Best of 2011: A Blogging Event.

 

Another year is coming to a close, so it’s time to wrap it up with a Best of 2011 list. Truthfully, there were gobs of fabulous releases this year, particularly in the natural fragrance realm, which makes me giddy and thrilled for all those indie artists devoted to the alchemy of botanical perfume. In the interest of keeping your attention- and since long lists are rarely a pleasure to read through- I’ve distilled my Best Of list to 10.

Best Perfumes:
Muguet de Mai by DSH Perfumes. When I asked Dawn Spencer Hurwitz if she would be interested in creating an all natural muguet scent for a May Day blogging event, I had no idea such a stunningly beautiful, complex, and true-to-life lily of the valley perfume would emerge. Muguet de Mai is like turning over a rain soaked tree branch in the forest to find a protected cluster of freshly blooming lily of the valley, densely floral while teeming with the fecundity of the soil’s riches. Muguet de Mai is a marvel and I can’t thank Dawn enough for taking me up on my offer, and for creating my favorite perfume of the year. Muguet de Mai is available at DSH Perfumes, $125 for 5ml antique parfum presentation. 

To Bee by Roxana Illuminated Perfume. The scent of beeswax, whether it’s burning in a candle or suffusing the skin as a perfume, is one of those aromas that I find instantly soothing. Its honeyed and resinous warmth calms my nerves and slows my breath. To Bee achieves this effect beautifully and is enhanced by many essences, but most notably tonka, ambrette and oud. Even though To Bee is lovely on a cold wintery eve, it’s truly a seasonless scent. I first discovered To Bee in the heat of July when summer’s warmth amplified its delightfully ambery sweetness.  To Bee is available in solid or liquid perfume at Roxana’s etsy shop. I particularly love the solid perfume locket for $30.

Dimanche EDP by Strange Invisible Perfumes. Dimanche was first released as a limited edition parfum in 2010, but in early 2011, it was made available in EDP concentration. The EDP is also limited edition, but the Strange Invisible Perfumes boutique still has a small quantity in stock. Dimanche opens with a cool and crisp iris, then proceeds to warm-up in the middle with hay, rose, and honey. A not-too-sweet amber dusted with cocoa awaits in the drydown, making for an olfactory experience that is multi-layered, compelling and alluring. Dimanche EDP is available only via the SIP Boutique. $270 for 50ml. Please call  310.314.1505 for phone orders. 

Orcas by Ayala Moriel Parfums. Orcas is a fragrance that sweeps you off your feet and carries you along the rugged beauty of the Pacific Northwest coastline. Within Orcas, you will discover spruce, moss, rosemary and seaweed that are herbaceous and invigorating. Violet leaf and cedar are also in this seafaring perfume which cast complementing green and woody tones. Wearing Orcas this winter has me longing for a summer drive along the northernmost parts of Highway 101. It’s a little melancholy since those months feel very far away, but put on some Nick Drake and a dabbing of Orcas, and wallow in its wistful beauty. Orcas is available at Ayala Moriel Parfums, $120 for 15ml splash bottle.

Cologne du Maghreb by Tauer Perfumes. I recently reviewed Andy Tauer’s all natural cologne a few weeks ago, but it is so remarkable, that I can’t help but mention it again so soon, as it really is one of the Best of 2011. I love how CdM’s deliciously vibrant citrus notes are savored from its opening notes to the drydown. Orange blossom and cedar are then enjoyed in the middle stage of CdM’s development, and the drydown is more than worth waiting for. To quote my review, “… in the end, this classically styled cologne morphs into an amber fragrance replete with sweet yet animalic labdanum that still continues to be green and citrusy-floral. It’s really amazing and beautiful and appropriate for both men and women.” Cologne du Maghreb is available exclusively at Indiescents. $65 for 50ml atomizer flacon.

