Thursday, 14 May 2015

An earthy yet unworldy scent: Bright Earth Parfums Eau de Earth review, and another milestone giveaway!

Now that I have been blogging for a while, I find myself at the receiving end of more and more emails from brands and PR companies - and sometimes directly from perfumers - notifying me of this or that launch, or special offer, or what have you. I am genuinely excited to receive news from some of my favourite brands, while tuning out to some of the others, to be honest. These emails often comprise a press release about the fragrance in tastefully lyrical 'PR-esque prose', and usually sign off by asking me to get in touch if I have any queries or would like any further information. I never have any queries or want any further information. Oh, and there may additionally be a pdf containing some high resolution pack shots that they are probably hoping I will use on the blog, but I mostly prefer to use my own, which is more in keeping with my Bonkers 'house style'.

So last month I was quite taken aback - in a good way - to receive a very personal, direct approach from the owner of Bright Earth Parfums - a 'down to earth' approach, if you will. The gentleman in question, Nicolas Fromanger, is a French national living in New York. I was immediately drawn to his surname, which is just a surplus consonant away from Fromager, or 'cheese-maker', a subject close to my heart, having worked for a dairy company and in a specialist cheese shop. I even wrote my postgraduate thesis on cheese. But I digress...Monsieur Fromanger is crucially NOT a cheesemaker, though 'manger' means eat at least. I spy the makings of a fine pun in there.

Here is the introductory email which caught my attention:

"i am French based in NYC, made a perfume 'Eau de Earth', all natural flowers scent, eau de parfum, 1 oz, built like a classic, i would like to send you a bottle, enclosed please find some photos
i just started a small ecommerce, you can find the fragrance at
please let me know where to send a bottle
you are a woman, it was made for you too!!!"

'Do I look small next to these lilies?'

Various things intrigued me about this opening gambit: the reference to the scent comprising just 'natural flowers', the blithe disregard for upper case letters, the fact that Monsieur Fromanger (hereinafter known as Nicolas, as we got quite pally, by and by) was selling perfume on Etsy, which I associate primarily with a myriad of handicrafts - it is where I found ex-Mr Bonkers a zombie sock monkey, for example! - and last but not least, the fact that he assumed that the perfume would be to my liking because I am a woman. With the email Nicolas had sent two photographs of the bottle and its box, posing alongside two different types of lily. A clue to the notes, as I later learnt...It was very much the sort of homemade photo I just said I like to use on Bonkers!, but it is unusual for the perfume brand itself to eschew the glossy hi-res shots of a typical press pack. One photo landed in my inbox on its side, while the other was upside down ;) - and the lilies did rather dominate in one picture, but still. If anything, I liked Bright Earth Parfums all the more for these minor malfunctions.

So yes, this refreshingly unslick introduction to the brand worked like a charm, and I accepted Nicolas' kind offer of a bottle, which duly arrived. Even the packaging was splendidly basic, much as I would expect to receive a used bottle I had bought on eBay or scored in a swap. There wasn't even a note inside, or a comps slip.

The box, sadly, was a disappointment. I had been enjoying the lack of obvious commercialism up to this point, but found I couldn't embrace the dark blue box, with its graphic of the earth seen from space - or specifically the sea seen from space - the photo was given to Nicolas by NASA, no less. The bold graphics put me more in mind of a cigarette packet, or a packet of playing cards - or the box containing a boy's toy or game, maybe. It just didn't compute for me as the container of a perfume bottle...


Luckily, the bottle itself did look perfectly like a perfume bottle, and I rather liked its circular shape, doubtless to denote the earth again, with the swirly white overlay evoking cloud cover seen from space - or, for that matter, the spray from the sea - for the scent itself definitely has a feeling of rain or droplets of water of some kind to it, without being remotely 'aquatic', if that makes sense.

Which leads me neatly on to my experience of Eau de Earth, into which name I feel an urge to insert an apostrophe, by analogy with Eau d'Hadrien, Eau d'Italie. Eau d'Orange Verte, Eau d'Hermes or Eau d'Eden. So that was another quirky aspect to the perfume, come to think of it.

I have given Eau de Earth at least half a dozen wearings now: the first time I sprayed it I was vividly reminded of Bourjois Soir de Paris, on account of a big, sweet, heady, rather vague floral bouquet, that was decidedly retro in style. I thought I smelt violets and also picked up on a powdery cachou note. I have no sample of Soir de Paris to hand anymore, but I remember it as being a bit 'too much', almost headache-inducing, whereas Eau de Earth is way more restrained than that comparison might suggest, being tempered by what I can best describe as a 'rained on' quality, coupled with a sort of flinty, mineral aspect.

