Friday, October 20, 2006

L'Artisan Parfumeur Fleur de Narcisse: fragrance review (Sleeper in the valley)


L’artisan’s new Fleur de Narcisse brought to my mind something I had read a long time ago. Joan Julliet Buck, editor of French Vogue, was for years addicted to wearing a narcissus poeticus absolute. She used to wear one drop on each wrist, it being so concentrated that it was all she ever needed. “Two in the bath were enough to send silver running down the walls; it set the world throbbing out of control when I wore it. It became a little weird. It was only years later that I read that inhaling too much of it can make you mad”, she has been quoted to say.
Madness, poetry, out of control: in short both mythology and the damned poets of the 19th centrury. Fleur de narcisse does nothing conventionally pretty and is so heart achingly multifaceted to warrant elaborating.
Narcissus poeticus, the asphodel of Greek mythology, the flower of the underwold; of oblivion and perdition. And yet, the daffodil (the common name for its brother, the pseudonarcissus) is botanically-speaking a purported cure for madness.

Daffodil or “Lent Lily,” was once white; but Persephone, daughter of Demeter (Ceres), delighted to wander about the flowery meadows of Sicily. One spring-tide she tripped over the meadows, wreathed her head with wild lilies, and, throwing herself on the grass, fell asleep. The god of the Infernal Regions (called Pluto by the Romans), fell in love with the beautiful maid, and carried her off for his bride. His touch turned the white flowers to a golden yellow, and some of them fell in Acheron, the underworld river, where they grew luxuriantly; and ever since the flower has been planted on graves. Theophilus and Pliny tell us that the ghosts delight in the flower, called by themthe Asphodel. It was once called the Affodil. (French, asphodéle; Latin, asphodilus; Greek, asphodilos.)

Narcissus, also enters the associations; the greek mortal who fell in love with his youthful image as reflected in the clear waters of a pond. It was his punishment for rejecting so cruelly the nymph Écho. The best known version of the myth is contained in Metamorphoses by Ovid.

And then more aptly than anything else, Rimbaud’s poem “Le dormeur de Val” (Sleeper in the Valley) enters my head. Of course the poem was written about war and the sleeper is a dead soldier...The arresting imagery of this exquisite poem written at the tender age of 16 was what Fleur de Narcisse evoked in my mind immediately.

C'est un trou de verdure, où chante une rivière
follement aux herbes des haillons
D'argent; où le soleil, de la montagne
Luit: c'est un petit val qui mousse de rayons.

Un soldat jeune, bouche ouverte, tête nue,
Et la nuque
baignant dans le frais cresson bleu,
Dort; il est étendu dans l'herbe, sous
la nue,
Pâle dans son lit vert ou la lumière pleut.

Les pieds dans les glaïeuls, il dort. Souriant
sourirait un enfant malade, il fait un somme:
Nature, berce-le
chaudement: il a froid.

Les parfums ne font pas frissonner sa narine.
Il dort dans
le soleil, la main sur sa poitrine
Tranquille. Il a deux trous rouges au côté

by Arthur Rimbaud, novembre 1870

Here is an english translation by Lisa Yannucci (scroll down)

Spraying Fleur de Narcisse on the skin, the verdancy of rich vetiver married to pungent virile leather reminds me of the wet black earth and the oily old tar of a dirty forgotten road. Masculine soiled boots tread on a never ending journey through fields scattered with heady fatty asphodels into the great unknown. Poignant cries of the damned tear the heart strings. Sweet and salty grains of pollen fly into the air, reminding the joys of what cannot be had any more; the light, the sun, the warmth. Sad powder and wetness, warm cloth and cool dampened hopes; one last whiff of rich smoke before succumbing to the fate of us all...

Part of the new privée collection of millesime/harvests by L’artisan parfumeur, first of which was the crystalline floral Fleur d’Oranger made by Anne Flipo using the Tunisian orange blossom Vergers de Nabeul from the spring 2004 harvest and launching it in 2005.
This new one is also made by Anne Flipo using the exceptional harvest of narcissus blossoms from the volcanic area of Lozère, part of the Languedoc-Roussillon region in southern France during the days of June 6th and 7th of 2005.

The official notes are: narcissus, hay, hyacinth, blond tobacco, iris, blackcurrant bud, moss and leather.

Released as a limited edition in only 3000 numbered bottles of Eau de parfum 100ml encased in wooden boxes like a fine vintage of wine, foiled with silk paper, the bottle engraved with narcissus flowers, it will retail for 240 euros which is around 300$. Exorbitant price for sure, but narcissus poeticus is an extremely costly ingredient anyway.
Available fromFirst in fragrance/Aus liebe zum duft in Europe as we speak and soon in the US in November at L’Artisan Parfumeur Soho, Henri Bendel, and Madison Avenue boutiques, select retailers and the L'artisan boutique on-line.
Pic is "La Metamorphose of Narcisse" by Salvador Dali courtesy of

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous22:45

    I am late to the party, and wanted to say thank you for the review! i am searching for some L'artisan reviews, and I love the narcissus note in Je Reviens. This sounds amazing! i will probably never smell it, but i love the review!
    i hope you are well,
    Carole MacLeod


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