La Via Del Profumo Venezia Giardini Segreti

Source: trulyveniceapartments.com

Source: trulyveniceapartments.com

Venice, the city of canals, Casanova, and romance is also a city with a secret. Gardens and green courtyards abound in secret nooks and crannies unknown to the anyone but the city’s residents. Did you know? I certainly didn’t, and I’ve been to Venice.

Venezia Giardini Segreti via the Profumo website.

Venezia Giardini Segreti via the Profumo website.

La Via del Profumo wants to open up this private world to you with Venezia Giardini Segreti, or “Venice’s Secret Gardens.” Venezia Giardini Segreti (which I’ll just call “Giardini Segreti” for the sake of brevity) is an all-natural eau de parfum from Dominique Dubrana (now known as “Abdes Salaam Attar“), the second in his new “Italian Series,” and a 2013 release.

Abdes Salaam Attar explains the inspiration for the fragrance:

Venezia, Giardini segreti” is inspired by the “corti” – the courts of Venice that contain its secret gardens, hidden within the maze of the city – and particularly to the imaginary “Corte Sconta detta Arcana” of the “Favola di Venezia” di Corto Maltese, first discovered in the recesses of Hugo Pratt’s mind, and illustrated by his hand. [¶] “When the Venetians grow tired of the established authorities,” he writes, “they walk to these 3 secret places and, opening the doors that are in the bottom of these courts, they go away forever into beautiful places and other stories.”

Source: La Via del Profumo.

Source: La Via del Profumo.

The essences that recount these hidden courts, where the feel and smell of the sea are never far away, are of Jasmine and Rose, of Italian aromatic herbs and of Myrrh, the sweet resin which evokes the city’s ancient connection with the East.

Ambergris is the ingredient of this perfume that celebrates Venice’s foundation on seafaring; it’s the key that opens the door to other worlds and other stories. It is the magical ingredient that renders the fragrance three-dimensional, the noble pheromone with a scent of leather, of sea and of mother’s milk. This smell, so rare and precious that it is no longer used in modern perfumes, confers to the “Venezia Giardini Segreti” a unique and inimitable magic.

Visit with me the secret gardens of Venice. Photo gallery.

Based on that description, the official notes in Venezia Giardini Segreti include:

jasmine, rose, herbs, myrrh, and ambergris.

Source: elstika.com

Source: elstika.com

Giardini Segreti opens on my skin with a powerful but delicate burst of green, dewy jasmine, infused with mint and dark, smoky indoles. The flower’s aroma feels as crisp and clear as a bell rung in the Alpine mountains, but there is a black, smoldering heart which is magnificent. The jasmine is not as heavily sweetened, fleshy, ripe or heavy in feel as the one in Abdes Salaam’s Tawaf; this is much fresher, greener and watery, at least at first. Yet, it inexplicably feels stronger, and its heart has a certain dark rubberiness. The wintergreen note which is laced throughout the jasmine is powerful at first, but it softens within minutes.

Source: krishnaaromatics.com

Source: krishnaaromatics.com

Giardini Segreti starts to slowly turn deeper and richer, losing some of its chilled dewiness and crispness. There is the tiniest flicker of something like light olive oil poking its head up in the distance. It’s hard to explain, but there is an oily richness which gradually starts to seep into the jasmine. It’s not greasy and it certainly doesn’t smell of olives, but it’s more than mere oil. It’s also lightly herbal in nature, though I find it impossible to distinguish the precise aroma. Basil? Tarragon? Myrrh can have an anise-like undertone on rare occasion, as it does in Serge LutensLa Myrrhe, but Giardini Segreti’s accord doesn’t smell like anise. Whatever the elusive herb, it’s an intangible, muted presence, but a pretty one.

10 minutes in, Giardini Segreti is a jasmine scent whose primary characteristics veer between minty green and oiled smoothness. The whole thing is flecked with black from the smoky indoles, while a tiny animalic tinge of leather stirs for the first time in the depths below. The fragrance continues to grow warmed and more oiled, but I smell no roses at all. In fact, I didn’t on any of the occasions when I tested Giardini Segreti.

Pure, fresh ambergris found on the beach.

Pure, fresh ambergris found on the beach.

I also don’t smell ambergris in the way that I’m used to or have previously encountered. There is none of the note’s salty, marshy or wet characteristics, though there is an increasing touch of muskiness circling around the animalic accord in the base. All there is instead is a richness and warmth. I would bet it’s the ambergris which is responsible for the oily feel which I talked about earlier. With every passing quarter-hour, it feels as though a soft wave of smooth, lightly scented, vaguely herbal oil is flooding over the jasmine. It turns the petals unctuous and slightly slick, though I have to repeat that the jasmine here is not voluptuously rich, narcotic, or heavy. The greenness remains at this point, thereby ensuring that the floral aroma is still somewhat fresh and bright. Nevertheless, the ambergris helps to muffle and mute some of that minty tonality.

At the end of the first hour, Giardini Segreti has turned into a baby-soft, smooth jasmine oil, with emphasis on the oil part of that sentence. The sillage has changed accordingly. From its originally forceful, strong opening, Giardini Segreti now lies less than an inch above the skin. The velvety jasmine petals are lightly infused with ambergris, herbs, and a lingering trace of smokiness. The more interesting thing, however, is the growing presence of an animalic, almost civet-like edge in the base. It’s the tiniest bit feral, but also very subtle.

Sketch: Walter Logeman at ThousandSketches.com

Sketch: Walter Logeman at ThousandSketches.com

Slowly, Giardini Segreti starts to shift into something darker, less green. At the 90 minute mark, the perfume is a softly smoky gardenia with only a trace of a green undertone but increasingly animalic, leather facets. The petals feel soft, but the sense of an oil has vanished. There is instead the first appearance of something peppered and woody in feel in the background. Giardini Segreti lies right on the skin like a discreet, intimate silken sheath. For my personal tastes, the sillage is too soft too soon, but, then, I prefer my florals to be sonic booms worthy of one of Wagner’s Valkyries. Giardini Segreti feels better suited to one of the dainty damsels who Casanova turned into a quiet sensualist.

Giardini Segreti continues to change by slow degrees. 2.5 hours in, it is a skin scent of half-sweet, half-dry jasmine with an undertone of animalic leather and a dash of peppered woodiness. An hour later, a subtle honeyed creaminess appears on the scene, leading me to wonder if Giardini Segreti has opoponax or sweet myrrh in addition to the ambergris listed in the notes. After 4.25 hours, Giardini Segreti is a blur of jasmine and lightly honeyed beeswax, and then just eventually just sweetened creaminess. All in all, it lasted just short of 6.5 hours on my skin.

On Fragrantica, there is only one review for Giardini Segreti. “Spookie” writes:

my first impression is that there is something very familiar about this perfume. Not in the sense that it reminds me of another scent but that it’s like turning a corner and experiencing deja vu. But this time I’ve turned a corner and I’m in a sunlit courtyard, the light dappled by a green canopy, small flowers peeking out of cracks in the cobbles and a brambly rose climbing a wall. It’s like this place has been waiting for me, patiently, to find it again. This is the scent of that place: quiet, private, and otherworldly. That was my first impression. [¶]

Over time this scent becomes more human, even sensual. There’s salty skin under the florals and an almost spicy green lifting it up. Projection is moderate but I have only dabbed from a small sample- not that there’s anything wrong with having someone lean in to smell this. I compared this to Tawaf, because I was curious about how the jasmine might appear in both, and unlike Tawaf’s almost sticky density, VGS’s jasmine is higher and brighter without losing its intensity. I like this perfume a lot, but then I’m frequently impressed by La Via del Profumo.

Source: For The Love of Venice Facebook page.

Source: For The Love of Venice Facebook page.

Denyse Beaulieu of Grain de Musc loved Giardini Segreti, put it on her Top 10 List of Summer Scents (in 2013) that she had fallen for and described it as: “a haunting blend of jasmine, rose, herbs and ambergris that is just a joy to behold.” In her full review, she talks of how it evokes an alternate universe, writing in part:

AbdesSalaam Attar hails from that alternate universe. A Frenchman by birth and a traveler, he has undertaken the journey of fragrance backward, eastward, toward the origin and the Orient, via Italy. His Venezia Giardini Segreti does not attempt the dazzling technical feats of contemporary, French-trained perfumers but – I’ve written this before about his work – it nevertheless springs from an age-old culture of scent. […]

Here, rose and jasmine are both seductive and mystical. The herbs that tinge them with green and aromatic notes hint at an even richer bouquet – there is a tuberose effect – the petals vivid against sap-filled leaves and sprigs.[…]  the secret ingredient of his Venezia Giardini Segreti is ambergris, which he describes as “a scent of leather, of sea and of mother’s milk.” I’ve only smelled ambergris tincture twice, and couldn’t truly pretend to recognize it: perhaps the “sea” and “mother’s milk” are what give Venezia Giardini Segreti the eerie, “I’ve been there before” sensation I experienced when I applied it. Like Venice, perfume is nothing if not a labyrinth.

On Perfume Smellin’ Things, Giardini Segreti conjured up “garden of dreams and reverie” inhabited by “poet or noblewoman dressed in Renaissance garb.” Donna’s review talks about Giardini Segreti’s “magical effect,” and says:

The luscious jasmine Sambac in this fragrance is particularly sublime, and since my skin tends to amplify white florals, it is quite dominant at first, but that’s fine with me, since I love jasmine, and the languid dreaminess of the composition speaks to my own personality as a lover of gardens, history, beautiful vintage objects, and good stories. The rose is the handmaiden to the jasmine here, adding a ripe fullness and plush comfort to the centerpiece of jasmine. I don’t know what pure ambergris smells like, but its inclusion in this perfume seems to give in an overall patina of nostalgia and wistfulness, like the ineffable pull of memory experienced when looking at faded photographs of places you have never been, but to which you feel a deep connection, and you wish you could somehow become a part of that long ago scene, where all the rough edges have been erased by time, leaving only the watercolor beauty of happy memories and idyllic living. Wearing Giardini Segreti is like stepping into that fantasy world, and I never want to leave it.

Casanova's Garden. Source: For The Love of Venice Facebook page.

Casanova’s Garden. Source: For The Love of Venice Facebook page.

My experience was obviously very different from either of those accounts. I didn’t have any of the lush richness, roses, or saltiness that they encountered. Then again, I experienced animalic leather and smokiness which I far prefer to roses. Whatever the specific notes, I have to confess that I didn’t find Venezia Giardini Segreti to evoke either romantic fantasy worlds or a sense of “I’ve been there before” that both the Fragrantica commentator and Denyse Beaulieu mentioned. I liked Venezia Giardini Segreti, and agree that it has a very languid feel as a whole, but I far preferred the decadent, hedonistic excesses of the jasmine in Tawaf. Plus, as I’ve noted a few times in the past, I like my white flowers to sing operatically and at Wagnerian levels. Others, however, prefer their perfume to be more discreet and approachable, so it’s all a matter of personal tastes.

At the end of the day, though, there is no doubt that Venezia Giardini Segreti is lovely. Its gorgeous, fresh, bright opening is a head-turner. At the same time, the unusual leathered touch and the animalic whiff of the later stages make the perfume stand out from many jasmine scents on the market. If you’re looking for a languid jasmine with a twist and with a touch of darkness, then you should definitely give Giardini Segreti a sniff.

Disclosure: My sample was courtesy of Abdes Salaam Attar. That did not impact this review. I do not do paid reviews, my views are my own, and my first obligation is honesty to my readers.

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Venezia Giardini Segreti is an eau de parfum that comes in a variety of sizes. It is available exclusively from the Profumo.it website, which ships its scents world-wide. All the following prices for Giardini Segreti are in Euros without VAT: €57,52 for 15.5 ml, €114,06 for 32 ml,  and €178,52 for 53 ml/1.79 oz. At today’s rate of exchange, the USD prices roughly comes to: $78 for the 15.5 ml, $155 for the 32 ml, and $243 for the 50 ml bottle. The site says: “Prices are without VAT and are valid for USA and all non EEC countries[;] for shipments in the EEC 22% VAT will be ADDED to the amount in the shopping cart.” There is also a Mignon Discovery Coffret which is available for any 5 fragrances, each in a glass 5.5 ml bottle. The price depends on which perfumes you pick, as the choice is up to you. The 5.5 ml bottle of Venezia Giardini Segreti is €20,83. On a side note, I received my samples from Mr. Dubrana incredibly quickly, less than 4 days after he sent it. Also, I have the impression that, with all purchases, Profumo provides free 2 ml samples, especially of any new fragrances that he is developing, since AbdesSalaam is very interested in feedback. In short, if you’re ordering fragrance, you may want to ask for a tiny sample of something that strikes your eye. Samples: Surrender to Chance sells Venezia Giardini Segreti starting at $5.99 for a 1/2 ml vial.
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La Via Del Profumo Don Corleone

Palermo, Sicily. Source: Von Ikarus tours. fernweh.ikarus.com

Palermo, Sicily. Source: Von Ikarus tours. fernweh.ikarus.com

The sun-bleached, craggy island of Sicily holds a charm and beauty that is far more rugged than many of its Mediterranean compatriots, but it’s lovely. The capital, Palermo, is nestled in a bay at the foot of Mount Pellegrino, and retains faint traces of its old grandeur at the height of the Arabic domination of the 9th and 11th centuries. Cafés line the Via Principe di Belmonte, filled with Italians enjoying their particularly relaxed form of Mediterranean joie de vivre. On a hill overlooking the city, there is the majesty and grandeur of the Norman cathedral, the Duomo di Monreale, with its towering ceiling, opulent decor, and famous Byzantine-era mosaics.

Palermo. Source: skyscraperlife.com

Palermo. Source: skyscraperlife.com

It’s all very far away from Don Corleone, “capo di tutti capo,” or the Godfather of the famous films. Yet, what else does one think when one comes across a perfume called Palermo Don Corleone (hereinafter just “Don Corleone“)? For someone like myself, a film and television addict, the mental association was instantly and automatically to Godfather III, Michael Corleone’s trip to Palermo, and Don Tommasino’s Sicilian villa. (Not to mention the unfortunate issue of Sofia Coppola ruining a perfectly good film.) I absolutely love the Godfather films (minus that last one that we really should forget about), but I wasn’t sure what to expect from a fragrance actually called by that name — never mind one that involved tuberose and vanilla. Talk about a contradiction! But, honestly, for someone like myself who loves both the Godfather and tuberose, how could I possibly resist?

Dominque Dubrana via the NYT. Photo by Domingo Milella.

Dominique Dubrana via the NYT. Photo by Domingo Milella.

I should have known better than to expect a straight-forward tuberose floral scent from someone like Dominique Dubrana, a wizard with all-natural essences who never follows the conventional, generic path in anything. Now going by the name Abdes Salaam Attar, he is a Frenchman turned Sufi with an Italian perfume house called La Via del Profumo. I’ve covered 6 of his creations thus far, and they have all been unique, smelling like nothing else on the market. And Don Corleone is no exception. In fact, if you’re expecting anything resembling a simple white floral, you’d be quite mistaken.

Don Corleone. Source: Basenotes directory.

Don Corleone. Source: Basenotes directory.

Mr. Dubrana explains that the inspiration for Don Corleone stemmed from a surprising scent that he noticed was characteristic of many Sicilian men and women:

Palermo Don Corleone” was composed during a Sicilian summer holiday. The predilection that Sicilians have for the Vanilla note reveals a psychology very different from what we imagine about them.

I smelled so many Vanilla accords in the wake of Sicilians men and women  that I felt challenged to compose a Vanilla theme perfume, which I never attempted before. [¶] Their love for this aroma is of course in line with their passion for pastries, sweets and chocolates, but it also denotes a very strong sentimental attachment to the mother, the need to be comforted and of tenderness.

I imagined a fragrance that would represents the Sicilian people, a perfume in which everything is exaggerated, starting with an exageration of Vanilla. I wanted a fragrance that would be extralarge also in sensuality, but having in it the hidden dark dangerous side of Sicily. To obtain this result I played Vanilla in an accord with Tuberose and Tobacco.

The result is a strong masculine perfume that paradoxically many women will like and easily wear, deeply sensual but at the same time serious.

