Thursday, March 23, 2017

Travels In Inda: Part Three


Reviewing: Serge Lutens Ambre Sultan, Citadelle by Raw Spirit Fragrances, Andy Tauer PHI-Une Rose de Kandehar, and Garnet by Sage Machado


Jaipur was the third stop on our Rajasthan adventure and I was excited to see "The Pink City". It is much larger than Jodphur and Jaisalmer; loads of traffic, and much busier and more chaotic. We were staying in a beautiful place, Alsisar Haveli, larger and from a more modern era than the previous lodgings. It had a large courtyard which was a calm oasis to return to after a day of touring. 


 One of the main attractions in Jaipur is a visit to Amber Fort. I had thought that maybe amber played some part in the fort's construction or that it was named after the color of the walls, which are somewhat amber in hue, however it turns out I was wrong on all counts. The fort, which dates back to 1592, is a few miles out of Jaipur near the ancient town and former capital of Amer, or Amber (pronounced with the accent on the second syllable). Nevertheless, I carried on with my perfume of the day, Ambre Sultan by Serge Lutens.

               Photo www.flashpackatforty.com
                                                       
Serge Lutens Ambre Sultan created by perfumer Christopher Sheldrake has been available to the consumer since 2000. It is from an era when Serge Lutens was looked upon as a niche perfumer and the perfume quickly gained cult status among amber lovers. I am one of those who appreciate amber in perfumes and this one stays true to the amber note, sprinkling in some extra goodies to make it more interesting. I have noticed in reviews some write about this as if it is a powerhouse amber, but on my perfume eating skin it is rich but never overwhelms and as it sinks into my skin it becomes almost airy in the later stages.

Along with the amber note which is present from the first spray, Fragrantica lists notes of coriander, oregano, bay leaf, myrtle, and angelica root. These provide a spicy lift in the initial opening of the perfume. Very occasionally for just an instant I will smell the coriander note very strongly. It is a sharp smell and although some people don't care for it, it adds life and interest with it's brief presence. Sandalwood and patchouli add substance but do not dominate. Myrrh, benzoin, and vanilla help make Ambre Sultan a rich and resinous accord but the perfume never veers toward gourmand on my skin. It remains lighter than the list of notes might indicate. I believe this is in part due to the herbal notes. I love the way they dance in and out, as quickly as a fish flicking its tail and creating a splash upon the still surface of the water. The herbal notes are that splash of water that makes a statement but then almost instantly is reabsorbed into the pond. As we trudge up the long and winding stone road to the massive gate of Amber Fort, Ambre Sultan seems a fittingly dignified and stately, yet luxurious, representation of the scene before me. Ambre Sultan may lean slightly masculine if you want to label it but I totally enjoy wearing the perfume and I can imagine the Maharajas rocking its gorgeous scent.

Touring the palaces of these Rajasthan cities and listening to the audio tours incites the imagination of how magnificently these royals lived. One feature that was described in all the palaces was the use of woven screens dampened with scented water for both a cooling and an aromatic effect. In Jaisalmer they evidently used rosewater to scent the screens but in Amber Fort they described using screens woven from Khas (or khus).


Khus, or wild vetiver, grows in Rajasthan and Indians prize it more than the cultivated variety. Its fiberous roots and reeds have been used for centuries to weave mats used for both flooring and as screens. In addition to being fragrant it is said to have a cooling effect. In the era when maharajas and maharanis lived in these palaces the mats would have been hung around the open exterior walls. Servants would have splashed water onto the mats so that the chance breeze would provide a fragrant cooling air conditioning action. If no breeze was present an army of servants would have been fanning behind the screens, no doubt. This method of air conditioning is still used in more primitive homes in India today, as well as at some of the open air temples. I love the idea of these scented screens providing an ancient version of home fragrance.

Citadelle by Raw Spirit Fragrances is the perfume I've chosen as a representation of the cooling fragrant air provided by the grass screens. First, a citadel is a fortress or protected city, so what an apt name. Citadelle is a vetiver fragrance but other notes have been added to lighten and brighten the earthy and woody notes of vetiver. I don't really know what the dampened wild vetiver screens smelled like but it is not hard to imagine that the sweet grass smelled less earthy than the distilled vetiver root. The opening notes of Citadelle are bergamot, lemon, and fragrant vetiver which give a bright and happy scent. There is a note of pear which adds a slightly sweet note to the citrus and contributes a softness to help tame the rooty tone of the vetiver. 

Marigold, or tagetes, is a note in the perfume and interestingly this flower plays a big part in Indian spiritual ceremonies. It has a distinctly pungent and slightly acrid scent that I think plays well with the woody notes of vetiver. The Raw Spirit website lists notes of cinnamon and nutmeg but I confess I don't really pick those up. Amberwood, musk, and cedar wood round out the base of the perfume but it is the beautiful Haitian vetiver that really shines. It is rooty, woody, earthy, with touches of green aromatics and gives the scent of nature and tranquility. I can imagine how refreshing a scent such a this would have been in the very hot Rajasthan summers as the grass mats were sprinkled with cool water droplets. Raw Spirits is an offshoot of the Nomads Two Worlds project started in 2009 by photographer Russel James to recognize the Australian indigeneous community, and which has since grown to include other marginalized populations. Recognizing that these communities were rich in culture and tradition, Raw Spirit sources rare or unique natural ingredients from these areas to use in the perfumes while providing an economic opportunity to the community. Vetiver is grown in Haiti and is used in Citadel, as well as another perfume from the line, Bijou Vert.

