Fleur Fatale

– a review of Opus Oils’ ‘Flapper’

In a side street behind the Plaza and the Palace of the Governors in Santa Fe, New Mexico lies the location of one of my biggest fragrant epiphanies – the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. Here, in a small courtyard beyond a gallery, something stopped me cold in an instant. It was a faint scent trail of something so haunting, so evocative, so unlike anything I had ever encountered before, all thoughts of art appreciation went right out of my head. I sniffed. It wasn’t the overall ambient scent of New Mexico, with its dusty heated smell of sagebrush and broom, ponderosa, mesquite and cottonwoods or roasting chiles.

I remember that I stood, held up my hand to stop a conversation and sniffed the air like a bloodhound on a scent. Which was when I found the source.

Off in the furthest corner was a small clump of otherwise unremarkable weeds to my untrained Northern European eye, unremarkable if not for rather showy, white, trumpet-shaped flowers I instantly recognized from so many paintings. It was such a galvanizing shock to my senses – that coming together of artistic vision I knew from so many favorite paintings and a living reality blooming unheeded in an adobe courtyard – with the unreal, ghostly perfume of the humble jimsonweed, datura stramonium, quite literally fragrant like nothing at all else on Earth.

For the rest of my years in New Mexico, I would follow that trail when I found it, as I so often did…in overgrown lots and empty arroyos, nestling in the sunlight in hidden canyons in the Jemez Mountains, and always in the twilight hours when it bloomed…that visceral olfactory punch of datura.

Every part of the datura plant is poisonous. Datura brings delirium and madness, bizarre behavior, amnesia and even death. Every year, livestock die and humans too from datura poisoning. Legend has it that breathing the very scent of it will bring visions, dreams, intoxication – and obsession. I’ve been obsessed with datura ever since that first encounter in a Santa Fe museum courtyard, I’ve even met a few perfumes that attempted to recreate that fragrant flowered swoon… and all of them disappointed. Beautiful, yes, complex and heady, yes, but a rendering of Georgia’s beloved jimsonweed? No. So it was…

Until I discovered Opus Oils, Kedra Hart, her soliflore ‘Les Bohemes’ collection…and her ode to datura…’Flapper’.

Flapper, as Kedra says, is the Belle of the Les Bohemes ball…and what a belle she is! Sweetly disturbing, a little fruity, a little wild, her initial innocent aura is dangerously deceiving. I inhale her luscious perfume, and think nothing more edifying than ‘heavenly’, but Flapper hasn’t finished singing just yet.

She Charlestons fully into the room in her flashing satin heels with her flirty dancing eyes, and right when you summon up the courage to look her beauty full in the face, right about when that datura really begins to bloom beneath the moonlight, that heady, seamless bouquet that all equals ‘datura’ winks…rustles those velvety ghostly petals and you are so entranced, so bewitched, it’s all you can do to simply breathe the visions in that follow.

You have now been spancelled, you are under her spell, and now, she will never, ever let you go, and you will never, ever want her to! As she blooms, as the night grows older and the moon ever bolder, as she opens that white, haunting trumpet wider, she grows cooler and lusher, fading to a satin soft whisper of tobacco and tonka bean, white musk and vanilla, as gossamer as the moonbeams that slowly fade away with the dawn, the cool of the air closing up her petals, keeping all her narcotic, alluring secrets until night descends again.

She is called Flapper, but I would give her another name that suits her equally well, a name that for me encapsulates all she is and all she does…

Fleur Fatale.

So fatale, she and I suit each other very, very well. You see, we have a history, she and I…from a Santa Fe courtyard and into a memory of carefree, of happy, of dancing though the moonbeams together to entrance and ensnare all who catch a haunting trail they will never forget!

Opus Oils ‘Flapper’ is in the ‘Les Bohemes’ collection, available as an alcohol-based perfume and as a perfume oil in a fractionated coconut oil base from the Opus Oils website.

Notes: Sweet lemon blossom, clementine, tangerine, pink peppercorn, perillla leaf, mango absolute, ginger lily, datura, gardenia, jasmine, vanilla, white musk, blond tobacco, tonka bean.

The Twilit World of Falling Wisteria – Maiko

– Part Two of Aroma M Geisha Perfume Oils

In this part of the Gion district of Kyoto, the atmosphere is different. Here you will find all that is traditionally associated with ‘geisha’ in the Western mind, the elaborate hair with the cascades of ‘falling wisteria’, the graceful white-painted face with the alluring neck left semi-bare, and the elaborate folds of obi that designate not the geisha, but the maiko, the geisha-in-training who are learning all the geisha art. Artlessness, they well know, must be learned by first studying artifice, so in these tea houses, you will find a younger vibe, more in tune with twilight than night.

In this twilit world the maiko show their skill and are eager to entertain and to please. Here, the perfumes are lighter and airier, but no less complex and certainly no less surprising than their sisters among the geiko.

Follow me down this Kyoto street and into this tea house, and meet the maiko of the twilit world, a world where even the wisteria sparkling in its ebony hair knows to dance a singular tune, and the rustle of a heavy silk kimono contains a music like no other, artless in all its studied, careful art.

