Saturday, October 29, 2016
This weekend it is Deepavali (or Diwali) and here in Singapore the Indian population is celebrating the most significant holiday on the Hindu calendar. In Singapore it is mandated that the very multicultural population here will have their holidays equally honored and acknowledged. This is great news for residents as not only do we have the mile long avenue of Christmas lights on Orchard Blvd., but we see Little India lit up for Deepavali, lights for the Muslim festival of Hari Raya, and festive street decorations for Chinese New Year. Having lived in India for almost four years I think the colorful lights for Deepavali, always in fluorescent colors of pink, orange, turquoise, gold, and green, are my favorite of the lot for their sheer exuberance and panache.
Deepavali is an Indian celebration with ancient roots as a harvest festival, but also based on legends of various Hindu deities triumphing over their enemy in battle. The name Deepavali comes from the clay lamps (deepa) arranged in rows (avali) placed outside the home to signify the inner light that protects from spiritual darkness. More literally, the illuminated diyas represent the power of light over night and good over evil. Deepavali is known as the celebration of lights due to the tradition of lighting these small terracotta dishes called diyas. The lights are the most significant component of the festive traditions, but there are also colorful rangoni (designs made of colorful powders or sand placed outside the door of the home), the sharing of sweets with friends, the exchange of gifts among family, and offering colorful garlands of flowers in acts of pooja at the Indian temple.
There are many directions I could go when picking a perfume to represent the Deepavali season. One could highlight perfumes that represent the spices at the market, chai tea based fragrances, or heady florals. On our weekly jaunt to Little India here in Singapore for a favored meal of tandori chicken, dal, and roti, the one shopping stop I always make is at one of the little flower carts where they sell the strings of flowers that Hindu devotees buy to take to the nearby temple. Jasmine is the most prevalently used flower and I love to buy a string of the buds and let it scent my house for the two days or so the blooms survive. But for my Deepavali perfume picks I chose two perfumes that highlight the marigold. There are always strings of saffron colored marigold garlands, sometimes combined with the more fragrant jasmine buds, because this humble little flower is significant in Indian culture as an auspicious offering, or pooja, to be draped around the statues of the Hindu gods.
Marigold is a hard scent to pin down, slightly herbal, possibly musty, sometimes sharply astringent. It also has notes of bitter green earthiness. It straggles the line between slightly unpleasant and provokingly interesting, depending on one's taste. It is a compelling choice when used with opulent white flowers as it tends to calm their gaiety and abandon. Just as the makers of marigold garlands often add jasmine or rose to the strings to make the overall scent more beautiful, marigold can play a similar role in perfume. Tagete is the genus name for marigold and it is the name used in the perfumes I've chosen to highlight for Deepavali.
Profumum Roma Tagete is a good example of the tagete note being used to tame the white flower beast. I have never met a tuberose scent I didn't like, and the only jasmine scents I've not cared for were because they were too insipid so no surprise that I enjoy the mostly jasmine opening with a little tuberose added to the mix. But very quickly there is something hiding in this bouquet of white flowers. A bitter edge, like a grass snake rearing its head out of a white flower bouquet, begins to infiltrate all the white flower wonderfulness. The bitter green note shape shifts in and out of the marigold "I smell interesting" mode to the marigold "I smell a little scary" note. You have this juxtaposition of the typical big tuberose and jasmine floral touchdown, with a field goal of pungent marigold astringency thrown in for good measure. Before I decided to write about Profumum Roma Tagete as a Deepavali perfume I was going to do a post entitled A White Flower Perfume for Autumn Wear. The tagete note makes this perfume transitional to me and different from the numerous summery white flower perfumes. The note of the marigold can be quite pungent and for some that might be a deal breaker but to me it just makes it a more intriguing exploration of the white flower theme. Notes of vetiver and moss give this an herbal aromatic vibe, but for most of the wear it is a fairly linear jasmine/tuberose/marigold scent. The perfume lasts for around six hours on my skin.
En Voyage Perfume Tagete Femme is a 2012 creation of the very talented Shelley Waddington, captain of En Voyage perfumery. On my skin the perfume opens with a touch of bergamot and an herbal marigold. Blackcurrant bud gives a juiciness to the scent and notes of orange flower and rose give a slight jammy feel. On one wearing the rose really came forward but the other times not so much, a curiosity I've experienced before when wearing naturals. Notes of vanilla, fruity musk, and tonka appear as middle notes, but this is a very blended vanilla and not a standout note. Base notes of sandalwood, resin, and patchouli are listed but on my skin they are very lightly present. The scent lasts on my skin around three hours, then fades to a soft skin scent mostly comprised of vanilla and sandalwood. The marigold note is not a strong component in this perfume, at least on my skin, and I get the sense that it is a buffer between the sweetness of the floral and vanilla notes, giving this oriental perfume a quiet presence. I would say only those close to you would capture the scent. This is a pretty perfume with a melange of well blended notes that bathes the skin with its golden glow.
Happy Deepavali or Diwali 2016 to those who celebrate the holiday. Does anyone have a favorite Deepavali scent?
