I first became aware of the term terroir in regards to wine making. The great wine estates in Bordeaux believed that each vineyard produced their specific version of wine because of the unique combination of geography, geology, and climate. Many saw this as a marketing ploy when it was first used. Over time there have been more scientific studies which seem to back up the idea that where something grows is as important as what is being grown. From wine this concept has spread to other comestibles like coffee, chocolate, tea and cheese. As one who has been skeptical of the concept it was with great interest when I heard of perfume collection which was being designed based on the concept of terroir.
Malvin Richard, Serena Britos, Lukas Luscher (l. to r.)
Richard Luscher Britos Terroir Perfumes is the creative effort of Malvin Richard, Lukas Luscher and Serena Britos. These three childhood friends developed their idea of perfume terroir when they would join Malvin’s father, perfumer Jean-Claude Richard, as he would search for new raw materials to use. Through these trips the three friends came to believe there were “fragrance terroirs”. Their perfume collection was going to illustrate this by using only natural components. The first five perfumes created under this method have been released. As unconvinced as I am about the existence of terroir this debut collection is an exciting natural perfume collection from four different perfumers. I am going to spend the next two days reviewing all five because they are all worth writing about. I am going to start with the two perfumes composed by Jean-Claude Richard as it seems only fitting to not break up the family affair right away.
04oN74oW puts us directly in the middle of the Parque Nacional Natural Sumapaz in Colombia. M. Richard has brought together a riot of tropical blooms. It starts with a glacially restrained gardenia. In the press notes it calls this the gardenia which is found at the transition point on the hills of Fusagasuga where the cool winds sweep down from the Andes to clash with the humidity rising from the rain forest. The gardenia which evokes this is caught in a moment where its natural exuberance is tempered by a bit of chill. It makes it very focused as a perfume note without being as expansive as most gardenia notes are. You don’t have to wait long for a floral breakout because we descend into the rain forest and are surrounded by tropical flowers led by vanilla orchids, lilies, wild rose, and hyacinths. When you walk in a tropical flower garden there is a natural harmonic floral accord which nature provides. M. Richard manages the same kind of balance with his natural ingredients. This all ends with perhaps the crop Colombia is most known for, and which also claims its own terroir, coffee. Coffee when coming from a natural source has a thinner greener character than you might expect. In this composition that nature meshes perfectly with the florals in the heart. It feels like I am drinking some coffee from a Thermos while surrounded by the flowers of the jungle.
38oN16oE directs us to the Parco Nazionale dell’Aspromonte just east of Calabria, Italy. Calabria is known for growing the best bergamot in the entire world. That is what M. Richard wants to bring to the foreground with this perfume. Bergamot is so often an afterthought as it is present in the top notes of so very many perfumes. M. Richard allows bergamot to have the fragrant stage all to itself. The early moments of 38oN16oE are that bergamot providing a pervasive bright citrus shine. There is so much to enjoy here when not expecting to move along to the rest of the perfume. Here the bergamot develops slowly and in the heart the delicate bergamot blossom provides a very delicate floralcy underpinning the citric nature of the bergamot itself. This delicate interplay dominates the first couple of hours I was wearing 38oN16oE. Calabria has become a melting pot of cultures and the base notes of sandalwood and incense reflect that. M. Richard uses a precise hand so these do not overwhelm the bergamot but complement it as equals.
04oN74oW and 38oN16oE have outstanding longevity of 8-10 hours for a natural perfume. The sillage is modest.
These perfumes show that family is its own terroir where love, friendship, and adventure provides its own unique climate for creativity.
Tomorrow in Part 2 I’ll review the perfumes created by Andy Tauer, Vero Kern, and Jean-Claude Gigodot.
Disclosure: this review was based on samples I purchased.