For several weeks during the development of Séville à l’aube, a sharp, tangy green smell permeated Bertrand Duchaufour’s lab. At times, it was so powerful we had to work in a nearby café. This turned out to be “Coeur de rhubarbe” (“rhubarb heart”), the core accord of the signature fragrance Bertrand was developing at the time for Aedes de Venustas, the West Village jewel-box niche perfumery boutique for which he’d already composed an eponymous fragrance in partnership with L’Artisan Parfumeur.
Today, the oddball, jaunty note that overpowered every other smell in the lab has grown into a futuristic rewriting of the green chypre genre which may be ushering in a new phase in the prolific perfumer’s style.
Over the course of our sessions, Bertrand often told me he’d been asked by many clients to steer away from his trademark weird notes, but also that he felt like doing “crazy accords” and that he hoped to convince his clients to accept them. Was he thinking about “Coeur de rhubarbe” and Aedes de Venustas when he said that? I caught him between his promotional jaunt to New York to launch the fragrance and a trip to Indonesia to source fair-trade materials, and asked him the question.
Bertrand Duchaufour: Yes, that was the period where I really wanted to do a different style of perfumery, by conceiving another type of accord which would also be a conceptual deconstruction of the accords I bring into play in perfumes. I’d made a few submissions to Aedes de Venustas: straight off, they picked the most deconstructed and the toughest to work on.
Denyse Beaulieu: What do you mean by deconstructed?
BD: In the initial accord, “Coeur de rhubarbe”, the rhubarb which is normally a top note was structured in such a way that it became completely vertical. When they [Karl Bradl and Robert Gerstner, the owners of Aedes de Venustas] selected it, I told myself I’d have to make sure to keep the rhubarb in the top, heart and base notes. That’s what I focused on. From the outset, the rhubarb accord was direct and powerful. It became more sophisticated over the development of the fragrance. I started out with a few very intense green notes and ended up with a dozen raw materials supporting the rhubarb over the course of the fragrance’s evolution.
DB: How did you “sophisticate” those green notes?
BD: I added hazelnut, green apple and ganja effects. I also ensured that vetiver, which wasn’t very present at the outset, would support the rhubarb accord: I strengthened it so that the woody, bitter, rooty notes of vetiver also became vertical, rising up from the base to the top notes.
DB: You’re focusing on the structure of the accord, but the craziest thing, to me, is how violent it is. It’s very incisive.
BD: You’re right. Rhubarb has green, metallic, sharp, acid effects: it’s not green like sap or of grass, which are more common in green top notes. Which makes it very incisive. The rhubarb note is like a green laser beam slicing through the entire structure of the perfume, from top to base notes. Like a very sharp knife slicing a chocolate cake. This creates an intense contrast between the dark incense chypre and the green rhubarb note. What’s crazy is that the green note seems to intensify over the development of the perfume. Vetiver boosts the green effects in the base notes because I made sure it developed bitter, rooty facets.
DB: So you’ve re-enlisted your old standby, incense!
BD: I re-enlisted incense because it’s Aedes de Venustas’s signature. They couldn’t imagine putting out a fragrance without incense: the first thing I did for them was inspired by Japanese incense. They wanted me to stay within that register, which might become the common denominator of their line.
DB: When I smell Aedes de Venustas, I think of the violence of spring. Something green that comes up through moist, black earth and tears it open when it bursts out.
BD: Yes, you could almost see shoots and roots piercing the earth. After all, vetiver is a root. I’ve managed to make that rooty effect emerge, push out from the inside, up from the base notes. The earthy effects are given by a pretty sophisticated chypre accord. Actually, that’s exactly it: it’s a violent spring.
Drop a comment and I’ll draw 10 preview samples of Aedes de Venustas Eau de Parfum.
Added 28/03: the draw is now closed.
