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June 2019

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Connectivity and accessibility of the world we live in make it easier to experience small indie, artisan or botanical perfume houses from all over the world! What I’ve always found enjoyable is this instant fragrant travel across the globe, learning about people behind those fragrances, different lands, and cultures. New indie and artisan perfume brands are sprouting all over: not all creations can be considered perfumes, but searching for interesting, creative ones is a challenge!

Malaysia is not an exception – you might’ve observed some passionate perfumers coming from this region lately. Perhaps you’ve heard about Penang-born Josh Lee Chun Yee (Josh Lee, launched in 2012) for example, a small niche company inspired by Malaysian Pernakan culture, driven by preserving heritage by scent yet not running away from the aura of modern Malaysia.

Now I would like to introduce you to Malay Perfumery, an artisan fragrance brand aiming to revoke the heritage of ethnic Malays – an ancient population existing for 40.000 years in this archipelago, colonized first by Portuguese 500 years ago, now split by different national borders.

Fazzilah Noordin, owner of the brand and perfumer is descended from the Proto-Malays (Jakun) on her matrilineal side, and from her patrilineal line, she is connected to Acheh and Goa, centers of Islamic studies during the classical Malay civilization period.

I’m writing about this because elements of her family origin define her stories, the presentation of perfumes, and the logo of the brand: you will notice a typical horned roof incorporated in it.

Colors are telling a story as well: bronze gold denotes the royal heritage of fragrances in the Malay archipelago, black is the color of Malay warriors, and white represents purity, birth, and death.

All fragrances come in Songket Tenun Pahang (silk) boxes: custom-made, so they fit the bottle exactly.

The fabrics and boxes are made by local artists.

Fazzilah insists on incorporating natural ingredients in her creations, that are grown, ethically and sustainably sourced from existing plantations, such as Kaffir Lime:

Malay Perfumery launched five fragrances in 2018 and four new ones in 2019, all Eau de Parfum.

Let’s take a closer sniff of these three fragrant stories:

Fleur de Rampai

“Based on the banga-rampai (floral potpourri) tradition. Ubiquitous in Malay weddings, the bunga rampai is often a scent of happiness, family, and togetherness.”

It seems simple: just pandan, jasmine, and patchouli are listed, but on my skin, this smooth, gentle fragrance opens with dense tones of pandan of almost edible, thick gourmand quality.

Like a dish of food, hot steamed rice breathing softly under my nose. I suddenly remembered!

This smells very similar to Nasi Lemak, a Malaysian dish featuring rice cooked in coconut milk and pandan leaf!

Quite different, this pandan – jasmine duo is bright and thick at the same time, with a very unusual facet of jasmine, present but never indolic, gourmand but not heavy, appealing but not erotic. Musky jasmine…I must admit that all through its wearing I was amazed by how different pandan made everything feel, and how patchouli dances between creamy-sweet and bitter-smokey vibes.

I was wearing this perfume for a couple of extremely hot days, with temperatures well over 30C, and it performed subtle, close to the skin, with above-average longevity.

Notes: Screw-pine, jasmine, patchouli

Mahsuri

“Inspired by conspiratorial events leading to the unjust death sentence of Mahsuri, the legend of Langkawi. It symbolizes her purity and virtue.”

Mahsuri opens with a whirl of citruses infused with camphor: unusual, bitter-dry, almost mystical, like the muffled sound of a gong hidden somewhere in a palace, behind many curtains.

Slowly and inevitably jasmine finds its path, adding some sweetness. Now, this is a fine example of Jasmine Sambac note, the sort of a component that is less indolic and tends to show off almost orange-blossom and tuberose like character, with soft greenish undertones, like Chinese tea.

Much later, when I’ve enjoyed this serene Jasmine, I felt darker tones rising. And oh! This civet! Soft and furry, but it does show a tooth or two, rolling in a somber accord of incense smelling sandalwood. This is a more complex composition, very unisex and long-lasting!

My favorite!

You can find the complete tragic story about Mahsuri here.

Notes: Citrus, camphor, Jasmin sambac, civet, benzoin, sandalwood.

Bahaman

“Inspired by the strength and integrity of a Malay warrior, Dato Bahaman’s fight in Tanah Melayu against the colonial British in 1892”

Described as aromatic woody floriental, Bahaman leans more on the fruity-Oriental side on my skin.

Again, I wore it during a very sizzling time of the year…What an extraordinary opening! Bitter-sweet ripe lime with honey reflections drenched with golden pineapple juice and coconut dust sprinkled all over my skin!

