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Thursday, July 8, 2010

Musk Mania

How lucky am I?  I am the recipient of 10 musk samples from fellow perfumers as a participant perfumer in the Mystery of Musk project.  The project involves eleven natural perfumers from all over the world.  Each of us blending our version of a musk perfume in a short time period, then submitting the perfume to critics, bloggers and fellow participating perfumers.  I have been sampling perfumes from some of the finest, most original perfumers out there.  I spray and sniff and muse.  The variations on the theme of musk are amazing. 
Some of the perfume samples I've received are pretty innocent florals with a light musky dry down.  Some are "hit you over the head" dark blends that scream musky, earthy, dangerous.  Some are unlike anything I've ever smelled (Dionysus I'm talking to you.)
I've always been a fan of sampling other perfumers creations.  I'm often surprised when speaking with perfumers who admit to not sampling other natural perfumes.  By sampling I learn many things.  I learn something about the perfumer, their partialities, their strengths.  Are they drawn to woody earthy blends?  Do they excel at sparkling florals?  What is their best selling scent?  I marvel at how some samples last forever.  I pour over the list of perfume notes trying to discern how the perfumer created such longevity.  I discover new botanicals I've never worked with.  Sampling perfumes is a great barometer for any perfumer.  Are my blends stronger, weaker, sweeter, louder, softer?  Compare and contrast, sniff and muse.  Admire and contemplate.
That being said, I'd like to post my thoughts on my fellow perfumers Musk creations.  Each is highly original and no two are remotely similar.  I'd like to highlight this fact as some folks inexperienced with natural perfumes tend to lump all natural perfumes in together stating they all smell the same.  Au contraire!  Considering each perfumer was given the same task, time frame and suggested botanicals I find it amazing to note the differences with each creation.  This is a stark contrast to the mainstream perfume industry which of late seems to be releasing the same syrupy fruity floral scent over and over again.
Tallulah B.2 by A Wing & A Prayer Perfumes: I really love this scent.  It's pretty, feminine, floral, with a soft vanilla-musk baby powderish drydown.  I believe this fragrance would be a good introduction to natural perfumes for a wearer accustomed to traditional synthetic fragrances.  It's very clean and free of any dark, musty earthy notes that can scare off some natural perfume newbies.  Tallulah B. also has good staying power and seems to be a what I can only describe as a "skin scent" that lasts for hours.
The color of Tallulah B.2 is crystal clear (!) and causes me the dreaded perfumer's envy as my blends are darker in color.  Hmph.  Is it a crime to like oakmoss (dark brown), pink lotus (orange) and violet leaf (green)?  On a side note, the crystalline color of the beautiful scent has prompted me to try and create a clear perfume.  I sat down at my blending table and after much examination pulled approximately seven bottles of oils and absolutes from my extensive collection . . . gulp.  Dear Jane, how did you do this?  Kudos.
Craving :  I was eagerly waiting to receive this delectable scent from down under once Ambrosia let it slip that it was a gourmand creation.  Craving was worth the wait!  Craving impressed me as I found it:
1. gourmand but not overly sweet; a sophisticated edible
2. unisex (hard to do with ingredients like cocoa and hazelnut)
3. lasted for hours
To me Craving smells like coffee, cocoa, toasted hazelnuts, honey, maple syrup and smokey vetiver.  I enjoyed wearing this scent, and kept sniffing every few seconds noting the subtle changes.  I appreciate the linear notes of Craving.  This is not a scent that changes drastically as one wears it and I appreciate this, as I know the difficulty involved with creating a natural perfume that is seamless throughout the stages of drydown.  Craving screams autumn to me.  I want to wear it on a cool fall evening, while taking a walk, listening to the leaves crunch underfoot, and smelling the first faint whiffs of chimney smoke.  Definitely appropriate for both men and women.

Kewdra by Anya's Garden:  Disclaimer: I am biased against kewda, a.k.a. pandanus flower, a.k.a. psychotically strong sharp floral that overpowers everything I blend with it even when heavily diluted, a.k.a umm, I think you get the idea.  To be fair, I've only sampled one kewda absolute from Liberty Naturals.  Maybe there's a kewda out there I'd like better?  I'm not sure how Anya tamed the kewda beast, but she did.  This scent grows on me more and more each time I try it.  Anya seems to have enhanced the elusive velvety almost chocolate note that kewda has, something I try to do each time I work with this botanical and never succeed.  Not that Kewdra is a gourmand scent, but there's something lurking underneath there that's elusive, soft and yummy.  Normally I don't care for ambergris either, but I do in Kewdra.  I think I can smell it, and I LIKE it.  I found Kewdra risky, completely original and full of moxie.  The drydown of Kewdra is my favorite part.  It's delectable and very long lasting. Kewdra makes me want to don a low-cut bohemian dress with lots of gold bangles and eyeliner on a sexy date for Indian food and flirt with the waiter when my husband goes to the restroom.

Dionysus by Lords Jester:  This is one crazy scent.  There's an intriguing yeasty top note that I can't get enough of.  It's odd and I like it.  It smells like malt or brewers yeast.  I can then smell honey and a vegetable aroma, then comes an animal musky note.  Like goats or sheep.  Growing up on a farm with hippies in the middle of nowhere (Oh alright, it was a commune) my father was partial to pouring warm freshly squeezed goats milk on our morning cheerios.  Needless to say, my little brother and I were no longer hungry or amused by this turn of events and dreaded the warm musky invasion into our morning cereal.  Consequently, I'm not wild about the smell of goats as it brings grisly flashbacks of morning cereal gone wrong.  That being said, I think some perfumers such as Adam and Anya successfully use this animalistic note in their perfumes.  For me Dionysus is a roller coaster of smells and memories in the coolest way possible.  Definitely unisex and unique.  I'm off to to my happy place now where the milk is cold, from cows and my cheerios smell of oats.

