Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Ava Luxe

"AVA LUXE is the collection of perfumes created by Serena Ava Franco. Serena lives in urban downtown San Diego California and draws inspiration from pop culture, music, art, the mystical and dreams."

Snooping around the Internet for new and fabulous fragrances to sample, I kept running into raves for a company called Ava Luxe. Having already been taken in by fans of Black Phoenix Alchemy Labs and completely disgusted by the cheap, head shop oil-quality of the fragrances (sorry, BPAL and fans, but that's my opinion), I was reluctant to sample the wares of yet another small perfumer with a large number of scents available. I noticed the large number of rose-based fragrances on the Ava Luxe site, however, and took the plunge.

I was pleasantly surprised to find they were of excellent quality, and that Ms Franco has quite the nose for blending. None of the rose fragrances were quite me, unfortunately, and I shall review them here at another date. Today I would like to tell you about a few scents from my most recent order of samples.

Notes: honeyed almonds, rose absolute, pistachio, hazelnut, cream, musk

The opening notes of hazelnut and pistachio are a bit overly-sweet and somewhat like the artificial effect of flavored coffees. This is but a fleeting moment and when they fade, the result is a delicious almond and rose musk, creamy and sweet and very very slightly powdery. I happen to have a box of delicious loukhoum (Turkish delight) at home, so sampled a rose-flavored morsel while wearing Loukhoum. There's really no similarity, not like that of Montale's version of the scent, but I would say this fragrance is equally soft and delicious.

Notes: Chinese peony, pink peony, Bulgarian rose absolute, sensual musk, orris root

Peony is a very true peony, with a lovely dewy and honey sweet floral opening that reminds me of the delicious drydown of Bond No. 9 West Side. The rose is pretty shy, as is the orris, but there's a nice skin musk under the peony. With a bit more rose, this would make a far more reasonably priced dupe for West Side.

Notes: palisander wood (from renewable sources), Japanese hiba wood, amber, incense, musk, pink pepper, cinnamon, vetiver

Palisander opens with dry, soft, pale woods and incense, rather light and gentle. Then the tingle of pink pepper and sweet cinnamon come through, enveloped by a light musk. In the drydown, the wood note becomes a little stronger, taking on a bit of a pencil shavings quality, and the musk also intensifies and gets sweeter.

This strikes me as a skin scent, smelling like ones skin after walking through a lumberyard, perhaps. The wood is there, but not intensely so, and you need to get close to the source to smell it. I find Palisander to be a soothing, comforting, and sexy scent.

Thursday, February 15, 2007


Abinoam is a niche perfumer that made its debut in 2006. Kareema, the company's perfumer, is self-taught. Her gift for blending scents was realized in the weeks following a sudden Transient Ischemic Attack or “mini-stroke” in January 2004 at the age of 30. By July of 2004, she was fully recovered and launched her first venture, selling to stores across the US and in Europe. By November of 2005, Kareema evolved as a perfumer and wanted a launch a fragrance line to reflect this growth.
Abinoam's concept is inspired by the eternal inner-struggle between darkness and light. The name Abinoam is an oblique reference meaning "father of kindness" from the Book of Judges. "The meaning of the name is beautiful," says the line's creator, "but when you see it in print or just say it, the word projects a dark, mysterious aura. This one word, I felt, exemplified the spirit of the fragrance."

This was taken a step further during the blending process. "Each fragrance was carefully orchestrated so that as the notes dried down, the fragrance became darker and more sensual." The common theme tying the perfumes together is the use of notes that have been historically used as aphrodisiacs. (Abinoam.com)
I got my hands on a couple of Abinoam fragrances recently because the descriptions sounded pleasing to me. Other scents in the line includeCorazonCobice, and Inveja.

Notes: Mysore sandalwood, musk, orchids, Tahitian vanilla bean
From Abinoam.com: "A warm, sexy Oriental fragrance. Sandalwood from Mysore and Musk form the scenery in which delicate Orchid flowers and the bouquet of Tahitian Vanilla Bean dance together in a beautiful ballet."

