Saturday, October 29, 2011

It's the End of the World As We Know It, and I Smell Fine

For the love of God,
DON'T OPEN THE DOOR!
Perfumes for Your Post-Apocalyptic Isolation

If you knew me well, dear reader, you'd understand that my brain is often full of moderately morbid scenarios for the future. FN1.

So in honor of Halloween, I'll share one of these dark mental meanderings, which you can respond to for, naturally, a seasonal prize, for we are all about the prizes here at Feminine Things.

So think with me for a moment, dear reader, about the end times. I don't mean rivers of blood or rapture, I mean post-apocalyptic survival times. Imagine you have survived in a world without people. I don't mean The Walking Dead style survival.

Helllooooo? Anyone here?
I mean finding yourself in a I Am Legend style, you-may-be-the-only-living-human-survivor, complete isolation kind of world. Or, if you prefer, a Tom-Cruise-in-Vanilla-Sky-omg-where-did-the-WORLD-go!?! kind of environment.

It's just you and...

...you.

After you've managed to secure food,shelter, and housing, it would get kind of boring, right? You could raid libraries for books and stores for batteries to power some audiobooks or music for a while. But you're alone. I mean ah-lone. For all you know, it could stay like that for the rest of your life.

Fun Fact: They actually emptied
Times Square to shoot this.
So stop and imagine your city or town in a world where death comes swift and furious, taking humanity in one chilling wind, one moment there and within hours, gone. Imagine the empty art galleries and clothing stores and groceries, the beautiful gowns and hand-stitched linen suits left to moulder on hangers, the fine china and crystal all smashed and covered in dust.

The world, what's left of it, is yours. You can have everything or nothing. Somewhere out there, it all waits for you, the trappings of a life now lost.

Myself? I'd be picking my way through the rubble of my beloved Rose City toward Hawthorne Street, where the remnants of The Perfume House would await me. It might be the end of the world, but at least I would smell great. Seriously -- they'd have almost everything I could want.  L'Artisans, Guerlains, Chanels, Goutals, and more.  Resting in beautiful rows for me to make a day of before some sad fate befell me as well. I like to think, even in my most shell shocked, I'd still find beauty in things: a sunrise, a fresh apple, a supple leather, a beautiful perfume.

In the midst of perfect ruin, what perfume do you search for? What scent would you acquire now that all the perfume in the world is yours for the taking but no one else will ever appreciate?

Answer below to enter!  Winner will receive a copy of my October 2011 Mix CD, also known as "Music For Monster Lovers, Vol. 4," some fun Halloween themed goodies and a $15 gift certificate to Indiescents!


Comment by Monday, October 31, 2011 11:59 PM PST! Open to U.S. and International readers.

_______________
FN1. My David is really tired of having conversations that begin with "If you died..." or, alternately, "If I died...." or, literally, "When a bioterrorist/supergerm zombie apocalypse descends..." I have been told on more than one occasion to stop asking questions about our potential deaths. Also, he actually put together a zombie preparedness kit in the closet to make me feel more secure. Moral of the story? I am super wacky, and he is super tolerant.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Reeking Stench of Bitterness (aka Scents for When I am All Bad Moody)

Get that AWAY FROM ME!
There are some days when I wake up, get dressed, trundle over to my perfume cabinet and shudder in horror at the thought of wearing some of my truly beloved scents.

Why?

I overslept, my hair is wet, I don't have a stitch of make-up on, and my general attitude is that the world at large should just be glad I got out of bed and participated today. In other words, I am feeling, if you'll pardon the expression, like hammered shit, and there is no way I feel bold and sassy enough for a dose of Tauer Perfumes Une Rose Chypre, or beautiful enough for my tiny vial of Robert Piguet Fracas parfum, or thin enough for a hit of vintage Caron Tabac Blond, or sexy enough for my roller of DSH Perfumes Erotica.

Everything I pick up is like that quote from High Fidelity: "The thing I really learned from the Charlie Debacle is that you gotta punch your weight. Charlie was out of my class: too pretty, too smart, too witty, too much." There are days when a lot of my favorite scents are, quite frankly, too pretty, too bold, too sexy, too classy -- too much. I can't face them. I want to go back to bed and only strength of will and a desire not to get canned in the worst economy in a century make me do otherwise.

