I love a green scent, and am ever intrigued by naturals. Always there is that extra element of stimulation knowing that every constituent of a perfume has been extracted from a living plant along with its life force; even more so when you know that many of those essences were procured from the perfumer’s very own garden. The creator of these three Lalun fragrances, Maggie Mahboubian, is a California-based perfumer of Persian origin who has a very interesting philosophy regarding perfume: a former architect, she seems to combine a very intellectual yet spiritual approach, with one that is instinctual and extremely grounded in nature. The majority of the ingredients used in her perfumes are gathered in her ‘bio-dynamic West Hollywood garden’ or else ethically wildcrafted by herself from pristine sources in the Hudson Valley, the extracts ‘potentized through daily succussion and vortex stirring while macerating and solar/lunar infused from moon to moon’.
As with the chef who suffuses each dish with love, I have the distinct impression that there is a great deal of spirit and thoughtfulness behind this brand, a fiercely ethical ideology that might have the potential to appear overly earnest and ‘Earth Motherish’ to the more urban chic types among us until you realize that these perfumes actually smell sexy. Very: stemming, perhaps in part, from Ms Mahboubian’s well researched Iranian heritage of plant alchemy, with its potions and elixirs all grounded in concentrated attars and ‘araks’ (distillates), base formulae that give the perfumes very rich, sensual bases that contrast quite clearly with the more homely ‘aromatherapist’ blends we are used to smelling in health food shops that, while relaxing and therapeutic, from an olfactory standpoint, often don’t quite hit the mark.
is a warm and enveloping green perfume founded on a dense, herb-tinged labdanum and vetiver accord and an unusual opening accord of green artemisia, bay leaf, rosemary, thyme, and a pronounced note of yarrow, an unusual essential oil I have come across in herbal apothecaries that I must say I am not usually drawn to. Like the smells of hops, marijuana, valerian and the like, it has that bitter oiled immortelle odour that, while physiognomically relaxing to the nervous system, doesn’t appeal to me aesthetically. I smell witches and wicca; hairy, dark interiors and mystery; the unknown esoterica of the ages and the profound and godly wisdom inherent in plants. Yet I also feel a connection to my own Anglo-Saxon roots with such scents; smells that repel and attract me in equal measure on a deeper, subcutaneous level.
While vivid at first, the yarrow note in the perfume soon quietly subsides to a more measured petitgrain and jasmine touched amber/vetiver accord that flirts with the taste of Chartreuse; a memory of Guerlain Djedi; as I then disappear, willingly, into the welcoming foliage of an ancient English garden.
All is now smooth calm and verdurous concealment: I take refuge here.
BLANCHE DE BOIS
is a more exciting and kinetic perfume than Phenomène Verte, with its warm and harmonious solidity: where the latter maintains its song on the the mid-chords on the piano, the former straddles three or four octaves, ranging from a very sultry base accord of beeswax, mushroom, patchouli, cocoa, vanilla-tonka and nootka (a kind of wild rose), contrasted starkly with a swelty, blanketed white floral heart, and a searing green opening salvo of galbanum, clary sage, bergamot and grapefruit.
The inspiration behind this perfume comes from the treatise ‘Language Of Flowers’ by philosopher Georges Bataille, in which the clichés of floral innocence and chastity are deconstructed and turned on their heads, and their more rotten and sordid hearts revealed. Taking this theme, Mahboubian uses gardenia flowers from her own garden (“tragic white florals just past their prime”) to crown a creamy gardenia enfleurage doused with jasmine grandiflorum, ylang ylang and prominent white lavender, though in truth these flowers are somewhat lost in the bristling, minted fougère of the whole – troubling and arresting – with a sense of real immediacy.
Still, nestled in their bitter green bowers, these ‘tragic flowers’ do radiate, somehow, from inside (reminding me in brief, androgynous flashes of both Estée Lauder’s Private Collection and Ralph Lauren’s Polo as well as more current mossy entanglements such as Gorilla Perfumes’ Dirty and Angela Flanders’ Precious One). But where with Phenomène Verte I feel above ground, safe, if still soil-aware, in comparison, Blanche De Bois feels almost evil, dangerous, as if I were Eurydice being dragged into the underworld. This is a fine perfume that pulsates within itself like a poison; potent; leery; and damned erotic.
PHENOMENE VERTE II
is a very different creature to the above perfumes, which I see as linked somehow, a yin and yang in the Midnight Garden Of Good and Evil, swaying and breathing silently in the undergrowth to the soundtrack of Stravinsky’s Orpheus.
Phenomène Verte II is a green jasmine sandalwood, a combination of essences that always puts one in mind of Guerlain’s Samsara and Creed’s Jasmine Imperatrice Eugenie, that voluptuous combination of wood and floral that can’t help but emote the smouldering odalisque. Here, a very smooth and deep, vintage aged sandalwood is cradled in attars of Monsoon Rose, Sambac Jasmine and Vetiver (with the sandalwood note very much predominating), made even more sexual, and tactile, with a touch of animalic hyraceum (or African Stone) and ornamented with homegrown orris and tinctures of Jasmine Polyanthum, Milkweed, and Mahmadi rose. Although correctly described as a ‘creamy dark floral’, ultimately this perfume is all about the starring player, that sandalwood, a central note that draws all the others into itself and subsumes them: a natural sandalwood perfume for those who are bored of cop-out ‘santals’ and want the real thing. Like all the scents I am describing today, this perfume has a vivid sense of integrity; of purpose; and of life.