjaza Milosa in the center, many bistros will catch your eye. Nose as well. Various barbecue scents vibrate as you stroll along this wide street. I was really impressed with some chosen restaurants we visited. The prices are affordable, the food is great and the waiters were really nice.


When you walk that straight line, all the way from Slavija to Kalemegdan, the greenery you finally reach will refresh your nose.


As I climbed up on the fortress side, I faced the confluence of Danube and Sava river! The great Danube gave an undertone of moisture, misty river smell which rolled in as Sun was setting.


Belgrade is very walkable and very close to Kalemegdan is the King Peter’s Street, very fashionable with a brand-new shopping center not far away from its crossing with Knjaza Milosa. A few steps further was my point of interest: the first niche perfumery in Belgrade – Metropoliten. I walked in thirsty for fine scents. Enter a curious nose!


That’s where my heart was at peace as soon as I entered: familiar scents, bottles, and candles carefully arranged in a quite chick interior. With a swing!


The Metropoliten perfumery offer of the month is Clive Christian:

Kurkdjian’s Baccarat Rouge 540 also has its special place.
Carner Barcelona is available as well as Roja, Eight and Bob, KilianPenthaglion’s, Byredo, Nasomatto, Zenology, Profumum Roma, L’Artisan Perfumeur, Clive Trudon candles, and fine cosmetics…



When in Belgrade, you need not look any further. The prices are also very reasonable so it just might be worth your while to shop here. Very mainstream niche, I hope they will tend to surprise a little bit in the future.

After a long day, we planned a dinner at the famous restaurant “Reka” (make your reservation on time, it’s quite crowded on Saturday evenings) and headed towards the riverbank in Zemun.

There, at the banks of Danube, are the best place to party in Belgrade. You will see many floating clubs (barges) and Belgrade is a quite famous party town, I guess it ranks just as Ibiza! Also, what happens in “Kafana” stays there: it is a stress-free, relax zone and you can dance (and eat, over and over and again!) until the morning.

I was wearing Ramon Montale Black Musk that night and it lasted throughout the night…in the city that never sleeps.

The Plum Girl

Elena Cvjetkovic

Photos by The Plum Girl

Description of this perfume by Le Jardin Retrouve recalls The Ballet Russe, the image of great Nijinsky and his soft leather boots. Opera houses, wooden floors, and velvet curtains.  


Here I am, closing my eyes and gently spraying it on my skin, trying to recall my memories of Moscow in November, the scent of an old theatre building, color of the sky above.

What a surprise! It didn’t take me back to the Bolshoi. It took me back to my early years. Images rushed in, childhood memories brought back by traces of violets and powdery scent of Cuir de Russie: my grandfather smelled like that!

He was a man with bright blue eyes, heritage of my great-grandmother Juliana, Hungarian born beauty with soft hands and hard life. I remember her trying to teach me how to swear in Hungarian and laughing hard at my attempts. I didn’t understand a word but I was perfectly aware that it was something really naughty.

I remember watching him shave with a razor blade, slowly and patiently, almost ritually, hand moving with precise certainty, stroke after stroke, never cutting himself. He would then apply aftershave, its scent filling my nostrils.

A hunter he was, my late grandfather Karlo, before WW II came, after which he couldn’t and wouldn’t hold a weapon anymore.

A gentleman, with beautiful handwriting, old Austro-Hungarian empire school. Fine thick lines followed by thin lines in forming letter after letter. All beautifully written letters perfectly aligned and shaped, almost artistic in all the detail.

That kind of elaborate handwriting was the privilege of men with higher education in his time. People just don’t write like that anymore…and yes, he and Yuri Gutsatz belonged to the same era.

He sported deep green hunter blazers, the kind with round leather buttons, feeling wooly and rough against my face, smelling warm and cuddly. He smoked a pipe and let me play with it.

Leather boots as well, shiny and light brown, soft inside. He polished them meticulously, I remember.

This is my childhood olfactory memory linked to Cuir de Russie: the image of my grandfather freshly shaved, dressed in a starched neatly pressed shirt and pure wool trousers, pulling on his leather boots in a soft Autumn afternoon. He would take me for walks in an oak forest, its scent and colors so earthy and rich, my hand safely clutching his. 


On my skin, Cuir de Russie had an opening with a rush of juniper. Raisin flavor in my mouth. First minutes are energetic and strong, a grand opening. Then I found violets gently protruding as the notes slowed down in a fine symphony of soft violets with a touch of ylang-ylang. A trace of cinnamon, barely noticeable but underlining. 

