It’s Earth Day (since 1970), the 52nd celebration of this day focused on all things natural, organic, botanical – of sustainable practices here and abroad! It’s part call to action, part communing with Mother Nature on a day that should be year-round. So in these times when climate change is becoming much more obvious and pervasive by the minute, it makes perfect sense for us to focus on a few of the perfume houses out there doing their best diligence, and we are here for the smell test. We are showcasing over a dozen houses in this spotlight piece that we hope offer lots of choices.
You are in for a treat as these makers celebrate a wide-breadth of accords from trees and its by-products to the most robust and delicate flowers, and to the earth from which it grows, as well as fresh ripe fruit to some magical surprises. Now, we‘d also be remiss not to mention that most of these houses in this short survey are women-owned and operated. Hats off to their creativity and mindfulness. We’ve had the great opportunity to cover all of these fourteen amazing brands previously. Some promote products that are vegan, cruelty-free fragrances, others boast plant-based botanicals, many have made a firm commitment to sourcing raw ingredients in a sustainable way, others are as close to 100% natural (even those terms ‘can’ be a little tricky) as possible. We celebrate with each and every one of these creatives who do this day in + day out. Keep the planet breathing! Let’s get these under our passages, shall we?…..
MOTHER (NATURE) KNOWS BEST!
Ambre Vie (House of Matriarch, USA): Musky and resinous yet fresh at the top this one includes the elusive and herbaceous costus which to me has a slight medicinal quality for such a beautiful rich red tropical plant. The davana is divine. There is a hint of metallic somewhere hidden in the base, it’s distant but noticeable for a fleeting moment or two. It’s all a little warm and leaves a satin powdery finish. The warmer it gets the more depth it brings, this is enchanting. This is that true resinous blend that your mom never told you about, yet the House of Matriarch delivers with all its wholesome wisdom and mystery. (87%)
Notes: ambreine (labdanum), resins, mimosa petals, davana (artemisia), costus, amber and natural musk
Anji Bamboo Forest (Nadia Z, Switzerland): This is not fooling around. A stimulant from the start. For me there’s a grit to this, of true earthy green notes of Aglaia odorata which is lively and herbal. I detect a hint of carnation or a cooler scented floral as well as the lightest hint of strange citrus. As this warms I get warm sweet wildflorals but only on the wind, as if they are pungent but at about 500 yards or so. It has that feeling of reaching out to nature to try and make a more understanding connection. Once in the dry down stage this becomes a silky lotion, very buttery on the skin. For something that starts off quite percolated it ends as soothing and introspective. (86%)
Notes: floral notes, fruity notes, green notes, aglaia, tuberose, boronia, coffee blossom and precious woods
Citadelle (Raw Spirit Fragrances, USA): Clean and crystal clear on contact. Citrus and vetiver, oh so green and fresh blooming through the first minutes. Other spicier tones pop in trying to break through like pixels on a screen. This may be a go-to this Spring, and the season comes all too quickly in Texas (yes, even after a climate situation like no other in history). I have to say that a full size of this gorgeous potion needs to be on my shortlist as it has a perky beat and some incredible musky wood tones that emerge in the heart. Of all flowers this includes one of my least favorite, the common marigold, but honestly it’s exactly what makes this unique and really special. Who knew? Freshie lovers will want to seek this out. (91%)
Notes: Haitian vetiver, together with marigold (tagetes), pear, bergamot, lemon, spices, amberwood, musk and cedarwood
Hypnotica (Herbcraft Perfumery, USA): Drunken flowers at the very top, Once that slight boozy edge fades (fairly quickly) the wake up call is a grape-like accord of florals. This is all about the sensational flower power of the tiny violet, aided and abetted by rich fruity notes that are incredibly juicy. If there are other florals my passages only pick up the generous violet and that is perfectly OK with me. I’d say this one could easily go toe-to-toe with Olfactive Studio’s Violet Shot, one of the other few violet fragrances that stick out to me. But Hypnotica is oh so incredibly rich in its natural essences. I do not mind one bit that I spilt some on my hand, this will be my scent of the day, there! It’s fragrances like this that change my disposition, I admit I am no longer a Doubting Thomas about this floral. Simply Luminous! (88%)
Notes: lavender, violet leaf, violet flower, plum, pear, jasmine, tuberose and benzoin
Illuminé (Nancy Meiland Parfums, UK): This has a gentle kick, the citrus sings. Plus Illuminé manages to combine two of my absolute favorite notes which are part of our monthly One Note Wonders series: absinthe (January) and ginger (April). The former is just a bit of a background subliminal aphrodisiac and the latter helps give this its jazzy pizazz by further heightening an already deep orange glow that is so fresh. The faintest hint of florals to back it up, the fragrance warms its fruits in a tangy musk and a polka-dotted vetiver taking up the rear. This refreshing turn helps the citrus stay in the picture until the softened and slightly opaque bittersweet end. Here, too, I get the vaguest implication (while not listed) of vanilla bean paste and anise. (85%)
