Guerlain Aqua Allegoria Anisia Bella, 2004

Anisia Bella

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.  I think the precedent here is cinema, and its move from the focus on the studio and producer to the director.  ‘Art film’ of the 1950s-1960s (Kurasowa, Truffault) could be likened to early niche perfumery (Laporte, Lutens). 1970s-1980s and onward is where mainstream American film highlighted the star director (Scorsese, Spielberg.)  I suppose the comparisons here would be Ellena and Kurkdjian.  (Sorry, very broad strokes here.  I’ve never studied film.)  Whether the perfume/film analogy holds, and for better or worse, the perfumer as auteur is a current paradigm.

I’m a great fan of Aurélien Guichard.  He is prolific, his work has ongoing themes, his play with history and innovation is wonderfully smart, and his perfumes are beautiful.  I find the connections between his contemporary work (Chinatown, Love in Paris) and his reconstructions/reorchestrations (Baghari, Azzaro Couture) intriguing, and his mastery of genres admirable. (Chinatown is a fruity chypre, Futur a green floral and Andy Warhol Silver Factory a transparent woody incense.)

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 keeps anise from start to finish, but starts with a cold, sugared citrus violet and transitions to a tea-like cedar.  In perfumery, herbs are an enhancement, an embellishment.  Fruit, flowers, woods are the lead.  Anisia Bella subverts the order and the flower serves the herb.

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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