Parfumerie Generale 101- Five to Get You Started

Pierre Guillaume has been producing perfumes since 2001 when he releases his first fragrance under his Parfumerie Generale label. That first perfume PG02 Coze was my introduction to this idiosyncratic perfumer. M. Guillaume is a perfumer who works on the more ethereal side of the perfumed spectrum. Many of his perfumes have an opaqueness to them that sets them apart from many other lines. That gauziness can be seen as a drawback by those who like a lot of oomph in their perfume. I find it draws me in close; to lean in to gather up the delicate tendrils with care. Over the past fourteen years the collection has grown to over 30 perfumes. Here are the five I would suggest are a good starting place.

pierre_guillaume

Pierre Guillaume

PG10 Aomassai– M. Guillaume has a reputation for composing great gourmand perfumes. In my opinion Aomassai is the greatest within the collection. A roasted hazelnut accord is decorated with caramel, cinnamon, licorice, and herbs. This is not an opulent gourmand it is a droll gourmand.

Querelle– This is the fragrance which makes me ask over and over why caraway is not used as a topnote alternative to bergamot. In Querelle M. Guillaume uses black caraway and sweet myrrh to draw you into a heart of rose and vetiver. Frankincense and ambergris finishes this which is my favorite of the entire Parfumerie Generale line.

L’Ombre Fauve– Even though I’ve said M. Guillaume likes to keep it lighter L’Ombre Fauve shows what he can do when he turns to the dark side. I have seen some of the more intense entries in the Parfumerie Generale line described as having a “furry” quality. L’Ombre Fauve might be the most prominent of the “furry” PG’s. Intense red amber, civet, and a cocktail of woods keep it simple but incredibly animalic.

24-papyrus-de-ciane

PG24 Papyrus de Ciane– M. Guillaume is a student of the history of perfume and for Papyrus de Ciane he wanted to use the classic Mousse de Saxe base that forms the foundation of the great Caron perfumes. M. Guillaume takes that starting point and imposes his style upon it. A veil of green galbanum, a watery green accord, and incense set up the darkness of the Mousse de Saxe. The success of this perfume is I never think of the original source of Mousse de Saxe I just enjoy a modern take on a classic base.

PG25 Indochine– M. Guillaume’s inspiration was a sepia toned photograph of the Mekong River. Indochine is a perfume of tints. A bit of pepper is cooled off by a breeze of cardamom. Rich honey is drizzled over a woody thanaka accord. Benzoin is the final ingredient. Indochine feels like it is unstuck in time both vintage and contemporary at the same time.

Parfumerie Generale is a line I often recommend and it has become much easier to experience as it is more widely available these days. Give these five a try and if they appeal to you there are many more worth trying.

Disclosure: This review was based on bottles I purchased.

Mark Behnke

Don’t Forget Your Base

1

I am very flattered that a number of fledgling independent perfumers ask me to try their fragrances. It is as close as I will ever get to being a perfume evaluator, which is probably a good thing. I just finished assessing a new line this past week. As I was writing up my e-mail to the perfumer I realized one part of my missive was coming out almost formulaic, as if I had written it many times before. I then realized that maybe this was good advice to be able to find before beginning your independent perfumery. What is most often lacking from early efforts is the proper base.

bottomup

When I use the word base I am not speaking of base notes. A perfume base is a mixture of notes which are meant to form the foundation of a fragrance. The most famous example of a perfume base is one called Mousse de Saxe which was the signature finish to all of the Caron perfumes. By having a consistent place to start perfumer Ernest Daltroff would build many diverse olfactory architectures. That is a key point to also understand; a great perfume starts from the base upward not the top down. It is that thinking which I run into most often when trying a new perfumer’s early efforts as they spend a lot of effort getting the top right but end up just leaving it hanging. It is also the answer to many early perfumes’ longevity issues, as a proper base can also be the last thing left at the end of the drydown.

