Thursday, July 27, 2017

Essence of the Park by Carthusia


In winter I like big complicated scents; scents that reveal new layers every hour as if peeling an onion and that speak of spice bazaars, incense filled cathedrals, or pine forests with campfires. In summer though, I like to keep it simple. I like perfumes that conjure descriptive adjectives like nice, pretty, pleasing, or light. It's one of those life dilemmas: this weekend do you feel like diving into a book by Dostoyevsky or Sophie Kinsella?

Carthusia Essence of the Park was a joint project released in 2015 by Carthusia, the small perfumery based on the isle of Capri and the Central Park Conservancy, self-appointed caretakers of Central Park. The story goes that an official from the Conservancy was vacationing on Capri and came across the Carthusia perfume store.  Carthusia perfumes are designed to relate to the flowers and plants of the Mediterranean and it was decided they would be a good interpreter of another park far across the water. Carthusia Essence of the Park was born.

Essence of the Park opens with light and lively greens and herbs. The smell is refreshing and effervescent, as if floating in the wind. I can also catch touches of citrus (lemon, tangerine) and the slight sweetness of honeysuckle. At this point the perfume is very much the sensation of various predominantly green scents growing wild in the park floating toward you as you walk the path. There is artemisia, also known as mugwort or wormwood. It lends an herbal bitterness that makes the scent more interesting.

The first time I tried Essence of the Park it developed very nicely and gave out quite a bit of sillage, lasting the whole day. On the second and third tries I have not been able to replicate these results. When I have differences like that I always wonder, was it something I ate that day? Was my nose clearer? I have no answers but the fact is on the second and third wears the smell was the same but it played out much lighter.

This reminds me a little of Un Jardin Sour Le Toit by Hermes. It opens with a similar green freshness but the Hermes is light green and bright whereas Essence of the Park feels deeper green and a bit moody, as if walking down a tunnel of trees, sheltered from the light of the sun. The florals are magnolia, honeysuckle, and linden blossom. I think both the honeysuckle and the linden blossom feel a little green also, so they blend in well with the greener scents. On my skin the magnolia is very light and doesn't stand out. After an hour the perfume starts to warm up, and by this I mean the smell hums a little as if heated by the warmth of the skin. It's hard to describe but on Fragrantica a couple of other reviewers noted the warmth. At the same time, I think this would be a great perfume to wear in warmer months, first because of its notes and secondly because the green seem like a cool answer to the heat.

Carthusia's Essence of the Park is a mostly green scent with interesting herbal and floral additions, none of which stand out from the main. It gives the impression of various parkland scents floating around and merging into one beautiful concoction. This is not a statement perfume but I found it very relaxing to wear...maybe the green and the connection to nature? The perfume was pretty and undemanding and happy to whisper around me without grabbing attention, and sometimes that is exactly what you need.

Carthusia Essence of the Park can be found at Beautyhabit and CO Bigelow in the US and at First in Fragrance in Europe.

Top photo vintage travel poster. Second photo from the brand. The sample was my own.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Parfum Satori Hana Hiraku



I love "memory perfumes". Those perfumes that at first sniff revive a long buried and forgotten recollection and flash it as if on a technicolor screen in my head. That was what happened when I tried Parfum Satori's Hana Hiraku.  I sprayed and was transported to Galveston, Texas circa 1967. My Mom, Dad, older sister, and I were visiting an older couple I'd never met before, a distant aunt and uncle on my Mom's side of the family. Willie and Estelle were jolly and welcomed us into their modest but comfortable home. My sister and I spent the day hopping waves in the Gulf of Mexico, my first exposure to an ocean. That night we went to sleep in a room whose walls hugged the sides of the fluffy bed, a window unit chugging loudly and blasting the room with cool air. I slept the sleep of the exhausted and the next morning wandered to the kitchen to breakfast. Aunt Estelle had picked a honeydew from her garden that morning and she sliced into the warm round fruit just as I walked into the kitchen. The fruity smell slightly akin to a cucumber crossed with a cantaloupe permeated the early morning air in that tiny kitchen with it's yellow formica table and chairs and ancient Frigidaire. I had never seen the celedon skin of a honeydew before, only the creamy orange of a cantaloupe. New experiences everywhere!

At first spray of Hana Hiraku I smell the most succulent honeydew melon. It is fresh, green, juicy and not really sweet. It is hyper realistic. You will think there is a piece of fruit on your arm. Enjoy the moment because it doesn't last long.  If you are not a fan of melon in perfumes...I'm raising my hand here...then you will find that this moment does not foreshadow the perfume's fragrant story. Like me, you will probably enjoy this fun moment. The melon scent is like a soprano hitting a high note but she is quickly joined by the background chorus of bergamot and galbanum which give that sharpness and a slight fizzle common in chypre perfumes, because here's the thing, on me Hana Hiraku wears like a chypre. Maybe this is my interpretation alone. Parfums Satori calls Hana Hiraku a dry oriental and Fragrantica calls it an aquatic floral.  Granted, the chypre whispers which is unusual, but it is a refreshing change for that genre and makes this perfect for summer wear. This is a Japanese perfume, created by perfumer Satori Osawa for the Japanese market, so restraint is key here. All the notes are there but the volume has been dialed way down. Japanese perfumes have a common thread that make them identifiable but is hard for me to define in words. If you are familiar with Maria McElroy's work and her geisha perfumes for Aroma M or some of DSH Perfumes newer Japanese influenced perfumes then you'll know the style.

After the unusual opening the note of magnolia unfolds. Magnolia can veer different ways for me. Sometimes it's lemony, sometimes it's a non-skanky gardenia, and sometimes it can have an aquatic feel, a bit like the lotus note. The perfume's middle notes are magnolia, jasmine, iris butter, tuberose, rose, ylang ylang, and blue chamomile. This sounds very flowery but the overall effect is blurred and subdued florals. For me the most identifiable of these flowers are the magnolia and chamomile. The tuberose and gardenia don't stand out but other reviewers have experienced this differently. Hana Hiraku softly hums, still with that slightly fizzy warmth, and it retains a demure face as one would expect from a Japanese-bred perfume. I like this combination of dressiness and elegance dealt with a casual and light hand. Every so often a wisp of the melon comes through as if on the wind but it's just a grace note at this point.

The perfume's base notes are unusual: miso, soy sauce, sandalwood, cedarwood, and beeswax. This is where perfumer Satori Osawa creates what she has termed a "dry Oriental". Typical Oriental perfumes have big bold base notes which may include resins, patchouli, or incense. Satori has added scent notes of miso and sweet soy sauce to add an earthly element to the perfume while referencing the interplay of the major notes in Japanese dishes: sweet, sour, bitter, salty, umami. These notes aren't very identifiable to me but I think they are one aspect that keeps the melon and floral notes tamed.

This perfume wears quietly as I've stated but I was surprised at it's tenacity. A couple of times after about five hours wear I thought it had disappeared, only to have it rise up again. I got about four wears before my sample was gone and my appreciation for Hana Hiraku increased each time. I really enjoyed this perfume and now would like to try others from the line.

Here in the USA Luckyscent carries a small number of fragrances from the brand. I want to thank Rhys Y from Singapore who gifted me with a sample when I was there. He told me he had visited Satori Osawa's atelier and that she had given him some samples to spread the word. What he modestly didn't tell me was that he had written about that visit here on his blog The Scent of Man.

