POTL A * Maze

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.

image: luckyscent.com

  • March says:

    Patch — mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm — coco and vol de nuit parfum!!! Now THERE are a couple of scents worth contemplating….

  • March says:

    Elle — really?!?!? Dang. I wish I’d gotten more of the Montale end of things… maybe I killed off the base a little?

    I love saffron. LOVE it. Some weird addiction right now.

  • March says:

    R — they definitely could be using all natural ingredients in there, certainly for the musk, and maybe something that adds up to civet. On the other hand, there are a couple of people on MUA who said they contacted the company and was reassured it was actual civet… the perfumer I spoke with said she’s having trouble figuring out how the original could be made naturally, given the notes — again, not being a perfumer, I’m taking her word. But she’s reading cherry, almond, heliotrope-ish smells and thinking: synthetic.:)>-

  • March says:

    Maria — not fair!!! I want comfort and marzipan. Actually … I have had this happen before with cherry/almond stuff (I think) like Rahat? I get Play–Doh. I keep meaning to try to find someone who could maybe explain that to me…

  • March says:

    Vi — actually, I thought of you when I smelled this scent. It’s very pretty. I wonder if you’ll be bored, though.

  • March says:

    Tom — I guess that’s what chafes me. If they want to claim they’re all natural and it’s TRUE, okay, whatever.[-( I’m against trying to have it both ways. I appreciate the concept of natural perfumery, you can get some lovely scents. Some people with chemical sensitivities are happier in that neighborhood, apparently. But you’re not gonna get Jicky or TC…

  • March says:

    Jennifer, okay, I admit it — I wasn’t riveted. But that doesn’t mean someone else won’t be…:)>-

  • patchamour says:

    Dear Patty,
    Wow. Interesting about the civet business. Glad to know there’s a not exactly natural substitute. Thank you so much for the order from Fragrant Fripperies. I love the parfum versions of Coco and Vol de Nuit. There’s an elegant subtlety about both.

  • Elle says:

    Just got my sample. LOVING it. Delicious. Edible. Yes, I am a rose sl*t and I’m a saffron sl*t as well, but I’m not a fan of most of the Rosines, so that had me worried. Blessedly, on my skin it’s more Ta’if and Paestum meet Montale. CC is sobbing in the corner and asking me where all my resolve to accept delayed gratification w/ scent purchasing has gone.
    Robin’s point was brilliant. That very well may be the explanation.

  • Robin says:

    Just want to point out that natural perfumers create accords to mimic other things, just as the mainstream perfumers do…in other words, you could presumably create something out of natural materials to replicate civet without using either real civet or a synthetic replacement. Not saying they did, just saying it is *possible* that they aren’t lying at all. But perfume houses do bandy the term “natural” around rather casually…

  • Maria B. says:

    I’m with Tom. Whenever someone tells me a product is all-natural, I mention poison ivy, ragweed, rattlesnake venom, and on and on until the person is well and truly sorry to have brought it up. :d

    While I’m being Monday-morning grouchy (%), I’ll observe that some people just can’t be satisfied. :)>- The first POTL was too weird. The new one is too normal. Maybe TPTB at POTL decided they didn’t want a repeat of having their creation being compared to a child’s play product. But then, I’m one of those lucky people on whom Luctor et Emergo smells like comfort and marzipan. >:)

  • violetnoir says:

    Oh yeah! I love luckyscent, too, March.

    I should be receiving my sample today, but I am not expecting anything groundbreaking. Oh well, the anticipation was fun while it lasted. :”>

    And, you are correct: Sounds like the “natural” claims are, shall we say, inaccurate. Oopsy!


  • tmp00 says:

    I’m interested to try it, if only to see if it could possibly be as awful on me as LetE.

    Glad to read about the civet; I’d rather have them fudge the whole “all natural” bit that use the real stuff.

    Can someone explain the me why “all natural” is supposed to be so great? Poison Oak is “all natural” and I really don’t recommend slathering that on…..