It is not overly leathery on my skin, it turned to a rather earthy, soft woody closure. Yet I kept coming back to it, bringing my wrist up to my nose every now and then, with anticipation of joy.

This is a long-lasting, subtle, elegant and refined perfume, definitely unisex and I highly recommend you wear it during Indian Summer evenings…or maybe just for a morning stroll in the open,  your feet shuffling leaves on the ground, acorn crackling under your feet. It will certainly make you feel classy and content with yourself. It brings a feeling of warm melancholy, sweet old memories…Or just wear it anytime and create new ones!

The Plum Girl

Photos: The Plum Girl

Samples of perfumes provided by Le Jardin Retrouve

I haven’t written here in a while. It’s not that I haven’t used my nose, that is simply inevitable.
I was discouraged.
Overwhelmed.
Weak in front of all the wonderful creations that I dipped my nose into.
Humbled.
Yes, I thought at that time that my knowledge is frail, that I scratched only just below the surface, tiny drops in a vast ocean of perfumes, with so many new perfumes airing every single day. How can I possibly grasp them all? The quantity led me to pull away, shy away, retreat to my safe zone of familiar scents.
I learned to be cautious, to take one step at a time, one scent per week, to work more on my self, to sharpen the distinction, to dive deeper in components, to…breathe!
I traveled, collecting new scents and olfactory experiences. I found some. Others found me.
I will tell you my new tales of the nose, little bits and pieces of the olfactory world I collected meticulously and sorted to be exposed.
The olfactory world is like a huge garden. I came across an old garden. Lush, scented, colourfull, joyous. It spoke to me in the language of scents, and it made me happy.
Let me tell you a story about a man and a woman, their love for scents and how all good things eventually resurface.
Once upon a time lived a perfumer named Yuri Gutzatz.
A composer, an artist. He was much bothered by what the world of perfumes has turned into, astounded by mass production, marketing inputs and banality of products. With his wife, Arlene, he founded in 1975. Le Jardin Retrouve, maybe the first-ever niche perfumes house.
Yuri and his colleagues also founded Osmotheque in Paris, the only place in the world where you could research perfumes from times long ago…To research, to share knowledge, to emerge yourself in the sacred art of perfumery, what an extraordinary idea!
Yuri died in 1975. and the business slowed down, withered to a few branches, surviving only on its faithful clients’ fidelity.
The garden grew darker and what once shone brightly became tinted with the passing of time. A sleeping beauty, indeed.
As time passed, Yuri’s eldest son, Michael together with his wife Clara, decided to revive Le Jardin Retrouve! So he did, in 2016., dipping into notebooks and written traces of Yuri’s notes and formulas.
Under their caring hands, the garden blossomed again!
They have recently launched new/old perfumes, olfactory paintings of various gardens. When I say paintings, this is what I mean literally:
I just enjoyed looking at these small packages, visually savoring them, taking a blind pick which one to smell first.
Let me present you these seven vibrant sceneries of scent:
The first one to review? A hard choice. Each one has its own charm…
Follow me and find out more!
The Plum Girl
Photos: The Plum Girl
Samples of perfumes provided by Le Jardin Retrouve

Ljubljana, Laibach, Lubliana/Slovenia: during my recent, brief stay I simply had to walk over The Triple Bridge. It is a must see in Ljubljana, I just love the inner city! Advent decorations added a new dimension to the river Ljubljanica, people filling squares and cobble paved streets: what is different this year (they were proud to explain) is that culinary providers at the Advent fair are using environmentally friendly packaging instead of plastic!

 

Niche perfumes offer in Ljubljana practically didn’t exist for a quite long time. I guess nearby Austria or Italy covered the demand and some shops shyly introduced limited range of perfumes in the past years. My curious nose took me to Ikona, relatively new shopping destination:

Perfumery is located on the ground floor, exhibiting what Ikona has to offer:

Young lady that greeted me warmly was very helpful, although not quite into perfumes. As I noticed later on, this is not the only department she covered, so it seems that sales personnel is covering all the bases. The rest-and-enjoy corner is neat and comfy:

I didn’t find any novelties: the offer is basic, a very limited safe-play. You will find a selection of Amouage, Carthousia, Juliette Has a Gun (no Into The Void, though), Nasomatto basics and Comme des Garçons range (as photos show). Alas, they had just run out of Nasomatto completely, not a drop left in testers, not a single bottle available. No samples at all, nada, zip, zero. Ok, it was Sunday, just before closing time, maybe they had run out of everything. Maybe. I tried to contact them via mail prior to arrival but nobody bothered to answer.

