Saturday, March 17, 2018

The Burren Perfumery: Celebrating St. Patrick's Day With Beautiful Irish Perfumes

I would never have known about The Burren Perfumery, a little Irish shop nestled into the northwest of County Clare amidst the rocky terrain known as The Burren, were it not for a trip my son and daughter-in-law took last autumn. Ireland has long been on my "see before I die" list. I lived next door in Scotland for three years and kick myself for never making the trip over. Anyway, on their trip they visited The Burren Perfumery and brought me back the gift that every perfume lover covets: an entire sample set, and what beautiful samples they are! The delicate artful renderings of the herbs and wildflowers on the sample folder's covers mean this is just one more item I'll never be able to throw away. Sorry my dear children, I read the book about The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning, but no can do. Look at these! How could I ever get rid of them, even after the perfume is gone. Little tiny works of art.

I had never heard of the Burren, but it is an area of significant geological phenomena, one of those wind-swept, other-worldly places that you can imagine ancient Druids using as a sacrificial offering ground or alien space ships landing, thinking they've finally found home. The ground is covered by glaciated karst with rock outcroppings covering most of the area. A portion is designated as the Burren National Park and most of the year it looks like the landscape below.

Google image of The Burren.

But every May the area bursts forth with a magnificent display of wildflowers, growing in the shallows of the rocks and sprouting between their crevices. In this area seventy percent of Ireland's wildflower species can be found, and because of the unusual geography you find arctic wildflowers growing alongside Mediterranean varieties. The word burren comes from the Gaelic bhoireann, meaning a barren stoney place. (Sidenote: Speaking of the beautiful language of Gaelic, having a man speaking Gaelic to you is a profoundly charming pleasure, and if he happens to be wearing a Scottish kilt, well, all bets are off. But I digress.) 

Photo from, Burren in bloom.

The Burren Perfumery  produce perfumes, soaps, face and body products, candles, and tea, all natural or organic. Their stated mission is to be "a small Ireland-based company making cosmetics and perfumes inspired by the landscape around us. Everything is made on site, by hand, in small batches."

Photo of Burren Perfumery blending room by Ralph Doyle, owner.

Let me introduce the fragrances, most of which are unisex. They all meet my expectation of scents based on the Irish countryside: gentle, natural, a bit delicate but not tame.


The very name Frond suggests delicacy, a leaf or a slender curl of a leaf. The perfume holds up to this image with a fragile sweetness from the first spray until it finally fades away. There is a touch of wild rose but it is softer and creamier than the roses I'm more accustomed to in perfume. Violet leaf adds a touch of grassy green and later oakmoss and woods will eventually blur the scent. There is an air of sweetness running through this scent but not the sweetness of a gourmand perfume. This is the sweetness of nature that is captured on the breeze and brings bees and butterflies searching for the source. This one is more feminine and a favorite for me. This is a bit of a random thought but rose, like all flowers, has healing properties, and when I first smelled Frond the thought popped into my head how refreshing it would be to have a cold cloth smelling of this to put on my forehead when I get one of my very rare migraines. The smell to me is healing, therapeutic, and very uplifting.


The perfumer's copy describes Ilaun as a light fresh perfume with top notes of wild orchid and other notes of elderflower, fern, lichen and moss. To me this smelled like my idea of Ireland; fay, a little off kilter, green with a bit of fairy dust thrown in. It's light and spring like but there is a tiny thread of bitterness running through the green, somewhat like life, with a touch of strife. I find this one really interesting and the perfect pale green scent to welcome spring. Probably the hardest of the lot to pin down with a description and unisex.

Spring Harvest

The copy said this is made to evoke an armful of herbs gathered in spring, with aromatic notes of mint, lemonbalm, and fennel. This is delightfully fragrant bouquet of herbs on first spray but in a very gentle manner. The mint is quiet but very present beneath all the other fragrant herbs. The lemonbalm gives it just a touch of citrus. This has the same feel as Ilaun, light, floaty, tender, but it is less green and more aromatic. It's unisex and another light and lovely perfume to welcome spring or wear discreetly to brighten your day.

Summer Harvest

"Lying in a meadow on a summer's afternoon" is how Summer Harvest is described. I had expected it might be a little stronger than Spring Harvest, to reflect the season heating up but I guess summer in Ireland is pretty mild. This is not the summer scent of the part of the world I'm from, with indolic flowers and honey laden blooms. This is altogether more delicate, but dazzling in its freshness. I love the names of the notes: meadowsweet, lady's bedstraw, and chamomile scent this perfume.  The scent truly is reminiscent of the gentle scent of a meadow dotted with wildflowers. There is a hazy, lazy, easy quality to wearing it, and it is is one of those perfumes you could buy for just about anyone and they wouldn't be offended by any of the notes.  

Autumn Harvest

 This is supposed to evoke an autumn walk through the woods. It starts out with more power than any of the other fragrances. If you like perfumes with berry notes this might be the perfume for you. I'm reminded of the black currant note in Diptyque L'Ombre Dans L'Eau minus the rose or Jo Malone Blackberry & Bay, minus the bay leaf. These are not sweet berries over-ripened in the sun. Think brambles and thorns, and the tartness of the berries, and the green of the stems. The tartness makes my mouth have a sympathetic reaction like I've had a pickle. At first I thought I didn't care for it but found myself respraying again and again, and it grows on me more every time I wear it.

Winter Woods

There are herbal notes listed in the opening of Winter Woods but I just get a feeling of freshness, no specific herb. But it's not a minute before I can smell the iris, accompanied by a slight touch of lavender. This smells powdery and comforting like a warm blanket on a cold night. Fairly quickly woody notes of cedar, pine and vetiver smooth this to a quiet elegance, as soft as mouse paw prints on snow. The perfumery lists this scent as masculine but I find it unisex.

