Tag Archives: best niche fragrances

Aftelier Perfumes: Curious by Mandy Aftel 2017

curious aftelier

 

When Mandy Aftel makes perfume it’s often about a discovery or a facet of nature that Mandy wants to celebrate.  Her scents evoke scenes and visions so vividly that I can’t shake the feeling that she is more alchemist than perfumer. There is magic in her fingertips the way some people have green fingers and some people don’t.

Curious was inspired by Mandy’s new museum of scent in Berkeley California. Here she invites you to explore the curiosities of olfactory natural history.  The museum is very much hands on.  You don’t just look at stuff- this is an all-round sensory journey: touch it, smell it, sniff it, try it.  I haven’t been there yet, but in a year’s time, I will be visiting. I’m booking flights very soon and boy, will my blog have coverage!

from www.aftelier.com
from www.aftelier.com

Curious lives up to its name. It opens intriguingly, with a green note that smells almost medicinal, with a herby clary sage style bitterness. It reminded me of the glorious smell I once caught as a child, watching a neighbour creosote his fence. Many of my friends wrinkled their noses but I loved the tarry earthy scent and it remains one of my favourite aromas today.

CuriousGroup-ss

Curious contains hay and tobacco: two notes which are not often as you might imagine in fragrance. Tobacco can veer from green and soapy (think Givenchy Amarige), to dry and oaky (think Serge Lutens Muscs Koublai Khan).  Hay can smell sweet, grassy, musty, honeyed or dry, or a combination of all of them.  In Curious, it smells damp to me, and coupled with woody tobacco it reminds me of a hot damp green field as the sun dries everything out. There is a deep earthiness to  Curious which reflects its roots as a product of nature.  After a while, the drying- out-in-the-sun feeling became an autumnal smokiness, like a bonfire in the distance.

aftel museum two

Curious unfurls its layers like a tree in all seasons, merging from fresh bud to green bitterness, to dried leaves to twiggy stem, but always grounded by the earthiness from whence it came.  It brings out the pagan in me.  There’s nothing like it. Mandy has made a beautifully unique scent that I urge you to try should you ever get a chance.  As with all of Mandy’s creations, every ingredient is natural.

Stockists

Curious is available from the Aftelier website. There is also an excellent sample service. The museum details are also on the website. If you live within a ten-thousand-mile radius, it’s definitely worth a visit. My sample was kindly sent to me by Mandy, for which, many thanks. Opinions are my own.

curious
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Ruth Mastenbroek Oxford: Students, Spires and Smoke

rmf_oxford_50ml_edp_web

An explosion of fresh, green, basil and peppery notes bursts from a herbal heart of clary sage with sensuous jasmine; vanilla, amberwood, and oudh bring a cashmere texture to the base.

Oxford (the fragrance) was inspired by those heady student days when you leave home for the first time and everything feels edgy, daring and slightly scary.   Its creator, Ruth Mastenbroek, read Chemistry at Oxford in 1970., hence the name.    I went to Exeter University, not Oxford ( couldn’t get in!) , but I can recall that butterflies-in-the-tummy excitement in the blink of an eye, and this fragrance  encapsulates those halcyon student days.

photo of naked man on the banks of the River Thames, Oxford by Paddy Summerfield
photo of naked man on the banks of the River Thames, Oxford by Paddy Summerfield

Oxford opens with Clary Sage, which I often mistake for lavender.  Clary Sage is no weakling: it is robust and muscly and borders on the smell of weed or filter-less cigarettes.   Cigarette smoke played a huge part in my student memories, and from this scent, I’m guessing it did for Ruth too.   That’s not to say this smells unpleasant: far from it- but there’s a brash masculine, herbal feel to it that reminded me of bristly chins and smoky  late night adventures.

The clary sage mixes with woods and oudh and to my nose, this has a sort of unfinished roughness, again- no bad thing.  It’s that unfinished shape that your student years  form you into.  You think you’re fully formed but you’re nothing like the finished product that you need to be.  Not yet.

