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.
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.