Tuberose, civet and cumin have their fans and foes, but calone is almost universally loathed by the online perfume community, barring the Green Irish Tweed fans at Basenotes, to the point where melon/aquatic bashing seems to have become a Pavlovian reaction
In a valiant quest to push back the boundaries of my tastes, I decided to put myself in the hands of some of the perfumers I most admire (professionally) and like (personally), and test the waters or rather, scents featuring an aquatic note, starting with Mathilde Laurent’s Ensoleille-moi for André Gas.
Gas is a somewhat infelicitous name for a perfume brand, but it happens to be the one André Gas was born with. Born in Marseille, the earthy André Gas was studying engraving at the Paris Beaux-Arts when the protests of May 68 broke out: his teacher’s studio was commandeered to print posters designed anonymously by top artists of the time, bearing slogans that have become classics: “Be Realistic, Demand the Impossible”; “Enjoy without Fetters”; “It is Forbidden to Forbid” and “Under the Cobblestones, the Beach”. André took the latter literally and high-tailed it to the Côte d’Azur in his Citroën, to sell the costume jewelry he’d been making out of lucky charms on the beaches. He ended up at the haute Boho village of St-Tropez, made fashionable by Brigitte Bardot, and it was from there that he launched his funky, ethnic line of costume jewelry. He was already retailing Fracas in his shops when he decided to launch his own fragrance. After several attempts with a young perfumer friend of his son’s, also in the business, he struck gold: Mathilde Laurent, fresh out of Guerlain and not yet hired by Cartier, had become available.
That Ensoleille-moi (which could be translated as “Sun me up”) had to be a beach scent was obvious, given the brand’s Tropezian roots. It is likely Mathilde Laurent had already been working around the idea at Guerlain: Ensoleille-moi has the easy-going vibe and airy texture of something that could’ve ended up as an Aqua Allegoria.
The scent is worked around the monoï note, a classic of French beaches: tiaré blossom (a gardenia-like Polynesian flower) steeped in coconut oil. Except that in this case, as André Gas grumbled to me when I met him in Marseille, there is actual tiaré absolute in the formula – Mathilde was used to the lush Guerlain budgets and didn’t bat an eye at including a hefty, costly dose of it. As a result, Ensoleille-moi smells lush and milky, with lashes of ylang-ylang, vanilla and salicylates (usually called “solar notes” in press releases and typical of French tanning products) and a touch of saltiness. But what’s most surprising about it is the huge proportion of calone it contains. In fact, there’s so much of it that it becomes invisible: the scale literally changes the perception of the note. It’s as though it had been used to blow up the other notes, its melon facets sucked up by the banana in the ylang, the metallic ones melding with the musk. It also brings an impression of coolness to a blend which might otherwise be too cloying. It isn’t. In fact, it barely registers as an aquatic, which is probably why I can happily douse myself in it – and this from a woman a squirt of L’Eau d’Issey could transform into a pile of ashes. Only goes to show no material should be rejected outright.
I’ll be pursuing my aquatic explorations. But don’t expect a review of Cool Water. I’m not that selfless.
Meanwhile, on to you: what are your conquered aversions? And is there any aquatic you actually like? Now's the time to come out of that closet!
P.S.To all the lucky recipients of the Vamp à NY samples: they were shipped on Thursday June 3rd. Don’t forget that on June 23rd I’ll be expecting feedback: I’ll remind you all closer to the date.