Friday, October 7, 2016

Aroma M Geisha Vanilla Hinoki

Aroma M Geisha Vanilla Hinoki is the latest addition to the Geisha line. Introduced earlier this year in both an eau de parfum spray and an oil version, Aroma M's founder Maria McElroy created this scent as an olfactory reference to the ritual of the the Japanese bath. In Maria's own words, "When living in Japan, I took a tour over those seven years from one end of the island to the other, experiencing all the wonderful ways of Japanese bathing. The hinoki tubs left a lasting impression on me. This new perfume, Geisha Vanilla Hinoki, is inspired by the hinoki baths of Japan."

Japanese hinoki baths are the marriage of wood and water and provide a complete holistic experience. The tubs are not for cleaning, but for soaking, to provide energy, rejuvenation, and relaxation. Hinoki wood is particularly revered for its strength, beauty, and antibacterial properties. In addition the hinoki wood has a beautiful calming scent that has been described as having elements of lemon or ginger. Hinoki oil is gentle and has been used to calm skin irritations, as a decongestant to help with respiratory problems, and as a tonic for stress.

Geisha Vanilla Hinoki opens with a brightness, but it is toned down by a meditative, almost camphorous wood smell.  It is like being in a forest when the clouds above part and a ray of sunshine pierces the tree canopy. Then the clouds again cover the sun, muting its brightness. After a few minutes this brightness fades and the wood smell becomes dominant. It takes about thirty minutes before the vanilla makes an appearance on my skin. The vanilla is soft, maybe a little green, and more like smelling the pods than sweet vanilla desserts. The wood and vanilla seem to merge as one note so that neither one takes precedence; it's a perfect partnering. If you normally shy away from vanilla scents, this could be the one for you. At no point does this ever scream "vanilla perfume" to me. Once the vanilla enters the mix, Vanilla Hinoki becomes more of a skin scent. Words I would use to describe it are contemplative, meditative, relaxing, or mellow.

Vanilla Hinoki's key ingredient is a vanilla that has woody, smokey elements. "I found this luscious Moroccan vanilla on my trip to Tangier a few years ago," Maria said. "When I first smelled the hinoki oil I knew right away that this gorgeous gourmand vanilla would be the perfect partner." Other notes in the perfume include bergamot, clove, cardomom, nutmeg, cedarleaf, lavender, leather, patchouli, amyris, cedar, and hinoki.

Most of the perfumes in the Geisha line are oils but a few also come in sprays. Both versions are offered in Vanilla Hinoki. I find the opening of the eau de parfum more vibrant and the individual notes more apparent. The oil is softer, and on my skin it emphasizes the lemony facet of hinoki more than the vanilla. Both become very quiet and soft after an hour, in short more of a personal scent. The longer they are on the skin the more similar they become. To me this is a scent I would choose for its "feel good" factor, like wearing a beautiful almost transparent coat of armor to face the everyday stresses. (Perhaps I should put this on before watching the news or getting on facebook until the election season is over!) Other bloggers have suggested this could be the perfect bedtime scent to fall into a deep peaceful dream state.

When I began my scent journey over ten years ago, Maria McElroy's Aroma M was one of the first niche perfumers I found. I was trying to remember exactly how I discovered the company. Blogs, niche perfume stores, and online perfume chat groups were either nonexistent or small in numbers. But when I looked at the timeline on Aroma M's website, I remembered.  In 2006 Aroma M launched an 11 year anniversary coffret of perfume samples, individually wrapped in colorful Yuzen papers like little bon bons and packaged in an exquisite little homemade paper box. Lucky magazine featured the set, and back in those days I used to devour that magazine. When the samples came I was enchanted with the sheer beauty of this little box of perfumed treats, and that was even before I tried the scents! I was so entranced that I ordered several to give as gifts.

When I tried the perfumes I was even more impressed. Maria spent seven years in Japan where she trained in Kodo, the ancient art of fragrance, Ikebana, Koto (Japanese harp), and Zen Buddhism. She came from a background of both art and aromatherapy, which eventually gelled with the geisha-like arts she studied in Japan to inspired the creation of her own company, Aroma M. Maria's line has a very Asian aesthetic running through the perfumes. It is not that they have a similar smell or common note, rather that the aura they create when you wear the scents has a recognizable theme. There is such attention to detail and beauty, a craftsmanship that is hard to find today in our world of mass produced items. The bottles wrapped in stylized Yuzen paper are a wonder. I find that the oils and perfumes in this line wear close to the skin for the most part, although there are some (Geisha Rouge and Geisha Amber Rouge come to mind) that have a deeper and darker presence. They never walk into the room before you but glow quietly, a pretty haze of scent. Vanilla Hinoki follows this tradition.

I asked Maria what customers could expect in the future. "I am currently working on a new scent to release next spring", she said. "It is based on Japanese shiso. I have been looking for a natural shiso oil for awhile, and with the help of my chef husband I have finally found one. This new perfume will also include lilacs and incense. I am having a lot of fun with its creation!" These notes sound very interesting and I'll look forward to its release!

Top photo google image. Other photos from Aroma M website. Perfume samples were provided by the perfumer, and also purchased by me from Luckyscent.

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