Art Books Events The Clarimonde Event at MiN New York

The Clarimonde Event at MiN New York

11/20/12 12:40:29 (5 comments)

by: Lucy Raubertas

It took place just before the devastating storm Sandy hit New York. Therefore all the more exquisite in memory, it was a candlelit glamorous intoxicating fragrant and intimate night devoted to five special perfumes, at MiN in Soho, in New York on October 25, 2012.

The gathering was to celebrate the world of the Clarimonde Project, in a masquerade recalling those of Venice in the 18th Century, or Paris in the 19th Century, and of course the wild New York of today.

The guests and participants all came in costume and en-masqued. One of the guests arrived dressed as a peacock. There were elegant gentlemen who inhaled perfumed cocktails. There were beauties dripping with pearls over velvet opera cloaks. Everyone kept their masks on the entire night as they drank and inhaled the Clarimonde perfumes.

The guests all had the personal opportunity to try five rare and very limited edition indie-perfumes made by some of the best independent perfumers in America practicing at this time.

Small and concentrated perfume shrines were created around each perfume, symbolizing the qualities of each fragrance. These were Mandy Aftel’s Oud Luban, Dawn Spencer Hurwitz’ Paradise Lost, Maria Mcelroy and Alexis Karl together as The House of Cherry Bomb’s Immortal Mine, Ayala Moriel for Parallel Dream, and Monica Miller for Sangre with fragranced lip stains. Deana Sidney of LostPastRemembered arrived with her perfumed wine, fragranced and flavored with ambergris and musk and rose absolute.

This masquerade celebrated a perfume project composed of five indie perfumers and eight fragrance writers, who all had a great affinity for the story. The criteria was that they would find a depth of inspiration within it and had the wish to show a darker edge that encompassed both the beauty and the tragedy of love lost and a passionate and mysterious relationship, through the medium of perfume.

I knew the story Clarimonde, by Theophile Gautier, was perfect for perfume inspiration as soon as I heard it. This dark love story struck me deeply one night as I heard it while breathing in the perfume of the flowering linden trees lining the side streets. The fog that night intensified the fragrance which heightened Gautier’s descriptions and Clarimonde’s charisma.

I highly recommend a wonderful reading by Joy Chan on Librivox. Her slightly French-accented Hong Kong British voice is expressive and increases the rich detail of the story. This story full of sumptuous Gothic imagery is also available in a free download.

During the evening the guests heard a special playlist of music chosen to relate to the tragic love theme of the story, and original music composed by the perfumer Alexis Karl and her group Ondyne’s Demise.

Meanwhile, the guests were slowly brought to a state of perfumed intoxication. They had partaken of wonderfully perfumed port wine by Deana Sidney of LostPastRemembered, containing real ambergris and musk and the rose absolute chef’s essence by Aftelier, and chocolate, warmed above body heat. This perfumed wine recalled the drink that Clarimonde gave Romauld every night so that he would be fast asleep when she extracted that essential one drop of blood from him. It left the entire mouth perfumed.

Mindy Yang made two cocktails perfumed with the Aftelier’s chef’s essences, one bright, one dark, both lethally strong and a mix of whiskey, scotch, and other intoxicants. She was divinely dressed as a Victorian era witch, in luxuriously tattered laces and shades of black silks. After I gave a brief introduction, the guests were lead around the candlelit interior of MiN to each perfume.

The perfumer Alexis Karl and I led the guests to each perfume. Alexis composed a poem on each of the perfumes, which she declaimed as she stood before them dressed in her dramatic red and black evening clothes, holding a lit candelabra with seven candles. I then explained the specific background to each perfume and their ingredients, and applied the perfume to the skin of the attendees who requested it (most wanted to try them all).

We went from perfume to perfume around the interior of MiN, visiting each perfume’s shrine in turn this way. We began with Oud Luban by Aftelier.


Mandy Aftel created Oud Luban, a perfume both sacred and sensual at the same time, that recalls the incense in the cathedral when the two fell in love at first sight. Oud Luban is made with eight kinds of oud and the finest hojari frankincense, elemi, benzoin, opopanax, vintage patchouli, citrus top notes. These precious fragrance materials have been used from the earliest times to connect to the supernatural. This perfume can also act as a perfect anchor for the beauty of florals.

