I wrote a short overview/review of St.Clair Scents perfumes not long ago. As I continued to wear Frost, it just asked for more. When a fragrance keeps calling me, I answer. With love.
I received a sample of the new Gallivant fragrance – Tokyo months ago before it’s official launch this September. I knew that it was an addition to the line launched in 2017. when Gallivant started out with fragrances Amsterdam, Berlin, Brooklyn, Istanbul, London, and Tel Aviv.
It was the beginning of September, „Pitti time“: things were getting quite busy as I prepared to leave for Florence. I was really hoping to meet Nick Steward, the owner and brand’s creative director there.
I took a couple of quick sniffs, glanced around and noticed that there were many reviews already written, and since I try not to read any before writing a review myself, it seemed reasonable to postpone getting acquainted with Tokyo for some time after Florence. I like to wait until waves settle down, in my own time, with my own opinion.
Additionally, I believe in getting to know „people behind perfumes“ when possible: I like to think that perfumers and/or creative directors bottle small pieces of their souls in each and every artisan/indie bottle of perfume.
Gallivant. I must admit that I hear this word rarely. It’s not often used, so let’s take a look at its meaning:
-to travel, roam, or move about for pleasure.
– to visit or go to a lot of different places, enjoying yourself and not worrying about other things you should be doing. (Cambridge Dictionary)
(from:gallant (“wooing women”), originally in sense “to flirt”, broadened to mean “roaming without a plan”).
When translated to perfumes, then:
„GALLIVANT is about hidden corners. Unexpected finds. The uncelebrated. Getting off the grid. It’s about finding that new place, the next neighborhood. Favored old haunts. Chance encounters. Taking the pulse of a place and drinking in the vibe. It’s an antidote to our fast-paced lives … slow-paced, it’s about being in the moment.“
My thoughts: as if I’ve written this myself! I found my travel-philosophy soulmate!
At times, I admit, I have no speed at all when exploring, or rather – gallivanting, around cities. I like to get lost, take unnecessary breaks, take roads less traveled, daydream, forget to take photos, change my mind about where to go next: this is one of the reasons I’m not really an enjoyable organized tours participant…or sometimes, a travel companion. Which reminds me of a quote often used quote, somewhat less practiced, the one that gallivanting is all about:
“The journey, not the arrival matters.” –T.S. Eliot
While gallivanting around Florence, and trying to organize my daily visits to Pitti Fragranze, it happened that I didn’t manage to meet Nick Stewart at the Gallivant stand whenever I passed by…You can probably guess what happened: a totally unplanned meeting, in the middle of a street, during a crowded opening of a store, and my last evening at Florence.
Let me tell you more about Nick, not the things you might’ve already known. Yes, he comes from the Industry, yes, he’s been around for quite some time, and yes – he reached that stage when he wanted to do it – his way. Pretension- free way. Seven seconds after we met and exchanged a couple of sentences, I loved him. The more we spoke, the more this affection grew.
He is a well-traveled and educated gentleman, soft-spoken with a gracious smile, honest, simple in all his complexity, and walking his talk. A linguist, a traveler, lover of urban lifestyle, intelligent and stylish. He says that he often – hears smells! He is also promoting honest perfumery, simple pleasures of original and wearable perfumes, or in his own words:
„I wanted to do something clever and interesting, avoiding all the froth … focused on beautiful perfumes, honest materials. It’s about provenance and craft, simplicity and elegance. The packaging is chic and minimalist. Beautiful, but also practical – ‘travel light!’ – something pleasurable to accompany you as you go about your life.“
Gallivant follows the execution of this concept in packaging and all the other materials used, with tiny paper airplanes instead of blotters:
Karine Chevallier created Berlin, Istanbul, London, and Tel Aviv. Giorgia Navarra is the perfumer behind Amsterdam and Brooklyn (Bertrand Duchaufour‘s protegee!), and Paris-based Nicolas Bonneville (trained by Master Perfumer Francis Kurkdjian) is signing Tokyo.
