One of the worst things about mainstream perfumery is the use of focus groups. I think they produce the lowest common denominator fragrance. Often so bland it is difficult for me to think of them as perfume. I have wondered what a motivated, educated, perfume-loving focus group could produce.
Independent perfume Anatole Lebreton seems to have answered that with Anatole Lebreton Perfumista.
In the middle of last year he asked a group of perfume fans to buy into The Perfumista Project. For the price of the eventual final product they would be brought along on a two-month journey to create a new perfume. By the fall Perfumista was the result of this process. I was not a participant but according to the website M. Lebreton introduced the members to the raw materials and the gradual development of the final perfume. The result is the same genre as many a larger focus group spits out; a fruity floral. The difference here is this kind of fruity floral is not the typical miasmic mediocrity found at the mall. This is the kind of fragrance which could give the class a good name. It shows what intelligent feedback can produce.
That shows in the fruity top accord. Raspberry is the keynote, but it is a juicy pear along with a plush plum that make this less irrelevant than the typical berry top accord. The shading the plum gives to the pear and raspberry is particularly appealing. The floral part is a magnificent nod to vintage perfume florals. An indolic jasmine meets a spicy Bulgarian rose. Whenever I encounter this it always seems like the two bad girl florals out for a good time. As the plum shadowed fruit inserts itself into the festivities this is where Perfumista shows off the potential of a fruity floral with intent. Fruity florals are my least favorite perfume genre. I could luxuriate in this fruity floral for days. The base accord provides a woody foundation for the fruity floral to rest upon. It is the least interesting part of Perfumista while still being quite good. Patchouli gives a dark earthiness for cedar and peru balsam to finish the construction.
Perfumista has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.
Perfumista is a fragrance developed by people passionate about perfume. The simple act of participation exemplifies that. The perfume that came out of this focus group is the way it should always happen.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample I purchased.
It was last year during Esxence 2017 that independent perfumer Anatole Lebreton landed on my radar. I was getting reports that the debut at that exposition, Grimoire, was among my correspondent’s favorites. It would take a few months for me to try that one to confirm that M. Lebreton was making interesting perfume.
The same thing happened a couple months ago during the 2018 version of Esxence. This time M. Lebreton debuted Cornaline. When I asked them to compare it to Grimoire I got a near-unanimous response of “very different”. I was excited to see for myself. I received my sample a few weeks ago and “very different” was an excellent description although imprecise. Let me see if I can add to that.
In the description on the website M. Lebreton describes “a barefoot Empress in an exotic garden caressing the blooming ylang-ylang”. Cornaline is a floral perfume centered around the fleshy carnality of ylang-ylang. Many perfumers labor to keep that thick quality tamped down. M. Lebreton allows it to have some room to caress the rest of the construction. It forms a hedonistic style of perfume that I enjoyed.
Before we get to the ylang-ylang M. Lebreton forms a delightful top accord around carrot. By itself carrot can sometimes smell like plastic. To keep that from happening a hint of berries and bergamot provide guardrails for the carrot to remain sweeter than it would by itself. The ylang-ylang begins to ooze into the top accord. When ylang-ylang has this unctuous quality, I like it, but it can be a bit much for some. Which is why in the early moments a bit of spicy geranium and hyacinth pump the brakes a bit. Not for long though because M. Lebreton ignites the ylang-ylang with peach. It explodes with intensity. It is a clever bit of olfactory pyrotechnics. After it calms down some orris provides a calming effect before benzoin takes over. The benzoin is the comforting note you need after the heart. Some vanilla sweetens it but it is mostly a warm comforting finish.
Cornaline has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
Cornaline is very different than Grimoire mostly in its extroverted style. It also really embraces its keynote finding ways to go beyond mere amplification to shouting from rooftops. Which means if you are not a fan of ylang-ylang and peach Cornaline will unlikely appeal to you. For someone who wants to throw myself into the sins of the flesh ylang-ylang brings to perfume; Cornaline is just what I desire.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.
From the moment I read JRR Tolkein’s The Hobbit the written version of epic fantasy is probably my favorite style of literature. The mixture of magic, monsters, heroes, and quests for the magic muffin of power have captivated me for as long as I could read. In the early days it was the covers of the books which would give away what was inside. After Middle-Earth it was Shannara and Earthsea which beckoned me to get lost in their pages. The way I knew they were my kind of books were the covers; all had a similar grandiosity about them with a strategically placed dragon or elf somewhere. I knew what I was getting when I saw that. Perfume names can also have that ability too which is why I was very interested to try Anatole Lebreton Grimoire.
I first became aware of Grimoire as Esxence 2017 was taking place and I was texting those there asking what was good. Grimoire was one of the more frequent answers I received. I spent time waiting for it to become available here. During that time, I acquainted myself with M. Lebreton via his website. There was sentence about his style of perfume-making which particularly caught my attention, “I like it when you feel a heart beating, when it is moving and thrilling, when there’s fantasy and mystery.” This could easily just be the description of Grimoire.
In many of my epic fantasy books there is a grimoire in use by the wizard who can be either hero or villain. A grimoire is a book of spells either to be destroyed or deployed. Grimoire evokes the place where that book might be found. I found myself entering the magician’s study at the top of a spiral staircase every time I wore Grimoire.
As I enter the study I smell the sweaty robes of the sorcerer as cumin billows from his sleeves. I look down on the table in front of him as resins smoke over the spell; olibanum primarily along with elemi providing a contrasting resin beneath the more traditional incense. Green leaves of basil, purple sprigs of lavender, are contained in a box of cedar. This lies atop a mound of earth represented by patchouli. The excitement of the wizard is communicated in waves of musk as the incantation is complete.
Grimoire has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
M. Lebreton had already fired my imagination, like those earlier book covers. It would have been so easy to be disappointed. Instead I was elated at how much this captured my anticipation. Grimoire is a verdant resinous animalic perfume. It is also Epic Fantasy in a bottle.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.