A Visit to Mandy Aftel's Studio

A visit to Mandy’s work space/living space in Berkeley, CA was exactly what I hoped it would be. She was a gracious host, accommodating my almost-due pregnant friend Mary and her cutie-pie 16 month old boy with a charming ease. Mandy served us delicious tea that she perfumes herself, let us dawdle in her vibrant garden, and of course guided us through her dazzlingly extensive  perfumer’s organ. Our meeting was a last minute plan and just to add to the extemporaneous feeling of that morning, Avery Gilbert was leaving as we walked in. Yeah, that Avery Gilbert of What the Nose Knows. He too was incredibly kind and considerate and I almost asked Mary to pinch me as I stood amongst Mandy’s books and fragrances while chatting up Avery Gilbert.


As he left, Mandy proceeded to make us tea. One was an oolong infused with jasmine and mint, the other an oolong perfumed with hojary frankincense. A large glass bowl, as big and round as a sink basin, was filled with hojary frankincense from Oman that beckoned me with its resinous radiance. With a slow genuflection, I lowered my head and took in its aroma while Mandy let the jasmine and mint tea steep.


I love jasmine infused tea. I have had many different kinds, and can’t get enough of its floral taste and smell being experienced simultaneously. Not until sipping Mandy’s jasmine and mint tea though, have I ever experienced the indolic nature of jasmine in a tea. It was bold and sensual and instantly relaxing. Mandy chose to blend the jasmine with mint absolute in order to cool the jasmine and play with its indolic edge without eclipsing it. For this reason, mint absolute was chosen over mint essential oil, which would have taken over the floral quality. The mint absolute is rounder, and like jasmine is a middle note, as opposed to mint essential oil which is a top note. As a result, they work in concert with each other, complimenting each other even though jasmine is the more prominent aroma. Mandy also brewed her GABA oolong that is scented with her hojary frankincense. It’s called GABA because this particular oolong is grown to enhance its GABA content, a neurotransmitter that has a relaxing, anti-anxiety effect. Its taste was smooth and delicately aromatic, and definitely calming.


As we sipped tea, Mandy had me smell essences from different sources. For instance I smelled the mint absolute and the mint essential oil, and as Mandy described, the absolute was not sharp in the slightest. It was round and warming and incredibly beautiful. I smelled sandalwood from her new, sustainable source in Indonesia which was buttery and smooth as compared to her vintage Mysore sandalwood which smelled of an antique drawer filled with stories for days. Mandy has a gorgeous chest of drawers filled with her perfumes and colorful pouches that house those fragrances. (I’m sure this chest has many of its own stories to tell!) These pouches are made in Vietnam by disabled craftspeople, and Mandy has worked with this organization to achieve the details she wants in these lovely pouches, down to the size of the strings to the type of knot she prefers.


Aesthetic details clearly mean a lot to Mandy, and this is evident in her garden overflowing with roses. The roses were stunning, and I could have spent all my time at her studio learning about the varieties and their origins. They were all incredible, but my favorite was the Golden Celebration Rose which was particularly noteworthy due to its golden hue, like that of an antique brocade.


But what was most memorable, was Mandy herself. Her humility and wealth of knowledge are admirable. She is also very earnest in her desire to connect with her customers. She has recently entered the world of Facebook and Twitter and is enjoying how it enables her to make those connections. Emails are palpably important to her. She responds to every email (and comment), and feels very strongly about maintaining that relationship with her customers. She wants to know how people respond to her work, and what her fragrances mean to them. Additionally, she exudes contentment and pure joy in her work and her business. In her own words Mandy states, “I’ve gotten to do what I want to do, on my own terms. I have resisted growing my business too big because I like the whimsical nature of being able to create what I want to create, while also enjoying being in control of every aspect of Aftelier Perfumes. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else that would be better, for me.” Amen to that.


Below is a sneak peek at the new Aftelier website which is aesthetically lovely, and most importantly, easy to navigate. Mandy’s revamped site will be launched soon and I will keep you up-to-date on that.


