New Perfume Review Aether Arts Perfume Mayan Chocolate- Oaxacan Flashback

In 1986 I spent the summer in Mexico following the World Cup. It was one of my favorite experiences in my life. Traveling with a backpack taking buses from town to town to watch soccer. There is no way to understand a country better than traveling on foot through it. Over the four weeks I was there I learned so much about the country to our south. Aether Arts Perfume Mayan Chocolate reminded me of one of them.

In the last week of the tournament there was time between games to explore a little more away from the game sites. There was a group of Belgian fans I kept crossing paths with. I would greet them with, “Hey have any chocolate?” To my surprise one day they were ready for my silly question. Handing me a piece of Mexican chocolate. They told me they had gone to visit Oaxaca and the whole city was about making chocolate. I decided to make a trip down there.

When we got close to the bus depot the scent in the air let me know. You know when they say things like a city smells like something. Oaxaca City smells like chocolate. Actually it smells like cacao beans which are piled up in burlap sacks throughout town. There is chocolate in everything you eat or drink. Being Mexico there are times that some chiles make their way into things. As I would sit with the locals, they would tell me that chocolate came from the Mayans.

Amber Jobin

I loved this spiced chocolate beverage called xocoatl. It is here where independent perfumer Amber Jobin and I intersect. I suspect many decades in between. Mayan Chocolate is a gourmand style born of the streets of Oaxaca City.

The cacao source she uses is that scent of the unprocessed bean. Which is where this begins. I’ll admit I was looking for a non-existent burlap accord because it twigged my memory so strongly. It is just chocolate with a green underpinning. It is then rapidly mulled together into a perfume version of xocoatl. A set of spices in chiles, nutmeg, cinnamon, and paprika. The latter adds in this smokiness the drink has I didn’t expect Ms. Jobin to re-create. It is a fascinating gourmand accord with the bite of the spices pushing against the sweet of the cacao.

The reminder we are in the tropics comes in a subtle way. When I was visiting an afternoon thunderstorm came through. It cleansed the air of the cacao. What was present was the jungle in the distance before the cacao began to take over again. The heart of this is the moment just before the cacao pushes the jungle back as the vegetal green finds a tiny bit of purchase.

Chocolate was thought to be a gift from the gods to the Mayans. Ms. Jobin recognizes that as she adds a base accord of sacred ingredients palo santo and incense. It as if she is thanking those gods for the gift of cacao.

Mayan Chocolate has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

This is a delightful reminder of my trip of 35 years ago. It is also a reminder of what a technically excellent perfumer Ms. Jobin is. All of what I described above is balanced to perfection. Each piece fits seamlessly. Together it forms a top-tier gourmand. I’ve been spending some time in my memories of Oaxaca, there isn’t anything I’d rather do.

Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Aether Arts Perfume.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Aether Arts Perfume Contact- The Joy of Intentionality

One of the biggest things which separates art and commerce is intent. The latter is done to appeal to the masses and make a buck. The former is what makes us human. It is the perspective of an imagination who looks at the world through a distinct lens. The visual arts are replete with examples. Places for an artist to display and discuss their thoughts. It is something I feel the art of perfume is lacking. The examples of perfumers standing with their creation speaking about why scent is the right medium are few and far between. I especially yearn for it from the perfumers I know create with the intentionality of art through fragrance. Which was why I was happy to see Amber Jobin of Aether Arts Perfume do a guest piece on CaFleureBon about her latest creation. (link here) In it she explains the process behind Aether Arts Perfume Contact.

Amber Jobin

I urge you to read the piece, but I will boil it down to a few words. Of all the things we have lost in this pandemic the simple act of human contact has been one of the most debilitating. The simple act of holding someone close is lost for the moment. There is the physical contact of it. There is also the scent of it. It is something perfume is especially proficient at doing. There are lots of skin accords built around musk. Contact is a perfume built around the concept of holding a loved one close.

When I hug at first my nose is closest to the person’s hair. A lot of people use fruity shampoos. The top accord of Contact is composed of peach mélange, carrot seed, and a CO2 extraction of coconut. This is that moment when I pull back to smile and share my joy at seeing the person. We are still close enough to experience the humanity of each other. Through calamus, liatrix, and the keynote of contact an attar of jasmine, sandalwood, and ambrette that is portrayed. This is the soul of Contact. Ambrette provides the skin musk to the pleasure of jasmine and sandalwood all together. This is that shared smile of affection. As I pull closer for another hug the skin of my friend is now what I experience. Some cumin, white pepper, beeswax, Africa stone, and muskrat tincture form the slightly spicy funky smell of another human being. A final touch is the powdery shine of orris as if to smile at each other in the pleasure of fellowship.

