Sunday, 22 May 2016

Fountains and firemen's hoses: En Voyage Perfumes Rainmaker review

The other day I entrusted a king size mattress protector to the genial proprietor of my local launderette, which offers service washes for bulky items. He quoted me £15 before adding gnomically: "We pray for rain." "Well, you can stop now", I thought to myself, for it had absolutely chucked it down not twenty minutes previously.

How odd that a man in Posh Wash in Stafford should try to conjure up rain, just like those Native Americans whose shower-charming ritual is referenced by the name of the perfume I was about to review - Rainmaker, the upcoming release from En Voyage Perfumes. Then in modern parlance, a rainmaker is also someone who drums up business with rabbit out of a hat aplomb, or who is the 'creator of something valued'. As Shelley Waddington, En Voyage's founder, elaborates:

"In expanding my creative work, I wanted to provide a fragrance of beauty and attraction that would in turn become a 'Rainmaker' for the wearer."

And then Rainmaker the perfume also gives a humorous nod to the clouds hanging over Shelley's adopted home town of Portland, which she wryly describes as "some of the best rainmakers in the world".  ;)

Ha! I can relate to that here all right. For when I sat down later in the week to gather my thoughts about Rainmaker, in a fine show of pathetic fallacy the weather promptly obliged with another downpour. Which, like the Portland clouds, it often does with or without the supplications of the faithful.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

On to the perfume itself, a "woody-amber chypre for men and women".

Top notes: Rose leaf, Silver Pine Tips, Wild Citrus
Heart notes: Incense, Patchouli, Iris, Rhododendron
Base notes: Mossy Rain Forest Notes of Cedar, Fir, Redwood Needles, Petrichor, Oak Moss and Amber

As regular readers know, I am the world's worst deconstructor of perfumes, able only to articulate the vaguest of impressions - which reminds me, I still have to do that set of "tiny 'unreviews' of unprecedented vacuousness" that I promised Portia in my review of Papillon's Salome.

But eyeballing those notes, it is not hard to imagine that Rainmaker was inspired by the "forested terroir" of the Pacific Northwest, as well as its "Bohemian lifestyle". 'Imagine' is the operative word, mind you, for despite having spent a week in the state (on a mission to do with a fairly niche kind of plastic), I didn't encounter any Bohemians, and the terroir I stayed in - a suburb of Portland called Beaverton - was forested largely by the signs of nail bars, used car lots, and branches of Taco Bell. That was where I first came across the fast food chain's  masterly slogan  of "Think outside the bun", a mantra I have been trying to live up to ever since.


So what do I make of Rainmaker? Well, I was drawn to it right off the bat: it felt obviously 'niche' in quality terms, and seamlessly blended. I note that Rainmaker has a "high percentage of pure extraits, natural materials, and proprietary blends", which are perfectly well behaved here, the epitome of suave urbanity indeed. In truth, the scent doesn't feel particularly Bohemian or 'indie' in the sense of quirky to me. I could picture the wearer as a go-getting professional, who likes to kick back at the weekends, don some high end walking gear by The North Face or its Pacific Northwest equivalent (Trew?, Poler?, Holden?), and get amongst nature.

Which is not to say that I don't feel I could wear Rainmaker too, even though I don't exactly fit that profile(!) - I like the scent for its own sake and because of my own memories of that region - and further down the Pacific coast (of which more anon). The dominant aspect is fairly full-on woodiness,  as you would expect from that quintet of tree species, but as its creator intended, to my nose Rainmaker stays bang on the gender divide, This is no Marc Jacobs Bang or whichever Comme des Garcons scents are particularly woody - you know the ones I mean(!). Its glowing amber core and rich earthy/patchouli base lend a warmth and softness to Rainmaker that tone down the woodiness, and also ensure that the delicate inflection of damp forest foliage never tips into anything remotely resembling strident janitorial pine.

