Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Love Letter to Turkey: Featuring Parfum d'Empire Corsica Furiosa

This is a hurried review because I feel compelled to express support and love for one of the most amazing countries I have ever visited: Turkey. Yesterday's events are so tragic, sad, and scary and my heart goes out to the Turkish people whose county is literally positioned at the gates of the barbarians. As often happens, when tragic events unfold my heart turns to beauty for healing, in this case a perfume memory.

I have been planning to write a series of perfume impressions about Turkey because it is such a fascinating country on so many levels. It has so many historical antiquity sites, impressive architecture, gorgeous beaches, and beautiful food. There is so much to explore and I look forward to going back to see more than I was able to experience in a short ten days.

There is a perume that brought my mind back to Turkey when I first smelled it: Parfums d'Empire Corsica Furiosa.  This perfume is built around lentiscus, a shrub prevalent in the Mediterranean region, and evidently widely found on the island of Corsica, which I have not yet been fortunate enough to visit.  Parts of Turkey have this Mediterranean foliage and climate, and lentiscus is also found in Turkey. Lentiscus is an evergreen shrub and a member of the pistachio genus and is able to grow in all sorts of soil and in salty environments, thus it is often found near the sea. The trees have an aromatic resin smell and can be cultivated so that the resin can be gathered. In Turkey mastic, the resin, is used for making ice cream and puddings. Lentiscus oil, which is the ingredient in Corsica Furiosa, is gathered through a distillation process. This oil is said to be more complex than the mastic oil and it hs a scent that is lemony, resinous, and balsamic.

Parfums d'Empire Corsica Furiosa at first breath is slightly resinous but almost instantly it blooms into a scent that I became familiar with in my travels around Turkey. It is a slightly herbal, slightly lemony smell, but the lintiscus oil has its own unusual smell which I find difficult to describe as it is very unique. Other notes listed in Corsica Furiosa are eau-de-vie (a colorless, light fruit brandy), nepita (a wild mint), tomato leaf, and pepper. These are well blended but the overall impression is of a green perfume, but this is not a verdant green. It is dry and arid, the kind of landscape where bushes cling stubbornly to rocky terrain, scenting the air with herbs and resins. The tomato leaf adds a tiny touch of bitterness and the pepper is fleeting but discernible. Cistus, which can be more commonly referred to as rock rose, is also in the mix. Cistus and labdanum are distilled from the same plant, but cistus comes from the leaves while labdanum comes from the gummy residue. Cistic has the balsamic aroma present in labdanum but it is more earthy and herbaceous. Oakmoss grounds the perfume.

This is a unique perfume which explores a facet of green to which I had no previous exposure. I find it really replicates the smell in the Mediterranean  particular to coastal regions with an arid climate. I would describe it as green, bracing, and somewhat calming due to its balsamic undertones. It is unisex and wears lightly after the first hour.  I will wear this today to remind me of a trip to a beautiful country that is in mourning today.

For another perfume that reminds me of Turkey, look here.

Top photo my own. Sample from Luckyscent my own.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Issara by Parfums Dusita

Parfums Dusita debuted three fragrances this spring to seemingly universal acclaim. Pissara Umavijani, the young Thai creator of the line now living in Paris, was inspired to make perfumes that would express the passion and ideas found in her father's poetry. Umavijani's father was the esteemed Thai poet Montri Umavijani, considered one of Thailand's leading modern poets. The perfumes are Melodie de l'Amour (reviewed here ), Oudh Infini, and Issara. Each is meant to illustrate a different facet of life. Issara was the first perfume created by Umavijani, and perhaps the closest to her heart.

