L’Artisan Parfumeur Traversee du Bosphore : Perfume Review

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Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.

The fragrance industry is in dire straits these days, a fact that is exacerbated by the economic crisis. Each new launch for a brand is becoming more of a gamble, more of a risk. For one of my projects, I spent last week smelling over 100 recent launches and at the end, I was shocked at how few I could remember at all. At times like this, a surprising and memorable fragrance is a wonderful discovery. Such was L’Artisan Parfumeur’s Traversée du Bosphore (and to a lesser extent, Coeur de Vétiver Sacré, which I shall discuss separately.)

Created by perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour, Traversée du Bosphore is a take on violet-orris, interpreted in a gourmand oriental manner. As the name would suggest, one can expect a purely Western fantasy on an oriental theme of the same ilk that inspired Guerlain and Serge Lutens, Igres and Delacroix. The cliché of hukkah smoke and apple tea aside, Traversée du Bosphore is delightful. It is opulent and voluptuous, and yet the signature dry amber touch of Duchaufour lends it a surprisingly diaphanous effect. This luminous quality is what makes me prefer Traversée du Bosphore to a gourmand iris theme like Guerlain Iris Ganache.

The initial impression is of a violet-rose bonbon, sweet and creamy. The citrus notes cut down the richness, but given that the composition is supported by a modern crisp woody accord, the powdery sweetness of the top note is pleasant. Yet, the overall result is more than just pleasant. As the fragrance develops, it darkens quite suddenly, with the balsamic notes and leather setting the mood. What started out as a pastel toned etude takes on the sensual, mysterious quality of a Baroque painting, and there is nothing cliché about it.

Traversée du Bosphore includes notes of apple, pomegranate, tulip, iris, leather, saffron, Turkish delight accord (rose, lemon, pistachio), vanilla, musks. L’Artisan line is available from Aedes, Beautycafe, Beautyhabit, and Luckyscent, as well as Henri Bendel, Bergdorf Goodman, Barneys, and Neiman Marcus.

Image: Inside Topkapi Palace, from Travel in Turkey website.

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28 Comments

  • sweetlife: It’s an interesting point you make, about the “Western fantasy,” V.

    When I first became interested in perfume I was a little shocked by how thoroughly permeated by orientalist fantasies it was, from the category “oriental,” through the accords to the bottles, names and advertising. It makes sense, of course, that an art form grounded in what the West has stolen/imported/borrowed/dreamed from the East would be permeated by those fantasies, and now they have become forms to work within, with histories of their own. Still, it is a little disconcerting to me how persistent they are. Given your own ties to India I wonder how you feel about this?

    I am very grateful to L’Artisan for giving Duchaufour some room to create, but I’m feeling very patient about smelling this one. November 11, 2010 at 8:49am Reply

  • Victoria: A, how right you are to point that out. The orientalism has persisted in this domain, whereas in others it is less pronounced (or perhaps, others are more self-conscious about it.) I admit that I do not find this orientalist fantasy disconcerting, probably because it is very patent, very obvious, very much in your face. I also find that people working in this industry are very much about creating fantasies, and while they are passionate about what they do, they are not as serious as one sometimes presumes. It makes it very refreshing.

    Of course, there is nothing remotely Turkish about Traversee du Bosphore. As my Turkish friends say, nobody in Turkey smokes hukkah or drinks apple tea other than tourists in the Spice Bazaar. Call it Sur le Pont Neuf and include rose macaron instead of Turkish delight in the marketing description–it would not change a thing. I would love this fragrance anyway. November 11, 2010 at 9:47am Reply

  • sweetlife: I love your answer V. Yes of course, in perfume (and in fashion) we are in the world of fantasy, and fantasy is never politically correct, whether we want it to be or not! And a sense of humor, and self-reflection, make a lot of things more tolerable… 😉 November 11, 2010 at 1:10pm Reply

  • sweetlife: Coming back to add–and yet, I am still waiting for the day when we have perfumes designed by people from, and about, the countries those fantasies emerge from…

    Or, even something that goes in the other direction–Western/European fantasies! I feel like you can see something like that in some of Miyazaki, the Japanese master of animation. He borrows freely from Western myths and stories, and some of the less well known films from his studio have the funniest Japanese dreams of German villages in them. November 11, 2010 at 1:14pm Reply

  • flittersniffer: “Opulent” and “diaphanous” sounds like a great stunt for BD to have pulled off, though he is the man to make ghostly winds whistle through planks in Timbuktu, so I can believe this of him.

