myricle 10/23/20 08:48
Bitter Peach: Abstract Art in Perfumery
When discussing abstract art, people often remember artist Wassily Kandinsky's words:
"Painting is a thundering collision of different worlds, intended to create a new world in and from the struggle with one another, a new world which is the work of art."
Scent of Apricots on the Fields, 1944, Arshile Gorky
Bitter Peach by Tom Ford is abstract art in the world of perfumery. However, it reminds me more of Arshile Gorky's body of work and not that of Kandisky, his teacher. Take Scent of Apricots on the Fields or Apple Orchard. Look at them - possibly, it will help you understand the meaning and the essence of Bitter Peach better than any words could…
Apple Orchard I & II, 1943-47, Arshile Gorky
However, since words are closer and more understandable to me than visual expressions (especially, when it comes to abstract art), I will talk about Bitter Peach.
…Occasionally, when you read a review of a fragrance or a comment in one of the forums, you start thinking: did the author of said review/comment and yourself have different perfumes, despite the latter bearing the same exact name and brand, or is the sense of smell truly so different from person to person? Truth be told, there is one more aspect that definitely impacts one's perception of a fragrance and that is the place where that fragrance is tested.
I have long noticed that in Europe, especially in Italy and France, in a mild climate, perfumes seem to literally blossom, smelling divine.
I've noticed that the treasures brought back from the expo in Milan never smell equally delightful in Moscow as they did back there.
I've noticed, too, that Les Exclusifs de Chanel fragrances must be taken on trips to St.Petersburg - there, along the riverbanks and canals, in the fog, in the wind blowing from the Gulf of Finland, there, where it is always humid, those semi-transparent bouquets gladly give away all of their beauty.
Quite the opposite, oil-based perfumes and attars should best be saved for trips to Egypt, since it is there, in the dry heat, where they fully open up, down to the last note, sparkling like a peacock's tail, whereas in Moscow I only get a hint at all that beauty, maybe a single peacock feather…
In short, temperature and humidity are important... Everybody knows that, but, from time to time, even I need to remind myself of that fact.
For example, such a reminder was direly needed in the case of Bitter Peach by Tom Ford. The new fragrance by Tom Ford not only shocked the fragrance community, it basically started a veritable 'War of the Noses'!
When I read the then not yet translated review by Eddie Bulliqi, I was shocked. Did he really try the same fragrance that I did? After I had read Elena Knezhevich's piece on Bitter Peach, I thought that her perception was somewhat closer to mine (liquor, milk), but Elena, too, did not find the fragrance particularly pleasant…
I, myself, did not find Bitter Peach particularly delightful either, unlike the recently released Black Orchid Parfum by Tom Ford – the latter is my latest perfumery crush and my main indulgence for this fall.
However, I do not find Bitter Peach a flop of a perfume.
It is original, maybe overly so. It is daring - again, maybe all too daring!.But it is interesting. It is unusual. It is like abstract art. It can be worn and enjoyed if you are into bitterness. So what is it with our different perceptions of it, then?
Is it possible that Bitter Peach somehow develops poorly in a warm climate, but is more suitable for the cold Moscow fall?
When I was testing Bitter Peach for the first time, I vividly remembered the sensations of discovering the first fragrances from Etat Libre d'Orange. Back then, they were sold in bottles with images on them, so they attacked you from every angle.
The names alone were quite the revolution: Don't Get Me Wrong Baby, Secretions Magnifiques, Putain des Palaces, Charogne…
And those drawings! Try and remember the respective images on the flacons of Je Suis un Homme, Vierges et Toreros, Vraie Blonde, Fat Electrician! Such a shame that the bottles are now sold sans those provocative labels…
Many of the Etat Libre d'Orange fragrances have found their home in my perfume cabinet, some of them being 'repurchases', since I love and will continue to love them.
But my initial impression when trying them! Bewilderment, shock, astonishment, delight, fascination, rapture; I experienced all of that and more.
Similar emotions were provoked by Bitter Peach. The reason I have devoted so much time to describing Etat Libre d'Orange to you in detail is this: if I had to blind test Bitter Peach and then people would ask me who had created it - I would say the fragrance was from Etat Libre d'Orange, the genius perfumery pranksters who know how to combine the seemingly un-mixable things, creating shocking fragrances that first astonish you, yet later you wear them with great pleasure.
Bitter Peach by Tom Ford will also become a source of pleasure for someone.
Just don't expect a delicious juicy peach from it. There is none to be found.
Better yet, don't expect anything at all...
Just try it - try it in order to understand what images it shows you (abstract art, comic books, porn, or maybe blots from the Rorschach test?) and which notes will turn out the most prominent on you personally.
To me Bitter Peach by Tom Ford first came as a sweet memory of sunsets on Lake Garda and a small lakefront cafe where friendly German pensioners ordered one cocktail after another, with a name that was utterly unpronounceable to me, hissing and simultaneously jarring to the ear. They have tried to teach me to pronounce it, again and again, but to no avail.
