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: https://www.etsy.com/shop/DabneyRose

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, pinterest.com (edited); beaver dam, theamericaninparis; swimming beaver, ign.com; cute begging beaver, docakilah.wordpress.com; all others either zoologist.com 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, bbc.com; tumble panda, cutearoo.com; bamboo, greenlifestylemarket.com; Buddha's Hand, wikicommons; zen spa, peaceriverzenspa.com; sleeping zen panda, theguardian.com; hugging pandas, telegraph.co.uk; bamboo flute panadas, filmcrithulk.wordpress.com; samples, my own.

If you have a face with skin on it, read this.

As a child, did you ever climb through brambles on the way to those beautiful, bobbing heads of honeysuckle, pinch off a blossom, and suck the nectar out? I know I did! I recognized the scent of those thick, full vines way before I spotted them on one of the many pathways near our house. And I still lean over and take a whiff now, though they surely aren't as prevalent as I seem to recall them being back when I was young. 

Well, if honeysuckle is a fond childhood memory for you like it is for me, AND you have a face with skin, you're going to be so excited to hear what I'm talking about today!

It's good. 

Damn good.

Really mind-blowingly good.

Dance around with a smile on your face, holy grail, hug strangers good.

Natural perfumer Mandy Aftel has a collection of skincare products in her Aftelier Perfumes line. They are divine. How I have managed to not blog about them is, frankly, appalling and shameful. I could have sworn I had, and I will rectify that with haste. 

At any rate, today I'm talking about a newish addition to the line. It's, of course, all kinds of natural, because this is Mandy Aftel we're talking about. And, unless you're particularly tired or un-coffee'd today, you have probably guessed it's got honeysuckle in it. Yup. Beautiful, rare, organic honeysuckle, sourced from Italy. 

In fact the whole product, a face oil, is organic. (Score!) So: Organic Honeysuckle Face Elixir is what we have going on today. 

If you have never put an oil on your face, do not stop reading. Trust me. I'm a doctor.

I am totally not a doctor. That was a blatant lie.

But I am a makeup artist. 

And I have been using oils on my face for over two years, exclusively. No creams. No regular jars of moisturizers. No makeup removers, either. Just oils. And if you're shaking your head saying, "Jen, you are nuts!" Well, yes. Yes, I am, but that is not the point.

Even oily-skinned people and those with acne can -and SHOULD!- use oils on their faces. Just the correct oils. I have gone from having some visible fine lines and some acne (I'm *gulp* 43) while using an arsenal of expensive, high-end, store-bought products, to having almost imperceptible lines and barely any breakouts, even At That Time of The Month. Thank you face oils! And yes, oils are fabulous for men, too. (They give a great shave, btw)

Here's the deal. You put about two, maybe three, drops of the oil on your fingers. You spread it around a bit on all of your fingertips. You then press -do not rub!- it into freshly washed skin. Ladies, that third (or even a fourth) drop will be beneficial on your throat, neck, and decolletage. Anything left on your fingers should be pressed on the back of your hands.*
*This is a rule you are to follow from now on with all skincare including sunscreen or you will have ugly old lady/old man hands. Heed my warning.

The directions instruct you to use it at night, but as a doctor makeup artist I will say that if you have dry or even normal skin, feel free to put a little on in the morning as well. Do give it some time to sink in, though, if you indulge in makeup. It does soak into the skin quickly, but we don't want a foundation or concealer landslide issue happening. Also: caution around the eyes, please.

Organic Honeysuckle Face Elixir is scented beautifully. I confess: when testing it, I put some on the back of my hands, not as an anti-aging device but as a perfume. Really, I needed to get a feel for the scent for the review.

Oh my gosh, this scent. People! THIS SCENT. 

It's so ripe, lush, plump, full-bodied, rich. It's floral, it's a little fruity -but only a little. It's just... the word divine is over-used, but it fits here. 

On the face, the scent seems to disappear fairly quickly, which is desirable. It is definitely enough of a lasting scent, though, that you will fall asleep to pleasant dreams if you use this at night...

