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Photo from Wiki Commons: Square in Florence showing a white high water mark from the 1966 flood

An escape from the cold, dull Toronto spring to the warmth of the Tuscan sun. Driving along the FI-PI-LI on day trips to Siena, Pisa or Livorno, the windows down, singing along to Paolo Conti on the radio.

On this day, it’s Florence - the jewel in the crown for me. The Duomo, the Ufizzi, the Mercato del Porcellino and of course, the perfumes. Walking around Santa Croce, you notice what look like white bricks in the walls of some buildings but they’re really high water marks from the 1966 flood of the Arno, which devastated Florence. Considered the worst flood in Florence since 1557, it took place on November 4th 1966. Long periods of heavy, steady rain, filled the Levane and La Penna dams in Valdarno, the valley of the river Arno, and they began to release more than 2,000 cubic metres of water per second towards Florence.

At 4:00 am on November 4, there were fears the Valdarno dam would burst, so engineers released a mass of water. By the time it reached the outskirts of Florence it was traveling at 60 kilometres per hour. By 9:45 am the Piazza del Duomo was flooded.

As it traveled through the valley, the fast-moving water picked up debris and mud. It was so fast and so powerful, that when it hit Florence, it ruptured central heating oil tanks. The water, mud and oil mixed together causing even more damage. At its highest, the water reached over 22 feet before starting to ebb at 8:00 pm.
By the time the water fully receded, 101 people had lost their lives and millions of masterpieces of art – paintings, frescoes and rare books, were destroyed or damaged by water, mud and oil.

Realizing the cultural impact that of the loss of these valuable treasures would have, not only for Florence and Italy, but for the rest of the world, people began to help. Money for restoration and repair was raised through donations and fundraising, and people just pitched in. Like the group of Germans who repaired the musical instruments of the Bardini Museum. And the “Mud Angels”, young people from all over the world, who flocked to Florence and cleaned the mud, oil and garbage from the city and rescued damaged works of art, and books from flooded rooms. All of these donors, fundraisers and volunteers played a vital role in the restoration work that still goes on to this day.

Which is why I made a pilgrimage to Officina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella to buy another bottle of ‘Angeli di Firenze’ or ‘Angels of Florence’. It was launched in 2006 to mark the 40th anniversary of the flood and is dedicated to Mud Angels. In fact, 5% of the purchase price goes towards the restoration of artworks, which makes anyone who buys it an angel, I suppose.

Angels of Florence opens with a gentle note of bright bergamot which leads to a bouquet of fresh florals that weave and swirl around each other. I smell jasmine first, but then lilac comes forward, only to fade into a gardenia, ylang-ylang and orange blossom combo. But it’s a note of rose that stands really stands out on me. The floral notes are light and ethereal, punctuated with geranium and violet leaves that give it green infections, which add dimension before it gets fruity from notes of peach, prune and melon, warmed by cinnamon. Vanilla at the base sweetens the fruits and adds a lush creaminess, while sandalwood white musk, and ambergris ground the flowers and fruits and hold them tight to the skin.

Angels of Florence is a fairly linear fragrance, and by that I mean it’s uncomplicated. It has depth and progression but it is a simple, tender beauty that I feel is especially suitable for spring – no matter where you are.

Angels of Florence is listed in our decant store. Decants are $5.00 for 1 ml.

 

 

Sensemilla - Abdes Salaam Attar (La Via del Profumo ) - profumo.it

It’s been a long time coming but the Canadian government is de-criminalizing marijuana. In August 2018, four months from now, marijuana will become legal for recreational use. In the province of Ontario, where we live, it will be sold in stand-alone stores to anyone 19 years or older. You walk in, pay your money, and leave with 30 grams in your pocket, no problem. Or with a little more effort, you can grow your own at home, with a maximum of four plants. 

