Etat Libre d’Orange Nombril Immense, 2006

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(image Satyre en Atlante – Collection Albani)

Perfumer Nathalie Feisthauer.

Nombril Immense is a part of the trend of cleaned-up dirty materials.

There have traditionally been a set of botanical materials that give gravity and intensity to perfume.  They’re not known for their freshness or cleanliness.  In fact, they’re generally known for having a ‘dirtiness’ to them.  Patchouli, vetiver, labdanum, myrrhe, sandalwood, benzoin.  With the ascendence of oud and chakra-bruising doses of woody ambers as principal notes, by comparison, these quaint botanicals have come to have a girl-next-door quality.  To get back in the game, patchouli has had to evolve to survive.  Some contemporary patchoulis, such as Atelier Cologne Patchouli Mistral and Tom Ford White Patchouli, lighten and refine the patchouli to the point that it sings like a castrato soprano.  Nombril Immense took a much more interesting approach.

Nombril Immense doesn’t knock legs out from under patchouli, it just steers its inherent darkness toward a clearer elocution.  Instead of a hippie, “Hey, man” Nombril greets you with a gravelly, ”Hello darling.”  Gone is patchouli’s function of either covering or publicizing body odor.  Nombril uses immortelle, an odd herb that suggests something not quite edible, and tones of ink drying or varnish setting that smell not quite poisonous.  Nombril is sleek without being slick.  It smells like a matte metal finish looks: eye-catching, but not shiny.  It wears wonderfully, not sitting on top of your skin, not quite sinking into it.

Nombril Immense is one of the tidiest and fully thought-out the contemporary niche patchoulis.  I’m very surprised it’s not more discussed among fumies.

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