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Mandala of the Six Chakravartins

My husband calls me into his studio the other morning, hands me the headphones and says: “Close your eyes and listen to this…”

“Okay”. I say, expecting to hear his new tune. 

Instead, I hear a quiet hum which soon expands into what I perceive as a human male voice, and then as the deep hum gains in intensity, the one voice becomes two. Chanting in wordless harmony the voices move together in waves, the second voice higher and softer, and after a couple of minutes, the harmonic effect is mesmerizing. I hear both voices but the harmonies are so close where does one stop and the other begin? The air in the room vibrates, and conscious thought disappears as I feel the sound flowing into and through me. 

“That’s the Buddhist over-tone singing you asked me about. By changing the position and shape of their mouth and larynx while chanting at a single pitch, a monk creates one or more overtones – he gets a harmonic series of notes from one fundamental sound. Sounds like two voices. It’s sort of like catching light in a prism and seeing a rainbow, only with sound waves. It’s so powerful!” he says, taking back his headphones.  

WOW! As the words come out of his mouth, I have a flash of insight into Mandala, the fragrance that’s been sitting on my desk for the past few weeks. 

“Thanks, hon, great research!” 

At my desk, I spritz my wrists, and Mandala, Act ll, Scene ll in the Opera of Life from Italian niche line, Masque Milano, begins.

Masque Milano describes Mandala as…”The whole universe…Light, rarefied air. Utter silence. Cows lazily lying on the grass stare at you, while you start spinning the prayer wheels. From the monastery comes the monks’ overtone singing - two notes chanting in perfect, peaceful harmony. A myrrh and incense fragrance - light and delicate. A contemplative atmosphere. Vibrating at two levels at the same time.”

Ahhh, the opening! It rolls out of the bottle in a big puff of dense exotic incense spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove – incense drifting from the dim interior of the monastery, not smoky but deeply aromatic. Soon there is an accord of sweet softness from myrrh and musky rooty angelica  – the grassy pastured hillside, blue sky, sunshine. The sensation is warm and contemplative but a dry cool airiness hovers as the initial notes deepen into the heart. 

Cardamom with licks of lemon, a green-woody cedar note add a peppery tone to the spiced accord. Leathery cistus is accented with salty musk of ambergris, an inspired contrast to the rich spice and woods. In the base, Mandala moves inside the cool stone monastery and the closeness of the monks and their music. Mandala becomes meditative, a solid accord of sandalwood, earthy oakmoss, spices, and aromatic incense wafting skyward, the contrasting accords of warm and cool, dense and airy, connecting earth with the heavens, the entire universe. 

There’s not a single flower in Mandala. It smells rich, it’s intensely aromatic with deep resinous notes from woods and spices but at the same time, it has an earthy freshness that is magnetic. The scent has a unique and powerful waft, which some may perceive as masculine, but to my nose is non-gendered and universal, a pure fragrance that feeds the soul and inspires reverence. 

Perfumer Christian Carbonnel created Mandala for Masque Milano owners Allesandro Brun and Riccardo Tedeschi. Aiming his creative light through a perfume prism, he’s revealed a rainbow of incense overtones, bringing their vision of a myrrh and incense fragrance to life.  The deep bass notes of incense and spice are paired in perfect harmony with the tenor notes of myrrh and woods and herbs, creating a whole universe where they sing like never before.

Mandala is listed in our Decant store. Decants are $9.00 for 1 ml.


Read about other acts and scenes in the Masque Milano Opera series:

Russian Tea– Act l, Scene lll - The shared experience of the Russian Tea ritual on a winter’s day in Leningrad/St. Petersberg ...Day faded; on the table, glowing, the samovar of evening boiled… (A.Pushkin)

L’Attesa- Act lll, Scene l – The Wait. A moment in time, a state of being, the preparation, the anticipation of an emotional reunion. On a summer night, everything is ready for the rendez-vous...

Romanza– Act lll, Scene ll - Overwhelming attraction, stirring you up. Still you are not in love – yet. As intoxicating as the indolic smell of the flowers in full bloom, coming from the garden.

Tango- Act lll, Scene lV - “A mid-summer night, the bower in full bloom, large wooden table, a liquor – and music. A warm and sensual perfume. Intense crescendo. Amber 

Image - - unknown Tibetan artist


Lemon flower and fruit

It's been a very busy week around here. I had a project due for a client that involved a lot of statistical research, which is not really my thing. Looking through research and data online, I became easily distracted. I'm disciplined enough not to drift into shoe/handbag/sunglass shopping but blur the work/play line when I find some really fascinating stuff that I just had to stop and read. Like this fascinating article 'Where do Eels Come From?' And just the other day, I found a study on 'The Role of Odor-Evoked Memory in Psychological and Physiological Health.' This is a kind of research, isn't it? You see the problem, right? Buckling down got the project done and it was easier with the help of Fleurs de Citronnier by Serge Lutens.

Let me explain. That article on odor-evoked memory and psychological health got me thinking:

'…when odors are capable of eliciting emotional and physical changes it is due to the emotions, memories and associations that have been linked to an odor through past personal experiences, which are then elicited when the odor is encountered, and the psychological and physiological responses connected to the odor are recapitulated'.