I loaded it up on the backs of my hands, though, and the longevity is a little nuts, frankly. I'm about 2 1/2 hours in and I can still smell it clear as day. So if you go crazy with this on your face (Which I do not recommend because you do not need that much oil on your face. Ever.) and you apply in the morning, you're going to have some funny looks at that 9:00am meeting. And that's not what you're going for, I don't think, amiright?

So the breakdown is this: Organic Honeysuckle Face Elixir has, as mentioned, rare organic honeysuckle oil sourced from Italy. It's added to the organic skincare base oils: rice bran, sweet almond, apricot kernel, camelia, grapeseed, squalene, and rose hip seed. What does all that mean? Essentially, these are light, natural oils that are easily absorbed into the skin. Many of them have antioxidant properties. Some profess to even out skintone. Rose hip is often touted to be great at lessening the appearance of wrinkles. Many of these work to soften skin. 

The gist: your skin is going to feel softer. It's going to feel smoother. It may have fewer breakouts. It will have fewer dry spots. You will probably notice some plumping of fine lines. You'll glow. Not kidding.

I know you will enjoy the scent. And the pampering feeling. 

And this stuff is organic and it's natural and it's $65 a bottle, which since you're using 2-3 drops is really a very good price. 

Trust me. Oil up. 


This is Zoey.
Zoey took the opportunity to steal the box holding the sample vial of Organic Honeysuckle Face Elixir. She proceeded to rip said box open and ignore the other sample in the box and somehow chew the bottom (only) off of the GLASS VIAL of the Honeysuckle Elixir and drink (?) the face oil.

Zoey will be submitted to a) the crate of shame, b) DogShaming.com, and c) intense scrutiny to make sure she did not cause herself any damage.

Mandy has been informed that Zoey prefers the Honeysuckle over the other sample. ;)

Oh, in other news, the dog's breath smells lovely...


First photo courtesy of themagiconions.com;
 honeysuckle and bee via marathi.wunderground.com 
all others except the dog via wikicommons.com.

The dog is, regrettably, mine.
Sample of product provided by the perfumer.

Dolcelisir Acqua di Profumo by L'Erbolario

Nice little cheapie I got to sample thanks to a friend.

It's like a Frapin (think liquor!) and one of those Spadero's, Doux Amour I think it was, had a baby. 

A boozy, gourmand, floral, pretty thing. Almost too sweet for me, but only almost.

It projects decently, not screaming out, but not holding too tightly, either. The longevity is like a marathoner - it goes and goes. The drydown, arguably the best part, lasts hours.

The orange note at the top: perfection.

The drydown is sexy/snuggly.

Worth the money if you have an olfactory sweet tooth.

Top notes include bergamot, orange, caramel and rum. Heart is composed of jasmine, rose, immortal, lily of the valley, cinnamon, sugar cane and cocoa powder. Base features patchouli, vanilla, benzoin, tonka, amber and musk.

Bendelirious by Etat Libre d'Orange

Bendelirious is one of my Top Five scents because it's just so fun. And it may be---back? It was originally created by Etat Libre d'Orange (hell, call it EldO like the rest of us!) for Henri Bendel, but then discontinued and only available at discounters. But....it's on the ELdO website and on LuckyScent now. Maybe I can stop hoarding it?

This scent is, like I said, fun. She bubbles open, then starts giggling. She's never going to scream FRUITY FLORAL, thank goodness. She's too refined for that nonsense. 

She's a lady, for the love of Pete. A lady with sexy violet and orris laid over a bed of very expensive leather.  

When the party is over, she tosses a flirtatious look over her shoulder and leaves, trailing a wake of musk and sweet tonka.

And you can't wait to see her again.

Grapefruit essence, Champagne accord, cherry lollipop accord, violet leaves absolu, orris absolu, orris butter, leather accord, vetiver accord, musk, tonka bean absolu...

On Mandy Aftel's book "Fragrant: The Secret Life of Scent"

It's been so long since I've blogged that I've quite forgotten how! But I can't think of a better way to jump back in than to start with an offering from one of the nicest people I know, a friend and a fragrant wizard: Mandy Aftel. Today, though, I'm not discussing a perfume. I'm talking books, my friends.

