Scent Semantics, August 1

Scent Semantics, August 1

The first thing that came to my mind when I learned that this month’s Scent Semantics word is “family” was not my actual family, but groupings of fragrances. I considered writing about a pillar fragrance and its flankers, but those are usually mainstream or designer fragrances and none of the available options seemed exciting this month. Then I thought about “fragrance families”, like florals, but that seemed too vast.

However, there are several small, independent perfumers who have a total number of fragrances that is quite small and manageable – like a family! So I’ve decided to discuss the fragrance family of Papillon Artisan Perfumes, founded and led by perfumer Liz Moores, in England.

Papillon’s first fragrances, launched in 2014, were the trio of Angelique, Anubis, and Tobacco Rose. I first encountered them in 2015, at the now-closed Marble Arch location of London’s Les Senteurs (the original location on Elizabeth Street is still very much open and in operation, and well worth a visit). I remember the shop assistant recommending them and telling me what a very nice person Liz Moores is! All her fragrances are eaux de parfum except for Hera, which is an extrait.

Here is what the Papillon website says about each:

Angelique:

Inspired by the astonishing beauty of the Iris Pallida flower, Angelique captures the delicate essence of a delightful Spring garden. Cascades of French mimosa, osmanthus and white champac are woven between the powdered, violet facets of precious orris. Virginian cedarwood and subtle notes of frankincense bring an ethereal light and delicate freshness to this tender composition.

Anubis:

With a name inspired by the Egyptian God of the afterlife, Anubis embodies the sacred mysteries of Ancient Egypt. Heady blooms of jasmine, amid rich suede, smoulder over an incense laden base of frankincense, sandalwood, and labdanum. Vivid slashes of immortelle, pink lotus and saffron create a perfume shrouded in darkness and veiled in mystery.

Tobacco Rose:

A sensual blend of Bulgarian rose, geranium and Rose de Mai form an opulent backdrop of velvety rose notes set against a luxuriously rich and smoky base of French hay and earthy oakmoss. Soft animalic touches of ambergris and beeswax have been suspended in a sumptuous blend of musks, creating an enigmatic, alluring and unmistakable perfume. A stunningly different interpretation of the majestic rose.

The original three fragrances were followed in 2015 by Salome and in 2017 by Dryad. Bengale Rouge was released in 2019, Spell 125 in 2021, and Hera in 2022. In that order, here are their descriptions from the brand:

Salome:

With daring doses of indolic jasmine and rich feral musks, Salome’s bedevilled and velvety animalic facets dance seductively behind a veil of Turkish rose and carnation. Vintage and honeyed, it lures with the warm, plush appeal of an erotic boudoir before ensnaring the wearer in a web of unashamed erotic delight. Slip into your second skin with Salome.

Dryad:

As vibrant emerald Galbanum weaves with the delicate flesh of Bergamot, the nomadic wanderings of Dryad begin. Beneath jade canopies, sweet-herbed Narcissus nestles with gilded Jonquil. Shadows of Apricot and Cedrat morph radiant greens to a soft golden glow. Earthed within the ochre roots of Benzoin, heady Oakmoss entwines with deep Vetiver hues. And at its heart, the slick skin of Costus beckons you further into the forest…

Bengale Rouge:

A golden fur, swathed in sandalwood and doused in honey. Sweet myrrh purrs behind a warm, rosy skin, misted with oakmoss and dappled in the rich shades of a leopard pelt. A cosy, caramel comfort glows from a gourmand heart, while sweet Tonka slinks an opulent softness upon your skin.

Spell 125:

In the Book of the dead, Spell 125 represents a balance of light and dark, life and death. The compelling ceremony of weighing the deceased’s heart against a feather animate a delicate olfactory rendering of the lightness of the soul, with just a sliver of the underworld shadows. Rise in sparkles, with the brightness of Siberian Pine. Let salt and resin lap at your skin, an ethereal cleanse, slick with wintergreen powders. A weightless shroud of lucent white ambergris lifts you. A glow of green sacra frankincense haunts you. Suspended in the lustre of ylang, you float between this world and the next.

