Nu_Be sent me their “elements” sample collection, eight fragrances going from Hydrogen to Curium. In order to do them justice as compositions, I’m going to have to ignore the complete disconnect between the element and the fragrance. This, incidentally, was not inevitable: carbon, oxygen and sulfur at the very least could have been far closer to the idea that a fragrance chemist might form of their influence on odor character. Oddly, the two elements that are named after their smell, bromine and osmium, are not on the list. Conversely, the famously odorless hydrogen and helium are.
Ah, but we are talking poetic, alchemical interpretations, and here I am being nerdy and pedantic. Actually no, and here’s why. Françoise Caron, the perfumer behind Carbon, one of three interesting fragrances in the lot, is a genius at interpreting briefs. I remember once smelling one of her works in progress in her office and opining that it felt like a two-tone silk that changes color with the angle of the light. Without saying a word, she pulled out the brief from her top drawer and handed it to me. It said “we want a fragrance like a two-tone silk”. If you can do that, you can do anything. Had a cluster of ideas behind Carbon been adequately conveyed to her, she would damned well have done a carbon. But it wasn’t and she didn’t, because the art-direction was conceptual, you see, i.e. claptrap.
This said, I feel duty-bound to say that three fragrances stand out: Lithium by Nicolas Bonneville, an excellent spicy rose that manages to be light and fresh despite a big slug of saffron, a note which, if anything, is the Pb of perfumery; Helium, composed by Sylvie Fischer around cinnamic gingerbread and leather notes and very nice; and the aforementioned Carbon, a complex and superbly skilful woody spicy from one of the best perfumers around. Let us hope people will see through the words to the smell.
Update: also, enough_with_the_underscores_already.
Categories: niche houses