Saturday, April 29, 2023

It's National Parks Week! A Look at Caswell Massey's Yellowstone Collection


This past week was National Park Week in the USA, a chance to celebrate what I think is one of our country's crowing achievements and greatest attribute. A diamond in the crown of our park system is Yellowstone. A few years ago Caswell-Massey partnered with the fund raising arm of the park, Yellowstone Forever, to create a set of scents based on some of the park'sc main attractions. The tonics and oils are made using living floral technique, which recreated some of the distinctive flora scents of the park using sustainable materials, and not harming any of the rare botanical species.

Yellowstone became America's first national park on March 1 in 1872, when President Ulysses S. Grant signed the Park Protection Act into law, thus protecting over 2 million acres of wilderness. Intereresting fact, over half of the world's hydrothermal features are found at Yellowstone. By protecting these areas and making them available to all Americans, rather than allowing them to be plundered by the greedy few, I believe this to be one of the most far sighted laws for good ever enacted in our country. A family rafting trip I took over ten years ago down the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon remains one of the most epic adventures of my life, being swallowed by nature for several days until we were spit out at the end at Pearce Ferry.

Caswell Massey picked five of the top sights around Yellowstone, and sought to make scents, or tonics as they call them (I personally think this is to make them sound more old fashioned), to represent the area. They used head space technology to capture the flora, much of which is unique to Yellowstone. 


Lake Yellowstone is a high elevation lake and is surrounded by flora that can only grow at elevated, cooler temperatures. Instead of trying to capture the scent of water, Lake is a citrus floral. Shrubby Goldenweed, pictured below, is found all around this area. The scent opens with golden citrus verbena and goldenweed, then has wildflowers such as blue lupine in its heart. I found this the softest of the scents, with a refreshing floral heart, but mild, as if you're in a meadow just getting a hint of the scent. 


Mammoth Hot Springs is a series of hot thermal water pools on a hill composed of travertine, within the confines of Yellowstone Park. It is one of the most unique places to visit in a park that has a lot of spectacular views. Mammoth is a woody aromatic.  Opening notes are citrus zest, with a strong undercurrent of hay grass. This hay smell is dominant to me throughout the scent, and later it is joined by cedarwood and sagebrush. 


The canyon has the highest elevation in the park and is surrounded by clouds and mountain fresh air, and a pine forest so fragrant it is legendary. I personally wish they had chosen to make this scent a forest woody scent, but they went instead in the direction of fragrant, fresh air, and the scent is classified as a citrus aromatic. 

Photo by, photographer
The heart of the scent is full of wildflowers: blue lupine, wild crazyweed, and forget me not petals. Pine needles and juniper come in the heart of the fragrance, although they are not strong on my skin. Finally, cedarwood and tree moss round out the scent. This one stays very fresh on me, and keeps on giving that feel of fresh mountain air.

Tower Fall

Tower Fall is a stunning sight in Yellowstone. A river meanders through  pine forest, then suddenly cascades over the edge of the rocks to fall hundreds of feet! A nearby area is known for its wildlife. Grizzly bear, elk, bison, and wolves roam this landscape.

This scent is classified as a woody floral scent. I will tell you the opening notes, but I'm not sure they are necessarily what I smell. They are phlox flower, red currant, sagebrush, and mountain forget me not. Then comes juniper, pine, and mineral accord, followed by cedarwood and amber. 

What I smell in the opening is almost mildly oud-like, and it feels energetic and a bit chaotic. One can almost imagine the water's great volocity as it goes over the falls. Later I smell a calm woody scent overlayed by a mild floral that feels quiet and settled, just like the water pooling beneath the falls. As you might imagine, these are not traditional perfume scents but try to replicate some of the scents found in nature, so they are unlike anything I've worn before.

Old Faithful

Last, but certainly not least is the geyser which is synonymous with the park, Old Faithful. It is so named because it goes off more frequently and predictably than any other geysers in the park, which is around every ninety minutes. It sprays thousands of gallons of boiling water to heights as high as 180 feet. 

This is another one where the notes don't correspond with what I'm smelling. At first blast I get a sulphureous aroma, as if the geyser has just gone off, and it made me giggle. Fortunately this smell dissipates pretty quickly, and it becomes a woody aromatic, with smells that are leathery, smokey, coniferous, and mossy. 

My favorite scent of these was Lake, but they were all interesting. They come in small 15 ml bottles and are very reasonably priced. I think they may be closing these out (they were introduced in 2019) because they are currently on sale on their "last chance" site, so if you're interested, do hurry! Find a link here.

