mercredi 12 octobre 2011

Azemour by Marc-Antoine Corticchiato for Parfum d'Empire: An orange grove, regained

(pour lire la version française, cliquez ici)

Does the back-story of a fragrance add to the emotion it conjures?
Say you’d lost the place where you grew up in such circumstances that you thought you’d never set foot there again, even if you could, because you couldn’t stand being there and not being home.
Now say you were a perfumer, and you’d moved on just enough to be able to revisit the place in order to recapture it in a scent...

So much has been made of perfume-as-Proustian-epiphany I sometimes wish that the young Marcel had never dipped his madeleine into his herbal tea… But the point is, he fished out his soggy piece of cake from the cup and went on to build his cathedral of memory upon it: his flashback actually took him forward, into his future as the author of In Search of Lost Time.
Similarly, I imagine many perfumers are driven by the quest to recapture lost scents, the first words of their fragrant vocabulary…

Thus, if Marc-Antoine Corticchiato’s first scent, Eau de Gloire, was a tribute to his family’s roots in Corsica, like many islanders he then set off for the farthest destinations with his next compositions. With the thirteenth, he’s come home at last.
Azemour is a tribute to his parents’ orange groves on the Atlantic coast of Morocco, by the estuary of the Oum Er r’Bia wadi; it is named after the ancient city of Azemmour. Like all of Corticchiato’s work, it is a robust, colour-saturated composition: a powerful citrus chypre with an almost chewable quality, as though you’d bitten into an orange without peeling it, and caught a mouthful of bitter essential oil along with the juicy flesh.
Like the orange tree in springtime that carries both last year’s fruit and this year’s flowers,  Azemour draws on everything the tree gives to perfumery: the fruit, the blossom, the leaves, the twigs… But as Corticchiato tugs on that tree to bring back his memories, it is not only the roots – his roots – but the entire landscape he carries off.
 The dried grass at the foot of the trees and growing in the dunes, conjured with oak moss, henna (which smells a bit like tea, grass and maté) and a delicately sweet hay absolute. But also the sea-spray: oak moss carries faint iodic notes, but an algae absolute was also added for a marine (but most emphatically not aquatic) effect… In fact, the overlaying of citruses with these briny facets produces the savoury effect of the preserved lemons used to prepare the traditional Moroccan tajine.
But though Azemour is sprinkled with spices (coriander, cumin, pink and black pepper – quite a bit of the latter) it never comes off as foody. Chypres never do, and with it salty-mossy, tear-streaked base, Azemour is much more of a chypre than a sunny citrus scent.
This perfume-as-landscape is made all the more poignant by its author’s personal history, but like all perfumes, it leaves enough space to write in your own… 

When it pre-premiered in July in a lovely, tiny boutique in Le Marais, Marie-Antoinette, I stepped in for the owner who was having a bit of struggle with the English language to present the Parfum d’Empire line to a lovely Californian lady and her teenage daughter. As soon as I mentioned an orange grove, their faces lit up: they lived near an orange grove, and, yes, they recognized the smells. And for a moment, through the scented memories of an exile, these two charming tourists were home again. The bottle, needless to say, went with them.

Illustration: Azemmour in 1935.

18 commentaires:

  1. I have a sample of Azemour and I found it very modern and summery, as if I was in a beautiful place for a holiday enjoying the sunshine and the green landscape. The drydown is absolutely gorgeous.

  2. Beautiful review. I would hunt down and try anything Corticchiato creates. PdE is one of the best overall lines IMO.

  3. Arwen, isn't it? Azemour carries through the idea all the way to the base notes, so it's worth taking the journey.

  4. Memoryofscent, it's proof that when a perfumer runs his/her own brand, the results are usually better and more consistent (apart from M-A C's talent).

  5. I got goosebumps just imagining the smell you described. :)
    It must be wonderful - not that I would expect anything less from Mr. Corticchiato, I have many bottles from his line (and I'm eyeing some more).

  6. Ines, that is such a sweet thing to say! There's actually more to the story, which I think you might connect with, but it is so personal that it had to be left out... I think you might love Azemour.

  7. Truly a beautiful and evocative review. You also made my need to spend some time in Paris more compelling than ever, as I can't find PdE fragrances in Milan anymore- I've tried some older ones, Cuir Ottoman, Aziyadé, Osmanthus Interdite and find them masterly done yet easy to wear. I'd love to test Wazamba and, of course, Azemour, and I'd love to visit the shop you suggest!

  8. Iodine, how can I not encourage you to visit Paris? And Marie-Antoinette is a little jewel of a shop, in a beautiful location, with an adorable, enthusiastic owner. Meanwhile, I think you can order samples (and bottles) for the Parfum d'Empire website.

  9. Thank you for the read Denyse! I recently ordered the sample pack with all 13 fragrances from PdE and I'm having a great time exploring them. Curiously, the ingredient listing (INCI) of Azemour doesn't include oak moss extract at all! Do you know if the perfumer has used some kind of allergen free/ spliced version of it for the chypre base or is it because the amount is within some kind of "safe" limit? Or is the mossy effect created with something else altogether...?

    It seems Eau de Gloire and Iskander are the only ones from PdE that have the kind of oakmoss extract (or a high enough amount of it) that the EU law requires to mention separately.

    I adore Azemour anyway! Like Octavian described it in passing (while writing about another perfume), Azemour has "freshness of the orange beautified by a gorgeous light chypre conclusion".


  10. I love the idea of a briny, not aquatic effect. I've been tincturing our local seaweeds and getting some lovely results. Combining it with an orange grove sounds heavenly.

  11. Mikael, I've just run into Marc-Antoine at a book launch so I asked him the question directly! His answer is that there was a labeling omission in the sample and there is indeed good old oak moss in the composition - and he commends for your eagle eye!

  12. Marla, again I was speaking of this tonight with MAC, who acknowledged that the briny citrus effect was not deliberate but clicks with his tastes!

  13. Oh!! This is right up my alley. The temptation to buy Azemour unsniffed is overwhelming. Must Resist.

  14. Just looked at the website and the sample set winked at me.....

  15. Sure, it's a shame not to buy the complete sample collection! I've just done it, can't wait for it to arrive! Regarding orangers, has Azemour any resemblance with Diptyque candle Oranger?

  16. Iodine, I couldn't say, I'm not familiar with Diptyque's full range...