Close your eyes, and imagine yourself in a field in Provence. Fresh lavender stretches out in an aromatic purple expanse as far as the eye can see. Slashes of white are interspersed throughout, heliotrope whose delicate blooms launch a powerful cascade of vanilla, marzipan, fresh anise, and powdered meringue. Running through the heart of field is a river of vanilla, silky and creamy, coiling its way around the purple and white flowers to create the scent of lavender ice-cream dusted with meringue and anise. The earth below them is made of patchouli, its spiciness complemented by something a little extra that smells of cinnamon, cloves, and chili-pepper. All around, encircling the field like a dark wall, is a forest filled with myrtle, wafting its unique aromas of spicy herbs, fruity sap, herbal flowers, and green woods. Cedar grows there, too, along with green vetiver that first smells mineralized, mossy, and minty, and then, later, smoky and woody.
Filippo Sorcinelli has been called “a Renaissance man,” and the term seems fitting. He is not only the force behind Unum Parfums and the LAVS Atelier that makes vestments for the popes, but he is also a painter, photographer, musician, and conceptual post-modernist artist whose work has been praised by the Louvre.
Fans of floriental powerhouses in the classical tradition, take note, Opus 1144 is one for you to try. It is a bold, complex fragrance with a divaesque character that harkens back to the great Guerlain legends, Shalimar and L’Heure Bleue, in their most concentrated vintage parfum form, as well as to modern creations by Mona di Orio and O’Drui. At its heart, it’s structured much like a millefeuille dessert where tart, lemon curd custard lies sandwiched between layers of dark, smoky styrax and balsamic-coated, musky leather, all dusted with vanillic powder in a haze of jasmine and iris floralcy.
Opus 1144 is many things, sometimes all at once. It is a lilting choral extravaganza where grand, bold opulence and monumental density dip into airiness and delicacy without ever losing strength. It’s a chiaroscuro of light and dark, masculinity and feminine, gourmand and oriental, hard and soft, acrid and sweet, cloying and beautiful — and I’m not completely sure what to make of all that, no matter how many times I wear it. In all honesty, there are many times in the first four hours when Opus 1144 leaves me simultaneously repelled and riveted, drawn in compulsively and with great admiration, but also put off and hesitant. One thing is undeniable: it’s something that any fan of the classics and of powerhouses in the floriental genre should try for themselves.
An olfactory “hymn to the Spirit” lies at the heart of Lavs, a fragrance that wants you to get in touch with your spiritual side, and to feel uplifted and purified with the beauty of church incense. Lavs is a creation of Unum, an Italian perfume house founded in 2013 by Filippo Sorcinelli who is also the nose behind its three fragrances.
What is truly fascinating about Unum is that its original mission seems to have been liturgical garments or priestly robes, and its e-shop has a coolest gallery of the most elaborate Catholic robes I’ve seen outside of my television. From what I’ve read, Unum actually creates vestments for Pope Benedict and Pope Francis XVI, which has to be the most unique background to any perfume house around. Regular readers know my passion for history, so this alone caught my attention, but it was the even more interesting story behind the actual Lavs fragrance that made me want to try it. Apparently, it was originally a room spray used to scent the two popes’ ecclesiastic robes! You can read all the cool details at Alfarom‘s review for Lavs on his Nero Profumo blog site (which I’ll be quoting later on), but, suffice it say, there probably isn’t a single incense fragrance in the world today which comes with papal approval except for this one.