Long intro, you can skip ahead to the fragrance review, I swear it´s down there.

I got bitten by the humbug a couple months ago. Humbugs are tricky – they´re so small you barely notice them at first. I live in a city where people scrape against each other like nails on a blackboard, and humbugs are easy to catch in this environment. People jump lines, shove on the subway, don´t yield in traffic. If you´re not careful you´ll get a serious infestation of humbugs, and before you know it you´ll be getting out of your car to yell at some asshat who just whipped his shiny BMW into the space you were backing into.

I had ten minutes before the twins´ dentist appointment (yes, they were with me in the car), and Mr. BMW couldn´t really park properly until I moved my car out of his way, so I made the most of my time. Having tried (and failed) to appeal to his common decency, I insulted him in every way I could think of. I impugned his morals and his driving skills. I moved on to insulting his immediate family, his lineage, his very existence, and even his car, an entry-level model. “It´s not even a good midlife-crisis car,” I yelled at him. “You couldn´t pick up a fifteen-year-old boy in that car!” (Yeah, this from a woman driving a 9-year-old white Toyota minivan.) At that point I had an audience, mostly office workers and construction guys, who paused in their daily routine at the sight of a mad-as-hell woman standing in the middle of the street in a very nice neighborhood, literally across from Tiffany, shouting obscenities at a much larger man. I still can´t believe the police didn´t show up.

But they didn´t, and eventually I had to go. Hecate informed me primly as I got back in the car that it´s not nice to yell at people. I prayed, earnestly and vigorously, that she and Buckethead would be unable to remember the new words I´d just hurled, none of which were things I wanted to hear coming from them.

Mostly, though, I was mad at me. What was my problem? Okay, the guy´s a putz (I told him so, and more), but for pete´s sake – it´s a parking space. And it wasn´t the last space at the mall the day before Christmas; I drove to the lot where I usually park, which is actually closer to the dentist.

Karma. Do people really get what´s coming to them? There are moments when I hope desperately that the answer is no. My humbugs followed me like a black cloud for the rest of the day. How did I allow myself to be so bothered by something so trivial? What kind of example was I setting to my kids? I try to give kindness to strangers, which is hard in a city where offering to let someone with a sandwich and a soda cut in front of my groaning cart at Trader Joe´s is met with suspicious disbelief – there must be a catch, right?

I´ve been waiting for Christmas. Not the actual holiday, but the secular, consumerist run-up, which we embrace in all its tacky glory – the holiday bazaars, chocolate advent calendars, Rosemary Clooney on the hi-fi, ugly lights. The kids and I make toffee and cookies and our own hot chocolate and we all watch Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer over and over and I stencil the windows with artificial snow … except this year it´s been 75 degrees and I wasn´t feeling it. Not even a murmur. Humbugs.

Tuesday morning a cold front blew in, wild and windy, and we were doing the usual madness (where are the mittens? Where is your lunchbox?!?!”) when it started to snow. Snow pouring right out of a brilliant blue sky – I couldn´t see a cloud anywhere. The kids grabbed their parkas and ran outside – look! Look, there it is!! Snow!!! After 30 seconds of grumbling I grabbed my parka too and went out to join them on the lawn in my slippers, head back, eyes closed, tongue out, face to the sky. A single snowflake on the tongue – such a tiny dose, like those homeopathic pills — is an excellent remedy for humbugs.

Yesterday we had our first, glorious snow, so today I want to celebrate the arrival of the snow and the banishment of the humbugs by blogging about three great scents from an obscure-ish Japanese line: Annayake Miyako, Tsukimi, and Pour Elle.