Photo from Parfums Satori website.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Watercolor Florals: Institut Tres Bien Cologne Fines


Institute Tres Bien  introduced three floral cologne interpretations in 2016 to add to their original stable of more traditional style colognes. The flowers used are tuberose, rose de mai, and violet. Back in 2004 the company introduced Cologne a la Russe, followed the next year by Cologne a l'Italienne and Cologne a la Francaise. These featured the more traditional citrus and herb combinations. I first became aware of the line around 2007 and bought a bottle of the Cologne a l' Italienne for my husband. Then around 2010 they seemed to disappear. I had forgotten about the brand until they reappeared last year with these new floral colognes. I really love light fragrances when it gets super hot in Texas or Singapore, whichever one I happen to be in, so I was intrigued to try.

Like many niche perfumeries, the origination of Institut Tres Bien is a bit of a romantic tale. Founder Frederic Burtin from Lyon, France, is a trained perfumer/cosmetician and worked for many years for presitgious French brands before discovering a treasure in his own attic, a perfume handbook with a formula for a perfume his grandmother had custom made at her local Lyon hair salon, Tres Bien, in the 1930's. This was the origination of Colgone a la Russe from it's original 1906 formulation. Whether you like these stories or not, there is no denying that the Institut Tres Bien colognes all smell well made with quality ingredients.

Institut Tres Bien Cologne Fine Rose de Mai goes on with that refreshing briskness that cologne lovers expect. The rose is absolutely succulent in the initial spray, yet at the same time light and airy. This is a rose that a man would have an easy time wearing although I really like it for its bracing vigor. There is some green in this rose, as in unopened rose buds, and in fact the Institut Tres Bien copy call Rose de Mai "the delicate one."

Citrus and tomato leaf give the cologne its vibrant opening and zestiness. The rose de mai smells of quality and is nuanced, showing aspects of rose florals and green buds. Blackcurrant bud enriches the rose and gives it depth. Geranium brings out another aspect of rose scent. I always feel it makes rose fresher and veer more masculine rather than a sweet rose. Elemi is in the base and this note is traditionally used in more masculine fragrances to emphasize either tart, sour, peppery or uplifting aromatics.  The cologne softens considerably in the first thirty minutes (as colognes do) but still continues in the same vein.

Institut Tres Bien Cologne Fine Violette de Parme takes what is often thought of as an old-fashioned note, the violet, and gives it a slightly more modern interpretation. On the company website it is called "the surprising one." The violet leaf is apparent in the opening and is very rich and green. The base cologne notes: citron, lavandin, bergamot, petit grain, are more evident to me in the Violette de Parme than they were in the Rose de Mai. 

Wearing this cologne gives that "freshly showered" feel, like you've used a fine soap and its scent lingers. It makes me feel very fresh and polished. Some violets veer powdery or sweet but I find this one to be very unisex. In the beginning green notes are emphasized and as the scent winds down its more woody aspects come to the forefront.

Institute Tres Bien Cologne Fine Tubereuse Absolue was the one from the trio that I was most excited to try. I love my big tuberose perfumes but I liked the idea of a lighter tuberose that could go anywhere.  On the website this one is called "the flamboyant one" but I'm not sure I agree. I am used to tuberose taking center stage when I wear it in a fragrance so this one seems light and transparent to me.

There is quite a bit of citrus in the first spray which takes the bite out of the tuberose. After about ten minutes the creaminess of the tuberose starts to make itself known but the citrus aspects present in the cologne are still quite evident. I can imagine that non tuberose lovers would find this an easy wear as the tuberose has been quite tamed yet you still get that beautiful richness of the tuberose bloom, albeit in a very subdued fashion. Imagine diving in a clear pool with tuberose blossoms floating on top. The water has been imbued with a delicate sense of tuberose and you emerge with a slight shimmer of fragrance clinging to your skin. The tuberose continues to sparkle in a mix with the citron, bergamot, petit grain, and neroli. If you're looking for a significant blast of tuberose I think you'll be disappointed but if it's a whisper you want, look no further. Mind  you, I wear big tuberose perfumes so perhaps my meter of judgement is different from yours. Full disclosure: I liked this one enough to buy a full bottle from www.Luckyscent.com.

I have really gotten into colognes this year and enjoyed all three of these. I also enjoyed the fairly new brand of Berdoues Colognes, which I reviewed starting here about a year ago. Don't expect big sillage or great longevity on these but I could still get traces of scent after several hours wear, although it was personal and I don't think it had much projection. They give a very nice spin on the traditional citrus/herb colognes.

Beautiful painting above available at www.kaysmithbrushworks.blogspot.com. Other photos from www.TresBien.com. Samples and bottle purchased by me at www.luckyscent.com. 

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Zoologist Perfumes Part Seven: Dragonfly


The newest member of the Zoologist Perfumes menagerie is Dragonfly. This time Zoologist's creative director/owner Victor Wong relies on the talents of Juan M. Perez of the Exotic Island Perfumer. Perez lives and creates on the island of Puerto Rico. I first became aware of his work several years ago in a collaboration he did with Shelley Waddington of EnVoyage Perfumes. He is a talented perfumer whose work I admire so I had reasonable expectations that I would enjoy his rendition of a day in the life of a dragonfly.

Dragonfly starts off with an aqueous note then I get a fizz of aldehydes. Could this be the dragonfly hovering above the water, looking for dinner, flitting and flying to follow its prey? The opening also features notes of  heliotrope, lemon, peony, and rainwater. The heliotrope provides a slightly powdery sweetness but this is as translucent as the dragonfly's gossamer wings, and waxes and wanes like the moon. The feeling of being near water persists.

Dragonfly has these notes:
Top: Aldehydes, Heliotrope, Lemon, Peony, Rainwater
Heart Notes: Cherry Blossom, Clover, Iris, Lotus, Rice
Base Notes: Amber, Moss, Musk, Papyrus, Sandalwood

Next I smell the iris note, very dry  and rooty on my skin. The fragrance drifts: I feel the dragonfly hovering over water but then it's hiding among the reeds which is illustrated by a dryness. The overall feeling is light and weightless. There is a mimosa note which provides a gentle breath of subtle sweetness as if from small  flowers, their scent captured in the breeze. The middle wear of the perfume captures this feeling of dry heat with the combination of papyrus and rice. There is a haziness to the scent which gives the feeling of a languid summer's day.


These notes remind me of a trip I took several years ago to cruise down the Nile in a dahabiya. I discovered the scent of the papyrus that lined the shore and of lotus which has such a gentle and aqueous smell. Zoologist Dragonfly reminds me of these river scents and takes me back to that place.

As always, I love the illustration on the bottle and the delicate purple hue the perfume seems to have. Why is tinted perfume so appealing to me? Does anyone else love it?

I love how Victor Wong and his perfumers are able to illustrate "a day in the life" of the various animals and insects they have perfumed. It reminds me of those National Geographic documentaries where they mount a camera on an eagle or some such animal and we see the world from their viewpoint. I had never really thought about how important water was to a dragonfly's survival, but it's where they hunt and find sustenance, as elaborated on in this excellent interview with Juan M. Perez here. I love the description in Perez's interview with Victor Wong about how the perfume is meant to illustrate the dragonfly's day: first light, mid day heat, and evening fade out. I think Mr. Perez achieved this with the perfumes bright awakening, the lazy, hazy middle, then a soft fade out with nightfall.

You can read all my reviews of the Zoologist Perfumes line starting here. Thank you to Victor Wong for allowing me to experience Dragonfly.

Painting by Melanie Douthit Original Art.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Aqua Allegoria Bergamote Calabria


Bergamote Calabria is this year's new entry to Guerlain's Aqua Allegoria line. These perfumes are made for summer's hot weather and are usually cheerful and light.  Last year's entry, Aqua Allegoria Pera Granita leaned more feminine. This year the scale swings back to a slightly more masculine scent.

Bergamot oil comes from the skin of the bergamot which is grown on the southern tip of Italy's boot in the Calabria province. A full ninety percent of the world's bergamot oil comes from this area. Most of the oil goes to the perfume industry and the next biggest usage is for Earl Grey tea.




