Smoking vanilla with Mandy Aftel


This blog only temporarily seems like an ode to Mandy Aftel. She simply is one of the first to pick up on the fact that I am blogging again, and I also like to imagine that we're friends, so she has submitted quite a bit of recent work for me to review. Also, she's just so good I have no reluctance to write because there are none of those not-so-glowing reviews that are always waiting around the corner for a perfume reviewer. Don't worry, I have other reviews coming (DSH (!) among others). 

Today I'm wafting quite literally. I'm smoking! I have an edp on the left hand and a parfum concentration of the same scent on the right. I am so dang lucky I can't stand it. I've got on Vanilla Smoke, and it's so stunning I had to ponder on this review a while before I could get my mind together to write it. (It didn't stop me from buying mini.)

Vanilla Smoke 0.25oz Parfum

Vanilla Smoke edp 1ml
in organic alcohol
Vanilla Smoke 1/4 oz Parfum
 in organic alcohol

So, as is clear from the above, Aftelier Perfumes' Vanilla Smoke comes in two concentrations: an edp/eau de parfum and a parfum/perfume strength. I'll do ye olde compare/contrast here. Remember those papers we had to do in school, comparing and contrasting things? It's going to be like that, but a little more interesting. Well, I hope so. I mean, you're here because you want to be, not because someone forced you to read this review, right? If they did, let me know who did so I can slip them a fiver. That's awesome. 

The general rundown of what this scent smells like is going to sound the same. It's a smokey vanilla, folks. Try not to fall over in shock. 

This is a fairly straight-forward, "simplistic" scent, but don't let that statement fool you. This is not to say the scent is basic or not dynamic. 

According to the perfumer, top notes are yellow mandarin, Siam wood, saffron absolute, and vanillin. There are no "heart" notes listed.  Base notes are listed as vanilla absolute, lapsang souchong (tea), ambergris, and coumarin. 

My vision of Vanilla Smoke edp
Vanilla Smoke - THE EDP

I'm sort of "over" breaking down scents into notes. I'm finding it tedious, trite, and insulting to the perfumes themselves, but due to the fact that I'm comparing/contrasting two versions of the same scent, I'll do it this one last time.

When I wear the edp version of this scent, I find it more transcluscent and bright than the other.

This scent opens with a bit more of the sparkle brightness of the mandarin and the Siam wood.

I get a distinct rootbeer note (or more distinctly, birchbeer - have you had it before?).  I spoke with Mandy and we decided this little trick was most likely the saffron. It made me giggle the first time I smelled it, but now I do find it annoying. It passes quickly, to my relief.

I find the edp airy, bright, sheer, open. It's got more space in it than the perfume.

The edp version of Vanilla Smoke stays lighter and more flirtatious, in my opinion, than the parfum strength, though she does pick up a bit of depth from the ambergris, tea, and coumarin later in her development.

This is a lovely version of the scent and I do adore it.

Vanilla Smoke - THE PERFUME

My vision of Vanilla Smoke perfume
When it came time to order one of these, because I totally "needed" this in my life, I ordered the perfume mini. I'm addicted to these minis, by the way. They are petite little bon bons that should be available by every perfumer - price-wise, right in the zone, size-wise, so portable (I always have at least two in my wallet (my wallet!).

I am totally off topic now, aren't I?

Let's do this. When it came time to order one of these, because I totally "needed" this in my life, I ordered the perfume mini. The perfume strength speaks to me more.

While the notes list seems identical, the way they play out on the skin is subtly, but markedly, different.

The "birchbeer accord" is present, but fleeting. The perfume strength Vanilla Smoke dives more directly into vanilla, spending less time flirting with the mandarin and Siam wood. I smell them. They peek out and then they're gone. This is all about the vanilla and the tea and the coumarin, though.

We're all basenotes, all the time, in this version. And once those deepen, we get that ambergris, and the musky husky depth happens and we get sexy vibes all over the place. This is flirty vanilla all over. And yet it still remains breathy and open, never cloying and heavy.

