dimanche 14 décembre 2008

Divine L'Etre Aimé: a Man, a Woman, and Immortelle

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.

Like all of Divine’s fragrances, the Etre aimé duo has the restrained elegance, balance and well-temperedness that one associates with classic French perfumery; here, the immortelle love-it-or-hate-it double-feature adds that little bit of pungency that’s always slipped into Gallic formulas, along with a tenderness that might be Mouchel’s own – and/or a quality he found in the two perfumers he works with, Yann Vasnier (Givaudan) and Richard Ibañez (Robertet) – and that is certainly the line’s signature.

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)

19 commentaires:

  1. Oh, these sound wonderful! I am very fond of immortelle, provided it is not featured at strangulation levels (ie Sables). These go on my must-try list. Thank you.

  2. I got their mailing and immortelle wasn't so prominent in the scented papers. I didn't have an immediate love for them or it. It had a metal helmeted 1970s hairspray chypre force and also struck me as extremely conventional. I have to try the juice itself.

  3. March, this is, on skin at least, rather tame immortelle, and it goes through lots of interesting stages (the woman's). The man's is pretty damn nice too!

  4. Cait, that's surprising: my envelope just wafted immortelle (still does over a week later) and the aldehydes are in very, very small quantity, not enough to produce hairspray helmet levels (your envelope must've been stored near some hair products for the gov's office).
    Neither is groundbreaking but both have subtle surprises. You really should try the samples.

  5. I "heart" immortelle...and I loves me an on skin development. Went to the website to see if I could scrounge a couple of samples, and had trouble navigating. I will be persistent, though...

    Fun illustrations...my fave is Breathless/Seberg, though. :)

  6. Interesting and lovely review, thank you! I received scented papers for the male one only as my name is Nicola and I believe Nicola is male in French and Nicole the feminine version! Not complaining as I enjoyed it very much. Love immortelle, it can be a shapeshifter of a note. I like all Divine's other scents though not enough to buy a bottle yet but I'd really like to buy something from them as they seem so charming (and samples are free!). I like Gold very much so maybe the feminine L'Etre Aime is the one for me. donanicola

  7. Scentscelf, I love Breathless too (if you scroll down you'll see it's the picture choice for the French version of my post), but Anna Karina is simply, irresistibly beautiful...
    I guess you can just try writing Divine directly for samples, couldn't you ?

  8. Nicola, the correct French spelling is Nicholas, so someone was absent-minded at Divine... The feminine is lovely but has nothing to do with Gold (I presume you mean Amouage?). I personally adore L'Ame Soeur, and I've recommended L'Homme de Coeur to a few men...

  9. Hooray! I'm glad to see this line continuing on its excellent way. I look forward to trying these.

  10. D, I so rarely read about new scents and think "ooh this one is for me," and now I've read about two at once and thought it, maybe it will be a New Year for me after all! I am a big fan of L'Homme de Coeur and L'Homme Sage, and it looks like both of these have my name on them, thanks for sharing!

  11. I had been most favourably impressed by the other Divine fragrances (the first feminine Divine is on my "to buy" list), so these sound wonderfully covetable as well. If they reference A bout de Souffle as well, then I am toast! ;-)

    PS. Your mail inbox is having some problem receiving messages. I tried to no avail. :-(

  12. Helg, the Godard reference is all mine, I'm afraid... But the fragrances are lovely.
    Don't know what's happening with my inbox, try graindemusc at gmail dot com...

  13. Sounds appealing - looking forward to having a sniff next April at their lovely shop in the rue Scribe!

  14. well, I adore l'Homme Sage and would love to try these. It's cold here (what passes for it in LA, the 40's) and I want to drench myself in the numminess that is Sables..

  15. Alyssa, apparently, Divine have been going on for 20 years, so they're no fly-by-night operation! And for having talked to the founder's wife, Mme Mouchel, I can vouch that these people are passionate, and knowledgeable, about fragrance.

  16. Tara, I'll be bringing the samps along to Montreal, so you needn't wait that long!

  17. Tom, I remember you're a Sables aficionado. This is less intense but if the celery note doesn't put you off (don't remember how you feel about Chypre Rouge?) you might love this.

  18. Qwendy, any Divine is something to look forward to: they're all very good, aren't they? Not a "meh" in the bunch, even though some might not be you. If these are (you), well... Happy New Year!

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