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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

This Violet Doesn’t Shrink: Gracing The Dawn by Roxana Villa

By Donna

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



Blogger Ines said...

Wow! I'm not a chypre fan but you make this sound so interesting.
I only tried Roxana's chocolate solids (and loved them). I read a lot of love for Roxana's creations on blogs, I really need to try more of her work.

3:04 PM EDT  
Blogger Alyssa said...

Whoa...dark violet chypre. Must try.

Thanks for the excellent review, Donna!

5:47 PM EDT  
Blogger Ducks said...

Wow, that sounds truly lovely! Thank you for a tantalizing review of this scent, Donna... this goes on my want-to-try list for once my nose is working again properly.

9:59 PM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...

I love Roxanas stuff- I'm glad this was so good on you!

12:03 AM EDT  
Anonymous Morticia Addams said...

Wow, Gracing the Dawn sounds right up my alley. Uh oh...I might get a lemming for it.

Donna, you are a great describer!

7:47 AM EDT  
Blogger indieperfumes said...

Beautifully described!

8:56 PM EDT  
Anonymous Marian said...

How nice to hear of a violet that doesn't smell metallic. I, too, love chypres and have always been curious about African hyrax. Sounds like "Gracing the Dawn" would delightfully satisfy my curiosity.

9:26 PM EDT  
Blogger Flora said...

Ines, you really must, she has created some truly excellent fragrances.

I tried one of her chocolate scents, the one with wood, and it was fabulous!

1:18 AM EDT  
Blogger Flora said...

Thanks Alyssa!

Yep, it's a winner!

1:19 AM EDT  
Blogger Flora said...

Ducks, I had a cold a couple of weeks ago and I was afraid I would not be able to review this perfume! Fortunately it was pretty mild and everything worked out.

1:20 AM EDT  
Blogger Flora said...

Tom, I think I need a second title - Chypre Queen in addition to White Flower Queen! This one would totally work on a guy too, I hope you can try it soon.

1:22 AM EDT  
Blogger Flora said...

Thank you Mrticia! If you like chypres, you gotta try it!

1:23 AM EDT  
Blogger Flora said...

Thank you, Lucy! I loved your take on it too! :-)

1:24 AM EDT  
Blogger Flora said...

Marian, the Africa stone really imparts an obviously animalic character to the perfume, yet it's not overwhelming - just very distinctive.

(Looking for a violet scent that doesn't set your teeth on edge? Sounds like you might need a date with Jean Patou 1000, preferably pre-P&G takeover.....)

1:28 AM EDT  
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8:28 AM EDT  

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