Perfume Polytechnic is Currently Closed for Reviews

by-wlodek-428549_640When I started this blog, I never intended for it to be a perfume review site. There are already so many bloggers regularly immersing themselves in the latest releases (commercial and niche), and who have a wealth of knowledge and experience reviewing perfume, that I simply thought there was no need for another. I don’t have this knowledge, nor do I have access to a vast amount of what is out there, so it felt a little presumptuous that anyone might truly care what a half-informed-geographically-isolated-perfumista-from-Australia might think about a particular perfume.

The reason I started Perfume Polytechnic was to learn about both perfume and olfaction, and to share what I learnt with you, my readers. My favourite pieces have been those that are not reviews: those in which I delve into other areas, such as the smell of everyday things, investigate an ingredient such as oud, and of course, my interviews with indie/niche perfumers from around the world. These sorts of posts are the very backbone, no, the very spirit of Perfume Polytechnic.

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Just The Juice: Brief Fragrance Reviews – Voyage by Hiram Green

Welcome to Just The Juice. Why “Just The Juice”? I want to talk about fragrances that I’ve come across, both new releases and older ones, and I want to keep it focused on the perfume (what we perfume lovers call the “juice”) itself. So often I write about the background, the history, the sociological and psychological significance, etc. etc. of a smell or a perfume. But in the interests of pure perfume prose, in this series I’m going to write about the juice, in 300 words or less per perfume, and include relevant artistic/conceptual notes from the perfumer too, if I can. I hope to introduce you to some wonderful perfumes in this series.

Today I will be reviewing the recently released Voyage by Hiram Green, who I interviewed late last year for my Thirteen Thoughts: Perfumer Interview Series. Hiram is based in the Netherlands and creates perfumes entirely from natural materials.

Voyage by Hiram Green

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Publicity material and sample of Voyage by Hiram Green

The photograph above shows the publicity material that I received for Voyage, which is identical to the information on Hiram Green’s website for the fragrance:

“An ode to the exotic mysteries of India, our new fragrance is as atmospheric and thrilling as a Mysore street market and as opulent as Octopussy’s floating palace on Lake Pichola.

Voyage is an intoxicating blend of fresh citrus top notes, a heart of warm amber and luscious suede over a smooth vanilla base.

Limited to only 250 bottles entirely natural eau de parfum.”
Source: Hiram Green website

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Just The Juice: Brief Fragrance Reviews – Albino (A Study in White) and The Voices of Trees by Dawn Spencer Hurwitz

Today marks the start of a new series of brief perfume reviews called Just The Juice. Why “Just The Juice”? I want to talk about fragrances that I’ve come across, both new releases and older ones, and I want to keep it focused on the perfume (the “juice”) itself. So often I write about the background, the history, the sociological and psychological significance, etc. etc. of a smell or a perfume. But in the interests of pure perfume prose, in this series I’m going to write about the juice, in 300 words or less per perfume, and include relevant artistic/conceptual notes from the perfumer too, if I can. I hope to introduce you to some wonderful perfumes in this series.

Today I will be reviewing two recent releases by Dawn Spencer Hurwitz of DSH Perfumes, both in VdP (voile de parfum) strength.

Albino (A Study in White)

white-painted-concrete-wall-888895_1280Dawn Spencer Hurwitz of DSH Perfumes says of her recent (2015) release Albino (A Study in White):

“What began as a fascination with the albino raspberry soon became an exploration from the real to abstraction.

What is it to be without pigment?  There seems to be a kind of quality; a luminosity and sense of lightness.  So then what?  “White” materials… and a questioning: what does white feel like?

Albino takes an abstract look at white from a synesthetic and textural stance.  The textures being crisp, pithy, and creamy; shifting from fruity crispness to pithy to a creamy feel, with blond woods, and musk at the final drydown.

