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Scents trigger memories, which trigger emotions. We’ve all experienced this magic trick that our brains play on us, a chemical and psychological sequence that happens in the blink of an eye with a single sniff of the nose. Whether the result is a negative or positive emotion depends on our personal experiences. For me, one scent that always, without fail every day, gives me an immediate rush of anticipation and well-being, is coffee. Here’s how it works:

Morning Coffee - The scent starts my day, the ritual of grinding the beans, filling the coffee maker, waiting for that last drip through the filter into the pot, pouring into a favourite cup and taking that first sip of dark creamy pleasure. It’s a good day already.

Afternoon Coffee - Passing a Starbuck’s, the waft of dark roast, cappuccino and latte, sends a rush of good feeling from my head to my feet, from memories of the warmth of conversation and connection over many coffees with friends.

Evening Coffee - Bitter espressos sipped with liqueurs after big family dinners, ending with noisy card games, lots of laughing, and more coffee in big mugs. The taste, the scent, the ritual is always connected with genuine love and celebration.

Am I a coffee addict? No, more a coffee aficionado who savours and enjoys everything about the little brown beans. Which leads me to perfumes, of course. All those good “coffee” feelings make me love perfumes with the coffee note, and make me buy perfumes with the coffee note. Perfumes such as Intense Café by Montale Parfums, which I want to tell you about now, and New Haarlem by Bond No.9, Milano Caffe by La Via del Profumo, and Noir Exquis by L’Artisan Parfumeur, which are all listed in our Decant Store. 

Intense Café opens with a delicious waft of fresh-ground beans, darkly aromatic, slightly powdery and bitter, but airy and tantalizing. In just moments, the coffee is joined by a vegetal note which adds a dimension of freshness. The opening accord expands, the vegetal note becomes rose, a fresh young rose, leaves sprinkled with raindrops and delicate petals wafting an earthy green-floral sweetness as the accord begins to deepen.  

As Intense Café dries into the heart, the coffee note becomes more roasted and nutty, flecked with dark chocolate which adds a mocha-like nuance, and when paired with vanilla and golden amber, the rose and coffee accord becomes irresistible. Now creamy and golden, the scent is as warm and inviting as candlelight as it settles on the skin. The rose and coffee notes become even lighter as the dry-down deepens, and the base slowly segues into an irresistible cloud of vanillic amber and musks which wafts quietly for hours, rich, warm and subtly sexy. 

Despite its name and the fact that it is a Montale fragrance, known for powerful openings and serious wafts, to my nose Intense Café is not an intense scent, nor is it just a coffee scent. The rose and coffee notes are a superbly matched duo which is surprisingly chic, not too sweet or floral or too feminine, too dark or cloying or overbearing, but is perfectly unique and addictively appealing. Intense Cafe is a gourmand fragrance for women and men that is not really about our everyday experience of coffee, but is more about the romance and power of ordinary smells when experienced within a beautiful fragrance. 

Now that I’ve worn Intense Café for a few days, lived with it and breathed its soft beautiful waft, just thinking about it makes me feel good, in an “afternoon coffee” kind of way. I love that feeling.

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

Image - Wikimedia Commons - Coffee Art

Of all the notes in perfumery, incense is one of the most popular. It's not surprising, really, when you consider that incense has played a role in religious rituals in Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism and Buddhism, Taoist and Shinto, so most people are familiar with its scent. And, since incense's religious use has its origins in antiquity, it's a scent that people have known and shared across cultures for thousands of years. It's no wonder then that 'churchy' fragrances never truly go out of fashion. I must admit that since discovering fragrances like Incense: Avignon, Cardinal or Timbuktu and Chembur, I have developed a real appreciation that borders on obsession for them.

Which brings me to Sacreste by Italian niche line Laboratorio Olfattivo.

Launched in 2018 as part of Laboratorio Olfattivo's Black Collection, Roberto Drago, owner and art director for the brand, says in an interview with Fragrantica that "Sacreste was born from the study of another perfume that I try to achieve for 8 years. Two years ago I received a proof from Luca Maffei characterized by a famous incense that I liked very much. On that note we worked, we refined it making it sensual, we gave it volume up to the final project, which I particularly love."

I particularly love it too.

At this point, I usually translate the name of the fragrance, but I can't find a translation anywhere. Is it an Italian word for some religious rite? Is it an ancient vessel in which incense is burned? In the same Fragrantica interview, Roberto Drago, gives us the answer: 'The word Sacreste does not exist in the Italian language, I invented it specially for the perfume. You could see some recognizable parts like "sacre" or "crest" because it's about incense and church'.

A fragrance so special, a new word had to be created for its name. Sounds about right.

Sacreste opens rich and sweet, smoky and resinous from cistus labdanum. Elemi, a fragrant resin with its balsamy/pine and citrusy scent, is the perfect counterpoint to the labdanum and prevents Sacreste from becoming a heavy, dark church scent. Aromatic cardamon's sweet and resinous nature boosts the labdanum while adding a spicy warmth. Saffron adds its characteristic leatheriness and softness to the opening. As it blooms, the true heart of Sacreste is revealed. This fragrance is built upon two incense types – one bright and clean and the other smoky, dark and rich.  They form a double helix – a pair of of parallel scent strands intertwined around each other – that show different aspects of incense at different moments throughout the course of wearing it: at times it's smoky, at times it's sweet, sometimes woody or earthy or dark. A note of black pepper, hot and bracing gives a spicy brightness to the juice and an unexpected note of limette sends a sweet, fresh citrusy shot throughout the fragrance every so often. The incense stays right down to the woody base of cedarwood and guaiac wood, soft warm, woody Cashmeran, and rich ambery, woody Ambermax. Musk is here, too, ensuring a smooth finish.

Sacreste dries down to a refined, intimate skin scent that is a siren call to anyone who comes near. What I love most about it is how the heavy aspects of incense are all there, but the experience of the fragrance isn't heavy, dark or moody.

Sacreste is the reason why 'churchy' scents never go out of fashion.

Sacreste is listed in our Decant Store. Decants are $6.00 for 1 ml.

Image - Wikimedia Commons - Burning Incense Stick - Antan, 08/13/2010

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.