Happy Blogoversary, Scent Less Sensibilities!


- or the things I’ve learned in a year…

It was…not a dark and stormy night, but the witching hour between midnight and 1 AM on a quiet, warm and otherwise unremarkable Saturday night. I sat twirling my hair in front of my laptop, working my way through half a bottle of Pinot Gris while I wondered what to do. Writing was obviously out of the question, since after the second glass of wine I had reached that state of being where the world is tinted ever-so-slightly rose. But there was something in the air that midnight hour, a certain restless vibe, some idea on the verge of being born, and all I had to do was to sit still long enough for it to find me.

I know, I thought that night. I can create another blog. At the time, I was wrestling with the last chapters of Quantum Demonology, and I needed a break away from rock’n’roll, the end of Heaven and Hell, heartbreak and the Devil, I needed something…other, a different kind of writing challenge. I had MoltenMetalMama for my anarcho-feminist and musical musings.

Why not create a perfume blog? I loved perfume, had loved it since childhood, loved and adored it since that day my mother took her 14-year-old maladjusted Geek Girl to Guerlain, Caron and Dior in Paris…and ruined me for life, which was probably her intention.

So that’s what I did that night – created SLS, went to bed and thought no more of it.

This is right about where I wish I could say…famous last words. One year later, there are about 80,000 more of them, all about perfume, the better part of a paperback novel right there!

Last year was also the year I gave myself a present for completing QD – my first ever Serge Lutens bell jar of Fleurs d’Oranger. I saved up for it by foregoing hair dye for nine long months. It makes me deliriously happy to this day.

I began as the poor of purse but rich in intention often do, by reviewing the contents of my own perfume cabinet. All six of them. It happened on two occasions that I slithered into my local perfume shop and sampled something I then would go home and review, since buying anything was out of the question.

When I had reached the point of wondering whether I should just give up the whole idea, something incredible happened.

I won a draw on Doc Elly’s blog and received a lot of samples some time later. Now, I had more to write about, so I did – and in the process, I began to write about perfume in earnest. I realized there was passion as well as artistry in those tiny bottles, and did my best to reflect that in my reviews. Some weren’t ‘me’ precisely, some were purloined by my then husband (Doc Elly, your Olympic Rainforest, Bay Rum and Arizona all have one ardent fan in DK!), but all of them surprised me in the best possible way. If any one perfumer made me a perfume blogger, it would be Doc Elly. For that and several other reasons, Doc Elly and her perfumes have a very special place in my Perfume Pantheon.

Maybe there was hope for perfumery after all, if Doc Elly’s perfumes were any indication?

Next, I invested a fair chunk of change in samples from First in Fragrance, and the rest, as the saying goes, is history…

Lessons I learned along the way:

★ Perfumistas are the most generous beings on the face of the planet. Copenhagen may have one department store and a (very) small handful of boutiques that sell a few niche perfumes, but where I live in the boonies, LVMH rules supreme, and so do fruitchoulis. As well as the credit card I can’t afford yet. If not for the perfumista community’s generosity of spirit, not to mention walloping doses of encouragement from other bloggers and even a creative director, I don’t know how I could have lasted so long. I’ve had a chance to try things I would otherwise never know or could afford to seek out. And most important of all, I’ve made friends along the way. Really, how awesome is that?
★ Joining Twitter is quite possibly the best thing I’ve ever done for blog-promotion purposes. And oh, the fun I’ve had…
★ The astonishing world of indie perfumers has completely blown my mind, and none more so than Mandy Aftel. I haven’t been bribed to be her press agent, honest. She’s just that good! As is Dawn Spencer Hurwitz. These two and their breathtaking perfumes also hold a very special place in my Perfume Pantheon.
★ Never say never. Never rule out a perfume family and never say you hate something when you haven’t tried it – in fact, don’t knock it if you haven’t tried it! There is one exception to this rule. It’s made by Etat Libre d’Orange, and it’s named Secretions Magnifiques. Just take my word for that.
★ When the words for a perfume have eluded me, it usually means the genie in the bottle and I aren’t speaking the same language. Instead, I step away from the computer, reapply and start in longhand in my notebook. This works for other writing, too.
★ If $100 is the new free in the world of niche perfumes, then Serge Lutens and his eponymous creations are the very least of my worries.

