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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Heaven’s Just a Sin Away: The Devilscent Project, Chapter One

By Donna

Heaven's just a sin away oh oh, just a sin away
I can't wait another day I think I'm giving in,
How I long to hold you tight oh oh, be with you tonight
That still won't make it right cause I belong to him…

Oh way down deep inside I know that it's all wrong
Your eyes keep tempting me and I never was that strong…

Devil's got me now oh oh, gone and got me now,
I can't fight him anyhow I'm think he's gonna win,
Heaven's just a sin away oh oh, just a sin away
Heaven help me when I say I think I'm giving in…

- From The Kendalls’ song “Heaven’s Just a Sin Away,” lyrics by Jerry Gillespie

The Devilscent Project is the brainchild of blogger (The Alembicated Genie), author and all-around provocateur Sheila Eggenberger whose novel, Quantum Demonology, poses a most intriguing question: What happens when you try to seduce the Devil? What trickery and charms must you use to ensnare the One whose home address is 666 Hades Circle? A select group of artisan perfumers has tried to answer this question with their mysteriously scented concoctions, all with this one thing in mind. Each was tasked with creating fragrances for the Devil himself and for Lilith, his eternal (and infernal) wife. A corresponding group of perfume writers was recruited to record our impressions of these potions. It works best if you read at least part of the book first to get the gist of the idea. (Warning: the book pulls no punches and is not for the faint of heart. Sheila takes us down to the very depths of depravity, and we beg for more.) Find their Devilscent Project writing on this page of Sheila’s blog as they are published.

I was inspired not only by the book but by the perfumes themselves, all so different from mainstream offerings that some of them don’t even have a point of reference in conventional perfumery. I took artistic license and created my own story, with some parallels to Quantum Demonology but from another time and place.  This is the first chapter of my exploration of these potent perfumes, so let us enter a shadow world...


On a dark night, in a teeming city stained with clouds and smoke, the lone figure of a woman approaches an all-night diner. The fog is so thick that the streetlights are just smears of pale and sickly yellow-green and the neon sign in the window blinks feebly on and off; some of its letters are missing. The woman slips into the shadow of a nearby doorway. She is wearing a short trench coat, heels and the dark glasses of a film star, although it is very late. Something has drawn her to this place but she is not sure what it is. A nagging feeling of being followed has dogged her steps on this night and she just wants to find a safe haven for a little while. No one is visible nearby, so she follows the light and hurries into the restaurant. A bell jingles as the door swings shut, and one or two patrons turn to look at her, then turn back to nursing their thick white mugs of coffee. The steamy trail of the brew rises to meet her nose and the dense atmosphere inside the low-ceilinged place gives off a welcome warmth. She realizes that she is very hungry and the coffee’s aroma makes her mouth water, but there are no seats at the Formica-covered counter. Glancing around, she notices that the diner is decorated in a nostalgic retro style, with faded photos of movie stars on the walls and a wrap-around marquee above the counter meant to look like the lights of Broadway. The waitress taking orders is a platinum blonde with blood-red lipstick and chunky shoes with Cuban heels. The woman muses for a moment that this is a strange part of town for such a tourist trap spot to succeed, but gives it no more thought right then, since a booth has just opened up in the darkest corner of the room, and she sinks gratefully into its vinyl embrace.

When the waitress comes over, the woman notices that she is not as young as she first appeared; her makeup is caked and heavily applied, and she looks drawn and tired. The woman feels a tug of sympathy before reciting her order of coffee, ham steak, hash browns and cinnamon toast. Even the menu is retro, and she can’t believe how low the prices are. She would have paid three times as much downtown for half the food. This makes her wonder once again how a place like this can possibly make it in the year 2012. Still, it’s nearly full even at this hour – how late was it, anyway? She looks at her digital watch but it has stopped working. Looking around, she spies a clock near the kitchen door; it’s almost midnight. She adds sugar and cream to the inky, bitter coffee in front of her and its sweet aroma is pleasing as its rising steam mingles with the smell of her damp raincoat, floor wax and the diner patrons’ body odor and cigarettes. (Perfume: Midnight at the Crossroads Café by Neil Morris.) The food arrives, and she begins to relax as she digs in. She is just finishing her cinnamon toast when the door opens again, the clock on the wall chimes twelve midnight, and then everything changes.


