There’s a romantic garden at the heart of Violette Noyée from Sultan Pasha Attars, similar to the one in Guerlain‘s vintage Apres L’Ondee. It’s a garden filled with sweet, fresh flowers, laden with dew in the cool morning light, unfurling amidst green vegetation, and then blooming with lush abandon. Violette Noyée (hereinafter spelled without the accent) means “drowned violet,” but that is only one of the many elements at play in this rich, complex tableau. Lilacs, iris, mimosa, jasmine, heliotrope, a wonderful recreation of hyacinths, and other flowers grow far and wide, all set against a rich tapestry of greenness, wet earth, and dark musks. A cool winter light shines upon them, slowly turning warm and golden. Eventually, an ambered haze falls over the garden, first encasing the flowers, then erasing them in waves of brown velvet and musky ambered sweetness. It’s a fragrance that is quite different from Apres L’Ondee in its particular details, its feel, and its development, but the same romanticism is at play in both fragrances, which makes the attar a great alternative for fans of the discontinued Guerlain fragrance.
Arbolé Arbolé, the latest fragrance from Hiram Green, weds spicy woods and powdery, sweet, floral-vanillic elements in holy matrimony with rings of dark resins. It was interesting to observe how the relationships at the core of the scent unfolded like a musical piece where the courtship took place during an unexpected overture or prelude, followed by a march up the aisle, a post-wedding reception dance where everyone joins in, and then, finally, the couple retires to cuddle in a cozy haze on the first night of their honeymoon.
Arbolé Arbolé (hereinafter spelled without the accent or just called “Arbole”) wasn’t my thing despite my love for many of the notes at the center of the composition, but it’s also one of those fragrances that seems to manifest itself quite differently from one person to the next. How it turns out on your skin, particularly in its opening, is likely to shape how you view the scent.
There are unicorns that hide amongst the shadows of our world, fragrance unicorns that are spoken about in hushed, reverential tones, fragrances of such great rarity that they rise from the eBay mists only a bit more frequently than King Arthur’s Avalon. These myths of legend belong to an elite club in the vintage world, and one of them is Nombre Noir.
Nombre Noir is so famous for so many reasons that it’s hard to know where to begin. It was the very first fragrance ever made by the visionary Serge Lutens, his introductory footsteps into the perfume world, albeit under the umbrella of Shiseido rather than his own name. That would come later, but so many of the famous Lutens olfactory signatures make their debut in Nombre Noir that it’s like following a map into the future. But the reasons why the fragrance is so mythical have little to do with Lutens himself and everything to do with an aggregation of olfactory, technical, and market-oriented factors. The fact that there is a whiff of Greek tragedy to the tale just adds to the mystique.
Vintage L’Heure Bleue was my first Guerlain love. In fact, until I tried a really old bottle of vintage Shalimar extrait, no other Guerlain came close. There was just something about L’Heure Bleue for me, something that touched me deeply in ways I can’t always explain. Part of it is that I first encountered the fragrance during a happy time in my life, but mental associations are not the only reason. To me, L’Heure Bleue simply feels special. The way the notes are juxtaposed sometimes feels intellectually introspective in a way that almost rises to the cerebral, and that fascinates me, but at the same time, the fragrance always triggered an even stronger emotional response as well, filling me with joy, comfort, and a sense of serenity in a way that other legendary Guerlains did not at the time.