I´m a country bumpkin. It´s official. I´m used to beautiful landscapes, but I´m struck dumb nowadays, whenever I head into
No chance to sniff the new Malle Dans tes Bras, which’ll launch in Liberty this weekend. Nor Eau d’Italie’s Baume du Doge, which that hadn’t yet heard of. But I did get a chance to catch up on a stack of things I’ve missed – though I didn’t feel like I’d missed much. Magnolia Romana, Fleur de Liane and so on, I felt swamped by aquatic florals. Not my thing, but it might be yours. They’re selling well, apparently. And three other fragrances I wanted to try – the testers were MIA. Must’ve pleased someone, I guess.
I as tempted by an export bottle of Borneo 1834, my latest fave (and Dzongkha it turns out – who knew? More on this another day) but it’ll be cheaper to pick up a bottle in Paris – those limited editions have hiked up prices.
And speaking of hiked up prices, it was time for le Labo. They seemed to have stolen one of the bell jars from the Cire Trudon display, as that’s where all the Poivre 23 was stored. ‘For protection’, Anna, the lovely SA laughingly told me. And she sprayed my hand.
Now, Poivre 23 is by Annick Menardo, and there’s a distinct quality to all of her fragrances. Many are sweet (Hypnotic Poison, Lolita Lempicka, Bois d’Argent) and there are several with smoky aspects (Bois d’Armenie, Bulgari Black). I love Patchouli 24, her other wonder for le Labo, though sometimes I find it tough to wear – too thick perhaps in the drydown. Someone on Perfume of Life once equated it to standing in the shell of a recently burnt out house and breathing deeply in. I kind of get that, but love that potent birch tar kick. But not always. Best in very cold weather.
I suppose I was expecting sweetness and richness and smokiness from Poivre 23, with a similar surprise in the opening to the operating theatre oddity of the patchouli number. But what you get, in the top notes, is exactly what the label says. Pepper. Not fine white powder that irritates the throat and tickles the nose. Not black heaviness to remind you of the oversized phallic grinders of old fashioned Italian trattorias. Nor the ubiquitous pseudo pink pepper of all-and-sundry scents. But a pepper of wonder; the sort of pepper the first traders must’ve sniffed and felt the wingstrokes of angels in the rhythm of their fast-beating hearts. It shocks, it makes the familiar strange. Fruity, alcoholic, nuanced with rounded spicy accents, I did a little gasp (truly, I did) when I smelled it.
Of course, the magically fruity aspects don’t last, but if anything it gets better – the patchouli and cistus kick in and come close to a smell I’ve dreamed of wearing – that of Diptyque’s magnificent room scent, Maquis. Dirty, open-aired, woody, spicy, ungendered. Wonderful. It sweetens in the Menardo way as it dries down, but really smells like nothing else I know, and for me, recovering from my out-of-love-with-perfume condition, that is nigh on miraculous. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised – the official note list (which may or may not bear relation to the actual ingredients) read like a made-for-me recipe: cistus, patchouli, bourbon pepper, sandalwood, gaiac wood, incense, vanilla, styrax.
It’s late, and I’m out of words. It’s a perfume that isn’t worth the $$$ it costs. But. But. But. It might be a masterpiece. I just have to straighten out whether my adulation of Annick Menardo + its uber-exclusivity+ my current mood = myopia or truth. Now I need to find a friend in Tokyo so I can get a sample of Gaiac 10, Menardo’s other city exclusive. That must be wondrous too, eh?
If you’d like to win the chance of a sample, leave a message and I’ll announce the lucky recipient(s) on my next visit.
Addendum: interestingly, Le Labo have today changed the name of the perfumer attached to Poivre 23. It’s apparently Nathalie Lorson, not Annick Menardo. I guess this SNAFU is everywhere – the SAs had Menardo’s name next to the product. I’ll leave it up to you whether my review now holds any weight, or whether you agree with the charmer who commented below. I did tell you I was a bumpkin.