In 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 Fragrantica, Pierre 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 Venenum, Cuir d`Iris, Tubereuse 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.
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.
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.