Aedes de Venustas Grenadille d’Afrique : Perfume Review

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When Serge Lutens came up with an idea for Shiseido’s Feminité du Bois, he was asked so often about his “vision of a woman” that he got exasperated and said that he wasn’t making a perfume that smelled of any woman, that he merely wanted the smell of Moroccan cedar. That was in the early 1990s. I’d wager that today few briefs will surprise a perfumer, even as in the case of Aedes de Venustas’s Grenadille d’Afrique, the request is for ebony, “from crackling sap to balmy resin and from smoky wood to sun-heated stone… [and] also the primal landscape in which it grows.” For this, we have to thank Lutens and other niche pioneers.

grenadille-aedes

At first glance, Grenadille d’Afrique is a classical Aedes perfume–dry woods, peppery spices, amber, a hint of incense. With seven fragrances in its collection, the New York boutique has put together a coherent, well-edited lineup. Even if it’s famously enamored with incense, its touch is delicate enough, neither the church nor the ashram. Grenadille d’Afrique, however, brings a new element that I haven’t noticed before–retro glamour.

The curious aspect is how this is accomplished, because the main impression of Grenadille d’Afrique is a sleek perfume that smells less of a “primal African landscape” than of the chic ateliers of Soho. The dry woods, which give Grenadille d’Afrique its distinctive character, are not of the exotic variety. Presented in a polished frame of bitter citrus and pepper, they are almost familiar.

At first, the perfume feels bright and bracing, but within the next half an hour it softens. Instead of herbes de provence and jolts of pink pepper, I’m suddenly wrapped in leathery violets and smoky vanilla. For me, it’s a nostalgic effect, reminiscent of old Carons or Guerlains, of days when I first started making my acquaintance with vintages. Despite the perfume’s sharply tailored and trendy look, Grenadille d’Afrique has a mellow, romantic side.  It’s just a hint, so perhaps die-hard retro glamour lovers won’t be satisfied, but it charms me.

Alberto Morillas, its author, is known for his refined accords. Here too, he strings notes into complex arpeggios that sound differently to me every time I wear Grenadille d’Afrique. Some days I notice more sun-bleached woods; on others, it’s vetiver and vanilla that take center stage. The rich notes notwithstanding, the perfume remains transparent and airy.

Like all Aedes fragrances, Grenadille d’Afrique is suited to both men and women. In presence, it’s between a cologne and a chypre, a light, skin-hugging scent. (In character, if not in exact scent, it reminds me of Hermès Cuir d’Ange and Comme des Garçons Quarzazate.) That being said, its lasting power and sillage are good–enough to keep one company but not to bother one’s companions.

Aedes de Venustas Grenadille d’Afrique Eau de Parfum includes notes of lavender, bergamot, juniper, violet, vetiver, labdanum, vanilla and musk. 100 ml/$245.

Sample: via Aedes de Venustas.

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38 Comments

  • Jake: Thanks! Which is your favourite Aedes perfume? October 3, 2016 at 9:10am Reply

    • Victoria: So far I’ve enjoyed Oeillet Bengale and Iris Nazarena. Together with Grenadille d’Afrique, they make the three Aedes scents I would wear the most. October 3, 2016 at 11:01am Reply

      • sara: Another iris I missed! October 3, 2016 at 12:29pm Reply

        • Victoria: Have you tried Goutal’s Heure Exquise? It’s another stellar iris. October 3, 2016 at 2:17pm Reply

      • Ari: Oeillet Bengale is my favorite, too! Carnations are few and far between these days, and Aedes’ is such a luscious one! October 3, 2016 at 5:47pm Reply

        • Victoria: Yes, it’s unfairly maligned as “an old-fashioned flower.” Not that there is anything wrong with retro or even old-fashioned, but as a result, it ends up being ignored. And of course, Oeillet Bengale proves that you can do interesting new carnations. October 4, 2016 at 5:36am Reply

          • MK: I like carnations in Balenciaga Florabotanica. October 4, 2016 at 6:56am Reply

            • Victoria: Yes, I remember a light spicy floral note in it. October 4, 2016 at 12:34pm Reply

  • Tijana: Wow, this sounds right up my alley… violets, vanilla, musk, lavender, labdanum combo… Based on the notes it should be my heaven as there is nothing (at least on paper) I don’t like! Will have to try next time I am in New York.

    Thanks for the lovely review, as always! <3 October 3, 2016 at 9:53am Reply

    • Victoria: It’s beautiful. One thing to keep in mind is that it’s not as thick and dark as the notes suggests. It’s really airy and transparent, although it wears really well and has a good presence. October 3, 2016 at 11:02am Reply

      • Tijana: Thanks! I don’t mind airy and transparent these days as it makes it easier to pull off in the office environment, as long as it lasts on the skin a decent amount of time… October 3, 2016 at 11:18am Reply

        • Victoria: Lately I’ve been gravitating to scents with a softer presence. I want to smell them time to time, but I don’t want a cloud of perfume. So, I reach for something like Hermès Cuir d’Ange or Goutal Duel. October 3, 2016 at 2:15pm Reply

          • Tijana: Same here! As much as I like powerhouses, it’s become increasingly hard to pull them off in office environments and also, I started feeling overwhelmed by them. Just like you, I want periodic sniffs when I move around or my body warms up, but not like before when I felt that I had to leave a trail 🙂

            I do, however, still like longevity, so a more personal space sillage is fine, as long as I can smell the fragrance when I sniff my arm a few hours in… October 3, 2016 at 2:37pm Reply

            • Victoria: Yes, that’s what I like too. Light but lingering.

