Sunday, December 13, 2020

Silver Bells Redux: Silvery Scents


The first year I started my blog I did a Christmas post on Silver Bells, using aldehydic perfumes as an expression of cold metallic bells and their ringing sound. It is one of the most-read posts I ever published, I think in large part to the beautiful art I selected as a lead in. This year I'm having another look at Silver Bell inspired perfumes, with only one repeat perfume. I'm concentrating more on the color silver itself this time.

I love to wear Bond No. 9 Andy Warhol Silver Factory when the weather turns sharp and chilly. I live near a train yard, and in the summer the sounds are distant and muted, but in the winter cold there is a sharp piercing shriek of metal on metal when the train brakes. Something about the air density in cold temperatures creates this clarity. This sharp sound is the effect Silver Factory gives when I apply it on a cold day. 

Andy Warhol Silver Factory came out in 2007 and was the first of five scents based on the life and career of the famous New York-based artist and social phenomenon. This was in the early days of Bond No. 9 and they were doing some edgy perfumes back then, before they started introducing such a steady stream of perfumes at a rate almost impossible to keep up with. Perfumer Aurelien Guichard was responsible for this fragrance, as well as my other favorite from the house, Chinatown. 

Top notes are lavender, bergamot, and grapefruit; middle notes are incense, iris, violet, and jasmine, and base notes are resins, cedar, and amber. One of the marvels of this perfume is how it transitions. It goes on sharp as a knife blade, and the colder the weather, the more biting that effect will be. This is not a perfume that flourishes in hot weather, in my opinion. This effect does bring to mind silver: silver knifes, silver bells, silver train tracks, silver cars with snowflakes adhering to their shell like metallic armor. 

After such a cold opening, the scent begins to warm up. A delicious and fairly light incense note mixes with the resins and amber to provide warmth and fragrant aromatics. The iris definitely plays a part in making this scent feel so chilly at the onset, but like the other florals, it is well blended and doesn't stand out unless you are familiar with the note. I only drag this one out in winter and every year I am re-amazed by how much I love it. 

Another scent that makes me think silver is Clinique Wrappings. You will only see this scent offered from the Clinique counters at Christmas time, and even then, you may have to hunt for it. Like most of my "silver scents", it blooms in winter but can smell heavy in warm weather. Wrappings offers aldehydes on steroids, and it is these sparkling, cold notes that make me think of cold, metal silver bells. I wrote about this one in the article from 2016 linked above, but I will quote one sentence which gives the essence of the scent, to me: The opening rush smells like frigid air. The green smells like silvery pine needles laced with snow. It conjures the image of walking through a frozen forest, pine needles glistening with frozen ice glitter. Enjoy this one during the season as there is a reason they only sell it during Christmas. In my opinion it just doesn't smell as good once the Christmas planning and excitement has passed!

The next two scents on my list only remind me of silver in the opening; after that they transition into something much warmer. I will mention them, though, because they do give a different aspect to this idea of silver scents. 

L'Artisan Parumeur Dzongkha was released in 2006 and made quite a stir during a time when inventive perfumes were in shorter supply than they are today. Bertrand Duchaufour was the nose, and this perfume was a part of a trilogy based on his exotic travels. Dzongkha was inspired by a trip to Bhutan, a kingdom in the Himalayas, a land where Buddhist monasteries perch on mountain ledged, strings of prayer flags fluttering in the high winds and bells tolling solemnly, the sound echoing through the valleys below. 

The first moments of Dzongkha feel chilly with that dry feeling of cold air. It is easy for me to picture the somber ringing of the bells. Very quickly though a whole journey of scents begin to appear. The stones that the Buddhist temples are built of and the incense that permeates the walls over time are the basis for this scent. Other notes appear: cardomom and tea, very dry vetiver and papyrus, tanned leather. But it is the iris which for me lives through the opening, the heart, and even the base of the scent. It is dry and rooty. In the beginning it feels chilly and remote, at the heart if accentuates cold stones and metallic bells, and at the base it finally begins to go softer and slightly powdery. 

This is a very unusual scent and it doesn't always work on me. I NEVER wear this in warm weather because then it smells like carrots and celery; remnants of a summer vegetable garden. But when it works, I am climbing high in the Himalayan mountains, the air is bracing, I feel serene and at one with my surroundings. Higher up the mountain I spot my destination, a stone structure jutting out of the mountainside; a place of refuge on this unforgiving mountain.

My last "silver" perfume is actually more gray, DSH Perfumes Kohl Gris. Several years ago Dawn Spencer-Hurwitz who is owner and perfumer at DSH, did a series of perfumes based on color. Kohl Gris was my favorite, and it continues to be one I wear every year in winter, especially around Christmas.

The perfume is meant to represent the smoky, kohl lined eye, and thus is a warm and spicy scent at heart. There is, however, a brief moment when I first apply this perfume when I get a bracing, slightly metallic scent which feels silver to me. This could be from the lavender and pine notes. After that it heats up very quickly with pepper and clove. Then sensuous base notes of tobacco, labdanum, frankincense, sandalwood, and ambergris make this a delicious spicy, smoky perfume. 

I find that iris or orris root is a common element through these four perfumes, as it has a chilly dry quality. Are there any fragrances in your collection that feel silvery to you?

The retro Christmas cards are on Pinterest. The Silver Bells sign is from ebay. Top painting is by Clair Rossiter. Perfumes are my own.

Saturday, December 5, 2020

Cristèle Jacquemin Collection: Meandering Soul, Impermanence, and Underworld

Christèle Jacquemin's perfume enterprise just celebrated its one year anniversary in October. She introduced three perfumes in 2019, one of which immediately garnered a nomination in the Art and Olfaction Awards, a remarkable achievement for a first time perfumer. Jacquemin had previously worked as a photographer, a passion she still pursues. Today she uses her travel experiences and the photographs she took to capture the mood of a place to inspire her perfume creations. Her scents are very individual and interpretive; in fact, I'd go so far as to say they are probably the most original fragrances I've smelled in 2020. 

