L’Artisan Parfumeur is often referred to as the pioneer of niche perfumery. If not the originator, the house has had a remarkable influence on niche fragrances during its 40 years of history. L’Artisan Parfumeur’s fragrances were some of the first niche fragrances I experienced. Navegar and Passage d’enfer were my gateway fragrances and over the years, more were added to my collection, some of which are still in production and others have disappeared into the house’s extensive back catalogue. I recently had an opportunity to go through the entire collection, which has been spruced up with a new monochromatic bottle and new labelling. It was a nostalgic experience rediscovering many familiar but forgotten fragrances and I was reminded of L’Artisan Parfumeur’s contribution to the art of perfumery. Many of the notes that commonly feature in contemporary niche fragrances, L’Artisan Parfumeur experimented with them decades ago. Over the years the house has worked with many talented perfumers such as Olivia Giacobetti, Anne Flipo, Jean-Claude Ellena and Bertrand Duchaufour who, until recently, was the house’s ‘perfumer-in-residence.’
L’Artisan Parfumeur’s recent acquisition and rebrand opened up an opportunity for Firmenich perfumer Daphné Bugey to create Natura Fabularis, an entirely new collection of fragrances that follows the house’s constant fascination with nature. Pochet et du Courval, one of France’s most respected bottle makers in high end perfumery, designed an exceptional bottle for the collection. The Latin names and the weighty, apothecary-inspired bottles evoke a sense of old-world magic and alchemy. There are some great moments in the collection of six fragrances that is rumoured to have new additions coming soon. Venenum is an unusual abstract work, an olfactory bee sting and Violaceum is the scent of fine leather perfumed with saffron, carrot and violet flowers. Arcana Rosa is my favourite in the collection. It is a complex rose fragrance that is filled with contradictions.
Arcana Rosa’s woody personality is brutal and raw. With a dulcet bouquet of Bulgarian roses, it’s a bold contrast of dark and light, hard and soft, masculine and feminine. All this disparity oddly evens out to create a beautifully balanced composition. Arcana Rosa opens with a multifaceted rose surrounded by fresh, spicy, incense-like notes. As the rose accord settles, it becomes fruity with hints of lychee. The dark woody accord has an exotic, Middle Eastern reference and there is a hint of animal. Powered by Atlas cedar, sandalwood and oud, Arcana Rosa’s woodiness stretches on into infinity.
If there was a Masterchef reality TV show equivalent for perfumers, creating a rose fragrance would be an essential challenge included in every season. Rose fragrances are an archetype but I never get tired of smelling them in all their incarnations. Daphné Bugey demonstrated her skill for creating rose fragrances on a number of occasions during her career. She created Le Labo’s Rose 31, which stripped rose of its dowdy ‘grandma’ reputation and she created Altaia’s By Any Other Name, a refreshing and light Tudor rose fragrance. There is something dark and slightly ominous about Arcana Rosa. If you prefer your rose fragrances with thorns still attached, this is one worth pursuing. Arcana Rosa has a hint of trendy Middle Eastern oud-rose about it but thankfully it doesn’t fall headfirst down the trend trap. It’s perfect and cosy now that winter has arrived.
Perfumer: Daphné Bugey
Release Date: 2016
Typology: Rich Woods
Available in Australia from Agence de Parfum