Alexandra Balahoutis (head perfumer of a perfume lab in Los Angeles and owner of a retail store) first ignited my interest when I saw her ripped apart for the prose on her site of Strange Invisible Perfumes on a certain expert's now defunct blog back in 2005. You gotta question why someone is getting so much attention and that makes you wonder about the work produced, no? The prose was indeed less than satisfactory at the time and has now been removed from her site. Of course, even though her business seemed doomed at that point, after the perfume enthusiasts' siding with the expert on this, Alexandra has remained totally unscathed by a business point of view and goes on strong. Still, I never actually pursued to test her perfumes till this project came along, which I recognise is an error on my part. Pity that my first encounter with her Temple of Musk proved less than satisfactory.
First of all, it was among the last bunch of samples I got. It even managed to arrive a day later than something all the way from Australia! So tsk tsk tsk, I thought the project seemed a little rushed. I understand that SIP had other fish to fry and all, but hey. And smelling the strips and then on skin, I can see that it was a bit rushed, including the tiny quantity sent: A harshly medicinal musk with murky facets and vine-like nuances (possibly the stated myrtle could do that, it reads a little lemony though) which I couldn't pull apart, like a vice grip from which one cannot escape make heads or tails of. It's heavy and "catty" (blackcurrant buds?), but it's not the kind of "heavy" which we associate with opulent orientals or retro scents. It just sat there refusing to do anything... What can I say? I don't want to bash small indie perfumers and prefer to keep silent when I find something they produce subpar. I am making an exception today because I have heard many good things about her work from people whose opinions I respect. And hope her ~undoubtedly more carfully turned out~ Musc Botanique is exactly my cuppa...Someone has promised me to introduce me to her other perfumes, because Alexandra is clearly capable of so much more. I have absolutely no doubt it is so.
Craving by Ambrosia on the other hand proved rather delightful, if only tempting me to dive into a cookie jar of home-made biscotti to scoop darl chocolate ice-cream with! The name is of course delectable, by nature...
The perfumer, Ambrosia Jones, impressed me first of all with her professionalism. Although the scent sample took its while to arrive all the way from half the world over (a given), she was among the very very first to inform me of her intentions and send me info on the creative process. Kudos, Ambrosia, this is how business is contacted. Regarding the perfume itself, she explained: "It's got all the animalistic base notes you'd hope to find in a decent musk perfume, with middle notes of warm roasted hazelnuts, sweet caramel and dark sultry cocoa liquor. OK, so I'm a food head. I can remember someone asking me years ago wether I prefer Sex or Food...and I honestly couldn't say!My idea of a perfect afternoon involves lot's of sexy nakedness...pheromones and wild passion....with intervals of chocolate cake, roasted nuts and more......Hey, why not make it perfect and combine them both?!"
To accomplish that she blended cocoa absolute (this stuff smells like real chocolate with an edge of human skin), real oud, two varieties of vetiver, hyraceum (harvested from a small animal cruelty-free and smelling intensely animalic), ambrette seed for that touch of vegetal muskiness and of course Australian sandalwood. The result smells like you're having an intimate dinner where the course is yourself and the drippings of caramelised chocolate are just the appetizer...You've been warned, this is sexy, comforting and tittilating stuff! She needn't have worried so much about the competition, her submission has been one of the best received ones!
Now, I'm more than psyched to try her Death by Chocolate. Perfume by Nature by Ambrosia can be found on this link.
Please visit the rest of the participating blogs and fora on the Mystery of Musk project following the links provided.
Photos by Paul Kiler on Mystery of Musk project.