Perfume Review: Parfumerie Générale Djhenné

PG22 DhjenneIn September 2012, the French niche perfume house, Parfumerie Générale, released its 22nd fragrance Djhenné (or PG22 Djhenné) in celebration of its 10th anniversary. Described as an “aromatic woody soft leather,” the eau de parfum is meant to evoke the most golden of sunny, desert, oasis-like experiences. Parfumerie Generale’s website states:

Surrendering to the sun.

Lush oasis, Djhenné is a warm shadow. A Leather sheath with gold Wheat and Myrrh, protecting from the burning sun’s shroud, the delicate spearmint leaves and the heady whiteness of Seringa Blossom…

Exploring the olfactory theme of the Oasis, Pierre Guillaume gives us an aromatic, woody orchestration of leather and warm sand, wavering between the floral freshness of an accord of grey lavender, spearmint and seringa and the warmth of a “blond leather” note made up of Blue Cedar, essence of Myrrh, Cocoa Beans and Wheat Absolute.

In an interview with FragranticaPierre Guillaume, the founder and nose behind Parfumerie Generale, explained the notes in Djhenné:

I wanted to recreate the fragrance of an oasis. […] It’s just a metaphor. I meant a fresh accord surrounded by hot sand. Oasis, a lazy hot atmosphere, and a little bit of freshness in a hot desert. I started my fresh accord with three kinds of lavender—Lavandine, Lavande Pays and Lavande Barreme, enhanced the freshness with orange and artemisia, and added more green notes by including mint and the Stemone molecule. Exactly this molecule is used to create an accord on the subject of fig leaves. That is why, I guess, Djhenne reminds you of Bois Naufrage.

[As for the scent of hot sand] I composed it of my favorite accord of white leather (you smell it in Cuir VenenumCuir d`IrisTubereuse Couture and other my perfumes), cocoa absolute, cedar from Morocco, myrrh, cumin and caraway. And also wheat absolute, a great but rare ingredient from Robertet—it possesses a rich balsamic scent with a hint of roasted wheat flakes. […]

There is no coconut in this perfume, I guess it’s a disguise born out of combinations of some notes. I would rather say that Djhenne is a mineral fougère with a leather accent.

The short summation of the notes is as follows:

Grey lavender, mint leaves, seringa blossom, cocoa beans, blue cedar, wheat absolute, myrrh, blond leather accord.

ISO E Super. Source: Fragrantica

ISO E Super. Source: Fragrantica

I would add another one to that list: ISO E Super. Djhenné opens on my skin with an immediate blast of antiseptic rubbing alcohol. It is the first and most obvious note, followed thereafter by creamy lavender, lush wheat, some abstract floral note, sweet myrrh and lightly peppered cedar. Soon, there is a sweet note of something that smells a lot like the lightly peppered, dried tobacco leaves along with cocoa and leather. There is a definite resemblance to parts of Serge Lutens‘ wonderful Chergui, but Djhenné has a considerably more woody, peppered elements, not to mention that blast of ISO E Super synthetic and the additions of lavender.

My favorite part of Djhenné’s opening has to be the cocoa note with its impression of lightly dusted, milk chocolate powder that calls to mind a faintly milky, cocoa-sprinkled Chai. The note is never thick, gooey, or viscous, but daintily dry and sweet. Underneath it is the sweet myrrh which creates a nutty, lightly caramelized undertone. There is also an initial whiff of mint, though it quickly recedes to the background. Equally subtle is the lavender which is sweet, instead of pungently dry or acrid, and that continuous note of dried, sweet tobacco. Flickering quietly is the leather accord which, actually, feels a lot more like a very beige woody-leather accord, thanks to the beautiful richness of the wheat absolute. The overall sum-total effect is very pretty and well-balanced, in large part thanks to the many dry notes that counter any feeling of huge sweetness. I never detected coconut or anything reminiscent of dry, granular, arid sand. Unfortunately for me, it’s hard to detect — let alone enjoy — the full nuances of Djhenné because the ISO E Super rubbing alcohol accord lies above it all like a heavy cloud. I feel like a dog, sniffing at a thick lawn of grass in hopes of detecting a few drops of scent lurking underneath.

