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After reading the perfumers’ opinions on the subject, let’s get down to business: here for your delectation is a selection (not exhaustive, of course) of brands and a few creations that have caught our attention.
Mandy Aftel is often seen as the high priestess of American artisanal and natural perfumery, which she has been practicing for 30 years. Her creations are like her: generous, free, uninhibited and daring. The terrain they explore is sometimes adventurous, unshackled by convention, and always constructed as a conversation between two materials marked by their harmony or their differences.
Vanilla smoke, created in 2015 for the opening of Flavor: Making it and Faking it, an exhibition she was an advisor to, held at the Museum of Food and Drink (MOFAD), is a good illustration: a black, wrinkled vanilla pod chatting with a cup of lapsang souchong tea (from a CO2 extraction), clasping a glass of peated whiskey with a brown caramel on the verge of burning not far away. The antithesis of the creamy, sweet vanilla we’re served in most vanilla fragrances, it dares to bare all, revealing its spicy, woody and resinous character in all its glory to produce a scent that is all too rare, topped off by an impeccable presence and persistence.
Eau de parfum, €210/30 ml.
Honoré des prés
In 2010, Olivia Giacobetti (who we were planning to interview for our Natural Perfumers feature but unfortunately had to decline for personal reasons) was approached by this Parisian house, which was then dusting off the genre with its “pure extracts of nature”, far from the beaten track and affordably priced. Among the seven eaux de parfum comprising a range that explores the carrot along with shaman recipes, Vamp à New York is an astonishing creamy tuberose dipped in a vanilla ice cream cone, oscillating between artless seduction and childlike regression.
Eaux de parfum, €56-76/50 ml.
Founded in 2006 in Agen by Régis Lelong, Acorelle is first and foremost an organic cosmetics brand, which has been offering fragrances (Cosmos Organic certified) for the past ten years. Composed by Katell Plisson, in partnership with raw material sourcer Stéphane Piquart, they explore simple and straightforward olfactory paths centring on various key ingredients, including vanilla, tiaré and tea. With its small formats offered at very accessible prices, different concentrations and a wide distribution network, it is a bit like the IKEA of natural perfumery. Launched in 2019, Envolée de néroli, has a lovely fresh, green and invigorating opening with hints of petitgrain, mint and lemon before gradually becoming more powdery, floral and softly woody.
Eau de parfum €32.90/50 ml, €11.90/10 ml.
There is always a kind of overtness in Hiram Green‘s fragrances.
Something majestic and direct. They are complex and intense, shifting and faceted, but always controlled and balanced.
Winner of the 2019 Art & Olfaction Awards, Hyde has a touching and endearing quality, like reading by the fire in an old leather armchair with a herbal infusion (or liqueur?) and a lazy cat purring on your lap.
The latest addition to the house, Vivacious combines the sunny scents of a powdery mimosa with the bold elegance of iris, their honeyed accents forming a slightly retro violet, surrounded by vegetal and almondy notes, midway between hay and cut grass..
Eaux de parfum €155/50 ml.
Eve & Daphnée
Championing “a sustainable and inspiring art of living”, Eve et Daphnée, founded by Muriel Folmard-Kahn, has fully embraced the principle of taking the creative process slowly, with only one fragrance launched since 2015. Composed by Delphine Thierry, Tentation 1 – Contre lui is a beautiful rose spiced with cinnamon, nestling tenderly in a bed of patchouli and resinous labdanum and enveloped in a cloud of iris, resulting in an olfactory richness tinged with serene delicacy.
Eau de parfum €125/30ml, €175/60ml.
At 100Bon, a brand launched in 2017 by Christophe Bombana (former international director of Hermès perfumes), the range is vast, the prices sweet and there is something for everyone, from ingredient duos to aromacological compositions.
Our favourite is Fleur d’oranger et lilas délicieux, a warm and comforting fragrance mist that combines the evocative freshness of neroli with the sweetness of an almond-like lilac. Simple and addictive.
Brume parfumée, €29/200ml.
Histoires de parfums
In 2018, brand founder Gérald Ghislain and perfumer Sylvie Jourdet came up with a pair of fragrances designed to be worn alone or layered: Ceci n’est pas un flacon bleu 1/.4, 100% natural, and its 100% synthetic counterpart of the same name, 1/.5.
The fruity, liqueur-like davana is enveloped in lavender and cardamom in a sparkling, slightly bitter accord, before evolving into a patchouli bathed in labdanum and benzoin.
Eau de parfum 38 euros/15ml, 105 euros/60ml, 165 euros/120ml.
Presented as “poetic perfumes brimming with emotions and memories”, Ormaie’s creations are also distinguished by their superb bottles, each topped by a unique, geometric beechwood cap.
Michel Almairac and Serge de Oliveira created Le Passant in 2018 as a tribute to lavender, which radiates and unfurls its sunny scents over tonka bean, vanilla and creamy woods, warming the fragrance with sophistication, nobility and tenderness. Carbon Paper, created by Irene Farmachidi, its cardamom-spiced liquorice and nutmeg blends harmoniously and opulently with guaiacwood against a background of amber and vanilla patchouli.
Eaux de parfum €130/50ml, €190/100ml.