Man of Aran

This is the first fragrances introduced at the Burren Perfumery and is inspired by the Atlantic Ocean waves crashing into the rugged western coastline. Ozonic fragrance is my least favorite scent category so I'm probably not the best to review Man of Aran. Normally the ozone rush in an aquatic perfume smells very chemical to me, however I am happy to say that in this cologne that is not the case. There are citrus notes in the opening and you do get that sensation of waves or water, followed by pleasant wood notes which is where it settles. It is a good representation of this type of scent, just not for me.

I know a lot of my readers are still buried in snow and cold winds while I'm over here in Australia where summer still lingers. Partially because of the weather I'm finding lighter perfumes really appealing lately, but your spring is coming and trust me, these light will-o-the-wisp fragrances which smell natural and pure are the perfect way to welcome spring. I don't know if the perfumery mails samples but their perfume cost is quite reasonable, 44 euro for eau de parfums and 36 euro for eau de toilettes, both in 50 ml size. Orders over 60 euro ship free worldwide.

Call me sentimental but I do believe that intentions and mindfulness can color the experience we receive as a consumer. I came across this lovely statement from co-owner Sadie Chowen on a blog post wrapping up her reflections on the close of 2017 for the perfumery. I am copying her words here:
Money isn't a strong motivator for either myself or Ralph (husband). We all need to earn a living and pay the rent, and a business has to at least break even or it faces going under. However community, creativity, sustainability, respect for the beautiful environment that we live in -- these are the things that add richness and satisfaction to day-to-day living. Many years ago we took a decision to make manufacturing by hand in Clare a core part of the Perfumery's ethos because it creates and maintains rural employment, and we believe manufacturing here has long term benefits for community, environment, and customers alike. The Perfumery provides 32 full and part time jobs.
I found these words quite inspiring and I am happy to recommend these perfumes to you as the perfect spring fragrances for those of you longing to leave winter behind and welcome the earth's greening renewal. I am looking forward to ordering once my samples are used. At the moment my front runners are Frond, Ilaun, and either Spring Harvest or Summer Harvest. My dark horse entry is Autumn Harvest, whose bitter berry thorniness is growing addictive and strangely has me craving a blackberry cobbler.

And finally, thanks to these two who introduced me to The Burren Perfumery with their thoughtful gift, pictured here by the iconic Cliffs of Moher in the area of the Burren.


Top photo of Cliffs of Mohor, County Clare, Ireland from Travel Ireland website.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

From Australia: Grandiflora Boronia

While I'm in Australia I want to give some love to perfumes based on scents indigenous to the country. First up is Grandiflora Boronia, from flower designer and more recently perfume creator Saskia Havekes. Her by all accounts wonderful floral shop, Grandiflora, is in the Pott's Point suburb of Sydney, and Saskia's skill with weaving gardens of delight out of both everyday and exotic plants and flowers have brought her great renown and a few book deals. Her love for flowers also translates to a love for floral scents so in 2013 she introduced her first perfume, Magnolia Grandiflora Sandrine, named as a tribute to Perfumer Sandrine Videault. That same year a second take on the magnolia blossom was introduced, Magnolia Grandiflora Michel, created by Perfumer Michel Roudnitska. These were followed by Madagascan Jasmine in 2015 and Queen of the Night in 2017, reviewed here.

Grandiflora Boronia was debuted in autumn of 2017 and the perfumer is Bertrand Duchaufour. When I first apply Boronia it smells winey, rich, and what I think of as French-style perfume. I'm a little surprised as I know that boronia is a sort of scrub plant in Australia and I had expected something a bit more desert like and dry. For some reason the color of deep plum pops into my head. Not that Boronia smells exactly plummy, but maybe that's where the wine reference I get comes from. It smells nice and is more elegant than I was expecting. Grandiflora Boronia is very rich and the notes make me think of autumn, harvest, and dried fruits. The opening stages remind me of a recent tasting we had in the Barossa Valley, sampling a fortified wine, or Port. Boronia has that  same rich wine smell with dried fruit  and a dry dusting of spices. I almost wanted to raid my refrigerator for some blue cheese to accompany it! These impressions of autumn flavors are further enhanced as very mild notes of tobacco leaf and the smell of dry hay make their presence known. Within thirty minutes the opulence of Boronia reigns in and the scent becomes more subdued on my skin. The wine and dried fruit notes have dissipated and the scent is quiet and very dry. The scent has an air of solemnity and good breeding to me, if that makes any sense. I just wish that I could continue to smell it for longer. I get the occasional whiff and I like what I smell, but the strength has reduced greatly. I do like Boronia but on my skin I think I prefer Bertrand Duchaufour's other creation for the brand, Queen of the Night, which I reviewed here.

Boronia is one of the most expensive oils in perfumery, maybe because of the scarcity of the plant, it's finicky nature in being propagated, and its short life cycle once the plant is established. In a description of boronia absolute oil notes of cassis, hay, and exotic fruit are mentioned. Take a gander here at the price of this absolute, starting at $38 for one ml to almost $16,000 for one kg.

Brown boronia (megastigma) is a compact growing shrub with delightfully fragrant small brown flowers, often yellow on the inside cusp. One of the species is named Heaven Scent, hinting at why it is so prized. Boronia only grows in certain small segments of the Australian continent, mainly the southwestern area and Tasmania, and I have personally never come across it. I also read that as fragrant as it is, some people can't smell it. I wondered if that could be the case for me, as after wearing the perfume for only a short time the scent becomes almost undetectable to my nose.

Interested in learning more about the boronia plant? Here in a segment from Burke's Backyard, the host introduces boronia as contender for "World's Best Perfumed Plant."

Top photo from The Australian Native Plant Society website, Boronia Megastigma "Harlequin". Second and third photos from Grandiflora site. Perfume sample my own.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Sniffing Out My New Surroundings

After living in Singapore the past fourteen years, my husband and I finally packed up and moved our belongings to Adelaide, Australia, which is his hometown but a place he hasn't lived in more than thirty years. It has been interesting setting up house in a city I've only visited in the past. I don't know if you fellow scent lovers are like me but when I get to a new place my nose is busy recording impressions. I've always thought the blogger, The Scented Hound, has the best named blog because I do feel sometimes feel like my dog, sniffing the air for new scent sensations.

