I have been on a rose geranium binge as of late, and I don’t see it stopping anytime soon. It embodies so many scent profiles, that it seems to suit a myriad of moods. It has a rosy floral note as the plant’s name suggests, and it also sparkles like lemon and comforts with an herbaceous backdrop. This leads me to Kahina’s sophomore perfume release, Essaouira, which has a glorious rose geranium as its focal point. If you are familiar with Kahina, you might know that this philanthropic company is steeped in Moroccan culture so this perfume is aptly named Essaouira, a temperate village on the Moroccan Atlantic coast. Although I have never been to this free-spirited and whitewashed destination, Kahina’s latest all natural fragrance inspires a longing to make that trip.
Acorelle is a French company that creates Ecocert certified perfumes whose ingredients are 100% natural and at least 90% of the total ingredients are from organic farming. Philippe Collet, the brand’s exclusive perfumer is a nose at a Grasse perfumery and Patty Canac is an expert in smells and studies how essential oils can affect people’s moods. Together they have created a wide range of fragrances to suit many different moods and tastes. Please see my YouTube channel for the full, detailed review as Acorelle is very much worth your time and reasonably priced ($15 for 10ml roll-on and $55 for 50ml bottle). Also, read on for perfume notes and photos!
Suzinn Weiss is a fellow Portlander, and I am so excited to have finally experienced her perfumes and body oils that are inspired by the rich and fragrant gardens of the Pacific Northwest. Suzinn is a fine artist and garden designer whose work led her to natural perfumery. She uses tinctures of leaves and petals from her own garden as well as fine essences from around the world. Additionally, Suzinn does not use any synthetics and her entire line is cruelty-free. I have enjoyed playing with all of her fragrances over the past month, and highly recommend looking into her sample packs if you have an interest in exploring all natural perfumes. My one challenge was to try to pick a favorite, which I simply cannot do! But I have managed to narrow it down to two of her fragrances that are particularly compelling.
Laurie Erickson of Sonoma Scent Studios has a lovely collection of *natural perfumes. Cocoa Sandalwood continues to be one of my favorite sandalwood fragrances, and in fact, turned me into a full fledged sandalwood lover. Laurie’s latest from her Naturals line also revolves around wood, but this time it’s a woodland theme, the Pacific Forest. Hiking in the Pacific Northwest is truly an exceptional experience. It’s very calming to inhale the fresh air filled with the aromas of majestic pine, spruce and fir trees. To witness this beauty and breathe in the perfumed air is relaxing and awe inspiring. Laurie has captured this sense of restful wonder that is the Pacific Forest. Although the piney forest scent is most prominent in her Pacific Forest perfume, its amber base of labdanum and vanilla allows for a gentle backdrop, made a bit sweeter by heliotrope and violet. An earthiness is present too, as patchouli, frankincense and sandalwood fuse to create the scent of the forest ground being shuffled by one’s feet. Pacific Forest is an ideal feel-good fragrance for the cold days and nights that lie ahead.
Honey lovers rejoice! Roxana Villa of Illuminated Perfume has created a deliciously honey inspired fragrance that feels at home on the skin whether it’s warm or cold outside. Yet, to call this simply a honey fragrance does not do Mellifera justice as this perfume has captured the entirety of a bee’s life; wood and musk from the hive, resins and spice from propolis, and of course flowers and sweet honey.
Alexandra Balohoutis, the nose behind Strange Invisible Perfumes, has relaunched her Perfumes of the Zodiac collection. First off, I want to say how much I love the new bottle. It embodies simple elegance, and feels substantial and weighty in the hand. I don’t think I would want to risk this gem bouncing around in my tote bag, but it is a suitable size (15ml) for travel if handled with care.
A fragrance based around rose and neroli might not strike you as an autumnal perfume choice, but Musk Malabi by Ayala Moriel is a unique creation. Yes, there’s a strong focus on the aforementioned flowers. How could there not be with rose absolutes from Bulgaria and Turkey present, as well as neroli, orange blossom absolute and blood orange? But it’s the addition of a few other botanicals that elevate Musk Malabi to the level of chilly weather comfort.
