Les Nez L’Antimatière, The Unicorn Spell and Let me Play the Lion : Perfume Reviews

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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

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35 Comments

  • Judith: I enjoy all three of these–and am really struck by how different each is from the other! Usually, particularly with a new line, there is more similarity (sometimes even repetition). It’s even hard for me to decide with I like best (yet), because they speak to radically different moods: I love the quirky green shifting to violet of the Unicorn, the unexpected changes of L’Antimatiere, and the smoky comfort of the Lion. I have sent away for the Basenotes samples (which were apparently 4ml. for the first round) so I will have the opportunity to try more and attempt to figure it out! Thanks so much! October 16, 2006 at 7:26am Reply

  • March: V, I can’t think of the last set of fragrances that had universally rave reviews from the bloggers, as these have… you’ve sealed it for me! Their website is not taking orders right now; I am waiting impatiently for it to come back up! Thanks. October 16, 2006 at 8:02am Reply

  • Elle: I can’t wait to try these. I was about to write that I’m most intrigued by L’Antimatiere when I realized that’s not exactly true – they all sound fascinating and like they may be FBW for me, but I suppose L’Antimatiere intrigues me most due to its elusiveness. That Klee is stunning! October 16, 2006 at 8:08am Reply

  • Marina: I found myself loving The Unicorn Spell the most, to my surprise. I am not really a fan of violet scents. I do like The Lion too though. October 16, 2006 at 8:59am Reply

  • Tania: The names and poems struck me as overly precious, like puffy glitter stickers with unicorns and rainbows for elementary school girls, so I was ready to write this venture off. Now you have convinced me I should give these scents a chance. October 16, 2006 at 10:15am Reply

  • Robin: Lovely review, and wholeheartedly second your impression that the line lives up to expectations, and then some. October 16, 2006 at 12:34pm Reply

  • violetnoir: Oh no, V! Another line to hold me hostage and render me bankrupt. Is this really that good? I mean, when you said “Songes,” my favorite release of the year, my little eyes just lit up.

    I have to try these!

    Hugs, rsj October 16, 2006 at 12:43pm Reply

  • Ed: I would be interested in your view of mens fragrances I use an old favourite Rocabar from Hermes. October 16, 2006 at 4:02pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Judith, I was also attracted by the diversity. The themes were different, plus the execution itself varied, from the more classical construction of The Unicorn Spell to the abstraction of L’Antimatiere. Very interesting line. October 16, 2006 at 5:45pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: March, I have only not seen any reviews yet (very busy lately, and I am just catching up on the reading this week), but I am not at all surprised. They are very well-done fragrances. October 16, 2006 at 5:47pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Elle, I love Klee. I am not sure why I kept thinking about his work when I smelled some of these fragrances, but now L’Antimatiere seems to be associated with it in my mind. Looking forward to your thoughts. October 16, 2006 at 5:49pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: M, maybe because it is so vibrantly green? I do love violets, but here it is the green accord that captured my attention. October 16, 2006 at 5:50pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Tania, Let Me Play the Lion as an allusion to A Midsummer Night’s Dream is actually quite appealing to me. Well, these are worth exploring. October 16, 2006 at 5:54pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: R, I cannot agree more. It lived up and exceeded. October 16, 2006 at 5:54pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Violetnoir, I would be curious to hear your thoughts. I hope that your samples will arrive soon. October 16, 2006 at 5:55pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Ed, I very much enjoy Rocabar. I have reviews of various men’s fragrances, although I do not group them separately (just browse through the Reviews section). Here is an article devoted to the topic (my top 10 favourite masculine fragrances):
    http://boisdejasmin.typepad.com/_/2006/06/favorite_men_.html October 16, 2006 at 5:57pm Reply

  • Erika: Wow! These sound extraordinary – and I do mean that in a good way. I absolutely love the scent picture of Let Me Play…although I suspect it would provoke quite a melancholy state – just reading your description made me hark back to the Bonfire Nights of childhood; that strange almost peppery smell of burning leaves and drying wood. I must get my paws on these somehow!

    (oh, and an amazing piece of writing, as per usual – thank you so much!) October 16, 2006 at 8:41pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Erika, thank you very much. I do enjoy Let Me Play the Lion very much for the bonfire association which immediately conjures cool, autumnal evenings and the leaves turning golden. I love the tender, intimate quality of these fragrances, even though unlike some artisanal offerings, they are rather sophisticated and elegantly composed. I suppose that I am getting so cynical about niche endeavours and being proven wrong in this regard is always great. October 16, 2006 at 9:00pm Reply

  • chayaruchama: Dear V-
    I understand perfectly what you mean by being proven wrong…
    It delights me when the end result is beyond imagining- so much better than anticipated.
    I’m eager to test these, as well- they appeal on many levels.

