September 13, 2015

Apoteker Tepe: After the Flood, Anabasis, The Paradam

Photo from the Apoteker Tepe website
Apoteker Tepe is an American based small batch niche perfume company.  There's a backstory, but I won't get into and repeat it here. It's easy to find elsewhere on the internet. As I said in my last post, I find the backstories have started to get in my way with the perfumes, as involved and interesting as they may be.

Especially if there is tension between the branding and reality.  Marketing is marketing, but the perfume itself is what counts. Understandably, the newer perfumers may want to create their own legends, and build them up immediately rather than over decades as the established perfumers have had the time to do.

Trying so many perfumes I am overexposed to the marketing, so now I find it much better to appreciate a perfume when I am alone with it, without the noise. Okay, that's the end of my current rant on perfume marketing (well, for now).

In this case, the perfumes themselves have more than enough going for them to stand on their own.

They have a sophisticated, something mysterious around the corner quality and also a sense of spaciousness. They are stylishly genderless and tend toward the minimalist. Refined and gentle, they are all still most definitely there, and hold on with a presence that lasts without being overwhelming to others. They are more for your intimate space, which I think is turning out to be the contemporary approach to wearing perfume.

Easy to wear, maybe even influenced a little by some of the nicer designer fragrances out there, but with a lot of character, dimension and thoughtful elegance. While mild, they are engaging enough even if you are used to all kinds of niche perfume specialness. Gentleness is fine with me.

I looked up the notes after writing my descriptions this time, just to see what that would be like. It was fun, and made it a more personal and sensory experience, rather than be influenced ahead of time.

Anabasis has a beautiful background aura of old crumpled thick cottony paper, which reminds me of notebooks written over with rich black oil-based ink, that have absorbed some damp in the air over the years and swollen up a little. That part is super nice, but there's more. There is a layer of freshness, a citrus liveliness, and it goes sprightly rather than dark and heavy in the dry down, so it just lifts off and dwells in the realms of brightness and light. Eventually it calms down into the medium range of the aromatic dial, neither high or low. It's an elegant, aromatic aura.

Notes listed are Citrus, Shiso, Birch, Mint, Pine, Cedar, Musk.

Pond Water, texture library copyright 2013 Dmitry Chugai
After the Flood, is an aquatic perfume with character. Room temperature fresh water, maybe rainwater, or pond water, collected in a stone and metal urn.  There are warm and green elements, a clean earthiness, comfortable and comforting. Dense balmy humid air above water that has inhaled the greenery and moist earth over an afternoon.  A lovely day time perfume.  I think it would keep you grounded and real even if inside all day working at a computer, under florescent lights.  It does have a true resemblance and therefore a connection to those simple and essential good things found in nature in our temperate climate.  It can make you feel good if you are at all sensitive to olfactory influence, and that's the main thing I ask of a perfume.

Notes are listed as Violet leaf, Water lily, Mushroom, Patchouli, Wet Earth.

It must be the water lily getting to me, and that makes perfect sense as I am wild about water lily and wish it was used a lot more often in perfumes. And everyone has a primal positive reaction to the scent of wet earth.

The Paradam dives into the indolic, that is to say the 'dirty sexy wild' end of the perfume pool, but keeps its self-possession with a bit of distance. It reads like the scent of heady flowers clinging to a wool coat, as if that's what's been extracted, proving that strong jasmine and lilies were once here with you, perhaps in the buttonhole of your jacket or crowning your hair. Buttery orris root and sandalwood contain some of the intensity to soothe and calm. There's depth in the gentleness, while it contains those tricky indolic qualities in a wearable way. Serious, elegant, and civilized enough to be able to wear out to dinner without becoming most dominant over the table.

Notes are listed as Madonna Lily, Jasmin Grandiflorum, Orris Butter, Mysore Sandalwood (legally sourced) and Oakmoss (yes, that scary Oakmoss that the EU wants to protect us from, much used until recently in so many beloved classic vintage perfumes). References the old school perfumes made long before aroma chemicals hit the scene, but in a gender neutral way.