This explains why lemon-based fragrances lift my mood, energize me and just brighten my day. Lemons unlock all my favourite childhood summer memories. Lemons, the colour of the sun, are forever linked to memories of hot, school-free days spent playing outside with my best friends until I got hungry and went home for dinner. To this day, the tart, sour fragrance of lemon, pull me back through time to the first time I held a glass of lemonade by all by myself. Was I three-years-old? Older? Younger? My mother coaching me: 'OK, sweetheart, the glass is wet and slippery, so hold it with both hands….' The slipperiness and the weight caught me by surprise, and I faltered for a moment, but I didn't drop the glass. Writing about it here, I can taste that lemonade now – cold, tart, sweet, delicious, reviving. I thought I had drunk a magic potion. Lemons make me happy in any form: food, drink and especially fragrances, like Fleurs de Citronnier.

'Fleurs de Citronnier' translates into 'lemon blossoms,' and they are the main attraction in this eau de parfum, which opens a note of bitter, citrusy, green citronnier petitgrain – the kind made from the leaves of lemon trees. As it settles, the lemon blossom appears, its delicate beauty is transparent but tenacious, and it stays right through to the drydown.  Citrusy neroli bolsters the lemon blossom with its green and orange facets. Soon they are joined by a lush, indolic note of tuberose; its' sensuality countering the purity of the lemon blossoms. A note of honey keeps the tuberose in check, while iris rounds out the flowers. Around this time, the fragrance smells clean. On me, it's not soapy-smelling clean as much as it is fresh-smelling. This is when I realize how simple and uncluttered with heady, heavy notes Fleurs de Citronnier is. At the base, there is a touch of warmth from nutmeg, while styrax gives it a dry, subtle woodiness and musks smooth it out.

The drydown is delicate, floral and fresh. But its beauty lies in its simplicity and transparency. It's structured to allow every note to shine without any of them outshining the lemon blossom. It's the smell of a neighbour's summer garden caught in a breeze drifting over into your backyard.

Fleurs de Citronnier brings the summer back to me and somehow revitalizes my saggy spirit. It certainly helped that little research job get done on time.

Fleurs de Citronnier is listed in our Decant Store. Decants are $6.00 for 1 ml.

Image - Wikipedia - by Elena Chochkova, November 25, 2007


Welcome to

"She smelled the way the Taj Mahal looks by moonlight."

                                                                       Raymond Chandler

We are Gwen and Kay, two perfumistas making our scent journey in the cool, clear North.  We are also BFFs - we hang out together a lot, travel together - so we try, buy and share fragrances.

What started out as a shared interest grew into a hobby, and has now become our obsession.

We’ve spent many evenings with a glass of prosecco, a little cool jazz playing in the background, spritzing, sniffing - “How does this smell on you?” and, sadly, sometimes scrubbing.

We’ve tested and tried hundreds of samples over the years, and when we deemed a fragrance ”full bottle worthy” (FBW), one of us has tracked it down and bought it. We now own a lot of really great perfumes, and we continue to buy bottles of what we think is the best of "niche" as new scents are launched.

Also, we include many perfume "classics" that are the foundations of modern perfumery - like Shalimar, Chanel No.5, Eau Sauvage - plus other perfume "gems" that have been discontinued, or were ahead of their time when launched but now fit perfectly in the Niche category. 

With so many exciting discoveries, we can’t help but talk about our passion with other friends. Wherever we go, people ask “What is that perfume you’re wearing? Where can I get that?” So we end up sharing a bit of our “juice” with friends. But the circle has grown, so we've started this website to let others buy and try samples from our collections and experience the fragrant beauty we write about.


We blog

We blog once a week and post a story about a scent from our collections, and add it to our Decant Store. We're not scent critics, so these aren't negative reviews. We love all our fragrances  - that’s why we bought them! But we describe how we think they smell, and share our stories about why we love them - maybe you’ll rediscover an old flame, or fall in love with a new scent.

Or we post conversations about whatever has grabbed our attention recently. Or we write about a specific perfume note,  and offer a Decant Pack, which allows you to explore new territory by trying 3 or 4 fragrances in a special pack at a special discount price.

We sell

We sell 1 ml. decants - .7 ml volume once you allow for the stopper in the vial - filled from our own bottles in our collection because the only way to experience a fragrance is to try it on your own skin. We take the fragrance from its original bottle and decant it into a smaller brand-new, 1 ml sterilized glass vials so that you can try it on your skin to see if you like it.

Through our Decant Store you'll have access to some of the world’s greatest niche scents, hard-to-find fragrances, and classic favourites. 

When you click on the Decant Store tab you’ll find our personal descriptions of each of the fragrances we currently offer from our collection, then you can add them to your Shopping Cart.

Let's be clear (this is a disclaimer!!)

  • We don’t sell full bottles of any fragrance - just .7ml decants. We only sell decants  from the perfumes we've bought.... because we love them.
  • We don't re-sell manufacturers samples.
  • We don’t represent any perfumers or distributors, so we don’t have every scent from a whole line of perfume.
  • We aren’t being paid to promote any product or scent.

If, after sampling a fragrance, you decide that you must have it, i.e. it is FBW (full bottle worthy), and you can’t find it, e-mail us and we will direct you to the best source we know – retail store or online source.

We provide

A place for you to learn about scent, and to share your fragrance experience with others. Click on the section called Resources, under My Perfume Notes (see top right), where  you'll find a Glossary, and fragrance FAQs. You'll also find two great tools we've created - Handmaps and My Sample Perfume Notes - so you can keep track of, and record your own scent experiences.
We hope you enjoy, and visit us often. Leave your preconceptions behind, look around, see what’s on offer, read the Blog, share your experiences and discoveries, and join the circle.

It’s just us.