There is no doubt, obvious thought it may sound, that it is the perfumer who puts his or her stamp on a fragrance in the way an auteur film director infuses a movie with their distinct personality and vision. All perfumistas have their preferred olfactory auteurs : there are some I personally feel are vastly overrated, or at the very least who make perfumes that I can’t relate to (scent equivalents of directors like Christopher Nolan, Guillermo Del Toro, and dare I say it, even Martin Scorcese), while others that are lesser known perhaps but who have their own particular pedigree.
The other day I found myself unexpectedly craving R de Capucci, created by Takasago’s Francoise Caron for Italian couturier Roberto Capucci in 1985. Although any research into an 80’s men’s fougère basically brings up almost exactly the same complex set of notes, the enjoyment for me all depends on the particular concentration of certain ingredients and thematic emphases. The same perfumer, for example, was responsible for Caron’s Le Troisième Homme, a darkly magnetizing masculine which debuted the same year (I hesitated over a bottle of the current version of that ‘dastardly bastard’ aromatic fougère not long ago for Duncan but then decided it might just be too hairy smooth guy – albeit mysterious and somewhat undefinable – the cloying animalics in the base for me too much, if certainly intriguing).
R de Capucci is much more refined and restrained; green, with a distinctive patchouli facet laid beautifully with mosses, petitgrain and green notes that are more like the reminiscences of a forest that the actual coniferous reality. All the usual suspects are present: vetiver, leather, clary sage, some floral underfootings, but the sillage has an excellent gravitas to it, different from some of the more leathery sleazebags and their unwanted spice-breath feeling you up at the bar; you would feel this one coming and look round voluntarily.
Strangely, I had been recently having urgings for some more Hermès Eau D’Orange Verte (also a Francoise Caron creation, and of similar mood to the Capucci) , despite the fact that it is winter. At work, though, I basically wear citrus all year round, usually in the form of bergamot essential oil held upside down in my pockets (the evaporating volatiles emanate subtly from your person in this way), as well as my citrus infused hand rubs, but sometimes I will also wear some scent – Racine, or Eau Captivante , or a little of the classic Hermès bitter green orange (now down to its last dregs). I have been looking to get some more. Fortuitously, the other day at one of my usual lunch time hang outs I saw a cheap vintage bottle of Hermès Eau De Cologne, which I had never heard of before, but assumed might be an earlier form of Orange Verte – or more mysteriously, something else. Either outcome was fine with me. But one whiff from the splash-on bottle (‘yes! I can adulterate it ! immediately think I) – and I knew it was obviously the former, slightly tired in the top notes of green bitter orange, mint and the always unusual hint of papaya, but still beautiful in the delicate, chypric patchouli finish (which lovers of the original cologne prefer to the later ‘green orange’ version – there are apparently subtle differences).
Before you could say Adam, I had been and gone to one of the many aromatherapy shops that abound in Fujisawa and got myself a special bergamot oil and yuzu blend, which on first inhalation, though risky, I knew would be perfect to revitalize this slightly fatigued cologne. With blood orange, bitter orange, lemon, bergamot and yuzu: somehow it already smelled a little bit like the Hermès and the thing is: although I do love those secretive drier chypre endings à la Diorella or the exquisite Ô de Lancome, that emotionally tense, shadowy duplicity between life and death that is also found in perfumes like Eau de Rochas and Caron’s Alpona, it is ultimately the freshness and joy of the citrus top notes that I go for in these scents: and now having added a little patchouli as well, this newly birthed Eau D’Orange Verte is smelling delightful. The only question is whether to start using it now, or let it macerate until early summer.
As for Francoise Caron, I wasn’t aware of the link between these two dark green delights of mine until I looked up on Fragrantica who had made them, even though this perfumer’s name has certainly come up occasionally before in relation to other stylish perfumes that I like. It is nice to make the connection though. Ms Caron is obviously very versatile and very thorough ( her perfumes feel properly ‘finished’) : from a cult modern leather such as Helmut Lang’s beloved Cuiron, to the impressive mimosa soliflore that is Astier Villatte’s recent Grand Chalet, Ms Caron is also a dab hand at creating very deep and affecting powdery, inchoate floral canvases, from the melancholically powdered classic Ombre Rose by Brousseau to the ghostly death of disco coconut tuberose that is Balenziaga’s Michelle, via more warm bodied tuberoses such as Kenzo de Kenzo, the original Giò by Armani (yes, it was loud and proud, but I always rather liked that nineties powerhouse myself – it never descended into vulgarity), or the sunbeams on neroli perfume that is the more unadorned Fleur d’Oranger by Le Labo.
Quite an impressive olfactory résumé.