Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Essence of the Park by Carthusia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Parfum Satori Hana Hiraku

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo from Parfums Satori website.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Watercolor Florals: Institut Tres Bien Cologne Fines

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beautiful painting above available at Other photos from Samples and bottle purchased by me at 

Friday, July 7, 2017

Zoologist Perfumes Part Seven: Dragonfly

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Painting by Melanie Douthit Original Art.