Dried tobacco leaves. Source: colourbox.com

Dried tobacco leaves. Source: colourbox.com

The succinct list of notes would appear to be:

Vanilla, tuberose, and tobacco.

I’ve noticed that Abdes Salaam Attar tends to skip over the fine-print details when providing the general description for his fragrances, and Don Corleone certainly smelled of far more than those three things on my skin. Going solely by aroma, what I detected was roughly more akin to this:

Haitian vetiver, cedar, Ouzo, tobacco, leather, coffee, vanilla, chocolate, styrax resin, and tuberose.

Haitiian vetiver grass. Source: astierdemarest.com

Haitiian vetiver grass. Source: astierdemarest.com

I know full well that most of those are merely the result of impressions, one’s nose, and skin chemistry. A good chunk can be explained by the various nuances of the Tobacco Absolute that Mr. Dubrana likes to use in some of his fragrances. However, I would bet one of my bottles of my holy grail, vintage Opium that there is vetiver, along with some other woody notes, in Don Corleone. Not only does Don Corleone have the exact same note that wafts about Milano Caffé (another fragrance where there is unlisted vetiver), but Mr. Dubrana recently sent me a small vial of the essential oil to show me how fresh, minty, and smoky it can be — and that is exactly what I smell in Don Corleone as well. My bewilderment led me to write to Abdes Salaam Attar, and he clarified that the complete olfactory list in Don Corleone is as follows:

Tuberose, Tobacco, Vanilla, Vetiver, Cypress, and Fire Wood.

[Fire wood is apparently something that Australian Bush Men use, and Mr. Dubrana has a bit about it on his blog. He says: “It has a fruity top note sweet and strong, kind of apricot and myrtle, which continues in the heart of the smell to leave a woody fruity, very discreet.]

Hennessy's aged cognac barrels. Source: graperadio.com

Hennessy’s aged cognac barrels. Source: graperadio.com

Don Corleone opens on my skin with booze, smelling of rum, cognac, and brandy all in one, followed by rich vanilla custard, tobacco, and a hint of white flowers. The initial explosion of a cedar-soaked vat of vanilla and cognac retreats after less than a minute, but it is still exceedingly strong. The vanilla custard suddenly loses its richness, perhaps because it is quickly overshadowed by black, minty, rubbered and mentholated tonalities. It definitely stems from the tuberose, as it feels similar to the deconstructed flower in such scents as Tubereuse Criminelle by Serge Lutens. Yet, even that quickly vanishes.

Greek Ouzo. Source: Photocuisine.

Greek Ouzo. Source: Photocuisine.

What takes its place is Ouzo (or Pastis), the milky anise-based Mediterranean liqueur, only this one is flavoured with a dash of almonds to go with it. Swirling all around is a minty note that I initially thought was from the tuberose, but I soon realise that it’s Haitian vetiver. I truly can’t smell tuberose in its conventional and traditional way. Not at all. Instead, what I detect is coffee.

For whatever crazy reason, each of the three times that I’ve worn Don Corleone, my initial impression (after that momentary boozy rum/brandy blast) is of ouzo and coffee, followed by a cedar-flecked, dry vanilla, and a hint of mintiness. I realise it’s just my skin and mind playing tricks on me, but I was thrilled. I love Ouzo, never mind ouzo coffee, so to toss vanilla with a dash of almonds in there as well? I couldn’t stop sniffing my wrists. Things become even prettier when, at the perfume’s edges, the tobacco pops up. It is dry, unsweetened, and verges on the Virginia leaf and Cuban cigar accord that I loved so much in La Via del Profumo’s Tabac. Here, however, it’s woodier, more influenced by the vanilla and cedar. (I know the perfume has cypress, but my nose keeps smelling the drier, smokier cedar wood, and not the green, coniferous cypress.)

10 minutes in, Don Corleone starts to shift. I could swear that I smelled a note of chocolate wafting about, and it’s strong enough to make me double-check my sample to ensure that I wasn’t somehow accidentally sent Milano Caffé instead. No, it definitely says “Don Corleone,” and this is not a patchouli scent. I’m telling you, though, I smelled dark, bitter chocolate, no matter how subtle it was at first. Much more distinct is the definite note of vetiver which arrives on the scene. It is bright and redolent of peppermint, though that changes down the road.

As the vetiver slowly pushes its way onto center stage, the vanilla retreats. Originally as strong as Bourbon vanilla and as rich as a custard, it is now merely dry, gauzy, and light. The vanilla truly isn’t the star player on my skin, no matter what the description may have stated. Instead, it weaves its way through the overall fragrance, subtly infusing each and every individual note with its touch. Don Corleone’s dominant bouquet at this stage is cedar, vetiver and coffee, followed by anisic ouzo, peppermint, and a hint of tobacco, all softly kissed by the dry vanilla.

Palermo, Sicily. Photo: CNN via istock photos.

Cafe in Palermo, Sicily. Photo: CNN via istock photos.

The image which comes to mind is an elderly Sicilian man and his young granddaughter sitting at a café in Palermo. His woody, vetiver-vanilla cologne mixes with his Ouzo and cigar; her sweeter vanilla perfume intertwines with the bitter scent of her coffee. A small plate of almonds, black chocolate, and mint lies between them, while the dry, golden, afternoon light covers them both. In the distant horizon, so far away as to be blurred to the naked eye, are fields of some undefined white flowers that soon fade away almost entirely. Taking their place is the smell of something dark, leathery, and smoky. Like a dark cloud, it starts to drift closer, slowly blocking out the sun.

30 minutes in, the vetiver follows the path that it has taken before with La Via del Profumo scents, particularly Milano Caffé, and takes over my skin. This seems to be something that my skin does to vetiver, and I really wish it didn’t, especially as its peppermint characteristic is far from my favorite. Unfortunately for me, the vetiver soon overshadows the lovely vanilla, tobacco, chocolate and ouzo. I think on other people the woody, vanillic and tobacco notes would continue to remain in the foreground.

Source: 123rf.com

Source: 123rf.com

For a short while, I thought Don Corleone had turned primarily into a vanilla-infused vetiver fragrance on my skin, with the other notes playing a more muted role. The impression of “ouzo” and almonds has vanished, the cedar/cypress has turned into amorphous woods, and the chocolate has taken a backseat along with the tobacco on the sidelines.

However, 90 minutes in, that dark cloud that I mentioned earlier comes to pass. There is definitely something resinous and bitter lurking in Don Corleone’s base. At first, it is merely a tiny vein of something balsamic and smoky, verging on the leathered. For me, and on my skin, the “vanilla” in Don Corleone smells like it was derived, in small part, from styrax. That is a benzoin resin with a very dark, smoky, leathered characteristic, and it is the least sweet of all the balsamic resins. Whatever the actual source, Don Corleone turns increasingly leathered and dark. The vanilla has lost all lingering traces of its sweetness, turning completely dry, and a little bit smoky.

Photo:  "Whistle and Run" on Flickr. (Website link embedded within.)

Photo: “Whistle and Run” on Flickr. (Website link embedded within.)

At the end of the 3rd hour, the vetiver-woody-leathered-vanilla bouquet in Don Corleone has a definite undertone of something tarry, rubbered, and singed. It probably stems from the tobacco absolute, though there is a faint chance that it’s the tuberose in its deconstructed form. I’m doubtful, though, because, on my skin, the flower truly never appears beyond that tiny whisper in the opening minute; it’s not visible in either its typical way or in the more mentholated, indolic version. By the end of the 5th hour, Don Corleone is a skin scent playing between sweetness and darkness, with leathered tobacco, vetiver and woody notes, all lying atop a thin layer of something leathered, burnt, and tarred.

Source: 123rf.com

Source: 123rf.com

For the next few hours, the vanilla appears to have vanished from my skin, muted as it was to begin with. From afar, Don Corleone smells merely like a woody tobacco fragrance. Up close, you can detect the leathered undertone to the tobacco, along with an abstract, dry sweetness and a lingering touch of freshness from the vetiver. The tiniest flickers of smokiness and coffee dance in the shadows, but they are very subtle, and you have to sniff hard to detect them. Yet, to my surprise, the vanilla makes a return in the very final hours. At the start of the 8th hour, Don Corleone turns into a simple, sheer smear of woody vanilla, partially sweet, partially dry. And there it ends, fading away after 11 hours with 5 really big smears, but after 8.75 with 2 moderately big ones.

That brings me to another point: sillage. All-natural fragrances don’t have massive projection, but Don Corleone felt a little softer in its start than one or two of the other La Via del Profumo scents that I’ve tried. The key for this one is really going to be quantity. With 2 big dabs, the sillage hovered right above the skin from the very start. However, 5 huge smears changed things substantially; Don Corleone bloomed, wafting about 2-3 inches at first, before turning into a skin scent in the middle of the 4th hour. Even then, it was very easy to detect if you brought your arm to your nose. It only became much harder around the middle of the 6th hour. Obviously, spraying will enhance both the perfume’s longevity and projection, and Mr. Dubrana often recommends applying some of the scent on your hair, beard or clothing to amplify its smell. My suggestion for anyone who tries Don Corleone in a small, dab, “Mignon” bottle is to be very generous with application.

The all-natural aspect also has implications for how Don Corleone may manifest itself on your skin. The use of such concentrated absolutes, unleavened by synthetics, means that you may experience a wide variety of undertones to things like the tobacco or woody notes. As Mr. Dubrana wrote to me, “Essential oils are very complex compounds of sometimes hundreds of molecules.” And “We smell with our brain more than with our nose.” So, I highly doubt any of you will get chocolate, let alone anise-based Ouzo, though the only blogger to review Don Corleone thus far did mention herbal nuances.

What those of you without my weird vetiver-amplifying skin are bound to get is a fragrance with the full spectrum of tobacco and vanilla facets, followed by some woody, smoky and dry undertones. Honestly, I’d be shocked if you experienced a heavily floral perfume dominated by tuberose. Don Corleone seems intended to be a masculine vanilla, with the tuberose as the most tangential of players. And that is not merely my perception of things, either.

On Fragrantica, the lone comment on Don Corleone’s entry is from “Henri345que,” who experienced a predominantly tobacco-vanilla fragrance with very little tuberose:

I don’t know how much my impression is influenced by the name and the idea itself, but i picture this scent on my skin as the perfect aroma for an italian mafia boss. It exudes class, power, intensity, from the beginning until the end. I don’t know if it is strange to me, i have already smelled and sample so many things through my journey that this is hard to classify, but i see it as very powerful. [¶]

It’s for me a scent of as much of vanilla as tobacco. They are the stars, where the tuberose is more of a second player on me, just providing a round, sensual touch to bind those two essences. It makes me think that vanilla is much more deep and dimensional that we might think at first. I guess that this is because we are so used with the sugary, creamy vanillas that we forgot that it can also smell flowery, a little bit animalic, erotic, but also smoky, leathery too. This vanilla is edible, but more smoky, spicy, it merges completely into the tobacco nuances. It’s different, for instance, from the vanilla used in Frutti Paradisi, that is close to skin and smell exactly like the vanilla pods after you have extracted the seeds. As i expected, i love this scent and i’m impressed that a natural scent can be this way, intense just the way i like. Amazing.

Histoires de Parfums Tubereuse 3 Animale. Source: Luckyscent.

Histoires de Parfums Tubereuse 3 Animale. Source: Luckyscent.

On Basenotes, there are a handful of reviews for Don Corleone. None of them had anything close to my experience, which emphasizes once again how much of an anomaly it is. One chap compared Don Corleone to Histoires de Parfums Tubereuse 3 Animale, writing:

This is my favourite masculine floral, and I would never have guessed that it would be tuberose!

Don Corleone plays off of Abdes Salaam’s masterful hand with tobacco, and features a fantastic, fleshy, rich (but not too sweet) tuberose absolute. The closest comparison I can come up with is with HdP Tubereuse 3, but the Don is drier, simpler and more tobacco oriented. It is much more wearable in my opinion. The drydown features an equally rich and subtle vanilla.

For a woman commentator, “iivanita,” Don Corleone started off being very masculine before quickly transforming to a very sweet, feminine scent that was almost gourmand:

… at the first sniff from the vial it hit me as i expected from a perfume of such name:-) the macho man, very strong , rich, a touch unpleasant maybe, masculine fragrance , smoky like smoked ham:-) ,very gourmand, i was sniffing my oily vial, cause its dense sweet smoky scent to recognize what kind of a meet it reminds me of , what dish?:-)  [¶] And i thought i wont be able to pull this off:-)

But when i tried it on the skin,in just 5 minutes it transformed into very feminine sweet scent,to my big surprise!! [¶] This perfume seems like very wearable scent, it projects , has good longevity, and is unisex, but men who want to wear something vanilla like but some may find it too [sweet] although its not!

The third most important player in this composition, tuberose, is so well hidden behind tobacco smoke, it was there but i could not identify it!! [¶] The combination of vanilla, tuberose and tobacco make this scent very gourmand, oriental, warm but not cloying, its nothing like typical vanilla scent,

As the reviewer before said, its simple yet delicate composition, it dances between beeing too gourmand, too feminine, too vanilla, too tobacco, and in the end its one very unique scent for people who are temperament in nature! Like Sicilians are !

The only blog review I could find for Don Corleone comes from The Scentuary where “Diamondflamewrote, in part:

Created entirely of naturally derived components by talented perfumer composer Dominique Dubrana or Salaam as he is known now, Don Corleone is an understated yet no less arresting composition involving aromatic herbs, tuberose, tobacco and vanilla. On my skin I get an unmistakable aromatic smokiness from tobacco ablsolue blending into the softly subdued vanilla and floral-herbal elements. But Tobacco Vanille this is not for it wears lightly, nowhere near as sweet given the lighter approach and herbal nuances, with a complexity that only all-natural perfumery can portray.

Sillage may not be its strong suit but the quiet aura it radiates is not without authority. There is an indefinable quality about it that speaks of respect, family tradition, strength and fortitude. Add ‘Sicilian flair’ to the mix and it seems Don Corleone has just made me an offer I cannot refuse.

At the end of the day, and taking the scent as a whole, Don Corleone wasn’t for me, personally, and I blame my skin fully for that. I found the opening entrancing and addictive, but I simply am not fond that fond of the vetiver or the peppermint characteristic that took over my skin. It frustrated me, but it’s hardly Don Corleone’s fault. I would have loved the version that the Fragrantica chap got, which I suspect is the version that most of you will experience as well.

In short, if you’re looking for a much drier version of Tom Ford‘s Tobacco Vanille, one with far greater woody tonalities but without the syrup or plum pudding foundation, then you might want to consider giving Don Corleone a sniff. The same thing applies to anyone who would like a more vanillic version of Mr. Dubrana’s fantastic Tabac. (I loved Tabac!) That said, I personally don’t think Don Corleone is unisex. It feels strongly masculine in nature, due to its dryness and the darkness of the tobacco absolute. However, it’s all going to depend on skin chemistry as that one woman on Basenotes thought Don Corleone was very sweet, vanillic, and almost gourmand!

Much more obviously feminine in nature is the next Profumo scent that I will be reviewing. It is the remaining installment in Mr. Dubrana’s “Italian Series,” and is called Venezia Giardini Segreti. Inspired by Venice’s secret gardens and courtyards, it is a jasmine scent with rose, herbs, myrrh, green nuances, and ambergris. In the upcoming weeks, I will cover Amber ChocolateFrutti Paradisi (animalic, leathered osmanthus, jasmine, vanilla, and black currant); Acqua Santa (or “Holy Water”); and Cuba Express. Hopefully, either Don Corleone or one of these other scents will make you an offer you can’t refuse…. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist and finally gave in to temptation.)

Disclosure: My sample was courtesy of AbdesSalaam Attar. That did not impact this review. I do not do paid reviews, my views are my own, and my first obligation is honesty to my readers.

