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.

Aftelier Perfumes Cuir de Gardenia

Source: Mostbeautifulflower.com

Source: Mostbeautifulflower.com

The beauty of a gardenia, with all its multi-faceted richness and inherent contradictions, captured in a perfume that is sometimes much more about a mood than a particular set of notes. That is Cuir de Gardenia, a feat of technical skill, innovation, and perfume mastery by the acclaimed doyenne of all-natural perfumery, Mandy Aftel of Aftelier Perfumes

On her website, Ms. Aftel has a wonderfully detailed explanation of why Cuir de Gardenia is different from many “gardenia” scents, along with discussion of its character and structure:

Cuir de Gardenia retains the unique beauty of the tiare [Tahitian gardenia] flower, not allowing it to morph into the hundreds of petals of a floral bouquet. I had been incredibly fortunate to find an artisanal grower and distiller of the ultra-rare, costly, precious gardenia. In Cuir de Gardenia, I wanted to retain the pure loveliness of the creamy sweet and singular gardenia fragrance, and knew that the rounded warmth of an oil-based perfume (solid and extrait) would be the perfect format.

Tiare or Tahitian gardenia. Source: Kootation.com

Tiare or Tahitian gardenia. Source: Kootation.com

Cuir de Gardenia is unusual in that it has no top notes; I created it in such a way that the gardenia appears immediately, unimpeded from the opening of the perfume onward, merging seamlessly with the leather. The natural isolates ethyl phenyl acetate (reminiscent of a bunch of sweet peas) and the candy-like maltol contribute sweet and floral notes to the animalic base of the perfume.

Source: Fragrantica

Source: Fragrantica

Cuir de Gardenia comes in two concentrations: an extrait de parfum oil and a solid perfume. This review is for the former, the extrait de parfum. The perfume is classified on Fragrantica as a “floral woody musk,” while Ms. Aftel categorizes it as “dry woods.” According to Ms. Aftel, the notes are:

Middle: tiare (gardenia) absolute, jasmine grandiflorum absolute, benzyl acetate.
Base: castoreum, ethyl phenyl acetate, maltol.

It was interesting to smell Cuir de Gardenia merely in the vial. You are struck by an intense burst of heady, rich gardenia with hints of jasmine and a strongly animalic whiff.

Source: Chris Maher or "Artonline" at Deviantart.com. (Website link embedded within.)

Source: Chris Maher or “Artonline” at Deviantart.com. (Website link embedded within.)

The latter evoked two very different images in my mind. First, the smooth flanks of an animal covered in leather that has been burnished in lush perfumed oils. Second, the flanks of the human body, with the curve over the hips and slightly musky, satiny smoothness. There is something to both visuals, as Cuir de Gardenia is more than a mere floral scent. Still, there is no doubt that the main note is unquestionably gardenia. In the vial, it smells like a full-throttled gardenia or, more accurately, the essence of thousands of flowers distilled into a few, concentrated, precious drops. As a whole, Cuir de Gardenia is almost more of a mood and feeling than a mere scent.

It’s a different matter on the skin, at least at first. Cuir de Gardenia is an oil, and the first thing I was struck by when I applied it was the glistening, golden sheen it leaves on the skin. For me, smell of the oil initially acted as a barrier between the headiness of the flower that was so apparent from sniffing the vial. You have to give it a few minutes for the oiliness to dissipate and melt. Once the heat of your skin breaks it down, Cuir de Gardenia starts to show itself in all its multi-faceted richness.

North American Beaver via Wikipedia.

North American Beaver via Wikipedia.

Cuir de Gardenia opens on my skin with a fierce blast of strong castoreum musk, infused with the fresh gardenia flower, greenness, and a tinge of sourness. Depending on how much of the perfume you apply, the castoreum either leads the charge or comes in second place. When I applied a lot (about 3 big dabs of the oil), the muskiness was both intense and very animalic, verging almost on the feral. (You can read more about castoreum on Fragrantica, if you’re interested.) It made me think of how Ms. Aftel was reported to buy a very ancient, vintage stock of the beaver secretion from the estate of a former perfumer and how that ingredient is said to be such a part of her Secret Garden fragrance. I suspect the same stock was used for Cuir de Gardenia.

Source: freerangedairy.org

Source: freerangedairy.org

When I applied a smaller amount of the oil, the dominant impression for me was something else. I was struck by how Cuir de Gardenia felt more like a texture. Yes, there is the gardenia that is more moderately indolic and encased in a subtle warmth tinged with the castoreum’s musky, plush, velvety undertones. However, my main impression was rich, Devon clotted cream and butter. Cuir de Gardenia opens like floral butter, touched by a hint of sourness and green. The latter is an unexpected freshness that feels quite contradictory given how rich and ripe the flower can be.

Source: 123rf.com

Source: 123rf.com

I’m struck by the polarity and juxtapositions. Velvety petals that feel like buttered cream, next to dewy moisture and greenness. You have the gardenia on the stem in the early morning hours, but also the headiness of that same flower after it’s been plucked and its aroma has concentrated over time. None of it feels blowsy or decayed; there are initially no mushroomy undertones nor earthiness the way gardenia can sometimes manifest. Depending on quantity, it is either quietly lusty in its muskiness, or a little bit feral.

Ten minutes in, Cuir de Gardenia smells like buttermilk with its green, sour cream undertones. Deep in the base, there is a subtle whiff of something rubbery, but it’s more textural than anything black or leathered. It’s as if there were so much gardenia richness that it has coagulated and solidified into a hardened oil. I know I’m not doing a good job of explaining all of this, but that is because I’ve never quite encountered a gardenia like this one. For a perfume centered around one main note, there are a lot of unexpected, almost contradictory, complex facets in the opening hour.