Meet Albino.  He’s gorgeously unusual.”
Source: DSH Perfumes website

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A Taste of Mendittorosa Odori d’Anima

Recently I was fortunate to receive a Discovery Kit from Italian niche perfumer Mendittorosa Odori d’Anima to review. “Odori d’Anima” translates as “scents of the soul”, and this is certainly a soulful collection of perfumes, with interesting and emotive concepts underpinning them that collectively seem to hint at a yearning for the complete expression of the soul, a longing and nostalgia for the past, and a respect for the elemental beauty and wild spirit of nature.

The kit features samples of the entire range of Mendittorosa’s seven fragrances, presented in the most beautiful way with information cards and decorative packaging, all arriving sealed in a golden envelope. In fact, Mendittorosa’s packaging for their bottled perfumes is beautiful too, and sculptural, as you will see in the photographs below. The packaging has been designed in Italy, with the interesting bottle caps and metal features being crafted by hand.

Mendittorosa is a small-batch production perfumery, and sources its materials from Grasse, in the South of France. All of Mendittorosa’s fragrances are designed as unisex, to be worn by women and men.

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Mendittorosa Discovery Kit

Mendittorosa is the brain-child of Stefania Squeglia, who founded the house in 2011, after an epiphany about her true purpose in life, at the base of the Stromboli volcano in Sicily.

“It was here on this island at one of the most southern points in the Mediterranean that
Stefania Squeglia was gifted with her true vocation in the form of a memory that had been
out of reach until that moment: as a young girl in Naples, she would take the glass jars her
grandmother used to store homemade tomato sauce and fill them with foraged rose petals and oils. She would then hide them in the dark to discover them later. Erupted. Changed.” (courtesy of Mendittorosa marketing brochure)

Stefania works with perfumers Amelie Bourgeois and Anne-Sophie Behaghel to create the Mendittorosa Odori d’Anima range.

Today I will present to you a taste of Mendittorosa, a glimpse at and an impression of each of their seven fragrances. I have worn each of these fragrances a few times now, but to give each of the fragrances full justice would take a full blog post for each. Consider these mini-reviews to be an introduction to Mendittorosa. They are meant to convey how the perfumes smell to me, how I feel about them, and hopefully they will pique your curiosity to find out more and try them for yourself.

Sogno Reale

Sogno Reale

Sogno Reale. Photo courtesy of Mendittorosa.

Sogno Reale is the latest release from Mendittorosa. In fact, it is so new that there is a waiting period of 30-50 days to receive this fragrance! Sogno Reale translates to “real dream” in English, and is all about achieving one’s dreams in life. Sogno Reale is “Created for people, who will search and find their dream and make it come through. The ultimate companion for your way of life based on our philosophy: Search and you will find…” (Source: Mendittorosa’s website)

Sogno Reale sample

Sogno Reale sample

Concepts of dreams aside, as a scent, Sogno Reale is said by Mendittorosa to combine “a trilogy of sun, earth and sea blends together”, which gives a very accurate impression of this fragrance. Sogno Reale is a very sunny and interesting fragrance, and would be great for a hot summer’s day. To me the dominant characteristics are a salty marine note, something grainy, like unprocessed wheat, a bright lemon top note, and animalic notes. The combination of these ingredients results in a fascinating smell that is a little like salty, human skin that’s been in the ocean and then dried in the sun, overlaid with a touch of citrus, which fades as the perfume develops. The wheat note that I smell has no basis in the notes provided, but whatever ingredient creates this olfactory illusion, it hints at wheat grains and bread, and salty bread at that. There are some interesting basenotes used – including sandalwood and volcanic olibanum – and they are detectable, but not at all dominant. What they do is provide a grounding for this interesting and layered creation, in which the top, middle and base notes seem to hover, somewhat distinctly from one another. The sandalwood rounds out the composition slightly, while hyrax, an animalic note that is redolent of musk, civet and castoreum, helps create the skin-like and animalic characteristics of Sogno Reale. Unlike many animalic fragrances, this one is not heavy or overwhelming. It’s sweet, and it’s light and bright, yet very interesting and complex.

Le Mat

The philosophy behind Le Mat is as follows: “Le Mat is the “odour” of bravery, gumption and change. With a mantle of nutmeg and black pepper that protects its heart of geranium and rose, the scent unleashes whiffs of patchouli and cashmere wood. A blend of celestial and earthy aromas that instills a sensation of freedom.” (Source: Mendittorosa’s website)

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Le Mat. Photo courtesy of Mendittorosa.