On these days, it can be very hard to find a fragrance and you definitely do not want to be testing anything, because the anxiety of trying something beautiful in an awful mood and hating it is deeply depressing in its own right. To that end, here are some thoughts on scenting your way through the dark down days.

~ Don't be afraid to be a coward. ~

A lot of people will tell you try new scents, look for inspiration, challenge yourself to rise above it and find the invigorating meat of life that will help you turn your mood around. To these folks I say, SHUT IT. In the immortal words of Winona Ryder in Heathers, "If you were happy every day of your life, you wouldn't be a person. You'd be a game show host." You're not doing yourself or any hard working perfumer a favor if the stream of cursing running through your mind as you spritz on a new scent is filth of the order most frequently uttered by eight-year-old boys who have just acquired a naughty vocab and are out of their parents' earshot. Run, don't walk, from challenging material. Be a coward today; it's cool. We all do it sometimes.

In bad moods people tend to: eat their favorite foods, wear their snuggly pajamas, watch their favorite movies. We seek, in a word, comfort. The unknown is not comforting. Because I'm not talking about ennui here; that's a different problem. FN1. I'm talking about a black mood, Sally, and not one born of the cumulative circumstances in a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day, which might be overcome by a good ending a beautiful scent might provide because you're open to such a possibility. I'm talking about waking up on the wrong side of the bed and knowing the day will suck because you are in the mood to refuse any argument to the contrary.

On such a day, wear something you have absolutely no complaint about. If you have always and will ever after, Amen, loved Guerlain Shalimar or can’t get enough of Channel No. 5 EDT, bust that baby out. If you're ready to bite the heads off everyone, don't let a challenging scent get in the way.

This is my FIGHT FACE!
~ Wear a scent you already unconditionally love even if it is common, bad, or otherwise embarrassing. ~ 

Yes! Embrace the known, the overworn, the possibly common and mundane. If you have a big bottle of Estee Lauder White Linen or Ceasar Woman lurking in the back of the closet because you like them and don't care if other people think they are overworn or smell cheap or just all around suck in general, bring it out into the light. Have a brief, torrid, public love affair with banality! Love your bottle of GAP So Pink! with all your heart. You were already in the mood to tell the world “Screw You!” for the sake of it; you might as well wear a scent that might give you the opportunity.

~ Wear a scent that others find boring. ~

Yep. You've all got one. I know you do. You've got a scent you love but other people think smells like a dryer sheet, or you think smells like winter and noses in the knowes think of as white noise. Normally your friends notice and comment on the olfactory beauty in your wake, or hug you and say, "You smell wonderful, (sigh) as always," and then grill you on your recent scent choices. Perhaps on another day you might not want to admit that next to that $300 bottle of LE L'Artisan lurks a bottle of Paris Hilton Fairy Dust, but I say now is the hour of your reckoning! Get down with that reject scent; you're already feeling rejected and full of bile. Spray it all over and then if someone frowns at you, wave your arms wildly, spreading your averageness around like an obscuring cloud of scent underachievement.

~ Wear a scent that flies a little under the radar. ~

I have some very lovely scents that wear close to the skin and, unless you actually get closer than eight inches to me, you would never know they were there. FN2. These are the scents I am most likely to turn to when my mood is more rotten than a crab apple full of worms. Not because there is anything shameful or embarrassing or boring or wrong with them. Simply because the only statement I am hoping to make today is one to myself, a small reminder that despite the general bitterness eating at me these long hours, tomorrow will be better.

Must remember:
Not a workplace
appropriate response!
In these moods, I really like green scents. I like to use DSH Perfumes Hemlock or a little Miller et Bertaux No. 3 Green, Green, Green, Green to help assuage my ill temperament, though the latter is almost too large sillage-wise for this mood. Big sillage means attracting attention, and in this mood, I want no such thing. I know on these days I can be hard to deal with; no need to inflict that on anyone but myself. FN3. I need to purchase JoAnne Bassett's Night Queen, not because it isn't beautiful or glorious on me, but because I think I would find it equally silver-lining inspiring.

Another scent I find really comforting is Demeter Fragrance Library Salt Air, which has a harsh edge to it and isn't super low sillage, but doesn't necessarily smell perfumey, and therefore is unnoticed by everyone but me. There is something about being able to put my headphones on with the volume cranked and close my eyes and give my wrist a little sniff and pretend for a few minutes I am not trapped at work but instead barreling down the highway along the coast with the windows down that makes me feel a tiny bit better.

