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Memories of a date palm tree:

What if an old palm tree in an oasis somewhere far away in a desert could tell you about its memories? Fragrant memories of all events that it witnessed? Date palm trees are silent observers of life unfolding in their shade for ages. It would be unfair to describe them with only one note, the one trying to recall palm leaves, usually an accord painting a summer-tropical-relaxed vibe, as we have known it up to now. What about its flower? Trunk? Fruit? Surroundings? The whole experience? A fragrant ode to a palm tree?

Here it is, I present to you a completely new line of perfumes with quite an interesting story behind it! Was it simple to create a line of fragrances devoted to date palm trees? Quite controversial, I would say, considering that the richness of the Arabic language holds many names for varieties of date trees, stages of development and fruit types. Only one name for the delicate blooming of a palm tree: FO’AH. I wish I could smell this myself! This is what FO’AH’s name means and this is what they did: they arranged a meeting of the olfactory heritage of the Middle East and hillsides of Grasse – presented with an exclusive creation, never before used in perfumery. One more thing: I learned that creators were given open hands and a quite open budget as well in order to create something completely new.

Founders Ms. Émilie Dewell from France, and Mr. Abdulla Al Masaood from UAE worked for many months alongside Master Perfumer Olivier Pescheux (together with Mr. Michel Girard of Givaudan) until he was able to create this distinctive olfactory signature. The creators placed the date palm’s fronds, husk, and tiny flowers under a bell jar to analyze its natural fragrance in the desert air, then recreated the scent at laboratories in France…and thus was a new creation born. This exclusive note of the date palm tree is in the heart of all these excellent (unisex) perfumes!

It’s no secret that I love deserts, so I was really curious about this whole concept: my first encounter with FO’AH – Perfumes With a Soul happened at Esxence Milan earlier this year and I have had time since then to test them and wear them thoroughly. In my opinion, FO’AH is one of the best discoveries I made at Esxence this year!

Deserts. Traveled to many, some are still on my bucket list. When I say this, people often ask me why, and as it is when you are deeply in love, it’s hard to find adequate words. Somehow I feel the deepest connection to Nature at open sea or in the deep desert: I don’t feel alone there…under starry night skies or burning noon sun. Yes, a desert might look merciless at first sight, but it is not ever as empty as it might seem.

Just looking at a desert panorama calms all the interior noise: the wide-open space shuts down unimportant chatter, your eyes can rest and you can feel your heart, your inner peace…and yes, for me it’s a place where heaven and earth meet. And you learn to respect the desert as much as you should respect sea or any other force of Nature: as romantic as it may sometimes be, it surely has its moods. Desert is a treacherous mistress. It deserves respect. I have learned to respect palm trees as much as I respect fig trees on my island: trees of life. This is why meeting FO’AH for the first time made me so curious: their heart note is something completely new.

I also must say that that the presentation is meticulous and well thought about: every element echoes date palm trees. The glass facettes represent the trunk of a tree, the amber color reflects ripe dates, the rose gold shade is the color of sand. The cap is magnetic and bottles refillable and the white box is a pearly white monolith magnetic coffret, gracefully opening to reveal heavy glass bottle, beautiful and sophisticated:

I took the samples with me, took my time. As you might have noticed, I do tend to be a bit selfish with perfumes I fall in love with, listening carefully to their fragrant melody, letting myself feel them on all levels.

Here is my experience of three new FO’AH perfumes, released in 2018. Each fragrance carries a number. The significance of numbers is kept a secret, but they connect to intimate stories of one of the founders:

„What makes the desert beautiful is that somewhere it hides a well.“
-Antoine de Saint-Exupery


No. 02 – DAWN OF A NEW DAY: GREEN & CRISP

An oasis in deserts hides wells. The first thing you notice when approaching an oasis are tall palm trees, your eyes are hungry for the color of green, your skin thirsty for moisture they promise. After all the oranges and browns of a desert, green soothes your eyes and soul. As you move closer to high trees, guardians of an oasis, your skin can feel any and smallest whiff of moisture. Dawns feel green and crisp with cool early morning hours, brisk and sharp, frail in their beauty, so promising while still untouched by piercing rays of sunshine. Yet you know that it won’t be long until the sun rises again, slowly chasing freshness away. The warmth of a new day will always slowly creep in, temperature rising in hot waves will soon erase all traces of morning dew and the air in an oasis will become earthier. Instead of green palm tree leaves, you will start noticing darker tones of tree trunks, dry branches or heart of the palm tree, the bulge at its top. Scents will become warmer, more comforting, muskier.

