Nose: Yann Vasnier, 2012
Notes: Neroli, Violet leaf, Fir balsam, Russian leather
The opening is not overtly surprising, but how could it be, with all those hints and overload of the release promo materials. The ‘Imperial Russia’ theme, with the bow to the Russian romantic poetry, while reaching out to the idea of a ‘gentleman’s club’ (yep, we are still on that imperialist Western European imaginary) – is apparently what the Aleksandr is all about.
So what is that translated onto the vial of essences? Well, Arquiste’s idea is to create a perfume that ‘a gentleman’ would wear ‘back in that day’. And it is, I guess, something of that kind. My first impressions – a ‘classic’ men’s cologne, but not as in ‘eau de cologne’ in all its citrusy bitter-freshness, but as folks popularly use on on the street: men’s fragrance. (Doesn’t sound bouncy-fancy? Well, it did not mean to…)
Once you spray it over, the familiar smell of something ‘old fashioned’ bounces through the nostrils, and to me, it is necessarily violet, and some suede.
Aleksandr is not surprising fragrance, but I suppose that the invoked ideas of ‘Imperial gentelmanliness’ are all so conservative that lack of any surprise is, indeed, very much within the core (conservative) idea of the ‘old fashioned’ scent.
It is also a flat scent – and what I mean is that all the components are coming tougher into one-sort-of-scent, almost one-note type, It is not developing in a meandrous and scaffolded composition; it is not about the guess game of what are the individual ingredients. Instead, a perfume creates that ‘all-in-one’ sort of new ‘flat’ and glassy scent that – to my nose, of course – is almost as if it was just one ingredient, rather glassy and motionless formulation. Arquiste’s Aleksandr is just like that for me, well, with one stronger distinguishable note of violet.
(NB. by flat and linear I do not mean single note compositions – some of those do form part of the flat, linear type, yes; but there are great many other single-note focused creations that offer a fantastic voyage through tones and vibrations, standing on the other end of the spectrum.
What Yann Vasnier created, is one of those perfumes that is hard for me to like or dislike. On the one hand, all that ‘old fashioned’ formulation (inevitably brought about by my tiresome association with violet) is not of the particular appeal to me. It is not displeasing (as some perfumes are, and we all have our blacklists, I guess…). But equally, I do not find anything curious in it; I am looking for a hook to attach my attention to, but there seems none thus far.
An 1,5h later, the composition is still all about violet, continuously nothing appealing or twisting or caressing the nostrils. The violet is there: not too dominating but neither very supporting – rather undecided whether it wants to play the first trumpet or be a backbencher.
And that’s it so far. As with other more linear and non-developing compositions, I usually think that they end up failing short of the intention. Truth also is, that linear ‘flat’ compositions are much harder, in my opinion, to compose so that from the opening and through all the hours of wearing the perfume, one is constantly pleased and amused by the scent. One could see flat compositions as easy and more simplistic than the ‘developing’ formulations – and that is, within certain premise, a truth. But if we change the perspective, one could also say that flat, linear perfumes are more challenging, because there is only one stroke, one hit, one blow that there is for the creator to come up with and to create something that constantly and ceaselessly captivates the attention. Truth also is that in most cases this challenging opportunity has not been harnessed and the compositions of most linear, glassy flat fragrances is at best uninteresting, and at worst, disappointing to me. Arquiste’s Aleksandr is not different in this respect.
Other perfume reviews of Arquiste’s Aleksandr: