Summer Series Part 1: Frida by En Voyage Perfumes

sheepWelcome to Perfume Polytechnic’s Summer Series. I’m taking a break over summer from writing new posts, but instead of stopping publishing altogether, I want to share with you some of my favourite posts from this year and earlier. I hope you enjoy reading them; you may even come across something you missed the first time round!

Today’s post was originally published in July 2015, and contains a review of Frida, the innovative and brilliant recent release by Shelley Waddington of En Voyage Perfumes. I’m sharing this post again because Frida is the stand-out indie fragrance for me this year. It’s really unusual and is brilliantly composed.

I’m also publishing it because it’s summer here. We’re in the midst of a long, dry El Niño weather event. It’s been hot and dry for months already. Frida is an ideal perfume to wear in the summer time, with its tropical, heady flowers, fruity and vegetal notes. It’s both evocative of summer and promises cooling, watery, shady relief from the dry, hot weather. It seems apt to revive this post during the Australian summer. Enjoy! Continue reading

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American Independents Week Perfume Reviews – Part Three: Frida by En Voyage Perfumes

Saturday the Fourth of July was American Independence Day. It struck me as fitting that several new fragrances by American independent perfumers were released recently and sent to me for review, all in time to celebrate Independence Day. So much of what’s interesting and innovative in perfume these days is coming out of the American indie perfume scene, and as the Fourth of July has recently passed, I thought I’d devote a week (or so) to reviewing three new releases by American indie perfumers. Today’s review is of the brand new Frida from En Voyage Perfumes, created by perfumer Shelley Waddington and launched only a week ago. In Part Two of this post, I reviewed Enticing from Anya’s Garden, and in Part One I reviewed Aftelier Perfumes’ new solid fragrance, Bergamoss.

Frida Kahlo, self-portrait

Frida Kahlo – Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird (1940).

Frida – inspired by the iconic Mexican painter Frida Kahlo – is a brand new fragrance from En Voyage Perfumes. It was launched on Kahlo’s birthday, July 6th. As a fan of Frida Kahlo, I was thrilled when I discovered Shelley’s latest creation was inspired by this wonderful feminist artist who had such an interesting private life and remains to this day a cultural icon in Mexico and around the world.

Frida the Person

Frida Kahlo - The Broken Column (1944)

Frida Kahlo – The Broken Column (1944)

What follows is an extremely curtailed, superficial summary of who Frida Kahlo, the woman and the artist, was. To find out more about Frida, I can highly recommend reading The Diary of Frida Kahlo: An Intimate Self-Portrait (Carlos Fuentes). There is no better way to learn about an artist than by viewing their art and reading what they’ve written about themselves.

Frida Kahlo (1907-1954) endured a life of intense physical pain from illness and injury, including childhood polio and a bus accident in her late teens. She was also famous for her relationships, including a tempestuous yet close and long-lived bond — featuring two marriages and one divorce — with renowned painter Diego Rivera, and an affair with Leon Trotsky. Her paintings incorporate elements of folk art and surrealism, and she explored her illness, pain and relationships through many of her works, which rely heavily on symbolism and often take the form of self-portraits. Frida was also known for her flamboyant dress-sense based on traditional Mexican apparel, as well as her heavy brows and elaborate, traditional hairstyles.

Frida Kahlo - Frida and Diego Rivera (1931)

Frida Kahlo – Frida and Diego Rivera (1931)

A Love Letter from Frida Kahlo to Diego Rivera

I’ve included one of Frida’s love letters to her husband Diego Rivera below as it helps give some insight into her character and the nature of their relationship.

“Diego:

Nothing compares to your hands, nothing like the green-gold of your eyes. My body is filled with you for days and days. you are the mirror of the night. the violent flash of lightning. the dampness of the earth. The hollow of your armpits is my shelter. my fingers touch your blood. All my joy is to feel life spring from your flower-fountain that mine keeps to fill all the paths of my nerves which are yours.” (From The Diary of Frida Kahlo: An Intimate Self-Portrait (Carlos Fuentes), and quoted at BrainPickings.org)

Love letter from Frida Kahlo to Diego Rivera

A love letter from Frida Kahlo to Diego Rivera

Frida the Perfume

Frida by En Voyage Perfumes

Frida by En Voyage Perfumes (photo courtesy of En Voyage Perfumes)

Shelley Waddington says of Frida on the En Voyage website:

“This perfume celebrates the life of Frida Kahlo; the woman and artist, her suffering, her Mexican heritage and her love of nature.

Frida was feminine, fearless and a revolutionary; she cross dressed, smoked cigars, and has been a part of pop culture for over 50 years. A world-travelled sophisticate who had love affairs with both men and women, Frida remained happiest at Casa Azul, her traditional family home.

