In niche perfumery the stakes are high and the wager is to provide that distinguishing feature which carves out a different path for your intended audience. Antonio Gardoni, the Italian founder of BOGUE PROFUMO, decided to inject a special touch in his newly minted brand in 2012 and set forth with gusto. BOGUE means “bug” in French and this could be interpreted both ways: on the surface as an insect, a coleopter indeed serving as the emblem of his brand, and somewhat deeper as a computer system error which produces an unprecedented and unexpected result. In this case, with an exquisite pay off.

Versed in design and architecture originally, signor Gardoni employed an architectural approach to building the brand, thus bringing a layer-by-layer process. This ensures that each subsequent facet is working with, not against, the former. The merging of ancient techniques, -such as infusing rare ingredients and experimental materials gathered while abroad into alcohol and/or macerating them in oil- with contemporary methods and molecules, ensures a seamless and masterful polish on the finalised product. Gardoni’s studio is a veritable vault of obscure artefacts from cultures around the world: African masks hanging from the walls side by side with Bokhara rugs and gelatin silver prints; feathers from exotic birds standing out, alchemical alembics and bottles of rare oils; and glass cauldrons which protect fragrant essences from spontaneous evaporation. They compose a veritable feast for the eyes and the nose.

From there, under the cloak of the night, the perfumer sets out to create, undisturbed from the decaying effect of the light, and divested from the olfactory cacophony of the day, free at last to concentrate.

Another crucial point of departure for BOGUE PROFUMO is the necessary abstraction in the thinking process behind the concepts of the fragrances. Mood, texture, colour, and light lose their confines and take on multidimensional aspects almost to the point of synaesthesia. This abstract approach is reflected in the Spartan look of the collection, which belies its incredible luxury of craftsmanship, as well as in the subliminal names the fragrances take, allowing the wearer to graft onto them their own content. Contrasted with commercial perfumery, which usually takes on direct names such as Obsession, Love Spell or Joy, the difference is quite telling. 

Take for instance Maai, a scent with such regal poise that one could effortlessly imagine it on an icon greater than life. If one could put a fragrance from nowadays onto the scenery-chewing personification of Cleopatra by Elizabeth Taylor, that would be Maai, and we would still be mesmerized by its heft! Merging animalic passion, from materials which verge dangerously close to human bodily intimacy (thus imparting a lived-in quality), with a marmoreal floral chypre structure from carnal tuberose, ylang ylang, and rose, the composition is back-ended by moist patchouli, oakmoss and sturdy cedar. What a business.

Maai is an anomaly in the contemporary vernacular, and if you want to exclaim “Maai, oh my” we certainly won’t be stopping you. Because how could one pretend this is approachable? It’s a spiritual condition lavished in carnal love, and polished to gem-like standards of clarity.

The political correctness of our times has divested us from the sometimes perverted admiration one keeps for villains in old Hollywood noirs; we guess it’s not exactly admiration per se, more it’s respect for the unreachable, a fascination with the “what if”. Maai stands as the mighty “what if” in olfactory terms. What if one could still boost the oak moss into stratospheric heights? What if one could polish the eucalyptus-smelling jolt of natural tuberose absolute with waxy aldehydes and still get a tremendously carnal floral note? What if IFRA regulations never existed at all?  

Which naturally, pun intended, brings us to the next marvel in BOGUE PROFUMO’s collection, the mighty Mem. Like masterpiece novels are sometimes potently embossed in memory right from the start (who could forget the foreboding opening line of Anna Karenina about unhappy families?), masterful fragrances offer an arresting opening chord which snatches you from the lapels and asks you sternly what you have been up to till now. What indeed!

In Mem, arguably one of the best unisex fragrances of the 21st century, the arresting juxtaposition is one between camphor-exuding lavender and a very natural smelling rosy-jasmine duet. The former gives off a herbal, medicinal, and sometimes peaty or petrol-like impression that is synonymous with masculine propriety and sturdiness, while the latter has forever been tied to the Golden Age of Perfumery, when this curvy and lush melody sang in glorious cadenzas for decades. This androgynous synergy harkens back to the chemical innovations of the 19th century, which brought us Guerlain’s Jicky, but is wholly of our own times too. 

Mem backs the basic fougère skeleton of lavender, with prerequisites bergamot and oakmoss, like a clean shaven back of the neck just out of the barbershop, with caramelized wood notes and lots of animalic civet. These bring forth the almost liquorice facet of natural lavender absolute. The medicinal thus becomes sweetly delectable, the inedible becomes edible, just like seasoned herbal liqueurs out of the Czech Republic reveal tantalising facets when you sip them slowly with your palm warming the contents of the small glass. On the other hand, the softly milky, like baby’s breath, sandalwood note supports the feminine floral chords gently, carrying Mem into a territory lost for words. If this were a literary genre, it’d be epic poetry; beautiful and terrifying in equal measure. If it were art, it’d be a holographic rendition of lavender projected into space.

Last but not least, O/E mostly resembles the cornucopia that is the studio of Antonio Gardoni. Seemingly encompassing multiple verses, like the man himself, in reality the scent buzzes like a inquisitive bug (yup!) around the flame of materials of an agrestic and combustible nature.

From the opening of the fleeting citrus rinds’ spark, to the cool medicinal aroma of camphor, marinated with equally herbal thyme & rosemary, and chilly juniper berries, the fragrance is poised at the crossroads between warm and cold. Soon it bursts aflame into a closely woven clove & terpenes chord which projects as clean as if the dentist’s office were hidden in a pine forest clearing.

But the fire is never consumed on skin, gaining on glimpses of eternity thanks to woody cedar-smelling molecules and the tenacity of resins. From the latter, the caramel-like benzoin, recalling the French curiosity Papier d’Armenie, tiny booklets of scented pages which are burnt to chase away all manners of miasmata, is possibly the most tenacious.

BOGUE PROFUMO fragrances shall remind you that Rome wasn’t built in a day, nor are architectural fragrances meant to unfold all at once. Just don't blame us if you find yourself head over heels with Italian style all of a sudden. You must have caught the bug!

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