A perfumer for a commercial firm spends years doing nothing but making bases as they train. By the time they are given their first commercial brief starting from a base is second nature to them. It is precisely the raw talent and unregimented vision that sets the independent perfumer apart from those more corporate perfumers and it is what makes independent perfumery such fun to experience. The principle still remains the same you need a base to start to build your perfumes upon.

guerlinade

Another reason for doing this is to give your perfumes a signature. I smell Mousse de Saxe and it is hard not to think of many of my favorite Caron perfumes. Guerlain has its own base called Guerlinade which is the thread which connects every Guerlain fragrance. They even bottled it and sold it as a perfume, too. Andy Tauer of Tauer Perfumes has had his characteristic woody incense base dubbed Tauerade. As a perfumer it is a way to add your figurative John Hancock to every perfume you make.

Usually after one of these e-mails I get a question on where to start. My advice is something I have learned from two of my favorite people in perfume, Michael Edwards and Dawn Spencer Hurwitz. Ms. Hurwitz spent the early years of her independent career trying to make the classic perfumes herself. It was a valuable exercise because she came to understand the value of each ingredient and how they impacted each other. That is the best, more laborious, way. Mr. Edwards has the easier way. Just go to the mall and take a few small Ziploc bags and spray a bunch of strips all from one perfume brand and lock each of them away in their own Ziploc bag. After a few hours go back open the Ziploc and sniff. What you should be left with is the base used for those perfumes. From there you will gain an understanding of what this particular perfumer used as their starting point and you will be surprised to find out how different they smell at this point.

If you start from a good base it is much easier to create a memorable perfume, and you’ll save me from writing the same words to another young independent perfumer.

Mark Behnke

My Favorite Things: Lime

The smell of lime seems synonymous with summer to me. From the slice in my gin and tonic. Squeezing it lavishly into my guacamole or over grilled shrimp. Key Lime Pie never tastes better than in August. I use so much lime this time of year my hands seem naturally perfumed from the most organic of sources. There are some great perfumes which allow me to smell of limes as much as I want. Here are five of my favorites.

jo malone lime basil and mandarin

Jo Malone Lime, Basil & Mandarin– Probably the fragrance which put Jo Malone on the map. Perfumer Lucien Piguet creates one of the greatest citrus top note accords ever. Lime and mandarin are the key notes but grapefruit also plays a significant role. The basil, along with thyme, provides a fascinating herbal contrast before finishing with a refreshing vetiver base. 2008’s discontinued Sweet Lime & Cedar replaced this in my affections until the bottle ran out.

Floris Limes– I doesn’t get simpler than this venerable English brand’s lime and musk perfume. Really many of the classic English brands like Geo F. Trumper and Truefitt and Hill also do single lime perfumes but Floris’ choice to go with a musky finish instead of woods makes it stand apart and above the others.

Frapin-LHumaniste

Frapin L’Humaniste– My favorite Gin and Tonic fragrance complete with a big wedge of lime included. You can almost feel the beads of condensation running down the side of the glass while wearing this. I think perfumer Sidonie Lancesseur must like the smell of G&T, too.

Creed Virgin Island Water– Whenever I wear this I sing Harry Nilsson’s most famous lyric, “She put de lime in de coconut”. Creed turns that song into a perfume where the lime is in the coconut along with jasmine and musk.

Charenton Macerations Christopher StreetDouglas Bender’s debut fragrance, with an assist from perfumer Ralf Schwieger, is much more than the lime top notes but they are fantastic and prominent. There are many who never get beyond the limes but the rest of Christopher Street is full of the joys of life lived well. The lime may pull you in but the rest of Christopher Street is just as exhilarating in a different way.

Grab a slice of Key Lime Pie make yourself a G&T and wait for the lime marinated shrimp to come off the grill all while wearing one of my favorite lime perfumes.

Disclosure: I purchased bottles of all the fragrances mentioned.

Mark Behnke

Under the Radar: Tom Ford Private Blend London- Like A Pendulum Do

As a perfume collection matures over the years it tends to swing back and forth like a pendulum. The Tom Ford Private Blend Collection has been around since 2007, under the creative direction of Tom Ford and Karen Khoury. Most of the early fragrances had an intensity to them and that depth is what drew me to the line in the first place. Noir de Noir’s mix of chocolate, rose, oud, and patchouli is a good example. In 2010, things lightened up a bit and Jasmin Rouge is a good example of where the pendulum had swung to as the jasmine was kept cleaner and the notes surrounding it were kept in check. That kind of restraint added a sense of ephemeral beauty to those that I came to appreciate very much. But, but, but I wanted another Private Blend which swaggered with audacity. Little did I know it had been released last September.

