Au Delà

. by mariehochhaus
., a photo by mariehochhaus on Flickr.
Au Delà ("The Beyond" in French) creates a dynamic movement of warmth and light on a backdrop of dark and cool elements.

The first inhalation is bright: notes of bergamot, linalool and neroli shed a sudden light on the skin and create a brief reference to herbaceous, lavender-tinged Provencal cologne.

Simultaneously, there is a rise of honeyed resinous amber, like warm water flowing quietly from a hot spring. Orange blossom brings even more nectar and sunshine to the heart notes. The second violin of jasmine intensifies the orange flower's indole, sinking even deeper into the edgy, earthy, salty and slightly bitter tones of green oakmoss and dry, almost smoky cedarwood.

From there on, there is a certain saltiness to Au Delà, the oakmoss relating to the amber like fleur de sel to caramel, and the amber in return echoing the sweetness and sunny warmth of orange blossom.

Au Delà defies definite categorization - aromatic, but not quite a fougere; floral, but with far more depth than a pretty floral bouquet; it is not a Chypre either in the usual sense of the word (but then Chypres are never "usual", so this might be the best way to related to it). But with the amber dominating the dry out notes - a sweet yet clear and bright amber, reminiscent of the base of Obsession - it might just be an oriental (note that Obsession has also a prominent presence of oakmoss).

Stepping back a bit, I you realize that it's only one definite personality is change itself. However, technically speaking - it might be that the dynamic shift between its phases will morph into something entirely different and more stable as the perfume matures a bit longer in the bottle. The musical influence on this creation is apparent (it was inspired by the complex rhythms and harmonies of 20th century composer Olivier Messaïen - and in particular his last piece, Éclairs sur L'Au Delà, and in particularly the movement titled Demeurer dans l'Amour, which you can hear in the clip below).

The perfume readily lends itself to adjectives borrowed from the musical and movement worlds: counterpoint, harmony, tension, rythm and flow. Movement and air seems to be the theme of Au Delà. It seems to live in the element of dry, warm air for the remainder of the piece.

Top notes: Bergamot, Neroli, Coriander
Heart notes: Orange Blossom, Jasmine
Base notes: Amber, Oakmoss


Lampblack by Bruno Fazzolari
Every evening before sunset, the preparations for the lightless hours commenced: father would fill the lamps with petroleum, trim the wicks and replace the spent ones; and mother would clean the soot off the fragile mouth-blown glass shields with a round bottle-brush. This job had to be done well ahead of time to ensure they are completely dry. Failure to do so would result of the glass exploding into shreds once the heat of the flame kisses the damp glass.

This is how I grew up, in the dim light to do the homework to in contrast to the blasting Mediterranean sun. Moths and fireflies will gather around the lamps and candles, often sacrificing their tiny lives by getting too close to the light... If you were too light-greedy by raised the flaming wick - the exact opposite result will be achieved: would  too much soot will collect rapidly on the glass, blocking the light and create more work for the next day...

One day technology arrived at my home village in the form of solar-power, and the petroleum lamps and all those little strange mundane details of electric-free life were almost forgotten... Until I encountered Bruno Fazzolari, a visual and perfume artist as well as an art educator - and his new perfume collection of 5 fragrances with the eponymous title. I instantly fell for two out of the five, and learned that the soot collecting on such lamps has a name, and is also the most ancient of all pigments: Lampblack.
Petroleum lamp by MrsFaraway
Petroleum lamp, a photo by MrsFaraway on Flickr.
Lampblack is not an isolated perfume - it was debuted as part of an art show at Gallery Paule Anglim in San Francisco, alongside a series of Exploring the relationship between art and perfume is a controversial and difficult subject (for many reasons I feel should be the topic of another post) and it's both exciting and encouraging to see an artist taking the risk and seriously pursuing the challenge.

Lampblack pigment is not simply black - but also possesses brownish or blue background hues that might show more clearly to the untrained eye after the colour fades a bit. It's a very versatile pigment - and is used to create India Ink, as well as black water colour and oil paints.

