Friday, March 30, 2012

Alkemia Perfumes: Miel De Sauvage Et Tabac and Smoke & Mirrors

Alkemia Perfumes, another Etsy discovery! I first heard about Alkemia perfumes through the lovely Olfactoryobsessed, whose review of Les Mysteres was so captivating that I couldn't wait to order and try it! I finally placed an order in early March and my order was here very soon. It took just over a week to reach me, quick postage! I ordered a sampler set, chose five 1 ml sample vials and was thrown in a freebie (Persian Tearoom). I chose the kind of perfumes I love, the deep, dark, resinous ones. The store has something for every taste I am sure.

I have found 2 favourites already which I will surely be buying a full sizes of. Miel de Sauvage Et Tabac and Smoke & Mirrors.
Miel De Sauvage Et Tabac
"Sweet, spicy pipe tobacco flecked with wild honey, freshly crushed honeycomb, the pollen of forest 
blossoms, and smoked black amber. Warm. Dark. Golden. Luminous. Untamed."

Honey scents are my thing. I love the honey note because it draws me into the perfume and makes me feel warm and sexy at the same time. I crave for honey and MdSeT satisfies me in so many ways. In one word, MdSeT is amazing! It is a honeyed tobacco scent. Tobacco is leafy green, turning into something snuff-like but of the exquisite kind. It is smoky, sultry and sexy. Amber, spicy at first, becoming cozily warm later, is a nice addiction that smooths out the tobacco. Honey offers a cushioning effect, soft, rich and very sexy. I do agree that it is 'sauvage' in a raw sexy kind of way.

MdSeT reminds me of Tom Ford Tobacco Vanille, which also is simply gorgeous. The fresh leafy tobacco note is similar but MdSeT is sweeter with a prominent honey and has an 'untamed' sexiness.
MdSeT also reminds me of By Kilian Back to Black, due to the same honeyed tobacco-ness. Back to Black gets boozy and softly resinous as it progresses but MDSET has an amplified honey note and smoky, spicy amber adds to the sexiness. The similarity of these two with MdSeT is the honey/tobacco note and ends there. MdSeT doesn't try to become something, it is unique. This is just my way of saying that if you like Tobacco Vanille or Back to Black, you will love MdSeT!

Smoke & Mirrors
"I originally blended Smoke & Mirrors as a 'rescue' layering element for a customer whose Beloved had spent $275 on a bottle of gorgeous perfume that didn't work with her chemistry. Accordingly, Smoke & Mirrors makes a fabulous layering scent that adds intriguing and mysterious elements to other perfumes... works particularly well for toning down any perfumes that are too sweet, deepening and gloriously complicating resin and incense based scents, and softening chypres and any 'sharp' woody scents."

OMG, how gorgeous is this! Smells like burning woods and dry leaves set on fire and the lovely aromatic smoke they emit! Sniffing directly from the vial, my nose is pleasantly enormed by the smokiness of burning firewood. The smokiness dampens down as it progresses and leaves a balmy, resinous trail of amber and smoked woody notes. In the dry down, the burning smoke transforms into aromatic smoke, so light and airy juxtaposed against the fine and soft vanillaic but not too sweet resinous amber. 

Another smoky scent I love is Flourish/Firebird Woodsmoke and Vanilla. The smoke in woodsmoke Vanilla seems somewhat metaphorical when compared to the realistic and literal smokiness of Smoke & Mirrors. Woodsmoke Vanilla is light, cool and more woody (like cedar, sandal, vetiver) pleasant and aura-like quality is amazing. Smoke & Mirrors is dramatic smoky scent with beautiful resinous undertones. 
The smoke in Smoke & Mirrors is so addictive! I love to wear Smoke & Mirrors as is, without layering it. I just can't get enough of burning wood and smokiness. I have layered it with super sweet scents like Jessica Simpson Fancy or L'Occitane Labdanum de Seville. It adds a wonderful depth and transforms the perfume into something you can't even imagine.

The staying power of these perfumes (all the Alkemia perfume I have tried) is great on my skin. The fantastic staying power makes it more worthy of a full bottle ($12 for 5 mls) 

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Beautorium Haul

Beauty Heaven is a great Aussie website that is full of fun beauty things. bh, as it is fondly called is really good at giving back to the members in the form of trials, prizes and lot more. bh has now come up with a new way of rewarding members, the Beautorium where you can exchange points earned on the website for some fabulous beauty products. Unbelievable but true, you get real products for virtual points!
I have been a bh member for 3 years, learnt a lot about makeup/skin care/hair care, met some beautiful people through the website, not to mention accumulated a ton of points just for having fun! I encashed my points for great stuff through the very first Beautorium event.