Saturday, March 25, 2023

Parfums Dusita's La Rhapsodie Noire, A Love Letter to Paris


As anyone who has ever visited Paris knows, wandering through the streets at night only to unexpectedly come across a lit-up cafe, buzzing with energy and the music of laughter, conversation, and tinkling glasses; it's one of the great joys of discovering the city. The visitor can feel they have discovered the cafe, the hidden place that the mob doesn't know and be drawn into its welcoming warmth and light. It was once such moonlit night when Parfums Dusita founder Pissara Umivijani was inspired to create her newest perfume, La Rhapsodie Noire, a love letter to Paris.

Let me set the scene, in Pissara's own words. 

One night I was crossing the Pont-Neuf., listening to "Rhapsody In Blue". Suddenly my imagination was fueled by images and sensations of The City of Light in the 1920s. I decided to create a nocturnal, vibrant fragrance dedicated to Paris of Les Annees Folles.

I was present in November when Pissara debuted La Rhapsodie Noire in a Zoom meeting. She reiterated how the Gershwin song, Rhapsody In Blue, served as an inspirational launching point as she strolled past the cafes and heard the song. She smelled the dark expresso coffees as well as drinks of cognac, rum, or whiskey. Mingled in was the smoke of a Havana cigar. The elegant crowds were wearing scent, and she smelled the classic fougère colognes of the men, as well as more floral and feminine scents on the women. All of this went into the inspiration for creating the new perfume. 

Pissara Umivijani, as many of you know, is a perfumer who grew up in Thailand, but now makes her home in Paris. Years ago she retraced the footsteps of her father, a poet laureate in Thailand, who left his native home and moved to Paris. I've lived half of my adult life in Asia, and I can smell the influence of Pissara's Thailand roots in her fragrances, admittedly some (La Douceur De Siam) more than others (Issara, Amancara). Some of that influence is subtle. For example in Splendiris, not in any way an Asian scent, there are still hints of the gentleness and quiet beauty of her country's cultural heritage. But with La Rhapsodie Noire, Ms. Umivijani has created a fragrance that is one hundred percent French and is a tribute to her adopted home of Paris. 

La Rhapsodie Noire is such a delicious scent, it's impossible to keep your wrist away from your nose for a quick inhale. It is a gourmand scent, but this is a Dusita, so it's well done and subtle.  A lot of gourmand fragrances go for the easy win, with a big rush of sugar and ultra sweet gourmand notes. La Rhapsodie Noire is infinitely more refined than this. Picture a delicate macaroon with its crisp and air-like sugar crust next to an America chocolate chip cookie. They are both delicious, but the French dessert appears delicate, light, and refined next to its American counterpart, and so it is with the gourmand aspects of La Rhapsodie Noire.

Pissara wants to set a scene of 1920s Paris, when the city was the center of art and cultural creativity. Picture the movie Midnight In Paris, with scenes of Ernest Hemingway smoking a cigar in the bar while chatting with Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. and jazz music playing in the background. The perfume creates this world from its opening notes of coffee and rum, and the faint wisp of cigar smoke in the background. It smells  like coffee but also boozy. 

Pissara's idea was to create the scent in the fougère style. Traditionally this meant a citrus top note and then a sharp and aromatic heart, usually with lavender or geranium notes. Pissara upended this tradition by making a gourmand fougère perfume, with a sweet coffee opening, which then transitions smoothly to aromatic mid notes of clary sage and lavender. These notes come across a fresh and I get tinges of hay or wheat, so that it feels like there is a croissant or baked dessert accompanying the evening coffee. Notes of mimosa, broom, and jasmin sambac hover in the background, blended into a soft floral melange. Base notes of patchouli, vetiver, and oakmoss support the fougère structure. Then base notes of sandalwood, tonka bean, and vanilla support the more gourmand legs of the fragrance. 

Although I love the coffee and rum opening, I actually have a couple of other favorite times in the development of the perfume. I sometimes drink an Earl Grey tea with lavender, and there are moments as we move from the top to the heart of the fragrance that I get a beautiful blending of the coffee and lavender notes, and it reminds me slightly of my tea, although this is much more yummy and luxurious combination. I also love the dry down which smells like polished, burnished wood, but still infused with the gourmand scent of the coffee. This is a warm and beautiful perfume and could fulfill anyone's coffee perfume fantasy.

