Stories are told through books, through films and tv programmes through music and paintings but arguably most powerfully in a directly emotive way through our sense of smell.
We have all experienced that singularly striking moment when a whiff of a rosebush takes you immediately back to your grandmother’s garden, or how the freshly made aroma of coffee can remind of a summer holiday morning seating on a parent’s knee whilst they indulge in a cup fo this most potent brew.
Jan Villhelm Ahlgrwn of the perfume brand Vilhelm parfumerie knows this story well. A Swede who adopted Paris as his home created his fragrance company built around the ideas of moments; moments turned into a fragrance library.
Take as a great example the fragrance Morning Chess. An ode to his own grandfather, playing chess in summer, as two minds battled it out, the air of the Swedish coast, seeps into the room via an open garden door. he describes it ‘Evergreen sharpness from the distant winter air‘
It opens with fresh bright bergamot of course as it’s that hit of summer you need to explode, the middle holds the leather and galbanum a no to those carved chess pieces and board whist it is all bought together in a crashing wave of Patchouli and black amber
This a fragrance based on his personal experience but others are base from within his imagination. Take for example Room Service, subtitled Greta Garbo’s Petal Bath. the woman who famously had it all but choose to be alone. Her in a hotel room awaiting her bathing sanctuary; he says ‘a bath of flower petals, the warm water releasing this collision of citrus and red fruits, bamboo, violet, black amber and sandalwood’.
Top openings are mandarin nectar and blackberry rich citrus and fruity dives into exotic Orchid and violet with warm bamboo with a bottom holding the scent together made up of black amber musk and sandalwood.
Another scent that explores his vivid and wonderful imagination is POETS OF BERLIN.
‘Berlin, a city that is alive with the same kinetic, magnetic energy that attracted David Bowie for a few formative, recuperative and prolific years in the Seventies. Perpetual creative movement embodied in a bold collision of blueberry, lemon, bamboo, green wild orris and Haitian vetiver’.
Or why not THE OUD AFFAIR?
‘Ava Gardner and Luis Miguel Dominguin: the actress and the bullfighter, a tempestuous and passionate love affair with the heat of a thousand suns for an intoxicating scent blending wild honey, ginger butter and tobacco leaves with the warmth of agar wood and black vanilla bean‘.
There are two great new stories from the master-mind of Jan coming to London at liberty. One is Peony Couture and the other is Body Paint.
PEONY COUTURE, a fragrance from a bloom that almost haunted Jan.
‘Late April 2008. There it was, bold as brass in the middle of a bouquet of red roses Jan Vilhelm had ordered: a very tall peony, spreading its petals out with the opulence of a couture gown. After that, it started showing up everywhere he went. On the ceiling of the elevators at Liberty; on the inside of a bag; nestled within a shoe; and once, most memorably, standing alone without any support right in the middle of the street outside Liberty’s, the landmark London department store. Even more surreal, it came to salute at the end of a fashion show, carried by the designer and petted like a luxuriant cat. So, if you smell a whiff of black pepper and aniseed that unfurl to reveal the unmistakable bouquet of French peony and Turkish roses, don’t be surprised if the Peony makes its presence known in your life’.
Available exclusively at Liberty starting from October 24th 2019 it opens with hot spiced black pepper alongside delicious aniseed and lowers itself into Turkish rose absolute and that ever-present French peony for a heady sexy middle whilst it all comes together in the base with smoky incense and wild cedarwood. A delicious concoction of almost a set of images bought to life
BODY PAINT is the other new fragrance in the collection. And this story?
‘Paris, August 8th 1988. Eight masked, cloaked women meet secretly in a Parisian art gallery, under Matisse’s “La Danse”, a Modernist bacchanalia of frenzied bodies in cool blue tones. The clandestine club has gathered to perform its own, mystical ritual. The first of many, to be repeated on the same day each year…As they chant, a young woman is brought out, her body as delicious as a ripe fruit. She shudders with surprise and pleasure as the cooling juice of pears traces her skin. Then slowly, agonizingly she writhes as each of her curves is painted with a mysterious, blue-tinged decoction. Fiery chili arouses her skin. As the other women shed their cloaks and rub against her, skins blazing, streaked with blue, the sensual journey begins. The trance. The dance’.
A real treat in the world of fruity perfumes as this celebrates the pear in a way never seen before, not sweet fruity but spicy fruity and juicy all at the same time. The scent opens with luscious pear set against lemon and red pepper. The addictive Iso E Super sits along with warming nutmeg and clove for that hot spicy unexpected middle for a fruity fragrance and the base adds in another of those addictions in fragrance Ambroxan alongside cedar and oakmoss.
There is magic performed in this world of fragrance Jan has created. partly because the memories are not the obvious or trite but wild imaginations where he goes with the images created in his mind’s eye and brings them alive with distinct and unusual combinations to evolve a collection of truly unique and may we say memorable scents in their own right.
The perfect collections of perfumes where each can help to build a memory of one’s own.