Guerlain Aqua Allegoria Anisia Bella, 2004

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(image source indulgy)

Perfumer Aurélien Guichard

The perfumer having been let out of the closet, so to speak, allows perfume enthusiasts to focus on particular perfumers. Cellier, Roudnitska, Robert, Chant. The precedent here is cinema, and its move from the focus on the studio to the director. Director as auteur (Kurasowa, Truffault) has a parallel in early niche perfumery (Laporte, Lutens). The 1970s-1980s director-as-star model (Scorsese, Spielberg) fits Ellena and Kurkdjian. (Sorry, very broad strokes here. I’ve never studied film.) But there’s a model in Hollywood where a director does both big-budget blockbusters and relatively low-budget films as well. Think Joss Whedon, M. Night Shyamalan, Kathryn Bigelow. Perfumers who follow this trend would be Bertrand Duchaufour, Annick Ménardo and Aurélien Guichard.

I’m a great fan of Aurélien Guichard. He is prolific, his work has ongoing themes, he has an acute sense of perfume’s history, and his perfumes are beautiful. The connections between his contemporary work and his reconstructions/reorchestrations are intriguing, and his mastery of genres admirable. He manages high and low with ease.

So, Anisia Bella (2004.) Creating an Aqua Allegoria must have been an interesting challenge to a perfumer whose future work would show a thorough grasp of classical perfumery in all its complexity. You know, the Aqua Allegorias—the Guerlain perfume training bra, the realm of the almost metaphysical ‘Is it a scent or a perfume?’ question. Guichard’s solution is witty and smells great.

The Aqua Allegorias are light and easy if you like them, simplistic and possibly trite if you don’t. Anisia Bella uses simplicity to its advantage. It is light but substantial, and complex enough to hold interest over time. Simple and facile, but not unsophisticated. Anisia Bella centers on anise from start to finish, but starts with a cold, sugared citrus violet and transitions to a tea-like cedar. In perfumery as in cuisine, herbs typically enhance a larger piece of food, such as meat or produce. Fruit, flowers, woods are the lead; herbs are the embellishment. Anisia Bella subverts the order and the flower serves the herb. Violet is merely an adornment next to the central anise note. It’s an interesting premise from a perfumer filled with innovative ideas. Imagine the Aqua Allegoria bottle, soulless through repetition, as the Trojan Horse to the beautiful set of ideas contained in Anisia Bella.

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