Image of Hawa Mahal from Foursquare.com

One of the most iconic images of Jaipur is the fantasic pink Hawa Mahal, translated to Palace of the Breeze, or Palace of the Wind. It was built as an addition to the Jaipur City Palace in 1799 to give the ladies of the zendana (women's area of the palace) a place to peer out on city ceremonies without being seen, as strict purdah was observed at that time. The 953 windows gave the wives and concubines of the court many viewpoints, and the windows are cunningly honeycombed with slanted slits that allowed them to gaze downward onto the streets below, yet be completely invisible to anyone looking up. The building, which is a fairly narrow facade, must have been a hive of activity during ceremonies and parades. The holes also provided cooling for the five story building. It was a beautiful pleasure palace, resplendent with colored glass which gave rainbow pools of light inside the confines. It is where the Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh came to spend time with the women of the court and also to keep cool in the summer, as the many openings in the latticed windows provided a breeze.

I imagine these beautiful ladies, locked away in the pink sandstone fanciful wedding cake structure, scented in a beautiful pink rose perfume such as Andy Tauer Phi - Une Rose de Kandahar. Rajasthan has a region that grows roses for distillation. Tauer's Une Rose de Kandahar uses a specially distilled and rare rose oil from Afghanistan's rose growing region, Nangarhar. What the two rose regions share is a dry, rugged terrain that is reflected in the rose's scent and I find that this austere landscape is represented and present throughout the wear of the perfume.



Une Rose de Kandahar opens on my skin with an opulent burst of apricot and rose. This is not an English garden rose with it's sweet fresh scent but something more exotic and dark. A touch of bitter almond is quietly standing behind the curtain as if waiting for its moment.  Bergamot is listed as a top note but here it is not used to provide light, as is sometimes the case. There is an exotic presence about this rose that feels very much at home in my Indian setting. The note of cinnamon starts to add subtle spiciness and brings to mind the markets on the street with huge burlap bags filled with colorful spices. The bitter almond is a thread that runs through the life of the perfume. I have to inhale at my wrist to really capture the smell, but it adds a slightly acrid touch that keeps this perfume bone dry and also makes it interesting, rather than just pretty. Eventually notes of tonka bean and vanilla appear to soften the scent and on my skin translate to a slightly powdery texture, rather than gourmand. Notes of bourbon geranium, tobacco leaf, patchouli, vetiver, and ambergris join the blend over time. All these notes, with maybe the exception of ambergris, lend to the dry and slight earthiness of the perfume. 

I would say that this is a perfume you definitely need to test on your own skin before buying. The descriptions from wearers are all over the place: a gourmand, a patchouli rose, a tobacco perfume. On my skin I did experience most of these notes but it was very completely blended. The rose is there, but I don't necessarily think someone smelling my skin would immediately get that it is a rose perfume. Other than the fruity opening, this perfume wears very dry and it's easy to place it in desert landscapes in countries along the ancient Silk Road. This is a rather more exotic rose than others in my collection and I quite like it.  

 Image from Indulgy.com

Garnet by Sage Machado was another perfume that came to mind when imagining these ladies of the court, peering down from their gilded cage to view life in the palace and on the streets.
I have a few of the oils from Sage dating back several years. She is California based and has been producing perfumes and candles for over twenty years, as well as jewelry. The line has a hippie and bohemian vibe, both in presentation and the actual scents. I don't find them to be complex scents; they're simple and easy to wear, and tend to stay close to the skin. The diminutive size and roll on style bottle make the oils the perfect travel companion. The perfumes are named after gemstones and Sage used flowers and essence to give an olfactory vision of the precious stones. The red garnet reminds me of Rajasthan, where pinks and reds are seen everywhere. Notes are Moroccan red rose, gardenia, watermelon, blackberry, amber, patchouli, and vanilla. I get a slight fruitiness in the initial application, then a floral mix of rose and gardenia which just smells rich, no one flower taking precedence. The patchouli and amber appear fairly quickly (although my bottle is quite ancient so maybe not true on a fresher batch) and reinforce the hippie and slightly exotic edge to this perfume. It's all rather muddled and there is no unfolding of notes but I like the casual amber and patchouli vibe it imparts. In the Indian setting it brings to mind red and gold saris, evening air in the temple heavy with flower offerings and incense, hennaed hands, and arms lined with sparkling bangles. Although it stays close to the skin, Sage Garnet feels very right in this exotic place.

To wind things up, here are another couple of photo taken by me in this city of pink.

Ladies outside Hawa Mahal.

An elephant next to us in Jaipur traffic.

I hope you enjoyed this tour of Jaipur. For more India travel stories and perfume reviews go to Part One and Part Two.

Top imge, David Davis Flickr. All other photos my own unless otherwise identified below. All perfumes are my own.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Travels In India: Part Two


Reviewing Aroma M Geisha Noire, Route Mandarine by Manuel Canovas, and L'Artisan Patchouli Patch.

One has to be determined to get to Jaisalmer, Rajasthan's western most fort city. It is near the Pakistan border and surrounded by the Thar Desert. Because of its proximity to Pakistan no flights in are allowed so it takes over four hours driving from Jodphur through some bleak terrain to arrive at the Golden City. The sand colored fort is visible long before reaching Jaisalmer. It rises above the town like a child's fanciful sand castle and when we arrived in late afternoon it seemed to glisten with golden light. Our driver steered the car through winding streets, heading like a homing pigeon toward the looming fort. He finally drew up outside the impressively large gate and came to an abrupt halt, indicating this was as far as he could go. We were staying at a haveli inside the fort and only the small motorized tuk tuks could navigate the narrow lanes. We piled our luggage into the tiny vehicle and careened through the streets. These tuk tuk drivers only seem to know one speed and it is "bat out of hell" fast.

Entering the nine hundred year old fort my mind immediately flew to a memory from The Raiders of the Lost Ark, when Harrison Ford enters a desert town and walks into a scene of colorful turbaned citizens and merchants clamouring for buyers for their wares. Jaisalmer Fort is probably world's largest living fort, meaning unlike the other forts we visited in India, this one has occupants who live and work inside the walls. One thing I immediately noticed was how clean the streets in the fort were and how many people I saw sweeping to keep them that way. This stood out in comparison to Jodphur where the streets were quite dirty. We held on as our tuk tuk driver maneuvered through the labyrinth of small streets and alley ways, eventually coming to a stop in front of our accommodation.

