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May 2018

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„Painting is the most beautiful of lies“ – Kees Van Dongen

If painting is the most beautiful of arts and if a fine perfume is a work of art, then…?

If a perfume is a work of art…

I do think that in numerous cases it definitely is, although the idea of defining art is still being discussed: there is no single definition of art that’s universally tenable. The definitions of art are still under constant challenge, always were. I support the thesis that art has more to do with intellectual responses. A lie? Rather: an illusion. Distorted echo of the actual. We do need illusions, after all. Sometimes the actual is too painful, too harsh, too destructive. Art does have the power to take us to a higher level of being, the power of – love. So does perfume…

Here I am, wearing Opardu by Puredistance (again, and enjoying it…), musing about art, truth, beauty, and love. Things perfume can make me think about! Providing not only olfactory but intellectual pleasure a well. An ode to Springtime! This feels so appropriate now, as Spring has already given its best, moving majestically towards its grand finale when rose flowers shed their darkened petals and pave the way for Summer to enter. A perfect floral illusion of opulent Spring as the most glamorous moment of Nature.

Opardu is a „painting“ made by perfumer Annie Buzantin from New York. It all started when Jan Ewoud Vos of Puredistance, in his quest for a new perfume, showed her an illustration for the book „Parfums“ by Paul Valery to illustrate a word he made up – Opardu. A opulent and lush bouquet of flowers, drawn by Dutch-French painter Kees Van Dongen. It is a Fauvistic illustration, with vibrant colors and strong strokes, pure energy in motion, emotions and passion visibly expressed.

Kees Van Dongen is famous for his paintings of flowers, but he also painted portraits of prostitutes first and later on graduated to painting society ladies: elongating their bodies, making them look a bit dangerous. Often nude. Somewhat feline. He did not paint what he saw: his compositions reflect what he felt (He did challenge some social norms at his time! What an interesting read this was!).

These women are femme fatales, yet somehow living in the world of their own: modern in their sensuality, touched by decadence, beautiful in their self-confident glamour. Recalling dreams yet strongly living reality. Timeless. Yet, there is something in their eyes. Van Dongen painted their almond-shaped huge eyes overly made up, dark and mysterious.

Now that we know the story behind the creation of Opardu, let’s see the mis-en-scene: Puredistance places it in Paris, 1930-ties: „..romantic memories of vintage Paris…“.

Well, I can try really hard to relate to Paris in ’30-ties but I will tell you where Opardu took me and how I experienced it!

At first, as I sprayed it gently on, all I could think of is purple lilacs, lilacs everywhere. Me as a kid, lying on the grass underneath a big lilac tree in my grandmothers’ backyard – before she calls me to have lunch, imagining that one day I would have a bed of purple lilacs made just for me.

I was not allowed to climb that tree, that was forbidden: my grandma knew that the branches are hollow. She would reluctantly break off a few, to keep lilacs in a vase just for me. Lilacs for me were a symbol of Spring, warmer days coming, end of the school year nearing, days becoming longer and nights warmer. I always wished they would bloom longer!

There’s nothing childish about this perfume: as I inhaled it deeper and it started to develop on my skin, the first thing that came to my mind was – silk stockings. Black silk stockings, an elegantly dressed woman with gloves and a hat…contained elegance.

I remembered how my grandmother told me stories about fashion and what she wore when she was a young woman, before the WWII. She told me that she wore silk stockings. Black or grayish silk stockings, the ones with seams behind, or „nat“ as Nana called it. Expensive ones, too, the kind you had to take for a mending if you accidentally tore them. They were hold-ups, held by garters (she showed me how that worked out) at mid-calf length. Skirts were longer then, too.

She also told me that when the War had begun, there was a shortage of everything – stockings included. She had moved to the countryside in order to survive, alone with her only son, working and farming on the land of her ancestors. Her legs were tanned (which wasn’t popular at all back then), and when she needed to go to the nearby town, she insisted on wearing – stockings. Imaginary stockings. She painted the line on her sun-tanned legs, replicating a seam because a lady didn’t walk around bare legged. She also taught me how to make my own lipstick, soap, peeling cream, almond oil and shown me how to collect and use basic herbs for skincare. And a thing or two about men…

She said: „You never know what will happen, Eli. You can never know for sure, but know one thing: Nature provides everything we need and land will always feed you. You can survive, but never ever give up on being a lady.“ I was maybe seven or eight years old and little did I know that so many things she had taught me would be so practical later on in my life. I remember her eyes so well: there was always a soft glow of saudade about her, that inexplicable feeling only Portuguese understand perfectly: profound melancholy and love that remains after losing something or letting it go…Something in her eyes.

