Chris Rusak: Quasi Una Absurdia, Io, and 33

Quasi Una Absurdia
(Rating: 4 / 5)

Consider this gem. In the first instance, QUA could be construed as a well-executed homage-qua-synthesis of two greats: the plush blue quiet of Guerlain’s L’Heure Bleue, and the rich intensity of Bal a Versailles. It’s as if Bal came along and told L’Heure Bleue to put its chin up, for QUA never drags along with quite a melancholic weight, nor does it lose its classical attitude. But it would be unfair to describe QUA as strictly an homage, as this feature moves along quite quickly. Rather, QUA is a fragrance made of a classical syrup, where notes of rose, jasmine, orange blossom, and civet speak a whole history of classical perfumery, enlivened with an equally classic amalgam of ylang ylang, clove, benzoin, and tonka bean. But I like QUA for it never sighs like a classical perfume does, for there’s enough of a modern edge going on to keep it interesting. Modern perfumes have a tendency to gleam and move towards resolution, as seen in QUA, whereas the classics always seem to be happy in their balanced asymmetry and their intense feeling of being forever unresolved. It is for this reason that L’Heure Bleue is melancholic, and Bal a Versailles speaks of something of history past: a rich and extravagant quality of substance. It’s simply an attitude that doesn’t make sense to us.

Notice the lily note in particular, it’s there but not there, with its unctuous lacquer-like quality of fresh florality, against a strange contrast of rubbery leather. To me, this effect smells like a day just beyond the comfortable limits of warmth, creating a powdery yellow sheen that coats the structure of QUA from edge to edge; a sort of sweetly scented pollen with funky seminal inflections. But with a classical heart, QUA never gives too much away, retaining an intriguing enigmatic quality. Furthermore, I like how I can prod at QUA – its texture has a supple quality where I can push my way into the scent and feel only the slightest resistance; insofar that it molds with the wearer. This is a plush scent, and a very good one no less, and demonstrates to me that with further and further attempted interpretations of this style, Chris Rusak is approaching something really quite (romantically) good.

(Rating: 4 / 5)

Io is like a landscape in smell, and as you take Io in, perceiving its effect of hot dry earth, cracked dirt and decaying grass – there is a sense of movement as the nose travels up. There’s a detectable note of rubber against a fascinating herbal-spice accord in the mid ground. It’s ever so slightly green with a heaping of slightly inky, strangely fresh moss and pine whilst being far more animalic than it’ll admit to you. Look up some more – pay attention to the background now – do you see the fire? The burning shrubs and leaves, drenched in sunlight and washed in an unforgiving solar heat. Considered together, Io smells like the illusion of relief from the heat. It’s like hiding in the cool shade whilst the indifferent hot dry air unwaveringly surrounds you. But if you dig your nose even deeper into the work, Io captures various degrees of temperature all in a single moment. It cools around the edges while the note of fresh dry pepper and a veil of incense saturated throughout its body brings it back to a resolutely hot temperature. And so, if you thought smoke fragrances failed to demonstrate a cognitive character, you were not entirely wrong, but through Io Chris Rusak makes a convincing argument against this claim.

(Rating: 3.5 / 5) 

There is no doubt that 33 is a vetiver, but to speak of vetiver is to be rather imprecise, for vetiver can be a lot of things. Here, you’ve got to look for the initial liquorice quality set in 33’s rooty and slightly chewy quality of green. I suspect this is the fennel note: it has a strangely herbal fresh quality with lashings of even stranger medicinal aromas. This description probably doesn’t tell you much. I think of it like this: the vetiver here is impure in the best way possible, for it smells kaleidoscopic as opposed to a singular ‘pure’ mass of colour. It has a soft chew about it, a suggestive dark heart of smoke that could almost be a leather hiding animalic musks, but it is more hot plastic and metallic than animal. It is the smell of earth and roots with a minerally tang that could almost be citrus-like. And the more 33 develops, the less I turn towards anise and find char. I had to think about this one. 33 achieves a lightly smoky core by evoking paprika and roasted red pepper, and by utilising these culinary vegetable notes, 33 is all at once smoky, salty, and earthy. It makes the familiar strange, it is clean yet polluted, and for me, it pulls towards a desire for cologne. I feel the need to dissolve this stuff in icy cold water. And if I were to drink this fluid, I’d think of Chartreuse. If I were to bath in it, I’d become one with the earth.

33 is a worthwhile take on the often unsketched aspects of the vetiver theme, and this particular theme is something I often find attempted in ‘indie’ perfumery. Take Tauer’s Vetiver Dance. For me, an excellent take. Why? Because it returns to subtlety, which is an artistic trait that is difficult to champion. Vetiver Dance is expressed all at once but leads towards something. 33 expresses itself early, but I feel needs something more, what that is – that’s hard to explain. What I particularly like is that although the vetiver in 33 is dressed up, I can pierce right through and return to its core. This is a vetiver, and it won’t let you forget that.

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