Contact has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

I can’t hug Ms. Jobin or any of my favorite perfume people today. Hopefully, that changes soon. Until then Contact will remind me of the necessity of human touch. All through the artistic intention of one of my favorite perfumers.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample supplied by Aether Arts Perfume.

Mark Behnke

The Perfumers Who Saved Christmas

Back in March when I wrote an editorial on “Perfume in the Time of Coronavirus” I was enjoying the quarantine. I expected it to end in a few months. I was taking the opportunity to enjoy my favorite perfumes with abandon. Each one gave me a shot of needed joy.

As we got to the summer and I was still inside I needed a different kind of booster through fragrance. That came as I spent ten days participating in the Pierre Benard Challenge. This was a big change in perspective for me as I hadn’t examined my connection to scent as deeply. I’m always looking for new things to try. For two weeks I stopped and smelled the world.

Then we got to the fall and the end was not in sight. It was wearing on my mental state. I felt like things would never return to normal. Then a magical thing happened courtesy of some of my favorite independent perfumers. They got me out of my funk because their new releases connected with great memories of my past. I was no longer hemmed in by the four walls of my house.

Frassai El Descanso reminded me of my first cross-country drive as I experienced the wheat fields of the prairie.

DSH Perfumes Tea and Charcoal brought me back to when I discovered a coping mechanism as a child.

Aether Arts Perfume Dia de Muerto had me trick or treating on a tropical S. Florida night.

Maher Olfactive Orris Forest had me hopping over rocks on a hike through the forest.

DSH Perfumes Adrenaline and Scorched Earth put me back on the hiking trail in Yellowstone.

Maher Olfactive Tempo Rubato reminded me of a music lesson in a St. Louis jazz club.

Masque Milano Le Donne di Masque Madeleine had me sitting at a tearoom with cakes and hot chocolate.

Imaginary Authors A Whiff of Wafflecone had me in a specialty ice cream shoppe

DSH Perfumes Couverture d’Hiver had the Florida boy remembering his first New England snowstorm.

All of these and more took me out of my quarantine and into the world through the trigger of perfume. It isn’t the design of a perfumer to make their customer find joy through memory. Although it isn’t an undesired side effect.

Now that we do see the beginning of the end, I am full of hope for the next year. If it weren’t for Irina Burlakova, Dawn Spencer Hurwitz, Amber Jobin, Shawn Maher, Fanny Bal, and Josh Meyer this would have been a dreary Holiday season. They were the perfumers who saved Christmas for me.

I extend my wishes to all my readers for a Merry Christmas. That I have you is another reason this Season remains merry for me.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Aether Arts Perfume Dia de Muertos- Tropical Trick or Treat

Growing up in South Florida always gave me a skewed perspective of the end of year Holidays. Where most Americans associate them with scents of burning leaves, spices, and warmth; I experienced something different. I was living in the tropics. The scents of October weren’t that different from the scents of August or June or April. Things bloomed and grew all year long. When kids were swishing through dead leaves on the ground in a haze of woodsmoke as they trick or treated. I was walking under fruit trees and palms with night-blooming flowers in the air. I never felt like I was missing out. I was reminded of those days with Aether Arts Perfume Dia de Muertos.

Amber Jobin

Independent perfumer Amber Jobin is inspired by the Mexican variation of Halloween. The Cuban families I grew up with didn’t celebrate this. I only became aware of it as an adult. Now it has become more well-known with its own fetishes of grinning skeletons adorned with garlands of flowers and plates of fruit in front. Ms. Jobin is focused on that combination of scents to form a different kind of fruity floral.

She uses guava as her main source of fruit. I enjoy the musky sweetness of this a lot. A spray of spices coat things. The floral accord appears, and it is made up of the acerbic marigold, powdery mimosa, spicy carnation, and that night-blooming star jasmine. The richness of the floral accord flows into the spiced guava beautifully. This reminded me a lot of the way Halloween smelled to me as a boy. A set of earthy notes including moss add in the graveyard accord. Through this part a trickle of beeswax adds a simmering animalic effect which made me think of something furry off in the distance.

Dia de Muertos has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

I am old enough now that going out for Halloween is not really an option. I am not old enough to not enjoy being reminded of running through a tropical night with a pillowcase of candy under the moonlight. Dia de Muertos takes me there.

Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Aether Arts Perfume.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Aether Arts Perfume Burner Perfume No. 11 The Space Between- Virtual Playa

All my favorite independent perfumers have wonderful stories which found them expressing themselves through scent. Amber Jobin’s is one of my favorites. Her Aether Arts Perfume brand began out on the playa of Burning Man over a decade ago. Ms. Jobin has always made perfumery her contribution to the artistic gestalt of the annual festival. She started designing a specific perfume to complement each edition’s theme called Burner Perfumes. Her star took off when Burner Perfume No. 4 John Frum would win an Art & Olfaction Award. That one was her inflection point where the artist confidently came into view.

Amber Jobin at Burning Man

Every year since discovering Ms. Jobin the arrival of a new Burner Perfume is one of my most anticipated releases of the year. I usually get my sample a few weeks post-Burning Man. 2020 is different of course. The pandemic has canceled the event for this year. It doesn’t mean we aren’t getting a Burner Perfume it is just coming a little sooner. Aether Arts Burner Perfume No. 11 The Space Between keeps the creativity going.

More Amber Jobin from Burning Man

The theme for this year’s canceled version was “The Multiverse”. As she considered this concept that each person is their own universe with each of us making up the multiverse. How to design a scent which allows us to bridge those spaces with a scent that is The Space Between.

Ms. Jobin designed it in three different accords. The first one called “The Place of Potential” is a fleeting citrus and spice affair. This is the rind of citrus over the pulp while cardamom provides a spice complement. Potential is a fragile thing requiring grounding which is what Ms. Jobin provides in the middle accord called, “Everything is Possible”. This is a gorgeous fruity floral accord given a vegetal veil through tomato leaf. It is those glimmers from the top accord given more foundation. Ms. Jobin forms a contemporary version of the classic form. This leads to the final accord, “The Void” this is the attempt to make that connection of one piece of the multiverse to the other. This accord has grown out of her previous Exobotany and AI series. She has become adept at finding a way to capture the empty spaces, which occurs here. Using a series of unusual notes like katrafay, mushroom, and nagarmotha the base accord has a unique harmonic. As if it is coming from its own universe to find me.

The Space Between has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

There won’t be anyone on the playa this year. Ms. Jobin has made sure it survives by creating a virtual playa out of The Space Between.

Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Aether Arts Perfume.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Aether Arts Perfume Be Boulder- Finding Center

As I mentioned a couple weeks ago, I am using perfume to help get through these days of coronavirus. I have learned that my shelves are full of beautiful perfumes which allow me to take some time to just sit and enjoy them as I search for some inner peace. It has been a silver lining of being at home. I wouldn’t have thought I would want a new fragrance to achieve the same thing. Aether Arts Perfume Be Boulder allowed me to find my center.

Amber Jobin

When I say I wouldn’t want a new contemplative perfume. I mean I wouldn’t want one from just anybody. Independent perfumer Amber Jobin is definitely one who I would want one from. One big reason is I connect with Ms. Jobin’s creations on multiple levels. She is one of my favorites because she engages heart and mind. I spend as much time going to the place she wants to take me as I do thinking about how she does it. My package of Be Boulder arrived just before we were all asked to stay at home.

Ms. Jobin’s intent was to use a botanical construct to form a fragrance which would take you to a positive place. She lives in Boulder, Colorado because she can just walk outdoors and find that positivity in the Rocky Mountains surrounding the town. The perfume is meant to take those of us who live hundreds of miles away to the same place.

Be Boulder opens with an accord of high-altitude sunlight. Every sunny day we have I go and turn my face towards the sun. This opening of yuzu, lime, petitgrain, and black pepper does the same. I breathe in the brilliance of the day including the impending sun sneeze through the black pepper. I adore that last ingredient for that. The heart accord is one of green growing things in the early days of spring. Tomato leaf, sage, and cannabis all provide different shades of verdancy; vegetal, herbal, and different herbal. It is the extra ingredient that adds the dollop of joy as rose is mixed within the green. It flows naturally as if the spring has turned to the blooms of summer. The final bit is the scent of the evergreens on the slopes of the mountains. A suite of terpenic woods give that refreshing pine scent you find in the woods.

Be Boulder has 6-8 hour longevity and average sillage.

I have worn Be Boulder on three different days as I sat on my back porch. I was practicing my breathing looking for peace. Be Boulder provided a perfect focal point to find it.

Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Aether Arts Perfume.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Aether Arts Perfume Gunsmoke & Roses- In A Western Town

One of my favorite movie genres is the Western. One of the reasons I like Star Wars so much is George Lucas described it as “Wagon Train among the stars”. The recent “The Mandalorian” confirmed the Western milieu of that galaxy far, far, away. I enjoy Westerns because of the plots where righteous gunfighters find their resolution on the streets of the town in a gunfight. Ennio Morricone’s soundtrack for the spaghetti westerns he scored with Clint Eastwood as the star is one of those things I play when I feel the need for inner strength. It was why when independent perfumer Amber Jobin told me her new release, Aether Arts Perfume Gunsmoke & Roses, was a Wild West perfume I was hooked.

