Perfume Reviews Bruno Fazzolari Au Dela and Room 237- Dreams & Terror

Bruno Fazzolari Au Dela is a modern chypre inspired by the music of French composer Olivier Messaien. Specifically Mr. Fazzolari based it on the Fifth Movement of M. Massaien’s last work “Eclairs sur L’Au Dela” (Flashes of the Beyond). This movement is the only soft dreamy movement within the work everything else is full of percussion and flash. Only here are you expected to linger and smell the roses. The perfume based on this also asks you to let it develop in a less flashy way. It asks you to take it in as it fully forms a chypre on your skin.

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Bruno Fazzolari

Au Dela opens on an herbal shot of coriander with a bit of bergamot. For the first few minutes it is all about the coriander. The heart is all white flowers neroli, orange flowers, and jasmine. I love indoles and white flowers can have a lot or a little and usually a perfumer picks one side of the coin and works from there. Mr. Fazzolari stakes out a more difficult middle ground where he domesticates the snarling ferocity of the indoles into something docile. They have an unusual luminosity to them made even more brilliant by the floralcy that goes with them. As I wore Au Dela many times I expected the indoles to slip the leash and start growling but they never do, they stayed perfectly behaved. Mr. Fazzolari trots out the oakmoss and amber to provide the traditional chypre basics. Because he is independent this is the real stuff and it is glorious in its depth. It creates a platform upon which the white flowers rest to complete the chypre picture. Au Dela has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.

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From Stanley Kubrick's The Shining

Mr. Fazzolari’s newest release is Room 237. If you are a fan of the Stanley Kubrick movie “The Shining” then you get the reference. For those who aren’t, a quick summary. A family is left to be caretaker of a Rocky Mountain summer resort over the long winter. The hotel is called The Overlook and the young son in the family, who has psychic powers, is warned by the cook before he leaves not to go into Room 237. It wouldn’t be a horror movie if everyone in the family didn’t eventually end up in Room 237 at some point. One of the hallmarks of The Shining was Mr. Kubrick’s almost glacial pace at building up to a jolt. No sawing violins to denote the impending terror here it is all seen through the eyes of the protagonists. Room 237 as a perfume is meant to capture that sense of opening doors into dangerous forbidden places. As a result Room 237 is a perfume that is going to deeply unsettle some and others are fearlessly going to turn the key and enter. Follow me as I take you inside.

As we turn the key on the door a mix of angelica, fleabane, and tarragon form a weird accord. It has a sort of miasmic shifting quality as the fleabane and the tarragon have off-center herbal characteristics and the angelica is the only normal kind of note. You can feel the hair on the back of your neck rise as we push into the room. There is a woman stepping out of bath she carries a fresh washed skin smell courtesy of oppoponax and olibanum. She also carries an aura which seems like decomposing wood along with the cleanliness which comes from costus. We should run now but we stand transfixed as she beckons us closer. In the mirror we see she has been in the water too long as flesh sloughs off her back. As we get close she wraps us up, too tightly, in the plastic shower curtain as we are enveloped in it. Mr. Fazzolari has created a powerful plastic accord reminiscent of freshly unpacked shower curtain and it dominates the final part of the development of Room 237. I know my fanciful story might make you wary of Room 237 and in less prosaic terms it really is Mr. Fazzolari working on a perfume which is meant to be emotionally provocative. If you’re willing to go along for the ride you will have a singular experience which only an independent perfumer can provide. Room 237 has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

All four of the fragrances I tried by Mr. Fazzolari show a perfumer inspired by art, music, and film. They show a perfumer who can comfort and discombobulate. They show an artist who is fearlessly exploring all that perfume can attempt to communicate. If you haven’t already look these perfumes up they are exquisite examples of one man’s vision.

Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by Bruno Fazzolari.

Mark Behnke

Perfume Reviews Bruno Fazzolari Monserrat and Lampblack- Ink on Plaster

Some of my favorite independent perfumers have come to it from a beginning in the visual arts, particularly painting. I have known about San Francisco-based artist Bruno Fazzolari for over a year but I only really had a chance to sniff the one of his early perfumes, Lampblack, which has garnered the most press. Mr. Fazzolari contacted me just after the beginning of the year and subsequently sent me four samples of his creations and I’ve now had a real opportunity to live with them. All four of them have a fantastic “visual” component to them as he creates perfumes which drew me into a world of color and texture. Over the next two days I’m going to review all four. Today I’ll start with Monserrat and Lampblack.

monserrat visual

All of Mr. Fazzolari’s perfumes match a painting with the fragrance. Monserrat came from a painting which was exhibited at the Jancar Jones Gallery in Los Angeles. Mr. Fazzolari was “thinking of worn and repainted urban walls and the matte surfaces of Italian fresco painting”. He was also inspired by the paint color Montserrat Orange which is an orange with a distinct pink quality to it. I consider it a skewed orange not pink nor orange but something in between. Mr. Fazzolari seems to be working towards that kind of marriage of influences looking for something like a fruity floral but not really what we think of as a fruity floral.

Monserrat opens with a burst of tart pink grapefruit sweetened with carrot seed. The carrot seed has a really pleasant balancing effect with the grapefruit. This moves into a jasmine and osmanthus floral heart. Here Mr. Fazzolari uses the osmanthus to make the jasmine less indolic and floral and something with more prominent fruity aspects. The apricot and leather quality of osmanthus is very evident. The base is the smell of plaster walls or wet dry wall, whether classic or modern this accord provides a distinctly grounding aspect as Mr. Fazzolari primarily uses a mixture of white musks to produce his accord for his fruity floral color to settle upon. Monserrat has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

lampblack visual

If Monserrat is an affable fruity floral, Lampblack is a deeply threatening meditation on inky darkness. Mr. Fazzolari describes his goal with Lampblack to “create a transparent, colorful darkness.” He succeeds at those diametrically opposed goals by using nagarmotha in one of the more unique applications of the note most usually called “oud” in other fragrances. Here he takes that faux-oud and gives it its own distinct identity.

Lampblack opens on a citrus and black pepper duet. The pepper is more forward as it should be the citrus adds interesting contrast. Mr. Fazzolari then begins to assemble his fast moving shadows as nagarmotha, benzoin, and vetiver ghost through my consciousness like wraiths in the night. There are times that it seems one surrounds me only for another to chase it off. The whole construction of Lampblack feels like an exercise in chasing shadows in a dark alley. There is a reason Lampblack is so acclaimed because it has a unique layering of textures not often found in perfumery. Lampblack has 8-10 hour sillage and moderate sillage.

Tomorrow I’ll review Au Dela and Room 237.

Disclosure: this review was based on samples provided by Bruno Fazzolari.

Mark Behnke

All paintings by Bruno Fazzolari.