Throughout the early years of the 2000’s there was a perfumer who I dubbed The High Priest of Resins. Over five years and seven perfumes perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour would make seven perfumes with significant incense accords in them. By the time he hit the seventh, 2007’s Amouage Jubilation XXV, he would have perfected his touch with these ingredients to produce a perfume I consider a masterpiece. As I look back it was definitely a process which spread across work for three brands; Comme des Garcons, L’Artisan Parfumeur, and Eau d’Italie. Each of the perfumes created for those brands allowed him to test the limits of the resinous side of his palette.
It started in 2002 with the release of Comme des Garcons Series 3 Incense Avignon & Kyoto. For those fragrances M. Duchaufour constructed two disparate incense accords. For Avignon it was the stony chill of a cathedral made of ancient stone. It carries the weight of the centuries as you feel the slightly metallic tang of the incense over the aged wood of the pews. Kyoto, as its names portends, was a Japanese minimalist aesthetic. Clean woods matched with the sweeter resins make for a truly meditative harmonious, soothing incense accord. Both of these fragrances are still among my favorites but they really were the foundation of where M. Duchaufour would start to refine the accord.
In 2004 it was his work for the original Eau d’Italie fragrance which would show the light use of incense and L’Artisan Parfumeur Timbuktu the deeper darker side. With Eau d’Italie M. Duchaufour puts in an ethereal gauzy incense veil over the opening moments of a perfume that will turn very green and floral. It was a bit of ingenious sleight of hand as just as you think you’re headed in one direction off you go in an entirely different one. He had found a way to take the lighter accord of Kyoto and now make it float like a feather. Avignon’s incense accord is so astringent it has sharp edges to it. With Timbuktu M. Duchaufour decided to add some attenuating resins in myrrh and benzoin to soften those edges without sacrificing the impact.
By 2006 he was looking for ways to take incense and match them with florals. L’Artisan Parfumeur Dzongkha would have a heart of chai tea, incense, and orris. This incense is the exact middle ground between the previous lighter style and the weightier version. It has a presence without being overwhelming. In Dzongkha combined with a chai accord and orris it forms a heart of one of the most underrated perfumes in M. Duchaufour’s vast portfolio. Eau d’Italie Paestum Rose has always been considered to be one of his finest creations as he replaces the orris of Dzongkha with a redolent Turkish rose. He returns to the heavier incense accord but uses elemi, opopanax and benzoin to smooth the rough edges. It gives an uplifting foundation and at this point I thought this was the pinnacle of M. Duchaufour’s incense perfumes.
Late in 2007 Amouage Jubilation XXV would prove to me there was one perfume left to draw all of this together. Throughout Jubilation XXV the experience with these notes comes back to coalesce into something transcendent. It starts with that gauzy lilting incense on top before heading into a floral and incense heart. The heart of Jubilation of XXV is a model of precision as M. Duchaufour also dusts it all with spice. By the time the deeper incense accord is on display in the base M. Duchaufour has determined it is myrrh and opoponax which provide the perfect partners to his austere frankincense.
Every one of these perfumes I have mentioned is among my favorites but it is this sense of feeling, as a perfumista, that I am following the development of an artist as he learns to fine tune his use of materials which makes this so interesting. M. Duchaufour has done this over the years as he has perfected his leather accord and rum accord over the course of many releases all leading to one which brings all of it together. It is what makes him one of the most fascinating perfumers working today and forever, in my mind, The High Priest of Resins.