Private-Blend-by-Tom-Ford-London

Tom Ford Private Blend London was an exclusive to the new Sloane Square Tom Ford boutique which opened in 2013 in London. There was little enthusiasm for it among the London contingent of perfumistas and as a result without an attendant buzz I had a very difficult time getting a sample. I did finally get one from online decanting site Surrender to Chance. What I was greeted with was a fragrance which seemed to encompass something more than trying to assay London as a fragrance. This was a fragrance of the East; exotic spices, opulent florals, and deep woods. This was the London of the Royal Geographic Society as their members brought back things seen for the first time from all over the globe. In a wood paneled drawing room, furnished in leather, one explorer shows off the cinnamon and cardamom he acquired. On another table a species of jasmine from the Himalayas scented the room. Raw vanilla pods from the West Indies mixed with these very intense smelling oud wood chips from Egypt smoking in a censer. This is the smell of Tom Ford Private Blend London.

yann vasnier

Yann Vasnier

Perfumer Yann Vasnier opens London up with a spicy mélange centered on cinnamon but heavily influenced with cardamom, ginger, and black pepper. This captured my attention immediately as M. Vasnier swirls all of this up into a spicy sirocco which blows with an airy potency. The jasmine in the heart is full on indolic jasmine and it has to be to make any headway against the spices. This skanky jasmine fits in perfectly with the spices and it is heady stuff. It gets even deeper as oud over leather makes up the key notes of the base. It is sweetened with a bit of vanilla and amber but this is drawing room leather and oud mostly.

London has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.

My wish has been answered as London feels like it belongs to the original collection more than the more recent releases. It seems appropriate if London is the signal that the pendulum is swinging back because y’know; London swings like the pendulum do.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample purchased form Surrender to Chance

Mark Behnke

Editor’s note: I expect London will be available worldwide sooner than later as the previous exclusive fragrance to a boutique, Lavender Palm, became widely available about a year later. As of this writing it is still only available in London.

Boot or Reboot: Crabtree & Evelyn Sandalwood (2004) and Indian Sandalwood (2014)

2

I know my first exposure to Mysore sandalwood came courtesy of Crabtree & Evelyn in their original Extract of Mysore Sandalwood. This might have been one of my earliest exposures to the concept that raw materials make a difference. As is well documented the precious Mysore sandalwood was over harvested and the Indian government had to step in and protect the remaining trees before the predations of perfumistas eradicated it. For most of the years right after that the huge majority of sandalwood in perfume was synthetic. Recently there have been sustainable groves of sandalwood being grown in Australia from the same genus Santalum Album. The plantations are concentrated in Western Australia which is supposed to have a similar microclimate to India. These farms are now producing sandalwood oil for perfumery. Extract of Mysore Sandalwood was a big seller for Crabtree & Evelyn and so they bit the bullet and created Sandalwood in 2004 when they could no longer source the titular ingredient. Sandalwood was surprising in how good it was even though it was an all synthetic version of sandalwood. Now in 2014 Crabtree & Evelyn have released Indian Sandalwood which has listed as an ingredient Santalum Album. I loved the 2004 Sandalwood for the nifty sleight of hand it pulled in creating something worthy of its predecessor based on synthetics. Would the 2014 Indian Sandalwood be more like the original Extract or a “real” version of the Sandalwood?

c and e sandalwood

2004 Sandalwood was almost miraculous in the fact that it didn’t smell overtly synthetic. Sure if you truly focused intently on it the truth became apparent but if you just wore it the scent was really fantastic. The perfumer was able to recreate the slightly spicy quality of Mysore sandalwood by using lavender, violet, amyris wood, and vetiver. I really wish I could find out who the perfumer(s) were behind this. Even wearing it now I am surprised at how very good this is. Sandalwood remains a beautiful example of the perfumer’s art when working with a restricted set of ingredients.

