A curious vanilla

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Ayala Moriel is a Vancouver perfumer who uses only natural materials in her work. I’d been perusing her site with interest for a while when I finally decided to make a blind purchase of three scents: Espionage, White Potion and Zangvil (all in the oil format).

I plan to review all three, but I’ll start with Espionage since it caught my attention first. But it also gave me pause. Why?

The notes

Ayala Moriel’s website lists the notes as follows:

Ambrette (Musk) Seed, Bergamot, Virginia Cedarwood, Orris Root, Rose Otto (Turkey), Tabac Blond, Tonka Bean, Vanilla Absolute, Vetiver, Guiacwood, Jasmine Grandiflorum, Leather Notes.

There’s a lot there that I love – ambrette, cedar, and jasmine to name a few. But the leather gave me pause. I don’t really wear leather (the material) and its scent has never had much appeal for me. Still, I decided to take a chance.

In the bottle

I opened the bottle and immediately wondered if I’d made a mistake. The leather is strong, and there’s a sharpness to the scent that was unfamiliar to me.

I hate to say it, but Espionage was almost reminiscent of bug spray on first sniff. On the other hand, I actually like the smell of bug spray…

On skin

When first applied, Espionage sends up a potent, almost overwhelming cloud of leather and smoke. These notes seemed overlaid with a veneer of sweetness, like a leather jacket with syrup trickled over it.

After a minute or two, the distinction between the leather note and the sweetness disappeared. The notes merged into a single smooth scent with its edges softened and blurred by the musky ambrette.

As time continued to pass, Espionage got sweeter and a dark, creamy vanilla became its most prominent aspect. The leather still tempered it though, setting it apart from simpler and “younger” vanilla perfumes.

The florals are present, but (to my nose at least) impossible to pick out individually. Rather, they’re part of a very well-blended whole.

Overall impression

Espionage is soft and subtle – others are unlikely to notice you’re wearing it unless very close to you. For me, this is a major selling point. However, be warned if you don’t feel the same (it’s also possible that the eau de parfum version projects farther).

I highly recommend Espionage, even for those ambivalent about leather and especially for those looking for a soft vanilla scent that’s different from the usual.

Just reserve judgment for a few minutes after applying; for this scent at least, first impressions are deceiving.

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