Tag Archives: Indie

Douleur by Bogue Profumo x Freddie Albrighton

Notes: Mint, Flesh, Rose, Candyfloss, Seaweed and Benzoin

I know tattoo artist and fragrance aficionado Freddie Albrighton through various meet-ups over the years and his (sadly defunct) perfume blog. I think it’s true to say that he has been drawn to maverick artisan perfumers and that they in turn, have been drawn to him. I imagine they share a similar sensibility. He did the marketing artwork for Vero Kern’s masterwork Rozy and now he has collaborated on a perfume with Antonio Gardoni of Bogue Profumo. How cool is that?

No doubt the project worked in part because they both have a love of novel aromas that not everyone would expect to find in a perfume. I mean, just look at that note list. It made me smile and reminded me of when my then 5 year-old niece said her pretend perfume was made of ‘Lavender, raspberries, rainbows, strawberries and peppermint’. Douleur isn’t child’s play, though it encompasses a similar level of blue-sky thinking.

 

I’ve seen the opening described a few times as ‘piercing’ and on spraying that is exactly the word. It’s a penetrating combination of everything that is to come but at the highest possible pitch and all at once. It’s as if the contents of the sample which seemed to be pulsating in my bag had been squirming to be set free and once the sprayer is depressed, every note hurtles for freedom.

Once it settles after a couple of minutes, the core of Douleur is revealed as rose oxide which is a material both Freddie and Antonio are fond of. You usually hear it referred to as a metallic rose but while I get that almost camphoric steeliness, my nose reads it more as a rose surrounded by bitter greens. This red bloom wrapped in vines is counterbalanced by wisps of candyfloss and a hint of dried seaweed saltiness.,
Over tume it softens and rounds out considerably as the comforting presence of benzoin in the base comes throigh. The various contrasts knit together and it smells like a ‘proper’, if uncommon, perfume with a mix of hot/cold, hard/soft and bitter/sweet facets.

It does indeed stick to the skin like a tattoo and billows out in waves, ensuring a devastating scent trail.

Antoni says “experiencing odours should be challenging and playful” and that’s exactly what trying Douleur is like. It takes me back to the time when I first got into perfume and inhaling something new was always exciting and interesting, even if it wasn’t to my usual taste.

We can get trapped in our comfort zones. Douleur has come to shake things up.

 

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Do you find yourself only sampling perfumes that are in line with what you know you already like? Would you give Douleur a try?

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Irisistible by April Aromatics

Optimistic iris…

Notes: Lemon, Iris, Rose, Jasmine, Tuberose, Cassia and Sandalwood

Goddess Iris gifts humanity with the understanding that all aspects of life are sacred and it is in the weaving of the dark and light within ourselves that we find our wholeness.

In recent years I have become enthralled by the Greek myths and was particularly taken with the Goddess Iris because she is the messenger that travels by rainbow from heaven to earth. She also gave the flower its name.

Irisistible is the new offering by indie house April Aromatics. It takes its inspiration from the Goddess and the material of the same name, by incorporating a myriad of colourful notes with iris at its core.

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I wondered if Irisistible would be more of a bouquet of flowers than iris-centric given the rainbow theme, but no. This is very much an iris fragrance with a bright, floral twist.

On spraying there is an exquisite flash of iris. As it settles, an unusual, bitter accord comes through which I’m putting down to the presence of cassia. This is a spice extracted from bark, similar to cinnamon but more pungent and nowhere near as sweet. Once this fades away (in under an hour) the heart of the fragrance is made up of gorgeous Iris Pallidia; a yellow iris from Italy. It’s doughy and somewhat powdery rather than cold and rooty.

Perhaps surprisingly, iris is not overshadowed by her showier sisters – jasmine and tuberose. They stay in a supporting role and I wouldn’t even know there was tuberose present if I hadn’t read it in the list of notes. The florals give the iris a pretty, dewy backdrop and make this often melancholy material more outgoing and easier to get along with. It’s the polar opposite of my favourite, Iris Silver Mist which I rather love for its insularity.

Irisistible is a gentle perfume but longevity is very good.  

The overall mood of the fragrance is one of shimmering light and buoyancy. Its a fragrance to brighten your mood and add a little colour to dark days. It would be a good scent choice when embarking on a journey of your own because it is both unobtrusive and full of possibility.