I’m not exactly a great fan of coconut, to be honest, but in this blend, it gives freshness to this fruit blend, and I found coconut interesting and acceptable in such an environment.

It gets a bit darker and smokier in the drydown, still remaining somehow transparent, creamy and dreamy, almost woody.

Again, very linear, well-composed, using obviously fine raw materials, with medium longevity and soft sillage.

I could wear it all year round, although it does seem to lean a bit more on the masculine side.

Read more about Dato Bahaman here.

Notes: Kaffir lime, pineapple, coconut, sandalwood, smoke, benzoin.

Available online at Malay Perfumery website, 108.74 USD for 30 ml Eau de Parfum bottles or 11.25 USD for a 2ml sample. 90% “naturals”, unmistakably.

Stay cool and don’t forget to wear sunscreen…btw I find perfume oils and attars to function great in temperatures so high as nowadays!

Follow me on IG for more quick sniffs and stories!

Elena Cvjetkovic

The Plum Girl

Photos: The Plum Girl, Malay Perfumery

Samples were graciously provided by Malay Perfumery, opinions of my own.

Disclaimer

Days turning into months have quickly passed since EsxenceThe Scent of Excellence closed its doors, but here I go again: a flashback, bringing you more behind-the-screen stories about people of perfumes, events, and extras, all that jazz that took place outside The Mall!

I could probably write more about different aspects of this exhibition, but let’s just say that I’ll wrap up all my hard work with this one – the last of my 2019 Esxence reports: if you haven’t yet, do take a look at Part I and Part II!

These additional activities are an important part of the Esxence-experience: meetings with makers/perfumers, brand owners, and managers – not exhibiting but visiting, attending private parties, cocktails, events or informal dinners, secret previews…or just whispering about new releases that are soon to be revealed. Yap, there’s life outside The Mall:

As you might have noticed on my IG account (the_plum_girl), this year I wrote about “beautiful noses” of Esxence. Noses? Yes, this is one of the rare places and events where all noses are – beautiful! Fully in use, too! It feels so good to be among people that value their sense of smell very much, to run with “your” pack and (ab)use your nose to maximum! The interesting part is that no one I asked objected to having their profile “nose” photo taken! The wonderful people of Esxence are so proud of their noses!

This lovely nose belongs to Tanja Bochnig, owner of April Aromatics whose newest fragrance – Irisistible is an Art&Olfaction Awards, 2019 Finalist!

Let’s take a quick sniff:

Irrisistible (love that play with words, too) is an ode to Iris-the goddess of Dawn and Rainbow, connecting heavens and Earth. It feels like you’ve been gently touched by this messenger of gods with pink fingertips: a flash of vibrant yet milky opening with morning dew made of citruses. Different facets of Iris (the flower) follow. It becomes rooty, flowery and smooth at the same time, at moments even slightly bitter. This buttery flow turns velvety, thick, at times powdery, with floral whiffs. Later on, its inner, musky-smooth warm glow of rainbow spectrum colors begins to shine from within, glowing softly. Keep in mind that this is a “natural”, it settles close to the skin and shifts with your body movement, so give it time and patience.

We ran into Mark Buxton outside and chatted a bit catching some sunshine. It was fun just to say “Genau” a couple of times:

Meeting and having a chance to spend some time with Tanja is a bonus: she also pulled me out from The Mall, made me sit and eat something, drink water (I felt like a camel after a long day in desert), and talk about things other then perfumes: all the stuff I tend to forget to do while roaming around all those stands…Tanja is a tall long-legged blonde, self-taught, self-financed, working with “naturals”, Berlin-based and if this isn’t enough to raise a couple of eyebrows – she laughs and dances like nobody is watching!

Nick Stewart of Gallivant Perfumes was visiting Esxence as well, gallivanting around:

He told me that a new Gallivant fragrance shall be launched soon, and yes, it’s all about yet another city. I’m really not allowed to tell you which one -because it was confidential! All that I may say is that I lived in that city for a couple of years (and know it well) so we talked about which specific part of this city the new fragrance feels like. I think we both agreed upon one certain area, marked by a very famous street! Keep an eye on Gallivant, and check out my review of previous releases here.

