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Ah, the Millennials! Gen Y, born between early ‘80ies to early ’00s!

Who are they, this cohort of young people, generally marked by increased use and easy-going familiarity with digital technology, media, and communications? Are they App-friendly dreamers? Achievers? Peter Pans? Well, it’s a Millennial World we are living in now, take a better look around. They’re not kids anymore, and they’ve turned out just fine!

There I was, at Esxence 2018., standing at the Carner Barcelona stand. Mr. Joaquim Carner greeted me, we talked a bit about previous collections, and then he asked me if I knew about the new collection – three signature bottles right in front of me – the new, 2018. Oriental Collection.

Joaquim simply said, his hand hovering over the bottles: “This is Spain.“

Three different facets of Spain, to be exact. The Roman, Moor, and Catholic heritage of this great country, thousands of years, uncountable history-changing events, art and science and the art of war, discoveries, conquests and losses, generations of people, their destinies, lives, individual contributions and feelings sublimed into three perfumes?

I just stood in front of them, reluctant where to start first, digging out of my memory everything I have learned from history books (I am a history freak, you might have noticed) and travels, recalling images of numerous paintings I stood before in museums, going back in time and space to many cities and historic sites in Spain that I have visited, trying to remember all the scents and sounds and images which I have accumulated over many years.

Images swirled around my head like a wild roller coaster: Alhambra of Granada, Alcazaba, Cordoba, Sevilla, Madrid, Toledo, Malaga, Barcelona and everything in between.

My sweet memories: feeling of a hot summer’s morning and scents of the fish market in Malaga, simple beauty of the oldest church in Barcelona, Gaudi, more Gaudi (mind the trams!), El Greco and elonged somber-faced bodies on his paintings in Toledo, sound of my footsteps in labyrinth of streets in the Gothic Quarter of Barcelona, miles, and miles of beaches, sun, sea and wine, jamon – jamon, of course, late-night and hours-long dinners in Madrid, dancing in the streets, squinting and looking high up at noon underneath the Columbus Monument….sea again, I love sea, I can almost hear seagulls…the way my mind works!

For some reason, while I looked at those square, wood capped bottles my first association was dire of Gibraltar through which I have sailed. Pillars of Hercules.

That was quite a memorable experience! We were on a cruiser which sailed through Gibraltar at midnight, on our way to Morocco and I remember standing at the deck, cold wind and salty air striking my face while I looked up at those dark, almost threatening edges of two continents, so incredibly close and yet so dividing. A magical place where Africa and Europe almost touch…and did you know that the vertical lines on the Dollar sign, (the US dollar has origins from the Spanish Dollar) represent the Pillars of Hercules?

That “Spain“ memory chip in my head went wild.

Three perfumes, equaling Spain? Impossible! I alone could think of a thousand different ones!

I have been sniffing around Carner Barcelona for quite some time. They won numerous awards because of their dedication to producing high-quality lifestyle perfumes.

Their scents are manufactured in Barcelona by artisans and some of the most notable perfumers, they support local artisans, even their bottles are made from locally sourced wood. The famous culture of Spanish workmanship at it’s best. No wonder that soon after their launch in 2010. Carner became a cult niche perfume house. Nice.

Presentation is featuring minimalist design, fine craftsmanship and perfumes are meant to make a connection between scents and emotions. Emotions and olfactory memories.

Sarah Carner:”It’s not only about creating scents but also about evoking memories, sharing experiences and transmitting emotions.”

I am especially fond of the „Black Collection“, Black Calamus being my favorite.

Broody, dark, resinous, sensual and labdanum woody. I still have some of it left. Sandor 70’s – leathery, tobacco, mossy black. Rose&Dragon – what a story! What a dark, demanding, ferocious wild rose! One more thing: there is a base note present in all three of these perfumes: frankincense.

I am talking about the Black Collection because it was a bit different from the previous perfumes, mostly fine woody gourmands.

Are the Orientals a new chapter in this new direction?

This is Spain. Three different facets of Spain. Symbolic, just as you can see them in Gaudi’s work if you visit Park Guell in Barcelona…if you look carefully.

