As a blogging participant of Monica Miller’s Arogleuon Primordial 2012 project, I have been asked to review five groupings of elements-inspired fragrances by perfumers from across the globe. Blogger & perfume-enthusiast Jen Meade explains:
This year, the most amazing project is pulling together. The building blocks are, in part, those that form the universe. The building blocks are exquisite perfumes based on the original building blocks: the four – dim, five! – elements. They are talented perfumers working in a variety of materials – some all-natural, some not. They are gifted perfume writers, sniffing the creations and making an offering of words. They are dreams from the minds of creative people all over the world and, yn enwedig, the dream of one woman on an island off of Massachusetts, Monica Miller of Perfume Pharmer. She has gathered a group of perfumers from all over the world who have spent the last year creating scents inspired by the elements, including the fifth element proposed by Starhawk: spirit. The focus for the project is on the primordial beginnings, the inner workings of… everything. In Monica’s words, “For the purposes of this project, Primordial to me means original material…going back to the ELEMENTS that make up our planet, our bodies, our selves. What are we made of physically and spiritually? What do we hold most sacred?”
In today’s post, I spend some time with the Fire fragrances which include Incendere by Mermade Magickal Arts; Kiss of Agnayi by Cherry Bomb Killer Perfumes; Flor Azteca by Juan Perez Exotic Island Botanicals; Caliente by A Wing and a Prayer Perfumes; Afternoon Slant by Dabney Rose; Loreena by Marian Del Veccio, Botanico Natural; and Chang Chang by EnVoyage Perfumes. I’ve decided to use metaphors to describe these as they all brought to mind specific images or atmospheres.
See my other Primordial Scents reviews by clicking YMA.
Leave a comment below and tell us which interpretation of Fire has you most intrigued for your chance to win a sample of that very scent! Buy a sample pack of all 7 scents for $38 neu $43 (outside USA) yma.
St Elmo’s Fire – LOREENA
Cynllunydd yn Disgrifiad: “‘Standing on the bridge that crosses the river that goes out to the sea the wind is full of a thousand voices they pass by the bridge and me’ Hearing voices in the ‘bridge’, foot and firne, came the inspiration. Loreena McKennitt and the song ‘Night of all souls’. Inverse path to construct the perfume.”
Nodiadau: “Much wind, and fire. Whirlwind. Atlas cedar and palo santo burning: the sacred and the profane and the smoke drawing drawings, aiming to be the cloud. Vanilla and amber, hidden memory: a smell of childhood, other lives other: matter be sweets. And in the darkness of night garnished by the Green Knight appears bonfires guarding the sacred shrub, galbanum gum saving frankincense, holding in his hand a branch of gold, myrrh and benzoin. Lavender of high altitudes and bergamot Zest are the edges of the bridge: a bridge made with vetiver. Top note: Bergamot zest; Heart notes: French lavander, clary sage, cinnamon, clove buds;
Bridge to heart: Palo santo, galbanum; Nodiadau Sylfaen: Vetiver, fanila, cedar atlas, thus, hyraceum, opoponax, tonka bean, ambrette seeds, labdanum.”
Type of Fire: “St. Elmo’s fire is named after St. Erasmus of Formiae (also called St. Elmo, the Italian name for St. Erasmus), the patron saint of sailors. The phenomenon sometimes appeared on ships at sea during thunderstorms and was regarded by sailors with religious awe for its glowing ball of light, accounting for the name. Because it is a sign of electricity in the air and interferes with compass readings, sailors also regarded it as an omen of bad luck and stormy weather.” Wicipedia
Y Llinell Gwaelod: Thanks to the perfumer’s employment of enfleurage and tincturing, Loreena is one of the lighter and more transparent fragrances of the group and so I went with a fire that is a mysterious, glowing ball of light, St Elmo’s Fire. A whirlwhind of notes blended effortlessly into a single character, Loreena is perfect for those looking for a completely all-natural, artisan fragrance that works as a scented veil rather than a trumpet call. Ar fy croen, Loreena very quickly develops from a striking citrus and floral theme into a drydown that brings to mind those final stages of Shalimar where its oriental notes quiet to a powdery, vanillic glow.
