Tag Archives: best niche fragrance

Firedance: The New Fragrance from Ruth Mastenbroek 2017

Rejoicing in each moment of contentment in life. In Firedance, Ruth presents a scorching, modern interpretation of the classic rose perfume, as exotic leather dances in surprise harmony with the main character – smouldering Damask rose. Set against a warming backdrop of oudh and patchouli, a shining amber note radiates from the skin in this memorably intimate and sexy perfume.

Today is the day that Ruth Mastenbroek launches the fourth fragrance in her collection: Firedance.  Ruth is an experienced nose who has worked behind the scenes in the industry for fourdecades before going solo in 2010 with her first scent, aptly named RM Signature.  You can read my review here. After that came the wonderful Amorosa, followed by Oxford. Now the trio becomes a quartet, with the arrival of Firedance.  Ruth has also redesigned the brand to reflect that every drop tells a story and using a palette of black and gold, these new designs reminded me of the original illustrations to Grimm’s fairytales ( see pic and you’ll know what I mean).

So was Firedance worth the wait and is it a worthy member of this scented quartet? Absolutely. Here’s why.

Now, first of all, this is a rose/oud/leather fragrance. We all know that rose and oud and rose and leather have been done before, but dear reader, not like this.  The leather and oud is there, of course, but the first thing I noticed about Firedance was the rich, dusky Damask rose and then, would you believe it? Carnations.  In the same way that Serge Lutens Vitriol D’oeillet made me sit up and take notice, Firedance stopped me in my tracks.   A drop of clove oil is the culprit, and whilst it doesn’t dominate, it adds a wonderful peppery spicy addition to proceedings.

This is me with my treasured bottle from Ruth.

I composed Firedance to capture those special moments that make me appreciate what I have.- Ruth Mastenbroek

For full disclosure, I’m not really a big oud fan (there, I’ve said it), but the oud here smells different. It doesn’t take over but still makes a contribution.  In fact, it adds a kind of fruity earthy accord that makes the rose more robust. It seems to blend seamlessly with the amber to make a sort of amber-oud or oud-amber. The amber takes the edges off it.

To me, it adds layers and makes this a sort of 4D rose, with petals that have crisped through age, like dusty pot pourri, whilst still having plump satiny petals in the centre. My nose also picked up little facets of powder, which always makes me think of a 1950s dressing table. I often find this with rose, whether the powdery note is deliberate or not.

Ruth Mastenbroek. Photo from Twitter

There is a  measured heat and an autumnal feel to Firedance, which makes this a very appropriate launch for the first day of Autumn.  This is rose with warmth, earthiness, spice and the kind of longevity that lingers on your pillow when you wake up the next day.  It’s not cheap, but it is very good value.   Ruth makes it herself. There’s no committee, no big factory, no billboard marketing. You’re paying for the ingredients and the expertise of a perfumer with  four decades of skill and experience.

Firedance is a stand out earthy, dusty rose that’s not quite on the turn, not quite over. This is the perfect farewell to summer and a warm scented blanket for the colder days ahead.

Stockists

Ruth Mastenbroek Firedance is available from the website and from Fenwick’s, where Ruth will be giving a talk on 14th September. Check out The Perfume Society website for details. My bottle was given to me by Ruth Mastenbroek in return for an honest review, for which, my warmest thanks. Opinions are my own.

 

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Tauerville Vanilla Flash: Review

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Vanilla Flash is the kind of fragrance that will convert vanilla dodgers into vanilla lovers. As I have said before in this blog, in my opinion, vanilla has been frankly abused and overused in its synthetic cheapest forms in High Street commercial scents, to the point where we can lose sight of why it was so beloved in the first place.

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Not like this
vanillabean
Like this

Tauerville Vanilla Flash has restored my faith in vanilla and made me love it again. There’s nothing synthetic smelling or cheap smelling about this beauty. This is the smell of the vanilla pod when you open the little perspex tube it came in before it has been used: that wizened, bendy twig like pod in its most pristine, ripe form. THAT sort of vanilla is what we’re talking about here: milky and rich. There’s no bucket of sugar and no cake flavouring.

The addition of cheap vanilla to floral scents has ruined many a decent sniff for me.  Here, on the flip side of that coin, rose has been added to very high quality vanilla. Rose and tobacco in fact. What you have here is a vanilla scent in which vanilla is part of the chorus, and a very harmonic chorus that is.

