Arquiste Flor y Canto & Anima Dulcis ~ fragrance reviews

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

Tenochtitlan, August 1400; perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux

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.

Arquiste flacons

Anima Dulcis

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.

Note: top left image of Dolores del Rio and top right image of a nun (sorry, I was unable to find a perfect match for a Mexico City nun, circa 1695!) via Wikimedia Commons.

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16 Comments

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  1. BChant says:

    A picture of Dolores Del Rio always ropes me in! Interesting points about niche pricing. It is just really out of hand in most cases. I know Guerlain and other houses have economies of scale on their side, but you are getting large bottles in most cases for a fraction the price a niche bottle would cost. It is certainly a deterrent for me when there are a lot of great scents that cost less.

    • Kevin says:

      BChant…of course I didn’t even mention Clive Christian…these days before I even read about a new niche line I expect the prices to be HIGH

  2. lovethescents says:

    Thank you for these informative reviews. I think I’d like to try them, particularly Anima Dulcis, but I’m not running out to seek a sample. They seem a bit…..been there done that? Am I right?

    • Kevin says:

      Love: I really like Anima Dulcis and it does have its own special character…I still have four more Arquiste perfumes to try…we shall see.

  3. Absolute Scentualist says:

    Egads, I want to try these but the price…. Both of them are right up my alley since I love a good cloud of perfume when I’m just hanging around at home or with friends who are used to it (lookin’ at you, Fracas, Angel and L’Arte), and chilis, cocoa, amber, spices? *clutches pearls*

    But agreed that price is getting to be more a consideration and irritation since it seems to be climbing like ivy on niche lines. I’ve had to actively avoid trying really tempting frags because it would be impractical to spend so much on a 30-50ml bottle when I can get two, three or four others I’ve been wanting. Clearly it must not be a concern for the fragrance houses as they and the manufacturers keep raising the prices or setting them at ridiculous amounts, but I’d rather sell lots of bottles at slightly higher than reasonable prices than have my product sitting on a shelf or warehouse where it isn’t being enjoyed because one needs to sell a limb to acquire it.

    But then again, I’m not in this line of work. And to be fair, I did buy a By Kilian refill, Manakara, Tihota (and a backup bottle later), and have no problem springing for SDV, though at least that is a large bottle.

    But these sound wonderful and I will appeal to the divine spirit of the split and hope these end up on the list. I don’t know if they’re worth a lot of saving and couple weeks of eating ramen etc. if I fall in love with one, but I will definitely give them a try.

    Thanks for the review and birthing two more lemmings, Kevin. ;)

    • Kevin says:

      AbScent: you’re welcome (I guess)!

    • KateReed says:

      I’d join in on a split of Anima, if one is in the offing!

      It sounds delicious, and the name makes me want to drag out my von Bingen cds.

  4. Karin says:

    Hey! I’m wearing Anima Dulcis today! :-) I get mostly immortelle from this, and a bit of cumin. Haven’t detected the chocolate. Smells great!

    • Kevin says:

      Karin: yes, I enjoyed wearing AD…too bad you’re not detecting chocolate…it was really noticeable on me.

  5. Janice says:

    I hadn’t heard of this line, but I clicked on their website after I read your review. I am just now reading “Velázquez and The Surrender of Breda,” which includes the Isle of Pheasants wedding of Louis XIV and María Teresa, and both of those fragrances sound like they’d be fun to try too. Sort of hoping I don’t like them too much, though, considering the price.

    • Kevin says:

      Janice: I know…I’ve put off trying L’Etrog and Aleksandr for the same reason. It’s my birthday soon so I’m “vulnerable!”

  6. breathesgelatin says:

    Octavian had reviewed these a little while ago and they sound SO good; I’m really intrigued by almost all of them. I’d have to drive to Dallas for a Barney’s though. Here’s hoping they get a sampling program on their website. Sad to say though, I think it goes against the brand philosophy of some niche lines to offer a sampling program. Bah.

    • Kevin says:

      Breath: The Seattle Barneys wasn’t offering samples either. There have been samples on eBay though.

  7. Tama says:

    I found the Arquise line really nicely done but I haven’t fallen completely for one yet. Anima Dulcis is very comforting – I liked it because it is gourmand and a little sweet without my dreaded butter/baked-goods-scented-candle note.

    • Kevin says:

      Tama, I was thinking Anima Dulcis would make a wonderful candle scent! HA!

      • Tama says:

        Oh it would! I have an aversion to candles that smell like muffins and such and sometimes I get that in a perfume. But not this one.

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