Best Skincare, High-End and Luxurious:
I hand this award to Tammy Fender without a moment’s hesitation. Her eponymous skincare line was launched several years ago, but it’s a 2011 find for me, so on this list it goes. The product that I am most crazy about and would gladly shell out 95 clams for, is the Antioxidant Creme with Neroli & Orange. Click on the link and you’ll find the full list of ingredients that reads like a juice bar menu, as well as information on highlighted ingredients like algae extract and carrot seed. I am totally addicted to the glorious neroli scent of this facial moisturizer. It smells just like the orange blossom seasons I remember from my childhood, and it sends me into a relaxing sleep. The consistency is a cream-gel hybrid that feels nourishing as it rapidly absorbs into the skin. I use this at night as I don’t want to use my little jar of precious up too quickly, but if I had my druthers, I’d use it day and night. Tammy Fender Antioxidant Creme is available at her website, $95 for 1.9oz glass jar.

I am also loving the Tammy Fender Cleansing Milk which is rich and thick and possesses an aromatic lavender scent that vacillates between sweet and herbal. I know lavender can be an irritant to some, so if that’s the case, this cleansing milk is not for you. As for me, I love lavender and my skin loves it as well, so I slather it on, massage it in, and let it cleanse, which it does very well. Tammy Fender Cleansing Milk is available at her website, $55 for 6.7oz glass pump bottle.

Best Skincare, Drugstore Deal:
Burt’s Bees has come out with a really nice line of sensitive skincare that’s worth attention. I have the Sensitive Facial Cleanser and the Sensitive Daily Moisturizing Cream and am highly impressed with both. The cleanser is similar in consistency to the Tammy Fender Cleansing Milk, albeit without the high price tag or the lavender scent. But, the ingredients are just shy of being all natural (99%), and some of the “natural ingredients” are highly processed and nowhere near the food grade, organic quality of Tammy Fender’s line. Having said that, $10 is a much more accessible price point and it works great. Available at Burt’s Bees, $10 for 6 oz.

The Burt’s Bees Sensitive Daily Moisturizing Cream does a nice job of moisturizing given its lightweight formula. Like the Cleansing Cream, it’s 99% natural- not at the Tammy Fender level of natural- but for $15, you get a lovely cream that wears well under powder or liquid foundation, and has been keeping my skin soft even in this winter weather. Soothing aloe, shea butter and moisturizing rice extract provide efficacious hydration, and is fragrance free. It’s available at Burt’s Bees, $15 for a 1.8 oz pump.

Best Body Moisturizer:
Pear, Fir and Coffee Body Oil and Hair Elixir by Aftelier Perfumes. Scent Hive readers might remember that I included this gem in my Holiday Gift Guide. Now it’s making an appearance on this list because not only does it make a great gift, it also happens to be my favorite body oil of the year. (Body oils are my preferred mode of skin hydration, BTW). So why do I love this one so much? It’s that quirky mix of notes, pear, fir and coffee, that excites my senses as this trio of fruity, balsamic, and earthy essences play against each other in a truly unique way. The luscious blend of fractionated coconut and jojoba oils provide superb hydration and act as excellent carriers for the botanical essences. I wish my sample wasn’t tapped out as I am dying to use it in my hair since it’s also billed as a hair elixir. I guess that means my shopping cart over at Aftelier.com might be getting some action real soon. Aftelier’s Pear, Fir and Coffee Body Oil and Hair Elixir is available at Aftelier.com, $40 for a 3.5 oz glass pump bottle.

Please visit the blogs listed below as they are also sharing their “Best of 2011″ picks. I can’t wait to see what they favored this year!

Another Perfume Blog
DSH Notebook
EauMG
Perfume Shrine
Smelly Blog
The Non Blonde

Best of 2011 image by Roxana of Illuminated Perfume

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Virgo by Strange Invisible Perfumes

Full disclosure here. My younger son is a Virgo, so I approached Strange Invisible Perfume’s latest fragrance which was inspired by said astrological sign, with a bias for wanting to love it. Knowing that neroli, sandalwood, and mandarin are in the Virgo blend also tipped my inclination I’ll admit, but bias or no bias, this is a gorgeous perfume.

I find neroli to be an utterly enchanting essence that moves beautifully through the seasons. It’s floral, kind of spicy and woody, and in the colder months it takes on a cozy aspect. In Virgo, neroli is all of the above and then some. Its woodsiness is enhanced by the well known sandalwood, and at least to me, the lesser known Palo Santo. Although now, I am this close to ordering  Palo Santo essential oil after learning more about it.

