Saturday, October 1, 2011

Brave New Scents: Bellyflowers Botanical Perfumes ambre alchemé

A Natural Perfumers Guild Project

Remember how I was talking about trying to live by the axiom of doing one thing, everyday, that scares me? Doing these events is always a little scary. The perfumes involved work very hard on their craft, and they take their work seriously. For many of them, its not just something they are committed to as a form of expressing sometimes profound beauty in an often challenging and ugly world, but it also their livelihood.

When someone created something and puts it out on the world, that's an act of bravery. For those of you who don't know how these projects work, let me tell you now that it often involves having someone you've never met put something they have created in your care. For me, this sometimes comes from a perfumer I've never experienced before. To be asked to sit in judgment of a creative endeavor intended to reside within the marketplace, and to be one of the first of a handful of people to do so, is a real and serious responsibility. It requires a lot of things, but mostly I think it requires openness and honesty. To put it bluntly, I am always touched by their trust in my judgment, and I do my best not to frack it up.

The second scent I am reviewing today for the Natural Perfumers Guild's Brave New Scents Project comes from Elise Pearlstine's Bellyflowers Botanical Perfumes. Ambre alchemé is my first scent from Bellyflower, and Elise describes in her brief as follows:
Ambre alchemé is a sheer, golden floral with a sweet musky base. It takes its name from the old term for ambergris, ambre gris and from alchemy. Alchemy is an ancient practice harking back to distillation and early chemistry. The top notes of ambre alchemé are slightly sharp and lifting but mellow together to lift directly out of the bottle with a lovely mellow green scent. They transition to and left the heart note of golden boronia and aglaia blended with jasmine. Slight touches of black curreant absolute and wild rose keep the florals just a bit earthy and spicy. The perfume is anchored by ambergris absolute in a tincture. Ambergris is an ancient scented essence and is generally infused in oil or tinctured in alcohol. The absolute is solvent extracted using a two stage phytonic extraction which greatly concentrates the armoatic components of the raw materials. Ambergris is paired with two kinds of sandalwood, Vanuatu and Australian. The base is sweeted and extended with orris root and honey.

Top notes: Essential oils of Lime essence, Green Pepper, White Cognac, and Tagetes.
Middle notes: Absolutes of Aglaia, Boronia, Black Currant Bud, Wild Rose, and Jasmine Grandiflorum.
Base notes: Opoponax absolute, Orris Root CO2, Australian Sandalwood essential oil, Vanuatu Sandalwood essential oil, Honey absolute and Ambergris absolute tincture.
Proof that beauty can be found
in the most unexpected places...
This is a terrific scent. If  JoAnne Bassett's Enchant is a calming and peaceful scent you want to mediate with, then ambre alchemé is a scent full of vigor and pep. Immediately on application, the scent is full of green pepper but it blends quickly into the middle notes.

Jasmine is wonderful and clearly the heart of the scent, but for me, the beauty is all about the base! I am simply gaga for the ambergris in this, which let me tell you, is not something I ever thought I would say, and a big score in my book for using the natural ambergris scent instead of the synthetic substitute.

The base here is so...dirty! Really! It's one of those scents that makes me think someone will smell it on me and then give me a quirked eyebrow and a thrilled "Rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr." For the entire first hour of my first application, I kept sniffing at my wrist and grinning manically, as though I alone were enjoying a deliciously bawdy joke.

The top is, as advertised, slightly sharp on me, and I get a strong black currant note from the middle for the first half hour or so before it softens into the background a bit. For all those foodie notes, the base takes this far away from foodie in my book and lands it delightfully in a spices and edible florals area. If you put a dish in front of me and this scent steamed up, I'd anticipate an exotic and rich taste. It's a plush scent. I mean that in the way that velvet is plush; the scent smells the way a sensual textured fabric feels pressed between your fingers. If you brought a newly discovered plant to me smelling of ambre alchemé and brushed the petals of its bloom against my lips and cheek, I'd expect it to be a lush and tingling caress.

