I am quicksilver, the fox in the night, emotional about the poetry, love & desire in scent, read me.

Tuesday 13 June 2017

The Addictive Persistence of Studied Musks: Jeroboam Paris

‘Love is like musk. It attracts attention.
Love is a tree, and lovers are its shade’.

(Excerpted from Love is a Stranger by Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī

...A Monsieur F.Hénin, l'homme du monde et entrepeneur elegant...

I have been a loyal devotee of Jovoy perfumes since purchasing my first bottle of Gardez-Moi, Bertrand Duchaufour’s dazzling and luscious re-imagining of the house’s cult scent from 1926. It originally appeared in a Baccarat bottle shaped like a cat, one of four whimsical animal bottles launched by Jovoy at the time. His diaphanous portrait of gardenia is one of the most beautiful in the business, the blooms moist and tumbled joyfully with tomato leaf, lilies, mimosa, jasmine, a raspberry accord, cedar and styrax. It smells divine on skin, a cool breeze of white floral weather as you idle in the shade of summer trees hung with heady blossom.

I bought it on a whim, well more of a craving really; I wanted a quality gardenia for my collection and my instincts and Bertrand’s track record with white florals sold me. I remember the first time I tried Gardez-Moi it felt like someone switching on a bright white light next to my eyes; the sensation was so intense. I love its mix of indolic plush and fruity insolence. But there is great artistry in the floral work, the bouquet of white flowers with that gorgeous gardenia as the centerpiece is spectacularly assembled, fashioned it seems from porcelain and snow.   

A certain Madame Blanche Antoinette Rose Reneaux founded Jovoy in 1923, using her nickname Joe and the Voy part of her husband Bertie Istvan Arvoy’s surname, hence the name Jovoy. She became Blanche Arvoy and as well as Jovoy also founded Corday, a line of perfumes named after the heroine of the French revolution Charlotte Corday, who was so angered and traumatised by the ongoing bloody Terror she murdered Marat, one of the regime’s more heinous architects in his bath, where he often spent whole days soaking due to a particularly leprous-like skin condition. He would wrap his head in a turban soaked in vinegar. Sadly Corday’s self-sacrifice (she died on the guillotine) only served to make Marat into a revolutionary martyr. Anyway, Blanche’s Corday line was successful; fragrances like Toujours Moi, Tzigane and Rue de la Paix named after Corday’s address in Paris captured a romantic zeitgeist, especially as the House moved to the United States, selling its romantic, sensual vision of Parisian olfactive boudoir chic to the booming American luxury market. Both lines dwindled out and had essentially vanished by the sixties, that particular style of prewar vintage aromatics had been set in scented stone by Caron, Chanel and particularly Guerlain and they would come to epitomise this grandiose, lush tonality form of perfumed storytelling.

Monsieur François Hénin
(Thank you Aspects Beauty PR
for the image...)

Then along came the well-travelled and urbane Monsieur François Hénin who acquired the romantic remains of Maison Jovoy and decided not only to breathe new life into the house but also to use the renaissance as a glamorous and vital starting point for an exquisite destination niche perfume store, one that would stock a curated collection of the finest perfumes from around the world. While there is some obvious crossover with other boutiques, there is something special about Jovoy, the brands are beautifully chosen, a mix of alluring luxurious niche mingled with a decisively personal touch chosen by Francois who really understands the whims and machinations of this fickle scented business.

He spent time in Asia in a former incarnation sourcing raw materials for the perfume industry, so he has a particularly expert knowledge of ingredients. This I think is reflected in Jovoy’s preoccupation with exceptional, well-judged materials and the quality of the lines being sold. Brands like Aedes, Indult, Neela Vermeire, MDCI, Masque Milano, Tauer, Atelier des Ors, Dusita and Fueguia 1833 are all exemplary houses whose dedication to utilising the best possible materials radiates from their perfumes. This combination of François’ experience and savoir-faire has crystalised in the flagship boutique at 4 Rue Castiglione in the 1st Arrondissement in Paris. In a previous review of Sombre Dessins, one of the most beautiful extraits de parfums in Jovoy’s own collection I described the interior as: a jewel box, the lush lacquer red and wood interior designed by Géraldine Prieur’s Rouge Absolu agency that specialises in creating distinctive chromatic dress codes for internal spaces. It is a red of vampish nails, passion, fever and provocation. This vivid setting provides a sensual and compelling ground for the retail presentation of such an eclectic array of maisons et marques.’

