New Perfume Review L’Artisan Parfumeur Bana Banana- Hail Esters!

When I began working in a chemistry lab, I tired of people walking in and saying, “It stinks in here!” It took me a few years to come up with my standard response, “I’m sorry. You needed to take a left if you were looking for the bakery.” Even so one of the foundational reasons I love perfume is my time in the lab working with the organic chemicals which do not stink. I was always fascinated with how one additional atom could change the smell of something completely. If there was a time when things came closest to smelling like a bakery it would be if my starting materials were esters. Esters are one of the largest chemical classes used in perfumery. Many of the fruity notes are esters.

Jean Laporte

I once had a project which required a large amount of the ester molecule, amyl acetate. Amyl acetate smells just like a banana. Even more it smells like an overripe banana. As I learned more about the ingredients that go into perfume, I learned about isoamyl acetate. This is the predominant compound isolated from bananas. When I had the opportunity to experience the two side-by-side the isoamyl acetate was much subtler than amyl acetate. Less overripe. It was years later when I was speaking with a chemist at IFF when this subject came up. He told me that the major fruity scent from jasmine is due to isoamyl acetate. I retreated to my home-grown lab set and did the comparison. When placed next to each other it is easy to detect. I always thought a perfume which took advantage of this overlap could be interesting. I no longer must hypothesize about this as L’Artisan Parfumeur Bana Banana is here.

Celine Ellena

Jean Laporte arrived at the same hypothesis from an entirely different starting point. As he was founding L’Artisan Parfumeur, which was one of the first brands of niche perfume, he got a request. A friend wanted a banana perfume to round out his Folies Bergere banana costume. M. Laporte thought to macerate banana and jasmine together and “Et voila!” Except it wasn’t. This became a story shared among perfumers. Through telling it to Jean-Claude Ellena it would find its way to his daughter Celine Ellena. It stuck in her mind and she wanted to make a real effort to make perfume taking advantage of the overlap between banana and jasmine in perfumery. That is what Bana Banana is.

I don’t know which of the banana-like esters Mme Ellena chose. I suspect there are at least three to four here. She puts them together into a curvy banana accord. Then because this is meant to be more than a single note perfume, she spices it with a lot of nutmeg and a pinch of pepper. The nutmeg imparts a creaminess to the fruit. It is just the right complement to add. The pinch of pepper sets up the arrival of violet leaves to provide the subtle greenery of the wide banana leaves. Then the jasmine comes in as if flowers bloomed from the banana splitting the peel as they unfurl. That these two ingredients were meant to be together chemically, and aesthetically, comes to life. Tonka bean, amber, and musk provide a comforting base accord to end this.

Bana Banana has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

I admit I adore this perfume because it confirmed my thought of how good banana and jasmine would be together. I think this is a perfume which is a cut above the typical fruity floral fare even with my predilection to liking it. I have also enjoyed wearing it in the early spring because it is so exuberant. Mrs. C laughed at me on the mornings I applied this because I breathed deep and said out loud “Hail esters!”. Give Bana Banana a try and you might join me.

Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by L’Artisan Parfumeur.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review L’Artisan Parfumeur 2 Violaceum & 18 Glacialis Terra- The Spirit of Jean Laporte

When it comes to the creation of the niche sector of perfume there are no greater innovators than Jean Laporte. In 1976 he created L’Artisan Parfumeur and beginning with the debut releases M. Laporte would be one of the catalysts that has led to the current state of the sector. If there has been one thing which has worried me was I felt the brand was losing that sense of innovation M. Laporte brought to the enterprise. It had been since 2013’s Caligna where I really felt like there was some of that old magic in a L’Artisan bottle. When I received the press release for the new sub-collection Natura Fabularis there was some of the same sentiment I expressed as the brand also wanted to capture the sense of exploration so integral to L’Artisan.


Jean Laporte

To do this they asked perfumer Daphne Bugey to come up with “whimsical” fantasies. To also free Mme Bugey even further there was no creative director overseeing the process. She was free to follow her muse. What this has resulted in is a collection of six perfumes which for the most part takes unusual paths with traditional ingredients. Each perfume has a number associated with the name which I am told is the number of mods Mme Bugey made before settling on the final formula. I can understand why 60 Mirabilis was the most labor intensive as Mme Bugey matches an austere incense with two powerhouse synthetics, Ambrox and Vulcanolide. I had a hard time with it because the Ambtox has such an overbearing presence. I think if you like ambrox this might be something you will fall for. 9 Arcana Rosa is the safest of these six; spicy rose cocooned with oud and cade to make it all smoky. 32 Venenum is a faithfully realized take on chai tea, bread, and sandalwood to form an Indian milieu I enjoyed. 26 Tenebrae mixes a pine sap accord with incense as the two resins intertwine with each other to form a greater whole. One for resin lovers to be sure. The two I am going to cover were the two which felt the most like they could have come from M. Laporte; as if Mme Bugey was channeling him while composing them.


