The last time I saw perfumer Alessandro Gualtieri was at Esxence 2014. He was walking around with a battered top hat. At that exposition, he released the final scent for his line Nasomatto called Blamage with an accompanying documentary which was screened there. He also debuted the line which was taking over called Orto Parisi. As the documentary readily shows Sig. Gualtieri is a bit of a perfumed Mad Hatter. It was those trips he took me on with every subsequent Nasomatto release. They weren’t all to my taste but they always held my interest. I was sad to see the Nasomatto story come to an end with Blamage. Turns out it wasn’t the end after all as a surprise new release Nasomatto Baraonda has arrived this fall.
Alessandro Gualtieri at Esxence 2014 via Basenotes.net
If there was anything which disappointed me about Blamage was it didn’t fully go for the randomness it was seeking. Sig. Gualtieri pulled the punch a bit. It became more understandable as the Orto Parisi releases came out as they also lacked a bit of the madcap energy of the best of the Nasomatto line. I wanted the Mad Hatter of Black Afgano. Baraonda feels like Sig. Gualtieri was looking at that top hat on the shelf in his Amsterdam studio; dusted it off, placed it on his head and started to compose. What comes out of all this is a whisky soaked scream of synthetic musks and woods through a completely unique dried berries middle.
Baraonda starts with the smell of whisky most likely courtesy of whisky lactone (cis-3-Methyl-4-octanolide). To that Sig. Gualtieri adds either one of the higher octave musks or ambrette seed, the botanical version. Whichever it is it has an interesting effect of turning the whisky more scotch-like. Then the booze recedes and this dried berries accord comes to the forefront. It reminds me of the dried cranberries I make scones with. As a guess, I think this is another fruity lactone twisted with more synthetic musks. It is the most captivating part of the evolution of Baraonda for me because the berries are made so odd because of the effect Sig. Gualtieri has created. Then we get to the trademark of all Nasomatto fragrances a synthetic overload. For Baraonda it is Ambrox and probably muscone or another synthetic animalic musk. Usually that combination does not work for me I find it screechy like olfactory nails across a chalkboard. In Baraonda it does work because the whisky and berries somehow blunt the sharp edges those two ingredients produce. Which means the woody musky base accord works unusually well.
Baraonda has ridiculous longevity of 24 hours-plus. The synthetics in the base will last through a shower. The sillage is moderate for all of that.
I am very pleased to have both Nasomatto, and The Mad Hatter behind it, back; even if only for this one release. Baraonda is one of my favorites of the line because it reminds me of the first Nasomatto I tried, Absinth, as Sig. Gualtieri says to hell with the tea let’s have a drink. That’s a party I want to be part of and with Baraonda; I am.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample from Twisted Lily.
One of the interesting side effects of being a finalist judge for this year’s Art & Olfaction Awards was I was reminded of other unique perfumes of the past. It lead to me reacquainting myself with a couple of them. The first one which I had to seek out was 1997’s The People of the Labyrinths Luctor et Emergo.
My discovery of this perfume was completely due to the internet forum Basenotes. When I started lurking, too timid to want to place a word in the public record there was a spirited conversation about Luctor et Emergo going on. It revolved around how it smelled synthetic. So artificial it reminded many of those posting of the children’s clay Play-Doh. Someone posted a picture of the bottle which looked like an Erlenmeyer Flask. The chemist was reeled in. I think I swapped for a bottle from someone who found it too different for their taste. When the bottle arrived I wasn’t sure what I was going to get. But in my early days of niche discovery this was the fun about it all. That moment of seeing if something you have read about lives up, or down, to expectations.
On that day I didn’t know much about the perfumer behind Luctor et Emergo. It would be years later I learned it was Alessandro Gualtieri who is better known for his Nasomatto line. In hindsight it makes sense because Sig. Gualtieri is an aficionado of the unusual in fragrance. Even back in 1997 he was looking to expand the boundaries of what it was that could be considered a perfume.
Luctor et Emergo opens with what I have described as a cherries and almond wrapped in cellophane accord. The cherry seems like artificial flavoring. The almond is marzipan-like. Underneath it all is that smell of clean cellophane which also sometimes reminds me of artificial turf. The heart is a mixture of rarely used synthetics, at the time, to create this Play-Doh accord. It picks up on the subtle plasticky vibe from the top and doubles down on it. The cherry embeds itself in the clay. This is where Luctor et Emergo stays on my skin for hours; as if a cherry Life-Saver candy was wrapped in Play-Doh. Later on the most normal part of the fragrance comes out as a bit of incense and woods are the final phase.
Luctor et Emergo has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
I’m not sure I can confidently say that Luctor et Emergo was where I started to find an appreciation for the odd in fragrance. I definitely know it was one step along the path of the evolution of my own personal understanding of what defines perfume. If you’re looking for something to broaden your fragrance horizons check out The People of the Labyrinths Luctor et Emergo.
Disclosure: This review was based on a bottle I own.
Expectations are often unmet. That doesn’t mean disappointing but when you’re expecting Thomas Pynchon and you get Stephen King you have to recalibrate your expectations. The last perfume from perfumer Alessandro Gualtieri for his Nasomatto label is called Blamage and it definitely confounded my expectations.