 Women on streets of Jaisalmer Fort. Google Image.


We were staying in Hotel Victoria, a 300 year old multi-storied mansion hanging precipitously to the fort's outer wall. Our room had a demi balcony that actually jutted out of the fort wall. Sitting there amongst the pillows it took little imagination to picture myself as Jasmine waiting for Aladdin to fly by on his magic carpet. A rooftop patio gave a birds eye view to the city and desert beyond.

That's my balcony at Hotel Victoria, jutting out of the fort wall.

The interior of the fort is quite walkable and dotted with small shop stalls, multi storied dwellings, and exquisitely carved Jain temples. After an afternoon of exploring the fort we had our evening libations looking over the city and watching the sun set like a golden ball over the Thar Desert. I had brought along a decant of Aroma M Geisha Noire, described on the website as "The aromas of an exotic bazaar, the air heavy with spices but grounded in the soothing notes of amber and sweet tonka bean." I've had this for several years so I don't know if it has aged like a fine wine but I found this to be just what I was seeking on the chilly rooftop patio with the overwhelmingly exotic view. I felt wrapped in a pashmina that had been stored in a box with incense, resins and vanilla; supremely comfortable but at the same time enchantingly foreign.

Geisha Noire was launched in 2007 by Maria McElroy, the nose behind the Aroma M line. Her aesthetic is inspired by Japan, but this moody oriental perfume seems just as relevant on my Rajasthan rooftop. It is a balsamic amber, two notes which pretty much guarantee I will love a perfume. I find amber to be warm, sensuous and enveloping, and the balsamic resins only up the ante. Notes of sandalwood further the Indian vibe. Tonka bean and vanilla bring a creaminess to the perfume without adding sweetness. The oil version wears softly but emanates a warm glow for several hours and is even faintly detectable the next morning.

The next morning we toured the palace inside the Jaisalmer Fort. It is small compared to the other palaces we saw on the trip but was still absolutely fascinating. This palace had fallen into total disrepair and is undergoing a renovation the last twenty years. The fort itself is in jeopardy, due many think to modern plumbing. In addition to the Jaisalmer Heritage Trust, two charities have played a big part in this rescue and renovation. The American World Monument Fund placed Jaisalmer on its top 100 most endangered monuments site and channeled a donation into repairs to the Maharani Palace, one of five palaces in the overall palace complex. Jaisalmer in Jeopardy, started twenty years ago by a concerned British tourist, is also helping to try to save this unique little jewel of a fort.



When we came out of our palace tour there was a stall selling my favorite Indian street snack, bhel puri. This food doesn't really have a scent so I can't come up with a perfumed comparison. I'm just giving you the information so you'll try this delicious snack if you're ever in India. It might be worth mentioning that in two weeks of travel, eating at street stalls and small local restaurants, we never had even a whisper of a stomach bug. Just be sure you always drink bottled water.



The next afternoon we went on a camel ride into the desert. I had read warnings online of camel safaris with hoards of tourists riding flea ridden camels practically on top of each other in a small patch of the desert, not the experience I was searching for. I had read good things on tripadvisor.com about Pleasant Havali's camel safaris, so here we were, six tourists sardined into a small jeep, bumping through the desert for a couple of hours until reaching a deserted area where the camels awaited. After riding through the dunes on camels for a couple of hours, totally alone in the vast desert, our hosts cooked our dinner over a campfire under the stars. The desert was peaceful and the golden sunset made the whole place radiate with warm light. For this I was wearing my new favorite, Route Mandarine by Manuel Canovas.  I always miss the bargains at T.J. Maxx but I was lucky enough to pick up a bottle of this back in November. I don't know if Manual Canovas, an exclusive French fabric company, is getting out of the fragrance business as their perfumes seemed to have disappeared from online sites, though their excellent candles still remain for sale. You can pick up this perfume on ebay or a couple of perfume discounters and I would encourage you to do so...it's that good. So what does it smell like?

Route Manadarine's initial note is orange, but not in the zippy, zesty style of a citrus cologne. Underpinning the citrus notes of orange and mandarin are spicy notes of clove and cinnamon which give this perfume a sizzling warmth from the get go. The spices share equal space with the mandarin. I can already smell the amber radiating out and it is this note which makes this perfume smell so golden. It is as if a brew has been created from warm amber, radiant mandarine and oriental spice to concoct this beautiful scent. The scent intensifies the longer it is on my skin; I daresay it smelled even better the next morning after seeping into my skin all night. Middle floral notes include rose, orange blossom, jasmine, ylang ylang, and lily of the valley but the perfume never takes on a flowery vibe. These notes just enrich the beautiful golden brew, blending together where no one note stands out.  Patchouli and vetiver help ground the perfume so that the floral notes don't overwhelm. After hours of wear this still smells like a resinous mandarin perfume, but it keeps intensifying and becoming richer. Base notes of labdanum, vetiver, musk, vanilla, sandalwood make the perfume have a remarkable longevity on my skin.

Photo from www.IndianExcursionist.com

Route Mandarine feels golden. It reminds me of our evening of sitting in the desert on a blanket surrounded by waves of sand dunes, the sand warm from captured sunlight but gradually cooling as the sun sets on the horizon in a radiant display of yellow, pink, and orange. The amber opening of this perfume smells like liquid gold spilling out all around me, keeping me warm in the fading sunlight as the degrees quickly drop and the air takes on a chill. The resinous accords build the longer the perfume is on my skin and their warmth chases away any chill I might feel in the night air. 


