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.

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Eau D’Italie’s Bois D’Ombrie (2006)

Eau D'Italie's Bois D'Ombrie © Victor Wong
Eau D’Italie’s Bois D’Ombrie © Victor Wong

My French vocabularies have been growing very slowly through osmosis since I started collecting perfumes three years ago. Now I can tell what “eau”, “noir”, “amour”, “poivre” and “bois” mean instantly. (And that’s about it.)

So when I read the words “Bois D’Ombrie” (Wood of Umbria) on a perfume label, I knew it’s a woody scent. But what I didn’t expect was the rather unusual aspect of woodiness that I got from this scent by Eau d’Italie. (Ironically the perfume name is in French, not Italian.)

“Bois D’Ombrie” reminds me of three things, all related to Chinese cooking ingredients – giant lotus leaf, giant winter melon (both commonly used in summer soups to help “suppress the fire” in your body) and bitter melon. Bitter melon has a more poetic and lesser-used nickname in Chinese, and it’s “Half Life Melon” (not carbon dating half-life). Chinese people say that commoners usually don’t like to eat dishes cooked together with bitter melons (because it’s literally bitter tasting), but when you start to like bitter melons, it also means that half your life has gone. A pretty scary thought, but it’s also an indicator of midlife maturity, a change of attitude towards things in life.

Those three ingredients I just mentioned share similarities in smell – very dark green, damp, earthy, bitter and vegetal; if it is a juice I don’t want to drink it. And that’s the opening of Bois D’Ombrie. As the opening dissipates, the fragrance morphs from a bitter melon to a carrot-flavored cigar, together with a resinous, earthy leathery base. The unusually deep green and soil colored scent probably is not for people who are new to the fragrance scene who wants a crowd pleaser scent. Rather, it’s very moody and introspective, like walking in a forest at 5 pm in the evening with an worrisome love letter in your jacket. It’s special, and I like it, but don’t ever think I will be crazy about it, but maybe I will, just like I have started to like eating bitten melons.