LM Parfums Patchouly Bohème

Photo: "Fiery Mesquite Sunset" by Delusionist on Deviant Art. http://delusionist.deviantart.com/art/Fiery-Mesquite-Sunset-13859523

Photo: “Fiery Mesquite Sunset” by Delusionist on Deviant Art. http://delusionist.deviantart.com/art/Fiery-Mesquite-Sunset-13859523

The smoky sweetness of singed woods and a mesquite barbecue are the beginning of a woody perfume that later transforms into an absolutely lovely, cozy cloud of caramel amber, darkened resins, balsams, and dry vanilla. It is the most unusual “patchouli” fragrance that I’ve ever encountered: Patchouly Boheme from LM Parfums.

Patchouly Boheme is an eau de parfum released in 2011. It is frequently spelled as “Patchouli Boheme” on various sites, including Fragrantica and many retailers, but I will go with the company’s own spelling of the fragrance. The perfume was created by the late Mona di Orio, a very close, personal friend of Laurent Mazzone, LM Parfums’ founder. Her touch definitely shows, especially in the strong vein of cozy caramel flan that appears at one point in Patchouly Boheme and which is the centerpiece of her other creation for LM Parfums, Ambre Muscadin.  

Source: emporium.az

Source: emporium.az

LM Parfums describes Patchouly Boheme and its notes as follows:

The Pathouly Bohème, sensual and insolent dressed in precious woods, spices intoxicating …
It sows confusion, mystery, we hugged its wake profound and haunting, like a play of shadows and light with hints of leather, tobacco, resin tolu and tonka bean …

Top notes: geranium leaves Egypt, precious wood
Heart Notes: patchouli indonesia, virginia tobacco, leather
Base notes: musk, tolu balm, tonka bean.

Patchouly Boheme opens on my skin with smoky woods that are exactly like mesquite and a mesquite barbecue on my skin. It is immediately followed by an amber-vanilla accord that is the precise same one that lies at the heart (and drydown) of Ambre Muscadin and which I found to smell like a delicious caramel flan. Just as in Ambre Muscadin, the smell here in Patchouly Boheme is also infused with cedar, but it is not nearly as dominant. It also lacks the musk aspects of Ambre Muscadin.

Mesquite wood chips on coal. Source:  My Story in Recipes blogspot. http://mystoryinrecipes.blogspot.com/2012/08/grill-smoked-chicken.html

Mesquite wood chips on coal. Source: My Story in Recipes blogspot. http://mystoryinrecipes.blogspot.com/2012/08/grill-smoked-chicken.html

The main chord in Patchouly Boheme’s opening, however, is that mesquite wood. As Wikipedia explains, Mesquite is a type of wood common to the American Southwest, northern Mexico, Texas, and parts of South America. I live in an area where mesquite barbecues are extremely common, if not the characteristic type of barbecue for the region. Mesquite is such a big deal here that even deli foods like ham, turkey, cheese, and potato salads come with smoky mesquite flavouring. I highly doubt the same is true in London, Paris, or New York, so you have to put my issues into that context to understand why the note in Patchouly Boheme is difficult for me. I absolutely adore patchouli in all its true, original, brown facets, but nothing in the perfume’s first few hours translates as that sort of patchouli to me. No, it’s primarily mesquite wood that is singed and sweetened.

If I’m to be honest, I actually recoiled the first time I smelled Patchouli Boheme’s opening. And the second time, too. In both instances, I clung on primarily because of how much I love the caramel flan note that lies behind it, as if coyly veiled by a thin curtain of smoking woods. Plus, I was fascinated (and completely bewildered) by smelling Texas mesquite in a French perfume so clearly done by Mona di Orio. Had she been to the American Southwest? How did she decide that the unnamed “precious woods” in her perfume should be mesquite of all crazy things??!

Source: taste.com.au

Source: taste.com.au

The third time I tried Patchouly Boheme, I still didn’t like it very much, but I’d become rather addicted to the cozy comfort of the caramel amber flan, not to mention the stellar drydown. (It really is stellar!) So, I basically decided to ignore the difficult 40 minutes or first hour in order to get to the delicious rest. In truth, it’s taken me a good 7 wearings to smoothly move past that beginning and to almost like it. I’m not sure I will ever actually love the smoked mesquite, but then I’m strongly impacted by the fact that I live in an area where that precise smell is associated with barbecue and food. I think those who are new to mesquite will be free of my mental associations, and will probably find it to be quite a fascinating woody note. Mesquite really is extremely different, bordering on the unusual. 

The other thing I puzzle over each and every time that I wear Patchouly Boheme is the eponymous “patchouli” note. This is like nothing I’ve ever encountered before, and I’m a “patch head,” as they say. There is a subtle earthiness to the fragrance, yes, and the merest suggestion of something leathered, but none of it translates as “patchouli” to my nose. The core of Patchouly Boheme lies fully in the smoky woods sweetened with a dry, caramel-vanilla, amber note.

Photo: "Mesquite Tree Sunset" by Delusionist on Deviant Art. http://delusionist.deviantart.com/art/Mesquite-Tree-Sunset-13878618

Photo: “Mesquite Tree Sunset” by Delusionist on Deviant Art. http://delusionist.deviantart.com/art/Mesquite-Tree-Sunset-13878618

Patchouly Boheme remains that way for the entire first hour, with the “caramel flan” note growing stronger behind the wooden veil with every passing quarter-hour. The perfume is very rich and deep, billowing about in an airy, light cloud that belies the forcefulness of some of its notes. At first, Patchouly Boheme wafts about 3 inches above the skin with 2 good sprays, but the projection starts to drop after 40 minutes.

Each and every time I smell Patchouly Boheme’s opening stage, I spend the whole time trying to dissect the puzzling aroma that I am smelling. There are things in that unspecified “precious woods” accord that go beyond the powerful mesquite element. Cedar, most definitely, in my opinion, but perhaps some vetiver as well? A lot of the times, I think, yes. I also drive myself a little crazy wondering why I detect something vaguely similar to a bitter expresso note underlying all the woods, but no chocolate, spices, greenness, or real earthiness the way patchouli usually manifests.

Photo:  Patricia Bieszk. Source: theadventourist.com

Photo: Patricia Bieszk. Source: theadventourist.com

Instead, on occasion, Patchouly Boheme will manifest a slightly medicinal aspect in its opening hour. It’s not the full-on, camphorated muscle-rub or peppermint aroma of true patchouli, but there is definitely something green or herbal lurking deep, deep in the base. Once in a blue moon, if I really spray on a lot of Patchouly Boheme and focus, it almost seems like a dry, smoked peppermint, but, yet, not quite. Actually, I’m pretty certain that I’m grasping at straws in the desperate attempt to smell a more usual, traditional form of patchouli, but that never appears for a good portion of Patchouly Boheme’s lifespan on my skin. It most definitely is not there at the start.

In my opinion, the real cause of that subtle green undertone is Haitian vetiver. I would bet money on it. For one thing, vetiver (along with cedar) is a very traditional complement to patchouli fragrances. That seems especially true in Europe, judging by all the patchouli fragrances that I grew up with, as well as the ones I smelled on my recent trip back. For another, the earth, woody, and green sides to vetiver are a good way to underscore those same facets in patchouli. And, lastly, something about the nuances to the base notes in Patchouly Boheme calls to mind La Via del Profumo‘s Milano Caffé. That is a fragrance where the patchouli is also dominated by and supplemented with Haitian vetiver (and cedar). It’s a very different scent than Patchouly Boheme all in all, but there is a very distant, very faint resemblance in both fragrances’ foundation. I suspect the “bitter expresso” nuance that I detect deep in Patchouly Boheme’s base is the result of some similar combination of woody tonalities, including vetiver.

Source: foodgawker.com

Source: foodgawker.com

My favorite part of Patchouly Boheme’s opening is always that tantalizing, dry, rich, incredibly smooth “caramel flan” accord. It finally emerges in full at the end of the first hour, as though the dry, smoked veil of wood has parted to welcome the ambered vanilla onto center stage. Both accords now stand side-by-side, each infusing the other in a seamless blend. For all that I use the term “caramel flan,” the note is never cloying, overly sweet, or dessert-like; it’s far too airy and dry to be gourmand in nature. Instead, it’s a cozy, dry richness that feels soothing and comforting, which is one of the reasons why I like wearing Patchouly Boheme to bed. And that cozy feel merely grows stronger with time, as the notes in the base start to stir.

About 1.75 hours into its development, Patchouly Boheme turns into a lovely, golden-brown woody scent infused with a rich sweetness. The mesquite wood resemblance has faded away by 65%, leaving an earthier scent with more abstract wood tonalities. I still don’t smell patchouli in the way that I’m used to, however. Instead, there are other notes. There continues to be quite a bit of cedar lurking in the background, adding dryness and a touch of smoke. There is also the tiniest suggestion of dry tobacco leaves, but it’s extremely muffled and nebulous. Much more noticeable, though, is the tonka in the base which is taking on the first whisper of a lightly powdered sweetness. The whole thing is a visual tableau of soft browns, caramels, camel brown, amber, mahogany, and cream in a soft, cozy cloud.

Patchouly Boheme continues to shift in small degrees. At the start of the 3rd hour, the perfume has turned into a smooth tonka-and-vanilla scent that is thoroughly immersed in that odd, unconventional “patchouli” note, dry woods, and a touch of sweetened powder. The fragrance lies just above the skin, perhaps an inch at best. As the dry vanilla and tonka grow more prominent, so too does the tolu balsam. It is my second favorite resin, and it’s incredibly smooth here. Fragrantica and other sites describe Tolu balsam as having a deeply velvety richness with a vanilla aroma that is much darker than that of benzoins. To my nose, however, it is always a very spiced, slightly smoky, rather treacly, dark note with a subtle leathered nuance; it doesn’t feel like a truly vanillic element. To give you an idea of what I’m talking about, here are a some of the perfumes listed by Fragrantica as scents that feature Tolu balsam (or its close sibling, Peru balsam, in some cases): Bal à Versailles, Mona di Orio‘s Ambre, Opium, Ormonde Jayne’s ToluEstée Lauder‘s Youth Dew and Cinnabar, MPG’s Ambre Precieux, Guerlain‘s Chamade, Reminiscence‘s Patchouli Elixir, and many others.

Source: freehdw.com

Source: freehdw.com

In Patchouly Boheme, the Tolu is too smooth to be sticky, very smoky, or hugely dark, but it’s definitely like a balsamic, golden richness with carefully calibrated levels of sweetness, and smokiness. It has a much stronger cinnamon nuance than I’ve encountered before, almost as if the more intense, leathered, and dark elements were refined out of it. It’s a note that works perfectly with the tonka, caramel vanilla, and that strange “patchouli.” I keep thinking about a camel-coloured suede jacket that I once owned; Patchouli Boheme’s drydown has the same sort of soft smoothness and visual colour in my mind.

The perfume continues to realign itself, changing the order and prominence of its notes. The tonka and vanilla slowly make way for the deeply resinous tolu as the dominant note. All traces of mesquite wood have finally vanished, and Patchouly Boheme is now a balsamic amber that is sweet, dry, vanillic, slightly smoky, and lightly dusted with a bit of cinnamon. The scent continues to hover just above the skin, but finally turns into a skin scent around the 5.5 hour mark. To my surprise, an hour later, the patchouli that I’m used to finally emerges. It is still fully swathed in tolu amber resin and tonka, but its red-gold spicy nature is much more apparent. A lingering touch of cedar seems to remain at the perfume’s edges, but it soon fades away entirely.

Source: colourbox.com

Source: colourbox.com

Patchouly Boheme’s drydown is a seamless blend of soft patchouli, amber, and vanillic tonka, and it remains that way largely until its end. In its final moments, the perfume is an abstract blur of soft sweetness. On average, Patchouly Boheme lasts between 9.75 and 10.75 hours on me, depending on whether I use 2 sprays or 3. The sillage is always soft after the start of the 3rd hour, but the dry, golden woodiness is easy to detect until the start of the 6th hour which is when the resinous, amber, and tonka phase kicks in. At no time does Patchouly Boheme ever seem like a patchouli soliflore to me, but one centered either on smoke woods or golden, sweet accords.