He comes though the door like a cat sneaking in after a hunting expedition. His hair is slicked back and looks freshly razor-cut, and his shoulders are broad, his body powerful. His gaze rakes the room and he sees that the only empty seat is the one in her booth. His stride is purposeful as he crosses the short distance to where the woman sits, staring at him as though she has never seen a man before in her life. He takes the seat across from her and gestures to the waitress without taking his eyes off her. His appearance is best described as what is commonly called Black Irish – that fatally attractive combination of jet-black hair and bright blue eyes, in combination with strong, lightly tanned facial planes and just enough grey at the temples. It is the face of a man who knows exactly what effect he has on other people and takes it as his due, the kind of man for whom conquest is as easy as breathing, but he doesn’t want easy; he wants a challenge.

The contrast between him and the woman is striking. She has deep auburn hair that tumbles around her shoulders, jade green eyes and a ripe, curvaceous figure. She is small-framed but her legs are long and shapely beneath the tweed  pencil skirt she wears. A blouse of peach-colored silk drapes gracefully over her body. He catches the drift of her perfume and it throws him off guard a little – not what he expected to smell on a woman like her, not at all. Instead of smelling like some cheap drugstore cologne, she is emanating a delicious scent like ripe apples and pomegranates, mingled with roses and a whole field of wildflowers. Instead of a clichéd potion calculated to seduce, she is giving off the most seductive aroma of all – youth, innocence, purity, and freshness, yet mixed with a strange coldness, and something he cannot quite pinpoint - and he is mesmerized (Perfume: Lilith by Neil Morris). Yes, he was right - she is exactly what he is looking for, and more.


For her part, she still can’t stop looking at him. He was the last thing she could have possibly expected to see in a place like this. It helps not at all that he is wearing an expensive black leather coat and a crimson scarf of what is obviously the finest cashmere, carelessly thrown around his neck as if he were unaware of its visual impact. On the surface, he seems to be a man of sophistication, perhaps even great wealth, so self-assured is he, but in his eyes of brilliant blue there is restlessness, like something caged and pacing. She had heard the term “alpha male” used many times but she knows that she is now face to face with the real thing; he gives off raw sexual magnetism like smoke and she imagines that she actually sees wisps of it like a dark halo around his head. It must be the dim light and the cigarette haze, she thinks, as the waitress sidles up to the stranger, order pad in hand. He turns his gaze to the blonde and says: “Coffee, black” then pauses just for a beat and adds “Please.” Then he smiles. The waitress, whose name badge says her name is Violet, nods wordlessly, her lips parted, and looks as though her legs are about to give out; the seated woman knows just how she feels and is grateful that at least she is not on her feet, because that smile of his just melted all the glaciers on the Matterhorn.

He turns back and speaks directly to her for the first time. She is not exactly sure what he is saying; she feels light-headed and confused, and she is perspiring in the closeness of the room. His voice is a perfect match for the smile, an irresistible force with a smooth, dark timbre that resonates within her like the rumbling of a freight train. She takes a deep breath and tries to focus. It’s so overwhelming, the scent of him in this place, the sudden lurching of her heart, the feeling that something extraordinary is happening that she is powerless to control. He does not look like a criminal but there is nothing safe about him. She can smell the leather of his coat and the muskiness emanating from his skin; she knows it must be some really pricey cologne, but it’s like nothing she has ever seen in the department stores she frequents. It smells like a very expensive private club, but not the kind that will accept just anyone as a member. (Perfume: Devilscent No. 1 by Amanda Feeley of Esscentual Alchemy.)

