Scent Sample Sunday: Brocard’s Mechta

Scent Sample Sunday: Brocard’s Mechta

When I last stayed in London, I was able to visit the wonderful Bloom perfumery, near Covent Garden. I highly recommend a visit! They carry an amazing range of niche perfumes and the staff is remarkably friendly, helpful, and knowledgeable. I spent a LOT of time there and emerged with a few discovery sets, including a set of three floral fragrances from Brocard, the revived Russian perfume house. It holds three of the series “Gardens of Temptation”, 15 ml each. This set includes: Mechta, Elegantnost, and Luybov.

Brocard Gardens of Temptation set 1 Inspiration

Brocard Gardens of Temptation set “Inspiration”

The set contains three small, simple flacons, not the funky bottles pictured above, which are the full-size bottles.

Mechta is described on Bloom’s website as a “spicy mimosa”. Its composition is described as: top notes are violet, hyacinth, and grass; middle notes are mimosa, linden blossom, magnolia, and clover; base notes are musk, honey, and cedar.

On my skin, Mechta opens as a bright, grassy violet; no hyacinth that I can detect. One thing I enjoy about this opening is the absence of citrus, which makes it a little different. I do love a good citrus opening, but I like this scent’s different top notes. As it dries down, the mimosa emerges, and it is a soft, pretty, yellow mimosa.  In the process of reading for this post, I discovered a wonderful Russian fragrance blog (thank you, Google Translate!) called Parfumistika, and its review of Brocard’s Gardens of Temptation, which includes the brand’s own description:

… drops of morning dew glistening on the grass and unusual green bitterness of hyacinth. The sun rises, coolness recedes, and the bright, joyful smells of linden-colored, mimosa, magnolia and acacia are revealed in all their glory. A firework of flowers gradually turns into a warm, honey-musky trail.

My experience of Mechta is more soft than bright, but very pleasant. If you don’t care for intensely green scents, fear not — the only green I detect is the grassy opening, which gives way to the mimosa pretty early. I would describe Mechta as a soft, warm, yellow, light floral. It’s very pretty, and very affordable if you can find it. I look forward to trying more of Brocard’s fragrances!

Fragrance Friday: Atelier des Ors and Bois Sikar

Fragrance Friday: Atelier des Ors and Bois Sikar

In late January, I had such a lovely blogger experience! I was in Nice for a week, taking a break from work to accompany my husband on his business trip, and free to do whatever I wished during the day. I reached out to a blogger whose fragrance blog I love, Megan in Sainte Maxime, and asked if she might like to get together for coffee or lunch. She said yes! She was working in Cannes, which is a short train ride from Nice, so I met her there. My very first blogger meet-up! And let me just tell you how much grief I got from my oldest daughter, who spent her teens being told “Don’t talk to strangers on the Internet! Never go meet someone you met online!” That child has been waiting for ten years to say that stuff back to me, even tongue in cheek.

Fragrance writer/blogger Megan in Sainte Maxime

Megan in Sainte Maxime; image from her Facebook page

Megan is as charming in person as she is in her blog. She graciously took me to a local coffee shop, then invited me to the offices of Atelier des Ors, where she has been doing some work for the line and its founder, Jean-Philippe Clermont. The two of them spent a generous amount of time showing me the house’s latest fragrances, also created by perfumer Marie Salamagne as are all the Atelier des Ors fragrances. Marie Salamagne is the perfumer behind Alaia and its flankers, Mugler’s Aura, Yves St. Laurent’s Black Opium and several flankers, and others you would recognize immediately, including several for Jo Malone. She is a great talent.

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Visit to Atelier des Ors, Cannes, France

The first five fragrances of Atelier des Ors were launched in 2015, joined by two more in 2017 and four new ones in 2018. Jean-Philippe wrote his own account of how he came to the creation of a perfume house for CaFleureBon, in 2016: CaFleureBon Creative Directors in Perfumery: Jean-Philippe Clermont. It seems he has been surrounded by interesting scents in exotic locations since his youth, including extensive travel in Asia and the Middle East. For some years, he ran a business dealing in fine cigars, and that experience sparked a passionate interest in fragrance and the materials that combine to create great fragrances, because of the variations among the cigars and the blends of tobacco that give rise to fragrant smoke.

