The theme of this design competition (and yes, it’s a competition at some level, even if there’s no prize money or ribbons) is musk, to be addressed botanically and without recourse to the animal-derived or synthetic materials that are the classic anchor points of this odor category. I took this to mean that musk was a direction not a target, and did not rate the submissions on how close they came to the bulls eye. (In truth this was my only realistic option as I am not especially sensitive to musk compounds, natural or synthetic.)
My method was to jot down top note impressions from the fresh blotter and return later to check the drydown. My notes were made without having read the marketing materials and ingredient lists that accompanied each submission. I was not trying to play “guess the ingredients” or “name that note”; I wanted to capture my initial impressions of each submission. And here they are:
Adam Gottschalk – Lord’s Jester / Dionysus
Fresh: Chocolaty, almost vegetal. Low and brown.
Drydown: Only the faintest funk left.
Alexandra Balahoutis – Strange Invisible Perfumes / Temple of Musk
Fresh: Vividly green, like a brambly vine; with a lemony note as well.
Ambrosia Jones – Perfume by Nature / Craving
Fresh: A candy confection; buttery caramel or a vanilla cream soda.
Drydown: A strong honey-like impression.
Anya McCoy – Anya’s Garden Perfumes / Kewdra
Fresh: Musky, earthy; a sliver of wet potato. A rough sweetness like molasses.
Drydown: Faintly warm & woody.
Charna Ethier – Providence Perfumes / Musk Nouveau
Fresh: A low, quiet, incense-like smolder; a patchouli-like note.
Drydown: Nice; like a warm, sweet leather.
Dawn Spencer Hurwitz – DSH Perfumes / Musk eau natural
Fresh: A freshly cut celery stalk (!); warm skin; almost a chocolate note. Blurry.
Drydown: Peppery and spicy (clove). Simple.
Elise Pearlstine – Belly Flower Perfumes / Verdigris
Fresh: Rich new off-white vinyl car upholstery. A honey note. Clean yet warm.
Jane Cate – A Wing and a Prayer Perfumes / Tallulah B.
Fresh: Warm hair; a chocolate note.
Drydown: Same but quite faint.
JoAnne Bassett – JoAnne Bassett Perfumes / Sensual Embrace
Fresh: Sharp, effervescent Play-Doh. [!]
Drydown: A warmth like saddle-soaped leather.
Lisa Fong – Artemisia Perfume / Drifting Sparks
Fresh: Sweetly floral like an actual blossom; night-blooming jessamine with citrus.
Drydown: Distinctive: light & soapy.
Nicholas Jennings – Sharini Parfums Naturels / Graines de Paradis
Fresh: Spicy & astringent; like a masculine aftershave.
Drydown: Holds up & holds together well.
General impressions of the field: This is my first time smelling so many natural perfumes. For a simple theme, musk produces a dazzling array of creative directions (that’s perfumers for you . . .). The drydowns were pleasingly non-linear (something I had expected, given the nature of the art); but I was startled by how many faded away like the Cheshire Cat.
The proof of the pudding is how a fragrance play on skin—so stay tuned for the next round of evaluation.