I'm very taken with these three from the line, and there are more. A sample set is available if you are not close to a shop that carries them.  I was glad to run across these perfumes the last time I went to Twisted Lily in Brooklyn, who generously provided me with samples.

Copyright 2015, Lucy Raubertas, All Rights Reserved.

August 26, 2015

Peccato Originale

The perfume itself is always the main thing. Thank heavens.

Lately I've been getting a little tired of so many ever more elaborate and involved perfume back stories. It's become such a relief when the perfume can just speak for itself. An elegant simplicity of direct experience proves itself to deliver more than promised.  

Some perfumes seem designed to be approached first through their back story. Others have a story but the perfumes don't require it in order to be fully appreciated.  I find Peccato Orignale to be a line focused in that way. 

I don't know Italian but learned the back story and translation of the perfume names well after my first being drawn in by the perfumes themselves. The presentation was enough of an open slate to let me bring more of myself into the experience from the start, and discover them on their own terms. 

There are many reasons that tastes and perfume cravings might change over time and seasons. Each phase may feel like the only possible reality while living within it, but in review we may each pass through  different distinct periods when certain perfume styles are more personally relate-able than others.  

Recently coming out of a longstanding heavy narcotic perfume preference phase, I've become attracted to more subtle, softer, gentler, refined perfumes of complexity and depth. 

On a recent visit to Twisted Lily, trying everything there, three perfumes from Peccato Originale (Original Sin) immediately appealed to me. It's like the instant chemistry you find with certain people.  

These are intended to be gender-free, so never overtly masculine or feminine. They have an projection that goes as far as intimate space, enough to surround yourself with a cloak of aromatic beauty of which you can be constantly aware, that holds on with good longevity. They are overtly beautiful, and easy to fall in love with.

Iniezione Di Morfina (Morphine Injection, ahem) opens in a cloud of soft and soothing fine white powder that will, after a good long time, settle down into a soft fine dusty earthiness. 

This perfume is an immediate mood up lifter, as many powdery perfumes are, but without the often paired sweetness, except for the fresh floral kind. No sugar, simply an naturalistic floral nectar that hovers in the background.  Notes are listed as Iris, Rose, Jasmine, Lily of the Valley, White Musk, Vanilla. 

After powder, Iris dominates, and the other florals lend the cooler end of their range. Vanilla is not recognizable as such but makes a base of warmth overlaid with the coolness of these other elements. A pearl like luminosity, not bright, but glowing.

Tintura Spiritosa (Spirit Tonic) was my first favorite. Another excellent mood uplift in perfume form. This is that delightful thing, a light incense, that then turns a corner and moves into a soft musk supported by a pale vanilla. The notes are listed as Blackcurrant, Nutmeg, Hedione, Black Pepper, Damask Rose, Tea, Labdanum, Vanilla, Musk, Ambergris. 

Fascinating, as these listed notes are certainly there but in a way that is so light and so blended together that none of them stand out as individuals but all symphonically joined in an unusual, subtle, abstract space that is orderly and balanced while warmly intimate and interior. Makes for an introverted gaze away from the outside world into a pleasant corner of yourself. A mood and atmosphere more than a strong pointed direction, Hedione's radiance married into Musk and Ambergris intimacy.

Cantharide (Spanish Fly) is an Oriental powder with soft leather notes. Skin smooth, and again the united notes create a mood rather than a focus on one or another. Angelica Seeds, Bright Leather, Benzoin, Patchouli, Vanilla and Musk.  

Warmth, a delicate youthful human skin powdered over with whispers of the warmer parts of Vanilla, Musk and the two other heat generating notes of Benzoin and Patchouli. Easily melds into your own skin's scent, as a presence that casts a tint over you. 

