As I mentioned at the beginning of the month I believe the Ulrich Lang New York collection is underrated. Turns out I should have been speaking to myself as Hr. Lang contacted me after that piece and asked whether I had smelled his most recent release, Apsu. I had come to realize during the writing of the Under the Radar piece that I was pretty sure I hadn’t. When I went to my master spreadsheet it turns out I had smelled it on a strip but left a note to request a sample; which I never did. Then Hr. Lang made sure to rectify that and sent me a bottle of Apsu. It probably turned out okay because Apsu is a perfume of late spring early summer. Wearing it a couple times it seemed like a mirror version of the world becoming greener around me.
Hr. Lang once again collaborates with perfumer Frank Voelkl. If there has become an Ulrich Lang aesthetic it has been for transparent to opaque constructs. It has really stood out as the brand doesn’t knock you over it wraps you up in silk. Apsu is one of those as I believe Mr. Voelkl worked with a few new isolates of time-honored notes. What results is a perfume which reminds me of the beginning of the second verse of The Beatles “Yellow Submarine”; “So we sailed up to the sun/Until we found the sea of green.” If you are a fan of the smell of dew covered grass and foliage that is what Apsu delivers.
Mr. Voelkl uses a host of green notes in the early moments. Most of these seem like different isolates or molecules of the typical aromachemicals which are used for fresh-cut grass. It gives it an abstract interpretation of dewy grass which seems more alive despite its not perfectly resembling it. One note on the list that stands out is cilantro which provides a bit of an edge to the overall effect. The moist garden theme is deepened with orris and jasmine in the heart. They are joined by a faint tea and water lily duet. The florals do not override the green in the top but act more as support while making the watery nature more present. The base is clean woods with dry frankincense.
Apsu has 6-8 hour longevity and moderate sillage. Apsu reflects the natural as seen through a perfumer’s lens. It doesn’t represent the actual so much as form a figurative “sea of green”. If you want a lightweight green perfume for summer set your Yellow Submarine for Apsu.
Disclosure: This review was based on a bottle of Apsu supplied by Ulrich Lang New York.
One of the most genuine people in the perfume business is Ulrich Lang. Mr. Lang has promoted the greater cause of independent perfumery by co-founding the Elements Showcase and being someone who believes there is a significant place for it. He is so passionate about those themes you might not know he is the creative director of a brand which carries his name; Ulrich Lang New York.
One of the reasons you might have overlooked these perfumes is since the debut of Anvers in 2003 there have only been a total of six releases. Mr. Lang has worked exclusively with perfumer Frank Voelkl over that time. A brand which is not constantly churning out new releases is almost by definition going to fly under the radar. Over the years there has been one of these six perfumes which has become one of my spring staples, Lightscape.
When you think of fresh fragrances a perfume featuring violet and iris is unlikely to be something you might describe like that. Violet has a metallic sharpness while iris can be powdery. Even just that would seem to be a recipe for a construction akin to a head-on collision. Mr. Lang and Mr. Voelkl take some impressive measures to not put these notes against each other; instead finding a way to make them harmonize in a fresh way.
The way they go about this is two-fold. For violet Mr. Voelkl instead of using the actual essential oil of the flowers he instead creates a violet accord. That allows him to tune out those metallic aspects. It also allows the powdery nature that is also a part of the violet flower to be modulated, as well. For the iris, he chooses to use a high-quality orris which doesn’t have as much of the powderiness of iris in favor of a more grounded earthy character.
Lightscape opens with a snappy duet of lemon and galbanum. An attention-grabbing zesty green citrus. To go along with it Mr. Voelkl adds in violet leaf. This adds more green to the galbanum. Then the orris and violet accord appear. I am always so surprised at how uplifting the combination comes off here. It is why I reach for it every spring because it is green and fresh. Cedar brings it back to earth with a wood-based foundation tempered by the botanical musk of ambrette seed.
Lightscape has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.
I can say all six of the Ulrich Lang New York perfumes are Under the Radar gems. They are worthy of being put on your to-try list. If you need one to start with Lightscape is a spring perfume which is a fresh purple fragrance of violet and iris.
Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle I purchased.
There have been a number of multi-disciplinary collaborations between fragrance and another art form. You can name excellent examples for almost any intersection of perfume and visual one can imagine. The most prevalent collaboration is that of photography and perfume. One of the earliest to take advantage of this was Ulrich Lang with his 2003 release Anvers. On the side of the box there was a cropped close-up of a man’s face in black and white. The accompanying fragrance was a thoroughly modern fougere with magnified aspects of that style of fragrance. Over the next three releases the picture on the side of the box would always prepare me, in a visual way, for what was inside.
"Quiet" by Olivia Bee
When I saw the picture, above, by Olivia Bee, as I walked up to the Ulrich Lang New York booth at the February 2014 Elements Showcase I knew the fragrance that could match this photograph would be something interesting. When I got my first sniff of Aperture and looked again at the photo I realized the strip I was smelling was represented by the three distinct color bands in the photograph, The light purple top band is a spicy aldehydic top, the deep orange is represented by the glow of tobacco and the midnight blue is the depth of vetiver. The picture is an overture to the fragrance it accompanies.
The opening fizz of aldehydes is matched with a Technicolor pepper blend of pink pepper, white pepper, and black pepper. Even though three sources of pepper might sound overwhelming it is really a pinch of each to add some further energy to the aldehydes and to attenuate the hairspray character they sometimes have. Tobacco flares to life on a cedar foundation which smolders like a glowing ember in the heart. The base notes collaborate with the tobacco and cedar as vetiver adds its woodiness and for a good while Aperture persists as a smoky vetiver accord. The final touch is to add musk, civet, and ambergris to add further depth to the smoke and wood.
Aperture has all-day longevity and above average sillage.
Ulrich Lang (Photo: Eric Swain)
Mr. Lang has become more widely known, perhaps, for his founding and expansion of the Elements Showcase. Which sometimes makes it easy to overlook his talent when it comes to his line of perfume. Aperture is the fifth Ulrich Lang New York fragrance and it is the best fragrance from this line to date. That is truly the test, if a perfume house manages to continually rise to new heights with each new release. In the case of Aperture the sky seems to be the limit for Mr. Lang.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample I received from Ulrich Lang New York at the Elements Showcase in February 2014.
Editor’s Note: A portion of the proceeds of Aperture will go to the Aperture Foundation to support their educational programs.