I have admired Mathilde Laurent’s work for years, to be precise since she did Pamplelune in 1999, still in my opinion the best Aqua Allegoria of all. She then composed Shalimar Eau Légère and Attrape-Coeur, both perfect exemplars of the neoclassical Guerlain tradition. I had not smelled much of her recent work, but was alerted to L’Heure Perdue by Dali Nimer, a reader of this blog who described it as “one of the most evocative, comforting scents I have ever smelled. It is at once completely foreign and strangely familiar, like a memory that you can’t quite place, but are certain to have lived.”
This sort of talk gets my attention, and I contacted Mathilde Laurent to have a sample. My correspondent was right: L’Heure Perdue is heaven-sent and disquieting in equal parts, like Arsène Lupin (gentleman-burglar) appearing from a secret passage to save his beloved at the last second. Puzzling over its internal mechanism, I was reminded of a wonderful interview of Alain Ducasse I saw years ago, where he recalled eating as a simple customer in a celebrated restaurant in Alsace, at a time when he was already a famous chef. To his alarm he “did not understand what he was eating” and decided forthwith to begin again as an apprentice in the kitchen whence the food came. I suspect some perfumers will feel the same when smelling L’Heure Perdue.
Given this, all I can do is triangulate the new territory L’Heure Perdue inhabits, from known landmarks. The top notes slide from the smooth serenity of Jicky to a hint of the throaty rasp of Habit Rouge. When the delicious initial blast clears, there follows an eventful chapter, a winding road with vistas on fruity (grapefruit), iris, and herbal (tarragon, basil) notes that swirl past almost too fast to name them. Then comes a beautiful surprise: the powdery note of heliotropin suddenly sounds its muted trumpet, and the fragrance settles deliciously into an oriental drydown, but with a difference: not just vanilla and labdanum, but the most delightful, mysteriously fresh praliné note. Gianduja on a bed of mimosa fluff. Wow.
Categories: starred reviews