Still revisiting the classics… This is a scent I never wore. But its enduring popularity, at least in France where it is still L’Artisan Parfumeur’s best-seller, made me feel as though I had to take a sniff… What came up my nose what a chunk of perfume history.
When Jean Laporte (or rather the perfumer working under his direction) decided to amp up the blackberry facet of a Musc T (ethylene brassylate) with more blackberry (“mûre”), not only did he create his brand’s best-seller to this day, but he also anticipated three major trends in perfumery: the taste for berries, the musk tsunami and what we could call, for want of a better term, the materials-driven school of composition. Take a material, study its facets, hook it up with another that has a similar facet, dress it up – in the present case, with a citrus cocktail, red berries and an oak moss base, though the formula apparently contains about one hundred materials – and you’ve got yourself a lovely, legible fragrance. Easy-peasy.
But back in the mid-70s, perfumers didn’t work that way – Jean-Claude Ellena, current master of the short formula, had launched his first major composition, the classic and complex First (Van Cleef and Arpels); Opium for Yves Saint Laurent was ushering in an era of super-concentrated, heavy hitters.
When Jean Laporte founded L’Artisan Parfumeur in 1976, his quirky, single-note fragrances (sandalwood, vanilla, patchouli…) drew a post-hippie crowd who wasn’t quite ready to switch from head-shop patchouli to Opium. With its healthy berry flavour and gauzy, fruity musk, Mûre et Musc smelled like nothing on the market; it still radiates an amiable, rustic, non-perfume-y charm.
In his Guide, Luca Turin states that the musk in the original formula has been replaced by another. L'Artisan Parfumeur denies the reformulation, especially since ethylene brassylate, which gives its distinctive flavor to Mûre et Musc, is not restricted by IFRA. Luca has since published a correction and the review has been amended in the 2009 edition of the guide. I have also had confirmation of this from Pamela Roberts, the creative director of L'Artisan.
A Mûre et Musc Extrême version, by Karine Dubreuil, was launched in 1993: the berry notes are stronger and underlined by green, raspy blackcurrant bud. For Mûre et Musc’s 30th anniversary, an extrait de parfum, with Turkish rose essential oil, added spices (pink and black pepper) and a stronger oak moss and patchouli base was composed by L’Artisan Parfumeur’s in-house perfumer, Bertrand Duchaufour. Unfortunately, the cute blackberry-shaped bottle is no longer available.
Image: Anjelica Huston for Walter Albini by Gian Paolo Barbieri (1973)