Aedes de Venustas Eau de Parfum – a walk through the monastery’s vegetable patch
We all associate the perfumes we wear with something. It’s very rare to cover yourself in a particular scent and not make any reference to a prior experience or object. What are you wearing right now? What does it make you think of? That is a powerfully evocative tool, people! It is certainly one of the primary attractions of this passion: one smell of Vero Onda and I’m at my grandma’s house 30 years ago; Slumberhouse Norne takes me hunting with my dad every Friday after school in the fall; Xeryus is something I always wore when playing jazz gigs in the 80s and if I wore it right now, I’d be ready to play even if I wasn’t; the new Unum Lavs is utterly like the masses I was forced to endure as a kid. Etcetera.
Smell can also take you to a place you can simply imagine. That’s part of the lure of vintage perfumery. When you wear a well-preserved fragrance from the 40s or 50s – Diorissimo, Rochas La Femme, Guerlain Vetiver, etc – you can well see yourself hobnobbing with the David Nivens, Cary Grants, Audrey Hepburns and Grace Kellys of the demi monde. Some Comme des Garcons can give you a clue what a future android might smell like, no? When I wear Aedes de Venustas Eau de Parfum* it engages my memory-based associations and teleports me to a very unlikely place that I’ve never been to: the lush, varied garden of a Catholic monastery in high summer.
The first thing that grabs you about this EdP is its astringent intense freshness, and thus pretty much everything you need to know about it. Rhubarb, tomato leaf, mild n wild herbs and sweet-tart fruit literally jump off the skin and infiltrate your reality with undeniable resolve. Furthermore, all this is elevated and enveloped in a cloud of bright & clean incense. WOW – the first time I tried it in the shop, my tingle factor** was off the map. This obviously required some attention.
As it settles down, its constituent parts become more clear and it soon became obvious who made this: my single favourite Nose, Bertrand Duchaufour. One of the more prolific parfumers today, Duchaufour has a generally recognizable style, characterized by a certain sheerness of feel and usually a subtle nod at the exotic. Modern classics such as Timbuktu, Chypre Palatin, Sartorial, and the inexplicably unloved Havana Vanille share a fairly conventional structure with thoughtful quirks that really compel. Over the years, I’ve come to see his singular approach as “hefty weightlessness” – perfumes that have real substance yet….yet seem to float effortlessly. This metaphor makes me think of my best buddy Fast Eddie, who at 110kg could serve and volley in tennis with amazing grace and quickness. Aedes de Venustas from 2012 certainly follows these illustrious forbears in its hefty weightlessness.
So, back to the monastery…. The initial weight of notes gives way to the rhubarb which really dominates the first 30 minutes of wearing. There are traces of clary sage, mace and marjoram in there somewhere, as well as some abstract florals – marigold? Honeysuckle? – which makes the summer garden feel complete. As it progresses, the tomato leaf and incense become more dominant – so be warned if that bitter green tang doesn’t float your boat – while the incense, remains very subtly rendered. Marrying these dissonant notes must have taken some serious effort….
The ad copy claims that Aedes is a chypre but as usual I’m gonna disagree with ad copy. Tomato leaf can’t replace moss in my book, and rhubarb ain’t much of a bergamot substitute. One could argue that the present green-fruit-bright present in Aedes qualifies it as a chypre, but in the end it comes down to that all-important feel and this simply doesn’t feel like a chypre. I would say that it is so unique that it comfortably fits as a “Weirdo” that I wrote about in a previous review, ie. In a category of its own. In spite of its thrilling first two hours, longevity is a rather disappointing, which makes its ultra premium price tag hard to justify. In spite of the in-store tingle, I forced myself to wait for a sale to pounce on a full bottle, which is a flat-out hefty piece of rhubarb-coloured glass.
One probably doesn’t normally think of rhubarb, tomatoes after an incense-doused religious service as ideal evocation for a modern fragrance. But that’s where this Duchaufour Weirdo takes me. And I must say it’s a very pleasant imaginary memory to have.
*not to be confused with the very different Aedes de Venustas by L’artisan Parfumeurs, also by Bertrand Duchaufour, from 2008
**the ability for a perfume to give me goosebumps & raised neck hair, usually translating to an immediately lightening of the wallet.