The primal, basic nature of lampblack pigment appeals to me. There is something very straight forward about it; yet also a mystery. It connects the innate need to tell a story through the ages - on cave walls or the Metro station.

Lampblack perfume encompasses that connection: it has some very prehistoric elements such as the smokiness of nagramotha (cyperus, a relative of vetiver that has an almost tar-like scent that is not unlike petroleum at its pure state); an ink-like quality that makes one think of the cold steel from which bridges are built. Strangely enough, it also reminds me of a visit to a fisher's docks in Haifa in elementary schools, when we were shown a cephalopod and the ink that comes out of it. There was a salty, metallic scent in the air of a rainy winter day, the rusty ships and wet wooden docks.

Upon application, Lampblack possesses an abstract yet familiar freshness merged with woodsy and mineral elements: sulfuric grapefruit, flint-like black pepper and woodsy sandalwood and vetiver. Quickly, a turpentine-like smokiness of nagramotha interferes with the agreeable opening, and an abstract array of molecules that bring to mind ink and minerals. Underneath it, if you listen carefully, there's a quiet jasmine note peaking through the rather angular structure, echoing the "fruity magentas" and splashes of yellow that are peaking through the buoyant spills of thick India ink in the artist's painting - but perhaps it's the other way around. Powdery benzoin mellows out the dryness of the woods, suave and absorbent like rough watercolour paper.

Lampblack perfume and the entire collection of 5 can be purchased directly from the artist's Edition webpage, or via his Etsy shop.


Wind Painting - Death Valley National Park by Joshua Cripps

Slightly charred vinyl flowers on sand and rubber tires abandoned in the heat of the summer and splashed over by salty sea water. If you were lucky, it would cling to your clothes the way ozone does after coming in after a brisk walk in the chilly air. There’s a wind blowing and it brings forth the scent of desert flowers (is it broom ?) and perhaps even beach lilies, mingled with grassy shrubs and metal frames that were left behind and are now blooming with deep-red rust.

Dune is not often discussed or mentioned among pefumistas. I can’t think of a single person I know that loves or wears this scent. And it’s one of those cerebral, and slightly moody scents, which I was never able to connect with, but always admired for its role in the history of contemporary perfumery.

Launched in 1991, Dune has impact beyond what meets the surface. It was one of (if not the first) modern perfume to disregard the “pyramid” structure of beginning, middle and end (also known as head/top, heart/middle and foundation/base). Instead, it takes a completely linear path that fades into the horizon like a curved mass of sand.

Jean-Louis Sieuzac, Nejla Bsiri-Barbir and Dominique Ropion created Dune in 1992, and in 1993 it won FiFi awards. It is a scent that had an immense impact on perfume culture throughout the 90’s, though not too many are aware of that ozone/marine scent. If l’Eau d’Issey and Cool Water began the trend of transferring aquatics from the pool to the bottle (Aquatic/Watery Florals and Fougeres); Dune was more about the open space near the seashore, and explored the concept of “ozone” or the scent that is in the air around the ocean. It was well ahead of its time, and as it turned out - it is the father of all the "mineral" or "salty" scents that are slowly but surely gaining momentum in the new millennium.

It might have taken a while, but Dune to me is a scent that explores the movement of a vast body such as a sand dune. It comes in as a wave and fades out as one. A year later came another perfume that questioned the authority of the pyramid structure: Angel, with its linear, homogenous yet aggressive personality. But while Angel took the spirit of the 80’s and amplified it ten fold to push strong-minded fragrances to the next generation; Dune was all about refinement and subtlety, and inspired other perfumes with similar character.

