November 21, 2014

Midwest Indie: Madame Scodioli

I've been collecting the solid perfumes of Madame Scodioli for some time now.  When at first and by chance I ran across her solid perfume Laudanum, I had to have it, based on the name alone.  That solid scent proved to be both intoxicating and soothing, just as I hoped it would be.  It's a combination of pipe tobacco and strong black tea, fully redolent of my scent memories of nicotine and caffeine, those two All-American soothers and stimulants.

Then I was drawn further  into her carnival sideshow website, and the life she described in a time warp set in Salina, Kansas, the rest stop for the traveling circus side-show attraction that she styles herself to be, that is, a Bearded Lady. It makes perfect sense, as her perfumes lean toward the masculine side of the aisle but are highly attractive to the feminine sensibility too.  Indeed a portrait of herself is featured on all the solid perfumes, as a pretty turn-of-the-century lady stroking her well-groomed beard.

I was more than willing to enter into the spirit, especially on reading her copy describing Laudanum
"...dominant notes of pipe tobacco and black tea, and hints of fruit and spice. This scent reminds the Madame of sitting in the parlor of the troupe's stygian Horned Devil Man."

Well yes.  So I went on to order Cloven, featuring a number of my favorite fragrance elements of amber, sandalwood, vanilla and cedarwood.  Those magic words!

As described on the site:
"...the perfect scent for our troupe's own cloven footed lady, who glides so gracefully across stage before the captivated crowds. She's a showstopper, ladies and gents, and we think you'll feel the same..."

Rather milder than Laudanum, its charm recalls the scent of a smooth waxed wooden floor, a little heat thrown up by the striking of heels against the polished surface, subtle, a restrained passion like the beginning of a flamenco dance, and the fragrant light powder on the ladies' faces as they clap along.

Then I came upon Fortunato, themed on Pine, Smoke and Whiskey, a scented balm held within beeswax, sunflower and sweet almond oil, and vitamin E. How could it not be beneficial to both body and spirit?  Something like dozing over a stiff drink in the woods before the campfire. Or reading in a library lit with beeswax candles feeling the alcohol running through your veins. If you can't get to either place and would like to, you might try this perfume to bring you there in spirit if not in fact.

Step Right Up is a refreshing if "exotic"  blend of "cedar, smoky patchouli and sandalwood, musky saffron and finished with a touch of vetyver." I find it close to becoming my ultimate comfort scent for going to bed, rubbed into the base of the throat like a salve, at the temples and wrists, to be carried away on the waves of the anticipation of rest. All those notes sound like show-stoppers but they combine into a mild and decorative softness, to soothe and beautify the darkness without taking over.

All these details and nuances hit the chords for me of the old Ray Bradbury stories of the traveling carnival, and the Western pioneers, both rough and refined in their elegant physicality. These are mythic scents of the characters that went their own way with quite an individual sense of style and their own standards of practicality around morality, in good times or bad.

These are not the candy and soda scents of the drive-in entertainments of later years, or the animal scents of the circuses, but the scents of individuals who were unusual visions in themselves, showing off for money before the public.  As much as we'd all like to be celebrities at least in our own minds nowadays, that impulse is not new, it was born of a time when the most unusual of us vied for the public's attention with energy and much to impart in the way of self-knowledge, just from being so different.

I like the concept as translated into perfume and grooming aids.  I also appreciate how Madame Scodioli describes herself as two people in one. In the guise of Madame Scodioli, she is:

"Owner, Maker, Stoic Figurehead, Bearded lady. Soapmaker. Perfumer. Relentless perfectionist. Facial hair enthusiast. Lover of antiques, whiskey, chocolate and shoes."

In her guise as D.H. Riley (Doghouse Riley) she is:

"the Madame's devoted assistant and aspiring Painted Lady. The troupe found her on a barstool in Omaha." 

The two are one and the same, the perfumer does all herself, from design to hand pour to writing copy.