Jacquemin's scent, Impermanence, was nominated in the Artisan Category, and this artistic and creative energy defines her work. Combining photography with fragrance, she manages to recreate the feeling and memory of a specific place and time in her life, in scent. As might be expected, these impressions are individual and specific to the artist's experiences. To those perfume consumers used to more mainstream offerings these scents may be startling at first. It took me more than one wearing to absorb everything I was smelling; these scents offer true scent seekers a lot to explore. I think this in part is because Jacquemin makes use of spices that other perfumers don't often feature, so the nose is smelling things not normally found in fragrances. The only other perfumer whose work struck me this way is Olivier Durbano, whose scents I reviewed here

Here are my brief reviews of each scent. This is written through the lens of how they perform on my skin, and over time I have found that my skin does not like citrus notes so much but it adores wood notes. Bear that in mind when reading my opinions. After finishing my reviews I searched out other reviewers opinions, and several mentioned the flower notes blooming on their skin. For me, the florals are so well blended into the scent as a whole that I don't get a strong sense of the flower notes. I will feature one of Jacquemin's photographs to represent each scent.

Meandering Soul

Meandering Soul is the perfect scent to be wearing in the cool weather of autumn, rolling into winter, that we are experiencing here in North Texas right now. It has a warm toasty feel. An opening note of fennel gives the nose a surprise; it's not a note one encounters a lot in perfumery. It smells herbal and piquant and is a nice contrast to the sweeter notes that follow. I am wondering if fennel is a more familiar smell to Europeans than Americans, as it was an Austrian friend who taught me to appreciate fennel tea. Hinoki wood makes me think of an autumn stroll, kicking aside fallen leaves of orange, brown, and gold. These two notes combined give me a faint nutty note, which again feeds my autumn fantasy of acorns underfoot and chestnuts roasting on an open fire. Heart notes are ylang-ylang, narcissus, and cinnamon but in all honesty I don't smell the florals. My nose goes straight to the base notes of caramel and tobacco. The caramel notes are subdued and not overly sweet; this is not a praline but rather that scent of slightly burnt sugar at the fall county fair. 

To me Meandering Soul references slight grainy smells with spice and woodiness. There is even a little bit of smoke, maybe from the tobacco. It is a very gentle smell, which is I think what Jacquemin was trying to convey. There are nuances of smoke, moist tobacco, a burnt caramel, and the very dry hinoki. Although subtle, the scent is strangely addictive and unlike anything I've tried.

Jacquemin's inspiration for the scent came from a month-long sojourn at an art residency in Taipei, Taiwan. She found the fast pace of the city chaotic, so used night time wanders to reconnect with nature and study the city at a less frenetic pace. Jacquemin wanted to relay the calm and peace she found in her nightly strolls into a scent. Maybe I am influenced by the cold weather outside my door as I do tend to look at some scents as seasonal, but Meandering Soul is my favorite of the three scents.


This was the perfume that brought attention to Christele Jacquemin's brand new perfume enterprise, with a nomination to the Art and Olfaction 2020 Awards in the Artisan category. Impermanence strikes me as the opposite of Meandering Soul; light and bright as compared to the darker moodier hues of Meandering Soul. The opening notes are bergamot, blue ginger, and hinoki wood. I think it is the blue ginger that takes the bergamot into a totally unexpected direction. There is a sharp crispness to the opening, but not in the traditional sense of citrus opening notes in a fragrance. Again, my nose tells me I am smelling something unexpected and different from the usual fragrant offerings we see today. I can really come up with no comparison references for any of these scents, which is good news for those seeking out truly artistic scents and always looking for some new stimuli.

Middle notes are rosemary, rose, and palmarosa, which is an India-subcontinent grass which emits a rose like smell, even though it is a plant and not a flower. I do smell the rose in the scent, but it is subtle and there is no way I would call this a "rose" fragrance, as it has a very nature-like vibe. The base notes are vetiver and yerba mate. The yerba mate has a more earthy smell than some teas, and this is in keeping with the feeling of the scent, wandering through back lanes and experiencing nature and happiness. Jacquemin has photos to accompany each scent, and for Impermanence her stated goal was to show the following: "become one with nature, welcome change, reenergize in harmony". The grassy, herbal nature of Impermanence, with an uplift of citrus for optimism, and rose, which is a known and recognized to impart a sense of well being, do indeed give me the feeling of energized harmony. 

The inspiration for this fragrance came from a one month artistic sojourn in the village of Jin Ze, outside of Shanghai, China. Here Jacquemin found peace and tranquility in an unspoiled setting, and on her return home she translated this feeling to scent.


Underworld was inspired by a period in Jacquemin's life marked by transition. She had lived in Barcelona for many years, but was traveling to Paris to study perfumery as she began to expand her interests and career aspirations in that direction. For her it was a period marked by darkness and light, and most of all change, opening a new chapter in life.

The text Jacquemin uses on her website to describe the perfume and the photos that represented it are revealing: "let go--get out of one's cave--enter light". The scent opens with cumin, pepper, and cardomom, and no surprise that these notes give a darkness and mystery right from the start. Heart notes are carrot seed, patchouli, and vetiver, and base notes are tuberose, mimosa, and frankincense. 

It is easy to imagine that I am in a dark place as these spices unfold. Despite the note description, these are not "in your face" spices from a trade route camel caravan in days of yore. Rather they are smooth, slightly unsettling, and brooding--very atmospheric. 

Underworld's notes are so interesting, and reading the heart and base notes, it really gives me no sense of the fragrance that eventually unfolds. After the dark opening the scent begins to lighten, and true to her description, it does give some of the smells associated with caving. Many years ago I went to Deer Cave in Sarawak, Malaysia, on the island of Borneo, and at the time it was the world's largest cave. I wrote about that experience here, but in short, I get that sense of limestone walls wet with dripping water and the moist, squishy earth underfoot. If one is fanciful you can imagine starting the journey in the tight tunnel of the cave, gradually coming to the cave's vast opening where there is space and vaulted ceilings and perhaps a shaft of light entering from far above. As the scent's life continues to unfold we get more lightness, walking away from the dark and eventually exiting the cave to the world outside. 