Palo Santo, or sacred wood, is native to South America and is protected by strict government protection. The oil can only be harvested from fallen twigs and branches that have matured on the jungle floor for two years, allowing enough time for the resin to move into the hardwood. The Incas used this precious wood for purification and cleansing and since it is closely related to frankincense, I can imagine it has a similarly intoxicating incense aroma when burned.

Virgo, the sign and the fragrance, are about introspection, precision and comfort. Sandalwood and Palo Santo usher forth the introspection and comfort, while the neroli and mandarin embody those qualities as well but with a crisp and radiant expressiveness.

Neroli infuses this fragrance with a floral gesture and a hint of sparkle- aided by a gentle dose of jasmine sambac- throughout Virgo’s duration. But it’s in the drydown that Virgo’s soothing quality becomes increasingly apparent. Ultimately, it evolves into a cushion of benzoin and vanilla balsams that are as warm as an embrace from my Virgo son.

Virgo is available as eaux de parfum in 1.7 fl. oz. custom engraved bottles hand-painted with sterling silver for $275. It is exclusively sold at the SIP Boutique, but mail orders are welcome. Please call 310.314.1505 for inquiries.

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

Image: A Virgin by Abbott Thayer at Hektoen International

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Amberene by Liz Zorn

My newest perfume love is a little unexpected as a fragrance centered around an amber accord is not what I usually gravitate towards on a warm summer day. But I’ve been digging through my sample stash lately, and when the name “Amberene” piqued my interest, I threw caution to the wind and gave it a try.

Amberene is part of Liz Zorn’s Demi-absolute collection which are high concentration eau de parfums (18-22%) and include all natural fragrances as well as “Mixed Media” which are mostly natural, but do utilize synthetics. Amberene is one of her all natural offerings, of which there are many on her site.

If you’ve never worn a Liz Zorn creation, you really should. Her perfumes are almost always complex and intriguing so even if you don’t fall head over heels in love with something, you will most certainly appreciate the experience. Amberene is one of her creations in which, for me, love and intrigue come together.

I know there’s nothing particularly newsworthy about a spicy amber, or one touched by pathchouli and floral notes, but it’s the chosen essences that feel inventive. To start, Amberene is given a refreshing sparkle from grapefruit and clove which is the perfect entrée to this lighthearted amber. The hit of piquant citrus speaks to the warmth of summer while the clove keeps it spicy and appropriate for cooler temperatures.

The heart of Amberene is exceptionally beautiful as the classic pairing of heliotrope and violet surfaces and quietly engulfs the citrus topnote leaving only a whisper of clove. Tonka is also present and mingles joyfully with violet and heliotrope, like a modern Guerlinade confection. The powdery violet, almondy heliotrope and vanillic tonka are inherently soft and sweet, which provides the ideal setting for cardamom and cinnamon to lend a spicy-earthy quality while maintaining a feeling of comfort and familiarity.

The drydown is where you’ll find the true ambery essence of Amberene. Benzoin steps up in this late stage bringing the culinary spices along but leaving the florals behind. I sense a touch of labdanum and maybe a hint of woods, but really, this amber base is all about the benzoin. And this is a very good thing. Benzoin alone encompasses what I love in a perfume. It’s sweet, earthy, a little musty, and wafts a most intoxicating vanilla aroma.

Liz Zorn states that Amberene can “easily be worn for daytime and as a year round soft amber.” I am in full agreement. For these late summer days, the bright opening combined with its soft ambery-violet glow melds right into the skin along with the warmth of the sun. And I anticipate that Amberene’s sweet florals and cozy spices will be the perfect antidote to the winter blues.

Amberene is available at LizZornPerfumes.com 11 ml for $35 and 35 ml for $95.

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

Image: Fire Fanices by Arthur Hacker at artmagick.com 

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Garden Walk by Herbal Alchemy Apothecary

 

First things first! The winner of Roxana Illuminated Perfume’s GreenWitch solid is Joy. Thanks to all who entered, I loved reading your comments and I know Roxana did too.

