He may be better known as an incense expert, but Bertrand Duchaufour has also developed something of a specialism for conveying the scents of flowers which we don’t always associate with smells. In his Ostara for Penhaligon’s (discontinued, sadly) he gave life to the pollen-like, sappy-green personality of the daffodil. In L’Artisan Parfumeur’s Traversée Du Bosphore he married the almost dusty sweep of Istanbul’s tulips to iris and Turkish Delight. And in the recent Tender for Miller Harris, he used tulips again to reflect the darkness at the core of F Scott Fitzgerald’s writing. Having said all of that, he is not the creator of the subject of today’s review. But don’t worry: the link with Duchaufour isn’t irrelevant. Because you see, Gallivant’s Amsterdam has been put together by one of the Frenchman’s protégées, Giorgia Navarra, which probably helps explain why its handling of that most recognisable of Dutch icons - the tulip, once more - is one of its most notable features.
Taking their cue from the relatively nocturnal inflections of interiors in Holland, Navarra and brand owner and creative director, Nick Steward, have cast the flower in a shadowy pool. And when I say pool, I do mean water. In addition to the curious, earthy, starchy quality of the flower, there’s an almost palpable humidity in evidence here - a sensation of fabric soaked in liquid - which pulls the whole away from cliched notions of clogs and windmills and lends it a more mysterious, Scandi Noir aura. The lemony wood notes help in this regard. They may come a little bit too close to high-end furniture polish for my personal tastes - I confess I am hyper-sensitive in this regard - but they certainly do their job in terms of giving the tulips a weight and substance they might not have possessed otherwise. They never overwhelm the flowers: in keeping with the aesthetics of the other Gallivant releases, Amsterdam adheres to Steward’s insistence on a clarity of thought, a transparency, an avoidance of fussy frills.
And it’s when you combine all of the above that the scent is perhaps at its most interesting, because through its style and its deft construction, it clearly displays the mark of the people who brought it to life: Duchaufour from a distance, and Navarra and Steward more directly. Coming from a brand which celebrates travel, exchanges of knowledge and shared experiences, it is fitting that the scent reflects the soul of its many makers and whets the appetite for future journeys.
[Review based on a sample of eau de parfum provided by Gallivant in 2018.]