After having whetted our appetite with the announcement of the upcoming release of Azzaro Now and, especially, recently reviewed the new CK IN2U, we wanted to seek out other examples of the futuristic trend in fragrance creation. For these fragrances, the sensations that they create make one feel like one is entering an universe that has been depicted most often in science-fiction novels or movies. They aim at disorienting the perfume wearer, but it must be added, only to some extent. Taking into account the fact that olfaction is the sense of memory, these perfumes, although they make reference to a world that seems hard to place at first, are really artful combinations of familiar and novel notes that tease our senses of both the affective past and the projected future......
These perfumes could be seen as going one step beyond the realistic trend in perfumery well-exemplified by the main-accord perfumes by Demeter or Comme des Garçons, which focus on capturing aromas of our everyday lives that are not commonly used in perfumery, from Clean Windows and Paperback for Demeter to Skai and Garage for Comme de Garçons. Odeur 53 (1998) by CdG developed the same realism but interpreted it as a medley of scents rather than tried to create a consistent locale as reference point. It lacks the 3 D dimension of evocative futuristic scents and ends up being more like a laundry list of modernistic notes: Freshness of Oxygen, Flash of Metal, Fire Energy, Washing drying in the wind, Mineral intensity of carbon, Sand Dunes, Nail Polish, Cellulosic smell, Pure air of the high mountains, Ultimate Fusion, Burnt Rubber, Flaming Rock....
Futuristic fragrances as opposed to realistic fragrances add a layer of evocation of a vaster re-created universe typified by certain aromas which suggest not just one object or a series of objects but the passing of time from the traditional past and a sense of evolution into the unknown with hints at the prevalence of man-made objects, modern materials, and the power of technology. They are acceptable propositions that we could find ourselves living in these worlds as they retain an element of the natural and feel like logical projections of the present. The perfume then evokes, quite theatrically, a strange place and time and the spatial aspect is felt through the layering of different notes belonging homogeneously to a consistent virtual projected universe. It can also create an impression of strangeness by seeking exceedingly rare aromas.
In this manner, the experience is not solely based on the stories told and the advertising images displayed, but can be felt upon the first inhalation. We do not just feel transported elsewhere, we feel a little teleported to another dimension.
The science that makes these perfumes possible and contributes to an aesthetic that cultivates the unfamiliar and the strange, Head Space technology, was initially used to analyze the air environment and was applied for the first time to the capturing of living flowers' scents in 1976 by International Flavors Fragrances (IFF). The technology is regularly used by scientists working in the fragrance industry who leave on olfactory trekkings travelling the planet to analyze and copy scents of anything from flowers in their natural state like orchids that could otherwise not be captured with traditional methods to the incensey air of a shop in Katmandu or the rarefied atmosphere found at the top of Pico de Neblina, the highest mountain in Brazil and Venezuela outside of the Andean mountains for the latter. A milestone application of Head Space was the capturing of the scent of a miniature rose called "Overnight Scentsation" that was sent into space to see how a micro-gravity environment might affect its aroma. The result was an otherwordly note called "space rose". It was integrated in a perfume by Shiseido called Zen, which we will review later.
Futuristic perfumes are meant to bring about a more radical change of scene in our consciousnesses. Experiencing a "neon amber" amber note in CK IN2U or imagining the "rose oxide", "cocoon bubble", and "vibration bubble" in Azzaro Now Men make us plunge into a high tech world and feel like we are treading the sidewalks of the cities depicted in movies like Alphaville, Blade Runner, Artificial Intelligence, The Fifth Element, or Gattaca, or as in the case of Neblina, a jungle that lies right outside the never-before-seen-mixed-metal-alloys walls of those cities. The experience points to a world in the future where geographic boundaries and technological limitations have been overcome.
L'Esprit de Neblina Eau de Toilette
If CK IN2U women relies on the evocation of a futuristic urban world, Neblina or L'Esprit de Neblina by Yves Rocher is a futuristic botanical or "green" perfume. Yves Rocher claimed at the time of its release in 1999 that it had created a new olfactory family, calling it the inaugural "tropical" perfume. The company defined this category as being characterized as a blend where "floral, botanical, woodsy and humid notes are in equilibrium and harmony." Originally, there were three Neblina perfumes released, including The Night of Neblina and The Dawn of Neblina. L'Esprit de Neblina (The Spirit of Neblina) eau de toilette contains top notes of Eriopsis biloba (orange orchid with apricot) and Maguireothamnus speciosus (a transparent green jasmine). The heart has notes of Sobralia (violet and yellow orchid with white flower) and humid rock. Base notes include herbs, moss, roots and wood.
The Yves Rocher website offers a different description of the notes; top notes are « Headspace » of the air at the summit of the Mountain of Mist or « Pico de Neblina»; heart notes are « Headspace » of Sobralia Orchid; base notes are « Headspace » of Mosses.
The fragrance was created in 1999 by perfumer Sophia Grojsman. She is also the creator of a series of modern day classics such as YSL Paris and Yvresse (both with Jean-Pierre Mary), Lancôme Trésor, CK Eternity, and Estée Lauder White Linen, amongst others. Her remarkable career has earned her the "Living Legend Award" by the American Society of Perfumers in 1996. Yves Rocher's brand image may be on the popular side, but they really do work with excellent perfumers and the quality is often apparent. I will also review Yves Rocher Comme Une Evidence, Un Jour se Lève later.
The original bottle for the fragrance which had a blue glass base decorated with leaves to symbolize "the nourishing vitality of botanicals,"earned a 2000 Fifi award for best women fragrance packaging. The "metallic cap covered with frosted plexiglass and engraved with small drops [suggests] "the twinkling of air filled with botanicals." It was designed by Alain de Mourgues. The flacon looks unusual making one think of an extra-terrestrial pagan sculpture, a stylized orchid, or a spaceship and exactly mirrors the unusual character of the jus it contains.
To be frank, my initial reaction to Neblina was to think that it smelled "weird". I could not quite place it. Yet, after repeated applications to let the scent blend in with body chemistry well and enough time to get used to the unfamiliar accords, I had to come to the realization that the initial vegetal accord was softly alluring and the bottom note of the perfume was jaw-droppingly beautiful and seductive.
It opens on a slightly mossy, green, and fruity accord. Having been told that there is an air and a humid rock note, one can then indeed identify an ozonic note and a wet mineral one, but the blend more spontaneously feels atypical and slightly disorienting. These notes contribute to the sense of strangeness rather than play a part on their own. The greenness of the perfume is not sappy or stemmy but very mellow and soft and puts the stress on the sweetish aspects of herbs. It smells a bit waxy too. The fruity character is persistent making one think at one point of an orange that is saturated with green pigments.
After having trekked in the Amazonian rain forest for some time and made us think of sugary orchids, the perfume takes on a more familiar fruity-floral chypre character that is precisely reminiscent of YSL Yvresse, another creation by Sophia Grojsman. The perfumer is reputed for always starting her fragrances by working around a rose accord and this is more apparent at that point.
The drydown is luminous and beautiful having the feel of a green floral chypre with little touches of citrus (lemongrass was mentioned in an article) and oakmoss apparent while retaining an exotic fruity-floral quality with subtle peppery and leathery undertones. Underneath the strange composition emerges a more classic rose and green jasmine accord in the bottom note that is extremely well-balanced and alluring.
Neblina is a hidden gem, to me, only waiting to be unearthed from the humid soil of the Amazonian forest.
The perfume retails for $37 for a 1.7 oz spray bottle at Yves Rocher USA. You can also purchase a $1 sample of it.
Photo of the Amazonian rain forest was taken from a plane and is by (:Petra:)