On the surface, I think it would be easy to consider Patchouly Boheme as linear, but it definitely has at least 3 distinct phases. The perfume — like all the LM Parfums that I’ve tried — is marked by a smoothness and seamlessness to its notes that masks the slow transition from one stage to another. Patchouly Boheme realigns itself by fractions, so unless you’re sniffing constantly and with focus, you will only see the larger brush strokes. One minute, you’re wafting mesquite barbecue woods, and the next, it seems that the perfume has turned into a cuddly, cozy, tolu resin, amber, and tonka fragrance. However, there are two bridges in-between them: first, that “caramel flan” accord from Ambre Muscadin, and, then, later, the transitional woody-tonka phase.

Dried Indonesian patchouli leaves via Dior.com.

Dried Indonesian patchouli leaves via Dior.com.

All the reviews for Patchouly Boheme on Fragrantica are highly complementary. Two people call it a “masterpiece,” one of whom says flat-out that the perfume’s beginning was very difficult for him (or her). In fact, “Cereza” doesn’t seem fond of patchouli fragrances as a whole, but the LM Parfums creation appears to be an exception:

A very high quality patchouli that should be tried by each and every lover of patchouli dominated fragrances. Fantastic silage and stays strong all trough the day.

It opened harsh and medical, almost too much for me as I am not a huge fan of patchouli, but as it settled and calmed down a bit it turned to a fantastic patchouli. It’s earthy, it’s dirty, it’s wild, yet sugary sweet and even mouthwatering (yes patchouli can be that sometimes). It changes all the time, sometimes leather which also is very noticeable in this plays a lead role, so it gets a bit rough, when tobacco and tolu shows themselves it gets sweeter and more feminine.

Really a masterpiece even I who does not wear patchouli frags can appreciate. Give this a go, you won’t be dissapointed.

Another commentator writes:

To me, this is a MASTERPIECE.
Very original, complex and well blended patchouli frag. with notes of tobacco, tonka, leather (light leather) and too sweet in the dry down. Mixed with very good quality in the ingredients.

The best from this house.

Longevity is more than 12 hours and sillage is strong.

scent: 9/10
longevity: 10/10
sillage: 9/10.

Photo by Jianwei Yang, I think. Source: http://www.bhwords.com/2014-02-27/rainy-day/###

Photo by Jianwei Yang, I think. Source: http://www.bhwords.com/2014-02-27/rainy-day/###

The only blog review I could find for Patchouly Boheme came from BL’eauOG who raves about the fragrance. It actually seems to be his favorite from the line. His long review is primarily about LM Parfums and Laurent Mazzone in general, but the portions pertaining to Patchouly Boheme read, in part, as follows:

Patchouly Boheme is very special perfume with great story. For me, it is temptation from the first moment. I consider it as masterpiece of perfume making because it is one of the most opulent perfumes I’ve ever tried. It is so strong and special that you can almost feel the emotions inside. Laurent practically uses perfumers as an instrument because he already has idea, emotion or picture in his head, and through the perfume, he expresses what’s inside of him. Laurent is playing with materials, alpacas are more elegant, silk gets more voluptuous, mohair gets more caressing, gabardines gets more hot. […] That’s why I am captured by Patchouly Boheme. You should try Mona di Orio Musc and compare it with PB and then you’ll see what I am talking about. […][¶]

Patchouly Boheme is very special perfume[….] I like it a lot because you can feel the passion from it, that’s the reason why it is my favorite. […] It is so opulent and “heavy” that the one is instantly drunk of intoxicating notes. Opening is very herbal with the distinctive geranium note but only few minutes later, opulent balsamic notes are most dominant. On my skin it’s like the most reputable resin bathed in precious patchouli, tobacco and tolu balm. Strangely, I don’t get lots of leather. It is herbal patchouli in general with lots of balms. Dry down is soft and delicate. Creamy notes of balms and resins will stay on your skin for hours and hours giving the same boemic feeling. Beautiful and magnificient, that’s the story of LM Parfums you shouldn’t miss because each perfume has significance and it’s little masterpiece!

I obviously experienced a very different scent at the start, but we both seem to have had the same balsamic, resinous, cozy drydown. It’s as beautiful as he says it is, though the “caramel flan” aspect of the middle is just as nice.

Source: pixabay.com

Source: pixabay.com

I realise that not everyone shares my passion for the glories of patchouli, at least the real kind, as opposed to the revolting, purple, fruit-chouli modern variety in so many rose fragrances today. True, spicy, smoky, brown-red patchouli is magnificent and wholly addictive, in my highly biased, personal opinion. LM Parfums’ Patchouly Boheme is a very different creature, however, with a completely original focus that centers on smoked, singed, sweetened woods and balsam resins. I can’t decide if that unique twist on “patchouli” will make the fragrance easier or harder for those who are phobic about the note.

If it’s of any use, I’ve heard that Le Labo‘s Patchouli 24 also has a strong barbecue note. I’ve never tried it, but a brief Google search seems to indicate that people have experienced elements ranging from rubber and cooked meat, to smoked birch notes and fecal tonalities as well. Patchouly Boheme is nothing like that. Not even remotely. However, those of you who are familiar with the smell or taste of smoked mesquite wood should be aware that it is a definite part of the fragrance’s first hour.

As noted above, I found it difficult at first, but I think the rest of Patchouly Boheme makes it a scent that definitely merits some patience. I’ve said quite bluntly that one of my absolute favorite scents, Alahine by Téo Cabanel, requires a bit of Stockholm Syndrome and at least 4 repeated tries, and Patchouly Boheme is in the same category for me. Yet, even in my early tests when I was struggling with the oddness of the mesquite puzzle, the lure of that absolutely delicious caramel-vanilla flan and the subsequent cozy, resinous drydown was hard to resist. In short, you may want to persevere with Patchouly Boheme, and keep in mind that the difficult part only lasts an hour or so.

Of course, if you’re a die-hard patch head, you definitely need to try Patchouly Boheme. It feels really unique to me out of the other options out there in the same genre. Plus, it bears the Mona di Orio signature merged with Laurent Mazzone/LM Parfums’ refined smoothness. I suspect you won’t have encountered anything quite like it.

In all cases, though, I think Patchouly Boheme will take a few tries, and will be one of those “love it or hate it” fragrances.

Disclosure: Perfume provided courtesy of LM Parfums. 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: Patchouly Boheme is an eau de parfum that is available only in a 100 ml/3.4 oz bottle which costs $175, €135, or £135. In the U.S.: LM Parfums is exclusive to Osswald NYC. They currently have Patchouly Boheme in stock but, if, at some point in the future, the link doesn’t work, it’s because Osswald takes down a perfume’s page when they’re temporarily out, then puts it back up later. Outside the U.S.: you can buy Patchouly Boheme directly from LM Parfums. In addition, they offer large decant samples of all LM Parfums eau de parfums which are priced at €14 for 5 ml size. LM Parfums also owns Premiere Avenue which sells both Patchouly Boheme and the 5 ml decant. It ships worldwide. In the UK, the LM Parfums line is exclusive to Harvey Nichols. They sell Patchouly Boheme for £135. In Paris, LM Parfums are sold at Jovoy. In the Netherlands, you can find Patchouly Boheme at ParfuMaria, while in Italy, it is sold at Vittoria Profumi. The LM Parfums line is also available at the NL’s Silks Cosmetics. In Germany, First in Fragrance has Patchouly Boheme along with the full LM Parfums line, and sells samples as well. You can also find LM Parfums at Essenza Nobile, and Italy’s Alla Violetta. In the Middle East, I found most of the LM Parfums line at the UAE’s Souq perfume site. For all other countries, you can find a vendor near you from Switzerland to Belgium, Lithuania, Russia, Romania, Croatia, Azerbaijan, and more, by using the LM Parfums Partner listing. Laurent Mazzone or LM Parfums fragrances are widely available throughout Europe, and many of those sites sell samples as well. Samples: A number of the sites listed above offer vials for sale. In the U.S., none of the decanting sites carry LM Parfums, but Surrender to Chance has a European Exclusives section that is tucked away. There, they list two (and ONLY two) vials of Patchouli Boheme. Each is 1 ml for $3.99. Other than that, you can call Osswald NYC at (212) 625-3111 to order samples. They have a special phone deal for U.S. customers where 10 samples of any 10 fragrances in 1 ml vials is $10 with free shipping. However, they are currently out of vials until mid-March.
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Stéphane Humbert Lucas 777 Khôl de Bahreïn: Ambered Iris

Photo: My own.

Photo: My own.

A golden, ambered sun peeks out from the clouds at the edge of a grey sea. Thickened, buttered waves of iris unfold like the most expensive suede, undulating under skies shot through with sweetened smoke. An iris flower floats on the surface, making a voyage from its cool, damp, earthy cellar towards the sun which warms it, turning it sweeter and sprinkling it with sweetened heliotrope. At times, the sun peaks out like golden eyes from behind the sheer veil of cool suede and warmed powdered sweetness. A giant orb of goldenness, speckled with ambergris, red resins, and candied delights. It shines upon the iris as it makes its journey and finally arrives at a distant shore of sweetness that cocoons it like the softest whisper of pink and white cashmere silk. These are the voyages of the Starship Iris, better known as Khôl de Bahreïn.

Stephane Humbert Lucas via CaFleureBon and Marieclaire.it.

Stephane Humbert Lucas via CaFleureBon and Marieclaire.it.

Khôl de Bahreïn is a fragrance from a new niche perfume house, founded by a man who has been making perfumes for quite a long time. Stéphane Humbert Lucas 777 is the new venture of Stéphane Humbert Lucas who was the in-house perfumer for Nez a Nez and SoOud. Mr. Lucas launched his new brand in 2013, along with 7 fragrances, all of which are inspired by the Middle East and their style of perfumery. Khôl de Bahreïn (which I’m going to henceforth write without all the accentuation and carets) was one of those scents.

There isn’t a ton of information out there about the perfume. Stéphane Humbert Lucas’s website is under construction, but his Middle Eastern distributor, Sagma, describes the scent as:

Source: Fragrantica

Source: Fragrantica

Blend of amber benzene.
Unguent with an intense trail.

Heavy perfume, unctuous, amber, reference to kohl and to the zenjar used in the region of Bahreïn.

First in Fragrance has more details, along with Khol de Bahrein’s notes:

Khôl de Bahreïn offers a blend of ambergris and resinous notes which create a balsamic-woody fragrance with an intense and lasting wake.

Top Note: Violet, Gourmand Notes, Resins
Heart Note: Iris, Sandalwood, Ambergris
Base Note: Musk, Balsamic Notes

Source: Soundcloud.com

Source: Soundcloud.com

Khol de Bahrein opens on my skin with a burst of sticky, dark resins that have a caramel, nutty aroma. Almost immediately, the iris appears on their heels. It feels like the most expensive, thick, orris butter imaginable, and has a smell that is simultaneously: slightly cool, earthy, buttery, deep, and warm, all at once. Something about it evokes the feeling of velvety petals — grey and black — along with thick, grey suede. The minute it arrives, the amber and resins take a step back to let the iris shine in the spotlight. Yet, subtle hints of benzoin sweetness lurk around the flower’s edges, as if candies are about to rain on earthy iris fields any moment now. A tiny wisp of smoke adds yet another paradoxical layer in this extremely unusual combination.

