Ad copy for most perfumes leaves me cold, or laughing. Aspirational advertising (looking at you, Aerin Lauder) feels icky and old fashioned. Sexy images can be fun to look at but I don't see a handsome half-naked (or fully naked for that matter) man in an ad campaign and then run to Nordstrom to buy the perfume he fronts. Occasionally, I come across an interesting perfume bottle I'd like to own, but it's usually a vintage bottle selling at an exorbitant price. I've never bought a contemporary perfume for the bottle alone (my bottles stay out of sight in a dark, cool cabinet their entire "lives").
Advertising that can get to me includes (who knew?) perfumes inspired by dead French people1 — the likes of Marquis de Sade, Joséphine de Beauharnais, Napoléon Bonaparte, Louise de La Vallière, Marie-Antoinette, Empress Eugénie, George Sand, Léonora Dori Concini, La Maréchale d'Ancre and Colette. A list of intriguing botanical fragrance notes or places I love or want to visit (travel-porn perfumes) can entice me, too.
Today, I'm reviewing two fragrances that ignited wanderlust based on ingredients and locales, with great bottles thrown in as a bonus.
Xinú, based in Mexico City, has released four perfumes inspired by plants of Mexico; my favorite is Monstera2 — an homage to Monstera deliciosa. The fruit of Monstera deliciosa (that must be eaten ripe to avoid mouth/throat irritation) is not the focus of the perfume, and I was a little sad about that since the fruit is described as smelling of pineapple, jackfruit and bananas. Monstera, the fragrance, aims to recreate the plant's leaf and stem aromas. And "recreate" is the key; the sap of Monstera deliciosa is a skin irritant.
Monstera goes on smelling of wet jungle soil and young, fleshy leaves. If you've visited a rain forest or a magnificent greenhouse, this earthy/green scent will be recognizable, transporting even. Monstera's opening is lush, but invigorating. As the perfume develops, there's a great (vintage French) summer cologne vibe, with galbanum and moss (and maybe some vetiver). There's also a tart fruitiness that smells like starfruit tastes; this fruit note mixes well with the "jungle floor" note. Monstera makes me happy; as I wear it I dream of summer.
Monstera's bottles can be used as vases after the perfume is gone and the wooden tops make nice candlesticks. Maybe all this post-perfume usefulness will make me pay $220 for 50 ml of Eau de Parfum? (Xinú: consider offering refills!) The brand can be found at Luckyscent in the US.
Carta's premier offering, Moena 12|69, is the first ever fragrance to feature Moena Alcanfor, a rare essential oil steam-distilled from the lateral branches and leaves of Moena trees. The numbers correspond to the geographical coordinates from where the oil is sourced — the Tambopata Province of the Peruvian Amazon at 12.58° South, 69.19° West. A close botanical relative to the highly endangered Rosewood (another Amazonian tree popular for fragrance), Moena Alcanfor is a new sustainable alternative. This oil is ushering in a promising future for the region’s delicate ecosystem. Its woodsy aroma ignites emotions, purifies and uplifts the spirit, and eases anxiety. A portion of the proceeds from Moena 12|69 sales are returned to Camino Verde, the only organization in the world distilling Moena Alcanfor."
San Francisco-based Carta just released its first perfume, Moena 12|693; as stated above, the composition is centered around Moena (Endlicheria metallica) essential oil from Peru; the oil is obtained from bark, leaves, branches and flowers and does not result in the death of the trees, thus the sustainable nature of this rosewood-aroma substitute.
Moena 12|69 is a heady elixir of a fragrance; its moena note is dense and buoyant, a spicy mix of aromas that reminds me of newly cut tropical timber rubbed down with fresh dill, powdered ginger and moss. The perfume's initial zing evaporates in mid-development as the slightly sweet wood note becomes dominant (and more "serious"). Moena 12|69's base presents more moena wood mingling with black tea syrup and a note that reminds me of immortelle; the extreme dry down smells of hearty sandalwood with a hint of coconut. Moena 12|69's projection and lasting power are excellent, even amazing: one spritz of the perfume on each arm is all I need for all-day enjoyment.
Carta Moena 12|69 is a limited edition fragrance (300 bottles were made in batch No. 1); $295 for 50 ml Extrait de Parfum at Tigerlily. Those who buy the 'first edition' will be eligible to repurchase the fragrance when it becomes available again.
Both Xinú and Carta have beautiful and interesting websites to "explore." My perfume to-buy list for summer is now ludicrous!
1. Not all were born in France, but all are "French" to me.
2. Monstera was developed by perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux. Listed notes of leaves and fruit of Monstera, sacred ear flowers, damp earth accord, white datura, bullhorn orchid.
3. Listed notes of wild Moena of Peru, moss, ginger, tea, tobacco leaf, woods.