To attempt an analytical evaluation of Beaufort London’s latest release would be to entirely miss the proverbial forest for the trees.
Lignum Vitae presents a singular olfactive portrait whose subject I could never have imagined judging by its name. Equally surprising is just how uncannily realistic its interpretation of this theme is.
Want a hint?
Yup; Lignum Vitae offers a remarkable simulacrum of the smell of petites madeleines – those small, scallop-shell shaped sponge cakes that have become a virtual by-word for involuntary reminiscence (parenthetically, it was only in Proust’s third draft of À la recherche…that he decided upon madeleines; previous drafts attest to biscotti and honey on toast). From accurately capturing the zestiness of lemon and lime drizzle to the sweet breadiness of the cake itself, the un-named perfumer (shame) has achieved something very clever indeed.
All of this though, rather leaves me scratching my head:
Firstly, I just cannot reconcile the perfume with the brand’s nautical aesthetic, nor the début trio in the ‘Come Hell or High Water’ line which Lignum Vitae apparently joins. Secondly, the name. Lignum Vitae is synonymous with Guaiacwood, and while this oil does have a sweet milky quality that can work very well in gourmands, one is here effectively led to expect a soliwood (cf. Carner Barcelona’s Palo Santo), not an afternoon accompaniment to tea. Thirdly, the mental gymnastics required to get from the brand’s own description of the perfume as being ‘inspired by the innovative use of materials that allowed 18th Century clockmakers to construct the first accurate marine chronometers’ and combining ‘elements of wood, metal and salt’ to what emerges from the bottle is just too exhausting (lignum vitae > chronomoter > time > À la recherche du temps perdu > petites madeleines). It’s almost as if the formula existed before the brief.
House: Beaufort London
Release date: 2016
Notes (per Fragrantica): this perfume has no entry at the time of posting.