Five minutes in, the sweet elements seem to tire of their brief wait on the sidelines and flood center stage to crowd around the dark floral. I can’t really place the notes, as they are definitely not the “nougat” that I saw on one site’s ingredient list. “Caramel” doesn’t really fit exactly either, though it is closer. Perhaps, the best way to describe it is as vaguely sticky ambergris and toffee’d balsamic resins.

toffee caramal nougat close up wallpaper

Yet, for all the sweetness of the accord, Khol de Bahrein doesn’t verge on the gourmand for me. First, the competing elements are very carefully balanced, but, second, and more importantly, the iris counteracts the candied resins with its earthy coolness. It is a very refined note that conjures up images of a single flower growing in the slightly damp earth of a darkened cellar. Yet, it’s neither icy nor crypt-like. There is nothing fusty, carrot-y, or dank about it, either. Just plenty of cool notes with heavy suede and creamy butter.

Something about the combination of iris with sticky resins feels very unique to me, though I grant you that I don’t have extensive knowledge of the iris category. In fact, I wholly lack the iris appreciation gene, but I spend the next few hours being utterly amazed by the note in Khol de Bahrein. It really feels like an actual “butter” version of the flower with a heavily creamed richness that I haven’t encountered in other iris scents. Not even in Nuances, the limited-edition, ridiculously expensive Armani Privé Les Editions Couture iris soliflore that supposedly had the richest, most expensive, concentrated iris as its focus.

On my skin, in the opening period, the iris butter pretty much trumps everything. Violets are listed Khol de Bahrein’s notes, but I generally didn’t detect them. However, they did appear briefly the very first time I wore the perfume when I only applied a few dabs of Khol de Bahrein. It was a dewy, earthy, pastel, delicate note, but it was short-lived. When I applied a greater quantity of Khol de Bahrein, it certainly couldn’t seem to stand up to the strength of the other accords.

What was interesting about that first test was something else that happened. From the first instant, there was an utterly addictive, sweet, powdered amber. I’m not a particular fan of iris, and I’m also not enthused by powderiness either, but, I tell you, I simply could not stop sniffing my wrists. I felt almost crazed at times by the draw of Khol de Bahrein, and I’ve finally figured out what was the lure: it smelled like an ambered form of heliotrope.

Photo: Crystal Venters via Dreamtime.com

Photo: Crystal Venters via Dreamtime.com

Now, heliotrope is not listed on Khol de Bahrein’s notes, but something in one of those resins (undoubtedly a benzoin-based one) really recreates the smell of heliotrope to a T. And I’m a sucker for the note. Wholly addicted. I love its vaguely floral, powdered sweetness which always visually translates in my mind as a comforting pink and white cocoon. In fact, Fragrantica‘s great explanation of the note brings up its “characteristic, comforting scent.” Heliotrope has an powdery odor profile which can range from a vanilla meringue, to almond marzipan, tonka vanilla, and more. As Fragrantica put it,

The characteristic comforting scent of heliotrope has been proven to induce feelings of relaxation and comfort, a pampering atmosphere that finds itself very suited to languorous oriental fragrances and delicious “gourmands”.

I’m spending so much time on this because, in my opinion, that aroma is one of the secret keys to Khol de Bahrein’s beauty. In my first test, using very little of the perfume, Khol de Bahrein immediately wafted the most delicious, tasty, heliotrope amber confectionary aroma with just the perfect balance of sweetness and powder. It reminded me of a tonka-covered amber orb that glowed like candlelight in a cozy, warm, vanilla cocoon.

Source: nature.desktopnexus.com/

Source: nature.desktopnexus.com/

Khol de Bahrein gets to the exact same point eventually with the larger dosage, but there is a lengthy iris butter period that you have to get through first. Since, as noted above, I’m not a particular fan of iris scents, I don’t find it deeply compelling, but it’s very hard to deny the quality of the note. I’m actually quite riveted by the sheer opulence and richness of the flower. I repeatedly thought to myself that it felt like the sort of thing that Roja Dove would do, and I mean that as a compliment.

Thirty minutes in, that golden amber tantalizes me with its nearness and elusiveness. It lingers just out of reach on the horizon, like a gauzy veil of caramel that has been thinly lacquered onto a glowing orb of musky, vaguely salty, deep ambergris which is then lightly dusted with vanillic benzoin powder. Slowly, slowly, the amber sun starts to warm up the cool iris waters, softening their damp, aloof, earthiness. The flower turns more powdered, as if it were shaking off white pollen in the sunlight, but the predominant feel is of thick orris butter.

The amber’s promise lies hidden not only behind that note but also behind a new arrival on the scene: smokiness. It’s very subtle at first, but it’s definitely there. To my nose, it doesn’t smell like black frankincense but, rather, like sweet myrrh (opoponax). It’s a surprisingly sharp note, but also sweetened and vaguely nutty in undertone.

Photo via free-desktop-backgrounds.net, then edited by me.

Photo via free-desktop-backgrounds.net, then edited by me.

As a whole, Khol de Bahrein smells from afar like heavily sweetened iris, warm powder, sweet and incense lightly flecked by caramel resins and goldenness. The perfume is really potent up close, and very heavy in feel, with initially good sillage that wafts about 2-3 inches above the skin. By the end of the first hour, the sillage drops further, and Khol de Bahrein turns into a beautiful, seamless blend of ambered iris with subtle traces of sweetened iris powder and sweetened smoke. Yet, none of it feels gourmand. The perfume screams refinement and luxuriousness to me, not dessert or candy.

Photo: Grover Schrayer on Flicker. (Website link embedded within.)

Photo: Grover Schrayer on Flicker. (Website link embedded within.)

Khol de Bahrein is largely linear in nature with the main changes over time being the order and concentration of the notes, along with the perfume’s overall warmth and texture. The iris continues to lose its cool edge and that feeling of thick orris butter. It turns more and more into pure suede, at first thickly plush and heavy, then lighter as it sinks into the base. Khol de Bahrein’s sillage drops to just above the skin at the 90 minute mark. Around the same time, the amber sun finally comes out from behind the grey clouds, and the perfume now feels like vaguely irisy, powdered amber, instead of iris that is merely tangentially ambered. Something about Khol de Bahrein’s new golden aura strongly brought to mind Histoires de Parfums‘ billowy Ambre 114. I think anyone who enjoys the latter’s ambered softness, while also loving rich iris butter, would definitely love the combination of the two notes in Khol de Bahrein.

As the perfume continues to realign itself, that addictive part that I talked about earlier creeps closer and closer. About 2.5 hours in, the heliotrope impression finally arrives on the scene. Again, the perfume list does not mention heliotrope at all, but something in the benzoin resin alluded to by the Sagma distributor definitely recreates that smell. Khol de Bahrein is now sweetened, almost vanillic powdered amber with touches of sweetened suede that is lightly flecked by an equally sweet incense. It’s a bit like Ambre 114 with incense, but with every passing moment, a much stronger comparison would be to Guerlain‘s Cuir Beluga.

Source: qcorrell.com

Source: qcorrell.com

By the end of the 3rd hour, Khol de Bahrein is a dead ringer for Cuir Beluga on my skin, only with a touch of nebulous, abstract, incensey smoke. It has lost its ambered focus, and turned into pure “heliotrope” with sweetened suede. Khol de Bahrein doesn’t have heliotrope’s almond or marzipan nuances, but reflects instead its cozy, comforting, vanilla meringue facets. The amber now manifests itself largely as a sort of warmth which works really well with the textural softness of the “heliotrope” (or whatever resin is mimicking it). As a whole, the perfume feels like the cuddliest, cashmere blanket. Since heliotrope always visually translates in my mind to pink and white hues, the perfume now does the same.

I find it all utterly addictive, but I wish it weren’t so soft and discreet. The same problem that I had with Cuir Beluga is manifesting itself here, with a scent that lies right on the skin. That said, Khol de Bahrein is much stronger and more intense in its notes when sniffed up close. In fact, whenever I thought it had turned into a skin scent, I was surprised to detect little tendrils in the air about me. In particular, whenever I moved my arm or walked about, I could smell that vanilla meringue suede as an elusive whisper trailing in the air. It’s not my favorite way to smell a perfume, but Khol de Bahrein’s sheer weight and soft sillage turn out to be quite misleading in terms of the perfume’s strength.

Khol de Bahrein feels like undulating waves in more than one way. First, there was the iris butter that lapped about the shores. Then, as the iris retreated from its cool earthiness, the grey suede moved in. Later, the amber, and then, the “heliotrope”-like, benzoin meringue powder. Shortly after the start of the 6th hour, the waves change again, and the perfume turns drier. There are fluctuating levels of smokiness. Or, rather, the smokiness reappears again in a much stronger way, now that the heliotrope-like powdered sweetness has ebbed. Khol de Bahrein suddenly feels like a much drier, darker, somewhat smoky version of Cuir Beluga.  It is also a true skin at this point, and its subtleties are much harder to detect.

Source: hdwallpapers4desktop.com

Source: hdwallpapers4desktop.com

The subtle smokiness and incense don’t last long, however. Perhaps an hour at most. Then, Khol de Bahrein returns to its main core of powdered sweetness. The impression of iris suede as an underlying base vanishes completely. The perfume lingers as the silkiest, thinnest, gauziest breath of sweet benzoin on the skin for several more hours, until it finally dies away entirely about 12.5 hours from the start.

Frankly, I was amazed that it lasted so long, because it really is such a discreet, intimate scent for a good portion of its lifespan on my skin. Khol de Bahrein feels like the sort of fragrance that many people would think had only good longevity, not an excellent one, because they wouldn’t be walking around with their nose on their arm. However, I’m sure that spraying and the use of a large amount would help matters, as the perfume really is quite concentrated when smelled up close.

Source: hdwallpapers4desktop.com

Source: hdwallpapers4desktop.com

I think Khol de Bahrein is a really lovely, luxurious, very expensive-smelling fragrance, and I say that as someone with little personal appreciation for iris. I do think, however, that it skews feminine. My reasoning is that I don’t see the vast majority of men really being into powdered iris as the dominant focus for their fragrance. I admit, it’s a wholly subjective, personal interpretation, and I certainly know some men who adore Cuir Beluga, as well as many iris-centered fragrances. I’m sure a few would thoroughly enjoy a more iris-y, oriental, less gourmand, and, at times, more smoky take on Cuir Beluga. For the vast majority of men, though, I think Khol de Bahrein might feel a little feminine. It’s really going to come down to your feelings on both iris and powdery notes, not to mention skin chemistry.

One man who absolutely loves Khol de Bahrein is Mark Behnke who wrote about the perfume while he was the Managing Editor of CaFleureBon. Mr. Behnke first smelled the new Stéphane Humbert Lucas 777 line at the Milan Esxence show in 2013, and Khol de Bahrein was the one which really piqued his interest. He liked it right from the start, but once he managed to test it fully and properly, he seems to have fallen quite in love. He actually called Khol de Bahrein one of the best perfumes of 2013:

after having worn it quite a bit I know it to be one of the best perfumes of this year and the best perfume of M. Lucas’ career, so far.

The name Khol de Bahrein refers to the dark eye makeup often seen in the Middle East and North Africa. Elizabeth Taylor sported kohl rimmed eyes for her portrayal of Cleopatra. Also they are often the only part of a Muslim woman you can see when she is out and about. The darkness around the eyes causing them to feel like they almost float within the hijab. M. Lucas has created a fragrance framed in darkness with the depth of a human eye in the middle. Khol de Bahrein is as mesmerizing as a hypnotist’s stare; you will find yourself lost in its spell.

The photo Mr. Behnke used to illustrate Khol de Bahrein. Source: derbund.ch

The photo Mr. Behnke used to illustrate Khol de Bahrein. Source: derbund.ch

The metaphorical eyes of Khol de Bahrein are as lavender as Liz Taylor’s were. The opening uses violet at the core but is surrounded with a resinous frame of dark incense. The one thing I appreciate about all of the Stephane Humbert Lucas 777 fragrances is there is no gentle step down to intensity. No flare of citrus or bergamot; instead it as bracing as stepping into a cold shower, it catches your attention. I love violet and the interplay of resins and violet are wonderfully woven. Then the purple of the iris deepened by the note of orris. Lush and opulent it is made buoyant with the addition of a creamy sandalwood and briny ambergris. This really feels like the real stuff on the ambergris, no ambrox here. The final touch of blackness comes from amber, balasamic notes, and musk. There is a feel of humanity in the last accord. The eyes may be all you see but they are worth getting lost within.

