When I travel to a new country there is that moment on the first morning where all the new stimuli can become overwhelming for a short period. Eventually I sort it all out and begin to explore; settling in to the rhythm of the new vistas. When this experience is combined with a honeymoon it intensifies everything as these feelings are now doubled. The founders and creative directors of Jul et Mad, Julien Blanchard and Madalina Stoica-Blanchard have been telling the story of their relationship through their perfumes. A little over two years ago Aqua Sextius represented their wedding day. The new release Secrets du Paradis Rouge picks up the story with their honeymoon to Marrakech.
Julien Blanchard and Madalina Stoica-Blanchard
To compose the perfume M. Blanchard and Mme Stoica-Blanchard chose to work again with perfumer Luca Maffei. Sig. Maffei did two of the three perfumes in last year’s Les Whites collection with Nea winning a 2016 Art & Olfaction Award in the Independent Category.
For Secrets du Paradis Rouge Sig. Maffei was tasked with composing a perfume which captured the Red City and the newlyweds coming together. The choice was in the very early moments to do in a perfumed way what I described in the previous paragraph; start out fast and furious right on the edge of overload. Then pull it back as the lovers find they are falling in love with a city as they settle into their new lives.
Secrets du Paradis Rouge opens with a very green Moroccan Neroli which if Sig. Maffei had let it be the only note in the opening would have been beautiful. Except this is all about saturated senses and so here comes clove, orange, davana, almond, and honey. This arrives in an exhilarating rush which might make you think the rest of the perfume is going to be as concentrated. Now Sig. Maffei peels back many of those opening notes as a Turkish rose forms the center of the heart. The honey takes on a more prominent role along with the orange but not the pulp but the greener nature of the rind. The base accord becomes cozy as patchouli, amber, musk, and benzoin form a softer Oriental accord than usual. The final moments are a sweet kiss of vanilla over the traditional base accord.
Secrets du Paradis Rouge has 12-14 hour longevity and above average sillage.
When I first smelled the opening on a strip I was unsure about Secrets du Paradis Rouge. Once I got down to wearing it that opening works amazingly well on my skin. Over the rest of the day as the perfume settles into its quieter more studied phase it really takes off. It is a real perfumed journey which has a definitive beginning, middle, and end. I like this as much as I like Nea which should tell you how much I like it. I need a little more time with it to know if it is my favorite but it surely is in the conversation. The Red Honeymoon has carried me away.
Disclosure: This review was based on a press sample provided by Jul et Mad.
For a brand to thrive they need to be willing to take on new directions. They also need to be aware that the new direction needs to feel connected to what has come previously. When I learned about the new Jul et Mad Les White Collection I was interested to see how, what seemed like, a new direction would feel.
Julien Blanchard and Madalina Stoica-Blanchard
Jul et Mad is the perfume brand owned and creatively directed by married couple Julien Blanchard and Madalina Stoica-Blanchard. The first four perfumes in the line were chapters in their love story from first meeting to marriage. With Les White it is inspired by ancient civilizations that they admire. Those first four perfumes had sprightliness along with the frisson of a new relationship. They also were mostly on the lighter side of things. Les White was going to head for the deeper richer style of perfume that hadn’t really been represented by Jul et Mad so far.
When I stepped up to the booth at Esxence 2015 I had the inspiration explained to me. Then I had the chance to try all three. I was very pleased to find they all adhered to what I would consider the Jul et Mad aesthetic as they all took a dive into the deep end of the perfumed swimming pool. Perfumer Luca Maffei was responsible for Nea and Garuda. Perfumer Sidonie Lancesseur did Nin-Shar. I am going to review all three and will save Sig. Maffei’s for another day. Mme Lancesseur’s entry is a good place to start.
Nin-Shar is the Goddess of Plants in Sumerian mythology. The ancient civilization Mme Lancesseur was asked to interpret was that of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. The Hanging Gardens didn’t really hang they were the original rooftop gardens on the Royal Palace of Babylon. As you can imagine Nin-Shar would be a busy goddess overseeing all of this. In Mme Lancesseuur’s perfume we find her in the section of the garden where roses grow. Nin-Shar is a decadently rich rose fragrance.
