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esxence 2019

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Eyes closed, I dream about traveling to places near and distant, familiar ones greeting me with a smile, unknown ones calling my name.

Travel broadens our mind and expands our hearts, yet there’s something soothingly rewarding in – returning. To yourself. I know well where my safe harbor is. Your Ithaca, my Ithaka – they are always a place hidden inside our hearts:

“May there be many summer mornings when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you enter harbors you’re seeing for the first time;
may you stop at Phoenician trading stations
to buy fine things,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
sensual perfume of every kind
as many sensual perfumes as you can

and may you visit many Egyptian cities to learn and go on learning from their scholars.

Keep Ithaka always in your mind.

Arriving there is what you’re destined for.

But don’t hurry the journey at all.

Better if it lasts for years…”

Ithaka now, on my skin. The power of poetry, words enhanced by verses, translated into the first perfume in the new, Versi trilogy by MendittoRosa:

This poem inspired Stefania Squeglia of Mendittorosa Perfumes to find a new perfumer, young Camille Chemardin and trust her with Ithaka.

Mendittorosa shall have each flacon in this line with a hand-made wooden cap, and a unique tablet, with a sign for each perfume.

Presentation is quite elaborate, illustration made by Massimo Alfaioli (who also made beautiful drawings for Talismans Sirio).

A seemingly simple poem. A seemingly simple perfume. It isn’t.

Bearing in mind that the journey is much more exquisite and rewarding than any arrival at the final destination, I embark this ship, with a glass vessel carrying a few drops of perfume.

Ithaka greeted me with waves of bergamot-clad, salty deep-sea air carrying scents coming from a big harbor ahead of me, bringing back that sweet feeling of land finally reached – before you can even see it clearly. It’s a rewarding smell after many days spent at sea.

The port is busy as a beehive, you can hear the murmur of people at the market beside the ships, and your nostrils detect a fine, dry and sweet scent of creamy labdanum and incense filling the air as you disembark your ship.

Your nose, cleared by salty seawater now feels intensely scents almost forgotten: incense becomes rich with the smell of spices, swirling around you softly. As you get accustomed to the surroundings, the rhythm of the fragrance changes, images become less abstract: now you can feel even lighter nuances, a hidden freshness beneath, as waxy-thick white Magnolia petals emerge and touch your skin quietly.

Salty tones are still present robbing it if it’s sweetness yet leaving it humid, very restrained on my skin, accentuating patchouli over Magnolia. Salty Magnolia made me sniff my wrists over and over again.

As the fragrance develops further, whirls of smoke roll in from someplace distant, present but not disturbing, just signs of nearby life going vibrantly on.

The composition remains airy and light, tenderly woody with added cedar tree shavings, and now definitely grounded, like when you walk barefoot upon soft, warm, dry and resinous-smelling earth. Hours later, this fragrance lingers on the skin quite close, its final tones becoming smoother and even a bit sweeter in a dry&powdery way, probably due to Benzoin, reminiscent of Vanilla,

Just as the poem, I find Ithaka illuminating, multilayered, very well blended, soothing and calming. Like arriving home after a long trip or reconnecting with your inner purpose, feeling thankful:

You can read the complete poem Ithaca, written by the Greek poet Constantine Cavafay, born in Alexandria – here.

Although I have stood at the remains of an ancient Phoenician market by the Mediterranean sea in North Africa (preserved for eons with desert sand), I didn’t have to travel far this time, Ithaka, Ithaca is an inner journey:

“Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you’ll have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.”

Notes: Bergamot, Aqueos Magnolia, Incense, Patchouli, Labanum, Incense Resinoid, Virginian Cedar, Cypriol, Benzoin.

Ithaka is EDP, 20% concentration, 100ml/200 EUR – available at Mendittorosa. Longevity is remarkable, sillage noticeable. Test before you buy it.

Enjoy many journeys of life with Ithaka always in your mind!

The Plum Girl
Elena Cvjetkovic
Photos: The Plum Girl, MendittoRosa, painting “Odyssey Kisses His Native Land” by Jan Styka.
The sample is a decant Stefania made for me when I visited her stand at Esxence Milan, for which I am deeply grateful.
Opinions of my own.