Perfumer:Marian del Vecchio, marian dot delvecchio dot 39
Chantico, Goddess of the Hearth – FLOR AZTECA
Cynllunydd yn Disgrifiad: ““Flor Azteca”, reveals as an “Earth” fragrance. It’s a scented essay of the ancient Mexican Aztec civilization and its botanical heritage. The main botanical note of the perfume is a wild Mexican native white flower known by the Aztecs as Omixochitl or “Bone Flower”. Today this flower is known as Nardo (Spanish) or Tuberose (English). Tuberose is one of my favorite white floral fragrances so for the primordial 2012 scents project I wanted a tuberose in its original habitat, an olfactory image of Tuberoses blooming at night in an Aztec Shaman’s garden. I started developing the perfume with a “fresh cut Tuberose accord”, with emphasis in it’s sweet, almost gourmand coconut like creaminess. The creamy sweet petals were paired with a “chocolatl” accord, made of cocoa absolute, Mexican vanilla and piquant spices. For the idea of a night blooming Aztec shaman’s garden I wanted to include other fragrant flowers grown by the Aztecs in their gardens as well, so I added to the fragrance a white magnolia accord and a mysterious note of datura, known by the Aztecs as “Toloatzin”. An accord of the mystical night blooming Datura, known by the Aztecs as Toloatzin is part of the white floral heart of “Flor Azteca”…An almost hypnotic floral note with light tobacco like facets.”
Nodiadau: “Mexican tuberose, massoia bark, chocolatl accord, tuberose absolute, datura, magnolia, fresh ginger, pupur, Mexican vanilla, benzoin, tonka bean, copal negro, smoky woods, mineral notes.”
Type of Fire: I chose Chantico as Flor Azteca’s metaphor as she “was the goddess of fires in the family hearth and volcanoes. She broke a fast by eating paprika with roasted fish, and was turned into a dog by Tonacatecuhtli as punishment because paprika is a banned food in such fast breaking customs. She also wears a crown of poisonous cactus spikes, and takes the form of a red serpent. Chantico is the goddess of precious things and is very defensive of her possessions. There are many Aztec legends as to what she does to people (or other gods) who take her things.” Wicipedia
Y Llinell Gwaelod: Until last summer I had never smelled a real tuberose blossom. Candles, waxy perfumes (Versace’s Blonde) and other poor recreations were all I had to go on. But Mexico changed all that. My third trip to the USA’s neighbor to the south allowed me to experience this beautiful white flower in person and wow was it different from what I had previously experienced. And so began my search for a tuberose fragrance that actually smelled of tuberose. One year and twenty or so fragrances later, the only aromas I have taken any sort of liking to are Diptyque’s Do Son and L’Artisan’s Nuit de Tubereuse. Although I acquired a small bottle of the first and am still lemming the latter, I can’t really say that either are true tuberose scents. So imagine my delight when encountering Flor Azteca, Juan Perez’s all-natural ode to tuberose, a flower indigenous to Mexico and related to the agave plant.
When thinking about tuberose, Mexico and fire – and considering Juan’s choice ingredients such as chocolate, fanila, copal and pepper – I began thinking about the Aztec gods and goddesses. Having studied comparative mythology, I remembered a possessive hearth goddess who wore a crown of agave and knew that she had to be the metaphor for Flor Azteca. Ydy, Chantico represents fire but more importantly she is seen as fiercely protective of this food and heating source, just as I am fiercely protective of my little sample of Juan’s magical elixir. One of the outstanding successes of Flor Azteca is the way it manages to retain its floral sweetness throughout its development whereas other similarly-themed scents tend to go a bit limp and translucent. I chalk this up to the sweet gourmand notes and the inclusion of datura as a way to create a multi-dimensional tuberose note.
Perfumer: Juan Perez, Exotic Island Aromatics
The Carrington Event – CHANG CHANG
Cynllunydd yn Disgrifiad: “Chang Chang was inspired by the element of fire – specifically, the Sun. My goal with this fragrance was to express the bold solar elements of summer within a classic perfume with unapologetic sillage and longevity.”
Nodiadau: “The essence of warmth captured in a sizzle of Solar Notes, Marigold and Blood Orange, penetrating a heart of Summer Blossoms drenched in Sweet Creme, and finishing in a rich, warm base of Light Woods and fruity musks. The entire fragrance is polished to a high patina with rich Sandalwood and aged Patchouli.”