Le Mat is my favourite of Mendittorosa’s creations. It is a rich creation housed in fabulous packaging, featuring the tarot card “Le Mat”, or “The Fool” as this card is known in English. The title of “The Fool” is somewhat deceptive in tarot – the fool does not represent a simpleton or an idiot – rather, he represents newness, purity and childlike innocence, or prophesies the beginnings of a new spiritual path.

Le Mat sample (right) shown with Sogno Reale sample (left)

Le Mat sample (right) shown with Sogno Reale sample (left)

I adore Le Mat. It’s a spicy, musky rose with honeyed nuances and an immortelle note that emerges more and more as the fragrance develops. It is sweet, but not too sweet, and a little woody. It reminds me of Turkish Delight, that rose-flavoured middle-eastern sweet, and Musk Lolly sticks. It smells like the most delectable, rich and luxurious blend of two fragrances I already own and love: L’Artisan Parfumeur’s Safran Troublant, and Mor’s Marshmallow. The rose melds with a geranium note (which has a rosy, green quality), and is supported by musky and woody cashmeran, loads of nutmeg, and pepper. Base notes consist of an earthy yet not overdone patchouli, and a hint of clove.

Trilogy: Alpha, Omega & Id

These three fragrances were conceived as a Trilogy. Mendittorosa has the following to say about the three fragrances: “Because in opposition, we find balance, the three scents in The Trilogy line—Alpha, Omega and Id—are designed not just to complement each other, but to complete a journey.” (quoted from Mendittorosa’s marketing brochure) These fragrances are designed to be worn alone, or layered. Due to time constraints, I did not layer these fragrances for this review, so I cannot comment on how they combine and work together.

Id

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Id. Photo courtesy of Mendittorosa

Mendittorosa describes Id as follows: “Essential, rich, and wild, Id is the dark passion that drives us towards our dreams. Inspired by the nickname “Iddu” the locals give to the Stromboli volcano, Id is an olfactory dedication to the fiery being that first breathed Mendittorosa into life.”

I can imagine Id is a very popular fragrance in the Mendittorosa line. It is so appealing and woody-sweet, warm and very wearable. It smells so much to me like Donna Karan’s iconic Black Cashmere that I feel it is difficult to review it objectively. Id features nutmeg and incense (labdanum) and woods, a strong cinnamon note and a touch of clove. For those who loved Black Cashmere and can no longer find it, you will love Id and be thrilled to have a replacement. Compared to Black Cashmere, Id is a little softer, a bit less incensey, and also a touch sweeter than Black Cashmere.

Omega

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Omega. Photo courtesy of Mendittorosa.

Mendittorosa decribes Omega as: “The last letter of the Greek alphabet, ‘omega’ denotes the end, the final limit. It is Alfa’s polar opposite, deriving its elegance and composure from an awareness of its mortality. Its leather core is draped in velvet layers of Egyptian cumin and white musk.”

This description doesn’t match my experience of Omega. To me, Omega smells like a burnt vanilla fragrance with a hint of musk. On first application, I find this “burnt” aspect a little hard to handle. I think the burnt note is ambroxan, which often has this effect on me: I find it too much for my nose in this case, and a bit acrid and bitter. I believe that many perfumers use ambroxan to replicate the smoky qualities of oud, but this is just my suspicion. Despite my dislike of ambroxan, this note calms down about twenty minutes into the fragrance’s development, and Omega ends up smelling quite approachable and wearable, a bit like Rochas’ very popular Tocade, but without the rose. I do not detect any leather, cumin, iris or frankincense (all listed notes). There is a hint of very well blended jasmine that lifts and sweetens the composition. Omega will appeal to people who like vanilla but want something a little left of centre.

Alfa

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Alfa. Photo courtesy of Mendittorosa.

Mendittorosa describes Alfa thus: “Alfa is the beginning—a naked Venus rising from a clear blue sea. Deceiving in its simplicity, it tells a tale of earth, milk, and vineyards, but its saffron heart contains deep yearnings for the sensuality of nutmeg, sandalwood, jasmine and thyme.”