 So alongside a moreish library of haute niche and luxury perfumes, François also has a superb line of his own beautifully rendered perfumes and extraits. As I mentioned earlier, Gardez-Moi was my first, but hardly my last, the samples that accompanied that gorgeous gardenia led me to a passionate devotion to this most elegant of houses. I have the milky, opalescent woodiness of Sombres Dessins, created by Amélie Bourgeois, such weird ghostly thing, but so utterly unbearably lovely and Psychédelique, Jovoy’s deeply, fruity, mulchy huge patchouli that you can almost eat it. The mix of smoke and vanilla is fabulous. It’s sweet, muddy and sexy. 

Foxy's Jovoys...

My other favourites are Cécile Zarokian’s masterly Private Label, a leather scent that François wears as his signature. Cécile credits François with supporting and taking a huge risk on her when she graduated when no one else did, allowing her free rein to create what would become Private Label and making her mark. It is one of her finest works. L’Art de La Guerre is a beautifully imagined take on the fougère by Vanina Murraciole, using a piquant crimson rhubarb note to counterpoint a slightly dirty leather base and scrubby ochre immortelle. The desired clean soapiness note floats like a ghost of fougères past in the heart of the scent. Rouge Assassin is my final pick, again another amazing Amélie Bourgeois composition of bruised waxen lipstick tones and grey mournful iris. It’s not exactly the implied glossy red of its title, more the lipstick femme fatale in old film noirs dying to redeem herself for the ambiguous hero. Even though the film is black and white, you know her lips are red. 

The Jovoy perfumes have immense presence and sophistication as they journey on the skin. They have lovely weight and François and his collaborators interpret the classic perfumery tropes with wit, density and sophistication. In 2015 François announced the launch of something a little different, a beautiful Art Deco infused line called Jeroboam, all housed in sensual opaque smoke-black flask-style 30ml bottles. The perfumer is Vanina Murraciole and the collection debuted with five: Origino, Hauto, Miksado, Insulo and Oriento. They are all extrait strength and two more; Vespero and Ambra have just joined after debuting at Esxence 2017 in Milan.

The five original Jeroboam perfume extraits

There is a gilded oriental extravagance to the line; a little touch of outré French music hall meets faded Deco antiquity. The bottles are beautiful and precious in the hand. I do love a 30ml size and the tactile curves of the Jeroboam bottles are addictively playful. This elegantly conceived compact size is in converse contradiction to the name of the line, referring to the classic three-litre bottle size of champagne. I like the rather cheeky idea of these brazen sensual perfumes declaring they are may not be jeroboam in size but they very much are in intent, ambition and aromatic sass.

‘What was nothing more than a creative olfactory exploration, a game between Vanina and me, led to the genesis of a completely new brand.’

François Hénin

This line is all about the musks; specifically the ‘ball of musks’ as Francois and Vanina like to talk about in the base of each and every one of the Jeroboam fragrances. François was worried he was becoming asnomic to the scent and effect of musks on his senses. This in turn led to a conversation and perfumed exploration as he says above with Vanina whom he had already collaborated on with L’Art de La Guerre for Jovoy. The result was Vanina seeing it as a gentle challenge, creating a special cocktail of musks for Francois to prove he could still inhale and appreciate these extraordinary and sometimes divisive molecules. This in turn segued in the hedonic Jeroboam collection with Origino as the name suggests as the singular source and then the musk cocktail used as a dynamic base and infrastructure within the others, while building above with vibrant decorations of perfumery expressions.

Perfumer: Vanina Murraciole

The names of the perfumes Origino, Hauto, Miksado, Insulo, Oriento and the two new additions Vespero and Ambra sound like characters in some 1950’s pulp sci-fi novella, but the key to the inspiration is the ‘O’ that most of them end in, reflecting their Esperanto origins. Origino means origin, Hauto translates as skin, Insulo means island, Miksado, mixing and Oriento means East. With the new launches, Vespero is an Esperanto term derived from Latin meaning evening and Ambra is self-explanatory.

