Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Outback Adventures With Olibere Paris: Savannah's Heart & L'Etoile Noire


Last year my husband and I went to visit his home in South Australia for the summer, January through March, then covid happened and we extended our stay. In late March we began hearing rumbles of possible shut downs so we decided to head out of town while we still could.  Adelaide is the gateway to the most accessible part of the Outback, so we headed north to investigate Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park. Ikara is the Aboriginal name of the Adnyamathanha people who have inhabited the land for thousands of years. It means meeting place, which refers to the circular formation in the park called Wilpena Pound.

Traditionally the beginning of April would signal the arrival of a stream of European visitors in RVs. We were visiting just a couple of weeks ahead of the tourist season and had the park virtually to ourselves, and the people who rely on the tourists influx for six months of the year to make their living were nervously waiting to see how serious this Covid was going to turn out to be. (The park ended up shutting down a week after we left).

Right before leaving on the trip I had received a box of samples ordered from Olibere Paris and I took them with me. Two scents in particular came to define my time there and perfectly describe the surroundings.

The drive to Ikara-Flinders Park is about six hours and as you begin to approach the park you see the hill formations, breaking out of the flatness of the earth. One is struck by the reds, browns, and umber tones of the earth, which give Australia's desert its distinctive look. The perfume that seemed to fit this scenery perfectly was Olibere Savannah's Heart. Perfumer Luca Maffei created the perfume to replicate a visit to the African savannah, with a special nod to African coffee by including that note. I've never been to the African savannah, but when I smelled Savannah's Heart I could sense the red and umber earth, dusty and dry, in the surrounding countryside. 

The perfume opens with bergamot, rhubarb, and labdanum. Of these, the resinous labdanum is the strongest on my skin. And although oud wood is in the base notes, I smell it immediately. Much has been made of the coffee note, but it is not at all gourmand. It mixes with the wood notes and is strong and acrid, further intensifying this feeling of parched earth. The slight spiciness and wood notes make this a warm perfume, and it felt like the experience of baking under the relentless sun on the desert landscape. This is a very different and distinctive perfume and certainly not for everyone, but I enjoy wearing it.

Essential headwear, modeled by my husband, pictured above. Trust me, it takes about 30 seconds to get over feeling silly when you wear these head covers. Without them the flies will cover your face.

While Savannah's Heart was the perfect day time perfume, when the sun dropped and the air temperature immediately dropped several degrees, I found another Olibere perfume to fit the mood.

The Australian Outback is one of the best places in the world to go stargazing; the absence of ambient light and the vast open spaces. Australia faces the Milky Way so the stargazer can see one hundred times more stars than visible from the Northern Hemisphere. 

A view of the Milky Way from Ikara-Flinders Park. Imgur.com.

Olibere L'Etoile Noire translates to "the night star", and Perfumer Amelie Bourgeous  juxtapositions light and dark notes to emulate bright stars glittering in the inky night sky.

Olibere is not the first perfume company to use patchouli to impersonate the dark depths of the night sky, but they've done it very well with L'Etoile Noire. It's kind of a conundrum, because patchouli is also more commonly used to give perfumes an earthy appeal. But add the right notes, in this case Amelie Bourgeois used Italian bergamot and lemon to add pricks of light to the underlying darkness, and its like stars thousands of light years away, their brightness piercing the darkness. The imagery of light fades pretty quickly and spices mixed with wood enter the scent frame. Blue ginger and resinous elemi give a warm feel to the scent, but it is a little off kilter and unexpected, not exactly the normal mix of spices in a caravan silk road inspired scent. Whenever I'm in Australia I'm always intrigued by the unusual plants and smells, and these notes seem new and surprising.

Base notes are quite the mixture: incense, Indonesian patchouli, tobacco, tonka bean, amber wood, vanilla, violet, and white musk.

It's a beautiful experience, laying on a blanket gazing up at more stars than the eye can fathom. This perfume captures a little of that magic, and here's a song to give the mood.

Top photo www.southaustralia.com. Middle photo and perfumes my own.