One Thousand Scents

Friday, January 20, 2012

Et Cetera: L'Artisan Parfumeur Santal

L'Artisan Parfumeur launched six fragrances in 1978 under perfumer Jean Laporte (who left ten years later to form Maître Parfumier et Gantier), if you can believe Wikipedia on the subject. One of them, Vanilia, is a magnificent essay on the floral genesis of vanilla, and therefore of course was discontinued in favour of the syrupy, inferior Havana Vanille. Another, Mure et Musc, remains one of their most popular scents, though I don't see the appeal. A third, L'Eau D'Ambre, I thought was an incompletely worked-out idea that Laporte brought, perhaps after a decade's maturity, to its full fruition in MPG's 1988 Ambre Précieux.

The remaining three are gone. I never smelled Tubereuse or Vetiver, but I do happen to have a vial of Santal (which is to say Sandalwood), and perhaps it hasn't aged well — though it doesn't smell damaged or "off" in any way — but it suggests that Laporte spent all his artistic capital on Vanilia.

When I smell a really good fragrance, I am torn between wanting to write about it immediately while still possessed by the thrill of the new and wanting to wear it repeatedly and think about it so I understand it. When I smell a really dreadful fragrance, my mind teems with wicked turns of phrase: it can be fun to write a truly scathing review. But a mediocre, neither-here-nor-there scent like Santal: that's just depressing. I've had this review, if I can even call it that, open in a browser window for five days now, and I just don't know what to say about Santal that's worth saying, except that I'm not sorry it was discontinued.

It starts with a burst of lime cologne, once a standby in men's toiletries, which is nice enough but not what you expect from a niche house like L'Artisan. And then it just stays men's cologne for quite a while, nothing of any real interest, nothing you couldn't find in a hundred other bottles. Eventually a little slab of thin, pale sandalwood bobs to the surface, that creamy-pudding sandalwood note that I found in Molecule 01, which consists entirely of the sandalwoody synthetic Iso E Super. A bit of amber rounds out the base. And that's it. Think of a run-of-the-mill late-seventies men's scent and you've got it.

I suppose Laporte felt he had to have a men's fragrance in his lineup, but did it have to be this one?



  • I thought Santal was beautiful...ethereal and almost ghostly. A gentle sandalwood as only L'Artisan can do. Every house has their own twist on's just a shame that Santal is discontinued. Perhaps it was more feminine & gentle than is expected of a man's scent? I love it....

    By Blogger Daly Beauty, at 11:13 AM  

  • Everybody has their own nose, and every review over on Makeup Alley loves it. I'm afraid I thought it was really boring.

    By Blogger pyramus, at 11:22 AM  

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