Niche Perfumery Parfums Quartana: The Dangerous Beauty Of Poisonous Flowers

Parfums Quartana: The Dangerous Beauty Of Poisonous Flowers

06/20/16 18:04:04 (18 comments)

by: Sergey Borisov


"Even bees, the little almsmen of spring bowers,

know there is richest juice in poison flowers."
John Keats.

 

In June, a new project named Les Potions Fatales was launched by Joseph Quartana, who was previously famous for his numerous limited perfume collections, united under the brand Six Scents. In Milan I came across great examples of his work, perfumes born in collaboration between fashion designers and perfumers.

Les Potions Fatales explore the treacherous beauty and intriguing lore of nine of the world’s most poisonous flowers. Appealing and perilous, these lethal flowers have been used to nefarious deeds. You can't do anything but surrender to this floral femme fatale — seductive on the outside but ultimately dark, sinister, and dangerous on the inside.

Joseph Quartana, the founder of Six Scents Parfums and the modern boutique Seven New York, has introduced PARFUMS Quartana which are produced in small quantities and sold online and in his boutique. For the new Les Potions Fatales, Joseph worked for  two and a half years with perfumers from Symrise. Part of the revenue will be donated to the American Association of Poison Control Centers. The artwork on the outer packaging was designed by Aerosyn-Lex Mestrovic. Based in NYC and Tokyo, Aerosyn-Lex Mestrovic has exhibited in MoMA, The White House, Art Basel, and his works are also part of the Smithsonian Collection.

There are 3 movies made especially to introduce the new collection to the world. They were inspired by supernatural/occult horror films and music videos from the 1970s and early 80s (works of David Lynch, Alejandro Jodorowsky, Dario Argento, Jesse Franco, etc).

Les Potions Fatales - 'Bloodflower'

 

 Les Potions Fatales - 'Poppy Soma'

 

Les Potions Fatales - 'Lily of the Valley'

 

BLOODFLOWER

"Look at my blood flowers, because I write with a serene sharp blade

that soothes as much as cuts into the deepest parts of my soul," 

Basith, Autopsy of the seasons

Bloodflower starts with a fresh and green, sappy olfactory illusion. At the moment you focus on it and confirm this impression, its friendly greenness hardens with metallic nuances, they become more and more obvious until you realize that you taste blood in your mouth. I haven't seen the bloodflower in nature and can't compare the scents, but I remember how blood feels in your nose and mouth after a full strength run during my workout. It was a tough and very memorable experience. Perfumer Alexandra Carlin composed the blood accord very skillfully and true to life. It could have adorned the Blood Concept collection in its best years (which have passed). I remember another impressive blood accord representation in Yohji Homme by Yohji Yamamoto. Alexandra Carlin managed to extract bloody poison from sweet pastries and classical rose. I can sense the similarity with Yohji Homme after aproximately 30 minutes, when the poison starts slowly spreading and the perfume settles into a comforting sweetness. Although I try to pull out some perfume memories, this beautiful perfume is surprisingly unique. Smelling it, I understand what we call niche perfumery.

Notes: Licorice, Anise, Blood Accord, Clover, Orris, Dark Rose, Amber, Patchouli

Asclepias curassavica / Bloodflower
 

DIGITALIS

"The foxglove bells, with lolling tongue, 

Will not reveal what peals were rung 
In Faery, in Faery, 

A thousand ages gone."  
– Mary Webb

Digitalis represents fougere perfumes in their most classical interpretation. You can find one in every perfume brand, because there is a great population of male consumers who wants perfume to accentuate their hygienic perfection and fresh appearance, more than actually smell a perfume for itself. The perfumer David Apel offers us a pale vegetal freshness, soggy blue and green, very clean, but alarmingly cold. You can see this color transformation in the latest Van Gogh works, when he had been taking drugs based on the digitalis plant the last two years of his life. I must assure you that this humid and clean perfume cloud does not have anything in common with the smell of the real plant, which smells obnoxiously bitter, leaving a nasty taste in your mouth.

