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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Crazy, Sexy Charmed Life - Impromptu by Roxana Illuminated Perfumes

Impromptu by Greg Spalenka...In Roxana's own words..."The use of the word illuminated in my company name refers to "bringing"  to light the elder way of making perfumes with plant materials AND illuminating each fragrance with an image. 

This review of Roxana Villa's magnificent perfume Impromptu should have appeared weeks ago because I received the first sample just before Easter but then life always full of unexpected surprises, unexpected sorrows and the unexpected joys that come crashing in.  I think, scratch that.... I KNOW that the sheer beauty of being alive is that it can change in a heartbeat.  

Many of you don't know that over Easter my husband was badly hurt.  We were on what was supposed to be a long overdue and relaxing vacation. I was waiting for him at the bottom of Camelback Mountain in  Scottsdale to pick him up after what was generally a easy climb for him. Too easy I think, as he'd gone up and down in record time but had fallen somewhere along the route down. I found him at the trailhead covered with blood and with absolutely no memory of what had happened, of anything or anyone save me and our son. It was terrifying to see someone that I knew so well with absolutely no recollection of the who, why and where of his life.  Because I am who I am , the image of him wasn't nearly as important as the smell of him. I knew that it was truly bad when I could smell the primal fear mingled with the blood and mountain dust. If you know Jim, then you know that almost nothing truly scares him. He's a man that generally acts in spite of his fear. The smell stayed with me for days, eclipsing my normal experience of the Sonoran desert which is usually to me totally sensuous and 
spicy , rich , musky and full of desert Oud. 

What he eventually remembered was that he felt the presence of my parents, both of whom have been gone for several years now.  I think that they must have gotten him down the slope as no one was with him when I found him at the trailhead. I know that someday he'll tell the story and It will start with.."Even unconscious I made one of the best times of my hour and 20 minutes up and down!" which were the first words he spoke to me as his memory was returning the next day. 

He's always led a bit of a charmed life!

I was thrilled to have him back, but there was still that lingering scent. I wandered around Scottsdale for two weeks after it happened trying to bring back the pieces of myself that I'd left up on the mountain. Jim was going to be fine, but I truly was wondering about me. Post traumatic stress is hard enough but when you're one that lives literally by the smell of things it can be even more overwhelming. My normal instincts about the world around me had vanished. I couldn't taste anything very well and my Creed Tuberose Indiana perfume smelled like soap. This was not at all promising. 

The day came that I knew that I had to go back up on that mountain, not just for him, but for me. I hadn't planned it, it was an impromptu; a  moment of desire that I gave in to in spite of myself. I'd been coddling him like an infant and I could tell that we were still scared. It's a bit like falling off of a horse. No matter how frightened you are, the moment comes when you've got to put your foot in the stirrup again. So the morning came about two weeks later that we found ourselves holding hands and standing at the beginning of the trail. We only planned to go for a short walk, just long enough to reclaim the mountain but not anywhere close to the area where the tricky climbing begins. One step at a time and then one more. It was early in the morning and he was still to weak to climb past the first pass, but we made it up to the saddle. He was so happy. I was terrified. I could barely breath the whole way up. 

Finally when we stopped I was able to take a deep breath and look around. It was beautiful that morning, sunny and the mountains were sparkling with moving shadows of purple and pink. All around me was the wild wonderful cooing of mourning doves and the smell of fresh coyote scat which was an astonishingly pleasurable assault to my starving senses. There was the strange fruity smell of blooming cacti and then there was the intoxicatingly sweet golden Acacia which I heard long before I saw. I say this because although I could smell it from a mile away, all I could hear was the drone of honeybees everywhere. I was literally trembling with pleasure. Life was finally rich and lusty again. We smiled at each other, walked slowly down the mountain and drove to the airport. To me it's a miracle that he's still with us. It could easily have been such a different ending.

Photograph courtesy of Roxana Villa

I got home and started to climb through the stacks of mail that had piled up during our unexpected absence. I found a package from Roxana, thought "Goddess, just what I need!" and ripped it open, with unusual ferocity because I generally linger over mail from Roxana because anything from her is always a work of art.  This particular package contained a precious vial of her recently reformulated Impromptu perfume, a spray flacon and some of the beautifully crafted solid perfume in the same scent. I opened the pretty glass vial, closed my eyes and took a deep sniff. 

