Alexandra Balohoutis, the nose behind Strange Invisible Perfumes, has relaunched her Perfumes of the Zodiac collection. First off, I want to say how much I love the new bottle. It embodies simple elegance, and feels substantial and weighty in the hand. I don’t think I would want to risk this gem bouncing around in my tote bag, but it is a suitable size (15ml) for travel if handled with care.
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
About a year ago I did something I rarely do, I bought a bottle of perfume unsniffed. It was an impulse purchase after reading an enticing review and because I was in need of some extra comfort (I was recovering from surgery) I was particularly vulnerable. I most certainly am not advocating buying bottles of perfume before you try them, but in this case, it worked out very well.
At the time, Dimanche by Strange Invisible Perfumes was limited edition and only available as a pure perfume. Happily, I am able to report that Dimanche is available once again, albeit for a limited time, in both perfume and EDP concentrations. Because I fell so hard for Dimanche in its parfum form, I was quite eager to test it as an EDP. Side by side, the two are nearly indistinguishable and have the same moderate sillage and last upwards of six hours.
Dimanche is as equally intriguing as it is gorgeous and each time I wear it, the sumptuousness and elegance of its unabashedly iris opening validate my retail therapy. When I was first getting to know Dimanche, I found its iris beginning a bit bracing whereas now it feels familiar and its powdery nature becomes apparent more quickly. Once the iris settles into Dimanche’s heart of rose and honey, the floral powderiness emerges completely and beautifully.
Within that floral heart, there’s room for a fistful of honeyed hay, some cocoa and a hint of amber that foreshadows the drydown. If you’re a fan of hay, I can’t recommend Dimanche enough. Its sundried grassiness is the perfect counterpoint to the loftiness of iris. It grounds it, and also makes it wearable throughout the seasons. As you can tell, I am still in love with Dimanche and I’m glad the rest of you have a chance to give it a whirl.
Dimanche is available only at the Strange Invisible Boutique in Venice, Ca. They are happy to send samples $8 for the EDP, $10 for the pure perfume. A 50ml bottle of Dimanche EDP is $270. SIP perfumes are 100% natural (meaning all ingredients are found in nature) and I encourage you to read more about the company’s sustainability practices here. The boutique’s phone number is: 310.314.1505
Posted by ~Trish
Image: Le Moulin Rouge by Toulouse Lautrec
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.
Posted by ~Trish
When we lived in New York City, my husband and I would take the journey to the end of Long Island at least once every summer. There lies Montauk, a quaint, laid back beach town that (at least 10 years ago) was much less glitzy and not nearly as expensive as its neighbors, the Hamptons. My memories of Montauk are replete with salt laden breezes, sunkissed cheeks and lazy evenings strolling by the harbor and lighthouse. I would love to go back there with my husband to celebrate Father’s Day, but since that’s not a possibility this year, a jaunt with Strange Invisible Perfumes’ Atlantic will be in its stead.
According to the SIP website, Atlantic “conjures the classic transatlantic gentleman,” but I think it’s more wanton than that image might suggest. This fragrance would befit a Californian surfer, a Northwest rock climber, or a British rockstar (Sting comes to mind, although he might be the quintessential transatlantic gentleman IMO). Atlantic’s citrus note is exhilarating but with smooth edges, like limes soaked in honey tinged Bay Rum. The amber accord must account for some of this sweetness which I imagine includes benzoin as the fullness of this resin feels palpable to me. Benzoin is one of those unique botanicals that embodies the duality of rich soil alongside vanilla softness. All of these elements are present in Atlantic which blend perfectly with the crispness of lime.
Another word used for Atlantic at SIP, is “smoldering”. I can’t think of a better word for this fragrance. Smoldering because of its resins- benzoin(?) and frankincense- as well as sandalwood. And also because it’s gorgeous and super sexy. Atlantic is fabulous on a man (my husband to be specific) but equally as alluring on a woman. Montauk might not be in my near future, but a bottle of this most certainly is.
Atlantic is available at the Strange Invisible Perfumes website, $185 for 0.25oz of pure parfum.
Visit The Non Blonde for another review of Atlantic.
During the month of May, use code LUVMOM10 for a $20 gift certificate toward purchases of $50 or more on Strange Invisible Perfumes products only. Valid in-store, online, or by phone. See my Scent Hive Facebook profile for more info.
Montauk image from montaukhotels.org
Posted by ~Trish
Disclosure: A sample of Atlantic was provided by Strange Invisible’s PR rep. The opinons in this review are my own. I was not financially compensated for this review or any other.
Lily of the valley is such a precious flower. The way the tiny blossoms hang precariously from their slim stems makes my heart ache just a little. And their glorious scent is beyond captivating, I adore it. A neighbor has lily of the valley in her garden, and I point them out every spring to my boys, hoping they remember to bring a muguet-nosegay to their “someone special” when they grow up.
I wish we celebrated May Day with the floral gusto of the French. I read more about the history of this holiday and the French traditions around it at the blog Everything French Gardening. Give it a read if you are interested. I found it fascinating, and it inspired me to bust out the one muguet inspired, all natural perfume I have, Strange Invisible Perfumes Urban Lily.
There’s a reason I try my best not to read other blogposts on perfumes before I write about them; the power of suggestion. Over at Perfume Smellin Things, Tom reviewed Urban Lily and wrote that it reminded him of cut grass, earth and the scent of lily with a “heaping helping of their (SIPs) gorgeous Musc Botanique.” In the comments of Tom’s review, Scentscelf suggested she might layer Gap Grass and Diorissimo to approximate Urban Lily. March at Perfume Posse expressed her experience of Urban Lily’s evolution as a “honey-hay-beeswax smell with a hint of something peat/leather like narcissus.”
