Lost and Found

–       on the pleasures of finding misplaced treasures, and reviews of One Truly Great Facilitator

I am not by any stretch of the imagination the world’s most organized person. Although I’ve developed total OCD concerning my work and writing habits and my laptop hard drive is sorted to an electric fare-thee-well, my desk displays all the signs of an easily distracted artist…one catch-all notepad for incidental thoughts, one blue workbook for even bigger thoughts, one black spiral-bound notebook for notes on perfume reviews and blog ideas, one small perfume journal containing a review list with dates, and finally another notebook that contains immortality in 140 characters or less – my #Follow Friday diary, with dates, write-ups, people I add, follow and recommend. This doesn’t include my dictionary/thesaurus, books I’m reading, music CDs (yes, I buy them), things to tape to my Inspiration Wall of Fame, pens, pencils and samples in different stages of disarray. I admire the minimalist Zen mindset, really I do. But until that day I’m able to hire a personal assistant, forget it.

So it was…until I decided to turn a new leaf and get my derriére in gear and get organized. I sat down in my bedroom where most of my ‘fumes are located and sorted through a large pile of bubblepak envelopes, cards and sample vials. Somewhere in a decreasing pile of chaos, I came across a letter I had all but forgotten in the chaos of the last six months or so.

It was a letter from my very first Great Facilitator and indie perfumer Ellen Covey of Olympic Orchids, and I was instantly hit with a large suitcase packed full of guilt trip.

It was – believe it or not – only a year ago I really began to write about perfume, to push my limits in terms of writing in general and writing about perfume in particular, and – true story! – if not for Doc Elly, it would likely never have happened at all. Not only is she one of the nicest people I’ve met this past year of discoveries, she is also – I’m not the only one to say this – one of the most unique. Just as all my favorite perfumers this past year have their own aesthetic vocabulary, so does she. She creates breathtaking true to life perfumes based on scented orchids – her Red Cattleya was spot-on, I discovered at the Orchid House of the Royal Botanical Gardens in Copenhagen last year – and has also made a wide range of mostly undiscovered wonders, some of which I’ve worn – and worn out. It’s a definite  testament to her talent that all her masculine-slanted perfumes have instantly been purloined by the Ex and worn, not that I blame him. They’re that good!

Five sample vials glowed in her letter, named Emergence, Salamanca, Rose Chypré, and Café V 1 and Café V 2. She enclosed another sealed envelope with instructions not to open it until I’d tried them – and I swear, I didn’t. That letter is still sealed as I type. I know nothing of their notes, have blithely forgotten everything I might have read about them elsewhere, and have only my nose and my associations to go on.

Emergence

Emergence is something I can recognize instantly, almost like finding an old friend in a crowded room…because it’s a sibling of another favorite of mine, Golden Cattleya. Golden Cattleya – I reviewed the prototypes here – is a thick, opulent, orange-centered Oriental, just as Emergence strikes me. But unlike Golden Cattleya and its airier, floatier base, Emergence is darker and plusher, with a headier, more animalic version of the drydown I find in many of Olympic Orchids’ perfumes. There’s a lot of labdanum and likely cistus* too in this – not my least favorite note, and it dances out of the vial on an orange-vanilla sunbeam and wraps its tendrils around you in the best kind of oomph-inducing, richly fragrant hug. It strikes me as an evening perfume, one for high heels and a little black dress and a gleam in your eye that might or might know how the night will end…

 

Salamanca

Salamanca is the most masculine-slanted of the five, a dry, grassy, slightly smoky leather. Leather! Lots of leather…black, soft, spicy yet not understated leather, maybe a touch of birch tar in the mix somewhere, and what I smell as vetiver? Calamus? Yerba Maté? Named for the Spanish town, I presume, it has a definite Latin lover, flamenco vibe…If it were a man, I’d say this would be perfect for Antonio Banderas, not that I would ever complain. It’s very classy, slightly dark, very sexy and very unlike most masculine, slightly clichéd leathers I can think of, and I make a point to try most of them. I absolutely love it, but it’s probably more for a man. This takes a certain amount of cojones, and alas, I don’t have any.

 

Rose Chypré

It’s such a crying shame rose perfumes have become such clichés, because if you do a rose right, it can satisfy as no other flowers except maybe tuberose and jasmine. I love roses, I love rose perfumes, and I’m not surprised at all this was an instant favorite. This is – I’ll hazard a guess – a Damascene rose, a velvet-red, plush, almost photorealistic rose with a green, mossy pulse beneath it, but not so green as, say, a relation, which would be Etat Libre d’Orange’s Rossy de Palma. I did like Rossy the perfume very much, but I have to say it – I love this so much more for being so perfectly balanced. Delicious. Not so long ago, I tried YSL Paris, knowing it would end in tears, which it did, and bemoaned the fate of the classic, stellar rose. No more. So if you love roses…and chypres that won’t carpet-bomb you to the floor with the patchouli blends that pass for chypres these days – run, don’t walk! Try it and you won’t regret it.

