Scent Sample Sunday: Dryad

Scent Sample Sunday: Dryad

I first learned about dryads from C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, books I dearly loved as a child and still love. Dryads are tree spirits, nymphs who personify trees and may inhabit them. They are benign pagan beings, female, and sometimes referred to as “wood-women” in Narnia. In the Narnia books, Lewis describes both male and female tree spirits, but he only uses “dryad” to refer to female spirits. Dryads, when they appear in human form, take on the characteristics of the particular trees they inhabit: birch-girls in silver, beech-girls in fresh, transparent green, and the larch-girls in green so bright that it was almost yellow.”

Illustration of a dryad tree nymph by Arthur Rackham.

Dryad, by Arthur Rackham, 1913.

Papillon Artisan Perfumes’ Liz Moores has conjured up a bewitching, witchy green perfume in her 2017 creation, Dryad. I have a great love for green scents, as well as the florals I love, and this nymph has won my heart. From the Papillon website:

As vibrant emerald Galbanum weaves with the delicate flesh of Bergamot, the nomadic wanderings of Dryad begin.

Beneath jade canopies, sweet-herbed Narcissus nestles with gilded Jonquil. Shadows of Apricot and Cedrat morph radiant greens to a soft golden glow.

Earthed within the ochre roots of Benzoin, heady Oakmoss entwines with deep Vetiver hues.

And at its heart, the slick skin of Costus beckons you further into the forest…

And into the forest I happily go! Papillon lists the notes as follows: Narcissus, Oakmoss, Jonquil, Cedrat, Galbanum, Benzoin, Vetiver. The narcissus and jonquil notes are very evident at the start, but the galbanum (a green resin) is right there with them, giving a sharpness in contrast to the floral notes, as if to remind us that there are no living flowers without green stems and leaves. Dryad does not evoke a bouquet or still life of cut flowers — far from it. It smells like a tree come to life — a vibrant, dynamic being with unpredictable movement. This nymph dances.

Green nymph Fantasia

Image from Disney’s Fantasia 2000

As it dries down, Dryad brings out more and more of the oakmoss, the cedar, and the benzoin, which happens to be an oil extracted from a specific kind of tree. The word “dryad” comes from the ancient Greek word for oak, so oakmoss also fits right in. Honestly, this fragrance is so clever as well as lovely! As I had hoped when Dryad‘s launch was announced, this fragrance is GREEN as well as being a chypre. If you hate Chanel No. 19, for instance, you may want to keep your distance. Even the bergamot mentioned in the website copy is a green citrus, not a sweet one. Despite several wood-related notes, though, Dryad never feels “woody” to me.

This is a potent potion; one small spritz on each of my wrists, and I happily smelled it wafting up to my nose all evening. I don’t think it carries very far away from me, i.e. sillage is moderate, but it lasts for several hours. The more it dries down, the more I detect a faint sweetness; the sharper edge of the opening stage has softened. The whole progression has a vintage vibe, but the fragrance is thoroughly modern and unisex.

Dryad is perfect for the cool, sunny fall days we are having now, with the nights that approach, but do not quite reach, frost. While doing some research for this post, I found a poem that C.S. Lewis wrote in the 1940s, before the Narnia books. It describes a magician forcing a dryad to leave her tree and take human form, which she experiences as a prison; he releases her to return to her tree, but the tree’s leaves fall and it will wither and die. Dryad is not a sad or withering scent, just as fall is not a season of death. Trees lose their leaves in the fall so they can slumber through the winter, and awake afresh in the spring, bursting into green with the daffodils. So Lewis’ poem is not quite apropos here, but I’ll share it anyway, and borrow some of his words:

She drank
With thirst of myriad mouths the bursting cataracts of the sun,
The drizzle of gentler stars, and indivisible small rain.
Wading the dark earth, made of earth and light, cradled in air …

This Dryad does indeed embrace the sun, the rain, the dark earth, and the green air of an ancient forest, like the New Forest where she was born. And even when she slumbers, the promise of her reawakening lies beneath the surface.