Three of the four 2018 fragrances are the “White Collection”, inspired by Gustav Klimt’s “Beethoven Frieze” in Vienna, Austria. Sergey Borisov wrote a lovely piece about the collection and its inspirations on Fragrantica. The fourth fragrance of 2018 is Bois Sikar, considered part of the “Black Collection.” It was inspired by Jean-Philippe’s cigar business, a very masculine scent, evocative of the scents one might find in a traditional London private gentlemen’s club:

A beguiling smoky tobacco scent with robust woody tonalities swirling against the heady vapours. The unique, smoky, peaty character of Islay’s single malt whisky is simultaneously conjured to create the essence of Bois Sikar. These addictive facets entwine with cedar leaf creating an intensely intoxicating fragrance.

Bois Sikar eau de parfum by Atelier des Ors, with whisky and cigar

Atelier des Ors’ Bois Sikar

Bois Sikar is powerful stuff and not for the faint of heart, but it’s brilliant. A little goes a LONG way. The opening is woodsmoke and it is strong. It mellows slowly on the skin, as I imagine an Islay whisky mellows on the tongue after a rough start. Not that I’ve had any Islay whisky myself — I don’t care for Scotch, although it was my father’s drink. I have read that Islay whiskies are especially strong and have an intense flavor of peat smoke, which is used on that Scottish island — known as the “Queen of the Hebrides” and the “burning heart of smoky whiskies” — to smoke the malted barley that is used to make this distinctive local whisky. One writer describes this process: “The peat fuels the fires that roast the barley used in whisky-making, and it gives the finished product a robust flavor that recalls a campfire by the sea: smoky, earthy, a little salty, slightly medicinal.” Big, powerful, fierce, distinctive, super-smoky — these are the descriptors used for Islay whisky.

Peat kiln used in Scotch whisky distillery, Highland Park, Orkney

Peat kiln at Highland Park distillery, Orkney; image from www.whiskyadvocate.com

Commenters on Fragrantica are polarized about Bois Sikar, and their reactions are really all about the smoke. Either they love it, or they hate it. Several refer to it as smelling like a campfire; some who dislike it even use the word “barbecue.” It doesn’t smell to me at all like anything related to barbecue, as there are no food or meaty notes, but “campfire” is accurate. However, this campfire is stoked with fragrant wood, like the apple, mesquite, and cedar wood chips one can buy to add to regular logs in a firepit. This makes sense, given the deliberate evocation of peat fires; I suspect that some of the commenters have as little direct experience with Islay whiskies as I do!

Let us not forget the cigars. Here too, my firsthand knowledge is sadly lacking, although cigars were another pleasure my father enjoyed occasionally. It is interesting that, like whiskies, fragrances, wine, cigars are said to vary widely in their flavors or notes. Like fragrance writers, those who write about cigars review them and post “Best of” lists, such as Havana Insider’s Best Cuban Cigars of 2018.  After the initial blast of woodsmoke fades away, I do smell the tobacco in Bois Sikar. I’ve never smoked myself, but I do like the scent of good tobacco, and that is what I smell here.

Tobacco barn Windsor CT

Tobacco drying in shed, Windsor, CT; image from http://www.connecticutbarns.org

As Bois Sikar dries down, the smoke slowly dissipates and one is left with a pleasantly woody, dry, tobacco scent, reminiscent of an old tobacco shed, or barn, in the middle of a dry field, after harvest. (I do have personal knowledge of those, as I grew up in Connecticut, where a tobacco industry was established in the early 1600s and continues to this day). The drydown and base note stages are  warm, woody, complex, and quite alluring. I applied two small sprays of Bois Sikar on my wrists last night, and this morning it was still fragrant on my skin when I woke up.

Old tobacco shed, barn, in Connecticut River Valley.

Connecticut tobacco shed; image from http://www.connecticutbarns.org.

I think the dryness of the base comes from the vetiver that is listed. I like Bois Sikar a lot, though it’s not my style of fragrance for myself and you have to be ready for that powerful opening. Although I believe that anyone who likes a fragrance can wear it, Bois Sikar is definitely a fragrance at the far end of the traditionally masculine spectrum. It lasts a long time, and the opening is intensely smoky. For those who want to wear it on social occasions, I recommend spraying it in small amounts a good hour before you leave home, as the powerhouse opening may overwhelm bystanders! If you want to wear it to work, proceed with caution and apply very lightly, allowing even more time for it to dry down before you go to your workplace.

