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

Monday 13 November 2017

Lay Me Down in Burning Purple: ‘MEM’ by Bogue Profumo (Interlude IV)

But you, you foolish girl, you have gone home
To a leaky castle across the sea, -
To lie awake in linen smelling of lavender,
And hear the nightingale, and long for me

Edna St Vincent Millay

For Foxy any launch by Bogue Profumo and the bearded Maestro Antonio Gardoni is akin to the completion of a complex and long awaited art installation or the revelation of a secret building project. All of which is very fitting given Antonio’s day job as the creative founder of Studio AG an architecture and design studio in Brescia, Italy where he grew up and went to university. He is currently London-based but spends a lot of time back and forth to Brescia where he is still a professor of industrial and interior design.


Everything about Antonio and Bogue is steeped in alchemical charm. He originally came across a cache of forty vintage perfumery bases and formulations in the basement of an Italian property thanks to the timely tip off from an antique dealer. These redolent recipes had assumed a whiff of dank time and darkness. Antonio patiently and strategically added modern elements, honing and editing the results to create workable and intriguing olfaction.

As someone who moulds, conceptualises and visualises space, Antonio’s journey and approach to perfume is a little unorthodox to some. His perfumes obey few rules and yet have a powerful dowager porno ambience, recalling some of the glowering boudoir wonders of the past whilst as the same time drawing a brutalist line through these same echoes with the precision of a white-hot laser.  I have the astonishing Maai in my collection, a perfume I called the ‘..most extraordinary of brutal floral constructions …..divine sense of body, genuine skin, wrapped in indoles and whiffy animalics, a mirror of our own wanton, hidden desires’ in my review for Cafleurebon back in January 2015.  It is still one of my favourite pieces I wrote for my friend Michelyn Camen, Editor in Chief at Cafleurebon.  

Foxy's Maai.... 

My bottle of Maai smells better and better each time I inhale its oily sexiness off my skin. The colour darkens in the shadows of my study. The multitude of resins and flower deaths within the amber liquid make me giddy when the scent fills the air.  The air feels displaced actually momentarily, Maai has that much impact, the notes spinning like burning dust. I have a 15ml of OE, which I love as well, a strange soapy intensive thing that hurls its citric herbiness across your skin like an angry fisherman casting for silvered fish in a mirrored sea.

And Gardelia… sigh… what can I say.. I am quite obsessed with this extraordinary essay in gardenia egotism.  Three types of gardenia absolute make up nearly 6% of the formula; now this may not sound like much, but in perfumery terms it is both daring and dangerous making Gardelia at it’s heart a kind of honeyed, indolic bomb. It penetrates skin and senses slowly like an insistent lover then explodes in a slo-mo cascade of over fifty ingredients, all them calibrated by Antonio to ricochet, caress and infiltrate. I only have two treasured samples from Antonio; Gardelia itself is a pricy limited item, created specifically for Lia and Giovanni Padovan of Profumeria Sacro Cuore in Bologna to celebrate their Golden Wedding anniversary, hence the fifty materials used. Antonio also designed the distinctive blue-shaded flacon topped off in a unique moulded cap made using the ciré perdue or lost wax casting process. The design of the flacon was based on a bottle owned by the Padovans and the tactile cerulean cap resembles a bowl of fruit and a split oozing pomegranate. Only fifty bottles were made and they retail at €850/£749/$948 so it’s hardly a cheap buy but limited perfume art like this never is. The attention to detail, the casing of odour, that hand cast top and the divine, persistent liquor itself I feel for once, probably justifies the price.  I will savour my precious samples until they run dry and then just remember…


Now we have MEM, a palindromic name and a scent theoretically with a cyclical structure. I’m going to just stick a stylish little pin in that for now above my desk, as I don’t really want to get into a discussion of that. It’s not really my forte and besides, my repeated wearings of MEM have demonstrated if anything a hugely dynamic sense of scene setting, more akin to stage or opera than perfumery.  Antonio has created a perfume that tells a complex and multi-layered story of a house built for love near sea, surrounded by purple fire.

MEM is a roaring lavender thing, an unabashed hymn to one of perfumery’s most exquisite materials, a note I love and usually find side-lined as vintage old lady and moth killing. Yet when lavender is correctly adored and surrounded by notes, accords and mysteries that care and nurture it can burn and buzz, smoulder and ravish like any rose or jasmine construct. Caron’s Pour Un Homme, Dior’s Eau Noire and Mon Numéro 4 by L’Artisan Parfumeur all showcased in very different ways the beauty of lavender’s aromatic dexterity.

There is a ghostly vintage bruised mauve in MEM as it slowly settles, nothing dusty and sachet-like that might suggest said moths or cheap gift shops.  Instead Antonio’s four lavenders (lavender, lavender extract, wild lavender and blue lavender) glow like amethyst fire in empty flickering rooms.  There is something weirdly animalic in the use of high quality lavender, a certain verdant herby sweatiness, the body exuding a sheen of grasses, costus, hay and moist spices. In MEM this is reinforced with the use of civet, castoreum, musks and Antonio’s beloved indolic heavy breathing of ylang ylang and Champaca.