Posted by ~Trish
Photographs by ~
Trish

Share

For May Day, Strange Invisible Perfumes Urban Lily

Lily of the valley is such a precious flower. The way the tiny blossoms hang precariously from their slim stems makes my heart ache just a little. And their glorious scent is beyond captivating, I adore it. A neighbor has lily of the valley in her garden, and I point them out every spring to my boys, hoping they remember to bring a muguet-nosegay to their “someone special” when they grow up.


I wish we celebrated May Day with the floral gusto of the French. I read more about the history of this holiday and the French traditions around it at the blog Everything French Gardening. Give it a read if you are interested. I found it fascinating, and it inspired me to bust out the one muguet inspired, all natural perfume I have, Strange Invisible Perfumes Urban Lily.

There’s a reason I try my best not to read other blogposts on perfumes before I write about them; the power of suggestion. Over at Perfume Smellin Things, Tom reviewed Urban Lily and wrote that it reminded him of cut grass, earth and the scent of lily with a “heaping helping of their (SIPs) gorgeous Musc Botanique.” In the comments of Tom’s review, Scentscelf suggested she might layer Gap Grass and Diorissimo to approximate Urban Lily. March at Perfume Posse expressed her experience of Urban Lily’s evolution as a “honey-hay-beeswax smell with a hint of something peat/leather like narcissus.”


I don’t know if I am easily swayed or if I happened to have the same experience as my fellow bloggers, but I agree with it all! Tom is so right about the fresh cut grass and similar base of Musc Botanique. There’s a vegetal muskiness to Urban Lily that cannot be denied, and while it’s different from Gap Grass, the two perfumes have a common tone. March’s description resonates with me a great deal, as I too find a honeyed-haylike quality in Urban Lily. And yes, a leathery narcissus as well! Thank you March, for nailing that one.


My experience of Urban Lily also includes vetiver, a damp soil-laden vetiver, which unfolds on my skin. The dark richness of vetiver mingles enticingly with the muguet/narcissus springtime blossoms as well as the bright green musk. All of this might sound like a hot mess to some, and it might have been for me if the vetiver didn’t ground Urban Lily so completely.


I am in San Francisco this weekend, wearing Urban Lily on this beautiful day. I’m going to enjoy its scent while I do yoga with my sister and then we’re off to her baby shower at her favorite tea house. I’m hoping to find some lily of the valley along the way.


Happy May Day to you all. I sincerely hope you get to delight in lily of the valley’s beauty today.

Posted by ~Trish

Lilies of the Valley by dsbrennan at etsy.

Disclosure: The sample of Urban Lily is from my own collection. The opinons in this review are my own. I was not financially compensated for this review or any other.

Share

Interview with Alexandra Balahoutis

Alexandra Balahoutis is the the founder and perfumer of Strange Invisible Perfumes. She creates vibrant, compelling, beautiful perfumes, the latest being Essence of IX. Essence of IX is a limited edition fragrance, inspired by the “ghostly aromas” present in a wine glass. She collaborated with Ann Colgin of Colgin Cellars in creating this rich and complex fragrance that I will review at a later time. (Spoiler alert: I love it). It truly is an honor to have her answering questions here on Scent Hive.


Scent Hive: Your new fragrance Essence of IX was born out of a collaboration with Colgin Cellars. How was that experience for you?

Alexandra Balahoutis: I loved working with Ann Colgin and I learned so very much through the design of this fragrance. I shadowed the winemaking process and tasted wine in various stages of its development process. Spending time at the vineyard and inside the winery was heavenly. It was such a lovely collaboration.


SH: Is the process different when you create a limited edition vs. a fragrance for your permanent collection?

AB: What I love about creating limited editions is how impulsive I can be. I don’t have to put any thought into selling these fragrances on a larger scale. All of our fragrances are unique and stem from sincere inspiration, however these here-today-gone-tomorrow fragrances afford me artistic gratification without the commitment of a formal launch. Releasing limited editions is the marketing equivalent of a fling, no strings attached and no long-term commitment.