Megalium – The Roman Heritage of Spain

“Megalium, an ancient fragrance passed down through the ages, from a time when rose water flowed from fountains and balsams perfumed the lavish private lives of the Romans from their bathing rituals to their chambers and boudoirs.„

The perfume was used in ancient societies to bring believers closer to gods or to cure the body and spirit. Theophrastus, Greek philosopher and the father of botany (he wrote “On Sense Perception“ – about fragrances), was the first known writer to record Megalium – a sweet-smelling mixture that was considered capable of relieving the inflammation caused by any wound. That was a very important mixture at those times! Of course, Greeks inherited this mixture from Egyptians, only to pass this remedy on to Romans.

It is recorded that Megalium contained resin and oil of Balanos (oil that was used in ancient Egypt as a base for perfumes!), cinnamon and myrrh. This is certainly a more elaborate, modern Megalium! Yes, times are a-changing, but even today you can see remains of rich Roman influence in Spain and this perfume shows just how past and present mingle. I tested it to soothe my soul.

A spicy oriental it is, quite gentle. If you are expecting a screaming, loud oriental, this is not it.
Here we go again with calamus (remember Black Calamus?) but it is much sweeter, brighter, mandarin coated and thus much fresher in the opening.

Cinnamon is soft and light, not overwhelming. Half an hour later, a few rose petals are floating gently, brightened with berries, and covered with nutmeg dust.

When spices fade a bit, frankincense and myrrh dance with them and start to lead in a slow and relaxed pace, not being “dark“ at all.

Longevity is very good, sillage not extreme (I took 2 spritzes each time I tested it on my skin-it remains “at arm’s length” which is perfectly acceptable) and I feel that its heart gives it personality. Wearable.

As I tested it, I recalled images of the subterranean maze 16 feet below the ground in the Gothic Quarter of Barcelona, the streets of the ancient city modern Barcelona is built on, literally. You can visit the Roman Ruins located in Placa del Rei – Museu d’Historia de Barcelona (MUHBA). It’s a great place to take a break from busy streets above and harsh sunshine during Summer.

Top notes: Royal cinnamon essence from Laos, Cinnamon tree leaves from Sri Lanka, Mandarin integral extract, Calamus essence India
Heart notes: Nutmeg essence from Moluccas, Indonesian Pimento Berry essence, Indian White pepper absolute, Bulgarian rose extract
Base notes: Olibanum extract Somalia, Ethiopian Myrrh extract, Yemeni Opoponax extract, Styrax resin

 

Ambar del Sur – The al-Andalus heritage of Spain

„Reminiscent of a time when royalty perfumed their hair with exquisite musks, the scent of amber wafted in the air, and enchanted patios bloomed with florals and romance. Ambar del Sur is an aromatic tribute to the al-Andalus of the past.„

The scent of Moorish Iberia… The scent of more than 700 years of al-Andalus…Yes, there were constant conflicts and blood was shed but there was also a period considered to be a Golden Age when trading and science flourished and the scent of imported spices and musks filled the air inside hammams and castles built.

I wore it for days, even managed to find my Damascene earrings bought in Toledo.

Funny, this perfume did not take me to Alhambra or Cordoba as expected, no, Toledo was the first place that came to my mind.

This perfume also reminds me of the art of damasquinado – steel decorated with threads of gold and silver, an ancient craft passed from generation to generation, coming from Damascus at the times of al-Andalus…

I wouldn’t call Damascene jewelry “pretty“. It is not “pretty“, it is different, cold and bright, steel and gold, quite unusual. It is a work of artistic craftsmanship, developed through centuries. It is a statement.

So is this perfume: rich and shiny but somehow bold. Again, if you expect a loud, blunt oriental, this is not it. It does open with bright Bergamote, shining like the flash of gold on Damascene jewelry, the first thing you notice. Then you begin to see shapes, birds, flowers and petals, dainty details, a playful jasmine note.

As time passes, the black steel surface behind all that glitter is more and more visible: its heart starts beating strong, stronger by minutes turning it into a true oriental, almost hedonistic.

Amber from the South. Ambergris…This is what this whole introduction was about…I did spray some on my hair and it woke me up in the morning.

The amber, sandalwood, vanilla wear all the way through the dry down, a very creamy tonka smooth one. Sensual.

I think this could be my favorite in the line, but please do not forget that I do tend to wear perfumes that many would consider more “masculine“ than others.