Photo: onewomanshands.blogspot.com

Photo: onewomanshands.blogspot.com

I think that’s a testament to Ms. Aftel’s deft handling of the flower. It would have been all to easy for Cuir de Gardenia to be a simple, indolic, voluptuous gardenia. With all that richness, you’d almost expect a single-minded, typical gardenia. Instead, Cuir de Gardenia is one of those rare scents that somehow captures all the tiny, often disparate, layers to the flower actually growing in nature. What it isn’t is raunchy or dirty. This is a very different sort of “indolic” theme than what one usually encounters, one that is more musky than voluptuously narcotic on my skin.

And, in truth, Cuir de Gardenia’s headiness is a very quiet one. I’m not surrounded by an avalanche of gardenia; there is no nuclear-tipped cloud wafting around me, emanating a lavishly thick, voluptuous fleshiness. Cuir de Gardenia is much more restrained. I have to admit, I personally prefer my white flowers on the Wagnerian side, but there is no denying Cuir de Gardenia’s refinement. It is more akin to Vivaldi’s Four Seasons than to the Ride of the Valkyries, more Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik Allegro than Beethoven’s Ninth or his Ode to Joy. None of that is meant as an insult. I love all those pieces, deeply, and I listen to Mozart more than I do to Wagner’s powerful “Apocalypse Now“- style piece, but there is no denying that there are distinct differences in style, tone, and mood.

At the end of 30 minutes, the perfume hovers an inch above the skin in a mix that is at once delicate, restrained, and rich. When you apply a larger quantity of Cuir de Gardenia, it adds another hour to the time frame before the sillage drops. In both cases, when smelled up close, the perfume is a massively concentrated hit of lush, buttery smooth gardenia infused with greenness and a tinge of buttermilk sourness. The gardenia is carefully placed upon a soft castoreum base that is very quietly musky, plush, velvety, and dark. Yet, there is very little of the animalic whiff that I detected when I smelled Cuir de Gardenia in the vial or that the perfume opened with when I applied a lot. The castoreum seems to have melted into the petals, having an indirect effect on the notes in a much more discreet manner. The whole thing is lovely, and I’m very impressed by the carefully calibrated balance.

"Dressage Black and White" by Diana Rose Greenhut or DianaExperiment on Flickr. (Website link embedded within.)

“Dressage Black and White” by Diana Rose Greenhut or DianaExperiment on Flickr. (Website link embedded within.)

You may have noticed that I’ve barely mentioned leather at this point. Well, initially, it didn’t show up on my skin in any discernible fashion. Then, suddenly, right at the 30 minute mark, things start to change. There is a muted impression of an ultra-expensive, high-end Hermès saddle which carries the tiniest lingering traces of the horse it had been on many hours before. There is something almost akin to civet in the animalic muskiness that is starting to stir on my skin. Lurking in the distance and at the edges are tiny flickers of notes that are simultaneously mushroom-y, earthy, vaguely chocolate-y, and nutty. It is undoubtedly due to the gardenia’s mushroom side combined with the castoreum. Whatever the cause, it adds dimension to what was previously and primarily a fresh-ripe, green-creamy floral bouquet.

The issue of the leather is perhaps the best evidence for how beautifully Cuir de Gardenia has been blended and the technical mastery involved. For the first hour, the leather never stays in one place on my skin, but moves throughout the notes like a very friendly ghost. Sometimes, he stops to say hello, and remains to chat for 4 or 5 minutes. Then, he drifts away to other worlds for a brief span, before popping back in. Every time I think he’s finally vanished, he waves a dark, friendly, leathered arm at you from the horizon. Then, suddenly, 90 minutes in, he decides to move in permanently. And he’s brought luggage with him! Suitcases filled with black smoke whose tiny tendrils wind their way up from their depths to slowly wrap their threads around the creamy gardenia. The leather ghost gives you a cheeky grin, puts his feet up, and is there to stay.

Yet, I want to emphasize that this is a very subtle, muted “leather” as a whole. It’s not the sort of leather that you have in fragrances like Etat Libre‘s hardcore, black Rien, the deeper, burnished brown leather of Puredistance M, the distinct leather of Parfums Retro‘s Grand Cuir, or the animalic leather of LM ParfumsHard Leather. The note here is more about an impression of leather. It is strongly infused with an animalic edge that sometimes feels a bit civet-like in nature, and it creates a subtle kinship to horsey leather. To be clear, though, the note is never fecal but is primarily just musky. Still, if you’re expecting a true, hardcore leather fragrance, you need to put those thoughts aside. Cuir de Gardenia is a spotlight on gardenia first and foremost. The flower merely happens to have a animalic leather undertone that distinguishes it from the traditional take on the note.

"Gardenia sketch" by Angel H. Juarbe on Fine Art America. http://fineartamerica.com/featured/gardenia-sketch-angel-h-juarbe.html

“Gardenia sketch” by Angel H. Juarbe on Fine Art America. http://fineartamerica.com/featured/gardenia-sketch-angel-h-juarbe.html

From the start of the third hour until its end, Cuir de Gardenia is a seamless blend of gardenia with animalic “leather” and musky touches. The smokiness lingers, but it becomes increasingly overshadowed by the warmth in the base that makes the gardenia more golden in feel. It is a skin scent on me at the 2.5 hour mark, but Cuir de Gardenia’s longevity is excellent. As an extrait or pure parfum, that is to be expected, but Cuir de Gardenia is also an all-natural perfume, so I was surprised when I noted Cuir de Gardenia lingering well after the 7th hour. All in all, with 3 big dabs, the perfume lasted just short of 11 hours on my perfume-eating skin. It was a mere whisper after the 6th hour that you could detect only if you put your nose right on your skin, but it was most definitely there. With a smaller quantity, Cuir de Gardenia lasted just under 9 hours.

