Introducing one of the recent discoveries I’m truly excited about — niche perfume house L’Orchestre Parfum. Its founder Pierre Guguen creates some of the most artistic fragrances out there with a unique concept bringing together music, scent and emotions. The line currently consists of 6 perfumes — Flamenco Neroli, The Darbouka, Rose Trombone, Encens Asakusa, Cuir Kora, Piano Santal — and I’m happy to review all of them as well as tell you the story of the brand. Read on!

[PR sample, advertising]

Thanks to L’Orchestre Parfum I even have a discount code for readers of my blog! Enter ‘MUSICon the official website and get 15€ off your perfume purchase! Code is valid until June 6th 2020!

You can jump to the different sections of this post by using the navigation menu below. Or read the whole text and find out which of the fragrances wowed me the most!

About L’Orchestre Parfum

The first “fragrance band”

What makes niche perfumes special? Are they art, craft, alchemy, liquid emotions or all of this and even more? I asked this question in my recent post on Instagram and it turned out the opinions on the matter are as diverse as they could be. A lot of people are convinced that perfume can indeed be an art form, although it does not apply to all perfumes all the time. Others think it’s a very fine-tuned craft that requires a lot of skill and imagination but falls short of becoming true art because of the commercial aspect (at the end of the day perfumes need to sell and therefore cannot afford to offend their customer base too much).

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My position on this matter is somewhere in the middle. I don’t think viewing fragrances as art in general is always justified, although there might indeed be creations that represent ideas and evoke responses the way only works of art can. But I do believe that truly well-done niche fragrances can build a bridge between different forms of artistic expression and make the soul responsive to the beauty of this world.

That’s what makes L’Orchestre Parfum so special in my eyes. This niche fragrance house brings together scents and sounds. The connection is not limited to the brand name and a superficial story about fragrances being described in notes and accords thus sharing the same type of codes. L’Orchestre perfumes are intertwined with music on many levels and are a joy to discover!

Brand’s founder Pierre Guguen has gathered a lot of experience working in marketing and product management for such giants as L’Oréal and Puig before starting his own business. Chances are you’ve already used a lot of cosmetics and fragrances he helped to oversee and launch long before you found out about L’Orchestre Parfum. Ever heard of Wonderwood and Amazingreen from Comme des Garçons Parfums? Or Elixir Ultime hair care line from L’Oreal‘s Kerastase? Carolina Herrera or Victor & Rolf fragrances? I bet you have. Those are just some brands Pierre had worked for.

His career might have taken him from Paris to Barcelona and back, but one thing remained the same — his passion for fragrances and music. Pierre has played in a band and enjoyed performing on stage since his days at the university. That didn’t change when he moved to Barcelona for his new job. He was working with some of the most creative people in the fragrance industry by day and giving guitar concerts in clubs by night. What became a little more difficult is getting the Spanish audience to understand the French lyrics of his songs. So one day he came up with the idea of creating a perfume to accompany his musical performance.

His friend and perfumer Elisa Tzedakis created a scent for one of the songs that was sprayed during the performance. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive — people in the audience from all over the world who didn’t understand the lyrics were suddenly able to experience the meaning of the song on a level that bridged all national and language divides. Some wrote back describing what they felt during the concert and even though they didn’t speak French their words described exactly what the song text was about. The concept was a success and soon venues started requesting more perfumed music gigs. Eventually, Pierre created a whole fragranced concert of five songs, each with its own smell.

L'Orchestre Parfum Sample Set The Darbouka perfume niche fragrance Parfüm парфюм духиIn Paris Pierre continued his double life in management of L’Oréal perfume brands during the day and as musician with multisensory performances in the evening. He kept developing the specific connection between music and perfume, anchoring emotions in memory by using smell and sound simultaneously. After all it is not only the linguistic descriptors of notes and accords that fragrances and melodies have in common.

Pierre Guguen wanted to come closer to finding the answer to the big question: “What is the smell of music?” He approached the task from different angles. One of them was literally meeting makers of musical instruments, smelling the air of their workshops and sniffing the materials that go into making an instrument. Some craftsmen were surprised by the request to sniff the wood of a guitar or varnish used for pianos, but were happy to assist once Pierre told them what he was after — incorporating the smell of physical materials music is made by into the overarching perfumed music (or is it musical perfume?) experience.

