When I was beginning to start thinking about writing perfume reviews I was deep in my “niche is best” phase. I would happily debate with those who would insist there was good perfume at the mall with a very pithy “Nuh-uh!” There would be a few which would shake my narrow world view. One of those was 2004’s John Varvatos. If there is a reason I make sure I survey the department store offerings the John Varvatos line is one of them.
John Varvatos has been a successful men’s fashionwear designer since the mid 1980’s creating some of the most iconic styles for both Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein. He would begin his independent career with his own label in 2000. One of the things I like about Mr. Varvatos is we share a similar rock and roll musical taste. He used to do a radio show on SiriusXM where he would play some of his favorite songs. Plus, he is the current tenant of the storefront which was CBGB in NYC. Unlike many who put their name on the bottle it is clear to me that his is not a licensing deal but an active creative partnership.
That partnership has been with perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux. I think Sr. Flores-Roux also gets the Varvatos rock and roll aesthetic. He has translated it successfully over fifteen releases into what I would consider the best department store brand from top to bottom. Not only do they share passion, but Sr. Flores-Roux brings his artistic perspective even to the most modest briefs he receives. This is another reason the John Varvatos collection stands out among the other bottles on the counter. Artisan Pure is the most recent release.
Artisan Pure is the fourth member of the Artisan sub-collection. It was inspired by hillsides of Xalapa in Sr. Flores-Roux’s birthplace of Mexico. 2017 has been a year of Sr. Flores-Roux stepping forward with many looks at Mexico. Artisan Pure captures those hillsides when the orchards and coffee fields are in full bloom.
Artisan Pure opens with a citrus accord that rings with the clarity of pinging a finger off a crystal wineglass. Lemon, bergamot, and clementine form a juicy pulpy chord. Petitgrain provides the focus that turns it into a crystalline citrus accord. It also makes this one of the longer lasting citrus accords because of that. The green of the hillsides is captured by herbal notes of marjoram and thyme. Ginger provides a zingy intermezzo to a heart of orris root. This is the kind of non-powdery iris I find wonderful when paired with citrus. This is where Sr. Flores-Roux understands a little bit of an expensive ingredient helps lift the overall above the ordinary. The base accord is woods and amber over some musks.
Artisan Pure has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
Artisan Pure is yet another example of why John Varvatos is the best of the department store. There are so many brands which phone it in at this point. That Mr. Varvatos and Sr. Flores-Roux continue to produce this kind of quality is remarkable.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by John Varvatos.