These solid perfumes are extremely well priced and generously proportioned (1 ounce for $16 ) so they are great to collect or give as little gifts, and perfect to carry around, as these flat disk like  tins have a secure screw-top lid.  There is also a sample program.  Most of the scent described above and many of the others on the site also come in other forms such as whisker wax, shaving soap or beard tonic, and also in liquid eau de parfum, 1 ounce for $30. 

Don't be misled by the simplicity, there is a sense of design that makes for a rich perfume experiences captured in wax, holding close to the skin but strong enough to make their presence known to you alone as you dwell in them.

Madame Scodioli also collaborates with others, my favorite of these is Ms. Cloven, a jewelry designer. They've made a look book together with beautifully earthy and enviable pieces paired with the perfumes. 

A visit to the site will deliver much that is well worth pursuing. Be sure to check out the old farmhouse Madame is restoring in her free time, to become a storefront at some later date.  

Above images from the Madame Scodioli website.  
Samples and perfumes from my own collection.

Copyright 2014, Lucy Raubertas, All Rights Reserved. 

November 11, 2014

Bruno Fazzolari Lampblack and Au Dela Narcisse

Bruno Fazzolari is an indie-perfumer who was lured into making perfume through his other artistic pursuits,  as a natural outgrowth of making visual art, writing and a lifetime of travel and eclectic self-directed creativity.

He owns a rare form of sensuality in that he has the ability to experience synesthesia, a form of perception that crosses over taste, sound, smell, touch, sight and very likely memories and words, receiving different senses simultaneously. 

I think this trait is a hyper-sensitivity to beauty or a strong emotional tie to sensual experiences that in turn trigger vivid memories of other sensual experiences.

He explained at his recent event at Twisted Lily in Brooklyn that he is a self-taught perfumer but as a self-confessed process 'nerd' delved obsessively into all the technical information he could find.  

Since he grew up in France he naturally assimilated respect and love for perfume and brought that into his later creative work. Moving to the U.S. as an adolescent he was steeped in modern American culture too, and expresses the energy of experimentation over that core of traditional French culture.  

There's a strong spirit of the 20th Century Modernist era within these two perfumes, a time that I believe were those last few sensualist decades before our own present day dive into a more virtual reality. 

For me the two perfumes Lampblack and Au Dela Narcisse hit both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, during that time period, ranging from restrained modernist elegance,  referencing the smell of sooty black ink (Lampblack, exhibited beside his ink drawings), to the capture of the vintage French perfume spirit in the classically ornamental feel of heady spring flowers and animal spirits in Au Dela Narcisse (for which BF made a print that gives a shout out to the style of late Matisse, see above image).

Lampblack has been well-reviewed already, and received the imprimatur of the Emperor of Scent Luca Turin. So noted, but personally for me it is an affectionate and accurate rendition of what good black ink smells like as it dries, as I recall it myself from my printmaking days.  It recalls too what it was like to read the paper version of the  Sunday NYT,  notorious for its soft fresh ink that rubbed off on your hands or clothes or anything it touched.  Those who know this on-the-cusp of old-fashioned smell will get a true kick back into that not too distant past, and  recognize the core scent of this perfume. There is also a wood paper pulp tone reminiscent of soft newsprint, and a lightness and grace once the ink settles down into the skin's pores and the surface throws up a fresh citrus air beside an edge of dry hay like vetiver.

Truly this has become a nostalgic smell, as the days of real ink are quickly passing by, so in that regard lampblack, an ink made of carbon soot has become  a reference to all kinds of glamorously antique things, like Japanese brush painting, books and newspapers, even the soot of air pollution from big old cars drifted onto windowsills, and hits those buttons that connect to those experiences, or if you are quite young perhaps make the only connection to these things that you will ever know. Lampblack could give the tech-savvy at-risk youth a reference point for  film noir featuring hard boiled newspapermen, or even an awareness of the physicality of ink-brush calligraphy paintings from Japan, or the handwriting that once pervaded daily life, or the typewriters that novels were drafted on, before the days of word processing.

