(picture from the Aftelier website!)
If fragonerds could have their own church, I am pretty sure that Nathan Branch would be one of the first people nominated for sainthood.
Nathan is wholly responsible for this review (and he’s responsible for many future reviews). He is also responsible for my irrational late-night food cravings - here’s an example of why. Good lord, those brownies...
Nathan’s eponymous blog was the breeding ground for today’s featured fragrance, Haute Claire. I highly, highly recommend that you go and read the series of blog posts that acted as the catalyst for the creation of this scent; the conversations between Mandy Aftel and Liz Zorn (who are quite possibly two of the most genius perfumers around) are both enthralling and illuminating to read. The Mandy & Liz edition of “Letters to a Fellow Perfumer”, plus my desire to expand my knowledge of natural perfumery, lead me to enter a draw on Nathan’s website for a bottle of Haute Claire. Oh, and of course, Nathan’s review didn’t help out my desire to try the fragrance one bit. Nathan can write about anything and make me want it, really.
Well, lucky me: I won the draw! I squealed and cried and danced all around my bedroom, and sent poor Nathan a deluge of my trademark hysterical tweets and emails. Tolerance is clearly another one of his talents, aside from his writing skills.
A few days later, a truly lovely and incredibly generous package from Mandy Aftel arrived and sat patiently in my kitchen for my return home.
I must thank Mandy and Nathan, once again, for their unbelievable generosity. The two of you brought many days’ worth of much-needed, goofy grins to my face. I’ll be bringing reviews of the rest of the goodies Mandy included in my package at a later time.
Today, I am all about Haute Claire.
As soon as I opened the gorgeously packaged box (Mandy, purple + orange packaging? YES!), I knew I was in for a treat.
I could already smell the perfume, and it was stunning. Unlike anything I had ever smelled, actually. The first spritz was memorable, and the fragrance truly unique: so much so, that I wanted to wait to do my review until I felt comfortable explaining it. This took a few days of wearing it constantly and sticking my wrist out for anyone within wrist-sticking distance.
Nathan suggested the name of Haute Claire to Mandy; it’s a play on the Hauteclere, Olivier’s sword from “The Song of Roland”. There’s no need to explain French literature to you, but know that the name means “High and clear” - a perfect description for the play of galbanum and ylang ylang that is so remarkable in this fragrance.
Mandy and Liz chose these two notes due to their reluctance to work with them: the galbanum was Mandy’s suggestion, and ylang ylang was Liz’s. Immediately, you’re left to wonder how the hell these two notes are supposed to co-exist. If you’re at all familiar with galbanum, you know that it’s an incredibly green smell. To me, galbanum smells almost piney and bracing. Smelling it is like sticking your head in a cold basket full of every green plant and veggie you can imagine. The lush sweetness of ylang ylang is almost dessert-like and a tad citrusy: a custard with orange zest, if you will. I think what initially made me enter Nathan’s draw was that I really had to know how these two smelled together.
They smell, well, incredible together. Truly, Mandy has done something innovative here.
I struggled for so long to think of the perfect way to describe what Haute Claire smells like to me. I feel as if every perfume blogger who's reviewed it has smelled something different (see Nathan’s, Carrie’s, Victoria’s, and Gaia’s thoughts). Of course, this is a testament to Mandy’s skills: she has created a piece of real art with Haute Claire, a fragrance that becomes uniquely that of its wearer, who experiences the lushness of the scent but with his or her own twist.
It took me writing an email to Nathan to finally pinpoint what exactly what Haute Claire smelled like. I am excerpting my email here (there’s no point in trying to re-write something done so well the first time around!):
Haute Claire is unlike any fragrance I have ever smelled. My parents live in Florida, and my mother tends to a garden of various tropical flowers growing in our front and backyards. When it rains - as it often does - the air becomes imbued with this heavy, humid smell of crisp grass and the flowers. Haute Claire smells exactly like that garden. It's dizzying and sensuous, but in an unexpected way - grassy smells aren't what I would typically consider sexy, but there's a languid sensuality that the ylang ylang and honeysuckle lend to the galbanum that I find irresistible.
Haute Claire is comprised of the following notes: (top) galbanum, Mexican lime, wild sweet orange, ylang ylang co2; (middle) honeysuckle absolute, ylang ylang extra, clary sage; (base) vetiver, ethyl phenyl acetate, and vanilla absolute. The initial spray is galbanum, whose iciness is cut down by the lime, swirling together with the ylang ylang and honeysuckle. Divine, luscious, sexy but decidedly unisex. As the fragrance transitions into its drydown, the clary sage, vetiver, and vanilla give Haute Claire a warmer, earthier feel. Gaia brilliantly pinpointed the cocoa butter-esque warmth of Haute Claire, and mentioned that she experienced a case of “phantom note”: she smelled chocolate. I can definitely see where she’s coming from. On me, I smell an almost animalic vanilla pudding.
There is not a moment where Haute Claire does not surprise or seduce. It must be tried to be understood, and if not understood (I myself still don’t think I can properly explain this fragrance!), then appreciated and desired.
Haute Claire EdP retails for $150USD for a 30mL bottle - or $6USD for a .25mL sample, - and is available through the Aftelier Perfumes website.