We all have different olfactory impressions of cities we visit or dream about visiting. I write about my experiences in a series of blogs What’s Up In Da City: when I started to explore Gallivant perfumes, I wasn’t trying to compare what I’ve felt to the matching perfume. That would’ve been so wrong (expectations, expectations), even more so because I’ve traveled to all these cities except Tokyo. You might want to put away your old olfactory postcards and take a fresh, new, perhaps totally different view of:
What a perfect match with the weather outside: a late Autumn vibe, cloudy sky, leaves of all shades of brown falling… This time of a year is a “nesting” period for me: I tend to spend more time at home, enjoy candles, hot chocolate, soft blankets, and cuddling. I realized today that all Gallivant perfumes make me smile. Amsterdam brought this self-content, relaxed smile on my lips. Maybe it’s because of Szechuan pepper note (which I love!!!), smooth and comfortable. The floral heart is present yet unobtrusive: it resembles a bouquet made of tulips and roses in a woody-spicy vase. Amsterdam feels like I am spending a late afternoon sitting in a dark and cozy room overlooking canals, comfortably seated on a big brown, old and plush sofa, wrapped in a blanket while nibbling saffron and spice biscuits. Yet, this pepper-rose-saffron combo is elegant! It lingers above the perfectly smooth base of cedar, musk, sandalwood, and amber – heartwarming hues of inner happiness. It stays skin close, intimate, and I kept sniffing my wrist, asking for more.
When I tried to recall my first trip to Berlin years ago, what immediately came to my mind was Bowie’s The Berlin Trilogy, especially the song Heroes. I remember images and sounds of Berlin as it was then when the Wall was still standing. I always thought it was gloomy back then.
I remember also my later visits and the wind of change, even before it became the capital city (again). I also see fresh images of Berlin today: it is lively, vibrant, cosmopolitan, yet somehow very relaxed.
Monuments, huge roundabouts, ruins still standing as a reminder, typical socialist architecture of square concrete apartment buildings, lovely houses on surrounding woody hills, wide avenues, parks, and a multicultural vibe …this is what this fragrance is all about!
Again we face a well-blended story of citrusy freshness, spicy heart, and vetiver-cedar wood-patchouli base, yet this is not what defines it: Berlin is an optimistic and lively olfactory composition. Light and dark, fruits and spices, with the freshness of youth and dusty curtains of the past, moving and shifting in a slow, well-paced dance. Relaxed, just like I was when we were gallivanting in Berlin!
Brooklyn is… wow-tsss-ommmm!
That sparkly flash of citruses! I haven’t smelled so breathtaking freshly squeezed lemons and oranges – addictive! – in a long time! Alas, this sparkling, energetic vibe with a feeling of walking down a busy street on a workday -doesn’t last long. I wish it could. So energizing! Yet, the way it changes makes a fine contrast: softer musks and raisins add a comforting vibe. Like a work-day morning, breakfast and a coffee-to-go, bright skies and optimistic looking people.
Me happy. It moves, it shifts, it is so…urban in a funky, fast way.
Apart from the wow!bam! opening, it remained skin close, with moderate silage on my skin. Maybe I should’ve sprayed more: all I had was a small sample…
Maybe it will perform better during Spring or Summer, but those citruses shook me up and woke me up on a cloudy cold winter day, so hello Brooklyn, I’m still running around, thank you very much!
Notes: Lemon and orange juice, magnolia and transparent flowers, musks.
What a beautiful, fragrant hommage to this amazing city! Also, fully cold weather-appropriate perfume- a very fine blend of spiciness and sweetness. Sugar, spice, and something nice: a bit of smokey incense, too. It is neither gourmand nor floriental, yet it has elements of both, flirting with fougere as well. Placing it in one specific drawer is pointless, just as trying to explain all the different facets of Istanbul, the city.
It contains fresh air breezing in from Bosphorus, smell of freshly brewed Turkish coffee served with sugar cubes and Turkish delight, mouthwatering scent of fresh halva cut into thin slices, feeling of sitting down on big silk pillows in front of a sofra filled with small dishes, in a cozy, dark room where traces of incense lingering in the air, scents of spices whirling around me, and a silky lavender feeling of times long gone.
