Do you remember when Hermès released Un Jardin Sur Le Nil in 2005? It was a completely new direction for the historic house, and brought it to the forefront of storytelling through the brilliant perfumery of Jean-Claude Ellena. In his book “The Perfect Scent: A Year Inside the Perfume Industry in Paris and New York” Chandler Burr discusses the once-in-a-lifetime journey that Ellena took to Egypt to find inspiration, which ultimately came from a mango tree on the Nile River. This is a story anybody interested in the inspiration it takes to propel a successful fragrance should read.
Julien and Madalina from Jul et Mad Paris really tried to give us something new to that same degree at the seventh edition of Esxence this year, with the release of the Les White collection and its interesting origins (fun fact: Les White is a nod to their surname, Blanchard).
Before we take a look at the new scents, however, let’s recap the inspired marketing strategy of the company until now. The American-French duo released an acclaimed three-piece storybook of scent in 2012 chronicling their journey into love together: Terrasse à St-Germain, Stilettos on Lex, and Amour de Palazzo. These were relatively easy to understand, a collection meant to entice and intrigue as though seeing your future spouse for the first time. In 2014 they added Aqua Sextius, a distinctly masculine interpretation of the classic cologne with a fresh approach. It was designed to replicate one of their meetings in Aix-en-Provence, southern France (it is also my favourite from the collection). There was an air of love to the story that made it a standout – everyone can relate to feeling infatuated with another person.
This year that approach was altered, and their offered formats with it, which you can read about in my write-up here.
Les White is not a direct expansion of the Histoire d’Amour line but a new branch for the label (frankly I could have sat through another ten of the originals in a heartbeat). The three new fragrances, Nin-Shar, Garuda and Néa, respectively, draw inspiration from ancient civilizations and their cultures. That said, there are some interesting leaping points for the creative approach noses Sidonie Lancesseur and Luca Maffei took in the creation of Les White. Sidonie is well-known for her work at By Kilian1, and Luca is from the Italian company Atelier Fragranze Milano2. You can watch the Italian stud professional doing his thing below (warning: not a word of English!).
The first difference between Les White and the newly-appointed Les Classiques is the appearance, which on a positive note has taken a turn for the better and more luxurious. The original quartet came in silver-accented bottles and juices in pastel hues of pink, lime, gold and mint, but the new editions are a striking salmon (the colour of my shorts today, actually; think preppy-college-boy pink), deep amber, and a light wine shade; so pretty! The Trial Dozes distributed to press are just precious, and seemingly about the same size as the Love Dozes available for sale to the public (5ml, 26,00 €3). You’ll notice when ordering that the trio also comes in golden packaging as opposed to the regular silver, and the attention to detail is just outstanding; the sides of the bottles are immersed in gold and then treated with lasers to create a mirrored “shadow” through the glass4. So yes, appearance-wise the metamorphosis went well.
And truthfully I was pleased to find that the precious rose note so crucial to the beauty of Terrasse à St-Germain made a comeback in Nin-Shar. In fact, it happened to have been a selling point in landing Sidonie the brief. After days of testing it my notes were filled with words like ‘effervescent,’ ‘rich,’ and ‘pungent’; other people’s reactions ranged from “I can’t stand that!” to “It’s lovely!” It was a real challenge to figure out, but I knew I liked it.
Inspired by the Sumerian religion of Mesopotamian society, Nin-Shar is named after their goddess of plants and takes after the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. Fittingly this is a sweet fruity and floral scent, dominated by a Turkish rose note (think Turkish delight or rose jam), and a balsamic cranberry or blackberry scent that reminds me of a sour fruit wine. The scent begins with an animalic, smelly woodsy note and the mentioned berry accord, quite similar to Olympic Orchids Artisan Perfumes’ Blackbird. As it wears it becomes sweeter with a slight warm hay effect, and a hint of incense. The performance here is interesting, as it reaches its crescendo early on.
Turns out the plan was to stop at just the one 2015 release, but an acquired collection of quality raw ingredients inspired Luca’s Garuda and Néa. And this particular fragrance, in my opinion, is where the new story’s focus becomes unclear. According to the company website Garuda is derived from Cambodia’s Angkor culture5, but other sources claim it comes from Hinduism and Buddhism, known there as a large bird-like creature that reportedly later became what we know as the phoenix6. When you smell Garuda you’re supposed to be reminded of a statue bathed in gold light, yet this inspiration was lost on me as it smells like straight up oud in the top and heart and vanilla in the dry down. The latter is really quite pleasing, but I’m really not a fan of oud and found it unbearable upon initial application; like sticking my face in a freshly-emptied dumpster. Any correlation to Angkor’s dazzling civilization was beyond my understanding, but oud fans will appreciate this.
Luca thankfully made good on the final scent. Unlike the other two, Néa was not named for a mythical figure but a building constructed by the Macedonian Byzantine Emperor Basil I7. This time period was known for economic, cultural, and religious prosperity.
This is my personal favourite from the bunch, mainly because it is heavy on a delicate caramel note. It’s unisex but leans towards masculine, a perfume that whispers instead of shouts. Notes of smoky vanilla, dried sweet dates, natural honey and ripe plums that are delectable like a table laden with delicacies make this a great gourmand I didn’t know Jul et Mad were even in the business of. It reminds me more of the Emporer’s dessert buffet than his greatest monument.
Verdict: There was something refreshing about seeing a foody fragrance from Jul et Mad Paris, and I was enormously happy to see rose back on the table. While it is undeniable that the Jul et Mad Paris line is a beacon of luxury in the niche perfumes category, I wish that they stuck to the original concept; it was much clearer to me. Still, every aspect of their business, from packaging to the stories behind each scent, is elegant and carefully crafted. The scents in this collection were as unique as the previous ones, but took them in a new direction of richer perfumery, less commercial. In the future I would like to see them land a presence in more of North America (including here in the Great White North!) and the rest of the world to share their passionate crafts, and maybe also a body care line. In an interview they gave for Fragrantica, Julien told Serguey Borisov “We decided to devote the first three perfumes of The White Collection to the passion I share with Madalina – the passion for the ancient civilizations of the past.” I don’t know about you, but to me it sounds like there will be future instalments in this series. Could we see a scent inspired by Ancient North American, Asian, or Hebrew societies? Or will the next release be a new concept entirely? And will Luca, Sidonie, and any future J&M perfumers be able to stick to the plan to communicate their message? Only time will tell.
1Fragrantica: Nose Sidonie Lancesseur
2Fragrantica: Nose Luca Maffei
3Jul et Mad Paris: Néa. Prices true at time of writing.
4Jul et Mad Paris: Les White
5Jul et Mad Paris: Garuda
7Jul et Mad Paris: Néa
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