My next-door neighbour is thrilled. He’s smoked pot for years, first as an alternative to alcohol, but for the last few years it’s helped relieve the pain in his arthritic hips and knees. He grows his plants in outdoor patio pots in the summer, and has become an expert in cannabis/hemp horticulture, which he’s passed along to me during afternoon chats over the fence. Varieties, characteristics, male plants, female plants, flowers, pollination, buds, THC concentration, I know more about marijuana than I’ll ever need to know.

Smoking weed for fun was never my thing but I have to admit that I enjoy the faint wafts from his back garden whenever he’s “taking his medicine” as he calls it. The smell of smoke from a joint is unmistakable. Different from cigarette smoke which smells acrid – it’s just nasty - or pipe smoke which is sweetly aromatic – the best tobacco smell - marijuana smoke smells at first skunky, then more resinous and herbal - interesting but not fascinating. What really fascinates me about marijuana is the smell of the hemp plants themselves, the green oily scent from the leaves when rubbed between fingers, the damp-earth, mushroomy-floral smell of the buds (the part that contains the TCH), the distinctive medicinal-herbal aroma of hemp oil, the essential oil distilled from the plants. That’s what I love!

I learned about Sinsemilla from my neighbour. The Spanish word translates as ”without seeds” and is used to describe female cannabis flower buds which have not been fertilized by male pollen. As a result of not putting energy into making seeds, these female flower buds contain much higher concentrations of THC. They are extremely potent and preferred by some users because of their super-charged psychotropic effect.

I learned about Sensemilla, the perfume,  from visiting the website for the artisanal line, Abdes Salaam Attar formerly La Via del Profumo, created by natural perfumer Abdes Salaam. We’ve ordered several of his fabulous fragrances from his studio in Rimini, Italy and written about:

Mecca Balsam – the incense note, a scent for the soul,

Milano Caffe – the coffee note, a scent to share, and

Venezia Giardini Segreti – the myrhh note, a scent with history.

Sensemilla is all about the hemp note:

“Cannabis essential oil is at the core of the fragrance. The central ingredient around which others whirl.  Sensemilla is in fact the name for a super potent variety of marijuana, and I wrote the perfume keeping in mind the name it was to have. Therefore Sensemilla is a full fledged Hemp perfume.” Abdes Salaam

Yes, it is indeed, and it smells wonderful. The 100% natural materials include hemp absolute, cocoa, neroli, tuberose, narcissus, and cedar. The assertive opening is green and peppery, and soon begins to smell like ….lavender! soft green lavender, not sharp herbal lavender. This must be the hemp/neroli/narcissus accord, lemony-orange fresh citrus mixed with herbs and greens….mmm, it’s heavenly.

As it dries down the herbal effect becomes drier and more earthy, and is partnered with the scent of mown hay on the wind, faintly sweet. The green becomes more watery and vegetal, and in the base, there’s a swirl of aromatics, greens, resins, smoke, and vague florals. The natural materials blend together seamlessly, making transitions smooth and creating a sensation of pure relaxation and comfort. Not one note stands out or is jarring, the scent evolves like a slow-moving quiet river of soft pleasure.

Hemp is not an easy note to work with – it has a really strong medicinal aroma which is oily and leathery and can be overpowering. But Abdes Salaam, who is self-taught by the way, has the unique talent of being able to take difficult notes and render them with a soft touch, which makes them beautiful. All of his scents that I’ve worn seem to possess this quality, which I can only describe as an inner light.

“… I chose to make natural perfumes as someone chooses to work with precious metals and rare gemstones instead of plastic beads and pearls of colored glass. …I always wanted the real thing at any cost, and in the world of perfumery the real simply means the natural. There has been no ideology in my choice, only discovering the truth…”

Sensemilla is not an ordinary perfume, it’s extraordinary, and worth trying. Now that marijuana is (almost) legal in Canada, you can completely ignore the perfumer’s humorous but cautionary note – see below -  and apply Sensemilla with abandon BEFORE you enter our country!

