Scent Gourmand

sinless pleasure for the perfume glutton

Tag: Lush

Sikkim Girls by LUSH (Gorilla Perfumes)

from-lushs-gorilla-perfume

Get a whiff of this:

It’s late summer and you’re camping with a few close friends – somewhere tropical or subtropical – to me a memory of Okinawa comes to mind. You’re back from a late afternoon jaunt in the woods, and feel slightly sweaty and grubby from the waning heat of the day that has melted some foliage onto your legs. The air is still thick and sweet but beginning to cool. One of your friends is piecing together the start of a campfire, not to warm up, but to cook dinner on, and another passes you a cup of Jasmine tea as you sit yourself down in an old Coleman camp chair and place the cup under your nose, so the warm, aromatic steam can gently soften your face with sweet moisture. Your hippie friend has lit several sticks of Indian Nag Champa incense, to clear the air from her farting tent-mate, she says, but you smell no traces of the latter. Your old chair feels delightfully soft and warm and you laugh as one of your more attractive camp mates surprises you from behind by pouring a small bag full of collected frangipani flowers over your head. He knows you like them.

This warm, sensual and exotic fragrance created by father and son team Simon and Mark Constantine conjures up thoughts of hippies, and as such I can imagine the likes of Janice Joplin enjoying this scent that is Sikkim Girls. That’s definitely due to the Indian incense vibe that wafts off from the fumes. I have never been particularly partial to hippiedom, at least the fashion, and when it comes to incense I much prefer the scents that drift out of my local places of worship where I live here in Japan.

That said, I found myself continually diving back down another sniff of my wrist all afternoon in a café while doing some editing work after having held my breath to make it in and out of the Lush store down the street without procuring a headache.

No, I have never been partial to the Lush brand. The projection of the cluster-four-letter-word of enormous and clashing scents that shoot loudly off  from their cosmetics, emanating all together from one bright little, in-your-face outlet adorned with lively, enthusiastic sales staff has always driven me to run, not walk, in the opposite direction. I find the obnoxiousness of the brand contradicts somewhat with the message of “naturalness” that is their claim. I mean, how natural can neon green-colored soap really be? Seriously. And like the other UK powerhouse cosmetics store, The Body Shop, Lush says no to animal testing, which I’m most certain animals are indelibly grateful for, but I am personally grateful to all the little beasties out there who have unwillingly sacrificed their lives, over many years in the past, for my safety as a cosmetics consumer.

One cannot deny that testing products on animals has avoided all sorts of nasty contraindications in humans, including death. Not that I am pro-animal testing here, I’m just saying. I’ve actually been a vegetarian, aspiring to veganism, for almost 25 years, if that means anything. Are all Lush and The Body Shop customers hard-core vegan animal-rights activists? Undoubtedly some are, but I bet a lot of them like the fact that the marketing makes them feel a bit more conscientious than they perhaps really are, and I just think that some companies out there are simply capitalizing on all this trendy, left-of-center stuff. Or maybe I’m just cynical. Perhaps the people behind the company really do have pure and caring souls. I may never know.

Speaking of this concept of “naturalness,” I’m actually neither pro nor against the use of either natural or synthetic ingredients in perfumery. There is in fact a lot in nature that can harm, and synthetics are not necessarily nasty. Substituting a synthetic fragrance ingredient can indeed help save endangered species, be more humane, and reduce production costs, but I do doubt the extent to which real musk, ambergris, or castoreum can be well-replicated. Oh well, perhaps being progressive means letting go of the power such ingredients have, and searching out new, completely different and likely synthetic ones that hold equal allure as perfumery notes?

Anyway, I’ve gone off on a bit of a rant here. Basically I want to say that after sampling a few of the Lush fragrances in the company’s earlier days, I never gave the brand any further consideration. When Volume 2 of the Gorilla Perfume line was launched in 2013, packaged in containers that look like toilet rolls bearing gaudy comic renditions of a, surprise – Gorilla, I was doubtful. I don’t mean to put down illustrator Steven Krakow, as I actually don’t mind pop art, but gimmicky stuff brings out the snob in me. Honoré des Prés has done something similar with their We Love NY collection, which uses paper coffee cups, à la Starbucks, for packaging.