FO’AH No 02 reflects just that feeling of first-morning dew in an oasis: the opening is crisp green, invigorating, awakening. It stirs you up and energizes with citrusy Bergamot and Lemon notes. This first impression of lemony freshness is nicely underlined by an exquisitely added juniper, giving it vibrancy. This moment of freshness lasts, although it is very refined and suave. If you are hungry for this kind of sparkle in a perfume, I am certain that you will enjoy it immensely.

Yet, things aren’t that simple: juniper note is behaving like a silver platter on which sliced lemon is served, but that is just a topping. Sparkling freshness is replaced by deeper tones, adding a vegetal feeling to it, rounding it up in a more serene sensation. Soon you will notice the richness of cedar, like veils of thick silk surrounding almost tart taste of the palm at its heart, revealing it deliberately slowly.

This multifaceted perfume then transforms into a chorus of musky, dry and warm incenses in contrast to the vivid top notes. It is complex, it is linear, it is multifaceted and opulent. Very refined, with great projection and longevity on my skin (6-7 hours), given that I wore it in hot Summer days with temperatures rising above 30C.

Like all the perfumes in this line, this is a beautifully crafted perfume, unfolding with so much grace in time. I enjoyed the contrast between sparkling headnotes and silky, smooth skin sensation of base notes, adding it a more masculine finish. It is the most exact reminder of early mornings in Summer, dawn, and daybreak in soft and sfumato tones, bursts of freshness rising from evaporating morning dew on the grass, plants and trees. Very creative, a bit retro in a most positive way. I could wear it as SOTD during warm Spring and Summer days, on gloomy and rainy Monday office day or as a Winter outdoor fragrance.

Top Notes: Bergamot, Lemon from Sicily, Juniper
Heart Notes: Cedar from Georgia, Palm Note
Bottom Notes: Incense, Musks

„You should not see the desert simply as some faraway place of little rain. There are many forms of thirst.“
– William Langewiesche


No. 11 – SALIN & DELICATE: SEA CRISTALS CAPTURED AT THE TIP OF THE PALM

Quite an unusual scent, yet somehow strangely familiar…

There are many palm trees on the island of Brac (located in the Adriatic Sea) where I own a summer cottage: usually planted years ago along main roads in a village or town center, near the sea. Just as in any Mediterranean island or city coast. In the afternoon, before sunset, you can feel refreshing wind breezing in (Maestral, slightly humming wind blowing from NW and from the sea to the land, signaling nice weather) and branches of palm trees murmur softly as this wind carries tiny drops of seawater upon them. An image of a late afternoon during Summer holidays, just before sunset: palm trees, sea breeze, salty air, sunkissed hair…and a perfume bottle underneath a palm tree:

Maestral wind kind of feeling flooded me after a first spray, I could almost feel the tingling sensation of seawater drying on my forearms and legs after taking a long swim.

The initial notes make their sensational appearance in the opening: yes, here come the bright citruses, but these are spiced up with a peppery sensation and followed by just a hit of lush yellow pear, a slight fruity note in this accord. This pear is soft, juicy and just a bit bitter. As it wears, I feel a slight touch of green florals drifting across the fragrance, clean and bright. This Lily-of-the-valley is very delicate and light, somehow supporting saltiness of this composition, which I found rather strange.

That citrusy-spicy-fruity-salty feeling slowly becomes tainted with warmer and dryer tones that wear all the way through the dry down. My beloved amber note provides a fine warm, golden glowing, very cozy feeling to it.

When you absorb this fragrance as a whole, you will notice that this time the palm tree is given a soft, velvety feel, although the spicy citruses&pears introduction is quite interesting for itself, a pure fantasy accord leading to voluptuous abstract composition. The velvety dry down is simultaneously seductive, caressing and intriguing and this is exactly why it reminded me of peaceful sundown somewhere in a shade of a palm tree on a beach walk. Very classy and anytime-wear fragrance, lasting in warm weather and heartwarming in colder days to come. Never too heavy, never too loud, exquisitely composed and very refined. I love it!