Khol de Bahrein has ridiculous almost 24-hour longevity and above average sillage. The sillage is surprising for something at extrait strength.

I hope this piques the interest of those of you who have never heard of M. Lucas. If you’re looking for a new perfumer to explore I can recommend nobody any higher. As one who has come to enjoy his style let me reiterate; Khol de Bahrein is the best perfume of M. Lucas’ career and one of the best new perfumes of 2013.

Mr. Behnke’s review is the only one I could find for Khol de Bahrein. The perfume has no comments on its Fragrantica page. There are also no reviews posted on Khol de Bahrein’s entry at Parfumo (a European sort of Fragrantica). However, there are a lot of votes for the perfume at Parfumo that I think you might find interesting, as they pertain to perceptions of overall quality, sillage, and longevity:

  • Scent: 80% (12 Ratings)
  • Longevity: 88% (12 Ratings)
  • Sillage: 67% (13 Ratings)

An overall 80% favorability rating is really quite good, though I’m apparently not alone in my feelings about the sillage.

Khol de Bahrein comes with some drawbacks, primarily in terms of accessibility. This is a perfume that is a European and Middle Eastern exclusive, though American readers can test it easily by ordering a sample from Surrender to Chance. It’s not even widely available within Europe itself, with only a handful of distributors for the line. First in Fragrance is your best bet, and, thankfully, they ship worldwide.

The other issue is the price, though I think that can easily be justified when put into context. Khol de Bahrein costs €148 for a small 50 ml bottle. At the current rate of exchange, that comes to roughly $203, which is a teensy bit high for the size. However, Khol de Bahrein is a fragrance that its Middle Eastern distributor, the Sagma corporation, states is pure parfum extrait with 24% concentration.

Source: Sagma Corp.

Source: Sagma Corp.

Plus, there is that bottle. Judging by the photos, it looks gorgeous and I must say, I rather lust for it. Pure gold lettering and a gold metal cap with a Swarovski crystal. First in Fragrance has the full details on the very elaborate packaging:

Khôl de Bahreïn is presented in a transparent flacon with genuine gold lettering, gold cap and a small-faceted peach-coloured Swarovski crystal set on the stylized crown.

The 777 Metal cap 
A raised honeycomb pressed against a dome reminiscent of two architectures (Ottoman and Russian) where the sharp point brings to mind the summit, the sacred. The triple 7 is continued on the ring of the cap, it signifies: Spirituality, protection, luck. The figure 7 is the author’s fetish. The 777 logo is also engraved within the heart of the honeycomb. The raised facets represent work, determination and well-being. The significant weight of the cap imparts respect and strength. The cap is hand-milled, anodised and varnished.

777 Coffret by Stéphane Humbert Lucas
The box has been created using a double-coated black leather effect paper decorated with hot-stamped letters and logo. The 777 theme is taken up on the interior of the flap, followed by a short poem written by the author.

Source: Fragrantica

Source: Fragrantica

So, to some extent, a good chunk of that €148/$203 price tag must stem from the packaging, but you shouldn’t forget about the Extrait concentration. Or the opulence of that iris butter which, frankly, probably costs more than any Swarovski crystals. When you consider that Tom Ford’s flimsy, anemic Atelier d’Orient eau de parfums are priced at $210 for the same size (but much simpler looking) bottle, Khol de Bahrein almost seems like a steal. And I won’t even bring up Armani’s suffocating, claustrophobic, painfully dull iris soliflore, Nuances, in its Privé Couture line. (It’s £500, if you’re interested.)

Is Khol de Bahrein a complicated, revolutionary, edgy scent? No. It’s not trying to be. It wants to be a refined, luxurious statement that reflects a Middle Eastern sensibility. As someone who has actually lived in the region, I found Khol de Bahrein to be as Middle Eastern as Guerlain — which is to say, not at all. However, it definitely reflects a French sensibility and the feel of French haute perfumerie. A highly refined scent with very expensive, pure ingredients that are blended seamlessly to create the feel of pampered luxuriousness. Plus, it happens to have cozily delicious parts on top of it all. If I were ever to wear an iris scent, it would probably be Khol de Bahrein. Really lovely!

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Khol de Bahrein is an Extrait or pure parfum that comes only in a stunning 50 ml bottle that costs €148. I haven’t found any U.S. distributors for the scent. Stéphane Humbert Lucas’ website is under construction, and doesn’t have an e-store. Outside the U.S.: you can order Khol de Bahrein from First in Fragrance, though shipping will be delayed until after March 7th. They also offer a sample, and global shipping. Zurich’s Osswald also carries the line and lists Khol de Bahrein on its website, but I don’t think they have an e-store any more. The Swiss perfumery, Theodora, also has the perfume, but no e-store. In the Middle East, there is a UAE distributor called Sagma Corp that carries the full line, but they don’t have an e-store. However, you can buy Khol de Bahrein from Souq.com for AED 1,500. In Russia, Khol de Bahrein is available at Lenoma. It is also listed on the ry7 website, but I’m unclear as to its availability. Ukraine’s Sana Hunt Luxury store also carries it, but they don’t have an e-store. Samples: I obtained my sample from Surrender to Chance which sells Khol de Bahrein starting at $4.75 for a 1/2 ml vial.

Parfums de Nicolaï Sacrebleu Intense

Some perfumes have a quiet prettiness that weave their way around you over time, or that touch you with a feeling of comforting familiarity. Sometimes, they are also about a study in contrasts, contradictions that work together seamlessly in a way that becomes more important than the individual notes. Sacrebleu Intense from the Guerlain descendent, Patricia de Nicolaï, and her company, Parfums de Nicolaï, is one of those perfumes.

The 30 ml and 100 ml bottles of Sacrebleu Intense. Source: Luckyscent

The 30 ml and 100 ml bottles of Sacrebleu Intense. Source: Luckyscent

It is an eau de parfum that appealed to me the first time I smelled it, but it didn’t bowl me over and throw me into a state of maddened lust. It still doesn’t, if truth be told, but Sacrebleu Intense quietly squirreled its way into my thoughts, and I ended up succumbing to a relatively blind buy months after the fact. It has a quiet solidity and classical appeal with just enough of a nod to the past to be comforting at times.

What I like is the feeling of contrasts that have been superbly blended into a seamless whole. There is sticky, chewy darkness, but also, airy, white sweetness. Bitter green leafiness lies side-by-side with boldly fiery, red cloves, brown cinnamon, smoky blacks, and twiggy, petitgrain, neroli orange-browns. Sometimes, the contrasts are just about the stark black and whites: black licorice and smoke, against white Church incense and spicy red carnation. Sometimes, they are about gender, as femininity collides with touches of masculinity. Often, they are about boldness and strength mixed with refined quietness; or the contradictions of weightless heaviness.

Photographer: Carl Bengtsson. Source:  fashionproduction.blogspot.com

Photographer: Carl Bengtsson. Source: fashionproduction.blogspot.com

Sacrebleu Intense is about all those things. It is fierce and potent, but understated and quietly elegant. It is a nod to the past that is also very modern. It has a simple beauty whose appeal grows stronger with time, and it manages to stay in your head, long after you’ve smelled it. At least, that was the case for me. I first encountered the perfume in Paris where I was trying the full Parfums de Nicolaï‘s line at one of her shops. (From this point out, I hope you will forgive me if I spell Nicolaï as just “Nicolai” for reasons of speed and convenience, as it takes a while to put on the dots, or Trema.)

Sacrebleu Intense stood out immediately amidst the Nicolai offerings. A few of the other scents were pretty, but too subdued or restrained. A good number felt too damn thin by half, but Sacrebleu Intense made me do a wee, tiny double-take, and I sniffed my wrists appreciatively. However, I almost never trust first impressions and needed a sample to test to see how it would develop over time, especially on my wonky skin. Unfortunately, the Parfums de Nicolai line doesn’t seem to believe in that practice, and I was always told, “I’m sorry, we don’t have any vials.” So, I skipped it. Upon my return to America, though, the memory of Sacrebleu Intense nagged away at me for months. I finally said, “to hell with it,” and ordered a bottle.

Guerlain's L'Heure Bleue via radiobresil.com.

Guerlain’s L’Heure Bleue via radiobresil.com.

I did so for one reason, and one reason only. Every time I had tested Sacrebleu Intense, the same thought rang in my head: “L’Heure Bleue. This is a definite nod to L’Heure Bleue, only it’s more modern, fruitier, with different spices, and possibly a more unisex feel.” Now, vintage L’Heure Bleue is one of my two, absolute favorite Guerlain scents. In fact, it is only fickleness and a slightly fiercer love for vintage Shalimar that prevents L’Heure Bleue from ranking as my favorite Guerlain of all. Plus, vintage L’Heure Bleue can be a wee bit powdery for my tastes, though none of it matters in the face of the reformulated modern version. Sacrebleu Intense reminds me of vintage L’Heure Bleu, though with enough differences for it to be its own scent. It feels more modern, and not as wistful in nature.

Patricia de Nicolaï, via her own website.

Patricia de Nicolaï, via her own website.

The strong connection to one of Guerlain’s masterpieces should come as no surprise to anyone who knows about Patricia de Nicolai‘s background. I’ve written about how she is part of the Guerlain family, a grand-daughter of the house’s founder, Pierre Guerlain, a niece to Jean-Jacques Guerlain, and a relative of the famed nose and current Guerlain family patriarch, Jean-Paul Guerlain. Madame de Nicolai is also on record as saying that she absolutely loves L’Heure Bleue, though she stopped just short of saying that it is the Guerlain scent that has had the most impact on her own perfumery. Still, her love of L’Heure Bleue shines through in Sacrebleu Intense, though I have to emphasize that I think they are very different scents at their heart.

Sacrebleu Intense is an eau de parfum that was released in 2008. It seems to have been intended as a bolder version of the original Sacrebleu which has now been discontinued, though I’ve also read in one place that the Intense was meant to highlight the floral notes more than the original. According to Fragrantica and Luckyscent, Sacrebleu Intense has:

Top notes: mandarin orange, red berries and fruity notes; Middle notes: carnation, tuberose, cinnamon and jasmine; Base notes: peru balsam, sandalwood, tonka bean, patchouli, olibanum [myrrh], woody notes and vanilla..

Source: CaFleureBon

Source: CaFleureBon

Sacrebleu Intense opens on my skin with massive amounts of carnation cloves, followed by cinnamon, dark resins, and green notes. There is a strong spiciness to  the scent beyond just the cloves, a sort of piquancy that makes me think of peppery, fuzzy geranium leaves, as well as of bitter neroli and petitgrain. Petitgrain is a citrus tree’s twigs, distilled down into the bitter, pungent woody, masculine notes, while neroli is a different method of distilling the trees’ orange blossoms. Honestly, on my skin, I don’t smell mandarin oranges in their traditional, sweet, sun-ripened juiciness. There is the strong bitterness of neroli, and the woodiness of petitgrain instead.

FrankincenseThere are other elements as well. Lurking in the base is a black, leathery smokiness from the styrax, the least sweet of all the resins or benzoin-like notes. There is also a heavy presence of olibanum or myrrh. It is nothing like the High Church, soapy, chilly, dusty character that it usually manifests, at least not yet. Instead, it smells like chewy black licorice with a hint of anise. There is a definite sense of smokiness, though. A sweet incense note that feels like sweet myrrh, rather than pure, dry, black frankincense.

Clove Studded Orange. Source: DwellWellNW blog at DowntoEarthNW.com

Clove Studded Orange. Source: DwellWellNW blog at DowntoEarthNW.com

The odd thing is the nature of the floral notes. I’ve worn Sacrebleu Intense a few times, and only once did I ever really detect tuberose. It was brief, very muted, and had a slightly rubbery, black undertone to it. However, the tuberose was so thoroughly blended into the other elements, it was extremely hard to pick out and I don’t think it lasted for more than perhaps 10 minutes at best. The main flower on my skin instead is always the carnation, though it is barely floral at all. Carnations can take on a peppered rose aroma or a clove-like one, and it is the latter which shows up on my skin. In fact, Sacrebleu Intense is heavy cloves from start almost to finish, with only a touch of actual carnation.