Totally by accident we had great timing and were in Jaisalmer for the start of the yearly three-day Desert Festival. This ceremony has no religious significance and is strictly a cultural celebration of desert life, with contests, cultural events, camel races, and camel polo. One of the most eagerly watched competitions is the picking of Mr. Desert, in large part decided by the gentleman who possesses the largest and best mustache. I ran into two of the contestants striding through the fort gate the day before the start of the festival and in this setting they could have easily been extras strolling onto the set of a Game of Thrones episode. They come from the fierce warrior Rajput stock and both their decorative turbans and mustaches are badges of honor. They were an impressive sight, brandishing their swords in front of the ancient Jaisalmer fort. The splendid spectacle made me wonder, how to scent these Rajasthani warriors.

While it might seem they should be in a heavy or spicy cologne, I decided they wouldn't be into such an obvious display of masculine toiletry. I decided to scent them (in my imagination) with L'Artisan Patchouli Patch. L'Artisan takes the earthy scent of patchouli, which is often thought of as heavy and dark, and manages to make it transparent and bright. Patchouli got a bad rap in the 60's and 70's as hippie perfume with an overbearing smell. One of the definitions in the Urban Dictionary is "Patchouli: A plant that smells like a Grateful Dead concert." Perfume lovers know that it is an oil often used as a basenote in perfumes to add an earthy or herbaceous note. Depending on the patchouli it can take on green, woody, and even sweet aspects. 

A scattering of spices--star anise and caraway--lightly enhance the patchouli on the opening of L'Artisan Patchouli Patch. Notes of sandalwood, cedar, and vetiver are enhanced by the earthiness of patchouli. This is a patchouli that has had all the rough edges sanded off and wears like a silk scarf. People who don't think they like patchouli might be surprised to find they can appreciate this gentle rendition of the plant. The reason I chose to scent the Mr. Desert contestants in this oriental perfume is that it does have a light presence, a trademark of the L'Artisan brand. In this case the lightness really works, amping down the patchouli which can sometimes come across as overbearing in fragrances. This smells as if your skin has absorbed the dry pleasant smell of earth and the ambient elements and it has left a gentle imprint. Skin scented with Patchouli Patch projects a light earthy aura. It is airy and elusive, not at all a power scent that feels heavily applied. I can't see these masculine imposing men leaving a trail of scent in their wake but I can see them lightly scented with this gentle fragrance which could be thought of as a skin scent, simple and uncomplicated.

For India travels and scents Part One, go here. and Part Three, go here.

Top photo Google image. All other photos my own unless otherwise noted. Perfume my own.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Travels In India: Part One


Reviewing: Montale Sweet Oriental Dream, Rania J Jasmine Kama, and L'Artisan Tea for Two

My blog has gone silent in February due to unexpected travel. Realizing we had a bit of free time on our hands while in Singapore, with a quick weekend of research my husband and I planned a trip to Rajasthan. Over twenty five years ago I lived in India for a time but never properly got to see Rajasthan, the land of the kings. I was pumped to finally make this dream come true. Had I been departing from my home in the States I would have had countless choices of perfumes or decants symbolic of India to take with me. As it was, I had to make due with samples and bottles with me in Singapore but I managed to come up with a good selection of perfumes that will now forever be evocative of the cities we visited.

Our trip was to start in Jodphur, known as the Blue City for the blue paint that covers most of the houses. Blue is the color of the Brahmins who live in Rajasthan, and it is also said that the blue paint offers cooling properties to the houses and acts as an insecticide. We flew into Delhi and overnighted in a nearby airport hotel. I had forgotten quite how chaotic the traffic was in India's big cities so I happily left Delhi for a flight to Jodphur. This turned out to be a great city to start our journey. The inner city is very manageable for walking and there is no better way to get a feel for a place. We had decided to stay in havelis rather than the grand palace hotels, partly due to economics--they are fabulous but expensive! Also, we wanted to experience a more intimate experience with the city, and unlike the beautiful and luxurious palace hotels which are usually on the edge of town, havelis are clustered near the forts which distinguish the major cities of Rajasthan. Havelis are the old mansions built by India's elite hundreds of years ago, situating themselves as near the maharaja's palace in the fort as possible.

We had picked Singhi Haveli, a four hundred year old mansion just a stone's throw from the magnificently impressive Mehrangarh Fort, and in a happy accident, totally distant from the more tourist area. This was the first sight that greeted me as we walked into the courtyard, rose petals in a fountain, always a good sign for a scent lover!

Singhi Haveli courtyard view.

This turned out to be a great base for our Jodphur adventures. The haveli had unique and quirky rooms, two lovely courtyards--one at ground level and another on the third level, and a small rooftop patio, great for viewing the fort after a day of being a tourist. I found you also meet interesting and like minded people in this more intimate environment. During our stay I often saw travelers sitting in the courtyard patio, sketching, writing in journals, or just reading a book. It was all very civilized, kind of like immersion in a E.M. Forster or Henry James novel.

The view of Mehrangarh Fort from my bedroom window.

We arrived late afternoon so decided to walk the backstreets to the market, rather than trying to see the fort that day. The streets are narrow and twisty. No cars allowed. The small tuk tuks can just fit through but motorbikes or the wandering cow are more familiar sights. As my husband and I walked through the market streets we came across this small perfume stand. Mr. Arora said his family had been in this spot for seventy years. It is called Arora Sugandi Store in the Sarafa Bazar. I sampled several of his oils and perfumes and walked away with small bottles of lotus and jasmine.

 

While I was shopping for perfume, my husband went across the dusty road to get a haircut. It came with a fabulous looking head massage.



The first perfume I wore in Jodphur was Montale Sweet Oriental Dream. This is an oriental vanilla perfume in the loukhoum style. Notes of rose, honey, almond, vanilla, and a touch of incense make this an addictive and exotic gourmand. The notes blend together and although the perfume is sweet it does not strike me as too sugary, just delicious and a bit of a comfort scent. After it has been on for a while and the notes settle down it is like being wrapped in a fluffy pink vanilla cloud with a decidedly oriental air. It fits my mood perfectly that first night as I sit on rooftop, drinking a wine, conversing with some interesting travelers and gazing at the fort. Jodphur is a fairly small and sleepy town, and this scent feels cozy but exotic. Compared to Keiko Mecheri's loukhoum scents, this one seemed less gourmand and more fitting to an Indian bazaar, rather than a Turkish one.

