Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Jo Malone English Fields Collection: Quick Impressions


I always look forward to the Jo Malone limited edition scents every spring. The themes are fresh and original. The perfume notes always contain a touch of whimsy. The marketing is always superb. This photo for example. This spring's theme is the English Fields collection, utilizing the various grains growing in the spring and mixing them with traditional British flowers. No roses or jasmine here. It's primrose, poppy, cornflower, or meadowsweet. You never forget this line is British based. What I love about this photo: gazing directly into the dog's eyes as he pulls his mistress impatiently, the always attractive but not in the traditional way models with madcap attire. They look like the British bohemian version of the Tommy Hilfigar family of models.

But invariably, every year, no matter how precious the theme's conceit or how wondrous the notes sound, the scents usually fall flat for me. Longevity or lack of it, of course, but I'm sometimes able to capture only a whisper of a scent and it's usually gone ten minutes later. I've often thought if you strip away the lovely copy and photos, the Jo Malone name, and the whole precious English cheerio chipperness of it, people wouldn't touch the stuff.

I'm happy to say that I've finally found a limited edition line I can love, or at least like very much. The whole grains idea is interesting to me, and although I am unsure if any of these flowers have an actual scent, pairing floral and bready notes, while not entirely new, is certainly not overdone in today's market. So here are my brief, very fleeting impressions from sprays at the counter. Thank you very much David Jones in Adelaide.

Primrose & Rye

Does primrose really have a smell? I have no idea but doesn't the name sound like the quintessential English posie? The Jo Malone brief on this one was to have a sunny scent and they achieved that with the use of mimosa. Vanilla, rye, and cornsilk give a very light and yummy base. Out of all the scents, this one smells more of floral than of grain to me. It is a fresh, soft floral, rather indistinguishable, but smells pleasant, especially with the underlying scent of vanilla and rye grains. I like this one quite a bit. Key impression: Cheerful.


Honey & Crocus

The honey is very evident from the beginning. If you are one of those that sometimes gets that urinal smell from honey then don't blind buy this. That funny smell lasted just for just a moment but dissipated quickly and didn't put me off the scent at all. The idea for this perfume was the experience of bees flying over a meadow pollinating the English wildflowers. After the honey note I begin to get the scent of warm cereal. I immediately get such a strong mental impression from the time I spent in Scotland over fifteen years ago, eating a bowl of warm fragrant oatmeal at my cozy kitchen table. The grain note dominates and I don't get a strong floral vibe, other than that faint sense of floral in the honey you put on the oatmeal to sweeten it. And here's the weird fantastic part. I didn't read notes or description of the fragrance until this point of the review. Perfumer Mathilde Bijaoui wanted to get the honey just right so she tried to mimic British lavender honey, which has hay-like features. Guess what honey I used to eat on my oatmeal in Scotland--British lavender! So was this memory of Scottish oatmeal that popped into my head just a coincidence? I think not! And the other strange part is I'm usually a bloodhound for a drop of lavender in a perfume but I would have never guessed it was in this scent. And the last fragrance note, the perfumer added almond milk for creaminess. Key Impression: Cozy Yum

Oat & Cornflower

For some reason I expected to like this one the most, maybe because I like the smell of oats. This perfume has a slight spiciness to it. A hazelnut note emphasizes the nuttiness of the oat scent. It has a warm almost spicy feel and felt like it warmed up even more with wear time. I believe it is the vetiver note which has the most impact. At one point I thought I smelled the slightest touch of agarwood but I think it was the earthiness in the vetiver. The oat smell was present in the beginning but then it just turned into more of a warm, slightly spicy comfort scent. The floral note is very light and there is a slight white musk to add a bread note. I wasn't sure how I felt about this at first but the longer I wore it the more it developed and the more I liked it. It's longevity was far and away the best, being mildly present on my skin the next morning. Key Impression: Surprising Depth

Green Wheat and Meadowsweet

This scent is meant to emphasize the new season in the fields, adding green to make it seem like young wheat, according to the perfumer. When I first apply this scent it is grapefruit, grapefruit, grapefruit. I smell a tea note but this is not the tea collection, Jo has already been there, done that, so it probably is just an illusion from other notes. Those notes are meadowsweet, wheat, green notes, and of course grapefruit. If the wheat note comes through on your skin I suspect this could be a stunner, but it just doesn't work on me. It's nice enough, just not what I was expecting. Key impression: Where's the Wheat?

