Honey lovers rejoice! Roxana Villa of Illuminated Perfume has created a deliciously honey inspired fragrance that feels at home on the skin whether it’s warm or cold outside. Yet, to call this simply a honey fragrance does not do Mellifera justice as this perfume has captured the entirety of a bee’s life; wood and musk from the hive, resins and spice from propolis, and of course flowers and sweet honey.
Haute Claire is a hyper-real perfume. A turn-up-the-volume-to-11, bordering on psychedelic perfume. Its galbanum is the most vibrant kelly green you’ve ever smelled and the ylang ylang buzzes at a fever pitch. It would be safe to assume that these two powerhouse essences might engage in a battle of wills, but they don’t. They join forces and hum along at a high frequency, one that is spirited and very intriguing.
As expected, galbanum is sharp and intense, but Haute Claire’s creator, Mandy Aftel, has ramped up its musty side which gives some density but in no way mutes the excitement of the ylang ylang merger. Mandy has used ylang ylang co2 in Haute Claire, which according to her allows it to be a top note which explains the nearly electrifying burst of this blossom right out of the bottle.
The concentrated galbanum/ylang duo gives way, but not fully, to the emergence of yet another commanding aroma, honeysuckle. Now I like galbanum, and I’ve learned to appreciate ylang ylang’s place in perfume, but I truly adore the scent of honeysuckle. Mandy has sourced a very rare, Italian made honeysuckle absolute which breathes even more magical realism into Haute Claire.
Imagine the blossoms the moment before they fall upon freshly cut grass. The weight of nectar, dew, and the beginnings of decay aid gravity in their descent. Now imagine that you can feel the pulsating of the blossoms and you wonder if you’re hallucinating. It’s like that.
Haute Claire is as fecund and heady as a stargazer lily, but doesn’t consume the air like that flower is wont to do. Haute Claire wears amazingly close to the skin and even though it might cause its wearer to feel mild intoxication, one would have to step in close to share in the experience.
The drydown doesn’t seem to occur until many hours after application when a downy, almost powdery scent comes to life. It smells a bit like burnt sugar and rose. Mandy has used another intriguing ingredient, *ethyl phenyl acetate, which I have never smelled on its own, but I imagine it, as well as vetiver, contribute to the final softer and gentler Haute Claire.
Mandy Aftel has generously offered a 5ml purse spray to a lucky Scent Hive reader. Just leave a comment and you’ll be entered. Follow Mandy on Twitter and you get an extra entry. Follow Scent Hive and that’s another one. Please let me know about your follows in your comment. Drawing Closed.
*If you are curious about ethyl phenyl acetate, Mandy’s is an isolate from fruit, wine or whiskey. I do believe it can also be derived from petroleum, but not in this case. There is much discussion about the use of natural isolates in botanical perfumes, and at this moment, I feel comfortable with it. I might change my mind, but I encourage you to do what feels right for you. Below is a guide from the Ayala Moriel Foundation of Natural Perfume Course which she posted in her What is Natural? post on SmellyBlog. It is really helpful in sorting out the ingredients.
Disclosure: A sample was sent to me for consideration by Aftelier Perfumes. Opinions in this review are my own. I was not financially compensated for this review or any other.
Image: Le Chevrefeuille by Marc Loret on etsy
First let me give credit to Nathan Branch for the inspiration to take the following photographs. I would never have had the idea to chronicle my experience of opening Liz Zorn’s beautifully wrapped package without his gorgeous blog. When her Soivohlé Natural Artisan Cologne Suite sample set arrived, I wanted to capture the care she had taken to create this artistic moment, no matter how fleeting. So many thanks again to Nathan for allowing me to think of taking these photographs, and to Liz Zorn for crafting a such a beautiful presentation.
Before I breakdown the individual fragrances, I want to express how impressed I am with all four Natural Artisan Colognes. They are unique, fascinating, complex and most importantly, beautiful to wear. Cologne can either bring to mind a masculine fragrance or a lighter scent due to a low concentration of essential oils (and/or aroma chemicals). I don’t know what the concentrations are, but these are not lightweights nor are they strictly masculine. Both women and men alike will adore them.
