This month, independent perfumery Sonoma Scent Studio releases a new fragrance named Yin and Ylang, whose concept and inspiration were provided by Michelyn Camen of CaFleureBon. Yin and Ylang features "beautiful floral notes that meld into a woodsy drydown": bergamot, blood orange, soft aldehydes, beeswax absolute, ylang complete oil, jasmine sambac absolute, tuberose absolute, rose damascones, ginger CO2, Mysore sandalwood oil, oakmoss absolute, amber, patchouli, vanilla and musk.
I was intrigued by Yin and Ylang's description and notes when they were first announced, because I happen to love ylang ylang and I've enjoyed many of Sonoma Scent Studio perfumer Laurie Erickson's previous floral fragrances. (Plus, what a fun name for a perfume!) You can read more about the specific ingredients, many of which are botanical or somewhat rare, on the Sonoma Scent Studio website, and more about the concept development on CaFleureBon. Ylang ylang is the star of this show, as promised, but it's supported by a lovely chorus line of citrus, floral, spice and wood notes. The fragrance's opening, for example, is an exuberant cluster of bergamot. It dissolves very easily into the ylang ylang, and I really do like the ylang that's used here, and the way its creamy and honeyed aspects are brought out by other supporting ingredients. The base has a hint of spiciness from the ginger, and some vintage-y (and almost-chypre) warmth from the sandalwood and oakmoss. I don't notice the patchouli, although I think I can detect a very subtle leather note.
I'm trying to think of other ylang ylang fragrances that I enjoy, but the list is short — for some reason, this floral isn't often the headliner in a perfume. Years ago, I owned a bottle of Estee Lauder Private Collection Amber Ylang Ylang, but I eventually gave it away — it was somehow simultaneously too perfume-y and too flat for me. I recently re-tried Eau Moheli in a Diptyque shop, but I didn't get much ylang from it at all. I like the weirder side of ylang ylang as featured in Lush's Cocktail, but if I'm craving a lusher, more feminine take on the flower, I try to sniff it out in the heart of Chanel No. 5 Eau de Parfum. And I still wonder what ever happened to the bottle of i Coloniali Javanese Cananga that I owned more than a decade ago.
All of this is to say that Sonoma Scent Studio's interpretation of ylang ylang is one of my favorites yet, because it skillfully showcases certain sides of the flower's personality — the bright and lactonic aspects that I happen to like best! — by boosting or sustaining the ylang ylang with carefully chosen secondary notes. (Even the jasmine and tuberose are graciously subdued here, as if they were finally agreeing to play smaller roles and allow their lesser-known companion to enjoy a moment in the spotlight.) My one regret is that while Yin and Ylang smells like a natural fragrance, it also wears like a natural fragrance — meaning that it has mild staying power.* No matter; I'll enjoy re-applying, especially since this seems like an easy choice for a spring/summer fragrance. I don't know much about the Eastern philosophy behind the yin-yang concept, but I can appreciate a poetic and harmonious olfactory composition when I smell one.
Do you have any favorite ylang ylang perfumes, or any favorite florals from Sonoma Scent Studio that you'd like to recommend? Feel free to share in the comments!
Sonoma Scent Studio Yin and Ylang Eau de Parfum is available as 34 ml ($100) and 17 ml ($55) bottles and as a 5 ml travel spray ($21); samples are also available. For buying information, see the listing for Sonoma Scent Studio under Perfume Houses.
* Ed. note: It is not, however, a 100% natural fragrance.
Note: top image is color plate of Cananga Odorata from Flora de Filipinas by Francisco Manuel Blanco, via Wikimedia Commons.