In the words of Canadian psychologist Albert Bandura "most human behaviour is learned observationally through modeling". And nowhere is this more cognitively apparent than in the beauty and sensual business in which perfumery holds an esteemed place. Wazamba by Parfum d'Empire is a prime example of the developmental incline which the niche house established by Corsican Marc-Antoine Corticchiato~assisted to by Elisabeth de Feydeau~ has been for a while now, influenced and influencing through modeling.
The resounding success of Ambre Russe, Cuir Ottoman and Osmanthus Interdite are a small testament to the power of quality materials, conceptual storylines (the recreation of the atmosphere of great empires of the past, influencing the Romea d'Ameor line as well) and an aesthetic focus which diverts from the torpid patcho-syrupy jingles of so many new releases to produce baroque, complex and refined sonatas.
In Wazamba, the name doesn't evoke a peruqued era with fake beauty marks travelling the rosy cheeks of decadent and unwahsed aristocrats, nor Tsardoms of fierce despotism drenched in samovars' inky liquid and potato grain liquor. Instead it is inspired by “a sistrum used in the rituals of West Africa” possessing a “heavy sound, full and deep” which one could imagine played by the regal silhouettes of Modigliani-like figures in the savanna evening bonfires. Perhaps a little imaginatively conceived, as the mysterious instrument is nowhere to be found (there is wazimbo though!), yet the merit of the composition more than surpasses the want of accuracy in the press release. A Lutensian web is weaved around almost every niche release, his pioneer work being the instigator in large part (excluding L'Artisan, Goutal and Diptyque who always travelled their own path). Parfum d'Empire is no exception, yet the familiarity is not contrite nor bellicose, but proud in itself.
Parfum d'Empire Wazamba travels the new route of conifers, surely pre-empting along with Fille en Aiguilles, a revisited appreciation for balsamic notes which I predict we will be seeing more of in the future: fir balsam, pine needles, cypress sap...Lubin's Idole and Black Cashmere by Donna Karan were incorporating some warmth and fir notes with their incense a few years ago and Zagorsk from the Incense series by Comme des Garcons was the first to marry pine with incense. But in Wazamba the synergy is more complicated, very interesting and sweeter. The burning, pyrocaustic frankincense of Serge Noire and Essence de John Galliano appears softly pettering out to ashy-powdery, slightly sweet notes (opoponax and the sensuality of labdanum). Yet the initial impression and one of the predominent notes on my skin is ~surprisingly enough but pleasurably so~ apple; a red, juicy and ripe variety that is miles away from the sanitary, upbeat, acid green and detergent-like apple in shampoos and fine fragrance alike in later years! The combination of this apple note along with long-lasting, delectable myrrh is joined at the hip via the cinnamon nuance that both materials evoke; one through allusion, the other through illusion. Yet Wazamba isn't spicy, nor is it gourmand despite its sweetness. Neither is it fancy, sophisticated, elegant or conventionally sexy and that's perfectly all right. The feeling it evokes is one of unadulterated, raw beauty: It relies on a forest of aromatic pine needles, laid out in an African sunset, when climbing the nearby knoll your hands are almost touching the copper clouds.
Notes for Parfum d'Empire Wazamba: Somalian incense, Kenyan myrrh, Ethiopian opoponax, Indian sandalwood, Moroccan cypress, labdanum, apple, fir balsam
Parfum d'Empire Wazamba is available in Eau de Parfum in 50ml/1.7 and 100ml/3.4oz spray bottles at Luckyscent and Aus Liebe zum Duft, as well as in the men's department of Le Printemps and the Old England store (corner of the rue Scribe and boulevard des Capucines) in Paris.
Related reading on Perfume Shrine: Incense Series, Pine scents
Pics from the postcard book African Ceremonies by Beckwith and Fisher via cas1.elis.ugent.be and salon.com.
Photo of Parfum d'Empire Wazamba bottle © by Elena Vosnaki.