The perfume shrine I created for this perfume was a gold leafed box with a carmine red interior, with the perfume ensconced on a hand sewn brocade pillow within. Several lit candles within and outside the box bathed the perfume in a golden and red glow, shining through the ruby glass of a goblet and a votive placed narby and an open book of great love poetry beside it. Clarimonde’s eyes were framed in a heavy variegated gilt, glazed with a subtle iridescence and lain on the table nearby.


The next perfume shrine held Immortal Mine by Maria Mcelroy and Alexis Karl, collaborating as The House of Cherry Bomb. It opens like white smoke trapped in a honeycomb, over deep woods and earth and heady florals.

The theme of this perfume is hypnotic sensuality and attraction. My favorite explanation of the ingredients of this perfume comes directly from Alexis Karl, whose gave me this Ingredients List:

Soil from an unmarked grave. One single drop of blood from a slain Wyvern.
The sweet elixer of dying jasmine and fading neroli.
Amber found in ancient tombs of civilizations lost. Longing.
Essence of smoke from the funeral pyre.
A cut of velvet from Bela Lugosi's cape, the dust from a bat’s wing.
Wood resins gathered from the Forest of the Dead,
Myrrh scraped from the cliffs of The Dark Realm.
Precious ouds unearthed from burning desert sands.
Wax dripping from black, white and pin candles, ashes of a Phoenix, words from a dead poet's mouth. Rare herbs found in a cathedral's forgotten garden. Desire.


This perfume shrine was created by the perfumers, using a silvery reliquary-like box studded with semiprecious stones I had found. They dressed the mirror in transparent black chiffon, and used black ostrich plumes to evoke the dark breath of the perfume rising. The flacons were set within like small gold and red hearts. There was a life size gilt skull and a black bird holding an engagement ring in its beak, and opera gloves flung down beside the tableau. The perfumers were there themselves to engage with the guests.


Then we came to Dawn Spencer Hurwitz made Paradise Lost. Inspired by the atmospheric descriptions throughout the love story that verbally evoked otherworldly perfumes and luminosities.

Dawn noted she was especially inspired by the phrase, “A twilight blue oriental perfume,” and the repeated references to the Clarimonde’s satiny cool hands. Coolness paired with an alternate universe of warm opulence in Venice, shimmering together.

Topnotes: wild blue chamomile, immortelle, pressed violets, golden champaca
Heart notes: faded flowers, candlewax, oriental lotus, black orris
Basenotes: sable fur, fossilized amber, myrrh gum, bloody sweet accord, mitti.

Paradise Lost begins with warm golden highs and then develops into cool mentholated orris, and a violet without sweetness. There is a transitory scent of iron, like blood, a cool metallic tone that still allows room for the amber in the base. The sable fur accord brings in dry airy warmth of thick fur, a hazy background for the sharper foreground notes.

The perfume was hosted by Alejandro of MiN, who was dressed in a top hat and severely elegant layers of black, with gloves that accentuated the gestures of his hands and he displayed the perfume. The theme of this perfume shrine was deep blue lined with variegated gold, with blue and gold butterflies rising up from the perfume itself. The flacon itself is a tiny art nouveau styled neckpiece on a narrow wine dark ribbon. Peacock feathers fanned out nearby, recalling the beauty of one of Clarimonde’s favorite personal symbols. I put small round framed iridescently glazed details of photos nearby, taken by Cecil Beaton of the famous Bestingui Ball in Venice, the greatest masquerade party ever.


Next was Ayala Moriel’s perfume, a fragrance for waking in the dark—Dreaming Parallel. Best experienced most fully when awake in bed, or perhaps with your eyes closed, like a presence in the room with you. Clarimonde often appeared to Romauld at the foot of his bed at night.

Ayala made a sleep sachet of dried herbs that are used for restful sleep: valerian roots, violet leaf, lavender buds, and some orris root, patchouli leaves and rose buds for their scent and evocative color of blood and passion.

The perfume’s notes are a contrast between spicy warmth and coolness. Vintage patchouli and vintage cloves, saffron and carnation portray the warmth; and a violet accord to bring the cold, moist element. Aside from violet leaf and cassie (both very wet and cold smelling essences), she used the velvety, candied-violet note of alpha ionone.

