When I was composing the initial new release for the Maher Olfactive launch, I wanted it to be the most indulgent perfume that I could imagine. Something that was both daring and familiar, luxurious yet imaginative, comforting yet kind of cold.
This led to the initial inspiration, a material that I’ve long wanted to put at the center of a perfume, but one that would require my utmost creativity: osmanthus absolute. There were two obstacles for me to overcome. One was creating a surrounding perfume as interesting as the material itself, which is quite complex. It’s simultaneously warm and fuzzy while also being bright and uplifting. A floral with facets of stone fruits and tea, but also with an almost leathery note.
And while I do love osmanthus perfumes that so often emphasize the leather, warm aspects of the material, I challenged myself to go in the other direction. Find the bright, fruity and tea-like aspects of the material to both exalt and complement.
As I was working on some early accords for this perfume, I was researching osmanthus in culture. I found a legend that really helped me finalize the feeling that I was trying to reach. That is where the idea of making this feel like living on the moon in a crystal palace.
There was a legend of Chang’e, a princess who was banished to live on the moon in a crystal palace. Also living there was a type of Sisyphean character named Wu Gang, who worked continually trimming a giant osmanthus tree from overtaking the palace. No matter how much he swung his ax, the tree kept healing.
Giant, uncontainable osmanthus combined with a shimmering palace in the soft, lunar light? That did the trick.
Priming the Osmanthus
First, in order to bring out the aspects of osmanthus absolute that I wanted to highlight in this perfume, I added a few modifiers meant to not be noticed, but rather guide the spotlight. The rooty, orris notes of irival and sweetness of heliotropyl acetate, and just the slightest tobacco-flower touch of liatrix absolute added a backbone to the floral tea aspect of osmanthus.
To enhance to stone-fruit aspect, I employed a small dose of peachy gamma-undecalactone (see Guerlain’s Mitsuko for reference), apricot essential oil and a fresh, clean berry accord of mine that is also used more prominently in Lamplight Penance, strawberry glycidate, dimethyl benzyl carbonate (a dry plum/tobacco note) and a blackberry tincture that I made from dried blackberries. Finally, I created a raspberry accord that began with raspberry ketone so it would not be overly tart, but a deferential sweetness that blended seamlessly with the fortified osmanthus.
Finally, to round everything out, elemi essential oil and galbanum resinoid create a sticky incense undertone just below the surface, while anisic aldehyde and aurantiol pull out the rich, blossomy notes of osmanthus.
Finding Complements to Osmanthus
While I so often try to find stark contrasts in my perfume compositions, Crystal Moon relies more on complementary notes. The first and foremost is the use of lavender flowers. This is an essential oil made solely from the purple flowers of lavender with none of the green stems or leaves. This eliminates the camphorous, spicy green notes of lavender. What remains is the smooth, silky and sweet lavender notes that add a plush vibe to the osmanthus.
Next, jonquil absolute pulled the rich, fruity notes out a little bit more while adding a deeper anchor to the overall floral composition. To add a counter balance, I found that juniper berry essential oil staked its ground firmly between the sultry sweetness of the jonquil and the velvet sweetness of the lavender, finding common ground but adding some uplifting light to each. This airy, cosmic bent was further ratcheted up with hinoki wood essential oil, a Japanese cypress plant that is a soft, green resinous wood that adds to that ephemeral quality.
Finally, I had been looking for a way to create a bridge from these notes to the base notes. It finally hit me one morning as I was enjoying my favorite way to start the day: a meticulously brewed cup of coffee from my neighbor and (in my biased opinion) the best coffee roaster in the world, Sump Coffee. This was from the Yirgacheffe region of Ethiopia, known for fruity, floral and juicy varietals of beans. From a processor called Mystic Valley, no less, which fit in perfectly with the thematic elements of the scent story. This coffee featured notes of juicy stone fruit, jasmine and other florals. Perfect! So I created a coffee tincture to add an acidic coffee note, far different from the rich, roasty and chocolate notes of the dark roast coffee you may find at your favorite doughnut store.
The Lunar Base
When thinking about movement on the moon, it’s slow, deliberate and weightless. So with the base, I worked to do the same. I create a resinous amber note that included vanilla, bicyclononalactone and beeswax absolute with a lot of labdanum absolute and even more clearwood, a light, woody note slightly reminiscent of patchouli without the earthiness adds a ton of space to what would be a very dense composition. This accord is more noticeable in its effect than to the nose, creating a very long lasting base note that extends the fragrance and really smooths everything over, creating a hazy lunar surface glow to everything.
The floral composition was further anchored with ethylene brassylate, as well, creating more depth and stateliness. At the same time, a dose of vetikone (think of the more citrus-y elements of vetiver) emphasizes the fruity tea notes.
I believe this is the type of perfume that really both tells the story and creates a true reflection of the story’s setting. The subtlety required is often much more difficult to pull off, especially with a material like osmanthus absolute. But I believe this is a worthy chapter in a storied note in the history of perfume: osmanthus.
Crystal Moon Eau de Parfum will be available on April 28, 2020, when Maher Olfactive launches. I am very excited to share this story with you.