The mid-Century Modern vintage feel is also evoked in Au Dela Narcisse.  It smells like a French vintage perfume, in that there is a head and a tail, with the fresh breath of a Spring floral seamlessly grounded and bound to an earthy body-conscious base.  This is a school that holds a well-made perfume is one that creates a beautiful atmosphere rather than a skin scent, one that is so well-balanced that no particular note can be picked out, with the aim of creating an impression such as sophistication, or innocence,  romance or elegance, to envelop and associate with the person wearing it.  Here I think of the May perfumes of France, the heady early spring flowers Narcissus and Lily of the Valley, encapsulating the warm sunshine after a long grey winter, and a tradition of youthful beauty and energy growing into sophistication and elegance.

Perfume evokes our memories and moods but I think that sometimes perfume allows me to enter into someone else's. 

These two perfumes bring me into this perfumer's experiences and associations, ones that I in turn think of as The Good Life of a certain period of time past in both France and the America.

Disclosure: Twisted Lily provided samples to me, and also provided the opportunity for me to meet the perfumer at his event there.

Copyright 2014 Lucy Raubertas, All Rights Reserved.
Above image from the Bruno Fazzolari site, of his hand screened poster for Au Dela Narcisse.
Perfumes available in NYC at Twisted Lily.
Please also see the perfumer's site for more on his art and perfumes and ongoing projects.

October 29, 2014

Slumberhouse: Sadanne, Ore, Sova

Neal Cassady and Jack Kerouac
Slumberhouse makes perfumes that are different and original even in comparison to those of the wildly diverse indie-perfumes category.  They stand out and apart even for those with wide experience of the ultra-niche category as unusual perfumes, but they are deeply attractive and addictive nonetheless, for all their individuality. They smell really good, and that's what counts, right? 

There is a mythic, Scandinavian feel to them, as referenced by the names of the perfumes.  Strong and dominated by deep and rich base notes, some might say they are made for men, but those women who are drawn to deep tones in perfume will want them for themselves.  I know I do.  

I have Norne, and have written about it before.  Norne's deep winter evergreen saps and resins and cool air reclaim the fragrance of evergreens away from their commercial overuse to their rightful place as wild and beautiful substances that enhance inner and outer well-being.

Sadanne is a perfume that suits my skin extraordinarily well as it starts beautifully and then just keeps getting better and better for me. I'm sitting here a little surprised at how good I smell after five hours, and with what strength. My skin generally absorbs fragrance which rarely lasts past breakfast, but this miraculously has lasted (and how). The perfumer's primary dedication to his base notes above all pays off for me and I dare say will for most others who feel a pull toward deep dark mysterious perfumes.

Sadanne, unusually for this line, does indulge in a top note of strong and unique character, redolent of strawberries preserved in bourbon. The delicate freshness of this floral-scented wild form of the berry emanates from the skin but that spirit is tethered to the body by the wildness and depth of natural base notes, used in composition to be most of the perfume in itself. 

On first impression, some might find the use of strawberry untoward in a fine perfume, but in this case do try again, as it is a rediscovery of the unassuming beauty that has always been there under our noses. I then turns into quite another thing as the  base notes take over. 

Again, as with Norne, I am relieved that a scent that has been overused in a commercial way has been reclaimed for fine perfume. 

As in others of this line, the base notes are powerful and all consuming.
From the amusingly taciturn website filled with images of possibly decadent goings on, it is described to be:

Stained glass syrup
Serenades in damascone minor
Allegory obscured / pastel wound
A slurry of subtlety
note list unavailable
I find it to be ultra-sensual in that it does one of my favorite things that good perfumes do, that is, unite opposites in a way that is close to sexual in sensuality.  Highlighting opposing differences and characteristics, as in yin/yang, masculine/feminine, light/dark, etc. 

Here that would be the delicacy and subtle mystery of a fresh small delicate wild strawberry, not so far off in time or character from its own floral beginnings, crossed with a deep lake full of cedar water where mossy sticks and heavy earth and sand and fir needles from the surrounding balsamic trees have fallen down to the murky bottom. Brewing intoxication, as that bourbon boozy feel comes forth.  