Top illustration: Detail of Niki de Saint-Phalle's Nana Fountain, MAMAC, Nice
Hmmm, a rhubarb accord? Sounds fascinating, especially since you call it "futuristic rewriting of the green chypre genre".RépondreSupprimer
Would love to try it! :)
Ines, it's really one of the most original, compelling things I've tried recently and as BD, its structure is really quite unusual...RépondreSupprimer
Denyse, I never thought about as you say "the violence of spring", but you're completely right, those seeds and bulbs bursting through the soil like knives! And what an intriguing list of components in the new Aedes; you've piqued my interest!RépondreSupprimer
I'm a big fan of BD and what just read made me sooooooo curious. Please enter me into the draw! Thank youRépondreSupprimer
I am intrigued! I'd love to smell it IRL.RépondreSupprimer
I've really started enjoying the smell of rhubarb lately... This sounds interesting.RépondreSupprimer
Rhubarb is worth to be put on a perfumed pedestal. Just have a look: Dark green oxalic-toxic leaves on bright red stems. A jaunty tart-sweet taste capable of giving the typical cake aroma world a wild kick. Hothouse rhubarb is supposed to be sweeter. Also more violent? Personally, I can’t enjoy rhubarb compote without some complementary sweetness, which makes me wonder what are the materials Bertrand Duchaufour may have used for olfactory comfort to keep the pain of the “incision” and “violence” at an acceptable level.RépondreSupprimer
The other admirable aspect of your post is the exciting construction-deconstruction story. I would love to read more interviews such as this. Listening to perfumers disclosing some of the thinking and feelings when working at a challenging perfume architecture is quite fascinating.
A final point: it seems that our current assortment of green smelling molecules is large enough that the nose can travel from top to base through the whole olfactory pyramid and still be in a green universe while experiencing quite some adventures on each floor. That is wonderful! Would Papyrus de Ciane by P. Guilleaume with its Galbanum top, vegetal leather and mossy cellar also belong in this category?
Addendum: What was the name of the perfume? Sacre du Printemps?RépondreSupprimer
I have a decant of Guerlain London, which has a very prominent rhubarb note - tart! Would love to try M. Duchaufour's creation! Thanks for the draw!RépondreSupprimer
We've had so much sudden warmth where I live that spring *has* seemed rather violent this year: green things in such a rush to germinate that they almost seem to rip themselves apart in sprouting forth. As ever, I love reading these exchanges between you and BD -- and I'm enjoying reading a whole book of these conversations, since your book arrived from Amazon a couple of days ago!RépondreSupprimer
I really liked the rhubarb note in Tommi Sooni II and found myself wishing for more. I'd love to smell Duchaufor's new Aedes perfume.RépondreSupprimer
Very curious about this rhubarb perfume, I smell rhubarb in Jardin sur le Toit of Jean-Claude Ellena for Hermes...and somehow many of my friends tell it smells "like shower gel"!!! Probably because of fruity-rhubarb note which makes them think about pies rather than fine perfumery???RépondreSupprimer
Loved analogy with lazer, very powerful...
And on consumer goods perfumery - for those who live in France and love rhubarb - try Super U own brand Fraise Rhubarb shower gel... in my opinion best ever fruity shower gel for last 5 years!!!
JAntoinette, as a Canadian, I've always been aware of the violence of spring... I think people in snow-bound countries know what I mean. And Aedes de Venustas expresses this very strongly.RépondreSupprimer
Maria, you're in!RépondreSupprimer
Furriner, it's interesting how certain smells seem to make their way into our consciousness (and tastes) just as some perfumers are working on them. Zeitgeist?RépondreSupprimer
Maria Ho, you're in too!RépondreSupprimer
Now I will have to start searching out Rhubarb perfumes next time I go to the city. I have nothing but cooking with it as a reference. I am sure this is going to be very different. Thanks for having a draw.RépondreSupprimer
Joey R., I think it's the dark chypre structure that provides plushness around the incisive green note. There's no migraine-inducing stridency here.RépondreSupprimer
I agree it's fascinating to discuss a scent's architecture with a perfumer: how the form works to tell a story or create a world.
And Joey: it could've been called Sacre du Printemps, definitely, but it's Aedes de Venustas's signature scent, so it's called Aedes de Venustas Eau de Parfum.RépondreSupprimer
Jarvis, same here in Paris: spring sprung practically overnight and all the plants are exploding (as are the pollens -- atchoo).RépondreSupprimer
I'm glad your book made it to you! It's true of course that having clocked in so many hours discussing with Bertrand, we've managed to find a common language -- he's a great teacher and a great listener.
Kathryn, well, here's your chance!RépondreSupprimer
Lili_Al, thanks for the heads-up on the Super U shower gel, there's a store nearby so I'll pop in for a sniff. I think it may be the watery-fruity register of the Jardin that makes people say that... Of course, nowadays, you can wear vintage Diorissimo and people will tell you it smells like toilet spray!RépondreSupprimer
Mind you, there are lots of functional scents that I find easily better than most mainstream launches.
