Happy new year to you, Dear Reader. I hope that you had a wonderful Christmas involving lots of fragrant gifts and that your new year was a ball. 2016 will be The Candy Perfume Boy’s fifth year and it feels like the blog has come a long way since our very first post (a review of the ill-fated but remarkably beautiful Shalimar Parfum Initial, no less) back in July of 2011. Last year was a stressful year for me personally, due to work, the loss of a friend and an exciting, yet complicated house move, and it would be fair to say that my posts have not been as regular as they should have. I hope to change this for 2016 with more regular reviews and instalments in series such as The Scent a Celebrity Series and The Candy Perfume Boy’s Guide to. Here goes!
One thing I’d like to do is look back a bit more. The perfume industry is so active, with thousands of launches each and every year, and it’s very easy to get caught up in all that’s new and exciting. So when there is time and the mood strikes, I’d like to focus on fragrances that aren’t brand new, but are wonderful none the less. Kicking us off on that theme are two recent discoveries for me from the legendary niche house L’Artisan Parfumeur. These two scents, Tea for Two and Bois Farine, show how meticulous and measured the brand was during its more focused days. L’Artisan seem to have been seeking an identity for themselves over the last few years and have created some exquisite scents along the way (Séville à l’aube, Traversée du Bosphore, Déliria, Al Oudh, Nuit de Tuberéuse etc.), but the greatness of the some of the oldies in the collection cannot be ignored. Tea for Two and Bois Farine are two standouts.
Lapsang Souchong Tea, Cinnamon, Ginger and Honey
How Does it Smell?
I’ve resisted the chai charms of Tea for Two for quite some time. It was a fragrance that I tried early on in my fragrance journey from a small sample sent to me as part of a Basenotes swap. At the time I found it to be thick and heavy, with an awful syrupy texture that just didn’t sit right with my then uneducated nose. Recently I found a bottle in TK Maxx significantly discounted to a price that would have been rude to refuse, so being the ever so polite young man I am, I thought “what the heck”, let’s give this thing another shot, and I’m very glad that I did.
Tea for Two is largely as I remember it – lots of smoky sweet lapsang souchong tea, that unusually tasty blend of sweet and savoury that is quite unlike anything else out there, atop a big heap of honey and cinnamon spice. What I notice now, that I didn’t way back in the day, is a remarkable lightness and transparency to the whole thing that allows each of the individual components to breath. This way you get a rich, syrupy and smoky fragrance that doesn’t feel heavy, instead it wears closely to skin, radiating a low glow of smoky gourmand warmth.
Another thing I notice more now is a great big leather note that is smoky and funky. I get flashes of Dzing!, L’Artisan’s circus-inspired leather made from a whole barnyard’s worth of funk, that provide that deep and dark contrast required to pin down all of those gourmand elements. This funkiness is never heavy, but it does supply a generous bite and bitterness to the smoke that gives more than a hint of something carnal, perhaps suggesting that the tea is a precursor for a canoodle for the two later on.
Tea for Two has been in and out of production over the last few years, despite being a cult classic. It’s a staple of the L’Artisan Parfumeur brand that helped cement the gourmand oriental as a key theme explored by just about every niche brand on the market at one time or another. You can find similar tea scents and even similar smoky, leathery, honey-like things, but really, why would you bother when you could go for the original and the best? Tea for Two is exactly what it sounds like – an invite to pure pleasure. Now, drink up, we’ve got to move on to the pastries..
Fennel Seed, Iris, White Cedar, Guaiac Wood, Sandalwood and Benzoin
How Does it Smell?
Bois Farine (yet another TK Maxx bargain find – go me) is weird, even by my standards, which is saying something. At first it seems utterly unwearable, all grey and grainy, cold and austere, but with time one notices a masterfully complex range of facets that come together to create one of the all-time greatest olfactory experiences: L’Artisan Parfumeur’s tremendous ode to the Ruizia Cordata tree named ‘Wood Flour’. Don’t mistake this for an ugly duckling people, because under that mottled down is a magnificent beast of great, yet understated beauty.
Penned by the legendary Jean-Claude Ellena, Bois Farine opens with a calm cloud of flour. Instantly recognisable, the flour top notes are powdery, grainy and doughy. They have an earthy, iris-like greyness to them that feels like it is dying for a touch of yeast and some hefty kneading. There’s a distinct nutty quality that adds thickness (only a touch, mind, this is a watercolour by JCE, remember) in an oily, peanut butter sort of a way, hinting at something a little bit richer. Tahini perhaps?
Bois Farine doesn’t develop much, it just settles and softens with time. One key shift however, is how it transitions from nutty bread flour to sweet almond baklava. In the heart and base things become more roasted, chewy and glazed with sugar syrup. It’s almost as if the top notes present the unbaked version of the delicious treat served warm and sticky in the base. Masterful, edible and unusual, Bois Farine is one of L’Artisan Parfumeur’s greatest offerings and easily one of Jean-Claude Ellena’s most fascinating pieces of work.
Tea for Two is available in 50ml (£62) and 100ml (£87) Eau de Toilette, and Bois Farine is available in 100ml (£87) Eau de Toilette.
Samples, image two and three are my own.