This is the second in a series of reviews in connection with the Natural Perfumers Guild Brave New Scents Project. In the first installment I focused on three perfumers using cutting edge materials to make strikingly original fragrances. In this column I am exploring the creations of three more in the group, with emphasis on their treatment of rare floral essences.
Once again I am pleased to present my part of a writing collaboration similar to the very successful Outlaw Perfume Project in 2010. This endeavor is also organized by the Natural Perfumer’s Guild and its aim is to showcase new perfumery material available to natural perfumers. New synthetic molecules are constantly being made in laboratories, but when only 100% natural materials are being used, more creativity is needed when trying to make something original. The talented perfumers for this event have made exciting new fragrances using natural and botanical essences that have become available only in recent years, or that have been so rare as to preclude their widespread use. Thanks to the ever-growing network of suppliers outside the mainstream who do not answer to IFRA and the European Union, the artisan perfumers of the world have an even broader palette with which to work. What is especially intriguing is that the perfumers in the Brave New Scents Project were instructed to create fragrances using materials that have become available to them only since the year 2000, with only one exception for anything that was available prior to that year, so they had to make a high quality fragrance and could only use a single older “standard” essence among all the others. How did they fare with this Project Runway© style challenge? Let’s find out!
The leader of the Natural Perfumers Guild, Anya McCoy of Anya’s Garden Perfumes, has chosen the tropical lotus blossom as the central theme of her Brave New Scents offering. This one was an unexpected sensation for me; I was expecting a light, perhaps even “watery” floral since that is the treatment that lotus usually receives in perfumery, but I should have known better considering the title of the challenge. Royal Lotus is a rich, powerful evocation of the fragrant night-blooming lotus and it reminds me a little bit of my beloved Datura Noir by Serge Lutens. I have always loved the mystery of night-scented flowers with their hint of decadence, and Royal Lotus has this quality in abundance. This is achieved with three different lotus extractions, two jasmines, orange blossom and most unusual of all, two forms of Queen of the Night (Cestrum nocturnum, also known as Night Queen) flower, an absolute from India and a tincture from Anya’s own garden, from which the orange blossom and both jasmines are also sourced. (Her company is not called Anya’s Garden for nothing, as she grows a wide range of fragrant plants for composing her perfumes.) Queen of the Night is also called night-blooming jasmine, although it’s not related; its fragrance is heady, powerful and a bit sinister. It is also rarely captured in perfumes, but this is one of the newly available perfumery materials that are at the center of this project. The perfumer calls this fragrance “unctuous” and it is, in the best sense of the word, a sensual boudoir scent underscored with Australian sandalwood, ambergris absolute and Tonka bean. Royal Lotus can hold its own with any femme fatale floral I can think of and it’s an effective weapon for the arsenals of temptresses everywhere.
Charna Ethier of Providence Perfume Company has concocted an original homage to a beautiful yet deadly Southern flower and called it Jessamine for her entry in the challenge. The aroma of the beautiful vining plant with bright yellow blooms commonly known as Carolina jessamine is re-created using a masterful blend of natural essences including jasmine, Aglaia flower, linden blossom and pink lotus. It opens with a fresh, juicy burst that is almost like rhubarb in its exuberance, which is achieved with a fusion of Cedrat (citron) and yuzu fruits combined with galbanum, which creates a really interesting effect. The fragrance gradually softens into the beautiful bouquet of breezy romantic florals, where it remains for an impressive amount of time until only the base remains, a pillow of orris (iris), sweet hay and the finest Tahitian vanilla bean. The namesake of this perfume may be poisonous, but the scent is as user-friendly as can be, as pretty as an Edwardian lawn party dress and a true delight from start to finish. I have never had the pleasure of smelling the flowers of the Carolina jessamine, so I must thank Ms. Ethier for bringing it to life for flower lovers to experience.
New to me for this project is the work of Rohanna Goodwin Smith of Ascent Natural Perfumes in British Columbia, Canada. This is an “ultra-niche” perfumery where everything is made by hand of the finest botanical essences. Her presentation for the Brave New Scents event is called New Dawn, and it’s as luminous as the name implies. New Dawn is made of some of the same materials as Royal Lotus, such as Night Queen and jasmine, but it’s fresh and sheer while still being luxuriant. It opens with a piquant citrus, pink pepper and galbanum chorus that soon reveals a radiant floral accord that smells dewy and rain-kissed, yet with a rich, buttery gardenia-like character imbued by rare Jasminum auriculatum and enhanced by the richness of tropical champaca blossoms and warmed with a base of ambrette seed (which is a botanical stand-in for ambergris) and blond tobacco. This combination is nothing short of addictive and serves as a wonderful celebration of the choice natural floral essences available today. I am especially fond of floral perfumes of this general style and this is one of the best I have sampled in recent memory; fans of white florals like jasmine and gardenia who dislike the overly heavy or chemical-smelling “screechy” synthetic florals in the mainstream market will find solace here. Now that I have tried New Dawn, I can’t wait to sample more of this perfumer’s creations.
I will be reviewing the rest of the perfumes from this project soon.
Please note: This is a collaborative event; please visit the Web sites of the other writers to read their reviews of all ten perfumes beginning 10/1/2011:
All I Am – a redhead
Ça Fleure Bon (Several writers on this site reviewed all ten perfumes among them on 10/1/11)
The Perfume Critic
The perfumers are:
Anya McCoy of Anya’s Garden Perfumes (Project Coordinator & Natural Perfumers Guild President)
Adam Gottschalk of Lord’s Jester
Ambrosia Jones of Perfume By Nature
Charna Ethier of Providence Perfume Company
Christi Meshell of House of Matriarch
Elise Pearlstine ofBelly Flowers Botanical Perfumes
Jane Cate of A Wing and a Prayer Perfumes
Liz Cook of One Seed
Rohanna Goodwin Smith of Ascent Natural Perfumes