When a store puts their name on a bottle of perfume they take a risk in potentially diminishing the overall brand. When a brand does it right it has the effect of burnishing the reputation of all involved. This has been the case in the line named for the iconic New York perfume store Aedes de Venustas. In 2012 when they released the first perfume under their name it was what I expected. A fragrance which was honed from decades of serving customers in the store and finding what styles leave lasting impressions. Owners Karl Bradl and Robert Gerstner teamed up with Francois Duquesne as the creative directors. Over five more releases since that first one they have done nothing but confirm that initial impression. If there is an overall aesthetic to the line it is for richer, opulent constructions. The latest release Pelargonium adds in a formal elegance to that.
Karl Bradl (l.) and Robert Gerstner
Perfumer Nathalie Feisthauer was asked to work on Pelargonium. Her desire was to create a perfume which was like a still life painting done by a Dutch Master. Still Life as an art form was at its height during the latter years of the 1700’s. The name itself comes from an anglicizing of the Dutch word “stilleven”. The idea was to arrange common everyday objects and capture them using shadow, light, and color to provide new perspective. What it accomplished was to allow a viewer to see the everyday as something to appreciate. Mme Feisthauer takes one of the most common of floral notes, geranium, using it as the focal point around which she arranges the rest of her composition.
From the first days of my perfume obsession I have been very fond of geranium. The “green rose” effect it adds to a perfume has appealed to me. Only rarely is it allowed to stand out on its own. Mme Feisthauer chooses an Egyptian Geranium essential oil as the centerpiece of Pelargonium.
Before that geranium arrives Mme Feisthauer uses the lemon-tinted resin, elemi, as the opening. As the geranium begins to come forward so do a series of notes meant to surround but not override. Green cardamom and clary sage are used to support the green leafy nature of the geranium. Orris and carrot are here to give the rosy floral nature a bit of a modification. One of the reasons I think you don’t see geranium as a focus is it becomes very easy to experience it as a half-hearted rose. Which is why by using two rooty notes Mme Feisthauer turns that into something primitive and earthy. It also allows that green accord more traction, too. The earthiness is continued into the base with vetiver. The vetiver here carries a bit of smokiness with it which I liked more than if a straight vetiver was used. A little gaiac wood, moss, and musk round out Pelargonium.
Pelargonium has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
A Stiil Life is meant to find something beneath the common. Mme Feisthauer’s Still Life of Geranium does that. Every choice illuminates the focal point along with the other things in the picture. Pelargonium carries the elegance of a fine piece of art.
There are a few perfumers who always capture my attention no matter what they do. One of those is Alberto Morillas. He has been responsible for some of the greatest mainstream perfumes of the last 30 years. Before I knew who he was I knew him through his perfumes that I owned. In those days knowing who it was who had made the perfume was unheard of. Since 2000 that has changed and it allows M. Morillas the opportunity to be seen as the artist that he is. The overwhelming majority of his perfume making still takes place in the mainstream sector. Except over the past few years he has been making some forays into the niche space. 2016 looked like it was going to come to an end without that happening. Then I received my sample of the new Aedes de Venustas Grenadille D’Afrique.
Karl Bradl and Robert Gerstner
Starting in 2012 the owners of the New York City boutique Aedes de Venustas, Karl Bradl and Robert Gerstner, have been creatively directing a compact collection bearing the store name. Grenadille D’Afrique is the seventh of these. Working with M. Morillas for the second time, after last year’s Palissandre D’Or, they return to woody themes. This time they describe the new perfume as “a tribute to ancient ebony”. While it does get up to that concept, especially in the base, the early going is all modern fougere territory.
The opening is that fougere accord. M. Morillas uses juniper berry, lavender, and violet. They form a gin-tinted set of purple flowers. The violet works to keep the lavender from hewing too close to its herbal nature because the juniper berry surely tries to accentuate this. M. Morillas balances this perfectly as it achieves a contemporary lavender effect. Now that promised ebony wood shows up. M. Morillas mixes some of the cleaner woods, like cedar, with a particularly lively vetiver. That vetiver provides the sappy nature that the creative direction called for making it feel as if the wood is straight from the tree. The final phase is a lilting smoky vanilla over a few musks. It provides a soothing ending to a brisk woody fougere.