SH: I want to say congratulations on the launch of your new website design. It is aesthetically beautiful and so easy to navigate. How involved were you in the new design?

AB: Thank you very much! We designed the site completely in-house. I would say that I art-directed the look and experience along with our in-house designer/project manager who composed all the layouts. We hired a programmer and just sent him the precise artwork and content for each page. He was instructed not to change a single thing. We wanted the site to be distilled yet rich with nuance, in-depth or quite basic, depending on each person’s interest level and attention span. Most of all, we just wanted it to be true to the story and essence of our company.


SH: You are clearly very devoted to using only the highest quality, natural ingredients in your products. How do you ensure that quality, and make sure the botanicals are harvested ethically?

AB: Well, in many cases we distill our own essences. We own property in Ojai and Kentucky so we have unique opportunities to grow some of our own plants. We then hydro-distill them in-house with our full-time distiller. In other cases our distiller/head of production sources amazing essences from all over the world. We only buy essences from distillers we know. We do not buy from third parties or essential oil houses. The only way to know essences is to know the people who extract them. On a side note, our entire staff is going to Ojai at the end of April for a distillation we are doing of orange blossoms. We also recently distilled organic, locally grown Meyer lemons at our lab. We post photos of our projects on our Facebook page. People love to see the process of essences being crafted. It demystifies the process and connects them to the lovely reality of what they are buying.


SH: Your SIP alchemical lab is undergoing organic certification. What does that mean exactly?

AB: We currently use certified organic ingredients in our products whenever available. Once our lab obtains organic certification, everything we distill in our lab will be certified organic. This certification will be another measure we take to assure people as to the purity of our methods and products. Our standards of purity are often higher than those of organic certification, however we do respect the confidence that certified organic products inspire. As diehard purists, we address quality and purity from every angle.


SH: Why do you prefer hydro-distillation rather than steam distillation? And can you explain to us how the two processes differ?

AB: Steam distillation is a very commercial technique of distilling plant material. It is certainly the most common method used. In contrast, the technique of hydro-distillation is quite rare. It is not used nearly as often as it does not yield as much essential oil. Hydro-distillation does, however, ensure a beautiful odor profile that cannot be achieved with steam distillation. While steam distillation yields more essence, this method does not capture the fine aroma chemicals that make up an ideal odor profile. Sometimes these chemicals make up only 1% of the essence but they still influence the aroma significantly. Essentially, steam distillation loses very fine constituents of the plant vital to presenting the plant’s truest aromatic beauty.


SH: In terms of botanicals, what is really exciting right now for you to work with?

AB: There is a gorgeous, organic extract of black currant that I want to put in just about everything at the moment. Quite fittingly, I used it in Essence of IX, the fragrance we designed for Colgin Cellars. I’ve been using a lot of cedar leaf and cocoa as well. As for flowers, exquisite essences of ginger lily and kewda have found their way into many of my recent formulas.


SH: What are your current inspirations aside from scent?

AB: I’ve been wildly inspired by gems and music lately. I can’t seem to tire of canary tourmalines and the White Stripes.


SH: Moon Garden continues to be one of my personal favorites from your line. (I particularly love how you can smell the heat of warmed resins within the perfume). Can you speak to your feelings regarding Moon Garden?

AB: I am in love with Moon Garden! Tuberose has been my favorite flower for such a long time. People that know me very well tend to send me tuberoses on my birthday. I wanted to make a tuberose composition that told the whole story of tuberose blossoms, not one that smelled like a tuberose scented perfume. I used warm, eccentric resins to reinforce the deep textural scent of fresh, blooming tuberose petals. This flower has so many facets and I wanted to light them up. I didn’t want to glaze over them with the typical, confectionary interpretations of old-fashioned tuberose fragrances.


