There really aren’t many perfume makers I trust myself to these days. I am afraid of boredom, and ugliness, or of being the recipient of a giant headache from an overdosed ingredient. I don’t want to smell a “lily” which smells nothing like a lily- as I did recently from a trendy brand which had obviously never gone near a garden in its life. I won’t name names, but suffice it to say that I could not cream the ersatz lily off fast enough.
That particular brand is not alone. There is far too much awful out there. So it’s a relief when you find that a few brands do know what they are doing and actually do it well. Parfum d’Empire is one.
The company seems to have begun in about 2005 and although I did not pay too much attention at the time, I tried out several of their perfumes. Immediately I knew I was in the hands of a professional of the highest order. Marc Antoine Corticchiato’s art is subtle and skin friendly. He never seems to compose a perfume that does not wear easily and that is a very welcome ability.
Ambre Russe was the great hit of the line and I remember writing at the time of its release that it smelled like a drinks party at Tsarskoe Selo, but that was pretty close to Corticchiato’s intention. At the time I was also puzzled because, although the perfume was called amber, I didn’t actually catch any amber in it, no labdanum, no vanillin. What I did get, the vodka, champagne. tea. leather, and incense struck me as exactly what he wanted to recreate that vanished atmosphere of privilege and- what am I saying? That lifestyle is back again, even the Faberge Easter
eggs that Malcolm Forbes once collected and had on display at the Forbes offices on Lower Fifth Avenue.
What intrigues me these days is the idea that there is ambergris in the formula. There is probably Ambrox or another ambergris doppelganger in there like Ambrein but Basenotes lists the notes as champagne, and vodka over coriander, cumin, cinnamon and Russian tea. The evaporation is Russian leather, ambergris, and incense. How I do wish the ambergris were real. Unhelpfully I adore the real thing, I like to wake up and smell the sparkling remains of ambergris and what could be more opulent than smelling it here?
At the other end of the Corticchiato spectrum, to be fair, was the much less well received perfume Trois Fleurs. That scent did not get much approbation when it was released but was interesting because no could say which of the eponymous three flowers dominated the composition. Everyone had a different experience.
Some people claimed a predatory jasmine ate up all the other flowers, like the carniverous bloom in Little Shop of Horrors. Some found a monstrous tuberose swelling jurrasically in the center of the perfume, and still others -like me- found Trois Fleurs a matter of roses (white roses) and only incidentally anything else. But keep your eye on the ball here. This is the mark of a clever perfumer. He composed a symphonic accord that none of us could call accurately.
We were all rather like the blind men and the elephant, some of us reported snake, some wall. It all depended on which part of the elephantine formula we perceived. Remember this was judged one of the weaker perfumes in the line, but let’s face it, if this is what you produce on an off day…what do you make on a good one? I have yet to run across a bad Parfum d’Empire.
Have a favorite from this line?