I'm going to warn you right now -- this scent isn't going to be for everyone.  Neko Case has a line in a song off her Blacklisted album that talks of being "[s]afe from all the horrors in your stinging velvet arms." Stinging velvet arms is a good way to describe ambre alchemé.  It is not a scent that would go gently into a good night.  On me it has moderate sillage and lasts a long time (eight hours+). I would describe it as a daring scent, a bold scent.  It would work for anyone bold enough to try it -- male, female, animal, vegetable, or mineral.  It's a strange scent, though, and you may find it challenging if you pick it up thinking you're getting a traditional floral.

Luckily for me, I'm not much of a traditionalist.

Elise has also generously offered up a a 15 ml sprayer of the eau de parfum of ambre alchemé to one lucky reader, and I'm throwing in a copy my Brave New World-inspired mixed CD. Please post here by 12:01 AM Friday, October 7, 2011 PST and tell me what scents do associate  with your sense of touch? What smells to you like touching velvet or silk, linen or leather? Since this is a hard one, alternately, tell me what new tv/music/film I'm missing.

For more wonderful scents and reviews, see the list of participating perfumers and bloggers in the Brave New Scents Project here:


~ Brave New Scents ~
The Perfumers:
Rohanna Goodwin Smith of Ascent Natural Perfumes
Anya McCoy of  Anya's Garden
Jane Cate of Wing & a Prayer Perfumes
Elise Pearlstine of Bellyflowers Botanical Perfumes
Christi Meshell of Matriarch
JoAnne Bassett of JoAnne Bassett Perfumes
Adam Gottshalk of Lord's Jester
Liz Cook of One Seed Perfume
Ambrosia Jones of Perfume by Nature
Charna Ethier of Providence Perfume

The Bloggers:
All I Am A Redhead
Ca Fleure Bon (several writers here will be reviewing all the submissions)
Perfume Critic
Perfume Shrine
The Examiner

Photo of Ambergris from Gordon M. Grant/The New York Times.


Elise Pearlstine said...

Hi Diana - thanks so much for the kind review!

slundberg said...

These ladies have done an amazing project. Would love to try both of them. Elsie's speaks to me stronger as I love a good amber base. Great job!

slundberg said...

These ladies have done an amazing project. Would love to try both of them. Elsie's speaks to me stronger as I love a good amber base. Great job!

Doc Elly said...

Sense of touch? Let's see. To me, the scent of real live ripe blackberries is like velvet. So is the scent of red roses. Cut green stems of tulips are like silk, and so is the scent of a real live iris. The smell of wheat and cereal is like linen, and the smell of oil is like smooth black leather. Vanilla is like fine suede. To go beyond your categories, one of the most clearly tactile scents for me is a synthetic "green tea" note that's used in a lot of commercial perfumes (e.g., Hermes Un Jardin sur le Nil). It always seems rough and prickly to me, sort of like velcro. Is this enough to get me in the running for the Ambre Alchemé giveaway?

ahsu said...

I am fascinated by ambergris. I don't think of it as actually touching velvet, or any thing actually, not like touching with my fingertips. I think of it as being in a cloud of dense air, maybe humid or something, where you can feel the air tingling the hairs on your arms. Like visible/tangible air. I feel the same way about orris that is really high in ionones. The different between them is the color. Ambergris is warm, golden, heat, light. Orris is cool, aloof, restrained, purplish gray. I'm dying to try Elise's Ambre Alcheme!

Osmanthus smells textural to me too. Maybe like crushed velvet or calfskin more than suede like it's generally associated with.

Diana said...

Elise, and thank YOU for the beautiful perfume!

Diana said...

slundberg, I've got you entered for both. Thanks for reading!

Diana said...

Doc Elly --

Of course, *you* had an amazing and extensive list. I can't even be surprised. Green tea as velcro? I'll look for that next time.


Diana said...

Real ambergris is WONDERFUL ahsu, Makes me wish I'd sought it out it earlier in my perfumey forays.

Thanks for reading!

AZ_snakecharmer said...

Quite the description and sounds quite unique. Love the nuances of Ambergris!

Isa said...

I associate the scent of powdery, soft roses with the sense of touch. When I smell a perfume like Love Chloe or Rosine's Écume the rose, it's like I was touching the velvety petals.
I love to smell velvet and linen. That kind of nice, femenine scents :)

Oh, I highly recommend the books and series "A song of ice and fire" by George R.R. Martin!

