Today is Blog Action Day, when "bloggers around the web will unite to put a single important issue on everyone's mind". Some 14,000+ 20,000+ blogs are participating. This year's theme is the environment, so I'm highlighting a few of my favorite natural fragrances, and in the post below this one, you'll find Pia's review of scented cleaning items from Earth Friendly Products.
If you've never explored natural perfumery, now is the perfect time. For one thing, you've more choice than ever before: there are literally dozens of natural perfume lines, and anyone who thinks natural fragrances aren't as sophisticated as those made with synthetics might be surprised by the range of offerings. You do need to accept that all other things being equal, you're going to pay more for an all-natural product — natural fragrance components aren't cheap, and these lines tend to be produced on a small scale. And without the use of synthetic fixatives, natural perfumes don't last quite as long as some of the powerhouse scents you'll find from the mainstream brands.
Aftelier Cepes & Tuberose
It seems only right to start with Aftelier, in so far as owner Mandy Aftel has spearheaded the artisanal natural perfumery movement in the United States. From the Aftelier website:
Discovering the art of natural perfumery is like crossing the threshold of a beautiful old house and finding it utterly intact and splendidly furnished—but deserted, as if it had been suddenly abandoned. It took centuries to discover ways of extracting scent from aromatic materials. Yet just as a full palette of natural essences became available, commercial perfumers began to set them aside in favor of synthetic ingredients, which are cheaper, sturdier, and more uniform in quality.
Aftelier describes Cepes & Tuberose as "wild mushrooms with animal undertones and one of the world's most voluptuous florals"; if that sounds like an odd mixture, well, it is, but the blend works. The opening is strong and rich, and might be a bit of a shock to anyone raised on the "clean and fresh" approach of scents like Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue. It calms to a sheer veil of tuberose underscored by dark, earthy — make that very earthy — mushrooms. As advertised, it has just a touch of the barnyard about it, and chances are you are either going to find it very sexy, or well nigh unbearable (happily, I'm in the first group). At any rate, it isn't for everyone, and it isn't something you'll want to douse yourself in for a day at the office.
If you'd like to try something possibly a bit more accessible, I highly recommend Aftelier's lovely Tango scent, featuring roasted seashells and champaca. You can read a review of Tango at Perfume Smellin' Things.
Aftelier Cepes & Tuberose is $40 for 2 ml or $125 for 7.5 ml. For buying information, see the listing for Aftelier under Perfume Houses.
Strange Invisible Perfumes Tropical Vial
Strange Invisible Perfumes is one of my favorite natural lines. But I am not a huge fan of perfume oils, so I was thrilled to see that they've recently started a new range of Eaux de Parfum. The range includes several older scents (L'Invisible, Fair Verona, Magazine Street, Prima Ballerina and Moon Garden) and one new release, Tropical Vial, featuring notes of mango, jasmine, basil & botanical musk.
I was curious to see how Tropical Vial would measure up to Parfums de Nicolaï Eau Exotique, another mango and jasmine fragrance, and one of my summer favorites. They are quite different: Tropical Vial has none of Eau Exotique's sparkle and verve, nor is it as as conventionally "tropical" in feel. Tropical Vial is a comparatively gentle, quiet fragrance. I am quite sure I would not have picked out either note on its own, but the mango plays up the fruity aspects of the jasmine and the basil provides a bit of a peppery-green herbal kick, especially in the top notes.
It is really a lovely scent, very soft, with no rough edges or heavy indolic undertones. I was also taken with Magazine Street, an almost-gourmand vanilla with magnolia, vetiver and patchouli, and will try to review that one another day.
Strange Invisible Perfumes Tropical Vial is $135 for 50 ml. For buying information, see the listing for Strange Invisible Perfumes under Perfume Houses.
Scent Systems Oeillet
Scent Systems is a newer entry in the burgeoning all-natural movement. They debuted this year with a line of five perfumes; of those, my favorite is the Oeillet, featuring notes of galbanum, clary sage, bergamot, Indian carnation absolute, cistus, basmati flower, heliotrope, vanilla, patchouli and plant musk.
The ad copy for Oeillet notes that "we can still learn important perfume lessons from the 4th century Indian text – the Kama Sutra – where carnation scent played a key role in erotic sexual arousal", and while we all know to take such things with a grain of salt, this is in fact a sexy carnation, far from the white gloves & tea approach taken by many traditional carnation scents. The top notes are green and have a wildflower-ish feel, then the carnation note takes over and it gets deeper, richer and earthier. It is not as sweet or bright as Lorenzo Villoresi's Garofano, nor is it as ladylike — the dusky base and subdued spices give it a quietly sexy vibe that seems to simmer even next to Caron's Bellodgia. A must-try for carnation lovers.
Scent Systems Oeillet is £229 for 17 ml, and samples are available. For buying information, see the listing for Scent Systems under Perfume Houses.
For more information about natural perfumery, check out the Natural Perfumers Guild, and if you have a favorite natural perfume, please comment!
Argh! I'm mad to get ahold of some of that Cepes and Tuberose, but the shipping for Aftelier to Canada is absolutely ridiculous. Got a sample of Tango coming, but I have to find a way to get this one…..
International shipping prices are becoming a real impediment to perfumanity (word coined by Marina, today, on Perfume Smellin' Things).
Cepes is really a great scent, one of those perfect little masterpieces of odd.