Ludwik L. Zamenhof

I’m quite intrigued by the use of Esperanto for the names; it’s an auxiliary constructed tongue invented by a Polish Jewish ophthalmologist called Ludwik L. Zamenhof in the 1880s. He lived in Białystok in north eastern Poland, a city brimming with many nationalities, which prompted Zamenhof to dream of a simple and easy to learn Internacia Linguo as he would call it that everyone could use to communicate with each other. His first and most influential book  Unua Libro (First Book) was published on 26th July 1887 under the pseudonym of Doktoro Esperanto, which translated literally as The Doctor Who Hopes…

It is estimated that today approximately two million people globally speak Esperanto to varying degrees; it is a language that must be learned in order to be understood. Zamenhof’s dream of a united world speaking his eccentric mix of roots, declensions and brutally simple grammar sadly didn’t materialise. I first came across it at university studying languages taking an extra subject in linguistics and phonetics. I was fascinated by the idea of an entirely constructed language and I spent some time researching how Zamenhof had built his linguistic world. His vision was remarkable, to create a Eurocentric tongue that would have echoes of other languages while at the same time the basics could realistically be picked up and learned over a couple of days.

Discovering the Jeroboam line and their quirky names is the first time I’ve come across Esperanto since those uni days and it was quite a surprise. But Zamenhof’s hopeful dream of a globally communicative tongue is perhaps echoed in the universality of scent, which is almost a language of its own. So many of us are connected by skin, scent and memory, entwined across electronic ether via he addictive allure of perfumery. From South Africa to Argentina, Switzerland, Portland to New York, Iceland and Malaysia we recognise a binding lingua franca in the language of notes, accords and compulsive beauty of collecting olfaction and discussing it. 

Jeroboam: Origino 

Origino is the baseline perfume in the line, quite simply the original. The bracing and herby crush of instantly likeable and rather moreish materials is assembled in a hazy-addictive airport musk-laden way. The airport reference is not a criticism; I am one of those people who actually find the buzzy white fug of department store perfume halls and duty free scent areas oddly reassuring. So the déja-vu undertones to Origino and consequently the whole Jeroboam line make me feel happy and cradled.

If you ever crush pink peppercorns say in a stone mortar you will recognise the spiky oiled flash in the top of Origino. This has been mixed with a cold juniper note that smells like nutmeg cough linctus; the whole thing bright with an effervescent minty fresh bergamot vibe. I always find anything with juniper in it obviously brings to mind gin and its associative botanicals, not my favourite thing. I worked for a brand who produced a good gin scent, crisp, airy and chilled, then ruined it with (denied) reformulation making it smell thin, like the equivalent of supermarket supersaver gin rather than a high-end artisan distilled spirit.

I remember a brainstorming session in a trendy London gin bar as the scent was in the process of being named and the brand was thinking about the marketing and PR direction. I was poleaxed by migraine after a shitty flight down on Flybe and I tried very hard to concentrate, but it was very muggy too and all I could smell was gin, gin, gin, gin, and gin. I don’t drink anyway, so I was only sniffing and taking part in the chat, but that juniper odour and the assorted botanicals banter became amplified in the pulsating tidal ebb and flow of the migraine. It was not one of my best days. That said, I can just about level out my juniper heebie-jeebies for Origino as Vanina has created something fluid and wearable. It is a pretty linear expression of extrait; in fact all of these Jeroboam perfumes have similar phantom personas, going onto the skin with applied simplicity and straightforward purpose. There is a little manoeuvring in the early stages of each scent, but these elegantly defined, smooth differences drop each time into Vanina’s enigmatic musks and you have this really rather addictive Jeroboam signature cling.

I have worn this collection every which way, on their own, layered in pairs and trios; sometimes they harmonise, other times they disconcert depending on how I feel. They mingle well, powerful enough to survive marriage, but also modest enough to allow the blurring and feathering of edges that is such a careful feature of the line. I know the Jeroboam scents are divisive and so be it. You can’t please everyone, it would be a boring aromatic world if small brands set out with intent to mollify and delight everyone; what would be the point in that? You will either like this style of synth-boosted construction or not. My tastes have always eclectic, perhaps a little less so now after prolonged bout of illness, but put quite simply if perfumes, whatever they are, work on my skin and bring me joy, make me muse, I will tarry a while in their company. This applies to Jeroboam. I also implicitly trust François Hénin.