You know what else is comforting? Foodie scents. L'Artisan Bois Farine, aka the infamous "bread hologram" is really comforting and moderate to low sillage in smallish doses. Another scent that makes me feel better on a bad day is Olympic Orchids Carolina, which smells like banana bread and is similar to Washington Tremlett Royal Heroes 1805, but better smelling and better priced.

And last, but not least, I always feel it's best to smell like a cocktail when I really, really want one. To that end, I have the terrific Memoire Liquide Champagne et Mure #900 and Frapin 1270 EDP to make me feel boozy, but without the drunken rambling over-truthfulness I’m prone to in my tipsy moments.

What about you dear reader? What do you wear when you have a black day? Tell me below to enter a monthly mix drawing , this one my much overdue August 2011 draw. August 2011 Mix CD, which is a mix mostly of which what I was listening to in August, some new, some old, all awesome. Winner will also recieve a $15 gift certificate to their choice of Demeter Fragrance Library or The Perfumed Court, a few decants, and possibly a post card and other goodies.

Comment by Friday October 28, 2011 12:01AM PST to enter!

At least one more draw this week, so stay tuned.
_____________________
FN1. See video here for explanation.
FN2. Too close, you fool! I'm in the mood to ax-murder a body! NEVER GET THAT CLOSE IN THESE CIRCUMSTANCES! I could snap your poor self in half with nothing more than my jaws of viciousness on such an occasion.
FN3. And my lovely and long-suffering husband, who gets the backwash of my bad moody days by virtue of living with me, sadly.

Monday, October 10, 2011

I said, Doctor, is there nothing I can take?

Perfume Challenge Week 38: Monday, 10/3/11 to Friday, 10/7/11

This week I bring you five scents from Amanda at Esscentual Alchemy Natural Perfumery, a line of scents that are 100% natural with modest sillage and longevity. She describes her line as follows:
When I create a perfume I do so intentionally. Being mindful of putting myself in a positive and loving, and uplifting emotional place. So that the perfume is positive, loving and uplifting emotionally as well. Each one blessed with good thoughts and wishes for the wearer.
Good thoughts and wishes? Sign me up.

First up, Queen of Punk - The Queen of Punk is a dirty girl. A dirty, dirty girl. Notes: Civet, Tobacco, Patchouli, Amber, Cognac, Rose, Coffee, Linden Blossom, Bitter Orange, Black Pepper, Mimosa.

In my life, I've known two kinds of punk girls. I've known fairly butch punk girls and I've known these surprisingly feminine punk girls who would smile sweetly at you while the ripped the nose ring right out of your face. Queen of Punk belongs to the latter. Queen of Punk is a surprisingly light 'dirty' scent. I get a healthy dose of fat wet patchouli leaves in the opening, but they are not too heavy, which makes this scent a nice surprise in the world of patchouli scents, which tend use a heavier patchouli. The civet is subtle, blending seamlessly with the cognac and coffee. I don't get a lot of the floral aspects beyond the linden blossom, and the black pepper kicks me in the nose like an aftertaste. A very pretty, decidedly feminine scent for such typically heavy notes, which is indivicative of how well made it is. 3.5 of 5 nods.

Mint Ginger Truffle - Chocolate Mint Ginger asks you to drizzle on some Chocolate Mint, and then later sniff again, and you've found the Ginger Center! Mmm...a little scented truffle for your nose. Notes: Chocolate, Mint, Ginger.

A very light gourmand, just insanely light for the spunky mixture of notes. The chocolate is faint and powdery on me, putting the mint and ginger to the fore. The ginger is tangy, as though you were sucking on fresh ginger root shavings. The mint provides a freshness to the scent without making it all about the mint or reading as some terrible mint-flavored gum or syrup mess. If you like desserts that aren't overly sweet or foodie and tend toward the fresh or spicy, I recommend this. 3 of 5 nods.

Lumberjack Man - This sultry cologne combines smoky tobacco, leathery labdanum, musky agarwood, sensual ylang ylang, spicy ginger, fresh lime, bitter wormwood, savory saffron, zesty black pepper, warm and floral rosewood, blend into a rich, and warm, yet crisp cologne, that is loved by both men and women. Notes: Tobacco, Labdanum, Agarwood, Ylang ylang, Ginger, Lime, Wormwood, Saffron, Black Pepper, Rosewood.

