Could immortelle be the new patchouli? I don’t mean that literally, of course. But somehow it seems to me that its solar, round, caramel/tobacco/hay smell (which is variously compared to maple syrup, fenugreek and curry) could be used in a light touch to anchor compositions much in the way that patchouli has been used recently in neo-chypres…
Immortelle is so powerful and characteristic a note it has usually been the star player, for instance in Annick Goutal Sables, Dior Eau Noire or its kissing cousin, Parfums d’Empire Fougère Bengale. It has been featured in Lolita Lempicka L and at least two Serge Lutens, Chypre Rouge (where it is not in the note list) and this year’s bell bottle, El Attarine (where it is).
Yann Vasnier’s two new compositions for Divine – he has already authored three, L’Ame Soeur, L’Homme Sage and L’Homme de Coeur –, a masculine and a feminine both called L’Etre aimé (“the Loved One”), both feature immortelle. But instead of taking over, as it does in Sables or Eau Noire, it is used with an incredibly light, deft hand, and as a unifying element, both within each fragrance, and between the two, rather like a bind – in the culinary sense of the word.
Semantics may have been at play here: immortelle means, of course, “immortal”, which fits neatly the brand’s name (Divine), that of the two fragrances (“The Loved One”) and, somehow, into the mythology of Brittany where the house of Divine is based, the setting of Tristan and Isolde’s death (the Liebestod, “Love Death” in Wagner’s opera) in the Celtic myth… Both the name of the fragrance and the central role of immortelle were chosen by Yvon Mouchel, the founder and owner of Divine.
L’Etre aimé femme starts out with a particularly juicy citrus accord of bergamot and nectarine, with an unlisted touch of apricot and a sprinkling of aldehydes to make it shimmer. A warm, spicy lily takes over, not quite as heady as a Casablanca lily, but devoid of the watery coldness that the note has in, say, Édouard Fléchier’s Lys Méditerranée for Frédéric Malle. Vasnier has already showcased lily to wonderful effect in Donna Karan Gold (with Calice Becker and Rodrigo Flores-Roux): this time, the green, off-the-stem notes are turned down, and the spicy, almost smoky facets amped up as the vetiver and sandalwood kick in. After a few hours, the scent settles into an ambery-powdery vanillic base somehow reminiscent of Vasnier’s earlier L’Ame Soeur, tender enough to make you want to kiss your wrist if no one else is on hand to do it…
L’Etre aimé homme is the quirkier one of the set: to his cool, peppery aromatic cocktail – lavandin (a low-altitude cousin of lavender), ginger, cardamom and basil, Vasnier has added an offbeat celery note: its tobacco-like facets blend in with the immortelle, which also has a tobacco leaf facet, and adds a touch of wry wit to the classic spicy-woody structure. Smoky vetiver and sandalwood, patchouli and cistus form a base which manages to be dry (the woods), caramelized (immortelle) and discreetly powdery all at once.
Despite being identified as masculine and feminine, either fragrance could be worn by men and women; and though the concept of a “his’n’hers” duo could seem a little contrived, these could actually be harmoniously worn à deux and rub off on each other with rather delicious results.
Image: Anna Karina and Jean-Paul Belmondo in Jean-Luc Godard's Pierrot le Fou (1965)