Six L’Artisan Parfumeur Perfumes…

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L’Artisan Parfumeur’s perfumes © Victor Wong

It’s a bit surprising to find out that L’Artisan is a 40 year old “niche perfume” company and have published nearly 80 perfumes, and I am glad that they are still here.

Although I really like the new 2016 packaging design of L’Artisan, I see it as a signal for me to bite the bullet and buy some of the bottles with the old design that I’ve always wanted – my collection will look better, also right now the prices are really good on eBay.

L’Artisan Parfumeur’s L’eau du Caporal (1985)

L’eau du Caporal, one of the earliest releases, is a scent that’s supposed to make you smell like a handsome corporal with perfect pearly teeth on the cover a paperback romance novel. To me, it’s a combo scent of fresh breath after a vigorous gargling of spearmint mouthwash (that lasts and lasts), and a light fougere with hints of lavender and patchouli that fights your perspiration under that blue stiff jacket. The combined effect is actually quite unusual (light manly minty cologne), I have never smelled anything like it, and it doesn’t smell dated at all.

L’artisan Parfumeur’s Seville a L’aube (2012)

I’ve heard many good things about Seville a L’aube and some people call it the reference orange blossom perfume. I can see why, but somehow any perfumes with an orange blossom theme tend to smell similar, like any vanilla themed dessert when you start putting strawberries or chocolate on top it’s no longer a vanilla themed dessert.

I over-applied this perfume once by reflex action because it’s a L’Artisan perfume – they rarely last more than three hours on me, but this time I was wrong. It stays with me like a bucket of orange blossom concentrate that has rained on me in the movie Carrie. Luckily, the scent has a soapy vibe; I smell like I have taken a really good shower.

L’artisan Parfumeur’s Mimosa Pour Moi (1992)

Before smelling Mimosa Pour Moi and Diptyque’s Mimosa candles, I only had a vague understanding of what mimosa really smelled like because they are often blended in perfumes to give some olfactive effect. (Kind of like flour mixed into oil to make gravy; it thickens a perfume to make it smells gelatinous. I sound like a lunatic, don’t I?)

I can’t say I am crazy about the scent of mimosa, and it has a smell that I can’t describe perfectly – it smells resinous and a bit raw and vegetal but not completely; and I can’t even say it smells floral to me. It’s just strange.

Mimosa Pour Moi to me is a perfume for reference. It’s not complicated at all, it’s just… mimosa and something light. It doesn’t bring me much joy but more like an enlightenment.

L’Artisan Parfume’s Passage d’Enfer (1999)

The translated French title is “Passage to Hell”. With a name like this, how come no one talks about it? If it really were a passage to hell, you are going to be greeted by a silly golden retriever licking your face and a welcome basket of kittens.

This is a 17 year old incense themed perfume and it still smells modern and “niche” by today’s standard, but it doesn’t have a distinct, opulent or bad boy character of today’s incense perfumes. It is light, airy, mildly sweet, woody scent infused with a little bit of lily. If you like Le Labo’s prohibitively expensive Gaiac 10 perfume, this is the incense version of it.

L’Artisan Parfumeur’s Mandarine (2006)

I got this when L’Artisan put everything on sale to get rid of the old packaging, and possibly this one for good. This scent reminds me of two things – hotel lobby and Tang artificial orange powder drink.

The opening is a refreshing, friendly, mildly sweet citrus scent with ginger to make it slightly exotic, but this blend smells like the lobby of a few hotels that I have stayed in Hong Kong, which runs powerful aroma diffusers 24/7. The scent is nice and inoffensive, and even my friend has been looking for this scent for his home ever since he returned. Now if I wear Mandarine next to him, he might ask if I have just visited Hong Kong.

The mid phase of this scent is Tang orange powder that has made millions of kids fat, unfortunately I am one of the victims, and the needle is hovering between “you ruined me” and “why does it smell powdery” and wouldn’t stop like a sine curve for an hour or so.

Eventually it settles into a sweet, mild ambery orangey skin scent that would smell nice on anybody on a summer day.

L’Artisan Parfumeur’s Fou d’Absinthe (2006)

From zero interest to full-blown love. It wasn’t the most interesting scent from L’artisan when I started exploring the line and the 1ml sample didn’t help. Now I find absinthe smell more interesting than vetiver and this scent is elegant like Chanel’s Sycomore, “barbershop-style humble”, manly, but staying 10 yards away from the gang who wears Drakkar Noir. An elegant classic.

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L’Artisan Parfumeur’s Piment Brûlant (2002)

L'Artisan Parfumeur's Piment Brûlant © Victor Wong
L’Artisan Parfumeur’s Piment Brûlant © Victor Wong

Back in 2013, I tested a bunch of L’Artisan Parfumeur’s samples and I could clearly remember my reaction to smelling Piment Brûlant (Burning Pepper) – “Oh, it’s a bell pepper perfume? How peculiar! Definitely not for me though…” A few months later I traveled to Europe and one of the stops was Hungary. Hungary is a major exporter of paprika peppers to the world (or pimento peppers, but some people say they are not the same), and their cuisines are famous for incorporating this spice. Not to my surprise, I saw many beautiful, glossy air-dried paprika bunches hanging inside souvenir shops in the tourist area. It’s only when I returned home and started organizing my photos then I realized Piment Brulant was a perfume that featured the paprika note.