"The story behind Issara happened right after the funeral of my father," says Umavijani. "My mother was in a sad state after the loss so I decided to take my family to the islands in the southern part of Thailand. We were staying in a simple place, next to the beach. We had a chance to connect to each other again, and in that moment I felt the presence of my father. Actually he was not far from us. He was only in another form of being." Umavijani channeled her love for her father and her strong wish that his words and works would not die with him, combining his gift for poetry with her blooming desire to express herself through perfumery.
"Issara: The joy of freedom and tranquility."
 Tagline on the Parfums Dusita site for Issara

For her first perfume Umavijani created a fougere, a traditional French perfume but perhaps an unusual choice for a young woman of Asian background. "It is true that fougere is not something common in Asia," says Pissara. "I created Issara out of my love of freedom and nature. Since my childhood I love the smell of the forest; there is always the mystical element in it. I would stand still in the forest and breathe in deeply. Pine tree forests also fascinated me because of the aromatic element. I believe that humans need to connect to nature, it is our root, no matter how civilization has evolved."

I strongly identify with this statement. I have moved numerous times in my adult life, several times living in big, crowded cities. My one request when looking for a place to live was that I had to see some green outside the window. I have always managed to do that, other than in Saudi Arabia where I literally thought my spirit was going to shrivel and die due to the monotone beige landscape. Issara, which I admit is my favorite of the three perfumes, takes my heart to a happy place of forests and seas, blue skies, and breezes perfumed with nature's offerings. When Pissara described the notes of Issara  I thought it would remind me of a recent trip to Turkey, and indeed when I sprayed it I did get a flashback to that wonderful country. Hiking the coastline with it's growth of pines, olive trees, and rosemary bushes, turquoise blue water, and a landscape casually dotted with ancient antiquities, Turkey was the most heady, fascinating place and my heart was full. I get that same feeling of happiness and contentment wearing Issara as the scent evolves on my skin.

Umavijani wanted Issara to convey freedom, a concept that played an important role in her development in discovering what she wanted to do with her life.  In her early travels she carried with her a book called Freedom From the Known by Jiddu Krishnamurti. "The book did not give solutions, in fact, it made me question everything. It encouraged me to explore further about life, what it meant to live a meaningful one, what it really meant to love someone, and eventually finding oneself and one's on passion. It was a new perspective, therefore, I felt an urge to travel, to discover more about life. I want to find out what is the true meaning of happiness."

I asked Umavijani if the places she traveled were an inspiration for the perfumes and she answered, "The perfume creation is every inspiration harmonized together. It all started with a blank canvas that is ready to be painted any color. There are people, places, our interactions with them, our memories, emotions: the movement of life. Freedom of the mind is when we are in the pure, meditative state. When creating the perfumes sometimes I did not think, I just "listened" to each ingredient resonating to each other.

The name Issara comes from the Thai word for freedom. Umivajani's father took this word to name Pissara, which means "above freedom", so she says she feels a real connection to the word freedom as a concept in her life.

So how does Issara smell?  I smell the freshness of the outdoors. It is the sensation of taking a hike and each bend in the path brings new and fleeting scents on the breeze. Issara replicates this experience with its flitting, lively notes, rather than just encountering a wall of scent on first spray. The freshness is followed by pleasant aromatics. I smell a slight wisp of smoke, I believe created by the vetiver bourbon which can add dry, woody, smokey effects to perfumes. This is not a campfire, it's just a trail of scent. This is the beauty of Issara, notes dance in and out as if carried by fragrant breezes. I smell flashes of fragrant pine, which I have always found to be a comfort scent.  I smell something like the merest trace of lavender carried on the wind, but Pissara assures me that although lavender is a common element in fougeres, Issara contains none. This magic is created through the combination of clary sage, pine tree, and ambergris. Courmarin is a common component in fougeres and here it imparts the sweetness of freshly mown hay to give the scent a pleasing richness. A rare, rich natural ambergris gives a resinous grounding to the perfume, along with oakmoss and musk notes. Again, these notes are lightly done, as in nature. As I wear the perfume it smells of earth where it meets the water at shoreline, the resinous forest, the aromatic plants; this feeling of being in the grandness of the outdoors and the magnificence of nature. The next morning when I wake up the scent still lingers with a slight smell of resins, grass, along with lavender-tinged aromatics. If you've ever camped and woken with the sunrise with that feeling of peace, well being, and rightness with the world, this is Issara! 