ShellyW, I'd never really given it much thought as a note until this particular accord. The way it's treated really sets it apart from the sunnier stuff though.RépondreSupprimer
Another big fan of Duchaufour here! I have two large rhubarb plants in my garden and will have to go look when I get home from work to see if they are bursting through the soil!RépondreSupprimer
Queen Cupcake, you're so lucky to have a garden... Have a good sniff for me!RépondreSupprimer
I love these interviews too! It sounds like this will be very different from the rhubarb "sherbet" thing he did years ago for Comme des Garcons. I can't wait to try it.RépondreSupprimer
Janice, I didn't remember he'd done that rhubarb sherbet -- I knew he's signed two in the Green series. Definitely a very different animal!RépondreSupprimer
I love green scents, and this sounds like it would be my new favorite perfume. Please enter me in the draw, thanks.RépondreSupprimer
The rhubarb sounds intriguing, and a green scent sounds perfect right now. I would love to try it!! :-)RépondreSupprimer
Just few words before reading your post: The perfume lover has just arrived, I've already read three chapters. Can't wait to have it signed!RépondreSupprimer
OK,, now I'll read the post and of course, I will be happy to enter the draw.
Loving to learn about perfumery in interviews like this.RépondreSupprimer
I am not at all sure this will work on me but I do love incense. It's hard for me to find green scents that don't go sour on me. I do like PdN Odalisque so there's hope for me yet. Thanks for the draw!RépondreSupprimer
I don't know which rhubarb-like aromachemical is used here, but I have Rhubafuran in my scent library, and it is a violent beast! It leaked a little during my most recent move and poisoned about 10% of my library, and a number of books. Where that molecule goes, nothing can follow after, it is impossible to remove...I'm not surprised you had to run for cover!RépondreSupprimer
Very constructive... a furious spring-wind deconstructing everything in his way lolRépondreSupprimer
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I'm on the last 1/3 of your book, and I just had one of the weirdest coincidences happen. I just read about how you loved that Luca Turin said he'd risk scofula to get his old Brut back. I've got House reruns going on the tv. What obscure 17th century disease did the team discuss in the conference room? Scofula. I've never heard that word in my life until today.RépondreSupprimer
On another note, please do enter me in the draw. I promised myself I'd wait until I'm finished with your book to comment on it and Bertrand's creation, but I can't. The perfume is so good that I want to make love to the nearest orange tree I can find.
Hi Denyse: I truly love a rhubarb note, and, completely coincidentally, I'm wearing "Lady Rhubarb" by D.L. & Co. (no longer made as a fragrance, but still part of their candle and home fragrance line). I love the tart nature of the note.RépondreSupprimer
I'm afraid that name will create confusion, won't it? Aedes de Venustas EDP? Was their original incense Duchaufour scent called AdV EDT? Will that one remain available?
I'd love to be in your draw. Thanks so much.
That's fabulous. I have always found the green notes in Amaranthine very incisive and 'vertical': present from top to bottom. Other people don't seem to perceive the green in Amaranthine all that strongly, but I certainly do.RépondreSupprimer
Cheesegan, you'll never know until you try, so here's your opportunity... It's definitely a scent with a huge amount of character!RépondreSupprimer
Heather, you're right, this is truly a time to crave green!RépondreSupprimer
Armellide, it's really something I want to do more of. Not all perfumers are able to speak so clearly of their work, and not all have such a definite idea of what they want to achieve (often because they aren't given the chance), but there are enough to keep the conversation going.RépondreSupprimer
Sujaan, there's a chance this might turn sour on certain skins since it's a very acid note, but you'll never know until you try, right?RépondreSupprimer
Marla, we discussed a lot of raw mats off the record -- this is a 12-line accord. It's certainly the strongest thing I've smelled in a lab. Seeped all the way into the staircase.RépondreSupprimer
GG, that's a great way of putting it!RépondreSupprimer
Carrie, I don't know if that House episode mentioned that kings were meant to have the power to cure scrofula by touching the patient (at least in France)... Love Luca for picking that term too, which I remember puzzled the copy editor terribly!RépondreSupprimer
On a less gory note, I'm very happy you love Séville à l'aube enough for it to inspire ideas that sound like they're drawn from some Greek myth! I'm not entirely objective, of course, but I find the scent enormously addictive, and I'm getting a lot of great feedback on it. Hope you're enjoying the book too!