Ha asks her if she would like to leave with him. She has no idea what she is doing but she says yes because there is nothing else to say. He has not really given her a choice. She picks up her coat and slides out of the booth. She pauses and looks at her watch again but it’s still stopped. She realizes that it’s unusually quiet as they step outside into the fog. Even at this hour, the traffic should be somewhat steady over on the Avenue, but only a few cars can be heard, if not seen. She looks around and sees that a lone cab is parked at the corner. It’s one of those touristy ones, an old Checker taxi, boxy and broad. She has not seen one of these relics for a long time. The man takes her elbow and propels her gently but firmly toward the car; it must have been waiting for him, she realizes, as the driver steps out and tips his hat to her companion. He is wearing a shiny uniform and a visor cap with gold braiding. The cabbie opens the passenger door and she gets in, feeling dwarfed by the cavernous interior. The tall man sits beside her and immediately puts his arm around her shoulders, drawing her close. She can smell the leather, and the man, and in this enclosed space, it starts to feel different, as though she is falling down a well and slipping into the abyss; his dizzying presence now has an undercurrent of danger that is deeper than anything she has ever known. (Perfume: Devilscent No. 3 by Amanda Feeley of Esscentual Alchemy.)

Suddenly feeling very afraid, she tells him that she should really go home, it’s so late and she is tired, and she has to go to her job in the morning. He laughs at this and tells her there is nothing to worry about. He gives a command to the driver in a language she doesn’t understand, rough and guttural - German, perhaps?  As they turn onto the Avenue, something is very wrong. Where are the First Bank tower and the big video billboard? Where are all the cars? All she can see are a few antique vehicles parked on the street and what looks like a delivery truck in front of a brownstone. A man in white coveralls lifts a metal crate filled with glass milk bottles out of the truck’s back end and sets it down on the curb. Bewildered, she looks at the dark-haired man beside her and finally finds her voice. “What’s happening?”  She whips her head around as a brightly lit and rapidly spinning barber pole catches her eye. “What is this place?”

“It’s not where we are, it’s when,” he says. “This is your city, but not your time. When you came into that café you entered my world, and I am going to show you things you have never seen before.”  A quick word to the driver and the taxi pulls over next to an all-night newsstand. The cabbie flicks a nickel at the owner and picks up a newspaper. He hands it through the window to the woman, and she scans it frantically under the greasy glow of a streetlamp. The headline makes no sense but the photo looks familiar; can that possibly be Harry Truman? She squints and looks more closely and then she sees it, the date under the bold lettering of the paper’s name, in small letters: March 25, 1946. 1946?

Far behind them now, the sign in the diner’s window finally flickers to life and glows a dull red. The words spelled out in angry neon are in no tongue known to humankind.

To be continued...

Image credit: Special effects flower photo by Donna
Disclaimer: All the Devilscent perfumes were sent to me for testing by the participating perfumers.


Thursday, July 26, 2012

Fall of the House of ̶U̶s̶h̶e̶r̶ Caron: Urn Fragrances

By Tom

Back in 2008, my Scent Twin took a trip to Paris and stopped in at the Caron Boutique only to be disappointed by the reformulated Urn Fragrances. Now, I have sadly never been to Paris, but those fragrances were ones that I really adored (and reviewed here, here and here). So I hoped against hope that it wasn't as dire as Gaia painted it since they are now available at Luckyscent.

I'm in mourning. It's not only true, it's worse.

The previously heartbreaking Farnesiana is now a milky, almondy mess. Alpona isn't a complete washout, but it's about 50% of what I remember it being and Tabac Blond.. Oh, where to begin.. If I had never smelled the original, this still wouldn't appeal. It's just sort of, I don't know, not there. It's Lindsay Lohan as Elizabeth Taylor in a bottle.

I'm not going to quote prices because I can't bring myself to go look it up. Just too sad.. I sampled several times at LuckyScent and referenced my samples of the previous versions from the Perfumed Court. You might be able to get the older formulations from them or Surrender to Chance

Image: Wikipedia Commons


Thursday, July 19, 2012

Eau Sauvage Parfum

By Tom

I don't think it's a big secret that I love Eau Sauvage. I've been wearing it since I was a teenager. As a matter of fact it was the first scent I ever bought for myself, using my allowance and peddling my ten-speed Raleigh over to the local Steiger's to get a bottle. I've never been without one since. I know there have been flankers, including the "extreme" version which I sort of liked, and the "cuir" version which I never warmed to, really. This past weekend I was in Sephora killing time and sucking up AC before meeting a friend for lunch. There on the shelves was a black bottle of Eau Sauvage that wasn't extreme, it was parfum.

So how is it? It's nice.

Is it Eau Sauvage?