 

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April Aromatics has a substantial collection of organic natural perfumes and an iris is a welcome addition. You can read my mini reviews of a selection of their other fragrances here.

 

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Geisha Botan by aroma M perfumes

Notes: Peony, rose, sandalwood, vanilla, velvet woods, oakmoss and musk. 

I love the whole aroma M perfumes aesthetic from the Yuzen paper used to decorate the bottles to the American indie brand’s Atelier (pictured below).

 

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Perfumer and style maven Maria McElroy regularly posts pictures full of beauty on social media, including Japanese fine art and her cat Tama chan. When it comes to the fragrances themselves, they are equally captivating. There has to be a perfume among the varied Geisha collection for just about everyone.

Geisha Botan (botan being peony in Japanese) is the latest addition.

 

 

Maria first encountered a peony garden when she moved to Tokyo in the 1980s and sees them as a quintessentially Asian flower. The peony derived its name from Paeon, a physician to the Greek gods. For centuries the roots, bark, seeds and flowers of peonies have been used for medicinal purposes and are purported to ward off evil chi.  They have a joyous, carefree quality and are a popular motif in traditional Japanese tattoos, denoting a devil-may-care attitude.

 

The peonies do not allow
The rain-clouds a hundred leagues round
To approach them.
– Buson

 

I was predisposed to like Geisha Botan because I knew it was inspired by the uplifting, rosy scent of peonies, but they are the overarching theme rather than the whole story. It is a much more nuanced and full-bodied fragrance than I expected it to be. I was imagining a breezy and innocent scent but it possesses presence and depth right from the beginning.

I was pleasantly surprised by the mossy facet and its juxtaposition with the fresh flower works well. The peony and accentuating presence of rose, lie like a bolt of vivid pink satin over the forest floor.  The contrast between the bright, blowsy blooms and the lichen covered earth makes what could have been a pretty but simple scent, into something rich and compelling.  It mirrors Aroma M’s eclectic feel, where Japanese influences are filtered through a New York state of mind.

The composition is filled out by a substantial though airy vanilla, similar to the variety found in Geisha Vanilla Hinoki, softening the overall effect and adding comfort. If you like vanilla but tire of perfumes where it’s overpowering and overly sweet, this could be a good option for you. The base compromises musky woods with a velvety feel, as advertised in the notes.

Geisha Botan is a versatile fragrance – relaxed enough to wear during the day but also intriguing enough to wear at night. It’s a sophisticated floral vanilla, the likes of which we don’t see often enough.

 

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Do you like peonies? Do you like the sound of Geisha Botan?

 

 

 

 

 

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DSH Perfumes: Mini Reviews – Poppy, French Lily, Foxy and Habibi

I was fortunate to receive a package from American artisan perfumer Dawn Spencer Hurwitz, containing a fabulous selection of her latest fragrances for me to try. All were released during 2017 and the samples come in the form of little glass roll-ons which work much better than dab vials.

I’ve recently wrote about the one that was my personal highlight, the vintage fur Une Robe de Zibeline.  Today, I’m posting mini reviews of four others that stood out to me.

 

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Poppy

Poppy is a nice surprise because from the name, I was expecting something cheery and lightweight. It’s actually a sophisticated floral oriental with a central carnation accord that isn’t too clove-heavy. Poppy is backed by the seductive kind of musk which I wish perfumers used more often. It’s that kind of muskiness which is reminiscent of the nape of the neck, drawing you closer. It feels sensuous rather than skanky.
French Lily

Now this is a lily to have a spring love affair with. I’ve never clicked with a lily perfume before this one. I can’t bear the scent of stargazer lilies and lily of the valley is usually pretty but a bit too innocent and simplistic for my tastes. French Lily has all the fresh green beauty of muguet but with a sexy Parisian twist.  The balance between purity and carnality is just right, with the lily accented rather than overwhelmed by the musk. Megan in Sainte Maxime felt the same and you can read her full review here.

 

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FOXY

Who doesn’t want to try a perfume called Foxy?! Amber fans may well swoon at this one. It’s a gently spiced amber with an apple whiskey accord and a furry feel. It’s in the same luxurious, gourmand amber category as Ambre Narguile by Hermes. I may not be an amber person but at this time of year I can really appreciate the warming, edible goodness of a well done amber fragrance such as this.