Warning: Sinsemilla is a Hemp perfume and you should avoid wearing when crossing borders. Police dogs may follow your trail. Abdes Salaam, perfumer

Sensemilla is listed in our decant store. Decants are $7.00 for 1  ml.

 

 

Welcome to perfumeniche.com

"She smelled the way the Taj Mahal looks by moonlight."

                                                                       Raymond Chandler

We are Gwen and Kay, two perfumistas making our scent journey in the cool, clear North.  We are also BFFs - we hang out together a lot, travel together - so we try, buy and share fragrances.

What started out as a shared interest grew into a hobby, and has now become our obsession.

We’ve spent many evenings with a glass of prosecco, a little cool jazz playing in the background, spritzing, sniffing - “How does this smell on you?” and, sadly, sometimes scrubbing.

Over the past few years, we’ve tried hundreds of samples, and when we deem a fragrance ”full bottle worthy” (FBW), one of us has tracked it down and bought it. We now own a lot of really great perfumes, and we continue to buy bottles of what we think is the best of "niche" as new scents are launched.

Also, we include many perfume "classics" that are the foundations of modern perfumery - like Shalimar, Chanel No.5, Eau Sauvage - plus other perfume "gems" that have been discontinued, or were ahead of their time when launched but now fit perfectly in the Niche category. 

With so many exciting discoveries, we can’t help but talk about our passion with other friends. Wherever we go, people ask “What is that perfume you’re wearing? Where can I get that?” So we end up sharing a bit of our “juice” with friends. But the circle has grown, so we've started this website to let other perfumistas buy and try samples from our collections, and share their experiences with us, too, through Comments.

WHAT WE DO

We blog

We blog once a week and post a story about a scent from our collections, and add it to our Decant Store. We're not scent experts, so these aren't critical reviews. We love all our fragrances  - that’s why we bought them! But we describe how we think they smell, and share our stories about why we love them - maybe you’ll rediscover an old flame, or fall in love with a new scent.

Or we post "Nose-to-Nose", our conversations about whatever has grabbed our attention recently. Or we write about a specific perfume note,  and offer a Decant Pack, which allows you to explore new territory by trying 3 or 4 fragrances in a special pack at a special discount price.

We sell

We sell 1 ml. decants - .7 ml volume once you allow for the stopper in the vial - filled from our own bottles in our collection because the only way to experience a fragrance is to try it on your own skin. We take the fragrance from its original bottle and decant it into a smaller brand-new, 1 ml sterilized glass vials so that you can try it on your skin to see if you like it.

Through our Decant Store you'll have access to some of the world’s greatest niche scents, hard-to-find fragrances, and classic favourites. 

When you click on the Decant Store tab you’ll find our personal descriptions of each of the fragrances we currently offer from our collection, then you can add them to your Shopping Cart.

Let's be clear (this is a disclaimer!!)

  • We don’t sell full bottles of any fragrance - just .7ml decants. We only sell decants  from the perfumes we've bought.... because we love them.
  • We don't re-sell manufacturers samples.
  • We don’t represent any perfumers or distributors, so we don’t have every scent from a whole line of perfume.
  • We aren’t being paid to promote any product or scent.

If, after sampling a fragrance, you decide that you must have it, i.e. it is FBW (full bottle worthy), and you can’t find it, e-mail us and we will direct you to the best source we know – retailer or online source.

We provide

A place for you to learn about scent, and to share your fragrance experience with others. Click on the section called Resources, under My Perfume Notes (see top right), where  you'll find a Glossary, and fragrance FAQs. You'll also find two great tools we've created - Handmaps and My Sample Perfume Notes - so you can keep track of, and record your own scent experiences.
 
We hope you enjoy perfumeniche.com, and visit us often. Leave your preconceptions behind, look around, see what’s on offer, read the Blog, share your experiences and discoveries, and join the circle.

It’s just us.