New Perfume Review Maria McElroy for American Perfumer Desert Rouge- The Soul of Introspection

There has been a lot of great art born of solitary introspection. It isn’t a necessary ingredient, but it seems to allow an artist to access something more emotional. Being kept inside for part of this year I think we have all participated in a lot of inward thinking. The independent perfume community has also been allowing an outlet for these artists to express these feelings. Especially from this group 2020 has been a year of emotional storytelling through scent. Maria McElroy for American Perfumer Desert Rouge completes that theme for the year.

In truth all the limited editions overseen by owner of American Perfumer, Dave Kern have been personal statements of perfumery infused with emotion. Maria McElroy was one of the first to create a limited edition for Mr. Kern. He has asked these perfumers he taps to be unafraid to let their emotions run more freely. In that earlier perfume called Desert Flower Ms. McElroy accessed her childhood memories of traveling through the desert. By crossing them with unique materials sourced from Morocco. In her mind its evoked Jack Kerouac.

Maria McElroy

Desert Rouge is kind of a sequel as it is set with the adult Ms. McElroy as she gazes out at sunset in the Sahara. She also has a literary muse for this in the person of author Paul Bowles’ book “The Sheltering Sky”. The quote she references is, “How fragile we are under the sheltering sky.” What this comes together in as a perfume is a rich floral gourmand.

She is again working with small batches of uniquely sourced materials. It becomes apparent right at the start with the rose oil she uses. It forms an odd variation on the dewy debutante rose. This is not a debutante this is an experienced rose which can still look innocent. I am calling it dewy, but it is more reminiscent of rose water without the transparency. I am usually bored with rose in perfumes. This one is compelling in its complexity. The floral accord is rounded out with sandalwood and Siam wood. The woods provide that sweet touch to the rose while setting up the gourmand accord to come.

As she did with Desert Flower this perfume finds a childhood memory embedded in the gourmand accord. This is that remembrance of Greek pastries cooling on a fresh linen tablecloth at home. Ms. McElroy calls this out as her earliest recollection of fragrance. It connects because it is easy to imagine a plate of pastries which smell like this on a table as you watch the desert change colors.

She uses that rose water quality I mentioned to become the foundation upon which she builds her accord. A classic mélange of spices within a syrup of Moroccan vanilla. What takes this much deeper is tendrils of tobacco and honey. Ms. McElroy uses a deft touch so that they add to the lusciousness of the gourmand accord. When complete this is that hybrid of Arabic, through the rosewater, and Greek pastry through the honey and spices.

Desert Rouge has 16-18 hour longevity and minimal sillage as a pure parfum.

It is the gourmand piece of Desert Rouge which makes this such a compelling experience. I have lost myself within it for hours performing my own introspection. It also reminded me of another passage of Mr Bowles from the same novel, “How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood, some afternoon that’s so deeply a part of your being that you can’t even conceive of your life without it? Perhaps four or five times more. Perhaps not even that. How many more times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps twenty. And yet it all seems limitless.”  Ms. McElroy has made a limitless perfume which is born of the soul of introspection.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by American Perfumer.

Mark Behnke

Editor’s Note: These limited editions have proven to be very popular selling out extremely quickly. Mr. Kern in an attempt to make it more equitable is moving to a lottery system for Desert Rouge. There are 50 signed and numbered bottles for sale. The lottery is scheduled for December 26, 2020. If you are interested you can send your name, phone number, and address to to be entered. Or you can supply the same info on the Instagram page @theamericanperfumer via message.

New Perfume Review House of Cherry Bomb Iris Oud- Harmony in Contrast

It is the nature of the endeavor when two creative minds create as one, I want to try and figure out who did what. I remember doing this when two of my favorite horror authors, Stephen King and Peter Straub, wrote “The Talisman” in 1984. It is a fool’s errand. It sets one off in a direction of searching for trees instead of seeing the glory of the forest. If two collaborators truly succeed there will be something different than from either one alone. It is how I have finally begun to experience the perfumes made by independent perfumers Alexis Karl and Maria McElroy for their shared brand House of Cherry Bomb.

Maria McElroy (l.) and Alexis Karl

Both women working together has such distinct aesthetics when making their own perfumes it always makes me smile to find a third different one while working together. It is particularly true in the Atelier Perfume collection. The previous six releases are each memorable combinations of titular notes; Tobacco Cognac and Cardamom Rose are my favorites. They have now added a seventh to the group; House of Cherry Bomb Iris Oud.