Tuberose, a flower that the Aztecs called the Boneflower, is an important note in this perfume as an homage to Frida’s brutal calamities and artistic transformation. Other notes include the hibiscus that she wore in her hair as well as the tropical blossoms and plants of Frida’s garden. The fragrance also devotes close attention to other details of Frida’s life, such as the heat of her native Mexico City, the smells of her cigarettes and her heavy hair.”

Perfumer Shelley Waddington from En Voyage creates such rich, interesting, complex, multi-layered creations, and Frida is no exception. For some background on Shelley’s work as a perfumer and to find out how she conceives of her perfumes creatively, check out the interview that I published with Shelley a couple of months back. To read my recent survey of three En Voyage perfumes, click here.

My Experience of Frida

On first application Frida is very dry and savoury, and even a tad bitter. I feel like I’m in a hot climate and I smell dry, dusty earth and a strong tobacco with hints of a savoury vanilla* and green bell peppers*. Very quickly the top notes settle and start wafting around my body to produce the startlingly realistic effect of being in a fertile greenhouse, or a lush, tropical garden, complete with water-drenched leaves. Subtly sweet fruity notes emerge, the most dominant being a realistic, wet-smelling watermelon which, along with the tropical flowers and plants, creates a summery sensation.

Tuberose is central to this fragrance, and I find this particular tuberose quite indolic, and not very sweet or cloying, as it often can be in perfumery. The tuberose note forms a family with the heady, similarly indolic and tropical white floral notes of ylang ylang, gardenia and jasmine. All of this indole (along with myrrh) seems to create a medicinal note in the fragrance, which for me alludes to Frida Kahlo’s illnesses and injuries. I can’t help but think of the smell of adhesive bandages, hospitals and plaster casts when I detect this note. Oakmoss adds a slightly bitter undertone to the composition of Frida, and there is also a sweet and subtle woody base note that emerges after an hour or so, and which reminds me a little of En Voyage’s own New York Man.

There are two interesting Mexican notes in Frida: cactus flower and copal. According to Wikipedia, copal is

a name given to tree resin that is particularly identified with the aromatic resins used by the cultures of pre-Columbian Mesoamerica as ceremonially burned incense and [for] other purposes... Copal is still used by a number of indigenous peoples of Mexico and Central America as an incense, during sweat lodge [and other] ceremonies…” (sourced from Wikipedia)

Frida is a strong scent, and while it’s pleasant to smell it directly from the skin, I find it more enjoyable to apply it and to let it waft around the body as I go about my day. This also helps create the illusion that one is literally surrounded by a lush and watery tropical garden. Frida radiates enormously at first, but dies down to a softer, slightly sweeter version of itself after a couple of hours. It lasts on the skin for at least 8 hours, although it is a skin scent on me after about 3-4 hours.

My overall impression of Frida is that it is a tropical, vegetal and floral fragrance, a realistic garden scent to rival Jean-Claude Ellena’s Les Jardins (Garden) series for Hermès. In fact, I find Frida more complex, multi-faceted and realistic than any of the fragrances from the Les Jardins series, and it has much better sillage and lasting power too. If you like Les Jardins, give Frida a try.

This fragrance is a true unisex scent. It’s neither too sweet nor savoury, neither stereotypically masculine or feminine, which matches Frida Kahlo’s character perfectly. Kahlo was one to play with and subvert gender stereotypes: she enjoyed dressing in masculine clothing at times and having relationships with both women and men, while also embracing an ultra-feminine, traditional Mexican style of dressing.

Frida can be purchased from the En Voyage website, and stockists in the US (see the En Voyage website for details). A 0.8g sample is $6 USD, a 0.5oz (15ml) bottle is $75 USD and a 1oz (30ml) bottle is $95 USD.

For a complete list of notes and to read more about Frida, visit the En Voyage website. I’ve avoided listing all the notes here as I think it’s important to convey an impression of the scent and its character, and to talk about the dominant notes, rather than a list of the ingredients.

Warmest thanks to Shelley Waddington of En Voyage Perfumes, who kindly sent me a sample of Frida to review.


*A note about the smell of green bell peppers (known as capsicums here in Australia). One of the notes listed for Frida is green pepper. Due to this difference in nomenclature — Americans call capsicums peppers or bell peppers — I assumed (incorrectly) that green capsicum had been used in Frida. I had a brief discussion with perfumer Shelley Waddington yesterday and she confirmed that it is in fact green peppercorn that can be found in Frida. However, she also told me that she had worked with incorporating the smell of capsicums/bell-peppers/chillis in the scent, even though these ingredients aren’t actually present, through perfumer “tricks”. Well it worked, because my nose really does smell capsicum! Vanilla is not listed in the notes for Frida either, but I do get wafts of a vanilla note very much like that found in L’Artisan Parfumeur’s Vanille Absolutement when I first apply Frida. It’s a dry, dusty, savoury vanilla, a little like vanilla essence.

