Some of you may know that it’s been a year since my last post, and I have to thank Ayala of Ayala Moriel Parfums for asking me to take part in this Rose Blogging Event for Valentine’s Day, even though Scent Hive has been in a deep slumber. I needed someone to reach out and get me to dust off the old blog, so I really appreciate her kindness. I come to this post with a giddy sense of anticipation but admittedly with a bit of hesitation as well. I’m not sure if this means I will get back to blogging on the regular, or just every now and then, but I do know that I am excited to share this lovely, dozen full of roses with you all.
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
It was difficult to edit my gift picks as I want everything I reviewed this past year and would love to give them all as gifts. In any event, here it is, an attempt that hopefully covers reasonable price points and varying tastes to aid in your gifting pleasure.
Roxana Illuminated Perfume Hedera Helix: Wouldn’t you love to receive the lovely compacts pictured above? I certainly would as they’re filled with Roxana Villa’s newest fragrance, Hedera Helix, an olfactory ode to ivy. Not surprisingly, this perfume is a leafy green chypre that has a dense and addicting note of oakmoss as its foundation. Both incarnations of Hedera Helix, solid and liquid, are a complex blend of nearly forty different essences, but I prefer the solid’s focus on the effervescent top notes of clementine, orange blossom, and grapefruit. (The liquid is much more resinous and inky and also very beautiful). The heart is full of warm beeswax and woods and the drydown is dappled with sweet rose and jasmine petals. I find this progression from chypre green to pale pink to be quite compelling and all together lovely. The mini compact is $30 for approximately 1.5 gm. If you live in the Portland, OR area, you can test Roxana’s perfumes at Spring Creek Store.
Red Flower Sweet Alyssum: Sweet Alyssum is Red Flower’s latest perfume offering which evokes the burgeoning blossoms of spring. And what better time to have your spirits lifted by iris, violet, honey and hay than in the middle of winter’s darkness? It’s a scent to daydream by. Plan that escape to a sundrenched shore, or imagine the color of that first blooming violet, heralding the new garden season. Whatever the dream, Sweet Alyssum will make it brighter. Sweet Alyssum is $138 for 1.0 oz, exclusively at Garnet Hill.
Alima Nourishing Lip Balm: Speaking of dreams, I can’t go to bed without putting lip balm on my lips. And I know I’m not the only balm addict out there. I bet you’re one yourself, or you know one pretty well. Alima’s Nourishing Lip Balm will satisfy even the pickiest guy or gal with its minty scent and smooth texture. Natural is sans color, perfect for bedtime or over lipstick, but I also adore Fig, a shimmering bronzy-plum that’s perfect for everyday wear.
Ilia Beauty Blossom Lady: I reviewed Ilia’s lipsticks in September and told you all how much I loved Blossom Lady. Well, I am still loving it. So much so that I need to get myself another tube. I also need to pick up a couple extras to give to friends since it’s such a flattering color. I just can’t think of a complexion this would not brighten up! More pictures and gushing are here. $24 at Beautyhabit.com
For Strange Women Decadence and Debauchery: For Strange Women is a perfumery that I newly found this year and have been enjoying a great deal. I have a few favorites- Moss & Ivy, November, and Horse to be specific- but Decadence and Debauchery ranks high up there and strikes me as the one most people would be drawn to. It has a little bit of everything from tobacco to violet to vanilla and it’s all whipped up into one richly decadent perfume. $40 for 1/4oz bottle of perfume oil on etsy.
Aftelier Perfumes Pear Fir and Coffee Body Oil: Mandy Aftel of Aftelier Perfumes always has something new up her sleeve whether its creating Chef’s Essences®, perfumed teas, or candles. This time, she has caught me by surprise with her newest Body Oil & Hair Elixir; Pear Fir and Coffee. That’s quite a trio of scents! When I first applied the oil on my skin I thought, “Huh, that really is pear, fir and coffee.” After twenty minutes more I thought, “Wow! That still is pear, fir and coffee and I’m liking it!” Somehow these seemingly disparate notes- seemingly to me being a fragrance sniffer rather than a fragrance creator- work in concert to not only harmonize with each other but also allow each other room to shine as individual notes. This oil would be perfect for the perfumista in your life that is open to new olfactory experiences. $40 for 3.5 oz pump bottle at Aftelier.com.
