Blending History and Architecture : Arquiste Parfumeur

I first came across Arquiste Parfumeur when I was looking for an original gourmand fragrance. Most of the dessert-inspired blends crossing my path were of the cotton candy and crème brûlée variety, and I wanted bitter chocolate. “Why not try Anima Dulcis?” suggested a friend, and gave me a small sample of cognac-colored liquid. It turned out to be the treat I was craving—dark, smoky, spicy, and properly indulgent.

Arquiste Parfumeur is a niche line conceived by architect Carlos Huber in 2012. In his original métier Huber specialized in the historical preservation of buildings, and his proclivities are obvious in the way he interprets history through scents. In Fleur de Louis, a graceful blend of jasmine, orange blossom and iris, he paints a picture of the engagement between Louis XIV and Infanta Maria Teresa of Spain. The citrusy L’Etrog promises to show me the 12th century Calabria, while my favorite Anima Dulcis is a glimpse of the Royal Convent of Jesus Maria in Mexico. Helping to realize Huber’s vision are perfumers Rodrigo Flores-Roux and Yann Vasnier. Flores-Roux and Vasnier teamed up on Anima Dulcis and L’Etrog, while Fleur de Louis is a solo project by Flores-Roux, a perfumer who shares Mexican origins with Arquiste’s founder.

One interesting exploration by Arquiste has been Mexico of the 1970s. Huber worked with Flores-Roux on a fragrance pair, Él and Ella. Inspired by Acapulco of the disco era, the perfumes have a sultry character. Él is meant as the masculine counterpart, a fougère rich in herbal notes. If you throw a dart at the men’s fragrance counter at any department store, chances are you will hit a fougère.  It’s among the most popular styles for men, citrusy, herbal, often loaded with tinny pineapple and lavender.

Él offers a novel approach. It’s rooted in the classical herbal fougère accord with its blend of sage, rosemary, geranium, orange blossom and moss, but it adds the sensual sweetness of honey and the warmth of animalic notes. The opening is bright and shimmery, while the drydown is dark and languid. But for all of its drama, I can imagine Él in a variety of circumstances, none of which require champagne and disco balls. Arquiste is anything if not refined.

Similarly contrasted is Ella. The limpid accord of freshly picked jasmine segues into a seductive darkness of honey, patchouli and amber. Flores-Roux is respected for his impeccable technique and understanding of perfume classics, and with Ella he shows how to reference an iconic theme—a green, mossy chypre of the 1970s—without falling too much under the spell of retro. Ella is radiant, layered, airy, with an earthy, smoky finish that gives it an intriguing twist.

Another fragrance that stands out for its original blend is Nanban, a dark woody composition inspired by Japanese incense. Japanese incense has a sweet-spicy scent, with a velvety undertone, and while there are many brands and styles, more than 70% of all of incense in Japan comes from Awaji Island south of Osaka. This gives Japanese temples a recognizable fragrance. Nanban takes that idea and embellishes it with the aroma of aged wood, sun-warmed osmanthus and fruit offerings, as if the whole temple experience has been distilled and then refracted through perfumer’s imagination. In a word, magical.

Painting1: Juan van der Hamen y León’s Still life with flowers and fruit (Madrid 1596-1632), via the Met and Christie’s.
Painting 2: Miki Suizan, Kiyomizu Temple on a Spring Night, 1924, via wiki-images, some rights reserved.

Do you enjoy Arquiste’s perfumes? Which are your favorites?

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10 Comments

  • Damiana: Anima Dulcis is one of the very few gourmand fragrances I enjoy. It smells like a roasted peanut snack seasoned with salt, spicy pepper, and a veil of cocoa. July 23, 2021 at 7:39am Reply

    • Victoria: Surprising, isn’t it! July 23, 2021 at 11:08am Reply

  • Filomena: I have both Ella and Nanban and although I like Ella, I like Nanban much more although it never seem to receive much attention from fragrance reviewers and wearers in the passt. July 23, 2021 at 10:03am Reply

    • Victoria: I agree, it’s overlooked. July 23, 2021 at 11:08am Reply

  • delia: i can’t get to “In my recent FT magazine article, Three Perfumes for Sei Shonagon, I select three fragrance to accompany the Japanese literary masterpiece…”
    from “Perfumes for Reading The Pillow Book.” do you have another link? i almost always investigate the frags you mention and then go to my fav decant sites to try. columbus, ohio, usa is too small to have many perfumes. July 23, 2021 at 11:02am Reply

  • Aurora: Such a good initiative to review Arquiste. My favorite from the line is Infanta en flor. July 23, 2021 at 2:56pm Reply

  • Fazal: I completely agree with you on Anima Dulcis. You nail it when you say how every gourmand fragrance basically smells like cotton candy and creme brulee. I was quite perplexed when I first smelled Pink Sugar, given its popularity. Anima Dulcis is my favorite gourmand fragrance and probably the benchmark in my book, too.

    I have a slightly different opinion on the others. I have not smelled all from Arquiste but I did acquire Nanban, El, and Ella and sold them all. Nanban was not that bad to my nose but it seemed like less impressive version of Papillon Anubis. El was clearly inspired by Kouros and having a stash of vintage Kouros, El seemed redundant to me. Similarly, Ella reminded me of Paloma Picasso but since I already have Paloma in both extrait and edt, Ella also seemed redundant.

    By giving us Anima Dulcis, Arquiste has justified its existence as far as I am concerned even if no other perfume from the brand has moved me much. July 23, 2021 at 6:35pm Reply

  • Roxann: I own Anima Dulcis and obviously love it. I’ve tried Misfit which I also enjoy and saw it won an award recently. I think I’ll go to my local shop this week and try Nanban and Elle. July 26, 2021 at 11:16pm Reply

  • Silvermoon: Yes, agree with the others that Anima Dulcis is a great gourmand perfume (one of the very few I like). It is the only Arquiste perfume I own, and it brings me memories of New York City (where I bought it). August 10, 2021 at 1:34pm Reply

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