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segunda-feira, 18 de julho de 2016

Best in Show: The Fragrances of Maurice Roucel (2016)


One of perfumery's brightest stars is undoubtedly the legendary Maurice Roucel, presently of Symrise. Roucel began in 1973 while working at Chanel as an apprentice and then went on to work at IFF, Quest, and Dragoco. He is the recipient of various accolades in the fragrance industry including the Prix François Coty in 2002, the French and American FiFi, and the French "Oscar des Parfums" Awards. In 2012 he was honored by the French government with the Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. He has developed fragrances for a wide range of brands including Bond No 9, Lancome, Dunhill, Amouage, Avon, Helmut Lang, Guerlain, Hermes, Ferre, Donna Karan and Gucci, to name but a few.
 
For a thorough list of his accomplishments, check out our Maurice Roucel page HERE. For a complete list, visit Roucel's Wikipedia page.
Below, Fragrantica's international editors discuss five of their favorite Roucel compositions accompanied by numerous Honorable Mentions. We hope you enjoy this overview of the perfumer's work and encourage you to share your own favorites in the comments below.

HELMUT LANG
EAU DE COLOGNE (2000; 2014)

"I walk in, I see You, I watch you, I wait for you,
I tease you, I breathe you, I smell you on my skin" -Helmut Lang
As much as Austrian designer & artist Helmut Lang used unconventional materials for his famous designs, it doesn't surprise he had a rather unconventional fragrance concept in mind when he met with Maurice Roucel in New York in 1998: "He wanted the scent of his lover's sweat …erotic, musk, skin. […] He had a clear vision; a good brief and he used his minimalist design and aesthetics for both the marketing and the bottle,“ Maurice Roucel remembers in an interview with ÇaFleureBon. To the utter dismay of many fans, the Helmut Lang fragrance line was discontinued in 2005, but in 2014 prayers of many Lang devotees were finally answered with a reissue of Maurice Roucel's musk masterpiece. 
While most Eau de Cologne usually play on the clean and refreshing side of scent, Helmut Lang's Eau de Cologne is a Janus headed creature. Crisp and herbal headnotes of Lavender, Rosemary and Artemisia mingle with Petit Grain in a typical barbershop cologne overture on the one side, but where a cologne like 4711 ends, Helmut Lang Eau de Cologne starts its metamorphosis into a slightly sweet, postcoital, between-the-sheets sensation. Perfectly starched lavender linens with a hint of bleach on top begin to get somewhat disheveled. The impeccable cleanliness erodes into powdery Heliotrope, creamy Sandalwood, and a musk which is laced with a hint of waxy wool. The final throws eventually emit a tiny bit of cumin, that adds a warm "lived in" feeling to an overall cozy and clean scent that is officially referred to as "The calm of the morning after. Complex, familiar, inviting" which hits the nail on the head.

EDITIONS DE PARFUMS
DANS TES BRAS (2008)


By: Yi Shang
Surrounded by mostly his popular commercial pieces, like DKNY Be DeliciousGuerlain Insolence to name a few, I always had this odd assumption that Maurice Roucel’s work is like those whimsical and bright paintings you’d see mass produced on Hallmark greeting cards. This is until I got utterly overwhelmed and transcendent to a bizarrely mesmerizing surreal world by Dans Tes Bras.
Dans Tes Bras has arranged a usual array of popular perfume notes into one of the most unusual scent experience. Predominant musk, heliotrope, pine, and violet, this could easily create some chilled aromatic Christmas holiday charm; but instead I got something like damp earth and all that wonders it can bring. Later on the whole scent settles and reveals the most smoothing, velvety warm musk. Quietly mesmerizing! Such smell is not typically showy or perfume-y per se, and its power needs no decoration. At once I felt I could finally understand why my dog loves digging his nose deep into those wetland surface covered by wood chips, dry grass, leaves and all those nature’s microorganisms! This is how Dans Tes Bras makes me feel: in its presence, one can momentarily let go of artificially constructed popular aesthetics, and confidently embrace something that’s quite and deeply primal, exciting yet oddly making you feel at ease. It’s only natural, so raw, and so good!
 

