Virgo by Strange Invisible Perfumes

Full disclosure here. My younger son is a Virgo, so I approached Strange Invisible Perfume’s latest fragrance which was inspired by said astrological sign, with a bias for wanting to love it. Knowing that neroli, sandalwood, and mandarin are in the Virgo blend also tipped my inclination I’ll admit, but bias or no bias, this is a gorgeous perfume.

I find neroli to be an utterly enchanting essence that moves beautifully through the seasons. It’s floral, kind of spicy and woody, and in the colder months it takes on a cozy aspect. In Virgo, neroli is all of the above and then some. Its woodsiness is enhanced by the well known sandalwood, and at least to me, the lesser known Palo Santo. Although now, I am this close to ordering  Palo Santo essential oil after learning more about it.

Palo Santo, or sacred wood, is native to South America and is protected by strict government protection. The oil can only be harvested from fallen twigs and branches that have matured on the jungle floor for two years, allowing enough time for the resin to move into the hardwood. The Incas used this precious wood for purification and cleansing and since it is closely related to frankincense, I can imagine it has a similarly intoxicating incense aroma when burned.

Virgo, the sign and the fragrance, are about introspection, precision and comfort. Sandalwood and Palo Santo usher forth the introspection and comfort, while the neroli and mandarin embody those qualities as well but with a crisp and radiant expressiveness.

Neroli infuses this fragrance with a floral gesture and a hint of sparkle- aided by a gentle dose of jasmine sambac- throughout Virgo’s duration. But it’s in the drydown that Virgo’s soothing quality becomes increasingly apparent. Ultimately, it evolves into a cushion of benzoin and vanilla balsams that are as warm as an embrace from my Virgo son.

Virgo is available as eaux de parfum in 1.7 fl. oz. custom engraved bottles hand-painted with sterling silver for $275. It is exclusively sold at the SIP Boutique, but mail orders are welcome. Please call 310.314.1505 for inquiries.

Disclosure: A sample was sent to me for consideration by SIP. Opinions in this review are my own. I was not financially compensated for this review or any other.

Image: A Virgin by Abbott Thayer at Hektoen International

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Scents of the Mediterranean: Strange Invisible Perfume's Peloponnesian


Mediterranean travels have taken me to the shores of Italy, France and Spain. Of course I feel blessed to have experienced the azure waters, palm trees, and restful sun drenched beaches of the Mediterranean in these countries, but I have yet to meet the acquaintance of these waters in Greece or its islands. Greece is the destination I most frequently daydream about, and hope to make its beauty my reality someday.


The Peloponnese is the southernmost part of mainland Greece, and Peloponnesian is the name of an all natural perfume inspired by that region. Alexandra Balahoutis, creator of Strange Invisible Perfumes’ Peloponnesian, has tapped into what I imagine the air to be like in southern Greece; refreshing, crisp, warm and radiant.




The opening of Peloponnesian is brisk and green with woody topnotes courtesy of the oil from cypress twigs and leaves. Hydro-distilled orange and lime bring forth a sparkling clarity to its citrusy temperament while the basalmic tones add depth, warmth and a hint of sweetness. In truth, it’s not much different from SIP’s Atlantic, another gorgeous scent inspired by seafaring masculinity. Peloponnesian has more of a citrusy pop in its opening, making Atlantic’s lime notes feel subdued by comparison.


The drydowns of both fragrances run parallel to each other as they evoke beach-side citrus groves and salt tinged air, Peloponnesian maybe more so on the citrus aspect. But Peloponnesian has a sultry side to match Atlantic’s smoldering scent. If you’re familiar with SIP’s Musc Botanique’s explosive vegetal musk, you’ll find a more subtle take on that sexy botanical frenzy in Peloponnesian. Atlantic has it too, and Peloponnesian’s muskiness falls just between that and Musc Botanique.


Peloponnesian is an alluring scent of the Mediterranean that is beautifully constructed. The balance of citrus, sage, honeyed woods, and botanical musks lull me into my Grecian daydream as it wafts from my husband’s skin or from my own.


Peloponnesian is available at Beautyhabit.com, $160 for 50 ml. There is currently 25% off with the promo code: OPRAH. Good until August 13th, 2010.