I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to Cannes, my meet-up with Megan and Jean-Philippe, and my introduction to Atelier des Ors! The “White Collection” is much more my personal vibe, and will be the subject of a separate post, as its three scents warrant closer attention on their own.

What traditionally “masculine” fragrances do you enjoy, on yourself or on others? What do you think of strongly smoky fragrances? Any favorites?

Review based on a sample provided by Atelier des Ors, opinions my own.

Scent Sample Sunday: What to Try, What to Buy?

Scent Sample Sunday: What to Try, What to Buy?

Hello friends — this week, I am seeking your advice! I will be in the South of France, and I’d love to know your thoughts on any particular fragrances that are easier or less expensive to get in France than in the US, or any special fragrance “explorations” I should pursue. I am already signed up for a perfume workshop at Parfum et Vous, and I can’t wait! I’ve been to Grasse before and have done one of the factory tours at Molinard (great fun and very instructive). Our group will be visiting Saint-Paul de Vence and Nice. I’ve visited Nice before and plan to wander in the markets there; I’ll probably bring home some of those lovely soaps. Any other suggestions? P.S. We will have one transfer in Charles de Gaulle airport, coming and going, but I don’t know how much time we’ll have there.

white square ceramic ornament

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Scent Sample Sunday: Gin and Juniper Sling

Scent Sample Sunday: Gin and Juniper Sling

As some may recall, I went to Ireland in August with part of my family, on our first extended trip there (we had previously visited Northern Ireland and Dublin, briefly). We just loved it and can’t wait to go back! One of the things we discovered while there was Irish artisanal GIN. We aren’t much for cocktails in our house; we don’t go out very often, and our usual tipples are wine and an occasional beer. Part of this trip included a few days of a work retreat for my husband, and his colleague who organizes these had a different “tasting” dinner of one kind or another every night. One night, the tasting included small-batch gin, made into different summery cocktails. These included Shortcross gin, and Jawbox gin, both made in Northern Ireland. They were combined with different Fever-Tree tonics, and different garnishes, which brought out their different herbal notes. After we left Northern Ireland and during our stay at Powerscourt in County Wicklow, we sampled cocktails made with Glendalough Wild Botanical Gin, and the Scottish gin Hendrick’s, which we had previously discovered. (And which we used to invent our own gin cocktail two summers ago, combined with Fentiman’s Rose Lemonade). Ireland is producing dozens of terrific small-batch gins, which you can read about here and in other publications.

Why am I carrying on about gin in a perfume blog, you may ask? It’s all Sam’s fault. The author of the I Scent You A Day blog wrote a wonderful post this past week about the limited edition 4160 Tuesdays fragrance Scenthusiasm, which was created for a Hendrick’s event, and can now be bought from the 4160 Tuesdays website.

4160 Tuesdays fragrance Scenthusiasm

4160 Tuesdays Scenthusiam; image from http://www.iscentyouaday.com.

It sounds marvelous, with many of the floral and herbal notes I adore. Here is Sarah McCartney’s description:

It’s ever so slightly gorgeous. It isn’t the same as our first ever gin fragrance but this one is made with natural orris (iris) butter, rose absolute, lemon and orange essential oils, cucumber extract, juniper absolute (of course) and coriander essential oil.

To make it last, boost the scents of the naturals and too smooth them out, we blended it with our special musk, fresh air and white woods accord.

It’s inspired by gin, and has gin notes but mostly it’s a floral at heart: rose and iris, with the herbs dancing around it.

Want!! But the price is a bit steep, even before UK shipping costs, and I haven’t found it being sold in the US by the brand’s regular stockists, so I’ve had to cast about for other options. Enter Penhaligon’s Juniper Sling, which I have in a mini size from a gift set.

Penhaligon's gift coffret of five mini fragrances.

Penhaligon’s gift coffret; image from http://www.penhaligons.com.