Bergamote Calabria starts off with a strong burst of neroli and bergamot, no surprise. It is clean smelling in the manner of a really expensive Italian bar of soap. If I was traveling in Italy I would like my hotel bathroom to be old style opulent and I would expect the soap to smell something like this. Soapy citrus is just a smell I associate with Italy. This scent has a zesty opening and would keep you feeeling fresh on a hot day. I picture a man, freshly scrubbed and immaculately groomed, wearing a crisp white shirt, hair still damp from the shower. Bergamote Calabria feels like a little bit of sunshine.


Of course Bergamote Calabria would be just as refreshing on a woman. I am going to Spain in August and everyone seems intent on telling me how miserably hot it's going to be, what a crowded and horrible time to go, and can't I change my plans. (I can't, it's someone's birthday).  I imagine a spray of this would be a good pick-me-up after a day of trudging around the Alhambra.

I like this perfume well enough although it offers nothing earthshaking or new. It is bergamot, petit grain, more bergamot. Then some ginger and cardamom which quite honestly I don't smell unless I really, really use my imagination. Lastly it fades to soft musk and wood. On my skin the initial bergamot opening was quite strong and lasted for a while. After that it just faded pretty quickly to a musk tinged with citrus; that is what the Aqua Allegoria line is meant to do, however, so this is not surprising. They are made to be crisp, cooling, and fleeting. I quite enjoyed the initial opening of the perfume but Fragrantica reviewers disagreed, and I admit, no one is breaking new ground here. However if you're in need of a crisp cooling cologne and want to smell like a wealthy Italian have I got a scent for you.

Top two photos, google image. Last photo: www.thefashiontag.com. Sample courtesy of Tangs Singapore.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Penhaligon's Savoy Steam


Savoy Steam by Penhaligon's  is a new introduction to the line, debuting in 2017 in both eau de parfum and eau de cologne strengths. The perfumer is Juliette Karagueuzoglou.  Penhaligon's is the epitome of British scent, at least in the historical sense. With this in mind it makes sense that they paired with one of London's most venerable hotels, The Savoy. The Savoy was opened in 1889 to immediate acclaim. It was the first London hotel to have electric lighting and an elevator ascending to the upper floors. Most impressive to its guests was the addition of private en suite bathrooms and tubs that filled with a cascading flow of always hot water.

Hammam Bouquet debuted in 1872 and was Penhaligon's first scent. It referenced the Turkish style of baths and the hammam experience. Savoy Steam has a more British modern take on the bath, conjuring deep claw-footed porcelain tubs with gleaming chrome faucets, sitting atop marble floors worn glass smooth by decades of wear.

This is an aromatic perfume and Penhaligon's website describes it as "a steam mist of roses" featuring head notes of rosemary oil and pink pepper, heart notes of steamed rose and geranium, and base notes of benzoin and incense. This perfume is very light and airy on my skin, further emphasizing the "steam" concept. I don't know how perfumers make this happen but it actually does initially smell like steam! I smell the rosemary in the opening and it is joined to a lesser degree by eucalyptus notes. The pink pepper note is mild. The rose steam presents itself fairly quickly but the rose scent is very pale and watered down. I smell the floral note but if I didn't already know it was rose it would have taken me some time to identify it as such. The rose softens the herbal notes. You get that impression of a steam iron on crisp fabric or of walking into a faintly aromatic steam bath. Occasionally I get a whiff of steamed rice but it's fleeting. I find this to be a very neutral perfume. It's not exactly herbal; it's not really rose. It smells clean and bracing. I would enjoy wearing this in the heat of summer or anytime I needed a pleasant pick-me-up but didn't want to broadcast scent. For such a quiet scent it is very tenacious. It lasts several hours but I felt like it emitted scent no more than about six inches from my skin.

The bottle is appealing. I like the readily identifiable Penhaligon's shape although I heard a rumor they may be changing the packaging. I hope not. Although this perfume venerates the Savoy luxury experience, the tie made out of blue and white fabric resembling a Turkish fouta gives a sly nod to the brand's hammam-scented heritage fragrance.

This perfume is fairly simple but I quite liked it. I didn't know when I sampled Savoy Steam that there was a cologne version so I am not able to make a comparison. However, as light as the perfume wears on me, I doubt I would find the cologne to have adequate sillage for the price point. Sometimes it's nice to have a perfume that doesn't project too much, doesn't lean floral or citrus or spicy, that just gives a happy mist of fragrant feng shui to the day. Savoy Steam could be this perfume for me and it has gone on my (very long) buy list.

Top photo from www.Penhaligons.com. Sample from Penhaligon's boutique, Singapore.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Last Day in Indonesia: Durga by D. S. & Durga



I've been reviewing perfumes I wore on a recent trip to visit temples in Central Java, here and here. The final stop on my perfume journey was at Prambanan, the largest Hindu temple in Indonesia dating back to the ninth century, an era when Hinduism was the religion throughout the islands of Indonesia. Today I'll be reviewing Durga.

First to get you in the mood, go all the way to the end and click for a Durga Mantra. The words translate to, "Salutations to She who is beautiful to the seeker of truth and terrible in appearance to those who would injure devotees of truth."

When I was growing up in Texas our church was near a university and had a program where they matched international students with church families. This was long before internet or cell phones so many of these visitors felt very isolated from their home and our job was to help them with the adjustment and offer friendly support.  For whatever reason our students were always Indian and a little older, probably around thirty, and often had their family in tow. They would join us regularly for dinner then return the favor by introducing us to their native dishes. When I was about seven one of the students gifted us with a sandalwood carved statue of  Kali who is one of the faces of Durga, and is known as the destroyer.

Our Kali looked something like this. From the Calcutta Art Gallery.

Bless her heart, my very Southern Baptist mother who was the epitome of a good hostess placed Kali in a prominent position on a shelf in our family room where it remained for many years along side the World Book Encyclopedias. I remember gazing at this strange exotic creature, caught mid-movement in a dance pose, strongly balancing on one leg in a sort of tree pose with her eight arms curved outward like some beautiful dangerous human octopus. I remember thinking, although I wouldn't have known or used this description back then: she was a real badass, displaying a level gazed "don't mess with me" fierceness.

I had been carrying around a sample of the newest perfume by D.S. & Durga, entitled simply DurgaI knew that Prambanan, the last stop on our trip would no doubt feature a statue of Durga somewhere in its sprawl, so decided this would be the perfect venue to experience the scent. The pair that make up D.S. & Durga look like the coolest couple; if I lived in Brooklyn and was twenty years younger I'd want to be their besties. D.S. (David Seth Motz) is the nose and Kavi Ahuja, aka Durga, an architect by training is in charge of design and marketing. I will admit it, I love a good story when it comes to perfume. Call your perfume No. 1, 2 and 3, or something simple like Oud and I yawn. I want a legend, a memory, or an inspiration of place, so when I read the copy on their website, "D.S. & Durga believe in a perfume's ability to conjure unseen worlds." Or this one, "A great scent is a world you can return to over and over - a keyhole into another realm." Yes and yes! These people are speaking my language! Their inspirations are diverse. First it was cowboys and pioneers, then Russian novels. Under their Hylands brand name they've explored Scotland, and most recently India has served as inspiration. India was my first experience living abroad, it was my home for four years, and where my babies began their life so it will always hold a special place in my heart. I admit when a perfume has Indian roots I am already half in love; it is up to the perfume to lose my interest because I'm just waiting to embrace it.

