Let me make clear up front, I think that my reactions to Serge Lutens Fille en Aiguilles and Parfum d'Empire Wazamba have as much to do with "your mileage may vary" and my own backstory as they do with the contents and delivery of the juice itself. That, and I am apparently a perfume philistine. But I share my story anyway...
First up was SL Filles en Aiguilles. I was excited to score a sample*--FeA was getting a fair amount of love from bloggers who I respect, and often line up with when it comes to what works for me. The heart of the pine forest and all. I'm down with that; I proudly claim the 45th parallel as my comfort zone, and a mixed deciduous/evergreen forest is part of the experience. Pine isn't just about the cutting down of trees or branches to decorate your home for the holidays; it's about the smell of needles as you brush by, the warm crunch of dead needles underfoot, the unbelievably sticky sap that won't leave your clothes or hair (or windshield) and makes for little spectacles when put on the fire. It is sharp, with a hint of warmth. It would be much better at clearing your sinuses than say, coffee beans--or at least that how it feels. (Avery Gilbert explains that the clearing of the nasal palate is a bunch of bunk in What the Nose Knows, but I shall tackle his debunkery in a different post.)
That's what pine is, to me. Then there is this other creation, an all-purpose cleaner for your house, the one a woman in a television commercial will tell you provides an odor that tells you your house is clean. (I have a friend who swears that Murphy's Oil Soap is the smell of clean, but I digress.) This other creation has always been oddly sweet, peculiarly fake, and definitely the smell of other people's houses.
This second creation appeared on my wrist as the opening of Filles en Aiguilles. Big time. And then the opening got pinpoint holes, and honey started to come through, but PineSol didn't leave. Eventually, I got to a warm Lutens-like sweet woody drydown, but ask me if it was worth the trip. I had to scrape through PineSol to get there. I'd rather skip the production and get to the final act, and to do that, I could just put on Chergui.
Hence, I ordered a small decant of Wazamba with no small amount of trepidation.
After all, another prickly pine, right? Wrong. Oh, happy space of well played pine. Mellowed by spicence (spice + incense?), as if you could do that. An evolution that plays with smooth interactions, not some odd stippling effect. I've been waiting for somebody to play the forest-as-cathedral. I don't think Wazamba captures the forests I am accustomed to inhabiting, but these will do just fine, thank you very much. And, oh happy day, it sits close to my skin, not requiring me to snorfle to get a hit, nor wafting beyond my safety circle. Just right for wearing to orchestra rehearsal: something that settles into comfort but remains inspiring and well composed. And stays by me.
I'm going to run around the block a few more times with both of these, but I'll say this: I've already gone back for seconds of Wazamba. Thank goodness for decantery. Next up is going to be a split or a swap. Because far from needling me, Wazamba keeps me thinking while wrapping up all cozy and nice. Filles en Aiguilles just gets under my skin.
*I've said it before, but it bears repeating: carrying vials with you at all times can prove worthwhile.