Highlights of 2009: A Joint Blogging Project

I started blogging about natural and botanical perfumery in 2009, and this will always be the year I began discovering the depths of its beauty. Scent Hive grew out of my love for perfume, but this passion has become more profound since I have been fortunate enough to meet some of the gifted people behind the creations. 2009 gave me the opportunity to meet Ayala Sender of Ayala Moriel Parfums, Roxana Villa of Roxana Illuminated Perfumes and Julie Elliott of In Fiore, all extraordinary women devoted to the world of naturals. Each of them are fascinating individuals of course, but have a common trait of serenity in the midst of their bustling, independently-owned businesses which provide some of the most sumptuous fragrances I have ever come across.

Other perfumers that I have not met face-to-face, but with whom I have corresponded via email and phone quite a bit are Mandy Aftel of Aftelier Perfumes, Laurie Stern of Velvet & Sweet Pea and Dawn Spencer Hurwitz ofDSH Perfumes. All of these women are some of the kindest people you will ever know, and their attention to detail in packaging their orders is exquisite. Opening a box from an artisan who has put much time and love into her creations takes on a deeper meaning in this tight economy and mass-produced society.

It’s challenging to make a “favorites list” as there are so many fabulous perfumes I discovered this year. Nevertheless, I would like share some fragrances, beauty products, and experiences that have made an impact on me in 2009.

1). Reading Mandy Aftel’s Essence and Alchemy was a very poignant experience. Her book allowed me to delve further into the realm of fragrance, and appreciate the power of natural essences as a medium to transform and transcend one’s material world. It also provides a thorough history of natural perfumery and is very informative regarding the essences as well. I know Mandy has inspired many persons to become perfumers after reading Essence and Alchemy, and for me, it allowed my understanding and appreciation of this art to deepen and evolve.

2). Discovering DSH Perfumes’ 100% Botanical Perfume Collection was an olfactory highlight this year. Was I a kid in a candy store? Oh yeah. I wanted one of everything. Epices d’Hiver satisfied my need for a spicy, comfort fragrance this winter, and Yuzu will give me something to look forward to this spring when my citrus cravings ignite. Bancha is not available yet on the DSH website, but is here. I won’t reveal too much as my review is coming, but I will let you know that it’s Ayurvedic in inspiration, and entirely calming and beautiful.

3). Julie Elliott relaunched her body oils! In February 2009 I wrote about In Fiore’s Maia Body Oil, even though it had just been discontinued. Thankfully, Julie listened to the collective sigh of disappointment and has given us Jasmin Supérieur, the Body Oil formerly known as Maia. Julie reassured me that the formula has not changed, only the bottle which is more user friendly as it now has a pump. When I visited In Fiore this fall, I tested all of her Bath & Body Oils (there are seven, pictured above) and left with a bottle of Patchouli Royale which is made with the most gorgeous vintage patchouli from Grasse, France. I still have my bottle of Maia, or else I would have walked out the door with Jasmin Supérieur as well because it layers beautifully with Patchouli Royale.

4). Kahina Giving Beauty, is a line of skincare based on organic argan oil. Founder, Katherine L’Heureux, gives 25% of her company’s profits to educational and women’s rights programs for the women of the Moroccan argan cooperatives, an incredibly generous action. I have reviewed the line here, but wanted to let you all know that I have used this line almost everyday since I reviewed it, and will continue to use this lovely and efficacious skincare regimen.

5). I remain steadfast with Red Flower Guaiac as my favorite citrus fragrance. Its rich, zesty, citrus quality is unparalleled, and the more I wear it, the more I become attuned to its woody aspect. I have had the good fortune of visiting San Francisco three times in the last eight months, and Guaiac has been my fragrance choice for each trip. This uplifting perfume now speaks to me of California, warm citrus, and getting away.

6). Ajne’s Fleur Blanche is hands down, the most gorgeous gardenia fragrance…ever. And I’ll stand by that proclamation too. I’ve introduced enough perfume-lovin’ fiends friends who go gaga over it to know that I’m not the only one who drools over this beauty. It’s creamy and buttery, yet slightly smoky and woodsy, with a luscious hint of indoles. A common (and frequently undeserved) complaint with naturals is that they don’t last long enough. I have never found this to be the case with Fleur Blanche. It lasts from morning to night, and hints of its soft petals can be discovered on your scarf and blouse the following day.

7). I’ve already reviewed Velvet & Sweet Pea’s Body Frostings twice on Scent Hive, so you know I love them. I use them almost every night to soothe my dry hands and to fall asleep with their creamy floral redolence. It’s difficult to pick one that I like the best, since it seems to be whichever one I have on at the time.Kashmir Rose and Tuberose Gardenia usually compete for 1st place, but Orange Blossom edges in closely as I do adore neroli and have been enjoying using this as a neck cream at night.