These expectations came from seeing the documentary on the making of Blamage at Esxence this year. The movie chronicles Sig. Gualtieri’s attempt to allow a mistake (blamage) to guide this last Nasomatto perfume. To that end he was blindfolded with a plaster cast and lead to his organ to choose four ingredients to base Blamage on. We never see clearly which four ingredients he chooses but Sig. Gualtieri seems delighted with the difficulty. The movie is accompanied with visuals of things burning and smoking which look pungent. I left the movie looking forward to something very avant-garde. A statement on randomness leading to creativity. When I finally received my sample of Blamage it turned out to be the least avant-garde of any perfume in the entire Nasomatto line.
As I said I am not sure what the four keynotes Sig. Gualtieri took down off of his organ but if, as I was lead to believe, they were the kind of fractious notes difficult to blend with then Sig. Gualtieri chose to populate Blamage with every other note on the safer side. From a citrus and tuberose opening through a lily and magnolia heart down to a base which might have every synthetic wood ingredient known to perfume. It leads to a very easy to wear fragrance except for the overload of synthetics at the end which might not appeal to everyone.
Blamage has a bright bergamot to go with the grapefruit. The tuberose is the deeply piquant version of the bloom. The floral parade continues with gardenia, lily of the valley, and magnolia in the heart. The source of the magnolia also has a fairly prominent woody quality and it sets up the base. In the base is where Sig. Gualtieri maybe gets a little less safe as it seems like there is a cavalcade of ambrox-like molecules, synthetic sandalwoods, and iso E super. It is all present in high concentration. If you like these notes Blamage will be amazing for you as Sig. Gualtieri does a very good job of balancing them while simultaneously turning up the volume. I can pick out many of the components and that speaks to the precision used in assembling it.
Blamage has 24-36 hour longevity, those synthetic woods are some of the most tenacious materials in perfumery. It also has explosive sillage again due to the woody synthetics.
The woody synthetics in the base are some of my least favorite materials in all of perfumery and because of that the sway they hold over Blamage colors my personal view of it. I think if you like the woody synthetics, and I know there are many out there that do, Blamage is going to be a favorite. It is a niche version of an old-fashioned woody powerhouse perfume of the 1980’s. I think it is easily the most approachable of the entire Nasomatto line and it will be where I tell people to start when first exploring the line. Maybe that is the final word on making perfume via blamage it always ends up way safer than you expect.
Disclsoure: This review was based on a sample of Blamage provided by Twisted Lily.
The very last event I attended at Esxence 2014 was a screening of the documentary “The Nose-Searching for Blamage”. Director Paul Rigter followed perfumer Alessandro Gualtieri of Nasomatto around as he designed his tenth, and final, Nasomatto fragrance. Sig. Gualtieri wanted to call this last fragrance Blamage which is loosely translated as mistake. The opening of the movie shows Sig. Gualtieri talking about how some of the more famous perfumes in history were improved by adding too much or too little of an ingredient. For this last fragrance in the Nasomatto line he wanted to leave it all up to chance what he would use to create Blamage. He had his assistant blindfold him with a plaster blindfold and then walk him over to his wall of raw materials where six random ingredients were selected. These would form the core of Blamage.
After the blindfold was removed and Sig. Gualtieri saw what he had chosen he exclaims, not for the last time, “Cazzo!” The subtitle translates it as “shit” and for the rest of the film when the word is used it goes unsubtitled. What is great about the way Sig. Gualtieri uses the word is its meaning is all dependent on the tone of his voice. When he is looking at sandalwood in Delhi, India it is said with weary disgust at the cheap materials. When he is smelling one of the mods of Blamage it is said with a smile and suppressed laugh as his task at meshing these six disparate notes is proving difficult but also fun.
Throughout the almost one-hour running time we watch Sig. Gualtieri as he visits Milan for Esxence in 2012 and goes throughout the city leaving little altars of scent, as seen in the clip above. His visit to Delhi, India on a search for raw ingredients has a funny turn as he walks by a store with a knockoff of his Black Afgano. His reaction is priceless as the artist assesses the knockoff.
By the end of the year Mr. Rigter had to stop filming before the final version of Blamage was finished. At Esxence 2014 the bottle was on display and at the movie showing a bottle was given away to a lucky attendee who was surrounded by many to get a chance to smell the result of this intentional mistake. Mr. Rigter has captured much of what is special about Sig. Gualtieri in the world of perfumery. His irreverence coupled with his serious love of making unusual fragrances comes through via Mr. Rigter’s lens.
For anyone who loves Nasomatto I think The Nose-Searching for Blamage will make you appreciate the perfumer behind your favorite perfume. If you’ve never tried a Nasomatto fragrance I’d be surprised if you aren’t a little interested in trying one after spending an hour with Sig. Gualtieri on film. The Nose- Searching for Blamage is a wonderful insight into one of our most iconoclastic perfumers.
Editor’s Note: The Nose- Searching for Blamage will be shown at the Hot Docs Festival in Toronto, Canada on Apr 26, 27, and May 3, 2014. For more info click on this link.