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Diane wrote to me on one day, from the Champlain Valley in Vermont, USA. I admitted openly that I’m always curious about American niche, artisan and „naturals“. This is still a huge terra incoginito for me.

I also told her that sending samples doesn’t guarantee a review, that I do not have time nor will to write negative reviews, and that I’m not impressed by any or all previous reviews she might have got, blogs or vlogs or mentors she mentions (it’s all there, in the „Disclaimer“ section of my web page…).

She was quite assertive (in the most positive and charming way), I’m always curious, and weeks later (!!!), the sample vials were on my desk. Just in time, somehow, since I really got a little bored with recently worn samples.

Champlain Valley. I had to look it up on a map. During my numerous visits to States, the closest I got to Vermont is – Boston, and no, I was not aware (until now) that Diane St. Claire makes the best butter in the USA! It is even said that her butter is better than the butter from Normandy (and I know how THAT butter tastes!). Butter is a complicated product, trust me on that one, and hand-made butter, quality of which is depending on the sort of cows, the season of the year and grass they eat, each batch different – is hard to find these days.

Let’s say Diane is an artisanal dairy product maker. Niche butter? Oh, yeah! You know what we are talking about here if you’ve ever tried quality, home-made butter. Well, Ms. St Claire certainly conquered that particular niche. I’m pretty sure that’s not the only niche she shines in. Or will shine in.

How in the world did she get to make perfumes? Well, I would say that she set her mind on doing that. Making fragrances, scented images of her world.

From what I have learned, she approached perfumery as studiously as butter-making: reading, researching, learning, and practicing. For four years. It is not by mere accident that she came upon Ms. Eliza Douglas, trained in Grasse, NY based, and took classes with her. Years passed, mentors helped a little: Luca Turin and Christophe Lauamiel. The feedback they gave her helped her grow (oh! I’m so genuinely fond of people who take feedback for exactly what it is- feedback, and learn from it!).

Her story is very inspirational: she is a living proof that you can, provided that you are goal-driven and just as strong-willed – become a perfumer, even though you are geographically restricted, have no logistics to dig into top quality materials, no money to throw around and no eager investors. Thank you, Diane. This is beginning to sound like a typical American success story, forgive me. Only she knows what it took to make these perfumes happen, and only she knows how it is to expose them and herself to the world of perfumes now.

Three fragrances were launched in this year: Gardner’s Glove, Frost and First Cut. Naturals (80% natural raw materials), hand-made, portraiting the world she lives in. Authentic.

Diane is talking about her world, in olfactory language. From available information, certain revisions have been made, and the samples sent to me are, generally speaking, 20-25% concentration ones, up to now available in 13ml size, dabbers, not sprays, but that will change.

What pleases my nose the most is that Diane St. Claire, although working with natural materials, didn’t fall into the pitfall of natural-made perfumes – very often lacking either rhythm, performance, lasting or sillage.

If compared to some relevant other naturals, the longevity is pretty good, if compared to so-called „bombs“, well… then we are talking apples and pears. You simply have to give „naturals“ time to develop, let them breathe, connect to your skin: time is their valuable resource. Patience, my friends, patience is a valuable resource in the world of quick fixes and one-sniff judgments: there’s no superficial stardom here. Authenticity, grit, and sincerity: oh, how good it is to feel you!

Allow me to introduce to you this fragrant trio:

The Gardner’s Glove

„If you work amidst the thorn and bramble, you know that the gardener’s glove is a soft, pliable leather, worn down from work, in all the right places.

The scent carries the background fragrance of the glove-tanned, aged leather, woods and soil—along with the ambrosial elements of the garden—sumptuous jasmines, roses, green blossoms, and ripe fruit.“

There’s no bloom or fruit of your labor in a garden that comes without dealing with thorn and bramble. If you have ever done any gardening, you might know how satisfying that feeling is.

The Gardner’s Glove took me instantly to my small Mediterranean garden in the backyard of my small cottage on the island of Brac. I have tried to tame that garden, so help me God, I did. I smiled when first sniffing it.

It perfectly describes my struggle with Nature. My old gardening gloves kept in a shed. Soaked in red soil, traces of plants and pieces of wood all over them. Ones that have seen some decent gardening, well-worn but kept anyway because they are comfortable, fit my hands perfectly, cozy and reliable. Yes, they do have their own smell: I can find them in the tools shed easily, in a box on a top shelf on the left…they smell of simple pleasure that gardening provides.