RM-im_3
Ruth Mastenbroek

When the herbs and woods have settled down, this leaves a beautiful and very long-lasting impression in its wake.   The clary sage smells more like lavender now, and there’s a heady herbal thing going on (man).  Patchouli stays put like a slightly unwashed squatter.  If you want squeaky clean and generic, you’ve come to the wrong place.

Oxford goes from rough and dirty, to clean and earthy, like the morning after, as you walk home to birdsong after a long dark night of excess.  It grew and grew on me like a persistent suitor, and  has now become my favourite scent from Ruth’s collection.   Oxford has changing facets, like a kaledoscope, and that’s just one of the many things I love about it.

About Ruth

Ruth and her new friend Sam.
Ruth and her new friend Sam.

Ruth Mastenbroek has been making fragrance and fragrant products for far longer than you may realise. Her signature range only has three fragrances, yet Ruth was the brains behind many of the Bath House products and has worked on scented candles for Jo Malone, as well as being a former President of the British Society of Perfumers.

Complete the trilogy

I have previously reviewed Ruth’s RM Signature fragrance, and the wonderful Amorosa. Today I am competing my trilogy.

From the Times Educational Supplement
From the Times Educational Supplement

Stockists

RM Oxford is available from the Ruth Mastenbroek website and from Fenwick and Rouiller White.

Disclaimer

My sample was kindly provided by Ruth, for which, many thanks. Opinions are my own and this is not a sponsored post. In fact, I’ve never written a sponsored post!

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Aedes de Venustas Pelargonium

pelargonium

Have you ever smelled a perfume that’s so good it makes you want to write a love song about how much you love it?  A scent that shoots you in the heart like cupid?  A scent that makes the need to own it feel more powerful than lust?

Welcome to Aedes de Venustas Pelargonium.

A pelargonium is a member of the geranium family and has bright velvety petals as vivid as a flame. This flower is more or less the main star in this fragrance, but the supporting cast makes this unforgettably wonderful.

It opens with clary sage and lime. The herby clary sage note complements the peppery petals of the pelargonium until it gives me a vivid image of an English country garden on a cool damp day.  The herby floral accord makes me think of very expensive soap- the kind that makes your bathroom smell like an unaffordable hotel suite. The musk is an almost iris-like musk with its muted, classy subtlety,  yet it is unmistakable and lingers on long after the citrus opening has bloomed and faded.

photo by www. gardensonline.com.au
photo by www. gardensonline.com.au

There is allegedly a carrot note in here somewhere, but unless I’m mistaking one root for another, it comes across as more iris like, which as you know, can smell earthy and rooty.

The base is guaiac wood, vetiver and moss, giving enhancement to the earthiness that peeks out in the middle phase. The oakmoss adds a touch of damp greens, which only makes me fall for it harder. I’ve always found geraniums to smell faintly medicinal, and this facet is showcased with touches of elemi, often used in cough syrup and medicines.  Don’t let this put you off, there’s no TCP note here, more of a clove/violet thing going on.

The Aedes de Venustas range at Shy Mimosa perfumery, Bristol
The Aedes de Venustas range at Shy Mimosa perfumery, Bristol

This is primarily a floral, but it’s as if each facet of the pelargonium scent has been given a partner to showcase its talents and double its impact.  Perfumer Nathalie Feisthauer is a genius and I will be her fan forever.

This is the fragrance I will buy for myself when I get that novel published (and I will).

Stockists

Aedes de Venustas Pelargonium is available from Selfridges at £210. My novel will have to be a bestseller I guess.   My sample was a kind gift from  Aspects beauty PR, for which, many thanks.  Opinions are my own.