Type of Fire: “A solar flare is a sudden brightening observed over the Sun’s surface or the solar limb, which is interpreted as a large energy release of up to 6 × 1025 joules of energy. These are not visible from Earth’s surface. They are mainly followed by a colossal coronal mass ejection also known as a CME. The flare ejects clouds of electrons, ions, and atoms through the corona of the sun into space. These clouds typically reach Earth a day or two after the event. The term is also used to refer to similar phenomena in other stars, where the term stellar flare applies. The most powerful flare ever observed was the first one to be observed, on September 1, 1859, and was reported by British astronomer Richard Carrington and independently by an observer named Richard Hodgson. The event is named the Solar storm of 1859, or the “Carrington event”. The flare was visible to a naked-eye (yn white light), and produced stunning auroras down to tropical latitudes such as Cuba or Hawaii, and set telegraph systems on fire.” Wicipedia
Y Llinell Gwaelod: Having been unabashedly impressed with perfumer Shelley Waddington’s Ewch Gofynnwch Alice for last summer’s Patchouli Love project, it was with great enthusiasm that I approached Chang Chang. Lucky me, I’m not at all disappointed. Chang Chang’s strength is in its balance of opposites, woody and spicy are juxtaposed against sweet, fresh and airy. I love this dual character of the fragrance in its opening stages: The rounded, fruity, musky notes provide a quite unexpected aquatic tone while the woods and spices hint at the scent’s darker character waiting to emerge. This experience lasts about an hour on my skin and then the fragrance becomes something else altogether.
The drydown strongly reminds me of the aroma of a garden or forest after a rainshower when the sun re-appears and heats the moist earth thereby releasing the aromas of soil, decay, new greens, ac ati. It is a rich, pungent and sometimes spicy aroma, here no doubt created by the patchouli and sandalwood. This shift from round, smooth, airy and sweet to dark, warm and earthy reminded me of unpredictable and still somewhat mysterious solar flares. I had visions of primordial solar gases exploding and shooting towards earth, penetrating atmospheres and ionospheres, beginning as complex explosions and reaching the earth as phantom particle rays. The opening notes of Chang Chang represent the full blast after penetrating the coronal layer of the sun…as the blast moves forward toward the earth, the strength and complexity of the flare cloud’s components dissipate and a sillage of invisible, energized particles penetrates our planet and our own bodies. Chang Chang’s sillage retains the ozonic musks throughout the softening of the woods while also offering a surprising vanillic sweetening just when I had thought the scent’s evolution complete. The finish of Chang Chang is pure sandalwood.
Perfumer: Shelley Waddington, EnVoyage Perfumes
Koh Awase (Incense Games) – KISS OF AGNAYI
Cynllunydd yn Disgrifiad: “Goddess Agnayi, अग्नायी, summons flames of the descending dusk that enwrap her in a robe of reds and yellows. Beads of sweat dampen her brow as the fire leaves the horizon and rises higher and higher about her, urging her own hidden passions to rise and leave her body with smoldering exhales. Her eyes glow like burning embers, hair but wisps of fragrant smoke, and lava courses through her veins, making her olive skin glow. Agnayi invokes the Egyptian desert goddess to release ouds buried for a thousand years in her petrified trees. She invokes the priestesses of India to release the essence of agar woods from cones of gilded incense. She invokes the Goddesses of Tunisian oceans to release their fossilized jewels that have been resting on the ocean’s bed for aeons. And finally, she invokes the ancient goddess of passion…a being of smoke and molten matter, all corporeal form lost to her desires, which burn brighter than the sun itself.”
