Champagne de Bois

 Pearls of colors by spettacolopuro
Pearls of colors, a photo by spettacolopuro on Flickr.

Champagne de Bois is a woody aldehydic floral, which seems to be heavily influenced by Bois des Îles. This modern interpretation of the woody-aldehydic-floral genre is beautifully orchestrated with a strong retro feel, yet bolder. It's smooth, seamless and endearing with a texture reminiscent of ripples in silk satin sheath.

Champagne de Bois highlights woody notes of sandalwood and vetiver and brings the smooth, precious-wood sweetness out of them with incense and amber. First come the notes of oily aldehydes juxtaposed with refreshing lemony-powdery impression of frankincense’s overtones, and a bit of citrus which are quite subtle, providing a bubbly and light counterpoint to the aldehydes and the hints of musk that peak through the layers of the perfume.

There is also a hint of dry cedarwood and a smidgeon of clove bud's warmth together with all these woods creates an almost-Mellis accord (except there's no patchouli);  and jasmine at the heart pulls all the chords together and binds them with its unique perfumey magic without truly being present or noticeable in and of itself.

Frankincense bridges between the different phases. As it deepens and connects the skin-like aldehydic opening to the sweet, resinous labdanum and amber notes. Musk resurfaces and pulls the attention over to the woodsy notes of vetiver and sandalwood. It's smooth, woodsy and precious finish are far superios to the reformulated Égoïste and the thinned-down Bois des Îles eau de toilette you'll find nowadays (unless you're hunting for vintage). Champagne de Bois is my first love from Laurie Erickson's creations, and I consider it to be a modern classic. 

Top notes: Aldehydes, Cedarwood, Citrus
Heart notes: Frankincense, Cloves, Jasmine
Base notes: Sandalwood, Frankincense, Musk, Amber

Cocoa Sandalwood

Sandalwood by shikhee
Sandalwood, a photo by shikhee on Flickr.
Cocoa Sandalwood is the other offering in Sonoma Naturals' new line of all-natural fine fragrances.
Surprisingly, the choice of sandalwood here is not the creamy Mysore sandalwood (which made a guest appearance in Spiced Citrus Vetiver), but rather, New Caledonia sandalwood which is from a different species and has a scent that is a tad animalic and musky.

The opening is reminiscent of lumber and sawdust: Cocoa Sandalwood smells more cedar-y at first, with only the slightest dusting of bitter cocoa powder underneath. The sweetness, true to Laurie Erickson's signature style, comes from rose, as well as fruity and milky natural peach lactone. Ambrette seed contributes a musky yet wine-like quality that beautifully complements the subtle rose as well as supports the luxurious aspects of sandalwood, and vetiver further contributes to the nutty quality ambrette an the woodsy theme of the perfume. The spices, though sprinkled throughout the perfume's phases, are never really noticeable, but rather add warmth and depth to the composition.

Top notes: Virginia Cedarwood, Ginger CO2, Ambrette Seed CO2
Heart notes: Rose, Natural Peach Lactone, Coffee Absolute, Cinnamon Bark Oil
Base notes: New Caledonia Sandalwood, Cacao Absoute, Clove Bud Absoloute, Vetiver 

Spiced Citrus Vetiver

Sonoma Scent Studio has a new collection in the works - Sonoma Naturals, which I've been fortunate enough to sample its first two offerings. I was particularly curious to smell how Laurie Erickson's style translates in the new medium of 100% naturals. Although her "mixed media" perfumes are already contain a very high ratio of naturals, many of the molecules act as such powerful accessory notes that they could define a perfumer's style in such way that it would be difficult to fathom their perfumes without them. In this case, I could not imagine Laurie's perfumes without a prominent presence of violetty ionones.
Spiced Citrus Vetiver begins with a burst of blood orange and smooth warmth of Mysore sandalwood and a touch of very subtle woodsy spices. It is an unusually complex vetiver scent. It is refreshing and citrusy as you'd expect from such a name. At the same time it possesses a warmth that is not particularly spicy, but rather a sophisticated and woody-floral.

True to form, Spiced Citrus Vetiver contains ionones, originating in the exotic floral note of osmanthus. Osmanthus has a significant amount of naturally-occurring alpha ionone, which give this perfume a certain roundedness, as well as exotic mystery. It is suitable for the heat of the summer, reminiscent of sandalwood fans and chilled osmanthus tea and cool vetiver.

