Monday, July 25, 2011

Summertime, and the living is easy…

Summer Thoughts, Perfumey and Not

So it’s summer, actual summer, here in Portland. I can tell because I keep seeing the sun. So since I love seasons and enjoy celebrating them, I was thinking it was time I talk to you about the scents I’m loving for the two months a year the temperature rises above 69 degrees here in Puddletown. So here it is, perfumey thoughts and not, for your warmer weather living.

Bands/Artists I can't get enough of: Still stuck on Neko Case, Florence and the Machine, and Fitz and the Tantrums. Also The xx, Claudine Longet, Julee Cruise, Feist, Midtown Dickens, Mountain Goats “All Eternals Deck,” Lady GaGa,  Alison Krauss and Union Station "Paper Airplane."

Surprise Go To Scent this Summer: By Kilian Love. So super sweet you’d think the hot weather would make me run the other direction, but I keep putting it on.

Houses I need to try more of: Hermes (still), Annick Goutal (still), Sonoma Scent Studio, Aftelier Perfumes.

Scent I wanted for a long time and finally purchased: Tauer Perfumes L'Air du Desert Marocain.

On the "soon to be purchased" short list: Miller et Bertaux no. 3: Green, green, green and green (still); L'Artisan L’Eau de Jatamansi (it’s been discontinued, and I need to grab it before it’s gone); Honore des Pres I Love Les Carottes (thanks Sam!), Washington Tremlett Royal Heroes 1805 (in time for fall!), slumberhouse Mur (so great!).

If I had a million dollars: I’d just buy every one of the Tauer Perfumes scents. Every. Single. One.

Happiest stumbled upon scent love of Summer: Three way tie: slumberhouse Mur, Olympic Orchids Carolina, DSH Spring Moss. I keep going back to all three.

Best newly discovered indie perfumer: Loving slumberhouse, aroma M, and JoAnne Bassett Perfumes.

Notes I’m weirdly over right now: fruits and leathers. Just not feeling summer to me.

Notes I can’t get enough of: patchouli (I bought the patch bunny set – wow!), vegetables, SUPER gourmands, anything earthy. If you’ve got recommendations in this area, please provide them.

Summer, in general and my life in specific: All winter I kept longing for the lengthy days of summer. Now that they are here, my self-discipline has gone to absolute crap. I’m trying really hard to keep going but all I seem to want to do is sleep. I think because I live on campus, I can’t get out of the mode that “summer” is the time to goof off, while Fall and Spring are for buckling down and actually working.

Also, I’ve been recently stymied by the announcement that Borders is going out of business. I write and edit in a lot of places, but Borders has been my go to off and on for years. In fact, I frequented my local Borders so often all the employees knew me by name. I was wandering through the Young Adult section the other day, and I met a girl there. She was probably no more than fourteen, and still stuck in that place where her body is straddling childhood and adulthood. With tears in her eyes, she turned to me and said, “I can’t believe they’re closing. Where am I going to go now?” She hugged her book to her chest and looked so lost.

Alas, poor Borders,
I knew them well...
Bookstores are not dying, necessarily, but their number is greatly reducing, to everyone’s detriment. The last bookstore in Laredo, Texas, a town with over a half million residents, closed over a year ago. Borders closing means another 400 bookstores will leave the world.

In 1989, Ray Oldenburg coined the concept of the “third place” in his book The Great Good Place. The idea is that a person’s home is their first place, their work/school location their second place, and that the “third place” is a physical space that helps define individual identity with the a community and communal identity as a whole. Oldenburg outlined the following criteria:
  • free or inexpensive
  • food and drink, while not essential, are important
  • highly accessible/proximate for many (walking/short driving distance)
  • involve regulars – those who habitually congregate there
  • welcoming and comfortable
  • both new and old friends should be found there
Community centers, coffee shops, and local bars can function as third places. But for youth, who frequently do not have the organizational structures to reserve community center space and who cannot get into bars. We all know that real community centers, where they existed at all, are barely hanging on in the face of massive cuts to social programs due to economic downturn. The same goes for libraries. Schools frequently try to fill this space after normal school hours, but often does not truly meet community needs, especially for young people for whom it functions more as a work environment.

Malls and bookstores have become centers for young people to congregate, eat, hang out, and socialize, often without the threats of violence or criminal activity or the barriers that tend to outline space as being only for adults. I feel like every time a large bookstore goes under – one that provides hang space, cheap food, meet study groups, free wireless, and opportunities for meeting up in safe, clean spaces – it makes me sad, particularly for geeky kids who may find their solace in books and among other bookish kids. As one of those kids who lived in books, the girl in the bookstore got to me, because I couldn’t think of where to tell her to go. Truthfully, I spend a lot of time in bookstores still.

So I guess I feel sad, too.