Geranium pratense leaf, close-up. Source: Wikicommons

Geranium pratense leaf, close-up. Source: Wikicommons

I keep imagining a clove flower with a spicy neroli heart, bitter petitgrain twigs and peppery, pungent, green geranium leaves, all dusted with cinnamon. The “flower” grows out of soil made from black licorice and the stickiest, chewiest, balsamic resin around. It’s a base that is faintly leathered and smoky, but the main impression is of bitter fruits heavily dusted with cinnamon and cloves.

For the most part, Sacrebleu remains that way for the majority of its long life on my skin. This is a fragrance that is beautifully blended, and each time I wear it, different parts seem to be emphasized alongside the clove carnation. Never the tuberose, but the green bits and the smokiness seem to fluctuate in degree. On one occasion, all that came to mind was black, chewy, resinous smokiness on a white, airy background that felt only vaguely fruited and was heavily dusted with spices instead. As a whole, Sacrebleu Intense is a scent that is very hard to pull apart. The notes move into each other seamlessly, and, as indicated, that makes the perfume a bit linear in nature. For that reason, this review will be a little different than most of mine, and will focus mainly on the perfume’s overall development and feel.

Pez. Source: Wikipedia.

Pez. Source: Wikipedia.

The one thing that does change (and is quite constant each time I wear Sacrebleu Intense) is the touch of powderiness that creeps in after a while. When it precisely occurs seems to vary, and I’ve noticed that one arm (my right, which is not my usual testing arm) reflects very little of it as compared to the other, but there is always some degree of powder. At first, it’s only a subtle touch that is almost iris-like at times. It’s definitely sweetened powder, and its combination with the bitter neroli and petitgrain-like accord creates a distinct impression of Pez candy. A sort of Sweet-Tarts or Pez powderiness, if that makes sense.

I have to admit, I’m not very keen on it, and I become less keen as time passes because it turns into quite a distinct myrrh incense note that I always struggle with. It’s a spiced, slightly dusty powderiness, though much more sweetened than most High Church incense fragrances. As regular readers know, I’m not particularly enthused by High Church or Catholic Mass tonalities, let alone powder, so I must admit, I struggle a little with Sacrebleu after about 5 or 6 hours. Still, as noted earlier, the perfume is well-blended and there are enough spicy clove, carnation, and resinous elements to make up for it.

 Source: darulkutub.co.uk

Source: darulkutub.co.uk

In its final stage, Sacrebleu Intense is a blend of myrrh incense, spiciness, and sweetened Pez powder, lightly flecked with bitterness and a hint of something vaguely fruity. In its last moments, it’s powdered sweetness and myrrh. I like it… from afar and as long as I don’t smell it up close too much.

All in all, Sacrebleu Intense consistently lasts 12 hours or more on my wonky skin, depending on how much I apply. It generally becomes a skin scent about 4-5 hours into its development, though it requires absolutely no effort whatsoever to detect the perfume if you bring your nose near your arm. Furthermore, you can push both time frames if you spray on a lot. With 3 big sprays, I once experienced a 14 hour duration, even though I had to put my nose on my skin and sniff extremely hard to detect the faint traces after the 12th hour.

I’m glad I bought Sacrebleu Intense, though I have mixed feelings about the drydown stage. In fact, if some of my discussion sounds a little like blind buyer’s remorse, there is that on occasion, but only because I really don’t like Churchy myrrh incense or powder. That said, there is something about the opening moments of Sacrebleu Intense that really compensates for it all.

I can’t really explain in any logical way except to say that there is a mood and feeling which overcomes a lot of the sticky details down the road. Something about Sacrebleu Intense feels like elegant familiarity, perhaps because of that distant, tiny kinship to L’Heure Bleue. It’s such a classic, refined scent that it makes me feel as though I should sit up straighter, put on my best clothes, and get ready for a garden party. It feels like something suited for High Tea at the Plaza Athenée, or a walk through the Jardins de Luxembourg near the Louvre. It lacks the va-va-voom luxuriousness of vintage Shalimar, or the emotional power of vintage L’Heure Bleue‘s haunting melancholy, but Sacrebleu Intense has a definite, quiet charm.

Photographer: Carl Bengtsson. Source:  fashionproduction.blogspot.com

Photographer: Carl Bengtsson. Source: fashionproduction.blogspot.com

Sacrebleu Intense doesn’t take me back in time or feel dated. I don’t feel as though I belonged in the 1920s or 1950s. Perhaps because there is an airiness to the scent that seems to belie the strength and potency of its spicy, piquant notes. It doesn’t feel opulently heavy at all, to the point that I don’t think of luxuriousness when I think of Sacrebleu Intense. Rather, I think of spiciness — intense spiciness and resins. Peppered, resinous, smoky, chewy blackness and white daintiness, speckled with every shade of red, brown and green.

In some ways, Sacrebleu Intense feels a little like an attractive girl whose appeal grows stronger over time. She may not blow you away at first, and, in fact, she may not even sweep you off your feet after you’ve known her for years, either. But you’d definitely miss her if she weren’t around, and, whenever you’re with her, you enjoy the experience. Something about her stays with you — her good humoured spiciness, perhaps — and you can’t forget how comfortable she makes you feel.

Almost all the blog reviews out there are for Sacrebleu, the original, and not for Sacrebleu Intense. There is said to be a difference. It’s not only that Sacrebleu was an eau de toilette, while the Intense is an eau de parfum, but the notes seem to be different. The original is said to have included: black currant bud, peach blossom, jasmine, tuberose, vanilla, tonka bean and incense. I also vaguely remember one Parfums de Nicolai sales lady telling me that the focus of the two scents is different, though for the life of me, I cannot now recall how.

Cellists. Source: Nathan Branch

Cellists. Source: Nathan Branch

The one blog review for Sacrebleu Intense comes from Nathan Branch who writes:

For a couple of hours, Sacrebleu Intense is mesmerizingly beautiful — rich, full, deep . . . like a roomful of cellists all playing the same sad, sweet song, but then everything starts to sound (or, in this case, smell) a little off — too much noise, too many notes crammed up close together and discordantly overlapping.

It’s a shame, too, because when the stuff is pulling together it really shines, but the last half of the scent’s lifespan is a sloppy mess — well, until you hit the patchouli/balsam drydown, which deserves some praise.

Maybe the original, less pumped-up Sacrebleu is better, less messy, than this Intense version?

Source: nature.desktopnexus.com

Source: nature.desktopnexus.com

On Basenotes, one person has the following thoughts on the two versions:

Sweet but not fruity once the initial orange has departed. Close to, the jasmin is not wholly evident, but floats a nose- distance away until displaced by carnation (not cloves). The cinnamon is a mere hint (according to the assistant in PdN in Paris the ‘intense’ version has vanilla instead of cinnamon, but it’s still there to me). Overall less spicy than sacrebleu and therefore easier to wear. Intense is an edp rather than the original sacrebleu which is an edt. However the difference is not just in the concentration, they smell noticeably different, so worth trying both

As a whole, forum and website reviews for Sacrebleu Intense are mixed, with the vast majority being very positive in nature. I also think the reason for the split is that Sacrebleu Intense is a perfume best suited to those with specific tastes, starting with an appreciation for L’Heure Bleue. After that, ideally, you’d love a heaping amount of cinnamon, myrrh incense, and the bitter petitgrain and neroli aspects of orange. It might also help if you like Pez powder or Smarties, the latter being a comparison that was raised in two Fragrantica reviews.

One Fragrantica commentator, “vitabhaya,” has what I think is a good summation of Sacrebleu Intense:

Call me nuts, but the topnotes on this smell like a blend of Guerlain’s L’Heure Bleue and Smarties–you know, those colored, super-sweet candies that come in a roll. It is melancholy but energizing, sweet yet with a great mellow depth, really a mezmerizing fragrance.

After an hour or two, the tonka bean, patchouli, sandalwood and olibanum lilt along the edge of a vanilla that is neither quite sweet nor spicy. It feels rich, sensual and downright sexy. It reminds me of late afternoon sun drifting through the curtains after a lover’s rendevous. There is something hypnotic about this blend, and I find myself lingering with my arm up to my nose long enough to wonder how long I’ve held this pose. Suddenly I feel as if I enjoy the longing for past lovers for pure memories’ sake. I cannot at this point decide if it is slightly melancholy (L’Heure Bleue?) or if it is rather dusky and languid. Oooooh, how I love it!

This goes on the “must have” list.

Source: Fragrantica.ru

Source: Fragrantica.ru

Other Fragrantica commentators seem equally enamoured, with one saying that Sacrebleu Intense had replaced L’Heure Bleu in her heart:

  • For a very long time, since we first met in a candy-box perfumery in Salzburg decades ago, L’Heure Bleue was my absolute favourite scent of all. With all due respect and nostalgia, the Pefume Queen’s Throne in my heart is now occupied by another sovereigh: Sacrebleu. (Especially that L’Heure Bleue’s new formula does not have the perfection of its predecessor.) It is the softest, most embracing, soothing, calming scent about, and I absolutely enjoy its elegant velvety dark character. Mind you, Sacrebleu’s darkness is not menacing, it’s mistery is not dangerous. It is a peaceful night, when you know you are safe, loved and can relax without a hint of worry and care. It is related to L’Heure Bleue, but more modern, less melancholy and much more life-affirming. [¶] To my nose and mind this scent is so perfect, that while wearing it I never once try to isolate it’s notes…it is a perfect harmony, and I don’t care the least what single notes make up this wonderful olfactory symphony. Truly wonderful!
  • I think Sacrebleu Intense is one of the sophisticated and finest scents I have sniffed. Very feminine [….]  I do not get candies from Sacre Bleu, but sacred feel yess. I have also L´heure Bleue and this might be kinda sister, but they are standing quite far from each others. Sacrebleu is more sensitive…. but eaven if she is sensitive do not take her to be not strong!
  • Prepare yourself to be granted a sweet redemption, to gain a second or third youth, to leave the ground and premises in bliss… [¶] Concentrate on happiness! […][¶] Olibanum and Peru Balsam control the -harsh- tubereuse. Carnation and Tonka Bean rule over the omnipresent cinnamon. Mandarin, Jasmin and Sandal turn your face to the light! [¶] Sacrebleu Intense has lifted me with joy.
  • I got this sample from the lovely Carnation. I smell hot spice! This is warm and intense and perfect for me. There is a sweetness to it that could be vanilla but its not cloying. This is a perfect combination of the things I love, Sandalwood, Patchouli, Vanilla and Spice (must be the cinnamon) I love it!
Photo: mypham.us

Photo: mypham.us

One male commentator loved Sacrebleu as well, writing:

A fruit and floral aroma that embraces you with power, quality and exuberance.
The heart is beautifully made of jasmine and tuberose, going to a soft side of the fragrance, surrounded by peru balm, olibanum (frankincense), woods and a delightful vanilla.
It starts completely feminine and then, goes to a more unisex scent during its evolution on the skin. Fierce yet delicate, strong yet romantic…nice work!