Maybe I was too overwhelmed with lilacs to feel carnations properly at first, but when I closed my eyes to escape clouds of purple – I felt white flowers emerge, forming a bouquet around lilacs, adding some sweetness. That purity of light purple tones became tainted with not so innocent tones of surrounding flowers: I feel gardenias swaying in wind, jasmine petals falling, turning this perfume into a creamy and seductive cocoon. Tuberose is present too, but what magnificent tuberose!!! Later on, I did feel carnations, just adding a tinge of spiciness in the heart. This fragrance is an opulent, refined, womanly floral. Even woody-musky at the drydown, turning it into a smoother version of the initial opening. The more I wear it, the more I fall in love with it.

The combination of eroticism, elegance, saudade and vibrant colors is a key to understanding Opardu: it makes me think about first stolen kisses, Spring Flings of youth, careless falling in love and fresh green grass under frail lilac trees.

Listed Notes: Tuberose Absolute, Gardenia, Bulgarian Rose, Purple Lilac, Carnation, Jasmine Absolute, Heliothrope and Cedarwood.
Opardu is available in three different sizes: 17,5 ml, 60 ml and 100 ml of pure Perfume Extrait (32%)

Worldwide Giveaway
I’m so excited! This is my first giveaway!

In order to celebrate being nominated for The Fragrance Foundation Awards (New York) – Top 10 2018.– in category: Editorial Excellence Online (with my review of Puredistance Warszawa– The Scent of Slavic Melancholy), I would like to share the experience of Puredistance Master Perfumes with you!

You can win a 2ml perfume spray sample of Opardu and discover this fine perfume for yourself. To enter you need to like and follow The Plum Girl and Puredistance on Facebook (click the link!) and comment on The Plum Girl Facebook page post about Opardu what could this perfume mean to you!

The winner will be selected on 04.06.2018. (I do moderate comments, in case you notice a delay) and announced on The Plum Girl FB page the following day. I will contact the winner personally and your prize will be shipped to you soon afterwards. This is a worldwide giveaway: have fun and good luck!

The Plum Girl
Photos: The Plum Girl, Puredistance brochure and materials, photos of paintings are royalty-free.
Disclaimer

There I was, at Esxence 2018., standing at the Carner Barcelona stand. Mr. Joaquim Carner greeted me, we talked a bit about previous collections, and then he asked me if I knew about the new collection – three signature bottles right in front of me – the new, 2018. Oriental Collection.

Joaquim simply said, his hand hovering over the bottles: “This is Spain.“

Three different facets of Spain, to be exact. The Roman, Moor, and Catholic heritage of this great country, thousands of years, uncountable history-changing events, art and science and the art of war, discoveries, conquests and losses, generations of people, their destinies, lives, individual contributions and feelings sublimed into three perfumes?

I just stood in front of them, reluctant where to start first, digging out of my memory everything I have learned from history books (I am a history freak, you might have noticed) and travels, recalling images of numerous paintings I stood before in museums, going back in time and space to many cities and historic sites in Spain that I have visited, trying to remember all the scents and sounds and images which I have accumulated over many years.

Images swirled around my head like a wild roller coaster: Alhambra of Granada, Alcazaba, Cordoba, Sevilla, Madrid, Toledo, Malaga, Barcelona and everything in between.

My sweet memories: feeling of a hot summer’s morning and scents of the fish market in Malaga, simple beauty of the oldest church in Barcelona, Gaudi, more Gaudi (mind the trams!), El Greco and elonged somber-faced bodies on his paintings in Toledo, sound of my footsteps in labyrinth of streets in the Gothic Quarter of Barcelona, miles, and miles of beaches, sun, sea and wine, jamon – jamon, of course, late-night and hours-long dinners in Madrid, dancing in the streets, squinting and looking high up at noon underneath the Columbus Monument….sea again, I love sea, I can almost hear seagulls…the way my mind works!

For some reason, while I looked at those square, wood capped bottles my first association was dire of Gibraltar through which I have sailed. Pillars of Hercules.

