I am a perfume lover. I have a perfume wardrobe instead of a signature scent. And yet…
And yet, every so often I smell a perfume that is so profoundly beautiful—so attuned to my sensibilities that it seems to pulsate in rhythm with my heart—I find myself thinking about settling down and making that most personal of fragrance commitments. “This could be my one and only,” I say with serious consideration, though the thought of perfume monogamy up until this moment has not been a thought at all.
The first time I entertained such a notion was with Chanel No. 22; the second time, with Amouage Jubilation 25. This time around it is with ANTONIA—the latest perfume offering from Puredistance, the small, luxury brand founded by Jan Ewoud Vos, based in the Netherlands. ANTONIA (the name of which is expressed in all uppercase letters by the Puredistance company, so that's the way I'll refer to it here) was created by perfumer Annie Buzantian, who also authored the company’s signature perfume, Puredistance I, which I reviewed earlier this year. ANTONIA doesn’t actually launch until November (along with the company’s third scent, a masculine fragrance designed by Roja Dove) but the company offered me a preview sample and I gratefully accepted.
Tender greens, as welcome and as pretty as the first lawns of Spring, is how ANTONIA opens—and though these greens might seem so breathy and beautiful that you can’t imagine how they will last, tendrils of them weave in and out of this glorious fragrance in vine-like fashion, even into the scent’s far drydown. And where there are greens so tender, there is also sunlight. In ANTONIA, the olfactory sunlight has a tangy, almost oily piquancy to it at first: like the high and fragile sunlight of April in the northern hemisphere, its presence makes your mouth water. It’s a smell akin to the taste of wood sorrel—a mix of green and sour—which in kaleidoscopic fashion changes, folding into something sweet: ANTONIA's piquancy is balanced by the calming sweetness and creaminess of a floral custard.
If I were to describe ANTONIA in terms of perfumes that you might already know, I would describe it as the love child of Chanel Bel Respiro and Frederic Malle's Le Parfum de Thérèse.
If I were to describe ANTONIA in terms of a feeling, it would be that of hopeful, dreamy yearning—the kind of yearning where you see only the dazzling possibilities of chasing whatever bright and wavery thing lies ahead of you, and no thought or fear of the obstacles it might take to reach it.
And maybe it’s the fragrance’s name that has colored my impressions of it, but if I were to describe ANTONIA in terms of a person, it would be the beautiful immigrant girl who is the subject of Willa Cather’s gentle novel, My Antonia. There is a passage from that novel (written in 1918) in which the narrator, the Nebraska farm boy Jim, her childhood companion and lifelong admirer, describes dancing with Antonia, which he does by contrasting it to dancing with her friend, Lena:
Like the literary Antonia, the perfume ANTONIA combines a sense of newness (the green notes) with a sense of adventurous optimism (its whiff of bright tanginess that teases the senses and then leads them on with its invitingly sweet-and-creamy nuances). Together it’s a spellbinding combination, and yet it’s rendered in a soft, understated style that makes for a fragrance of graceful presence.
I would give you a list of notes for the fragrance but the Puredistance company has decided to keep them secret, stating in their press materials that they prefer not to zoom in on the ingredients in the interest of keeping the perfume’s personality intact “…just as a composition of Chopin need not be divided into individual notes in order to be enjoyed.” Out of respect for their wishes, I have suppressed the urge to guess the individual notes—at least within the bounds of this review.
What I won’t suppress is my suggestion that if you love fragrances like the original Estee Lauder Private Collection, the original ( vintage) Must de Cartier, or the mossy, fruity-chypre combination that is Amouage Jubilation 25, you will most likely love Puredistance ANTONIA—a quieter scent than those three, but similar in spirit and sophistication. The kind of scent that leaves you entertaining the notion of a signature scent, even when you know you don’t have that kind of commitment in you; it truly is that good.
Puredistance ANTONIA will be launched in November 2010 and available for purchase from a number of luxury boutiques, including the Roja Dove Haute Parfumerie at Harrods in London; the company's own Puredistance Perfume Lounge in Vienna; and from the Puredistance website.
Made from a high concentration of perfume oil (25%), ANTONIA will be available as a 17.5 ml perfume spray in a classic white and olive green giftbox.
†My Antonia, copyright © 1918 by Willa Sibert Cather (Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, 1918, pp. 253-254)
Image (top of page) is from Puredistance Master Perfumes; book image is from Paperbackswap.com.
September 22, 2010:
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Puredistance ANTONIA: Hopefully, My Antonia, Come November…
Lena moved without exertion, rather indolently, and her hand often accented the rhythm softly on her partner’s shoulder. She smiled if one spoke to her, but seldom answered. The music seemed to put her into a soft, waking dream and her violet-colored eyes looked sleepily and confidingly at one from under her long lashes. When she sighed she exhaled a heavy perfume of sachet powder. To dance “Home, Sweet Home,” with Lena was like coming in with the tide. She danced every dance like a waltz—the waltz of coming home to something, of inevitable, fated return. After a while, one got restless under it, as one does under the heat of a soft, sultry summer day.
When you spun out into the floor with Tony, you didn’t return to anything. You set out every time upon a new adventure. I liked to schottische with her; she had so much spring and variety, and was always putting in new steps and slides. She taught me to dance against and around the hard-and-fast beat of the music. †
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