The Big Epiphanies

Aftelier. Some of the most amazing perfumes I’ve ever come across, and there have been a few by now. And Mandy Aftel’s Cepes and Tuberose. On any given day, regardless of whatever else I’m wearing, you will find a tiny dab of C&T somewhere on my person, if I don’t just dab it all over and call it a good day. It has simply become that…important. My perfume mojo goes where I do.
Amouage. You know it’s good when perfume makes you cry. Three Amouage creations have made me bawl with their beauty. The evening I wrote ‘Silver and Black’, I went through an entire pack of pocket Kleenex. Amouage inspires narratives rather than reviews, and the stories they inspire stay with me every time I wear them. When my carefully doled-out samples and teeny decants wear out, I may consider a career change. Bank robbery, for instance. Or writing pulp fiction potboilers that sell in the millions.
Andy Tauer. I’d like to parade him down Fifth Avenue in a sedan chair with the crowd throwing rose petals, but he’ll probably turn them all into Une Rose Vermeillé by the time we get to East 59th Street. Stampedes may ensue.
Dawn Spencer Hurwitz. For no other reason than ‘Vert Pour Madame’, but then I was gifted with ‘1000 Lilies’, and before I knew it, I had a tidy little collection of DSH samples. Why doesn’t Europe know about her? They will soon enough if I have anything to do with it!
Atelier Cologne. Not a bad one in the bunch. Not one I can’t wear. Not one I can’t love. Not one I don’t want to own. Preferably in liter bottles if possible. But I’ll settle for a Petit Cologne or two…
Ormonde Jayne. Some kinda gorgeous in every bottle, even the (very) few I can’t wear.
★ No substitutes for the classics…I discovered the wonders of Caron’s Tabac Blond, Piguet’s Fracas and rediscovered Bandit. Now, if I could only track down a few precious drops of vintage Vent Vert…
Puredistance Antonia. Such a flawless green throwback, it breaks my heart…
Serge Lutens still rules…just when I get comfortable with my 11 (!) bottle wishlist, the fatal duo of Lutens and Sheldrake do me in again with Vitriol d’Oeillet. Don’t get me started on De Profundiis…
Etat Libre d’Orange may have unleashed Secretions Magnifiques upon the world, but they also gave us Like This, Rossy de Palma, Jasmin et Cigarette, Vraie Blonde, Tom of Finland…
Penhaligon’s Amaranthine. Surely the sexiest kind of strange I’ve ever met.

Discoveries ahead:
★ All the lines I have yet to try…Histoires des Parfums, Parfums d’Empire, Parfumerie Generale, Roja Dove, Patricia de Nicolaï, Keiko Mecheri, Ayala Moriel, Lord’s Jester, Dupetit, Esscentual Alchemy, Roxana Villa, JoAnne Bassett, much more of EnVoyage, Anya’s Garden, Knize, Profumum, Santa Maria Novella, Jovoy…
★ All the classics I need to revisit since I have yet to write about them…L’Heure Bleue, Après L’Ondée, Shalimar, Jicky, Vol de Nuit, Sous le Vent…and that’s just the Guerlains.
★ What I’m excited about…Chanel no. 19 Poudré. Due any day now, even in the boonies. And Serge Lutens’ De Profundiis. Still wondering how I might get to sample it…

Since I began writing about perfume in earnest, my life has changed completely, not just in the perfumes I wear or even love, but in all other aspects, too. I’ve made true-blue friends, I’ve sniffed and worn some spectacular perfumes, and I’ve gained a level of esthetic and sensory appreciation that spills over into other areas, too. I’ve made connections with people I never thought I’d know, never mind actually talk to! I’ve done things I thought I would never do, written reviews I thought I could never write, been bolder than I ever have. All good things in my life this past year have come through perfume – and the fun isn’t anywhere over…yet!

It could never have happened without… Doc Elly, Mandy Aftel, Carrie, JoanElaine, Olfactoria, Dee, Suzanne, Lucy, Ines, Undina, Persolaise, Frida, Carol, CandyPerfumeboy and even Helg of PerfumeShrine, my longtime idol. Anthony of NKDMan gave me a great opportunity and I’m very grateful, and there are not enough words to say how much I adore Christopher Chong for his encouragement and sincere appreciation of my ‘alternative’ approach to perfume reviewing.