Eventually, they simply helped me to order one. I also wanted to try the cocktail, because I saw that with each glass of the potion, they seemed to have more and more fun, yet it was that light and pleasant kind of fun ... Then I was taught to say the word correctly by an Italian waitress: "Spritz". Or rather - "Aperol Spritz". The cocktail included a good dose of prosecco, sparkling water, and the bitter Aperol: bitter as an herbal infusion. And for the ladies, orange juice was sometimes added. Or ... Peach syrup! Sweet and gooey!
It's when I first recognized that exact Aperol Spritz with peach syrup, that relaxed mood and beautiful sunset in Bitter Peach by Tom Ford, that I began thinking that I wanted to own a bottle of the fragrance…
And then it literally went off like a bomb with some new, contrasting notes.
It seemed as if a comic book hero jumped straight out of nowhere on the quiet embankment: a mad genius, capable of changing the laws of chemistry, a rascal from outer space in a costume as iridescent as the dead-nettle leaf beetle (Chrysolina fastuosa)…
And that's when things really got going!
Firstly, he smashed two gigantic juicy Sicilian oranges, red, sour and bitter, splashing their juice and aroma all around; the red orange will remain the main fruit in the perfume. He broke all the glasses filled with Aperol Spritz. Then he went for the bottles themselves; to the sound of the glass breaking, the bitter-herbal, tangy, alcoholic scent of Aperol blended with the childlike sweetness of the peach syrup.
Then the rascal from outer space broke into a fragrance boutique…
He started throwing flacons of Angel by Mugler on the floor, rummaging for the caramel and patchouli in the wreckage and ruthlessly pushing away everything else, i.e chocolate, tonka bean, blackberry, sandalwood, cotton candy, plum, honey, all the abundance of the magnificent Angel. He was interested strictly in the particular, Angel-kind of patchouli.
He smashed a flacon of Vraie Blonde by Etat Libre d'Orange and deprived the charming woman residing in the bottle of her cream-colored suede handbag as well as all of her delicate lactone sweetness… Thank goodness he left her the roses, the champagne and the powder he was not at all interested in, for how would the poor blonde fare without those?
He also threw down several flacons of Le Parfum by Elie Saab, taking with him a cloud of its sillage with orange blossom and jasmine.
Finally, the rascal stole several litchi fruits from the greengrocer's, robbed a boutique specializing in exotic tea, from which he took the oolong and osmanthus varieties, deciding that the lactone sweetness taken from Vraie Blonde was insufficient, and he also pocketed a couple of bottles of milk from the local convenience store.
After that he quietly sat down at the lakefront and began mixing his loot together, occasionally mixing some lake breeze in for the sake of freshness… He brought the orange colored flacon with him and kept it at the ready.
But if we are to be serious (even though Bitter Peach tries to defy seriousness at all costs!) – what does the new fragrance from Tom Ford smell like?
First and foremost - it smells of bitters as in liquor, it can be Aperol, or Jaegermeister or even Beherovka, the spicy notes of which I occasionally seem to recognize in there.
It smells of sour-and-bitter orange and sweet-and-sour litchi: the sensation of their light natural 'bite' is preserved in both fruits.
It also smells of sweet peach syrup, that is blended with an even sweeter patchouli, caramel, styrax, vanilla and cardamom.
Fragrant suede, milk, freshly brewed oolong tea perfumed with a delicate, almost honey-like osmanthus aroma are detectable, too
So many sweet notes…
And yet, Bitter Peach is primarily bitter, very bitter indeed. It is bitter not in the way wormwood or even oakmoss are, but in the way quinine is. The bitterness permeates every note, be it milk or peach syrup, sandalwood or vanilla, osmanthus or cardamom. Even the white floral notes shrouding the weird composition are tinged with bitterness.
Looks like only with the help of bitterness could all of those scents be combined into a certain organic whole - and it worked out, that organic whole, a lactone-suede, sweet-aromatic, bitter-herbal perfume. Only the Sicilian orange and the litchi continue to riot, disturbing the already fragile harmony, so it seems that Bitter Peach will soon break into separate notes again, with the art piece, complete despite being created in the abstract style, being lost forever... However, the bitterness in Bitter Peach is strong, it holds the respective fruits in the place allotted to them in the fragrance - much like blots and lines in an abstract painting.
Bitter Peach is a weird fragrance. But it is not a flop, no. I see a new direction in the creative process of the Tom Ford the brand, a certain perfumery experiment. And, like anything new, it is not particularly easy to understand or accept.
I hope that Tom Ford will not go exceedingly into that direction. I am still loyal to the brand's earlier masterpieces. And yet I have no doubt that to someone, Bitter Peach will become the long-awaited fragrance from the "I want something special yet I can't find it anywhere" category.
Elena Prokofeva Writer
Elena was born in Moscow. She studied at the Gerasimov Institute of Cinematography and at the Philological faculty of Moscow State University. She is the author of several novels (some of those written under the pen name of Elena Klemm) and specializes in writing biographical books. She loves history, Gothic novels, tales of terror, ancient cemeteries and old maisons, St. Petersburg, Carcassonne, Blois, Siena, Toledo, and Cesky Krumlov. Her enamorment with perfumes dates back to her childhood, and now she has a profound collection of perfumes significant for her.
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