Mount Hood ~ Source: pinterest

Also, foresty scents can sometimes skew plangent and austere - arguably Ormonde Jayne Man and Woman lean that way, ditto FM Angeliques sous la Pluie. Of the latter I once wrote that it reminded me of "rolling fog in Northern California on a November morning". But I'd say Rainmaker captures the spirit of this general neck of the woods more comprehensively - and without being at all bleak!

And Shelley Waddington has also pulled off quite a coup in making Rainmaker authentically foresty, whilst incorporating more feminine facets, thanks to the iris and rose leaf. Carner Barcelona's D600 walks a similar line with its inclusion of jasmine and iris in an otherwise resolutely woody composition, so if you like that scent, I'm willing to bet you will like Rainmaker too. They are very much in the same vein / 'register', albeit D600 is possibly a little sweeter.

So would I wear Rainmaker? Sure! Would I like to smell it on a man? Oh, yes.... Has it displaced my current top three from the En Voyage Perfumes stable - Zelda (review here), Captured in Amber and Fiore di Bellagio? Well, noooo, but that is because genre-wise I happen to be more drawn to florals and orientals - I do think Rainmaker is very well done. It is polished, smooth and naturalistic, and thanks to the addition of incense, verging on meditative and cosy too. Not so much your well worn 'cashmere wrap' kind of cosy, as that afforded by donning a bolero of sphagnum moss maybe - a short garment which obviously I can't resist shortening further to 'sphag bol'.

Ron and Nina's house! Source ~

So yes, back to memories of the region... First off, when I see redwood trees mentioned anywhere I am immediately transported back to my childhood, to afternoons spent reading Look & Learn magazine and gawping at images of (what would now be vintage!) cars driving through the lofty pines' humongously thick trunks. I also remember more recent visits to my Swiss cabinet maker friend Ron and his wife Nina, who lived in the middle of a redwood forest in a Hansel & Gretel-style house they built themselves(!) out of local timber (see above). Strictly speaking, this was NorCal rather than the Pacific Northwest, but I imagine that the general ambience - and scent - of the forest might have been similar to the more northerly 'terroir' Shelley had in mind.

California again, but it's down the road (and through the tree!) ~ Source: Pinterest

Going back to my trip to Oregon, I based myself in Beaverton as it was closest to the headquarters of a well known sports brand, which incorporated the plastic in question in some of its running shoes. I stayed at the Shilo Inn and Suites, noted for its gardens - and fountains. I would lie in my room at night listening to the soothing plishing sound - not of rain, admittedly, but falling water for sure. And of course some other people who are in the business of 'falling water' would be the fire service. Thus it was that I also drove south to Medford to interview a group of fire fighters about the performance of this plastic in their hoses. (No, really!)

Shilo Inn and Suites ~ Source:

Then on my way to the airport, I chatted with the shuttle bus driver who took me from the rental car lot to the terminal. He asked how long I had been in the area. "A week!" I answered brightly. 'So did you go to the Crater Lake National Park? The Columbia River Gorge? You must have seen Mount Hood?' Dismayed to learn I had missed all these 'must see' sights in the state, he tentatively inquired where I had been. "Um...mainly Beaverton?" He shook his head in disbelief, at what clearly struck him as an epic tourist fail.

But though I didn't manage to breathe in the scent of the forest floor in the actual Pacific Northwest, or hang out in the boho cafes of downtown Portland - famous for their coffee I believe, if that is your thing - and though I don't remember it raining the whole time I was in Oregon, or even being noticeably overcast, I did at least have a brush with the wet stuff in my own bonkers the road that Ron's house was on is called Bohemian Highway...

Hoses stowed ~ Source: Wikimedia Commons

PS It is a further testament to this perfume's instant appeal that I felt moved to write about it so promptly after receiving the sample from En Voyage. As anyone who follows the blog will have noticed, I might take weeks or months to review a new release - if I ever do at all, even if I like it - but once in a while the muse is pretty much perched on the postman's shoulder.