Iris and oud are two of the most variable perfume ingredients you can use. Iris can have the delicate powdery face or the doughy rooty version. Oud covers the gamut from exotic to barnyard. In many ways a combination of both seems like a perfume Tinder date destined to go bad. Except in the hands of smart perfumers who look for the opportunities for harmony in contrast. Then you get a perfume like Iris Oud.

The perfume opens with iris showing off its powdery nature. Violet is used to keep it from becoming too much a powderpuff. A smart use of jasmine turns the powder towards the rootier quality. Then the oud arrives. This isn’t just pure oud; it is an accord which contains oud. The distinction is the perfumers can tame the more obstreperous qualities to create the effect they want. In this case they use a selection of darker materials to provide guardrails, so the oud comes off as a fascinating visitor. This ends on a honeycomb of beeswax adding subtle animalic sweetness. There is also an array of balsamic notes to create an enveloping warmth for the iris and oud accord.

Iris Oud has 12-14 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

Ms. Karl and Ms. McElroy have once again found a new synergy in their creativity. It allows them to find the same in two ingredients like iris and oud.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by House of Cherry Bomb.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Maria McElroy for American Perfumer Desert Flower- The Soul of Memory

In a shop in Louisville, Kentucky is the first store dedicated to the art and creativity of the American independent perfumer. It is called, appropriately, American Perfumer. Owner Dave Kern has curated a collection of the best this sector has to offer. He believes, as I do, that a consumer who is exposed to what is offered will see the difference.

American Perfumer in Louisville, Kentucky

One of those differences is these perfumers create from a sincere place within. This is not focus group driven fragrance. This is emotionally creative artistic perfume. It means each perfumer brings something unique to their brand. One of the ways Mr. Kern wanted to stand out was to offer exclusive limited editions by the perfumers of the brands which were on his shelves. The first one was reviewed yesterday, Dawn Spencer Hurwitz for American Perfumer Colorado. For the second limited edition Mr. Kern asked Maria McElroy, the perfumer behind aroma M and House of Cherry Bomb. Mr. Kern chose these two perfumers because, “I knew they’d make beautiful, interesting work and get it done on time. That said, in every way, they exceeded my expectations.”

Mr. Kern kickstarted the creative process by asking Ms. McElroy “if she had any scent-memories from growing up in Utah”. A simple brief which doesn’t match the complex perfume which has sprung from it. In the notes which Ms. McElroy included with my sample she remembered car trips across the Mojave Desert while she was “reciting Jack Kerouac lines”. This would be crossed with a more recent trip to Marrakech where the Brooklynite Ms. McElroy is now reconnected with the child in the backseat as she gazed out upon the Sahara Desert nearly half a world away. That is the inspiration for Maria McElroy for American Perfumer Desert Flower.

Maria McElroy

While in Marrakech she would source small amounts of different oils which is what she uses in Desert Flower. This creates an incredibly unique fragrance. It is part of what American independent perfumery stands for. Artists who will create something exquisite in a small batch which might never be replicated.

For those who have read my reviews of Ms. McElroy’s aroma M perfumes she has a way of connecting with my storytelling urge to create a fiction around her perfumes. Something like Desert Flower was always going to cause that urge to come to the foreground again. In this case I imagine a hiker reaching Monument Valley after having crossed Utah from Colorado.

The hiker was thinking of the Navajo guide who showed him to the campsite for the night. As he explained the ground rules for camping, he made sure he had my attention when he said, “This is the place where Yikaisdaha (The Milky Way) aligns with the Earth. It is where the Heavens and Earth meet.” The hiker had just finished stowing his cooking materials after dinner. He gazed out across the desert floor towards the rock formations known as The Mittens. The sun crossed the floor lighting up the red rocks with the final rays of the day. The hiker noticed there were some desert flowers blooming in the twilight their scent released as the sun disappeared. It always impressed the hiker how much the few flowers which thrived in the desert could fill the air with their perfume. The strong woods of the desert provided a sonorous bass line. As the evening progressed and the hiker watched the span of Yikaisdaha slowly lower itself towards the floor of the desert a deep inky black scent overtook the night. That was the last thought of the hiker until the sun woke him the next morning. The only surety he had it was real was the lone desert flower greeting the day. He wondered what Arizona would smell like.