"Your daddy's rich and your mamma's good lookin'.
So, hush little baby don't you cry."
~ Ira and George Gershwin from Porgy and Bess, but my favorite version is Ella Fitzgerald's, seen below:

Saturday, July 23, 2011

2011 Challenge: Your Questions, My Answers

Kitteh is available to take questions...
The very clever Undina recently posted on my original challenge post, to ask some questions about my process. While I momentarily considered pulling a Felicia Day ("I don't discuss my process!"), in truth I suspect a few of you have questions or curiosities, and I wanted to take a moment to address them.

Let's take these questions in the order asked, shall we?

1. Are you re-testing any of the perfumes? 

In a word, yes, though not the way you expect probably. Part of this challenge, actually, was to force me to start working through my purgatory stash, which frankly is still huge. When I started at the beginning of the year, I had over 200 samples I had been sitting on. Not knowing anything about perfume, it took me several months to buy a bottle of any kind because I felt totally overwhelmed. So I bought a ton of samples. Many of them I tried, but never gotten around to reviewing. The challenge was a sort of way to force me to actually get moving on it.

Why hadn't I said anything about those I'd tried before?

Friday, July 22, 2011

July 2011 Drawing Winner

Is Alnysie! Congrats!

A set of twelve samples from aroma M perfumes and mixed CD headed your way.

Email feminine(dot)things @ gmail(dot)com with your address so I can get your package together.


List Randomizer

There were 5 items in your list. Here they are in random order:
  1. Alnysie
  2. Anna of Edinburgh
  3. Ines
  4. ccdouglass
  5. Undina
Timestamp: 2011-07-22 02:46:22 UTC

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Fantasy Perfume Line: Twin Peaks Perfumery

Smells those trees, smell those Douglas Firs.
~ Special Agent Dale Cooper

So since this came up recently an awesome Twitter exchange with Meredith and Victoria, I thought I’d post about it. For a couple of months, I’ve been thinking about how if I were a perfumer, all my scents would revolve around some weird pop culture reference because that’s how my mind works. I don’t have any plans to become a perfumer, but I like to think about what I’d make and what it would smell like. I even considered buying accords and trying to mix my own, knowing that I’ll never quite get to the high end chemistry part of perfumery.

To that end, I bring you Diana’s fantasy perfume line. The first installment would be inspired by David Lynch’s cult classic television show, Twin Peaks. If you knew me in real life, you would know I am obsessed with Twin Peaks. I have been since it aired when I was twelve. I watched the original series, bought Laura’s diary (totally inappropriate for the average twelve year old, btw), and still own Agent Cooper’s cassette tapes to Diane, though I have nothing to play them on anymore. My twenty-seventh birthday was a Twin Peaks-themed Party, and I dressed as dead Laura Palmer, complete with stiff plastic wrapped like a tall collar. I am so familiar with Angelo Badalamenti’s work that when I heard Neko Case’s “Look for Me (I’ll Be Around)” I thought, “That reminds me of Badalamenti’s work with Julee Cruise.” Then I discovered that was her inspiration. Only a “meh” fan of the Dresden Dolls, I completely fell in love with Amanda Palmer when she made Who Killed Amanda Palmer? because the album can be dark and mysterious like my beloved TP.

You get the idea. There are fan and there are fanatics. I’m the latter.

Part of why I love Twin Peaks is because the show embodies the five senses like so little else does. There is ongoing dialogue and mysterious clues that revolve around things you can only smell or hear or feel, which is super cool considering the media involved in the actual storytelling is visual only. From the way the presence of evil smells like burnt engine oil to the opening few scenes that describe phone static by way of saying “it has that open air sound, y'know? Where, it sounds like wind blowing, like wind blowing through trees…” to the universal obsession with a damn, fine cup of coffee, the show begs you to see, smell, hear, and even feel your way through the series.

So, in the vein of all things Peaks-related, here are my fantasy perfumes, and what I imagine they smell like:

The Double R Diner - “This must be where pies go when they die.” Notes: cherry pie and strong black coffee, a coffee “black as midnight on a moonless night.”

The Packard Sawmill - “Insurance investigator should read ‘arson’ block letters, about six feet high.” Notes: saw dust, scotch pine, burnt wood.

The Great Northern - “In a large building with many rooms alike. But occupied by different souls night after
night.” Plus, someone is trapped there. (Notes are vaguely spoilery.) Notes: Douglas fir, wet stone, cherry blossom, green tea.

Donna Hayward - Twin Peaks true good girl, voted “Most Likely to Succeed” in her Senior Class. Even when she tries to be bad, she's still so very good.  “When did you start smoking? “I smoke every once in a while; it helps relieve tension.” “When did you get so tense?” “When I started smoking.” Notes: Ginger ale and a butter cookie, but with a faint hint of cigarette smoke.

My Name is Audrey Horne and I Get What I Want - And what Audrey wants is her own perfume. Notes: Lipstick wax; the leather of brand new saddle shoes; ice cream cone (“Cup or cone?” “Cone. I like to lick.”); grapefruit (“As long as those grapefruits are...freshly squeezed."), and maybe a hint of cherry stem.