 Here is what I scored:
Freezeframe Instant Lash
Maybelline NY Master Precise eyeliner
Bottega Veneta perfume EDP
The Body Shop: White Musk Libertine EDT
O.P.I Nickki Minaj: Pink Friday nail polish
Moroccan Oil Intense Hydrating mask
Sax Lipstick in Coral
Skin Physics Photon LED Rejuvenating System for face

Love, love, LOVE everything! Thank you bh ♥

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Kitchen Smells: Asafoetida

I have to disagree with the nomenclature of this wonderful spice. It is not a foetid smelling thing at all, definitely not something that would smell like Devil's Dung. It has a strong, really potent, aggressive, somewhat unpleasant smell but not really foul or revolting. At least not for me, even in its pure form. I love the smell of asafoetida, maybe because so I am used to it, grew up with it, still use it. It is the smell that makes me nostalgic. No cooking was complete without seasoning of asafoetida back at home. If you are using it or smelling it for the first time, you should do it with caution though!

Asafoetida (Wikipedia) is an interesting thing. It is a sap which dries into a resin/gum from the root of a plant that is mixed with binding agents and such. You can get it in powdered form and in solid form from any Indian grocers. Powder is more convenient but I prefer solid because somehow (may not be true) I feel it is more potent.

Asafoetida in solid form.
It is said to have so many medicinal benefits including having an antioxidant/cancer protective effect. Interestingly, one of its components is used to make synthetic vanilla and used as anti bitter agent in artificial sweeteners.

The smell: Smell of 'raw' asafoetida is strong. When dissolved in water, the strength of the odour comes out at its best. Seasoning dishes with asafoetida in fat (preferably butter/clarified butter) tones down the pungency and tones up the aromaticity. When asafoetida, in either form is used in food, it imparts a beautiful aroma to it. It is thick, full, spicy and pungent. The whole house smells nicely when you are cooking with it. The smell of raw asafoetida lingers on to everything it touches, fingers, spoons, pots, clothes, everything! The spoons have to be washed thoroughly to get rid of the odour before eating a dessert with it. Asafoetida and sweet, oh my, not nice!

As for the foetid-ness of the smell, well, it is strong (not at all foetid when fried in oil/butter) but nothing compared to some other things we eat. Hello, sulphurous onion and garlic! The odour is not sulphurous, it is more aromatic. More importantly it doesn't make your breath smell horrid like onion and garlic. In fact it is substituted for those two in cooking.
Dark brown solid asafoetida being dissolved in water,
turning white.
The flavour: Aroma of Asafoetida takes over its taste. Unlike the nose which can perceive many smells, the tongue can perceive just 6 (+1). When tasted as such asafoetida is bitter. When over used in cooking, it is makes the food bitter and unpleasant. The key is to use the tight amount to bring out the aroma without imparting bitterness. A little pea size or even less than that will suffice to flavour about a litre of lentil soup.

Asafoetida is used mostly in Indian food (that I know of), exclusively the savoury kind. It is said that 'even a monkey can cook if asafoetida and coconut is used'. It completely changes the flavour of any the dish. So what this monkey can cook with asafoetida is super easy lentils.
Lentils with asafoetida seasoning: traditionally the savoury part of the meal is begun by eating this with rice.
Red Lentils: 1 cup (200 gms)
Dessicated Coconut: 3 tbs

Butter: 1 tbs
Mustard seeds: 1/2 tsp
Cumin: 1/2 tsp
Green Chillies: 3 chopped
Asafoetida: pea-size of solid or 1/4th tsp of powder
Pepper (freshly cracked)

Cook lentils with coconut so that the flavour of the coconut infuses into the lentils. I cook my lentils in pressure cooker. They can be cooked in microwave (1 part lentils : 2.5 parts water for 10 - 15 minutes on high) or in open pot. Once cooked, add salt to taste and quickly whisk it to make the lentils uniform.
Heat butter in a pan. Add mustard seeds and let it crack for about 45 seconds. Add cumin and chopped chilli, cracked pepper, asafoetida. Turn the heat off and let it fry for a minute. Watch out for burning. 
Pour the hot seasoning over the lentils. It sizzles! Serve it as a soup with some hot rice.

For extra punch of asafoetida, soak and dissolve a pea size (or 1/4th tsp of powder) asafoetida in water and add to the cooked lentils.