It’s very clear to me that Piment Brulant isn’t L’Artisan Parfumeur’s bestseller. I occasionally visit their site to see what’s new, what get re-released, but I don’t ever recall seeing Piment Brulant on their site. I assume it has been discontinued and the public interest for that scent is not strong. The reason is quite simple in my opinion – it’s a fine fresh scent, almost like a cologne, but infused with  pepper oil. Not white pepper, black pepper or pink pepper, but fresh fiery hot pepper that you use for, say, a Vietnamese dish, and if you’ve touched the seeds and touch your eyes accidentally, you die.

I imagine mad genius perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour couldn’t stop at a perfectly fine cologne and looked around his lab frantically for something to enhance his creation, and a poor paprika walked by the window and he grabbed it and stuffed it in the flask and yelled “Viola”. Despite the craziness, the amount of pepper oil used in this creation is perfectly fine-tuned so that it doesn’t overwhelm, but yet I am able to detect traces of it from the beginning to the end. Bored with cologne but only wear cologne? Give this one a try.

My 20 Favourite Perfumes in My Collection (2015)

20 of My Favorite Perfumes (1-10) © Victor Wong
20 of My Favorite Perfumes (1-10) © Victor Wong

Here are some of my favorite perfumes in my collection (as of 2015), in no particular order. Very personal choice:

1. Amouage’s Gold for Men – So rich, musky, powdery and opulent. When I die, I will be dowsed with this perfume.

2. Chanel’s Bois Des Iles  – Sandalwood and aldehyde bomb. I almost shed a little tear when I first smelled it.

3. Atkinsons’ The Odd Fellow’s Bouquet – Don’t know why, but I love this tobacco and cognac spicy scent. Not formal but full of personality. When in doubt, I wear this perfume.

4. Estee Lauder’s Youth Dew – Smells like an incense temple in Hong Kong to me. It is also very potent, yet when I am sleepless, I spray some on my pillow and I will be at peace.

5. Byredo’s M/Mink – Honey and ink that smells like sweet sun dried seafood. Perverted and unforgettable.

6. Lanvin’s Arpege (Modern 1st reformulation) – I will have a whole lot more to say about this perfume.

7. Kiehl’s Original Musk – Smelling flowers next to a monkey cage, and the perfume that inspired me to create my own Zoologist Perfumes brand.

8. Le Labo’s Gaiac 10 – When I smell this scent, I feel like my brain is being taken out of my head and get a cold river rinsing.

9. Robert Piguet’s Calypso – Super powdery rose with a few drops of chypre. Perfect.

10. Salvador Dali’s Dali – A floral blend that just clicks. The materials in this perfume may not be the best, but every week I have to take a sniff.

20 of My Favorite Perfumes (11-20)
20 of My Favorite Perfumes (11-20)

11. Oriza Legrand’s Relique d’Amour – It transports me to a different place of a different time. Longevity is its main problem though.

12. Annick Goutal’s Songes EDP – I love it, I hate it, I love it… a white flower bomb that smells so good and yet so potent I am smiling and gagging at the same time.

13. Lubin’s Nuit de Longchamp – Elegance, sophistication, retro; romancing on the balcony of a ballroom with giant fountains running down below. (See also #19)

14. Etat Libre d’Orange’s Archives 69 – Cherry lollypop that I can’t stop sucking.

15. L’Artisan Parfumeur’s Traversee du Bosphore – Istanbul is my favourite city and it inspired this perfume. Smells like Turkish delight and it’s marvellous.

16. Diptyque’s Philosykos – the best fig perfume IMO. Fig is also one of my favourite fruits and trees.

17. Le Labo’s Iris 39 – Green iris soaked up by a piece of bread. Even I can’t pull it off because it’s so womanly but that makes me love it more.

18. Helmut Lang’s Eau de Cologne – I should have picked Guerlain’s Habit Rouge, but this smells more sophisticated to me, still, it’s a lemon baby powder scent that I can’t get enough of.

19. Jean Desprez’s Bal a Versailles (vintage) – Legendary French perfume that fits for a cold or flaming queen, a fancy host or fancy whore, or any gentleman who isn’t really gentle.

20. Acqua di Colonia’s Melograno – I will save some for when I become an old man, I will gain more respect when I wear it. Excellent aromatic cologne.

L’Artisan Parfumeur’s Safran Troublant (2002)

L'Artisan Parfumeur Safran Troublant © Victor Wong
L’Artisan Parfumeur Safran Troublant © Victor Wong

About a year ago I gave my friend Caro a few perfume samples that I found “uninteresting”. A week later she sent me this text message, “Oh my god, I am in heaven!” She was wearing L’Artisan Parfumeur’s Safran Troublant, and she continued, “Oh no, only a few drops left, what should I do?”

