I am quicksilver, the fox in the night, emotional about the poetry, love & desire in scent, read me.
Wednesday 22 August 2012
Tell the Bees My Heart Overflows With Sorrowful Wax: ‘Séville à L’Aube’ by L’Artisan Parfumeur
become much preoccupied with orange blossom in recent years, not the burnt
sugar aromas of neroli which can make me dizzy and nauseous in large doses, but
the delicious floating beauty of orange blossom water, redolent of sweet succulent
jasmine as late evenings drop from summer skies.
seems to be a big year for orange blossom with a number of lip-smacking
releases already out and more to come. Roberto Cavalli’s eponymous scent for
women reeks of slickly oiled eurotrash and heady casino nights and is tremendous
fun to wear. Bobbi Brown’s Beach is
salty and full of the coastal rush of summer love, innocent and lickable.
have been some lovely interpretations of orange blossom over the last couple of
perfumed years. Some of my favourites include Killian’s Love, Jo Malone’s Orange
Blossom (although I wear this glazed with Prada Candy….) Serge Lutens’ Fleur
D’Oranger, A Lab on Fire’s Sweet
Dreams 2003 and Azemour Les Orangers by Parfums D’Empire. It is a very tricky note in my opinion
to get right, to balance on the skin. I have a real love/hate relationship with
the bitter marmalade facets of neroli, it often triggers severe migraines. But
the more jasmine-like tones of orange blossom lull me with dreamy longing.
I’m all a
tremble just now with the release of one of the most intricate and sensual
fragrances I have ever smelt: Séville à
L’Aube, a new limited edition eau de parfum by L’Artisan Parfumeur. Brought
to life by Bertrand Duchaufour and inspired by an intense erotic olfactory
memory experienced by perfume blogger, writer and critic Denyse Beaulieu. This
memory of a man and a moment, of skin, touching, lips, tobacco, of Holy Week in
Séville, candles, incense, wax and the rush of sexual desire has been mined by
Bertrand and Denyse in painstaking and detailed sessions of sturm und drang,
emotion and calm. drama and analytical fragrance chemistry in Denyse’s book The Perfume Lover. This aromatic slutty
memoirdetails the collaboration from
concept to perfume. Denyse has recently said how the fragrance has shaped and
led her and Betrand, manipulating them through the twists and turns of various
mods, toying with themes, effects, abstractions and emotions.
want to go into any great detail about the birth and development of the scent.
You should read the book for yourselves. I want to talk about my reaction to
this amazing fragrance and the effect it had on me.
It is a
fragrance of many facets, animalic, floral, smoke and sun, desire, sex and
memory. I love the contrasts, the internal shifts from the pouting innocence of
orange blossom to the comforting hive smearings of the beeswax wrapped in smoke
and woods. I was lucky enough to wear it before it launched and became obsessed
with it. On my skin the osmosis was exquisite.
and again, fragrances come along that seem made for you. Séville à L’Aube is one such fragrance, as soon as it settled on my
skin and I sniffed the beautiful hot lavender notes rising lazily through the
indolic orange blossom and waxen animalics, I realised I had found something
extraordinary. It lives and breathes with you. Denyse’s erotic memory lives on,
gilded and transmuted through the painterly olfactory skills of Bertrand
Duchaufour. His ability to visualize light and texture, to feel a moment has served this fragrance well.
His 2010 Orange Blossom for London brand Penhaligon’s
was very stylish and a touch déshabillé.
It is a top to toe re-working of the House’s uninspired 1976 original and much
the better for it. He lifted and refreshed the formula with incandescent orange
blossom and neroli notes blended with cedar, vanilla, peach flower and a
delicate Ambre Solaire flourish (benzyl salicylate) to suggest holidays and
beaches. The final result is a glorious rounded floral with touches of deep
shocking indolic beauty and was by far and away the highlight of the company’s
somewhat hit and miss Anthology Collection.
