The Beauty of Scent, Scrutinized for Pleasure

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Current Obsessions: end of February

Once in awhile, I like to dish on what I'm currently obsessing over, and many of my fellow bloggers mercifully do the same thing. I love to know what everyone can't possibly live without. This is often how I find out about small brands and obscure products or fragrances. I am a cheerful voyeur, but instead of peeping you getting out of the shower, I'm looking to see what products you've got in there. I also want to ogle your cats.

H.P. Lovecraft with his kitty

Zoe Organics Love My Body Oil 2.5 oz, $20
This small but mighty outfit focuses on pregnancy and baby natural and organic skin care products, but don't let that fact lead you astray. This body oil can and should be used by everyone. It contains many good-for-skin ingredients and goes on satiny smooth. The recipe has very recently been tweaked for the better to include such things as vanilla plantifolia, pumpkin seed oil and tamanu oil. The fragrance is soft and lingering, enticingly natural, relaxing and puts me in a great mood every time I use it. It makes quick work of little dry patches on my arms, softens the dense scar tissue from my tattoos and soothes my post-shave legs. I've nudged Zoe Organics' owner Heather Hamilton to see if there's a larger size of this gorgeous oil on the horizon, and she's assured me there is.  Heather, if you're reading this, I'll take a 64 oz Big Gulp size, please.



Red Flower NYC Ocean Cleansing Hair Wash & Softening Conditioner 8 oz, $28/$32
I did not realize how dull and flat my hair has been acting until I used this amazing clarifying duo. The scent is refreshing, and the products are loaded with natural ingredients to soothe the scalp and perfectly cleanse and condition hair. A dash of vinegar in the Hair Wash delivers incredible shine, and the Softening Conditioner is aptly named, perhaps even modestly so. This duo puts my hair and scalp in such a state of perfect balance that I don't need to wash my hair as often as I used to. I've got my eye on French Lavender or Italian Blood Orange for next time. I'm smitten with everything Red Flower right now-- there are so many happiness-generating products, and so little time.


Zoya Feel Collection- Winter 2011 Six bottles in the set, $48
Oh, lord. I couldn't even begin to choose one or two shades from this collection, I had to have them all. Each pastel creme color can work as a neutral and are all terribly chic and eye-catching.  This is a sophisticated option for gals with cool or neutral skin tones who look at a line-up of such nail polish bottles and think, "Ooh, candy!".



NEST Fragrances Sir Elton John's Woodside Garden 8.1 oz (60 hrs burn time) $38
Ah, Spring. This has been an incredibly mild Winter, and today it's in the 50s and it almost feels like Winter never happened. Woodside Garden is the perfect Spring floral scent to inspire such delusions. It has notes of hyacinth, freesia, rose and jasmine and is meant to mimic the flora that Elton loves best in his garden in Old Windsor. As per usual for NEST, the glass vessel is outrageously pleasing to the eye.


This beautifully lightweight and deliciously fragranced facial oil goes with me everywhere. Oils have all but replaced creams for face and body in my daily regimen, and this is a very special one. The scent is simple, yet bizarrely effective at calming me down (and I've had a lot of chances to put it to use lately). The wild orange and patchouli are dominant, with the cedarwood lending that little touch of sharpness the blend needs to attain balance. The fragrance lasts for a few hours on my skin, and nobody can smell it but me. It's my secret rescue remedy with lots of impressive skin care benefits. And look at that bottle for a moment. It's precious.


Okay, folks, so now that I've spilled my obsessions, how about sharing some of yours? Inquiring minds have no shame and yes, we want to know. 

[all products were purchased by me for my personal collection except for the NEST candle, which was sent to me by the company for my consideration]

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Animal Magic: By Kilian Amber Oud

Ah, Kilian Hennessy. His fragrances range from good to great, but in general, I consider them to be a bit too pricey for what they are (which is the only reason I haven't purchased a full bottle as of yet). The newest launch, Amber Oud, may be the one to inspire me to take the plunge.

