Following up yesterday’s reviews of Datura Amaretti and Rose Agathe with the remaining two entries in the Matieres Libres collection, Panouge Absinthe Gaiac and Patchouli Figue.
Absinthe Gaiac is exactly what I expected. Which is the outlier of these four releases. The other three presented such different interpretations of their inspirations. The reason perfumer Patrice Revillard maybe felt he didn’t have to push too hard for something different is the absinthe accord in this is marvelous. One of the things perfumers miss, is the viscosity of absinthe as you pour it from the bottle. M. Revillard creates a wormwood laden version which oozes throughout the composition.
That accord is what opens things. It has a thickness to it that is very appealing. He uses violet leaf to add a bitter corona around it all. What I often refer to as a “rose in a fisted glove” accord comes next through leather and rose. This is equal parts both ingredients. What I enjoyed is the absinthe coats both forming a goth night vibe. It goes more deeply in that direction as amber and patchouli form the base.
There is a point at the end of every summer where a fleeting moment happens. It is when the fruit on the trees has been harvested and there are a few left. Those are verging on overripe. At this moment they are giving off their natural scent in pulsing waves. Underneath it all is just a hint of the coming rot which will cause it to fall off the branch. I adore this moment of fecundity. Perfumer Marie Schnirer captures it in Patchouli Figue.
She uses two very pronounced iterations of fig and pear. Usually perfumers work with a greener version of both. Mme Schnirer goes the other way mimicking my on the verge of decay version I get in real life. Both are right out in front. This is a soft fig which is oozing through breaks in the skin. The pear is full of sweet juice which flows in rivulets. Together they form a potent fruity accord. I’m not usually fond of this kind of fruity intensity. In this case I want to roll around in it. A little thread of rhubarb tries to bring things back into balance only to have cocoa and patchouli sending it off on a delightfully Willy Wonka detour. As it coalesces it feels like a decadent dessert served at a farm table with the last fruit off the trees.
Both perfumes have 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.
I am going to finish where I started with praise for creative director Rania Naim. She gave these two perfumers as much freedom to create as they could ask for. It results in a collection which pushes at expectations. If you’re in the mood for something different from your perfume this collection delivers.
Disclosure: This review is based on samples provided by Panouge.
One of the things I have attempted to do as long as I have been writing about perfume is to give credit to creative direction. As I began my learning curve on the way fragrance was created, I learned the person in that position is critical to a brand’s success. There are many of them for whom the brand and the creative director are synonymous in my head. I can’t think of one without the other. Then there are a rare few who do it across multiple brands with varying aesthetics in each case. One of my favorites is Rania Naim.
Mme Naim is working again for the brand Panouge as she oversees the Matieres Libres collection. The name translates to “materials in freedom”. It also shows the faith Mme Naim has in talented perfumers. In this four-perfume collection she turned to perfumers Patrice Revillard and Marie Schnirer to each create two. I am going to review all four today and tomorrow starting with Datura Amaretti and Rose Agathe.
Those who read my Sunday column know I enjoy making cocktails. One of my favorites is a mixture of two liqueuers Cherry Heering and Amaretto called “Cherry Pie”. The interplay of sweet cherry and boozy almond as the scent of it is part of the appeal when I make it. M. Revillard was thinking of poison flowers and De Medicis as he composed this. We may not have been seeing things the same way, but Datura Amaretti is fun.
The way it comes together is through a syrupy cherry the slightly boozy datura and the toastiness of almond. It is this which creates the central accord. He uses cedar as a foundation but the pleasure of this is all in that cherry pie cocktail for my nose.
I am beginning to believe that if a rose fragrance has rose oxide in it that I’m going to enjoy it more. Rose Agathe has a lot of it, and I really like it. What Mme Schnirer does is to start with that metallic variant of rose as her nucleus. In the early going she embraces the chrome-ness of it all as if this is a metal rose. Elemi and black pepper provide a reflective surface for the rose to encounter. It changes as the base goes leathery. She uses that accord almost as if this is a rose brooch on a jacket. She then completes this with a stony accord of damp rocks. Bringing this around again to metal and stone in a fascinating scented rondo.
Both perfumes have 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
Tomorrow I will review Patchouli Figue and Absinthe Gaiac.
Disclosure: this review is based on samples provided by Panouge.
Almost every time I hear of one of the great perfumes of the past being re-made today, I groan inwardly. It can be especially painful when it is one of my personal favorites. In the spring of 2017, the Creative Director behind the current revival of Jacques Fath perfumes, Rania Naim, contacted me. As soon as she told me she was interested in making a new version of Iris Gris I am sure I made a face; which she couldn’t see because we were internet chatting. The main reason she was contacting me was she was looking for sources of the original to use as reference for making the new version. We would chat about the process she wanted to undertake and that she was reaching out to many people to get advice. By the time we were done I was feeling like this was being approached correctly if you were going to do it.
