(image source unknown)
Perfumer Pierre Guillaume.
The spice cabinet has been neglected in perfumery. I imagine this has to do with perfume producers not wanting to be pinned down by the literal, the prosaic, the kitchen. From the consumer perspective, I don’t know if there is much of a market for culinary spice perfumery, but the need is probably met by aromatherapeutic products. I know that there are others spicy/bakery/culinary perfumes: Tauer’s Eau d’Epices, Lutens Five O’Clock au Gingembre, l’Artisan’s Tea for Two, but I’ve never tried them.
I do see a train of thought that goes from Estée Lauder Cinnabar/Dior Opium to Serge Lutens Arabie to Un Crime Exotique, though. For each of these, the spice is in the syrup. A syrupy quality in perfume usually implies an overt sweetness. Generally, in terms of nose feel, syrup = sweetness + viscosity + flavor. The flavor might be vanilla, maple, cinnamon, cardammom. The ‘flavor’ is the spice. Crime Exotique skips the implied syrup (Cinnabar) and the overt syrup (Arabie) and takes the spice in a different direction. The touch of syrup that Crime Exotique gives you is firmly grounded in clove, one of the few cold spices. The chilly blast of clove in the topnotes of the perfume surround you at first but subside by about 80% fairly quickly. The syrup goes the way of the clove hurricane, and Crime is soon revealed as a woody perfume. When not drowned in sweetness, spices like clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, even ginger are shown to be characteristically woody in scent.
Un Crime Exotique takes the wood and runs with it. What appeared to be syrup is actually more of a resinous quality that the perfume builds on to make a rich woody floral. The perfume settles into a cool vanillic range that maintains the drying, antiseptic character of the clove, but links it to a floral quality. Parfumerie Generale list osmanthus among the notes.
Un Crime Exotique flirts with the gift-shop candle vibe, but is just nuanced enough to escape. The opening notes of the perfume are a refrigerated blast where clove overpowers virtually all the other notes. The heart is evenly balanced, and the spicy, woody and floral notes move around one another respectfully. The drydown gets a bit grey, non-descript. It smells like a muffled version of Lutens Un Bois Vanille’s cool, woody vanilla. A little blurred, but not bad at all.