The Sniff Box – Perfume In Plain English

Tagged With ‘1994’

L’Artisan Parfumeur

Premier Figuier

Premier FiguierL’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.

Comme des Garçons

Eau de Parfum

Christmas is coming, and as a long-standing fan of over-indulgence I’m thoroughly looking forward to getting fat on Christmas pudding with brandy butter, washed down with a large glass of Harvey’s Bristol Cream, ideally in front of a roaring log fire. Alternatively I could just blow my own socks off with a generous splash of Comme des Garçons’ delicious Eau de Parfum a.k.a. Christmas in a bottle.

Launched in 1994, this was the Japanese cult fashion brand’s first foray into perfume, but if there was nothing unusual about that, it’s rare for a first perfume to make such a big impression. Partly it was the design of the bottle, a slightly egg-shaped oval with an off-centre cap and no obvious way to stand it up.

That might sound a bit annoying, but I think it’s one of the most stylish and sophisticated perfume-bottle designs of the last 20 years. Eccentric it may be, but Comme des Garçons founder Rei Kawakubo’s design is so sleek and refined that it makes most other perfume bottles look cheap and tawdry by comparison.

The Sniff Box is about the scent, though, and what a scent this is. Created by Derby-born perfumer Mark Buxton, it’s not for the shy or faint of heart, for this is one of those fragrances that carries everything (and everyone) before you. The first thing you smell is cloves – or rather clove oil: in fact this is a distinctly oily concoction, for among the other ingredients are nutmeg oil, cinnamon-bark oil, cardamom oil, geranium oil and coriander oil. To me it even feels slightly oily on the skin, which gives it an added touch of luxury and also sets it apart from the vast majority of alcohol-based fragrances.

With ingredients like those it could hardly be anything other than spicy, but Mark Buxton cleverly added a touch of the resinous, smoky smell of incense with cedarwood, labdanum and styrax. The result is wonderfully rich and strange, and though some people find it overpowering, to be overpowered like this is like drowning in a butt of Malmsey: what a way to go!

 

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