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Image - Wikimedia - Angkor Wat at Sunrise by Jpatokal, Dec. 2, 2006

When my son announced that he was planning a trip to Cambodia with 'the boys', we were very excited for him. We've never been to Cambodia, but plenty of our friends have, and it sounds like a fascinating place to visit. When one of our dearest friends and godfather to our son, heard the news over dinner one evening, he lit right up. He's been to Cambodia a few times and says it's one of his favourite places to travel to. Over the course of dinner, he told us about his some of the things he did and saw there – friendly people, beautiful landscapes, wonderful food, tuk-tuks and the temples! At the end of the night, as he as preparing to leave, he offered to draw up a list of must-see places for our son. The next day the list dropped into my inbox, along with a 'Thank you' for dinner. At the top of the list was a visit to Angkor Wat.

Well, I wondered, why is Angkor Wat in the top spot? I decided to find out by visiting it via Wikipedia:

Angkor Wat is a Buddhist temple complex in Cambodia and is the largest religious monument in the world... Originally constructed as a Hindu temple dedicated to the god Vishnu for the Khmer Empire, it was gradually transformed into a Buddhist temple towards the end of the 12th century.... As the best-preserved temple at the site, it is the only one to have remained a significant religious centre since its foundation....  and it is the country's prime attraction for visitors.

A few weeks later, when the trip fell through, I gave my son a bottle of Amara EdP from Brooklyn-based indie fragrance house MCMC Fragrances. "Why?" he asked.  Quoting the MCMC website, I said, "Because Amara, the ancient Hindi word for roots, was inspired by the mysterious spiritual nature of Angkor Wat and the amazing sight of trees overtaking ancient temples." He looked at me, dubiously, as he took the bottle from my hand. "Mom, he said, this is a perfume not a ticket to Cambodia." "Yeah, I know. What did you expect? I'm a perfume blogger not a travel agent." Kids. Amiright?

A few days later, he told me he liked wearing Amara. As well he should – it's a beautiful fragrance, with some good karma attached to it.

MCMC Fragrances, a small-batch, handmade fragrance line that leans toward natural perfumery, was founded in 2009 by sisters Katie and Anne McClain. Amara was created in 2012 by the Grasse Institute-trained Anne McClain, after a volunteer trip to the Working For Children Rainbow Orphanage in rural Cambodia.  It was part of MCMC'S Humanity Fragrance Second Edition Collection done in collaboration with American clothing retailer Anthropologie, with a portion of the sales going to Rainbow Orphanage, to build a new boy’s dormitory. As Anne McClain says on the MCMC website:
'The idea was to create a fragrance inspired by the feeling of compassion, and see if that sentiment could be carried to the wearer.'

Amara opens with a zing of citrus followed by a warm, earthy note of organically grown Kampot pepper and sweet, spicy cinnamon. I get a whiff of coconut oil that smells like summer to me. Then aromatic, lemony, spider lily ushers in a note of sweet, lush jasmine. The flowers smell fresh and bright, disciplined with a gentle note of smoky incense. The base is Kambodi Oud, less pungent and medicinal smelling than Indian and Indonesian oud; it's more accessible with a pleasant woody smell. I close my eyes, and I can smell those roots overtaking ancient temples.

Amara dries down to a beautiful, gentle unisex skin scent – more like walking through a temple than the smell of the temple itself - that lasts for hours on me.

Anne McClain studied aromatherapy and natural perfumery before moving to Grasse, and there is something almost calming and uplifting about Amara.

Could this gentle beauty be the smell of compassion?  It just might be.

Amara is listed in our Decant Store. Decants are $5.00 for 1 ml.



We’re in Week Three of living and working in our homes, cut-off from family and friends and most of the familiar things we do in the course of our daily lives. Abrupt and radical disruption to the way we live with no definite end in sight, mixed with horrific financial impact and very real dangers of illness and death, has skyrocketed anxiety levels for everyone, everywhere. You’d have to be unconscious or demented not to be affected by this epidemic.

Now the newsfeeds and social media are filling up with advice on how to cope, what to do to stay sane, which I’m ignoring. If I start to feel stressed, I come upstairs to my perfumes and waft a couple of old favourites or random bottles under my nose. Without fail, my brain shifts to happy mode, or thrill mode, when I get that little frisson of anticipation that I might smell something new, something different, which is what happened yesterday… 

It’s cloudy and grey and damp and depressing outside. I crave something exactly the opposite to lift my mood so I pick up the gold box I bought a few months ago, and pull out the shiny gold metal bottle in its black satin bag.  Montale Attar, Eau de Parfum. Perfect. If ever you want a perfume to jolt your olfactories, then Montale is the brand to do it…

Perfumer Pierre Montale opened his original Paris shop on Place Vendome in 2003, creating shockwaves in Perfume World with his range of perfumes in the classic Arabic style, uncomplicated fragrances made from pure materials,  rich floral attars (steam-distilled essential oils) mixed with oudh (agarwood), spices, and fruit notes, BIG scents that announce one’s presence and that last and last on skin. Currently Montale offers forty-seven oud scents, and we’ve listed two of the best-sellers  – Black Aoud and Aoud Cuir d’Arabie, universally acknowledged as modern classic oud scents. Today, the expansive Montale Paris line now includes many more non-oud luxury scents, such as Greyland, the fabulous “Mr. Darcy” scent that Gwen fell in love with and wrote about, and Attar, an ode to rose and sandalwood. describes Attar EdP as:

“The perfume of Maharajas obtained by the double distillation of the fabulous Mysore Sandalwood and Bulgarian Roses. A very powerful, bewitching and secret perfume.”

Two ingredients in the note list. Simple. But unlikely, because my nose discovers so much more…

The opening of Attar follows the Montale opening style - the oudh bursts out first, a medicinal camphorous pungence like a mixture of band aids, nail polish remover and tinned shoe polish. The power and weirdness of the oudh note always impresses me, and I just love it. Slowly, the medicinal fumes subside and after ten minutes or so, the double-distilled Bulgarian rose begins to unfold, the distinctive rose note edged in sugared citrus, wrapped in notes of soft suede, which I know is the oudh, and perhaps some saffron.

An acidic sour note accompanies the lush rose into the heart, which focuses the intensity of its spicy floral character, but this acid note slowly disappears and gives way to the rich creamy warmth of the double-distilled sandalwood. As a result, in the dry-down the rose accord becomes softer and muskier with almost caramel undertones from the powdery wood resins, making it softer, more feminine, more rose-y than a real rose. The two key essential oils of rose and sandalwood play throughout the base, seamlessly blended in perfect harmony, and accented every so often with a slight waft of leather from the opening oud note. The waft is soft and steady and I catch whiffs of it as I drift off to sleep at night.   

Attar is about rose, but what a rose!  If Montale Black Aoud is dark rose, a black rose with thorns, sultry, erotic and uncompromising, a very grown-up rose, then Montale Attar is red rose, not overly sweet but lush and feminine, powerful, with elegant style. Attar is rose within a rose within a rose, an imaginary invisible rose that you can easily love.

Just two notes in Attar? Hardly. But thank god for perfumers like Pierre Montale, and thank god for perfumes like Attar. I’m going to be sniffing a lot of them to get me through the next few weeks…or months… 

Attar is listed in our Decant Store. Decants are $5.00 for 1 ml.

Image - Wikimedia Commons - Rose Hybrid Tea "Kardinal" by Laitche, May 26, 2013


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.