Mehrangarh Fort rises 400 feet above Jodphur, and perched atop a hill it looks impregnable and fiercely magnificent. There is a long climb up the hill to the gate and inside are museums that showcase items that illustrate the opulence of the era. The original fort was built around 1460 and literally carved out of the stone mountain. Other palaces and courtyards were added over the hundreds of years, so there is a mix of architectural styles.

View from courtyard in Mehrangarh Fort of Palace Wall.

Just a small number of rooms retain the original decor but it gives some idea of the attention to beauty that was a part of the Maharaja's daily life. Colorful glass embedded in doors and windows turns rooms into rainbow prisms of delight. Some walls are lined with intricately carved niches for candles, and it must have looked magnificent with the glow of flames at night. The image below is a common room inside the palace and is from the book India Song by London-based photographer Karen Knorr.


After touring the fort we had one more exploration of the market and I came across another perfumer. I was conservative with my buying as it was the first stop on our journey and I assumed I would cross paths with several other perfumers. Sadly this was to be the last one. Mr. Pinto's family also has sold oils and perfumes in the Jodphur market for around seventy years. His shop is Achalchand Punwanchand in the Katia Bazar.  The shop has the soliflore scents but they also mix some of their own formulas. I bought some mitti attar, supposedly the smell of the first rains of monsoon hitting the dry earth, captured in a bottle. Mr. Pinto encouraged me to buy a formula rather unimaginatively titled "W2", a name which reminded me of WD40. It smelled of lush roses, amber, and saffron. I demurred but he put a little on the sleeve of my tunic and this smell would haunt me the rest of the trip. I was an idiot not to buy it; it was beautiful.

Mr. Pinto of Achalchand Punwanchand, purveyor of "Indian Traditional Attars and Perfumes."

 Another perfume on my Jodphur wear list was Rania J Jasmine Kama. I only recently became aware of this brand but evidently this perfume was created in 2013. The Kama in the name of the perfume gives reference to the ancient Indian tome on love, the Kama Sutra. The opening is a delicate dance between bergamot and rose damascena. The bergamot gives brightness and the rose is a mere whisper that flits in and out. The jasmine quickly makes an appearance and smells very sweet and fresh, as if you are standing by a jasmine bush heavily laden with the tiny flowers.  The jasmine in this perfume is fluid and changeable.  At moments it is sweet and photo realistic, then the more indolic notes appear and it changes to dusky and sexy. Jasmine is a ubiquitous flower in India, threaded into chains for temple offerings and distilled into sultry oils for native perfumery.

Woman threading jasmine garland for offerings. From Anthropologie catalog.

The overall feel I get from this perfume is a slightly exotic jasmine, which makes it fit into my Indian odyssey quite well. Notes of rose and heliotrope join with the jasmine from time to time to give it a different scent, so it is not like wearing a straight up jasmine perfume. Later notes of patchouli, sandalwood, vanilla and musk join in to temper the jasmine and give longevity. The vanilla and musk notes are the most prominent to my nose and it is like creamy vanilla/jasmine jam or candied jasmine, if such a thing existed. In the later stages the vanilla creaminess disappears and the sandalwood and patchouli deepen the scent. It reminds me of a jasmine garland draped as an offering across a statue of one of the deities, with sticks of incense perfuming the surrounding air. I find Jasmine Kama to be a beautiful take on the jasmine note and different enough from other jasmines in my collection to warrant a bottle or decant.

India chai wallah. Photo from Flickr.

I took a decant of L'Artisan Tea for Two on the trip. This is a perfume I have flirted with buying and I thought trying it in India might push me over the edge. We were in Rajasthan in February so the days were crisp, sunny and cool. It was wonderful holding a mug of chai, draped in a warm shawl, and slowly starting the day with this warm spicy drink. Tea for Two was created by Olivia Giacobetti in the year 2000. MS. Giacobetti has created many perfumes for L'Artisan including one of my absolute favorites, The Pour Un Ete. She also made Cinq Mondes Eau Egyptienne, which very much reminds me of Tea for Two. 

Top notes are bergamot, star anise and tea, but I mostly get a smokey tea. Middle notes of cinnamon and ginger spice the tea and help give it the classic chai recipe flavor. Base notes of honey, vanilla, and tobacco make the perfume more grounded. This chai scent has everything but milk. I enjoy the deep smokiness of the tea and the spices but it remains very subtle on my skin and fades all too quickly. Although I enjoy the scent for what it is, it wears very linear and never seems to expand on my skin, so I reluctantly conclude that while this perfume might be evocative of the tea ritual in India, it doesn't please me enough to consider adding to my collection. If you like quietly aromatic scents this may be a pleaser for you.

This concludes the first leg of my India trip. Next up is Jaisalmer. For India Travels Part Two go here and Part Two go here.

Perfume samples were my own. Top photo Andrew Miller on Flickr. All other photos my own unless otherwise noted.







Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Tauer Perfumes Lonesome Rider and Lonestar Memories


Growing up in Fort Worth, Texas, the Stock Show and Rodeo was an eagerly anticipated annual event held every January. We actually got a school holiday to go rummage around the cattle barns and gaze at fantastically large pigs and prize-winning bulls. It's a testament to how easily entertained we were back then that we could make a day of this, along with some cotton candy, corn on the cob, and hot dogs. This is the oldest continually running stock show and rodeo in the United States, originating back in 1896. Our rodeo arena isn't too large so you can hear the pounding of the horse's hooves in the cutting competition or the bull's grunts as he struggles to extricate his rider. This is a true rodeo, unlike the sissified event our Houston neighbors hold, where binoculars are needed to see the participants and the crowds don't start arriving until the music concert at the end of the evening. This year I'm in Singapore, not Fort Worth, but January=Rodeo has been hammered into my head for many years now, and this took my thoughts to two particular perfumes, Tauer Perfumes Lonesome Rider and Lonestar Memories.

