When I reviewed Jardins d'Armide from Oriza L.Legrand the other week I mentioned that I really would like to see the house move from the recreation of historic fragrances to telling "old" stories with a contemporary twist. And then chance will have it and I find someone else who is doing exactly that. Three weeks ago I attended a perfume event at Bloom perfumery in Spitalfields, where Carlos Huber, the founder of Arquiste perfumes presented and explained his fragrance line. Unfortunately I managed to arrive a whopping 30 minutes late (thank you number 78 bus, thank you apple maps, thank you stupid no sense of orientation brain) which was a real shame because not only did Carlos explain a lot about the inspirations behind scents but he also gave us the opportunity to have a sniff at the single ingredients he used. I entered the shop just in time to hear him talking about Aleksandr, the perfume inspired by the rather tragic story of Russian poet Aleksandr Pushkin. It is told in notes of:
Smelling the violet leaves was a bit of a revelation - no sweetness, no pastell colour, but a strong earthy green with quite some punch. Not unpleasant, but a bit in your face. Carlos explained that he used that particular note for the earthyness but also because it does have that old fashioned powdery perfume element. Perfumes did smell of violets at that time. The next note, vodka, or alcohol in general makes a lot of sense in terms of telling the story of a Russian poet of the 19th century, but this particular poison is famed for its non-smelling properties. On my little paper strip I detected just a hint of fizzy freshness, more like a vodka/champagne cocktail than the pure thing.
And then the dominant note, the leather. The essence we smelled was of the finest quality boot leather. Not a feminine suede glove, but polished black riding boots. I am a bit of a sucker for 19th century men's costumes. High boots over tight trousers, what's not to like?
The final note, the fir balm, hinting at a forest touched by a misty morning fog, (the perfect time for a duel?) was again a bit of a surprise. Strong enough to put me off if the final creation would have too much of it.
After the presentation, when we all mingled and tested the perfumes in detail, I tried Aleksandr on skin. To my great surprise it didn't turn out to be testosterone driven at all. The violet leaves that were so completely green on paper suddenly smelled more like the petals; sweet and fragile. If you have ever been to a perfumista gathering, you will know that even the most reserved people suddenly feel compelled to smell the lower arms and wrists of someone who just happens to stand next to them and in this case my fellow perfume lovers all expressed a certain surprise at how Aleksandr had developed on my skin.
|My drawing for Aleksandr by Arquiste|
For me and on me it's a melancholic, leather based fragrance with a very, very soft heart. It's one of those leathers that can go both ways (in terms of gender) and 360 degrees in terms of aspect. And I love it for that. What I like about all the Arquiste fragrances I have tested is that you can detect a unique quirkyness. It's nice to read up on the stories but the perfumes do work entirely on their own merits. Whether you involve yourself in the history or not is up to you and this, for me, marks the difference to some of the perfumes of the house of Oriza.
It always helps if the creator/editor of a perfume house is enthusiastic about his/her work, charming and handsome. Carlos Huber is all of that and I wish him and his line all sorts of good luck. Well deserved.
How and where to wear:
St.Petersburg, National library of Russia, with gay pride