Every day I see more perfume-related promotions than I can possibly process, from social media posts to press release emails to advertisements in subway cars. Despite, or maybe because of, all this saturation, word-of-mouth remains a potent force. When a neighborhood acquaintance and fellow fragophile recommended Lvnea, even pulling a small box of sample vials out of her bag to show me, I made a mental note to check out this small indie brand.
Lvnea (pronounced "lou-nay-uh") is based in Montréal and its owner, April Lea, studied perfumery with Charna Ethier of Providence Perfume Company. Like Providence Perfume, Lvnea specializes in natural fragrances. However, Lvnea's aesthetic is quite distinctive: dark, moody, with touches of the Gothic and the occult. (Right up my alley, in other words.)
I ordered a sample set of four perfume oils and enjoyed trying them over the past few weeks; botanical scents somehow hold a special appeal for me when the seasons are changing and I can't figure out how to dress or what scent to wear. Of the four, Fern and Moss feels most directly inspired by nature. It's a fougère, with notes of lavender, basil, pink grapefruit, green herbs, vetiver, oakmoss and tonka bean. It starts off sharp and green, then turns earthier and, yes, moss-ier. It skews more traditionally masculine than most fragrances I wear, but I enjoyed its leafy, bracing quality on some recent humid days.
Since I can never pass up a retro-sounding floral, I also sampled Violet Woods, a composition of violet leaf, orris root, sandalwood, rosewood and agarwood. Violet Woods opens with its greenish violet leaf note before going more dusky and powdery, with just a touch of odd sweetness (something in its heart reminds me of licorice). This scent is very smooth and wears close to the skin; it's also more gender-neutral than I expected. I wish it lasted longer but I understand this particular trade-off involved in wearing botanical perfumes.
I love the name Frost Flowers and I found this fragrance to be the weirdest of the four, in a good way. Its listed notes are tuberose, jasmine, mint, black currant, elemi resin, cypress and ambrette. The black currant was dominant when I applied Frost Flowers (evoking memories of a brief infatuation with Ribena) but it gave way after about fifteen minutes to some cool, creamy white florals — an unexpected, but not unenjoyable, development. Despite these dramatic-sounding notes, Frost Flowers somehow managed not to overwhelm me, even when I accidentally spilled half my vial on my arm during a morning-commute application. I'm not usually a tuberose fan, but I found Frost Flowers intimate and quirky enough for me to pull off.
And then, just in time for cooler temperatures and a promise of autumn, I opened my sample of Tasseomancy. It's named for the practice of reading the future in tea leaves, and it has an appropriate composition of black tea, citrus, honey, milk and spice. (It includes "artisanal tinctures of black teas and basmati rice.") I'd describe Tasseomancy as an androgynous gourmand. It's definitely tea-centered, but I'm also smelling notes of tobacco and something smoky. Tasseomancy lasted longer on my skin than the other three scents, and left some good-smelling traces on the cuff of my cardigan.
My Lvnea samples arrived in tiny glass vials (warning: they don't have rollerballs or droppers, so they pour quickly!) with beautiful labels, all nestled on a bed of black moss in a small black box. Even if the fragrances hadn't been to my taste, I would have appreciated their presentation; but I did like them, so I'm planning another Lvnea purchase soon.
Lvnea Fern and Moss, Violet Woods, Frost Flowers and Tasseomancy are available as 10 ml ($45) and and 20 ml ($80) perfume oil through the Lvnea website. Sample sets (starting at 4 samples for $20) are also available.