If there is a set of ingredients which have defined modern perfumery in the first two decades of this century it is the synthetic woods. Ever since they became widely used in the early 2000’s they have become a staple ingredient. One reason is they add longevity which is prized by a segment of fragrance consumers. Because of that they are where far too many new releases end up; with a synthetic woody ingredient lasting over the final hours. Usually by itself. What has been lost from all of that is the incredibly unique scent profile they have. They have a desiccated quality like dried earth. In the early days that nature was used to make some great perfume. It has been awhile since I have encountered that use of these ingredients. Until Vilhelm Body Paint arrived on my desk.
One of the best new perfume brands of the last few years is Vilhelm. Overseen by creative director Jan Ahlgren he has curated an eclectic collection over the past five years. Through all of it he has worked with one perfumer, Jerome Epinette. Body Paint is the first by a different perfumer. Mr. Ahlgren asks Marc-Antoine Corticchiato to take over. Together they have managed to resurrect the rugged beauty of the synthetic woods.
They chose to use two of the most ubiquitous of the synthetic woods, Iso E Super and Ambroxan, together. It has been so long since these notes have been used as anything but a long-lasting woody fixative, I was skeptical. M. Corticchiato removed that by putting the super back in Iso E Super.
The Iso E Super is present from the first moments. It has that dried earthen quality I mentioned before. M. Corticchiato provides a fascinating fruity contrast of crisp pear spiced with chili pepper. Droplets of the spiced fruit fall upon the dusty earth giving off little puffs of fragrant dust. In that dried earth are the spices of nutmeg and clove which begin to become more apparent. The dry nature of the Iso E Super is an ideal platform for this kind of spicy fruit accord. This is so appealing. Ambroxan adds even more aridity to the woods. Just as it might edge over into something too sharp M. Corticchiato adds in a pinch of oakmoss to keep it on the right side of that.
Body Paint has 16-18 hour longevity and average sillage.
If you think there is nothing new you could encounter from the synthetic woods in perfume; Body Paint proves that incorrect. What is also proves is if you use any ingredient to its best effect you can make something memorable. Body Paint reminded me why I loved the synthetic woods.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Vilhelm.