 

Habibi

Habibi is an Arabian term of endearment (‘my beloved’) while the fragrance is an uncommon orange blossom.  Where most perfumes in this category are joyful and sunlit, Habibi is candlelit and sets an exotic, even erotic, mood. Oud and saffron combine to create a leathery orange blossom scent with honeyed facets. Jasmine adds to the seductive, verging on narcotic, feel. The oud is smoothly animalic and it’s good to see it used in a composition where – for once – rose isn’t its counterpart.

 

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Have you tried any of DSH Perfume’s 2017 launches? Are there any past releases I should investigate?

 

 

 

 

 

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Parfum de Maroc & Velvet Tuberose by Aftelier Perfumes

This is a busy but special time at Aftelier Perfumes HQ in Berkley, California. A lot of work is put into their annual Christmas store/party and there are special fragrant creations for the holidays.

Artisan, natural perfumer Mandy Aftel has released two 9ml EdP pocket sprays for Christmas, namely Bergamoss and Parfum de Maroc  (both $60).  Mandy was inspired to re-issue Parfum de Maroc by our Portia. How cool is that?

 

Parfum de Maroc

Notes: Saffron, Galangal, Turkish Rose, Nutmeg, Cardamom, Myrrh

Although it wasn’t originally created for the festive season, Parfum de Maroc is a great fit for this time of year. It was actually inspired by an ancient Moroccan spice recipe ‘Ras el Hanout’ but its combination of rose, orange and spices really enhances the Christmas spirit.

The pretty rose at its heart is made fruity by bitter orange, which in turn is studded with pomander spices of nutmeg and cardamom. There is a lightness to the composition that makes it full of joyful anticipation. The spices are softened beautifully by the rose, making for a gently spicy, gourmand floral.

 

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Velvet Tuberose

Notes : Pink Grapefruit, Grand Fir, Transparent Florals, Tuberose Absolute, Heady White Flowers, Creamy Sandalwood, Damp Earth, Spun Sugar

For tuberose lovers who really want to spoil themselves with something truly special this Christmas, there’s Velvet Tuberose solid perfume ($240).  For some time, Mandy has wanted to create a solid tuberose perfume which highlights its luscious, sumptuous feel and stays close to the body. If you’ve only ever tried synthetic tuberose fragrances, the scent of the natural absolute used here is very different.

Velvet Tuberose emphasises the creamy, luxurious feel of tuberose as well as its more familiar narcotic and sensuous facets. It is supported by forest notes and rare mitti attar: a traditional aromatic essence of baked earth distilled into sandalwood.  I’ve rarely experienced such a gorgeous tuberose fragrance; it’s floral, sweetened and rather romantic.

The carrier for the scent is organic coconut oil and it is presented in a handmade sterling silver compact.

 

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I also have to mention that Mandy has created two new Face & Body Balms in 15ml tins for the holidays because they both sound lovely.

 

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Frankincense Face & Body Balm contains two types of the resin which is known for its healing and anti-inflammatory properties. Rose Face & Body Balm contains Turkish rose absolute and Bulgarian rose wax which are combined with moisturising squalene and nourishing sea buckthorn berry oil ($35 each).

 

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Are you treating yourself to anything fragrant this festive season?

 

 

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Une Robe de Zibeline by DSH Perfumes

Notes: aldehydes, bergamot, black pepper, lemon, spice notes; ylang ylang, Bulgarian rose absolute, carnation,  jasmine, orris, rosewood, tobacco absolute, coumarin, sable fur accord; ambergris, beeswax, brown oakmoss, castoreum, civet, patchouli, benzoin, labdanum, tolu balsam, leather

 

There are a number of fabulous American indie perfumes but thanks to the vagaries of the postal system, it’s usually not easy to get your hands on their fragrances outside the States. Dawn Spencer Hurwitz is one such perfumer based in Boulder, Colorado. The good news is that her perfumes can now be shipped internationally via the website.

I was fortunate enough to receive a package of samples showcasing the 2017 releases from DSH Perfumes. I will do a post with mini reviews of some of the highlights but I did want to single one out for special mention.

Une Robe de Zibeline was released in September as another instalment of the ‘Retrograde Files’ series.  These perfumes were discontinued because of the limited availability of ingredients. However, thanks to renewed interest in Retro-Nouveau/Animalic perfumes, Une Robe de Zibeline has been re-worked as a grand, vintage-style scent.