Joe, I suppose the fact that one scent was co-branded with L'Artisan and the other is the first of the Aedes de Venustas signature collection will set the two apart. The bottles also look pretty different.RépondreSupprimer
Annemariec, I'll have to revisit Amaranthine with that in mind. I'm more sensitive to the creamy ylang-banana-milk aspect.RépondreSupprimer
I love many green chypre scents and would love to smell this one. I wonder how incense goes together with rhubarb(incense being a tricky note for me), but hope this scent would remind me of the early summer when we get the rhubarb here.RépondreSupprimer
Wow sounds incredible?,RépondreSupprimer
Please put me in the draw. I'm intrigued.RépondreSupprimer
I have never smelled a rhubarb perfume and I would love to try this one. Thank you!RépondreSupprimer
Ingeborg, I wouldn't call it a summery scent... but then, it's so un-traditional it's really a creature of its own!RépondreSupprimer
Mike Perez, it is. I was in the Jovoy boutique in Paris where it pre-premiered, and it's so distinctive I recognized it instantly on a friend who'd been skin-testing it, without even smelling her wrist.RépondreSupprimer
Portia, you're in!RépondreSupprimer
Andreaa, you too!RépondreSupprimer
thank you, Denyse for such an interesting insight-green, architectural, developping in time-what's more to be asked on such a spring burst time...RépondreSupprimer
thanks for the draw
Irina, if I may shamelessly plug my book here, there are dozens more of these insights in it!RépondreSupprimer
Colors in fragances.RépondreSupprimer
The most "fluorescent" scent I've ever tried was Shiloh by Hors La Monde, with that awesome aldehydes-citrus-rose-herbal notes...sharp as a knife but bright and smooth... but this sounds really really "postnuclear" XD
GG, aldehydes treated in a certain way can definitely go Day-Glo. I got that from Humiecki & Graef's Multiple Rouge -- a radioactive fruit salad. I haven't properly tested Shiloh, but Fabrice Olivieri, the perfumer, tends to have a very forceful style.RépondreSupprimer
In Aedes de Venustas, the stridency is in the acidity and intensity, and above all the contrast.
Lovely interview about a fascinating new concept. Please include me in the draw.RépondreSupprimer
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Kuromi, thanks for adding the comment, I was perplexed by the first message! You're in.RépondreSupprimer
The crazier - the better. :)RépondreSupprimer
There is lack of diversity in perfumes nowdays.
Thanks for the opportunity to try this. :D
Bellatrix, definitely! I went to Sephora's yesterday to smell an assortment of mainstream fragrances and only one was memorable, whereas Aedes de Venustas can be recognized with just one sniff!RépondreSupprimer
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"a futuristic rewriting of the green chypre genre"?RépondreSupprimer
Bring it on!!!
AnnE: yes indeed!RépondreSupprimer
I like the idea of a green blade slicing through the layers of perfume. As a structure it reflects a very contemporary aesthetic vision but rooted in classic tradition. I believe that role has also been played in the past by incense, galbanum, civet or angelica.RépondreSupprimer
Rhubarb and incense? It is a good thing this is by Duchaufour, I would try anything done by him.RépondreSupprimer
Kostas, that's interesting, could you elaborate a bit more on how this is rooted in a classic tradition? Though civet acts from top to fond, I see it more as something that wraps the other notes. Angelica is so evolutive it can't support greenness throughout. I'd love to hear your take on this.RépondreSupprimer
Janet, so would I. I don't love everything (I just can't do fougères to start with) but it's always an interesting ride. And Aedes is particularly original.RépondreSupprimer
"the force that drives the green fuse drives the flower..."RépondreSupprimer
My rhubarb is already coming up in this early spring - I'd love to smell this new green chypre - thanks for having the drawing.
