This Violet Doesn’t Shrink: Gracing The Dawn by Roxana Villa
I am very pleased to be participating in a group blogging project to mark the introduction of natural perfumer Roxana's Villa's new fragrance, Gracing The Dawn. I have been a fan of Roxana's creations since I first tried them a couple of years ago. She creates original fragrances using natural and botanical ingredients, many of them sourced as close to her California home as possible. Her perfumes have a delicate, lilting quality and a fine balance as the carefully chosen elements blend into harmony. When I found out that there was a new one on deck I was eager to sample it.
Gracing The Dawn was noted to be a chypre in the advance description I received, and I had tried Roxana’s recent “sea chypre” GreenWitch and been very impressed. When I opened my sample and put it on, it had some of GreenWitch's dusty chypre character in the opening, along with a bright bergamot and a scent like drying hay, all eminently pleasing. Like so many fragrances in the chypre family, the opening chords play almost like a classic old-fashioned masculine aromatic fougère until the heart notes begin to chime in. I thought, very nice, I wonder what's going to happen next, and then....what's that? Oh, my. It's a gorgeous true violet, wrapped in a cloud of mossy darkness and musky animalic mystery, and it's getting better by the minute. Soon I was mesmerized, and then I realized why: yes, it's a real chypre indeed, and the one it most resembles is the great Jolie Madame, minus the narcissus and civet but with plenty of the sex appeal. It sent me scurrying to my bottle of JM to compare notes. There is no leather in Gracing The Dawn either, but you might be fooled into thinking it's there because of the resemblance. How amazing to be able to experience a bona fide chypre perfume that's not a vintage formula! It's got the rich floral heart, it's got the mossy, woody base and it’s the whole package. The traditional white floral heart notes of a chypre feature a truly unusual bloom, the tropical Night Queen flower, one of those sensuously heady things I had always wanted to smell, as well as mimosa. Considering how much I love chypre scents and hold them to a high standard, I am happy to say that this is a worthy addition to the genre.
Standing in for the more common animalic ingredients used in mainstream perfumery is Africa stone, the only non-botanical note in this perfume. It's animal-friendly though; it's not really a stone of course, it's a tincture made from the fossilized droppings of the African Rock Hyrax, a cute little furry animal that's one of the few living relatives of the elephant. This stuff gives real depth and interest to fragrances and is favored by those who want to create cruelty-free products. Now that I know what it does for perfumes I will be eager to try any formulation that contains it.
Eventually the florals fade and leave the austerely beautiful chypre base behind, and that lasted for many hours. The Africa stone seems to be a secret weapon to impart longevity to what might otherwise be a rather fleeting perfume experience as is the case with so many naturals. However, when I left it on overnight I got a nice surprise; in the morning the heavier notes were gone but ghostly violets and mimosa were blooming on my skin, making this perfume’s name all the more fitting.
Roxana Illuminated Perfumes are available at her Etsy store. I really hope she decides to make a solid version of this. Her solid perfumes, blended with natural beeswax, are wonderfully rich and this one is a perfect candidate for that treatment. (I am hoarding a sample of her Rosa solid perfume, made with “home grown” beeswax, and it’s just beautiful.)
Please visit the other participating sites for more writers’ words on Gracing the Dawn:
Roxana herself at Illuminated Perfume Journal
Beth at Cleveland Fragrance Examiner
Lucy at Indie Perfumes
Elena at Perfume Shrine
Trish at Scent Hive
Image credit: Gracing The Dawn art © Greg Spalenka, courtesy of Roxana Villa