Another year is coming to a close, so it’s time to wrap it up with a Best of 2011 list. Truthfully, there were gobs of fabulous releases this year, particularly in the natural fragrance realm, which makes me giddy and thrilled for all those indie artists devoted to the alchemy of botanical perfume. In the interest of keeping your attention- and since long lists are rarely a pleasure to read through- I’ve distilled my Best Of list to 10.
Muguet de Mai by DSH Perfumes. When I asked Dawn Spencer Hurwitz if she would be interested in creating an all natural muguet scent for a May Day blogging event, I had no idea such a stunningly beautiful, complex, and true-to-life lily of the valley perfume would emerge. Muguet de Mai is like turning over a rain soaked tree branch in the forest to find a protected cluster of freshly blooming lily of the valley, densely floral while teeming with the fecundity of the soil’s riches. Muguet de Mai is a marvel and I can’t thank Dawn enough for taking me up on my offer, and for creating my favorite perfume of the year. Muguet de Mai is available at DSH Perfumes, $125 for 5ml antique parfum presentation.
To Bee by Roxana Illuminated Perfume. The scent of beeswax, whether it’s burning in a candle or suffusing the skin as a perfume, is one of those aromas that I find instantly soothing. Its honeyed and resinous warmth calms my nerves and slows my breath. To Bee achieves this effect beautifully and is enhanced by many essences, but most notably tonka, ambrette and oud. Even though To Bee is lovely on a cold wintery eve, it’s truly a seasonless scent. I first discovered To Bee in the heat of July when summer’s warmth amplified its delightfully ambery sweetness. To Bee is available in solid or liquid perfume at Roxana’s etsy shop. I particularly love the solid perfume locket for $30.
Dimanche EDP by Strange Invisible Perfumes. Dimanche was first released as a limited edition parfum in 2010, but in early 2011, it was made available in EDP concentration. The EDP is also limited edition, but the Strange Invisible Perfumes boutique still has a small quantity in stock. Dimanche opens with a cool and crisp iris, then proceeds to warm-up in the middle with hay, rose, and honey. A not-too-sweet amber dusted with cocoa awaits in the drydown, making for an olfactory experience that is multi-layered, compelling and alluring. Dimanche EDP is available only via the SIP Boutique. $270 for 50ml. Please call 310.314.1505 for phone orders.
Orcas by Ayala Moriel Parfums. Orcas is a fragrance that sweeps you off your feet and carries you along the rugged beauty of the Pacific Northwest coastline. Within Orcas, you will discover spruce, moss, rosemary and seaweed that are herbaceous and invigorating. Violet leaf and cedar are also in this seafaring perfume which cast complementing green and woody tones. Wearing Orcas this winter has me longing for a summer drive along the northernmost parts of Highway 101. It’s a little melancholy since those months feel very far away, but put on some Nick Drake and a dabbing of Orcas, and wallow in its wistful beauty. Orcas is available at Ayala Moriel Parfums, $120 for 15ml splash bottle.
Cologne du Maghreb by Tauer Perfumes. I recently reviewed Andy Tauer’s all natural cologne a few weeks ago, but it is so remarkable, that I can’t help but mention it again so soon, as it really is one of the Best of 2011. I love how CdM’s deliciously vibrant citrus notes are savored from its opening notes to the drydown. Orange blossom and cedar are then enjoyed in the middle stage of CdM’s development, and the drydown is more than worth waiting for. To quote my review, “… in the end, this classically styled cologne morphs into an amber fragrance replete with sweet yet animalic labdanum that still continues to be green and citrusy-floral. It’s really amazing and beautiful and appropriate for both men and women.” Cologne du Maghreb is available exclusively at Indiescents. $65 for 50ml atomizer flacon.