Not really.

It's perfectly nice mind you. I suppose it could be looked at as a darker cousin of the original. Of course "darker" is relative: the original is very much a "jumped in the Austin-Healey after a day sailing and made it home in time for a G&T with Mums and Da" sort of scent. It's spray-on Cary Grant.

This one has myrrh in the opening and bergamot in the finish in an interesting "how did they manage that" inversion. I frankly don't think it's as interesting as the original and don't see it still being sold 40 years from now. But it's nicely done and well priced and about 12 times more interesting than most of the new releases for men that have come out this year.

It's just not Eau Sauvage..


Monday, July 16, 2012

You Are Invited: Alyssa Harad Coming to My Senses - NYC Event

Thursday July 19th, 7pm @ Book Court, 163 Court St, Brooklyn

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Foodie Sunday: Carrots

By Beth

I do so love carrots! When I was a pigtailed horse crazy girl, they were my favorite snack and life was a delightful and always present struggle between me and my ponies as to who would get to the carrots that I had stuffed into my pockets first.

It wasn’t until many years later that I learned to appreciate them eaten any other way than raw. Carrots were an integral part of many a midwinters eve steaming hot bran mash for my horses at Windesphere, being a root vegetable they are such a superb source of grounding, warming and nutrient dense energy.

I loved to walk into my barn on Christmas morning, give each of my horses a flake or two of hay and grab their buckets into which I would ladle a scoop or two of bran and a handful or two of dried beet pulp beforeheading towards my kitchen. Once there I would turn on the Christmas carols and start to chop. Handfuls of sweet apples went into each bucket first as well as a cup of the flax seed which had been simmering in a crockpot all night and turning itself into a nutritious jelly. Several heaping tablespoons of local raw honey were next, as well as a clove or two of pressed garlic and a cup of dried red clover blossoms and a small handful of dried mint. Then I would add the carrots that I’d shred in the Cuisinart, 3 handfuls for each horse filled with sweet, earthy juicy goodness. I'd cover each bucket with about 2 quarts of steaming hot water, stir, let sit for about 3 minutes andserve.

Carrots are still a constant source of happiness for me and I try to always have a patch of them growing in sandy spot in my garden. I love the way that they smell when they’re just moments out of the earth, like sugar and sun and cinnamon and dirt. They’re dense, sweet and strong; they tend to be ready to eat at the same time that we’re about to turn inward, away from the cold. I must be honest here and say that the little baby ones that you find in fancy (read FAWNNNcy!) restaurants are not my favorites. I appreciate their cuteness, but they lack the meaty, earthy flavor that I crave. Carrots, like beets, turnips and rutabagas and onions and garlic need their time in the earth to be as potent as I like them. They need to live with their roots buried deep in the dirt through the first crisp snaps of fall, the first frost and the first flutters of snow. That is whenthey firmly anchor themselves to the soil, looking for warmth and producing the generous grounding energies that we use to keep ourselves warm all winter long. I love them in all of their colors, bright yellows, rich warm burgundies and even white and shades of purple! I do not like, nor will you ever see me use those cut up shaved down little ovalorange things that come in bags. By the time you get them, they’ve lost all of their carroty goodness. Don’t waste your money. Even if you think that your child doesn’t like carrots just hand your child a real one someday complete with the leafy fronds and see what happens. If you give him a homemade dip of yogurt sweetened with maple syrup and pumpkin pie spice , you’ll see a complete and total transformation!

Carrots are a simple vegetable and they do best either with simple pairings of herbs , spice and fruits or cooked for hours in long slow braises where they infuse their sweetness into the basting juices of a roasted chicken or beef roast. My mother used to cook them simply, quickly sliced and steamed, then sautéed with a knob of fresh butter , salt , pepper and dill. That’s really all they need. I think that most people’s aversion to cooked carrots comes from that hideous (and I apologize in advance if anyone truly loves these) dish called “glazed carrots". I’ve never understood that recipe, carrots being so naturally sweet that they really don’t need a glaze, especially one of thickened orange juice concentrate, sugar and cinnamon.

