BASENOTES: Parfums Quartana Part 1: Nine Tales of Deadly Deception

March 17, 2017

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By Carla Seipp

As far as inspirations for a perfume line go, Breaking Bad is pretty much the pinnacle of badass-ry. And just like its source material, the Les Potions Fatales collection by Parfums Quartana is highly addictive and undeniably captivating. “I was watching an episode of the show, and in it the protagonist Walter used lily of the valley to poison Jessie’s girlfriend’s son, Brock. A lightbulb went on in my head. I thought to myself, why hasn’t anyone done poisonous flowers in perfumery yet? That’s when the eureka moment happened,” Joseph Quartana explains.

Packaged in psychedelic original artwork by Aersoyn-Lex Mestrovic, each of the range’s nine eau de parfums explores the folkloric, mythical, and biological traits of its namesake flower. “The notion of deception is the concept that runs through the entirety of the collection. Things are not what they seem,” Quartana adds. In the following text, the brand’s founder depicts the narrative behind each scent.

The Tale of Fiery Seduction: Venetian Belladonna

“We wanted it to be straight-up super slutty and seductive. Firstly, venetian belladonna was equated with aggressive female sexuality. Secondly, it was used by the witches of Italy to put seduction spells on men. So we put plum, honey, all of these feminine notes into it. The witches would also drop it into their eyes, partially because it was considered cosmetically attractive to have blown out pupils, but also to have black masses. They were putting a hallucinogen into their eyeballs, so we made the scent psychedelic in that way too. Styrax progeny, which smells like something is on fire, was added into the dry down. The idea is that once the witch seduces you, she burns you with her hellfire. It’s also a symbol for the fire of passion. There is both the literal aspect of hellfire, and then the symbolism of passion.”

The Tale of the Rageful Hunter: Wolfsbane

Wolfsbane
“Wolfsbane was used for the extermination of the wolf population by dipping the arrows into the poison. It was also used for warfare in the same way. With this scent we were trying to capture the virility of a hunter, the rage of a warrior and the ferocity of a wolf. It's so vicious and intense. I wanted it to be a macho scent, so dripping with raw male sex appeal and rage that you don't know if he's going to kill you or fuck you. That's what we were going for, and making it opulent. Not only in the sense of dark, rich woods but by literally having symbols of wealth in there. That's why we added black truffle to reinforce this excess of luxury. We also wanted it to be so full of rage as to be psychedelically intense and got that twist by incorporating absinthe into the heart note.”

The Tale of the Deflowered Floral: Lily of the Valley

Lily of the Valley is a light floral. Muguet was always used to celebrate innocence in spring time. It's said to come from the tears of the Virgin Mary and used in May Day festivals all over the world. Lily of the valley flower was one we really struggled with. We could not decide on a concept, after two years we were not happy with it and kept going in circles. Finally, we just focused very strictly on it being toxic, because no one has focused on its dark side. You have tons of lily of the valley fragrances out there, but they're all quite floral, innocent, spring-time bullshit. So we wrapped it in a black little veil, dirtied it up with cassis on black leather, corrupted its innocence. I liken it to the wedding dress the next day. It's a floral scent that's deflowered. It's not virgin anymore.

 

The Tale of Wicked Liquid: Hemlock

Hemlock
“In ancient Greece hemlock was used to execute prisoners, most famously Socrates, by inducing vertigo and ultimately death. It’s name is derived from the Greek word for ‘konas’, which means to whirl about, so we added a black vinyl accord to suggest a wicked black liquid. The flower itself grows in green fields, so notes such as crushed leaves and patchouli were added to create a vegetal backdrop.”

 

The Tale of Forest Fairies: Digitalis

Digitalis
Digitalis in small doses was used for the treatment of heart conditions. In moderate doses it was a hallucinogenic drug, used to summon fairies in the forest and alter one’s state of mind. We wanted to evoke a magical wooded stream through ozonic notes and the scent of wet moss, plus give it a sparkling and bubbly quality with the incorporation of floral notes like iris, jasmine and neroli.”

