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I met Nick Steward, the founder of Gallivant in Milan during Esxence 2019 in April, all smiles as he pulled out a sample of “the new perfume” and sprayed some on my hand.

Where are we going now? I asked, testing the new fragrance with friends. He wouldn’t say at first but we insisted. Los Angeles, he replied! I told him that I remember parts of LA by so many different scents, images, and memories as these started immediately to flash before my eyes – I’ve lived there for a while, and I immediately said that this fragrance reminds me of Sunset Boulevard – the famous road stretching all the way from Downtown LA to the Pacific Coast Highway, from Hollywood to Malibu.

There are perfumes that make me smile immediately. Just like that, one spray, and that inner feel-good spark brightens up my day.

I feel then like hugging that perfume, hugging myself and the whole World – to share that feeling, and make you feel the same.

This happened while I was running like crazy around Esxence Milan on its final day (check out my overview: “Ave Perfumes” here).

I guess that the fear of missing out hit me like a truck: will I miss something important? Where should I go first? I asked couple of friends if they have any recommendations for me. Strangely enough, a few of them told me the same thing: “Go and try Menta y Menta by Miller et Berteaux if you haven’t yet!”

Some more rushing around, and there I was: what I first noticed were mint plants placed on the center stage of their stand. I was greeted with a kind smile: “Would you like to smell a perfume that features mint, but doesn’t smell like toothpaste or breath freshener?”

Yes! (Please, let it be good…)

It was good: it put that “Mona Lisa smile” on my face. Not that I associate mint with toothpaste: my childhood memories spin around most horrid strawberry-flavored, sickeningly sweet pink mess squeezed on my toothbrush, the one for which I always thought it made more damage than good for my teeth.

Mint or Mentha for me means pitchers of cold lemon water with mint leaves on a hot Summer day after wandering around the island in the Adriatic Sea early in the morning, before sunrise, looking for herbs and picking small leaves of dark green wild mint, to be used later in salads, cold drinks, and cocktails, or dried to take home and brew some strong mint tea. Another thing my grandma taught me: always keep a mint plant on your dining table if you are eating outside in the evening, rub its leaves every now and then: mint keeps mosquitos and ants away!

There have been quite a few mint-themed perfumes around lately, it’s refreshing and cool notes flirting with Mojito associations, paired with chocolate, citruses, or just spearmint-peppery sharp fresh not-so-demanding compositions. Menta y Menta is different.

It smells…so sophisticated in an unobtrusive way! Its style is minimalistic, both in perfume construction, in presentation and packaging – yet there is something compelling about it.

Menta y Menta greets you with a cup of freshly brewed mint tea in a simple, delicate porcelain white cup.

As you squeeze just a couple of drops of lemon into it, soon after taking the first sip you forget about the tea itself: the bright greenery made of small mint leaves forms a comfortable shade all around you, feeling just slightly refreshing-peppery.

A single jasmine flower drops in your teacup and swirls around it, white, dainty, and fragile, adding a slight touch of smoothness and delicate warmth, weaving its whiteness through all this greenery in a relaxed rhythm.

It’s a perfect day, and all is well. Simple as that, so I won’t attempt to write an extensively complicated review.

The perfume remains very skin close and airy on my skin, moving with me as I move around, quietly present and unobtrusive.

Contemplative, contemporary, refined minimalistic. Lovely in its seemingly uncomplicated appearance. Classy, with moderate longevity and sillage: nothing ravishing, just joyful!

This line of perfumes carries names of Parisian designers Francis Miller et Patrick Bertaux: partners, fashionistas, travelers, and promoters of wellbeing.

“Fragrances for the body and the soul, dedicated to those who choose the balance of being and appearance.”

Notes: mint, tea leaf, citruses, roasted coffee beans and jasmine.
(mentha spicata / menthe marocaine feuilles de thé, zests d’agrumes, café torréfié, jasmin évoqué)

Menta y Menta (released in 2019) is available online here, Eau de Parfum 100 ml/99 EUR.

Keep reading The Plum Girl blog for more reviews to come! If you like what I do please share with your friends, and make sure to subscribe!

The Plum Girl

Elena Cvjetkovic

Photos: The Plum Girl, Miller et Bertaux

The sample was graciously given to me by Miller et Bertaux at Esxence Milan, opinions of my own.

Disclaimer

You are surely familiar with that feeling when somebody just mentions a song (or says just one word), and you instantly hear this song in your head, playing on repeat, sticking around for hours, if not days while you catch yourself humming it?

