(Image, I Dream of Jeannie)
Aeon 001 is the first in a new line of limited-release fragrances whose perfumers are not named. Only when all bottles of each perfume are sold, will the perfumer be revealed. Schtick? Yeah, but an interesting play on the historical anonymity of the perfumer.
Until recently perfumery wasn’t acknowledged as art, just an aesthetic product. You never know who created the flavor of your toothpaste, so why should you need to know who made your perfume? From the PR angle it was bad form to imagine that there was anyone except the ‘name’ making the perfume, hence Estée Lauder and Tom Ford being put forward as perfumers. It’s an interesting notion in 2016 NOT to cite the perfumer
(I hope everyone’s first sniff can have some degree of suspense so I won’t name names in the first part of what I’m writing. Read on below the distracting, cute puppy if you want to know my guess and rationale.)
Aeon 001 is a day-long venture. It starts with an aggressive, salty/spicy, floral blast. The topnotes are expansive and animalic. Aeon 001 belongs to the contemporary-classic school of perfumery that emulates the dynamic qualities historical genres, especially the haughty floral chypres of the mid-late 20th century. Think of Liz Moores’s Salome, Antonio Gardoni’s Maai, Bruno Fazzolari’s Seyrig and Au Delà and you’ll be in the ballpark. There is even a similarity to Angelo Pregoni’s spicy, woody twist on the Italian herbal apothecary style. These perfumes are not ‘neo-chypres’ like 31 Rue Cambon, l’Après Midi d’Une Faune or Ylang 49 that seek to replicate the chypre without buckets of oakmoss. 001, like Salome in particular, studies the floral chypre not to copy it, but to learn from the dynamics that made it so effective. As the topnotes fade 001 takes a 90 degree turn away from florals and into a more resinous range. Vetiver and dry, smoky wood notes underline the heartnotes and give a cool composure that tell you that you’ve landed in the basenotes.
001 turns again, this time away from the smoked woods of the heartnotes. It takes a long, gorgeous stroll into a buttery, nutty amber base that just drips off your skin. There’s nowhere near the sillage of the opening, but when you bring your nose to your skin, the base is surprisingly even richer than the topnotes.
The concept-driven launch, the unsentimental number-name, the highly stylized, mod bottle half lead me to expect a minimalist perfume. The perfume bottle suggests an extra, invisible layer between you and the perfume, as if the perfume is on the other side of a vacuum from you. Scent, like sound doens’t travel in a vacuum, so the fraction of an inch between you and the test-tube of perfume might as well be miles.
I’m enormously suspicious of schtick, but 001 makes me take a less defensive stance. The perfume wasn’t what I had lead myself to expect and I had a sensationally genie-in-a-bottle rush with the first spritz. All credit to the perfume producer for creating that moment of child-like magic and excitement. It was the highlight of my week and I’ve spent the past few days in discussion with a couple of friends who also bought 001. We’re spread out, each about 8 timezones separate from the others, but 001 has brought us together. Kumbaya, motherfuckers.
(Stop reading here if you don’t want to know my guess of the perfumer.)
The topnotes of the perfume have a briny floral quality that made me think instantly: Antonio Gardoni! On my first inhalation I surmised it was Gardoni, but I laughed when I exhaled. I laughed because the componentry of 001’s topnotes has some similarity to his other work, notably to Maai’s white flowers, yet even at one sniff, I could tell that the form was being twisted and expectation was being fucked with.
Cologne Reloaded, Maai and O/E are a three-part discussion. They explore similar concepts and share some materials, but each has a different premise and looks to a different historical form. Cologne Reloaded, as the name implies, is an Eau de Cologne and then some. Based on reanimating of found historical materials, it is both theoretical and tough. Maai is the reincarnation of the feral chypre, a classically feminine form and O/E is dissection of a similarly gendered form, the masculine fougère.
Likely related to his work in architecture, Gardoni is particularly adept in manipulating motifs and getting at an idea from a number of different angles. If 001 is in fact his, it is a smart departure from his other work. The allusion to previous ideas comes up front, right out of the bottle. But over hours, over days, the initial familiarity walks you into new territory. I could be wrong, but I’m sticking with my guess, which, by the by, I had heard even before I tried 001. Of course I’d also seen guesses of Antoine Lie and Bertrand Buchaufor. Secrets in the perfume community (true or false, I suppose) don’t last long.
001 asks you to play a game. It should provide you with a challenge and should make you work for your conviction. It should satisfy. Aeon does all that and is a great start to the Aeon line.