It’s all about that moment when I am kneeling on the soil: sitting back, lifting my head to rest a little bit. Noticing flowers blooming at the far end of the garden, under a linden tree…bees are buzzing, and your senses sharpen. As you inhale deeper, you can feel the touch of rose-and-jasmine vibe at this fragrances’ heart.

It reminds me of my little garden in May, and my (failed) attempts to plant tomato sprouts. I am aware that this is too late a season to plant tomatoes in the hot Mediterranean climate, yet I’m doing it anyway: simply because I love the smell of those frail, soft plants. That bitter touch makes the final leathery feeling fresher than expected, strangely comforting, relaxing and refreshing. What a wonderful day!

  • Top Notes: Meyer Lemon, Tomato Leaf Absolute, Galbanum, Bergamot
  • Middle Notes: Jasmine Sambac Absolute, Jasmine Organic Extract, Apricot, Black Currant Bud Absolute, Linden Blossom, Lily, Rose Absolute
  • Base Notes: Leather, Saffron, Patchouli, Ambers, Vetiver, Benzoin Resin, Castoreum, Fir Needle

Frost

„An homage to the great New England poet, Robert Frost, whose summer writing-cabin in the woods still stands a mere 25 miles from our farm.

Many of Frost’s poems are filled with olfactory imagery.

This scent follows the story of Frost’s poem, “To Earthward” which describes the transformation of youthful love, from “sweet like the petals of the rose” and “sprays of honeysuckle” to painful love, which stings like “bitter bark”, “burning clove” and “rough earth.”

This scent weaves together accords of clove and smoke; bitter woods and earth; sweet rose and rose geranium; sprays of honeysuckle and sparkling citrus.“

Oh, Frost! This fragrance is the one I expected the most from! My first thought: how bold it is to name a fragrance after the poet I love so much, one of the most celebrated poets in America!

TO EARTHWARD/Robert Frost

„I crave the stain

Of tears, the aftermark

Of almost too much love,

The sweet of bitter bark

And burning clove….”

Love. The soft petal of the rose. And burning clove…

Sensual, erotic, romantic and seducing, a poem playing with rhyme and emotions.

The perfume? Forget the listed notes! They cannot bring you the feeling of this fragrance, not even close. This „natural“ is finely balanced: it sways like a hammock on an early Autumn day, from cold shades under a tree to warm rays of sunshine on an opulent, warm and rich Autumn day. Tantalizing, and my favorite!

The first impression of citruses fools you in believing that this whiff of freshness is the best you’ll get out of it.

Slowly but unavoidably, darkness arises: rich and opulent, smoky, earthy, and dark cocoon envelops you slowly, and you cannot be certain where will it take you…but it feels so good. It shifts like a shadow: clove to roses, roses to the damp earth, damp earth to cozy woody smoke, smoke to leaves in a forest, leaves to spice, spices to patchouli, leathery patchouli…

As you let go, let it breathe and work its way, this fragrance simply glides in such a comforting way. Last rays of sunshine at dusk, a comforting hug on a cold Autumn morning. Adult love.

  • Top Notes: Bergamot, Mandarin Yellow and Green, Coriander, Petitgrain sur fleur, Meyer Lemon
  • Middle Notes: Honeysuckle Accord, Rose Geranium, Elderflower Absolute, Petitgrain Absolute
  • Base Notes: Cistus, Labdanum Absolute, Vanilla Absolute, Vetiver , Cedar, Smoke, Clove Absolute

 

First Cut

„The hay harvest is the focus of every dairy farmer’s summer, keeping the fields regenerating and providing hay for the cows in winter.

The mowing and drying of native grasses, clovers, wildflowers, and legumes takes three days of sunshine and many hours of hard work.

This scent is of meadows, herbaceous and green, with wildflowers strewn throughout and splashed with radiant sunshine.“

As with all „naturals“ in my experience, First Cut is something completely different on a blotter than on my skin. Once again, I must say: please do forget the listed notes once you spray it on. Just follow your nose and your feelings, travel wherever it takes you, and this fragrance will most certainly push you down your own rabbit hole.

Don’t we all have at least childhood memories of the scent of freshly cut grass? Of rolling down a grass-covered hill? Well, I do, and this is why this fragrance made me smile: after initial burst of yummy citruses, it felt like being in my grandmother’s kitchen, smelling fresh and sweet at the same time: rosemary and basil might have triggered that feeling, I instantly remembered that big pitcher of cold home-made lemonade with basil on the kitchen table. What I enjoyed most is the immortelle-hay-tobacco honey-like accord!

What surprised me was an exquisite dry vanilla touch: very refined, functional in underlining the whole finishing touch, quite natural smelling in the best possible way. This kind of vanilla I’ll take any day!

