The first time I smelled the raw material of benzoin, I was flush with bliss. The earthy vanillic scent wafting from the glass jar that housed pieces of the resin was pure heaven to me. I was smitten. Even though that evening was over eight years ago, I can still recall the interplay between soft vanilla and dark soil and I wanted a perfume of only benzoin. Labdanum is another cherished aroma for me, and I was able to smell its raw material that same evening. Labdanum is also a sweet resin, but it’s richer with a leathery smokiness that begs to be worn on a cold night. It probably comes as no surprise that both of these resins are frequently used together in perfumery and make up the the backbone of amber perfumes, and Amber Tapestry is no exception.
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:
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.
Los Angeles Report Part II brings us to my enchanted evening at Blunda where Yosh, Persephenie, and many botanical gems were discovered. Before I get to Yosh though, let me tell you about the benzoin! I had never smelled benzoin until this past weekend and could hardly pull my nose out of the jar that held this intoxicating substance which is made from the bark of the Styrax tree via cuts to release the resin. Above all, enticing vanilla wafted from the glass jar. Soft and supple, yet dirty and earthy as if you’d just pulled a piece of wood out of the soil. And the labdanum! I finally got to smell labdanum, another resin, utterly rich and musty. It also struck me as quite leathery with great depth and amazingly animalic for a botanical.
Hundreds of individual essences within Persephenie’s perfumer’s palette remained to be sniffed, but time was short and there was much to smell. Blunda is filled with a delicious array of natural fragrance offerings from Aftelier, Velvet and Sweet Pea, DSH, Artemesia, and Persephenie’s own bodycare line. I could have spent all evening poring over the gorgeous selection. And when one of my favorite perfumers, Roxana Villa walked through the door, I was thrilled not only to have the chance to chat with Roxana, but to experience the fragrances and essences with her was truly special.
Of course we were all gathered to learn more about Yosh Han’s fragrance Winter Rose and the two fragrance installations, Dew and Sombra Negra, she created especially for the evening. Winter Rose is a 100% botanical fragrance that was inspired by Yosh’s travels through Turkey. Four rose attars along with cardamom are in Winter Rose, making for an inspired, authentic and slightly spicy rose fragrance. But it was the evening’s installations that really got my attention. Sombra Negra with its vetiver, patchouli, oak moss, and tobacco went into deep and dark territory that smoldered in LA’s summer heat. A little too much actually. I had to fan myself as I thought how Sombra Negra would be more appropriate in front of the fireplace upon autumn’s first chill. But Dew….Dew was perfection on that hot night. Why don’t more perfumers use fennel? It’s sheer genius with its crisp and refreshing bite. Yosh added honey absolute, citrus notes with lime, petitgrain and neroli and then a hint of sweet floral in ylang ylang. She created Dew in a gel base, which enhanced the cooling effect of the fragrance and heightened the sparkling anise quality of fennel. For those of you interested in purchasing Sombra Negra or Dew, there still might be some available through Blunda if you contact Persephenie.
If you do call the boutique, consider calling in an order for Persephenie’s Linden Blossom Dry Body Oil or the Nanu Lei Fizzy Wonders. I haven’t actually tried the bath fizzies yet because it has been outrageously hot since I’ve been home, but they smell heavenly! A luscious blend of coconut, cocoa butter, citrus, and tropical flowers. I can’t wait for the weather to cool down so I can enjoy an evening’s bath with one of my Nanu Lei Fizzies. I can attest to how wonderful the Linden Blossom Dry Body Oil is, as I have used it several times and it hydrates beautifully and smells like you’ve stepped out of a Maui spa. The linden blossom is warm and citrusy, almost honey-like, and I’m sure Persephenie has enhanced the oil with other citrus elements as well as tropical white florals and a spot of cocount. It lasts many hours on the skin and you can put it in your hair as well where I’m sure the scent would waft sublimely.
Persephenie and Yosh
Blunda is truly an olfactory wonderland. Twice monthly visits (if not more) would certainly be the norm if I lived in Los Angeles. But more than the perfumes, body products and jars of botanical scents…it was the people of these natural perfume enclaves that made my trip exceptional. Persephenie was warm and welcoming; funny and kind. Yosh’s killer smile, along with her sharp intellect and charm-for-days left me giddy in her wake. Roxanna Villa was a joy to finally meet. Her caring, astute, and vibrant nature put me at ease the moment I saw her. And if you read Part I, you know my experiences at Strange Invisible Perfumes and Le Labo were also remarkable. My friend in life and in scent (not to mention fabulous Los Angelean host), duVergne, might be getting another visit from me sooner than she realizes!
Posted by ~Trish
Link to “Pacifica Update” post. Pacifica does indeed use synthetics, and is not transparent about that in their ingredient lists. Until they are, I cannot endorse their products.
Pacifica makes a bold claim on its website. “This is the best Amber in the world.” I am not an amber lover, so I can neither confirm nor deny that statement, but I certainly love their confidence. And I do love their business model. Take a look at the founders’ Standards and Ethics and you’ll know they have a deep commitment not only to the environment, but also to the health of their customers and employees.
Spanish Amber comes in both a perfume solid and spray perfume. I tried them both, and they are very similar in scent and their excellent lasting power. The base of the solid perfume is organic coconut wax, organic soy wax, and non-GMO hydrogenated soy wax. Applying the solid perfume was very sensual. It warmed easily and absorbed well. The fragrance itself is definitely for amber lovers. But fair warning to the amber connoisseur, I would not call this complex or sophisticated. It’s a lovely, soft, straightforward amber that is wearable for even someone like myself who typically shies away from anything with amber in the name. For the first few hours, neither the rose geranium nor the bergamot assert themselves, and the sandalwood is present just enough to provide a gentle footing to assure the amber plays nice. Yet, after about five hours of wear Spanish Amber did evolve somewhat and the sandalwood emerged as well as a hint of vanilla which was not so prevalent in the initial amber mix.
And can I get an Amen? The price of these fragrances is just what the penny-pinching perfumista ordered! $9 for the perfume solid and $22 for the perfume spray. I say go for the perfume solid. They are portable, really cute, and the scent lasts for hours. And if you’re like me and amber isn’t your thing, not to worry, their selection is outstanding. I will be reviewing more of their fragrances since they are so affordable. Pacifica also makes wonderful body butters and candles. Additionally, Pacifica products are free of parabens, propylene glycol, phthalates and lead wicks.
Posted by ~Trish