The soil here in the Northwest is saturated from months of rain and I am seriously hankering for scads of sundrenched flowers blooming in my garden. The mix of rich soil and petals basking in the sunshine will permeate the air here in Portland, but not until July rolls around. Today the sun was shining beautifully and has me anticipating the warmth of summer. And you know what that means, it’s time to bring out a sunny, feel-good perfume for the interim.

I have been wearing Garden Walk a lot these past few weeks, yet it’s more than a feel-good floral. It certainly has its fair share of flowers as osmanthus and neroli fill its heart, but it also has a woody depth that simultaneously plays with a flirtatious effervescence. Garden Walk begins with petitgrain’s citrusy topnotes and some earthiness from orris root, then shifts into the aforementioned floral heart. The grounded earth tones recede briefly in the middle, only to present themselves again in the form of hay, ambrette and a hint of honey absolute. This triad forms the foundation of Garden Walk which gives it that sunbaked sweetness of dried grass in a meadow full of wildflowers.

Julianne Zaleta, the creator of Herbal Alchemy, credits the Brownstone Brooklyn Garden District’s Annual Garden Walk as her inspiration for this lovely perfume. I imagine friends strolling through vibrant gardens on a warm summer day, taking in the gorgeous blossoms as wooden fences teeming with the sun’s heat emit their balsamic scent. Ideally, the Garden Walk ends with lunch at an outdoor cafe over tall glasses of iced tea and conversation dominated by what flowers they most admired.

Those leisurely days of summer will get here at some point, but until then, this all natural perfume made in Brooklyn will provide me with a lingering honeyed warmth.

Garden Walk is available at Herbal Alchemy’s etsy shop. $45 for a 20ml bottle. A sample trio set which includes Garden Walk and Tourmaline (see link for Scent Hive review) is also available. $9 for three samples.

Posted by ~Trish

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

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Roxana Villa's GreenWitch, the solid presentation

When Roxana Villa, creator of Roxana Illuminated Perfume, launched GreenWitch last spring I sang its praises among a choir of rejoicing bloggers. We were thrilled for this green chypre filled with the stuff of vintage perfume like oakmoss, patchouli, galbanum, and vetiver. I appreciated it so much that I put it in my Best Perfumes of 2010 post. This spring, Roxana has given us another presentation of GreenWitch which is slightly different from the liquid, but just as compelling.

Galbanum and oakmoss form the foundations of both GreenWitch formulations, but in the solid perfume, galbanum steps up as the dominant of the two. Galbanum is an aromatic resin of the Ferula galbaniflua found abundantly in Iran and gives perfumes a very classic, green scent. When I had the opportunity to smell galbanum resin on its own, I found it grassy and bitter, but with an herbal woodiness that I was drawn to and didn’t want to stop sniffing. Such is the case with the GreenWitch solid, it expresses this green resin crisply and authentically.

Apparently, galbanum can be challenging to work with as articulated by Mandy Aftel and Liz Zorn in their exchanges on Nathan Branch’s blog, Letters to a Fellow Perfumer: ep. 1 and ep. 2. Their conversation is very interesting but the part that really grabbed me was Mandy’s description of galbanum as a “green razor.” After spending a good amount of time with GreenWitch, it seems that Roxana chose not to dull the green razor, but rather exploit its verdant quality by blending it with other strong notes and complex accords.

In its solid form, GreenWitch plays more with the citrusy notes than its liquid counterpart. Petitgrain and bergamot share their sparkle and radiance amongst the fern and faux musk accords. It would have been hard for me to believe that something could actually be greener than the original GrrenWitch, but I think the solid actually is. I don’t know if it’s something in the beeswax base, but the galbanum is amplified in all its green glory! The liquid by contrast, and this is only in comparison to the solid, is more subdued and smooth. But there’s no denying that it too is intensely green.

I know chypres are not for everyone, but if you are a card carrying member of the chypre fan club, GreenWitch in either form is something you must experience. Also, if you would like to be entered in a drawing for a sample of the new GreenWitch solid, leave a comment! (Drawing is now closed). Please read more about Roxana’s vision and creation of GreenWitch at the following links: The Making of GreenWitch, and A Song for Spring.

