Fallen Leaves

Fall, leaves Fall by Cindy's Here
Fall, leaves Fall, a photo by Cindy's Here on Flickr.
Anna Zworkynia must be fascinated by the season. As I am. In her work, completely unknown to me just until a few months ago - I found my Russian twin and partner in crime in the art of natural perfume... Although I am yet to have a face to face conversation with her, I suspect we share a few things in common in our passions and philosophy.

Like Apple Orchard, this perfume is very much a continuation of exploring the olfactory themes of fall, fermentation and fertility. At first, there is the musty smell of camphoreous cardamom and musty patchouli, suggesting petrichor and transitioning into the resinous bitterness of myrrh. Sweet vanilla mingled with immortelle absolute gives a more perfumey undertone, reminiscent of wet fallen leaves fermenting on the ground. Immortelle's close resemblance to maple syrup brings to mind maple leaves by way of association. Dark yet voluptuous, the Earth Goddess will turn the golden leaves into dirt, and fermentation yields the most surprising aromatics out of ordinary botanicals, as in what happens upon fermenting hay, tea and tobacco - vanillin, coumarin and many other surprising molecules appear and add richness and layers to the leaf.

Top notes:  Hops, Cardamom
Heart notes: Guaiacwood,  Pomegranate Seeds, Orris
Base notes: Labdanum, Immortelle, Frankincense, Himalayan cedar, Myrrh, Vetiver, Atlas cedar, Vanilla, Tonka Bean, Patchouli

Fall Leaves by Errol Elli
Fall Leaves, a photo by Errol Elli on Flickr.

Apple Orchard

Apple Orchard is yet another moody masterpiece by Russian natural perfumer Anna Zworykina. Like the few others I've reviewed before, it has a very Antique-Asian feel to it, while still being true to its title. In fact, I find all of the perfumes I've tried so far to beautifully deliver what they are meant to portray. Some perfumers are just talented that way, which adds another special dimension to the composition, in my opinion. No matter how sophisticated the audience might think they are, they always will respond more emotionally to a poetic name rather than just a number title, for instance.

Apple Orchard is not so much about apples as it is about the orchard. And I  envision an abandoned orchard, at the end of fall. Some of the apples are still dangling from the naked boughs, but most of them are already rotting on the ground...

Despite the fact that the perfumes are using similar materials to my palette (Like yours truly, Anna Zworykina uses only natural oils, absolutes, tinctures and CO2 extractions, and no isolates), it is not easy to dissect them from one another. The perfumer has masterfully succeeded in creating something new and enticing from rather familiar notes. There is a certain medicinal quality that seems to be the perfumer's trademark, and which gives it that feel of an old Chinese apothecary, with chest full of drawers mysteriously labeled, the wood thoroughly soaked in the aromas of the magical herbs contained within it for decades. All of the perfumes I've tried have a very unique "fingerprint" in that sense, and I suppose you can either find it charming, of completely off-putting. But to me this is a reminiscence of another era, where herbs, medicine, magic and perfume were all intertwined, when incense was burnt to ward off evil spirits, and sweet floral waters were sprinkled to attract good ones...

Back to Apple Orchard: At first, there is an apple-y accord, but with a significant amount of mustiness, which makes you immediately think of the abandoned orchard I describer earlier... Then you are reminded of the fertile soil underneath, forgiving the inattentive farmers and receiving these rejected fruit with open arms. This gradually evolves into the spiciness of oak barrels, with hints of musky opoponax, allspice and cloves.

The perfume is so subtly blended that I could not really discern the notes too well. Also, I could not find the notes anywhere online. But the perfumer herself provided me later with this information as to the perfumes' composition:

Top notes: Galbanum, Blackcurrant Buds, Oregano, Kashmir Lavender, Ginger Lily 
Heart notes: Mango Leaf Absolute, Jasmin Sambac, Champaca, Roses
Base notes: Angelica, Agarwood, Cedarwood, Labdanum, Vetiver, Patchouli, Oakmoss

Without Words

Anna Zworkyina's Without Words leaves me speechless. But I'll attempt to describe its beauty without relying on other art forms.

Apple-like notes tease at first, but also bring the melancholy feel of fall: it's harvest time. Gather your apples, or you'll risk losing them to mother earth, to whom they will return in rot. The illusion of apples comes from the juxtaposition of bitter almonds, agrestic wormwood and hops - that green, skunky oil that's used to preserve beer and give it the distinctive bitter taste and citrusy-fresh aroma. Cardamom lends a medicinal, camphoreous note that brings to mind a white-washed, silk-wrapped geisha in a dim-lit wooden pagoda, and that dusky feel of Japanese body incense powder remains for a while, until it is quietly succeeded by the undertones of dark amber notes of vanilla and labdanum absolutes.

Top notes: Bitter Almond, Wormwood, Black Pepper, Green Pepper, Cardamom
Heart notes: Rose Attar, Ambrette Seed
Base notes: Vanilla, Patchouli, Vetiver, Labdanum

Green Madness

Summer girl by Zhanna_Minina
Summer girl, a photo by Zhanna_Minina on Flickr.
Зеленое Безумие (Green Madness) by Anna Zworykina is about hay stacks and citrus, and is a fougère in the most natural meaning of the way. At the heart of the matter lays lavender absolute: as velvety as it is herbaceous; as earthy as it is ethereal, reminiscent of the last days of summer, where the hay is at its driest, and the sun a tad gentler. An evening stroll in the fields of vegetal death might reveal some hidden life: a wild carnation here, or the regal flowering bulb of sea squills (Drimia maritimia) there, proclaiming the arrival of autumn and the death of summer...

And all of a sudden, the burden of the heat began to lift brings relief mingled with sorrow: the bittersweet farewell to summer's perceived freedom (in reality it keeps me sealed indoors even better than the rainy season). And that's how nostalgia is born.

Fougère has a strange tendency to bring on soft memories, yet has strong masculine nature: strong arms rolling bales of hay, working the fields, the freedom and the abundance of sweetness on a balmy summer night. Green Madness has all of that, and also remains a tad quirky, working unusual cognac notes into the heart, yuzu and tarragon into the otherwise lime-centred head notes, and putting accent on woods along the mossy base. It's may not look like a classical fougère because of the absence of niether coumarin-dominated note at the base nor lavender and linalool notes in the top; but it sure has the overall feel of a fougère, even if unintentionally (the perfumer-creator categorizes it as a "chypre" but I beg to differ). Technically, I can explain it by the presence of coumarin in both lime and lavender absolute. Also, the Himalayan cedarwood has an affinity with rosewood's linalool-rich personality. As with impressionism, it's the overall picture that matters, not the exact details. There are several other brush strokes of unrelated colours  - yet if you step back you'll see that it is, after all, a bale of hay.

Top notes: Lime, Tarragon, Yuzu, Lemon
Heart notes: Seville Lavender Absolute, Green Cognac
Base notes: Oakmoss, Himalayan Cedarwood, Vanuatu Sandalwood
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