As I thought about it I was reminded that Mme Naim had presided over another of my favorite re-creations in the 2016 release of Fath’s Essentials Green Water. What was important in that one was she didn’t skimp on the neroli. Even though it was expensive she didn’t supplement natural neroli with some synthetics and call it the same. It is why I love the new version as much as I do. This was going to be a concern in re-creating Iris Gris. The cost of materials was going to be high if it was going to be done right. From that perspective I wasn’t worried.
What was left was to choose the perfumer to work with. This was done in a way which had me back to worrying. I have been derisive in the extreme about perfumery by focus group. If perfume is art it should be a personal expression. Iris Gris is the apex of original perfumer Vincent Roubert’s career. It is a masterpiece of perfumery. By asking five different perfumers to individually produce a set of mods to a judging panel. Well luxury perfume via focus group didn’t sound like it was going to produce anything memorable either.
By the time it was announced the new L’Iris de Fath would be debuted at Esxence 2018 I was waiting to see what this produced. I must have sent a hundred texts asking if my friends had tried it. I got a mixed response which trended to the positive. Mme Naim informed me my sample was on its way and I’ve had it since the end of April. In the past two months I’ve been my own one-man panel comparing to my samples of vintage Iris Gris. Looking at my notes after experiencing the Osmotheque version. All while wearing a bit of L’Iris de Fath. Because you’ve already waded through a lot of intro I’m going to cut to the chase before diving a bit deeper into my experience with the perfume. L’Iris de Fath is a fantastic perfume inspired by Iris Gris, it isn’t perfect, but it is close enough for me not to care.
The perfumer chosen by the judges is Patrice Revillard. If you’re saying “Who?” you have a right to as M. Revillard is 25 and founder of his own independent perfume company, Maelstrom. Working with his in-house evaluator Yohan Cervi they would form their entry. This was a unanimous choice of the judging panel as the best version considering everything they had to compare it to.
Before I begin my description, there are a couple things I want to mention ahead of that. When we talk about vintage materials we spend a lot of time discussing what is no longer allowed to be used. One thing which isn’t mentioned is the efficiency of new processes of extraction of natural materials. Which means the modern version has a different scent profile than the same ingredient compared to the past. The other thing is when we smell vintage perfumes today the high percentage natural materials continue to evolve, or macerate, which provides a softening effect overall. This was very apparent to me when I tried the fresh Osmotheque version compared to my vintage sample. There is a clearer demarcation of ingredients in the Osmotheque version which is lost in any vintage bottle you will find. Both of these play a significant role in L’Iris de Fath.
For all that I’ve prattled on about natural materials and maceration one of the most important ingredients in Iris Gris and L’Iris de Fath is Peach Lactone aka aldehyde c-14. What has always drawn me to Iris Gris is the gauzy peach overlaying the strong rooty orris. The first moments of L’Iris de Fath is just that as if the perfume is showing me a beautiful piece of orris concrete wrapped in a peach-colored sheer silk scarf scented with the hue. There is no skimping on orris butter in here. This is the smell of high-concentration orris. The effect is critical to my enjoyment and it is here. It is also like a more vital version compared to my vintage samples. There is a verve to the orris not mellowed over time. This is a younger livelier version of the same ingredient that hasn’t aged for decades. As the perfume unfolds here is the main point of departure for me. In the original there is a lily of the valley green vein which threads its way through the orris and peach. In L’Iris de Fath M. Revillard uses violet leaf to provide the green. Violet leaf can have a scalpel sharp green effect and M. Revillard uses that to dramatic effect. It is also bolstered by a modern isolation of carnation which is rich and doesn’t carry as much of the proscribed materials of older isolates of carnation. This is where I found the alteration more pleasant. The bite of the carnation was attenuated. The overall effect gave more space to the iris and peach which I enjoyed. In the base all of the animalic musks of the original had to be replaced but that has not become an impediment anymore. The base does what the original base did and provide a foundation for the heart of the perfume to rest upon.
L’Iris de Fath has 14-16 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
Despite my reservation outlined above I must commend Mme Naim on the care taken to produce L’Iris de Fath. I do not think there are many who would have been willing to make the decisions necessary to succeed; Mme Naim did.
In my final analysis L’Iris de Fath is capable of being compared side-by-side with Iris Gris without complaint. I am happy to have a fresh version to wear with more abandon instead of marshaling my precious drops of the vintage. L’Iris de Fath succeeds because Mme Naim insisted on things being done The Right Way.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Jacques Fath.