Der Duft is a new perfume brand, launched recently with two fragrances: Grasse by Anselm Skogstad, perfumer and owner of the brand, and Pride by Miguel Matos. 

Die Perfums: what matters is inside the bottle, with a minimalistic approach to packaging and presentation. Simple, clear, and straight to the point.

Simple as that: Der Duft (The Scent). Is it?

Nomen est omen (the name is a sign) –  this old Latin proverb sets the ground for nominative determinism: a hypothesis that people/or structures like brands tend to gravitate to fulfill the promise held in the name itself, thus having a determining effect. The philosophy of language can get complicated, so let’s just say that naming a brand (or a perfume)– matters, on so many levels.

It’s just that all the foreign languages training I had ever since I was a little kid popped up immediately, and the first thing I did when I heard about the new perfume brand called Der Duft is to start automatically with declinations: der Duft, des Dufts, dem Duft, den Duft, die Duefte, der Duefte, den Dueften, die Duefte. To decline immediately upon hearing a word is engraved in my brain ever since the 6th grade of primary school…obviously very deeply.

The second thing that immediately comes to my mind is semiotics, analyzing words as signs, and looking into the ideas behind the signs. It is the underlying meaning that always tickles my mind.

And the third element: etymology, or where did the word come from, and I love this part: der Duft, relating to Old Danish duft (powder), Old Norse dupt, from Proto-Germanic duftaz, which relates to Swedish doft and Middle High German tuft (fog, frozen haze), that is derived from Proto-Indo-European d’web (to be obscured), close relative to Greek tȳ́phein (τύφειν) ‘smoke, steam, smoke’, tȳ́phos (τῦφος) ‘smoke, with expansion from the root dhumah – smoke, with the same roots as Greek thymos – mind, passion, and, of course, Latin fumus.

Der Duft , as a word – originally meaning „fine evaporation“ of fragrant plants, like a „fine haze“, is a word that adopted its current meaning –  „scent“ –  only in the 17th century. Before that, it just meant – hazy. Isn’t it interesting how it all leads to good old pro fumum, and even further down the line – to passion?  Passion for perfume! See how we got here?

People also tend to prefer words, objects, and products that are simple to pronounce and understand, and if you have a generic “sign” for an entity, such as Der Duft – your mind is open for your own, rather than suggested interpretations.

This was the idea behind the brand, as Anselm told me when we chatted: a simple and clear brand name, with no elaborate stories to describe fragrances or suggestions of what you should feel, artistic freedom for perfumers involved, simple presentation, and quality of the final product.

Der Duft – simple as that:

 “I wanted to create a perfume house with a brand name that conveys a simple message and intention to anyone interested in scents. I wanted there to be no need for further explanations or complex stories. Calling my brand “Der Duft” (The Scent) is to the point. The intention is that each perfume, each scent will create their own story and association for the person wearing it. It all begins with a good sniff while understanding the name of the particular perfume!” – Anselm Skogstad

In the beginning, the idea was not to publish perfume notes at all: no formal olfactory pyramid, no olfactory “hooks” that might catch your attention, or attract you on cognitive, imaginary, or previous experience-related levels.

What Anselm, a visual artist, wants is to „unhook“ people from suggested concepts, implemented stories that are not your own, and to provide open space so that you can just SMELL  perfume and create your own visualizations, stories, memory triggers or whatever perfume awakes in you. To clear the space around you so you can FEEL the fragrance, and connect to it on your own. This idea is what defines Der Duft now, the only compromise made is that some notes are written down.

There’s no common denominator or a theme to connect fragrances in Der Duft‘s portfolio: each fragrant story is unique, a separate chapter in the brand book.

Der Duft, a new perfume brand based in Munich, Germany, launched Grasse by Anselm Skogstad (Limited Edition), and Pride by Miguel Matos in late Spring of 2020:  This is also an interesting part of the story: just when everything had closed down, and when all perfume fairs were canceled – Anselm decided to go ahead and launch the brand. I guess, when you’re ready, you’re ready and nothing can stop you, and when you have to say or share something that matters to you, you’ll find a way to do it.

I took my time to test and wear these two fragrances, and in the meantime, two more perfumes are available: Bubble/by Alexandre Illan and Monopteros/by Anselm Skogstad! One shall follow soon – Cinematic / by Miguel Matos! So, we’d better start from the beginning:

Grasse

Now, this one made me very curious. The reason is simple: I’ve been visiting Grasse every two years for quite some time now, spending my vacation there. I tend to feel quite like at home in Grasse, so I wondered for what reason did Anselm name this fragrance after the most famous city in the world of perfume.

Why Grasse? And, of course, the answer is simple: because Grasse was made IN Grasse, while Anselm was staying there and attending classes at the  Grasse Institute of Perfumery (GIP). To me, it seems so symbolic to start a perfume collection with a perfume named – Grasse!

