When Firmenich's Dora Arnaud told me that she'd put together a 'jasmine marmalade' accord for her first L'Artisan Parfumeur creation, I was determined to track down a real life example of this odd-sounding gastronomic invention. I didn't have to hunt for long. There's an excellent one made by Hediard, and sure enough, eating it really does combine the sensation of sinking your teeth into a traditional, sweet jam (an experience which is as much about texture as it is about taste) with the feeling of licking fecund, richly perfumed, white petals. It's strange, but it's enjoyable.
This sugary weirdness plays an important role in Caligna. Although the perfume was inspired by the smells of Provençe - a region that has long prompted the creative juices of scent-makers to start flowing - Arnaud and the directors at L'Artisan clearly wanted to veer away from baskets of lavender and mimosa. This is a piece of work which makes a virtue of oddness. At its heart is a sage accord: almost shockingly smoky, aromatic and earthy. Used by itself, it would have plunged the scent straight into 'herbal masculine' territory. But when placed next to the jasmine marmalade, it comes across as surprising and indecipherable.
Combined with fig at the top (a conscious nod to Premier Figuier, which Arnaud admires), as well as honey and a helping of scorched woods, the sage and jasmine achieve the feat of staying true to their homeland whilst presenting it in a new light. It may not be as flirtatious as the brand would have us believe, and it's a shame that towards its shrill, musky end, it becomes less engrossing, but by and large, Caligna is a commendable release which proves that L'Artisan Parfumeur remain unafraid to seek uncharted territory. Now they just need to pull their new marketing strategy out of the realms of the dull and generic.
[Review based on a sample of eau de parfum provided by L'Artisan Parfumeur in 2013.]