Tag Archives: Artisan

Dryad by Papillon Perfumes

“My dryad hath her hiding place/Among ten thousand trees…”

– From The Dryad by Richard Le Gallienne (1866 – 1947)

 

Notes: Cedrat, Bigaradier Orange, Bergamot, Narcissus, Oakmoss, Jonquil, Clary Sage, Orange Blossom, Lavender, Orris, Vetiver, Thyme, Galbanum, Costus, Tarragon, Apricot, Benzoin, Peru Balsam, Deertongue, Styrax,

I’m fortunate to know artisan perfumer Liz Moores and while I can see facets of her character in Papillon’s other fragrances it feels like her fifth creation, Dryad, gets to the core of who she is.

If you follow Liz on social media, you’ll know that she spends a lot of her time nurturing animals (as well as children) and regularly shares the beauty of her surroundings in the New Forest.

Unlike most of us in this day and age, Liz seems to be living her life in sync with nature; celebrating the festivals that mark the changing of the seasons and noticing the waxing and waning of the moon.  She may be a glamour puss but I suspect she is an earth mother at heart.

This way of life must cultivate a great sense of connectedness with the natural world and I can feel that in DryadI tried an early mod of this forthcoming release during a visit to Papillon HQ last year, so I couldn’t wait to sample the final version which will be available from June. 

A dryad is a human-like tree nymph from Greek mythology and these shy creatures often inspired love and desire in the gods.

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Liz Moores with her equine soulmate, Perry.

 

As I enter Dryad’s mythical forest domain, I’m met with the unmistakable vivid green aroma of galbanum. Its usual astringency warmed by the sunshine of orange citrus and tamped down by an accord of leafy aromatic herbs.

Oakmoss forms the striking emerald carpet that is underfoot for the duration of the perfume’s development. No doubt this explains in large part why Dryad bears a resemblance to vintage Vol de Nuit parfum, as Claire astutely notes on Take One Thing Off.  Liz tells me that she was able to use a variety of oakmoss that is compliant, in very small amounts, with the IFRA regulations and then built it up with other supporting accords.

There’s something lurking just behind the trees (costus?) that prevents the scent from being entirely wholesome. It takes Dryad from what could have been light, bright and legible and turns it into something dappled, deep and mysterious. It seems to distil the very essence of an enchanted forest.

Dryad is not a fragrance with clear demarcations of head, heart and base but one of gradations, moving over time from sunlit green through to earthy brown. It’s a journey which takes the wearer from the edge of the forest to its shaded, sacred centre. Meandering through the ancient trees at a languid pace, it lasts for an extraordinary long time on skin.

Like Salome, Dryad is meticulously structured. It’s the kind of green chypre/oriental with a complex character and an old soul that’s rare to find these days.

A lecturer at university once remarked in a seminar that I always looked as if I were dreaming of some otherworldly place. Dryad actually takes me there.

 

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Picture credit: Dreaming Dryad by mariyaolshevska at DeviantArt

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February: A Month of Roses

At the start of February I joined Undina’s giveaway challenge (inspired by Chemist in the Bottle) to wear nothing but rose perfumes for the whole month. Being her usual fastidious self, Undina compiled a calendar with a different rose fragrance scheduled for each day. Me being me, I took a more scatter-bomb approach, grabbing whatever appealed on the day.

One of the positive side effects of the project, was that it made me go through my samples and decants to dig up the roses. I love rose perfumes anyway (obviously) but it was good to have the motivation to try – and use up – the samples and decants languishing around my house.

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Here’s what I wore over the course of the month –

Tobacco Rose by Papillon Perfumes (Full Bottle)

This is a  rose bush in a bottle with leaves, earth and hay. A rose found in early autumn to hold on to as nature reclaims summer’s florid show. You can take comfort from it in the same way you might from a walk in the woods. It’s a womanly, over-blown rose with depth and throw to spare. One spray will last all day and it’s one of the few perfumes I’ve been complimented on.

Rose Oud, By Kilian (Decant)

This was the first western oud fragrance I came across and it’s still my favourite. The quality of the velvety rose is outstanding and the combination of saffron and oud complement it beautifully. It really is a deep red rose in the middle of an arid desert.

