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September 21, 2005

Fragrance review: L’Artisan Tea for Two


If it is possible to envision a dark smoky composition done in watercolours, which would preserve both the vibrancy of hues and the lucidity, Olivia Giacobetti is the perfumer would be able to execute such an arrangement. Tea for Two (2000) is a fragrance that bears that beautiful Giacobetti-esque fingerprint. It is ethereal without being limpid and sensual without resorting to the tired tricks, a difficult feat indeed. Tea for Two is stunning on both men and women, with its smoky spiciness crossing all barriers and divisions.

Tea for Two is amazing in terms of its ability to change dramatically. The process resembles the development of photos--at first, one sees bare outlines, and then recognizable shapes begin to form. Soaring translucent notes of bergamot and orange blossom fade into the surge of smokiness. Rich tarry sweetness of lapsang souchong is like a vapour rising from a tea cup, hot and expansive.

A note of rubbery and rose redolent wood saturated with honeyed sweetness underpins the base of the composition, and once the smoke of tea fades, the spicy ornamentations are thrown into relief. Cinnamon, anise, and clove cast their jewel-like glow onto the transparent darkness of lingering smoke notes. A creamy facet of the main accord dissolves into the ambery liquid of tea, and just as milk smoothes the astringency of black teas, a lactonic element lends a hazy softness. For me, its autumnal character is accented by the associations with the prolonged tea times that accompany cool weather in Eastern Europe. The memories of dark caravan tea, cherry preserves and honey bread, of dimly lit dinning room and of heated political debates unfold like a beautiful scroll as the fragrance dries down.

L'Artisan Parfumeur fragrances are available at Aedes, Barneys New York, Beautycafe, Bergdorf Goodman, Bluemercury, Neiman Marcus, Saks 5th Avenue, and Theperfumeshoppe. Notes include gentian, neroli, bergamot; cinnamon, ginger, smoked tea, aniseed; honey, vanilla, guaiacwood.

Ilya Repin. Apples and Leaves. 1879. The Russian Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia.



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