Friday, December 12, 2008

Vespertina by Roxana Villa : Perfume Review and Thoughts on Modern Perfume Structure

Perfume lovers, critics and writers still talk about perfume pyramids, and perfume houses still release the official notes of their newly launched fragrances in terms of top, heart and base notes. But to what extend do these terms still apply in the world of modern perfumery? It is no longer a secret that most of what we smell in modern perfumes is purely synthetic, no matter how natural it might come across as. The small number of aromachemical companies from which noses procure the ingredients they employ to build their perfumes, strive not only for innovation, but also for stability and longevity. Scents traditionally used in perfumery as top notes due to their fleeting nature (e.g. citrus), have been reinvented by these companies, with molecules so large they have the ability to shape and even define the fragrance for far longer than they used to. And that is an understatement: nowadays you can have a grapefruit scent that lasts all day; a woody scent that is permeated by the fresh zing of lemon for hours on end. Nowadays, almost any of those notes that would fly off in the first five minutes before the curtain would rise to allow the beauty of the heart notes to shine through, can actually last till the drydown. Consequentially, official notes and pyramids are often a joke. While this does not affect reviews where the writer can actually describe the development as it unfolds, it does lend to confusion. The development, the way any given fragrance unfolds can be unpredictable, surprising. This, I believe is one of the most radical changes in the world of modern perfumery.

Now, as those of you who have been reading Fragrance Bouquet regularly know, I consider my love for fragrance all-encompassing. There is room for just about anything, whether purely synthetic (Why, hello NR!) or purely natural. So why all this talk about perfume construction? Because exploring Roxana Villa’s sampler packet was something of a revelation… The experience grounded me, reminded me all that is good and gorgeous and magnificent about a well constructed perfume that follows an absolutely traditional, classic development. Her fragrances are ever-changing, confirming the words of an industry professional in Paris who’d told me that the more natural a perfume, the more it changes throughout the day.

Two of the scents in the sampler pack have truly captivated me, Vespertina and Aurora. Today we take a look at Vespertina, while a review of Aurora is forthcoming. Meaning “Evening”, Vespertina is a glorious, floral scent with rich veins of spice. Its construction is absolutely marvelous, with top notes that you’ll want to chase after like fleeting dreams, floral heart notes so deep they make you feel like you can get lost in their nuances forever, and spicy, woody base notes that linger comfortingly on the skin until the skin’s own beauty shines through. Roxana describes this fragrance as “Orange woven with flowers, grounded by earth”.

The fleeting top notes are slightly bitter and medicinal, intensely herbal in character. They explode in a burst of black, roughly ground peppercorns and disappear like a dream through a botanical garden that’s slipping through the fingers upon waking up… The gorgeous spiciness of the black pepper remains however, easing us into the deep, dark, magical labyrinth of the floral heart notes. Through the persisting spicy blast, emerges a fabulous dirty, highly indolic orange blossom note, supported by narcotic ylang ylang and nightly jasmine. Far into the background, I smell hints of well aged, beautiful rose essence, highly romantic and moving. As time goes by, the bitter orange blossom note becomes creamier and creamier, shedding its indolic character and turning ever more sensitive and feminine. As an orange blossom scent, this one is very close in feel to Satellite’s playfully bitter 40º à l’Ombre (one of my favorite neroli/orange blossom scents out there), rather than to more traditional, sweet and heady orange blossom scents like Prada’s or L’Artisan’s Fleur d’Oranger. Vespertina is incredibly long lasting, and even though it starts as dark and mysterious, it soon transforms in aa summery, utterly romantic white floral scent will envelop the wearer for hours. When it does arrive, the drydown is myrrh-tinged sandalwood sweetness, peppered with spice.

Images: All images used in this post are property of Roxana Villa.


13 comments:

Jenavira13 said...

OOOPH, Divina once again another reminder that I really need to get a hold of Roxana Villa samples, she has a lot of scents based on California that I need to try, and your description of the orange blossom in this sounds marvelous.

waftbyCarol said...

I was fortunate to win a 3-pk of sample vials at Fall Ball
( and meet her ), Vespertina being my fave too , chased closely by the lovely " Q "
I commented on my blog back in Oct , it is the most beautiful floral I ever smelled ...LOL . The more time I spend with it , the more incensey it becomes...so-oo lovely .
SQUEEE D , I got something in the mail today...
hope the Citizen Queen was still on your desk...I don't see it .
SMOOOCH !!

waftbyCarol said...

Found it !!
Love it !!

Anonymous said...

A few years ago Roxanna cauldroned up a personal perfume for me. It was an education that has continued to grow with me. Her approach and commitment is in such service of the plants and the transformation to serving us. I happened on this blog by chance and am so happy to be reminded of that experience and get caught up on the obviously incredible work she's done since then. I highly recommend her brewing of a personalized scent and am inspired by your article to order her samples.

The Daily Connoisseur said...

The way you describe the fragrance- it sounds truly magical. Like Jena, I really need to try out Roxana's line... Thanks for the review- can't wait to read about the other one!

maisqueperfume said...

Dear Div, she wrote to me to tell me about this article.
She is really a sweet lady!
Bravo, another masterpiece divinely produced by my favorite perfume blogger!!!
Kisses Simone

Divina said...

Jen, I love this one! It is really one of the most unique orange blossom scents I have encountered. You will know what I mean once you've tried it. It is the lovely bitter character that truly does it for me!

Divina said...

Yay! Carol! I'm so glad you received the packet. I am always a little stressed when I send to the US because of the strict regulations. And yes, I read your lovely blog entry and knew already you loved this one ^_^

Divina said...

PS: LOL, I was wondering what the heck might have happened to Citizen Queen, cause I certainly did not have it here. I thought I might have put it in someone else's packet accidentally. I'm glad you found it :) Was it hiding? ;)

Divina said...

Anon, how absolutely wonderful.. I am envious! It must be such a lovely experience to have a scent made specifically for you.

Divina said...

Daily, it might have to wait a few days because this week is full of exams for me, but it is coming soon, I promise! :)

Divina said...

Aw, Simone!!! How can I thank you for your lovely, kind, gracious comment? Thank you so much. Really, from the heart. *smooch*

Divina said...

PS: And yes, she is not only sweet but beautiful and generous too! A lovely spirit, you know it the moment you look at her beautiful eyes.