Discovering Phoenix Botanicals, again.

Saffron Veil Close UpPhoenix Botanicals caught my eye nearly two years ago when I bought their terrific Wild Rose Lip Balm on a whim, but I was unaware that fragrances had become a part of their repertoire as well. Irina Adam, creator of Phoenix Botanicals contacted me recently, and asked if I would like to sample some of her all natural perfume oils. Having been impressed by her lip balm, I decided to take her up on her generous offer, and I am so glad I did.
Saffron VeilTo begin with, the presentation of her perfume oil is simply charming. I adore the silk ribbon around the top of the vial as if it were a bow on the forehead of a pretty flapper from the 1920′s. In fact, Saffron Veil, Irina’s latest fragrance, smells like it could be straight from that era as it sings with a smoky violet voice that’s so deep it’s inky without a trace of sweetness. Freshly puffed smoke hangs in the air, as does tobacco resin from old pipes.

Saffron Veil, as the name suggests, is not all darkness as the opaque opening gives way to a lighter heart of boronia that’s tannic, but also fruity. A gentle wafting of tuberose joins the party at this point, and is also the last one to leave. The tuberose doesn’t make much of a scene though, this is a subtle one that’s happy to linger in the background, only to be noticed if you draw her in closely.

And that’s how it goes with most all natural perfume oils. Phoenix Botanicals’ fragrances are in a base of organic jojoba oil, wear very close to the skin, and on me, last just under a few hours.

Phoenix BotanicalsIrina also sent me samples of Bonfire Rose, Meadow & Fir, and Amber & Blues. While I found Saffron Veil interesting, Bonfire Rose left me the most impressed. Like Saffron Veil, its top notes are shadowy and smoky, and I enjoy those initial moments of secretive intrigue which contrast against the lighter and brighter top notes of many other perfumes. Bonfire Rose takes a minty, resinous turn that’s mildly rosy, but not what I would call overly floral in the slightest. It brushes up against charred sage and lingers around camphorous leaves, evoking memories of woodland strolls and crackling campfires.
Phoenix Alchemy Samples

Amber & Blues and Meadow & Fir both reside squarely in the amber family. The prevailing amber triad of vanilla, labdanum, and benzoin oversees these two fragrances in a lovely manner. Meadow & Fir has fir of course, but it also has a jammy quality that reminds me a touch of Aftelier’s Fig. Amber & Blues is more of a straight-up amber, with a very pillowy,  woody-vanilla drydown, not unlike Roxana Illuminated Perfume’s Lyra. I do think Fig and Lyra are more nuanced and more complex fragrances, but Phoenix Botanicals has a price point more people can afford which broadens the natural perfume community and keeps us smelling beautiful.

Leave a comment and I will enter you in a drawing for my Saffron Veil (minus the ribbon and a some dabs by me for the purposes of this review). US addresses only. I apologize to my international readers. The winner has been chosen.

There are other fragrances to explore at the Phoenix Botanicals etsy site. $24 for 1/8oz vial. Other sizes and samples available.

All photographs were taken by me.

Cocoa Sandalwood by Sonoma Scent Studio

“Current” by Leigh Viner

Cocoa Sandalwood is one of the most dynamic fragrances I have experienced in a long time. It moves through its stages with a quiet force that is palpable, alluring, and in the end, becomes an intimately beautiful sandalwood fragrance.

The opening notes do not hint much to a sandalwood experience though. Like I said, this a dynamic perfume and it has an interesting itinerary. Initially, the first wood encountered is cedar, charged with coffee and cocoa, all very pure. When I say pure, I mean there’s no pencil shavings to the cedar, no roughness, just smooth dense wood. And the coffee is not bitter and the cocoa is not sweet. The three notes are solidly together, opening the fragrance on sure footing, without a lot of embellishment.

Cocoa Sandalwood

But just when you think Cocoa Sandalwood might be a simple (yet lovely) fragrance, the heart notes develop and within fifteen minutes powdery roses, creamy peaches, nutty vetiver and sweet coconut are wafting about. Vetiver? Coconut? I love this! I’m wearing Cocoa Sandalwood today and the vetiver-coconut stage has been particularly pronounced. The perfumer, Laurie Erickson, confirmed that there is vetiver in the formula and that the coconut scent exudes from the peach lactone which has a fatty-coconut scent before it fully settles into its peachy goodness. Today, this perfect medley of spicy woods, fleshy fruit and not-too-sweet florals has lasted longer than any other wearing.