Chanel No 19 Poudre: I will admit, unabashedly, that I have fallen hard for Chanel No 19 Poudre. I know it hasn’t gotten rave reviews from other perfume bloggers as it’s been deemed as a watered down version of the original, and not terribly inspired. Well, I disagree as Poudre makes me swoon with delight. The opening is a tender and sheer rendering of galbanum unlike the original which is much too cold and sharp for my taste. The iris glistens and remains steadfast throughout Poudre’s evolution, but is at its finest when it melds into the tonka-sandalwood base which is delectable! $85 for 1.7oz at Nordstrom.com.
DSH Vanille Botanique: Another new fragrance launch that has garnered a lot of praise, is Prada Candy. I like it well enough, but I’m not feeling the love quite so strongly. I much prefer DSH Perfumes Vanille Botanique which also starts off with smooth caramel but with a boozy twist. I find Vanille Botanique to satisfy the same type of craving as Candy, but in a more interesting manner. It might not be the “benzoin overload” the Prada PR claim Candy to be, but Vanille Botanique is a lush cloak of tonka, balsams and yes, benzoin. And even though I just sang praises for Chanel Poudre, when given the chance, I would rather spend my dollars on, and give my loved ones a gift from an indie perfumer. $130 for 30ml at indiescents.com.
Happy Shopping! ~Trish
As this might be my last installment of The Clarimonde Project, I would like to thank Lucy of IndiePerfumes for inviting me to partake in this extraordinarily inspired adventure. I’m hoping many of you have listened to Clarimonde via Librivox and perused the other participant’s blogs for reviews and beautiful prose inspired by this haunting romance.
There’s one aspect of this story that I have not touched upon yet, and that is the ending when Clarimonde is revealed to be a vampire. Romuald, the priest who fell madly in love with Clarimonde, did not disentangle himself from his lover once he discovered that he had been drugged nightly by her so she could drink his life giving blood. Rather, he seemed to relish that he kept her alive, so much so that his words could be mistaken for the prayer given before taking Holy Communion, “Drink, and may my love infiltrate itself throughout thy body together with my blood.”
When one celebrates Holy Communion, the host (bread) and the wine are symbolic of Christ’s body and blood. In Roman Catholicism specifically, the host and the bread are believed to become the body and blood of Jesus, which is echoed in the aforementioned words of Romuald regarding Clarimonde. Romuald not only partook in this ritual as a priest, but administered it to his parishioners as well. And at night, he gave of his own blood to save the life of Clarimonde. At one point in the story, Romuald even describes Clarimonde’s “beautiful hands” as “purer and more diaphanous than the host,” a direct reference to the Holy Communion.
This story is rife with death, rebirth, blood, flowers, decay, youth and passion. What an abundance of inspiration for a perfumer, right? Indeed it has been. I have three *perfumes at my table right now. One by Ayala Sender of Ayala Moriel Parfums, another by Dawn Spencer Hurwtiz of DSH Perfumes, and finally one by Monica Miller of Skye Botanicals. I have experienced them all separately, but as I have them together now, I am convinced there must have been a Clarimonde collective consciousness wafting through their creative spaces while they concocted their brews as they are rather similar.
They are all intensely floral perfumes that exude the weighty feel of aubergine velvet, burgundy brocades and red damask. Dawn’s perfume, Paradise Lost, is quite ambery and well-aged like a rich port. Monica’s creation, Sangre, is just as deep and dark as Paradise Lost, but it’s a little sweeter like over-ripe blackberries dripping in one’s hand. All three hint at a haylike note, but it’s Ayala’s Clarimonde Dream Pillow that emanates the most earthiness. It’s not a freshly tilled soil though, rather a soil on the edge of decay that is infused with rose, violet and carnation.
Each of these perfumes teeter on the edge between lushness and decomposition, which is right where Romuald existed. And all of The Clarimonde Project creations, including Mandy Aftel’s Oud Luban and Immortal Mine, by Maria McElroy and Alexis Karl are touched by the beauty and depth of this utterly captivating story. I am honored to have been a part of this event that so exquisitely married perfume and literature.
