Over the past two years or so there have been a number of collaborations within the independent perfume community. I have likened it to when two musicians meet at a festival and start jamming together backstage to find there is some artistic commonality to work from. Perfume is not quite as easy as that but when a couple of perfumers get together and start discussing collaboration it is always exciting to see it actually happen. Such is the case with perfumer Bruno Fazzolari and Antonio Gardoni of Bogue Profumo.
Mr. Fazzolari has been one of the most interesting independent perfume stories. I only really had the pleasure of trying his entire collection in the last year. He has that outsider mindset which most often goes wrong. For him it allows for a way of thinking about perfume by melding it with his color sense as a painter that has resulted in one of the great indie collections.
Sig. Gardoni came at his independent perfume career from a different place; a more classical one. He acquired a perfumer’s laboratory from the 1940’s. After spending time with each of the materials he had, he began to compose starting with a recipe that came with the bottles. His brand has evolved since then and he has made some of the best retro nouveau perfumes of the last two years.
"Cadavre Exquis" (1927) by Man Ray, Joan Miro, Yves Tanguy, and Max Morise
When the two met they decided on a very unique version of a perfume collaboration. They wanted to do a fragrant version of the 1920’s artists parlor game cadavre exquis. The way that game went was a group of artists, four usually, would collaborate by each drawing on a page and after finishing cover up their contribution. The next artist would then add to the drawing and cover up their contribution and so on until all four had gone. There are examples of the work in museums all over the world. The example above hangs in MoMA in NYC and was done in 1927 by artists Man Ray, Yves Tanguy, Joan Miro, and Max Morise. It is sort of an artistic Frankenstein which manages to lurch into life. Mr. Fazzolari and Sig. Gardoni wanted to do the same and they gave their perfume the same name, Cadavre Exquis.
They further decided that the genre they wanted to work in was the gourmand. The way they played the game was starting with Sig. Gardoni they sent vials back and forth as each added something to it. Not quite as blind as the artist’s game but still each new addition was going to inspire the next. The resulting perfume is as completely original as you might expect.
Right from the beginning of Cadavre Exquis you can see the idea of experimentation. In the booklet which comes with the perfume one of the perfumers mentions his take on how he sees this gourmand. “Think about a potion from 100 years ago….sold by a magician, a “doctor”….a power-food, a love elixir with an almost disturbing smell….think…CAMPHOR!” It is this which greets you upon spraying on Cadavre Exquis it is contrasted with the more usual citrus notes of bergamot and blood orange. I love this opening the camphor immediately lets you know this is an experiment. The heart is dominated by a rich cacao absolute which wraps up the camphor in an embrace and doesn’t let go. This camphoraceous chocolate accord is the beating heart of Cadavre Exquis. Over the next few hours the sense of cadavre exquis the game is most apparent as different floral and herbal notes are used to change this outré gourmand accord. The unctuous nature of ylang ylang oozes across it. The acerbic nature of tagetes pierces it. Star anise amplifies it. Finally, stewed fruit adds an alternative sweetness; a kind of decaying almost rotted version. That degree of decay is what leads in to the base accord centered around the animalic ingredients of civet and castoreum. They add the entropy to the cleaner sweet woodiness of cypress, benzoin, and vanilla.
Cadavre Exquis has 12-14 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
Cadavre Exquis the perfume is a much more complete artistic vision than the visual pieces from the 1920’s. That is not surprising because the perfumers didn’t work as completely uninformed. Even so the melding of the classic and the synesthetic works in a much more satisfying way that I could have imagined. Cadavre Exquis is a Franken-gourmand which is delightfully alive.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by the perfumers.