Imagination is the 7th addition to the men's fragrance collection at Louis Vuitton. The French luxury brand's master perfumer Jacques Cavallier Belletrud invites us into his perfumed world once again and this next chapter, much like a good novel, continues seamlessly on from the previous one. The story arc is this: Unlike other luxury brands which divide their collections into mainstream fragrances sold everywhere and luxury fragrances sold exclusively in boutiques and select department stores, Louis Vuitton only does the former. The creative challenge for Vuitton is one that demands imagination from Jacques Cavallier Belletrud. How do you meet the expectations of luxury fragrance buyers and connoisseurs without excluding consumers who are accustomed to buying their designer fragrances at local discount pharmacies?
"I'd been dreaming of revealing the beauty of ambergris."
This creates an interesting tension for the brand. As a result, some Vuitton fragrances are easy to wear and pander to broader taste. There isn't a law against this but there is an unspoken rule that when paying A$440 for a bottle, buyers want to feel more than a pleasant-smelling perfume. Emotional baggage (LV Monogram Keepall) aside, I admire Vuitton's ready-to-wear fragrances' frank likability. Ironically, Imagination combines ingredients in a manner we have smelled before, but its genius is subtle. The execution is masterful. The ingredients are a sign of the budget constraints, or lack of, that JCB has to work with. Some may argue, why pay so much when you can buy Kenzo or Bvlgari fragrances for a fraction of the cost? For me it's the same reason some people buy A row stall seats at Sydney Opera House's Concert Hall instead of streaming the concert from Apple Music. Same concert, different experience. Imagination was five years in the making. "I'd been dreaming of revealing the beauty of ambergris and expressing the quintessence of its amber note in a way that's of-the-moment and devoid of nostalgia." - JCB. Imagination's star ingredient is Ambrox, a molecular component of sperm whale ambergris, now biosynthesised from sclareol extracted from clary sage. It's expensive. Who would have thought this garden herb had so much in common with sperm whales? Around this ambergris note are a symphony of botanical ingredients, South Italian citruses, Tunisian neroli, Nigerian ginger and Ceylon cinnamon. Underneath sits a CO2 extract of Chinese black tea, offering an aromatic, woody, smoky intermission between spicy zest and clean ambergris. There is ample opportunity to feel challenged by Vuitton fragrances but I wouldn't class Imagination as being one of them. I'm okay with that. Kooky fragrances are an eye-roll. I'm much happier with something that's easy-to-wear, well proportioned and doesn't skimp on craftsmanship over the olfactory equivalent of "ugly fashion".
Sample provided by brand for review