Poppy & Barley

I think of barley as being a substantial grain so I expected the grainy note to be stronger in this one. The poppy scent is conceptualized as the flower has no scent. It is an important flower in the English psyche, both because its bright red color dots the English countryside in spring and also because of poppy as a reference to remembrance day. When I first spray this it is sadly bland and boring on my skin. It seems the type of scent Jo Malone always has at least one of: perfume for people who don't really want to smell like they're wearing perfume. I'm looking at you, Star Magnolia. Predictably, this was the one David Jones was sold out of and I'm betting that will be the case at other stores too. Just as I'm ready to totally write this off about thirty minutes in, something changes and I get a pleasant floral aroma. It is perfectly fine, just no panache. And I wish I could smell barley. Key Impression: Yawn

So final verdict is three perfumes I would be happy to own, and two that were ok, just not for me. If you're interested you'd better hurry. These scents never last long.

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Sunday, March 25, 2018

Goldfield & Banks Australia: Perfume Reviews


The relatively new brand Goldfield & Banks Australia is perfect for my previously stated desire to review Australian perfumers during my time as a semi resident Down Under. Dimitri Weber traveled from Europe to explore Australia and unexpectedly fell in love with the dramatic and vast open landscapes. Realizing there was no luxury brand of perfume highlighting Australia's indigenous botanical heritage and extraordinary scenic beauty,  he resolved to start a brand to capture the true spirit of Australia, the result being Goldfield & Banks Australia.

 Dimitri Weber, founder of Goldfield & Banks Australia. Photo from website.

The 'Banks' of the fragrance name is in homage to Sir Joseph Banks, an English botanist who first collected and made known the vastness of Australia's plants and wildlife to the outside world. Banks began his career as a botanist and patron of the sciences when instead of partaking a "grand tour" of European antiquities as was common of men of his ilk, he chose to take an adventurous voyage to Labrador and Newfoundland to explore the natural life found there. Thus a couple of years later he found himself aboard The Endeavour captained by James Cook, and was present for the historic moment when Australia was "discovered" by the British explorers in 1770. Banks was the first to record and collect impressions of the Australian flora and wildlife and he was also instrumental in the following immigration from Britain to Australia. So that explains Bank's connection to Australia. I am assuming the Goldfields in the name is a reference to this valuable Australian national resource, plus it sounds stately. My guess, of course.

Sir Joseph Banks, as painted by Sir Joshua Reynold in 1773.

Pacific Rock Moss

Goldfield and Banks Australia has been generating a whole lot of buzz for a newish perfume brand from a rather large but remote location. Pacific Rock Moss in particular has sent the scent world buzzing, being discussed on blogs, vlogs, and fragrance forums; some lauding it as the best ever fresh ozonic fragrance and a few dissing it as overblown hype. For the most part, though, the reviews have been overwhelmingly favorable.


I am usually not a fan of the ozonic ocean-fresh perfume but in this case I make an exception. It is one of my two favorite scents from the collection. On my Goldfield & Banks sample cover the scent is described thusly: "Seize the day and experience a moment of pure bliss with this invigorating fragrance. A distinctive marine note graced with aromatic essences brings you on a lush coastal walk on a beautiful summer day." Notes listed are Australian coastal moss, lemon, sage, geranium, and cedarwood. Normally ozonic ocean scents are ones I actively dislike. To me the opening spray is always a big whoosh of chemical smelling "freshness" which I find irritating and unnatural. In this case there is no big ozonic opening. I smell cool water with a mineral-like freshness but it is a natural smell, like comparing still bottled water to fizzy sparkling water. This opening is quiet without that itchy fizz. There may be lemon but this certainly is not a citrus beach perfume. There may be sage but I don't get a strong herbal vibe. There may be geranium but the scent lacks the peppery  freshness that note sometimes imparts. The only note from the list I can really identify is the cedarwood.

Coastal moss on rocks, Sydney beach. Photo from Pinterest by Ian English.

Central and southern Australian beaches have cool water chilled by the Southern Ocean rolling from not-so-distant Antarctica, and you can feel that coolness in the scent. Australian beaches are among the most beautiful in the world, but are very different from tropical beaches. Vast open stretches of often untouched sand, sometimes rimmed by rugged cliffs; rolling waves littering the beaches with seaweed drying in the sun and moss coated rock formations. My favorite phase of Pacific Rock Moss comes later. As the scent melds with my skin it becomes a true skin scent. It is the scent of a good day spent jumping in the waves, lying in the surf, then sunning atop a towel thrown onto the golden warm sand. It is the smell of salty marine water drying on sun warmed skin, tinged with a tiny bit of sweet sweat. It feels realistic, natural, and quietly present. This scent is unisex, as are all the Goldfield & Banks scents. The scent is light but has very good longevity for me.

Blue Cypress

Blue Cypress is another fresh scent in a similar vein to Pacific Rock Moss, except instead of a marine freshness this one is aromatic. Blue Cypress is described on the website as, "A haze of light incense that fuses with the scent of the morning dew evaporating from a deep blue-green forest." Listed notes are Australian blue cypress, lavender, patchouli, clove, and star anise. Australian blue cypress is harvested in the Kakadu in Northern Territory. When the oil is distilled from the bark it comes out a vibrant bright blue!