As many of you know by now, Cuir de Gardenia has been a massive hit. Over 12 different bloggers have placed it on their Best of 2013 list, from The Perfume Shrine and The Non-Blonde to The Fragrant Man, Angela at Now Smell This, and many others. Out of the full reviews, I think that of The Non-Blonde is worth noting. On her skin, Cuir de Gardenia was more overtly sensual (or sexual?) than it seemed to be on me. Furthermore, her review includes a useful comparison between the extrait parfum and the solid:

Cuir de Gardenia, the new perfume from Aftelier tells the story of luxury, eccentricity, and sensuality. […][¶] This gardenia smells warm: warm from the tropical sun and sands as well as warm skin. The creamy aspect is also there, musky and sensual. This flower is unmasked by top notes. There’s nothing there to lighten the mood or make it go down easily. Instead, you get a journey from flora to fauna, as the creamy gardenia becomes fattier and more animalic and the perfume embraces the skin and wraps it an unmistakable buttery leather. […]

Cuir de Gardenia is offered as an extrait and a solid perfume, to keep the warmth and sensuality on skin-level. This perfume is pure decadence– you don’t want to send it into the stratosphere on a cloud of volatile alcohol molecules. I suspect that beyond the preciousness of the raw materials, a big sillage would have been just too much for polite company: this thing requires intimacy, which this format allows. Applied where it truly counts, Cuir de Gardenia is sweet and intense. I find it incredibly sexy in a very femme way, but then again, I’m all woman. Men who feel comfortable in dirty gardenia fragrances (from JAR Jardenia to Lutens Une Voix Noire) shouldn’t hesitate to try this Aftelier perfume in either form. The solid smells more animalic upon application but becomes smoother and almost honeyed after an hour or so. The extrait works for me in an opposite way– its true leather and castoreum nature becomes more pronounced with time. They layer beautifully, obviously, and last for at least six hours even when dabbed extremely sparingly.

Cuir de Gardenia was originally meant to be a limited-edition release, but the degree of the positive response has led Ms. Aftel to make the perfume a permanent part of her line, and to also offer it in a new 1/4 oz (about 7.4 ml) extrait bottle. It’s not cheap at $195 (or $240 for the solid), but you really need to keep in mind just what we’re talking about here: real gardenia, not a synthetic recreation through other notes. As I’ve mentioned a few times, gardenia is one of those flowers whose aroma cannot be easily captured through distillation of its petals. When you smell “gardenia” in a perfume, you’re usually smelling some combination of tuberose, jasmine, or synthetics. A fragrance made purely from actual, genuine gardenia is incredibly rare.

Tiare. Source: wahinewednesdays.com

Tiare. Source: wahinewednesdays.com

The Fragrant Man offers insight on yet another difficult aspect of using gardenia, especially when it’s the Tahitian kind called tiaré:

[Ms. Aftel’s Cuir de Gardenia] is a breakthrough moment for gardenia ‘fume lovers. The issue with gardenia oil is that when it leaves its heated homeland the scent changes to ‘off’ or more precisely, indolic at the unpleasant end of the spectrum. It is unstable when taken out of its natural tropical environment. We are talking about Tiare here, the gardenia that is native to Polynesia so my guess is that Tahiti or New Caledonia is probably the source. In these islands the local people make manoi oils. Tourists are often charmed by the scent of these oils until they arrive back home. This has happened to me. […] Manoi oil is coconut oil usually blended with the Tahitian gardenia known as Tiare but also with frangipani, ylang ylang and vanilla, in an enfleurage type process. Coconut oil is the carrier fat for the scent.

Ms. Aftel has found a way around all that, while also avoiding synthetics and gardenia substitutes. The result is a fragrance that seems to drive many men and women wild. (You can read The Fragrant Man‘s proper review of the scent, subtitled “Olfactory Orgasm,” which not only includes links to all the other reviews out there, but also has a discussion on the role of antique castoreum in recreating the leather note.)

There are a few other male bloggers who also fell hard for Cuir de Gardenia. In the case of The Black Narcissus, his immediate, instant reaction to Cuir de Gardenia was so extreme that the usually elegant writer could barely get the words out:

STOP THE PRESS! AFTELIER PERFUMES’ CUIR DE GARDENIA EXTRAIT IS GORGEOUS

the perfume, just deliciously arrived in my postbox: immediately, for me, knee weakening. not gardenia, as in gardenia,… tiare:a tropical, moist, neptunian, sultry white witch emerging, hair slicked to shoulders, from the sea. sweet Italian bubble bath honey. cuir: but fresh.tango’s eminently wearable younger sister, unencumbered

Photo: Chris or "Rapt in Roses" on Flickr. (Website link embedded within photo.)

Photo: Chris or “Rapt in Roses” on Flickr. (Website link embedded within photo.)

I liked Cuir de Gardenia a lot, but it was more quiet and restrained on my skin than I had expected. It is infinitely creamy, but I think I like my white flowers to show more skin, to ooze ripened sexuality like a heaving bosom on a courtesan. In other words, I like my big white flowers to be narcotically BIG WHITE FLOWERS, Wagner and Valkyrie style.