 

Café V-1

Coffee, anyone? Coffee in perfume gave me all sorts of headaches, once upon a time. This was well before I ever encountered Aftelier’s ‘Tango’, which sold me on coffee. Café V-1 is nothing like Tango, instead it’s a flowery, spicy caffeine jolt to the nose, very different and not in the slightest gourmand. It intrigues me no end as it dries down for getting spicier and darker. I detect cinnamon and more than a touch of patchouli and maybe myrrh, and over and under this little marvel blooms that lovely coffee note – which is dark-roasted and strong yet delicate. If this were a coffee, it would be a single estate Ethiopian mocha bean…full-bodied, floral and with a slightly sweet finish, guaranteed to pick you up and jolt you out of the January doldrums.

 

Café V-2

Version 2 is a very different cup of java, an effervescent blend  – so sayeth my Dimbo nose – of what seems to be a touch of chocolate, coffee and…wait for it! Mint! Tea?Something that makes me think green. Whatever it is, it shouldn’t work at all, and yet, it does and beautifully so, accentuating the floral aspects without damping down the coffee, except maybe this is more vanillic – coffee with a dollop of cream?. It is decidedly more floral and less spicy than version one on my skin, and I would be hard-pressed to choose between them. It blooms into a smokier, more emphatic coffee as time goes on, and stays closer to the skin. Both of them are coffee notes done right…with respect and enough intrigue to keep you interested and on your toes, and nothing – let me repeat – nothing like so many throwaway coffee perfumes I’ve tried.

I could continue to extrapolate here and say that Olympic Orchids are all…nothing like anything else. Ellen Covey has a definite Orientalist, classic approach to perfume, and a dedication to maintaining her own uncompromising creative vision regardless of what everyone else is doing, which should be both applauded and appreciated. I really don’t know why she isn’t famous, since I think she should be!

Meanwhile, there was that sealed envelope…I quote from the contents:

Emergence

When cattleya orchids first start to bloom, their fragrance is often indolic and camphorous. Emergence represents the first days of the golden cattleya flower. Notes similar to Golden Cattleya, but also include civet, indolene, methyl benzoate and camphor.

Salamanca

It is based on the scent of dry, dusty grass and weeds with hints of old stone buildings, hand-crafted leather, and the jamon that hangs in so many of the shops. (Jamon is the air-cured, spectacular ham of Spain)

Rose Chypré

A classic chypre composition centered around the fragrance of rose. Specific notes include a cocktail of musks. Oakmoss (!!), clear labdanum, patchouli, rose de mai absolute, cyclamen, bergamot, ylang ylang, petitgrain, aldehydes, red mandarin and red thyme

Café V 1 & 2

Named for a famous café in Seattle’s Capitol Hill, specific notes include balsams, myrrh, cedar, coffee absolute, cacao absolute, a vanilla accord, Madagascar vanilla tincture, a leather accord, nutmeg, cinnamon and cardamom. Version 2 also includes a creamy note.

So I guess I got a lot of the notes right, and not a few associations, too. But I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…if not for Ellen Covey, my nose, that questionable collection of cartilege, would be far less educated. It began with Olympic Orchids. It seems only fitting that a year later, I found her again. Her perfumes merit all the praise they can get  – and so does her dedication! If you’re bored with the present sorry state of ho-hum perfume releases, if you’re in search of something truly original, if you’re looking to expand your horizons or even if you’re such a niche diehard you’re looking for new talent, give Olympic Orchids a try.

* Labdanum and cistus – although they both stem from the same plant, the Mediterranean rock rose – are by no means the same thing. Both come in several different varieties – absolutes and CO2 extracts – that on their own are so rich and complex, it’s hard to believe they’re from the same source.

Images: Painting: A Lady Writing a Letter, Jan Vermeer, 1665-66

Illustration: “Square’s Waldo”, by Jonah Block, courtesy of Society6

13 thoughts on “Lost and Found

  1. Tarleisio, All I can say is, “WOW!” What a wonderful write-up. All of your reviews were spot-on. Are you sure you didn’t peek just a little?

    Needless to say, I’m extremely flattered by the fantastic reviews, and appreciate them no end. As a thank-you, I’m going to send you a full bottle of the rose chypre, which will be formally released under the name “Ballets Rouges” in April. Salamanca will be officially released at the same time. Your ex can buy it then, if he has the cojones to wear it.

