Rice is one of the notes I’m drawn to in perfumery. It’s unusual and I like the way it can be comforting or chic. In Champaca by Ormonde Jayne it has the aroma of basmati rice and in L’Artisan Parfumeur’s Safran Troublant it’s saffron scented rice pudding.
When listed as rice powder (poudre de riz), it usually has the evocative powdery aroma of cosmetics. An example of this effect can be found in Blanc Violette by Histoires de Parfums.
Poudre de Riz by Pierre Guillaume’s Huitieme Art was launched in 2012 and features tiare, coconut milk, vanilla, rice powder, maple sap, caramel, sandalwood, iris, cedar, tonka bean, tolu balsam, benzoin and damask rose.
Proceedings begin with very sweet, rose-scented powder which for some reason makes me think of strawberries. It’s very pretty, feminine and youthful, so those with “old lady perfume fear” needn’t worry. This definitely isn’t a dated powder bomb which could bring up negative associations with great aunts.
Poudre de Riz showcases a very finely milled cosmetic powder which feels more retro than truly vintage.
It reminds me of one of those striking young women in super-cool Spitalfields, east London, who walk around perfectly made-up in 1940s-style clothes with their hair in a victory roll.
As the powder settles, it becomes soapy but only for a short time. This is more like the lather from a creamy white bar than those nose tickling aldehydic bubbles. I suspect it is actually the tiare flower (a variety of gardenia) creating this fresh and soapy effect.
Unlike most, my heart drops when I see coconut listed as a note but here the coconut milk stays in the background, adding a pleasant creaminess. The accents of tiare and coconut give it a subtle tropical vibe. You don’t quite feel like you’ve suddenly landed on a beach but it does give you that lovely relaxed, faraway feel.
Three hours in and we’re now resting on a spongy mattress of blow-torched caramel and almond flavoured vanilla. It’s a fabulous drydown which lasts for an outstandingly long time.
The inspiration behind Poudre de Riz was this line in the 1908 novel “L’Enfer” (The Inferno) by Henri Barbusse:
“The air in the disordered shuttered room was heavy with a mixture of odours: Soap, face powder, the sharp tang of cologne…”
In this section of the book a voyeur is spying on a woman having an affair in the next room at a boarding house. He watches her hastily make herself up in an attempt to hide what she’s been getting up to, just prior to a visit from her husband.
I can’t say I detect the disguised sin from the above scene in Poudre de Riz. There’s nothing “intimate” about it that I can tell. If anything, I find it rather coquettish. It’s playing at being the femme fatale but it’s really rather romantic. It does hold onto you closely, a little like being enclosed in a small, steamy room, but that’s all. I’m fine with this but if you’re hoping for the illicit aspect of the backstory you could be disappointed.
There’s something decidedly dreamy and joyful about Poudre de Riz and I can imagine that some heat would bring out the best in it. I love the later stages but the level of candy sweetness earlier on prevents it from being a must-have for me.
If you don’t think this would bother you and you’re also fond of cosmetic perfumes (such as Malle’s Lipstick Rose) and/or paradise island fragrances with a vanilla base (like Annick Goutal’s Songes) then Poudre de Riz is well worth investigating.
Do you like rice notes in fragrance? What are your favourite perfumes featuring this note?