Bienetre. The moment I thought about this phrase, sweet memories surfaced quickly: just last Summer we were getting bucketloads of bienetre while cruising along winding roads of Côte d’Azur, and the region of ProvanceAlps MaritimesGrasse included, of course! (if you want to find out more about things to do in Grasse, you can find my travelogues here and here)

I waited for nostalgia to kick in. I knew it would, eventually. Ever since Esxence three labeled transparent vials were carefully placed into a “to-do” box on my desk (thank you, Megan and Jean-Phillipe!). First sniffs in Milan were promising, beautiful blue bottles tempting, sparkles of gold inside like captured rays of sunshine:

Atelier des Ors The Riviera Collection 2019

First, there were transparent bottles with black caps and boxes: the Black Collection (reviewed here: here and here). At Esxence 2018. the White Collection was revealed, featuring Nuda Veritas, Crepuscule de Ames and Choeur des Anges (my personal favorite) – a triptych in bottles with white caps and boxes, inspired by Gustav Klimt’s Beethoven Frieze – perfumes that took me on a trip to Vienna in search of inspiration behind the line, before writing my review – here.

This year Atelier des Ors presented bleu, blue, azur! bottles trio in the new Riviera Collection. Perfumer Marie Salamagne paints fragrant postcards from Cote d’Azur that resemble vivid tempera paintings, blending notes seamlessly, with ease and an experienced hand.

Names of the fragrances, bottles and centering around citruses, each with a different story to tell, are in accordance with the concept of relaxed, classy summertime luxury of the French Riviera. This line is inspired by the rich history of the region – more specifically the 1950s,’60s, and ’70s. Years when these beautiful gems – small towns and fishing villages scattered around the coast – became accessible to not only nobility and rich, yet still preserving an air of elegance, hedonism, and, yes, that famous bien-etre.
This wonderful corner of Earth is marked by many dreams dreamed, lovers exchanging kisses, and many a great artist got inspired by just being there.

Almost mythical:

Picture postcards of a bygone era that promise beauty and sophistication along with eternal days and nights.”

I decided to give you my more current postcards and letters from Cote d’Azur:

RIVIERA LAZULI

“Dear Marie,
I feel content and peaceful while looking at miles of sandy beaches, and that specific color of the Sea here, sunshine sparkling on its surface. Waves are rolling in in the late afternoon, turning a deeper hue of blue. Their sound is almost meditative, underlying chatter coming from the beach. It’s after 6 PM, the time of the day which I enjoy the most – Sun is now gentle to my skin, scents of Mediterranean herbs are still lingering in the mineral-salty air. I decided to spend this afternoon in Juan Les Pins (commune of Antibes), taking the short drive from Grasse to get here, turning right on the A8 highway to reach the beach area. It feels so intense to drive with the car roof down through these pine woods, alongside meticulously groomed golf terrains lined with old palm trees, to feel the scent of the sea in the air, getting closer and closer.

I wish you could join me for an apres-beach cocktail, our skin still salty and warm after swimming in clear blue water, feet still covered with traces of sparkling sand. We would just lean back and enjoy sounds and scents surrounding us while waiting for Sun to set.

I’m sitting in a beach bar, and don’t feel like leaving this place before dark. Looking at the boats sailing away, you can hear the wind ruffling their sails.

Will wait for the night to wrap this day up, just want to stay here a little longer, feeling this place with all my senses.

Wish you were here.
Love, E.”


Riviera Lazuli indulges you with refreshing, sparkling, freshly cut lemons at first, soon turning salty and a bit mineral.

The citruses are slightly tarty with added cypress and fir, dry, and make a great introduction for herbal-spicy notes of sage and immortelle, a bitter-sweet refreshment that feels cooling on your skin.

The heart of this perfume is pulsing softer, spicier, even sweeter: it does bring instant memories of the smell of a Mediterranean hillside in the late afternoon on a hot Summer’s day.

As you watch the magnificent gold, orange and red hues of sunset spilling themselves over the surface of the Mediterranean sea, you can also feel your own skin emanating the accumulated warmth: it does smell ever so slightly spicy, even resinous.

The transition is completed with images of driftwood, which could be felt at the beginning, turning smokier and darker in the drydown, touched slightly by incense.

Smooth, classy, easy to wear, easy to enjoy, works perfectly as an everyday scent in hot weather, preferably Spring and Summer.

