Holiday Gift Guide

 

It was difficult to edit my gift picks as I want everything I reviewed this past year and would love to give them all as gifts. In any event, here it is, an attempt that hopefully covers reasonable price points and varying tastes to aid in your gifting pleasure.

Roxana Illuminated Perfume Hedera Helix: Wouldn’t you love to receive the lovely compacts pictured above? I certainly would as they’re filled with Roxana Villa’s newest fragrance, Hedera Helix, an olfactory ode to ivy. Not surprisingly, this perfume is a leafy green chypre that has a dense and addicting note of oakmoss as its foundation. Both incarnations of Hedera Helix, solid and liquid, are a complex blend of nearly forty different essences, but I prefer the solid’s focus on the effervescent top notes of clementine, orange blossom, and grapefruit. (The liquid is much more resinous and inky and also very beautiful). The heart is full of warm beeswax and woods and the drydown is dappled with sweet rose and jasmine petals. I find this progression from chypre green to pale pink to be quite compelling and all together lovely. The mini compact is $30 for approximately 1.5 gm. If you live in the Portland, OR area, you can test Roxana’s perfumes at Spring Creek Store.

Red Flower Sweet Alyssum: Sweet Alyssum is Red Flower’s latest perfume offering which evokes the burgeoning blossoms of spring. And what better time to have your spirits lifted by iris, violet, honey and hay than in the middle of winter’s darkness? It’s a scent to daydream by. Plan that escape to a sundrenched shore, or imagine the color of that first blooming violet, heralding the new garden season. Whatever the dream, Sweet Alyssum will make it brighter. Sweet Alyssum is $138 for 1.0 oz, exclusively at Garnet Hill.

 

Alima Nourishing Lip Balm: Speaking of dreams, I can’t go to bed without putting lip balm on my lips. And I know I’m not the only balm addict out there. I bet you’re one yourself, or you know one pretty well. Alima’s Nourishing Lip Balm will satisfy even the pickiest guy or gal with its minty scent and smooth texture. Natural is sans color, perfect for bedtime or over lipstick, but I also adore Fig, a shimmering bronzy-plum that’s perfect for everyday wear. $7 per tube at Saffron Rouge.

Ilia Beauty Blossom Lady: I reviewed Ilia’s lipsticks in September and told you all how much I loved Blossom Lady. Well, I am still loving it. So much so that I need to get myself another tube. I also need to pick up a couple extras to give to friends since it’s such a flattering color. I just can’t think of a complexion this would not brighten up! More pictures and gushing are here.  $24 at Beautyhabit.com

For Strange Women Decadence and Debauchery: For Strange Women is a perfumery that I newly found this year and have been enjoying a great deal. I have a few favorites- Moss & Ivy, November, and Horse to be specific- but Decadence and Debauchery ranks high up there and strikes me as the one most people would be drawn to. It has a little bit of everything from tobacco to violet to vanilla and it’s all whipped up into one richly decadent perfume. $40 for 1/4oz bottle of perfume oil on etsy.

Aftelier Perfumes Pear Fir and Coffee Body Oil: Mandy Aftel of Aftelier Perfumes always has something new up her sleeve whether its creating Chef’s Essences®, perfumed teas, or candles. This time, she has caught me by surprise with her newest Body Oil & Hair Elixir; Pear Fir and Coffee. That’s quite a trio of scents! When I first applied the oil on my skin I thought, “Huh, that really is pear, fir and coffee.” After twenty minutes more I thought, “Wow! That still is pear, fir and coffee and I’m liking it!” Somehow these seemingly disparate notes- seemingly to me being a fragrance sniffer rather than a fragrance creator- work in concert to not only harmonize with each other but also allow each other room to shine as individual notes. This oil would be perfect for the perfumista in your life that is open to new olfactory experiences. $40 for 3.5 oz pump bottle at Aftelier.com.

Chanel No 19 Poudre: I will admit, unabashedly, that I have fallen hard for Chanel No 19 Poudre. I know it hasn’t gotten rave reviews from other perfume bloggers as it’s been deemed as a watered down version of the original, and not terribly inspired. Well, I disagree as Poudre makes me swoon with delight. The opening is a tender and sheer rendering of galbanum unlike the original which is much too cold and sharp for my taste. The iris glistens and remains steadfast throughout Poudre’s evolution, but is at its finest when it melds into the tonka-sandalwood base which is delectable! $85 for 1.7oz at Nordstrom.com.

DSH Vanille Botanique: Another new fragrance launch that has garnered a lot of praise, is Prada Candy. I like it well enough, but I’m not feeling the love quite so strongly. I much prefer DSH Perfumes Vanille Botanique which also starts off with smooth caramel but with a boozy twist. I find Vanille Botanique to satisfy the same type of craving as Candy, but in a more interesting manner. It might not be the “benzoin overload” the Prada PR claim Candy to be, but Vanille Botanique is a lush cloak of tonka, balsams and yes, benzoin. And even though I just sang praises for Chanel Poudre, when given the chance, I would rather spend my dollars on, and give my loved ones a gift from an indie perfumer. $130 for 30ml at indiescents.com.

Happy Shopping! ~Trish

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Red Flower Ambrette and Guaiac

A few days ago I reviewed Red Flower’s organic perfume Champa and gave a brief overview of the company’s founder Yael Alkalay. Today, I will continue with reviews of Ambrette and Guaiac. Like Champa, Ambrette and Guaiac are USDA certified organic and have no petro-chemicals, phthalates, or synthetics.

