I have not been so besotted with a scent for years. I am in love. My heart races, my skin flushes, I lift away from myself, aroused and unsettled. Flung recklessly on clothes, skin and hair, it swirls around me in conflicting waves of olfactory emotions. I crave comfort, shelter, sex, skin, fucking, licking, darkness, sun, kisses and love, loss and mourning.
Can lashes of desire be this languorous as they bite the skin? The answer is a sweet smoky yes. This boozy tobacco tinted hymn to the vanilla pod is unbearably beautiful. Extreme and emotional, divine and dirty. It moves with an animalic grace over the body, intoxicating and teasing the senses. Some experts claim that vanilla increases endorphin levels in the body. I virtually fall apart as it hits me. It feels like a drug kick, alcoholic and vaporous, wrapping it’s oh so sweet musky arms around me. I imagine myself in an old Buick, pulled over on a hot Southern road, being kissed till I bruise, fingers clawing at condensation and car seat.
I am talking about Vanille Absolument by L’Artisan Parfumeur. Created by perfume savant Bertrand Duchaufour and launched in 2009, this atmospheric and edible Eau de Parfum was originally called Havane Vanille. This gives more definitive clues to its inspiration and soul, as it was the latest (at the time) in the series of fragrances inspired by perfumers’ travels that L’Artisan Parfumeur have been releasing for some years now.
This intriguing micro collection contains some of L’Artisan Parfumeur’s most original and striking work: Timbuktu, Dzongkha and Fleur de Liane by Bertrand Duchaufour and my two personal favourites Bois Farine, the extraordinary smeared nut and patisserie dough scented wonder by Jean Claude Ellena and the bravura Traverseé de Bosphore, also by Bertrand. (Please see previous blog on this entitled – ‘Sweet Fetish: Traverseé du Bosphore by Bertrand Duchaufour’)
Vanille Absolument was inspired by the sights and scents of Cuba. Rum, rhythms, tobacco, sweetness, spice and magical sensuality. A scent of history, tobacco rolled on thighs, rum sweetened with cane sugar, skin sticky with night heat. The ghosts of piracy shimmering across the island. Rum, sodomy and the lash. Woods and potions, spells and rituals, all swaying to a sensual beat, echoing through bars and cafes, days and nights, regimes and history. The forbidden mingling with the tolerated underground beats of a near mythical Cuba.
Sadly, conflict over the name forced the company into a name change to the safer and truth be told, slightly less interesting Vanille Absolument. But the original name and marketing campaign was around long enough for the connections to be made and the visions and influences acknowledged.
I sometimes feel these travelogue fragrances by L’Artisan Parfumeur are not given the recognition they truly deserve. Arguably they are art. Depictions and impressions of a place and time, locales, ambience, emotions; all distilled into a vibrant and evocative collection of natural essences, aromachemical accords and stylish olfactory storytelling.
Duchaufour’s rendering of the Wusulan beauty ritual of Malian women scenting their body and hair with spices and incense is all there in Timbuktu, alive and beating, earthy and deeply real. Images of cold temple stones surrounding sacred fire in the high pure mountains of Bhutan rise and fall through Dzongkha. Fleur de Liane oozes with the fleshy sap of tropical vines and moist heat of Panama. Jean Claude Ellena’s childhood memory of his mother’s kitchen-scented hands are mirrored in the scent of a sacred tree found only on the Ile de Réunion and cleverly reproduced in the unique and compelling Bois Farine.
This dedication to presenting a deeply personalised perfumed vision of the external world is rare in fragrance and the fact that the results are so diversely evocative proves that L’Artisan Parfumeur is a House with a unique and singular vision. The only other comparison I can think of is Mathilde Laurent’s beautiful and hypnotic work at Cartier on Les Heures de Parfum collection of fragrances. The aesthetics are different; the L’Artisan Parfumeur fragrances have tremendous character and emotive direction. The Cartier brief is incredibly glossy and abstracted, pulling references from all over the place. But Laurent’s talent is such that she can weave magic from such disparate elements and present a collection that is both haunting and classically referential.
Vanille Absolument is not their first run at vanilla; that honour goes to Vanilia, a heady snarling gourmand with lethal yet perversely perfect doses of ethylmaltol poured into it. It was glorious and trashy in a Studio 54 kind of way. It should not of worked, but it did. No longer part of their catalogue but worth searching out, it can be giddily glorious as the lights go down and the music starts to take you.
There is a liberating unleashing of piracy in the brain, synapses sensually firing when Vanille Absolument hits the skin. A fantasy blend of The Crimson Pirate and Jack Sparrow set against an edgy dreamscape of marauding sexual boats, salt stained wood, hot skin and rum soaked violence. In idle moments I fancy myself a pirate lover deep in the creaking bowels of an aging galleon, lolling amid barrels of spices and plunder, rum and liquor leaking into the skin of the aching ship. I imagine kisses torn from me; skin rubbed and pushed, the air awash with clove, booze, leather and tobacco, the cargo shifting and creaking around us as the ship rolls with the rhythm of the waves. We carry vanilla pods, bound for Europe, worth more than gold. My dirty lover splits the pods, running a finger down the sheath and smearing the sticky black resin on our skins, the air filled suddenly with a memory of pudding and distant winters. Rum from a flask is dashed into open mouths, our laughter stifled with fabric reeking of smoke, sweat and spices. Our eyes cloud over with sweet druggy abandon as waves crash around us and the crew shout and sails crack above. This is my dizzying vanillic romance, swirling in a golden brain.
Such a dramatic and persuasive fragrance, aromas to burn alive too. Vanille Absolument is fucked skin, dirty, sweet and smooth. Sugared, porny and utterly compulsive. Nothing I have worn really comes close to the aching ‘touch me hard’ signals it throws out from the skin. It forces a compromising of personal space, to reach through and kiss, violate and ravish.
To read part two of this pice, click link below:
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