This happened to me while I was talking with Olentia Nasus…That old Synth-Pop song Voyage Voyage (Desireless) just kept echoing in my thoughts, left me singing every now and then: „Voyage, voyage, vole dans les hauteurs…voyage, voyage, et jamais ne revient.“ Later on, I thought: how appropriate – Olentia Nasus is, in a way, all about – a voyage.

This is a new artisan brand in making, coming from Sweden where Carlos-Ivan – owner and self-taught perfumer (born in Mexico City) lives since 2003. He came to Sweden working as an actor and performing with his own pantomime show, playing some music and juggling – this was just an introduction to his fragrant voyage, brewing inside of him.

In 2013 he was watching Alessandro Gualteri’s documentary – “The NoseSearching for Blamage“, and somewhere in the middle of the movie something just clicked: he realized that he all he wanted is to become an artisan perfumer, making perfumes his way – natural, gender-free, vegan, translating his thoughts, fantasies, dreams, and giving them an olfactory shape. Abandoning all the rules and designing perfume as an art, however disruptive the process might be, was something that inspired him.

Olentia Nasus was born, meaning „fragrant nose“ in Latin, and his fragrant voyage started…

The next part of this voyage is yet to begin, after many trials and errors, learning and failing, starting all over again, mixing, filtering and macerating: Olentia Nasus is planning to launch the first fragrance next Spring, named Royal Blue.

There’s a lot to be done yet: sourcing bottles, paperwork, applying to databases, complying with Swedish regulations…but hey! I received a small sample of pre-production Royal Blue made just for me, and I’m more than happy to give you a sneak-peek preview!

Royal Blue (what does this color smell like to you?) is about – a voyage. Open space. Far away places. A call to travel. Which came to me just at the right moment, as I am about to leave for my vacation road trip… Voyage, voyage. Reminding me of how much I love to travel!

Upon spraying it on my skin, a burst of invigorating freshness, very brief (oh I wish this could last longer!) and mouthwatering. A fully ripe watermelon – so ripe that it smells spicy -burst open, juices trickling!

This reminded me of my summer holidays spent in my grandmother’s lush, opulent garden: she would get up early in the morning on Saturdays to go to the open market, bringing home a big watermelon for me – all by herself. She would then cut it open, remove the pits, cut it into cubes, and keep it cold in a big white, heavy ceramic bowl. I loved to sit in the garden on a picnic blanket under a plum tree, and she would bring me this afternoon snack, serving it together with a small fork wrapped into a white linen napkin. I ate cold melon cubes with my hands, wiping them on my dress. I smelled of watermelon, so what! Wasps and ants liked that, I remember chasing them away.

I also feel the smell of fresh hay coming from the fields at the far end of this garden, with green leaves of anise and a couple of lilac lavender blossoms swaying in the wind, feeling like bitter-sweet homemade honey with pieces of honeycomb still in it.

The fragrance shifts, turning golden brown: like ripe tobacco leaves in sunshine, smelling crispy dry like white wood with patchouli undertones.

It later becomes thick, creamy and resinous: I like its drydown, lingering on my skin for hours. It’s woody-musty-dry and even a bit leathery-smoky, with a touch of most gentle, bright vanilla – just ambery warm, soft and cuddly, like my old picnic blanket.

Royal Blue is a nicely blended fragrance with an interesting composition, contrasts, and structure. Natural. Soft Oriental. Eau du Parfum. Gender-neutral.

Notes: Watermelon, Pink Pepper, Orange flower, Hay, Anise, Vetiver, Tonka, Tobacco Virginia, Patchouli, Labdanum, Vanilla, Cocoa. (my interpretation, not the complete or official list of notes). Longevity and projection moderate: note that I used 1ml of a sample very sparingly on my skin. It’s a natural, let it breathe, test before you buy. Expected launch time: Spring 2020.

Keep an eye on Olentia Nasus. His web site isn’t functional yet, you can look him up on Instagram: olentianasus. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for him, hoping his dream comes true!

The Plum Girl
Elena Cvjetkovic
Photos: The Plum Girl, Olentia Nasus
The sample was graciously provided by Olentia Nasus, opinions of my own.
Disclaimer

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

I see skies of blue, flowers pink and yellow, lilac and white, tree branches budding with fresh green leaves, dainty little fruit-tree and big, porcelain-cup thick Magnolia blossoms everywhere! Yes, Spring is here…Persephone has returned!

