If there is one place most people encounter fragrance in their daily life it is in their use in laundry products. You might choose a scent-free detergent and fabric softener but the people around you probably do not. It is true for many that the smell of the musks in laundry detergent is how they define clean through their sense of smell. Those laundry musks made the leap to perfumery when the consumer wanted a “clean” fragrance. Because they are reminiscent of laundry detergent they also get criticized as smelling “cheap”. It is one of the reasons that a niche perfumer might be reluctant to go towards this style of perfume. I think it takes a certain amount of belief that you can find something interesting to bring to something so common. Independent perfumer James Heeley has taken this challenge with Heeley Blanc Poudre.
When the name was first released without any detail there were some who thought the “white powder” referred to in the name might be something more illicit. When the press release followed it says Mr. Heeley was “inspired by the bone pale fineness of French porcelain.” Mr. Heeley has put together a perfume of pale fineness, but porcelain isn’t what I think of while wearing Blanc Poudre. Instead it is that moment I open the dryer and get that wave of warmth carrying the scent of my “spring fresh” dryer sheet on top of warm cotton.
The white powder in Blanc Poudre is a beautifully restrained rice powder. It is not an obvious piece of the perfume because it is paired with the more prominent cotton linen ingredient. This is that smell of fresh linen given a very transparent overlay of powder. It is easy to lose it in the background of the linen, but it is one of those grace notes in a perfume which makes a difference. In the same kind of deftly placed style Mr. Heeley threads through some of the synthetic florals. These are the florals which exude their floral nature minus anything, like indoles, which would distract. It is a classic representation of a commercial spring flower scent In the hands of someone clumsily adding this to a perfume it would come off trite. Mr. Heeley uses the florals and the rice powder to create a weave of fragile filaments over the linen. The final prominent note is the use of those laundry musks in the base. Together they give off that warmed fabric accord. Just he did with the other ingredients it is precise uses of sandalwood and vanilla which add texture to the overall construct.
Blanc Poudre has 12-14 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
I know it will be easy to dismiss Blanc Poudre as something that smells like laundry. If you do that you will miss out on one of the most cleverly constructed perfumes of 2018. Not everything has to be full of bombastic portent. Mr. Heeley has dared to show the beauty found in the subtlety of the mundane.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Heeley.