Yet, it’s hard not to be impressed and a little bit seduced by a more tasteful, refined take when it is as rich, buttery and multi-faceted as Cuir de Gardenia is. The perfume is a study of paradoxes — paradoxes which are perhaps the best and truest manifestation of the flower in nature that I have ever encountered — but done with an ingenuous animal twist. The whole thing is intellectually fascinating, but Cuir de Gardenia is also a testament to pure skill. You can’t be a niche perfumista today without hearing about Ms. Aftel’s role as the professor, alchemical wizard, and pioneer of all-natural perfumery. You hear it, but you may not really understand it fully until you try something like Cuir de Gardenia.

Or, in my particular case, her Chef Essences which I have to say here and now blew my foodie mind in such a way that my eyes rolled back in my head, and I was considering engaging in lewd acts with the bottle. (Well, not quite, but… close. I was certainly molesting the bottle of Ginger Essence in full disregard of the instructions on the stated quantity, and I was pretty much drooling on both myself and my food. The degree of my reaction, amazement and disbelief over those genius fragrant oils cannot be stated enough, and they will be the subject of a review sometime in the next 2 weeks, once I finish my cooking tests. Those Chef Essences…. Good God!) If Cuir de Gardenia didn’t arouse quite such an intense reaction in me, it is only because I care about food much more than I do about perfume. Gastronomy is my first love, while perfume is perhaps my fifth, so don’t misinterpret my tone. I think Cuir de Gardenia is very pretty, even if it isn’t really very “me.” It is also, without a doubt, masterfully done.

I think that anyone who passionately adores their lush, big white flowers should give Cuir de Gardenia a sniff. Those who normally fear white flower bombs would probably enjoy it as well, given the perfume’s intimate restraint and refinement. At the same time, the animalic side and suggestion of leather make Cuir de Gardenia a fragrance that men can pull off. The perfume’s low sillage also means that it is something you can wear to work, though I personally think Cuir de Gardenia feels far too special for such mundane, daily events. My only note of caution is for those who are accustomed to more commercial, traditionally sweet, or conventional florals. If you’re not used to castoreum, I don’t know how you will respond to Cuir de Gardenia’s very animalic muskiness. 

All in all, I think Cuir de Gardenia would be perfect for a date night, or an evening when you want to discreetly tantalize. It is delicate sensuality done with great refinement. 

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

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Cuir de Gardenia is exclusive to the Aftelier website, and is available in 3 different sizes. There is a 2 ml mini of Pure Parfum extrait for $55; a new 1/4 oz bottle (about 7.4 ml) of the Extrait for $195; or a 0.25 oz of solid perfume in a handmade, sterling silver compact for $240. Samples are available for $6 for a 1/4 ml vial. Ms. Aftel ships worldwide, and you can find further information on her FAQ page. 

Hiram Green Perfumes Moon Bloom: Ophelia’s Tuberose

"Monna Vanna" by Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

“Monna Vanna” by Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

One of my favorite periods in art is the Pre-Raphaelite movement led by Dante Gabriel Rossetti. His exquisite beauties with almost translucent ivory skin and their manes of Titian-red flames stare at you with large, haunted eyes and seemingly quivering lips. Their graceful bodies are either garbed in ornate furs or velvets, or are the embodiment of simplicity against the lushness of nature. In all case, though, they always straddle the line between prim daintiness and richness, delicacy and sensuality, darkness and light.

The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood repeatedly came to mind when I wore Moon Bloom, a fragrance centered around the richness of white flowers, particularly tuberose. Yet, it wasn’t my favorite, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, with his ornate beauties who the perfume conjured up.

"Ophelia" by Arthur Hughes. Source: preraphaelitesisterhood.com

“Ophelia” by Arthur Hughes. Source: preraphaelitesisterhood.com

Instead, it was the various portrayals of Ophelia by other members of the brotherhood, from John William Waterhouse to Arthur Hughes. The key is the radiance of an Ophelia who glows white, embodying delicacy, gracefulness, warmth and femininity in the midst of very measured, very calibrated, careful lushness. For me, that is the essence of Moon Bloom.

Moon Bloom is an all-natural, handcrafted eau de parfum that released in 2013, the debut creation of Hiram Green Perfumes. The perfume house is based in the Netherlands, but was founded by a British gentleman, Hiram Green, who has quite a background with perfumery in general. His website explains further:

After founding Scent Systems, a perfumery located in central London, Hiram learnt that most perfumes, even the ‘best quality’ ones, are manufactured using synthetic materials. Wanting to offer a natural alternative to his customers, he was hard-pressed to find anything suitable.

After relocating to the Netherlands, Hiram spent several years researching and experimenting with natural fragrant materials. In his studio in Gouda he develops and produces his natural fragrances in small batches.

Moon Bloom via the Hiram Green website.

Moon Bloom via the Hiram Green website.

I love the look of Moon Bloom which comes is a glass bottle with an old-fashioned black atomizer “poofer” (as I call it) pump, dark ambered liquid, and a turquoise wax seal. The description for the fragrance may be even prettier, as it uses a phrase I’d never previously heard in connection with my favorite flower. “The mistress of the night.” I shan’t forget it. Even though I see tuberose as the exquisite embodiment of whiteness, enough people find its narcotic qualities to be overwhelming and utterly evil, thereby making “mistress of the night” quite an apt, very amusing moniker of darkness.

Source: Fragrantica

Source: Fragrantica

The perfume’s full description reads:

Moon Bloom is a lush and elegant tuberose themed eau de parfum. Tuberose is a tropical night blooming flower. Often referred to as ‘the mistress of the night’, tuberose is an admired theme in perfumery because of its soft and creamy but also powerful and narcotic aroma.