Also, please visit the following blogs for more impressions on the solid version of GreenWitch.

Perfume Smellin Things

Windesphere Witch

Illuminated Perfume Journal

GreenWitch is available at Roxana’s etsy store. $28 for 5gm.

Posted by ~Trish

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Strange Invisible Perfumes: Dimanche EDP

About a year ago I did something I rarely do, I bought a bottle of perfume unsniffed. It was an impulse purchase after reading an enticing review and because I was in need of some extra comfort (I was recovering from surgery) I was particularly vulnerable. I most certainly am not advocating buying bottles of perfume before you try them, but in this case, it worked out very well.


At the time, Dimanche by Strange Invisible Perfumes was limited edition and only available as a pure perfume. Happily, I am able to report that Dimanche is available once again, albeit for a limited time, in both perfume and EDP concentrations. Because I fell so hard for Dimanche in its parfum form, I was quite eager to test it as an EDP. Side by side, the two are nearly indistinguishable and have the same moderate sillage and last upwards of six hours.


Dimanche is as equally intriguing as it is gorgeous and each time I wear it, the sumptuousness and elegance of its unabashedly iris opening validate my retail therapy. When I was first getting to know Dimanche, I found its iris beginning a bit bracing whereas now it feels familiar and its powdery nature becomes apparent more quickly.  Once the iris settles into Dimanche’s heart of rose and honey, the floral powderiness emerges completely and beautifully.


Within that floral heart, there’s room for a fistful of honeyed hay, some cocoa and a hint of amber that foreshadows the drydown. If you’re a fan of hay, I can’t recommend Dimanche enough. Its sundried grassiness is the perfect counterpoint to the loftiness of iris. It grounds it, and also makes it wearable throughout the seasons. As you can tell, I am still in love with Dimanche and I’m glad the rest of you have a chance to give it a whirl.


Dimanche is available only at the Strange Invisible Boutique in Venice, Ca. They are happy to send samples $8 for the EDP, $10 for the pure perfume. A 50ml bottle of Dimanche EDP is $270. SIP perfumes are 100% natural (meaning all ingredients are found in nature) and I encourage you to read more about the company’s sustainability practices here. The boutique’s phone number is: 310.314.1505


Posted by ~Trish

Image: Le Moulin Rouge by Toulouse Lautrec

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Winner of Bed of Roses

 

Huge congrats to Lisa for winning the Velvet & Sweet Pea giveaway! I want to thank Laurie Stern for her generosity and to everyone who left a comment, I enjoyed reading every one of them.


Be on the look-out for another wonderful all natural rose perfume giveaway in about a week.


Posted by ~Trish

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Velvet & Sweet Pea's Bed of Roses Giveaway

When Laurie Stern, creator of Velvet & Sweet Pea’s gorgeous perfumes, offered to do a giveaway of her newest release Bed of Roses, I accepted emphatically. To have the opportunity to give one of my readers this luxurious rose fragrance makes me really happy, and it will make one of you very happy too!


The following is my review from December’s Best of 2010 post of which Bed of Roses was at the top.

I don’t want to over-analyze this gorgeous fragrance too much, but Bed of Roses is like a study of contrasts. It’s vintage-esque but also modern. It’s powdery, but at the same time fresh and vivid. I give huge kudos to Laurie Stern for her expert hand and for creating such a dynamic and interesting rose perfume. Her skillful blending of aged sandalwood and cognac (vintage) with green mandarin and rose leaf absolute (fresh) allow different facets of rose to be present at the same moment. At its heart, Bed of Roses is a perfume that contains nine different rose distillations, so it’s richer and lusher than any other rose perfume I have experienced. Rose lovers, you will not be disappointed.


If you would like to experience Bed of Roses, please leave a comment to be entered for a 5 ml bottle in a decorative silk and velvet pouch special for Valentine’s Day! Extra entries if you follow Scent Hive on Bloglovin, Twitter, or subscribe to Scent Hive. Please let me know in your comment what you did so you get the entries you deserve! Drawing is now closed.