Many years ago when I first came to Adelaide I remember stepping out of the airplane and being so taken with the scent of eucalyptus in the air. If you're a Californian I guess you would recognize the scent but for me it was an unknown. I've only seen one rain since I've been here, actually just a sprinkle, but when the water hits the eucalyptus leaves....heaven! Adelaide is known for the beautiful parklands which totally surround the city, and it is considered the rose capital of Australia and one of the best places in the world to grow roses.

I have been walking around my neighborhood, getting in my 10,000 steps, and trying to find my bearing here. My favorite time to walk is around six o'clock in the evening when the sun in waning and the air gets cooler, because that's when the flowers really start to release their scent. Front yards are fenced here, unlike my home in Texas , but in my neighborhood many have turned their front yards into beautiful cottage gardens. It is a short walk down the street to the grocery, the pub, or the bus stop and it's a fragrant journey all the way.

I walk past fragrant white roses, which smell delicate and pure. I of course stop and sniff all the roses that I pass and I can testify that the white ones really do have a different scent from the more colorful roses. I also walk past this beautiful stephanotis vine, the flowers smelling of a cross between gardenia and jasmine.

Some houses display their beautiful gardens.

 While others you can only peek through the gate.

My house has a beautiful old wisteria vine but unfortunately I just missed the blooming season. And don't forget the beaches. These are not the tropical smells I associate with the beaches of Asia which I have visited from Singapore. These beach smells are more akin to the northern coasts of the United States, east or west. The water here travels up from Antarctica and it takes most of the summer to warm it.

I look forward to exploring all the new sights and smells. Have a happy weekend, wherever you are!

Friday, March 2, 2018

Puredistance WARSZAWA: A Poignant Reflection of Times Past

A sculpture in Warsaw cemetery. 

Can a perfume make you travel back in time? If that were possible, for me that fragrance would be Puredistance WARSZAWA and it would transport me to Poland circa 1930s. Perhaps it was inevitable that I would love a perfume that embodies the rich culture and elegance of a country that has had such a tumultuous history and played a part in our family story.

We have one family scrapbook which my husband's mother carried with her to Australia, when she and my father-in-law left Poland to immigrate after World War II. Faded photographs show her with her two sisters and brothers on an outing, beautiful European-style ornate buildings in the background. The ladies are dressed in belted suits and slim skirts, hats, and gloves, and the gentlemen in suit and tie, sporting fedoras on their head. Another photo shows her as a young woman, lighthearted and laughing reclined in a field of flowers looking totally carefree and at ease. I never met my would-be mother-in-law but in later photos her eyes never had that casual ease present in the pre-war photos. She was fortunate that her whole family made it from Poland to Australia, and she lived in close proximity to her brothers and sisters. My husband tells me that though he was born in Australia, only Polish was spoken in his home (with smatterings of French, Russian, and German) until he was six or so. What must it have been like to leave your home behind and start over in some place so different, never to return?

Photo from Warsaw in the 1930s. 

The past was not discussed in my husband's home, and it was only when one of my daughters developed a passion for family history that some of the story was reclaimed. My husband and daughter went to Poland a few years ago to try to locate family, as my father-in-law had believed his entire family was lost in the war. With the help of a translator cum detective they eventually succeeded in locating some relatives, although because of borders being redrawn after the war, they now lived in Ukraine, not Poland. They discovered relatives thought to be dead had survived, and some of their discoveries led to even more mystery. Sadly, these questions will probably remain unanswered as all the principal players are now gone. It's a story with intrigue, some big surprises, and a lot of heartbreak, so how could I not love a perfume that spoke of the elegance of a country before it was shattered by war, and the resilience of its people in the aftermath?

My daughter April with a newly discovered relative.

First, and this is essential, learn how to pronounce WARSZAWA. When I in my flat Texas accent say War-saw, it doesn't conjure romance and beauty. War and saw, two rather ugly words that denote unpleasant things. But in our interview when Jan Ewoud Vos started talking about WARSZAWA, I was like, "What? What? Are we even saying the same word?" Europeans can skip this paragraph, but the rest of you or those that are clueless like me, click to hear the proper pronunciation which flows mellifluously from the lips and is indeed beautiful.

Ok, now that we've established that, let's move on. Directly from the Puredistance website, this is the description for WARSZAWA. "Inspired by the class and elegance of Polish women and the rich history of the city of Warsaw, WARSZAWA evokes the chic of the golden days of Fashion and Perfume. This perfume has style, warmth -- great depth of character -- and will make you feel beautiful in a lush way. It will transport you to another world...". I can say that perfumer Antoine Lie really hit the mark. The description says everything about the final product. Lie was also the perfumer for  Puredistance White and Black.

Puredistance founder Jan Ewoud Vos had visited Poland many years ago and was impressed with Warsaw's style and friendliness. Jan said, "The first time I went to Warsaw I was like, Wow, these women know how to carry themselves, proud and beautiful and also with  eye for fashion. That I wanted to see in the fragrance, rich, elegant." A friendship with the Missala family who operate a luxury perfumery in Warsaw was further inspiration and Stanislawa Missala, the matriarch of the family and founder of the family business, impressed Jan with her class and elegance, an elan reminiscent of old-time Warsaw.  "The family helped me in the development of the perfume but basically the inspiration was the city of Warsaw, in older times." After two years development, WARSZAWA premiered and the store was given exclusive right on the perfume for one year, but in November 2017 WARSZAWA became available to the general public.

Travel Poster, Google image.