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Palermo Don Corleone is an eau de parfum that comes in a variety of sizes. It is available exclusively from the Profumo.it website, which ships its scents world-wide. All the following prices for Don Corleone are in Euros without VAT: €36,70 for 15.5 ml, €78,69 for 33 ml (a little over 1 oz) and €112,13 for 50 ml/1.7 oz. At today’s rate of exchange, the USD prices roughly comes to: $50 for the 15.5 ml, $107 for the 32 ml, and $152 for the 50 ml bottle. The site says: “Prices are without VAT and are valid for USA and all non EEC countries[;] for shipments in the EEC 22% VAT will be ADDED to the amount in the shopping cart.” There is also a Mignon Discovery Coffret which is available for any 5 fragrances, each in a glass 5.5 ml bottle. The price depends on which perfumes you pick, as the choice is up to you. The 5.5 ml bottle of Don Corleone is €15,57. On a side note, I received my samples from Mr. Dubrana incredibly quickly, less than 4 days after he sent it. Also, I have the impression that, with all purchases, Profumo provides free 2 ml samples, especially of any new fragrances that he is developing, since AbdesSalaam is very interested in feedback. In short, if you’re ordering fragrance, you may want to ask for a tiny sample of something that strikes your eye. Samples: Surrender to Chance sells Don Corleone starting at $8.99 for a 1 ml vial.

La Via del Profumo Tabac

Imagine a fragrance that bottles the olfactory trajectory of the tobacco plant from its natural start to its finish, a perfume that evokes images of its greenness rooted in the dark earth of a Virginia plantation where it blooms with flowers, to its brown softness as the leaves are later dried in the sun, to Havana where it is rolled into Cohiba cigars.

Tabac via the Profumo site.

Tabac via the Profumo site.

That is Tabac, a 3-D display of the note in all its complexity. It traverses the spectrum from floral and green, to tarry rawness and chewy resinous darkness; and then from leathered smokiness to its final manifestation as the most expensive of smooth Cuban cigars that are eventually dusted with cinnamon-tonka and dry amber. It is a remarkably deft treatment of a very concentrated absolute essence, augmented by the smokiest of cedar, but also tamed by the breathiest whisper of dry vanilla and gingerbread warmth. I find it to be brilliantly done, from start to finish.

Dominque Dubrana via the NYT. Photo by Domingo Milella.

Dominque Dubrana via the NYT. Photo by Domingo Milella.

Tabac is an eau de parfum from the highly respected perfumer, Dominique Dubrana, who also goes by the name “Abdes Salaam Attar.” His Italian perfume house, La Via del Profumo, creates all-natural fragrances. In the case of Tabac, the focus is on tobacco absolute. Abdes Salaam Attar describes Tabac on his Profumo website as follows :

The absolute of tobacco is the theme of this perfume. In the composition the overwhelming aroma of the tobacco is moderated with the spicy and resinous essences traditionally used to scent pipe tobacco…. Vanilla, cistus, tonka etc.

At a bare minimum, the notes seem to be:

Tobacco Absolute, Vanilla, Cistus [Labdanum Amber] and Tonka.

Native American Tobacco Flower via Wikipedia. Photo: William Rafti.

Native American Tobacco Flower via Wikipedia. Photo: William Rafti.

Tabac opens on my skin with floral tobacco, as if the blooming flowers on the plant were captured and bottled with all their fragrant sweetness. It is followed by the rawness of tobacco juice, and by honeyed, sun-dried leaves. Within seconds, the flowers are infused with a camphorated, resinous greenness that is simultaneously grassy and a bit tarry.

The light, bright freshness of the flowers stands in stark contrast to the dark, chewy, gooey treacle that quickly overtakes them. The note is blackened, extremely smoky, tarry, and leathered. Yet, at the same time, there remains a touch of green; it feels as though a rich mass of chewing tobacco and leather had been infused with the brightest of summer grass, along with a touch of aromatic, herbal concentrate. I also detect a strong note of cedar in Tabac, revealing itself as a woody smokiness that is laced throughout all the other elements. It mixes with the hardcore, resinoid aspect of the tobacco absolute to accentuate the leathered undertone running through the fragrance.

"Autumn Abstract." Photo: Tim Noonan via Flickr. (Website link embedded within photo.)

“Autumn Abstract.” Photo: Tim Noonan via Flickr. (Website link embedded within photo.)

Tabac is fascinatingly multi-faceted in its presentation of tobacco. I’ve noticed that if you only dab on a little, perhaps a 1/5th of a vial, the floral and grassy accords emerge more strongly. However, if you apply on 3 really big smears, you’re suddenly presented with significant dark, smoky, and resinous elements.

Source: rgbstock.com

Source: rgbstock.com

In all cases, however, Tabac is a very dry take on tobacco, especially as compared to the versions put out by Tom Ford with his Tobacco Vanilla or the even sweeter Tabac Rouge by Phaedon. Mr. Dubrana’s version is unsweetened, substantially smokier, and earthier. It’s as though a heaping dose of the smokiest, dark cedar and an earthy, woody version of something green (vetiver?) were used as accompaniments in lieu of the usual vanilla or sweetened fruits. Yet, for all that, Tabac isn’t bitter or acrid. The sweetness is delicate and subtle, but it is definitely there, even if it is a hesitant whisper in the shadows at this stage. Tabac also differs from Serge Lutens‘ Chergui in a number of ways. Tabac lacks Chergui’s strong touch of powder and honeyed tonalities. It is much more leathered, dry, dense, smoky, and heavy. The main difference, however, is that the tobacco is more multi-faceted, complex, and powerful a note.   

Source: fivepalms.com

Source: fivepalms.com

Ten minutes in, Tabac starts to change. The smoky, dried tobacco leaves lose their grassy and fresh touches, while that initial pop of floralacy retreats to the sidelines. There, it takes up a ghostly act, sometimes materializing noticeably before flitting away, then reappearing again much later on. As a whole though, Tabac is now a very woody, resinous, chewy tobacco fragrance with serious heft in its notes. I keep thinking of Cuba or humidor rooms with shelves of boxed Monte Cristo or Cohiba cigars. At times, the best part of the scent is the smokiness which verges more on mesquite wood than either incense or actual tobacco smoke. It certainly doesn’t smell like cigarettes or stale ashtrays. What I keep imagining is a wood-burning BBQ at an old plantation in the South, under the shade of cedar trees, while tobacco leaves slowly dry inches away. It’s very Gone with the Wind, with a small detour to Havana. 

Dry tobacco leaves. Source: cigarettesplace.net

Dry tobacco leaves. Source: cigarettesplace.net

30 minutes in, Tabac turns softer, warmer, and smoother. The vanilla and tonka stir in the base, indirectly adding a light touch of sweetness. They can’t be singled out individually, but you can definitely feel the impact on the tobacco. The camphorated, green pungency has faded from sight, along with the grassy element. Lingering traces of a leathered accord remain, however, as does the overall smokiness. The dark undercurrent feels less chewy, and most of the blackness has visually turned to a deep brown-gold. The tobacco itself has changed, feeling primarily like semi-sweet, dried leaves, though there is still a subtle wetness and tinge of rawness left behind. The sillage also changes, dropping from its initial forcefulness to a soft cloud that wafts about 2 inches above the skin. Nonetheless, Tabac is still very potent and strong when sniffed up close, and it remains that way for a couple of hours.

The Cohiba Behike, one of the best cigars in the world. Source: cgarsltd.co.uk

The Cohiba Behike, one of the best cigars in the world. Source: cgarsltd.co.uk

Almost all the tobacco fragrances that I’ve tried seem to manifest pipe tobacco with its fruited, sweetened tonalities. They also toss in vanilla — whether powdered, resinous, or both. Profumo’s Tabac is very different. To me, this is pure cigar tobacco. A dry, unsmoked cigar, but also one with very smoky and woody nuances. There are no fruits, barely a drop of sweetness, and what amber there is isn’t a molten thickness.

At best, the fragrance is nestled in a tinge of golden softness and warmth, but nothing about it translates as real, hardcore amber to my nose. In fact, for the longest time, there was none of the nuttied, caramel, toffee elements of labdanum amber that forms the core of such fragrances as Dior‘s Mitzah, nor the ambergris amber in Dior’s Ambre Nuit or Profumum Roma‘s Ambra Aurea. The golden warmth here is much more abstract in nature, and wholly infused with mesquite smokiness and dryness rather than with heavy, thick sweetness. I love Tabac’s pure authenticity, and find it to be a novel change from the traditional tobacco scents on the market. This is the plant in all its manifestations, from the initial greenness and flowers of its natural state, to the cigar at the end of the line.  

Shortly before the end of the 2nd hour, Tabac changes once again. Now, the tonka bursts onto the scene, dusting everything with cinnamon. The labdanum finally perks up, adding a faintly burnt caramel, nuttied undertone to the proceedings, but it’s incredibly muted, sheer, and thin. Most of the time, it’s hard to single out, as Tabac is superbly blended. What happens instead is that it works from the sidelines to impact the other notes, and the overall cocoon in which the tobacco lies. It still doesn’t change Tabac’s dryness, however, which continues in large part thanks in part to the cedar’s smokiness.

"Copper abstract" by StarwaltDesign via deviantart.com. http://starwaltdesign.deviantart.com/art/Copper-Abstract-207268167

“Copper abstract” by StarwaltDesign via deviantart.com. http://starwaltdesign.deviantart.com/art/Copper-Abstract-207268167

A strange thing slowly happens. Tabac takes on almost a mocha-cocoa quality. Some combination of the bitter tobacco, the toffee’d labdanum amber, and the tonka has melded into an accord that smells like bitter coffee, dusty cocoa powder, vanilla, and cinnamon. The overall effect is to create a mocha tobacco impression on my skin that I love. I initially thought I was imagining it, but there was the same nuance that popped up both times that I tested Tabac. It’s obviously a question of skin chemistry, but it’s a super outcome in conjunction with the lingering traces of darkened leather and wooded smokiness. The leather undertone — muted and mild as it now is — is particularly great in tying everything together like a cord.

Source: ironwood-design.com

Source: ironwood-design.com

Tabac continues to soften, and its sillage drops further. For the first two hours, Tabac hovered about 3 inches above the skin, then it drops to a mere inch at the start of the third hour. By the 4.5 hour mark, it is a skin scent that is primarily cinnamon-dusted, tonka tobacco with traces of chocolate mocha, leathered darkness, and cedar smoke, all nestled in the quietest cocoon of dry amber. Tabac turns more and more abstract, spending the next 5 hours as a blur of vanilla-dusted tobacco leaves with amber and the lightest, tiniest speckle of powder. To my surprise, it’s still not hard to detect if you put your nose on your skin. In its final moments, Tabac is merely cinnamon sweetness and dryness. All in all, Tabac lasted 12.75 hours on my skin, with moderate sillage for the first third of its life, then discreet sillage.    

On Basenotes, the consensus over Tabac is overwhelmingly positive. Out of 12 reviews, 10 are positive, 1 is neutral, and only 1 is negative. The most interesting thing concerning the last two is that those people seem to significantly disagree as to whether Tabac actually smells like tobacco. So, let’s start with the neutral and negative reviews first:

  • [Neutral:] cedar verging on turpentine.
  • [Negative:] I’m a huge fan of tobacco scents (a “reformed” smoker), but I get absolutely no tobacco from this one… not even a hint. What I do get is “grass”; not new-mown grass, not “pot”, but a strong, soothing, grassy smell. Which I like. I’d like it much more, if it wasn’t astronomically expensive. But no tobacco.

Well, skin chemistry is a funny thing, and his skin obviously brought out all the greenness of the scent. Another commentator also found that Tabac had no tobacco but he, in contrast, gave the fragrance a thumbs-up, writing: “Definitely NOT Tobacco, but….. a great perfume!”  

Source: 123rf.com

Source: 123rf.com

Others, though, got a full dose of the note, with several posters proclaiming that Tabac is a “must try” for any serious tobacco lover. The analysis of one commentator, “Hirch_Duckfinder,” is superb:

Starts with a slightly boozy blast of tobacco, like an islay malt, smokey and resinous with echoes of hay. For a short while the tobacco remains centre and top until it settles down and it drops into a strong structure with the warm tobacco at the low register, some lovely fluid labdanum, sweet tonka and beautiful vanilla sitting in layers. There is clary sage too, seamlessly integrated as flavouring. The drydown is absolutely my favourite tobacco accord of all time. The balance is wonderful, the tobacco is present but not too sharp or musty, not sour and thin or thick and overwhelming but with body and lightness at the same time. The other notes are carefully built around to pull out aspects of its complex smell.

This has instantly become my favourite tobacco scent and one of my favourite perfumes of all. If you like tobacco at all, you must try this.

While the opening is quite masculine, I think the drydown is very wearable by a woman who likes tobacco.

I am not sure if it is the natural materials, the composition or both, but there is something in these profumo perfumes which gives me the impression of 3D, its almost like I can see the layers of the structure, distinct but in balance and with clear air between them.

Two more reviews are useful in providing comparisons to other tobacco fragrances on the market. First, “The Good Life” who writes:

I can’t add much to hirch’s lucid desciption. It is indeed a wonderful, must-try fragance. I, too, appreciate the absence of honey-dripping sweetness, as in SMN’s Acqua di Cuba, Boellis Panama and many other tobaccos and anyone who finds the musty density of [Creed‘s] vintage Tabarôme overly stifling will find here a clearer, more accentuated and tobacco-focused scent. That said, it is by no means simple – Dubrana has pointed out that this is in fact his most complex fragance in which he employs ingredients themselves constructed from many individual oils. Yet it is supremely elegant and easy to wear and even quite long lasting for a natural perfume. [Emphasis and bolding to names added by me.]

Gingerbread Cake by Mark Woods, at Shelbyville Times-Gazette, t-g.com.

Gingerbread Cake by Mark Woods, at Shelbyville Times-Gazette, t-g.com.

WillC” adds a comparison to Miller HarrisFeuilles de Tabac, and also brings up Luca Turin:

A deliciously comfortable masculine” (cf. Luca Turin) is a brilliant encapsulation of this fantastic fragrance. You might look at this description in the following way: “deliciously” referring to the slightly gourmandish aspects of the fragrance – most obviously gingerbread-like (as with Feuilles de Tabac – which Tabac, in my view, comfortably outclasses), although sometimes I seem to catch a faint whiff of something a bit like cocoa in the top notes. “Comfortable” – sometimes it reminds me of putting on a favourite old jumper (Tabac works well in winter, I’ve yet to try it in warmer weather), and there is definitely a strongly comforting aspect to the fragrance (perhaps this is partly because I used to be a smoker), although Tabac wouldn’t be at all out of place at a black-tie event. “Masculine” – I would say the fragrance is most obviously masculine, though I think a daring woman could pull it off.

There is a kind of sense of depth and density the fragrance has to it – this is perhaps due to the complex blending of a large number of natural ingredients – which I find very appealing. [¶] All in all, one my personal favourites from the La Via del Profumo line, and, I think, a definite must-sample for anyone looking for a truly high-quality tobacco fragrance. [Emphasis to names added by me.]

As for Luca Turin, yes, he does indeed love Tabac, which is one of three Profumo scents to which he awarded Four Stars. In fact, Profumo is supposedly the only all-natural perfume house that he includes in his book, Perfumes: the A-Z Guide. There, he calls Tabac a “tobacco leaf” fragrance, and writes:

Some years back I lived for a time in [Durham] North Carolina… home to half a dozen tobacco companies, including Lucky Strike. On some days, the downtown streets smelled so wonderfully of tobacco that the whole place felt like it had been carved out of a giant gingerbread. Tabac approximates that beautifully, without being overly sweet or honeyed. A deliciously comfortable fragrance.

I agree that Tabac is a comfortable fragrance, but I find it much more than that. I think it’s damn sexy. It conjures up the masculinity of the hottest, most rugged man on earth with a seriously gravelly, stubbly cheek that you could light a match against. (Those of you who know me well know of my massive obsession with …. er… interest in Jim Caveziel and “Mr. Reese” in the television show, Person of Interest. And, yes, I’m imagining smelling this on “Mr. Reese.”) Yet, the softness and spiced coziness makes Tabac something that would be fascinating on a confident, strong woman, creating an utterly alluring set of contradictions between Hemingway’s unlit Cohiba and the softly feminine tonka bean, the honeyed touch, and the gingerbread. If you’re a woman who loves tobacco scents or whose skin amplifies sweetness, then I don’t think you’ll find Tabac to be very “masculine.”

Photo of Faun by Forest Rogers, via Australian Perfume Junkies.

Photo of Faun by Forest Rogers, via Australian Perfume Junkies.

