Liz Moores, perfumer and founder of Papillon Perfumery, is probably one of the most approachable and engaging new artisans that I have had the pleasure of conversing with so far on my perfumed journey. Her three debut fragrances; Anubis, Tobacco Rose and Angelique, are due to be launched in the summer of this year and there have already been some lovely reviews about them. The Silver Fox and The Candy Perfume Boy have both written about this new brand and Liz’s undeniable creativity, flair and skill as a perfumer; I am in complete agreement with them. Here we have a trio of perfumes, each with their own strong identity, created with a passion and intelligence that shines through the autumnal hued juices like a bright star. They are complex, non conformist fragrances that challenge the senses, yet they are all versatile, wearable perfumes. There is some serious talent at work here.
The three fragrances each have their own magic. Anubis, although not to my personal taste, is a deeply ancient concoction of smoke, fleshy blooms and leather that is so intense in it’s imagery that one feels firmly transported into the elaborately constructed tomb of an Egyptian Pharaoh.
This is a fragrance about reincarnation in every way, indeed the whole ethos of the brand is one of transformation, like the butterfly after which it is named. As the first fragrance Liz created, Anubis is the scent that represents her transformation into a perfumer; her relentless search for perfection and the numerous modifications that the fragrance went through to reach a point where she felt it was ready to unleash onto the skin of mortals. Featuring notes of Suede, Jasmine, Pink Lotus, Immortelle, Frankincense, Myrrh and Saffron, it has all the components that I find most challenging in a perfume: lashings of Myrrh and Frankincense, so rich that this scented aura is almost visible in the air; Jasmine in all it’s carnal glory, sweet lotus blossoms heavily woven through the pluming smoke from a golden incense burner. Anubis is the name for the Egyptian god of death in jackal form and there is a definite animalic thrust to the perfume, a leather note so slick with fragrant oils that it glimmers in the light from flaming torches.
Anubis is a heavy, powerful and intoxicating fragrance that will utterly bewitch perfume lovers who like their fragrance classically french in heft and atmospheric as the bowls of a pharaoh’s tomb. The warm, almost humidly sweet incense note is intensified and bolstered by that deep leather quality and the fleshy thwack of jasmine. It’s a perfume that terrifies me and one that I would love to smell on a gorgeous person in full evening wear, be that the textural decadence of silk and velvet or the ancient sensuality of golden amulets and oiled skin. It is a dress up scent and not one for the faint hearted.
If Tobacco Rose doesn’t receive critical acclaim I might weep, because it is a perfume that has been so cleverly rendered that it has the potential to stand it’s ground amid the greats. Created with a vision of overblown roses in their final flourish of life, Tobacco Rose is a perfume of moistness and dryness, sweetness and bitter bark, delicacy and a beautiful death. A transformative journey from bud to brittle stem.
Liz has taken the classic portrait of a freshly plucked rose and twisted it’s reflection towards the inevitable withering of petals and leaves. Using notes of Bulgarian Rose, Rose Centiflora, Oakmoss, Beeswax, Hay and Ambergris, the scent opens in a plethora of rose, dewy, fleshly, blush pink and blood red. There is absolutely no doubting the quality at work here, this rose note is perfect.
Very soon a dryness develops, reminiscent of tangled grasses beneath bare feet on a hot day. The natural sweetness of hay and beeswax nudge the rose from her first bloom of youth into the full sun of midsummer. Still glorious; petals plumped out and velvet to the touch. This is how Tobacco Rose lingers for a while, until the oakmoss and mulch start to creep in. The sun is setting and our rose casts a shadow now, becoming slightly drooped and sleepy. The hay notes really start to take over, blending with the moistness of forest floor to create a beautiful contradiction of sensations; sunbaked yet loamy with dark earth; richly velveteen petals on the edge of decay; leaves crisp around a gently rotting heart.
As Tobacco Rose settles it’s rosiness breathes forth once more from the undergrowth, but this is now about a rose past it’s prime, a rose with memories of youth smoking on the skin like a charred diary page. The hay and beeswax remain as a slightly singed texture beneath dry petals that have wilted in the flame. Beneath that the mossy depths of a sleeping forest whisper softly. The end of Tobacco Rose is peaceful somehow, campfire smoke drifting up into the starry night.