That's right. Among Mandy's many gifts is her ability to put her thoughts to paper. Perhaps you have read her well-known primer on natural perfumery, Essence and Alchemy: A Natural History of Perfume*? Or her book on using essential oils in expected (and not so expected) ways: Aroma: The Magic of Essential Oils in Food and Fragrance (with Daniel Patterson)? Or Scents and Sensibilities: Creating Solid Perfumes for Well-Being? Did you know she has also written about Brian Jones, a founding member of the Rolling Stones? And about finding a therapist? Yeah, she used to be a therapist in a past life. I mean, not like a past life, woo-woo-style, rather that was her profession before she discovered her passion for natural perfumery.

[*Note to self: Self, why have I not reviewed that?  I do own it. Must remedy.]

"I create perfume, and people wear it, because beauty is a vacation from reality. It is a place --an ideal place-- that you can visit without traveling. It is restorative, and it makes you feel good. A personal adornment like wearing jewelry, it has no practical purpose whatsoever. It simply allows us to inhale bliss." - Mandy Aftel

Why Fragrant?
Frankly, I'm a bit of a quite a nerd, so no hobby of mine can fully be enjoyed without understanding the background of the whole thing. Luckily, in Fragrant, Mandy makes this not only an accessible bit of research but a very pleasurable one.

But Fragrant is not written for the perfumers and perfumistas of the world. I mean, feel free to read it if you are one. I encourage you to do so. No, more than that: Frankly, I'm quite confused if you don't read Fragrant and still call yourself a perfumista. I don't understand how you can blog about, or "speak knowledgeably" about, your passion if you do not know where the art's roots are. But anyway, I digress.

Fragrant is Mandy's offering to the non-obsessed. To those who, to borrow the online slang, may be noobs. The curious. The folks who wonder-- "who was the first person to rub that on their body? And WHY?!" It's a way to open the door and say, "Come in, explore this amazing world with us!"

Love, love, love the awesome pictures that pepper the pages of Fragrant

At the beginning of the book, Mandy skims through her history. She tells us of various careers that led her, ultimately, to her passion: natural perfumes. She uses words like "joy" and "heady" and "mysterious" and "amazing." You feel how excited she is to share this world of hers with you, the reader, and that's what makes this book such a lovely read. And it's also, by the way, what makes Mandy such a great perfumer and a wonderful person to talk to. 

You see, she knows that people have become so accustomed to being bombarded with scents that we hardly register them anymore. Our detergents, our dish soaps, shampoos, our grocery stores, our foods for heaven's sake! Everything has an artificial scent and we've become numb to this constant battering ram of olfactory warfare. 

We think perhaps we just don't care about scent. But Mandy has discovered the joy of introducing - or rather, reintroducing - people to the pleasure of natural scents. And that, my friends, is why Fragrant was written.
"...they've come to believe they have no appetite for scent itself.  Watching them discover authentic aromas and their sensual pleasures is profoundly thrilling, like watching a starving person feast on a delicious meal. It's these experiences of reawakening people to scent that led to this book." -Mandy Aftel

The Main Characters

Mandy has taken a clever approach to introducing us to the world of scent. She's chosen five "main characters" to lead the reader through history and perfumery. Each gets a chapter. I'll happily introduce them, but let me point out that the real bonus is that if you purchase Fragrant from Mandy's website, Aftelier Perfumes, you get this amazing Companion Kit that actually gives you samples of all five of the main characters!

Each item in the Companion Kit
Companion Kit packaging

In order of appearance:


Full disclosure: I really do not react well to spearmint. Well, whatcha gonna do? 

How cool is it to know that the cinnamon and mint oils that come in the kit can be used in food or drink? And should you choose to do so, you may wear the (already diluted) ambergris tincture and jasmine on your skin. The frankincense? Rub it between your fingers, on your skin, or layer it with the other two skin-appropriate oils and make your own perfume!

The inside of The Companion Kit

Cinnamon is a spice, and leads us through the spice route, educating us on history, passion, some myth, and how perfumery really got its start.

Mint represents home and Americana. It symbolizes all things authentic, comforting, and welcoming.

Frankincense, as part of a tree, ties us to the earth and to the sky, being a crucial part of incense. This character leads us to the spiritual.

