Wednesday, December 21, 2011
I cannot remember the last time I had a Christmas tree; I think I must have still been living at home, and I miss that little plastic piece of green joy. Admittedly, I always wanted a real Christmas tree: I wanted to smell the fresh pine needles throughout my home, all the time - but my mother refused, claiming it would be a fire hazard. Sigh.
(the tree at the Mast Bros. Chocolate Factory)
One day, I’ll have a real Christmas tree: I’ll string it with garland and obnoxious ornaments, and I’ll place presents and cards underneath it. Even if I spend Christmas alone, I’ll get to luxuriate in the sight and smells of such a gorgeous living thing. But for now, I have a hilariously bad drawing of a tree taped to my bedroom wall (in the corner where I have lumped all of my Christmas gifts and cards), and a large collection of woody fragrances with which to assuage my want.
I have always had a soft spot for woody accords in fragrances. I love them for the warmth they give to fragrances, the instant imagery I see in my mind while wearing them - forests, darkness (or light, depending), coziness, expanse, life, and death. Woody accords bring to mind both the divine and the irrefutably human: wood is a material for near-infinite possibilities, and this is evident even in perfume.
With this in mind, I should probably let you all in on why I’m waxing poetic about wood: today is “O Tannenbaum!” Day - many of the lovely perfume bloggers who reside in the blogosphere are getting together today and posting about some of their favorite woody fragrances. Each of us picked three perfumes to do mini-reviews on; I will link all of the participating blogs below.
For my particular post, I decided to focus on three of my favorite Indie perfumers: Laurie Erickson, Mandy Aftel, and Roxana Villa. These women are incredibly talented and have cast a serious spell of magic over my life (and my wallet), and when I had to think about three of my favorite woody fragrances, their creations were the first to ‘pop’ into my head. The following three mini-reviews will take us from the photo-realistic to the purely dreamy, from the severe to the soft: all different interpretations of trees, of wood - a material we all seem to take for granted despite the magic that permeates its very being.
Sonoma Scent Studio’s Winter Woods: Laurie Erickson’s Winter Woods is an ode to every fantasy this citydweller has had about spending a white Christmas in a log cabin. I’ve always had a desire to spend Christmas by a fireplace, the smell of my kindling filling the air with a robust, thick smoke which would mix with my soft, ambered perfume. I would sit there for hours, cuddling someone close and just basking in the warm glow of the fire. Winter Woods smells exactly like this fantasy. At once incredibly soft and almost charred, it straddles a fine line between the masculine and feminine. An incredible combination of guaiacwood, cedar, birch tar, cade, and labdanum lend Winter Woods its irresistible thick and resinous appeal - and a decidedly sexy leather aspect. The fragrance lasts for hours, and as it wears the smoke clears somewhat and makes way for a lovely amber and sandalwood skin scent: just as sexy as the smoked woods at the beginning, but softer, sweeter, and a bit tamed. It is the dying embers in that fireplace, emitting a warm glow as my mystery cuddle partner and I get closer and closer…
Aftelier Perfume’s Oud Luban: Mandy Aftel originally created Oud Luban as part of the Clarimonde Project, an ode to one of the most haunting stories of love and loss I have ever read. The priestly Romuald was cursed to spend his life serving one love (the church) while aching for his other love (Clarimonde). Mandy’s interpretation of the story brings us this fantastic solid perfume, whose smell is both unique and familiar, old and new. Anyone raised in the Catholic Church can still smell the fragrant and heady mix of the wooden pews and the cloying incense burned during services: the frankincense smoke curling from brass censers. Oud Luban recreates the smell of the Church with a blend of frankincense, no less than eight varieties of oud, and an incredible orange note - the combination makes for a deliciously smoky orange lacquer while first applied to the skin. One can almost see Romuald on bended knee, praying for his damned soul. However, Oud Luban is all top and base notes - no middle - and the notes transition from piety to passion, a delicious and deep skin scent emerging. It is night, and Romuald’s head and heart are with his Clarimonde, his mind recreating the warm spiciness of her skin: benzoin and patchouli call to mind his carnal desires. Still, the fragrance never quite loses the austere woodiness: a brutal reminder to Romuald of his reality.
Roxana Illuminated Perfume’s Q: Nobody does dreamy quite like Roxana: her fragrances are a call to an idealized, fairytale version of nature that is not unlike that of my childhood fantasies. Woodland creatures, fairy sprites, and the souls of the ancients live and dance together in the scented scenes that her perfumes create. To try her perfumes (I adore her solids, with their beautiful color-coded seals) is to find one’s ‘happy place’, to reacquaint oneself with the simplicity of the surrounding world. Her gift is to make art out of that which one usually does pay attention to: Q is a perfect example of this - who knew that the oak tree could serve as muse for such a beautiful fragrance? Q is a deep and twirling sort of woody scent, and while smelling it, it is easy to imagine oneself standing amongst the sturdy, tall trees. You pick up a fallen leaf and hold it to your face, feel the trace amount of dew which it has collected, and smell the sunshine and greenness. There is a beautiful hint of citrusy snap to Q that marries well to the fresh green powderiness of the wood accords; I wear it and I feel a deeper sensuality. There is an unmistakeable spice to the fragrance, and as it wears, Q reveals an animalic ambered base, an accord which smells to me of benzoin and labdanum. Bark, leaf, twig, sun: the oak is encapsulated, revered, and made magic. It shares the magic with me, and I revel in it.
I could go on and on, but why do so when so many other of my blogging friends have other lovely wood fragrances to share with you! Please check out their blogs - and their contributions to O Tannenbaum! Below - and feel free to share with us your favorite woody fragrances!