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FiFi 2017 Winner: MB Perfumes Black Osmanthus by Marina Barcenilla

MB-Parfums-Perfume-Bottle-F

If you’re in a  floaty peony sort of mood, I’m afraid you’ve come out of the wrong lift.  But if you’re looking for Black Osmanthus,  follow that woman with the black lipstick.  Follow her into that unmarked door with the smoky jazz  drifting out of it.   You’ll find what you’re looking for in there.

mb parfums all

Black Osmanthus by Marina Barcenilla won this year’s Fragrance Foundation Award for Best Independent Perfume, and I for one, was jolly pleased.  It’s not just because Marina does everything herself, including sourcing the absolutes and extracts that she makes her potent potions with, but because Black Osmanthus is not your usual dab it on after a shower and wear it to work fragrance.  Black Osmanthus breaks the mould and gives a rude salute ,  which appeals to the rebel in me  that so often, by necessity, gets supressed.

Osmanthus is the name for a genre of around 30 types of blossoming plants. Petals are usually white and the scent is likened to fruity, leathery blossom, often with apricot or peachy cadences.

Black Osmanthus is heavy, leathery, smoky and to my nose at least, has a hint of gorgeous creosote, like a freshly painted fence.  This is by no means a criticism- creosote is one of my favourite scents ever.

sam and marina
Marina Barcenilla at the FiFis. She let me hold her award for the photo. I am planning to steal it.

Black Osmanthus opens with all the subtlety of an Avon Lady knocking your door down with a sledgehammer.  On my skin, it takes me straight into smoky, leathery tar territory and I pretty much stay there.  I should tell you that Marina wore this the night of her win and in a room full of fume heads wearing their favourite scents, this beautiful smoked leather was distinct and true throughout the evening.

Black+Osmanthus (1)

This is made from layers of leathery notes: There’s rich saffron stamens, dark patchouli, almost sticky in its depth,  bay rum and myrrh.

The flowers are, if you’ll pardon the pun, no shrinking violets: there’s tuberose and jasmine and they’re not dainty.  The oakmoss sits with the other tough guys and makes this the ultimate dark, leathery spicy scent for those who have been seeking exactly this.  It reminds me of those little vials of Middle Eastern attar with its amber juice that let the fumes escape like snakes.

Lasting power is fantastic.  Spray at dawn and enjoy wafts of it until dusk.  And then stay up all night.

Further reading  Check out Stephan Matthews excellent review here.

Stockists  You can buy Black Osmanthus samples from the MB Parfums website, but beware, this may lead to a full bottle and you will have to get used to telling strangers what you’re wearing.

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Gallivant Tel Aviv: The Gorgeous Underbelly of a City

tel_aviv_bottle

You may have read my recent review of London from new perfume house Gallivant founded by Nick Steward.

photo from www.visit-tel-aviv.com

I would never have thought that Tel Aviv would have ended up as a fragrance to love, but it really is.  Out of the four, I think it is my favourite.   My preconceptions were way out of kilter: I was imagining concrete and bombsites and traffic.  Hardly a premise for a fragrance, right?  Not for the first or last time where fragrance is concerned, I was wrong.  Wrong with a capital “W.”

Tel Aviv (the fragrance) made me think of open air markets selling melons and flowers.  It evokes a blue sky and greenery and big blousy flowers and fluffy clouds.  It’s poetic  and whimsical and not at all how I imagined. It’s irresistibly optimistic and reminded me that every city has a fluffy tummy if you make it roll over for you.

photo from www.tripadvisor.com
photo from www.tripadvisor.com

Tel Aviv opens with bergamot and oranges, giving a citrussy blast of sunshine and freshness. The middle blends into roses, jasmine and beautiful, light freesia. The freesia and roses are particularly prominent, but the citruses in the opening stick around, giving this a beautiful airy and pretty feel.  It’s irresistibly feminine.

The base adds a sort of sugar free sweetness in so far as there are touches of vanilla without any of the sticky sweetness that can sometimes happen. The base is sandalwood, benzoin and deer tongue, or liatrix, also known as wild vanilla (thank you Fragrantica, you fount of all knowledge, you!).

