Independent perfumer Irina Adam of Phoenix Botanicals has been one of my favorite of the young natural perfumers working currently. What sets her apart in my mind is her very keen curiosity on finding new materials to base her perfumes around. For her latest Ella it took a friend who had some vintage essences from around the 1920’s-1940’s.
Picture of a couple of the actual vintage essences found in Ella
In the description on her Etsy site of Ella Ms. Adam tells of her friend artist Anne Arden McDonald who shared three vintage essence with her to use in a perfume. For Ella these were vetiver, hay, and hyacinth. The last note would be the keynote to build Ella around. Ms. Adam introduced Ella at the Sunday lunch of the recent Sniffapalooza Spring Fling where she brought tiny samples of all three vintage essences. Besides this being a special experience I also got to share smelling these raw materials with perfumer Christophe Laudamiel and Michael Edwards of Fragrances of the World. The three of us remarked on how all of these typical perfume ingredients had gained a lot of depth with nearly one hundred years of age. They were exceptional ingredients to build a perfume around. Ms. Adam is definitely one who is up to this challenge and she uses one of each vintage essence in each phase of Ella.
The vintage hyacinth is what predominates throughout all of the development. I am a big fan of hyacinth and this vintage version has layers to it I have never experienced previously. Ms. Adam wisely uses a bit of galbanum as green contrast before allowing the floral bouquet of the heart to bear the hyacinth up on to their shoulders. Those florals are ylang ylang, honeysuckle, gardenia, and jasmine. In other circumstances the hyacinth would be trampled by those florals. This vintage version never lets that happen as it stays on top all the way through this phase. Next is a human skin accord constructed around the vintage hay mixed with tobacco, botanical musks, and clove. This accord is where Ella snaps into brilliant focus for me. As the hyacinth continues to ring out the hay forms a shimmering human skin accord underneath it all. It is something very special. The base notes provide the concept of this all being kept in a timeless curio cabinet. Sandalwood and moss combine with the vintage vetiver. The vintage vetiver on its own is so smooth and deeply woody it was nearly unrecognizable. As part of Ella there are enough other notes to sort of resurrect the green familiar qualities but they seem like whispers of its normal volume.
Ella has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
I have been impressed by Ms. Adam’s technical abilities for a while now but they have never been displayed as conspicuously as they are in Ella. Given exquisitely precious ingredients she has produced an exquisite perfume. This is obviously a limited edition because of the ingredients and it is going to be one of the top perfumes of 2015. This is one you will be sorry if you miss it.
Disclosure: This review based on a sample provided by Phoenix Botanicals.