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 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.


Undina said...

Funny thing: I know the English spelling and pronunciation for that city but when I saw the name of this perfume, there wasn't even a question for me how to pronounce it - and only later, reading some of the reviews, I realized that for English-speaking people it wasn't as straight forward.

I'm so glad that you got that beautiful perfume as a gift from your family. You'll enjoy it even more since it has that personal story for you.
I have 1/4 of Ukrainian blood in me so I feel strangely pleased to learn that part about your family.

Cynthia said...

I think most Americans probably don't know how to pronounce Warsaw. And although I don't have the Polish/Ukranian blood, it's my husband and kids, but I feel invested in the family story. It's so much more dramatic of a history than mine!Thanks for reading.