Mud Maid sculpture in the Lost Gardens of Heligan, Cornwall

Mud Maid, the Lost Gardens of Heligan

MAGICIAN
Out of your dim felicity of leaves, oh Nymph appear,
answer me in soft-showery voice, attempt the unrooted dance
–My art shall sponsor the enormity. Now concentrate,
Around, where in your vegetative heart it drowses deep
In seminal sleep, your feminine response. Conjuro te
Per Hecates essentiam et noctis silentia,

Breaking by Trivia’s name your prison of bark. Beautiful, awake.

DRYAD
Risen from the deep lake of my liberty, into your prison
She has come, cruel commander.

MAGICIAN
I have given speech to the dumb.
Will you not thank me, silver lady?

DRYAD
Oh till now she drank
With thirst of myriad mouths the bursting cataracts of the sun,
The drizzle of gentler stars, and indivisible small rain.
Wading the dark earth, made of earth and light, cradled in air,
All that she was, she was all over. Now the mask you call
A Face has blotted out the ambient hemisphere’s embrace;
Her light is screwed into twin nodules of tormenting sight;
Searing divisions tear her into five. She cannot hear
But only see, the moon; earth has no taste; she cannot breathe
at every branch vibrations of the sky. For a dome of severance,
A helmet, a dark, rigid box of bone, has overwhelmed
Her hair…that was her lungs…that was her nerves…that kissed the air.
Crushed in a brain, her thought that circled cooly in every vein
Turns into poison, thickens like a man’s, ferments and burns.
She was at peace when she was in her unity. Oh now release
And let her out into the seamless world, make her forget.

MAGICIAN
Be free. Relapse. And so she vanishes. And now the tree
Grows barer every moment. The leaves fall. A killing air,
Sighing from the country of Man, has withered it. The tree will die.

~C.S. Lewis, “The Magician and the Dryad”, Poems (1964)

Scent Sample Sunday: Iris Dragees

Scent Sample Sunday: Iris Dragees

Lancome has launched another in its “Maison Lancome Haute Parfumerie” line, and it’s a winner! I am coming to love this higher-end Lancome line, as it is launching some truly gorgeous florals, my first loves in fragrance. Iris Dragees , launched in 2018, is by perfumer Nathalie Lorson. Fragrantica lists its notes as follows: “top notes are bergamot and pink pepper; middle notes are freesia, orange blossom, almond, sugar and iris flower; base notes are iso e super, orris, vanilla and white musk.” The box and the Lancome website list only three notes: iris distillate, iris resinoid, and sugared almonds. The latter are the “dragees”, which are literally almonds coated in a hard sugar shell, usually in soft pastel colors.

Iris Dragees is very true to its name. Contrary to Fragrantica’s list, I smell iris right away, although there is a brief, fresh pop when first sprayed that could be a hint of bergamot. The iris jumps forward almost immediately, and it is a sweet iris, but not too sweet. (I’m not much into gourmand scents, though I do like some gourmand notes, like vanilla and coffee). Although iris is often perceived as “powdery” because of the note’s long use in, and association with, luxury powders, this iris feels less powdery to me although still floral, and  I think that’s because of the almond note. To my nose, almond lends a creaminess that is very appealing. Here, it is a light creaminess, so maybe more like almond milk — subtle, and enhancing the iris rather than announcing itself.

The “dragee” aspect of Iris Dragees also shows up quickly, with a light vanilla undertone  that also subtly supports the iris heart note. As the scent dries down, the iris becomes more and more pronounced, but it never loses the underlying sweetness from the “sugared almonds.” Iris Dragees lives in the same realm as its sibling from the same Maison Lancome line, Jasmins Marzipane, which Tania Sanchez gave five stars in the new “Perfumes: The Guide 2018.” It is a land of elegant sugared flowers, so artfully composed that to the human eye, it would be hard to tell whether the delicately tinted decorations on a gorgeous cake were real flowers or their idealized facsimiles.

