For a perfumer planning a trip to Istanbul, it’s apt to get mighty crowded on the Orient-Express… Not only has the perfume industry been wearing out the seats ever since it became an industry (pretty much at the time when the Orient-Express started running), but Serge Lutens has permanently booked compartments in most of the cars: you’d be lucky if you could even find a bunk. Besides, when you compose an olfactory travelogue – the principle of L’Artisan Parfumeur’s “Smells stolen by a travelling perfumer” collection, now apparently renamed “Villes et voyages” -- how much do you actually capture in situ? Many of the smells encountered outside the sanitized West are un-exploitable; the ones you pick must be sufficiently symbolic of the chosen destination to conjure it, even for people who’ve never been there. You might as well stay home and leaf through a pile of National Geographic magazines.
Or you might skip the Orient-Express altogether, take the modern version of a flying carpet, get marooned in Istanbul by the volcanic ash cloud, sniff around the Tulip Festival – they do have a scent, sappy/sweet, slightly aqueous and a little sperm-like – and get hooked on pomegranate juice…
Bertrand Duchaufour did go to Istanbul, as it happens, and he’s got the pictures to prove it (they’ll be exhibited at Henri Bendel’s in New York for the launch of La Traversée du Bosphore). But, not unexpectedly, he played hooky on the belly-dancer-and-spice-bazaar guided tour. In other words, he hasn’t done an oriental, not in any classic sense. What drew him to Turkey may have been his hankering to work on the leather note; what he brought back was a brightly-coloured, playful collage of olfactory vignettes stitched onto that piece of Turkish leather.
The aforementioned tulip and pomegranate are tiny, sneeze-and-you-miss’em details; the apple looms larger, a quote of the apple-flavoured tobacco smoked in hookahs all over the former Ottoman Empire and of the ubiquitous elma çay, the Turkish apple tea. But the bulk of the picture is taken up by a chunk of Turkish delight the size of the Hagia Sophia Dome: however distinct the leather note in Bosphore, the scent is also disconcertingly sweet and thus, the polar opposite of Duchaufour’s earlier, moodier, chiaroscuro travel impressions.
Mercifully, the leather accord is not a literal rendition of the whiffy skins fobbed off to tourists ("see artisans at work!"), but a suede-type note, alternately velvety and raspy depending on the way you touch it. As for the rose, pistachio and saffron-flavoured Turkish delight… Just don’t hang around anyone with a sweet tooth: you’re apt to get a chunk nibbled off from your arm.
The contrast between these two main accords is bridged by apple and rose. The tart, juicy burst of apple in the top notes adds a touch of brightness to the darkness of the leather and dries up the powdery lokum accord, while hooking up with the rose through damascones (some of which have both apple and rose facets). It straddles the two major textural effects of Bosphore: its fruitiness leads into the sweet, melting chewiness of the lokum; its raspy, acidic character – which can be stretched into conjuring pomegranate juice -- introduces similar effects in the iris and leather accord. This accord is in turn picked up and intensified by both the metallic and leather facets of saffron, which also acts as a symbolic/olfactory bridge in the composition since it often matched with rosewater in Levantine sweets.
The rose growing out of the lokum is, of course, another reference to Turkey since the country is a major producer of Rosa Damascena. It acts as the core of the formula, in an arc going from the green and fruity facets echoed in the apple, to jammy notes conjuring the lokum, and then on to darker undertones that blend in with the woody base.
However, the real surprise in Bosphore comes from an amazingly palpable caster sugar dusted all over the leather and lokum, as though the vanilla had brushed the musk at just the right angle to blow a powdery veil into the air -- you can fairly taste it on your tongue.
In a way, Bertrand Duchaufour has reversed the proposition of Havana Vanille/Vanille Absolument, which was to pull vanilla out of the gourmand register, by turning his leather into something you eat.
Either that or you’ve forgotten to peel off your gloves when you tucked a piece of Turkish delight between your lips. And licked the sugar off the leather.
