Enter Arpege, a gorgeous and complex perfume named after the musical sequence the arpeggio, a musical term for a broken chord or the notes of a chord played in successsion to one another, rather than simultaneously. We know that there's a metaphoric, poetic correspondence between musical chords (or notes played simultaneously) and perfume accords, an accord being the basic theme or character of a fragrance which comes about when three or more perfume notes blend together to create new identities, .
To my still neophyte nose, the accord or theme of Arpege is sensual beauty, slightly corrupted, at the end of a night of dining and dancing in shift dresses, stilettos and furs, which ends with a kiss, a cigarette and the promise of more. The flowers are wilting on the table, sitting next to the fur coat which has absorbed some post-dinner cigarette smoke. This is such a feminine, sexy, animalic perfume. It might be the most womanly one I've had the pleasure of sniffing.
I'm not a huge fan of florals, but when they're backed up with a symphony of dark, rich notes like patchouli and sandalwood, they resignify what flowers mean to someone used to the sickeningly sweet, linear, fruity, and synthetic-smelling perfumes of today. Symphonic, round and deep, Arpege tells me what perfumes once smelled like, and what they should smell like again. When I smell this perfume, I think about the colors in a Disney cartoon, like Snow White, or the colors in Hitchcock's Vertigo, when he was just discovering technicolor. The deep jade on Madeleine's dress, the icy gold of her hair, the matte salmon of her lips, the dancing flowers in Scottie's technicolor nightmare — compare these to the flat colors of sloppy digital movies.
Arpege, described on the Now Smell This blog thusly: "Where Chanel No. 5 is languid, Arpège is full-bodied." (The Chanel No. 5 comparison comes from the fact that both of them were early aldehydic, which is to say, abstract and synthetic-based fragrances.) "If No. 5 is a vase of summer flowers," they continue, " then Arpège is that same vase three days later, flowers ripe and spicy, with a dirtier base. Neroli slices into the Arpège’s lush heart, where the lily of the valley takes over its role, giving balance to the more velvety body of the scent."
Velvety. Animalic, like tallow, sebum, flowers and fur. I am totally in love with Arpege.
Top notes: Bergamot, neroli, aldehydes, peach
Heart notes: Rose, jasmine, lily of the valley, ylang-ylang
Base notes: Sandalwood, Ambrein, vetiver, musk
Perfumers: Andre Fraysse and Paul Vacher