Notes: Galbanum, Silver Iris, Cucumber, Basil, Pepper, Ozone, Coriander, Florozone, Drenched Violet, Neroli, Rose, Jasmine, Gentiane, Incense, Fern, Wet Moss, Violet Leaf

Digitalis purpurea
 

HEMLOCK

"Socrates gave a lot of advice, 

and he was given hemlock to drink." 
– Rose Kennedy

This perfume – so strangely amazing – starts with absolutely inedible, although sweet, accords of ambery plastic and synthetic suede. It is very soothing, but not at all mouthwatering, you will not be able to poison yourself with this one; there is no chance you want to put it in your mouth, these shiny boots of faux leather. It brings to mind several different accords: one is the spicy driftwood of Preparation Parfumée Andrée Putmann, and another the almond pastries with heliotrope and tonka beans Tulaytulah Majda Bekkali. I also feel a cold and bright suede accord that I remember from No+SUEDE UÉR MÍ. In its heart, Hemlock gradually heats up and transmits warmth to the farthest reaches of its trail, but remains artificial, even surrounded by vanilla-tonka-benzoin.

Notes: Martinique Rum, Pink Pepper, Calabrian Bergamot, Crushed Leaves, Glossy White Floral, Cinnamon Bark, Clove Buds, Jasmine Sambac, Styrax Pyrogene, Black Vinyl Accord, Black Magnolia, Cyclamen, Salt, Benzoin, Vanilla Bean, Suede, Sandalwood, Patchouli, Tonka Bean, Musk, Masculine Amber Woods.

Conium maculatum / hamlock

 

LILY OF THE VALLEY

"Sweetest of the flowers a-blooming

In the fragrant vernal days

Is the Lily of the Valley

With its soft, retiring ways." 
— Paul Laurence Dunbar

Lily of the valley is not only a beautiful romantic flower, but also a well-known medicinal plant. Its dried leaves lower blood pressure, calm and soothe pain, and help with insomnia. But the beautiful flowers and red berries are extremely poisonous. There is no need to describe the smell of lily-of-the-valley, I presume everyone knows it. In this particular perfume, lily-of-the-valley is very fresh and loud. What is worth mentioning, is the contrast between the freshness and white fragility of floral accord in the very opening, and a leather accord of gloves. The dark side makes the flower glitter. An extraordinary twist conceived and masterfully executed by Nathalie Benareau.

Notes: Bergamot, Neroli, Dewy Petals, Cassis Buds, Muguet des Bois, Orange Blossom Absolute, Dark Rose Absolute, Jasmine Petals, Black Leather Glove Accord, Labdanum Extract, Vetiver Bourbon, Vanilla Absolute, Sandalwood.

Convallaria Majalis / lily of the valley

 

MANDRAKE

"Go, and catch a falling star, 

Get with child a mandrake root, 

Tell me, where all past years are, 

Or who cleft the Devil's foot." 
— John Donne

 

Mandrake is the smell you long to taste, despite its extreme acidic start (rhubarb, green apple and sour gooseberry). I expect your mouth is watering while reading these "sour" names. As time passes, the fragrance accumulates sweetness and warmth. It darkens and thickens like a jam, and after a long dark witchery, it squeezes out of its already quite dark potion – a dry, small and leathery root of mandrake, for you to keep as a charm. After witnessing this wonderful transformation, I want to smell it again and again. There is nothing very revolutionary in this thrilling ride from sour freshness to dried leather, but every time this rollercoaster makes you scream. If you like unexpected transformations, I suggest you try East India Beaufort London.

Notes: Crisp Apple, Pomegranate, Birch Leaf, Birch Root, Bergamot, Mandrake Flower Accord, Rhubarb, Cardamom, Sueded Leather, Deadly Addiction Accord, Patchouli, Madagascar Vanilla, Sandalwood, Tonka

Mandragora / mandrake

 

MIDNIGHT DATURA

"Any man who falls asleep after smelling datura

will fall in love with the first woman he sees" – A Belief

This is another beautiful aroma, rich and intense, but also very well known as an oriental perfume bouquet. The main role belongs to jasmine, it possesses you from the very start and leads into a powder room, where you forget the present and live in the past, surrunded by mincing marquises in wigs and crinolines. The best embodiment of this sentimental and theatrical scene you will find in L`Heure Bleue Guerlain. If you look for a strong vintage vibe in modern perfumes, I would heartily recommend to try Midnight Datura. It is a very long lasting perfume which smells like dust and warm amber and brings peace with its final notes.

Notes: Green leaf, Mandarin, Bergamot, Davana, Rum, Jasmine, Tuberose, Magnolia, Muguet, Rose, Violet, Lavender, Heliotrope, Datura, Clove, Nutmeg, Pepper, Balsam, Patchouli, Vanilla, Sandalwood, Cedarwood, Amber, Musk.

