Amouage Ciel Man, 2003

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Perfumer not cited.

I once called out Gucci Envy for its use of a “sour” floral accord. I don’t think I was wrong about Envy, but Ciel pour Homme has made me reconsider the possibility of a viable sour perfume. It starts with a particularly acrid orange blossom note on top of incense and sandlewood, then moves in the most remarkable, smooth fashion to a spectacular pickle accord. Remarkable in fact for its smoothness. Floral incense to pickle without a seam in site?  Who made this?  (And please make more.)

But there is a logic to the progression. The complexity of sandlewood and frankincense combined can underpin just about any other notes. The sweat-drenched orange blossom floats above them & ties the accord into some piquant culinary/herb notes (cardamom, celery seed, bitter melon?) without any jarring changes. From there, it’s an easy quick-step to pickle.  More like pickled fruit (mango, lime, papaya) than vegetable.

Maybe it’s just me. Maybe this is just your typical white floral, pickled citrus, frankincense perfume—one of thousands.

I find Ciel pour Homme odd, beautiful and so smart. It has the richness of the best from Amouage, but also the who-woulda-thought? inventiveness of an Etat Libre d’Orange or Comme des Garçons perfume. But not their cheek. This inventive use of accord doesn’t have the feel of irony about it. Amouage just gave enough running space to a perfumer who discovered that emphasizing sandlewood’s pickle was attractive.

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