DSH Three Kings

 

Because of its name, and the fact that this perfume was created for the holidays, I expected something familiar, like a yuletide blend of incense, spruce, and spice. Three Kings is definitely no such thing, but so much more. And what a pleasure it is when preconceived notions are dispelled, especially when something more interesting awaits.

Three Kings, the third from Dawn Spencer Hurwitz’s all natural Gaia Collection, is certainly interesting and took me by surprise upon first sniff. Its opening is rather bitter, like the sharp smelling sap of a young pine tree bereft of any aged softness. A bitterness from citrus is present as well, as if an orange or bergamot were picked too soon before its sugars had time to fully develop. The first time I wore Three Kings, the opening felt strange and a slightly disorienting. But now that I know what lies beyond its first few minutes, the edgy topnotes feel like a rite of passage into what becomes a gorgeous vetiver perfume.

Vetiver might not have been one of the original offerings of the three kings, but it should have been given the magic Dawn has created with this humble root. The vetiver progression begins just shortly after the bitterness fades, when resinous balsams of cedarwood, sandalwood, frankincense and myrrh reveal themselves, subtly for now and more substantially in the drydown.

The heart continues to develop as vetiver asserts itself with a piquant greenness that is a little nutty and a whole lot earthy. This is my favorite aspect of vetiver, its rich and fecund essence which calls to mind damp forests and dry leaves clinging to their branches. Vetiver also has hints of powderiness which Three Kings explores as it moves further into its heart. The powdery, leathery richness of labdanum converges seamlessly with the vegetal soil of vetiver, making the 180 degree turn away from sharpness complete.

In the drydown, vetiver rests in the unfolding expanse of woods and resins, fully softening any remaining edges. In the end, what began as a startling perfume, has now become one of the most gentle and lovely vetiver perfumes I have ever experienced. I was not expecting vetiver to be the central offering of Three Kings, but it is, and I am grateful.


Three Kings is available at DSH Perfumes. $55 for 0.25 oz EDP spray or $140 for 1 oz.

Posted by ~Trish

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


Image: Three Kings by Joseph Christian Leyendecker (1874-1951) at CGFA

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Artemisia Natural Perfume’s Rayon Vert

I spritzed Artemisia Natural Perfume’s Rayon Vert, having no idea what to expect. I figured it’d be green of course, maybe a radiant crisp green, but other than that, I had no idea what I was in for. The sun is shining brightly as I write (that’s a rarity in the Pacific Northwest this time of year) which always aids in seizing the day, but Rayon Vert made me straighten my posture a little more when I drew in its fragrance this morning.


Rayon Vert’s openingis peppery, herbal, and leathery. So much for my preconceived notion of green crispness! Vetiver seemed to lend its complexity as I smelled smoky-rootiness throughout the Rayon Vert experience. Vetiver, pink pepper (guessing here), and a full-bodied anise rounded out its opening. An indolic impression was cast in its topnotes, so a tropical floral component, namely tuberose, was sketched in my mind. But just a light, pencil sketch of tuberose as Rayon Vert is not a floral perfume, it’s an earthy and vegetal scent with a moody aura.


After the indolic intensity dissipated, a powderiness surfaced. I have experienced a powdery quality in many perfumes that include vetiver, and I wonder if it’s the vetiver itself that lends this sweet gauzy redolence or possibly a combination of notes, or an accord. Ayala Sender has a very thorough discussion of vetiver on SmellyBlog and it is well worth reading if you have an interest in this versatile and fascinating root.


On the newly revamped Artemisia website, you won’t find a list of Rayon Vert’s notes, but you will discover this description of Rayon Vert: “Intricate mosaic of scents, evoking dark licorice and roots, moss and herbs, wet forest and rain-soaked meadows. Lush pink frangipani (not the tuberose I had imagined) and a special blend of anise-hyssop, all in a swirl of emerald green”.


I love that description as it stands on its own, and agree with most of it. Rayon Vert is most certainly a “mosaic of scents.” It is complex and slightly enigmatic, as the varying components integrate to form one cohesive scent, but also manage to stand alone at times, like a piece of glass in a mosaic that catches the light for just a moment. Anise and roots (am I right on the vetiver?) definitely captivated me, but as I mentioned, Rayon Vert evoked a powdered dryness, and less so a “wet forest and rain-soaked meadows.”