My mini of Soir de Paris, sadly no longer extant
I wrote back to Nicolas with my initial impressions, as he had expressly asked me to do. I also quizzed him about the note list (see, I do have queries after all!), which he was reluctant to divulge for fear of "copycats", though over the course of several more email exchanges he did reveal quite a lot about the composition of Eau de Earth, including the fact that it took him a full year to finetune. The main flowers are jasmine and lilies, plus some citrus, while the base is "a classic built like Guerlain, and in between the top notes, the medium and the base, I assembled a few so to hold those 3 basic levels together, and one of the hard part was to recreate the mist or spray smell of the sea, that instant pure freshness that you encounter as soon as you reach or are near the sea!!!"

So I was right about the 'watery' aspect...

Nicolas then suggested I spray Eau de Earth on a piece of paper or card, leaving it in a room where I would walk past it often, to see how it attracted my attention and whether I spotted anything new or different about the scent when appreciated on a different medium to skin, and in a more ambient way. So I wrote back, accepting this challenge:

"I will try that wafting trick to see what happens. Your spray smell of the sea could be what I mean by the 'flinty' / 'mineral' aspect."

Well, I had a good go at this, leaving a folded sheet of paper liberally spritzed with Eau de Earth on the edge of the dining room table, and wedging another piece of paper in a drawer in one of the bedrooms, but I can't truthfully say I noticed anything very much - I really had to lean in to catch a whiff, and it was broadly the same as on skin. And this despite Nicolas' assurance that:

"It is an aerial perfume, it has the ability to spread himself thin into the air and expand to reach for attention and capture it!!!"

Well, I cannot confirm the aerial aspect, but the watery one for sure, and both perfume and creator had certainly captured my attention!

On the next wearing, I was hit right between the nostrils - would that be the septum, maybe? - by a resemblance to Guerlain Apres L'Ondee. There was the same olde worlde, wistful, powdery yet watery feel to it. I was still getting (as it turned out) phantom violet, though wondered if it might be iris. Anyway, the Apres L'Ondee analogy really stuck in my brain, and now that I have worn the two scents side by side about four times, I am more than ever convinced of the resemblance. Eau de Earth is more of a 'regular floral' and less offbeat and anisic than Apres L'Ondee, but the distinction between them is much more blurred when it comes to the perfumes' respective drydowns, and they both have a spookily similar 'atmosphere'. I immediately emailed Nicolas with this latest impression.

It seems my nose was on the money this time, for Nicolas wrote back and said that Apres L'Ondee was "one of the perfumes I deconstructed in order to put together later different parts of different perfumes for a new one!" He asked if I could spot Chanel No 19 for the green accord or Hermes (unspecified) for the citrus combination. I now think the No 19 connection might explain the bee in my bonnet about a violet/iris facet. But Eau de Earth isn't terribly citrusy on me at any point. And I was not able to pick out any Herbes de Provence or cistus, although they are all in there too apparently.

Anyway, so far, so very interesting, especially given the fact that the perfume contains no aromachemicals, only the flowers themselves and alcohol. As for how exactly the flowers have been processed, I don't know enough about it to speculate, though assume some combination of essential oils, absolutes, concretes, tinctures etc.

In one of his later emails, Nicolas reveals more about the idea for Eau de Earth - it was inspired by a chance find in a bazaar in Egypt of a little bottle of perfume which was "very much the smell of the Earth after it rained...that scent could remind you of Apres L'Ondee, because it is one of the closest perfumes that gives you that rainy feeling..."

Importantly, however, Nicolas is trying to break away from the melancholy vibe of Apres L'Ondee:

"it is ephemeral, like catching a glimpse of something that you long for! let say a pang, but with joy! and that is what the Earth is for me!!!"

I will be honest, for me - because of the major similarity with Apres L'Ondee that I just can't get out of my head now - Eau de Earth is more melancholic than not, but that is no bad thing in my book. A 30ml bottle of an all-natural perfume that smells like a Guerlain classic and is selling on Etsy for just £18.27! That sounds like a bargain to me.

The perfume is only available in the USA at this time, though the brand would like to find outlets in Europe.

NOT the Bright Earth bottle ~ Source: polyvore

Oh, and I note that Bright Earth Parfums is going for a more 'earthy' (as in 'raunchy'!) positioning on Etsy, describing it as a LOVE ELIXIR (I see we have abandoned the lower case now!), that is "mysterious and enchanting" and liable to "take you where no women has been before!"