Nancy G, thank *you* for Dylan Thomas.RépondreSupprimer
This sounds quite interesting. I like the image of the violence of spring... it's a little bit like this right now here.RépondreSupprimer
Fernando, yes, I've been told the weather's been crazy on your side of the Atlantic. It's pretty warm here too... Not complaining, but I went from winter coat to teeshirt inside a week!RépondreSupprimer
Very exciting! And BTW your book arrived today here in chilly damp California.RépondreSupprimer
Datura, glad it made it! Sad California is damp and chilly...RépondreSupprimer
Wow! I would love a chance to try this! I have a weakness for green chypre scents and this sounds special!RépondreSupprimer
You'll have to leave a name though!RépondreSupprimer
Please enter me in the drawing. That sounds like an amazing perfume experience!RépondreSupprimer
ElizaC, it is, and you're in!RépondreSupprimer
I would love to try this, rhubarb and vetiver, spring has sprung!RépondreSupprimer
violent spring, the one that does that for me is Vetier pour Elle. Would love to compare the two. CybeleRépondreSupprimer
Very nice description of the rhubarb note. I can almost smell it. My mother used to cook a rhubarb compote. It is still my favorite. It is so refreshing. And it reminds me of my childhod. I like the destinctive smell of fresh cut rhubarb.RépondreSupprimer
Stephen, you're in the draw!RépondreSupprimer
Another Duchaufour's creation! Bring it in! I was too late for the last draw (as I have just received your book), so hoping to having my luck this time. Thank you!RépondreSupprimer
Cybele, the Guerlain is rather more civilised, the Aedes has got something raw and primitive...RépondreSupprimer
Ela, sorry about the last draw, I'll be doing another one later on... You're in this one though!RépondreSupprimer
Civava, lots of people seem to have fond memories of rhubarb -- perhaps Bertrand D does too, didn't think of asking him.RépondreSupprimer
CAN NOT WAIT! Very interested, thank you for another amazing preview- this season is going to be interesting! Any more Duchaufour's projects planned for next months? Wearing Traversee du Bosphore today :-)RépondreSupprimer
Jay, yes of course, BD has lots of projects under way, and I've smelled a few things, but it wouldn't be playing fair to his clients to spill the beans, now, would it?RépondreSupprimer
this sounds like a scent full of life the raw force of nature waking up in the spring. nothing sleepy, warm, langurous or sensual about it.would love to try it denise. thanks for the drawRépondreSupprimer
I forgot all about rhubarb! Rhubarb pies were are frequent treat when I was a child. It should add a maniacally tart twist to the green chypre. Do I smell spring in the air?RépondreSupprimer
This rhubarb sounds fascinating. I'd love to try it.RépondreSupprimer
Ana, you've captured the vibe perfectly!RépondreSupprimer
Cheryl, "a maniacally tart twist" is an eloquent way of putting it! Spot on.RépondreSupprimer
Jonta, you're in!RépondreSupprimer
Since falling in love with the rhubarb in Rose Ikebana I have admired its contributions to perfumery. Thanks for the generous draw!RépondreSupprimer
Monster, my pleasure!RépondreSupprimer
"the violence of spring", vetyver....I have to try this now!! Please enter me in the draw ^_^RépondreSupprimer
Wow, violence of spring? I just never thought of it that way! I have a whole new take on this season. Love anything Aedes so I am intrigued.RépondreSupprimer
Laurinha, will do!RépondreSupprimer
Sujaan, that's what a piece of art does: changes your take on things. And that's what a critic can do: put words on that take.RépondreSupprimer
I live in Nova Scotia, and rhubarb will be just about the first fruit of the spring-my mouth waters at the thought of its acidity! I am a fan of BD's work-I think i am the only person on the planet who bought Fleur de Lianne. I just love it! Vetiver and exotic plants-to me wearing it makes me feel like I am standing in that tropical forest, smelling really wet, redolant air. I'm not a critc-I don't have the ability to describe what i am smellin'.RépondreSupprimer
Hope you are well,and I look forward to reading your book!
Carole, waving across the Atlantic to a fellow Canadian! I love Fleur de Liane as well. I never ended up buying a full bottle, but if one swung my way I'd wear it gladly. I think you describe its effect very vividly!RépondreSupprimer
That sounds interesting - the green notes ... please enter me into the draw. Thank you.RépondreSupprimer
Interesting choice of artwork, given NdSP's lovely chypre creation. I love Aedes and would feel privileged to sample this fragrance. Thank you.RépondreSupprimer
Would love to sample this! Sounds so unusual!RépondreSupprimer
Ursula, anonymous commenter and Lisa, unfortunately the draw is over but the fragrance will be available any day now at Aedes in NY.RépondreSupprimer
Wasn't there already an Aedes EDP, also by L'Artisan? The only thing they seem to have in common though is the purple bottle and the incense accord.RépondreSupprimer
Klaudia, yes there was, as I mention in the intro to the interview. Both the colour of the bottle and incense accord are part of the Aedes brand identity it seems!RépondreSupprimer