Tel Aviv is bright and summery and lightly floral and pretty.  It’s the exact opposite of how I would expect a scent called Tel Aviv to smell, but Gallivant is all about going off the beaten the track. It’s more Lonely Planet than Thomas Cook and thank goodness for that. This is the pretty underbelly of a sunny, seaside city, and not the busy towering, skyscraper beehive we see on the news.

Forgive me for sounding like a tourist brochure when I say take a closer look at Tel Aviv.

Stockists

You can buy Tel Aviv from the Gallivant website.  My sample was kindly sent to me by the Gallivant team, for which many thanks. Opinions are my own.

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Exploring a New Perfume House: Gallivant London

london gallivant

It’s a wet spring. Roses from Columbia Rd. Georgian architecture. A hint of dustiness. An earthy lush wetness you can almost taste.

Gallivant is a new niche fragrance brand with a capsule collection of four city inspired scents.  Gallivant is the brainchild of Nick Steward, who is perfectly placed to go solo having been Product and Creative Director at the legendary L’Artisan Parfumeur.  Gallivant aims to embody a sense of adventure and exploration.  Each scent seeks to capture the spirit of the city after which it has been named, and I don’t mean just the pretty touristy bits.  The noses behind the range are Karine Chevallier and Giorgia Navarra.

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Me outside an NCP car park in Soho prior to gallivanting around posh Knightsbridge. A city of contrasts.

Surprisingly, this collection also put me ina position I’d never thought I’d find myself in: I’ve been gallivanting around my home county of Torfaen smelling like Tel Aviv.  Who knew?  Reader, I love it. Today I’m reviewing London. The other three will follow: Istanbul, Brooklyn and Tel Aviv.

Gallivant London

London the fragrance opens with cucumber and roses on my skin.  Don’t be put off by the cucumber- it doesn’t remind me of teenage spot treatment and cleanser in this context.  Gallivant London is Inspired by the flower market of Columbia Road. The rose de mai flourishes from the first spray and sticks around throughout. Touches of leather come through- funnily enough, a smell I often associate with London, especially the market on Petticoat Lane.

columbia

This leathery rose pretty much stays as a leathery rose, but the cucumber melts away, having made its introduction.  Enter stage left a pleasant earthy woodiness in the form of patchouli, cedar and sandalwood. That rose never waivers though, which gives this a pleasing juxtaposition of male and female, soft and hard, gentle and tough. In other words, a perfect capture of this eclectic and multi faceted city.

banksy
Poodle Guard Dog by Banksy, from visitlondon.com

Stockists

London is available from the Gallivant website and in the USA, from Luckyscent.  My samples were very kindly sent to me by Gallivant, for which, many thanks. Opinions are my own.

Parfums Dusita Issara: An Exciting Debut

dusitaissara

I was recently sent a  travel size bottle of Dusita Issara by my dear friend Patsi, who I know via this very blog.   I knew absolutely nothing about the brand or the perfume, so naturally,  I was keen to try it. sheepReader, I can tell you that I am jolly glad I gave it a chance.  Dusita Issara is utterly delicious and has been  wafting about my person enticingly all day. In fact, my perfume is the only glamorous element to my day at all.  You should see the weather here in Wales.  Gloom.

Parfums Dusita is a new perfume house, and the brainchild of Pissara Umavijani, who trained in Paris and launched Parfums Dusita in 2015. Its haute perfumerie, so it won’t be cheap, but I can tell you that it will be good

The most noticable  note in Issara is musk.  Now, as you know , there are many kinds of musks  and when I find one I like, I become instantly loyal to it. There are dirty musks such as Serge Lutens Muscs Koublai Khan ( We didn’t get on) and clean laundry musks such as Philosophy Amazing Grace. I’m somewhere in the middle myself.  Luckily, Dusita Issara  hits the spot, falling just between the two.  Now throw in one of my favourite ever perfume notes , namely oakmoss, and add a dry touch of vetiver and  you pretty much have Issara (obviously it’s a  lot more complicated than that, but that’s the lasting accord it has on me.)

dusita pic

There is a cosy hit of tonka absolute in here , which gives this a vanilla liqueur finish.  This is the stuff that makes you want to never, ever stop  foraging for Crème Brulée.

