There are certain ingredients in perfume which have such a multi-faceted character I enjoy smelling the absolute on its own. Beeswax absolute is one of those. Created by extracting hives which have been around for years. Depending on where those hives are from each version has its own scent profile. What is common is a musky honey infused with the pollen harvested from whatever indigenous plant life surrounds the hive. While the absolute is great by itself it is even better when used in a perfume here are five of my favorites.
Chanel Antaeus pour Homme was my first experience with beeswax in perfume although I didn’t know it at the time. It was part of my early expansion of my perfume collection. It provides a bit of animalic muskiness underneath the sage, patchouli, and labdanum spine. I was attracted to it because of that.
I talk about inflection points by perfumers all the time. Ineke Field Notes From Paris was that for independent perfumer Ineke Ruhland. The beeswax brings home a gorientalmand base stitching together tonka bean, vanilla, and amber. Prior to that is the smell of a Paris day.
Rubini Fundamental is one of the most original perfumes of the last few years. The creative team of Andrea Bissoli Rubini, Ermano Picco, and perfumer Cristiano Canali created a perfume capturing Verona in 1937 with the actors, in greasepaint, taking a break underneath the grape arbor. It is beeswax which provides the linchpin to the greasepaint accord mixed with the grapes in the heart of Fundamental. If you’re looking for something completely different this is where you should go.
Maria Candida Gentile released a trio of perfumes in 2014 called “Flight of the Bumblebee”. Within that she used three different sources of beeswax. It was Leuco and its powdery French beeswax which was my favorite. It was the counterweight to a keynote of tuberose. The beeswax provided a muffling effect while also adding a shimmering effect over the top of it all. Leuco is my favorite of al of Sig.ra Gentile’s perfumes.
For a straightforward beeswax experience there is nothing better than Sonoma Scent Studio Bee’s Bliss. Independent perfumer Laurie Erickson created a perfume which captures the entire process of honey. Starting with mimosa as the flower harvested on top of a rich honey accord. The beeswax represents the hive along with vetiver representing the propolis which holds the cells together. It is a gorgeous abstraction of harvesting honey fresh from the hive.
Disclosure: This review is based on bottles I purchased.
Over the last couple of years I have had the opportunity to sit down with perfumer Maria Candida Gentile as she takes me through the raw ingredients in her perfumes. Her method of seeking out unique materials and crafting a fragrance around them is the epitome of what independent perfumery is all about. At Pitti Fragranze I got another master class from the master perfumer on the terroir of a particular raw material. For her latest collection of three fragrances, Kitrea, Synconium, and Leuco she has grouped them as her “Flight of the Bumblebee” (Il Volo del Calabrone) collection. Which makes sense because the linchpin ingredient in all three is beeswax with the accompanying honey. Sig.ra Gentile chose a specific source from a different country for all three perfumes. What I find particularly interesting is the beeswax sources are not interchangeable and each of these fragrances were constructed from the foundation of the particular beeswax.
Kitrea uses an Italian beeswax which Sig.ra Gentile found to have an aromatic balsamic character. From that she builds a structure of citrus and ocean. Kitrea opens with a brilliant flare of lemon and bergamot which softly settle down onto the foundation of honey and beeswax. The balsamic tinged quality forms a perfect pivot point for Sig.ra Gentile’s aquatic base. As it was with Finesterre her deftness with her marine accord gives Kitrea a wave tossed finish. Kitrea is a skillful mix of citrus and ocean all encased in a honeycomb.
Synconium uses a Spanish beeswax which carries a fabulously rich gourmand character of almond and vanilla. Sig.ra Gentile chooses to match a keynote of fig to go with this beeswax. This time the honey and beeswax are on top and they add a velvety smoothness. The gourmand qualities arise out of the treacle just in time for a very ripe fig accord to come forward. As the fig and the beeswax almost melt into one another it feels like Synconium is becoming a decadent fig tartine. Synconium stays right here for a very long time before allowing soft sandalwood to be the final addition. Synconium is a gourmand fig that is delicious and savory.
Maria Candida Gentile in her studio
Leuco uses French beeswax and this source imparts a powdery softness to the honey. This is a critical pairing because Leuco is a tuberose perfume. The French beeswax does a fantastic job of taming the tuberose; transforming it into a lush narcotic white flower which allows the wearer to come to it instead of the other way around. The honey and beeswax are on top again and the powdery aspect of the French beeswax also gives the honey a bit of unusual sweetness. The early going made me think of a pot of honey which was left next to a powder puff. The tuberose starts to meld with this and it does so brilliantly. Often when I start to smell tuberose I metaphorically plant my feet for the onslaught to come. I did the same the first time I smelled Leuco but the tuberose never became that all-encompassing floral note. Instead the French beeswax refines it and turns it into this shimmery white floral note. This has to be one of my favorite tuberose perfumes ever because of the unique way it is presented. Leuco is the best perfume Sig.ra Gentile has ever made; it is an example of a master perfumer, and an independent perfumer, working at the peak of her skill.
All three perfumes have 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
Once again Sig.ra Gentile has opened my eyes to the potential of using just the right ingredient in the right place. All three perfumes are beautiful but Leuco is among the best new perfumes I’ve tried this year.
Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by Maria Candida Gentile at Pitti Fragranze.