I see deep green, rich orange, velvety purple, ruby red, gold, and dark brown leather ‘n’ myrrh tones, warm yellow-amber – modern yet tradition influenced opulence only Istanbul can offer on a big silver platter.
Fragile violets, rosebuds, a soft, new black leather jacket. Feels like sitting carelessly on a red brick wall, surrounded by lush greenery and flower bushes, waiting for a bus to take you to London center on a sunny and rainy at the same time Spring day. Suburban London for me. A hint of orris provides just enough feathery softness. It smoothes the edges of that funny and playful cucumber accord, which rises every now and then. The rose I felt is…an English rose, a rosebud covered with traces of morning dew, not opulent or seducing – it is naive and playful.
Intriguing, well-crafted, optimistic: London is definitely a fragrance that makes me feel energetic, youthful and optimistic. What surprised me the most is this wonderful leathery feeling in the dry-down, crisply elegant, not old nor dusty leather. It reminded me of my neatly polished Dr.Martens boots, light Spring rain in the morning, and a bright and cheerful beginning of a new day.
My memory of Tel Aviv is of newly built skyscrapers, concrete, glass, Mediterranean beaches, palm trees, street cafeterias with Bouganvillea tree branches in full purple bloom hanging from above, huge ripe pomegranates, sea, sand, and suntan lotion with a hint of dry desert wind blowing downhill from the surrounding mountains.
This perfume portraits a different side of Tel Aviv: here we also have a citrusy opening with bergamot and oranges. Not as fizzy and sparkling fresh as in Brooklyn – these citruses are sun-kissed, warm and ripe, surrounded by big clouds of jasmine/freesia.
Very floral, like walking through a garden above a beach, going to an after beach party, drinking cocktails, laughing. At some moments it felt like a ripe watermelon broke open and cut into sweet-smelling cubes.
Maybe a bit too sweetish-and-flowery on my skin, but if you like that kind of freesia with jasmine synths, greenish and jolting – go for it. This is just not my cup of tea…
Notes : Clementine, jasmine sambac absolute, musks and deer’s tongue absolute
Well…well! I’m certain that Tokyo will have many fans, it seems like this is going to be a bestseller! Or, most widely accepted one, for sure. It is certainly, like all Galivant perfumes, well blended, not killing itself with overcomplicated structures and screaming notes…
Beautiful in its simplicity, contemplative, yet optimistic. I loved it from the first sniff and kept closing my eyes while wearing it for the first few times. Images rushed in my brain, of a place I’ve never visited: back streets of a big city, calm and breathing softly, like watercolor paintings with soft hues of emerald green, sepia, orange, bright yellow and grayish-blue. I feel moist dew on my skin on a foggy morning. It is fresh and smells green, fruity green. A glass of yuzu is on the kitchen table, traces of black pepper and a couple of rose petals that fell off. A nose tingling wasabi scent is present, very interesting and finely placed. And smoke, delicious smoke, some wonderful, soft, gentle incense is swirling around. Quite contemplative, but again: never too demanding, never too loud. There are traces of well-groomed shrubbery and wet asphalt outside and elements of the inner beauty of your simple-and-so-convenient-and-cozy lodging, somewhere in the big city of Tokyo…
Notes: Yuzu, cardamom, hinoki, incense, sandalwood, and vetiver.
Gallivant fragrances are available from the Gallivant website: 30ml Eau de Parfum – 65 GBP, 2 ml samples – 4,50 GBP, Discovery Set (4x2ml) – 18 GBP.
Just the right size, too: 30 ml bottles are a blessing! I hope you’ll enjoy them as much as I did!
Elena Cvjetkovic, The Plum Girl
Photos by: The Plum Girl, Julia Solonina/Anjana Menon/Tom Parkes – Unsplash
Samples provided by Gallivant, opinions of my own.