As Agent Cooper sexily notes, “Audrey, that perfume is intoxicating."

Fire, Walk With Me - All things Bob, and probably too terrifying to wear. Notes: grinding train rail, the coopery smell of blood, bonfire, burnt rubber, engine oil.

Special Agent Dale Cooper - “Dear Diane…” The ultimate intuitive detective, who dreams of mysterious secrets, shoots like a pro, and only drinks black coffee and Black Yukon Sucker Punches. And who makes a tucked in plaid shirt sexy in a way no one else can. Notes: gun smoke, shiny badge metal, crisp clean sheets, coffee, and whiskey.

And finally…

She’s Filled with Secrets - A tribute to the one and only Laura Palmer. Notes: Ink, diary pages (“We found her diary.” “No, there’s a second one.”), forest floor (“a necklace buried in the woods”), river water, and a hint of plastic (“She’s dead. Wrapped in plastic!”).

As for living Laura, she would probably smell like a big and sexy expensive department store scent from working at the perfume counter at Horne’s Department Store. (“He named it after himself.”)

Remember, “it’s the sweetest smelling job she’s ever had.”

Are you a TP fan?  If so, let's hear your ideas of some "little man from another place" (that's LMFAP to you fans out there) perfume ideas! Or ideas about Lil, my brother's sister's gal!  Or Harold, the iris growing recluse!

"The stars still shine bright.
The mountains still right.

Yet something is different are we falling in love?
Falling, falling...
Are we falling in love?"
~ "Falling," Julee Cruise

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

"They smell to me quite sinister:" What Scent Smells Sinister?

Neko Case - Red Tide (Live)

There's a smell here that stands my hairs on end
dog hair in the heater, gas pumps and cedar,
and jackknifes on the nine and seabirds choked on fishing line...

I am lately obsessed with Neko Case. Her albums have been in heavy rotation in my car and on my mp3 player for several months now, and I don’t see it stopping any time soon.

I saw her live a couple weeks ago, and she was stunning. The thing that impressed me most, and there were quite a few things to be impressed by, was how she stood. Neko Case stands like a singer, a real singer. Her arms hang free at her sides, her feet are shoulder width apart, her knees are loose, and her microphone is level with her mouth. Then she opens her mouth, and she just…sings. She just sings, and it is so beautiful. I almost never get to see people really sing like that. Even from pretty far back in the venue, she just blew the doors off the thing.

That little girl from Tacoma is one helluva talent.

There's a smell here of gravel and cigarettes lit
when the match made them sweet
when the engine turned over and beat up our street
Oh, that was the day to remember...

One of the songs I find myself coming back to over and over is “Red Tide.” The reason I getting stuck on it, in fact, is that the entire song is more or less about scent. Being a perfumista, that means I hear it and I think perfume. Over and over I keep thinking, what perfumes smell like the red tide Neko Case is singing of? A smell that stands my hairs on end. A smell of gas pumps and cedar, of gravel and cigarettes lit when the match made them sweet.

What things smell like that? What things smell “to me quite sinister”? A sinister perfume, one that is like the scent of the fires that leapt from the caves of the things that have not happened yet, bad and mysterious and dangerous things of an ominous future, a bad turn around a dark bend.

L’Artisan Dzing!? No, it’s quirky, but not sinister. Carmel corn and sawdust and animal sweat could be sinster, but only if it felt like a cheap circus tent set ablaze with every person and animal simultaneously stampeding toward the exits in panic. This is more like an elephant balancing a ball on its nose in a cute way, a  Disney-esque take on circus life.

I dug through my boxes a few days ago, still in search of something sinister. The original DKNY Black Cashmere  packaging certainly has the makings of a sinister perfume, all black and smooth like the obelisk from 2001: A Space Odyssey. But the scent is wrong, too cozy and full sparkly top notes.

I tried several slumberhouse scents because they are so weirdly wonderful, and the closest was slumberhouse Vikt, but it didn’t have quite the right ratio of attraction and repulsion to be sinister to me.  It was too polished, to smooth.  It lacked the ragged edge of fierceness that says "I scare you, so come here."

So what smells sinister? What smells like that dark and murky feeling that haunts you when you are just freed from your ugliest dreams? In other words, what smells like this:

"The good Dale is in the Lodge, and he can't leave.
Write it in your diary."
I remember because of the fires that leapt 
from the caves of the things that have not happened yet
when I think of it now they smell to me quite sinister.

For me Olympic Orchids Gujarat fits the bill quite like nothing else I have found so far. And I don’t mean since I started thinking about this song or even since I started in with perfume. I mean since I could smell things, because this is high up there on things I now think of as attractive and yet sinister. The lovely Ellen Covey described the scent as follows:
A spicy, smoky oriental, Gujarat is made with just about every spice you can name and some you probably never even heard of, softened and sweetened with tropical flowers, supported on a base of smoky woods, resins, and balms, and garnished with a dash of chili and a twist of lime.

