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.