As I complete this review, and enjoy the Rayon Vert lingering on my skin, I ponder the possibility of benzoin in the mix. Might it be benzoin’s warm vanillic aspect that allows vetiver to become soft and gauze-like? I don’t know, but I appreciate that Rayon Vert has kept me guessing. It’s compelling and interesting and well worth experiencing.


Artemisia Natural Perfumes are 100% natural, true to its name. Rayon Vert is available in a 7mg solid which is on sale for $20, 17ml EdP for $64, and 35 ml which is on sale for $96. Sale prices are good until 2/28/2010

Posted by ~Trish

Juliette by John White Alexander (1856-1915) at museumsyndicate.com
Disclosure: A sample of Rayon Vert was provided for this review by Artemisia Natural Perfume. The opinons in this review are my own. I was not financially compensated for this review or any other.

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Gabriel's Aunt Venasque and Bohem

This review continues my exploration of natural perfumes from Gabriel’s Aunt. Last week I wrote about Royal Couple, a radiant and sultry rose/jasmine duo that comes in both a cream perfume solid and a candle. Today, I will focus on two of her roll-on perfumes, one that also features jasmine, but from a different perspective.


Venasque is an homage to the lavender and chocolate loving Southern French town by the same name, and uses jasmine in the top notes to enhance the experience. One would not smell Venasque and think, “my what a fabulous jasmine scent”, as it’s decidedly a lavender based perfume. But this lavender is fuller than usual as jasmine melds into the purple buds, enhancing its herbaceous essence with a juicy floral lift. Lovers of lavender will appreciate the lushness that Venasque brings to the plant which can oftentimes be dry and crisp.


A dusting of cocoa powder lands gently on Venasque after an hour, meeting the expectations set by the perfume’s back-story. Lavender continues to be the star of this fragrant experience, therefore it doesn’t become a lavender infused chocolate truffle (which sounds really tasty come to think of it!). Venasque is more like a lavender field that has been nourished by dark chocolate in its soil. The rich, bittersweetness effortlessly evolves as jasmine receeds. A judicious use of patchouli adds to this earthy imagery. As with Venasque’s jasmine, it’s the suggestion of patchouli that enhances the richness of the chocolate and the herbal aroma of the lavender.


Even though the drydown is similar to the delightful vanillic ending of Royal Couple, I wholeheartedly recommend men try Venasque as well as women. I happen to be a lover of lavender, so Venasque is a perfume I would reach for again and again. I already have two lavender favorites, Roxana Illuminated Perfumes’ Vera and Ajne’s deLavande, but Venasque rounds out the collection beautifully. Both of those fragrances lean more powdery and cozy, while Venasque is an amplified, aromatic lavender with a gourmand flavor.


Bohem, GA’s best selling fragrance of 2009, resides in the spicy-incense realm with its allspice and cedarwood blend. In addition, vetiver, patchouli and tobacco give a good deal of body to Bohem, most notably being vetiver. I thoroughly appreciate vetiver’s ability to provide a smoked earth quality while simultaneously allowing the surrounding essences their full glory.


The heart of Bohem becomes a little sweeter as cassie and davana lend a honeyed, fruity glow to the incense swirling on your skin. Tobacco and the allspice aroma of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves infuse the smoke from beginning to end which like Venasque, would smell wonderful on either a woman or a man.


Nikki Sherritt, the woman behind Gabriel’s Aunt, is a bit of a dark horse in the world of natural perfumery. She flies under the radar, probably because she is more well-known for her candles, but should receive due recognition for her artistic hand in blending natural perfumes. Nikki has samples for sale on her site, and I encourage you to experience them for yourselves.


Venasque and Bohem are available on the Gabriel’s Aunt website. $38 for a 1/4 oz roll-on.

You can read Ayala Sender’s review of both Bohem the fragrance and the candle on SmellyBlog.


