January 17, 2011

Parfumerie Generale-Three Perfumes: Rare Matale, Corps et Ames & L'Ombre Fauve

The style of Pierre Guillaume/Parfumerie Generale is fascinating, highly individual and truly creative in the treatment of smell elements.  For me they begin with a thin veneer of business as usual that serves to invite you in to a typical fragrance experience, that then immediately plunges into a subconscious dreamland version of perfume, where blades of green, both soft as grass and gripping as the vines that pull down the porch, slice through the scent of leather or metal or brighten the light of what is associated with a flame in darkness, such as incense.

I find myself very drawn to his style of composition of fragrance.  I recall Querelle and Psychotrope, both of which were were for me precursors and door openers, normalizing experimentation with the concepts of putting together notes that then seemed impossible together, like the leather flower for Psychotrope, or citrus brightened earthy dirtiness of Querelle.  There is an emphasis on contrasts that seem to heighten the effect of each element all the more.  I got a poignant, even moody quality in the ones that I know.  I don't know the whole line, but what I have tried makes me want to know them all.   PG is not afraid of delving into the beauty of a certain kind of melancholy, like a piano etude by Eliott Carter, or Satie,  though there is always a whole hearted enthusiastic sensuality shining through; that is the natural antidote if one is needed.

L'Eau Rare Matale is based on Matale tea from Sri Lanka,  but as is usual in the house style, it starts one way, like opening a box of strong black tea with very subtle floral highlights and then the other elements surface and become dominant, so that it resolves itself into a musky smokey burnt wood, laid on peppery earth, with dry cedar and vetiver.  There must be a very decent percentage of true natural essences in these since they behave in that characteristic way of holding close to the skin and being a rather more ephemeral than primarily chemical perfumes, but there is a lot of unusual note behavior going on too, so I am sure PG is using all his chemistry background to manipulate the moods this fragrance moves through.  PG as a chemist has experimented with using ultra violet light to blend or soften perfume notes, which does affect the scent molecules (who knew?) though not in these particular examples.

Corps et Ames is a chypre of immortelle and an exotic wood (Melati) with geranium, a leather accord and sandalwood.  What happens is the dusty/powdery strongly aromatic astringent quality of immortelle and geranium together are faintly sweetened  by the leather and woods, like a fine cognac.  Lately I keep finding that chypres remind me of strong spirits, like cognac or brandy. The contrast is like a dark background making something light look lighter and brighter.  The resinous effect contains by implication the sense memory of a burning sun, something we know in our bones, so for all the darkness and depth it is as warming as a hit of whiskey, yet much more sophisticated, soft, sensitive.  I think perfumers must play with the implications of the archetypes; we all know (even still) what the sun does, how things dried in the sun smell, and the luxurious feeling imparted by these precious notes in concentration and in a softened blend, holding close on skin evelopes the wearer in an personal aura of abstract yet natural sophistication.  It's like a wild animal's clean fur or the softest finest well-kept brushed suede, or a drink of strong black tea.  These perfumes definitely reconnect me with these luxurious natural material sensations, as all the best perfumes do.

Not to say these are all for serious times, or no fun. For me the notes of the amber, musk, woods, patchouli, incense of L'Ombre Fauve sounds like this would make a typically dark heavy perfume, but instead, somehow, tho it is certainly a noctural mood, there is a dancing quality to the spice that picks it all up and whirls it all around so the energy is uplifting and almost adrenelinesque in a sense of the  second wind.  It takes a lot of energy and strength to dance for a long time at night but sometimes dancing releases all stress so energy is released and accessible. It is the strength of these elements brought up and released by the spiciness that keeps it on a burning level of heat and light in the dark that loosens up the body for movement.

These perfumes contain many references and implications in their composition.  I keep finding this freshness contrasted against dryness, greens coming up through a resinous incense, a tailored strictness against the looseness of warmed up skin.  All of the Parfumerie Generale fragrances I have tried have been different, sumptuous, luxurious, and playful in their sophisticated manipulation of expectation and associations.  I look forward to trying more over time.

For more info, try the Parfumerie Generale site, or  Luckyscent, or search online for the many reviews of fellow fans of this line.  Above photo from Luckyscent.


ScentScelf said...

I'm a big Parfumerie Generale fan myself, even though I find that in certain compositions, the sweet PG thang comes through too strongly.

That said, L'Ombre Fauve has got to be my all time favorite comfort that isn't too easy scent. It is cozy warm and prickly, like worn wool blanket that you can't help but snuggle under, because it serves the one purpose while keeping you on your toes. (Aha! The dancing!) Plus, there's all that interest that can be found when your burrow your nose into a blanket...

Querelle is one of those that totally appeals to my thinking self. I still don't know why, but that's a full alert wearing whenever I put it on.

I have not tried L'Eau Rare Matale or Corps et Ames--you are making me cry a little bit at not knowing Corps et Ames--but I do have and enjoy Hyperessence Matale.

I have and *adore* Bois Blonde, which is the under the summer sun half buried in a haystack counter to the burrowing into the wool blanket in sharp weather of L'Ombre Fauve.

One thing that I love about this line is I don't think PG "coasts" through any of his compositions; whether or not you enjoy them, it is clear that they are well and carefully considered.

Lucy said...

Exactly, dear S, this is someone who is giving it the all every time, and we are the beneficiaries of this creative generosity.

There is much to explore and a lot of beauty here.

lostpastremembered said...

I am in awe of the perfume writer's descriptions... I often wish I could use the hyper-descriptive words you use when talking about food without sounding bonkers. I especially like the effect of the sun... on laundry or skin... it is a miracle. So glad to see your blog... i think food and perfume have more in common than we think!

Lucy said...

Dear lost past, so nice to see you here. Actually your descriptions of the wild central heart of France and chestnut soup make me bonkers, now I want to BE there, but for now will make do with your descriptions and recipes and beautiful photos.