If you’re wanting your carrots sweetened then I think that it’s better to make a Tzimmes, which is a delicious Sephardic stew of carrots, sweet potatoes, onions and dried fruit slowly braised together with a bit afreshly squeezed orange juice and liberally laced with cumin, cardamom and cinnamon. This is actually so delicious that I’ve served it warm over fresh vanilla bean ice cream with a dollop of freshly whipped maple syrup sweetened whipped cream. Yes I know, I’m definitely not the queen of understatement and trust me, don’t be put off by the onion. Onions are sweet by nature so they caramelize and blend beautifully with everything mentioned here. In the late summer or fall, serve it with the ice cream and in the winter serve it over the top of warm rice pudding. Trust me on this.

My easiest summertime carrot recipe? Throw several large cut up carrots into the vitamix with 1 quart of chicken or vegetable broth. Add salt and pepper to taste, the juice of one lemon and it’s zest and a handful of fresh dill. Process on high for a few moments and add one large ball of fresh burrata cheese. (Burrata means buttered! Don’t you love that!) Process until smooth and reheat and serve quickly with a drizzle of walnut oil. You can serve this soup chilled by adjusting the seasonings which will need to be a little stronger. A plate of wonderful raw milk cheeses and a chilled Riesling is all you need for company! Well that and a few spritzes of Dior's Escale a Portofino & Pondicherry, my scents for today!

How do you like to eat your carrots and what's your favorite eau de toilette for these blistery hot summer days? Recipes and suggestions please!

Wishing you all a lazy, yummy Foodie Sunday kind of day!


Beet and carrot photograph from the TheLunaCafé.com
Burrata photograph origins unknown

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Thursday, July 12, 2012

Random Smells

By Tom

It's been a busy week here, with me doing some long overdue Spring Cleaning, that involved realizing that I have to spend a few weekends seriously downsizing. I have got too much crap. Of course, I did rediscover a bunch of things I hadn't smelled in a while in a while that will give me a bunch of future "from the closet" posts. But for this week between cleaning and racking up miles in a Chevy Volt I was lucky enough to test (LOVED IT) my sniffage was more cleaning products and air..

The newer cleaning products that are supposed to be environmentally friendly are less scented than the old ones. They will however, if mixed incorrectly (like bleach and dishwashing soap) still create poison gasses. Avoid poison gasses. Really.

So, random smells. The ones for this week were jasmine and rosemary from the bushes in the neighborhood now that the heat wave has somewhat migrated to LA. The smell of sea air as I drove up the coast to Santa Barbara, a drive I love. The smell of the bottle of Bvlgari Blv I broke while cleaning and love a lot less, and thankfully won't be living with long. I hope.

But the big one for this week was passing a guy on Ocean Avenue who'd clearly been surfing or something involving exercise in the Pacific. As we passed closed I could smell him and it was divinely sexy: salty ocean and fresh man musk. Twenty minutes later and I would have held my nose and paid to send him through a car wash, but at that moment I was all Mrs. Robinson..

So what have you been smelling this week?

Image: My iPhone

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Luscious, Ascetic Labdanum and a New Favorite

By Marla

Labdanum is one of those ingredients that you have to stand up and pay attention to. Not in the sense of slavishly attending to a diva, but in the sense of listening to Orson Welles’ soliloquies in Shakespeare; nothing else can be heard, just that voice. Labdanum is so rich, so complex, and so very unique, it’s like one of those soliloquies. There are infinite perfumes that contain dib dabs of labdanum, and it’s a key component of the amber family, yet there are very few that put labdanum in the starring role. It’s just too commanding. And strange? Oh yes. It’s an ancient potion derived from the Mediterranean rock rose (Cistus ladaniferus) and collected from the beards of goats, or with strange instruments made of leather thongs.

But I love it when labdanum is the star of the show. And I love it when perfumers feel the same way. Sonoma Scent Studios did it with Incense Pure. Donna Karan with Chaos. And now Dr. Ellen Covey (Olympic Orchids) has done it with Dev 4, of the DevilScent Collection.

The Devilscent project was completed by a group of indie perfumers who had read our own Tarleisio’s (Sheila Eggenberger’s) novel, Quantum Demonology. You can read more about the project on Perfumer Pharmer and at Tarleisio’s blog.