Djhenné shifts slightly as time passes, though the ISO E clings on tenaciously as the main note. At  the 25 minute mark, the abstract floral note recedes, as does some of the lavender, while the cocoa powder becomes more prominent, leaving Djhenné as a combination of: ISO E Super, cocoa, sweetly nutty myrrh, a hint of mint and a heavy dollop of cedared woods. An hour in, the peppered ISO E woods and cedar take over, followed by the cocoa, then the wheat and myrrh. There are nuances of something that feels like leather at times but, on me, it’s always just a subtle element of the wood notes and never feels like pure, individually distinct leather, per se.  Like a wave that hits the shore and then falls back, the cedar and woody elements start to ebb after an hour, leaving ISO E Super and cocoa powder, with some other light elements like the wheat and myrrh. Like Chergui, there are lightly powdered elements and something that continues to feel like dried tobacco leaves flickering in the background.

Light, natural, cocoa powder

Light, natural, cocoa powder

At the middle of the third hour, Djhenné turns into a skin scent that is primarily dusty cocoa powder and vanilla, alongside that bloody endless ISO E Super, atop a base of creamy white woods. The perfume was airy and lightweight in feel from the start without huge projection, but now, it’s even softer, more muted, and sits right on the skin. In its final stages, Djhenné turns into a cocoa powder and vanilla scent. Only at the very end does the synthetic ISO E finally vanish. In terms of longevity, Djhenné lasted 6.75 hours on my skin, but tiny spots of vanilla-cocoa scent seemed to pop up here or there for another two hours.

It’s hard for me to truly and properly assess Djhenné without the impact of the ISO E Super. The synthetic was far too powerful on my skin, overshadowing everything else for most of the perfume’s duration on my skin. Only in its final hour or so was I spared of that perpetual note of disinfectant rubbing alcohol. It tainted everything, injecting its peppered antiseptic tones even into the cocoa powder that I loved so much. To those damn lucky few who can’t detect the full nuances of ISO E Super or whose nose reads it only as “extra pepperiness” or “velvety woods” — I envy you. And I’m sure you’ll adore Djhenné.

All in all, it’s a versatile, incredibly easy perfume that is neither truly gourmand nor a truly woody oriental or even a real aromatic fougère — but a lovely hybrid of all three. I think it is firmly unisex with the cocoa powder (and the occasional similarities to Chergui) making it something that would easily captivate women as much as men. Its very soft, light sillage would also make it appropriate for a lot of offices. Lastly, it’s also quite affordable at $100 for 1.7 oz/50 ml of eau de parfum.

Alas, for me, personally, I rue the day that perfumers fell so in love with ISO E Super that they decided to inject it into seemingly half the fragrances under the sun. And without warning, en plus! If ISO E Super were a person, I would have stabbed it to death already, and declared myself to be acting by reason of insanity.

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Djhenné comes in a 3 different sizes on the Parfumerie General website: 1 oz, 1.7 oz, and 3.4 oz. The prices in Euros are, respectively: €60, €90, and  €125. You can find a list of international retailers on the company’s website hereIn the U.S., it is available from Luckyscent for $100 for 1.7 oz/50 ml, along with a sample. I’m sure it’s available elsewhere, but I’m too fed up to bother listing my usual 15-20 links to retail websites around the world. Samples: I obtained my sample from Surrender to Chance which sells Djhenné starting at $5.99 for a 1 ml vial.
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34 thoughts on “Perfume Review: Parfumerie Générale Djhenné

      • I have not found a PG that rocks my world. There are some brands that for some reason I don’t find fascinating…this is one of them. Maybe I just haven’t sniffed the right one yet. As for the ISO E Super…I’m just feeling bad for you. I don’t think it’s an issue for me. At least I don’t believe so.

