When a store puts their name on a bottle of perfume they take a risk in potentially diminishing the overall brand. When a brand does it right it has the effect of burnishing the reputation of all involved. This has been the case in the line named for the iconic New York perfume store Aedes de Venustas. In 2012 when they released the first perfume under their name it was what I expected. A fragrance which was honed from decades of serving customers in the store and finding what styles leave lasting impressions. Owners Karl Bradl and Robert Gerstner teamed up with Francois Duquesne as the creative directors. Over five more releases since that first one they have done nothing but confirm that initial impression. If there is an overall aesthetic to the line it is for richer, opulent constructions. The latest release Pelargonium adds in a formal elegance to that.
Karl Bradl (l.) and Robert Gerstner
Perfumer Nathalie Feisthauer was asked to work on Pelargonium. Her desire was to create a perfume which was like a still life painting done by a Dutch Master. Still Life as an art form was at its height during the latter years of the 1700’s. The name itself comes from an anglicizing of the Dutch word “stilleven”. The idea was to arrange common everyday objects and capture them using shadow, light, and color to provide new perspective. What it accomplished was to allow a viewer to see the everyday as something to appreciate. Mme Feisthauer takes one of the most common of floral notes, geranium, using it as the focal point around which she arranges the rest of her composition.
From the first days of my perfume obsession I have been very fond of geranium. The “green rose” effect it adds to a perfume has appealed to me. Only rarely is it allowed to stand out on its own. Mme Feisthauer chooses an Egyptian Geranium essential oil as the centerpiece of Pelargonium.
Before that geranium arrives Mme Feisthauer uses the lemon-tinted resin, elemi, as the opening. As the geranium begins to come forward so do a series of notes meant to surround but not override. Green cardamom and clary sage are used to support the green leafy nature of the geranium. Orris and carrot are here to give the rosy floral nature a bit of a modification. One of the reasons I think you don’t see geranium as a focus is it becomes very easy to experience it as a half-hearted rose. Which is why by using two rooty notes Mme Feisthauer turns that into something primitive and earthy. It also allows that green accord more traction, too. The earthiness is continued into the base with vetiver. The vetiver here carries a bit of smokiness with it which I liked more than if a straight vetiver was used. A little gaiac wood, moss, and musk round out Pelargonium.
Pelargonium has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
A Stiil Life is meant to find something beneath the common. Mme Feisthauer’s Still Life of Geranium does that. Every choice illuminates the focal point along with the other things in the picture. Pelargonium carries the elegance of a fine piece of art.
I remember the first time I walked into the New York perfume boutique Aedes de Venustas. I think I stood inside the door with my mouth slack from the sensory overload of all these perfumes I had never heard of. Owners Karl Bradl and Robert Gerstner were there to gently guide me through the offerings in the store. One thing I’ve come to realize over time is what an amazing job they do in curating what they offer for sale. They have few peers in the business who sell from a single storefront. Since 2012 that same careful consideration has carried over to their efforts to create a perfume brand which carries the name of their store. Over four previous releases they have covered a wide array of styles using some of the best perfumers working. For their latest release Palissandre D’Or they have outdone everything they have produced to date.
Karl Bradl and Robert Gerstner
Mr. Bradl and Mr. Gerstner also collaborate with Francois Duquesne on the creative direction side for these fragrances. The brief was to create a “scent of precious Oriental woods, in a smoldering palette of burnt sienna, lacquered red, and molten gold.” For the perfumer to realize this they chose Alberto Morillas.
M. Morillas is one of the greatest perfumers working today. The great majority of his work is on the more mainstream side of the perfumed avenue. Especially in the last few years he has been enticed to the niche side of the street to work there. What I am guessing entices him is the opportunity to work with some of the unique raw materials that just don’t fit the budget of a more commercial release. In Palissandre D’Or the ingredient he wanted to showcase was an Alaskan cedar which carries a rich leathery character along with the more familiar clean woody lines. Before we get to that in the base M. Morillas paints bands of “burnt sienna” and “lacquered red” which lead to the “molten gold” of the cedar.
If there was any doubt I was going to like this perfume it is washed away by the early spices on top. M. Morillas takes nutmeg, baie rose, and coriander as a pedestal to display a fantastic cinnamon. If you’ve ever cooked with a high quality cinnamon you know there is a deep richness to it. The cinnamon which opens Palissandre D’Or carries the contrasting hot and sweet character of the very best Vietnamese cinnamon. There are very few perfumes which get cinnamon right but Palissandre D’Or can be added to the short list. M. Morillas uses the botanical musk of ambrette to lead to a Sri Lankan sandalwood in the heart. The heat of the cinnamon lacquers the sandalwood in a spice-laden shine. The moment where the cinnamon, ambrette and sandalwood come together is mesmerizing. M. Morillas wants me to be even more fascinated as in the base he combines three forms of cedar each with their own personality. Virginia cedar is that clean cut All-American wood. Chinese cedar carries a hint of smoky black tea to smudge that boyish charm a bit. The Alaskan cedar wraps that All-American in a leather jacket and turns him into a bad boy. Together this turns what, in other hands, would be a routine cedar base into something full of interesting texture and nuance.
Palissandre D’Or has 12-14 hours of longevity and below average sillage.
All five perfumes in the Aedes de Venustas line have been memorable and among the best perfumes of the year they were released. The entire team behind Palissandre D’Or have raised their collective bar to new heights. Palissandre D’Or is the realization of everything Aedes de Venustas stands for in terms of quality and discernment.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I received at Esxence 2015.