Durga is not the powerhouse I am expecting when I first apply. Mind you, my skin seems to annihilate floral notes so I'm a friend to big perfumes.  I smell tuberose immediately and for half a second it has that mentholated smell that can present with tuberose, but then poof, it's gone. The tuberose is green and balmy, but for the moment the note is contained as if being held in check. After a few minutes a slightly discordant note enters. By discordant I don't mean unpleasant, it is a different aura from the white flower scent. At first I think it is marigold but by the perfumer's list I see it is chrysanthemum, a close cousin. I always feel like we in the West look at marigolds and chrysanthemum as second class flowers, but in the East they are valued for their bright colors and given special significance in religious ceremonies. I find the note they lend perfumes a little acrid and herbal, and it definitely takes what could be a white floral extravaganza to a more Eastern vibe with hints of spirituality.  So far this has my interest because there are already a lot of straight tuberose scented perfumes out there. Melon is listed as a note but I don't smell it, and I'm rather pleased at that. Not my favorite note. There is just a whisper of fresh greenness like a honeydew, so maybe it is subtly lifting the scent.

About an hour into the wear notes of orange blossom and jasmine join the tuberose but the three marry well and it's like a beautiful white flower pudding. The florals are amplifying nicely, as if the warmth of my skin is making them bloom. Perhaps the tuberose is still slightly dominate but it's definitely a blend. The ylang ylang and orris butter add creamy warmth to the florals and velvet softness. Durga rises and wanes in strength. Sometimes the white flowers feel tipsy and narcotic. Other times they calm and the ylang ylang scent of powder creaminess takes charge. Occasionally, though, the dry scent of the chrysanthemum cuts through the florals, grounding their sweetness and certainly bringing Durga into unisex perfume territory.

If you will allow me to wax poetic using my very limited knowledge of the complexities of the Hindu religion, one could say that this yin and yang between the sweet heady florals and the more stern earthy chrysanthemum is just another way to illustrate Durga, the goddess of divine power and energy, but also a warrior goddess sometime pictured riding atop a lion. She is a multi-dimensional goddess with many faces, including beauty and knowledge. But the word durga means fortress and Durga can also be a fierce warrior when battling evil, which is her main purpose. I like to think that the florals in Durga represent the sweet and beautiful side of the goddess, more as she is pictured in the top photo. But the earthy chrysanthemum that cuts through the prettiness is a reminder that Durga can be ferocious when riled.

Durga is a compelling perfume with a story to tell if you want, or just enjoy it for a beautiful white floral perfume with a secret hidden in its depths.





Youtube video from https://dhyaanguru.com/. Top photo google image. Purfume sample was my own, purchased from Twisted Lily.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Indonesia Day 2: The Hindu Site of Prambanan with Kerala Ashok Garden and Hindu Honeysuckle


After seeing the Buddhist temple  Borobudur at the beginning of our Indonesian getaway, the next day my husband and I went a few miles away to visit the ancient Hindu site of Prambanan, also located near Yogyakarta. This temple complex was built as the Hindu religion moved into Java, overtaking and forcing out the practice of Buddhism. It is a large complex with three major temples dedicated to Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva; the Creator, the Preserver and the Destroyer. There are hundreds of smaller temples in the surrounding park, many reduced to rubble as this area is home to earthquakes as well as volcanic eruptions.

Prambahan is a UNESCO World Heritage Site today but for centuries it lay in ruins, virtually destroyed by an earthquake in the 16th century. The Dutch partially rebuilt it in the 1800s and more recently it was damaged in a 2006 earthquake. Today it is still an awe inspiring sight and during the six months of the dry season the Ramayana ballet is performed in front of the temples in an outdoor setting. The Ramayana is an ancient epic story of the divine Hindu prince Rama's struggle to rescue his wife Sita from the demon king. In ancient Javanese court the verses were set to dance. I had carefully planned our timing to be well into dry season and this is what I hoped to see:


We were seated, I was waiting with anticipation, then the heavens opened up and we were soaked with rain. The whole affair got moved inside, and while it was still a stunning performance it just wasn't as evocative as it should have been in front of the trio of lighted temples.

I may have been in Java, but I was seeing a Hindu play at a Hindu temple so I chose to wear perfumes that reminded me of India, one during the day and the other during the night performance. Yes, I am that crazy serious about matching my perfumes with experiences. I wore Lisa Hoffman's Kerala Ashok Garden first. I have owned the convenient 15 ml travel size of this perfume for some time but it had gotten lost in the depths of my drawer full of perfume decants and samples and I hadn't sprayed it in ages. I was blown away by its beautiful and realistic jasmine scent. The copy at the Lisa Hoffman (Dustin's wife) website talks about a mixture of florals with ripe sweet fruits, and also mentions the sacred Kerala ashok bloom, but nah! This is straight up beautiful jasmine and evidently the fine folks at Fragrantica agree with me. Click the link and on the left are the perfumer's notes: apricot, pear, green apple, violet, jasmine, amber, musk, and so on. On the right where people like you and I say what we smell there is only one note, jasmine. And that's perfectly okay when it's a beautiful jasmine like this one.

The initial burst of jasmine is joyful and ebullient. It smells very realistic as if you've passed through a grove of jasmine bushes at dusk when their scent is radiating out most strongly. This is a green effervescent jasmine; no indolic scent or skank to be found. The floral is sweet and dances on the edge of being indolent but never quite goes there. Kerala Ashok Garden portrays all the best aspects of jasmine; a swoony floral, bright and effervescent, uplifting. It is a mood altering jasmine. Jasmine is used in aromatherapy as mood lifter and is said to bring joy and happiness. That is the feeling I get with Kerala Ashok, it makes me feel joyful and I believe this is because it smells so much like the real scent of the flowers.

It doesn't change much over the hours of wear but that's not a negative for me because I love it. It is also very reasonably priced. Ms. Hoffman sells off her own website as well as other sites like Dermstore.com. She also sells fragrance jewelry where scented beads are worn inside lockets on bracelets or necklaces. Now that I have reminded myself how much I like this I'll be reaching for it often this summer.

Hindu Honeysuckle by Providence Perfume Company  is a very different sort of scent from Kerala Ashok Garden. Whereas the Kerala Ashok Garden is green and floaty, Hindu Honeysuckle is a deeper, duskier perfume.  I've seen some people review it as a very realistic honeysuckle but to me it is an abstract version of that flower. Some reviewers talk about the radiant jasmine note but I'm not getting that. I've had my bottle for a few years and it is a natural perfume so possibly could have lost some of the notes but this is pretty much how I remember it. The floral is muddled and honeyed. Evidently is is difficult and extremely expensive to attain pure honeysuckle oil so perfumers use other notes to replicate the scent. Charna Ethier, perfumer and owner at Providence Perfumes, used jasmine, rose, and bergamot among other notes to give a honeysuckle accord.  There is a very honeyed floral at first spray but there is also a piquant note that gives it the slightly Eastern vibe. There is a coriander note which may provide this tang, but I can really smell the ambrette. If you've ever smelled Red Flower Ambrette, the note is similar. This perfume wears quietly and longevity is about three hours. I enjoy the far east spin on a common floral.

Top photo www.timetravelturtle.com. Ramayana photo: www.safira'sjourney.com. Perfumes my own.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

A Day in Borobudur with Monsillage Pays Dogon


Am I the only one that plans what perfumes I will take on a trip, trying to calculate which ones will compliment the location and mood of the place? A perfume that maybe with luck will be a reminder of a great trip every time I catch its scent? My husband and I had planned a trip to Yogyakarta, Indonesia, in October of 2010 to see the archeological sites of Borobudur and Prambanan, and to golf at a course near the base of Mt. Merapi, Indonesia's most active volcano. The day we were to leave Merapi exploded, covering the sites in volcanic ash and leaving the golf course decimated by the power of the explosion. Our trip was canceled of course and it has taken us seven years to reschedule .

