The Counterparts, El and Ella by Arquiste

Bottles of El and Ella by Arquiste side by side

We finally pulled the trigger on two very special scents that have been on our wish-list for a very long time. It’s no secret that we have been longtime fans of Arquiste. The brand first caught our eye at Forty Five Ten here in Dallas and were immediately intrigued by the stories being told by Arquiste founder Carlos Huber and perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux. Both being Mexican, many of the scents they have created together revolve around specific histories and time periods in Mexico, and this inspiration has lead to the creation of scents that are truly unlike anything else we are aware of in the market right now.

Being that Jeff and I love classical nods to perfume history, we were dying to try out Arquiste’s counterpart scents, El and Ella. Both are inspired by 1970s discotecs in Acapulco but built around classical chypre and fougère perfume styles. Animalic notes wrapped around a smoky and floral, herbal center? These are two scents that sounded right up our alley.

Despite being marketed as a masculine fougère, we both ended up falling in love with El. It’s refined and classic, but with a dirty/clean juxtaposition that keeps you going back to your wrist to inhale more. The laurel, rosemary, and clary sage give it a very cool aromatic opening that feels stylish and surprising against the subtle animalic base notes. For people who appreciate perfume history this is going to be a treat because the civet and castoreum used in El have the same rugged retro sensibilities of a lot of 70s sex bomb fragrances for men, like Kouros. This is a true barbershop beauty with it’s own unique offerings, like the surprising buckwheat honey note (present in both El and Ella). Jane would like to emphasize that no matter where you fall on the gender spectrum, El would be a supremely stylish scent paired with a sleek tailored black jacket and a low-buttoned silk shirt. Something about both El and Ella speak volumes about fashion history, and both would go wonderfully with a YSL “Le Smoking” look.

Ella is every bit the fashion-savvy disco queen that Arquiste promised on the bottle. At first sniff, you get a tropical bouquet of sultry florals that feels almost fruity. Ella familiarized me with a note I had never yet encounter: the cannon ball flower, which is a South American tropical flower that can reach up to 80 feet in height. The jasmine mixed with the cigarette smoke could sound stifling on paper, but here it feels playful and glamorous. The textbook chypre notes make parts of Ella feel instantly familiar, but the presentation of them here will certainly shake up anyone who has a preconceived notion of chypres being for mature prim-mannered women. Ella is a rebellious bombshell in sequins and a glossy red lip. Think poolside Helmut Newton girls. If you look on Fragrantica, some people complain that Ella is too dirty while just as many people say they hardly find any civet-funkiness at all. My perception falls somewhere in the middle, but I think if you smelled Ella out in the wild, you wouldn’t notice the animalic notes as much as the lush florals and green honeyed-ness of the scent. As Ella heats up on the skin, it takes you on a journey of honeyed florals, green spices, and rosy musks. It smells best in warm weather.

Even though El and Ella both fully inhabit the tropical beatific universe they were built in, when you take these scents out of the discotec and wear them in every day life, they seem less about partying all night and more about the wearer’s self-confidence and personal style. El and Ella’s timelessness makes them suitable for someone whose style transcends trends and fads. Their sultrier qualities are self-possessed: confident but not too showy.