Spring in March, still struggling with chilly mornings and evenings, but it seems like everything bloomed in only a couple of days. Time has come for me to pull out a fragrance I gave a lot of thought and occasional wearings during the past six months – Southern Bloom by Goldfield and Banks.

This perfume is very comforting every time I wear it, it felt like a warm hug during cold, Winter days, but now the timing to sit down and write about it was somehow right for me. Or maybe it’s because while enjoying the first sunny and warm late March days, I remembered that it isn’t Spring everywhere…

It all began when we met in September last year, during Pitti Fragranze in Florence. Dimitri Weber spoke to us over lunch about Spring in September and how he has to rush back to Australia because Brown Boronia fields were starting to bloom. Spring in September!

And Boronia flowers:

Dimitri, the creative director of Goldfield and Banks founded this brand in Sydney, Australia and he wanted to use native Australian ingredients as much as possible, giving importance to this specific terroir, making a difference.

He spoke with so much love about Australia, Brown Boronia flowers, fields on Tasmania’s Bruny Island, the harvest time – because the brand is working directly with growers. Then he pulled out a bottle of Southern Bloom perfume (harvest 2017), together with a tiny bottle of Brown Boronia Absolute, one of the most expensive ingredients in the world, at 100USD/gram:

Brown Boronia absolute, derived from concrete – is really different. It has a rich, multifaceted floral character. As much as I remember, it’s flowery with a touch of green, a bit dusky, never too sweet. I would say even a bit „dry-creamy“, like you are smelling the whole bush, not just flowers.

Southern Bloom is a limited edition fragrance – because the perfume itself will depend on the harvest, absolute being slightly different every year. It has been used in perfumery before, but Southern Bloom puts it in the heart of this perfume and weaves the whole fragrant story around it.

All the time after hearing this story about Southern Bloom, I kept thinking about – black swans!
I’ll explain: until the 19th century and discovery of black swans in Australia, all existing swans were thought to be – white. No one imagined that swans of any other color existed.

These beautiful birds also have their role in the Australian culture, representing „Australianness“. There’s more, a whole „black swan“ theory!

The idea of „black swans“ is mentioned in a quite famous book „The Black Swan“ – by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, ranked in 2007 by Sunday Times as one of the 12 most influential books since WW II. I remember reading it a number of times.

The impact of highly improbable is tremendous, we can all agree. The books also underlines that we humans tend to find simplistic explanations for unexpected events, but only after these happened.

The concept of Taleb’s „Black Swan“ is that highly improbable events have three principle characteristics: they are unpredictable, they carry a massive impact, and after the fact, we concoct an explanation that makes these events appear less random and more predictable then they were. It’s a brilliant book, I suggest you read it if you haven’t yet. Black Swans are everywhere…even in the world of perfumes.

I digress, but this is where the story about Brown Boronia took me…Back to Southern Bloom with this extraordinary, „Black Swan“ note at its heart!

We have here high-quality ingredients from all over the world, elements of Australian terroir, the owner is Belgian-French, coming from fragrance industry….enter a Frenchman: the perfumer behind this fragrance is Melbourne-based Mr. Francois Merle-Baudoin, a 5th generation Perfumer from Grasse.

Southern Bloom is a floral-creamy-powdery fragrance, beautifully blended and finely balanced. Elegant, comforting, soothing – in a quite unique way. Longevity is very good, projection moderate: it becomes discreet, with a lovely drydown many hours later.

The fragrance shifts from the very beginning: at first, you are greeted by a bright fruity-slightly tart welcome. As you enter and walk along, it embraces you, it feels like you have walked into a cloud of creamy, soft pink petals, swirling gently around you.

This sensation of white flowers is just a little bit resinous and soon the fragrance transforms as sensual ylang-ylang and jasmine begin to flow. At this point I could feel milky strains of coconut appearing, weaving its way around flowers, and a string of orange-like tones.

Half an hour later the fragrance shows it’s greener side, becoming more earthy- green with the addition of dry, broken flower-bush twigs, adding depth to that beautiful powdery-iris sensation I enjoy so much.

The drydown is very beautiful: at this point Southern Bloom stays close to the skin, forming an aura that will stay with you for some time, very creamy and rich. You can still feel occasional whiffs of opulent flowers lingering over sandalwood, with a powdery-dry, a bit earthy iris dust sprinkled over them.

These transitions are smooth and the overall impression is refined, making this a very wearable fragrance. I wear it as a comforting fragrance and on my skin, it feels very feminine.

Southern Bloom, released in 2018, is the latest, first floral fragrance in the brand’s Native Collection, including Wood Infusion, Desert Rosewood, Pacific Rock Moss, White Sandalwood, and Blue Cypress.