I took part in the launch of La Rhapsodie Noire way back in November, but diversions such as my daughter's wedding, Christmas, then a trip to Australia intervened. This was a perfume I wanted to live in for a while before I wrote a review, so here we are four months later. Although this makes a warm and cozy scent for winter, I think it will also bloom beautifully in warmer weather, which will emphasize the fresher middle notes and the warm woods in the base. 

Pissara is always inspired by her father's poetry. Here is a line from the poem she chose for La Rhapsodie Noire.

I am dancing to love in the subconscious of

every human being.  Montri Umivijani

Pissara Umivijani and Parfums Dusita have once again given perfume lovers a beautiful fragrance to contemplate!

If you are curious about the music that inspired Pissara, here it a link.

Top photo from Google image. Coffee image my own. Other images from Dusita website. Perfume was provided by Parfums Dusita. Opinions are my own.

Tuesday, March 7, 2023

Cochine Fragrance, A Touch of Vietnam


I first became aware of Cochine scented home products when I lived in Singapore. I walked in the Botanic Gardens almost every day, and their gift shop carried the line. I was intrigued by the scents and did a bit of research. I found that Kate Crofton-Atkins, who was living at that time in Saigon (or Ho Chi Minh) had been inspired by her Vietnamese surroundings, with its remnants of French design flair, and fragrant blooms perfuming the streets. Cochine was the result.

Ms. Crofton-Atkins was a trailing spouse at the time, as was I. She was beguiled by the beautiful scents that perfumed the air in her new home in Vietnam, as I was in Singapore. I was only inspired to create a blog to record my wonder. She, on the other hand, created a business that has now spread internationally in a little over ten years and is going from strength to strength. She also produced three children during this time (with her husband's help, of course) which makes this even more of a feat!

Cochine's original line consisted of candles, then diffusers were added. I was attracted to the beautiful scents which replicated some of the fragrances I came across in my daily walk through the Botanic Gardens. The story goes that Kate was inspired by the jasmine blooming on her street. If they were anything like the ones I experienced in Singapore, the blooms would intensify at night as the sun set, and at certain times their hypnotic scent could make one swoon! This is the brand's stated purpose:

"Inspired by the romance of travel and long summer evenings in the tropics, our unique fragrances capture the very essence of romantic escapism."

After I moved away from Singapore, I loved that I could recreate some of my scent memories with Cochine's products. They specialize in using scented plants grown in Vietnam, and Ms. Crofton-Atkins likes to combine scent notes. Some of the home product line fragrances are Vietnamese Rose & Delentii, White Jasmine & Gardenia, and my two favorites, Water Hyacinth & Lime, and Agarwood & Amber. 

A couple of years ago, Cochine came out with Eau de Parfums of some of their favorite fragrances. I was keen to try these and immediately ordered the discovery set of five scents. I was pleased at how the perfumes take me back to those happy years I lived in Asia, and are beautiful scents in their own right.

Cochine's discovery set, looking down on the lobby of the Park Hyatt Ho Chi Minh.

White Jasmine & Gardenia was the original scent that started Cochine, and jasmine was the flower that inspired Kate to create the brand. I honestly can't tell you how many bottles of jasmine and/or gardenia perfume I have, as they are two of my favorite scents. This is a feminine and light interpretation of the two flowers, which is representive of how scents are worn in Asia. You will not come across someone wearing a loud, heavy perfume in the Asian heat. Light and effervescent perfumes are the desired go to, and this perfume is in that style. For those who love these jasmine and gardenia but find some perfumes too heavy or indolic, this would be a good one to try.

Frangipani & Neroli is another light and uplifting version in perfume form of the frangipani flowers you will see while walking around Saigon. This scent is light, balmy, and a little lemony from the neroli. It is an easy to wear, light-hearted summer scent for when the temperature rises. 

A sample from the discovery kit, and frangipani at a spa.

Vanille & Tabac Noir is perhaps the most obviously romantic of the scents. It is tobacco flower that gives the distinctive tobacco note to the fragrance. Along with vanilla, patchouli, cardomom, nutmeg, and basil, this scent is unabashedly lush and romantic. There is something about this scent that gives me retro vibes of a perfume I wore long ago, but I haven't been able to identify it. To me the tobacco flower gives it an evening wear vibe, and it is a little old fashioned in the best way.

Tuberose & Wild Fig is the most unusual of the scents to my nose, and perhaps the most exciting. It is a green, green fig, tempered with a slight bit of sweetness from the tuberose. This is an unusual combinationand one I'm not sure I've ever encountered before. The initial spray is green freshness. The fig is green and still on the vine. There is no sweetness in the fig itself and it is definitely not a ripe smell. Notes are fig, vetiver, and cedarwood, with just a little tuberose, it is made to represent a sun drenched evening. I found that some days the tuberose note came out more on my skin, and then some days I could hardly detect it. This scent is definitely about the fig note. I also have a few fig perfumes in my collection, and this one seems different from any others I have.

