Thursday, July 14, 2011

Tauer Perfumes Pentachords ~White, Auburn, Verdant: fragrance reviews

Indie perfumer Andy Tauer gets inspired by music scales into arranging his newest line of fragrances we're exclusively previewing on Perfume Shrine today on pentachords, that is to say 5 consecutive notes on the diatonic scale. Pentachords® by Tauer Perfumes (White, Auburn and Verdant) are arranged as elusively simple, but not simplistic, harmonies resembling rather pentagram chords: the whole only becomes powerful when each part falls into place. Or think of a pentagram in the place of the classic French fragrance pyramid; "an accord that changes from one corner of the scent’s pentagon over time".

In a way it's minimalism and music theoretics pushed to an elegant extreme, a concept that is refuted by some; Tauer's bravura if successful, a big risk if not. "The compression and limitation an incentive" as he says. How many ingredients are necessary for a satisfying perfume? Tauer can whip up something with only five molecules and the results are satiating enough to fool you into believing there's more than meets the eye; kinda like full-cream premium ice-cream composed by only a handful ingredients, instead of tons of frilly additives.
Andy envisioned them (back in February 2009)  like "a fragrance built around 5 pillars. The line of thought moved on towards a pentachord fragrance. A fragrance, or an entire line of fragrances, built with 5 components only that are one chord, a pentachord." [...] "For me, this is art in its purest form: mirroring nature, bringing it into a concept, and by doing so thinking about it and invite others to think about it and enjoy it."

The long-lasting nature of the Pentachord fragrances (easily 10 hours or more) also speaks of picking elements with deft selection: sorting out the formula must be difficult when you have to ditch something that creates a striking effect, but doesn't translate well in structure or tenacity, and vice versa. You also have to choose good, expensive ingredients to yield their best properties into the concept. Lovers of the familiar Tauer signature will find things to like, especially in Auburn, which takes the ambery depths of his more resinous fragrances to date (Le Maroc pour Elle, L'air du desert Marocain), but I predict he will get new fans in Verdant and White which present striking effects poised between lightness and darkness. They both made an instant impression on me due to their juxtaposition of freshness against meaty earthiness.
All of them could be worn by either sex easily, though you'd have to like soft, gentle fragrances to appreciate White and to handle the metallic-woody top notes of modern masculine fougeres to unlock the secrets of  Verdant.

  • White (a floral woody musk) is built on "the clear melody of royal Iris" and you do get it, but it's so much more as well. The concept of Pentachords White fragrance began while the perfumer was jogging in the snowy landscape of the woods near Zurich: "we thought about violet, orris root, ambergris, wood, vanilla", he admits. If this combination sounds inviting, the fragrance should get you all excited!
    The intense beauty of very expensive Irone Alpha (6-methyl alpha ionone) by Givaudan vibrates at the cusp of orris root and violet flowers, creating a silvery, expansive imagescape: A fragrance of either the crack of dawn or the crepuscular drawing of a prolonged cool afternoon, the contrast between light and shadow. The unusual element in the White Pentachord lies into manipulating the powdery, wistful and yet also "fleshy" character of orris into a fluffy embrace, in this case built on vanilla (methylvanillin to my nose, a phenolic aldehyde) and clean musk with a hint of ambergris/ambrox (a beloved "note" in the Tauer Canon for its skin compatibility properties): The subtle, gentle warmth of the latter elements balances the sadness and coolness of the former into an uplifting arpeggio, like the first or last rays of sun flickering on sheets of white. The sweetness of the fruity edges of the irone and the vanilla are most detectable in the middle of the fragrance's progression, while the more the fragrance stays on skin, the more the woody-iris facets of the molecule reveal themselves. It's innocent and supremely soft, but not maudlin. In fact it might have been inspired by a classic hazy scent which Andy loves to wear: Habit Rouge, a cloud transported from the skies on the wings of opoponax. Here Tauer substitutes the core opoponax for the amazing Alpha Irone which dominates the fragrance and creates a comparable "flou" ambience.
    Tauer's White has me hankering for things I did not know I had a hankering for: Jogging in the cold-ringing air at the crack of dawn trying to catch the first rays reflected in the white-spotted trees, warm milk in my thermos, or putting on warm pyjamas in bed, sipping violet pastilles and bringing down my teddy-bears again for a little cuddling session, years after they moved to the attic. It's a truly lovable fragrance that is sure to have many enamoured of it.
  • Auburn (a spicy oriental) is presented as "the cupric warmth of cinnamon" and lovers of the compositions where Tauer smacks opposite his beloved mandarin citrus note resins (such as in L'air du desert Marocain, Une rose Vermeille, Incense Rosé) will smile with a smile of cognition: This is familiar ground, pared down to the necessities for this occasion. Amyl cinnamyl acetate gives a cinnamon note, while the amber-tobacco effect reinforces the oriental impression. It feels coppery and juicy. The citrus note is succulent, sweet rather than tangy, reminiscent of Orange Star, the heart sports hydroxycitronellal for expansion and a honeyed linden blossom note, while the background is deep, woody and ambery; a statement fragrance in the mold of modern orientals. Even though Auburn reads pleaurable as always ~Tauer is a master in arranging resinous, labdamum oriental accords~ it feels like already treaded ground and gives me the impression it was the last one to get developed; possibly as a need to tally the line into three different style offerings, or as a choice between some more additions that felt less representative of varying families and were thus kept for the follow-up. But that is only my guess and it does not detract from the fun that loyals to the "Tauerade" base will derive from it.
  • Verdant (an aromatic green) represents "the lush green of ivy forests" and if you have ever dreamt of living in one of those country houses festooned with climbing ivy, shading it and keeping it cool, you're right there. The effect is photorealistic, from the water drops gleaming on the verdure, to the tangled growth & soil underneath replete with the gardener wearing leather gloves while trimming the branches. But what is most interesting to me in Pentachord Verdant is that in fact I smell an effect that strongly reminds me of woody vetiver fragrances: a nutty, oily rich, tobacco-laced earthy note which contrasts and compliments at the same time the greenery and grassy feel. It reminds me of Vertofix coeur (methyl cedryl ketone, a IFF ingredient) with its leathery vetiver facets, with an added sweet hay note of coumarin and rum-licorice which goes exceptionally well. The violet leaves come off metallic and bluish at the beginning, a tad sharp and androgynous (in the manner of Balenciaga Paris or Verte Violette), a jarring striking contrast, while the progression veers into warmer, ambery-leathery tonalities that create a warm pipe fantasy. If you like Vetiver Tonka and apreciate the sharp violet leaf freshness of modern masculines/unisex scents, this is a conversational piece to get you started in an engrossing discussion on modern perfumery. I find it a very interesting fragrance indeed.
The flacons for the Tauer Pentachords follow the pentagram design he already has introduced with Zeta, Orange Star and the rest of the latest releases, but in transparent glass with varying hues of coloured labels in white, copper and petrol green. The Pentachords line by Tauer Perfumes is only available at Campomarzio in Rome at the moment. They will launch more widely after the Pitti fragrance exhibition in September 2011.