Posted by ~Trish

Disclosure: Samples from Gabriel’s Aunt were provided for this review. The opinons in this review are my own. I was not financially compensated for this review or any other.
Image of Venasque, France from TravelWebshots

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Fragrance for Yoga

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When exactly Patañjali wrote the Yoga Sutras is debated among scholars, but for our purposes, we’ll go with the broad range that Ravi Ravindra provides in his book, The Wisdom of Patañjali’s Yoga Sutras: A New Translation and Guide, and call it anywhere between the 3rd century BCE and the 3rd century CE. In this ancient text, which many a yogi considers the foundation of yoga, Patañjali states per Ravindra’s translation:

 

A clear and tranquil mind results from cultivating friendliness towards those who are happy, compassion towards those who suffer, joy towards the virtuous, and impartiality towards wrong-doers.

Or from attention to the outward and inward flow of breath (prana). (1.33, 1.34)

 

For real? Is it possible that attention to the breath is as powerful as being impartial towards “wrong-doers”? Why not I suppose. Ultimately being mindful of the breath throughout our hectic days might be as difficult as impartiality, and therefore as potent. Attention to the breath can be quite astonishing in its simplicity, but it requires dedication. Actually observing the process of inhaling and exhaling brings you to the present moment, and allows you to let go of the trappings of the past and anxiety about the future. But it’s challenging to remind yourself to take a “breather” isn’t it? I’m still trying to achieve this at least once a day, even just for few minutes, and yoga helps keeps me on that path. 

 

il_430xN.49804887We fragrance hounds do a lot of intentional inhaling. And whether or not we do yoga, there are some scents out there made specifically for grounding and getting mindful. I wore Rouge Aromatics Ground Me Aromatic Balm a few times over the past couple of weeks to yoga class. I had never worn fragrance to yoga previously, and the experience was definitely fulfilling. Ground Me was created specifically for use during mediation and yoga, so it wears close to the skin and won’t disrupt your neighbor. Its blend of organic balsam fir essential oil, organic vetiver essential oil, and sweet grass infused oil is just what you’d expect from the description. That’s if you have high expectations. Kari Morford, the creator of Rouge Aromatics, is a certified aromatherpist and she knows how to blend. The fir is very well balanced by the earthiness of the vetiver and therefore never strays into the dreaded “Christmas potpourri” territory, and the sweetgrass lends a (shocking!) grassy greenness that again balances the piney balsam of the fir. 

 

Applying Ground Me set an intention right before my yoga practice as I had the thought of grounding in my mind while dabbing the balm on my skin. Every time my wrists passed my face as we moved through the various poses I was reminded to breathe. I have also worn Ground Me a few times outside of class when I needed a little reminder to slow down, and because the tins are so portable, doing this is very convenient. Kari makes many balms, Pamper Me being my other favorite. This is a delightful vanillic jasmine that is slightly indolic, really addictive, and makes for a gorgeous organic perfume. It’s loaded with goodies for your skin like mango butter, rosehip oil and vitamin e. The balms are just $9 for a one ounce tin, so I encourage you to check out her etsy site and consider giving Ground Me and Pamper Me a try.

 

01Renew Elixir by Drops of Nature is another scent for grounding as well as stress relief. The Drops of Nature website suggests applying the elixir to your neck, earlobes and temple to help clear your mind before yoga or pilates class. As with the Ground Me balm, Renew Elixir helps you connect with your breath. You intentionally inhale the clarifying aroma of peppermint, lavender, bergamot, and clary sage; and then hopefully exhale feeling more connected with yourself and maybe a little more relaxed. Jessica over at Now Smell This has already written a fabulous review for Renew Elixir, and I agree with everything she has said, and am loathe to risk repeating it. I will say that I mostly sense peppermint and lavender in the elixir which is wonderful as they are both refreshing and renewing, so breathing in Renew does what it sets out to do. On the skin, Renew lasts about 10 minutes, and I’m not sure the purpose of this product is to last longer than that like a perfume would. As Jessica mentioned in her review, I too enjoy having Renew in my bag for chaotic moments, as it’s a suggestion to reconnect with my breath and clear my mind. 