Please visit the following blogs for more Mediterranean inspired scents. Many thanks to Ines and Elena for organizing this blog event:

bonkersaboutperfume

ismellthereforeiam

Notesfromtheledge

olfactarama

eiderdownpress

thenonblonde

waftbycarol

thehortusconclusus

arosebeyondthethames

ayalasmellyblog

katiepuckriksmells

sonomascent

illuminatedperfume

underthecupola

perfumeshrine

alliam-aredhead

Posted by ~Trish

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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.

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Strange Invisible Perfumes: Limited Editions

Alexandra Balahoutis has created two Limited Edition parfums this season, Flower Powder and Pure Violet. They truly are limited editions as only 6 bottles of both parfums are being offered, each one numbered. The fragrances are only available at the Strange Invisible Perfumes Boutique in Venice, Ca., but can be shipped if you want to buy one unsniffed.


You should know the notes are a guarded secret though, as Alexandra, the creator of Strange Invisible Perfumes, wants them to be mysterious. The press information I was sent consists of Flower Powder: “A powdery floral with an eccentric sense of innocence.” And, Pure Violet: “Despite the fact that violet blossoms cannot be extracted, Pure Violet will even trick the limbic system”.


Despite the hefty price tags of $440 for Pure Violet and $335 for Flower Powder, the 1/4oz bottles are selling, so if you are considering a special holiday purchase either get yourself to the boutique or call in your order quickly.


Posted by ~Trish


Tangled by  RigbyLane on etsy.com

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Strange Invisible Perfume’s Latest Release: Fire and Cream

fire and cream

Fire and Cream launches today, the newest fragrance from Alexandra Balahoutis, perfumer and creator of Strange Invisible Perfumes. The name Fire and Cream is not so much descriptive of the perfume, but rather of Ms. Balahoutis, as she created this fragrance for herself. Yet, Fire and Cream not only alludes to her red hair and pale complexion, it also refers to the sky one summer evening when Ms. Balahoutis looked at what must have been a gorgeous sunset and thought, “The sky is full of fire and cream.”


Fire and Cream begins with heaps of pure orange, and a healthy dose of herbaceous white lavender. Both hydro-distilled orange and orange blossoms are in the top notes, allowing for a luscious mix of rich citrus, sweet blossoms and aromatic lavender. The herbal quality continues into the heart of the fragrance where frankincense and tuberose enter the picture. I confess that my nose did not pick up these individual notes, (they are listed on the press release), but I did sense resinous and mildly heady after about an hour. I also took note of vetiver which is listed as a base note, but mingles unabashedly throughout the fragrance hierarchy. In fact, Fire and Cream reminds me of Magazine Street with its similar vetiver vigor, (blended beautifully with vanilla) but Fire and Cream is toned down on the sweetness and turned up on the herbaceousness.


Another similarity to Magazine Street is the well-mannered patchouli dry-down that gives both fragrances an earthy yet smooth base. Fire and Cream still remains much more aromatic than the more confectionary Magazine Street, and I do believe it would wear very well on a man. In addition, the drydown comes full circle with a glimpse of its lovely orange opening. Alongside sandalwood, the final unfolding evokes petitgrain, an essence which can easily be worn by a man or woman.


Fire and Cream also seems to be one of those fragrances that will move effortlessly from season to season. The citrus/lavender duo is not overbearing in its liveliness and the patchouli/frankincense/tuberose triad never becomes a heavy floriental. All notes are well-balanced and being a fan of Magazine Street, I am enjoying that it feels like a familiar favorite, but is different in its cologne-esque edge.


So is there fire and cream in Fire and Cream? I’m not sure the name befits the juice in the literal sense, but I do love the fragrance itself and the story of a stunning sunset as its inspiration. But I’m certainly no red head with a pale complexion. I’m a brunette with brown eyes and olive skin. So Alexandra, you’re gonna have to move over…Fire and Cream is mine!


Leave a comment and you will be entered in a giveaway to receive a sample of Fire and Cream direct from Strange Invisible Perfumes. There will be two lucky winners! You will have until Sunday September 20th at 10pm Pacific time to enter. US entries only this time. Good luck! The winners have been chosen.