I´ve never seen the Annayake fragrances in stores here, although I think they are available overseas in places like Douglas. Annayake has a skincare line (maybe someone can comment in terms of its popularity and presence outside the U.S., I am assuming it´s something like Shiseido and/or Kanebo?), and there are several fragrances, including four seasonal scents and some others. Tsukimi is the “Autumn” scent; notes are pepper, grapefruit, lemon, jasmine, violet, cinnamon, patchouli, sandalwood, vanilla. That is one list of notes (and I´ve checked in more than one place) I find completely inexplicable – I cannot pick out a single one of those fruits or flowers. In fact, before I looked the notes up I assumed it was a mildly spiced woody scent reflecting the last four notes on that list. Tsukimi came into my life in my favorite way – a random sample vial (thanks, Dinazad!). It was one of those joyous, rare occasions when you pop something open, dab it on, and are filled with fragrant joy. It is a perfect rendition of autumn – warm, quiet, meditative.  I needed more immediately, so I got online and bought a bottle from Cosmolane in Canada (which has some of the others as well). It´s a fairly linear scent, a little sweeter at the opening, settling into faintly sweet, dry sandalwood. It is a bit like Shiseido Feminite du Bois, with its smooth, creamy warmth and woods, but less sweet and more reserved. I find it extraordinarily comforting. Cosmolane also sent me a sample of the scented Tsukimi lotion, which I am coveting, and which layers beautifully with the fragrance.

Within the perfume blogosphere I think Miyako has more fans. Notes for Miyako are cardamom, cinnamon, frankincense, hinoki, rose, jasmine, ylang-ylang, patchouli, cedar, sandalwood, musk, rockrose, benzoin, myrrh, and amber. My ride with Miyako is a tiny bit bumpier. My skin really emphasizes a harsh, bitter opening note that I´ve never read anyone else complaining about. I tend to keep my nose away from my skin for the first half hour. The drydown, however, is everything you could want from that list – rich, sensual, spicy, but still quite soothing. I get a lot of spices but they are so beautifully blended with the other ingredients that it is difficult to pick out any individual notes. It’s spice, woods and incense without any noticeable florals on me at all.

Finally, I bought a bottle of Pour Elle unsniffed along with my Tsukimi, based on the notes alone – bergamot, fig, elemi, water lily, tea, cypress, and white musk — and how great does that sound? I didn´t like it nearly as much when I got it several months ago – the opening is a bit sharp. To be honest, I sort of forgot about it, and trying again I was pleasantly surprised. It´s not a comfort scent like the other two, being a summery, green thing, but it´s reminiscent of Patricia de Nicolai´s Fig-Tea, with more of an attractive herbaceous bitterness. The bergamot fades rather quickly, the tea note is quite strong, and the green note strikes a lovely balance between fennel-like pungency and sweetness; after the initial watery sweetness fades, it goes through an hour or two of being really unisex. I´m feeling a bit ashamed I didn´t give this more of a chance.

Based upon what I´ve sniffed so far, however else I might feel about the Annayake line at least I´m not complaining about overwhelming sweetness (although that might change with the spring/summer scents, which do sound more fruity/floral.) If anyone has tried any of the others and would like to report in, please do so. The scents hang together nicely; I would describe them as deceptively simple rather than minimalist, and I´ll resist any temptation I feel here to veer off babbling about elegant simplicity and Japanese tradition, about which I know next to nothing. Instead I´ll just say they don´t smell like anything you´re going to run across at Macy´s this Christmas.

I went looking for a pic of the fragrance bottles to illustrate this post. Instead my search lead me to the perfume blog of Divina, who comments here sometimes. Divina is smitten with the Annayake line and has written reviews of most of them, which you can find on her blog by entering “Annayake” into her search feature. These thoughtful and beautifully illustrated reviews talk about the scents within their cultural context; they´re a great read if you´re interested in learning more. I note with interest that Divina has also compared Tsukimi to FdB.

image: Hiroshige, Gion Shimu in Snow,

  • Annette says:

    When I think of snow, I can’t help but think of this video.
    I live in Florida so snow isn’t really an issue.

    My son and I visited DC in July for his birthday and had a great time, walked everywhere. How lucky you are to have such great history at your fingertips!

  • tmp00 says:

    I’m having a Homer Simpson moment over the fresh scones- if you told me that there’s Devonshire cream, home-made raspberry jam and a nice hot cuppa I might scrape the windshield with my teeth!

    • Abigail says:

      There is home made raspberry jam, but it’s 4 years old now and I think it has passed its prime. 🙁

      But we are obsessive loose leaf tea collectors, so I could probably safely hot cuppa up a small army.

      So hurray!