The idea of L’Orchestre Parfum was born — this niche perfume brand maps out the connections between music and fragrances on every level, presenting a sort of olfactive geography of music. It starts with inspiration, often tied to specific places and their musical moods, such as the sounds of flamenco guitar in the intricate royal gardens in Seville. Goes deeper into challenging the perfumer (Anne-Sophie Behaghel and Amelie Bourgeois created the initial five fragrances)  to link the refreshing citrus scents one might experience in the shade of the beautiful trees of the Alcazar Palace and the actual wood the guitar that produces the sounds of flamenco is made of. Continues with presenting a musician with the resulting perfume and asking him or her to write a piece that would translate smell into sound. Each of L’Orchestre perfumes has a tune that accompanies it and completes the journey.

LOrchestre Parfum The Darouka perfume niche fragrance Parfüm Nischenduft парфюм духиThe user (although the word “enjoyer” would fit this role much better) gets to experience the results of the work of many talented people from disciplines that normally don’t intersect with all the senses, smelling the perfume, listening to the music that Pierre publishes on the brand’s website (you can also check out the Spotify or deezer playlists!) and holding the bottle with liquid emotions.

In tune with the artisanal theme, one side of each bottle is hand-lacquered. It gives the flacons a distinctive look and feels like the mirror-perfect varnish of a grand piano. While the prominent link to music takes central stage, other qualities of L’Orchestre perfumes are not to be overlooked either. All fragrances are manufactured in Grasse using only French natural beet alcohol. None of the products are tested on animals. Apart from paying attention to sustainability on the creation side, the brand also participates and supports many cultural projects.

I like L’Orchestre Parfum concept. There is a lot of talk about authenticity and uniqueness in the niche perfume segment. In some cases it sadly comes down to slapping a high price tag on a bottle and claiming it is full of unbelievably exceptional ingredients — a move as old as humanity itself that, despite claiming otherwise, has long lost its originality. L’Orchestre Parfum is a brand where you feel the values, creativity and truly new ideas of the creator on every step of the way. A realness that cannot be faked. Speaking with Pierre on the phone (hopefully, personal meetings will soon become possible again!) only confirmed this impression. A brand with such a strong artistic approach, new message, drive and perfectly executed original and beautiful final products is a rare occurrence on the over-saturated perfume market and therefore something every fragrance lover and culturally curious person should get to know as soon as there is a chance!

The lineup currently consists of six perfumesThe Darbouka, Flamenco Neroli, Rose Trombone, Encens Asakusa, Cuir Kora and Piano Santal — exploring the bonds between scents and different musical instruments and building a fragrance band with sounds and fragrance accords from different cultures and countries! I was lucky to get to know and review the whole collection. Thanks to L’Orchestre Parfum I even have a discount code for you! Enter ‘MUSICon the official website and get 15€ off your purchase! Code is valid until June 6th 2020!

The Darbouka

Perfume review

The name The Darbouka brings together the words for tea and a type of traditional goblet drum used in Egypt and other parts of North Africa and the Middle East — darbouka.

The tea mentioned here refers to a mood rather than the drink made of camellia sinensis leaves. Listening to the melody composed and performed for the fragrance by Nicolas Leroy, a drum virtuoso, really helps to capture the scene.

(Here is an embedded 30 seconds preview from Apple Music, but you can listen to the complete piece on L’Orchestre‘s website).

It’s a dry herby mix with spicy elements, an imaginary tea that might be served by the locals under the stars in the Sahara desert. That’s the image conveyed by the brand. I agree, but also have my personal memories that go a somewhat different route, from Africa to the hot summers spent in the Ukraine where my grandmother had a collection of aromatic dried herb bouquets hanging upside down in the far corner of the attic, waiting for their turn to be used for tea or as a spice.

