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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

You Really Can’t Have Too Many: An Ava Luxe Sampler

By Donna

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

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a huge Ava Luxe addict I so enjoyed your reviews. Between a few samples, decants and full bottles, I own approx 33+ of her scents. I have a desire to collect everyone of them. It is a great scent wardrobe line, something to match every mood and situation. Wonderful quality and so well done. I think Moss is now Mousse de Chene, and Silk is now Soie. I agree in that it doesn't matter whether you choose the EdP or the extrait, it's all good. Perhaps best of all, very reasonably priced for buying several different scents at one time!

5:56 AM EST  
Blogger chayaruchama said...

I'm so glad they're giving you so much pleasure !

Her stuff is heavenly; and I love her earrings.
[Lately, when times are tough, I wear her jewelry and perfume, and feel utterly protected by friendship...]

6:28 AM EST  
Blogger rebella said...

I have also just recently have my first Ava Luxe-experience. And I love it, my favourites so far (of 6tried) are Nude Musk and Film Noir. I can´t wait to order full bottles of both of them.

7:00 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow. You have totally sold me. I have never tried anything from this line but your descriptions are most tempting. From what you write it appears Ava Luxe inspires true devotion too, always a good sign. I wonder are they available to ship to Europe? Must explore the website...

7:22 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shipping to Europe is sadly very expensive. Understandable, but oh-so-sad for my wallet. I've had the pleasure of sampling a few of Ava Luxe's fragrances and although not all of them are my style, they are all extremely well done and have excellent longevity. Loukhoum an Moroccan Mint Tea are my favourites so far, with Opoponax and Vamp close runner-ups. Saving up to sample some more right now, and trying to resist just ordering some full bottles blind...

7:32 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh dear, oh dear. Thanks for sharing. I've just had a liitle peak at the Ava Luxe website, and m heart is already beating faster! :-0 - Emma

7:44 AM EST  
Blogger lovethescents said...

Thank you for this excellent description of this line. I have only tried 2 of her scents: Milk and Rosa de la Luz. Milk was a bit too sweet for me, more like condensed milk. Rosa is a gorgeous dewy rose dripping in honey. I would looooove to try more. Shipping to my country from her site is very expensive. Thank goodness for the Perfumed Court!

8:51 AM EST  
Blogger Ducks said...

Oh! You are the lemmingmaker. I was wise enough to go for sample decants first... but such tempting choices.

The word verification scramble says it exactly: "debaught."

12:57 PM EST  
Blogger elle said...

Thanks for these reviews! I have not sampled nearly enough of her scents, but have recently been trying to start remedying that and am seriously in love w/ her Honey and Hong Kong Garden - superb quality. I tried the Hong Kong Garden the same day I tried the new Kilian and London Le Labo and found I actually prefered her scent to either of those and in a blind test would have assumed they were similarly priced. I'm now thinking that Chypre Noir, Film Noir and Madeline are *must* haves. They sound divine!

3:30 PM EST  
Blogger Flora said...

Anonymous, you are way ahead of me! And thanks for the info on the name changes, I wondered about that when I saw the listings on the site.

3:45 PM EST  
Blogger Flora said...

Chaya, they most certainly are doing just that! :-D

I looked at her jewelry, and the pieces are very much my style too. Uh-oh....

3:47 PM EST  
Blogger Flora said...

Rebella, I know you will want more when you try them... ;-)

3:48 PM EST  
Blogger Flora said...

Thanks Mimi, I was pretty "wowed" by these scents, as you can tell.

3:49 PM EST  
Blogger Flora said...

Morgan, the Vamp is intriguing and if the Moroccan Mint Tea smells like I think it will, I will need some of that too!

3:51 PM EST  
Blogger Flora said...

Emma, glad I could help - I think! :-)

3:52 PM EST  
Blogger Flora said...

Lovethescents, the Rosa de la Luz sounds very much like one I need to try too. I think I need a bigger list...

3:54 PM EST  
Blogger Flora said...

