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.

October 1, 2014

Natural Perfumes for the Fall - House of Matriarch, Providence Perfume Co., Jolie Laide, and Aether Arts

Super Moon, AZ, photo by Justin Ashton on 500px.com
Fully natural perfumes made with skill and imagination work especially well in the Fall as the skin's heat and chemistry releases their nuanced beauty into a brisk atmosphere that sharpens up the sense of smell.  They are not easy to pull off, but here are some perfumers that have the touch. 

The many faceted aspects of natural perfume elements create a private sphere, like wrapping up in a silk or cashmere scarf, making a personal space of warmth and beauty that feels good on the skin. They will be enjoyed by others within intimate distance but most of all by the wearer who gets the full effect of the soft nuances unfolding over time. 

Because natural essences are made up of hundreds of molecules that affect each other and ourselves and our sensitive nervous systems in a complex way, they feel like listening to a piano and voices in the room with you; different than a recording of the same artists, and different than chemical reproductions and variations on a single aspect of an essence, as perfectly produced and imaginative as they may be. I am making no value judgments but some people are more drawn to what is basically the acoustic version of perfume.  Those live olfactory performances are like no other because of variations in the materials, and the one to one perfumer interactions with their favorite themes and materials.

Here are some natural perfumes whose beauty is brought out by this time of year.

Ambre Vie by House of Matriarch is sultry. A zone of gold toned warmth grows in strength with its more than one hundred natural ingredients, blooming into greater complexity over time. A purely amber experience, one so rich that any other element would be a distraction. Excellent longevity satisfies the amber cravings which are excited as the more you get, the more you want. A satisfying choice to keep in mind for those who compulsively chase the darkest deepest perfumes they can find. (Ahem, thinking of certain perfume-mad types I know who go wherever the dark ambers call them).

Bay Rum Botanical Artisan Cologne by Providence Perfume Co.

is based on the American New England classic. This is true rum, cut with lime, spices, sea spray and florals of jasmine and ylang ylang bottled with a West Indian bay leaf to continue its infusion. Rhode Island was the rum capital of the world in the Enlightened 18th Century, and I enjoy the bracing spirit energy that fuels it.  Spices with a dry herbal edge give it a hold on the skin beyond the usual cologne parameters. It's the aromatic equivalent to the blazing colors of the northern trees in Autumn. Traditionally a masculine cologne, but I and many other women who like the deep spicy warmth with an herbal edge will wear it too.

Cleo de 5 a 7 by Jolie Laide (aka unconventional beauty and the title of a film by Agnes Varda) is another one of this line's scent odes to French New Wave cinema, that artfully depicted the sense of randomness and hope of the early Sixties. The film (for a short excerpt see below) is about a delicately glamorous young pop singer who passes the time from 5 to 7 pm, when lovers usually meet in Paris, waiting to hear life and death test results from her doctor.  Roger Ebert's piece on it is a beautiful read,  as a synopsis and interpretation that points out how a sense of mortality brings a heightened beauty to the ordinary. This perfume has that same air of energy tinged with a sense of the sacred.  It wafts coolness in both senses of the word. Somehow the uplift of the scent hooks into a sense of anticipation and speed, time moving fast into the next moment. The site's description of the notes lists "1960's black leather clutch purse: tobacco, lipstick, perfume, and leather. ...pink lotus, jasmine sambac, and agarwood." On my skin I get freshness as incense, which sounds impossible but it's the concentrated waves of elegance and liveliness rising up from the skin more than anything else.

A Roll in the Grass by Aether Arts.  The scent of a fresh mown lawn is associated with summer, but I can never get enough because it's  one of my core favorite scent memories; and immediately stress reducing.  After that joyful green opening an undertone of mown hay and earthiness arises.  It's a complex composition with development that shades into a grounded pleasant ease. The site lists grass, cannabis accord, basil, oregano, fir, grapefruit, petitgrain, bergamot, sambac jasmine absolute, rose absolute, fruit notes, frankincense, galbanum, patchouli, oakmoss, and vetiver. Once the freshest of the top notes burn away the cannabis accord makes a subtle appearance, but never as a skunky full on weed tone, but rather a musky young wildness.  All those florals no doubt temper it all into a good natured soothing and comforting skin tone. As part of a series developed for Burning Man, it a gentle and skillful reference to how nature has the power to lift the stress away upon olfactory contact. 

