The idea of a perfume company launching its debut perfume in small quantity (in this case, 333 bottles) and also as a limited-edition scent is baffling to me. What if it’s a smash hit? Are they going to lose their cool and release another batch due to popular demand? I suppose they have something new up in their sleeve, otherwise, how do they sustain their business? And how do they expand their customer base for there are only so few people who can experience their perfumes?
On top of that, Aeon are also keeping the name of the perfumer anonymous. Frederic Malle goes against the tradition of keeping the perfumers’ name out of the picture and puts the perfumers under the spotlight, but now aeon is upping the ante and does the exact opposite. I am pretty sure they are not doing that just in case the perfumer sucks – they want it to be fun and controversial… as long as the perfumer is not someone who no one knows about.
(Spoiler Alert) So the perfumer of Aeon 001 is Antonio Gardoni, the same guy behind the famous chypre, Maai. At a perfume exhibition, he put the beautiful fused-lab-glass bottle on his booth table and said, “Well, everyone knows it’s mine, anyway.”
If you have smelled both Maai and Aeon 001, you could tell they share the same DNA – a signature heavy, oakmossy, resinous, musky, civet-loving animalic base. (Maybe that’s why a lot of people could guess he’s the perfumer behind it right away.) It’s easy to say Maai is a gigantic floral chypre and aeon 001 is a smoky vetiver-based perfume, but in terms of mood, if you say Maai smells like a perfume taken from the last century, then aeon 001 smells like it is taken from the last geological period.
When I wear Aeon 001, I feel like I am lost in a midnight forest surrounded by tall vegetation and I am holding burning torch, and things around me are smelling toasty. The animalic base makes me feel like there’s some beasts lurking around me behind the tall grasses. It smells raw, raunchy, unsettling, primitive and dangerous. If I may rename it, I would name it Jurassic Park. It simply is entertaining and thrilling. Aeon 001 is one of the most satisfying and “full” vetiver perfumes I have ever owned.
I had posted a photo of my “fragrance haul” in a Facebook perfume group, showing off my newly acquired scents from a trip, and a Facebook friend saw my bottle of Maai in the picture, and wrote the comment, “Maai is in the house!”
Yes, Maai is in the f**king house, finally. There’s a strange imagery came into my head, and it’s a Jenny Craig commercial; in it a once-overweight woman finally has shed all her extra pounds, and got accepted into the group of “normal” weight friends, full of joy and tears. I felt like I finally belonged, back to the mothership of sane people.
When Maai came out, it was almost like an unstoppable Internet forest fire in Fragrance County. Everyone was talking about it, and the fragrance friends whom I trusted by their taste in perfumes, all said Maai was amazing. I even got an unrequested sample sent to me from a friend as he couldn’t hold his love for this scent. I had talked to a person who had a shaving soap business suddenly asked if I liked Maai or not because he really loved it.
If I am asked to summarize my feeling for Maai, I would say this – it’s a fully restored, remastered, high definition vintage perfume. Everything that is typical in a vintage perfume, no matter it’s rose, oak moss, civet, or aldehyde, it’s so intense and rich and amped up, it’s like a Picasso cubist painting instead of a romanticism painting of angels. I think people are wondering if Antonio Gardoni has cheated and ignored IFRA safety guideline by pouring a gallon of real oakmoss in Maai with an evil grin (covered up by his beard) and mumbling in Italian, “fock you…”
That all being said, I didn’t love Maai. I liked it. Until I was at a fragrance show in LA, talking to a perfumer about her perfumes, and suddenly someone next to me sprayed some perfume onto a ceramic mask. I couldn’t hold myself, and said, “oh my god, what is this beautiful scent?” It was totally embarrassing because I was praising the scent coming from the next booth. Yes, it’s was Antonio next to me spraying Maai. BUT, not the regular Maai, but a modified version of Maai, called Scent of Mystery. He modified Maai by adding some beautiful gardenia, and amped up the concentration from 28% to 33%. It was so rich, floral, dirty, soapy and flirty it’s ridiculous. I succumbed, I had to get this special version. Now I think about it, maybe the original Maai wasn’t floral enough for me? How crazy.
I am writing this in response to a few people who have asked me if it is worth it to buy a bottle Cadavre Exquis. There are a lot of internal struggle, I know that: It comes in 50ml only and quite pricey, $245 a bottle. They have only made 99 bottles, a very small quantity, but a tricky quantity – if it is absolutely fantastic, only one or two people will post on Facebook telling everyone how good it is, but such annoying voice is going to be small and you will just eventually ignore it. If it is a limited edtion of 1000, hmm, you still have a chance to test it and buy it when your budget is looser and join the choir. Finally, it’s a gourmand scent, a love it or hate it genre, but men, they are designed by two revered indie perfumers, Antonio Gardoni and Bruno Fazzolari, and you love to tell people you have finished your second bottle of Antonio’s Maai and Bruno’s Au Dela. Decision, decision, decision and time is running out…
Well, the opening smells like some old-style chewy non-fruity semi licorice (it’s actually anise) and caramel chocolate candies covered with some dubious wax to preserve them. It’s strong and rich, and not for kids, like Riesen Chewy Chocolate Caramel (Have you ever seen Riesen’s TV commercial? It’s caramel for grown men!) but more complex probably due to the camphor they have added and the mid-notes that can’t wait to show up. If you spit out licorice candies when you were a kid, but love to eat them now (especially some that also have a chocolate flavor), get Cadavre Exquis.
Since I know both Antonio and Bruno’s work, the opening of Cadavre Exquis, does not smell anything like their works, but because of its richness and matureness, I would say it smells slightly more “Antonio” to me, with a touch of the pop art feeling of Bruno’s work. If you absolutely hate gourmand, Cadavre Exquis has a resolution in the dry down. It continues to smell sweet, but it’s resinous, ambery, a little bit spicy and herbal (rosemary), and this candy has a small surprise for you – just a little civet castoreum poop in the chewy center that makes women scream in joy.
If Martha Stewart says, “Today I am going to fry an egg”, you know it’s going to be over the top, garnished with rainbow. Same as Antonio Gardoni and Bruno Fazzolari telling you, “We are making a candy gourmand perfume!” Don’t worry, it’s spectacular, and if you really don’t like it, sell it on eBay for $450.
P.S. It is absolutely interesting to see both perfumers next to each other in the 2016 AIX Scent Fair. Bruno is more reserved and quiet, and Antonio is very talkative and has no secrets. Very memorable.