Strolling in the Forest with Laurie and Lisa

Oaks by Bald Mountain

After a very eventful weekend, it was a special treat that Lisa has agreed to take a little road trip to Sonoma County to visit Laurie Erickson at her Sonoma Scent Studio. We were also hoping to sneak in a visit at Eden Botanicals, who recently moved to Petaluma (more about that in the next post).

The drive to Sonoma is scenic and picturesque. After crossing the bay's lengthy bridge, the hillsides in the summertime are all the colour of pale gold and look like a paint horse with big splashes of dark green oaks (the winter gives the exact opposite: dormant oaks, which are covered in parasitic moss, and green-grass-covered hills.

We ended up arriving to the county a bit to early, and it was lunch time, so thanks to my bad memory (Graton and Guerneville both start with a "G") we ended up in the wrong place after a very nice drive in the quite freeway along Russian River. And than, of course, we arrived a bit later than we hoped.

Climbing up Chalk Hill Road towards Laurie Erickson's Healdsburg studio, the country road is dappled with the generous shade of ancient oaks, and deer is not a rare sight (and they eat everything that Laurie and her parents try to grow - unless it's protected with a fence). Laurie's beautiful cottage is surrounded by a lovely garden with fragrant roses and violets, and is overlooking Chalk Hill Winery's vineyards, which were now completely covered in luscious green leaves (my first visit with her was in the spring, when they were still barren).

Forest Walk (Sonoma Scent Studio)
It was there in Laurie's own living room that I experienced Forest Walk for the first time. It immediately struck a familiar chord, and it took me a few minutes to realize that it was just like the scent that emerges from certain spots in Stanley Park in late summer and early fall. The same warmth and sweet dryness of cedar and moss, plus a funky wet earth note that is reminiscent of the dark, musty scent of earth awakening from frost in spring time.

The funky wet-earth scent is very much owing to a synthetic molecule (whose name I failed to ask Laurie about, and is probably top secret) that you could easily recognize as the only thing in Demeter's "Dirt". It's also in Neil Morris' Dark Earth, but not nearly as much of it in Forest Walk - just enough to give it a realistic wet earth and a bit wild edge.

Forest Walk unfolds with many phases, always revealing a different aspect of the forest: a branch there, a leaf there, and oh - have you noticed this patch of wild violets over there? It's like a walk in a warm, needle-covered forest in summer (except, perhaps, for the violet patch), with oak trees and hanging moss adding a dry, tannin quality.

As the perfume develops on the skin further, the strange wet earth note dissipates, the Western red cedar softens and shifts to the background, and give way to deeper, earthier notes of many natural essences that I'm not only familiar with but also extremely fond of: labdanum and oakmoss with their brown, comforting warmth; black hemlock absolute (which I smelled at Laurie's studio for the first time - it's similar to pine needle absolute, less sweet and more dry-woody conifer absolute - where as fir (which is also present in this composition) takes on an extremely sweet, jam-like character. Other woodsy notes also add mystery and lasting power: New Caledonian sandalwood, aged Indian patchouli.

The labdanum intensifies over time on my skin, giving a rich ambery foundation to the rather rustic experience of hiking in the forest on a hot summer day and collecting needles in your hair and clothing after sitting down in a forest clearing to relax a bit, skin all salty and warm from the mild excursion.

The final dryout is woody yet smooth on my skin, with ambery-resinous notes amplifying (which is to be expected on my skin, it tends to make the sweeter notes grow), and only bare hints of sandalwood and patchouli. Interestingly, on Lisa's skin, the dry woodsy notes, including the red cedar, were far more apparent, and the "wet earth" facet lasted for far longer period of time. A living proof for the mysteries of differences between skin-chemistry.

When wearing it again for the 3rd time, and dousing it generously, an initial herbaceous note grabs my attention - is is sage, rosemary, or simply the herbaceous cineole from the needles? It might even be both. The jasmine sambac makes a glimpse of an appearance, though it's not exactly there as an identified note, but rather a clearing between the lush leafy tree tops that allows the light to shine through. And there is also the cool, clean, sweet yet tart note of vetiver in there that I haven't noticed before, and which adds a precious-woods aroma yet without ever touching a tree with an axe (vetiver oil comes from the roots of a tropical grass related to lemongrass).

Like all of Laurie's creations, Forest Walk radiates warmth, depth, complexity and is very multilayered. It is about 50% or even more natural, which really gives it the aesthetic of turn of the century perfumes, which were only accentuated with synthetics for special effects (as opposed to cost-reduction, which is the main force behind most of what you smell nowadays). But it also stands out among all the collection of very fine perfumes for its unique storytelling, and also feels a lot less dense and floral than most.