Disclosure: Samples other than Ambre Vie were provided by the perfumers.

Re Ambre Vie: a generous decant was gifted to me by Ida Meister, please see my post on FRAGments for more on House of Matriarch and Jolie Laide.

Re: the film Cleo from 5 to 7, you can see most of it on YouTube, here's one lovely part which shows the restraint, artifice pride and beauty of the main character, set in 1962 Paris interiors. 

Copyright 2014 Lucy Raubertas, All Rights Reserved.

September 24, 2014

Fiore de Bellagio - Envoyage Perfumes

Vintage Trifari brooch, Carnation

This perfume quickly becomes bold and jewel-like, after a delicate opening. Then it continues to intensify towards a deep, intoxicating, close to overwhelming richness.

Similar to this image of the carnation as a jewel; radiating out from a central point, jaunty, lush, opulent, with serrated delicate edges; facets that highlight the complex depths within.

Shelley Waddington, the perfumer of Envoyage, based this perfume on the vintage 1927 classic Bellodgia by Caron.

I don't know the original Caron so I can't compare, but I must say my experience of Fiore de Bellagio closely resembles the descriptions of the original in its purest form (see Bois de Jasmin on Bellodgia in 2005, and then again on the  disappointing reformulations and flanker in 2013).  This makes Fiore di Bellagio especially lovely for those who want to experience something of the freshness and vigor of a classic closer to the way it once was.

The perfumer was inspired to continue the style of the Twenties as a companion piece to Zelda, and a way to expand on her interest in Zelda Fitzgerald, here expressed in a perfume she might have known and loved.

Fiore di Bellagio matches what I know of the spirit of the 1920s, a glamorous and often more modern decade than some that came after it, for women especially.  

Parties with strong liquor, cigarettes, dance, jazz, seemingly infinite possibilities, pleasure in the body freed of centuries of constriction, with a lot of female energy finally released.

Photo via jtrobers of myintrigue on Tumblr
The opening of faceted floral airy delicacy is refreshingly inviting, before the clove/carnation steps forth and intensifies itself as body/skin heat warms it. 

The almost narcotic spiced carnation leads from a heady center of rose, jasmine and gardenia, all lending their power. 

The warmth is like an encircling flame, a floral bracelet of aromatic heat. 

I could see it worn by men as well as women, as the carnation's clove is so dominant.  The strength of clove in Fiore di Bellagio reminded me of the style of Caron's Poivre.  

This is still a modern perfume, even if closely inspired by a classic, in that there is more of a crisp clarity and contrast in development than I have found in the vintage perfumes I have tried so far. 

It lasts at full strength for a long time on me, which is unusual as my skin tends to absorb perfume quickly, and then calms to a sophisticated multi-faceted base that holds the rosy/gardenia/jasmine floral center and a shade of the clove /carnation, morphed back into dianthus wildflower form, cooled by a hint of iris.
Photo from the Envoyage site

The notes are many and varied, which further explains the contrast between the opening and the body of the perfume experience. They are listed as lemon, citrus, green leaves, ylang ylang, carnation; gardenia, jasmine, rose, muguet, violet, bois de rose, vanilla, sandalwood, iris, costus, vintage resins, civet and musk.

EnVoyage is no stranger to this kind of floral power. There are other perfumes in the line that use a piercing floral take-no-prisoners strength to great effect.  I am thinking of the Carmel series, especially the white floral Carmel Boheme, or Nectar des Iles, as described in prior posts.

I have seen hints and speculation that Bellodgia and other Caron perfumes are an expression of a possibly more than an unrequited emotional affair between the perfumer Ernest Daltroff and his assistant Félicie Wanpouille, the later partner and eventual director of Caron, who influenced him in perfume composition.  In any case, they worked closely together, and though self taught in perfume, with exquisite taste created a number of the beloved classics in the Caron line.

For more background on Caron, there's an interesting and quick overview with a full list of the earlier perfumes on The Perfume Project.

