Dominique Dubrana sent me two bespoke perfumes he did for clients and found especially satisfying. He is a French-born self-taught perfumer working in Italy, and spends a lot of his time in the South Sahara building water pumps for local villagers. I have been fond of his work for years, not least because he embodies the fact that the most important thing for an artist to have is talent. You can learn most everything except talent, and he is a natural-born perfumer. We have never met, but he sends me emails and the occasional parcel, most recently his aphrodisiac mix Libidyn. It arrived accompanied by an exhortation to produce a larger family. It smells great, and I plan to report on its efficacy in due course.
Bespoke perfume, as practiced by a few famous perfumers working for large firms, is tiresome nonsense. It is predicated on three unlikely notions all being true: 1- That there is one perfume that best fits your soul 2- That the perfumer will divine which it is in the course of a one-hour interview conducted in a limo coursing through Paris and 3- That she will set aside the much more urgent work her boss is nagging her about, i.e. that shampoo version of the big seller, and focus entirely on satisfying your little narcissistic fit. That will be $200,000, thank you. I wonder how much Paul Auster would charge to write a book just for one person.
Dubrana’s approach is much cleverer and less onerous, but requires a little more knowledge from the buyer. He asks you to chose and rank 7 materials you like best from a list of approximately eighty. He then composes a fragrance for you, mostly from those seven materials. He charges €240, and the process takes two weeks. He did a violet-iris one for me several years ago which I liked very much. The two he sent me are Cuoio dei Dolci (Sweet Leather) and Nicolaya. CdD was composed for a dentist who specified castoreum, tonka and tobacco in that order, followed by cocoa, vanilla, ylang, and mandarin. Dubrana rose to the challenge and produced a delicious confection, a sort of gingerbread ottoman that hits all the buttons as required, yet works nicely as a whole. The whole idea is fun and, given his skill, will smell good no matter how cockeyed your list is. I can think of far stupider ways to spend €240.
pic credit: Domingo Milella NYT
Categories: niche houses