I found most of Mandy Aftel's scents to be utterly vile (except for Pink Lotus, to which I'm fairly indifferent).
I do, however, like Strange Invisible Perfumes. Prima Ballerina is a lovely, graceful rose scent, and Tosca and Black Rosette were quite interesting.
Another great natural line: Ayala Moriel! Her Fete D'Hiver, a spicy, powdery rose scent, is a favorite of mine.
Aftelier tends towards a dark palette, and many of her scents are very indolic. I like several of them (Shiso is also interesting) but I know not everybody does. I do like that she has her own aesthetic and sticks to it.
Love Black Rosette, and also SIP Lady Day, although I'm not sure they still make that one (I can't get the SIP website to do anything at all).
Have tried a handful of Ayala Moriels but don't think Fete d'Hiver, will have to look for it, thanks!
I tried with the Aftelier. Lord, I tried. Cepes is interesting, I'll give you that. Who knows, I'll probably re-smell it next year and fall in love.:-)
For someone with my dry skin you'd think I'd like oils more, but I want more of the …. loft? … of a traditional EDP.
Also I LOVE “perfumanity.”
OMG OMG OMG, SIP have EDPs now? The most exciting news in ages! Thank you, R!
Oh, I'll be surprised if you don't come around to Cepes! But agree on EdPs, I want some sillage too.
Very good news, and the price isn't too bad, either.
This is a really nice concept. I wonder if there is anything similar in CZ. This article reminds me a bit of soukhs in Arab places where I have seen and smelled all kinds of very exotic and surprisingly pleasant perfume oils. These were sold in simple tiny bottles. I also remember that once these bottles were opened the scents did somehow change quickly, but then I didn't know how to use them properlly. Of course these were not EdP's as we know them but the memories of those exotic scents are still in my mind.
Perfumanity is hilarious and so apt! :)))
I love Cepes and Tuberouse, it's the softest, sexiest perfume I own.
However, it costing $125 for 1/4 oz makes it a bit hard to douse oneself with:) It's for the better, though,cause all you need is a couple of dabs.
March, I promise you, there's a good chance for love there with your affinity to everything skank. Cepes is a very classy skank!
“Classy skank” is just right, and that is why it ought to be right up March's alley!
You might like the Montale line too then, if you haven't tried them — they are not all natural, but have an oudh line that uses many of those same Arab materials.
Let's see how long she can resist it's siren song
Thank you Robin,
By now I am just not so much into those arab scents anymore, but they were an inspiration and a nose-opener in those days. Maybe my appreciation for L'Instant by Guerlain origins from that time?
I will look for the Montale line here in Prague.
My impression after having lived here for two years is that the women in CZ are way more in for gorgeous western fragrances with very pretty bottles, and who can blame them after so many years of communist oppression? Besides that I really like the fact that 'our fragrances' can last so much longer than the ones from a soukh. My personal preferance for perfumes are still the ones created in Italy…
When I got my SIP frags, (I spoke via phone at one point because their website is such a pain), I asked about Lady Day.
They had to rename it due to infringement issues, so it was, at that time still called “un-named”.
If she is smart, she bought ear plugs long ago! LOL — there are too many tempting scents in the world.
I do not remember seeing much perfume at all when I was in Prague, although it was some time ago, and I wouldn't have been looking for it specifically. But the few beauty stores I saw even then (around 10 years ago) were not very “luxurious”. I'm sure it is different now.
Well good, hope it will reappear eventually under a new name. I can't go to her store or use the website, so unless it appears at Barneys, I'm out of luck!
Yes Prague is very different now. Originally I am from The Netherlands, Amsterdam is also my city, but by now Prague has way more luxurious shops than Amsterdam! This city (and country) is booming and now most buildings have been cleaned up and repainted and Prague is a true jewel now. From all the big brands like Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Dior, Hermes, Versace is the only store where there is a short time of 40% sale on some clothes. Good news for Versace lovers, which I am not fortunately for I would end up totally broke here…
I hope to visit again, although I rather liked it the way it was! But it was nothing like that when I was there — everything was so reasonably priced and I saw very little high end shopping.
Have any of you sucked it up to get the $25 SAMPLE(!!!) of Parfum Prive. It sounds right up my alley but that is kind of scary.
Not I! The Aftelier line is very expensive, like many other all natural lines. If you're anywhere near Henri Bendel, they do have the line there so you can smell them in person, otherwise, yeah, it's an awful lot to spend on a sample you might hate.
Yeah, I wanted to get some samples of SIP but even though the samples aren't too bad, they want $10.50 for shipping! Wouldn't even weigh an ounce, so I don't think so. Hmph. I guess I need to head to the toney stores downtown. I keep forgetting I have a Barney's now.
Check the prices at The Perfumed Court to see if they're cheaper, although don't know if they are. Or, yes, just go to Barneys.
I’ve tried a few Aftelier samples, and Tango was the only one of the six I got that I just didn’t like and never managed to at least appreciate. From the description of Tango on the website I really wanted to like it. However, on me it’s not sexy and smoky or whatever; it’s mostly medicinal and too sweet. The only part I liked at all was the far drydown when all that’s left is tobacco and choya.
I do want to try Cepes & Tuberose. I think that will be in my next round of samples. Based on what I read above, I think I’m interested in it not so much because I’m sure I’ll like it, but more as a challenge to test my skank tolerance.