Can angels come as a scent, a fragrance? And if they can, what do angels smell like? Do they have a common scent or do we all have our own, subjective interpretations of an ethereal scent that we might consider angelic? Which perfume (just one!) could fit this concept? I chose Calling All Angels /Tanja Bochnig – April Aromatics 2013/, and here is my story.

If you are a perfume lover, the first perfume that might have crossed your mind after reading all these questions is Angel by Thierry Mugler  (1992)  the one that shocked many at the time it was first released. The first-ever Ambery-Gourmand that launched on the world stage, still occupied by the bombastic company of iconic ’80ies perfumes like Opium, Tresor, and Shalimar – and a shocking game-changer!

Angel Thierry Mugler
Angel by Thierry Mugler

The walls came crumbling down, and the reign of gourmands had begun, flankers and inspired-by perfumes followed – reaching out to here and now, aligned with the current need of comfort (if edible means comforting) in these dire times we are currently facing.

Did it also manage to modify the public perception and stereotypes of how something angelic smells, tying this concept forever to gourmand scents, including a hefty dosage of patchouli plus an overdose of Veltiol that smells like vanilla caramel and cotton candy,  all packed in sky-blue, unique, and alluring bottles?

The truth is that, even though Angel shook the world, the idea that inspired it had its roots in Mugler’s childhood memories, with scents of candyfloss, caramel, and chocolate floating in the air of a fairground.

Angels and childhood, innocence and simple pleasures…and many perfumes that followed, perpetuating the idea of angelic equaling gourmand, not forgetting that Angel (after the initial shock) became one of the bestselling fragrances in the world.

What if that concept stems from an ancient paradigm, initially related to gods living on Olympus, and probably just transferred to the imagery of guardians of humans – angels, as divine messengers and spiritual beings? What if angelic was always meant to be – sweet and mouthwatering, soothing, and evoking comforting childhood memories?

Hebe painting
Louise Henriette de Bourbon as Hebe by Jean-Marc Nattier (1744)

It certainly was for Homer (the reputed author of the Iliad and the Odyssey) and in his poems, nectar is the drink and ambrosia the food of the gods, both fragrant and used as a perfume, BC.  The drink of gods is thought to have been based on honey, in which case their power of conferring immortality is due to the supposed healing and cleansing powers of honey.

Hebe carried nectar to gods, Aphrodite used ambrosial bridal oil, Demeter faded when she refused to drink and eat nectar and ambrosia, and let’s not forget that, allegedly, the newborn Zeus was fed with honey when hidden in a cave on Crete.

It certainly seems that we can link gourmand scents as being angelic all the way to at least 7th century BC in Europe, keeping in mind that many other civilizations have also recorded links between honey and divine, sweet and spiritual beings who act in angelic ways.

Moving away from the concept of sweet and chubby, angelic cherubs or seraphines, or erotes and putto as appearing in art during the Italian Renaissance in both religious and mythological art, iterated further and changed in form by Pre-Raphaelite painters,  or turning expressive as baroque sculptures, the next fragrant association of angelic that comes to my mind is – frankincense, with a fruity top note.

Raffaels Angels
Two putti, as seen in the painting Sistine Madonna by Raphael

Probably because of my own childhood memories, related to the memory of church incense and the comforting joy of holidays…and all the delicious scents coming from my grandmother’s kitchen.

Yet another concept of angelic might be stylistic, light-weight, and transparent, which would then lead us to man-made materials, adding luminosity – like, for example, Hedione: one of the fine examples is L’eau d’Hiver by Frederic Malle (Jean-Claude Ellena), leaning on the elegant and exquisite side.

Frederic Malle perfume L'eau d'hiver
Jean-Claude Ellena for Frederic Malle, L’Eau d’Hiver

This was definitely one of the top options while I considered choosing just one perfume to match the word angelic!

If I am to describe what could also mean “angelic” to me, the breath of an angel hovering over one of my shoulders would feel like a powdery cloud with a light bergamot opening, orange blossom, honey, a dash of jasmine, just a couple of rose petals, a fine layer of incense, and with fluffy lining made of white musks.

