Perfumes and Place

SITE Santa Fe.

Hang on to your hats, people – it’s a perfume review!

I go to SITE Santa Fe up the street all the time – it’s close by, and it’s a newer, modern building that feels like it could be in Chicago or L.A.  I love Canyon Road and all the little galleries with their warren-like rooms full of southwestern landscapes and coyotes and whatnot, but a light, airy building full of modern art is a welcome contrast, you know?  It’s free, and I walk over there a lot in winter just to get out of the house.

They have an exhibit by Jeffrey Gibson (native, Choctaw/Cherokee) that I’m just wild for – especially this one big room with three colorful monoliths that (upon closer inspection) are made of tens of thousands of lengths of cord that looks like woven satin – so, a little texture and sheen to them.  The colors are on a gradient and in the lighting, as the air moves them slightly, the “surface” of the monoliths appears to gently pulsate.  It’s pretty trippy, even without any psychotropic enhancement.  I’ve included a couple of photos — the cover image for this post is a close-up.

Anyway, they have a gift shop by the front entrance full of interesting, modern, not-Santa-Fe things and it’s always a fun browse.  I ran across this perfume line, L’Aventura, and when I realized that 1) I could smell them and 2) they’re really quite nice, I decided to post about them.

From their website: “L’Aventura Perfumes is a collection of uncommon, non-binary fragrances. We build soulful, articulate scents that challenge the expected and transcend persona, gender, time and place. Our perfumes are designed to allow space for you to inhabit…”  Poking around their website while writing this up, I realized: holy guacamole, they’re a Santa Fe perfumer!  How did I not know this?!?  Happy to spread the word…

I think they were … a smart choice for a modern gallery here?  They’re interesting without being too weird or omnipresent, and you could pick one up as a local or a tourist and feel happy about it, whether or not you’re “into” fragrance.  They also feel very much suggestive of “place,” if that makes any sense, and I think they’d make excellent ambient sprays for the home in addition to wearing them.  I wore all these twice on my skin for most of the day.

Lions in the Library – labdanum, bitter orange, old books, cistus, cashmeran, civet. Not sure about the lions, to my nose it’s a very civilized library, I’d have liked more civet, but that’s just freaky ol’ me. It really does smell of old books on the drydown, though, so that’s a win. Unisexy and easy to wear.

Sanctuary – palo santo, char, amber, holy bourbon, benzoin, costus.  This smells about like you’d expect given those notes, and it is marvelous.  It makes me think of the inside of really old churches in Europe, when the smell is more smoke-and-damp-earth forward rather than purely incense, although that’s there too. The strongest of the bunch.

The Faraway – desert sage, juniper, salt cedar, sedge grass, warm sandstone. The one that initially piqued my interest.  It smells so Santa Fe, that unique smell of outdoors in summer monsoon season, and I mean that as high praise, it’s a glorious smell.  Warm, pungent, and faintly, vegetally sweet all at once. I didn’t realize until later that the company’s local.  No wonder it’s so perfectly evocative of northern New Mexico.

Cotillion – orange blossom, jasmine, carnation, Spanish moss, tobacco, clipped lawn. Truly, it’s very pretty, and probably the most traditionally “feminine” if we’re categorizing, but I found it the least compelling because it’s the most conventional. More lawn, maybe?

Mothlight – lemon, pink peppercorn, ambrette seed, snuffed candle, sandalwood, musks.  So, this was the sleeper for me; it’s the most subtle and skin-scent of the bunch, once the lemon/pepper/sandalwood settles down.  But it’s the one I kept returning to, because my God, snuffed candles – one of my all-time favorite smells.  Who wants to smell like warm skin and snuffed candles?  Me, apparently.  Also I want to try it layered with Sanctuary.

I didn’t write all the prices down at SITE but I think they’re close to those on the website – 10ml travel sprays for $26ish, and a 5 x 4ml discovery set (that one’s significantly cheaper from the L’Aventura website, $26 vs. $44 at SITE), full 50ml bottles $125, free shipping from L’Aventura at $50.

  • Musette says:

    omg! Squeeee! YOU CAN SMELL THEM!!!

    Squ to the effin’ UEEEEEE!

    And they also sound like interesting scents.



    • March says:

      They were really nice, and I could smell them! Still seems to come and go … hopefully more coming and less going.

  • Maya says:

    I’m happy for you that your sniffer is starting up again! Sanctuary sounds interesting and since I like “pretty”, so does Cotillion.

  • alityke says:

    Excellent news on the return of a working olfactory system.
    I’m so envious of the US having these small makers & producers of good fragrances. There are so few in the UK

  • Dina C. says:

    Yay! So glad your nose agreed to work! That art is really cool. I’m always impressed when artists come up with art that isn’t paintings done with paint. Like, how did they think of that idea in the first place? So neat. As for L’Aventura: also very neat! Lions in the Library and Sanctuary both sound very good, and your descriptions of all of them make me intrigued to sniff them all.

    • March says:

      I was so surprised at being able to smell them, and so pleased! (lots of times it’s: nope, nothing.) And I think they’re very well priced. I know — I love art like that. There was a great video work as well, and whole rooms of interesting not-paintings.

  • rosarita says:

    Yay, glad you can smell these! They all sound good, esp Sanctuary.

    • March says:

      I’m waffling, I think I’m going to buy Sanctuary and Mothlight travel sprays, they are certainly well priced! THRILLED that my nose was working.

  • cinnamon says:

    Hurrah on smelling things and that gallery sounds great. I want to try all of those but snuffed candles and libraries … plus the one with sacred bourbon. And 26 dollars for a travel size is awesome.

    • cinnamon says:

      Oy. That sounds negative but was meant to be positive.

      • March says:

        No, I know what you meant! I was surprised that I at least liked them all, which doesn’t happen often when looking at a line — there’s usually at least one NOPE!

    • March says:

      Honestly, I think the price is super-reasonable, especially given some of the prices these days. I think I’m going to pick up a couple of the travel sprays.

  • Tom says:

    I’m so glad you can smell them! I’m liking the Lions and Sanctuary (although “holy” bourbon? Holy moley..) I might have to for the discover set.

    The art is really cool too..

    • March says:

      Yeah, holy bourbon, no idea (shrug) but I was pleasantly surprised at how NICE they were, how interesting and unexpected. And that I could smell them!

    • Musette says:

      I’m a YUUUGE! fan of bourbon and if I’m in a mood – and the bourbon’s good… I could consider it ‘holy’.


  • Shiva-woman says:

    I’m feeling pretty enthusiastic about all these: yes on the lions, the faraway, the mothlight–and travel sprays! Yeah! They sound distinctly American Southwest.

    • March says:

      I liked and would wear every single one, which is unusual. And they do feel very much at home here. Santa Fe isn’t a big “weird scent” town. But they’d work anywhere you need something not too in-your-face!

  • Portia says:

    These sound WONDERFUL March, and you can smell them.
    Those thread sculptures are so inventive.
    Portia xx

    • March says:

      I was STUNNED when I picked up the first one and could actually smell it … and then the others! It was a delightful bonus finish to a really lovely gallery visit. I’ve been back several times to see those string-monoliths, actually — they’re huge and really impressive in real life.