Sunday, 10 January 2010
Transcendental Experiences of 2009 - Meeting Bertrand Duchaufour
I still intend to compile a round up of my favourite fragrances from 2009, even though it is 10 days into January and a number of other blogs I follow have already covered this topic in spades. But at the end of the day these kind of polls are by definition a personal selection, so no two "Best Of" lists will be quite the same. And most of all I would like to do one as an aide-memoire to myself, my memoire being pretty shot at the moment.
But I am parking that idea for now, as I will need to hunt down a definitve list of all scents released in 2009 first before selecting my favourites, and thought I would turn my attention to another highlight of that year, namely my encounter with Bertrand Duchaufour. (With apologies to those of you to whom I related the story at the time!)
Back in the summer at one of the Basenotes mass sniffing events in London, we had been treated to a preview of the new Penhaligon's scent, Amaranthine. A number of us (including 100% of the women in the party, notwithstanding the fact that it was 11am in the morning and we had barely sipped our first glass of champagne of the day!) were dumbstruck at the perfume's originality and sultry beauty. Even the Penhaligon SA famously described it - without blushing - as "f***able". Then in September, one of the organisers of that event tipped me the wink about pre-launch parties for Amaranthine on consecutive nights in October at two of Penhaligon's London stores. Bertrand Duchaufour, the perfumer, would be in attendance to answer questions and autograph bottles. In a heartbeat I had booked my train ticket and arranged to stay at a friend's.
It was a wild, wet, autumn night, which meant that I arrived looking distinctly dishevelled and windswept, but on a selfish note, the weather also kept the guest numbers down, so it felt even more of an exclusive event. Ironically, my name wasn't even on the guest list (an administrative error, as I did book my place!) so I technically gatecrashed the party. : - ) When I arrived there was no one else there, and in the one and a half hours I stayed I split my time between talking in French to BD in bursts, then withdrawing if another guest walked in, and either talking to the sales assistants or a lady lawyer who worked next door, who had just popped in to see what the craic was. For obscure medical reasons she had no sense of smell whatsover (lending a darkly humorous touch to proceedings!), but wore Angel anyway for the hell of it.
I was so starstruck to be in the presence of one of the Premier Division of Noses that I cannot recall exactly what BD and I talked about, though I mentioned his recent Fragrantica interview with Michelyn Camen, where he went on record as saying that Dior Homme was the scent he wished he had created. We talked about my dislike of civet, which I wrongly referred to as "la civette" instead of "le civet". The French eat ragouts of "civette", which is a fawn. So I was basically talking about extracting a skanky musk from up Bambi's bottom! Then BD spoke in English when the lady lawyer joined us, and we evened the score in terms of linguistic near misses when he spoke of a gourmand perfume (probably Angel!) having "tasty notes".
BD also gave me a detailed run down of the notes in Amaranthine, of which there were predictably quite a few more than published - I remember tuberose and gardenia, and a whole clatter of spices that I have forgotten now. He explained his concept as being a creamy, white floral hung on a "green skeleton" and then dirtied up a bit.
It goes without saying that I bought the perfume, which BD dedicated to me in a silver pen - sigh! As importantly, he SMELT me several times on both arms - one wearing the parfum and one the EDP - and said that the scent smelt on me exactly as he had envisaged. It was gratifying to hear that I had textbook skin! : - )
I left on a cloud from which I have probably not yet quite come down. Amaranthine was my favourite launch of the year back in August when I first smelt it, and having met - and crucially been sniffed by - its creator, that top spot has been resoundingly confirmed...