I know I’m quoting a lot of people but I want to give you the fullest picture possible, which is why I have to toss in perhaps one of the most visually descriptive takes on Tabac. It comes from Portia of Australian Perfume Junkies, who has a terrific photo to convey what she experienced:

It opens up deliciously vanilla and murky green tobacco on my skin, deep and humus rich earthy, maybe the cistus (rock rose) flies above but to me there is a fruity/jammy quality to the higher notes so you have a 2 speed fragrance. The depth and steady boom of the vanilla/tonka/smoking tobacco are played against this light flower/green tobacco/hay/fruity accord, there may even be a boozy side story here just on the edge of smelling. It is quite a ride, you can almost feel the sun on the cut grass, warming and drying it. This is a perfume, hefty, tasty, lusty and delicious; not for the faint hearted or affeared of fragrance. There is no hint of light aquatic, fruity nothing here. As it begins to lose its potency and aims towards dry down Tabac becomes sweeter before it goes dark, like the vanilla has come back to round the whole story out. Scent, longevity and sillage; Tabac by La Via del Profumo seems to have it all for me. When I finish this nearly empty sample it will be FB time.

I’m with Portia because, in case you hadn’t gathered by now, I thoroughly enjoyed Tabac and want a bottle for myself. It hits my sweet spot of a “comfort fragrance,” but it’s also so much more than that. Tabac’s grassiness, tarry leather, woody smokiness, soft cinnamon tonka, and mysterious floral element make it a 3D hologram of a tobacco plant. For me, the sum-total effect is very original, complex, sexy, and sophisticated. It’s also such a damn relief not to have a tobacco fragrance dripping with gooey syrup, powder, or oud!

Yes, I admit, the sillage isn’t monumental. No-one will ever compare a Profumo scent to a Tom Ford powerhouse. That said, I thought Tabac tied with Milano Caffé as being the strongest of the line that I’ve tested thus far. (Plus, Mr. Dubrana suggests spraying a fragrance on one’s hair and clothing to increase longevity and power.) At least it is something you don’t have to fear wearing to the office. As an added bonus, Tabac is moderately priced at $50 for the smallest bottle, a little goes a long way, and samples aren’t difficult to obtain, either.

Tabac is the last of my Profumo reviews, and I think it is a great way to close out this mini-marathon. It joins the expresso-patchouli-vetiver fragrance, Milano Caffé, and the “death by jasmine” Tawaf as my personal favorites from the line. I think that many other tobacco lovers will also enjoy Tabac. That includes women, too, so long as they like dry, unsweetened, and/or semi-masculine fragrances. Tabac’s gingerbread, cinnamon, tonka drydown feels as unisex as you can get, so perhaps it’s merely a question of getting past the more overtly masculine opening. Give it 15-30 minutes, and you will see that the raw edges start to soften. Give it 90 minutes, and you’ll see the beginnings of the delicious drydown. In short, whatever your gender, if you’re looking for a pure tobacco scent with leather, smoked woodiness, and softly spiced amber, then Tabac should definitely be on your list of things to try.

Disclosure: My sample was courtesy of AbdesSalaam Attar. That did not impact this review. I do not do paid reviews, my views are my own, and my first obligation is honesty to my readers.

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Tabac is an eau de parfum that comes in a variety of sizes. It is available exclusively from the Profumo.it website, which ships its scents world-wide. All the following prices for Tabac are in Euros without VAT: €36,70 for 15.5 ml, €78,69 for 33 ml (a little over 1 oz) and €112,13 for 50 ml/1.7 oz. At today’s rate of exchange, the USD prices roughly comes to: $50 for the 15.5 ml, $107 for the 32 ml, and $152 for the 50 ml bottle. The site says: “Prices are without VAT and are valid for USA and all non EEC countries[;] for shipments in the EEC 22% VAT will be ADDED to the amount in the shopping cart.” There is also a Mignon Discovery Coffret which is available for any 5 fragrances, each in a glass 5.5 ml bottle. The price depends on which perfumes you pick, as the choice is up to you. The 5.5 ml bottle of Tabac is €15,87. On a side note, I received my samples from Mr. Dubrana incredibly quickly, less than 4 days after he sent it. Additionally, I have the impression that, with all purchases, Profumo provides free 2 ml samples, especially of any new fragrances that he is developing, since AbdesSalaam is very interested in feedback. In short, if you’re ordering fragrance, you may want to ask for a sample of something that strikes your eye. Samples: you can order a sample of Tabac from Surrender to Chance which sells the perfume starting at $6.99 for a 1 ml vial.

La Via del Profumo Sharif: The Bedouin Desert

Source: Friendfeed.com

Source: Friendfeed.com

Leather, civet, dry woods, almonds and amber in a scented creation meant to represent the “noble man” of Arabia. It is a list that made me sit up when I saw it, and not only because I’ve seen Lawrence of Arabia a few times too many. It all sounded very Lutensesque, but the fragrance comes from Dominique Dubrana, the French Sufi mystic and poetic perfumer who goes by the name, “Abdes Salaam Attar.”

Photo: Profumo.

Photo: Profumo.

Sharif is a 2011 all-natural eau de parfum from Mr. Dubrana’s Italian perfume house, La Via del Profumo. Sharif is one of his “Arabian Series” of fragrances, and is meant to be embody the “fierce people of the desert.” As Abdes Salaam Attar explains on his Profumo website, the name “Sharif” means “noble man” in Arabic and is a description of character, not of lineage or descent:

Nobility, for the fierce people of the desert, is a quality of the soul. […] Sharif is the fragrance of a noble sheikh of Arabia who has chosen supreme elegance over flamboyance, gentleness over arrogance and seduction over haughtiness.

In the pure middle Eastern tradition Sharif blends intense leathery notes with aromatic woods and the delicious oriental aroma of amber, sweet and almondy.

The scent of Civet, far in the background, confers to the fragrance a sensual touch of desert wilderness, like the sillage left by a caravan of camels crossing the Bedouin lands at the sunset.

Source: amyglaze.com

Source: amyglaze.com

The following seems to be the succinct list of notes:

Almonds, aromatic woods, leather, civet, amber.

Sharif opens on my skin with intense, bitter almonds, followed by a darkened leather infused by smoke and dry sweetness. It’s a fantastic, wholly original combination, one that Serge Lutens would probably have loved to invent. The bitterness of the almonds feels concentrated and raw, but the brilliant touch is that their whiteness is lightly infused with blackness. The smoke is tinged with a tarry, almost licorice-like chewiness. None of it is remotely gourmand; there are no impressions of marzipan, or French confectionary pastries here at all.

Source: reinsofthenight.com

Source: reinsofthenight.com

The leather is a very subtle undercurrent, but I’m fascinated by it. It’s not birch-tar leather; there are no fecal or horsey qualities, and it’s far from rubbery or raw. Yet, it’s not wholly refined, either. It doesn’t feel like aged, burnished, oiled leather. The tiniest touch of civet gives it a rough-hewn, musky feel. Honestly, I keep imagining the saddle-bags that you would see on horses in Middle Eastern or cowboy movies of old. I myself never rode with them, but I’ve seen and touched that rough leather, and it is what comes to mind here. Perhaps the most accurate way to describe the note here is that it often feels like an impression of dark, smoky leather, more than the actual thing.

Source: pathauldren.com and YouTube.

Source: pathauldren.com and YouTube.

Something about the scent consistently makes me think about the desert, and it’s not due solely to the Profumo description. No, there is definitely grainy, warm, sandy textural quality to the scent that is really hard to explain. It makes me imagine a Bedouin tent in North Africa with raw almond treats inside, the golden dryness of sand all about, and the faintest touch of leather from the horses outside. The sandy quality underlying the notes calls to mind Pierre Guillaume‘s descriptions of Parfumerie Generale‘s Djhenné, a fragrance meant to evoke the African desert, as well as the warm, Northern, cool, woody sands that Serge Lutens used to describe Fille en Aiguilles. Sharif couldn’t be further from those two fragrances if it tried, but this is the one perfume out of the lot that successfully manages to convey a dry, woody, golden, sandy texture.

Civet. Source: focusingonwildlife.com

Civet. Source: focusingonwildlife.com

The almonds grow stronger and stronger, and their bitterness dominates Sharif, but something else starts to rise to the surface. It’s the civet which Mr. Dubrana implies that it is the real stuff with a “non vegan” label on Sharif’s page. Some of you may know that genuine civet is no longer used in modern perfumery. The synthetic type of musk that you may encounter is often quite animalic, if not urinous and aggressively feral as well. Sharif’s civet is not. It is a surprisingly well-rounded, rich, and deep, adding a modulated, carefully calibrated level of muskiness that is never perianal on my skin. In one test, it was virtually nonexistent for the first 40 minutes; in another, it was noticeable from the start, adding a subtle sharpness and depth to that abstract, smoked leather accord.

15 minutes in, Sharif slowly shifts. There is a floral herbaceousness deep in the base that I can’t pinpoint. Clary sage? It lacks the latter’s lavender or soapy qualities, but there is a distinct herbal, leathered element that is fragrant, aromatic, a touch floral, and a bit green. A more important change is that the almond note which dominates Sharif starts to soften. If you’re not an almond fan, I imagine that you’d find this version of the note to be “nose-searing” as one person described it. Yet, it does start to smooth itself out. It is still infused with incense-like smokiness and dry woods, still has a gravelly, pebble-y quality, but it is less forceful.

Source: Micks Images. (Website link embedded within.)

Source: Micks Images. (Website link embedded within.)

From afar, Sharif’s main bouquet after 30 minutes is of bitter almonds that are thoroughly infused with a dark, abstractly leathered smokiness, followed by dry sweetness and musk. The perfume remains the same for the next few hours; the only real change is in the fluctuating strength of the notes and in the sillage. Sharif becomes a skin scent at the end of the 2nd hour, the civet becomes much more noticeable on me about 3.5 hours in, and the bitter almond finally starts to weaken as the primary note around the end of the 4th hour.

Once it finally pipes down, the leathery base becomes much more noticeable and, to a lesser extent, the civet as well. At the top of the 5th hour, the abstract, incense-y “leathery” darkness vies with the almonds for center stage. The whole thing is extremely muted and blended seamlessly on my skin, so it takes some hard sniffing to single out the specific layers. The incense-like note, the sandy dryness, and the leather gradually fade away entirely. In its final moments, Sharif is nothing but creamy sweetness, vaguely reminiscent of fresh almonds. All in all, Sharif lasted 9.75 hours on my skin, with extremely soft sillage after the second hour.

I tested Sharif twice, including once with the fragrance on both my arms, and it was largely the same thing each time. On my right, non-testing arm, the almonds in Sharif were significantly smokier, darker, and more leathered — not only from the start, but throughout the perfume’s lifespan. The civet was strong in the opening minutes too, making Sharif a much dirtier, darker, animalic scent. The dry, grainy sandiness was also more noticeable. As time passed, the Sharif turned more into a leathered almond scent on that arm, while the dark accords were more muted and muffled on my main, (left) testing arm. However, all these differences were tiny, fractional ones of degree, not of kind; the scent was identical in its core essence in both cases. Instead of Lawrence of Arabia, you have leathered-incense Almonds of Arabia.

Source: gypsyriver.com.au

A Bedouin tent. Source: gypsyriver.com.au

The desert is also what came to mind when The Non-Blonde (and her husband) tested Sharif. They experienced primarily a civet-woody-leather fragrance, though the Non-Blonde’s ingredients list does put almonds at the top. Her review reads, in part:

Sharif, a 2011 release, is an incredibly complex wood/animalic fragrance. The aromatic opening is a bit deceiving– you almost think that you’re getting an old school balsamic camphoric men’s cologne when it captures you and pulls you into its world: leather, amber, and the unmistakable touch of civet. Sharif, like other  La Via del Profumo fragrances aims to take you away from the world of perfume as you know it. This time the journey is to an imaginary desert. The landscape is stark and the sandstorm blurs reality. There are tall figures approaching, their silhouettes appear in the dusty air. Are they friends or foes? There’s a smell of danger in the air.

Sharif’s desert scene is stark and only marginally sweet. It’s as far from what we call an “oriental” perfume as the artwork above is different from the opulence and decadence of Orientalist art. […][¶] I do think that it’s quite gender neutral and women who find the notes and ideas expressed in this fragrance should give it a try (must love civet). The sillage of Sharif is polite, but it’s incredibly long-lasting on mys skin as well as on the husband (10 hours easily); it also clings to fabric until after a second washing. Sharif is an all-natural perfume, meaning no synthetic ingredients, but it’s decidedly not vegan. The civet you smell here is the real thing, and I’m pretty sure I don’t want to know where and how AbdesSalaam Attar acquired it.

For Kevin at Now Smell This, the civet dominated to such an extent that he had to wear the fragrance outside of the house to test it, lest his “infuriated” cat attack him in an attempt “to obliterate Sharif from his environment.” I find that hysterically funny, but the non-feline parts of Kevin’s review focuses on the tarry nuttiness that he too experienced in a significant way:

Sharif smells wonderful. It starts off with a nose-searing note that smells like tonka beans in turpentine (with a nutty background aroma, almost dessert-like, but not too sweet). A beautiful, almost smoky, leather scent appears next, blending well with tonka and spice (a clear, pungent cinnamon-clove note). Sharif remains in tonka-leather-cinnamon territory for a long time before turning a tad powdery with musky (civet) amber in the dry-down. There is a hint of smooth “incense ash” in the base notes also. The entire composition is fine-tuned and high-quality (what a relief it is to smell Sharif after sampling too many cheap perfumes from other houses recently).

Now, to my “relationship” with Sharif. First, its arrival on a chilly day was auspicious; this is a cool-weather perfume. Though it is not overpowering and dense, it has more tenacity than you’d expect from a natural perfume (it lasts at least six hours on my skin, with minimal sillage).

For Grain de Musc and Octavian Coifan of 1000 Fragrances, Sharif’s main qualities were a honeyed almond, saffron-tinged spiciness, and civet leather. Grain de Musc writes:

… [L]ike a noble character, [Sharif] doesn’t let itself be approached or tamed easily: you’ve got to go through the fire of its camphoraceous top notes before feeling its softness. It is almost surprising to find Sharif so liquid in its bottle, because its smell conjures the fatty, tactile, ductile quality of a paste. It feels like something you could lick or chew: a smooth, resinous preparation similar to majoun, a type of cannabis jam where the resin is blended with honey and almond. There’s no cannabis note in Sharif, but it does have honey and almond notes, saffron providing a medicinal note and a leather effect. Though the latter is the core of the scent, it is also, to my nose, an expansion of the properties of civet. Old civet tinctures do display the smoothly dark honeyed facets of Sharif.
Desert Caravan. Photo: "Artemis." Via Tripwiremagazine.com

Desert Caravan. Photo: “Artemis.” Via Tripwiremagazine.com

Octavian Coifan‘s review also has a detailed elaboration of the notes, ranging from camels representing leathered Peau d’Espagne to the “precious ambery-balsamic” foundation that he thinks Sharif shares with Profumo’s Mecca Balsam. He writes, in part:

A small saffron-like note is the golden sprinkle above the peppery spiciness transforming the majestic combination of the 4 ancient spices into the golden precious “honey”, deep, highly aromatic with herbal undertones and melting on the skin. The almond-vanilla quality of the drydown, with subtle animalic notes suggesting the leather-skin facet of Musk Tonkin and the herbal-silex dimension of Hyraceum, transforms the darkness found in Balsamo Della Mecca into something serene and elegant. It evokes the ancient opopanax perfumes, different from modern opopanax resin. The sweetness is crystallized not in “sugar”, as in a Tonka bean, but in camphor, like the combination between laurel leaf/cinnamon leaf/clove and a balsamic base.

The perfume evokes the rich quality of dry tobacco preserved in an ancient leather pouch, blended with unknown powerful herbs and pepper. Its evolution on the skin is surprising and with Balsamo Della Mecca, Sharif is one of the most elegant natural perfumes. […] The creations from Abdes Salaam Attar are based on the true essence of an antique craft. They are the most profound and refined expression of that lost world. [Emphasis in the original.]

I’m afraid I didn’t experience anything quite as interesting, complex, or spiced. My version was fractionally closer to that described by one Basenotes commentator in Sharif’s entry on the site:

This is a sexy fragrance that I would love to smell on a man. It is the aroma of scented tobacco and suede, of being held by a man who smells manly. Yet, it is a beautiful scent on a woman, too. On me, it opens with a hint of smoke and leather, like an outdoor fragrance. Right away, a cherry-almond sweetness comes forward, inviting me inside where it is warm, and sweets are being served to guests. This one glows like a fire and simmers nicely on the skin. A must-try.

