Monday, April 20, 2009

Ode to Oakmoss: Crabtree & Evelyn Ultra Moisturizing Body Butter

A young Jean-Claude Ellena may have slept on a bed of oakmoss in his youth, but perfumistas everywhere can ditch the Proustian reverie and indulge in a delicate gossamer of refreshing Citrus and Oakmoss at will. The chypre undertone in Crabtree and Evelyn's Ultra Moisturizing Body Butter with Revitalizing Lemon and Coriander is an exquisite find in a product with a $32.50 price point. One would expect a quality creation like this to have come from the house of Annick Goutal, albeit in an objet d’art designed for Eau de Hadrien (before Oakmoss paranoia and bad science instigate the reformulation of this classic fragrance in 2010*).

The much maligned Oakmoss, which is the subject of a bitter regulatory debate in the European Union and The United States, defines the chypre category in fine fragrance. Its application in perfumery is akin to the use of yeast when making bread; without it you are left with is a mass of unrealized potential. Evernia prunastri lends an aquatic, woody and leatheric air to a fragrance, and is renowned for its fixative properties. Those who are not acquainted with the perfume arts do not realize how prevalent the material is in classic formulations they've grown up with. If the European Union and IFRA have their way, Oakmoss will be eliminated from all fragrances and a chapter in the history of perfumery will be irrevocably closed. Octavian Coifan, editor of 1000 Fragrances, has made a list of endangered fragrances. Read it and weep.

Oakmoss is the 33rd ingredient in a list of 43 ingredients that comprise Crabtree and Evelyn's Ultra Moisturizing Body Butter with Revitalizing Lemon and Coriander. The level of dilution is probably less than .1% (100 parts per million), an amount that is not known to cause skin irritation (this used to be the threshold for regulators, but things have gotten way out of hand as Luca Turin points out in the April edition of Duftnote). The balm softens when placed between the palms and is somewhat cool to the touch. Within minutes of application, a gentle veil of oakmoss rises up in the predominantly citrus mix. The aromatherapeutic effects are energizing and magical, something Glass Petal Smoke likens to the Fever Ray video of “When I Grow Up”.

Crabtree & Evelyn is currently running a 20% off special on their Ultra Moisturizing Body Butter with Revitalizing Lemon and Coriander. If there was ever a time to stock up, this would be it.

Notes:
*IFRA Amendment 43 restricts the use of various materials in fine fragrance. Regulations will be more stringent in 2010, and includes restrictions on the use of jasmine absolute, among others.