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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

I made a mistake. I read reviews, discussions, pros and cons, meaningless video acclamations or words of disagreement, so that’s why I avoided sampling it until now: Jungle Jezebel from Artist Edition Collection, by Sarah Baker Perfumes, created by Miguel Matos, renown writer for Fragrantica, and a perfumer. When a visual artist teams up with the “bad boy” of perfumery, there are some boundaries to be pushed!

If you don’t like your perfumes to provoke – don’t.

If you don’t like the bottle with a blond wig and false eyelashes – don’t buy it, there’s a “regular” bottle. Just keep in mind that the other one fits the concept of Divine perfectly.

Jungle Jezebel will do everything but leave you indifferent. It starts off with a punch of pink bubble gum chewed and rolled around big, meaty lips. Shocking? Maybe, but you can’t stop sniffing it, just to see what happens next.

This wham-bam-in-your-face “cheap thrill” doesn’t last long, and just about when you think it’s going to turn into sweet mashed bananas and almost plastic fruits, the fragrance shows its vulnerable floral side, even a little powdery ylang-ylang twist.

Nothing is as it seems at first sniff: civet rises, deep, creamy, sultry flow begins, flirting with tuberose in a loud animalistic trance, big bubble gum balloons appearing every now and then, popping loud, and amongst all that crazy rhythm pearly drops of ylang-ylang begin to glide down the sweaty, shiny skin.

It’s strange, it’s weird, it’s different, but you still can’t stop thinking about it!

This whole wild, under-the-spotlight, percussion colored ride settles down with quite retro-elegant sandalwood-tonka-bean tones, turning later on woody and moist dripping vanilla sweet, making you wonder how in the world did “that” become “this”?

Does it have character? Tons of it. Is it pleasing all the time? It depends on what you find pleasing because what it definitely isn’t is – a mass pleaser.

Will you like it? I can’t tell, just make sure to sample before you buy. Will you forget it? No, never.

Just like Divine. Now go and take a look at a Jungle Jezebel song video, and you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.

Nothing is as it seems to be…or maybe it is: Jun-gle Jezebel, Jungle Jezebel: now who are you calling Jezebel???

Notes: Orange, banana, grapes, peach, bubble gum, rose, tuberose, ylang-ylang, amber, sandalwood, civet, vetyver, vanilla, tonka bean.

Jungle Jezebel is Extrait du Parfum, released in 2018. Divine bottles are limited edition – 250 with signed and numbered authenticity card. Available at Sarah Baker Perfumes.

The Plum Girl

Elena Cvjetkovic

Photos: The Plum Girl, Sarah Baker Perfumes

Samples were provided by Sarah Baker at Esxence 2019, opinions of my own.
Disclaimer

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
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