I must not be the only one, as I see on the Twisted Lily site each are currently sold out, but more will be available shortly, and a sample pack is available now.

Copyright 2015, Lucy Raubertas, All Rights Reserved.

Samples provided by Twisted Lily.  
This review/post is independent.
Images of soft clouds above by Artori-stock.
Image of the perfume from Twisted Lily.

Music to Listen to Perfume by: 
Euro chill-out Downtempo:  

August 4, 2015

Les Cocottes de Paris - Melle Cleo, La Belle Otero, and La Castiglione

Anaïs Beguine's (of Jardins de Ecrivains) perfume line Les Cocottes de Paris interprets the legends of three 19th century female icons, who were the Queens of Paris in their own day.

The stories behind La CastiglioneLa Belle Otero and Melle Clèo dive straight into fantasies of past glamour. They incite nostalgic imagination, especially for those craving of a certain flavor of luxury, last possible during the French Belle Epoque. The reputation and lives of these women will strike a chord with fans of historical fiction and costume dramas that depict the wealth and privilege wielded by the fairest of them all.

European aristocracy created an elite class of Grand Horizontals, the most famous/notorious of which influenced international fashion, luxury design and often politics. Each one's unique style mirrors a slice of that culture and time.  We have our own female style and cultural icons, such as  Edie Sedgwick, Jane Birkin, Rihanna, etc. who embody our fantasies and their own reality at the same time. Female icons show and tell us much about who and where we are as a culture.   

Each of these perfumes interprets a specific slice of the past with an olfactory portrait of each woman. They are a take on the spirit of each woman's persona, a cloud that projects in both an abstract and concrete way their celebrated qualities.  Yet because they reach far enough back into the past, the perfumes  are purely personal interpretations of essentially mysterious people whose interior lives we can only guess at. These women are yet again infused with beauty by projection and imagination. 

All three are in EdP strength. Each displays gentleness at the core. Definite but not overpowering, as befits that long stretch of time that valued subtlety above all in women's perfume. 

Cleo Merode's hair was
much imitated
My favorite is Melle Cléo, based on Cléo de Merode, a ballerina whose physical presence comes close to the aesthetics of our own time. The photographs of her slender graceful and un-corseted figure, show huge dark eyes and an air of quiet artistic focus. She was an inspiration for Klimt, and a celebrity portrait subject for Boldoni.  She embodied Art Nouveau itself, and became a star as huge numbers of picture postcards of her in exotic and luxurious dance costumes saturated the Western world.  It had to be good for her career and extended it into her 50s.

Melle Cléo opens into powdery softness and a gentle but true floral air, both associated with the late 1890s. All well grounded by a dry and astringent balance of lichen, and 'cotton flower'.  Quietly refined, yet with an natural depth, violet and iris insinuate themselves in a smooth and silky way.  I can imagine wearing this across a range of moods and situations. I would use it to soothe, decompress and relax. Worn at night, it's calming enough to want to fall asleep with. I enjoyed it all the more because of my current crush on powdery perfumes.

The base is strong enough to hold everything together within a grounded and lyrical space. I am put in mind of Satie's piano pieces from that same time period, which in their simplicity edge toward a modernist expression of thoughtful moods.

Notes are listed as rosewood, bergamot, litchee, night blooming cereus rose, ylang ylang, cotton flower and lichen.

Otero wore costumes made
 of diamonds and pearls
Carolina Otero came out of nowhere to take Europe by storm. La Belle Otero starts bright, cheerful and just a little forward. My first impression is of fragrant fresh melon lifted up by the headier varieties of Spring florals. A rising undertone of cooling iris and mild sandalwood is kicked up by transparent shades of the wild herbal powers within absinthe, ginger and lavender.

It's as openly demonstrative and clearly feminine as a sophisticated ladies cocktail, with a promise of intoxication that never quite goes overboard. Instead, in the dry down phase the perfume starts to bond itself closely with the wearer's skin heat.  The incorporation of this subtle aromatic enhancement into the skin's own scent, and the continuing background influence of iris and sandalwood, implies that the wearer's personal scent is itself a decorative element.  That phase holds long and well.