That was quite a memorable experience! We were on a cruiser which sailed through Gibraltar at midnight, on our way to Morocco and I remember standing at the deck, cold wind and salty air striking my face while I looked up at those dark, almost threatening edges of two continents, so incredibly close and yet so dividing. A magical place where Africa and Europe almost touch…and did you know that the vertical lines on the Dollar sign, (the US dollar has origins from the Spanish Dollar) represent the Pillars of Hercules?

That “Spain“ memory chip in my head went wild.

Three perfumes, equaling Spain? Impossible! I alone could think of a thousand different ones!

I have been sniffing around Carner Barcelona for quite some time. They won numerous awards because of their dedication to producing high-quality lifestyle perfumes.

Their scents are manufactured in Barcelona by artisans and some of the most notable perfumers, they support local artisans, even their bottles are made from locally sourced wood. The famous culture of Spanish workmanship at it’s best. No wonder that soon after their launch in 2010. Carner became a cult niche perfume house. Nice.

Presentation is featuring minimalist design, fine craftsmanship and perfumes are meant to make a connection between scents and emotions. Emotions and olfactory memories.

Sarah Carner:”It’s not only about creating scents but also about evoking memories, sharing experiences and transmitting emotions.”

I am especially fond of the „Black Collection“, Black Calamus being my favorite.

Broody, dark, resinous, sensual and labdanum woody. I still have some of it left. Sandor 70’s – leathery, tobacco, mossy black. Rose&Dragon – what a story! What a dark, demanding, ferocious wild rose! One more thing: there is a base note present in all three of these perfumes: frankincense.

I am talking about the Black Collection because it was a bit different from the previous perfumes, mostly fine woody gourmands.

Are the Orientals a new chapter in this new direction?

This is Spain. Three different facets of Spain. Symbolic, just as you can see them in Gaudi’s work if you visit Park Guell in Barcelona…if you look carefully.

Megalium – The Roman Heritage of Spain

“Megalium, an ancient fragrance passed down through the ages, from a time when rose water flowed from fountains and balsams perfumed the lavish private lives of the Romans from their bathing rituals to their chambers and boudoirs.„

The perfume was used in ancient societies to bring believers closer to gods or to cure the body and spirit. Theophrastus, Greek philosopher and the father of botany (he wrote “On Sense Perception“ – about fragrances), was the first known writer to record Megalium – a sweet-smelling mixture that was considered capable of relieving the inflammation caused by any wound. That was a very important mixture at those times! Of course, Greeks inherited this mixture from Egyptians, only to pass this remedy on to Romans.

It is recorded that Megalium contained resin and oil of Balanos (oil that was used in ancient Egypt as a base for perfumes!), cinnamon and myrrh. This is certainly a more elaborate, modern Megalium! Yes, times are a-changing, but even today you can see remains of rich Roman influence in Spain and this perfume shows just how past and present mingle. I tested it to soothe my soul.

A spicy oriental it is, quite gentle. If you are expecting a screaming, loud oriental, this is not it.
Here we go again with calamus (remember Black Calamus?) but it is much sweeter, brighter, mandarin coated and thus much fresher in the opening.

Cinnamon is soft and light, not overwhelming. Half an hour later, a few rose petals are floating gently, brightened with berries, and covered with nutmeg dust.

When spices fade a bit, frankincense and myrrh dance with them and start to lead in a slow and relaxed pace, not being “dark“ at all.

Longevity is very good, sillage not extreme (I took 2 spritzes each time I tested it on my skin-it remains “at arm’s length” which is perfectly acceptable) and I feel that its heart gives it personality. Wearable.

As I tested it, I recalled images of the subterranean maze 16 feet below the ground in the Gothic Quarter of Barcelona, the streets of the ancient city modern Barcelona is built on, literally. You can visit the Roman Ruins located in Placa del Rei – Museu d’Historia de Barcelona (MUHBA). It’s a great place to take a break from busy streets above and harsh sunshine during Summer.

Top notes: Royal cinnamon essence from Laos, Cinnamon tree leaves from Sri Lanka, Mandarin integral extract, Calamus essence India
Heart notes: Nutmeg essence from Moluccas, Indonesian Pimento Berry essence, Indian White pepper absolute, Bulgarian rose extract
Base notes: Olibanum extract Somalia, Ethiopian Myrrh extract, Yemeni Opoponax extract, Styrax resin

 

Ambar del Sur – The al-Andalus heritage of Spain

„Reminiscent of a time when royalty perfumed their hair with exquisite musks, the scent of amber wafted in the air, and enchanted patios bloomed with florals and romance. Ambar del Sur is an aromatic tribute to the al-Andalus of the past.„

The scent of Moorish Iberia… The scent of more than 700 years of al-Andalus…Yes, there were constant conflicts and blood was shed but there was also a period considered to be a Golden Age when trading and science flourished and the scent of imported spices and musks filled the air inside hammams and castles built.

I wore it for days, even managed to find my Damascene earrings bought in Toledo.

Funny, this perfume did not take me to Alhambra or Cordoba as expected, no, Toledo was the first place that came to my mind.

This perfume also reminds me of the art of damasquinado – steel decorated with threads of gold and silver, an ancient craft passed from generation to generation, coming from Damascus at the times of al-Andalus…

I wouldn’t call Damascene jewelry “pretty“. It is not “pretty“, it is different, cold and bright, steel and gold, quite unusual. It is a work of artistic craftsmanship, developed through centuries. It is a statement.

So is this perfume: rich and shiny but somehow bold. Again, if you expect a loud, blunt oriental, this is not it. It does open with bright Bergamote, shining like the flash of gold on Damascene jewelry, the first thing you notice. Then you begin to see shapes, birds, flowers and petals, dainty details, a playful jasmine note.

As time passes, the black steel surface behind all that glitter is more and more visible: its heart starts beating strong, stronger by minutes turning it into a true oriental, almost hedonistic.

Amber from the South. Ambergris…This is what this whole introduction was about…I did spray some on my hair and it woke me up in the morning.

The amber, sandalwood, vanilla wear all the way through the dry down, a very creamy tonka smooth one. Sensual.

I think this could be my favorite in the line, but please do not forget that I do tend to wear perfumes that many would consider more “masculine“ than others.

Top notes: Italian Bergamote
Heart notes: Water jasmine, Indonesian patchouli, Australian sandalwood, Accord amber
Base notes: Myrrh, Spanish citrus, Venezuelan tonka bean, Madagascan vanilla absolute

Botafumeiro – the Catholic heritage of Spain

“Botafumeiro: rings of biblical times when pilgrims traveled on foot along the pastoral Camino de Santiago in route to the tomb of St. James resting below the historic stones of the Cathedral. Swinging to great heights along the church, the Botafumeiro censer expels billows of scented smoke filling the air with a heavenly aroma.”

Do you know what the Botafumeiro is? Literally – a smoke expeller in Galician. The one and only, a huge censer in Santiago de Compostela Cathedral!

It has been used since the Middle Ages, to clean the air when many pilgrims arrived, after walking the route for months, after a long journey, tired and – unwashed.

It was believed that this ritual could stop the plague from spreading… and there is an element of silent prayer present as well. Scented prayer.

I can only imagine how spectacular it is to watch the Botafumeiro in full swing! All that frankincense surely affects everyone attending!

I have never been to Santiago de Compostela, nor walked El Camino, but I do know how censer works and how frankincense from a censer or burnt at home smells.

My late grandmother used to burn frankincense at her home, that is one of my earliest olfactory memories of her. I don’t exactly recall when or why, but I do remember chunks of nice smelling yellowish resin material. Where and how she obtained it, I do not know. I only know there was always some in her house. Did she use it to honor saints on their day to achieve a spiritual connection or to chase away evil spirits, I will never know.

I have read somewhere that it helps focus the mind and overcome stress and despair, so all this might have had something to do with it.

It isn’t that simple and this perfume is definitely not only about frankincense, but it is also more than that. Again, this perfume does not shout. It sings divinely and it immediately reminded me of vocal music of Middle Ages, choral songs, chants. It starts out with a scent of flowers from the altar, warm and heavy. That turns swiftly into a sweeter tone with a soft layer of spices – nutmeg is subtle but remarkable.

From somewhere deeper Muguet accord emerges but it is tamed, rather clean and sharp.

Sandalwood and incense warm things up. Styrax adds a dash of smoky, dry with a fine bitter incense facet. It is definitely adding a twist from an antique to a modern feeling, making it quite multifaceted, meditative and spiritual in almost a New Age way.

Botafumeiro is very wearable. I wore it all day long and it felt very comfortable as my scent of the day.

On my skin, it is long-lasting, with moderate sillage. I did spray only twice in the morning and didn’t mind reapplying every five hours, even though it stayed close to my skin.

Top notes: Italian Bergamote, Pink peppercorn, Indonesian Nutmeg
Heart notes: Freesia accord, Muguet accord, Spanish cistus, Indonesian patchouli
Base notes: Styrax resin from Honduras, Mystikal‬, Musks

These fine perfumes are available as 100 and 50 ml Eau de Parfums, and the prices range from 95 EUR (50ml) to 145 EUR (100ml) at the official Carner Barcelona site.

I hope you will enjoy them as much as I do. As I will enjoy Barcelona, soon…

The Plum Girl

Photos: The Plum Girl, Carner Barcelona catalog
Samples supplied by Carner Barcelona
Disclaimer

Do you remember your first „grown-up“ kiss?

I do. Not the kiss itself but the very moment when I wanted it to happen, desired to be kissed right there and then and the twinkle in the eyes of the man standing in front of me. Whiskey on his lips.

One perfume is the reason why I remembered this split of a second moment from the past, it brought it back crisp and clear, dug it out of my memory lane, shaking off all those dusty layers of many years gone by.

Bois Sikar.

Atelier des Ors did it again. Incorporating desire and passion of its creators and skills of French Haute Parfumerie, one new perfume was added to the „Black“ collection – Bois Sikar. “Bois” I guess I do not need to translate and „sikar“ is the Mayan word for smoking (to smoke rolled tobacco leaves), one that the word cigar was derived from. Of course, only now can we talk about their „Black“ collection since the new, „White“ collection is revealed, but I am still being very selfish about it: I just want to enjoy the „White Collection“ on my own and test it thoroughly on my skin before writing about it. This makes four new perfumes in 2018. by Atelier des Ors and oh! They are all amazing!

Atelier des Ors is present on the market since 2015. Being a relatively new French niche house, in my opinion, they are doing a great job and I must say that I fell in love with their perfumes instantly. On first testing. Jean-Phillipe Clermont, founder and artistic director and perfumer Marie Salamagne shows consistency in creating perfumes with refined aesthetics, using quality ingredients, smoothly blended and with amazing bouquets. Those bottles! Art-Deco, ray-of-sunshine, 24-K gold flakes infused, my preciousssss. I am not the one to be overly impressed with abundant bottle design and packaging, but I do appreciate it when the presentation level is high and authentic, complimenting the „juice“ in the best possible way. Bois Sikar was simply meant to happen, sooner or later: in case you didn’t know, Jean-Phillipe did come to the perfume industry from the tobacco business!

When I visited the Atelier des Ors team during Esxence 2018. in Milano, our scheduled meeting took place in Hotel Principe Savoia: I entered into a room full of bloggers, buyers coming by, quite a little crowd gathered and Megan Paki did a great job of tending to everyone. This was the premiere of four new perfumes, after all! Jean-Phillipe told us the story about Bois Sikar and a bottle circled around. Not a bottle of perfume, mind you. A bottle of whiskey. Not just any whiskey, either: it was Lagavulin Single Malt, 16 years old, iconic Islay whiskey featuring massively peaty, smoky flavors, lingering sweetness, wood notes and smoke on the finish. An adult kiss.

I do not drink whiskey, I said. Never did. But, in order to pair this perfume with this drink, to make a sensory match – I did take a sip (things I am willing to do to test a perfume, huh!).

Ok, I thought, this makes sense, took some notes and photos but my attention swirled to three shiny new, white bottles. I devoted all the remaining time to the new beauties from The White Collection (I will write a separate review later on), testing, discussing them, getting to know them better.

Maybe it was just too much to process at once, maybe I was not focused enough, maybe I should have tested it only on my skin, not on paper…or maybe everything is just as it is supposed to be. Maybe I just needed more time.

When I returned home and sorted out all the perfumes I brought back, there was just too much to think about. I did not expect Bois Sikar to haunt me at night, in my dreams. The only perfume I didn’t bring back home. There was something about it, strangely familiar and well known, something that I couldn’t stop thinking about, something I had forgotten about. I would wake up in the middle of the night and feel it’s scent deep in my nasal passages, hitting that exact spot of special olfactory neurons, even with no perfume molecules present!