The first stop was to be the world's largest Buddhist temple, Borobudur, a UNESCO World Heritage Site dating back to the 9th century. It was abandoned in the 14th century as the Islamic religion began to spread throughout Indonesia. This is the most visited site in Indonesia and still used as a pilgrimage for Buddhists on Vesak Day in May. Borobudur has nine stacked platforms decorated with stone carved relief  panels and decorated with 504 Buddha statues. The Buddhas at the upper levels sit inside perforated stupas, or bell-like stone structures.

I came up blank as to what scent might evoke this place and ended up deciding to take a new sample I had by Monsillage called Pays Dogon. The perfumer Isabelle Michaud was invoking a travel memory from Africa and numerous bloggers have described this place. For my purpose, I saw that it contained some notes indigenous to Indonesia such as Javanese vetiver, patchouli, and ginger so into the suitcase it went.

Vetiver is considered a holy herb and is referenced in the Hindu's sacred book, the Bhagavad Gita, by Lord Krishna. Krishna says, "I am the fragrance of the soil." The vetiver grass can have an aromatic woody smell  with aspects of sweet and earthy character. It is considered a reviving oil in ayurvedic practice and used to calm the mind, in India being referred to as "the oil of tranquility". So, I theorized, at this sacred site perhaps vetiver was as good a choice as any.

The Javanese vetiver used in Monsillage Pays Dogon is particularly aromatic and fragrant. One can sense the greeness of the vetiver grass as well as the earthiness of its dense roots. There is a hint of ginger which gives it a spicy lilt. Black and pink pepper notes add a touch of heat. Cypriol oil amplifies the woody, earthy effect of the vetiver. Cyriol oil is a relative of papyrus and perhaps its use in Pays Dogon adds to the overall arid dryness of the scent. Red hibiscus is also listed as a component of the perfume but I confess that I can't pick the note out. Later the scents of sandalwood, guaiac wood, and patchouli join with the vetiver, adding more elements of wood and earth to the scent. Pays Dogon wears close to the skin and as I sniff my arm it does provide a rather therapeutic zen feeling of well being. This is a scent that could be worn by either sex although it veers more strongly to the masculine side of the scale.


So did I find my perfect perfume for experiencing Borobudur? Not exactly. Here's what I experienced. Walking in the darkness lit only by a pale crescent moon we made our way towards the dark pyramid shape of Borobudur. Suddenly my nose was hit with the freshest, strongest jasmine. We were obviously passing some bushes but the white petals were invisible in the darkness. It was like an olafactory anoitment and blessing for the experience awaiting us and served to build my anticipation. The thin beam of our flashlight guided us up the long straight stairways to the top of the momument where we awaited the dawn's light. Seeing the stupas and Budda's in the gradually dawning blue light was a beautiful experience. Once the sun was up the things I saw that would have contributed to my personal fragrance were the old stones with ribbons of moss in the crevices, verdant green fields surrounding the historic site, and the still active volcano, Mt. Merapi, shrouded in the morning clouds.

None of this takes away from the fact that Monsillage Pays Dogon is a lovely vetiver. If you haven't tried vetiver perfumes this would be a good one to start with. I think you'll like the cooling and reviving aspect that the vetiver aroma gifts you with. Maybe I need to add a trip to Africa's Pays Dogon region (a place I had never heard of!) to my travel bucket list and experience Ms. Michaud's vision there. Meanwhile, I think you would particularly enjoy this scent in the hot summer to give the sense of cool and calm in the face of  the heat of the day.

Photos my own. Sample purchased by me from Twisted Lily.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Guerlain Joyeuse Tubereuse


Guerlain recently introduced a new addition to their L'Art et la Matiere line of fragrances, Joyeuse Tubereuse.  Guerlain describes the scent as "a freshly picked tuberose" and indeed, the initial opening has a burst of green as if from the broken stem that had been holding the flower a moment before being plucked. This green opening is fresh and creamy and reminds me a little of the opening in Jour d'Hermes. This only lasts a short time and the tuberose enters.

This tuberose is limpid and dewy. Perfumers Thierry Wasser and Delphine Jelk used a light touch with a note that has a reputation for scaring people away. The perfume displays the creamy aspects of tuberose but none of the indolic, skank, or camphorous notes. Like a tomcat that's gone under the knife, this tuberose is tamed and subdued of aggressiveness without losing any of the prettiness of the floral.  Notes of lily and sambac jasmine join the tuberose. Normally I find that jasmine will dominate on my skin but it stayed in the background; it was the lily I smelled. The lily and  tuberose make a very pretty combination, with the tuberose dominating.

It is around the time that the lily becomes obvious that I also began to smell vanilla. As with the tuberose, the vanilla's touch is light. It serves to slightly sweeten the perfume. I'm imagining tuberose and vanilla flavored marshmellows. The vanilla is not really gourmand but just adds a nice softness to the tuberose. At this point the perfume reminds me a little of Memo Marfa which also has vanilla and tuberose. Joyeuse Tubereuse continues for several hours with this fluffy tuberose and vanilla combo but eventually very gentle base notes of sandalwood and vetiver become present as the tuberose fades. These two notes are particularly quiet on my skin.

This perfume lasted all day but the sillage was slight. I think this would be a great perfume for those who have shied away from tuberose perfumes like Malle's Carnal Flower or Piguet's Fracas because the tuberose is too strong. This perfume is considered unisex and I realize my description may not make it sound that way but if you're a man that loves white flowers I think you would enjoy this one.  Joyeuse Tubereuse is a very nice perfume and I would happily wear it but I tend to like the tuberose perfumes that announce their presence so for now I will admire from afar.

Photo from Guerlain. Sample from Essentials Tangs Singapore.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Zoologist Perfumes Part Six: Civet


Back in January I reviewed the entire Zoologist Perfumes line. I was curious about the concept, and the cute Edwardian style drawings adorning each bottle are one of the most creative and cohesive product branding efforts I've seen in a long time. Of course the big question was, how would the perfumes smell? I went in with the expectation that somehow the animals themselves would be evoked in the scents, and how would that work? But what I found was the perfumers sought to represent the environment that the animals lived in.  Do you remember terrariums, those sealed glass containers that held mini worlds inside their glass domes, creating their own environment? These perfumes strike me as similar. They are a snapshot of a particular animal's world, sometimes in minute detail such as the surrounding plant life, what they might eat, and what smells they would encounter in their day to day life.

So why when I saw the name Civet did I think Shelley Waddington, doing her second perfume for the Zoologist line and owner/creator of EnVoyage Perfumes, would go for the obvious, a strong civet- based perfume? Of course I was wrong. So follow Ms. Waddington as she leads us into the jungle.

Let me backtrack for a minute. Living in Indonesia and Singapore, Bali was a frequent vacation spot. I got to know the island pretty well, eventually leaving the sandy shores and ocean waves to venture further inland to experience the culture and lifestyle of the Balinese people.  It doesn't take long to get away from the tourist hubbub and find the real Bali. Terraced rice fields of an impossibly vibrant green; gracefully dressed villagers celebrating a wedding, death, or special holy day; women balancing a basket of fruit on their head, walking towards the temple to leave an offering. And once you get into the hills or near one of the island's volcanoes, this sign is a frequent sight.


Kopi Luwak, Let me cut to the chase: civet cats eat coffee beans, they pass through their digestive tract where the beans are fermented but not digested, and they eventually exit the body looking something like a Payday candy bar. The feces is collected and turned into world's most expensive coffee. Strange but true. All very good and ecologically sound on the surface. The problem is that when local farmers throughout Indonesia found there was a market for civet poop they started caging the civet cats which they call luwak and feeding them exclusively coffee berries. As there is no sure fire way to know if your kopi luwak coffee has been naturally gathered or farmed it is best avoided so as to put an end to this practice.