All of this Liz has achieved with a concentration that is almost extrait in strength and very classical in construction. Yet it is so far from a traditional rose perfume, so juxtaposed with it’s contemporaries that really it needs a plinth all to itself. It is an absolute joy to wear, and we all know how fussy I am when it comes to roses. It is a versatile scent, perfect for day or night with impressive longevity and great projection. This is the perfume that I believe will be the most universally admired of the three. It is an exceptionally skilled and unusual twist on a classic structure that will have people inhaling with wonder.
Where Tobacco Rose will unite, Angelique will divide. This is the fragrance that had me most captivated and I have continually danced between it’s ethereal soft beauty and strange greenness in a haze of puzzlement and pleasure. Using notes of Mimosa, Orris, White Champac, Frankincense, Osmanthus and Cedarwood, Angelique is singularly odd and wonderful. I love it.
Liz speaks about this perfume as the embodiment of an Iris Pallida flower bed in her garden, and also that she made the scent ‘with her children in mind’. The perfume begins with a savoury crush of herbs; frondy fennel, subtle minted freshness and rain washed limestone. It is most unexpected, almost chalky in texture yet light and airy. There is a sense of ‘otherness’ in this opening, strange and oddly familiar all at once. It is a highly unusual take on an iris fragrance, although the note’s powdered softness is present from the beginning. Angelique has an aniseed accord that is crisp and green at it’s heart but blurred around the edges by delicately dry floral notes of mimosa and orris.
As the scent warms it becomes sweeter, again in an almost gourmand way. Candied angelica, garden mint and a lovely apricot fuzziness from the Osmanthus. The Frankincense appears as much more controlled and delicate here than it does in Anubis, simply adding a deeper resonance to the perfume. It is a very quiet fragrance yet is in no way subdued or brooding. There is filtered light dancing across teardrop blue petals, a breeze drifting through swaying branches. It is a scent of outdoors; in the freshness of morning or a twilit scattering of evening stars, both images work beautifully.
I am continually drawn back to the feeling that Angelique reminds me of something. Implacable and fleeting, it has a familiarity and oddness that is unnerving at times. I have worn this scent over and over, at different times of the day, to work and to bed and it is only sitting here tonight as I write that I begin to realise what the perfume is so reminiscent of. The soft green and white of the scent conjures an abstract portrayal of youth; exquisitely perfect baby skin with it’s indescribable lactonic musk, an innocence and clarity of nature that one only sees in very young children. The ‘otherness’ often glimpsed in a child’s wide eyes as they look further than the restrictions of adulthood allow.
I believe that Liz has captured a feeling in this perfume, an emotional reaction that cannot adequately be described with words. Olfactory sense sometimes moves beyond our powers of communication and into a place that feels far more instinctual. Angelique somehow encapsulates that feeling of connectedness that a mother has with her child, the nostalgia an adult holds for the memory of their own childhood self. It is pure and clean and quiet, brightly innocent yet full of very human responses. The savoury effect of the aniseed accord triggers the salivary glands and the powdered iris is textural like skin. The gentle mint is herb sweetened breath and the floral/apricot accord brings a milky glow of sunshine. Angelique sparks across the senses in their most intuitive and highly tuned state, to the point where I found it almost impossible to adequately describe the familiarity of what I was smelling and how it made me feel.
It is a complex and intriguing scent with multi-faceted interpretations. Combining very sensory aspects of herbaceous plants, chalky stone and soft florals with sweetened fruit and milkiness is an odd yet inspired mix. It could be a perfume about nature and new things growing, or it could be about skin and sweet breath and emotional connections. Yet again there is a theme of re-creation and transformation here, of one thing evolving into another. I can imagine that Angelique will smell markedly different for one person than it will for another. I have noticed the scent lingering on my clothes to be much more floral than the effect of the fragrance on my skin; here it is more green with contrasting lactonic undertones. I cannot stop wondering over the fennel-like accord, it is prevalent on my pale skin but still beautifully balanced with iris dust. I sometimes find Iris hard to handle. I have experienced it before as very cloying, overpowering all other aspects of the fragrance. In Angelique the iris is reserved and plays a lovely counterpoint with the moist, ethereal greenness from the other notes. I found it to be a most haunting and singular perfume that took me a while to understand; now I feel like I should always have it in my collection.
Papillon Perfumery is a brand created with dedication by a very talented woman. It’s expertly rendered perfumes are supported by a strong identity and that feeling of luxury which is so important in the niche fragrance market. I am very much looking forward to the release of the perfumes this summer and to see Liz receive the acclaim that she deserves. All three will be successful I’m sure and no doubt there is more to come from this beautiful sorceress. Put Papillon on your ‘one to watch’ list. I’m putting Angelique on my shopping list.