(image Sidi Larbi, Cherkaoui’s Faun)
Perfumer Ralf Schwieger
The perfume-tells-a-story bit isn’t my bag. Why try so hard to push narrative onto non-literal experiences? As much as I love to write about perfume, the writing is utterly after the fact of the experience. Just let me smell my perfume and experience the state.
The poem, the music the ballet, the myth—l’Après Midi d’une Faune is an historically overburdened story! Fortunately, the perfume doesn’t suggest fauns or any of the notions that a faun represents in mythology. But story aside, it is a brilliant perfume.
There have been a number of strategies to recreate or suggest the chypre accord without the bio-hazard oakmoss. Chanel 31 Rue Cambon bends a floral amber into the shape of a chypre. Annick Goutal Mon Parfum Cheri makes patchouli, a common chypre component, a stand-in for to oakmoss rather than an adjunct to it. de Nicolai’s Vie de Chateau Intense plays with the hay-like scent of coumarin to create a fougère/chypre hybrid. But Ralf Schweiger does a clever turn with Afternoon of a Faun.
Using immortelle, which I wouldn’t otherwise think to associate with oakmoss, he plays up the sandpapery, dusty feel of oakmoss giving us the tone and the shape of the chypre without explicitly trying to smell like one. The composition has a clear bergamot note, and an ambery benzoin if not cistus labdanum itself, so the rest of the chypre elements are in play. But immortelle, when matched with incense and myrrh implies that inky state between smokiness and resin that moss creates. Imagine that perfume notes are elements on the periodic table. Schweiger goes directly up one level to find the element that shares the same chemical properties as our element oakmoss and makes a new compound.
Rather then suggesting a chypre (31 Rue Cambon) or using chypre-like elements (new synthetics, ‘neutered’ oak moss) Schweiger gives us a parallel universe chypre, and I for one couldn’t be happier. This could easily be a signature scent for someone searching for perfume monogamy.