Prior to leaving for Istanbul, I smelled the new Mandarina Corsica by l'Artisan Parfumeur, one of several releases this summer I discovered - and it was the one which struck a more personal chord with me. I almost decided to take it with me on vacation, but then decided otherwise taking instead another scent, which I can't remember which one it was now since once there, I quickly became submerged by the smells of the city - the Bosphorus's especially - and by the unearthing of a few Kolonya, a genre at which the Turks - who are great bathers by tradition - excell...
Back in France, the one perfume I really wanted to make known was, again, Mandarina Corsica, which I couldn't wait to have more leisure to blog about. Going back again and again mentally to an aromatic profile is a very good sign when it comes to choosing perfumes you're going to wear. If you can't get a fragrance out of your mind, then it's meant to be yours, obviously. And so, despite the litany of aromas and smells one encounters in the streets of Istanbul, this one still stuck with me.
What I could remember was that it was a gourmand composition around the fruit mandarin, but with unexpected accents that made it stand out. I also remembered that the jus was created by perfumer Quentin Bisch of Givaudan; and that it had a stickiness to it, which was very appealing, instead of translating confusedly into the corresponding unwanted tactile sensation. The suave sillage which escapes from the flacon tells you that a scent with a sweet tooth today can be anything but pastry-like.
Bisch has worked on fragrances by Thierry Mugler, the house which created the contemporary taste for "gourmands;" he signs Angel Muse Eau de Parfum (2016) and Angel Muse Eau de Toilette (2018). He's had to think about freshening up the genre for the brand, but also more generally for himself as a perfumer. Mandarina Corsica is, to me, the result of a process of maturing-up of both the gourmand scent and of Quentin Bisch's accumulated experience on the subject.
The hit of mandarin is obvious from the get-go while more obscure notes play out in the range of resinous, foresty, subtly floral and warm, caramel-y and animalic ambergris. If you were to make a dessert association, the one which comes to mind to this French palate would be the spongy little cakes filled with sticky orange marmelade and glazed with sugar sold under the brand name "Chamonix." Cacharel did a scent inspired by the treat in 2007 called Liberté, now discontinued.
As strange as it might sound, an insistent smell of braised beefsteak in molten butter and spiced up with black pepper imposes its presence. You wonder if this is coming from a nearby kitchen in the midst of a summer in the Latin Quarter keeping all windows open; It's a bit early for dinner for the French. Knowing how leathery notes can smell like roasted beef sometimes, you're tempted to think it's in the formula. You hope it is. Its justification would be that imperative that a scent must contain a "bad smell" to make it whole. A formulation needs to be upset and disturbed to yield something more than forgettable prettiness. There seems to be here a reliance on umami, that taste of savory, meaty foodstuffs categorized by the Japanese.
Let us know if you smell that suggestion of generous meat cooking in an iron pan glistening with hot butter and enlivened by condiments. We think it is inside the scent, not outside of it, while of course it marries well with air.
So while the mandarin is from Corsica - and the village of Giuliani in particular near Bastia - it evokes to us a gaucho scene with mandarins grilling over open fires in the pampa on a layer of meaty flavors. This is in the end what makes the perfume special: making the mandarin animalistic.
The perfumer has tapped into the edible savoriness facet of the traditional leather accord; it has been done in the past but never so purposefully and clearly. Here, the idea is applied to a smoky and salty-sweet-buttery Immortelle and Ambergris. And then, he has dared combine this with juicy mandarins, lightly sweet, green and zesty. The complete olfactive picture of mandarins, we're told, from stem to skin.
Mandarina Corsica is an innovative recipe, that one is glad to discover on the menu of the chef. Because it is a perfume, the sensations will last longer, but you could just as well think of it as a potential fabulous dish filled with subtle aromas.