Dawn describes it as a smouldering fragrance and it is exactly that. The sensuality is on a low burn rather than full blast. It’s relatively quiet on me and lasts about half a day but results from spraying are likely to vary from applying using the roller-ball sample.

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Une Robe de Zibeline is French for sable coat and the fur subgenre of fragrances is quickly becoming a favourite of mine. This vintage sable scent satisfies my love of subtle, old-school animalic style fragrances where the musk is close to the skin and under the radar.

The opening is full of aldehydes which are silky soft and give the perfume a milky glow.  They immediately put it in the vintage inspired category but also give it some lift. They feel like gossamer and momentarily conceal what is to come with their silvery, glistening web.

For some reason you don’t get a lot of ylang-ylang dominant perfumes which aren’t tropical and indeed Une Robe de Zieline is actually Dawn’s only perfume with this flower at its heart. The ylang-ylang may be prominent but it doesn’t dominate the other accords  but gives them a focal point and creates a beautiful contrast with the dry musk base. When the aldehydes melt away you can breathe in these gorgeously soft, creamy yellow blooms

The ylang-ylang flowers are of course, pinned to an antique fur, making this oriental fragrance more multi-faceted and floral than most in this genre. Some fur coat perfumes are all about the musk, which is fine but what I like about Une Robe de Zibeline, is that is so nicely balanced. The beauty of the flowers tames the beast just enough so it’s soft and pretty as well sophisticated and seductive. Here we have a floral animalic perfume with complexity and that’s what clinches it for me.

 

 

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Do you like retro-inspired fragrances?

 

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Bat by Zoologist Perfumes

Top Notes: Banana, Soft Fruits, Damp Earth
Heart Notes: Fig, Tropical Fruits, Mineral Notes, Myrrh, Resins, Vegetal Roots
Base Notes: Furry Musks*, Leather*, Vetiver, Sandalwood, Tonka

                                         *No animal products are used in Zoologist fragrances.

 

I’ve said previously how I love the concept behind Zoologist Perfumes. The ‘animal inspos’ are quirky and using the talents of artisan perfumers to compose them is a master stroke. I’ve written mini reviews  of Rhinoceros, Beaver and Panda and Civet, Nightingale and Macaque.

I have owned a sample of 2016 release, Bat, for a while but thought it would be fun to delve into it for Halloween.

 

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Dr. Ellen Covey is the indie perfumer behind Olympic Orchids but she is also a university professor who has conducted research into bats. Therefore, it’s no wonder she captured this creature, its diet and habitat so perfectly in scent for Zoologist. Last year Bat won an Art and Olfaction Award in the Independent category.

The bat in question is specifically a fruit bat, so we begin with a mixture of fruity notes    coated in mustiness very similar to petrichor, that fantastic aroma created when rain hits dry soil. This prevents the fruitiness from veering anywhere close to syrupy cocktail territory. I can’t bear the smell of bananas but here it’s the faint odour of dried banana skin. The damp earth accord coupled with the tropical fruit is completely unique.

Consider me hooked.

As the musty fruit opening fades, I notice a chill coming off my skin along with the earthiness, as if the bat is swooping through the cool night air.

In the heart of the fragrance, Bat returns to its cave with its scent of stone walls along with vegetal roots and humus rising up from the damp dirt floor.  It’s hugely atmospheric, recreating the dark, dank environment the bat haunts during daylight hours.

The base brings us up close and personal to the mammal’s black wings and grey fur. This is achieved through a phenol, fume-y leather dusted with vetiver and set against a fuzzy musky background. Now we get a real taste of the gothic. It’s a potent brew and not for the lily-livered.

What has surprised me the most about Bat is that it’s not the wholly unapproachable art piece I expected it to be. This may be in part because it stays relatively soft on my skin (until the base) though longevity is excellent. I was prepared to be impressed by its originality but it is also clever, witty and well structured.

Bat is not a conventional, easy wear by any means, but under the cloak of a damp and overcast autumn day when the veil between worlds is at its thinnest, it fits right in.

