There are people I’ve met in my time in the perfume world who are inspiring. I am always drawn to the quick-witted dreamers. The ones who are looking left while most everyone else’s attention is on the other side. When I met Olivia Bransbourg it was like being a sprinter trying to keep up with a long-distance runner. As quickly as I would catch up to her, she would keep on running down her intellectual highway.
Olivia Bransbourg (Photo: Kanak Guo)
I received an email from a Paris reader who had attended the overnight arts festival called Nuit Blanche. She told me of this perfume booth where they were matching perfumes to people via a personality test. They further said each scent had come from an old book of love potion recipes that they had recreated. I was told they were going to market them. I thought it sounded interesting, but I had reservations about who was behind it all. I put it out of my mind until the end of last year. That was when I saw a similar description for a brand called Sous le Manteau. The story sounded the same. I contacted my previous correspondent who confirmed it. When I found out who the people were behind it my attention was fixed on getting samples.
Mme Bransbourg was the one who discovered a 19th century handbook of folk remedies. Among them were love potions. She contacted perfumer Nathalie Feisthauer to help her turn those recipes into perfumes. Which is what the first five releases of Sous le Manteau are based upon.
I was also able to take the questionnaire they used during Nuit Blanche which would select the one for me. I did it while waiting for the perfumes to arrive. My result was Poudre Imperiale. Just based on the name I wanted to go back and change some of my answers. Imperial Powder as my love potion, no way! In the immortal words of Wayne and Garth, “Way!”
After receiving the samples I was surprised to find out Poudre Imperiale has no powder in it regal or otherwise. What it does have is a slivery resinous serenity.
This is a perfume which rotates around an axis of incense and jasmine. Mme Feisthauer has used a church-like austere incense to wrap vines of jasmine around. In the early going black pepper and baie rose add some rough edges to the smooth accord. Ove the latter hours benzoin and tonka bean re-center the contemplative central accord with sweet thoughts. It all takes place in a hinoki wood temple as cedar forms the foundation.
Poudre Imperiale has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
The other four love potions are also very good. I don’t think there was going to be a wrong answer for me from the personality test. I probably would have chosen the more robust Vapeurs Diablotines if it were me just looking at things. Although I admit the quieter Poudre Imperiale does carry my idea of romance more accurately. I know you’re all wondering whether it really is a love potion. Gentlemen never tell although my sample is empty.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample set I purchased.