LOrchestre Parfum The Darouka perfume niche fragrance Parfüm Nischenduft парфюм духиThere is something very wholesome and soul-warming in the note of immortelle that I notice in the composition of The Darbouka, regardless of where it comes from — a Sahara fantasy or a childhood memory. Framed by warm and restrained spices such as caraway and a hint of cocoa it paints a picture of sweet dates served with a steaming infusion full of herb, woody and mineral flavors coming from the soil dried out by a hot sun.

The rhythmic meditative sounds of Nicolas Leroy‘s darbouka experienced alongside the smell of the fragrance evokes the feeling of a safe harbor to rest and recharge, the ultimate expression of hospitality. Since I received it, The Darbouka became one of the scents I often wear during the days of solitary home-officing at the computer screen. It has both the exotic elements that remind the soul of far away places to be rediscovered after the stay-home mode is over, and the calming character needed to focus the spirit on the task currently at hand.

Thanks to L’Orchestre Parfum I even have a discount code for you! Enter ‘MUSICon the official website and get 15€ off your purchase! Code is valid until June 6th 2020!

Flamenco Neroli

Perfume review

This fragrance was inspired by the sounds of the Spanish flamenco guitar heard under the blossoming orange trees in the palace gardens in Seville. Flamenco Neroli is one of the most vibrant neroli scents I’ve ever sampled.

It shows the orange flower in all its multi-faceted glory creating an almost photographic image of the tree in full bloom. This luminous fragrance sparkles with the aspects of fresh green bergamot, scratched slightly bitter orange zest, ginger-boosted citrus zing, jasmine softness and catch-me-if-you-can woody cedar base.

Side note: In case you’ve been wondering about the difference between neroli, orange blossom absolute and petitgrain, three popular perfume notes and materials that originate from the same plant, here is a quick and easy primer. Orange blossom absolute is the fragrant ingredient obtained by solvent extraction (and then filtering) of bitter orange tree flowers (Citrus × aurantium). Flowers are submerged in different chemicals (solvents) that help to extract the desired fragrant compounds from the plant matter. The result is a thick substance called concrete that is then washed and filtered in alcohol until the oil particles that carry the smell separate from it, forming what is called absolute. To get neroli the same freshly picked Citrus × aurantium orange tree flowers need to be treated with steam distillation. As the name suggests, in this method steam is used to rupture the oil membranes in the blossoms and release the essential oil. Compared to the sweeter and deeper absolute, the scent of neroli has more fresh and green facets. Petitgrain is made by steam-distilling not the flowers, but the green leaves and twigs of our tree. And that’s not all. Bitter orange tree is a treasure trove of perfumery. Many more materials with different scent profiles can be obtained from it by treating different parts with different methods. Another one you might have heard of is bigarade — essential oil that’s made by cold-pressing the orange fruit peel. My guess is that a combination of these ingredients is used in Flamenco Neroli to create its stunning realistic effect.

Flamenco Neroli is refreshing and unusually long-lasting for a citrus-centered perfume, surrounding the wearer with waves of peaceful joy and light melancholy. Just like the cascading melody composed and recorded for the perfume by the French flamenco master Mathias Berchadsky.

It’s the sound and feel of summer, days spent contemplating the afternoon sun reflecting in the clear and cool water that flows through a luxurious and shady garden while someone else is pouring their soul into the rhythm of a flamenco guitar.

Thanks to L’Orchestre Parfum I even have a discount code for you! Enter ‘MUSICon the official website and get 15€ off your purchase! Code is valid until June 6th 2020!

Cuir Kora

Perfume review

I have to admit that I had to google kora. I’ve never heard of such an instrument before encountering L’Orchestre‘s fragrance bearing its name. One more case of discovering the world through perfume.

Turns out kora originates from West Africa and is a kind of harp with a leather resonator. It does not clearly fit into any traditional instrument category, Wikipedia clumsily classifies it as a “double-bridge-harp-lute”. Its sound is at the same time strangely familiar and exotic, like an equatorial remix of a medieval tune.

The same applies to Cuir Kora the perfume. Its instantly recognizable bitter and dark leather accord is put into an unexpected context of soft fruity mango, exotic cardamom and precious woods and resins from far away lands. A new combination that surprises the mind and delights the senses.

