Osmia Organics Juniper Fire Perfume Concentrate review, photos | Winter woodlands in a bottle

Monday, December 16, 2013

Osmia Organics Juniper Fire review

The product: Osmia Organics Juniper Fire Perfume Concentrate

2013 is turning out to be a great year for smoky scents. Between finding love in both Juniper Fire and Illume’s Woodfire candle, I’ve spent almost all of this month surrounded in deep, outdoorsy scents — and I couldn’t be more smitten with them.

Osmia’s perfumes are, perhaps, the most perfect portrayal of natural perfumery. The way Dr. Sarah Villafranco talks about her fragrances is so personal – each scent has a story, and each is made by hand in small batches. Blum, for instance, “may be a limited run, depending on [her] ability to procure more of the amazing honeysuckle absolute,” while Prima (“inspired by the smell of the dark, rich soil as it emerges from under the Colorado snow in the early spring,”) is blended with saffron oil that swirls its way into the fragrance like ink.

Osmia Juniper Fire perfume concentrate review Osmia Organics review

Juniper Fire is no exception to this rule. It was Sarah’s first perfume, and smells like an evergreen forest in the calm of winter. Beneath that, though, there is an undeniable warmth – almost as if you’re walking through these beautiful old trees, as tall as skyscrapers, but you can’t feel the chill at all.

A tribute to Sarah’s beloved Colorado, and created “after stepping outside our house on a breathlessly cold, blue-sky day with a fire burning in the fireplace,” she describes it as:

“Sweet, crisp, and comforting – somehow both chilly and incredibly warm.  A vanilla and sandalwood base with a hint of smoke, and the deeply wholesome smells of juniper and cedar – it’s like getting embraced by the mountains.”

Natural perfume review - Osmia Organics Juniper Fire

To me, Juniper Fire opens a little medicinal — but it’s not the kind of medicinal you’d find in a bottle of cold medicine. There’s this old Chinese remedy that my grandmother used to keep under the bathroom sink; a brown-coloured fluid in a red box that was meant to numb and heal bruises and sprains. A tincture of evergreen resin, safflower, and ginseng, it stained horribly, but she swore it took the pain away. Juniper Fire reminds me, at first, of that.

Past the first few minutes, though, Juniper Fire settles into something much more woodsy and close to the skin. It looses its medicinal edge and plummets straight for sexy — clean and unisex, but not department store unisex, you know? It’s sexless and genderless; a quiet, crackling campfire in the woods. 

The one thing about Juniper Fire that makes my heart break, however, is its longevity: a mere five hours, on my skin. That said, the scent is entirely unique, and only gets better with time: I merely like it for the first hour, but by the time I reach the third, my nose is literally pushed up to my skin. It’s beautiful – absolutely like nothing else you’ll ever find indoors. 

Osmia Organics perfume concentrate review Juniper Fire

Cedar Smoke, a similar Osmia scent, is no less gorgeous. It’s more subtle than Juniper Fire, and a little softer — though it does open with a touch of a (different) almost-medicinal note, just for a minute or two. Its cedar base leaves it smelling vaguely like a really sexy, dry sauna, and I would actually like it more than Juniper Fire if it packed a bigger punch. Osmia is very clear about the fact that their scents have only a 2-5 hour lifespan on the skin, and Cedar Smoke sits firmly at the two-hour end of that spectrum.

Cedar Smoke is more comforting than Juniper Fire, while Juniper Fire is more unique. I think anyone who loved one would at the very least like the other, but they are different enough that you need to sample both and pick your favourite!

Juniper Fire is a perfume concentrate, $150/0.48 oz in organic grape alcohol. Cedar Smoke is a perfume oil, $75/0.28 oz in organic jojoba and fractionated coconut oils. Both are packaged in glass with rollerball applicators.

Osmia Organics perfume concentrate review

The verdict?

I’m always hesitant to recommend products that come at a price like this, but in this case — I can’t not. Juniper Fire is beautifully composed: equally fitting on both men and women, it’s sexy in a very, very understated, down-to-earth way. To put it succinctly, Juniper Fire is the kind of winter scent that you’d never be able to find in a department store, and it’s all the better for it.

Like a breath of air in a snowy forest, it’s crisp, smokey, and wonderfully singular. At $150 USD, I’d really have liked to see better tenacity and sillage, but some ingredients (ingredients like cedar wood, pine needle, or juniper essential oils) just don’t have that — and I get it, I do. You can’t bend the boundaries of science, and Osmia is very upfront about their scents’ 2-5 hour, low-sillage wear.

For most of us, natural perfumes may seem overpriced: but if you have someone in your life who loves scents but can’t wear synthetic compounds (my sister, for instance, gets really pervasive headaches around them), or you’re trying to detox your personal care regimen, then they’re more than a worthwhile indulgence. 