Lonesome Rider


The idea of the lone cowboy was a constant theme in the early Western movies. There was the well known Lone Ranger, but he had Tanto. Less well known were The Lone Rider movies starring Buck Henry, one man trying to right the wrongs and make the Wild West a safer place. The perfume Lonesome Rider holds to the idea of the solitary cowboy with its beautiful but somber notes and quiet presence.

Lonesome Rider opens with vibrant citrus notes of grapefruit and bergamot, but this moment is as brief as the last flash of the sun before it slips over the horizon. Notes of pepper and clove take the citrus to a darker place and before you know it a leather note pushes the brightness aside. Vetiver gives a whisper of smokey incense. Eventually a rooty iris note joins with the leather. There is also a rose note but I hardly notice it. It is the iris and leather combination which drive the perfume for the majority of its life on my skin. Sandalwood and ambergris will ground the scent as it eventually softens and fades but the iris is a prominent note for me until the very end. Lonesome Rider fulfills its promise of cloaking the wearer in a beautiful almost melancholy perfume which wears close to the skin and is for the personal pleasure of the wearer.

Andy Tauer, the Swiss-based and self-taught perfumer, created Lonesome Rider ten years after one of his earliest successes, Lonestar Memories. For me they are the yin and yang of cowboy inspired perfumes.

Lonestar Memories


Hello, old friend! I had forgotten  how crazy I was about you. That initial burst of bitter medicinals. The smell of leather from well worn cowboy boots only improved by the scuffs and dings, souvenirs of past good times. That smell of sweat from sweet skin which brings back a long ago memory of being a shy teenager and my date casually throwing his arm around me, providing an electric thrill as I breathed in the melange of clean laundered shirt, skin glistening with a light sheen of perspiration, and faint traces of cologne.

The opening of Lonestar Memories features notes of geranium, carrot seed, clary sage, and birchtar. There is the jolt of the unexpected when you first spray; slightly medicinal, bitter, and very dry. The birchtar adds a smokey tar smell. (When I put it on my husband's skin he said, "This is bitumen!") Almost immediately notes of leather appear. This is a dry, dusty leather, not buttery or supple. Just when you're not quite sure what to make of this scent, something stirs, a hint of sweetness or the promise of resins. Labdanum and a touch of jasmine add a wonderfully addictive smell that for me is the scent of sweet sweat. This combines with the leather to make a beautifully rich skin scent; a body clothed in leather boots and vest along with the tang from a sweaty shirt that has also absorbed some nature scents from the air. This has a familiar smell to me--weekend parties from my youth at someone's parent's ranch. Campfires, nearby grazing cows, cold beers, happy faces and starlit skies would be involved in the scenario.

The leather/labdanum/jasmine trio gains momentum and I can't stop smelling my wrist. The myrrh and tonka bean notes join in to add even more sweetness and resins. Vetiver, cedar, and sandalwood provide a smokey, woody landing spot. I get great longevity out of Lonestar Memories.

Unlike the quiet solitude of Lonesome Rider, Lonestar Memories calls for a party. It will draw people in like bees buzzing around a honeysuckle vine. It is laid-back sexy. I'll use one of our states more successful exports as an example, actor Matthew McConaughey. This scent isn't the young Matthew who got arrested for playing bongo drums naked, or the cool dude Matthew that used to throw frisbee on the beach with Lance Armstrong. This is the Matthew that took his Mama to the Oscars, that is a proud husband and father, that has developed a strong social conscience and exudes that air of "I'm comfortable in my skin." That is how Lonestar Memories strikes me and although it is unisex and I love wearing it, this is something I want to smell on my significant other. I think I know what he's getting for Valentine's Day!

A note on the art. Fort Worth is most known for the Kimbell Museum but my favorite culture spot is the Amon Carter Museum of National Art, which has a huge collection of masterpieces from two of the most famous artists of the cowboy era, Frederic Remington and Charles M. Russell. If you ever come our way, have a look. Admission is always free.

*Note: Andy Tauer's web page is down until the end of the month. I will be adding his links after the page is back up.

Top photo by Frederic Remington. Movie poster from Google images. Bottom photo by Charles M. Russell. Perfume samples were my own. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Jo Malone Myrrh & Tonka Cologne Intense


Jo Malone Myrrh & Tonka is the newest introduction to the brand's Cologne Intense line. These colognes are meant to be richer and fuller than the offerings in the main line, which tend to be lighter scents based on flower notes. 

I sprayed myself liberally with Myrrh & Tonka at Singapore Ngee Ann City. Perfumer Mathilde Bijaoui used a lavender top note but it is blended and doesn't stand out as a distinct note to me. The myrrh adds initial warmth and sparkle and is immediately apparent to my nose. Myrrh is a resin from a small spiney tree and Jo Malone copy says that it is sourced in Namibia. Myrrh has an ancient history of being used in religious practice, as well as in Chinese and ayurvedic medicine. I really enjoy the aromatic fragrance of myrrh and I wish that note lasted a little longer. Tonka appears rather quickly and from that point on the cologne is all about the tonka on my skin. Tonka bean can give fragrances a vanilla gourmand feel that leans less sweet and more balmy and comforting. There can also be almond facets with tonka and as this cologne settles both the vanilla and almond notes contribute to the warmth and creaminess. Tonka can remind me of a milder and more subtle version of amber in perfumes and this is true with Myrrh & Tonka.