Carthusia – I Profumi di Capri was nice to see, haven’t seen Carthusia since my visit to Italy. Classic: Numero Uno (for men) was released in 2007. and Via Camerelle (citrus centered, for women) in 2006. Carthusia is said to originate from a bouquet of wildflowers picked by a monk in 1380 on the Island of Capri. The current collection of Carthusia perfume is a revival of these ancient scents, rooted in the history of the island. With every stage carried out by hand, the limited production means being able to use the same methods as the Carthusian monks. A fine choice, without any doubt, but I personally consider these as more “summertime” perfumes.

Did some shopping and I must repeat that all the personnel is very nice&friendly, covering all three floors and different brands. We did receive a goodbye goodie: a bottle of Ikona water:

I really enjoy being in Ljubljana and will write an update next time I visit. I’ll be back! 😀

Update, September 2017: a very good range of niche, getting better and better! Wider choice, more newies, very good SA. When in Ljubljana, this is the place I will return to…

The Plum Girl

Photos: The Plum Girl

I look at all the fabulous photos my friends posted on Instagram and Facebook on the first day of Advent: creative, fun, colorful or minimalist, candles and decorations. So, what is missing? The scent, of course. I wonder…how these homes – smell? Is the scent complementing the visual effect? Does it conjure the atmosphere and enhance the occasion? I wonder…

Here comes Advent, the first candle is lit, Hope. My choice: Francis Kurkdjian – Aqua Universalis scented candle. Simply fresh and light, this perfume is unisex, for any occasion, anytime, anywhere. A perfect choice for any newbie in niche perfumes’ world with Bergamot from Calabria, Lemon from Sicily, White Bouquet (Lily of the valley and sweet Mock-Orange) and Light and musky woods.

Three to follow? Well, those are my personal choice, my own olfactory secret impressions of Peace, Joy, and Love. I strongly encourage you to play with scents, express yourself! I love to indulge in Christmas scents and fragrances!

Now stop. Imagine Christmas. Imagine what it means to you, what are your memories of it, what would you like to share? Great. Now try to imagine Christmas without all the wonderful scents it comes with! It’s the time of year to radiate comfort and warmth, festive atmosphere, nostalgia, tradition, family gatherings, core values and – emotions. Trust me, your scent memory is the best guide. The fragrance is deeply personal, we stock olfactory information and create a library of memories and associations – and the scent you choose just releases all those “saved on your personal hard disk” effects.

You might choose a simple scanted candle vanilla flavored or something like apples&cinnemon: fine, if that matches the memory that makes you happy and you want to recreate a special moment, or share it with your family and guests. A scent can also complement your decor: I am sure you wouldn’t choose the same for minimalistic white and silver color choice or abundant greens and reds, right? But there are so many, you might say. Yes, there are soooo many, even in the niche scented candles world. Which ones do you recommend, you might ask as well. Well, I am certain that your nose will tell you which one is right for you: just close your eyes and FEEL the fragrance. Maybe you’ll want to create a completely different atmosphere, something that belongs just to you: niche scented candles really can work a miracle here! Benefits? They do provide longer burning time, up to 60 hours per candle. Scent? Given the larger percentage of perfume, they do smell stronger (not like those vanilla scented candles you buy at a store and by the time you get home you wonder where did the scent disappear).
Want your home to smell like fresh snow? Check, niche has got that. Like that fresh laundry scent? Check. Something rare, special, unusual? Oud is very popular recently. Not only to smell “nice”, but to make that fine crackling sound just like an open fire in a fireplace? Check, take a look at my previous post. Maybe you would like a candle to match the niche perfume you are wearing? Check, ditto.

What I’d like to share with you (or remind you of) is a story. You know just how much I love great stories about fragrances, and this one reaches back to – 1643. Maison Cire Trudon is the oldest wax-producing factory worldwide. Rolls Royce of candles, they call it. It was the provider of the royal court of Louis XVI and most of the great churches of France, and is, even today. It all started with a witty merchant, Claude Trudon who moved to Paris in 1643, married well and invested the capital so earned to open a small store on Rue St. Honore. Others made candles as well, but Claude’s candles smelled well and burned clear. His sales rocketed. He saw potential in that and decided to make and sell – fine candles. Witty as he was, even back then he was aware that marketing matters. He searched for the best wax, finest ingredients and started supplying many churches. Soon the court of the Sun King gave him exclusivity and voila – his candles were all over Versailles. Of course, during years to come, there were twists and turns, but the production kept going. It is said that Napoleon’s first gift to his newborn son was a Trudon candle and that the last thing he wanted to smell before dying in exile was his beloved – Trudon candle.
They survived revolutions, electricity and mass production, were pushed in a niche corner and remained provider of churches and a few connoisseurs. But as all good things tend to last, so did the Cire Turdon brand. Revived, sophisticated and classy, Trudon really links experiences with scents, it conveys wit and sophistication upon the user. I love their glass cloches (my preciousssssssss uf!) The making of these candles is fascinating as well. The candles are hand made in Normandy, using pure cotton wicks and are 100% natural and biodegradable. Labels are produced by the oldest champagne label maker in France and glasses are mouth-blown and made by artisans in Vincy, Italy. Yes, these candles are as finest as they come.

