Crossing the Bosphorus, taking a journey between Asia and Europe, visiting Turkish markets, smoky bars, spice and sweets sellers sound more like a Serge Lutens mission statement than a L'Artisan Parfumeur brief for a perfume. Yet it was Bertrand Duchaufour who took the trip and composed this travel memoir for L'Artisan, complete with a Turkish delight note.
I wasn't expecting to like Traversée du Bosphore so much, let alone love it. I thought that between Uncle Serge and Keiko Mecheri, I was all loukoumed out, not to mention how apple and pomegranate notes are not necessarily my idea of fun. It turns out that Traversée du Bosphore is not about fruit at all. There is a perky lightness in the opening, but none of what we've come to know as a sticky red fruit accord. It was quite amusing, actually, since the first time I tested this L'Artisan on my skin (the husband has tried it a couple of months before but it was mostly a neutral musk on him) I also tried Frederic Malle Portrait Of a Lady. I was full of anticipation for the latter and thought I was going to love it. Instead, the Lady turned out to be a fruitchouli and the one that captured my attention was Traversée du Bosphore. I wanted to spend more time with it.
On my skin, Traversée du Bosphore is equal parts dry iris, soft aged leather, vanilla and musk. Very few L'Artisan perfumes were made to hit you with a sweet stick, and this is no exception, despite the Turkish delight accord. The perfume is very warm and dry, and despite the obvious leather note, the tactile feel of it as more suede-like. There's some spice emerging from behind the iris, but it's subtle- those who dislike the souk aromas of many Lutens fragrances have nothing to worry here. It's saffron, not cumin, and the general impression is of something wafting from some distance while you actually stroll in the open air, not stuck in the back room of a spice merchant. The dry-down is very musky but in a clean, non-animalic way. It's powdery and the vanilla is pale, demure and has fresh rosy cheeks- it's not a femme fatale scent and not overly foody. A man who wears vanilla well should have no problem pulling this off.
Traversée du Bosphore has an impressive lasting power. It may be a quiet scent but it stays alive for 14-16 hours easily, and if I apply it at night it's still very much there in the morning. I find that wearing it outside in the cold mutes the scent down considerably, but getting back inside makes it bloom and gain more sillage. I'm curious to see how it performs in the summer. I have a feeling it might become a favorite hot weather oriental.
L'Artisan ParfumeurTraversée du Bosphore ($115, 50ml EDP) is available from all L'Artisan retailers- MiN NY, Luckyscent and the other usual suspects.
Photo of Ortakoy, Istanbul, on the Bosphorus by Fikret Onal