The Tale of a Gothic Vampire: Bloodflower

“Each of the fragrances vary in a spectrum of being very loyal to the folklore all the way over to being completely imaginary, like in the case of the Bloodflower. For me and the perfumer Alexandra Carlin, the first thing that came to mind is the album Bloodflowers by The Cure. So we went into a gothic direction with it. Our concept was to make it really vampiric. We had to add a blood accord, but had to make it more palatable. I was back home for the holidays in Jersey with my very Italian family and what we drink after the meal on Christmas Day is black sambuca. It smells like licorice and anise. I thought, let's try throwing it into the Bloodflower recipe and see what happens. It turns out it really blended nicely with the clove, orris and rose. Suddenly it all harmonized. It transforms the blood accord into sweet blood that you want to lap up. You, the smeller, become the vampire."

“One of the fascinating things about bloodflower as a flower is that it's eaten by the monarch caterpillar before it transforms into a butterfly. This notion of metamorphosis is why the fragrance transforms so quickly into this very sweet drydown. And so the accompanying film is really about that metamorphosis, the idea of spiritual ascension, shedding the body and finding the white light.”

The Tale of the Drunk Moon Goddess: Midnight Datura

Midnight Datura
“Midnight datura is a white flower that only blooms at nighttime and is known to glow in the moonlight, hence it's nickname 'moonflower'.  It figures into lunar worship and witches used it to hunt and worship the goddesses of the moon, Diana and Artemis. Midnight Datura is an homage to Diana; we imagined many daturas glowing in the moonlight, which is why we made it a super floral scent with 10 different flowers. We gave it a powdery note to suggest the glow. Initially I had some reservation about using powder as an accord as it screams grandma to me, but in this case, the perfumer, Lisa Fleischmann, is only 27 and this is her debut fragrance. Point is, if powder is ok for a 27-year-old, well, then everything old is new again. The femme-fatale here, like Diana, is on the hunt, she's a little drunk (hence the rum note), and wishes to open her flower after midnight. It’s unapologetically sexual, much like Venetian Belladonna.”
 

The Tale of Medieval Masculinity: Mandrake

Mandrake
“Originally Mandrake was shaping up to be a female fragrance, then Carlos Vinals and I had a eureka moment, like wait a second, Man-drake. So we shifted it back over to the masculine side, mainly with the addition of the leather. There is one accord in the scent called deadly addiction accord, that's basically a creamy gourmand wood. With Mandrake, the root is as important as the flower. It's said that when you pull the root out of the ground it emits a sonic shriek that is fatal. In folklore, mandrake was actually used as a kind of medieval Viagra, a fertility enhancer referenced by Shakespeare in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. This whole fragrance is really a celebration of the male phallus.”

 

“It's also said that if you mix mandrake with milk and verbena you can summon a demon. The creamy gourmand wood aspect is the milk, and then the aromatic aspect that also simulates the scream is the verbena. It's a sexual male fragrance. And to really emphasize the root aspect we added birch leaf and root, which, combined with the creamy gourmand wood, captures the effervescence of root beer. Mandrake itself also smells like apple. It's one of the only poison flowers we really liked the smell of, so it became the essence of a heart note and we reinforced it with pomegranate and rhubarb.”

The Tale of Narcotic Nectar: Poppy Soma

Poppy Soma was done by Emilie Coppermann, who was the understudy of none other than Jean-Louis Sieuzac, who co-created Opium for YSL in the late ‘70s. She wanted reinterpret her mentor's original vision and update the concept for 2016. Our version is vastly different. Poppy Soma is the sweet white sap that bleeds out of the bulbs, which is collected and refined into black tar opium (that is then smoked). Ours is just that, the before and after of the nectar, its sweetness, and the pungent smoke that is then consumed as a drug. It's dream inducing, literally narcotic, and as the Chinese used it for sex, we wanted to impart a warm sensuality to it as well.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



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