July 4, 2010

Mystery of Musk – Natural Perfumer’s Guild Project – Part 2

There's a mysterious thing about many natural perfumes. They start out actually quite scary, quite strong, quite non-ornamental, and then, in a few minutes, they will turn sweeter, softer, fuller and then, at their own speed, turn another corner and become richly ornamental. Then they take the journey on from there. Rich and strange, is what it is, certainly not what you would ever expect at the start. I asked a natural perfumer what is this all about, and she said this is the way it often is with naturals. You have to know to let them develop on skin, you can't tell anything by simply trying them on a scent strip or directly sniffing out of the bottle, at all, at all.

I have two such in mind now, they are both strong out of the gate in a manner that took me aback at first. I have worn them both a number of times now, and this evening I have one on each wrist. Anya's Garden Kewdra was when I first tried it one night, at the first instant, almost bitter and astringent. I fell asleep with it on, and had fitful dreams, from which I woke to find myself enveloped in comforting sweetness and beauty. I didn't understand where it was coming from and wondered what it was, then realized, the Kewdra had turned into something completely different. It turned into a gardenia (lightly toned by boronia and angelica), couched in the musk notes of patchouli, sandalwood, ambrette and beeswax. I inhaled deeply then, it was indeed of an unusual light sweetness and beauty enough to calm a sudden wakefulness in the middle of the night, a strong effect for such a gentle sweetness. I suspect the ambergris was the element that bound everything together and magnified the beauty, as musks are wont to do.

I experienced an even more extreme version of this development with Dionysus by Lord's Jester, Adam Gottschalk. The start was very shocking for me, it felt like a strong chypre without top notes. Then, almost unbelievably, it mellowed into a tobacco honey plum with polished wood, very rich and full bodied. Reminded me of the first cigarette of the day, with black coffee, in a warm well kept room with polished floors.

Both of these scents have a strong warm musk base that lastly comes forward and binds to the skin, veiling it with a soft narcotic glow. Narcotic because they are both relaxing and heady at the same time. Like an opiate dream, the acrid smokiness slowly turning into something dense, mellow sweet and then intoxicating.

Above, a French postcard, nude smoking opium ( see the Opium Museum for more images)

Please continue to visit these other sites for more on these and other natural perfumes in the Musk series:

Yahoo Natural Perfumery group
I Smell Therefore I Am – Abigail Levin
Perfume Shrine – Elena Vosnaki
The Non Blonde – Gaia Fishler
indieperfumes – here, me, Lucy Raubertas
Bitter Grace Notes – Maria Browning
CaFleureBon Michelyn Camen, Mark Behnke, Ida Meister, Skye Miller, Marlene Goldsmith
Olfactarama – Pat Borow
First Nerve – Avery Gilbert
Olfactory Rescue Service – Ross Urrere
Grain de Musc – Denyse Beaulieu


Monica Skye said...

I agree that naturals take getting used to, many are acquired tastes perhaps like gourmet food, certain sushi... beverages... I have known several people to never have tried an avocado, one Russian guy I knew said they were gross, because the texture was "like butter" and they "had no taste". Many natural scents are peculiar, yes, as are herbs "peculiar" bitter, astringent, aromatic, and wonderful...in their own way. btw, I'm not saying avocados are gourmet...and I never liked sushi...

chayaruchama said...

Opiate, agreed !

I never tire of reading your
It is a real aromatic adventure !

Anya said...

Lucy, it's the pandanus flower that gives the "radish-y" opening astringency. I adore it, and it is demanding, not a friendly, sweet citrus or spice that may be used as a typical top note, but it is most fitting to Kudra, who reveled in drenching herself in aromatics and making a statement.

Pandanus is fascinating, because once the top note of it (because most aromatics have a top, middle and base note too) wafts off, it has a honey/rose drydown that is soft and comforting. This is why I love naturals so much!

Lucy said...

Hi Monica,

Yes, it's good for people to know that some naturals are an acquired taste, and to give it a chance, as they do for coffee, liquor and even sex. Many of the good things of life require getting used to that initial tang. Then as you know sometimes you can go overboard!

Lucy said...

Hi Anya,
Interesting! I have run across this sharp opening in other naturals, and I've been curious about it. I think the contrasts make it more rewarding. But I think it's useful to let the general public know about the special path of development -- the bitter opening with a sweetly redolent and easeful result. Yours and Adam's perfume became so rewarding (and lasting) especially because of the surprise gift of sweetness and pure beauty upon unfolding. Like the darkest chocolate melting into a creamy dessert that keeps the memory of its kick.

Lucy said...

Dear C, Yes, the opiate of the people, perfume, that's what we want!