Top Notes: Citrus, Pepper, Pear
Heart Notes: Lily of the Valley, Palm Note
Bottom Notes: Dry Amber, Musks

„There is nothing more difficult for a truly creative painter than to paint a rose, because before he can do so he has first to forget all the roses that were ever painted.“
– Henry Matisse

No. 08 – FLORAL AND VOLUPTUOUS: WHEN ROSE CENTIFOLIA MEETS THE HEART OF THE DATE PALM TREE

Last, but not least, No. 08. Here comes yet another „rose“/ „oriental rose“, you might think.
Now, I really do think that the above-quoted saying by Matisse is so true in the world of perfumes as well: you really should forget all the roses based fragrances that you have ever smelled when sniffing a new one. This is difficult sometimes, but I really tend to regard each niche/artisan/indie perfume as a singular, unique, artistic expression. Some are better, some are worse, some resemble certain classics too much, some are just too plain and obvious. The beauty of the fragrant painting besides the impression, lies in the whole composition and artistic expression, too. It helps that rose is one of the most versatile ingredients in the perfumery and there are so many beautiful ways of using it!

Just as we have seen this years celebrations dedicated to harvesting of the Rose de Mai and just as Fete du Jasmin is about to take place in Grasse, I present to you FO’AH No.08: a sublimely rich and dew-drenched roses that bloom alongside fields of jasmine, breathing together with the opulent dark brown trunk of a palm tree, wrapped in oriental layers of sandalwood and patchouli at the dry down.

The first spray is pine sharp and green, with a fresh start. Jasmine is acting as a red carpet spread out to meet and greet the appearance of the Rose, sensual, turning it into a deeper, more penetrating fragrance.You have to wait patiently until it unfolds and unveils itself in all its might and beauty! Queen of the Day and Queen of the Night walk hand in hand, confident, strong, bewitching seductresses…

If No. 02 is dawn and No. 11 dusk for me, No. 08 is nightfall, clear night sky with full moon and myriad of stars visible. This is when you can feel night wind rushing through branches of tall, pine trees, Earth breathing accumulated warmth, the time of the day when crickets cease to sing and silvery moonlight softens shades and contrasts.

A very chiaroscuro composition, contrasting light and dark, pine freshness and Centifolia abundance, giving it an almost three-dimensional feeling with a touch of sandalwood. This is where I felt the palm note becoming earthy, acting as underlying principle, framing the whole rhapsody with a firm hand. An intense feeling but quite contemporary: a very refined, rich and abundant unisex rose.The rose is not fruity nor sparkly, it is a fine Centifolia, smelling deep, rosy-spicy, with light honey-like touch, opulent and moist.

It feels rich, sensual in the dry down with Tonka bean acting like a chameleon here: rounding up the whole composition, accentuating the oriental aspect of this perfume, perfectly blending with Patchouly and changing the whole composition’s balance towards a more masculine side. The overall impression is strong, intense and rich. It might be challenging in days of very intense heat with this powerful side, but I am absolutely smitten with this elegant approach of blending classic aspects of the Arab perfumery and balancing them finely with all the might of French tradition. Classic.

Top Notes: Jasmin, Siberian Pine.
Heart Notes: Absolut May Rose, Sandal Wood, Palm Note
Bottom Notes: Oak Moss, Patchouli, Tonka Bean

This is not all! I can hardly wait to tell you all about yet another new FO’AH perfume in this line (my favorite!), but I have been asked nicely to keep quiet until November release. No 14:

I only know that this is just the beginning of a wonderful friendship…and I am enjoying every step of it!

These fine perfumes are available in 75ml (185 EUR) and 125ml bottles (250 EUR), for all details about points of sale feel free to visit FO’AH website.

Elena Cvjetkovic, The Plum Girl Blog
Photos: The Plum Girl, FO’AH Press Materials, Dreamstime, Splash
Samples were kindly provided by FO’AH – Opinions of my own.
Disclaimer

Le Jardin Retrouve, a small, family owned artisan perfume company is dear to me. I am, let this be clear, a friend and a supporter, not only because Clara and Michael are ever so sweet and gentle people, but because the perfumes they produce are niche in every sense, of the finest French provenience, they have a rich and exceptional history and high quality standards. I did write about Le Jardin Retrouve earlier, check my post here and here – the review for „Cuir de Russie“ which was nominated in TOP 5 for The Fragrance Foundation Award 2018. – Editorial Excellence Online.