echoes of Bertrand’s work on Orange
Blossom (and also his creamy magnum opus Vanille Absolument for L’Artisan Parfumeur) wafting through Séville à L’Aube, but it has a very
distinct identity of its own. Shadows and sexual darkness, an erotic past, whisper
in the street. I find it very emotional, beeswax does that to me. I burn
beeswax candles I buy in a cathedral shop, the scent is like nothing else,
sweet and strange, filling my rooms with an ethereal sugared heat that triggers
memories of school chapel, a French lover who wore Antaeus and a minor erotic obsession
I had with a catholic pretender to a small European principality in my late
distinctive smell of polished wooden floors, peat smoke, the mahogany warmth of
much loved furniture. Corridors and summer sunlit rain, Mallaig and the
windswept west coast of Scotland. These are random shards of memory that rise
and fall when I smell Séville à L’Aube,
it seems to stir quite the olfactory stew. But it’s dirty too, sexual and
growling. The costus element; skin and scalp, the leaning in, the nuzzling that
runs under the initial indolic rush moulded through the wax is both comforting
and repellant. The desire to push away and pull in is quite remarkable. The
heat of a moment defined in a scent. So hard to capture, the stay, go… let go, give in. These complex
emotions have been translated into a subtle cascading pyramid of notes and that
draws you into the heart of a horny and shimmering fragrance.
is an extraordinary note and one of the few true animalics still available to
perfumers. The texture and beauty it brings to fragrance is unparalleled.
Harvested exclusively from hives of the honeybee (apis mellifera), the beeswax
used in perfumery must be at least five years old. This allows the wax to
absorb the hive mind if you like, the collective comings and goings, whiffs and
memories of the bees, the scent of propolis, Royal Jelly, pollen and flowers.
contains the pheronomic imprint of the bee colonies, the molecules that allow
them to identify their broods and larvae. Adding this to fragrance and allowing
us to melt this onto our skins is a concept I find strangely compelling. I know
the purification of the wax (by alcohol extraction) will render it a cleaner
more malleable ingredient, but something of the original warmth and addictive
sweet strangeness will always remain.
I had a
friend whose grandmother kept bees and practised bee-telling. She considered
them part of her family, seeing them as the most perfect symbol of harmony, each
member of the colony working together to achieve perfection. Her father and
grandfather also kept bees and taught her to talk to them, telling them family
news, births and marriages, accidents etc. Deaths meant draping the hives in
black and turning them from the house. Bee-telling was considered vital to the
harmony and peace of her life. She told her grand-daughas they were collecting
comb for honey one day that bees understood moods and could read people. If she
didn’t talk to them, one day they would just leave and take their mysteries
sacred aspect and wonder of bees is inherent in many world cultures and our
love and respect for them is needed now more than ever as huge swathes of bee
populations die out in mysterious and terrifying colony collapses. As we
increasingly industralise the honey-making business and increase the movement
of hives to pollinate the world’s orchards, we are in danger of destroying one
of the world’s most valuable assets, the humble honeybee. The effects of its
loss will be catastrophic. Work is being done to safeguard the future of our
bees and hive culture but we must be vigilant. That one tiny creature can
produce such extraordinary products is simply amazing. We must be cautious in
our rush to use and exploit the riches of this charming and vital insect.
with tonka bean and white lilies, beeswax is a note I prize highly in my
fragrances. The wax itself is made by worker bees, the sterile females who make
up most of the colony. Comb production is a vital job for worker bees and they
produce the wax from glands on their abdomen. To start the process they gorge
on honey and cluster together to maintain a continual temperature as they
metabolise the honey. They say that bees must fly approximately 150,000 miles
in order to produce one pound of precious wax. The wax is collected and moulded
by the bees’ mandibles into position as part of the comb. The wax itself is
white and takes on a variety of golden hues with the addition of pollen oils
and propolis. Obviously the honey the bees carry within them will also affect
the wax production. I love the mystery of bees, the tiny passing of minutely
scented parts of themselves in their wax.
lends a honeyed comforting facet to fragrances, complimenting the indolic,
rubberized skin tones of lilies, tuberose, gardenia, ylang and in this case
orange blossom. The waxen softness also works beautifully with leather notes
and dried fruits, dates, apricots and plums. Often used to beautiful effect in
fougère fragrances (Chanel’s Antaeus,
Penhaligon’s Sartorial and the new
Lanvinfougère-tinted oriental Avant Garde), the sweetness tempers the
more traditional mossy green aspects of the fougère and serves to highlight the
fermenting damp hay notes of coumarin that provide stability and balls to the
majority of classic fougère fragrances. Bertrand Duchaufour also created Sartorial for Penhaligon’s, inspired
initially by the blocks of industrial beeswax that the tailors at Norton &
Sons were suing to lubricate their threads before stitching.