In perfumes: Asafoetida is supposedly used in perfumes, along with other spicy notes or with greener notes or with evil things like civet. In my limited perfume experience I haven't come across asafoetida or isolated it in any perfume. Dior Tendre Poison and Balmain Vert Vert supposedly feature the spice. I think I should hunt then down and give them a sniff soon.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Aesop Fragrances: Mystra and Marrakech

'Exotic' is the word that pops up in my mind when I smell these fragrances. Exotic, interesting and different, Aesop fragrances are all those things! Aesop is an Australian company with Greek roots that has awesome skincare with botanical extracts that smell like old world apothecary (the Rosehip seed lip balm is fabulous). Who knew they made some mindblowing perfumes as well?! I did not, till I saw them while browsing at the store. Really, I was pleasantly surprised to try these fragrances, well made with nicest ingredients and smell beautiful.
Aesop Website
"Mystra was inspired by the beautiful Peloponnese hillside town's history of conquest and struggle, a place once home to French knights, despots, and monks. It is a place that reminds us of the complexity of human history. Accordingly, this fragrance is many layered, with top notes of Mastic, Frankincense, and Labdanum."
Mystra smells amazing. I liked this the best of the two. Mystra is an incense based fragrance and a good incense fragrance too. Incense is pleasant, calming, clean and dry. The smell of Mastic/Lentisque is growing on me and the more I smell it, the more I like it. Mastic has that dry, (not too) green quality to it that goes very well with the incense. The whole thing is held down by barely there sweetness and warm resinous quality of labdanum. Mystra dries down to ambery, balsamic base which is energetic and uplifting as well. What I like most about is how the incense draws me into the perfume. I like it for the dryness, it is dry like hot desert sand. All my favourite notes in one, what's not to like?! 

"To make Marrakech, we let our thoughts drift across warm seas, to a city draped in colours of the desert, where artisans sit on rugs hewn by hand, and lute music mixes with the smell of spices in hot wind. It led us to create a fragrance with Clove, Sandalwood, and Cardamom. 
cardamom, ylang ylang, patchouli, sandalwood, clove, jasmine, rose and neroli"
If spicy perfumes interest you but you are scared of the heaviness, then Marrakech is for you. Marrakech has the right amount of spices to make the scent dark and alluring but it is also light enough to be refreshing. It starts off with the heat and spiciness of cloves, not really sharp or pungent but definitely present. I think cardamom (like it does in most perfumes) renders a cool freshness to it, lightening up the perfume. Soft sweet woody base of sandalwood (along with traces of essential oils of other essential oils) is delightful.
To me, Marrakech is a predominantly cardamom perfume, it steals the show among the spices. It has a well balanced spiciness with an earthy, resinous feel to it. Not quite spicy to remind me of old world spice markets with wafts of various pungent spices (hello, Serge Lutens Arabie!) but nice enough to feel exotic in a modern way. 

Aesop fragrances are easy going, straight forward and uncomplicated but different and make a statement for sure. These perfumes take you to a whole new world. You can feel the presence of 'botanicals', the natural essential oils. I like the unisex nature of the perfumes. Even though they give an apothecary/aromatherapy vibe, they are in fact modern and feel like 'perfume'. The packaging is nice and simple. Each perfume comes in three forms, the 10ml roll on parfum being the longest lasting, the balm and the splash are less in the longevity. They are a little pricey but I think I would (if I could!) splurge on a 10ml roll on of Mystra. (check the Aesop website for the prices)
Not all Aesop outlets have these fragrances. You can't find them in Aesop counters at David Jones or Myers. They are stocked only in Aesop boutiques. 

Thursday, March 8, 2012

BPAL Lupercalia Haul!

Shopping, hauls and the lovely people we meet..... here's a toast to the interwebs! *Clink!
I am beyond excited to have just received some gorgeous BPAL perfume oils, thanks to Michelle who organised our joint order. She is a sweetheart! 
We placed an order to get some Lupercalia perfumes, Limited Edition perfumes released for Valentine's Day by BPAL - Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab. We saved on shipping (which has sadly gone up to more than the price of a full bottle). 

Full bottles I got
Smut: LE for Lupercalia
Womb Furie: LE for Lupercalia. I already have it and love it. This is a backup bottle.
Snake Oil: General Catalogue. Backup bottle as well!

Frimps (free imps/samples given out with the order) and initial thoughts:
#20 Love Oil: It smells like Black Phoenix with no almond note. It is a sweeter, greener rose. Nice.
51: Floral, the kind of soft, sweet floral that I like.
Aelopile: Cold floral.
Dorian: Cake and tea. Yes, please!
The King of Hearts: Rosy lavender.
Galvanic Goggles: Nag Champa-incense like smell

Poison Apple Apothecary: Hatter's Tea Party (Thanks Michelle for including it): Floral Tea, beautiful.

I also just sniffed Smut. Yes, it is smutty and wicked! I like it so far, can't wait to try it.