Geisha Green

Absinthe, the famous La Fée Verte, has been used in several modern perfumes, but this is no regular wormwood scent. It starts with a sweet, deep viridian kick to the senses, sharp with mandarin and blackcurrant yet none of blackcurrant’s sometimes animal vibe, and dries down in the course of several hours into another, equally haunting green fairy, the kind that won’t quite let you go, not that you mind. Apparently, the aroma of absinthe is known for not just being a famed aphrodisiac (I’ll attest to that one!) but a creativity enhancer, and I can see why. I put this on, and find myself daydreaming the story arcs of my next two novels…

Notes: Absinthe, blackcurrant, mandarin, violet, amber and tonka bean.

Geisha Blue

I had a day last week that qualified as a Day To Forget. The kind where nothing works out, no one understands you and might as well be speaking in ancient Sumerian for all you understand them, the kind where the kid won’t cooperate no matter what he’s bribed with and the day’s miseries drag unending on…and on. When peace and quiet finally arrived, I was so frazzled and exhausted, I didn’t know what to do. I applied this blue-green wonder on the strength of Lucy of Indie Perfumes’ beautiful review, and for the first time in over twenty-four hours, my shoulders sank down to their proper place, I could breathe, think and…relax. So much, I went to bed and slept like a happy baby, even with two cats on top of me. Valerian may work for you, but Geisha Blue is my new favorite chill pill. Some days, you need all the aromatic help you can get, and relief gets no better than this.

Notes: Blue chamomile, green tea, leafy greens.

Geisha Pink

The sweet fruity perfume is a genre much maligned among perfumistas, mainly for being so ubiquitous. In the case of Geisha Pink, that’s a shame, because Pink is a several miles above anything sold to garrulous mall-rat teenagers at Sephora. It is indeed sweet, fruity with plum and orange, and with a long, soft, vanilla cashmere-ish drydown that lasts, but not so long you get bored with it. I may feel too old and jaded for Pink’s girlie vibe, but I happen to know the perfect teenager, who will now receive a perfect – and perfectly unusual – Christmas present. She’ll be the envy of all her Cosplaying friends with Geisha Pink!

Notes: Sugared plum, orange, vanilla.

Geisha Blanche

White in many cultures symbolizes innocence and purity, and the white collars of a geisha’s inner kimono accentuate the erotic appeal of the neck. Geisha Blanche is a stunning, summery, airy floral scent with a special touch of lychee which elevates those white blooms and makes them dance above your skin. Dance they certainly do – this is the happiest, coolest summer day in a vial, and even if you’re not a fan of white florals, that lychee might make you reconsider. It’s nothing like the insipid floral blends you see and smell everywhere yet perfect as it is – and as perfectly feminine as you can make it! Wear it for a June wedding, even if you’re the bride!

Notes: White flowers, lychee.

There’s very much to love and admire in all the Aroma M Geisha Perfume Oils – their truly unique hybrid West-meets-East approach to perfume construction where they evolve in surprising and delightful ways, the underlying uncompromising aesthetic idea behind them, and the sheer range of scents in their stunning Yuzen paper packaging. Whether you’re a diehard Oriental fan (Geisha Noir & Rouge), you’re a Green fiend (Violet, Blue and Green) or you like your florals light, airy and a touch eccentric (Geisha Blanche & Pink), there will be a Geisha for you. I’ve read reviews that said something about ‘plastic doll head accord’, but I don’t get that at all.

What struck me most, apart from their evident beauty and surprising longevity, is their extraordinary ability to evoke or promote a mood. All the perfumes I love with a fury evoke certain moods and ambiences, aspects of persona, situation or moment I wish to enhance or tone down, yet all the Geisha line went straight for the jugular and created moods I wasn’t even aware I wanted. Noir…a night to remember, Rouge…a spicy, hot, invigorating kick to my writer’s block, Violet, a singing Mallarmé poem in a perfume, Green…la Fée Verte, which makes you dream visions and think possibilities, Blue, a calming, relaxing, centering deep, deep breath of a perfume that was the perfect ending antidote to an awful day…Blanche and Pink, floral, flirty and girlie, the perfect present for a floral, flirty, young girl I know who loves all things Japanese.

As for me, I know I’m in deep, deep trouble when I look at my scribbled wish list in my perfume notebook – and find six names!

For a magic carpet ride into another world I never knew before, and an experience I know I’ve never had before, I thank Maria McElroy. And Lucy, who introduced us!

So I come across another waka poet from another time and place, the lady Otomo of Sakanoue, and echo these words…

“How fine you are

So thinks my heart

In a rushing torrent

And though I

Dam it up

Soon, it is sure

To burst…”

The geisha, meanwhile, walk the streets of Kyoto’s Gion in the Floating World to this day, still weaving their enchantment for all to see in this compelling video.

Image: Wood-block print by Utamaro, c. 1820, ‘Geisha and Maiko’

Disclosure: Samples provided by Maria McElroy/Aroma M for review.