Smarties. Source: imgarcade.com

Smarties. Source: imgarcade.com

However, not everyone was quite as thrilled, whether from the fruit or the spices. In fact, I think the following comments underscore the importance of a love for cinnamon, not to mention skin chemistry, of course:

  •  very fruity and sweet. vitabhaya mentions Smarties and L’heure Bleue. I agree about the Smarties, but feel it’s only got a nod in passing from L’Heure Bleue. I purchased a sample because I love cinnamon and hoped for more cinnamon/carnation effect – but fruit tends to overwhelm my nose. Should have checked more carefully, because the top notes are all fruity, and they tend to hang around. Altogether not bad, won’t be one of my favourits, though.
  • Sweet,juicy fruity opening,but I could not detect any spices throughout this at all. […] It’s probably one of the worst I have smelled-cloying and rubbery would describe this perfectly.
  • I get cinnamon, but the horrid thing is that on my skin it smells like a cheap cinnamon candle. [¶] You ever been to a candle store, and then felt a bit yuck after smelling a tonne of candles? That’s this scent on my skin, unfortunately.
  • Hmmm, no. Opening is sweet orange, then comes cinnamon that has a very synthetic feel to me. A whisper of flowers, then some Tonka in the dry down. Average longevity and projection. L’huere bleu made me realize that I have a strong desire to smell like carnations and I was hoping this would be an interesting, well rounded composition with a clear carnation note, but it seems to have been hidden by the cinnamon. So disappointed.

On my skin, as noted, the clove-like smell of the carnations was far more dominant, but Sacrebleu Intense has a few resins or benzoins that can manifest a cinnamon side. Given that the perfume contains actual cinnamon as well, then you bloody well better like the spice if you’re going to try the perfume!

You should also like strong perfumes. On Surrender to Chance, one person commented that they liked the juicy, fruity opening but that Sacrebleu Intense was “too strong.” Well, it is, but that’s why I gravitated towards it, instead of the thinner scents in the line. Sacrebleu Intense is definitely a scent for those who like their fragrances to be bold and full-bodied.

The 30 ml bottle. Source: randewoo.ru

The 30 ml bottle. Source: randewoo.ru

One of the big positives about Sacrebleu Intense, and the Parfums de Nicolai line in general, is affordability. There is always a small 30 ml size which is very reasonably priced. For Sacrebleu Intense, the 1 oz size costs $65 or €51. It may be too tiny for some, but it’s great if you have a vast number of scents in your collection, or if you just don’t want to spend a fortune on perfume. Plus, as noted earlier, a little Sacrebleu Intense goes a long, long way.

Lastly, I think Sacrebleu Intense skews a little feminine, but not overly so and really only at the start. The incense, resins, spices and piquant neroli certainly make it very unisex in nature. My only hesitancy is the slight powderiness of the scent. It’s not at Guerlainade levels, and is much more myrrh-based in nature, but it’s something to keep in mind.

All in all, if you’re looking for a more spicy, modern version of L’Heure Bleue that is strongly centered on carnations with orange and neroli, dark smokiness that turns to white myrrh incense, and very piquant green leafiness, you may want to give Sacrebleu Intense a sniff.

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Sacrebleu Intense is an eau de parfum that comes in two sizes. There is a tiny 30 ml/1 oz bottle that costs $65 or €51, and there is a large 100 ml/3.3 oz bottle that costs $165 or €153. As a side note, I think that there might have been a recent price increase for the Nicolai line, as I see a number of sites selling the large bottle for $185 now.  In the U.S.: Luckyscent sells both sizes of the perfume, with the large one at the old price of $165, and also offers samples. Beautyhabit sells the small and large sizes of Sacrebleu Intense at the same price. In New York, the New London Pharmacy is selling the 100 ml bottle for $150 on its website. OsswaldNY lists the 100 ml bottle as retailing for $190, which is way above retail, but is currently discounting the large bottle for $150. Parfum1 sells the large 100 ml bottle for the new price of $185. Outside the U.S.: For Canadian readers, the US-based Perfume Shoppe sells the small 30 ml size for US$65, and you can email them to ask about Canadian pricing. Their Canadian website offers Sacrebleu Intense in a 4ml travel spray for CAD$30. In the U.K., Parfums de Nicolaï has a shop in London on Fulham Road. You can check the Store Link below for the exact address. For all European readers, you can order directly from Parfums de Nicolaï which sells Sacrebleu Intense in both sizes for €51 and €153, respectively. In France, the company has numerous boutiques, especially in Paris. First in Fragrance sells the large 100 ml bottle for €152. In the Netherlands, ParfuMaria carries both sizes of Sacrebleu Intense, as does Annindriya’s Perfume Lounge. In Spain, I found the perfume listed in the 30 ml size at Ruiz de Ocenda for €52. In Hungary, you can find the perfume at Neroli, and in Russia, there are a lot of retailers but one of them is Eleven7. For other locations in France and the one store in London, you can turn to the Nicolai Store Listing. It doesn’t show any vendors outside France or the UK. I found nothing in Asia, the Middle East, or Australia. Samples: Surrender to Chance sells Sacrebleu Intense starting at $3.99 for a 1 ml vial. You can also order from Luckyscent.

AbdesSalaam Attar La Via del Profumo Mecca Balsam

Source: The Telegraph.

Source: The Telegraph.

The road to Mecca, filled with the scent of millions of pilgrims radiating amber, incense, and spice. A mysterious Sufi mystic garbed in blue robes of the desert who has been called a “genius” and “a magician” with natural essences. And the desire to recreate “the perfume of the mosques and the music of the wind organs in cathedrals.”

Some of the millions of white-robed pilgrims at Mecca. Source: The Telegraph.

Some of the millions of white-robed pilgrims at Mecca. Source: The Telegraph.

That last line alone stopped me in my tracks with its beautiful imagery, the poetry of perfumery focused on the very heart of the Middle East: Mecca. Mecca Balsam is the creation of the perfumer, Dominique Dubrana, but I have to admit, I have no clue as to how I should call his perfume house. Many sites list it as La Via del Profumo, his website is called Profumu.it, but American decanting services and perfumistas often refer to the line as “AbdesSalaam Attar (profumo.it)” or AbdesSalaam Attar. The latter is the nom de plume he uses on Basenotes, where he is a contributor and with whom he’s created a few perfume series. I’ve decided to opt for the very long name of “AbdesSalaam Attar La Via del Profumo” at first, and then to shorten it to “AbdesSalaam Attar.”

I’ve been interested in the highly respected, almost legendary, Dominique Dubrana for a while. The New York Times had a fascinating article from 2010 entitled “Smellbound” in which Jim Lewis describes the man and his creations:

Dominque Dubrana via the NYT. Photo by Domingo Milella.

Dominque Dubrana via the NYT. Photo by Domingo Milella.

One overcast afternoon last May I sat in a small atelier in a tiny town in the hills of Rimini, Italy. Across from me sat a man in royal blue robes and a matching blue turban, with a long gray beard and kohl-rimmed eyes; on his desk, and on the shelves behind him, in a cabinet by the door — all over the room — there were small amber-tinted glass bottles, scores of them, and as we spoke he would take one up, open the top, hand it to me and invite me to smell the contents. This went on for hours. It was why I’d come: to meet Dominique Dubrana, a 54-year-old Frenchman living in Italy, a Sufi convert, a grand eccentric and a genius of sorts. […]

Dubrana is a perfumer, and there is no one quite like him working anywhere in the world today. [¶] For one thing, he has no store — and no corporation to answer to and no marketing budget. He invents his own stuff, bottles it and sells it only online, relying on word of mouth to spread his name. […][¶] More important, he uses all natural ingredients, an ancient craft in the modern world, where synthetic molecules make up as much as 90 percent of most commercial perfumes and where some familiar notes — most musks, for example — are almost impossible to find in their natural state. [¶][…]

Luca Turin, the author of “Perfumes: the Guide,” a visiting scientist at M.I.T. and the capo of perfume critics, says: “He’s one of these very rare examples of a natural-born perfumer. He seems to be incredibly sure-footed, in a way which reminds me of François Coty. 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.”

Source: upww.us

Masjid al Haraam in Mecca, the Sacred or Grand Mosque, which is perhaps the holiest place in Islam. Source: upww.us

I haven’t had much luck with natural perfumery thus far, but I’ve heard nothing but raves for the AbdesSalaam Attar line. My problem was where to start. There were an overwhelming number of his fragrances listed on Surrender to Chance, but one name caught my eye: Mecca Balsam. The perfume was inspired by Mr. Dubrana’s trip to Mecca, and the smells of the city. A quick check of the Profumo.it website description, where the fragrance is called Balsamo della Mecca, and I was sold. It was so damn evocative!

In Mecca, the scents of Labdanum resin, of Benzoin, frankincense and of the precious Agar wood invade the streets together with the 4 million pilgrims who pour to the streets 5 times every day, walking to the great mosque like river. […][¶]

The trail of a million scents in the wake of the pilgrims at Mecca raptures the nose of the visitor and make this travel an unforgettable experience for a westerner little used to such a profusion of olfactory stimulus.

I have imagined the perfume at Mecca itself while walking in the mist of the pilgrims, and I had already found its name there; “Mecca Balsam”. I would compose it with the smells and fragrances that are omnipresent in the holy city, it would be it’s olfactory signature.

Source: faculty.tamucc.edu

Source: faculty.tamucc.edu

Back to Italy, my memories still fresh and my spirit still filled with the pilgrimage, I started blending the essences of my perfumer’s organ.

The grave and austere note of Labdanum, deep and resinous, at once sacred and profane, is the center of gravity of “Mecca Balsam”.

Wrapped in the amber fragrance of Tonka and in the mystic aroma of the Arabic Frankincense, Labdanum wildness is tamed in an almost ecclesiastic scent that evocates at once the perfume of the mosques and the music of the wind organs in cathedrals.

The scent of raw Tobacco, always present in the background, is like an anchor that binds the  base accord, giving them a common denominator.

The flowery notes of  Indian Tuberose and of Damask Rose enrich the base of the balsam in the fashion of Arabic fragrances, bestowing to the perfume an opulence worthy of the precious aromatic elixirs worn by the royal family of Saudia.

Mecca Balsam is a fragrance that is liked by men and women alike, its aroma is warming, full, aromatic, and somehow gives a fatherly sense of security.

Mecca Balsam via the Profumi.it website.

The succinct list of notes would be:

tonka, Arabic frankincense, labdanum, raw tobacco, Indian tuberose and Damask rose.

Source: drugnet.net

Source: drugnet.net

Mecca Balsam opens on my skin with intense booziness, like sharp, young cognac, followed by fruit and tobacco. The latter smells definitely raw, like the juice from tobacco wads that some men and American baseball players chew. The notes are infused with smoky incense and a rough labdanum, but there is also a hint of something leathered, rubbery, and a little mentholated at the edges. The strongest impression is of the tobacco juice and a dirty, rough amber, flecked lightly by incense. It’s all very gritty, dark, leathery in feel, almost verging on the dirty, raw, untamed and masculine. At the same time, however, it’s also sweet, soft, warm, and strong. The fragrance hovers a few inches above the skin, at most, but is extremely potent and dense when sniffed up close.

I don’t smell the florals in Mecca Balsam in any distinct, individual, or significant way. However, the hint of something rubbery, almost diesel-like, and mentholated makes me wonder if it stems from the tuberose. There is a whiff of something underlying the note that makes me think of how the flower has been deconstructed in Serge LutensTubereuse Criminelle. With Mecca Balsam, the floral aspect never appears fully, but there is the faintest suggestion of tuberose after about 5 minutes. It’s more akin to dirty indoles, though it’s never fecal, sour, or even particularly lush. Whatever it is, the floral undertone is extremely muted and quickly fades away entirely.

Source: iherb.com

Source: iherb.com

About 20 minutes into its development, Mecca Balsam changes completely. All the rough edges suddenly start to soften, as the fragrance becomes smoother and smoother. From its initial start of lots of raw, concentrated tobacco juice over a heart of dirty, warm amber with smoke, the perfume suddenly turns into… cinnamon orange spiced tea! The similarities were so overwhelming that I actually hunted in my pantry for an errant box of the stuff (which I don’t like very much), brewed a cup, and compared the two aromas. Mecca Balsam is obviously richer, deeper, thicker, and warmer in smell than a thin liquid, but I’m telling you: Orange Spice!

