February 7, 2013

Romance and Freedom: Jul et Mad & Charenton Macerations

Fractal Yin Yang
Our time and this culture plays with gender divisions in perfume and much else. Personally I have never subscribed to the notion that a smell is gender specific, though there some that still have particular associations, such as sweet for women and astringent for men, though even the most “masculine” territories of scent have been invaded by women wearing whatever they like.

Men too now venture forth and reach into sonorous florals like rose, or the icy powder of iris, or the warm sweetness of gourmands like vanilla and chocolate. While many don't see themselves in the essences of the most traditionally womanly notes of lily of the valley or violet or gardenia, those perceptions are changing too.

Tilda Swinton in Orlando
There are no more fragrance boundaries for women, and the world of leather, smoke, tobacco, balsams and bright citrus no longer give them a moment’s pause.

Still, the same scent comes across differently, give a different signal, depending on if worn by a man or a woman, and while sometimes exaggerating gender differences can be most effective, inhabiting some icons of the traditional gender opposite is freeing and expansive.

Perfumers have come along to embody this contemporary feeling and cross over and collaborate to join the genders together in their expression of a fragrance story about both romance and freedom.

This is bringing men further along into the world of niche and artisan perfumes. One of the most exciting trends in niche and indie perfumes has been the heightened interest of men in them. I see more and more young men discovering these kinds of perfumes as an expansion of their sensory world, finding an array of exquisite pleasures in the enjoyment of a powerful sense that most American men have so far ignored.

Jul et Mad are a young and multi-talented couple who found each other by chance, fell in love and had three perfumes made to mark the phases of their romance, as a Histoire d’Amour, creating their own niche perfume house based in Paris. All of them highly wearable by both sides of the aisle.

I think the second of the series stands in perfect balance between yin and yang. Terasse a St-Germain, meant to evoke “a veritable ‘coup de foudre‘ between two souls on the terrace of a Parisian café.” has notes of grapefruit, tangerine, rhubarb, freesia, lotus flower, blue rose, musk, sandalwood, and Indonesian patchouli. It was developed for Jul et Mad by perfumer Dorothée Piot and is in parfum strength.

Terasse a St-Germain by Jul et Mad
The mid-tone citrus and floral notes are blended together so as to seamlessly slide into the smooth musk sandalwood and patchouli as the next level unfolds, never stepping down very low in the base, or climbing up very high at the top end of the olfactory scale either. The fragrance cloud it creates contains the vivacity of the floral and citrus notes that stay beside the sophisticated and restrained elegance of the base. This is a firm hand-hold that doesn’t let go while masculine and feminine speak to each other gazing into each other’s eyes. There is a youthful freshness energy and a European sophisticated elegance.

I like that they offer a travel flacon of the three perfumes. Being able to re-apply a perfume as desired is a grace that ornaments and personalizes time away from home.

Charenton Macerations is a new artisan perfume house in New York that also plays with the classic gender lines and divisions. The first perfume release Christopher Street makes a strong yet refined first impression with a sparkling lime note that holds its presence through the development of the companion top citrus notes of bergamot and bitter orange, toned by leather and tobacco accords floating over a base of incense, moss, musk, myrrh and patchouli. The mid-notes of cinnamon, clove bud, orange blossom and poet carnation all share an interior tang that has been harnessed to the vivacity and energy of the perfume. The perfume holds to the skin beautifully, and on my skin comes across as a lightly intoxicating cocktail made of sparkling precious fragrance materials.

As worn by a woman, I find the fragrance mingles well with the scent of the hair warming it as applied at the neck. As worn by a man, the brightness emanating at an intimate distance acts as a lively wake up call that invites you to breathe it in more deeply.

Christopher Street by Charenton Macerations
It came to me in a sparely elegant flacon, cloaked and hand tied up in its own square of raw chamois leather that has been perfumed with a sachet of patchouli and included a hand-written list of the notes, like a message in a bottle from another shore. That country is one where the inhabitants actively cultivate the energy to dance all night long. Christopher Street liberated itself and the energy it released re-energized gender dynamics in a way that turned out to enhance everyone’s primal identity.

It's clear that the energy of this perfume relates to freedom gained from the release of traditional and strict gender roles, as opened up in our own time by people actively seizing the opportunity they’ve created for themselves to be truly themselves. There’s a lot more about the history of Christopher Street on the perfumer’s fascinating site Charenton Macerations, where the perfume may be ordered directly.

I understand that there will be leather bracelets imbued with the fragrance available soon. I look forward to that as I am partial to the idea of perfumed personal accessories and hope to see their use expand.

Copyright 2013 Lucy Raubertas, All Rights Reserved.
Disclosures:  I received these perfume samples directly from the perfumers and discussed the perfumes directly with them.  My opinions are personal, and are not compensated by the perfumers.

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