Zoologist Perfumes Civet references happy little creatures roaming free as nature intended, crawling along the dank and moist jungle floor through the flowers and foliage, foraging off coffee berries and other plant life. Ms. Waddington and Victor Wong, founder of Zoologist Perfumes,  have captured this concept in Civet.

The perfume's opening is an opulent kaleidoscope swash of scent. Notes represented are bergamot, lemon, and orange, along with black pepper, tarragon and various spices. Reading this you would expect a strong citrus opening but in fact the spices are the star.  The citrus gives a bright warmth but is not otherwise distinctive.  I have no idea what Ms Waddington's inclusion of the spices was meant to represent, but as civets are found in Indonesia, a country which was the epicenter of the Dutch spice trade, I would like to think it's a nod to the history of the place and the crops still farmed there today.  In the higher elevations of Bali one can be wrapped in this scent of lush verdancy. I am sure it is the same in any rainforest or jungle setting. That is the initial feel I get from this perfume.

In Hummingbird, Ms. Waddington used a basketful of scent notes to create a floral nectar perfume. Here in Civet there are also many florals: carnation, frangipani, heliotrope, hyacinth, linden blossom, tuberose and ylang ylang. These join together to give the impression of a tropical setting of riotous florals, humid green plants, and a forest bed of decaying plant life enriching the soil below. This is an accurate portrayal of the actual surrounds civets would roam. I can pick out the creamy richness of the tuberose and also ylang ylang, which to my nose is has a luxuriant tropical floral smell and veers slightly powdery on my skin. The carnation is also discernible in it's more spicy form. These florals join with the spices and an emerging coffee note to make a rich brew. There is a French feel to the perfume at this point, but it is untamed and a bit wild.

There is, of course,  a civet note and this gives the perfume a vintage feel. (Synthetic civet is used). The animal musk in Civet eventually becomes more pronounced as the floral notes begin to diminish, but now the civet is encased in warm cozy labdanum and notes of vanilla. It is not sweet or gourmand, rather spicy and warming. The flowers are subdued but still quietly exist in the background. Balsamic resins and woods round out a soft fade out for this perfume after several hours of wear. It is extremely long lasting on my skin. This perfume has gone through so many transformations: a bright spicy opening, humid florals with mossy green foliage, and finally a warm spicy and resinous finish.

I am familiar with Hummingbird as well as several of  Ms. Waddington's creations for her own line. If I am presumptuous enough to judge a perfumer by her work then I would say Ms Waddington lives large and is not afraid to place bold colorful stripes on the canvas of life, or in her perfumes. Her scented fingerprints are bold and assured. The perfume Civet is no different. This riotous mixture of so many diverse notes could have been a hot mess, but instead it references a time when civet and other animal notes were common in French perfumes but updates the genre with tropical notes to give a new and unique spin. Civet is another winning addition to the Zoologist line and I can't wait to see what Mr. Wong dreams up next.

To see my other Zoologist reviews you can start here.

Top photo from www..ZoologistPerfumes.com. Perfume sample of Civet provided to me by Zoologist Perfumes.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Foxy by DSH Perfumes


Foxy is one of the newest scents by the amazingly prolific Dawn Spencer Hurwitz of DSH Perfumes. Dawn says she was inspired by the movie version of Roald Dahl's Fantastic Mr. Fox which she watched with her young son during the cold winter months of a Boulder, Colorado winter. I am not familiar with this story but evidently various note components were drawn from the everyday life of Mr. Fox.

The perfume's opening features an apple whiskey note referencing the favoured drink of the story's Farmer Bean. This note is round, rich and fruity. It is joined by a gingersnap note, reminiscent of Mrs. Bean's "famous apple gingersnap". I could swear I smell a cinnamon note but perhaps this is just a part of the whiskey/gingersnap mix as it is not listed. Amber and ambergris are the dominate notes and miraculously the combination of these two does make one picture a rusty red color such as the fur on a fox.

I am a big fan of DSH's other "fur" scent, Chinchilla, which I described as "a slightly animalic musk with faint wisps of crushed flower petals and thick golden honey". For me Chinchilla is cozy and the animal note very tame, so I wondered, would she "go there" with Foxy? I put my wrist to my nose and inhale deeply and the answer is yes, DSH did include "go there"! There is a faint but undeniable feral aspect to this perfume not present in Chinchilla. Don't worry, it doesn't overwhelm and you have to be really looking for it. I am assuming this was in part created by the use of two different kinds of jasmine, as well as castoreum, costus, sable fur accord and fossilized amber resin. In addition to conjuring the red fur of the creature DSH has created a fox we can imagine in a wild habitat, a little less cleanly washed than the Chinchilla perfumed creation. This is an aspect of vintage perfume that is often missing in the modern perfumes of today, and DSH is an expert at referencing this era and those notes.

Despite what I've said about the animalistic notes, after it's opening Foxy settles into a warm amber perfume with contained sillage but rather excellent longevity. This is a vintage vibe perfume that is not too overpowering for those afraid of this genre.  And as a credit to Dawn's artistry, I can indeed picture a cute red fox when I'm wearing this perfume!

Stella McCartney with  Callie, a tame fox, wearing faux fur in Vogue February 2017.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Foolproof Perfume Picks for Mother's Day

For those of us who love perfume the next best thing to buying perfumes for ourselves is buying it for someone else, so Mother's Day provides the perfect shopping opportunity. Yet all too often gifted bottles languish on the shelf unused. Some moms are easy. They have a signature scent you can replenish each year. But if you've no idea what your Mom might like but really want to share your love of scent with her, here is a semi-serious guide of what to buy your Mom depending on her likes and style. The secret in each case is to buy a fairly transparent scent that doesn't make too much of a statement, so that the odds of Mom liking it increase exponentially. 

The Classic Mom

Jackie Kennedy with her children.
The classic Mom is polished and cool. She probably set dinner tables with sterling silver cutlery and crystal dishes if she could afford it. Her manner of dress is polished, neatly styled and always totally appropriate. She made sure you visited the occasional museum in addition to Saturday matinees. Manners and respect were important in your household growing up. She gravitates toward old style classics so for her Chanel No 5 L'Eau is the perfect pick. The beautiful fizzy opening is still there but without the sharp astringency of the original. It's a lighter fresher take on the original but maintains the beautiful heart of rose and jasmine and still exudes that timeless elegance.

The Sporty Mom

Candace Parker, basketball player, Olympian.

Maybe your Mom plays tennis or golf. Maybe she's a runner or surfer. Maybe yoga is her thing, but whatever sport it is, it's a huge part of who she is. For sporty Moms I'm going to suggest something I just reviewed, MFK Aqua Celesia. This scent won't distract them from their game; it's very quiet. It's almost a skin scent but it has some tart notes of lime, mint and blackcurrant to keep it fresh.  I have a totally unproven theory that musk scents, which Aqua Celesia is, smell better and more personal when mixed with a little of your sweat. If so, then it's perfect for the active mom who glows with exertion. Regardless, it's a beautiful scent to keep her feeling fresh no matter what.

The Do-Gooder Mom

Angelina Jolie , actor and humanitarian, with her brood.

Your Mom is the first one with her hand up. School PTA president, check. Girl Scout leader, check. Local women's shelter volunteer, check. She's a rebel with a cause and the only thing that makes her happier than working is working for change. So how perfect that by wearing a perfume she can contribute in a small way to the welfare of farmers in war torn countries or one's recovering from strife. Fair trade essential oils are sourced from places like Afghanistan and Rwanda. The company behind these good deeds? The 7 Virtues. You could pick the original scent, Afghanistan Orange Blossom with uplifting notes of orange blossom, jasmine, and freesia. Farmers who used to grow poppies for the drug industry now can make more by farming neroli oil. You can also pick from Noble Rose of  Afghanistan, Middle East Peace, Patchouli of Rwanda, Vetiver of Haiti, Middle East Peace, and the new Lisa Ray Jasmine of India. The florals are realistic and pretty but these wear close to the skin. The fragrances can be ordered from the website and are also available at Lord & Taylor in the USA.