Amber Jobin

The description on the website calls it a masculine floral. It is that. Except while I was wearing it, I was reminded of one of my favorite modern Westerns; 1995’s “The Quick and the Dead”. In that story Sharon Stone plays “The Lady” who comes to town to enter a single elimination gunfighting tournament. As with all these movies she is in town to settle scores along the way. Which she does in a smoky haze of dynamite and bullets. As much as Gunsmoke & Roses is meant to be a masculine floral it also reminded me strongly of The Lady who combined being a woman with some tough as nails gunfighting skills.

I enjoy some odd real smells. One of them is the scent of gun oil. I’ve been around family members and friends who own guns. The smell of the gun cabinet is not gunpowder and brass; it is the sheen of gun oil on every piece of metal. It has a rich slightly sweet smell. Ms. Jobin finds that right from the start. Its as if The Lady is taking care of her pistol after the first round of the tournament. There is the precise faint gunpowder accord Ms. Jobin adds in here. This is subtle and it reminded me strongly of the way a weapon smells after it has been put away after use. The promised roses come next. These are not your typical opulent rose, hence the masculine floral descriptor. It is a rose with a gin-soaked bite via juniper. As The Lady looks down at the rose in one hand and the bottle of gin in the other, another round of the tournament plays out on the street below. The smell of smoke rises to her window. Ms. Jobin uses choya ral, birch tar, and patchouli to capture the gunsmoke accord. The Lady does a slow clap for the victor; tossing the rose to him while toasting with the bottle of gin before she takes a swig.

Gunsmoke & Roses has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

Ms. Jobin has spent the last year or so in high-concept perfumes which appealed to me for their audacious attempts to reach for the frontiers of what independent perfumery could be. Gunsmoke & Roses hearkens back to a different frontier in more realistic terms. You might not want to smell like High Noon in Dodge City but I sure do.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Aether Arts Perfume.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Aether Arts Perfume Burner Perfume No. 10 Chrysalis- Taking Wing

Every September for the last six years I look forward to an envelope in the mail with a Colorado postmark. It means one of my favorite independent perfumers has renewed herself at the annual Burning Man festival. For Amber Jobin of Aether Arts Perfume this means a new Burner Perfume is here.

Amber Jobin

Ms. Jobin has always used perfume as her contribution to the spontaneous society which springs up on the playa every summer. It has been the source of some of her very best creations because these are fragrances which are born of passion and intellect. Ms. Jobin uses each year’s theme as the jumping off point for that year’s Burner Perfume. For 2019 the Burning Man theme was “Metamorphoses”.  The way Ms. Jobin chose to interpret that was to imagine the process which gives us a Monarch butterfly. Specifically the forming of the chrysalis as the caterpillar nears its change into winged beauty. That is where Aether Arts Perfume Burner Perfume No. 10 Chrysalis comes from.

Ms. Jobin was inspired by the color of the chrysalis of the Monarch butterfly which is a lacquered green. To translate that into a perfume she uses a set of fantastically different green notes before allowing the beginning of the transformation to be represented through the later development.

When I say green opening it would be normal to think of the grassy notes or the leafier ones, perhaps grapefruit. This is where I enjoy independent perfumers, they think green but in the case of Ms. Jobin she goes on a tangent. Her green top accord consists of tomato leaf, aldehydes, rhubarb, and green coffee. The sulfurous quality of rhubarb with the oiliness of the green coffee harmonizes with the acerbic tomato leaf and the aldehydes to create a vivid green accord which captures the color of that chrysalis. The stirring of the creature within is represented by a transitory floral green as violet and clover form the heart. This is a softer green than the top accord with violet signaling a change. The base is a brilliant accord of musks capturing the butterfly inside with a subtle animalic effect.

Chrysalis has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage because it is at extrait strength.

Chrysalis is another brilliant perfume from an independent perfumer who allows her imagination to take wing with the Monarch butterflies who inspired her.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Aether Arts Perfume.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Aether Arts Perfume Exobotany Series- Across the Universe

Of the many things I cherish about the independent perfume community; the option to follow your creative urging wherever it leads is near the top. When it really comes together for me is when those perfumers color outside of the lines. Making perfume which is adventurous and intelligent. The Aether Arts Perfume Exobotany Series is a continuation of the recent work, in that vein, by perfumer Amber Jobin.