What is interesting to me is that even though I sprayed my right and left wrist at the same time, the perfume performs differently on each. While the left is wafting herbs, the right is laced with a trail of smoke. It's like the perfume is a living organic thing, coming to life on my skin as it wishes. Issara and the other perfumes in the Dusita line are not inexpensive, but I believe this is what leads to such a lively, beautiful perfume. I found a quote from Luca Turin in his book Perfumes: The A to Z Guide, in a section where he is speaking of ferns and fougeres. He says, "There are very few pristine fougeres around and those that exist tend to smell cheap. Once again, simplicity works best when the raw materials are luxurious." Issara is the perfect illustration of the thesis that luxury ingredients equal evocative perfumes.

Light fell on us,
a discreet light,
making its paved way
through the chill and dusty air,
as I was reading your love.
Montri Umavijani

"This poem is so beautiful," says Pissara of the above words by her father. "It made me think of an impressionist painting.As a daughter, I could not imagine my father being such a romantic person but I reckoned that the way he sees the world is like an artist. After his death, I promised I would do something so that people could read his poetry more. (I did not know what at that moment). The aspect of his life that inspried me is the fact that he truly dared to live out of passion, his courage to overcome all the obstacles because the life of the poet was never easy, yet he has created his own path."

Umavijani also mentioned her mother who works as a philosophy professor. "She is a very dynamic and honest person. I am truly impressed by her independence, how well she takes care of herself, how insightful she is, and most importantly, the fact that she gave me the freedom to follow my dream. That is the best gift that a mother could give."

Pissara Umivijani is obviously an old soul in a youthful body! Her passion and thoughtfulness is evident in the care she has taken with introducing fine perfumes to the market and her generous availability in communicating with the perfume community at large. I believe she is a perfumer to watch and that Issara is a beautiful expression of her love and respect for her father's poetry, nature, and the scent world. I can't wait to see what she does next.

For a great review on the entire line by Kafkaesque go here.

My samples were provided by Parfums Dusita.  Top photo from Other photos from Parfums Dusita site.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Dame Perfumery Mate, Heliotrope & Patchouli

There is something about summer that calls for having an effortless perfume or cologne in your collection, one that you can grab and don't have to think about spraying because you know it will be right in any situation. Office? Check. Night out? Check. Yoga class? Check. There is a fine line for a perfume to be multipurpose and non offensive in summer's heat, without veering into the land of boring and uninspired. I have a few perfumes that straddle this line perfectly but my new favorite since last year is Jeffrey Dame's Mate, Heliotrope & Patchouli Eau de Toilette. Dame Perfumery's line includes Eau de Toilettes for women and men that are composed of three notes to give a bright top note, a floral heart, and finally a warm sensual dry down. I honestly haven't found one I didn't like, but out of all my samples this turned out to be my favorite and my first full bottle order. I was surprised because it probably would have been the last one I would have thought I would prefer, simply judging by the listed ingredients.

When I'm wearing Mate, Heliotrope & Patchouli it feels clean and effortlessly chic, much like the photo of Ali MacGraw pictured above. I remember as a young girl seeing her pictured in magazines and on the big screen. She seemed the ultimate cool girl, never having to try to hard but looking approachably beautiful. That is how this perfume strikes me. It makes my skin smell like a better version of itself, yet it doesn't feel like I'm trying too hard to smell beautiful. When I'm wearing it I can almost believe that I too can have creaseless linen trousers, that horizontal striped shirts won't make me look as wide as the side of the barn, and that my hair is a sleek chignon rather than a frizzy mess!