Song of the Angels painting
Song of the Angels (1881) by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

In this case, I have a match with a bonus – even the matching name and the meaning behind it: it is Calling All Angels by April Aromatics!

A natural perfume, created by Tanja Bochnig, Calling All Angels isn’t a light and airy fragrance. It is rather dark, elegantly sweet, and comforting-ambery, and a winner of the Art and Olfaction award in 2014 – in the Artisan category.

The opening is very human, the call is quite intense! I guess if you were about to call all angels, there wouldn’t be any powdery fluffiness or sweetness present – the incense is lit, prayers are murmured, and the air is thick with focused intention, calming in its powerful, slightly citrusy, and resinous expression.

Calling All Angels Tanja Bochnig Perfume Bottle

After these illuminating initial moments pass, a more resinous feel takes over, with whiffs of soft smoke closing in. An elegant, dry sweetness is also present, flowing and glowing with honey, vanilla, and Tonka (nectar?). The fragrance shifts and changes toward the drydown, exposing soft and delicate woods bathed in beeswax, smooth and enveloping.

This is most probably one of the best incense-themed fragrances I have ever come upon, also fascinating because it is all-natural, and infused with gold flakes. Bottled on a full Moon, Calling All Angels is a human call for divine and angelic comfort, answered.

Notes (as listed by the brand): Incense, Labdanum, Tonka Bean, Vanilla Accord, Benzoin, Elemi Resin, Frankincense, Amber Accord, (from natural essential oils), Honey Accord, Precious Woods Accord, Opoponax, Rose Otto, Love and Angel Guidance. Available at April Aromatics.

Which perfume would you refer to as angelic?

Scent Semantics

Please go check out the rest of our Scent Semantics crew, blogging about “angelic”:
Daisy also created a LinkTree which has us all organized in one place!
The Plum Girl
Elena Cvjetkovic
Photos: The Plum Girl, Frederic Malle, Thierry Mugler, April Aromatics, Wikipedia

 

15 Comments

  1. Hey Elena,
    What a wonderful post. So much info and art and fragrances.
    I’m going to have to come back and read it again tomorrow to get everything straight in my head.
    Calling All Angels is a perfect choice. I hope Tanja sees that you picked her work.
    Hugs,
    Portia xx

      • Oh yes, they are making perfect sense. There is a lot of really interesting info to take in and I came back today to clarify some things. I didn’t know a lot of this history. thanks for sharing.
        Portia xx

    • I see it Portia!!!!! And I feel very honored and happy. Thank you Elena for picking CAA among thousands of “angelic” perfumes. As always I love your writing. Blessed Be! Happy Holy-days!!!

  2. Great post — “Calling All Angels” sound divine! I’ll have to dig through my newly acquired same stash from hajusuuri to see if there might be a vial of it in there. In my own Scents Semantics post, I wrote about DSH Perfumes’ “Angel’s Wing”, which is more floral. I could have chosen Atelier des Ors’ “Choeur des Anges” but I’ve previously posted about that, so I chose something new.

    • The first time I smelled Chœur des anges, it smells like Flintstones vitamins to me. The orange ones, which I think were Barney. Now I can’t get a whiff of it without thinking of those children’s vitamins!

  3. What a great choice of a word for this second month of Scent Semantics! It was a challenge for me, but in a good way as I keep coming back to thinking about what is angelic. Everyone in the group has given me food for thought, particularly this connection between sweet and divine. It actually makes me think of a Chinese tradition that my family observes for funerals. We give all mourners a white envelope with a piece of candy in it to chase away the bitter taste of death. Fascinating, no?

    • It was very challenging for me too, and my thoughts kept running wild! It is a fascinating tradition, thank you for sharing this! It seems that sweet equals comforting in many different cultures…what a bond.

    • I haven’t heard about this tradition. I think it’s a very wise and life-asserting tradition. Thank you for sharing.

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