Of jeweller / perfumer Olivier Durbano, what can be said by this author, that hasn't already been said? At the peril of sounding like the pom-pom shaking cheersquad for Team Olivier, there is very little the French architect-turned-jeweller can do wrong in my eyes. Not only does he create eye-popping strings of semi-precious stones that adorn the swan-like necks of the Parisian glitterati, but since his first foray into fine fragrance in 2005, to date he has conjured no less than nine exceptional perfumes inspired by the very minerals that enchant his eye. Now, in 2014, Olivier is set to release his 10th scent which will be cast onto the world stage at Pitti Fragranze in Florence this month.
Prométhée feels very much aligned with its 2013 predecessor Lapis Philosiphorum. Lapis Philosophorum marked something of a departure from the eight fragrances that came before it as it was the first in the series that represented a fictitious stone... a stone of legend. Today, Durbano continues along that same trajectory, leafing through the foxed pages of lore and mythicism to find his inspiration. Prométhée (or Prometheus) is the name of a Titan that fought alongside Zeus and the other Gods in the Olympic pantheon. In one of the ancient Hellenic sagas, Zeus had hidden fire from mankind, but Prometheus stole it back in the form of a giant burning fennel stalk, and returned it to humanity. As punishment for his traitorous actions, Zeus condemned Prometheus to the Kazbek Mountains where he was shackled to a rock to suffer for all eternity as an eagle fed on his liver. As an immortal, his wounds would regenerate each night and Prometheus would wake, only to face the same agonising fate the next day. The legend of Prometheus and this rock has inspirited Monsieur Durbano and culminated in an eau de parfum whose sepia-coloured juice commemorates antiquity.
Prométhée is a woody scent that has a curious anisic slant. The opening reveals part of the fable... a rich, virescent accord of fennel dominates, and is thick like a woollen mantle. In the perfume's flight, this note darts between the fresh green of parsley and the sweet, licorice-like quality of anise. A deep camphorous sigh of myrtle meets the nose over a scattering of pepper and spice. A broad vein of oliban lends a dryness that - as with all of Durbano's creations - evokes a sense of mineralic earthiness... here is the dusty, parched aspect that is suggestive of stone, and has become Olivier's very own Guerlinade.
The nucleus of this perfume is dense with aromats... dry grey-green sage, silver-leafed lavender and the curry/anise attributes of fenugreek all whisper of perennial shrubs and mountain greens. Resinous accords of storax, labdanum and myrrh in the base lend a rich balsamic complexity, and vetiver and cedar a woodiness that remains on skin for many hours. As with al of Durbano's creations, this one too is genderless... it is proof positive that Olivier is at the top of his game.
When asked about the natural progression of his perfumed Stone Poems, Olivier Durbano comments:
"Lapis Philosophorum, number nine, was a step away from the first, but I always feel a link with the stones. It was a mythic stone, and for me with Prométhée, there is a fine link between mythology, stones and faith, with the light, the fight and the fire. Each creation has a direct link with one year of my life, so it is always an evolution in life to discover myself and most importantly, to share experiences. For me it has been 10 years now, and in the future I will continue to trace my life with Stone Steps".
Olivier's Prométhée will endure, just as the myth has. I'm already intrigued and excited to learn where Durbano will take us next.