Until my visit to Phoenix's Joya Spa with resident organic alchemist Katie Hess, I didn't put much stock in "happy elixirs." Certainly not enough to merit a 60-minute spa session. Joya quickly established itself as one of Scottsdale's top spas in America's most competitive "feel good" zip code due to its fluid definition of what constitutes a spa treatment. To initiate my flower-essences consultation, Ms. Hess shows me pretty horticultural pictorials - the ice breaker - before going into the therapeutic bit - asking me to characterize my past relationship with fear and mood swings. Her serenity casts a spell on me and I find myself relaxing - despite rather probing, provocative questions. The more detail I reveal, the more she fiddles with her lineup of essence bottles and formulations. Watching her interpret both positive and negative narratives into a bottle is unexpectedly therapeutic, perhaps even more so than the remedial massage. She finishes by presenting me with a glass tincture bottle to take internally, along with a bespoke essential-oil scent to incorporate into my skincare.
The treatment is based on the idea of sympathetic resonance - the notion that certain flower essences affect human biology. Of the 24 images, I'm drawn to the blood-red blossoms of the pomegranate and the maniacally symmetrical petals of the white yarrow. According to Ms. Hess, the former governs balancing of reproductive organs and creative self-expression while the latter revitalizes after heavy cellphone use, exposure to pollution and air travel. I take the flower essences internally, three drops under the tongue. They taste a bit like Campari if the red ride wasn't so medicinal, and Pimms if the liqueur wasn't so soggy band-aid. Unlike essential oils, they're without scent and work through the body's meridians.
Montelucia Resort is nestled in the foothills of spectacular Camelback Mountain in Paradise Valley, Arizona. Its spa is a valentine to the art of the amorous, a testament to the rise of big gestures in spa design - enough campaniles and cupolas, spiral walkways and quiet cloisters to keep you and your partner in a state of wonder. One of the menu standouts is the Amira Jewel Facial, a bestseller for its use of red-wine longevity extract resveratrol. The hotel comes alive at night - great music and a lively social scene. The smell of succulent wood-fired rib-eye from the Andalusia-inspired Prado Restaurant contributes to a heady atmosphere. Business travellers wary of lacklustre dining or who've permanently written off hotel food will be surprised - half the meats on the menu bear private labels and star in supremely confident, creative constructions. Expect spontaneous close-harmony singing, a mountain of grilled meat and toasts in whichever fiery local spirit you choose.
Montelucia Resort and Spa, 4949 E. Lincoln Drive, Scottsdale, Ariz.; 1-888-627-3010; montelucia.com; $199 for 60 minutes.