The opening note is definitely vanilla, but it has a taint of Windex to it. The window cleaning fluid scent disappears (was it the orchid?) leaving a sweet musky vanilla. Very similar in feel to Jill Stuart Vanilla Lust, my personal favorite vanilla, but quite a bit sweeter. Very nice, but nothing groundbreaking, and I'm not sure I would classify this as an Oriental.

Notes: pomegranate, cassis, peach, violet, ylang ylang, Ghanan cacao, Bulgarian blond tobacco, vanilla, amber

"A carnal interpretation of Pomegranate; the beguiling symbol of fertility. Top notes of Pomegranate, Cassis and Peach flow seamlessly into Violet, Ylang Ylang, and Ghanan Cacao before settling on a bed of Bulgarian Blond Tobacco, Vanilla and Amber."

Desejo starts off like a dessert course: fresh ripe peaches in a vanilla syrup, fruity and sweet, garnished with tangy pomegranate seeds and a splash of creme de cassis. All it needs is a dollop of whipped cream, handily supplied by the cacao and vanilla. Tasty for those of us who appreciate a sweet creamy scent. Maybe too fluffy to be "carnal" and it's not necessarily all about the pomegranate.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Light, Sparkling, and Clean

I adore citrus. My default drink at home is lime-flavored (sweetened) fizzy water, and one of my favorite sodas is Fresca. I love to eat juicy little clementines and grapefruit sections out of hand. And I like citrusy fragrances, too. Here are two reviews of samples I've picked up recently.

Chemical Bonding

Notes: citrus, tea, blackberry, peony, vetiver, amber, powdery musk

I sometimes have a problem with citrus notes in perfumes, as they can smell very much like cleaning fluid or furniture polish. And that's the case with Chemical Bonding. At first, I got very excited, since I could smell the obvious blackberry note as I spritzed this fragrance on. But in the time it took me to put the vial down, it was gone. Wah! I was then left with a combination of Pledge and Fantastick (or is it 409?), lemony and, er, I guess one could call that "clean." (Not sure if that was quite Ineke's intention of using the word "chemical" in the name.)

The "lemony fresh" scent subsides a bit to reveal a bit of green tea and peony. In the drydown, the earthy, musty smell of vetiver is noticeable, with the citrus and peony notes still holding strong, and then we get the almost baby-powdery musk. Still a bit too "clean" (heh) for my tastes, Chemical Bonding improves greatly after it has been on skin for a while.

Bond No. 9
The Scent of Peace

Notes: grapefruit, blackcurrant, lily of the valley, hedione, cedarwood, musk

I know the opening notes are graperfruit and blackcurrant, but I also get the impression of a fresh, juicy red plum, the kind with red-tinged flesh that I loved so much as a child. Oh, the grapefruit is there - I can detect the slightly bitter edge of that bright and happy fruit. The floral note is bright and marries well with the grapefruit. Unfortunately, this scent gets boring after that yummy plum-like note disappears. I was expecting it to be more like Hermes Un Jardin Sur le Nil, with it's amazing combination of grapefruit and woods, but alas, it's not.

Like most Bond No. 9 fragrances, Scent of Peace is strong, so be judicious with application.

For 2007, Bond No 9 will donate $2 to SEEDS OF PEACE for every bottle purchased.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

More Chocolate

Here are three more critiques of chocolate-based fragrances.

Ayala Moriel
Roses et Chocolat

Notes: pink pepper, nutmeg, mace, turkish rose, rose Maroc, may rose, cocoa absolute, benzoin, amber

Roses et Chocolat opens with a dry chocolate scent, like that of an ancient chocolate bar, forgotten and left to bloom. Then the spices come up and cause the chocolate to be not unlike a Necco wafer, sorta chocolate, sorta spice. The roses and benzoin dance in together, floral with a resin-y tang not unlike that of Zenadora. The resin note is very strong and not entirely pleasant, however, as it and the smell of Necco wafers don't really blend into an attractive whole. Hold back on that note, however, and this scent has real potential.