    A year later, you and I are both a little more “famous” than we were then, and I hope the trend continues until we’re both REALLY famous!

    1. No, I swear on all my Amouage and Serge Lutens…;-) – I didn’t peek at all until I’d written everything through except for your letter! I’d like to say, though, that of all the many perfumers whose work I’ve tried in the last year – and there have been not a few! – yours is a vernacular, so to say, that I’m very familiar with, in fact, it was like saying hello to an old friend you hadn’t seen in ages!

      I’m so very happy I relocated that letter! And yes, we’ve come a bit further since we started, you and I – and surely, that is something you and your talent so richly deserve! 🙂

      Rose Chypré! Squeeee! It is such a luscious, lovely rose….and with an even yummier chypre drydown – oakmoss, anyone? C’mon!

      As for the Salamanca…the Ex can buy his own – but I really think he’d rather buy Olympic Rainforest and Arizona and Bay Rum and…he’s not quite a leather kind of guy..;-)

      Ellen, here’s to all the fun we’ll have in the future – and I just KNOW it will be! XO

  2. Not sure this line would be suitable for my mimsy tastes – terms like “thick”, “opulent”, “dark” “plush”, animalic” etc always make me a little nervous…

    The Rose Chypree one sounds like it could be more in the ballpark, and regardless of my personal tastes, it’s a great story of a formative influence in your early blogging days.

    And that is A LOT of notebooks – one just for Twitter?! : – )

    1. Vanessa – knowing something about your tastes, I beg to differ! While I can’t see you wearing any of Ellen’s orchid perfumes, I can certainly see you wear something like her ‘Fleurs de Glace’ – which is light, bright and sheer as chiffon! I can also see you wear that Rose Chypré – it will be released in April under the name ‘Ballet Rouges’ – which is NOT an Oriental rose at all, nor is it a rose that will bludgeon you to death with rosiness! A Midsummer Day’s Dream, too, might strike a chord or two…she has a wide range! I think you should give those two at least a try when you can…;-)

      1. Oh, yes…the notebooks…it’s one of my terrible habits that I’m addicted to notebooks, the old-fashioned kind you actually write in…I do indeed have a Twitter notebook…and a good thing, too, since otherwise I’d drown every Friday! My Twitter feeds are written as carefully as my blog – 140 characters will do that! 😉

      2. Well thanks for the clarification on those scents – sounds as though more than one could be my thing after all.

        And I must confess that I myself have two *perfume* notebooks specifically for jotting down things in stores – and arguably I only need one of those and a fistful of blotters!

  3. After reading your musings and reviews I headed over to to Ellen’s site to place an order for Rose Chypree- it sounded divine!- and was disappointed to see that it wasn’t offered. Glad to hear that it will be available in April. I live in Seattle, WA also and it’s fun keeping up with Ellen’s doings.

    Love reading your blog, Tarleisio. I have you to thank for my purchase and adoration of SL Ambre Sultan-and all the ambers that subsequently followed : )

    1. Lucky you, Cymbaline, to live in Seattle, so close to Ellen’s creations!

      Ah, do you know…we worshipers of Ambre Sultan are legion…I’m so glad you liked my review! And AS was my gateway to ambers, too – including Ellen’s own Olympic Amber, which is very, very good!

      One of my proudest moments of this past year in perfume blogging was when Parfums Serge Lutens requested permission to post a link to my Ambre Sultan review on their Facebook page. I felt like I’d arrived…;)

      Which was right about when I discovered Arabie, so naturally, I had to write about that, too! And so it goes! Look forward to April, when Rose Chypré – which will be named Ballets Rouges – is released. Such a yummy, perfect rose…;)

  4. What a lovely tribute to the perfumer who played an instrumental role in your perfume writing!

    I really enjoyed reading the intro to this post, too. I got a chuckle out of all those notebooks and would have to disagree with you about not being organized. It might seem like disarray to you, but I’d have to say that anyone who has a dedicated notebook for each arena of creative thought (one for incidental thoughts, one for bigger thoughts…etc) has to be one of the most organized writers on the planet. (You can’t fool me, my love. I know what time you get up in the morning and start working! You’re a whirling dervish of organization.) 🙂

    1. Well, Suzanne, if this makes you feel any better, let me say that my writing is organized to a T, since I have total OCD there! 😉 The rest of life on the other hand…

      I just can’t quite get over the fact that everything only really started a year ago. And I’m humbled to think that without Ellen Covey, it would never have happened at all, or happened at a much later date! 😀

      Best of all…is knowing that out there…is a Scent Twin I never thought to find and am so lucky to know! 🙂

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