As so many things are in the jargon of perfume “independent perfume” is an inexact phrase. There is a baseline agreement, that is probably shared by most who view that, as fragrance that does not want to be influenced by the mainstream. To a deeper degree I think it also must indicate a specific mindset. You can be “independent” because you refuse to go with the flow. What I think is the best practitioners are those who lead with their heart before the head ever becomes involved. At its best is when that passion is shared by congruent visions as has been the case with creative director Carlos Huber and perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux. They have produced 19 of the 22 releases for Sr. Huber’s brand Arquiste since the first collection in 2011. These perfumes have always been about their shared heritage along with a unique perspective; their latest is Arquiste Misfit.
I have known both men for almost ten years now. I have mentioned this in previous reviews, but I will repeat it again. When I first moved to the Washington DC area Srs. Huber and Flores-Roux were invited by the Mexican Embassy to make a presentation of the new, at the time, Arquiste perfume collection. To see these sons of Mexico in the presence of the dignitaries that were there that night was a joy to behold. Their smiles showed their pride. In these early days of the brand I remember one quote from that night every time I receive a new Arquiste, “I like to put a little bit of Mexico in every perfume I make.” It has served them well.
Misfit has as its brief the typical historical timeframe of September 1877 in Marseille, France. Sr. Huber chose this date because it was after the exotic patchouli-scented Kashmiri shawls had fallen out of favor with the well-to-do. At this time they had fallen to the shoulders of the misfits; the bohemians and prostitutes. The scent of patchouli would become associated with those. Ninety-ish years later it would also find its way to the bohemian misfits of the 1960’s as patchouli would become the scent of the flower children. Patchouli would continue to have poor public relations for many years with many mainstream perfumes shying away from using a lot of it for fear of being seen as a “head shop” fragrance.
As we turned the corner into a new century patchouli became rehabilitated through science and creativity. The first came about as the chemists at the large perfume oil producers began experimenting with different ways of distilling the essential oil. They would find that you could collect fractions of the whole which would give you very different scent profiles. Patchouli was one of the ingredients which benefited the most from this. Perfumers could now tune a patchouli effect to any profile they chose. The creativity came about because those who wear independent perfumes are their own kind of misfit choosing to wear what they like without following the crowd. For Misfit Srs. Huber and Flores-Roux combine three fractionated sources of patchouli to stitch together a modern Kashmiri shawl of the way patchouli smells now.
The other well-known scent of the free spirits of the late 19th century was lavender. That is where Misfit begins. It is made into a fascinating accord as Sr. Flores-Roux coats this flower in seeds. The rooty sweetness of carrot seeds primarily. The botanical musk of ambrette seeds is matched with the less musky herbal quality of angelica seed. It tilts the lavender towards a more herbal presence just in time for the first piece of patchouli to arrive. Akigalawood is a biological degradation of patchouli. What remains is a spicy woody version. As it appears in Misfit a Bulgarian rose rises to meet it. It is a modern re-telling of rose and patchouli. It gets more contemporary as two fractions of patchouli are combined in the base. Sr. Flores-Roux embraces all the problematic history of this ingredient by combining two of the earthier versions. It makes for an interesting contrast to the Akigalawood where all of that is missing. To offset the earthiness, tonka bean provides a toasted quality while tolu balsam picks up on the woody aspect of the Akigalawood which elongates it into the base. This is where Misfit transforms into a Kashmiri shawl for 2019. It has a contemporary feel without losing that earthy patchouli quality.
Misfit has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
If you’re looking for that bit of Mexico in Misfit I imagine it comes from all of the different botanical seeds in the top accord. If you wear independent perfumes you probably like living life at a different rhythm than those around you. If you are that person Arquiste Misfit is there to give you one option to be your own modern bohemian.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Arquiste.