Sugared iris flowers on wedding cake by Amanda Earl

“Iris” cake by Amanda Earl; image from http://www.amandaearlcakes.com.

A little goes a long way with Iris Dragees; a small spray on each of my wrists is ample for me to enjoy it, and its longevity is good. The base has a lightly woody vibe, which is probably from the Iso E Super listed among the base notes by Fragrantica. It is a soft landing from the soft heart notes.

Another aspect of this fragrance and its siblings which I appreciate is that they can be bought in a 14 ml size, just right to bring the price down to “impulse purchase” range (suggested retail $35.00), but enough to enjoy more than once or twice. These travel-size bottles are as pretty as the big ones, with their artwork based on cut paper.

Iris Dragee bottle

Iris Dragees by Maison Lancome; image from http://www.lancome.co.uk.

If you like iris fragrances, I suspect you will like this one a lot! I’m a relatively new convert to iris as a fragrance note; not that I ever disliked it, I’ve just always gravitated to greener florals and notes like muguet, rose, and lily. But I have discovered in the last couple of years that I really do like many iris-centered fragrances, such as Miller Harris’ Terre d’Iris and Laboratorio Olfattivo’s Nirmal.

Have you tried Iris Dragees or any others from Maison Lancome? What did you think? Can you recommend any other iris fragrances?

Edible iris flower cake toppers from Sugar Butterflies on Etsy.

Edible flowers from Sugar Butterflies

Fragrance Friday: Is Lavender The New Valium?

Fragrance Friday: Is Lavender The New Valium?

This week, the New York Times published an article detailing research that suggests lavender really does have the healing power of calming stress and anxiety for which it has been reputed over centuries: Lavender’s Soothing Scent Could Be More Than Just Folk Medicine.

In a study published Tuesday in the journal Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, [the researcher] and his colleagues found that sniffing linalool, an alcohol component of lavender odor, was kind of like popping a Valium. It worked on the same parts of a mouse’s brain, but without all the dizzying side effects. And it didn’t target parts of the brain directly from the bloodstream, as was thought. Relief from anxiety could be triggered just by inhaling through a healthy nose.

But why stop at lavender? It seems the key substance is linalool, which occurs naturally in many plants and spices, and is listed as an ingredient in fragranced products, as Lush notes:

Linalool is a colourless liquid with a soft, sweet odour. It occurs naturally in many essential oils, such as tangerine, spearmint, rose, cypress, lemon, cinnamon and ylang ylang. It has a soft, sweet scent. Ho wood oil is used in some fragrances, which is linalool in its natural form, for the woody, sweet note it gives.  Even when ingredients are naturally occurring fragrance constituents they are included in quantitative ingredients lists,  this enables people to decide which product is right for them.

One can even search on the Lush websites (UK and USA) for products by ingredient, so it is possible to identify specific products of theirs that contain linalool, including several of their solid and spray perfumes.

Time for me to break out an essential oil diffuser with a strong dose of lavender! That seems fitting for a blog titled “Serenity Now.” Do you find that lavender has a calming effect on you? How do you use it or other essential oils to create calm in your surroundings?

Featured image from http://www.nytimes.com, by Eric Gaillard for Reuters.

Scent Sample Sunday: Aramis Calligraphy Rose

Scent Sample Sunday: Aramis Calligraphy Rose

Several of the perfume blogs I follow are featuring lists and questions about favorite autumn fragrances, and I’ve found myself mentioning, more than once, Aramis’ Calligraphy Rose, which I like to wear in the fall and winter as a “floriental” — still floral, which is probably my most favored category of fragrance, with added oriental fragrance aspects like spices, myrrh, frankincense, etc. Per Fragrantica, its top notes are oregano, saffron and honeysuckle; middle notes are turkish rose, myrrh, styrax and lavender; base notes are labdanum, musk, ambergris and olibanum (frankincense).