“In the beginning there was earth, wood, stone, metal and leather…”
These are the primal elements according to Mr. Bertrand Sonnier, owner of this artisan perfumes company for twenty years. The work of Jardine de France began more than 100 years ago in Amboise: still manufacturing, still featuring an in-house perfumer – Justine Brivet, always giving tribute to Burgundy/Bourgogne, the heart of France – a magic place with a long and proud history.
Jardin de France is all about tradition, authenticity, craftsmanship and the quality of raw materials.
Sources d’Origine Collection features Terre Initale, a woody-aromatic-fruity tribute to Mother Earth, Bois Premier – a woody-spicy-green ode to ancient woods and primordial trees, Pierre Originelle – a woody-spicy-powdery fragrance, Metal Absolu – a woody-aldehyde-spicy perfume and Cuir Eternel – oriental-woody-leather eau de parfum.
Some months ago I received two samples of new Sources d’Origine perfumes. They did present them at ESXENCE Milano earlier this year, I remembered. The package was interesting. Simple glass vial samples. No perfume notes written, no inspirational text, no interpretations or suggestions: just fragrances and a note saying that these two will complete the collection in September 2018. I like that, that’s how I prefer to meet new perfume: in my own time, exploring it and listening to its fragrant story. Giving the perfume a chance to speak for itself.
Primal elements. When I think about primal elements, I automatically think about the ancient concept of the famous 4: earth, water, air and fire. All ancient cultures had their lists, trying to understand and explain the world surrounding them, paving way for modern science.
Another association: scenes from the Luc Besson movie “The Fifth Element”! I think we all remember the Diva/Plavalaguna song!
Which leads me to say: with perfumes, WE are the fifth element!
Air. What does air actually smell like? Air itself has no smell. Well, it does to you, regardless of what chemists say. Yes, it is odorless – odors we feel are produced by airborne particles released by things in the environment around us.
It all depends on your perception, place where you live, your surroundings and olfactory impressions. It might smell like fresh grass, wildlands, seaside, woods somewhere high up in mountains, mornings just before snow falls or moments after rainfall. You might already have your set of associations due to all the perfumes with “Air” in their name you ever smelled, too.
Fire. What does fire smell like? The fire itself has no smell, but things it burns give it smell we feel. If you try to imagine or recall the smell of fire, what will you feel? The scent of dry wood burning in the fireplace, paper vanishing in flames, rubber in clouds of smoke, autumn leaves, mrryh or tobacco: some are pleasant, some not…
Your perception. The olfactory impressions you gathered in your life. They matter.
Your skin, mood, feelings.
An olfactory impression of fire and air? You are the fifth element defining it!
Let me tell you more about these two fine perfumes: I feel that Jardin de France really should be mentioned more! Sometimes it seems to me that the same names, houses, and perfumes are constantly talked about, and some really fine perfumes almost neglected, not given enough attention.
I think Jardin de France deserves it and these were my impressions after several wearings:
Well, this will certainly make you stop thinking “fresh and light” when you see “air” in the name of perfume in the future! This air is breathing heavy, like wet earth during a storm! Thunder and lightning and that sensation when you are looking at a storm approaching, even before it starts to rain. You see dark clouds moving in, the wind rises, thunder is rumbling above your head yet it feels so good to sit beside an open window and breathe this moment in before lightning bolts scare you and heavy raindrops start hitting on the window glass. This potent rumbling of thyme with pepper notes is pleasing but what I find most enjoyable is this tuberose -ginger relationship! I will say this now: whatever. Forget the notes list and just follow your feeling! The opening felt impressive, but let me reassure you: the smooth and hugging amber dry-down will soothe your soul.
The Perfumer’s Note: “If the creation of an air-themed perfume was obvious, we wanted to take the opposite of the fresh and light air that everyone expected to create an intense and powerful “air” which astonishes and disturbs”.
