Red Skies from Maher Olfactive: A Maritime Chypre

From the first time I heard it as a kid, the expression always seemed so mystical and full of wonder. Red skies at night, sailors delight. Red Skies in morning, sailors take warning. For a kid who only knew about the high seas from books and stories, it fed into the larger-than-life idea of life at sea.

And of course, it is a statement of dichotomy and juxtaposition. That idea of juxtaposition is one of my favorite in fragrance: the idea of taking two opposing notes to pull the most interesting parts of each other to the forefront.

So I tried to imagine what type of scent I would imagine representing this aphorism. I kept imagining a chypre, the scent genre named after the island of Cyprus, as a representative of this traditional bulwark of a fragrance. Against that, top notes of ocean air, tropical florals and citrus, bright and delightful, while underneath a storm of moss, leather and vetiver brewed.

I began with a more traditional chypre structure of bergamot essential oil, oakmoss absolute, labdanum and a floral. In this case, not rose, but jasmine absolute, davana essential oil and a ylang ylang accord meant to emphasize the fruity aspects, knowing the base notes would do plenty to pull out the more animalic notes of these two throaty florals. Finally, instead of a spicy note, the woody and citric incense note of elemi essential oil would lend itself to the idea of planks from a seagoing vessel.

On the top of it all was kaffir lime leaf essential oil, both zesty citrus and shimmering, rich greenery. The leaves that shade the boat in the port. Next, an ocean air accord utilized some of the less-common suspects, a more grapefruity and light and airy selection rather than some of the more suffocating choices for what would normally be considered aquatic. I wanted to lean more towards a bright-skies maritime, so I selected precyclemone b, aphermate, aquamate and, to give it a bite, ginger essential oil and green cognac essential oil to offset a touch of the melon-y calone. The result is a crisp and almost salty citrus sea air accord.

This base would include a leather accord, a worn leather, which leans on the labdanum essential oil. It adds a few spices to the mix, dark-aged patchouli for a tanned leather aspect, and beeswax absolute to reflect that warm sweetness that leather has after it has been handled for generations. Finally, a little bit of the traditional isobutyl quinoline gives it that spicy bite. Finally, an ambergris tincture gives it a salty finish while being weighted by the Tonkin-leaning muscenone musk. Additionally, a double-distilled vetiver removes many of the more dirty qualities, giving it a purely rooty quality that reinforces both the oakmoss and seaweed absolute in the base.

The end result is a maritime chypre, something that feels old and new, traditional and contemporary. It truly is a juxtaposition of bright skies and a raging storm. So far it has received a great response from most who have tested it, and so I am excited to release it for Maher Olfactive’s second birthday on April 30, 2022. In the meantime, all purchases until then will receive a sample. Scent notes include kaffir lime leaf, bergamot, ocean air, jasmine, orange blossom, davana, elemi, ylang ylang, vetiver, oakmoss, labdanum, leather and musk.

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