The perfume line Arquiste is the brainchild of Mexican architect/designer Carlos Huber (a k a Nate Berkus’s boyfriend); the name “Arquiste” represents the ideas (ideals?) of “architecture,” “history” and “art” and the perfumes in the collection reference historical moments, from the meeting of Louis XIV of France and María Teresa of Spain in 1660 (the fragrances Fleur de Louis and Infanta en Flor) to Alexander Pushkin’s death-by-dueling in 1837 (Aleksandr).
I decided to tackle the two ‘Mexican’ fragrances in the line first, because Mexico and I go way back (and have always had a happy relationship).
Flor y Canto
Mexican tuberose, magnolia, plumeria and marigold; “On the most fragrant festival in the Aztec calendar the rhythm of drums palpitates as a wealth of flowers is offered on temple altars. Billowing clouds of copal (incense) act as a backdrop.…”
Flor y Canto is a bright, modern white floral perfume, more Amas de casa del Distrito Federal* than Aztec ceremony. Flor y Canto is sweet (and a bit “syrupy”) with aromas of plumeria, gardenia and tuberose (this is a white-floral bomb, no one floral note stands out). The perfume is “cool” in nature, not warm or cozy in the least.
As Flor y Canto dries on skin, I detect a “fruit” scent that reminds me of ripe star fruit / unripe pineapple; this accord produces an aquatic/“marine” vibe without the usual ugly, and cheap-smelling, suspects: ozone or “sport fragrance” aroma notes.
Flor y Canto, on my skin, produces absolutely no incense aroma and the marigold I was looking forward to smelling is very “distant” and appears, and disappears, quickly.
Flor y Canto is a super-feminine Va-Va-Va-Voom! perfume that you’ll probably either love…or run from. It is so powerful/intense and long lasting, it wore out its welcome on me in a couple of hours. But if you adore high-intensity, white-floral fragrances: check this one out.
Ex Convento Jesús María, Mexico City, November 1695; perfumers Rodrigo Flores-Roux and Yann Vasnier
Chilies, spice, vanilla and chocolate; Huber: “I used ingredients inspired by a Mexican cookbook from the 17th Century.”** (Nuns did the concocting and cooking.)
If Flor y Canto is cool, Anima Dulcis is warm and toasty — fresh from the oven. In fact, I’ll take that one step further and say the perfume is burning…as if one has made incense sticks out of a spice cake. As Anima Dulcis develops, I smell smoked chiles and cardamom-cumin: an earthy mix. The overall aroma of Anima Dulcis is sweet, but not too dense; the scent of cocoa powder emerges during mid-development and the cocoa smells as if it had been tempered in cream. As Anima Dulcis enters its final stage of development it becomes slightly amber-y with a lovely brown sugar-immortelle accord (that smells a bit like L’Occitane’s Immortelle de Corse). Anima Dulcis is not a super-complex scent but a satisfying, comforting gourmand fragrance.
Flor y Canto and Anima Dulcis are well done perfumes, made with high-quality materials. These two fragrances are not “historical recreations” (old-fashioned simulations of an aromatic place or time), but modern takes on the past.
Niche perfume pricing continues to climb and we all have our limits when it comes to what we’ll buy for how much — whether our decisions are based on personal finances or just plain “It’s not worth $XXX, so I’m not paying that amount…no matter how much I like it!” At $165-175 for 55 ml Eau de Parfum, Arquiste perfumes are on the "high end" of the price scale, but still less expensive than other popular brands like Creed, Amouage, By Kilian or, gulp, Xerjoff.
For buying information, see the listing for Arquiste under Perfume Houses.
* The Housewives of Mexico City
** via “Arquiste Scents Explore Historical Moments,” Women's Wear Daily, 8/9/2011.