Nodiadau: N / A
Type of Fire: “The use of incense dates back to biblical times and may have originated in Egypt, where aromatic trees were imported from Arabia to be used in religious ceremonies. Ganjin, a Buddhist priest from Tang China, reached Japan in 754 AD. This venerable priest, well known for introducing Buddhist precepts into Japan, should also be remembered for his accomplishment in the history of incense. Through medical incense and the skill of nerikoh (blended incense balls), Ganjin introduced a thriving incense culture from Tang dynasty China into Japan. Takimono, a kind of nerikoh, is made of powdered incense for medical use, together with binding substances such as nectar and treacle. There was no fragrance incense before nerikoh in Japan, and people used to burn medical incense to generate fragrances. As nerikoh is a mixture of ingredients, different mixtures created subtly different fragrances. As a result, people made their own favorite fragrances from original concoctions. In this context, incense was no longer used as a religious offering, but as a tasteful pleasure called soradakimono designed for the enjoyment of graceful aromas. This was the start of the esthetic and artistic world of graceful incense-burning in Japan. Court nobles in the Heian period (8th to 12th centuries) concocted original takimono in search of graceful and sophisticated fragrances for personal use. Different blends were used for different times, occasions or seasons, according to the mood of the moment. To impregnate their clothes or suffuse their rooms for guests, court people burnt their favorite blend of incense. “Takimonoawase”, an incense game where participants competed to produce better fragrances, also started in this period. Not quite satisfied with the simple fragrances of flowers and fruits in nature, court nobles created fragrances for their pleasure, thus establishing the foundation of a peculiar incense culture that was firmly attached to a keen awareness of the seasons. This is how the essential quality of Koh-Do (“the Way of Incense”) was formed.” NipponKodo.com
Y Llinell Gwaelod: One of the most strikingly beautiful fragrances I have sampled in a while, Kiss of Agnayi begins with the aroma of a lit match and then offers the aroma of Japanese Goku-hin sachets that are filled with sandalwood, arlleg, ginger lily, cinnamon, a patchouli. For lovers of fragrances like Alamut by Lorenzo Villoresi or Costes by perfumer Olivia Giacobetti, Agnayi is sure to be love at first sniff.
Cinnamon stands out to me more than any other note during the first 40 minutes along with the smoky aroma of burning wood. As the scent relaxes, a smooth, powdery trail lingers, not unlike the whisps of smoke trailing from incense smoldering on hot coal.
Perfumers: Maria McElroy and Alexis Karl, exclusively for Primordial Scents 2012
Liquid Sunshine – AFTERNOON SLANT
Cynllunydd yn Disgrifiad: “I didn’t choose this element, it chose me. I am a water person so I felt around for a way to make ‘Fire’ comfortable to me. Gentle fire. Warm fire. Happy fire. Lazy afternoon fire. It seduces me. : )”
Nodiadau: “A word on notes; I cannot give you the hard and the fast. A perfume is so much more than a list. How do you measure the hope, excitement, abandon and care that surround each drop as it falls from the dropper? Not to mention the distinct ‘fingerprint’ each perfumer has. And that allure thing; it’s made up mostly of mystery. I create and set to flight. I leave it to others to pin down…ond, since you ask; heavy on the butterscotch; limited edition perfume blended w/ organic grape alcohol”
Type of Fire: Inspired directly by the perfumer’s words, “How could I forget!? I’m calling it ‘liquid sunshine’..so I get my liquid element after all, don’t I? : )”
Y Llinell Gwaelod: Afternoon Slant, what a wonderful concept! I’ve long been fond of the rays of light that penetrate a window facing late day sun. Like Agnayi, Afternoon Slant is another cinnamon and rose scent, to my nose anyhow. But whereas Agnayi is an incense aroma that starts with spicy flame and ends with powdery woods, Afternoon Slant is a freshly made potpourri in a crystal bowl that begins with tea rose petals and a cinnamon stick and relaxes into a scented oolong served in a vintage boudoir dresed in textiles of satin and velvet. Sweeter than either Agnayi or Incendere (below), Afternoon Slant begins as a ray of golden sunshine but ends with whispers of raspberries and peaches.
Perfumer: Dabney Rose, Dabney Rose Natural Perfumes
Phoenix Rising – INCENDERE
Cynllunydd yn Disgrifiad: “Incendere in latin means “to burn” …..and this fragrance is for incense and spice lovers. It is a hymn to the desert and the warm forests, the tears of trees and the fruit of the sun. It is the scent of a Phoenix. In the creation of this perfume I set myself a challenge, could I create a pleasing blend using only natural botanicals that traditionally release their scent when fire is applied? In other words a completely incense based perfume. It was not easy…. for many of these elements have a special alchemy to them that needs the lick of a flame or a glow of a coal to create a change in the air itself. No top notes of sweet flowers or green herbals, this is all about the sacred fire – the woods, the spice, the resins – that need heat to thrive. Each bottle of Incendere comes with a tear of the finest frankincense I have ever experienced, Green Omani. Just because some scents do not translate completely into oil….everyone should get to smell what fire can do.”