Wild Roses by Aftelier Perfumes (Sample)

Mandy Aftel’s intention was to capture the rose in situ within the garden. It’s easy to forget that these flowers have such varied scents. At its heart we have a balsamic, honeyed rose but there are also subtle fruity and animalic facets. Taragon absolute represents the herb garden and the leaves of the rose bush, while patchouli roots it in the earth. It’s incredibly complex and potent, especially for an all-natural fragrance.

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Le Fille de Berlin by Serge Lutens (Full Bottle)

I love the vintage pin-up look but while the clothes and make-up don’t suit me, I can wear a beautiful retro rose/violet scent like this one. The softly musky amber base makes for a perfect finish. Unlike a lot of fragrance by Serge Lutens, La Fille de Berlin has a transparency that makes it extremely wearable. I wear this from spring through autumn.

Rozy Voile d’Extrait, Vero Profumo (Sample)

Rose may be the most recognisable facet of this oriental tour de force but there is so much more going on here. Smoked honey, amber and fruit swirl and buzz on the skin with a vital intensity. When I first encountered it, Rozy represented to me the complexity and power of untamed feminine energy – and it still does. Perfumer Vero Kern is someone l hugely admire and I can’t imagine anyone else making a rose-centred perfume remotely like this one.

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Rose de Nuit, Serge Lutens (Full Bottle)

It was nice to give my bell jar an airing. Rose de Nuit is a rosy musk more than it is a pure rose fragrance. It’s not skanky or headache-y but oily and unctuous. It’s a nocturnal harlot in perfume form who doesn’t believe in any such thing as the walk of shame. She’s brazen but sophisticated and oh-so-enticing.

Mille et Une Rose, Lancome (Decant)

Appropriately enough I won this decant on Undina’s Looking Glass. Mille et Une Rose is a soft yet deep, somewhat sweet rose with an amber base and a trail of musk. It makes me think of one of those pretty peach coloured roses with a multitude of petals, circling around and around, layer after layer. It’s velvety, easy to wear and rather romantic.

Velvet Rose, Senoma Scent Studio (Sample)

Again from Undina’s prize package, Velvet Rose is a sparkling, dewy rose. It’s a frothy cascade of pale pink tea roses with a touch of greenery. Delicate but long-lasting, it has that vintage cosmetic association that I really love. The more I inhale it, the more I enjoy it. It’s incredibly pretty and joyful.

The Coveted Duchess Rose by Penhaligon’s (Sample)

This recent release is part of the Portraits collection.  At first I’m thrown by a metallic green note but this does fade in the heart which is a fresh and fruity rose soliflore with a swirl of powdery sweetness. The base is a rosy woody musk. Green and/or fruity roses aren’t really my style but it’s nicely done and will no doubt be popular.

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Vaara, Penhaligon’s (Full Bottle)

Vaara has such an original and vivid start that the first time I tried it I was a tad disappointed that it ended up being a light and linear rose perfume. Now I just enjoy it for what it is – a refreshing rose perfume to wear in the summer with its striking opening of tart quince, creamy saffron and a splash of rosewater.

 

Did you take part in the Month of Roses? How did you get on? Could you wear roses day after day?

 

 

 

 

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Fragranced Organic Teas by Aftelier Perfumes

After I shared a surprisingly popular post about tea a couple of weeks ago, the wonderful indie perfumer Mandy Aftel kindly sent me samples from her own tea collection. I was thrilled and had a fine time trying each one.

 

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I drank them without milk and without sugar (on my first cup at least) to get the true taste. All four teas are organic and use edible essential oils and absolutes on a base of premium tea leaves. Depending on what method of infusion you use, on the first steeping you can watch the leaves unfurl in the water. You can also re-infuse them several times, which is great. Below are my impressions of each variety.tea-roseginger-2tOolong Tea Rose & Ginger 

This organic Tieguanyin oolong tea from Taiwan is infused with Mandy’s Chef Essences of Turkish Rose and Fresh Ginger. I thought I didn’t like floral teas, however either rose is an exception or this tea is so subtly flavoured/scented it’s a joy. I was also concerned the ginger might be overpowering but it added a lovely gingerbread background warmth. I think I might struggle with straight-up oolong but this combination of flavours gives it body and make it work beautifully for me. Now I’m looking forward to trying more rose flavoured teas.

