In my last two columns I reviewed new and upcoming fragrance launches from the fertile West Coast indie perfumer scene. This time we are visiting the East Coast and then skipping across the pond to Europe, where many talented artisans are giving the old established European houses a run for their money.
Our last destination in the U.S. is in Brooklyn, New York at the studio of Aroma M Perfumes, where Maria McElroy has established herself as one of the top talents in in a competitive field of New York-based indie artists. Speaking of artist, she is also a trained painter who has also studied Japanese art forms such as Ikebana and playing the koto, a traditional instrument, and it shows in the elegant Asian-inspired packaging and the attention to detail in her perfumes. Her latest creation is called Voluptuous Nostalgia; with such a name, it had better be good, and it is. In an unusual twist, it was originally designed as an ambient scent for an art gallery exhibition, but it translates perfectly to skin. Rich florals of gardenia and muguet are cooled by a touch of tender violet and matched with warm ambery notes for a unique olfactory experience. It’s the violet that really ties this one together for me, giving it a haunting character and also making it smell like a classic fragrance from the past; it would be easy to believe it came from a classic house like Caron.
Next stop is London, for a visit to Papillon Perfumery and a new fragrance that really surprised and delighted me. Bohemian Vanilla sounds as though it would be a sweet “hippie” perfume but it’s nothing of the kind. Perfumer Liz Moores has turned the popular vanilla theme inside out with this gorgeous scent. It is dry and somewhat dark with a vanilla heart note that acts more as a thread binding everything together and rounding them out into a seamless whole than a centerpiece. Starting out, orange blossom and jasmine introduce the decidedly non-foody vanilla, and then comes the segue into the base of patchouli, tobacco and labdanum. At this point it fairly glows with a smoldering sensuality; the patchouli is particularly fine in this composition. This is a vanilla scent that men will want to wear, but so will women who appreciate an assertive fragrance. Bohemian Vanilla can stand toe to toe with any niche and luxury brand perfumes on the market today, including the ones that are beyond the means of mere mortals.
Zurich, Switzerland is the home of Tauer Perfumes by Andy Tauer, a “towering” figure in the world of indie perfumery, a self-taught genius whose work has attained cult status. His new launch, with the working title of Dark Mysterious Woods, is somewhat of a departure in that it is not as strong as I expected it to be – big scents are his hallmark. This is more restrained than most, but it still has plenty of of lasting power. It is dry, and rather more austere than most of Andy’s work, yet warm and inviting; the notes are indeed a true mystery as they have not yet been revealed, but as always, it is obvious from the first sniff that it is made with top shelf materials. It has an incense vibe and I would guess that it contains guaiac wood, one of my favorite things, as well as vetiver and patchouli and perhaps tobacco. This tilts more toward the masculine side and I predict that it will be very popular among the gents when it is launched.
Finally we come to Florence, Italy for a dreamy new release from I Profumi de Firenze called Fior di Loto, a delicate swirl of florals centered around lotus blossom that was inspired by the luxurious royal gardens of the Medici. This is an exquisitely lovely fragrance composed by Giovanni Di Massimo in the classic clean, sunny Italian style. It opens with a bit of astringency but soon blooms into a well-balanced bouquet that is a celebration of romantic flowers, and I just can’t get enough of it. It has many of my favorite floral notes – orange blossom, lotus, orchid, lilac, hyacinth – and adds a twist of juicy peach to make it even more delightful. Most people have an idea of what Florence is like from an artistic and cultural standpoint, and it is equally gifted in the realm of gardens and fragrance.
All of these fragrances will be available from Tigerlily Perfumery in San Francisco when they are released, so be sure to check back on the store’s Web site.