‘Les Eaux Primordiales’ is a series of new perfumes created by 28 year-old perfumer Arnaud Poulin. Intellectual in inspiration, with a very French emphasis on philosophy, culture and the abstract, the key concept behind the brand is apparently ‘atemporality in movement’, the Cinquième Sens-trained perfumer basing his creations on the foundations of the traditional ‘Great Perfumery’ while seeking to ‘redefine contemporary classics with the use and reinvention of sometimes forgotten olfactory families.’ In essence, all six scents are well made and attractive, with enough personality to perhaps achieve Monsieur Poulin’s goal of creating emotions ‘able to make body and soul come closer to each other, to be an imaginary addition to one’s persona, to create a world of one’s own’.
Notes: Italian Orris, bergamot, carrot seed, sage, ‘solar jasmine’, violet, sandalwood, cedar, tonka bean, labdanum, patchouli, white musk.
‘Duality between two materials: a flower and a precious-metal. The smell of a time when ladies would use perfume and powder. Our iris comes from Italy and diffuses smells of makeup powder, violet, and also, dust’.
From the above description you might imagine that Iris Palladium is a feminine, maquillaged iris along the lines of Frederic Malle’s Iris Poudre or even Chanel’s girlish, lipstick-smeared Misia, but nothing could be further from the truth. Rather, I find this staid and savoury iris to be more akin to Armani Privé’s La Femme Bleue (though without that perfume’s inherent mystery).
I do love iris, particularly when it is on the more melancholy tip: Hermès Hiris, Iris Silver Mist, Le Labo Iris 39 and N0 19 immediately spring to mind, but I can also enjoy a more sawdusty, mellow, almost salty orris number like Iris Palladium. Androgynous, subtle but diffusive, this makes an intriguing skin scent that would draw people to you even if it is perhaps lacking the wow factor that would make me want to buy it. For the fiercest iris aficionados, though, those who want to have an orris for every shade along the irisian PH spectrum, this new take on the powdery, dusty classic is certainly worth sampling.
Notes: lavender, violet, blackcurrant, blackberry, fir balsam, hedione, musk
‘The name comes from the mechanical universe, perpetual movement. By definition, a moment has a beginning and an end, therefore Moment Perpétuel is the idea of an infinite moment, infinite joy, and why not, infinite love’.
Ahem. That is quite the spiel to introduce what is essentially a fruity lavender, but fortunately, the opening of this perfume is rather joyous: a very beautiful, and original, high quality, French lavender top note tinted with violet, and aureoled quite inspirationally with a beautifully optimistic, fresh, and bucolic note of blackcurrant and blackberry – a purple fusion of happiness that really works. Both I and my other half immediately took to this one, and I insisted that he go out into town later to do some shopping wearing it to see how it progressed. It smelled lovely. An hour or two after he had come back home though I kept wondering where the smell of Gucci Envy was coming from, or if he had sprayed something similiar in the bathroom. It was a smell I was quite enjoying – fresh, clean, green, soapy – as I do like Envy, that stilettoed green classic from the nineties that was inexplicably, along with Rush, discontinued (coincidentally, we had just got a miniature Envy For Men the other day from a recycle shop – lord that stuff is sexy, a virile ginger swooner, I had forgotten) and I was actually planning to do a review, soon, of both. Nice though that scent might be, however, it was a strange ending – and one that he smells quite strongly of this morning – for a scent that began with a totally unconnected, and very natural smelling, burst of provencal lavender. A curious scent, then, this ‘perpetual moment’ and something of a schizo, but one I can imagine one of us, if the right multiple-personality mood should suddenly take hold, probably wearing again.
NOTES: pink pepper, rose berries, cumin, elemi resin, cypriol, guaiac wood, ginger, thyme, rosemary, smoked woods, incense, labdanum, vanilla and amber
Unfortunately, I detest the synthetically enhanced wood trend in current perfumery to the extent that I can’t be rational or objective. I can’t even test this sort of fragrance on my skin, nor even stand to have the room I am in smelling of it either if I were to spray some on a card (seriously), but fortunately, for the sake of perfume fairness, my best friend in Japan, Junko, can. She is the opposite of me, and thus the recipient of any and all boisés I might receive in the post. Perfumes that I would immediately simply want to throw out of the window usually without getting to know how they actually develop on the skin because I really just can’t stand that rasping, harsh dessication for even a moment, I get to experience (and even quite enjoy, bizarrely) on her. She is my ‘wood model’, if you like, and in this way I have been able to get different perspectives on such intense unalloyed woodies as Sacred Woods By Kilian and Bois d’Hiver by Ex Nihilo, a scent she has become so obsessed with she is now in London, as we speak, trying to find it. She would probably also like Particules Imprévisibles (and I will of course give my sample bottle to her), so named because it is ‘absolutely unpredictable, the numerous spicy and woody raw materials giving it the peculiar property to react to every skin in a unique manner’. I like how Junko’s skin reacts with these more traditionally masculine accords – such smells make her fierce and stubborn independence in such a simultaneously girly and sexist place as Japan even more manifest – and this dry, warm, spicy, almost YSL M7-like blend (not at all original; we have all smelled this kind of thing many, many times before) would probably smell great on her brown leather jacket when we meet up for our occasional, tête à tête conversations over wine and Japanese food, and I smell her subtle, but noticeable, incense- like dryness (dignified, magnetic) – from where I sit across the table.
