One Thousand Scents

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Sail Away: L'Artisan Parfumeur L'Eau du Navigateur


Quite some time ago, probably at least twelve years ago, Consumer Reports magazine reviewed fragrances for their Christmas issue. I thought it was a stupid idea: you can compare all the dishwashers on the market and come up with some sort of composite grade based on a number of factors, but how can you possibly do the same with scents, with over a thousand on the market, when the human nose is so variable and preferences so broad? You might as well try to rank all the paint chips at the hardware store in objective order of niceness.

They did eventually come up with a winner: their team of professional noses, smelling things blind, declared that Gio by Giorgio Armani was the best of all the scents they tried, mostly because it was the best-blended, meaning that no one note stuck out.

And that's all well and good, in its place, but sometimes you want things to stick out: you want Joy to smell like roses, not like some vague bouquet in which roses happen to be a component. I love it when something lunges out at you from time to time: it's fun to catch of a whiff of something specific and recognizable in a scent, to suddenly discover that in the middle of the sweet-vanilla scent of Chopard's Casmir is a little shot of coconut.

On the other hand, he said as he backtracked completely, sometimes you do want fragrances to be blended--to smell like a rich, smooth scent that's all of a piece and greater than the sum of its parts. That, to me, describes L'Artisan Parfumeur's Eau du Navigateur, which evokes a heavy-laden eighteenth-century cargo ship. ("Does it smell like sweaty men?" asked a friend when I described it to him. I suppose it could, if you play your cards right.)

Navigateur smells of wood, coffee, leather, tobacco, smoke, spices, and balsams: as I said, a cargo ship. What I love most about it is that to my nose, no one note really dominates. Some people find that one note or another is overwhelming: some call it a smoky scent, which it isn't compared to L'Artisan's Tea for Two, while others think of it as coffee-heavy. It strikes me as the perfect balance of all those masculine notes without being a leather scent or a tobacco scent or what have you. It's warm without being heavy (I wore it just today, the first day of summer), masculine without being overbearing, and--of course, as it's a L'Artisan scent--not quite like anything else on the market.

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