In my previous post I wrote of Bertrand Duchaufour’s saffron and rose pairing for Penhaligon’s Vaara. For L’Artisan Parfumeur, the master perfumer works with rose and saffron in an entirely different way. As the title suggests, this is the scent of two bodies in contact. Skin on Skin belongs to L’Artisan Parfumeur’s recently launched collection, Les Explosions d’Emotions. It is a collection that challenged Bertrand to “evoke specific emotions through fragrances.” When I spoke with the perfumer in November he remarked the collection was one that posed “a challenge to do something out of the normal, out of what we smell already. I wanted to explore new atmospheres, new spheres of scent, new accords and new fragrances.”
Over the past decade there has been a mini exodus away from the mainstream as consumers discover niche perfumery. At the start of the revolution, a considerable number of perfume buffs gravitated toward challenging smells, the stinkier the better. Perhaps it was the consumer expressing joy over their newfound freedom from all the mainstream fruity florals perfumes and endless marine-inspired colognes. Their new scented playground became fragrances such as Serge Lutens’ Muscs Koblai Khan, a voracious animalic perfume, which to this day reminds me of the scent of a man with poor personal hygiene. At fashion house Comme des Garcons, the brand’s 6th series since it began making fragrances in 2000 was titled Synthetic and its Tar fragrance included notes of “grilled cigarettes and city gas.” The pièce de résistance lies with avante-garde French house, Etat Libre d’Orange for creating Sécrétions Magnifique, a unique fragrance that lists blood, saliva, sperm and sweat as its olfactory anchors. In 2014 we seem to be moving back towards more classical statements of beauty and the art lies in making the suggestion more than showing the shocking detail. Without a hint of sweaty cumin oil or animalic civet tincture, Skin on Skin is a romantic notion of the physical act of love; a thought I shared with Bertrand who laughed and said “Ok so bon; I did a romantic note!” Putting the perfume’s back story to one side momentarily, if I view Skin on Skin purely from an olfactory perspective, I smell a majestically textured leather scent that whispers softly from the skin of its wearer.
My first impression of Skin on Skin is one of airy lactones and whipped caramel. It is a delicate confection, tinted with the colour of saffron; a precursor to the leather and suede notes, which appear as the fragrance evolves. It is an addictive accord that keeps my nose going back to the patch of skin where the fragrance is applied, to take in another sweet inhale and to get a sugar fix. The fragrance’s gourmand beginning is a nice metaphor for Skin on Skin’s theme. The caramel notes are as addictive as new love and their milky caress evokes sensuality. Iris, as it always will, gives Skin on Skin a sophisticated, luxurious feel and brings dry, powdery depth. The leather notes, which in the beginning stay on the periphery, now move into the centre of the fragrance making their presence felt. Although many leather fragrances have a sense of coldness about them; paired with musk, Skin on Skin employs a warm leather accord with the inviting texture of soft mineral-tanned kid suede. The caramel notes that were buoyant and playful in the top end, settle down and reveal a sultry whiskey accord. Although Skin on Skin has its peaks and troughs, it is a relatively linear fragrance, which finishes on skin as warm candied leather.
Skin on Skin has a definite wintery appeal. Its cosy texture makes it perfect for wearing on cool autumn or winter days. As a material, leather can feel cold and repelling until it has been warmed up by living skin. Whilst wearing some leather fragrances can feel like that momentary chill you get from throwing on a leather jacket to get warm in winter, Skin on Skin is the same jacket once it has assimilated the body’s own heat. It feels protective and cuddly like a second skin. Leather continues to be a trend in perfumery and if you are a fan, this softer approach to the genre makes a great alternative to what is already available in both the niche and luxury fragrance market. I have to admit Skin on Skin didn’t make an immediate impression on me when I first smelled it and it took me some time to appreciate its true value. Incase your experience is like mine, I do recommend trialling Skin on Skin a few times in order for it to reveal its subtle charms.
Alternatives: Penhaligon’s Iris Prima, Hermes Santal Massoia, Frederic Malle Dries Van Noten par Frederic Malle, Lubin Korrigan
Perfumer: Bertrand Duchaufour
Release Date: 2013
Typology (via Fragrances of the World): Soft Floral
For L’Artisan Parfumeur stockists in Australia and New Zealand see Agence de Parfum