Perfume Review: Parfum d’Empire Azemour Les Orangers

Last night, I was transported to the Dust Bowl of the American plains during the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Dustbowl 1930s

The problem is, I wasn’t supposed to feel like Tom Joad in Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. I was supposed to be on horseback near orange groves and the moss-strewn craggy cliffs of Morocco’s coastline. I was supposed to be in Azemmour, one of the most ancient cities of the kingdom of Morocco, a Moslem and Jewish place of pilgrimage.

Silves Castle

Not Azemmour, but Silves castle in Portugal. The photo conveys what I thought I would feel and experience.

That is the goal of Azemour by Marc-Antoine Corticchiato, the founder and nose behind Parfum d’Empire. And it is a goal in which he seems to have succeeded for 99% of the people who have tried Azemour, a critical darling and much-loved perfume that has received endless praise in the blogosphere. I seem to be in the 1% of people for whom the perfume simply did not work.

Parfum d'Empire AzemourI’m truly saddened by that fact, as Azemour was one of the perfumes which I was most eager to try in the last few months and one which I expected to adore. For one thing, on paper, the description of Azemour is not only breath-taking, but filled with notes that should send me into a state of euphoria. Orange, clementine, tangerine, orange blossom, neroli, rose…. My God, it’s as if it were tailor-made for me! And the description even surpassed some of the notes.

In fact, I cannot remember the last time I was so transported by the sound of a perfume as I was when I read the following on the Parfum d’Empire website:

This fresh, timeless chypre plays on all the facets of the orange tree: the sparkling zest and sunny flesh of the fruit, the dark green of the leave, the honeyed sweetness of the flower, the force of the wood. But the word “amour” which nests in AZEMOUR also expresses the perfumer’s deep love for the land where he was born, and this fragrance is an evocation of the Moroccan landscape with its dunes, wild grass and orange groves… AZEMOUR, timeless elegance in the kingdom of Morocco…

The city of Azemmour, Morocco.

The city of Azemmour, Morocco.

A tribute to Azemmour, one of the most ancient cities of the kingdom of Morocco, a Moslem and Jewish place of pilgrimage; a tribute to his parents’ orange grove and to his long horseback rides on the lands that stretch along the Oum Er r’Bia wadi up to the ocean…

The golden light of the Moroccan Atlantic coast suffuses the top notes of AZEMOUR, a blend of sparking citruses dominated by the zest and flesh of orange, set in clementine, tangerine, grapefruit and citrus. Coriander, cumin, black pepper and pink pepper add their vibrancy to this burst of flavours; blackcurrant and galbanum set it in a dark green nest of leaves.

Then AZEMOUR speaks its heart with the freshness of neroli, intensified by geranium, fleshed out by suave, honeyed orange blossom absolute and delicately spicy old-fashioned rose.

Hay, moss and henna extracts conjure dry grass exhaling the day’s heat in the orange grove. Wood notes trace the undulating silhouettes of cypresses in the Atlantic wind. A tinge of saltiness evokes dunes swept with ocean spray…

Reading that lyrical imagery is almost enough to make one want to buy a plane ticket to Azemmour itself or, in the absence of that, just buy the perfume unsniffed! As for the notes which I mentioned earlier, the full and complete list (provided by Luckyscent) sounds simply marvelous:

orange, clementine, tangerine, grapefruit, coriander, cumin, black pepper, pink pepper, blackcurrant, galbanum, neroli, geranium, orange blossom, rose, hay, moss, henna and cypres[s].

Alas, on me, Azemour was not a trip to the orange grove by the sea. It was dry, dry, dry dust for a good portion of its opening, before settling into less dry green moss. My beloved orange notes were ghosts that taunted me, mocked me, laughed at me as they occasionally popped up for an instant before flitting away, teasing me with their presence in a constant vanishing act.The opening seconds of Azemour were a blast of bitter hay, strong henna powder, black pepper and moss with just the faintest hint of bitter orange. It smells of actual dust, and it evokes the barren, ravaged plains of America in the 1930s or the Sahara. Nor does it get better in those first ten minutes. In fact, as time passes, the dustiness just gets more bitter and green. The oakmoss is pungent and musty, evoking images of grey, mineralized lichen and dust. Usually, the scent of oakmoss in most fruity chypres (which is what Azemour is classified as on Fragrantica) is alleviated by the sweetness or freshness of citrus notes. Not here. Not on me. Instead, its pungent mustiness is accentuated by bitter hay and by the acrid greenness of galbanum. The overall impression is not helped by the dustiness of henna whose scent, here, occasionally, evokes ashtrays and leather.

