I'm always happy to come across connections between perfumery and literature, so I read (and thoroughly enjoyed) M. J. Rose's "novel of suspense" The Book of Lost Fragrances soon after its release, and then I tried the accompanying scent from the independent perfume house Joya. According to the author's website, Rose sent an advance copy of the novel to Joya as a gesture of thanks, since she had been burning Joya candles for ambiance while writing it; the company's owner, Frederick Bouchardy, was inspired to create a fragrance in response to the novel.
The result is Âmes Sœurs (Scent of Soulmates), developed for Joya by perfumer Rayda Vega and described as “an orange blossom wrapped in incense, smoke and musk.” Its official list of notes includes tamarind, grapefruit, and cypress; rose Bulgar, ginger, and orange blossom; and cedarwood, incense, amber and sweet musk.
If you've read The Book of Lost Fragrances, you're familiar with its motif of an ancient Egyptian perfume, preserved through the ages, that has the power to evoke memories of past lives and to bring together reincarnated lovers. Joya's Âmes Sœurs is not exactly the novel's "scent of soul mates," which was a potion blended from — spoiler alert! — frankincense, myrrh, honey, blue lotus and persimmon. Instead, it has taken The Book of Lost Fragrances as a point of departure and turned in a different direction.
Âmes Sœurs begins as a burst of citrus zest with a frosty edge. (Rayda Vega also created Apothia's Velvet Rope, which I recall having a similar chilled-grapefruit note.) This tart introduction lasts for a half-hour or longer on my skin. It's followed by a sheer ginger heart. Ginger is a smell that can go any which way for me, from making me feel vaguely queasy to giving me a sense of ease and comfort; fortunately, this particular ginger has the latter effect. It also lasts for a long time, making a very gradual segue into the composition's base notes. In the dry down, I detect a light, spicy incense; if it were an actual incense for burning, this blend wouldn't create much smoke or leave any sticky residue.
The dry down of Âmes Sœurs is still lightly spiced and resiny, with a mix of orange blossom and cedar becoming more apparent. I like this particular pairing of floral and wood notes, which I've also savored in Maison Francis Kurkdjian's APOM Pour Femme. Here, it is softer and warmer, as the final wave of the fragrance brings out a very subtle amber. Overall, I would have anticipated something darker and duskier from the "Scent of Soulmates," something redolent of ancient temples, but once I adjusted my expectations, I really liked this fragrance for what it is. It's a good balance of freshness and warmth that will suit my mood in summer and early autumn. It's very wearable for either gender, which suits its back-story of a man and woman bound together through multiple lives. And, as an oil, it stays intimately close to the skin and lasts well.
One last note: one of the male characters in The Book of Lost Fragrances wears a scent with notes of bergamot, lemon, honey, ylang ylang, vetiver, civet and musk; according to M.J. Rose, this detail was inspired by Fabergé's now-discontinued Aphrodisia. I'm wondering whether anyone will attempt to recreate this fragrance as described in the book, or whether Aphrodisia is something I need to track down and try!
Joya Âmes Sœurs is sold as 10 ml perfume oil ($28) in a roll-on bottle. A solid version of the scent, in a hand-crafted container of porcelain decorated with 22-karat gold, is being offered as a limited edition of fifteen pieces ($500). Âmes Sœurs can be purchased through the Joya website and at Henri Bendel and Opening Ceremony in New York.