 

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Do you pick an appropriate perfume for Halloween? Have you tried Bat?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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In Rotation – Autumn 2017

It’s autumn in the UK and I’m really enjoying wearing my two favourite releases of this year (practically non-stop). They are both by artisan perfumers whose work exhibits great depth and attention to detail. As different as they are, each fragrance feels perfect for this time of year.

I spent a few days at a forest lodge in Scotland earlier in the month and the autumnal countryside was stunning. The scents of green leaves, woodsmoke and damp earth filled the air.

 

 

Dryad by Papillon Perfumes

Narcissus, Oakmoss, Jonquil, Costus, Galbanum, Clary Sage, Deer Tongue, Cedrat, Benzoin, Lavender, Thyme and Orris

Liz Moores is very connected to nature in all its forms, so it’s no wonder she should see the soul in a tree and create a perfume in its honour: Dryad. Bitter greens are crushed underfoot as the woodland becomes denser and darker. The drydown has the glorious feel of a vintage oakmoss chypre. Green perfumes are rarely this complex or classy. Wear it while wistfully wishing you lived in the forest, or kicking up leaves walking through the park.

 

Naja by Vero Profumo

Osmanthus absolute, melon, linden blossom, tobacco

The green in Naja is a neon bright lime.  It starts out like juice, then blossom and finally powder. This provides an overlay to the palest blond tabacco which feels just right for these damp days with a hint of bonfire in the air. Naja is a perfume full of contradictions that exist side by side. It is body and spirit, dissonance and harmony, purity and poison. Wear it to weave protection spells and cast out evil. It’s the perfect perfume for the run-up to Halloween.

 

Coromandel by Chanel 

Bitter Orange, Neroli, Jasmine, Rose, Orris, Patchouli, White Chocolate, Vanilla, Woods, Incense

While I’m wearing Dryad and Naja on skin, I’m also wearing Coromandel on fabric. It’s my favourite scarf perfume. I sprayed it onto the front of my long black cotton scarf once I’d wound it round my neck.  The luxe patchouli works really well when you can catch wafts of it as you walk. I have the EdT version which has wisps of incense which show up in mild weather.  It really complements both Dryad and Naja. Wear it to amplify and complement the wonderfully musty aromas of autumn in a super chic way.

 

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What fragrances have you been turning to lately?

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Anna Zworykina Perfumes – Mini Reviews

To continue the all-natural theme of recent weeks, let me introduce you to Anna Zworykina, a Russian artisan perfumer with a Phd in Biochemistry. She has been making fragrances for 15 years and kindly sent me a selection of EdP samples to try, all of which I found to be distinctive and well-structured.

As you may be aware, Luca Turin isn’t exactly a fan of natural perfumery but even he was converted by Anna’s work.

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Shiny Amber

Notes: Ginger,  lemon, bergamot, yuzu, jasmine,  champaka, benzoin, labdanum, vanilla, tonka bean, ambergris

Ambers are usually for cosying up with in the winter but Shiny Amber is about the gifts of summer; bright sunshine and ripe fruit. It’s a lemony, citrus amber with lots of lift and radiance – not qualities you normally associate with amber fragrances. It makes for a nice twist on this classic genre and those fond of amber perfumes should welcome one that’s wearable in warmer weather.

 

Apple Orchard

Notes: Galbanum, blackcurrant bud, jasmine, neroli, champaka, roses, lavender, oregano, cognac, cardamom, angelica, oakmoss, vetiver, labdanum, vanilla.

An olfactory evocation of autumn, Apple Orchard is a fruity/smoky fragrance rather than a straight-up apple perfume (as you can see from the notes).   It speaks softly of dimming light, misty mornings and bonfires of fruitwood. It cleverly evokes that wistful feeling I often have in those months, with their long, leaning shadows. I find Apple Orchard  quietly enchanting.

 

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My Vanilla

Notes: Black pepper, clove, galbanum, elemi, juniper berry, nutmeg, jasmine, cumin, orange blossom, cardamom, cedarwood, vanilla, tonka bean, sandalwood, orris, agarwood.

It seems Anna prefers her vanilla to be tempered and low calorie which is no bad thing in my book. My Vanilla opens with green grass and settles into spice over vanilla.  Cumin is most prominent on my skin, but that is a note I’m sensitive to – probably because I have issues with it.

 

Winter Blush

Notes: Oranges, roses, jasmine, cinnamon, cardamom, vanilla, iris, balsam Peru, benzoin, rosewood, cedar, labdanum.

