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. Here’s my report on their Perfume Revival Project, and 4 fragrances.
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!
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 richness to this perfume.
–#2/4= Date of creation: 1963. An opulent oriental, written in chiaroscuro. The start is bright and lively with a 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 the 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!
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
Photos: The Plum Girl