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...
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 ~
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
All I Am A Redhead
Ca Fleure Bon (several writers here will be reviewing all the submissions)
Photo of Ambergris from Gordon M. Grant/The New York Times.