The tobacco gives an oaky, coconutty feel to the rose that reminded me both of pipe smoke and the actual wood of a pipe at the same time. The roses are subtle yet impossible to miss. Put both of these alongside vanilla and you have a unisex vanilla that has absolutely nothing to do with a cupcake and everything to do with a cool milkiness infused with woody roses and a hint of pipe smoke. Round it off with some patchouli and a gentle hint of spice, and you have Vanilla Flash. 

This vanilla dodger will be getting a full bottle. My faith in vanilla has been fully restored.

Stockists

You can buy the Tauerville range from Les Senteurs in the UK, Lucky Scent in the USA, or, of course, the Tauerville website.

Photos-top photo by Fragrantica, photo of pod by ZoeBakes.com, Photo of cupcake from HealthyRise.com

 

Ruth Mastenbroek Amorosa: Verdict- Impressed

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I was recently sent a sample of Amorosa by Ruth Mastenbroek by the lovely Nick Gilbert.  (Check out his blog). What he doesn’t know about scent ain’t worth knowing. He thought I might find Amorosa interesting and he was right.

amorosa bottleRuth Mastenbroek is a niche perfumer, with over twenty five years’ experience in perfume. She has a small but beautifully formed collection of scent that you can find out more about here on her website. Ruth has a degree in chemistry and has worked for Jo Malone, Kenneth Turner and Jigsaw over her lengthy career. She has also been President of The British Society of Perfumers. I think we can say that Ruth is unequivocally a safe pair of hands when it comes to perfume.

I will start by saying that I like Amorosa very much, but I will also say that I didn’t take to it at first. I was wearing airy hesperides the day I got this in the post, which may have been a contrast too far.

This floral bucks the trend by being rich and woody straight away. It opens with a light flourish, but the rich amber, vetiver and patchouli can’t wait their turn. I therefore get an interesting juxtaposition of feminine white flowers,( namely: tuberose, tiare and jasmine) with prickly, dark edges. The galbanum provides a cologne like touch of leafy greenery. I thought I could smell lavender in this, and it does indeed have something of the fougere in there, but it may be the violet leaf. The watermelon is another interesting find in so far as you wouldn’t normally discover it in such a rich fragrance alongside patchouli and creamy tuberose, but it really works.

Amorosa is like nothing else I have ever smelled, and that’s not damning with faint praise, it’s more a round of applause for Mastenbroek’s audacity. This is a scent that kept me guessing. When all’s done though, and the basenotes are there (for a long time incidentally), I am left with a fabulous rich white floral, lightened by watermelon that doesn’t smell watery or cucumbery as it so often can. The base is heavy, but balanced, and those heady white petals never take their leave.

The more I wear this, the more I like it, and I am jolly grateful to Nick for thinking of me. It wasn’t on my radar, but I’m so glad he tapped me on the shoulder and turned my head in the direction of beautiful, complex Amorosa. I look forward to getting to know Ruth Mastenbroek’s work more closely after this impressive first encounter.

Stockists

Ruth has an immediate fan in me by providing a user friendly sample service. At just £3 per vial, postage is free. I like this. Full bottles are available from the website and you can also buy Ruth’s fragrances from these stockists.

Photos: Photo of Ruth Mastenbroek from www.ruthmastenbroek.com. Photo of Amorosa from Fragrantica.

4160 Tuesdays Tart’s Knicker Drawer: Coup De Foudre

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As a perfume lover, (as I imagine you are too if you are reading this), I am always searching for that thunderbolt moment when you find treasure.  You know that moment when you smell a perfume that you love immediately and plot to own by fair means or foul as soon as you’ve sniffed it?  Well that happened to me with Tart’s Knicker Drawer by 4160 Tuesdays.

Sarah McCartney, founder, Nose and Grande Dame of 4160 Tuesdays, very kindly sent me some samples recently for my perusal.  As always, I am  delighted to receive them, on the proviso that I will be honest  whether or not I like them.  She also kindly included a very glossy coloured chart which categorises the many 4160 Tuesdays scents.  This is jolly handy and I wish more places would do this.

photo by World of Oddy via Flickr with kind permission of A.Oddy

 

Tart’s Knicker Drawer happened, as often the best things do, by accident.  Sarah had been mixing so many potions in the lab that she joked she would be getting on the bus smelling like “a tart’s boudoir”. Encouraged by several voices of approval and generally egged on to bottle it up, Tart’s Boudoir became Tart’s Knicker Drawer and golly, I’m glad, because I love it.

