You wouldn’t believe the paper work, documentation and customs forms that are needed to get a few bottles of stuff from suppliers outside of the EU.
On the left is the final FedEx document I had to sign for — after paying €40 that is — to get my little box of goodies. Before that I had to fill out 5 pages of forms for the customs clearance agent (read: middle man) to send it to another government department in order for it to be declared as safe — this after sending them €40 for their service.
On the right is the prize: Copaiba Balsam, Black Spruce Absolute, Agarwood Attar, Frangipani Absolute, Pink Lotus Absolute, Bergamot Mint and — drum roll please — some 5 year old Patchouli!
It was Black Spruce Absolute that drove me to purchase the bunch. My olfactive exchange partner shared a sample with me and I literally went bonkers because the scent haunted me for days! It was nothing less than mesmerising and I knew that before I hunkered down over trial vials and test formulations in the coming fall and winter months I wanted Black Spruce with me — need it — as material I know in my bones will be an important element in my final perfume project.
So I guess in the end the answer is just like any other experience, it’s worth what you’re willing to pay for it.
I literally went to bed with the scents in my head and their memories were like a lullaby.
Next to the resins this has got to be my favourite perfume family. These are the notes that ground, guide and instruct me, not just in my daily life but also on the importance of constructing a perfume upon a solid base – firm and lasting. This in essence is what I extract from this family.
Some favourites that I have in my collection that are part of this group but are not part of the evaluation are: Davana, Oakwood CO2, Birch Tar rectified, Rosewood and Himalayan Cedarwood.
Myrrh: this opened with a freshness that was surprising, strangely I couldn’t smell it out of the left nostril. Faintly woody, dry and brittle, reminiscent of paint somehow. It was light, citrusy even and vaguely camphoraceous. The dry down 6 hours later presented a warm, woody, bark, cinnamonish, drier than before but still present, almost seemed imbedded into the paper. Volatility: mid-low.
Cistus Labdanum: oh, my God, I’m in love! Resinous, penetrating, sharing aspects in common with citrus for me, woody. Light, warm, reassuring yet sharp (that’s gotta be the camphene I’m detecting). There is a dark side to this, it’s moving and has the ability to stir the soul, touches the belly, ancient and balsamic. Drying down reveals tendrils of smoke wafting into the air that are still distinctly resinous, ritualistic, conjuring impressions of an orthodox church, comforting in its permanence, captivating, earth-bound, recalling sounds of Gregorian chants; medieval. Volatility: still very impressive, so low-mid volatility.
Patchouli: how do I love thee, let me count the ways! Patch equals inner peace for me. Dark and woody, mysterious and creamy in quality. It expresses the woman I aspire to be at my core. Ritualistic, lush, narcotic, dense and bold. Reverent, true to itself, mature, like an anchor, raw power, untamed and unorthodox. After 6 hours it is still vibrant, but in a much more contemplative way, still creamy, devout and evocative. In a word: sultry. Volatility: very low-mid volatility.
Vetiver: reminds me of citrus, dry and woody. I can pick up an animalic note, fecal even, but so soft. Grassy, cabin in the woods, damp, wet sensation, a feeling of deepness, character, dense, expansive wilderness. I get the ghost of an impression of Iris root, with a sense that these two could blend very well together. This note is very persistent, whenever I leave and re-enter the studio I can smell it above all the others I’m currently evaluating! In the dry down it is still very powerful. Grassy, beige quality, like a blanket. Now it is very warm. Volatility: very low volatility.
Oakmoss: opens clean, fresh, soggy and wet, earthy. Out of the right nostril I can barely detect it only an impression of “clean”. Wet woods, green forest sparkling after a warm rainfall, a bit sweet, somewhat dark and leathery. After 6 hours it has faded to a sweet, balsamic quality, thicker than in the beginning. Something I hadn’t noticed when I first evaluated this months ago is a faint smoky quality in the dry down, almost of tobacco. Perhaps it is this sample that has that facet. Volatility: low to mid volatility.
Cedarwood: awakens with a resinous appearance, soft, clear, clean, crisp with a touch of sweetness, balsamic. I get an impression of the outdoors in the middle of winter, snow, exciting, white! Shortly after I am struck by a sense of majesty, immenseness, a bit sticky, sharing common elements with Birch Tar rectified, leather! Could be a good marriage. Volatility: after 6 hours this dries down to a zingy bite, a touch citrusy, sweet, almost balsamic, similar to Davana, sort of spicy! Low to mid volatility.
Sandalwood: brighter than Cedarwood, woody, I can barely smell it out of my left nostril and it’s almost invisible through my right. With both I get soft, dry, a bit sweet, exotic, graceful and delicate, creamy, impressions of the Middle East. Hushed. This note lurks in the shadows! What other mysteries is it leading me to? In the dry down it reminds me of an Indian store I used to work in as a teen. I get wooden jewellery boxes, filled with treasures. The gem of this note seems to be coming out now after 6 hours with a distinctly round, soft character. Sandalwood is unapologetic in its nature. In one word I would describe this note as: Ageless. Volatility: very low to mid volatility.
Next up is the Powder family and a class experiment. Finally some mad scientist stuff!
UPDATE FEBRUARY 02, 2014:
Myrrh: 48 hours later still soft, I have to get up close but it’s more intimate now.
Labdanum: 48 hours later it’s very present, less incensey, now just a very lived in feeling, smokey leathery.
Patchouli: 48 hours in and it’s more leafy, comes and goes, softer, more powdery, less noticeable somehow.
Vetiver: 24 hours after and to me this is sort of soapy, still dry and very much out there! Clear and decisive but tamer though.
Oakmoss: 24 hours later and I still get tendrils of tobacco, plumes of leather, less of an impression but the impression it does leave is darker if that makes any sense.
Cedarwood: 24 hours into the dry down and if this were a colour it would be yellow/green now with a light citrus edge, hints of similarities with African Bluegrass, and still quite perceptible.
Sandalwood: 24 hours on and this note is much more powdery, softer, talcum soft, reminds me of a talc I used to have as a pre-teen with a puffer. It also brings to mind embers in a hearth early the next morning.
Photo credits: whenever not mentioned the images are taken by me. Door handle image credit goes to our friend: Luca De Nale.