Mme Lancesseur uses an interesting rose accord to open Nin-Shar called Rose Liquor. It smells to me like rose which has been marinating in rum. It imparts a boozy floral quality to the early moments. It also has a kind of dark fruits character to it as it dominates for almost an hour and it slowly evolves over that time. The heart of Nin-Shar is actual Turkish rose along with Egyptian jasmine. A lot of time these raw materials are used so as to moderate their spicy and indolic facets, respectively. Mme Lancesseur couldn’t afford to allow that or they would have been lost to the rose liquor. She uses everything those notes have to give. This makes for a floral heart with an intensity of deep floral highlights that is in constant evolution on my skin. I think because Mme Lancesseur doesn’t try to hold back it makes for an overall effect which is much more kinetic than you might expect from something this intense. We head for a woody base with one of the Robertet patchouli fractions which accentuates the more herbal nature of patchouli. Mme Lancesseur blends oud, cedar, and sandalwood as her foundation. Unlike the heart accord this is kept tightly controlled. That allows the rose to linger much longer over the final stages. A bit of sweet vanilla and frankincense round things out.
Nin-Shar has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.
Nin-Shar is without a doubt the deepest and strongest perfume in the entire Jul et Mad Collection. Even so it does not feel out of place. It feels like the deeply emotional connection between two individuals in love. Had they chosen to make this Chapter 5 of the perfumed love story it would have fit. Instead we have an opulent rose which seems like its own Ancient Wonder.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Jul et Mad at Esxence 2015.
There are so many inspirations which turn into perfume but the story behind Jul et Mad is, I think, unique. Julien Blanchard and Madalina Stoica-Blanchard are the owners and Creative Directors of Jul et Mad which comes from the abbreviation of their first names. The first three fragrances followed the pair from Lexington Avenue in NYC to a café in Paris and left us with them on a palazzo in Venice. For the fourth fragrance in the Histoire D’Amour series, Acqua Sextius, our lovers travel to Aix-en-Provence where they will wed.
The Real Jul et Mad
For Acqua Sextius perfumer Cecile Zarokian was asked to be the interpreter of chapter four. The name comes from the original name given Aix-en-Provence by Roman consul Gaius Sextius in 123 BC. The Acqua is particularly appropriate as Aix-en-Provence is now known for its over 100 fountains and its famous thermal springs. Mme Zarokian captures the green vitality of a summer day in the South of France at the same time there is a very clever watery theme running throughout. This turns Acqua Sextius into a sort of green aquatic although it often times feels in a class of its own.
Mme Zarokian wakes us up with a sparkle of sunlight streaming into our bedroom; she combines a citrus trio of lemon, orange, and grapefruit with a translucent veil of green notes as if one was looking at the sun through gauzy green curtains. This is a wonderfully executed opening which brims with the potential of the day ahead. In a nod to the thermal baths a bit of eucalyptus and mint deepen the green and an application of ozonic notes give the impression of a spa bath. A bouquet of floral notes centered on mimosa make up the heart of Acqua Sextius. Mme Zarokian keeps them light and playful and as we head outside a fig tree adds in its luscious creamy greenness. Mme Zarokian uses labdanum to deepen the green theme as we are now walking in green fields. Ambergris carries the smell of the nearby Etang de Berre. For most of the time Acqua Sextius is on my skin this is where things stay; as a pleasant mix of aquatic, floral, and green. Many hours after applying it everything turns lightly woody with cedar and gaiac mixing with a light sheer musk which is the perfect easy way to end our day in Provence.
Acqua Sextius is an Extrait de Parfum and despite its ineffable lightness it lasts overnight on my skin. The sillage is also more than one might expect from an Extrait de Parfum but you won’t be leaving a vapor trail in your wake.
Fontaine de la Rotonde on the Cours Mirabeau in Aix-en-Provence
One of things I am coming to admire about the way Mme Zarokian composes her fragrances is deftness of precision which places each note in its proper place. I also admire that even though she works for many different brands her style does not impose its will upon each brand's characteristics. Acqua Sextius is clearly a Cecile Zarokian fragrance but it is even more importantly a Jul et Mad fragrance and I am sure that is due to a very close working relationship throughout the process of finishing Acqua Sextius. For me the fragrant wedding of one of my favorite perfumers and favorite creative directors is a complete success. I will be wearing Acqua Sextius throughout the upcoming summer pretending my backyard is a field in Provence.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample of Acqua Sextius provided by Jul et Mad at Esxence 2014.