L’Artisan Parfumeur began life in as a small independent brand back in 1979, when Jean Laporte opened his first boutique on Paris’s Rue de Grenelle. Laporte (who had already founded Sisley Paris in 1972) trained as a chemist but had a keen nose, and his first commercial fragrance, Mure et Musc, really captured the spirit of its time. A sweet, slightly hippyish scent, combining blackberries and musk, it established his name and became a big seller in the newly emerging niche-perfume market.
Jean Laporte sold up in 1982 and went on to found the smaller but highly regarded Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier, but L’Artisan Parfumeur continued to expand, fuelled by a run of ground-breaking fragrances. After a long, slow drift into the perfume wilderness, the brand was bought by the Spanish giant Puig, which has given it a much-needed makeover, though it can hardly be regarded as a small independent any more.
Premier Figuier, created by Olivia Giacobetti and released in 1994, very much lives up to its name, in that it was the first perfume to really smell of figs (the fruit but more especially the leaves). I love their scent, which is intensely green and slightly earthy and somehow very sexy, which surely has something to do with their association with baking Mediterranean heat.
Premier Figuier captures that scent perfectly, managing to smell both fresh and slightly sultry at the same time; it also lasts for most of the day. For many years it has been among my favourite fragrances, but not long ago someone pointed out that, like some other perfumes, it has the odd property of also smelling weirdly similar to something else – in this case coconut, which is a scent I’ve never much liked.
As a result, now I get the olfactory equivalent of double vision every time I wear it, which (much to my regret) has slightly lessened its appeal. But don’t let that put you off: if you can ignore my spoiler alert it’s well worth trying.