There are a lot of brands which come to mind as the standard bearers of the niche perfume movement. I would bet that if I asked most of you to list the ones which were there from the beginning Histoires de Parfums wouldn’t be on a lot of them. Starting in 2000 founder Gerald Ghislain has quietly put together a solid collection of fragrance which exemplifies what it means to be a niche perfume brand.
In the early days the risks were more profoundly evident; there wasn’t much to lose. As time moved on and Histoires de Parfums established itself as one of the brands which succeeded there was a bit less experimentation. The one exception was the occasional release under the Editions Rare collection. These are the perfumes which I think represent the high point of the last 18 years. At the end of 2017 M. Ghislain announced a new smaller collection called En Aparte. En Aparte translates to “an aside”. This collection feels like that, something which sprang from the previous Editions Rare into something else. There are three perfumes in the collection and I will eventually review them all but as with any collection there is always one which captures my attention first. For this group that was Prolixe.
Prolixe according to the press release is defined as “that which is widely diffused”. I have no idea why that was chosen as the name because this perfume is anything but diffuse. M. Ghislain collaborated with perfumer Julien Rasquinet to create a spicy full-throated Oriental which in the overlap of non-gourmand ingredients finds a gourmand accord deep within.
M. Rasquinet opens with the sticky green blackcurrant bud. It is a prickly choice to open this perfume with that note. In this strength it verges on unpleasant, not quite but close. The heart accord improves things immensely. M. Rasquinet uses an indolic orange blossom which is coated in saffron and cardamom. This is where things begin to transition to a gourmand style of perfume. The heart accord reminds me of an abstract version of a spiced orange. I can concentrate and pick apart the pieces but when just wearing it I always smelled spiced orange. A deep patchouli and sandalwood combine into a milk chocolate accord. This is set upon a black leather accord to finish things.
Prolixe has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
M. Rasquinet has put together a fascinating perfume of gourmand-not-gourmand ingredients to form a gourmand style of Oriental. It was one of those cases where when I was focused I saw every piece, but it was better when I just let it flow without intricate analysis.
Disclosure: this review was based on a sample I purchased.
Abstract is a word which gets used a lot in relation to perfume. At its root, it is accurate as most perfume is an abstraction of using fragrance ingredients to re-create something in nature. Of late it has come to mean transparent. As fragrance has shifted to a lighter style “abstract” has become the favored adjective to describe that aesthetic. Accurate, I suppose, but it lacks intent. A recent collection from the Histoires de Parfums brand seems to want to bring some relevance back to the concept.
Gerald Ghislain has been one of the best creative directors in the niche perfume sector because he has been willing to push the perfumers he works with to achieve his vision. For the This Is Not A Blue Bottle collection M. Ghislain is having some fun as his artistic inspiration was surrealist Rene Magritte. The perfume name is a riff on the 1964 Magritte painting “This Is Not an Apple”. The first release now relabeled This Is Not A Blue Bottle 1.1 was composed by Julien Rasquinet and released a couple years ago. The two new releases 1.2 and 1.3 are done by perfumers Luca Maffei and M. Rasquinet, respectively. 1.3 feels like an evolution of 1.1 and as such I found it a bit derivative. 1.2 showed me something different.
Sig. Maffei forms a wall of climbing ivy bursting with flowers that never are found within that milieu. It is a surreal floral fragrance honoring Magritte as inspiration.
Sig. Maffei lays down a solid wall of green ivy which is given an herbal edge through baie rose. Besides green real ivy also has an acerbic green edge which is what the baie rose adds in. Then out of the green pops muguet which doesn’t feel so odd as the green foundation within muguet nestles among the ivy. Lilac and ylang-ylang do feel like party crashers. The lilac lilts over the muguet turning it more floral. Ylang-ylang provides that unctuous mixture where methyl salicylate is more prominent. The sweet salicylate is paired with vanilla in the base along with a creamy sandalwood. A flurry of white musks finish things.
This Is Not A Blue Bottle 1.2 has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
Of all the perfumes in this collection I found 1.2 the truest to the concept laid out by M. Ghislain. This Is Not A Blue Bottle 1.2 but it is a very green perfume.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.
If there is one person who has been one of the stalwarts of niche perfumery from the earliest days who doesn’t get enough credit it would be Gerald Ghislain. M. Ghislain created one of the first niche brands in 2000 called Histoires de Parfums. This has been one of the most successful brands over the long haul. It has also become impressive for the ability to change with the trends. Histoires de Parfums is one of those brands it is easy to overlook because you have always seen the bottles on your favorite website or in your favorite boutique. I am hoping I can get you to stop and try these five because Histoires de Parfums is worth it.