Yet, I do not lament moving forward into this perfume’s journey which shifts into a more unfettered rose-peach phase. This of course allows for a clearer appreciation of the peach note and a smooth passage to the musky sandalwood drydown that awaits.

So let’s talk about this drydown since really, it’s what we’ve all been waiting for. I know it’s what I was waiting for when I first wore Cocoa Sandalwood. This is a sandalwood that is soft but not soapy, woody but not dry or sharp, and I wondered, “Is this finally going to be a sandalwood fragrance I can wear? One that I can truly love and feel like it’s me?” Truthfully, I can answer these questions with a resounding, “Yes!” I don’t know if it’s the creaminess of the New Caledonia Sandalwood Laurie has used, or the perfect balance of musky ambrette seed, or her overwhelming talent as a perfumer (ding ding ding!)  but I have finally found a sandalwood fragrance that is mine.

Fragrance Notes: Cocoa absolute, coffee absolute, ginger CO2, cinnamon bark EO, clove bud absolute, natural peach lactone, rose absolute, Virginia cedar, New Caledonia sandalwood absolute, ambrette seed CO2, vanilla.

Cocoa Sandalwood is available at Sonoma Scent Studio. Scroll all the way to the bottom to find Cocoa Sandalwood which is the only fragrance available in bottles on the website at this time. $25 for 5ml Travel Spray. (Other sizes available).

More reviews of Cocoa Sandalwood:
The Non Blonde
The Black Narcissus

Image: “Current” by Leigh Viner

Hindu Honeysuckle by Providence Perfume Co.

A little vial of Hindu Honeysuckle arrived at my door a few weeks ago, a welcome surprise during this time of remodeling chaos (see below). Currently, my perfumes are tucked away safely in the attic, save for a select few, so I welcomed the opportunity for something new and different. When I read the PR card that accompanied my sample, I was both reluctant and intrigued.

Jasmine sambac, not honeysuckle, is the featured floral, and since I’ve been hit with a case of jasmine fatigue, I admittedly had to hold back a heavy sigh. Then the word “coriander” popped into view, and my interest was sparked. Coriander encompasses so much of what I love in a scent. It’s a culinary spice of course, so it’s slightly piquant with a vibrant citrus back note. At the same time, coriander is also sweetly floral which lends itself beautifully to perfumery.

Because honeysuckle oil is very difficult to extract, making it rare and quite costly, you won’t find it in Hindu Honeysuckle. In lieu of this delicate blossom, Charna Ether, the nose behind Providence Perfume Co, created a “honeysuckle accord” with Indian Jasmine Sambac, Indian coriander, vetiver, rose absolute, botanical musk seed, and bergamot.

As mentioned above, jasmine sambac is the dominant note, and a glorious one at that. This jasmine is so clear and vivid that it radiates sambac’s pure essence. It smells just like the spicy and musky sambac concrete that I purchased at NYC’s Enfleurage a few years ago. Like coriander, sambac also possesses a bright citrus quality that is heightened by the use of bergamot in Hindu Honeysuckle’s blend. It is not indolic in the slightest which would have detracted from its vivid and powerful opening.

Jasmine sambac continues to be a strong presence throughout the evolution of Hindu Honeysuckle, but within the heart, coriander and ambrette emerge, grounding the fragrance with earthen musk. In the drydown, I took note of vetiver before realizing that is was actually vetiver. After a couple hours of skintime, Hindu Honeysuckle became surprisingly powdery in that powder-without-sweetness way that only vetiver can provide. The merging of vetiver and coriander in this final stage is wholly unique and really lovely.

For an all natural perfume, I found Hindu Honeysuckle’s sillage and longevity to be more than impressive. It lasts on my skin for an entire day, and its scent wafts with moderate strength from top to heart, and then gently through the drydown. Charna is now offering a 10 sample coffrett or you can buy individual samples as well. Along with Hindu Honeysuckle, I strongly recommend trying Osmanthus Oolong. It too is really special.

Hindu Honeysuckle is available at Providence Perfume Co. $115 for 1oz, $26 for 6ml, or $7 for a sample.

Disclosure: A sample was provided to me by Providence Perfume Co. Opinions in this review are my own. I was not financially compensated for this review or any other.