SH: You have traveled quite a bit throughout your life. If you could travel anywhere right now, would you revisit a special place, or take a new adventure? And where would that be?

AB: I automatically feel guilty for not answering “a new adventure.” Lately I have been thinking of places I haven’t been in a long time. I have been longing to revisit Paris. I almost feel like I want to reclaim something I left there. London is also calling. Afterwards, I think I will probably begin longing for new adventures. For now I’d like to have some new adventures in cities that are old favorites.


SH: You’ve mentioned in other interviews how childhood memories of scent have deeply affected you. Now that you are an adult creating perfumes, will you share with us how wearing your own fragrances affect you?

AB: I wear my own fragrances and the experience is somewhat fascinating. Have you ever wondered whether or not you are in love? You think and think and consider all of the variables as you experience the dynamics and chemistry between you and the person you are with. That is how it feels for me to wear my own perfume, which I do almost everyday. I tend to love and analyze each fragrance as I wear it. Right now, I am wearing a fragrance I designed called Tribute. It is something I made that reminds me of the perfumes my mother introduced to me to when I was little. My mother has a very good nose and excellent taste in perfume. In many ways she cultivated my nose when I was a little girl. When I wear this perfume it reminds me of the elusive reasons women wear perfume in the first place and of the admiration I had for time-honored, French perfumes. I have been enjoying the hell out of wearing it but I will never sell it. It is strictly for friends, family and the people that work for Strange Invisible. But you never know. I have been talked into relinquishing every private perfume I have ever made for myself. I really have to learn to say no. I just don’t enjoy doing so.


SH: What fragrances from your permanent line are you currently wearing the most? And are there fragrances from other natural perfumers that you enjoy?

AB: Honestly when it comes to perfume I’m a real tart. It is a different scent each week. I’m not a signature perfume wearer. I’ll entertain monogamy when it comes to romance but never fragrance. Magazine Street, Moon Garden, and Fire and Cream are very high on my list, however. As for the work of other perfumers, John Steele makes a botanical perfume called Mango that I love and wear from time to time. The distiller I work with also designed a floral perfume featuring ginger lily, especially for this past Christmas. I love it and wear it whenever I get really dressed up.


SH: And finally, (this is a request within a question), do you have plans to expand your lovely bath and body collection?

AB: Yes. I do. We are reformulating the collection and I have some plans to switch up the format a bit. That’s all I can say for now, but I promise there are some nice developments on the horizon.

Share

Scents of Comfort: A Joint Blogging Project

Today is the last day of winter, and as we pass from one season to the next we find ourselves in a moment of reflection. Ayala Sender of Ayala Moriel Parfums has gathered a handful of bloggers to reflect on the remarkable scents that gave us comfort this past winter. Here is my selection of perfumes that provided warmth in the cold months and will continue to nest a sanctuary for me anytime of year.

Bancha is the first fragrance that came to mind when I received Ayala’s invitation. I wore it throughout the winter, and it felt nurturing and hopeful. Dawn Spencer Hurwtiz has named this fragrance after a type of green tea, but it is so much more than a “tea” perfume. It’s lemony and minty to be sure, but is entrenched in rich dark soil that provides sustenance to roots and bulbs, a reminder of emerging life. Bancha is equally as gorgeous and appropriate on a man, my husband specifically, which makes my affection for Bancha even stronger.

Royal Couple by Gabriel’s Aunt, is an overtly floral fragrance that is wearable and cozy. It starts with an intoxicating dose of jasmine, develops into a subtly spicy floral in the heart, and dries down to a gorgeous vanilla base. Royal Couple’s blend of jasmine and rose is impeccable and fortunately comes in a candle to help light the way when it’s chilly, be it from the weather or internal storminess.

A perfume can be a salve not so much because of its notes, but because of the association you have with its aroma. When I wore Ayala’s Hanami for the first time last spring, it was a near magical day at the Japanese Gardens with my young boys. The sun was bursting with much longed for radiant heat and the cherry blossoms were glowing with an otherworldly pinkness. Hanami was on my skin, and its floral notes of magnolia and mimosa made the day even sweeter. Despite its petal softness, Hanami is very grounded with woods, tonka, vetiver and subtle vanilla. So for me, Hanami is a complex fragrance that recalls a tender memory.

