Indie Perfumes Magazine reviews Carmel Boheme

Carmel Boheme
opens with Art Nouveau lilies. They unfurl from the accords created by the notes, into an impression of gilded, honey-drenched fully opened lilies standing in the warmth of a sunny day in a peaceful year. 

These florals are so rich, they overwhelm the base notes of amber and labdanum, but they, and the sandalwood and honey, are what give these florals so much depth and richness. This base softly interacts to carry along and extend the florals’ ephemeral nature within its own more tenacious longevity. 

These are Art Nouveau lilies because this is a slow, sinuously unfolding fragrance, reminiscent of the luxurious ease beloved of the Californian bohemians of the turn of the last century.

They escaped the chaos and destruction of the great San Francisco earthquake to the exquisite location of Carmel by the Sea. There they continued to socialize, poeticize, romance each other, get intoxicated as often as humanly possible, and sink into the seduction of the Pacific Ocean, the landscape, and each other’s personal beauty. Carmel by the Sea became one of the great artists colonies in America. 

Sadly their lives were not long, but the most important thing for them was to live it to the hilt even if that meant it had to be cut short if it could not match what they wanted of it. They followed a strange practice of carrying a vial of cyanide, as a mark of identity. 

On the other hand, the Carmel bohemians’ almost pagan hedonism and immersion in the beauty of nature, and the poetry, art, and photography that resulted from all this was part of the initial burst of energy that lead to environmentalism. Through their works, our enormous resources of extreme natural beauty began to penetrate the American consciousness and give rise to the desire to protect such riches. 

This perfume, which creates a hedonistic air of pleasure in life around you as it dries down, is the perfect connection to the artist colony of Carmel by the Sea, near Big Sur, and even all the other lively places of great natural beauty colonized by artists in the U.S. during that heady time. This is a period of fascination for me, especially as it unfolded into the so-called "Progressive Era" in the U.S., because it was such a great time for artists, especially women, emerging into their own American style of individuality and creativity.


All of those artists, poets and photographers, even if any single one might not be famous now (tho many are*) do still exert a lot of influence on us today, through the way they lived the bohemian style of life and appreciated the natural pleasures of this world.  They showed the way to many others who wanted to create a unique culture of "the good life".

There were many such influential artist colonies that came into their own around that time period; each region had its own. I am thinking of Provincetown, New Hope, Woodstock, Taos, Santa Fe, Laguna Beach, Key West, East Hampton, and too many others to list. 

Shelley Waddington as a long time resident of Carmel by the Sea has become a part of that continuing influence, through her design of artisanal perfumes. She seduces us into surrendering to oneness with Nature by making perfumes that carry us straight to Nature's heart.   I know that she is very conscious of the fabled poetry of her environment, and also that she is deliberately generous with her knowledge of perfume materials.

Her new reference book “Perfuming with Natural Isolates” is written in a way that makes it accessible to both the devotees of perfume as a personal pleasure, as well as those who aspire to use the materials professionally. 

I liked this on the material called Heliotropin, in midst of technical details on the chemical: 

“This material is quite interesting, with a scent that can be especially appreciated in the aftertaste felt in the back of the mouth when exhaling, as in savoring wine.”

For me this notes a connection between the works of Nature, and of the artist, as complementary. 

Please visit the Envoyage site, and see Bohemia by the Sea,  Shelly Waddington's history of the artist/bohemians who created Carmel as we know it today, and also for perfume samples and listing of prices for Carmel Boheme, in parfum extrait, eau de cologne, and eau de parfum.

Top notes: Sweet Orange, Plum, Muguet
Heart notes: Gardenia and Tuberose, French Jasmine
Base notes: Honey, Frankincense, Labdanum, Amber, Sandalwood

Above images: Parfum extrait of Carmel Boheme from the Envoyage site;
Alphonse Mucha: The Flowers Lily, 1898;
Guy Rose, Point Lobos, Carmel, 1918
American Crescent Cycles poster 1899

*Robinson Jeffers,  Ambrose Bierce, Upton Sinclair, Sinclair Lewis, Nora May French, Jack London, George Sterling, Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, Lincoln Steffens, and many others.