Calice Becker created Amber Oud, and it's the second fragrance as of late to boast an overdose of benzoin and vanilla. Compared to last year's Prada Candy (created by Daniela Andrier), Amber Oud has a distinct heft and it smells very expensive. It's not nearly as sweet as Candy, yet still possesses the addictive warmth of it. Amber Oud is thoroughly genderless, and has a powerful but quiet animalic presence. It reminds me of a panther in relaxation mode.

I CAN HAZ A OUD??

Notes: amber, oud, bay leaf, cedarwood, vanilla. Sillage: average. Longevity: excellent


Amber Oud starts out with a sexy bang. Right away I am reminded of Mona di Orio Oud Intense, but the spiciness of Oud Intense is replaced by Amber Oud's impossibly rich, incense-laden woodiness. After a few minutes, the intensity of the benzoin and vanilla really grows roots in the composition. It's here that the fragrance's potential to broadcast a message from the skin is at its highest. In my case, that message is: "I eat your favorite bands for breakfast".




As it wears on, the benzoin and amber slow dance to The Sundays' version of "Wild Horses". The powdery nature of several of the notes and the delicate but multi-layered underpinnings of oud make this the perfect perfume to wear when smoking *whatever* out of a hookah in Morocco. Barring that, it's got to be one of the best statement fragrances for evening I've come across in eons. It would work with a black leather jacket and pastel cashmere sweater, or head-to-toe Haider Ackermann in shiny teals and greens, or a Ralph Lauren tuxedo suit with no camisole beneath the jacket. I can also imagine Amber Oud wafting towards me from a confident man with all his ducks in a row (actually, they'd be peacocks, not ducks). Amber Oud is personal, and it feels very new and very old all at once.

[photo: amberworkshop.com]

The oud component of the fragrance has that slight sourness that I really love in oud compositions. The drydown brings with it an enhanced dry, woody aspect with cedar staking its claim in a very late stage, and here it stays for hours. It's an extremely well-balanced composition and invokes that favorite query of mine; "How'd she do that?". Amber Oud is a  sophisticated and heartbreakingly beautiful incense perfume best worn by those with natural magnetism. As long as you don't mind the extra attention you'll garner, this is your fragrance. Trust me.

[Available at Luckyscent.com among others, 50ml for $395. Luckyscent is now taking preorders, and it's expected to ship on March 1st]

[sample sent to me by the company for signing up for it on By Kilian's Facebook page]

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Mystery of The Miniature Green Flask (or, how I got my groove back)


I recently made a nice little vintage haul from an Etsy seller (robinsvintage) thanks to a heads-up from my lovely friend Joanne of Redolent of Spices. Everything was between $3-$5, so I felt liberated to take a few risks. One of the things I took a chance on was this vintage green glass flask, pictured above. The listing said "manufacturer unknown", but that it was full of, well, something. Well, color me intrigued. Even if I hated what was inside, I love the little flask. Nothing, and I mean nothing could have prepared me for what I discovered when I unscrewed the cap:
(imagine the following being read by the one guy whose voice is always on movie preview commercials)

Sandalwood oil.

It's Mysore, the real stuff. It's at least 20 years old, probably closer to 30, maybe more. And if I use it judiciously, it's potentially enough to last me for the rest of my life (approx. 5-7.5 ml). It cost me $3. 

Yes, what the flask contains is the one thing that I dared not dream it could be, something that is exceedingly rare and very expensive these days due to over-harvesting, the very thing I pine for every day (no exaggeration). It's potent and the longevity is startlingly good. Smelling it on my skin brings back so many good feelings while bypassing specific memories-- it's just a big happy, creamy blur, nuanced with spices particular to certain woods and resins. Many moons ago, straight-up headshop, good quality sandalwood was my signature scent, until the quality started to wane as  substitutions were inevitably made. 

Yesterday I made it out of the hospital a few gall stones lighter; today I awoke to this little Valentine's Day miracle. I received one of the greatest gifts possible, born purely out of chance. I'm playing tin-can telephone with the divine here, people. I can spin tales of passion involving complex and masterful blending and my love of "more is more" perfumery, but what really caused a spontaneous fit of ecstasy was this mystery miniature green flask, filled with positive energy, comfort, encouragement and child-like wonder. My sandalwood. 

