Are you feeling the heat? Today it was 102F (39C) 105 at BWI! (I just looked at the paper) in D.C. I went for a walk after the sun went down. At 9 pm the temperature had plummeted to … 93 (34C). I like the heat, a lot, and even I am struggling with this one.
I’m posting on the Tigerflag attars today, since Masha’s around this week and not next week, and since she hooked me up originally, it only seems fair to post on a day she can read the blog. For those of you who are now clueless, here’s a link to my original post on the majmua attar, which I was (and still am) completely enthralled by. Attar perfumery is an entirely new style of perfumery to me. Also, stating the possibly obvious: these attars seem made for extreme heat.
None of the additional attars I ordered from Tigerflag thrilled me as much as the majmua, which is actually a blend of four different attars: kewda, kadam, mitti and ruh khus (vetiver). But they were interesting enough that I wanted to revisit them and, I hope, get feedback from those of you who placed orders, either from Tigerflag or White Lotus.
These attar samples were hard to test, because to get any kind of decent read on them, I can’t just dab them on my skin – they have to be diluted in jojoba oil to a lower concentration. I’ll use a painterly analogy – if a single drop of pigment at the tip of my brush is an impenetrable reddish-black to the naked eye, and I dab it onto a large-ish drop of water, what I wind up with afterward is a glorious, rich, pinkish-red that surprises me. Are you following me? The undiluted attars on the skin tend to be killingly condensed, medicinal, and bitter. You really need to open those things up; they need to be diluted somewhere between 1:5 to 1:9 to bloom. Also, a good ten-to-fifteen minute wait on the skin is worth it.
Kewda – “a smooth, refreshing balsamic scent. Floral but not too sweet, with hints of hyacinths and honey.” This is what provides the green/floral top notes in the majmua, I think, but I find it less enthralling on its own initially, although it’s definitely honeyed. If you’re willing to wait three hours, the balsam-y drydown is wonderful, like walking in a grove of evergreen trees, with plenty of resiny sap, only more foreign, with unfamiliar dirt/mineral undertones.
Kadam – a deeply peculiar murky smell. If there’s a “masculine” flower this is it. Quasi-medicinal.
Mitti – I know a couple of you have said you’re not crazy about this. It’s the attar that is actually made from baked earth from the Ganges. I think it’s the coolest thing. At the same time, like the smell of, say, hot asphalt, it’s a smell I am wild for without actually wanting to wear as a fragrance. It is both earthy and slightly bitter/peaty, with a hint of something fecal, if I’m being honest.
Night-blooming jasmine – Uh, speaking of fecal. There must be folks who read this blog and think, these people are sick. But that stank in jasmine? It’s the most glorious thing on earth. Some jasmines are much cleaner (aka less indolic) than others, I don’t know which varieties. The clean ones smell more banana-jammy. But for someone like me, the point of jasmine is the indoles. All you sick jasmine freaks feel free to de-lurk now and list your favorite indolic jasmines, the ones that aren’t just heady – they’re unapologetically garbage-y and/or fecal. Mine? Montale Jasmin Full, now there’s a bottle you don’t want to spill in your car. Anyhow, Tigerflag’s night-blooming jasmine is a smell-my-finger inside joke – a laughably ripe jasmine that puts a smile on my face.
Champa attar – “Golden Champa flowers, with the fragrance of magnolia.” I can’t decide about this. A hot-buttered-feet smell that disturbs me the same way hawthorne disturbs me. Does not smell remotely like Ormonde Jayne Champaca (which is why it wound up in my cart.) Can I use the word fecal again, or have I reached my limit for a single post? I wish one of you magnolia-lovers would smell this.
Genda – marigold. Green, almost too bitter/sap-like at first, and then wow, and I don’t even particularly like grassy-green scents. It’s awfully medicinal at first and smells a little bit like weed at full strength. Give it time to stretch its legs.
Gulhina – this. An attar of henna and sandalwood. I don’t know what henna smells like; I just ordered it because it sounded interesting – “a deep, rich fragrance, with hints of tea and the smoothness of bittersweet chocolate.” To that I’ll add an enthusiastic yes, with an additional smell-note that reminds me of Hatch chiles on the smoky air during the fall chile-roasting season in New Mexico. So: chiles plus chocolate flower = win.
Masha sent me some of the White Lotus product, the choyas — because I was so curious about choya nakh, the distillation of roasted seashells on which Aftelier Tango is based. I will note here with a smile that these scents are so potent that I could smell them easily through the sealed mailer, although they were double-bagged inside, each inside its own sealed plastic bag and then in a larger bag.
Choya nakh is exceedingly strange to my western nose, the way one might suppose distilled, roasted seashells might be. I wish I had a sample of Tango to compare it to, to see the way it’s working in that scent, but I don’t. Choya nakh is a brittle, iodine-ish scent that simultaneously attracts and repels me.
Choya loban – “distillation of frankincense.” Okay, I’m not afraid to admit it. I cried. As in, I sat at my keyboard and wept until I had to get up and go find the box of Kleenex. Distillation of frankincense? A lightly, strangely smoked/roasted version of my favorite smell on earth? Like, the angels all got together and decided to have a beachside cookout in Bali, and they built themselves a frankincense fire, and there’s the slightly salty aroma of the sea in the background? Yes, like that. Then I waited 48 hours to get a grip on myself and took a break from watching the World Cup and went upstairs and tried it again. BTW the stuff in the vial is almost black. And I cried again, because how could something smell that beautiful? Go ahead, laugh.
I’m not really into the touchy-feely aspects of scent. I’m not a “natural perfumery” gal. I sniff perfume because I like to smell things, and I’m more or less indifferent to its origins. The whole natural vs. synthetic argument bores me. There, I said it.
But Majmua left me feeling both calm and unusually focused, which is something I struggle with. Majmua was like my own tree-huggy Adderall. I’ve mixed up two larger vials of majmua from my little attar bottle and I’ve worn it all, including an overapplication after which I shrugged at everyone and got in the car, because, hey, I wasn’t washing it off. I’ve decided part of the smell of the majmua I like so much is the beeswax in the solid base Masha made (beeswax + jojoba, melted) to send it to me, so that’s my next experiment. And the choya loban shook something loose inside of me that I don’t understand at all.
Full disclosure: I paid for my order at Tigerflag, including a larger bottle of majmua and a bunch of samples. When Amrita, the woman who runs it, figured out I was the blogger who drove some customers her way, she threw in some additional free samples. I’d guesstimate that half my samples were bought and half gifts. Masha’s samples were from … Masha.
image: gulhina, white lotus aromatics