Mate, Heliotrope & Patchouli opens with a mate tea note. Yerba mate is the traditional drink in several South American countries and is hailed for its healthy and energizing properties, without the jitteriness that caffeine gives some sippers. Mate is closer to green tea in aroma than black tea, but it is more herbal and grassy and altogether more hearty than the typical green tea. The opening of Dame's fragrance offers this tea fragrance but it has a brighter characteristic than that of my Trader Joe's Mate brew. Heliotrope has been described to have notes of marzipan, vanilla, cherry pie, or almond, depending how it is paired with other notes. It often gives a comforting feel to fragrances and some people describe a Play-doh scent. In Mate, Heliotrope & Patchouli the heliotrope doesn't come on strong with any one note but it does provide a soft slightly sweet almond-tinged aroma on my skin. Don't let the word Patchouli scare you with it's 60's hippie vibe image. Patchouli has characteristics of being earthy, woody or musky, but in this perfume the patchouli note seems greener and cleaner. Patchouli blends to provide warmth to the perfume and early on in the wear I can smell tendrils of patchouli grounding the perfume.  The final result is a meld of notes that give off a "my skin but better" aura. I know that musks are thought of as the traditional skin scent but to me this combination of notes feels like slipping on my favorite worn and comfy jeans.

Jeffrey's Eau de Toilettes can be liberally sprayed and reapplied as necessary. When looking for the strength of the various types of fragrance, parfum which is concentrated with higher levels of fragrant oils is strongest, followed by eau de perfume, then eau de Toilette and finally eau de Cologne. Eau de Toilette still has roughly up to ten percent aromatic ingredients so while initially appearing lighter than a perfume, it offers more longevity than a cologne while still providing the lift and refreshment of a cologne.

Anyone who has dealt with Jeffrey knows what a generous soul he is. His perfumes are very well priced so feel free to indulge! When your package arrives it will have a nice offering of samples for you to try and I dare you not to love at least one. Those of us who have a fascination with niche perfumes and are always looking for the next thing to try can get caught up in the chase. Dame Perfumery distinguishes itself by offering simpler and pretty (or manly!) perfumes that you don't have to feel challenged by applying. You can just kick back and enjoy the ride!

Photo of Ali MacGraw from Google. Bottle photo from Dame Perfumery website. Perfume my own.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Project Felicia

One of the coolest things about getting immersed in the fragrance community is the fabulous people I have met solely because of this shared passion for scent. They are often people I would have never crossed paths with otherwise, and it is a  pleasure to talk perfume and share scents with a like-minded person, a passion that the day to day important people in my life really don't understand. I met Hiro Nakayamah at a wine tasting/fragrance discovery evening in Singapore and one of these "perfume friend" bonds was born.

Project Felicia is an effort by founder Hiro Nakayamah to bring Asian perfumer's works to the United States, and likewise introduce some niche brands based in the States to Asia. So far she has introduced Tallulah Jane to  Shanghai, Nomaterra to Shanghai and Singapore, and most recently, aroma M to Singapore. Nomaterra is a New York based perfumery with the tagline: "Fragrances for the wanderlust. Scents of where you've been and where you want to go." Aroma M is the beautiful geisha-inspired line by Maria McElroy, who was one of the earliest niche perfumers.

The genesis for Project Felicia began in 2008 when Hiro was living in New York City. She had developed anosmia so a career in fragrance seemed unlikely. "When I walked out of the courthouse after filing my divorce I smelled the flowers and veggies at the farmers market in Brooklyn," said Hiro. "Soon after I learned that stress can cause anosmia and that the sense of smell can be regained. I have always loved fragrance but never thought of a career in the industry. It was then that I decided to pursue a career in the fragrance industry."

Hiro was a presenter at this spring's Sniffapalooza in New York City, and she introduced some Asian brand discoveries to the U.S. based audience. This included Malaysian perfumer Josh Lee of Josh Lee Fragrances and Singapore based Faridah Yusuf of Freda-D Perfumes.

In addition to perfume distribution, Project Felicia holds Singapore based workshops on perfume/food pairings and incense-making classes. "We run workshops to stimulate the five senses of the perfumer," says Hiro about her efforts to introduce Singaporeans to niche fragrances. "At our fragrance tea parties we encourage guests to use senses of smell and taste actively, pairing green tea note fragrances and Japanese desserts. During our incense workshops our guests get their hands dirty, touching and feeling the ingredients."

