There are so many young talented perfumers working within the industry now it makes it an exciting time for me to be writing about them. One of the more fascinating things to watch is as they begin to interpret classical perfume architectures. The one style which allows a perfumer to break new ground is in designing a modern chypre. Due to restrictions on the traditional materials any perfumer approaches the design of a new chypre thinking about how to design accords which can approximate the proscribed materials. Thus, it gives a perfumer wide latitude to do their thing. Quentin Bisch is one of those young stars I admire. With the release of Martin Margiela Replica Soul of the Forest we see M. Bisch’s version of a chypre.
Chypres are all about the namsake base. That base is composed of oakmoss, patchouli and musk. That accord provides a bitingly woody earthy base to contrast with whatever bright notes were used in the top accord. The only problem is in current times oakmoss is restricted to using the version which has had atranol removed. Musks have also undergone multiple restrictions over the years also requiring a perfumer to find ways to put back what regulators have removed. Or a perfumer can make up their own accord using entirely different materials. That is what M. Bisch has chosen to do with Soul of the Forest.
Soul of the Forest is what would be described as a fruity chypre. M. Bisch uses a mixture of blackcurrant buds and pimento beries. They are unusual choices but they do provide an alternative to the more ubiquitous citrus or berry infused chypre openings. The combination of blackcurrant buds and pimento form a faux-cherry accord which reminds me of ripe cherries on the tree. It is a fleeting accord as M. Bisch wants to get to building his chypre accord. He chucks both the oakmoss and the musks out the window. Instead he retains the patchouli using that as the nucleus to form the base. The complementary notes include balsam, cistus, and atlas cedar. All three of those provide components of the familiar chypre but it is the choice of an intense Somalian frankincense which seals the deal. M. Bisch uses this to bring the bite; helped significantly with the cedar providing a shoulder to lean upon. This comes together in a magnificent resinous rush.
Soul of the Forest has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
Soul of the Forest is lighter in nature than the classic chypres. That lightness is one part of what makes it appealing to me but if a chypre must carry a certain kind of intensity it might not measure up for other aficionados of the style. I have spent much of 2016 lost in the imaginative constructs of young perfumers. Soul of the Forest allowed me to see M. Bisch’s chypre.
Disclosure: this review was based on a sample from Maison Martin Margiela.