My first encounter was in a New York city store. When the sales associate told me that 1740: Marquis de Sade was a combination of immortelle and leather I was already sold. Up until recently the sole perfumer for Histoires de Parfums was Sylvie Jourdet. I am a big believer in how that continuity between creative director and single perfumer can be critical for creating a brand identification. M. Ghislain and Mme Jourdet laid down an early marker as to what that aesthetic would be. 1740 transitions quickly through an iris dominated beginning until Mme Jourdet brings together her leather accord with amber, at first, followed by immortelle. It is one of the great niche perfumes of this century.
Mme Jourdet used amber in its more traditional base component in 1740. For Ambre 114 she serves it up as the core of a luscious gourmand. Using nutmeg early on to set the gourmand style she moves through a floral intermezzo down to a mixture of sandalwood, amber, benzoin, tonka bean, and vanilla. Together it forms an abstract “warm cookies from the oven” accord. It takes amber from Oriental standard to yummy.
1969: Parfum de Revolt was meant to evoke the Summer of Love in San Francisco. What I’ve always found here is another more modern take on the gourmand with cardamom and coffee forming that aspect. Before we get there Mme Jourdet opens with a rambunctious peach from which the coffee and green cardamom bubble up from. Patchouli and chocolate provide the finishing touches.
In 2011 M. Ghislain created the Editions Rare collection within the brand. The first three releases were amazing but I am recommending Rosam for the contemporary take Mme Jourdet gave to the staid rose and oud combination. Oud on its own provides an exotic vibe. Mme Jourdet adds to it by using saffron as companion to the rose. Incense completes Rosam with a resinous kick.
A year later another trio was added to Editions Rare of which Vici was the floral part of the triptych. Mme Jourdet used osmanthus and iris as her focal point. Surrounded on top with aldehydes, cardamom, and galbanum. In the base musk, cedar, and patchouli give the woody foundation to Vici.
M. Ghislain has continued to produce perfume and even though this list doesn’t have any of the most recent releases they are worth experiencing, too. These are just the five I think will entice you in to one of the pioneers of niche perfumery.
Disclosure: This review is based on bottles I purchased.
I think when you look out at fragrance industry that produces so many new fragrances it is easy to become a bit jaded. I know one of the things which keeps that from happening to me is watching the younger generation of perfumers begin to develop what will become their signature style. One of those younger perfumers who I am enjoying watch evolve is Julien Rasquinet. It Is early on in his career but one of the things which I am finding he is particularly adept at is forming a specific accord as a focal point for many of the perfumes he composes. His latest for Histoires de Parfums is called Fidelis and it shows this.
Another thing I have admired about M. Rasquinet is his ability to collaborate with creative directors. Gerald Ghislain has been the creative director behind Histoires de Parfums since its inception in 2000. His vision for what makes an entry in his brand has been remarkably consistent over that time. Fidelis is the seventh perfume in the Editions Rare line, following the two trilogies of Ambrarem, Petroleum, Rosam and Veni, Vidi, Vici. Fidelis stands on its own.
The Editions Rare releases are set to the theme of different types of gold. Fidelis is meant to be pink gold. Pink gold is actually an alloy of about 20% copper and 80% gold. The alloy has an unusual beauty as it seems like the yellow gold provides a warmth to the copper producing pink. M. Rasquinet also goes for a similar effect in Fidelis taking the well-known oud and rose combination and adding a cardamom laced spice accord to ensnare it.
Fidlelis opens on a fabulous rich cardamom. I relished the first few moments every time I wore Fidelis. As a cardamom lover this is so good I want M. Ghislain to just release the cardamom. That is not what makes a whole composition and M. Rasquinet takes this cardamom and wraps it up with saffron and cumin. This is the accord building I am speaking of which is becoming a characteristic of M. Rasquinet. The saffron provides a shimmery warmth to the cool cardamom. The cumin adds a more primal element to the accord. Together this is a deeply satisfying cardamom accord. The note list mentions coffee but it never came out on my skin. The heart is rose with a bit of raspberry accentuating the sweet over the spicy as the top accord is persisting into the heart and carries the spice quotient. All of this rests on a base of oud, amber, and patchouli. Here the cumin comes full circle and pulls the patchouli into the spice accord. The oud harmonizes with that accord as the amber and the rose fill in the spaces.
Fidelis has 16-18 hour longevity and average sillage.
I am coming to categorize M. Rasquinet’s perfumes in my head based on their accords. Fidleis goes down as the “amazing cardamom, cumin, and saffron” one. If you are a fan of spices in perfume and cardamom in particular Fidelis needs to be on your list to try. It is my favorite of the Editions Rare.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Histoires de Parfums.