Edmond Roudnitska's words about the way in which a great perfume ought to begin have been widely documented. Years ago, he wrote that a scent should elicit a 'shock' from the wearer as soon as it starts, to jolt him or her out of comfortable familiarity. This shudder of surprise is, according to him, a prerequisite of originality and creative achievement. Although his statement has been quoted extensively, the effect of the experience to which it refers hasn't been dampened. And thank goodness! Because when we come across those rare fragrances which genuinely cause us to gasp with astonishment, the sensation is extraordinary, precious and almost impossible to describe with words.
I was fortunate enough to enjoy one of Monsieur Roudnitska's stupefying moments a few weeks ago when I took a sniff of Clement Gavarry's new Panorama for Olfactive Studio. I'd already read that it supposedly opened with a wasabi accord - an assertion I viewed with suspicion - but nothing could have prepared me for quite how perplexing and beguiling its first act is. Green, radiant, tart, zesty, earthy and so sharp you wonder if it's going to tear your skin to shreds, it is an extraordinary olfactory depiction of its subject. This, in itself, is commendable enough as a technical achievement. But the magic doesn't stop there.
Somewhere along the scent's development, the more citrusy, more resinous facets of the top section seem to take over, at which point the emphasis is placed on a drydown of myrrh. Impossible though this may sound, the contrast between the two materials is a treat to behold: the one bolsters the other, producing a harmony that is as bracing as it is grounded and authoritative. It is a testament to Gavarry's skills that he has managed to juxtapose the two materials in a staunchly modern, entirely accessible 'savoury gourmand' accord. And it's a credit to Céline Verleure's vision as her brand's Creative Director that she has released what she - with considerable justification - calls a fragrant statement on the 21st century tension between the urban and the rural. Original and full of verve, Panorama is the finest creation from Olfactive Studio so far. And if it doesn't feature in my Best Of list at the end of the year, that means the next few months are going to see a deluge of truly astounding works of perfumery. Seek this one out as soon as you can.
[Review based on a sample of eau de parfum provided by Olfactive Studio in 2015.]