This perfume was haunting me day after day (night after night) and I just couldn’t figure out why! A couple of weeks later, one night when I woke up feeling scent trails of Bois Sikar in my nose, I suddenly remembered.

„I do not drink whiskey.“ That exact sentence I did pronounce once before, many years ago. Now I could remember all the details of that exact moment, the press room I was in, shadows of other people moving around me, scent trails, colors, what I was wearing, my haircut and the most important thing: to whom I said this and where it leads.

I was a 19-year old girl standing in a big conference room and after an important press conference was finished, waiters circled around and offered glasses filled with fine whiskey (never on the rocks, mind you…).

Everybody around me took a glass and so did I, just in order to be able to salute briefly. I simply touched the rim of the glass with my lips, pretending to take a sip. While making small talk, I did notice a man approaching my group from the other side of the room. Bright blue eyes were smiling at me, and I remember his exact words. After saying hello to the whole group, he turned to me and said: „They didn’t offer me a drink.“ and he smiled. I told him that he can have my glass, I do not drink whiskey anyway.

He took the glass from my hands, fingers touching. I remember he looked straight into my eyes while he took a sip, placing his lips exactly on the place where my lipstick left marks at the rim of the glass.

I remember the scent of whiskey on his lips, smell of cigars men smoked around us, the soft red carpet I was standing on, those blue eyes and a big smile and just one thought, an instant desire: I want to be kissed by him, right here and right now! The rush of desire. When a volcano meets a tornado kind of feeling. We were young…

Cheesy or not, what matters is that without Bois Sikar I might have never recalled this moment in my life. I don’t know where this perfume might take you, but let’s see what could trigger your memories or emotions:


Bois Sikar, as its name is trying to portrait, is a fine crafted wooden cigar box or an old whiskey oak barrel and when you open it’s lid the first thing you feel is spices.

Nutmeg and coriander scent trail floats gently to your nose and you do feel smoke, but it is somehow distant at the beginning.

Later on, the smoke gets heavier, denser, it feels thicker and somehow sweeter. Tar thick. Not overly black though, or better said, a different shade of black: the peaty character of whiskey surfaces, melting the woodiness in a quite refined way. Styrax does it’s part definitely, providing warm woody undertones, more leather-like, carefully balanced and beautifully executed.

Projection and sillage are noticeable. I would say that it leans more to be on the masculine side, but since I never cared about this distinction, I would say that it needs attitude and poise: captivating, worldly and mysterious, male or female. It does exude certain sex appeal.

Careless, confident, refined, strong and tan – the balance of being straight edge and a bit crazy.

I, who never drink whiskey, fell in love with this perfume. Utterly and irrevocably. With the power of the first adult kiss. I am long not a 19-year old, the city and the press conference room where this happened were destroyed and bombed to the ground during the war, this sweet memory was lost, yet this perfume managed to bring all these things back to life in a form of a vivid memory.

They say that it’s not so important who do you kiss the first time in your life. It is important who do you kiss last and this perfume…well, it’s a kiss I just can’t forget! (forgive me, my dear Larmes du Desert…)

I hope you will enjoy it as much as I do and I wonder where will it take you…Do let me know!

Notes:
Top: Nutmeg, Precious woods
Heart: Guaiac wood, Styrax, Cedar Leaf
Base: Tobacco absolute, Cedar from Java
Bois Sikar is priced for 225 EUR for 100 ml Eau de Parfum bottle.

The Plum Girl
Photos: The Plum Girl and official photos by Atelier des Ors
Special thanks to Mr. Clairmont and dear Megan Paki.
Disclaimer

Le Jardin Retrouve, a small, family owned artisan perfume company is dear to me. I am, let this be clear, a friend and a supporter, not only because Clara and Michael are ever so sweet and gentle people, but because the perfumes they produce are niche in every sense, of the finest French provenience, they have a rich and exceptional history and high quality standards. I did write about Le Jardin Retrouve earlier, check my post here and here – the review for „Cuir de Russie“ which was nominated in TOP 5 for The Fragrance Foundation Award 2018. – Editorial Excellence Online.