Winter Blush is a thoroughly joyful perfume. It has the aroma of the festive season but has been done in a fresher, brighter style than a lot of Christmassy fragrances. It’s a lightweight gourmand with lots of juicy tangerine which has enough tartness to cut through the gentler accords of chocolate and spice.  Winter Blush becomes pleasingly vanillic/balsamic in the base.

 

Cuir de Russie

Notes: Tar leather, tobacco, wormwood.

If you’re a leather fragrance fan you’re very likely to love this. Cuir de Russie is very much in the classic birch tar leather mold. It starts out with a blast of pine needles, thick tar and black smoke. While calming a little, it manages to retain those salty, meaty facets and chewy texture throughout. It’s easy to imagine the Russian forest where birch tree bark was melted into tar. This Cuir de Russie has plenty to get your teeth into, with a nice amount of throw and great lasting power.

 

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There are about 30 fragrances in all on the Anna Zworykina Perfumes website so if you your interest has been piqued by the above, do check out the sample sets. Anna divides her collections into Leather, Gothic, Floral, Warm & Enveloping and Landscape.

Are you drawn to any of the fragrances mentioned? Are you open to trying all-natural perfumes?

 

 

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Moon Bloom, Shangri La and Dilettante by Hiram Green

When artisan perfumer Hiram Green kindly offered to send me fragrance samples from his home in The Netherlands, the first one I thought of was Arbolé Arbolé. I’d heard great things about it but as it turned out, this was the one that suited me the least (I find orientals tricky). Therefore I’ll refer you to Val the Cookie Queen’s wonderful post about it on APJ here.

Below are my thoughts on the other three, all-natural, Eau de Parfums.

 

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Shangri La 

Notes: Citrus, peach, jasmine, rose, iris, spices, vetiver, and oakmoss. 

Shangri La is Hiram Green’s interpretation of the classic chypre, a century after Coty started the genre with the original of the same name.

Of course this is a modern version but its genre is recognisable straight away.  There’s peachy citrus undercut by a background of oakmoss, which instantly reminds me of  Mitsouko.  You should give Shangri La a try if you already love the iconic Guerlain or you want to but don’t, because this is much more accessible.  It still has the humid feel and oakmoss of Mitsouko but the peach is much more juicy.  Shangri La possesses that full-bodied sophistication that is so characteristic of chypres.

 

Dilettante

Notes: Orange Flower, Petitgrain, Orange Essential Oil

I’m always hopeful when trying an orange blossom perfume but all too often they are overly soapy or indolic. However Dilettante is pitch perfect. Within the first few seconds alone I get all the aromatic aspects of the orange tree: zesty fruit, green leaves and lush blossom.

Orange blossom, pettigrain and orange essential oil are such fantastic natural materials that they are ideal for an all-natural perfume. You really don’t need much else. Dilettante is smooth, sunlit and full of orange flower goodness, becoming mellower yet richer over time.  It moves through all the shades of orange from bright flame through to burnished gold. It’s a simple composition that just works. Summer is exactly the right time to try it too: no other type of fragrance is so full of liquid sunshine. Yum.

 

Moon Bloom

Notes: Tuberose Absolute, Jasmine Absolute, Ylang Ylang, Coconut, Leafy Greens, Spices and Resins.

I own some tuberose absolute and I much prefer it to the often headache inducing synthetic version. It is fresh, narcotic, tropical, buttery and fleshy, as well as deeply sensual. You get all of that in Moon Bloom as well as the facet that smells like bubblegum. Admittedly tuberose is not my favourite material but I appreciate it for how incredibly striking and complex it is.  Here it’s complemented with other white florals and fresh green notes.

In contrast to most tuberose perfumes, Moon Boom hums at a low register, intensifying its sultry feel. The coconut is not immediately obvious but adds a creamy texture and rounds out the composition while also accentuating the exotic feel, stopping short of beachy. This is a nocturnal fragrance for hot and humid nights and a must-try for tuberose fans.

 

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None of these three fragrances suffer from the dual criticisms of flatness or short-life which are usually leveled at natural perfumery. All are available in a 50ml bottle and 10ml Travel Size (hurrah!).

Have you tired any of Hiram Green’s perfumes? If not, do any of the above pique your interest?

 

 

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