WARSZAWA falls into the category of a chypre perfume and follows the typical structure. The opening is a bit sparkly, but grapefruit is used rather than the more traditional bergamot. Violet Leaf and galbanum give the scent a green earthy depth which adds to the air of mystery. These notes add a green tone to the scent, so it could thus be called a green chypre.  It smells rich and mossy, but the green is not as dominant as it is in the sister scent, Antonia. The green note is just one facet of this dazzler.  Broom adds a slight herbal, hay-like quality. Iris, or orris butter, adds a touch of melancholy and a quiver of passion. The jasmine is a sweet soprano, not indolic, and lilts with purity and shimmering brightness. The perfume is 25% extrait so it takes some time for the base notes to appear, but patchouli, styrax, and vetiver give an earthly slightly sweet finish, which fades slowly until it's nothing but a whisper.

But these are just notes. The sum total is a beautiful concoction that takes me back to a more genteel era. I hate to keep using the words "old world elegance" to describe Puredistance perfumes, but this one just calls for such a description.

In our interview here Jan talked about his customers and mentioned that a favorite group was the customer who saved up to be able to buy a Puredistance perfume because of their passion for the scent. I firmly fall into this category. This past Christmas I told my children and husband, join together and buy me WARSZAWA, it's all I want, so I am now the proud owner of a flacon. How much of my love for the fragrance is the personal connection to the backstory is hard to say, but there is no doubt that this is a beautiful, elegant scent that makes me feel like this:


For more review on Puredistance perfumes go here and here.

My samples were provided by Puredistance. Thanks to Maven at Takashimaya Singapore for the interview opportunity. Opinions are my own.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Puredistance Opardu, Antonia, and Sheiduna

I am reviewing today three scents from Puredistance: Opardu, Antonia, and Sheiduna or what I like to think of as the three beautiful ladies. Puredistance founder Jan Ewoud Vos considers his scents unisex, but in this case I think Opardu, at least, leans decidedly toward the feminine. Both Opardu and Antonia have an old fashioned vibe, and in my interview with Mr. Vos I asked him if there was ever any disagreement in team meetings about the final formulation of a product.

"Our customers are generally at least twenty five or thirty plus," Vos said. "The younger generation tends toward sweeter consumibles as I call them, so sometime I have to say to my team, I understand what you mean but I have to take your age into account. This is a mature product for mature people. So sometimes we may not be totally in accordance but in the end my vote is decisive."

Having a perfume house that gears its product to a mature audience is an uncommon but delightful experience. Any of us that have spent much time in online perfume chat groups have heard the term "old lady perfume" as a descriptive of perfumes that evoke past times, and let's face it, no one wants to be called an old lady, even if one could possibly be considered to fit into that demographic, ahem. If "old lady perfume" means appreciating the past and reinterpreting that style for today's world, count me in. If it means preferring  polish, beauty, and elegance over brassy, flashy self promotion, guilty. If by "old lady perfumes" you mean one that can only be worn by a woman or man of experience, self confidence, and assuredness, I'm all in! Puredistance fragrances, in my opinion, have embraced the glamour of a bygone era while still pleasing today's audience.


At first spray I smell something timeless and a bit old fashioned. Opardu is unabashedly feminine and manages to display both oppulence and innocence.

Mia Farrow as Daisy Buchanan in the 1973 film, The Great Gatsby.

Jan Ewoud Vos described his inspiration for Opardu as vintage 1920s Paris. "You know the movie, Midnight in Paris, when he's being transported back into time? That was part of the inspiration I had.  I love that he's having drinks with Hemingway and Picasso in a bar. Paris is so romantic, but at that time in the 1920s and 30s, even more so. I want a perfume that goes back into that time, I thought powdery, purple lilac..nothing new, nothing modern, nothing metal, very soft."

The naming of Opardu came about from a play with wording. "Sometimes I make up names myself," said Mr. Vos, "and my feeling with this movie is that we've lost those good old times. In French,  "I lost" is "j'ai pardu", and an exclamation is like "Oh", so I combine to  O-pardu."

A scene from the movie, Midnight In Paris, which partially inspired Opardu. 

Opardu transports me to the memory of a childhood spring day. The gentle waft of pure sweet blossoms moving gently in the breeze; the fuzzy sweetness of flowers laden with pollen and the low hum or insects, the transparency of the gentle light in that bridge season before the sun will find its intensity. Everything is soft, beautiful, and pure, which was one of the goals Mr. Vos had for this scent. The purple lilac and the heliotrope take the stage for a time, and just when I think that Opardu is all about lilac, narcotic wisps of tuberose, or maybe it's the gardenia or jasmine,  drift from my wrist in a mesmerizing haze. I almost expect see yellow pollen dust on my wrist and to hear the buzz of bees in the background. I understand the pull to a past era; it's feminine, there is glamour, and it smells, well, expensive! But for me, more than a Paris nightclub it reminds me of Paris in the spring. In any case, I can't think of a more lovely fragrance to give the experience of springtime.


When I spray Puredistance Antonia I'm transported to a world of green wood nymphs, green buds just before they're ready to unfurl, or the green of a mysterious mossy grotto. This scent speaks of elegance and times past, yet at the same time breathes of life's renewal and fresh beginnings. I feel like I'm diving into a deep green pool but at the depths there is something bright and solid. All the happy pleasure receptors are firing off in my brain. We all have different tastes but you know that feeling when you find a perfume that seems personally created for you? That's how I feel when I spray Antonia. Actually though, Jan Ewoud Vos created it as a tribute to his mother, Antonia.

In our interview, Mr. Vos said, "My mother was like a movie star. Antonia...initially it's like my mother, pretty powerful, and boom, there she is. It is a very unique green floral scent. A favorite color of my mother was egyptian green so I tried to adapt it as much to her wishes as possible. I sent a picture of my mother to (perfumer) Annie Buzantian and I asked her, 'Do you have a second fragrance for us?' "
She said, "Well, I have something on the shelf which is rather unique."
I said, "What's the name?" and she said, "Antonia."
So I said, "Oh my God! Again ! It must not be coincidence so let's see if it fits the character of my mother. We fine tuned it with pictures of my mother and I described her because she was already gone by that time, so to me Antonia is very dear because basically it is the character of my mother in a bottle." Antonia was released in 2010.