c and e indian sandalwood

2014 Indian Sandalwood shows how well done the 2004 version is, as this new version which does contain real sandalwood smells very close to the older version. This time I do know the perfumer behind Indian Sandalwood, Ashley Wilberding. Ms. Wilberding isn’t hampered by having to form an illusion. Her task is different, to add complementary notes to allow this nouveau sandalwood to expand and feel as if it was much older and refined. She also chooses to use amyris, lavender, and vetiver. Cypress and cedar extract the woody quality of the sandalwood and a judicious use of cinnamon adds the characteristic spiciness of the best Indian sandalwood. Ms. Wilberding does a fantastic job at allowing her raw material to shine to its fullest.

This should be a slam dunk win for reboot, synthetic vs. real, c’mon. I do prefer the reboot because there is nothing that can take the place of real sandalwood in a perfume. This new version of Indian Sandalwood is excellent. For those who want to ask whether it is as good as the Extract of Mysore Sandalwood, it isn’t. But it isn’t like comparing Kobe beef to a Big Mac. It is more like comparing it to a dry-aged USDA Porterhouse. Truly all three of these perfumes are great examples of sandalwood fragrances even if they all come from different places.

One last thing to mention is the price of this new release $45 for 100mL. It is crazy good for that price; a real bargain.

Disclosure: this review is based on bottles of all three fragrances I purchased.

Mark Behnke

Discount Diamonds: Bvlgari Aqva pour Homme

I chose Davidoff Cool Water as a Discount Diamond a couple months ago and I mentioned that it was the perfume which launched a thousand aquatic fragrances on to the market. Reading between the lines you can add the subtext “and most of them were bad”. But not all of them. 1995’s Bvlgari Aqva pour Homme took some of the concepts of the aquatic class and added in some unique beats to make it one of the few to stand out as successfully different.

jacques cavallier

Jacques Cavallier

Jacques Cavallier was part of the original group of perfumers who took the concepts of the aquatic and expanded it in the mid 1990’s. He was responsible for L’Eau D’Issey and L’Eau D’Issey pour Homme and was part of the creative team on Armani Acqua di Gio pour Homme. All of these were examples of the best aquatic fragrances on the shelf. By 2005 when he was commissioned to do Bvlgari Aqva pour Homme he wanted to try something different. His choice was to take two raw materials created especially to evoke water and make them the centerpiece of Bvlgari Aqva pour Homme.

aqva ph

M. Cavallier starts in well-trodden territory with citrus on top. Mandarin and petitgrain add a lip pursing tartness to the top notes. Then we get to the two unique raw materials in the heart Santolina and Posidonia. Santolina is more commonly known as cotton lavender and it has a lavender aspect crossed with a strong syrupy quality. Posidonia is simply the smell of drying seaweed after the ocean has receded leaving it behind on the beach. It has an ozonic watery quality on top of the vegetal note. Smelling either of these by themselves you would be hard pressed to believe these could be the centerpiece of a perfume. That is M. Cavallier’s skill as he takes these two notes and balances them so the lavender, the ozonic notes and a bit of the seaweed aspects form a fascinating seaside accord. It feels more realistic than the previous aquatics which wanted to clean up the ocean. Bvlgari Aqva pour Homme gives it all to you right down to the seaweed. The final phase is also quite interesting as M. Cavallier takes a soft amber and adds clary sage. Clary sage is usually further up the pyramid but in Bvlgari Aqva pour Homme it almost seems like it is what the seaweed evolves into. The amber adds a subtle warmth to the base notes.

Bvlgari Aqva pour Homme has 6-8 hours of longevity and average sillage.

M. Cavallier took a chance by using notes which weren’t widely used in the aquatic fragrance family and fashioned something wonderfully unique. It is one of the few aquatics I think is worth owning. If you want to own it it is found on most of the discount websites for less than $40 for 100mL.

Disclosure: This review was based on a bottle of Bvlgari Aqva pour Homme I purchased.