Strange Invisible Perfumes Commitment (from their press kit):

Strange Invisible Perfumes is committed to respecting and preserving the earth. Its practices as a company, boutique, and manufacturer are vibrantly green. All products are authentically pure and natural. They are completely free of synthetic preservatives, genetically modified ingredients, parabens, petroleum, coal tar, and industrial phthalates. While sincerely recognizing the value of organic certification, Strange Invisible Perfumes adheres to its own standards of purity and authenticity, which are arguably far more rigorous. The company aggressively pursues ingredients that are organic, fair trade, wildcrafted, and biodynamically cultivated, with every ingredient satisfying at least one measure. All perfumes are set in a base of 100% organic grape alcohol. Ecologically sound packaging reinforces its green stance.


Fire and Cream is available at Strange Invisible Perfumes


posted by ~Trish

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Strange Invisible Perfumes: Galatea

jeanleongerome-pygmalion-and-galatea

Galatea begets an image of a bitter-orange tree corridor. Blossoms opening from a balmy night of late spring. Dark silhouettes of lovers loosely hold hands, fingers intertwined. Boozy thoughts dance above them. The trees emit their balsam, finally released from the first true heat of the season. The bark has become balm and essence. It’s a lovely vision, a bit dark in my mind, and this perfume swirls around it like a trance. 

 

I am in love with Galatea and yearn to have a full bottle. Here’s the caveat; one has to really love this fragrance before buying it as it is only available in parfum strength and is $185 for 1/4 ounce. But neroli is a weakness of mine. I adore its sensual heralding of springtime and slightly spicy undertones. This lovely note of neroli, combined with the sweet warmth of benzoin and the leafy-green resinous quality of galbanum have been orchestrated with an artist’s skill and inspiration. Alexandra Balahoutis, the creator of Strange Invisible Perfumes composed Galatea for herself, which might explain why this is such a perfectly blended fragrance. 

 

To clarify, the benzoin used in fragrance is different from the medicinal benzoin which is a skin protectant and smells like camphor. Perfumery benzoin is a resin from the Styrax tree which is native to Southeast Asia. Cuts are made in the bark to release the liquid secretion, which later solidifies into a resin after being exposed to air and the sun. The resin smells sweet and vanilla-like, and according to Mandy Aftel in her book Essence and Alchemy, “people tend to find benzoin calming, seductive, sensual and rejuvenating”.

 

Tuberose plays its part in this perfume as well. But not in the typical bombshell-floral role it’s usually relegated. In Galatea, tuberose has soft curves that cradle the neroli. So subtle is the tuberose, that it only becomes apparent in the base. Providing a richness to the neroli and an evolution for the fragrance to move into deeper territory. But the resinous, booze-like quality that makes Galatea so dreamlike remains constant. 

 

Galatea is available at  Strange Invisible Perfumes.  Strange Invisible Perfumes does not use any synthetically derived chemicals and all of their products are crafted solely from ingredients found in nature. They use organic beverage-grade grape alcohol as the base for their perfumes. 85-100% of their product is organic and they use organic ingredients whenever possible. Please see their site for more on their green mission.

 

Galatea decants are also available at The Perfumed Court.

 

Posted by ~Trish

Pygmalion and Galatea by Jean-Leon Gerome at Explore-Drawing-and-Painting.com

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Strange Invisible Perfumes: Lyric Rain

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Testament
 
   
  Oh, let it be a night of lyric rain
And singing breezes, when my bell is tolled.
I have so loved the rain that I would hold
Last in my ears its friendly, dim refraln.
I shall lie cool and quiet, who have lain
Fevered, and watched the book of day unfold.
Death will not see me flinch; the heart is bold
That pain has made incapable of pain.   
                                               

Kinder the busy worms than ever love;
It will be peace to lie there, empty-eyed,
My bed made secret by the leveling showers,
My breast replenishing the weeds above.
And you will say of me, “Then has she died?
Perhaps I should have sent a spray of flowers.” 

