Perfumer Yann Vasnier
The woody fruity perfume’s place in history seems to have been half-erased by the seminal reconstruction of the category by Christopher Shelldrake and Serge Lutens and their Bois perfumes for Serge Lutens line. It is easy to forget that the woods and fruits have long been combined in perfumery, but they were filed under different headings, so to speak. A large majority of perfumes from the early to mid 20th century that we’ve tended to lumped into the chypre and Oriental genres might just as easily have been considered fruity-woody perfumes. Think of Rochas Femme, Chanel Bois des Iles, Caron Narcisse Noir or even Guerlain Shalimar.
With Oliban, Keiko Mecheri shows that you can build a distinctive fruity wood in the Lutens post-Bois era. On paper Oliban might look similar to a number of other perfumes, but that’s just looking at the ingredient list. Despite Luca Turin’s comparison to Estée Lauder’s Knowing, I don’t think Oliban overlaps the rose chypre genre. And unlike Mecheri’s other fruity-wood, Génie du Bois, there’s no qualitative resemblance to the Lutens/Sheldrake signature that, like pornography, we can’t pin down, but by god, we know it when we smell it.
Woods and fruits together provide a sort of universal gearing, resulting in an infinite number of possibilities within a limited range. It’s no wonder Lutens and Sheldrake planted their flag in this territory. Mecheri hasn’t set up shop here as the boys have, but she has taken advantage of the possibilities.