I first came across Arquiste Parfumeur when I was looking for an original gourmand fragrance. Most of the dessert-inspired blends crossing my path were of the cotton candy and crème brûlée variety, but what I wanted was bitter chocolate. “Why not try Anima Dulcis?” suggested a friend, and gave me a small sample of cognac-coloured liquid. It turned out to be the treat I was craving – dark, smoky, spicy and properly indulgent.
Arquiste Parfumeur is a relatively new niche line conceived by architect Carlos Huber in 2011. In his original métier Huber specialised in the historical preservation of buildings, and his proclivities are obvious in the way he interprets history through scents. In Fleur de Louis ($190 for 100ml EDP), a graceful blend of jasmine, orange blossom and iris, he paints a picture of the engagement between Louis XIV and Infanta Maria Theresa of Spain. The citrusy L’Etrog ($190 for 100ml EDP) promises to show me 12th-century Calabria, while my beloved Anima Dulcis ($190 for 100ml EDP) is a glimpse into the interior of the Royal Convent of Jesus Maria in Mexico. A whimsical idea, perhaps, but charming. Helping to realise Huber’s vision are perfumers Rodrigo Flores-Roux and Yann Vasnier, who teamed up on Anima Dulcis and L’Etrog; Fleur de Louis was developed with just Flores-Roux, who shares Mexican origins with Huber.
Flores-Roux worked with Huber again on Arquiste’s most recent olfactory exploration – Mexico in the 1970s. Inspired by Acapulco of the disco era, they created Él and Ella, perfumes that have a sultry character. Él is meant as the masculine counterpart, a fougère rich in herbal notes. If you throw a dart at the men’s fragrance counter at any department store, chances are you will hit a fougère; it’s among the most popular styles for men, citrusy, herbal, often loaded with tinny pineapple and lavender. Él ($190 for 100ml EDP) offers a novel approach. It’s rooted in the classical fougère accord with its blend of sage, rosemary, geranium, orange blossom and moss, but it adds the sensual sweetness of honey and the warmth of animalic notes. The opening is bright and shimmery, the drydown is dark and languid. But for all its drama, I can imagine Él in a variety of circumstances, none of which require champagne and disco balls. Arquiste is anything if not refined.
Similarly contrasted is Ella ($190 for 100ml EDP). The limpid accord of freshly picked jasmine segues into a seductive darkness of honey, patchouli and amber. Flores-Roux is respected for his impeccable technique and understanding of perfume classics, and with Ella he shows how to reference an iconic theme – a green, mossy chypre of the 1970s – without falling too much under the spell of retro. Ella is radiant, layered, airy, with an earthy, smoky finish that gives it an intriguing twist. In a word, irresistible.
Victoria Frolova has been writing her perfume blog boisdejasmin.comsince 2005. Her explorations of fragrance touch upon all elements that make this subject rich and complex: science, art, literature, history and culture. Frolova is a recipient of three prestigious Fragrance Foundation FiFi Awards for Editorial Excellence and, since receiving her professional perfumery training, has also been working as a fragrance consultant and researcher.