Eau de Perdition

– a review of Opus Oils’ ‘Dirty Sexy Wilde’

Ever since a boring, windy November night almost two years ago, my dreams have been haunted by a phantom….perfume. A perfume I have never encountered in real life, never even thought about before that night I was visited by a relation to Edgar Allen Poe’s Imp of the Perverse and fell down a rabbit hole of my making.

See me as I was that Friday night…thoroughly, emphatically bored. Some idea bubbled away at the back of my mind, something nailed my posterior to my Balinese cane chair and sent me looking for an image I came across a few days before, something made me drum my desk as I looked and thought that heretical thought…

“What if…”

“What if” is how stories are born, books are written, things…happen.

I plugged into my iPod, unplugged my inner censor, and wrote a story about a woman much like myself with nothing to lose, a woman with a dream of doing and becoming – and the Devil in disguise in a midnight café who makes her an offer not even she can refuse. Woven into the storyline in a way I wasn’t even aware of doing was…that phantom perfume, the Devil’s scent, dark, erotic and dangerously alluring. It weaved and bobbed throughout the storyline that followed, as warning and premonition and button pusher, and the Devil that I conjured knew everything about pushing my protagonist’s buttons – good and bad.

Since then, I’ve often asked myself when I sniffed something new…would this be it? I have a current project – in dire need of resurrection at present, I freely admit – called the Devil’s Scent with Doc Elly of Olympic Orchids, I’ve met a few candidates…but none of them came so close to that olfactory image in my mind as Kedra Hart of Opus Oils did with ‘Dirty Sexy Wilde.’

It’s all Carrie Meredith’s fault. Without her reviews of Opus Oils and my own relentless curiosity, I would never have known. ‘When you get your samples, girl, I want you to pour half that vial of ‘Dirty Sexy Wilde’ all over yourself and let me know what happens’, she wrote me in an email.

So when they arrived after over a week of anticipation that nearly killed me, that’s exactly what I did. I’m so glad I was alone that Saturday, or my sanity would have been in question. The only word that bears repeating (this is a perfume blog, after all) is…OMG!

‘Dirty Sexy Wilde’ is Kedra Hart’s ode to Oscar Wilde and Dorian Gray, both of whom are very, very dear to my writer’s heart, so with a name like that, there’s something to live up to – an aura of Oscar’s rapier, elegant wit and verve and that underlying hint of horror that lurks between the lines of ‘A Picture of Dorian Gray’.

There’s nothing in the slightest horrific about DSW, but by golly, this is one of the most erotic things I’ve ever had the pleasure to inhale. It starts off green and slightly soapy in an elegant scented lace-edged Victorian handkerchief way, but it takes no time at all for it to begin asserting itself in all the best and most anticipatory ways. This is where it’s closest to the elegant Oscar, the aesthete Dorian.

Before long, that fatal combination of tobacco, oakmoss, coumarin, musk, civet and ambergris – a blend that surely equals ‘sexy beast’ if anything does – makes itself known in no uncertain terms, and it moves far past anticipation and well into bedhead territory. Dirty. Sexy. A night to remember.

As my nameless protagonist says in QD of the aftermath:

My brain wasn’t located until Friday morning. I felt like a major railroad disaster.

‘Dirty Sexy Wilde’ is a major railroad disaster perfume, in the sense that it practically evaporates inhibitions and distills desire with a capital D to a sharp and shining point. It isn’t obvious, yet it’s not understated and it’s perfectly balanced and flawlessly composed for what it is. I call it Eau de Perdition.

Your idea of the Devil’s perfume might be different, more understated, a touch less, well… animal. Since I wrote QD, I know my Devil well, and I tell you from the bottom of my black and highly depraved rock’n’roll heart…

My Devil would wear this for his first encounter with my protagonist at the Chelsea Hotel, he would wear it to burn away every last shred of doubt or inhibition she might have, every objection she could hold, and every onion layer self she would want to peel away forever. And he would wear it again much later, when he says:

Until there is nothing more to say, not vertical, not in words, not in anything other than the language she and I had spoken from that very first moment in a café at midnight. This one. This skin, this touch, this scent, this mind, this woman, this dissolution, this mouth, this conversation. Oh, yes.

Eau de perdition.

As for this lowly perfume blogger, desperately trying to write a semi-coherent review, I can only be grateful I have yet to encounter it on either my Devil or his lookalike.

If I ever did, I’d eat all three of his femurs alive and entire, more than once, and by Golly, he’d walk differently the next morning!

As it is, I’m so very, very grateful to Kedra Hart for putting my Devil into Dirty Sexy Wilde. For which I can only thank her from the bottom of my black and depraved rock’n’roll heart!

Notes: Galbanum, red mandarin, violet, rose, jasmine, blond tobacco, oakmoss, coumarin, musk, civet, ambergris.

‘Dirty Sexy Wilde’ is available in many permutations from perfume to bath salts from Opus Oils.

Image of Tiger Powers as ‘Oscar Wilde/Dorian Gray’ used by permission of Opus Oils. There was a picture of Oscar that I found, but Tiger’s was so much better!