So the packaging and Etsy copy - which is its only sales presence at the moment I gather - are a bit cheap and cheerful / cheesy to my mind, but if you can see past that the perfume itself is quite lovely, in that wistful, attenuated, mournful kind of way.

Finally, I thought that Eau de Earth might be a good - and very rare ;) - scent to feature as a giveaway to mark Bonkers reaching one million page views. I am really busy with work at the moment, so will leave the draw open till midnight GMT on 22nd May. If you would like to be entered in the draw to receive a decant of this (men may also apply!), just leave a comment, explaining why you like the sound of Eau de Earth. I don't wish to overplay the Apres L'Ondee similarity either - for as the scent does draw on elements from a range of other classics, you may well get something else again. NB I don't mind posting to the USA and Canada, using the standard wily ruses to fox the customs officials, but obviously I can't guarantee the perfume's safe passage.


Tara said...

Well this was a fascinating tale, V. I rather like Nicolas too as I also have a fondness for the exclamation mark :)

The packaging is rather masculine but the bottle is cute. There is something appealing about rain inspired perfumes. So it seems a shame he is now going down the old "Love Elixir" route plus that tag-line makes me think it's going to launch me into outer space!

Your nose is obviously a lot better than you give it credit for evidenced by what you spotted in Eau de Earth without a note list or much detail.

Carol said...

Howdie Bonks!!! oooh a dupe for ALO!
I also felt a little let down about the Love Elixir route :(

Anonymous said...

Loved this entertaining review of a quirky sounding perfumer and his creation, but that box - more like a box of condoms than perfume ! I do like the name and the look of the bottle and the juice sounds intriguing. Thanks Holly

Vanessa said...

Hi Tara,

I like Nicolas too and am also rather prone to exclamatory comments! Definitely agree on the bottle being cute. The Etsy blurb is rather at odds with the lovely wistful scent - this is not remotely carnal to my nose.

I was pleasantly surprised to correctly spot the Apres L'Ondee connection, I must say. I really don't rate my nose, as you know.

Vanessa said...

Howdy Carol!!

Certainly a dupish scent for ALO - drydown especially, as I say. With the caveat of my skin translating it that way, at least.

Vanessa said...

Hi Holly,

Box of condoms - ooh, I do see that now you mention it. You are in the draw. Indeed, everyone is unless they expressly opt out. ;)

Anonymous said...

Apart from the fact that it looks like one of my packaging attempts I really don´t know what to say. Eau de Earth would be very difficult for the Austrians to pronounce that is for sure. Oh de Urrs perhaps? As much I as I would love to have some I am very blessed with many perfume samples and I would like to offer the opportunity to someone else. LMAO. Bussis. xxxx

Blacknall Allen said...

Fromanger is a name that would put me on his side at once, for I've never passed a cheese and cracker plate in my life and have been carefully taught to love the stinky cheeses by my brother in law.

Another variation on Apres is welcome particularly one that throws in a No 19 accord, but do not let me take up space in a give away. We both know how much perfume I have already! Congrats on reaching the million mark with Bonkers!

SallyM said...

What a great tale (exclamation point). I must admit that I too thought of condoms when I saw the box - it has a distinctly "masculine product" color and not one that I would associate with the woman that he insists the perfume is meant for. (Although I realize that might sound a bit sexist - my remark about the color, not his about women) A frag that wafts of Apres and 19 is a must sniff and so I would love to be included in your generous draw.
I must say, I am very intrigued by your thesis on cheese...

Yuki said...

Thank you for highlighting a perfume I would probably otherwise have never heard about or considered. I have not tried Apres l'Ondee, though I have heard so much about it. Also, your review was quite funny as usual :) I am quite tempted to try this!

Undina said...

Vanessa, you forgot to mention an important line from the description!
"WARNING: possible side effects, aphrodisiac and "parfum d'amour"!" ;) I also mildly wonder what makes that perfume "French"?..

I am very proud to know you: you're so much nicer and kinder than I am. And a great story teller - I enjoyed reading the post.

Please let me know if I need to bribe you NOT to include me into the draw ;-)

Vanessa said...

Hi Val,

LOL re your packaging attempt. ;) And one of my mine, I would agree. Good observation about the Austrians potentially having difficulty getting their tongues round the name. I think the lack of an apostrophe may have wider issues.

Vanessa said...

Hi Blacknall,

Glad you are a fellow cheese fan - I must say Nicolas's name endeared me to him from the off. I shan't put you in the draw, if you are sure, and thank for your milestone congrats!

Vanessa said...