Gujarat is available as a parfum extrait or EdP and features notes of saffron, tulsi, lime, tagetes, jasmine, rose, cardamom, cumin, fenugreek, ginger, curry leaf, turmeric, mango, spikenard, olibanum, vetiver, patchouli, choya loban, black agar, and sandalwood.
The scent is dark and voluptuous, sweet and earthy, full of pitch and tar and whatever else you attribute to the part of a darkness that attracts you to it. The sweet is sticky like sweat and forbidden things and signs that say "Stop!" and "Turn Back Now!" It is strange because it’s almost so full of the night, with its dangerously attractive qualities, that I might think it was unwearable. Instead, it’s beautiful. It’s lovely and soft and wicked and dangerous.

And pretty freaking fantastic.

What about you, dear reader? Got any thoughts on those scents that when you think of them now smell to you quite sinister?

Friday, July 15, 2011

I do this thing where I think I'm real sick but I won't go to the doctor to find out about it.

Perfume Challenge Week 26: Monday, 7/11/11, to Friday, 7/15/11

Where I'm heading...
26 weeks, people! TWENTY SIX WEEKS! I've made it halfway through my 2011 challenge. Wow. 118 scents reviewed this year so far. That's a lot of sniffing,
and a whole lot more to go.

Leaving in a few hours for Houston. It's going to be in the high 90s with over 70% humidity in Houston, so I've been desperately trying to figure out what I can take with me that will work with the hot weather and help me with my damaged calm. So far I'm thinking of taking Jo Malone Fresh Mint Leaf, CB I Hate Black March (a comfort scent for me because it smells like my PNW home), and Chanel CoCo Mademoiselle. What would you suggest, if you could pack my a perfume kit for me for my weekend trip?

Monday: CB I Hate Perfume Winter 1972 - A field of untouched new fallen snow, hand knit woolen mittens covered with frost, a hint of frozen forest & sleeping earth.

A colder, icier version of CB I Hate Perfume Black March. Dirt, leaves, fresh snow. All icey blues and deep piney greens. I wish there had been more wet wool in it; it would have been better if it had been a deeper scratchier scent. Instead its a little bit iris-y, which is nice, but I prefer both Black March and Wild Hunt to this one. 3 of 5 nods.

Tuesday: Borsari Violetta di Parma - Notes: Violet, Rose, Muguet, Orris, Jasmine, Heliotrope, Hyacinth, Vetiver, Musk, Vanilla.

Oh, I like this scent! The overly sweet edge burns off almost immediately and this is not a soapy violet. It's got a lovely tea-like quality, but with an undercurrent of sweet of the vanilla balanced against the musk and vetiver. A great violette if you want a gentle and balanced violet, especially if youre looking for something lovely *and* reasonably priced. 4 of 5 nods.

Wednesday: Parfums Delrae Emotionnelle - A sophisticated but sensual fruity floral. It begins with notes of melon, tangerine, bergamot and ylang-ylang which add transparency, freshness, and a certain mouthwatering quality. Eau Emotionelle has beautiful floral heart notes of violet, jasmine and roses and finishes on a base of cedarwood, vetiver, clove and amber.

Oh melon, you and I do not have a good relationship. You always smell to me like something biological development has warned me against eating by making it bitter and unpleasant to the taste. The bitterness is a sign you should not swallow; it may be poisonous. It disappears after about half an hour, but blech, I'm totally ruined by then. Melon notes -- you are my sniffa kyrptonite. I'm not even going to rate this, since I'm totally biased by my melon hatred.

Thursday: Laura Mercier Violette - A delicate and sophisticated fragrance that is inspired by the delicate violet flower. Notes: violet leaves, black currant, mimosa, peony, vetiver, musk and raspberry.

Hello, sweet and fruity violet. No tea here, this is a much more floral and fruity violet, an edible styling. The vetiver and musk are quite strong, and that's the source of the underneath warmth instead of the normal soapiness you get with violets. I remember trying this ove a year ago and not loving it, but now I really do. It seems more multifloral than solifloral, but not quite floral enough for multifloral, so it comes off as kind of muddy, thematically, and as a spray rather than a dabber, I suspect it could be strong enough to crank up the volume, but not necessarily blow the doors off. Sadly discontinued, but still findable online at a really reasonable price. 3.5 of 5 nods.

Friday: Serge Lutens Fleurs de Citronnier - Serge Lutens celebrates spring with Fleurs de Citronnier. This perfume belongs to oriental olfactive group and it expands our knowledge about it by its freshness and gentleness. Lutens has used only rare materials of high quality, as always. Notes: Lemon blossom, petitgrain, neroli, white honey, iris, several sorts of musk and styrax resin.

My preferred weather...
If you might sniff this and your immediate reaction is "very light Aquanet?", I urge you to smell past that. This is an interestingly dry and light scent, and the harsh lemon edge burns off almost immediately, so that the citrus is much more gentle than you might expect. The middle is a lovely blend of lemon blossom, neroli, very light iris, and mild honey. The mixture results in a more complex neroli scent that is both more floral and more foodie than an orange blossom solifloral. After about an hour its a soft sweet resin and musk scent that I enjoy for the sheer niceness of it.

