The claims that I made on the Men’s Biz website bear repeating, and in fact, they are worthy of further elucidation:
What’s apparent is two things: Tauer has made a stylistic shift, now reinventing classic genres (viz. Les Annees 25 Bis), and has spent his time perfecting the warm water [l’eau chaude] theme in particular with L’Eau and L’Air des Alpes Suisses, reaching perfection with Phtaloblue. What’s to love? Tauer has transformed the aquatic category – dispensing with the vertical metallic amber trope and replacing it with dry tonka bean, an ambery gourmand almond-like note, and an Herbes de Provence accord achieved through lavender, sweet fennel, and other herb notes soaked in brine. The result is a work that smells like an aquatic – it keeps its essential spirit – but it is so refreshingly done and sufficiently different that it demands a spot in anyone’s collection. We’re confident that this is the most wonderful thing Tauer has done in years.
So, what am I claiming here? Most importantly, I like Phtaloblue, far more than I initially expected. Yes – I would agree that this is an aquatic, but even immediately it’s not as you know it. It’s far more savoury than what is expected, and far more natural-smelling too. Aquatics, like those of Cool Water (Davidoff, 1988) or Megamare (Orto Parisi, 2019) completely purge themselves of an edible quality, and do so by denying any literal reference to the sea, remaining a perfectly fine, but totally fantasy-charged picture of either salty seaspray on skin (former), or sublime thunderstorms (latter), both grounded with a static metallic amber note that refuses to move or develop. In sum, they remind me of hand soaps that smell of ‘cascades’ or ‘waterfalls’ – divorced from something that, to me, is essential.
And so, to inject that feature in Phtaloblue is completely noteworthy to my nose, and quite clever. And even further, whilst I hold Epice Marine (Hermès, 2013) to be the most perfect aquatic in the realism category, and indeed, it smells literally edible with its notes of crackling spices toasted on a cast iron pan on an open wooden fire , that exhilarating brine of an oyster au naturel splashed in citrus juice, or that distant suggestion of blonde and woody whisky smoke and hazelnut far in the background, Phtaloblue, rather, engages in a sort of magical realism, marvellously juxtaposing two sorts of blue: the inky deep tone of the blue sea, and the dusky, pale sort of blue of that which signifies nostalgia, achieving this by referencing the gourmand pastry-like nuances best achieved by Jacques Guerlain, and seen in Apres l’Ondee (1906) and L’Heure Bleue (1912) – and even seen as an echo in the supernormal Insolence (Maurice Roucel for Guerlain, 2006).
My reason for all of this referencing is plain: Tauer proposes to “redefine” the genre, and that demands some sort of content analysis. And returning to the quoted section, in the absence of the creation of new forms (I hold the belief, by and large, that until new synthetic compounds are developed, perfumery has exhausted all of its categorical forms), there is merely play and bricolage qua reinvention. Andy Tauer achieves this, knowingly or unknowingly, by appealing not only to the gourmand simpliciter, but a very particular sort of pale pastel blue gourmand represented via floral pastries and moreish anisic Provençal herbs (lavender, fennel, etc…). Much of the heavy lifting is done by the so-called ‘dry tonka bean’ note that, to me, transforms into that of something like almond, which establishes the pastry connection – giving Phtaloblue the most excellent sillage: a sweet, but always exhausted exhalation that is somewhat characteristic of tonka beans and almonds in perfume (pale, I think, is most apt for almonds). For if you look beyond their marzipan sweetness, there’s a very gentle sort of coddled warmth that iterates the warm water [l’eau chaude] feature that Tauer has recently been playing with: it is like the paradoxical idea of a warm blanket of snow.
And this leads to my second point, which is a return to form for Tauer: L’Eau (2017), whilst charming, lacked the strength of feeling that I wanted, and L’Air des Alpes Suisses (2019) had a laundered sock quality, as the herbal turned into something divorced and synthetic, ultimately lacking the natural reference point it had promised. But, third time’s a charm, and Tauer has now reached equilibrium, conjoining a frigid floral bathed in the crepuscular, and the highly spacious herbaceousness of the Swiss mountains, ultimately producing something that is at once atmospheric and profoundly deep (in sum: interesting).
To me, Phtaloblue is a rare perfume that smells better with time. It is the most sophisticated and urbane aquatic I’ve had the pleasure of spending time with. It has structure and character of an unyielding but gentle sort – a simple idea that unfurls with time, dispensing of the exhausting stylistic tropes of aquatic fragrances (fruit and amber) that made them very much of their time, and stifling them by pushing them into an overcooked tradition, but nonetheless retaining the essential spirit of the aquatic – quite literally – something aquatic, salty, and marine. Watch Phtaloblue morph and develop, the magic happens on skin in about 15 minutes.
In a word: saltwater pastry.