Nodiadau: “It begins in Sri Lanka with Cinnamon and Sandalwood. Then to Brazil with Balsam of Tolu blending with the Cistus of Morocco for an amber heart. It is held in a base of Frankincense from the deserts Oman and the Myrrh of Somalia – the gold of the ancient world. To finish, something special, a hint of Cambodian Oud and Kyara Aloeswood.”
Type of Fire: Again inspired directly by the perfumer’s words: “Most beings spring from other individuals; but there is a certain kind which reproduces itself. The Assyrians call it the Phoenix. It does not live on fruit or flowers, but on frankincense and odoriferous gums. When it has lived five hundred years, it builds itself a nest in the branches of an oak, or on the top of a palm tree. In this it collects cinnamon, and spikenard, and myrrh, and of these ‘materials builds a pile on which it deposits itself, and dying, breathes out its last breath amidst odours. From the body of the parent bird, a young Phoenix issues forth, destined to live as long a life as its predecessor. When this has grown up and gained sufficient strength, it lifts its nest from the tree (its own cradle and its parent’s sepulcher), and carries it to the city of Heliopolis in Egypt, and deposits it in the temple of the Sun.”
Y Llinell Gwaelod: A review for Katlyn Breene of Mermade Magickal Arts is LONG overdue. She was kind enough to send me some of her handmade incense along with a beautiful burner about two years ago when I was winding down the previous incarnation of this website, PerfumeCritic, and getting ready to move to Finland. I loved the various incense samples she had sent but packing lightly and living in a tiny studio apartment prevented me from bringing too much of my fragrance collection. Each visit I made to my family’s home in Pennsylvania allowed me to sniff some of her incense and use the beautiful burner she had also included in her kind package to me. Now that I have moved back to the USA, I giddily await my chance to user her incense again and a review will be forthcoming. I mean, how many people do you know that can handmake incense? I don’t mean strawberry scented incense but products inspired by and lovingly crafted from all-natural materials. More about Katlyn:
Katlyn has worked consistently throughout the years to find and blend the best in magickal fragrance; it is an on going process to improve Mermade’s offerings. We are a small but devoted family, celebrating Earth Based spirituality , Magickal, and Shamanic traditions, working together for the benefit of Mother Earth. As always a percentage of the profits go to groups or projects which promote balance and growth in harmony with Nature. All Mermade incense is made by Katlyn here at the studio, our desert oasis, known as the Mermanor. We use all natural ingredients, organic when possible. The incense is created in small batches to ensure that you get the best quality. Katlyn hand blends, packages and designs all our offerings. Mermade Magickal Arts
Now about Incendere…it seems these days that incense fragrances are the current trend along with oud-based aromas, much the way fig notes were huge a decade ago and tea notes were popular a decade before that. It’s not surprising then that so many of the fire-themed fragrances should capitalize on such smokey tones. What sets Incendere apart is the fact that incense neither takes a supporting role nor is it too-artistically interpreted. Incendere smells exactly as if I’ve been surrounded by a blend of typical incense notes such as myrrh, cistus and aloeswood. My go-to incense scents are generally the Comme des Garcon’s Incense fragrances, Valentino’s Vendetta for Men, Matthew Williamson’s light but accurate Incense, L’Artisan’s Dzongkha and Norma Kamali’s incredibly dark Incense. Unwaith eto, the choices here are practically endless. But Katlyn’s incense stands up to all of them with the added benefit of only employing natural botanicals. Even the longevity and sillage are enchantingly impressive!