8). Finally, becoming a part of the perfume blogging community has been most touching to me this year. As an avid reader of blogs such as NowSmellThis, Bois de Jasmin, PerfumeShrine, TheNonBlonde and IndiePerfumes, I feel very grateful to have been supported by them and anyone who has taken the time to read Scent Hive. The perfume-loving community is filled with the most generous, kind-hearted and intelligent group of people a gal could ever hope to engage with. Thanks to Lucy of IndiePerfumes and Jessica of NowSmellThis for meeting me this summer in NYC, you two are fantastic! And Angela, another NowSmellThis writer extraordinaire, thank you for swapping scents and stories over the past several months. And thanks also to Elena at PerfumeShrine for your advice and encouragement when I was getting this ball rolling. You all are awesome.

Please visit the following blogs for their 2009 highlights!

Perfume Shrine

Mossy Loomings

1000fragrances

Ayala Smelly Blog

Bittergrace Notes

Shoes,cake,perfume

Eiderdown Press Journal

Olfactarama

Roxana’s Illuminated Journal

A Rose Beyond the Thames

The Non Blonde

Notes from the Ledge

Under the Cupola

All I am a Redhead

Perfume In Progress

Savvy Thinker

I Smell Therefore I Am


Happy New Year to the Scent Hive community and all of your friends and family.


Gather ye Rosebuds while ye may by John William Waterhouse at artmagick.com
Primavera detail by Sandro Botticelli at visualstatistics.net

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Vetiver Variations: Honoré des Prés and In Fiore

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Vetiver can be somewhat of a chameleon in fragrances. The essential oil from the roots of this grass unfurls as soft and powdery or deep and earthy, sometimes even nutty or bitter. Because it is one of my favorite fragrance notes, I love to seek it out in all of its permutations, and Chaman’s Party and Vetiver Sambac allow vetiver to shine in two very different ways.

 

mail-2Chaman’s Party, created by Olivia Giacobetti, is one of the offerings from Honoré des PrésHonoré des Prés is a new French line of 100% all-natural and organic perfumes that debuted in Europe last year, but is now available in the States. Chaman’s Party is for the gal or guy who wants their vetiver a little disheveled. It’s full of rich dark soil with some bitterness thrown in with its grassy roots. Burnt woods emerge beautifully in the drydown as well as Chaman’s Party’s spices. Cloves and basil are listed in the fragrance notes, and I admit that I would never have pinpointed them without that prompt. But regardless of what they are, the woody spicy drydown, blended with the earthy vetiver is gorgeous.  

 

infioreparfumsolidecompact2In Fiore’s Vetiver Sambac lies on the opposite spectrum of vetiver’s charms. Vetiver Sambac is one of Julie Elliott’s parfum solides, and is encased in a beautiful bronze compact that feels heavy and secure in your hand. As I’ve mentioned in previous In Fiore reviews, all of Ms. Elliott’s products are 100% natural and never contain petrochemicals, parabens or phthalates. Vetiver Sambac begins with a lovely jasmine opening that is full of warm, toasted tobacco leaves alongside dewy floral petals. I don’t think tobacco is actually in Vetiver Sambac, but this attests to vetiver’s superb ability to bear versatile qualities, sweet smokiness being one of them. Vetiver’s balsamy earthy presence begins somewhat like Chaman’s Party, but rather than becoming dark and earthy, Vetiver Sambac emerges as floral and earthy. And it possesses an unmistakably powdery vetiver foundation that is comparable to Guerlain’s Vetiver Pour Elle. A wonderful compliment in my opinion! And how terrific to have a 100% natural option that is readily available in the US.  

 
Vetiver Sambac is available at InFiore and Beautyhabit.

Chaman’s Party is available at Luckyscent, Beautyhabit and Spirit Beauty Lounge.

posted by ~Trish

 

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IFRA 43rd Amendment. A few natural perfumers weigh in.

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The International Fragrance Association (IFRA) represents the fragrance industry and puts out guidelines for safe usage of fragrant chemicals and essential oils in perfumes and skincare. Recently, they released their 43rd amendment, which has caused an uproar in the perfume blogging community. This amendment puts restrictions on the use of several natural ingredients like oakmoss, ylang ylang and jasmine because of their potential to be allergens. For many, this means deep concern that beloved classics like Chanel’s No 5 and Patou’s Joy will either be reformulated or die. Both are unacceptable results for the die-hard perfumista. This is terribly disheartening for me to consider, but makes me nowhere near as concerned as I am for the small independently owned perfumeries’ and apothecaries’ well being. My concern is not purely altruistic of course. The notion of not being able to access what has become my favorite purveyor of jasmine based scents, In Fiore, and many other fabulously talented natural perfumers’ creations, is a fate I simply do not want to consider. 

