I am fortunate to have the connections to try almost any perfume I hear about. I keep my eye out looking for some of the interesting new places to find fragrance. One place I discovered last year was the collection being produced by Arquiste for the upscale Mexican department store El Palacio de Hierro. Creative director Carlos Huber working with longtime collaborator, perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux, produced a trio of fantastic perfumes under the Esencia de El Palacio label. I wasn’t sure if that was going to be it. A few months ago, I received a notice that there were two new releases coming. I couldn’t wait to try Limoneros and Guayabos. I was not disappointed as both of these are among my favorite new releases of 2018. Because I was so taken with them I arranged a phone call, to Givaudan, with Sr. Flores-Roux to get some background which you will find sprinkled throughout the remainder of the review.
Rodrigo Flores-Roux (l.) and Carlos Huber
Sr. Flores-Roux told me that he and Sr. Huber had agreed that they wanted to continue the collection’s focus on the indigenous botany of Mexico. This is apt because Sr. Flores-Roux was in school studying that subject when he was called away to begin his perfume career. When speaking with him he mentioned that along with Azahares and Magnolios from the first trio; Limoneros and Guayabos add to the “tree stories” they are trying to tell. The thought was to go into these two new perfumes focusing on the Mexican version of lemon and guava respectively.
When I first tried Limoneros I was strongly reminded of a lemon-lime soda I grew up with in S. Florida. I can’t find the name, but this was not Sprite or 7-Up it was a Cuban version. It was much tarter with an ebullient effervescence. I just described Limoneros to you. Sr. Flores-Roux was also inspired by a lemon-lime soda of his youth in Mexico. When his family would visit Acapulco there the soda the kids drank was called Yoli. Made of the Mexican limon it is not the traditional Italian lemon most Americans know. It is a lemon which is closer to lime. Srs. Huber and Flores-Roux wanted Limoneros to be the smell of squeezing that Mexican limon, into your bottle of beer or over your fish taco, on your hand. Along the way a bit of the Yoli inspiration found its way into the final Eau Fraiche composition.
That Mexican limon is what greets you straightaway. It is tarter than typical lemon in a perfume. There is a significant green quality added in. Cardamom is part of the formula of Yoli soda and it finds its way in the top accord of Limoneros. This captures the smell of freshly squeezed limon on my fingers. Then via the use of ginger a kind of effervescence bubbles up from underneath the limon accord. Right here is where Limoneros most closely resembles Yoli. It is full of life. It rests on a light summery base of vetiver, patchouli, and iris.
One of the great things about Sr. Huber is he knows when Sr. Flores-Roux is inspired and needs to just be left to his own devices. Such was the case for Guayabos. Sr. Flores-Roux returns to his childhood where ripe guava was in his house. He very much wanted to capture that for Guayabos. To accomplish that he undertook headspace analysis of green guava, ripe guava, and guava blossom. This would lead to three sources of guava in the final version.
It is those three layers of guava which open Guayabos. Sr. Flores-Roux wanted to make sure to capture the cinnamic spicy nature of the guava. By combining the three guava sources he finds it in the place where they come together. Guava is an odd tropical fruit and you’ll know if you like it right away in Guayabos. I don’t just like it; I swooned for it. There is a vividness to the guava in the top accord that made me feel like I should be able to reach out and take a bite. Guayabos could stay here but Sr. Flores-Roux is better than that. He uses jasmine to moderate the guava blossom into something more traditionally floral. Osmanthus provides a leathery botanical rind to encase the fruit within. It rests on clean woods of cedar and cypress.
Both Limoneros and Guayabos have 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Guayabos is my favorite new perfume of 2018, so far. From a perfumer who I have admired this is a tour de force for him. It shows why Sr. Huber letting him follow his inspiration leads to something amazing. I’m not sure if Guayabos didn’t exist I wouldn’t be saying Limoneros is my favorite perfume of 2018. I’ve been wearing both of them so much they are going to be reminders of the summer of 2018. Taken together the tree stories of the Esencia de El Palacio collection are as good as perfume gets for me. Thankfully it was confirmed there are more to come. I know as long as Sr. Huber and Sr. Flores-Roux continue to tap into their shared Mexican heritage they can’t go wrong.
Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by Arquiste.