Monday, April 10, 2017

NAVA Icons

Ahhhh, long, long time no talk, huh? I have to blow the dust off and get back to work! And what better time to get started, than with news about a new release of Icon perfume oils from NAVA. I'm super excited, and I know so many other fans are as well. But maybe you're unfamiliar with this line of treasures from Nocturne Alchemy and VApothecary, and you're wondering what Icons are?
Well, they are a collection of oudh-based perfume oils! 
I have been a bit intimidated to write about these, because honestly, I don't think I have the scent vocabulary to maybe do them proper justice - but I didn't do it last year during the release of the second collection of Icons, and so when I heard there would be a third, coming very soon, I knew it was time for me to give it a try. 
Before I get started with my personal review, I want to mention as always, that I am by no means a scent expert. I'm passionate about my love of indie perfume, no doubt! But one other thing I want to say is that everyone's skin is different; so what may work on my skin, may not on yours. There are sometimes notes that are loud on my skin - for instance honey, I tend to amp that note to the point where I can smell nothing but honey in a perfume oil on my skin. I've had a few successes, with honey, and I'm glad, because I love it. I've had trouble even with hormones affecting the way notes work on my skin. These sort of "your mileage may vary" warnings apply to everything I review. 
I'd honestly never had oudh in a perfume oil before NAVA, and for me, I was in for a treat. It's become one of my favorite notes, I just enjoy it so much. But I've always liked deep, resinous types of perfumes - I guess it shouldn't have been a shock. I've been given permission from NAVA to share with you the story of Oudh, and the House of NA, in their own words! So I hope you enjoy reading this and learning about it as much as I did.
"The story behind Oudh and the ICONS by the House of NA:
Agarwood Oil was once as expensive as gold. It was considered a gift from the Gods. What is Agarwood? It is the basis of Oudh.
On our continuing journey around the world, educating ourselves is an everyday rule. We search amazing perfume distilleries in far off lands like Egypt, India, Australia, and Hungary, as well as places not so far away like Canada and within our own state of California. Within this journey it takes a ‘nose’ to ask the right questions, to find the secret markets that harvest this sacred wood, and to become an observer as much as a student of the olfactory traditional methods of creating these dark and smoky wood revelations.
During this time in our perfume journey, we came to the need to produce our own Agarwood, most recently in India. In India we found a very small organic sustainable Agarwood Farm and founded our own place within it. The Aquilaria does not yield perfume all by itself; there is a process and art of infecting the tree with parasitic ascomycetous mould, and in a sense the Oudh comes forth much like Frankincense tear resin comes from a Frankincense shrub, except Oudh is born when the tree begins to die. As the tree is taken over by the fungus, the tree begins to generate an anti-fungus by creating the oil we call Oudh. During this part of the process we take from the tree to create the precious perfume note Oudh. We use an inoculation to create this effect in the roots and trunk of the Aquilaria species, thus producing Agarwood and ultimately harvesting the Oudh after inoculation spreads into the trees, but without killing the tree as the farm we use is sustainable.
The original ICONS collection began five years ago in 2012 when we walked through souks looking for that special Egyptian or Arabian object that was Iconic to these places. Looking through barrels of fresh dates, inhaling the subtle and sublime of incense, feasting our eyes on bowls and bowls of exotic and colorful spices, pouring coffee Arabic from an Arab Dallah, touching the silk of magic carpets and hand-woven Prayer rugs…within all the iconic thoughts of these exotic places, scent was always a fixture at the forefront of everything we did and continues to be at the forefront of everything that we do today. It was then that we decided that we, as a company, needed to create a palette of exotic Oudh that not only uniquely represented NAVA, but also would allow us to introduce these ICONS of perfume into our world of perfume oil. Our Oudh is not marked up like all other suppliers, they are a rare specialty created by NAVA and offered far below typical competitive pricing in the global Oudh market. We have used Oudh (this spelling is Arabic, you may also see ‘Oud’ or ‘Aoud’ as the spelling), in some of our blends before, but we wanted to create our own Oudh that was distinct enough to offer to our customers. There are only seventeen species of the genus Aquilaria and of these only eight are known to produce Agarwood and after inoculation produce Oudh.
