Momento Mori - by Mandy Aftel for Aftelier

I'm obsessed with The Day of the Dead because it celebrates life rather than focusing on loss. Similarly, momento mori jewelry and art are meant to remind the wearers/viewers of their mortality while often also using relics (hair is a common one) of departed loved ones as a way to remember their lives fondly. 

Honestly, I'm always drawn to ornate and beautiful momento mori jewelry when I see it in antique stores, but am also repelled. This perfume captures the beauty and earthiness of these precious rings, lockets, and brooches well, and I'm at once entranced and put off by it. At least, I was the first time I wore it.

Mandy Aftel's tribute to these unique pieces of mourning jewelry is simply called Momento Mori

A natural perfume, as all of the Aftelier scents are, based on "the musklike smell of skin," is a tricky one. And it was a labor of love for the perfumer.

In Mandy's words:
"This was a deeply personal perfume for me to create. Memento Mori is about the tender memories of the skin and body of someone with whom you have been intimate, and the ways that you treasure and long for that which you remember when they are lost to you. We want to hold the vanished beauty close even as we experience the piercing quality of memory."

Momento Mori opened with a fiercely animalic pulse on my skin. It's buttery, intimate flesh, and there's no getting away from it. 

After a half an hour or so, the scent settles on my skin and becomes more translucent and diaphonous. 

Don't be mistaken! It's still animalic and raw, but to my mind Mandy's showing us how grief morphs and becomes a little easier to stomach.  

The heart of the perfume is softly floral, more gentle yet. You're leaning in to catch the intimate smell of a loved one's skin. Your memories are fond, if still slightly unsettling. 

I find myself pressing my nose into my skin at this stage, really enjoying the unusual interplay of notes: rose, often used in funerals, dances with more skinlike notes as the scent morphs again towards its drydown. 

Hours of drydown ensue, leaving us with more skin, more intimacy, more memories. 

While patchouli and civet are present, neither dominates the scent, which keeps it still in the more intimate, personal realm rather than veering toward the barnyard. This stage of the scent is almost transluscent, like the veil of a memory. 
Momento Mori is a masterful show of perfumery. Intricate and yet blunt, much like the jewelry it's meant to represent.

The journey taken from top to bottom of Momento Mori is delightful, though this scent isn't going to be for everyone. The daring perfumista/o (this scent is not gendered) may enjoy this fleshly ride through love and loss, just as only certain people are going to enjoy momento mori art and jewelry.

I, personally, love the journey. 

Top: butter, orris, phenylacetic acid.
Middle: Turkish rose absolute, phenylethyl alcohol.
Base: beta ionone, ambreine, ambergris, antique civet, patchoulyl acetate.

Now available at 
Sample provided by the perfumer. 

Gardenia Absoluta by Juan Perez of Exotic Island Perfumes

Today I'm wafting a tropical scent in the best of fashions. Straight from Puerto Rico from Exotic Island Perfumer, Juan Perez, I've got Gardenia Absoluta. It's exactly what it sounds like: a gardenia-centric scent. 

Here are the notes:
Clementine, bergamot, red fruits, gardenia, white flowers, white pepper, ambergris, mahogany, teak wood, sandalwood and white musk. 

It smells of gardenias in a wooden box, sprinkled with pepper. A little heady, feminine-leaning, and long-wearing, this perfume is glorious and typical of Juan's deft work with florals. Very tropical. Very much "yes." 

Get it on Etsy at ExoticIslandAromas. 

Disclaimer: sample provided by the perfumer

Magnolia de Verano by The Exotic Island Perfumer

I got the opportunity to try a sample of Magnolio de Verano, by The Exotic Island Perfumer, recently. This is a reworked version of the previously released 2012 scent. 

A fresh lemony sparkle opens this perfume beautifully. It's a gorgeous blend of Italian lemon, citron, and bergamot. 

The scent quickly settles into what must be a pretty magnolia. Yes, I live in Virginia and don't know exactly what magnolia smells like. Eventually this folds into a creaminess that I can't get enough of. According to the perfumer, Juan Perez, this is likely the jasmine he's included, alongside the magnolia running along this whole scent, and it's lovely. 

All of this beauty culminates in more creamy goodness: a beautiful sandalwood meets cedar meets Haitian Vetiver.

New to this version: according to Juan Perez, this time it's "more about the flower and less about the tree." The citrus top notes are now a better quality, the magnolia flower runs throughout the length of the scent, as previously mentioned, and the woods "are more relaxed." 

Magnolia de Verano wears thickly for several hours with a softly wafting creamy base lasting far longer. It's, for me, full bottle worthy. Yet another slam dunk for this underrated perfumer. Look for it on Etsy soon! (ExoticIslandAromas)

Rose Praline, Les Parfums de Rosine- No pralines here

I'm back with a fairly simple little review. 
Let's get one thing straight first: "praline" here, in Rose Praline, means "chocolate bonbon" not "sugared almond." Ok? It's French. I Googled. Anyway, that info will change your expectations of this scent dramatically. 