Notes: Calabrian bergamot, mandarin absolute, herb of absinthe, Jamaican ginger, white flowers, rose, jasmine, musk and vetiver
Jewelry of Heaven (Velvet & Sweetpea’s Purrfumery, USA): Roses are red, and so it goes, an and grows and goes. This is a rich and intense botanical rose. I’m recalling many walks through the Rose City’s International Rose Test Garden in Portland, taking the time to sniff every varietal that caught my eye. Those times getting way close-up with my camera to capture every last minute detail, the silken petal sheen, the array of vast differences in scent profile from bouquet to bouquet. I also get a thin sliver of desiccated bitter orange and some airy medicinal tincture that may be coming from the jasmine here. But to me this is, as the great Gertude Stein once quipped: “a rose is a rose is a rose.” And the nose knows! 😉 (83%)
Notes: jasmine grandiflorum, Turkish rose, rose from the Himalaya and red roses
Magnifigue (fūm, USA): Instant green wave comes over the wearer like big whoosh of tepid air. This is not your average sweet figgy fragrance, not by a long shot. This has great depth appeal and doesn’t spare the twigs, leaves and even the earth the tree hangs from. It’s got a super dark aura, incredibly mysterious, a hint murky or inky, and a delight to observe, especially for the most curious among us. If you are seeking something dry, lightly brisk and fully opaque this delivers. Rich of every blackened purple facet of the glorious fig. Fruit for days! It’s a strange perfume to say the least, one that people who wear designer fragrances should avoid. But for the daring, those who absolutely love magic, you will be drawn to this. If I were to make a musical reference, this one is surely a Dark Lady brew. Delphian Dynamite. (84%)
Notes: Fig Leaf, Fig Flower, Fig Wood, Fig Milk, Fig Paste, Fig Honey, Tuberose Absolute, Indian Jasmine, Iris Concrete, Black Tea, Mysore Sandalwood, Blood Cedar, Rosemary Leaf, Coconut Fat, Violet Leaf and Angelica Root
Nomad (Roux Saint James, USA): This one is yellow, all over. The presence of these groggy florals, kind of murky are deeply resinous. I get something somewhat reminiscent of those pineapple rings one might put on a ham, after roasting. Dark inflections with just the right bite of sweetness. It’s like tropical fruit that’s been steeping in rum and seduction. Either I’m getting the vapors, or this is inducing images thereof. A bit poker-faced, and like a vintage mother of pearl with amber-colored striations. It’s the type of perfume that takes the low road with a certain grace and doesn’t look back! (83%)
Notes: Cinnamom, Honey, Dusty Flowers, Rich Resins and Freedom
Ochre (Deep Field, USA): From the very top I get a smoky moss accord. Green and a lil’ dirty, I love it! This all feels incredibly organic, earthy, from the ground up. It’s sneaky though, in that it blends two normally star performers, patchouli and vetiver, in ways that deviate quite far from their normal behaviors. This has a shmear of powdery spices, not like powdery accord, but as if the dry herbs or spices are amidst some form of suspended animation. Of all that I’ve talked about thusfar this as as close to the earthworms and cicadas as one gets. It is rattled with the good earth, but still performs like a memorable enigmatic dark perfume. (88%)
Notes: Vetiver Absolute, Patchouli, Cypriol, Tobacco Absolute, Nutmeg and Bergamot
Freedom (One Seed, Australia): Spice, lots of depth, with a bright yet dry citrus piquant quality. This is not a juicy fruit, rather more mature in development, a seasoned zestiness. Also what seemingly comes out is some type of accord that reminds me slightly of either linseed oil or lamplight paraffin. I’m getting light breezes filled with a big backyard surrounded by towering, magnificent trees and touches of floral sweetness that are so light, almost whisps, perfectly blended. A rose is posed for the barest effect, only adding a tender blush to this wonderful perfume. (85%)
Notes: Pink Grapefruit, Rose, Magnolia, Cedarwood, Cut Grass, Pale Musk and Rosewood
Opal (Othús Perfumery, USA): If you took slate and some dark medicinal tincture, mixed it with something quite taboo like wormwood you are just getting warm outside the ballpark. This is a true mystical Potion (capital ‘P’ intended) and is likely one of those rarities the most daring (witches, magicians and maybe steampunks) should seek out. I’m getting the incredible Indian incense, but it’s not like any I’ve ever burned. It’s got that boozy edge without being its central core, which actually seems quite psychedelic and asymmetrical from where I sit here in my easy chair. It’s for sure a seriously tuned-in diversion that will captivate those seeking alchemy. (87%)
Notes: Coconut Pulp, Choya Nakh, Ylang Ylang, Green Cognac, Champaca, Jasmine, Guaicwood, Sandalwood, Patchouli and Myrhh