Ducks, I confess to being just that, but with Ava Luxe I don't need much help. :-D

(I just got "cough" in my word verification. Whatevs!)

3:57 PM EST  
Blogger Flora said...

Elle, you're welcome! I think Film Noir will be very high on my list of the next scents to try from this line. I can recommend the other two highly.

I could just ROLL around in the Honey, I love it. I think it's too strong & sexy for the office but for anything else it's great.

4:00 PM EST  
Blogger tmp00 said...


Didn't she go quiet for a while or am I hallucinating? I have to try some of these!

5:27 PM EST  
Blogger chayaruchama said...

Yes, Tom.
It was a bit overwhelming, I think.
So much attention in a short time.

So very reasonable, for so much pleasure.

9:19 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I found her several months ago, and found that I might as well simply turn over my paycheck to her!

I think my favorite is No. 23, but I'm really enjoying Johri, Bois de Figue, Venezia, and Incense. I love layering Tea Noir and Fig Leaf.

Wonderful stuff - and it lasts and lasts - and great customer service.

9:19 PM EST  
Blogger Flora said...

Tom & Chaya, I did not know that, but I am glad she is back!

11:44 PM EST  
Blogger Flora said...

Aparatchik, I fear you are right! Must hold on to the wallet....

And the lasting power is really so good, you only need a little bit and you feel enveloped in the scent.

11:46 PM EST  
Blogger Beth Schreibman Gehring said...

OK...I AM A GONER! These fragrances, the way that you've described them make me just swoon with absolute desire. Chypre Noir, Honey , Madeline....I am going to try them all.
Thanks for giving me another excuse to completely blow my budget! Can you tell me where I can get decants? When I went to her site i could not find any samples to buy.

8:56 AM EST  
Blogger Beth Schreibman Gehring said...

Oops...would have been helpful if I'd read the last sentence! No worries then on the decants!

10:08 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ava Luxe is one of my favorite lines of all time - No. 23 may be my HG, and I own (and love) Nude Musk and love's True Bluish Light. I can't wait to add more to my collection - by all means try as many of these as possible.

11:13 AM EST  
Blogger Flora said...

Beth, thank you, I think my work here is done! I predict you will love the Honey a lot. ;-)

4:30 PM EST  
Blogger Flora said...

Anonymous, I do intend to try lots more! Love's True Bluish Light is on my list for the name alone...

4:32 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh no, more fumes to try.. Maybe that would be a good thing if I was swimming in money. I love her Midnight Violet, Nag Champa, Kama but most of all Madame X, which was my first FB of hers. Not the last, though, I'm sure! Thanks for the reviews. I am also awaiting a FB of Kenzo Amour le Parfum, shich I boldly purchased unsniffed. But I love spice and incense and happily wore Bui last night to bed, so this bodes well!

12:44 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oops! I realized I conflated your post and the previous one about Kenzo...sorry about that!

12:46 AM EST  
Blogger Flora said...

No worries, Elizabeth, we are one big happy family over here! :-D

I gotta try that Madame X too - another one goes on the list!

3:44 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm definitely a big fan of Ava Luxe -- Chaya is an angel for sending you a cache of samples. I'm amazed that I've sampled so many, yet the only one on your list that overlaps mine is Moss, and I'm SO glad I have a bottle (noted in the first comment that it's Mousse de Chene). Moss really is a fantastic scent.

I wish she still sold samples directly, but I'll have to check the Perfumed Court for other options. If anyone's still looking at this comment thread, note that NST recently posted a discount code for the holidays; I think it's valid through sometime in early December.

I have the greatest respect for Serena's art and I'd much rather support artisans like her when I can rather than global conglomerates. Nice to see this piece, Donna.

4:11 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a bottle of Midnight Violet that I ordered directly from her when she took a break. She was quite nice and gracious. I actually am wearing Midnight Violet today; I keep getting a whiff of past-prime violets, which is delightful considering the temperature outside is in the 20's!

9:19 AM EST  

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