Black Tea Cardamom & Orange

I love the scent of black tea, cardamom and orange so it’s no surprise that this turned out to be a hit with me. The cardamom comes through more than the orange but it’s a gentle backnote to the tea itself which is full, rounded and satisfying in the way black tea usually is for me. According to the website this is “Organic Red Pearls Black Tea, a rare tea from Fujian, is fully-oxidized Mao Feng tea leaves that have been rolled into small black pearls. They are then pan-fired where they develop a burnished sheen, toasty caramel-like aroma, and spicy, assertive — yet wonderfully sweet — flavor.”

Oolong Tea Frankincense GABA

An incense tea! I love incense so this was a novel and fun experience for me. The scent is fantastically resinous, rather than smoky and it’s the fullest oolong tea I can imagine.  The oolong tea from Taiwan has fruit and honey notes and is infused with hojary incense. GABA is a natural enzyme that calms and relaxes which is a definite plus. You’d think it might feel strange drinking incense but doesn’t. It’s perfect for de-stressing after work on a cold winter’s evening.

Aged Pu’erh in Tangerine Peel

Until late last year I hadn’t even heard of Pu’erh. It’s actually a fermented tea from Yunnan, China. Here, the leaves are packed into the rind of a whole tangerine.and aged for four years. They take on the flavour of the tangerine and the citrus is enhanced further by the addition of Mandy’s Yellow Mandarin Chef’s Essence. I found the unique scent very comforting.  It’s earthy and rubbery and laced delicately with citrus. Perhaps surprisingly, this tea is really refreshing and I found it easy to drink without sugar, which is rare. I also love that it comes in the tangerine peel.

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Each tea composition is expertly balanced with essences and absolutes that complement and enhance the leaves; never overwhelming them.  They are clearly created with the same care and artistry as the Aftelier perfumes. They’ve brought home to me just how closely smell and taste are connected and how making a cup of tea can become, in Mandy’s own words, “a time-stopping pleasure” during a demanding day.

 

Do you like the sound of any of Mandy’s teas? Are there any scented teas you currently enjoy?

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Amber Tapestry by Aftelier Perfumes

What the world needs now…

Top Notes: Heliotropin, Yellow Mandarin
Middle Notes: Jasmine Grandiforum, Jasmine Sambac, Pear, Cinnamon
Base Notes: Ambreine, Labdanum, Maltol, Benzoin, Castoreum, Ambergris, Coumarin

 

At the fabulous Scented Supper in October, I learnt that before becoming an accomplished artisan perfumer, Mandy Aftel trained as a weaver. She continues to intuitively apply this skill when working with natural aromatics; intertwining them to create balance in terms of aroma, texture, weight and vibrancy. She has certainly done a masterful job of weaving together the various fragrant strands in her new release, Amber Tapestry.

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There are so many leaden ambers in this classic oriental category however Mandy breathes new life and light into the form.  Ambers don’t normally sing on my skin but this one does. I find lift and luminosity where I normally find flatness and opacity.

The smooth yellow mandarin in the opening of the EdP is simply gorgeous and just as Mandy tells us, it is the most floral of all the citruses. The amber accord is an enticing combination of fuzzy labdanum,  ambreine (a derivative of labdanum resinoid) and the salty tang of ambergris.

The amber accord is liberally embroidered with jasmine from start to finish and it’s the silkiest jasmine I’ve come across. It’s never screechy or uncomfortably indolic. The two varieties used here interlace wonderfully with the amber, adding floral interest, contrast and radiance.

The cinnamon is super soft and I only pick up slivers of the pear if I lean in close. Amber Tapestry also contains maltol and benzoin but I don’t find it too sweet or gourmand.

Coumarin and heliotropin give it a plush, powdery finish. The texture feels like the fur of a rust coloured cat or even dusty golden suede, thanks to the inclusion of castoreum. It stays fairly close to the body, wrapping itself around my skin. However, when you’re within its sphere, it’s enveloping. I’m struck time and again by how meticulously well blended Amber Tapestry is. It feels seamless.

There are no pointy edges; all is softness and comfort. However the ambergris and castoreum prevent it from being too safe. Amber lovers will need a pillow to cushion their fall as they swoon but non-amber fans, such as me, are likely to be taken with it as well because it is so lustrous and floral.

We all need some warmth, beauty and light to console us in these dark days of winter (not to mention these troubled times) and it’s just the thing to lift our spirits as we go into the festive season.