Local street lavender... (image©TSF)

The unusual and particular addition of malt is quite noticeable early on; rolling elegantly amid the geranium bourbon, mint and vanilla to lend a brewed sense of barley and mash to my nose. Living in Scotland and having sampled a lot of whiskies over the years I am familiar with a lot of processes and finishes used in the industry. The more I wear MEM, especially if my skin is hot, I discern a distinctive boozy vibe as if Antonio has distilled a lavender whisky flavoured with citrus peel and animal pelt.

I was very preoccupied with lavender this summer; many of the small street gardens where I live were foaming with differing shades of purple and alive with thrilled thrumming bees. I smelled it everywhere that quiet Provençal undertone to the air, the fallen flowers dusted over pavements. I like to rub and wander, the oily immediacy of the leaves staining my fingers, pieces of whorls and spikes scattered in my pockets. 

It is a perfume aroma for my own personal skin that challenges my perceptions of self. It is a note that comes with some olfactory and visual baggage. As a migraine sufferer I got weary of people telling me it was good for easing stress headaches, whereas in actual fact, concentrated exposure to lavender oil or over use in aromatherapy can precipitate vertiginous migraine. I have always associated it, as many of us do with aromatherapy and the beckoning of sleep. I cook with it, making cakes with lemon and lavender and adding it to lamb dishes with rosemary and marjoram. I also smash it in a food processor with granulated sugar. Sifted and used sparingly, this gorgeously blue-tinted powder is beautiful cast across compotes.  

Antonio has not shied away from any preconceived aspect of his lavenders. The varieties evidently have different nuances and olfactive tonal qualities or he would not have gone to the trouble of using them and Antonio does not strike me as a frivolous man. A lot of reviews have noted the intense potency of MEM; I don’t find it potent as such, I would say more immersive and demanding. The ask is one of waiting for the swirling coterie of herbal, minted soapiness to settle their lilac tongues from wagging to allow the fleshy tease of ylang and Champaca indoles to rise and bait. It is a quite a struggle mind you, between the deranged royal seethe of lavender and these lascivious creamy blooms. Then the tones bleed silently into one another creating I think a rather singular emotion of rippling lavender, marbled with ribbons of ivory.

If Antonio has a signature, it lies in his rooty, cellar-caged manipulation of tooth and clawed asshole disturbance. I once said he was a dangerous perfumer. I stand by that, albeit in the dark and blindfolded. In Maai, Gardelia and MEM there is this fingered, grasping facet that emanates from his particular use of materials such as civet, castoreum, amber and indoles. Blended with the high doses of swooning erotic florals and claustrophobic herbs the Gardoni perfumed way is a one where there is always an expectancy of the perverse in the fading light. Yet the true beauty of Antonio’s work is realising any sense of tremulous perversity is to be found purely in the anticipation.    

I wanted in some ways to resist the pull of MEM, I wasn’t really in the mood for something this complex and to be honest burning with lavender insistence, I found it hard to resist. After three or more hours the torn herbal Prince-ness of it has rendered down to those base growling, pelty reeks. Tiny shards of citrus somehow cling to the vestiges of lavender amid glorious seared woods, resins and a peculiar minted vanilla vibe that smells vegetal and vintage parfum at the same time.

A few people have asked me if Bogue is really skin perfumery or olfactive high art just to be admired? The answer is both. Antonio is a designer and architect; his approach to perfumery will be different to others, as will that of perfumer and photographer & musician Hans Hendley or perfumer & painter John Biebel. It is art if you believe so. Perfume is no different from any other medium, but it is a form of performance art that demands of you the wearer engagement in its show.


There is no doubt MEM, like my beloved Gardelia, OE, Cologne Reloaded and Maai are bold, committed odours that echo one another and yet feel like immense developments of themes within Gardoni themes. Even the hybrid monster mash of Cadavre Exquis, a rather brilliant collaboration with San Francisco-based perfumer Bruno Fazzolari inspired by the famous surrealist drinking game of creating sentences and text of mismatched random words had that distinctive Gardoni civetty ylang tang at the heart of a slightly misfired, but still intriguing interpretation of the gourmand genre, a style neither perfumer had explored before. But boldness is to be lauded, wearing Bogue perfumes requires not bravery per se, but attitude, an awareness of olfactive aura that the air will vibrate around you and people may glare.

MEM interestingly ends as it begins, palindromic I guess, faded of course, but with the same hardcore intent of purpose it opened with. I am lavender. Hear me roar.

For more information on Antonio and Bogue Profumo, please follow the link below: 


14 November 2017

13 Nov 2017

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