Notes: lemon, cypress, bergamot, clary sage, cedarwood, gaiac wood, immortelle, fir balsam, incense.

POMELO RIVIERA

“Dear Jean-Philippe,
Good morning! I’ve just finished having my 9 AM breakfast in the garden set below this old house on the hill I’m staying at. You can see the Cannes riviera and sea in the distance, feel the wind bringing salty fresh air before the temperature rises. It’s not too hot yet, and sipping a freshly squeezed cold pomelo juice feels so refreshing, healthy, rejuvenating even. Not needing to rush anywhere feels so good!

I plan to read the local newspapers now (have to practice my French), and later I shall finish reading one of the books I brought with me. There’s a hammock waiting in the shade…I look forward to reading in it: this is going to be a very hot day.

The quality of air here is wonderful: these hills are touched by winds coming from the Alps at night, mixing with winds rolling inland from the sea during daytime: this is exactly the specific climate characteristic which makes Grasse valley one of a kind. Since I’m not far away from the old city, I can faintly feel the scent of jasmine in the air, being sprayed over the cobbly streets of Grasse: this is the season of jasmine harvest, and I do plan to visit one field in the surrounding area.

Tonight I’ll drive to Cannes: La Croisette at night is so lively and vibrant. I won’t stay long: all the buzz and bling there is fascinating but quiet nights in my “castle” on the hill are what I enjoy the most.
Best regards, E.”


Pomelo Rivera might probably become the most popular perfume in this collection.

Nomen est omen: it skilfully combines the freshness of big, juicy grapefruits (very realistic!) with salty-mineral-sea accords, adding a finely measured dose of smooth jasmine and orange blossoms.

The drydown is gently warming up your skin as if it were preparing it for the rest of the day ahead. This is a lovely, subtle and refreshing Summer fragrance with an aromatic-spicy character, quite elegant, and I can see myself wearing it all year round. I enjoyed it the most – this was a love at first sniff!

Notes: grapefruit, jasmine, bergamot, orange blossom, salt accord, rose, cedarwood.

RIVIERA DRIVE

“Dear Megan,
I’ve decided to drive over to Monte Carlo today, taking the longer route across Tourettes-sur-Loup and Vence, driving down towards Nice to join A8 highway, taking me straight to the tunnel leading to Monte Carlo/Monaco. It’s an interesting route, and I look forward to the moment when I drive out of the tunnel: the view of the sea is spectacular.

I’ll drive along the coast, savoring first glimpses of this fascinating city cut into surrounding stones. I intend to follow the F1 route through Monte Carlo (always wanted to do that in my car), visit the parks surrounding Fontvielle later, and just stroll around the town a bit. Hope they haven’t closed the road to the Casino, and that traffic won’t be that bad (those roads in the city seem so steep and narrow).

Shall be “home” in Grasse the same evening, probably visiting Menton on my way back.


See you soon in St. Maxime, will send more photos!
Love, E.”


Riviera Drive feels like a glass of cold champagne upon arrival in Monte Carlo on a bright summer day, the glass still sweating in the heat: its opening is fresh, bubbly and sparkling. The fragrance then calms down, in relaxed elegance: like tamed, meticulously shaped and groomed shrubs of rosemary and tall and elegant pine trees surrounding you in many gardens of Monte Carlo and Monaco.

I love its opening and a splendid feeling of citrusy-herbal-spicy lushness, with a dash of absinthe – very nicely executed, I wish it could last forever! As it develops in time, Riviera Drive tends to turn darker and is the most potent one in this collection: the cedar-musk-cashmeran accords become dominant and long-lasting: I could feel Riviera Drive on my skin the next morning, after applying sparingly the night before, with Cashmeran leaving a very long trail.

Perhaps the most masculine fragrance in this collection, featuring the almighty lemon-herbs-pine needles story, with added absinthe supplement, the thickness of thyme, a pinch of spicy cinnamon, and a noticeable dose of patchouli. Inspired by Hitchcock‘s movie “To Catch a Thief”! I guess any modern, contemporary “Cary Grant“-type of person would enjoy it. Sitting right next to me while I shift gears and drive that F1 track!

Notes: lemon, marjoram, rosemary, cedar leaf, absinthe, patchouli, cashmeran, cedar, musk.