Memento Mori came to jangle our senses but Amber Tapestry has come to soothe them. It’s just what the doctor ordered. Using perfume to self-medicate is a regular practice of mine and this is the perfect remedy for what ails many of us right now.

 

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Does the idea of a floral amber appeal to you?

 

 

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Memento Mori by Aftelier Perfumes

 

Love and loss…

 

Top Notes: Butter, Orris, Phenylacetic Acid

Middle Notes: Turkish Rose Absolute, Phenylethyl Alcohol

Base Notes: Beta Ionone, Ambreine, Ambergris, Antique Civet, Patchoulyl Acetate (a patchouli isolate)

 

Memento mori, “remember that you have to die”, is a Latin expression that dates back to Ancient Rome. We can get so wrapped up in the trivial trials and tribulations of our day to day lives we forget that life is short and most of what we worry about is not worth the torment.

A memento mori is something that reminds us of our mortality, inspiring us to make the most of life. The concept has been translated into many art forms including paintings, music, ceramics and literature.

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Since the Middle Ages people have worn memento mori mourning jewellery to remind them of lost loved ones. Rather than being morbid, these were tokens of love which allowed the wearer to hold on to the memory of their dearly departed.  In the perfume Memento Mori artisan perfumer Mandy Aftel portrays this idea in the form of fragrance.  It’s a thought-provoking concept which has been just as  thoughtfully executed.

Memento Mori captures the aroma of the lost lover. Mandy uses musk, butter, the doughy facet of orris and the earthy, mushroom-y facet of woody violets to create the idea of skin. The soft rose adds a pink blush.

She manages to give the scent an unusual lived-in, very human, quality with the warm, ripe smell of an unwashed body. It’s about body heat and someone’s unadorned natural smell rather than anything sexual.

As time ticks on and the pain of grief begins to fade, the fragrance reveals a tender layer of powdery pastel florals. The retro combination of iris/rose seems to reflect the sweet memories the separated lovers shared.  While I find the first stage challenging, this is a classic accord I really love.

In the base, warmth radiates through amber and patchouli while the musk gently lingers on and imparts a feeling of comfort. The bereaved is consoled by the realisation that though we must die, our love does not.

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The carrier for the fragrance is a blend of fractionated coconut oil and organic alcohol so that it is fittingly clinging.  I found it has more lift than many all-natural perfumes and that the lasting power is actually better than most synthetics.

Mandy says that Memento Mori was a deeply personal creation for her and I can understand why. It takes courage for any artist to share something so intimate with the world but I find that when they do it is all the more meaningful for it.

Memento Mori is a meditation on love and loss you need time and space to fully experience and appreciate it.  It’s an evolving art-piece as affecting and detailed as any of those other wearable tokens of remembrance and just as emotionally charged.

 

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Memento mori optical illusion painting “All Is Vanity” by Charles Allan Gilbert

 

Do you have a perfume that reminds you of someone important to you?

 

 

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Dirty Rose and Violet Chocolatier by PK Perfumes

The PK in PK Perfumes is Paul Kiler, an artisanal perfumer based in California. He places himself at the forefront of a new movement called Real Perfumery which purports to use the best materials available to create fragrances which comply to a “Standard of Excellence”.

Although Kiler uses both naturals and synthetics, his fragrance contain 20 to 50% essential oils, absolutes and resins.  The line currently contains 14 scents, the earliest of which were launched in 2012.

The first works I tried by Paul Kiler were the two perfumes he composed for Zoologist. It was fortuitous therefore that shortly afterwards, my pal Portia of Australian Perfume Junkies, kindly put the following two samples in her last package.

 

Dirty Rose

Notes: Bergamot, black spruce, laurel, cherrywood smoke, rose, nagarmotha, teak wood, tobacco, cedar, mahogany, earth, amber, costus, leather, vetiver bourbon,  Labdanum

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I love a messed-up, dark rose and Dirty Rose is firmly in that stable. It’s rooted in dark, moist earth and musky in the best way. It’s not the high-pitched musk that stabs you in the head but that deep throated unguent which intoxicates. The rose also smells like it was briefly set on fire; the flames having been beaten out but leaving a lingering charred scent.