In its time, Dune resembled no other scent - so much so, that it took me literally years to be able to wrap my head around it. It was so cerebral and I had difficult time connecting to it, “reading” it. It did not really “speak” to me with its very unnatural, sci-fi personality and abstract raw materials… In the meantime, Dune has influenced many similar scents – linear, woodsy and warm yet clean and cerebral: Tocade (1994), which is about as linear as any scent could ever get; Allure (1996), which supposedly has the “faceted” structure, but if you look at it closely feels and smells very much like a copycat of Dune (even the “facets” which are just different aspects of this one linear processions – are dominated by the same notes: Mandarin, Vetiver, Vanilla, with the white flowers being the only visible variant); and lastly – the salty ambergris-centred Eau de Mervelleis (2004), Bois d’Orage (2007), Dans tes Bras (2008) and Terre Hermès (2009).

So now after exploring these scents and observing its influence, coming back to Dune seems on one had to finally make sense; but in the other hand – lost a bit of its novelty for me.

Dune by default fits in my gestalt with the Frank Herbert’s sci-fi novel bearing the same name. And just like that novel, which walks between modern mythology and political commentary – Dune questioned our paradigm of how perfume should behave, and at the same time has become such an iconic perfume on several levels: the choice of raw materials (and the inclusion of helionial to create very realistic ocean-side nuances), the linear structure linear as linear could be – as and far as I know the first of its kind (followed only a year later by another modern icon – Angel).

Even the bottle is brilliant – reflecting the curvature of the dunes, their pale golden and glowing colour, at the same time flowing yet set in its own ways – just like the jus within it.

Dune is singular, unusual and very out of the way from my comfort zone or natural leaning. Although it is, as mentioned and emphasized earlier about 10 times, a linear scent – there is a certain progression, and in the beginning you would smell pale, transparent hit of green abstract notes, which are mingled with mandarin and resemble citrus leaves (only cleaner and not in the least eau-de-cologne like). Fairly quickly these just fade to become part of the greater picture – abstract flowers, sand and mineral notes mingled with salty air (yet not in the least algae-like) and revealing slowly an undercurrent of vetiver, amber, musky woods and vanilla. And it also lasts and lasts and lasts – easily for 10 or 12 hours; though not in a menacing or overpowering way. It’s just present.

And if you really "need" to see more specific notes of succession of Dune's aspects, you might like this part (the flowers are very unoticeable though, in my humble opinion):

Fresh & Airy – Broom, Wallflower, Bergamot, Mandarin

Flowery – Lily, Peony, Jasmine, Rose

Rich & Velvety – Amber, Lichen, Musk, Sandalwood, Vanilla

Violet Kiss

Violet Kiss, originally uploaded by Ayala Moriel.

My first encounter with Kisu was in New York city (at Henri Bendel, I believe), and my initial impression was of it being a light, subtle woody skin scent with rosewood and musk being the most dominant notes. It also reminded me slightly of Narciso Rodriguez at the time, only much gentler and a little less synthetic. Obviously, these impressions are very vague, and taking into consideration that they are based only on scent-strip testing (lack of time and skin space in a 4 day visit to The Big Apple), they don’t add up to much.

Now that I have a full bottle at my disposal some three years later, Kisu turns out to be a little warmer and more daring than I remembered it, giving off mostly the impression of dusky woods.

Kisu opens with rosewood indeed, but there is more to it than this ethereal, linalool-laden wood. Notes of ripe berries, and an underlining woody patchouli that escapes from the depth of woods that form the base of Kisu; which makes me wonder – which was the first fruitchouli? But fear not, this isn’t one of them…

The greatest surprise, however, was the violets: there is a whole bouquet of luscious, albeit a little abstract candied violets at the heart. Along with the berries, they form a decadent bite of violet-cassis macaroons, yet without actually making one think of food. They contribute greatly to the dusky wood quality of Kisu.

A sultry undercurrent of sandalwood and saffron also peaks through to the top and heart, which reminds me of two perfumes: Agent Provocateur, by the same perfumer, and also Evening Edged in Gold (Ineke). The Agent Provocateur similarity could be explained byt the fact that both perfumes were developed by perfumer Christian Provenzano uder the artistic direction of Azzi Pickthall of CPL Aromas (which are also currently working on Basenotes’ line of fragrances).

