Days turning into months have quickly passed since Esxence – The 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!
Less than three weeks to Esxence–The Scent of Excellence in Milan! So much to do: breathe, Elena, breathe…(and don’t forget to pack a pair of sneakers). Spring has sprung and so have many new perfumes!
I wrote a short overview/review of St.Clair Scents perfumes not long ago. As I continued to wear Frost, it just asked for more. When a fragrance keeps calling me, I answer. With love.
“In the beginning there was earth, wood, stone, metal and leather…”
These are the primal elements according to Mr. Bertrand Sonnier, owner of this artisan perfumes company for twenty years. The work of Jardine de France began more than 100 years ago in Amboise: still manufacturing, still featuring an in-house perfumer – Justine Brivet, always giving tribute to Burgundy/Bourgogne, the heart of France – a magic place with a long and proud history.
Jardin de France is all about tradition, authenticity, craftsmanship and the quality of raw materials.
Sources d’Origine Collection features Terre Initale, a woody-aromatic-fruity tribute to Mother Earth, Bois Premier – a woody-spicy-green ode to ancient woods and primordial trees, Pierre Originelle – a woody-spicy-powdery fragrance, Metal Absolu – a woody-aldehyde-spicy perfume and Cuir Eternel – oriental-woody-leather eau de parfum.
Some months ago I received two samples of new Sources d’Origine perfumes. They did present them at ESXENCE Milano earlier this year, I remembered. The package was interesting. Simple glass vial samples. No perfume notes written, no inspirational text, no interpretations or suggestions: just fragrances and a note saying that these two will complete the collection in September 2018. I like that, that’s how I prefer to meet new perfume: in my own time, exploring it and listening to its fragrant story. Giving the perfume a chance to speak for itself.
Primal elements. When I think about primal elements, I automatically think about the ancient concept of the famous 4: earth, water, air and fire. All ancient cultures had their lists, trying to understand and explain the world surrounding them, paving way for modern science.
Another association: scenes from the Luc Besson movie “The Fifth Element”! I think we all remember the Diva/Plavalaguna song!
Which leads me to say: with perfumes, WE are the fifth element!
Air. What does air actually smell like? Air itself has no smell. Well, it does to you, regardless of what chemists say. Yes, it is odorless – odors we feel are produced by airborne particles released by things in the environment around us.
It all depends on your perception, place where you live, your surroundings and olfactory impressions. It might smell like fresh grass, wildlands, seaside, woods somewhere high up in mountains, mornings just before snow falls or moments after rainfall. You might already have your set of associations due to all the perfumes with “Air” in their name you ever smelled, too.
Fire. What does fire smell like? The fire itself has no smell, but things it burns give it smell we feel. If you try to imagine or recall the smell of fire, what will you feel? The scent of dry wood burning in the fireplace, paper vanishing in flames, rubber in clouds of smoke, autumn leaves, mrryh or tobacco: some are pleasant, some not…
Your perception. The olfactory impressions you gathered in your life. They matter.
Your skin, mood, feelings.
An olfactory impression of fire and air? You are the fifth element defining it!
Let me tell you more about these two fine perfumes: I feel that Jardin de France really should be mentioned more! Sometimes it seems to me that the same names, houses, and perfumes are constantly talked about, and some really fine perfumes almost neglected, not given enough attention.
I think Jardin de France deserves it and these were my impressions after several wearings:
Well, this will certainly make you stop thinking “fresh and light” when you see “air” in the name of perfume in the future! This air is breathing heavy, like wet earth during a storm! Thunder and lightning and that sensation when you are looking at a storm approaching, even before it starts to rain. You see dark clouds moving in, the wind rises, thunder is rumbling above your head yet it feels so good to sit beside an open window and breathe this moment in before lightning bolts scare you and heavy raindrops start hitting on the window glass. This potent rumbling of thyme with pepper notes is pleasing but what I find most enjoyable is this tuberose -ginger relationship! I will say this now: whatever. Forget the notes list and just follow your feeling! The opening felt impressive, but let me reassure you: the smooth and hugging amber dry-down will soothe your soul.
The Perfumer’s Note: “If the creation of an air-themed perfume was obvious, we wanted to take the opposite of the fresh and light air that everyone expected to create an intense and powerful “air” which astonishes and disturbs”.
Notes: Bergamot, Thyme, Pepper – Tuberose, Ginger – Patchouly, Amber
Very uplifting at the beginning, a wake me up call, quite sparkling. Later on, it becomes quieter in a very refined way, and I can’t explain why it feels like Indian Summer to me: there’s warmth and there’s coldness. Rose is felt in the air, with a surprise: you cannot see roses in your garden anymore, it’s too late in the year for that, yet that makes you enjoy even more the one you bought this morning at your local florist’s. This rose is big, pink, and just when you are placing it in a vase you can feel a small whiff of its scent. That makes you feel good as you look at it, hoping it will last for more than a couple of days.
Incense dances slowly around it, swirling in the background, a back vocal on a small and intimate stage, like a thin, silver, functional picture frame. What I feel is a deliberate play with light and shadows, bitterness and sweetness, finely blended with evidently high-quality ingredients.
The Perfumer’s Note: “Timut Pepper is used for its frank and fresh attack that perfectly illustrates the bright and sparkling element that I wanted to create. I also tried to break the codes of incense in order to get away from the sacred aspect that is often associated with it.”
Notes: Timut Pepper, Orange, Elemi- Black Tea, Rose – Incense, Cypress, Cedar of Virginia
These two new additions to Le Jardin de France’s Sources d’Origine Collection are presented at Pitti Fragranze 2018:
These two new additions will be available from October 2018. You can find their chosen retailers on Jardin de France website!
Do take a look at my Instagram account: I will report from Florence! My Pitti Report will follow as well.
The Plum Girl
Photos: The Plum Girl archive, Le Jardin de France
Samples: Provided by Le Jardin de France, opinions of my own.
Every time I think about Barcelona I hear Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Caballe (Barcelona! It was the first time that we met…Barcelona! How can I forget!), see broken pieces of colorful ceramic tiles forming a big lizard, I feel sea salt touching fingertips of Christopher Colombo high up on his monument and hear parrots nesting on a palm tree.
Freddie’s song sparkles and echoes on Placa d’Espana. The Magic Fountain is a free music and light show that is not to be missed, a fantastic display of water, light, and music.
I keep returning to this city, each and every time discovering it all over again. The most photogenic city in the World, they say? It certainly is! When you look at the sandy beech of Barcelonetta (just a walking distance from Plaza Catalunya)
or Rambla with its distinctive pavement, the almost finished Cathedral Sagrada Familia
or Parc Guell
you will find this true. These are must-see spots but there are so many hidden streets and corners, palaces and old Roman ruins, gardens brimmed with lush flowers and amazing fountains.
I’ve always had a soft spot for cities located at any sea or ocean coastline, I can’t imagine living far far away from the sea. The Mediterranean culture is a strong connection for me: I feel at home in Barcelona!
Just take a look at numbers: more than 270000 people living there are – foreigners. Roughly 1 million tourists visit Barcelona per week and this is the largest metropolis on the Mediterranean sea!
The scents and sounds of Barcelona…mornings are slow until 10 AM but nights are lively after 10 PM!
I think it’s a great city for art and history lovers but foodies and hedonists as well. Like when you sit down in a restaurant with your friends after sunset, order amb tomàquet (toasts smeared with tomato, salt, olive oil, and garlic), a pitcher of Sangria or any other fine wine from this region and nibble on so many varieties of – tapas.
Or when you enter the famous Bouqueria Market, where you can find the essence of Barcelona’s food culture – meat and poultry, local hams and sausages, an amazing assortment of fish, baked goods, condiments, cheeses, olive oils, fruits, vegetables and jamon jamon hanging everywhere!
Yet, this city is full of contrasts: you might want to visit the Picasso Museum and get lost deep in the Gothic Quarter of the city (my favorite part of Barcelona), where a maze of winding streets leads to pretty squares and beautiful buildings.
Don’t look at the map too often: the beauty of this part of the city is in wandering the backstreets and discovering the hidden museums, churches, markets, and landmarks for yourself…and it does remind me of Carner’s new perfume Megalium (read my full review Carner Barcelona – the new collection), when I take a closer look at these remains of an ancient Roman temple:
Carner Barcelona, definitely. You get the precise feeling and full meaning of their perfumes here. Just as you can easily connect with Ramon Monegal and Rosendo Mateu, together with Santi Burgas proudly exhibited in the spotlight of niche perfumeries. Don’t miss stopping and shop at La Basílica Galería, located between the ancient walls of a building in the historic Jewish quarter of Barcelona or Perfumerías Regia, related to the Museum of Perfumes. The Regia boutique goes back to 1928. when a young perfumer Josep Giralt decided to participate in the World Exhibition of 1929. In Barcelona. His small shop became a sensation and a quite exquisite perfumery.
There are many other olfactory connections to Barcelona. Let’s not forget that the mighty Puig is also based here, with owned brands such as Carolina Herrera, Nina Ricci, Paco Rabanne, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Penhaligon’s and L’Artisan Parfumeur; licenses such as Prada, Valentino, Christian Louboutin and Comme des Garçons and revenues of €1,935 million in 2017!
Some new brands emerged as well: during my stay I had an opportunity to meet Romy Kowalewsky, the founder of 27_87 („I gave the World the date and year of my birth, won’t tell you the month, you don’t need to know my horoscope sign!“, she laughs…).
It took her five years to start from a written project: determination and passion combined created unconventional perfumes. She invited perfumers Max Buxton (with countless niche projects behind him), Daniela Andrier (many Prada creations) and Shyamala Maisondieu (worked for Diesel, Lanvin, Tom Ford etc.) to create something – completely different. Bold and ah! so Millennial? Her story is very inspiring.
So here we are, talking about Wanderlust, Elixir de Bombe, Hamaca and #hashtag perfumes:
My more detailed review of 27_87 will follow, and I am certainly looking forward to something that’s Romy now working on, soon to be revealed (psssst!).
When you start walking the wide sidewalk of boulevard Passeig de Gracia, very near to Gaudi’s Casa Milà and Casa Batllo there is a small niche perfumery close to those magnificent buildings:
Perfumerías Regia. On its entrance only those who are searching for it will notice this sign:
Museum of Perfumes or Museu del Perfum in Catalan!
You have to walk through the perfumery and at its end is a narrow hallway leading to an ordinary door, locked and so ordinary looking. The entrance ticket is 5EUR and just me and my friend were there at the time, although crowds of tourists swarmed this street.
At the first glimpse, I was overwhelmed! This collection holds more than five thousand perfume related artifacts and it is a must-see place for any perfume lover!
Well, for the next two hours all you could hear coming from that direction were my oooh’s and aaaah’s: I was in heaven!
Let me show you just small bits and pieces of this amazing collection: the first part of the collection features Egyptian, Etruscan, Greek and Roman containers for fragrance:
Then you can move on to the second part, with creations of Guerlain, L.T. Piver, Roger & Gallet, Jean-Marie Farina, and others:
Further on, various brands from different parts of the World are displayed, vintage beauties:
I even found this display featuring vintage Neva perfumes from Croatia (Croacia), fragrances my grandmother used on everyday basis:
And so much more!
When you visit Barcelona, take it easy. Slow down. Look around you and enjoy!
Start your day with a cup of coffee with milk (cafe con leche), get used to crowds of tourists and try to siesta.
Learn some Catalan: Bon dia or Bona tarda is not that hard to remember. I always ask: Com es diu en catala?/How do you say…in Catalan – because I genuinely do want to learn…and no n’hi ha prou amb una llengua! (One language is never enough…)
Barcelona – La musica vibró
Barcelona – Y ella nos unió
And if God willing we will meet again, someday…
The Plum Girl
Photos: The Plum Girl
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