The Hip Mom

Kate Hudson, actress, fitness clothing entrepreneur.

All your friends think your Mom is cool, whether she's 40 or 80. Her manner of dress is maybe more youthful or edgy than other Moms but she always looks fabulous. She keeps up with current trends but is not afraid to follow her own style. She's open minded, embraces life,  and loves to have fun, especially with you. This Mom is not afraid to try something a little different with a slight edge. The trick is to buy something with that unique feel, but not something too extreme or out there. I have the perfect answer. It's Dame Perfumery Mate, Heliotrope & Patchouli. This perfume opens with a light mate tea note. The heliotrope gives a slight sweet touch and the patchouli is green and clean. It's my favorite "your skin but better scent". Click on the link above to read my full review. This one's a beauty.

The Trendy Mom

Victoria Beckham and brood.
Your Mom is always on point with trends. She may think she's too old to wear some of the latest style interpretations but you can be sure she knows about them. She is au courant about the latest movies, politics of the day, and the Pantone color of the year. She loves the latest thing and that's why the newest Jo Malone perfume may be the perfect gift for her. Every season Jo Malone is coming out with limited editions and new scents. The most recent release is Jo Malone Star Magnolia. Like most of Jo Malone's recent introductions, on my skin it's pretty, light, and fairly fleeting. Star Magnolia opens with a lemon and ginger note, then rapidly transitions to the magnolia and neroli. Both notes are light and come across as a white clean fragrance. While I don't love it, it's hard to imagine anyone taking offense to it. Even more interesting are the seasonal limited edition sets. They are always an interesting concept: last year it was the Herb Garden collection and this spring it is the five scents in the Bloomsbury Set. I haven't smelled any of them but I have no doubt they are charming and will fade away within an hour. Nevertheless I still can't help but be intrigued and would love it if someone gave them to me.

The Foodie Mom

Giada De Laurentiis, celebrity chef
Everyone wanted to hang out at your house because they knew there would be great food. Whether it was nourishing dinners or homemade snacks, your Mom likes to show her love through food. Her favorite program may be The Great British Baking Show. She knows the newest restaurant in town getting rave reviews and would rather walk through Williams & Sonoma than Barneys. Here are a few light and intriguing flavorful scents. Berdoues Grand Cru Vanira Moorea is a cologne strength vanilla and orange creamsicle; droolingly yummy but not too sweet. By the same company but totally different is Berdoues Grand Cru Assam of India. Pungent black Assam tea, sharp lemon, and a to-die-for bottle with colorful mini elephants make this a distinctive winner. Prada Infusion d'Amande has a creamy but transparent almond note that will have Mom sniffing her wrist non-stop.

The Traditional Mom

Florence Henderson as Carol Brady in the iconic tv show, The Brady Bunch.

Your Mom considered her primary job to be raising you and your siblings, despite everything else she might have had going on. She wants nothing but the best for you; your achievements are her successes. She loves you to bits and nothing makes her day more than hearing from you. For your special mom, treat her to the newly reintroduced Prada Les Infusions Rose. Like all the scents in Prada's Les Infusions line, it has a watercolor transparency. It is a pale pink rose scent, sprinkled with notes of mandarin, neroli, and galbanum. Sparkling and translucent, it's the perfect rose for the rose in your life.

I hope you've enjoyed my Mother's Day picks and found something worth considering.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Aqua Celestia by Maison Francis Kurkdjian


The newest addition to the house of  Maison Francis Kurkdjian is Aqua Celestia, the third in the Aqua series started in 2009 with the release of Aqua Universalis, followed in 2013 by Aqua Vitae. In this newest rendering of the aqua theme Kukdjian takes the series to new heights, literally. The first two versions were rooted more firmly to the earth with their citrus and floral notes, but Aqua Celestia does seem to float, float, float up into the heavens with its ethereal air.

Kurkdjian himself describes the fragrance : "Aqua Celestia forms a seamless bond between the blue of the sky and the blue of the sea, forging a path toward absolute serenity." I find Aqua Celestia even more gentle than the other two in the series. Once the scent settles into your skin it's like breathing rarified air, an Evian version of oxygen if you will. It does indeed smell a bit heavenly.

The perfume opens with lime and mint notes. The lime here doesn't have the zing that lemons and oranges can impart in perfumery. It is a very muted citrus with just enough tart sparkle to add a gentle fizzy zest in the opening, emphasis on gentle fizz. The mint note is next to emerge but it is also contained so it feels like a suggestion of mint, just adding to the light freshness. These notes are pretty and playful but unless I sniff my arm I would have trouble identifying them, they are so tame. The white musk accord begins to creep into the freshness of these two notes, further muting their impact. A note of blackcurrant bud adds a bit of tartness, so along with the mint and lime you get a light lift and liveliness to make the musk a little more transparent.  Eventually notes of mimosa join the musk. I'm not sure I could have identified the mimosa as on my skin it merges with the musk, only occasionally peeping through to shine on its own. Although the musk begins to dominate I still catch glimpses of the mint and blackcurrant notes throughout the hours of wear.

I have never been a lover of watery scents or "clean" scents reminiscent of fresh laundry through their use of white musk. This scent however has made me reconsider these prejudices. It would be the perfect scent for someone who doesn't want to have to think about scent; who doesn't want to draw attention or make a statement with their choice of perfume but merely wants to smell nice. And more specifically to smell fresh and cleanly turned out. This perfume performs that service but has enough extra interest with its tart notes to still be interesting. Admittedly, if I was purchasing for myself and wanted a lighter scent I would gravitate more toward MFK Petit Matin (reviewed here) with its hint of luminescent pink and gold-tinged dawn skies. However, if someone were to gift me with Aqua Celestia I would be more than pleased and would wear it with abandon. I find it a very worthy addition to one of the more interesting perfume houses out there and I am sure it will find a legion of admirers.

Photo from Etsy. Perfume sample provided by Neiman Marcus.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Interview with Perfumer Francis Kurkdjian: Talking About LVMH, New Perfumes and Looking Forward



Neiman Marcus in Fort Worth, Texas, just opened the new and updated store and they've been having a flurry of special events. Recently Francis Kurkdjian, perfumer extraordinaire, came to Neimans to talk about his line and sign bottles. Kurkdjian is such a prolific perfumer that it would take up a whole post just listing the fragrances he has created, and this was before he launched his own company, Maison Francis Kurkdjian Paris in 2009. His first great success was Jean Paul Gaultier Le Male launched in 1995 when he was only 26. He has amassed a large portfolio working for such fragrance houses as Burberry, Elie Saab, Indult, Narcisco Rodriguez; the list goes on and on. He has created one of my favorites of the house MDCI Parfums, Rose de Siwa reviewed here. Maison Francis Kurkdjian Paris has a portfolio of twenty perfumes, and I've reviewed a couple of favorites, Grand Soir and Petit Matin here.

When I set off for Neimans to meet Kurkdjian I explained to my husband who I would be interviewing and made the comparison he was a sort of Sting of the perfume world. I love so many of his scents and am a huge fan. When I arrived at Neimans the message that I wanted an interview had not reached Kurkdjian, but he couldn't have been more gracious about spending fifteen minutes  with me and letting me ask whatever I wanted. He was so easy to talk to and absolutely open. Top on my mind was the recent March announcement of French luxury brand LVMH acquiring a majority stake in Maison Francis Kurdjian, as they continue to expand in niche luxury brand fragrance.