My recommendation for Christmas season: Maison Cire Trudon
Bethleem –Spicy Amber
Fragrance pyramid:
Head Notes: Cardamom, Pepper, Saffron.
Heart Notes: Musk, Tonka Beans, White Flowers.
Base Notes: Amber, Cedarwood, Sandalwood.

imageUnbelievable! The first sniff I took and whoaaa! I WAS in Bethlehem once again, and it was Christmas Eve and the night was warm and filled with the murmur of prayer…Its soft light reminded me of thin wax candles lit all over churches we visited, I almost felt the cold stone inside The Church of the Nativity, bending over to pass the Door of Humility, climbing down to reach and touch the silver star on the floor. Ultimate Christmas candle for me.

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You might also love these:
Gabriel – Gourmand Chimney Fire

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Gaspard – Woody Mandarin

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Abd El Kader – Christmas – Moroccan Mint Tea

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Ernesto – Christmas – Leather and Tobacco

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Olfactory marketing is becoming a huge business, remember that when you think about your home/office candle. If you want your home or office to smell “nice” – spray away, common deodorant will do. But if you want to make an impression, create an olfactory memory and match the scent with your personality – I believe this is worth an effort. And hey, didn’t I tell you that any scent you encounter for the first time stays in your memory for a minimum ten years? Connected with the impression you left? Big brands use fragrance as part of their brand strategies, why wouldn’t you? A suggestion: please use one at a time. Lightning a different one in every room is really – an overkill. Need some advice? Feel free to contact me 😀

The Plum Girl
Photos: Maison Cire Trudon, The Plum Girl
Products mentioned available at Maison Cire Trudon, Parfumerija Top
Olfactory testing performed at Parfumerija Top
Disclaimer

I am drawn to candlelight, candlelight during every season of the year. That flicker of the fire contained is fascinating (yes, there is a little pyromaniac in all of us), soothing, meditative and very emotional. I could just stare at candlelight for hours, thoughts swirling like candlelight on the wind, feeling…well, it certainly makes me feel safe somehow. Reflective. Attractive. An atavism, I know it is, dating back to times when controlled fire meant life. It made me think about occasions and emotions lightning some has stirred, just this month: I lighted birthday candles for dear people, to celebrate life. Commemorative candles, for ones who passed away. Candles symbolizing hope. Spiritual ones, like a prayer. Scented candles, at home, to calm and relax, tune senses, create a certain atmosphere…

Don’t you love candles? A soft, moving light to delight and captivate, excite…candles are a part of the illusion, the fantasy. Their light creates the magical glow so different from the aggressive illumination of the contemporary world we are exposed to. One single candle can transform a room into a mystique place, make it promising or its scent can take you on a journey, transport you to a different place or time, evoking memories. There is a nostalgia involved, as well as the promise of the future.
One sniff at a scented candle, and it’s like pixie magic! Yes, aromatherapy as well. But what really matters is the power of our olfactory memories. Some researches done say that each and every scent we encounter stays engraved in our memory for ten years. Ten years!

The scent is one of the strongest senses linked to our memories, feelings, things, and people you long for. A candle can represent the ambiance you wish to create or make people associate the scent with your presence. Your mood can change based on scent, too. Furthermore, choosing the right candle says a lot about who you are, and back to the above written, just how people will remember you for the next ten years. You or your home, the person you are or the atmosphere they will associate with you. I strongly believe that it is worth the effort!

So, how do you wish to be remembered? Many niche perfume brands make fine, scented candles as well. Depending on your perfume of choice, mood or atmosphere you wish to (re)create, it might be quite demanding to narrow your choice. One is just not enough!

This is my newest list of must-have’s:

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Aedes De Venustas: with deep, powerful green and dark notes imbued with incense and ganja. For me it is fresh and dark at the same time, green like spring grass and mystical as dark hidden places you are afraid to enter, yummy like rhubarb and fascinating like a fine incense. As I said, a strange fragrance…good kind of strange, sexy strange… I liked it. Definitely different. A bit crazy.

