Bottega Veneta EDP is the debut perfume by the luxury Italian brand known for their trademark intrecciato style of leather weaving. This artisanal technique developed in their workshops was reportedly a source of inspiration for the very contruction of the fragrance itself, described as a leather floral chypre.
More than leather, it suggests to my mind the idea of luxury as conveyed by leather. This displacement of meaning gives a much more immaterial leather composition than one might have expected at first. Here, the leather accord is mainly used to express refinement and to some extent, a seach for the absolute behind it. Leather, which is after all a beast skin, appears almost like a pretext, a passing embodiment of this spiritual quest.
The perfumer who composed the fragrance, Michel Almairac of Robertet, seems to have wanted to dematerialize leather to the maximum possible effect of it, while still being able to recognize the material.The olfactive continuum goes from leather to skin, into peach skin, into angels' skin, and even becomes nearly preternaturally airy...
Notes: oak moss, Italian bergamot, Indian jasmine sambac, Brazilian pink peppercorns and Indonesian patchouli.
While the fragrance composition is very original, it nevertheless can be replaced in the context of a perceptible direction for feminine leather perfumes appearing this fall when you compare it with L'Essence by Balenciaga created by Olivier Polge. Both have opted for a lactonic and fruity interpretation of a leather fragrance for women. And while Bottega Veneta EDP feels like a creative direction which was explored to pretty much its utmost consequences (with artistic director Tomas Maier who reportedly was very hands on), it also references at least three previous works of Michel Almairac: Armani Privé Cuir Améthyste, Gucci Rush, and Burberry London. This is inevitable and is the guarantee in a sense that the perfume craftsmanship was deepened over the years and well thought-out. It takes a very long time to become a mature perfumer. I find that Burberry of London in particular is very much perceptible in the aromatic peach-skin drydown. Almairac has a predilection for fruity notes of his own admission and this turns Bottega Veneta EDP into more of a fruity-floral leather chypre with creamy-transparent and fruity aspects borrowed from that other idiosyncratic chypré, Gucci Rush.
The fragrance opens on an iris-leather impression inflected by delicious fruits and plums with a hint of tartness. What follows is almost undescribable in its exquisiteness as the scent reveals very subtle shifts in nuances around a lactonic creamy peach accord with nuances of greenness. This accord which could feel heavy is on the contrary airy and light. It is as if the leather had been made of thin air, a very desincarnate impression which takes the material leather from any literalist and materialistic interpretation. Bordering on the sensation of what has come to be known as a "non-scent" in today's perfumery parlance, Bottega Veneta hovers above the skin like a silk chiffon kissed by leather. It is, one can assume, a way to render the idea of the luxury of leather more than the scent of leather, taking it very far in the opposite direction to the cured raw hide, the animalic origin of leather.
The composition by Michel Almairac is the subtlest leather composition I know of while adding a conceptual spin on the idea of a cuiré. It is as if the air and leather were the same, as if leather felt irresistibly compelled to shed its coarse nature to become one with the ether. While Almairac could have gone more classically in the direction of a leather turning into smoldering smoke and incense to play on the possible disembodiment of a leather with phenolic aspects, he pushes the accord to the limit of its dematerialization by turning to an even subtler medium, the air that carries volatile compounds.
An interesting aspect of the composition is that it seems to use peach to dematerialize the sensation of leather as to the nose, soon, the continuum between human skin and peach and leather becomes blurred. The nose seems to be tricked into thinking that the leather has become near-invisible.
One cannot help but think that the composition is an unexpectedly audacious proposition as it plays with the non-obvious, a code of luxury that is more sophisticated than a debauchery of golds. It's the little, hidden detail that counts, not the flashy appearances. The flacon of Bottega Veneta reflects this ethos by revealing to the perfume wearer who plays with the bottle that its bottom offers a sophisticated glass texture mimicking an intrecciato weave that one might miss easily if only concentrating on the jus. At the same time, it asserts despite the rather radical direction ascribed to the idea of luxury here, the less than revolutionary value that true luxury is hidden in nature, which is in fact an homage paid to the artisanal, pre-industrial ethos. Hand-made goods, feats of technicality which are felt but not seen, point to a style of life which is closer to an agrarian society than to a modern industrial and upwardly mobile one. It is in this regard not surprising that Tomas Maier had a vision of a Veneto mansion filled with leather-bound tomes opening onto the countryside, with muslin curtains gently moving to the breeze. Bottega Veneta EDP aims to take us out of time and into luxury. The illusion would have been almost perfect if not at time for some synthetic notes becoming a little too obvious, like aldehyde C-14 (peach) and the methyl ionones (iris). Regarding the latter, Arcadi Boix Camps described it rightly in my view as I already pointed out for Guerlain Vol de Nuit Evasion as "the end of an epoch of great, almost sacred ingredients such as [...] Iralia (which was edged out by cheaper methylionones)."
Refining the concept of luxury is to make it feel almost sacred in its lack of visibility. Daniela Andrier did a work on Infusion de Vetiver which is somewhat comparable to this psychological approach, although one is feeling how much more paradoxical this concept is with Bottega Veneta as, really, leather is supposed to be explored in all of its carnality and animality, in principle. But we are shown otherwise.
The composition as it mellows down remains desincarnate enough but reminds you also of a previous work by Michel Almairac, Burberry London for Women, one of his two favorite compositions with Minotaure by Paloma Picasso. The peach and some of the tonalities are making a comeback but the spirit is eons away from the 1995 composition.
To summarize my take on it, I would say that Bottega Veneta feels like it is both a great composition and a flawed one. It is great thanks to an extremely subtle rendering of the idea of cuiré perfume where the note is not used to add darkness and depth, but on the contrary to help it take flight. It is flawed because some of the perfumery materials do not follow through and fail to support all the potential of the composition. The parfum concentration is probably very interesting as one can hope that the materials were even more carefully selected.