In the world of perfumery there is an age-old conflict the natural vs the synthetic. It’s a complicated argument with many different view points, with some asserting that ‘natural’ is better, whereas others believe that a mixture of both the natural stuff and the ‘synthetic’ materials is required to make truly complete compositions. I personally am firmly in the mixed camp and have found many predominately, or all-natural fragrances to feel quite flat and unfinished.
That said, I’m always open to persuasion and it seems that I may have found just the thing to convince me, courtesy of “naturally active skincare” brand, Liz Earle. Up until now, my exposure to this particular brand has been what I’ve seen on QVC and the many bottles of Cleanse & Polish that my mother worked her way through when I was a kid. I therefore know that Liz Earle stands for quality without compromise, and it would be safe to say that her fragrances follow suit.
Liz Earle currently has two perfumes in her lineup; Botanical Essence Nº1 and Botanical Essence Nº15. The former is a 98% natural composition penned by perfumer Jean Charles Niel and is described as being“vibrant and sparkling”, whilst the latter is a 90% natural fragrance composed by perfume Alienor Massenet and billed as “an olfactory jewel, evoking the feeling of elegance and seduction“. Both are surprisingly three-dimensional perfumes that could be enough to convince even the most sceptical of fragrance nerds (i.e. me).
Patchouli, Damask Rose, Bergamot, Vetiver, Coriander, Lavender, Geranium, Tonka Bean, Mandarin, Bitter Orange, Cardamom, Nutmeg and Cedarwood
How Does it Smell?
If I were to describe Botanical Essence Nº1 in a short, snappy Michael Edwards-esque classification, I would say that it is a ‘citrus chypre’. It appears to have been created in the same vein as Clarins’ legendary Eau Dynamisante, with all of the its sharp, biting citrus but none of its dry patchouli base. In the opening, the Liz Earle is sparkling, spicy and pulpy with bitter orange and grapefruit. There’s a good dash of sparkle that brings a classy and sunny disposition to proceedings.
Underneath the shimmering veil of fruit that is Botanical Essence Nº1‘s opening, there lies a strong and rather masculine dose of spice that sits somewhere comfortably between the metallic-sheen of pepper and the human warmth of cumin. There’s rose too – only a subtle dose, that captures the earthier, more green tones of the flower, but there is rose nonetheless. The base is greener still, and appears as a velvety carpet of spice, cedarwood and wet moss. It’s simple but easy to enjoy.
Botanical Essence Nº1 really is lovely. It’s an easygoing natural chypre that possesses both the longevity and presence that is so lacking in many all-natural (or predominately-natural) fragrances. It has a relaxed crispness to it that makes one feel that it would be inappropriate to wear it with anything more demanding than a clean white shirt. All-in-all, Botanical Essence Nº1 is classy, exceptionally well-executed and really quite enjoyable.
Bergamot, Virginian Cedarwood, Patchouli, Guaiacwood, Sandalwood, Tonka Bean, Cypriol, Siam Benzoin, Damask Rose, Elemi, Cinnamon Leaf, Clove Bud, Pink Pepper, Bourbon Vanilla and Vetiver
How Does it Smell?
It would be fair to say that Botanical Essence Nº15 is a complete surprise. It would also be accurate to mention the fact that it is completely at odds with my earlier statement that predominately natural fragrances can be ‘flat’. Botanical Essence Nº15 is full, multi-faceted and textured. Perfumer Alienor Massenet describes it as being a “spherical” perfume, comparing it to the Guggenheim museum because it is “modern and round”. This is a summation that I can certainly go along with because, when it comes down to it, Nº15 is a very present fragrance with soft, round edges.
Botanical Essence Nº15 opens sweet and spicy with cinnamon, clove and vanilla. A sprinkle of pepper and a splash of bergamot provide a sense of liveliness to what is, for the most part, a rather solid composition. The familiar tones of a rose/oud accord asserts itself pretty quickly, but rather than taking over in full technicolor, with a thousand shades of ‘rouge’, this woody floral heart appears through a monochrome lens – washing out the colour but retaining the accord’s distinct shapes.
In the base, Botanical Essence Nº15 thins a bit. Amber plays a predominant part but somehow the fullness of the opening hours doesn’t quite carry through, leaving less of a lasting impression. One expects a smooth, plush and creamy blend of vanilla, benzoin and labdanum (with a splash of spice for good measure), but what one gets is a milky vanilla an a weakly woody structure with a small dash of spice.
Much like Botanical Essence Nº1, Nº15 is really well done. Yes, I do wish that it managed to be as ‘spherical’ in the base as it is in the opening and in the heart, but as far as woody ambers go, it’s pretty decent – especially for something that is nearly ‘all-natural’. That said, one can’t help but think that a few nifty ‘synthetics’ they could have plumped up that disappointing base – but hey, with such enjoyable perfumes, let’s not sweat the small stuff!
Liz Earle’s Botanical Essence Nº1 and Botanical Essence Nº15 are available in 50ml Eau de Parfum for £47.
Samples, notes and quotes via Liz Earle. Image 1 via tourisme-montreal.org. Images 2 & 3 via johnlewis.com.