Calligraphy Rose was one of a trio of Aramis eaux de parfum launched from 2012-2014: Calligraphy (2012), Calligraphy Rose (2013) and Calligraphy Saffron (2014). It was created by perfumer Trudi Loren, who is listed with Maurice Roucel as co-creator of 2006’s Missoni, awarded five stars by Luca Turin in his original “Perfumes: The A-Z Guide.” It has been discontinued but is still widely available online for reasonable prices.

To my nose, Calligraphy Rose starts out green and sweet, which makes sense given the top notes listed. The oregano I smell is the green, growing plant, not the dried herb. The sweetness must come from the honeysuckle note, which Gail Gross wrote about in a wonderful review of Calligraphy Rose last January at CaFleureBon. For her, the honeysuckle was very dominant. It is less so for me, though its underlying sweetness never leaves. On my skin, the rose note emerges quickly and strongly, and it persists for a long time, which I love. I have layered Calligraphy Rose with other rose scents such as Taif Roses by Abdul Samad Al Qurashi, a powerful rose attar, on occasions like Christmas Eve, with happy results; any lasting rose fragrance will have the same effect of amplifying the already-strong rose note. I bet it would layer beautifully with Viktor&Rolf’s Flowerbomb Rose Twist, a perfume layering oil, or with Tauerville’s Rose Flash, with its 20% concentration. One could emphasize other notes in a similar fashion, such as adding a lavender or frankincense layer, pushing it in any direction one prefers. Calligraphy Rose is a bit of a chameleon.

As it dries down, Calligraphy Rose on its own becomes less floral and more balsamic, like a lovely balsamic glaze. This “glaze” was made with honey, and includes herbs. Having started out quite green, it becomes warmer, thanks to those warm base notes. In fact, its progression is not unlike the progression of autumn itself, from the lingering green of still-living plants, to the late flushes of rose blooms, to the warmth and spice of winter dishes. P.S. It lasts for hours and hours! One spray on my wrist is still wafting faintly off my skin almost 24 hours later as a warm, sweet skin scent. Use with a light hand, but you’ll smell marvelous for a long time.

Calligraphy Rose is a truly unisex fragrance. Launched under Estee Lauder’s men’s brand of Aramis, it suits both men and women. It is less gourmand than Montale’s Intense Cafe, more herbal. I love it!

Catch A Tiger By The Toe?

Catch A Tiger By The Toe?

It seems that the way one actually catches a tiger is by the nose. That is the conclusion of wildlife authorities in India, who have been trying for two years to catch a man-killing tigress in Maharashtra. One veterinarian swears by Calvin Klein’s Obsession, and perfumer Mandy Aftel comments on why that might work: Calvin Klein’s Obsession Could Be The Trick To Catching A Tiger.

P.S. If tigers like civet this much, imagine how they might respond to Kouros!

 

Fragrance Friday: Commodity Velvet

Fragrance Friday: Commodity Velvet

I have a soft spot for the Commodity line of fragrances, as Commodity Moss was one of the first niche-type fragrances I tried when I started getting serious about fragrance (I say niche-type, because once you can buy a fragrance in Sephora, I’m not sure it’s a true niche fragrance any more!). I really like Moss, but my oh my Velvet!

Commodity Velvet is a new 2018 release, and the perfumer is Jerome Epinette. Its top notes are listed on the Commodity website as roasted almond, clove buds, and coconut water. Heart notes are: heliotropine, vanilla flower, velvet rose petals. Base notes are blonde woods, white birch, black amber. Commodity has a short film in which M. Epinette describes his intentions in creating Velvet:

Velvet is a unique rose fragrance, with its notes of roasted almond, white birch, and black amber. There are many fragrances that combine rose and vanilla, but Velvet’s lightly smoky, nutty opening is unusual and very pleasing. The only other fragrance I’ve been able to find that combines roasted or toasted almonds with rose, vanilla, and birch is Soivohle’s Vanillaville, in which it seems that the rose is much more of a bit player, and tobacco and leather notes dominate. (P.S. Vanillaville sounds great! I haven’t tried it but it’s now on my radar).

