As much as I enjoy many of the video perfume reviewers there is one part that escapes me. The unboxing part of the video. A lot of them spend time taking the cellophane wrapping off. Opening the box and displaying the packaging. They are popular so I feel sure I am in the minority. I was strongly reminded of this by a perfume, Nasomatto Fantomas.
Alessandro Gualtieri is the mastermind creative force behind his Nasomatto brand of perfume. He has always staked out his own section of fragrance space where few others go. Everything he has done for the brand has a madcap energy that makes for a collection of love them or hate them releases. I admire his risky approach too much to be as reductionist as that. I would say there are Nasomattos I happily wear and others that are best on a strip. One thing to be sure is they are never boring.
Fantomas based on the accompanying video on the website seems meant to be a mysterious protagonist hidden in the fog. I know enough not to expect the visual to be too informational on the scent. When I received my sample, I was surprised to find the perfume equivalent of a cellophane wrapper containing two of the most ubiquitous ingredients in perfumery.
Sig. Gualtieri does not release lists of ingredients so what follows is my best guess. It opens with a plastic accord which reminded me strongly of cellophane. One of his signatures is the ability to add texture into his accords. The reason I think of cellophane is there is a crinkliness to the way this tickles my nose. It also reminds me of those industrial smells we find kind of pleasant. This is the scent of sweet plastic behind every cellophane wrapper. Now that we have taken the covering off, what is inside Sig. Gualtieri’s box? Two ingredients, or their analogs, known to every perfume lover; Calone and Ambrox. For the Calone he accentuates the melon-like quality. It is what makes me think this might be an analog created to do this. The briny undercurrent is also here which Is why I think Calone. I have been bored to death with this ingredient but here, wrapped in sweet plastic, the syntheticness of it all is pleasant. This is reinforced through the addition of a set of synthetic woods from the Ambrox family. These provide a monolithic profile which usually unbalances things. In Fantomas they are here in force but not enough that it the only thing you smell. Once it comes together with the other two ingredients it is surprisingly good.
Fantomas has 24-hour plus longevity and way above average sillage. If you spray this on fabric be prepared to live with it for a few days.
Fantomas should be a celebration of everything that bores me about contemporary perfumery. Instead Sig. Gualtieri decided to unbox the banal to show me that isn’t always the case.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.
Most of the time when I write about perfume it is quite easy. I spend some time with a fragrance that pleases me and express that. There are infrequent times where I’m not sure if the perfume pleases me and I have a hard time expressing that. Which is where I have been with Orto Parisi Megamare.
Orto Parisi is the second line, to Nasomatto, of independent perfumer Alessandro Gualtieri. Sig. Gualtieri is one of the iconoclasts of perfumery. He enjoys challenging perfume wearers with constructs which embrace the unpleasant and synthetic. His question always seems to be, “Can you find something to appreciate within this?” I always find myself divided on many of his perfumes over this question. What is in the bottle is certainly the intent. My mission is to see if I can find something to appreciate. Megamare was one of these for me.
Sig. Gualtieri wants Megamare to be his interpretation of the aquatic genre. As I have remarked recently that style has found new life as perfumers embrace different aspects of that milieu instead of fresh salty air. It was not surprising to find Sig. Gualtieri’s version to be an embrace of the opposite. What I would describe as high noon at low tide. A pungent mixture of the detritus of the ocean cooked in the sun.
What I found very amusing was what seems to be his use of Calone in a small amount. I really only think I detect it in the first few moments. It is like him saying, “you think that is what the ocean smells like? Here is what it really smells like” as he drowns it in strong iodine-like vegetal ingredients. Growing up on the ocean I have always found this kind of accord, in a perverse way, fresh. The metallic wateriness is one of the ways I identify the smell of the ocean. This is the part of Megamare I enjoyed.
Most recently Sig. Gualtieri has a fascination for the powerful synthetic ambergris-derived woods. The second half of Megamare is a wave of those crashing over that low tide accord. Here is where I diverge from Sig. Gualtieri I like them, but they can become annoying. In Megamare he trots more than a few of them out. They overwhelm things. I’ve often wondered whether an overdose of these materials would find an unusual synergy, as the white musks do. Nope; at least in Megamare it hits me like a tsunami of blaring discordant ingredients. On the other hand if you are someone who believes quality goes with longevity this combination lasted for almost three days on my skin.