Notes (as stated by the brand): Boronia Absolute -Tasmania, Jasmin Sambac – India, Cassis – France, Sandalwood – Australia, Vetiver – Indonesia, Ylang Ylang – Madagascar, Coconut Accord, Iris – Italy.

Southern Bloom, harvest 2017/2018 is available at Goldfield and Banks website and chosen niche perfume stockists, USD 249/100ml Eau de parfum, limited production.

It took me six months to ponder over this perfume, but the moment I first smelled Brown Boronia absolute was unforgettable…

The Plum Girl
Elena Cvjetkovic
Photos: The Plum Girl

Southern Bloom perfume generously provided by Goldfield&Banks, opinions of my own. Terms as stated below:
Disclaimer

Actually, it’s gentle Fluidity Gold Edition and Gentle fluidity Silver Edition:

Two new fragrances by Maison Francis Kurkdijan with a well explained and executed inspiration and context:

„Same notes, two identities.
Working the ingredient to express its full potential and meeting the challenge of composing two different Eaux de parfum with the same notes: juniper berries, nutmeg, coriander, musks, ambery woods, and vanilla. The Gentle Fluidity Duo was born of the perfumer’s imagination to offer two distinct olfactory silhouettes, for her or for him.“

Actually (again), it’s more than those ingredients listed above, it always is…

The point is in focusing on six key ingredients among 49 used. Playing with them, dosing, providing specific effects, being a perfumer. A perfumer that won Prix Coty in 2001. (at age 26) for his lifetime achievement. Let’s not forget that, as well as the impressive list of his creations for various perfume companies, a long time before he co-founded Maison Francis Kurkdjian, and a long time before it became a part of LVMH.

Is this concept absolutely new? Not really. We’ve seen fragrances released in pairs before. We have also witnessed fragrances released one after another that use the same components but differ in the final effect.

What is new is that the whole concept of creative fluidity is rounded up perfectly, communicated clearly, smoothly executed, and presentation follows adequately. Let’s see how they smell:

Gentle fluidity / Silver

The accent is as follows, bold signifying that those accords are accentuated: Juniper Berries oil, Nutmeg oil, Coriander seeds oil, Musks, Ambery Woods, Vanilla Blend.


Silver opens with a cold and fresh note of Juniper Berry. I couldn’t help but imagine a Juniper berry stuck in an ice cube, floating around a glass filled with gin. Very enjoyable! I appreciated that cool, relaxed, uplifting vibe. Later on, it does become a bit warmer but nutmeg shows its cooler, dryer side. Never too loud, it moves in a quite an elegant way, gaining warmth but still staying composed all the way to the drydown – when it becomes silky-woody. When I sniffed my wrist the next morning, I could feel typical vanilla toned sweetness, colored with a musky hue. My favorite, if I have to choose one: if you like Aqua Universalis (like I do), you’ll find it appealing and comfortable to wear.

Gentle Fluidity / Gold

Accent changes its place: Juniper Berry oil, Nutmeg oil, Coriander Seeds oil, Musks, Ambery Woods, Vanilla Blend.


There, you can almost feel the difference, even without sniffing! Same ingredients, yet it smells like a different perfume. On the first sniff, it’s all about Vanilla, golden-glowing, curvy Vanilla…Vanilla everywhere!
Gold is a well-chosen name for it. What is also interesting is that Nutmeg oil here shows its different facet, much warmer, leaning towards an oriental feeling: it only adds to this gold, warm, and smooth flow, becoming a bit powdery later on. I enjoyed that piece of olfactory music in the middle part of its performance, which does last for hours. The final drydown is almost identical to Silver: I do get that „caramels on my wrists“ feeling at the end. On my skin Gold definitely outlasted Silver, in projection and in longevity, if that’s what you are looking for.

Gentle Fluidity Duo will be widely accepted, I am certain of that. I am really enjoying that these fragrances are raising awareness of the fact that subtle changes, different proportions, thoughtful accentuation of few details – make all the difference…In perfumes, and in life…

Gold and Silver are available in Croatia: @ Martimex Niche Perfumery, Trg Bana Jelacica 11, or @ Maison Francis Kurkdjian website, 70 ml Eau de parfum – 150EUR/1125Kn.

The Plum Girl

Elena Cvjetkovic

Photos: The Plum Girl
Samples provided by Maison Francis Kurkdjian during the promotional event at Martimex Niche Zagreb, opinions of my own.
Disclaimer