Monica Miller of Perfume Pharmer is at the center of Primordial Scents, a perfume collection created by over a dozen perfumers who set out to capture the six elements: Air, Earth, Fire, Water, Metal, and Spirit. I am honored to review the Water Collection, consisting of 5 perfumes by talented perfumers, including Mandy Aftel, Justine Crane, Anu Prestonia, Shelley Waddington, and Ane Walsh.
Each perfumer has interpreted Water in utterly stunning and amazing ways. I loved all of the perfumes — each very different — for their facets of Water as experience, element, and life force.
Anu Prestonia’s Sea Scape (Sea)
Wearing Sea Scape is a midnight visit to a tropical sea surrounded by lush flowers. When you first walk toward the shore, you are enveloped with a cool, jasmine-scented breeze. As you walk further, you begin to smell the life of the aquatic: seaweed and sand swirling together in deep blue waters. As you submerge yourself into the water, the scent of the sea becomes stronger as jasmine flowers fade. This scent evoked a particular nighttime swim that I had in Puerto Rico several years ago. Though it did not remind me initially of the Red Sea, which is what Anu had in mind, it definitely was a scent journey that had me sniffing at every slight turn of scent. The smooth transition from floral jasmine into aquatic sea water was very surprising, and to me, the most rewarding experience of wearing this perfume. If this perfume were a color, it would be deep turquoise. If it were photograph, it would be one of you taking a midnight dip into warm, tropical waters, surrounded by jasmine breezes and watching ripples travel over the surface of the moonlit sea.
Shelley Waddington’s A Study in Water (Mist)
We transition from midnight to the break of dawn with A Study in Water. Shelley set out to interpret mist in her perfume, but to me it is dew on forest flowers in the wee hours of the morning. It is a fresh, unisex scent with green, tart top notes like lime and green apple. It is very tenacious at first and then the floral heart notes of muguet (lily of the valley) and neroli become more prominent. If I am not mistaken, this is a mixed media perfume (with natural and fragrance oils) that works well to capture the ability of water to absorb scent from plants. If you’ve ever walked through a misty forest, or touched and smelled the dew on ferns or flowers before the sun melts it away, you know that each droplet of water can hold an orchestra of scent. When you experience this perfume, you walk through a misty, dewy forest with ferns, flowers, and faeries. If it were a color, it would be pale green surrounded by nebulous rays of sunshine.
Ane Walsh’s Essaouria (Sun-Drenched Beach)
We go from the crack of dawn to the peak of the day with Essaouira. Made with homemade coconut absolute and saffron tincture, this scent is vivaciously tropical. It begins with its creamy, gourmand note of coconut enlivened by citrus notes such as orange, lemon, and grapefruit. Essaouira is evocative of a beach party, complete with cocktails, coconut milk, and savory pastries adorned with saffron. However, this is not a cloyingly sweet scent, but rather one that is creamy and boasts a facet of deep and earthy richness from agarwood, oudh, and cedar. To me, Ane’s brilliant interpretation of water captures more than just water. It’s an entire scene with water at the center, complete with delicious food, drinks, coconut trees, and perhaps a Moroccan temple in the distant horizon. If it were a color it would be creamy tan with embedded golden flakes. An unusual perfume and a winning scent.
Justine Crane’s Lylli Bleu (Lake)
After afternoon parties, we transition into a pensive evening with the scent of Lylli Bleu. Lylli Bleu is sacred blue lotus and slate blue lake water. It is a meditative aroma that is filled quite appropriately with many notes used in transcendent, spiritual perfumes: sandalwood, blue lotus, pink lotus, and mitti attar. Of all of the water perfumes, this one is the most distinctive in its departure from literal water elements to an abstract space where water and earth meet almost seamlessly. I later discovered that Justine includes holy water in this scent, which confirmed the sacred orientation I sensed when wearing this perfume. If it were a color, it would be slate blue. The experience: We, as earth elements, may kneel before the lake to observe our reflection and contemplate what our image says about us. But Lylli Bleu draws us beyond our own shallow reflections and into deep waters, into the space where the earth is soaked with water, leaves, and moss — the place where truth lies.
Mandy Aftel’s Rain Bath Oil (Rain)
When we retire after a reflective evening, we are soothed to sleep with Mandy Aftel’s Rain. Ravensara and chamomile seem to meet anise (or perhaps fennel) in this bath oil, but neither of these licorice-like notes are listed in the description, so it could just be the interaction of certain notes in the blend. I wore a tiny bit as perfume and was slowly transported to a rainy night on a relaxing weekend. However, Rain Bath Oil is not the initial downpour, but the second rain. After the first rain has washed away the impurities in the air, the second is clearer, fresher. The air is lighter, hence the “aaah” that I let out upon smelling this scent develop. Chamomile calms and relaxes while ravensara clears and refreshes. If it were a color, it would be the palest blue with the tiniest hint of silver sparkle.