Megamare has 48 hours-plus longevity and average sillage.
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about Megamare. Does the first half outweigh the second half? Because that wall of synth woods lasts so long the answer for me is no. If you are an admirer of the synthetic woods Megamare is one you should try. Once again, I appreciated having my perceptions challenged.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Orto Parisi.
Perfume is bound up in its own rules of etiquette and manners. It is one of the things which can keep people from embracing fragrance as part of their life. One of the great pieces of the rise of independent perfumery was the addition of the creatives who had no patience or respect for these norms. If they wanted to join the party, they wanted to tip things over on their way inside. Some of them wanted to stand outside and moon everyone inside. One of those who stuck his tongue out at the perfume establishment was Alessandro Gualtieri.
Sig. Gualtieri started his own brand Nasomatto just so he could give perfume lovers his version of what perfume can be. From 2008-2014 he released a set of perfumes which lived up to his stated principle of, “I want my perfumes to have an intelligence of their own, not just be slaves to my meaning.” In multiple interviews he has spoken of how the process he uses is about losing control and allowing inspiration to pull him in directions. It has led to perfumes which have an active intelligence matching the one who is blending the ingredients.
Alessandro Gualtieri from the documentary “The Nose”
In 2014 we were told Blamage was going to be the final Nasomatto. In 2016 that turned out not to be correct. Sig. Gualtierei released Baraonda and it reminded me of what I was missing from not having the brand around; a gleeful pinch of anarchy. Now two years later we have a new bit of commotion; Nasomatto Nudiflorum.
When I saw the name, I thought it might be based on a variety of jasmine which carries the common name of “winter jasmine”. It turns out that the common name of Jasminum nudiflorum prepared me for what Nudiflorum was going to present as; an icy jasmine.
Nudiflorum opens with a set of icicle sharp chilly ingredients. Hard to be sure but I am guessing a mixture of aldehydes and ozonic notes. These are then tinted green with a galbanum-like ingredient. I kept thinking of these as fine frozen green needles when I wore Nudiflorum. The jasmine seems to be encased in the ice as it is kept at a distance. A set of musks swirl about the frozen accord. The final stages of Nudiflorum marry some smoke and leather as if they were trying to defrost the floral from its icy armor. It doesn’t ever really open the jasmine up fully, but it sure tries.
Nudiflorum has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.
Nudiflorum contains much of what makes Nasomatto a stand out even within the independent landscape. Sig. Gualtieri trusts that there are those who will enjoy following him on his journey. Nudiflorum is another opportunity to find out who is ready to join Sig. Gualtieri at blowing raspberries at the safe corporate fragrance industry. I am happy to be one who is ready to wear Nudiflorum and do just that.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.
The last time I saw perfumer Alessandro Gualtieri was at Esxence 2014. He was walking around with a battered top hat. At that exposition, he released the final scent for his line Nasomatto called Blamage with an accompanying documentary which was screened there. He also debuted the line which was taking over called Orto Parisi. As the documentary readily shows Sig. Gualtieri is a bit of a perfumed Mad Hatter. It was those trips he took me on with every subsequent Nasomatto release. They weren’t all to my taste but they always held my interest. I was sad to see the Nasomatto story come to an end with Blamage. Turns out it wasn’t the end after all as a surprise new release Nasomatto Baraonda has arrived this fall.
Alessandro Gualtieri at Esxence 2014 via Basenotes.net
If there was anything which disappointed me about Blamage was it didn’t fully go for the randomness it was seeking. Sig. Gualtieri pulled the punch a bit. It became more understandable as the Orto Parisi releases came out as they also lacked a bit of the madcap energy of the best of the Nasomatto line. I wanted the Mad Hatter of Black Afgano. Baraonda feels like Sig. Gualtieri was looking at that top hat on the shelf in his Amsterdam studio; dusted it off, placed it on his head and started to compose. What comes out of all this is a whisky soaked scream of synthetic musks and woods through a completely unique dried berries middle.
