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With love – A bespoke gift – June 24, 2016

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My daughter was in Cuba a few months ago to escape the February blahs which descend upon our part of the world every year. Too much cold, too little sun – the body craves light and warmth so sunny Caribbean beaches call Canadians to their shores, and Cuba has great beaches. With much more to offer than just beaches to loll around on, Cuba also has history, culture, music, and wonderful people. Due to the decades–long American embargo, Cuba is one of the few countries in the world which remains mostly untouched by corporate consumerism, so it’s like going back in time to walk through Havana, the feeling magnified by the number of big old 1950’s American sedans that have been preserved and still drive through the narrow streets. Cuba is unique.

It wasn’t her first visit there, we visited en famille a couple of times when the kids were young. Knowing how much I love the place, she wanted to bring me a special gift. What do you buy for a mother who is smell-obsessed and yells at you as you’re getting in the airport limo to be sure to stick your nose in a hibiscus or gardenia so you can tell her if they smell the same as she remembers them from twenty years ago? (I really did that, I’m so embarrassed!) So what do you buy for your mother? Rum? Cigars? Perfume, of course!

But she didn’t know this until a Cuban friend took her to Old Havana where she came across a very special shop named Habana 1791, an old-style perfumerie in  an eighteenth-century mansion at the corner of Mercaderes and Obrapía. Restored to its Colonial splendour, this beautiful shop sells twelve traditional soliflore colognes that are distilled in the shop  - Rose, Jasmine, Violet, Orange Blossom, Lilac, Ylang-Ylang, Patchouli, Vetiver, Sandalwood, Tobacco, Citric and Lavender - and the ladies behind the counter also create bespoke or hand-mixed personalized fragrances. Bingo! Gift for Mum. Her very own perfume.

So my daughter set to work with the perfume lady, and told her notes that I love, and some of the more traditional perfumes I love, as best she could remember, and they created my perfume. She named it “With Love”. It came in a small clear glass apothecary bottle etched with dragonflies, with a waxed cork stopper, in a small canvas drawstring bag which included a hand-written note list, indecipherable with the exception of the word “patchuly”, and the verbal instruction from my daughter not to open it for four months until it has aged properly.

With Love opens with an orange-lemony citrus accord which deepens quickly into the natural spiced floral notes of two of my favourites, rose and carnation. They smell divine together, and are soon joined by sweet jasmine or orange-blossom -  there are definitely some indoles in the heart, which make it a little soapy, in a good way. This soon disappears as the dry-down reveals green patchouli and grassy vetiver, and maybe a touch of sweet dried tobacco, all of which add some herbal weight and ground the rich spiced floral accord, which continues right to the end. With Love is a cologne but has a depth and richness that is surprising.

With Love smells real and very natural, like the aromatic waft from a rose bush as you walk by, or from a summer bouquet brought into the house, which isn’t surprising given that it’s mixed from distilled essences of real blooms. The genius comes from Nature but the perfume lady who mixed this fragrance just for me also had a touch of genius.  Not too sweet, just enough spice, and an herbal richness in the dry-down.

With Love isn’t the scent of hibiscus or gardenia but the scent of rose, the traditional symbol of love. Given to me with love, this bespoke perfume is a precious gift, and With Love will always be special to me.

With Love is listed in our Decant Store. Decants are $4.00 for 1 ml.