I agree with Robin that this is more a cool day neroli than a hot summer day scent. I think it's the coziness of the honey. Either way, it's lovely. I think I'll add it to my fall season buy list. 4 of 5 nods.

Winner of the Week: I think I'll give it to Serge Lutens Fleurs de Citronnier, though it's a close call because I think Borsari Violetta di Parma makes a nicer warm weather scent, but Serge Lutens Fleurs de Citronnier is a nier scent for cooler days, which we tend to have more of here. And let's face it, I just want it to be cooler all the time anyway.

"Oh, you're almost home. I've been waiting for you to come in.
Dancing around in your old suits going crazy in your room again.
I think I'll go out an embarrass myself by getting drunk and falling down in the street.
You say I choose sadness that it never once has chosen me.
Maybe you're right..."

~ "The Good That Won't Come Out," Rilo Kiley

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

June Drawing - aroma M geisha Samples and Mix CD!

I can't believe we're almost halfway through July and I haven't even posted a drawing for June yet. Time flies when you're, well, busier than a one-armed paper hanger, as my daddy used to say.

I'm lying.  He never said that.  Not in real life, anyway.  But the dad I've constructed in my head did and since I like him better than the man I knew, I'm going with it. Less with the alcohol and violence, more with the folksy humor. But I digress...

As you may have recently read, I really liked the aroma M geisha scents. There are a lot of unique takes on notes that dominate the market like white floral scents or heavy vanillas, because Maria McElroy balances them against against unusual fruits or spices like anise or lychee. This results in a surprising twist when you think you know what to expect, and the results are largely delicate, smooth, and elegant.

I liked them enough that for my July drawing, one lucky winner will receive a set of twelve samples from aroma M perfumes, my treat, along with the every present mixed CD, carefully constructed and decorated by yours truly.

I have to say, the more I work with and smell the work of independent perfumes, the more I wonder why I'd ever step into a department store again. Of course, I'll shop those scents, too, because girlfriend don't discriminate when it comes to a pretty perfume, but I do find the need to try the neverending churn of celebrity scents and flankers receding further and further into the distance in the face of so many lovely perfumes made by perfumers who, like Maria, are intent on breaking down gender stereotypes in the industry and are trying to create scents that are less about mass appeal and more about olfactory artistic endeavor.

So thank you to all you independent perfumers out there, established and just beginning. I love you all, and my life is infinitely more interesting and artful and emotional and inspired for having met you via your work.

To enter, post here by 12:01 AM PST, Sunday, July 17, 2011 and tell me what your favorite scent is that is made by an independent perfumer, or your favorite independent perfume line is, or simply what independent perfumer's line you'd most like to try.

Drawing open to anyone, anywhere. I'll ship to you even if your postal workers are striking; we just need to figure out how best to get the scents to you.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

I sit there staring when there's nothing else to do.

Perfume Challenge Week 25: Monday, 7/4/11, to Friday, 7/8/11

Lorelai: So, Mia, how's living in Santa Barbara?
Mia: Horrible. Did you know the damn sun shines all the time out there?
Rory: They've written songs about that.

Mia's attitude about the devil sun that is haunting my days and actively trying to burn my skin mirrors my own. I've been feeling vaguely filled with melancholia lately because of the excess sun and lack of cool, cloudy days. This is exacerbated by my coming trip to Houston.

I'm going home for a very happy occasion. My (adoptive) sister, Erica, is having a baby girl and I am thrilled for her, her partner, and their budding family. I am not happy to be returning to Texas for the first time in three plus years at the height of the July heat. Also, going there reminds me of things, bad things, and I don't love remembering the life I had there. I'm definitely one of those people who is happy that you can never go home again. It helps relieve the expectation that you actually try.

I'm hopeful, though. Every few weeks, I break a nail and have to cut all my nails short again. When I do, I experience a sensation that I didn't have the first twenty-fivish years of my life, when I was so nervous and scared of the mere act of living that I bit at my hands until they bled.

I feel the itchy sensation of newly revealed skin interacting with the world, before it gets used to the cold and wet and hot and heavy and becomes sort of numb. It's not what I'd call a good feeling. Frankly, it can be irritating and uncomfortable. But it reminds me that I am alive, and every day, I grow and heal and repair myself, over and over, in ways I can't even imagine. Every few years, almost everything about this body I inhabit has died and been replaced by new flesh, new cells, new blood.

In light of that, it’s not hard to imagine new beginnings. After all, I was born, I have died, I am alive again, brand new. It will happen again. And again. So maybe this time won't be so bad. At some point, I'll stop hating the mere experience of being there, right? One of these newly born iterations of myself will eventually shed the baggage and be able to handle it gracefully. Until then, I keep the visits short, and breath deep, and try bringing the most calming scents I can stuff in my bag.