In the Souks in Egypt and Arabia and even in India, there is plenty of marked up Oudh for sale everywhere. Go to a high end fragrance house and ask how much alcohol-based Oudh is. You might be shocked at the price that is mostly alcohol, although it is understandable why Oudh is so expensive considering the time and effort and artistic precision it takes to create an Oudh and the precious nature of the endangered trees. In our best efforts, we have harvested organic Oudh that has not been harmed by chemicals and solvents; in fact, our trees are safe from animals and man alike, protected within a temple property, and taken care of as if a sacred gift from the Gods.
Why is our Oudh not as expensive as high end fragrance houses? We do not put alcohol in our perfume oils; we simply use the Oudh as a blending tool and offer a beautiful collection of resin blended oudh for this set of magical scents.
These are limited to 99 bottles. Once these sell out, we will no longer carry them because each lot of Oudh is unique to its particular Agarwood harvest. Each Agarwood reacts differently to the notes that we have introduced in this Resin Collection, and each batch of Oudh oil is one of a kind. We've set aside 50 of each of the perfumes for our Facebook friends during the interim while we migrate our store over to a new vendor online. Once we go live (late Spring), we'll offer the remaining 49 bottles x 4 at the new home of Nocturne Alchemy.
We wanted Oudh that was both pleasing to the Oudh connoisseur's nose as well as pleasurable to be worn alone or layered with another NAVA. Only the smallest drop can bring about the essence of what these Oudh compositions were created to be. If you are new to Oudh, try a tiny drop and understand how long this oil will be part of your perfume library because it is built on becoming more supple and elegant with the age of time. Only the SMALLEST drop can bring hours of an otherworldly experience. This is for true perfume connoisseurs.
There are many ways to wear these, we recommend the usual pulse points but the discretion is in how much. Oudh is quite potent and will wear down on the skin, but you will find they are sometimes sticky and quite viscous. These resins have been expertly blended and will become better with age. For ICONS III, we understood a lot but we were still learning, so when we took to explore India, we found that a lot of Oudh was exported and a lot of trees died because of this. We wanted to only continue this journey for exotic oudh if the trees were sustainable. We found there were other people that thought as we did, so we bought our own trees and harvested our own oudh and with ICONS III, we used the makhalat method which is blending raw Oudh with the most beautiful notes NAVA has found in the world (Resin for this collection), and have collected over time. ICONS III Resin is our testament to the finest ingredients, sustainable Oudh and housed in a beautiful marble-esque bottle."
Absolutely amazing, and I'm so very glad I was able to share this story with folks. I love to learn, and my passion for perfume has led me on such an interesting journey. 
There's no doubt these are special. So far, there have been two releases of Icons Oudh, and the third is just around the corner.  The Icons I'm going to be reviewing today are from the previous two releases, and are no longer available for purchase; you could possibly find someone selling one in the NAVA Marketplace, the secondary market, on Facebook though!
We'll start off with my precious Egyptian Temple Oudh, which was from the Icons I release. Notes are: "A more intense Oudh that softens over time on the skin. Egyptian Agarwood Oudh is represented here and it is recommended for first time Oudh enthusiasts to inhale from the bottle softly or fan the open bottle toward you with your hand to catch the nuances of smoking embers, dried honeycomb and sandalwood."
In the bottle, ooo it's smoky. Mmm, smoky, and a sort of vaguely rubbery smell, and wood. My bottle is pretty aged at this point, so it's quite thick. I've decanted it into the marble-esque bottle you see in my photo, because it's very hard to get out of the 5ml bottle with the reducer cap. Wet on my skin, the smokiness intensifies, and the faintly rubbery smell gets a bit stronger for a minute. But that starts to dissipate almost immediately and the stickiness of the oil sinks into my skin. This is not fresh, unburnt incense. Immediately, I am transported to a temple, where piles of incense are smoldering, smoking. It's unapologetically strong, potent. Absolutely intense and gorgeous. I get the feel of the oudh, the sandalwood is in the background. My fiance is a big fan of this one, he likes all sorts of dark, woody scents, and this one is quite commanding.