 

As to be expected, there is much discussion about whether or not the IFRA really has the consumer’s best interest at heart, or if there are possibly legal issues, turf issues, or (ahem) monetary issues behind these restrictions. My skeptical nature says of course that’s the case! In terms of the legal aspect, it seems that a warning label that states: May cause skin irritation, discontinue use if this occurs. In rare event of severe allergic reaction please seek medical care would be enough to cover the perfume companies’ behinds. Has anyone read the label of a hairspray canister lately? I have one that reads: INHALING CONTENTS MAY BE HARMFUL OR FATAL. How’s that for a warning? My skeptical nature also wonders who funded the studies that deemed these natural essences such a public hazard (jasmine in particular) and how rigorously they were undertaken. But knowing that I am not going to overturn the IFRA’s amendment, or somehow get Chanel up in arms to protect their jasmine legacy, I took to corresponding with some natural perfumers that I admire greatly.

 

Let’s begin with Julie Elliott of In Fiore who quelled my fears about her signature essence, jasmine, having to disappear. She reviewed the 43rd amendment, and believes that for her products, the restriction percentages are workable and within a healthy range for skincare and should be fine for her perfumery as well. Ms. Elliott is a classically trained aromatherapist and intentionally avoids potentially toxic and reactive essential oils, or oils with too many contraindications, so efficacy and safety are paramount at In Fiore. Ms. Elliott also does not foresee any problems with her jasmine suppliers and said, “jasmine is the soul of In Fiore so we will do our best to keep them in business.”

 

Ayala Sender of Ayala Moriel Parfums addressed this issue on her blog, Smellyblog. She also does not seem overly concerned about these restrictions, and plans to keep using oakmoss as she always has. And like Ms. Elliott, she is dedicated to keeping her suppliers in business. As she states on her blog, “This is the least I can do to support the oakmoss distillers and to ensure that they can keep producing oakmoss absolutes and that entire families of fragrances will not be erased from the face of the earth.”

 

Roxana Villa of Illuminated Perfumes provided me with a concise and eloquent statement about the restrictions.  Being an artist in several mediums, she feels that if someone were to limit her palette, she would simply adjust to those limitations or rebel. For example, Ms. Villa has created an oakmoss accord constructed from botanical and natural essences, without the use of actual oakmoss or synthetic oakmoss. Because of her dedication to ingredients that are pure, and have a vital life force, Ms. Villa would not compromise her art due to these IFRA restrictions. In the case of the oakmoss, she was able to adjust. But if rebellion is called for, so be it! Creativity and rebellion, now isn’t that the spirit of great art?

posted by ~Trish

Jasmine (original painting) by alisonhinks on etsy.com

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In Fiore: Maia Body Oil (Renamed *Jasmin Supérieur)

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This may seem like cruel and unusual punishment, especially for you jasmine lovers, but Maia Body Oil is heavenly…and it is *discontinued. But keep reading because there is good news at the end. Maia is made by In Fiore, a San Francisco based company founded by Julie Elliott that specializes in skin care and fragrance, using only natural and organic ingredients. Their line includes, among other things, face oils, solid perfumes, skin balms, and the now discontinued body oils. In Maia, Julie Elliott has captured all of jasmine’s desirable facets and balanced them harmoniously. Its tropical lushness is intact, but never crosses the line into a blowsy white floral. Maia plays with the indolic boundary of jasmine just enough to give it full-bodied depth while pushing it away from any hint of metallic tinniness. Yet, I would never call it “animalic” or musky. The bottle’s label states that red mandarin and lavender are also in the mix, but they are woven in quite subtly. The touch of citrus from the red mandarin guides the inherent citrus note from the jasmine, allowing it to gently unfurl. And the lavender might possibly help ground the jasmine, but its herbaceousness is not strongly noted.


Interestingly, a lovely touch of tobacco is also present which quite frankly is intoxicating. So much so that Maia has led me to become a little obsessed with finding the perfect tobacco fragrance.  (Well that, and watching too much Mad Men). The oil itself is very hydrating and sinks into the skin quickly. The scent lasts for several hours, and I love putting it on just before bed. OK, now for the good news. I emailed Ms. Elliott in desperation once I figured out Maia Body Oil was no where to be found on the internet after I’d purchased it from beautyhabit.com. She said that indeed the oils have been discontinued but that she would most likely be making up a batch of Maia Body Balms in March. If any of you are jasmine lovers, I highly recommend getting your hands on a jar. Either that or track eBay like a fiend for the Body Oil, but then you might have to fight me for it.


I will be visiting the store in March to grab myself a jar, and attend a conference for work (oh yeah, that!) and will report back on what I am certain are all of the other gorgeous fragrance offerings at In Fiore. I happened upon this interview, and after reading it, I cannot wait to get a sniff of Rose Noir. Here is the description: saffron absolute, damascena rose petals over a deep rich tenacious base of oud from Assam, galbanum resin, and a hint of rosewood. Just reading about it makes me swoon.


In Fiore is available in a 2oz bottle for $58 at Beautyhabit.com and infiore.net

*Update:  Maia is now Jasmin Supérieur. Same formula, different name.

Posted by ~Trish

Photo by Simian Cephalopod on flickr


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