Ms. McElroy creates a perfume which captures the moment when night first falls in the desert and cereus flowers, among many others, turn the world into a floral wonderland. The use of authentic Arabian oils adds unbelievable nuance throughout.

Desert Flower opens with a dense mixture of floral ingredients. This is a gigantic floral accord which could have gotten out of control. Ms. McElroy keeps that from happening by using honey to form a soft sticky embrace of the florals. This by itself would be amazing but there is one last accord to be added; an oud-tinted chypre. Ms. McElroy excels at using precious materials. This chypre accord wherein she inserts genuine oud oil is remarkable. It adds an exotic twist to an already excellent chypre accord. The best chypres feel like they are inky scents; the inclusion of the oud alters it in a way I wanted more of.

Desert Flower has 12-14 hour longevity and it is a pure parfum concentration which means minimal sillage.

If you are a lover of full-bodied floral perfumes Desert Flower is a rare jewel made up of rare ingredients. It is something which you will regret missing if this sounds like your kind of perfume. It is my kind of perfume where Ms. McElroy takes the soul of memory transforming it into perfumed art.

I’ll finish with a quote from “On the Road” by Jack Kerouac, “As we crossed the Colorado-Utah border I saw God in the sky in the form of huge gold sunburning clouds above the desert that seemed to point at me and say, “Pass here you’re on the road to heaven.”

Mr. Kern, in overseeing his first two limited editions for American Perfumer, has taken us from Dawn Spencer Hurwitz’s Colorado to Maria McElroy’s Utah-inspired Desert Flower. Thus laying down the first two miles on “the road to heaven” with the heart and soul of American perfumery.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample supplied by Maria McElroy.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review House of Cherry Bomb Pussy and Resist- Step Up, Speak Up, Scent Up

Ever since we moved to the greater Washington DC area I have been surprised at how much politics is woven into the fabric of the region. Even out in Poodlesville which is 18 miles from the front gate of the White House the feel of living in the Nation’s Capital is different from everyplace else I’ve lived. Over the last seven years there have been moments where the voice of protest has been raised up. To see the numbers of people who gather on the Mall to speak up about their issue almost every month is something which makes me happy to be an American where this takes place. It is the essence of being a vital Democracy; the opportunity to step up and speak up. Independent perfume brand House of Cherry Bomb has decided to add scent up to that with the release of Pussy and Resist. Perfumers Alexis Karl and Maria McElroy have composed what they call “Revolution Perfume” as they capture the idea of this current generation of protest.

Maria McElroy (on steps) and Alexis Karl

On January 21, 2017 the world became acquainted with the pink knitted cap known as a “pussy hat” as millions of women worldwide stepped up and made their voices heard. Pussy is a perfume meant to capture that sense of women’s advocacy. The perfumers choose to display that by using a deep floral accord clenched in a leather fist.

Tuberose comes right to the foreground as fig and honey accentuate this forceful floral. The leather accord comes forward and wraps itself around the tuberose. Encasing it in an animalic frame. The animalic part intensifies over the final stages with amber and musk abetting that.

Resist is an homage to the last fifty-plus years of active non-violent protest in the US. Every march has taken place on the streets. The smell of the urban landscape is what the perfumers capture by using sets of accords meant to capture pieces of that.

Resist opens with a duet of metal and cement; a true cityscape in scent. This is marching among tall buildings hearing your voices amplified against the facades. This scent then shifts to a small hopeful jasmine before the march becomes more active as smoke and oud show resistance does not mean unopposed.

Pussy and Resist have 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

Of the two perfumes Resist works best for me as both statement and as a perfume. The smell of the streets is nicely captured which is where most resistance takes place.

If you’re interested in adding “scent up” to those moments you want to stand up and speak up these two perfumes might be the right choice.

Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by House of Cherry Bomb.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review aroma M Geisha Botan- Geisha at Work

More than their commercial counterparts, independent perfumers are storytellers. Through their creations you also get glimpses into personalities and histories of the artist behind them. Having a story underneath what you’re wearing adds something to the experience. One independent perfumer whose story I have connected with is Maria McElroy of aroma M.

