In the wonderful and ever-expanding world of niche perfumery, concept is pretty much everything, isn’t it? To launch a brand, you need a story, and Parfums 137 is a tiny French house that’s taken the story idea literally, by offering a trio of scents woven into a mini-novel. There are two stories so far, Nara 1869 and Stromboli 1950. The three scents may be worn individually or layered. Hence the name of the brand, 137: one story, three fragrances, seven possibilities.
The first tome is a historical novel, whose hero is the (fictional) 19th century perfumer Akimoff: his adventures take him from perfumery house Violet to the arms of the Parisian courtesan extraordinaire, the Countess of Castiglione, and thence to Japan where he falls in love with a geisha…
Osmanthus, Bigarade and Olibanum, composed by Akimoff in the story, were authored by Isabelle Maillebiau of Drom Fragrances International, a scion of the Schlienger family (she is the grand-daughter of Jacques Schlienger and thus related to Monique Schlienger, founder of the perfumery school Cinquième Sens).
Bigarade is pretty much straight-on petitgrain/neroli (respectively distilled from the leaves and flowers of the bigaradier, the bitter orange tree), but Osmanthus doesn’t smell overwhelmingly of its namesake, unlike Olibanum, the best of the set and very true to the incense note, set in pine, patchouli, clove, myrrh and benzoin.
The trio works well in its various combinations; for a fairly reasonable 60 euros, you get three 15ml atomizers and a fair amount of playing around – you could probably experiment layering with other fragrances. The set, presented in a paperback-sized box with a booklet, also makes a rather charming gift. Parfums 137 isn’t available yet in the USA but can be ordered directly from the website, which also sells samples.
The second installment of Parfums 137, Stromboli 1950, takes the reader/perfume lover for a journey from Hollywood to the Italian island of Stromboli, in a tribute to post-WWII detective stories. The three star notes here are Spearmint, Myrte and Immortelle. I’ve only tested these in store, but I find that the spearmint note, pure Wrigley’s, tends to overwhelm the other two.
Now on to you… Which story would you create for three notes? And in which literary genre?
The best entry – judged by myself – will receive a full-sized set of Nara 1869. It’s mine and it’s only a few spritzes short!
A sample set will be drawn among the other entries.
You have until June 1st to submit your micro-novels.
Image: Japanese courtesan photographed by Felice Beato.