Dry, after just a dab on my pulse points, it's really the same. It has incredible staying power, even after I wash my hands several times throughout the day I can still smell it on my wrists. It is indeed fantastic on its own, but as a layering perfume, it's a virtual powerhouse. I love it with so many options - much of the Studio Limited line, like Kashmir, Crystalline, Diamond, Santalum. It's a great base to hatch the Dinosaur collection with, like Giganotosaurus, Cryolophosaurus, Diplodocus, Pteranodon. I've tried it with several limited collection oils, Adele, Anticipation, Witch Cauldron. I like it with some of my OPs, Pakhet, Hathor. And with other oils that have oudh as a note like Phantasm Kiss or Horus Haven 2? Wow! The possibilities are endless.
As far as how strong it is, this one isn't shy - with just a dab, it lasts forever, and isn't hard to find - I often get compliments, or hear people asking if someone is burning incense, hah!
Okay, so that is one of my most prized oils. I have a little dab of Leviathan, from the first collection too, in a bottle, from a friend who knew I'd been wanting to try it. And so I'll give you my review of it. Notes are: An Amber Oudh. NAVA Oudh blend with guiacwood, rosewood, patchouli, nagarmotha, agarwood, atlas cedar and cardamom absolute. The opening note is naturally sweetened Oudh by the Amber notes.
In the bottle - bright amber, woods, and oudh. Wet on my skin, I get the slightest hint of a creamy cardamom, and it's already melding with the oudh, giving a slightly sweet tinge to the edges of this. As it dries down, this is a stunner. The amber feels bright and airy, kind of sweet, and the oudh and woods are a nice balance. I don't catch much of the patchouli, as this is one of those blends that is well balanced, and it's a bit hard to pick out individual notes. I keep huffing, and catch a slight hint of the cedar, and the rosewood, but again, it's so beautifully put together it's really hard to pick up the individual notes, but I definitely get the amber and oudh.
This is just incredible. As I mentioned, I don't have much of this, so I haven't tried layering it, but again as with Egyptian Temple Oudh, I can only imagine what a powerhouse it would be.
Next up, Labyrinth Oudh, from Icons II. The notes are: "Black Patchouli Oudh. An aged true earth Indonesian Black Patchouli wood oil, viscous and sweet and only gets better with aging; blended into a deep Indian Oudh with hints of our originally named: Arabian Oudh and Egyptian Temple Oudh (from the original ICONS series) and a drop of California Redwood Absolute."
In the bottle: Mmm, kind of a dark patchouli? And unmistakable oudh. I'm not getting that faint rubbery smell here. Wet on my skin: I'm getting the sweetness of the cedar, it's melding with the dark patchouli, which is a bit herbal. The oudh is just a bit smoky, mostly woody feeling here.
It's not as thick as my Egyptian Temple Oudh, and has a bit of reddish color, before it sinks into my skin. Dry, this is potent, unapologetic, patchouli. Beautifully done here, it is still a bit sweet, and it's melded with the oudh. It has incredible staying power. As with my experience with other Icons, it's quite strong, and a little goes a long way. This is another layering powerhouse. I have worn it with Crystal, Giganotosaurus, Santal Ombré, California Redwood Crystal Musk, and several others, including some of the Dinosaur collection. Very versatile! Giganotosaurus is actually quite an interesting combination, because it becomes a sort of feminine feeling scent! I tried layering it today with Black Raven, a favorite of mine from the VA side of NAVA. It's a wonderfully dark combination.

I have sniffies of a few other oudhs, from both Icons I and II. I could give you guys a little impression of those in another post, if there's interest! These are all lovely, oudh based oils, and the layering possibilities are truly endless. They are shipped to you in the usual 5ml bottles, and are accompanied by the faux marble bottles, which you can decant your 5ml jar into. I like using the fancy bottles, because these oudh blends get quite thick with aging, and it's easier to access and apply them in the fancy bottles. As with some other special lines from NAVA, like the OPs, these benefit from resting after they arrive, and aging as well - they definitely get richer and more potent with age. There will be 4 new Icons arriving at the site when they reopen, as NAVA has been closed, remodeling their website. I've been quite impatient, as I'm sure many fans have been - I miss them, and I cannot wait to see what the new website looks like.
Okay, I'm going to go ahead and nervously publish this. I must say, I hope that I've done these little beautiful treasures justice. Oudh is a special note, and to have oudh based perfumes has been a real treat for me! I look forward to your feedback, either here or on Facebook, as always. And I'm sorry for my absence!
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