It could never have happened without YOU! I had not one reader when I started. Now, I have forty one. Thank YOU…for reading, for commenting, for…appreciating that despite not reviewing like any other bloggers, I still might have something unique to say about a singular passion we all share – perfume!

So what do you say, dear reader? Should we try to see where this takes us in another year?

I’m game! Are you?

Image: A cake in the shape of a perfume bottle. It was the only one that fit!

Emerald Luck


- a review of Atelier Cologne’s ‘Trèfle Pur’ Cologne Absolute.
Most artists and certainly writers are a superstitious bunch. There are omens that must be in place before you can write, certain objects, rituals, things to drink, chew on, do to distract yourself from what you’re actually doing – which is to conjure word rabbits out of thin air where no rabbits were before…

I’m no exception. I have, as you know, the Holey Cardigan of Alexandria – a moot point in July – the ancient band T-shirt that states ‘This Blood’s For You’, the beatified iPod playlist that shuts up that part of my brain that would much rather procrastinate on YouTube …you get the idea. Since I usually write late at night, peppermint iced tea is very important. So are my two notebooks…one large blue journal/notebook/idea book that goes where I go and is used for all my writing projects, and one small brocade notebook I use for my perfume related stuff, where I only write in pencil. The pencils I also bite on while I write.

This past spring, another kind of superstition/omen arrived that has since become an indispensible part of Things That Must Be There So The Writer Can Write. I was, well, lucky enough to receive a sample package from Atelier Cologne, containing samples of five of their colognes along with the postcards used to illustrate them. Four of them arrived intact and were infinitely appreciated this past spring. The postcards were framed and hung on my wall.

The fifth – Trèfle Pur – arrived in a few dozen glass shards in the envelope, and had soaked into the postcard that illustrated it. When I realized from the copy that this was a clover-based cologne, I wondered whether that was supposed to be a bad omen?

What I did realize was this: Trèfle Pur was such a perfect, joyous, happy green I was heartbroken that it had shattered in the mail.

The Green – and green-eyed – Monster, that would be me. Say that magic word – my favorite color, my favorite perfume family – and this Ferdinande the Cow wants nothing more than to sit quietly under the cork oak tree and …smell the green…Green is my instant happy, whether we’re talking plants, clothes or perfumes.

All hope was not lost. I still had that saturated postcard. I never knew why, but I took that still damp postcard and promptly placed it in my journal/notebook and closed it shut before the luck ran out!

Since then, that postcard has remained in the notebook, still fragrant these three months later, perfuming my notebook and anything that went into it. It permeated another postcard that went on to other places, hopefully with a little bit of me and that four-leaf clover luck attached to it.

And every time I have an idea that needs to be written down, the beginning of a review, a musing, a to-do list, poetry I write in cafés while waiting for friends, rewrites of passages from my novel, quotes and poems from other books, dreams, doodles and aspirations…all of them carry that aura…of Trèfle Pur.

I tell myself that it’s lucky, you see. So far, I have yet to see any evidence it may be anything else.

I’ve always been on the prowl for the perfect, the flawless, the epitome of emerald green in a perfume. Not green-floral, not green-chypre, not green-woody, green-oriental, not vetiver nor oakmoss…but just plain, simple, peerless green. In my quest, I’ve come across any number of surpassing perfumed treasures and pleasures. I’ve loved many, and I still do.

Yet none of those green loves were quite so viridian, so fresh, so happy as this one. Technically, Trèfle Pur is a fougère, but this fougère has none of the barber-shop vibe of so many fougères, there are no definite masculine overtones or indeed any overtones at all.

Trefle Pur is verdantly perfect, and perfectly enough. The combination of bitter orange and violet leaves – not a whisper of floral to be detected anywhere – swirl off the skin so softly and sweetly, it’s all I can do to just sit for a Ferdinande moment and…smell the green. The combination of clover absolute with a hint of cardamom and more than a hint of basil, the bouncy, happy, warm drydown of neroli, patchouli and musk all sing their chorus around that luckiest of leaves – clover.

