All independent perfumers look for their guiding light. Olivier Durbano has found his muse to be stones. Ever since he appeared, in 2005, he has created perfume meant to evoke some aspect of stones. Early on it was actual gemstones. More recently it has been some of those stones from fictional influences. M. Durbano has never failed to engage me with his bold aesthetic. In these days of transparency he stands like a monolith forcing those other perfumes to flow around him. That audacity has maybe never been as pronounced as it is with Olivier Durbano SpeM PetraM.
Before you all think I’ve fat fingered my shift key the capital “M”’s are intentional. The name translates to “Stone of Hope” while the double-M is meant to represent Mary Magdalene. That inspiration is seen in two specific ways in SpeM PetraM. The first is M. Durbano’s use of a Bible-named root; nard. The other is the personification of Mary Magdalene as a rose. In SpeM PetraM the nard provides the stone while the rose provides the feminine hope within.
M. Durbano, and Google, inform me that nard is a plant of the Himalayas related to valerian. In its American incarnation it has been called spikenard. I have encountered it in the perfumes of natural perfumers previously. It seems like it must be a difficult ingredient to work with because it has three strong pillars which make up its scent profile. One is an earthiness, the other is mineralic, and the last is terpenic. Because of that variability it explains why this was an ancient perfume because it was good by itself. In the present day a perfumer must adroitly balance those competing aspects into something greater. M. Durbano is the kind of perfumer who is up to this task.
SpeM PetraM is all nard to begin. Those three faces I mentioned above are all on display early on. M. Durbano accentuates the earthiness with the warmth of saffron and the heat of cinnamon. The mineralic is wrapped in a haze of olibanum. The terpenic is given the lead as fir amplifies it into predominance. This is where M. Durbano brings MM into view as a gorgeous rose rises out of the nard accord. The ascendency of the rose is what makes SpeM PetraM something special. Every time I wore it the rose felt like a tiny piece of hope among the stone.
SpeM PetraM has 12-14 hour longevity.
I think there are some who will find the strength of the nard off-putting. This is not a perfume for everyone. It is for those who enjoy experiencing something different in the hands of a perfumer who can turn that into beauty. It might be a stone of hope, but I think of it as the Stone of Mary.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.