My take away is that these are some of the most original scents I have smelled all year. Ms. Jacquemin's artistic resume as a photographer shines through as she transitions her talents into a new area, going from that of sight to the sense of smell. It is interesting to compare the images, which she also sells on her website, with the perfume that inspired them. If you are intrigued by these descriptions and would like to try these scents you can order a very reasonably priced sample set of sprays from the company's website, here. Jacquemin also offers her scents in a selection of sizes to please everyone: 15 ml, 30 ml, 50 ml, and 100 ml, which was recently added. You can also browse her website for photographs she sells, and some of these photos have been turned into small scented papers for scenting a car or a drawer. Thank you to Christèle Jacquemin for sending me samples. My opinions are my own.

Photos are from website. Thank you to the perfumer for the samples.

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Parfums Dusita Moonlight In Chiangmai: A Little Night Magic


"How do you hold a moonbeam in your hand?"

lyric from Sound of Music, Rodgers and Hammerstein

Parfums Dusita's newest release, Moonlight In Chiangmai, is an olfactory impression of standing on a hill in Northern Thailand, overlooking the city of Chiang Mai, the velvet darkness of the night partially illuminated by a luminous moon, and the sky dotted with floating golden lanterns floating toward the heavens. This was the scene envisioned by Parfums Dusita founder Pissara Umivijani when she began to create Moonlight In Chiangmai. Once a year during Yee Peng festival, rice paper lanterns are released in mass, with the hope of sending away bad fortune and ushering in good luck. There couldn't be a more fitting year to have such a ceremony, making Moonlight In Chiangmai a felicitous choice for the closing days of 2020.

Pissara Umivijani always chooses a poem of her late father, Montri Umivijani, to both inspire and illustrate her perfumed creations. The poem she choose to represent Moonlight In Chiangmai also seems very fitting for the year we have experienced, worldwide.

From the website.

I have worn Moonlight In Chiangmai several times and it behaves differently on my skin according to the time of day; sometimes following the scent pyramid with a bitter and tart yuzu opening, and other times rushing straight to the base, a gorgeous teakwood elixir that Pissara brewed in her studio and which is the backbone of the scent. In all honesty I found this a difficult review to write, because the perfume was like a living thing on my skin, emphasizing various aspects and different notes each time I wore it. 

When I experienced the yuzu opening (which for some strange reason happened when I applied the perfume at night), the use of yuzu gives a different aura to the fragrance than the more traditional citrus notes. When bergamot or neroli are utilized as citrus notes in a perfume it can make one picture Mediterranean seashores; this citrus, yuzu, feels more exotic and rare. I am reminded of hotel breakfast buffets in Asia with their platters of colorful and unusual fruits whose flavors veered more toward tangy and pungent, rather than sweet and familiar.

The yuzu, to me, is a more solemn citrus, less bright than orange or bergamot, and rendering the pucker of grapefruit. In addition to yuzu there is jasmine in the opening and again, I get various reactions on my skin. The first time I tried Moonlight In Chiangmai, the notes unfolded rather dramatically, and I caught a whiff of a fresh green jasmine emitting from my skin, as if lightly carried on the breeze. It was not hard to visualize golden lantern gliding silently into the dark night sky, just as delicately as the jasmine lifted off my skin. On other occasions when the scent opened with the teakwood elixir, the jasmine was more subtle in its entry, but even more highly illustrative of the idea of a brilliant lantern burning bright in a midnight sky.

The base notes of the fragrance (which I sometimes smell right from the first spray) are Somalian Myrrh, Patchouli, Haitian Vetiver, and the special Teakwood base. Moonlight In Chiangmai has elements of a traditional men's scent in the vintage style, but for me it illuminates Pissara's special ability to imbue  a Thai or Asian strand of cohesion throughout her scents, a personal fingerprint. I particularly appreciate the vetiver in the teakwood base. It amps up the dryness of the woods, and adds a touch of both smoke and leather to the scent.

I spent the majority of my adult life in Asia, more Singapore than Thailand, but I was lucky enough to be there in the early 1990s before mass development fully took hold. There were many little Mom and Pop shops selling various paraphernalia geared towards tourists. Eventually the real estate became too valuable and two story shop houses made way for high rise skyscrapers. However the teakwood accord took me again to the back streets of Singapore in 1990, coming across a shop filled with beautifully ornate wooden cabinets featuring intricate carving and metal butterfly shaped clasps. I remember opening one of the cabinets and a scent of dry wood, smoky leather, and spice filling my senses, almost as if I had opened the door to Narnia. I didn't know at the time, but this scent was imprinted on my memory and will forever take me back to that moment, that shop, that time in Singapore.

This Asian sensibility is what I perceive in Pissara's Teakwood accord. I also got a strong sense of tobacco when I first sprayed the scent, and I sent Pissara a message: "I love Moonlight In Chiangmai, it's so beautiful. I have one question. I smell a gentle sweet tobacco scent, but tobacco is not listed. Can you tell me where I'm getting this note?"

She answered, "I don't have any tobacco in it. I have a teak wood accord and that can be interpreted in different ways. I blend patchouli from Indonesia, sandalwood, cedarwood, and vetiver. Vetiver can be interpreted to be like tobacco leaf. I also have a little bit of benzoin from Siam, a little bit of labdanum, so you see the kind of ambery woody ingredient with a hint of smoky wood."

I get a strong sense of leathery tobacco leaf, and I was reminded of  cherry tobacco from a pipe. This could be from the myrrh, as it can throw fruity aspects, usually plum or fig. Fig or other subtle dried fruit were other possible interpretations I thought of, along with the cherry tobacco impression. I believe it may be the myrrh which gives that certain fragrance that I interpret as "Asian woods", an oily, slightly medicinal tinge as well as a dryness and slight spiciness. 

Now back to the words with which I started this review. I sprayed the sample Pissara generously sent me (after the first package she sent disappeared--there is a package thief somewhere out there that smells very good ). That first time it was wood note forward, so I had this beautiful teakwood elixir with elements that so strongly reminded me of Asia, but also tobacco, leather, light resins, and then came this shaft of light (yuzu) and a gossamer trail of the lightest most delicate jasmine. The whole thing was magic, and that is when the words to the old song from the movie The Sound of Music popped into my head -- "How do you hold a moonbeam in your hand?". With Moonlight In Chiangmai, Pissara harnesses a bit of the magic that takes place over the inky black skies over Chiangmai once every year during Yee Peng, when thousands of lanterns silently illuminate the skies.

