Scented Advent, December 12

The independent perfumer Advent sample of the day is Hiram Green’s Arcadia. Wowza! It is classified as an “aromatic fougère”, and it has a great opening, top-heavy with lavender and bergamot. As they settle down, the bergamot recedes but the lavender stays strong, joined and made more floral by the arrival of jasmine and rose accords. The notes list from the brand’s website is: Bergamot, lavender, jasmine, rose, spices, resins, tonka bean, aged patchouli, New Caledonian sandalwood. Hiram Green, who is a natural perfumer, also lists the actual ingredients, which include evernia prunastri extract, which is oakmoss. Be still, my heart! I love oakmoss in fragrances. Mr. Green says this about the fragrance, which he launched this year (2022):

For this perfume I was inspired by the natural splendour of Arcadia. In this idyllic, unspoiled wilderness babbling brooks meander through mountains covered in dense forests and the air is filled with the sound of humming insects and twittering birds.

Imagine the lush undergrowth that covers the forest floor. In areas where the sun manages to break through the canopy, fragrant flowers bask in the sunlight and their sweet scent intertwines with the fresh green smell of the foliage.

The base notes blend beautifully together. The spices are pretty subtle — definitely noticeable, but they don’t hit you over the head (or nose). Resins, tonka bean, and sandalwood provide warmth, and patchouli and oakmoss hum underneath. The drydown stage is where I think Arcadia smells most like a traditionally masculine fragrance, with the lavender still evident over those warm base notes. There’s a light dustiness to this stage, possibly from the oakmoss, that makes me think of motes of sunlight floating through the sunbeams that shine through Mr. Green’s Arcadian forest.

In fact, the whole fragrance makes me think of a particular forest: Ashdown Forest in England, famous not only for its woodland beauty but also as the landscape of Christopher Robin’s childhood idyll, the Hundred Acre Wood he shared with Winnie-the-Pooh and friends. Arcadia, indeed!

Sunlit woodland path in Ashdown Forest
Sunlight in Ashdown Forest, England; image from ashdownforest.com.

I’ve never been there, but I loved A.A. Milne’s books as a child; in fact, “Winnie-the-Pooh” was the first book I read by myself, shocking my parents at the age of four when I pointed to it and said, “I can wead that book.” And so I could, having taught myself to read, although I couldn’t pronounce Rs very well. One of my late mother’s cousins actually illustrated Christopher Milne’s memoir “The Path Through the Trees”.

I’m delighted with Mr. Green’s version of Arcadia and will put it on my “possible full bottle some day” list. Have you tried any of Hiram Green’s fragrances? Any favorites?

Scented Advent, December 4

Scented Advent, December 4

Even days of December are when I alternate my Guerlain samples with other samples, and I’m trying to make sure I reach into the box that has mostly independent perfumers’ fragrance. In this challenging economy, it continues to be important to support the independent and small businesses that already had a tough time during the pandemic. Besides, the independent perfumers often create the most interesting and innovative fragrances that we love to try.

Today’s sample is Andy Tauer‘s L’Air des Alpes Suisses, inspired by the Swiss Alps and launched in 2019, and I’m just delighted. First, it’s a beautiful fragrance. Second, I was able to visit Zurich and some of its perfumeries in the “before times” and one of them was Suskind, a small perfumery that only sells niche fragrances. Apparently its owner was an early supporter of Andy Tauer (who is based in Zurich), who is very well-liked in the perfume community for his approachability as well as his undoubted talents. When I visited Suskind and asked to sample some Tauer perfumes, the sales assistant confirmed that he stops by sometimes, and how nice he is.

So back to my sample: L’Air des Alpes Suisses is 100% unisex. It may lean a little masculine for some, because it is aromatic and woody, which many associate with masculine fragrances. Here is M. Tauer’s description on his website:

HEAD NOTESThe HEAD notes are fresh like a breeze from treeless mountain summits: rough granite ground, the cool air from the glacier, and bitter alpine herbs.
HEART NOTESThe HEART notes are fresh, green with hints of spices. Floral delicacies such as the red Alpine lily bloom on lush meadows, powdery, spicy, green.
BODY NOTESThe BODY notes are inspired by alpine forests on cliffy slopes: the woody warmth of timber, larch and beech, with the sweet amber perfume of dry earth in the sun. notes are inspired by alpine forests on cliffy slopes: the woody warmth of timber, larch and beech, with the sweet amber perfume of dry earth in the sun.
L’Air des Alpes Suisses notes list, from the Tauer Perfumes website

Fragrantica lists these specific notes, in no particular order: ambergris, lavender, fir, pine needles, tonka bean, lily, lemon balm, orchid, birch, palisander rosewood, basil, thyme, nutmeg. As others have noted since its launch, L’Air des Alpes Suisses is basically a fougère, a classic fragrance structure that uses citrus, lavender, coumarin (tonka), and a mossy or woody base, often oakmoss. An aromatic fougère, like this one, will also include notes of spices and herbs.

To my nose, the lemon balm accord is taking the place of a more traditional “citrus” opening, accompanied by lavender, green herbs like basil and thyme; personally, I would list chamomile instead of basil. So the opening is very green but not like galbanum, more herbal and less bitter. There is no sweetness at all, but it’s very pleasant and refreshing. The middle phase is very intriguing, with the herbal accords mingling with the floral notes of lily and orchid, and a hint of evergreen forests. M. Tauer’s handling of the accords that evoke fir and pine needles is masterful. Needless to say, there is nothing that smells at all like the ubiquitous pine-scented cleaning liquids. Nutmeg brings a woody spiciness to the party.

As L’Air dries down, it does get woodier, which adds warmth, but I think the star of the show is ambergris. There’s an earthy warmth that blends harmoniously with the warm woods but is distinct from them. Having had the privilege of smelling actual ambergris (kept in a vault!), I think that is what my nose detects. The tonka (or coumarin) evokes dry hay, as one would find in a summer meadow.

As you may know, the Swiss Alps are home to amazing alpine meadows, with unique, unusual plants and flowers. A beloved summer tradition of hiking and walking along trails to see the meadows in bloom has persisted in Switzerland, despite its sophisticated, urbane modernity. Andy Tauer has perfectly captured the atmosphere of an alpine ramble surrounded by meadows and flowers and fringed by evergreen forests, starting at the summit and slowly descending. I think I would love this on my husband, because I quite like it on myself!

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com