What I smell:  violets, some pretty green notes, the contents of a messy dressing table covered in snowy white talc with a blob of Pond’s Cold Cream spilled onto it, some ambery spice making it smell a bit chypre-y (new word alert!) and a strong, strident resonance that arrives in the room and says “I’m impossibly feminine and glamorous and if I want to wear a velvet dress and red lipstick before cocktail hour, then I shall.”

The official description of the notes is very different to my interpretation above .  I wondered if I should list them all because the list of notes alone does not do justice to this lovely retro, powdery, powerhouse of a scent that smells like it was made for ladies in stockings who have very messy dressing tables and perfectly set hair that stays put for a week.  What I would say is don’t look at them too closely because if you try and imagine them in your head, you will miss the serendipity of this happy accident.

Here are the notes:

top notes: bergamot, orange, grapefruit, pink peppercorn,

heart notes: raspberry, rose, jasmine, sandalwood, cedarwood, violet, tuberose, guaiac wood

base notes: amber, musk, vanilla, benzoin, tobacco.

cities collection samples
The Cities Collection- 4160 Tuesdays

As for me, I want to always have a bottle of this so here’s a message for the lovely Sarah : Thank you for making it and please don’t stop!

Stockists:  prices are very reasonable indeed at £40 for 30ml,  £60 for 50ml or £90 for 100ml of eau de parfum.  When you think how many rent-a-scent beauty counter fragrances  cost the same and can be so forgettable, then it makes really good sense to go niche for the same price, or even less.

In the UK you can buy Tart’s Knicker Drawer from the 4160 Tuesdays website, in Europe (Benelux) 4160 scents are available from www.parfumaria.com  and in the USA you can buy  a selection of 4160 Tuesdays scent from www.luckyscent.com and in Canada from  www.indiescents.com

Don’t forget the cute sample sets (Tart’s Knicker Drawer comes under Frocks and Hats) and handbag sized bottles from the 4160 website.

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Andy Tauer PHI Rose de Kandahar-It’s Here!

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I am an unabashed fan of Andy Tauer. That doesn’t mean I blindly love everything he does: for some reason Reverie au Jardin disagrees with me, but I’d pretty much take a Tauer scent any day of the week.

What I love about Tauers is that Andy is a one man show.  He’s not a boardroom full of shirts looking at focus groups and trends.  He doesn’t have to go through a comittee and he’s not part of a global organisation (apart from having a distribution partner).  He’s a lone wolf and that makes things very interesting right from the start.

The development of PHI Rose de Kandahar has been well documented via Andy’s blog and Facebook page and it’s finally available in the UK.  This is a limited edition as Andy’s vat of Rose de Kandaher absolute is not bottomless (hence its inclusion in the “Collectibles” range). So now I finally have my treasured sample. Was it worth it?  Oh yes.

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fragrantica.com

PHI Rose de Kandahar has a Middle Eastern richness to it. Initially it’s honeyed roses and almonds and dried apricots: it reminds me of a scented Souk. At first this edible combination was very Turkish Delight, just for a moment.  But what happens next is that it transforms into, unless I’m mistaken, something not unlike a good Arabian Oud.  I often find Oud too strong for me, but in Rose de Kandahar it’s like a robust backdrop to something altogether more delicate. The irony is that there is no Oud in it, but the combination of tobacco, ambergris, vetiver and patchouli gives this a very rich and almost prickly base.   It’s like serving an aromatic Bacchanalian feast on a rough granite table. The contrast of the rough with the smooth enhances the delicacy of the ingredients.

Here are the notes as listed on Fragrantica:

 apricot, cinnamon,
bitter almond, bergamot

Rose of Kandahar essential oil,
Bulgaria rose absolute, Bourbon geranium, dried tobacco leaves.

patchouli, vetiver, vanilla,
tonka beans, musk, ambergris.

 There is an interesting Feel Good back-story to this.  The Kandahar roses that produce this absolute were grown in Afghanistan by farmers that have been subsidised to produce roses instead of growing plants that provide the base materials for drug use (“Hungerhilfe”). In other words, Make Roses, Not Drugs.

The wonderful fragrance alone is reason enough to love this, but  add the milk of human kindness and  you have just one of the many reasons to love PHI Rose de Kandahar.