„The Third Way“

This time I will not write as much about Yuri Gutsatz, the founder of Le Jardin Retrouve and a perfumer par excellence. If you visit Le Jardin Retrouve’s shop in Paris (very close to the Arc de Triomphe), you will be shown a small exhibition of artifacts belonging to Yuri, old magazines with articles debating the art and craft of perfumery and fine perfumes that Yuri wrote, the lab where perfumes are prepared, some precious raw materials kept and, of course, current perfume line displayed. Yuri Gutsatz claimed a long time ago that, today’s so-called niche or artisan perfumery, is – „The third way“…and the only way for him.

When I took one of the old magazines and started to read an article written by Yuri Gutsatz„Disharmony in Perfumery“, discussing novel odorant materials at the time, the benefits that organic chemistry provides, very philosophically approaching the subject of „harmony“ and „disharmony“ in perfumery…and another article „Le Parfumeur et son art“, I told Clara that I really think that these articles should be reprinted, translated if necessary, as valuable thoughts and insights, coming from a respected insider, feeling that this man left an amazing, yet undisclosed heritage that the World should learn from. Little did I know then what surprise will follow!

A Hidden Treasure Box

Of course, not all the materials left by Yuri could be exhibited at the showroom, so the family had many boxes taken away and safely stored in a warehouse. One day, when they decided to explore further and see what is it that they have stored and is it worth keeping, they were not prepared for what was about to happen. As they were going through crates and boxes, they were not aware of what treasure was hidden there! They have found a box, never opened before. In it were notebooks, handwritten by Yuri Gutsatz. Hundreds and hundreds of perfume formulas! To be more precise, over 2000 formulas he had recorded! A hidden treasure box!

#perfumerevivalproject

They decided to continue with the revival of Yuri’s formulas but to limit the number in order to make the production possible for a small niche perfume house. Of course, old formulas needed to be tested first in their original concept, adjusted due to current regulations, reformulated even: this is why they decided to entrust Maxence Mutt, a young Givaudan perfumer and their in-house perfumer to go through 100 formulas, select 15 and then enable the whole team to pick out 4 old/new perfume formulas. Mind you that these formulas were created in a big-time span, from 1935. – 2005.!

On March 22nd, 2018. the final revelation took place: Le Jardin Retrouve decided to include their fans, buyers, bloggers and online community to test, choose and vote which fragrance shall be revived (first…I hope others will follow soon). 500 people from all over the world are to register and vote, and the winning fragrance is to be released in October 2018!

On April 13th four samples, marked only with 4 different colors, were shipped worldwide and the sampling fun began!

Samples were marked Black, Red, Green, and Yellow, named Mystery Fragrances, with no notes listed. Only later on, hints were given:

#1/4 = Year of inspiration: 1954. Date of creation: 1967. A reinterpretation of „fougere“, opens with warm notes of tobacco, a counterpoint of lavender, vetiver with powerful and woody scent brings the richness to this perfume.
#2/4= Date of creation: 1963. An opulent oriental, written in chiaroscuro. The start is bright and lively with slightly green bergamot. A floral heart expresses a beautiful Bulgarian rose and a hint of vanilla. A mystery touch is introduced with oakmoss…
#3/4 = Date of creation: 1973. A modern interpretation of the gentian, build around aromatic notes like thyme, carrot seeds, and tagetes, some sweetness of ambrette is added, bringing warmth. The scent rests on a bed of soothing white musk.
#4/4 = Date of creation: 1981. A solar fragrance – notes of white flowers built around jasmine from India, ylang-ylang from Madagascar and orange blossom from Marrocco. A luminous scent, reminiscent of summer days and Morrocan gardens.

What did I do? I took a free weekend to crack the code and decide upon which one to vote for! I must say that I focused so much on spotting all the notes in perfume samples and matching the descriptions with colors, that I did not have time to think much about stories they whisper or places that they take me to…But they certainly will. Four samples marked black, red, green and yellow and me. Here we go…


My notes and thoughts:


#4/4 = Yellow

Fresh. Lily-of –the-Valley? White flowers. A Spring scent on my first sniff. Bubbly, starts out crisp, subdues after approximately 20 minutes into a much sweeter flow, revealing a heart of jasmine. Orange blossoms protrude randomly, smelling like an orange tree in full bloom in May. Traces of sage appear, subtle and warm. Suitable for sunny, Spring and Summer days, but also a very fresh and clean “office frag”. The first image that popped in my mind? Corsica. I will call it „Monks Garden“ – after one of the gardens of the Couvent Saint Francois, near Oletta, Corsica.