The longevity of all EDP described is moderate to long-lasting on my skin (tested in conditions of extreme heat!), with moderate to strong sillage: noticeable, but never shouting. 100 ml bottles/195 EUR, for points of sale list please check out Atelier des Ors web page here.

Well, thank you Atelier des Ors for bringing back sweet memories: this time I didn’t have to travel far, just down the memory lane. There’s a catch, though: now I wish to return as soon as possible.

Next Summer…see you there!💙

The Plum Girl
Elena Cvjetkovic
Photos: The Plum Girl, Atelier des Ors
Samples were graciously provided by Atelier des Ors at Esxence Milano, opinions of my own.
Disclaimer

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

Atlante.
I remember it struck me as „interesting“ while I was sniffing and testing literally hundreds of perfumes at Esxence Milano earlier this year. I noticed then and there that quite a few „aquatic“ fragrances were released!

What was it that caught my attention then? On the first sniff – a refined mineral lightness, adding a strangely fresh silvery-pearly-gray feeling to the fragrance, resembling the scent of crushed, dry and empty seashells found somewhere on a shore of Atlantic ocean.

It felt pure and bright at first, but it also had a „darker“ side, like waves rolling deep below the surface, hiding something powerful, lurking in unpredictable depths of an ocean.

What happened here? Sarah&Sarah happened. Sarah Baker (the visual artist, owner of Sarah Baker Perfumes), and Sarah Mc Cartney (perfumer, owner of 4160 Tuesday Perfumes).

I see/feel Sarah Mc Cartney as a person who uses fragrances to communicate, scents and fragrant structures to express herself. I told her that, and she said, I quote: „I do magic. I lack the rigorous training to make things cheaply, but I don’t really mind.“ I’ll attribute this to her British sense of humor…

I talked to both, trying to learn more about the concept behind this perfume, ideas, and inspiration. If you don’t care about this and only need to know how it smells, feel free to scroll down to the part: „Atlante opens with…“ I won’t mind.

It all started in 2017, the code name for this fragrance-in-making was „Seashells“ at first. Baker sent to McCartney about 100 photos for inspiration, from Boticelli‘s „The Birth of Venus

…to various Versace fabrics with shell prints – this perfume was intended to be an addition to the Motif Collectionfeaturing the first four Sarah Baker fragrances: Lace, Tartan, Greek Keys, and Leopard).

Photos of Hollywood “mermaids” from the 1950s followed.
Imagine Lana Turner coming from the seashell or Daryll Hannah in Splash:

Or curvy feminine, pin-up beauties in bathing suits like Esther Williams:

As they both continued to work on it, the fragrance swayed in another direction, drifting away from fabric prints, growing its own big, shiny scales-covered mermaid tail. It took them one year to call it finished.

It seems that while the fragrance was macerating in McCartney‘s studio, the ideas were macerating in Baker‘s artistic mind:

„I was thinking of tales such as The Little Mermaid (not the Disney version, but the original, Hans Christian Anderson one – speaking about desire…and the perils of following a man blindly!) and her desire to escape the sea and go to the land. It was important to me to include ingredients such as ambergris and seaweed to add the saltiness. I love salty perfumes though they are challenging – I’m thinking about the saltiest perfume I know: Secretions Magnifique…This perfume (Atlante) feels to me like a mythical beach.“

Now, this is where I think something clicked: suddenly there were no pretty-looking bling-bling Hollywood style, softly-erotic pin-up mermaids anymore. The ocean current picked up and took Baker and Mc Cartney deeper, much deeper: to the other side of Big Blue, its vast depths and unsolved mysteries.

For Baker, the fragrance finally revealed it’s true colors: she associated it with the work of French surrealist filmmaker Germaine Dulac. To be specific, with her movie dating from 1928, „La Coquille et le Clergyman“ – being credited as a first Surrealist movie, later considered as a major Impressionist contribution.

Whatever it may be, the fact is that Dulac was one of the leading radical feminists of her day, a suffragette, too. I found this movie, watched it a couple of times, and I see „The Seashell and the Clergyman“ as a movie composed of rhythmic visual associations, very abstract and provoking, even disturbing. I got confused and asked Sarah Baker to connect the dots for me, she studied art – I’m really not so comfortable around Impressionism, or Surrealism for that matter.

