The Benevolent Fairy of Undeserved Blessings, aka Tigs, delivered a bottle of L´Artisan L´Eau du Navigateur to my doorstep the other day. Navigateur is one of those allegedly discontinued fragrances that nonetheless remains on permanent display in L´Artisan Boutiques. Indeed, it was on my recent visit to the Chicago store that I decided to try it, only because I was so delighted to see something I thought had vanished – or, more precisely, been replaced by the dry, peppery Navegar.
I´m pretty sure I tried Navigateur before, shortly after Marina´s review, and my reaction was not favorable. Navigateur was too spicy and masculine and strident for me. The notes I´ve seen listed vary, but this one is probably as good as any: coffee, spices, woodsy notes, floral notes, rum, resin, incense, tobacco and leather. The fragrance has been around for 20 years, and for the record, Luca Turin rags on it as “very dated” in The Guide.
We´re heading into this pirate’s tale bass-ackward, so why not continue? I wanted Dzongkha to be my exotic-travel L´Artisan, because … who wouldn´t? I´m all arty and creative and mystical and whatnot, and I was dying to smile softly and cast my eyes downward in response to the question of what wonderful fragrance I was wearing before telling all my admirers about Dzongkha and Bhutan and blah blah blah. The minor glitch in my plan is that Dzongkha continues to smell like hell on me, all that grassy vetiver, bitter and unfriendly like spices mulling a decade too long in the damp hold of a ship. So much for that grand idea.
Here´s what the lovely SAs Lydia, Darcie and Rebecca from L´Artisan Chicago had to say about Navigateur via email:
“Yes, indeed the L´Eau du Navigateur was created by Jean Claude Ellena in 1978 for L´Artisan Parfumeur as it says in our training guide. It translates to “The Sailor´s Water” and smells of the spices and resins down the hold of a wood ship… the accord is coffee liquor, cedarwood, myrrh and leather… I also get strong notes of the open sea and the smell of wet wood. If you breathe even deeper you can pick up notes of cinnamon and at first burst fresh bergamot. At one time it was rumored to be discontinued, but it is now coming in the new bottles and New York confirmed that it is NOT discontinued. Currently, it is a boutique exclusive and comes in the 100ml size only. ”
Anyway, I was so thrilled to see it hadn´t been d/c´d that I grabbed it and sprayed it on in celebration of its continued existence, because I am a Perfume Maniac. And thus I have to ask: what on earth was wrong with me? How could I not have loved this and cleaved it to my heaving bosom at first sniff? It was probably the slightly b.o.-ish opening that scared me off the first time – coriander, cumin or both, there´s a cheerful burst of something sweaty with your coffee. Pyramus asks if it smells like sweaty men, so I must not be imagining that part.
The rum is pretty minimal, and the tobacco and leather start off strong and only get stronger over the course of the next hour. On me, Navigateur is an interesting cross between Dzing!s barnyard leather and Idole de Lubin´s sweetly spicy woods.
The sweaty bits fade after 20 or 30 minutes, and it is the drydown I have really come to enjoy. Navigateur shifts from Johnny Depp to Keira Knightley – from a jaunty, swashbuckling (but still guyliner-wearing) “masculine” to a sweet, resinous, incense laden unisexy scent. It is almost (but not quite) as sweet as Idole on me in the drydown. If it were any sweeter I wouldn´t like it, but the rough-sawn woods in the background provide the necessary planking to keep the whole thing from collapsing on deck like a hot mess in its pantaloons. I vote for some definite florals, but I don´t know what.
I´ve read this compared to Hermes Bel Ami, and — I don´t see it, guys. Most of the reviews of Navigateur are by men on Basenotes, and I assume this fragrance is generally pitched toward men, although obviously anyone can wear it. So do I have crazy skin, or is Navigateur sweet? Bel Ami smells to me like a straightforward, classy gents´ cologne, whereas Navigateur has the cheerfully lowbrow camp appeal of a Pirates of the Caribbean marathon on cable TV. Which I have watched. Next time I know what scent I´ll be wearing.