Ms. McElroy lived in Tokyo, Japan in the 1980’s. That Japanese aesthetic has been the foundation upon which she has built her brand. Many of her perfumes carry the word “geisha” within them. As I have tried each one I have imagined the story of a fictional geisha. It has become part of the anticipation of any new release that I will have an opportunity to allow my imagination to travel to visit this lady of perfume. aroma M Geisha Botan is the latest chance for me to do this.

Maria McElroy

In the press release accompanying my sample Ms. McElroy tells of her affection for pink peonies that she acquired during her time in Tokyo. Botan is the Japanese word for peony. We have our own pink peonies which burst to life each spring along our front walkway. I share Ms. McElroy’s fascination with the flower. The dense layered flower which will eventually open to reveal a fuller beauty is like a geisha of the floral world; only when you get to know it better does it truly reveal its charms.

Geisha Botan uses rose to support the peony in the early going. It gives some heft to one of the more delicate floral ingredients. It also allows it to float upon the pool of sandalwood and vanilla which make up the heart. Over time an earthy quality slowly intersperses itself into the construct. A final dollop of animalic musk finishes everything.

In her previous releases my imaginary geisha has been enjoying some time off. With Geisha Botan it feels like she is back at work. As I’ve done in the past I will weave a description of the perfume within a little story.

It was nice to have spring back. Walking by Ueno Park and seeing the peonies in full bloom made her smile. As she entered the okiya she decided would use her special botan formulation to scent herself for the evening. She had worked on it for years finding the right rose to provide depth to her peony extract. To find the right balance was a tricky thing but it was worth it. Her client for the night always smiled when he picked up the top accord as she served tea to him. The peony tattooed on her forearm just visible under her sleeve as she offered the bowl to him. He breathed in followed by a nod. “Your perfume is more intoxicating than the tea.” As I played the samisen for him I observed him breathing deeply as the vanilla and sandalwood comforted him along with the music. By the time he was ready to leave the slightly musky scent remianing heightened the anticipation for our next meeting.

Geisha Botan has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

Ms. McElroy has become a much more assured perfumer over the years. Geisha Botan is among her best work. The mixture of spring-like florals on top of vanilla and sandalwood is going to make this an ideal fall perfume as the air begins to cool. You can take my imaginary geisha along with you.

Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by aroma M.

Mark Behnke

Independent Perfumery 2018

When I was really starting my descent into perfumed obsession in the early years of the 2000’s it started with the discovery of niche perfumes. What that meant to me were small brands with distinctive artistic aesthetics. Those early years of this century saw the rapid expansion of this style of perfume. Presenting themselves as an alternative to what was available at the mall. It was, and remains, part of the reason I enjoy perfume.

Then in 2006 on the blogs I follow there was mention of this new perfume from Switzerland. A young artist by the name of Andy Tauer had released a perfume called L’Air du Desert Marocain. My perfume world changed again. I discovered there was another world of fragrance makers who worked on their own; independent perfumers. It would be the acclaim for L’Air du Desert Marocain that pointed those who love perfume to a new place.

Every year I am struck by how vital this community is. What spurred me to write this column was my editorial calendar for the next week. One of many important lessons I learned from my Editor-in-Chief at CaFleureBon, Michelyn Camen, is the importance of keeping an editorial calendar. That means I have all the different days subjects planned out in advance. Sometime when I look at my white board I can see patterns which arise out of the list. Looking over next week’s list I saw six wonderful perfumes from six different established independent perfumers. It made me think about where we are now.

One of the things I write about a lot is the concept of a brand aesthetic. It should be easier when an independent perfumer is the only voice in the room. From experience I can tell you it is not. I try a dozen or so new independent brands a year. I provide private feedback which is just between the perfumer and I. One of the more common sentences I write is, “What are you trying to achieve besides smelling good?” The brands which have succeeded have almost always had a personal answer to that. The ones who ask me “What do you mean?” is probably a reason why they don’t succeed.

Proof this has succeeded is there is a part of Hr. Tauer’s perfumes which has been dubbed a “Tauer-ade”. There is a scented fingerprint which says where this perfume came from. The same can be said for Charna Ethier of Providence Perfume Co. or Maria McElroy of Aroma M. I feel if I was handed any of these, and others, perfumes they are identifiable because of this. Independent perfumers can refine a personal vision over every release.

