Puckrik on Perfume

Katie Puckrik ON Oct 16, 2009 AT 12:39 pm

Katie Puckrik: Photographer Martin Shaw

Katie Puckrik: Photographer Martin Shaw

L’Artisan Parfumeur Côte d’Amour
By Katie Puckrik

I love being surprised by smells. Especially in these times of cookie-cutter mainstream perfumes, where advances in fragrance chemistry are matched only by the perfume houses’ de-evolution of flair and nerve.

Fumeheads are served up the same jaded rom-com over and over again: red berry aroma chemical meets cotton candy aroma chemical, they get into a contrived mix-up over a blend of indistinguishable white florals, and then ride off together into the played-out woody vanilla sunset.

Maybe the answer is to turn our backs on modern science, reject the technology that allows candyfloss to be shoehorned into our perfumes, and see what Mother Nature can do to get our noses twitching again.

This “back to the garden” approach seems promising, until you realize how limited an all-natural palette can be. No more realistic citruses that last for unrealistic hours on the skin, no more roses morphing into plums, and no more Indian sandalwood, which no long exists in nature in any significant quantities. (And no more cotton candy, of course!)

As appealing as they can be, it’s hard for natural perfumes to soar very far above their earthly ingredients. Or as perfume pundit Luca Turin puts it, “…with few exceptions, you can have natural fragrances in any colour as long as it’s brown”. Well, now you can count L’Artisan Parfumeur Côte d’Amour among the few exceptions.

L’Artisan Parfumeur Côte d’Amour

L’Artisan Parfumeur Côte d’Amour

Côte d’Amour, billed as an “eau de toilette naturelle”, is given the thumbs up by Ecocert, the organic certification organization. It’s L’Artisan Parfumeur’s second stab at ecoscents, after 2007’s L’Eau de Jatamansi. But where L’Eau de Jatamansi comes off as nothing more than pleasant spa-style aromatherapy, Côte d’Amour sails past the nose as a fully formed smellscape.

Côte d’Amour is a salty aquatic fragrance developed by perfumer Celine Ellena, creator of another accomplished “salt perfume”, The Different Company Sel de Vetiver.  While Sel de Vetiver lingers on its minerals, and stays anchored by rich, ropey vetiver, Côte d’Amour’s sea-saltiness lightens up into wispy, soft-focus flowers.

I first wore it on an inky-black Southern California night a month ago when the temps nudged the 90s. Its smell in the hot, still air was perfect: light and dry, floral with a melancholic edge.

I couldn’t really place individual ingredients, and was fascinated when I read the official list: tangerine, grapefruit, rosemary, immortal flower, cypress, gorse blossom, rose, broom, heather and maritime pine.

It just sounded like a boatload of sour citrus and sharp-smelling needle-shaped leaves. But I get dry and chalky out of it. There is a subtle aromatic quality, but so ombre’d that you’d be hard pressed to yell out “Hey! Dig that crazy cypress!” or “By gum, that’s rosemary, or I’m a monkey’s uncle!” Côte d’Amour is not a “smell and tell” scent, that’s for sure.

The mineral chalkiness flakes off gradually, revealing a sheer wash of honeyed flowers. The plant experts say that the fragrance of broom ranges from herbal to hay to algae, and that gorse blossom is coconutty. Both possess a syrupy sweetness, which I’m guessing is helped along by the immortal flower.

But for all this talk of sweetness, we’re not dealing with cotton candy, here. This shizz is natural, and natural means ixnay on the candy-coloured clown called ethyl maltol. This ethereal, wistful perfume is the furthest thing from aroma chemical hot pink…or crunchy granola brown, for that matter. Colour Côte d’Amour daydream blue.

Côte d’Amour info and stockists: www.artisanparfumeur.com/

More of Katie’s perfume rants and rambles at KatiePuckrikSmells.com

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