I am not opposed to powdery fragrances. They do have a line they can cross. I prefer them in smaller quantities. Once it wanders into the area where I can almost see the cloud that I am smelling that is too far for me. This is purely a matter of taste. There are women in my life that carry off the latter style beautifully. I just have a problem spending a few hours with it. Which is why when one in the style I like comes along I smile. Maison Crivelli Papyrus Moleculaire is one of those.
At the end of 2018 creative director Thibaud Crivelli released a collection of perfume in which he wanted to focus on textural accords. Over the first six releases he has largely succeeded. The perfumes all have a moment, or two, where the scent has a tactile feeling. In Papyrus Moleculaire this aesthetic becomes further refined.
M. Crivelli encountered the titular note as papyrus powder in an encounter with cigarillo smoking women. It made him want to turn this version of papyrus into a perfume. He turned to perfumer Leslie Girard. Mme Girard took the inspiration and combined it with other powdery ingredients. It results in a compelling piece of perfumery.
Papyrus when it is usually used has a watery woody green scent profile. Mme Girard in thinking of it as a powder focuses on the woodiness. It forms a kind of sawdust-like effect. In the early going coriander and elemi coax what remains of the green out from the papyrus. In the heart is where the powdery texture is achieved as carrot seed, amyris, and iris fold themselves in. Now the sawdust takes on a more floral powderiness. The papyrus does not lend itself to being overstated. Mme Girard feathers in her heart notes to give the powder a different feel altogether. This is where I feel the textural shift the brand speaks about. It finishes with softly sweet facets of tonka and resinous frankincense.
Papyrus Moleculaire has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
I am rapidly becoming quite fond of this brand. It is not often that the aesthetic stated is achieved. In addition as M. Crivelli oversees each new release he is seemingly becoming more assured in how he wants it to be achieved. Papyrus Moleculaire succeeds because of it.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.
I made my first trips to New York City in the 1970’s. I experienced a very different Big Apple. There was uptown and there was downtown. In between was the insanity of Times Square which was crammed with sex shops and porn theatres. You didn’t stop to take pictures bathed in neon back then. If you moved uptown there were the museums and upscale shopping. Downtown was the grungy counterpoint. The beginnings of punk rock were emerging in a place which embraced it. Moving between them was like traveling between two worlds. Anyone who experienced this carries an inward smile at how this has all been tamed with retconned history. While at the same time being turned into another roadside attraction. This was my experience as a young man.
The two new perfumes from Amouage, Imitation Woman and Imitation Man, are based on Creative Director Christopher Chong’s visit to New York City in the same time. It was the first time he would see snow. He observed the cultural melting pot as his family moved from uptown to downtown. In the press materials he says, “Imitation is a personal account of how one moment and one experience can alter a child’s perception of the world.” Working with perfumer Pierre Negrin for Imitation Woman and Leslie Girard for Imitation Man it fells like they encapsulate Mr. Chong’s reminiscence with two very different bites from The Big Apple circa the 1970’s
One thing about both perfumes is they function as a pair which felt to me as Uptown and Downtown. Except quite cleverly the perfumers made sure to put a little of the other in each. If Imitation Woman takes you to the Upper East Side it makes sure to thread a bit of the Bowery through it. The converse is true for Imitation Man.
Imitation Woman opens on a blast of hairspray aldehydes over a floral trio of rose, orange blossom, and jasmine. It is the scent of perfectly coiffed society woman. Then M. Negrin sneaks in a bit of the Battery with a duet of licorice and blackcurrant bud. The latter is amplified to its sticky urine-like level while the licorice acts like a punk walking on Madison Avenue. It all returns to the wood paneled safety of sandalwood and patchouli.
There was a cocooned decadence which defined Uptown NYC in the 1970’s. It was over-the-top with no risk. Imitation Woman gets that as the exuberance is on display but within there is a reminder it isn’t as safe as you think.
Imitation Man is rough around the edges right away. Black pepper and nutmeg create a piquant reminder you aren’t Uptown anymore. You shrug your shoulders into your black leather jacket. Mme Girard infuses it with castoreum to make it seem like the snarl from any Punk waiting for a show in the Bowery. Then some of those Upper East Side “tourists” come slumming, trailing their floral smells of rose and powdery orris; trying to live life on the wild side for a night. The real scents of the area return with vetiver and patchouli leading the charge. Underneath it all is a simmering myrrh, a resinous bit of rebellion in progress.
At this point the Punks were just finding their footing as Downtown was about to put its Doc Martens footprint on the music scene. Imitation Man captures the burgeoning scene just before it is discovered.
I like both versions of Imitation, there is an authenticity which tracks with my memory of NYC in the 1970’s.
Disclosure: this review is based on press samples provided by Amouage.