Eau de Cacao

Notes: rum, fruit, jasmine, sandalwood, chocolate, praline, tonka bean, vanilla, musk, Peru balsam

This scent reminds me of my childhood in the 70s: cocoa butter for tanning; a visit to Hersheypark (where even the mulch smells like chocolate) and a tour of the factory; Play-Doh; and white cake cupcakes with chocolate frosting. Sweet, but not cloying, Eau de Cacao is the most true chocolate scent I've smelled so far. The other notes are so subtle as to not be obvious, and I think they are good supporting players that round out the smell of the cocoa. Of course, when I say "true" chocolate, I mean as true as a fantasy version can get, as nothing compares to the natural aroma of real cacao.

Il Profumo
Chocolat Frais

Notes: cocoa, absinthe, almond tree flowers, green apple, pomegranate, carambola, white peach, woods, heliotrope

I'm not sure why this is named "Chocolat," as it's not about the chocolate at all. It opens up with tropical fruits spiked with licorice-y absinthe. Next comes a creamy vanilla floral and the tartness of green apple and pomegranate soothed with a honeyed quality. That warm sweetness may well be the cocoa, but it could be any number of similar smells.

During the drydown, the tartness and floral aromas remain, mixed with something almost masculine in quality which may be the wood note listed. Personally, I don't find Chocolate Frais to be a pleasant scent at all. A real scrubber, in fact.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Chocolatey Goodness

I think that chocolate is truly a difficult note to use in perfumery. Whether it's synthesized or from actual cacao, it usually smells very fake, cheap, and unpleasant to me. A chocolate note, in order to smell anything near appetizing, needs to be carefully blended with complimentary notes that will emphasize the best aspects of the scent. Personally, I think the best ingredients to blend with chocolate are butter, sugar, and eggs, but that's just me. :)

There are a number of perfumes on the market that have cocoa or chocolate notes. Thierry Mugler's Angelis one of them. Popular and polarizing, you either love it or you hate it. On me, the urine smell really gets in the way of the chocolate, but other people swear it's a sweet delight. Here are a couple of perfumes with a chocolate note; I'll be adding more at a later date.

Comme des Garcons Series 7 Sweet
Spicy Cocoa

Notes: bergamot, grapefruit, black chocolate, cardamom, fennel, coriander, black pepper, chilli, absolute cocoa

Comme des Garcons was established in 1973 by Rei Kawakubo in Tokyo. Their fashions are avante garde and their fragrances are somewhat expermental. For example, Spicy Cocoa is from the "Sweet" series that also includes scents called Burnt Sugar and Sticky Cake. Other series are named Leaves, Incense, Guerrilla, Synthetic, and Sherbet.

Spicy Cocoa is appropriately named, with obvious notes of black pepper, chiles, and chocolate, with a touch of bergamot and coriander. Almost like chocolate covered orange peel dipped in mole. The dry down has more cocoa and cardamom, with a touch of Necco wafer (which may be the fennel). Neal and I both tried it, and the black pepper is much more pronounced on him. It smells delicious and unusual on both of us. The downside is that the fragrance is fleeting and disappears very quickly.

Temper Chocolates
Temperare 01

Notes: white ginger, pear, chocolate, cardamom, Litsea cubeba, blood orange, pink grapefruit, and fresh ginger

Temper Chocolates is a Boston-based chocolatier that partnered with California perfumer Yosh Han to create chocolate-based perfumes. I decided to sample Temperare 01 because the description sounded so lush and delicious. Unfortunately, I didn't like the fragrance on my skin. It starts out with a fruity aroma with a hint of cardamom. The drydown is gingery, and the chocolate is completely undetectable. While the idea of pear and ginger sounds good, and doesn't smell too bad on paper, on my skin it reminds me of visits to the dog groomer. It smells of canine shampoo mixed with rubber dog toy and maybe a soupcon of IAMS. And it's strong and long-lasting. I had to purge my arm with lashings of rubbing alcohol and spritzes of something even stronger to neutralize the smell.


Notes: bergamot, orange, lemon, lily of the valley, coriander, hazelnut, vanilla, malt, musks

The chocolate sister to Pink SugarChocolovers comes out aggressively chocolate with a huge citrus note, then dries down to a musky vanilla with hints of hazelnut and orange. It's a positively edible blend but is strong and sweet--a little goes a long way.



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