In December 2015 (was it really that long ago?!) I wrote a review of Boxwalla, a subscription service that offered surprise samplings of beauty products (or books, or films — multiple possibilities!). Now Boxwalla has introduced The Perfumer Series, limited edition boxes that showcase independent perfumers and their creations through sampling and shared exploration. Their first collaborator is Sigil Scent, an indie, all-natural fragrance brand based in Los Angeles.
Boxwalla's "scent experience" of Sigil Scents consists of two phases. For the first phase, the "Learning/Discovery Phase," you receive samples of four fragrances from Sigil Scent. For the second phase, "The Full Bottle Experience," you decide which of the four scents is your favorite and submit your choice to receive a full bottle of it. Between the two phases, you're invited to view and read conversations with Sigil Scents perfumer Patrick Kelly (via social media and email newsletters) as you try each scent.
Sigil Scents' fragrance names borrow from the terminology of alchemy, so in Boxwalla's sample set, we find Anima Mundi ("soul of the world"), Solutio (a method of purification), Prima Materia ("first matter") and Amor Fati ("love of fate"). All are blended from "a combination of handmade tinctures, essential oils, and absolutes," according to Sigil. I've tried all four, watching the accompanying short videos in which the perfumer discusses notes like vetiver and chaparral.
Boxwalla suggests (in its printed insert for the sample box) giving time to each of the fragrances, not just the one that appeals most at first glance or sniff, and this turned out to be sage advice. Reading Boxwalla's descriptions of the Sigil Scents in my box, I expected to fall for Anima Mundi, a "heady, woody floral" with notes of jasmine, tuberose, rose, hinoki wood and immortelle. There's a powdery rose note lurking in Anima Mundi's heart that I quite like. Otherwise, I get hints of white florals through a strong haze of smoky-syrupy immortelle. Its staying power is quite good for a natural fragrance, but I'm just not an immortelle fan.
I was surprised to find that I enjoyed wearing Prima Materia, a "green, mossy" composition that includes neroli, white sage, vetiver and oakmoss. I don't normally gravitate towards chypre-like perfumes, but this one felt both cleansing and calming to me, just like a visit to an actual forest. There's just a whiff of citrus to introduce the leafier, earthier notes, and if the overall blend still feels a little raw around the edges (as all four scents do), that rough-hewn quality works in Prima Materia's favor.
Solutio, an "effervescent, refreshing" blend featuring cypriol, labdanum, cypress and chaparral, is the weirdo of the bunch. It seems to head in two different directions, making me feel as though I were simultaneously sipping from two different cocktails. Solutio starts with a zingy mix of lime, sea air, and anise that's gradually joined by a deeper harmony of resins and woods, but these two aspects never quite gelled for me.
Lastly, I tried the "grounding, resinous" Amor Fati, with its notes of galbanum, opoponax, palo santo and oud. Like Prima Materia, this one pleased me more than I would have anticipated. It started off a little harsh and nose-tickling, but once it settled on my skin, I was able to appreciate its mellow incense and wood notes and its low-key inclusion of oud. I wore this one to watch "Game of Thrones," and it suited the show's shadowy interior settings and leather-and-fur costumes.
All in all, Sigil doesn't quite mesh with my scent-aesthetic (for all-natural perfumery, I personally prefer Velvet & Sweet Pea's Purrfumery, Ayala Moriel, or LVNEA), but I did enjoy working my way through these four blends and considering my own responses under Boxwalla's guidance. if you typically have a taste for aromatic, outdoorsy compositions, you should seek out Sigil Scents. And if you want to immerse yourself in an all-natural fragrance experience that feels carefully designed for curious and open-minded individuals, Boxwalla's Perfumer Series might intrigue you.
Boxwalla's Sigil Scent Perfumer Series ($84.95) includes 4 samples (2 ml each) and 1 full bottle (30 ml), shipped in two phases. This experience is a limited edition one-time purchase, separate from Boxwalla's subscription boxes. This box ships only within the U.S. because it contains alcohol-based perfume. For further information, visit the Boxwalla website.