Last week, founders of Australian niche fragrance house Map of the Heart invited guests to their Sydney boutique in Darlinghurst to celebrate the launch of Pink Heart v.6. This is Map of the Heart’s sixth fragrance and its most feminine release to date. When I interviewed Givaudan perfumer Jacques Huclier earlier this year, he spoke about his work with colleague Giovanna Aicardi and Map of the Heart’s co-founder Sarah Blair. He spoke about Pink Heart v.6’s development and the desire to create a feminine fragrance based on narcissus flower. For me the pink heart-shaped bottle, designed by Pierre Dinand, matched the spirit of the fragrance. At the launch, Sarah Blair and I discussed the childhood nostalgia brought on by the scent of plastic toys. This was also a discussion point during the fragrance’s development. She talked about choosing a black collar for the bottle (except for Black Heart v.2, all Map of the Heart’s fragrances have silver collars) to contrast the pink colour. The fragrance also has this contrast. Despite the sweet allure of narcotic floral notes, there is an unexpected element that is a little bit dark and mysterious, which rises out of the fragrance as it evolves on skin.
Narcissus is a challenging flower for perfumers to work with. Beyond the delicate green floral notes there is an animalic, phenolic side, which in isolation, seems to have no business being in a pink fragrance bottle. It (para-cresyl acetate) smells a bit like horse urine. Ironically, if this facet were removed, the flower would lose its charm and authenticity. Perfumers often use bases that are reconstructions of the flower. These bases omit or replace as much of the offensive note as possible but for Pink Heart v.6, Jacques used a significant quantity of natural French narcissus extract. Aside from having a polarising effect on consumers, it’s a costly ingredient, which is another reason why narcissus is rarely used in mainstream, commercially driven fragrances. It’s very niche.
Right at the start of the fragrance, Pink Heart v.6 is all about narcissus. It’s beautifully done. Narcissus’ heady temperament is tamed with green notes that include shiso leaf, basil and a hint of neroli. The heart of the fragrance builds with indolic jasmine and broom. Here the fragrance glows neon pink before moving into another phase. Pink Heart v.6 is delivered in two halves. The first half is about flowers – they are almost photorealistic. The second half is more abstract. Once the floral notes settle, the fragrance develops gourmand facets and warmth. Resins and musk create a soft, marshmallow effect with a hint of something burnt, like chestnuts on an open fire or even the puff of hair gone up in smoke. As the fragrance winds down to its end, it follows a more familiar path with an oriental lineage that can be traced back to Shalimar.
Although Pink Heart v.6 isn’t something I’d personally wear, the opening of the fragrance, which is narcissus in all its natural glory, is well worth the experience if only to experience such a stellar narcissus note. The gourmand-oriental notes in the base don’t appeal to my personal taste but I know a few guys who enjoy wearing Guerlain’s iconic Shalimar, so Pink Heart v.6 probably has the potential to build a small male fan base. Of course, its female fan base will be much larger. Black Heart v.2 still tops my list as personal favourite from Map of the Heart and with six to choose from; there is surely something in the collection for everyone.
For more information, visit Map of the Heart’s website, or Sydney boutique at 222 Liverpool Street, Darlinghurst.