Illustration: Turkish Bath by Erró
Hmm, seems like it's really Mr. Duchaufour's year on the niche market! Quite a prolific man.RépondreSupprimer
Sadly, this seems like one I can safely miss. There's something about reading these notes in conjunction that makes me queasy.
I'm not a huge fan of Duchaufour's work, however, I'm intrigued by this leather (turkish delight) rendition.RépondreSupprimer
I don't know why but it makes me think of Gobin Daude who did a remarkable turkish-inspired amber, the now discontinued Jardins Ottomans, which wasn't too literal nor a completely modern or classic take on the oriental genre, it was very her vision yet.
To Uella...I miss Gobin Daude so much...RépondreSupprimer
What I begin to recognize is Duchafour's desire to explore territories that have already been mapped to a fault, and find a new spot. Your article - as usual - is wonderful. His desire to innovate and your writing make me want to see his interpretation of l'orient. ready to go out for a meeting i've dabbed Boxeuses (first rain in the air, adding a perfect ozonic contract to it) and i'm more aware than ever of the power and tenderness of leather and fruit put together by a master.RépondreSupprimer
My goodness, how does one nose come up with what seem to be at least 2 new perfumes a month? Please find out what this man drinks in the morning and post it on your blog. I will buy cases of it, and stock in the company!RépondreSupprimer
A leather gourmand certainly sounds intriguing....
Sugandaraja, you never know until you smell a fragrance: what you project reading notes maybe totally different from what they are or how they combine. Of course if you really loathe Turkish delight don't go near this: the effect is quite realistic.RépondreSupprimer
And, yes, BD is really working a lot, isn't he? There's one more launch to come, Frapin's Les Ailes du Désir...
He's in a rather unique position, in that he is probably the best-known perfumer to have broken loose from the "studio system" and to be working for a portfolio of clients. Francis K. started his own house, Christophe Laudamiel isn't signing much that I know of (the Humiecki and Graef, but he seems to be on other types of projects), Olivia G. was always an independent but if she's working a lot, she's not signing much either apart from Honoré des Prés.
Of course people from big labs compose a lot of things too for various clients, but this is a bit different since BD is now being sought out for his signature and much more able to impose his aesthetic choices and style.
It's an intriguing development in the industry...
Uella, you should at least check it out. Since you're in New York where it launched you're in a position to do so. I've never smelled Jardins Ottomans, but if it's amber it's another thing entirely...RépondreSupprimer
EEM, I somehow managed to miss Gobin Daudé: by the time I found out who carried them in Paris, the brand was being phased out and I didn't have the budget to stock up at the time...RépondreSupprimer
G., perfumers usually "juggle" many projects over the year and typically, a composition is approved by the client several months before the launch, after several month's development. So it's not like the man came up with two scents within a month, that's just the launch calendar, usually quite intensive at this time of year.RépondreSupprimer
EEM, you're right I think: someone like BD (but I could say the same of other perfumers who are allowed a broad creative margin) really tries to say things differently, within a context where so many areas have already been covered...RépondreSupprimer
I haven't mentioned Boxeuses in this review - I had originally but didn't want the post to be too long. It is also a leather matched with sweet notes but both the type of leather (cuir de Russie) and the type of fruitiness (veering towards the burnt and lactonic/plum) yield very different effects.
Can I just say wow! :) It sounds amazing - I don't really like eating lokum (it's way too sweet for me) but I love the way it smells. And combined with suede? Mmmm, I can see myself falling in love with this one...RépondreSupprimer
But then again, I pretty much love anything Mr. Duchafour creates.
