Love of Lavender
Review by Tom
Lavender is of course one of the mainstays of fragrances for both men and women. Fragrances as diverse as Jicky and Gris Clair have it as notes, and despite my rep as skank-monster extraordinaire, it's a note that I love in several of my favorite scents.
Serge Lutens Gris Clair and Encens et Lavande
Colombina covered the latter and she and I covered the former so I won't completely go over these again, suffice it to say that I own a full bottle of one and am this close to jumping through the hoops needed to get a bell jar of the other. Gris Clair's dance from cold camphored lavender to warm incense is hauntingly complemented by Encens et Lavande's trip from churchy incensed lavender to it's lavender sage drydown.
Annick Goutal Eau de Lavande
I know this is damning this with faint praise, but I have been scenting my pillows with this for years, it's part of my bedtime ritual: cotton in the ears, melatonin, and a spritz of E de L. Sniffing it without expecting it to act like Ambien, I can appreciate that in 1981 Annick Goutal created something that had never been smelled in a lavender before: there's that bit of camphor that's played up in Gris Glair as well as the woods that are in Encens et Lavande. I would and do wear this out, but I am nothing if not hide-bound, so this as ever will be my night-time beddie-bye scent.
Now forget everything I've written.
Reverie au Jardin
First off, full disclosure. I think Andy Tauer is a genius. From what I've read, he basically does this stuff out his house: no focus groups, no baggage of even a house as large as Serge Lutens. (I know, heresy) No house perfumer mixing the juice. The first scent of his I tried was Lonestar Memories, and I was convinced that he was some ex-pat Texan who moved to Switzerland and mixed this up a'pinin' for the home place. Then I smelled Le Maroc pour Elle and L'Air du Desert Marocain and suddenly wondered, like he's from Morocco ?
Calling Reverie au Jardin a lavender scent in a way is like calling Le Labo Patchouli 24 a patchouli scent. In the case of Le Labo, the patch is buried under a heady (and I think divine) layer of smoky birch tar. In R au J, the lavender not only challenges what you think you want to smell when you think of lavender, but is woven in a hide-and-seek game in the various and myriad layers of the scent.
First off, the lavender: in the past weeks, Chandler Burr wrote about dryer sheets or something (I am willing to give them my email address, but I am not willing to pay them to reread the article) that most people when they say they want lavender don't want the actual smell, they want the simulacrum that they think they smell.
I'd like to write that of course being such a connoisseur of lavender that Reverie du Jardin didn't put me off at all. D'oh! At first sniff, I was like, whaaaah? So much so that I went to my local gourmet store to actually smell some of the actual herb. A little research showed that there are several different kinds of lavender, and the lavender that Tauer uses takes a good few moments to register as lavender at all, if you are expecting to smell what you are used to smelling in a lavender scent. It's green and fresh and slightly sweet, not heady and not minty and paired with a light vetiver. Then the reverie begins...
The only way I can really describe it as a day in your fantasy garden, starting in the late morning. It's one of those long summer days where thanks to daylight savings and the time of the year the sun doesn't set 'til nine. You are sitting in the garden, reading, Proust no doubt, or E. F. Benson, if like me you're looking for something lighter. As the day grows later and the shadows longer you might wander from the herb garden to the flower garden. Of course there couldn't be an incense garden, but this is a fantasy, so why not? You wander through these gardens, stopping for a while at a bench to read a page or two, to sip from your glass of water with a single thin slice of cucumber, smiling at Mapp being thwarted, to wander off to a bench at a different sunnier spot. Lavender is a recurring theme as is green leaves, roots and earth, but the scents journey through its metaphoric garden also weaves orris, woods, tonka and vetiver.
At one point on me the scent changes suddenly, like taking the path from the lily ponds at The Huntington Library that suddenly changes into the desert garden; a change so sudden, so Alice-in-Wonderland shocking in real life that the olfactory change from Jardin to Temple has the same effect: blank, if delighted consternation and a geeky squeal of delight. Other changes are more gradual; the orris on me comes in like a bank of dappled clouds, obscuring the sunlight briefly before receding and ceding the stage to the woods and light musk.
Just so you won't think this is a total love-fest, I do have one complaint: I wish it were stronger. I'd like a parfum. Now, please.
Gris Clair is available Barneys, $120 for 50 ml
Encens et Lavande is available at the Salon Shiseido only (they will ship in the EU if you know somene, 100eu for 100 ml).
Eau de Lavande is available at various e-tailers usually discounted, like Perfume Emporium, which offers the 3.4 oz (usually $95) for $72.99, and is sometimes available with the rest of the line at Bloomingdales, Neimans and Bergdorf Goodman.
Reverie au jardin is available for pre-order at LuckyScent, $85 for 50 ml
The first image is from sxc.hu, the second from tauerperfumes.com.