I find this hard to credit from the vantage point of a chilly winter in Britain, but when I was a child growing up in the Middle East, temperatures of 15 degrees Celsius were greeted with complaints that the weather was “freezing.” In fact, anything below 20 degrees prompted people to dig out their cardigans, sweaters and electric fan heaters. We were damn cold and we weren’t going to allow anyone visiting from abroad persuade us otherwise.
Temperature differences aside, the very quality of the air on a January morning in Dubai is quite distinct from that in a town along the south coast of England. Perhaps the greater humidity is to blame. Perhaps it has something to do with being closer to the equator. Or maybe the cause is the unique arrangement of sunshine acting on a landscape of sand, tarmac and chrome. Whatever the reason, the atmosphere unquestionably possesses an identity all its own. Even though it’s cold, the stuff you breathe into your lungs feels fuller and thicker than its Occidental counterpart, and it always retains some fleeting vestige of warmth, as though the elements are reassuring everyone that the chill will pass before too long and make way for the baking heat.
The characteristics of winter in a hot country have been captured by Pierre Guillaume in Myrrhiad, his latest for the Huitième Art range. Through an inspired combination of leather, sweet citrus, tea, vanilla and, of course, myrrh notes he has created an unusual blend that mixes powders with rock solid woods, and dryness with sugary sophistication, to create a confident, understated fragrance that marks a new high in the development of his skills. He’s never shied away from over-egging his puddings in the past, but this time, he has wisely opted to tone down the patisserie vibe and allow the disparate elements of his formula to harmonise and highlight each other’s strengths.
Having said all of the above, I now feel inclined to contradict myself completely and withdraw all the allusions to Arabia, because as I take one more sniff of the exemplary drydown, I see visions of fur coats and Warsaw and snow so thick, you can barely walk along the pavements. But then perhaps Monsieur Guillaume knew exactly what he was doing when he decided to call this gem Myrrhiad. It lives up to its name in more ways than one, appropriately enough.
In brief... Fans of the tangy, dry leather scents exemplified by Knize Ten and Lutens’ Cuir Mauresque would do well to check out Cuir Fétiche (2011), the latest by Jean-Paul Millet Lage for Maître Parfumeur Et Gantier. It takes the familiar castoreum/labdandum accord and places it over an ambery, vanillic base. I’m not sure it’s fetishistic, but it’s certainly worth trying.
[Reviews based on samples of eau de parfum obtained in 2011; fragrances tested on skin.]