The deep red flower that is at the heart of all this darkness is mostly hidden in the shadows. It has a definite kinship with my much-loved Rose de Nuit but the rose is much less prominent in Dirty Rose.  Here, the rose is coated in leather and musk and battened down by earthy patchouli and a canopy of spice. It has the feel of an oud fragrance without containing any agarwood.

I like my roses to be more rosy, but Dirty Rose may suit those fans of arid orientals who don’t like their rose front and centre. It is as far from the prim, feminine tea roses of yesteryear as you can get.

 

 

Violet Chocolatier

Notes: Violets, apricots, cocoa, nutmeg, hazelnut, magnolia, jasmine, rose, honey, gardenia, amber and benzoin.

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Ha! Violet Chocolatier – perhaps unsurprisingly – smells just like a violet cream; those chocolates with a violet fondant centre. It’s fun to experience and the chocolate is bittersweet so I don’t find it saccharine. As much as I have an aversion to sugary perfumes, I actually prefer these powdery, gourmand violets to those that highlight the flower’s green, metallic facets.

Somehow Violet Chocolatier segues effortlessly into a floral heart – most notably creamy white flowers – proving it’s not just a one-trick pony. This seamless transition exhibits Paul’s Kiler’s considerable perfumery skills.  The pale petals have a honeyed coating which feels dreamy and fits the decadent mood of the fragrance.  In the base it takes a final turn into cosy amber territory.

Violet Chocolatier is a clever composition and not you usual gourmand.

 

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The painting by Daria Jabenko which inspired Violet Chocolatier

 

Can you recommend any more fragrances from PK Perfumes?  I’d be particularly intrigued to hear from you if you’ve tried Zafran, Ere or Starry Starry Night. 

 

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April Aromatics Mini Reviews

Berlin-based April Aromatics offers a luxurious collection of roll-on oils and EdPs as well as  room and body mists. Tanja Bouchnig exemplifies the strong connection you usually find between artisan perfumers and their perfumes. She takes a holistic approach; the all-natural botanical essences are based in organic jojoba oil or organic alcohol and the scents are infused with the essences of semi-precious stones.

 

“I strongly believe that people can feel the love and energy I give into my perfumes, may it be conscious or unconscious.”- Tanja Bouchnig

 

I’m extremely grateful to The Perfume Magpie for generously sending me samples of 8 of the 13 Eau de Parfums. All quotes from the April Aromatics website.

 

Purple Reign

Notes: Natural Lilac tincture, Violets, Lavender, Osmanthus petals, Jasmine flowers, Orris Root, Oppoponax, Purple Light

“Purple Reign is more than a perfume, it is a scent designed to improve self-awareness and to raise our energetic vibrations.”

Purple Reign is a floral bouquet largely consisting of deeply fragrant lilacs and violets, supported by lavender and osmanthus. It contains the various facets of all these flowers; green, metallic, powdery and cool.  It covers the purple olfactory spectrum from pale lilac to darkest indigo.

Jasmina

Notes: 100% natural extracts of Jasmin Grandiflorum, India and France, Ylang-Ylang/ Thailand. Pink Grapefruit USA.

“An aphrodisiac par excellence.”

Wow this is like inhaling a jasmine bush at nightfall.  Jasmina is incredibly lush, radiant and full. While deeply sensual, I don’t find it uncomfortably indolic or heady. The pink grapefruit gives it freshness in the early stages while the ylang lends it a creamy feel later on. A must-try for jasmine fanatics.

Calling All Angels

Notes: Incense, Labdanum, Tonka Bean, Vanilla Accord, Benzoin, Elemi Resin, Frankincense, Amber Accord, (from natural essential oils), Honey Accord, Precious Woods Accord, Opoponax, Rose Otto, Love and Angel Guidance

“…implementing the elements of Earth, Ether and Air. Made with love, inspired and guided by Angels.”

Incense has long been used to appease the gods and so it’s fitting that Calling All Angels isn’t sweet and fluffy but an enticing concoction of honeyed resins. If you could see the scent it would be emitting a warm, golden glow. The frankincense is very nicely balanced with the balsams so that it never feels too harsh or too sweet.  It’s pretty impressive.

Rosenlust

Notes: Rose Otto/Turkey, Rose/Bulgaria, Rosewater, Rosewood/Brasilien, Pink Grapefruit/USA, Ambrette Seed, Tonkabean, Orris Root, Organic Alcohol

“The rose is a symbol of love, peace and beauty and is seen as the “queen” of all flowers.”