Mark Behnke

Olfactory Chemistry: Alicyclic Musks- Breaking the Cycle

2

The most current iteration of musk molecules form the class known as alicyclic musks. In all of the previous versions of musks they were variants of the original nitro musks or they were synthetic counterparts to the natural molecule muscone. In the alicyclic musks these finally comprised a new class of molecule uninformed by previous musk molecules.

rosa and cyclomusk

The first alicyclic musk would be discovered in 1969 by scientists at International Flavors and Fragrances (IFF) and it was called Rosamusk. Even at a fragrance house like IFF, Rosamusk found no enthusiasm for its use despite its interesting rose and fruit character over musk. Rosamusk was so overlooked that older texts on the musk molecules will tell you that it was BASF’s molecule Cyclomusk, discovered in 1975, that was the first alicyclic musk. Cyclomusk gets the press because it is a muskier smelling molecule but it is the fruity floral aspects of Rosamusk which have become the defining characteristic of this class of molecules.

helvetolide romandolide

It wouldn’t be until the 1990’s that Firmenich would make the two molecules which have come to represent this class in perfumery; Helvetolide and Romandolide. If you look at the two molecules above you will notice how similar they are and how they were influenced by the molecules which came before. Helvetolide takes the two CH3, or methyl, groups from Cyclomusk and forms a hybrid with the basic structure of Rosamusk. Romandolide takes the structure of Rosamusk and adds on the same molecules at the end that are present in Helvetolide. These are good examples of what all synthetic organic chemists do to produce a desired effect. We look at what has come in the past and if the chemistry allows we will put these fragments together to see if we can make something more useful. What worked in the case of aromamolecules also works in drug discovery.

helvetolide analogs

Ref: Chemistry & Biodiversity, Vol. 1, pg. 1975 (2004)

As you see above the structures of these alicyclic musks differ in the nature of the group on the six-membered ring. It can be quite remarkable how just moving the groups around can have a significant effect on the odor profile. In the figure above there is a collection of derivatives of Helvetolide and Romandolide and you can see by the descriptions just how much removing or shifting a methyl group around the ring can have.

As I said these molecules have a stronger fruity and floral character than other of the synthetic musks. One of my favorite descriptions of Romandolide comes from perfumer Frank Volkl who in a 2012 article in Perfumer & Flavorist says, “It’s the marmalade within a fragrance. For me it’s the type of musk that adds a little bit of fun to the fragrance.” I think that is really the most striking aspect of the alicyclic musks as these are the “fun” musks. They still carry that identifiably musky quality but the fruity and/or floral facets make them lighter in both heft and intention. Perfumer Alberto Morillas uses a high concentration of Helvetolide in Lancome Miracle and Romandolide features in Rochas Absolu by perfumer Jacques Cavallier.

The whole story of the musk molecules is perhaps the best chemical story in all of perfumery as it illustrates the developments of synthetic aromamolecules for the last 100 years.

Mark Behnke

That Unattainable Object of Desire: Slatkin Absinthe- The Green Fairy

When writing this series many of the perfumes I will write about are small batch rarities by our best perfumers. The subject of this one is rare because most of it was removed from circulation due to a corporate takeover. Back in 2003 the home fragrance company Slatkin & Co. wanted to branch out into fine fragrance and beauty products. The original three releases in their foray into the world of perfume were simply named Mimosa, Muguet, and Absinthe. Perfumer Christian Truc was responsible for Muguet and Christophe Laudamiel would create the remaining two. These fragrances barely had any time to find an audience because Slatkin & Co. were acquired by the parent company of Bath and Body Works in 2005. The brand was acquired because of the home fragrance products and these perfumes were just an aberration. With no place for them to go they pretty much just disappeared after less than two years on the market.

slatkin absinthe bottle

I wish I could say I was smart enough to have discovered them back when they were released but that wouldn’t be true. I didn’t become acquainted with Slatkin Absinthe until my Editor-in-chief at CaFleureBon, Michelyn Camen, gifted me a large decant of it. What I have is one of the most treasured fragrances in my entire collection. M. Laudamiel was coming off a year when he had been part of the team behind two very recognizable fragrances, Abercrombie & Fitch Fierce and Ralph Lauren Polo Blue. The two briefs for Slatkin were his first opportunity to fly solo as a perfumer.

christophe_laudamiel_2

Christophe Laudamiel

What he created in Absinthe is not a literal interpretation of the wormwood flavored liquor. Instead it is a night at the Moulin Rouge complete with the bohemians of the time looking for The Green Fairy to inspire them.