Available: $150 USD/0.48 oz roll-on concentrate at Osmia Organics, or $2 for a sample (0.06 oz). International shipping available!

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Three gorgeous, out-of-the-box finds for the holiday season | The Gift Guide

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

In a month that epitomizes opulence and indulgence, it isn’t hard to find lust-worthy items to gift for the holidays. Finding something just outside of the mainstream, however, is a different challenge entirely.

Here are three finds that any beauty lover would be pleasantly surprised to receive (but would never see coming).

For the skincare lover: STEAMCREAM ($20 USD)

STEAMCREAM original

STEAMCREAM first landed on my radar two years ago, when Lisa Eldridge declared it a “Lisa Loves” product. The brand is designed around what I find to be a really interesting concept: the cream itself never changes, but the tins are all limited edition (excluding Original and, in the UK, Freedom & Discipline). Steamcream is made to be both a skincare staple and a collector’s item — something I don’t think I’ve ever seen before.

Made with ingredients that are as fresh as possible, Steamcream uses a unique, steam-based process to fuse its ingredients together in a loose emulsion. The idea behind this is that, when applied, the product will sink deep into your skin almost immediately, making it lightweight enough for oily skintypes but hydrating enough for dry ones. (I haven’t yet figured out if this is true, but I’ll keep you updated!)

STEAMCREAM Light from Space - Nelly Makeeva

STEAMCREAM Light from Space & Silent Night

Steamcream can be used on the face, body, hands, and hair, and is handmade in the UK and Japan. It’s both vegan and cruelty-free, and if you see a tin that you love, or that someone you know might love — well, you might want to snap it up now, because there likely won’t ever be a second run. I’m smitten with the Light from Space and Silent Night tins, the latter of which has just the most charming design on its side!

Keep reading! »

Tom Ford Black Orchid EdP fragrance review, photos | A date-night fragrance not for the faint of heart

Friday, November 22, 2013

Tom Ford Black Orchid perfume review photos notes

The product: Tom Ford Black Orchid Eau de Parfum

The feeling: Black Orchid is a far cry from my usual fragrance picks — full of amber, woods, or patchouli, quietly sitting close to the skin. Instead, Black Orchid is loud: exciting, brash, and full of sharp, bursting fruits set against a dark base.

It reminds me most of Dior Poison, but they’re not copies of one another. Instead, the two fragrances seem to have similar intent moreso than anything else: both are wonderfully audacious, and because of the way they’re composed, each give off a bit of an 80s vibe, at least to me. One because it set the era; the other because it’s a fresh take on the same ideas.

Tom Ford Black  Orchid Eau de Parfum

I wasn’t around in the 80s (for which I’m glad; if everyone was wearing Poison, there’s no way it wasn’t too much), but they smell like how I think an idealized version of the decade would smell. Bold, and glamorous, and fruity and floral and a little bit spicy but not in any way just another cookie-cutter scent.

Black Orchid smells like confidence. It smells like a woman with the most amazing retro-Hollywood wave in her hair, walking out of the shadows of an Upper East Side bar, leggy and red-lipped and hopefully, hopefully powerful and outspoken. She gets what she wants because she’s gorgeous, but it’s in the way she works, not the way she looks — by the time she’s asked for it, she’s already worked out ten ways she could outsmart you to get it.

Tom Ford fragrance review photos Black Orchid

The mechanics: Designed by Givaudan in 2006 (Now Smell This cites David Apel as its creator; Bois de Jasmin credits Roman Kaiser for capturing the scent of the Tom Ford black orchid; most sites mention no perfumer in specific), Black Orchid highlights the custom-bred Tom Ford black orchid with woods and fruit accords overtop an oriental base.

To be honest, things get a little dicey if you try and pick out notes from this one. Taken as a whole, however, Black Orchid slots right into that perfect, intriguing spot between harmonious and cacophony. 

Tom Ford Black Orchid looking terribly sexy

Opening with a bright, almost disconcerting beginning, Black Orchid lists citrusy top notes of bergamot, citrus, and mandarin alongside floral French jasmine and fruity black currant. These blend into a floral heart, highlighting black orchid with black gardenia, ylang-ylang, and lotus wood. Finally, the show closes with a woodier base (patchouli and sandalwood), sweetened with vanilla and made even more complex with a hint of incense.

As I said — things get a little dicey. There’s a lot thrown into Black Orchid’s art-deco inspired flacon, and the company’s “oriental chypre” label is probably as accurate as you’ll get. It’s every bit as interesting as a chypre, if you ask me, but it’s darker, spicier — more modern, more sexy; less dated and stuffy.

Tom Ford Black Orchid review photos boring

The verdict?

I had initially assumed this would go into my holiday gift guide (after all, it was my big fragrance love of last winter, and I missed it all summer), but it seems too intimate for gifting. I would have hated this when I just started getting into perfume, and while the dark, twisting composition of fascinates me today, it’s too much of a live wire to be one of those won’t-stun-but-probably-won’t-offend scents.