This is an armful of red roses which showcases the multi-faceted nature of the natural essence. Rosenlust is spiked with pink grapefruit in the opening and to start with it’s a little spicy, a bit metallic and a tad green. As it develops the roses warm up and bloom on the skin, becoming more softly honeyed. This is a rose true story.

 

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Erdenstern

Notes: Botanical musk, botanical ambergris accord, tonka bean, cacao, opoponax, vetiver, tobacco.

“The mystery of Avalon, the holy place between the worlds of gods and mortals, is the inspiration for Earth Star/Erdenstern.”

Erdenstern is deep and dark with tobacco leaves, earth, vegetation and woods. The botanical musk gives it lift while cacao gives it a twist.  There’s also something ashy about it, as if the tobacco leaves have already been smoked. It’s an extremely well balanced, complex and unusual composition. The dry and cool notes of vetiver and tobacco are tempered by the sweet and warm notes of tonka bean and cacao. If Calling All Angels is golden then Erdenstern is dark grey. I can imagine it wearing beautifully on a misty autumnal day.

Ray of Light

Notes: Accord of lime, lemon, pink grapefruit, orange and bergamot, galbanum, green mint, vetiver, tobacco

“Picture a classical still life: citrus fruits surrounded by mint leaves, a pipe on the side…””

True to its name, Ray of Light is a shining star-burst of citrus. It zings and fizzes with a classic lemon cologne opening, only more substantial.  It feels as if someone has struck a bell and the high pitched tone rings out, clearing all fuzziness and making you intensely aware. The tobacco gives a sense of something deeper and darker behind the brightness.

Liquid Dreams

Notes: Lemon Peel/Sicily, Lindenblossom/Bulgaria, Narzissus/France, Osmanthus Blossom/China, Organic-Alcohol

“This youthful, light scent is reminiscent of an open field of greens and flowers.”

I love the name of this fragrance. Liquid Dreams starts with a lucid mix of lemon and Linden/lime blossom, becoming a little greener and grassier.  It’s more subdued and more floral than Ray of Light, with a romantic quality that makes me think of a  willowy girl in a wildflower meadow.

Precious Woods

Notes: 100% natural extracts of Sandelwood/India, Sandelwood/Neukaledonia, CederwoosVirginia/USA, Cederwood/Himalaya, Cistus Vetiver Bourbon, Patchouli/Indonesia, Buddha Wood, white Sage, organic alcohol.

“It mirrors the image of an Indian Forest after a rain storm with its grounding earthy sweet bosky scent.”

Hmm, I wonder if it’s only synthetic woody fragrances that I have a problem with because I really enjoyed Precious Woods. The word that struck me before reading the overview on the website was “grounding” and then saw that it’s used twice to describe this scent. It has a light yet clinging quality, like the scent of incense which has permeated your clothing. It feels more like wearing a woody essential oil blend than a perfume and that always gives me a soothing feeling of wellbeing.

 

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Have you tried any of these or the ones I haven’t mentioned by April Aromatics? 

 

Image credit: AlexandraVBach

 

 

 

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Geisha Vanilla Hinoki by Aroma M Perfumes

Evergreen vanilla

 

Notes: Bergamot, Clove, Cardamom, Nutmeg, Cedarleaf, Lavender, Leather, Patchouli, Amyris and Cedarwood.

 

I know it’s terribly remiss of me but I admit to never having tried anything by artisan perfumer Maria McElroy, of Aroma M, before. This is not through lack of interest mind you, but purely down to logistics. It’s not easy to get hold of American indie fragrances outside of the States. However, I think I’ve started with a good one.

The recently released, Vanilla Hinoki has been five years in the making and is the latest addition to Aroma M’s much admired Geisha Collection. Before we talk about the scent though, let’s take a moment to appreciate the gorgeous bottle covered with traditional Yuzen paper.

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The zesty opening stage of the Eau de Parfum comes as a surprise: like breaking the rind of an clementine and being squirted with the juice. The citrus is quickly joined by warming spices, chiefly in the form of clove but also cinnamon and nutmeg. It’s a familiar combination that smells so natural it resembles an aromatherapy blend. I find it simultaneously soothing and stimulating.