  • Abigail says:

    Oooh, I just tried feminite du bois this week and I’m almost smitten. I just love the soft residual semi-fruit-musk scent it left behind after about 5 hours or so. Tsukimi sounds lovely, and I’ll need to add it to my ever-growing wish to sniff list.

    Also, anyone who wants our snow (upstate NY) can have it. Additionally, if anyone would like to scrape my windshield for me in the morning, that’d be groovy. I can pay in fresh scones!

    • March says:

      Abigail — if you are “almost smitten” then I definitely encourage you to try Tsukimi for a variation on the theme. And I hate, hate, hate cleaning the car off more than anything. That’s one thing I really miss about two houses ago — we had a carport. It was so ugly, and I thought it was the greatest thing since sliced bread.

  • Cheryl says:

    Oh the rant! I have to respond. I don’t think you should feel the least bit bothered. You had a back bone and stuck up for yourself…and by extension all others who are using the parking lots. Your kids got to witness a woman standing up to injustice! YAY! That’s to be admired. I bet your kids won’t grow up to be so rude as this other driver if they are ever tempted to steal someone’s spot. And the other guy can’t pretend he’s a very clever hero. Glad everyone saw!

    • March says:

      Thanks for the pep talk. Part of it is, it bugged me how *mad* it made me. A certain amount of stuff like that should just roll off, you know? OTOH part of the reason it made me so angry is, I would never do anything like that. Who does stuff like that? How much of a jerk can you be?

  • rosarita says:

    I thought the only phrase I’d take away from this post was *humbugs*, which I just love, along of course w/ the midlife crisis car thing. But then Lee sneaks in with *snarky farties*! I will be using that in a sentence soon….

    I’m definitely still in a loud skank scent phase – thanks to your suggestion long ago, M, I’m currently loving the original Moschino – but the Miyako sounds lovely. And I’m putting together a sample order for TPC as we speak 🙂

    We woke up to 6″ of fresh snow out here in the rurals yesterday. It’s just beautiful. And while it’s been a long time since I’ve lived in a big city, per capita the number of a**hats appears to be universal;)

    • March says:

      That Moschino is totally underloved. I’m glad you’re enjoying it. And try not to get into too much trouble on the Court!:-” Oh, what the heck, get into trouble…

      Six inches of snow sounds absolutely lovely, so long as I don’t have to shovel it.

  • Lee says:

    Poor March, having to deal with snarky farties. If only we could all remain zen at such moments…

  • Robin says:

    I have never smelled a single Annayake. I don’t know why, but it is comforting to know there are still zillions of brands that are entirely off my radar.

    Agree w/ everyone else: “It’s not even a good mid-life crisis car” is priceless. Hope I’ll get the chance to scream that at the top of my lungs some day!

    • March says:

      Well, there are zillions of scents that are entirely off our radar, true — I saw a few of them at TJ Maxx today — but it is even *nicer* to know that there are unsniffed lines to smell that won’t bore you to tears and don’t cost $400!/:)

  • tmp00 says:

    Do you know, last year it was actually cold enough that we got a dusting of show? Yes, in West Los Angeles. Action McNewsTeam’s SkyCam 9 spent the afternoon hovering over the Veterans cemetary and an area of Bel-Air where it stuck- for about three seconds…

    I hate a$$holes. You were completely justified. He should rent “Serial Mom” to see what can happen when you steal parking spaces from nice ladies from the suburbs…

    Oh, and at his age a 3 series just says “I can’t afford my own mid-life crisis. Or Viagra. Pass on me”

    • March says:

      Exactly!! That car is embarrassing. Dude might as well be driving a Volvo wagon…

      Wow, I didn’t think it EVER snowed there. Maybe there is something to this global warming climate disruption thing…:-?

      • tmp00 says:

        actually I’ve seen a picture from the LA TImes from the 40’s where they got real actual snow- accumulations even. So it’s not completely unheard of..

  • grizzlesnort says:

    Wow, what a great post. Happy ‘preferred’ holiday to each of us. (didn’t we say Holiday ‘of choice’ in the 80s?)

  • Patty says:

    Hahaha! That poor guy. 🙂 For some reason, in the car, when the boys were growing up, I would just zone out about my language, etc., and the worst things in the world escaped my mouth. If you ask them both today, they’ll tell you all of the best curse words they learned, they learned in the car.