Notes are listed as neroli, pepper, fig absynthe, ginger, violet, musk, buchu lavender, narcissus, iris, frankincense, sandalwood.

My faorite of her Pierson
La Castiglione - the Countess is a figure whose image fascinates me, indeed I have borrowed one of her most famous photos as an online avatar. The more I know about her the more mysterious she is. Her story is complex and strange. Acclaimed as the most beautiful woman in the world (that year) as time passed she became more and more obsessed with preserving herself and her image. In one way tragically so, in another way transforming that obsession into inspiration.

She art directed a fascinating proto-surreal, experimental body of work in the early days of photography, by having herself and her fantasies about herself thoroughly documented. The most magnificent dandy and aesthete of his time, Robert de Montesquiou, felt impelled to lavish more thirteen years on writing her biography.

The perfume starts out as a basic Italian Mediterranean sunny citron, which then evaporates quickly into an atmosphere of cloudy to overcast, a mist tinged with  herbs, woods and resins.  Citron, mugwort, copaïba, liquorice, patchouli, sharp cedar, ambergris, myrrh and styrax are listed for notes.

It's a contradictory perfume, the sharpness and refreshment of certain notes are counterbalanced by the dreamy silky cocooning effect of others, as if the corners and edges have been softened by wear, cushioned and coated. It turns extremely soft and atmospheric, more of a mood perfume than an accessory that would reach others unless close to the skin.  I imagine this is what piles and piles of voluminous silk skirts would smell like.  It's thoughtful.

I could see using all of these with abandon, as they would never overwhelm with sillage but would envelope the wearer in their own private atmosphere of antiqued softness.

Much thanks to Indigo Perfumery, for helping me discover these perfumes by sending samples.

Cleo Merode, dancing
La Belle Otero caught on film 1898
25 stunning photos of Countess Castiglione, from the more than 700 she staged.

Copyright 2015, Lucy Raubertas, All Rights Reserved

July 21, 2015

Hiram Green Moon Bloom

Hiram Green's Moon Bloom
Moon Bloom by Hiram Green is a revelation. Somehow Hiram Green made a fully natural and deeply real Tuberose and white flower perfume that is an individualist among the great crowd of wonderful white flower perfumes.

How did I miss this when it was first released? Thank heavens I know it now, having found my sample provided some months ago by Twisted Lily in Brooklyn, when unpacking samples from the fridge after a long trip away.

It holds the indolic richness of these most opulently scented white flowers and somehow, with some magical slight of hand, pulls the heady power back just enough to make it most wearable, translucent and silky, enough so as to climb over that steep hill to elegance and sophistication and modernity.

I realize many have already become familiar with and enamored of this perfume, but I feel in this day in age, there is no such thing as being late to the perfume party.

There may even be those who love perfume and don't know it yet and are waiting for they know not what, so believe me, this may well be it. Especially in this summer heat, it's a rare thing to find a white floral that is so graceful in the midst of the heat waves we've been having this year in North America, Europe and the Middle East.

I've never been interested in being the first to know or write about anything, especially perfume. I see what I am engaged in here not as perfume journalism but as sharing my own enthusiasms as they come to me.

Because of the internet, many beauties across all spectrums become accessible to the seeker just at the time they are needed. It may be that a person not even born at the time a film, perfume or book was first released may find something that speaks to them so personally as to seem like it was made just for them, even years after the release of whatever it was.

Let’s take it for granted as understood that each person has their own singular taste, formed by personal experiences and body chemistry and reaction to particular perfumes and ingredients. 

Night blooming Tuberose - from the Drink Factory,
 see their great article on Tuberose
To find the ones that send you, to learn about where this precious experience is most likely to come from, who the perfumers are and their style, who are your favorites, and what new directions they are exploring, increases the pleasure of fragrances almost exponentially. 

