David Falsberg, the avant-garde perfumer behind Phoenicia Perfumes, writes:
"How many dimensions do we smell in? If you answered less than three I've got a counter at Macy's with your name on it."And he means that.
David Falsberg battled and survived Stevens-Johnson syndrome. He lost his eyesight and spent a long time in hospitals. The ordeal changed David's life as well as the way he experiences it. Phoenicia Perfumes was born from David Falsberg's newly-found hypernosmia, an extremely heightened sense of smell. His imagination, sensitivity, and fascination with raw materials are the building blocks of the perfumes stories.
I'm rarely shocked by perfumes nowadays, but the emotional intensity of the four fragrance I tried from Pheonicia Perfumes caught me by surprise; as did the quality of the raw materials that just burst on the skin. The perfumes vary from 80% to 100% natural materials, and you smell it right away. If you have an affinity for animalic and human notes, this is a must-try line.
Gone But Not (notes: Fruit, Elemi and Cognac, White Rose, Jasmine, Musk. EDP, 80% natural).
This is the most perfumy of the bunch, making nostalgic references to fragrances of yore, from classic florals rich in natural oils to beloved drugstore musks. The result is both fun and sexy, with a surprisingly comforting dry-down, like curling on the comfy sofa with an old hand-crocheted afghan.
Rucher Fleuri (notes: aldehydes, honey, galbanum, red rose otto and absolute, white rose absolute, zdravetz (Bulgarian geranium), vanilla, sandalwood, civet. EDP, 80% natural).
I'd like to think that this is what the grand perfumes used to smell like in the 1920s or 30s, when floral notes didn't mean actually smelling like a flower. Rucher Fleuri has a dark and dirty abyss of honey and civet hiding just underneath the rosy facade, and it lasts forever on skin.
Skin Graft (Honey, Iso-E, Jasmine Sambac, Opoponax, Cedar. EDP, 90% natural).
If you think the name is shocking for a perfume, wait till you smell it. The opening is downright scary, especially if you share my anxiety when it comes to medical stuff. Yes, there's pain there, but as the honey warms on skin and gains an incredible human-musk quality (and dare I say civet), a calming sensation descends and envelops me. The way Skin Graft develops reminds me of both MKK (Lutens) and Musk Reinvention (CB I Hate Perfumes)- there's a ferocity that melts into a warm embrace and a feeling of well-being. I'd say this is one of my top five perfumes of the year, however, it has some major competition from---
Realoud (Hindi Oud, Laotian oud, Bulgarian Red Roses, Ruh Khus, Classic Spices, Animalics. EDP, all natural).
Real Oud. And then some. You may think that you know what oud smells like, but unless you've smelled a good Arab mukhallat and/or the Oud Caravan perfumes by AbdesSalaam Attar, you just don't. Sorry, Kilian. Then comes Realoud, which opens so barnyardy I almost laughed as I applied more and more (and more) of the unbelievable aroma. It's incredibly animalic, if you haven't figured it out by now, and the other notes are only there to highlight the depth and the dark folds of the oud. The only thing that matters, though, is the way the perfume behaves and develops on skin. There's little to no resemblance between the first whiff you get in the air or what you smell on a blotter and the true quality of the exquisite perfume on skin. To say that it's sexy doesn't do it justice. What does it even mean? Realoud on skin is a carnal, no-boundaries, no compromise perfume. It's alive and makes the wearer feel alive and unstoppable, kind of like the brilliant perfumer who created it and put his soul into making this the most beautiful thing he could.
You can find Phoenicia Perfumes online (phoeniciaperfumes.com), where you can purchase samples of the above and more. Real Oud come in a 5ml splash bottle ($65) while the others are 15ml spray and priced between $85 and $110. Skin Graft is also offered as a 5ml splash ($45). The samples for this review were sent for my consideration by the perfumer.
Image: Savage Beauty/Alexander McQueen.