The Cuir Kora melody composed and performed by the renowned kora musician Cheikh Diallo weaves nostalgic tones into an overall upbeat sound. Maybe it’s my imagination but I really see parallels to the fragrance — I’ve always perceived leather as a classy, but rather austere note, one that does not elicit much of a cheerful response. Yet here it presents itself as part of a rather buoyant composition.

LOrchestre Parfum Cuir Kora perfume niche fragrance Parfüm парфюм духиIt’s quite a feat to make a really original and at the same time beautiful leather-based perfume like Cuir Kora when every single variation of the popular topic seems to have already been tried before. Makes the achievement even more remarkable!

Here, leather is treated with an ambery essence of oriental spices and yet retains all of its carbon black qualities. In this perfume the sweet exotic softness of mango somehow does not contradict the metallic character of saffron. Instead of getting muddled into an unattractive indiscernible mess the notes manage to stay apart and gracefully dance around the overarching olfactory structure.

From the start to the dry down Cuir Kora is an exciting fragrance to watch and wear!

Thanks to L’Orchestre Parfum I even have a discount code for you! Enter ‘MUSICon the official website and get 15€ off your purchase! Code is valid until June 6th 2020!

Encens Asakusa

Perfume review

Incense. This smoky component is often associated with Christian churches, where it mixes with other sweetish dark resinous odours that create a ceremonial and reclusive atmosphere. That is why it’s so cool to experience a completely different side of the ingredient.

In Encens Asakusa incense is used to illustrate a very Japanese sensibility (Asakusa, a Tokyo district retaining old city vibe, is not an accidental name choice), the admiration for the kind of elegant simplicity that seems natural, but is very difficult to achieve. Opaque grey smoke trails move through the air like brushstrokes, creating a pattern of calm continuous lines. They are softened by powdery iris notes. A hint of sweet candy floss is cut back by sharp green cypress which is in its turn tempered by warm myrrh.

L'Orchestre Parfum Encens Asakusa perfume niche fragrance Parfüm парфюм духиA fragrance with contradicting elements perfectly fine-tuned into a harmonious whole around the main theme of incense. Like a zen garden with a few natural yet artfully placed rocks and seemingly simple but so complex ground patterns. A quick superficial glance might find it empty and boring, but to those who are ready to discover it without hurry it offers endless joy.

Encens Asakusa is almost linear, its rhythm is slow and harmony asymmetrical. Like the sound of koto, the Japanese instrument played by Fumie Hiharafor who interpreted the perfume for L’Orchestre Parfum. An unusual, elegant and yet very wearable non-churchy incense fragrance with minimalist aesthetic.

Thanks to L’Orchestre Parfum I even have a discount code for you! Enter ‘MUSICon the official website and get 15€ off your purchase! Code is valid until June 6th 2020!

Piano Santal

Perfume review

It’s the newest addition to the line, created 2019 by perfumer Jean Jacques. A wonderful milky creamy scent of sandalwood with some added nutty warmth and woody undertones. This is a perfect skin scent, not because it’s faint and undetectable in a prudish politically-correct manner (quite the contrary, it has good silage, staying power and a real character to it), but because it smells like the most delightful sensual fantasy of a person’s skin, somebody one can’t get enough of.

Just as the soft lingering melody played by Edouard Ferlet. The sounds of piano feel like perfectly rounded iridescent pearl beads forming an elegant necklace as the music unfolds over time. The same is true for Piano Santal, the perfume.

L'Orchestre Parfum Piano Santal perfume niche fragrance Parfüm парфюм духиThe fragrance is woody, creamy, sweet with an air of spiced cinnamon milk, but it does not appear sticky or try to overtake the scene. It flows allowing different aspects to surface, from fresh bergamot at the very beginning, to the sweet milky heart of sandal and cedar wood, all the way to the cumin hook. This spice with its woody, sweet and tart character prevents the composition from turning into a complaisant fuzziness. Piano Santal stays the course, pleasant and winning the hearts around it, but keeping its originality.

It’s an easy perfume to fall in love with, telling its story all by itself. If you turn on the corresponding tune form L’Orchestre’s library (listen to it here), no words are going to be necessary at all.

