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It’s that time of year again here in Northern California!  Californians know it’s the start of Autumn when the oppressive, blistering hot Indian Summer draws to a close and the temperature has dropped significantly.  You step outside and notice that everyone has traded in their shorts and tank tops for their warm long coats and toasty sweaters.

Autumn is my favorite time of year.  The sun still shines and the sky is a clear brilliant blue.  The air is refreshingly crisp yet comfortably cold.  When you go for a walk around my neighborhood, you see the leaves are starting to fall and sidewalks littered with a vibrant confetti of red, yellow, and orange.  The light is golden just before sunset. What’s most distinctive is the smell of change in the air signalling that Autumn has begun.  There are smells definitely unique to Autumn: chimney smoke, wet leaves, spicy cinnamon baked apples, pumpkin pie, and home-made vegetable soup on the back of the stove made from the last of the garden harvest.

Imagine my delight when I discovered that the essence of autumn in Northern California was captured in a bottle called Madrone by San Francisco perfumery L’Aromatica. (The nose behind L’Aromatica is Loreto Remsing, a former graphic designer turned olfactory artist. From reviews I have read, her perfumes are high quality and unique. She has a wide array of natural fragrances made from the finest essential oils and ingredients.)  Her inspiration behind Madrone, as the name suggests, is the Pacific Madrone tree,  a broadleaf evergreen tree easily identified by its reddish-brown, papery bark that peels and flakes away from its trunk when the tree is mature.  The branches are typically crooked and have meandering stems.  Pacific Madrone trees are seen scattered throughout the rolling foothills of Northern California.

Description: Behold Madrone, an all-natural blend with so many enticing autumn notes, it will make you want to roll in a heap of fallen leaves. I wanted to create a fall blend that would evoke the feeling of Indian Summer as well as fall. Here in Northern California Indian Summer begins around September and lasts through October. We don’t have fall color here, so when you go for a walk in the foothills, a common sight is the bright red twisted branches of the madrone tree. This tree is a symbol of autumn for me and that’s why I chose it for the name. More importantly though, the deep red color of the madrone bark (which peels in a very odd way) is a color representation of the notes in this perfume. I blended exotic Indian spices with Parijata flower, bitter orange, rosewood, beeswax absolute, amyris wood, dry grass, dragon’s blood resin and hand-tinctured fig leaf extract.

 Notes:  Exotic Indian Spices, Parijata Flower, Bitter Orange, Rosewood,Beeswax Absolute, Amyris, Dry Grass, Dragon’s Blood Resin, Fig extract

From the Vial: Straight away I can smell the Indian spices.  It’s not pungeant or overwhelming.  I can pick up a subtle aroma of cardamom, a bit of sweetness from honey, citrus from bitter orange, a smidgen of parijata flower.  It does smell a bit woody and dry, but I also smell fresh green eucalyptus.  There’s a really nice balance between the combination of these notes.  They meld well together creating an accord of leaves, tree bark and it’s sweet sap.  Madrone is making a good first impression with me.

Wet on Skin: The woody character gets stronger when it hits the skin.  There’s still a hint of fresh, crisp greenery.  Eucalyptus is not listed as one of the notes but something in there is clearing my nose a bit which insinuates the smell and sensation of the crisp Autumn air.

Dry Down: As it dries down, the scent gets warmer on the skin and the honey note dominates.  This fragrance does remind me of hiking in the gilded foothills behind my house.  I can hear the crunch of the dry sun-bleached grass underfoot.  There’s a brisk Autumn air at the start of my mid-morning walk, when it hits noon, the clouds clear to make way for the sun.  I feel the warmth of its golden rays kissing my face.  A gentle icy breeze blows toward me carrying the spicy waft of Madrone’s papery, dry bark in close distance.  This really is the smell of Autumn in Northern California.

Sillage:  If I walk past someone the scent will trail a bit.

Longevity: 4 hours.  Reapplying never hurts anyone.

Would I Buy a Full Bottle? I love it. I want it and I want it now!

Pricepoint: $

Season and Occasion: Autumn

Final Verdict: Kudos to Loreto Remsing for creating such a beautiful fragrance! I would classify Madrone as a spicy floriental that is light and delicate but at the same time earthy and grounded. Madrone reminds me of home during my favorite time of year.  If I were on safari in Kenya, riding camels in Egypt, on a double-decker bus in London and I felt homesick, all I would have to do is smell Madrone and I am home. The Northern California autumn is just a scent away.

For homesick Northern Californians and fans of the spicy floriental variety.

L’Aromatica’s Madrone:  Unfortunately this is a Fall 2011 Limited Edition and was pulled off the shelf December 1st.  Click here for other beautiful L’Aromatica scents.

Interested in other San Francisco Bay Area perfumers? Check out my reviews on YOSH.

Next Up: Providence Perfume Co.’s Osmanthus Oolong

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