The Paris-based perfume brand Ex Nihilo – Latin for ‘out of nothing’ – is the child of management consultant Sylvie Loday, banker Olivier Royère and Benoît Verdier, who references the smell of the coastal pine trees in his parents’ park as childhood memories. At their boutiques on the rue St Honoré, in Salon de Parfums Harrods or newly opened Bergdorf Goodman fitted out by leading product designer Christophe Pillet, customers are encouraged to personalise one of the Ex Nihilo perfumes using a nifty little precision-dosing machine called the Osmologue.
Bois d’Hiver, or winter wood, is one of the perfumes in their painstakingly designed (and painfully expensive) range, and they describe its smell as ‘an iron fist in a velvet glove’. I wouldn’t go that far, but it certainly makes an arresting first impression, with its slightly unsettling combination of sweet-spicy pepper and cardamom (think Indian sweets) with patchouli and sandalwood.
The formula was created by Michel Girard, a perfumer at the giant Swiss fragrance and flavouring company Givaudan. As the man responsible for the ghastly but massively successful 1 Million for Paco Rabanne he can evidently turn his nose to a remarkably wide range of briefs, and he’s an interesting choice for a very niche brand like Ex Nihilo. I’m not sure that Bois d’Hiver is going to be their 1 Million, but at least it’s an intriguing experiment.