Winter has been very kind to Geneva and me, practically no snow inside the city throughout the cold months, which made avid skiers a bit restless because it meant they would have to plan their skiing trips well to hit that perfect fresh snow. For me it was god-sent. Those scary first months passed a lot easier. And now we are experiencing a glorious spring with high temperatures around noon which makes people walk around in shorts and T-shirts, giving everything a restless pace. Nature makes the transition from barren to promising with small but sure steps each day. With budding leaves and exploding blooms all around me I kept thinking of my recent acquisition of Nasomatto Nuda. The extrait de parfum version seems to be no longer available over the last several months and I do not know if this is an indefinite discontinuation, but the webstore exclusive 4ml oil is still available and at a very good price. Add to this the fact that the oils are sold in tiny, perfect miniatures of the beautiful Nasomatto bottles and you will have to agree with me that this format is a perfect alternative for the extrait. You have to love oil perfumes of course and I do. I like the fact that the oil format keeps projection under control while longevity reaches new records. And there is a different texture overall that I enjoy when compared to alcohol based formats. There is some kind of clarity in oils.
Most reviews of Nuda speak of jasmine, jasmine and more jasmine. An indolic flowerbomb. My perception of it is completely different. The opening is one of the greenest and most acrid openings I have ever smelt. The impression it made on me was so strong that I knew immediately what it reminded me of: wood sorrel! Not the smell but actually the taste. Wood sorrel grows wild in the hills around Athens and my father has taught me that if you bite on the juicy stem you get an instant cooling mouthful of greenness. It was interesting for me to discover that the Kiowa Indian tribe also used wood sorrel to quench thirst, exactly the same way my father taught me to do. The sour juice together with the crackling sound of the stem bursting between my teeth was exactly what Nuda smells like for the first ten or fifteen minutes, to the point that jasmine is practically invisible. After that critical fifteen minute turning point jasmine explodes without any announcement. It is full throttle jasmine but not of the big, bold, classic type. It is rather fresh, pink and delicate. Not that Nuda becomes weak but the tonalities of the jasmine are very quiet. At this point I get all previous mentions of a power jasmine but still I am not convinced. For another fifteen minutes or so I am considering whether I will enter the ranks of those proclaiming Nuda as a mega-jasmine but then another twist casts the die the opposite way. While the green succulence has been abandoned completely, a huge woody musk backdrop appears. It practically feels like walking out of a jasmine garden only to realise that a huge white elephant was standing next to the distal boundaries of the garden all the time. Jasmine is still there but against the woody-musky basenotes it begs for a very different interpretation. The floral bouquet becomes part of this otherworldly composition that brings to mind the futuristic Comme des Garçons Odeur 53. Do you remember this one from 1998? The synthetic dogma child with featured notes of toner cartridge, dust on light bulb, pebbles, sand and light. Yes, it does smell all these and it has a reputation for being a shape-shifter depending on who wears it, but on my skin it smelled like a benign woody-musk, more girly-pink than future-metal. Nuda couples the floral qualities of jasmine with the muted humming of this futuristic base to create a fragrance that smells familiar and otherworldly at the same time. It brings to mind the futuristic beauty of the late Persis Khambatta, the most memorable presence from the the 1979 Star Trek film (at least for non-Trekkies). In fact her presence was so strong that it marked her Hollywood career leaving her with a specialisation in sci-fi b-movies, even with a full head of black hair.
Untitled #1 from Magnetic Scent offers another neo-floral experience but of a very different magnitude. This is a grand jasmine, unapologetic, colourful and majestic. It certainly pays tribute to jasmine sambac but at the same time manages to smell decisively new. It opens with the thick, embalming note of jasmine coupled with an unpinnable tart red fruit note which makes me think of cranberries. It is not the fruitiness that you should take home as an impression of this review but rather the tartness of cranberries. This tartness stays for the longer part of its development and keeps the otherwise heavy jasmine sambac floating like a bubble. The impression of floating does not come from lightness but rather from a force that keeps the heady flower from ever touching the ground. Untitled #1 takes a lot longer to develop than Nuda, its turns and swirls are less schizophrenic and they reveal themselves in a more prismatic way. The juicy jasmine of the opening slowly develops a dark, milky side without losing focus of the notes that made an original impression. The sweetness is cut down and a creamy bitterness adds a new dimension. Somewhere in the midst of this tableau vivant of vibrant impressions a delicate cocoa emerges adding texture and darkness to a perfume that opened as a straight forward jasmine. My impression is not truly of a succession of notes or accords but rather of a succession of textures on the petals of jasmine. At first moist and sticky when the petals bloom and then progressively mature, velvety, dry and creamy. What makes this composition futuristic to my nose is an intangible element of translucence, the same quality that made Untitled #2 the surprising airy gourmand that it is. The future comes in the form of texture rather than the use of futuristic notes. Deeper in the drydown Untitled #1 combines all facets previously revealed to create a translucent diamond of a jasmine, bright, colourful and icy. At this point I can even see similarities with the Icelandic ambiance of Tindrer. Spyros Drosopoulos explains that Untitled #1 was born out of his appreciation of a specific jasmine absolute and the need to recreate and bottle his experience, no conceptual strings attached. I can never imagine jasmine to smell so multifaceted so I can only assume that he has managed to analyse and recreate for us what jasmine sambac smells to him, creating a gateway to a perfumer’s mind.
I have been meaning to write about how Spyros Drosopoulos managed to combined his appreciation for a classic ingredient with his individual flair and interpretation and it could not have come at a better time as he also created an olfactory interpretation of Johanes Vermeer’s painting The Milkmaid as his entry for Rijksmusem Rijkstudio Award and was nominated as one of the 10 finalists out of 820 entries. As he describes his Milkmaid scent:
It’s a composition that takes the light and color palette of the original masterpiece into account as well as the composition it self. Contains notes of full milk freshened up with some cut grass notes and citrus leaves, very creamy musk and woods, a bread accord in the background and to give the perfume a “dutch” feel and to bind everything together there is a salty liquorice note (salmiak).
I have not smelt it but I have been told that it smells resoundingly Dutch and it will be presented from April 17th at the Rijksmuseum along with the other finalists’ works.
Notes from Nasomatto: undisclosed
Notes from my nose: wood sorrel, jasmine, techno-musk
Notes from Magnetic Scent: jasmine sambac
Notes from my nose: jasmine, cranberries, cocoa, milk
a sample of Untitled #1 was offered by the perfumer
MemoryOfScent by Christos is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.