Thursday, July 12, 2012

Drifting Sparks on Fourth of July

drifting sparks by wrigglefish
drifting sparks, a photo by wrigglefish on Flickr.

I spent Fourth of July crossing the border from Canada to the USA and spent the night in Oakland with Lisa Fong and her family - a generous and quirky bunch, with whom I spent the next week with - a much needed distraction from being away from my own. It was especially fun to be in the USA for Fourth of July and see all the fireworks that the folks of Oakland set free into their urban skies, disregarding any logical safety rules or hazard precautions (unless you consider a bucket of water as a super-hero). The fireworks that were set ablaze on Arizona Street would have put the ones Vancouver's city hall funded for Canada Day in Coal Harbour. Only that there was no ocean underneath to put my mind at ease. It was a loud night and I sighed from relief when it was over and nothing catastrophic has happened...

But after this grand opening of dancing fires, it was a rather uneventful week in Oakland, which is exactly what we all needed with everything else that was buzzing around in the perfume world. We had a full weekend ahead of us. And I felt especially lucky to stay with such friendly souls; not to mention that I got to stay at Lisa's perfume room (!) where she keeps all her rare essences (Queen of the Night, Coffee Flower and Saffron where essences I didn't even know where available until I met her in Vancouver in 2006).

And of course that's where she concocts all her exotic harmonies from pure natural essences. Lisa's style always struck me as both very structured; yet at the same time complex, multi-layered and with a knack for obscure and unusual notes, which she weaves into her compositions and which give them an unusual edge.

One of the first things that Lisa let me smell this visit was her Drifting Sparks perfume. She told me how she created it (attempting to replicate true Tonquin musk - not an easy feat!) for the Mystery of Musk project a few years back. Once the perfume reached its desired muskiness, the problem of naming it arose. It was on a long road trip with her family that she had a vision of the musk deer sending invisible messages of desire to one another through their scents; and how they catch light like fireworks. And that's how the name revealed itself to her.

Drifting Sparks begins rather smoky and a tad pungent. I think the smokiness comes from Don quai - the medicinal Chinese angelica, which has especially musky notes, as I'm not detecting the distinctively green notes I get from the European angelica root. But there is also something very citrusy and vibrant above it all - a cheerful brightness that could only be orange blossom. Jasmine sambac also adds a luminosity, and than makes room for a clean, almost watery yet musky-sweet Himalayan cedarwood.

Jasmine sambac seems to persists through most of the perfume's evolution, weaving in and out as it dries down on the skin. Drifting Sparks is a fascinating study in musk; though I find it a bit too fleeting on my skin, almost too abstract for me to be able to comment enough about the final dry out - it melds with the skin so well that it's not easy to describe, but I'll try: clean woodsy note, that reminds me of the quieter varieties of oud, hints of patchouli, and honeyed sweetness as if my skin is covered with a thin layer of honey... The florals are never quite gone either - which is what I believe is the source of the nectar - final stages of rose absolute dry down, plus the greenish, honeyed twigs of bitter orange and flowers. The final dryout is invisible, almost - ambergris, saltiness on the skin, and nothing more... If anything, it reminds me of l'Antimatiere.

Overall, after knowing Lisa's work for several years now, her style seems to have changed quite a bit: from dense, classically structured perfumes that evolve gradually from top to bottom, they are now much lighter and expansive, with consistent quality that I find in all of them (except for Yuzu Citrus, which is an "oldie" and I hope a steady part of Lisa's evolving collection). If you think in terms of the "principle of amber" vs. the "principle of musk" - I'd say her earlier work belongs to the amber (i.e.: development that goes deeper and deepr into the thick of things), and the recent creations are certainly more based on the principle of musk (i.e.: expansive, radiant, evolving sideways or horizontally, as if glowing from the skin outwards).

Top notes: Black Currant Buds, Jasmine Sambac, Orange Blossom
Heart notes: Rose, Harshingar (Queen of the Night)
Base notes: Angelica Root (Don Quai?), Oud, Himalayan Cedarwood, Patchouli, Ambergris

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