A display of Cochine products at L'Usine, a home goods store in Ho Chi Minh, District 2. 

Tuberose Absolute & Sandalwood is the newest perfume in the collection. Perhaps Cochine wanted a more representative tuberose scent, and in any case, this is quite different from Tuberose & Wild Fig. Initially after spraying I smell a creamy, soft tuberose, very lush and beautiful. After some time the sandalwood comes into play and the tuberose starts to recede into the background. It is as if you've entered a temple in Southern India made of ancient stone with sandalwood carvings to the deities. It is steamy and warm inside the temple walls, but soft breezes carry the gentle scent of the tuberose flowers blooming outside into the confines of the temple. This is a soft, meditative scent. I think this might be my favorite from the collection. 

I'm in Australia at the moment and summer is waning. For those of you in the Northern Hemisphere who are awaiting summer, these could be scents to get that summer vacation feeling going!

Top photo from website. All other photos are my own. Samples are my own.

Saturday, January 28, 2023

Puredistance M V2Q, A New Bond For A New Era


Puredistance M, the original, was the third perfume introduced by the Dutch luxury line Puredistance, way back in 2010, and their first fragrance specifically marketed to men. Founder Jan Ewoud Vos is big on supplying his perfumers with story boards that capture his vision for the new scents, then letting them run with it, and granting access to the finest of ingredients with no limitations. Vos's vision for M was the James Bond image and the Aston Martin automobile Bond was famed for driving, especially its plush leather seats. The first M created by Roja Dove was a big success, but in late 2021 Roja Perfumes notified Puredistance they would no longer be able to supply the formula for M due to IFRA regulations. It would have to be reformulated.

Vos took the somewhat gutsy route of deciding not to imitate the original formula, but to come up with a new scent, similar in nature but modernized and more emotive yet still powerful for today's man. To do this he turned to a perfumer he trusts and has used several times to bring his creations to life, French perfumer Antoine Lie. I must admit that when I first smelled the new scent, I was a bit startled at how very different it was!

To explain, the first M, at least to me, seemed to be modeled after Sean Connery, all debonair style and sartorial elegance. The scent was definitely refined, and to me, the leather note spoke of a comfy wingback in a library of a stately home, where Bond would relax with a cigar after returning from an adventure. It had leather, but also a warm cozy spiciness.

The new M V2Q really captures the Daniel Craig version of Bond. When I first spray it on, it immediately conjures feelings of intrigue and a little danger. These are notes that I don't commonly smell, and there is an edginess to the scent. Yes, it is a modernized version of a leather scent, but it also captures a bit of Craig's Bond character's ability to outmaneuver and surprise his enemies. Because I don't know where this scent is going!

From the website.

If I list the notes for you, here goes: orange blossom, pink pepper, lavender, jasmine sambac, cypriol, pine tar, cinnamon, tonka, cedar, patchouli, vanilla, and labdanum; I promise you, there is no way you will guess what this smells like from these notes. The florals are not very visible to me. I definitely smell the cypriol and pine tar. I think these may be the notes that give me that "off balanced" feeling, but I like it! The leather note is green, and I would guess that the jasmine sambac, which can smell quite green, may have been craftily used by the perfumer here to enhance that effect. Also, the molecule used to give that leather note has a green element. This note reminds me of another favorite and high-end perfume, Dusita Le Sillage Blanc. In both, the green is bitter, a little pungent, and a bit dangerous!

The longer the scent is on my skin, the softer and more plush the leather note beomes. However, this is not a strong leather scent, but to me is more of an interpretation of leather. The green woodiness with subtle spice is equally important in this scent. Like all Puredistance perfumes, it has a high concentration of oils and it wears on the skin literally for hours and hours! I would say the longer you wear it the more beautiful it becomes.

Just like Daniel Craig was a very different James Bond than we'd seen before, M V2Q is a very different fragrance from M. I think Antoine Lie did an excellent job of capturing the excitement, danger, and more worldly aspects of this Bond interpretation in the new scent. 

M V2Q was introduced in September 2022. Thank you to Puredistance for providing me with a sample, and my opinions are my own. Apologies for the long absence here. I had two daughters marry in 2022, so family life took precedence, but I'm happy to be back!