Posted on March 31, 2016 by Matriarch Blog
One of my wishes every year is for one of the cadre of independent perfumers to have a mainstream success. One of the first steps towards this is for these perfumes to become more readily available to the perfume consumer. Which means it somehow has to make it to the mall. There have been a few who have taken the initiative to do just that. One of the most current efforts is independent perfumer Christi Meshell’s House of Matriarch launching a collection of nine fragrances, old and new, in Nordstrom’s across the country. I am rooting for Ms. Meshell because she has developed into an assured artist over the time I have followed her fragrances. I believe she offers an alternative to what else will be found on Nordstrom’s fragrance counter. If these can entice a few of those consumers over to something less commercial in aesthetic this could be the start of my wish coming true.
One of the ways to coax someone into becoming more adventurous is to give them a different riff on a style they know well. One of the perfumes, House of Matriarch Albatross, attempts this with the woody aquatic genre. Ms. Meshell was inspired by the Salish Sea area of her native Pacific Northwest. In that area of the world the pine trees grow right down to the rocky shoreline while the slate grey cold ocean laps against the craggy strand. This zone where the land meets the water is called the Littoral zone. Ms. Meshell uses Albatross as a literal interpretation of the littoral of the Salish Sea.
What separates independent perfumery from the mainstream is the ability to use unusual ingredients. Ms. Meshell doesn’t conjure the ocean by throwing a ton of Calone into Albatross and moving on. Her marine accord accentuates the cool salinity of the ocean water and not the warm sea spray so prevalent within the aquatic genre. It is that chilly watery accord which opens Albatross. This then captures the evergreens on the shore with a mixture of cork oak and pinon oil. This has a sharp woody quality which is the perfect conjuration of this milieu as the cold breeze bites a bit when you breathe deeply. Albatross has a similar bite as the pines ride the wave of the marine accord. Over a few hours the pine mellows and dries out into what Ms. Meshell calls a driftwood accord. What this means is early on the pine accord is sappy. By the later parts of the drydown that sappiness is gone leaving a drier more austere version of the pine.
Albatross has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
I’ve never visited the Salish Sea but I’ve spent a lot of time in the East Coast version of the Littoral zone of Acadia National Park in Maine. Albatross accurately captures that intersection of brine and pine, literally.
Disclosure; This review was based on a sample provided by House of Matriarch.
To see the review and leave a comment, please visit: http://colognoisseur.com/new-perfume-review-house-of-matriarch-albatross-getting-littoral-about-it/
Posted in Albatross, artisan fragrance, artisan perfume, christi meshell, evergreen extracts, fabulous fragrances, Fragrance Review, Fragrance Reviews, house of matriarch, independent perfumer, Mark Behnke, Nordstrom, Salish Sea
Posted on February 02, 2015 by Matriarch Blog
CHRISTI MESHELL, the owner and nose behind the Bellevue-based line House of Matriarch High Perfumery, dips her finger into a jar of tobacco-leaf extract and rubs some on the top of my hand, and in an instant I am transported back decades to my grandfather’s tobacco farm in Kentucky. Sticky-sweet tobacco leaves, old barns, haylofts, manure — the scent-memory is unblemished, like a perfectly preserved photograph.
It gives me goose bumps.
Meshell, with her flowing black hair, sumptuous silk prints, sparkly platform heels and fairy goddess grin, is an agent provocateur of scent, melding wildly intriguing elements into luxury fragrances that defy easy descriptions.
She was raised in oil country — Port Arthur, Texas — but she’s a Northwest hippie medicine woman at heart. Every morning she drinks a glass of water infused with frankincense essence. “It’s good for you,” she insists.
Meshell leads her guests past a to-scale human skeleton hanging by the stairwell that leads up to the plush design studio of her atelier, which is decked out like an eccentric sultan’s parlor (that’s a unicorn bust hanging on one wall; that’s a live white dove perched in a picnic basket by the window; that’s loungy electro by Thievery Corporation blaring on the speaker system).
Meshell sits cross-legged on the floor and begins the interview by burning a series of opulent tree resins: Pine, then dragon’s blood, then oud, which is so precious a piece no bigger than a fingernail costs $5.
The smoke rises and curls like a dancing ghost and forms a cloud above our heads.
“This is the original ‘perfume’ — it literally means ‘through smoke,’ ” Meshell says, during a mini-lesson on the evolution of fragrance, from its use in fumigating living quarters and hair to its use in prayer, ceremonies, courtship and other life pursuits.
Meshell says her sense of smell is so exact, she can tell that a man is smoking a Cohiba cigar from a block away. She says she can smell textures, too. Put a cactus close to her face and its physical prickliness will tickle her imagination.
“Your nose is kind of the last real touch point to the natural world,” she says. “It’s like you’re being touched by nature.”
This allows Meshell to work like a collage artist, composing multilayered fragrances with spectacular resonance that project something of the wearer onto everyone who comes near.
“It’s the last thing you put on before leaving the house,” Meshell says. “It’s that mood that you carry with you, your essence, your invisible aura.”
The smell of Puget Sound seaweed mixed with evergreen extracts, cannabis, animal musk and about 300 other ingredients brings a chilled-out, mystical and sexy vibe to the Blackbird perfume Meshell made in a collaboration with the Seattle fragrance brand.
For some customers, she says, her long-lasting, $120 to $300 full-size perfumes are the only material indulgence they allow themselves.
As Meshell shows off a wall-length bookshelf with hundreds of bottled ingredients, she says that some are derived directly from the Pacific Northwest. A blazingly intense lavender essence comes from plants grown in Redmond. She makes seaweed essence with washed-up kelp she gathers on beach walks.
Her favorite place to visit is the Hoh Rain Forest on the Olympic Peninsula with its hanging moss.
“This is the last enchanted forest, and we live in it,” Meshell says of the Northwest in general.
“Nature,” she says, “is the ultimate luxury.”
Tyrone Beason is a Seattle Times, Pacific NW Magazine staff writer. He can be reached at email@example.com. Alan Berner is a Seattle Times staff photographer.
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