Dear reader, if I said Lumberjack smelled like a lumbar yard, would you think I was wimping out on you? It does though. And also vaguely of Home Depot, but minus the chemical fertilizer smell. In other words, if you like wood scents, you'll like this. Lumberjack is a strong, spicy wood with strong ladbanum aspects, it reminds me of what I would expect the Log Lady in Twin Peaks to smell like when she's chewing her pitch gum. 3 of 5 nods.

Autumn Spice - Woody myrrh, sweet sandalwood, earthy patchouli, the sweet spices of cinnamon and nutmeg, freshly floral lavender, the rich citrus of a blood orange, and the sparkle of bergamot are all arranged in this perfume with a delicate touch. Notes: Myrrh, Sandalwood, Patchouli, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Lavender, Blood Orange, Bergamot.

Autumn Spices wears on me like a comforting friend. Mostly showing up as a sandalwood and spice blend, it has manages to be autumnal without feeling like a rehashing of the 'holiday' scented candles you find everywhere this time of year. One of the ways Autumn Spice manages is this is by using an unexpected base. Instead of going to the old autmunal stand-bys of heavy woods, smokey tobaccos, or sweet vanillas, it flourishes in a lavender and bergamot base, giving the scent an unexpected undercoating that reminds me of the scent of old books. If fall to you means back to school and late nights in a library cramming for tests and researching papers while drinkking gallons of herbal tea, this will smell *exactly* like those memories. 4 of 5 nods.

Fun fact: Autumn Spices is worn by Camryn Manheim, star of The Practice, a show demonstrating some heinously unscrupulous lawyering in thepursuit of roller coaster dramatic storytelling. I watched it for the latter, and still cringe at the memory of the former. Manheim is really talented and terrific in The Practice as Ellenor Frutt, though. She was also on The L Word and is now back on law t.v. in Harry's Law. I heart her.

Lime in the Coconut - This lime and coconut perfume might make you hungry...This smells like a delectable cream pie, and everytime I smell it, it makes me hungry first, and then makes me want to bake pies! Notes: Key Lime Hydrosol, Toasted Coconut Tincture, Lime essential oil

"You put the lime in the coconut, and drink'em both together, put the lime in the coconut, and then you feel better..." Sorry, had to get that out there. Love the song (even have the t-shirt), love the scent. A wonderful and realistic lime with a warm gently sweet coconut base.  What is so impressive is that I've tried coconut heavy scents and lime heavy scents and this is the most realist scent I've never had.  It's a unique and interesting blend of notes I've ever encountered in scent.  My only wish is that the sillage was larger, but I could definitely wear it in my scent sensitive workplace, so if you need light scents, this is a great one. 4.5 of 5 nods.

She put the lime in the coconut, she drank 'em both up
Put the lime in the coconut, she called the doctor, woke him up, and said
Doctor, ain't there nothin' I can take, I said
Doctor, to relieve this bellyache, I said
Doctor, ain't there nothin' I can take, I said
Doctor, to relieve this bellyache

~ "Coconut," Harry Nilsson

Scents generously provided by the perfumer. Images from Esscentual Alchemy except for the t-shirt, which is from Zeusandhera thanks to Creative Commons.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Winners! Bellyflowers Botanical Perfumes ambre alchemé & JoAnne Bassett's Enchant

Winner, winner, chicken dinner.  Or in our case, pretty perfumes!  Thanks to all who entered and stay tuned, more drawings coming soon.


Winner of JoAnne Bassett Perfumes' 1/4oz French flacon of Enchant Parfum and a mix CD made by yours truly is...

BELLATRIX!


Winner of Bellyflowers Botanical Perfumes' 15 ml sprayer of the eau de parfum of ambre alchemé and a mix CD made by yours truly is...

HJ!

Also, Candice, you won sample of  EnVoyage Perfumes L’Emblem Rouge and a mini spray flacon of L’Eau de Emblem Rouge, the accompanying hydrosol spray, as well as a special CD made by me.



All winners please email feminine(dot)things @ gmail.com with your address!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Recommended Viewing: Missrepresentation



I have so many things to say about this...but they will have to wait .

 For now, let me just say -- everyone should watch it.

Also, this is only part of the reason I am THRILLED to support Bitch Media. Thrilled!