Seductive, in that the more I smell it the better I like it; it grows on me more and more. I even get a hint of that strawberry still, clinging to me long past any length of time I could reasonably expect it to.  It's a gift. Like strong coffee or whiskey this perfume might well be an acquired taste, but once you do acquire it, most addictive. 

I suspect the Scandinavian connection is the famous Bergman movie title: Wild Strawberries.  I have not yet seen this film, tho I have most of his others, and I believe it is full of romantic melancholy, with close ups of beautiful faces, dwelling on blonde skin.

This perfume stands out as a departure for the line, which until now eschewed the use of top notes or florals. 

Now Ore is described on the site this way:
A swim with the caramel nettles
Flooded with dusky murk
Wish I could dream it again
Oakwood, cocoa, mahogany, guaiac, dittany of crete, vanilla, whiskey lactone & peru resin
Yes, just like it says, it's the essential nature of oak mixed with several other delicious things like cocoa and vanilla and whiskey, and noble and beautiful trees contributing more, such as scent-color and strength from mahogany and the Amazonian guaiac.  

I am unfamiliar with Dittany of Crete but I am getting a touch of incense formed by the combination of all these things that would burn with fragrant smoke if set afire. Peru resin is like sap circulating within it all.  I find it a delightfully rich complex and austere version of a scent dessert for the skin.  
Dittany of Crete from Wikipedia

So ok, I could not resist a little research (though I have been trying not to be literal minded about notes lately).  I looked up Dittany of Crete, it is an herb related to oregano, known in the lore of Classical and Northern European legends, used in healing, and even in witchcraft for astral projection, to give spirits a physical body, and as an aphrodisiac.  Why am I not surprised? 

I think here it gives a lift of its strong Mediterranean herbal oregano-like nature, though not dominant in any way, simply brightening the other smooth velvety tones that otherwise might go too far down the road of soft gourmand. Again, longevity to the end of time, though growing closer and closer to the skin as time goes on.

Sova.  More in the general aesthetic line, like Ore, of Slumberhouse as we know it so far, it is described by the site in this way:
"All the glorious trials of youth dear boy. When I was a lad I'd rocket off on my tandem with Wrigglesworth and ride and ride. Find some old barn and fall asleep with the sweet perfume of hay on our lips." -Montague
Tonka bean, hops, poplar bud, hay, tahitian vanilla, castoreum, amber fossil, broom, cocoa, araucaria, sweet clover, beeswax, acacia, pipe tobacco

The quote is accurate in that it depicts almost an overdose of dry hay that is so pervasive you can almost taste it in your mouth, sinking into the pores and coming out of the skin like scented sweat after some wholesome athletic exertion.

It reproduces the sensation of the outdoors, of the open summer country roads and making strenuous muscular effort that inevitably leads to passing out into the deep dreamless sleep referenced above.  

I find it almost overwhelmingly narcotic, with a dry malted aspect that is heavy even if soft.  I believe the tobacco rides the perfume and gives it that slightly mind-altering tone.  I find myself sensitive to it and could not take much of it for long, as I am a former smoker who goes a little faint these days at the scent of pipe tobacco, but it would be perfect for someone who can carry it. Someone like a poet from the Beat Generation or an Abstract Expressionist painter.

The tonka bean and vanilla infused into the beeswax, clover and tobacco intensify that dizzying effect for me, while I must emphasize it stays soft within its strength. 

This one definitely leans into masculine of a brawny kind, for one who might enjoy intoxicants of every variety, and acclimated enough not to be as overwhelmed by them as I am.  With only one spray it's quite tenacious and if I get too close to it on my skin I go a little light headed.  This might be what Neal Cassady and Jack Kerouac or Willem DeKooning, smelled like, handsome devils who could hold their intoxicants and their ecstasy and keep asking for more.

There are new flacons, glass and metal fashioned into something reminiscent of a hip flask.

Disclosure: Samples generously provided by Twisted Lily of Brooklyn.  The above three are extrait strength.

