Mermaid's Carnation (Esscentual Alchemy)

As a child, I used to spend hours poring through my mother's copy of Book Brownie's Book. This charming 1935 school primer included a riveting tale about a mermaid who accidentally leaves a jeweled comb upon a tidal ledge. When the comb is pocketed by a greedy mortal child, our outraged Undine forms a posse of wailing sirens to clamor for the return of her pilfered property.

Something about this story struck a chord with me. Even at that age, I preferred my sirens with a touch of mythological menace. Neither the Reverend Kingsley's morally superior Water-Babies nor Hans Christian Andersen's passive, self-sacrificing naiad appealed to me. A real mermaid wouldn't fixate on landlubbers, impart valuable life lessons, or submit silently to the theft of her treasures. Her kind prey upon and plunder us-- not the other way around.

She sits quietly upon the shore, untangling her locks of hair. She has a shell full of treasures. Within lays a small pink flower... Sweetly scented, it makes her wonder what exactly it is that humans do...

This is the brief for Mermaid's Carnation, described as "a natural botanical perfume which has clean, light florals, with a bit of spice". What an understatement! This furious pink carnation rises like Venus from a haze of salty sea-foam, then explodes into bloom like fireworks over the ocean. I haven't encountered a Dianthus soliflore this devastating since vintage Caron Bellodgia-- and to find that this scent really does tell an imaginative story excites me. It's been a while since a perfume made me feel as though I were opening a magical book of fables... or receiving a gift from beyond.

The fact that its creator is so humble and unassuming just adds to my amazement. A self-taught perfumer with a background in opera, Amanda Feeley maintains modest shops on Etsy and Supadupa and eschews self-promotion to a degree remarkable in this age of niche divas. Like Liz Zorn, Feeley acts as a composer rather than a performer; her creations -- and not her ego -- take center stage. No cult of personality here. Just a small pink flower, sweetly scented.

Mermaid's Carnation being the first of several Esscentual Alchemy fragrances I'm fixing to sample, I anticipate the discovery of other compelling narratives -- whether borrowed from myth, music, or mermaid -- woven into Feeley's creations.

Scent Elements: Grapefruit, bergamot, carnation, rose, lavender, cassis, genêt, balsam Peru, rosewood, sandalwood