November 18, 2010

Outlaws - Natural Perfumer's Guild 2 Amazing, Mata Hari & Amberess

Cast Out of the Garden
For part two on the project of natural perfumers using outlaw perfume elements, here are three perfumers who have been incited to  out-do themselves, plunging into  big statements focusing primarily on  controversial elements.  Much has been written by people on both sides of the story, there is a lot of information online for those who have problems with these scent notes, so I will simply say that it's always best to know what is in your perfume and if you are someone with those kind of sensitivities, it is best to check into the note and ingredients lists online before purchasing or wearing anything.  All of the natural perfumers give detailed information about their ingredients on their sites, or would be happy to consult with anyone who has concerns.   There are no reports that I am aware of that say any of the ingredients cause serious harm even to those sensitive to them, but rather that they may cause some skin or photo sensitivity and always it would be the safest course that pregnant women and infants be most careful to avoid substances that might even only be suspected to cause irritations of any kind for anyone.  I am happy to say that I am fortunate enough that none of these outlawed notes cause me anything but joy and interest in their beauty.

JoAnne Bassett's  Amazing in EdP, is put together around one of my favorite notes, oakmoss, which has been deleted from commercial perfumes for some time now.  It's been a great loss to the integrity and beauty of the genre of chypres and therefore many classics.  Still, it's confusing because there is conflicting information about it, some say it can cause irritation in some individuals and some say it soothes irritations because it is antiseptic.  The tree resins it contains cause the reactivity, when it occurs.  I happen to have some oakmoss essential oil myself, and find it has beauty and complexity enough to stand on its own.  It does many good things in perfume composition, and one of them is the green, live, dark earth scent it fixes to the other materials beside it.  It is listed first in the notes of this perfume, implying that it is the predominant ingredient.

The list is Oakmoss, Cassie, Cinnamon, Vintage Jasmine, Lemon Verbena, Rose Otto, Muhuhu, Ginger, Yuzu, Rhododendron, Benzoin, Violet Leaf, and nineteen others.  It is like a rich loamy earth has been mixed with splinters of aromatic woods and petals of flowers and leaves and roots.  The floral and plant elements are strong enough to balance the strength of the base.  I know this perfumer from the prior Musk project, and I can see now that she is a sensualist above all, that sensuality is the priority for her perfume compositions.  They bloom out over the skin as sensations propelled by a slight burn underneath, in this case probably from the cinnamon and ginger,  that keep all the rest moving up and twirling around each other.  This is a harmonious scent with a strong oakmoss theme, which holds well to the skin.  Check the site for samples and more information.

DSH/Parfums des Beaux Arts has made a deeply feminine chypre, Mata Hari, inspired by the Greta Garbo interpretation of this legendary seductive spy from the turn of the last century.  All the ingredients are on the IFRA restrictive list, and she has written eloquently about her creative process for this perfume on her site.  Mata Hari famously gave men no choice, their will was a burden they set down before her.  One of the main qualities of this type of fascination is a hypnotic level of focus and concentration.  The kind of focus is felt with how this perfume is immediately striking and holds together tightly for all the complexity of so many notes.  Many were used to make the accords for "fantasy" notes of lilac, orchid and leather.  It has that vintage yet moderne quality of the times, interpreting the 1910s via the 1930s; both eras of serious elegance.

Here's the list from the perfumer's site, as an exercise in full labeling and information for those who are afraid of these outlaw fragrances: bergamot, lemon, neroli, orange blossom absolute, mandarin, tarragon, sweet & blood orange, davana, tagettes, galbanum, carrot seed, black pepper, cassie flower absolute, mimosa absolute, jonquil absolute, orris butter, rose de mai absolute, damascena rose otto, sambac jasmine absolute, tuberose absolute, ylang ylang, champaca absolute, osmanthus absolute, nutmeg, cinnamon leaf, cinnamon bark, clove bud, honey absolute, angelica root absolute, ambrette seed co2, benzoin, cistus, costus root, oakmoss absolute, peru balsam, australian sandalwood, styrax absolute, tonka bean absolute, vanilla absolute, cumin, patchouli, java vetiver, buddahwood, texas cedarwood, cassis absolute, myrrh gum, tabac absolute, and cade.