If you could bottle your anticipation and rainbow-tinted hopes for every spring, if you could somehow roll all the rain-soaked meadows and fresh-mowed lawns that steam in the sunshine following a summer thunderstorm into one, if you could capture the joy of nothing more nor less than being alive in the moment, just this moment…it would, in my mind at least, smell like Trèfle Pur. It never cloys and never bores me, and it never fails to make me happy in the moment, whatever that moment happens to throw my way. I can’t think of anything better for a spring day or a hot summer day, and it lasts beautifully for a cologne – I’ve detected it over four hours later, but really, I just needed another excuse to reapply for that one breathing, laughing moment life was just…perfect, I sat still for an instant and…smelled… the emerald green of lucky!

So why did I put that Trefle Pur-soaked postcard in my journal? To paraphrase from the ad copy…

“She had a good feeling about it. That’s the thing about luck, you feel it or you don’t. That moment, she felt it.”

So I did!

The postcard is still in my journal. All I have to do is open it, see the image below – and smell the green, the emerald green of…luck!

Notes: Bitter orange, cardamom, basil, clover absolute, violet leaves, Tunisian neroli, patchouli, moss, musk.

Image of Trèfle Pur postcard from the Atelier Cologne website.
Disclosure: Sample was provided by Atelier for review, but alas, it broke in the mail! Luckily, the lovely Undina saved the day and sent me a small sample!

Atelier Cologne Absolute Trefle Pur is available from the Atelier Cologne website, Aedes, Neiman Marcus, Luckyscent and First in Fragrance.

Black Satin Bloom


- a review of Ormonde Jayne’s ‘Orris Noir’

With all the flowers used in perfumery and aromatherapy, there is one flower I truly worship and adore.

Not orange blossom for its instant-happy vibe, not the endlessly elegant lily with all its fragrant glories, not tuberose for its come-hither siren song, not jasmine sambac or grandiflorum, beautiful as they are, not rose in all its infinite variety, nor even violet, although I love violet, too.

Of all the blooms I love, there’s something about…iris. Some element of mystery, some near-indefinable cool I can never quite grasp and find eternally fascinating, and I own not a few irises. Chanel no. 19 in EdT and EdP, Dior Homme and Homme Intense, Guerlain’s Iris Ganache, Serge Lutens’ Iris Silver Mist, Odin NY 04-Petrana, Miller Harris Terre d’Iris…oh, yes, I love iris!

Orris butter, which gives us that haunting scent, tends to add elegance as well as a touch of restrained, chill aloofness, never more beautifully than in Chanel no. 19 and Iris Silver Mist. The point is – both of these immortal irises are cool, distant, even a touch intimidating.

Still another iris has made it into my iris-centric Hall of Fame, an iris – or should I say, an orris – neither cool nor intimidating, and yet…it has to be one of the most sublime iris perfumes I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet.

May I introduce you to Orris Noir by Ormonde Jayne.

The first time I tried it, it was indeed swoon-worthy, so I did. I was not completely discombobulated until a few days later, when I was about to wash what I dub the Holey Cardigan of Alexandria – an ancient, gray wool cardigan that has been part of my lucky/superstitious writing uniform since I began to write in earnest. As I was about to toss it in the washing machine, I noticed a trace of scent so utterly haunting, it stopped me, well, cold. That chilly finger of perfumed epiphany raced down my spine and made me shiver in my laundry room, trailing goose bumps of a kind dedicated perfumoholics will know.

Orris Noir is that rarest of rhizomes – a warm, decadent, sensuous, come-closer kind of iris. It starts out spicy, warm with davana, coriander, pink pepper and a bright burst of bergamot that keeps everything suspended in air, before it settles down in to the main attraction, an iris so sumptuous and opulent with the added touch of jasmine sambac, pimento berries and bay, so plush it might as well be olfactory silk velvet in a singular hue somewhere between purple and black. The heart of this orris continues to sing well into its dark, smoky drydown of incense, myrrh, patchouli, Chinese cedar and gaiac wood, and if those notes read like a recipe for the very best kind of trouble, you would be right.