Mandy Aftel

Another more fractious aspect of independent perfumery is very few of them have any formal training. Like all artistic efforts there are the precocious few who are blessed with innate talent. For those the years spent making their perfumes provides its own kind of training; learning through trial and error. That same effort is also rewarded for those who learn entirely from that. Time can be a great leveler. Some of the early founders have become the teachers for those who are drawn to make their own perfume. Mandy Aftel has produced great perfume, under he Aftelier Perfumes label, and a wave of students from her California studio. AbdesSalaam Attar does the same in Europe.

One of the most important aspects of the current state of independent perfumery is the ability of the perfumers to use small batches of amazing ingredients. Particularly over the last few years there have been releases which are made from materials that have been gone from mainstream and niche perfumery due to the difficulty of sourcing enough to produce hundreds of bottles. The independent perfumer can produce tens of bottles if they desire. A good example are the perfumes of Russian Adam under his Areej Le Dore brand. He can source actual musk from the animal through a license he has. Other independent perfumers create their own tinctures, botanical hydrosols, co-distillates, or enfleurage. Each of these create magic. The botanicals sourced by Yasuyuki Shinohara from his home island of Hokkaido, Japan for his Di Ser line are what makes those perfumes unique.

The final thing which has made independent perfumery so important is it lives outside the geography of France, the US, Italy or Great Britain. For over 100 years that was where the perfume we knew came from. Independent perfumery takes place everywhere with the influences of location finding its way into the bottle. All four of the countries where modern perfume was born have their share of independent perfumers who have things to say about that history in their new perfumes. The perspective that comes from elsewhere is invaluable.

If you need the best argument for the importance of independent perfumer in 2018 follow along next week as the perfumes speak for themselves.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Aroma M Geisha Marron Eau de Parfum- What Kind of Brown?

If you ever spend time with an artist one of the first things you will learn is colors cannot be simply described as one word. In my house if I say “blue”. Mrs. C looks at me with the unspoken question, “what kind of blue?” She is incapable of seeing the colors in the world in the reductionist way her scientist husband does. Which has taught me that there are more colors to be seen then red, green, blue and all the combinations those three can produce. When I hear one of my favorite independent perfumers is interpreting the color brown I am intrigued. Maria McElroy is the perfumer and her latest release is Aroma M Geisha Marron Eau de Parfum.

Geisha Marron was released a perfume oil a year or so ago, but Ms. McElroy has been re-interpreting those oils as eau de parfums. It is something which has been worth the effort because once transferred to the more expansive form there is a wider canvas on display. When I was wearing this version of Geisha Marron I was reminded of those dehydrated sponges that expand to three or four times their size in water. Geisha Marron EdP has that effect as everything within seems livelier because of the additional space.

Maria McElroy

Ms. McElroy has always seen Geisha Marron as a perfume of the autumn. Capturing the moment when the color of the leaves has turned to brown. It is only then that the natural shading of brown in nature can be seen. Geisha Marron is a perfume of shades which draw you in.

Ms. McElroy opens with the brilliance of a cloudless autumnal afternoon with the sun sparkling in the sky. A citrus triptych of mandarin, grapefruit, and bergamot provide the bright backdrop. Ms. McElroy mentions the smell of roasting chestnuts as a smell of the fall. I was expecting something with a gourmand bent. Instead she works with chestnut blossom; a different kind of white flower. This is a very subtle floral ingredient carrying some of the bombastic qualities of other white flowers but instead of indolic contrasts there is the hint of the chestnut it will mature into. This goes excellently with the Japanese magnolia, with which it is paired, as that carries a woody undercurrent which blends with the subtle nuttiness within the chestnut blossom. Muguet comes forward over time to tilt the heart accord in a more classically floral direction. The base accord is a lilting leather infused with musk which softly envelops the heart notes.

Geisha Marron has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

So, you might think this doesn’t sound very brown to which I would reply that is the point. If I wanted to describe Geisha Marron in different browns I would call the top accord “Amber”, the middle accord “Tan”, and the base accord “Kobicha”. It isn’t that it is just one shade it is many which answers the real question; Geisha Marron is a fantastic floral perfume for the autumn.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Aroma M.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review House of Cherry Bomb Immortal Mine II- Same But Not The Same

Back in October 2011 fellow blogger, Lucy Raubertas, of Indieperfumes, put together a group project of writers and perfumers called the Clarimonde Project. It was an ambitious undertaking which produced excellent synergies as the artists all worked off the inspiration provided by the short story Clarimonde by Theophile Gautier. Over a month or so everyone involved provided inspired work. This was a group project which worked.