It's brilliant, really, as any other vanilla-centric scent I've smelled with darker notes like this has always taken that heavy-breathing into a smothering place that isn't terribly unpleasant but certainly gets cloying in hot weather. This, Vanilla Smoke, would never! I can see wearing this in any temperature whatsoever.

And so that, ladies and gentlemen, is why I had to have a bottle. And I may go back and get some of that edp, as well, because it is also beautiful. Speaking of gentlemen: YES, you can wear this. PLEASE DO. I encourage it. Either strength.

Unisex. Projection: skin scent; Length-of-wear: edp- 4-6 hours+, perfume 6-8 hours+. The premise of the scent, as set out by Mandy, is that Vanilla Smoke is meant to be sexy, exotic, mysterious. I accept that premise, however I find the edp's version of sexy to be a more innocent, flirtatious type of sexy and exotic, like a young woman in a foreign bar you'd meet on a vacation, while the perfume is more like meeting the Mata Hari.  The pricepoint is reasonable for niche perfume, and the packaging is always a beautiful experience. Samples are available for $6 each. Aftelier Perfumes: Vanilla Smoke.

Disclosure: samples submitted by the perfumer

Photo Credits
Vanilla Smoke perfume photo representation: Esmerelda Seay-Reynolds, Vogue Germany; Photo: Mario Testino

Vanilla Smoke perfume photo representation: Emma Karlsson,Vogue Australia; Photographer: unknown

Meet Miss Hummingbird, Zoologist's newest edp

Hummingbird Eau de Parfum is the latest offering from one of my most favorite houses, Zoologist Perfumes

It's a departure from the heavy footfalls of Rhinoceros and the rutting skank of Beaver. It's closer in tone to the light, transcendent Panda - but not in the same genre of scent. 

Hummingbird is a flirtatious, fun, flickering thing. A "fruity floral," I'm hesitant to say, as I know that name makes some people wander off, but please don't!

Our fun-filled Hummingbird is a delight to wear and nothing like those department store confections. So please, let me describe her.

As first we meet, she is darting about, making preparations. We catch pungent whiffs of juicy pear, a sumptuous rose, sweet and innocent violet, some chilled citrus juice, and a hint of a lilac breeze. Miss Hummingbird likes things sweet but realizes we may not want to go overboard, so she shows delightful restraint. The perfect hostess. 

When next she flys by, shimmering in the sun, she presents us with a brilliant, glimmering bouquet. Again, always considerate, nothing dominates heavily. Everything is effervescent, sparkling, and incandescent like the lady herself. We smell, at times, lilac & peony & ylang ylang & honeysuckle & mimosa. Sometimes we smell them all, like a brilliant flash of colors - daresay like Miss Hummingbird herself?

Miss Hummingbird, tired from flitting about, settles down gently into a creamy musk-laden woods. One is almost surprised to see her resting this softly, but always the genteel lady, her repose is as gorgeous as the rest of her.

Hummingbird Eau de Parfum was created by perfumer Shelley Waddington , of  En Voyage Perfumes, for the brief created by Victor Wong, designer of Zoologist Perfumes

Family: fruity-floral; Projection: good/strong; Length-of-wear: 6 hours+; This is a gorgeous floral blend with a sparkling fruity top and creamy woods bottom. Full bottle worthy and perhaps my second favorite in the line. At $125 the pricepoint is reasonable for niche perfume, and the bottles and labels are divine. 

Disclosure: Sample provided by Victor Wong

Radiant skin from Aftelier and Aroma M

Do you hate your skin? If so, scurry along. I'll wait. Bye.

Ok, now that the riff raff is gone, the rest of us can discuss keeping our skin its radiant best.

Enter: Aftelier and Aroma M.

But wait, Jen! Those are PERFUME companies. Have you gone mental?! 

I have, but that's irrelevant. And rude that you brought it up, frankly. 

Yes, those are perfume companies, but focus, people. I know what I'm talking about. I'm a professional. No, really: I am. I'm a professional makeup artist. 

And my main artist philosophy is "if you have terrible skin, your makeup will look awful."

You heard me. No makeup artist can fix bad skin on set. Only Photoshop can do that.