Speaking of lovely and calming scents, I was delivered a lovely set of samples from the generous Maria McElroy, perfumer of amora M perfumes. The line is described as follows:

Imagine a stroll through the ancient, cobble stoned streets of Gion, the legendary Geisha district of Kyoto. Peek into a tea room imbued with the sound of shamisen, with the scent of delicate incense wafting through the doorway. Feel the fluid seductiveness of a silk kimono wafting against your skin. These are some of the multi-sensuous delights that have gone into the blending of the Geisha Collection from Aroma M: The Art of Scent. Included in the collection are perfume oils and eau de parfum's, available in eleven lush and unique fragrances that interpret the subtly mysterious aromas of Japan for the modern Western scent aficionado.

Maria's Aroma M scents are created with the subtle (never overpowering) sensibility of Japanese incense blends in mind. In addition, armed with her aromatherapy background, Maria ensures that her fragrances are not only beguiling, but help alleviate daily stress and promote well-being. As natural as possible without losing their diffusing power, they are made with the finest essential oils.

Monday: aroma M Geisha Blanche - Geisha Blanche is cool, beckoning, enticing. Its blend of white flowers gives a subtle sweet appeal. Here is one beautiful, feminine fragrance that is based on flowers, but with the addition of lychee conveys the meaning of cool summer sensuality.

This is a truly lovely scent. It is a white floral, yes, but not overly so. The lychee adds this sweet cooling aspect that makes the scent seem like a bouquet of candied flowers and fruit. Moderate sillage, and I think would make a lovely gift for a younger woman and while seasonally more of a summer scent, I think it would make a nice counterpoint to a wet fall day, when one feels wistful for the sun and the beautiful flowers of spring. 3 of 5 nods.

Tuesday: aroma M Geisha O-Cha - “O-cha” green tea, a delicate blend of traditional Japanese green tea, sweet orange, and clary sage.

Wow, very orange and sage, realistically so on application. The tea aspect is less strong in the opening than in the middle, but once it kicks in it balances very nicely with the other scents. When I was little, my mom used to make this tea mixture for me when I was sick, made of sugar, Lipton instant tea, and Tang! It sounds gross, but it was actually delicious, and remains a wonderful memory to me. This is more complex and strongly herbal than that, and the orange fades out considerably. The sillage is low on this one, but it is beautiful and gentle. O-Cha would make a great spring scent; I can imagine putting it on and heading over to sit along the peaceful paths of Portland’s beautiful Japanese gardens. 4 of 5 nods.

Wednesday: aroma M Geisha Rouge - A scent of vital sexiness that is not based on flowers, but on the seductive spices and woods used in traditional Japanese incense—cinnamon, star of anise, clove, and sandalwood—spiked with tobacco, smooth vanilla, and sultry tonka bean.

Seductive is right on the money! The combination of cinnamon, anise, clove, vanilla, and tonka bean always strikes me quite a bit of baking goods, and combined with tobacco I always personally get a mental imagine of fresh baked holiday cookies or banana bread. I would absolutely recommend this for each and every day between the fourth Thursday in November and January 1. Not that you have to think of this as a holiday scent, though I personally do. After a while the sweetness backs off and it grows a little more medicinal, which moves this away from homey and sweet and toward sexy and hot. two hours later it was sweet again, but the sexy-hot still haunted me around the edges.

Definitely a must try if you like Washington Tremlett Royals Heroes 1805 or Olympic Orchids Carolina. Delicious, delightful, de-lovely. Big sillage, so not workplace friendly if your workplace is anything like mine. 4 of 5 nods.

Thursday: aroma M Geisha Violet - The sweet scent of violet, suffused with lilac and ethereal Japanese lotus, spiked with bitter chocolate: That’s the recipe for Geisha Violet, Aroma M’s first new fragrance in three years. Geisha Violet is by no means old-fashioned here, this updated classic is boldly transposed into the 21st century. The drydown is the main attraction: cool, fresh violet and lotus dance so eloquently with chocolate notes--not foody, nor overly sweet, it's an elegant composition that begs you to sniff... and sniff.... and sniff in delight. Completely original. Notes: violet, lilac, lotus, chocolate

Remember how I was just talking about banana baked goods? Holy crimoly! This is a woooooooooooonderful really green unripened banana flesh at the opening. The violet and lilac are well balanced, but the strongest aspect for me is the lotus. EauMG didn't get a lot of chocolate, and I didn't either, but it didn't bother me at all. The chocolate note is probably responsible for some of the sweetness. Carrie at eyeliner on a cat thought it was figgy, and while I get edible, it I don't get fig. It really is a smooth banana on me, in a fresh real fruit way that I have never encountered in a scent before.  The tail end is very gourmand, but toward the vanilla end of the spectrum, but still light and lovely. Light to moderate sillage. 5 of 5 nods for the originality and perfect balance of this scent.