Amber Jobin

It seems to me that Ms. Jobin’s imagination was nudged in a new direction when she composed 2017’s Touchstone. That was meant to represent a smartphone. A year later she followed up with The AI Series which explored the nature of artificial intelligence over three remarkable perfumes. For the Exobotany Series we are traveling to three planets where Ms. Jobin imagines what they would smell like. Each planetscape provides a new scented horizon to explore.

Garden on a Far Planet– In this iteration we arrive in the tropical zone of the planet. There is a burgeoning green quality. Ms. Jobin captures the sweeter nature of dense greenery along with the expected vegetal beats. Underneath it all is a rocky mineral-like accord representing the surface of this new world. The interplay between the rockiness and the greenness is captivating.

Specimen 3– Our landing craft finds a slope covered in flowers to set down upon. As we step outside the craft the metallic tang of our craft settles into the floral riot in front of us. Ms. Jobin has found a malleable metallic accord over those perfumes I mentioned earlier. It is on display again here with it providing a chilly metal container for the florals.

Specimen 9– That metallic accord returns here. It acts as a vein of metal through a stony escarpment. We stand on a thick layer of topsoil which has some lichens and flowers growing. Ms. Jobin uses patchouli to form an intergalactic soil which the metallic accord runs through. Rose and moss provide the contrast of plant life in hues of red and green.

All three perfumes are further evidence of the active mind Ms. Jobin is bringing to her perfume making. You might read the descriptions above and think these seem too experimental. As I wore these, I learned that they are all very wearable wonderful extraterrestrial accents. If you want to know why independent perfumery so vital go across the universe with the Exobotany Series.

Disclosure: This review is based on samples provided by Aether Arts Perfume.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Aether Arts Perfume Burner Perfume No. 9A, 9B, & 9C: The AI Series- Intelligent Perfumery

All independent perfumers carry their own unique inspiration into their fragrances. Amber Jobin’s inspiration is renewed every year when she attends the Burning Man festival. As her part of the community she has a stand called “The Olfactorium” where she dispenses a perfume designed for each year’s theme called Burner Perfume. I came to know her through Burner Perfume No. 2 A Roll in the Grass. She has been one of the most wondrously imaginative perfumers because of this. That was on full display in last year’s Touchstone where she made a perfume out of our smartphone. This year’s overall theme at Burning Man was “I, Robot”. This led to not one but three Burner perfumes for her Aether Arts Perfume brand which she calls “The AI Series”.

Amber Jobin at The Olfactorium

In her accompanying notes Ms. Jobin mentions she has been fascinated by Artificial Intelligence (AI) and was waiting for an opportunity to interpret it as a perfume. As I smelled each of her three perfumes, they felt like the evolution of our smartphones which means to me they are the next generation of what Ms. Jobin began in Touchstone.

Burner Perfume No. 9A Machine Intelligence– This is meant to capture the processes which happen within the shell. It is made up of three accords. First comes a metallic accord combined with the smell of electricity as it flows through circuits. On top of this Ms. Jobin creates an expansive aether accord. It has a peek-a-boo effect as it seems to dart in and out of the metal and electricity. This is the most fragile perfume Ms. Jobin has ever made. It is appropriate as it captures something as ephemeral as a thought coming together.  

Burner Perfume No. 9B Android– This is Ms. Jobin’s idea of what we will rely on when AI advances so that the artificial is not able to be discerned visually. She thinks we will be able to use our nose. Android is what she thinks these beings will smell like. First it is the power source accord from 9A, but she has added something musky to it to make it a richer version. It is matched with the smell of the plastics and resins made to look like skin along with a very synthetic accord meant to represent the fluids running through the interior of the robot.

Burner Perfume No. 9C Synthetic Sex– This perfume is the idea of what AI might mean to our most personal interaction, sex. As we become more isolated in our AI cocoons, do we lose the humanity over the physical contact. To do this Ms. Jobin tweaks that metallic power source accord by making this one a bit spikier along with a processed air accord she calls “virtual space”. It reminded me of the smell of entering a room where the air is filtered to death. It is chilly, impersonal, and isolating. The only warmth is that electrical accord. It ends with the release of orgasm under these circumstances leaving a funky musky accord lying inside a hermetically sealed room.

Over the past year and a half Ms. Jobin has really been influenced by her artistic impulses. The perfumes since the release of Touchstone show an artist at work. The AI Series is another in that line of creativity proving there is nothing artificial about Ms. Jobin’s intelligent perfumery.

Disclosure: this review is based on samples provided by Aether Arts Perfume.

Mark Behnke