Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Working my way through Sonoma Scent Studios (part 1)

So, I was lucky enough to get to be a part of the Sonoma Scent Studio sample pass going on via Basenotes recently. I am (so far) the last to receive the samples. As a result, I've been able to read several other member's posts about these fragrances, so my opinions may be slightly influenced based on what others have said. I am not picking these in any real order (except for the first one as I am going out today and wanted something lighter for the heat), so the little reviews you see here are not ordered in any particular way. It is also worth noting that these are very off-the-cuff reviews that are being written first as I apply the fragrance and then again a few hours later when it dries down and I've had time to live with it.

Without further ado:

Jour Ensoleille: (5/21/14)

Right off the bat I knew I'd be interested in this one as soon as people mentioned neroli and musk as being two of the dominant notes in this fragrance. Indeed, the opening is a fairly literal interpretation and representation of neroli, something I am very familiar with as I grew up with a little orange tree in my room. In fact, this fragrance as a whole reminds me of my room growing up. A little musky since it was located in my grandparent's house (I have no idea why their house always smelled musty and musky to me...maybe mildew?), but the neroli and orange scents cut through that musk just like it does in Jour Ensoleille. The opening isn't very complex, as I mostly get the neroli and musk, but there is a tuberose/white florals suite in there as well. Generally speaking, I am not a fan of tuberose, but in this creation it is hovering in the background, so it isn't a deal breaker for me. The name is an excellent descriptor of the fragrance, as Jour Ensoleille translates to "sunny day" as long as my limited French hasn't failed me (I checked a translator to double check), and I feel this is perfect for that kind of weather, especially in the first hour of the fragrance before all of the surrounding florals come more to the forefront.

A few hours later, it has dried down a bit and I am left with mostly the same fragrance. The orange blossom is still at the forefront, but the muskiness has turned into a more plastic-like musk than the original mildew/house musk that it was previously. I fear these descriptions are rather personal and do not really lend themselves to helping outsiders figure out what this fragrance is about, but it is the best way that I can try and describe them. It is worth noting that as this ages on the skin, the feel of the fragrance ages as well. At first it had a classical yet modern feel to it up top, but by the time the mid notes and base notes come out it is very much a vintage, classical smelling fragrance. For me, this is a perfectly good thing, but it isn't something I want to smell like all the time. For an occasional spring wear I could see this being a hit, but it's not something I will be immediately seeking out a bottle of.

Champagne de Bois: (5/22/14)

As soon as this was put on my skin, I got a sweet, spicy vibe that smells almost like baked apples and cinnamon. I think the note is actually pears, but it gives off that same sort of scent profile. There is also a light, crisp vibe coming from the top notes that isn't from the fruit. I am positive this is aldehydes, as this is one of those notes I have a lot of experience with smelling on women since Chanel is so popular. This isn't like that kind of Chanel aldehyde though, it's much sharper up top and has a more gourmandy feel thanks to the pears and spices The whole first blast is very pleasant, with some lurking musks in the background that remind me of the musk in Jour Ensoleille, which had a parallel with a few I've tried from Serge Lutens.

As this starts to dry down there is an excellent dose of a labdanum rich amber accord that really serves to sweeten this up, but not in a negative way. This is the sort of thing I am not used to seeing in perfumery: A sweetened, not overly fruit-filled aldehyde fragrance. It's definitely unique, and one of the better openings and middles of a fragrance I've tried recently. There is something seductive about it that really draws me in. There are layers of complexity here and if I stick my nose to it closely I keep unveiling something new.  This kind of reminds me of my grandmother's house as so many fragrances with labdanum do, and the essence that it has with aldehydes reminds me of my mother, who for her entire life has been wearing stuff like Windsong and Cristalle by Chanel. So, this really evokes some scent memories for me, which makes me like it even more. The more it dries down the more animalic it becomes. That musky labdanum becomes more of the center of the fragrance, and while this style of thing isn't new in perfumery, this transformation makes it rather interesting. What started as a lighter, slightly sweet aldehydic fragrance turns into something much skankier and this is a change that I personally really dig. Maybe it's just the name playing tricks on me, but I do kind of smell the idea of champagne soaked wood here in the dry down.

Definitely full bottle worthy. I'll have to wear this once more at the end of the sampling before sending it on to the next person.

Incense Pure: (5/23/14)

Well, the meaning is in the message the name gives off. This is indeed pure incense, with a big hit of frankincense from the very start, which dominates the top notes for a while. There is a lot going on in the background though, and the perfumer mentioned that she wanted to have this be a big frankincense fragrance with some labdanum in the notes to round it out alongside some sandalwood. I can't say that I get the sandalwood yet, but I definitely can see the underlying almost syrupy labdanum. This reminds me of a few other outdoorsy style incense, with the Comme des Garcons line coming to mind immediately with Kyoto (minus the cypress note) and Avignon (though definitely less cold), and Jovoy's La Liturgie des Heures with its coniferous green incense.