The brand founded by Aurélie Anthena in 2018 offers a mystical universe inspired by the Toltec civilisation, ancestor of the Aztecs. The creations, labelled Cosmos Natural, therefore give pride of place to natural raw materials, including some ingredients traditionally used in shamanic rituals.
Fragrances in the men’s range include Ocelotl, meaning “jaguar warrior” in the Toltec language, created by Stéphanie Bakouche. Sparkling citrus fruits and dry, herbal lavender, like a herbal tea, pave the way for a powerful, balsam accord that swathes the skin in incense resins, like a mineral and smoky miasma, and delivers highly respectable persistence.
Eau de parfum, €75/50 ml,€20/11 ml
After many years spent working with Goutal Paris, Isabelle Doyen and Camille Goutal launched their own house in 2020.
The five eaux de parfums explore the olfactory themes dear to the two perfumers, with assertive personalities and complex, finely faceted structures.
La Couleur de la nuit opens with green lavender and hay notes, before revealing a superb amber, vanilla and balsam accord with dark, highly textured facets of patchouli, benzoin and resins.
Eau de parfum €190/75ml.
The brand founded by Karine Torrent, which has been promising to “bring the wild to perfume” since 2020, first made a name for itself with its refill packaging similar to a compote pouch, but also, and above all, by the subtle refinement of its first four fragrances, created by Delphine Thierry.
Le Ciel offers a sillage as buoyant as a cloud, opening with a surge of geranium that unveils an iris embellished by carrot seeds, which underscore its green and earthy accents, and ambrette seeds, wrapping its powdery notes in a cocoon of ethereal sweetness with a dash of eau de vie. A beauty as weightless as the fresh air of a spring morning.
Eau de parfum €70/40ml.
The new house imagined by Nicolas Chabot – who founded Æther and relaunched Le Galion – aims to place natural raw materials and synthetic molecules on an equal footing by offering twelve creations based on either category, with the sole purpose of highlighting the beauty of each.
In Enhanced Pepper by Jean-Christophe Hérault, an essence of Madagascan Piper nigrum is encased in the warm unctuousness of tonka bean with tobacco and almond facets, in the company of cedar and dark and smoky patchouli, resembling a clean and minimalist chypre.
Eau de parfum €35/15ml, €70 euros/30ml, €70/50ml (re-source).
Acqua di Parma
The big houses are also trying their hand at naturalness, as demonstrated by Colonia Futura, created by François Demachy and launched in 2020, notching up 99% natural ingredients. Lavender, verbena, bergamot and sage take the lead, building an elegant structure that is half fern and half cologne, before evolving into a beautiful, clean chypre base of patchouli and moss.
Eau de cologne €60/20ml, €90/50ml, €125/100ml, €166/180ml.
A product of the encounter between Marie-Hortense Varin, the thirty-year-old daughter of a winegrower, and Anne Bouvelle, a former evaluator turned independent consultant, the Bastille brand offers creations that follow the ISO 9235 standard and imposes only 95% natural ingredients in a bid to meet “the challenge of originality and quality”. Bastille fragrances do not smell like natural perfumes, are definitely rather original, and reveal surprising facets, such as marzipan, milk or a rather voluptuous tuberose (the 5% of non-natural ingredients undoubtedly have something to do with it!). The brand has also taken the important and highly unusual step of disclosing on its website the exhaustive list of ingredients contained in each formula, natural as well as synthetic. The promise of transparency certainly is respected.
Another promise, putting off a chore to the next day, is held out by the procrastinator Demain promis, created by Caroline Dumur, which basks in an astonishing spicy, milky accord, where rose is adorned with cardamom and cinnamon with a subtle suggestion of Feu d’Issey, centred on a woody, chypre base in a blend of patchouli and moss.
Eau de parfum €90/50ml.
Founded by Emmanuel Roche in 2020, Æmium offers a collection of seven perfumes certified either Cosmos Natural or Cosmos Organic. Created by Karine Vinchon Spehner and Serge de Oliveira, the fragrances are presented in refillable bottles and plastic-free packaging, including cork stoppers for samples and a light poplar wood box. Rouge Confidence explores a dark, complex and resinous universe where patchouli, sandalwood and benzoin are encircled by wisps of incense and hints of leather, coated in a powdery and bold layer like a lipstick kiss, with fruity and almondy tones of cherry and raspberry.
Eau de parfum €137/100 ml.
A young British house founded by Owen Mears and Emily Cameron, Ffern has been offering a different fragrance each season since winter 2019. All you have to do is sign up online to become a member and receive a bottle of its new perfume at the start of the next season. The number of people who sign up decides how many bottles are produced, thus avoiding waste and unsold products.
Receiving a package from Ffern is first and foremost a pleasure for the eyes. Everything is recyclable or compostable, but also, and above all, well designed, sober and graceful. And the first spray of Spring 21, created by François Robert and Élodie Durande, reinforces the sensation of flawless good taste: an airy cloud mixing bergamot, orange, mandarin and a touch of ginger welcomes a soft, ethereal orange blossom like the caress of a petal. Neither sweet, nor childish nor opulent, this opening has the good taste to slowly fade away, melting into a vetiver that reveals its smoky and dry facets, giving this fresh and diaphanous eau a whole new dimension.
The next fragrance, Summer 21, will only be revealed on 21st June, the summer solstice, but registrations are open now!
Eau de parfum, €79/32ml