Source: gypsyriver.com.au

Source: gypsyriver.com.au

The two other reviews on Basenotes are equally positive, talking about how Sharif is an easier, more accessible version of Mecca Balsam. The description by one chap, “A Good Life,” is very evocative:

 In the pure tradition of the Middle East, Sharif consists of intense notes of leather and aromatic woods with the delicious aroma of amber scents of the East, and sweet almond,” the perfumer tells us. It is, first of all, a wonderfully pleasant perfume and an ideal entry into the world of natural perfumery, as it is much more accessible than the starkly meditative, distantly elegant Mecca Balsam. The latter requires study before you can deeply appreciate it, while Sharif provides pure pleasure even before you begin investigating its complexity. There is a perfect harmony of spice and sweetness, dryness and deftness, of clarity and density, the slender elegance of a minarett and the opulence of a plate of Arabian sweets. The dry craggy resins of Mecca Balsam’s pilgrimage are here enveloped in smooth delicious amber. Imagine yourself being entertained in the golden tent of an Arab nobleman, the scent of fine resins rising from incense burners, eating honey and almond cakes while a pipe rests by your side and a distant smell of leather saddle and noble horses wafts over from the stables. You are at peace, but you feel energy brimming inside you. New deeds of your own choosing await, but for now, you enjoy the tranquil flow of life and its pleasures.

I don’t see any similarities to Mecca Balsam at all, but then my skin rendered that one very anomalous indeed. Regardless, I join him in being transported me to a Bedouin tent filled with almond treats and smoky darkness. I was happy to see that he too envisioned “the distant smell of leather saddle,” even if he wasn’t talking about small saddle bags. I hadn’t read any of these reviews when I was testing the perfume and writing my notes, so I’m glad it’s not just my imagination.

Bedouin Oasis Ras Al Khaimah. Source: ras-al-khaimah.eu

Bedouin Oasis Ras Al Khaimah. Source: ras-al-khaimah.eu

Unfortunately, what appeared on my skin simply wasn’t as interesting as what everyone else experienced. The almonds dominated to an enormous degree, and far overshadowed both the smoky darkness and the leather. The latter was also an impression more than the smell of actual leather. The civet was a rich, warm, very smooth touch that I enjoyed, but I wish all the notes would have replaced the almonds as the perfume’s central characteristic. I particularly wanted more leather!

Clearly, skin chemistry makes a difference, and enough people got a hardcore civet, leather, woody, ambered scent for it to be worth your while to test Sharif if you’re interested in those notes. I think it is definitely unisex in nature, but, given two of the accounts quoted here, it may be wisest if you like civet musk. (And almonds!) As for the sillage, Mr. Dubrana told me that “you should use the perfumes on your clothes and hair in order to enjoy them fully and longer.” He also perfumes his beard with them as well.

Even if the vagaries of skin means that Sharif doesn’t work for me personally, I think it’s a fascinating, very different, original take on both leather and orientals. If you love almonds or leather, you should give it a sniff. 

Disclosure: My sample was courtesy of AbdesSalaam Attar. That did not impact this review. I do not do paid reviews, my views are my own, and my first obligation is honesty to my readers.

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Sharif is an eau de parfum that comes in a variety of sizes. It is available exclusively from the Profumo.it website, which ships its scents world-wide. All the following prices for Sharif are in Euros without VAT: €44,63 for 15.5 ml, €97,20 for 32 ml (a little over 1 oz), and €143,81 for 50 ml/1.7 oz. At today’s rate of exchange, the USD prices roughly comes to: $60 for the 15.5 ml, $132 for the 32 ml, and $195 for the 50 ml bottle. The site says: “Prices are without VAT and are valid for USA and all non EEC countries[;] for shipments in the EEC 22% VAT will be ADDED to the amount in the shopping cart.” There is also a Mignon Discovery Coffret which is available for any 5 fragrances, each in a glass 5.5 ml bottle. The price depends on which perfumes you pick, as the choice is up to you. The 5.5 ml bottle of Sharif is €17,70. On a side note, I received my samples from Mr. Dubrana incredibly quickly, less than 4 days after he sent it. Additionally, I have the impression that Profumo provides free 2 ml samples with all purchases, especially of any new fragrances that he is developing, since Abdes Salaam is very interested in feedback. In short, if you’re ordering fragrance, you may want to ask for a sample of something that strikes your eye. Samples: you can order a sample of Sharif from Surrender to Chance which sells the perfume starting at $10.99 for a 1 ml vial. It would seem more cost-effective to order the 5.5 ml mini from Profumo itself.

La Via del Profumo Hindu Kush

Hindu Kush, via smscs.com

Hindu Kush, via smscs.com

Close your eyes, and imagine yourself on the side of a mountain. It is one in a range of craggy giants on the Hindu Kush, each one stonier and more barren than the last. You stand on a narrow ledge beside large boulders, breath in the cold air, and survey a vast no-man’s land that is a vista of grey and brown, dotted with the green of pine trees. You wonder from whence comes the strong smell of cold, dusty incense that the wind wraps around you. You see no-one, feeling like the last man on earth as the dust at your feet intermingles with the crushed needles of pine trees. The austerity feels holy and serene, as if you were at the top of Mother Nature’s craggiest cathedral, and you turn inward before you drift off in a blur of myrrh and pine.

Hindu Kush via Fragrantica.

Hindu Kush via Fragrantica.

That emotional, meditative, and visual trip is the essential aroma of Hindu Kush, as well as its explicit goal and inspiration. Hindu Kush is the creation of Dominique Dubrana, who also goes by the name “AbdesSalaam Attar.” His perfume house, La Via del Profumo, focuses on all-natural fragrances, many of which have a Middle Eastern flair or subtext. Abdes Salaam Attar’s description of Hindu Kush on his Profumo website is useful because I think it really conveys a lot about the fragrance’s feel or emotional spirit, particularly the first part about the mountains:

The chain of mountains of the Hindu Kush is the natural boundary of the ancient India with Persia and central Asia. It is from here that the sacred river Indus comes down from the highest valleys with unbridled force. [¶] It’s a rough and wild land difficult to get to and populated by fierce warriors who challenge every day the intrusion of progress. This is a land the time forgot where neither people nor landscapes are contaminated by technology. Here travellers can fall in love with the air that they breathe and with the state of mind that overcomes someone until they become part of the mountain and part of the people changing clothes, habits and religion. 

The unforgettable fragrance of the Hindu Kush is made of the aroma of its forests, of its wood fires and the smells of the bazaars overflowing with oriental spices and things to eat.

Hindu Kush is the perfume that unites both the sacred and the profane. The aromas of incenses and perfumed woods are woven together with those of the sensual and appetising fragrances of oriental spices. […] Close your eyes and breathe in, Hindu Kush is like taking a walk in an Indian market, where clouds of incense smoke escape through the open doors of temples to be mixed with the perfumes of the east, ginger, cumin, nutmeg and pepper. [¶] Take a step inside and all is peace, silence and meditation, take a step outside and you find the crowd rushing here and there, noises and confusion.

For these reasons Hindu Kush is a perfume for people who feel attracted by eastern mystics, in which the sacred and the profane become confused in the everyday life, and for many people simply to smell it is an emotional experience because it generates the state of mind they are inwardly looking for.

Hindu Kush is not loved by everybody, this should teach us to be humble and make us reflect that harmony between physical and inner realities is not an aim in itself but is merely a mean to reach a much higher goal.

The Hindu Kush, Himalayan Karakorum side. Source: ecuadorciencia.org

The Hindu Kush, Himalayan Karakorum side. Source: ecuadorciencia.org

As best as I can determine, the list of notes seems to be:

Incense, perfumed or aromatic woods, ginger, cumin, nutmeg, pepper.

I have mentioned a few times that I am a hedonist, and I am undoubtedly a heathen as well, because I’m not particularly one for mysticism of any kind. Things like spiritual exercises, meditation, and enlightenment leave this sybarite feeling rather bewildered and lost. I’m all about decadent excess and hot sensuality, which is perhaps one reason why I struggled with the cool austerity of Hindu Kush.

Photo: Neil Harris. The Lowry Pass in Pakistan with the Hindu Kush in back.

Photo: Neil Harris. The Lowry Pass in Pakistan with the Hindu Kush in back.

The more specific reason is that myrrh or olibanum is a troublesome note for me, and I need to make that clear at the outset. I love incense, when it is frankincense. Myrrh, however, is difficult for me with its cool, dusty, stony, white, and, often, soapy qualities. And Hindu Kush is a largely myrrh-centered fragrance. It never evokes the usual Catholic “High Church” feeling that most olibanum fragrances do, but it does evoke Nature’s church set in piney, barren, stony, and dusty mountains. I think Hindu Kush accomplishes its express goal beautifully, and there is no doubt that it is a high-quality, brilliantly made fragrance. I deeply respect it, but it lies far outside my personal comfort zone because of the olibanum focus. You need to keep that in mind as I describe it. 

Sawdust via my-walls.net.

Sawdust via my-walls.net.

Hindu Kush opens on my skin with myrrh’s cold, dusty, white smoke, followed by an intense, pungent green that feels like galbanum with hints of moss. Then, the warm, nutty, highly honeyed touch of sweet myrrh (opoponax) arrives, followed by the aroma of old wood. The latter is fascinating as it is dry, crumbly, honeyed, dusty, but also like sweet wood all at once. In short, it’s like the most unusual, cool but warm, saw dust. I’ve never encountered a note quite like in perfumery, and it’s brilliantly original. 

Pine tree sap. Source: howtocleanstuff.net

Pine tree sap. Source: howtocleanstuff.net

There is a distinct pine aroma that becomes stronger and stronger with the passing minutes. It smells like Pine Sap Absolute, with a very honeyed, ambered tonality. It reminds me of a much smoother, softer version of the souped-up, tarry pine sap in Profumum Roma‘s Arso. This version is nowhere as sweet, let alone as coniferous, tarry or phenolic. Instead, it is dry, dusted by old woods, and infused by the stony coolness of the myrrh.

As the pine sap grows stronger, that pungent blast of green from the galbanum-like note in the opening fades away and its place is taken by an amorphous, muted, indistinct touch of spices. I’ve worn Hindu Kush a few times, and only in one of my tests was there a really powerful, distinct, clearly delineated aroma of ginger. It smells like the powdered, dry kind that you have in your pantry, not the more spicy, piquant aroma that you get from fresh ginger. In any event, most of the time, the spices are quite abstract on my skin, vaguely feeling like the peppered, dusty, combined aroma you find in a spice shop where all the odors blend into one gentle mass. The spice accord is a very subtle one, lingering on the sidelines to add a bit of depth to the woody-incense duality that dominates Hindu Kush’s main core.

Home of the Kalash tribe in the Hindu Kush, Pakistan. Source: globalheritagefund.org

Home of the Kalash tribe in the Hindu Kush, Pakistan. Source: globalheritagefund.org

Ten minutes in, Hindu Kush is a truly original, unusual blend of aromas. It reminds me simultaneously of: an old church set mostly outdoors in a pine forest clearing dusted by dry lichen mosses and filled with the aroma of myrrh incense; a carpenter’s workshop filled with dry, sweet sawdust; and the arid, dry, mountain range of a country I once lived in, where the cool winds and great heights created a solemn sparsity and austere serenity. I keep using the word “fascinating,” because it really is, but I’m not sure it’s very me.

Beeswax. Source: honey-center.gr

Beeswax. Source: honey-center.gr

Hindu Kush starts to shift around the 20 minute mark. The sweet myrrh’s honeyed beeswax rises to the surface to soften and dilute the cold, dusty dryness of the myrrh’s incense. Hindu Kush is now a blend of cool white smoke, warm honeyed beeswax, amorphous spices, dry woods, and a touch of pine resin. The pungent, galbanum-like note has completely vanished, and the only green touches left are that from the yellow-green pine resin. Deep down in the base, there is a nebulous floral note that flits about, popping up once in a blue moon from behind the two types of myrrh, then quickly fading away once again. I can’t place it, and it keeps vanishing whenever I try to pinpoint it, but it’s a very brief breath of delicate, warm floracy.

George Braque, "Woman Reading." Source: pictify.com

George Braque, “Woman Reading.” Source: pictify.com

On my skin, and in repeated tests, Hindu Kush is primarily a tale of two myrrhs: sweet and regular. They are nestled in a dry-sweet woody embrace that becomes increasingly amorphous, with only the pine sap really standing out. The spices briefly add a soft, dusty pepperiness to the top notes, but slowly lose ground less than 40 minutes in. The most noticeable thing about Hindu Kush are the contrasts: cool versus warm; sweet versus dry; dusty versus honeyed wax; and old wood shavings versus fresh, yellowed, pine sap. From start to finish, it’s a visual palette of greys, whites, taupe, and honeyed cream, with a splash of dark, pine green tossed about like something from the painter, Jackson Pollack. Actually, Pollack’s signature is of hectic frenzy and chaos — two things that most definitely are not a part of Hindu Kush — so a more accurate comparison would be to the cragginess of George Braque’s “Woman Reading” from 1911.

The greatest changes in Hindu Kush pertain to the sillage, and to the degree of the honeyed sweet myrrh. 30 minutes in, the sillage drops, and the fragrance hovers 2 inches above the skin. After 90 minutes, the sillage softens even further, and Hindu Kush lies right above the skin. In all cases, however, it is potent and rich when smelled up close. As a whole, it is primarily a blend of myrrh with piney resin and the merest hint of sweet myrrh. It is cold, a bit dusty, and very austere. In a few tests, there was a touch of soapiness at this point, but it was very minor on my skin. The pine resin has lost its sweet aspects, and feels more like the concentrated oil from crushed pine needles. It adds yet another level of coolness to Hindu Kush.

The Hindu Kush via Stanford.edu.

The Hindu Kush via Stanford.edu.

Images of a carpenter’s workshop have vanished, along with that of any church (set in nature or otherwise), or a spice store. I’m now fully atop a craggy, jagged, dusty mountain with only pine trees and their detritus around me, and the cold wind blowing olibanum my way. I would prefer more of the sweet myrrh to try to counter some of this austerity, because the creamy smoothness of the honeyed beeswax is my favorite part. Unfortunately, the note really fluctuates on my skin during the first four hours. Half the time, it hides behind the cool, stony myrrh, but occasionally it is just as noticeable and Hindu Kush turns into a triptych of myrrh, sweet myrrh, and pine sap resin.

Hindu Kush remains that way until its very end. It takes 3 hours for Hindu Kush to turn into a skin scent, though it is only hard to detect after the 4th hour. All in all, it consistently lasted between 7 and 8 hours on my skin depending on the quantity that I used. A small amount, approximately 3 small smears, gave me the lower time frame, while 3 big sprays gave me more. The sillage throughout was very discreet after the third or fourth hour, depending on the quantity that I applied.     

Hindu Kush has received extremely positive reviews on Basenotes‘ official listing for the scent (where it is also listed as “Indu Kush”). I think the description from a poster called “Quarry” really sums up one aspect of it very well:

My notion of new-sawn wood is vastly different from yours, I’m sure. I expect your experiences harken from freshly cut trees or home-improvement-center lumber or year-old firewood. Whereas the most impressionable wood from my life is much older, as are the buildings and furnishings that make up our home. Even as my dear husband renovates our house, he’s using lumber harvested generations ago and stored through most of the 1900s by my frugal father. The green vapors have dissipated from this stuff; it is tightly grained, resin-sweet, and musty-dusty in a good way. To my mind, this kind of wood is the primary ingredient in Hindu Kush. Its creator talks of “taking a walk in an Indian market, where clouds of incense smoke escape through the open doors of temples to be mixed with the perfumes of the east, ginger, cumin, nutmeg and pepper.” Not having any experiences like that, I associate HK’s secondary accord to be like walking past the open door of a Penzeys Spices store–there’s just that general melange of comforting scents–not firey, not sharp. And this, my friends, is the totality of Hindu Kush: simplicity, beauty, timelessness, and without gender. Unlike any other of the hundreds of bottled fragrances I’ve smelled, I want to draw in HK’s scent deeply, like you would steam from a pungent soup or narcotic smoke. It feels like you should breath Hindu Kush, and I suppose at least part of that is due to its being composed of natural ingredients.

