Perfume that aspires to take us on a trip tends to rely on our perceptions. I have been taken to parts of the world I have never visited through scent. It has been one of the magical properties of fragrance for me. My confidence comes from when a perfume takes on a locale I know well I can see myself back there. When it comes to a place I have no knowledge of my perceptions are my guide. I have not visited Tokyo, but Gallivant Tokyo makes me feel if I have been to a shrine nearby.
Nick Steward founded Gallivant in 2017. He has one of the more clear-eyed aesthetics for a young brand that I have seen for a while. Mr. Stewart came from a tenure at L’Artisan Parfumeur which made me excited to see what he produced. It was a funny twist that I couldn’t get on board with the early destinations. He worked with two different perfumers creating an obvious coherence which I admire. It just came down to the part of the city he wanted to visit didn’t interest me until Amsterdam late last year. This was the perfume which made me want a ticket to Tokyo.
My first surprise was that Mr. Steward decided to work with a new perfumer, Nicolas Bonneville. I do think the formation of an early brand style is abetted with a concise creative director-perfumer partnership. The success of Tokyo makes me realize that a delineated vision can supply that no matter who the perfumer is. Mr. Steward has that in abundance.
Where are our perfumed travel agents taking us on our trip to the Japanese metropolis? The neon saturated Ginza? A bit of Kabuki theatre? A ride to the top of the Skytree? The open space of Ueno Park? The answer is something more contemplative. A trip to one of the shrines perhaps the Senso-Ji Temple as Tokyo the fragrance is a spicy, woody, incense construct.
M. Bonneville opens with the Japanese citrus of yuzu contrasted with black pepper. The pepper parallels the tartness of the indigenous lemon with a zesty pop. As we approach the shrine there is a hint of spices on the wind in the guise of cardamom and nutmeg. The cardamom feels like it rises out of the yuzu and finds nutmeg waiting for it. We then have a lightly floral phase as a transparent rose and iris accord lead into a cedar paneled interior. Incense burns in braziers all throughout the contemplative space. M. Bonneville devises a fantastically woody trio of hinoki, cedar, and sandalwood through which he weaves filaments of patchouli and vetiver. It is not one of those kind of woody base accords where you can’t see the forest for the trees. This is opaquer than it sounds. It is not a hard-core wood and incense style it is something which has a lighter feel throughout.
Tokyo has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
It may have taken me a while to join the Gallivant itinerary, but I am now hoping to be a frequent flyer. The trip to Tokyo is what sold me on that.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.
It is hard to start your own perfume brand. To find your own space within the niche perfume sector at this point is but one of the roadblocks. One of those spaces is the area of geographical perfume. To create a brand identity around the concept that a spritz or two will take you to the place on the label. Which leads to another difficulty if the named places are cities the wearer knows well; then there are expectations. Which is how I came to the first four releases earlier this year from Gallivant.
Gallivant was founded by Nick Steward who had spent his career previously at L’Artisan Parfumeur. He also chose to work exclusively with two perfumers for the early releases Giorgia Navarra and Karine Chevallier. With that creative team along with the idea of having them focus on evoking the great cities of the world I approached it with hope only to find it a group of perfumes which zigged when I wanted them to zag. Each one had a moment of olfactory dissonance which kept me from wanting to write about them. When the latest two releases showed up, Berlin and Amsterdam, I was a little more cautious but my belief in the talent behind the bottle had me opening the vials. Berlin was a repeat of the things I didn’t care for from the first four. As I reached for Amsterdam I was losing my mojo, only to be met with the kind of perfume I was expecting from Gallivant.
The description on the Gallivant website describes Amsterdam as a perfume of “Autumn going into winter.” Sig.ra Navarra is asked to capture the Dutch word “gezellig” which is an all-over feeling of contentedness and coziness. What this means in fragrance terms is an early phase of spices and flowers before finding the warmth of an Oriental base.
Amsterdam opens with one of the most genial pepper top accords I’ve tried in years. Most perfumers take black pepper and serve it up in all its nose-tickling character. Sig.ra Navarra works to dial that way back using pink pepper, elemi, and saffron to wrap it up in a gauzy scarf. This forms a peppery accord which diffuses in waves across the early moments. The floral heart is described as a “black tulip” accord. What it seems to be is tulip made deeper with rose. For a perfume which wants to capture autumn, this does it well; especially with a flower like tulip which is so emblematic of spring. In Amsterdam the tulip is holding on against its eventual final wilting. The rose, which I think is Turkish, picks up on the spices from the top accord while providing a bit of elegiac charm to the tulip. The Oriental base is constructed of sandalwood and cedar along with amber and musk. In keeping with the tone of the perfume this is a soft Oriental and really where Amsterdam truly gets gezellig.
Amsterdam has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
Amsterdam is a bulky sweater of a perfume. It is something which expertly captures the effect of gezellig.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample from Gallivant.