Meet skincare oils. Yes: OILS.

Stop making me repeat myself. Geesh.

Your skin has oils anyway, so if you add the right oils into your routine, your skin will thank you by glowing in that way it hasn't since you were a child. 

Radiance, not shine. 

Oils were the original skincare. Put away the chemicals and get back to basics, ya'll. Here's how...


Aroma M, by the lovely Maria McElroy, has you covered, with the Cleansing Oil addition to her breathtaking Camellia Oil collection. It's rich in antioxidants and super nourishing, but rinses off and leaves just a hint of dewiness. 

Use this to whisk off makeup easily, as it deftly dissolves even stubborn pigments and nasty bacteria, so you don't have to obsess about all the yuck on there and you can believe your skin has always been as clean as the day you were born. It leaves your skin simply soft, impeccable, and looking radiant, like you've scrubbed it with angels wings. It also stays nice and hydrated for hours, soft as a baby's tushie.

Or once a week let it sink into the skin during a 3-4 minute massage (face/neck/décolletage). Thank me later. 

Ingredients:  beneficial fatty acids like Organic Camellia Seed Oil, Organic Rice Bran Oil, Organic Golden Jojoba Oil, Organic Vitamin E, Organic Essential Oils of Neroli, Yuzu, Rosemary and Frankincense. It smells heavenly.

Suitable for all skintypes. Really. Even you boys.

See also: Camellia Body/Bath Oil*; Camellia Perfume*; Camellia Hair Oil*; Camellia Face Oil* all available at Aroma M.
Geisha approved.
*This Blog Really Stinks owned and approved



Aftelier, by goddess Mandy Aftel, creates skincare divinity: Organic Face Elixirs. Today's offering is her newest, Jasmine

Here's the thing. I love to hydrate with oils. Especially Mandy's. 

Organic Jasmine Face Elixir is SO good it's like inhaling the Garden of Eden and all of the goodness and sin that comes with it. Only, this time the gods and goddess approve, and so does your skin. And there's no snake or apple.

Wait. This is getting confusing.

Just put a few drops of this elixir (oil) on your fingertips and press it into your skin after cleansing, then let it soak in. You'll swear unicorns blessed you with their magic. You'll radiate glowy youth and vigor without a hint of oiliness. Scout's honor. 

And it smells slightly spicy and jamine-y (literary license says I can make up that word). If you put this on at night, you'll fall asleep to lovely dreams and awaken looking like a model*. I also wear it during the day, but you may not want to if you wear face makeup - it may be a tad too hydrating. 

Ingredients: jasmine sambac, harvested in India, in a base of organic oils - rice bran, sweet almond, apricot kernel, camellia, grapeseed, squalene, and rose hip seed. Some oily skins or combo skins in the oily areas may find this a bit too rich - so try a sample first. 

See also: Organic Honeysuckle Face Elixir**; Organic Rose Face Elixir; Ancient Resins Body and Hair Elixir**; Chocolate & Saffron Body and Hair Elixir; Patchouli Spice Body and Hair Elixir; Pear, Fir, and Coffee Body and Hair Elixir. 
All available at Aftelier

*This may not be a real thing. But your skin will be lovely, I promise. 
**This Blog Really Stinks owned and approved

Disclosure: samples provided by the perfumers/manufacturers, with thanks.

Euphorium Brooklyn has the answer for dark mysterious perfume: Pétales

Do you remember back when edgy, dark, shadowy makeup artistry line Illamasqua released their fragrance, Freak? The one in the dark tilted bottle with the snail on the side? 

Illamasqua Freak
Freakily disappointing 
That's about as dark as we got there. To say I was disappointed was a huge understatement. Nice perfume, but not worthy of the Illamasqua reputation. 

I envisioned something haunting, yet pretty. Something a little dangerous, but seductive. It was good but I wanted more. More darkness. More edge. More mystery. More staggering beauty. More... MORE. 

I found it.

Euphorium Brooklyn's Pétales fits the bill in spades. 