Source: sweetsouthernprovisions.com

Source: sweetsouthernprovisions.com

I don’t understand any of it, but what emanated from my skin for almost the next 12 hours was various levels of cinnamon orange tea over a base of warm, dark, slightly leathered amber with tobacco. The cinnamon is extremely dominant, but it never approaches the fiery aspect of “red hots” cinnamon candies. It’s much smoother and mellower than that. I suspect it stems from the Tonka being impacted by the other accords, but I have no explanation for the distinct smell of orange that appears by its side. The fruited aspect waxed and waned in strength, but there was always some aspect of a sweet citrus edge; at first, it was right on top with the cinnamon, but eventually, it became a more muted note by the edges.

Source: 123rf.com

Source: 123rf.com

The base notes are interesting. The amber never smelled like a lot of labdanum that I encounter: it was never toffee’d, nutty, or honeyed, and even the leathery nuance was subtle. As a whole, it merely smelled like an amorphous, really warm, golden base with a dirty edge. The tobacco eventually lost its rawness and was generally folded within the amber, though occasionally it was much more noticeable in its own right. The whole thing was dry and lightly flecked by the tiniest amount of incense, but Mecca Balsam was never a really smoky scent on me. For the most part, it was primarily just black tea that was highly spiced with cinnamon and sweetened with oranges.

At the end of the 6th hour, Mecca Balsam shifts a little. It takes on a slightly powdered touch at the edges that occasionally makes me think of powdered orange drinks. It also becomes a complete skin scent. Still, I was surprised by how long it took for Mecca Balsam to fade in strength. It never had more than soft sillage to begin with, but for an all-natural fragrance, it was surprisingly strong when sniffed up close. Perhaps that is due, in part, to the rawness or concentration of certain notes like the cinnamon or the tobacco. Even more surprising was how long Mecca Balsam lasted on my perfume-consuming skin. I could smell faint traces of it well after the 12th hour, and it finally died away as a blur of warm, spiced, ambered tea about 13.5 hours from the start.

I have to admit, I was disappointed with Mecca Balsam. The story, the inspiration, the magical, mystical, Bedouin and Sufi look of Mr. Dubrana, all led me to expect something very different. Perhaps nothing would have measured up to the images in my head, or to my growing fascination with Mr. Dubrana, but raised expectations are not the real cause. Rather, it’s the notes and how they manifested itself on my skin. I love labdanum and incense, I enjoy tobacco fragrances, and heavy, rich orientals are my absolute favorite. I did not expect Bigelow’s Orange Spice tea!

The greatest problem for me personally was the tobacco. At the start, it was incredibly dirty in a way that was simply too intense and sharp for my personal tastes. Even when it subsequently became muted, relatively speaking, and was folded into the amber of the base, I still struggled with it. I can take dirty labdanum or leather, but the rawness of the tobacco was perhaps a few steps too far on the dirty scale. I kept envisioning American baseball players in some 1950s movie with a wad of tobacco bulging in their lip, and spitting out streams of raw juice into a spittoon. It’s unappealing mentally, and the scent isn’t so refined on an olfactory level either. Again, in fairness, the scent softened and mellowed quite a bit after the first two hours, but then we go back to Orange Pekoe and cinnamon tea. It’s not my personal favorite.

Skin chemistry obviously plays a huge role in how perfumes bloom on the skin, but I have to wonder if batch variations might also be a factor as well. I have the impression, perhaps mistaken, that Mr. Dubrana does everything by hand and on a relatively small-scale. If so, then that may account for some variations, as Mecca Balsam is a much applauded scent with reviews that sometimes seem to describe something extremely different than what I experienced. All of this is apart from the fact that there seem to be at least two different versions of Mecca Balsam, from the Arabian series that I tested, to an early version made in 2010 for Jim Lewis who wrote The New York Times article, as well as what might be an extrait.

Source: alaan.cc

Source: alaan.cc

There are many blog reviews for Mecca Balsam, and a common thread between them is a discussion of the amber-tobacco heart. A number of reviewers also noted a “meditative” aspect as well. Take the assessment by The Non-Blonde who wrote, in part: 

I don’t think I’ve ever fully grasped the idea of a meditative perfume until I smelled Mecca Balsam [….] I’ve never actually experienced a perfume that took me there.

Why is Mecca Balsam different? It might be the depth and rawness of the natural ingredients. There are no minimalistic tricks and gimmicks here- this is the real thing. […][¶] The first whiff of Mecca Balsam is nothing short of stunning. It makes you stop, take a deep breath and take it all in. […] What you get here is dark and dry, resinous and smoky. It creates a certain mood right away. It’s very deliberate and there’s nothing casual about this scent. The labdanum and tobacco are the most pronounced notes on my skin. They make me feel like I’ve stepped into a dark, sacred place out of time. Sweet incense is burning in the corner and the red and pink lights of sunrise are felt more than actually seen through an elaborately ornamented window.

It’s a mental and emotional place, not a real one, but it feels safe and honest and allows one to take a good introspective look. The scent is strong and would affect your surrounding, but at the same time it’s personal and reflective.  [Emphasis in the original, but not underlined.]

Photo: Karin Kloosterman  at greenprophet.com

Photo: Karin Kloosterman at greenprophet.com

Suzanne of Eiderdown Press seemed to feel something a bit similar, writing:

its opening notes have all the gravitas of a prayer: they are weighty and deeply resinous—almost medicinally so, such that I could swear I smell the astringent lash of clary sage among them, though perhaps it is a figment of my imagination, as the perfumer does not list it among the notes. After five minutes, the labdanum and frankincense combination become smokier and more ash-like, with a little bit of tarriness that makes me also wonder if there might be a hint of castoreum, too, in the composition. As it continues to dry down, the fragrance softens considerably but continues to unfold. The smokiness is still there but it is ever so lightly sweetened by the balsamic and ambery tonka note, and then rounded out by the warmth of tobacco. The floral notes go unnoticed, as their function here seems to be that of a soothing olfactory balm, if you will—taking the edge off the rawer notes and lending softness and depth to the scent .

What is most impressive about Balsamo Della Mecca is that it does what most all-natural perfumes don’t do: it stays with you. After its weighty opening, it becomes this wonderfully breathy tobacco scent that you fear is going to disappear on you—it becomes a tobacco-y skin scent, really,  a rare thing among tobacco scents—and remarkably, it goes the distance. I get at least seven hours of wear from two generous spritzes of Balsamo Della Mecca.

Kevin from Now Smell This had an experience a little closer to mine, at least in terms of spices:

Balsamo della Mecca begins with rich, ‘leather-y’ labdanum and smoky frankincense. As the fragrance develops, interesting facets emerge — accords that smell of unsweetened cinnamon, “cola” and musky tobacco. The fragrance is dense and only lightens after hours of wear when the notes seem to “dry out” and turn powdery — a lovely phase when frankincense and benzoin/tonka predominate. […][¶] I don’t detect much tuberose and rose in Balsamo della Mecca … and agarwood is “overcome” by labdanum and frankincense. Balsamo della Mecca is a great incense perfume, wearable by men and women.

I was surprised at all-natural Balsamo della Mecca’s lasting power: over 10 hours. And in case you’re “worried,” it is not a sillage-monster. Balsamo della Mecca is an excellent layering scent and adds depth (and a touch of incense) to floral perfumes (it digests citrus fragrances in minutes).

Basenotes reviewers are entirely positive about the fragrance which is entered in the site under the name Balsamo della Mecca. Both men and women alike describe it in terms of uniqueness, spirituality, beauty, or a meditative feel. Just two examples:

  • Tall, dark and soulful. [¶] This one is an experience rather than a list of notes. Warm and comforting, this is a scent I reach for when it’s been a long day or promises to be one. It wraps me up. To be honest if scents can have a soul then I think this one has the soul of a healer. A sexy healer! […] warm, enduring and strangely compassionate[.]
  • this one is all about labdanum: resinous , spicy , with some tobacco and loads of frankincense, that i mixed for some pepper [¶] it opens up like a blast of some herbaceous spices including pepper , for a soup :)….gourmand like to my nose, and then goes on heated by the body heat for hours, like it melts layer by layer, its dense, resinous, sweetish scent with lot of spices, a little bit dark [¶] this one is unique, and i like it but i did get the feeling when i wore it that its not for this world 🙂 its for special purposes , some religious ceremonies….transcendental, the name fits it perfectly it does feel like balsamic!healing the soul 🙂

Even one person who was not moved by the scent gave it a positive review, finding Mecca Balsam to be both “complex” and “stellar”:

If I can sum this scent in one word it would be this: COMPLEX. It took me more than a few days of wearing before realizing I came nowhere close to unraveling its mysteries.

On my skin BALSAMO DELLA MECCA plays a symphony comprising of three main accords: balsamic labdanum, dry frankincense and aromatic tobacco, interspersed with the nuanced sweetness of dried fruits. The rose note is subtle at best, wearing close to the skin. Overall I find the scent warm and inviting with a texture that is dry but not quite as dusty nor as Lutens-like syrupy as I had initially feared. I don’t know if it’s my skin but the tobacco is surprisingly tenacious.

Despite its formidable charms, it failed to move me though I smiled a little when I caught a glimpse of a cleverly hidden tuberose. […] I also suspect some of the more glowing reviews could have been influenced at least in part by its rather exotic name and the association it carries with the annual Muslim pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca. But it matters not. For what it’s worth, I think this release is nothing short of ‘stellar’.

Obviously my experience was completely different, though the common themes of cinnamon, strong tobacco, amber, and undertones of leather and incense are all there. How one interprets a note is naturally subject to one’s personal mental filters, and for me, it was Orange Spice black tea with amber and various degrees of raw spittoon tobacco juice. I’m afraid I don’t get any meditative or spiritual qualities from the scent, and I agree with the commentator above that the fragrance’s name and associations might have influenced some of the talk of spirituality on Basenotes and elsewhere. Then again, skin chemistry is key, and perhaps there are some batch variations as well.

I don’t think Mecca Balsam is for everyone. I think some people would find it far too masculine and, depending on skin chemistry, perhaps even dirty, thanks to the raw tobacco juice. That said, I encourage those who adore incense, labdanum, or Middle Eastern scents above all else to give Mecca Balsam a try. The fragrance is very well done, and my experience was obviously outside the norm. Plus, samples aren’t hard to obtain, and the perfume is offered in a variety of sizes, starting at €36 or about $50 for 15 ml. There are 20 positive reviews in a variety of languages from English to Russian and Asian linked on the Profumo.it site that attest to the fact that the fragrance is something different, original, and complex. Maybe you’ll get my Lapsang Souchang cinnamon orange tea with tobacco bouquet, or maybe you’ll experience the dark, dry, meditative, incense fragrance that takes you to Mecca at dawn. Either way, it’s quite an experience, and undoubtedly like nothing else you’ve really tried.

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: All of AbdesSalaam fragrances can be purchased directly from the Profumo.it website which ships its scents world-wide, along with many natural ingredients. Mecca Balsam seems to come in a few different versions and has several entries on the website, but the version I sampled came under the name Mecca Balsam (Arabian Series). That version offered in a variety of different sizes. All the following prices are without VAT: €36,70 for 15.5 ml, €78,69 for 32 ml (a little over 1 oz) and €112,13 for 50 ml/1.7 oz. At the current rate of exchange, the 50 ml bottle comes to a little over $154 in USD. 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.” Samples: I obtained my sample from Surrender to Chance which sells a ton of AbdesSalaam Attar/Profumi scents. Mecca Balsam (Arabian Series) starts at $6.99 for a 1 ml vial.

Jovoy Paris Psychédélique: A Fantastic Trip

Source: standout-fireplace-designs.com

Source: standout-fireplace-designs.com

A man in a library before a crackling fire, sipping cognac on a leather sofa, as the air around him swirls with a phantasmagoric stream of colours. Burnt umber, raw ocher, dusty terracotta, dark tobacco, golden caramel, nutty toffee, and a touch of blackened green. There are hints of spice and smoke in the air, along with a musky earthiness, but it is a scene of endless warmth, coziness, and richness.