„The Third Way“

This time I will not write as much about Yuri Gutsatz, the founder of Le Jardin Retrouve and a perfumer par excellence. If you visit Le Jardin Retrouve’s shop in Paris (very close to the Arc de Triomphe), you will be shown a small exhibition of artifacts belonging to Yuri, old magazines with articles debating the art and craft of perfumery and fine perfumes that Yuri wrote, the lab where perfumes are prepared, some precious raw materials kept and, of course, current perfume line displayed. Yuri Gutsatz claimed a long time ago that, today’s so-called niche or artisan perfumery, is – „The third way“…and the only way for him.

When I took one of the old magazines and started to read an article written by Yuri Gutsatz„Disharmony in Perfumery“, discussing novel odorant materials at the time, the benefits that organic chemistry provides, very philosophically approaching the subject of „harmony“ and „disharmony“ in perfumery…and another article „Le Parfumeur et son art“, I told Clara that I really think that these articles should be reprinted, translated if necessary, as valuable thoughts and insights, coming from a respected insider, feeling that this man left an amazing, yet undisclosed heritage that the World should learn from. Little did I know then what surprise will follow!

A Hidden Treasure Box

Of course, not all the materials left by Yuri could be exhibited at the showroom, so the family had many boxes taken away and safely stored in a warehouse. One day, when they decided to explore further and see what is it that they have stored and is it worth keeping, they were not prepared for what was about to happen. As they were going through crates and boxes, they were not aware of what treasure was hidden there! They have found a box, never opened before. In it were notebooks, handwritten by Yuri Gutsatz. Hundreds and hundreds of perfume formulas! To be more precise, over 2000 formulas he had recorded! A hidden treasure box!

#perfumerevivalproject

They decided to continue with the revival of Yuri’s formulas but to limit the number in order to make the production possible for a small niche perfume house. Of course, old formulas needed to be tested first in their original concept, adjusted due to current regulations, reformulated even: this is why they decided to entrust Maxence Mutt, a young Givaudan perfumer and their in-house perfumer to go through 100 formulas, select 15 and then enable the whole team to pick out 4 old/new perfume formulas. Mind you that these formulas were created in a big-time span, from 1935. – 2005.!

On March 22nd, 2018. the final revelation took place: Le Jardin Retrouve decided to include their fans, buyers, bloggers and online community to test, choose and vote which fragrance shall be revived (first…I hope others will follow soon). 500 people from all over the world are to register and vote, and the winning fragrance is to be released in October 2018!

On April 13th four samples, marked only with 4 different colors, were shipped worldwide and the sampling fun began!

Samples were marked Black, Red, Green, and Yellow, named Mystery Fragrances, with no notes listed. Only later on, hints were given:

#1/4 = Year of inspiration: 1954. Date of creation: 1967. A reinterpretation of „fougere“, opens with warm notes of tobacco, a counterpoint of lavender, vetiver with powerful and woody scent brings the richness to this perfume.
#2/4= Date of creation: 1963. An opulent oriental, written in chiaroscuro. The start is bright and lively with slightly green bergamot. A floral heart expresses a beautiful Bulgarian rose and a hint of vanilla. A mystery touch is introduced with oakmoss…
#3/4 = Date of creation: 1973. A modern interpretation of the gentian, build around aromatic notes like thyme, carrot seeds, and tagetes, some sweetness of ambrette is added, bringing warmth. The scent rests on a bed of soothing white musk.
#4/4 = Date of creation: 1981. A solar fragrance – notes of white flowers built around jasmine from India, ylang-ylang from Madagascar and orange blossom from Marrocco. A luminous scent, reminiscent of summer days and Morrocan gardens.

What did I do? I took a free weekend to crack the code and decide upon which one to vote for! I must say that I focused so much on spotting all the notes in perfume samples and matching the descriptions with colors, that I did not have time to think much about stories they whisper or places that they take me to…But they certainly will. Four samples marked black, red, green and yellow and me. Here we go…


My notes and thoughts:


#4/4 = Yellow

Fresh. Lily-of –the-Valley? White flowers. A Spring scent on my first sniff. Bubbly, starts out crisp, subdues after approximately 20 minutes into a much sweeter flow, revealing a heart of jasmine. Orange blossoms protrude randomly, smelling like an orange tree in full bloom in May. Traces of sage appear, subtle and warm. Suitable for sunny, Spring and Summer days, but also a very fresh and clean “office frag”. The first image that popped in my mind? Corsica. I will call it „Monks Garden“ – after one of the gardens of the Couvent Saint Francois, near Oletta, Corsica.