This offering by Les Parfums de Rosine, who does all rose perfumes, starts strong and fast with a heady, sharp rose that has a bright and juicy citrus twist. Sadly, I'm missing the cardamom, one of my favorite things, but other reviewers find it notable. 

After a short time, tea unfolds like blossoms. For me, it's dry and soft. Other reviewers find it prominent and dominant. I swear my nose is working again - I just don't pick up what other people are putting down.

Shortly, a deeper rose emerges, softer than the opening, paired with a nice dry chocolate. This is the part I snuffle my nose into on my wrist.

The drydown is a natural progression to amber, cocoa, musk and sandalwood.

This perfume is powdered cocoa-dusted rose and a cup of tea. 

Rose Praline is linear, maybe. But full. Not cloying (once that first hit dies back). Not overly rich. A gentle intro into roses but not fully gourmand in my opinion. 
"Oriental Vanilla" per Fragrantica; projection is moderate with a dabber sample, perhaps I could imagine it more dramatic, sprayed; longevity is good, I get hours and hours. This scent is  feminine-to-unisex.  
Top notes are cardamom, bergamot and rose oil; middle notes are geranium, dark chocolate, rose and tea; base notes are amber, musk, sandalwood and cacao. (Fragrantica)
Disclosure: sample provided by reviewer


This blog has been out of commission due to seasonal allergies. 

I have never had Spring allergies before! I also caught a helluva cold that turned into bronchitis. Joy. 

Between those situations the schnoz hasn't been registering scents. I put on a perfume and minutes later it's dead air. 

Hey, do you get that nasty pollen covering everything like we do here in the Mid Atlantic? That stuff's almost gone and I'm hoping my nose starts working again once it is.

So tell me: do you have allergies? Have you ever developed one outta nowhere? 


Bat: a new scent by Zoologist Perfumes has me flipping!

Those of you who know me well are aware of my affinity for bats. To the rest of you, that may come as a surprise. But I love those little (and some not-so-little!) pollinators.

When I heard about Zoologist Perfumes' new addition to their animal cruelty-free line shortly before they released it, I went-- well, a bit batty.  It was going to be called - it is called - Bat

Ok, there was dancing. Really. And lots of squealing and emojis. Ask Victor Wong, owner and creative director of the line. 

And when I found out the nose (perfumer) for the scent was Ellen Covey, the dancing and squealing and emojis started all over again. I swear I'm lucky Victor and I are still friends.*

*We are, right? Victor? Victor? 

Ahem. Let me sort that all out later. 

Anyway, I was ecstatic to receive my sample and immediately sprayed it on. There may have been more dancing, and squealing, and emojis, and an immediate Facebook post- but really, can you stop fixating on the dancing? You're embarrassing me. 

Let's talk perfume. Here's what happens when you wear it:

Immediately you're transported to the world of the fruit bat. Any one. Pick one. (There are 173 species of fruit bats)

Here's a leaf-nosed bat, like the one on the packaging.

Our Bat loves a little banana and some fig. There's also dense vegetal earth and rich plant life, and that sweet smell of fruit. A mineral tang from home -a cluster of rocks or a cave- cling to the air. 

Slowly... ever. so. slowly... the scent turns. Musky and furry smells unfold. We're smelling a watercolor version of the bat himself now. Not too strong or pungent, but decidedly animalistic. This scent is not dark, rather it is dusk toned. The bat's preferred launch time, their favorite hunting time. Leather notes sketch out the bat's soft wings...

Eventually, the night ends and the stronger base notes begin to fade. As the moon sets and the bats return to roost, we're left with a faint but beautiful sandalwood and tonka sunrise. 

I've never quite experienced a nuanced, two-step beauty of a base quite like this one! 

Projection: moderate-to-close depending on how heavy-handed you are; longevity: 6 hours-ish or more; Smells like a watercolor painting of fruit and earth, then musky leather with a sandalwood drydown. Price: good for niche; samples available.

Available December 31st, 2015!

Apologies: for the layout of this post due to computer problems. Usually my posts are a little more nicely laid-out. 

Disclaimer: Sample provided by Zoologist Perfumes

Spritz Me With Mexican Chocolate!

Chocolatl, by Euphorium Brooklyn, was a scent that had me pacing back and forth by the mailbox while I waited for the sample to come for me to review.

I'm a little obsessed with all things Mexican and that most certainly includes champurrado, or "Mexican hot chocolate," something I was particularly craving at the time I found out about this scent and learned I was getting a sample of this new release. 

Chocolate originated in Mexico, originally called xocoatl, an Aztec word, which was originally a bitter (not sugary sweet!) drink made from cocoa beans. (I used to make chocolate - I have weird chocolate knowledge.)

When I was in Oaxaca, I eschewed morning coffee for the delicious champurrado each morning, hand mixed with a special wooden whisk (I own one) to create a fabulous blend of spices and chocolate that ended up oddly gritty and thickly foamy. I highly recommend it.