Top photo of Singapore Deepavali lights from www.news.asiaone.com. Second photo from www.kids.nationalgeographic.com. Third photo of flower stall Little India mine. Fourth photo of Indian temple with marigold garlands from www.writeincolor.com. Fifth photo from www.humanflowerproject.com of a flower seller in India.. Sixth photo google image. Last photo Little India in the rain 2016, mine. Perfume samples my own.
Thursday, October 27, 2016
The Different Company's newest fragrance Adjatay was mentioned in glowing terms by several bloggers following its debut at Esxence 2016 in Milan this spring. Anytime I hear tuberose mentioned as a main player in perfume, I'm interested. Leather on the other hand can be hit or miss for me. If it works, it's beautiful and adds richness and depth. My skin doesn't always adapt well to leather notes though, and when the note is wrong it can ruin a perfume for me.
The copy on The Different Company website cites this story as the inspiration for Adjatay. Luc Gabriel, who heads the company, said he had a forgotten tuberose flower from a trip to Grasse in his black leather bag. When he later discovered the flower hidden in the depths of the bag, the narcotic qualities of the tuberose had melded with the leather to bring out the best in both materials. He had perfumer Alexandra Monet bring this beautiful partnering to life as a new perfume for the line.
I had been wanting to try Adjatay so when Takashimaya here in Singapore got it I raced over to give it a spray. The first few minutes were not love. Top notes are mandarin and ylang ylang. I have sprayed it several times now and have never caught the mandarin note but I smell the ylang ylang. Ylang ylang can be all over the place when you read people's different descriptions. I pass a ylang ylang tree when I walk the Botanic Garden here in Singapore and its scent really releases at dusk. To me it smell floral, something like jasmine without the strength or indolic characteristic, and with a more musky, sometimes slightly powdery aspect. Occasionally I get slight hints of banana creaminess from ylang ylang. I smell a combination of these facets of ylang ylang in the opening of Adjatay and I enjoy that moment. The leather enters rather quickly, and it is at this stage that I'm not sure I will like the perfume. When the leather first manifests on my skin it has a bit of a funky smell to me, maybe slightly plastic. This is not an uncommon happening when I try leather scents.
But in a mere ten minutes the scent begins to change. Suddenly the leather begins to smell like the finest of Italian leathers, that soft supple bag you've carried forever and just keeps getting more beautiful with age. It is a satiny sensuous leather. This stage lasts for at least an hour on my skin before the tuberose enters the picture. I am surprised at this restraint of the tuberose note as it is known for being a powerhouse. The first hint of the tuberose is a fleeting smell, almost as if it is buried at the bottom of the leather bag, just as Adjatay's creation story illustrates. Slowly the tuberose presence grows and for the next few hours it is a merry dance between the two notes with neither one dominating. I found this a unique marriage of notes, as at least in my experience I've not tried a scent with the leather and tuberose combination before. The leather tempers the exuberance of the tuberose, giving it a more serious air. Conversely the tuberose gives the leather a softer and sweeter appeal. This joining of the two notes insure that Adjatay is a unisex perfume.
Notes like heliotrope, tonka bean, musk, and sandalwood give the perfume a creamy softness as it dries down in the next few hours. I got a full eight hours or more wear out of this perfume. I found that the longer it was on my skin the more beautiful it became, becoming richer, smoother, and more opulent with time. The full name of the perfume is Adjatay Cuir Narcotique and the addition of tuberose to the leather certainly does turn the scent into a softly sensual experience. I really enjoyed wearing this perfume and it is one of my favorite introductions of 2016 as the year draws close to an end.
Photo from Dreaming In Blue. Samples sprayed at Takashimaya Singapore, thanks very much!
Thursday, October 13, 2016
A new fragrance release from DSH Perfumes is always something to anticipate and DSH Perfumes Chinchilla does not disappoint. Dawn Spencer Hurwitz created this animalic perfume as a reference to an era when women donned furs for elegant nights out. DSH Perfumes has a strong selection of retro styled perfumes, and in my opinion Dawn has a real gift for evoking a bygone era of glamour and luxury.
Dawn always writes good descriptions of her perfumes which give a visual as well as scented image. Here is how she describes Chinchilla: "At the Grand Hotel, where the elite and gorgeously tailored meet for soirees, dancing parties, and other hedonistic meetings, the elegant always wear their chinchilla. Dreamily soft, sensuously cozy, and yet so chic; only the finest would do."
Dawn is expert at combining a long list of diverse notes and this perfume is no exception. There are animalic and skin scent notes such as africa stone tincture, ambrette, oakmoss, castoreum, and civet; along with sweeter notes of french beeswax, honey, gardenia, carnation, and rose, but you will not pick out the individual notes for the most part. After the perfume has settled on my skin it smells of a slightly animalic musk with faint wisps of crushed flower petals and thick golden honey.