Ambergris is one of those "who in the heck saw that and decided to burn it or put it on their bodies?" items. This character, a highly animalic, very prized, quite expensive ingredient, introduces us to the concept of "other" but also ties us to our own animal side. Not familiar with the ingredient? Wait until you hear how it's "made"...

Jasmine. Ah, sweet, sultry jasmine. This character represents the human craving for beauty, but also artfully introduces the concept of wabi-sabi. Well, you'll see. This may have been my favorite chapter. 


Other neat features of the book include recipes for perfumes, foods, drinks; gorgeous quotations and poems (Mandy, you make my heart sing with these!); delightful illustrations from old books; insights into perfumery; and so much more.

For example, would you like to learn...
  • The best cure for olfactory fatigue?
  • How to think about/describe a smell?
  • How scents are captured from the thing-- the flower, the tree, the bark, the fruit?
  • Some really mouth-watering tips for using essential oils in food and drinks?
  • A pretty sexy poem about being the wife of a cinnamon peeler? 
  • Where the word "grocer" originated?
  • Which surprising spice, still used everywhere, was used as currency in medieval England?
  • How many perfume ingredients had elaborate stories involving snakes "back in the day"?
  • How to discern, yourself, what raw ingredient is a top, middle, or base note?
  • Which popular herb was thought to be an effective form of birth control in Japan at one point?
  • How to make Toad Ointment? (spoiler alert: the toad does not fare well in the end)
  • Why Wrigley's Gum owes a lot to some geese?
  • Which common perfume ingredient was found in King Tut's tomb?
  • What Johns Hopkins University and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem are finding out about frankincense and why it is really, really important?
  • How incense was used as a clock?
  • Why a dog rolls in the nastiest, grossest filth it can find and then proudly trots off?
  • Why, although I love it, butyl mercaptan will never be used in perfumery?
  • What butterflies smell like?
  • Really, how many times snakes are mentioned in this book?
  • Would you try jasmine-ambergris chocolate?
  • Which perfumes would you compare with rococo architecture? Ok - only you can answer that, but the question is obliquely posed in Fragrant.

In Summary

I found this book a fantastic read. I not only enjoyed the history -and I'm not a history gal if it's dry, which this was not- but I really had a good time learning about how Mandy picks particular ingredients. What makes a specific cinnamon Aftelier-worthy? Fascinating.

I thought that it was quite cool to learn how modern marketing hasn't come too far from ancient times, when stories were embellished to make the ingredients seem more valuable, more exotic, and voila- more expensive! 

And I laughed out loud when Mandy compared Pinterest to a modern cabinet of curiosities. Indeed it is! More laughs came when reading the story about the man who got an leaky package in the mail...

I have a fondness for old American stories, so the section on peddlers and old ointments and backwoods tales was right up my alley. 

And of course, digging into the gross but amazing roots of some of my favorite vintage scent ingredients (ambergris, castoreum, civet, musk) was so cool. I have my qualms about their use currently, but in my vintage perfumes I figure those ethical dilemmas have long gotten on their ships and sailed away, so this vegetarian and animal rights activist can rest easily. Kinda.  

I learned a lot about perfume itself, not just the ingredients. New terms made themselves known to me. Accessory Notes. Burying, Chameleon Perfume. Cresol. Who knew? Well, Mandy Aftel did. 

At any rate, this book kept my interest, and if you are intrigued with perfume I assume it will do the same for you.  

Frankly, I am now inspired to mix my own gorgeous naturals. Ok, I expect them to be much less gorgeous than Mandy's, but the process is the thing. And the smelling, the diving in, the reveling in the scents... that's what I have gotten from this book. So thank you, Mandy.

PS: I'm totally making frankincense shortbread.

"What is beauty for? The beauty of beauty is that it is not for anything-- it doesn't stand for something else, it doesn't have to do something, it only needs to be." - Mandy Aftel

Other reviews
This book has been disappointingly represented in the perfume blogosphere, but has been received well elsewhere. Here are some links to reviews and, after that, links to purchasing the book.


Disclosure: This book and the accompanying "Companion Kit" were provided to me by the author.

Returning to a computer screen near you...