Best Skincare, High-End and Luxurious:
I hand this award to Tammy Fender without a moment’s hesitation. Her eponymous skincare line was launched several years ago, but it’s a 2011 find for me, so on this list it goes. The product that I am most crazy about and would gladly shell out 95 clams for, is the Antioxidant Creme with Neroli & Orange. Click on the link and you’ll find the full list of ingredients that reads like a juice bar menu, as well as information on highlighted ingredients like algae extract and carrot seed. I am totally addicted to the glorious neroli scent of this facial moisturizer. It smells just like the orange blossom seasons I remember from my childhood, and it sends me into a relaxing sleep. The consistency is a cream-gel hybrid that feels nourishing as it rapidly absorbs into the skin. I use this at night as I don’t want to use my little jar of precious up too quickly, but if I had my druthers, I’d use it day and night. Tammy Fender Antioxidant Creme is available at her website, $95 for 1.9oz glass jar.
I am also loving the Tammy Fender Cleansing Milk which is rich and thick and possesses an aromatic lavender scent that vacillates between sweet and herbal. I know lavender can be an irritant to some, so if that’s the case, this cleansing milk is not for you. As for me, I love lavender and my skin loves it as well, so I slather it on, massage it in, and let it cleanse, which it does very well. Tammy Fender Cleansing Milk is available at her website, $55 for 6.7oz glass pump bottle.
Best Skincare, Drugstore Deal:
Burt’s Bees has come out with a really nice line of sensitive skincare that’s worth attention. I have the Sensitive Facial Cleanser and the Sensitive Daily Moisturizing Cream and am highly impressed with both. The cleanser is similar in consistency to the Tammy Fender Cleansing Milk, albeit without the high price tag or the lavender scent. But, the ingredients are just shy of being all natural (99%), and some of the “natural ingredients” are highly processed and nowhere near the food grade, organic quality of Tammy Fender’s line. Having said that, $10 is a much more accessible price point and it works great. Available at Burt’s Bees, $10 for 6 oz.
The Burt’s Bees Sensitive Daily Moisturizing Cream does a nice job of moisturizing given its lightweight formula. Like the Cleansing Cream, it’s 99% natural- not at the Tammy Fender level of natural- but for $15, you get a lovely cream that wears well under powder or liquid foundation, and has been keeping my skin soft even in this winter weather. Soothing aloe, shea butter and moisturizing rice extract provide efficacious hydration, and is fragrance free. It’s available at Burt’s Bees, $15 for a 1.8 oz pump.
Best Body Moisturizer:
Pear, Fir and Coffee Body Oil and Hair Elixir by Aftelier Perfumes. Scent Hive readers might remember that I included this gem in my Holiday Gift Guide. Now it’s making an appearance on this list because not only does it make a great gift, it also happens to be my favorite body oil of the year. (Body oils are my preferred mode of skin hydration, BTW). So why do I love this one so much? It’s that quirky mix of notes, pear, fir and coffee, that excites my senses as this trio of fruity, balsamic, and earthy essences play against each other in a truly unique way. The luscious blend of fractionated coconut and jojoba oils provide superb hydration and act as excellent carriers for the botanical essences. I wish my sample wasn’t tapped out as I am dying to use it in my hair since it’s also billed as a hair elixir. I guess that means my shopping cart over at Aftelier.com might be getting some action real soon. Aftelier’s Pear, Fir and Coffee Body Oil and Hair Elixir is available at Aftelier.com, $40 for a 3.5 oz glass pump bottle.
Please visit the blogs listed below as they are also sharing their “Best of 2011” picks. I can’t wait to see what they favored this year!
Best of 2011 image by Roxana of Illuminated Perfume
Full disclosure here. My younger son is a Virgo, so I approached Strange Invisible Perfume’s latest fragrance which was inspired by said astrological sign, with a bias for wanting to love it. Knowing that neroli, sandalwood, and mandarin are in the Virgo blend also tipped my inclination I’ll admit, but bias or no bias, this is a gorgeous perfume.
I find neroli to be an utterly enchanting essence that moves beautifully through the seasons. It’s floral, kind of spicy and woody, and in the colder months it takes on a cozy aspect. In Virgo, neroli is all of the above and then some. Its woodsiness is enhanced by the well known sandalwood, and at least to me, the lesser known Palo Santo. Although now, I am this close to ordering Palo Santo essential oil after learning more about it.