Top notes: Wet Earth Notes, Western Red Cedar, Rosemary
Heart notes: Violet, Orris, Jasmine Sambac, Vetiver
Base notes: Black Hemlock Absolute, Fir Absolute, Patchouli, Labdanum, Benzoin, Galbanum, Sandalwood (New Caledonia)

Read other reviews of Forest Walk:
Mark's Review on Cafleurebon
Ida's Review on Fragrantica
Gaia's Review on The Non-Blonde

And for those of you dying to try it, I'm giving away a sample of Forest Walk as part of the package that's going on to this week's Monkey Monday winner. So don't forget to make a guess before tomorrow at noon about my smelly commute!

Favourite End Of Fall Fragrances


Fall is coming to a close any day now, and it's time to make a list!
While these are not necessarily what I'm wearing this particular fall, they are what I would consider my autumn staples and what I would recommend to invoke the season of fallen leaves, harvest and shortening days, when more than anything else I want to curl by the fireplace with a Noire book and a dense perfume that reminds me of the golden days of Hollywood in the 30's and 40's.

Looking at previous years' fall lists I've made, I'm noticing a pattern in my choices. There is always something Chypre, something woody, something smoky and something spicy in my fall perfume favourites. So here are a few suggestions:

Something Woody:
I've been wearing Hinoki more often than ever (and find it especially appropriate when trying my hand at practicing martial arts...).

Mitsouko - a chypre that defies categorization, but certainly has more woody qualities than most. The haunting of contrasts is probably what makes Mitsouko timeless and never boring. This zen-meets-baroque perfume is luxurious, yet as sparse as a monk's dorm; woody and dry yet cradles a tender sweetness therein, and I can continue on and on, but the main question remains - how can any fall list not include Mitsouko?!

Bois des Îles is another favourite fall of mine - and I'm also enjoying a similar perfume, that shares the woodsy creaminess of sandalwood paired with the understated sensuality and elegance of vintage-glam aldehydes that makes you think of pearls and beige nubok. I'm talking about Champagne de Bois by Sonoma Scent Studio.

Something Chypre:
Ma Griffe - after years of loyalty to Miss Dior, the epitome of animalic-floral chypres tinged with green, it was time to find another green chypre. I spotted a pre-IFRA regulated version (from days of yore, when there was no requirements of listing any allergens on the ingredients list). It's very vintage-y, and if comparing to Miss Dior - it has more of a white floral and musky nuances to it, which remind me a bit of Chant d'Aromes. It also has more of a citrusy burst and it's more aldehydic and powdery than Miss Dior. I should get around to write a full review of it next week.

1000 de Patou also seems to hit the spot on the shortening days, reminding me of icy, frost-spiked leaves with its intriguing osmanthus and eucalyptus notes. Melancholy, elegant and old-fashioned, it reminds me of scouring my grandmother's dresser and colourful strands of tropical seashells and Amazonian bead necklaces.

Something Smoky:
from burning leaves and Lapsang Suchong tea to leather bound books, smoky notes are one of those things that make fall so mysterious that even if you're not traveling you feel you're going on an adventure... This fall, my love for smoky, leathery notes is replaced by a craving for incense, which I burn at least once daily. And I've just received a package of Japanese Kyara incense sticks - there is nothing short of magical about burning them, the scent changes after a few centimeters of stick have turned into ashes. Also, I've been enjoying the depth of Sonoma Scent Studio's Incense Pure, with its depth and complexity of tobacco paired with powdery tonka, rustic immortelle and sweet amber.

Something Spicy:
I've been deeply immersed in the Clarimonde project and wearing the oriental-spicy violet perfume I've created for it more than anything else in the past month. Oriental perfumes truly did originate in the orient, where spices such as cloves, cassia and star anise were pulverized into a fine powder and blended with fragrant resins and woods such as camphor, sandalwood and agarwood to create fine perfumes for rituals of both religion and seduction. Body incense is still popular in Japan, where it originally was used to purify one's hands before entering a temple; but also powder perfumes were used to scent a Geisha's hair. Aftelier's Shiso is based on such a Geisha formula, and is a remarkably authentic in the ingredients it uses and the intense and immediate effect it has on my mood - transporting me instantly into dimly lantern-lit rooms separated with fusuma and lined with tatami mats. Shiso is intense, deep and camphoreous, tinged with eugenolic spice and aldehydic shiso herb.

And last but not least - combining sugar and spice, is the haunting Un Crime Exotique - a gourmand that walks the tightrope between French patisserie and an Asian soup broth.

What are you favourite end of fall fragrances?
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