One Thousand Scents

Friday, September 15, 2006

Good Medicine : L'Artisan Parfumeur Safran Troublant

Part of the pleasure of L'Artisan Parfumeur's Les Epices trio is the presentation, which starts with the box. It's in matte black card stock, thin but not cheap, with gold print--the numero-uno way to show how classy you are (see also Estee Lauder's Spellbound and Dolce and Gabbana's Sicily, among many others). The top isn't the typical tab-and-slot closure, either; it's four flaps that tuck into one another, an abstract hint at the object inside. Inside that is a little leaflet containing typically breathless and giddy descriptions of the scents (in both English and French, nice touch) and the main event, a circular Chinese-red satin box. Lifting off the lid reveals three tiny 15-mL duplicates of the standard 50-mL L'Artisan bottle, but rescaled--they're not just miniatures, they're tall and slim and gorgeous. If every company made 15-mL bottles, that's all I'd ever buy, because I am never, ever going to use up most of what I have, but these are ideal.

Safran Troublant is translated to "Saffron Spell", but "troublant" actually means "disturbing", which, I assume, wasn't used because it has more than one meaning in English. The scent, like the other two, starts off as one thing and gradually becomes another, and in this case, the opening note is saffron, spicy and medicinal. I disliked Comptoir Sud Pacifique's Safranier because it was overloaded with that typically medicinal smell (the reason saffron in cooking has to be used with such discretion), but Safran Troublant gets it exactly right. Although there aren't any other spice notes listed, it seems to me that there's also a dose of clove in there.

Close behind the initial saffron note is a thrilling surprise--a full-bodied rose note which, although short-lived, is ravishing while it lasts. As with Piment Brûlant and Poivre Piquant, the saffron note is very slowly eclipsed by the secondary note, in this case vanilla, which percolates up and takes over until it's all that's left.

And that's the problem. The whole thing is beautiful, but the vanilla is, in fact, too much and not enough. There are so many vanilla scents on the market (L'Artisan already has one of the best, Vanilia) that this one seems, after the saffron has died away, rather ordinary. I still love Safran Troublant--the novelty of saffron and rose is what makes it work--but, like Piment Brûlant, it could have been more.

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