Anyway, after tuning into some of the media attention some of the smells were getting (and do notice that I deliberately use the word “smell” here, not scent or fragrance) I decided that I should bravely take a dive, with noseplugs in my pocket in case of dire need, into a wee Lush chain to get a whiff of what was going on. For pure originality, I must suggest that you get your nose on “The Voice of Reason,” “The Bug” and the extremely strange, seaweedy “Lord of Goathorn” if you have not already. I don’t feel any in the collection smell particularly well-rounded or finished, but they are interesting.

Sikkim Girls, to my nose, is the only scent in this collection that I would want to wear, rather than being an interesting smell that I would perhaps more likely enjoy sniffing from the bottle. It’s not as original as some of the others, and it is also rather linear. But it is also an intoxicating, seductive, regal yet unpretentious and subtle blend of frangipani (plumeria), tuberose, and jasmine – all powerful and heady white blossoms. On my skin the floral combo smells like the flowers were picked at the perfect time. Earlier and I’d get a tart prudish sort of fume; later, and I’d get an overly ripe, fit-for-the-bin feel.

It smells to me like there might also be a pinch of rose in the bouquet, and these florals lie comfortably on a fluffy futon of silky, honey-ish vanilla. Although there is no incense in the fragrance per se, the dustiness and the floral combo itself most definitely bring to mind Indian Nag Champa. The scent has a teasing bite to it for the first hour. We are talking about some heady florals, after all. Once they’ve exhausted themselves from all the jumping up and down on the futon, the flowers collapse into the velvety vanilla, which cheerfully soaks them up, and then proceeds to burp up a very subtle, clean, and soapy musk at the end. On warm, well-lubricated skin, this scent will last a few hours, but won’t be loud for most of its life. On dry skin I find this scent fades much more quickly than I would like – get out some cream to keep it going!

UK musician Sheema Mukherjee composed a wistful melody and brought it back from Darjeeling, naming it after two so-called, “Sikkim Girls,” who apparently could charm a man with just a sidelong glance and sensual sway of their hips. Lush’s Gorilla perfumers decided “to match her song with theirs, blending notes of their own to invoke intoxicating temptation.”

Sikkim Girls bears a resemblance to what you might get if Guerlain’s Nahema and Tauer’s Le Maroc Pour Elle had a child together. You kind of feel like you are in a rather sensual day dream when you wear it. You can snatch yourself a bottle at any LUSH cosmetics store in your area, or try eBay.

From Fragrantica:

  • OLFACTORY GROUP: floral
  • MAIN ACCORDS: white floral, vanilla, tuberose, animalic, citrus
  • TOP NOTES: —
  • MIDDLE NOTES: frangipani, tuberose, jasmine, vanilla
  • BASE NOTES: —

20 brands that make solid perfume

solid-perfume-brands

If the DYI route to making solid perfume is not your thing, there are plenty of manufactures of perfume in solid form. Commercially-available solid perfumes have a tendency to stem from natural perfumery companies, some of you might be happy to know. I get pretty excited when it comes to perfume, but most of the brands I know and love do not serve up scent in solid form. But here’s a list of 20 brands I enjoyed researching, half with which I was surprisingly unfamiliar.

1) Aroamas

This company has designed its scents exclusively with the traveler in mind. Small sized, lightweight, stick-shaped packaging means you can easily carry a few scents with you on your trip without perceptibly impacting your baggage weight or size. I haven’t yet tried any of their smellies, so I cannot give their line a thumbs up just yet, but I approve based just on their savvy concept. They’ve even given cleverly appropriate names to their fragrances, like Bermuda Triangle, My Thai, Parisian, and Journey. You can get all ten in their current collection for $80 (Australian dollars, I presume, as that is where they are made).

They have “man scents” as well, but please note that the male-female fragrance marketing concept done pretty much everywhere is a load of utter hogwash! Who says florals are feminine and musks are masculine? This irks me to no end, but I acknowledge that it does work for sales, if marketing research results are any indication. In any case, I hope they smell good and last more than a wee hour.

2) LUSH

UK company Lush Cosmetics seems to have a presence in a great many cities worldwide. The smells wafting out of their branch shops are overpowering (I get a headache just walking by a store, and the average schnoz can detect a retail presence a block away), but a few of the perfumes are actually half-decent and not unoriginal by any stretch, and yes, they are sold in solid form in light tin packaging as well. As Lush products are not high end, in my opinion, I feel their prices are inflated.