I don’t know if I am easily swayed or if I happened to have the same experience as my fellow bloggers, but I agree with it all! Tom is so right about the fresh cut grass and similar base of Musc Botanique. There’s a vegetal muskiness to Urban Lily that cannot be denied, and while it’s different from Gap Grass, the two perfumes have a common tone. March’s description resonates with me a great deal, as I too find a honeyed-haylike quality in Urban Lily. And yes, a leathery narcissus as well! Thank you March, for nailing that one.
My experience of Urban Lily also includes vetiver, a damp soil-laden vetiver, which unfolds on my skin. The dark richness of vetiver mingles enticingly with the muguet/narcissus springtime blossoms as well as the bright green musk. All of this might sound like a hot mess to some, and it might have been for me if the vetiver didn’t ground Urban Lily so completely.
I am in San Francisco this weekend, wearing Urban Lily on this beautiful day. I’m going to enjoy its scent while I do yoga with my sister and then we’re off to her baby shower at her favorite tea house. I’m hoping to find some lily of the valley along the way.
Happy May Day to you all. I sincerely hope you get to delight in lily of the valley’s beauty today.
Posted by ~Trish
Lilies of the Valley by dsbrennan at etsy.
Disclosure: The sample of Urban Lily is from my own collection. The opinons in this review are my own. I was not financially compensated for this review or any other.
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.
Today is the last day of winter, and as we pass from one season to the next we find ourselves in a moment of reflection. Ayala Sender of Ayala Moriel Parfums has gathered a handful of bloggers to reflect on the remarkable scents that gave us comfort this past winter. Here is my selection of perfumes that provided warmth in the cold months and will continue to nest a sanctuary for me anytime of year.
Bancha is the first fragrance that came to mind when I received Ayala’s invitation. I wore it throughout the winter, and it felt nurturing and hopeful. Dawn Spencer Hurwtiz has named this fragrance after a type of green tea, but it is so much more than a “tea” perfume. It’s lemony and minty to be sure, but is entrenched in rich dark soil that provides sustenance to roots and bulbs, a reminder of emerging life. Bancha is equally as gorgeous and appropriate on a man, my husband specifically, which makes my affection for Bancha even stronger.
Royal Couple by Gabriel’s Aunt, is an overtly floral fragrance that is wearable and cozy. It starts with an intoxicating dose of jasmine, develops into a subtly spicy floral in the heart, and dries down to a gorgeous vanilla base. Royal Couple’s blend of jasmine and rose is impeccable and fortunately comes in a candle to help light the way when it’s chilly, be it from the weather or internal storminess.
A perfume can be a salve not so much because of its notes, but because of the association you have with its aroma. When I wore Ayala’s Hanami for the first time last spring, it was a near magical day at the Japanese Gardens with my young boys. The sun was bursting with much longed for radiant heat and the cherry blossoms were glowing with an otherworldly pinkness. Hanami was on my skin, and its floral notes of magnolia and mimosa made the day even sweeter. Despite its petal softness, Hanami is very grounded with woods, tonka, vetiver and subtle vanilla. So for me, Hanami is a complex fragrance that recalls a tender memory.
Buying a perfume after you’ve gone through turmoil is another way to experience well-being, at least in my scent obsessed world. I did just that after my recent unexpected surgery, as I deserved and needed a new scent to appease my situation, right? One read of March’s review of Strange Invisible Perfume’s limited edition Dimanche was all it took for me to decide what perfume I would indulge in. Thankfully, I concur with her glowing review. In fact, I’m having a hard time using any other perfume these days as I am in full-blown Dimanche infatuation. I agree with March that Dimanche is sharp in the beginning due to iris that isn’t tempered with something soft to round its edges. Instead, bittersweet cocoa and powdery rose heighten its intensity throughout the top and especially in the heart of the fragrance. Dimanche doesn’t settle until the drydown when hay and honey emerge, making for one interesting affair. It gets even more fascinating when the soapy quality of iris surfaces. This might sound like a motley crew of notes, but it works. It’s compelling, rich, and to use an overused word, a little bit fierce.
Chêne by Roxana Villa is a perfume I wished I’d had this past winter. Although it is a chocolate based fragrance, it suggests a similar ambience to DSH’s Bancha. Chêne is dark and rich with oud, woods and resins yet has a piquant vitality that keeps it from becoming too heavy. The base of this solid perfume is composed of cocoa butter, beeswax, and jojoba seed oil which is dreamy to apply, and perfect for the rainy days of spring around the corner.
These perfumes, and the Royal Couple candle, are all natural and contain no synthetics, petrochemicals, or phthalates. Many of them also use organic ingredients.
Please visit the other blogs who are participating in this comforting event:
Posted by ~Trish
“Bird in the Magnolia Nest” by Hadley Hutton available at etsy.
“This article’s title is an homage to Michelyn Camen‘s original article of this same name on Sniffapalooza Magazine in 2008, in which interviewed several perfumers to comment on what botanical elements make their perfumes comforting.
Celebrate Strange Invisible Perfumes’ 10th Anniversary with a 10% off Promotion Code. It’s valid from February 23-March 4, 2010 online. The code is SIP2010. And do visit their new website, it’s beautiful and so much easier to navigate!
Here are some of my SIP reviews if your interested is piqued:
Posted by ~Trish
Champagne, Cupcakes, Jewelry, and Perfume? Get me to the Southwest Airlines website and book me a flight! Have fun you lucky LA peeps. If you do go, let me know how amazing you smelled when you left. So jealous.
Posted by ~Trish