    Hello, Klee !

    [I think that your pictorial choices give as much pleasure as your writing] October 17, 2006 at 6:48am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Chaya, I am glad that you are enjoying the paintings. It is also partly an indulgence–spending an evening leafing through a modern art album. 🙂 October 17, 2006 at 2:59pm Reply

  • machula: thank you very much for the review. i ordered the free samples from lesnez through basenotes some week ago, so now i am (im)patiently checking my mailbox every day. i am completely new to the world of perfumes (and especially niche perfumes) so i was so glad they confirmed they’re sending some. i have to admit, reading your reviews whipped my interest in this whole perfume universe, and although i have smelled but a couple of those you reviewed, reading your entries makes me imagining every single scent in my head and nose. October 17, 2006 at 3:46pm Reply

  • Cynthia K: V, I love the scent of bonfires too. Ok, I need to check out this Les Nez line. October 17, 2006 at 5:33pm Reply

  • Cynthia K: I also have to agree with Chayaruchama on your image selection. You never fail to amaze me. October 17, 2006 at 5:34pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Machula, thank you very much! I am so flattered reading this.

    I hope that the samples will arrive soon and that you will enjoy them. I seem to reach for Let Me Play The Lion the most these days. It fits my autumnal mood. October 18, 2006 at 12:46am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Cynthia, I would be curious what you think of it. LMPL is definitely a scent of dry woods and bonfires. October 18, 2006 at 12:47am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Cynthia, thank you very much. What a kind thing to say! October 18, 2006 at 12:47am Reply

  • Christine: I signed up for samples via Basenotes and I cannot wait to receive them. I loved Annick Goutal Mandragore.
    Ok, sorry for not introducing myself properly. I have been reading your blog daily for several months, but I didn’t comment before. I love your evocative writing, and I always wanted to say thank you. 🙂 October 18, 2006 at 1:38am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Christine, welcome! It is a pleasure to see you here. I hope that your samples will arrive soon and that you will return to share your impressions. October 18, 2006 at 3:26pm Reply

  • cynthia: V, a friend of mine shared her samples with me and now I am wearing Let Me Play the Lion. The cedarwood in it is nice and dry and I like it. I already got two compliments on it at work. Thank you for the information on this new line! Otherwise, I would not have learned of it. October 25, 2006 at 5:57pm Reply

  • cynthia: Also, I tried The Unicorn Spell, and now I need a full bottle of it. Unfortunately I dropped the third vial on the floor and it spilled all over the place. I am such a clutz. October 25, 2006 at 5:58pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Cynthia, I am happy to help! It is a beautiful line. October 26, 2006 at 11:02pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Oh, no! At least, you have tried two of them. I am glad to hear that you are enjoying the perfumes. October 26, 2006 at 11:03pm Reply

  • machula: well, the samples finally arrived and what a surprise, i like all 3 :)to be precise, i like something in each of them. strangely, the unicorn opening reminds me of chanel cristalle, green and vodka-like huh 🙂 then changing into a powdery violet which is not my favourite to be honest, but in any case, this is not an average scent by no means
    antimatiere is somehow ‘a trick’ it is there but somehow, you don’t smell it, and when you have forgotten about it, it suddenly reappears, smelling as musk
    to me, let me play the lion is reminiscent of cedar oil poured onto a piece of cedar wood that served as home perfume, combined with incense smoke and something soft, sweet lurking in the very bacground
    what i definitely liked is that all three are neither strictly for woman or man, they could be easily worn by both
    my first niche perfume experience – definitely something i will pursue in more detail November 7, 2006 at 9:22am Reply

  • Bois de Jasmin: Machula, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and in such a thorough manner! I enjoyed reading your comment. Yes, there are definitely no gender boudaries when it comes to this line. I find that each one speaks of something to me. November 7, 2006 at 12:45pm Reply

  • Dusan: Vikochenka,
    Imagine that today, when I can smell absolutely nothing, I receive, finally, my samples! Arrgh! Can’t wait to try them and share my impressions with you! 🙂
    I don’t know if you are familiar with the fact that your quote “The bold interpretations and unusual compositions (…) at the expense of wearibility.” now graces the cover letter! Way to go! 😀 I’m so proud of you!
    Hugs November 20, 2006 at 11:32am Reply

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