Grenadille D’Afrique has 12-14 hour longevity and above average sillage.
Grenadille D’Afrique is a great example of everything I think makes M. Morillas stand out. As a perfumer who has probably made dozens and dozens of fougeres he still manages to find new areas to explore. The final “ebony accord” shows his way at intricately constructed chords. His accords are so layered that they always seem to be subtly in motion while still retaining the overall effect. I am very happy that M. Morillas found his way back to the niche side of the street before the end of the year. Grenadille D’Afrique is another triumph for him.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Aedes de Venustas.
Besides the crush of rose-based fragrances over the first half of 2016 there have also been a number of above average gourmands. I think I have more patience with the gourmands because the genre doesn’t seem as played out. That being said if there is a style of gourmands which has been prevalent it would be the vanilla-based ones. There is still plenty of flexibility for something different than what has come before to stand out. That is what the new Aedes de Venustas Cierge de Lune has done.
Karl Bradl and Robert Gerstner
In just four years creative directors Karl Bradl and Robert Gerstner have established a strong brand identity over just a few releases. Cierge de Lune is just the sixth addition to the brand. What has been interesting is they are able to communicate this brand identity even though they have worked with five different perfumers. For Cierge de Lune the perfumer they chose was Fabrice Pellegrin.
M. Pellegrin is one of the more prolific perfumers working currently; designing fragrances up and down every economic sector. I think when a perfumer like M. Pellegrin has the opportunity to work with a bit more of a budget he takes that flexibility and runs with it.
Cierge de Lune is inspired by the night-blooming cactus flower Selenicereus Grandiflorus. It is the found at the top of the vanilla cactus so named because of the scent. It is often called the “queen of the night”. Cierge de Lune is the French name for it which translates to “moon altar candle”. The task set forth for M. Pellegrin was to capture the fragility of the flower which only lasts for the night; wilting in the first rays of the sun.
I have mentioned in other fragrances inspired by the desert there is an inherent spiciness to the smell of the desert over the mineral smell of the sand. M. Pellegrin opens Cierge de Lune with his version of that; comprised of pink pepper and black pepper. The black pepper stands in quite nicely for the sandy landscape. The pink pepper adds in the transparent piquancy along with some sense of the plant life, as well. The plant life dominates in the heart as ylang ylang adds its fleshy floralcy for the cactus flower accord to unfurl upon. In the early stages that means the vanilla is paired with some incense. This is also kept on the light side. Cierge de Lune picks up some heft as it transitions into the base where the vanilla has a much firmer foothold over a base accord of ambrox and chocolate. When I say this has some more presence it is still on the light side when compared to most vanilla chocolate gourmand base accords.
Cierge de Lune has 12-14 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
When I tried Cierge de Lune at Esxence I was initially underwhelmed. Like the delicate flower it is based upon I needed some time to get to know Cierge de Lune by itself. In that time, I have come to appreciate what M. Pellegrin has assembled a delicate vanilla floral which seems ephemeral. That fragility is what appeals to me so much. It reminds me that even something which only lasts for a short time can be as inspiring as something built to last. Cierge de Lune is an homage to that fleeting beauty.
Disclosure: this review was based on a sample provided by Aedes de Venustas at Esxence 2016.
I remember the first time I walked into the New York perfume boutique Aedes de Venustas. I think I stood inside the door with my mouth slack from the sensory overload of all these perfumes I had never heard of. Owners Karl Bradl and Robert Gerstner were there to gently guide me through the offerings in the store. One thing I’ve come to realize over time is what an amazing job they do in curating what they offer for sale. They have few peers in the business who sell from a single storefront. Since 2012 that same careful consideration has carried over to their efforts to create a perfume brand which carries the name of their store. Over four previous releases they have covered a wide array of styles using some of the best perfumers working. For their latest release Palissandre D’Or they have outdone everything they have produced to date.