I also managed to visit the hotel located near The Mall, where some brands shared Carbonnel showroom. I had a meeting scheduled there, with the owner of this nose:

Yes, this is Victor Wong of Zoologist Perfumes! We finally met, and he kindly and patiently walked me through his ZOO, introducing me to and allowing me to take a better sniff of all the fragrances that were new to me. You see, I had a parcel coming from Canada earlier this year, the Canadian post was at strike, it got delayed, then when it finally reached Croatia it was never delivered to me, so after a couple of months, it just arrived safely back to Canada…Argh. I sniffed everything and sniffed hungrily again, and got to meet all the creatures in his collection at last:

I guess you’ll be reading some of my Zoologist Perfumes reviews soon enough! That’s not all: Victor let me sniff one of his new, not yet released fragrances, and told me how he plans to proceed with it. I think he won’t mind this association:

Well, I’m not allowed to tell you how it’s going to be named, but you can start guessing which creature this new perfume is dedicated to. Some new fragrances are coming up, some “old” ones face “Perfume Heaven”: by the time I’ve decided to publish this post, Bat is about to be discontinued! If you are a Batman or Batwoman – go and get your bottle while you can…or wait for the new Bat, coming from a different cave!

I also ran again into Miguel Matos in Carbonell Showroom, exhibiting four new signature fragrances:

Here you can see Miracle of Roses, Germaine, Silver Stone, and Sailor Stories. Miguel was quite busy this Esxence: in addition to having his own line presented, together with Veneno, he was also all over the place as perfumer behind Nishane’s Unutamam, as well as Sarah Baker’s Jungle Jezabel (I wrote about it here), and Rules of Attraction!

On the blotter-sniffing-first-impressions spree I found the Miracle of Roses and Sailor Stories (aquatic with a twist) quite interesting, but I honestly need to go back to these perfumes and give them some proper wearing. Since this is my “year of roses” I do want to get to know this unusual, smooth, fresh bread with cinnamon and roses better…no rush: I’ll get to it, sooner or later: the inspirational story behind it is intriguing, and it fits the concept well.

It doesn’t stop here, around the exhibition hall. Just when you finish 10AM-6PM crawl-around-The Mall and its surroundings, you have like an hour and a half to make it to some carefully chosen and glamorous place: party time!

One event that you shouldn’t miss during Esxence: the Masque Milano Corso Como Party. Why? Well, because Masque IS Milano based, this is their home turf, and they do cover it with style.

Masque Milano launched two new perfumes at Esxence 2019: Love Kills and Kintsugi:

I tried to arrange a meeting at Masque Milano stand with Alessandro Brun and/or Ricardo Tedeschi on that same day, but didn’t succeed: maybe they were too busy handling all the previously arranged meetings, maybe I wasn’t pushy enough (never!), or my timing was just bad, whatever. Tip for all the brands located in the “Main Brands” part of the exhibition: it’s better to have your meetings booked in advance…note to myself, again. Next year I’ll fail better, I promise.

Anyway, since I didn’t have time to lose on waiting and hanging around: I stopped by and was greeted by a very nice young man, representing their distributor, who briefed me quickly about these two new releases. Sadly, I got no chance to take a sniff at that famous raw materials cofrett…I did manage to try out both new releases:

Love Kills…of course, the first one I reached for. And a good thing I did, because the other way around wouldn’t be a good idea. On the first impression basis, I wasn’t impressed. A rose it is, and I always have high expectations of a rose perfume: it was a young, bright, just budding rose…Oh, was I wrong!

Since I impatiently jumped and moved around the stand, this might’ve helped it warm up on my skin and it transformed, moving through phases from a fresh bud to a magnificent flower in full bloom, and even in this very brief moment, I watched it wither, darken and fade, becoming more goth, never letting you forget that it was a fresh, young rose once upon a time, even in moments of its dark and potent decay. Additionally, I really fell in love with the drawing on the bottle, almost tattoo-like contoured rose with a dagger going straight through it. Yes, to this rose I shall return! (perfume related tattoo? Now I’m thinking about that…hmmmm)

Time was running out, we had to leave the fair and go to the party, so what did I do next? Sprayed abundantly Kintsugi from the tester bottle all over any perfume-free skin left on me at the end of this very busy day: well, if I was going to their cocktail party, the least I could do is to dress appropriately and wear Kintsugi!

My friends did the same. This turned out to be very interesting because Kintsugi developed differently on our skin (we kept sniffing each other the whole evening: on Lukasz (aka Chemist In The Bottle) Magnolia seemed dominant, on Ana (aka Ana Y El Perfume) it was almost lemony-green, and on my skin patchouli dominant, the kind of soft, sweet, lovely, silky skin patchouli I’m happy to run into.