I swear it starts with an innocent olfactory feint that smells like, I know I'm nuts, but--- well, I get rootbeer for a second. The fizz of grapefruit and florals must be to blame, as they mix with the spicy sweetness of star anise and pepper, the bite of galbanum, and the smoothness of honey. 

But that's just a little game, because this flirtatious scent turns quickly into a much more mature scent.

Spray Pétales to wrap yourself in a slightly mysterious perfume with naughty indoles, an armful of blossoms, and a deeply sexy base. Then watch out! 

Pétales , Brooklyn Euphorium. Available at
Family: Floriental. Firmly unisex. Projection is moderate, though you could amp this mother with extra sprays - if you dare. Length of wear is "hours and hours." Cost is in the moderately-expensive range, but snatch up a sample for only $4 and see if you agree: it's worth it. I smell rose and lily and crisp greens snapping over sparkling citrus. A river of honeyed spice flows beneath, before ending in a musky animalic heaves.

Notes: Rose, Lavender, Orchid, Hyacinth, Linden Blossom, Lily, Iris, Orange Blossom, Violet, Orris, Jasmine, Geranium, Palmarosa, Pettigrain sur la Fleurs, Galbanum, Green Stem, Moss, Pink Grapefruit, Fig, Honey, Star Anise, Elemi, Black Pepper, Vetiver, Labdanum, Benzoin, Tolu Balsam, Ambergris, Indole, Tonka Musk

Musc Ravageur, by Maurice Roucel for Frederic Malle - a misnomer?

I'm slipping quietly back into the scented writing world with a review of a fan favorite, "new classic," Musc Ravageur. Because go big or go home, right?

The perfumer, Maurice Roucel
I love this shot. 
I rarely quote PR material in my reviews. It's flowery enough, usually, and oddly enough has nothing to do with the crucial question: "But Jen, how does it smell?"

However, this entire review pivots around my own question: Is this scent correctly named?

So rather than use my brain to come up with a new review concept, which seems like a hassle, I'll stick to my guns and quote the Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle copy for ya:

Launched in 2000, this composition was a turning point in the history of amber orientals. A sensual perfume, powerful yet perfectly controlled, dramatic and mysterious. Composed by Maurice Roucel as an “act of seduction and generosity”, Musc Ravageur is an uncompromising Oriental, which runs against current fads. Its explosive departure of bergamot, tangerine and cinnamon is set against a backdrop of vanilla, musk and amber. A sexy, turbulent perfume, in a word: ravageur.

Another quote, which is particularly lazy writing: 


, euse  

    adj    devastating  

I don't speak French, but by my assessment -and astute leaps of intellect- this perfume is supposed to be a "devastating musk." 

The skeptic in me wants to know, is it really? Devastating is a pretty tall order. You'd better knock me to my damn knees weeping if you're using that word, know what I'm saying?

Let's talk about those notes. Bergamot? Check. Tangerine? Crisp and juicy. Cinnamon? Just a dash. Not really an explosive departure, but again I'm not falling for that PR crap. Also present but curiously missing from the description is lavender. Trust me, it's there. 

Carrying on: vanilla, musk, and amber? Check, check, check, but don't expect VANILLA, all up in yer face. Nope. Think whispers and hints. No mention of the clove, but it's there, too, as is tonka. There are woods in the base as well, including some sandalwood. Soft woods. Hazy. Soft and hazy amber woods.

The musk (ahem, "musc") is also soft. Not in volume, but in its nature. It's not pulling, tugging, and growling. 

Rather, it purrs. 

If this perfume is about sex, it's the aftermath of comfortable but delicious sex with a familiar lover, lying together afterwards reading or, limbs entangled, hitting Netflix. 

If you want steamy carnal knowledge, I suggest you look elsewhere.

In other words, "Musc Ravageur" is a misnomer, but probably sells better than "Musc Lazy Cuddles*."

Think: Amber Oud
Therefore: I loved it at first sniff.  
Result: Full Bottle Worthy. 

