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Two years ago, the French luxury house Louis Vuitton launched a small collection of women’s fragrances. The only surprise was that it took more than 70 years for the company to reenter the category, previously dominated by companies such as Chanel and Dior—which seem to launch fragrances at the same rate as handbags. Louis Vuitton may be catching up, as this year Vuitton’s in-house nose, Jacques Cavallier Belletrud, released a men’s range of fragrances, Les Parfums pour Homme. True to the brand’s heritage—LV started with canvas trunks in 1858—each of the five bottles is inspired by the spirit of travel and, perhaps more interestingly, is directly sourced from a far-flung locale.
There’s the spicy Sur la Route, with bergamot sourced from Calabria, Italy; L’Immensité, with grapefruit notes from the Mediterranean; Orage, from Indonesia, with patchouli; Au Hasard, with sandalwood from Sri Lanka; and Nouveau Monde, with the cocoa top note inspired by a trip to Guatemala.
Belletrud travels twice a year for inspiration. The Grasse, France–based perfumer (he has created more than 80 fragrances, including Giorgio Armani’s Acqua Di Giò and Issey Miyake’s L’Eau d’Issey) explains that his journeys are a chance “to discover ingredients and experiences to refill my emotional library.” When Belletrud got to Guatemala two years ago, he stopped in Cobán, a 16th-century town in the nation’s cardamom region. Not only did the spice become an ingredient in Au Hasard, but when he tried a favorite local drink, an entirely new fragrance was inspired.
“It was a hot chocolate that the Mayans were drinking 3,000 years ago,” he says. “It reminded me of the smell of opening a chocolate box as a child.” As Belletrud drank (and inhaled) the drink, he felt a fragrance percolating. “It was the combination of cocoa, water, cinnamon bark, and some local, they say ‘secret,’ herbs—but no milk. The taste of this cocoa was absolutely fantastic; simultaneously gourmand and animal.”
What made it into the Marc Newson– designed bottle was a combination of artistry and appropriation. Belletrud blended saffron with oud wood from Bangladesh and cocoa from the Ivory Coast. The result, on the skin, is spicy, pungent, and deep, with the cocoa cutting slightly through the leathery oud and the saffron muting it all a bit. The scent might not take you to Guatemala, but Belletrud says that’s not really the point. “I just want it to take you somewhere.”