Datura inoxia

 

POPPY SOMA

"The poppy opes her scarlet purse of dreams." 
– Sharmel Iris 

A strong sweet scent that is reminiscent of jasmine and gasoline at the same time. I feel dirty and busy in its suffocating atmosphere, trying to pick up white jasmine from the fumes and waste of a gasoline burner that happened to be close by and defective. What is it? A kitchen with herbs (mint, parsley, and a bunch of other) for potion making? I got it, I already smell it: a freshly brewed and very potent poison. It's made of Gardenol or Styrallyl Acetate, and it will faithfully play the poison role to the last breath. If you want a visualization, it is a tiger in cannabis bushes, although you wouldn't guess it from the first notes.

Notes: Sichuan Pepper, Curry Leaf, Red Pepper, Black Gardenia, Jasmine Sambac, Red Rose, Old Church Incense, Labdanum, Tuberose, Styrax, Musk Tonquin

Papaver omniferum / opium poppy

 

VENETIAN BELLADONNA

"Non tradire una bella donna."

(Do not betray a beautiful woman) – Useful observation

The name of the flower means beautiful woman. Women used to rubb their cheeks with it for a rosy blush, and even drop the juice into their eyes to make them shine passionately (dilated pupils were considered beautiful). Another name of belladonna, at least in my language, is 'mad berry'.

The perfume Venetian Belladonna alone could substitute the rest of Les Potions Fatales, because its smell perfectly captures the meaning of the collection's name: floral fruity sweet, mesmerizing and inviting in a smarmy way. You're trapped and smitten by its tenderness, although you already hear how its lulling purring is turning into a hungry, anticipating growling. But you are not afraid, you are bewitched with desire and live in a delirium. It's a sweet, heady perfume that draws exotic flowers in your mind, they quiver in the air and disappear in rainbow circles. Venetian Belladonna is a typical poison; you can see, smell and taste it. A beautiful actress makes her first step on the stage and everybody already knows who is the murderer.

Notes: Cassis, Violet Water, Plum, Sultanene, Cognac, Styrax, Ambrette Seed, Sampaquia, Honey, Purple Iris, Tuberose, Patchouli, Labdanum, Suede, Saffron, Beeswax, Sandalwood, Vetiver.

Atropa belladonna

 

Sergey Borisov

Sergey Borisov has been involved in perfumery since the early 90`s when he had his own perfume-devoted program “Close to Body” on Krasnoyarsk radio (1993). As a perfume enthusiast (known as moon_fish), he became famous in Russia for his translation of  Luca Turin's Perfume: Le Guide. He made a career as a fragrance journalist and contributed to such distinguished magazines as GQ, Vogue, Elle, Cosmopolitan, Interview, Forbes, Allure, Robb Report, Flacon, Departure, RBC-Style, TSUM-Magazine (2008-2016). His own online columns for RBC-Style.ru, Vogue.ru, and GQ.ru (2006-2015) have earned him international recognition and an invitation to be an editor for the Russian edition of “The Little Book of Perfumes” by Luca Turin & Tania Sanchez.  Sergey Borisov was invited as a speaker at Esxence 2012 (Milano) and Intercharm 2015 (Moscow). In 2013, Sergey joined the Fragrantica team.

 



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karrieann
karrieann

I am intrigued by all of these scents!
The videos, on the other hand.
The term "trying too hard" comes to mind.
Edgy became laughable.

Nov
18
2016
damightyheru
damightyheru

This house is extremely interesting and their use of imagery is very cool imo...I don't think critics of the commercials are keeping in mind the aesthetic of the brand. It's about Dangerous flowers...My interpretation of these vids were that the women in them were personifications of the dangerous flowers the scents were named after. I thought they communicated the beauty and danger of these flowers in an interestingly forward way. Some with far more conservative attitudes may not appreciate such imagery but it's art and in my opinion complements the direction of the brand and style of their fragrances. They have a unique perspective and I think it should be encouraged. So many niche brands play it safe so it's refreshing to see brands like Ikiryo and Parfums Quartana take a different approach.

Btw...Wolfsbane from this house is A wow factor frag...

Kudos on highlighting this house...