When I first smelt this perfume (before I read the notes above) I thought it was a classic masculine fougère, which, sadly, is probably my least favourite category of perfume. I was then very surprised to find that conceptually, this fragrance is linked to Venus, the female and very feminine goddess “whose functions encompassed love, beauty, sex, fertility, prosperity and desire.” (Source: Wikipedia) Nevertheless, let me continue with my own impressions of this fragrance, as they are very different to Mendittorosa’s description above. Alfa smells like a masculine fougère, with fresh citrussy, woody, and herbaceous notes dominating. The sharp (and in this case somewhat citrussy) note of ravensara dominates the opening of the fragrance, and white thyme is also apparent. It’s slightly woody too at first, with a soft frankincense in the base. The woods develop quite intensely about twenty minutes in: again, I smell the burnt note of ambroxan, or “oud”. If saffron is in this fragrance, it is used subtly as I find it hard to detect. A hint of jasmine warms and sweetens the composition ever-so-slightly. This is a well-constructed perfume and is a fresh and slightly interesting take on the classic fougère formula, even if it is not to my taste.

North & South

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North and South. Photo courtesy of Mendittorosa.

“Each North has its South, and each South, its North. Two opposites longing for completeness.” (Source: Mendittorosa website)

As with the Alfa/Omega/Id Trilogy above, North and South can be worn together, or alone. I did try them together, and will discuss my findings below.

North

“Bright and pure, light, and nostalgic, North evokes memories of empty white pages, dry leaves, crisp wood of Swedish saunas, children’s drawings.” (Source: Mendittorosa website)

North features a light and airy cedar wood, like that used in Comme des Garçons’ Kyoto. This cedar dominates, but is blended with a lovely bergamot and pepper. My impression of North is that it is a fresh and woody forest scent and when I smell it I feel like I’m walking amongst a plantation of fragrant, camphoraceous trees. North has moderate  sillage, without being overwhelming. It is a calming, dry scent that would appeal equally to women and men.

South

“Sultry and slow-moving, South ushers 
in memories of hot bread, white linen sheets dried in the sun and of pure Marseille soap. It is the colourful clutter of our favourite things in a nest of softness.” (Source: Mendittorosa website)

South is sharp and creamy and slightly sweet all at once. Creamy sandalwood in the base is offset by a very lemony, citric basil top note. Hazelnut, a rounded, sweet and nutty note, is also quite detectable. Syringa (similar to orange blossom and jasmine) is quite noticeable too. South reminds me a little of a softish Samsara by Guerlain or Allure by Chanel, both of which feature a combination of jasmine and sandalwood, but here the composition is made much more interesting with the basil and hazelnut, and an interesting “hot bread” note that appears after about fifteen minutes of wear. This bread note reminds me of the “wheat” note I detected in Sogno Reale. South is quite soft in character and moderate in sillage and is more feminine than masculine. It is a very pretty, yet interesting scent.

North and South Layered

These two fragrances layer well. The notes of South dominate, in particular the hazelnut and bread notes, although the cedar is also very apparent. It probably goes without saying that this combination is much richer and more complex than North or South alone.


Summary and Where to Buy

I hope you’ve enjoyed my survey and brief impressions of Mendittorosa’s current range of fragrances. The Discovery Kit is an affordable way to try these lovely creations and to explore them for yourself.

You can buy the Discovery Kit on the Mendittorosa website for 40 Euros (including shipping), which includes a 20 Euro refund voucher to use with any full bottle purchase for two months.

Mendittorosa’s fragrances all come in 100ml, extrait de parfum strength bottles. They range in price from 185-225 Euros each and can be purchased from Mendittorosa’s online shop and from selected retailers.

Disclaimer

My Mendittorosa Discovery Kit was provided free of charge. Many thanks to Stefania Squeglia and Jakub Piotrovicz for generously providing the kit. All opinions are my own and I strive to be both honest and respectful to the perfumers and their creations in my reviews.