Drifting Sparks by Artemisia Natural Perfumes: There's something oceanic about Lisa's Drifting Sparks perfume that I love.  It's a clean floral woody scent, with a salty musk that weaves in and out of the fragrance.  I smell notes of lightly smoked woods and salt water and sunscreen.  Drifting Sparks reminds me of the New England sea coast, with it's untamed rocky beaches, cold water and crashing waves.  The fragrance lasted quite awhile on my skin, and each time I sample this fragrance I become more and more impressed.  Lisa mentioned she used the blossoms of the nyctanthesus aboritistus in Drifting Sparks and I'm unfamiliar and now curious about this botanical. 

Sensual Embrace by JoAnne Bassett:  Very refined, sophisticated and french.  I smell the clementine, rose and tobacco and it blends beautifully.  I find it very clever that Sensual Embrace contains tobacco as it lends itself perfectly to the 1920's theme of the Mystery of Musk project.  I inhale Sensual Embrace and I'm instantly transported to the leathered backseat of a car, where an elegant flapper lounges sullenly puffing a cigarette in a long black holder.  Her earrings flash in the dusky light as she pouts waiting to arrive at the dimly lit jazz club where she can imbibe her first gin fizz of the evening.

Grains de Paradis by Sharini Parfums Naturels: I'm in LOVE!  Grains de Paradis is amazing.  I can't stop smelling myself.  Nicolas made this creation in two strengths.  It's with deep sadness I write that I only received the first, lighter version.  When the second envelope from France arrived, I gleefully pulled it from the mailbox only to find it had ripped and the precious, intense version of Grains de Paradis was gone, lost forever.  I believe there is a postal carrier here in Rhode Island who smells divine!

Out of all the musk samples I received, this one smelled most like the traditional musks I am familiar with.  It has a Jovan white musk type aroma and I mean this is the best possible way.  It's a compliment.  I was surprised that such an aroma I associate with synthetic musk perfumes could be created with naturals.  Strangely, the first time I tried the perfume I found it a beautiful crystalline musk.  The second time I tried the perfume, it smelled less musky and more floral and the cherry notes seemed more predominate.  Either way, it's lovely.  My green eyed monster reared it's ugly head as I realized it would be nearly impossible for me to create something similar myself.  The more I read about the labor intensive process involved with creating this scent the more discouraged I became.  I realized I must complete the following checklist in order to even come mildly close to recreating this amazing perfume: 

1. Promptly move to France
2. Pick bushels of wild cherries in the Herault valley for tincture
3. Use no absolutes (what? How the heck . . . ?)
4. Create enfleurage pomades from scratch during a month long harvest of genet blossoms.  Blossoms will be hand picked by myself and partner, followed by an 18 step enfleurage process. 

See?  No problem at all.
Grains de Paradis has above average sillage and a feminine musky, slightly floral/fruity aroma.  I adore this perfume.

Musk Eau Natural by Parfums des Beaux Arts:  This potent beauty packs a musk wallop at a 30% concentration and I appreciate it!  I smell ambrette, beeswax and angelica (?) and the scent transports me back in time.  For some reason Musk eau Natural makes me think of Hawthorne's novel The Scarlet Letter.  Maybe it's the beeswax, or the sexy musky aroma that can only be smelled at very close range.  There's something taboo or forbidden about Musk eau Natural that I can't put my finger on.

Verdigris by Bellyflowers: I smiled when I inhaled the complex aroma of Verdigris.  I have been working on a similar blend, with similar components for the last year.  However, in the case of Verdigris, Elise has created a masterpiece whereas my various blends languish in sample bottles with notes reading "too sharp" or "too much sage, add more orris." I love the ambergris here and the smooth, suppleness it adds to the bright clary sage and lavender.  I detect a light sweet musk in the base.  I find Verdigris a unisex green fragrance, which I enjoy wearing.

Temple of Musk by Strange Invisible Perfumes:  This sample starts out with a blast of black currant bud, followed by a slightly medicinal note of myrtle, slowly the aroma of a soapy ambrette arises, followed by a slight sweetening.  This is the cleanest musk I've ever smelled.  I know a "soapy ambrette note" makes no sense, but I swear it's there.  I found this perfume interesting as I've not smelled such a combination before.  I always think of "dirty" when I think musk and it was refreshing to smell something so totally unexpected.  

Whew.  Done for now.  Look for my next post coming soon titled "Halitosis or Heavenly? What To Do When Critics Pan Your Perfume & Why Gin & Tonic is Not The Answer"  :)


Bellatrix said...

Cravings sounds very interesting!

Charna said...

Craving is interesting! I would like to order some in the fall. It's delicious! I would love to smell it on a man too. It's very unisex in my opinion.

Lisa Abdul-Quddus said...

This was such a great project to participate in (from the blogging side).

Charna, I read your post on how you were so concerned about how your perfume would be received. When I smelled it the first thing I thought was 'she has absolutely nothing to worry about'. :) Musk Nouveau is gorgeous!

janelc said...

My dear friend, your perfume for the mystery of musk, Musk Nouveau,is perfect. Then again, I love fig scents. I savor the sample, which I guarded very closely, and do wear it on special ocassions.
My only thought is this: beauty as fragrance is in the eye (or orfactory sense) of the beholder.
Take care.

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