Painting on top by Claude Monet. Pic of bottles via duftarchive.de In the interests of full disclosure, I got sent trial samples from the distributor.


  1. Hmmm... I have several Tauer's, but this concept doesn't interest me at all and Zeta was a complete fail for me. I wonder if CpA was the last Tauer for me?

  2. Anonymous17:18

    Well, you've really whetted my appetite with these reviews. I am trying to be patient until I can order samples of these and am especially looking forward to trying White, though you have also made Verdant sound delicious. It's nice to see Andy really spreading his wings and heading out into new territory. I think I would follow him anywhere, since my skin has a real affinity for his scents.


  3. How I wish to try Verdant! It sounds so ME! It seems to be the green fragrance I have always looked for. Alas, I can't try them where I live. I'll have to ask samples one of these days.

    Great reviews!

  4. Verdant sounds very interesting to me too!

  5. K,

    it all depends on what accords you like. These are not like Carillon, which was a clear green floral. The concept is streamlined, pared down.
    I guess it's Andy's way of challenging himself.

  6. Jirish,

    hope you find things to like! I think you will.
    September isn't too far away, though I know it's agony waiting for something that seem to have one's name written all over it. I think both White and Verdant will be discussed a lot in the coming months.

  7. Isa,

    I think Andy will make them available on his site (in sample form too) when he launches them at Pitti in September. Patience and contact him then on details! ;-)

  8. C,

    it's quite fetching! It's like a metallic green contrasting with nutty vetiver: very inspirational.
    Hope you try them and share your impressions!

  9. sharyl20:18

    Elena, Thank you as always for your interesting & insightful articles. I love hearing about the perfumer's artistic inspirations and thought processes for their creations. I have never even sampled any of the Tauer scents, but definitely plan to remedy that situation soon.

  10. sharyl23:49

    One more comment - The music is an amazing illustration of your description of the creative processes and results of these Tauer scents. I love all of the connections that you make. They deepen the experiences. Thank you so much for the inspiration and sharing.

  11. I got a little dizzy reading the description of Auburn - that sounds RIGHT up my alley.

    I just love Andy's entire sensibility - his care and attention to details, his generosity, his undisguised, almost childlike love for what he does. The world needs more Andy Tauers.

  12. Verdant sounds the most interesting to me but I have been so disappointed in the silage and lasting quality of many niche fragrances that I just stick to my vintage. You do mention a 10 hour lasting time.

    Not only niche apparently! I wore a sample of Chanel Sycomore this morning and it was hard to smell at the get go and now 30 min. later, gone completely! I thought I was maybe losing my sense of smell, horrors! I asked my teenage daughter to tell me if she could smell my perfume and she couldn't either!

  13. Sharyl,

    this is so high praise that I don't know if I deserve it.
    The perfumes inspire, that's for sure!

  14. SS,

    three cheers for your plea on more Andies out there! Yup, the world needs them.

  15. SD,

    hmm...I find Tauer scents to be almost nuclear-lasting to be honest. They last and last and last. He uses very intense anchoring notes.

    Sycomore is the sort of thing that needs to be splashed on with abandon. In that regard, it justifies its size very well. But that's just to render the full effect! (in case I wasn't clear on the why) I find the lasting power on a blotter sufficient, if not too lasting myself. Have you tried spraying clothes? They retain scent much more competently than skin.

  16. Anonymous21:04

    I ordered a discovery set with the Pentachords and a Lonestar memories sample and an Orange Star sample for the second time. The little box Andy puts them in, is a present on its own. Try it!!! go to the site and discover.

  17. Following your blog has been a fascinating learning experience, and I'm sure that I'd never have encountered the work of terrific Mr Tauer otherwise. What a star he is.
    Pentachord Verdant is just as you describe it, and I am revelling in the leathery Vetiver effect. Have noted what you say about Pentachord Auburn, and hope to try that next (I already love l'Air du Désert Marocain). What treats in store ...
    Huge thanks!

  18. Anon,

    preach it! I agree :-)

  19. Minnie,

    thank YOU for reading and commenting to convey your enjoyment! It honors me to be able to provide pleasure and something helpful.
    Mr.Tauer is not only very talented indeed, but also an incredible personable perfumer, a lovely man. Hope you discover many many delightful new paths in your journey.


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