[I'm not surprised that this beautiful bounty landed in my waiting hands in large part because of Joanne, as the best things seem to happen when she's around]

Friday, February 10, 2012

A Perfect Day with Red Flower

Lately, my distinguished and well-loved fellow blogger Nav of Beauty Huile has stoked an intense and inextinguishable passion inside me for oils. I'm discovering how useful and pleasurable a wardrobe of oils for the face, body and hair can be, and how fragrance ties very neatly into it as well. I never thought I'd say this, but creams sort of bore me now.

One of my most recent discoveries via Nav is Red Flower Essential Omega Fresh Berry-Oil Serum. It contains oils of the seeds of lingonberry, cranberry, raspberry and strawberry, along with lots of other goodies that have anti-aging and hydrating properties. *For the absolute best in-depth and poetic review of this product's benefits, I highly suggest heading over to Beauty Huile.* Since I'm a relatively new huilophile, I am mostly interested in sharing my sensory perceptions of this product. Then, I will wax poetic (pun fully intended) about a new addition to my family of luxury candles. 

A few of the (very soft and light) scent elements of the Essential Omega Fresh Berry-Oil Serum are: copaiba balsam, fir, juniper berry, garden mint, guaiac wood, lavender and rosemary. Add to this the faint tartness of berry seed extracts, a fleeting sense of the ocean's mutable presence along with the rich ripeness of the forest floor, and you are well on your way to forming the olfactory picture I have in my mind. The fragrance gives me the same strange but thrilling feeling I get when I sniff Aftelier Shiso, in that it's somewhat familiar, but in many ways, not of this earth. I thought about it some more, and realized that both scents contain mint. Is it mint that is so bewitching to my senses that it practically scrambles my brains with pleasure? Maybe so. Without regard to the solution of the riddle, I plunge ahead, because all of the fun is in the shadowy journey. The beauty truly lies in its many natural subtleties and slight variations, and I wonder if I'd have missed them if I were the Carrie of 5 or 10 years ago, before my obsession with perfume really took root.

It's difficult for me to describe the fragrance without connecting it to the act of using the oil-serum on my skin-  the sensory experiences are inextricably linked. This is how I began to understand what Red Flower is all about. It's not just a bottle of oil, it's a verdant and charmingly overgrown pathway to self-love. You get to smell this unique scent only when you massage the elegant mossy green tinted oil into your skin (face and/or body). When you use it on your skin, you are protecting, hydrating and beautifying yourself;  healing past damage, catering to the senses in the present, and protecting your skin for the future. I don't profess to know much about the company's spiritual ethos (but they do have one, or several), but I am really enjoying drawing my own conclusions experientially. 



This is my first foray into trying Red Flower products, but the overwhelming message I'm getting from the smattering of things I've tried so far is "love yourself first, then broadcast that love to those around you who need it". If that sounds too granola for you, then you should know that I'm actually that kind of person deep down. I'm not closed off to hidden messages or subliminal tidings of good will. I know positive energy when I slather it all over myself or smell it in the air. That brings me to my next delightful ambient find: Red Flower's French Lavender Petal-Topped Candle


It comes with the top filled with dried lavender, which is so potent and lovely, I immediately transferred it to a mason jar like I do all my other plant and floral treasures (they do tell you to remove the dried flowers before burning the candle). It's a beautiful touch that makes any of the Red Flower candles a stunning gift for any occasion, but especially Valentine's Day or anniversaries. The wax is very soft and highly fragrant. The candle burns evenly and the color is a delicious deep, inky violet that looks particularly fetching when pooled into liquid. It reminds me of the perfect nail polish color that I don't have yet (but if Jessica/LipstickRose from Now Smell This gets enough votes, her violet-centric mood board may dictate a suitably stylish palette of Zoya Nail Polish shades... vote HERE!) This candle looks sexy, it smells transcendentally beautiful, and earns extra points for presentation-- when you give this to someone as a gift, you're telling them that you're like a Transformer. There's more than meets the eye.