Ylang n Pepper
The Soivohlé website describes this natural cologne as a dry, semi-floral and I wholeheartedly agree. There is nothing juicy or heady in this ylang ylang flower, it’s crisp and clean and the pink pepper overrides the super-sweet flourishes that tend to accompany this essence. Pink pepper has become rather ubiquitous in perfumery as of late, and in my opinion has come to mean a whole lot of nothing. When I see it listed in perfume notes, it doesn’t necessarily mean the fragrance will sparkle with peppery brightness, or be enlivened with hints of spiciness. Well my friends, Liz Zorn knows how to make her scents spicy, and Ylang n Pepper got spice! There’s also a hint of the citrusy-neroli type floral aspect of ylang ylang that becomes more present in the heart which blends seamlessly with its peppery dryness. In fact, this cologne is so dry, it takes on a woody quality. Ultimately though in the drydown, the pepper fades and the floral sweetness of ylang ylang stands alone.
Vetiver n Guaiac
Can I gush for a moment? I love, love, love this fragrance! I am admittedly smitten with vetiver which explains my preference a smidge. But Ms. Zorn has blended an intricate down-in-the-soil rich cologne that is also exhilarating and radiant as it bursts with lavender, tobacco and spices. Even though I am a full-fledged vetiver-lover, if spicy fragrances are too tenacious or linear, I tire of them and won’t reach for the bottle. As I mentioned above, these colognes are complex, and Vetiver n Guaiac is the most complex of the bunch. It evolves from its spicy, richly earthy opening, to a more grassy and herbaceous, yet powdery heart. Not being a perfumer, my presumption is that the lavender coaxes the herbal quality from the vetiver, while the amber base brings forth vetiver’s powdery side.
After a couple hours of this gorgeous heart, a soft vanillic floral emerges. I had to write Ms. Zorn to ask if there were floral notes in Vetiver n Guaiac, and aside from violet leaf absolute, there is not. The benzoin in her amber base, combined with the vanilla (and possibly the violet leaf) create an unexpected and beautifully subtle drydown. To clarify, the beginning and middle were not subtle, nor would I want them to be. Vetiver n Guaiac has terrific sillage, as do all the colognes, and impressive lasting power, 4-5 hours at least.
Geranium Rose Mint
Geranium scents have a very distinct aroma when they are made with the essential oil. In its pure form the essence is quite sharp and lively, which Geranium Rose Mint is not. The topnotes were surprisingly mellow for a fragrance with the words geranium and mint in the name. Its subtle geranium piquancy leans towards the rosy side of rose geranium, and cedar then makes it all the more easygoing. What was fascinating, is that after about an hour, the breezy menthol-esque quality of the mint came alive rather than in the topnotes. In the drydown this became a cozy, rosy cedar even in the presence of the mint. The evolution of these colognes has been stunning.
Lavender n Patchouli
I can’t imagine that composing the perfect blend of lavender and patchouli would be an easy task as a perfumer. Even the casual perfume wearer can attest to patchouli’s ability to overtake a perfume and kill it, and lavender’s potent herbal nature must be a challenge to balance. But Ms. Zorn nailed this one, as the lavender essential oil, lavender absolute and patchouli neither compete with nor overwhelm one another. Rather, they are harmoniously blended so that they become enhanced versions of themselves, yet more subdued and more wearable than usual. Lavender n Patchouli was also created with Ms. Zorn’s amber base which has benzoin, labdanum, tolu balsam, and lesser amounts of wood and balsam notes. In addition to the woody amber blend, vanilla in the mix creates powdery curves in this herbal and earthy unisex fragrance.
Soivohlé Natural Artisan Colognes are available at the Soivohlé website and are very reasonably priced:
$18 for 0.33oz bottle
$70 for the 4 bottle set
$12 for the 2ml sampler set (photographed above)
My sister’s birthday was a few days ago, and she’s particularly enjoyable to shop for because she loves fragrance as much as I do. After considering the many new natural scents I have come to love over the past several months, I settled on Illuminated Perfume’s Lyra for her gift. Ultimately it was an easy decision because like my sister, Lyra is beautiful, interesting and loved by many.
I have a tiny pot of Lyra, created by Roxana Villa, that I purchased from etsy.com. It came in the Botanical Solid Mini Set, and is housed in the cutest little pink pot with a wax seal on the lid. Knowing that dipping my finger in this tiny pot gives me much pleasure, I am hoping that the full size in a metal compact, presented in a crocheted pouch will be even more special for my sister. The crocheted pouches are made by Ms. Villa’s mother who sells her crafty creations with her granddaughter (Ms. Villa’s daughter) and you can read more about their family’s story here.
