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Louis Vuitton, nearly smells like Bangladeshi agarbati

  • Published at 11:29 am June 10th, 2018
  • Last updated at 01:27 pm June 10th, 2018

Louis Vuitton's first perfume for men uses a Bangladeshi ingredient - agarwood - whose shavings are used to make agarbati

Two years after unveiling their first perfume line in over 70 years, Louis Vuitton has expanded into men’s fragrances. Among the five distinctive scents, one owes part of its charm to the woods of Bangladesh.

The $240 “Nouveau Monde,” described as an homage to explorers with its exotic, faraway, oriental aroma is a concoction of Guatemalan cocoa and Bangladeshi agarwood.

The Louis Vuitton Maître Parfumeur (the lead expert of perfumes) Jacques Cavallier-Belletrud, took up the arduous pursuit of exploration in order to capture the essence of the fragrances he sought to develop. His travels took him to Guatemala, where a cinnamon and honey-laced Mayan hot chocolate with a 3,000 year-old history evoked memories of unwrapping chocolate boxes as a child.

As Monsieur Cavallier-Belletrud crossed the oceans, his journeys took him to the foothills of Moulvibazar in Sylhet. Here, a struggling 400-year-old perfume industry is kept alive by families of perfumers in the village of Sujanagar in Barlekha upazila – only a few miles from the Madhabkunda waterfall. The village is famous for its history of farming agarwood (popularly known as oud assam) which is a premier component of perfumes. A litre of agarwood oil sells for $20,000-$25,000 easy.

Agarwood oil takes years to extract. After 3-4 years, hundreds of nails are hammered into agar trees. The “attack” on the trees facilitates the growth of a certain breed of fungus which sprouts from the nail and the tree bark. Over time, the bark rots and is sheared off the trees to be boiled in large steel pots. After weeks of treatment, the resin coalesces and floats on the surface, ready to be extracted and bottled for processing.

The leftover dust from the agarwood chippings are mixed with other chemicals to make agarbatis , a popular incense in the subcontinent. The aroma of the agarwood is far stronger and enduring than what we generally know as the agarbati.

So when Cavallier-Belletrud decided to use authentic agarwood instead of artificial alternatives as a key component in of the first men’s perfumes developed by Louis Vuitton, it really should not come as a surprise.

The golden-hued Nouveau Monde, along with four other perfumes for men, sells for $240 for a 100ml bottle. Since it has just been unveiled, it may take a few weeks before we can try them out and inspect the fragrance firsthand.

This is how the fashion house describes the perfume:

Nouveau Monde

An homage to explorers

The mood: Leathery, oriental, adventurous

The notes: Cocoa, oud assam and spicy saffron

Who’s the man: You are an explorer at heart and an enigma. You’re in your element at night time (ahem)