You Really Can’t Have Too Many: An Ava Luxe Sampler
Ava Luxe is one if those ultra-niche lines that I gradually kept hearing about as I learned more about niche perfumes, but I had never tried it, as it has only been available online from the perfumer herself and not in any shops, at least not that I knew of. Serena Ava Franco makes handcrafted jewelry and perfume, and she has created a wide array of scents in many styles.
I was becoming more curious about this line, and not too long ago I received a bountiful gift as a result of a private scent swap – the lovely Chayaruchama (Ida) sent me a generous stash of samples from her enviable Ava Luxe collection! I could hardly believe my good fortune. I have gotten many hours of enjoyment from them, and if her intention was to turn me into an Ava Luxe fan, she succeeded admirably.
The Ava Luxe scents are available in Eau de Parfum or Parfum Extrait strengths and Chaya sent me a variety in both concentrations. It did not seem to matter much, as both types have a high concentration of oil and they all lasted a good long time on my skin. What really amazed me was the sheer range of styles, and all were done so well. Ms. Franco is a truly gifted artist. (Her jewelry designs are wonderful too.)
Let’s start with the Gourmand scents; Loukhoum is the perfume interpretation of the famous Turkish Delight confection, and many people are familiar with the Keiko Mecheri or Serge Lutens versions. I have never tried the Serge but I do know the Mecheri, and it is far too sweet and cloying for me, so I did not expect to like this – but I absolutely love it! Yes it’s sweet, but in a succulent, fresh-batch-from-the-kitchen sort of way, and it reminds me very much of the Turkish Delight that a local candy shop sells and which I could easily consume far too much of given the chance. Another gourmand is Madeline, and I was truly impressed by this unusual and evocative perfume. It has a holiday feel to it, and to me it resembles the liqueur called Drambuie, which is made from Scotch whiskey and heather honey and is guaranteed to warm you to the core on a cold day. Wearing Madeline is like sitting in front of an apple wood fire with a Balsam Fir holiday tree in the room, drinking eggnog spiked with Drambuie and eating soft ginger cookies, a cashmere lap robe over your knees as you listen to classic Christmas carols. Honey is just that, a strong and earthy clover honey essence with a lot of beeswax in it, and I adore it. I have been saving it, and Madeline, for the colder weather that’s coming soon. I look forward to their enveloping comfort on a snappy December night.
Moving on to Florals, one perfume just pole-axed me right away and I fell in love: Venus Sands. It’s a tropical floral rich in buttery gardenia and sweet jasmine, wrapped in silky coconut milk and warmed with nutmeg, vanilla and amber. I would put it right up there with any of my favorite white tropical florals, such as Montale Intense Tiare. I just cannot get enough of this delicious scent. On the other end of the floral spectrum is Midnight Violet, a stunning blend of dark violet, moss and incense. This is a serious violet and not at all watery or faded. It is great for evening and would also make a wonderful scent for men. Queen Bess is a spicy rose with saffron, cinnamon, clove and carnation – sort of like a Montale rose scent without the Aoud, and it’s truly lovely and complex. The rose is embedded in so many other notes you don’t realize at first that it is in fact a rose scent, it sneaks up on you a little bit in a most delightful way as the rose comes more prominently to the fore. Hong Kong Garden is an iris-based scent with an unusual aldehydic quality, a touch of powder and a pronounced note of cassis, which I love. It is a very unusual blend and not of a style that I usually wear, but it’s lovely.
The gardenia accord in Gardenia Musk is nothing at all like Venus Sands; it is a simple composition of a fresh white musk and a sparkling, lifelike gardenia, and it’s safe for the hottest weather. It reminds me very much of the beautiful musk accord in L’Artisan’s Mûre et Musc, a favorite of mine, and the scent has that same simple charm. Another animal altogether is Oriental Musk, a soft, suede-like scent enhanced with Tonka bean that keeps getting better the longer it is on the skin. (Musk fans should have a look at the extensive list of musk formulations in this line; one of them is sure to please.)
The woody Figue Noir is a fig like no other, not as astringent as most fig scents but deep and rich, and touched with surprising notes of black pepper and hawthorn blossoms. It also has gaiac wood, one of my personal addictions, along with a generous dose of patchouli. Don’t go for this fig scent if you are looking for “clean and fresh” ‘cause she’s not that kind of a girl.
From the Oriental group, Ambra Tibet and Ambre Antique serve up enough Eastern exotica for anyone. Ambra Tibet smells like a mysterious wooden chest full of magical delights and is made with both cardamom and ambergris, which means I swooned for it immediately, while Ambre Antique is a bit sweeter, with roses, white flowers and vanilla. I can wear the latter only on a cooler day, as it is extremely rich.
For me, the most stunning perfume in this collection was the fabulous Chypre Noir. It is profoundly green and as dark as an enchanted forest. This one was in the Parfum strength, and it took only a drop to weave its magic on my skin. It has a distinct and vivid grassiness that I love, and I may need to have this on hand for when my adored Jean Patou Vacances is finally gone for good. Chypre Noir is made with both civet and castoreum in the base, so you know it is going to have great staying power. It was the first one of the decants that I used up. Another chypre in the line, Ingénue, is also beautiful but in a much lighter way, and I found myself reaching for it on hot days for its soothing cool and mossy character. And speaking of that, there is one called simply Moss, and it’s extremely green and bursting with freshness – it reminds me a little of the classic Estée Lauder scent Aliage, one of the few Lauders I have ever really liked. Moss is not currently listed for sale on the site, unfortunately. Two more unlisted scents are Silk and Forbidden Fruits. The former is a lovely woody floral and the latter is a luscious mélange of fruits and berries that smell freshly cut, and with the added surprise of an incense-like base.
It’s amazing to me that all these diverse perfumes are from the creative mind of one person. Ms. Franco says that she loves to create perfumes that evoke happy memories. I don’t think that will be a problem for anyone who explores these fragrances. My only dilemma is whether to get one of my favorites from the samples I received (Chypre Noir, Venus Sands, Midnight Violet…and more) or since all of them are so good, should I feel confident enough in their quality to try something else? Madonna Lily sounds utterly dreamy, and Lily is both my favorite floral scent and one that’s somewhat difficult to get right in a perfume. Or how about Film Noir, a dangerously complex leather scent? Maybe I should be really daring and try Tuberose Diabolique, with its sexy backbeat of amber and spice. I guess there are worse things to be indecisive about. No matter what I do, I really don’t think I can go wrong.
Ava Luxe perfumes are available at the Web site - and did I mention that there is now an all-organic body lotion that can be scented with your choice of Ava Luxe perfume? Don’t say I didn’t warn you. For decants of selected AL scents, visit The Perfumed Court.
Image credit: vintage Art Nouveau ad poster from artshole.co.uk