  • Top Notes: Bergamot, Yuzu, Rosemary, Basil, Tomato Leaf Absolute
  • Middle Notes: Lavender Absolute, Rose De Mai, Rose Geranium, Immortelle Absolute
  • Base Notes: Hay Absolute, Tobacco Absolute, Oakmoss, Vanilla Absolute

Just while I was finishing this review, Diane told me that her new fragrance is macerating! Casablanca: “rich, resinous, and juicy”:

In the meantime, she has also changed the bottles: instead of 13ml ones (65$), soon you will be able to order 30ml bottles! I tried to convince Diane to keep the 13ml ones as a travel pack offer, I hope she does! Samples will also be sprayers instead of dabbers.

St. Claire Scents made my day: these are honest, natural smelling fragrances with surprisingly good construction and obvious use of fine materials. Not herbal, not patchouli-oily or remedy-like, not „flach“ as some „naturals“ come, these fragrances do have interesting development phases, rhythm, and melody to them. Non-pretentious, down-to-earth, sincere, so…American, in a good, innovative way: I dare say that many high-end niche perfume houses in Europe should really take a sniff, just to remind themselves of long-lost sincerity! Back-to-roots niche, with honest core values, and I appreciate it.

The Plum Girl/Elena Cvjetkovic

Photos: The Plum Girl archive, St. Claire Scents

Samples provided by St. Claire Scents, opinions of my own.

Disclaimer

Here I go, again: the Danube seems to be the highlight of my recent city breaks!

Budapest is close enough for me (well, actually, every city in Europe is pretty much – close….) to hopp off on a short city-break, and yes – it seems to be getting more and more popularity lately, becoming more and more interesting touristic destination, and no wonder:  Budapest is the tenth-largest city in EU, a Beta+ Global City and it is cited as the “Europe’s 7th most idyllic place to live” by Forbes.

There are so many museums and cultural institutions, the city is flooded with geotermal springs and wellness spots, it’s old Nyugati Railway station was built by the Eiffel Company of Paris in 1877., and it has the second-oldest metro line in the world, functioning very smoothly.

Yes, the river Danube is blue here and cruising along is really a wonderful experience!

Beware, niche perfume lovers: Budapest provides a great offer! There are four niche perfumeries in the center of the city:

Madison Perfumery is located near the Opera – Calea Doorobantilor nr 152. Sadly, the building was under reconstruction when I arrived, but I promised to return soon so I’m looking forward to revisiting and taking my time in Madison. It showcases leading niche houses, carefully cured beauty products…and coffee! It’s founders crave fine coffee and they are sharing with their clientele the high quality, small-batch beans of local specialty roaster. Next time I will most certainly devote more time to Madison!

There is also Cherry Garden Niche Parfumeria close to Opera house – Nagymezo u.47 and Le Parfum located in the Hotel Carlton Ritz, both with fine, although pretty mainstream niche houses. Le Parfum also offers Perfume Workshops – you need to book in advance.

Well, the whole idea of taking this trip (pssst! My family didn’t really know that until we got there!) was, quite honestly, because Rassei Fort told me a couple of months ago that Neroli Parfum&Luxe will become distributors for Fort&Manle in Budapest! The perfumery is located in a small street adjacent to the main shopping street in Budapest, you can’t miss it: Regiposta utca 19.

Neroli does have an impressive offer of fine niche perfume houses, take a look at these photos and check out The Plum Girl Instagram TV – there you can find a short video showcasing their offer.

So, I finally met Fort&Manle live and with the whole line presented.

Of course, they have just announced a new addition: „Forty Thieves“ – so I guess I will really have to revisit Budapest, soon.

This baby accompanied me home:

Fort&Manle Charlatan, edition 2018. I did post a really short quick sniff, first impression review on Instagram! When I test the whole line, I will most certainly write a more detailed review. Just for now, to answer any potential questions: yes, it’s worth a FB!

Even though the offer of perfumes is impressive, I was not at least impressed with customer service at Neroli. Much to my surprise, when I walked in I was hardly greeted: all SA’s were quite busy unpacking boxes and boxes at the back of the perfumery, hardly paying any attention to me. I did introduce myself properly. I did say that I do know what I’m looking for. Still…Ignoring a customer and unpacking boxes doesn’t leave a positive impression. OK, it was Monday morning, OK, SA’s obviously had quite a few boxes to unpack, but somehow it just didn’t feel right. Not when you consider the prices you are paying.