Phoenix (Artisan Parfums, USA): I get a midtone bitterness at the top, one that comes with a saponaceous nature. I smell a bit of smoke, or something that was smoked and dried like earthy mushrooms. This reads rather dark on my skin, a contraband of sorts. I get wafts of both something viscous and dry like hay, very much communing with the earth. Glimpses of shadowy light in muted echoes. It’s an intriguing deep-seated, rootsy scent that will have your most curious sensibilities returning for more, especially if you like your fragrances ‘from dust to dust’. (81%)
Notes: Organic Pink Grapefruit, Palmarosa, Cardamom, Ginger, Coffee and Nutmeg
Samara (Gather Perfume, USA): It’s suddenly Springtime, but nearing Summer, when this seems to be caressing my wrist. I’m envisioning a Mediterranean garden, lots in bloom, some sweet cut fruits on a tray as this shimmies through a sunshower of dappled light. I get perhaps a daub of tonka, something that’s warming the field and fleeting citrus. The composition is quite complex, but comes off so friendly, almost intimate. For whatever reason a likely unintended accord that reminds me of powdery marshmallows is seemingly off to the edges at the heart of this. If you want to elicit a smile this may be the right stuff. (84%)
Notes: kaffir lime leaf, lemon blossom, fresh green seeds, violet leaf, rain, soft earth, melon rinds (accord) and verbena
Smoky Rose in Amber (EQ Factories, Ireland): Oh dearie, this is the stuff, right up my alley, a perfectly blended combination of incense. It’s a smoked rose which reminds me slightly of cannabis (of which I do not partake, but love the accord) that just literally oozes of resinous luxury. I saved the best for last folks, and not on purpose as this list is alpha-order! If you want to be submerged deep within the woods with pops of zippy spice this will put the air in the sail. It’s less churchy reverent and more saucy in attitude – at least through into the heart of the perfume. From there it’s green, amber and polychromatic in terms of the bark and branch. It’s full of lively endurance and eventually comes down softly, assuredly with that intoxicating balsamic touch! (93%)
Notes: Rose, Sandalwood, Frankincense, Myrhh, Black Pepper, Virginian Cedarwood, Birch Tar and Amber
Summertime Announcement! Earth Day has always been a particular inspiration, and this year like no other. The Notetaking “channel” (site/podcast) officially completes its first full year in production, and with Covid slowly diminishing (please make it go away!) we claim our independence (so to speak) – and after much contemplation about how best to move forward we have decided this is the best time to take a Summer-long pause in our olfactory exploration to assess next steps — and in lieu of a few other creative pursuits (much needed time in the art studio + the Toneshift Listening Hour will be resurrected). However, our Instagram page’s name will likely be altered, not to protect the innocent, but to reflect the next phase. Notetaking will remain live to all access at any time.
Though endless ingredients are loosely regulated, we are well aware of reported potential risks – so feel free to take a healthy detour and still continue to smell amazing! It’s important to point out that we have absolutely loved every last minute reviewing all the fragrances that have appeared on the site. There are those houses and brands that only offer botanical, 100% natural, vegan and cruelty free fragrances. We salute thee! With a small abundance of caution, we encourage you to make your own decisions when shopping fragrances, and urge you to remember to do a little research about ingredients that might contain any harsh toxins or chemicals like: acetone, benzaldehyde, benzyl acetate, benzyl alcohol, ethanol, ethyl acetate, limonene, linalool, methylene chloride, phthalates, stearates, parabens. These are common irritants (or worse).
TAKE A BREATHER….. As an aside, this temporary decision is partly due to my own personal health, extending to yours. I need a breather 😉 When it comes to perfume, in general, we realize that even some fully natural/organic fragrances may contain certain ‘questionable’ essential oils (camphor, clove, lavender, eucalyptus, thyme, tea tree, wintergreen, etc.). So good reason to understand your relationship to the maker – that’s why we love smaller, independent houses so much! We reach out to you in the spirit of being cognizant of what’s right for you, and that, of course, is a different story for each individual. Awareness begets knowledge. So, do your homework, to figure your best regimen.
For those people out there who are looking for alternatives, and realize we are taking niche to an even more specific audience, have a look at our past reviews for some very exciting brands offering a cleaner approach to perfume – many do make concerted efforts and we try to acknowledge that. When all is said and done Notetaking plans to gradually expand our Instagram presence to include the other art forms in which we dabble (visual, sound + multi-media intersections), so we hope that all of our listeners and readers stick around during this much needed transition. Hopefully this will make us more well-rounded sentient beings! Stay tuned…
We didn’t invent the wheel + don’t take our word for it, check out these articles:
Do you have a favorite natural fragrance? Drop your thoughts below. We absolutely salute the ongoing trend and hope to experience many more natural works over the years! Breathe….