The fragrance is a true French Lavender which proves its natural potency with a slightly metallic twinge in the overall impression. The scent fills a room (or an entire moderately sized apartment) quickly and continues to throw long after it's been extinguished. When I compare this Red Flower candle to other luxury candles I love dearly, it ranks very highly. In fact, I'm already plotting to obtain the Italian Blood Orange, Indian Jasmine and Icelandic Moonflower candles next. True confession time: I've no idea what a moonflower smells like, do you? I hope to find out soon. One day I would love to lose myself in Red Flower's NYC urban oasis for a couple of hours. It's now become a mandatory stop on my next trip up there.

[Red Flower Essential Omega Fresh Berry Oil-Serum available from redflower.com and barneys.com among other places: 2.5 oz for $48. It's a large bottle, so this is what I'd consider a great value for a really fabulous product. The Lavender Petal-Topped Candle is available for $34 at Candles Off Main (my very favorite candle shop) as well as redflower.com, beauty.com and others.]

[products were purchased by me for my own use]

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Perfumer Interview Series: Liz Zorn

Liz Zorn of Soivohle Perfumes is one of a kind. She's someone who is not afraid to speak her mind, regardless of the consequences. It's one of the things I really like about her; you never have to wonder where you stand. She's faithful to her vision, her art and her amazing (and adorable) cat Beanie, and her talent is boundless. In short, she's a very interesting person. Read on to find out why.




CM: When I first started seriously collecting and studying perfume, I had ordered some samples from you and realized that I had never before experienced anything similar to what you do. So, in my personal perfume story, you represent a major marker along the journey. Can you describe your aesthetic and creative goals for those who may not be familiar with your work?
LZ: Like most artists I live in my head, so that is where the work begins. It has always been that way for me and this is how I have been telling my story for as long as I can remember.  I do not usually set goals, but desires. I desire things to be a particular way so I will work it out in my head until I feel that it is worthy of repeating on paper or in the lab. Like a new song that gets played over and over in my head until I can't stand it. At that point I must decide to either take the next step and finish it, make it tangible, or let it go. I do this with scent. I either get to a place where I finish it, or just let it go. 
CM: I’ve always considered your style of perfumery to be “rustic luxe”, and I think the consumer’s appetite for this kind of thing is on an uptick. Do you agree, or would you characterize your work differently? 

LZ: Rustic is not a word I would use to describe my work as it implies unrefined, lacking sophistication, backwards etc. When I think of rustic I am reminded of my childhood and our horrendous family camping trips. You would be hard pressed to get me out in the woods in a tent today. I love the outdoors but pooping in the woods is not my idea of luxury.  I try not to put labels on the work because it boxes me in. I will say that the overwhelming feedback from collectors, is more in line with allegory and sensory connections. Less about perfume speak and more about the artistry of the work and how that fits the personal paradigm of the individual.







CM: I know that you’re a musician and have been for some time. Does music have any influence on how you create fragrances?
LZ: Of course there are similarities in structure. The spark of creation, the mulling it over, the tangible work. I do not compartmentalize my creativity. Music here, painting there, perfume  etc. It all comes from the same place. An inner drive to create, regardless of the medium.
CM: Can you give hints about any new scents you may be working on at the moment?
LZ: At the moment I am working on new things in the Soivohle eau de toilettes collection. This collection is set to be expanded to include an oil perfume and perhaps a lotion for each scent in the collection.  It (the collection) will first be paired down to the scents that can transition to an oil, and then new scents are scheduled to be added this year. First up are Wild Ginger Chai and Rosa Sur Rose.   I am also working on new natural perfumes that will be in the Signature Collection Absolutes. These are inspired by Egyptian Mythology, the first one will be called Tears of Ra, a honey scent, based on the story of the same name.

CM: What is the most gratifying part for you about being an independent perfumer?
LZ: Being the boss of course. Setting my own pace. It is a luxury of sorts to be able to make a living doing what one loves in life.  I also feel a deep sense of gratitude to be able to do what I want. I do not take it lightly.
CM: And what is the most difficult part?
LZ: Paperwork. But perhaps it is more dislike than difficult. I do it, but I do not like it. Also setting time boundaries. If I had no other responsibilities I could easily ignore all else in my life. This sometimes gets me in trouble because there are only so many hours in a day. I rush around trying to fit it all in. I am not always successful.