Top notes: Italian Bergamote
Heart notes: Water jasmine, Indonesian patchouli, Australian sandalwood, Accord amber
Base notes: Myrrh, Spanish citrus, Venezuelan tonka bean, Madagascan vanilla absolute

Botafumeiro – the Catholic heritage of Spain

“Botafumeiro: rings of biblical times when pilgrims traveled on foot along the pastoral Camino de Santiago in route to the tomb of St. James resting below the historic stones of the Cathedral. Swinging to great heights along the church, the Botafumeiro censer expels billows of scented smoke filling the air with a heavenly aroma.”

Do you know what the Botafumeiro is? Literally – a smoke expeller in Galician. The one and only, a huge censer in Santiago de Compostela Cathedral!

It has been used since the Middle Ages, to clean the air when many pilgrims arrived, after walking the route for months, after a long journey, tired and – unwashed.

It was believed that this ritual could stop the plague from spreading… and there is an element of silent prayer present as well. Scented prayer.

I can only imagine how spectacular it is to watch the Botafumeiro in full swing! All that frankincense surely affects everyone attending!

I have never been to Santiago de Compostela, nor walked El Camino, but I do know how censer works and how frankincense from a censer or burnt at home smells.

My late grandmother used to burn frankincense at her home, that is one of my earliest olfactory memories of her. I don’t exactly recall when or why, but I do remember chunks of nice smelling yellowish resin material. Where and how she obtained it, I do not know. I only know there was always some in her house. Did she use it to honor saints on their day to achieve a spiritual connection or to chase away evil spirits, I will never know.

I have read somewhere that it helps focus the mind and overcome stress and despair, so all this might have had something to do with it.

It isn’t that simple and this perfume is definitely not only about frankincense, but it is also more than that. Again, this perfume does not shout. It sings divinely and it immediately reminded me of vocal music of Middle Ages, choral songs, chants. It starts out with a scent of flowers from the altar, warm and heavy. That turns swiftly into a sweeter tone with a soft layer of spices – nutmeg is subtle but remarkable.

From somewhere deeper Muguet accord emerges but it is tamed, rather clean and sharp.

Sandalwood and incense warm things up. Styrax adds a dash of smoky, dry with a fine bitter incense facet. It is definitely adding a twist from an antique to a modern feeling, making it quite multifaceted, meditative and spiritual in almost a New Age way.

Botafumeiro is very wearable. I wore it all day long and it felt very comfortable as my scent of the day.

On my skin, it is long-lasting, with moderate sillage. I did spray only twice in the morning and didn’t mind reapplying every five hours, even though it stayed close to my skin.

Top notes: Italian Bergamote, Pink peppercorn, Indonesian Nutmeg
Heart notes: Freesia accord, Muguet accord, Spanish cistus, Indonesian patchouli
Base notes: Styrax resin from Honduras, Mystikal‬, Musks

These fine perfumes are available as 100 and 50 ml Eau de Parfums, and the prices range from 95 EUR (50ml) to 145 EUR (100ml) at the official Carner Barcelona site.

I hope you will enjoy them as much as I do. As I will enjoy Barcelona, soon…

The Plum Girl

Photos: The Plum Girl, Carner Barcelona catalog
Samples supplied by Carner Barcelona
Disclaimer

„Born from a passion for French Haute Parfumerie, Atelier des Ors presents a capsule collection of exquisite fragrances. Dedicated to using only the most precious essences and exclusive raw materials, each eau de parfum presented by this unique boutique brand is an imaginative interpretation of traditional perfumery. Inspired also by the art of gold gilding, each bottle features a breathtaking design glittering with a burst of gold.“

Atelier des Ors is a French niche house, present since 2015. with a debut of five eau de parfums, adding later on two more, six of which I proudly present to you.

Atelier des Ors founder is Jean-Philippe Clermont who is also the artistic director for the brand. The „Nose“ behind the perfumes is Marie Salamagne. These fine perfumes come in glass bottles cut in an Art Deco design and filled with 24k gold flakes.

Ladies and gentlemen, here they are, as presented on my Instagram account, short, emotional reviews as follows:


Day 1: Rose Omeyyade

Just as a lush rose in full bloom needs to breathe in the fresh air, this rose needs your skin. As I sprayed it on a paper strip, pink pepper was present at first whiff, smudged over raspberry in traces. Then rose arose and swooned me away!

