Years ago I read a short story titled "Never Marry A Russian Poet". I don't remember a single detail, so I can't tell you what it was about or how that insight was achieved. But I have a feeling that Natalya Goncharova, Alexander Pushkin's wife, would have signed on that. Money issues, trouble with the authorities, and a tendency to get involved in duels. Nevertheless, the doomed Russian poet and the romantic 19th century St. Petersburg inspired Arquiste creator Carlos Huber and perfumer Yann Vasnier in composing Aleksandr.
Aleksandr is a charming perfume. I consider it utterly unisex, even for women who are wary of leather, as well as for men who fear violetness. Arquisite's version is incredibly balanced between these two dominant notes and is beautifully mellow. It's almost like smelling the lively and warm elements from afar or through a blanket of snow. The distance and airiness of Aleksandr make me think of it as a modern interpretation of Jolie Madame. It's cleaner, of course, and leans towards minimalism where the Balmain fragrance was lavish, but the romance and elegance are similar.
The opening of Aleksandr is a little bracing, though never sharp. Neroli and violet leaf, both traditional to men's grooming product, are here to remind us of the dandy standing in front of his dresser, looking at the mirror above the basin and pitcher. Men in the 19th century used to wear soliflore fragrances, and their scents blended with saddles, horses, tobacco and wet wool overcoats. Alexandr doesn't go all the way there, and the leather is smooth and almost creamy, with no hint of horse (too bad, really). It's a very civilized affair, as is the snowy urban landscape with its faint hint of evergreens and freshly cut wood. The overall impression is pretty and wearable, with a very moderate sillage and warmth that's left on the skin long after Alexandr's scent silhouette fades away. I get a 6 hour wear, but it requires a very generous application, to the point of drenching myself. Not that I mind; Aleksandr is friendly and incredibly pleasant, and I doubt anyone would object to being around it, even in such doses.
Notes: neroli, violet leaf, fir balsam, Russian leather
Aleksandr by Arquiste ($165, 55ml EDP) is available from Aedes, Barneys and arquiste.com. The sample for this review was provided by the brand's PR.
Images: Alexander Pushkin from russiapedia.rt.com, St. Petersbur, Russia, in the 19th century from englishrussia.com.