Buying a perfume after you’ve gone through turmoil is another way to experience well-being, at least in my scent obsessed world. I did just that after my recent unexpected surgery, as I deserved and needed a new scent to appease my situation, right? One read of March’s review of Strange Invisible Perfume’s limited edition Dimanche was all it took for me to decide what perfume I would indulge in. Thankfully, I concur with her glowing review. In fact, I’m having a hard time using any other perfume these days as I am in full-blown Dimanche infatuation. I agree with March that Dimanche is sharp in the beginning due to iris that isn’t tempered with something soft to round its edges. Instead, bittersweet cocoa and powdery rose heighten its intensity throughout the top and especially in the heart of the fragrance. Dimanche doesn’t settle until the drydown when hay and honey emerge, making for one interesting affair. It gets even more fascinating when the soapy quality of iris surfaces. This might sound like a motley crew of notes, but it works. It’s compelling, rich, and to use an overused word, a little bit fierce.

Chêne by Roxana Villa is a perfume I wished I’d had this past winter. Although it is a chocolate based fragrance, it suggests a similar ambience to DSH’s Bancha. Chêne is dark and rich with oud, woods and resins yet has a piquant vitality that keeps it from becoming too heavy. The base of this solid perfume is composed of cocoa butter, beeswax, and jojoba seed oil which is dreamy to apply, and perfect for the rainy days of spring around the corner.

These perfumes, and the Royal Couple candle, are all natural and contain no synthetics, petrochemicals, or phthalates. Many of them also use organic ingredients.

Please visit the other blogs who are participating in this comforting event:

SmellyBlog

Roxana’s Illuminated Journal

BitterGrace Notes

Perfume Shrine

Notes from the Ledge

The Non Blonde

Perfume in Progress

Katie Puckrick Smells

A Rose Beyond the Thames

I Smell Therefore I Am

Olfactarama

All I Am A Redhead

Savvy Thinker

Posted by ~Trish

“Bird in the Magnolia Nest” by Hadley Hutton available at etsy.

“This article’s title is an homage to Michelyn Camen‘s original article of this same name on Sniffapalooza Magazine in 2008, in which interviewed several perfumers to comment on what botanical elements make their perfumes comforting.

 

Share

Roxana Illuminated Perfume 2nd Tier of Chocolate Perfumes

Spring is burgeoning with much vim and vigor here in the Northwest. Camellias, Daphne, Forsythia, Crocus, Cherry Trees and Narcissus grace us daily with new blossoms and a kaleidoscopic display of color. That means Mother’s Day will get here before you know it and Roxana Villa’s chocolate solid fragrances are special and lovingly made gifts. This review is for Roxana’s 2nd Tier of chocolate perfumes, and you can read my review of her 1st Tier posted just before Valentine’s Day.


Pétales: “The classic combination of chocolate and roses.”

Beautiful and subtle. Pétales is the perfect name for this scent as the rose fragrance is delicate, very pretty and thankfully the chocolate does not overwhelm its dainty petals. Because the rose scent is so authentic and lovely, I would like it to be a little more pronounced and to possess more throw as Pétales wears very close to the skin. It’s perfect for a work or scent-sensitive environment, but I’d love it to be more intensely rosy for an evening out as well.


Coeur de Jasmin: “Rich heart of jasmine enveloped by creamy chocolate.”

Sometimes it only takes a few words to aptly describe a perfume, and Roxana did so with her above written depiction. The heart of jasmine in this case is juicy and indolic, worked into an even more sensual experience with the decadence of dark chocolate. Coeur de Jasmin is truly for the jasmine lover, who wants it with a gourmand touch.


Fleurs de Orange: “A buzz with orange blossom flowers, honey and chocolate.”

