l’Artisan Parfumeurs Jour de Fete, 2004

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(image, Norwegian Wood)

Perfumer Olivia Giacobetti

Olivia Giacobetti’s has a knack for asking questions with her perfumes. Even when the questions simply have to do with olfactory dynamics, they seem to have implications beyond the matter at hand. Suggestive, almost allegorical value. What is the difference between quiet and soft in a perfume? Is low sillage an advantage or a missed opportunity?

Jour de Fete sounds like a party in a bottle, but if you come to it expecting music, cheering and applause, you’ll be either surprised or disappointed. It’s less a party and more like a discussion with a fascinating stranger. It has the black-box quality that I love in Giacobetti’s other work (Fou d’Absinthe, En Passant, Passage d’Enfer). I’ve read others call Jour de Fete overpowering, undetectable, sweet, bitter, long-lasting and instantly disappearing. Everybody sees something different in the box.

Is there an opposite of a vanishing act? On applying Jour de Fete, I could just barely smell a hint of marzipan and play-do. It suggested scent as well as tactile textures, but I had to strain to detect it. Within 15 to 20 minutes, I could smell it a bit more strongly. But what I smelled was more of a quality than a scent, per se. For lack of a better word, it smelled blunt. It was as though I was at the outer edge of something that actually absorbed scent. Eight hours later my wrist was glued to my nose. The perfume is just compelling.

I have the same experience with Dzing! (another Giacobetti perfume for l’Artisan Parfumeurs) at its drydown. While the two smell nothing alike, at this stage, they both are evocative without suggesting or referring to anything in particular. They don’t smell like anything else I can point to, but they make my mind race.

Giacobetti’s work is not just interesting or appealing, it’s fascinating. I’d give anything to have the chance to sit quietly in the corner and observe her at work for a week.


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