              Perhaps, my reaction is to all of the powerhouse perfumes I smell around me. I feel like turning down the volume and keep my sillage more intimate. October 3, 2016 at 4:15pm Reply

            • Lisa: I once wore Marc Jacobs for her to the office and one colleague complained to HR about my “suffocating” perfume. I couldn
              t even smell it. It was very embarrassing. 🙁 October 4, 2016 at 1:03pm Reply

              • Victoria: It’s possible that she or he was very sensitive, or that you’ve stopped smelling your perfume. For instance, you tend to wear only one perfume, it’s normal to get used to it and stop noticing your scent. You can try using something else and wear a tiny amount on your wrist or under your clothes. Or if your office has a strict policy, you can alway keep a decant in your purse and apply perfume just as you leave work. I’m sorry that this has happened, and I can just imagine how uncomfortable you must have felt. October 4, 2016 at 4:18pm Reply

  • spe: This sounds delightful – I enjoy Cuir d’ Ange. I’m excited to try this and the new Archiste (Elle?). Thank you for the review! October 3, 2016 at 10:09am Reply

    • Victoria: I’ve tried and liked ELLA (and also EL, which is the companion perfume by Arquiste), but I still need to test it properly. It’s such a good line, and the most recent perfume I loved from them was Nanban. October 3, 2016 at 11:10am Reply

  • sara: A light incense sounds good, but pricey. Are those bottles refillable? October 3, 2016 at 12:28pm Reply

    • MK: They offer 3 purse sprays refills separately. They’re 1/4 oz each and about $100. October 3, 2016 at 12:36pm Reply

      • Victoria: Thank you for mentioning these! October 3, 2016 at 2:18pm Reply

    • Victoria: Yes, quite expensive. I don’t think those bottles are refillable. October 3, 2016 at 2:17pm Reply

  • Annikky: This sounds beautiful and your review is so eloquent, as always. I went looking for it this weekend, but K&B didn’t have it yet. I’m even more excited now, after reading your verdict (leathery violets!). October 3, 2016 at 1:10pm Reply

    • Victoria: A very interesting and unconventional take on a pink pepper note. 🙂 October 3, 2016 at 2:19pm Reply

  • Johanob: Very interested to smell this one,being a resident of Africa!Lol.I love Iris Nazarena,and the aesthetic of this brand has always appealed to me greatly.X October 3, 2016 at 4:27pm Reply

    • Victoria: Oh, I’d love to hear your opinion! I admit that their press release description, all that “primal landscape” business, made me wary. The perfume, however, turned out to be different from what I expected–and in many ways, better. October 3, 2016 at 4:47pm Reply

      • Johanob: I will report as soon as I’ve smelled it!By the way,my first thought upon hearing about it was “Oh goodness,Aedes is doing a fruity-floral??”,because passionfruit is called a grenadilla here in my valley.lol! October 5, 2016 at 2:35pm Reply

        • Victoria: LOL! Now that you mention it, I’d love an Aedes fruity-floral. I bet, they’d do something clever. October 5, 2016 at 2:59pm Reply

  • Nemo: I am quite fond of both Hermès Cuir d’Ange and Quarzazate, though I have never thought of putting them in the same category before. I will definitely try to find this perfume to try 🙂 Thank you for a lovely review! October 4, 2016 at 12:41am Reply

    • Victoria: They smell differently, of course, but I think of them as enveloping, soft, but unsweetened perfumes. Usually that kind of category is all about vanilla and powder. Grenadille d’Afrique joins them as one of my “salty” options. 🙂 October 4, 2016 at 5:38am Reply

  • MK: I tried all of them apart from Copal Azur and this new one and I got Aedes de Venustas original in a spray refill. I love the fact that it’s zingy and crisp, but not sharp, strangely enough. October 4, 2016 at 6:54am Reply

    • Victoria: Copal Azur’s pairing of smoky and marine is interesting. Not sure if it’s in my favorites from Aedes, but it’s good. The original is definitely the most memorable, however. October 4, 2016 at 12:43pm Reply

  • maja: Hi Victoria! I need to try this partly because I absolutely trust your tastes and partly because Aedes has a really good line. I recently bought a big decant of Oeillet Bengale being on a carnation kick. So wonderful and my friend who cultivates carnations was impressed how much it smelled like the real thing.
    Just yesterday I wore my sample of Palissandre d’Or and kept thinking what it reminded me of so strongly and then I realized – Black Cashmere. The same nutmegy opening and dry incensey woods although BC is much more austere and cold. Iris Nazarena on the other hand has a bit too much incense for my taste but I did finish my sample gladly… I should catch up on the rest of the line.

    Thanks for a great review. As always. October 4, 2016 at 2:21pm Reply

    • Victoria: This one has a dose of woody-peppery notes, but it’s not as assertive as some of their other perfumes. So, this makes it easier to wear.

      I didn’t think of the overlap with Palissandre d’Or and Black Cashmere, but it makes sense. I now want to compare them. October 4, 2016 at 4:21pm Reply

  • Andy: This sounds promising, and rather like it fits right in with the excellent quality and aesthetic of the previous Aedes scents. I just revisited Iris Nazarena recently, and was amazed to find how, years later, it’s still among my top favorite perfumes. October 6, 2016 at 2:26pm Reply

    • Victoria: Interesting, isn’t it? Even though the line was created by different perfumers, it still has a coherent aesthetic. October 6, 2016 at 2:29pm Reply

  • Mosnieur: Sound is amazing! I really love everything from this house. I really like Palissandre d’Or (I have it and also signature) and Copal Azur. I can’t wait to try this one! October 10, 2016 at 1:35pm Reply

    • Victoria: If you liked the others, I think you will also enjoy Grenadille. But I recommend starting with a sample, because it’s soft. October 12, 2016 at 3:43am Reply

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