Rodrigo Flores-Roux is one of my favorite perfumers because he creates perfume that finds ways of making the common, uncommon. He has done it again with tobacco in Xinu Ummo.
Xinu is the Mexico City-based independent brand creatively directed by Veronica Alejandra Pena. She opened her boutique in 2017 and released four perfumes. All of them were composed with Sr. Flores- Roux. I enjoyed all four with Monstera standing out among those early perfumes. At the time I wrote that this felt like the kind of perfume Sr. Flores-Roux might have made if he had started his fragrance career as an independent perfumer from Mexico. His path instead took him to becoming a perfumer for Givaudan. I still think there is that independent spirit lurking underneath, Ummo allows it to peek out.
For Ummo the idea was to make a perfume capturing the sacred nature of tobacco. Many of the indigenous people of North America used tobacco as part of their rituals. Ummo would take the shape of one of those rituals as a fragrance.
It is easy to imagine a penitent entering a sweat lodge as I wore Ummo. This is a claustrophobic tobacco perfume. It feels as if it has a pent-up energy which I enjoyed. There is a smart use of the flower and leaves of tobacco to create a development from green leaf to dried leaf.
Ummo opens with the tobacco flower. It is recognizable as tobacco in its early form. Using juniper berry and agave it is kept on the vegetal side of the profile. The more familiar tobacco appears with a scent of the sweaty scent of muscone. Overlaying it all is the floral sweetness of jasmine. The floral quality expands on the sweetness in the smell of sweat and tobacco. This is the heart of the ceremony. A leather accord provides more animalic facets. Tonka and honey add in their versions of hay and viscous versions, respectively. This is the moment where the dance among the smoke takes place until it ends with the rising of the sun.
Ummo has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
If you are looking for a different spin on tobacco Ummo is worth trying. I like the way it evolves from green to narcotic depths. Deep in a trance as I can find a place within.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.
In Part 1 of these series of reviews on the Mexico City-based perfume brand Xinu I posited that the perfumes might have represented what it might have looked like if perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux began his career as an independent perfumer in Mexico. There are moments within the other three I’ve written about but it is the brand-new release Monstera which really put this idea in my head.
The biggest divergence between independent perfumery and niche perfumery is in the former there is a much more personal vision on display. In niche perfume, there is a more business-like approach to what is released. Which is what can give independent perfumes their vividness. There are more than a few occasions where niche and independent priorities can mesh. Monstera is one of those times.
Monstera refers to the giant leafy fruit-bearing plant of Central America. Its botanical name is “monstera deliciosa” The giant leaves are the “monstera” part. The “deliciosa” part is the ripe fruit which is a variation of pineapple when ripe; a little tarter but as sweet. I ate a lot of them during my time and they are deliciosa. What this means for the fragrance named Monstera is Sr. Flores-Roux has created a magnificent perfume of tropical greenery and fruit which almost magically transforms into leather by the end.
If you have spent time in the tropics there is a smell to the dense green leafy things in the high humidity. It has a weighty vegetal quality. Sr. Flores-Roux captures that in the early moments of Monstera. The vegetation is dense and moist the fruit is tropical and slightly tart. This is the monster plant accord beautifully realized. Then over the course of an hour or so that vegetation slowly turns leathery. I had never considered how close densely vegetal is to raw unrefined leather. As Monstera makes that transformation it is something that becomes as plain as the nose on my face. This slightly verdant leathery accord is where Monstera stays for hours.
Monstera has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
After trying these initial four releases from Xinu I must commend Veronica Alejandra Pena in realizing her vision of capturing the botanical bounty of the Americas. By allowing Sr. Flores-Roux to be her partner it has also seemingly allowed him more latitude to compose in some different ways. Monstera is certainly one of the best perfumes Sr. Flores-Roux has made. I am hoping that Rodrigo y Veronica will spend many more years in their Mexico City Laboratorio.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Xinu.
Soon after I discovered the existence of Mexico City-based perfume brand Xinu I was busy exploring their website. One of the things which interested me was the layout of the boutique. Dominated by a long central table filled with sculptural interpretations of fragrance and botany. As you can see below it looks like a steampunk botanist’s laboratory. As I tried the fragrances this image was floating in my head as I imagined owner Veronica Alejandra Pena and perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux discovering new ways to extract and combine those oils into unique perfumes. As I continue reviewing the first releases from Xinu I take on Copala and OroNardo.
