Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Persolaise Review: Vaara (Bertrand Duchaufour) and Iris Prima (Alberto Morillas) from Penhaligon's (2013)

I worry about reviewing another Bertrand Duchaufour creation almost as much as I worry about reviewing another oud scent. They are both extremely ubiquitous; some would say excessively so. I'm told that oud is on its way out (personally, I don't think the trend is dead quite yet) but thankfully, Duchaufour doesn't seem to be losing any of his creative energy... although it has to be said that his latest effort for Penhaligon's does play a few bars of an Arabian tune at one point in its development.

Not unlike his treatment of the subject of India for Neela Vermeire Creations, his Vaara conveys the spirit of this most complex of countries whilst surprising the wearer with unexpected detours and diversions. So yes, the opening is suitably spicy, but it also makes use of the sweet jamminess of quince. Its woody, cedar aspect is as parched as a Rajasthani desert - after all, Vaara started life as a private commission for the Maharajah of Jodhpur - but it's lifted by optimistic florals, notably Indian magnolia. And although its heart is a gorgeous, crimson rose (this is where the hint of the Gulf comes in) it is never allowed to become heavy or cloying. Indeed, the easy translucency of this creation is one of its most endearing features, a trait it shares with last year's Peoneve (Olivier Cresp) which also gave its floral notes tons of room to breathe. Of course, Vaara wouldn't be a Duchaufour baby without making use of incense, and sure enough, the material is present here, rooting the rose in a spiritual foundation which prevents it from coming across as juvenile or lightweight.

If Peoneve is a slender, plummy, picnic-in-the-park maiden, then Vaara is her slightly more adventurous, more cerebral girlfriend. You can picture the two of them sauntering down a pavement in Cambridge, heading off to some ball or other. They've both just graduated from Uni (I reckon Peoneve read Music and Vaara probably studied Ancient History). An endless summer lies ahead of them. And then after that... the world is theirs for the taking.

As I've already mentioned oud in the context of Penhaligon's, it's worth pointing out that apparently Alberto Morillas poured some of the material into the brand's other new release: Iris Prima. When I asked him if he used a natural variety, he just smiled and said it's a "special" oud. I took this to mean that the stuff had never been anywhere near an agar tree, but in many senses, this hardly matters, because IP is most definitely not an oud perfume. Morillas decided the substance would help him achieve a leather effect which he then wanted to marry to a powdery iris to suggest both the gossamer exterior and the pain-wracked interior of the world of ballet. There's no doubt that he's produced an extremely likeable juxtaposition of these two notes, but my main problem with his work here is that it develops far too quickly and shifts towards his trademark musks before the overture's even finished. It's all very well wowing your audience with a tremendous first act, but after the initial fireworks, you need to give them a reason to stay seated until the final curtain call.

[Reviews based on samples of eau de parfum provided by Penhaligon's in 2013.]



  1. You've got me intrigued about Vaara now - I mean props for thinking of incorporating a quince note(!), and I am a sucker for magnolia in any form. Peoneve seemed a bit same old, same old to me (am thinking Acqua Fiorentina, or that newish JHAG one whose name escapes me but which was very light and innocuous), but in fairness I only tried it on card. I am more and more coming round to the view that the blotter is a treacherous friend.

    After a flash of bergamot and a delicate prod of iris, Iris Prima does morph quite quickly into an indistinct florally luminous powdery blur on me, but doesn't get *too* musky. My main issue with it is its shortevity, which was most pronounced.

    1. Vanessa, I'd say Vaara is well worth trying on skin. And ultimately, Iris Prima fails to impress, I feel.


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