Mini-review Roundup: Three from Ava Luxe

I tried a few Ava Luxe scents early on in my perfume journey, and then not again until recently. Ava Luxe is one of those indie perfumers whose work is the darling of the bloggers… until the next New Hotness comes along and everybody goes flittering off to admire the New Hotness and forgets what was hot yesterday. (Humans. We’re like tha — OH LOOK A SQUIRREL!) On top of that, I have some vague memory that the house went offline for a period of time, during which the line was revamped and many people, including me, forgot it existed.

Back in the day, it seems that I tried the following: Thé Noir (black tea with wood, amber, and spices, very nice, still in production), Oeillet Rouge and Oeillet Blanc (straight-up carnations, one pleasant and the other really really not, and since I can’t remember which was which, it’s probably a good thing that these have vanished), and Love’s True Bluish Light, a milky skin-musk/vanilla that many fumeheads were raving over but I found not to my personal taste. During my intensive Tuberose Exploration, I also tried Tuberose Diabolique (interesting and pretty up top, and savagely weird with an interesting bitter note in the drydown).

The Ava Luxe website is attractive, and while the interface is a tiny bit clunky (I did a fair bit of flipping pages back-and-forth to read scent descriptions and choose which samples I wanted), it’s no harder to use than the much-maligned DSH Perfumes’ site. (I will put up with that website because DSH fragrances are so good, and I feel the same about Ava Luxe.) Indies are awesome. There is a person behind the products, and if you have a question, it’s pretty easy to shoot an email to that person… and very often, unless the matter is proprietary, you get an answer!

This go-round, I chose the following to test: Amande, Crepe de Chine, and Vintage Apple Blossom, all in eau de parfum format (parfum and perfume oil are the other formats available) and a small spray bottle.

Amande: “The deliciousness of sugared almonds, with a base of creamy vanilla and sweet musk. Notes: bitter almond, apricot, almond milk, vanilla, cream, heliotrope, sandalwood. A gourmand.”

I do love almonds, would love to smell like marzipan, and consequently have tried a fair number of almond scents. The One Almond For Me seems to be Montale Amandes Orientales, so you have some idea of what I like. This one sounded like it would be up my alley. However, after a queasy moment where it reminded me of a lip gloss I owned ca. 1979, it settled into plain ol’ sweet musk without the almond or milky notes I was hoping for. It stayed sweet musk from minute T+22 to minute T+260 or thereabouts, whereupon it faded away.

Crepe de Chine: “A stunning feminine chypre fragrance with a full bodied green floral accord and creamy woody base notes. Notes: bergamot, basil, neroli, aldehydes, bourbon ylang-ylang, gardenia, rose, jasmine, oakmoss, patchouli, Mysore sandalwood, Indian musk, Vetiver Haiti, vanilla.”

I was excited about this one. I wasn’t exactly expecting the classic F. Millot Crepe de Chine (which I have tested from two sources, and which, seriously, tried to bite me both times), but given that it’s described as a floral chypre, I thought I would enjoy. Alas, no.

It sounds great, right? Given the notes, it sounds stunningly like Soivohle Centennial, or Pierre de Velay Extrait No. 11, both based on classic floral chypre formulae. But on me, Crepe de Chine smells like herbal soap. It smells like Dial, actually. It smells like my great-aunt Leacy’s bathroom. Which was pleasant, mind you, but (again with my whine) I don’t want to smell like soap. I got a headache wearing it, into the bargain. I had to scrub it off, with real soap, and immediately felt better.

Vintage Apple Blossom: “A lovely fresh aldehydic floral fragrance based on the vintage apple blossom perfumes of the 1940s. Notes: Aldehydes, Hawthorn blossom, Acacia Farnesiana, Aubepine aldehyde, Lilac, Lily, May Rose, Sampaquita blossom, Jasmine, Rainwater, Sandalwood.”

Apple Blossom is probably an homage to fragrances of the same name from, I think, the 1940s, when it was a popular motif. I do love apple blossoms and their pale, fleeting fragrance, but it can’t really be captured naturally. And I like aldehydic florals, too. However, this Apple Blossom is strongly lilac on me, and very powdery. I retested it at various times, trying to find the individual floral notes listed, but never caught anything except lilac and a hint of the rose. It was pleasant but not memorable, and for some reason I did not feel comfortable in it. I felt like a room freshener.

Sometimes there is a consensus that certain perfume houses seem to “work” for certain individuals, while others don’t see the appeal — or actively dislike that house’s offerings. For example, I myself tend to do well with the classic and boutique Chanels (leaving aside Chance, Allure, and Coco Mlle.), and even if a de Nicolaï scent is not to my taste, I tend to appreciate it. Guerlain is more misses than hits, and Caron, with a few exceptions, is a Don’t Bother house for me. So are Diptyque and L’Artisan.

I’ve only tried, at this point, fewer than ten of Ava Luxe’s 100+ fragrances. But the only one I liked was Thé Noir, and not enough to buy it. I did spend a good couple of hours reading fragrance descriptions when picking out my recent samples, in the attempt to choose scents that appealed to me. All were not just fails, but big fails, with two being scrubbers (Crepe de Chine and one of the Oeillet scents). I’m not going to say these are badly done, because I found them very nice on paper and would probably like them on someone other than myself. Maybe I’m being too picky — I’ve long looked for the perfect almond, and have found only a few I like — and maybe I’ve tested the wrong scents. However, I will say that based on my limited sampling, they do not suit me and I’m probably done with testing any more Ava Luxe fragrances. Your mileage may vary, obviously, and it might be a skin chemistry thing. I still believe that matters, at least in some cases. It seems to matter here.

Ava Luxe’s website is here. It was a pleasure to shop there, and I like to throw some business to independent perfumers from time to time (ahem, as well as buying unsniffed vintage minis, of which I have FAR TOO MANY). These weren’t for me, but they might be for you. You never know.

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