At the end of 2011 when I was first introduced to the Olfactive Studio line of perfume I was immediately drawn in. Owner and Creative Director Celine Verleure has married photography and perfumery in a striking package. Through the six fragrances that have come over the last four years there has been a consistent progression towards a more modern aesthetic. Last year’s Ombre Indigo began the transition and it is the latest release Panorama which unabashedly completes it.
Photo: Miguel Sandinha
Mme Verleure always begins with a photograph and usually it is one which already exists as part of a photographer’s collection. For Panorama she already had in mind the subject of the photographic brief, The Sheats Goldstein House in Los Angeles. The Sheats Goldstein House is an example of modern architecture from one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s students John Lautner. It is one of the finest examples of modern architecture to be found. The unique nature of the house has found it in multiple movies. Mme Verleure commissioned Miguel Sandinha to photograph the residence and she would pick one of the shots as the brief for Panorama. You can see the picture she chose above.
Next step was to enlist perfumer Clement Gavarry in turning that visual into a fragrance. One of the things to notice about that picture is the actual part of the house takes up only a small portion of the overall photo. The great majority of it is the verdant greenery which surrounds the house and far off in the distance you see the skyline of LA. If you look at that photograph and take all that in you will get an idea of what is to come in Panorama as M. Gavarry makes a fragrance of varying hues of green including some truly inspired unusual choices. All together it makes one of the boldest artistic statements this brand has ever made.
The accord that many will be talking about when trying Panorama appears in the first moments. M. Gavarry has constructed a wasabi accord and like that dried horseradish paste which accompanies sushi it captures your attention. When Mme Verleure told me about this being one of the components of Panorama I had to admit I was skeptical. That concern remained right up until I sprayed some on my skin. M. Gavarry has indeed created a recognizable wasabi accord, it has a cold spiciness with an accompanying desiccated quality. It is weird. It is also wonderful. Oft times something weird can be interesting but when you wear it all day it continually begins to rub you in the wrong way. On the days I wore Panorama it was exactly the opposite as I spent much of my time wanting more. One of the reasons that I think it doesn’t become irritating is because M. Gavarry uses bamboo and fig leaves to keep the oddness under control. Over an hour or so like a light show the bright vivid green of the wasabi changes hues and gets a few shades deeper. A freshly-cut grass accord leads down to a pairing of galbanum and green cardamom with violet leaves. This is where you get the clean lines of the glass and concrete structure of The Sheats Goldstein House. It is still green but it is a sleek metallic green like the reflection of the plants in the glass of the house. The final shade of green comes through a deeply coniferous fir balsam. It is given even more depth by the skillful use of myrrh, labdanum, and vanilla. Like the bamboo and fig on top these alter the fir balsam into something completely modern.
Panorama has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
Panorama is the most experimental fragrance release from Olfactive Studio. I applaud Mme Verleure for being willing to move the brand in this direction. Panorama smells like nothing else in the collection and it is all the more fascinating for that. I have found it to be one of the few fragrances I have tried recently which has me completely intellectually engaged throughout its development. It is as architecturally unique in its construction as the edifice which inspired it.
Disclosure: This review was based on a bottle of Panorama provided by Olfactive Studio at Esxence 2015.
One of the things I find interesting about writing these pieces is the opportunity to apply complete hindsight when looking back at a perfumer’s career. With the fullness of time’s perspective it is easier to find that moment when the style associated with them first comes to the fore. What is amusing to me as I do this is I often wore these early fragrances and while memorable I can’t say I was prescient enough to know the milestones they represented. In 1996 I picked up a bottle of Kenzo Jungle L’Elephant and this was my vanilla and spice baseline for many years. It would be followed up a year later with Kenzo Jungle Le Tigre which was a brilliant bit of fruity floral wildness. The entire team behind these two perfumes have been involved with some great perfumes in the years since. Over 1996 and 1997 they all intersected in the perfumed jungle.
The creative director for both of these perfumes was Celine Verleure who has gone on to found her own niche perfume line Olfactive Studio. Two perfumers, Dominique Ropion and Jean-Louis Sieuzac collaborated for both of these. M. Sieuzac was part of the team which had created Yves St. Laurent Opium twenty years earlier. M. Ropion was still defining his style. They had both worked together on Dior Dune in 1991 so a working relationship had been created. Together they would create two perfumes that you would never suspect came from Kenzo if you smelled them blind today.
In 1996 Kenzo was still forming its identity and as such I think they gave Mme Verleure a wide latitude to let her perfumers follow their instincts. It would be four years later with the release of FlowerbyKenzo that Kenzo’s aesthetic would crystallize. With Jungle L’Elephant and Jungle Le Tigre Messrs. Ropion and Sieuzac explored the boundaries of Orientals from two differing vectors.