Karl Bradl and Robert Gerstner
Mr. Bradl and Mr. Gerstner also collaborate with Francois Duquesne on the creative direction side for these fragrances. The brief was to create a “scent of precious Oriental woods, in a smoldering palette of burnt sienna, lacquered red, and molten gold.” For the perfumer to realize this they chose Alberto Morillas.
M. Morillas is one of the greatest perfumers working today. The great majority of his work is on the more mainstream side of the perfumed avenue. Especially in the last few years he has been enticed to the niche side of the street to work there. What I am guessing entices him is the opportunity to work with some of the unique raw materials that just don’t fit the budget of a more commercial release. In Palissandre D’Or the ingredient he wanted to showcase was an Alaskan cedar which carries a rich leathery character along with the more familiar clean woody lines. Before we get to that in the base M. Morillas paints bands of “burnt sienna” and “lacquered red” which lead to the “molten gold” of the cedar.
If there was any doubt I was going to like this perfume it is washed away by the early spices on top. M. Morillas takes nutmeg, baie rose, and coriander as a pedestal to display a fantastic cinnamon. If you’ve ever cooked with a high quality cinnamon you know there is a deep richness to it. The cinnamon which opens Palissandre D’Or carries the contrasting hot and sweet character of the very best Vietnamese cinnamon. There are very few perfumes which get cinnamon right but Palissandre D’Or can be added to the short list. M. Morillas uses the botanical musk of ambrette to lead to a Sri Lankan sandalwood in the heart. The heat of the cinnamon lacquers the sandalwood in a spice-laden shine. The moment where the cinnamon, ambrette and sandalwood come together is mesmerizing. M. Morillas wants me to be even more fascinated as in the base he combines three forms of cedar each with their own personality. Virginia cedar is that clean cut All-American wood. Chinese cedar carries a hint of smoky black tea to smudge that boyish charm a bit. The Alaskan cedar wraps that All-American in a leather jacket and turns him into a bad boy. Together this turns what, in other hands, would be a routine cedar base into something full of interesting texture and nuance.
Palissandre D’Or has 12-14 hours of longevity and below average sillage.
All five perfumes in the Aedes de Venustas line have been memorable and among the best perfumes of the year they were released. The entire team behind Palissandre D’Or have raised their collective bar to new heights. Palissandre D’Or is the realization of everything Aedes de Venustas stands for in terms of quality and discernment.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I received at Esxence 2015.
It is no secret that one of my favorite fragrance categories is incense fragrances. One of my favorite perfumers within that category is Bertrand Duchaufour. As I recounted in Perfumer Rewind from 2002-2007 I called him The High Priest of Resins for his facility with all kinds of incense notes. After that article was published I received an e-mail letting me know M. Duchaufour was returning to his resinous roots for an upcoming new perfume which would have a higher concentration of incense than any that came before. Often more is better but sometimes more is just too much. With M. Duchaufour at the helm the new release Aedes de Venustas Copal Azur reveals, in the hands of the master insense perfumer, more is just a new kind of beauty realized.
Karl Bradl (l.) and Robert Gerstner
Aedes de Venstas is the line from the perfume store of the same name in New York City. Owners Karl Bradl and Robert Gerstner have been the creative directors for three previous fragrances. They return to working with M. Duchaufour who was the perfumer behind the first Aedes de Venustas perfume in this collection. They clearly felt that M. Duchaufour could bring something new to the incense perfume. One of the new things for M. Duchaufour was to work with a new incense source, copal. Copal comes primarily from Central America where it was used as an indigenous incense source during pre-Columbian times. It is also a component in some varnishes. M. Duchaufour had to be careful in how he used it in Copal Azur because if he used too much he would risk it smelling like varnish. He did not disappoint as he incorporated the new resin into his existing arsenal of resins.