Notes: Bergamot, Thyme, Pepper – Tuberose, Ginger – Patchouly, Amber
Very uplifting at the beginning, a wake me up call, quite sparkling. Later on, it becomes quieter in a very refined way, and I can’t explain why it feels like Indian Summer to me: there’s warmth and there’s coldness. Rose is felt in the air, with a surprise: you cannot see roses in your garden anymore, it’s too late in the year for that, yet that makes you enjoy even more the one you bought this morning at your local florist’s. This rose is big, pink, and just when you are placing it in a vase you can feel a small whiff of its scent. That makes you feel good as you look at it, hoping it will last for more than a couple of days.
Incense dances slowly around it, swirling in the background, a back vocal on a small and intimate stage, like a thin, silver, functional picture frame. What I feel is a deliberate play with light and shadows, bitterness and sweetness, finely blended with evidently high-quality ingredients.
The Perfumer’s Note: “Timut Pepper is used for its frank and fresh attack that perfectly illustrates the bright and sparkling element that I wanted to create. I also tried to break the codes of incense in order to get away from the sacred aspect that is often associated with it.”
Notes: Timut Pepper, Orange, Elemi- Black Tea, Rose – Incense, Cypress, Cedar of Virginia
These two new additions to Le Jardin de France’s Sources d’Origine Collection are presented at Pitti Fragranze 2018:
These two new additions will be available from October 2018. You can find their chosen retailers on Jardin de France website!
Do take a look at my Instagram account: I will report from Florence! My Pitti Report will follow as well.
The Plum Girl
Photos: The Plum Girl archive, Le Jardin de France
Samples: Provided by Le Jardin de France, opinions of my own.
I was here in Grasse two years ago and upon my arrival this August I noticed some changes.
This famous medieval town in southern Provence – the perfume capital of the world – is looking (at the first glance) same as ever, on the outside, especially in the old part of the city. Yes, Jasmine scented water is still sprayed above the streets in the old city…
Yes, this is the place of the genesis of the perfume industry, yes, the celebration of jasmine (Fete du Jasmin) still takes place at the end of the first weekend in August, yes, this closely knit community safeguards this amazing intangible cultural heritage, but there are some new things in town!
You will notice signs on all the main streets leading to city center pointing the way to the famous trio: Galimard-Fragonard-Molinard Perfumeries, and I suggest you do visit them: they have shops, museums and offer a glimpse into factories, with guided tours.
This time my stay in Grasse coincided with an event organized by Fragonard, a conference.
I also took my time to visit two relatively new boutiques on Place de La Aires square in the old town: 1000Flowers Perfumer, by Jessica Buchanan and Parfumes MMicaleff by Martine Micaleff.
Located at 4 Place aux Aires, opened just last year. Ms. Buchanan, a Canadian who grew up on seashores and in the countryside of western Canada is the owner and perfumer.
She sold her house in Canada, moved to Grasse and studied at the Grasse Institute of Perfumery (2007.).
Following the training, she did what naturally follows: apprenticeship and internship, in Robertet and Mane. Now she’s a very active member of the community in Grasse.
There are not that many small perfumers here and there are some really big names present, but she says that all involved, not only parfumeurs, feel like a big family. One that she became a part of: yes, the main players and game changers are mostly Grassoise, but once you prove your serious intentions, work hard, participate and put in some serious effort, you can become a fully recognized member of the community.
Once you’ve proven yourself as serious, they accept you.
It was really a pleasure to talk to Jessica: she found time to talk to me about her fragrances, tell me what she plans to do (regarding Narcotic Flowers perfume) and we chatted about perfumes, naturals, men, rose fields and how it is to live and work in Grasse.
Besides her perfume lines, Jessica offers personalized perfume creation and consulting services. That’s another benefit of being based in Grasse: you do have direct access to expertise and experience in all areas of production.
I was also pleasantly surprised by her project „Perfume for Purists“ – back to Mother Nature botanicals, single note extracts in a neutral base of certified organic French grain alcohol. No additives! I hope this collection will grow, too.
Her Original Collection represents earliest fragrances she created.
I must say that I was really overwhelmed by Narcotic Flowers Perfume! Inspired by tuberose fields near Grasse, launched in 2011. I felt orange blossom, jasmine, rose and oh! tuberose! swirling around in a misty, intoxicating cloud around my head! Wow!