M. Epinette focused on evoking the soft texture of velvet fabric or the velvety feel of real rose petals, and he has succeeded. He says of his concept: “I was inspired by the image of vibrant pink Turkish Rose Petals floating gently over a mysterious, dark background of richly warm vanilla and black amber with a delicious touch of roasted almond drifting in the air.” The almond is present right from the start. I don’t smell any coconut in the opening, but it may be there as a support to the roasted almond, which I do smell.

I don’t experience the base or drydown of Velvet as “dark”, if by dark one means edgy. The dark of Velvet is warm and soft, shot through with subtle shades of color, as fine silk velvet often is. M. Epinette describes vibrant pink rose petals against a dark background, but I perceive Velvet as being more like one of the dark, velvety roses that have shades of pink on their petals.

Dark red velvety rose against black

Dark red rose; image from Flowers Healthy.

Dark red and pink Black Beauty Velvet Rose

Black Beauty Velvet Rose

Velvet is a beautiful rose for cooler weather, when many roses, like those in my garden, put forth a new flush of blooms. It reminds me a bit of Montale’s Intense Cafe, though without that fragrance’s powerhouse sillage and longevity. Its longevity is reasonable; I can still smell it on my wrists seven hours after first application, although it has become faint. Its roasted almond top note is different and very appealing. Velvet is warm, soft, slightly spicy, and utterly charming.

Featured image above from OliverTwistsFibers on http://www.etsy.com.

Scent Sample Sunday: Zara Vibrant Leather

Scent Sample Sunday: Zara Vibrant Leather

Although the fragrances I normally review and enjoy are traditionally classed as “feminines”, I do occasionally try and enjoy more masculine scents. I’m not sure why, but I became intrigued by the idea of trying Zara’s Vibrant Leather, and set off in search of it (the version “for him”, not “for her”). The eau de parfum formulation came out earlier this year, and the prior EDT version was reputed to be an excellent cheap substitute for the popular Creed Aventus. I’m not a huge fan of Creed, although I have Fleurissimo and I like it very much, so there wasn’t a compelling reason why I should try a dupe of one of its masculines, but there you have it — I wanted to. Anyway, I live not far from a Zara boutique and was in that mall on another errand, so I popped in. And yes, they had small 12 ml sprays of Vibrant Leather, priced at $6.90. I tried it in the store, liked it enough to spend $6.90 to play around with it, and brought my purchase home.

As someone who is less than familiar with most of the great classics of masculine fragrances (my husband mostly wears Old Spice and Brut), my thoughts on Vibrant Leather will be somewhat arbitrary. First, it has a great citrusy opening, with a lively top note of bergamot and almost a medicinal vibe, but not too much so. Almost immediately, that starts to fade (as citrus notes often do), as the middle emerges. It is described as being “bamboo”, but I couldn’t tell you whether that is accurate or not. The middle stage is pleasantly woody with a greenish tinge, and that’s close enough to “bamboo” for a fragrance this inexpensive! Although a bamboo-eater might disagree …

Female great panda Yuan Yuan eating eating bamboo and fruit on ice in hot weather.

Great panda eating bamboo and fruit in hot weather; image from http://www.dailymail.co.uk.

As the citrus and greenness fade, next comes a leatherish base, that lasts a pretty long time on my skin although faintly. I sprayed a bit on my wrists (one small spray each) one night while reading in bed, and when I woke up, 8-9 hours later, I could still smell it. Perfumer Jerome Epinette has this to say, according to the text on the packaging:

Vibrant Leather is a perfect balance between the peace and romantic side of woody notes and the vitality and intens[ity] of leather.

I can’t speak to the many comparisons to Aventus, which I haven’t smelled, but this strikes me as a good, light, leather-like scent for summer and hot weather. I like it a lot, though not for myself, so I’ll be passing it along to my husband or teenaged son (who is probably the target market). And for about $36 for 120 ml of this 2018 EDP version by Jerome Epinette, what’s not to like? If it doesn’t last long on your skin, you can spray more without guilt!