Friday, 22 July 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.]



  1. I am a big fan of Pierre Guillaume, but his Huitième Art collection has left me cold. I did not test all of them in-depth, but my perceptions of the few that I did try, match yours exactly. I'll stick with his regular line, many treasures are to be found there. :)

  2. I haven't yet smelled any of Pierre Guillaume's fragrances, although I received Praliné de Santal this week and am just waiting for the temperatures to cool off to try it in an appropriate weather! But if I like it, which I hope I do, I guess I'll put on my sample wishlist fragrances of his that are *not* in this collection! :)

    (This is why I think lukewarm or negative reviews are useful. Recently I saw many bloggers ask whether they should post negative or neutral reviews, but I think they should, so that beginners like me can choose knowingly their next samples. If I happen to love everything by Pierre Guillaume that I smell, I might very well end up sampling this collection too, but at least I won't *start* with it.)

  3. Persolaise, the only one I've tried is Fareb and I must say that I like it a lot. I didn't really get a massive curry association. Funnily enough I'm wearing it today and it reminds me a lot of M by Pure Distance. Have you tried that one? To me Fareb smells spicy and yes I definitely get that cumin vibe going on. I also smell leather and smoke.

  4. I'm mildly curious about these. Thank you for the review.

    In general, I'm a little tired of niche companies/perfumers releasing multi-perfume lines at the same time. I won't refuse to smell them if I have a chance but but for a while I'm done paying "for the privilege".

  5. Olfactoria, thanks for writing. Yes, as a whole, the collection certainly didn't have me reaching for my wallet... but maybe that's an inevitable consequence of releasing so many scents in one go?

  6. Alnysie, I take your point. There's a side of me that thinks EVERYTHING is worth sampling, but then I would say that, wouldn't I.

    If you are, indeed, just starting out in the world of perfume appreciation I'd say that, yes, there are better places to begin than 8eme Art.

  7. Michael, thanks for writing. It's good to know that Fareb works on someone. And no, I haven't tried M.

    When I fancy a cumin kick, I reach for Artisan's Al Oudh.

  8. Undina, you took the words right out of my mouth.

    I'm not sure what sort of marketing wisdom is persuading niche houses to release fragrances in massive batches, but the strategy certainly isn't working on me.

    Frederic Malle releases no more than 1 a year and look at the excitement he generates over the arrival of each new creation.

  9. I had a good sniff of these at Beauty Affair in Dusseldorf and Sucre d'Ebène, Fareb and Ambre Céruléen all got the thumbs down (too gourmand, or resinous or spicy or leathery - or some combo of these things), however, I liked Aube Pashmina, Naїviris, Vohina, Ciel d'Airan and Manguier Métisse a lot. Manguier Métisse was the odd one out, because I liked it for its Dolby surround sound ripe mango note, while the others were all delicate, airy compositions that appeal to my preference fo quiet scents. I also found the bottles pleasing to the eye, though not the price tag!

  10. hotlanta linda23 July 2011 at 18:30

    THANK YOU for the thourough reviews!! I can`t sniff many scent collections first hand, so your words keep me updated. What lines do you recommend I buy sampler sets from??

  11. Vanessa, yes, they're certainly not cheap, are they? I thought the bottles were rather interesting: a cross between a white iPhone and a robotic owl.

  12. Linda, you're more than welcome.

    It's hard to answer your question without knowing what you've already tried and what sort of thing you like, but here's a name for you: Vero Kern.

  13. lady jane grey24 July 2011 at 09:16

    I have the entire collection and started to test them this past week, but then I lost my enthusiasm. I had the feeling they're not finished yet, that they're a base for scent combining. They were also very short lived on me. Well, I'll continue the test...

  14. Lady Jane Grey, thanks for writing. I can't say they were short lived on me (except for the amber) but yes, I did get the feeling that they would have benefited from the addition of another dimension.


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