Anyway, that craving was running high and I was drinking my own sub-par homemade version (I can't get it thick enough!), when this sample landed. 

Sprayed immediately. 

Here's what we are expecting, according to the website:

tzapotl ("chocolate pudding fruit")

Translations: piloncillo is a cone-shaped sugar kind of like brown sugar; tzapotl fruit is the name for something also called "chocolate pudding fruit."

I'd say Euphorium Brooklyn satisfied their brief well. This is a definite dark chocolate scent through most of the development. Not sweet (though not as spicy as my drink). It's got some sweetness to it, a honeyed stickiness. Delightful. I'd say your top and heart notes are pretty much the same. Not much change there. 

About two hours in, though, when we're headed to dry-down, some of what I consider Brooklyn Euphorium's signature, quirkiness, kicks in. 


This is odd. 

At first I started to get a bitter note. A green bitterness creeping in. I was put off, to be honest, as it was still lingering with the chocolate, but then as it started to truly swap itself for the heart notes and came into its own, I was won over. And mind you - this is all me sticking my nose in my wrist at several-minute intervals. Subsequent, less-attentive wearings skip the awkward teenage gangly phase because I'm not looking for it. 

The drydown-proper is balsam and musk and a little raunch, without which it just wouldn't be a Brooklyn Euphorium scent. Since I'm recently a balsam/fir ho, this pleases me. 

I find it interesting the choice to add Tolu Balsam, as it does keep this a little on the "odd" side. Tolu is a bit more medicinal and sharp than Peru Balsam, also used here. It's noticeable. As I said - quirky. 

I'd classify this as a comfort scent times ten.  I'm truly pleased with this scent. I may splurge and buy it.  

Mexican Cocoa, Nutmeg, Clove, Cassia, Black Pepper, Myrrh, Coffee, Neroli, Davana, Raisin, Prune, Labdanum, Angelica Root, Honey, Vanilla, Caramel, Palm Sugar, Peru Balsam, Benzoin, Tolu Balsam, Castoreum, Musk

Unisex. Sillage: Skin scent to close-to-skin; wear: 5 hours-ish;  Pretty much chocolate, then balsam and musks. Available exclusively at Twisted Lily. Prices are niche-normal. 
To be released in December. 
Visit Brooklyn

Disclosure: sample provided by the house for review

Down-and-Dirty Review: Porcini mushroom bouquet

Perfume .025ml $125
Cepes and Tuberose is weird. 

I like weird.

This perfume, by Aftelier Perfumes, is intensely earthy, like picking up a handful of gritty Spring dirt, bursting with both decay and new life, and letting it run through your fingers. 

It is also deeply floral, like sticking your full face in the most gorgeous bouquet of expensive tuberose, accented with a few pristine white roses bred for scent. 

This is one of those scents that needs to be smelled to be understood, as cepes -porcini mushrooms- seemingly makes no sense whatsoever with perfume. 

By mixing the two essences, cepes and tuberose, perfumer Mandy Aftel brings an earthiness out of
EDP 1ml $180
the tuberose that is unexpected and simply startling in its loveliness. 

This scent picks up an almost leathery tone, like the inside of a very old and worn vintage bag hiding a perfume-laden women's hankie inside. A musky scent is folded in (that's musky, not musty!). And the scent fades slowly away. 

So, in the end, it all makes sense. It gets where it gets in an unconventional way and ends up being stunning. 

Cepes and Tuberose is weird. I like weird. It's one of my favorites in the Aftelier line-up, and my next purchase. I consider the whole experience quite sensual. 

Perfume & flask (so cool)

Unisex. Sillage: skinscent to moderate if you are an enthusiastic sprayer; length of wear: 4-5 hours+; price: reasonable for niche; the mini makes it quite affordable. This is a unique fougere scent that may not be for everyone, but I highly recommend. Personally, I think it's highly sexy. Samples of perfume or edp for $6; mini perfume bottle for $50; other sizes available:

Disclosure: Review based on the edp; sample graciously provided by the perfumer. 

Speed Review: Hermes Eau Claire des Merveilles

Hermes Eau Claire des Merveilles by Hermes makes me think of F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Bear with me.

I wear it and think of wonderful vintage, classy, amazing things a la The Great Gatsby, or any of Fitzgerald's other works set, as they are, in the Jazz Age. I'm not saying that women of this period would necessarily have worn this, but that wearing it puts me in this frame of mind, if you follow me.

Like a glass of champagne, Eau Claire has a beautiful sparkly opening, this one a bright citrus, subtly bubbling over. Then a lovely powdery vanilla-slash-floral, light, airy thing happens that's simply charming and leaves a smile in its wake. Lastly, a soft, ever-so-faint touch of the woods that are typical of Eau de Merveilles lingers warmly.

Oh, and since it's Hermes it smells expensive and classy, darling.

Unisex. Sillage is minimal-to-moderate; wear is about 4-6 hours; price is reasonable. Find it in fine department stores. This is an Eau de Merveilles flanker, but should get more attention in its own right. Besides, the bottle - at any size - is amazing.