NOTES: Lemon, lavender, evernyl, geranium, Aldehyde C12 MNA, vetiver, oud, patchouli, white musk, amber woods
Speaking of gender and masculinity, Champ d’Influence, a classically butch kind of perfume if ever there was one, is a ‘homage to my grandfather, a childhood olfactory memory. Each morning before school, my parents would drop me to my grandparents’ house. There, my grandfather, while being a farmer, still took the time each morning to soap his face, then to apply a traditional shaving cream with a vintage shaving brush, finishing that routine with an aftershave balm. I’ve always wanted to recreate this precise and peculiar fresh smell: this fougère base with lemon notes, lavender, geranium and vetiver, so typical of the odours emanating from a barbershop. A very manly fragrance that still appeals to a lot of women’.
I would agree. I do know women who still like the smell of Brut, the suave, hunk-chested, smooth-cheeked precursor of this kind of fragrance. It’s a classical formula that works very well if you like that sort of thing (and I sort of do: on the right man – one with a good sense of humour who doesn’t take himself too seriously, it can be quite sexy), even if Mr Poulain tries too hard, perhaps, to bridge the gap between the past and the present with a harsh note in the base accord that brings to mind more metallic, aggressive fougères such as Diesel Life Fuel. With similarities, also, to YSL Rive Gauche Pour Homme (the best of this type of new skool/ old school fougere, in my view) Champ D’Influence is a very effective scent – generously replete and full (though some might say a bit too full of itself) that will probably have a certain type of woman or man who is genetically programmed to go for the big bulge kind of guy champing at the bit; getting all riled up and horny and bothered and ready to ransack him thoroughly, though personally, I think I would much rather be chatted up in a bar by someone wearing Iris Palladium.You could probably expect better conversation.
NOTES: Grapefruit, bergamot, rhubarb, hedione, violet, tobacco, nutmeg, benzoin, amber woods, vetiver.
‘The paradox between abstract and reason. This perfume is the definition of it. Vetiver is usually heavily used for masculine fragrances. Here, this material is twisted with an acidulous rhubarb note which reminds me of the delicious rhubarb pies my mother used to make. Also, some greener and more fruity notes evoking passion fruits and a hint of mangoes. Finally, a benzoin and tobacco base to infuse leather and amber tones’.
I must admit that I don’t quite get what the perfumer is going on about here: ‘the paradox between abstract and reason’ nor, his assertion that this fairly typical contemporary vetiver is the ‘very definition’ (quite an immodest claim to make, actually) of anything whatsoever. The perfume is quite nice though: fresh, sharp, almost sour, the citrus and rhubarb mingling nicely with the rounded vetiver note that works in harmony with the other softer and more balsamic ingredients, although in truth this accord is already very familiar to me in perfumes such as Aedes De Venustas – which is also based around rhubarb and vetiver, and fresh, fruity vetivers such as Atelier Cologne’s Vetiver Fatal. If I were going for a vetiver of this type ( I occasionally do when I feel like hiding myself), I would probably plump instead for Vetiver Moloko by Ex Nihilo (another recent Parisian start up), which includes a Bulgarian rose and cypress note in the heart and takes this overdone fragrance type to slightly more restrained and rarified tenure.
MEMOIRE DU FUTUR
NOTES: Italian bergamot, aldehydes, rose, jasmine, carnation, violet, tonka, violet, hyraceum
Arnaud Poulain’s ethos for his brand – a blend of the brand new and the classical – is probably best encapsulated in the ideas around this curiously unfashionable blend:
‘In order to invent the future, a prerequisite is to master the past. For this perfume, I wanted to recreate and do justice to the great fragrances created between 1920 and 1940. A floral perfume revolving around a chypre base. A perfume with some of the most noble and traditional perfumery elements while still being completely contemporary, by combining them with modern ingredients’.
Possibly the least successful of this sextet, I would have to say that Mémoire Du Future, for me personally, fails in its mission. This scaled down skeletal attempt to bring le grand parfum back to life is far too dominated by simplistic and overpowering aldehydes that drown out any other naturals that might be in the blend and remind me of the dirt cheap, roll-on oil perfumes you find at Arab and Indian markets masquerading as Chanel No 5. Granted, the base is quite sexy and animalic (because of the hyraceum, or African Stone, a potent animalic ingredient blended possibly with some vanilla), reminding me of the original, eponymous perfume by Moschino – that naughty, buttery oriental that had no class really, despite its Milanese credentials, yet sure smelled big-thighed down n’ dirty when it ripped off its fur coat later on in the evening – but it’s hard to realistically compare this with the more orchestral, deep and fully rendered classiques of the Golden Age, alluring and curvaceous though it may be.
LES EAUX PRIMORDIALES: VERDICT
Quite nice. All six of these are competently made with a solid savoir faire, and you would probably be quite happy to work with people wearing these perfumes at the office. Admittedly, worn at high dosage, Champ D’Influence, Mémoire Du Futur and Particules Imprévisibles might occasionally be discovered groping and shagging frenetically in a three-way session behind the photocopier, unable, by 3pm to resist their surging impulses, bored at their desks and turned on hopelessly by their ruggedly pre-ordained sexual tropes; while Iris Palladium – assured, warm, enigmatic; Abstraction Raisonnée – fashionable but unforthcoming, and Moment Perpetuel – clean, soapy, ‘lovely’, if smiling a bit too incessantly, you wouldn’t mind at all sharing some desk space with and having a late morning meeting over coffee. You would get used to them. Their perfumes would blend with their personalities. Their scents most definitely become them and they would not offend. At least not most of the time. Still, as you daydreamed from the window, thinking of your perfume collection back home, you would still sometimes find yourself, as the working day progressed , smiling to yourself knowingly, eyes closed as you smelled your wrists- defiantly, surreptitiously – when no one else was looking.