When I first sampled HK from a bottle with a reducer opening, I thought the scent faded away too quickly, but once I applied it from an atomizer and allowed the overspray to hit my cuffs, I was rewarded with hours and hours of aroma. Now, having gotten to know the scent over many days, I can find only one drawback to wearing it: I am too contented. Where other fragrances may make me kick up my heals or swoon or smile, Hindu Kush will let me settle and feel lazy, wistful. So it isn’t a workday fragrance–at least not a workday where you actually want to get anything accomplished. 

All six of the other Basenotes reviews are positive, though they describe a scent that is more incense-driven than woody. A few examples from both men and women:

  • Quarry has written an absolutely fabulous commentary on Hindu Kush! For me, I get the initial blast of green – almost camphorous – which disappears almost as mysteriously as it came…yet somehow, it leaves a residual green that combines with dry woods and incense. […] it feels like the dry & cozy warmth of a small cabin whose only source of heat is a woodburner! I find this association quite charming. […] My personal preferences don’t usually run in the direction of incense based fragrances, but I find myself intrigued and impressed!
  • “Hindu Kush” is one of the most aptly named perfumes I have ever come across. It smells exactly like the Hindu Kush-mountains look like: Very sparse, stony, airy and cold, with some woods underneath the mountains. I can even smell the wind blowing! There is just a little coziness in it, like sitting by a small campfire and trying to catch at least a little bit of warmth. Together with the somewhat mysterious “Mecca Balsam” is this my favourite perfume that I have sampled from the “Scents of the Soul”-line. Whereas “Mecca Balsam” is warm, uplifting and inviting, an indoor kind of smell, “Hindu Kush” is more grounded, rough and cold, an outdoor kind of smell, and I must admit that it’s not always easy to wear ’cause it’s so austere. Although the both perfumes are totally different, they share a certain quality that is able to put me in a meditative state of mind. Awesome stuff!
  • Hindu Kush is an appealing spicy Oriental fragrance and an all-natural frankincense perfume that anyone who likes incense ought to love. It starts with a conglomoration of exotic spices, both pungent and sweet, each appearing quickly at different intervals. The incense is high-quality and rich. At the base is a thick, deep labdanum–a dark amber–smelling of wood and, in combination with the spices, a bit smoky with subtle, maple nuances. Altogether, it creates a mystical, adventurous, rather sexy fragrance.
  • Soothing, spiritual and uplifting. [¶] My favorite fragrances have resinous woods and incense, and I’m loving this. 5 stars, full bottle worthy. [¶][…] wearing this is: an experience. It’s the kind of scent I reach for when I’m in meditative or contemplative mood, or for when I want to feel calm and grounded. I have a little collection of calming resinous scents and this so far is my favorite go to of the bunch.
  • Funny how I could smell the deep green mossy undertones within minutes of application. Beyond the aromatic spices and uplifting incense, HINDU KUSH shows surprising depth, with beguiling balsamic facets that put me in a meditative, even contemplative mood. Luca Turin hit the nail on the head when he described it as ‘resinous oakmoss’.
Source: hazara.co.uk

Source: hazara.co.uk

Speaking of Luca Turin, La Via del Profumo are the only all-natural fragrances that he has reviewed and covered in his Perfumes: The A-Z Guide. Mr. Turin is on record saying that Dominique Dubrana is the only all-natural perfumer that he will bother with, because otherwise he will get “hideous crap.” His full quote to The New York Times:

There are dozens of all-natural perfumers; I don’t pay much attention to them, because every time I do I get a bunch of hideous crap. But I love his fragrances. I don’t think anyone can touch him in the field of natural perfumery.

Luca Turin has included three of Mr. Dubrana’s scents in his Perfumes book, awarding each Four Stars. The review for Hindu Kush is succinct and to the point:

If your favorite part of Mitsouko is the resinous, floor-wax-and-church-incense start, here it is in the pure state, made with only natural materials and delicious, though not particularly long-lasting. 

I’ve noticed that Profumo scents do better in terms of longevity when sprayed, rather than dabbed. One of the Basenotes commentators thought the same for Hindu Kush. That said, as an all-natural fragrance, you have to keep in mind that the longevity won’t be as great as for regular perfumes which have synthetic additives included often for the sole task of increasing a scent’s duration.

I enjoyed testing Hindu Kush, and absolutely loved the unique, visual and mental trip of being transported to that austere mountain range. Alas, I am a heathen with no spirituality, and little long-term appreciation for myrrh. I don’t own a single fragrance centered around the note, because it isn’t something I personally could wear on a regular basis. That doesn’t mean I don’t respect Hindu Kush, though. I do, and I think it’s a masterful, brilliantly original take on an incense fragrance. So, if you’re a fan of olibanum or myrrh, then you should give Hindu Kush a sniff. It is wholly unisex in nature, and suitable for the office with its discreet sillage. More importantly, it is an experience. From top to bottom, it a mood scent with an extremely meditative, contemplative feel to it. Smell it, and take a trip to the Hindu Kush in all its stark, resinous, serene beauty. 

Disclosure: My sample was courtesy of AbdesSalaam Attar. That did not impact this review. I do not do paid reviews, my views are my own, and my first obligation is honesty to my readers.

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Hindu Kush is an eau de parfum that comes in a variety of sizes. It is available exclusively from the Profumo.it website which ships its scents world-wide. All the following prices for Hindu Kush are in Euros without VAT: €32,73 for 15.5 ml, €70,82 for 33 ml (a little over 1 oz) and €94,20 for 50 ml/1.7 oz. At today’s rate of exchange, the USD prices roughly comes to: $44, $96, and $132 for the 50 ml bottle. The site says: “Prices are without VAT and are valid for USA and all non EEC countries[;] for shipments in the EEC 22% VAT will be ADDED to the amount in the shopping cart.” There is also a Mignon Discovery Coffret which is available for any 5 fragrances, each in a glass 5.5 ml bottle. The price depends on which perfumes you pick, as the choice is up to you. The 5.5 ml bottle of Hindu Kush is €12,30. On a side note, I received my samples from Mr. Dubrana incredibly quickly, less than 4 days after he sent it. Additionally, I have the impression that, with all purchases, Profumo provides free 2 ml samples, especially of any new fragrances that he is developing, since Abdes Salaam is very interested in feedback. In short, if you’re ordering fragrance, you may want to ask for a sample of something that strikes your eye. Samples: you can order a sample of Hindu Kush from Surrender to Chance which sells the perfume at $6.99 for a 1 ml vial.

La Via del Profumo Tawaf: Mata Hari’s Jasmine

Mata Hari, 1905, via Pinterest.

Mata Hari, 1905, via Pinterest.

The hedonistic excesses of Imperial Rome; the fleshiness of heaving white bosoms; Mata Hari in flowers as she dances to seduce; the wild rambunctiousness of the French cancan at the height of the 19th-century Moulin Rouge; the flashing of the frilliest of white knickers; and pure skank that finally subsides to a creamy, honeyed whisper — these are not the things that you’d expect to imagine from a fragrance that is meant to evoke the holiest of spiritual aromas. Yet, those are the things that came to mind when I tried Tawaf. It is a fragrance that blew my socks off while it lasted, a jasmine lover’s dream perfume in many ways, and the worst nightmare of anyone who hates indolic scents. God, it’s glorious. If only… well, we’ll get to that part eventually.

Tawaf via the Profumo website.

Tawaf via the Profumo website.

Tawaf is a 2012 eau de parfum from the highly respected French perfumer, Dominique Dubrana, who also goes by the name “Abdes Salaam Attar.” His Italian perfume house, La Via del Profumo, creates all-natural fragrances. They are so bold, intense, rich, and concentrated in feel that it’s hard to believe they are all natural, but Mr. Dubrana is a bit of a wizard. Many of his fragrances have a Middle Eastern flair, subtext, or inspiration, and this is especially true for Tawaf. The perfume is the last in his “Arabian Series” of fragrances, and is meant to be the olfactory “melody” of the most sacred scents at the heart of Mecca.

The Ka'abah or Kaaba. Source: upww.us

The Ka’abah or Kaaba. Source: upww.us

As AbdesSalaam Attar explains on his Profumo website, the name “Tawaf” refers to the ritual of pilgrims circling the sacred Kaaba (or Ka’abah) building in Mecca. He calls the Ka’abah “the geographic center of the Arabian soul,” so he sought to create a fragrance that was the “melody” of the scents surrounding the pilgrims:

the trails of Jasmine Sambac that pilgrims wear, the rose water poured from buckets to wash the white marble floor and the Oppoponax attar spread by the handful over the corners of the Ka’abah. These are the essences that comprise the new fragrance. [¶] Other ingredients meaningful in the Arabic tradition are Narcissus and Myrrh.

The perfume is binary in structure, with a Jasmine accord intertwining with an Oppoponax accord in the same way those chinese silk fabrics display two different colours depending on how the light shines on them.

The following is the succinct list of notes:

Jasmine sambac, rose water, opoponax [sweet myrrh], myrrh, and narcissus [daffodil].

I am clearly a heathen who is going to hell because Tawaf didn’t evoke anything spiritual or pure in my mind. In fact, quite the opposite. For me, its opening was pure, raw sensuality, carnality, and hedonistic excess — times a hundred. This is Mata Hari‘s jasmine, a scent born to seduce some, and kill others.

Jasmine

To understand that, you have to understand the essence of a flower like jasmine when it is taken to the extreme heights that it is here. The jasmine in Tawaf feels like the fleshiest of white flowers, with a syrupy sweetness and meatiness that is so opulently intense that it is truly quite narcotic. It’s brawny, potent, heady, meaty, indolent, and addictively sniffable for those who love jasmine, but the living nightmare of those who don’t.

In fact, the carnality of the note in Tawaf reminds me of the quote that the famous nose, Roja Dove, once said about tuberose (in the context of the legendary white floral powerhouse, Fracas):

tuberose is the most carnal of the floral notes. It smells like very, very hot flesh after you’ve had sex — that’s the bottom line. [via The Independent, 12/14/2002.] [Emphasis added.]

I think the same can be said of jasmine, especially when it is amplified to the extent that it is here. And, good God, is there jasmine in Tawaf. It explodes on the skin with such richness that it left my jaw rather agape. (In case you haven’t gathered by now, I love my jasmine.)

Bee on a tuberose. Photo: faixal_javaid via Flickr. (Website link embedded within photo.)

Bee on a tuberose. Photo: faixal_javaid via Flickr. (Website link embedded within photo.)

The other thing that Tawaf opens with is indoles. All white flowers have them, primarily for the evolutionary purpose of attracting bees who can’t see colourless florals. In their most concentrated, purest form, indoles can smell like musty mothballs and thereby act as a signal flare to the bees. However, when diluted to just a few drops in floral perfumes, they create a radiant richness that is often described as narcotic, heady, dense, voluptuous or sensuous. Unfortunately, on some people’s skin, very indolic flowers can take on an over-blown, ripe quality that occasionally smells sour, plastic-y, fecal, urinous, or reminiscent of a cat’s litter box. Its richness in classic, very opulent floral fragrances is probably why some people find indolic fragrances to smell “old lady-ish.” Those who prefer clean, fresh scents are also likely to struggle with indolic fragrances, and not only because of their heavy feel.

Jasmine peacock created from jasmine flowers. Source: Hdwallpaperes.com

Jasmine peacock created from jasmine flowers. Source: Hdwallpaperes.com

Tawaf opens on my skin with the fleshiest, most opulent, over-the-top jasmine that I’ve ever encountered, followed by indoles that manifest both their ripe, overblown side and their skank. Tawaf has a definite dirty factor that appears within minutes on the skin. At first, it’s only a subtle whisper of something a bit urinous, but it only takes 20 minutes for Tawaf to demonstrate almost a civet-like feral growl.

In the opening minutes, there is also a rubbery darkness underlying the intense white flowers that makes it feel as though they had been tinged with something black. It’s almost tarry and mentholated in a way, though never to the extent that Serge Lutens managed to do to jasmine’s white sister, tuberose, with Tubereuse Criminelle. Here, it never evokes diesel or iced menthol, but there is a definite undertone of something rubbery, dark, and almost smoky. It helps to cut through some of the jasmine’s bubble-gum sweetness, though there is still quite a lot of it that remains.

Mata Hari via euroxpress.es

Mata Hari via euroxpress.es

The overall effect feels wickedly naughty and voluptuous. If ever a jasmine were so fleshy that it amounted to a courtesan’s pillowy breasts heaving above the top of a tight corset, it would be Tawaf. There is a decadent excessiveness, overt carnality, and lush ripeness that positively oozes fleshiness. The white togated courtesans of Nero’s Rome would have drowned themselves in Tawaf while the city burned and he fiddled. And it definitely feels like the perfect scent for one of the greatest seductresses of all time, Mata Hari. Tawaf is simply super-charged jasmine on steroids — and I can’t get enough of it.

Twenty minutes in, the dirty skank factor moves from a quiet, muffled “meow” to a rather exuberant yell. I suddenly feel like someone in the 1890s Moulin Rouge who just had one of the Cancan dancers flash me her frothy white bloomers. No, truly, the indolic jasmine is like a chorus line of dancers as they rev up and go full throttle, kicking up their legs higher and faster with every minute.

La Folies Bergère, Paris, circa 1900 ad, by Rene Lalique.

La Folies Bergère, Paris, circa 1900 ad, by Rene Lalique.

In the midst of all this wild abandon, there are the tiniest whiffs of other elements. The least of them is the daffodil’s fresh sweetness that lurks in the sidelines, but for the longest time, I thought it was a figment of my imagination. It still might be. Whatever that vaguely fresh note may be, it simply can’t compete with all that bouncy Cancan. Slightly more noticeable is the sweet myrrh, which initially comes across more like cinnamon than the traditional nutty way that opoponax shows itself on my skin. Regardless, it is extremely muted, and also bears little chance of competing with the powerhouse white florals on center stage. Tawaf’s jasmine is as dense as a solid gold brick, and its initial projection is about 3 inches with 2 medium smears, but about 4-5 inches with a greater quantity.

Jean Renoir's "French Cancan" 1954. Source: blu-ray.com

Jean Renoir’s “French Cancan” 1954. Source: blu-ray.com

Alas, 45 minutes in, the wonderful madness winds down, and the frothy, skanky knickers collapse in an exhausted, subdued heap on the floor. The jasmine loses much of its opulent, dirty richness as Tawaf becomes a skin scent. It’s now a light, sweet jasmine touch with a drop in its dirty, rubbery, dark undertones. It’s still lushly white and narcotic, but Tawaf is much less blowsy and not as ostentatious. My skin never has much luck in holding onto jasmine soliflores. For example, my skin ate through another jasmine soliflore, Serge Lutens‘ fantastic A La Nuit, with even greater rapidity.

Speaking of which, I once read that A La Nuit was considered to be “death by jasmine,” but I think Tawaf makes the Lutens look like child’s play in comparison. Tawaf feels a hundred times more concentrated and dense than A La Nuit, which would make the Dubrana version my ideal if it retained its projection for several more hours. As an all-natural fragrance, I realise that is extremely difficult to do, especially for a floral scent. Still, I’m rather crushed, as Tawaf’s opening salvo is truly spectacular.

Source: picsfab.com

White honey and white flowers. Source: picsfab.com

Tawaf slowly begins to change about 75 minutes into its development. The sweet myrrh finally appears properly, adding a nutty warmth and sweetness, while the (regular) myrrh provides the faintest hint of dustiness. They are both incredibly subtle, however, and their main effect is to turn Tawaf more golden, less white and sweet. Half an hour later, the sweet myrrh kicks into high gear, smelling like the smoothest of mild, white honey or honeyed wax. It coats the skin like the thinnest of layers, and starts to vie with the jasmine for dominance.

Source: Robert.Maro.net

Source: Robert.Maro.net

About 2.75 hours in, Tawaf becomes an extremely creamy, delicately soft, vaguely floral, honeyed beeswax, and it remains that way until its very end. All in all, Tawaf lasted 6.25 hours on my skin, with occasional small patches continue to radiate out the scent if I really rooted at my arm ferociously. It had the shortest longevity out of all the Profumo scents that I’ve tried thus far, which had previously given me 10 hours or more. None of them were pure florals, though, and my skin can be particularly bad with those, even when they aren’t all-natural perfumes.

