Space. Most of us can only imagine what it smells like, and yet I’d warrant that a fair few of us would find the idea of the scents of space quite fascinating! Marina Barcenilla, the founder of AromAtom (and a space scientist as well as perfumer) is taking this idea one step further and has attempted to capture the scents of space in a range of fragrances.
The vibe of AromAtom is artisanal and out of this world. Marina Barcenilla works as both a space scientist and perfumer, but she is passionate about engaging people with her work, so it, like her fragrances are approachable and easy to understand as well as being interesting. They are all wearable, and full of character and a point of view without being challenging.
AromAtom as a brand idea is a bit different, a bit off the beaten track and all the more wonderful for that. In a perfume market saturated with fragrances about travel, very few take that inspiration beyond Earth itself, so the fact that this is a whole brand built around the reaches of space is worth our attention.
AromAtom is Marina Barcenilla’s second brand (after her all natural initial brand, MB Parfums) and utilises mixed media (ie naturals alongside safe synthetic ingredients). Marina has been working at the perfumer’s craft since 1997, both as a perfumer for her own brands and for other people, and her work has won numerous awards.
The AromAtom fragrances are simply presented in rounded bottles, with the sample phials coming in little black envelopes. This isn’t a brand with showy, expensive bottles, instead the interesting fragrances are allowed to shine in their own right.
AromAtom fragrances meld natural and safe synthetic ingredients to produce scents which are voluminous, interesting and with decent longevity. They all have an otherworldly character, as you may imagine, and they do an excellent job of making the wearer imagine what space might smell like. This “out of this world” feeling is enhanced by the judicious use of safe synthetic materials which are allowed to be noticeable in parts of the compositions giving that sense of strange beauty that they can sometimes bring (Iso E Super, I am looking at you here!).
Listed notes: Black hemlock, fir balsam, cedar leaf, ozone, guaiacwood, sandalwood, incense, cedarwood, moss, vetiver, petrichor, agarwood, and amber resin.
Ground Control is the least otherworldly of the set of AromAtom scents, so if the idea of space perfume feels a bit daunting, perhaps start with this one. Ground Control is the imagining of what it would smell like returning to Earth after a voyage into space. What smells would be most noticeable upon return?
Ground Control opens with a chorus of woody and earthy notes, and it does indeed feel as if you have opened a doorway on to a cool, evergreen forest in the middle of nowhere. The air is the temperature of early spring or late autumn but not cold enough yet to be frosty. There’s a hint of the loamy soil slumbering beneath tall fir trees, and a strong vein of sap in evidence. Perhaps one of the trees has shed a branch and the sap is seeping out, perfuming the air with its strong sweetness.
As Ground Control ages on skin, the petrichor element comes to the fore a little more strongly, with a cool, rocky tone that hints at pebbles underfoot. This more mineral aspect, the fir and the resins seem to swirl around, taking it in turns to be most noticeable. There is a conspiratorial feel about the fragrance, despite the fact that it is quite strong, it feels calm and quiet too – channelling the vibe of the forest. It is almost as if the trees are hunkering down around you, blanketing you with their boughs, and there is a sense of protection about wearing the scent which was really pleasant.
Out Of This World
Listed notes: Cade, saffron, petitgrain, guaiacwood, orange blossom, smoke accord, bitter almond, davana, raspberry, rum, sandalwood, amber, and musk.
Out Of This World is a fascinating and almost nebulous scent – and my favourite from the line. It opens with a sweet smokiness which feels enigmatic and mysterious. Through the smoke you can catch the sweetness of raspberry, the warm brightness of orange blossom, and the nutty oiliness of almond alongside softer woods. The beginning of the fragrance is moreish and tantalising. It is smoky, but the smoke is held at the perfect level to not become bitter or overdone.
As the fragrance ages on the skin, the rich sweetness of davana comes through and the rum, which made a fleeting appearance in the opening, comes back a touch stronger. At this point it is hard to tell if this is a fragrance or a lavish cocktail you are smelling, but either way you are drawn in.
If Out Of This World appeared in a sci-fi TV show, it would be as a sentient, shifting galaxy that draws the spaceship into its field and toys with the crew for a while before realising that they mean it no harm and letting them go on their way… Now there’s a sentence I don’t think I have ever written in a fragrance review before!
We Are The Martians
Listed notes: Saffron, cardamom, black pepper, smoke accord, cold metal accord, guaiacwood, frankincense resinoid, cashmere wood, and amber musk.
Leathery saffron and dry black pepper open We Are The Martians boldly. A beautiful cardamom creeps into the picture next, warming everything gently. The cold metal and smoke accords come to the front a little further into the composition and they are interesting bedfellows; the smoke and the metal together hint at something crashed and burning perhaps, although not strongly – if there is a wreck it is some way away and only carried to our noses on the breeze.
Resins and woods complete the composition. The woods are sweet and soft, whilst the resin plays off the smoke accord nicely. Perhaps this isn’t a crash we can smell in the distance, but a religious ceremony instead? The amber musks add that final touch of sweetness and balance to the scent, rounding it out with something friendly to make sure the cardamom – which is still apparent – stays friendly rather than bitter.
Listed notes: Black pepper, mineral accord, heliotropin, orris, powder accord, mineral amber accord, and musk.
Of all the fragrances in the AromAtom line, Moon Walk feels like the one with the sparsest composition. A light-touch composition is no bad thing, however. The scent opens with a blast of black pepper and Iso E Super before it really hits its stride. I really like the smell of Iso E Super, so I rather enjoyed the opening bars of this fragrance.
A powdery orris waltzes into the fray next, and is enhanced by the powdery accord too, so we get a dry, dusty but soft tone diffusing throughout the scent. Moon Walk feels elegantly simple, weightless perhaps and ethereal.
Moon Walk is the sort of fragrance which will take you from day to evening, it’s the sort of scent which will compliment whatever you are doing nicely. Versatile, diaphanous and uncluttered, Moon Walk enchants with its simplicity and sense of space.
The fragrances of AromAtom are interesting and fun. Whilst taking the idea of space as part of their creative inspiration they go further than mere novelties and are well crafted perfumes in their own right as well as allowing us a glimpse into an elsewhere that we will likely never be able to visit ourselves.
Indie and artisanal perfume creators in the UK are upping their game all the time, and bringing about creations which are unique and alive with creativity. With this collection, Marina Barcenilla and the AromAtom fragrances have more than earned their place in these esteemed ranks.
The AromAtom fragrances are available from the brand’s web boutique where they are priced at £69 for 50ml of EdP.
We were very kindly gifted samples of the fragrances by Marina Barcenilla, and we thank her for her kindness.
Main image by geralt on Pixabay, other images by The Sniff.