There’s a shop in my town that sells perfume oils. The shop is styled to the minimalist, folksy, yet highly curated “Kinfolk” vibe that’s so popular now: raw wood furniture, bleached ceramic bowls, a 1960s credenza, a bearded salesperson sipping a latte from a mason jar and wearing a Ramones tee shirt he bought on eBay for $80.
Uh oh. I feel Grouchy Angela coming on.
“Are these all oils?” I asked when I visited the shop.
“Yeah,” the sales guy said, glancing at me and probably assuming I limited my perfume consumption to Jo Malone and that crazy bottle of Nicki Minaj I picked up after one too many mimosas out with the girls at brunch. (Anyone who knows me will snort at this.) “The oils stay closer to the skin and wear longer. We like them,” he said.
Sure, I thought. They’re also a lot less complex technically, and they smell like it. They’re thick but flat, silky but textureless. They don’t evolve. You can have them.
The reason I bring this up is because Aroma M made its name with perfume oils referencing Japanese culture. (The house’s founder, artist and certified aromatherapist Maria McElroy, lived seven years in Japan.) Aroma M Voluptuous Nostalgia, although not an oil, feels like an oil.
Voluptuous Nostalgia’s notes include muguet, gardenia, amber, tonka and violet. Aroma M’s description calls up mid-century Rome, with all its Roman Holiday glamour and charm. The fragrance starts with a sepia-toned citrus lead-in to a quiet, violet-heavy floral. The fragrance is mesmerizingly pleasant with its shady, faraway flowers — no strident gardenia or cavity-sweet amber here — and touch of crushed stems. It smells like it’s full of natural materials. It’s easy, seductive. And flat.
Voluptuous Nostalgia lacks texture. There’s no space in the fragrance to feel tingly or tannic or vaporous bits. Plus, there’s little evolution to interest me. The fragrance lacks that deliciously orchestrated transition through the rush of the initial spray to the heart’s woven pattern to the sympathetic foundation that an engaging perfume puts forth. As the fragrance fades, its floral layers fall away within a few hours, leaving a soft, barely woody dry amber that holds close to the skin for three or four hours longer.
In short, Voluptuous Nostalgia is viscous, smooth, lush, and highly telescoped. As an inexpensive roll-on, I’d love it, and I’d go wild for a Voluptuous Nostagia scented candle or soap. (Yes yes yes to the candle.) But at the perfume’s hefty price tag, I’ll find my retro floral goodness in Annick Goutal.
Do you think about texture in perfume? What do you think of perfume oils?
Aroma M Voluptuous Nostalgia is $225 for 50 ml of perfume wrapped in hand-dyed velvet. For buying information, see the listing for Aroma M under Perfume Houses.