As time passes, the oak moss becomes even more dominant but, still, no sweet mandarin, clementine, orange blossom, or zesty fruits. Instead, the dryness is joined by the faintly mentholated, tarry, pine notes of the galbanum and the dry woodiness of the cedar tree. There is the bite of black pepper, sea salt, and, fleetingly, that faint ashtray smell from the henna powder. Thirty minutes in, there is a light touch of cumin, coriander and some green geranium notes. It is at this point that the ghost of the orange notes becomes more evident but it is only momentary. It flits away like the very worst kind of tease.

My attempts at locating that ghostly note is not assisted by the fact that the sillage of Azemour drops substantially within the first hour. Quantity is not to blame, either, as I had put on a lot of the perfume in anticipation of loving the scent. (Plus, my vial partially broke on me at the time.) No, a solid, good dosage of the scent did nothing to help me locate the elusive orange. The perfume’s projection dropped so dramatically that — by the second hour — I was quite inhaling at my arm like a wild animal about to attack flesh. In all honesty, my discouragement and mood at this time were reaching an all-time low.

By the end of that second hour, Azemour was essentially just oakmoss, sea salt, an ambered leather accord, a hint of cumin and the occasional ghostly presence of orange. The oakmoss was, thankfully, much less pungent, musty and dusty than it was at first. To the extent that the leather felt “ambery,” I suppose you could say that was a subtle effect of the orange, blending with the leather for some resinous richness. And, in truth, the slightly animalic notes underlying the leather were quite nice. Or, perhaps, that’s just relief at smelling something other than dry dust for a while.

Nothing really changed for the remainder of the perfume’s development. For the last few hours, Azemour turned into a perfectly pleasant moss scent with ambered leather and a flicker of orange. There were traces of the perfume on my skin at the end of about five and half hours, I think, but I can’t be sure because, honestly, it was just so damn evanescent on my skin. I looked like a madwoman attacking my arm in hopes of smelling faint hints of something. And,yes, there were those hints. It just took monumental effort to find them! By the end, you can add intense frustration to the gamut of emotions that I experienced when testing this scent.

My experiences do not seem to mirror that of others who talk with gushing adoration of whole oranges, juicy pulp, citrus explosions over lovely mossy greens. My experiences don’t even seem to match in the longevity department, though that latter bit is not particularly surprising given my perfume-consuming skin. Others report that Azemour lasts on them for hours and hours, although many do say it’s an airy, light scent. But, as a whole, I seem to find few people who aren’t completely worshipful of the scent. There are a handful of slightly less enthused comments scattered here or there — and one person commented on Bois de Jasmin that she too smelled ashtray notes which Victoria also chalked up to the henna — but that’s about it.

I can’t even say it’s a gender thing. Yes, the vast majority of the worshipful reviews have come from men, but a large number of female bloggers have raved about Azemour, too. From Bois de Jasmin, to Grain de Musc, to Now Smell This — they’ve all loved the scent. Only Birgit at Olfactoria’s Travels noted that it could be a difficult scent to wear, but she too thoroughly enjoys wearing it from time to time. If the perfume smelled on me as it did on all of them, I might feel the same way. After all, I enjoy chypres and oakmoss, and I absolutely adore orange notes.

Unfortunately, what I experienced was simply too, too dry, dusty and masculine. I say that as someone who not only wears unisex perfumes, but who wears actual men’s colognes too at times. Azemour was simply not enjoyable in the way that it expressed itself on my skin. And I fear that the “for women” part of the title, as well as that stunning list of notes, may lead women who like more traditional, very feminine, “fruity” chypres into thinking this is the perfect scent for them. No, unless you like really DRY, dusty scents, this is not a perfume for you. As Birgit at Olfactoria’s Travels admits, this is “somber,” “severe and stern at times, hard and unyielding[.]” I think that’s very well stated. She thinks, however, that “in the end you realize that this inability to bend and give way is for your own good.”

I don’t quite agree with that. I think it depends on the person and their perfume experience. In my opinion, women who like more traditional, very feminine fruity chypres won’t bend and come to like this at all. Nor will those who prefer for more cozy, warm, or sweet scents. Or those who like more traditional, soft, feminine florals. Not one bit, and not even if they have the slightly more fruited experience that some others have done. In my opinion, this is a perfume for an adventuresome, very experienced perfumista who knows and likes niche scents, but who, most of all, can appreciate her pungent oakmoss on the masculine, dry, “severe” side.

Men, in contrast, will probably continue to worship at Azemour’s feet. And I have no doubt that it would smell wonderful on them.

