Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.
For the past week I have been wearing and enjoying the three fragrances from Les Nez, a niche line established by designer René Schifferle: L’Antimatière, The Unicorn Spell and Let Me Play the Lion… The bold interpretations and unusual harmonies of the compositions lend the line the cerebral and avant-garde quality, which does not come at the expense of wearability. Moreover, there are additional reasons to anticipate an interesting outcome from Les Nez. The perfumer behind the line, Isabelle Doyen has created such gems as Annick Goutal Sables, Grand Amour and Songes. Her work for Les Nez further explores the neo-classical elegance of her orchestrations, yet with a more assertive touch. The contrasts are made more pronounced, the dissonances explored further and the impact heightened. …
L’Antimatière possesses the same quality that makes me want to stand for hours in front of Paul Klee’s paintings. Initially, it makes hardly any impression, save for a powdery, musky trail. Yet, just as one is prepared to dismiss it, a wave of radiant, ambery warmth rises up. It alternates between clean and raunchy, transparent and heavy, one-dimensional and complex. I’ve received compliments on it from strangers, and yet many of my acquaintances cannot smell it at all. Its mutable character keeps my attention, and while I do not foresee L’Antimatière becoming a commercial success, it is the kind of fragrance that the artisan perfume lovers would find intriguing.
If L’Antimatière involved a period of courtship, my affection for The Unicorn Spell was immediate. Upon the first inhale it brilliantly evoked the scent of dahlia buds, and like a Proustian madeleine, this green and slightly unctuous aroma transported me to my grandmother’s garden. A gardening task usually assigned to me involved pruning the dahlia bushes. The sticky verdant sap would coat my fingers and linger for hours, its fragrance exuberantly green, slightly peppery and hesperidic. The top notes of The Unicorn Spell scatter like green pearls, and under the vibrancy of violet leaf and petitgrain, there appears a soft, powdery violet. Set against the backdrop of woods, the floral heart of The Unicorn Spell slowly loses the aggressive verdancy and gains a sweet tea quality. Like a dancer performing a dazzling pirouette, it ends its flourish with a graceful bow.
My favourite fragrances by Doyen are the ones in which she fully explores the rich notes and unconventional pairings. By way of example, although osmanthus is frequently paired with light tea accords, blending it with birch tar and smoky lapsang souchong tea as she has done in Annick Goutal Eau du Fier with successful results is rarely seen. In same vein, Let me Play the Lion… is satisfyingly smoky and dramatic. It captures the dryness of wood, the searing sensation of spice, the trails of peppery smoke, without either softening their strength with floral or fresh elements or rounding them out with creamy notes. Reminiscent of bonfires, the smoky fragrance of which fills the autumnal air in the countryside, Let me Play the Lion… has a nostalgic and melancholy character. It is a fragrance that makes me want to read Tolstoy, contemplate the summer’s end and listen to Bach’s Cello Suites.
Please see Les Nez for more information. The members of Basenotes online community have a chance to obtain free samples on the website.
Painting: Paul Klee. Ad Marginem. 1930. Watercolor varnished. 46.3 x 35.9. Kunstmuseum Basel, Basel, Switzerland. From abcgallery.com