Hi SallyM,

Yes, that box is masculine all right - whatever product I think of when I look at it has a primarily male audience. That is several votes for condoms now, hehe. And you are of course in the draw. My thesis (in 1983, so a little overtaken by events now, it must be said) was about the prospects for exporting more British cheese to the French. I carried out loads of desk research and also some original surveys with the public in Boulogne (no money to go any further afield!). Back then the prospects were not brilliant, but I believe the position has greatly altered in the past thirty years...;)

Vanessa said...

Hi Yuki,

Well, if you haven't tried Apres L'Ondee, you need to try this. ;)Should you win, I would pop a sample of ALO in with the Eau de Earth so you can judge for yourself if the two are alike.

Vanessa said...

Hi Undina,

You are right, I should have included that part! In a draft of my post, I quoted the Etsy copy more extensively, then whittled it down as I felt had used a lot of quotes already...

I took 'French' to mean built like a classic Chanel or Guerlain with their customary pyramid structure maybe?

Thanks for the compliment. ;) I promise you you are not in the draw. No bribe necessary, hehe.

Anonymous said...

Someone was telling me Etsy's becoming quite the venue for natural perfumes. Thanks to M. Fromanger, from now on if I meet a French person looking askance at my attempts at French, I will imagine him speaking English like him, and I will feel much better...AnnieA

Unknown said...

I wanted to try that, but unfortunately I had the usual 'coming back from somewhere warm' cold and I can't smell a thing. Next week will be a bit late for a normal blog post reply... but I will certainly let you know what I think.
Love the pics with the envelopes sticking out of various bits of furniture.

Vanessa said...

Hi AnnieA,

Well, I stand corrected about Etsy being a platform for natural perfumes - that's interesting. In my experience, it is in Paris in particular that people tend to underrate one's attempts at speaking French - they seem more appreciative in the provinces.

Vanessa said...

Hi Sabine,

I am sorry you have caught a post-holiday cold again. It would put me off ever going away, I think. I had a cold actually in Germany this time, which was annoying! Look forward to hearing your thoughts on this one when you get to your (tiny!) sample. You can still go in the draw, as the decant I am proposing to offer is more substantial.

Odiferess said...

Ooh Vanessa, I love a quirky personal package. It seems to appeal to my urge to support the underdog. A small scale producer on Etsy versus the gigantic machine of LVMH is worthy of a review simply because of his bravery!
I like the idea of a 'non-aquatic' aquatic, though the last rain inspired scent I sampled smelt akin to defrosting the fridge. This one sounds distinctly more appealing.

Vanessa said...

Hi Odiferess,

It was quirky all right - I am coming from exactly where you are, I'd say in supporting small producers. 'Non-aquatic' aquatic is no mean feat - hard to describe, but it is just how it is. What was the fridge defrosting scent, may I ask? That made me smile!

Gil said...

Vanessa, what an entertaining article and man! He sounds lovely and wonderful. I agree with you that many PR people in cosmetics overhype things to an impossible standard - I have yet to smell a perfume that lives up to the marketing department's words. The wafting test had me intrigued, although I am disappointed that it did not perform. :/ Pretty bottle, though!

Vanessa said...

Hi Gil,

Nicolas is indeed charming and very much his own man in terms of his PR approach. I couldn't get the wafting test to work, though I don't know if I was maybe using the wrong kind of paper - it was just a sheet from my printer. Or maybe I didn't spray it with the scent enough. Agree on the bottle! .

Asali said...

I love your write-up on this Vanessa. And, not that I've been very troubled by this ;-), but I those impersonal emails just full of fluff and HR pics, they clearly cannot have looked and the blogs they send this information to, tut tut. I suppose it takes the same time for them to send as for me to bin it.
This however sounds charming, even if you say only to take the comparison to AL'O loosely, it does sound like one of the old fashioned French style perfumes that I like. And what a charming person, he is.

Thinkingmagpie said...

Hmmm, the package isn't attractive... To tell the truth, the box somehow reminds me of, well, condom packaging... Is it just me?

Vanessa said...

Hi Asali,

I so agree with your point about some of the brands clearly not having looked at our blogs. If they had, they simply wouldn't propose half the crazy schemes / tie ups / free samples that they do! Eau de Earth is indeed very retro in feel and Nicolas a charmingly eccentric character. You are in the draw!

Vanessa said...

Hi Yuki,

As I think you know from the Facebook 'focus group', condoms was a popular suggestion! I plan to do a little analysis of the answers and post it later - Undina's idea, as you might have also spotted. ;)