Friday, July 22, 2011
Reviews: Fareb, Sucre D'Ebène, Manguier Métisse, Ambre Céruléen & Naïviris from Huitième Art (2010)
The unifying concept behind Pierre Guillaume's Huitième Art certainly seems promising on paper. "What would Chanel N° 5 be without its aldehydes," asks the range's dedicated website, "L'Eau Sauvage without Hédione, Angel without Ethyl Maltol, Fahrenheit without Iso E Super, New West Aramis without Calone." Taking his cue from the singular importance of these chemicals, Guillaume has decided to create a collection of eight eaux de parfums each of which is centred around "an all-new 'plant capture', an original plant-inspired accord or natural organic ingredient." The five I've sampled do, indeed, display the sort of Lutensian, base-like quality you'd expect from a scent designed to showcase a specific material, but the more obvious olfactory link between them is Guillaume's trademark gourmand sensibility. He may be scouring the earth for inspirational fauna, but on the evidence of these releases, he still likes nothing better than feasting on the wares of a sweet shop.
Fareb is the least confection-like of the five. Your tolerance for it will depend largely on your experience of Indian-style cooking. The website claims we're to find notes of leather, warm sand and ginseng within its construction, but to my nose, it's essentially a curry, heavy on cumin, light on sophistication. I know of at least one person of Asian extraction who says she couldn't possibly wear this because it smells like her mum's kitchen and I can see exactly what she means. I adore Indian food, but I don't wish to wear its odours as a perfume. Those who don't automatically associate pungent spices with meal time may well find Fareb alluringly exotic.
Sucre D'Ebène also suffers from a lack of restraint. It begins with a genuinely intriguing charred sugar and bitter herb note - one can almost picture the caramel blistering in the base of a saucepan - perched above a dark, swampy base. But the benzoin-inflected sweetness is allowed to take over, the scent becomes sickly and ultimately outstays its welcome. Manguier Métisse pushes its woods, fruits, florals and powder notes into such a dense, opaque structure that the individual components aren't given a chance to breathe. The drydown heads in the direction of Coco-style nocturnal heaviness, but the lack of contrasts keeps the overall effect rather flat.
On the plus side, Ambre Céruléen gets a thumbs up for successfully daring to do something different with amber. Its twist comes in the top notes, which feature a pristine, refreshing verbena accord, with no hint whatsoever of kitchen-cleaner-lemon. Beneath this lies the obligatory tonka-vanilla-labdanum base, creating what I'd call a beautiful, limpid 'amber cologne'. My only criticism is that it doesn't last very long, but that shouldn't pose a problem if you're not opposed to frequent re-application.
I found Naïviris to be the most moving of the quintet. Fur-like, vulpine iris notes are becoming slightly too ubiquitous in the niche world, but here they're used to sultry effect in a composition that tones down the animalics and brings out the woods. I've never been to Mali, but I'd like to think that the experience of seeing the sun set behind the Great Mosque in Djenné whilst listening to Yossou N'Dour's Egypt album wouldn't be far removed from that of wearing Naïviris. It's rich, primal stuff, but it never becomes crude.
[Reviews based on samples of eaux de parfum provided by Huitième Art in 2011; fragrances tested on skin.]