It was interesting to follow its development in time over quite a few Aperol Spritzes! Bonus: chatting and spending some time with Ermano Pico, perfume connoisseur, writer and evaluator whom I admire (love his smile), here with Ricardo:

Nishane Party was something we were all waiting for: No Limits!

Mert Guzel and Murat Katran were presenting six new creations made by Cecile Zarokian – ANI, Chris Maurice – NEFS, MUSKANE and FLORANE, Miguel Matos – UNUTAMAM and Jorge Lee – SAFRAN COLOGNISE!

This private party took place in a wonderful palazzo, perfumes were displayed, people gathered and chatted, but what impressed me the most was the moment when we all stood in silence, listening to a touching folk song Sari Gelin/Sari Gyalin (in Armenian) that took us to a place where ANI (memory in Turkish) is something that connects people…music, like perfumes – connects people!

I really look forward to exploring these perfumes thoroughly, this is just my first-sniff draft of Florane I wrote for Murat’s birthday, just recently:

Florane smells like pulpy bitter-fresh grapefruit, ripe cassis carelessly cut and served with vanilla spiced brown sugar cubes on a festive table decorated with dainty Lily-of-the-Valley and jasmine flowers floating above trails of soft hinoki and musks. It feels like spending a sunny Summer’s day afternoon in a beautifully kept green and lush garden with a simple wooden table and chairs set in the shade of a big tree – filled with scattered, randomly picked flowers in small glass vases, bowls of fresh fruit cut into cubes, cold creamy-powdery fluffy cakes, laughter and sharing with friends and family you love and joy of living!

Filippo Sorcinelli Brand

Epicentro Promotion Event

I love Filippo, you already know that. Last year it was but_not_today, this year he shook me up with Epicentro, a new perfume starting a new collection: Delire de Voyage.

You see, I remember. I remember terrible news coming from a small town of Bolognola, devastated by an earthquake hitting the Marche Region…leaving destruction as its aftermath, breaking buildings and hearts of the people.

What you might notice is this quite original bottle, round glass with the usual oversized cap looking like a piece of metallic silver rock. Details matter, so this bottle is placed in a black box and it moves and sways inside it. Furthermore, I noticed Filippo wearing a pendant, a part of this silver rock which you can detach and wear as a piece of art.

Notes are not disclosed, as usual, and I approve of this approach: wear it. Feel it. Listen to it. Interpret it in your own words and emotions…once you find them.

This time Filippo took us to the STRAF Hotel near Duomo, presenting a synesthetic installation to help us grasp all the aspects of this fragrance:

While I was looking, smelling and feeling, Filippo came to me and asked: What does it smell like to you? I was already very emotional: I know the smell of fear and destruction. I know it well.

I just said: “Epicentro smells metallic like cold sweat and human fear.” At first.

Bitter and sharp like a shock that takes the ground from under your feet in just a couple of seconds. Smokey, like the rubble of your home destroyed, covering all the material things you ever owned, ancient buildings that you took for granted, the life that you once had. With a touch of incense, radiating from the church in the middle of the village which no longer exists. Warm and sweet like relief that you and your dearest ones are alive. Quiet and skin-close musky like when you accept all your loses and fight to find traces of hope in your soul again and take one step at a time through all stages of loss and acceptance before you are even capable to start thinking about new beginnings. There’s a certain brightness in all this: a spark of new life…Thanks, Filippo: once again you made my eyes swell with tears and my heart race faster! A full review is coming up!

That same evening we headed off to Duomo and had dinner at this rooftop restaurant overlooking it:

You’d think we had enough. No. Together with Chemist in the Bottle I went to La Rinascente Perfumery to check out their niche department.

And voila! Take a look at perfumes they offer, some exclusive ones only to be found in Milan:

No, it’s never enough!

I’m happy. I’ve found perfumes to write about in months to come. By closing up this Milan chapter, I already look forward to the new one: my registration for Pitti in September is submitted, and a nice and cozy apartment in Florence booked well in advance. Florence, oh, Florence is always a good idea!