 

Both Drops of Nature and Rouge Aromatics use 100% all natural ingredients and do not use phthalates, parabens, or petrochemicals and are available at the above linked websites.

 

Posted by ~Trish

 

Breathe image by KathyMortonStanion on etsy

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Scents & Serendipity; Ayala & Persephenie Part I

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 FLOWER PARTY

BlundaAromatics in Los Angeles is an exquisite olefactorium/ artisan enclave/ scent school/ alchemical collaboration run by Persephenie Schnyder. Blunda’s website describes its store hours as Saturday: 11-5, Monday – Friday: By Appointment or Chance. It truly was a magnificent accord of chance, serendipity, a dash of divine intervention, and a dear college friend that dispatched me to Blunda a couple of Saturdays ago to experience natural perfumery in the flesh and to hear Ayala Sender describe her Ezra Pound haiku-inspired scent Hanami.

As I slipped out of the blazing SoCal sun and into Blunda(a Swedish word meaning “to close one’s eyes”), I was greeted warmly by Persephenie herself and an ethereal enclave packed with natural perfume devotees.  The walls were replete with sculptures, art, and shelves — shelves teeming with delicate glass vials of essential oils and jars of all sizes containing exotic substances; Ayala refers to this as a perfume organ.

The desserts Ayala and Persephenie prepared for our motley crew were other word-ly. Neatly stacked rows of sakura mochi (Japanese rice pastries filled with Azuki bean paste and wrapped in pickled cherry leaves) greeted us along withAyala’sperfumed teas, fresh and tiny tea sandwiches with cucumber, watercress, minted radishes, carrots, ginger and cream cheese, and wickedly delicious marble-sized handmade perfumed White Potion and Guilt chocolate truffles. As I tried to control my primal instinct to hoard and/or devour, I wondered how have I missed this genius; this cool lounge-like sliver of smell-hounds in LA? This brilliant speak-easy of taste, intelligentsia, and performance scent-art?  Thank chance and the prodding of Trish for this revelation!

GENUFLECTIONS BY A NEW NOSE

Ayala’s presentation was a wonderful introduction to natural and organic fragrance for the botanically naïve. After describing her personal inspiration for Hanami and reciting the rich Ezra Pound lyrics that inspired the perfume and Heather Ettlinger’s  poetic perfume project:

In a Station of the Metro

The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet, black bough.

Ayala began by passing around scent strips dipped in her base notes of Vetiver, Tonka Bean, Cassie, Siamwood, Vanilla CO2, Copaiba Balsam and Bakul Attar. (For photos, check out her own SmellyBlog post here). As we passed and considered each note through the group, it felt surprisingly beautiful, holy and communal. There with Persephenie’s perfume organ as a back drop, we exchanged musical nose notes in quiet revelry.

Breaking Hanami down note by note seemed especially appropriate given the deconstructive nature of the tradition up-ending haiku written by Pound. With its unpredictable metrics (the musical notes/cadence of a poem), the poem shifts between hard clip urban consonants and noun images, and the gorgeous seductive nature of soft dark s’es and sh’s, p‘s and b‘s. Ayala’s base ensemble captures this brilliantly.

Cassie, as she explained, is a type of mimosa used in tanning leather and appropriately, it speaks with a musty earthen, even industrial and honeyed depth. Vetiver, a simple grass root with an incredibly rich and complicated wet woods and marshland scent, bowled me over. Vanilla CO2, she used because it is shearer than Vanilla and has a half milky half watery sense. Ayala identified these choices as a desire to pull a deep metallic, dark and dusty –even gloomy — smell.  The final woodsy, metallurgical accord is spectacular.

Then Ayala moved to the heart notes allowing us to appreciate the individual notes of Pink Lotus, Magnolia, Tuberose, Violet Leaf, and Oleander, before providing the scent strip fan of the Sakura Accord in its entirety. Again this process, especially for a novice like me, was extraordinary. There is something truly mystical and transformative to sit (or stand) in a jam-packed room and reverently pass these deep, dark woodsy and floral scents among one another. And finally, for Hanami’s top notes, she purposefully steered away from citrus and turned instead towards earthy-wooden florals — Cabreuva, Frangipani, Mimosa and Rosewood.