Absinthe opens with the anise-flavored liquor on top. M. Laudamiel squeezes a fresh lime along with the tamarine citrus base and a sprig of mint. This is an exhilarating sinus clearing opening. It is like sipping from your glass of absinthe as you look up to take in the surroundings. The smell of the rose powder of the dancing girls, the slightly urinous character of honey, the sticky green quality of blackcurrant buds all form a heady accord of carnality to go with the absinthe. The base is a woody patchouli and M. Laudamiel made some interesting choices for his woods as there is cherry tree bark, candlewood, cashmere woods, maplewood and oakmoss. This woods accord with the patchouli makes up one of the more striking woody bases of any perfume I own. It is an early sign of M. Laudamiel’s intention to use more of the ingredients of his perfumer’s organ.

Absinthe has 12-14 hour longevity and above average sillage.

I was already a fan of M. Laudamiel by the time I smelled Absinthe. It confirmed his incredible talents were present from his first moments as a perfumer. It is sad that the meager stock at the time of the acquisition was placed on discount shelves and that was it. Bottles show up very rarely on the auction sites. I have an alert for it and I would say on average two or three bottles will be available over the course of a year. Because it is such an oddity the prices are not worse than any new perfume you might purchase. I can say that if I was ever forced to pare down my voluminous collection to something much smaller there is no version which wouldn’t include Slatkin Absinthe.

Disclosure: This review is based on a decant which I received as a gift.

Mark Behnke

Dead Letter Office: Shiseido Inoui

When it comes to discussions of the greatest perfumes ever Shiseido Nombre Noir has been claimed to be one of the top five fragrances of all-time. It is a funny thing though just like it is with Citizen Kane as it relates to being the best movie of all-time neither of these would be in my top ten all-time. I’m not even sure they make my top 25 all-time. In both cases I admire the budding auteurs Serge Lutens and Orson Welles and their precocious creations but neither resonates with me. I prefer Mr Welles’ second film The Magnificent Ambersons. When it comes to Shiseido I think 1976’s Inoui is a better perfume than Nombre Noir.

The mid 1970’s was a watershed moment for perfume and the way it was sold. Michael Edwards traces the tipping point to 1973’s Revlon Charlie as the moment perfume was marketed to this new demographic of the working woman. It also changed the perfume buying experience as these trailblazing women didn’t want to wait for a man to gift them with a perfume they wanted to go out and find one themselves. As the sales for Charlie took off many of the other perfume lines wanted to join in. In 1976 Shiseido released Inoui with the advertising line, “It’s not her that’s beautiful; it’s how she lives her life that’s beautiful”. Even on the Shiseido website they admit it was designed to “target the contemporary career woman”. What did Shiseido think this thoroughly modern woman wanted? A green balsamic chypre.

inoui advertisement

I have never been able to determine who the perfumer is behind Inoui. Serge Lutens had not arrived by 1976. It was supposedly created by a joint effort between the American, Italian and Japanese staffs of Shiseido. If this was a team effort I really would have liked to overhear the conversations as each mod was passed around to finally arrive at Inoui.

Inoui is a fantastic green fragrance and its beauty is in the uncompromising way it develops from a galbanum heavy opening into a pine heart to finish on an oakmoss and civet base. It is a near perfect green perfume.

Inoui starts with the galbanum, juniper, and a bit of cypress. There is a green accord that adds texture to the galbanum and just when all of this green might be a little much an imaginative use of peach turns it into a softer sweeter beginning. The pine grows right down the middle of Inoui oozing sap and throwing off green facets as it strengthens. A bit of green cardamom and thyme add spice to the pine. Then just like the peach in the top notes jasmine adds softness and sweetness before we hit the big chypre finish. Myrrh adds its opulent resinous quality and then oakmoss and civet bring Inoui to a close on a feral green accord.

Inoui in the eau de parfum version has 10-12 hour longevity and very close sillage as would befit that career woman it was marketed to.