She told me:

„This is why I like the „Seashell and the Clergyman“: not only the scene where he pulls off her shirt to reveal the bra made of seashells, but there’s a connection with the water, with the ships, as if she has the power of the sea behind her, the power which is preventing her from being captured/encapsulated.“

Deeper connection, one beneath the surface…

Reclaiming the power of Oceans, the Ur-Power of the Ur-Female, Mother Nature, the source of all life as we know it, the metaphor of freedom? Because gods or rulers of oceans and seas were always presented as – men.

Even the first-ever aquatic perfumes were classified as – “for men”. If you look back, for example, Kenzo Pour Homme in 1991 – using Calone for the first time – made that salty-woody feeling and immediate freshness radiating from it associated with sports and freshness, defining from then on aquatics as masculine perfumes with a carefree, relaxed attitude. Ha. Just thinking about this makes me laugh: isn’t it fascinating how marketing attempts of pushing sales of fragrances by stacking them in gender-dividing drawers seem…well – if nothing – so illogical.

Atlante, the Art&Olfaction Awards 2019 finalist, opens with a sparkling foam of breeze-light freshness brought to you by a brief and sharp rush of a very seaweed-salty tainted Yuzu, bright and optimistic (I always wish it could last longer). It felt like the breath of a seashell when you brake it open: salty fresh notes mixed with traces of algae covering the shell, which itself is smelling mineral, like particles of sand it once nestled in.

Not that you can draw the line where the fragrance shifts like a huge wave breaking up slowly on an ocean shore: this transition is leading to a totally different direction, yet it is smooth and comforting. Have you ever watched the waves while sailing high above them? They are mesmerizing, the more I watch them, the more I want to simply jump in and dive, dive away, deep down in depths of blue…

This wave you were diving in washes you gently ashore as the fragrance develops. It felt like being by the ocean on a cloudy day early in the morning. The air is salty, sand you are walking upon feels damp and grayish. You can feel the scent of lumps of seaweed scattered along the beach, some still swaying on the surrounding rocks. This is when I started to feel a transition: the saltiness of Atlante seemed touched by something mildly pink-sweet- berry-like? What a surprise, I asked and Sarah McCartney confirmed: strawberries! Totally unexpected and yet so perfectly meaningful! Mineral undertones are felt at all times, rising and fading away, like tidal waves.

As I told Baker, Atlante in this part of its development reminds me of the scent of a large seashell. Do you know the ones that you put to your ear and hear the sounds of the ocean? You are aware that it’s an illusion, yet if you close your eyes it feels exactly like being at the seaside…I can even smell the sea…

Later on, Atlante feels closer to earth, not drifting ephemerally anymore: the ocean is behind your back and now you are walking along the beach. Saltiness remains but it settles softly on big wood branches half-buried in sand, and the whole bold and optimistic atmosphere becomes more serene.

Like when you lay down on the empty beach, silently and quietly, listening to the sound of waves, feeling all those scents touching your skin as the wind brings them sporadically. rolls them all over you, until your clothes and skin are drenched with that atmosphere, and you feel deeply and completely connected to Nature. Not wishing to move or to go away…

Atlante at its drydown felt comforting, more intimate, slightly powdery salty, and tainted with austerity I tend to associate with Cedar pencil-shavings – a nice, even creamy counterpoint to overall mineral-fresh feeling.

Since I’ve used up the whole sample while writing this review, I sprayed sparingly (2 small spritzes at a time): on my skin its longevity is long-lasting and projection moderate, skin-close.

Notes: Yuzu, Seaweed, Orris, Lilly-of-the-valley, Mineral notes, Cedar, Ambergris, Seashells, and Driftwood.
(Regarding the notes, Baker told me they wanted to use „things found on the coast“, adding: „At the end, when the perfume was almost finished, we added some strawberry, which added luminescence…).

Atlante is available at Sarah Baker Perfumes website, 120GBP/50ml. Test before you buy a full bottle!

The Plum Girl
Elena Cvjetkovic

Photos: The Plum Girl, Sarah Baker Perfumes, Wikipedia
The sample was provided by Sarah Baker at Esxence Milan 2019, opinions of my own.
Disclaimer