These thoughts are my own and these posts are not compensated or commissioned.

You can get samples and full sizes from Twisted Lily, or order from the Slumberhouse site if you are not nearby, or check their list of stockists if you want to go and try in person right away.

Please visit the sites linked to above for more information.

Copyright 2014, Lucy Raubertas, All Rights Reserved. 

Photos above from Pinterest and the Slumberhouse website.

October 20, 2014

A Wing and a Prayer: Change, Plush & Dusk as Comfort Scents

Detail from a 19th Century Italian mirrored sconce.
These natural perfumes impart a sense of transparently clad
classically beautiful nakedness/skin.
Via A House Romance: Mirrors
A Wing and a Prayer is an all natural hand-made perfume company that has been around since 2008, run by two perfumers, Jane Cate and her daughter Sarah, in California, which is the home of several of my favorite beautiful independent and fully natural perfumeries. I have written about their perfumes before, as you can see here.   

I find the house style recalls variations on the theme of the velvety interiors of soft suede gloves and/or the silken linings of vintage handbags; intensified spaces that catch the scent signature of their owner, hints of their skin scent, and the classic natural essences of traditional perfume.

There are quite a few in the line that combine decoratively fragrant fruit and soft wood elements into warm and gentle comfort perfumes.  

I could imagine them worn by the ultra courteous and quietly passionate heroines of Jane Austen novels, or the refined lovers that appear in the ancient poems of China and Japan.  

With fully natural perfumes it's wise to sample and test first, if you know you are prone to allergies.  This line has been around long enough and I've known and used them enough to believe these would not trigger sensitivities in those who are not already big allergy sufferers.  As gentle as they are, they will still invite the wearer into the full aromatic beauties of natural essences. 

The Etsy shop currently has 249 five star reviews of enthusiastic feedback from natural perfume lovers. While these scents may recall the old fashioned perfumes of another time, I noticed there were mentions of teenage girls swiping their mother's generously sized samples, so there is a sensual appeal across the generational spectrum.  The samples sets and full sizes are refreshingly reasonable in price, packaged with care.
Chang'E also comes in this style of flacon.

Chang'E uses apricot, peach and cedar wood, mixed into a seamless whole that creates an aura generating olfactory heat rising up to unfurl floral and amber inflected details, along with other grace notes of classically natural elements.  There is both perfumer's alcohol and jojoba oil used in the carrier base, combining the diffusion of alcohol and the smoothness and hold of that highly absorbent oil.

Chang'E is inspired by the Moon Lady of the Autumn Moon Festival, and perhaps the moon cakes eaten while watching and even worshiping the moon. The soft fragrant heat matches both the warmth of the summer and the comforting  autumnal coziness of sweater weather. After an initial few moments of freshness there is a steep drop into an amber paneled room heated with a cedar wood fire, lit with candlelight and the natural sweetness of the floral elements, to convey a spirit of decorative subtlety and grace.

Plush has the more tangy fruit of mandarin set beside rosewood, against a background of dry heat from vetiver with galbanum, brightened ever so slightly with lily of the valley isolate and iris, to cool and delicately sweeten, as a whisper of clove gives a little kick.  As a unisex perfume it could not be more of a refined animal, like a well groomed pure bred hound or cat gracefully lounging around.

Vetiver, our old favorite oakmoss, and several oranges come together in Dusk, which is a round mellow orb of a perfume, inspired by the orange glow of the setting sun on the horizon.  It's that familiar scene when darkness hovers over the last glow, to drop down quickly with its coolness. 

Oakmoss brings in the shadow of the big old trees in the woods who gather dark shade near their roots even as their upper leaves bask in the sun's glow at every opportunity.  Oakmoss always has an instantly calming effect on me, for one thing.  For another, I think this is worth having on its own but also to experiment with as a layering element under or beside other perfumes that have lost their natural oakmoss in recent years. It comes in solid and roll-on forms also.   I  know people with ragweed allergy may be ultra sensitive to oakmoss, and it may trigger photo sensitivity, so that's something to bear in mind if you are likely to be susceptible. 