The Plum Girl

Elena Cvjetkovic

Photos: The Plum Girl, Esxence Official

Disclaimer

It has been raining every single day these last couple of weeks, and to me it felt almost like being in Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Macondo (“It rained for four years, eleven months, and two days…“)…

I pulled out the sample of St.Clair Scents Casablanca (2018), wanting to be transported to “a garden in paradise”! I remembered what Diane said about it:

“I tried to conjure a way to transport myself to a place far away, a place with warm air and perfumed flowers and fruit—a garden in paradise with odors of mossy dirt, smooth woods with light green notes, and darker woods, sweating their rich, balsamic resins. In the evening, my garden would be bursting with intensely sweet orange blossoms, wafting their sultry notes of indole into the night air.

I also wanted to give this fragrance a second chance. On my first testing and wearing, many months ago – we didn’t click. It wore me, turning heavily indolic. It was wintertime then, and I decided to let it wait for warmer weather, change of mood, “better skin” day, any subtle shift of different variables in this strange fragrance-experience equation that might make a difference.

My first love from Diane St. Clair collection was Frost, followed by Gardner’s Glove – the Art&Olfaction Awards 2019 Artisan finalist! You can find my review of both these extraordinary fragrances here, as well as more information about this small, Vermont based indie brand.

It seems that 90% humidity, 18C outer temperature, 1011hPa in the air, and nightfall combined with my “Summertime sadness” mood made Casablanca turn into an amazing glowing-in-dark beauty! What a difference a season made!

Casablanca! Not like the city (I remember roaming around Casablanca, Morocco so well!), not like the famous movie, although it possesses a certain classic, almost retro-vibe: I see it as a timeless dream, sultry and narcotic, with a touch of bitter-sweet “saudade” – a soul-deep longing. Of things that were, could have been, never happened or just exist in dreams. Saudade, sevdah, a song…Emina.

Summertime Sadness: I dream about sunny and warm days while wrapped in a big blanket, wearing warm socks and drinking hot Rosehip tea, feeling cold on a windy, cloudy and rainy day in late May, choosing Casablanca as my scent of the night.

As I entered this garden of Eden, I realized this isn’t the ideal, carefree, and child-like-innocent place (with ideal temperate climate) you frolic around naked and blissful – no, not at all. It seems so, in the beginning, when you inhale the intense smell of orange trees in full bloom, rich, fruity, natural, and bitter-sweet.

As you move on, it feels more like Eden after the first bite of the forbidden fruit: narcotic and sensual. Like you are sinking slowly, deliberately in a huge pile of the fatal-flowers trio: orange blossoms, jasmine, and tuberose, completely naked and aware of your carnal nature.

Temptations…temptations sprout from layers of dark, moist earth. with scattered pieces of spicy-woody patchouli tones, your nose picks up whiffs of dry, smoked leather, showing a more masculine side to it.

Tuberose generates a feeling like velvety dark curtains are closing in, shining deep mossy green, providing an almost palpable Chypre base, and yet every now and then a spark of bright orange blossom shines through!

So much is going on here, this fragrance smoothly glides from bitterness to sweet fruitiness, spicy-oriental accords to deep green Chypre vibrations, it shifts shapes with deliberately created ease – in which a lot of work has been put in – meticulously.

Casablanca is indeed an exquisitely done fragrance, playing with notes in such a way that you sense them, but it is the overall composition that leaves you enchanted, wondering what really happened there.

Its longevity is strong (it woke me up the next morning), but it is not loud and crude: sillage is soft but noticeable, it follows your movement.

What an extraordinary fragrant adventure… I’m happy I re-discovered Casablanca: this is indeed a very memorable creation!

Suggestion: don’t stick your nose into Casablanca’s 50% perfume extrait (!!!) on your wrists, like I did the first time. That was a silly mistake I made out of curiosity. Casablanca is a mostly natural perfume: let it be, breathe, shift and develop as you move around, give it space and your skin so it can work its magic! It lasts for days on fabric.

Top Notes Pink grapefruit, Red mandarin, Blackcurrant bud
Heart Notes Orange blossom, Tuberose, Jasmine, Ylang-ylang
Base Notes Labdanum, Oakmoss, Vetiver, Hyraceum absolute, Civet, Musk

Available online at St.Clair Scents, 30 ml perfume extrait/190 USD, or 2ml sample sprays/15 USD.

The Plum Girl

Elena Cvjetkovic

Photos: The Plum Girl, St.Clair Scents, Saatchi Art “In the Garden of Eden,” by Marina Podgaevskaya, Mauritshues Museum – Rubens and Jan Brueghel. (Casablanca made me think about Jan Brueghel Elder a lot…that refined play with darkness and light…yes!)

The sample was graciously provided by Diane St.Clair, opinions of my own.

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