Narcotic it is indeed! You can feel finely blended, first-grade ingredients wildly dancing in this rhapsody of a perfume! As much as I was on my knees after inhaling this tuberose miracle, I do understand that some people, not to tuberose happy, would definitely call this perfume crazy.
I say: if you don’t fancy tuberose, stay away from it and alles wird gut…:-D
Jessica told me that she will announce and present in a couple of days (which she did by now) the new, reformulated Narcotic Flowers! I think that this reformulation won’t make you shed too many tears, on the contrary. Check it out, this is what she says: “Narcotic Flowers has been reformulated, and is all about tuberose, orange blossom, and ylang-ylang. I cut all the other flowers, and added lots of freshness to the top notes, no it’s now a fresh white floral with a carnal under current. It is, after all, a tuberose fragrance!”
When Jessica asked me whether I liked Narcotic Flowers, I told her my honest opinion: yes, I love it, it is truly tuberose narcotic…but. I am not sure I would wear it. It is just too much to handle, overwhelming for me. It really needs a special feeling, mood, atmosphere… She nodded and smiled, I guess this really was the issue with this mighty perfume all along.
Another one, rather controversial as well: Reglise Noire. Now, this is licorice! And I must say again: if you don’t like licorice, well, take a sniff at this one.
This perfume is not licorice only(at least for me)! You will surely appreciate it’s complexity: I find it very addictive.
There are spices, a hint of anise, vanilla, ginger and musk. A very beautiful, warm-under-a-blanket-on-a chilly-day perfume, but I also see that it is also one of those love or hate perfumes, no compromises…Quite interesting.
The Blue Collection perfumes feature flower extracts from local French producers and each bottle contains 5% organic Damascena rose water from a small producer in Grasse. Talking about terroir, hm? Well, Jessica surely covers that requirement! The most interesting one for me is Rose Casis Paradis (2016.): lovers of rose-themed perfumes, rejoice!
There’s a story behind this perfume: it is inspired by the Line Renauld Rose. Sweet, fruity, lush rose accord coming from a very special, award-winning rose – developed in Provence and named after the French singer and actress. Oh, sweet blackcurrant, pear, mango, and raspberry! This is Summer in a small bottle!
Thank you Jessica! I think that your creativity, dedication and grit will make a difference: Grasse is really lucky to have you!
PARFUMS M MICALLEF /MAISON MICALLEF
Founded in Grasse in 2006., quite successful. Very high-end luxury, uniting passions: Geoffrey Nejman (finance and banking), Jean Clause Astier (the Nose) and Martine Micallef (Artist).
The perfumes? Liquid luxury. Placed in beautifully decorated bottles, featuring old techniques and methods – are amazing.
Well, if you visit the shop in Grasse, located at Place aux Aires 14. you will see for yourself what their „Creative Desk“ looks like: customization workshop is right here!
You can create your bespoke scent and design, add initials, personal messages, engravings – right here, in the boutique.
I’m sure that most of you are already familiar with MM collections, an impressive line up of perfumes and I must say I am very impressed by Jacaranda Limited Editon (2017), featuring rose, spices and sandalwood.
Mon Parfum Pearl as well, a new 2018. flanker – Centifolia based, soft, powdery mist…My guess is that it is targeting Millennials…Yet, these perfumes have an incredible smoothness to them, like a signature style.
A difference can be felt: Jessica, an Artisan Parfumeur, is there for you (on a very short notice), passion for perfumes oozing out of her eyes. Unfortunately, I did not have a chance to meet Martina Micallef in Grasse (I did send a mail prior to arrival).
I like to meet perfumers/owners of houses in person: after all, one part of their personality is always present in perfumes they make. Next time, maybe.
Maison Micallef has approximately 900 selling points, yet they seem somehow hard to get (I think their site is the easiest way): I guess that is a part of high-end luxury branding.
I was received by most friendly, beautiful SA Karima and we did a video together – check my IGTV account! Now, that was fun!