Budapest is relaxed, vibrant, filled with sounds and scents: do visit the main Marketplace. It is really big, filled with homemade sausages, dry red pepperoni, paprika, spices, vegetables and fresh cheese.

Old K&K restaurants and pubs offer superb goulash and paprikash – a must-try!

We enjoyed Hungarian lager beer, which really goes well with Debrecener sausages (debrezeni kolbasz) – heavily spiced with paprika, garlic, pepper and marjoram.

Do visit Budapest! It’s an ideal city for a short, weekend city break and I hope you will enjoy it as much as I did!

Elena Cvjetkovic

The Plum Girl

Photos: The Plum Girl Archive

Disclaimer

I was here in Grasse two years ago and upon my arrival this August I noticed some changes.
This famous medieval town in southern Provence – the perfume capital of the world – is looking (at the first glance) same as ever, on the outside, especially in the old part of the city. Yes, Jasmine scented water is still sprayed above the streets in the old city…

Yes, this is the place of the genesis of the perfume industry, yes, the celebration of jasmine (Fete du Jasmin) still takes place at the end of the first weekend in August, yes, this closely knit community safeguards this amazing intangible cultural heritage, but there are some new things in town!

You will notice signs on all the main streets leading to city center pointing the way to the famous trio: Galimard-Fragonard-Molinard Perfumeries, and I suggest you do visit them: they have shops, museums and offer a glimpse into factories, with guided tours.

This time my stay in Grasse coincided with an event organized by Fragonard, a conference.

I also took my time to visit two relatively new boutiques on Place de La Aires square in the old town: 1000Flowers Perfumer, by Jessica Buchanan and Parfumes MMicaleff by Martine Micaleff.

 

1000 FLOWERS

Located at 4 Place aux Aires, opened just last year. Ms. Buchanan, a Canadian who grew up on seashores and in the countryside of western Canada is the owner and perfumer.
She sold her house in Canada, moved to Grasse and studied at the Grasse Institute of Perfumery (2007.).

Following the training, she did what naturally follows: apprenticeship and internship, in Robertet and Mane. Now she’s a very active member of the community in Grasse.

There are not that many small perfumers here and there are some really big names present, but she says that all involved, not only parfumeurs, feel like a big family. One that she became a part of: yes, the main players and game changers are mostly Grassoise, but once you prove your serious intentions, work hard, participate and put in some serious effort, you can become a fully recognized member of the community.

Once you’ve proven yourself as serious, they accept you.

It was really a pleasure to talk to Jessica: she found time to talk to me about her fragrances, tell me what she plans to do (regarding Narcotic Flowers perfume) and we chatted about perfumes, naturals, men, rose fields and how it is to live and work in Grasse.

Besides her perfume lines, Jessica offers personalized perfume creation and consulting services. That’s another benefit of being based in Grasse: you do have direct access to expertise and experience in all areas of production.

I was also pleasantly surprised by her project „Perfume for Purists“ – back to Mother Nature botanicals, single note extracts in a neutral base of certified organic French grain alcohol. No additives! I hope this collection will grow, too.

Her Original Collection represents earliest fragrances she created.

I must say that I was really overwhelmed by Narcotic Flowers Perfume! Inspired by tuberose fields near Grasse, launched in 2011. I felt orange blossom, jasmine, rose and oh! tuberose! swirling around in a misty, intoxicating cloud around my head! Wow!

Narcotic it is indeed! You can feel finely blended, first-grade ingredients wildly dancing in this rhapsody of a perfume! As much as I was on my knees after inhaling this tuberose miracle, I do understand that some people, not to tuberose happy, would definitely call this perfume crazy.
I say: if you don’t fancy tuberose, stay away from it and alles wird gut…:-D

Jessica told me that she will announce and present in a couple of days (which she did by now) the new, reformulated Narcotic Flowers! I think that this reformulation won’t make you shed too many tears, on the contrary. Check it out, this is what she says: “Narcotic Flowers has been reformulated, and is all about tuberose, orange blossom, and ylang-ylang. I cut all the other flowers, and added lots of freshness to the top notes, no it’s now a fresh white floral with a carnal under current. It is, after all, a tuberose fragrance!”

When Jessica asked me whether I liked Narcotic Flowers, I told her my honest opinion: yes, I love it, it is truly tuberose narcotic…but. I am not sure I would wear it. It is just too much to handle, overwhelming for me. It really needs a special feeling, mood, atmosphere… She nodded and smiled, I guess this really was the issue with this mighty perfume all along.

Another one, rather controversial as well: Reglise Noire. Now, this is licorice! And I must say again: if you don’t like licorice, well, take a sniff at this one.

