When I stopped at the Baruti stand at Esxence, Spyros Drosopoulos was standing tall behind a narrow bench on which seven small upturned tumblers were lined up, as if he were demonstrating a newly-devised, exponentially tricky shell game. We fell into an intense conversation as I smelled his fragrances one after another. Even in the sensory mayhem of Esxence, it was clear to me that 1- These compositions were something special and 2- So was the perfumer. SD turned out to have a PhD in neuroscience and a vast knowledge of fragrance chemistry. Once back in Athens, I looked up his work. He has several publications in rock-solid science journals bearing on learning and memory, a field I am familiar with because half my colleagues work in it. It was odd to be discussing such feather-brained things as the workings of neurotransmitter receptors against the austerely intellectual background of a niche fragrance show.
The composition that made him notorious among the niche aficiòn is a bravura piece called Nooud, which is a very convincing oud reconstruction containing —he swears— no oud at all, hence the name. In my experience professionals revel in this kind of thing, and I have over the years encountered fig leaf accords perversely done without stemone, Eau Sauvage clones containing no hedione, fake mandarin etc. All of perfumery is, after all, smoke-and-mirrors without the mirrors, and that is how perfumers hone their magic tricks. SD went on to use the earthy-woody base of Nooud in several other fragrances. The first thing you notice when spraying his line onto strips is how each fragrance jumps out at you with a distinct form even before you bring the paper to your nostrils. TS correctly points out that the overall feel of his fragrances is reminiscent of the legendary early Diptyques composed between ’73 and ’83 by Serge Kalouguine, which is praise indeed. They have the same herbaceous-spicy cast, the same absence of strongly animalic materials or heavy “oriental” clichés.
A good if often inadvertent way to assess fragrance involves leaving the room and noticing, when you come back in, how nice the air smells. Baruti passes this test with flying colors. When all the smelling strips are out, the one that sings the Big Tune is my favorite, Berlin im Winter, a wonderful accord of lavender, cassis, mastiha (lentisque) and rose. I also very much like Tindrer, which strikes me as a lovely masculine version of de Nicolaï’s Odalisque. Lastly, Chai is a delightful muted play on balsamic and milky notes that really does smell like masala tea.
Categories: niche houses