Nefertiti is independent perfumer Shawn Mayer’s tribute to/ interpretation of Miles Davis’ 1968 ‘post-bop’ album Nefertiti – a record I am unfamiliar with ( I am not a jazz buff, nor a Davis collector, even if I love Kind Of Blue, the psychedelic freak funk of On The Corner and Bitches Brew, and in particular,, the exquisite Sketches Of Spain). I can’t comment on any aural/olfactory similarities.
For me, the perfume – a strange, cavernous, and mysterious scent, musty, subdued, cool and green, with notes of kyphi incense, ‘jazz cigarette’, oud, musk, vetiver, a lingering heart of immortelle absolute ( a note I am never comfortable with, too sweet and medicinal); jasmine, and, in the opening accord based on the unique perfume that the queen Nefertiti herself is said to have worn – orchid leaf and honey – is a cool and wreathing, enigmatic oddity that rather than the pioneering brilliance of the experimentalist Miles Davis, puts me more in mind of a day I once spent at the Altes Museum in Berlin a decade ago, one of the institutions on the ‘Museum Island’ that controversially houses perhaps the most fascinating and mesmerizing artwork I have ever seen : the bust of Nefertiti created by Egyptian sculptor Thutmose circa 1345 BC.
Encased in glass, in a black space by itself, I was utterly stunned by the eerie, pulsating life force this work exhibited; a magnetic pull that felt like magic. This was a physical sensation of alarm, vulnerability and fascination simultaneously; my heart racing as though it were knowingly casting a spell on me. There was a power. I would keep encircling the statue, from back to front, unable to tear myself away.
The pictures here do not remotely do this creation justice. The reality is both much smaller, slender – yet also bigger. Commanding. In fact, when the archaeologist Ludwig Borchardt came across the perfectly preserved bust in an ancient craftsman’s underground chamber in 1912 , he was so overcome by its life force, commenting, as he held it in his hands, that ‘it is ALIVE. It cannot be described in words. It must be seen’.
Maher Olfactive’s perfume is of course not as bewitching nor compelling as this magnificent work of art. Nothing could be. But it does, I find, also plunge you straight into a different sphere and shadowed headspace, like the airless darkness, the hushed intrigue you often experience as you pass through the atrium of a museum and move through to the exhibits. The perfume has its own peculiar, resinous glow that in the gentle, persistent, if quite eloquent and melancholic base is almost redolent of old Christian Diors such as Diorling – even Rochas’ Mystère.