    • March says:

      Lord, I hate driving them in the car for precisely that reason. I mean, the drivers around here are *insane* and we have all those traffic circles … for awhile I was being fined for curse words in front of the kids, but I said I had a special fine exemption on Chevy Chase Circle, where you will see some amazingly bad driving. People wig when faced with a circle for the first time. They either stop in the middle, or they close their eyes and just plow through. The funniest thing I see (and have seen more than once!) is people who miss their exit road and then try to BACK UP. People — it’s a CIRCLE — just go around again! Sometimes we do for the fun of it.l-)

  • Suzanne says:

    March, I love your posts for their commentaries on life every bit as much as I love them for the perfume reviews. Oh, and that image, Gion Shimu in the Snow, is so exquisite. Thank you for that, too.

    • March says:

      Isn’t that exquisite? I’m lucky enough to live in a place, surly as it is ;), where I can go to museums and see Hiroshige and Hokusai (my father’s favorite) up close and personal. The Sackler Gallery here is particularly lovely and peaceful.

  • March says:

    One lady did join in briefly, trying to shame that guy into backing out. No dice. Well, I did make him pay a little more for the space than he’d expected… I would think NC almost never gets snow.

    I saw your comment there on Divina’s blog, I think? I would think Miyako and Tsukimi would be very much “you.”:)>-

  • Elle says:

    What a fantastic, brilliant, exuberantly inspired rant! Love it! The bystanders should have given you a standing ovation. I know I would have. And how lovely that you got snow! Wish we would, but I’m wondering if NC will see *any* snow or precipitation in any form this winter. Beginning to despair that we won’t.
    Uncle. Must finally purchase AM. Don’t know why I haven’t. And the Tsukimi sounds fantastic as well.

  • carlene says:

    I’m so glad I didn’t skip right down to the review, as instructed. Your writing is inspired! “A single snowflake on the tongue – such a tiny dose, like those homeopathic pills — is an excellent remedy for humbugs.” Girl, you need to embroider that on a pillow!

    • March says:

      Thanks. Sometimes these posts pretty much write themselves, and this was one. Sometimes I sit here, staring at the keyboard, thinking, heeeeelp!:-ss

  • Bryan says:

    You have such a beautiful way with fragrant words. Now I have to get my hands on these. I have been struggling a bit with winter blues….now I have a word for the little monsters that infect my psyche….humbugs. The little bastards! :d

    • March says:

      Bryan, I have no read on whether you’d like these … I mean, they’re pretty subtle, they’re not sillage monsters. They’re not your Tuberose Crush, certainly.;) But gosh, they’re nicely done.

      Seems to me humbugs are a particular problem this time of year./:)

  • sariah says:

    The snow yesterday was lovely. OK, 3 hours driving in it was not good, but when I got home it was doing those big heavy type of flakes, so I went for a walk. All the streets in downtown frederick are strung with those tiny white lights, and the snow on the ground was all fluffy and glittering. It was a perfect winter walk.

    • March says:

      Another three-hour commute! When I got to the mall yesterday a bunch of the shops were still closed, because the employees couldn’t make it in. I hear Colesville Road and parts of the beltway and 270 were closed due to ice.

      Frederick in the snow. Sigh. Have you ever watched Gilmore Girls, one of my all-time favorite series which I watch with the girls? Their town looks like Frederick to me.

      • AngelaS says:

        The Gilmore Girls! My favorite night-time soap opera. I love it that you used the word “hi fi”. It goes so well with Christmas and Rosemary Clooney.

        • March says:

          I had the hilarious talk with my 13YO last week, I’ll work it into a post at some point. She wanted me to explain to her how our record player worked — you know, what are the mechanics of playing a record on a turntable? Reasonable. So I’m telling her, and it is clear to me she thinks I’m having her on. At some point she asked, well, how do you repeat a song? /:) When I explained about picking the needle up and moving it … well, then she knew I was bulls—ing her. Nothing could convince her.

