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The Longing – A natural beauty to know and love

Gardenia blossom

I’m fascinated with natural perfumes and perfumers, a segment within the niche category which has seen big growth in the past few years. Scents by talented perfumers such as Hiram Green, Charna Ethier, Francesca Bianchi, Euan McColl, have amazed me with the unexpected depth and beauty and quality of their artistry.

Like these other perfume artists, Christi Meshell, the creative force behind House of Matriarch builds her luxurious fragrances from natural essences, finding her inspiration in part from current social culture, from her American Native and Italian heritage, as well as from her deep study of mysticism, religion, the occult, science and history. Christi believes “natural is the new niche…” and she’s composing beautiful fragrances for the ages, “…that speak to the past but carry us into the future…” I’ve written about Black No. 1, (FKA Blackbird), her award-winning and most revered fragrance that’s…“a ride on a magic olfactory carpet”… as well as more recent releases, Violet Flame, and Fitnessence.

Christi also creates bespoke fragrances, and in 2016 she made a very special scent for perfume lover and reviewer, Joseph Sagona. Inspired by Joseph’s poem, The Longing, and armed with a list of his favourite perfume notes, Christi created “an ultra-gourmand unisex white floral with oriental undertones and a velvety amber”.  Joseph and Christi both immediately fell under the spell of this new fragrance, and felt that it was so unusually beautiful they should share it with the perfume world. The Longing was released as a limited edition in early 2017, and I was lucky enough to buy a bottle.

The top notes are listed as plum, jasmine, butter, agarwood, vintage boronia but the first spritz is not what I’m expecting to smell at all. Dry, powdery and pungent, imbedded with bitter herbs and spice, this opening accord is definitely not gourmand or sweet, this smells exotic, powerful, foreign. The oudh (agarwood) dominates for a few minutes, then begins to subside revealing a subtle boozy buttery plum note paired with lush jasmine, fresh-bloomed, just-cut, and spicy-green, and sweet floral boronia, which form an airy floral layer over the oudh and plum aromas.  

And then the heart notes swoop in… vanilla orchid, gardenia, orange blossom, honey, and vintage osmanthus. White florals accented by sweet orange, apricot from osmanthus, intoxicating tropical gardenia, the notes merge with the top florals into an exotic bouquet that hums with a sensuous innocence. As minutes become hours this floral accord in the heart is slowly saturated with silky-soft sweet grassy honey, so that it becomes warm and langorous and luscious as it moves into the base. 

After a few hours, the base notes start to appear in The Longing. Leather, amber, vanilla, benzoin, sandalwood and ambrette musk. The leather dominates at first, slightly smoky but very soft and mild, absorbing the animalic tendrils of honey so that is just slightly sweet. The sandalwood, one of my favourite resinous wood notes, is strong and creamy, and melts into the warm amber and benzoin notes. Vanilla merges with musk into soft seductiveness. And to my surprise, the oudh reappears in powdery clouds every so often, removing the sugary edge from sweet notes, expanding the depth and appeal of the leathery ambery base accord.

My experience of The Longing is in an alternate universe far far away from its “ultra-gourmand white floral“ world of the product description. To my nose, it’s not very gourmand, or very white floral, nor is it overly sweet or spicy. But, it stands far apart from the perfume herd, packed with beautiful smells of fruit, flowers, plants, animals, woods which swirl in velvety layers of harmonized scent. It is so interesting, filled with contrasts – dark and light, bitter and sweet, pungent and soft, vegetal and animalic, innocence and desire, sacred and profane…you get the picture. 

The Longing is a natural perfume, which don’t always work with everyone’s body chemistry. It has great lasting power, and a wonderful sillage, and is unisex although I think skews female, but body chemistry plays into that. It’s not a spritz and go, flirty floral, or diva date-night kind of scent, but more a fragrance for contemplation.

The Longing takes a while to get to know. It’s a fragrance to explore, to muse over, to discover, and fall in love with. It is multi-faceted and artistic, exotic and enigmatic, evocative and disturbing. If someone made a gorgeous perfume like this for me, I would be thanking the perfume gods for eternity. 

The Longing is listed in our Decant Store. Decants are $12.00 for 1 ml.

Image - Wikipedia - Gardenia Flower by Erin Silversmith