Each perfumer created a set of perfumes to complement scenes of the book or its characters. The Devil character is said to remind people of Mick Jagger’s Turner in Roeg’s notorious cult film Performance. I definitely get a lot of Turner from Devs 1 and 3, both animalic, leathery knockouts.

My favorite of the group, and now, my favorite labdanum perfume, is Dev 4. It doesn’t remind me so much of the devil, but of the Desert Fathers of the Church, those wild men (and women) who couldn’t bear to be in human society anymore and just went out there into the Egyptian desert. And stayed. Dev 4 is full of rich labdanum, but it’s dry as desert bones, stern and ancient, the spices austere but compelling. It’s a deeply contemplative and serious perfume, meant for moments when you’re alone and finally thinking through the philosophical assumptions that have undergirded your life. Or you can wear it while reading Bulgakov’s Master and Margarita, or Shelley’s Ozymandias.

Ellen Covey has said that labdanum, “…is one of my all-time favorite perfume materials. To me, labdanum is one of the most grounding, calming, and comforting of all scents, and one of the most beautifully sensual. When I was making the Dev variations I got addicted to smelling labdanum when I went to sleep…. Maybe it's just coincidence, but I have the impression that it promotes a lot of vivid, film-like dreams. When I've emptied a container of labdanum resin, I wash the last tiny bits out with alcohol and add it to a hot bath ... the scent rising from the water is heavenly!” (Now that’s a good tip!)

The DevilScent Collection of 4 Devs and one Lil (for the book’s character, Lilith) is premiering on Olympic Orchids in July.


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Primordial Scents Project 2012: Floating on Air

By Donna

The Primordial Scents Project spearheaded by Monica Miller of Skye Botanicals is even more ambitious than last year’s wonderful Summer of Patchouli Love. I was very happy that Monica asked me to participate once again in a whirlwind group event. Unlike the patchouli project, this is not a competition per se; the perfumes are not being blind-tested or ranked by the reviewers. We are all just giving our impressions of the perfumers’ “elemental” fragrances, each inspired by Air, Water, Earth, Fire or Spirit. The hard part was deciding which ones to focus on, since the writers had to choose only one or two elements. I chose Air, the subject of this installment and the one for which I wrote an introductory post on Perfume Pharmer, and Fire, which will follow later. Please go to this page for a list of all participating perfumers and bloggers!

This project will be unfolding over the summer of 2012. The concept is about going back to basics in the most literal sense, making perfumes in the spirit of the building blocks of the Universe and life itself, in order to celebrate and pay homage to the unity of where we all come from, and using fragrance as language and the jumping off point for thinking about this subject. What could be more primitive in the best sense of the word, more primal, than the wordless communication of scent? Sometimes there are no words; this is about going deeper. I will attempt to do justice to them, but they are still only words….

I will begin, appropriately enough, with First Breath by perfumer Suzy Larsen of Naked Leaf Perfumes. It opens with a most delicious fresh, sweet lime and mandarin note that I wished would go on forever. Of course it cannot, but an echo of it does linger on very pleasantly throughout the course of its development. This fragrance was inspired by midwifery and birth, because that first breath of air is so momentous, the beginning of life itself and that burst of lime is the embodiment of the drama of that pivotal moment. As it develops, it turns into a soft, sweet herbal (sage, armoise, clary sage) and floral (rose, jasmine, lavender) scent that is essentially the idealized aroma of a newborn baby’s head (or a kitten’s belly, that works too) as a mélange of floral notes and vanilla takes over from the zesty opening. It smells of all things tender and fragile and reminds us that our highest calling as humans is to protect that which is defenseless, whether it is a newborn baby, a blue whale or an entire rainforest. I had not sampled any of Suzy’s fragrances before this, but I am impressed with First Breath.