In Séville à L’Aube however it is the very
bee-ness, the animalic mystery of the note that has been harnessed, the beeswax
has been melted and dripped through the notes as though drizzled across naked
skin after a lazy sun-dappled breakfast in bed. The stickiness of honey and its
golden fluidity make it inherently sexy. I smell a wonderful smoky tobacco note
behind the orange blossom, a moist scent of rolling baccy, a memory licked off
student fingers when I was lolling around parties in my twenties. It is a
shockingly sexy aroma. I’ve long since stopped smoking, but memories of smoky
lips and late night tobacco cast in rosy flashback can still stop me dead and
spin me around in my past for a while.
this hazy tactile facet of Séville à
L’Aube that sets it apart from all other orange blossom scents. Bertrand
has manipulated the hive memory, the buzzing collective sensuality into a
trembling beauty that glows off the skin like fire in the night. The inclusion
of Luisieri lavender (Seville lavender) further deepens the courmaranic,
resinous tones of the wax and heady floral rush.
of course a gorgeous incense note running through Séville à L’Aube, smokily breathed through the composition with
tremendous delicacy and poignant verve. This facet reflects Denyse’s memory of
the rituals of Holy Week and the mysteries of a very particular Spanish
Catholicism. Bertrand has always handled incense with dexterity and style (Avignon & Kyoto for Comme des Garçons and Dzongkha
for L’Artisan Parfumeur amongst others). I always perceive incense as a cold note,
the cathedral stone after Mass; it needs to be warmed up. It is not my
favourite note in the fragrance world, but used as an accent, with skill and
painterly application it can infuse grace and wonder into compositions. Etro’s doleful
Messe de Minuit, albeit a major
ecclesiastical riff on incense, is flooded with the full-bodied yet mystical
power that only incense can impart. Scent for the soul.
Bertrand’s fuckable Al Oudh for
L’Artisan Parfumeur, he utilises the sootiness of an incense note to
counterpoint the dates and vanilla and herald the decadent drop into the
filthysexy oud. Olivia Giacobetti is always mentioned as a great manipulator of
incense. Her works include the delicate Passage
D’Enfer for L’Artisan Parfumeur, the in-house Hotel Costes Scent and the
exquisite John Galliano candle for Dyptyque which I always imagine to be the
scent-track to Ken Russell’s The Devils…..
All of these have power and atmosphere, yet retain mystery, shadows in the
love about the use of incense in Séville
à L’Aube is the delicacy and radiance. As if someone were illuminating skin
in the dark by candlelight. Reading every trace of flesh by the light of a flickering
flame. Bertrand has always blended his notes with tremendous daring as if
assembling impressionistic snapshots of moments in time.
initially on the skin, you relish the sweetness, the dropping of the blossom from
branches above, the
drifting of incense in the distance, reminding you that profanity and desire
are eternally linked by skin and the love of the forbidden. I think the
lavender is a magnificent touch, toasted and rubbed, heated by a proud
Mediterranean sun and oozing with that peculiar aromatic verdancy that draws
bees in their nectar-hungry thousands. I remember visiting an isolated
monastery near Avignon years ago, the area surrounding the building was covered
in lavender fields. We were there at the height of summer. The sound of bees,
thrumming in the stultifying heat was dizzying. The charged green air
intoxicated me, I felt as if I was drowning. If I smell lavender honey now, a
real physical sensation of standing in those fields with my eyes closed comes flooding
judicious counterpointing of herbaceous and sweetness played over smoke gives Séville à L’Aube a timeless, primeval
quality, of landscapes before man when insects and flowers and weather played
out an eternal cycle of renewal, death and reproduction across skies, stone and
it is one of the most dynamic and erotically charged perfumes to have been
released in some time. My love of beeswax is amply rewarded as all the elements
and memories that Denyse wanted and that Bertrand has conjured up rise off the
skin. The delicate sweet blend of honeyed wax and carnal indolics is a
magnificent war of sensual attrition. I could struggle in its golden grasp forever.
I am torn between wearing Séville à
L’Aube in private and loving only myself or wearing it out so people can
inhale my skin as I move through the air, communicating perhaps a tiny part of
the magic and mystery that the bees laid down in countless darkened hives.
Click below for Denyse Beaulieu's Grain de Musc blog page: