I have admired the eponymous perfume line of Icelandic artist Andrea Maack because they have all been interesting takes of interpreting her vision into fragrance. I met Ms. Maack in 2012 at the Elements Showcase. From the very beginning she impressed me as someone who was doing this because she had something to say on an olfactory canvas. Over the past five years there have been releases on an irregular schedule. The latest, Andrea Maack Birch, has just arrived.
Ms. Maack has managed in some of her perfumes to dwell on her geographic identity. This is best exemplified by her 2014 release Coven which captures the lush damp soil of the spring thaw. Birch takes place six months later as the ground has just refrozen. Working with perfumer Alienor Massenet the first milder days of winter are captured.
As the winter winds blow more gently in the early days so does Birch open on a chilly breeze of bergamot, baie rose, and ginger. Mme Massenet does a nice job at melding this accord. The ginger gives that sense of the chilly bite of the breeze on bare skin. Bergamot represents the low-angled sun while the baie rose adds the intangible sense of far-off trees. The heart is where we get closer to those trees with a pairing of guaiac wood and cypriol. This has some sharp edges almost oud-like in nature. It is not surprising because cypriol is one of the main ingredients in many oud accords. Here it captures another roughhewn wood forming a birch accord. The cypriol also imparts a gentle wreath of smoke around it all. The base is an earthy patchouli enhanced with a few musks.
Birch has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
When I saw Birch attached to Andrea Maack I was expecting some penetrating rubbery tar construct similar to the power of Coven. What I found in the bottle was a more meditative style of perfume. On the days I wore Birch it imparted a very peaceful feeling upon me. Coming as it did, in between my testing of some other challenging fragrances, it was a welcome respite. Birch is an ode to the approach of winter.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Andrea Maack.
Back in 2011 there were a number of visual artists taking a shot at expanding into fragrance. I can remember the great majority of these efforts to have a lot of vision and no juice. The visual inspiration piece was usually paired up with a ham-handed attempt at smelling different. They often eschewed using perfumers to their detriment. I had gotten to the point that when they started talking about being multi-disciplinary I wanted to tell them to stick to the single discipline they do well, which wasn’t perfume.
That was my frame of mind when I received the initial collection of Icelandic artist Andrea Maack. Ms. Maack had a press release full of multi-disciplinary verbiage. I was expecting to be bored. Instead her initial three fragrances showed a remarkable degree of polish. The reason was she chose to work with Renaud Coutaudier as her co-creative director and they used perfumer Julien Rasquinet very early in his career. Of the initial three I liked Craft and Sharp but Smart is the one which I purchased a bottle of.
Ms. Maack’s visual art at this time was fluid geometrics. It is a style which appealed to me. This aesthetic managed to make it into her initial three perfumes as all of them had bold lines which intersected in unusual ways. The creative team and M. Rasquinet were always looking to establish contrasts within intersections. Smart is a good example of this.
Smart opens with the metallic tang of violet leaves. This is a top note which imparts a uniquely contemporary vibe almost turning it industrial. Before it can go too far in that direction a sweetly floral vector overlays itself consisting of jasmine and vanilla. The vanilla is a greener version as if of the orchid carrying more green facets along with the sweet. The jasmine picks that up and as it coats the metallic violet leaves it forms an appealing duet. M. Rasquinet then lays down a strong through line of sandalwood. The sandalwood is its very typical creamy woody version. As the sandalwood settles in a final animalic arc arrives with a leather accord and musk. M. Rasquinet balances these four strong lines skillfully so at their intersection there is much to enjoy.
Smart has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
Ms. Maack would end up adding four more to the original three. Of those Coal and Coven were my favorites. This is a line worth checking out not only for the fragrances but also as a place where rising star perfumer M. Rasquinet was developing his skills. There is much to admire of his work for the brand. If you’re looking for something multi-disciplinary Andrea Maack Smart is one of the few which promise that, which also delivers.
Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle I purchased.
When we are children we generally love to dig in the earth. A good day of play was accompanied by muddy appendages. When I also search back through my olfactory scrapbook it is that smell of dirt which has to be pretty close to my first scent memory. As we grow up getting down in the dirt is accompanied by gardening tools but the same primal smell remains. I am surprised that more perfumers don’t make the effort to capture this in a fragrance. The recent release from Andrea Maack, Coven is all centered on rooting around in the ground to see what can be found.
Andrea Maack is a graphic artist from Reykjavik, Iceland and Coven is her seventh release. There has been a steady progression from her first three releases and with 2012’s Coal this line really began to establish its own identity. The creative direction is a co-production between Ms. Maack and Renaud Coutaudier. I was unable to find out the perfumer responsible for Coven but the direction given by Ms. Maack and M. Coutaudier must have been very specific because what has made it into the bottle is the smell of soil.
Coven digs deep right from the start as the smell of freshly turned earth comes out right away. This is accomplished with an assortment of green notes, galbanum most prominent amongst them. A slight swirl of spices adds in the authenticity of what it smells like to have your shovel bite into the ground and turn it over. They are precisely balanced and they keep themselves in the background behind the greens. Tolu balm adds a balsamic foundation to the green and this is what really seals in the earthy quality Coven is attempting. Once this happens Coven lingers like playtime in a hole dug especially for that purpose. Despite Coven having this potentially heavy quality there is a lightheartedness that overtook me every time I wore it. It could be just my fond memories but I also think the perfume manages to keep from being ponderous and that is to its credit. Once we clean the dirt off we are left with patchouli and woods which carry enough of the remains of the day to remind you of where you’ve been.
Coven has 8-10 hour longevity and modest sillage.
You might not be enthused at the idea of smelling like dirt but Coven makes you not care. For those of you who love incense fragrances I think you might find Coven resonates in some of the same places as one of those perfumes. For those looking for a fragrance experience rarely seen Coven delivers very highly on the uniqueness scale. I found it captured my inner child in a muddy embrace that I never wanted to end.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample of Coven provided by Andrea Maack.