Perfumer Amber Jobin of Aether Arts Perfume makes a pilgrimage each year that most of us can only wonder about; she attends the annual Burning Man festival in the vast Black Rock Desert of Nevada. This celebration of art, music, creativity, personal expression of every kind and any number of things that are almost certainly banned in Boston is an ongoing inspiration for her, and the “Burner” series of perfume oils is a tribute to its influence on her aesthetic. I am very pleased to review the two newest scents in the series, which showcase Ms. Jobin's impressive and growing talent.
Sensuality is one of the main associations many people have with Burning Man – the “let it all hang out” dress code and encouraging of uninhibited behavior results in a a potent stew amounting to what may be the largest gathering of free spirits on the planet. Black Rock City is the embodiment of this atmosphere, an earthy, sexy perfume that cannot be mistaken for anything ordinary or tame. Named for the temporary community of thousands that springs up every year and then vanishes at the festival's conclusion, it was created in 2010 and only released to the public in 2015; Black Rock City is Number 1 in the Burner series. It is 95 percent natural and combines timeless desert essences like sage, mesquite and cedar in a deep, resinous composition that somehow evokes the scent of warm bodies to my nose, even though it is also quite dry and woody. It has a subtle vanillic sweetness from mesquite blossoms – an essence I have never smelled in a perfume before now – and is grounded in a base of cedar and mesquite wood. This deceptively simple formula is very long-lasting and complex, and must be experienced on skin for the full effect, as it just keeps getting better as the hours pass.
On the opposite end of the fragrance spectrum, Reflection (Burner No. 6) captures the sensation of the desert after a rare rainstorm, ominous with thunder and lightning yet brimming with life as thirsty desert plants spring up virtually overnight and flowers open their blooms to the sky after a long drought. The sensation of rain-washed earth evoked by this fragrance is astonishingly true to life, and it succeeds where so many have failed in capturing the exhilarating post-rain aroma known as petrichor. I have never been a big fan of ozone scents (exception: Ms. Jobin's own Argent, see link in first paragraph), mainly because they almost never seem to get it right, but this one does, blending the sharp, penetrating character of ozone with the tender scent of flowers and the soft wetness of still rain pools. Sage, mesquite and cedar make appearances here too, along with cactus flower, yucca flower and sage blossom accords. Even though it shares ingredients with Black Rock City, the two fragrances are worlds apart in style; Reflection is a testament to the artistic possibilities of mixed media perfumery, being 45 percent natural and 55 percent synthetic. (Both fragrances are made in oil form equal to 45 percent extrait, so their longevity is impressive.)
The two can also be layered together for a truly unique experience; in fact, that works wonderfully well on my skin. The extremes of wet ozone and dry wood cancel each other out just enough to allow the lighter herbal and floral notes to shine, like the breath of green plants rising from the warming earth as the rain evaporates under the desert sun. I give an enthusiastic thumbs up to them both, either by themselves or in combination.
Image credit: Lightning storm in the Black Rock Desert, Nevada wallpaper photo via tophdwallpapers.club.
Disclosure: I received my samples for testing from Aether Arts Perfume.