For more reviews and information and to order a sample or full sizes please go to the Envoyage site

Copyright 2014 Lucy Raubertas, All Rights Reserved.
Disclosure: sample received from the perfumer upon request.

September 16, 2014

Geisha Blanche/Geisha Noire by Aroma M and Camellia

Heron Maiden, Iwasa Koko, b. 1884.

Heron maiden was term used for a lady

 in a white gown with black umbrella, 

referring also a fairy tale figure.

I have become re-addicted to Geisha Blanche, one of the originals in the Aroma M perfume line. It is a soothing soft white floral with a touch of lychee, creamy and rich as the lather of an expensive almond soap (that last image I got from a online fragrance friend).  It provides me with an aromatic layer of civilization; reliable when most sorely needed to take the edge off, and soothes my cravings for a pure-hearted direct beauty. All that alone is more than enough.

Then the perfumer herself suggested I try layering it over Geisha Noire, from the opposite end of her line's spectrum, a dark, sultry, tenacious amber/wood tonka bombshell of a perfume.

In my personal experimentation with perfume layering I always put one beside the other, or one on the neck and the other on the arms -- but having the direction of the perfumer herself for layering one right over the other removes a barrier, and opened a door.

This configuration has a heavenly transporting effect for me; I even found a tinge of incense within, a celestial tone. Layering two of my favorite fragrance types, the creamy white floral extrovert and the deep dark dreamy introvert, completes a personal olfactory yin-yang symbol.

For me this feels close to archetypal, or what I think a fairy-tale perfume would be, as in this layered way it makes a space that combines old with new.  Here are the emanations of centuries of tradition, layers of past and present ephemeral beauties, plants, roots, tear drops of tree sap and honeyed nectar, velvety soft dark interiors in which to rest and recover from everything; a refined elegance that throws a special form of grace over the present moment.

It's definitely noticeable to someone sitting beside you, but not far beyond that distance.  I most often use and am most familiar with the roll-on oil based versions. After an overnight dry down their combined beauty is one of relaxed contentment. 

Both now come in an alcohol based spray, a more translucently luminous version, with a sillage that reaches farther out.

Both perfumes are classics from the first years of the Aroma M line, a true indieperfume artisanal solo run company. 

Placed in fine stores like Bergdorf's in New York in 2000, they were among the first of the artisanal American perfumes to receive favorable attention from the established fashion media world, before the internet and perfume blogging came along and changed how indieperfumes reached out to potential fans.  

Initially their reputation grew organically from word of mouth, traveling from the West to the East Coast, as has become a not uncommon trajectory with indieperfumes. The perfumer is now been long established in Brooklyn, and continues to create astonishing lush, detailed and delicately sensual aromatic experiences.

Katya Ford - La Dame aux Camélias
The newest perfume in the line Camellia matches and expands on the Camellia beauty product line. 

Fully natural, instantly intoxicating and almost shockingly powerful, it combines in one the delicacy and detail of floral beauty with sultry power, in the classical tradition of seductive white floral perfume. 

It expands and magnifies the idea behind the beauty product's delicate fragrance, to be one of the most immediately and gloriously stunning of all the natural perfumes I have encountered.

Disclosure:  Though I know the perfumer, this piece has not been solicited or commissioned.  The perfumer provided a sample of the new perfume Camellia. Geisha Blanche and Noire are part of my personal collection.

These perfumes are available in Brooklyn at Twisted Lily, and at the Aroma M studio by appointment, and online at the Aroma M website, and at other online retailers and boutiques.

If you are in the New York area I highly recommend you visit Twisted Lily for a personal experience of the ultra-romantic Camellia. While there you can also try Geisha Noire and Blanche separately and layered together, to experience for yourself what I have enjoyed so much.

For more on the legend of the Heron Maiden, please follow this link to a lovely post and full explanation. 

For  immersion into La Dame aux Camellias, please follow this link to an exquisite performance of the full two hour plus ballet set to Chopin's music at the Paris Opera.  I know the perfumer is a lifelong devotee of dance, so I believe this aesthetic must have influenced the perfume composition.

Above images found on Pinterest with as much credit as I could find. Please advise if you have further information.

Copyright 2014 Lucy Raubertas, All Rights Reserved.