Friday, March 22, 2013

Persolaise Review: Oxygen, Carbon & Hydrogen from nu_be (Antoine Lie, Françoise Caron; 2012)


Pick a concept for a new perfume brand. What hasn't been done yet? Scents inspired by famous authors? That idea's taken. Fragrances linked to blood groups? That one's gone too. How about the Periodic Table? Guess what, someone's beaten you to it: the Italian brand nu_be emerged last year with a quintet of compositions focussing on different elements. As far as overarching themes go, this one is nowhere near as silly as others - indeed, there's something appealing about the idea of fragrances reflecting the basic building blocks of the universe - but of course, even the most carefully crafted aesthetic strategy can collapse into nonsense if it isn't backed up by a strong product.

In this case, I'd say the product is, at best, highly competent.Antoine Lie's Oxygen is pleasant to wear, but its cedar and sandalwood heart veers too close to Bois Farine for comfort. And although the transparency of the composition conveys a suitable airiness, it lacks the presence and originality you'd expect from a creation named after the substance which sustains not just life but also fire. 

Carbon is the only one of the five which offers a genuine surprise. Perhaps taking her cue from the notion of organic matter broken down to its most fundamental component, Françoise Caron has added a reproductive edge to this piece of work: pepper and camphoraceous elements sit pristinely on one side, but they're darkened with a prominent cumin note. Sweat and cleanliness come together in one mix, as though Comme Des Garçons' meditative 2 Man has gone for a run around the block and returned red-faced and flustered. It's not devoid of interest, but my description makes it sound more complex and multi-faceted than it really is.

Mind you, it's possible that "multi-faceted" is precisely what the brand's makers weren't going for. Perhaps they actively wanted to equate 'elemental' with 'simple' and 'linear'. If so, they've gone some way towards achieving their aim. But I'd assert that they should have held out for more original, more daring accords, instead of, say, the well-scrubbed lemon+tonic effect of Hydrogen (also by Lie), which seems to hover somewhere between CK Crave and Dior's Higher. I'm no chemist, but I believe I'm right in saying that although elements are 'basic', they're also highly individualistic. They cannot be mistaken for each other. Perhaps nu_be's creative directors should've taken that to heart when they were in the process of developing their range.

[Reviews based on samples provided by nu_be in 2012.]

Persolaise

14 comments:

  1. I was very disappointed with this line. Comparisons and similarities between perfumes are bound to happen with the massive pool of perfumes that already exist, but all of the nu_be's were TOO similar (in my nose at least) with something: oxygen - bois farine, carbon - costume national homme, helium - ambre narguile, lithium - pick an oud, any rosy oud... I'm not saying they're bad fragrances though. -mikael

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    1. Mikael, I agree with you. It's impossible for all new perfumes to be *completely* different from everything that's come before... but they have to be *sufficiently* different to stand on their own two feet. I'm not sure these are.

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  2. I am excited about nu_be. I like the smells, the bottles, the boxes, the idea, the story... Yes, no one of all five is very specific, but the line is closed, simple identified and no one is bad.
    My favorite is Lithium, look like luxury arabic attar, but mixed on Mars. Contained saffron is so plastic, dry and clear as idea of saffron, not earthly, organic ingredient.
    It has smell as a flint or a firestriker (the stone for ignite a fire - sorry, I cannot find correct word in english) and really: I smell just now lighted match. For me little a fetish and very lovely.

    And, finally, I like the joke with names Caron and Carbon... :)

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    Replies
    1. Parfumerka, I like your description of Lithium. Perhaps the range will find some loyal fans, if it's given a chance to develop at its own pace.

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  3. Great review even though the perfumes sound definitively like something I wouldn't like: Crave is one of the most hideous scents ever created in my view. I have a bottle upstairs that someone gave me once for my birthday, and it is kept in a hidden draw. I was cleaning out the perfume closets the other day and there it was. I took it out of that futuristic, plastic casing and gave it another go. Yup. As vile as ever! And yet I can't quite bring myself to throw it away for some reason. A point of reference perhaps?

    I agree that all these ideas are rather forced and dull as well....

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    1. Black Narcissus, I need to revisit Crave. I probably shouldn't admit this, but I wore it regularly for a considerable period of time...

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    2. I am astonished. From your book (brilliant, by the way, though I wish it had been about 20 times longer), you seem to be mainly about woods and the dirty. Crave?! Really? Mind you, I once went through a period of being drenched in the first Dolce & Gabbana, mainly because I liked the tarragon top note that seemed inventive at the time, but now the thought of it is impossible. We do evolve.

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    3. Black Narcissus, first of all, thanks very much indeed for your kind words about my book :-) And thanks for reading it.

      Am I mainly into "woods and the dirty"? Yes, I suppose I probably am, but I think that, more than anything else, I'm after a hint of intrigue, a touch of originality, something different. That's why I'm a big fan of Mugler's Cologne, CK One, Apres L'Ondee etc etc

      As for Crave... what can I say? :-) There must have been something about it that struck a chord at the time.

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  4. Interesting. You asked the toughest question, which is what I'd do as a concept. Everything I can think of has already been done. (Ultimate luxury: Amouage, Puredistance, you name it. Famous queens: Romea d'Ameor. Etc. etc. etc....

    Andy Tauer's kind of doing it with the Tableau perfumes but I'd love to see a line based on silver screen goddesses. You probably couldn't use their names because of copyright/trademark (or just tackiness), but wouldn't you love to smell Marlene Dietrich? Katharine Hepburn? Lauren Bacall?

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    1. Unseencenser, that's a great idea... and perhaps you could keep the lawyers happy by just calling the scents 'Marlene' or 'Katharine'. But you know, I think it's time the clever ideas appeared at the perfume formulation stage, rather than in the brand conceptualisation phase.

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  5. Dear Persolaise
    Thank you for this precise chemical analysis if this range that I am now emphatically disinterested by.
    Must everything in perfumery now be linear when everything in the world is most emphatically not?
    Yours ever
    The Perfumed Dandy

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    1. Dandy, I don't have a problem with linear perfumes... but my feeling is that if you're going to go for linear, you need to ensure your central accord is pretty amazing.

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  6. Hello,

    I am just starting to write about Oxygen and I am also dissapointed a bit. Too much similarities... but maybe we are guilty because we expected too much based on magnificient concept!?

    J.

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    Replies
    1. Juraj, thanks for stopping by.

      I take your point, but personally, no, I don't feel we were expecting too much. The concept demands something off the beaten track.

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