Moon Bloom includes generous amounts of tuberose absolute, jasmine absolute and ylang ylang. There are also notes of coconut, leafy greens and hints of tropical spices and resins.

Moon Bloom opens on my skin with green, fresh tuberose that has a very mentholated, chilly, rubbery note. I have to admit, I muttered to myself, “here we go again.” It’s undoubtedly unfair to have a bias against the eucalyptus-like, chilled metal opening of many modern tuberose scents. After all, the deconstructed essence of the flower and their indoles often has that precise profile. Still, I’m not a particular fan of it, especially when it takes on the merest whisper of mothballs, the tell-tale sign of truly concentrated or undiluted indoles. Thankfully for me, both the mothballs and the hardcore, rubbery, mentholated intensity fade away within mere minutes. Less than 4 actually, so it truly doesn’t last long on my skin, though a certain chilly coolness does linger for another hour.

tuberoseThe opening moments are a contrast of light and dark. The tuberose is followed almost immediately by a touch of sweet jasmine and by milkiness. Though the dark, rubbery mentholated camphor fades quickly, there remains a light greenness that lurks around the edges. At the same time, the tuberose feels lush, opulent and heady, with indoles that almost border on the dirty. The sweetness of the jasmine grows in strength, flitting all around the top notes, intertwined inextricably with the potent tuberose. The whole thing is warm and rich from the start, with a spicy quality that hints at the base elements.

While Moon Bloom’s opening minutes definitely shares the deconstructed tuberose element of Serge LutensTubéreuse Criminelle, I find definite differences between the two. It’s not merely the length of time that each note lasts. It’s also that the note never smells like diesel or gasoline. After the opening salvo, it feels more like a touch of smoky darkness that is replaced by icy menthol. At times, the latter almost feels fizzy, like the aerated champagne bubbles in YSL‘s vintage Champagne or Yvresse. The flood of sweet jasmine also ensures that the indoles don’t stay rubbery or too medicinal for long.

Source: crazy-frankenstein.com

Source: crazy-frankenstein.com

There is another great white flower that I smell, crazy as it sounds. On every occasion when I’ve worn Moon Bloom, there is a core note of what I would swear is gardenia. I thought I was completely mad, as there is no gardenia whatsoever in Moon Bloom. So I wrote to Mr. Green about it, and he replied: “I think of gardenia absolute as smelling between Jasmine and Tuberose. It would not surprise me then if you smelt gardenia in Moon Bloom.” Mr. Green is a very courteous gentleman, so he may have been trying to make me feel better, but I’m going with his explanation. From this point on, I’ll just write “gardenia” in quotes so that you know I’m referring to the oddity of my own nose.

As a whole, Moon Bloom quickly turns into a rich tuberose and jasmine duet with the lightest touch of both greenness and darkness. My favorite part may be the coconut. It’s actually more like vaguely coconut-y, floral milk, than actual heavy, gooey, Hawaiian Tropics butteriness. It’s a delicate, initially watery, soft note that is never cloying or unctuous, though it is quite muted and muffled. For most of Moon Bloom’s lifespan on my skin, the coconut works in the shadows, adding an indirect effect to the base notes and providing a textural quality more than an actual smell of milkiness.

White opal via swissgemshop.ch

White opal via swissgemshop.ch

“Radiant” may be the best description for Moon Bloom, despite its initial potency and indolic quality. Contrary as it may sound, the perfume feels more radiant and delicate than carnal, fleshy, and over-ripe. It’s a dainty take on a floral powerhouse, and the soft, airy quality that takes over after 20 minutes underscores that impression. Instead of evoking pillowy, fleshy bosoms on languid courtesans, instead of the hot, almost opaque excesses of Fracas (which I love for precisely that reason), Moon Bloom makes me think of an opal stone with its touch of iridescence amidst a milky smoothness. Perhaps its the name of the fragrance with its imagery of flowers blooming in the silvery light of the moon, but I think it’s Moon Bloom’s radiant quality that feels like a perfectly calibrated mix of lushness and bright freshness.

Photo: onewomanshands.blogspot.com

Photo: onewomanshands.blogspot.com

20 minutes in, Moon Bloom starts to shift. The “gardenia” note grows stronger. Here, it is simultaneously a very dewy, green “gardenia” like the version in Ineke‘s Hothouse Flower, and also a lusher, richer interpretation of it. I realise that it is probably the jasmine, but regardless of the actual source, I love the creaminess with its contradictory freshness. The tuberose-jasmine duo still dominate, but the “gardenia” definitely trails in third place. The flowers feel almost weightless, a little too much so for my personal tastes. On my skin, the jasmine is far meatier and richer than the tuberose which feels utterly translucent at this stage. Around the same time, Moon Bloom’s projection drops. It was initially extremely strong, but is now an airy cloud that hovers 2 inches above the skin with 3 spritzes from a little atomizer. 

The prominence and role of the individual flowers in Moon Bloom are really interesting. After wearing the fragrance a number of times in the last month, I’ve noticed what seems to be a trend in the perfume’s overall development. Moon Bloom always begins with tuberose, but it then goes through stages where other flowers seem to take over. It feels like a horse-race where the tuberose bursts out of the gate, but becomes neck-and-neck with the other flowers after thirty minutes. First, it is jasmine which surges ahead by a nose, and stays there for the first few hours. Then, its place is taken by the “gardenia” which is heavily intertwined with the tuberose for the next stage. In the end, though, the tuberose returns to overtake them both on the home stretch, and races past the finish line. For me, that’s unusual as most tuberose-centered fragrances that I’ve tried inevitably end up finishing as jasmine or something else. Not Moon Bloom, though the tuberose is definitely in second place for long stretches of time.