On some skins the animalic notes might amplify but when I wear Chinchilla it remains more of a cozy, soft, yet sexy skin scent. It feels like it would be the perfect scent for a lazy crisp autumn day; wearing a warm fuzzy sweater, tucking my feet under a cozy fur blanket, settling in for a good long read with a new book or watching an old classic movie. The scent manages to be both cozy and sexy, comforting and beguiling, without ever falling into either camp. I would like my skin to smell like this naturally: warm, musky, sweet and just a touch naughty. Chinchilla could be worn any time. It is elegant enough for a night out, understated enough for daily wear, or the perfect skin scent when you want to smell like yourself, but better!
Top photo www.eslamoda.com. Second photo, Dorian Leigh in chinchilla stole from Maurice Kotler, photo by Guy Arsac, 1956. Third photo google image. Sample sent to me by DSH Perfumes.
Saturday, October 8, 2016
Aroma M Geisha Vanilla Hinoki is the latest addition to the Geisha line. Introduced earlier this year in both an eau de parfum spray and an oil version, Aroma M's founder Maria McElroy created this scent as an olfactory reference to the ritual of the the Japanese bath. In Maria's own words, "When living in Japan, I took a tour over those seven years from one end of the island to the other, experiencing all the wonderful ways of Japanese bathing. The hinoki tubs left a lasting impression on me. This new perfume, Geisha Vanilla Hinoki, is inspired by the hinoki baths of Japan."
Japanese hinoki baths are the marriage of wood and water and provide a complete holistic experience. The tubs are not for cleaning, but for soaking, to provide energy, rejuvenation, and relaxation. Hinoki wood is particularly revered for its strength, beauty, and antibacterial properties. In addition the hinoki wood has a beautiful calming scent that has been described as having elements of lemon or ginger. Hinoki oil is gentle and has been used to calm skin irritations, as a decongestant to help with respiratory problems, and as a tonic for stress.
Geisha Vanilla Hinoki opens with a brightness, but it is toned down by a meditative, almost camphorous wood smell. It is like being in a forest when the clouds above part and a ray of sunshine pierces the tree canopy. Then the clouds again cover the sun, muting its brightness. After a few minutes this brightness fades and the wood smell becomes dominant. It takes about thirty minutes before the vanilla makes an appearance on my skin. The vanilla is soft, maybe a little green, and more like smelling the pods than sweet vanilla desserts. The wood and vanilla seem to merge as one note so that neither one takes precedence; it's a perfect partnering. If you normally shy away from vanilla scents, this could be the one for you. At no point does this ever scream "vanilla perfume" to me. Once the vanilla enters the mix, Vanilla Hinoki becomes more of a skin scent. Words I would use to describe it are contemplative, meditative, relaxing, or mellow.
Vanilla Hinoki's key ingredient is a vanilla that has woody, smokey elements. "I found this luscious Moroccan vanilla on my trip to Tangier a few years ago," Maria said. "When I first smelled the hinoki oil I knew right away that this gorgeous gourmand vanilla would be the perfect partner." Other notes in the perfume include bergamot, clove, cardomom, nutmeg, cedarleaf, lavender, leather, patchouli, amyris, cedar, and hinoki.
When I began my scent journey over ten years ago, Maria McElroy's Aroma M was one of the first niche perfumers I found. I was trying to remember exactly how I discovered the company. Blogs, niche perfume stores, and online perfume chat groups were either nonexistent or small in numbers. But when I looked at the timeline on Aroma M's website, I remembered. In 2006 Aroma M launched an 11 year anniversary coffret of perfume samples, individually wrapped in colorful Yuzen papers like little bon bons and packaged in an exquisite little homemade paper box. Lucky magazine featured the set, and back in those days I used to devour that magazine. When the samples came I was enchanted with the sheer beauty of this little box of perfumed treats, and that was even before I tried the scents! I was so entranced that I ordered several to give as gifts.
When I tried the perfumes I was even more impressed. Maria spent seven years in Japan where she trained in Kodo, the ancient art of fragrance, Ikebana, Koto (Japanese harp), and Zen Buddhism. She came from a background of both art and aromatherapy, which eventually gelled with the geisha-like arts she studied in Japan to inspired the creation of her own company, Aroma M. Maria's line has a very Asian aesthetic running through the perfumes. It is not that they have a similar smell or common note, rather that the aura they create when you wear the scents has a recognizable theme. There is such attention to detail and beauty, a craftsmanship that is hard to find today in our world of mass produced items. The bottles wrapped in stylized Yuzen paper are a wonder. I find that the oils and perfumes in this line wear close to the skin for the most part, although there are some (Geisha Rouge and Geisha Amber Rouge come to mind) that have a deeper and darker presence. They never walk into the room before you but glow quietly, a pretty haze of scent. Vanilla Hinoki follows this tradition.
I asked Maria what customers could expect in the future. "I am currently working on a new scent to release next spring", she said. "It is based on Japanese shiso. I have been looking for a natural shiso oil for awhile, and with the help of my chef husband I have finally found one. This new perfume will also include lilacs and incense. I am having a lot of fun with its creation!" These notes sound very interesting and I'll look forward to its release!
Top photo google image. Other photos from Aroma M website. Perfume samples were provided by the perfumer, and also purchased by me from Luckyscent.