There is not a person alive who has been unaffected by the wretchedness of 2020 and the pandemic that has dominated the list of traumas. I won’t even start to talk about the issues of this year because they are many and all hideous. But what about the escape methods for many of us during the best of times: scent? How much is perfumery still a big escape in the midst of one of the worst years in the 21st century?
Cuir de Russie, the upcoming S6 release from Areej Le Doré puts me in a tricky spot as a reviewer. On the one hand, it is one of my favourites out of the new S6 collection when worn on skin, evoking at different stages Roja Dove‘s Fetish Pour Homme, Jacques Guerlain‘s aesthetic in old vintage classics, and even Serge Lutens‘ Cuir Mauresque for a brief moment.
On the other hand, Cuir de Russie should NOT actually be worn on skin, due to its core ingredient of crude birch tar which is deemed inadvisable and unhealthy when in contact with the skin. In fact, the use of crude birch tar is flat-out prohibited in any fragrance that is intended for the skin. (Only rectified birch tar can be used, and in highly regulated levels at that.) Consequently, Russian Adam calls Cuir de Russie a “garment fragrance” and explicitly advises that it should only be applied to fabric. I did not follow the advisory and wore the fragrance both ways. I doubt I will be the only one to do so.
Which brings me to my dilemma: How do I write about a fragrance that is a singular monolith when worn in the way that is advisable and when that description would entail three short paragraphs but when the inadvisable, health-dangerous way would yield thousands of words of enthusiasm?
I hadn’t planned on writing about Areej Le Doré‘s new, upcoming Grandenia here, but this is such a complex fragrance that I couldn’t do it justice or convey its character and numerous twists properly via simplified text presented as screenshots on Twitter. It’s also a fragrance that, completely unexpectedly, made me think of how Serge Lutens approached white florals several decades ago and his then-revolutionary goal of turning their traditional or quotidian presentations on their head by avoiding Fracas-style, singular floralcy and by playing with dark elements that were traditionally the preserve of “masculine” fragrances. I see the same sort of mission and objective here, albeit taken to extremes.
But this only pertains to one of Grandenia’s many stages. Subsequent twists and turns unexpectedly took me into territory firmly dominated by non-floral, dark, masculine-skewing fragrances like SHL 777’s Oud 777 and Naomi Goodsir’s Bois d’Ascese before moving on again. In essence, Grandenia morphs across a wide spectrum and it’s not easy to explain how it transforms — from a sweet, bright, white floral gardenia bridal bouquet to a sepia-stained, gender-fluid gardenia-jasmine oriental in the same universe as Serge Lutens’ Une Voix Noire before becoming a dark masculine in the style of Bois d’Ascese and Oud 777, then twisting into further unrelated creatures (some with unexpected, unlisted tobacco and booze aromas) and finally ending up similar to War & Peace (I)‘s drydown— on Twitter, even in a 13 screenshots of text. So, let’s begin.
It’s taken me three tests to wrap my head around Musk Lave from Areej Le Doré’s new S6 collection and I’m still not entirely certain what I think. The only things that I’m certain of is that Musk Lave has a number of paradoxical aspects and that I’m completely the wrong audience for this type of fragrance.