|Art by Chris Buzelli|
Many things went through my head over the course of wearing Cadavre Exquis, the new limited edition perfume by Bruno Fazzolari and Antonio Gardoni. The one thought to which I've kept coming back was irony. There I was geeking out on the artistic collaboration between two of the most interesting and creative contemporary perfumers, immersing myself in the sensual pleasure of wearing Cadavre Exquis, savoring every facet and twist, yet I couldn't shake the notion that this marvelous creature was somehow related to one of very few perfumes I thoroughly loath.
Yes, that one.
Deconstructed then grotesquely reconstructed piece by piece into a chimera, a Cadavre Exquis, a glorious beast that smells sensual, intoxicating, and naughtily edible. A quick look at the list of notes Fazzolari and Gardoni used kind of explains it: blood orange, camphor, ylang-ylang, tagetes, dried fruit, star anise, chocolate, cypress, benzoin, vanilla, and civet. Of course, Cadavre Exquis smells nothing like the actual Mugler perfume, but the idea and the irony are still there.
The chocolate in Cadavre Exquis is infused with camphor. It's not the first time we smell such a concoction. Christopher Shledrake composed a similar accord for Serge Lutens' Borneo 1834, but where Uncle Serge took it to a dusty and woody dark corner inside an old steamer trunk that has seen the world, Cadavre Exquis is more perverse. It takes us to Miss Havisham's wedding banquet, where a silver charger piled with civet truffles is sitting under a veil of cobwebs. And guess what? They tasted and smelled this way back when the sun was still permitted in the room and Miss Havisham herself had a spring in her step. Maybe she ordered the truffles for her future husband. One can never know.
There are other elements at work in Cadavre Exquis. Bruno Fazzolari has a way with floral notes that make me dissolve with pleasure. Here he and vintage-inspired Antonio Gardoni (one word: Maai) married two unlikely bedfellows: Ylang-ylag and tagetes (marigold). The complex ylang-ylang can take on a sweet banana facet as well as the more familiar aspects of heady white flowers, and tagetes is a slightly bitter aromatic flower that can go anywhere from green to a musky tobacco. I get much more ylang than marigold, both on my skin and on the husband's, but I have a feeling that this note has a major role in keeping the "dried fruit" as dry as it is (and the complete opposite of the overripe garbage water in Angel). When I pay close attention to the going-ons on my skin I do catch a whiff of nearly dried-out end-of-summer tagetes. It's a different way of approaching decay and mortality in perfume (more common examples use gardenia to convey this idea, as the flower in the height of its bloom already smells slightly past its prime. That's the main concept behind JAR's Jardenia, for example).
The result of all these notes cooked together in an unholy cauldron is a fascinating and very adult gourmand. Chocolate and fruit macerated in expensive liqueurs are mouth-watering, but I'm not sure the average sweet-toothed perfume consumer will find it easy to digest. This beauty is almost sinister in its temptation. Stylistically, Cadavre Exquis belongs on the same shelf I keep the work of Alexis Karl (Body Made Luminous, The Poetry of Longing, and Requiem for the Immortal). There's a similar sense of jubilant experimenting and artistic integrity in these perfumers' work. Incidentally, some of Alexis Karl's art (her Mythological Evolution series) depicts half beast-half human creatures fused together, as do her Hybridas Morte skull sculptures. So far, this Gardoni/Fazzolari collaboration is far less goth and morbid than Ms. Karl's work (cadaver associations aside).
Some of you may be wondering by now if Cadavre Exquis is actually wearable. The answer is yes. YES. It's thick, rather sweet, nuanced and complex, but the bottom line is that this perfume can give immense pleasure to those who enjoy civet, chocolate, and some on their skin.
Cadavre Exquis by Bruno Fazzolari & Antonio Gardoni ($245, 50ml eau de parfum) is a limited edition of 99 bottles (I can tell you that I ordered my bottle the day I got the sample, so we're starting at 98...). It's available on brunofazzolari.com as well as from Luckyscent. The sample for this review was sent to me by the perfumers.