Jungle L’Elephant is the perfume where M. Ropion would display his ability to soften and refine even the most boisterous of notes. Nowhere is that more evident than in the early moments of L’Elephant. If I tell you the top notes are cardamom and cumin I can imagine many already exclaiming, “No Thank You!” Except the perfumers harness these notes and turn them into a soft spicy pillow to lay one’s head down on. None of the sweatiness or rough green quality is here. Instead it is exotic and plush. That would be enhanced as the heart adds in clove and licorice to make the spicy accord more complex, yet still soft. Ylang-ylang and mango provide a fruity floral combo to add contrast. The transition here happens fairly quickly and it leads to a vanilla laden base made warm by cashmeran and amber. This evolution from soft to comfort will return time and again in M. Ropion’s perfumes but it is here that I first noticed it.
Jungle Le Tigre dispenses with the spices and instead chooses to prowl the jungle with a fruity floral vapor trail. The perfumers choose the sour kumquat and they pair it with davana allowing for its characteristic fruity nature to be enhanced. It heads into a heart of osmanthus supported by ylang-ylang. The perfumers make a smart choice to let the leather and apricot character of the osmanthus hold the center of Le Tigre. It sits there full of restrained potential. It all devolves into a slightly sweet spicy woody base. Massoia wood provides the cream and the wood as cinnamon roughs up the edges a bit. The base of Le Tigre is a bold final statement. M. Ropion would refine and alter this architecture in just four years to result in Une Fleur de Cassie as one of the first Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle releases.
M. Ropion has had one of the great perfume portfolios of the last twenty years and if you want to know where it started you need to head into the jungle.
Disclosure: This review was based on bottles I purchased
When I am out walking my two standard poodles on the night of a full moon; the yard is filled with shadows as the dogs and I cast shadows either from the moonlight or the electric floodlights. The size and intensity of those shadows varies depending on our respective positions in the yard. It is an interesting study of perspective. Perfumes also like to capture shadows and through them also add unique perspectives to what those shadows are representing. Creative Director Celine Verleure of Olfactive Studio was also thinking about shadows for her latest release Ombre Indigo.
Photo by Gustavo Pellizzon
Every Olfactive Studio fragrance begins with a brief based on a photograph. For Ombre Indigo Mme Verleure chose the picture above by Brazilian photographer Gustavo Pellizzon. This picture was part of Sr. Pellizzon’s 2012 photgraphic series “Encante” inspired by Brazilian myths and legends. If you click on the link you will see the rest of the series, with the exception of one, are all bright. The inspiration piece for Ombre Indigo is unique within the collection. When I look at the picture I am struck by two things; the indeterminate nature of the person at the center. Is it male of female? Young or Old? Sr. Pellizzon has seemingly photographed a shadow made solid. The second thing is the saffron colored clothing. It is a contrasting splash of color which only deepens the reflection of the indigo water except for one echo of the saffron in the upper left corner. Mme Verleure had posted this picture on her Facebook page and it had captured my attention from the moment I saw it. I had a week to think what a fragrance from this picture would smell like until I met Mme Verleure at Esxence in Milan.
I had also seen a picture of the bottle and knew the juice was colored blue but it is as blue as the water in the photograph and the depth of the color creates another visual shadow to complete the eye candy prior to smelling the perfume. Mme Verleure tapped Robertet perfume Mylene Alran to produce the perfume. Mme Alran chose tuberose and vetiver as the central themes but she carefully turns them from the powerhouse notes that often overwhelm fragrances into dancing shadows. By using notes like bigarade, leather, or incense to provide the more intense floodlight variety of shadow. Or saffron, plum, and papyrus to shine a little diffuse moonlight on the central notes; Ombre Indigo leaves me delightedly pursuing these shadows while I wear it.
Ombre Indigo opens with a fully realized bigarade oozing its slightly sulfurous nature and then the tuberose comes next but accompanied by saffron and plum. If you’re used to tuberose knocking you off your feet Mme Alran gives you a tuberose that is a shadow of that incarnation. This is delightfully precise perfumery of the highest order to keep the tuberose in check. The vetiver then arrives and together the tuberose and vetiver form the central accord for the remainder of Ombre Indigo’s development. Papyrus slides a veil of green over the vetiver and tuberose drawing one’s attention to that facet lurking in the background of both core notes. A very animalic leather accord comes next and that enhances the indolic nature of the tuberose and turns the vetiver more deeply woody. The final stages are a sturdy amber and musk drydown to allow the tuberose and vetiver a final point of reflection.
Ombre Indigo lasts all-day on me and has above average sillage.
Ombre Indigo is the most complete package of visual and olfactory treat that Olfactive Studio has produced, so far. There is nothing out of place as every piece of the puzzle fits together to form a fascinating experience. With each new release Mme Verleure’s consistent vision continues to produce perfume of the highest quality which deserves to be displayed in the brightest light. This has become my favorite Olfactive Studio fragrance to date for the completeness of vision produced by Mme Verleure, Sr. Pellizzon, and Mme Alran. I think the only shadows one will find Ombre Indigo in are those of its own making.
Disclosure: This review was based on a bottle of Ombre Indigo provided by Olfactive Studio at Esxence 2014.