September 8, 2014

Parfums Lalun Phenomene Verte II

This season of transition, in-between the heat of summer and the winter cold, is for me the best time of year for perfume, and also the best atmosphere to bring out the subtleties and facets of natural perfumes. The finest natural perfumes, that like anything made of natural materials, reveal themselves to the full only by paying close attention.   That pleasant concentration leads to a centered, meditative, intense experience of olfactory pleasure.

The perfumer of Lalun Parfums has a way of working I find to be an engaging combination of the modern and traditional.  I have had the opportunity to observe the perfumer Maggie Mahboubian gather fragrant botanical materials in the wild, demonstrating careful awareness of what each plant is and what it does. 

Based in southern California but frequently in upstate New York in both hot and cold seasons, she has a wide array of fascinating materials to work with, gathered from the edges and borders between open fields and woods left to their own self-cultivation.  These plants seem like intimate familiars yet still mysterious elements in the landscape, if you don't know your botany. This perfumer has come to know them well and sees these edges of habitation as a rich source for wild-crafted fragrance materials.  She tinctures them for use in balanced perfume compositions, laid over a strong base of more traditional perfume elements.

These tinctured botanicals from plants that are not so famously fragrant, like gardenias or roses, are strong, almost feral forces of nature, growing with abandon without being planted, and this powerful life force is expressed in scent and often beneficial qualities. 

The edges of our countryside have been reclaimed by native American plants and escapees from old farm gardens, brought from Europe and South America.   

Phenomene Verte II contains the wide open sunlit skies of both the Mediterranean/California climate and the deep shadowed forest air of the Hudson River School of Nature. They are balanced with an ingrained sense of design, as the perfumer's knowledge of architecture shows through in everything she does.

Phenomene Verte II represents the second edition of an ultra-limited run, which is ongoing, using a variety of wildcrafted tinctures taken by season on the theme of Green. Verte II's note list shows tinctures of Wild Milkweed Flower, Persian Mahmadi Rose, Wild Yarrow Flower, Jasmine Plyanthum, Wild Pink Pepper Berry, Vanilla Bean, Patchouli Leaf, Tonka Bean, Africa Stone and homegrown Orris Root, on a base of Monsoon Rose Attar, Jasmine Sambac/Vetiver Attar, antique Sandalwood, Jasmine grandiflorum CO2, and vintage Rose Otto Turkey.

The initial impression is quiet and unassuming, but in a few moments the fragrance gathers strength increased by the skin's own warmth. For me, this is the true scent of living fern in all its phases --  just barely out of the earth and unfurled, in full bright and green growth, and the dry crumbling earthy end. 

Unlike a traditional Fougere, or a more completely vetiver themed perfume, so much identified with the masculine in scent, this is far wilder and full of the energy of the tinctures, balanced into a decoratively beautiful feral little beast. There is a honeyed morning mist lifting up behind the landscape of astringent deep green and dry twigs.

Still, there is no overt sweetness, and it retains an untamed feel, holding to the skin at length. I am not technically expert on how to natural perfumes are made, but I suspect that the base, especially the Vetiver Attar, Orris Root and antique Sandalwood are the elements that keep it clinging to the skin and building strength, carrying the tinctured wild plants exhalations up along the length and breadth of the fragrance, and holding it together.

If this were worn in warmer seasons it would be as if your body  just emerged from swimming in a cedar water lake, while if worn with long sleeves or a light wool sweater it would be your animal signature scent; plant based but so closely joined to the skin as to give you the thoughtful air of a human animal that spends a lot of time outside.

My general impression is of crisped tobacco, the smoothness of a rose without sweetness, woods, twigs and stems, wet black tea leaves, liqueur, clean air and the energy of cyclical and abundant wild-life, complex and soothing.

As I know the perfumer Maggie Mahboubian has practiced as an architect and has an analytical bent of mind,  I see her personality showing through this fragrance, as she has built a balanced structure out of both wild and the traditional elements of modern smell culture. The weeds and the cultivated plants are happily married.

Please follow these links to the elements of Wild Milkweed and Wild Yarrow Flower, and Wild Pink Pepper Berry: you may recognize them as old acquaintances that turn out to have a lot more depth than you ever imagined.

Further information, samples and full bottles are available on the Lalun website and on Etsy.  You may find that a new edition is underway, perhaps a little different than what I have described above.  I know the taste of the perfumer enough to say it will be in the family of Verte as another chapter in the ongoing perfume of life.  I like the tone poem she has set beside the first version of this green perfume:

"Labyrinthine is the pilgrim’s sacred path
verdant is his mantle
from moon to moon he wanders 
gathering starlight
in perfect repose.

Seven plants sublimated 
for three moons, 
fixed with green amber 
and cloaked in felt."

Disclosure:  the perfumer and I know each other, however this review has not been commissioned or compensated in any way.
My sample was provided by the perfumer.  

I appreciate the clever way the cut card of the samples snugly holds them in the most simple and elegant solution possible.

Copyright 2014, Lucy Raubertas, All Rights Reserved.
(photos taken from the perfumer's site).

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