    One of my least favourite scent styles is opulent and stodgy – I received PdN Sacrebleu AND Sacrebleu Intense as extras in two separate transactions this week. Haven’t broached the Sacrebleu yet but the Intense took my head off (not in a good way… : – )). November 11, 2010 at 1:27pm Reply

  • Victoria: A, that is what I found when I started working among the perfumers–they are among the most down to earth people, and yet they work in a fantasy realm. And you are right, a sense of humor is one of the most important ingredients! 🙂 November 11, 2010 at 6:44pm Reply

  • Victoria: V, I like Sacrebleu in theory, but it is far too sweet for me to tolerate it even in small doses. It is the combination of sweet balsams, vanilla and sweet spices (and lactonic notes) that makes it very heavy. Mind you, Traversee du Bosphore is not a sheer L’Artisan like Mimosa pour Moi or something along those lines, but it has a very nice balance overall. November 11, 2010 at 6:46pm Reply

  • Victoria: Alyssa, sorry, I missed your other comment. For this reason, I find Middle Eastern perfumery so fascinating. All of those Guerlain and Lutens fantasies are there. It is strangely familiar, and yet completely unlike anything I would have encountered before. Smelling attars I brought back from my travels, I do not even find myself fantasizing or dreaming, just reflecting and remembering, because they smell of a very specific place. I hope that it makes sense!

    Actually, Bollywood films can unexpectedly provide a reverse fantasy. An inordinate number of them (especially song and dance sequences) are set in Swiss Alps. It is downright bizarre to watch a sari clad heroine prancing in the snow!

    What is more, Indian tour companies now offer “Bollywood sites” packages to Switzerland. A fan of Bollywood can actually visit the movie locations. November 11, 2010 at 6:56pm Reply

  • Maria: Nothing can suprise anymore in terms of name for perfumes. Still, since I heard of it, the name made me think of something rather austere, may be something dry, green, watery. I wouldn’t know why. I read your review and it looks like something totaly different. Intersting.
    Wonderful post, I shall try it. November 12, 2010 at 8:50am Reply

  • Victoria: Maria, definitely not austere! I know what you mean though, I imagined Coeur de Vétiver Sacré to be a dark, rich composition, but it is anything but that. Sometimes the associations we make with names are so unpredictable. November 12, 2010 at 6:34pm Reply

  • Lynn Morgan: Perfume is about fantasy, dreams and reverie. The Orientalist trend (although it lasted a century or two so it can hardly be labeled “trendy”) grew out of the intense passion for exploration in the late 18th and 19th centuries; it probably culminated in the 1920’s with the discovery of King Tut’s tomb. Part Imperialism, certainly, but also driven by an insatiable curiosity about the world and an impulse to see it first hand, analyze and comprehend it. Imagine how astonishing the Parthenon looked to lord Byron or Napoleaon’s first glimpse of the pyramids! Of course the aristocratic men (and they were mostly men)who ventured beyond their Belgravia drawing rooms out into China, Turkey, and India must have been overwhelmed by the sights, and yes, the smells of these brave new worlds. Limited by their time and place, they filtered these experiences through their own prejudices and intellectual short-comings, but without a doubt they wre enchanted by what they experienced, even if they couldn’t fully understand it, and they were anxious to bring some part of the expereince back with them- hence the Victorian craze for paisley shawls,cabinets of curiosities, Keats’ Ode to the Elgin Marbles, mummy unwrapping parties, etc. The fascination with the {perceived} mystery, sensuality, exoticism of the non-western world persists today: don’t the words “geisha,” “opium den” “Forbidden City” “harem” “djin” and “sphynx” conjure exciting, exotic, inexcessibe images for you, even though in many cases those ideas and institutions are so antiquated they are extinct in the cultures that created them? Perfumers who evoke this imaginery “Orient” are not really promoting white supremecy or Imperialism; they are merely trading in a Hollywood-style fantasty of history and geography, kind of like an Indiana Jones movie.

    That said, I can’t wait to sniff Traversse du Bosphore- it sounds delicious. I am not likely to take the Orient Express to Istanbul any time soon, although seeing the Haigh Sofia is on my bucket list- so I will have to be satisfied applying a drop or two to the back of my neck and my cleavage, taking a deep breath and pretending. V, I love your writing- such eloquence and grace. November 12, 2010 at 6:57pm Reply

  • Victoria: Lynn, and I, for my part, love your comments, always very thought provoking and interesting. I certainly agree with your point. Sure, there are lots of unsavory sides to the stereotyping, not to mention the imperialist era itself, but I find even more distasteful the current negative stereotyping of all things Muslim and Middle Eastern. Well, back to the fragrance itself, it is a beautiful fantasy, like everything transient and evanescent.

