I will be honest with you, one of the reasons why I wanted to explore the works of perfumer Maurice Roucel is that he looks like the video game character Mario, which I find it a little bit hilarious. (Check out any Frederic Malle’s marketing materials and look for his portrait and you will know what I mean.) The other reason, and the main reason, of course, is that he has received high praises for his work (Envy, Musc Ravaguer, 24 Faubourg, Rochas Man, etc) and Luca Turin thinks that he’s (almost) a perfumery genius.
I have been collecting some of his scents ever since reading Luca’s book; his Kenzo Air is very interesting to me because its main note is the love-or-hate anise.
Star anise (smells similar to anise) is a spice commonly used in Chinese cooking, particularly in the dish “Soy Sauce Chicken”. (By the way, pouring soy sauce directly on top of steamed chicken is not Soy Sauce Chicken, y’all.) The time I really thought anise smelled like no other spices was during a holiday season I tried to make some German springerles cookies. The recipe asked for a few of drops of anise essential oil, which wasn’t that easily available at my local supermarket, but when I found some and took a sniff, I thought it smelled a bit cray-cray – bitter, uplifting, pungent and liquorice-like. It’s hard to imagine it is used in perfumery without it hi-jacking the whole perfume.
I guess the creative Mr. Roucel realized that and decided not to fight it and let anise in Kenzo Air be a lead singer and the other ingredients (vetiver, cedar, amber, bergamot) be back up vocals. The result is a casual but confident scent –fresh, airy, woody with a little bit sweetness, and most importantly, an interesting anise perfume.