A Garden of Earthly Delights: Perfume By Nature
I seem to be discovering Australian perfumers all of a sudden, and I like what I am finding. I first heard of Ambrosia Jones, owner of Perfume By Nature, when I participated in the Midsummer Night’s Dream blogging project. Her oakmoss-rich Pan was a real standout. Then I was invited to be a part of the Summer of Patchouli Love mass blogging event and there she was again, this time anonymously as the author of “Number Six” until the identities of the perfumers were revealed. Her entry, a wonderfully bright and energizing cologne style scent later revealed to be named Happiness, was one of my favorites. Now I have sampled some fragrances from her regular line and they are just as good as the special project perfumes. This perfumer’s commitment to exceptional materials shines through in everything she makes and I look forward to more releases from her small but growing line.
Craving is a good one to start with if you want something that’s really a departure from the ordinary. It is a gourmand with an extroverted personality and is like no other perfume I have ever smelled. It’s boozy, toasty, nutty and creamy all at once and it reminds me of a drink I used to order at a local bar that was open later than most downtown spots; going there after a concert or movie was a real treat because the house specialty was hot adult beverages based on steamed, foamed milk and liqueur. I usually ordered the one with hazelnut in it. One of those on a cold and rainy winter night was all it took, and I would totter down to the bus stop to go home in a haze of comforting heat. Craving is not syrupy-sweet, and although it will make you hungry you won’t feel like you need a trip to the dentist. It was originally created for the Mystery of Musk project (which I am really sorry I missed out on after smelling some of the perfumes later), and underpinning the sweeter notes it has earthy ingredients such as ambrette seed, cocoa absolute, Australian sandalwood (of course!) and Hyraceum, a.k.a. Africa stone, a fossilized material that is a source of animalic character for natural perfumery; this contributes to the fragrance’s excellent lasting power. Ambrosia Jones made this perfume to encompass all the elements of her own best-loved bodily pleasures and made a truly sexy elixir in the process; I am sure that whoever has tried this one will find their own cravings fulfilled.
Love Potion is a no-holds-barred barrage of sensuality too, but it’s not all sweetness and light. This is a spell casting perfume and it takes a bit of patience for the full effect to take hold. A big but very smooth patchouli note is immediately obvious and for a while it seems as though that might be the main event, but as it warms to the skin it unfolds to reveal a delicate wash of jasmine, sweet orange and my favorite part of this perfume, a spicy heart of coriander and cardamom. I am enamored of anything with cardamom in it anyway, and the way it plays against the heavier patchouli like a bright ribbon on black velvet is very well done; it dances in and out daring me to catch it, and when I do it rewards my senses with that zesty sweetness that’s like nothing else. A man could wear this one with ease, and maybe even more successfully than a woman. It seems like just the thing for meshing with that manly skin chemistry. I have to say that if a man wore it around me, it would work just as the name implies!
How can you have both love and craving without chocolate? Ambrosia knows that’s almost impossible, and therefore gives us Death By Chocolate, a delectable gourmand that is as rich as devil’s food cake but not really all that sweet, because it has a woody base instead of the usual sugary components that are paired with chocolate, and only a touch of honey tempers the chocolate’s deep complexity. It’s made with real cocoa absolute and it will keep your nose occupied with frequent pressing to your arm, or wherever else you happen to apply it. As seductive as this juice is, I can think of places more interesting than arms… anyway, what was I saying? Oh yes, even confirmed haters of chocolate in perfume might appreciate this, as it is so divorced from the “candy” sensibility that after the initial brief rush of chocolate sweetness subsides, they may just find a well-constructed warm, woody Oriental style comfort scent that most assuredly does not smell like chocolate syrup. At all. I am saving the rest of my sample for a cold winter night when I will surely need it the most.
As most readers of this blog know, I love me some Big White Florals. Enter My Gardenia, and it’s instant attraction. It is a very natural-smelling gardenia, which is not surprising since it is made from a very rare material – real gardenia absolute! Yes, this is now available in small quantities for perfumers. In conventional perfumery, gardenia is a construction, a holographic facsimile of the flower made of many other materials, many of them synthetic and sometimes overwhelming. Ambrosia added fresh green elements to the opening to make it sing and increased its longevity with subtle base notes; there is no weird “blue cheese” effect either, since this is the real deal. Its longevity is fairly short, which is to be expected of an all-natural floral perfume, but it is just gorgeous while it lasts and it’s the gardenia scent I never thought I would find, as sweet as the living flower and as fresh and dewy as a just-opened bloom. Because it’s all-natural, it is not overpowering at all and can easily be worn in situations where other “gardenia” perfumes are too strong and heady. I was utterly charmed by My Gardenia and I hope it gains wider recognition for filling a need I never knew was there until I tried it.
The other floral from this line I tested was the aptly named Goddess, a beautiful rose and jasmine composition. As with Love Potion, this one takes time to warm up on skin and come into its own but the result is well worth the wait. This one whispers with quiet elegance and melds the florals in perfect balance. Real Damask rose absolute and the finest Arabian jasmine comprise the heart of Goddess. On my skin the jasmine dominates a little more but the rose is also prominent and the two are entwined in the classical manner of Joy, inseparable from and enhancing each other. Honey absolute and Tolu balsam add warmth and depth and give it a sleepy, indolent quality like a walled garden in the afternoon, abuzz with contented bees and where the rich scent of roses and other blossoms hangs in the still air. If you have been looking for a fragrance of this general style that’s not loud or too heady, this could well be the one. It is highly pleasing from start to finish and it also lasted longer on me than I expected from a natural floral fragrance.
The fragrances of Perfume by Nature are available on the Web site; some of the newer ones can only be ordered via Ambrosia Jones’ blog at this time. (Only the oil versions can be sold outside Australia due to shipping restrictions on alcohol perfumes; My Gardenia is currently only available in the alcohol version. Samples of the alcohol-based version of the fragrances are available, however.)
Disclosure: The perfume samples were sent to me gratis by the perfumer for testing.
Image credit: “Hazy Summer Garden” via wallpaperpimper.com.