My Advent calendar surprise today is a sample from a brand I’ve been wanting to try, Maison Trudon. That company has a long history as makers of fine candles, supplying Versailles and cathedrals with famously white, less smoky, beeswax candles, a business that continued through revolutions and restorations. In this century, the company has focused mostly on very high-end, perfumed candles; and in 2017, it began producing perfumes under the simple name “Trudon”, working with noted perfumers such as Lyn Harris, Antoine Lie, and Yann Vasnier.
The latter was the creator of today’s scent, Mortel. M. Vasnier has a real gift for accords that involve spices and resins, which is on full display in Mortel. According to the brand’s website, it has notes of: Pimento, Black Pepper (top); Mystikal, Somalian Frankincense (heart); Benzoin Resin, Pure Cistus, and Myrrh (base). Fragrantica also lists nutmeg as a top note, and woody notes in the heart and base. Mystikal is a Givaudan captive molecule that specifically smells like burning incense. Wow, it really does! It doesn’t smell particularly smoky, which I appreciate.
I’ve written before about the use of incense in traditional Christian services, including the funeral mass for my late mother-in-law. As I wrote there, she absolutely loved Christmas, and I always think of her at this time of year, especially because she had made for us three beautiful pieces of cross-stitched embroidery with depictions of Father Christmas, which we bring out in December. She had just taken up the hobby of counted cross-stitch when I joined the family, and she became a very accomplished needlewoman; her later works had the tiniest stitches, on real linen fabric. I began doing it myself after she showed me how, although I haven’t cross-stitched anything in several years (three children and a full-time job outside the home ensure that there isn’t much time for embroidery). But as I contemplate my own retirement in the next few years, and as my youngest child is no longer even a teenager, I’ve started looking again at the patterns I’ve collected over the years, and organizing my materials, thinking that I’d like to take it up again.
Back to Mortel! The heart phase that really smells like incense and frankincense lasts a good long time. It’s not overpowering as a dabber from a sample vial; if I owned a spray bottle, I would proceed with caution! I cannot emphasize enough how much this stage smells exactly like the fragrant smoke that emanates from a thurible in church. Here’s what I think is very clever, aside from the obvious quality of the materials (which one would expect in a product from a company that has specialized for centuries in creating candles for cathedrals and palaces). The opening of black pepper and pimento is bright and a bit sharp — as if a match has been struck and is flaring up, to ignite a censer. The heart phase is all about incense and frankincense, as if one is smelling the actual incense while it burns in a church or other place of worship (the tradition of using incense in religious rites is observed in Judaism and other ancient religions).
As that dries down, the woody notes emerge, and the impression is that of an old church, whose wooden pews and structures have been so imbued with incense over centuries that the scent still floats on the air when no incense is burning. I’ve smelled that so many times, in many visits to old churches and cathedrals in Europe. Note — Mortel doesn’t have any of the damp, musty smells that can also permeate ancient churches. (A favorite family memory recalls the time when we lived in Brussels, when my sisters and I were children; our parents took us to many historic sites on weekends, making the most of our sojourn in Europe. My little sister, who was about 5 or 6 at the time, as we entered yet another cathedral on one occasion, wailed “Oh, no, not another smelly old church!”). So, to my nose, Mortel traces the progression of incense being used in a church, from the time it is lit to the time when it lingers in the wood and air as a fragrant memory. M. Vasnier himself has described the setting as an artisan’s fiery forge, but there is no doubt that this son of Brittany would know the smell of an ancient church.
Mortel and its evocation of church are especially appropriate today, which is the third Sunday in Advent, also known as “Gaudete Sunday” in more traditional liturgies. Gaudete means “rejoice” in Latin; so this Sunday, sometimes also called “Rose Sunday” because the clergy can wear rose-colored vestments, is an occasion to focus on the most joyful aspects of Advent. It is sometimes symbolized on an Advent wreath by a pink candle.
Have you tried any Trudon fragrances? Any favorites?