#3/4 = Green
(Note: the color of perfume is very light. The lightest. So, I thought: green dot, this must be #3/4…)
Thyme it is! At the very first sniff! Bright, optimistic, uplifting. It made me focus better, cleared my thoughts. Green it is! After a while, it shifts and becomes warmer. Ambrette kicking in? Possibly, but it is almost gourmand, silky…something like Acqua Allegoria Gentian (and I do hate to compare perfumes to one another!), but not so feminine…at least, not on me…It is bright, it is light, it is vivid but only an hour later it becomes darker, muskier, yet very herbal. White musk perhaps…I would wear it all year round. Enjoy it with an Aperol Spritz, for instance! What does it remind me of? It is “clean”, “green”, “precise” and “eco friendly”…I will call it „Swiss Kiss“ as one of the most famous Gentiana gardens is located in Switzerland, in the village of Leysin…I love this one! Very youthful!

#2/4 = Black
(Note: the color of perfume is darker than the others…possibly – the “Oriental”…)
No doubt about it! I didn’t need to finish the second spritz, I knew: this is the “Oriental”!
Lemon fresh, bergamot infused, almost cocktail like sparkly opening, but even in the start, it is loaded with whiffs of gentle vanilla sweetness, until it becomes darker, like somebody pulled the curtains on the window and closed them…Shades and shadows playing on a sunny day, obscured by heavy curtains, a vase full of blood-red roses is on the table in the middle of this room, scents of oakmoss? -or is it musk present as well? – rising and starting to lead…this is not just another oriental, by no means: I like the unexpected twists and turns of clove, I guess. Very sleek, smooth, sensual, in the drydown quite sexy, with unexpected freshness bursts. Long-lasting. I will name it: for me, this is “Ahaggar”. Named after Ahaggar Mountains, a highland region in the central Sahara, southern Algeria…

#1/4 = Red
Warm, smokey, woody. Like an old, ancient mountain…Fine play of notes, retro in a most fascinating way, a fireplace scent. Like eating dark chocolate with orange peels, drinking coffee and having a glass of fine red wine by the fireplace…Tobacco? Yesss, like dry tobacco leaves, Virginia. The sort my great grandmother farmed and dried…Lavender is present, but in such an unobtrusive way, simply underlining the main accords and giving a dose of freshness to those dark brown tones. The most „masculine one“? I am not sure. I enjoy wearing it, maybe because of vetiver, I feel, enhancing this composition later on. Like a warm Indian Summer wind, somewhere in the open…Elegant, timeless, refined, addictive. Suitable for cold Autumn or Winter days, hot Summer nights, formal occasions or just whenever you need to feel a warm, reassuring hug of your fine perfume…I will call it „Pushkin’s Duel“ and will not explain why 😀

And my vote goes to….

Since I must choose one, I had to think about them and wear them for a couple of days. If I think about making my choice as a declared so-called „Oriental“- lover, there is no doubt. Black it is. And current Le Jardin Retrouve’s collection certainly lacks an oriental one.

On the second thought, if I think about this matter as a perfume advisor of a perfume house, my choice is – the Red one. A fougere. Because it is all about an idea, because it is unisex (some may argue that a fougere is meant to be more of a masculine scent, but the original, first fougere was – in fact – feminine…) and because it is the traditional theme, very much central in any fragrance wheel. You’ve got to have at least one fougere in your collection! You can pair it with a T-shirt or a black-tie, an evening dress or flip-flops: it is not just a perfume. It is a mood, a feeling and a sense of silence. Classy yet comfortable. Like a warm hug. It makes me feel relaxed, confident and beloved. A bit crazy, if I may say so, in terms of being very self-assured. In these times we live in, a warm hug is something we need on a daily basis…

If vote I must, here it goes:
1. Red Dot Perfume
2. Black Dot Perfume
3. Green Dot Perfume
4. Yellow Dot Perfume.

This is just my personal choice order, but again, if I think about marketing these perfumes, the order of release would be: Red – Green – Black – Yellow.

Go, RED, go!

Update! 01.12.2018.

The Black Dot won. Yet, the Red Dot was produced as well. Finally, here it is: Bois Tabac Virginia – Limited Edition, signed and numbered:



The Plum Girl
Photos: The Plum Girl
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