That said, Tom Ford Black Orchid is a perfume that really deserves a chance if you want a sexy, glamorous date-night scent. While not show-stoppingly unique, it sets itself well apart from your run of the mill floriental, and has managed to completely end my hunt for the perfect bold perfume: it has fantastic tenacity, great sillage, and most importantly, it’s interesting.

Black Orchid is a throwback but it’s modern; it’s spicy but it’s fruity and it’s floral. I may not have been a Tom Ford believer in the past, but Black Orchid has me in its throes.

Availability: $72 USD/$80 CAD & up at Sephora. International readers can find this one at Nordstrom, who unfortunately don’t stock the 1 oz (which I’d recommend — this one is strong!)

Tom Ford Black Orchid EdP fragrance review notes photos

Keep reading! There are no more actual words, but could I perhaps entice you with some pretty, pretty pictures? »

On cover girls, textbook-sized magazines, and perfumes that mainly just look cool

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Katy Perry in ELLE Canada

Earlier this month (late last month? Early last month? The days are all a little fuzzy for me right now), ELLE Canada sent over a copy of their October issue, as well as their cover girl’s new scent: Killer Queen.

While I’m not big on either Katy Perry or her perfume, I’ll give Killer Queen one thing: it was a blast to photograph.

Katy Perry Killer Queen

Katy Perry interview ELLE Canada + perfume

Killer Queen ($49 USD and up) is a perfume that I’m not sure I’d want on my dresser, despite finding it remarkably easy to take pictures of. Like the larger versions of Burberry Body (which has to lie down horizontally, lest it fall over and club a small animal to death), it doesn’t have a base to stand on. Instead, it has to be lain on its side, like a beached whale or a vial of poison.

On one hand: what an inconvenience, right? I don’t want a beached whale on my countertop.

But on the other… yeah, a glamorous, gold-capped, ombré vial of poison and I would probably get along just fine.

Katy Perry Killer Queen EdT magazine

October’s issue of ELLE Canada was a door-stopping 312 pages long (their largest issue yet), with two separate covers: one for subscribers, and one on the newsstands. (The only image of the subscriber cover online comes from E! Online, and can be seen here). The issue also boasted their biggest beauty section ever, as well: 31 pages, including a 17 page Beauty Trend Report insert.

Keep reading! »

L’Occitane Verveine EdT Fresh Roll-on review, photos | Summer echoes

Friday, October 11, 2013

L'Occitane Verbena Fresh Roll On review

The product: L’Occitane Verveine (Verbena) Eau de Toilette Fresh Roll-on

Behind the collection: L’Occitane’s Verbena lineup contains organic verbena extract from Provence, and was created for use by both men and women. The Verbena Fresh Roll-on is a purse-friendly version of the original L’Occitane Verbena Eau de Toilette; the “Fresh” in the name is irrelevant (this is the same scent.)

L’Occitane has Mint and Citrus Verbena fragrances available as well this summer, in addition to the Eau Fraîche Collection of verbena-scented body products.

L'Occitane EdT review - verveine:verbena

The notes: A soft, delicate fragrance in the green citrus family, the L’Occitane Verbena Eau de Toilette lists top notes of orange and lemon, heart notes of verbena and petitgrain, and base notes of rose and geranium.

A few fun facts: Unlike most flowers used in perfumery, Verbena (also known as vervain — yes, all you Vampire Diaries fans, that vervain) can sometimes deliver a second harvest in October, weather allowing. Used  in everything from love potions to sleeping draughts, some plants in the Verbenaceae are odourless; others, delicately lemon scented.

L'Occitane Verveine Eau de Toilette review

My thoughts on the fragrance

I don’t love doing “verdicts” for perfumes, so I thought I’d change things up a little today.

I’m not entirely smitten with the Verbena fragrance, but it’s such an individual thing — I can easily think of half a dozen friends and family members who would absolutely love it. Very fresh, green, and lemony, Verveine opens as a freshly-zested lemon’s rind but sits a little too sharp and synthetic for my nose.

L'Occitane Verveine Eau de Toilette Fresh Roll-on review

The Verveine Eau de Toilette Fresh Roll-on fragrance is very light, with little sillage and a wear time similar to that of most lemony-fresh fragrances. Without any heavy or heady notes to “cling” to the skin, this summery verbena is gone within a few hours; perhaps due in part to its formulation, or perhaps due to its delivery method (roll-ons and EdTs tend to have less throw and tenacity than EdP and parfum sprays).

I would recommend this most to someone who wants to smell fresh and refined, and is alright with touching up throughout the day. I feel almost as if I love perfume too much for this perfume: it feels very much like a chic home fragrance, or a green bouquet sitting aside a bowl of lemons in the kitchen.

Availability: $22 CAD/10ml, limited edition and in-stores now.

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