I recommend you go to this link and see the wonderful presentation and short (24 second) film that team Dusita has prepared for the launch of Moonlight In Chiangmai. It shows a little of the beauty of this city that inspired Pissara to create the scent and it is illustrated with some of her lovely hand drawn images. I am a big believer in intention and purpose. There are some perfumers who use crystals to infuse their scents with positivity and certain power. Pissara is such a lovely and positive person, and I truly feel she is able to blend that serene quality and beauty into the fragrances she creates.

Moonlight In Chiangmai was made with the intention of having another scent in the Parfums Dusita lineup geared for the male buyer, but it is truly unisex and can be happily worn by anyone. Pissara told me to be sure and try the scent on male skin, but my husband is away and not here for two more days. If I notice many differences when he tries it I will update here later.  

THANKS TO THE GENEROSITY OF PARFUMS DUSITA, I HAVE TWO SAMPLES TO GIVE AWAY TO USA-BASED READERS. Apologies that I can't afford to send internationally but if you are a USA reader either leave a comment in the comment section here (it won't immediately show up as I have to allow comments) or comment on The Fragrant Journey facebook page. If you comment here could you check back to see if you are a winner or message me your Facebook profile link or email so I can reach out? I WILL SELECT WINNERS ON SUNDAY NOVEMBER 29, A WEEK FROM TODAY.

The top photo is from the Chiang Rai Times, and is actually a picture of Chiang Rai, not Chiang Mai, used for artistic purposes! Thank you to Parfums Dusita for the sample of  Moonlight In Chiang Mai. 

Friday, October 30, 2020

Puredistance Rubikona

A new launch by Puredistance Master Perfumes is always a cause for anticipation. Unlike so many niche perfumers that flood the market with new product, Puredistance has deliberately adopted a "less is more" philosophy. Puredistance 1 was introduced in 2007, and Rubikona will be just the eleventh perfume introduced in the thirteen year period since then. Each perfume stands on its own merit as a unique and individual scent. Each breaks new ground and offers Puredistance customers a new and distinct choice.

Puredistance founder Jan Ewoud Vos relies on just a few master perfumers to bring his inspiration and ideas to fragrant reality, and for Rubikona he turned to Cécile Zarokian, who also created Sheiduna. I know from a past interview I did with Mr. Vos that he takes great care in creating the names that will represent his perfumes, and he likes forming a word out of descriptive parts. The brief for this newest perfume started with the word "Ruby", to respresent the deep and warm red of the precious stones, and the word "Icon", to represent timeless beauty and style.

When perfumes are centered around a color, as several in the Puredistance line are, one can't help but draw conclusions in advance as to how the color will be represented in fragrance. With Rubikona's pictured inspirations of a ruby necklace and the vibrant color red, I expected something fiery, maybe even spicy, big and bold. I should have learned after Puredistance Gold, reviewed here, that Mr. Vos would have his own vision, and it would be led by class and restraint. With Gold I expected shiny and bright, and I discovered shimmer and mystery. So I don't know why I expected pyrotechnics or the red cape of the matador waved in front of the bull. Instead it is the red of love and comfort. At the same time it represents the color in a blood red ruby, revealing both shaded depths and glints of sparkling light. Rubikona the perfume juggles that contrast of light and dark with a scent that has  depth, yet also lightness and loft.

First, the notes: 

Top notes: Bergamot, Grapefruit, Mandarin

Middle notes: Rose, Iris, Ylang, Clove, Orange Blossom, Creamy notes

Base notes: Parchouli, Cedarwood, Vanilla, Solar Notes, Musk

So the big question is how does Rubikona smell, at least on my skin? The opening is a full creamy floral, but I smell the citrus notes too, a tart grapefruit and pungent mandarin notes. These citrus notes add a quick moment of lightness, but then disappear into the big bouquet of florals. The floral bouquet is blended in such a way that no one flower is distinct. When thinking of a "red" perfume and seeing that it has rose as a note, one might think they have the scent all figured out. For me this bouquet of flowers does smell "red". Just like you can identify a white bouquet in perfume, this one feels red, but don't expect to have a distinct smell of rose, or any of the other florals for that matter. In a style I find to be distinctly French in perfumery, everything is well blended. In addition to the rose, there is iris, ylang, and orange blossom. I always love the combination of rose and orange blossom which translates to a lovely opulence and richness. Both bring out a creaminess and sensuality in the other. The first time I wore Rubikona, I thought I could pick out carnation in the scent, but when I look at the list of notes I see clove. Carnation can have clove aspects, so I guess this is what made me think it was there. Carnation as a note always gives scents a chic and dressy feel, at least to my nose. The iris is indistinct to me, but certainly adds to the richness of the bouquet that is Rubikona.

During the blooming of all these beautiful florals there is one aspect of the scent that is a standout, and it is the sumptuous, billowy cream notes.

Ahhh, the cream!

The creamy notes give an extravagant plushness to the scent, but at the same time give it a comforting aura. The creaminess is not too sweet, just soft, as if you've sunk down into a pile of billowy pillows. The ylang, and also vanilla, reinforce the scent's creamy nature.

Sink into the comforting softness!

Rubikona carries on with the floral creamy notes, but patchouli, which was slightly evident in the beginning, becomes more pronounced. Rose and patchouli are an often done pairing, but here the combination is more delicate than is sometimes the case. As a patchouli lover, I find its presence brings the flowers and the light creamy notes back down to earth. 

The red and the earth!

The patchouli is subtle to me, just adding a slight earthy depth. Patchouli can sometimes take over a scent, but in Rubikona we have the florals, lashings of cream, soft vanilla, and also gauzy musk. Without the grounding of patchouli and cedarwood in the base, the florals, vanilla, and cream might have felt too sweet and the scent too edible. Instead, there is a balance, a yin and yang that translates to an extremely beautiful but also very wearable perfume. While to me this perfume leans more feminine  I am a firm believer in anyone can wear anything they like, and the patchouli does perhaps make this more man friendly.

