Karl Bradl and Robert Gerstner may have opened Aedes de Venustas Parfums (9 Christopher Street, West Village) in the not so distant past, but its ornate interiors deliberately recall an era of more refined tastes, and hint at the link between scent and memory. The baroque shadows and Herr Bradl’s own effusive floral arrangements at this most esteemed purveyor of rare and fine fragrances underscore the provenances of the treasures found here. There’s Santa Maria Novella’s hand formulated Acqua di Colonia, also referred to as Acqua della Regina because it was originally conceived for Caterina de’ Medici, queen consort of France (1547-1559). The Cire Trudon line of scented candles is from Maison Trudon, chandlers since 1643. This is not to say the shop is encased entirely in amber – carrying new as well as transgressive releases such as Escentric Molecules, thoroughly modern while lending emphasis to the scientific aspect of creating fragrances.
Scent’s amorphous and ephemeral nature inevitably inspires endless ruminations as well as debates over whether fragrance is a creation of science or art. Truth, as usual, probably emerges from the middle. As much as it takes scientific precision to formulate fragrance, creativity and skill are equally required to bring it to life. And within any well composed fragrance is a labyrinth of molecules alongside textures and moods that remain elusive to any definitive description. A good fragrance sets off a frisson the moment our olfactory senses detect those top notes. A great one should envelop, linger, even very discretely alter, before ultimately eliciting desire.
Aedes offers a multitude of truly great fragrances: Serge Lutens’ Rose de Nuit by Gilles Romey contains notes of Turkish rose, yellow jasmine, apricot, musk, sandalwood and beeswax. Where traditional rose scents are perceived as sweet and bright, it defies expectations by unfolding its subtle silk texture with the transparent darkness of rose liquor. Ex Nihilo’s Devil Tender by Nadège Legarlantezec includes a spicy blend that allays the sweetness of the lush Bulgarian rose center, while the smooth suede, cedar and sandalwood inexorably tempts into an abyss of pure seduction. The shop’s signature Aedes de Venustas eau de parfum by Bertrand Duchaufour, who personally sourced the scent’s omnipresent vetiver from Madagascar, along with notes of red berries, tomato leaf, incense, green apple, hazelnut, and honeysuckle. Flouting the prototypic fragrance pyramid, the scent mimics its elegant round vessel within an aubergine square glass by emanating in voluptuous swirls from its rhubarb accord center. This green effect actually increases while a resinous incense and chypre accord recede into abstraction.
Images courtesy of Aedes de Venustas www.aedes.com