Baraonda starts with the smell of whisky most likely courtesy of whisky lactone (cis-3-Methyl-4-octanolide). To that Sig. Gualtieri adds either one of the higher octave musks or ambrette seed, the botanical version. Whichever it is it has an interesting effect of turning the whisky more scotch-like. Then the booze recedes and this dried berries accord comes to the forefront. It reminds me of the dried cranberries I make scones with. As a guess, I think this is another fruity lactone twisted with more synthetic musks. It is the most captivating part of the evolution of Baraonda for me because the berries are made so odd because of the effect Sig. Gualtieri has created. Then we get to the trademark of all Nasomatto fragrances a synthetic overload. For Baraonda it is Ambrox and probably muscone or another synthetic animalic musk. Usually that combination does not work for me I find it screechy like olfactory nails across a chalkboard. In Baraonda it does work because the whisky and berries somehow blunt the sharp edges those two ingredients produce. Which means the woody musky base accord works unusually well.
Baraonda has ridiculous longevity of 24 hours-plus. The synthetics in the base will last through a shower. The sillage is moderate for all of that.
I am very pleased to have both Nasomatto, and The Mad Hatter behind it, back; even if only for this one release. Baraonda is one of my favorites of the line because it reminds me of the first Nasomatto I tried, Absinth, as Sig. Gualtieri says to hell with the tea let’s have a drink. That’s a party I want to be part of and with Baraonda; I am.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample from Twisted Lily.
One of the interesting side effects of being a finalist judge for this year’s Art & Olfaction Awards was I was reminded of other unique perfumes of the past. It lead to me reacquainting myself with a couple of them. The first one which I had to seek out was 1997’s The People of the Labyrinths Luctor et Emergo.
My discovery of this perfume was completely due to the internet forum Basenotes. When I started lurking, too timid to want to place a word in the public record there was a spirited conversation about Luctor et Emergo going on. It revolved around how it smelled synthetic. So artificial it reminded many of those posting of the children’s clay Play-Doh. Someone posted a picture of the bottle which looked like an Erlenmeyer Flask. The chemist was reeled in. I think I swapped for a bottle from someone who found it too different for their taste. When the bottle arrived I wasn’t sure what I was going to get. But in my early days of niche discovery this was the fun about it all. That moment of seeing if something you have read about lives up, or down, to expectations.
On that day I didn’t know much about the perfumer behind Luctor et Emergo. It would be years later I learned it was Alessandro Gualtieri who is better known for his Nasomatto line. In hindsight it makes sense because Sig. Gualtieri is an aficionado of the unusual in fragrance. Even back in 1997 he was looking to expand the boundaries of what it was that could be considered a perfume.
Luctor et Emergo opens with what I have described as a cherries and almond wrapped in cellophane accord. The cherry seems like artificial flavoring. The almond is marzipan-like. Underneath it all is that smell of clean cellophane which also sometimes reminds me of artificial turf. The heart is a mixture of rarely used synthetics, at the time, to create this Play-Doh accord. It picks up on the subtle plasticky vibe from the top and doubles down on it. The cherry embeds itself in the clay. This is where Luctor et Emergo stays on my skin for hours; as if a cherry Life-Saver candy was wrapped in Play-Doh. Later on the most normal part of the fragrance comes out as a bit of incense and woods are the final phase.
Luctor et Emergo has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
I’m not sure I can confidently say that Luctor et Emergo was where I started to find an appreciation for the odd in fragrance. I definitely know it was one step along the path of the evolution of my own personal understanding of what defines perfume. If you’re looking for something to broaden your fragrance horizons check out The People of the Labyrinths Luctor et Emergo.
Disclosure: This review was based on a bottle I own.
Expectations are often unmet. That doesn’t mean disappointing but when you’re expecting Thomas Pynchon and you get Stephen King you have to recalibrate your expectations. The last perfume from perfumer Alessandro Gualtieri for his Nasomatto label is called Blamage and it definitely confounded my expectations.
These expectations came from seeing the documentary on the making of Blamage at Esxence this year. The movie chronicles Sig. Gualtieri’s attempt to allow a mistake (blamage) to guide this last Nasomatto perfume. To that end he was blindfolded with a plaster cast and lead to his organ to choose four ingredients to base Blamage on. We never see clearly which four ingredients he chooses but Sig. Gualtieri seems delighted with the difficulty. The movie is accompanied with visuals of things burning and smoking which look pungent. I left the movie looking forward to something very avant-garde. A statement on randomness leading to creativity. When I finally received my sample of Blamage it turned out to be the least avant-garde of any perfume in the entire Nasomatto line.
