OKAAAY...time to move on to nicer thoughts and greener pastures (pun intended), like perfume, of course!
It was my first time in Tahoe during the fall season, as I have only been there during peak seasons (summer and winter) for boating and snowboarding. It is very quiet in the fall. Tahoe is some 6,000 feet above sea level and covered in tall, elegant pines, including ponderosa. as well as white fir trees. But I had no idea that there were aspen trees in Tahoe, and in the fall they color the landscape with their stunning, bright yellow leaves.
I walked into the boutique, and a lovely and very knowledgable saleperson, Zenimue, greeted me. The walls of Fragrance Vault were covered from top to bottom with perfume. I can not possibly remember everything I saw, but I will break it down into categories as best I can:
Designer/Accessible: Dior, Chanel, Givenchy, YSL, Guerlain, Molinard, Cardin, Caron, Cartier, Agent Provocateur, Bal a Versailles, Patou, Lalique, Escada, etc.
Higher-end/Exclusive: Dolce & Gabbana's Velvet Collection, Guerlain Elixir Charnel, Chanel Les Exclusifs
Vintage/Rare/Discontinued: Guerlain Meteorites, Tendre Poison, Caron Bellodgia EdT, Vol de Nuit, Shalimar, Opium flankers, Chanel Gardenia, Victoria's Secret Victoria, Theorema, YSL Nu, Champs Elysee Too Much, Gucci Envy, Lauren in the new and old formulas, Deneuve by Catherine Deneuve, Byzance by Rochas, Must II by Cartier, Interdit and Fleur d'Interdit by Givenchy (the latter was my signature scent until it was discontinued)
Niche: Imaginary Authors (L'Orchidee Terrible is always in stock, as the house makes batches of it just for them, eventhough it is technically discontinued), Ramon Monegal, "Uncle Serge", Mark Buxton and Xerjoff
They also had a vast and very impressive selection of new and vintage minis that included so many brands that I can not possibly remember, but some that spring to mind are: Coco, Dune, Fendi Asja and the original Fendi, Dana Incognito
I learned two things from Zenimue that I never heard before:
1. It is believed that Angel is based on Molinard's Nirmala, which was the perfume that Thierry Mugler's mother wore. I smelled Nirmala for the first time, and it smells so much like Angel's candied, fruity top notes. It's like Mugler took those and added more heft with the base of patchouli and dark chocolate.
2. Tom Ford worked for YSL when Nu and Rush were released. Not sure how much of a hand he actually played in their creation, but I'd love to find out.
Fragrance Vault is like finding buried treasure. And what was my booty, you ask? I walked away with full bottles of YSL's Nu, Dune (2012), Poison (2013), Jovan Musk, and Infini by Caron, as well as 3-ml decants of Ange ou Demon Parfum Extrait, Bellodgia (edt), and Opium Oriental (a limited edition flanker). I was so mad about the 2014 reformulations that I deeply regretted having never bought bottles of Dune nor Poison, so I was very happy to find a legitimate distributor with pre-2014 bottles, rather than resorting to eBay.
The list of inventory is so huge, it's not easy or practical to post it all online, but if you give them a jingle, I'm sure Zenimue or the owner, Jana, will be more than happy to check their stock and ship to you. Don't quote me on this, but I believe it's a flat $6 for shipping ConUS. They also sell decants, so if they do not have a particular full bottle in stock, there is a chance they can sell decants atarting with 3ml.
If you have been reading, you might remember that I recently took a natural perfumery class with Laurie Stern, owner and nose at Velvet and Sweet Pea's Purrfumery, based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Laurie was gracious enough to invite me to her private atelier, a beautiful and fragrant sanctuary, and I simply could not resist.
It was so incredibly relaxing to spend time in this vintage-inspired hideaway. While chatting away about our love for kitties, other animals, and natural perfumery, Laurie treated me to some sniffs of her collection of rare and exquisite botanical essences, including different varieties of frankincense (I am a Boswelia carteri addict and huffer), and a lily of the valley enflourage.
I sampled two of her new perfume: Eze, which is named after the tiny mountain village on the French Riviera, a town that both Laurie and I have visited. It smells like sweet lemon and green herbs and really captures my memory of the fresh air of that itty bitty town. Rose Encens, is a slightly citrusy, sweetly rosey, balsamic perfume that smells very elegant.
Here are some photos from inside Velvet and Sweet Pea's Purrfumery! Click to enlarge individual photos:
I could seriously live in that beautiful place forever! It was not easy to control the urge to dab perfume on every spot of available skin. Some of the things I smelled were so intoxicating that occasionally I could not follow the conversation.