The Non-Blonde had almost the identical experience that I did with Tawaf. Her review reads, in part, as follows:

Smelling Tawaf from La Via del Profumo for the first time can be shocking. If there ever was a “Death by Jasmine” perfume this is it. Tawaf, religious and spiritual back story aside, is as dirty and indolic as they come. […] Tawaf is very much about jasmine- real and raw, even when it’s softened and tempered with a cream-to-powder opoponax.  […][¶]

Once you can smell and breathe beyond the heady jasmine garlands that seem to have landed around your neck, there’s more to explore. The jasmine becomes smoother and beautifully honeyed. That’s where my doubts disappear and I fall in love again and again. Opoponax is usually pretty resinous, but here it emerges from the honey with a very creamy feel that dries down fairly quickly into a slightly woody powder that complements and grounds the jasmine just a little: it’s still heady and golden, but the way the note responds to  skin is warm and highly satisfying.

Tawaf remains detectable for five to six hours, though its projection is rather low and there’s little sillage once the initial blast is gone. While jasmine is considered a mostly feminine note in Western perfumery, there’s nothing girly or womanly in this fragrance. Tawaf is atmospheric, so men who aren’t afraid of jasmine should give it a chance and see what happens when they go there.

She also adds something else that I agree with wholeheartedly:

In my opinion [Dominique Dubrana is] one of the most fascinating perfumers working today; well worth the minor hassle of ordering samples from his website (profumo.it).

The Non-Blonde didn’t fall in love from first sniff, but she definitely did by the end because of the drydown. It’s true, the honeyed creaminess is very appealing, even if it is excessively discreet. Another thing with which I agree is that men who aren’t afraid of jasmine should try it.

Source: Hdwallpaperes.com

Source: Hdwallpaperes.com

If you don’t think a guy can or should wear jasmine, you better not tell that to Kevin of Now Smell This who barely restrains himself from saying that he LOVES (in all caps, no less) Tawaf:

Tawaf is composed of beautiful, strong aromas*: a vibrant floral accord of jasmine and rose (sweet, syrupy and possessing an indolic punch); a note that reminds me of musky, honey-drenched hay (no, I’ve never encountered honey-drenched hay in person, just in my imagination); warm opopanax; and buzzing, floral amber — clear and pungent, but not too “clean” (is that a bit of patchouli I smell?) Tawaf’s opening comes close to duplicating one of the most mesmerizing floral scents: the powerhouse perfume of  blossoming Cestrum nocturnum (gardeners: if you love flowers that can scent an entire block, investigate this plant). As Tawaf dries down, it becomes sheer with hints of honeycomb, myrrh and residual floral notes.

I try to avoid hyperbole in describing my attraction to perfumes (how can I ‘LOVE’ a non-living thing?); let’s say I ‘adore’ Tawaf. Though I’ve enjoyed all La Via del Profumo Arabian series perfumes, Tawaf is my favorite. One spritz of Tawaf goes a long way…for a short time (two hours); if you’d like the fragrance to extend to three or four hours, apply more perfume in the first place but expect to scent a HUGE space with your sillage. On the masculine-feminine “scale,” Tawaf veers more towards feminine perfume territory, but if you’re the type of man who has no problem with heady florals, go for it.

Oh, Kevin, just say you love it. We can rock our Tawaf together, preferably with more than one spritz, even if the amplified result ends up killing all the jasmine-phobes who come close.

Speaking of those who are usually rendered ill by jasmine fragrances, the sole review for Tawaf on Fragrantica comes from someone who seems to make an exception for the Profumo version. “Lilybelle911” writes:

This is a lovely jasmine fragrance. It does not make my stomach feel queasy as some jasmine scents do. I received a generous decant as part of a sampling group, and I have a spritz now and then when I am in the mood for its serene beauty, when no mass market perfume will suffice to soothe and inspire. I have been fortunate to sample quite a few Via del Profumo fragrances, and they never fail to have a pronounced effect upon my psyche and sense of well being. They are not only very well composed perfumes, but have aromatherapy benefits as well. I highly recommend this line of perfumes. Mr. Durbano is blessed with a rare gift.

I’m thoroughly glad she enjoyed it, but I still wouldn’t recommend Tawaf to anyone who doesn’t wholeheartedly love indolic white flowers. “Death by Jasmine” may be a wonderful way for me to go, but I don’t think others may be so sanguine.

Tawaf bears what I’m starting to realise is a distinct Profumo signature: bold intensity in the opening. Mr. Dubrana doesn’t seem to do anything by half-measures — God bless him — and that intensity is a joy for someone who likes the note(s) in question. It’s not as easy if you’re ambivalent, no matter how soft, whispering and lovely the subsequent drydown may be. So Tawaf may be best for those who enjoy the most opulent of narcotic, white flower bombs, along with a little dirty skank. 

In short, if you’re a jasmine lover, you really must try Tawaf. It is moderately priced at $63 (or roughly €56 with VAT) for the smallest bottle, samples aren’t difficult to obtain, and I think it will make your head spin in the best way possible. The discreet sillage and reduced longevity are the only drawbacks to what may be the ultimate jasmine perfume. In spite of those flaws, I still think that Tawaf is worth testing, especially for that monumental opening. It takes decadent excess and seductiveness to an extent that would make even Mata Hari sit up and blink.

Mata Hari via Wikipedia.

Mata Hari via Wikipedia.

Disclosure: My sample was courtesy of AbdesSalaam Attar. That did not impact this review. I do not do paid reviews, my views are my own, and my first obligation is honesty to my readers.

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Tawaf is a concentrated eau de parfum that comes in a variety of sizes. It is available exclusively from the Profumo.it website, which ships its scents world-wide. All the following prices for Tawaf are in Euros without VAT: €46,61 for 15.5 ml, €94,22 for 32 ml (a little over 1 oz) and €146,79 for 50 ml/1.7 oz. At today’s rate of exchange, the USD prices roughly comes to: $63 for the 15.5 ml, $146 for the 32 ml, and $200 for the 50 ml bottle. The site says: “Prices are without VAT and are valid for USA and all non EEC countries[;] for shipments in the EEC 22% VAT will be ADDED to the amount in the shopping cart.” There is also a Mignon Discovery Coffret which is available for any 5 fragrances, each in a glass 5.5 ml bottle. The price depends on which perfumes you pick, as the choice is up to you. The 5.5 ml bottle of Tawaf is €17,70. On a side note, I received my samples from Mr. Dubrana incredibly quickly, less than 4 days after he sent it. Additionally, I have the impression that, with all purchases, Profumo provides free 2 ml samples, especially of any new fragrances that he is developing, since AbdesSalaam is very interested in feedback. In short, if you’re ordering fragrance, you may want to ask for a sample of something that strikes your eye. Samples: you can order a sample of Tawaf from Surrender to Chance which sells the perfume starting at $8.99 for a 1 ml vial.

La Via del Profumo Milano Caffé

Source: hqdesktop.net

Source: hqdesktop.net

Have you ever tried a perfume, took a sniff, then almost fell over yourself to spray on more? That’s what happened to me with Milano Caffé, which led to an actual “ohhh” out loud, then a frenzied application all over. It is a visual plethora of dark colours from the blackness of bitter expresso and licorice, to the mahogany of deep woods, the green-blackness of patchouli and smoky vetiver, and the darkness of black chocolate. Subtle hints of goldenness flit about from amber and vanilla, but on my skin, they are mere fireflies in the dark forest.

Dominque Dubrana via the NYT. Photo by Domingo Milella.

Dominque Dubrana via the NYT. Photo by Domingo Milella.

Milano Caffé is the creation of the perfumer, Dominique Dubrana, who also goes by the name “AbdesSalaam Attar.” His perfume house, La Via del Profumo, focuses on all-natural fragrances, many of which have a Middle Eastern flair or subtext. I’m utterly fascinated by Mr. Dubrana, a man who some consider to be a genius and magician and who was the focus of a fantastic, gushing article in The New York Times  entitled “Smellbound.”

In 2013, he debuted an “Italian Series” of fragrances which sought to pay tribute to his adopted homeland. Milano Caffé (which I’ll just write without the accent as “Milano Caffe” for ease and speed) is the first of the line, and is classified on Fragrantica as an “oriental vanilla.” Personally, I would categorize it as a Woody Oriental. On his Profumo website, AbdesSalaam Attar describes Milano Caffe as follows:

This first fragrance, named for Milan, is centered on the omnipresent and most characteristic smell of the city, the aroma of coffee. It pervades the streets and workplaces; it is part of every event and encounter, professional or leisurely; and is present in every social occasion.

I have blended coffee with chocolate because that is the Milanese way: the residents of that marvelous city add Cacao powder to cappuccinos, and place a single square piece of chocolate next to your cup of coffee.

The combination of coffee and chocolate is your introduction to the city of Milan, but it is merely the start.  The original blast of coffee- chocolate melts quickly into woody-spicy notes. The body of ‘Milano cafè’ is an elegant male fragrance worthy of the sophisticated fashion that characterizes the city: Warm, dry, woody, sober and at the same time rich, with a determined, confident character.

A subdued spicy accord alludes to the multi-ethnic aspect of the city, as manifest in the Somali and Arab restaurants that have flourished there in recent years.

Milano caffè is not your usual masculine, composed of trite notes to appeal to a mass audience. It is, instead, a new and unexpected accord that will appeal to people who make trends, not those who follow them.

Milano Caffe via The Perfume Shrine.

Milano Caffe via The Perfume Shrine.

Fragrantica provides the succinct list of notes:

coffee, cappuccino, chocolate, iris, woody notes, spicy notes, opoponax [sweet myrrh], tonka bean and amber.

There are a lot of unspecified, uncategorized notes on that list, and on my skin, they dominate. What appears on my skin, after quite a few tests, would be something more like this:

Patchouli, vetiver, cedar, expresso coffee, dark chocolate, cocoa powder, licorice, sweet myrrh, iris, something phenolic and tarry that might be birch, then tonka and amber. Possibly also: coriander.

I meant what I said at the beginning about my initial reaction to Milano Caffe, but it is significant for another reason as well. In my eagerness to spray on more, I applied Milano Caffe to my second arm, instead of just to my main testing arm which is the left one. I noticed an immediate, and quite substantial, difference in smell. Perhaps it is a pH issue, or perhaps my skin is even stranger than I suspected, but there was a very different version of Milano Caffe on my right arm than on my left one.

As a result, I’ve tested the fragrance three times in all, on both arms simultaneously. The same differences occurred each time during the first few hours. The perfume’s drydown is largely the same, but one arm gives a significantly darker, drier, woodier, smokier version of Milano Caffe. The other (my main testing left arm) reflects more vanilla, amber, warmth, and sweetness. One version is slightly more unisex, the other is hardcore masculine, though I think the fragrance skews very masculine in general. So, I’ll give you both versions of how Milano Caffe appeared on me.

VERSION 1:

Source: Sodahead.com

Source: Sodahead.com

Milano Caffe opens on my skin with an intense darkness, along with earthy, woody and smoky notes. There is smoked vetiver, something that resembles smoky Lapsong Souchang tea, cedar, earthy but green patchouli, sweet green grass, and spices. There is also a whisper of sweet muskiness that smells natural, as if you’re smelling it on a flower in nature or from the earth. It’s iris, but done in a way that may be the very first time I’ve ever loved the note. It’s delicately floral, but also infused with woody and smoked tonalities. A minute later, the bitterest of expresso coffees floods in to add a truly original, intense touch to the whole combination.

Patchouli. Source: womenworld.com.ua

Patchouli. Source: womenworld.com.ua

There is zero doubt in this patch head’s opinion that Milano Caffe contains a lot of patchouli, and I love every bit of it. It’s not the revolting modern version with its purple, syrupy fruit-chouli characteristics, but the real, hardcore, original stuff. In fact, the patchouli manifests itself from the top of the plant to the bottom: there is the green, pungent, medicinal edge of the leaves, but also the sweet, wet, damp earthiness of the soil around its base. At first, it is a subtle touch, but it takes maybe 2 minutes for the patchouli to become one of the main players on my skin, injecting both a medicinal greenness and a peppermint note to the proceedings.

This is no spicy, ambered, brown-red patchouli, but a very green one. Yet, despite that, it is as chewy and dense as the common labdanum-infused, boozy patchoulis on the market. The black-green kind in Milano Caffe also sometimes reflects a distinct boozy cognac touch that appeared in a few of my tests in the opening minutes, but that aspect is incredibly brief. As a whole, the patchouli in Milano Caffe in all tests and on both arms spans the green end of the spectrum from metholated and medicinal, to peppermint.

Licorice. Source: Dylanscandybar.com

Licorice. Source: Dylanscandybar.com

Other notes are perfectly blended within. There is a definite, very strong element of licorice that appears every time I’ve tested Milano Caffe. It’s black and very chewy in feel. It counters the floral element that, in some tests, was quite noticeable in the opening minutes, but very muted and muffled in others. The same thing applies to the sweet myrrh which adds a nutty quality, but also a quiet, subdued touch of smokiness. In some tests, it was initially quite noticeable, but, in most of them, it was the tiniest of notes that barely registers.

Black chocolate via bioshieldinc.com

Black chocolate via bioshieldinc.com

Much more significant, however, is the chocolate. At first, it’s just a whisper that feels like unsweetened, black chocolate that lurks on the sidelines or under the expresso. About 20 minutes in, it grows stronger, thoroughly infusing the expresso and the patchouli’s peppermint, until the three notes are essentially one. At the same time, there is also a feeling of dusty, semi-sweetened cocoa powder sprinkled on everything.

Lurking far below in the base is something that feels distinctly phenolic and tarry, with a very leathered, smoky feel. It’s not like the birch tar in some leather fragrances, because it’s hardly animalic, fecal or raw, but there is something of birch’s smokiness about it. It’s subtle, more akin to tiny tendrils blown from a campfire in the distance, but there is definitely something deeply dark, leathered, and smoky in Milano Caffé’s base. Milan and Italy are as famous for their leathers as for their expresso, so it wouldn’t be surprising if an olfactory ode to the city gave a nod to that element.

Source: brookstone.com

Source: brookstone.com

The overall combination and effect drove me wild. Coffee’d patchouli with black chocolate, licorice, smokiness, and dark woods. Genius, pure genius. Why has no-one ever done that before? How come no-one has ever thought to mix the darkness of patchouli and its peppermint qualities with something like bitter expresso and chocolate? I haven’t had such an instant, immediate reaction to a fragrance’s opening since my Paris trip, and the perfumes I bought or singled out for samples to test on my return. I wrote in my notes, “so happy, I could scream.” You have to be a patchouli addict to understand and relate to that, because I don’t think Milano Caffe’s dark, bitter, smoky, woody opening will be for everyone. Most definitely not, and especially not for most women, in my opinion. But I loved it.

Twenty minutes in, Milano Caffe is a seamless, rich, decadent, endlessly dark blend of notes. There is woody darkness, smoky vetiver, green patchouli, bitter black expresso, iris, smoke, licorice, black chocolate, and damp, sweet earth. Only the subtlest touch of warm amber lurks about, the iris is fading away, and both the sweet myrrh and cedar feel indistinct. In the background, there is an amorphous, indistinct touch of spiciness. I keep wondering if Milano Caffe has coriander in it because I occasionally pick up on the oddest nuance of something lemony, but dry. The whole bouquet feels incredibly dense and chewy, but Milano Caffe’s projection drops from its initial intensity to something that is only moderate at this point.

From a distance, the main bouquet is of bitter coffee infused with patchouli peppermint, licorice, chocolate and green, medicinal pungency. I’m fascinated by the interplay of notes, especially the ones you can smell if you go in close, because the notes sound like such a crazy combination. And, yet, they work so well here. The subtle ambered heart helps to counter the forcefulness of the elements, and to provide some warmth, but it never verges on sweetness.