It takes a certain level of confidence and experience to wear Orris Noir, or I could easily see it wearing you. This is not a perfume for shrinking violets or demure demoiselles. It’s a purple-black velvet aura, or if you prefer, a thick, voluptuous swathe of midnight-black satin that glows on your skin like a hint of anticipation, a spicy suggestion of promises you might want to keep. Orris Noir will most emphatically get you noticed, but what you do with it is up to you! No other iris I’ve encountered is so warm, so inviting and so all-out seductive, not just to your surroundings, but to you as well. Wear it to make an impression, wear it for a special night out, wear it when you need just that little bit of extra oomph, wear it when you want to feel…fabulous, warm, spicy and above all else, when you want to feel feminine with a capital F, or woman with a capital W!

On a big night out a few weeks ago, I had an opportunity to road test Orris Noir. How well would it hold up under the harrowing, sardine conditions of a very hot, humid rock concert with about eight hundred metalheads, rockabillies and Gothaholics? Would it last long enough to make any impression if I did manage to make it backstage?

I applied half a sample vial, just to make sure. I wore Orris Noir in my hair, my pulse points, a few more I invented just for the occasion and my clothes. My companion mumbled something about not being responsible for the consequences if I got too close, which could explain why he spent most of the show at least nine feet away. But last it did and beautifully so, through the opening act and the headliner and through eighty loud, glorious minutes, blooming all the way on to a tour bus with four flirting testosterone bombs who definitely noticed the perfume a certain blonde in red and black was wearing. A woman knows how to tell. The blonde meanwhile – that would be me – felt audacious enough, sexy enough, even confident enough to flirt right back.

Thanks to Orris Noir, which forever after will have associations of a night to remember. If that’s not the right kind of association to have with such a haunting, seductive perfume, then, pray tell, what is?

Notes:
Top: Davana, pink pepper, coriander seed, bergamot
Heart: Iris, sambac absolute, pimento berries (allspice), bay
Base: Incense, myrrh, patchouli, Chinese cedar, gaiac

Orris Noir is available from the Ormonde Jayne website.

Disclosure: Sample provided by Ormonde Jayne for review.

Image: Black Iris Publishing

The Winner of the Aftelier Haute Claire Giveaway!


Random.org has determined that the winner of the Aftelier Haute Claire giveaway is…

Laura Matheson!

Congratulations, Laura! Please email your contact details and address as soon as you can to tarleisio at gmail dot com, so I can pass them on to Mandy Aftel.

Last but not least…a great, big thank you to each and every one of you who participated in the draw and commented on my blog post! I was completely overwhelmed by all the responses it received!

There will be more wonders to come!

Original image: Scientific American

The Gold Wreath of Gorgeous


- a review of Ormonde Jayne’s ‘Tolu’
Does it ever happen to you…that you read a description of a perfume, a list of notes, and somewhere inside, something stirs and moves and sighs? Do you ever have an intuition that no matter what, you know it in your bones…this will be fantastic?

This past spring, I was lucky enough to receive a Discovery set of perfumes from one perfumer whose work intrigued me no end by description alone. The perfumer was Linda Pilkington, the house was Ormonde Jayne, and call it a hunch or a sense of foreboding, but somehow, some way, I knew it would be good.

With one exception, every one of them was so delicious and so compelling, I loved them all with a passion all spring and well into the summer. I loved them so much in fact, I couldn’t write about them. I’d look at that elegant black-gold Discovery set and sigh…sigh with regret over the size of my microscopic bank account, sigh that these perfumes could be so stunning, and sigh that I just knew I had to write about them – and a few dozen others, too.

The precarious thrills of a perfume blogger! So many perfumes, so many words to find, so little time…

This is why I’ve decided to nip my burgeoning sense of guilt in the bud and write about one of my favorite Ormonde Jaynes…‘Tolu’.

Tolu balsam, which is made from a tree native to Peru and Colombia, is a dark, tenacious resin that smells simultaneously sweet and woody-spicy with hints of cinnamon, clove and nutmeg. It is one of my favorite base notes in perfumery precisely for that reason.

You can imagine that once I got my hands on Ormonde Jayne’s ‘Tolu’, I really did hope it would live up to that giddy sense of anticipation I conjured in my head from the notes. Please, let this be good, let it make my day brighter, let it make me swoon with its scented, sensual pleasures…

Reader, it was. It is. It did!