Ylang-Ylang. Source: Soapgoods.com

Ylang-Ylang. Source: Soapgoods.com

You may have noticed that I haven’t mentioned ylang-ylang in all this. Well, for the first thirty minutes, I can’t detect it at all. Then, almost on the dot, it appears, albeit in extremely muted form. It adds a velvety smooth texture, and, for a second, just the tiniest hint of something banana-like. At the same time, however, it is infused with an almost moss-like greenness at its edges that smells both leafy, and a wee bit reminiscent of Givenchy‘s vintage Ysatis, a ylang-ylang chypre. The greenness is quite separate from the lingering traces of menthol that remains at the edges, but the whole thing is extremely subtle, a bare flicker that only occasionally pops up.

45 minutes in, Moon Bloom is a seamless blend of jasmine, gardenia, tuberose, and ylang-ylang, in that order, with varying, subtle undertones of greenness that range from the leafy to the fizzy to the faintly mentholated. There is a quiet, muted spiciness that stirs in the base, tossing up a touch of gold to the very white, cream, and green coloured palette. The coconut milk has disappeared as an individual note, but it has a profound effect on the base when combined with the ylang-ylang. Thanks to the two elements, the plush, heady white flowers are nestled in a suede-like richness and warmth. I was going to say “custardy,” but that is not really accurate. Nothing about Moon Bloom feels heavy or thick. It’s too delicate to be like velvet, but too creamy to be an airy mousse.

Source: Fragrantica

Source: Fragrantica

Perhaps the best way to describe Moon Bloom’s perfectly calibrated, tight-rope act would be to describe the fragrance as “petal-soft.” It mimics the velvety softness that you feel when you stroke a gardenia’s petals and breath in its heady richness, but there is also the airy, fresh radiance of flowers that have not reached their peak or turned blowsy.

Photo: mypham.us

Photo: mypham.us

Moon Bloom turns more beautiful with time. Around the 2.5 hour mark, it’s a gorgeous “gardenia” and jasmine scent, infused with tuberose, upon the creamiest, velvety softness. It feels lush, but dainty, and I prefer all of it to Carnal Flower. Best of all, Moon Bloom lacks the Malle perfume’s synthetic base with that terrible, cheap white musk that always gives me a headache if I sniff Carnal Flower up close for too long. Instead, Moon Bloom’s base has an abstract (though muffled) spiciness to it which grows stronger, shedding a golden haze over the soft white flowers.

I find the balancing act that Mr. Green has achieved to be masterful, utterly masterful. He’s managed a refined, modern take on white flowers that never emasculates them or robs them of their true identity. He doesn’t reject their inherent lushness in favour of some ostensible, overbearing “freshness” done purely for the sake of appealing to current market trends. Moon Bloom has that modern vitality and lightness, for this is no Fracas or 1980s powerhouse after all. Yet, instead of aping Carnal Flower, he eschews pure greenness in favour of creaminess and yellowed warmth. (For me, visually, jasmine often skews a buttercup yellow on the colour spectrum, illogical as that may be.)

John Collier, "Queen Guinevere's Maying" (1900). Source: Wikipedia.

John Collier, “Queen Guinevere’s Maying” (1900). Source: Wikipedia.

Mr. Green has taken the best of both worlds — the old of Fracas and the new of Carnal Flower — and mixed them into a perfume that gleams like an opal. It has the subtle sensuality of Rossetti’s women, but at a sotto voce level, and countered by the delicate beauty of the Ophelia of his Pre-Raphaelite brethren. There is the luxurious feel of old-style, full-bodied, classique perfumes, but, also, the lightness, airiness, restrained discreetness and brightness of the modern style. Finally, Moon Bloom balances the cool aspects of a green freshness with the warmth of that creamy base, a base whose golden sunniness evokes the Queen of the May far more than “the mistress of the night.” Have I mentioned the word “masterful” yet?

At the end of the 4th hour, Moon Bloom hovers right above the skin, but the scent is so deep or rich that I’m amazed it’s all-natural. The perfume is a velvety-soft blur of white flowers led by the tuberose-gardenia-jasmine trio. The tuberose has finally overtaken its white cousins, as if the jasmine decided to give up the race. The “gardenia” impression continues, while the ylang-ylang is as muted as ever on my skin. The best part of the scent, apart from the return of the tuberose, is that surprisingly creamy base. After 5.25 hours, it feels smoother than ever with a plushness that is texturally very natural and more petal-like than ever. Carnal Flower, at a comparable point in its development, had nothing like it, and was merely a blur of musky jasmine. Moon Bloom has actual depth and body, yet its richness never feels overwhelming.

"Ophelia" by John William Waterhouse, 1910. Source: preraphaelitesisterhood.com

“Ophelia” by John William Waterhouse, 1910. Source: preraphaelitesisterhood.com

To the contrary, Moon Bloom’s drydown has a softness that borders on the soothing. It’s hard to explain, but there is something about that velvety, petal-like quality and Mr. Green’s perfect balancing act which creates an easiness about the scent. Moon Bloom is so much more comfortable than my beloved Fracas which is all about dressing up to the nines or to seduce. Moon Bloom has an accessible gentleness, but it’s an easiness that never once surrenders its creamy white soul or loses sight of what white flowers are really like. Nothing about the scent feels like a generic, banal, white flower cocktail that you could find at Sephora, but it’s also not a diva act. All of which bring us back to Ophelia. If Fracas is the iconic Maria Callas in diamonds and furs, then Moon Bloom is a Pre-Raphaelite Ophelia. Graceful femininity with seamless smoothness and an absence of rough edges (or synthetics) done in a way that makes the white flowers radiant and soft, but never showy or bold.