    If you ever decide to visit Istanbul, do let me know, as I have spent quite a bit of time in Turkey. Istanbul is one of the most incredible sites in the world, not just for its amazing architecture, its astounding skyline, Aya Sofia or other fascinating landmarks. The people and the atmosphere there are almost magical. Not to mention the food, which is superb. I especially love Eastern Turkish food, which tends to be a bit spicy, influenced by nearby Syria. I could not find many cookbooks in English focusing on that cooking, so I ended up buying books in Turkey and then learning Turkish in order to read them (I speak a bit of Azeri, so Turkish is not too different.) November 13, 2010 at 8:56am Reply

  • A.L.: What a lovely review, V! As always.
    I went to smell Traversee du Bosphore at Henri Bendel a couple of weeks ago and absolutely fell in love with it. Do you by any chance know if it’s going to be a staple in the L’Artisan line or if it’s just a temporary exclusive? I definitely want to buy it but my budget is a bit tight right now so I want to wait until next year but I’d hate to “miss the boat” on this one… November 16, 2010 at 9:21pm Reply

  • Victoria: A, I believe that it is a part of regular collection, so it will be around. In any case, there are always stocks even of limited editions that are around for some time, so I don’t worry about it.
    For me it was also a love at first sniff. 🙂 November 17, 2010 at 8:23am Reply

  • Victoria: A, I believe that it is a part of regular collection, so it will be around. In any case, there are always stocks even of limited editions that are around for some time, so I don’t worry about it.
    For me it was also a love at first sniff. 🙂 November 17, 2010 at 8:30am Reply

  • Scent Hive: V, I tried this today at Barney’s and have been going back and forth about it all day. But now in the quiet of the house, the drydown is heavenly to me. This might be FBW!

    Also, I can’t believe we missed you at BG today. What a shame! We will do it again next time I come for a visit.

    XOXO
    Trish November 23, 2010 at 11:57pm Reply

  • cnkallee@gmail.com: I have to say, I strongly agree with the above statement! Very astute. April 1, 2011 at 1:22pm Reply

  • Vijaya: Have you tried the cookbook “Arabesque” by Claudia Roden.. Tested (and delicious)recipes. April 11, 2011 at 6:22pm Reply

  • Victoria: I also love this cookbook! Such interesting recipes, and you are right, they are mouthwatering. Everything I have made out of it came out beautifully. April 11, 2011 at 6:41pm Reply

  • marios: from the last conversation with had about Dzing!, i tried to ordered it on line but i couldn’t find it for delivery in Cyprus so i thought that it was a nice opportunity to order this as i found it in a very good price…L’ artisan is getting my favourite house!!…and as it is consider a leather fragrance, i beleive it will be nice on a man despite the sweetness…right? December 4, 2013 at 2:16am Reply

    • Victoria: It’s really quite sweet and whatever the leather note there, the violet and rose are more prominent. I really don’t advise a blind purchase. December 4, 2013 at 3:28pm Reply

      • marios: never mind, i bought it only for 64 euro including delivery and i ordered as well L’eau du Navigateur. If Traversee is too sweet, will give it to my wife.
        In Christmas i will have Dzing! as well. A Friend will get it for me from UK and will let you know the comments. December 5, 2013 at 1:19am Reply

  • girasole: I know this is an old post, but I’m contemplating buying this fragrance (unsniffed – a risk, I know! But there are so many L’Artisan’s I like…) and am wondering if it’s at all similar to Safran Troublant (which I already own, and love). The notes would suggest not, but I’m hearing a lot of similar remarks in various reviews of the respective fragrances.

    At the moment, I’m deciding between this and Drole de Rose (or possibly even Dzongkha, though I already have a little Timbuktu), but I’d rather have one that’s more different from the others in my collection. Are they too alike? July 31, 2015 at 3:25pm Reply

    • Karen: Can you order a sample from Luckyscent? I got a sample thinking I’d love it, but on me the leather was quite prominent, which I wasn’t crazy about. On you it might be totally different though! July 31, 2015 at 3:45pm Reply

      • girasole: I’m actually a leather lover so for me, that would be a plus! But you’re right, I probably should get a sample before I commit…

        I say I was going to get it unsniffed, but I did actually smell it once, in an airport. The strange thing was that the juice was bright red (almost Kool-Aid colored!) and smelled of…almost nothing. None of the other pictures I’ve see show it in that colour so I wonder if something was wrong with that bottle? July 31, 2015 at 3:54pm Reply

        • Victoria: It’s colored, but I don’t remember it quite that red. Perhaps, it turned in the light.

          I also suggest getting another sample. It could have been reformulated in the meantime, and really, it’s such a tricky perfume. It works on some people well and on others it ends up either sharp or cloying. I wouldn’t blind buy it! August 1, 2015 at 6:15am Reply

          • girasole: Thank you, Karen and Victoria! I’ll have to exercise a bit of restraint (not my strong suit in such cases!) and wait for the sample before making my purchase. August 1, 2015 at 10:57am Reply

            • girasole: Just an update: I managed to get a sample and I love it! I think it may be my next purchase (certainly, at some point in the future). Thank you for encouraging me to try it. August 8, 2015 at 3:59pm Reply

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