Inès, the rose and pistachio combine pretty irresistibly with that suede note... I've really been enjoying my sample.RépondreSupprimer
I think it's a very charming perfume, though two men in my acquaintance have id'd the "spermy" note from the tulip accord.... Embarrassed! So I don't wear it to work. The perfume itself lasts on me about 2 hours, but for that time, the interplay of pistachio, rose, and sugar accord in the drydown is very lovely. Are there any other leather gourmands out there, or is this unique?RépondreSupprimer
Hello, D. I happened to be in New York last night, so was able to go to the launch party and to meet BD (who was utterly charming). As for the fragrance, it was a huge surprise to me, as I had been expecting something much darker, spicier, and animalic. But I'm really enjoying this powdery grey suede of Traversée du Bosphore, and it feels very much like a Duchaufour composition. That initial hit of iris reminded me instantly of Dzongkha. And I'm fascinated by the dryness and powderiness of the composition. I love the idea of rose and metallic saffron over vanilla, but in something like Safran Troublant it becomes overwhelmingly sweet and sticky. Here, BD manages to make it dry, powdery, almost dessicated.RépondreSupprimer
...oh, and that apple really bolsters the lokum effect for me, because isn't the gelling agent in Turkish delight fruit pectin, e.g. from apples or quince?RépondreSupprimer
You're not going to believe this, but the volcanic ash cloud left me stranded in Istanbul too! Whilst I was there, I did wonder what an 'Istanbul perfume' would smell like. Needless to say, leather and rose came high on my list of notes, but I would also have included a reference to Turkish coffee. Still, M Douchaufour's latest sounds like another must-try.RépondreSupprimer
Jarvis, I was hoping to hear back from someone who'd been at the launch and had actually smelled Bosphore! I adore Safran Troublant but as you say, it's one of those scents you really need to be in the mood for -- I was told at L'Artisan that people often impulse-bought it, like me, but didn't necessarily wear it intensively afterwards.RépondreSupprimer
I find the textural effects achieved in Bosphore quite impressive -- this is not fatty leather, and B's managed to convey the chewiness of the lokum and juiciness of the apple without making them sticky.
Jarvis, I hadn't thought of the pectin... of course, the apple note makes even more sense in that context. What's interesting is the way in which BD picks notes that make sense together at many different levels: rose and saffron are of course a traditional match in cuisine, which means they obviously work, but then some aspects are used to conjure other notes which also function as signs of the place... I always find it quite exciting to see the symbolic and olfactory mesh in such a way.RépondreSupprimer
Persolaise, isn't that serendipitous? You might have run into BD... anyway, that means at least a good sniff of Bosphore is in the cards for you!RépondreSupprimer
Marla, off the top of my head I can think of two leather scents matched with sweet, foody notes, but they tend to be at the burnt/caramelized end of the spectrum: Boxeuses and Marquis de Sade by Histoires de Parfums. Daim Blond matches suede and apricot/osmanthus effects.RépondreSupprimer
Yes, Daim Blond is wonderful, but still, a very different animal. Marquis de Sade I just didn't care for, and it's quite a different configuration of notes as well.RépondreSupprimer
Marla, there's a freshness (because of the rosewater/powder effect and apple) in Bosphore that makes it quite different from other sweet leathers.RépondreSupprimer
Yes, I'd say it's pretty much in a category of its own.RépondreSupprimer
Yes, Denyse, more than the recognizable notes, it's the textural effect of Traversée du Bosphore that really blows me away. I love how dry and raspy it is, like the nubby texture of suede that has been sprinkled with talcum powder to retard moisture. BD said that this is achieved in part through a synthetic orange blossom note + vanilla, which I find fascinating.RépondreSupprimer
I saw the discussion on the French side of the blog about whether this would skew too feminine for a man, but I don't find that to be the case at all. The powder does not read (to me) as the usual "powdered makeup" of classically powdery fragrances.
