A friend gifted me some Andree Putman Preparation Parfumee recently, remarking that it “seems like you.” I hadn’t smelled it in eons, an occupational hazard of having a million other things to sniff. The description says simply gray pepper, driftwood and water lily.
The first thought I had was, hmmmm, I’ve definitely smelled this before. The second was, lordy, why don’t I own this? I find it deceiving. Its feather-lightness on impact is easy to dismiss – just another sorta-woody, sorta-peppery unisexy thing. It’s the way the scent unfurls and hangs around me that I love. Putman, who died in 2013, was an interior designer known for her attention to detail, layered neutral tones and modern aesthetic; you could easily imagine Preparation Parfumee used as a parfum d’ambience in one of her lovely, airy rooms that look like marvelous set pieces.
Still, I felt like I was missing something obvious in my scent memories, and for the life of me I couldn’t figure out what it was.
Then I looked it up. Preparation Parfumee was created in 2001 by (drumroll!) none other than Olivia Giacobetti, patron saint of a particular type of ethereally lovely “personal aura” fragrances, including many of my absolute favorites (the IUNXEN! Costes! En Passant!). I have enough Giacobetti-crafted bottles in my collection to assemble a shrine. No wonder the scent – or, rather, the effect—seemed so familiar.
After about twenty minutes Preparation Parfumee settles into a faintly floral-woodsy note overlayed with a very soft, meditative incense. And that was my other aha! moment – this is the quieter sibling of L’Artisan Passage d’Enfer, one of the fragrances that absolutely blew me away when I first got into perfumes, and still a favorite. Lo and behold, PdE is also a Giacobetti, done two years prior (1999), with a very similar list of notes: lily, incense, woods and musk. If I had to choose, I’d go with Passage d’Enfer. But fortunately, I don’t have to choose.