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.

Diptyque’s Ofrésia (1999)

Diptyque Ofresia © Victor Wong
Diptyque Ofresia © Victor Wong

Diptyque’s Ofresia freaked me out.

First of all, the perfumer of this minimalistic floral scent is Olivia Giacometti, a talented perfumer who has created many great scents for different perfume houses such as L’Artisan Parfumeur’s Dzing, Frederic Malle’s En Passant and Lubin’s Idole. While she is not the type of perfumer who likes to use a lot of notes in her creations, Ofresia has only three notes: freesia, pepper and wood. Yes, if you can buy perfumery ingredients in a supermarket, you don’t even need to bring a grocery list to make Ofresia a la King.

Ok, Ofresia only has three notes, so what? Does it smell good? Well, a big no at first then a big yes. But let me clarify first. It doesn’t smell cheap and it doesn’t smell overly simple. When I first smelled Ofresia, I “woah?” a little bit because all I could smell was a light fresh floral mixed with rubber. I know what pepper and wood smell like, so by deduction I guess freesia smells a little bit rubbery in nature? I know that the scents of a lot of flowers are actually quite complex (e.g jasmine smells redolent and fecal), maybe freesia smells fresh, redolent, green and rubbery in nature? Once I’ve overcome that “some flowers smell a bit weird” mental hurdle, Ofresia becomes an one-of-a-kind scent that I enjoy very much. Now if I want a perfume with a floral scent that is not rose, jasmine, tuberose or iris, I know which bottle to reach for.

Inspiring Perfumes Series Pt. 3: Diptyque’s Philosykos (1996)

Diptyque Philosykos EDP © Victor
Diptyque Philosykos EDP © Victor

[I want to write about some of the perfumes that have influenced and led me to the creation of my perfume brand, Zoologist Perfumes. They have sparked ideas and given me new understanding about niche fragrances and the marketing of them.]

Pt. III. Unwavered Olfactive and Art Direction – Diptyque’s Philosykos

I remember taking a test strip sprayed with some Philosykos and walked out of a department store, people looking at me sniffing that white strip of paper as I passed them by, as if there was some kind of new fun drug that just got legalized and they were missing out, and 15 minutes later I turned around and bought a full bottle.

Philosykos smells like one part my childhood in Hong Kong, and one part my adulthood in Canada – when I was a kid, my favourite snack drink was semi-sweet coconut milk in a little carton box; when I was living by myself in a condo unit in Toronto 15 years ago, I had a mini potted fig tree and I could smell the green yet milky fig leaves every time I touched it. Philosykos smells fresh, comforting, edible, because it’s a little sweet and coconutty, not-so-edible because it smells botanical and raw. It’s awesome.

Strangely, out of that many Diptyque fragrances, I only love one or two bottles, but it has never crossed my mind that I would hate any of the scents that I don’t love. If one day Diptyque releases an oud fragrance, I will be a little bit disappointed, because to me, Diptyque is all about fresh or woody botanical scents, and it has an abstract and yet consistent olfactive style. They are a little bit like Hayao Miyazaki’s anime, one look and you can tell it’s his movie because of the art direction, yet each one has its own story to tell.

What also drew me to their scents was their label artwork. Imperfect black and white ink pen artwork and chaotic pre-letterset typography that channel you to an unfamiliar yet lovely location or mood, such as the pagoda or the Indian palace depicted on the Do Son and Eau Lente label artwork, or a Mediterranean garden full of lavender from the label of Eau de Lavande.

I remember asking my coworker Caro which perfume brand she likes more and she says, “umm… they don’t smell strong but nice, they have one that smells of tomato stem (L’Ombre Dans L’eau)… which one is it?” “Diptyque?” “Yes.”

Diptyque fragrances don’t get a lot of Scent of the Day mention in Facebook fragrance groups, probably because they are not really exciting scents, but I want to make a wild guess that 3 out of 5 women in the fragrance community has a bottle of Diptyque in their collection. If this is true, Diptyque is a very successful brand, in my eyes.

If I can’t make my perfumes all share the same olfactive style, I want my packaging to at least have a consistent and distinct art direction like Diptyque’s.