Family: Oriental. Firmly unisex. Projection is minimal, this is a skinscent; length of wear is long for me. I get top notes and base at the same time, with the basenotes developing, getting foggier and softer over time. Cost is in the expensive range, but worth every scent. As with all musk-heavy perfumes, your mileage may vary: we all perceive them differently. Many people find this "screechy" or "too animalic." They're wrong. 

What's your favorite cuddly scent? Do you have a particularly CARNAL scent you adore?

*I also refer to it as "fluffy kitten bellies" because it's just that cozy-furry-cuddly. 

DabneyRose Moi-Koh Incense Body Powders

I've been saving something special for today, because it's my birthday. I wanna talk about a treat!!! 

Let's talk about something truly decadent and novel. New - but not. Something I imagine you have not ever tried before, but you're gonna wanna!

Body powder incense.

What?! Oh yeah

Dry, scented powders? Been there, done that. 

Incense-style, though? A ritualized body treatment using the ancient art of incense to bring the body and soul together with the powers above? I am willing to bet that's a new one for you.

Imagine starting the day inhaling the beautiful scent of sandalwood, rose petals, a touch of frankincense and orris, and either tuberose extrait or ginger lily extrait and ginger lily root. 

Rub it in your hands. Breathe it in. Rub it on your body. In your hair. On your bed sheets. On your clothes. Anywhere you wish. If some fall on the floor, no worries - the scent is lovely and you'll vaccum or sweep it up soon.

Dabney Rose, who makes the Moi-Koh Incense Powders, also says they burn beautifully on an incense heater set on low, but I have not tried that. 

I got to sample both powders, and took my time experimenting. I found both really pleasing, though preferred the tuberose by a nose. 

I personally like putting them in my hair or  on my body when it's the slightest bit damp. 

Moi-Koh Gingibar takes a moment to bloom, then gives a subtle burst of ginger and then a longer waft of ginger lily and soft woods.

Moi-Koh Tuberose is pretty straight-forward tuberose from the gate, fading into those soft woods. 

Neither has particular longevity, but they really aren't meant to. They do, especially in my long hair, every now and then toss out a little scent. 

These powders are a beautiful ritual I have come to enjoy. Decedant. Very zen. Very posh. A blending of a French (Moi) beauty treatment and an ancient tradition (Koh, borrowed from Zu-Koh, the Japanese term for using incense before praying or entering the temples). 

Shop for Moi-Koh Incense Body Powders and Dabney's other beautiful natural scented products (I love her hydrosols!) on Etsy:

Disclosure: samples provided by perfumer

Zoologist: Beaver - Clean and skanky

A river pools in the clearing of a peaceful wood. Wild flowers mingle in the undergrowth. This is where the beavers build their kingdom.

Perfumistas often find themselves divided over the topic of "skank." That dirty, gritty, animalic aspect of some perfume that some find disgusting while others feel is sexy.

Perfume notes that add "skank" are usually musks: civet (from a catlike creature of the same name), deer musk, and castoreum (from beavers). Musks are removed from the glands near the anus of the animal and, as one can imagine, this does not leave the animal intact after the procedure. Considering this procedure and its impact on the animal, modern musks are usually synthetics or not sourced from these creatures. Then there's ambergris, expelled from the sperm whale, like vomit but not. Since ambergris is not harmful to the sperm whale, it is not a no-no from the animal-cruelty standpoint - but it's super rare (and super expensive!). Luckily, perfumers have been experimenting with dried hyrax poo ("African stone"); choya nak, which is made from roasted sea shells; cumin; costus; and cassie - all to create the skank we like without the animal cruelty (and without the synthetics, for the natural perfumers purists out there).

Happy beaver butt.

In Zoologist's beautiful Beaver edp, one will find a healthy dose of what smells like castoreum. Fear not! No beaver butts were harmed in the making of these perfumes. Zoologist founder Victor Wong challenged perfumer Chris Bartlett (of Pell Wall Perfumes) to create this animalic tribute to Canada's favorite little hard worker without using a single animal product. After all, a tribute is not a suitable tribute if it harms the honoree.

Adorable, isn't he?