This perfume is not licorice only(at least for me)! You will surely appreciate it’s complexity: I find it very addictive.

There are spices, a hint of anise, vanilla, ginger and musk. A very beautiful, warm-under-a-blanket-on-a chilly-day perfume, but I also see that it is also one of those love or hate perfumes, no compromises…Quite interesting.

The Blue Collection perfumes feature flower extracts from local French producers and each bottle contains 5% organic Damascena rose water from a small producer in Grasse. Talking about terroir, hm? Well, Jessica surely covers that requirement! The most interesting one for me is Rose Casis Paradis (2016.): lovers of rose-themed perfumes, rejoice!

There’s a story behind this perfume: it is inspired by the Line Renauld Rose. Sweet, fruity, lush rose accord coming from a very special, award-winning rose – developed in Provence and named after the French singer and actress. Oh, sweet blackcurrant, pear, mango, and raspberry! This is Summer in a small bottle!

Thank you Jessica! I think that your creativity, dedication and grit will make a difference: Grasse is really lucky to have you!

 

PARFUMS M MICALLEF /MAISON MICALLEF

Founded in Grasse in 2006., quite successful. Very high-end luxury, uniting passions: Geoffrey Nejman (finance and banking), Jean Clause Astier (the Nose) and Martine Micallef (Artist).

The perfumes? Liquid luxury. Placed in beautifully decorated bottles, featuring old techniques and methods – are amazing.

Well, if you visit the shop in Grasse, located at Place aux Aires 14. you will see for yourself what their „Creative Desk“ looks like: customization workshop is right here!

You can create your bespoke scent and design, add initials, personal messages, engravings – right here, in the boutique.
I’m sure that most of you are already familiar with MM collections, an impressive line up of perfumes and I must say I am very impressed by Jacaranda Limited Editon (2017), featuring rose, spices and sandalwood.

Mon Parfum Pearl as well, a new 2018. flanker – Centifolia based, soft, powdery mist…My guess is that it is targeting Millennials…Yet, these perfumes have an incredible smoothness to them, like a signature style.

A difference can be felt: Jessica, an Artisan Parfumeur, is there for you (on a very short notice), passion for perfumes oozing out of her eyes. Unfortunately, I did not have a chance to meet Martina Micallef in Grasse (I did send a mail prior to arrival).

I like to meet perfumers/owners of houses in person: after all, one part of their personality is always present in perfumes they make. Next time, maybe.

Maison Micallef has approximately 900 selling points, yet they seem somehow hard to get (I think their site is the easiest way): I guess that is a part of high-end luxury branding.

I was received by most friendly, beautiful SA Karima and we did a video together – check my IGTV account! Now, that was fun!

Karima is very helpful, fast moving, quick thinking and kind SA. Karima, you are great! :-*

Parfum Baby’s Collection is really something to stop by: my son is into „serious“ perfumes now, but these! Little baby perfumes! Awwww!

One more thing: I did put on Martine Micallef’s apron (as you can see)! The very special apron, heavy leather one with gold finishing – made for her in Marroco…thank you, Martine, hope you don’t mind!

I also hope that these photos will speak more than words: this little boutique is certainly a huge plus for the whole city of Grasse.

 

ELENA MEETS ELLENA (CELINE AND JEAN-CLAUDE)

I planned my trip carefully and as soon as I saw announcement for the first Fragonard Conference to be held in Grasse, at la Maison Fragonard – La Fabrique des Fleurs (La Premiere Conference Olfactive: DIALOGUE ET HISTOIRE(S) DE SAVOIR-FAIRE) to be held August 7th, just one day upon my arrival in Grasse – that caught my eye.

When I saw that speakers will be Celina and Jean-Claude Ellena, together for the first time, you can just imagine how thrilled I was! I booked my place immediately!

Before the start of the Conference, all participants attended a guided tour of Fragonard factory, which was an excellent warm-up. Then we moved on to the Conference Room, fully packed.

A lecture followed: Ellenas spoke about the history of their family, the importance of know-how transmission and about changes in the perfume industry.

The conference was in French, of course, and although my spoken French is poor (French always offer me help and tell me that it’s “just fine” – but I know I could do better…), I understood every word Jean-Claude Ellena said.  He speaks beautiful French and his expressions are very poetic. When he speaks, his sentences sound like music.<3

Two generations of Ellena’s. Wow. Mr. Jean-Claude Ellena is a legend, a one of a kind Master Parfumeur. I don’t need to add anything more to this, really.

His set of values is well known: olfactory minimalism (ever since he left big companies), value of creation above commercial influence (the way he speaks about „marketing people“…), the importance of staying always curious, never stopping to explore, creating art for art’s sake and nurturing your olfactive memories.

He also spoke of the importance of terroir, but he also stated clearly that the industry in Grasse should welcome not only the Grassoise: new people bring new ideas, provoke changes, everybody benefits from that.

Celine Ellena told us how it is to be a perfumer when your father is Master Parfumeur.

With a smile, she recalled that when she made up her mind to become a perfumer herself, she thought that she needed a diploma of some kind.

Her father told her: „Then go and study something, get a diploma“. And she did: in psychology and linguistics!

Upon finishing her studies, she continued on her path of becoming a perfumer: first an ISPICA diploma, then apprenticeship at Charabot and Symrise…Now she is independent, working for The Différent Company, Biotherm, and Fragonard.

In 2018. Fragonard is celebrating its signature fragrance: Verveine (Verbena), created by Celine Ellena!

That’s not all: we had a chance to watch both Ellenas show us examples of perfumery magic. Paper strips were handed out – on one, vanilla. On the second one, Isobutil Phenyl Acetate. What do you smell when you take both strips?

Chocolate! The second „experiment“ was a recreation of strawberry scent. The purpose: a practical answer to some questions (again!) about the necessity of synthetic components in perfumery…

One more thing Celine Ellena shared with us: for parfumeurs, Grasse is great. Always has been:

Everything you need is right there. People, know-how, materials… Paris? Yes, of course, Paris is important for business activities, but Grasse? Grasse IS the capital of the perfume world.

I did manage to exhange couple of words with Mr. Jean-Claude Ellena: we laughed because I said „Nice to meet you, Mr. Ellena. My name is Elena.“ He said: „And you are The Plum Girl.“ One of the rare meetings when I didn’t have to explain, he immediately knew why I named my blog The Plum Girl…

I hope I have given you enough reasons to plan your visit to Grasse. I know one thing for sure: I’ll be back! There’s so much more to see, so many people and places to visit.

Elena Cvjetkovic
The Plum Girl
Photos: The Plum Girl Private Archive
Diaclaimer

“Joy, beautiful spark of the gods,
Daughter from Elysium,
We enter, drunk with fire,
Heavenly One, thy sanctuary!
Your magic binds again
What convention strictly divides;*
All people become brothers,*
Where your gentle wing abides.” – Friedrich Schiller

Oh, what a joy: Friedrich Schiller for a read, Beethoven for my ears, Klimt for my eyes…and Atelier des Ors White Collection for my nose!

There I was, walking streets of Vienna early in the morning: from Graben, alongside Wiener Staatsoper (Opera House) towards parks surrounding Museumquartier, moving on to Secession Building at Friedrichstrasse 12.

Its doors were closed, at 10 AM temperature was rising above 27C: the building of Secession is currently under construction and small groups of visitors, not larger than ten are allowed to enter and see Beethoven Frieze by Klimt. I waited patiently.

Three months have passed since I first had a chance to sample Atelier Des Ors White Collection! I was selfish, I must admit: I needed to test them on my skin, to get to know them and yes! I became a fan. I smell great, I thought: here you go, my perfume, I am taking you to see the source of the idea standing behind this collection!

When art forms meet…miracles happen! Perfume as an art form? Here we go with that question again. Allow me to quote Mr. Chandler Burr:

“Works of art must elicit emotion, thought and some reaction. At their best they make their audience perceive reality differently than they did before experiencing the work. Works of scent do all these things brilliantly.”

Art, craft or design: whatever your opinion on perfumes is, what is certain is that they engage senses, elicit emotions and that olfactory art is a wearable art form! We are wearing art (in the best cases, yes)!

I first encountered the White Collection by Atelier des Ors during a closed presentation held at Esxence – The Scent of Excellence in Milano earlier this year. As much as I was impressed by a new addition to the previous, „Black Collection“ line – Bois Sikar (you can read my full review here), which left me thirsty, I was eager to discover what stands behind white packaging of the new, not yet disclosed line.

Mr. Jean Philippe Clermont and Ms. Megan Paki were all smiling while talking about the new collection: smiles reaching beyond eyes and stretched lips, genuine smiles: you could feel their joy and excitement! This was contagious! There it was, right in front of me: an idea, a story, a perfumer, fine ingredients and a niche house: all elements you might need for a great new olfactory experience!