She eventually took out her credit card to purchase it, not a full bottle, but another 1ml sample from Lucky Scent. (She spends most of her money on stylish clothing and sloth related accessories.)

Caro really had a nose for anything “saffron”. When I showed her my work-in-progress perfume, she said, “How about adding some saffron?” When we went to a department store to “sniff”,  she was immediately drawn to Yves Saint Laurent’s Noble Leather. We checked the note list, indeed saffron was present.

Shamefully, I had very little idea what saffron smelled like. So I had decided to get a bottle of Safran Troublant and try to understand what her “heaven” was like (but really to give her a decant, that silly girl).

So I hook up Leonardo DiCaprio’s Inception dream machine, lied down, sprayed some Safran Troublant, and closed my eyes…

I saw Maison Francis Kurkdjian, and Olivia Giacobetti, the perfumer of Safran Troublant, talking to each other, while Caro was standing next to a tree playing with a sloth.

“What are you guys doing here?”, I asked.

“I am telling Francis how his Oud perfume smells like my Safran Troublant,” said Olivia.

“Haha, right, except your perfume has no oud in it but some simple ginger, rose and vanilla,” said Francis.

“Guys, guys, bitch please, don’t fight!” said Caro, with a sloth hanging around her arm. “They don’t smell alike at all, but they are wonderful as they both have saffron in it!”

“Oh, I think I get it! Saffron smells like some dry bitter herbs or peppers; no wonder Francis’ Oud smells like some laboratory chemical cleaner, while Safran Troublant smells like ginger candies with some weird herbal funk,” I said.

They all looked at me with furrowed eyebrows and began beating the crap out of me.

L’Artisan Parfumeur’s Bois Farine (2003)

© Victor Wong
© Victor Wong

It takes me a lot of courage to show a friend or a coworker my perfume collection. A Japanese manga collection? “Very cool!” A video game collection? “Hey, I played this game with my younger brother when I was a kid!” A figurine collection? “Oh wow, they are cute! Where did you find them?” A perfume collection? “Are you INSANE?” Unfortunately, this question is at the top of “Most Frequently Asked Questions for Victor Wong.” Instead answering it, I like to immediately distract them by showing them a few of my “interesting” perfumes. Usually the first one I choose is L’artisan Parfumeur’s Bois Farine (2003).

My friends typically say the scent reminds them of something very familiar, and it’s on the tip of their tongue. Almond cookies? Peanut butter? They are good guesses, but when I tell them it is supposed to smell like flour, they will exclaim, “oh yes! that’s very interesting!” I will then put on my snob-cap and tell them that the nose behind this perfume wanted to recreate the scent of some flowers from an unusual tree he had encountered in some remote island that I don’t remember the name, but anyway, it smelled like flour.

This perfume is really perfect for fall, and if you happen to have a very soft and fluffy milk-colour sweater, spray some on, wear it, and it might bring you back to your favourite childhood memories – making cookies with mommy. (Well, I have never made cookies with my mom, but I remember I ate a whole bag of almond cookies while watching cartoon.)

L’Artisan Parfumeur’s Premier Figuier (1994)

L'Artisan Parfumeur Primier Figuier Extreme EDP, 100ml, Limited Edition
© Victor Wong

My perfume addiction started only about two years ago. My focus at that time was niche perfumes, and I learned about different brands through Google search. I remember the search results back then always included L’artisan Parfumeur. That shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone; they are one of the pioneers of niche perfumes. Today, the number of niche perfume houses have increased probably by tenfolds and the interests in L’artisan Parfumeurs perfumes have slowly been washed away from the shore of Google Search into the far away seas of ignored links. (My subjective observation, of course.)

One of the more famous L’artisan Parfumeur’s perfumes has to be Olivia Giacobetti’s Premier Figuier (1994). It’s the first perfume based upon the fig scent. I actually had never eaten fresh figs before I arrived in Canada, and now I have fallen in love with them. I even have a potted Italian fig tree (too bad it bears few fruits), so I know what the leaves and freshly pruned branches smell like. Premier Figuier captures the scents of leaves and fig fruit very well (together with the milkiness of a broken stalk), but I found it too bitter, and even smell of plastics. And the longevity is also pretty poor. It was really Olivia’s second fig perfume, “Philosykos” that stole my heart. It is in my opinion, a more polished and loveable version of Premier Figuier. But now I have discovered this irresistible limited edition of Premier Figuier (released 10 years ago?), I really don’t mind another fig perfume.

L’Artisan Parfumeur’s Dzongkha (2006)

© Victor Wong
© Victor Wong

It’s an iris perfume! Wait, where’s the iris? It’s a Korean ginseng chicken soup perfume! Yes, it is! Wait, where’s the chicken?

L’artisan’s Dzongkha’s Fragrantica profile has a lot of notes listed, including Lychee, White tea, Iris, Peony, but most I can smell is ginseng, which is not listed there. It’s a perfume that takes time to appreciate and analyze, may be it’s best for meditation or a hippie gathering.