Source: chaoswallpapers.com

Source: chaoswallpapers.com

As a whole, on my right arm which I don’t usually use for testing, Milano Caffe is a very dry, woody, greenly dark fragrance that is bitter-sweet at best. In truth, I would have preferred more of a counter-balance to that aspect of things, because my skin takes the base notes and runs with them to quite an unrelieved extreme. About 1.75 hours in, Milano Caffe is primarily a peppermint patchouli-vetiver combination. I wish it weren’t quite so dominant, as it has far overshadowed the coffee and other elements. While my skin normally amplifies sweetness and amber, it hasn’t done so here. I have to admit, this vetiver-peppermint stage was a little disappointing for me, not only because it lacked the complexity of the opening, but also because its darkness was a bit too constant for my personal tastes.

Peat bricks in an outdoor fire. Source: freeirishphotos.com

Peat bricks in an outdoor fire. Source: freeirishphotos.com

In fact, in one of my tests on this arm, Milano Caffe turned even darker. There was much more smoky woodiness, from the vetiver, the cedar, and the mysterious tarry element. The latter definitely evoked an outdoor bonfire in the way that birch tar or cade can often do, while the vetiver takes on a peaty tonality. The overall combination repeatedly called to mind Jovoy‘s Private Label, another fragrance with blackness, peppermint, woods and smokiness. There are big differences, however, as Private Label took all those elements to an extreme, while Milano Caffe is significantly better modulated and balanced. Plus, it has coffee, licorice and dark chocolate, while the Jovoy fragrance is centered on hardcore smoked vetiver and birch tar smoke with leather.

Perhaps it’s merely an odd idiosyncrasy of the skin on my non-testing arm, but Milano Caffe flattens into a patchouli peppermint with dark woods scent for the rest of its duration. I wish it hadn’t, as it was too much of the same thing for me, and the necessary counterbalance of ambered warmth was far too inconsequential on my skin to have much effect. Milano Caffe turns into a skin scent at the end of the third hour, and, in its final moments, Milano Caffe is merely dry woodiness with a vague suggestion of something patchouli about it. All in all, it lasted about 10.75 hours with 3 small sprays. Thankfully, Milano Caffe is consistently better balanced on my other arm.

VERSION 2 – MAIN TESTING ARM:

Source: 123rf.com

Source: 123rf.com

Milano Caffe opens on my skin with boozy, rich cognac and amber, followed by patchouli’s green notes and expresso. Seconds later, a chewy, black licorice appears, along with dark, bitter chocolate that is simultaneously like the solid slab as well as the dusty powder. The coffee initially has the bitterness of expresso, but also the smoother, milder aspects of regular coffee. The main notes are subtly infused with earthiness, smoky vetiver, a hint of dusty cedar, and the nuttied undertones of labdanum amber. The overall combination is much warmer, less bitter and dark than it was on my right arm.

"Green and Maroon," by Mark Rothko. Source: ArtTribune.com

“Green and Maroon,” by Mark Rothko. Source: ArtTribune.com

As the minutes pass, Milano Caffe continues to evolve and darken. The licorice grows much stronger, as does the pungent, medicinal sides of the patchouli. It’s not camphorated and doesn’t smell extremely mentholated, but it is very green, bitter, cool and chilly. There isn’t the musky sweetness or damp, wet earthiness of the first version, nor any of the iris floralacy either. Though there is the same smoky, woody greenness from both the vetiver and the patchouli, there is also the feel of some vanilla that was lacking the first time around.

The cognac booziness fades ten minutes into Milano Caffe’s development, and something else takes its place: peppermint. The patchouli’s green side loses its medicinal pungency, and the peppermint takes its turn on center stage next to the coffee, dark chocolate, and amber. Once again, there is something phenolic and tarry in Milano Caffe, a black, almost leathered, smokiness that appeared in both versions and in all the tests. Here, however, it is only a subtle, light touch, and far outweighed by the coffee.

Mark Rothko, ":'Magenta, Black, Green on Orange', 1947. Source: studyblue.com

Mark Rothko, “:’Magenta, Black, Green on Orange’, 1947. Source: studyblue.com

At the end of the first hour, Milano Caffe turns softer and a bit sweeter. The peppermint patchouli smooths out, as it is infused by the growing amber element. The vanilla rises to the surface and mixes with the other accords to create the impression of a dry caramel, infused with coffee. It’s an odd caramel though, as it has limited sweetness and a touch of bitterness. At the same time, the coffee and chocolate blend together to create a dry mocha accord. The patchouli is laced throughout it all. It is still primarily like peppermint, but it’s a much softer, warmer, earthier touch.

By the 3.5 hour mark, Milano Caffe is a soft coffee fragrance with slightly powdered vanilla and peppermint patchouli, nestled in a woody dryness and dusted by cocoa powder. There are lingering traces of both bitterness and smokiness, but they are subtle. The combination feels chewy in its notes, but the fragrance itself is a skin scent by now that is only hefty when you smell it up close. The notes remain easy to detect for another few hours, though they slowly lose their richness.

Mark Rothko, #20 or "Black,brown on maroon." Source: artsearch.nga.gov.au

Mark Rothko, #20 or “Black,brown on maroon.” Source: artsearch.nga.gov.au

At the start of the 6th hour, Milano Caffe is a soft, dusty cocoa powder with woodiness that vaguely translates to patchouli and a hint of something pepperminty. At the end of the 8th hour, it feels almost gone, but Milano Caffe clings on tenaciously. It finally dies away 10.25 hours from the start as a blur of cocoa powder and dry woodiness.

ALL IN ALL:

Regardless of arm or test, Milano Caffe never evokes an urban city for me. Instead, it takes me to the darkest of woods filled with endless vistas of patchouli, vetiver, and greenness. In a clearing at the heart of darkness is a table for two, set with an array of café treats. The scent of freshly brewed, bitter expresso fills the air, as you chew on a selection of peppermints, dark chocolate and licorice on a chair made of vetiver and cedar. A tiny cup of vanilla sits at the far side of the table, next to thimble of cognac. Fireflies of amber act as candlelight, but they are tiny vestiges of warmth in the dark forest.

Zucca coffee shop, Milan on The Perfume Shrine, via the virtualtourist.com

Zucca coffee shop, Milan on The Perfume Shrine, via the virtualtourist.com

Other bloggers, however, were taken to the heart of Milan, and experienced a scent that was driven primarily by coffee and dark chocolate, with only minor degrees of woodiness or patchouli. Take, for example, The Perfume Shrine who describes Milano Caffe, in part, as follows:

The pervading and intoxicating scent of freshly ground coffee is one small part of [the Italian sybarite’s] luxury of letting time slip by. The mingling of chocolate in the composition of Milano Caffé recalls the dusting of cocoa powder on the white “caplet” of a hearty and filling cappuccino, drunk leisurely with a view of the impressive Duomo before taking a stroll down the Via Montenapoleone for some serious window shopping. The Milanese are nothing if not sticklers for detail, from their dog’s collar to their impeccable shoes, and I can feel in Milano Caffé the vibrancy of the elegant woody and spicy background which hums underneath the culinary notes of the top. Coffee is naturally a complex smell, comprised of caramelized & smoky/acrid facets on one end, of woody, like freshly sharpened pencils, on the other.

The dry quality of the fragrance despite the tonka bean and ambery richness elevates the composition into classic resinous-balsamic level; one mistakes smelling Milano Caffé for a full-bodied vintage that peels layer after layer after layer. In fact, what is most surprising is finding a hint of the cocoa-facet of orris and something which reminds me of the fluff, the flou quality of the resin opoponax, amidst the proceedings. This caress under the dark and bitterish flavor of coffee only serves to consolidate the infiltrating appeal of that highly prized bean, that elixir of life, the coffea arabica, cutting its slightly acidic character. Although the spicy woodiness might make Milano Caffé more conventionally masculine in direction, its richness and cuddly chocolate note makes it a great choice for the woman who doesn’t follow trends but rather sets them herself.

Kevin at Now Smell This also experienced a coffee-chocolate dominated scent, though he detected the patchouli as I did. In his review, he wrote:

Milano Caffè opens with a pleasantly discordant mix of espresso beans, bitter chocolate…and perhaps a touch of real patchouli. Next up is the scent of an expensive bar of dark chocolate, scented with cinnamon/clove, and an accord that reminds me of cardamom, something “sage-y”/green and a dark, almost caramelized sweet note (the “spirit” of opoponax followed me as I wore this perfume). Milano Caffè’s character in mid-development is of an off-kilter amber fragrance, with its bits and pieces not quite fitting together. I love the fact that this is NOT a smooth, predictable, culinary take on coffee and chocolate, but more of an herbal/spice-coffee-chocolate perfume “tonic.” There is a woody vibe in the extreme dry down, and the perfume gets a tad incense-y (benzoin?) the longer I wear it. (There is also a phase that reminds me of Thai iced tea, with its cream and star anise aromas.)

On first sniff, Milano Caffè went to the top of my favorite coffee-chocolate perfumes list, and I like it more each time I wear it; the fragrance would be great to wear in autumn and winter, even on a chilly spring day. [¶] La Via del Profumo lists Milano Caffè as a masculine fragrance, but, to me, it’s unisex. Milano Caffè’s lasting power is good for an all-natural fragrance (around four hours on me); sillage is minimal.

Obviously, the patchouli wasn’t as dominant on his skin, and I clearly had a much longer time-span for Milano Caffe as a whole. In fact, the length of time for all the Profumo scents that I’ve tried thus far is quite astonishing, given that they are all natural. I consistently experience 10 hours or more, and given my wonky skin, that says something.

Basenotes‘ official listing for Milano Caffe has no reviews yet, while, on Fragrantica, only two people have provided an actual description of the scent. The first is from “Oscar_84” who talks as much about the vanilla and amber as the coffee:

As soon as I spray Milano Caffè on my wrists, the coffee aroma and the sweetness of chocolate feel kind of intoxicating, pervading my senses. It’s very much like entering a café in a cold morning and ordering a cappuccino… the comforting aroma of freshly ground coffee that blends with the dustiness of cocoa powder over the soft and creamy drink will instantly warm you and make you feel good even in the grayest day. After top notes, that still remain perceivable through the following stages, Milano Caffè reveals its truest oriental vanilla nature with a smoothest but pretty masculine accord of vanilla and woody notes, while iris nuances provide the scent a delicate elegance: in its drydown the fragrance reveals oriental accords of amber, spices and balsamic hints that provide the fragrance it an unexpected fresh vibe. As for longevity-projection, the fragrance has a moderate lasting power (about four hours) and a pretty good sillage.

In my opinion Milano Caffè has very detectable, warm and discrete features that make it perfectly suitable not only for casual wear but also for job meetings, evening dates and any other events when one may need both an energetic and kind of cuddling scent.

The second review is from a woman who experienced a bit more of the medicinal aspects that I encountered from the patchouli, though they didn’t last long on her:

This has a very vintage feel to it, especially in the beginning. The first initial spray smell is not my favorite, it’s very harsh almost medicinal and not very pleasant. But after about 5 minutes it turns into a bitter coffee chocolate, latte smell, but not in a sweet way sugary way. This perfume is definitely not sweet, but it has a very Italian feel to it. It’s very complex, the coffee, bitter chocolate, latte smell stays around for about 1 hour, then it gets more woodsy but a bitter chocolate note shines through here and there. I also get a bit of Shalimar similarity in it, somewhere in the beginning. I wouldn’t wear this out, but I love this in the morning with when I’m having my coffee. I would say it’s a perfume for your self, and it grows on you over time. I’m glad to have it in my collection.

I suspect it is the patchouli’s green side that she finds medicinal, while the Shalimar comparison may stem from the subtle smokiness and leathery undertones in Milano Caffe.

Obviously, skin chemistry makes a difference to how Milano Caffe will appear on your skin, but I think anyone who loves coffee and real patchouli scents should try it. I don’t think the fragrance is for everyone, though. Those who love gourmands will struggle with the dryness, and I think the fragrance will feel very masculine for women who don’t enjoy the boldest and darkest of scents.

I also agree with the female Fragrantica commentator that Milano Caffe grows on you with time, so I would recommend trying it at least twice. While I loved its opening bouquet from the very first time, the subsequent drydown took a few tries for me to appreciate quite as much. One thing I’ve noticed is that Milano Caffe is perfect for layering with a warmer, sweeter scent. I sprayed Arabian Oud‘s Kalemat for a honeyed, richly ambered foundation, then applied Milano Caffe over it, and I loved the overall combination of the two.

There is something else that I think is critical to keep in mind when trying not just Milano Caffe, but every scent from La Via del Profumo. You have to keep in mind who Abdes Salaam or Dominique Dubrana is himself. In my opinion, he is very much in the vein of visionaries like Serge Lutens, perfumers who follow the beat of their own drum, with visions in their head that differ from the more conventional, approachable, easy things created by others. Regular readers know my worship of Serge Lutens, the man, so this is one of the highest compliments I can give someone. Both men have complicated depth, an intellectual nature, a fiercely passionate, unique approach to perfumery, and a deeply poetic soul.

In fact, Mr. Dubrana’s website, Profumo, is subtitled in one section as “Scents of the Soul.” If you read his writings, from the holistic and perfumetherapy parts to his blog, if you look at his calligraphy, or if you observe his beautifully philosophic quotes from Rumi in his Twitter page, you will find a complex, fascinating intellectual who stands apart. I should also state that I’ve interacted briefly with Mr. Dubrana via email correspondence, and find him to be the epitome of an Old World gentleman, in every sense of that word. I’m fascinated, enchanted, and determined to explore more of his line.

As with Serge Lutens, some of the Profumo fragrances are intensely different and perhaps rise to the level of art that is to be admired. It doesn’t mean that every scent is always approachable, wearable, or versatile. Serge Lutens’ creations aren’t always so for me, though his fragrances dominate my collection. I think Profumo scents are the same way. Mecca Balsam didn’t work for me given how badly my skin distorted it, and I don’t think Milano Caffe is for everyone either, though I personally enjoy it a lot. In all cases, however, they are fragrances to respect. They stand out with their boldness, originality, and intensity.

The average perfumista may be overwhelmed, just as many are by Serge Lutens or Amouage, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t expand your horizons and try them. When you do, keep in mind that they are meant to be different. Mr. Dubrana has sent me samples of a few of his scents, so I shall cover one or two more in the upcoming days, with the jasmine-centered Tawaf being next. I can tell you that a mere sniff of the scent in the vial blew me away, and its opening is the most beautifully intense, lush, narcotic jasmine I’ve tried in recent memory. After that, I’ll review the cool, austere, incense fragrance, Hindu Kush, the almond-leathered desert scent, Sharif, and the tobacco, Tabac.

As for Milano Caffe, it is a complicated, dark beauty. It is also quite affordable at prices that start at $44 (or roughly €37 with VAT) for the smallest size. A little goes a long way, so I definitely encourage men who love expresso or true patchouli to give it a sniff. Women who enjoy bold, very woody or dark scents may enjoy it too.

Disclosure: My sample was courtesy of AbdesSalaam Attar. That did not impact this review. I do not do paid reviews, my views are my own, and my first obligation is honesty to my readers.

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Milano Caffe is an eau de parfum that comes in a variety of sizes. It is available exclusively from the Profumo.it website which ships its scents world-wide. All the following prices for Milano Caffe are in Euros without VAT: €32,73 for 15.5 ml, €70,82 for 33 ml (a little over 1 oz) and €97,20 for 50 ml/1.7 oz. At today’s rate of exchange, the USD prices roughly comes to: $44, $96, and $132 for the 50 ml bottle. The site says: “Prices are without VAT and are valid for USA and all non EEC countries[;] for shipments in the EEC 22% VAT will be ADDED to the amount in the shopping cart.” There is also a Mignon Discovery Coffret which is available for any 5 fragrances, each in a glass 5.5 ml bottle. The price depends on which perfumes you pick, as the choice is up to you. The 5.5 ml bottle of Milano Caffe is €12,30. On a side note, I received my samples from Mr. Dubrana incredibly quickly, less than 4 days after he sent it. Additionally, I have the impression that, with all purchases, Profumo provides free 2 ml samples, especially of any new fragrances that he is developing, since AbdesSalaam is very interested in feedback. In short, if you’re ordering fragrance, you may want to ask for a sample of something that strikes your eye. Samples: you can order a sample of Milano Caffe from Surrender to Chance which sells the perfume at $5.99 for a 1 ml vial.