Friday: aroma M Geisha Pink - A shot of sugared plum, with fresh orange added for tang, and vanilla for seductive staying power. This is a young Eastern-accented scent, brimming with sexiness.

The orange here smells like orange pith and is strong in the opening, and the plum is strangely not sweet either. I understand this is one of their more popular scents, but it's got this bitter green edge to it I can't get past, which reminds me of standing in a field of over-ripened melons on a hot day. That said, I hate melon. True story. Cantaloupe, honey dew, you name it; these items are listed under "Things that make Diana go blech!" So it's entirely to a non-melon hater, this is a fantastic scent. For me? Sadly a non-starter in an otherwise fantastic week of scents.

Winner of the Week: It's a toss-up between aroma M Geisha Rouge and aroma M Geisha Violet with Violet winning for sheer originality I think. Either way, great scents, and a great line worth trying.

I'll leave you with this, a truly fantastic video of Kristen Dunst as an anima-style magical princess doing The Vapor’s “Turning Japanese.” It’s never been clear to me why Dunst made this video, or why it was subsequently played in the Toronto Museum of Art, but I have been vaguely obsessed with it since I found it a couple of years ago.

"Your eyes are hazel and soft as clouds.
I often kiss you when there's no one else around."

~ "Turning Japanese," The Vapors

You can by aroma Mperfumes direct from the perfumer or through LuckyScent.

Perfumes reviewed above generously provided by the perfumer.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Summer, Sun, Fun! - slumberhouse reviews & Drawing Winner!

Perfume Challenge Week 24: Monday, 6/27/11, to Friday, 7/1/11

"As long as I get to pee on a stick and eat my delicious jerky, I'm in." - Katherine Heigl, "Killers"

Surprisingly entertaining film if you haven't seen it and are into spy stuff (which I am), even if the premise is silly and the plot twist is transparent. Anyhoo, I'm posting this from my OlympicPeninsula/Canadian adventure by the time you are reading this. It's my first time out of the U.S., which I am absurbly excited about despite the fact that it's a very short trip to a very close place. What can I say? I've been all over the U.S. I only need 10 states to make my "50 before 40" goal. But leaving and going somewhere, anywhere, else, it's a first step to a bigger life.Who wouldn't be excited about that?

Also, a little housekeeping - Congrats to flavourfanatic, who won the drawing for a copy ofPerfumes: The Guide. Please email me at feminine(dot)things @

If you didn't win this time, take heart. More drawing plans are underway, and they are going to be really good, if I do say so myself. And now...

More slumberhouse perfumes!

Monday: slumberhouse Miel - Rich honey and leather. Includes notes of: leather, honey, rose, cigarette accord, ambergris, black tea absolute, castoreum musk, saffron. A very imaginative and complex fragrance comprising 54 separate components diluted at 40%.

Very like new thick stiff leather, conjuring in my mind a pair of pristine new saddle shoes. Honey is the note I don't get until very late (2 hours in?), but yes, a lot of saffron and musk right from the beginning. On the whole Miel is a rich industrial scent or the high-fashion, super urban varity that is so gritty and urban, I can't decide which of these two outfits it seems to fit more: very structured black dress with wide belt, sleek-lined military in style or this intense pseudo-regal stiff collared dress that screams "Victorian Space Royalty" to me. Not a scent I see fitting with my current style, but very nice for the edgey, fashion forward type. 3 of 5 nods.

Tuesday: slumberhouse Grev - The interpretation of the dapperest embodiments of a true gentleman. A deep, spicy, earthy, rooty fragrance with an elegant kick of herbs tinted through shades of orris, clove, birch and fir. A completely post-modern version of an elegant masculine cologne, grev is a very intriguing fragrance - truly nothing like it. Notes: Copaiba, fir balsams, clove, birch, orris, cedar

Fir and cloves and cedar make for a smooth, polished scent. It has a littl menthol aspect at the beginning, but the middle is more like a strongly clove and menthol tea. I think it's a very modern scent, but still elegant and classic, reminiscent of those moments when big fashion houses seize on and attempt to reinvent fashion staples, like the little black dress or the the taupe trench coat.

Walking over to me, mi marido said, "I don't know what it is you smell like, but it's nice." Since he rarely makes such comments - he's not that into scent, tragically - I always make a note when he actually notices enough to say he likes the way I smell. You should take that as a recommendation, because I'm over here spray and dabbing and rollering all the live long day and it rarely evokes commentary. Grev is a great scent and I would not restrict it to just men. 4.5 of 5 nods.

Wednesday: slumberhouse Vikt - Dark balsamic woods slowly oozing sweet metallic oils - motions of soft smokey black agar woods through syrupy bronze resins. Incredibly deep & well rounded fragrance with a mellow darkness at its heart. Notes: Oud, styrax, ravensara.

