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Lampblack – A real surprise – January 23, 2015 New Fragrance Listing

Image - - "Lampblack" painting

It’s amazing the things I learn in our perfumeniche, and I love where they take me. For example, two weeks ago Esther posted about a new Indie perfume brand she’d discovered, one which has generated more than a few excellent reviews since launching in 2013:

“One over-the-top review I’ll take with a grain of salt. But three or more—including one from scent luminary Luca Turin—singing the praises of a fragrance I’ve never heard of by a perfumer whose name I don’t recognize? Yup, gotta check it out. The perfumer in question is Bruno Fazzolari, and the frag being rhapsodized about is Lampblack…Well, Esther told herself “gotta check it out” so I did, too, and I’m here now with my story about Lampblack.  

First of all, who is Bruno Fazzolari? I learned that he’s an accomplished visual artist – a painter and sculptor - a graduate of Berkeley with an MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute who teaches in the Graduate Program at the California College of the Arts, and who also writes about art. His website describes him as “an artist whose work explores perception and the senses… [who is]… currently engaged with his own experience of olfactive synesthesia, abstraction and the visual history of perfume.” In  recent art shows featuring his work, several of his paintings have been accompanied by his own fragrance creations intended to heighten the viewing experience, so it seems that the term “olfactory artist” should also be added to his CV.

Lampblack is a strange name for a fragrance. The name immediately took me to an image of the coal-oil glass lamps we used at the family cottage where we spent summers when I was a kid, which had no plumbing or electricity. It was my sister’s and my job to clean the inside of the glass lamp chimneys every morning, to remove the thick black oily dust coating, or the lampblack as my grandmother called it - we had to make them sparkle!  It was a dirty job and I remember the distinct burnt metallic inky scent of the black soot, so densely black it took on hues of indigo blue or blood red in the daylight.  Since then I’ve loved smoky tar notes, creosote and  benzoin notes, - ahhh, the smell of new asphalt and roofing tar in the summer! Tar by Comme des Garçons, Coal by Andrea Maack, M/Mink by Byredo are three fragrances with these notes that are listed in our Decant Store.

 “I named my perfume Lampblack because of all the India ink I've been using. Lampblack is the pigment in India ink, which I used along with colored inks, in my series of ink paintings on sheets taken from my archive of fashion and style magazines. “ 

Lampblack is described on Fazzolari’s website as “inky notes and vetiver balanced with sparkling bitter citrus.” “My goal with this scent was to enhance the ink-like notes of nagarmotha in a way that would create a transparent, colorful darkness. — Bruno Fazzolari And my first impression is sparkly yellow, orange, and green citrus. It’s zesty, sweetly bitter with a metallic edge which turns slightly sulphurous and earthy as vetiver joins in the mix. Then I smell smoke and tar and the lampblack note develops, the nagarmotha or cypriol, which has a resinous woody smoky smell like a brush fire lightly spiced with black pepper.

Mid dry-down, the grapefruit sends out little flickers, a little sweeter and floral but still with a sparkle, along with grassy vetiver, aromatic but controlled, not overpowering. In the base, the metallic smoky inkiness relaxes, blending with soft powdered wood notes, and Lampblack becomes a fascinatingly shadowed abstraction of smoke, herbs, grass, and woods. The sillage is soft and long-lasting, this scent loves skin on both men and women.

My bottle of Lampblack arrived in a brown kraft-paper box, labelled “Bruno Fazzolari Handmade Scent – Small batches made by hand in my studio, San Francisco, California.” In the package was a personal note from Bruno, thanking me for ordering his fragrance. That was a nice surprise. After wearing Lampblack for a few days, though, I’ve discovered that the real surprise is that Lampblack is really about vetiver, rather than about inky and smoky notes.

Vetiver is ofen the dramatic chrome-green power note in a scent, but in Lampblack, Fazzoroli the artist has rendered his vetiver in subdued shades of gray-green, balanced on either side by bright citrus and inky smoke which make their own olfactory statements but also end up revealing a different facet of vetiver, giving it a quiet dignity. In the end, it’s vetiver that is the beautiful core of Lampblack.

I love discovering new artists.

Lampblack is listed in our Decant Store. Decants are $5.00 for 1 ml.