Named after an old mixed drink called a “gin sling”, this fragrance’s strongest note is juniper berries, which give the beverage gin its distinctive odor and taste. Created in 2011, it is a woody aromatic fragrance, unisex, created by Olivier Cresp. Top notes are angelica, cinnamon, orange brandy, and juniper berries; middle notes are cardamom, orris root, leather and pepper; base notes are vetiver, cherry, sugar and amber. Penhaligon’s has even kindly shared its own recipe for an actual “Juniper Sling” cocktail, made with Hendrick’s gin! When the scent was launched, they also released an entertaining fictional short film about its supposed origins, linked to on Now Smell This.

The opening smells a lot like one of the gin cocktails we recently sampled, with a burst of juniper berries, the most characteristic odor of real gin. The opening is herbal and slightly spicy too — definitely aromatic, but not green. In the middle, I can clearly smell the cardamom, which I appreciate; cardamom is one of my favorite smells, but often I find that even fragrances that list it as a note don’t really smell like cardamom. It doesn’t last very long in the progression of Juniper Sling, but it is definitely there. The orris root and leather are less discernible but there is a smoothness and woodiness in the middle stage that I think they add. I can’t say that I detect the separate notes listed among the base notes, but I also haven’t applied a decent-sized spray to my skin, as the mini splash bottle is so small.

All in all, while I still yearn to try Scenthusiasm, I was happy to scratch that itch with a gin-evoking fragrance I already own. Have you tried Juniper Sling, or Scenthusiasm, or any other gin-related fragrances? What did you think? Do you have any favorites?

Bottle of Penhaligon's Juniper Sling eau de toilette

Penhaligon’s Juniper Sling Eau de Toilette; image from http://www.penhaligons.com.

Fragrance Friday: Fragrances of Ireland

Fragrance Friday: Fragrances of Ireland

I have recently returned from a vacation in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland — what beautiful places they are! I had visited Northern Ireland before and Dublin only for two days, but had not previously seen the rest of the Republic of Ireland although one of my grandmothers was born there. When my husband’s work took him back to Northern Ireland, I again went with him but this time, we took an extra week of vacation and used it to circumnavigate the Northern and West Coasts, then down to Cork and back up toward Dublin. We saw so many lovely places that I can’t wait to visit again. Of course, it helped that the weather in Ireland this summer was the sunniest summer they’ve had in years; while the lack of rain has caused problems in some areas, the dry, sunny days were a tourist’s dream.

I usually try to discover and bring home a few fragrances that are specific to whatever region I visit as a tourist. On our last trip to Ireland, I came home with Innisfreea light-hearted fruity floral scent that captures nicely the freshness of Irish gardens without being too sweet (side note: on this trip, we were able to visit the fabulous gardens of Mount Stewart and Powerscourt, which were magnificent). On this trip, I bought small sizes of other scents by the company “Fragrances of Ireland“, which created Innisfree as its first fragrance. The ones I bought were Inis, Inis Arose, and Connemara. I had tried Connemara before, in the airport on our last trip, and liked it then, but felt that as I hadn’t visited or seen Connemara yet, it was premature to bring home a souvenir named for it!

Inis (the Energy of the Sea) is a unisex cologne, an aromatic aquatic scent launched in 1998. Top notes are neroli, bergamot, sicilian lemon and sea notes; middle notes are lily-of-the-valley and geranium; base notes are nutmeg, sandalwood, musk, cloves and oakmoss. People who like ozonic, aquatic fragrances will likely enjoy this; it is pleasant without being particularly memorable, but it is a nice, light, fresh summer scent with a slight spiciness to go with its citrus and aquatic notes. I do not smell any oakmoss as it dries down. This is truly unisex; I can see it working for both men and women who want something light.

