From a Deeper Well: Zelda by En Voyage Perfumes
Well I did it for kicks and I did it for faith
I did it for lust and I did it for hate
I did it for need and I did it for love
Addiction stayed on tight like a glove
So I ran with the moon and I ran with the night
And the three of us were a terrible sight
Nipple to the bottle to the gun to the cell
To the bottom of a hole of a deeper well
- excerpt from the song “Deeper Well” written by David Charles Olney
Perfumer Shelley Waddington of En Voyage Perfumes has a very modern sensibility when it comes to her creations, so it was a bit of a shock to try Zelda, the new oriental fragrance she made in homage to Zelda Fitzgerald and her tumultuous life in the Jazz Age. It strikes a deeper, darker chord than any of her other compositions, and I thought I was smelling a classic vintage perfume, the kind they really don't make anymore. Considering that many perfumery materials from decades ago are simply not available today, this feat is even more improbable. My first impression of Zelda was right on the money; after several wearing I can state with confidence that this is an instant classic that can take its place among the best of today's niche and artisan offerings. This is the kind of scent that used to be made by the major houses as a matter of course - a complex, disturbing and fascinating beauty that is clearly intended for adults to wear. Why the fragrance industry at large has apparently decided that we no longer want these is a mystery, but we are lucky to have independent artisan perfumers who know better.
Zelda kicks off with one of the best top note accords I have experienced in some time, an exhilarating blend of bergamot, galbanum, aged bourbon and zesty spices. I love the astringent green of galbanum, and this treatment of it is masterful indeed. The combination of the green and spicy-sweet notes reminds me of what Coty's marvelous and original Emeraude must have been before it was so sadly cheapened over time; it has some of that weirdly addictive “mint and root beer” character that distinguished Emeraude from all other perfumes. Zelda takes another path to achieve a similar effect, and it's just as impressive if not more so.
The florals in Zelda are especially enjoyable for a vintage lover like me – they are not done in the current style of photo-realistic “fresh and clean” florals. No, the languid magnolia, May rose and other garden blossoms are from another time, sweet, rich, honeyed and seductive in the grand manner of Emeraude, Blanchard's Jealousy or Charbert's Breathless, to name just a few vintage greats. They are caught at the moment of full bloom, just before the descent into decay and then actually going over that edge, which results in yet another interesting facet to the perfume. Nothing is innocent or pristine in this fragrance, and that's a great part of its charm.
It may be hard to believe, but there was a time when I did not wear orientals, thinking them to be too heavy and cloying for my taste. I am very happy that I expanded my horizons and discovered the wonderful world of this genre, the sexiest of all perfume families; now I can't imagine missing out on something like this. Zelda's base is profound and intense, intended partly as a nod to the darkness that overtook its namesake's life near its tragic end, but oh, is it beautiful! Amber, vintage musks, vanilla, delicious balsams, sandalwood, vetiver, cedarwood, and oakmoss all work together to become more than the sum of their parts, an alchemy rarely encountered in the spare compositions of the post-IFRA world. Zelda just gets better and better on skin over time, inviting the wearer and those fortunate enough to be close by to inhale its shimmering tapestry of interwoven notes over and over again. A strong yet velvet-smooth animalic undercurrent makes it even more magnetic. This is the mark of a great fragrance – the nose never tires of it, but dives into its depths again and again, unable to resist, each time finding more and different sensations of pleasure. Its voice is throaty and deep, a love call that cannot be denied, creating a longing that only more of it can fulfill. It lingers for many hours and fades slowly, enchanting to the end. I predict that Zelda is going to end up on a lot of “best of” lists at the end of the year; it will most certainly be on mine.
Image credit: “Enchanted Well” by Inês Cardoso on flickr.com via Creative Commons License, some rights reserved.
Disclosure: My review was based on a sample given to me by En Voyage Perfumes.