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Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Singing over the Bones : Roxana Illuminated Perfumes - Figure1:Noir

By Beth Schreibman Gehring

Before you read this, I must let you know upfront that I generally hate Patchouli based fragrances. Quite frankly they've all smell mildewy and dank to me.  I've never met one that I liked or that I felt smelled delicious on my skin at all. 

Until now.

A few weeks ago I came home to find a wonderful package from Roxana Villa of Roxana Illuminated Perfumes. Intrigued , I ripped it open and  discovered several samples of her perfume Figure 1: Noir and a beautiful postcard with an elegant description of the fragrance.  I am always prepared to love anything of Roxana's because in my mind she is one of the greatest of the alchemists working in the realm of botanical perfumery. I have seen first hand the care with which she creates her accords and her perfumes and have experienced her exquisite attention to detail many times. She is one of the only perfumers that I've had the pleasure of working with who is able to create remarkable tensions and relationships between raw materials, oils and accords; almost like a beautiful symphony that begins as a quiet thought and emerges as a full-blown musical love affair and finishes leaving the listener (or the wearer) with a subtle yet passionate whisper of the opening movement yet promising ever so much more.  

When I discovered that Figure 1: Noir was a patchouli based scent I was truly terrified , but I completely trust Roxana and her sensibilities.  My fear vanished instantly as I spread the luscious solid perfume over my wrists and throat and then I sprayed the sample of the liquid fragrance through my hair. I took a deep sniff…I was amazed and my feelings about patchouli in perfume simply evaporated in an instant.  

Frankly , Figure 1: Noir is a patchouli that I like to flatter myself was made just  for me. It's earthy and green and it's full of a remarkable freshness that I don't normally associate with a fragrance like this; yet I don't mean to imply that this is a joyous , 60's  sort of patchouli as thank goodness it's not even close!  This perfume is subtly musky and I'm fascinated by that because Roxana is adamant in her use of only botanicals, courageously eschewing almost all forms of animal based fixatives which technically are natural, yet generally extracted in the cruelest of ways. Where that sensual undercurrent of musk came from I do not know, except if I had to guess my thought is that it may have come from the black cumin, orris root and Mysore sandalwood that are part of this bewitching brew as cumin generally turns into something of a pheromone on my skin. I do recall smelling the freshly harvested wax from a beehive once and thinking that it was one of the most feral scents that I'd ever come to know.  

Roxana will use beeswax and perhaps the occasional bit of honey that she has harvested from her own hives so perhaps that's where the animalistic quality came from. Whatever , wherever though is really not the point. Figure 1: Noir is sensual and predatory in the most elegant sense of the word and is little black dress perfection.  I would never call this  perfume playful  because  it's really quite primal. This is truly the only Patchouli fragrance that I have ever enjoyed at all , probably because it's been created so carefully from the real thing and it's been used by one who is absolutely masterful in her ability to blend all of those notes. On a whim I grabbed another sample that I'd received from her about 6 months ago;  a lovely aged, syrupy drop of her Ivy based Hedera Helix  that I layered with the Figure 1: Noir. What happened after that was nothing short of alchemy and is a combination that I have returned to several times now, tempting me to say that it could easily become my signature scent. I am shamanistic and Celtic by nature and I am consistently captivated by the magic of this, often turning inward towards the mystical skeleton woman to sing over the bleached bones of the deep soul and the presence of the magical , wild nature that joyously emerges when you become aroused by all of life. Figure 1: Noir and subsequently Hedera Helix bring forth that wellspring of emotion in me that I find almost uncontainable, larger than life and yet quietly enchanting like the sound and scent of a icy forest. Both of these perfumes make me want to don my Irish wool cape and go for a walk outside in the softly falling snow because they are the sensory equivalent of a fascinating natural Haiku, all-knowing and yet not, quietly held, strength in check, sharing the same deep inhale and subsequent exhale of a sweet and prayerful winters breath that is gently turning towards the spring.   

Please note that Roxana will also be a featured speaker at this years World of Aromatherapy Conference that will take place next fall in Seattle Washington. To say that I am thrilled for her is an understatement!

 In her own words:

"It was a few years into my love affair with essential oils that I became aware of "aromatherapy" as a community and the various professionals within it. As an attendee of the first National Association of Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA) conference in San Francisco I was in complete awe. The gala event took place in the Autumn of 1996 at the Palace Hotel. At the time I was a single mom working as a freelance illustrator with a strong interest aromatherapy. Essential oils had already become part of the holistic tool box while taking classes and teaching about the wonders of aromatics.

There are a few memories from the event that stand out like sign posts, etched into my psyche. One of them is Dr. Christoph Streicher telling his captive audience that when one decides to create a business using essential oils, you don't pick them, they pick you. The other memory is the awareness of a longing to be part of this community and one day a speaker.

With a great amount of gratitude I am happy to share that next fall, eighteen years from the first conference, I will be a presenter at the The World of Aromatherapy VII Conference in Seattle, Washington."

You'll want to be there!

Figure 1: Noir can be found in all its forms at Roxana's gorgeous new website!
 I do not know if Hedera Helix is available at this time and that's the beauty of botanical perfumes, like seasonal food we must appreciate them in their time and place! I have also blended Figure 1 : Noir with Roxana's lovely chypre based "Greenwitch" and found  the resulting scent to be nothing short of fascinating.   


Blogger Illuminated Perfume said...

What a delicious review Beth! You write in such a "visual" way, I can so easily see you chanting and / or riding horseback through the Moors with your cape in the wild air behind you.

It's such a treat to have you write about Figure 1: Noir, one of my personal favorites and include Hedera helix into the brew.

Wafting California sunshine and my gratitude your way. xo

7:40 PM EST  
Blogger SallyM said...

This is an absolutely beautiful review - so very evocative and compelling. I have been interested in aromatherapy for 20 years, when I started studying to be a herbalist and subsequently owned a herbarium. While I no longer have the store, I still dabble in oils and will be scooting over to Roxana's website after I finish here. Like you, I cant abide Patchouli - I think the fact that we all positively drowned ourselves in it during the 70s has a lot to do with that, but am intrigued enough by your words to give this a try. And synchronous that you should mention snow and Irish cloaks -we are in the grip of a storm warning here in Oregon and I was thinking of wearing my dark green wool cloak to walk the dogs as it's just started snowing...

2:09 PM EST  
Blogger Flora said...

Great review Beth! I feel the same abut Figure 1: Noir, it's a dark beauty with so much mystery. I as once a patchouli-phobe myself,but I am glad that I have been able to get past my bias to enjoy such lovely creations as this.

4:30 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post!


7:05 PM EST  

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