I took the samples home, wore and tested them for months on my skin. Even that was not enough: I had to travel in order to research deeper, to get to know my perfume better. I had to see the source of the idea, I had to hear that music, I had to read poetry, preferably in original (German). So I did and when I completed my quest, this is when I can share my review with you.

Nuda Veritas, Crepuscule de Ames and Choeur des Anges, a triptych in white bottles and boxes:

White is where it all starts, which is obvious if you look at the presentation of perfumes. White is paper we write upon, blank is the screen before we start typing. A void we aim to fulfill with our own creation. A new beginning…New hope!

Gold. Klimt painted with gold, gold flakes in bottles are Atelier Des Ors signature detail.
Orange. The connecting element between perfumes in this triptych, created by perfumer Marie Salamagne, is present in citrus notes: mandarin, neroli and orange blossom form the atmosphere.

Joy. The main idea is human quest for joy, inspired by Gustav Klimt’s Beethoveen Frieze (1902.), a monumental work of art, taking its theme from Richard Wagner’s interpretation of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.

Vienna. This is where I went, to see and feel this masterpiece once again, to the Secession Building in Vienna. I walked in, wearing my „Choir of Angels“. This is where it all finally made perfect sense to me, this is where I connected with these three perfumes on a much deeper level.

Joy. Daughter from Elysium (heaven). Aren’t we all in search of joy? Isn’t that the deepest desire of all human beings, happiness? Let’s take a quick look at the protagonists mentioned:

Friedrich Schiller died in 1805. At the age of 45. During his lifetime, Schiller was a close friend with the famous writer, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. What was his source of joy? If you look at his biography, clearly it is not when he was a young man attending a Military Academy. We can only guess that he was happy when he could do what he was best at writing.

Schiller’s “Ode to Joy” was used by Beethoven for the choral movement of his Ninth Symphony. What made Ludwig Beethoven a happy man?

We do know that he was an exceptional composer who struggled against deafness.

Interesting is that many of his most accomplished works were created during the time he was – deaf. In a note dated October 6, 1802, and referred to as “The Heiligenstadt Testament,” he writes: “O you men who think or say that I am malevolent, stubborn or misanthropic, how greatly do you wrong me. You do not know the secret cause which makes me seem that way to you and I would have ended my life — it was only my art that held me back. Ah, it seemed impossible to leave the world until I had brought forth all that I felt was within me.” Art. Contributing. Creating.

Gustav Klimt. A painter, raised in poverty. Scandalous at his time, a lifelong bachelor with countless affairs. It is said that he fathered 14 children along his way. What made him happy?

I think his most famous quote might hide an answer to this question: “Whoever wants to know something about me—as an artist, the only notable thing—ought to look carefully at my pictures and try to see in them what I am and what I want to do.”

Beethoven Frieze: a starting point for these three perfumes, a monumental work of art. Thirty-four meters wide and two meters high, currently under restoration. A masterpiece of art. Let’s see how each perfume relates to it, the way I see it:

NUDA VERISTAS: The naked truth. This is the beginning on the quest for happiness. She is pure, arms streched out, the floating female Genii. Her eyes are closed as she reaches out to the world, to embrace it, to be embraced.

It opens up with gentle citruses, bright and optimistic. You can almost feel the softness of flower petals touching your skin, cooling it down. I don’t know why but my first thought was: I wish I wore this perfume on my wedding day! What a perfect bridal!

This optimistic, bright opening very smoothly transitions to reveal a bouquet of flowers, dainty white jasmine flowers like tulle of my wedding dress.

Later on, musks and patchouli give a golden touch to all this whiteness, never too heavy, just adding it spice and an aura of glowing skin.

It lasts above average, I would say ten hours on my skin and it retains this optimistic, fresh and translucent glow.

Optimism in a bottle, for sure.
A bright, sunny morning, full of promises: I hear myself singing „What a difference a day made…24 little hours…“
Notes:
Top: Bergamot, Orange flower petals
Heart: Jasmine sambac, Chinese jasmine absolute, Osmanthus absolute, Tiare flower
Base: Patchouli, Tagete absolute, Ambroxan, Musk, Oakmoss

CRÉPUSCULE DES ÂMES: Twilight of the souls. Enter Sickness, Madness and Death! All the „Dark Side“ elements inside us and the Frieze shows images representing our sins and passions which we have to overcome in order to achieve happiness and joy. On the Frieze you can see figures of Lasciviousness, Wantonness and Intemperance (with a large belly).

This twilight can easily seduce you, this is where you can get lost…if suffer I must, may it be from this fine perfume!