Hera:

The goddess of weddings, family and blessings, Hera possessed a majestic power. Here, she is celebrated in the opulence of orris and jasmine. Engulfed in flowers, you are invited by a burst of orange blossom, radiating a golden halo of warm white flowers. Delicate touches reveal a buttery, rich embrace. Rose de mai brings a whisper of drama and gentle musk offers a sensual caress for Gods and Goddesses alike. A bright and beautiful perfume, steeped in energetic luxury and effortless glamour.

How do I experience these siblings? Angelique is a beautifully soft iris. No sharp edges or notes here! It embraces both the rooty and powdery facets of orris in fragrance. I smell the rootiness first, almost like fresh carrots, then the powdery aspect emerges, supported by mimosa. To my nose, mimosa is more prominent than osmanthus. Angelique just keeps getting better and better on my wrist. As of now, I only have samples of it, but a full bottle may be in my future this year, to join my full bottles of Dryad and Bengale Rouge.

Anubis is not my usual type of fragrance, but it is gorgeous! I experience it as incense-focused, with jasmine and saffron playing supporting roles. The incense chord is based on frankincense, together with sandalwood and labdanum. I think it is the labdanum that generates the impression of “suede.” Anubis is a rich, spicy, ambery fragrance, well suited to colder weather. It would be particularly appealing in autumn, I think; its warmth recalls the late afternoon sunlight and still-warm earthiness of October. It carries well, though I wouldn’t say it has huge sillage; it easily wafts from my wrist to my nose while I type.

Tobacco Rose is just what it sounds like: a smoky rose. The “tobacco” of its name is created by a blend of hay and oakmoss notes. It doesn’t smell like it is burning; it smells like tobacco leaves hanging to dry after being harvested. The smokiness is very gentle; and it is less a smell of actual smoke than it is the suggestion of smoke that is inherent in dried tobacco. As it dries down, the rose recedes for a while; and the geranium becomes the more dominant floral note, to my nose; then the rose returns. This dance between rose and geranium, against a backdrop of dried hay/tobacco, is very appealing.

Oh my! When I first sniff Salome on my wrist, my brain immediately says “skank!”, due to notes of hyrax and castoreum that announce themselves right away. I’m not into animalic fragrances, though I can appreciate them as creative works, so Salome‘s opening is somewhat off-putting. I’m happy to note, though, that after only about ten minutes, it calms down and becomes softer and more floral, with a really nice carnation note (I love carnation scents). I can still smell hints of the animalic notes, but they are now in the background, where I prefer them to be. The drydown is lovely, sensual and warm.

Be still, my heart! Dryad is a major perfume love for me, as I’ve written before. It is as green as a fragrance can get, with a strong dose of galbanum, which I happen to love. If you don’t like strong greens such as Chanel’s No. 19 or Balmain’s Vent Vert, make sure you try before you buy! But do try it — it is spectacularly beautiful, to my nose, and a true work of perfumery art. Its notes include several aromatic herbs such as Clary sage, thyme, and lavender; its structure is that of a classic chypre. After its powerful opening, it softens and it does not have the edginess I find in my beloved No. 19.

Bengale Rouge was inspired by perfumer Liz Moores’ own Bengal cat, Mimi. Like Ms. Moores’ other fragrances, it is a clever combination of notes and references to create a very specific impression. Here, she brings out the slightly animalic facets of honey to evoke the soft, warm fur of a feline that is domesticated — but not entirely. Bengal cats are said to make very appealing pets if their owner can accommodate their high energy, intelligence, and playfulness. Their coats strongly resemble the small wild cats from which they are descended, such as the Asian leopard cat. Bengale Rouge is warm, sweet in the way that honey is sweet; floral in the way that honey can be floral. It is just beautiful, and lovely to wear in the winter.

Group of Bengal cats
Bengal cats; image from vetstreet.com

I haven’t yet tried Spell 125 or Hera, Papillon’s latest offerings, though I look forward to doing so. Hera was just released, as Ms. Moores first created it as a custom wedding fragrance for her daughter Jasmine, then delayed its release to the public by a year. Have you tried either of them, or any other Papillon fragrances? What do you think of them?

Please go read the posts by my fellow Scent Semantics bloggers; you will find their links here.