Within seconds, I was standing back on that mountain with Jim, surrounded by a lemony warmth, a dripping honeyed sweetness and a leathery balsam that was so beautiful that I had to sniff again to be sure of what I was smelling because I knew that Roxana uses absolutely no animal products at all with the exception of her own beeswax and honey. (I like to joke and say that I want to come back as one of her bees..they truly have the life!)  I smelled the fiery desert heat and baked red clay.  It was almost overwhelming and it was totally arousing . It brought back that wonderful memory, where instincts were once again stronger than false perceptions. It is the scent of intense passion , the kind of sensual revelry  that occurs when faced with almost losing that which is the most precious.  

 "Impromptu" is such an impossibly beautiful perfume. This luscious scent is filled with so many exotic  woods, resins,herbs ,spices and flowers that it would be almost counterproductive  and confusing to name them all. I truly think that the drama and beauty of Roxana's perfumes lay not in her singular notes although those notes are beautiful in and of themselves.  It's the way that they are transformed when she waves her spicy wand over them. Within Impromptu you will find woodsy notes of birch , cypress and balsam and the honeyed, leathery softness of labdanum and the astringency of myrrh. Exquisitely sweet ylang ylang, helichrysum and the very mysterious artemisia begin to appear almost immediately and I love the spicy tarragon note that she uses!  Every note that Roxana plays with is wonderful, but it's her transformative use of vanilla that rounds this fragrance out and gives all of   Roxana's masterfully hand blended accords a place to snuggle up and call home. 

I really don't know how she does it, but Roxana is one of the only perfumers that I know of who is capable of putting so much magic and soul into her perfumes that simply opening the bottle can pull so deeply on your senses that they literally begin to reel. Opening that bottle was a bit like falling backwards in time. I needed to remember that moment on the mountain and I needed to be reborn to it once again so that my life could work powerfully again here at home.  

Impromptu is unrestrained yet elegant, a little sweet, a little smoky and totally feral. It's a man's scent as well as a woman's; I wafted some Jim's way and he smells simply marvelous when he wears it. 
This sounds silly perhaps, but I know that almost anyone like me with an unrestrained adoration of the art of perfumery and its alchemy should know exactly what I mean when I say this. I love Impromptu even more without clothes. When I'm sunbathing and my skin is warmed, the scent completely blossoms.  I love to stretch out as naked as possible on my sunny upper deck like a lazy desert cat and revel in Impromptu's sweet woodsy fire. I suppose that if I have have to appear dressed while I'm wearing it I'll break out the sexy Ralph Lauren maxi dress that I bought for it (Yes I buy clothes for perfumes not the other way around!) ... a swirling, sexy sheath of cat print with leather ties. I'll add a chunky gold necklace, some carved bone earrings and dance the night away 
because I've certainly got a lot to celebrate!

You can buy Impromptu right now at Roxana's Glorious Illuminated Perfume Site but soon you'll be able to visit her in her  fabulous new  retail and teaching space in Agoura Hills , California!

Equally exciting news is that Roxana's equally wonderful husband Greg Spalenka released a GORGEOUS   new book that debuted at the San Diego Comic Con this weekend and the deluxe edition contains the signed Impromptu print that is featured above. You can purchase it here!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Good Enough to Eat: En Voyage Perfumes Souvenir de Chocolat Trio

By Donna

Shelley Waddington of En Voyage Perfumes is well known for putting her own spin on traditional perfume styles, and now she has taken on the gourmand family with great success. This much anticipated (and now multiple award-winning) trio of scents lives up to it billing, evoking the sweetness of classic favorites with an original twist.

I love vanilla in perfumes, from light and airy to dark and boozy, it's all good. Indigo Vanilla brings out an aspect of it that is new to me; thanks to the inclusion of sugared violets and a creamy, buttery musk, the vanilla has a cool, milky character that is very appealing and different. One of the great pleasures of baking is mixing the ingredients, and smelling this is like making my favorite cream cheese and butter shortbread cookie recipe, and topping them with violet frosting. Even so, it is not sticky-sweet like all those candyfloss vanillas, so it is very wearable even in warmer weather. Something fruity peeks out as it develops perhaps thanks to the hint of milk chocolate in the mix, which only adds to the hedonistic experience and gradually becomes more apparent in the long drydown. If I could make a dessert that tastes like Indigo Vanilla smells, I would soon need a new larger size wardrobe.