So as I mentioned earlier Origino is the baseline scent in the Jeroboam line up and as such smells deliberately enigmatic. Vanina’s boule de muscs has a persuasive fuzziness that I happen to love as an effect; it’s rather like the sound of quietly played lo-fi ambient electronica, white and gelid. I have always loved the scent of synthetic materials in perfume; it sits quite happily alongside my burgeoning love of natural perfumery. It tallies with my lifelong passion for mournful snowy electronic music and sci-fi fiction, anime and cinema. I like the juxtaposition of manmade things against the natural world. Haters will hate and I will always accept their right to dislike. It is the way of things. I am not a huge Guerlain fan, but say this out loud and you would think I had killed someone’s pet. I prefer to dream of cyberskin soaked in synthetic musks, ambers and captured floral molecules.

There is only a small deviation in Origino from it’s liner intent. As it fades, it takes on the odour of milky white stone, all the slick pink pepper pop & drang virtually vanishes. Otherwise, it is a moreish and elegant creation that perhaps takes a few wearings to fully understand its mechanisms. Linear does not necessarily mean simple, it just means you need to pay more attention at the beginning as the materials hit skin. I am lucky enough to have the other perfumes to compare and try alongside Origino as François and Vanina would like us too, each is obviously different and yet still manages to echo Origino because of the musk template laid down so adroitly by Vanina.

Jeroboam: Insulo

Insulo was the one on paper I really wanted to try and it didn’t disappoint at all, lavishly fulfilling my vanilla cravings. Insulo is Esperanto for island, the island in question being Madagascar, tropical and spiritual home to vanilla planifolia, the sensual compulsive and wildly expensive pod. It is a patisserie jasmine, the petals less indolic, more sugar sculpture, moulded and marked by the heat of fingers. Amid this sweetness I smell a lovely wafer note, soft and crumbly, just enough to halt any potential syrupy excess.

I love all sorts of vanilla fragrances; it is one of the few notes that plays havoc with my discriminatory self-imposed rules and regulations of scent. I.e.. I will quite happy indulge in celebrity neon synth vanilla gaudiness as well as extraits created from meticulously sourced single estate Madagascan or Mexican pods. Vanilla as gooey moreish spoon licking cake haze or rum-soaked, leathered sheath I love the gamut, the mix of styles varieties. One day will be the joyous abandon of Comptoir Sud Pacifique’s vanillic cream and fruit concoctions and then the next few days, dark and elegant interpretations such as the feverish Vanille by Mona di Orio and feral, singed Lune Féline by Atelier des Ors. 

Jasmine and vanilla are almost a clichéd arrangement in perfume, however in Insulo, they are infiltrated by Vanina’s ball of airy musks that adds sweet steam and flattens out the queasiness I sometimes get with this style of custard jasmine. Insulo is smart, acidic vanilla on its own but smells great mixed with generous layers of Origino or Hauto. Since I rid myself of a more formal job last year, I have retuned to my Shia LaBeouf/Kristen Stewart inspired layered grunge wear. Grey on grey and black, t-shirts ripped, always dark jeans, plus fours worn as board shorts, my beloved Adidas trainers mixed with handmade pieces I’ve harvested over the years. This suite of Jeroboam scents can be approached in much the same way, intermingling effects and themes; they coalesce well but don’t feel abandoned or overtly thin solo.

Insulo has that slightly singed plasticised note I rather like in certain vanillic formulae, the scent of ethyl vanillin crystals ignited on a plastic plate, leaving a tacky airborne residue as it starts to fade. I’ve worn small amounts and it’s dessert-kissed skin and in big indulgent doses you can really sense the full impact of eye-popping synthetic vanilla and the smoky nuance of naturalistic pod and seed. It is unashamedly sweet in places and the vanilla shines up a huge light under the happy jasmine, making Insulo a joy to wear. 

