Of Light and Shadow: En Voyage Perfumes L’ Hombre & Lorelei (And a Prize Draw)
The naming of fragrances is very important, but not an easy task, as any perfumer knows; first, you have to rule out anything that’s already taken, and then come up with something that fits your own vision and also gives the customer a clue as to what lies within the bottle. Perfumer Shelley Waddington of En Voyage Perfumes decided to spread out the risk and invited fragrance enthusiasts from all over the globe to submit names for her two new perfumes for spring 2012, and those who asked to be involved in the selection process received a sample of each one for testing. The masculine scent is now called L’Hombre, which is a contraction of L’homme (man) and ombre, which is French for “shadow.” The smooth, elegant and deep-voiced fragrance begins with tantalizing citrus and aged malt scotch before delving into the delicious heart of black coffee and incense. The mossy-ambery base mellowed with musk and sandalwood contains a touch of oud, the “material of the moment” in perfumery but which is not dominant in L’Hombre; rather it simply contributes to the complexity of the experience and it is definitely not an oud scent per se. It would be an ideal fragrance for someone who likes oud but does not want anything too strong, or who has never worn it before and wants to see if it works for them.
I especially enjoyed the effect of the alliance between the scotch, amber and coffee, which was done with a light hand so it is not overpowering or clichéd as in some mainstream masculines that use big synthetic woody-amber notes as a bludgeon instead of a paintbrush. There is patchouli in here too, but it’s aged, rounded and rich, and even with the addition of oud, L’Hombre is civilized enough for any occasion while still being sensual enough to draw attention to its wearer; it will be the right kind of attention, to be sure, and its tenacity ensures that it will last all day and well into the evening. And don’t worry that it’s too “manly” for a woman to wear, because it is polished enough for anyone to enjoy, without a “shadow” of doubt.
The air is cool and the twilight is falling
and the Rhine is flowing quietly by;
the top of the mountain is glittering
in the evening sun.
The loveliest maiden is sitting
up there, wondrous to tell.
Her golden jewelry sparkles
as she combs her golden hair.
-Excerpt from an English translation of “Die Lorelei” by the German poet Heinrich Heine
I have to confess my personal bias toward Shelley’s new feminine scent, which is a lovely and transparent spring floral, for two reasons. The first is that I adored it at first sniff; my immediate thought was that someone had finally done a wisteria accord right – it’s one of my favorite floral notes, yet so elusive in perfumery that it’s virtually impossible to find. The other reason is that I have been honored to have my own submission chosen as its name, which is Lorelei. (In fact, it was the only name I submitted for this one, while I had several ideas for what became L’Hombre, none of which made the cut.) A vision of crystalline purity filled my mind as I smelled it for the first time, of delicate petals floating on a rushing stream so clear that every rock on the bottom stands out in high relief. Lorelei is the name of an actual place, an imposing cliff overlooking the Rhine River whose name means “murmuring rock” in old German, so named because of a unique sound made by the water swirling about its base, but it’s also the name given to a mythical water-sprite maiden who lures sailors to their doom on the rocks below as she sits high above the river, singing a siren song and combing her long tresses. It is this second meaning that is perhaps most familiar to most of us, and it resonated with me as an avid and lifelong lover of fairy tales and mythology. This perfume is so tenderly evocative as to seem almost otherworldly, so it just seemed like a natural choice.
Lorelei’s listed notes are deceptively simple: wisteria, violet, lilac, daffodil, jonquil and lily, all of which just happen to be things I love. The unique sweet pea and grape skin aroma of the wisteria was my first strong impression, followed by very natural-smelling violet and lilac notes and expanding into the richness of daffodils and lilies as it developed. I don’t know how this was accomplished, but it is a watery floral with no aquatic notes and none of the usual stand-ins such as lotus that perfumers use to create this effect. This is a fresh, luminous fragrance, with a feeling of light reflecting off the ripples in a babbling brook, not an ozonic nose-tickler or boneless wallpaper scent, so don’t let the “watery” tag deter you from trying it. Lorelei also has much better longevity than I expected, which was a pleasant surprise. Projection is good but it does not have the man-eating sillage or synthetic rasp of far too many conventional floral fragrances. Lorelei would be a perfect alternative to those scents for fans of fresh white florals, thanks to the high quality natural perfume essences in the formula. As an admirer of this genre, I am grateful for the talents of the independent perfumers who give us such wonderful choices beyond the mainstream offerings.
I am offering a sample of Lorelei to one lucky reader – U.S. mailing addresses only, please. If you would like to participate, please leave a comment, and if you like, please tell us which perfume you would choose to scent your own favorite myth or fairy tale!
Image credit: Vintage “Lorelei” postcard circa 1907 via no9mermaid.ecrater.com
Excerpt from the song/poem “Die Lorelei” via the Pentimento blog, pentiment.blogspot.com
Disclosure: My samples of L’Hombre and Lorelei were given to me by Shelley Waddington for testing.