Inis Arose is a fresh floral. Fragrantica lists its notes as follows: “aromas of sunny Sicilian lemon, bergamot, geranium, lily of the valley and cyclamen. A heart includes pink May rose of Grasse, white rose, Damask rose absolute, with a trail of Turkish rose attar. Base notes give depth to this fragrance with accords of patchouli, sandalwood, Madagascar vanilla, incense, musk and Atlas cedar.” This one is a pretty, light, summery rose combined with other flowers. I like the way it has many of the same notes as Inis, introduced and combined in different ways, while also adding some new notes and subtracting others. Given my inclination toward florals, it will not surprise anyone to read that I prefer it to Inis. It is just a really nice, light rose. I’ve smelled better, and this one has some synthetic undertones, but it is a refreshing floral that I will enjoy! It doesn’t last for hours; it feels more like an eau de toilette than eau de parfum. I can’t detect many of the notes listed as its base notes, but it dries down to a pleasant, slightly musky, slightly woody skin scent. I don’t pick up any vanilla or incense. We saw many gorgeous roses in full bloom in Ireland, thanks to the hot, sunny weather and the tireless watering of devoted gardeners, so Inis Arose will bring back happy memories, including of the lovely Ballyduff House where we stayed briefly.

Connemara comes as an eau de toilette and is a green floral, as befits a scent named for one of the greenest areas of the Emerald Isle. Its top notes are freesia, lily of the valley, and violet; middle notes are rose, carnation, and mimosa; base notes are peach, sandalwood, orris, musk, and vanilla. Having now seen the spectacular  Connemara National Park, I can attest to the majesty and beauty of the Connemara Mountains. They are majestic. The fragrance is not majestic, but like its siblings, it is very pretty. The packaging itself evokes the Books of Kells and its intricate, colorful designs, but the website states that the scent was “inspired by the beauty and majesty of the Connemara countryside, which is home to some of the most breathtaking views of islands, oceans and mountains.”

Connemara Mountains, Ireland

Connemara Mountains; photo from http://www.galwaytourism.ie

To me, Connemara is more reminiscent of our visit to Powerscourt’s gardens. They too have a stunning view of mountains (the Wicklow Mountains) and are not far from the coast, but their atmosphere is far less wild than Connemara. Their beautiful Italian and perennial gardens contain the flowers listed among Connemara’s notes; there is even a walled orchard filled with fruiting trees like peach trees. (I was lucky enough to find one of the gardeners at work there and he was kind enough to answer some of my questions about the heirloom fruit varieties they grow). When I first apply Connemara, I get a very pleasing burst of freesia and its lemony sweetness. This persists nicely as the scent segues into rose, carnation, and mimosa. I can tell that the lily of the valley is lurking in the background, but it is not dominant. Rather, it lends a fresh greenness that brightens the other floral notes. The rose is definitely present, but it does not dominate either; it partners politely with the carnation, a note I like a lot, and the gentle mimosa.

Herbaceous borders at gardens of Powerscourt, Ireland

Herbaceous borders at Powerscourt; photo from http://www.powerscourt.com

I’m happy to own some of the Fragrances of Ireland line as souvenirs of a wonderful vacation to a beautiful country. I am truly eager to return to see more of Ireland and explore some of the areas we visited in more depth.

Perfume Tourism: Ireland

Perfume Tourism: Ireland

I have been AWOL for a while because of family travel, but I haven’t neglected to keep an eye out for interesting perfumes! I like to seek out fragrances that are specific to a region I am visiting. On this trip, I have discovered fragrances by The Burren Perfumery, a small-scale, artisan creator of cosmetics, skin care, and perfumes, located near the West Coast of Ireland. We drove along the edge of the area known as the Burren as we made our way from Galway to the Cliffs of Moher; it is a unique landscape and ecosystem where many rare plants grow. I’m excited to try some of The Burren Perfumery’s fragrances! Stay tuned …

Fragrance Friday: Fragrance Fantasy

Fragrance Friday: Fragrance Fantasy

For something completely unique, however, there’s Penhaligon’s Bespoke by Alberto Morillas, spearheaded by the man behind some of the world’s most recognisable scents including Calvin Klein’s CK One, Tommy Hilfiger’s Tommy and Marc Jacobs’s Daisy. Comprising eight months of trial-and-error testing and costing from £35,000, it’s a process that requires both a significant monetary and…

Oh, how I long to be able to do this, given how often I have gravitated to Penhaligon’s fragrances! Alas, it will remain nothing more than a lovely fantasy. What choices would you make, if you pursued the less expensive option of having specific bases and notes combined for you, as described in the article? I am consoling myself with a few photos from my visit to the Penhaligon’s boutique in the Burlington Arcade last fall, and a few spritzes of my beloved Blasted Bloom.

via A significant monetary and personal commitment — Now Smell This