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Andy Tauer No 14 Noontide Petals: From Noon to Sundown

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It’s taken me a few days to think about what I’m going to say about Andy Tauer’s latest release Noontide Petals. Not because I’m trying to be tactful, no need for that: It’s because it’s like nothing else I’ve smelled before.

It’s floral but not a floral. It’s spicy but not an Oriental, it is very Bergamot but is not a Hesperide. It has powder but it’s not a Chypre. You can see my problem.

It is very beautiful and lives up to its whimsical name. At first spray, whilst still wet, it’s strong Bergamot with Geraniums catching up. Then a blast of aldehydes. Now this bit confused me. Its clearly aldehydic but the last aldehyde I sniffed was Elizabeth Arden Blue Grass i.e the opposite side of the subtlety spectrum to Noontide Petals.

Tauer’s aldehydes emerge gradually, like Royalty getting out of a car, whilst Blue Grass jumps out of the bottle and bops you in the face. So I guess this taught me that aldehydes come in many forms, many of which I don’t yet know.

 Noontide Petals has a long top note, with the Bergamot staying true with a hint of clean soapy notes. However, what I love about this, and I may be alone in even thinking this, is that there is a lovely chalkiness to Noontide Petals. That same chalkiness made me fall in love with Balmain Jolie Madame, which to my nose smells of damp moss and chalky cliffs (I adore it and bought a full 100ml bottle) Noontide Petals has that same faint chalkiness, which makes the Bergamot, so often used in more astringent style fragrances, into a powdery soft citrus.

It’s around this point that the flowers turn up: the Jasmine, the Ylang Ylang and the Roses. Petals indeed: they bring prettiness and a background aroma rather than taking over.

And finally, the closing act! The clever evening stage of Frankincense (often known as Olibanum), Styrax and Patchouli. It’s worth waiting for, and has an incense style spice, rather than gourmand, with a hint of High Church and a dash of something spiky.

As usual with a Tauer fragrance, it lasts and lasts. Twelve hours so far. It’s a perfume that can take you from night to day, like a good black dress. It starts all delicate and pretty, then gets deeper and more mysterious by the time the sun goes down.

A bit like me. (*cough*)

Noontide Petals can be purchased from the Tauer website or Les Senteurs. My sample is so strong that it has lasted me three days and is still half full. Top marks for longevity.

Andy Tauer L’Air Du Desert Marocain: At Last We Meet

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I’ve seen perfumistas on many a board sing the praises of L’Air du Desert Marocain. I was curious to try a sample, but not curious enough to buy a full bottle. I remember all too well my eager foray into the equally revered Ambre Sultan by Serge Lutens, only to dislike it quite violently.

 L’Air du Desert Marocain was quite the opposite, however. I’ve heard a lot about it. I’ve seen it around (in my friend’s scent stash at least) , and finally, today my wrist met the spray. It’s no coincidence that the immediate adjectives that come to mind are ecclesiastical: Divine and Heavenly were the first words that entered my head. This is a close relative to my beloved Comme Des Garcons Series 3 Incense:Avignon, the ultimate scent of Catholicism, with authentic guilt inducing price tag.

What Tauer has produced however, is less linear that CDG Avignon and more complex.  L’Air Du Desert Marocain has several layers and even after a first spray , has a lovely faded grandeur about it. It smells like a background smell. It’s not harsh or loud. If you met me right now you would ask me how Evensong went ( I would be infused with the smoke of incense), but probably not think I was wearing a scent at all.

Top notes are Caraway, Coriander and Petitgrain, but I must confess, all I get is incense and a whiff of hay. Middle notes include Rosehip and Jasmine, but I get no flowers at all. Base notes include Vetiver, which  is used beautifully and sparingly to add a grassy leather note, as well as Amber, which is also warmly noticeable, and Cedar, which I don’t detect at all.

This is the perfect Christmas Eve scent, and therefore totally out of step with today’s sunny weather. However, I am going out this evening, so all bets are off and I’ll wear what I like. And what I like is this. If there’s any left on my skin on Sunday, then even better. It smells like Sunday morning anyway.

Like CDG Avignon, this is playing hard to get in the UK, although samples and full bottles are available online from UK suppliers Les Senteurs.  I adore the smell of church incense, and I adore this. It would smell incredible on a man too, but if I did manage to get hold of a bottle, I can’t see me sharing it.

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