Twenty-four hours later I can still smell Rubikona on my wrists, not surprising since it is a 28% extrait. It smell like what could be memories of a beautiful night— a box seat at the opera, a night at the ballet, a dinner out with friends; all the sort of events that have been missed in this solemn year of the pandemic. But as appropriate as Rubikona would be to grace a grand event, it is also warm and comforting, like sinking into the plushest, softest bed ever or being held in the embrace of a loved one. It manages to do a difficult thing, really. It is equally at home as a chic accessory or as simply providing casual comfort, a true definition of effortless chic.

As a final thought, the beautiful red flacon would make a stunning Christmas gift, or Valentines, if you plan ahead. Puredistance packaging is exquisite and substantial, and each finishing bow is hand tied by the staff and family at the brand's Amsterdam office.

By now you may have read other reviewer's opinions of Rubikona. They will all comment on the exclusivity and the exceptionalism of the scents from the Puredistance house. Some perfume houses hype themselves as exclusive and a luxury brand, and they tack a high price tag on their scents as if to prove this. Jan Ewoud Vos set out to create a truly exclusive brand and cater to that select group of customers who appreciate fine craftmanship and quality. In an interview Mr. Vos told me that perhaps his favorite customers are those that can't necessarily buy every new release, but save for one that really speaks to their heart. I respect the way that Puredistance deliberates over each release, perfecting it and adding it like a jewel in the proverbial crown....this time a ruby! Mr. Vos is proud to use master perfumers, quality ingredients, and high levels of perfume oils in his fragrances, never less than 25%, all the way up to 48% found in Aenotus. I know I risk sounding like a sales pitch, but do yourself a favor and buy the discovery set if you haven't sampled this brand. As a perfume lover, it is one of the best gifts out there you can give yourself.

In the literature I received from Puredistance, I believe Jan Ewoud Vos says it best and it's worth repeating here:

"The world is facing dark and uncertain times. The past six months have been very challenging for most of us. But I look back with pride....For this new perfume we selected a deep red colour that evokes soothing emotions of love and warmth in a luxurious and perhaps good old-fashioned way...I really believe that truly beautiful experiences and emotions can help us weather the storm better. So whatever will happen next, we will keep on trying to create timeless beauty."

I believe Rubikona could be an antidote to the year 2020, offering both comfort and beauty as a balm for the soul.

I met Mr. Vos a few years ago at an event in Singapore when I lived there, and since then he has generously shared with me his new creations. I would like to share some of his generosity with you. I have two spray samples of Rubikona to give away to readers. Please leave a comment as to what intrigues you about this perfume, or if you have another favorite Puredistance perfume. Draw closes November 7. Draw is limited to USA readers only. Apologies, but postal issues! Please either check back with comments, or private message me on facebook as to where I can reach you if you win.

All photos not identified are from the Puredistance website. Top photo of rubies, Thank you to Puredistance for allowing me to try Rubikona.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Der Duft Grasse


I picked the Monet painting above to illustrate my review of Der Duft's  fragrance Grasse, because it reminds me of the charming small hotel where my husband and I stayed on the outskirts of the city of Grasse. There was a small patio where one took breakfast and dinner, or just sat with wine to enjoy the view and take in the air perfumed by flower fields, as well as perfume factories scenting the air with their production. This perfume was created by the Der Duft founder, Anselm Skogstad, to capture the essence of the time he spent in Grasse, training to be a perfumer.

Der Duft is a new fragrance brand based in Munich, and Skogstad made the very brave decision to launch this year into the gathering storm of a worldwide pandemic. Der Duft translates in english to "the scent", and the choice of such a non-descriptor name was purposeful. So many brands today have a theme or romantic story line to draw the consumer's interest. Skogstad took a different approach and reveals as little as possible about his scents. He wants the wearer to consider the scent on their own terms and to allow their personal memories to find a connection to the fragrance. 

On his website he states, "I wanted to create a perfume house with a brand name that conveys a simple message and intention to anyone interested in scents. I wanted there to be no need for further explanations or complex stories. The intention is that each perfume, each scent will create their own story and association for the person wearing it."

Upon spraying Grasse I am reminded of the opulence of traditional French perfumery. There is a light rush of aldehydes that lend an air of formality and elegance to the scent. As the frisson of the aldehydes slowly dissipate I am aware of gorgeous blooming florals. In the manner of well constructed French perfumes, no one element overpowers the others. Instead there is a melody composed of rose, iris, lotus, magnolia, and jasmine. All of these are beautiful scents individually, but when melded together into one bouquet, the whole becomes more beautiful than the individual notes.

As the florals unfold, I smell a very distinct bitter note, which to me smells green. I love it, because amidst all the charm and loveliness of the sweet florals lies a slight note of discord, something unexpected, that elevates the perfume to another level and makes it even more interesting. The green note is very fetching, and during the time it is the dominate note on my skin, I can't stop sniffing my wrist.

Later the scent changes again, the florals becoming muted and a very slight powder note emerges. Everything becomes softer, more faded, and there is an undercurrent of mild earthiness from patchouli. At this point I have had Grasse on all day when the most lovely and extraordinary thing happens. Just as I am approaching the end of my day and preparing for bed, a soft lavender note becomes evident as if sniffing a slight trail of scent carried to you by the wind. This is a perfect ending for a perfect scent day.

The perfumer wants the wearer to translate each scent personally so I will do that here. Even though I have been to Grasse, this perfume stirs another memory for me. This year because of covid I found myself in my husband's home town of Adelaide for several months, rather than the three months of summer we typically visit. In thirty years of marriage I had never experienced an Australian spring. Our neighborhood is full of beautiful English-style gardens, heavy on flowering bushes and trailing vines, but dotted with native flora such as wattle trees. If I timed my daily walks for late afternoon the air was an adventure park for a scent lover such as myself. Every few steps the scent would change: cherry blossom, rose, pink jasmine, lily (to name a few). It was a gorgeous olfactory experience being able to sense so many different smells at once. This is what Grasse reminds me of, bringing all sorts of distinctive florals into a cohesive whole, uplifting and joyful. 

Der Duft currently shows five scents on the website and some of these Skogstad has done in collaboration with Miguel Matos. 

If you are interested in reading more about the city of Grasse itself, you can follow my visit here.

Top Photo: The Luncheon: Monet's Garden, Claude Monet. 

