You don’t associate Carmel with enchantment. Just south of Monterey, you associate Carmel with shoreline and views of the Pacific, magic-not so much. However, one of the more interesting independent US perfumers lives and produces there, Shelley Waddington of En Voyage Perfumes. She has a style. This is a very simple way of putting it but bear with me. When you are used to industrial perfumes, coming across arresting artisanal work is like tasting micro-brewery beer when all you’ve ever drunk was Miller Lite: a revelation. That is what you get with Shelley Waddington’s scents, revelations.
When I put in my request to her, she sent back what she considered interesting in her line and that included: A Study in Water, Makeda, Captured in Amber, Café Cacao, Go Ask Alice, and Indigo Vanilla. Oh, and Zelda. Did I mention Zelda? Well, we’ll get back to that fragrance. Three of them stopped me in my tracks and two bowled me over; which doesn’t happen very much anymore. Makeda was a wonderful fruity floral dominated by an apricot oud accord, I liked it but thought things got a bit warmly sweaty inside Makeda probably because of the Oud which can- like cumin- read as sweat. A Study in Water was a light fresh fragrance with lily of the valley and aquatic notes, very high pitched, Captured in Amber was a satisfying, meaty amber, for those who need knives and forks to tackle their perfumes, but Café Cacao was a beautiful gourmand with an unexpected ambergris note in its long trailing finish. CC was stunning. Now ambergris of whatever sort just doesn’t make it into today’s perfumes. Look and you will seldom find it in contemporary perfume for the very good reason that ambergris is expensive and hard to imitate or source. Ambergris is in a couple of Hermes perfumes, the high end of the mass market-you see what I mean.
Indigo Vanilla composed as a tribute to the blues, is luscious and includes a lot of white chocolate, but also violet which cuts the cream just as effectively as strawberries do when sharing a bowl with crème chantilly. The result is really unique, I’ve never smelled anything like this. Indigo Vanilla is something new, mellow and flowery, with a tonality all its own.
Then there’s Zelda. Zelda is dense and complex. To say that there is galbanum in the beginning, then magnolia and floral notes over amber, sandalwood, musk and cedar, is not to express what Zelda smells like at all. Zelda is symphonic, layered, close up anisic, far away, a mixture of gin and coconut. For the life of me I cannot isolate the magnolia, but the end is terrific in all its balsamic bourbon whiskey glory. By turns Zelda is green and resin-y, smoky and fresh. The fragrance is also incredibly long lived, going easily twenty four hours on me, to the point where I was hoping Zelda would recover from her hangover and call Scott for a ride home. But almost everyone loves this vibrant, beautiful, talkative alcoholic. Zelda the scent can be as overwhelming and complicated as Zelda the woman was, coming out with all sorts of indiscreet remarks in her throaty voice.
My personal fall was for Go Ask Alice, and believe me I didn’t expect that, but I kept wearing Alice for days on end, and Alice which is patchouli, broke my rule of “I don’t wear patchouli” because it just is so wearable. Notes I could tell you, but on skin, which is where all perfumes ultimately succeed or fail, Alice is patchouli as head note, then possibly rose and beeswax and then a complicated ambery drydown which never veers too sweet and has the “Waddington-ade” which smells as if it contains the booze and black pepper I think I catch at the end of Zelda. Alice worked as improvised basenote with everything, from Carons to De Nicolais, even a Guerlain or two. How often does that happen. I loved it. So you see, there is magic in Carmel.
The artist featured here is Thomas Hart Benton whose fairytale Americanism seems appropriate to Shelley Waddington and her sensual, jazzy, complex style.
Bottom line: The Popular favorite here is Zelda, Shelley also likes Zelda and I tumbled for Go Ask Alice.