One of my favorite independent perfumers is Irina Adam of Phoenix Botanicals. When I have the opportunity to meet her in person there is a studious quiet intensity to her when she speaks about her perfumes. Like most indie perfumers their personality also makes the trip to the fragrances they make. What Ms. Adam has done so adeptly in her career, so far, is to create olfactory visions which draw the rest of us into them along with her. Her latest release is Peach Tree Garden where she puts us in the middle of a peach orchard in the height of summer.
When we moved from Massachusetts to Maryland we moved into an area of the state called the Agricultural Preserve. In this area it is zoned to encourage local farming. One of the farms is a peach orchard. It seems Ms. Adam and I share the same enjoyment of the orchard when it is at the height of maturity. The summer sun high in the sky. Trees with blossoms among ripening fruit. The rotting fruit on the ground. In real life this is a heady smell of beauty and decay with more of the former on display. Ms. Adam designs Peach Tree Garden with the same idea of capturing that peach orchard. The really intelligent part is she grafts that on to a chypre base. It is that which really elevates Peach Tree Garden into something memorable.
Ms. Adam opens with a fascinating duet of yuzu and saffron. This combines into that sunny accord deepened with a hint of the spicy flesh of the fruit. The heart is that mixture of blossom and fruit I mentioned above. Ms. Adam uses osmanthus as the stand-in for the blossoms as the peach arises with intensity. The osmanthus’ apricot like quality is a perfect simulacrum for the peach blossom. The accord of decaying fruit is composed of oud, labdanum, and ambrette. It is that slightly decadent smell of the sweet turned rotten. It never rises to the level of taking things over, it is a gentle reminder that all beauty decays. The final phase is that chypre accord of oakmoss and vetiver. It adds a contrasting gentle bite to all that has come before.
Peach Tree Garden has 6-8 hour longevity and below average sillage. Both typical for 100% natural perfumes.
As I’ve worn Peach Tree Garden in these waning days of winter I have enjoyed its ability to allow me to dream of summer days in the peach orchard. Ms. Adam has added another impressive perfume to her collection.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample I was given as a gift.
Independent perfumer Irina Adam of Phoenix Botanicals has been one of my favorite of the young natural perfumers working currently. What sets her apart in my mind is her very keen curiosity on finding new materials to base her perfumes around. For her latest Ella it took a friend who had some vintage essences from around the 1920’s-1940’s.
Picture of a couple of the actual vintage essences found in Ella
In the description on her Etsy site of Ella Ms. Adam tells of her friend artist Anne Arden McDonald who shared three vintage essence with her to use in a perfume. For Ella these were vetiver, hay, and hyacinth. The last note would be the keynote to build Ella around. Ms. Adam introduced Ella at the Sunday lunch of the recent Sniffapalooza Spring Fling where she brought tiny samples of all three vintage essences. Besides this being a special experience I also got to share smelling these raw materials with perfumer Christophe Laudamiel and Michael Edwards of Fragrances of the World. The three of us remarked on how all of these typical perfume ingredients had gained a lot of depth with nearly one hundred years of age. They were exceptional ingredients to build a perfume around. Ms. Adam is definitely one who is up to this challenge and she uses one of each vintage essence in each phase of Ella.
The vintage hyacinth is what predominates throughout all of the development. I am a big fan of hyacinth and this vintage version has layers to it I have never experienced previously. Ms. Adam wisely uses a bit of galbanum as green contrast before allowing the floral bouquet of the heart to bear the hyacinth up on to their shoulders. Those florals are ylang ylang, honeysuckle, gardenia, and jasmine. In other circumstances the hyacinth would be trampled by those florals. This vintage version never lets that happen as it stays on top all the way through this phase. Next is a human skin accord constructed around the vintage hay mixed with tobacco, botanical musks, and clove. This accord is where Ella snaps into brilliant focus for me. As the hyacinth continues to ring out the hay forms a shimmering human skin accord underneath it all. It is something very special. The base notes provide the concept of this all being kept in a timeless curio cabinet. Sandalwood and moss combine with the vintage vetiver. The vintage vetiver on its own is so smooth and deeply woody it was nearly unrecognizable. As part of Ella there are enough other notes to sort of resurrect the green familiar qualities but they seem like whispers of its normal volume.