Immediately, impatiently, I offered it my skin. On a cold winter day, it made me daydream about a very specific place I’ve traveled to, feeling the soft blow of the Levant wind in my hair and golden rays of sunshine touching my face. (the Levant is specific for the Mediterranean, once you’ve felt it blow, you will know exactly what I’m talking about…

Usually gentle and damp, the Levant frequently brings clouds and rain, you can literally smell the rain coming). Destination: Port of Haifa, Israel…

Gold and a desert rose (I managed to find the one I dug up in desert), this is my visual presentation of Rose Omeyyade!

This rose is plump, ripe, ambered, dusky and sprinkled with caramel thick brown sugar. I would say quite unisex too, it has that darkish woody-oudy touch, sensual sugar&spice/I smell so nice vibe in the drydown.

I definitely suggest that you try it on your skin and let it play its music, please don’t rush this perfume!

Day 2: Iris Fauve

Not the iris you might expect, Aphrodite-like, sensual soft and curvy Iris…
This fine perfume opens with fluffy flowers with a gentle touch of warm spices. I feel Iris but it stirs and sways and mingles ever so gently. It is also much darker, muskier and more complex then I expected it to be. There’s plenty of woodiness and it’s just resinous enough as not to become overly sweet. Like I’m floating on a soft cloud, puffy cotton cloud!

If you are not usually iris-attracted, I suggest you try the Iris Fauve by Atelier des Ors. On your skin, of course. This is not an overly complicated perfume but it is finely blended and quite elegant. And yes, it is definitely unisex!

Did you know that Iris is the national flower of Croatia? On the island of Brac I enjoy watching the wild Irises bloom in May…

Day 3: Cuir Sacre

Destination: Andalusia. I managed to find my souvenir from Sevilla: castanets, palillos, preparing to give my full attention to this perfume.

I tested it on my skin. Green at the first whiff, resembling oleander leaves, dry and sharp, very herbal. I let it breathe for fifteen minutes and soon enough warmth moves in, a creamy vetiver takes over. This is not a Russian leather perfume by no means if we are talking leather – this is suede, well dried and carefully crafted, like a pair of soft cream-colored, goatskin suede gloves I had. It shifts subtly, moves in shadows. Half an hour later, I feel vetiver being touched by smoke, like incense burning somewhere far away from me and the wind carried the traces of incense smoke closer to me. It feels even quite woody, not forest-like, but rather like pieces of shaved wood scattered over the floor you are walking on. Other spices emerge too, not overly prominent, appearing and disappearing into this soft suede envelope. The vetiver I feel is warm, like sunshine on my skin on a late May afternoon… Did I just feel cardamom dance in? Or is it tonka? Or both? Hmmm…Interesting.

This is a close to skin perfume, elegant and not flashy – regarding the projection. Unisex, definitely, I will wear it for a business meeting tomorrow.

I think I will enjoy it most sometime later in May, after sundown, sitting somewhere outside… I don’t know why but I just thought that I’d probably be drinking a glass of dry white wine to go along with it.

Day 4: Lune Feline

Moon inspired, they say…If so, this Moon is completely illuminated by Sun, taking on different shades of red, orange or gold, like the Moon we see during a total lunar eclipse: it opens with a great wave of spices, then splashes of vanilla, cinnamon and cardamon sail in.

Dark, dry woods are in the background of this spicy gourmand fragrance. I don’t know why, but the painting “Red Vineyard at Arles” by Van Gogh is what I visualized. Destination: Amsterdam!

Its breath is warm and furry, like the breath of a large cat resting at sundown…I feel vanilla and amber from start to finish and yes! Just a hint of smoke is present…Three sprays and it remained very close to my skin for hours, tempting me to bury my nose in my wrist every now and then, just to feel that hugging, the golden aura of seductive warmth. Something to wear during Winter definitely!

Day 5: Aube Rubis

Like the dawn of a new summer day, it opens with rays of the light green, fizzy smell of grapefruit, cool and fresh. Then pink and orange colors paint the sky as it gets warmer and I feel smooth patchouli rising, iris and violets adding a refined, luxurious touch.

