One of my favourite perfumers Shelley Waddington of Envoyage Perfumes has created a new, unexpected and somewhat unconventional trio of chocolate-based fragrances. Of course I was totally excited to try these, and have been living with my miniatures for a good few weeks now. I really hoped there was at least one I could say I didn’t like just so my post didn’t make me come across as such a suck up! HA! But honestly, I’ve raved about the Envoyage line before and I’m doing it again…
So here you go…
Indigo Vanilla surprised me to begin with – a spicy, almost Christmas-y opening of cinnamon, nutmeg, just a pinch of clove and frothy milk – brought to mind fragrances such as Untitled #2 by Magnetic Scent, Un Crime Exotique by Parfumerie Generale… it’s not my favourite accord – but what begins to develop almost immediately is quite breathtaking.
A candied violet comes to the front, a little powdery, but more crystalized – like the decorative petals on top of a cake. There’s the sweet, waxy smell of icing sugar, and thick condensed milk. There’s a vanilla overload underneath that actually works to de-sweeten the other dressed up and sugared notes – a dense, very natural smelling thing that, if you’ve smelt Envoyage’s Zelda, will smell somewhat familiar. It’s that thick, sweet, slightly balsamic vanilla – tainted with a hint of animalics (civet and white musk), that saves Indigo Vanilla from turning into anything too foody.
The violet is absolutely fantastic – a violet I’ve been hunting for. It’s rare that a violet fragrance comes along these days, and when it does it tends to be nothing “new”… Well Indigo Vanilla is new, a sweetened almost lactonic violet thrown into a gourmand… but not quite candy-sweet setting. The spice does trail throughout, but with much more subtlety – and nothing that would scare off anyone afraid of smelling like a festive candle (which was where I was scared Indigo Vanilla would end up on first sniff). No, the violet dominates, along with a basket full of cake-mix ingredients (including a few rough-cut chunks of white chocolate), but composed in a classical perfumery style (with a sandalwood/resinous base) that avoids being anything childish or edible. This isn’t a mass-market “sweet/teen” fragrance – it’s an exceptional, unconventional gourmand that is made with such intelligence that is a joy to wear (that on paper I’m sure reads as a calorie ridden nightmare to some)… for me? It’s a dream come true and a beautiful piece of work.
Captured in Amber opens with a rich, thick, Arabian-inspired amber. It’s a no-holds-barred accord featuring a heavy dose of animalics up top, not quite fecal, but a labdanum and ambergris overload, lacking the sweetness and powder of a more mainstream amber. I admit, almost immediately Captured In Amber was my least favourite of the group, as this dense, thick, resinous-style of fragrance is not generally to my taste (I guess I worn it all out when I first discovered these notes and went overboard!)… but on repeated wearings, the fragrance becomes softer, and much more comfortable.
I suppose initially I mistook it for a big straight up amber – but what keeps me glued to my hand are the subtle nuances underneath… a familiar, dank, stuffy patchouli and a subtle dark chocolate that weaves in and out. Underneath the thick amber accord is what smells like a smidge of Serge Lutens’ Borneo 1834 (my favourite patchouli soliflore), and I guess that is what I love about Captured in Amber. Ok so I’m not saying literally of course, but the glorious chocolate/patchouli combination is what makes CIA much more accessible. There’s a hint of vanilla again, a smidge of butter-y myrrhe (with a very subtle aniseed/rootbeer vibe), and after half an hour on the skin every piece of the puzzle merges into one perfectly unified accord. It’s earthy, furry, the perfect balance of sweet and bitter with subtle hints of spice and salt.
On paper, Captured in Amber reads as a list of base notes that I personally wouldn’t take a second look at – the outcome however is an entire fragrance that flips expectations of these notes with subtlty and beauty. I admit, it’s still not the style of perfumery I am often drawn to, and the least likely I’d choose to wear out of the trio, but it’s a deliciously comfortable fragrance and possibly the best amber soliflore (we’ll call it to be brief) I’ve ever come across.
Cafe Cacoa was the one I was unsure about before I sniffed it. I’ve never liked the thought of coffee dominating in fragrances… sure, it’s a gorgeous smell in the kitchen or in the cafe, but on a person? – I tend to think it smells unclean. Cafe Cacoa changed this -
It opens with milk chocolate and sweet coffee, it smells scattered with white sugar and whipped cream – with a light, airy consistency – whilst still being extremely potent! The perfumer has this way of making a fragrance both light – and extremely powerful (A Study in Water? – genius).
Cafe Cacoa has the texture of whipped cream, triple infused with chocolate, coffee, sugar, a little vanilla, a hint of cardamom – and yet again, a rich base of salty musks, a sweeter, more powdery amber (than CIA) – makes this fragrance, well, a fragrance – and not the smell of food. It is however the most edible of the three – and it is hella delicious. One of my favourite chocolate fragrances is Musc Maori by Parfumerie Generale… Cafe Cacoa takes this idea of frothy milk and chocolate and adds a whole bunch of other stuff to it whilst still respecting the texture, weight and subtlety…. did that make sense? I hope so. I’m trying to say that Cafe Cacoa kind of smashes Musc Maori, and has made it a whole lot more interesting – whilst not over-doing it. That’s better.
The coffee (which I guess is the point of this fragrance), never gets bitter, or dry, or “burnt”, or “coffee breath”… it’s a light, milky thing, smelling more like a mocha mousse if there is such a thing. It’s the scattering of sugar that just makes me want to chomp my arm off… this thing is absolutely delicious! Fantastic work <3