Histoires de Parfums is a unique collection of niche perfumes, each designed to be a volume in an olfactive library. Inside it, there are sixteen books... sixteen tales told of famous characters such as Casanova, Jules Vernes and Mata Hari; as interpreted in perfume by creator Gerald Ghislain. Recently, I borrowed generously from this fragrant biblioteque, and was immersed for days in Ghislain's perfumed narrative.
Reading like an encyclopaedia of dates and individuals, Histoires de Parfums explores the chronology of real and fictitious characters whom have served as the inspiration for each scent. Here is a short extract:
1876 reveals a spicy feminine rose perfume with exotic tendrils of jasmine and carnation to represent the dancing courtesan Mata Hari. It is both glamourous and carnal with its opulent rose, iris and cumin.
1840 is an invitation to pleasure thanks to the audacious writings of the Marquis de Sade... his at-times philosophical, at-times pornographic novels epitomized the libertine sexuality of that age. This perfume is a spiced woody scent with dark patchouli and curious rum-like accords which suggest debauchery and criminality.
These volumes make for fascinating reading and translate incredibly well on the skin.
More narratives reveal Ghislain's desire to translate into words the language of flowers... Vert Pivoine, Blanc Violette and Noir Patchouli each serve as fragrant metaphors where soliflores are examined and reconstructed with a measure of calculated artistic license. Also new to the library: the Tuberose Trilogy... three fascinating forays into this polarizing blossom where it stars as the heroine in a trio perfumed poems. Three tuberose facets are explored: Tubéreuse 1 the Capricious, Tubéreuse 2 the Virginal, and my personal favourite, Tubéreuse 3 the Animal.
If you think you know tuberose, then think again!
Any library would not be complete without the classics... those volumes that one returns to time and time again. Ambre 114 represents a complex 114-element composition that was created to embody the exoticism of the ancient raw material. Similarly, 1969 is a legendary year in history where carnal sensuality and eroticism is translated into perfume in the form of a spicy, voluptuous gourmand. 1889 Moulin Rouge also exemplifies its age and stands as an ode to the most known cabaret in the world. Here, powdery iris furnishes the scent with a 'face powder and lipstick" feel, whilst semi-sweet absynthe and rich damas rose accords Cancan over an enduring base of musk and patchouli. The scent is as enduring as the spectacular venue itself.
With so many volumes to explore, one cannot find fault with Histoires de Parfums' marriage between literature and olfaction. I find many of the perfumes completely engrossing, and masterfully crafted.
I am left here to wonder what might transpire in the years to come. One day could we possibly look back upon this age as we sample from a peculiar flacon of Google 2010?
Maybe Histoires de Parfums knows.