Niche ain’t what it used to be. That will come as no surprise to you. No need to mention any names but so many brands are increasingly corporate in their approach.
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I’ve wanted to try Puredistance for a long time and got the opportunity when another blogger recommended me to the Dutch company (based in the city of Groningen, away from all the hoopla) as part of their PR activities around their latest launch, Puredistance Papilio.
The way I was contacted by brand founder / creative director Jan Ewoud Vos – personal and direct – made an impression from the start. Then the box of goods arrived.
It took me a couple of weeks to open and explore it all. I read the book The Story of Puredistance 2002-2022 (written by former blogger Birgit Oeckher of Olfactoria’s Travels fame) until I was ready to try Puredistance Papilio. This passage from the book sums up the Puredistance way rather nicely:
“What to do that could fulfil his ideals of small is beautiful, of slow but steady, of timeless and beautiful. At the time he read a biography of Coco Chanel. Leaving her personal morals aside, the woman had created something that endured, a timeless classic: Chanel No 5. This idea would not leave Jan Ewoud alone. Once you manage to create something beautiful, it stays the same; once something is perfect, it stays perfect. Timeless beauty as a source of peace and quiet in a world too fast-paced to look, listen or hold still anymore.”
I held back on wearing Puredistance Papilio. It arrived at a time when I’d been grappling with my feelings about another year whizzing by, auditing my achievements and questioning whether I should continue blogging. One inner voice telling me: “Get on with it, Richard. You need to get this post done. Don’t keep them waiting when they’ve been so kind to send you all these beautiful things.”
None of which helps matters, of course. So I told myself to take all the time I need to experience Puredistance Papilio. After all, part of the house’s ethos since its debut launch in 2007 has been about slowing down to enjoy the beauty in our world. I also decided not to obsess about notes and ingredients (see full list below these impressions).
A zing of invigorating citric freshness at first.
From high intensity to the low warm hum of something altogether more intriguing.
Not what I was expecting. But then what I was expecting?
Is that sensual leather?
Florals coming through. Not overpowering or heady variety. No need for performance fascism here.
Warmer and warmer. I can feel my skin almost glowing.
Muskiness in various forms in the drydown, yet those florals (lots of powderiness) keep coming back, as if adding colours.
Beautifully blended without any domineering aspects but each time I wear it, I’m captivated by another aspect.
[Scent notes according to the brand: bergamot oil (top); magnolia oil, neroli oil, carrot oil, orris, lily-of-the-valley, hedione HC, heliotrope (middle); cedarwood, vetiver oil, amyris oil, Ambroxan, opoponax resinoid, benzoin resinoid, vanilla, touch of peach, leather ambrette, cashmere, Muscenone (base).]
Now’s a good time to mention the inspiration for the scent (and I paraphrase from the press release here). Embrace your true nature, as a butterfly would through its various stages of metamorphosis (egg, caterpillar, chrysalis, butterfly).
How powerful is that. This verse from the poem written by Jan Ewoud that accompanies the perfume especially struck a chord with me:
Your wings might feel broken,
And you long for a choice,
Please be outspoken,
And use your real voice.
No wonder Nathalie Feisthauer had tears in her eyes when Jan Ewoud discussed the idea of Puredistance Papilio with her. The independent Paris-based perfumer also created the 2021 release Puredistance No. 12 (2021) and is highly regarded for other creations such as Cartier Must de Cartier Pour Homme EDT (2000), Hermès Eau de Merveilles EDT (2004), Amouage Honour Man EDP (2011), Etat Libre d’Orange Putain des Palaces EDP (2013) and Comme des Garçons Blue Cedrat EDP (2013), among others.
The best kind of fragrances should make you feel something. And Puredistance Papilio certainly does that for me in ways that others haven’t. While self-proclaimed zen Buddhist Jan Ewoud might see some of my emotions and my identification with the processes of change as attachment and projection, I can’t help feeling that the gifting of this perfume isn’t a mere coincidence. Whether I’m stuck in the chrysalis or liberated in the butterfly stage, that’s another story completely.
If niche is about absolute quality (ingredients, parfum concentration, collaborations with top perfumers), creativity, limited distribution (less than 100 retailers globally), personal connection, exclusivity and not being part of mindless more, more consumerism, Puredistance gets it so right.
Puredistance Papilio (25% pure parfum) is available in the United States from the Puredistance Online store and Scent Bar. It joins the Magnificent XII Collection. There are always 12 fragrances in the range, but the one that sells the least is removed from distribution (but still available from the company directly as part of its “Private Collection”) to make way for the new arrival.
Richard Goller is a fragrance and grooming blogger. His blog is called Fragroom. A senior editor with 20 years' experience, his blog allows him to combine two of his passions: engaging content and the always-intriguing world of fragrances. When he isn't blogging, you'll find Richard indulging in his newly found passion for balcony gardening.