Daphne Bugey

2 Violaceum is hard to believe it only took two tries to get this balance so right. Mme Bugey uses an earthy violet which I believe uses a bit of orris to enhance the rooty quality while also powdering it slightly. To that violet accord Mme Bugey uses the sweet warmth of carrot and the exoticness of saffron to transform the violet into something a little more vital. To finish the effect a leather accord wraps all of this up together. I am always going to like a violet and leather perfume but it is those additions of carrot and saffron which are the truly inspired choices to elevate this to new heights.

18 Glacialis Terra is I believe going to be the most polarizing fragrance in this collection as Mme Bugey makes a perfume so chilly it will give your nose frostbite. There is that moment where you breathe in on a snowy subzero day. Your lungs fill with a tingling breath of air which causes some pins and needles in your lungs. The first few minutes of Glacialis Terra is like this. Mme Bugey uses what she calls an “iced accord”. What I detect are some of the high octave aldehydes matched with a suite of ozonic notes finished off with a pinch of eucalyptus. It took my breath away when I tested it on a strip and it was even more distinct on the days I wore it. From here Mme Bugey could have just looked to warm things up but instead she wanted to keep this on the sharper side embracing the cold. Towards that she uses absinthe and vetiver to provide that continued frosty nature throughout the development of Glacialis Terra.

All the six perfumes in the Natura Fabularis collection have 10 hours-plus longevity and moderate sillage.

I must applaud whoever gave Mme Bugey the greenlight to indulge her creativity. As a collection this is better than most all of the ones I tried this year. In the case of 2 Violaceum and 18 Glacialis Terra they show the spirit of M. Laporte is still alive and well at L’Artisan.

Disclosure: This review was based on samples I received from L’Artisan.

Mark Behnke

L’Artisan Parfumeur 101- Five to Get You Started


At this point niche perfume has become a fact of life. The discussion has even moved along to whether niche has any meaning anymore. In 1978 the phrase niche perfume didn’t exist. It took the creation of the brand called L’Artisan Parfumeur by perfumer and creative director Jean Laporte to require a way to describe this collection of perfumes that were different. On that day in 1978 when M. Laporte released the initial seven perfumes, perfumery changed. L’Artisan Parfumeur has continued to thrive for the last 37 years. One of the reasons is two of our greatest perfumers, Olivia Giacobetti and Bertrand Duchaufour, produced some of their earliest and best work for the brand. One thing to admire about the brand is it covers the entire spectrum of the fragrance spectrum. There are over 50 fragrances to choose from. To help you here are the five I would start with.

Only three of the original seven releases are still available. Mure et Musc co-signed by Henri Sorsana and Jean Laporte feels as contemporary as it did back in 1978. The herbal citrus open which moves into one of the best fruity floral accords I’ve ever smelled as the perfumers combine jasmine and blackberry. This all rests on a bed of white musk supported by patchouli. Every time I wear this I think to myself this is where niche began.

Olivia Giacobetti would be the perfumer behind most of the releases between1994-2000. Her first release Premier Figuier is what most cite. I actually think her most accessible work for the brand came as she returned in 2001 with Tea for Two. It has Mme Giacobetti’s trademark transparency but the wonderful smoked tea heart makes this a classic. It opens almost boringly with neroli but it quickly heads to the tea room. In the heart smoky tea leaves are crushed with cinnamon, anise, and ginger. This is my favorite tea accord I wear. A honey and vanilla base finishes this version of olfactory tea service. Tea for Two was discontinued for a time but it was brought back in 2014.


The other perfume by Mme Giacobetti is 2006’s Fou D’Absinthe. In this perfume she works with a little less opacity. Fou D’Absinthe might be one of her more strongly constructed fragrances. She chooses to take redolent wormwood and make it even greener with blackcurrant buds. The heart is a swirl of spices on top of the absinthe accord. It finishes with a resinous pine accord. When people tell me Mme Giacobetti makes her perfumes too light this is where I send them.

As Mme Giacobetti left Bertrand Duchaufour would take up the reins and be primarily responsible for the next ten years 2000-2010. M. Duchaufour’s collection within L’Artisan is impressive and at the time of this writing my favorite, Vanille Absolument, is discontinued. What is left to bring you into the L’Artisan fold is what might be perhaps M. Duchaufour’s greatest perfume, Timbuktu. M. Duchaufour wanted to capture the smells of the African bazaars. During 2004 he had become a master at working with incense. For Timbuktu he used a smoky incense as his nucleus to build the bazaar milieu around. He would add cardamom and mango to represent the spices and fruit for sale. Patchouli, vetiver, and benzoin provide the sultry warmth of the desert.

My final choice, Caligna signed by Dora Arnaud, shows M. Laporte’s vision is still as vital today as it was in the beginning. Caligna is a completely unique mix of fig, jasmine, and olive wood. Mme Arnaud turns her fig herbal by matching it with sage. This makes the fig greener and less ripe. The heart is dominated by a “jasmine marmalade” accord. This takes jasmine and suffuses it with more sweetness without sacrificing the indolic core. In the base she uses a uniquely sourced olive wood to provide an unusual woody finish.

If you love perfume and particularly the current crop of independent niche perfume brands you owe it to yourself to become familiar with L’Artisan Parfumeur. So much of what I think are the core principles of what niche perfume means to me came from this brand. Try the five suggestions above and find out why I believe this.

Disclosure: this review was based on bottles I purchased.

Mark Behnke