#3/4 = Green
(Note: the color of perfume is very light. The lightest. So, I thought: green dot, this must be #3/4…)
Thyme it is! At the very first sniff! Bright, optimistic, uplifting. It made me focus better, cleared my thoughts. Green it is! After a while, it shifts and becomes warmer. Ambrette kicking in? Possibly, but it is almost gourmand, silky…something like Acqua Allegoria Gentian (and I do hate to compare perfumes to one another!), but not so feminine…at least, not on me…It is bright, it is light, it is vivid but only an hour later it becomes darker, muskier, yet very herbal. White musk perhaps…I would wear it all year round. Enjoy it with an Aperol Spritz, for instance! What does it remind me of? It is “clean”, “green”, “precise” and “eco friendly”…I will call it „Swiss Kiss“ as one of the most famous Gentiana gardens is located in Switzerland, in the village of Leysin…I love this one! Very youthful!

#2/4 = Black
(Note: the color of perfume is darker than the others…possibly – the “Oriental”…)
No doubt about it! I didn’t need to finish the second spritz, I knew: this is the “Oriental”!
Lemon fresh, bergamot infused, almost cocktail like sparkly opening, but even in the start, it is loaded with whiffs of gentle vanilla sweetness, until it becomes darker, like somebody pulled the curtains on the window and closed them…Shades and shadows playing on a sunny day, obscured by heavy curtains, a vase full of blood-red roses is on the table in the middle of this room, scents of oakmoss? -or is it musk present as well? – rising and starting to lead…this is not just another oriental, by no means: I like the unexpected twists and turns of clove, I guess. Very sleek, smooth, sensual, in the drydown quite sexy, with unexpected freshness bursts. Long-lasting. I will name it: for me, this is “Ahaggar”. Named after Ahaggar Mountains, a highland region in the central Sahara, southern Algeria…

#1/4 = Red
Warm, smokey, woody. Like an old, ancient mountain…Fine play of notes, retro in a most fascinating way, a fireplace scent. Like eating dark chocolate with orange peels, drinking coffee and having a glass of fine red wine by the fireplace…Tobacco? Yesss, like dry tobacco leaves, Virginia. The sort my great grandmother farmed and dried…Lavender is present, but in such an unobtrusive way, simply underlining the main accords and giving a dose of freshness to those dark brown tones. The most „masculine one“? I am not sure. I enjoy wearing it, maybe because of vetiver, I feel, enhancing this composition later on. Like a warm Indian Summer wind, somewhere in the open…Elegant, timeless, refined, addictive. Suitable for cold Autumn or Winter days, hot Summer nights, formal occasions or just whenever you need to feel a warm, reassuring hug of your fine perfume…I will call it „Pushkin’s Duel“ and will not explain why 😀

And my vote goes to….

Since I must choose one, I had to think about them and wear them for a couple of days. If I think about making my choice as a declared so-called „Oriental“- lover, there is no doubt. Black it is. And current Le Jardin Retrouve’s collection certainly lacks an oriental one.

On the second thought, if I think about this matter as a perfume advisor of a perfume house, my choice is – the Red one. A fougere. Because it is all about an idea, because it is unisex (some may argue that a fougere is meant to be more of a masculine scent, but the original, first fougere was – in fact – feminine…) and because it is the traditional theme, very much central in any fragrance wheel. You’ve got to have at least one fougere in your collection! You can pair it with a T-shirt or a black-tie, an evening dress or flip-flops: it is not just a perfume. It is a mood, a feeling and a sense of silence. Classy yet comfortable. Like a warm hug. It makes me feel relaxed, confident and beloved. A bit crazy, if I may say so, in terms of being very self-assured. In these times we live in, a warm hug is something we need on a daily basis…

If vote I must, here it goes:
1. Red Dot Perfume
2. Black Dot Perfume
3. Green Dot Perfume
4. Yellow Dot Perfume.

This is just my personal choice order, but again, if I think about marketing these perfumes, the order of release would be: Red – Green – Black – Yellow.

Go, RED, go!

Update! 01.12.2018.

The Black Dot won. Yet, the Red Dot was produced as well. Finally, here it is: Bois Tabac Virginia – Limited Edition, signed and numbered:



The Plum Girl
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