Palo Santo, or sacred wood, is native to South America and is protected by strict government protection. The oil can only be harvested from fallen twigs and branches that have matured on the jungle floor for two years, allowing enough time for the resin to move into the hardwood. The Incas used this precious wood for purification and cleansing and since it is closely related to frankincense, I can imagine it has a similarly intoxicating incense aroma when burned.
Virgo, the sign and the fragrance, are about introspection, precision and comfort. Sandalwood and Palo Santo usher forth the introspection and comfort, while the neroli and mandarin embody those qualities as well but with a crisp and radiant expressiveness.
Neroli infuses this fragrance with a floral gesture and a hint of sparkle- aided by a gentle dose of jasmine sambac- throughout Virgo’s duration. But it’s in the drydown that Virgo’s soothing quality becomes increasingly apparent. Ultimately, it evolves into a cushion of benzoin and vanilla balsams that are as warm as an embrace from my Virgo son.
Virgo is available as eaux de parfum in 1.7 fl. oz. custom engraved bottles hand-painted with sterling silver for $275. It is exclusively sold at the SIP Boutique, but mail orders are welcome. Please call 310.314.1505 for inquiries.
Disclosure: A sample was sent to me for consideration by SIP. Opinions in this review are my own. I was not financially compensated for this review or any other.
Image: A Virgin by Abbott Thayer at Hektoen International
My newest perfume love is a little unexpected as a fragrance centered around an amber accord is not what I usually gravitate towards on a warm summer day. But I’ve been digging through my sample stash lately, and when the name “Amberene” piqued my interest, I threw caution to the wind and gave it a try.
Amberene is part of Liz Zorn’s Demi-absolute collection which are high concentration eau de parfums (18-22%) and include all natural fragrances as well as “Mixed Media” which are mostly natural, but do utilize synthetics. Amberene is one of her all natural offerings, of which there are many on her site.
If you’ve never worn a Liz Zorn creation, you really should. Her perfumes are almost always complex and intriguing so even if you don’t fall head over heels in love with something, you will most certainly appreciate the experience. Amberene is one of her creations in which, for me, love and intrigue come together.
I know there’s nothing particularly newsworthy about a spicy amber, or one touched by pathchouli and floral notes, but it’s the chosen essences that feel inventive. To start, Amberene is given a refreshing sparkle from grapefruit and clove which is the perfect entrée to this lighthearted amber. The hit of piquant citrus speaks to the warmth of summer while the clove keeps it spicy and appropriate for cooler temperatures.
The heart of Amberene is exceptionally beautiful as the classic pairing of heliotrope and violet surfaces and quietly engulfs the citrus topnote leaving only a whisper of clove. Tonka is also present and mingles joyfully with violet and heliotrope, like a modern Guerlinade confection. The powdery violet, almondy heliotrope and vanillic tonka are inherently soft and sweet, which provides the ideal setting for cardamom and cinnamon to lend a spicy-earthy quality while maintaining a feeling of comfort and familiarity.
The drydown is where you’ll find the true ambery essence of Amberene. Benzoin steps up in this late stage bringing the culinary spices along but leaving the florals behind. I sense a touch of labdanum and maybe a hint of woods, but really, this amber base is all about the benzoin. And this is a very good thing. Benzoin alone encompasses what I love in a perfume. It’s sweet, earthy, a little musty, and wafts a most intoxicating vanilla aroma.
Liz Zorn states that Amberene can “easily be worn for daytime and as a year round soft amber.” I am in full agreement. For these late summer days, the bright opening combined with its soft ambery-violet glow melds right into the skin along with the warmth of the sun. And I anticipate that Amberene’s sweet florals and cozy spices will be the perfect antidote to the winter blues.
Amberene is available at LizZornPerfumes.com 11 ml for $35 and 35 ml for $95.
Disclosure: A sample was sent to me for consideration by Liz Zorn. The opinions in this review are my own. I was not financially compensated for this review or any other.