Saturday, October 1, 2011

Brave New Scents: JoAnne Bassett's Enchant

A Natural Perfumers Guild Project

One of the two scents I am reviewing today for the Natural Perfumers Guild's Brave New Scents Project comes from JoAnne Bassett Perfumes. JoAnne wrote a lovely and reflective piece about her scent, which explained her process for creating the perfume. Enchant largely came together around the quote from Brave New World the project press release features:
I want God: holy basil, oud, champaca.
I want poetry: osmanthus.
I want danger: vetiver, patchouli.
I want freedom: orange essences, yuzu.
I want goodness: rose, jasmine.
I want sin: ambrette seed.
Other notes include: sandalwood, davana, pink pepper tree, high altitude lavender, galbanum, vanilla tincture.  The scent is "resting in organic jojoba."

So what does a combination of God, poetry, danger, freedom, goodness, and sin smell like?

Earthy and mossy, supple and strange, gentle and delicate, Enchant is a complex and beautiful scent. It is so...complicated. On me, there is an opening flood of basil, champaca, yuzu, and a sweet patchouli. The scent unfolds delightfully over time, but is difficult to pigeonhole within mainstream perfume labels. JoAnne herself wrote, "I am not sure what to classify this new perfume. Such diverse oils - from oud to incense to a floral gourmand. It is a temptress." I have to agree. It is sweet, it is green, it is warm, it is rooted, and yet it also has a fragile quality about it. It reminds me in some way of the beautiful smell of decaying fir needles, after the greenness of the fir aspect has settled behind the sweetness of transition.  What I find enchanting is that, where other scents might be these things in turn, JoAnne has made a scent that is somehow all of them at once, and simply....works.

JoAnne talks a lot about feeling the scent began with and was rooted in a kind of olfactory sacred space. I see that in this scent. When I smell Enchant, I think about the strength it takes to do yoga or Tai Chi. These kinds of movement, when done correctly, seem to flow effortlessly from one position to the next in an artful cascade of grounding and connected energy.
 However, if you're like me, you know that trying to do yoga or Tai Chi is really, really hard. It takes strength. It takes practice. It takes patience. You have to really listen to your body, understand what it is trying to tell you, and connect with a sense of inner calm and peace that on most days is elusive. It looks easy, but it is deceptive because learning to access that kind of bodily knowledge takes years of serious effort.

This scent has all the strength and sense of purpose that kind of movement. When  it is done correctly, it seems effortlessly in its execution. So does Enchant.  At first sniff, you might find yourself impressed by the tender quality of the rose, the smoothness of the vetiver, the airiness of the orange essences. Sniff again, and you see the strength, the focus, the energy hidden beneath the surface, guiding the endeavor with purpose and intention.

A beautiful scent, and not like anything else I've tried. A parfum oil, it lasts for hours.  At one point, I went to sleep with it on and found it still lingering eight hours later.  If you're feeling bored with the things you've been smelling, I'd suggest trying Enchant.    

And speaking of trying, JoAnne has graciously offered up a 1/4 oz French flacon of Enchant Parfum to one lucky reader! Winner will also get a specially made mixed Cd based on the theme of  Huxley's Brave New World. Please post here by 12:01 AM Friday, October 7, 2011 PST and tell me what scents you associate with the sacred or divine? 

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

Yoga Image from Yoga Tours Worldwide.

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.

Brave New Scents: A Natural Perfumers Guild Project


"O wonder!
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is!

O brave new world!
That has such people in it!"
~ Miranda in Shakespeare's The Tempest, Act V, Scene I 
"I want God, I want poetry,
I want danger, I want freedom,
I want goodness, I want sin."
~ Adlus Huxley's Brave New World
A few months ago I was approached by the Natural Perfumers Guild and asked if I wanted to participate in a perfume project focused on the theme of "Brave New Scents," a play on themes from Aldus Huxley's frequently banned novel, Brave New World. FN1.

Intrigued, I did what I always do when someone asks if I want to try something new and it doesn't involve (a) heights (b) drowning (c) car accidents. FN2.

I said yes.