CM: You regularly take some of your perfumes off of the menu, but will often times bring them back in the future—sometimes with slight changes. What is your motivation for this? 
LZ: If you are looking just on our website this will be the case. Nothing is really gone, it is just out of the current rotation. Most things can be purchased by request or in my studio where I keep a larger variety of perfumes. As to the changes, I rarely if ever change formulas. I do however upgrade or change out materials. For example the Vetiver for Blood Orange and Vetiver was changed because the original was no longer available. I have made changes to the new Solstice by using a different Oud and Frankincense, but the formula has not really changed. I try to keep things as close to the original as possible, but with natural materials it isn't  possible to have a standardized version of every material.  I also buy special limited quantities sometimes, things that cannot be replaced. I always know going in that to create a scent with this rare material means that it will not be around forever. This is how art works. It isn't always about a never ending stream of commerce, the supply and demand.
CM: I really like how you have a few different lines of fragrances within your brand because there really is something for everyone. When any one asks me for a recommendation for your scents, no matter who they are, I can easily rattle off a few that would suit them. Is it important to you to try to have options for many different people and their varying tastes?
LZ: Nope. I am very selfish in that regard, I am only interested in satisfying myself. I always set the bar very high.  If that materializes into a myriad of things, it is because there are a lot of things that interest me. In reality, I am just trying to get from point A to point B.  It would be too overwhelming to incorporate the desires and varying tastes of others into my equation. I would never get anything done and it would no longer be my point of view, my art.

CM: Where do you see Soivohle in 5 years?
LZ: I am a beginners mind kinda gal, so my brain is not wired for such an overwhelming long term projection. No big changes, no creative deviations. I would hope that it continues on the same path. I tend to fine tune as I go, and I always think things out before acting. I am the least spontaneous person I know. I believe that like follows like. People, like minded people do seek me out, and I am a big believer in cause and effect. With this in mind I am hopeful to stay the course and keep a positive outlook and maintain a level of integrity in my work. I think people have come to expect that from me. They expect from me what I  naturally expect out of myself.
CM: There may be one or two people in Perfumeland that don’t know about your cat Beanie, but I count myself among his biggest fans. Can you give us all a brief version of the story?

LZ: Beanie (Beacon Free) is an amazing spirit.  He was born with disabilities that our vet did not think he would overcome. Now he is 3 1/2 years old. He needs daily care to survive, and I am his only caregiver. I do this gladly and with love and devotion. We talk about perfume, art and music, and all of these things are fine. But it is our service, our selfless giving of ourselves to others that defines who we really are.

I have had Beanie since he was a few days old. His mother was a feral pregnant female who ate from our community outdoor food bowl. She delivered and housed her babies tucked into a stack of firewood at the side of our house near the road. A very busy state highway. I knew they would not survive that road, so I decided to bring them all inside. At first I caught the mother and then got the babies. I noticed immediately that something was not right with one of the babies. His back legs were hyper extended and he had no ability to balance himself. He was smaller and the others got the lion’s share of the milk. Each day I would pull the others away so that little Beanie could get his share. In the animal kingdom the mothers will sometimes kill or leave behind the ones who are sick or lame, Beanie’s mother Peggy Sue, loved him and cared for him. I was amazed at how gently she treated him.  Eventually the other kittens began to play and jump and move around in ways that Beanie could not. At night they would all gather in a box up on a shelf to sleep.  In the morning I would always find Beanie sleeping alone on his blanket. They were all eating solid food by then so I started taking Beanie to bed with me at night.  It took a long time to work out his diet issues and get him to a stable place where he could live a normal life. Today he is such a happy little guy. Has the biggest personality and he is so smart that it is spooky. He has the attention span to sit and watch an hour long TV show, and a vocabulary of sounds and meanings well beyond anything I have ever witnessed in a cat before. When I think about the relationship that I have with him, I feel like he is the wise omnipotent leader and I am just the awe struck student along for the ride. 



