I think there is no greater pleasure for me than meeting a young perfumer who is just starting to take off. I have written a lot about what I call inflection points in a perfumer’s development. It always seems that there comes a specific year when the journeyman attains a new level of sophistication. When I was at Esxence 2015 I had the opportunity to be with a perfumer who is right at that inflection point and we will look back at 2015 as the year Luca Maffei’s star rose.
While at Esxence I had Sig. Maffei next to me as he presented the two perfumes he had composed for Jul et Mad. In my review of Nin-Shar I wrote of the inspiration of creative directors Julien Blanchard and Madalina Stoica-Blanchard to evoke specific ancient civilizations in their new Les White collection. They assigned Sig. Maffei two of the three to realize; Nea and Garuda.
Nea was inspired by the Holy Church Nea Ekklesia built during the height of the Byzantine Empire. The word Byzantine when used as an adjective means excessively complicated. In the brief Sig. Maffei received he was asked to create a gourmand oriental. That description almost seems Byzantine in nature. Sig. Maffei avoided those pitfalls by making Nea the antithesis of Byzantine and instead kept it very simple with a straightforward progression that works incredibly well.
The opening part of Nea is deep fruit as Sig. Maffei combines dates, plum, and pomegranate into a kind of subtle opulent fruit accord. The plum is the core of the early going and it form a luscious nucleus for the other two fruit notes to orbit around. The heart is jasmine and rose imposed on top of the fruit. Sig. Maffei manages to tune this at just the right pitch as it never gets too floral or too fruity. Nea heads towards the gourmand in the base notes with a woody intermezzo of patchouli and cashmeran. They have the effect of moving the fruity floral character to the background. This sets up the gourmand finish as Sig. Maffei takes tonka bean, vanilla, and caramel to fashion an edible finish to Nea. Nea has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Luca Maffei accepting 2015 Art & Olfaction Award
There are times that the imagery provided for a perfume doesn’t resonate for me. As Sig. Maffei spoke to me of the inspiration for Garuda I could instantly feel it in the perfume underneath my nose. Garuda was inspired by Angkor Wat. When Jul et Mad traveled to the ancient site and were in the gallery dedicated to Garuda; the sun was setting and all of the bas-relief pulsed with a golden glow. It is that they wanted Sif. Maffei to re-create. I was told he was so successful at realizing this vision that he got it right in his first mod and it is that formulation which made it in to the bottle.
Sig. Maffei used Cambodian Oud as the heart note upon which he would build this golden glow. The rest of the construction of Garuda is finding a way to encase that oud in a golden glow. The three most prominent notes used to achieve that are saffron, rum, and cashmeran. Those three notes soften the oud and also allow it to warmly radiate with a pleasant thrum over quite a few hours on my skin. It eventually gives way to a very woody base of cedar, vetiver, and the IFF aromachemical Timbersilk. The latter is a tenacious woody synthetic and it lasts for an extremely long time at the end of Garuda. Garuda has overnight longevity although the last few hours is mainly the Timbersilk and it has above average sillage.
Sig. Maffei has crafted two very excellent perfumes which manage to live up to their press release. If I needed any further evidence Sig. Maffei’s star was ascendant he would win an Art & Olfaction Award a few weeks after Esxence for his work with Acca Kappa. I have a feeling one of these new perfumes for Jul et Mad might possibly make him a two-time winner next year.
Disclosure: this review was based on a press sample provided by Jul et Mad during Esxence 2015.