In 1986 I spent the summer in Mexico following the World Cup. It was one of my favorite experiences in my life. Traveling with a backpack taking buses from town to town to watch soccer. There is no way to understand a country better than traveling on foot through it. Over the four weeks I was there I learned so much about the country to our south. Aether Arts Perfume Mayan Chocolate reminded me of one of them.
In the last week of the tournament there was time between games to explore a little more away from the game sites. There was a group of Belgian fans I kept crossing paths with. I would greet them with, “Hey have any chocolate?” To my surprise one day they were ready for my silly question. Handing me a piece of Mexican chocolate. They told me they had gone to visit Oaxaca and the whole city was about making chocolate. I decided to make a trip down there.
When we got close to the bus depot the scent in the air let me know. You know when they say things like a city smells like something. Oaxaca City smells like chocolate. Actually it smells like cacao beans which are piled up in burlap sacks throughout town. There is chocolate in everything you eat or drink. Being Mexico there are times that some chiles make their way into things. As I would sit with the locals, they would tell me that chocolate came from the Mayans.
I loved this spiced chocolate beverage called xocoatl. It is here where independent perfumer Amber Jobin and I intersect. I suspect many decades in between. Mayan Chocolate is a gourmand style born of the streets of Oaxaca City.
The cacao source she uses is that scent of the unprocessed bean. Which is where this begins. I’ll admit I was looking for a non-existent burlap accord because it twigged my memory so strongly. It is just chocolate with a green underpinning. It is then rapidly mulled together into a perfume version of xocoatl. A set of spices in chiles, nutmeg, cinnamon, and paprika. The latter adds in this smokiness the drink has I didn’t expect Ms. Jobin to re-create. It is a fascinating gourmand accord with the bite of the spices pushing against the sweet of the cacao.
The reminder we are in the tropics comes in a subtle way. When I was visiting an afternoon thunderstorm came through. It cleansed the air of the cacao. What was present was the jungle in the distance before the cacao began to take over again. The heart of this is the moment just before the cacao pushes the jungle back as the vegetal green finds a tiny bit of purchase.
Chocolate was thought to be a gift from the gods to the Mayans. Ms. Jobin recognizes that as she adds a base accord of sacred ingredients palo santo and incense. It as if she is thanking those gods for the gift of cacao.
Mayan Chocolate has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
This is a delightful reminder of my trip of 35 years ago. It is also a reminder of what a technically excellent perfumer Ms. Jobin is. All of what I described above is balanced to perfection. Each piece fits seamlessly. Together it forms a top-tier gourmand. I’ve been spending some time in my memories of Oaxaca, there isn’t anything I’d rather do.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Aether Arts Perfume.