I’ve absolutely fallen in love with Rundholz 03.Apr.1968, which I guess shouldn’t surprise me since I also fell hard for al02 by biehl parfumkunstwerke, by the same perfumer, Arturetto Landi. This is obviously a perfumer who likes to balance out bitter resins with mulled wine and stewed fruits. I bet he is the kind of man who would never take his morning espresso without something dolce on the side, an amaretto or a ricciarello perhaps. My kind of man, in other words.
What Landi has done with 03.Apr.1968 is to take the minimalist structure of church incense and flesh it out with a gaudy array of rich, bitter, and tooth-rottingly sweet flavors. It smells like a fat wodge of Christmas cake doused in brandy and set to burn on a priest’s censer alongside a hulking lump of frankincense. Underneath these smoky, soiled-fruit aromas, there is an enticing whiff of heliotrope, a huge purple chunk of marzipan charred at the edges. Smoke fights with burned sugar, and we all win.
The fruit, in particular, is what makes this incense smell unholy, so unclean. It is supposedly lychee, but really it could be any fruit – apples, raisins, dates – because the fruit is so close to collapse that all you can smell are the high-pitched alcohol fumes of decay that belong exclusively to fruit. Joined with a phenomenally dry, dirty frankincense that flits queasily between clove and bay leaf, the fruit is anything but wholesome.
Luca Turin was the first to point out that the appeal of Amouage’s Lyric Woman lay in its “plangent, overripe note, the exhalation of forgotten fruit in a sealed room.” The rotting fruit note achieves a similar effect for 03.Apr.1968, at first coming off as a little stomach-churning, but then working to moisten and plump up the bitter, austere incense.
Many people have compared 03.Apr.1968 to the late, great Norma Kamali Incense, and yes, there is most certainly a kinship. The frankincense used here is similarly dry and almost stale, lacking all the fresh lemony/pine-like nuances usually associated with frankincense. Reacting with the fruit, booze, and sugar, the frankincense takes on the spicy bitterness I associate with copal resin, which along with smoky labdanum is what gives Norma Kamali its unique character.
But in truth, 03.Apr.1968 occupies the same general category of incense as Norma Kamali rather than smelling exactly like it. They are both fatty and overstuffed, the very opposite of the crisply tailored haikus of Comme des Garcons. They are both rather dirty and unwholesome – the type of thing to wear to a bacchanalia rather than to church. But nothing really smells like Norma Kamali Incense. And that’s as it should be. However, for my money, the puffy, burned sugar heliotrope touch makes 03.Apr.1968 makes for an easier wear.
Well, easier, but by no means easy. It’s a huge, potent fragrance that takes commitment to wear, and even then I would only attempt it when the barometer goes below 10 degrees Celsius. Only three notes are listed: frankincense, lychee, and heliotrope, but the overall effect is so rich and multi-dimensional that I wonder if that’s really the notes list or if the perfumer is so skilled that he was able to wrangle a wealth of detail out of these raw materials. Either way, 03.Apr.1968 has jumped straight to the top of the very short list of incense-dominant fragrances that I truly love.