Some of the most intriguing fragrances are meant to evoke environment and emotion, time and place. This is why the newest L’Artisan Parfumeur fragrance, Séville à l’aube, caught my attention. Perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour created Séville à l’aube as a celebration of journalist and perfume blogger Denyse Beaulieu’s remembrance of romance and seduction past. The idea stemmed from a story Beaulieu told the perfumer about an erotic event that transpired during a long-ago Holy Week (this turns up in the scent as an abstraction) and about the smells and associations of that time and place (more literal). Beaulieu describes her experience in the creation of this fragrance in her book The Perfume Lover. Duchaufour documents Beaulieu’s story as an “orange blossom Oriental” in which the sweet and honeyed white flower appears meaty and succulent and the dry resins of the base curl upwards in the manner of incense.
According to Duchaufour’s interpretation of Beaulieu’s recollections, Seville during Holy Week smells of this orange blossom plus petitgrain (crushed twigs and leaves that add greenness and woodiness), lavender ash and incense, benzoin, and beeswax. These represent smoke from the incense censers, candles, flowering trees, and blond tobacco. They are emotionally potent enough that one is almost able to vicariously wander through Beaulieu’s memory, minus the “black-clad Spanish boy” tangling with garters. On second thought, however, the vapor of lavender ash that floats like a lover over the body of orange blossom is pretty sensuous stuff.
Séville à l’aube appears as two fragrances, depending on some mysterious unknown force that renders it in one wearing as a nectar-filled orange blossom, unctuously sweet and then bitter with its tang of green. The second fragrance is all incense and smoke where the lavender flatters the orange blossom into releasing an iridescence that shatters into tiny shards across the cinders and Siam benzoin of the base. There is also a meeting of notes when everything comes together, from the toothsome sweetness of the orange flower to the dusky embers in the base, cut through by aromatic lavender that smells like a distant slow herbal burn.
From the inclusion of Eros in this “perfume story” I expected something along the lines of Caron’s orange-blossom vamp Narcisse Noir. But the smolder of the Caron is darker, dangerous. Séville à l’aube is surprisingly airy and full of light; this is an outdoor scent befitting the watching of processions that is at the heart of the book and the perfume’s narrative. Still, by its shadowy base the red-blooded and lusty ambience cannot be mistaken.
Seville is a casual scent, although with nothing offhand about it. It’s equally suited for special occasions. Alive in the same way Beaulieu’s writing is, you want to grab and savor each note and word. My nose, numb from the ordinary, the clean, and the fruity, was immediately seduced into wishing they’d push the July release date up: I want the full bottle now.
L’Artisan Parfumeur Séville à l’aube is already available for sampling at L’Artisan boutiques. The Perfume Lover is available on Amazon.co.uk, and the excerpts can be found at Denyse’s blog Grain de Musc.
Image: Girl with a basket of oranges, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, c.1889, National Gallery of Art Washington.