Balsamic woods is a good assessment of the opening of the scent, which smells a bit like a campfire made of scavenged antiques in some post-Zombie apocalyptic future. I agree with mellow and dark, woody and sweet; it's well-made and might work well as a deep dark coffee/licorice liqueur. It's like sucking on hard coffee-flavored candy, like dark polished wood colored painted nails. Classy, smooth, subtle and at the same time unexpected, unorthodox. 3 of 5 nods.

Thursday: slumberhouse Jeke - The concept for this started in autumn 2008 with a batch of smokey cade oil and the idea of a night time stroll with burning autumn woods in the distance - something fiery and burnt yet chillingly desolate, November illusory, breath of fog, ablaze. Into this design I sought to embed a defined masculinity - something well-worn yet intellectual, a refinement streamlined with rustic attributes - warmth of cigars in humidors, old leather shoes & odd buckles, traces of a fragmented sweet spice, the mysterious atmosphere that adorns the well traveled. Notes: Cade, tobacco absolute, patchouli, labdanum, benzoin

Tobacco and labdanum, but with what seems like a strongly citrus edge. It reminds me of a richly fantastic like a fistful of fresh tobacco leaves macerated in an orange/lemon/lime puree on a bed of patchouli leaves.

You know what else it reminds me of? My friend Ashley spent a year studying in Africa, and when she came back she brought some 'beer' back from my ale aficionado husband. This beer? Basically hooch by any other name. It was made with banana leaves (hubby also loves banana) in a hole in the ground with some other materials and left to...cultivate, while in a second hole nearby a fire was set to warm the ground and aid in the fermenting process. The result -- quite frankly will knock you on your ass. How Ashley even got it back into the states remains a mystery to me. (Though she is, generally speaking, a woman of mystery so that's not really surprising).

Long story longer? This scent reminds me of the mysterious, primal, earthy 'banana beer' she brought us. I'm loving it. 4 of 5 nods.

Thursday:slumberhouse Ore-An affection for Carmex lip balm, so Slumberhouse did something about it. Imagine an intensely bastardized version, thickened with sweet scotch and bitter cocoa, made slightly mean with a splash of pure black peppercorn and smeared in a creamy lactonic backdrop. One hell of a dark and sexy beast[.]Notes:Guaiac wood, peru balsam, black pepper, cocoa absolute, palmarosa, clary sage.

Carmex lip balm and chocolate. Yeah, I can actually see that here, because on me the opening was a combination I described to my travel companion as "chocolate-lemon-pine." In the immortal words of the late Johnny Carson, "weird wild stuff." Twenty minutes in the dry cocoa aspect is still there, but the lemon has backed off, and the whole spice aspect has muddled together in a curry sort of way. I even get a civet-like note happening. An hour in it changes drastically again, and I smell blood/warm copper, sage, sugared lemon rind, and celery salt. One of the weirdest scents I've ever tried. I can't say that I really enjoyed the opening, but the middle was decent and the end really nice. Definitely one of those scents you have to see through, though, and not going to be for everyone. 3 of 5 nods.

Winner of the Week : Grev edges out Jeke. All of the scents above are available at Indiescent, bottles and samples.

Also, I want to say a word about slumberhouse while I have your attention. I have been surprised, honestly, by the mixed commentary I've been encountering about the line. Personally, I think their work speaks for itself and certainly doesn't need me to defend it. That said, I think slumberhouse is more of the most unique and complicated lines I've tried in the three years I've been doing this. Many of their perfumes are pretty, even beautiful, but that doesn't seem to be the goal. If you accept the premise that scent is an art, like visual art or auditory art, meant to be experienced and impact the person having the experience or to convey a feeling or thought on behalf the creator, then I think slumberhouse is more toward that end of the spectrum. It isn't ultra-realism, like CB I Hate Perfume. It isn't classic like Chanel. It isn't an epic mastery of a particular collective goal, creating some sense of Aristotlean form of that aspect of beauty. It speaks for itself and that either reaches you or it doesn't. That's not a judgement on you, as the sniffa, but it also isn't a judgement on the scent itself. But in the great mental museum of olfactory art, there has to be a po-mo/contemporary wing, and this work slumberhouse is doing would belong there.

A girl I know was participating in a performance art piece on behalf of the art department at the college for theinaugurationof our new college president. As she and the other students were getting ready to begin their piece, one particular art professor came by and hissed, "Remember: what you're doing isn't art. It's decoration." The professor did not believe, given the context of the piece and circumstances surrounding it, that their collective performance piece could really be art. Instead, it was there to be looked at and to entertain, but not to speak for itself as art. When I see critiques of slumberhouse, I'm often reminded of this story. I think too many times people come to perfume looking for decoration, for something that will enhance the wearer. I believe there's a legitimate place for that. But I also hope there is room for us to experience some weird, wild stuff and be moved by it, be challenged by it, and through it, to find aspects of being ourselves as people and being experienced as ourselves in relation to the scent by the world and those around us in new ways, ways we might have missed otherwise.

Because that is art, and adventure, and risk, and reward. In the face of an often routine and stolid world, isn't that something worth appreciating?

I like to think so.