Monday, September 7, 2020

Australian Brand Mihan Aromatics -- Inspired By Nature


The idea for Mihan Aromatics came to Julia Brown and Josh Mihan, natives of Melbourne, Australia, when they were living in London for a time. Missing the nostalgic and natural smell of home, they began a conversation with a perfumer friend about recreating these fond memories into fragrances. The idea germinated into a business and they began with three scents and have since added two more, with another due later this year.

When I married my Australian husband over thirty years ago and I came to his home in Adelaide for the first time, we stepped out of the international airport into an early morning mist. It had recently rained and I stopped in my tracks to experience the scent of eucalyptus trees. The rain touching the leaves releases the distinct mentholated, herbal, peppery scent. Perhaps people from California are familiar with this smell, but coming from Texas, it was new to me. Since that initial visit, I've always been intrigued by the unusual flora and fauna of Australia. Mihan Aromatics has done an excellent job of capturing the essence of some of these scents of nature, but turning them into wearable perfumes. 

I found Mihan Aromatics to be aptly named. I'm not sure why it was "Mihan Aromatics" rather than "Mihan Perfumes" but it totally fits the brand. The scents, which have a hefty 25 percent of fragrance oils, don't have the traditional smell of what I think of as French perfume. They smell natural and of nature, but amplified—fragrantly aromatic. Each of these scents is very gender neutral. I will give a description of each, but there is a larger focus on my two favorites from the line, which are the first two up. Enjoy the Australian artists and photographers below. 

Standly Chasm, 1945, by Watercolor Artist Albert Namatjira.

Guilty Story

This is the most lush, sexy fragrance from the house. It starts out with a rich boozy sweetness that makes me think of sipping a brandy while sinking into a tapestry chair in front of a roaring fire. The walls are lined with wooden shelves laden with books, their decorative spines enticing the reader to explore. A weather-beaten patterned rug that looks as if it was stolen from a Bedouin's tent is underfoot. You can sink into this scent as it envelopes you in a cozy cocoon of comfort.

Mihan Aromatics describes this as a soft oriental scent, which is accurate, and this would be equally appealing on men or women. Mihan likes to describe their scents with tactile and emotive labels, and for Guilty Story the words they chose are: irresponsible, gregarious, leading, lustful.

The top notes are lime and bergamot which give just a little bit of light, and the middle notes are saffron and guaiac wood. The saffron adds subtle spice and can also provide woody and hay aromas. Guaiac wood can add sweetness, as well as a tar or rubbery smell, and sometimes a hint of tobacco. I believe it is this, blending with the vanilla and amber in the base, that give that giddy booziness. There is also musk, Australian sandalwood, and cedar wood in the base. I love woody notes in perfume when they are done well, and here they shine. If I had to add other descriptors to the words Mihan has provided, I would say this perfume makes me feel confident and comforted. This is one of my two favorites from the line. 

Aboriginal Art--Mona Mitakiki Shephard and Tjimpaji Preseley

Mikado Bark

I'm a Virgo, an Earth sign, and Mikado Bark grabs me on a totally elemental level, as if it was made just for me. I read that it is based on Josh and Jules visits to the parks near their home in Melbourne, and I get that sense. If you aren't from Australia you may not know how parks are such an important element in the cities, bringing a bit of the wild into suburban settings. Adelaide is a city of parks, with the native trees so stately and majestic, and the smells they emit are subtle but beautiful. This scent is an intensified version of that experience. 

Mikado Bark is classified as woody, which you could guess by the name, but on my skin the resins and spices come through clearly which make it feel like a light oriental style scent. Opening notes are green pepper, rosemary, and basil. I don't pick those out individually, rather, it smells bright and alive and quivering with life. The middle notes are dry cinnamon, oud, and earth, and the cinnamon comes on quickly for me, spicy and bright. Base notes are autumn dew, Australian sandalwood, and wet cedar. Okay, autumn dew is a rather esoteric description, but it is accurate. When wearing Mikado Bark for the first time I thought what a great autumn scent it would be. Having said that, though, it is transparent enough to wear in hot weather when you're craving those warming notes. 

Mikado Bark is constantly morphing and changing on my skin. It reminds me of Guilty Secret, with some of the similar resin and spice notes, but it is lighter and airier. It goes through a phase where it smells of amber powder and it's very comforting. I can't stop sniffing my wrist and I find Mikardo Bark deeply grounding. If I knew that I was going to have the worst, most stressful day ever I'd wear this, because it would make me feel better and safer, like a protective shield. That's what happens when you find a scent that really feels like you! I know that any scent can be worn by man or woman, according to their taste, but all these scents are so unisex, and I think it is their connection to the fragrances of nature that makes this so. 

Uluru by Peter Taylor Tjutjatja, Alice Springs.

Petrichor Plains

The word "petrichor" explains the earthy scent produced when rain touches dry soil. Most scent lovers are familiar with the word but what I didn't know was that it was coined by two scientists in 1964, and coincidentally they were from Melbourne, which is Jules and Josh's home base. Petrichor Plains starts with a watery smell like rain, then moves into a dusty, dried earth phase. These notes come and go, and when I smell the watery note I can almost sense the cool rain hitting the hot baked soil with a sizzle. 

Petrichor Plains carries on with that airy mixture of dry earth and refreshing rain. It feels descriptive of the cracked dirt yet at the same time there is an airy translucence. I have smelled several scents based on the idea of petrichor, including the mitti attars in India, and this scent really nails this effect.

The notes are interesting with opening elements are rain, cardomom, salt, and bergamot. Rain is the only one that totally stands out and I don't know how that effect is achieved, but well done! Heart notes are iris, violet, and rosemary, with base notes of buddawood and sandalwood. It is classified on the Mihan Aromatics website as fresh and woody, but it retains that floaty airy feeling throughout its wear, so to me it is more on the "fresh" side.

Bondi Beach, Sydney. Google image.

Sienna Brume

Sienna Brume is the scent for those who love that summer at the beach feeling, although I remember reading somewhere that Josh's favorite pools in Melbourne also served as inspiration. It is that feeling of sunlight and a carefree summer day to enjoy stretching before you. The opening has notes of sea air, juniper berry, and cucumber. Anyone for a gin and tonic? The heart notes are soft coconut and palm, and this is indeed a softer and more nuanced coconut than what  you find in many beach scents. Base notes are greenwood, cedar, and timbersilk. I had no idea what timbersilk was, but it is another form of Iso E Super. I would have guessed there was sandalwood in the fragrance because Sienna Brume feels very creamy in the dry down, but it's not listed.