American Independents Week Perfume Reviews – Part Two: Enticing from Anya’s Garden

Last Saturday was American Independence Day. It struck me as fitting that several new fragrances by American independent perfumers were released recently and sent to me for review, all in time for Independence Day! So much of what’s interesting and innovative in perfume these days is coming out of the American indie perfume scene, and as the Fourth of July has just passed, I thought I’d devote this week to reviewing three new releases by American indie perfumers. Today’s review is of Anya’s Garden’s new fragrance Enticing. Last Saturday I reviewed Aftelier Perfumes’ new solid fragrance, Bergamoss, and later this week I hope to review the brand new Frida from En Voyage Perfumes.

Anya McCoy's lovely package containing Anya's Garden samples.

Anya McCoy’s lovely package containing Anya’s Garden samples.

I’ve not had the pleasure of smelling any of natural perfumer Anya McCoy’s fragrances before, so receiving her parcel was a real treat. Not only did she include a sample of Enticing, her latest fragrance, for review, but also several other samples that I hope to explore and discuss in the future.

Tuberose

The tuberose flower

Anya’s Garden’s Enticing is exploration of the power of the narcotic, seductive tuberose flower. In a fascinating blog post that provides insight into Anya’s research and her creative concepts behind the fragrance, she writes:

My goal was to recognize the sexiness of the flower and to enhance the buttery, lactonic, deep, dark aspects of it. I wanted to make a skin caressing, long-lasting perfume that holds tuberose close to you, and one that has a silky effect when breathed in. Clary sage is another plant recognized for its power to affect your senses merely by breathing in the essence, both in the garden, and from the distiller’s essential oil. It’s perceived in the opening top note, along with a trace of cardamom, to tease the nose into not quite recognizing the lush floral headiness of tuberose, and then they recede, and the full blown power of tuberose, bold and soft, smooth and velvety, takes over – like it has always done.

Enticing by Anya's Garden. Photo courtesy of Anya McCoy. Source: http://anyasgarden.com/blog/enticing-perfume-from-anyas-garden-giveaway/

Publicity shot for Enticing by Anya’s Garden. Photo courtesy of Anya McCoy.

Enticing is categorised as a floral musk, and while it certainly contains large quantities of tuberose and natural musk, I find it hard to place it in this category. To me, floral musks are usually much softer and lighter, while Enticing is a weighty and intense creature. Enticing is a very dark, rich fragrance. It is equally sweet and medicinal in character, with some really interesting fatty, rounded notes, and a great big dose of dirty patchouli.

The tuberose used in Enticing is heady and sweet, but I don’t detect the usual indole that often announces tuberose’s presence in a fragrance. The treatment of tuberose here reminds me a little of its use in Histoires de Parfums’ fragrance Tubereuse 3, where it is blended with immortelle and rich tobacco and is similarly non-indolic, yet is sweet and heady, and sits dead-centre in the composition, as if a spotlight is being shone on it.

A musk tincture from Siberia is used in Enticing and it smells vintage, ultra-animalic, sexy and skanky. Butter CO2 (not an ingredient I’ve come across before) rounds the fragrance out and warms it up, and is quite apparent for the first hour or two of wear. As Anya wrote in her blog (see above), she wanted to enhance the “buttery, lactonic, deep, dark” elements of the tuberose, and the creamy butter works wonderfully in this regard. The butter note also compliments the waxy aspects of the beeswax used in Enticing, the sweetness of which compliments the syrupy tuberose.

Other earthier, darker ingredients add depth to these starring notes, including a yeasty mushroom, opoponax and patchouli. I can just detect the subtle “zing” of cardamom too.

Enticing by Anya's Garden. Photo courtesy of Anya McCoy. Source: http://anyasgarden.com/blog/enticing-perfume-from-anyas-garden-giveaway/

Enticing by Anya’s Garden. Photo courtesy of Anya McCoy.

Enticing is a sexy, strong and dark fragrance. It combines some outspoken and interesting notes in a unique way. I recommend it for anyone who enjoys unusual fragrances on the richer, darker side of the spectrum. Enticing sits reasonably close to the skin, radiating about 2 feet, though as I only have a sample and wanted to get multiple wears out of it, I was quite sparing in my application. I can imagine if I wore this on 4-5 pulse points at once, it would pack more punch. Enticing lasts about 4-5 hours on my skin.

You can read more about Enticing at Anya’s Garden’s blog and on the website. Enticing can be purchased in the Anya’s Garden online store. A 4ml bottle of pure perfume is $100 USD and 15ml of Eau de Parfum is $150 USD. A 0.3ml pure perfume sample is $11 USD.

Many thanks to the lovely Anya McCoy for sending me the sample of Enticing to review; it’s been a fascinating olfactory experience and I look forward to bringing you more posts about Anya’s Garden perfumes in the future.