In its final hours, Moon Bloom is a velvety tuberose with occasional flashes of “gardenia.” It coats the skin like a whisper, but there is a richness to the tuberose if you put your nose right on your skin. I’m amazed at Moon Bloom’s longevity on my wonky skin. Three good squirts from the little atomizer, or the equivalent of 2 small sprays from a regular bottle, gave me 11.5 hours in duration. One big atomizer squirt gave me about 9 hours, though the sillage dropped much more rapidly and Moon Bloom became a skin scent after 2.5 hours. On Fragrantica, the few votes for longevity are evenly split between “long lasting,” “moderate,” and “weak,” while the sillage numbers are primarily for “moderate,” followed by 1 vote for “heavy.” I really think that the quantity you apply will impact both issues, as well as, obviously, your skin chemistry.

As you can tell, I loved Moon Bloom. It’s a lovely scent that falls midway on the spectrum between Carnal Flower‘s fresh greenness and subdued restraint, and the more indolic variations on tuberose. It’s a far, far cry from Fracas (or even the indolic jasmine powerhouse of La Via del Profumo’s Tawaf), but it’s also removed from Carnal Flower. It feels like a perfectly calibrated mix of both, with strong touches of its own character.

That said, I’m someone whose tastes skew strongly toward super opulent, bold, powerhouses when it comes to my florals, so you need to put my assessment into that definitional context. If you’re someone who finds Carnal Flower to be too intense a white flower explosion, then I do not recommend Moon Bloom. If you can’t stand tuberose or jasmine, then, quite obviously, you should stay far, far away. Moon Bloom is for those who find Carnal Flower to be too anemic or wispy, but who also think Fracas is taking lush richness too far to the other extreme.

My definitional standards and preferences might be firmly placed on the extreme side of the white flower scale, but I’m far from being alone in finding Moon Bloom to be lovely. The perfume has won over many bloggers, with a number of them placing it on their Best of 2013 list. Take, for example, the witty, lovely Victoria of EauMG who writes, in part:

Moon Bloom is a minty, green tuberose with a creamy banana ylang-ylang. It’s huge and luscious and dare I say glamorous! Indoles fall out of jasmine’s cleavage when she bends forward. Her glistening skin is subtly moisturized with coconut oil and this adds a warmth to the white florals. The florals become more “peachy” and lose some of their crisp greenness. Moon Bloom’s dry-down is acrid incense with “green” coconut.

Moon Bloom is glamorous and flawlessly put together. I realize that my description or even the note list may scare away some people that have white floral “issues”; however, please don’t let it. Moon Bloom is big but subtle. It’s one of the few tuberose perfumes that allows you to be the diva and doesn’t try to steal your spotlight. I really think this one will win over those timid of tuberose. And it will be loved by those that adore white florals. I can’t stop sniffing it when I wear it. It’s gorgeous and it makes me feel gorgeous. […]

Moon Bloom has average projection and longevity. In my opinion, it wears for much longer than other all-natural compositions. I get 6-8 hours. It does become more subtle after 2-3 hours but that’s fine with me. […]

Victoria’s Final EauPINION – Gorgeous, glamorous tuberose soliflore. I think Mr. Green just helped a lot of perfumistas find “their” tuberose. This is the easiest to wear straightforward tuberose soliflore that I’ve ever encountered.

Victoria loved it so much that she put it on her Best of 2013 list, but she’s not alone in appreciating Moon Bloom. The Perfume Shrine put the fragrance in a tie with Aftelier’s Cuir Gardenia for their Best Natural of 2013. And Olfactoria’s Travels thinks it’s great as well.

Olfactoria writes that she has a very cautious relationship with tuberose, though she no longer has outright hatred for the note. In Moon Bloom, she found the flower to be “perfectly balanced,” soft and with “no hint here of the hysterical, diva-esque antics” that many tuberose fragrances display. On her skin, the florals eventually “recede a bit and a base emerges that is warm, a tiny bit spicy (think carnation/clove) and cosy in an unsweet, ambery (vanilla/labdanum) way.” As a whole, Moon Bloom evoked a woman whom she found to be

extremely sympathetic. I feel myself drawn to her and her charmingly enticing ways. She is intelligent, calm, she knows who she is. She is beautiful and desirable, but she doesn’t use that as a weapon, it is merely a fact of her life, equal among many. She loves to smile and there is an air of mystery around her, but this doesn’t make her appear aloof or remote, but draws you in closer, wanting to find out more.

What stands out most about this woman though, is her smile: warm, loving, caring and infinitely sweet, it is hard to remain untouched when you find yourself in the radiant presence of that smile.

Warmth is a far cry for what one adoring blogger perceived in Moon Bloom. My favorite review of the fragrance comes from The Silver Fox, a blogger who admittedly loves white floral bombs, but who has tried enough of them to know that Moon Bloom is special. He begins his review with fantastic elucidation of why it can be so cool for men to wear fleshy white flowers:

For me, a man wearing white florals is the subversive writhing of indolic strangeness, the blush of purity degraded, underpinned by the all too sexual skin washes of tuberose, lilies, ylang, gardenia and orange blossom. It is the fleshy conflict between light and dark, beauty and decay, sex and chastity that fascinates me.