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Honour Woman, Amouage – my choice of the day, or better yet, of the night: a white floral fragrance inspired by the tragic predicament of Madame Butterfly. “The white floral is used to signify the discourse of Madame Butterfly’s love. Tuberose is used to represent danger. Jasmine means attachment. Gardenia is secret love. Lily of the Valley is the purity of the heart. White carnation is innocence and faithfulness. On another level, the white floral represents a tragic love in which honor, fidelity, and innocence have been betrayed. A resin base of frankincense, amber, and opoponax is used to represent the tragic end of Madame’s Butterfly “To Die With Honor”. Amouage has a fine offer of scented candles, it breaks my heart to have to choose just one for this blog.

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Extravagance Russe, Diana Vreeland: Now there’s a perfume with a great story and a candle to go along with it. Dedicated to Mrs. Diana Vreeland, who once said: “Fragrances fill the senses with the mysterious.” Maybe her name won’t ring a bell to you, but she ruled the fashion world for decades. She was the Editor-in-Chief of Vogue, among other fashion-significant engagements that lasted for more than 20years. This is the official description: “Extravagance Russe by Clement Gavarry was created as an homage to Mrs. Vreeland’s love of Orientalism. Capturing the essence of amber’s sacred and mystical note in perfumery, the fragrance goes deep into the collective olfactory memory. It maintains the original codes of amber within a contemporary structure. The scent harmoniously wraps luxurious resins and balsams with precious vanilla bourbon and musk for an enhanced impression of skin like and captivating sensuality.“ Extravagant, luxurious and slightly mysterious – definitely to be remembered by. Planning a romantic dinner? Well, I would ignite this one. For just the two of us…imageLorenzo Villoresi: Available in 7 fragrances, to suit a variety of occasions and create different atmospheres: “Alamut: warm and sensual, a voyage in the Orient: the flowers of One Thousand and One Nights, the Amber, the Musk and the precious woods. Diamante: crisp and lively, with notes of Citrus, Tea, and Lavender. Enriched by green and spicy nuances. Iperborea: Sparkling green top note of fresh flowers, with citrus notes and light fruity hints, with a radiant heart of lily of the valley and magnolia, mimosa and cyclamen. Piper Nigrum: Oriental and North African markets. Aromatic and peppery. Spring Blossoms: Soft and gentle fragrance based on spring flowers. Teint de Neige: The gentle scent of talcum powders, a soft, embracing fragrance, yet intense and persistent. Yerbamate: A boundless green land touching the sky. The scent of grass, of the new-mown hay, of countless herbs and flowers scattered in the fields.“
Choosing just one? Awwww! Hard choice, yap, I know…that depends on the olfactory message you are about to send.

imageTeint de Neige is the one I find exquisite for this time of year, a perfect winter scent. It’s warm, cozy but fresh, a bit powdery: reminds me of laying in bed under a huge fluffy duvet, looking out of the window on heaps of fresh snow on a sunny Winter morning…very old school, classy and feminine. Definitely a“happy winter day“ scent.

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Eight&Bob – check out my story here. It’s more than a “business office“ candle, really: makes you feel…well, powerful is the first word that comes to my mind. In all the meanings that just crossed your mind. Ha. On the other hand, Egypt really takes me back to – Egypt, that’s it!

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Byredo – if you are a book lover, try Bibliotheque. For sheer happiness, ignite Carousel. Yummy figs and Mediterranean breeze lover? Take home your Figue Glacee. Love that fresh smell of clean laundry in your bedroom? That’s what Cotton Poplin provides. These and other fine Byredo candles are made for unisex olfactory pleasure.

There are so many more, a whole fascinating world of niche fragrance candles! If you wish to recreate a certain ambiance at your home or office, feel free to contact me for detailed recommendations.

You might say that candles I write about are “expensive“. Just calculate how much money you have spent in the last couple of years on various scented candles that made you wonder why anyone labeled them “scented“ in the first place? Were you amazed by those? Did they burn for at least 40 hours? Secondly, these fine candles provide up to 60 hours of burning time. Last but not least – they do emit fragrance, due to a higher percentage of perfume concentrate.  I’d rather spend some money on an excellent candle than on an unmemorable night out including mediocre dinner and drinks. It’s just like the wine: you get what you pay for…and in the term of scents, even more: a lasting memory. Ten years minimum, remember?

In my next blog I will focus on Advent and Xmas candles: stay tuned and scent-happy! :-*

The Plum Girl
Photos/candles: Parfumerija Lana, Parfumerija Top

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