U.S. brands Project Felicia represents can be found at In Singapore brands are carried by and

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Dusita Melodie de l'Amour

I first started hearing about Parfums Dusita after this spring's Esxense Milan. Founder Pissara Umavijani, or Ploi Uma as she more commonly goes, made quite a splash with her new line comprised of three fragrances. The buzz only intensified when Luca Turin gave an enthusiastic review to the perfumes, which can be read here.  Ploi's story started in Bangkok. Her father is the esteemed Thai poet and translator, Montri Umavijani (1941-2006), so Ploi grew up in an environment of creativity,  in a house with a lush garden full of scents that stirred her creative soul.  A childhood passion for the study of perfume and scent creation was fully realized when she moved to Paris in 2011. Ploi collaborated with a well know perfume house to create her fragrant dreams, using her father's poetry as her muse, and Dusita was born.

In Siamese context, Dusita is the search for happiness and contentment. Her perfumes are a tribute to and an expression of her father's poetry, and that this is a passion project is evident in the quality of the ingredients composing these perfumes, a quality which the nose instantly detects. The line is so far composed of three perfumes, each with its own message:

Melodie de l'Amour: which evokes the beauty and the ecstasy of being in love
Issara: offering a joyful sense of freedom and independence
Oudh Infini: which gives the joy of exotic adventures and discoveries

It is always interesting to read other's reviews of a perfume and compare it to your own experience. A review can be a guide, but one must ultimately experience the scent on your skin, as we are all unique beings. Without exception all the reviews I've read about Melodie de l'Amour have been glowing, but some experienced it as a beautiful sillage beast, others felt  the presence of strong notes of tuberose or jasmine, but in my experience it was all about the gardenia.

Dusita Melodie de l'Amour opens as the most dewy, slightly green gardenia, delicate and beautiful. I love white flowers;  tuberose, the sultry beast; jasmine, which can be sweet or slutty depending on her mood; orange blossom, precious and playful; but gardenia has always been the elusive flower for me in perfumery. Gardenia scents often starts out fine then veer into a slightly chemical screechy odor. The above photo perfectly describes the opening of Melodie de l'Amour to me, the creamy sweetness of gardenia for the short time it will bloom at its peak of perfection.  When I am in Singapore I walk the Botanic Garden almost every day. Occasionally I make the walk at dusk in order to experience the full glory of the scents. There is a designated Fragrance Garden with various white flowers that release their beautiful fragrance once the heat of the sun has dissipated. The jasmine and ylang ylang are beautiful but it is the gardenia which will stop me in my tracks. It is more elusive and finicky in perfuming the air but when you smell it, there is nothing else like it.

The life-like gardenia of Melodie de l'Amour is evident on my skin for some time but eventually I do smell the other white flowers used to make this fragrance. The tuberose and jasmine notes make their individual presence known, but I still continue to smell gardenia off and on. It is like a revolving door of the various white flowers, almost as if strolling through a garden and coming across first one flower, then another.  The top notes listed for Melodie de l'Amour are gardenia, tuberose, and a blend of 150 white flowers,  all of this enhanced by wild honey. The honey smell is not strong, but just a backdrop to sweeten the intensity of the blooms. The bees would certainly be attracted to the blossoms of this flower and their honey would definitely be fragrant. This is the synergy I get from the honey notes blended with the white florals.

As time passes Melodie de l'Amour develops mid notes of peach, Italian broom flower, lily of the valley, and jasmine. These notes are expertly blended and not pronounced on my skin. Hours later the perfume settles into base notes of cedarwood oil and musk. If you are timid in wearing white flower perfumes than this may be more of a statement perfume for you. I am of the school, "Go big or go home," so to me the white flowers are a lovely expression of beauty and I find wearing Melodie de l'Amour uplifting. Ploi Uma has achieved her goal of creating a perfume that is a fragrant expression of the joy of being in love.