Next up is Djin by Michael Storer Fragrances. I am already an admirer of this man’s work, especially his gorgeous Stephanie, but this is a real departure, cool and austere yet somehow troubling, like the tension in the summer air before a thunderstorm. I have smelled so-called ozonic perfumes before but this really does smell like it, cool and warm all at once, with a curiously grey and effervescent mineral quality that I can’t stop craving. I wore it several times to make sure the ozone component did not go wrong on my skin as it usually does, but this fragrance holds together very well, and I have to think that the aroma chemicals used to create the ozone effect must not be the usual suspects. It reminds me a little bit of one of my favorite “weird” fragrances, the strange and wonderful Memory & Desire No. 1 by Dawn Spencer Hurwitz, which also has ozone but is very wet and chilly, a windblown fragrance of wet pavement and dripping branches. In Djin, the rain has not yet begun but the hot dust-laden air is heavy with the threat of it. Wear this when you are feeling restless and daring and in an “anything goes” mood; it is the olfactory equivalent of heat lightning.

Even more ethereal than Djin is Spirit of Air by Neil Morris Fragrances, which starts out in sunlit brightness and morphs into a delicate honeyed effect. It brings to mind the expression “dancing on the breeze” so delicate is it, and it made me smile with delight as soon as I put it on. Neil’s work is known for its breadth of style and originality and this is no exception. I could wish it lasted longer, but that’s the nature of the wind, it never hangs around for long. Wearing it is like standing in front of a fan that is blowing the best-smelling air imaginable, but it is elusive as it caresses your skin with its ethereal floral accords. I could chase it around all day hoping for just a passing hint of its scent. Linden, muguet and plum blossom make for an impossibly romantic fragrance in the purest sense of the word, and it could just as easily have been called Daydream; it reminds me of when I was a kid and I would lie in the grass on a carefree summer evening and watch the cloud pictures for hours at a time. Neil has captured innocence in a bottle with Spirit of Air, an innocence that we can all revisit if we stop all the “shoulds” for a while and just be.

Then there is Honey by Laurie Stern of Velvet and Sweet Pea Purrfumery. Its aroma is not as straightforward as the name would suggest; it does not smell anything like the mainstream fragrances that are meant to smell of honey. To me this is an odor of fertility, as the yellow pollen collected by the heavily laden bees drifts on the warm air. I enjoy honey scents very much and this one is pure bliss. I think this must be what the bees themselves experience, up close and personal; the aroma of pollen, the ultimate in life-giving essence, and the heavy sweetness of the nectar that draws them to the blossoms in the first place. Is there anything more primordial than the symbiosis of bee and flower? I think of how they evolved in symmetry with each other, with flowers finding ever more elaborate ways to reward their pollinators for spreading the flowers’ genes around, and scent, along with color, is one of the most successful strategies that also happens to mesmerize humans. It makes one realize that we are not really in charge of things here on this planet. The intense and fecund smell of Honey, including the deep essence of beeswax, is a reminder of this elemental relationship.

Amanda Feeley of Escentual Alchemy contributed the evocatively named Moon Valley, which began with the curiously cold effect of banked ashes in a fireplace to my nose, which was fascinating since the listed notes describe a sensual floral perfume of jasmine, lilac, carnation and tuberose enriched with peach, not a dying fire. They arrive soon enough, those blossoms, in all their heavy sensuality and a tableau formed in my mind as I experienced its unfolding. Only the ceiling fan, with maybe a breath or two coming in through the gauzy drapes, moves this kind of languid air. The wearer of the perfume is in repose on a rumpled chaise longue, her bodice loosened as she listens to Billie Holiday songs on an old record player. Outside the moon is full but a haze surrounds it and the night is all but still. She looks at the little ormolu clock on her dresser and realizes that it is nearly time for that man of hers to come home, and she has seduction on her mind. She smiles secretly as she dabs her new perfume between her breasts and on the back of her neck where the damp tendrils of her hair are curling from the humid torpor of late summer. This will be a night to remember…

There is one more perfume in this group but it’s not strictly an Air scent; natural perfumer Lyn Ayre of Coeur d’Esprit Natural Perfumes created a fragrance to encompass all the elements to symbolize that everything is interconnected and called it Ele-Metal Alchemy. It begins with the sharp metallic bite of galbanum, like tasting cold copper, and then explodes into a mélange of sensations including animalic notes of hyraceum and real ambergris, tincture of seaweed, shells and sea grass, resinous frankincense, balsam, pine and cedar, citrus peel and neroli, leafy essences of hay, mango leaf and mint, all embellished with gorgeous floral absolutes of lotus, frangipani and jasmine. Its initial impression for me after the opening was earthiness, but the sweetness of citrus and flowers kept darting in and out of the deeper notes like elves playing hide-and-seek in a forest. Just when I thought it had settled into the drydown something else popped out and surprised me. The long list of notes might lead you to think that it’s overdone, but it really works, and I found it to be both wearable and mesmerizing as all its components gradually coalesced into a handsome, austere chypre style scent with a “retro” style animalic character that somehow encompasses all the elements while remaining very coherent. Hats off to Lyn Ayre for this tour de force of a fragrance -or should I say force of nature?