One of my first experiences with fragrance came during one of my summers sailing through the Caribbean. I don’t remember where but I found an oblong piece of sticky amber colored glassy material. I loved the texture of it and it became my worry stone in my pocket. I would notice my fingers always had a pleasant smell on them after rubbing the material. I would learn many years later it was most likely copal resin. It was used as incense is used for sacred ceremonies among the Mayan peoples. Sr. Flores-Roux uses copal as the focal point of Copala. One of the things about copal is like the natural material it has an amber glow to it as opposed to the silvery metallic sheen of good frankincense. Sr. Flores-Roux uses that pliability to make Copala a soft resinous perfume.
In the opening, he uses baie rose to go with the copal resin. For Copala Sr. Flores-Roux enhances the herbal quality of baie rose to match the resinous heart of the copal. Mesquite wood provides an acerbic bite in contrast to the mellow opening. It returns to the mellow as fine Mexican vanilla forms a sweetly resinous final accord.
Copala has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
I always think of Sr. Flores-Roux as a master of the floral perfume. His schooling in botany and growing up in Mexico has always made me feel it is in his blood. What is surprising is the flower most known in perfumery which comes from Mexico has not been interpreted many times by Sr. Flores-Roux. With OroNardo his mastery of the floral fragrance is front and center.
Tuberose is indigenous to Mexico and if you’ve ever spent a night in Mexico it is what you smell on the nighttime breezes. In Mexico, the flower is called nardo and thus OroNardo is gold tuberose. Sr. Flores-Roux combines five floral ingredients as he gilds the tuberose in gloriously decadent floralcy. OroNardo is the smell of the night-blooming flowers.
A deep full-spectrum tuberose in the nucleus of OroNardo. In includes the indoles, slight camphor-like green, along with the sweet floral nature. Mock orange is used as the first added floral. The pineapple tinted orange blossom makes this the right kind of opening. “Queen of the night” brings its jasmine-like nature to bear as it forms a sweet floral duet taking on the high notes. Marigold finds the green mentholated vein and exposes it. Oleander provides a gently powdery finish.
OroNardo has 12-14 hour longevity and above average sillage.
I thought this was where I was going to end but I was also sent a sneak preview of the newest Xinu release Monstera. So I am going to do Part 3 tomorrow reviewing that along with some closing thoughts on Xinu.
Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by Xinu.
There was a time when the centers of perfumery were easy to name. While that history is the foundation of today it was very typically French, American or Italian. What is fantastic about the state of fragrance today is there are many more countries showing off their heritage, creativity, and aesthetic. This is the soul of artistic independent perfume in 2017. As one who has to keep track of all of this it does make my life somewhat difficult but then I find something which combines everything I find fascinating within the world of fragrance in one place.
I regularly search my favorite perfumers to see what their most recent releases are. On a January afternoon, I typed in Rodrigo Flores-Roux. As I scrolled through the list there were things I knew were coming but as I got to the bottom of the list I saw a brand with three releases from December I had never heard of, Xinu. After doing a search I found a Now Smell This announcement which linked the homepage of the brand. As I read through the website I became more and more interested in the Mexico City-based brand because much of what was written on the web page were things that Sr. Flores-Roux has spoken to me of when we talk about how he approaches perfume making.
Owner Veronica Alejandra Pena asked Sr. Flores-Roux to achieve their shared vision of, “a reflection of botanical richness, artisanal mastery, cutting edge design, and olfactory delight.” I want to point out that second phrase “artisanal mastery”. Sr. Flores-Roux has worked for all kinds of clients over the many years he has been a perfumer. For what might be the first time the collection of three perfumes he did for Xinu give me some insight into what path Sr. Flores-Roux might have taken if he was born twenty years later. I can see him starting his own independent perfume brand highlighting the best Mexico and Latin America has to offer. The collection for Xinu is much more polished than that but there is a bit of an indie perfumer vibe lurking in the background of these perfumes. I am going to review all three of the debut collection over the next two days. I will start with Aguamadera.
Blue Agave Harvest
Aguamadera is a shank of summer fragrance centered around citrus and woods. The indigenous ingredient used in Aguamadera is agave. For those who drink tequila, which is distilled from agave, you have an idea of the bitter nature of it. What is missing in its essential oil incarnation is there is also a briny character as strong as the bitter part. It provides a different version of the aquatic sea spray accord without relying on the typical ingredients used to create that effect.
The opening of Aguamadera is tart astringent lime paired with the bitter salinity of agave. It gives the sense of walking a beach in the sunshine as the spray from the waves dampens your face. The woods used to frame the lime and agave are cedar and guaiac they continue that fresh feeling all the way until the end.
Aguamadera has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
I’ll be back tomorrow with reviews of Copala and OroNardo.
Disclosure: This review is based on samples provided by Xinu.