 

Ambrette begins quite citrusy. 16674-300A well blended, bitter orange that is a bit spicy with no hint of sweetness. As the name suggests though, this fragrance is not about citrus, it is all about ambrette, the seed of the hibiscus flower. The oil of these seeds has a musky, slightly ambery odor, and that is right where we are headed with Ambrette

 

As the drydown progresses the citrus disappears, and the muskiness takes over. I must add a disclaimer here, I do not like musk. And while Ambrette is not a skin musk, or a white musk, or a clean musk, it is a musk. I know that many will love this fragrance because it is a different take on musk. The rose and geranium give it a soft floral quality and the ambrette oil endows it with a vegetal, green muskiness. If you do love Ambrette, you are in luck, this fragrance has great throw and lasts all day, especially in the perfume concentrate form.

 

david-murray-calamondin-orange-october-ronda-spainGuaiac is vibrant, zesty orange rind. Not the juice, or the pulp, but the rind. As if you were actively grating an orange and rubbing its vivacious oils onto your skin. It’s fresh and spirited, but in a new way. Guaiac is a citrus fragrance that I have never smelled before. It’s not floral (although rose absolute is listed in the notes), therefore, not akin to neroli or orange blossom. I had to do some research regarding copaiba, cabrueva, and elemi, the notes listed on the Red Flower website. I had already looked up elemi for my review of Pacifica’s Spanish Amber. (It’s a tree native to the Philippine Islands and its resin has a sharp lemonish scent). Both copaiba and cabrueva are resin oils from trees that hail from South America. The former having a warm honey-like scent and the later a sweet woody, floral aroma. It was certainly interesting to learn a little bit about these resin oils, and while I’m sure they add some supporting body to the fragrance, it truly is the orange rind that predominates.   

 

Unlike Ambrette, whose name is very descriptive, Guaiac does not become a woody fragrance as its name would suggest. The guaiac tree is indigenous to South America, where Ms. Alkalay’s mother is from, and its oil has a woody fragrance.  Guaiac remains within the citrus range, morphing into the bitterness of grapefruit as the drydown emerges. I was able to test Guaiac in both its forms, the perfume roll-on which is an oil base, and the perfume concentrate which is in an organic wheat-grain alcohol base. Both have excellent staying power and wear close to the skin. The main difference between the two, is that the perfume concentrate allows a hint of the woody aspect to surface while the roll-on perfume oil remains citrusy throughout. 

 

Out of all three Red Flower perfumes, Guaiac is my favorite. It’s clear and sparkling and unlike anything I have in my perfume collection. Each Red Flower perfume has something to offer, but Guaiac gives me the perfect citrus fragrance that is never sweet and never boring.

 

Red Flower is available at Luckyscent and  Beautyhabit

posted by ~Trish

photograph by David Murray at www.art.com

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Red Flower Champa

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Red Flower was founded by Yael Alkalay in 1999 with a set of six candles, two organic teas, and a vision for people to create ritual and beauty in their everyday lives. Ms. Alkalay’s heritage is Russian, Bulgarian and Argentinean and she acknowledges her lineage within her products. For example, the mint and lavender used in select Red Flower body products are sourced from Cordova, Argentina where her mother’s family is from. She also spent five years in Japan when she was the creative director for Shiseido and one can sense her admiration of Japanese culture just from perusing the Red Flower website. Additionally, there is a Red Flower Japan line dedicated to the traditional Japanese bathing ritual. Ms. Alkalay’s tranquil aesthetic is matched only by the peaceful energy she seems to exude, at least here in this video.

Lucky for us perfume lovers, Ms. Alkalay branched out from candles, tea and body products and into the world of fragrance. She has created three USDA certified organic perfumes that contain no petro-chemicals, no phthalates and no synthetics. I will be reviewing Champa here;  Ambrette and Guaiac will follow in a few days.

42100Several floral notes are listed for Champa including champa flowers, mimosa, jasmine, osmanthus and ylang ylang. And while there are some potentially grating choices for me in this blend (I’m talking to you mimosa and ylang ylang), the flower that predominates is a soft spoken champaca. Champaca flowers have several names. Champa is a common Hindi name, as well as the Joy Perfume Flower, since it is one of the primary notes in Patou’s Joy. It is native to Southeast Asia, and the flowers are used to scent rooms, decorate bridal beds, and anoint the hair. Of course the essential oil is also used in perfumery, such as in Joy and in Red Flower’s Champa.

Even though champaca is the namesake flower and predominant note of this perfume, Champa ultimately is a blend of delicate florals that serve as the foundation for a nag champa incense experience. Although it’s not so much the smell of incense smoke or even smelling the sticks of nag champa in their box. Red Flower’s Champa smells of a freshly burnt pile of nag champa ash, which generates a new take on the incense fragrance. Its heart is floral, flowing, and smoky.

Once Champa settles and the drydown emerges, the smoky quality dissipates somewhat, allowing the osmanthus to surface and its accompanying apricot accord. The fruitiness is mellow, with hints of melon. Overall, Champa is a gauze-like floral layered over a smoky beginning and an osmanthus/apricot ending. Very worth trying in the oil-based roll-on version that is small, but easily portable and a little goes a long way.

Red Flower Champa is available at Beautyhabit and Luckyscent.

Posted by ~Trish

Champaca flower photo by rbuzatto on flickr

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