Sometimes a perfume arrives in your life at exactly when you need them. That was the case with the newest Aroma M Geisha perfume, Vanilla Hinoki. Perfumer Maria McElroy sent me the sample a couple of weeks ago and I cracked it open the day I sprained the top of my left foot. I have a decent pain threshold (got the ruptured appendix to show for it), but the thing I can't deal with is being restricted ("You don't say" ---my mother). It makes me comically crabby.
The first whiff of Geisha Vanilla Hinoki filled my mind with a much-needed sensation of well-being. It's calming and gentle without what we usually think of as the comfort scent characteristics: nothing edible, no grandma's kitchen, no fuzzy musks to wrap around our shoulders, Instead, perfumer Maria McElroy of Aroma M has drawn her inspiration from Japanese mountainside hanging hot tubs built of hinoki wood (Japanese cypress). An outdoors spa at its very best, isn't it?
I've been soaking my foot daily in aromatic salts, keeping it warm and pampered, and doing various facial treatments (lots of Asian sheet masks) to keep myself occupied and immobile while reading Game of Thrones recaps. I've also been wearing Geisha Hinoki vanilla and pondering its unique qualities. My nose and brain tell me that there's a weather-beaten smoky vanilla in this composition, but it's a very unique one, free of sweetness, gourmand references, and even the orchid-like floral facet of this note. This is a green vanilla: herbal, aromatic, slightly coniferous, and kind of outdoorsy. The spa/bath house vibe continues with a hint of green soap and steam, which makes me think of perfumes with a rice steam accord, and that's probably what Maria McElrory's vanilla is doing.
The satisfying and relaxing sensation exists in both the oil and eau de parfum versions. When it comes to Aroma M Geisha perfumes I tend to prefer the oils for their intimacy. In Geisha Vanilla Hinoki I also feel that the perfume's real hook, the cypress and lavender combination, is more prominent and sharp, slightly less soapy than in the eau de parfum. Oils also feel more spa-like and restorative, which as you can tell, has been a major theme here lately. I suspect, though, that Geisha Vanilla Hinoki is going to remain a favorite long after my foot heals completely.
Aroma M Geisha Vanilla Hinoki will be released May 9th and is available for pre-order from Luckyscent and directly from Maria's website, aromamperfumes.com ($60, 1/4oz perfume oil or $90, 50ml eau de parfum). The samples for this review were sent by the perfumer, and I purchased additional ones from Luckyscent.
Art: Shiro Kasamatsu - Shirahone Hotspring, Shinshu (1935)