I'm getting the band back together! That's right, I'm relaunching This Blog Really Stinks. I'll be back shortly with a brand new look and style that looks startlingly like the old one, possibly with a little more sass.

First post: a review of Mandy Aftel's book Fragrant.

Please do not hold your breath, because you'll die, but I will be posting soon... 


Mama mia, this Mother is good stuff! Mother by Opus Oils

We know I love a sandalwood perfume, right? Doesn't everyone? I mean... it's so versatile. So breathtaking. So traditional. So incredibly classic. And recently, so very rare and expensive. The woody goodness is often nearly foody, slightly skin-like, and always silken on the skin. A good long sniff of a good sandalwood is particularly soothing, don't you think?

I also adore the scrumptious, fleshy temptation of a well-made fig perfume. Luscious. Delicious. Tempting! Everyone loves fig, right? Duh.

Oh! What about boozy perfumes?! Oh, I love a perfume that smells like an after-dinner drink. How 'bout you? I mean... right?!

What about gourmands, since we're talking about figs and booze? Chocolate - there's nothing better, amiright? Oy vey, a good chocolate perfume sends me!

And then there are roses. I've just started to love rose perfumes. They're so varied, though, so traditionally Perfume. So feminine. So masculine. So unisex. They're whatever you want them to be, but you can always depend on them being sensual, beautiful, and symbolic of the big L*.
*Love, my dear.

Well, mama, I am here to point you in the direction of another fabulous sandalwood perfume! And another fabulous fig perfume. And another boozy perfume. And a chocolate one. And... wait: they're all in the same perfume. Dear Mother of All That is Good!

Mother. A perfume by Opus Oils. It contains all of the notes referenced about, all presented masterfully in a limited edition scent by Master Perfumer Kedra Hart for the Primordial Scents Project. It references "earth", an idea I think it accomplishes with aplomb! (Click the link to visit a lot of the background and references for the scent)

I am mad for this scent, as is everyone who has smelled it. It starts out boozy, like a promising evening. Figs flesh out the scent, lending a very sensual nuance. This phase is beautiful and fleshy and something I wish would never end. But all things must come to an end...

... luckily for us all, Mother only gets better, which is almost impossible to believe! While the rose isn't so prominent on my skin, the stunning this-is-the-good-stuff sandalwood surges forward, bringing with it the rich nuttiness of chocolate.

This is not by any means a gourmand scent, in my opinion. It's something different. It's something more. It becomes a warm, bready, skinscent with a chocolate tinge and occasional flash of booze. The sandalwood almost wafts a smoky facet that it truly intriguing.

If this scent brings anything to mind it's not actually "earth", it's more of the Adam and Eve myth. The beginning of humans on this earth, if the stories are to be taken literally. The tempting fruit (in this case it's fig). The warm skin of two young people. The romance of roses and chocolate -maybe the latter wasn't in the fabled Garden of Eden but it would have been had it been "invented" back then. And booze, another concept from another time that seems so appropriate for the Origins Tale. Surely it is believable that Eve and Adam sinned after a few drinks, no?

If I had to classify this scent, I suppose I'd call it "woody". But why put pressure on things by labeling them? This scent is so expansive and gorgeous, putting tags on it is just selling it short.

Slightly carnal, very sexy, and deliciously beautiful. Very typical of the Opus Oils "formula" which, to the best of my knowledge, has never failed to result in a stunning scent.

If you haven't tried it, you simply must. It is limited edition, after all!

Mother: Sample (.5-1ml) $5.00; 1 Dram Parfum $40.00;1/2oz Parfum $75.00Mother 1oz Eau de Parfum $65.00Mother 1oz Ltd. Edition EDP (Adorned with Decorative Art Nouveau Medallion) $90.00Mother 2oz Eau de Parfum $115.00Mother 1.7oz Fancy Atomizer (Alcohol ONLY) $140.00Mother 3.3oz Bath & Body Oil $50.00Mother 6.7oz Body Lotion $46.00Mother 8.5oz Bath Salts $44.00Mother 8.5oz Body Butter $55.00Mother Gift Set (.5oz Parfum, 1oz EDP, B&B Oil, Body Lotion, Body Butter, Bath Salts) $250.00