*Paradise Lost (DSH Perfumes) and Sangre (Skye Botanicals) are mixed-media perfumes as they contain small amounts of synthetics. Ayala’s Dream Pillow perfume is 100% natural.
Image of The Vampire by Sir Philip Burne-Jones at artmagick
Image of Victorian Vampire by FairyLover17 at etsy
Please stop by The Perfume Magazine to read my review of DSH Perfumes Vanille Botanique. Dawn has really outdone herself in creating the perfect fall vanilla fragrance.
First things first here. Yesterday was Dawn Spencer Hurwitz’s birthday, so I’d love to extend her a happy belated one and certainly hope she had a lovely day. Today, many of us bloggers are joining forces to review Dawn’s newest creation, Pandora, which to me feels like a precious gift. I’m always very honored to test Dawn’s fragrances, but upon applying Pandora, I knew I was going to experience an extraordinary olfactory journey.
From its inception, DSH Perfume’s Pandora was to be an exploration of all natural and botanical ingredients that have only recently become available to perfumers. Emerging co2 extracts and newly attainable raw materials have expanded the natural perfumer’s palette and Dawn was part of a project that intended to focus solely on those ingredients. Dawn ultimately fell away from the project, and found herself delving deeper into Pandora’s potential and added a small dose of synthetics- aldehydes and ozone- as well as “old school” essences like oakmoss and ambergris. As a result, Pandora evolved into a perfume that tips its hat to the great classic perfumes while exploring contemporary botanical extracts.
The classic perfume that Pandora immediately reminded me of was Jolie Madame as it has a classic aura and possesses a similar swirl of verdant violet. Both Pandora and Jolie Madame have mysteriously green topnotes, Pandora’s being particularly minty while Jolie Madame’s are curvier and noticeably sweeter. Jolie Madame is more of a violet pastille in its opening, but nevertheless, they both exude a mossy violet tone and an animalic undercurrent.
Although these vintage nuances are present, Pandora stands as its own contemporary beauty. Dawn’s use of patchouli and vetiver co2 explores new facets of these well known essences. As a co2, vetiver is even greener and reaches the entire composition from top to bottom, unlike the essential oil which is mainly a basenote. Patchouli co2 is less spicy but even richer and bolder than its essential oil counterpart which adds a new dimension to this familiar scent.
Some of the newly attainable raw materials in Pandora include Juhi jasmine from Northern India, which according to Dawn is even more indolic than the jasmines sambac and grandiflorum. Muhuhu (also know as African sandalwood) is another newbie on the scene and Dawn tells me she is loving its deep, smoky-resinous quality. These four essences meld so well together- merging the floral with the earthy- which is very apparent in the heart. The oakmoss in Pandora’s “mousse de saxe” accord provides even more green depth to the middle notes, but also a mineral quality which feels very DSH Perfumes to me.
All that Pandora has to offer is stunning. It’s equal parts inky violet, woody floral and mossy darkness. Save for the drydown, which becomes rather silky and buttery, like a favorite scarf imbued with hints of the aforementioned notes but is very much its own stage of the fragrance. Wearing Pandora is an aromatic odyssey that’s complicated and lovely, light and dark, past and present, but most of all, exquisite.
Leave a comment and you will be entered in the drawing to win a 3ml purse spray of Pandora. Tell us about your most beloved vintage perfume and/or your favorite DSH perfume. Drawing now closed.
Pandora is made up of 97.5% botanicals and 2.5% synthetic and is available at DSH Perfumes in several different sizes and price points.
Please visit the following blogs for their thoughts on Pandora: DSH Notebook, EauMG, eyeliner on a cat, This Blog Really Stinks, Perfume Pharmer, Esscentual Alchemy, Indie Perfumes, and Oh True Apothecary.
Image of Pandora by Henrietta Rae at artmagick.com
Disclosure: A sample was sent to me for consideration by DSH Perfumes. The opinions in this review are my own. I was not financially compensated for this review or any other.
