If last year is any indication, 2017 promises to be the year in which you will see the further introduction of full-bodied perfumes, all the more conscious of their tantalizing assets as the cultural context is only mildly encouraging of such excesses. Such fragrances have become excessively rare where they were once the norm...
It is with great pleasure that you can notice here and there a few members of the fragrance industry getting tired of see-through scents, which involuntarily betray budget holes in their fabric - and even of anemic perfumes, which might only smell continuously pale.
The good news is that as a perfume critic, you can detect that the skills are still there, as well as the aesthetical sense, and that some brands are still keen on supporting le vraiment, réellement beau parfum, the really, truly beautiful perfume - not the one that tells you it is so only in advertizing.
Voyage en Inde, introduced in October 2016 by Dutch brand Rituals...and composed by young perfumer Elise Benat of Firmenich is one such full-fledged perfume, an aesthetic trait that we have been defending on the blog. Two others come to mind readily: Moonlight Patchouli by Van Cleef & Arpels signed by perfumer Sonia Constant and My Burberry Black by Burberry authored by perfumer Francis Kurkdjian. This trio of a priori unrelated scents all exemplify a richness of texture and sensations which is laudable.
The tag line for Voyage en Inde is "Oriental Essence" and indeed you will be struck by how literally true this statement is. It immediately conjures up a thick atmosphere of spices, amber, light camphor. The composition rests on three main notes of jasmine absolute, amber and patchouli. This is the scent of a trip to India but also very much so, the atmospheric fragrance on an incensey shop of Nepalese and Indian goods, in a good way.
A more modern and thickish nuance of condensed milk prevents the fragrance from being a direct recall of the 1970s and Opium by Yves Saint Laurent, but the historical allusion is there. You are smelling the 1960s-1970s patchouli motif cast in new guises, in particular, the Narciso Rodriguez neo-chypre structure has been subtly sollicited. Jasmine, however, takes the place of rose. The musk is a bit urine-like, which is also an attempt to smell against the type of white musks.
In a context where YSL is developing the much less frank Black Opium collection, the 21st century descendant of Opium, Voyage en Inde is the raw, unedited version of your discovery of the sub-continent and the Orient more generally.
While this eau de parfum behaves much like a parfum or pure extrait, it is also simpler and more linear than Moonlight Patchouli or My Burberry Black. In fact, it smells quite a bit like the very seductive body lotion Sensual Jasmine Vanilla by Bath and Body Works in the Aromatherapy line. But the fact remains that the composition insists on being plush, full, round; it is ideally and richly Oriental even if it's been stripped out of a storied development.
To our cultural and perfume critic nose, it even plays a bit with trash references taking over from purely dirty animalics, the ugly notes of the past. If you can insert a deft dose of cultural debasement, it is, in our view, the equivalent to what ancient perfumers have been doing for centuries: hitting on our base instincts to prevent a perfume from smelling boring and conventional. In the era gliding from TV reality to twerking gifs, celebrities spilling their glands on Twitter and pimple-popping videos, there's bound to be a new harvest of base notes. They are no more called civet, musk, ambergris, and castoreum but trash, kitsch, bling, and vom.