Copal Azur starts with a bit of an oceanic aspect as a mix of salt and ozone evoke a turbulent ocean. The copal comes next and it has a bit of a sharper edge to it than other incense sources. I think if this had gone much higher in concentration it might have been unpleasant. In Copal Azur it just sets the stage for frankincense to match it with its own slightly metallic nature that all fine frankincense seems to have. Cardamom and patchouli add some levity to the incense action. The base is the sweetness of myrrh matched with tonka and amber. The myrrh elides away the rough edges and takes Copal Azur deeper and softer. The final phase of Copal Azur is almost a study in the contrast of strength and softness. Whenever Copal Azur reached the late stages of development I always felt it culminated in a full spectrum incense accord.
Copal Azur has 12-14 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
It was a pleasure having M. Duchaufour return to that with which he was so successful with and create another perfume that is amazing. Copal Azur is a perfume for incense lovers which delivers it with an unmatched power.
Disclsoure: This review was based on a sample provided by Aedes de Venustas at Pitti Fragranze.
Every perfumer has a particular style that, in essence, becomes their signature on a fragrance they have composed. That doesn’t mean they can’t make perfumes outside of that but there is a sweet spot or comfort zone where these perfumers can seemingly make a memorable fragrance at will. Rodrigo Flores-Roux has a portfolio of many varied and fantastic perfumes. When he chooses to work on a floral centered fragrance that is where I think he has done his best work. The recent release Aedes de Venustas Oeillet Bengale is as good as Sr. Flores-Roux gets.
One of the reasons I think he is so deft with florals is he spent a year in college before going to Versailles to begin his perfume training. That year at university in Mexico City he spent studying biology. In an alternative universe where he wasn’t accepted into ISIPCA to become a perfumer I imagine him becoming a botanist presiding over a magnificent greenhouse of the most unique, and fragrant, blooms. In the universe we live in Sr. Flores-Roux is a perfumer and he brings the observant eye of a scientist when he chooses to interpret a flower as a perfume. There is always an elegance of precision to Sr. Flores-Roux’s scents but when it comes to the florals it often seems like it is being dissected into its component notes to be put back together. Oeillet Bengale is a type of China rose and owner of the perfume boutique Aedes de Venustas, Karl Bradl, saw a still life of it and knew he wanted this to be the inspiration for their third fragrance. Without the assistance of the press materials I saw “oeillet” and expected carnation. What Sr. Flores-Roux has produced is a simulation of the China rose by using carnation as the foundation to create the accord. A number of spice notes have to be balanced exactly to bring to life the desired “fiery rose”. All of this is placed on a foundation of smoking incense.
Karl Bradl and Robert Gerstner Owners and Creative Directors of Aedes de Venustas
The first few minutes of Oeillet Bengale show off Sr. Flores Roux’s highly evolved citrus accord. It is paired with herbs and a surprising bit of strawberry. Together it creates a snappy opening full of refreshing notes. The carnation comes up next and this is the current version of carnation stripped of its clove-like nature because that version is no longer IFRA-compliant. Sr. Flores-Roux puts back in what IFRA has removed by using his own mix of spicy notes; clove (of course), cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, and black pepper return the spicy heart to the carnation and improves upon it. The heart of Oeillet Bengale really does feel as if it is a rose on fire as the florals and the spices feel right on the verge of spontaneous combustion. To add a calming effect Sr. Flores-Roux takes frankincense, labdanum, and tolu balsam to form a smoky resinous base to rest the smoldering bloom upon. For a long time on my skin this is where Oeillet Bengale lingers as the carnation and spices float on a resinous cloud of pungent vapor.
Oeillet Bengale has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
Oeillet Bengale is one of the most compelling perfumes Sr. Flores-Roux has created and it takes its place among my favorites by him. This is my favorite of the three Aedes de Venustas fragrances released to date. I look forward to whatever Sr. Flores-Roux will release next but when he is in his floral sweet spot there is nobody better.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.