We all have a favorite locale (or two) where a combination of climate, landscape, architecture, and aromas makes us happy. I love stormy coastlines, with raging oceans, billowing clouds, screeching gulls, old lighthouses, and the scents of rain, salt, mossy rocks, and seaweed. But I also love the ambiance of the exact opposite of a wet beach — warm, sunny, semi-arid hilltops, covered with flowering broom and poppies, where cypress trees reach up into blue skies and fragrance the air. (Add an abandoned cemetery, the cinder scents of a nearby active volcano, or some crumbling statues and buildings — an ancient temple will do — and I’ll purr with contentment only opiates can deliver.) Two perfumes from Aesop, Marrakech and Mystra, are perfect accompaniments for bright highlands, strewn with ruins and scrub.
Marrakech, which includes notes of cloves, sandalwood and cardamom, was developed with an idea of “a city draped in colours of the desert, where artisans sit on rugs hewn by hand, and lute music mixes with the smell of spices in hot wind.” Marrakech is a resinous fragrance that smells of spicy sandalwood, with the spice accent on cloves (“rough” cloves, not dainty or sweet “aftershave” cloves). Marrakech has no jarring edges; it’s smooth, but not blended to the point where individual notes are blurred. The overall impression of Marrakech is a fresh/moist mix of cloves, sandalwood and green cardamom seeds pulverized in a stone mortar and then mixed with silken oil. The longer you wear Marrakech the more you smell sandalwood (Australian sandalwood, of course). Marrakech is natural smelling, and compared to Mystra, it’s a “lilting” fragrance.
Mystra is a perfume “inspired by the Peloponnese hillside town’s* history of conquest and struggle, a place once home to French knights, despots, and monks, as well as its beautiful setting. It’s a place that reminds us of the complexity of human history.” Mystra includes notes of mastic, frankincense and labdanum. Mystra begins with the scents of a pungent, oily “varnish” note, incense ash and ‘stern’ labdanum, and it's a perfect fit for my imagined hilltop setting. As Mystra dries on skin, it becomes less “tough” and shows a softer, sweet-resin side that reminds me of the aromas of cypress and cedar trees sparkling with beads of sap on a hot day. Mystra grabs you with a muscular, rough, dusty hand, while Marrakech caresses with a soft touch.
The lasting power of Marrakech and Mystra in Eau de Toilette is good; please comment if you’ve tried the parfum versions. Aesop Marrakech and Mystra are available in 50 and 100 ml Eau de Toilette splash ($73 / $135), 10 ml Baume de Parfum ($75), and 10 ml Parfum roll-on (89). For buying information, see the listing for Aesop under Perfume Houses.
Note: top image is Evangelistria, Mystras [altered] via Wikimedia Commons.