The People of the Labyrinths (POTL) has finally come out with a new scent, A * Maze, which I think has now been officially nicknamed POTLAM on the blogosphere. Notes cribbed from the LuckyScent website: Henna, Saffron, Taif Rose from Saudi Arabia, Orange Blossom, Wardia Rose, Agarwood from Cambodia, Sandalwood, Musk, Civet.
First I should acknowledge that I am one of the sad sacks on whom the original POTL (aka Luctor et Emergo) is straight-up Play-Doh and nothing else, rather than the wonderful, comforting variants (incense! cashmere sweater! almond cherries!) its hardcore fans get, although even some of its fans (like Now Smell This) go through a Play-Doh stage. The notes on POTLAM sounded delicious. So I popped for a sample at LuckyScent, which I got in two days (love those people!)
What I get at the opening is rose, saffron and what I’m guessing is the henna – the smell is sharp, and somewhat medicinal, but it´s interesting rather than unpleasant. The top notes fade in less than five minutes, leaving me with a rose/orange blossom combination that would fit in nicely among the Rosines – something called Autumn Rose, maybe? – and if I still had all my samps of the line I could probably provide an even closer match. I´d lean in the direction of Flamenca, to the best of my recollection.
When the base shows up around 20 minutes in, the entire fragrance moves in the direction of Ormond Jayne Ta´if or Eau d´Italie Paestum Rose – while the rose is still a dominant player, the resiny pitch of oud and sandalwood, smells that to me are simultaneously velvety and sharp, add a welcome dimension. My favorite part if this fragrance occurs well over an hour in, when the rose suddenly fades away and I´m left with mostly sandalwood and a little bit of oud. I’ll take their word on the musk and civet.
A brief digression: if it’s true (as they state on the POTL website) that A * Maze “is just as the first one made of 100% natural ingredients only,” I’m wondering exactly how that squares with the listing of musk and civet as ingredients? I couldn’t care less whether my fragrance is “natural,” except when Guerlain takes my oakmoss away, but I’ve been blogmistress long enough to know that many people think “nice” or “expensive” perfumes are all-natural. This just isn’t true. Many of the boldest, most brilliant notes in modern perfumery (by modern I mean this side of 1880) depend on notes or accords that are entirely lab-created. I’ve discussed the musk/civet issue with a natural perfumer and read up a bit on the issue. There are conflicting reports about how civet is harvested from farm-raised cats, but even the kindest characterizations don’t sound that enjoyable. If the POTL “musk” is animal-based, that animal is dead, unless there’s some cruelty-free eco-friendly musk I’m unaware of (it could be plant-based, however). I’m not trying to pick a fight with POTL (although the perfumer I consulted is skeptical of the natural claims given some of the notes, and the price) but I want to raise this issue with anyone who reads “natural” and assumes they’re making a better choice morally or ecologically.
UPDATE: Per Elle’s email from POTL below, clarifying: “Just got this email from them: The component “Civet” (base) is a reconstruction comparable to nature. Hope to have you informed sufficient. With kind regards, The People of the Labyrinths B.V.” In other words … they’re lying. One way or the other. $20 says 1) the “natural” claim doesn’t disappear from their website; and 2) the original POTL isn’t natural, either, since there are a couple of notes in there that are almost certainly synthetic in origin.
While I am wildly grateful I´m not sniffing yet another entry in the fruity-floral group, frankly I would have expected something more interesting from POTL. This is a pretty tame follow-up to Luctor et Emergo, and it will be interesting to see how it goes over with the cult´s followers.