Suzanne's Perfume Journal

April Aromatics Bohemian Spice: A Bohemian Rhapsody

May 23, 2013:

Bohemian Spice was my parfum du jour yesterday, and it was the perfect spice scent to wear on a day when summer arrived early. There is a lot of patchouli in Bohemian Spice—and given the name and the fact that this is an all-natural perfume, one might assume it to have a hippie bent (by which I mean a crunchy, head-shop smell) when nothing could be further from the truth. There is no funkiness whatsoever to fear from Bohemian Spice, not even while wearing it in a swelter. This is a most elegant perfume—a perfume that is quietly complex and textural, featuring a lean and lightly camphorous patchouli accord that makes up its core, as well as a dusting of gingery spices intermingled with orange; a weathered-smelling wood accord that draws heavily on cedar; a quiet spiral of frankincense; and a lightly vanillic and powdery amber base. It’s a perfume that makes light work out of what I think of as traditionally heavy notes: Bohemian Spice floats on my skin, and though it has a gorgeous detectable sillage that leans slightly towards the masculine side, it smells carefree and easy-going in a way we don’t always equate with masculine scents. To my mind, a bohemian is someone who has a bit of the drifter in them—someone who knows how to travel light and live life in an unencumbered manner—and that’s how Bohemian Spice strikes me. It has enough heft to let me know I’m wearing a gorgeous scent, but there is a sheerness to its formulation that lends it a relaxed sensibility. A dreamy and effortless affair, it is—and yet this bohemian doesn’t drift away altogether and evaporate into thin air. Like all of the perfumes I’ve tried from the April Aromatics line, Bohemian Spice has impressive longevity on the skin and provides many, many hours of scented pleasure.

Wearing it yesterday in the heat, it stirred a specific memory (a distant memory that remains fresh despite thirty years that have passed) of spending time with my college boyfriend at his family’s vacation home in Cape Cod. My college years are what I consider the bohemian years of my life—not because I was the boho type, but because it was a period that afforded me much freedom—and there was a particular week I spent with my boyfriend and his family in Cape Cod, right before the start of our senior year, that I’ve catalogued in my mind as being symbolic of that time. It wasn’t any “Born to Be Wild” kind of experience at all—just a moment when a curtain on the stage of Real Life parted long enough for me to step into a charmed world that was the epitome of bliss and freedom—a vacation in the truest sense of the word.

Up until that week, my summer had been spent as it had every summer before, in a state of constant, farm-centered hustle: milking cows, showing cows at the county fairs, stacking hay bales from the floor to the rafters of our barn (and though I make it sound like all work and no play, there were many pleasurable interludes too.) But in Dennis, Massachusetts, my only responsibility was to make my bed—and to get a run of varying mileage in everyday, per the instructions I’d received from my cross-country coach. My boyfriend played soccer and thus excelled at running, so every morning he accompanied me on a run through the wooded trails that make Cape Cod one of the more unique beach areas in the United States (I have no idea if it’s still as rustic today, but it was in the 80s), and the rest of the day we spent on the beach, swimming, sunning and playing cards with his brothers, returning home in time to go antiquing with his parents before the evening meal. His mother was in the process of decorating their house, and I think she also just enjoyed taking me to these shops; I still have antique tins and various items she purchased as gifts from these stores.

It’s a simple memory—not a story-telling one—and though it has other layers to it that make it richer, those layers are privately happy moments that only have meaning to me. But if I tell you that when I smell Bohemian Spice, it brings back my time in Cape Cod, I think you will understand the connection I’m trying to make and hopefully have a better sense of how this perfume smells and why I find it so enchanting. For me, it’s an olfactory time capsule that recalls Cape Cod houses with their weathered cedar shakes and shingles; the Cape’s antique shops with their bowls of homemade pomanders in the form of oranges studded with cloves; the warmth of being in close proximity to the boy I loved and his Irish-Italian family; the golden softness of the last days of summer on the New England coast; and the sacred feeling one gets from knowing that this time was special.

Bohemian Spice opens with an orange note made fizzy by the accompaniment of spice—a spice that is hard to separate into notes, but that my nose interprets as ginger and cloves (though I’ve no idea if either is in the actual perfume).  Some ten minutes later, I smell the patchouli—always a hard scent to describe, but most perfumistas know it well, and this one smells dark and earthy and carries with it the herbal, camphorous smell that is in inherent to natural patchouli. As mentioned at the start of my review, Bohemian Spice’s patchouli isn’t funky—it doesn’t smell like armpits, mothballs and wool—but it does conjure something virile in my mind. The perfume pivots on this patchouli accord and yet isn’t overwhelmed by it. One of the perfume’s loveliest facets is its easily detectable note of cedar, which comes across as aged and wind-worn. This is cedar at its most beautiful—and its weathered quality not only makes me think of traditional Cape Cod homes, but of anything that has been made more gentle by the eroding forces of the elements. The cedar within this scent reminds me of the joys of wearing a gently-faded bathing suit and deeply-faded denim cutoffs, back in the days of my youth.

In Cape Cod, one might venture down to the beach in a slightly faded suit and cutoffs—and one might live in a house that has been weathered to a silvery gray—but faded and weathered does not equate with sloppy. Where there is expensive real estate, there is usually a sense of elegance—and where there is expensive perfume from an indie perfumer who is as meticulous as Tanja Bochnig is (she is both the perfumer and the owner of the brand), there is the same. Bohemian Spice in its far drydown is casually elegant, with a base that smells diffusely of incense, vanilla and an amber accord that is more powdery than creamy. Still retaining its spiciness, the drydown is not deeply oriental smelling, nor does it sway to the feminine side. This gentle sweetness provides dreamy uplift and a sense of polish to the perfume.

For me, Bohemian Spice is the smell of ease—a reminder of those rare and fine moments when we are unburdened of the world’s cares and can fall in love with its richness. I’m not sure how that squares with anyone else’s notion of bohemianism, but it makes perfect sense to me.


April Aromatics Bohemian Spice is composed of 100% natural extracts of aged patchouli, cedarwood, vetiver, sandalwood, frankincense, sweet orange, cistus, lavender, Peru balsam, and ylang-ylang. It can be purchased from the perfumer’s website, where a 30-ml bottle is €189 (price is in euros, as the perfume house is based in Germany), or in the U.S. from LuckyScent.com, where it is currently priced at $225 for 30-ml. My review is based on a sample sent to me by the perfumer.

Photo is a snapshot I found on TripAdvisor.com of a beach in Provincetown, Massachusetts; bottle image is from CaFleurBon.com.


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