Perfumer: Katlyn Breene, Mermade Magickal Arts
Foxfire – CALIENTE
Cynllunydd yn Disgrifiad: “My fire perfume, Caliente, is dedicated to Mackenzie, our 14 year old Shi Tzu, who passed away yesterday. The Caliente Perfume has the same spicy personality as my dear one had. Perhaps it is strange or maybe not, to dedicate a perfume to one’s four legged companion, but Mackenzie was a perfume dog and my biggest critic or fan, depending on the fragrance I was creating. I began blending Caliente in November, November 20, 2012, to be exact and Mac, like always, was in his little day bed in my studio, listening to music and watching me blend, picking his head up when he caught a whiff of a scent he liked or at times walked out the the room when the scent did not meet with his approval. I figured he knew better since dogs do have better sniffers then us humans. During the blending and creation of Caliente, Mac remained fixated the entire day. I knew then I was on the right track with this unusual fragrance.”
Nodiadau: “In creating my fire fragrance, Caliente, I wanted to create something passionate without using “my go to” rose floral. Caliente is spicy, passionate fragrance which is smoldering at the beginning, but then cools, as most passionate love does after a time. The notes are: Nodiadau Sylfaen: Amber, Fanila, Tonka Tincture (my own blend) and Kashmir Amber; Heart Notes: Iris & Jasmine, and Top Notes: Bergamot, Petitgrain. The name Caliente means hot in Spanish, which is so appropriate for a fire fragrance.”
Type of Fire: “Foxfire, also sometimes referred to as “fairy fire”, is the bioluminescence created by some species of fungi present in decaying wood. The bluish green glow is attributed to luciferase, an oxidizing agent, which emits light as it reacts with luciferin. Although the purpose is unknown, it is widely believed that the light is meant to attract insects to spread its spores or act as a warning to hungry animals, similar to the bright colors exhibited by some species of animals.Although generally very dim, in some cases it can be bright enough to read by. The oldest recorded documentation of foxfire was written by Aristotle in 382 B.C. His notes make a reference to a light that, unlike fire, was cold to the touch. The Roman thinker Pliny the Elder also mentioned glowing wood that appeared in olive groves. Although there are many more literary references to foxfire by early scientists and naturalists, the true cause was not discovered until 1823. On the suggestion of Benjamin Franklin, it was used for light in the Turtle, an early submarine. The Japanese word for the phenomenon, kitsune-bi, also translates exactly as “fox fire”. Kitsune are believed to possess superior intelligence, long life, and magical powers. They are a type of yōkai, or spiritual entity, and the word kitsune is often translated as fox spirit. Fodd bynnag,, this does not mean that kitsune are ghosts, nor that they are fundamentally different from regular foxes. Because the word spirit is used to reflect a state of knowledge or enlightenment, all long-lived foxes gain supernatural abilities.” Wikipedia.com
Y Llinell Gwaelod: Caliente is remarkably similar to both Davidoff’s Relax and the original Lagerfeld for Men, now known as Lagerfeld Classic: Amber, tonka, fanila, iris and jasmine notes are common to all three. The remarkable thing about Caliente is that perfumer Jane Cate manages to do with all-natural ingredients what Davidoff and Lagerfeld do with more conventional ingredients…and dare I say it, I think I prefer Caliente! It is an interesting throwback to scents from almost 20 a 35 mlynedd yn ôl, yn y drefn honno, and a completely different aesthetic than any of the other 12 scents I’ve thus far reviewed.
Nawr, about foxfire. I’ve been lucky enough to experience the foxfire phenomenon in both the USA and Japan and the feeling such a vision evokes is both surprisingly eerie and incredibly magical. When reading Jane Cate’s press release for the fragrance, I thought of the first time Luciferin was explained to me as a child in the Blue Ridge mountains and how all I could think of was how my own explanation – woodland spirits – made more sense to my seven-year old imagination. Just look at that picture above right, much the same way the Japanese believed the light to be the glow of fox spirits, I’d like to believe that Caliente glows with the spirit of Mackenzie as something addictive, sweet and completely fun. I hope Jane Cate wanders out into the woods some evening and is entranced by the glow of foxfire and reminded that Mackenzie has indeed brought her inspiration and enlightenment.
Perfumer: Jane Cate, A Wing & a Prayer Perfumes, scent to be sold as of June 30th.
See my other Primordial Scents reviews by clicking YMA.
Leave a comment below and tell us which interpretation of Fire has you most intrigued for your chance to win a sample of that very scent! Buy a sample pack of all 7 scents for $38or $43 (outside USA) shipped yma.