The green flacon gives promise to the liquid inside with its elegant simplicity. This is a perfume that makes the wearer feel special. A friend and I were having a discussion the other day about how our mother's generation never stepped out of the house for the simplest of meetings without having bouffant hairdo in place and wearing a well thought out outfit with coordinating jewelry. Maybe that's just a Southern thing? My mother was the same until her death, and her friends I still visit always look perfectly coiffed and coutured, even though they're around ninety. This is the way their generation was, no shopping in yoga pants for them! Antonia makes me want to live up to that ideal. As much as I love Antonia I wouldn't necessarily wear it to get my groceries. It calls for special occasions or meetings with a special person, moments when I want to strive to be a more refined version of my day-to-day self.  In our interview, Jan Ewoud Vos commented that his perfumes, by virtue of price and formula, feel like special occasion perfumes, that extra step you take to add a touch of luxury to your toilette.

As a point of reference, Antonia reminds me in style of two other favorite green perfumes, both by DSHPerfumes: Giverny In Bloom and Madame Pour Vert, both reviewed on my blog. 

The florals in Antonia are listed as jasmine, rose, ylang ylang, and orris and they are blended in that French art of perfumery style where no one note stands out. I do smell the galbanum, because really, could you make a green style perfume without it? Maybe it's my love for nature that make green perfumes so compelling. They always give me a feeling of serenity, but in the case of Antonia, with one spray I feel more interesting, more elegant, and a good deal more beautiful than I actually am. Not bad for a bottle of perfume!


From The Rubaiyat by Omar Khayyam, illustrator Rene Bull, 1913 edition.

Puredistance Sheiduna is the first and so far the only Oriental style perfume in the line and was created by Cecile Zarokian, debuting in 2016. For me this is the most different perfume in the Puredistance stable. While the others have a definite retro feel, Sheiduna feels to me like a more modern interpretation of the Oriental style of fragrance. On my skin the scent is contained and projection spills only gently around me. When I think of retro Orientals, take the original Yves Saint Laurent Opium, for example, introduced in 1977, it was a powerhouse and was literally a forceshield around the wearer. In our interview here Jan Ewoud Vos stated that the Puredistance line is rooted in sophistication and that the scents will never be overtly sexual or vulgar. In this way Sheiduna presents the idea of the Oriental with all the richness these notes present, but in a more gentle and elegant version.

The strongest impression I get from Sheiduna is the dryness of the desert; miles and miles of undulating golden sand dunes with an orange sun setting on the horizon. Amber, incense, and resins provide mystery and depth. In the first hour I smell something like cumin which is a bit acrid on my skin, but when the vanilla and tonka eventually come in, their creaminess, mixed with the resins, begin to dominate. This is a very well done Oriental scent, but I have many in my collection so I don't feel as drawn to Sheiduna as I do some of the other Puredistance scents. If you are looking for a polished Oriental to add to your collection, this is definitely worth trying.

Opardu, and especially Antonia are scents I'd love to add to my collection in the future. To find out which of the Puredistance scents prompted a buy, come back for tomorrow's review. For my interview with Jan Ewoud Vos and reviews of 1, M, White, and Black, go here. For a review of WARSZAWA go here.

Top Photo: Cyprien Boulet, Avant le Bal, 1877, Google Image. Perfumes were provided by Puredistance and opinions are my own.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

An Interview With Puredistance's Jan Ewoud Vos and Reviews of Puredistance 1, Black, White, and M

Back in October I was given the opportunity to interview Puredistance founder Jan Ewoud Vos on the occasion of the introduction of the Puredistance line to the Maven studio of exclusive perfumes at Takashimaya in Singapore. Life intervened so I am just now writing my impressions of what was a very interesting interview with the visionary of these fabulous perfumes. It is clear immediately that Jan Ewoud Vos is passionate about what he does and he has some very specific opinions about the world today which influence the structure of the perfumes he wishes to present.

Talking to Mr. Vos certain things are emphasized: the commitment to exclusivity; the desire to be a true luxury product; translating an appreciation for beauty into the art of fragrance creation. He is the founder of the line but he also fills the very important job of creative director, beginning each fragrance with a very specific idea of what he wants, which may include storyboards or other visuals, but never a list of notes! As he elaborates on this is the interview, let us begin.

Q:   In ten years you've released eight perfumes. Obviously you haven't flooded the market with  perfumes. Is that a deliberate action on your part?
A:   I don't like floods! When you flood it, it's too much! Our motto is small is beautiful. In my personal life I'd rather have two or three good friends than 5,000 fans. I believe in quality over quantity.  This is really  prominent in Puredistance where we go for the highest quality. We need some basic sales to stay alive, of course, but not that much. On the one hand we are big because we are in 35 countries, but we only sell to 80 stores in these 35 countries, whereas a mass fragrance brand would sell to 80 stores in a big city. We more or less have the business model sales wise of Ferrari and Aston Martin, where only one or two stores in each country are allowed to sell these brands. Why? You need a sales person that really knows the car and can tell you everything about it. Same with Puredistance. I want sales people who can really know our brand, love our brand, and pass this on to the customer.  I want to know the store owners personally; it's impossible if there are too many. Lastly our promise to exclusivity is very prominent because I think if you buying an expensive fragrance it's maybe nicer if not the whole world uses it. I want to deliver that promise so I shouldn't sell to the whole world. To me it feels better. We have a small team of seven people in Amsterdam including my two daughters and everything there is done by hand.

Jan Ewoud Vos  founder of Puredistance.