3) Pacifica

Pacifica offers a variety of natural perfume options – spray, roll-on, and solid. All are vegan and cruelty-free. Spray perfumes are made with corn-based alcohol and a blend of essential and natural oils. There are no parabens, gluten, or artificial colors. The solid perfumes in lightweight tins are made with a blend of coconut, soy, and apricot waxes. Nice! My favourite from the line is Mediterranean Fig, which is delightful for summer. I can confirm that the fragrances I’ve tried from their line are neither strong nor long-lasting, however.

4) L’Occitane en Provence

In major Japanese cities, L’Occitane is even more omnipresent than Lush. Japanese tend to go for the light, floral, and mainstream stuff, and this brand does not disappoint. In contrast, I don’t think Lush perfumes do as well here as some of them are little too original (though their bath stuff does well). I have bought several items from L’Occitane over the years, but the only bottle of fragrance I’ve ever happily purchased is their Verbena, which is a citrus scent great for particularly hot summers. Sadly, citrus notes don’t last long on the skin. Like Lush, I also feel L’Occitane is a tad pricey for what it is. In any case, although not always available online, they often sell solid versions of their fragrances.

5) Ganesha’s Garden

This small company handcrafts solid perfume that comes in a fair-trade, carved soapstone box from Agra, India. The perfume base is made of beeswax, coconut oil, and sweet almond oil, with vitamin E as a natural preservative. Yes, all natural! There are 12 exotic scents to choose from, such as patchouli, sandalwood, white lotus, and green tea. I have not tried any of their stuff, as the hippy image is not my style, and I imagine I’d be scooping out the buttery delights to smash into one of my uber lightweight tins if I did possess one of these, as their stone boxes look very weighty and impractical for travel, and travel is the only reason I use solid perfume (and I don’t really like how they look, either, to be honest).

6) Indah

Australian Indah Organics sells solid perfume balms made with a blend of coconut and castor seed oils, beeswax, and shea butter, and a variety of pure essential oils. The products are palm oil and cruelty-free, and the company is committed to being responsible and transparent. Although a bit less than Ganesha’s Garden, there still is a hippy vibe to this brand. Their tin packages appear to be practical for travel.

7) Crazylibellule and the Poppies

The creator of this perfume brand from France is the founder of the wildly popular Sephora beauty retailer (which she sold back in 1997). Translated, the company name means “crazy dragonfly and the poppies,” and its chief product is the Crazy Stick, or parfum solide en stick.

8) Sweet Anthem Perfumes

This company sells a total of 26 different affordable scents in solid twist stick in lightweight plastic. They also sell their solid perfumes in beautiful compact cases, which are course weightier, but very pretty. And their solid refill cartridges for these go for 12 USD. Can’t say I’d heard of them or tried them, or that I personally find the brand particularly enticing, but they might be good.

9) Mélange Perfume

French-inspired but out of LA, Mélange singles contain the companies most popular fragrance blends in a signature base of natural beeswax and jojoba oil. Mélange claims that their perfectly-formed solid perfume glides onto the skin and disperses the fragrance beautifully. They are double the size of many solid compact and are decent for travel, selling for 18 USD each.

10) Patch NCY

Soap and paper factory Patch NYC offers 12 fragrances in solid form, all with very trendy bespoke packaging. The company started off making hats, interestingly, and now has a whole line of lifestyle and home design products, including solid perfume. Again, I’ve no idea about the quality of their fragrances, but the their solid perfumes, which are all oil-based balms made from jojoba and beeswax, come in some seriously adorable little travel-size jars.

11) Ape to Gentleman

Here’s something different. The retaW fragrance solid perfume option from Ape to Gentlemen is contained in an aluminium tube, which is compact and chock full of scent. It’s available in four popular fragrances that are evidently marketed toward men. Interestingly, the website automatically displayed the price in Japanese yen for me, which was 1800 (about 15 USD at the current exchange rate). This is definitely a great one for travel, as you can roll it down to save space as you use it up. Knowing me, I’d loose the bloody cap as it’s so little…

12) Tokyo Milk

No, the brand does not hail from Tokyo, let me assure you. But the company is trendy in its vintage appeal, and I’ve been tempted to buy from them many times before. On occasion, they offer solid forms of their perfumes, but last I checked they were only offering one – their Sugar Plum scent, selling for 18 USD.