This is the one I fell hard for the moment it landed on my skin, and is my favorite of all 11 offerings. Orange blossom absolute, neroli and blood orange put the Orange in Fleurs de Orange. (The difference between neroli and orange blossom absolute is the manner in which the blossoms’ essence is obtained. Neroli is from steam distillation of the bitter orange blossom and the absolute is extracted using solvents.) Fleurs de Orange is a full-bodied, intoxicating citrusy floral, with a mere suggestion of cacao. It is different than L’Orangerie, from the first tier, as L’Orangerieis more of an orange tinged chocolate confection while Fleurs de Orange is a rich and lush floral with a hint of indoles and honey.


Blanc: “Opposite of Noir, a milk chocolate truffle featuring the Vanilla Orchid Bean at center stage.”

Blanc is the most straightforward fragrance in Roxana’s chocolate collection. It smells just like high quality milk chocolate. The vanilla gives it a creamy feel, but it’s really all about the chocolate. Blanc would also be a wonderful fragrance for layering.


Chêne (Oak): “A tribute to the mighty Oak with notes of wood, resin, moss, and oud. The cacao note is more subdued.”

I would agree that the chocolate tones are subtle in Chêne, but it does give a delicious buttressing in the topnotes. Like Roxana’s La Forêt, chocolate and basalmic notes meld beautifully together with the bittersweetness of rich cocoa supporting and intensifying the earthiness. Chêne reminds me of two other Roxana perfumes, as it has the resinous quality of Qand the earthy tang of oud that resides in Terrestre. Chêne has incredible staying power and lasts on my skin for the entire day. I highly recommend it to lovers of piquant woody fragrances.


Thanks to Roxana for another generous giveaway! Go to Roxana’s Etsy site to check out the 5 gm jar and pick the one from the 2nd Tier Chocolate Series you would like to win. Leave a comment telling me which one you want and you will be entered. You are eligible for extra entries, one each, by following Roxana on Twitter and/or her Blog, or making her a favorite on etsy. You can get can also get extra entries if you follow Scent Hive on Bloglovin, Twitter, Google Friend Connect, Facebook’s Networked Blogs, or subscribe to Scent Hive. (Check the right sidebar for the Scent Hive links). Please let me know in your comments what you did so you can get the entries you deserve! We Have our Winner!

Posted by ~Trish

Disclosure: Samples from Roxana Illuminated Perfume were provided for this review. The opinons in this review are my own. I was not financially compensated for this review or any other.

Share

Winner of JoAnne Bassett natural perfume

The full bottle of her choosing, goes to Monica! Congrats and enjoy picking out your perfume. I decided to send a 2nd person some JoAnne Bassett samples from my collection, and that goes to Aubrey!


On Thursday I’ll be posting a review along with another fabulous giveaway you won’t want to miss.

Posted by ~Trish

Spring image from photobucket.

Share

Move into Spring with natural perfumer JoAnne Bassett

Transitions can be challenging. Transitions can be smooth. Either way, it’s nice to have something guide the way. We perfume lovers often look to fragrance to illuminate the path for comfort or energy. Moving from winter into spring often requires a bit of both, something vibrant to help grow new leaves and something soothing to protect us from the bitter chill that still lingers. A dear friend (I’m blowing kisses of gratitude to you duVergne!) sent me a perfume the other week that does just that.


Indulgence by natural perfumer JoAnne Bassett is indulgent in its abundance of lush flowers. Rose and ylang ylang dance gracefully around heady orange blossoms not only in the heart, but also in the topnotes. Lime, blood orange and clementine lift the orange blossom in the fragrance’s beginning, making Indulgence an unmistakably citrusy floral perfume.


I find citrus, even citrusy florals, very uplifting and energizing. Yet, there is more to Indulgence than its pretty, merry-making side. Wafts of cardamom and nutmeg are to be found within the first stages of its composition. These wintery spices give Indulgence a cozy temperament as well as a gentle edge adding complexity to what might have otherwise been a straightforward floral perfume.