    • LOL! My anguish was coming through loud and clear, was it? You know, if they only included it in the ingredients, I could save so much money, time and trauma by avoiding the perfumes which have it. Instead, it pops up when I least expect it to completely ruin my day. *sigh*

  1. call me old fashioned (or one of the “damn lucky few”) but I never get that astringent ISO blast; it IS in fact – i suppose – a ‘creamy wood’ component that compliments the myrrh, wheat and lavender so beautifully. I get absolutely nothing screechy like I sometimes detect with Ormonde Jayne (everybody loved Man, Woman & Isfarkand – THOSE were ISO bombs to me, though I do own Zizan for its incomparable citrus notes & vetiver and again there the ISO is not at all grating). Just goes to show how our intrinsic sensitivities really change the experience of the same scent. Sorry you didn’t get the cozy, warm utterly charming deep glow I did; yes, it feels ‘sunny’, but perhaps that’s relative in a cold damp place like holland 🙂 thanks as usual for the review & for giving 22 a go. doei!

    • I’m glad ISO E Super manifests itself pleasantly on your skin 🙂 I’d be quite happy if I could get something other than antiseptic rubbing alcohol and disinfectant, but that is all that I get each and every time. Oddly, I got a lot less ISO E Super from Ormonde Woman than I did from this one. If my nose weren’t quite so sensitive, I think I would have liked Djhenné but, alas, it was not fated to be.

  2. Oh no, another perfume with ISO E-Super you say? When I read your review I had mixed feelings really. Part of this perfume sounds good to me but the other part whispers in my mind that I wouldn’t like it.
    Anyway, I haven’t tried this perfume yet, actually it has just appeared in Poland a week ago.

  3. Sounds interesting – I’ve only ever tried Cuir Venenum by PG and quite enjoyed it. On a superficial note, I really like their bottles/logo a lot. I’m very drawn to the elegant simplicity. Even though I’m virtually anosmic to ISO-E Super, I sort of rue the day they started putting it in all the new stuff. Ok, maybe *all* is a generalization, but not by much – it seems to be present in quite a number of new creations.

    • I suspect ISO E Super been around in serious form in perfumery for at least a decade, but no blogger ever seems to consistently write or talk about it. Perhaps because I’m the only one who is terrorized by the note, and/or can detect it in a way beyond just an amorphous “woodiness” or “extra pepperiness.” As for Dhjenné, I think you’d like it. I really do. It’s a much woodier, more aromatic (lavendery), cocoa-y twist on Chergui. The dry woods and the golden wheat concentrate would probably be very appealing to you. 🙂

      • Sounds very promising then! I’ll seek it out one of these days. I don’t dare log into STC though. I know my order will be a huge one if I deign to gaze upon the site! 😀

  4. I´m really curious to know what that famous ISO E Super smells like, seriously. Though I might simply be one of the people that are indifferent to it and can´t detect it, since I have Chanel Chance, you mention this has ISO E Super but I can´t find a strong, unusual or unpleasant note on it, to me this is a very good and wearable perfume. I can identify with a strong rubbing alcohol smell that you sometimes describe, but I actually find that quite lovely 😀 . I have never had a headache from the smell of a perfume either, so maybe I´m indeed immune, but I would love to hear of a fragrance with large amounts of ISO E Super just to see if I can detect that smell or at least find it somehow unpleasant.

  5. I think I am OK with ISO E as it is a component of some of my favorites…the problem I have with this line is the zero lasting power…had to gift away a full bottle of Praline et santal as it lasted a mere 30 minutes on my skin…same to be said for other samples from this line :(!!

    • Welcome, Elf. It’s lovely of you to drop by. Wow, PG fragrances lasted thirty minutes on you? Ouch!! That’s terrible! You clearly have perfume-consuming skin, and to an even greater degree than I do. 😦

  6. My dear, dear Kafka! Iso E Super is everywhere and very much overused. The more I read about how it affects you and others, the more sensitive I am to it in fragrances. That being said, I do have to say that I adored Djhenné from the first sniff (and as someone who wore Molecule 01 as a signature, this is probably not surprising). Even though Pierre Guillaume (from what I read) did not intend a literal translation of the place, it does amazingly smell like a very edible, cocoa-dusted and dryer memory of West Africa. Even though there is no cumin listed in the notes, I swear there is a touch there and Djhenné smells very human on me — which is not a bad thing.