The saffron here is far more subtle though. While sandalwood notes usually don’t work well on my skin, here they are balanced with patchouli, vetiver and musk and work beautifully, creating a clean, woody-musky skin scent that reminds me a little of the dry out of Magazine Street.

And if you are still wondering what’s the meaning of Kisu: Really it is the Japanese name for the Japanese whiting (Sillago japonica), a fish which is prepared in various ways in Japanese cuisine (grilled with salt, raw as sashimi, or prepared as tempura). But I doubt that this was the intention of the creators of the perfume when they named it.

Kisu have also become another word for “Kiss” in Japanese, which is obviously a Japonification of the English word. Other than that, kiss is chuu, kuchizuke or seppun. While the bottle and packaging, with the cherry blossom label over black lacquer-like opaque glass is obviously Japanese inspired, I find the scent to be much less so. Some have mentioned a marine or watery accord, but I fail to find it (nor the ylang ylang!). There is a certain mineral, saltiness to it that is more brine-like than marine or watery.

Yes, this is a clean and dry patchouli and musk dominated base, perhaps remotely similar to that of Pure Turquoise, but it is not in the least watery. It is more of a modern, idealistic Orientalist view of the subject and while I find it very appealing and well made over all, I don’t think it delivers anything that remotely resembles a “Japanese bath ritual” as it assumes in some of the ad copies I’ve seen around. Nevertheless, it makes for a pretty bottle (and the oriental theme continues with the Tann Rokka's second scent, Aki).

I’ve been struggling to find an image to illustrate this review: it has a texture, and while it is quite sensual, being a skin scent and all, there is something very unisex about it that defies that kind of imagery. It doesn’t remind me of nature either – it is far too polished for that. So I just ended up making an image myself, though I can't say it's the perfect portrayal of what Kisu feels like.

Top notes: Rosewood, Berries
Hear notes: Violet, Saffron, Ylang Ylang
Base notes: Cedar, Musk, Patchouli, Vetiver, Sandalwood

Other interesting reviews of Kisu:
The Scented Salamander

Easter Picnic

Madonna Lily, originally uploaded by sugarflower.

Madonna Lily, originally uploaded by sugarflower.

Easter came early to Hermès this year with the heady Madonna Lilies that bloom from a bottle titled “Vanille Galante”.

Unlike most of the other Hermessences, which quite clearly answer to their title (except, perhaps, Osmanthe Yunnan) - the vanilla here will not fulfill the craving of the vanillophiles who patiently awaited their dessert after clearing their plate from fresh peppers and a side of lavender.

Vanille Galante burst into the air like a flower rushing to display its colours from fear of loosing the attention of butterflies. Heady ylang ylang only but supports the main theme here - the infamous Madonna Lily, a symbol of purity and the Virgin Mary. Sliced cantaloupe sprinkled with salt brings to mind a giant Easter egg decorated by calone. Whether or not there is calone in Vanille Galante I cannot tell, but I’d like to think that this molecule found its way to the perfume to complete the picture of an Easter picnic under the sky. It’s the same cantaloupe from Un Jardin Apres la Mousson, just in a lesser dosage.
And when the vanilla finally makes an appearance it is more woody than dessert like, and perhaps will bring to mind a flavoured liquor rather than vanilla-dotted crème brûlée.
There is vanilla absolute in the base alright, but overall I would not describe Vanille Galante as a vanilla scent, but as a floral or a floriental at best. The dry down reminds me of Chanel’s Allured - a contrast of computer generated florals against a backdrop of woody vanilla. But Vanille Galante does not feel as artificial, and as with most Jean-Claude Ellena’s scents, this gown has such lightness and airiness about it that it’s easy to wear if it is not exactly your style or preferred colour.

  • Page 1 of 2
  • Page 1 of 2
Back to the top