Cardamom really warms up in the drydown, issuing forth its unique and intricate blend of balsamic depth, nutty spiciness and almost sweet, floral undertones. I love cardamom in perfume and JoAnne uses just the right amount in Indulgence. Her pinch of cardamom tempers the rich florals with warmth, and also provides a contrast to create an intriguing twist for a lovely spicy springtime fragrance. Quite appropriate since transitions are often unpredictable aren’t they?


JoAnne has very generously offered a 30ml bottle of Indulgence (or your choice from her French or Royal Collection) to a Scent Hive reader. So let’s do it! Giveaway time! Please leave a comment to enter. You can also get extra entries if you follow Scent Hive on Bloglovin, Twitter, Google Friend Connect, Facebook’s Networked Blogs, or subscribe to Scent Hive. (Check the right sidebar for the Scent Hive links). Additionally if you follow Joanne on Twitter, Facebook, or subscribe to her Blog you’ll also get extra entries.  Good luck and please let me know what you did for extra entries, preferably in one comment for easy counting. We have our winner!

Posted by ~Trish

Photo from Dancing With Unicorns

Share

Mecca Balsam by La Via del Profumo

There’s so much to love about labdanum. I love the sound of the word. It’s a potential tongue twister but once you get it, labdanum is a fun word to say. I also love the story of this resin. Goats would feast on Mediterranean rockrose shrubs filling their bellies while unwittingly collecting the sticky substance in their beards allowing their keepers to harvest the fragrant goo. Labdanum is still obtained via trusty goats, but more often with *leather rakes empowered by human hands.


What I love most about labdanum though, is its complex yet soothing aroma. All at once it encompasses a vegetal mossiness, subtle floral tones, calming incense and supple leather. The following was my impression the first time I smelled labdanum on its own:  …”utterly rich and musty. It also struck me as quite leathery with great depth and amazingly animalic for a botanical”.  How lovely I thought it would be to have a perfume composed mainly of this compelling essence.

La Via del Profumo, an Italian all natural perfumery,  has recently launched an ode to labdanum in Mecca Balsam that exudes what I described above. Benzoin, frankincense, agarwood, tonka, tobacco, Indian tuberose and Damask rose help comprise Mecca Balsam, but it is labdanum that most inspires this olfactory visit to Mecca. La Via del Profumo’s website has an eloquent description of Mecca Balsam that is truly on point:

“Wrapped in the amber fragrance of Tonka and in the mystic aroma of the Arabic Frankincense, Labdanum wildness is tamed in an almost ecclesiastic scent that evocates at once the perfume of the mosques and the music of the wind organs in cathedrals.

The scent of raw Tobacco, always present in the background, is like an anchor that binds the base accord, giving them a common denominator.

The flowery notes of Indian Tuberose and of Damask Rose enrich the base of the balsam in the fashion of Arabic fragrances, bestowing to the perfume an opulence worthy of the precious aromatic elixirs worn by the royal family of Saudia.

Mecca Balsam is a fragrance that is liked by men and women alike, its aroma is warming, full, aromatic, and somehow gives a fatherly sense of security.”


My dad has never smelled like labdanum and the florals didn’t blossom on my skin, but otherwise, I fully concur. Mecca Balsam’s quartet of labdanum, frankincense, benzoin and tobacco suffuses the air with the caress of incense. The fragrance anoints your skin with a soft richness that has striking sillage and impressive staying power. It also layers beautifully with floral tobacco perfumes like Hermes Kelly Caleche and Ayala Moriel Parfums Espionage.


