Wednesday, December 16, 2015

A Mélange of Jasmine

Last month, I lost a friend to cancer. She had a deep love for Hawaii, and had filled her life and home with memories. Among these, were a few specialty soaps that she ended up wanting to give away to people she loved. I found myself sniffing the soaps and thinking about how they would have evoked Hawaii for her. The focus was on pikake (Jasminum sambac, or night blooming jasmine), but other forms of jasmine had a spot along with plumeria (frangipani) and ylang ylang.

When I was young, my mother and I had little money for frivolous things, and Christmas was definitely frivolous. However, we still managed to find a gift or two here or there. One of the gifts that I clearly remember giving to my mom was a set of bath beads, filled with jasmine fragrance. Of course, inexpensive often means cheaply produced and those jasmine beads were pretty potent when the package was opened (probably made up mostly of artificial something or other, skunk oil, and purple coloring), but the hint of what those beads had promised (the soft jasmine whiff that trailed faintly from the package) still sticks in my head, and was heavily in my mind as I sniffed the soaps made in Hawaii that my friend had wanted to share with the people she loved.

When I came home that day, I found my own stash of pikake soaps that I had purchased on sale on a whim earlier this year (without knowing the stash my friend had), and I sat and sniffed them for a long time. Sometimes we don't always know what connects us to another until we have something tangible showing how alike we can be.

The longer I play around with perfume, the more I see how the journey seems to go in cycles. Something that I "grow out of" I usually come back around to years later and fall back in love, usually with a different take or facet being explored. This year has been jasmine, but I was sticking with soap because most white florals veer into massive migraine category on me, and soap is relatively safe. Since my friend's death, I've purchased a few more soaps focusing on pikake or other jasmine. One day, as I was sniffing one soap in particular that had the delicate lushness of true jasmine tea, I decided to brave the migraines so I could find that "one" jasmine fragrance that would be everything I love about the flower. (If I could distill jasmine tea and have it remain true as a perfume, I would.)

I trotted off to Luckyscent and started a wish list. Did you know that if you do a search for jasmine on perfume sites, eleventybillion results will come back? After reading for days whenever I had spare time, I finally narrowed down some choices for my first set of samples.

I was going to simply do this for myself, then I realized how much I love sharing the journey, so decided to bring my tries here.  (Note, I did grab a couple that weren't trying to be a jasmine soliflore because I wanted a range of experiences to base my thoughts on, so some of these may have jasmine as a main note, but may not be attempting to be a jasmine fragrance, per se.)

My first sample list:

Amouage, Journey Woman--"Inspired by Shanghai Art Deco in the 1920s and Chinese film noir, Journey is a refined fragrance for the elegant woman who knows that a soft touch and a glimpse of silk can be far more alluring than brazen boldness. It opens with delicate jasmine flowers, coated in honey and infused with jasmine tea. Osmanthus lends an apricot touch, along with smoky Lapsang Souchong and a hint of leather." Notes include: Osmanthus, Apricot, Jasmine Tea, Honey, Nutmeg, Cardamom, Jasmine Sambac, Freesia, Mimosa, Cedar Wood, Saffron, Tobacco, Leather, Vanilla, Cypriol, Musk

I really can't resist a good leather perfume. If When I win the lottery, I will have a shelf full of leather perfumes. It's just a thing. However, I was a little uncertain about how this one would play out. I've heard glowing reviews of Amouage, but I have tended to shy away for some reason. This was my first big jump into Amouage.

When first applied, the honey was warm and delicious and very dominant. Threaded under and through that though was a delightful jasmine tea note that made me very happy. (I may or may not order jasmine tea just so I can sniff it.) For the first hour this was on my skin, I wondered if I had applied too much as it seemed to rise up all around me. But after that, it softened and snuggled down to what still was hours later a warm, softly sweet (no cavaties and sugar perfume here), slightly smoky perfume with a faint trail of the jasmine coming in and weaving throughout. The bit that clung to my shirt was very much the Lapsang and leather, but what was on my skin was sweeter, more warm, and infinitely snuggleable. I came to Amouage as a skeptic, and I would definitely consider this worthy of purchasing. Really lovely, even though it's not the soliflore I was looking for.

April Aromatics, Jasmina--"An aphrodisiac par excellence. The Jasmine flowers for this scent are obtained from the south of India and are distilled through a variety of processes. The flower‘s calming, soothing qualities help to relax the body, lift the spirit and quiet the nerves. Jasmina brings a heightened spiritual awareness and encourages sleep and dreaming. It is a very sensual scent and a truly pitch-perfect soliflore." Notes include: Jasmin flowers, ylang-ylang, pink grapefruit.

I have a bottle of ylang-ylang essential oil that I have often thought about using for myself, just because it smells so deliciously wonderful. This carries much of that, mixed with both the jasmine and the pink grapefruit. When first applied, the jasmine opens beautifully and the ylang-ylang also opens up more on the skin. The pink grapefruit comes across as a bit zesty, and helps to keep the florals from being over the top. This is very pretty and softens almost immediately on me, but after a little while it went a little soapy on me (which is one reason I've been avoiding jasmine--many tend to go soapy and I want something that stays true floral). This is very delicate and pretty, and comes across as feminine. Something about it feels cool/chilling (more than likely the grapefruit), but I think I want my jasmine to come across as more warm. Pretty, and definitely worth considering as it does give me a restful and soothed feeling, but it's not quite where I want it to be.