Jarvis, and the musk, of course... It's not makeup powdery, but it *is* very sweet so that a certain number of men I know wouldn't feel comfortable wearing it, but as I think I said on the French side, I *do* know at least one man who carries that sort of scent off perfectly, so why not? There are certainly many more.RépondreSupprimer
That's what I like about Duchaufour - most of what he does is pretty much in a category of its own, as Marla put it. ~~nozknozRépondreSupprimer
Nozknoz, true enough. He's got a very distinctive style, yet he still manages to push himself, and the genre he's working in, beyond what's expected, as though it were a point of pride.RépondreSupprimer
back from a short visit to an exhibition of avigdor arikha, delighted with the sheen of cleanliness left by yesterday's first real rain. I walked in sunlight and thought about the marvelous smell of leather, having seen a picture (in another hall) by a Dutch master: A Woman reading a (leather bound) Book. I wondered which are the chemical components in leather that offer such sense of vigourous desire, elegance and sensuality. Which of those components reaffirm us so much in our carnal presence? Regardless of the answers,which are perhaps only in the domain of thoughtful chemists, I am convinced that in the alphabet of fragrances and accords we may find that what we call 'leather' converses with some crucial chemistry in our system. And fashion, of course, and its cycles. Mona di Orio's Cuir, SL's Boxeuses, now BD's La Traversee...leather seems to this fall what green lightness was to last spring. There's not one leather fragrance i can leave untried. Off we go to get a sample of ...du Bosphore, but with some reluctance,a bit of suspicion. I'm too hooked on Boxeuses at the moment.RépondreSupprimer
EEM, it's odd how leather is cropping up all over, isn't it? Pendulum of fashion, probably. But in truth, most perfumers dream of working on a leather accord: it is a cosa mentale, open to interpretation since there is no essence, and so many manners of conjuring it... It is also a note that has straddled/transgressed the gender divide almost from the outset, and one that is known as divisive, aristocratic even. But attractive in a very animalistic way, you're right...RépondreSupprimer
Going bit off-topic, Denyse, can you kindly explain status of L'Artisan's vanilla fragrances?RépondreSupprimer
I know that classic Vanilia is discontinued (replaced by Havana Vanille). Is Vanille Absolument the official new name of Havana V., or just an additional statement? It is bit confusing.
Also, I have once read about L'Artisan Vanilia Extreme, but it seems to be very rare edition with hardly any online information about the scent.
Thank you in advance, Ela.
Ela, Vanille Absolument is the new name for Havana Vanille. The latter had to be changed for legal reasons. It's the same product.RépondreSupprimer
I may be in the minority, but I really want some of this! I find the straight "loukhoum" style perfumes to be much too sweet, but with leather added, wow! I may not be able to wear it in public, but at home I would use a rather indecent amount...RépondreSupprimer
Flora, I'm not quite sure you'll be in the minority. I wore Bosphore to a wedding this weekend. The friend I was sharing my hotel room with nearly passed out, she found it so gorgeous (she's getting a bottle as soon as it comes out), and one of the young men said he wanted it too.RépondreSupprimer
The sillage is delicate, so that I could see wearing in public.
I love your writing about this scent, I'm not sure if it's a scent for me, or just your take on it that has me so stimulated. Between your post, and Jarvis's experience, I'll high tail it over to Bendel's as soon as I'm in NY next week! I myself am on a bit of a leather jag, I have both Vintage Jolie Madame and Etro Gomma with me on this trip, the better to arm myself for NY...RépondreSupprimer
Wendy, bear in mind this isn't huge leather, more of a suede, with quite a bit of iris. You'll have to see whether you amplify the sweet notes!RépondreSupprimer
I think I'm in the mood for a soft leather, but I have no idea what will happen with those loukhoum notes, I like the IDEA ; ) I'll let you know what happens! OXOXRépondreSupprimer
I'm slowly trying to work my way through your reviews of perfumes which I've actually tried.RépondreSupprimer
I'd say "disconcertingly" sweet is spot-on. There are moments when it almost becomes too much, but ultimately, I agree that this is very impressive stuff.
Ersolaise, because of the texture andRépondreSupprimer
I find it never becomes overwhelming to me. But that's really a matter of individual perception I guess.