  • Jennifer says:

    I admit it sounds gorgeous too me with the saffron and rose in it but at the same time there is nothing else riveting happening here in the scent.

  • March says:

    Gaia — order away, honey, it’s not-quite-natural according to the POTL backpedal (see my update in the post.);)

  • March says:

    Elle — thanks so much, I stuck an update in the post.

  • March says:

    Marina — you won’t HATE it. It’s fine.


    You won’t love it, either. You broke up with your BFF saffron, anyway, and what’s left isn’t going to blow your skirt up, in my opinion. But let me know!

  • March says:

    P — babe, I am shocked, SHOCKED that this turned out not to be entirely “natural”[-(

    I’m thinking you’ll like this one. Hey, is it true those bottles are a b!tch to decant from? How do you do it?

  • March says:

    Christine — have no fears — by “natural,” what they meant was … “synthetic.” (See my update.):-“

  • I was about to order a sample, but I think I’ll wait until the civet issue is cleared up. I read enough to know that many wonderful notes are synthetic, and being a vegetarian, I’m all for it.

  • Elle says:

    YAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 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.

    Kastanjelaan 22g 6828 GL Arnhem The Netherlands

    Phone: +31 (0)26 3513269

  • Marina says:

    Will I hate this? 😀

  • Patty says:

    I’d be shocked if it was real civet. I hope they are careful about that claim, unless it really is real, then it’s something we should know.

    Since I love the de Rosines, I think I’ll probably love this one too, yeah!!!

  • Christine says:

    Oh I had such high hopes for this one…although natural civet gives me pause. Goodness, I hope not, especially when it can be done artificially.

  • March says:

    Jill — yes, the musk could definitely be ambrette (BTW the perfumer I asked said if I sent her a sample she’d try to sort it out.) The civet, if true, is maybe not going to go over with the public quite the way POTL thought of when they proudly proclaimed their all-naturalness…/:)

  • March says:

    Elle — perfumer X I spoke to can’t see how they’re making it all-natural at the price (too low). Also she looked at the notes for the original POTL on the website. She says some of the notes listed for the original she cannot think of a way they’re doing naturally. She was very diplomatic about the whole thing, but I’m dubious about the claims. If it’s true, well, then I wouldn’t necessarily be bragging either — I think a lot of people who buy natural won’t be enchanted with the civet detail. Let me know what you find out, please.

  • March says:

    Judith — I deleted the sentence where I basically complained about this being a rose scent:d I’m not the Queen of Roses, and for the time being that’s just the way things are. Even Ta’if, which I think is gorgeous, I never choose to wear. If you like roses, however, I think you might be thrilled. Still, though — edgy or unusual it’s not.

  • jill says:

    There is a “vegetable” musk, made from hibiscus abelmoschus seeds, also called ambrette. Most likely, the civet is real, it’s still being used.

  • March says:

    S — the life of a civet cat is not filled with joy, according to some of what I’ve read (and the perfumer). So if their civet is “natural” they got it the good, ol’ fashioned way — from a caged animal that’s allegedly constantly tormented (prodded with sticks etc.) to release more of the scent…

  • Elle says:

    Called the main store and then the home office. Extremely nice at both places I spoke to, but couldn’t really say about natural or synthetic. The woman at the home office said she’d email me w/ more info when she can find it.

  • Elle says:

    I’m also skeptical(very) about the civet. I really can’t believe at that price it has real civet and I can’t believe that they’d use it in the first place. I need to call POTL this morning and ask. Hope they speak English. Hope they have some clue. As a hard core POTL fan, hope they have the answer I want to hear. Will be interested in seeing how this works on me when my sample arrives (hopefully, today).

  • Judith says:

    You sound less happy with it than Ina. Mine is coming in the mail—I wonder how I’ll feel?

  • hausvonstone says:

    hey there – according to the MUA boards, a MUA-er in the Netherlands asked them and they said it was real civet from the animal. Yuck.