DETAILS:

Azemour Les Orangers eau de parfum is available on Parfum d’Empire’s website where it costs $110 or €92 for a large 3.4 oz/100 ml bottle. You can also find it at Luckyscent which sells the smaller bottle in a 1.7 oz/50 ml size for $75, in addition to the large $110 bottle. Beautyhabitat sells the smaller size, The Perfume Shoppe sells the larger. For all other countries, you can find Azemour at a retailer near you using the Store Locator on Parfum d’Empire’s website. To test Azemour for yourself, Surrender to Chance sells samples starting at $3.49 for a 1 ml vial.

24 thoughts on “Perfume Review: Parfum d’Empire Azemour Les Orangers

  1. Oh, I’m so sorry! That’s *incredibly* disappointing. Funnily enough, what you describe is what I get out of Seville a l’Aube – very dry, dusty, and bitter for me. I knew it wouldn’t be like Azemour, but I was shocked at how divergent the two were and how I could LOVE Azemour so much and feel so unenthused by Seville! I guess we’ll just have to call you Ma Joad from now on. 🙂 If you don’t have Seville, I’d ask you to hold out as I will send you the rest of my decant once I have more goodies accumulated to send you. It might be interesting to do a compare and contrast, even if you don’t review it in a formal way.

    In all fairness, I do love dry scents and this was a good balance for me, as I discovered with Seville that there *is* such a thing as too dry for me. Now I feel bad for talking this one up so much! I’m still glad you were able to try it and review it though, because I loved this review. I’d be disappointed too if I expected Moroccan cliffs and got Rose-of-Sharon’s dusty dress from Grapes of Wrath. LOL

    • Seville à L’Aube is that dry??! Oh dear. 😦

      You weren’t the only one who talked this up, Kevin. EVERY one did. The whole blogosphere loves this. That said, I thought about it last night and those who love it most are all men. I do think that gender can play some role in this. Men are much more used to dry scents and I think Azemour is a much more masculine take on chypres than something like, say, Mitsouko. I got my sample from a man and the two people posting in this thread about how it’s a favorite are both men. Yes, women like it too and have written their vast appreciation for it. But the vast, vast majority of the gushes and raves that I’ve read have been from men. Bottom line, I think this skews masculine much more than many “unisex” perfumes.

      P.S. — You could call me Ma Joad, but this perfume was so masculine, I felt more like PA Joad…. 😉

      • I remember trying Seville and instantly the first thing that came to mind was “dry” – chalky, even. It’s very strange. But they really are so different, it’s hard to believe it’s quite literally an oranges to oranges comparison. But I can’t imagine if you found Azemour to be dry that you would find Seville to be *less* dry. But who knows, things obviously work differently on different people.

        You bring up an interesting point of men liking it more. I tend to read more reviews from men (maybe not read more, but pay attention to them more?) — yours being the exception, obviously — mainly because I like a lot of women’s scents and I’m more interested to hear what other men have to say about “women’s” scents on a man’s skin. I wonder if maybe Azemour is a rare case of something really not working well for either sex? Very interesting!

        P.S. Alahine gets better and better as it goes on. It’s so well-balanced and seems like a really “classic” smell.

        Sigh, I really want to try Mitsouko. Do you think I’d like it?

        • I’ve been thinking a lot about Azemour and I think the problem is something that Lucas referenced: the orange going flat. While it hasn’t been hot here and while I tested it at night, I think that is exactly what happened in my case. I just wish I could figure out why.

          If you liked the Jubilation 25 for women, then you may like Mitsouko. You’d have to try the vintage, in my opinion, to get the real sense of what the perfume is about. It is a definite fruity chypre with peach and some skanky undertones. If I recall the story correctly, Guerlain wanted to recreate the scent of his mistress’ body after sex…. 😉

          • Hmmm, I’ve never tried Jubilation 25 for Women. It sounds interesting to me, but I’m not sure if I’ll like it, but I would really love to try it. I love the smell of peaches (if I have to deal with a fruity perfume!), and it sounds pretty intriguing. I need to find someone willing to sell off a small sample, although vintage Mitsouko isn’t too terribly expensive anyway.

      • I have Seville and I don’t find it to be that dry. Azemour sounds like one I’ll pass on for now. I think Seville might have a little more sweetness to it which, from the sounds of it, Azemour does not. Every nose is different though.

  2. I’m really sorry you didn’t like Azemour. It’s one of my favourite fragrances in Parfum d’Empire line although I discovered that it doesn’t perform well in extreme summer heat – it turns really flat then.