I have been waiting for Shelley to do an amber perfume, knowing it would have the warmth and radiance that is so characteristic of her work, and Captured in Amber is indeed marvelous - dreamy and hypnotic, so rich and deep that it's downright indecent. My immediate impression was that this fragrance was composed with a very high percentage of natural ingredients. Labdanum, tonka bean, vanilla, resins and spices form the “ancient” smelling amber accord, which is combined with silken dark chocolate, bitter orange and yes, real ambergris, the latter of which is extremely rare in today's fragrances, even the high end luxury scents. It's hard to describe what effect this magical ingredient does for a perfume, but everything is smoother, rounder, more finished somehow, like a stone that's been tumbled in a river and becomes as polished as a jewel. I will compare it very favorably to the hard to find Chocolate Amber from the Italian natural fragrance company La Via de Profumo; if you have ever tried that one, Captured in Amber is akin to it but spicier, more complex and not as sweet, and they are both wonderful.

The ultimate combination of coffee and chocolate for this mocha lover is Café Cacao, which combines top shelf perfumery materials to make what is perhaps the most decadent fragrance in the group. Along with the real ambergris also found in Captured in Amber, it flaunts a parade of sensuality; in fact, there is not a single note in this perfume that I don't adore. Vanilla, rose, cardamom, bergamot peel, espresso, dark chocolate, steamed milk and whipped cream, amber accord, musk, ambergris – who could ask for more? It all comes together seamlessly and even though it has all those gourmand notes, it is not too sweet or cloying, so the rich bitterness of the coffee and chocolate can be enjoyed as a counterpoint to the dessert ingredients. I prefer a gourmand fragrance that leaves room to breathe, and Café Cacao is a great example. The only problem with it is prying my nose off my arm when I wear it. Apparently Marie Antoinette liked to have ambergris in her hot chocolate; that is not an option for most of us, but with this fragrance we can get an idea of what that must have been like.

These three fragrances are also recommended for blending with each other to make your own delectable “recipes.” For me, Captured in Amber tends to overpower anything else, and its longevity is incredible, but the other two make a perfect combination. No matter how you wear them, the result is the same – pure pleasure!

Image credit: Candied violet and chocolate eclairs via Pinterest, original source unknown.
Disclosure: I received samples for testing purposes from En Voyage Perfumes.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Etat Libre d'Orange Cologne

By Tom

Cologne Eau de Parfum is a decided departure from the usual Etat Libre d’Orange usual ways of doing things. They’re of course those crazy kids who did C.S.I. Newark, er, Secretions Magnafique, which to me is a total scrubber with it’s notes of defiled mobster found under the pier.(but I am told that it is one of their most popular fragrance. They also did a personal favorite: Tilda Swinton Like This with it’s comforting mandarin and pumpkin accords. But I have friends who think it’s too weird.

So Imagine my surprise to read that these kids want to give us “nice”….

And it is nice. It opens with a bright orange and orange flower that took me by surprise. It also reminded me of something. Then it struck me; 4711. Not the 4711that until recently has been sold at places like the 47 cent store in recycled bleach bottles (although I read that they’re coming back full circle to the good stuff) but the stuff I remembered in the 70’s as a kid. It was a lovely scent that on a hot, humid New England day a splash of on the back of the neck was more refreshing than an ice bag (I was too young for Pimm’s cup back then.)

Of course, Etat Libre is a bit, well, shall we say more in the opening than the innocent 4711, and of course there’s more in the middle and the drydown. 4711 had a flash (if I remember correctly, and it has been decades) some lavender, then nada. Cologne goes to a jasmine middle then a light leather and a skin musk that would make the Chairman at smellbent smile. Lasting opwer is good, considering that it's sold as a cologne. I got several hours out of it, while the 4711 I remember from my yoof lasted an hour tops.

$149 for 100ML. My sample was asked for and received at ScentBar.

Notes (from LuckyScent:) Blood orange, orange blossom, bergamot, jasmine, musk, leather.

Image: LuckyScent