 

Dorothy Parker

 

 

I had read that Lyric Rain is an intensely strong patchouli perfume, so when I experienced a saturated stargazer lily quality for the first hour, I was taken aback. It was as if the giant flower were hanging from my neck, like an albatross. For me, stargazer lilies are dead weight in a room. Suffocating in their pungent nature, leaving no room for any other olfactory experience. This association might not make a lot of sense, but that was my intuitive response. One that was probably reacting to the highly potent patchouli and jasmine blend. But as the experience finally settled, or maybe lifted is a better word, the patchouli became more clear and also more soft.

 

Lyric Rain took on a lovely vintage perfume essence with soothing jasmine flourishes. But keep in mind, this “mellowing” of the patchouli is in comparison to its overbearing beginning. Lyric Rain is a patchouli scent through and through. I’m not sure this would be the fragrance to turn a non-patchouli person into the patchouli lover they want to become. But if you adore patchouli, this glorious gem will evolve on your skin and allow you to experience your beloved patchouli in new ways.    


The above Dorothy Parker poem inspired Alexandra Balahoutis, founder and perfumer of Strange Invisible Perfumes, to create Lyric Rain. As an interesting side-note, I read the poem after I had the stargazer lily association. Lilies are so often funeral flowers. The flowers we bring to graves, and this poem clearly is about making peace with death, and one’s own burial. Maybe that is why this perfume is so laden with patchouli. Ms. Balahoutis possibly wanted to stir the wetness of the earth, which patchouli certainly evokes. And jasmine echoes the pungent nature of lilies, and also the vintage nature of Ms. Parker’s poem. The mix of poetry and perfume is intriguing and emotive. For a wonderful exploration of the relationship between poetry and perfume, please take a peek at this blog that is no longer active, but certainly thought provoking and beautiful.  

 


Lyric Rain is available at Strange Invisible Perfumes and only in the parfum concentration.

 

Strange Invisible Perfumes does not use any synthetically derived chemicals and all of their products are crafted solely from ingredients found in nature. They use organic beverage-grade grape alcohol as the base for their perfumes. 85-100% of their product is organic and they use organic ingredients whenever possible. Please see their site for more on their green mission.



posted by ~Trish


photograph by shteve on flickr

 

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Strange Invisible Perfumes: Magazine Street

magazine-street-w-box3
Magazine Street, the fragrance, opens with what some have called the medicinal note common to Strange Invisible Perfumes. This is the first Srange Invisible Perfumes fragrance that I have found to have a medicinal quality, but it is ever so fleeting and it is not disagreeable. Rather, it is an introduction to the interplay between the earthiness of the vetiver/patchouli duo and the sweetness of the vanilla/magnolia duo. And while the patchouli offers an herbal mossiness, within this dance, it is the vetiver and vanilla that dominate the floor. The patchouli rests quietly at the base and the magnolia flutters gently like a butterfly. Ultimately, both flit away leaving Magazine Street all about the balsamy green vanilla one might be thrilled to wear instead of the glut of foody, cloyingly vanillic perfumes on the market today.

 

Having never been to New Orleans, I cannot muse about the city personally or comment on if the namesake perfume does it any specific justice. But I will say this fragrance could easily be worn on a sultry evening; hold its own in a smoky jazz club and last through several rounds of sazeracs, followed by beignets in the morning. It’s an exceptionally stunning perfume, and I whole heartedly recommend Magazine Street to anyone, not just those who seek natural perfumes. This earthy green vanillic scent will delight you if you wear it, and anyone else who nuzzles in close enough to enjoy it on your skin.

 

Strange Invisible Perfumes creates their fragrances in two strengths, Parfum and Eaux de Parfum (EdP). This review is for the EdP which is less expensive than the very costly Parfum. (Personally I have found the EdPs to last longer than the Parfums anyway). Strange Invisible Perfumes was founded by Alexandra Balahoutis whose shop is in Venice, Ca. Her ingredients are all natural, organic and never synthetic. Please see her website for her comprehensive green mission statement. 

 

Strange Invisible Perfumes are available at Strange Invisible Perfumes and Beautyhabit. Decants of Magazine Street are available from The Perfumed Court.

Posted by ~Trish

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