As promised, Vanilla Hinoki strikes a different chord to the usual calorific gourmand vanilla perfumes.  Its key ingredient is a hard to source vanilla found only in Morocco. This is partnered with hinoki wood, hinoki being a species of cypress tree which is native to Japan and much prized for the quality of its timber. As well as temples, shrines and palaces, sacred hinoki wood is used to build the hot spring pools or “onsen” found at Japanese mountain inns. Its odor profile is fresh and evergreen with lemony facets.

Maria McElroy’s intention was to recreate the sybaritic feeling of reposing at your leisure in one of those steamy pools. This concept really appeals to me because I am a big fan of soaking in hot water. Once, immersed, I soon feel the tension leave my shoulders and it’s one of the few times my mind actually manages to switch off. I think the bath may be my “safe place”.

On me, Vanilla Hinoki is a very soft, gently spiced, woody vanilla fragrance with a fuzzy, languid feel. The vanilla is very mellow and much more like the pod with its spicy and woody facets, than a dessert. The buoyant, steamy effect Maria achieves is very clever.

The subtle vanilla is perfectly complimented by the scent of evergreen trees which surround the mountainside onsen. It teeters on the verge of incense which adds to its calming quality.

 

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Some people find sweet vanilla perfumes comforting because of the sugar hit but Vanilla Hinoki is comforting in an entirely different way. It’s wonderfully relaxing; like sinking into warm water and washing your troubles away. You feel lighter as the soft vanilla steam rises around you in clouds.

 

Does this sound like your kind of vanilla? Do you have any more Aroma M perfumes to recommend?

 Photo credit: BHM Photos

 

 

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Vanilla Smoke Eau De Parfum by Aftelier Perfumes 

Per fumum…

Notes: Yellow Mandarin, Siam Wood, Saffron Absolute, Vanillin, Vanilla Absolute, Lapsang Souchong, Ambergris, Coumarin

Shalimar, with its gorgeously smoky opoponax, is the closest I’ve come to loving a vanilla-focused perfume. The usual straight-up vanillas are just too cloyingly sugary for my taste and are often very simplistic.

The only problem with the Guerlain was it just felt too dressy most of the time. Reluctantly, I found loving homes for my little used bottles of the EdP and Shalimar Light.

So my interest was more than piqued when I read about the 2015 creation Vanilla Smoke by talented indie perfumer Mandy Aftel. Could this be the vanilla fragrance that works for me? An order from Surrender To Chance later and I was about to find out.

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On application, I get a shot of black tea but this is quickly overtaken by bright orange splashes of mandarin and saffron. Saffron is such a striking note with a luxurious feel, but I don’t like it in overdose. Here it’s mellow, savoury and sophisticated.

With usually weighty ingredients like vanilla and smoke at its core, you’d think Vanilla Smoke would be a heavy fragrance but it’s actually surprisingly sheer. This is what helps to make it incredibly easy and enjoyable for me to wear.

The smoke is provided not from incense but by lapsang souchong tea essence which has been extracted from tea leaves smoked over pinewood. This deep, complex accord wafts up beautifully as if from a piping hot cup and provides a lot of interest and depth in this deceptively simple composition. The lapsang souchong creates a definite fireside effect; it’s not an conflagration like Bois d’Ascese but smoke that rolls off a campfire in the darkness.

Rather than being upfront, the vanilla acts more as a backdrop, providing a beautiful contrast to the overlay of soft, smooth smoke. As well as the more typical vanillin, Mandy uses Madagascan vanilla absolute, with all its nuances. This natural material has facets of spice and woodiness, making it a thousand times more exotic than your run-of-the-mill vanilla fragrance.

While it lasts well, it’s pretty low-key, although there is also a Parfum concentration.

vanilla smoke

I find the smell of smoke grounding and add some unsweetened vanilla to the mix and you have my ideal comfort scent. It’s just the kind of thing I wish I had in my collection on drab days when I need a bit of soothing but want something with more warmth than incense can provide. It’s not just a scent to ease your worried mind though, it feels incredibly sensual too – I want to bathe in it.

Vanilla Smoke is more than just a  grown-up vanilla, it offers me the perfect smoky fragrance, being sensuous and wearable rather than austere and masculine. For this reason I feel more than justified in putting it on my Full Bottle Wish List.

Just when I’d got it down to zero too…

 

Have you tried Vanilla Smoke? Any Aftelier favourites?

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