Dominique Dubrana (AKA AbdesSalaam Attar which is his Mulsim name) is the perfumer at La Via del Profumo whose creations have been given much praise in print. Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez have given Dubrana’s Grezzo d’eleganza, Hindu Kush and Tabac four stars in “Perfumes: The Guide” and please see the following blogs for more on Mecca Balsam:

Indie Perfumes

Perfume Posse

Perfume Shrine

Bittergrace Notes


 

Dominique Dubrana has been very generous in offering a full 50ml bottle (worth $125 USD) to a Scent Hive reader. Please leave a comment to enter. You can also get extra entries if you follow Scent Hive on Bloglovin, Twitter, Google Friend Connect, Facebook’s Networked Blogs, or subscribe to Scent Hive. (Check the right sidebar for the Scent Hive links). We have our winner!

Mecca Balsam is available at the La Via del Profumo website. € 34,17 for 16mls and € 91,67 for 50mls.


Posted by ~Trish


*labdanum rake image from labdanum-creta.blogspot.com

Please visit the NYT website for a feature on La Via del Profumo and Mecca Balsam.

Disclosure: Samples from La Via del Profumo were provided for this review. The opinons in this review are my own. I was not financially compensated for this review or any other.

Share

Artemisia Natural Perfume’s Rayon Vert

I spritzed Artemisia Natural Perfume’s Rayon Vert, having no idea what to expect. I figured it’d be green of course, maybe a radiant crisp green, but other than that, I had no idea what I was in for. The sun is shining brightly as I write (that’s a rarity in the Pacific Northwest this time of year) which always aids in seizing the day, but Rayon Vert made me straighten my posture a little more when I drew in its fragrance this morning.


Rayon Vert’s openingis peppery, herbal, and leathery. So much for my preconceived notion of green crispness! Vetiver seemed to lend its complexity as I smelled smoky-rootiness throughout the Rayon Vert experience. Vetiver, pink pepper (guessing here), and a full-bodied anise rounded out its opening. An indolic impression was cast in its topnotes, so a tropical floral component, namely tuberose, was sketched in my mind. But just a light, pencil sketch of tuberose as Rayon Vert is not a floral perfume, it’s an earthy and vegetal scent with a moody aura.


After the indolic intensity dissipated, a powderiness surfaced. I have experienced a powdery quality in many perfumes that include vetiver, and I wonder if it’s the vetiver itself that lends this sweet gauzy redolence or possibly a combination of notes, or an accord. Ayala Sender has a very thorough discussion of vetiver on SmellyBlog and it is well worth reading if you have an interest in this versatile and fascinating root.


On the newly revamped Artemisia website, you won’t find a list of Rayon Vert’s notes, but you will discover this description of Rayon Vert: “Intricate mosaic of scents, evoking dark licorice and roots, moss and herbs, wet forest and rain-soaked meadows. Lush pink frangipani (not the tuberose I had imagined) and a special blend of anise-hyssop, all in a swirl of emerald green”.


I love that description as it stands on its own, and agree with most of it. Rayon Vert is most certainly a “mosaic of scents.” It is complex and slightly enigmatic, as the varying components integrate to form one cohesive scent, but also manage to stand alone at times, like a piece of glass in a mosaic that catches the light for just a moment. Anise and roots (am I right on the vetiver?) definitely captivated me, but as I mentioned, Rayon Vert evoked a powdered dryness, and less so a “wet forest and rain-soaked meadows.”


As I complete this review, and enjoy the Rayon Vert lingering on my skin, I ponder the possibility of benzoin in the mix. Might it be benzoin’s warm vanillic aspect that allows vetiver to become soft and gauze-like? I don’t know, but I appreciate that Rayon Vert has kept me guessing. It’s compelling and interesting and well worth experiencing.


Artemisia Natural Perfumes are 100% natural, true to its name. Rayon Vert is available in a 7mg solid which is on sale for $20, 17ml EdP for $64, and 35 ml which is on sale for $96. Sale prices are good until 2/28/2010

Posted by ~Trish

Juliette by John White Alexander (1856-1915) at museumsyndicate.com
Disclosure: A sample of Rayon Vert was provided for this review by Artemisia Natural Perfume. The opinons in this review are my own. I was not financially compensated for this review or any other.

Share