In April 2013 I published my first post about Arquiste perfumes, which was a review of L’Etrog, a perfume from the brand’s initial collection. Arquiste’s founder, Carlos Huber, was in Australia at the time and we talked about his brand’s story. Story telling is one of the elements I love about what Carlos does. Through the medium of modern perfumery, each Arquiste perfume takes its wearer on a journey through space and time. L’Etrog was set in the Mediterranean amongst the citron groves of medieval Calabria. The year was 1175. Collaborating with Rodrigo Flores-Roux and Yann Vasnier, two of Givaudan’s leading perfumers, Carlos made a perfume about the annual harvest of Calabrese citron fruit. It is a region of Italy that is famous for the quality of citrus fruit it produces. Bergamot from Calabria is of particular importance to the perfume industry. Using a number of Italian citrus oils, Arquiste’s L’Etrog showcased the natural beauty of this region. During these medieval harvests, farmers built temporary cabins out of branches and palm fronds. Here they slept before rising early in the morning to collect the harvest fruit. L’Etrog used woody notes to reference the palm frond cabins and a novel date fruit accord referenced a dietary staple the farmers ate during the harvest. Two years on, I have a new version of L’Etrog to write about, L’Etrog Acqua. For this new varietal that launched in 2014, Carlos worked exclusively with Rodrigo Flores-Roux. When Carlos was in Sydney late last year, I had a chance to speak with him again and he told me how L’Etrog Acqua came to be.
“I am a good friend of Rodrigo Flores-Roux. One weekend he invited me to his summerhouse and he was wearing something that was like L’Etrog but not quite. I was like – you cheated! What did you do? He said, ‘I don’t like the sweet date accord that we have in L’Etrog so I made myself a different batch. Imagine the farmers go out of the cabin and now they are in the fields of citron, the lemon groves. We have the morning dew and the heavy drops of water that have gathered in the skin of the actual citron.’ I said that is really good. So I started wearing it and every time I would wear it, someone would say that it is so good. ‘What is that?’ So we decided to launch it.”
With L’Etrog Acqua, the citron story is refreshed with a new level of intensity. Talking in champagne terms, Carlos described it as being a millésime version of a citrus fragrance. He said, “It is a heightened, over-the-top and concentrated fragrance. It is not necessarily light but it is refreshing.”
Like the morning sun waking a landscape from its nocturnal slumber, L’Etrog Acqua’s citruses rise quickly, casting light over the fragrance’s bitter green horizon. Fresh green notes, aromatic myrtle and lavender are washed with a medley of Mediterranean citrus fruit. Generous amounts of cedrat and lemon oil reshape bergamot and sunny mandarin with a sharp acidic edge. Petitgrain citronnier creates an elegant segue between this tart beginning and the green woodiness underpinning the perfume’s first half. In the final half, the fragrance builds in radiance. As the greenness dissipates, woody notes of cedar and vetiver become more apparent. The original L’Etrog had a touch of a deconstructed chypre accord in its base. With the date accord removed and the inclusion of lavender, I feel like L’Etrog Acqua has an accent of an aromatic fougere or eau fraiche about it, which lingers subtly in the background. All of these layers provide a powerful springboard for all that citrus and L’Etrog Acqua has surprising longevity on skin.
People who enjoy wearing citrus fragrances are always faced with the challenge of longevity. Citrus notes used in perfumes have a notoriously short lifespan. Their small molecules evaporate very quickly. Perfumers use a number of tricks to extend the perfume’s life. For L’Etrog Acqua, it is the selection of woody notes that solve this engineering obstacle. They push the citrus notes further without overpowering them with their own woody odours. As a result, L’Etrog Acqua lasts well on skin compared to many other citrus fragrances. It was one of my favourite fragrances during the Australian summer and now that summer is on the doorstep of the northern hemisphere, L’Etrog Acqua is a perfect fragrance anthem for the months ahead. The new 100ml bottle size also allows for more liberal application, which is a nice refreshment in a warm climate.
Alternatives: Arquiste L’Etrog, John Varvatos Artisan Acqua, Le Galion Whip, Christian Dior Eau Fraiche
Creative Direction: Carlos Huber
Perfumer: Rodrigo Flores-Roux
Bottle Designer: Bormioli Studio/Stoelzle Glass Studio
Release Date: 2014
Typology (via Fragrances of the World): Fresh Citrus