Welcome to this month’s installment of “Notes on Notes”, a monthly collaboration between this blog and Australian Perfume Junkies! Every month, we pick one fragrance note and write about it, posting on the first Monday of the month — fragrances we like that feature it, what we like or don’t like about it, anything else we know about it, whatever takes our fancy. For February, the note is vetiver.
Scent Semantics, October 3
This is the end of our year of “Scent Semantics”, monthly posts by several bloggers around the world when we choose a single word and write about a fragrance that it evokes for us. This month’s word is “Serenity”! The full name of this blog is “Serenity Now: Scents and Sensibilities”, and I got to choose this month’s word. So “serenity” it is!
One definition of “serenity” is: “the state of being calm, peaceful, and untroubled.” After a recent trip to Las Vegas and a side visit to the Mojave Desert, the scent I’ve chosen to evoke serenity is Byredo’s Mojave Ghost. This is partly because our hotel’s toiletries were all Mojave Ghost, so I was immersed in that fragrance for several days. The other reason, though, is that I was so moved by the serenity of the desert. We went in the afternoon so we could see the sunset, in an area called Red Rock Canyon. It did not disappoint.
Our small group was driven in a van by a local guide, whose passion for the landscape was infectious, along a 13-mile scenic loop route. We made several stops along the way, to see some special places and take photos. It’s a cliché to say this, but it is remarkable to this East Coaster how much life and fertility exists — thrives — in the desert. And it is indeed a very serene setting, especially around sunset. The air cools, the breeze quickens, the shadows gradually lengthen, and for a brief moment, even the atmosphere takes on a rosy hue to match the clouds that hover over the horizon. At that moment, the desert feels like one of the “thin places” on earth, where the gap between heaven and earth dwindles and time pauses to catch its breath.
Byredo captured this perfectly in Mojave Ghost. From the brand’s website:
Mojave Ghost is a woody composition inspired by the soulful beauty of the Mojave Desert. In this xeric wilderness, rare are the plants that dare to blossom. With a light and graceful character, top notes of musky Ambrette combine with fresh Jamaican Nesberry. Powdery Violet then unfurls to reveal Sandalwood. Finally warm Chantilly Musk rounds out a base of crisp Amber and Cedar wood, leaving the raw spirit of Mojave Ghost to linger on the skin.
Colognoisseur Mark Behnke wrote about Mojave Ghost in 2014, when it was launched, and explained that part of the perfumer’s brief was to capture the scent of a flower that survives in this desert, the Ghost Flower (Mohavea Confertiflora). One of the notes listed, though, is actually a plant from the tropics, the Jamaican naseberry or sapodilla plant. Mark explains the role it plays in Mojave Ghost, which is to create the slightly sweet, lightly spicy odor of the desert in bloom. Perfumer Jerome Epinette also brings notes of ambrette, violet, magnolia, sandalwood, amber, and cedar into his composition. The dryness of the woody notes evokes the dryness of the desert, while the floral notes, although based on non-desert flora, communicate that there are indeed plants that bloom there.
My own experience with Mojave Ghost is colored by the fact that for several days, I literally bathed (or showered) in it, via the hotel supplies. Hand wash, body wash, shower gel, body lotion, shampoo, conditioner! I’ve never been so immersed in a single fragrance, honestly. While I’ve certainly stayed in hotels that had lovely, scented, coordinated toiletries, I don’t normally use all of them and I don’t use them lavishly for several days in a row. But on this trip, I slathered myself with lotion twice a day to stave off the dryness of the air; and this hotel had the large, pump containers attached to the wall instead of those itty bitty plastic bottles, so I indulged freely. Back home, I pulled out a sample of Mojave Ghost eau de parfum to confirm my impressions.
The sapodilla note is very evident at the opening, with the ambrette adding a gentle muskiness that suggests both the landscape and the presence of small, unseen creatures, like those that inhabit the desert. Mark Behnke finds that the sapodilla smells like cinnamon and fruit. I wouldn’t say I picked up cinnamon, but definitely something lightly spicy, a bit like the clove one smells in carnations. The fruitiness is also light, not overly sweet. The floral notes waft in as if on a breeze, supported by dry, woody sandalwood. Finally, the florals fade into amber, and sandalwood gives way to cedar, leaving a warm, transparent wash of fragrance on the skin.
This is not a difficult or demanding fragrance, and it does convey serenity, just as the desert sunset can induce a meditative frame of mind. Some commenters on Fragrantica have found it boring, but others cherish it. I find it peaceful. It doesn’t implicitly hold its wearer to any standard of costume or makeup, unlike some. Mojave Ghost would never remind you to wear lipstick, or stilettos.
Do I want a full bottle? No. But I could see springing for the hair perfume; I think that format would suit the warm yet sheer impression Mojave Ghost leaves.
What fragrance do you find serene? And please check out the posts by my fellow Scent Semantics bloggers:
May Melange Marathon: Modest Mimosa
See what I did there? I’m so pleased with myself for that headline. But in fact, my SOTD today is Vilhelm Parfumerie’s Modest Mimosa, from another sample kindly given to me. Aside from the marvelous alliteration, I like it a lot. It won’t be a top love for me because I’ve realized that mimosa isn’t one of my favorite notes; there are other blossoms I prefer, although I’ve enjoyed mimosa-based scents like Brocard’s Mechta. Jerome Epinette created Modest Mimosa in 2016. It has a fairly short list of notes: top: Neroli and Carrot; middle: Mimosa and Violet; base: Musk and Leather.
I smell the mimosa and violet right from the start, with some carrot, but very little neroli. The violet is quite powdery and very discernible, which is probably why some Fragrantica readers have said it reminds them of Apres L’Ondee. But mimosa is front and center, and it’s not modest at all. This isn’t an overpowering scent, not at all, but the mimosa announces herself at the very beginning and takes up residence at center stage.
To my nose, Modest Mimosa doesn’t evolve or change very much over time. Luckily, it smells very nice indeed. Powdery yellow floral describes it perfectly. Its list retail price is quite high, looking at LuckyScent’s website; I would not pay that much for it, but if you are a lover of mimosa and can find this at a better price, it might be just the ticket. Undina, at Undina’s Looking Glass, has several suggestions, in a number of posts about her search for the perfect mimosa.
Do you like mimosa fragrances? Or have you ever gone in search of a perfect floral note in a perfume?
Roses de Mai Marathon: Neon Rose
Neon Rose is one of the original fragrances released in 2017 by Floral Street, a relative newcomer to the scene. The fragrances were created by perfumer Jerome Epinette. Floral Street also sells home, bath, and body fragrances, all based on the same set of scents. I discovered Floral Street in 2018, on a visit to the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, where they had a pop-up store. Continue reading
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.
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
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 …
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!