Tolu’ is, in a word – stunning. Ormonde Jayne lists it as a floral-oriental, and I can see why. It starts with a bracing little kick of juniper and a bright and mellow clary sage, before the orange blossom sashays in with promises of floral marvels to come – the orchid, which I can’t detect to be honest, the muguet, which adds a flirty, light-hearted note, and the decadent rose, which is most emphatically present, waltzing around the perfume in perfect step with the orange blossom just enough to intrigue me further.

Be still my beating heart, I thought the first time I tried it, be still!

My heart never listened. Instead, it beat faster.

So seamlessly, so stealthily, so imperceptibly did the drydown arrive about a half hour later while I was distracted by life and other hazards, that it was only in passing I noticed what has to be one of the most heartbreaking, breathtaking, faintmaking drydowns I’ve ever encountered in a perfume.

Time for the tolu that gives ‘Tolu’ its name, its spicy-woody-sweet aura whirling around and around tonka bean with its vanilla flair, golden frankincense (another all-time favorite base note) and what’s listed as ‘amber’ and I detect as a labdanum accord. I’m not a major amber perfume fan girl, but surely there’s amber and there’s this…amber. It wraps around the skin like a golden aura of cashmere and silk, spicy-sweet, ultra-rich and intoxicating, and I never, ever want it to come to an end.

‘Tolu’ in the eau de parfum is very long lasting and tenacious, unabashedly womanly but not frilly or ‘girlie’, and like not a few Ormonde Jaynes, sultry, sexy and deliciously seductive. I wore this a while ago to meet with a platonic male friend, and he asked me in no uncertain terms to move slightly away. He said my perfume gave him ideas…

That’s the kind of reaction I always hope for!

The more I’ve worn ‘Tolu’ – far too much if the diminishing level in my sample vial is any indication – the more I’ve come to see it as a golden perfume, not just in color but in terms of its aura. Linda Pilkington recommends it for autumn wear, and I can understand why…something about that golden, warm cashmere/silk aura that goes so beautifully with the cool, gold light of October. I’ve worn it for big presentation days, and I’ve worn it for evening wear, and I have to say – wear this wisely. It’s that…sultry. And that sexy!

I’m at that thankless age where I’ll do whatever it takes to amp up the oomph. With ‘Tolu’, it’s like donning that golden wreath of myrtle, sacred to Aphrodite, found in Philip II’s tomb in Vergina. I suspect it was worn by a woman – myrtle crowns were considered propitious for women in Hellenistic Greece – and I like to think that the woman who wore it put it on last to lend a little of Aphrodite’s irresistible beauty as well…one golden wreath of gorgeousness, as if to say…this way, a woman walks, leaving an irresistible aura behind.

I don’t have a golden wreath of myrtle, nor do I have any of Aphrodite’s beauty to borrow, but for a little while longer, I have Ormonde Jayne’s ‘Tolu’.

A golden wreath of gorgeous I can claim for my own!

Notes:
Top: Juniper berry, orange blossom, clary sage
Heart: Orchid, Moroccan rose, muguet
Base: Tolu, tonka bean, golden frankincense, amber

Disclosure: Sample provided by Ormonde Jayne for review.

Ormonde Jayne ‘Tolu’ is available in several permutations from the Ormonde Jayne website, and from Senteurs d’Aillleurs in Brussels. Ormonde Jayne ships worldwide.

Image: Gold myrtle wreath found in Philip II of Macedon’s tomb in Vergina, 4th century B.C.E, the Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki.

A Green and Searing Heart of Light – with a giveaway!


- a review of Aftelier’s ‘Haute Claire’

If I were ever to make a list of all the dozens of perfume notes I tend to gravitate towards and dote upon, the ones I tend to seek out as if compelled by some guardian angel of perfumery, at the very top of that list you would find that savage, green beast known as…galbanum.

Galbanum has been used since antiquity in perfumes and incense mixtures. The ancient Egyptians adored it every bit as much as Germaine Cellier, when she put it at the front and center of the greatest green perfume of all, Balmain’s Vent Vert. In the long list of my own personal great immortal perfumes, galbanum has been the green heart and common thread of most of them – Vent Vert, Bandit, Cabochard, Miss Dior, Dioressence, Silences, Chanel no. 19, even my latest favorite green, Dawn Spencer Hurwitz’ Vert pour Madame.