Light of a new day spreads across horizon, calmly bringing a very gentle touch of saffron. There’s just enough woodiness present to remind you of this note in all Atelier des Ors perfumes. An intriguing dance of sage and vetiver is what catches my attention, sage and vetiver and sporadic puffs of patchouli!

The dry down is a bit quieter, softer although what surprises me is that even after a couple of hours occasional whiffs of grapefruit emerged again, unexpected but very welcome in their outfit made of fruit and berries. An intriguing fragrance, writing its own story on your skin…It reminded me of September mornings in California…

Day 6: Larmes du Desert

Intentionally left to be the last to sample, postponed for days. Expectations were high, I admit. If you know me by now, you also know that I am a desert lover, traveled to many and plan to visit many more. This is why I was looking forward to it. I was a bit selfish, I admit. One day was not enough: I enjoyed it for a couple of days before sharing this.

Larmes du Desert. Tears of the desert…is this what it sounds like when myrrh trees cry? If a desert, then this desert is not scorching, hostile and dusty environment we usually associate with deserts. When I took in deeper breaths, it felt so familiar, like a deja vue. As I recalled all the deserts I’ve been to, a memory surfaced. The perfume took me back down the memory lane, images resurfacing, vivid and colorful. Gold, myrrh and frankincense! Gifts of the Three Kings.

The exact spot? After taking a quite long bus ride on a dusty desert road inside Sinai, a fortification appears upon the hill: the Saint Catharine’s Monastery, Mount of Sinai looking at adjacent Jebal Musa (Mount Moses). I remember it well. I feel resinous notes, a touch of olibanum, dark and seductive amber shot with a whiff of cinnamon. In the Monestery’s shades, a mix of dark sweetness, dry but layered upon forest woods, cedar toned. Sparkles of greenery, a trace of smoke: I remember looking at the „burning bush“ – a bramble (Rubus Sanctus), covering one wall with its lush greenery. The bush that was on fire but not consumed by flames…Rare and scattered Joshua trees can be seen in the distance.

Embracing softness of frankincense rises, dragging me deeper down into clouds of earthy balsamic and spicy tones, soothing as I take off my flip-flops and walk upon this ground with bare feet (anyone entering the chapel is required to remove their shoes…), feeling a warm breeze coming from the mountain and scattered rays of sunshine touching the skin on my arms and feet, adding it a very subtle golden glow…my skin breathes patchouly.

This is why it took me days to get over it, I cherished this memory. There are perfumes that make me cry, and Larmes du Desert is one of them.

As for this photo, I found my silver Hamsa hand pendant: it can be traced back to the people of Phoenicia, some say that it was present even before, in ancient Egypt. An ancient symbol of protection, bringing happiness…so I share it with you, together with my impression of this wonderful perfume!

Thank you, Atelier des Ors!

P.S. See you in Milan next month – Esxence is a place to be! Please email me for appointments as my schedule is quite busy there 🌹

The Plum Girl
Photos: The Plum Girl Archives, Atelier des Ors
Disclaimer

„Dance is poetry made visible, the fragrance is a dance of molecules invisible.“

My story about dancing dates back to early childhood. One day, a seven-year-old, freckle-faced, green-eyed girl with thick and long braids asked her mom to take her to ballet lessons. It was something other girls talked about, elegantly raising their arms, swirling around, pretending to be ballerinas performing on stage.

So she did, my mother took me to a ballet school and signed me up for an admission, done by means of a training period at the end of which pupils take an entrance examination to the ballet school. I was so proud and happy, bright-eyed and could hardly wait for a class to start. Unfortunately, it seemed that I was the one who did everything – wrong. Splits? My hips weren’t that flexible. Routine? I seemed to be always the one who couldn’t repeat it without adding something of my own. Surely enough, one day after rehearsal my ballet teacher called me aside and said: „In my opinion, you’d make a perfect handball team player. Go and play handball! Ballet is not for you.“ My mother did not take me to ballet classes anymore after that day. I did start playing handball, never enjoyed it much (it is a quite rough sport) and quit playing in the 8th grade.

I grew up thinking that I cannot dance. Of course, hopping up and down and some feet shuffling was involved in rock concerts, in a disco or any other social event where people danced, but dancing? Like amateur dancing? No, that was just something I thought I had absolutely no talent for.