    For me, I was expecting Djhenné to be like L’Artisan’s Timbuktu — which I also love but find not very wearable because it smells almost too like West Africa. Djhenné on the other hand, was one of my very comforting staples last summer.

    • I think that I would have loved it if I were completely anosmic to the ISO E Super. But, as it is….. As for the cumin, Pierre Guillaume said in the big quoted section that there is cumin and caraway in the blonde woods base he used. So, your nose isn’t mistaken. 🙂 I’m not surprised you loved this one, especially given your love for Molecule 01. How I wish I were you! 🙂

        • Wouldn’t it be awesome if we could telepathically smell what others smell? For example, I do admire Jean-Claude Ellena. I like his work, but I always find something weirdly synthetic about his fragrances that I have a hard time wearing sometimes. I seem to be in the minority . . .

          • It would be awesome, because then all the anosmic people could finally understand my anguish over the ISO E Super! *grin* That said, I would far prefer to be telepathically transported to a cocktail party than to have to wear painful scents. lol.

            I find your comment about J-C Ellena fragrances to be fascinating. I wonder if it’s something in the base that he uses and which you struggle with?

          • I’m not sure. I don’t notice it so much in his older fragrances, but the ones that he has done lately (L’Ambre des merveilles, Jour d’Hermès) there is something distinctly synthetic that my skin amplifies. Sad too because I was seriously considering full bottles of each. All the more reason to exhaust a decant first before committing, no?

  7. As you might remember :), I like Iso E Super but it didn’t help Djhenné: I didn’t dislike it but thought it smelled too artificial and chemical. Sometimes I do not mind it but in this case it was just wrong composition. But I’m sympathetic to your pain and I wish companies disclosed that type of information.

    Will you avoid testing a perfume altogether if you know it has Iso E Super?

    • If I knew a perfume had ISO E Super, yes, then I’d stay away 9 times out of 10. Perhaps not for the very hottest new releases, but I’d generally like to be spared the huge amount of wasted money on samples, only to have high expectations suddenly shatter with a tidal wave of the thing I hate the most. It’s become pure torment at this stage, and it’s actually impacting the blog and my motivation to review things. I truly cannot properly describe or convey the depth of just how MUCH it causes me misery, to the point where that initial sniff feels like a punch in the gut, triggering huge frustration, anger and even rage. I would like to send up smoke signals to perfumers to let them know just how painful it can be and that not everyone thinks ISO E Super is the cool, fun thing that they so carelessly and nonchalantly assume it must be.

      It is truly agonizing to sit through hours of it wafting off my skin and one could easily say, well, don’t review it then and wash it off, but then I’d have to toss a good chunk of my samples that I paid a lot of money for. I never know when it’s going to pop up, and so many times I’ve been hugely excited for a scent, only to come crashing down like I’d been thrown off a cliff. I feel almost cheated of my expected good experience. And, again, the amount of money I’ve spent buying samples only to have ISO E Super pop up unexpectedly and without disclosure. The other day, after two perfumes in a row filled with ISO E Super, I almost wanted to stop reviewing perfumes altogether and give up all perfume blogging. It’s truly having THAT bad of an effect on me. I realise I sound like a crazy person and that most people won’t get it or think I’m over-reacting, but it’s truly THAT painful to me.

      • I’m sorry to hear that, dear Kafka. It’s not fun to keep coming across something you strongly dislike. I just imagine having a similar experience but with, let’s say, cumin. I would be furious if it came unannounced in most of the perfumes I test.

        Maybe you could contact smaller brands with questions about ISO E Super in their perfumes and test only those that reply confirming there is none of it in the perfumes? Or for a while switch to all-natural or vintage perfumes?

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