Oh how I adore lily of the valley! Everything about this little gem of a flower warms my heart from its precariously slim stem that secures its white blossoming bells, to its heavenly scent that beckons you to get low to the ground in order to sniff its fragrance. And while there’s nothing like experiencing a flower’s scent in one’s own garden, I have been on the hunt for a muguet perfume that fills me with a similar warmth.
Knowing this, I figured it would take a substantial amount of time and effort to create an all natural muguet perfume, so I was reluctant to “commission” one for a May Day blogging event. When I finally mustered up the nerve to ask Dawn Spencer Hurwitz if she would be interested in participating in such an event, I was elated when she said yes. Then, a few months later I was floored when she informed me that she was creating not one but two muguet fragrances as well as original artwork inspired by her process.
Dawn’s inspiration for Muguet de Mai and Muguet Cologne was the impressionistic vision of lilies of the valley blooming in a dewy garden, bathing in May’s sunlight and being refreshed by rich damp soil. Let me say that I am a huge DSH Perfumes fan. I have so many loves from this line and knew that Dawn would create something really wonderful for May Day. But I was truly astonished at how brilliantly she composed her muguets as they are closer to the real thing than any other muguet perfume I have experienced.
There are moments when I can actually smell these essences as individual notes, but they’re fleeting, as it should be. The experience of Muguet de Mai is not about singular characteristics, but that of a seamless and harmonious blend of complex botanical accords and notes that is redolent of a garden chock full of lillies of the valley. Muguet Cologne achieves this same effect, but with an even stronger nod to the earth’s rich soil and to the woods that might surround this garden.
Muguet Cologne shares many notes with Muguet de Mai like galbanum, and violet leaf, but there are distinct differences between them. Muguet Cologne is less floral and more earthy. A couple of the floral accords are replaced by coriander, vetiver, patchouli and oakmoss which provide men the opportunity to enjoy a muguet fragrance. Having said that, this is not overtly masculine and women will certainly savor its woody-ambery character.
I am really smitten with Muguet Cologne‘s vetiver beginning. It’s got a green and nutty bite that I so enjoy from vetiver. It offers a vibrant opening which leads right into its core of muguet’s blossoming bells. Its heart doesn’t have the same floral intensity of Muguet de Mai, though. It’s more of a muguet suggestion, like woodland air wafting the scent of the flowers.
While I am crazy for Muguet Cologne‘s topnotes, it’s the drydown that really has me under its spell. The patchouli and oakmoss are blended to perfection and compliment each other so well. Both are known to be strong and at times overbearing, but this diad melds the smoky green-musk of oakmoss and the rich sweet/spicy balsamic quality of patchouli into an alluring blend that compliments the floral muguet backdrop.
If it’s not completely apparent by now, yes, I am totally in love with both of these fragrances and give them my highest recommendation. The thing is though, they are extremely limited edition, (Muguet Cologne is now permanent) so be quick on your feet if you want some. The pricing and availability information is available now on the DSH Perfumes website.
I want to personally thank Dawn for her willingness to create these perfumes for this blogging event. I am humbled and completely blown away by what she has created. I also want to thank all of the participating bloggers (listed below) and hope you all will take the time to read their May Day Muguet thoughts.
The world of natural perfumery has become richer and even more intriguing now that Dawn Spencer Hurwitz’s prolific creativity has expanded to her natural offerings. In fact, she has so much to choose from, that a page on her website has been dedicated to those perfumes that are at least 85% natural, many of which are 100% natural. Mata Hari, one of DSH Perfume’s 100% natural perfumes, was released this past fall for the Outlaw Project, a beautifully productive response to the appropriately maligned IFRA restrictions.
Mata Hari is quite the outlaw as she contains (hold on!) oakmoss and a slew of other natural essences that the IFRA has deemed too big and bad for us consumers. If you frequent the perfume blogs you know the resounding response has been “Bring It On!” And Dawn did just that.
With the flesh and blood inspiration of Mata Hari, Dawn has created a full-bodied and sexy fragrance. Mata Hari was an exotic dancer who allegedly became a spy for Germany in the early 19th century. When Greta Garbo portrayed her in the 1931 film, Mata Hari’s fate as a prototype for the femme fatale was sealed.
Mata Hari, the perfume, explores the fleshy warmth of the seductive dancer more so than the edginess of a femme fatale due to the peach and apricot accord that runs throughout its evolution. Mata Hari does begin with an initial burst of bergamot and lemon, but the soft and sweet peachiness surfaces within seconds alluding to the zaftig sway of female curves.
Other fruity notes like cassis and blood orange augment this sensuality, but on my skin, the apricot, peach and slightly woody aspects of osmanthus absolute predominate. Mata Hari also possesses the spiciness of clove, black pepper and cinnamon which conjure olfactory images of vintage perfumes (no spice racks here). It’s also teeming with florals like mimosa, ylang ylang, champaca, rose, jasmine and tuberose which have such a seamless blend that they move fluidly alongside the spicy notes, amplifying the vintage quality of Mata Hari.
Like many classic perfumes, Mata Hari fully exploits the rich and earthy natures of patchouli, vetiver, and oakmoss as well as the sweetness of vanilla, benzoin and tonka bean. But it’s the woodiness of the drydown that brings all of these aspects; fruity, floral, earthy and sweet into a cohesive whole. Peru balsam, Australian sandalwood and Texas cedarwood help bridge the sensuality of the peach infused osmanthus absolute and the luxurious feel of a well-aged vintage perfume brimming with rich florals and exotic spices. The sandalwood is especially effective as it provides a buttery smooth backdrop that gives all of these essences a medium to settle into and flourish.
Mata Hari is available at DSH Perfumes and is a limited edition. It is $80 for a 5ml flask or $225 for a 0.5 oz vintage bottle.
Posted by ~Trish
Disclosure: A sample was sent to me for consideration by DSH Perfumes. The opinions in this review are my own. I was not financially compensated for this review or any other.
December has been a whirlwind for most of us, and I’m still reeling over how fast it went. Fortunately, there were moments of quiet calm this month, and several of them were spent revisiting perfumes from this last year. Throughout 2010, I enjoyed testing and reviewing an abundance of beautiful, newly released botanicals, and was very pleased that the natural perfumers themselves received a lot of positive press via magazines and blogs. With all my heart, I hope this trend continues as it is so important to support independently owned, artisanal businesses, especially when they are creating such gorgeous works of olfactory art.
The following are my favorite naturals from 2010, (as well as two non-naturals I fell for) but it’s truly just a sampling of what I enjoyed. I did decide to make a list though, so I have chosen the ones that will become lifetime loves.
Bed of Roses by Velvet & Sweet Pea. I don’t want to over-analyze this gorgeous fragrance too much, but Bed of Roses is like a study of contrasts. It’s vintage-esque but also modern. It’s powdery, but at the same time fresh and vivid. I give huge kudos to Laurie Stern for her expert hand and for creating such a dynamic and interesting rose perfume. Her skillful blending of aged sandalwood and cognac (vintage) with green mandarin and rose leaf absolute (fresh) allow different facets of rose to be present at the same moment. At its heart, Bed of Roses is a perfume that contains nine different rose distillations, so it’s richer and lusher than any other rose perfume I have experienced. Rose lovers, you will not be disappointed.
Mejica by A Perfume Organic. Mejica took me by surprise. I was not expecting anything new from this vanilla based fragrance as I thought I had pretty much smelled all that the bean could offer. Clearly, I was wrong. Mejica is smooth and spicy with cloves and hints of orange in the opening. It has a rich vanilla heart and a drydown made of sweet resinous musk. It’s been lovely to wear through the holiday season, and I eagerly anticipate what it will do on my skin when the days become warmer.
Bancha by DSH Perfumes. Bancha came along early in 2010 when it was still cold outside and I was craving a soothing balm. Bancha slipped into my life and provided just what I needed. Bancha is very grounding, and I liken it to scooping up limes or lemons that have fallen into dark, minty soil. Basil, rose and jasmine sambac add an herbacous floral quality while sandalwood and cedarwood round out its base, giving an aura of woods, like heat rising off a sauna’s walls. I loved Bancha last winter and have worn it frequently throughout the year. In addition to the perfume, I have the Bancha scented oil which is an exceptionally restorative balm for the skin and soul.
