Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Mystery of Musk: Impressions from the Blotter

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.)
Although the submissions arrived by mail over the course of two weeks, I waited to evaluate them as a group. Taking my own advice, I attached a random letter code to each sample to achieve some degree of “blind,” less-biased judgment. I began by sniffing each perfume on a blotter—because that’s the way I’m used to working. On-skin evaluations will come in another post. (The results are in progress—it was 101 degrees yesterday and 99 today; not fair conditions for smelling on skin.)

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.
Drydown: Imperceptible.

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.
Drydown: Faint.

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.


StyleSpy said...

Thanks for this. This was the first time on all of the participating blogs anyone has put them all side by side and it was really fun to read. At this point I've ingested so many of these reviews that it's impossible to keep them all straight...

~x~ said...

my vote is for musk nouveau.
also cause it's in keeping with the lady's mysterious musky bits in the logo.

Unknown said...

What StyleSpy said!