This post follows on from scent of a ginger woman a week ago.
An update; not a proper review, as I’m not really competent to do the topic justice.
Perfume writing, even more so than good food writing, is a very special skill. The best I can do, in homage and maintaining proper respect for that form of writing and for the subject-matter, is to pursue the via negativa and wander off into a Cloud of Unknowing, eyes closed, inhaling deeply. After tests and trials and tribulations, and much deep breathing and concentrated contemplation: not only did I find several scents that worked and clicked, but I found three that I simply really, really, really like.
I can’t really do better than that. But I’ll still write a few more words anyway, in the hope that they’ll help to expand a bit more on what I mean by “I like” and/or what “I like” means.
See, scent may well be the most subjective sense. Easiest to talk about in negative terms: it’s not [x], it’s not like [x], that sort of thing. Talking in positives? Intangible, impossible to grasp and pin down, evanescent, effervescent, entirely changeable from skin to skin and from nose to nose. Complicated by reactions and perception itself are tied to individual experience and associations (scent is the most subjective sense, at least in part as it’s the one closest connected to memory). So much so that even if two people detected the same notes and correctly identified the source of every one of them, and even if you had an accurate ingredient-list of a scent’s full chemical composition: even with all of that, the most precise description possible cannot say and mean the same to everyone, objectively.
Perfume might be the highest of the arts, the highest expression of human artifice and creativity. Can be argued to include aspects of musical composition; the visual and touch through associations of colour, shade, texture; and the principal element of taste is of course smell itself.
Free and wild. Paradoxical, too: at once the most cerebral (especially from the point of view of the maker/composer); and the least: instinctual, emotional, based in “feeling” and “gut” and the Aristotelian sensus communis. Maybe the opposite of “common sense,” and maybe even the element of beauty that is most essentially morosophical?
Back to the Holy Trinity here at hand. Fine and finely-crafted reviews abound for Illuminated Perfumes and Roxana Villa’s lovely creations. Just do a Google search for any of the perfume names; several of the reviews are linked c/o Illuminated Perfumes anyway. I’m not being lazy, I just don’t know what to say here other than “on me, this works.”
Spelling that out a little: “this scent makes me feel happy, comforable, comfortable in myself, myself, at rest but alive—neither overstimulated (peppermint & eucalyptus tea) nor overly soothed (rose-petal tea)—it suits/suits me, is right and proper: it fits.” Like when you put on shoes, clothes, gloves, glasses, a favourite well-loved pair of slippers: that kind of fits me properly and comfortably and feels like “me.”
I was very lucky to find three such scents. (Note on how to test out scents: get together with some friends, each of you acquires some samples, you then spend several happy sessions swapping them around and testing them out. This takes time: in some cases, we’d also give each other a little of a sample to try out over the course of a week. Samples can go pretty far. We tested a load of Etsy sellers’ wares and some other indies; there’s always more to try, and it’s good way to spend quality time with friends.
Granted, several of the other scents tried out were fine: not objectionable, acceptable. I still like the earthiness of Pacifica Mediterranean Fig and feel some loyalty to it, but in comparison, it’s too one-dimensionally sweet. On the other hand, it layers really nicely with some of these others. The three different ways, different days. Along the way, each of these scents shifts around in eddies and waves, changing on every sniff… not that I’m sniffing myself constantly or anything… well, not much. One more than the other two right now, but the three can be alternated or mixed and layered to suit my own climate variations; you know, hormones and food affecting natural scent, sweat composition, and perception (of self and of surroundings).
On a more flat-footed note: while these scents are a lot pricier than Pacifica, I need about 1/5 of the amount and the scent lasts on my skin for far, far, far longer before needing a top-up. Aside from the actual smell of the stuff being in a different league: as is often the case, paying more for quality can save you money in the long run. Like shoes, at the opposite olfactory extreme. With apologies for flat-footedness: that’s the other side of being grounded and in close aware contact with Mother Earth…
I mean that in a good, positive, and uplifting way. Not like a drowned sacrifice made out of bits of tree. Or, OK, maybe that but in a good way. There’s too many Old Drowned Gods around of all the wrong sorts, from Lovecraftiness to the Ironborn. Susan Cooper’s one, whilst still somewhat dark, has that darkness balanced out by some lightness, brightness, airiness, and indeed fresh air. Doom and gloom is all very well and angsty, and if young people are into it then it must be youthful; but it can be more juvenile than rejuvenating, and unless lightened up by some sparkling wit (see: Buffy), can get stuffy. Hence that airiness and lightness being rather welcome features.
And green: this scent is definitely a translucent green. Not transparent by any means, too complicated for that. But translucent. Maybe with bubbles and glitters in it, like hand-made glass. Threads and currents giving movement to it. Lively. Sure, with some darker bottle green occasionally, as in the image above. There are deeps, out there…
(I say all this as someone who not only doesn’t dislike black but actually actively wears a lot of black. Mainly. Mostly. Pretty much every day.)
Over to the creator of these three delights for more, well, actual information.
AUMBRE: Warm botanical amber.
AURORA: An Ambery, floral spice. Delicious.
BLANC: A vanilla soliflore, pure, botanical vanilla with a hint of wood.
CHAPARRAL®: Sweet and vegetative wood with incense.
CIMBALOM: Incense and jasmine. Sensuous and intoxicating.
GreenWitch: A classic Chypre with sea elements.
LYRA: Jasmine and ylang ylang. Very feminine.
PAGE 47: Nectarous orange blossom and honey
Perfume devoted to PEACE: Honeyed sweet spice notes.
“Q”: A Warm, Sweet Wood with incense and a hint of smoke.
ROSA: Earthy wild, rose.
SIERRA SOLID GOLD: Spicy, sweet, evergreens.
TERRESTRE: Melody to earth, amber and chocolate notes.
VERA: Lavender fields, sage, orange blossom and a slight saltiness like sun-kissed skin.
VESPERTINA: Jasmine, rose, wood, spice & Citrus. Romantic.
TO BEE: Honeyed spice in an amber base.
HEDERA HELIX: A green, classy chypre inspired by the Tree Ogham of Ivy.