So imagine how excited I was to learn that in another perfume collaboration instigated by Nathan Branch, Mandy Aftel and Liz Zorn of Soivohle were exploring the challenges of two seeming contradictions – galbanum and ylang ylang. Galbanum, which sings in such a high, green pitch, and ylang ylang with all its lusciously sweet, tropical arias, not giving an inch, not even for galbanum.

Here I sit with Mandy’s ‘Haute Claire’, and since it arrived, I’ve been trying to wrap my mind, my nose and my words around it.

‘Haute Claire’ – sometimes spelled ‘Hauteclere’, meaning ‘high and clear’ or ‘noble and fair’ – was the name of a sword that belonged to the paladin Olivier de Vienne, the protector and teacher of Roland in the medieval French epic, ‘The Song of Roland’. Both the name and the contents suit each other completely, one as sharply defined as the other, both a testament to a unique artist’s sleight of hand that gives a perfect balance and a perfect reach.

First of all, I’ll start by saying this is like no galbanum fiend I have ever encountered before. Just as I had to, you can forget everything you know about green florals, chypres, and fougères.

Haute Claire is indeed very green, it is quite floral, it has slight intimations of chypre, and yet, it resembles nothing I have any kind of reference for, and oh, how I love it when that happens!

That sharp, green and resinous edge of galbanum glows just below a bright, emerald burst of lime and wild sweet orange, the kind to wake up all your sensory perceptions to high alert. Neither the lime nor the orange are so sweet they detract from galbanum, because throughout the complex development of Haute Claire, it beats like an untamed heart beneath every other element. Ylang ylang in both CO2 and extra dance so effortlessly with honeysuckle absolute and clary sage all along that searing galbanum blade, adding another dimension of floral, another, creamier shade of chartreuse to that pulsing heart, all the elements poised on the singular point of that metaphorical, perfume sword.

They whirl around in the emerald light…now ylang ylang in all its wonder, next the heady, sweet air of honeysuckle and the rounded, mellow tones of clary sage binding them together as they dance in tune along the blade…

So many of the notes in ‘Haute Claire’ are such inherent contradictions if not paradoxes in perfume that should cancel each other out and yet somehow they never do. That glowing, pulsing soul of galbanum and the heady ylang are seamlessly, effortlessly balanced in a fragrant duel where one is never stronger than the other. It never turns bitter and always remains green all the way through a spectacular drydown of vetiver and ethyl phenyl acetate with its hint of rose and vanilla adding just a feather-touch of soft and sweet, one final burnish of the blade. It wears equally well on men or women, I’d say, and lasts well past the four-hour mark, and that, too, is no mean feat of natural perfumery.

If ever a perfume were a testament to alchemy and artistry, to the juxtaposition of opposites and a balance of a paradox in essences, it would be Haute Claire. It smells like no other perfume, behaves like no other galbanum, and has an inbuilt architecture very similar to the sword that gave it its name, and that, too, I’ve never encountered before.

I’ve been sideswiped by Mandy Aftel’s skills as a perfumer with all nine of the perfumes I’ve been privileged enough to try. They have all evoked – and invoked – a wide range of responses and reactions, conjured different dreams and associations. But no other Aftelier creation has ever been like this one, both a paradox and a contradiction, yet such a seamless, perfect whole.

I could quote from ‘The Song of Roland’, but to be honest, I found something a little less dramatic and a lot less gory, that seemed to fit it equally well. If a sword can be immortal, then a perfume can be no less, and so I found this from Rumi…

‘Death came, smelled me
and sensed your fragrance instead
From then on, Death lost all hope of me…’

An immortal poem of immortal deeds, an eternal perfume…and a perfumer whose art makes it look as easy as a sharp, verdant edge…

‘Haute Claire’ is available in 30 ml EdP and in sample form from the Aftelier website.

DIsclosure: Sample provided by Aftelier for review.
Original image: ‘Ace of Skies’ from the “Chaos Tarot”, image of ‘Haute Claire’ provided by Aftelier.