There's been a lot of buzz about this scent in Perfume-o-Sphere, but not a ton of reviews. Is that because we're all fifth graders and can't hear the word "beaver" without turning stupid? I literally saw someone post, "I won't try it because of the name." Oh grow up. You're missing out.

Beaver opens with a breath of the lightest citrus, a simple-sweet linden swirl, and the feeling of an expanse of beautiful clean air. And as my skin always brings the heavier notes forward early, yes, I get the castoreum already.

As the perfume progresses - and this is an edp that wears strong, 6-8 hours at least - the musky leather scent builds a bit, always trailing the most beautiful light musky floral notes...

There's a whisper of vanilla and smoke that adds to the feint of leather in the heart of the scent. Not enough to take us into handbag territory, but enough to keep us from tripping into a pile of steaming skank. Hours later, the scent fades gently into softer progressions of musks over woods.

I find the perfume fairly linear in concept with enough subtle nuanced lifts tossed in here and there to keep it from being boring.  As a lover of skank, I'd call this one "skank lite", and recommend it to anyone who enjoys leather scents and may be interested in branching out into more animalic scents.

*Note: as with all musk-based scents a warning must be made. Since musk scent molecules are perceived differently by each nose, what I find not-too-skanky may smell like a barnyard to you, and what you think smells like a skunk may smell as clean as soap to me.  

Beaver is like a remade classic scent. A modern vintage. It has the lovely, earthy skank of an older perfume (that castoreum is really an accord and not a little dose of the real deal?!), with a modern and light hand shaping the notes around it.

And can we talk about the packaging and bottle presentation? GoodNESS those are gorgeous.

Once again, the Zoologist Perfumes house gets an A++ and a "must buy" rating from me, and I don't "do" ratings...

 Beaver edp by Zoologist Perfumes $125 
Top Notes: linden-blossom, Fresh Air, Musk, Light-citrus 
Heart Notes: Castoreum*, Iris, Vanilla, Smoke, Undergrowth 
Base Notes: Animal Musks*, Ash, Cedar, Amber
                             *Synthetic notes. Beaver Eau de Parfum does not use animal products.

 Disclosure: samples are my own

Image Credits: happy as shit beaver, (edited); beaver dam, theamericaninparis; swimming beaver,; cute begging beaver,; all others either or my own

Zoologist: Panda - A perfume review that gives me an excuse post pictures of pandas!

For those of you who haven't heard about Zoologist Perfumes, it is a Toronto-based line founded by Victor Wong in 2013. It has made quite an impact in the perfumista world, and I'm hoping they start making a wider swath on the market soon. I hadn't yet tried them, and am working my way through the three scents in their collection: Panda, Rhinoceros, and Beaver. All three are soundly unisex, and all three are made with absolutely no animal products, which is sensible for a line that is paying tribute to the animal kingdom, wouldn't you say?

I have an interview with Victor coming up, but first I'll review all three scents individually, mmkay?

Dude is CHILLIN'.   And perhaps lacks dignity.

I picked Panda to review first not just because HELLO, PANDA PICTURES! but also because it's the most difficult one for me to review. I'm weird like that. I like to get the hard stuff out of the way.

This is not to say that Panda is a difficult to wear scent. It is not.

Panda is, in fact, a delight to wear.

It's a little like this:

It makes me happy. 

Panda was orchestrated by Victor in conjunction with perfumer Paul Kiler (of PK Perfumes).

The perfume is quite obviously a tribute to the panda bear, but not meant to smell like one. Which, I must say, is probably good. I mean... they're cute and all, but I imagine they smell kinda musty and dirty and not at all like something I feel like spraying on my body.

The scent -which is an edp in strength but wears like a pure perfume, mind you- is billed more as a walk in the bamboo woods that would be the panda's environment.

The adorable Panda is a born charmer and a true ambassador of peace. Indigenous to the Sichuan bamboo forests, the Panda’s natural habitat is a majestic mosaic of dewy greens and enchanting aromas. 
Panda Eau de Parfum is a fresh green fragrance that combines the delightful scents of bamboo and zisu leaves to send you on an unforgettable aromatic adventure. Your journey begins at a quaint Sichuan pepper farm surrounded by mountain streams and then leads you through a forest of osmanthus flowers as you finally make your way into a cozy garden filled with juicy mandarin trees and blooming lilies. Panda is a scent ensemble that will truly awaken and rejuvenate your senses.

