Paul Emilien is a new name on the perfume scene, as of 2014. Based in Grasse, France, he seems to be the artistic director of the brand, and the perfumer or perfumers behind the six perfumes launched in 2014 have not been named. Here below is my review of two of Paul Emilien’s perfumes, L’Espirit Divin and Une Belle Journee. The unique selling point of this new brand appears to be a heavy focus on sourcing and using raw materials of mostly French origin.
L’Espirit Divin opens on a wave of dry, nutty spices and aromatics so immediately impressive that minutes after spraying it on, I was tapping the name into my search engine to see how much it cost. (Too much for me, in case you’re wondering). Anyone who loves big, spicy Orientals will surely purr when this fragrance hits their skin. The saffron, black pepper, cloves, ginger, and cardamom in the opening all feel very dry and resinous, as if the spices have been dry-roasted in a hot pan and are about to explode. A touch of grapefruit and ginger adds a slight vein of adult bitterness, as well as a little lift to the heavy spicing. For the first thirty minutes, this glorious cacophony of spices and aromatics make me think fondly of vintage Opium, although in general L’Espirit Divin is far more aerial and diaphanous in comparison. But there is a familial link there to this great oriental, and it is a good association.
Another thing worth mentioning is the animalic element – L’Espirit Divin reeks of the sort of civety dirtiness that give all the good old French perfumes their naughty edge. Mind you, civet is not listed anywhere in the notes list, so some other note must be responsible for the animalic growl I sense in this – perhaps the leathery labdanum, with its slightly funky, sticky warmth? Or perhaps it is simply the combination of cardamom and saffron – it is the combination of these woody, leathery spices after all that lend fragrances like Songe d’Un Bois en Ete and Leather Oud some of their stinky animalism. Whatever it is, there is a distinct (but not overwhelming) element of animalism here that should appeal to anyone who likes the slight naughtiness of the grand dames of French perfumery.
Despite my mention of French animalistic perfumes, L’Espirit Divin is an oriental, woody perfume that seeks to reference Arabia Felix, and not France. However, as with all perfumes made and created by French perfumers, there is also something unmistakably French in the style and execution. After all, Paul Emilien has made it a selling point of his house that all his materials are sourced in France, and more specifically, Grasse.
The nod towards the Arabian Peninsula is born out even further in the heart and drydown of the perfume, where it moves into a dry, woody, smoky stage reminiscent of the drydown of Dior’s wonderful Oud Ispahan. There is a rose-oud feeling to the drydown that feels very familiar – it’s very dry and radiant. Nagamortha has been used as a stand in for oud, as seems to be the fashion these days. It’s not my favorite type of smell in the world – this dry, enormously radiant woodiness has a tendency to tire out my nose – and indeed, I far prefer the spicy start to L’Espirit Divin than the drydown. However, people who love Oud Ispahan, Wardasina, and various other modern European interpretations of the Arabian rose-oud-tobacco theme will likely love this as much for its later stages as for its opening. All in all, an impressive perfume, and one that is very easy to wear. It is highly reminiscent of several other perfumes, however, so originality is not a strong point. But it is a good example of the dry, spicy oriental category, and if you don’t mind spending 185 euros, then have at it! Personally, though, I am happy with my (quite generous) sample.
Une Belle Journee
Despite not being at all my type of perfume (based on a perusal of the notes list), I really like Une Belle Journee. In fact, it has been a pleasant surprise all round. I would characterize it as an ozonic fruity-floral over a woody base. The central accord is a rose, iris and violet mash-up that is as sweet and as velvety as a big powder puff dusted with cosmetic powder. At first, it strikes me as being almost candy sweet, like Pez (this would be the violet), but it quickly develops a dry and mineralic aspect (which I put down to the influence of the iris). The iris is the adult presence in the room, making sure that the kids (the violet and rose) don’t go too sugar-crazy. I like its quiet, flinty presence here. It is entirely necessary to stop this tilting over into Pez candy-flavored face powder.
And while normally I would run a mile from anything described as fruity, the fruit note here is very subtle and well done – above all, I get the slightly musty smell of blackberries, specifically the inside of the berry, where a hint of mold might be beginning to develop. It is this hint of decay that makes the fruit note so attractive to me because it reminds me of picking berries in the hedgerows when I was a child. The faintly musty berry note also reminds me (in a good way) of the opening of one of my favorite perfumes, Rien by Etat Libre d’Orange. Fear not, avoiders of animalic leathers – Une Belle Journee is not an animalic leather. It’s just the note of decrepit blackberry that connects the two in my mind (and probably only ever in my mind).
The fragrance stays in this mode – cool, ozonic violets, iris, and rose in a sort of cosmetics-powder arrangement over dry woods – for the duration. It is very pleasant, light, and easy to wear. It is somewhat related to Serge Lutens’ Bois de Violette and Feminite du Bois, as all violets over woody bases are going to be. For what it’s worth, I find Une Belle Journee to be slightly sweeter and less complex than Feminite du Bois, but more subtle and less ‘purple’ than Bois de Violette.
The notes say that there is moss, leather, and jasmine in the base, but I can’t say I can pick out any of those notes individually, beyond the slight ‘purple’ sweetness which may actually be deriving from a grapey jasmine. The slight mineral, saline note I picked up earlier might be a touch of moss rather than the iris, but I can’t say that the base is overtly mossy at all. In fact, if I could tweak anything about this fragrance, it would be to turn up the volume on the base notes, as the aerial radiance of the violet-rose-iris combination could do with some serious heft at the base with which to anchor and ground it. Some earthiness to go with the airiness, so to speak. But all in all, an excellent fragrance and one possibly to convert even fruity-floral avoiders like me. It is not highly original – it plays on the same violet-woods theme that Serge Lutens explored so thoroughly in his Bois series – but it is entirely pleasant and well done. This sells for 145 euros for 100mls (EDP).