Notes:
Top: Galbanum, Mexican Lime, wild sweet orange
Heart: Ylang ylang CO2, honeysuckle absolute, ylang ylang extra, clary sage
Base: Vetiver, ethyl phenyl acetate, vanilla absolute

To read of the fascinating and sometimes frustrating process of creating ‘Haute Claire’ on Nathan Branch’s blog, start here.

Last, but not least – leave a comment! Thanks to Mandy’s incredible generosity, I’m holding a giveaway for a 5 ml sample spray of Haute Claire. One lucky reader will get to experience the Aftelier attention to detail in both perfume and packaging! So..leave a comment! The draw runs until July 25th at midnight CET, and a winner will be determined by random.org.

Love from the Tree of Life


- a review of Honoré des Près ‘Love Coco’
For a summer vacation after my eighth birthday, my stepfather – all his life a merman of the first order – took my mother and I on a sailing trip to the Bahamas. On a Bimini beach at sundown that first day, I saw a sight I’ll never forget, something so incredible, it burned itself into my memory forever.

A local boy, not much older than me, walked up a coconut palm and picked a coconut. In no time at all, he was back on the beach with a huge, oblong, yellow-green nut, whacking off the woody husk with a few deft strokes of a lethal-looking machete. Then, in one stroke he sliced open the coconut and held it out to me, the coconut water gleaming inside in the red-gold of the sunset, and the sharks coming in just visible in the water beyond the reef.

That, my friends, is a coconut! The quintessence of coconut, extrait of tropics, humidity-distilled summer – life as a beach!

So when you can’t get to the beach – never mind the tropics – you can at least wear it!

So ingrained is the scent of coconut with summer, it’s been a mainstay of suntan lotions since the glory days of Coppertone, since even before the SPF was ever invented. Hawaiian Tropic would not be the success it is were it not for all that coconut, all the time.

Christopher Brosius of CBIHP gave us ‘At the Beach 1966’, the scent of my childhood summers, we have the utter fabulosity of Estée Lauder’s Bronze Goddess, whose fans are legion and I’m one of them, we have perfumes that feature coconut as a perfume facet such as Kai, and now, we also have the certified organic, all-natural Honoré des Près Love Coco, created by Olivia Giacobetti.

Giacobetti has a talent for making perfumes as sheer and transparent as gossamer silk, even something that can be as cloying as coconut.

With Love Coco, she doesn’t disappoint, because this coconut is anything but cloying. This is not your usual hypersweet liquid coconut cream pie, this is not some 24/7 Live Nude Coconuts! overload, Love Coco is none of these things. It is, rather, that highly remarkable creature…

A green coconut.

It opens not with coconut, but with fresh, emerald-green coriander/cilantro, and to be honest, if that’s not daring, I don’t know what is. Coriander – cilantro as it’s known in the US – is a culinary herb much beloved in Indian, Thai, Vietnamese and Mexican cuisine for its ability to elevate spicy food to an entirely new level of delicious. On the other hand, there are many people who can’t stand its unique aroma that sits uneasily somewhere between herbal-minty and sweatsock. I’m not one of them and love the stuff, so I have no problems with it, but I can’t for the life of me recall when it was last used in a perfume – and worked so well!
The coriander refreshes the coconut and keeps it right off the tree. This isn’t a sweet coconut, but a sheer, rounded fresh coconut that even stays that way when vanilla – just the merest whisper – enters the scene and stays until the far drydown.

It’s deceptively simple and yet never boring, it’s green and light and yet not too fleeting. It is, in fact, the perfect and perfectly unusual coconut.

Scientific research will have it that coconut has a certain effect on the masculine gender. I can’t say I’ve had the chance to road-test it for real, but I can say that it worked as well on a six-year-old as it did on his father who came by for the day, and I had not a word of complaint, which isn’t always the case with a lot of things I wear!

Even bad boys like a day at the beach!

In tropical countries, the coconut palm is called the-tree-of-many-uses, since every part of it can be used for something. It is also called the tree of life, which is how I like to see it – giving shade and shelter from the hot sun, sustenance and sugar…and a green, fresh, delectable beach-in-a-bottle called…

Love Coco!

Notes: Coriander, coconut, vanilla

Honoré des Près Love Coco is available at Beautyhabit and First in Fragrance