Q:  What advantages does Puredistance perfume offer?
A:   The uniqueness of Puredistance is we only sell perfume extrait which is the highest concentration possible. The advantage of pure perfume is first of all it lasts much longer, but what I find more interesting is every scent fuses with the skin. If you have a lot of alcohol and only a little perfume oil like most mass produced fragrances there is not so much to fuse to skin. If you have a lot of oil it will fuse. You get development the whole day because it doesn't stop after two or three hours, and it's your own unique development because your skin scent is different than from anyone else. This is only possible with pure perfume extrait. So this is one thing that differentiates us from most brands.

The second thing is there are few brands with such an exclusive offering. For example every perfume has a certificate of authenticity that I sign personally, to show my customers we don't sell a lot. Because if I sign it personally you can't imagine that I sell 100,000s of units. It's a hard guarantee. You pay a lot, but you get, what do you say in the States,  bang for your bucks. We don't spend money on marketing. All that money goes into the product. Another thing, everything is assembled by hand in our company. The flacons are filled in the factory, but all separate parts are assembled by hand. There is some soul of a human being going into the product.

The last thing that differentiates us, we only launch every year one fragrance, sometimes two. To work out the concept, to find the right perfumer and then in the end I give him carte blanche regarding ingredients so he can spend what he wants. If he wants to spend 300 euros per kilo, fine. If he wants to spend 500 euros, fine. Whereas mass market perfumers may spend as little as 5 euros per kilo. He gets no time limit. Sometime it took two years if I'm not happy. This is unique that you work so long until it is perfect.

Q:   I'm interested in your concept. Would you mind using one of your perfumes as an example and going through the germination: where did you get the idea and how do you create a new perfume?
A:   It all starts with a very raw concept. Black, for example. Black started with an irritation. I got irritated by the fact that more and more people, especially the young generation, share everything with everybody. I have two daughters and I've warned them, don't show everything to everybody on Facebook or Instagram.  With some people their whole life, including their body, is being shared with the world. It's better to keep, sometimes, a secret.

Today we also have analysis of everything. If you go to the opera you can analyze the notes, but hey, close your eyes and enjoy the music. Take the whole thing in but don't analyze everything because you kill it. Some bloggers and journalists zoom in on a perfume's ingredients, but it is about feeling. So I was irritated by constant analysis that kills emotions and I was irritated by a constant transparency that kills intrigue and sensuality and secrets. So I said Puredistance Black must have ingredients like Batman and Zorro, where you get the mystery of a mask, a typical symbol of hiding something. Like a Zen temple where you only see a ray of light and the rest is black.  And all those visuals I give to Antoine Lie. How to translate it into a scent? I stay away from ingredients. I just feed Antoine Lie all this and he gives me after a while samples and I evaluate those samples with a team in the office. I do nothing alone. When you start a business you need talented people around you to make it all possible, so in the end it is a whole chain of people who make it possible.  We evaluate the four samples. I will choose one, or if I don't smell anything that's right I will say try again. But in this case I had an opening, one that I liked, but I said this was too sacred, it smelled too much to me like a chimney or a church.

Puredistance scents need to be rooted in sophistication. If I smell something that is too sexual or too vulgar, on the basis of that I reject it. Then we have two or three runs where the perfumer gets nearer to the subject. and when Antoine Lie presented me with what was the final version of Black I was like, "Ok, now I find it intriguing", meaning I don't know exactly what I smell. To me there is mystery in it, so now it matches the concept and we're done. It's like a premiere, I'm nervous when I launch something. I like it but what will the customers say? Fortunately in all these cases customers were on the same line as me and my team. We found Black appealed to both men and women.

When in 2002  I got the first idea of Puredistance, everyone said I was crazy for wanting to create a super luxury perfume house from the Netherlands without knowing the business at all. It took me five years to get the first perfume. The hardest thing after the concept was finding a perfumer, and by chance or fate, the concept ended up on the desk of Annie Buzantian who is one of the best perfumers in the world.  On top of the concept was a visual I tore out of a magazine of an old Donna Karan ad ... a lady standing in the snow, silk dress, no coat, Cuban skin, warm brown, so to me it was a nice visualization of the whole concept, warm and cold. The guy asked if she could use this visual to do a perfume for a guy in the Netherlands  and when she saw the ad she got pale in the face, she said, "I don't have to do that fragrance for him, I already have it."

She opened a drawer and took out the same visual that she had torn out of a magazine probably around the same time as me. She used it to create a signature scent for herself with a warm/cold contradiction. She wanted to do it as a challenge. Synchronicity, that two people who don't know each other are linked through their thoughts and have the same vision. Annie and are linked. We have many such occasions since. We probably broadcast on the same frequency! So her signature fragrance became PureDistance 1.

We are based in the Netherlands but the master perfumers are based in London, Paris and New York.  We have Roja Dove from London, we have Cecile Zarokian from Paris, and we have Annie Buzantian from New York.

Q:   How would you describe your customer?
A:   There are three type of customers that I discern. My favorite customer is the customer who loves fragrances and will probably save up money to be able to afford. They may say I love fragrance and this fragrance from Puredistance is the holy grail. This customer buys purely from passion and sacrifices in order to be able to do. We have type 2, who is maybe not as passionate but loves perfume and understands our fragrances DNA and loves it for what it is and has the money to spend, happy with the elegance and the sophistication. There is a small category, the nouveau riche who want to have the most expensive and most luxurious. Their decision is based on other's opinions. It doesn't often happen because we are not that famous, and the motives behind it are less dear to me than the other two motives.

Q:   What does the future hold for Puredistance?
A:    After ten years with Puredistance I am halfway. I always said I want to be in 150 stores and 50 countries, then I stop. I am now in 35 countries and 80 stores, super exclusive worldwide. So another ten years to go probably.We do what we have done; we never knock on doors. Last week I heard from a store in Belarus, we'd like to represent you. We go step by step slowly. We want to know the people who represent us personally. And I won't sell out. Many people sell out today, to Estee Lauder, L'oreal, and venture capitalists. I decided not to sell out. My daughters are both in the company. I want to stay independent as long as we can. It's fun and  It gives us total freedom. We can take our time and not rush.

