When fragrances claim to draw on very specific cultural practices or references, it is often easy to dismiss this as nothing more than a marketing trope. Elementals Fragrances, however, are the result of founder Deana Wyland-Fries’ long held passion for Chinese wisdom, Feng Shui and ancient philosophy which she has placed at the heart of their olfactory offering. If that sort of thing isn’t for you, however, these are fragrances which are worth trying anyway as they are classically composed and offer harmonious, soulful compositions which need no further explanation or adornment. To like and enjoy one is simply enough.
It’s clear from the outset that the emphasis of Elementals Fragrances is heavily centred around Chinese philosophy and well being. Now I know that this isn’t for everyone but those that enjoy that sort of thing will find the vibe of the brand calming, soothing and mindful. The promise here is scents that will augment your day to day to make you feel better – which is really something good fragrances should do – the novel slant here being on the aromatherapeutic emphasis this brand places on its products.
If you’re not into ancient wisdom then perhaps the fact that the range is gender neutral, vegan and cruelty free will entice you to take a look? And if you still need convincing then perhaps it’s the sustainability angle which will win you over? The products are all made from fully recyclable packaging with little to no plastic involved. The discovery set comes in a compostable pouch and the brand also offers environmentally friendly pocket editions of the scents and donates money to charity when one of these is purchased.
The first thing to understand with these fragrances is that they don’t smell like recreations of the element they are referencing – at least not wholly so – although most of them do share some similar qualities and at least communicate the sense of that element. Each and every single one of these fragrances is able to stand alone and work in it’s own right, or be layered to create a more personalised experience.
Listed notes: Black pepper, angelica root, wormwood, lavender, clary sage
A bright, almost glittering aspect opens the fragrance, Water. Refreshing, sparkling citrus with chinks of light glittering across the surface in the form of black pepper motes. It feels refreshing, but not like plunging into a freezing body of water on a hot day, more like taking a drink of the perfect temperature water – not too warm or cold – when you are very thirsty.
Aquatic fragrances can sometimes be strangely aggressive or pervasive, but this is avoided here. There is an aquatic tone to the scent but it is very delicate and almost expansive in the way that it wears. The lavender and clary sage give hints of an almost soapiness or a cleanliness, but again they are hints and shades rather than anything too full on. A pretty and delicate fragrance, good for those who like easy wearing but not bland scents.
Listed notes: Grapefruit, bergamot, cedar, palo santo, tagetes
Wood starts with a sour mossiness – this is wood which is almost crumbling and turning back into earth. It feels very grounding and calming and gives a sense of things which are natural, cyclical.
As the fragrance wears on, the cedar and palo santo come towards the fore, which gives a sense of a more typical sort of woodiness. I imagine logs piled in the forest, some of which are decaying a little around the edges.
Again, Wood is very gentle, almost reflective. It’s the sort of fragrance which you would wear to sit on a stump in the forest and contemplate the nature of existence. Quiet, detailed, thoughtful.
Listed notes: Ginger, cinnamon, neroli, geranium, rose otto, frankincense.
For me Fire is a smouldering sort of scent, rather than one which feels fully ablaze. Beautifully blended, the uplift of ginger is supported by the warmth of cinnamon. The geranium adds that sense of dry astringency and the neroli hangs around in the background just providing that curl of something floral within the scent – almost more of a shape than a note.
Fire is warming and bright, but gently so. It made me think of sitting in a cool room but with my legs in a patch of sunshine, feeling that gentle, soothing and healing sense of heat.
Towards the end of a wear, Fire almost goes a little bit creamy, which is interesting and a good demonstration of how these scents aren’t just photocopies of what fire, for example, smells like.
Listed notes: Chamomile, mimosa, immortelle, broom, ylang ylang, guaiac wood.
Earth is perhaps the most calming fragrance in the pack. It has a cool tone and feels deeply restful. The scent opens with a cluster of very savoury smelling buds of chamomile and immortelle. Don’t be mistaken and discount this scent because you’re worried that it will smell like damp earth, it doesn’t.
A dry, astringent floralcy sits over a gentle woodiness once the fragrance has really got into its stride, with hints and flecks of greenery peeping through here and there.
Listed notes: Coriander, cardamon, fennel, jasmine, silver birch.
Metal positively zings with energy and out of all the fragrances smells most like the element it represents. It starts of bright, sharp and cold. There’s a bitterness about it and like a knife on a winter’s morning, it cuts. Peer closer and you can see that the metallic tone is made of something green and dry. It twists a little soapier as the scent wears on, but just a touch.
The fennel comes in mid way through a wear and adds a fascinating anise twist to the fragrance. It sits somewhere between green and aniseed and is somehow more aloof than other aniseed elements I have smelled in scent – which I often find to be friendly and warming. This is a fennel bulb which has been stored in a fridge for a while, as opposed to a the hay-like type of gentle aniseed element you might more likely expect.
Listed notes: Saffron, bergamot, cypress, violet leaf, rose oil, tolu balsam, labdanum, nutmeg, pink pepper, oud, cypriol oil, frangipani and peru balsam.
Each year, the Elementals brand plan on releasing a fragrance which responds to the spirit and energy of the time. Their first release in this series was Qian, with later releases being disrupted by Covid, but i general this being a thread which the brand will pick up again at some point in the future.
Qian opens with a bright expansiveness. This is looking out on a wide, countryside vista on a warm morning type of territory. There are hints of scrubby, evergreen trees, and the brightness of warming citruses perhaps resting in a bowl on a nearby table and just being touched by the first rays of the sun.
What follows is a combination of slightly sweet woods, that spikiness you can get from oud scents (but this is by no means a strong oud) with a warm and friendly underbelly. It’s a diffuse scent, floaty, difficult to catch hold of, but pretty nevertheless. Like a fragrant imagining of a vista as seen in a dream, gauzy and quickly lost.
I can’t promise to understand ancient Chinese wisdom, but the beauty of these scents is that you don’t need to in order to enjoy them. The quality of the fragrances is a delight and each alone has a nice sense of balance. These aren’t loud, shouty scents, but they are very wearable, very approachable and have a pleasingly well crafted sense of elegance about them. It’s clear that thought has gone into both the construction of the brand, and the construction of each individual fragrance therein, and that is always pleasing to see. Whether you believe in the philosophy or not, it is clear that the founders are passionate about it and immersed in it in their own lives, and when someone shares a personal passion it is hard to not feel some of that enthusiasm transmitted into the fragrances they produce.
The Elementals Fragrances are all available from their website where they are priced at between €165-198 for 100ml of EdP.
We were gifted a discovery set and bottle of Qian by the brand.
Header image from Pixabay, other images by The Sniff.