Grandiflora, Madagascan Jasmine--"Inspired by the Stephanotis Floribunda, an asterid treasured above normal star jasmine for its unique aroma and used frequently in high-end bridal bouquets, Madagascan Jasmine is a floral fragrance as unique and captivating as its namesake. A true soliflore, Madagascan Jasmine beautifully captures the complexity of Stephanotis, which far surpasses the amorphous sweetness of lesser jasmines, presenting a floral both lusciously white and deeply green, fresh and yet heady, with a boldness appropriate for both the ingredient and the dynamic florist responsible for the Grandiflora line." Notes are not listed.

This one definitely focuses on the green aspect of the jasmine, in the sample and on the skin. It's a wet green, like a stem freshly snapped, that has the jasmine weaving in and around the green the whole time. This also comes across as a bit more dry, which is interesting with the wet green, but the jasmine doesn't quite play as lush or dewy, and after a little while drops down to a low hum on the skin. Compared to some of the others I have on, the others are much more big white floral and this is more like a throat being cleared at a funeral. It's discreet and not very lush. It's still pretty though, and I think it might shine a bit more when worn alone so the nuances and subtle sweetness can come out to play. As quiet as this one is, and more green than I was expecting (and thought I wanted), I keep coming back to it (probably because it does feel understated but solidly present).

The next I was going to review was Montale's Jasmine Full (notes are: Jasmine, honeysuckle, and orange blossom) which really sounds delightful, but the sample I received was of Full Incense (notes: Cedar, labdanum, patchouli, elemi, Somali incense) which isn't quite where I was going with this... ;-) I like the look of the notes enough that I may try to order this one again.

The Different Company, Jasmin De Nuit--"Jasmin de Nuit is a childhood dream, the sweetness of the flower that opens at nightfall mingled with a hint of star anis…and rests on a warm bed of amber. Exotic Egyptian Jasmine is used abundantly here and, combined with spices such as cardamom and cinnamon, delivers and elegant, sohphisticated fragrance with a subtely-sweet drydown." Notes include: Egyptian jasmin, amber, blackcurrant, star anise, spices, cinammon, cardamom, sandalwood

Mmmmm. This one opens feeling like it comes from the dark side bearing gifts. The anise and spices are gorgeous, and makes this much different than I expected (heavier on the spices). The sandalwood is a faint hum on the bottom, providing a decent base to rest on. The amber or something in this makes this come across as much more musky than I expected. This is rich, like a very delicious spice cake with blackcurrant jelly turned into perfume. The jasmine is definitely not the focus here, rather it's the dot on the i or the cross on the t that rounds everything out and completes the whole. I tend to stay away from perfumes that feel heavy on musk, but this would be worth hanging on to and breaking out for special occasions. I have much weakness for perfumes that make spice and anise star attractions, and this one does so beautifully. Some reviews called this "airy," but the muskiness weighs it down and keeps it from being very airy for me. The waft is lovely even though it feels like it has gravity to it. This was also placed in the unisex column, and I could definitely see this being stunning on a guy (although, I would hope they would go light on it, otherwise too much of this would go straight into headache territory, despite how pretty it is).

Keiko Mecheri, Clair Obscur (formerly Jasmine)--"A stunning rendition of the one of the world's best loved flowers. Nothing harsh or strident here -- this is a light, transparent jasmine. Ethereal. Lyrical. With a breathtaking purity and simplicity. Enchantment in a bottle." Notes include: Sicilian night blooming jasmine, absolute jasmine

Even before I put this on my skin, I felt like this could be the very thing I am looking for. In the sample, this smells a bit medicinal and a little sour, but threaded under and through that was a pure clear jasmine that made me want to try this immediately. As soon as I had it on me, it began to open into a soft and lovely fully jasmine fragrance. Actually, there is a moment where this reminds me heavily of Tubereuse Criminelle with the menthol opening that clears the slate for the creamy sweet floral to shine, and this (in many ways) continues to follow the same trajectory for me, while staying true to the jasmine note. This is jasmine, specifically the softness of pikake/night blooming jasmine. It is soft and sweet. It drifts through the air without giving away its location, forcing you to go looking for the source (which is part of the enchantment). This is a summer night, out in the garden of this wild world, the light of the stars and moon softly showing the outlines of the bushes and trees around us while the fragrance perfumes the air and reminds us that even in the darkness we are surrounded by something beautiful. It is lovely. I am probably going to keep looking, trying, testing, but so far this remains the ideal that I am looking for.

And if, on some lonely day, I close the blinds and turn out the lights, put on some perfume and lie there in the darkness thinking about a certain bay where the whales migrate through, and where rainbows have been known to play over the water, it will be done as a reminder that people always live on in our hearts no matter how empty the world is without them here.