This is actually a fairly warm fragrance in terms of the genre, and that is something that I definitely commend it for, as all too often I find myself with cold, almost antiseptic smelling incenses coming in samples. It is hard for me to come to grips with describing and rating Pure Incense, as it is, at least at one point, a very true to life interpretation of its name. But,then as it dries down the greener notes come to light, and the whole fragrance becomes significantly more complex than it once was. It is this kind of duality that makes Incense Pure such an interesting fragrance, and I can tell just after one wearing that this is the kind of thing that I want in my collection.

Now, some have compared this to NK Incense, but I have still yet to crack open my sample that a friend sent me, as I know the stuff is exceedingly hard to find. Still, I feel that if some reviews are willing to toss this into the ring of serious powerhouse incense fragrances like NK, then that can only speak volumes of just how well composed this is. Take what I've written as an amateur's attempt to cover a genre that I've only really ever scratched the surface with. If you want a more in depth and knowledgable take on the fragrance, I'll direct you to deadidol's review on (at the time of this writing it is the top review).

Another from Sonoma Scent Studio that I plan on purchasing in the near future! Of course my timing is pretty crap since they are on break until fall it looks like, and the prices on Indiescents are a lot more than her personal website. Drats!

Fireside Intense: (5/24/14)

Yep, that's a fire alright. I mean, I didn't really expect anything else off of the top, but I had a feeling that this might smell more like the smoky notes in something like Bois de Ascece, but it doesn't, at least not initially. Right from the start I get an almost barbecued smell to this. There is cedar right up in the forefront, with birch tar swirling in there to make an almost plastic kind of vibe. To me, for some reason, I am reminded of barbecue flavored chips/crisps as you first open up the bag and get that initial puff of air. This actually reminds me a fair bit of Engin by MadHat scents, as it shares that same sort of smoke heavy style while having an odd, almost thin quality in the inhale. Though, unlike the latter, I find this one gets a little tiresome on the senses after a while, and turns into an almost burning trash/wet dog food smell, to me at least.

So, as it dries down I don't get a whole lot of development, and instead it starts to trick my nose into thinking it is something else entirely. My issue with this style of fragrance is that very often it isn't really something I want to wear on my skin for more than a few hours, and this is no exception. So, while I do applaud the attempt, this one just isn't for me.

Fig Tree: (5/25/14)

I'm going to start off by saying that I have very little experience when it comes to fig notes. I don't know any of the "flagship" or "touchstone" reference scents that use the note, so my little review here is about as amateur as you will ever see on this blog. Anyway, the opening is soapy and fresh, using the fig note to offer that almost coconutty vibe that I hear it often has. This opening is a little rough around the edges though, and is definitely not your typical fresh scent kind of opening. It has a lotion/bug spray kind of quality off the top that is not really to my liking, but it dissipates after a handful of minutes as the fragrance settles. Once it calms down a bit I get a big dose of green notes, probably from the leaves of the fig tree itself, boosted with a hit of patchouli and what I think is some sort of herb like basil (but I'm not sure on that one). It's interesting to me that this is much less fruity and much more green/fresh than I was expecting, but it definitely isn't a bad thing.

A few hours into wearing Fig Tree it settles down a bit like most fragrances, but it stays mostly linear from the top. That bug spray vibe is gone, but the green/freshness is still here. It is a bit sweeter and almost gourmand like after it sits for a long while, which is alright, but not really something I want if I am wearing it in the heat like today. Overall this was a good fragrance, but again not something I am going to seek out a bottle of. I wouldn't mind wearing on occasion, so maybe a decant would be in order, but I think I'd rather test out some other fig fragrances and see where this lands in comparison.

Sienna Musk: (5/26/14)
I have to say that I am generally a big fan of musks. Whether it is a dirty, skanky musk, or a cleaner, gentler musk. Sienna Musk is much more of the latter than the former, as it does not have any of that damp pungency of most of the musks that I have fell in love with in the past, and instead opts for a much lighter take on musk than I am accustomed to. The opening is almost entirely the light musk accord I just mentioned, and underneath there is a bit of vanilla that I am told is akin to her amber based fragrance, Amber Noir (which I have not sampled at this time). There is also a little dose of florals that are being hidden by the slightly sharp musk on inhale, but it is hard to identify which florals they are. Other reviewers have mentioned rose, but I find that this whole floral bouquet gets overtaken by the musk and a creamy, milky note that shows itself a few minutes into the opening.

As it dries down it is really much of the same. This scent is very close to the skin and very fresh, so this is definitely something I'd feel perfectly comfortable wearing out. That being said, this close to the skin nature feels like it would be best suited for an oil based perfume. The late dry down is really spectacularly good, as the vanilla and musk blend together so well that it turns into something just excellent, but at this point I can only really smell it on my clothes. This late dry down smells a lot like Musc Ravageur by Malle, as I get that clove spiciness that MR has in the opening. In the end, I didn't get a ton of longevity out of this one, and while it is nice for what it is, there are more interesting takes on the genre out there that I'd rather reach for.

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