A little bit more about Velvet and Sweet Pea's Purrfumery. To be totally clear, the purrfumery is Leaping Bunny Certified, which means that the house is cruelty-free. She does not use animal essences, in her perfume, except for beeswax that comes from the bee swarm that chose to make their home in her garden.
Conscientious, transparent perfumers know that there is no such thing as "ethically harvested" civet.
If you ever see the term "vintage civet," please be aware that it is a common term in niche perfumery, and it is misleading to consumers. In the world of perfume, you can refer to almost any perfume or ingredient as "vintage" for all sorts of reasons that a perfumer can simply make up. Synthetic civet exists and is often used in perfumery, so consumers often assume it means that natural civet is no longer collected, since it is barbaric and cruel, and that "vintage civet" is like some kind of buried treasure that a perfumer attains by happenstance. This is rarely the case. The world of perfumery is full of smoke and mirrors, and it is up to us, the consumers, to do our homework and ask the meaningful questions.
Any addition of natural civet (or other animal essences such as castoreum or deer musk, which contrary to popular belief, still very much exists) to a perfume creates a demand. If there is a demand, it means that people will want to capitalize on it, and more helpless animals will be confined, tortured, and killed for their essences.
I checked out the Purrfumery's website ahead of time, so I already knew that I needed one of their darling vintage-inspired lockets. They offer a few styles, and they are filled with solid perfumes in a beeswax base from the Purrfumery's own bees. I chose the Honey Cat locket (this time), but I need to bring attention to her Pigeon Perfume Lockets because all of the proceeds go to Palomacy Pigeon and Dove Adoptions, an organization that helps to find homes for "unreleasable" birds that would otherwise be euthanized.
I am on a quest to find the most beautiful, cruelty-free perfumes out there, and I would say that Dilettante by Hiram Green is one of them.
I am just going to come right out and say it: Dilettante is a spectacular yet simple orange blossom perfume. It starts out like California sunshine, like a freshly plucked orange flower. The heart goes into soapy territory (I happen to love soapy scents), but the drydown...oooooohhhh the drydown! A surprisingly animalic, musky, velvety orange blossom. It smells like orange blossom combined with a very pungent, animalic honey and hints of wood. It didn't seem quite animalic enough for me to believe that any natural animal essences, like civet, were used in the construction of the perfume, but at the same time I would believe it if someone told me they were there. The muskiness is undeniable. At first sillage was quite strong, then it became more of a personal scent. It easily lasted more than 12 hours on me without a touch-up. It is natural, yet it is not linear, despite the focus being clearly on orange blossom. Each phase is like a new way to enjoy the flower, but I am glad the musky drydown is by far the longest phase.
Dilettante is another 100% natural perfume that blows my mind with its beauty and longevity, further proving to me that it is wholly and completely unncessary to use ingredients that were inhumanely harvested.
The artistry of this fragrance is undeniable. I am a lifelong lover of orange blossoms, and Dilettante is one of the best out there. I never thought of an orange blossom perfume as sensual, but this one is indeed very sensual and intimate. Five gold stars for this rich, golden elixir!
Please join me in supporting conscientious perfumers!
This beauty as well as others from Hiram Green are available at:
Geranium, Basil, Lemon
Indonesian Clove, Nutmeg
Patchouli, Vetiver, Labdanum, Oakmoss, Cedarwood
I was so excited to sample this 100% natural botanical perfume, and when I finally got my little hands on it, I was very bummed out to discover that it smelled so much like a 100% natural botanical perfume that I already own--Atlantic by Strange Invisible Perfumes. Both have a minty top note as well as strong vetiver in the base. Both have a slightly sweet, ambery note lingering throughout. But there are some differences too.
She Came to Stay seems more complex because it adds another dimension--specifically spice and citrus. I do get the clove and nutmeg in the heart, which eventually dissipates, but the citrus note lingers well into the drydown. The pyramid suggests lemon, but on me it turns out to smell, most unfortunately, like rotting orange peels. So at the end of the day, I end up with a perfume that smell like my beloved Atlantic mixed with the icky smell of orange peels from the trash can.
I would still recommend that others give it a whirl, as chemistry is a finicky thing, so it might not smell like rotten orange peel on others. Also there are not that many 100% natural perfumes on the market that I would refer to as "fine perfumery", but She Came to Stay is no doubt complex enough to be at that calibur of artistry. It's one of those perfumes that I still appreciate, despite not working with my chemistry.
You can buy She Came to Stay here, as well as his latest perfume, On the Road