Jo Malone Myrrh & Tonka is a well done scent and different from anything they currently have in the line, but I found I kept waiting for something else to happen. It developed pretty quickly and then didn't change in the hours of wear. As a point of reference, I am not a fan of Guerlain's Tonka Imperiale.  If you are a tonka fan you may appreciate this but I eventually got bored. If I decide to add one of the Cologne Intense bottles to my collection I will probably go for Velvet Rose & Oud, a gorgeous deep red rose wrapped in a warm Oud.

Top photo from the Jo Malone website. Perfume sample sprayed at Jo Malone boutique. 


Monday, January 9, 2017

Zoologist Perfumes Part Five: Panda, Beaver & Rhinoceros


Panda, Beaver and Rhinoceros were the original perfumes introduced in 2014 by  Zoologist Perfumes, brainchild of  Canadian Victor Wong. Since then five more perfumes have been added to the lineup, all of which I have reviewed except the newest, Civet. I look forward to reviewing it when I return to the States in a month where my sample awaits! I saved these three until the end, partially because I think of them as the originators of the brand, and partially because reading the list of notes, I knew they would probably be the most challenging for me to wear and write about, as pale green scents get eaten by my skin and leather and I don't always get along. While I do know what notes work best on my skin and I wasn't incorrect in my assumption, I found I very much appreciated the craft and creativity of these three perfumes and that there is an appreciative audience out there for them.


Panda


Panda  is, as you might imagine, about bamboo, green tea, and other Chinese elements. Paul Kiler is the perfumer for both Panda and Rhinoceros but some may recognize his name as the founder and creator at PK Perfumes. With Panda, Mr. Kiler took the route of showcasing the panda's surroundings with the perfume notes. Here is part of the description from the website: "Panda is a fresh green fragrance that combines the delightful scents of bamboo and zisu leaves to send you on an unforgettable aromatic adventure. Your journey begins at a quaint Sichuan pepper farm surrounded by mountain streams and then leads you through a forest of osmanthus flowers as you finally make your way into a cozy garden filled with juicy mandarin trees and blooming lilies."

Notes for Panda are:
Top Notes: Buddha's Hand Citron, Bamboo, Sichuan Pepper, Green Tea, Mandarin, Zisu Leaves
Heart Notes: Osmanthus, Orange Blossom, Lilies, Mimosa, Incense
Base Notes: Sandalwood, Pemou Root, Cedar, Fresh Musk, Bourbon, Haitian Vetiver, Damp Moss

The opening of Panda has a mellow bamboo note but the Sichuan Pepper (pandas are found in the Sichuan Province of China) makes a strong and spicy statement. These two notes clash a bit; one smooth and gentle, the other more caustic. This serves to give what could be a bland opening more interest. My nose says this is not a combination of scents it has encountered before. I also smell the zisu leaves (in Japan they would be called shiso leaves) and this has a piquant, green and herbal note. The opening of the top notes lasts some time before the panda begins moving down the garden path, so to speak. I smell the green tea and slight aquatic notes in the second stage before the floral notes appear, a slightly leathery osmanthus and lily. The lily is quiet and understated and not at all sweet. Panda gives me the sensation of breathing fresh air from the bamboo forest, along with gentle notes that lend an Asian vibe to the overall feel of the scent.

Beaver




I usually laugh when I see a perfume note like "fresh outdoor air" but miraculously that is exactly what I smell when I first spray Beaver. This is somewhat of a surprise because I remember when Beaver was originally introduced in 2014 hearing it described in ways that I thought it might be a challenging wear for me. Chris Bartlett is the perfumer and in 2016 he and Victor slightly reworked the perfume, taking away some strong animalic and smoke notes is my understanding, and making the scent less aggressive and more user friendly. I never tried the original, but this Beaver is a very easy-wearing fresh scent.

Notes for Beaver are:
Top Notes: Fresh Outdoor Air, Linden Blossom, Wood Shavings, Wild Vegetation
Heart Notes: Damp Air, DryWood, Light Musk, Water
Base Notes: Heavy Musk, Dark Woods, Vanilla, Amber, Castoreum, Leather

Like Bat, Beaver intially presents the watery habitat of the cute buck-toothesd creatures. I've only come across beavers once--on a canoe trip in Maine--but I remember the fresh air smells, cold river water, wood and forest vegetation. Beaver gives a very realistic snapshot of this scene. The immediate spray of perfume does indeed smell of fresh air, followed shortly by the linden blossom. The linden is not sweet but just adds a slight floral note to the air. After an hour or so of development I get the effect of damp air and cold water. It's interesting because it does bring to mind the beavers home, built of wood and branches in cold rivers and streams. This phase lasts quite some time on my skin. Eventually the fresh notes are joined by notes representing the beaver itself. Let me preface by saying I've noticed in reviews lately that where other reviewers get strong animalic notes in any particular perfume, I invariably find those notes to be much more subdued on my skin, so take this description with that fact in mind. I get very quiet musk and wood scents. A mere touch of dry vanilla appears, just at moments, not present all the time. The castoreum and leather note, meant to bring to mind the beaver's fur covered body and leather paddle tail are very quiet on my skin, a mere whisper.  For me Beaver wears more as a fresh airy watery scent.

Rhinoceros



Rhinoceros has a strong opening on my skin. I get blasts of rum and wood, followed by hints of the lavender and pine needles. Soon the tobacco note comes into play. The tobacco mixes with the rum note to give a darkly rich and fragrant smell reminiscent of humidors.  Wood notes play in the background, but mostly I'm smelling the tobacco.  Eventually a dry leather note enters the mix. This is not the supple leather of a fine Italian handbag. It is the thick, hard armour-like leather of the rhinoceros. This fragrance smells big and bold, and dusty and leathery, and I can see the charging rhino, kicking up dust in it's headlong charge.