Please visit the Etsy shop for more information, sample sets, prices, and to check out the more than 70 perfumes in this line.

Disclosure:  I purchased these samples, and several other samples were also sent by the perfumer.

Copyright 2014, Lucy Raubertas, All Rights Reserved.

October 9, 2014

Clarimonde's Layers of Perfume

This is a copy of the October Clarimonde post.   To experience it in the original environment, please go to The Clarimonde Perfume Project.


Clarimonde's perfumes are wafted in by the breezes that flow between the worlds. Changing seasons stir up the winds.

via Don Ya on Pinterest

Catching a breath of them layers her history into our own.

She is wandering, heading Northeast, looking for the quiet mystery of deep forests standing in pure air, tasting her own history in what's left of the past.

To capture  that precious brightness glowing through the dark, she represents her layers of personal experience with pure florals laid over dark narcotic perfume.

Geisha Blanche over Geisha Noire by Aroma M evolves into perfume from a fairy tale, the structural lace of the past framing today's glowing and ephemeral energy.

Clarimonde is no teacher or authority, she is looking for her match or counterpoint among us all, for her own sake.

She floats over the evergreens that catch the mist and pull it toward the earth, as a refreshment. This is her layering  of DSH Seve de Pin beside Acampora Musc, the delicate and refreshing fragrance of living pine and fir needles bound to her warming skin by the warm breath of a clean wild animal.

Cloud, Caught on a Tree by Rose Revitt on Flickr

She has read letters and documents written by certain fine minds that call to her from the past. She knew their spirit in the moment but now it is past she lingers over the tracery of their words, criss-crossed over each another, urgently asking for the same companionship and understanding that she seeks herself.

Palimpsest by Aftelier as a perfume is the combination of all such layers and longings communicated to others, as its precious aromatic essences compose themselves across the lines of each other, creating a net to capture both the past and present as one. Exotic essences little known in the West step forward and capture the attention of those like Clarimonde who want to dive and swim into the diversity of Nature and creation.

Charles Darwin Cross writing (technique used for saving paper) 1828.
My dear Fox I am dying by inches, from not having any body to talk to about insects:
 — my only reason for writing, is to remove a heavy weight from my mind,
so now you must understand, what you will perceive before you come to the end of this;
that I am writing merely for my own pleasure; not yours.
Though Darwin may modestly deny it, the pleasure he takes in reaching out to his friend so that their two minds and lives may intersect and give each other sustenance, shows the several layers of complex and shimmering warmth within him and between them.

This is the gleam in heart and mind that Clarimonde seeks throughout her travels and immortality.

Two of like mind and abundant energy made a perfume that layers one composition over the other's base.  This rare and special edition arises from The Poetry of Longing. Alexis Karl layered dark chocolate, smoke, ambergris, beeswax, muguet, amber, agar and a hint of chestnut over a mysterious deep base by Monica Miller. A dram tester may only be accessed by personal contact (email at scentbyalexisperfume at gmail dot com) after handing over a favorite line of poetry to express your longing. A deep brown variegated edge beside a golden lightness is the perfume for deep thoughts held together by a bright heart.

I will offer Jeff Buckley reading Ulalume by Poe -- not one line but the whole. It's as addictive as it should be.

The power of all these layers of brightness beside darkness, and coolness against warmth, may seem like they would break open the ancient shapes and vessels of perfume,  but that elegant shape has always been as layered and as modern as our own lives.

Clarimonde's image has been captured from time to time.

This could have been her, back then.
British Library, Harley 4338, f. 1v. Boethius, Le Livre de Boece de Consolacion (Book 4)
 [anonymous French translation]. Bourges, 1477. ‘Philosophy’

Layering of beautiful perfumes to bring out each one's individual beauty is a way to answer her inner and outer conflicts, explain and unite the variegated sides of herself.

Copyright 2014, Lucy Raubertas, All Rights Reserved.
Images taken from Pinterest and credited where known.

Perfume samples obtained from the perfumers.