She explained this was not only because she wanted the violets to have a dominant presence; but also because there is something very pure, clear and surreal about this note, which reminded her of Clarimonde’s voice as she spoke to Romauld for the first time in his dreams.

In keeping with the theme of the perfume, I placed it in a creamy box with a black interior, set upon two silky velvet pillows. I found that the experience of this perfume was greatly enhanced by inhaling the fragrance as it rose around me in the dark.


Then we brought the guests into the deepest interior corner of MiN, to the Clarimonde perfumes by Monica Miller, who created two forms of perfume. A liquid perfume Sangre, for the skin, to be worn together with a lip stain for the mouth, both carmine red. The lip stain contains myrrh and is strong enough to sting a little, and then moves into the mouth to fragrance the breath.

Sangre is deep with woods but with a flick of sweetness from the fruity top notes. Wearing it with the lip stain is the fullest experience because it brings your face, head and mind into a sense of depth while the rest of you is enveloped in an aura of relaxation warmth and sweetness.

I envisioned this work of Monica Miller, as she resides near the sea and that has its own implication of great depth, as relating to a mother of pearl iridescence and so placed the perfume within reflective surfaces. A mother of pearl box, shells and sea glass from Martha’s Vineyard, vintage off-white lace, and the symbol of The Lovers from Tarot were the theme of the shrine.

It was a poetic and enjoyable evening that was enhanced by the songs sung my Michal Towber, who sang her vampire-themed song at the end of the evening. Her wonderful video played on the wall behind her, as she sang. She also gave us a beautiful acoustic rendition of Leonard Cohen’s "Dance me to the End of Love" midway.

The full richness of the project can also be accessed through the extraordinary writing of the perfume bloggers involved.

Writers are:

Sheila Eggenberger/The Alembicated Genie, Trish Vawter/Scent Hive,
Monica Miller/Perfume Pharmer, Jade Dressler, Beth Schriebman-Gehring,
Deana Sidney of LostPastRemembered, and myself, Lucy Raubertas of Indieperfumes, who began, developed and curated the project.

With deep gratitude to all the participants, to MiN for hosting the event, and to the story itself, I remain amazed at the torrent of perfume beauty unleashed by the collective dream of Clarimonde. Please visit the Clarimonde site to see all the posts by all the writers.


The perfumes may be sampled directly through the perfumer’s sites. Immortal Mine is at Indiescents.


Photos from the event by Lucy Raubertas of Indieperfumes

Lucy Raubertas

Lucy Raubertas is the creator and director of the Clarimonde Project, which began in 2011. She has been writing about indie, niche, natural and artisan perfumes since 2006 on her site Indieperfumes, and is a contributor to Tugboat Magazine on indieperfumers of the American West. She has been a nominee for best fragrance blog by the Fragrance Foundation for the past three years, and served as a judge on their first indieperfumes award this past year. She lectured on fragrance writing at SVA and has been cited as a fragrance blog of note by Stylist and others.

She has been a guest writer on DIY and Home Fragrance on Now Smell This. With background studies in installation sculpture with Louise Bourgeois, and a deep interest and practice in decorative arts, she has become interested in the use of perfume as a material for personal expression, and perfume’s relationship to the other arts.


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This was an amazing project, with so many fertile minds and talents- all arising from one short story !
Thank you, dear friend. If not for you.....


perfect write up Lucy, I wish I could have been there! I am honored to have been part of the Clarimonde Perfume Project as a Perfumer as well as a writer.The character Clarimonde is so inspiring ~ I love the group on fb where Clarimonde's fashion choices are posted daily! To be a part of this group fantasy and fun has been one of the most delightful social niceties on fb and has inspired many :) I will say I think of Lucy as my sister I love to play dress up and perfume with, what could be more wonderful <3


Thank you, dear Lucy, it's nice to have you here as an author. I wish I was there, the store looks very cozy ;o)) Great design of perfume shrines, dear Lucy ;o)


Thank you Nebraska, I do look back on it with amazement.


Welcome to Fragrantica, Lucy, and congrats on what looks like an amazing perfume event! :-)


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