Australia beaches are different from tropical sand destinations around the world. Often there are craggy rocks, and if you're in the south the water can be icy cold as it drifts up from Antarctica. They feel more naturally wild and elemental to me, than the warm sandy beaches I grew accustomed to while living in Asia. Even in the North where the land and waters are warmer, beware because there are deadly jellyfish you don't want to tangle with and sharks cruising by looking for their next meal! Sienna Brume is more reminiscent of these beaches of natural beauty, and has less in common with the idea of Coppertone and pina coladas. For those who love scents that remind them of relaxed days at the beach, or swanning around a sparkly pool, this could be a worthy and interesting addition to a beach scent collection. It feels more natural and polished than many.

My favorite part of Sienna Brume is the long slow dry down. It settles to a quiet, creamy and woody scent, provoking that relaxed and happily exhausted feeling after a day filled with sunlight and water.

Convict artist Joseph Lycett recorded Aboriginal life in the early days of British occupation. A campfire glows in the distance.

Munluck Ash

I heard in one of the interviews* with the founders of Mihan Aromatics that this is Josh's most worn scent. It is a smoky forest scent, and on my skin the definite emphasis is on the smoke. The first time I smelled it I thought that Ash was a good descriptor, although I really don't know the intended meaning of the name. The smoke has that smell of a campfire the morning after, when the scent lingers in the air reminding you of it's warmth and the great time you had while gathered around it last night. The smoke is present, but it is not the full-on experience of  smoke blowing in your face from a raging fire.

Notes are bergamot, black pepper, incense, and fir. Then as it mellows down you get blue cypress, cedar, musk, amber, and vetiver. I get the feel of being in a wood or forest, but without any sharp notes. Everything is muddled and blended, and after some time the smokiness dissapates and soft woods remain.

I loved this shot of the kangaroos on a beach in Coffin Bay National Park, Eyre Peninsula, South Australia. The photographer kindly let me use it. Follow him @richard.kozuszko


This is the newest scent that will be released from Mihan Aromatics in the near future. They are including it in their discovery kit so I am assuming it must be in a fairly polished version. On one of the interviews* I saw, I remember Julia (Jules) saying this scent had something to do with the surf lifestyle that is so big in Australia. I don't know any of the notes so I'll just give you my impressions. It starts off with a rather plastic/rubber note that may mean something to surfers but it is not a smell I love. However that was very short lived and then I get more beach references. It is different from Sienna Brume which is fresher and brighter on my skin. This one has that sun and surf vibe, but I thought I got a few whiffs of smoke too, and maybe a touch of vanilla. We'll see when they release the perfume and give the notes. I'm probably way off! Out of all the scents this one resonates the least with me. I'm more into my woods and resins, personally, but your experience will of course be totally different, depending on your likes.

I am glad to have discovered this line and would like to add a bottle of both Guilty Story and Mikado Bark to my collection!

* I watched interviews with Josh and Jules, in part, on two different Instagram platforms. @mrcologne76 and @aroundtheunknown. I may have gleaned some of the information presented here from those interviews, but I don't have any way of going back to check, so I just want to give them credit.

Top photo is my own. All other photos are from Google except for the kangaroos at the beach which is from @richard.kozuszko. I paid for my Mihan Aromatics discover kit. All opinions are my own.

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Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Salvatore Ferragamo Terra Rossa Perfume And Exploring The Coonawarra


Sometimes it's hard to decide what perfume to take on a trip, but on a recent weekend visit to the Coonawarra region of South Australia, a destination renowned in the wine world for its swath of terra rossa soil, the decision was easy, Salvatore Ferragamo Terra Rossa. Cabernet is king in the Coonawarra as the cool, wet winters and warm, dry summers provide grapes that produce stellar reds. It's winter now, so the perfect time to taste red wines while huddling around a fire, and I was curious how the perfumer, Domitille Bertier, would interpret terra rossa. This fertile red soil sits atop a bed of limestone which provides exceptional drainage to crops and intensifies the flavor of the grapes. Would she look to represent the soil itself with the scent, the wine grown there, or the actual ruddy pigment color?

Ferragamo's Tuscan Creations are, in the brand's own words, "The collection of luxury artistic fragrances to tell the essence of Salvatore Ferragamo and Tuscany, the land that made it great. The all Italian names of each eau de parfum in the collection introduce stories giving off the essence of a land blessed by art and nature." So recognized is the terra rossa soil in Italy, there is an oil paint color named after the brownish red dirt. 

Photo from

The perfumer, Ms. Bertier had several possible inspirations, and to me the experience of the fragrance is a blend of the elements of rich soil, the reddish color, and juicy, jewel-toned wine. The patchouli is the obvious connection to the earth, but the addition of amber and labdanum elevate it to another level. These notes give it a fruity, resinous richness that describe the verdancy of this soil and how it is prized by viticulturists.

The perfume's opening is expansive and I am immediately enveloped in a luxuriant cloud made up of the perfume's heart notes of patchouli, amber, and labdanum. The scent gives a warm and cozy vibe, perfect for snuggling up near a blazing fire and sampling wines the colors of burgundy, garnet, and plum. Citrus is supposed to be in the top notes, and I do get just a hint, a sliver of brightness amongst the warmth and earthiness of the scent. The citrus here is bergamot and bitter orange. As the perfume settles into my skin I get notes of tonka, rose, and cedar. Happily the tonka is light on my skin, as it's not a note I favor. The rose is almost hidden and adds a subtle floral and fruity note, but it is swathed in the patchouli, which is definitely the star here, along with amber. The labdanum gives an opulence and balsamic aspect to the scent. It is spicy and warm, although not so heavy that I would hesitate to wear it in warmer weather.

Salvatore Ferragamo did have two lines in the exclusive Tuscan range, Tuscan Scents and Tuscan Soul. In 2018 the scents were reformulated and brought under one umbrella called Tuscan Creations. Any scents that were EDT formulas were changed to EDP. There are fourteen scents in this premier line and I enjoyed Terra Rossa so much I now want to try others in the collection. Look how beautiful the bottles look, lined up together!