Mata Hari will be available on the DSH site as a very limited edition of ten beautifully curvy flacons and 35 minis, signed and numbered by Dawn Spencer Hurwitz.

Anya McCoy of Anya's Garden is the organizer of this Outlaw perfumes concept, which I think is brilliant because of her own and the other perfumers' intimate and long relationship to their materials.  She does indeed garden and often uses the materials she gathers there, while closely studying perfume materials from all over the world.  She has worked with natural aroma materials for many years.  I can't even imagine how it must be to have some kind of authority figure appear and make pronouncements that have the potential to limit your access to the elements of your art form and recommend that you change the way you work.  On a  fundamental level this is a restriction of natural perfumer's sources of inspiration.  This project demonstrates what we all would be giving up if IFRA restrictions or prohibitions were to hinder independent perfumers.  As discussed in my last post below, labeling and full information to the consumer from responsible perfumers could provide tailored protection as may be required.  In any case, the independent natural perfumers are making their fragrances by hand in small fresh quantities that are not likely to end up in the hands of people unaware of what has gone into the perfume.

Ambresse is  a Floriental on the theme of Amber.  There are no top notes, in the true Oriental style, as the perfumer herself has remarked, and as a lover of the lower tones in perfume as in music I am happy to dive straight into the warmth and depths below.  The perfume begins at the heart notes held closely by the base notes:  Zambian Princesse de Nassau Rosa Moschata African musk rose otto and Musk rose absolute, Madagascan ylang ylang, South African rose geranium sur fleurs
Base notes: Indonesian patchouli, Himalayan amber oil, Turkish styrax, Greek labdanum, Peruvian tonka bean, Salvadorean balsam tolu, Balsam of Peru, Chinese benzoin, Madagascan vanilla.
(italics denote untested or prohibited/limited aromatic).   The predominant tone is a soft almost powdery amber, which when fresh begins with a touch of light smoke but then dries down from the African flowers to the smooth dry darkness of patchouli, amber and the rest.  I know that this perfumer sources the materials with great care and has a highly developed sense of the subtle differences between harvests of plants and the effects of the weather on the regions of their origin, such as vanilla and roses, as she also does when extracting the materials herself from her own garden.  Her perfumes are jewel-like in their arrangement of glorious materials most carefully selected and matched to each other. There is much more information on her site.

Please visit the other sites for further takes on these and the rest of the perfumes in the Outlaw project:

Gaia at The Non Blonde, Donna at the, Felicia at Fragrance Belles Lettres, Carol at Waft by Carol, Ida, Mark and Monica at Ca Fleure Bon, me of course, here at  Indieperfumes, Beth at Perfume Smellin Things and Pat at Olfactarama

Above, detail from Fra Angelico's Annunciation, the expulsion from the Garden of Eden is depicted in the background, two details from the Pre-Raphaelite painters Rosetti and Millais, of their woodland backgrounds, Ophelia and La Belle Dame Sans Merci, publicity photo Greta Garbo as Mata Hari, and the perfume flacon from the DSH site linked above, rose photo from Anya's Garden site, linked above.


Anonymous said...

Thank you Lucy for infusing your lovely writing into the mix of Mata Hari! I look forward with great anticipation to the next reviews in your series of the OUTLAW project!

JoAnne Bassett said...

Thank you Lucy for your great and very special review of Amazing..I am a sensualist and enjoyed your take on my style as a perfumer.
I have not added Amazing eau de perfume to my website yet. Amazing can be purchased at my ETSY site:

Lisa BTB said...

Excellent post. I want to try them all.

Lucy said...


Many thanks! It's so cool you found that wonderful shaped flacon, it fits your concept perfectly. The whole process seems to have called up creative luck for the participating perfumers

Lucy said...


I so enjoy Sensual Embrace too, so warm and lilting.

I have added your link to Etsy to the post, which is great, didn't realize it was there first.

Lucy said...

Thanks Lisa for your interest and writing about this issue to. It's kind of intense. Natural perfumers cannot really make perfume without these notes.