I embrace the totality of twenty-first century perfumery. I love crispy aldehydes, Iso E Super and the toothache-sweet gourmands that only aroma chemicals can yield, but also the green mosses, indolic florals and dark, sticky resins of natural/organic perfumes. Some of the most exciting things happening in perfumery today are happening in the natural perfume category. Contemporary natural perfumers are finding new uses for ancient techniques, applying them to the abundant fruits, flowers and herbs produced by modern agriculture and global supply chains. They’re also taking advantage of new technologies that yield natural fragrance components from materials that were previously impervious to traditional extraction methods. If it has been awhile since you sampled any natural perfumes, this is a great year to try them and I am confident you’re in for a pleasant surprise.
Some of my best-loved solid perfumes that I’ve covered for the blog are from natural perfumeries: Aftelier, Velvet & Sweet Pea’s Purrfumery, Othús, Jade Forest Co., Organic Perfume Girl… I’m pleased to add another house to this list: Midnight Gypsy Alchemy. I found the brand through an Etsy search for solid perfumes and was dazzled by their range, their packaging and the fragrance concepts. Perfumer and proprietor Nina Terry works her magic in perfume oils and solid perfumes, taking inspiration from her own family traditions of herbal healing and building on it with a deeper study of natural perfumery. The results are a magical mix of dark and light, ancient and modern, methodology and instinct.
I’ve now tried four fragrances (three solid, one liquid) from Midnight Gypsy Alchemy, and while they’re very different from one another, the silver thread connecting them all is the very graceful balancing of ingredients achieved by Nina. They’re incredibly complex scents, even when the “notes” or “ingredients” list isn’t long. Each sniff reveals a new angle, a subtle harmony of two or three notes that won’t be there the next time I sniff, but is sure to be replaced by something else just as interesting. In my experience, this kind of magic is found only in natural perfumes, and it makes up for the (sometimes) subtle sillage and (sometimes) fleeting persistence of naturals. For example, as pleasant as a synthetic jasmine scent may be, science hasn’t yet found a way to completely capture the intense, multi-faceted experience of smelling true Jasminum grandiflorum absolute. Natural fragrances are the only way to get it right now, and in the hands of a skilled perfumer, this magical aroma can be raised to an even higher level with the proper supporting notes.
I ordered three solid fragrance samples: Pavo Real, Ancient Oak and Violeta Divina. I also received a liquid sample of The Mystic Sun. The solid samples are packaged in small plastic jars with the Midnight Gypsy Alchemy moth insignia on the top and a paper label identifying the scent on the bottom. My samples were packaged with illustrated product information cards in a black mesh bag. The bag itself was wrapped in a black and gray filigree envelope and tied with a rhinestone-adorned ribbon. Talk about #makingsampleslookpretty (one of my fave hashtags on Instagram, started by Kati of scentusiast_)!
The solid samples are .5 grams (about a teaspoon) each–more than enough to try multiple times before buying an full-size half-ounce tin. The base for these solids is soy wax, grapeseed oil and cocoa butter so they’re vegan-friendly. (The liquids are in a mix of plant-based oils, too.) The solids are firm but easily spreadable and soak into the skin without oily residue.
I selected Pavo Real (Spanish for “peacock”) because of its strawberry note. The blend features natural strawberry extract, jasmine, honeysuckle infusion, rose, orris root absolutes, orange blossom, vetiver, patchouli, bergamot, clove and coriander, delicately infused with real strawberry fruit, patchouli leaves, orange peels and rose petals. I expected natural strawberry would be a subtle note–the intensity of of a Bath and Body Works-type strawberry note can’t be achieved with the techniques available to natural perfumers. The strawberry is present and noticeable, but fleeting, and the blend as a whole is not sweet, but this is not a bad thing. Instead, Pavo Real is a delightful chypre floral to my nose, recalling the beautiful classic soapy chypres I remember from my youth. Things like Jontue and Intimate and Thymes Goldleaf come to mind, though Pavo Real is a much more subdued and wearable fragrance than any of those. The longevity is good–about five hours, and the sillage is intimate upon application, becoming a skin scent in an hour or so. If you lament the fruit punch and vanilla frosting of today’s fragrances, Pavo Real will be a breath of fresh air.
Violeta Divina lured me with its promise of violet pastilles, specifically the CHoward candies that are hard to find today but oh so fragrant and delicious. Made with violet leaf and jasmine sambac absolutes, ambrette seed CO2, black currant, carrot seed, guaiacwood, cedarwood, ylang ylang, Hawaiian sandalwood, amyris, myrrh, and tonka bean, infused with cedarwood chips, myrrh resins, tonka bean pods and jasmine flower petals, Violeta Divina is a sophisticated shape-shifter, moving from those violet candies to the green flower stems, down to the powdery wood that rounds out the fragrance. There’s something very glamorous and “old Hollywood” about this one, kind of like the scent of those violet candies being carried in a fine leather purse next to lipstick and face powder. In the solid format, it’s a skin scent almost immediately but lingers a good four hours or so. I would like to try this one in the liquid format for comparison.
Ancient Oak brought a smile to my face upon first whiff. I adore fig fragrances and this one has a gorgeous green fig opening. Ancient Oak features oak moss and Balsam Peru resin and vanilla absolute, infused with fig fruit extract, real figs, green tea leaves and vanilla beans. That’s the shortest notes list of the four, but the experience of the fragrance is deep and satisfying as the scent evolves from green figs with fresh cream to smoky vanilla to freshly-cut wood and sawdust. I think any of the scents I sampled here are fair game for any gender, but Ancient Oak in particular smells wonderful on a man. (Or on my husband, at least.) This one also had the best projection, staying intimate and detectible several inches above the skin, and lasting six to seven hours.
The Mystic Sun liquid sample was a gift with my purchase and is not one whose notes list would have grabbed me: Bulgarian rose, blue lotus, black currant and narcissus absolutes, elemi, French lavender, lemongrass, amyris, carrot seed, black pepper, Balsam of Peru, ambrette seed CO2, infused with dried organic lemon peels, lavender buds and rose petals. I don’t generally gravitate to rose notes or lavender. This fragrance was a reminder that I generally can’t tell what a fragrance will smell like just by looking at its notes and therefore, it was a happy surprise. Delicious sweet lemon dominates the top before the fragrance yields to an enticing melange that I can best describe as “Provence in summertime.” No single note stands out beyond the lemon but the effect of The Mystic Sun as a whole is beautiful and powerful. It’s clean, sunny, slightly earthy and herbal. This would be a perfect daytime/office fragrance for any season.
Please visit the Midnight Gypsy Alchemy official website to learn more and view a list of all the scents, sorted by category. Solid and liquid fragrances may be ordered via the website, and international shipping of Midnight Gypsy Alchemy products is available via their Etsy shop.
All images by me. (All cat hairs in those images courtesy of my cat, Vinny. Oof!)