Saturday, February 12, 2011

Perfumes of the Desert

Cowboy Kate ~ Revelation ~ 1963

Any excuse for a beautiful vintage photo...
Scroll down to read the perfume review below. All of these images are from Sam Haskins blog. Gorgeous stuff, no?

 Lindy ~ Mesa Desert ~ Flowers

~ Red Rocks of Sedona ~

Lindy ~ Death Valley ~ Run

OK. Hopefully we can all channel some of that delicious desert mojo now, even if it's still freezing cold outisde! I mean, it helps to be in the right frame of mind for things, don't you agree?  This week I've had the delightful luck to discover Perfumes of the Desert.

Established in 1948, PotD rock because 1.) they still offer many of the same perfumes they started with way back then and 2.) you can order these perfumes online, today. And their prices might cause you to faint. Now I've never talked to these folks and I can't test these perfumes to be sure they're actually made from wild farmed, hand culled desert flowers, or if they just approximate the scents with regular old commercial flower essences. However, from their own information PotD seems to be much more along the lines of Natural Perfumery than what we usually see in vintage perfumes. I'm excited to have found a truly original American line of perfumes that is still being produced today.

I won't repeat all of the history since it's all there on their website. The perfumes of today still look almost exactly as they did way back then. In fact, the moderns look so similar to the vintage that I might have thought it all to be a send up of vintage perfume, if I hadn't learned of PotD after coming across an obviously authentic vintage sampler of their perfumes at a rummage. According to the company address, printed on the cute little pamphlet included in the box, this is a pre-zip code era set which means it dates from sometime within 1948~1960. The pamphlet that came with the perfumes is... well, just let me quote some of it here for you:

 From the desert vastness, warmth of sun, shadow of cloud, soft glow of moon, spring the flowers of the desert land. With them comes a perfume so rare, only the Indian has known its wealth until now. Rich in beauty when in bloom, these flowers are richer still with mysterious and exotic perfume. Each cactus and desert flower blooms in color, red, yellow, purple and white, against a background of turquoise skies, gold sands and ragged rich colored rocks. In this arid country, the desert blooms put forth supreme effort in producing perfumes that will be remembered forever.
So I've been playing with the set all week and smelling sweetly of authentic desert aromas. They are real perfume strength and last quite well. The texture on a few are a little oily, I can't say if that's from being older or if the fresh product is likewise. I haven't had time or motivation to do a full blown rhapsody on any of them but here's a quick run down on each with the pamphlet's description in italics, and my own take in regular font, following:

 Prickly Pear Flower by trerice
Cactus Flower: Sweet and clean, yet mildly spicy, this scent will linger in your memory forever. The theme of this perfume is based on the scent of the prickly pear cactus.
My take: a combination of butterfly flower and carnation, sweet and spicy with light clove rose notes. Light and pretty, makes any day feel like a perfect day in late spring or early summer. 

Yucca: So clean, so fresh, so different, this perfume will be as enchanting to anyone as it is to the natives of New Mexico who have chosen this bloom as their state flower.  
My take: light orange flower moving through to light lilac; almost fizzy, powdery, and suntan-lotion creamy all together. Hints of butter, coconut and pineapple give it more of a tropical lush feeling. Great in the heat but for nighttime, too; this one was a favorite!

Pinon: From the blunt needles of the twisted ground pine tree, along the mountain trails, comes a scent that is entirely different. It brings back a memory of the great southwest. It has a tang of the outdoors yet mellows into a fragrance that lingers and pleases. 
My take: woody pine/cypress, Canadian balsam fir; soft, balsamic - kind of like shaving cream and incense with a mellow leathery/powdery dry down. Also naturally sweet, fresh and clean; herbal, nearly medicinal, cooling and powdery with an almost zen like vibe. Really nice, unique and equally suited to men and women, this would make a superb signature scent.

Purple Sage: Dusty riders of the mesa, the Indian, and the lonely prospectors have experienced the early morning dry yet pungent aroma of the purple sage of the desert land. It will make you dream of hot days, and cool nights of the Land of Enchantment. An entirely different perfume. 
My take: I wonder if I didn't have trouble getting the full scent of this one? It seemed slightly aromatic, dusty, with sweet warmish mildly floral/honey undertone but is there something metallic, very faint and bitter, under there, too? It improved with time more of that floral, sweetness emerged. It does have an unusual edge but it was really too light for me, and from what I did smell, it's not really my thing.

Desert Rainbow: We have found that fabled "Pot of Gold" at the end of the Rainbow. The flower of the Rainbow Cactus of New Mexico and Arizona is the inspiration for this delightful scent. It is flowery, mildly sweet, very dainty, with a touch of deviltry in its undertones. To wear it is to love it.
My take: ylang-ylang, jasmine, tuberose like. Smooth, sexy and sweet; a skin lovin' scent with rubbery, musky, waxy honey facets. (I love!)

Midnight Cereus: This exciting scent will put stars in your eyes, and make you feel so feminine. The aroma will inspire the romance of youth and gaiety. It is described as exotic, spicy and mysterious, very long lasting and subtle. The story of the desert Night Blooming Cereus is unusual. This gorgeous flower blooms waxy white with thread like stamens that gives it the appearance of wearing a halo. The night that the MIDNIGHT CEREUS blooms is awaited by all who know of its existence. It blooms late in June and all through July, depending upon weather conditions. The buds unfold in the evening and by midnight they are in full bloom, scenting the desert with heavenly perfume.

My take: talk about white HOT flowers! Almost gardenia-like, creamy, high pitched, gaseous, narcotic; with hints of bright green and honey, verging into meaty territory. Incense/smoke on the dry down. This one is heavenly and heady, hot and heavy, but in a way that doesn't overwhelm you, even if you feel it should. My mom once planted a cactus that turned out to be Night Blooming Cereus and it is true that they bloom only once a year, at night. And in just that one night, they spend their entire perfume, filling the entire area with thick sweet scent. The blossoms wilt the next morning and drop off soon after. I recall the living scent to be more jasmine-like but it was so long ago...

Overall, these perfumes all smell of mellow, honey-sweet wild flowers; lightly spicy, balanced with incense and wood or musk. And I do actually get the feeling they are actually natural,  and so might wear well for those who find traditional vintage scents too chemical or "perfumey".

The Vintage Perfume Vault, where the scent of yesterday's vogue lives.

Images: sorry for some of the flower images, whose tags have been lost, neglected. Write me if you're interested, even in the comments section, and I can probably backtrack most of them. 


Anonymous said...

I'm glad to see that someone else has learned the special magic of these scents. They also make great gifts!
Sharon Shaw

Amelia said...

Sharon : Thanks for commenting. I highly recommend the sampler; so much fun to try them all. The pinon will probably be my first purchase:)