Thanks on the draw!

solace said...

my sense of touch? oakmoss and that soft roughness that moss is. not the dried kind that turns to powder in your hand, but the green living kind.

however, my point here is that i am absolutely thrilled at the chance to try elise's work! her blogs and posts are addictive- i can only imagine what one of her bottles will do to me!

Diana said...


Thanks for reading. You're in the draw.


Diana said...

Isa -

I love Song of Fire and Ice books. I love most sci fi/fantasy, but those books in particular for being such rich material. Do you want the tv series? I'm always shocked by how spot on the portrayals are. Probably helps that Martin is consulting on the show.


Diana said...


Aren't we both so lucky she decided to the project and the draw?

Thanks for entering.


HJ said...

Firstly, let me say WOW!! :-O ambre alchemé sounds utterly divine (am rather partial to a good bit of dirt)!

One of my all time loves is orris. Its running your fingers along the purple velvet flocked wallpaper of a Victorian boudoir, dimly lit and seductive. :-D

Thanks for this wonderful draw!

womo531 said...

To me notes I associate thick resinous notes like oud, labdanum, and benzoin to touch, sometimes they are smooth and buttery while other times rough and abrasive. Oud often smells velvety to me, there is a certain sense of smoothness combined with "fuzziness" that brings to mind thick, soft, velvet =)

Luminaria said...

Ambre Alchemé sounds exquisite, although I must admit I've yet to sample real ambergris! I have been curious about it for such a long time and am excited that the rise of natural perfumers is allowing us all to enjoy such rare and decadent ingredients.

To answer your exciting promotion, the scent of tuberose never fails to remind me of the texture of butter, because of the rich, almost fatty tones in its scent.

Thank you for this thrilling project and review!

Asali said...

Thanks for the great review, Diana, this is such an exciting project, and the ambergris perfume sounds just gorgeous.
What an exciting and challenging question. I don't know if this was exactly what you meant, but some perfumes do come with a particular sense of touch for me; Tauer's pentachord Verdant would be like bending down to touch the moss in the woods, Spiritueuse Double Vanille would be like the touch of a cashmere shawl against your neck, and Bas de Soie for me is definitely the silk stockings that Serge refers to.

Michael said...

Ambre Alcheme sounds great, and your description as you reach the base made me smile! And a copy of a great book to boot, what a draw!

Scents to textures, I would say labdanum relates to a nice thick molasses feel, rose absolute to velvet based on the feel of the rose petal, vanilla kind of an eggshell feel to me, and the orange and lime essences (distilled from the juices) definitely would have a wet feel for me. Synesthesia has always been fascinating to me, but alas my brain doesn't make those connections very readily for me.


Jules said...

I adore amber perfumes, it's possibly my fave note overall. So Ambre Alchemé has seriously got my attention. (Although, I must admit, I'm also somewhat weary of the odd "green pepper" top note, which I'm not generally a fan of. ~ So I'm really hoping it's rather fleeting, so I might be able to just ignore it.) I'm sure it will be worth it tho', just to get to that authentic ambergris base. (*Yum!*;o)
As for which scents feel textural : To me, Orris feels like silk, Labdanum feels like velvet and Vanilla feels like suede.

And for a "Sci/Fi" fan, I highly recommend the series "FRINGE". (It's already in it's 4th year, so I imagine you're possibly already a fan ? But just in case you've missed it, I thought it worth mentioning. It's really top-notch !
Please enter me into the draw. (Thanx !)

Hemla said...

for me the first smell to literaly force a sense of touch on my imagination while smelling it is lilac. they are like vlevet. a whole bed of velvet with a blanket of it, dark purple and black. and the walls are all dark purple too... yumm....
silk- the musty smell of clothing just taken out of storage makes me thing of silk
linen- laundry detergent. not very creative, i know, but spicificaly the laundry detergent my mother uses.
leather- dirt, dust, the path from my house to the nearby spring i frequent.

ccdouglass said...

You're right, this is a tough one! I'll recommend a new movie instead. Just saw 50/50, which I thought was great. Yes, it's about cancer, but not the least bit maudlin, and really funny without being insensitive (in my opinion!). Definitely worth seeing. Thanks for the draw!

Bellatrix said...

Good review. And interesting question...
I guess it would be classic stuff... like soft light musc, almonds, milky notes...