Thanks to L’Orchestre Parfum I even have a discount code for you! Enter ‘MUSICon the official website and get 15€ off your purchase! Code is valid until June 6th 2020!

Rose Trombone

Perfume review

The connection of perfume and music is central to all of L’Orchestre Parfum creations. But if I had to pick one that illustrates the idea in the most vivid and striking manner, I would choose Rose Trombone. It is one thing to intellectually understand the concept and let it guide the perception, but a totally different experience when all of a sudden guided by an invisible force impressions from different senses align like stars and planets that come together for a celestial spectacle. That’s what Rose Trombone feels like to me.

Rose Trombone is jazz coming alive in a fragrance. The full package with the atmosphere of a jazz club with its stage spot lights, dense air, cool drinks, intimate chatter and the rhythm of the creativity and masterful improvisation, melodies that flow, twist, turn, sparkle and capture the moment.

L'Orchestre Parfum Rose Trombone perfume niche fragrance Parfüm парфюм духиRose and aldehydes are two of the most easily identifiable accords in this fragrance. Rose has been dealt with in perfumery a million times, it might seem that despite all its beauty there is little space left for originality. Aldehydes — well, they are one of my least favorite perfume facets. So much so that I prefer to avoid dealing with them when selecting what perfumes to write about for my blog. And yet Rose Trombone is one of the most stunning recent fragrance discoveries I can’t stop admiring!

The rose here is dark, wild and passionate, with velvety sweet vanilla, a fruity heart and deep rich rum vibrating underneath. Very fitting for the flower that spends its nights in the underground clubs. In itself already a beautiful and distinctive interpretation.

But the real magic happens for me when the aldehydic notes come through after the initial fifteen or twenty minutes on the skin. They are perfectly measured, just enough to make the image of the trombone come alive. An old instrument that has seen a lot of stories unfold on the floor while the band played on stage, lost its shiny luster but gained a lot of warmth over the years.

It is incredible how this aldehyde component is able to complete the picture and tap on the senses to teleport me into another mental state, the jazz sounds composed and played by Nicolas Benedetti becoming real and almost tangible.

I don’t have a synesthetic perception. Sounds, images and smells normally stay discrete for me. Rose Trombone lets me experience something as close to synesthesia as it can probably get for a person who isn’t born with this ability. It’s fascinating, like getting a glimpse into a beautiful and otherwise hidden world!

I don’t know if this perfume can do for everybody what it does for me, but I bet that at least one of the fragrances from L’Orchestre can help you trace the music-smell interplay on a level you haven’t experience before. And all the high-level analysis apart, the perfumes are wonderfully wearable, interesting and stimulating for the senses!

Thanks to L’Orchestre Parfum I even have a discount code for you! Enter ‘MUSICon the official website and get 15€ off your purchase! Code is valid until June 6th 2020!

Where to buy L’Orchestre Parfum

Online & offline

L'Orchestre Parfum Sample Set The Darbouka perfume niche fragrance Parfüm парфюм духиWhere can I find and try L’Orchestre Parfum fragrances? That’s probably what you are asking yourself right now. If you live in Europe the easiest way is to order the sampling kit (aptly named La Repetition) on the brand’s website and experience the fragrances yourself. The sample set contains a voucher that can be applied when purchasing the full bottle of your choice. This way you don’t need to take any blind-buying risks.

Of course, there is also a possibility to discover the collection offline. Once the stores reopen (hopefully very soon!) you can find the address closest to you in this list of official retail partners. L’Orchestra Parfum is represented almost world-wide!

Thanks to L’Orchestre Parfum I even have a discount code for readers of my blog! Enter ‘MUSICon the official website and get 15€ off your purchase! Code is valid until June 6th 2020!

Do you have any memories that bring together smell and sound? Let me know in the comments below!

P.S. If you are interested in the coolest and most exclusive fragrances and beauty news, subscribe to my monthly newsletter!

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Hi! I’m Yana and this is my blog dedicated niche perfume and beauty. I’m happy you are here and hope you can find inspiration, beautiful fragrances and product recommendations that make life better!

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