Blue cypress oil from www.essentiallyaustralia.com.au

Blue cypress oil is thought to ground and stabilize the wearer, and if you're sensitive to the healing aspects of fragrant oils as I am, you might find that this scent does give a sense of calmness. Blue cypress oil can smell woody and smokey and I smell both of these notes, although the smoke is only evident to me at the beginning of the fragrance's life on my skin. I can sense the spices and patchouli but they are light. There is a wetness to this scent, but again for me, without the annoying chemical ozone. I found this a very pleasant scent to wear but not one that I feel compelled to own, due to personal preferences.

Sandalwood plantation in Western Australia, Google image

White Sandalwood

White Sandalwood is meant to evoke the dry flat land in Australia's deserts; the cracked red earth against the background of a huge blue sky. This is how a huge portion of Australia's vast uninhabited interior looks and White Sandalwood is meant to portray the dryness. In addition to sandalwood, listed notes include thyme, amber, rose, saffron, and pepper. These notes describe the structure of several sandalwood-based perfumes I wore on a trip to India this year.  Those perfumes evoked the rich exoticness of sandalwood, especially the rose/sandalwood combination. Here in White Sandalwood, however, the perfume feels dry and almost austere. Here the notes are neutered of their rich spiciness and instead of broad strokes of red paint they send a pale whisper of spiced smoke. I could almost say that it reads like a sandalwood soliflore on my skin, but on Fragrantica reviewers discuss how floral it is and that the sandalwood is faint. So as with all perfumes, try before you buy. I enjoyed the quiet slightly exotic aura of this scent and it was a great accompaniment to my yoga class. In the future I plan a post of the best perfumes for yoga, and this will certainly be on that list!

Wood Infusion

Wood Infusion is, unsurprisingly, a wood based scent featuring Australian exotic woods of eucalypt, sandalwood, and agarwood. The scent is inspired by Fraser Island, Queensland, and the exotic and lush nature there. Notes of orange, lavender, and iris are also listed. As always when agarwood is present, it's the main thing I smell. Fortunately for me anyway, this is a milder, less intense version of agarwood so it doesn't repel me as full on oud can. The woods are lightly fragrant, iris I believe is adding a dry formality, and the lavender I do not smell. The orange is just in the beginning rush, then disappears. Eventually on my skin the wood notes dominate. It is mostly smooth with an occasional tangy note from the agarwood. This scent fades within a few hours on my skin.


Desert Rosewood

My other favorite of the line is Desert Rosewood. This is another fragrance meant to evoke the dryness of the desert and utilizes Buddah Wood, which is also known as native Desert Rosewood. This small tree grows in the desert and its distilled oil is said to smell of smoke, whiskey, and wood with rich resinous tones. The scent also has notes of mandarin, cardamom, benzoin, vanilla, and patchouli. These notes read like an oriental perfume to me, and I do sometimes get that vibe from the perfume. The perfume website mentions a leather note, and while not strong on my skin, I can smell it.

Eventually a powdery note starts to become very noticeable, reminding me of the clove note found in carnation perfumes and a combination often used in Oriental perfumes. (No carnation is listed).  I can smell softened woody notes and the creaminess of the vanilla and benzoin combination. This scent has great longevity and projection on my skin. The wood/powder/vanilla notes give a comforting vibe and I feel comfortably cocooned within the scent cloud. It smells of sweet woods and creamy softness but don't think this makes it feel feminine, it's very unisex.

I found the Goldfield & Banks Australia line to be well constructed and I enjoy the connection to Australian scenescapes and the use of plant life unique to the Australian continent. The prices are for the luxury market although you do get 100 ml for the price, instead of the 50 ml that seems to be more common with luxury pricing these days. It would be great if they would make a smaller size for those who can't quite afford the big bottles. Both the Goldfield & Banks website and now Luckyscent offer an affordable sampling option. Some of the discussion online has been about pricing vs. wear time. The pricing is upmarket, however hopefully from my descriptions you can see that I found the ingredients to be natural and high quality. They do wear fairly lightly on my skin and I found the wear time to be about average. It is up to the consumer and their pocketbook if all these factors justify a buy. I found them to be a nice homage to Australia and a good fit for the spirit of the country.

Perfume samples purchased from www.GoldfieldandBanks.com. Opinions my own. 

Friday, March 16, 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 www.Independent.ie, 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.

Frond

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.

Ilaun

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.

Thursday, March 8, 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!

Thursday, March 1, 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 www.vintag.es. 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:



via GIPHY

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.