 It's a tree of knowledge that grows within from experience, which reacts to the other events in your life that demand different things for different times, stages, and occasions. Personal experience crossed with perfume develops taste.

Many online sites where perfumes are written about in depth expand into connection to personal experiences and social interactions, references to other art forms like poetry and film, pop art and classics, fashion and independence from following fashion. There are so many really beautifully written perfume sites online it’s difficult to keep up with them all.

There are so many new perfume releases every year, that it is truly impossible to keep up with them all as they are released. Eventually after trying different things, reading about the classics and the new, meeting and talking to a number of people who each have their own take on the state of these affairs, you begin to develop strong areas of primary interest of your own, and one love leads to another.

Sometimes this love comes quite by surprise, from unexpected directions. Sometimes I have not had an initially positive reaction to certain classic ingredients (speaking of which, tuberose fell into this category for me) but then later find that in the hands of a great perfumer, the line is crossed, and my taste is transformed so that a whole new world of olfactory beauty is opened up to me.

There can be a certain sense of humor about it all too. Personally I adore the dreamy aspects of perfume, and the surrounding buzz about it, but in the perfume sphere online and in person, there is plenty of irony and wit and comment and self-awareness that this is an area of interest that can seem incredibly effete in the face of global warming or the collapse of the economy or the corruption of politics or the state of inequality in this world. Those of us entranced by perfume still are though, for all those anxieties.

Why not insist beauty and artistry have a place in this world too, or is life still worth living without overt beauty?

Perfumes have been a personal expression and development of a sense of beauty across a wide range of cultures and history, that have spoken to the most fundamental parts of our brains and bodies for a long, long time. 

 Perfumes have been a mode of expression throughout history, under every range of economic and political condition. Personally I think the more time people spend in the pursuit of beauty the better, as long as their understanding of what beauty is and includes is thereby constantly expanded.


An interview in part regarding Moon Bloom and Hiram Green in this Basenotes interview at Twisted Lily.

Moon Bloom can be found for sampling and purchase online and at Twisted Lily. They were kind enough to provide me with that sample. It's now on my list for eventually acquiring the full size.

Notes as listed on the Twisted Lily site: Tuberose and Jasmine Absolute, Ylang Ylang, Coconut, Leafy Greens, Tropical Spices and Resins.

Above digression into perfume taste is an excerpt from a manuscript I've been working on (and off) for about a year an a half. Things keep changing so I'll keep revising until I know it's ready.

Copyright 2015, Lucy Raubertas, All Rights Reserved.

Except for the photos above, taken from Twisted Lily and The Drink Factory on Tuberose as Flavor of the Week.  

July 9, 2015

Carlos the Brooklyn Fragrance Lover

Perfume obsessives, by which I mean those who pursue the pleasures of perfume wholeheartedly, know that it's an impractical expensive and extravagant interest.  Even so, perfume's great pleasures, especially for those who have cultivated both a wide and refined taste for it, are so inspiring and seductive that it can come very close to being something like an addiction.

Now that perfume creation has expanded into the ever morphing niche and independent categories, experiencing and appreciating it and sharing it becomes, for those who are true devotees, a form of personal expression, like fashion or personality or self-presentation.

Carlos J. Powell aka the Brooklyn Fragrance Lover
Carlos J. Powell lives a life which is one of the most deeply imbued with perfume that I know of,  speaking as someone who has come to know a range of perfume enthusiasts as well as perfumers themselves.  He talks, thinks, pursues, wears and engages others in perfume as much as possible.  His civilian job as a salesman has trained him to be a great advocate for perfume to others, and he shares that enthusiasm with energy and enjoyment.