Karima is very helpful, fast moving, quick thinking and kind SA. Karima, you are great! :-*
Parfum Baby’s Collection is really something to stop by: my son is into „serious“ perfumes now, but these! Little baby perfumes! Awwww!
One more thing: I did put on Martine Micallef’s apron (as you can see)! The very special apron, heavy leather one with gold finishing – made for her in Marroco…thank you, Martine, hope you don’t mind!
I also hope that these photos will speak more than words: this little boutique is certainly a huge plus for the whole city of Grasse.
ELENA MEETS ELLENA (CELINE AND JEAN-CLAUDE)
I planned my trip carefully and as soon as I saw announcement for the first Fragonard Conference to be held in Grasse, at la Maison Fragonard – La Fabrique des Fleurs (La Premiere Conference Olfactive: DIALOGUE ET HISTOIRE(S) DE SAVOIR-FAIRE) to be held August 7th, just one day upon my arrival in Grasse – that caught my eye.
When I saw that speakers will be Celina and Jean-Claude Ellena, together for the first time, you can just imagine how thrilled I was! I booked my place immediately!
Before the start of the Conference, all participants attended a guided tour of Fragonard factory, which was an excellent warm-up. Then we moved on to the Conference Room, fully packed.
A lecture followed: Ellenas spoke about the history of their family, the importance of know-how transmission and about changes in the perfume industry.
The conference was in French, of course, and although my spoken French is poor (French always offer me help and tell me that it’s “just fine” – but I know I could do better…), I understood every word Jean-Claude Ellena said. He speaks beautiful French and his expressions are very poetic. When he speaks, his sentences sound like music.<3
Two generations of Ellena’s. Wow. Mr. Jean-Claude Ellena is a legend, a one of a kind Master Parfumeur. I don’t need to add anything more to this, really.
His set of values is well known: olfactory minimalism (ever since he left big companies), value of creation above commercial influence (the way he speaks about „marketing people“…), the importance of staying always curious, never stopping to explore, creating art for art’s sake and nurturing your olfactive memories.
He also spoke of the importance of terroir, but he also stated clearly that the industry in Grasse should welcome not only the Grassoise: new people bring new ideas, provoke changes, everybody benefits from that.
Celine Ellena told us how it is to be a perfumer when your father is Master Parfumeur.
With a smile, she recalled that when she made up her mind to become a perfumer herself, she thought that she needed a diploma of some kind.
Her father told her: „Then go and study something, get a diploma“. And she did: in psychology and linguistics!
Upon finishing her studies, she continued on her path of becoming a perfumer: first an ISPICA diploma, then apprenticeship at Charabot and Symrise…Now she is independent, working for The Différent Company, Biotherm, and Fragonard.
In 2018. Fragonard is celebrating its signature fragrance: Verveine (Verbena), created by Celine Ellena!
That’s not all: we had a chance to watch both Ellenas show us examples of perfumery magic. Paper strips were handed out – on one, vanilla. On the second one, Isobutil Phenyl Acetate. What do you smell when you take both strips?
Chocolate! The second „experiment“ was a recreation of strawberry scent. The purpose: a practical answer to some questions (again!) about the necessity of synthetic components in perfumery…
One more thing Celine Ellena shared with us: for parfumeurs, Grasse is great. Always has been:
Everything you need is right there. People, know-how, materials… Paris? Yes, of course, Paris is important for business activities, but Grasse? Grasse IS the capital of the perfume world.
I did manage to exhange couple of words with Mr. Jean-Claude Ellena: we laughed because I said „Nice to meet you, Mr. Ellena. My name is Elena.“ He said: „And you are The Plum Girl.“ One of the rare meetings when I didn’t have to explain, he immediately knew why I named my blog The Plum Girl…
I hope I have given you enough reasons to plan your visit to Grasse. I know one thing for sure: I’ll be back! There’s so much more to see, so many people and places to visit.
The Plum Girl
Photos: The Plum Girl Private Archive
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!
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!
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