I would rather have something good that costs a bit more. I've been loyal to Antaeus by Chanel for over 30 years. I still use it but they change the formula. Maybe they had to do it because IFRA, they more and more regulate what you can use, so Antaeus is not the same. Next year I'll have something from Puredistance that I'll use for myself. I sometimes use Black, and M very sparingly. I like things a bit lighter and behind the scenes and M is really a statement. Another passion I have is tennis. I was almost a professional player and it's something I do a lot. The fragrance I want to have for myself is something sporty but at the same time woody. That was almost impossible to combine so we work for three or four years and now it's ready.

Q:   What made you choose perfume as a business?
A:    It's the perfect carrier for everything that interests me: doing design, creating beauty, making movies, packaging, brochures, photos. I do everything apart from the fragrance and there is nothing like a fragrance, a scent;  you can't touch it. You need to create a dream around it. Coco Chanel created a dream around Chanel. Creating this dream to me is pure pleasure. Many other products are short lived and must be replaced. I like long term things. I like the composition of Chopin. Why? It has long term value and beauty.  Therefore I said it will be a perfume I liked creating something with long term value.  I knew that through a fragrance I would be able to do what I like most because I wouldn't have to change the core product which is perfume. The business allows me to travel and meet lots of people. If I'm honest about it, Puredistance wasn't born out of a passion of perfume; it was born out of a passion of beauty and creating beauty.

Q:    Any final words?
A:    I think the world today can be so transparent and negative.  You need a remedy. Do away with media for awhile. Read a good book. Have a good wine. spend time with your partner. and spray yourself with a good perfume.

My thoughts on the interview:

Jan Ewoud Vos is passionate about his product, but even more passionate about creating a luxury product of beauty. I really bonded with his discussion (some edited out) of the clutter of social media in the world today, the lack or privacy, and the loss of that thing called mystery. His products harken back to a time when the world was a bit more polished, the discourse more civil, and an aura of glamour could be created. I was so interested in everything that he was saying that I forgot to ask for a photo at the conclusion of the interview!

In any discussion about Puredistance the issue of price is going to come up. It is a super premium product and Jan Ewoud Vos is proud of the fact that only pure perfume extraits are sold and that the percentage of oil is between 25% to 38%, the highest in the industry. Also, the quality of the oils come priced ten to twenty times higher than those used in mass market product. I have always maintained that you can smell quality in perfumes, and this was the case for me with Puredistance. I have friends who save money to buy a high priced designer hand bag while I choose mine off the rack at T.J.Maxx. Purses are not important to me but perfume is. For some, obviously, the price will be a deal breaker but if you find the one that really speaks to you, all bets are off.


I will review four perfumes from the line, saving my absolute favorites for the next couple of posts. In line with EWV's statements about not liking to list ingredients, I will keep that to a minimum and express the feeling and impressions that each perfume gives to me.

Photo from Elle Sweden 2008, photographer Oscar Falk.

Puredistance 1 was the fragrance that started it all, as told above in the marvelous story with perfumer Annie Buzantian already having created it for herself before being approached to create a perfume based on the visual of an old Donna Karan ad. The proposition was to make a scent that displayed both cool and warm aspects. The opening of 1 is delightful, giving the impression of delicate scents lilting in the breeze, swirling and dancing around you. Impressions I can capture: the fuzziness of neroli, the brightness of tangerine, strains of jasmine, and the uplifting scent of white flowers. If we could all walk out our door into a world that smelled so fragrantly pure, surely there would be less nastiness and dissention? Puredistance 1 is a guaranteed mood lifter. Alas, by its very fragile nature  this sort of  soft explosion of scent cannot last indefinitely and eventually it settles into a nice musky scent with warm accent notes.

Google image

Puredistance Black was released in 2013, and as described above was meant to be mysterious and full of unknowns. Even Luckyscent doesn't try to list notes, honoring the founder Jan Ewoud Vos's wishes. The visuals for its creation included masks, and some speak of a church incense vibe, but for me Black speaks of a whole universe. I picture myself wrapped in a warm and cozy blanket, gazing at pinpricks of light in the inky night sky, with smells of coniferous trees, warm wood resins, earthy patchouli smells, and streaks of something bright to penetrate all this darkness. For me Black is constantly morphing and changing, showing new facets. It is warm and comforting and the scent lasts on my skin into the next day. I like it very much.

Google image of Audrey Hepburn.

Puredistance White is truly the polar opposite of Black. Where Black is moody and mysterious, White is brilliant yet delicate. I chose the beautiful Audrey to visually show the pure innocent beauty of this fragrance. The various notes appear like ballet dancers on a stage; swirling in for a brief moment then out to give another ballerina her moment in the glow of the spotlight. The rose note is beautiful but this is not a rose perfume. I can tell you some notes: sandalwood, orris, tonka bean, but they in no way equal what you might expect. Jan Ewoud Vos wanted to make a perfume that made people smile and brought a feeling of happiness and White succeeds in this, yet at the same time feels very proper and elegant, reigning in the feeling of giddiness and euphoria. If I were rich I would scent my world with this beautiful perfume. Created by Antoine Lie and launched in 2015.

Sean Connery as James Bond, 007. Google Image

Puredistance M conjures images of drinking a Scotch in the clubby wood paneled library of a great estate, of lounging on the deck of a luxury yacht, of driving a McLaren coupe through a twisty Italian cliffside road; in other words, it breathes luxury. Jan Ewoud Vos gave visuals of James Bond (thus, M), Aston Martins, Jaguars, and the like to evoke feelings of old time, over the top luxury and they certainly succeeded. The smell of leather is always mentioned in reviews but it is so much more than that. I'm not always a leather fan and for me, leather (and the finest, smoothest leather) was only one component. M is also smooth, spicy, buttery, woody, and just plain delicious. I happily wore it but to be honest, this is really what I want my man to smell like.  was launched in 2010.