In the next chapter on the Primordial Scents I will be exploring the Fire perfumes, so please check back, and please read all about what other writers have to say about this series via the Primordial Scents Project page link, as it will be updated as new blog posts are published.

Image credits:

The Primordial Scents Project logo courtesy of Monica Miller, art by Jessica Perlstein.
“Cobble Hill” (1931) by Maxfield Parrish via
Seated Female Nude on a Chaise-longue by Edgar Degas via
Disclosure: All perfume samples were sent to me and the other participating bloggers by Monica Miller for testing and review.


Thursday, July 05, 2012

Scent Bar at Target

Target’s latest beauty exclusive is a collaboration with Scent Bar!

From press release:
Proprietors Adam Eastwood and Franco Wright have earned a reputation as Hollywood’s fragrance gurus, guiding women on a voyage to discover their signature scents in the comfort of Scent Bar’s gem-like boutique. Now every woman can discover her signature scents with Scent Bar’s™ first bath and body offering, exclusively at Target and
“Our focus was on creating truly wearable scents wrapped in great body products she could use every day – all at a great price. For years we’ve helped women discover fragrances they fall in love with, and we’re thrilled to bring that boutique experience to Target’s specialty bath department” said Adam Eastwood.
Launching with four custom-designed fragrances, each scent includes a body wash, body lotion, body mist and a shea intense body butter. Scent Bar™ combines exotic fragrances with premium formulas in elegant packaging, starting at only $8.99. Each range of sheer-scented products is designed for everyday layering, so you can customize the intensity of your favorite scent, while leaving your skin beautifully quenched and luxuriously fragranced.

Discover your own signature scent with the four fragrance collections:

That playful glance. A new romance. Blush is a toast to the modern flirt, fragranced with notes of sugared peony, cassis and pink champagne.

Your private beach. A tropical breeze. Cabana invites you on the ultimate escape, fragranced with notes of coconut, Tahitian vanilla and papaya.

A midnight kiss. Your secret wish. Forbidden is an ode to seduction, fragranced with notes of ruby pomegranate, blackberry and amber.

Summer bliss. A citrus twist. Sunswept captures the joy of a sunny day, fragranced with notes of Sicilian orange, sheer lemon and bergamot.

Happy 4th!

By Tom

No review this week since all I did was eat in honor of the founding of our country. Have a great weekend all!

Photo: Internets

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Foodie Sunday: Wine

By Tom

Okay, this is going to be a short one since it's about 11 pm here in the Hills of Beverly and I've gotten home from a dinner party where I've had a couple of glasses of the titular beverage.

I like a glass of wine. I like hard liquor and actually enjoyed two (I know, he's so crazy) Rusty Nail cocktails at dinner on my birthday recently with friends who invited me out. But usually it's wine.  White in my case, even though I know that red is better for the heart. I will even admit that like a total philistine or a European teen I will water it. I'll even have 80's throwback moment and pour Perrier in it and a lemon slice. Sue me.

Wine is good for me because I don't capital "D" drink. I had a lethal hangover once in my early twenties and except for a couple of minor indiscretions since have resolutely endeavored not to repeat the experience. Back in the day when I was going to clubs I could nurse a Miller Lite longer than a mother could her child; I could go home and not feel like crap the next day.

So at my friends dinner they served a really nice white that tasted of apples, pears and a slight bitter hit of oak, just enough to tell you  it was wine and not juice, but not that take the enamel off your teeth feeling that some whites can get to. I'll have to ask her what it was, if she knows. She never touches the stuff.

What's your tipple of choice? If you want to chime in with anything from soda to Sazerac please comment..

Image: Internets