Jeroboam: Hauto 

More white flowers, this time tuberose, in Hauto, (the Esperanto word for skin) mixed with rose, pineapple and bergamot. The tuberose doesn’t have the usual fatty, waxen bloom but a more detached soapy grain. When you first spray it the pineapple produces a fruity detergent off-kilter effect I didn’t care for too much initially. But this slightly abrasive start of pina colada and bleached floral settles gently into a gentle creamy scent of freshly minted paper and citrus splashed leaves with just enough echo of that original tropical headiness to retain interest. There is Rose de Mai in Hauto, I didn’t really pay too much attention at first, the fruity blanched overture is quite difficult to get past but they do relax and the rose is picked up by a dash of bergamot in the top. For a little while the rose note feels like petals in iced water. Once you smell the rose, you will always notice it and it makes the correct balance to the needy tuberose and pineapple.

Hauto doesn’t have the best of drydowns, that delicious fruit and white flower pairing falls apart a little too quickly for my liking, but while it lasts it is lovely, a simple yet effective blend of materials, erring on the synthetic side, floating once again on the Jeroboam musks. As befitting its name, it stays pretty close to skin and if you want a big effect, you will need to spray a lot on. I preferred my Hauto quiet and softly spoken, but I must admit it’s not one from the line I would wear a lot; there is just something a little juddering for me in the pineapple vs. floral rendezvous.

Jeroboam: Miksado

Miksado is quite beautiful and fast became a foxy favourite, a sweet chypré-esque foggy scent of chewy resins and woods. The saffron/Safraleine and cedar combo smell quite prickly and medicinal as it opens, lending Miksado (Mixed in Esperanto) a distinctive hospital vibe, which I don’t mind and actually find rather comforting. On the mouillette the bergamot was more pronounced, less so on skin and the patchouli/guaiac was a blur of bitterness whereas on skin it felt more like a gourmand facet mixed with a green chilli effect, which could be the geranium or a vague chypré suggestion of the labdanum and patchouli.

Miksado has a lovely blend of sweet and savoury elements on flesh and a certain metallic herbiness. It did remind me a little of some of Betrand Duchaufour’s more transparent work for L’Artisan Parfumeur like Poivre Piquant and Piment Brûlant in the rise and fall of delicate notes and its veiled effect on skin. From time to time to time it just seems to vanish and then reappear again. As with all the Jeroboams Miksado is anchored by Vanina’s musks that polish and blear the formulae to produce a particularly addictive style.

Jeroboam: Oriento

Oriento, the Jeroboam rose-oud is my other favourite, a lovely mix of Turkish delight tinted rose, dry oud and saffron rubbed with candied lemon and dried apple. Quite a robust apple note actually like Calvados being burned off an elegant dessert in a darkened room. I get a scent of petrol on my skin that must be the styrax and that basmati rice whiff of the saffron. Overall it suggests a Turkish/Istanbul ambience you can smell in some of the Nishane perfumes, Keiko Meichiri’s Loukhoum and L’Artisan’s Traversée de Bosphore. The musks provide powder and dust, cover if you like for the notes to swirl and play in. They don’t exactly settle; it’s more a case of synthetic collision and rest.

I really like the metal rose over singed apple effect; a certain reluctant sweetness sneaks in towards the end, just enough to offset any cloying potential from the jellied rose and aphrodisiac ylang. Oriento is great layered with Insulo; a jammy piquancy meets white patisserie charm. I think though it works best layered under Origino, the musks in both fragrances seem to swell the upper notes, the apple and scattered rose heads of Oriento and the more masculine barbershop edge of Origino. It is an interesting and moreish hybrid scent mix that showcases the expert skills of Vanina and François and the studied simplicity of these Jeroboam musks.

I like the fact I can pick up any one of the current collection, apply liberally and enjoy each moment of its fizzy elegant lifespan. But I can also layer, mingle and play with the fragrances, find my own recipe if you like and still smell wonderful, the musk bases providing a kind of reference point across the line. They are elegantly easy to like, these Jeroboam extraits, super concentrated juice in sublime compact flacons that ooze class and more than a little touch of personal decadence. I know this style of scent is not for everyone, the synthetic musk bases that Vanina has created for François are an acquired taste, but one that is worth sampling and wearing as skin often surprises you with its embracing of such unexpected things. I personally find them a set of perfumes with delicious and joyful ease, the constructs a pleasure to explore; Jeroboam is a fascinating collection of stylish and wearable adaptability.

Disclosure: A huge personal thank you to Sharon Whiting at Aspects Beauty PR for kindness, friendship & samples.   

For more information on Jeroboam and Jovoy, please follow the link below:

©TheSilverFox  June 2017

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