Phoenix Botanicals caught my eye nearly two years ago when I bought their terrific Wild Rose Lip Balm on a whim, but I was unaware that fragrances had become a part of their repertoire as well. Irina Adam, creator of Phoenix Botanicals contacted me recently, and asked if I would like to sample some of her all natural perfume oils. Having been impressed by her lip balm, I decided to take her up on her generous offer, and I am so glad I did.
Cocoa Sandalwood is one of the most dynamic fragrances I have experienced in a long time. It moves through its stages with a quiet force that is palpable, alluring, and in the end, becomes an intimately beautiful sandalwood fragrance.
The opening notes do not hint much to a sandalwood experience though. Like I said, this a dynamic perfume and it has an interesting itinerary. Initially, the first wood encountered is cedar, charged with coffee and cocoa, all very pure. When I say pure, I mean there’s no pencil shavings to the cedar, no roughness, just smooth dense wood. And the coffee is not bitter and the cocoa is not sweet. The three notes are solidly together, opening the fragrance on sure footing, without a lot of embellishment.
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.
A little vial of Hindu Honeysuckle arrived at my door a few weeks ago, a welcome surprise during this time of remodeling chaos (see below). Currently, my perfumes are tucked away safely in the attic, save for a select few, so I welcomed the opportunity for something new and different. When I read the PR card that accompanied my sample, I was both reluctant and intrigued.
Jasmine sambac, not honeysuckle, is the featured floral, and since I’ve been hit with a case of jasmine fatigue, I admittedly had to hold back a heavy sigh. Then the word “coriander” popped into view, and my interest was sparked. Coriander encompasses so much of what I love in a scent. It’s a culinary spice of course, so it’s slightly piquant with a vibrant citrus back note. At the same time, coriander is also sweetly floral which lends itself beautifully to perfumery.
Because honeysuckle oil is very difficult to extract, making it rare and quite costly, you won’t find it in Hindu Honeysuckle. In lieu of this delicate blossom, Charna Ethier, the nose behind Providence Perfume Co, created a “honeysuckle accord” with Indian Jasmine Sambac, Indian coriander, vetiver, rose absolute, botanical musk seed, and bergamot.
As mentioned above, jasmine sambac is the dominant note, and a glorious one at that. This jasmine is so clear and vivid that it radiates sambac’s pure essence. It smells just like the spicy and musky sambac concrete that I purchased at NYC’s Enfleurage a few years ago. Like coriander, sambac also possesses a bright citrus quality that is heightened by the use of bergamot in Hindu Honeysuckle’s blend. It is not indolic in the slightest which would have detracted from its vivid and powerful opening.
Jasmine sambac continues to be a strong presence throughout the evolution of Hindu Honeysuckle, but within the heart, coriander and ambrette emerge, grounding the fragrance with earthen musk. In the drydown, I took note of vetiver before realizing that is was actually vetiver. After a couple hours of skintime, Hindu Honeysuckle became surprisingly powdery in that powder-without-sweetness way that only vetiver can provide. The merging of vetiver and coriander in this final stage is wholly unique and really lovely.
For an all natural perfume, I found Hindu Honeysuckle’s sillage and longevity to be more than impressive. It lasts on my skin for an entire day, and its scent wafts with moderate strength from top to heart, and then gently through the drydown. Charna is now offering a 10 sample coffrett or you can buy individual samples as well. Along with Hindu Honeysuckle, I strongly recommend trying Osmanthus Oolong. It too is really special.
Hindu Honeysuckle is available at Potion. $45 for 5ml glass roller ball.
Disclosure: A sample was provided to me by Providence Perfume Co. Opinions in this review are my own. I was not financially compensated for this review or any other. This post contains links to Potion which I am affiliated with.
Image of Jasmine Strings from Wikinut
This is not a photo of my house, but it might as well be. It’s pretty much what our kitchen currently looks like. We’ve embarked on a major remodel, and it’s taking up much of my free time. I’m not the most frequent poster as is, and unfortunately it’s going to slow down even more over the next several months. I know how annoying it can be, checking a blog daily, or even weekly to find the same post lingering there, so please bear with me! And do consider subscribing to Scent Hive so you will get an email notice when I post something new.
Since it is Scent Hive’s 3rd year “blogoversary” today, I want to thank you so much for reading, commenting and supporting my blog, and what better way to do so than hold a giveaway? Leave a comment and you’ll be entered in a drawing for a full bottle (save for a few spritzes for reviewing purposes) of Red Flower’s Garnet Hill exclusive, Sweet Alyssum. I included Sweet Alyssum in my 2011 Holiday Gift Guide, which you can read more about here. Drawing is now closed. I will post winner in the next couple days.
Again, I can’t tell you all how much I appreciate you stopping by Scent Hive over these past three years. As Scent Hive enters its fourth, it might be slow going at first, but I will be sure to write about my most precious finds.
Anniversary card image from graphicsfairy.blogspot.com
Image of remodel from zillow.com
Natalie from Another Perfume Blog and I have joined forces to review our favorite MCMC perfumes. Natalie’s pick, Garden, is from Sample Set #1 and my pick, Hunter, is from Sample Set #2. Being a part of MCMC’s Stories Collection, Hunter’s inspiration is the story of an endearing childhood memory, as described by Anne McLain, Hunter’s creator:
When I was younger I had a friend named Harrison, who I liked to call Hunter. He lent me the book Ishmael, and played guitar, and taught me about loving the environment.
Years later, memories of our long friendship and his adventures building maple sugar cabins in Vermont inspired the fragrance Hunter. With tobacco absolute, organic Bourbon vanilla and fir balsam, this fragrance is best when worn with a flannel shirt.
Currently, I am reading Wildwood, written by Colin Meloy and beautifully illustrated by Carson Ellis, with my older son. We are completely entrenched in the adventures of young Prue and Curtis as they brave the forbidden forest just outside Portland, Or. Alongside my son, MCMC’s Hunter has been my faithful companion for this woodland adventure. It’s the perfect pairing, and I love that Hunter was created to enhance Anne McLain’s reminiscence of her dear friend, and now I can claim it as a reminder of reading a terrific tale with my son.
As you probably know, Portland is rainy. Really rainy. But this fall and winter have been unseasonably sunny and dry (save for the past two days which have been a teasing mix of rain and snow). So Hunter’s dry and musky take on a forest of fir melds ideally with my surroundings. The fir note is subtle, but notable, as are the tobacco and vanilla. The tobacco leaves are slightly parched, which enhances their resinous quality in a earthy, gauzy manner rather than conjuring images of jewel toned brocades in a smoking parlor.
There is however, a hint of moisture as a brume of jammy plum, or possibly cassis, lingers in the background. This provides body and weight to Hunter whose dry leaves would otherwise drift away upon autumn’s first wind. I realize that vanilla and fir tinged tobacco sounds inherently cozy, but it’s the depth of a dark fruit’s ripeness that gives it a robustness to withstand chilly days and even colder nights.
Anne McClain’s suggestion of donning a flannel shirt while wearing Hunter speaks to the comfort its fragrance provides. At its heart, Hunter is a musky skin-scent that beckons curling up with a warm blanket, a good book, and of course, a loved one.
For Natalie’s review of Garden, please visit Another Perfume Blog.
From the MCMC FAQ page, a word about product ingredients:
In the MCMC Fragrances laboratory, we use both natural and synthetic ingredients. The Dude No. 1 beard oil is the only 100% all natural product we currently have on offer, however, in all of our products, we do use an especially high concentration of natural ingredients in comparison to mass-market perfumes, which usually contain little (and sometimes none at all) natural ingredients. Because MCMC does not spend money on advertising, all of our cost goes into the perfume itself, bringing you the highest quality of materials and creativity.
Our perfume oil roll-ons come in a base of organic jojoba oil, making the perfume oil products 85% organic and all natural.
Image: Something Gathered Along the Way by Kelsey Loomer on etsy.
Disclosure: Samples were provided to me by MCMC. Opinions in this review are my own. I was not financially compensated for this review or any other.
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
Solid Perfume Balms are the latest offering from Providence Perfume Co, and they are fantastic. They are smooth and sensual, smell gorgeous, and the best part is that they are very reasonably priced. $36 gets you a 1/2 ounce jar of this shea butter based balm whose fragrance lasts throughout the day with an impressive sillage. There are four scents to choose from: Chiffonade is an earthy orris based fragrance, Moon Flower is a spicy, indolic jasmine with a soft sandalwood drydown, and Jazmina is a romantic melding of jasmine and rose laced with a touch of nutmeg for intrigue.
But it’s Lilium that really won me over, which was not my expectation. According to the Providence Perfume Co. website, Lilium is comprised of stargazer lily, almond, rose, geranium and spice. All of those notes are winners in my book, save for that darn stargazer lily. She and I are are decidedly not friends. Not even close. When given stargazers in a bouquet, I’ll admire their beauty for a moment, but then quickly ditch them into the compost as I find their fragrance to be overwhelming and headache inducing.
So you can imagine that I approached my trial of Lilium with more than a little trepidation. In fact, I almost passed on it entirely. But Charna Ethier, creator of Providence Perfumes, was very kind to send me samples of all four, so I felt like I should give Lilium a go.
Thankfully, Lilium does not possess the smothering scent of the stargazer lily. To be sure, it dances on the edge of the piquant aroma that the stargazer emanates, but Charna explores the spicy side of this quality via her stargazer accord.
Lilium’s spicy blend is gorgeous. It reminds me of a dense and rich carnation based perfume with loads of spices like cardamom, clove, and pepper. Rose and geranium give Lilium a foothold in the floral category and almond lends a bittersweetness, but the warmth from the spices gets all of my attention.
I’ve been looking for a carnation perfume to love for several years now. I’m pleasantly surprised that Lilium is where my search comes to a beautiful end. I can wrap myself in Lilium’s rich and exotic drapery, amidst its mystery and comfort, which is much needed for the chilly months ahead.
Image: Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose by John SInger Sargent at artmagick.com
Hanukkah beings tonight, and I’ve been poring over food blogs for new recipes and general holiday inspiration. I keep coming across delicious fig based dishes and desserts like Braised Chicken with Cilantro, Lemon and Dried Figs and Olive Oil Orange Cake with Poached Figs. Don’t those recipes sound amazing? I really hope I can find the time to make them both this week.
One figgie thing I will definitely make time for, is wearing Sonoma Scent Studios Fig Tree in both its forms, perfume and shea body cream. Fig Tree embodies all that I love about fig fragrances but have never managed to find with such well-balanced proportions. This fig scent is equal parts creamy, sweet, dryly woody, musky, and dewy green. The perfume strikes me as a little drier and muskier than the sweeter and greener body cream, but I would never be able to pick which one I prefer. In fact, when they are layered, an even more complex fig aroma emerges with hints of coconut and an amplified impression of freshly crushed leaves embedded in rich soil.
When it comes to the woody side of Fig Tree, cedar is undeniably the main contributor. If you’re not already an established cedar fan, then Fig Tree might not be for you. But if you kind of like it, this earthy and vanillic perfume might turn you into a full-fledged card carrying cedar fan club member. And of course, if you already have that card in your wallet, Fig Tree is a must-try.
Gaia over at The Non Blonde recommends giving Fig Tree a try, even if you aren’t crazy for the mainstays of figgie perfumes like Diptyqie’s Philosykos or L’Artisan’s Premier Figuier. I wholeheartedly agree with her assessment of Fig Tree being more dimensional than either of those and yes, as Gaia says, Fig Tree is definitely magical.
Fig Tree Perfume comes in several sizes and price points. The 17ml spray bottle is $34. The Shea Body Cream is $16 for 4oz. Available at SonomaScentStudio.com.
Sonoma Scent Studios uses a high percentage of natural essences in their perfumes, but uses synthetic aromachemicals as well. Please see the FAQs page for more information regarding their perfume ingredients.
The Shea Body Cream is all natural, save for 1% of a paraben-free preservative system composed of three items: sodium hydroxymethylglycinate (derived from the natural amino acid glycine), phenoxyethanol (a mild antibacterial), and caprylyl glycol (from palm kernal oil with skin-softening and antibacterial properties). It does not contain parabens, petrolatum, propylene glycol, mineral oil, isopropyl myristate, silicones such as cyclomethicone and dimethicone, triethanolamine (TEA), diethanolamine (DEA), diazolidinyl urea, or DMDM hydantoin.
Fig Tree watercolor by Julia Rymer Brucker at etsy.
Disclosure: Samples of Fig Tree were provided to me by Sonoma Scent Studios. Opinions in this review are my own. I was not financially compensated for this review or any other.
A review of Andy Tauer’s work has been a long time coming on Scent Hive as he is a beloved artist in the indie perfume community. When I first smelled his Cologne du Maghreb last year, I was instantly smitten, but didn’t write about it as it was not available for sale. I am happy to report that Indiescents is now a stockist for Cologne du Maghreb, but according to Basenotes, it is only being produced in limited quantities.
In keeping with my current holiday-citrus theme, CdM is saturated with spirited bergamot and neroli. Unlike many short-lived citrus topnotes, CdM’s expand into the heart of the fragrance where you will also find sleek cedarwood that reveals itself subtly since neroli and orange blossom absolute have been breathed into its grain. CdM evolves into a woody floral at this point, having lost the sharpness of bergamot while still retaining the juicy essence of citrus.
I would have been completely happy and satisfied if that was all CdM had to offer, but am entirely thrilled that 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.
I love this quote from Basenote’s interview with Andy Tauer in regards to CdM being 100% natural. “Essential oils, absolutes, resins and love find their way into this Cologne. Not more, not less. There is no need for anything else.” He also mentions that the flacon for CdM is the one he used many years ago when he began his perfumery. “In a sense, I go back in time, celebrating my beginning with all natural, all botanical perfumery.” Let’s hope this new beginning brings more botanical creations to Andy’s ever expanding- and well deserved- legions of fans.
Andy Tauer’s Cologne du Maghreb is available exclusively at Indiescents. $65 for 50ml atomizer flacon.
Eldena Ruin by Caspar David Friedrich at artmagik.
Disclosure: A sample of CdM was provided to me by Tauer Perfumes. Opinions in this review are my own. I was not financially compensated for this review or any other.