Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Review - "Merchants of Menace" by Aromantik

Aromantik is the Sydney based fragrance brand of Australian independent natural perfumer Sally Woodward-Hawes. I stumbled across the brand by accident when I was looking for skincare online, as it was one of the fragrance ranges featured on the website I was curious to find out more about the brand, and also see if they had a sampling program, so I did a quick search and found their website Aromantik. 

I decided to purchase the 6 sample pack, using 2 of my choices to get the larger 4ml Eau de Parfum spray "Merchants of Menace" sample, along with 4 of the perfume oils. For the 4 oils I chose 3 of the more unisex sounding fragrances; the blood orange "Strangers in Blood", the gourmand "Dark Side of the Spoon" and the exotic "Cabinet of Curiousities", along with the more feminine sounding floral "Love & Strife" as my 4th choice.

Aromantik perfume oil and Natural Eau de Parfum spray samples
The service I got from Sally at Aromantik was fantastic! I ordered online on the Wednesday night and by Friday I had the parcel in my letterbox. Wow. I emailed Sally to thank her for the fantastic service and fragrances, and after a short correspondence she sent me another sample of a new format of Eau de Parfum spray in the "Cabinet of Curiousities" to try.

And that right there is one of the best things about independent perfumers who do their business well. Not so much the free merch (although I am so thankful for that!) but the ability to interact and communicate with the person who has put their energy and creativity into making something special.

Shortly after Sally sent me my free sample I came down with a bad dose of bronchitis. So now about 4 weeks, and numerous boxes of tissues later (and having started this blog in the meantime) it's time to have a really good sniff and put down my thoughts. 6 fragrances is way too much to cover in one post so I'm going to just review the one that sparked my interest initially, and proved to be the most challenging, exciting and ultimately rewarding fragrance I have tried in years.

"Merchants of Menace" generous 4ml natural edp spray sample

"Merchants of Menace" Eau de Parfum spray

 Notes: Certified organic spearmint, certified organic French (Provence) lavender, French cacao absolute, geranium bourbon, dark Indonesian patchouli, oakmoss absolute, natural musk accord. 

Ingredients: Aqua (distilled water), ethanol (alcohol denat.), parfum (proprietary blend of natural botanical extracts, absolutes & essential oils), polysorbate 20 (essential oil solubiliser), parfum (natural preservative).

Sally has created this as a water based Eau de Parfum, using a small amount of alcohol and a solubiliser to help disperse the oils. The oils aren't totally dispersed, so a layer of darker essential oils does tend to separate out and sit on top of the juice. Some quick shakes (as suggested on the label) quickly mix in the oils and the fragrance turns milky.

5 Minutes
My initial impression is a big hit of toothpaste-y spearmint. This for me is a real challenge, as I'm not keen on the smell or taste of spearmint at all. I am that guy who will search through all the tubes of toothpaste on the supermarket shelves until I find on that is guaranteed not to contain any spearmint.

However, straight away there is something that starts to take the edge off all that spearmint, and makes me start to doubt my initial knee jerk reaction. The notes on the website state "... that it does not smell overly like any of it's 'individual notes' - it is the way these natural oils work together, in combination with your skins own chemistry, to create a unique & beautiful scent."

Once the initial blast of spearmint starts to subside I have to agree. I'm still finding the spearmint a little strong but a little after the 5 minute mark the musk, oakmoss and patchouli start to come through as a warm, spicy backbone to all that mint. I'm not able to identify the lavender, geranium and cacao listed in the notes, but I can see how the cooler, green elements present in the lavender would support the mint, while the geranium probably rounds it out and the cacao (a note I'm not particularly familiar with) probably adds to the warmth of the base notes.

30 Minutes
One striking thing about this fragrance is the projection and sillage (or fragrance 'wake'). One of the frequent disappointments with natural perfumes can be that you really don't get the projection and longevity of alcohol and synthetics, but the natural water based edp format of Merchants of Menace cannot be accused of this. Two small sprays on my hand and half an hour in I'm getting good solid projection from it.

Now we're talking! While the spearmint is still present, all the punchiest and most volatile aspects of it have started to soften and I'm starting to more than make my peace with it. By now the warmth of the oakmoss, musk and patchouli have added a darker and more mysterious element that blends with the uplifting quality of the spearmint. This has become really interesting!

Note to self: spray this when I start getting ready to go out, because 30 minutes in I'm happy with the result.

2 Hours
I love it! Projection and sillage are still reasonably good (in fact just as good as, if not better, than a mass market fragrance I purchased recently). It's not the big minty monster from the 5 minute mark. What it has become is something much more exciting to me; a spicy, warm musk fragrance with an incense note (courtesy of the patchouli and oakmoss combo at a guess) and a fascinating, uplifting top note. The obvious spearmint is gone, leaving a slightly medicinal, clean note that works well with the incense and musk of the base.

A winner. I really didn't think I would like this fragrance at first sniff, purely on account of the big hit of spearmint. However, it won me over pretty quickly and the highly unusual combination of the medicinal minty top note and the darker, muskier base notes is mysterious and intriguing.

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