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“Mmm, you smell good, really good!” This is my greeting as I breeze past a colleague’s desk into my office.

Settling in my chair and leaning in to turn on my desktop, I catch a waft of the really good smell.  “Well! You really hit the fragrance jackpot today, honey. You really DO smell good! In fact, I think you smell GREAT! It’s going to be a very good day!” says my inner voice. 

And the fragrance? A simple charmer by Jo Malone, Amber & Lavender, introduced over a couple of decades ago in 1995, but which I discovered just a few days ago. Where have I been?? How did I miss this gem?

Lavender has been on my mind recently, after visiting Laveanne,  a small organic lavender farm just north of Port Hope, sixty minutes east of Toronto, and talking at length with the amazingly knowledgeable owners. For millennia, lavender has been used as a natural remedy and is acknowledged to have healing powers. Used as a disinfectant or for anti-anxiety, the essential oil is in many of the products we use today. My husband and I learned so much about the many varieties, growing and harvesting the plants, distilling the essential oils, making the exceptional skin, beauty, and food products offered in their store.  

The amber and lavender notes are two of my favourite notes and I own many perfumes which feature them, but I’d never experienced the two as a featured duo in the same fragrance. Back in the city after our country weekend, I stopped at the Jo Malone counter in Nordstrom’s in Eaton Centre and quickly fell in love with Amber & Lavender. The Sales Rep told me that like Jo Malone’s perennial best-seller, Lime, Basil & Mandarin, the scent was originally introduced for men and is still listed in their Men’s section as “cultivated and cosmopolitan” but it has become a favourite for women too, because of its uniquely wonderful dry-down. After wearing it for a few days, I agree – the dry-down is wonderful!

Bursting with limey bergamot, cool mint and bitter-orange petitgrain, the opening accord smells fresh and citrus-bright. And then the French lavender appears in all its purple splendour, aromatic, slightly camphorous and earthy and mossy, skewing the accord toward masculine with the clean balmy scent of an upscale barbershop. 

As Amber & Lavender warms on the skin and dries into the heart, the lavender accord sweetens somewhat with floral notes from lily-of-the-valley, and becomes lightly spiced with clove and cinnamon. These notes add delicious warmth and depth, then the lavender changes again, layered with notes of honey and hay… bees are buzzing in the summer heat… and the accord begins to really mellow. 

Myrhh and patchouli add softness and a sensation of dark mystery as Amber & Lavender dries down into the base, but it’s the amber note that opens up this fragrance into non-gendered splendour. Amber, the traditional Oriental note which is a mix of sweet resinous balsams and vanilla, can be overpowering but in Amber & Lavender it’s paired to perfection with the lavender accord, wrapping the aromatics  with a cozy woody warmth, building on the sensuality. The sillage is controlled but projects enough to be noticed, in the best way, and the dry-down becomes a soothing meditative waft that lasts for hours, which makes a day in the office just whiz by. 

I’ve learned to listen to my inner voice. It can be annoying, especially when I don’t agree, but it is definitely right about Amber & Lavender. I hit the fragrance jackpot, and it’s a very good day.

Amber & Lavender is listed in our Decant Store. Decants are $6.00 for 1 ml.

Image - Amber & Lavender 100 ml. bottle - jomalone.com

 

 

Photo courtesy of L'Artisan Parfumeur

I don’t know why, but this summer I seem to have been seeking out perfumes that have a sense of ‘fun’ to them, like Twilly for example. It might be due magnetic fluctuations, the new vitamin supplements I’ve been taking or spending too much time on Instagram, I can’t say for sure. What I can say is that I am loving this space I’m in, especially when it’s scented with Bana Banana by French niche house L’Artisan Parfumeur. It’s just fun to wear and makes me feel happy whenever I do. Notice how I avoided saying I’ve gone bananas for it. That’s just too obvious and easy and beneath me. Ahem.

The inspiration for Bana Banana was really what led to the launch of L’Artisan Parfumeur in 1976. In that year, self-taught perfumer, Jean-François Laporte, who founded the Sisley fragrance line in 1972, was creating a costume for a ball at the legendary Les Folies Bergères, the famous Parisian cabaret. Think over the top costumes, elaborate sets, exuberant design and exciting effects - all of it fueled with expensive champagne – sounds like a ball to me.

One of the most famous entertainers associated with the Les Folies Bergères, was Josephine Baker, the African-American expatriate performer who in 1926, caused quite a stir with her erotic dancing performed in little more than some beads and a skirt made of string hung with artificial bananas. Laporte was also a chemist and plant collector, and it was the banana skirt that inspired him to create a banana-based fragrance as part of his costume for the ball.

He noticed that jasmine flowers in full bloom gave off a scent that reminded him of ripe bananas, so he came up with the idea of macerating banana pieces in a distillation of jasmine flowers. The fragrance didn’t work out, but the experience made Laporte realize his love of working with natural, high-quality ingredients and this led to the creation of L’Artisan Parfumeur. His commitment to creating original fragrances based on scents from nature in an artisanal style, quickly made L’Artisan the go-to house for perfumophiles looking for something new and exciting. It’s also the reason why Laporte is considered the founder of niche perfumery.

Fast forward to 2019, and the launch of Bana Banana, a re-imagining of Laporte’s banana-based fragrance by Céline Ellena that worked out beautifully.

It opens with a note of banana, flanked by warm pepper and spicy nutmeg. The banana is rich, sweet and jammy and smells, well, like a ripe banana. Violet, slightly bitter and powdery, counterbalances the sweetness of the banana. It also coaxes a note of creamy, sweet, carnal jasmine forward. The jasmine overlays the banana but doesn’t smother it. The banana and jasmine work so well together that it seems an obvious pairing, something I take as a nod the Laporte’s inspired idea of putting the two together those many years ago. I smell iris here too, a favourite note of mine. It extends the powdery aspect of the violet, giving the perfume a romantic, sophisticated tone. The banana slowly fades into a gently sweet, warm, sensuous base of Tonka bean, musk and amber.

The drydown is sophisticated and smooth and playful. It’s a gorgeous summer fragrance, although I have a feeling it may turn into an all-season pleasure, that can be worn by men as well as women.

If you think a banana-based fragrance sounds weird, well, you may have to change your thinking. Bana Banana is no novelty fragrance, it’s a L’Artisan fragrance – original, inspired by nature and superbly -made.  It makes me smile every time I catch a whiff of it.

Bana Banana is listed in our Decant Store. Decants are $5.00 for I ml.

 

Welcome to perfumeniche.com

"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.

WHAT WE DO

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 perfumeniche.com, 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.