Coonawarra Travel Guide

If all this talk about wine grown in terra rossa soil makes you want to visit this region of Australia, here are a few of my favorite spots. Coonawarra is an Aboriginal word meaning honeysuckle. It is only 15 km by 2 km and all the wineries are either side of a straight as an arrow road. I guess when your soil is so valuable, you don't want to waste real estate paving over it. It is almost equidistant between Adelaide and Melbourne. Because it is remote it doesn't get as many visitors as the wine regions directly surrounding Adelaide, and thus it retains a lot of rural, home-spun charm. 

Our Favorite Meal

Ottelia + Fodder is the restaurant which serves beautiful lunches and features the Ottelia wines. My husband and I enjoyed a meal similar to the one pictured below which was heavenly, and we were able to do a wine tasting at the table. We ended up buying a dazzling shiraz, but were equally impressed by a reisling that had evidently been influenced by the limestone bed it grew on. It tasted like sipping a white wine over mineral limestone chips.

Where To Glamp

There are several motels and cute cottages but for a real adventure go to Bellwether Wines and camp in a bell tent under a splendid sky of stars. Then treat yourself to a tasting in this 1868 old sheep shearing shed which has been repurposed into a quaint tasting environment.


There are over thirty wineries in the Coonawarra. We probably visited close to half and they were all very good. Probably the most recognizable of these is Wynns Coonawarra Estate. It is one of the older and most widely distributed from the area with this familiar label. 

The Wynn cellar door has a small museum highlighting the area, and specifically the terra rossa soil. I took a photo of this slice of earth, illustrating the limestone bed and the shallow red dirt above.

Pick any of these wineries for a warm welcome, and in winter many have fires to help you stay warm while you sample. In better weather, the wineries are so close that it's feasible to walk between a few or bike. 

I hope you enjoyed reading about Terra Rossa and this brief tour of the Coonawarra, built atop terra rossa soil!

Top photo from Other photos My sample of Terra Rossa was from Saks Fifth Avenue.

Saturday, August 8, 2020

Olibere Les Insoumines Collection: Le Jardin de Mistinguett

This is the fourth and last perfume from Olibere's Les Insoumines collection that I have reviewed. The collection is Marjorie Olibere's tribute to some famous leading ladies in the cinema, and this last perfume is slightly different in that regard. It is named for the Moulin Rouge performer Mistinguett, who was in the early 1900s one of the highest paid female entertainers in the world, and who became famous for insuring her legs for 500,000 francs in 1919!

As for the perfume, I'm not sure what the connection is to the entertainer other than France is celebrated for its mimosa blooming season, but it is literally spring in a bottle! Here are the notes:
Top: Bergamot, lemon, watermelon
Heart: Lily of the Valley, jasmine, mimosa
Base: Cedar wood, amber, tonka bean, musk

But forget all that. What I get is one hundred percent mimosa. It is soft, fuzzy, and slightly powdery. Mistinguett feels sweet and innocent and will make you want to throw a flowered blanket on a spring meadow of wildflowers and have a picnic in the sun. There are moments in the perfume when I do get a breath of the watermelon, which smells more like cucumber to me, watery and fresh. This scent brings to mind bumble bees, somnambulant from sweet nectar, like this one falling asleep with its pollen-dusted butt peeping out from the cupped flower.

Photo @rabbitholeza

The perfumer for Mintinguett as well as the other three perfumes is Luca Maffei. If you would like to read about the other perfumes in the Les Insoumines collection, go to Le Jardin de Madame Chan here, Le Jardin de Amélie here, and Le Jardin De La Reine here. There are very reasonably priced sample kits at the Olibere website.

Google image on top. I bought the perfume samples from the Olibere website.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Olibere Les Insoumines Collection: Le Jardin De La Reine

Paris perfume house Olibere introduced four perfumes in 2018 entitled the Les Insoumises Collection, all of which pay homage to some of the cinema's greatest leading ladies. Brand founder Marjorie Olibere and Perfumer Luca Maffei are the creators behind all four scents. Le Jardin De La Reine is the third of the four I have reviewed, and in the course of testing it went from being my least favorite to my most favorite!

This would probably be the most devisive of the four perfumes in popularity, as it is of a certain style. It has what I think  of as that French perfume essence which I love, but to those used to the fruity florals of the last decade it might smell decidedly different than what they are accustomed to wearing. Both the Olibere website and Fragrantica call this a fresh floral, but for me it is what I call a modern chypre. It is a lighter and younger interpretation of this genre, but it gives that warm rush of scent, laced with a slight bitterness, that identify a chypre. A classic chypre opens with citrus, moves on to a mossy/oakmoss element, then closes with patchouli or labdanum. Le Jardin De La Reine has two of these elements, bergamot in the opening and patchouli in the base. This perfume was created to represent Marie Antoinette as played by Kirsten Dunst in the namesake 2006 movie, Marie Antoinette. The film is a kaleidoscope of fantastic sets and costumes, all done in a gorgeous pastel palette, rich and opulent. The more formal feel to this perfume and its strong reference to historical French perfumery is a good reflection of the ill-fated Queen.

Le Jardin De La Reine contains a litchi note in the opening, as well as the bergamot. The litchi gives a bit of sourness and a bitter twist to the florals which are in the heart of the perfume: lily of the valley, peony, and jasmine. Like a true French perfume these florals are blended into a whole so that not one distinctly stands out. But the litchi keeps the florals from becoming too sweet or romantic. Chypre-esque perfumes always have a certain stateliness. Base notes are patchouli, amber, and musk but it is definitely the patchouli which has the biggest influence on the scent. I can smell it throughout most of the life of the perfume. I love patchouli so for me this is a good thing.

If you are a fan of French-style perfumes but in a lighter and easily wearable style, then you may enjoy Le Jardin De La Reine. I definitely appreciated its formal, yet fun, appeal.

My sample is labeled Le Jardin De Marie-Antoinette, so I don't know if there was a later name change or if this is in error.

You can read about Le Jardin De Madame Chan here and Le Jardin D'Amélie here

Photos are from an Annie Leibovitz photo shoot for Vogue at the time of the movie release. I purchased the sample from Olibere website.