The Eye of the Green

Where does a perfumista who lives in Northern California go to find an artisan brand from Southern California? Of course to Hawaii! (yes, this is the promised addendum to my vacation post)

Since I can’t stand sun for too long usually in the morning we would have a short sortie to the beach, swim or snorkel, then quickly retreat to the living quarters for a shower, then drive somewhere for a hike, sightseeing or shopping (trying not to stay under the sun more than necessary or covering ourselves thoroughly) and then return to the beach a couple of hours before a sunset for more swimming.

One such afternoon we drove to the neighboring resort (Four Seasons), just to check it out. It was smaller than I expected and much less interesting than I wanted. We walked the grounds, figured out there was nothing to see and were almost leaving when I spotted a shop.

Gomitolo wax candle by MissoniI love visiting small shops in tourist destinations. I always have a childish hope there would be some miracles and wonders. There never are any. Which isn’t bad since it allows me not to spend money and not to clutter my dwelling. But I like those minutes of anticipation and hope; so every time I venture into the next new shop as if there weren’t several hundred previous failures.

An expensive resort, which Four Seasons is, requires an expensive and better than average shop, which Seaside Luxe boutique is. I was browsing their offerings enjoying just the right temperature inside (more than once I had to cut my visit to a store short because of AC set to a freezer temperature) when my vSO shared with me his observation that it looked like Missoni boutique (I was sniffing some ambiance fragrances and didn’t make to the rest of the store yet) and offered to guess a price for a very neat Missoni candle made in the form of ball of yarn. Thinking of Amouage candles and having added four-seasons-hawaiian-luxury surcharge I braved $200. Yeah… Now you try to guess. To get an answer look at the price of this Gomitolo wax candle and subtract $80 since the one in the store was smaller.

As I reached a sales counter I noticed something I was secretly hoping to find in the store but wasn’t really counting on – a couple of bottles with perfumes. A couple of completely unfamiliar bottles of perfume. Yessss!!! Well, technically there were four bottles – two with fragrance essence (oil-based perfumes) and two with the misting oil – but they contained just two different scents. I smelled both first and then tried them on the skin. Names were displayed prominently – KOA and UME – but I couldn’t read the brand on the label.

Ume and Koa by L'Oeil Du VertAnd then a small miracle happened. I met Mauri – a very friendly and enthusiastic sales person who seemed genuinely fond of these perfumes. She told me that they were hand-made for their boutique by a perfumer Haley Alexander van Oosten (brand L’Oeil du Vert“the eye of the green”) from Los Angeles. Then she brought paper inserts for both perfumes. I asked if she had an extra set of those pamphlets for me to take with and explained that I might write about the perfume in my blog so I would need some information. I didn’t even ask for samples because I figured out that with L’Oeil du Vert being a small artisan brand and Seaside Luxe not specializing in perfumes they wouldn’t have any samples and I left my vials (which I had with me on the trip – just in case!) in the hotel. Not only Mauri gave me those inserts but she also offered me to take one of the testers (with probably 30% of a misting oil left in it) since she had an extra tester of that one. And she expressed regret she couldn’t give me the second tester since it was the last one.

The tester I got was for the perfume UME. “Ume means plum blossom in Japanese – the first flower to blossom in spring, it offers renewal and vitality.” (Haley Alexander van Oosten)

From the insert:

Ume is created in reverence with custom distilled oils of Japanese delicacies – organic jasmine Green Tea extract, purifying Yuzu citron, fresh Seaweed, Hinoki cypress for strength, Siso leaves, Lime blossom, sacred Agarwood, and other botanical rarities from Asia.

On my skin the Ume smells very dry, herbal and almost bitter but not medicinal. I do not smell any floral notes in it. It’s definitely a unisex perfume. As with most all-natural perfumes Ume takes some time to warm up to it but the more I use it the more I like it. The tenacity of the misting oil is regular for natural oil perfumes – 1.5-2 hours. For me it makes Ume a perfect sleep scent: it lasts long enough to smell it while I’m falling asleep. I don’t know if the fragrance essence version has a better longevity and I didn’t ask how much it cost but a 30 ml (I think, I can’t find the size on a tester bottle) misting oil costs $144, which, in my opinion, is too expensive for what it is – unless you fall in love with the scent and do not mind re-applying it often. I like Ume but do not love it. Though I think it might be addictive. We’ll see how I feel once I’m done with the oil remaining in that tester.

I wish I had at least a small vial for the second perfume KOA. First – because it’s sweeter and has more floral components that I can smell (and I do prefer floral perfumes) and second because it was inspired by the native Hawaiian tree (“Live like the Koa Tree – brave, bold and fearless”) and made of all local materials (from the insert): 

sustainably harvested koa wood, naturally dyed kappa barkcloth, … Ili’ahi sandalwood, awapuhi ‘ai ginger root, hala flowers, plumeria blossoms, and vanilla orchid.

I think that out of these two I liked Koa better. How cool would it be to bring back from Hawaii something you can’t find anywhere else?! But it seems the SA was right – L’Oeil du Vert did make Koa for that store and even though I liked it, after testing it just once it didn’t feel like an immediate “must buy” and now I can’t find it anywhere to try again.

What I like about both Ume and Koa is the attention to details – a nice wooden cover for bottles, fabric bags and beautiful inserts with information about perfumes. On the other hand, at the price level L’Oeil du Vert tries to fit in (see a small article I found in the LA Times) I wouldn’t expect anything less.

Have you ever heard about L’Oeil du Vert? Have you tried Ume, Koa or any other of their perfumes?

Images: Missoni candle – net-a-porter.com; perfumes – my own.