Let's start off the review with: this is a green fragrance. Big green. I happen to like green fragrances. If you don't, I still think you should try Panda. It's not your typical green fragrance. I don't know that I've ever tried anything quite like it before...

The opening is bright and light, courtesy of not just any lemon/citron but apparently Buddha's hand citron...

... and green tea, zisu leaves, and magical, lovely mandarin, a favorite of mine.

Apparently zisu is in the mint family, but there's no overbearing mint smell to this scent or I would have scrubbed it off. I can only assume this note is present to provide lift and brightness.

Also at the top of the scent is, apparently, bamboo, which I do not know as a smell, and Sichuan Pepper, which for the life of me I cannot smell. I must be anosmic?

The top notes are clear like a bell, definitely strong but not overbearing. They're beautiful. This is the playful, fun part of the scent, in my personal opinion. Then things start to get a little more serene.

Have you ever had blooming tea/flowering tea/pearl tea? It seems to go by many names. I'm not a big tea drinker, but I have had, in the past, wonderful jasmine tea pearls -- rolled-up tea that unfurled in the hot water. It's just a beautiful, hypnotic process, a meditation in my mug.

This, to me, is how the middle notes of Panda develop.  The top notes don't die or fade and suddenly you're in the middle of the perfume. No, the top notes are the water and the heart of the scent unfurls...

As with so many many perfumes, the heart of Panda is floral, here with added incense. I, personally, do not really pick up the incense. I get lingering green-ness from the opening. Added to that is delightful osmanthus, lending a tea-like impression. This is not a heavy tea note. No, it's beautiful osmanthus flower with it's dash of citrus, and maybe a hint of leather, pulling those top notes along for the ride.There's orange blossom, too, but lightly. A breeze. The lillies, too. You're walking by a field with flowers, not sticking your face in a bouquet.

This part of the scent is still bright and sunny. It's clean, but not soapy. It's green, but not leafy or grassy. It's a spa day, and you're relaxed. You're feeling calm. You're feeling open and, well, zen.

Eventually, and this takes quite awhile because Panda has some massive longevity, you find that your walk is ending and you're in the basenotes.

The vetiver and, I assume, "damp moss," continue our green theme, while cedar and sandalwood transition us into a fairly typical -and still quite "zen"- base.

I had to Google Pemou Root, and it seems that's a cedar-like oil with some benzoin and maybe some blood orange tinges, so hey there tricksy Paul Kiler - I see what you're doing there!

There is a linear quality to the scent, but it's not a linear scent. That is to say, it tells a story that is cohesive. It has continuity, but by no means is this perfume boring or "one note." It stays bright and clear without ever becoming annoying, shrill, or sharp. And it's definitely one I keep re-sniffing while wearing.

By the way, I can still smell Panda more than 12 hours after applying (at that point it's mostly soft musky woods). For a "fresh green edp" that's, frankly, astounding to me.

I do not grade scents, but if I were to do so Panda would get an A++. I plan on putting it on my must-buy list because there is nothing at all like it in my perfume collection. I think it's quite brilliant.

Top Notes: Buddha's Hand Citron, Bamboo, Sichuan Pepper, Green Tea, Mandarin, Zisu Leaves
Heart Notes: Osmanthus, Orange Blossom, Lillies, Mimosa, Incense
Bottom Notes: Sandalwood, Pemou Root, Cedar, Fresh Musk*, Bourbon, Haitian Vetiver, Damp Moss
*Synthetic notes. Panda Eau de Parfum does not use animal products.

Available only at Zoologist Perfumes

                       Disclosure: samples are my own  

Photo credits: no dignity panda,; tumble panda,; bamboo,; Buddha's Hand, wikicommons; zen spa,; sleeping zen panda,; hugging pandas,; bamboo flute panadas,; samples, my own.