May 5, 2016
Detail from The Penitent Magdalen, oil on canvas, detail (1640) Georges de La Tour.
My candle burns at both ends
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends –
It gives a lovely light.
Edna St. Vincent Millay, "A Few Figs from Thistles", 1920
Aedes Perfumery (photo courtesy of Aedes)
New York’s singular baroque Temple of Beauty as the name Aedes de Venustas literally translates as was founded by Karl Bradl and Robert Gerstner in 1995 to showcase niche or hitherto hidden or elusive scents. Their boutique has recently completed a move from its previous location to 7 Greenwich Avenue. Aedes Perfumery (note the subtle name shift..) still retains that plush, charismatic sense of eccentricity and Village hush and charm that have made it such an important and influential destination for anyone who is seriously interested in what is going on in the world of luxury, art and artisan scent.
Creative Directors Karl Bradl and Robert Gerstner of Aedes de Venustas Perfumes and Owners of Aedes Perfumery (Photo Aedes)
This is the third Aedes de Venustas review I have written for ÇaFleureBon after the sacrificial ocean smoke of Bertrand Duchaufour’s rather extraordinary Copal Azur and the languid lacquer of Palissandre d’Or by Alberto Morillas. As these exquisite Aedes house compositions have emerged, created in collaboration with some of the world’s most innovative perfumers, it has become clear that the guys at Aedes, Karl Bradl in particular have been exploring a particularly thoughtful and perceptive exploration of certain plant and vegetal matter twisted through oddness and veiled erudition. This started back in the Aedes signature leitmotif of smoke and incense, an olfactory emotion laid down in 2008 in special edition collaboration in 2008 with L’Artisan Parfumeur, also created by Bertrand Duchaufour.
Aedes de Venustas Perfumes at Aedes Perfumery NYC (photo Karl Bradl)
Then in 2012 the serious business of evolving Aedes into an ultra luxe perfume house began with Bertrand Duchaufour’s incense and vetiver soaked Signature for the house, scattered through with typically Duchaufourian notes such as hazelnut, tomato leaf and rhubarb. This was followed by the luminous mothwing beauty of Ralf Schweiger’s Iris Nazerena, one of the best iris scents ever, the bruised ghostliness of the Iris Bismarckiana protected by sueded ambrette and a weird smoky juniper exhalation. Rodrigo Flores-Roux was the man behind the very disconcerting but triumphant Oeillet de Bengale that uses its name to suggest a spicy carnation but is in fact an leftfield interpretation of a china rose, Rosa indica caryopyhllea to be a little more precise. The petal edges seem to burn and smoulder over flowers and spices including an earthy hurl of turmeric as the bloom rests its rebel head on a base of welcome resins and balms. Throughout these and the Copal Azur and Palissandre d’Or rises and wreathes a common tendril drift of smoke, vapour and a rather mindful study of the various olfactive facets of incense. This is the Aedes signature, a direct link back to the origins of the word perfume itself: per fumum, through smoke, referring to the age old rituals of burning resins, herbs and sacred oils on altars to carry prayers up to the above in the sacred smoke.
Georges de la Tour, The Pentinent Magdalan
Now we have the most explicitly ethereal and vapourous offering yet in the ephemeral form of Cierge de Lune, created for Aedes Perfumery by the eclectic and busy Grasse-based perfumer Fabrice Pellegrin who joined Firmenich in 2008 after stints at Robertet and Mane. He also made the haunting Volutes for Diptyque, one of the finest scents in their collection, a nostalgic tobacco perfume inspired by a particular brand of pungent vintage Egyptian cigarettes. He worked with Chantal and Alexandra Roos on the quirky and elegant Dear Rose line and made the eccentric bestseller Blackberry & Bay for Jo Malone.
Job raillé par sa femme (Job Mocked by his Wife) (c.1650) Georges de la Tour
There are two words in French for candle, la bougie and la cierge. However, the difference to a French person is that cierge refers to candles burned in churches, in ritual, on altars. We don’t have that level of sophistication in English and while you could argue that votive candle has the same meaning, it’s spiritual impact has been eroded by the world of commercial candle selling as it has come to refer to any small generic candle, larger than a tea light, smaller than a classic size. When I hear the word cierge, I see melted tapers on altars, prayer candles flooding stone floors with supplicatory wax, I smell beeswax and wood in my brain, dry empty naves.
Cierge de Lune flower backlit by candlelight (Photo The Silver Fox)
This compelling new Aedes composition is an essay in woodsy Madagascan vanilla, pink and black peppers, a delicious suede accord and luxurious layers of glittering Ambrox and Hedione. The name refers to another one of Karl Bradl’s singular botanical preoccupations, Selenicereus grandiflorus, a species of night-blooming cactus. Selene was the Greek Moon Goddess and cereus is Latin for candle; so literally Moon Goddess Candle. The beautiful flowers of this strange, day-defiant cactus are known as Queen of the Night and emit a low sweet odour to entice moths and bats. It was rumoured to be a favourite oddity of the frivolous cocooned Marie Antoinette who supposedly summoned the renowned French botanical artist Pierre-Joseph Redouté to her Versailles chamber at night to capture its strange alluring charms. Whatever the truth, the night blooming cereus is the most divinely perfect Aedes inspiration: obscure, curious and of course botanically baroque with its bracts, wisps and erotic spines.
Girl with a Brazier – Georges de la Tour
The vanilla is one of the loveliest I’ve smelled in a while, super soft, crystalline with a delicate after whiff of forbidden lost Art Deco tobacco that echoes that wondrous drift of Agatha Christie ‘Death on the Nile’ smoke in Fabrice’s Volutes. Cierge de Lune is the quietest of the Aedes launches to date; a muted prayer of fragile aromatic assembling. It is dry, desert dry, lit by a cere moon.
Magdalene in a Flickering Light – Georges de la Tour
If the Cierge de Lune bottle with its subtle copper livery and gold zamak cap could dream… the dream would be of a woman in a desert nightscape, dressed in sfmuato gold, walking barefoot soft through the sand, spoor pulled into night. A single edifice stands on a promontory, windows glowing like fire. Inside, the roof is open to bruised sky, candles flow wax to sand scattered floors. Walls burn. On an upturned chair in the centre of the room, white petals blaze with the scent of ylang, amber and vanilla sky. Watching smoke rise, her eyes open, her skin is sweet with night love.
There is much romance and abstraction in the quietude of Cierge de Lune; some of you will be bemoan perhaps the lack of animalic raunch or huge shifts in olfactory tone as it weathers. But we live in a vulgar age and we should treasure whispered beauty like this. It is oh so rare.
Disclosure: Sample kindly supplied by Beauty Enterprise/Aedes Perfumery. Opinions my own
–The Silver Fox, Guest Contributor and author of The Silver Fox
Art Direction: Michelyn Camen The play on the word Cierge and Cereus inspired me to choose the Oils of George de La Tour a French Baroque painter whose work is best known for candlelit subjects.
Editor's Note Cierge de Lune was launched worldwide at Esxence in Milan last month
Thanks to Aedes Perfumery and Beauty Enterprises we have a 50 ml bottle of Cierge de Lune for a registered ÇaFleureBon reader in the EU, Canada or USA. To be eligible please leave a comment with why you would like to try Cierge de Lune based on The Silver Fox’s review, where you live and if you have a favourite Aedes de Venustas fragrance. If you would like to see Karl and Robert featured in our Creative Directors Series, please leave that in your comment; I have been after them for a year. Draw closes May 9, 2015.
We announce the winners on our site and on our Facebook page, so Like Cafleurebon and use our RSS option…or your dream prize will be just spilled perfume