Usually, when a perfume house decides to make “extreme” or “black” versions of fragrances, what you get is a “flatter/fatter” take on the original scent, with most of the sparkle and vivacity removed. John Varvatos has just launched Artisan Black, a “more woodsy and musky” interpretation of 2009’s John Varvatos Artisan — a scent I love.
Artisan Black was created by perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux and lists notes of Meyer lemon, tangerine, blood orange, calypsone (a watery melon note), Murraya flower (orange jessamine), neroli/orange blossom, jasmine, Nigerian ginger, purple ginger, cardamom, coriander, Kephalis, Belambre, Boisiris (woody iris note), Serenolide (white musk), vetiver, patchouli, Mexican cueramo (wood), soft leather and Florentine orris absolute.
Artisan Black begins with a strong citrus peel combo of lemon and blood orange aromas. This wonderful citrus accord is tinged with a “water” note, but for once, I’m not at all upset by the melon-y calypsone; it percolates through the citrus and adds some pizzazz and “fizz.”
As Artisan Black slides into its heart notes, the aromas that stand out are orange blossom and jasmine flowers — accented with crisp ginger. During mid-development (and thanks to a diffuse musk note and orris root), the perfume turns a bit “opaque” — almost powdery — but in a sultry way. Flower and fruit notes last till the extreme dry-down, and I’m happy to report that patchouli does not intrude on the show (I’m getting really sick and tired of the sanitized patchouli that’s thrown into everything these days).
I have one complaint about Artisan Black: the base notes. The “woody” base notes feel skimpy, and smell indistinct, generic and are obviously phony. It would have been nicer to finish off the fragrance with some richer vetiver, and real cedar or cypress.
Artisan Black is much stronger than original Artisan, and if you already own Artisan you could very well add Artisan Black to your collection without feeling you’ve got scent twins on the shelf. Artisan is light and bright, juicy and breezy; Artisan Black has more depth, feels a bit more “masculine” and has better sillage and lasting power. Artisan Black is borderline sweet, but (to me) not too sweet for summer wear, and it doesn’t smell like dessert. I like both Artisans and would happily wear either, but if forced to choose between them, I’d stick with the original formula.
John Varvatos Artisan Black is a limited edition fragrance; 125 ml Eau de Toilette for $78.