Alchimia Apothecary CYOA


Recently I decided to try new-ish indie company Alchimia Apothecary, as I had been wanting to a do a particular type of custom scent utilizing notes that Haus of Gloi didn't have in their catalog. I ventured into the company with a very tiny order, one custom scent, and ordered during a 20% off sale. They have an extensive line of general catalog  scents and a cosmetics and skincare line that is being phased out because the owner, Erin, is taking her business on the road. I knew it was a little risky buying a custom blend (or Choose Your Own Adventure) from a company that was totally new to me, having never smelled their notes before. But at a reasonable $15.00 a bottle plus the 20% off, I thought it was worth a gamble.

The scent I had in mind was inspired by the memory of my grandma, Evelyn June. I was especially close to her growing up because we lived in a "double," meaning one house, one porch, but two separate entrances and living spaces. She lived on one side and my parents and I lived on the other. So her backyard was literally my backyard. I was always able to escape to her place when things got rough at home. She was a classic, soft, squishy grandma type, but also sassy and funny and silly. One of her favorite groan-worthy jokes to play on me was to whisper conspiratorially, "hey, want to hear a dirty story? 
Once upon a time there was a little boy who fell out of a window into a mud puddle.
 The end."
She thought that was hilarious. 
We loved to watch The Golden Girls and Dr. Quinn: Medicine Woman together when I would visit, and I would prop my feet up on her easy chair and she would give me the best foot rubs ever, and I don't remember her ever refusing, even when her hands must have hurt. I miss those foot rubs, let me tell you.

 She passed away when I was 18 after a very difficult struggle with Alzheimer's. My parents and I cared for her at home, and I would say it was one of the more trying experiences of my life. It was hard seeing her change, physically and mentally, and the isolation was hard as well. Other family seemed to scatter, and we were on our own. I remember we could never really go anywhere as a family, because someone always had to be with her, and there weren't as many resources for help at that time. She died when I was on my senior class trip to Washington D.C., so I missed her funeral, but I had been expecting it so I said my good-byes before I left. So, I prefer to think of her as she was, before all of that.

When I tried to conjure her up in scent, my mind kept thinking of the peony bushes she grew in the backyard. I knew I wanted the scent to be centered on the peony, then as I puzzled over the huge note list, researching how they might play together, I narrowed it down to English Ivy, Pink Peppercorn, Clover, and Rosewood. Something sweet and gentle, cool and green but with a pink flush to it. And just a hint of spicy sass. That was her. I wasn't sure if my vision would translate, so I cold-emailed Erin, told her some of the stories I just shared here, and also sent this picture of my grandma circa 1922: a little cutesy, and a little snarky. I love the quizzical expression on her face, which I imagine to be utter disdain for that horrific bow. I asked Erin what she thought, and if she had any other suggestions. 

Don't ask- When I scanned this pic years ago I went a little effect-happy and I think my parents have the original, so...

Less than an hour later she had responded with a very thoughtful email, and luckily she seemed to know exactly where I was coming from (and didn't seem to find my out-of-the-blue email weird). She suggested a new "behind the scenes" note, flower stems, which had that green I was looking for, but also a touch of the milkiness you would find literally inside broken flower stems. She thought that would blend better than straight-up green clover. She also suggested supplementing the lighter Rosewood with Black Agar for the base, which I thought was a stroke of genius. I've always liked agarwood ever since trying Solstice Scents Manor, and I immediately wrote back and enthusiastically agreed to her suggestions. That made six notes instead of the five listed on the website, but she said that was not a problem and creating the scent I had in mind was more important than keeping to a rigid limit.

I ordered on July 19th, and even though there was a sale and a CYOA contest going on at the time, my perfume still shipped very quickly, on July 24th, and I received it on the 28th. It was securely wrapped in bubble wrap, tucked inside a little bag, and Erin also included a sweet note:

My order also included a sample of a new scent, Escape. 
I love these wee vials! They have orifice reducers in them too so they really help conserve the product. The scent description for that one includes: "Juicy peaches, mouth watering red plums, dewfruit, and acacia surrounded by puakenikeni, plumaria, gardenia, hawthorn, and purple flowers mixed with nuances of saffrin, wine, and just a touch of sweet tobacco." 

I knew going in that it would likely not be for me; peach is a really tricky note for me, and it is pretty peach-centric. It's more like a tropical peach drink, with a bit of a boozy, slightly smokey edge underneath the fruity-florals. It's quite heady, and has some impressive sillage. It's well blended, but just not really for me. Maybe if it was something other than peach...

But. But! My CYOA is for me. I am really pleased with this.
I think it turned out even better than I imagined it.
On cold sniff there is a sharp, almost astringent, citrusy note. I'm not sure where it's coming from- the way the greens and the peony meld, perhaps? There is something incredibly nostalgic about it, and I haven't been able to quite put my finger on it. It reminds me of my childhood home, but other things too, hazy and far back in my memory, too distant to pin down. Vague impressions. Sitting on the backyard grass as a child, breaking open dandelion stems to see the milk inside. Watching busy ants scurry over the peony buds. It's sunny yet cool, morning dew on the grass. Rummaging through the products on grandma's vanity- her powder puff, her vintage Avon perfume decanters , her antique brush with the tarnished silver handle. The dry down is a morpher-this is where the black agar comes into play, and for me, the scent would not be complete without it. It's got that stunningly mysterious, antique "sweet-dust" smell, along with some very soft hints of rosewood.

 Since you might not relate to my grandma inspiration- I would also say this scent reminds me of the book The Secret Garden. It fascinated me as a child, the idea of locked rooms and overgrown gardens, bittersweet and left to the ravages of time, waiting to be opened up and brought back to life. That is absolutely what I get from this. Sillage is intimate, it hugs close to my skin, and doesn't take very long for the florals and greens to fade and the woods to take center stage. It's a really interesting transition. I pretty much want to try anything with agarwood in it now. It's always been in my top notes, but now I'm officially obsessed.

So, all in all I would say this was a very successful venture. I feel like Erin put a lot of thought and effort into my blend so I would definitely be open to trying another one in the future.

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