Q: I'm interested in the recent news of the sale of a portion of your company.
A: Yes, we sold a majority of the company and my business partner, who is a co-founder and myself we have the rest of the company and we're still on board . We're still very active....I'm here.
Q: So your role is not really changing?
A; Not at all. It's a move that we would have done, that we would have to do, not maybe this year but within the next four years. There are not that many independent companies anymore and when you live in the retail environment you have to have the power, you have to be backed up by a powerhouse to be capable to get good spots, good point of sales, and at some point to grow. You have a level where you're too big to be small and you're not big enough to be big. And there is an awkward situation where I needed to do something. I believe because we were seeing a very good financial increase, I believe it was the right timing to give away part of the company. To negotiate it is always better if you are strong than if you are weak. We lost the majority but we are on the board. I keep my hands on the creative part. From the front nothing is going to change.
Q: I read in Persolaise blog that you had a really big increase in sales.
A: Yes, in two or three years.
Q: What do you credit that to?
A: Because you need your name to get out. It takes time. We're very young. We'll be only eight years old this fall and it takes time. I believe also that the portfolio is the right size now because we have about 20 perfumes, so you have enough proposal for the customer. If you launch with only two to four scents you might miss many people, because if someone wants vanilla, if someone wants wood; now the portfolio is quite structured. And you need to have a decent retail size so you can become profitable. Also the Baccarat fragrance (Baccarat Rouge 540)  helped a lot. It's very popular; right now it's our best seller. It's always the case when you launch a new perfume, the new perfume always takes over. This is how it works.
Q: Today I'm getting the Grand Soir. It works better on my skin than the Baccarat Rouge.
A: It might  be a bit acidic.on your skin.
Q: It's more of a winter scent for me because Singapore is hot and humid all the time. I was kind of leaning toward the Petit Matin but I really love that one so I think that's going to be it.
A: It's nice, I like that one. I like them all! I've never launched a scent that I don't like. It's hard for me to make the choice.
Q: You're still a perfumer that goes out of house too?
A: I'm releasing a scent from Burberrry in about ten days. I'm releasing something new for Elie Saab. Many things are in the works.
Q: I really like Ellie Saab. It seems like you have a really good feel for orange blossom perfumes, which I love.
A: With orange blossom? It was the brief. The brief for Ellie Saab was not about orange blossom. The brief  was to create a scent that would convey the idea of the Middle East without being woodsy or based on oud, so I thought that orange blossom was a nice twist. I like rose as well. I'm not familiar with jasmine. I put a little bit in some fragrances. I use jasmine as a booster but, I don't know why, I've never tried to create something big around jasmine.
Q: Is there any note or fragrance family that you feel you really have something left you want to say?
A: There are some, the only thing is you have to be careful when you launch them. Some themes are very trendy at some point and you might give the impression that you want to follow the trend. I've been working on  the leather accord for many years now because the first time I worked it was for my cousin, to create for her. Usually the perfume I'm launching has been created before for someone, most of the time. She had a small men's clothing shop in Paris next to mine, nearby the Ritz, and she wanted me to create a mens cologne for her, for the shop. And that leather note has been in her shop for a few years now. She doesn't sell it. She sprays only the clothing and it as if the man has just left the shop. I wanted to redistribute but now there is the big trend on leather. Everybody is launching a leather note so I am delaying it. I'm going to wait two or three years before we launch it. Now I am working on many. I have decided I want to launch a new couple. It's a long time since I have launched two partners.  I have to deliver things by August and I have no idea yet, so I'm trying to find inspiration where I can! I know I want something white but it doesn't mean anything so far. I don't know why I want something white ...
Q: White flowers you mean?
A: No. White something. White ambiance. I have no idea where it's going to lead me. I just know that white could be an option.
Q: So when you're not creating perfumes what do you do for happiness?
A: It a 24/7 life.  I play the piano. I love cooking. I love to host. I'm away very often. Two thirds of my time is out of Paris. Every time I come back to Paris, my home, my first thing is to call my friends, to see who is in town and host a dinner for 10 or 12 people. I love doing that. I go to the opera. I go to the museum. I have a passionate life. I know that I am blessed. That I know. There is not a day that looks alike. I don't feel I'm working, in a way.

There is another five minutes of interview, but it devolved into travel story comparisons and my asking advice for a summer trip to Europe. As I said, Mr. Kurkdjian is extremely easy to talk to!

Two things of personal note: I did get a photo with FK which he graciously posed for. I really try hard to conquer vanity but this photo was so horrendous (me, not him!) it will never see the light of day. And secondly, I really appreciate the time and kindness shown to me and cooperating with my ambush interview. It is so refreshing to meet someone who is such a success in their world but still comes across as gracious, humble, and grateful. Thank you, Francis Kurkdjain, and I can't wait to see what else you have in store for the perfume universe!

Top photo from www.theladylovescouture.com. Thank you to Neiman Marcus for providing this opportunity.

Friday, April 21, 2017

DSH Perfumes Gekkou Hanami


I went into testing DSH Perfumes Gekkou Hanami thinking I already had it figured out. It would be light and ethereal and pink. I was sort of right about the first two. On first application Gekkou Hanami has a moment of watery freshness, then citrus notes bring everything into soft focus. The citrus used is yuzu, a sort of Japanese grapefruit, and this citrus note in Hanami has a very definite Oriental feel to it. Unlike the brightness and zestiness of some citrus notes in perfume, this yuzu has a contained feel like the muted light shining from a Japanese paper lantern. Sake notes also add to this Japanese aura, contributing a very light fruity note as well as the creaminess of the rice used to make the sake.

Now that Hanami has set the stage -- I picture the delicate beauty of geishas gracefully teetering on wooden getas as seen in Japanese woodblock prints -- we begin to smell the florals. Our geishas are transported to a path lined with sakura trees exploding with blossoms,  some of which fall then float in a nearby pond. The opening scent of yuzu has receded and now I smell light watery florals. The watery aspect makes it seem as scent caught on the breeze, airy and floating. In all honesty I've never smelled cherry blossoms, only some of the imitations with their candy pink juice. There was a Jo Malone version a few years ago years ago which failed to move me, and as much as I enjoy some L'Occitane scents, their cherry blossom perfume just smells like pink nothing to me.

Photo from etsy shop JapanLovelyCrafts

Dawn adds a mixture of florals, the dominant notes being sakura blossom and neroli. I think that maybe rosewater and waterlily are the notes giving me the "floating on water" effect which can also be translated as breezy notes. This soft floral is not at all sweet on me and imparts the feel of scent on a spring breeze. The florals hum quietly for quite some time, then eventually base notes of cedar and frankincense provide a soft landing for this gentle scent. The base notes are also very soft and mellow, continuing the air-like quality of Hanami.

On the DSH Perfumes site, Dawn Spencer Hurwitz describes the creation of Gekkou Hanami, which translates as "Sakura Gazing in the Moonlight", in this way.  "Hanami is the Japanese pastime of picnicking below the Sakura cherry trees while in blossom. The act of gazing at the blossoms as they fall like snow is an essential moment of beauty, and death. It is an integral experience for the Japanese culture."

If you are looking for a one note cherry blossom fragrance then you may be surprised by Gekkou Hanami. What I think Dawn has done is encapsulate the entire hanami experience: the sun fading into moonlight, the cherry blossoms scent on the breeze, perhaps a sip of sake, watery florals, and the gentle wood notes from the surrounding forest. Gekkou Hanami is a very pretty and somewhat contemplative scent to welcome spring, and beyond.

Top photo: Sakura Fubuki, Shower of Cherry Blossoms, 1940's woodblock print. My sample was kindly provided by DSH Perfumes.