It took me a while with Theorema. I think I needed to smell other things first. A lot of other things. I don't think my frame of reference was wide enough at the time. Theorema seemed too sugared for my taste. There was something candied about it, I thought, which placed it alongside some of those department store celebrity fragrances which seem more like a dessert plate than a perfume. It seems strange to me now, that I had a full bottle of impossible to find Theorema and blithely gave it away. What was I thinking?
Released in 1999 (or 98, depending on source), Theorema wasn't exactly ahead of its time, when you look at the territory Serge Lutens had already traversed. But it was certainly unlike most of its neighboring fare at the mall. Some of the releases contemporary to it were: J'Adore, Allure, Rush, Baby Doll, Jaipur Saphir, and YSL Vice Versa. Aside from Allure, which shares vanillic qualities with it, Theorema stood alone. Even Allure's similarity ended with the word vanilla, as its treatment of the note took it in an entirely different direction. While not particularly edible, Allure emphasizes the gourmand bombast of vanilla, creating the impression of considerable density. Theorema explores the woodier facets of the pod, its results more lucid, if not transparent.
Organza Indecence also came out in 1999, and has more in common with Theorema than any mass release of that year (or many others). Interesting to see how Organza Indecence has persisted, if not thrived in the marketplace, while Theorema is now extinct. With a pronounced influence of plum, Organza Indecence is much fruitier, but both fragrances spread themselves out against a backdrop of sweet-spicy cinnamon and damp overturned-earth patchouli.
Theorema's top notes read like a perforated Lutens pyramid. Nutmeg, pepper, orange, rosewood. Its heart notes are classic old school oriental perfumery: ylang ylang, carnation, rose, and cinnamon. These middle notes place it in company, at least in spirit, with Opium, Asja (also Fendi) and Cinnabar. The base notes add to patchouli touches of benzoin, sandal, and labdanum. You can see the influence of Shiseido's Feminite du Bois throughout Theorema's carefully judged stages; specifically, its woody resins and sweet, semi-stewed mellow ambience. More than Lutens, even, I see a real resemblance to the work of Pierre Guillaume of Parfumerie Generale. Theorema is the distant ancestor of Un Crime Exotique, most notably, and I think diffuses more like a PG fragrance than a Lutens, going wider rather than deeper as it makes its way through the senses and the room.
Theorema now seems far less sugary than I once thought. I can't say why. It might be that I'm more familiar not just with a broader array of perfume in general but with more of perfumer Christine Nagel's work specifically. Her Ambre Soie for Armani's Prive collection is a step through the looking glass from Theorema, with that same strange burnt sugar quality. It came just four or five years after Theorema, but was much more at home in an exclusive, niche-like collection. Dolce and Gabbana The One (2006) is an adaptation of this style to a more commercial application. Rose Absolue for Yves Rocher (2006) and Mille et Une Roses for Lancome (1999) feel like the same perfumer working out the same sentence in different languages.
Theorema is difficult to find. I haven't tried the Leggero version. I'd be interested in hearing from someone who has.