Notes for Rhinoceros are:
Top Notes: Rum, Bergamot, Lavender, Elemi, Sage, Armoise, Conifer Needles
Heart Notes: Pinewood, Tobacco, Immortelle, Geranium, Agar Wood, Chinese Cedar Wood
Base Notes: Vetiver, Sandalwood, Amber, Smoke, Leather, Musk

The Zoologist website calls Rhinoceros a "leather stampede" and this seems spot on to me. The copy goes on the say, "Like a wild drunken beast, it cavorts until it comes to settle into a slow, rhythmic yet relentless beat--the rugged, raw aroma of leather. Rhinoceros is a complex, intimidating, and masculine scent that makes a bold unapologetic statement. Go forth and explore your world. Don't ask permission." Although I don't shy away from trying masculine scents, this one, I admit, is just too macho for me. Within about an hour the scent tames way down, and I'm left with mostly leather, musk, tobacco and a touch of rum. Leather lovers, this could be your new scent!

See more reviews on the Zoologist Perfumes line in Part One, Part Two, Part Three and Part Four.

Top photo www.borongaja.com. Next two photos Google images. Perfume samples my own.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Zoologist Perfumes Part Four: Macaque


Zoologist Perfumes Macaque is one of the brand's newer offerings and was released in late 2016. The perfumer is Londoner Sarah McCartney who is best known for her own line of perfumes, 4160 Tuesdays. I was aware that the 4160 Tuesdays line had amassed a large catalog of scents in a relatively short time, but I wasn't aware that she frequently takes on jobs for other clients. Ms. McCartney had heard good things about the Zoologist line and contacted Victor Wong, brand creator, with an offer to create a perfume, and Wong was delighted to accept her offer. Just as Bat's perfumer Ellen Covey has a background at university of studying bats, Ms. McCartney studied primatology at university, so she came into the project with a good knowledge of her subject animal, the macaque. She has also visited an orangutan sanctuary in Borneo and this fact alone makes me think she is an enlightened and fantastic human.  Having lived in Borneo twenty five years ago when the rainforests were still abundant, and now today experiencing the smoke that drifts to us here in Singapore as corporations and farmers burn the Borneo forests to provide more arable land for palm oil plantations, the sad result is orangutans have lost most of their natural habitat. This is a subject I could rant on about but this is a perfume review so I'm going to Stop. Right. Now. Taking a deep breath.

Living in and around Southeast Asia for the past twenty years I've had many encounters with the macaque which is endemic in Southeast Asia. There is a rainforest area in the middle of the small island of Singapore where we often hike and the Long Tailed Macaque make their home there. As Ms. McCartney states in the interesting interview here  from the Zoologist blog website, macaques are one species of monkey that has ingeniously learned that man is a food source. In Asian temples worshipers leave food offerings and the monkeys have found this to be a reliable a stream of ready made meals. When she was creating Macaque, Ms. McCartney was envisioning Japanese temples and the perfume has this tagline: The Forest and the Temple.  My favorite macaque gathering place is Monkey Forest Temple in Ubud, Bali. Bali is a short hop away for us and we went there long before the Eat, Love, Pray notoriety and before the hoards of tourists descended. The monkeys at Monkey Forest Temple are a passel of Artful Dodgers, grabbing sunglasses, backpacks, cameras, or whatever they can steal with their little hands.

Macques at the Monkey Forest Temple, Ubud, Bali.

When Ms. McCartney decided to make a perfume based on the macaque she developed the scent with the backstory in mind of the macaques gathered around a temple, emphasizing green (Asian) forest notes, incense, soft floral and tea notes, and mossy temples.

Notes for Macaque are:
Top Notes: Cedar, Green Apple, Red Mandarin
Heart Notes: Galbanum, Frankincense, Jasmine Tea, Ylang Ylang, Rosewood
Base Notes: Cedarmoss, Green Tea, White Oud, Musk

When I first spray Macaque the green astringency immediately reminds me of trips to Bali or Cambodia and being in the jungle surrounded by twenty shades of green. The dry tartness of the mandarin is futher enhanced by the galbanum, which starts off making a strong green statement, before eventually mellowing into a very natural green aroma. Macaque smells rooty, dank and humid and I can imagine I am walking through the forest, sweat beginning to mist my body, tuned in to the sounds and smell of nature. In addition to the mandarin in the opening I smell cedar, although the apple note escapes me. As the green note softens the frankincense and jasmine tea take the tartness down a notch and add meditative resin and floral notes. In the later stages of wear mossy and musky notes predominate on my skin and the scent gently fades away. I think the perfume succeeds in presenting a scent picture of the macaque's habitat, and offers an easy escape to the green jungle for those currently residing in a concrete jungle.



I found that wearing Macaque revived several travel-related scent memories for me. Macaque monkeys are revered in the Monkey Temple in Ubud. If you ever make your way to Bali, get away from the beaches and the tourists and go to Ubud, the cultural heart of the country. I wish I could make it be as uncrowded and tourist free as it was fifteen years ago, but then it wouldn't have all the amazing restaurants! The Balinese work very hard to pass on and maintain their cultural heritage among their young people and one way I like to support that effort is by attending their traditional dances based on Hindu legends. The Ramayana ballet is performed at various temples and often the cast outnumbers the audience. My favorite part is the kecak fire and trance dance. In the act shown below, the hero Rama has aligned himself with the monkeys to rescue his princess. The chorus of around 100 men represent the monkeys and their voices serve as music in a hypnotic chant while Rama tells the story. Have a look, it's mesmerizing. Skip ahead to the one minute mark if you're impatient.



I enjoyed wearing Macaque. I hope the perfumers forgive me for transplanting its story from Japan to Bali. If I drifted away from the perfume description too much, blame Ms. McCartney and Mr. Wong, as the scent was evocative of past good memories for me!

For more about the Zoologist Perfume line see Part One, Part TwoPart Three and Part Five.

Top photo of macaque at McRitchie Reservoir, Singapore, from www.ecologyasia.com. Photo of monkeys in Bali from www.viator.com. Bottle photo from the Zoologist Perfumes website. Perfume sample my own..