Issara is apparently a fresh fougere, but  to me,  its primarily a musk, with chypre style touches of greenery and oakmoss and that buttery tonka finish.  It’s not sweet, but nor is it bitter.  If anything, its a bit like smelling marzipan from the next room.  Not too sweet, a  hint of almonds, and just tantalising enough to keep your mouth watering. if I had to sum up Issara in three words I would describe it thus:  green, almondy musk.

dusita boxI’d defintely put Dusita Issara on my full bottle wish list. It’s totally unisex, so maybe I’ll put it on my husband’s wish list. He won’t mind. He said in the wedding vows that his stuff was all mine. Or something.

It looks as if Dusita Issara is off to a good start as I can see that this is currently sold out already.  Bear with them. It’s worth the wait.

Stockists

You can buy Dusita Issara from the Dusita website. There is a sample service available too, also from the website.

Acknowledgements:  Thank you Patsi for the lovely gift of the mini Dusita atomiser. Photographs are all from the Dusita website, except the sheep, which is from Pinterest.

Andy Tauer: Lonesome Rider: Muscles With a Sensitive Side

lonesome

At last I have my mitts on a new Tauer. Those pesky postal regulations have left me frustrated of late and I have been missing my Tauer fix, although I know Andy is looking into it for his UK fans.  However I have managed to bagsy a sample of the latest release: Lonesome Rider. It’s a follow up to the great Lonestar Memories of ten years ago and thankfully, it is neither a flanker nor a lightweight. What we have here is a great unisex scent with Tauer’s trademark stupendously good longevity.  Yes, they are pricey, but they are worth every penny and in my book (or my blog) I reckon such longevity makes them excellent value. I have a bottle of Tauer Carillon Pour Un Ange  and it seems to never go down, no matter how often I wear it.

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Lonesome Rider smells peppery and spicy at first spray: like carnations or geraniums. There’s a bit of citrus making it fresh and invigorating. Shortly after this lovely début, it becomes a heavier leather scent. There is a cloud of bonfire smoke  hanging around it, giving me some nice cowboy imagery in my mind’s eye. The orris root makes it presence felt and this is a note I fell in love with via Papillon Angelique which really showcases orris. The combination of orris, citrus, leather and spices makes this a fabulous fragrance. I thought I had this nicely all summed up until I had a nice bonus after about an hour: roses. Beautiful clean roses in the background, smoked in incense and nestled snugly alongside the spice and leather. Smoky, butch and leathery but with the orris and roses to lighten it up, this stuff has muscles and a sensitive side.  If you liked Tauer Eau D’Epices and Tauer Incense Rose, you’ll like this too. I certainly do! Looks like Andy has another hit on his hands.

Stockists

You can buy Lonesome Rider  from this website . You can buy Tauer scents from the Tauer website, and you can buy the Flash series from Tauerville which ships to the UK. In the UK you can buy Tauer scent from Les Senteurs, including a sample service.

4160 Tuesdays: Goddess of Love and Perfume

goddess

Designed for Aphrodite, goddess of love, to seduce shepherd boys on the grassy banks of Roseberry Topping.

-Sarah McCartney

Yesterday I was the excited recipient of a box of Crimes of Passion samples from 4160 Tuesdays. This always feel like an occasion as the packaging is consistently hand done and beautiful. Each phial was wrapped in jewel coloured tissue before being wrapped in recycled hand made paper and finished with a leather bow ( The cats won’t give it back). After all that build up, my anticipation was huge.