Ella has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
I have been impressed by Ms. Adam’s technical abilities for a while now but they have never been displayed as conspicuously as they are in Ella. Given exquisitely precious ingredients she has produced an exquisite perfume. This is obviously a limited edition because of the ingredients and it is going to be one of the top perfumes of 2015. This is one you will be sorry if you miss it.
Disclosure: This review based on a sample provided by Phoenix Botanicals.
I say it almost every time I review a talented independent perfumer’s wok but it bears repeating. Those who stand out from the crowd are those who spend real time with their raw materials. The best form a personal bond with these extracts and through their exploration when they are ready to compose a perfume using them they also know exactly how to make it shine. Natural Perfumer Irina Adam of Phoenix Botanicals is one of these intimate imagineers of natural perfume and her latest releases Tempest Blossom & Bed of Roses are another illustration of this.
I met Ms. Adam in 2012, she is a very soft spoken individual and after speaking with her she pressed some samples into my hand. It would be days later when I would come across those samples and I was very impressed. She has made a number of natural perfumes where the natural ingredients were displayed with a clarity and depth that is unusual. One of the things about Ms. Adam is she goes out and gathers her ingredients and compounds them herself. She recently spent some time in Hawaii and that trip and the materials she gathered have inspired a new spate of perfumes. At the recent Sniffapalooza Fall Ball I had the pleasure of introducing her and she presented her new perfumes.
Tempest Blossom is one of the most unique combinations Ms. Adam has created so far. She was inspired by walking through Hawaii after a wind driven rainstorm had passed. The scent of foliage uprooted and flowers bruised and releasing their fragrance from their crushed petals. Over all of this she wanted to capture the power of standing outside and watching the storm approach as the air gets heavier and nature rises up. What is so interesting is the two notes she chooses to capture this are tuberose and oud.
Tuberose and Oud? I can imagine you thinking this could be a roaring beast of two of perfumery’s most extroverted notes. This is where Ms. Adam’s dedication to making her own raw materials comes into play. Tuberose and Oud are definitely here but since she is responsible for making the raw material she has already shaped it, some, to be powerful but it is much quieter than other tuberose and oud you have run into. It opens with the wind picking up, wafting some smells from the citrus grove in the distance. Hints of some of the other flowers are also flowing on the freshening wind. As the storm crackles and passes overhead you walk out to find crushed tuberose everywhere releasing their perfume. The oud represents the moist earth and there is a bit of vetiver to help enhance this illusion. Tempest Blossom is like seeing what the storm has revealed after it has passed.
It is a funny thing that Tempest Blossom enchanted me because of its unique duet. Bed of Roses I expected to be just another rose perfume. There are so many rose perfumes out there now it is hard to find something new to say. The name comes from a real life bed which had wild rose petals sprinkled on it and where Ms. Adam would lay her head after a day of harvesting. Bed of Roses has a beautiful rose core but Ms. Adam adds in the bed underneath as there is a hint of linen and wooden bedframe underneath this rose.
Bed of Roses opens with a blend of five roses and it must have been the smell that first hit her when she laid down as the rose petals gave up their fragrance. Underneath is the freshly laundered sheets carrying a slightly soapy accord consisting of violet, carnation, and neroli. The wood of the four posters is represented by vetiver and oakmoss. As with Tempest Blossom there is powerful delicacy on display in Bed of Roses.
Tempest Blossom and Bed of Roses have 6-8 hour longevity and almost zero sillage.
Ms. Adam has quickly risen to one of the natural perfumers from whom I eagerly await what comes next. It all starts with her very personal way of gathering her ingredients and ends in delightfully singular natural perfumes like Tempest Blossom and Bed of Roses.
Disclosure: this review was based on samples provided by Phoenix botanicals at sniffapalooza Fall Ball.