Twilight it truly is. What a change of mood, comparing to Nuda Veritas! Yes, a citrusy note is present here as well but this time it is ripe, succulent, seductive.

I feel spices adding depth to it, developing subtly like in all the Atelier des Ors perfumes. There is no abrupt movement here, yet this perfume is strong and dark at its core.

I see the color of deep, dark blue night skies and a full moon, somehow blurred with clouds of hyraceum – giving it almost animalistic masque.

It encompasses me when I wear it, moves and glides on my skin like a heavy dress made of purple silk, giving me that dark womanly feeling although it is the most masculine one in this collection. Bare skin, desire, and hidden strength: temptation and seduction in a most alluring form, drawing you in deeper and deeper.

Notes:
Top: Mandarin, Cardamom, Clary sage
Heart: Hysope, Incense, Pimento berry
Base: Hyraceum infusion, Patchouly

CHOEUR DES ANGES: Choir of Angels. Humanity’s yearning for happiness is fulfilled by arts, thus giving a kiss to the whole world, this is a moment when we all become brothers, as Schiller wrote. A kiss that feels like angels are singing…a dramatic climax of the Frieze!

It simply made me happy, on the first sniff, back there in Milan.

Just like that, simple, childish, carefree happiness – that was my first thought, without analyzing notes or thinking about its structure. I felt like embraced by it, physically embraced, I felt beloved and somehow…safe.

The simple joy of living in a bottle, soothing ambrosia, nectar of gods…Like radiant rays of sunshine, touching my skin with a golden film of honey, making me glow from inside out.

It makes me smile every time I wear it, that kind of smile that generates from my deepest inner self, a perfect smile.

When you first inhale Choeur des Anges, it’s like inhaling a breath of some divine being: orange pulp offering your nose sweet and ripe pears on a golden platter. Honey too, the divine nectar of Gods is served: yet carrot seeds provide it a vegetal touch, making that connection between Heaven and Earth.

Hours after applying it subdued into ambery shades of warmth, still touched by the brightness of mandarines. I enjoyed drydown enormously because it did draw out ambery tones with a fine dose of dry spices.

Should I call it a citrusy gourmand? Fruity floral? Whatever. It certainly is a quite sophisticated and finely crafted perfume.

Happiness in a bottle, this is what I will call it. This perfume is the one that made me hear the melody and words of Ode to Joy when I looked upon the walls inside Secession Building, a perfect match on that day and occasion. Angels were singing: „Freude, schöner Götterfunken, Tochter aus Elysium…“!

I was wearing this beautiful perfume, looking at Klimt’s masterpiece, singing Ode to Joy…I felt the sheer joy of living and gratefulness for everything that made me feel happy on that day.

Notes:
Top: Blood orange, Blackcurrant, Pear
Heart: Orange flower absolute, Carrot seeds absolute, Osmanthus
Base: Cedarwood, Amber, Provencal Honey.

These perfumes made me think: what makes us happy? What gives us the joy of living?

Researches have been made: the most famous and quoted one is the 75 years long Grant and Glueck/Harvard study with two key conclusions: happiness is a feeling of love! Good relations keep us happier and healthier. Simple as that.

You can also take a look at TED Talk „What makes a good life? Lessons from the longest study on happiness“ by Robert Waldinger here.

The study also shows that everyone is motivated and therefore happier by a blend of:
1. Doing good for others: contributing, 2. Doing things they are good at: self actualisation, 3. Doing good for yourself: physically, financially and emotionally.

Contributing is a great source of joy: artists such as Klimt, Beethoven or Schiller felt the ultimate joy in creating works of art, that was also what they were best at.
Bottom line: happiness is a choice!

As for me, I know one thing: fine perfumes bring me joy and bliss of happiness.

Sharing what I feel, the experiences I have with different perfumes, thoughts, and emotions – makes me even happier…

I hope you will find your daily dose of bottled joy among perfumes from Atelier des Ors Black (read my review here) or new, White Collection.

Follow me for more reviews to come!

The Plum Girl
Photos: The Plum Girl, Atelier des Ors Press Material. The modern interpretation of Klimt by street artist Dcypher.
Samples provided by Atelier des Ors
Opinions are my own. Disclaimer

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

Barri Gotic

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

Do you remember your first „grown-up“ kiss?

I do. Not the kiss itself but the very moment when I wanted it to happen, desired to be kissed right there and then and the twinkle in the eyes of the man standing in front of me. Whiskey on his lips.

One perfume is the reason why I remembered this split of a second moment from the past, it brought it back crisp and clear, dug it out of my memory lane, shaking off all those dusty layers of many years gone by.