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!