There is a hard softness in the core underpinnings of this perfume that beautifully echoes the elegiac quality of the poem itself.  This heavy metal base creates the perfect enduring and quixotic caesura (pause) in one’s mind, a kind of olfactoric undertow. The floral tip opens up a deep and resonant space for that urban anonymity, the alienation and intimacy of modern living, to transpire in all its crushed complexity.  It is a lot like that final image Ezra Pound leaves us with – Ayala’s final fragrance looms like the enduring apparition of our lives, of our faces, anonymous, mysterious, individual, as petals on that wet, black bough. Ayala’s composition is not just a perfume, Hanami (and Ettlinger’s entire poetry project) should be installed in MOCA or MOMA, as an art experience. It is a stunning and sublime fragrance.

Much to our collective joy, Ayala brought several of her other signature perfumes with her as well as small samples of her entire collection.  I was immediately taken with Bon Zai, another Japanese-derived scent. It is minimalist, woodsy, and the Juniper is fabulous. Juniper! Juniper! Fete D’Hiver I found bewitching as well, although totally different from Bon Zai. It is described as “Spicy roses with incense and amber dries down to a powdery snow on fluffy fur” on the website, and this really says it all.  Now to start saving up so that I may purchase all THREE.


Please come back to Scent Hive on Tuesday for Part II of Scents & Serendipity, Ayala & Persephenie

Hanami is available at Blunda Aromatics.

Written by guest contributer ~duVergne Robert Gaines: a neophyte to the odor order, is a professional feminist and occasional poet.  She lives in Los Angeles near the La Brea tar pits with her partner David Riley Shackelford and their two cat children, Trotsky and MadX.

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Vetiver Variations: Honoré des Prés and In Fiore

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Vetiver can be somewhat of a chameleon in fragrances. The essential oil from the roots of this grass unfurls as soft and powdery or deep and earthy, sometimes even nutty or bitter. Because it is one of my favorite fragrance notes, I love to seek it out in all of its permutations, and Chaman’s Party and Vetiver Sambac allow vetiver to shine in two very different ways.

 

mail-2Chaman’s Party, created by Olivia Giacobetti, is one of the offerings from Honoré des PrésHonoré des Prés is a new French line of 100% all-natural and organic perfumes that debuted in Europe last year, but is now available in the States. Chaman’s Party is for the gal or guy who wants their vetiver a little disheveled. It’s full of rich dark soil with some bitterness thrown in with its grassy roots. Burnt woods emerge beautifully in the drydown as well as Chaman’s Party’s spices. Cloves and basil are listed in the fragrance notes, and I admit that I would never have pinpointed them without that prompt. But regardless of what they are, the woody spicy drydown, blended with the earthy vetiver is gorgeous.  

 

infioreparfumsolidecompact2In Fiore’s Vetiver Sambac lies on the opposite spectrum of vetiver’s charms. Vetiver Sambac is one of Julie Elliott’s parfum solides, and is encased in a beautiful bronze compact that feels heavy and secure in your hand. As I’ve mentioned in previous In Fiore reviews, all of Ms. Elliott’s products are 100% natural and never contain petrochemicals, parabens or phthalates. Vetiver Sambac begins with a lovely jasmine opening that is full of warm, toasted tobacco leaves alongside dewy floral petals. I don’t think tobacco is actually in Vetiver Sambac, but this attests to vetiver’s superb ability to bear versatile qualities, sweet smokiness being one of them. Vetiver’s balsamy earthy presence begins somewhat like Chaman’s Party, but rather than becoming dark and earthy, Vetiver Sambac emerges as floral and earthy. And it possesses an unmistakably powdery vetiver foundation that is comparable to Guerlain’s Vetiver Pour Elle. A wonderful compliment in my opinion! And how terrific to have a 100% natural option that is readily available in the US.  

 
Vetiver Sambac is available at InFiore and Beautyhabit.

Chaman’s Party is available at Luckyscent, Beautyhabit and Spirit Beauty Lounge.

posted by ~Trish

 

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