L'Artisan's new(ish) Natura Fabularis ("nature mythology") series looks interesting to me, because anything new from this house looks interesting to me; but, to be honest, I also feel a little disappointed that this house has succumbed (once again, if you count the Explosions d'Emotions) to the temptation of putting out a more-expensive/higher tier line. When perfumes houses do that, it's hard to shake the suspicion that their other products may be getting less attention from the folks who hold the purse strings; and in L'Artisan's case, I really hope not. After all, this house has one of the best back catalogs in the business, with at least a dozen perfumes that literally smell like nothing else on earth, all of which also happen to be well-made and almost shockingly wearable. I would consider it criminal if the quality of any of those were to decline.
In the meantime, there's Violaceum. All the NF perfumes appear to be explorations of a single note; and, true to its name, Violaceum smells like violet--for a while. It starts off with some promise--the unmistakably peppery bite of violet leaf (does anyone know if watercress and violets have any sort of kinship? Just a thought) in a sort of dank, moist accord suggestive of dark fairy-tale forests. Then it shows a little bit of violet blossom proper, tamped down by a decent whack of iris. L'Artisan's blurb about Violaceum says something about the connection between food and perfume, and claims that Daphne Bugey includes a carrot-and-saffron accord along with the violets--but honestly, I just smell iris, which gets more diffused and chalky the way iris does. Also, ifthere's saffron in here, I can't smell it. The drydown smells both moist and dry, suggestive of the aroma freshly turned black soil. And that's it.
The violet part pretty much ends within the first 30 minutes (at least on my skin), leaving a kind of shadowy self in the iris materials. It's a nice enough scent--elegant, dark, and slightly suggestive of leather, sort of (inasmuch as iris reads as "leather" in perfume vernacular); but I'm not sure I understand why it needs to exist, exactly; and the perfume's somewhat desultory vibe doesn't really help much. What is it trying to do? As far as I can see, L'Artisan doesn't really have a straight-up violet fragrance in their book, which is why I was drawn to Violaceum. But it seems like the house kind of wasted a bullet here. L'Artisan's collection includes almost nothing that smells like anything else out there on the market, so why put out such a relatively pedestrian take on violets? There must be 40 or 50 perfumes out there in the world that offer some variation on the violet/leather idea, and very few of them have offered much improvement over Jolie Madame.
It's possible that L'Artisan could be aiming at something instructive concerning ionones, the scents of violets and iris. After all, ionones derive from carotenoids, the familiar orange pigments we all know from carrots, so a perfume presenting a spectrum of ionones from top to bottom, violet blossoms to carrot roots via iris, is a nice idea (although I have no idea how the saffron fits in); and it seems to fit with the mildly didactic vibe of the Latin names and laboratory-bling of the bottles. Still, if this is what's going on, it doesn't make the perfume itself any more interesting--it's still iris and violets and not much else. I suspect that the Natura Fabularis collection aims at pleasing the Jo Malone crowd, who seem all too willing to shell out ultra-premium prices for one-note perfumes with the mute button on. After all, the packaging looks exquisite and quite chic (and it has bees! I love bees), with mostly straightforward names for the compositions--clearly designed to need as little further explanation as possible.
If the brief asked for a simple, understated scent with some good talking points for the sales staff, then Violaceum succeeds; and if you might be looking for an earthy, nonfeminine violet, it's worth trying out; but it doesn't ring my particular bell. Maybe I'm missing something. Maybe I'm bummed because it's not trashy enough--I like my violets slutty, tarted up and tricked out with fruitier ionones along with the dry. And L'Artisan already offers a better, more distinctive take on ionones and saffron in its grievously underrated Skin on Skin, a perfume containing luxurious gobs of iris butter and loads of saffron, which seems to conjure sweet but not cloying phantom violets--a perfume as bizarre, and as gorgeous, as anything else in this house's formidable lineup.