Top photo Google images. Bottom photo Dusita website. My sample was provided by the perfumer.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Five Perfumes for Long Haul Flights

Deciding what perfume to take on my semi-frequent long haul (24+ hour) flight is a work in progress. I used to take lavender based perfumes on the theory they would help me relax. What I found, though, was that I didn't need help relaxing; that I was tired was a given. I have discovered that what benefits me is something to wake me up and give me a lift when I have to deplane mid journey, or on arrival when I'm waiting in a long queues for customs. Citrus based colognes, especially grapefruit, give me that desired lift. I've tried many but on my current rotation are some of the colognes pictured above.

Starting top left and going clockwise:

Jo Malone Grapefruit - The initial blast of grapefruit is a real wake up call. It soon softens and fades to an aromatic citrus but it is still refreshing.

Abahna White Grapefruit & May Chang - This is a very sharp, pungent grapefruit, a little like a slap in the face to get your attention! This affect fades but the may chang gives a verbana-like scent which keeps the freshness going much longer than Jo Malone Grapefruit.

L'Occitaine Verbena or Citrus Verbena - There have been various versions of this the last ten years. The Citrus Verbena tends to smell like fresh lemon zest--super enlivening!-- while the verbena is usually more of a fresh aromatic. Both are extremely refreshing in lieu of the shower I so badly want on hour 17 of the journey.

Lisa Hoffman Madagascar Orchid -  Lisa Hoffman used to sell these adorable little kits where she would take a scent and tweak it four ways, for use from morning to night. They were oils and I still have some of the Madagascar Orchid, Tunisian Fig and Japanese Agarwood. This is the rare instance when I prefer the oil version to the perfume spray she is currently selling. Please bring these back, Lisa! The Madagascar Orchid is not a citrus like the perfumes described above. This is a pretty powdery flower that is so gentle yet so beautiful, it automatically makes you feel more relaxed and calm when you apply. It is very close to the skin.

Cinq Mondes Eau Egyptienne - This is actually a face refreshing spray in a cute travel size that I got from Beautyhabit. Fragrantica says: "This fine mist for hair and body incorporates skin softening lotus flower and ten key essential oils from the kyphi recipe." Rose geranium and mint for their toning effect,; cypress, juniper, myrrh and jasmine for their purifying  action; cumin and incense for relaxing properties, and mastic for lymphatic stimulation. This one is very bracing and makes me feel clean and rejuvenated.

Of course, anything I wear on a plane needs to be a super light skin scent just for me, and preferably it is a natural. It also has to come in a small bottle or roll on. This is my justification for all the gift with purchase bags I acquire! They always have some of these treats.

I will only bring one perfume on board the flight. There are certain other things I always have with me though. A cute bag doesn't hurt! Clockwise, winding back around to center:

100 % Pure Lip Butter - This one happens to be strawberry. My lips always go dry on a plane but I don't necessarily want to fool with lipstick. This one has a bit of color for the lips.
Aerin Rose Hand Lotion by Estee Lauder - This could be anything. I'm not brand loyal, it's just whatever I have a sample of on hand. This one has a pleasant rose scent.
Earplugs - I tend to sit over the wings because I hate flying and it's more stable there. But the engines can be loud and if all else fails it is nice to have these on hand.
Face Cream sample - This one happens to be Estee Lauder but it could be anything. I'll smear it on my face about half way through the flight.
Pills - My Jemima Puddle Duck tin once held mints but now it is the perfect pill carrier. This will always contain Melatonin, aspirin, and Clarityn.
Throat Lozenges - This is a local Chinese brand but Strepsils works too for dry throat and coughing attacks.
File - Because my nails always crumble on flights. Plane air sucks the moisture right out of them.
Towel for cleaning eyeglasses - Wearing contacts on long haul flights is a big no no for me these days. My eye balls get too dry, but my glasses seem to get covered in fingerprints. It's nice to have this scratch proof towel to clean them.
Tiger Balm - I often develop an ache at some point along the flight and it's great to have this warming ointment. It also is good for smearing under the nose if it gets stuffy. The menthol smell will open you right up!

I don't enjoy flying, but having a few small luxuries on hand makes a painful ordeal that bit more comfortable. Do you have any "can't live without" luxuries for travel?