He is one of my favorite "perfume personalities".  I have spent time with him at several NYC perfume boutiques, and discussed perfume with him over the past few years at every encounter. I've seen him conduct interviews with perfumers, watched and read his thoughts on perfume. I've visited his apartment and seen and sampled from his extensive collection of full bottles, decants and samples, that run across every category from the classics to designer to niche to high-end indie to mass-tige hits. The basis of it all is, as he often reminds me and others, from the Biblical quote: "perfume and incense bring joy to the heart" and that the pursuit of aromatic beauty is a way to refine and uplift one's life experience.

We've discussed his interest in bringing more people, especially men, into the perfume orbit, which has to do with relating perfume to the "regular" guy.  We both agree that there is no such thing as an authority on taste in perfume, because everyone as an individual has their own unique inner perfume profile, which they can uncover and develop at their own pace and in their own most rewarding way. His generosity in sharing his perfume enthusiasms by both in spreading the word and also sharing perfume itself is among the best in the true perfume geek tradition.

Some of the Goodsmellas
Carlos has been much involved with the group the Goodsmellas, which has been noticed by the mainstream media, and also created his own video channel on YouTube called Brooklyn Fragrance Lover.  He also writes perfume reviews under the same name.

He visits perfume boutiques and department stores almost every day, popping in wherever he happens to be, to try just about anything.

This has created a wide inner library of perfume experience across the categories, high to low end. He has told me that has began to re-approach the so-called "designer" perfume category, that is those perfumes known to most people through department stores and mass marketing, and has found it rewarding, showcasing the gems that he then shares with his many social media followers.

I found and got to know Carlos at first through his social media group PLP (Peace Love and Perfume) on Facebook, which he aims to keep as a space of pure appreciation, as a safe space for both the experienced and newbie perfume lover, to talk about their current perfume experiences. It's something like a daily social diary for perfume obsessives like himself.

Several perfumers have participated in his beautiful project creating perfumes for the PLP group (I have written about these perfumes already and there are more to come) in order to express the Peace Love and Perfume theme of the group.

His focused energy and capacity for perfume amazes me. He can and will try many perfumes a day.

Over the years he developed an extensive personal collection that has become a perfume library and personal history from which to choose every day, according to mood, weather, season.  This is something that most dyed-in-the-wool perfume obsessives do, but I find his range wider than most.  I find that many perfume enthusiasts tend to limit themselves to a certain style, or notes, or perfume family or types, or even a small number of perfumers, but Carlos is exceptionally open-minded and tries everything he can and spends time with all the perfume he can reach. I think this is unique.

I have asked Carlos where does he see this going, how long does he think he may continue to put so much time, work and energy into this, what some might consider an unusual and extravagant obsession, and his reply was so typically spontaneous of him.  He immediately responded that it's so much fun, and that he loves it so much, it makes him happy.  That he doesn't know exactly what may or may not come of it all over time, but he does know it's good for him and that he is enjoying himself.

There are now several perfume groups on social media and those perfumistas that know each other in real/face time, and more and more people on social media are learning from, sharing with and encouraging each other in enjoying this new modern Renaissance in perfume in a way that combines the development of both soul and sensuality.

Carlos is that kind of true perfume enthusiast, one of those who is working hard but with pleasure, to share the beauties of perfume with as many as he can reach.  I see him as tireless in his pursuit of beauty and appreciate that he combines it with fun, and so fully integrated into his everyday life.

Carlos with Jean et Claude
For more, please see his video blog at Brooklyn Fragrance Lover on YouTube
and his blog also called Brooklyn Fragrance Lover.
A video of Carlos' recent visit to Twisted Lily discussing Rubini,
Imaginary Authors and Bruno Fazzolari
The Goodsmellas article in Elle.
the PLP Perfume Project on this site

Photos above taken with permission from Carlos J Powell's online sites

Copyright 2015, Lucy Raubertas, All Rights Reserved.
Disclosure:  As noted above, I know Carlos personally and belong to the PLP Facebook group. As it happens, we are both Brooklyn Fragrance Lovers; we both live in Brooklyn.