Mecca Balsam by La Via del Profumo. Mecca Balsam received rave reviews throughout the blogging world, and they were much deserved. Mecca Balsam revolves around labdanum, frankincense, benzoin and tobacco which suffuses the air with a gentle suggestion of incense. It never becomes overwhelming because it is so well-blended and subtle. Tobacco balances nicely with the labdanum, making it soft and cozy. For an all natural perfume, it has striking sillage with impressive staying power. Another excellent fragrance for the winter months.
Wildflowers by Aftelier Perfumes. Mandy Aftel released (at least) four fragrances this year, all of which I adore. But Wildflowers made this list because it’s centered around a note that for me, is crazy-making…in a good way. Hay. Yes, hay drives me a little wild. It gets up in my scalp and makes it tingle. Its scent generates the desire to frolic in a meadow of wildflowers and twirl until punch-drunk dizzy. Not all hay notes do this to me, just the ones that smell golden and have honey dripping from their stacks. Wildflowers is all about this kind of sweet, sunkissed hay and begins with a tart burst of lime and ends in a glowingly honeyed drydown.
GreenWitch by Roxana Illuminated Perfume. GreenWitch is unquestionably a chypre as oakmoss, galbanum, violet leaves and rose petals greet you from its start. After a bit, it gets a nutty, salty air from vetiver and tonka with floral nuances like boronia and honeysuckle. Honeysuckle is not in the notes, so I’m guessing the mimosa, ylang ylang and beeswax create a hybrid honeysuckle accord on my skin, and I love it. It smells like a day at the beach when you are blessed with warm skin, salt in your hair, and suntan lotion that barely lingers on your body. Green Witch has incredible sillage and staying power which lengthens the fragrance’s evolution, and it might well be Roxana’s most multi-layered perfume yet.
The Purple Dress by Ayala Moriel Parfums. Technically, The Purple Dress was released in December 2009, but for all intents and purposes, it was a 2010 perfume. The Purple Dress is a black tea based fragrance, steeped in a tannicy anise that is dark and smoky, moody and sexy, and has a gorgeous honeyed-wood drydown. Champaca is the featured flower in this beauty, but is tempered by the lightheartedness of magnolia and an easy touch of honey. According to Ayala’s website, this fragrance is a salute to Alexander Argov, who composed the famous Israeli song, The Purple Dress. You can hear an excerpt of it here and enjoy its evocative melancholic beauty, similar to its namesake perfume.
Guerlain Arsène Lupin Dandy. As I mentioned, there are two non-naturals that I fell in love with this year, and Guerlain’s Arsène Lupin Dandy is one of them. Dandy is being promoted as a masculine fragrance, and it does smell incredible on my husband, but it also smells pretty darn good on me. So let’s not cramp Dandy’s style with labels. Dandy begins with a nod to the legendary guerlainade brew which for me is sadly short-lived but for others, that might be preferred. Regardless, it grants Dandy an opening of distinctive familiarity that segues beautifully into a spicy, woodsy, violet tinged fragrance. Cardamom and an ultra-smooth sandalwood comprise the spicy woods while Dandy’s violets infuse a supple leather note that weaves its way through the fragrance’s entirety. The drydown finishes with a leathery-sandalwood-cedar musk that takes Dandy from its guerlainade opening to a modern finish.
L’Artisan Parfumeur Traversée du Bosphore. Here’s the other non-natural perfume I could not pass up, and it happens to be another violet-leather fragrance, albeit a very different one from Dandy. Traversée du Bosphore’s opening is full speed ahead leather and violet. It’s a dry leather, nearly heat cracked and edgy and you can feel the little violets struggle against the unyielding hide. The opening is interesting, but not entirely likable and it’s not until a softness emerges that I find myself succumbing to this uniquely compelling fragrance. Once the leather allows the dewy violet to soften its parched surface, it becomes more full and welcoming. The heart continues to expand upon the iris-leather accord but incorporates a gourmand aspect which on my skin is a delicious vanilla-almond confection. It’s quite an evolution when one considers Traversée du Bosphore’s arid beginning evolving into a gentle, sugared and musky rose at the drydown.
Don’t forget to visit the other participating blogs. I can’t wait to read what their favorites have been!