In many ways these are overtly female blooms, but I adore transgression as many of you know. Boys smell so decadent in florals, so Tennessee Williams, muscular, tense and ambiguous, afraid of inner desires yet reaching out to embrace them. […][¶]

Hiram Green’s luscious, alabaster Moon Bloom is probably one of the best tuberose soliflores I have tried in many years. This shocked me for several reasons. One, I thought I had probably tried as many permutations and plays on the blooms as were strictly speaking possible and two, Hiram’s delicious scent is made exclusively from natural ingredients, a notification that does not generally make my Foxy heart sing.

Moon Bloom is creamy, glittering perfection. The name is so alluring and romantic, exactly right for this narcotic formulation of floral wonder. It is a strangely intense perfume, inhaling it transports me to frozen streets pierced by milky shafts of moonlight in a silent city. Snow falls, marble glistens, time slows. My skin is waxen, radiating the ivory effulgence of tuberose and jasmine absolutes. A lick of distant tropics from an ice-cold coconut note, green and glacial at the same time.

I highly recommend reading the entirety of his long but absolutely stellar, beautifully evocative review. There, he talks about why Mr. Green’s technical balancing act with the essential absolutes is so masterful, as well as offering further details of how the tuberose appears, the “pearlescent” jasmine, and the key impact of the coconut milk in his version of Moon Bloom. For him, the latter reminded him “of the wonderful oozing ripe fig effect used in the Extrème version of Premier Figuier by L’Artisan Parfumer.”  He ends his fantastic analysis with these powerful images:

Moon Bloom is made for night skin, waxen and white-lit under bleak staring moons. A fragrance for skins in troubled love, in pain, lost perhaps. There is alchemy at work here and it smells like snow falling in the hush of night.

"Moon in the billowing mists" by Norroen-Stjarna on Deviantart.com

“Moon in the billowing mists” by Norroen-Stjarna. http://www.deviantart.com/art/Moon-in-the-billowing-mists-306095826

The Silver Fox seems to have experienced a lot more of the freezing, “iced metal” aspects of the menthol that either I or the other bloggers did, but it’s all a matter of skin chemistry. For me, Moon Bloom is not about “billowing snow,” and my skin did not bring out “a dazzling blindness to the carnal theme of Hiram’s whiteness, the kiss of frozen lips in a city paralysed by ice and the swirling rogue of winter flurries.” (What a spectacular piece of writing!) In fact, the concept of carnality never once crossed my mind with Moon Bloom, which just goes to show you how much one’s yardstick matters in assessing indolic florals. In fact, I’m starting to wonder just how much my childhood imprinting with Fracas and my subsequent love for Amouage-like Middle Eastern opulence has impacted my definitions, because I thought Tawaf was the embodiment of carnal voluptuousness, while Moon Bloom seems so lady-like and approachable.

To be clear, The Silver Fox does largely agree with that as well, writing extensively about how the tuberose is never lascivious or extreme. As he so amusingly puts it, the tuberose of Moon Bloom never screeches like a “drunken karaoke singer belting out gay anthems” who has to be tackled by his mates to shut up. For him, the tuberose is thankfully “far removed from this pitiful spectacle. It is strong-willed, full of drama, but intelligent and deeply charismatic, filling the room with brilliant, searching light.”

As you can see, the word “intelligent” keeps coming up in connection with Moon Bloom, along with “calm,” “approachable,” or “radiant” in descriptions that emphasize how the tuberose is not divaesque. And it’s true. This version is not the Ride of the Valkyries, and it’s not just my wonky, skewed perception. I love Fracas, but she’s not always the easiest thing to wear on a daily basis. Moon Bloom is.

Moon Bloom bottle and decant, via Hiram Green.

Moon Bloom bottle and decant, via Hiram Green.

Moon Bloom is available in two different sizes. There is an affordable 5 ml decant sold for roughly $27 (or €25 with the VAT), while the full bottle costs about $150 with a more affordable refill option being introduced later this year. The original bottle is gorgeous, though, with the perfect blend of classicism and clean-cut modernism.

All in all, if you’re a white flower lover, I strongly recommend that you try Moon Bloom. For those with a much more tenuous relationship to the florals, I think you have to like both the initial mentholated aspect and a touch of indoles to enjoy the scent. On the other hand, Olfactoria who is iffy on tuberose really liked Moon Bloom, so perhaps you will too. As a whole, I think Moon Bloom skews more feminine than unisex, but in all cases, its relatively moderate longevity and soft sillage make it suitable for the office.

I have to end this long review with a simple word about Hiram Green: talented. Enormously talented. His debut effort is an utterly masterful display of technical brilliance. Bravo.

Disclosure: My sample was courtesy of Hiram Green. 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: Moon Bloom is an eau de parfum that comes in a 50 ml bottle that costs €111.57 for non-European customers and €135 for European ones who have to pay VAT. It is available the Hiram Green website, which also sells a 5 ml decant for €20.66 without VAT, and €25 with the tax included. Later this year, a cheaper refill option should be available. I believe the current bottle and decant are also refillable at the current time. Whichever bottle you choose to get, the website will automatically subtract or add the VAT based on your delivery address. ships its scents world-wide. In the U.S.: There are no US retailers at this time. You have to order from Hiram Green, or from one of the European vendors which carries the line. Outside the U.S.: Moon Bloom is available at 7 European retailers. One is First in Fragrance which ships world-wide and which sells Moon Bloom at retail for €135, with a sample for €8. In the Netherlands, Amsterdam’s Annindriya Perfume Lounge sells both the 50 ml bottle and the 5 ml decant size. Other vendors are in Austria, Germany, and Sweden. They are listed on Hiram Green’s Stockist pageSamples: I could not find Moon Bloom at this time on either Surrender to Chance or The Perfumed Court. I will try to update this section if the fragrance becomes available at either one.

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.