      • This might be problematic. When it’s like 30*C Azemour turns flat and all its orange beauty starts to smell like plastified. Iskander does better in the heat and The Perfumed Hound said Eau Suave does well in the heat too.

        • Bummer! That’s basically every day between June and September here, unfortunately. Thanks for the warning though! Luckily, I have full bottles of both and can wear Iskander more in the summer, then. I love them both so I’m eager to have the chance to wear them a lot!

          • Good you’ve got both. I was planning to get Iskander on my birthday but I changed my mind, decided to buy something more high-end this time 😉 But I’ll have Iskander later too.

          • Nice, what did you decide to get? I like to pretend my two bottles were justified because tomorrow is my half birthday. LOL. Your *actual* birthday is a much better reason to buy yourself something great!

    • Thanks. I’m sorry I didn’t like it, too; I really expected to be in love with it. 😦 It’s not hot here. At least, not yet. If this were summer and 44 C, I might understand it. But it’s not. 😦

        • I’ve been thinking a lot about your comment about how the orange in Azemour can go flat in the heat. It was in the low 50s when I tried it here, so about 12 Celsius, so heat can’t be the explanation. But the orange certainly was “flat” in the sense that it was fleeting and ghostly. I wish I knew why. I have Iskander, so we’ll see what happens when I get around to testing it but that is another one that is considered quite masculine, I believe. Perhaps my tastes as a woman are just not hugely suited for some of these perfumes and perhaps men do better with them?

          • Maybe your skin and Azemour are just no match. On me it’s fine when it’s 20*C, on higher temperatures it goes plastic. Hope Iskander will work better for you.

  3. I haven’t tried Azemour so I have no idea how it smells but I have to ask: are you absolutely sure that 1) you have the right sample and 2) your sample isn’t off?

  4. Goodness, you’re prolific this week! And possibly every week, but I have only just discovered your blog. : – )

    Right…so firstly I have been to Silves! And this scent doesn’t smell of that to me either, Though my abiding memory of the visit was in fact a very funny little poodle, of which I even have a photo somewhere.

    But to the matter in hand. My take on this one was somewhere in between yours and Birgit’s. I didn’t get all that dust, but it wasn’t a very approachable scent, more mossy and forbidding, until the latter stages, when I seem to recall it went a bit soapy but also a bit orange – which of course was rather the point.

    • I’m hugely relieved to read your comment about Azemour. So hugely relieved, you can’t imagine! Knowing that someone had something between my experience and Birgit’s makes me feel a little less crazy, especially as you too found the opening not to be filled with citrus. Others seemed to have so much citrus and orange at the start! I wonder how many others had an experience similar to ours where the moss was just very extreme and forbidding? There was a comment on NST that the quantity of oakmoss in Azemour was at the very top possible amounts, so I have to think that we aren’t totally alone in finding it to be a rather severe, dry perfume. Or maybe it’s just that the orange notes go flat under more circumstances than just the heat (which is what Lucas noted)?

      Silves seems gorgeous! I envy you for having seen it. As for being prolific, Ha, yes — I try to be. I started my blog a little over two months ago, so I suppose I’m making up for lost time. So many perfumes to sniff and cover! 😀

  5. My dearest S – I am so sorry that this went horribly wrong on you. Of course, I have nothing to do with that fact, but Azemour is one of my favorites. After reading your review I took out my bottle and gave myself a spritz only to once again be raptured with the wonderful juicy opening of citrus and orange; so juicy and slightly bitter. You’re right, it does dry out a bit, but the orange never disappears to me and I certainly don’t get any kind of leather not in the least. And even though it’s oak mossy kind of dry (very subtle), I don’t think of this as dry like a Tauer L’Air du Desert Marocain dry. That’s the funny thing about body chemistry though, what might work on one person will not on another. I guess that just means there is more Azemour for me 🙂 xoxoxox Steve

    • My darling Mr. Hound, skin chemistry is wonky as hell! 😀 I have no doubt that it smells glorious on you, and how lucky for you to get all those lovely citrus notes! Alas, the orange is flat to ghostly on my skin. It does appear, on occasion, but never at the start for me. It also sounds like the Henna with its dusty, ashy, leather undertones wasn’t very prominent on you at all. In any event, I’m enormously, ENORMOUSLY grateful to you for giving me the chance to try this. Your sweetness and generosity meant so much to me. xoxox

  6. I have tried this and I don’t recall thinking that it was dusty . . . But then again, I was also sporting two other Parfums D’Empire fragrances on my other arm. Both strong, and both probably messing with my head!

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