One of the current trends in independent perfumery is that of the artisanal distiller as nose. An interesting group of these came to the forefront about three or four years ago. Like many I was enchanted by discovering the new materials they were bringing out. These were small-batch completely unique ingredients. I am susceptible to falling under the spell of a new ingredient. It took me about a year but because of the amount that was being released I began to form a hypothesis. That while they were gifted distillers, they weren’t necessarily perfumers. Over the past few years I’ve still been impressed at the ingredients they produce but they don’t rise to what I would categorize as perfume.
That’s very broad. What I have noticed is when they overstuff things with too many ingredients it becomes like static. It adds an olfactory hiss which is distracting. The simpler they keep things the closer they get to being a perfume. Bortnikoff Oud Loukoum is one which manages to do this.
Dmitry Bortnikov is the man behind the brand. He has been producing fragrance from his base in Thailand since 2018. In just two years he has released 25 limited editions. All of them have at their heart something unique. Which is the appeal. For Oud Loukoum he is inspired by the Turkish confection of the same name.
Loukoum is also known as Turkish Delight. It is a chewy sweet exotic candy. I prefer the ones which have nuts as their main flavoring but there are many varieties. Oud Loukoum is a full-on gourmand style of fragrance which captures this.
It opens with a stewed fruits accord which is very appealing, especially in the cooler weather. Ylang-ylang acts as the floral contrast. The flower has an oiliness which adds a richer depth to the fruits. It is here where a selection of ouds forms the gourmand accord. If they were left to themselves it wouldn’t have come together. A slightly fruity tobacco pulls the fruit and oud together into a perfume version of loukoum. It remains in its candied form for hours with only some balsam sliding in later.
Oud Loukoum has 24-hour longevity and average sillage.
This is not an indicator of a change in aesthetic. The other nine perfumes from 2020 all have the same things which keep me from embracing them fully. I still would love to bring these distillers and their materials into partnership with my favorite perfumers. I believe there would be something amazing which could come of that. Until then when they do make something like Oud Loukoum I can appreciate it for what it is.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.
The last couple of years have seen the rise of a new style of independent perfumer; the distiller. It stands out because these are unique small-batch ingredients. As an analogy I think of some of the more esoteric craft beers which are brewed in limited quantity due to a special ingredient. These kinds of products provide a thrill for the aficionado because of the rarity and novelty. This holds particularly true for the distillers. These new materials capture the attention but there are some drawbacks.
As I really began to try some of these types or perfume late in 2017 and into 2018 it was the materials which drew me in. Exquisite attars and co-distillates were like finding undiscovered gems. As it has always been when I discover something new it was the tree which enthralled while I forgot to look for the forest. These styles of fragrance are stuffed to the gills with material after material; literally dozens of ingredients. They are not so much perfumes as exercises in sensory overload. Eighteen months after having experienced a few of these I am looking for more than just a wall of scent. I want something a bit more nuanced. I’m not sure if it was by design, or not, but Bortnikoff L’Heure Exquise offered me a moment or two of something sublime instead of scented sledgehammer.
Dmitry Bortnikoff is the distiller behind his eponymous brand. On his website he says he is both architect and distiller. He learned the art of distillation while in Thailand. That experience has allowed Mr. Bortnikoff to source some exquisite oils. He released three perfumes early in 2018 all of them had beautiful facets to latch on to but they were overcrowded with distracting ingredients. It made it seem like I was hacking through a jungle of perfumed vines on a frustrating journey. One of the things I’ve found with the distillers is they also tend to improve as they release each of their waves of limited editions.
When I received the second set of three releases over the Holidays I tried Oud Maximus first and encountered what I didn’t care for in the first three. Things improved when I tried Vetiver Nocturne. There the precious distillate of rus khus was given some room to breathe. This time the trip through the congestion was worth it. When I got to L’Heure Exquise I found a fragrance where Mr. Bornikoff found a genre of perfume where the bombast is an asset.
L’Heure Exquise is a weighty floral gourmand which starts softly as cardamom and neroli add a gentle spiced citrus breeze. A high cacao content chocolate appears carrying a bitter bite. Mr. Bortnikoff chooses clove as its companion. For a moment L’Heure Exquise breathes in as the citrus, spices, and cocoa form the most authentic accord Mr. Bortnikoff has produced. What comes next is a lovely transition involving camphor and cypriol as they provide some staging for the floral notes of jasmine and champaca to float on a flow of myrrh. This is where things begin to verge on the congestion I have previously found distracting. Just as I begin to think that; the base accord of oud, balsam, and styrax manage to cut through all of that bringing back the cocoa to interact with the woods.
L’Heure Exquise has 24-hour longevity and average sillage.
There is a part of me that wishes a half-dozen of my favorite creative perfumers could go spend six months with Mr. Bortnikoff. Returning with three or four of his distillations and see what kind of perfume they could make. I think that is as likely as finding unicorns on my front lawn tonight.
What is not so rare is Mr. Bortnikoff will continue to distill beautiful raw materials and every once in a while, it will find the right balance as in L’Heure Exquise.
Disclosure: this review is based on samples I purchased.