September 26, 2017
Aurora Borealis, photo by Hallgrimur Helgason
“Aurora is the effort
Of the Celestial Face
Unconsciousness of Perfectness
To simulate, to Us.”– Emily Dickenson, Aurora is the Effort
Peacock feathers, photo by Waldo Nell©
Coursing beneath our planet’s skin are the striated veins of the spectrum, frozen and hardened in the living rock. When hewn, the earth can reveal infinitesimal universes of colour and light caught in stasis. Nowhere more so than in the gemstone labradorite, said by Inuit peoples to be the northern lights in stone. Labradorite, the 13th fragrance by perfumer, designer and jeweler Olivier Durbano, is imbued with strangeness and shifting light, moving from dark to glowing.
Labrodorite via Olivier Durbano Instagram©
A common thread of Olivier Durbano’s “Pierres de Poèmes” is a strong sense of connection between the natural world and the incorporeal. His fragrances represent not only the physical form and beauty of jewels but connote their spiritual significance across cultures and through ancient histories. In Inuit tradition, labradorite “is the fire of the Aurora Borealis, and that, overcome by the cold, it graciously falls to earth,” like a wintry sister to the hot-blooded opal.
Photo by Benjamin Von Wong©
Given labradorite’s shimmering silvery iridescence, one might expect Durbano’s perfume to be an incandescent floral. But this is not a representation of the gemstone only in its polished, prettified state; its first notes signal a lightless birth in shale rock. Labradorite opens in darkness. Its opening is the smell of half shadow and wet caves: dense, close, purple-black, as strangely lovely as fossilized amber.
Kristen McMenamy in Beautifully Strange fashion editorial, photo by Tim Walker for Sunday Times Style, 2013©
The smoky aroma of palo santo rises immediately – the rare tree whose wood has a mineral aspect – and tangles its singed branches with the carnal smell of tuberose; a moist, decayed sweetness that is arrestingly beautiful. Agarwood becomes immediately apparent, redolent of ancient woodpile. Animal smells, like creatures dwelling deep within the earth’s recesses, mingle. Olivier Durbano, whose fragrances are not known for skank, shows a surprising comfortableness with the pungent earthiness of castoreum and civet here, and uses them fearlessly without letting them dominate.
Labradorite Macro 2, photo by Robert Storost©
True to its legend, Labradorite, the stone of transformation, transmutates in its middle stage, lightening and becoming more vernal. Plant and flower open out, as green herbal-daisy stem smell of marjoram weaves in. While tuberose is the only listed floral note, I smell touches of rose – a trick, I think, of the cardamom that emerges and combines with the tuberose, lending that fleshy bloom a dusty, clove-y richness that makes me think of rose.
Olga Noronha, Spring-Summer collection, 2015©
Durbano’s 13th fragrance is both familiar and foreign. It has his hallmark incense which floats somewhere out of focus but nearby. Sandy oppoponax is there to accentuate the palo santo rather than to make an entrance, while his trademark herbaceous olibanum steps back to underscore the plant aromas. But in a striking departure from his other perfumes, Labradorite brings a definite, bold animality. Castoreum and civet are apparent throughout the perfume’s trajectory, a reminder of wild creatures, and, alongside the fleshy headiness of tuberose, the sensual world.
Northern Lights, photo by Dave Morrow©
In its dry-down, Labradorite scintillates between flower and woods, stone and water, as they glint and recede. Its smell is like warm skin and damp velvet, a stone floor swept by the echoes of living things, spice and the smells of life from above ground. With its aromas of earth, stone, sex and smoke, Durbano’s Labradorite is a scent rendering of light hidden in rock.
Notes: Palo santo, marjoram, cardamom, tuberose, ambergris, olibanum, agarwood, sandalwood, civet, castoreum, oppoponax, musk.
Disclaimer: Labradorite 13 provided by Olivier Durbano – many thanks. My opinions are my own.
-Lauryn Beer, Senior Editor and Art Director for Labrodorite 13
Olivier Durbano Labradorite 13
Thanks to the generosity of Olivier Durbano, we have a 15 ml bottle of Labradorite 13 to give away to 1 registered reader anywhere in the world. To be eligible, please leave a comment with what appealed to you about Labradorite 13 based on Lauryn’s review, if the number 13 has any significance in your life, and if you have a favorite Olivier Durbano perfume. Have you ever seen the Northern Lights? Draw closes 9/30/2017