Inoui was a failure as it was pulled off shelves in less than ten years. It was never able to find traction with those early career women as they clearly wanted the florals of Charlie over the anti-floral green of Inoui. Was it ahead of its time? I don’t think so I actually think it is quite a good example of the kind of perfume making going on in the late 1970’s. I think it was a case of not finding the right target demographic to market it to.

Inoui can be found on eBay but people are catching on and its price has been rising steadily over the last few years.

Finally I want to end on a personal note. My discovery of Inoui was through one of those people that make our perfume community so wonderful. Linda Beth Ross and I would spend random hours on Facebook chatting about old vintage perfumes and after a discussion of how much I like green perfumes she sent me a sample of Inoui. Earlier this year she passed away after a long battle with cancer and every time I wear, or think, about Inoui I also remember my friend in fragrance.

Disclosure; this review is based on a bottle of Eau de Parfum I purchased.

Mark Behnke

Perfumer Rewind: Olivia Giacobetti’s 1996- L’Artisan Parfumeure Drole de Rose & The Pour un Ete + Diptyque Philosykos

Olivia Giacobetti is one of my very favorite perfumers because of that transparent style she imparts to things that shouldn’t have that lightness of being. Many of the most striking fragrances I own, for that sheer fragility, are signed by Mme Giacobetti. Her style has now been refined that it almost deserves its own adjective, Giacobettiesque. There have been other perfumers who are able to make perfume that is Giacobettiesque but it is her creations which stand the test of time.

Olivia-Giacobetti

 

Olivia Giacobetti

When I looked back for the year where this style began to coalesce I found 1996 to be a good year to observe this. In that year Mme Giacobetti would release two fragrances for L’Artisan Parfumeur, Drole de Rose & The Pour un Ete. Both of those were perfumes where the style was still a work in progress. The third release in 1996 is one of Mme Giacobetti’s enduring masterpieces Diptyque Philosykos as all the elements that make her a great perfumer come together for the first time.

drole de rose

The two fragrances for L’Artisan were her third and fourth for the line. Drole de Rose is a much lighter rose but here Mme Giacobetti lays down a layer of powdery notes as the heart note of orris turns this closer in style to iris-scented lipstick. The skeletal concepts of Mme Giacobetti’s style come with the honeyed leather in the base. It is the base which I think is the best part of Drole de Rose as once the powder is figuratively blown away what is left is this opaque sweet leather. Mme Giacobetti would find a rose scent which did fit her style with the discontinued Opone for Diptyque in 2001.

SA3A3794

The Pour un Ete was meant to be a jasmine green tea fragrance as if it was being served in a chilled glass dripping with condensation on a summer day. The Pour un Ete is perhaps too simple for its own good. It starts with a sprig of mint and lemon floating on top of the jasmine tea accord all of it resting on a cedar and sandalwood coaster. The Pour un Ete feels like the axis of a great fragrance was here but by not adding in contrapuntal notes it just sits there like that proverbial glass of tea watching the beads of water slide down the glass monotonously. Tea would become the focus of another of Mme Giacobetti’s best compositions L’Artisan Tea for Two, which is one of my all-time favorite tea perfumes.

philosykos

As I mentioned above it seems at this point in her career it took two tries for Mme Giacobetti to really find her voice on a particular note. In 1994 she had done Premier Figuier for L’Artisan and it was a fig fragrance centered on the creamy ripe qualities as she used almond and coconut milk to enhance that aspect. It is beautiful but it wears sort of heavily. By the time she took a second stab at fig in Philosykos she wanted to go greener as this time not only the fruit but also the leaves and the tree itself were meant to be represented. She tilts the fig greener with galbanum early on. Then the leaves pick up the green and this time she uses only coconut milk as a complementary source of the ripening pulpy inside of the fig. She finishes off Philosykos with a breeze of benzoin and cedar.

Mme Giacobetti is now one of the most reliable perfumers functioning and both for her Paris exclusive line IUNX and the rare commissions she takes her style is unmistakable, Back in 1996 it was just coming together,

Disclosure: This review is based on bottles of all of the fragrances I purchased.

Mark Behnke