13) Roots Rose Radish

This California brand has a very high-quality, all-natural bespoke feel to it. Their solid, apothecary perfumes are sold in beautifully hand-crafted shells that are not exactly practical, but rather stunning, I think. The company is “dedicated to creating sustainable health and beauty care with the highest quality ingredients.” The ingredients used are handpicked (therefore local) and all are handmade. The fragrances are beautifully simple in composition as well.

14) True Nature Botanicals

True Nature Botanicals boasts a toxins-free approach to perfumery. They only sell 3 scents – Noble Citrus, Noble Woods, and Noble Foral – and they are only available in solid form. What’s more, they are only available online. Their scents are not cheap, but that’s likely because they “spare no expense when it comes to ingredients.” They claim they spend at least 5 times more on ingredients than the leading luxury skin care and perfume brands. I think the canisters are metal however, which are likely heavy.

It’s not surprising that they would spend more on ingredients to justify their pricing. Mainstream designer brands of perfume, like those you find at duty-free shops, are notorious for using cheap synthetics; the money they do use goes into heavy fashion marketing techniques. I don’t personally mind spending money on fragrance (Geez, if I think about the money I’ve put into scent sensations over years past…), nor am I 100% averse to the use of synthetics, to be frank. But I tend to favor niche brands, which are also expensive, but that’s often a result of their typically quality ingredients and more often occurring fragrance artistry.

15) Frazer Parfum

Perfumer Tammy Violet Frazer “works only with the finest quality raw materials celebrates art and design while spearheading African luxury.” While the organic and natural perfume products produced in a sustainable manner, and while the perfumes themselves seem exquisite, this brand’s biggest and most obvious appeal to travelers are the containers, most of beautifully carved wood, handcrafted in collaboration with local artists. Check out the company’s YouTube channel. Caveat emptor: this will definitely leak if allowed to melt!

16) Diptyque

Moving away from the wallet-friendly smellies, Diptyque is 4-5 times pricier than most of the previous brands on this list and more mainstream in its ingredient choices. However, their stuff smells pretty frickin’ amazing, and they are one of my favourite brands, though I do have many favourites when it comes to perfume. Paris-based Diptyque has been developing their sophisticated collection of personal fragrances for over 40 years. However, their beautiful containers for the solid versions of their perfumes are too heavy. I have a little bit of their best-selling Philosykos (another fig concoction) left, so I may make my own solid perfume out of it. Wait, who am I kidding? It’ll be gone in a week.

17) Aftelier

Aftelier Perfumes is another one of my high-end favs, and this French line boasts all-natural ingredients. I believe all the company’s scents are all available in a solid base of organic unfiltered beeswax and jojoba oil. They come in a variety of gorgeous custom cases that will dig deeply into your travel budget, however. But if you are in love the cases, which although metal do not appear too weighty, it’s quite possible she’ll sell them empty so you can add in your own concoctions.

18) Le LABO

Le Labo fragrances of New York (and Grasse – the French center of perfume, of course!) sells its classic collection in solid form, and you can buy refills separately. The container is heavy-looking, but two refills will cost less than half of the original in its fancy-pants metallic container. Why is it that luxury needs to be translated by having such weighty packaging? This is annoying for travel.

19) Bond No. 9

Bond No. 9 is a NY house that names all its fragrances after New York City neighborhoods, which is a winning marketing concept. One of their scents, China Town, has been acclaimed as a masterpiece, and I also really love New Harlem, which smells like maple syrup, coffee, french toast and a touch of tobacco. It’s pretty frickin’ lush, and I still have a decanter left in my collection. A few of their scents are available in solid form, but the often crystal-embossed, beautiful metal containers do look heavy.

20) Amouage

Amouage, I would say, is one of the most refined of international brands, and many of this house’s fragrances appeal to my senses, though not my wallet. I have never owned a bottle from Amouage, but I have gone through many samples. Their solid versions, although far from cheap, are a lot more affordable. As you would guess, the compact case is made of a weighty metal, but it is divine, and if I owned a compact I would use and recycle it for my DYI perfumes after its contents depleted. When I was in Dubai, I must have accumulated hours in the malls browsing in boutiques like Amouage. Middle Easterners love their fragrances, and they like them powerful and rich, too. Here in Japan, the custom is to perfume the air, not the body, and the preferred olfactory stimulation is light and unobtrusive. I am most definitely someone who lives in the former camp.

Whether you make your own or buy a brand, here’s to smelling good on the move! Did I miss any solid fragrance brands you would recommend?

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