Lyra in the solid form is very lovely to apply. It’s smooth and warms easily on the skin. Lyra is described as an ambery floral on the Illuminated Perfume etsy site. I agree with that, but the vanilla aspect of the amber lends a sweetness that softens the scent and polishes any harsh edges that amber will oftentimes possess. A sense of honeyed woods puts forth its own nectar as well, and sparked a wonderful memory in me that I’m certain my sister will remember.
We were both in the Girl Scouts as children and spent some time, not a lot, but some time on camping trips outside Phoenix with our respective troops. My troop leaders loved to have us bright-eyed Girl Scouts smell the pine trees which they named the “Ice Cream Cone Trees” since their bark smelled just like vanilla ice cream. Lyra takes me back to inhaling the vanilla scented bark as a young girl, and the wonderment at how a tree in the woods could smell so sweet. Jasmine and ylang ylang augment the smooth sweetness of this memory and depending on the day, the florals move from tropical lushness to a subtler background foundation. Either way, the evolving blend flows flawlessly on the skin and creates comfort and delight.
Roxana Illuminated Perfume is a gorgeous and bewitching line of 100% all-natural and botanical perfumes to discover. Whether you explore her website, blog or etsy site you will find Ms. Villa’s work inspirational. Please also take a look at the current April 15, 2009 edition of Sniffapalooza Magazine for my review of her Vespertina perfume. There, you will also find an informative and engaging interview with Roxana Villa in the Natural Perfumers Page.
posted by ~Trish
Lyra is available at Etsy for $65 for the solid perfume compact.
Lyra image ©Greg Spalenka, see more at www.spalenka.com and at http://www.spalenka.etsy.com
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
Red Flower was founded by Yael Alkalay in 1999 with a set of six candles, two organic teas, and a vision for people to create ritual and beauty in their everyday lives. Ms. Alkalay’s heritage is Russian, Bulgarian and Argentinean and she acknowledges her lineage within her products. For example, the mint and lavender used in select Red Flower body products are sourced from Cordova, Argentina where her mother’s family is from. She also spent five years in Japan when she was the creative director for Shiseido and one can sense her admiration of Japanese culture just from perusing the Red Flower website. Additionally, there is a Red Flower Japan line dedicated to the traditional Japanese bathing ritual. Ms. Alkalay’s tranquil aesthetic is matched only by the peaceful energy she seems to exude.
Lucky for us perfume lovers, Ms. Alkalay branched out from candles, tea and body products and into the world of fragrance. She has created three USDA certified organic perfumes that contain no petro-chemicals, no phthalates and no synthetics. I will be reviewing Champa here; Ambrette and Guaiac will follow in a few days.
Several floral notes are listed for Champa including champa flowers, mimosa, jasmine, osmanthus and ylang ylang. And while there are some potentially grating choices for me in this blend (I’m talking to you mimosa and ylang ylang), the flower that predominates is a soft spoken champaca. Champaca flowers have several names. Champa is a common Hindi name, as well as the Joy Perfume Flower, since it is one of the primary notes in Patou’s Joy. It is native to Southeast Asia, and the flowers are used to scent rooms, decorate bridal beds, and anoint the hair. Of course the essential oil is also used in perfumery, such as in Joy and in Red Flower’s Champa.
Even though champaca is the namesake flower and predominant note of this perfume, Champa ultimately is a blend of delicate florals that serve as the foundation for a nag champa incense experience. Although it’s not so much the smell of incense smoke or even smelling the sticks of nag champa in their box. Red Flower’s Champa smells of a freshly burnt pile of nag champa ash, which generates a new take on the incense fragrance. Its heart is floral, flowing, and smoky.
Once Champa settles and the drydown emerges, the smoky quality dissipates somewhat, allowing the osmanthus to surface and its accompanying apricot accord. The fruitiness is mellow, with hints of melon. Overall, Champa is a gauze-like floral layered over a smoky beginning and an osmanthus/apricot ending. Very worth trying in the oil-based roll-on version that is small, but easily portable and a little goes a long way.
Red Flower Champa is available at Beautyhabit.