Posted by ~Trish

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Aftelier’s Memento

What a gorgeous tobacco scent this is! That was my first thought when I applied Memento to my skin as its sweet smokiness curled toward my nose. I quickly emailed Mandy Aftel, creator of Memento, and shared my quick affection for her luscious tobacco perfume. The response I got was quite unexpected. There’s no tobacco in Memento.

Mandy did however, feature an enticingly rich antique clove on a base of sweet and sultry tonka beans that creates the impression of a pipe freshly packed with aged tobacco. Along with the richly redolent clove essence, nutmeg and cinnamon enhance Memento’s spicy character, but not in a culinary sense. These spices take on a very sensual, smoldering temperament that leads you away from the kitchen and to a comfy couch for some nuzzling.

 

Rose and jasmine sambac are listed in the heartnotes, and their presence provides a full, round quality to the clove/tonka duo. Specifically, rose lends its powdery softness and jasmine sambac bestows its piquant petals upon the inherently aromatic aforementioned spices. But rather than shift Memento into the floral perfume category, rose and jasmine augment the sweet “tobacco”, making it even more sumptuous and distinct.

Memento was originally created for “The Alchemy of Taste and Smell” event in NYC this past November. Mandy’s culinary aromatics and perfumes were used in the evening’s dishes, but the focus was the intentional pairing of select Aftelier perfumes with specific dishes. Memento was experienced with dessert, a cinnamon smoked apple with buttermilk and hazelnut. In this moment as the drydown becomes a touch sweeter, and even more alluring, all I can think about is getting my hands on that dessert while wearing this alluring tobacco perfume.


Memento is available at Aftelier.com, $45 for a 2ml mini flask.

Image: “Ceci n’est pas une pipe” by René Magritte

Posted by ~Trish

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Mejica by A Perfume Organic

It’s dark and cold outside, but in our homes we do what we can to cultivate light and warmth. Tonight is the 7th night of Hanukkah, so our menorah will emit an enchanting glow while holiday aromas of mulled tea, cookies and melting wax suffuse the air. Perfumes are a wonderful way to enhance this olfactory experience, but I prefer when a fragrance flows smoothly with the occasion rather than competing with the festive smells.


Mejica, created by A Perfume Organic’s founder Amanda Walker, is a fragrance that blends harmoniously with surrounding holiday scents. It has a base of apricot kernel oil, and like most fragranced oils, it wears close to the skin with little sillage. It’s also 100% natural and organic (unlike most fragranced oils), so if you like your perfume to enter a room before you do, Mejica is not for you. However, if a smooth and spicy vanilla fragrance sounds appealing, then Mejica is calling your name.


When first applied to the skin, Mejica makes you feel like you’ve stepped out of the cold and into your best friend’s cozy home where a warm drink steeped in cloves and orange rind awaits you. The vigor of this spicy-citrus opening quickly diffuses into a subtle merging of even more culinary spices like allspice, nutmeg and cinnamon; a blend that feels comforting and familiar.


Vanilla lingers in the topnotes as well, but doesn’t fully declare itself until the heart unfolds and develops. Vanilla then fluidly intertwines with the aforementioned spices along with benzoin’s sweet resinous warmth. As if vanilla and spice weren’t enough to warm your spirit, Mejica’s musky side comes to coax you by the fire, beckoning with a gentle floral earthiness I associate with the vegetal musk of ambrette seeds. I become overwhelmed by musk quite easily, but Mejica’s muskiness is not that of  a “clean musk” or “white musk” so ubiquitous in perfumery today, it’s more akin to a well-worn sweater with threads of vanilla in its fibers.


I find Mejica to be a fairly complex perfume, as it moved from its enlivening and festive opening, to a vanilla gourmand, and then into a cozy vanilla-musk. After several hours, Mejica’s final progression is a pillowy-soft vanillic drydown that all vanilla lovers will want to experience.


Mejica comes in 12 ml Perfume Oil roll-on, packaged in a plantable flower seed-embedded box. It is available for $65 at SpiritBeautyLounge and A Perfume Organic.com

Posted by ~Trish

Hanukkah Lights image by ~Trish

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

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