Once upon a time there were no niches in the perfume market. There were celebrity fragrances, which have never ceased coming into existence or amazing me (rarely in a good way), there were the big makers, and there were fashion designer scents.
What there weren’t were perfumers wacky or quirky enough to go out on their own. There are now, of course, so many that I find at least two or three such ranges debuting in any given year. Back in the day – not.
He inaugurated the line with all sorts of interesting fragrances composed by crack perfumers. All right, it wasn’t exactly Frederic Malle, but it was a respectable, even an experimental line up. He had the young Jean Claude Ellena doing L’Eau d’Ambre in 1978 or so, and Jean Claude again, doing L’Haie du Hameau Fleurie in 1982. Ambre is in production to this day, and to my mind is still one of the very best ambers for everyday wear, and the Haie is jasmine, almost purely jasmine, and a lovely interpretation because apparently it’s one of M. Ellena’s favorite flowers.
Then there were genuinely innovative perfumes: Vanilia which was a green vanilla jasmine, now sadly discontinued. It smelled like a suntan on the Riviera, there was Patchouli Patch which was the hippie sensibility to a T, and smelled like Ibiza in High Season.
He sold out of L’Artisan sometime in the late eighties and then produced a second more refined brand Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier, an historical inside joke on the ancient French guild of Perfumers and Glovemakers (and yes, the company does make gloves as well as perfume). This enterprise included a number of gems: Or des Indes, a Shalimar variant backcrossed with three times as much opopanax as is in the Guerlain resulting in a very golden smelling perfume.
Then there is Ambre Precieux once the sexiest amber on the market, these days somewhat watered down, and his re-do of Vanilia called Fleur de Comores with even more jasmine and more vanilla than in its L’Artisan days. The Tubereuse of the line was one of the very best tuberoses in production, the Jardin du Neroli was so good that it was a doppelganger for the limited Edition Fleur d’Oranger that L’Artisan produced a couple of years ago at 325.00 USD a bottle.
He retired to Bourgogne where he created Le Jardin du Parfumeur, in effect letting Mother Nature do the heavy lifting.
Myself, I always associate the brand in my mind with Iris Bleu Gris, a melancholic iris note suitable for moping in a sophisticated way. It is the smell of reverie (that is, if reverie has a smell) and wonderful for sulking about University Towns and possibly punting. I’d happily mope and punt myself, but am long past the age for either, and usually behind on ten or twelve chores anyhow,with little time left for gently melancholic boat rides. About the best I can do is to put on a little in homage to M. Laporte and his wonderfully evocative ranges. May he tread a flowery path.