Nov
17
2016
miracleborgtech
miracleborgtech

I got them all! At least the samples that is! They are wonderful! They remind me of picking and smelling wild flowers at my grandmother's farm when I was a young girl. Each one has a natural smell that is like smelling the flower/plant in it's wild state. Sillage and longevity good, botanical fascination off the charts!

P.S. The videos disappointing. Can't imagine why Quartana would draw an association between these flowers and the tawdy images in the videos. Would have been better to channel the spirit of the plants in the images similar to the pictures used. There is much lore that could have been potent and powerful, with much better advertising results. Hopefully interest in unusual flowers will overcome the aversion to the video advertising.

Nov
17
2016
scarlett.angel
scarlett.angel

I just found out that the beautiful Night Blooming Jasmine that's growing at the front of my apartment building and climbing up the walls inside the common area is poisonous. I went outside just after midnight and wow, the whole complex smells of this amazing narcotic scent. I couldn't help but pick a small branch of flowers when I noticed a white sap dripping from it. I'd never guessed that this beautiful plant also known as ‘Lady of the Night’ and ‘Queen of the Night’, was so deadly... so beautiful but poisonous... I wish someone could bottle up this gorgeous narcotic scent.

Oct
23
2016
zakkarah
zakkarah

Quite tacky videos...in particular the one with the ¨blood¨......using the porn estethics of full facial bukkake is just gross......

Cheers
Matz

Jul
13
2016
miracleborgtech
miracleborgtech

I want them all!

Jul
12
2016
Bstefcorbin
Bstefcorbin

I love this kind of niche perfumery.

Jun
24
2016
ChrisInBrooklyn
ChrisInBrooklyn

Very Cool! Congrats to Joseph Q!

Jun
21
2016
scarlett.angel
scarlett.angel

Lana Del Rey - Ultraviolence

He used to call me DN
That stood for deadly nightshade
'Cause I was filled with poison
But blessed with beauty and rage

He used to call me poison
Like I was poison ivy
I could have died right there
'Cause he was right beside me

Jun
21
2016
guest_
guest_

WOW! Thanks for a fascinating article Sergey! Everything about this is totally my thing; I am so in love with this whole concept... Beautiful poisonous flowers, 70s/80s supernatural and horror (love the 3 films; the first one clearly inspired by Elizabeth Bathory and the insane genius that is David Lynch... huge fan of him). Thanks for the amazing descriptions of these amazing flowers, love the little quotes too... if I had a garden I would love to try and grow them... I wonder if any would grow in pots? If anyone here is a budding gardener please let me know! I have a huge, empty balcony with my apartment and would love to fill it with all kinds of interesting and beautiful plants... and oh, to sample these perfumes would be a dream come true ♥

Jun
21
2016
mariyka
mariyka

Thank you so much Sergey, for introducing me to Les Potions Fatales. I've successfully grown datura, foxglove, lily of the valley and blousy red poppies (from seed) in my garden. Also, the "bloodflower" milkweed is currently blooming.
The Midnight Datura notes look complex yet intriguing. I'm always searching for a datura fragrance. The actual spicy flower scent is difficult to describe, let alone to reproduce.
Poppy Soma is definitely going on my wish list..."old church incense"... yes indeed.

Jun
21
2016
goldiloks
goldiloks

Love this collection! Great concept.

Jun
21
2016
smellagent
smellagent

Really interesting concept. I am most interested in the Mandrake and LOTV but it would be nice to smell them all of course.

Jun
21
2016
Jyrhara
Jyrhara

Even if I never get to smell these perfumes (though I'd be happy to) I like the descriptions very much: they sound really inspired!

Jun
21
2016
the big totoro
the big totoro

Wow. I'm actually impressed here, which is a nice change. The videos are interesting, to say the least, and the fragrances sound outstanding. I am quite intrigued!

Jun
20
2016
hunterblu
hunterblu

YES!

Jun
20
2016
MoonSparrow
MoonSparrow

I am most interested in Bloodflowers. Anise and licorice are 2 of my favorite notes, and would be curious to see how they play out with a blood accord. The first 2 videos do not inspire me to try those fragrances. The Lily of the Valley video I do like, but not wild about the listed notes. Fascinating concept, though!

Jun
20
2016
mapache
mapache

Wow !!! The notes in these!! Spellbinding, for sure.
Very cool. All of them seem worthy of a test sniff.

Jun
20
2016

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