PPS My elderly friend's verdict in a blind testing of Rainmaker: "It's a strange smell. It's quite strong to start with, though it's softer after a while. And it's not scented as Fleur de Shanghai."

PPPS I did also buy this woody pen out there...


Tara said...

Lovely! Rainmaker sounds great so I'm glad you had a good experience and were immediately inspired.

I love the idea of the clouds hanging over those tall trees. It's a relief you didn't get "strident janitorial pine" but did you register pine needles?

By the way, I think you are absolutely the kind of person who would don outdoor gear and get amongst nature. Look at the epic walking trip you've planned!

Love the launderette name "Posh Wash" :)

Vanessa said...

Hi Tara,

I was immediately inspired, which doesn't happen that often, it must be said. I wouldn't say I can pick out pine except as part of an overall 'bouquet' of foresty notes, including the foliage of the trees and the vegetation on the ground - plus the damp air. It's very much an overall impression though that could just be the inadequacy of my nose. Fille en Aiguilles is way more piney, to give you an idea.

Oh I say, you may be right at that about me being up for a big yomp. Once a year at least. I don't have proper outerwear though, and keep scanning the rails of T K Maxx for a half way respectable looking cagoule-type garment.

Ingeborg said...

Tara asked what I wanted to know, how piney the Rainmaker scent is. Good to know it has less of it than Filles en Aiguilles (lovely on a friend, too much straight up pine needle on me). Pine in scent reminds my too much of those German or Austrian shower gels and lotions for use after hiking.

Vanessa said...

Hi Ingeborg,

Although I enjoy Fille en Aiguilles, especially around Christmas time, a pronounced pine note has never been my thing, so I am confident you will be fine with this. There are those shower gels you mention, and I am also reminded of that liquid people pour over the whatever is over in the corner of a sauna! Nothing like that either.

Sun Fontaine said...

Hi Vanessa,

I'm definitely interested in this one as I grew up in the Pacific Northwest and am very curious about her rendition of the rainy forests. :) This does sound lovely, and I'm ashamed to admit I have tried nothing from Shelley Waddington. Hopefully I can rectify that soon.

Also, I'd say REI is the Pacific Northwest version of North Face. :)


Vanessa said...

Hi Sun Mi,

Oh, then in view of your roots (no pun intended) this perfume may well have a special resonance for you.

Thanks for the tip off about REI - will google and take a look at their gear.;)

Anonymous said...

ah... the weird power of words and images... I swear this is what I read: " I didn't encounter any Bohemians, and the terror I stayed in - a suburb of Portland called Beaverton ".. with sincere apologies to the good people of what is most likely a very nice place indeed...
cheers, Wendy

Vanessa said...

Hi Wendy,

Thanks for dropping by to tell us about that amusing misreading of my post. I think it may actually count as a Freudian slip, but there again maybe Beaverton has hidden charms that take longer than a week to discover... ;)

Thinkingmagpie said...

I received Rainmaker on my birthday and tried it immediately, which itself was an unusual thing for me to do. I truly enjoyed the imageries Rainmaker brought out.
Funny you mentioned Beaverton... I visited a park there and had a nice walk around when I was staying in Portland. ;)

Vanessa said...

Hi Yukiko,

I am glad you also found Rainmaker to be a potent 'scent of place', and pleased to learn that Beaverton has some attractive green areas I missed. I pretty much stayed on the main thoroughfare, which wasn't too inspiring.;)

Yuki said...

Rainmaker sounds wonderful :) I have never been to Beaverton or the Pacific Northwest, but I can commiserate with the feeling of tourist fail. I tend to get overwhelmed easily when faced with a short timeframe and sooo many possible things to do and then how to optimize (especially when the internet tends to have either too many or too few opinions on the matter)? I also love your adopted mantra :)

Vanessa said...

Hi Yuki,

Glad you can empathise with my tourist shortcomings - I had an excuse at least on this particular business trip, but if I am on a city break type of holiday I can easily suffer from 'must-see sight overload'. Hmm, I guess if I was thinking outside the bun I wouldn't care?