I admired every dancer, knowing it is such hard work. I loved to watch people dance, just any dancing, classical dances, hip hop, anything really. Especially ballet. To have all the strength of a beast and the fragility of a butterfly? I knew there is a dark side to professional dancing: it is mostly composed of blood, sweat, and tears. Literally.
The agony and ecstasy.

Years passed and I continued to avoid any thought of active dancing training. Work, family, friends, life happened. Until one day, when a young woman I met invited me to come and see what training looked like in her studio. It is a pole fitness studio, and all the insecurities emerged: I am not fit, I am not flexible, I cannot dance. Never could. So many self-limiting thoughts, too many not to be dealt with. I decided to go and give it a chance. The rest is history, really. I am now almost six years in active training and dancing routine, and yes! I have experienced the famous „zone“ quite often when dancing freely! I can dance! And how! Not in the way I thought about dancing as a little girl, not being a classical ballerina, but hey! I dance.

During hard, core muscles and flexibility training, I also learned that pain is a part of the process. That accepting pain is necessary, as is listening to your body. And that the body remembers, oh, it does! Pain is a fact, but suffering because of that pain is subjective. Along with anatomical control, every dancer, in my opinion, develops an expectation of a certain amount of pain or soreness. Maybe this acceptance is best learned at an early age, I like to think that an adult person can embrace it as well.

Yet, I am a recreational dancer. I can only imagine what professional dancers go through…What I have learned is that the body has laws of its own to be respected, though tamed. The satisfaction comes from the complete fusion of body and mind, letting go of all the rational thinking, having confidence in your body and being in the dance flow. The flow is what gives you the most pleasurable moments on the dance floor, or anywhere. Flow is a relationship between the level of challenge and skills: when both skills and challenges are abundant, you can reach the flow!

Precision is a prerequisite of grace.
As with perfumes, as with perfumes!

Those were my thoughts after my first encounter with „Precision and Grace“ perfume. I really admire Geza Schoen, and I was very curious about this perfume (for those who are unfamiliar with names of „Noses“, Geza created Eccentric Molecules, described as anti-fragrance, breaking the rules of fragrance composition). Even more curious when I read that his creative partner was Polina Semionova, an internationally famous ballet dancer. Let me quote her: „The precision only comes with hours of work in the studio. Then, when I go on stage, I don’t think anymore. I release myself to the music. I fly.“

„The Beautiful Mind Series celebrates women – not in the conventional way of the fragrance industry, as objects of desire – but for their intelligence and creativity. The imagery for the series, by design house Me Company, depicts the beauty of the brain in action. Instead of the faces of Stenger and Semionova, the packaging features neural pathways. These are imaginative representations of synapses connecting during memory retrieval, and of the kinesthetic intelligence of the dancer. Here, the non-conformism is all in the concept of the anti-celebrity fragrance, and the tribute to the dazzling female brain.
The dots and triangles are a series of placements, they represent the precise steps she must take,” explains Paul White of Me Company. The color flows reflect a different way of mapping a balletic gesture. “Dance is precise, but it’s also semi-airborne. The pulses of color reflect the flux of the dance, almost like motion capture trails. They represent the dancer’s freedom, her joy.”- The Beautiful Mind Series


I find the fragrance very feminine, but not in an overly powdery, sweet or sultry way, oh no. The opening is crisp and fresh, like when you sit in the wardrobe, preparing to dance. You can feel the adrenaline kicking in, but it makes you feel light and energized. The top note of Williams Pear is so delicious!

When you start to dance, making your first moves, still listening to the music, still rationally thinking, you feel the floral notes, jasmine mostly, mixed with a sweet and ripe plum. As you lose yourself to the music, florals of mimosa and osmanthus give in to warm and velvety tones. Everything surrounding you disappears. You are flying, emotions are your wings. Eyes closed, your body has a life of its own, its warmth and movement generate musky, sandalwood tones which breathe with your body, gently enveloping it, making you feel safe and secure. With a warm drydown of pure happiness, soul-deep joy! And it lasts and lasts…

In my opinion, this perfume gives the flow you experience in dancing an olfactory description. Enjoy it. Dance. Wherever and whenever you can. Yes, you can!

„The sexiest thing about a woman is her mind.” – Geza Schoen

The Plum Girl
Photos: The Plum Girl private collection
Perfume Sample Provided By: TOP