When I got the amazing package in the mail, I read through the materials with interest. The Vision of the project, as stated in the press release, is as follows:
The new avalanche of glorious aromatics, including the ones we create ourselves, deserve acknowledgement as perfume materials as the Outlaw Perfumers create Brave New Scents. The Outlaw Perfumers of the Natural Perfumers Guild are staking out more aromatic territory, moving into the 21st Century with an attitude of conquering new frontiers. The Guild perfumers are focusing on capturing the beauty of aromatics introduced after the year 2000, or that have been made available to us via the Internet after 2000, or that we created ourselves. 
In the Brave New Scents project, the Guild perfumers are likened to the members of Huxley’s novel. Like the starring characters in the novel, these brave new perfumers go against the grain and out of bounds, thwarting the ever-expanding regulatory nanny state in order to showcase aromatic extraction feats and use 21st Century aromatics that are not necessarily condoned in mainstream perfume society.
That is some fiery language, people. The phrase "ever-explanding regulatory nanny state" has more political hot buttons in it than I can shake a tree branch at.

I will, instead, talk about Brave New World in the context of something I love though -- music. Yes, that's right, your intrepid sniffa has a mix for every theme, including this one. A song that didn't make the list, though, and I wish it had now, is Baz Luhrmann's "Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen)."

  

What isn't common knowledge is that the text was written in 1997 by a Chiacgo Tribune columnist, Mary Schmich, entitled "Advice, like youth, probably just wasted on the young."

I cannot tell you how much this advice has served me in intervening years. I think of these words all.the.time. Seriously. All the time. A few things, in fact, I thought about this week are:
  • Keep your old love letters. Throw away your old bank statements. FN3. 
  • The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4 p.m. on some idle Tuesday. FN4. 
  • You are not as fat as you imagine. FN5. 
  • Enjoy your body. Use it every way you can. FN6. 
  • Don't feel guilty if you don't know what you want to do with your life. FN7. 
  • Do one thing every day that scares you. FN8.
These are  some axioms I try to live by. On another day, this could have been a different list from the piece, but the list has turned out to be exceptionally useful for a young woman more or less making her way through the world on her own.

 I remember driving, at one point, in a rental car across the west Texas desert as the sun was setting heading for Santa Fe, New Mexico to check out a college I'd been admitted. I had the windows rolled down and this song playing loudly, nothing but the still wind, my loud voice, the broad earth and empty sky. It was one of those moments when getting the hell out of dodge seemed like something I could actually reach out and touch. It was a moment pregnant with possibility. I'd decided on a whim to go. I'd taken off after work with only the barest of notice to my roommates, and no word at all to any authority figure.

I was twenty-one. I was on my own. I was about to decide which one of the new and exotic colleges I'd been accepted to would be my new home.  I could do what I wanted, go where I wanted, be who I wanted. After years of pain and fear and loss...

...I was free.

Freedom is a scary and threatening thing. In the absence of rules, you have to learn to make your own. You draw your own lines in the sands of time around who you are and who you will be. You have to decide which lines you'll let shift, and which ones your stand firm on. You have to choose what you truly value, how you will spend this one life. Will you wear sunscreen? Will you dance, will you sing?

I reread Brave New World in anticipation of this project. It has a lot of complicated imagery, a lot of mixed messages. You could come away from it with a lot of different thoughts about what is and is not appropriate, what values are or are not necessary to a free or brave or civilized world.

For me: I choose, poetry, freedom, goodness, sin. I choose art and light and adventure. I choose love and laughter and even sometimes pain and sadness, because I don't want to be numb to the suffering of others.

I choose the fullness of life.

And with that in mind I bring you the two scents from the Brave New Scents Project.
"In spite of their sadness -- because of it, even; for their sadness was the symptom of their love for one another -- the three young men were happy." 
~ Aldus Huxley's Brave New World
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~ 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

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FN1. My three phobias. The worst way I can imagine dying? Driving off a bridge into open water. Makes road tripping with me along the PCH super fun for David, let me tell you. We can only drive north, with me in the passenger seat. I'm working on the heights issue, but it's slow going. It's not so much that I am trying to overcome it as that I'm trying to determine the exact contours of my fear. Glass bottom helicopter tour? Yes. Plane turbulence? No. Rollercoaster? Yes. Ferris Wheel? No. The experimentation continues...

FN2. Today is the last day of Banned Book week. Remember to give someone you love your favorite banned book or donate a copy to a local library.

FN3. Done.
FN4. This is one of my anti-"freak out" mantras.
FN5. Oh, body image issues, I loathe you.
FN6. I need to do more of this.
FN7. Another anti-"freak out" mantra.
FN8. I try, very hard, to do this. Next up? Sensory deprivation float. Why? Groupon.