I had never heard of the story prior to the project but through it I would download it and read it. It is the tale of a young priest Romuald who is struck by a coupe de foudre on the day he is to be ordained. The woman responsible for it is Clarimonde. Hewing to his obligation to the church he gives up his chance at love. One night he is taken to a castle to give last rites to Clarimonde only to have her revive for a moment causing him to faint. Days later she appears to Romuald in his cell reawakened as a vampire. They run off to Venice together where she feeds on Romuald while sharing the pleasures of the flesh. One of the other priests eventually forces Romuald to watch as he pours holy water over Clarimonde in her mausoleum causing her to turn to dust. Romuald’s final words are to never lay eyes on a woman or this fate will be yours.

Maria Mcelroy Alexis Karl

Maria McElroy and Alexis Karl (r.)

As you can see it is a rich source material for a creative to work from. One of the perfumes which came from the original run was House of Cherry Bomb Immortal Mine.  Perfumers Alexis Karl and Maria McElroy wanted Immortal Mine to capture those Venetian nights as the physically sated Romuald would drift off to sleep while Clarimonde would feed on one drop of his blood. Immortal Mine was a rich amber and oud matched with sweet tobacco all stuck in a beeswax matrix. The amber and oud that were used were memorable enough that when I visited with Ms. Karl and Ms. McElroy, a year ago, we had a conversation about them.

Ms. Karl and Ms. McElroy return to Clarimonde’s world to capture the moment when she died her human death only to be reborn a vampire in Immortal Mine II. For this version, many of the same ingredients remain but they are sourced from different places to complete the transition from the Clarimonde that was to the Clarimonde that has risen.


Immortal Mine II opens on tobacco flower a lot of it. This is the continuation of Immortal Mine which ended with tobacco. Immortal Mine opens with the tobacco flower which is the same but not the same just as Clarimonde in her new form is. Then we get two fantastic nods to the living dead as a desiccated henna and the funeral flower of choice lily add a sense of the cemetary. This is a fabulous piece of interpretation that I enjoyed very much. The base accord is like the tobacco flower as the recapitulation of the amber and oud ensnared in beeswax from Immortal Mine. Except in Immortal Mine II they are a mix of vintage ouds and fossilized ambers. I smelled a couple of these raw materials on that year ago visit; the fossilized amber is amazing by itself. Here the perfumers have allowed it to provide the power of the ages to Clarimonde.

Immortal Mine II in the Eau de Parfum concentration has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

There are two concentrations to Immortal Mine II Eau de Parfum and Oil. I chose the EDP to review because it was more expansive imparting more of a supernatural feel to it all. The oil wears much closer to the skin for a few hours longer.

I am not sure what Ms. Raubertas’ intentions are with the future of the Clarimonde Project but she should be very proud that it continues to inspire five years later. With Immortal Mine II Ms. Karl and Ms. McElroy finish their examination of Clarimonde with style. Maybe poor besotted Romuald needs to be next?

Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by House of Cherry Bomb.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review aroma M Geisha Vanilla Hinoki- Geisha’s Day Off

There are a few perfumers who have successfully created a world for their perfumes to live within. Not only does the perfume smell great but it can tell a story as well. I look forward to the next releases from these perfumers as eagerly as I look forward to the next book from my favorite novelist. That is why I was very pleased to get the next installment from Maria McElroy who with her brand aroma M has been illuminating the life of a geisha. The latest release is Geisha Vanilla Hinoki.

Since 1995 through many releases the story being told has been of the occupation of geisha. It was only with 2014’s Camellia where we saw the geisha off-stage as I imagined her removing the makeup at the end of the evening. Geisha Vanilla Hinoki continues her off-duty story. Ms. McElroy described this as a trip for her geisha to a hot spring to soak in a hinoki wood tub. As a result, my imagination renders Geisha Vanilla Hinoki as the story of our perfumed geisha on her precious and rare day off.

maria mcelroy

Maria McElroy

Geisha Vanilla Hinoki is primarily what the name implies. Ms. McElroy sourced a vanilla from Morocco which contains a smoky aspect. I can say that as it is used in Geisha Vanilla Hinoki it is an unusual vanilla which carries some of the bakery but also a different kind of depth to it giving it a little more gravitas than playful vanilla often has. The hinoki is one of my favorite variations of cypress. It also has more presence as well as more sharply defined lines. These are the heart of this perfume.