Image of Jasmine Strings from Wikinut

Share

November in the Temperate Deciduous Forest

November in the Temperate Deciduous Forest is not a line from a poem, although it would be a lovely one if it were. On second thought, maybe it is a haiku that also serves as the name of a perfume. Regardless, these words and the accompanying fragrance feel very apropos at this moment because even though the Northwest is known for its evergreen glory, the city of Portland is surrounded by the deciduous splendor of fall.

Leaves are freshly fallen, and the soil is damp of course. The infamous rain has arrived. Fireplaces are being stoked once again and the outdoor smells of fall are among us. November in the Temperate Deciduous Forest- let’s call it November for short- is one of those fragrances that not only echoes these autumnal smells but also enhances them and makes them feel more vibrant.

November is a 2011 release from Jill McKeever of For Strange Women Perfumery. Jill’s product descriptions are vividly romantic, and the one for November is no exception. Her analogy of lapsang souchong tea brewing on a forest cabin’s wood buring stove could not capture the mood of this perfume more perfectly.

November starts with a smokiness that curls through the air, caressing the skin rather than consuming or overwhelming it. Lapsang souchong possesses a roasted, smoked scent and flavor and I wonder if Jill used a tincture of that tea since it is seems so prevalent in the opening. Additionally, a delicate lacing of neroli gives sparkle and a gentle floral quality to November’s rustic beginning. There’s also a minty quality that lends a fecundity and depth to the forest scene outside the cozy cabin.

The heart of November explores the richness of the woodland soil, digging up dark earth, roots and meandering mushrooms. The forest floor is now under your nails, knees damp with rain soaked dirt and crushed leaves. November is a long day of trekking through the trees, with an olfactory treasure as your reward.

The resins from the woods around you imbue the skin with a scent that is piquant, yet suggestive of an animalic muskiness. The fact that this is a perfume oil augments the process of November melding into your skin and becoming a fluid part of your natural scent, after much time spent in the temperate deciduous forest.

November is available at For Strange Women at etsy. $40 for a 1/4oz bottle.

Disclosure: I purchased this sample myself from For Strange Women. Opinions in this review are my own. I was not financially compensated for this review or any other.

Image by Raceytay on etsy.com

Share

Var en Provence by Rebel and Mercury

 

Many of you are already familiar with Nikki Sherritt via her line of all natural candles at her etsy site, Gabriel’s Aunt. She also creates botanical perfumes and recently established a separate shop, Rebel and Mercury, in order to better feature her line of fragrances. The name seems to suit her perfectly since it reflects Nikki’s independent and evolving creative spirit.

When Nikki launched Rebel and Mercury back in June, she sent me a sample of a new fragrance, Var en Provence. When it arrived, I was too busy with travel and work to spend quality time with the fragrance, but luckily the sample of Var en Provence caught my eye last week and I’ve been able to hang out with this perfect summer scent and get to know it a lot better.

 

To my nose, Var en Provence falls squarely in my favorite genre, the woody floral perfume. Having said that, I’m not certain of the woods in this perfume and I wonder if it’s the orris root and olive leaf that merge into a basalmic and herbal accord. But let’s get to the floral aspect first. Mimosa is the focal point of Var en Provence and it glimmers in the soft light of Southern France. Fortunately, this is a soft-focus mimosa and not at all high pitched which is often the case. The mimosa in Var en Provence is definitely sweet, but it’s a gauzy draping of honeyed blossoms that feels very wearable and appealing.

Going back to the woody floral discussion, and I’d like to clarify that those balsamic nuances are present only in the opening of the fragrance which I find very interesting as wood essences tend to be basenotes. But as I said, the earthy, almost mushroomy quality of orris combined with the herbaceous olive leaf hover around the opening notes and then dissipate as the heart opens to the soft and plentiful mimosa flowers.

The drydown continues the mimosa theme as it becomes even more powdery and floral. The final stage of Var en Provence is like a soliflore that allows for an unexpectedly serene yet intriguing mimosa experience. Clearly, I highly recommend mimosa aficionados give Var en Provence a try, and for those of you who are a little gun-shy regarding this yellow fuzzy blossom, you should give it a shot as well.

Var en Provence is available at Rebel and Mercury in various sizes and price points. 

Disclosure: A sample was sent to me for consideration by Nikki Sherritt. The opinions in this review are my own. I was not financially compensated for this review or any other.

Mimosa Flower by InFire at etsy.

Share