Natural perfumer Anya McCoy and I share a bond of geography and perfume. Ms. McCoy lives in South Florida where I grew up. The fragrance connection is obvious. Ms. McCoy is one of the people who tirelessly support the art of natural perfumery. She has been the long-time head of the Natural Perfumer’s Guild which I previously thought kept her from being as prolific as I might wish. When I received her latest creation Anya’s Garden Strange Magic I was perhaps given an alternative reason for so much time between perfumes; she doesn’t do it the easy way.
A consistent theme I take up when writing about the smaller independent perfumers is they can source and use materials a larger brand could never imagine using. Ms. McCoy has regularly sourced many of her focal points in her fragrances from a material of her own making using the traditional extraction methods like enfleurage or tinctures. That is one or two ingredients, out of many, but just that provides nuance because of the non-destructive extraction method. For Strange Magic, she decided to really go all in as 95% of the materials used are from tinctures she made herself.
I am going to give a quick primer on tincturing; if you want more I have included the link to Ms. McCoy’s story on how she tinctures here. What it is in the simplest of terms is placing a botanical material in cold alcohol and allowing it to sit at room temperature. After a few days, you remove the extracted material and recharge with new material. You keep repeating until the desired strength is achieved which can also be altered by allowing some evaporation, too. In any case this is not a process you do over a weekend, or a week, or even a month; it takes months to do correctly. Ms. McCoy explains on her website that she sees using tinctures as a more sustainable way of using natural ingredients. In theory, you can have tinctures going of everything you grow in your garden; recharging when the next set of flowers bloom.
White Champaca Tincture
Another oddity of tincturing is the color of the tincture doesn’t always match the color of the flower. On her website, she mentions the inspiration for Strange Magic began with her tincturing of white champaca flowers. As they were placed in the alcohol it didn’t stay colorless it instead turned a light shade of pink growing deeper in shade with each recharge. The picture above is from Ms. McCoy’s website. From there she decided to concoct a floral fantasia of tinctures.
What this results in is a symphony of floral notes carrying a different presence than you might normally encounter when they are used as essential oils. The first thing I noticed was how soft the entire perfume was. It is like the tincturing process removes any sharp edges. It is not that there aren’t moments of green or indoles shot throughout; it is just that they don’t blare and bully. Instead they hum at a moderate volume with a sustained presence. The other thing I noticed is Strange Magic doesn’t really have a top, heart and base pyramid; it is all there at the beginning and the end. The real magic is in seeing these very hard-won ingredients interact with each other to create a memorable floral natural perfume.
Strange Magic has 6-8 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
Strange Magic is a perfume only an independent perfumer could make which makes it stand out more. Ms. McCoy has become the patron saint of tincture thaumaturgy in the 21st century. I am happy to wait to see what’s next while Strange Magic tides me over.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Anya’s Garden.