It would be a long trip to the hot spring but she had the cream pan her client brought for her last night. As she walked out in the sunshine the light sparkled in points of bergamot. She boarded the train into the mountains sitting next to a spice salesman with his bags of cardamom and nutmeg while he chewed on a piece of clove. After arriving at the hot spring she was shown to her tub which had a view of the mountainside and the world below. She added a few drops of lavender oil to provide contrast to the hinoki wood of the tub. As she eased into the steamy water the smell of the surrounding amyris and the damp earth reminded of her patchouli oil back on her vanity. She remembered her parcel of cream pan and drew them to her. The steam and the wood made them a little less confectionary giving a smoky tint to the sweetness. As she floated on the water her cares radiated away into the water and out with the steam. Today was a day for her to love herself; tomorrow it would be shared with her clients.

Geisha Vanilla Hinoki has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage as the eau de parfum. 14-16 hour longevity and minimal sillage as the perfume oil.

There are two versions of Geisha Vanilla Hinoki; perfume oil and eau de parfum. In the past I have always preferred the oil form. For the first time the expansiveness of the eau de parfum was much more evocative of the open air hot tub for me. It felt more like my imaginary geisha at play. The oil is much more personal it has a sultrier quality. I wholeheartedly recommend both forms I think it will come down to personal preference.

Geisha Vanilla Hinoki is the most exuberant of the aroma M Geisha collection. I can feel the relaxed smile of my figurative geisha and the perfume makes that infectious in its simple joy.

Disclosure: This review was based on a samples provided by aroma M.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Aroma M Voluptuous Nostalgia Perfume- Get on your Vespa!

When I was a boy all of the traveling I did to Europe was in a seat at my local movie theatre. I especially liked the movies which took place in one city as at that age I treated them as documentaries. At the Miracle Theatre they used to show older movies as matinees. One of my mother’s favorite movies was “Roman Holiday”. Director William Wyler created one of the great romantic comedies of all-time. Much of that was also down to the two stars, Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck. If you asked the eight-year old me I would also have pointed out that the Vespa scooter they rode around on was also an important member of the cast. There was a Vespa dealer right next to the Miracle and whenever I walked by those shiny scooters lined up I would think of Rome and wayward princesses looking for freedom. I was reminded of those memories because independent perfumer Maria McElroy was inspired by those same things to create her new release Aroma M Voluptuous Nostalgia Perfume.

I believe this is the first release not inspired by Geisha and Japan for Ms. McElroy. Voluptuous Nostalgia Perfume has a combination of a 1950’s vibe along with the gentle feeling of motion as if it is its own fragrant scooter careening through the senses.

maria mcelroy

Maria McElroy

Ms. McElroy conjures up a spring day by opening with muguet and gardenia. Muguet is a veritable symbol of that time of year. It would have worked by itself. By choosing gardenia to partner it Ms. McElroy conjures up the feel of the big floral perfumes of the mid-20th century. It is fresh and lush as the Vespa zigs and zags between them. It all turns slightly less heady as violet predominates in the heart. This is a moment where we gently pass through the cobblestoned streets enjoying the arms wrapped around my waist. Things begin to pick up speed again as a warm amber provides the rotary around which we will travel picking up ambergris and tonka before zooming off. About an hour in it is easy to still pick up all of the notes I’ve mentioned as the trip to all of them becoming apparent is fairly rapid. It isn’t linear but the development does move with alacrity. What forms is a pastiche of fragrant harmonics finding a place of equilibrium.

Voluptuous Nostalgia Perfume has 10-12 hour longevity and almost no sillage, it is very much a skin scent.

Ms. McElroy succeeded in taking me back to watching Ms. Hepburn and Mr. Peck zooming through 1953 Rome. Which has made me want to go call up Roman Holiday on Netflix. I think I’ll spray some Voluptuous Nostalgia Perfume as my scent track for that viewing.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Aroma M.

Mark Behnke