Check out this video of Beanie on the move! He's amazing:



[All photographs and video property of Liz Zorn and are used with kind permission]

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Fragrance Foundation announces winner of the 2012 "Indie" FiFi Award!

Congratulations to Odin NY for winning the inaugural "Indie" FiFi award! I'm a huge fan of Odin fragrances (ALL of them) and am very happy for them. After all the Elements Showcase excitement (which I'm so sad I had to miss!), we're already working to making next year's "Indie" FiFi Award process even better. With the support and guidance of my fellow committee members, I believe that the field of possibilities is wide open. Thank you to the "Indie" FiFi committee, The Fragrance Foundation, all the incredibly talented perfumers who entered and to all who have been following along with us during this process!





The Fragrance Foundation Announces
Winner of the
2012 FiFi® “Indie” Fragrance Award

New York N.Y. February 1st.  2012. The Fragrance Foundation is very pleased to announce

06 Amanu
Odin Fragrances New York




was revealed as the winner of the 2012 FiFi® “Indie” Fragrance Award at Monday night’s award ceremony that took place for the very first time at the Elements Showcase in New York City. 

The beautifully designed Elements Showcase provided a stunning venue to host the newly
configured 2012 “Indie” Fragrance Award allowing finalists to enjoy the spotlight among buyers, press, colleagues, friends and family.

The master-minds behind the showcase - Frederick Bouchardy, Ulrich Lang and Jeff Lawson - welcomed all the guests and the five finalists to the awards ceremony.  Mary Ellen Lapsansky, Vice President of The Fragrance Foundation took to the stage to open the sealed envelope, safe-guarded until that very moment by the accounting firm of Sperduto, Spector and Company. She then presented 06 Amanu, Odin New York with the coveted crystal FiFi® trophy, a recognized symbol of excellence.


“We are very proud to have won the 2012 FiFi® “Indie” Fragrance Award,” said the co- creators of 06 Amanu. “It was a labor of love to create a fragrance with such a romantic and exotic heritage.” This winning scent is described as a primitive ambiance of Southern Mediterranean peaks combined with the ancient fertility of Anatolian soils which bring forth a herbaceous blend of verdant Galbanum and raw Lentisque. The cortex of Amanu revolves around the woody rusticity of Cedarleaf and the heady complexity of Jasmine Sambac.  Rooting textures of Amberwood, Musk and Live Moss endow this earthy scent with a lush maturity.  The top notes: Blood Orange, Green Galbanum, Lentisque.  The middle notes: Aged Cedarleaf, Jasmin Sambac, Magnolia.  Bottom Notes: Amberwood, Sheer Musk, Live Moss.

Cos Policastro, Executive Vice President, Fine Fragrances at Givaudan presented 06 Amanu with a congratulatory check for $10,000.00.  "This is a true achievement and we wish 06 Amanu and all the "Indie" brands continued success in the future,” commented Mr. Policastro.  “These independent creators play an important role in our industry by engaging the consumer with their unique stories. Givaudan is proud to sponsor this award as our company is defined by these same attributes.”

The ceremony and cocktail party was graciously sponsored by RPG’s Chief Executive Officer Bruce Teitelbaum who added his own heartfelt words of congratulations and encouragement.   “RPG began in exactly the same way as these “Indie” brands so we appreciate, understand and value the creativity, hard work and passion they dedicate to their craft and wish them great success.” said Mr. Teitelbaum.

“We congratulate all the brands that submitted fragrances, we applaud the five finalists who made it through to the finals and we absolutely cheer for the 2012 FiFi® “Indie” Fragrance Award winner 06 Amanu!” said Mary Ellen Lapsansky.  “In these challenging times, nothing can hold back their entrepreneurial drive and their vision is the future of the business we all love.”

As part of the ceremony, each of the top five finalists received mini FiFi® Awards in recognition of their accomplishments.   The four other finalists were:

“Cuirs” Carner Barcelona                   
Come L’Amore, Bois 1920                 
La Fumée Miller Harris                                   
Siberian Snow by D.S. & Durga