Grasse (Der Duft) greets you in the first moments with a bitter opening with a very crisp texture resembling the scent of grated citrus-rind.  But wait. It transforms, unfolds on the skin. The underlying layers of smoothness rise gently and they gradually move in and flow over the bitter edges. The initial bitterness begins to resemble a thin frame that gradually gets filled with transparent, powdery veils bringing forward a steady stream of flowery accords.

What I immediately noticed is that the fragrance is elegantly blended, in the best tradition of what is usually referred to as the “French school perfumery” – and, like in tailoring, you can immediately recognize the touch of a well-trained seamstress.

That powdery, slightly sweet-leaning heart of the fragrance does have a retro-vibe, and when I say retro or vintage, it’s meant as a compliment: this is a graceful bouquet of flowers, with powdery yellowish-pink roses, large white magnolia flowers, and a transparent, thin film of creamy iris that feels so light and minimalistic in expression. The whole composition carries the air of classic, fine aldehydic floral perfumery – the one you might refer to as vintage, in the best possible meaning of the word.

Toward the dry-down, you can feel tender earthiness and just a dash of woodiness, which I can attribute to carefully used patchouli. The delicate sweetness is still present, but it feels light, peaceful, and elegant.

Grasse is refined in expression and a charming fragrance that’s easy to wear on an everyday basis, with moderate sillage and staying power.

Yes, the name was a trigger. It reminded me of one early morning in Grasse, France when I had some free time to sit down and just observe the empty streets of the old town: I heard radio music coming from one of the windows above me, a string quartet playing a piece of classical music.

Everything was so peaceful around me – it was too early for groups of tourists to swarm the city (strange, but I don’t feel myself being a tourist there…), the cobbled streets were washed clean and the heat of a summer day was still a couple of hours away.  I remember noticing lilac, pink and white details around me, and yes – the faint scent of jasmine-scented water that was sprayed above the streets the day before was still lingering in the air.  I was just sitting there, enjoying the moment before heading off to Grasse Museum of Perfumery, I remember that well. One moment in time. And I miss being there.

Notes (as listed by the brand): bergamot, lotus, rose, lavender, jasmine, magnolia, aldehydes, fig, patchouli, iris, and vanilla.

Pride

Der Duft Pride

When we were speaking about Pride, Miguel Matos told me that it’s one of the fragrances with the shortest brief he ever received – with just one keyword: pride. In the sense of being self-confident. Miguel explains his creative process in an article published on Fragrantica:

“In order to speak about pride, I searched inside myself and what I am proud of bringing to the table when I make perfume. I am proud of my perfume culture, coming from the past, the classics, and vintage perfumery. But I am also proud of being contemporary in the sense of innovation and fun. Of course, this is personal and can’t be valid for everyone. But I had to start somewhere, and I decided to go from personal to — hopefully — universal. I think that one of the highest forms of perfume composition and perfume families is the chypre…” – Miguel Matos 

Pride is a quite vintage-leaning composition indeed, and yes, Miguel can handle “classic” very well. Well, if you know Miguel’s work, you know there must be a twist somewhere. This time it’s very subtle, yet noticeable enough to turn Pride a frisky and modern fragrance, with a delightful chypre heart.

The first spritz releases a powerful cloud of bitter greenness that’s very mossy-soft around the edges. It’s a lovely first impression that kept my nose glued to my wrist. Again, softness is felt, but this time of a different kind: at the later stage of development, Pride is bitter-dark green with underlining earthy patchouli notes – a definite bow to vintage chypre perfumery.  It feels like dark green leaves with thick stems are hovering above musky, ambery, wet and warm earth. Nostalgic? Maybe, but in a good way.

The heart of the fragrance is filled with abstract facets that are shining like a bright crystal in these retro-style settings. And the mood changes: a good measure of mineral notes brings forward an air of coolness, sharp edges, and movement. It seems like something round, ancient, overgrown by moss and greenery, gave birth to something new, bright, and angular – this is how I visualize the difference of textures and the play of a warm/cold feeling in this fragrance.

The dry-down is lovely: as the mineral aspects calm down and become quieter and quieter,  a veil of ambery smoothness covers your skin. Very refined, and I enjoy wearing it.

Notes (as listed by the brand): bergamot, narcissus, carrot seed, Jasmine, Cashmeran, amber, sandalwood, patchouli, and moss.

All Der Duft fragrances come as EDP / 50ml/1.7fl.oz, available at their website here. Test before you buy: the Discovery Set includes Grasse, Pride, and Monopteros /2 ml each. 

Both these fragrances are easy-to-wear, quite elegant creations that you can enjoy on a daily basis. Perfectly fit for all genders and any season in a year. Keep your eye on Der Duft, and I’ll continue to follow them.

The Plum Girl

Elena Cvjetkovic

Photos: Der Duft / Anselm Skogstad, The Plum Girl

Disclaimer: Samples of Grasse and Pride were kindly provided by Der Duft. Opinions are always of my own.

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Niche Perfumes Writer * Perfume Reviews

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