As I said I am not sure what the four keynotes Sig. Gualtieri took down off of his organ but if, as I was lead to believe, they were the kind of fractious notes difficult to blend with then Sig. Gualtieri chose to populate Blamage with every other note on the safer side. From a citrus and tuberose opening through a lily and magnolia heart down to a base which might have every synthetic wood ingredient known to perfume. It leads to a very easy to wear fragrance except for the overload of synthetics at the end which might not appeal to everyone.
Blamage has a bright bergamot to go with the grapefruit. The tuberose is the deeply piquant version of the bloom. The floral parade continues with gardenia, lily of the valley, and magnolia in the heart. The source of the magnolia also has a fairly prominent woody quality and it sets up the base. In the base is where Sig. Gualtieri maybe gets a little less safe as it seems like there is a cavalcade of ambrox-like molecules, synthetic sandalwoods, and iso E super. It is all present in high concentration. If you like these notes Blamage will be amazing for you as Sig. Gualtieri does a very good job of balancing them while simultaneously turning up the volume. I can pick out many of the components and that speaks to the precision used in assembling it.
Blamage has 24-36 hour longevity, those synthetic woods are some of the most tenacious materials in perfumery. It also has explosive sillage again due to the woody synthetics.
The woody synthetics in the base are some of my least favorite materials in all of perfumery and because of that the sway they hold over Blamage colors my personal view of it. I think if you like the woody synthetics, and I know there are many out there that do, Blamage is going to be a favorite. It is a niche version of an old-fashioned woody powerhouse perfume of the 1980’s. I think it is easily the most approachable of the entire Nasomatto line and it will be where I tell people to start when first exploring the line. Maybe that is the final word on making perfume via blamage it always ends up way safer than you expect.
Disclsoure: This review was based on a sample of Blamage provided by Twisted Lily.
The very last event I attended at Esxence 2014 was a screening of the documentary “The Nose-Searching for Blamage”. Director Paul Rigter followed perfumer Alessandro Gualtieri of Nasomatto around as he designed his tenth, and final, Nasomatto fragrance. Sig. Gualtieri wanted to call this last fragrance Blamage which is loosely translated as mistake. The opening of the movie shows Sig. Gualtieri talking about how some of the more famous perfumes in history were improved by adding too much or too little of an ingredient. For this last fragrance in the Nasomatto line he wanted to leave it all up to chance what he would use to create Blamage. He had his assistant blindfold him with a plaster blindfold and then walk him over to his wall of raw materials where six random ingredients were selected. These would form the core of Blamage.
After the blindfold was removed and Sig. Gualtieri saw what he had chosen he exclaims, not for the last time, “Cazzo!” The subtitle translates it as “shit” and for the rest of the film when the word is used it goes unsubtitled. What is great about the way Sig. Gualtieri uses the word is its meaning is all dependent on the tone of his voice. When he is looking at sandalwood in Delhi, India it is said with weary disgust at the cheap materials. When he is smelling one of the mods of Blamage it is said with a smile and suppressed laugh as his task at meshing these six disparate notes is proving difficult but also fun.
Throughout the almost one-hour running time we watch Sig. Gualtieri as he visits Milan for Esxence in 2012 and goes throughout the city leaving little altars of scent, as seen in the clip above. His visit to Delhi, India on a search for raw ingredients has a funny turn as he walks by a store with a knockoff of his Black Afgano. His reaction is priceless as the artist assesses the knockoff.
By the end of the year Mr. Rigter had to stop filming before the final version of Blamage was finished. At Esxence 2014 the bottle was on display and at the movie showing a bottle was given away to a lucky attendee who was surrounded by many to get a chance to smell the result of this intentional mistake. Mr. Rigter has captured much of what is special about Sig. Gualtieri in the world of perfumery. His irreverence coupled with his serious love of making unusual fragrances comes through via Mr. Rigter’s lens.
For anyone who loves Nasomatto I think The Nose-Searching for Blamage will make you appreciate the perfumer behind your favorite perfume. If you’ve never tried a Nasomatto fragrance I’d be surprised if you aren’t a little interested in trying one after spending an hour with Sig. Gualtieri on film. The Nose- Searching for Blamage is a wonderful insight into one of our most iconoclastic perfumers.
Editor’s Note: The Nose- Searching for Blamage will be shown at the Hot Docs Festival in Toronto, Canada on Apr 26, 27, and May 3, 2014. For more info click on this link.