GUCCI ENVY (1997)

 
Gucci Envy came out in 1997, a time when we experienced a steady flow of elegant, clean and fresh perfumes on the market, like Clinique Happy, L’Eau par Kenzo, Cool Water Davidoff and Noa Cacharel, which still are highly sought after today. For me, Envy stood out because of its perfect equilibrium of fresh, spicy, floral and slightly sweet notes. I wasn’t surprised to learn that Maurice Roucel, who started thinking about this composition in 1984, needed 13 years to perfect his creation. In the case of Envy, the flower that inspired it all was the hyacinth, a flower that moved the creator but apparently was not a quick fix!
In the top, Envy is very green and quite refreshing. The fruity note of pineapple is nice and subtle here and balanced perfectly with peach, bergamot, magnolia and freesia. There’s a cool metal quality that’s captivating and quite unique. The initial green blast softens within the first half hour, while the heart develops the flowers I love so much: hyacinth, lily of the valley and iris - a bouquet of spring flowers! Combined with the lasting metallic notes, there is a frozen vibe which makes it perfect for hot summer days and nights. In the base, I'm left with sandalwood and musk that easily last all day on my skin. Chanel 19 is mentioned often in the comments as a similar scent, but where Nr. 19 is quite serious, Gucci is more lighthearted, although a slightly indolic element (from the jasmine in the base) keeps it from becoming too girly!
Sadly, Envy was discontinued, and although the flanker Envy Me is still on the shelves, (a fruity-floral with fresh and musky accords, not designed by Roucel); to me it’s not as mesmerizing as the original Envy. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a re-launch!

GUERLAIN INSOLENCE (2006)

Creating a contemporary violet fragrance was a true challenge back in 2006; Insolence by Guerlain is already celebrating its 10th anniversary and for good reason. Violet fragrances were seen as retro, reproducing the delicate, "shy violet" image of light face cosmetics and violet pastilles consumed by benevolent elderly ladies for sweetening their breath. Maurice Roucel, no shy violet himself, judging by the bold strokes of his fragrant compositions which actively paw their wearers to purring, chose to push the boundaries of both concepts to their potential extremes. He thus gave substance to a scent that can be literally tasted in the air, having the bystander engulfed by its profoundly musky violet-tinged hairspray note that announces its wearer from 2 blocks away, not just round the office corridor.
In Sigmund Freud's seminal The Interpretation of Dreams (1899) the otherwise asexual word "violets" takes on the much more sinister nuance of "violence" and/or "viol" (French for rape) in the context of a dream. Insolence must have been inspired by the very concept, having Roucel chuckle up his sleeves while thinking about it, no doubt cognizant to the word association double-entendre, added to the illusion of violet, iris and rose fragrances perceived as soft and delicate. It was possibly the bourgeois standing of Guerlain that disallowed the risky association to surface through the advertising, going for some strobo-lights dancing Hilary Swank. Predictably it was provocateur Tom Ford who saw the possibilities, when he baptized his own violet fragrance "Violet Blonde" which -of course- makes anyone think of a... violent blonde! Another missed train of fantasy for Guerlain, then, yet still a long-standing commercial and artistic success on the French brand counters everywhere.

LALIQUE POUR HOMME (1997)

The first men's fragrance from Lalique, Lalique pour Homme (Le Lion)is arguably its finest - a symphony of vanilla and woods accented with lavender, iris, amber and patchouli. While this scent seemed to cater to a more mature gentleman upon its release, a re-visit almost 20 years later illustrates the timelessness and approachability of Roucel’s composition.
Must de Cartier for MenPi by Givenchy and Lalique pour Homme. Those are my three “masculine vanilla” staples. Must offers ginger and cinnamon while Pi’s vanilla is accented with almond and benzoin. By comparison, Lalique’s vanilla is dustier, more citrusy, and very very woody; I appreciate the lemony freshness at top that eventually gives way to the more herbal heart set against the vanillic woods and mosses. Lalique is far less sweet or gourmand than the other two; perhaps this aspect of LPH is what leads some reviewers to suggest the scent as being suitable for an older gentleman?
To me, LPH (especially in EDP form) feels like it could have been the male counterpart to Guerlain’s Shalimar … that is, if we buy into the socially constructed notions of gender and scent. I also thought of a Shalimar pour Homme when first experiencing de Nicolaï’s New York. But I digress. If you haven’t already figured out who Maurice Roucel is and why he has earned his rock star status in the international world of perfumery, LPH is a safe and affordable place to start for both men and women. Now, Monsieur Roucel, oh how I would love a pure parfum version of LPH ….
 

Tell us your favorite Maurice Roucel
creation in a comment below!

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