As much as I have obvious enthusiasm for all these scents, I will be reviewing the ones I favor even more highly in my next two posts. 

Thank you again to Maven and Takashimaya for this opportunity.

For more Puredistance reviews go here and here.

** I participated in a joint interview so you may see similar quotes on another Singaporean reviewers page.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Sylvaine Delacourte's Musk Collection

January was a hard month for me and perfume. I was packing for a trip/move to Adelaide, Australia, my husband's home town which he hasn't lived in since the 1980s. In the midst of this I came down with a very nasty upper respiratory infection which left me feeling beyond miserable. Air New Zealand was going to charge me $1000 to change my ticket so I soldiered on, feeling appropriately guilty about infecting all of economy class. On boarding the flight I leaned my head against the window, determined to breathe only in that direction, when a young chap coughing like mad sat down beside me. Bless him! He and his coughing took all the attention that might have been directed my way for which I am forever grateful. I literally passed out, a first as I usually don't sleep on long flights, and 21 hours later I was in Adelaide. That was definitely a positive side to this otherwise bad experience.

As a result of being short of breath and congested I had zero interest in perfumes. I brought over a bunch of samples that I've had sitting around waiting to be tested, and knowing that the Sylvaine Delacourte line of perfumes were soft scents based on white musk I decided these were the perfect perfumes to ease myself back into scent. Ms. Delacourte had been with Guerlain for years, most recently as Director of Olfactory Evaluation (this sounds like some of the titles in Harry Potter --Advisor to the Ministry of Magic or Potions Master). She left over a year ago to start her own perfume line and will only serve in an advisory capacity for Guerlain.

It is easy to order samples from the Sylvaine Delacourte website and surprisingly inexpensive. They come in a neat presentation box and I decided to test the perfumes in the order they are arranged and to not read any of the website's helpful notes until after I had recorded my own reaction to the perfumes. Dovana, the first perfume in the presentation box, is gentle and pretty. In its simplicity it is different than what I usually reach for, but I am able to appreciate the fluffy, billowy scent, a bit like sinking down into the softest down pillow which is encased in a freshly washed crisp white cover. After experiencing the perfume I glanced at the website's description and in this case, my impressions were very close to what  Ms. Delacourte stated: "I wanted to be able to smell the fragrance of my childhood soap within this perfume. The color white describes it well, white being a symbol of purity and freshness." I like this one but it has shades of the original Clean Fragrances, which reminded me too much of soap powder. I like Dovana more than my memory of these scents but I guess soapy freshness is just not a smell I crave.

Next up is Florentina and at first it is slightly sharp and green with notes of bergamot, vetiver, and lavender, but it quickly turns gentle and powdery. To me this isn't a baby powder smell because notes of bitter almond and benzoin give it an interesting edge that reacts nicely with my skin. I finally read the copy and discover that the perfumer's aim was to provide a tender feeling with memories of her childhood talcum powder. As I stated, this is powdery, but it is a lot more interesting than just a strictly powder scent. Notes of iris and violet give it that French face powder scent, and the iris mixed with the bitter almond remind me of those pastel colored candy-coated almonds.

The powder note is soft, gentle, with a little sophistication. It certainly isn't Johnson's Baby Powder. This one wears even softer than Dovana on my skin but I much prefer it.

Smeraldo occupies the center slot of the five scents presentation box and it is to me the most neutral of the five. It is much fresher, and initially it has an invigorating edge. Then it settles down into a quiet musky gentle scent. It reminds me a little of MFK's Aqua Celestia  which I reviewed here, with its pale airy feel. I find I really can't identify any of the notes in this one so I look online. With Smeraldo the perfumer was trying to create the scent of  pure fresh morning air, and she also wanted to emphasize the freshness of plants against the softness of musk. She uses a lot of interesting notes to accomplish this: hawthorn, mastic, yuzu, angelica, rose, and cedar leaf. The effect is fresh and light and during the drydown the musk takes over and becomes the dominant note on my skin.

Lilylang smells slightly floral and a touch sweet on application. It isn't as fresh as the previous scents. In fairly short order a smell that I identify as "beach" appears, with that Bain de Soleil aura and it feels warm and sunny. Ms. Delacourte describes Lilylang, "It reminds me of my holidays on the island of La Reunion where I discovered ylang ylang, the perfect sunny flower. I wanted a fragrance that was a blend of skin and sand, heated by the sun." I find Lilylang to be a great addition to my summer beach scent repertoire, with its emphasis on ylang ylang making it slightly different from other beach perfumes in my collection. It is soft and on me, very much a personal skin scent, which means you could wear it in the cold, when you want to be reminded there will be days at the beach in your future.

Helicriss has a fresh stringency on first spray. It has that "summertime in the Mediterranean" vibe. Then a new note comes in that reminds me of maple syrup. From past experience I know this is probably immortelle, which on my skin always smells like an herbal maple syrup, slightly singed. This is a polarizing note which people seem to love or hate. I look on the website and see that Ms. Delacourte created Helicriss to remember summer holidays in Corsica and the welcoming smell of the scrubland, which indeed includes the immortale flower. Anyone familiar with the L'Occitane line will be familiar with this flower, which is the base of a line of skin care products due to the plants longevity properties. Other notes in the perfume are patchouli and frankincense resinoid, which give the perfume a mysterious and slightly exotic air.

Musk based perfumes are not a great love of mine (although they don't make me as cranky as Kevin over at Now Smell This) but I find the Sylvaine Delacourte scents to be well done and I particularly like Florentina. I also like Lilylang but I wish it had longer longevity on my skin. I know there is a big market out there of people who like quieter more subtle scents and if you fall into that category these are well worth your time to try, and ordering samples from the website makes it very easy and affordable.

Almonds from Other photos from the Sylvaine Delacourte website. I ordered my own samples.