          Yup. The hi fi. How else will I play my lame-o holiday muzik?@};-

  • MattS says:

    “It’s not even a good mid-life crisis car!” That’s hilarious. “You couldn’t pick up a fifteen year old boy in that car!” =)) Even better. You’re awesome; don’t let the bastards get you down. You just need shinytinseltackycoloredlightElvisBlueXmasflashytrashyfun. And snow. Snow. Please send some to North Carolina, just a few days worth. It doesn’t even have to be for Christmas. I swear I’ve been good. Kinda.

    The scents sound intriguing; I’m try to learn to appreciate simple, subtle, understated, minimalist scents more. You don’t always have to be hit over the head. I guess. :o)

    • Maleficent says:

      Hon, not even *I*, March the Maleficent, have the power to send snow to NC in any decent quantitiy…

      when I wasn’t listening to Rosemary Clooney and another cheesy CD I had my Elvis CD on, because what says tinsel better than Elvis?^:)^

      I’m sorry, I’ve been slammed with work runaround, I haven’t forgotten your email! I have to get rid of the kids first though (two hour delay)

      Um, I spent a LONG TIME being absolutely uninterested in any scent that wasn’t clobbering me over the head. It was nice to (unexpectedly as usual) move into a mindset of appreciating more subtle things. My guess is you’ll go through that phase, but there’s certainly no hurry, right? Enjoy the skank!:-j

  • Louise says:

    I love my humbugs, and wish I’d seen the full-on rant. This can be such a high-pressure, graceless city, and we can all snap. But the city has so many lovely souls to be discovered, such as you, dear March. Rant on, as needed.

    I am sure that the Annayakes are beautiful, and would not last on me at all (according to you, and after Maria, my skin twin). I bet Tsukimi is great on you: the website description is: A warm and flamboyant fragrance for the radiant woman who is attracted by traditions and family!

    I endorse, support and defend TPC to all-it’s a truly fabulous resource put together by an ensemble of committed, dedicated woman.

    • March says:

      I should stop ragging on D.C., maybe. It’s just such a broad target to hit. 🙂 But you’re right, I have lots of lovely friends here, and if I work at it I can even entice strangers into friendly behavior. If I work at it.

      The Annayakes, I am afraid, would not adhere to your skin satisfactorily. I do wonder about Pour Elle. Given its similarities (to me, anyway) to Fig-Tea I’m tempted to spray it on you.

  • Maria says:

    The rudeness of DC can really get to one. I wish I had a video of you yelling at the guy about his immediate family and his car. I saw on news reports how much of the white stuff was falling on you. Better you than me since you enjoy it. I’m done with snow.

    Miyako was a hauntingly beautiful incense scent for the ten minutes it lasted on me. One of those fragrances that break one’s heart wih their fickleness. I believe it’s discontinued.

    You go ahead and keep mentioning that Perfumed Court. Addicts need to know where they can get their fix.

    • March says:

      At some point I am sure I will be done with snow, but with the kids to inspire my enthusiasm I appreciate it more. We looked at moving to Florida once, but decided the lack of winter was too much for us, even though I really don’t like to be cold. Contradictory, I know.:-”

      Yay TPC! The array of scents on there now is amazing. I wish I’d had that two years ago.

  • Rita says:

    I have been wishing for snow, and last night it snowed for about two minutes, just enough to get my hopes up. My son is 10 years old and we haven’t had a decent snow since he’s was born, it must snow this winter! Glad you and yours got a little, though.

    Pour Elle sounds the best to me, not a big fan of patchouli. I can do it in small doses, do you get strong patchouli from the other two?

    Hey, we have to plug the Perfumed Court, if it wasn’t for them many of us wouldn’t be able to smell any of the scents that we talk about here. I would have never smelled 1/10 of the perfumes I’ve sniffed if I hadn’t found them. I have a soft spot in my heart for ladies willing to send me my beloved Lutens upon request!

    Hope your package made it to you safely, I’m dying to know if there was anything in there that you even like!

    • March says:

      I only like snow if I think about it correctly.:d Faced with the inconvenience, it’s a nightmare (it took some people three hours to get to work yesterday because of the icy conditions.) But looked at out the window with a cup of cocoa, it looks pretty darn good!

      I *did* get your AWESOME package. I was actually telling Louise about it yesterdy! I am waiting for one more, I think, and am going to write them up.