4160 jan2016

What were the actual scents like? Well a trumpet fanfare wouldn’t have been out of place. They blew me away good and proper. I don’t get these thunderbolts very often and having now written 620 blog posts, I’d be exhausted if I did. But this was like being struck by cupid. I will write about the others in good time, but today I will attempt to do justice to Goddess of Love and Perfume.

grapefruitOpening with citruses that smell freshly squeezed, there is a bright salty tang in the top notes, with a promising warmth. There’s enough fruit here for a market stall ( Yuzu, grapefruit, raspberry, strawberries, plum, peaches), but they are blended so seamlessly it makes a new accord that is akin to a tart raspberry flavour grapefruit. If it was a drink I’d order an ice filled jug of it.

The fruit segues subtly and gradually into a warm fruity chypre and peach sorbetthe oakmoss and Myrhh (aka opoponax) give this a wonderfully retro nod in the direction of the old school chypres that have long gone. The peaches make their presence felt, but never in a soapy, tinned fruit sort of manner. Its more boozy brandied peaches that have been infused with dried fruit over Christmas. The classic chypre base of patchouli and oakmoss gives me the fix I want.

For some reason, the final stages of this long lasting beauty struck me as having a bunch of violets in it. There are none actually in this, but somehow, I found them, or they found me, along with some long lasting vintage musk. Leaving a slightly powdery finish, as a good chypre does, Goddess of Love and Perfume left me an infatuated suitor in her wake.

So, yes, I’ve been shot by cupid and I’m helpless to resist.

Stockists

You can buy Goddess of Love and Perfume from the website at 4160 Tuesdays. You can find other stockists here. I bought my samples from the site. I am reviewing the parfum strength.

Aphrodite (Venus) bares herself before Paris, with Hera and Athena standing to her left in The Judgment of Paris by Enrique Simonet, c. 1904.
“Ta-dah!”

Painting: Aphrodite (Venus) bares herself before Paris, with Hera and Athena standing to her left
in The Judgment of Paris by Enrique Simonet, c. 1904. From www.myastrologybook.com

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Its Sunshine and Pancake Day! Sunshine and Pancakes by 4160 Tuesdays

fragrantica
4160 Tuesdays

Sarah McCartney is a  blogger’s dream.  When searching for a perfume to match the season, there could be only one choice for today and it’s particularly appropriate because what I seek right now is optimism and this has it in spades.

Sunshine and Pancakes opens with bright, morning fresh oranges and lemons ( say the bells of St Clements). The scent is clean, bright and prickly- you could say astringent- which in my book, is always a good thing.  The clever thing about this, and indeed, about so many 4160 scents, is the metamorphosis that takes place once your skin warms it up.

www.thestudentroom.co.uk
www.thestudentroom.co.uk

You start with citrus, which then becomes the actual smell of pancakes.  Sarah comfortably sidesteps the Lemsip trap and includes both honey and lemon in the mix without getting remotely medicinal.  This gentle gourmand mash up blends in seamlessly as the honey/vanilla “Who’s-cooking-pancakes- smell segues into the base notes.  The baseneotes are woody with sandalwood and warm Benzoin but still has a hint of the morning about it, like the ground drying under the sun after a downpour.  There is a warm earthiness emerging, just as the day dawns and the sun comes out.

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All this in one bottle.  Pretty impressive.  Sunshine and Pancakes makes me want to eat outside and listen to birdsong.

One important note:  when talking pancakes, we are talking the thin British pancakes with crunchy sugar and a hint of lemon, not the doughy, delicious maple syrup USA pancakes that are to die for with some wafer thin crispy bacon.  *cleans dribble off keyboard*.

 Stockists:  You can buy 4160 Tuesdays from the website,   as well as in person from 4160 HQ ( let them know first to check they’re about),  or from Burgin’s in York, and from Rouiller White.  In the USA and Canada you can buy a selection of 4160 Tuesdays scents from Indiescents, LuckyScent and excitingly- the Virgin Atlantic website to buy before you fly.

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