Then, as if a magician waved his hand, the swirling coloured mists dissolve, and the scene changes. The man has been transported outdoors to a land filled with dark, mentholated greens, touched by earthy browns, and a hint of reddened dust. It’s muddy at times, and a muted chanting sound in the background momentarily conjures up the Summer of Love in 1968. It’s only a brief trip, though, and soon, he finds himself in his bed, surrounded by the finest, gauzy, silky sheets made of soft red, ambered caramel gold, and creamy vanilla. Did it actually happen, or was it a trip most Psychédélique?

Source: Bloom Perfumery.

Source: Bloom Perfumery.

Psychédélique is a fragrance from Jovoy Paris, an utterly glorious patchouli scent in all its best, truest, spicy-sweet-smoky red-brown incarnations. The fragrance (which I shall spell here on out without the warranted accents, for ease and speed) is really close to my ideal patchouli, though it doesn’t have the best projection after its opening stage. But what an opening it is!

Psychedelique is an eau de parfum, created by Jacques Flori of Robertet and released in 2011. Jovoy’s owner and creative director, Francois Hénindescribes the scent and its notes as follows:

“Psychedelic: my great patchouli fragrance, dark and smoky, ambered, generous and opulent… Even the rain and mud of Woodstock won’t wash it away.”

Head notes:  fresh hesperidium [citrus]

Heart notes: floral rose, geranium, ambered, woody (patchouli, cistus, gum cistus)

Base notes: vanilla, musk

Psychedelique with its box. Source: Roullier White.

Psychedelique with its box. Source: Roullier White.

Luckyscent has rather a wonderful description of Psychedelique:

Psychédélique, Jovoy’s magnificent ambered patchouli, largely stays in the shadows, meditating on the synergies between a cocoa-like amber and an inky-dark patchouli, although rose and geranium offer a touch of freshness to its earthy sexiness.

The synaesthete might say that on the olfactory color wheel, patchouli resides somewhere between black and chocolate brown, with a bit of iridescent chartreuse green shimmering in between. Camphory, inky, aromatic, and even darkly refreshing, the elegant patchouli in Psychédélique […] is like an olfactory Mark Rothko painting that explores the gradations between dark colors — in this case, patchouli, amber, and musk.

St. James Hotel's Library Bar, Paris.  Source: Oyster.com

St. James Hotel’s Library Bar, Paris.
Source: Oyster.com

Luckyscent finds the name unfortunate, as do I, because it tends to create the impression that Psychedelique is a dirty, filthy, head-shop, incense-y fragrance best suited to hippies. It’s not. It’s extremely refined, elegant and well-done. For me, the image which came to mind again and again was primarily that of a traditional men’s club or a rich library, filled with dark, studded, stuffed Chesterfield leather sofas, a crackling fire, aged cognac, a hint of smoke in the air, and a plate of caramels. Yes, there is a mentholated, camphorous stage redolent of green patchouli, but it’s not significant on my skin, and really far from the core essence of the fragrance. In fact, most of the time, the green undertone translates as wonderful peppermint.

Source: porjati.ru

Source: porjati.ru

Psychedelique opens on my skin with strong labdanum amber and patchouli, infused by a huge amount of boozy cognac. The patchouli has all its true nuances: leathery, spicy, smoky, sweet, dry, woody, and with a hint of something almost resembling tobacco. Psychedelique even carries the faintest whiff of a fruited element that smells like cinnamon-studded oranges. A definite blast of chilly peppermint follows, arm in arm with chewy, dark chocolate. Patchouli’s camphorous, green side lurks underneath, along with a tinge of black, almost “head-shop” like incense, but they’re only the subtlest of suggestions on my skin. Much more significant is the utterly glorious toffee and caramel amber, just lightly flecked by creamy vanilla.

"Black Widow v1" by *smokin-nucleus. Source: DeviantArt. (Website link embedded within photo.)

“Black Widow v1” by *smokin-nucleus. Source: DeviantArt. (Website link embedded within photo.)

It’s a very potent brew in the opening hour, especially when sniffed up close, but Psychedelique has a soft quality about it. It feels a lot denser and more concentrated than it actually is, and is only truly intense within its small 3 inch bubble. To me, the opening has the best aspects of Oriza L. Legrand‘s Horizon and of Reminiscence‘s Elixir de Patchouli, but with none of the latter’s swampy, smoked cedar and sharp vetiver. When smelled from afar, Psychedelique is a beautiful swirl of ambered caramel gold and reddened, spicy patchouli, infused with cognac, toffee, peppermint, dry cocoa, sweetness, and a hint of fruitiness.

Source: urlm.co

Source: urlm.co

Within 5 minutes, Psychedelique starts to morph. At first, there is a dusty, dry earthiness that smells like damp, wet soil. To my regret, it cuts through some of the aged, boozy cognac which I love so much. At the same time, the rich amber in which all the notes are nestled turns slightly musky. There is also an increasing whiff of the salty-sweet aspect of the ambergris, mixed with the labdanum’s nutty, toffee’d caramel aroma. Chocolate and peppermint continue to be laced throughout, and there is the faintest stirrings of vanilla in the base, but there is nary a hint of a citrus, rose or geranium note in Psychedelique, regardless of what the ingredient list may say.

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

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

It takes 25 minutes for Psychedelique’s greener side to become apparent. The fragrance becomes much more mentholated and camphorous; at the same time, the amber’s lovely caramel, vanilla, and toffee tonalities weaken. The boozy cognac retreats almost completely to the sidelines, and eventually vanishes before the hour is over. Psychedelique feels simultaneously softer, sharper, and dirtier. The dusty cocoa powder and chewy chocolate remain, but both are significantly more muted. Psychedelique is now very green-black in visual huge, instead of the red-brown-golds of the opening.

Source: rgbstock.com

Source: rgbstock.com

I should point out, however, that the degree of greenness in this stage varied depending on the amount of perfume that I applied, and that the note was not a huge part of the scent in a few of my tests. The more Psychedelique you spray, the more the green phase seems to come out around the 30 minute mark. A number of times, the main duo of golden caramel and patchouli remained as the dominant focus alongside with the mentholated, green-black note. In other words, if you don’t spray on a lot of Psychedelique, the greenness doesn’t take over the scent.

In all cases, however, the stage is pretty short-lived, and lasts under an hour or so. Generally, it begins to recede 90 minutes into Psychedelique’s development. At that point, the fragrance begins its slow transformation back to its original stage, minus that wonderful cognac booziness and heavy richness. At the end of the second hour, Psychedelique is a soft, smooth blend of patchouli with amber and sweetness, and only vestigial traces of the greenness lurking to the side. The sillage is low, unfortunately, and Psychedelique hovers an inch above the skin.

Via hdwpapers.com

Via hdwpapers.com

About 3.5 hours in, Psychedelique is a soft, spiced patchouli sweetened with creamy vanilla, and flecked by nutty, toffee’d labdanum. There are hints of cocoa powder, smokiness, and earthiness, but the whole thing is beautifully balanced. It’s neither too sweet, nor too spicy, smoky, chewy, or earthy. There is almost a dry woodiness to the plant, but Psychedelique never feels truly woody like some of its kin in the genre, many of whom are heavily infused with cedar and/or vetiver.

The whole thing is absolutely lovely, but it’s also a sheer, discrete skin scent — too much so for my personal preference. Unobtrusiveness seems to be the Jovoy style and signature, as all the other fragrances that I’ve tried from the line have been similar. They start with a bang that eventually fades to sheerness in a polite whimper. Here, I feel almost cheated. I’ve been looking for a great patchouli for ages, so to find one with a truly lovely opening and drydown, only to have to sniff my wrist with determination by the 4th hour is incredibly frustrating.

Mark Rothko, Untitled (Violet, Black, Orange, Yellow on White and Red), 1949. Source: The Guggenheim Museum.

Mark Rothko, Untitled (Violet, Black, Orange, Yellow on White and Red), 1949. Source: The Guggenheim Museum.

On the plus side, however, Psychedelique lasts and lasts. It may take some determined whiffs to detect it at the end, but that end phase frequently lasts over 14 hours on my perfume-consuming skin. No, seriously, it does. The smallest quantity of Psychedelique will yield 12 hours at a minimum, with minuscule traces lasting up to the 14th hour. With a larger amount, the perfume’s longevity is well over-night. Just 3 small sprays from my tiny atomizer sample, amounting to 2 sprays from a regular bottle, made Psychedelique last 19.5 hours on me. I couldn’t believe it. Again, it did take some determined sniffing to detect, with my nose fully on the skin, but Psychedelique was definitely pulsating away in a few quarters on my arm.

In all cases, the drydown was a perfect, slightly spiced patchouli with vanilla and amber. Up until the 9th hour, the golden haze was flecked with a hint of chilly mentholated peppermint and a touch of cocoa powder. In its very final moments, Psychedelique was just a smear of golden sweetness.

On Fragrantica, Psychedelique has very positive reviews. A number of people compare the scent to Reminiscence’s take on the note, and one mentions Montale‘s Patchouli Leaves. On my skin, the Montale was very different and quite gourmand, while both Reminiscence fragrances were significantly woodier in nature. I think a much closer comparison would be to Oriza‘s Horizon, except the Psychedelique has greater heft, depth, and body. It’s also got better projection and longevity, as Horizon was painfully diaphanous on my skin. The Psychedelique feels much chewier as a whole, more ambered. It has more cocoa, and substantially more greenness than Horizon, too. If only it didn’t drop in projection after 2.5 hours!

In terms of helpful commentary, I think the reviews on Luckyscent are more useful than the Fragrantica ones in showing how Psychedelique may turn out on some skins. The two comments there read as follows:

  • Psychedelique starts out on the sharp, dry end of the patchouli spectrum — not at all unpleasant, and rather similar to L’Artisan’s Patchouli Patch. But an hour later, the sharp notes have dropped back into place and the fragrance becomes warmer, more rounded and much more nuanced. There’s a really nice play between the drier and warmer elements of the fragrance. I totally agree that the name Psychedelique, and its connotations with dirty hippies and cheap patchouli, is rather unfortunate, because this is a sophisticated, very wearable patchouli-based scent.
  • It’s funny, this one – I have almost a love/hate with it. If you’re patient and can wait for the drydown 30-60 minutes later, you’ll be thrilled. The [Luckyscent] description is as good one, but it takes awhile to get intoxicating. Initial blast is super sharp, but with time, your skin is left with a beautiful woodsy, ambered patchouli. My patience is good though and I bought a FB.

As a side note, a number of people in the blogosphere have been talking lately about Von Eusersdorff‘s Patchouli scent, and I got to try that while at Jovoy too. It was a brief, cursory test in the midst of a lot of other sniffing, so my perceptions may be a little skewed, but I thought Psychedelique was much better. It struck me as richer, deeper, chewier, darker, boozier, and significantly more intense. I remembering telling the manager at the time, “Ah, this is a proper patchouli.”

I’m seriously considering getting a full bottle of Psychedelique, but I keep hesitating. The perfume costs $180 for 100 ml, and the cheap-skate side of me is saying that $180 is quite a lot for what is essentially a patchouli-amber soliflore with sillage issues. At $180 with fantastic projection for the first 5-6 hours, I would have no problem whatsoever. At $140 with soft sillage, I probably would not hesitate, especially as 100 ml gives me the opportunity to reapply frequently. But something about the $180 figure with the sillage gives me pause. There is a cheaper option with a 50 ml bottle, but that seems to be limited to international, EU vendors like London’s Bloom Perfumery and Jovoy itself. Besides, I loved Psychedelique enough to want a full 100 ml.

At the end of the day, however, pricing is a personal determination, so if you are looking for a great, traditional patchouli, you should at least give Psychedelique a sniff. It’s definitely unisex, it’s not at all difficult (especially after the brief, muted 40-minute green stage), and might be appropriate at the office (if you spray it 2 hours before you leave for work). It’s a perfect winter scent, but I have no doubt that true patchouli lovers would enjoy it all year round.

Disclosure: I obtained my sample from Jovoy itself, but it was while I was in the store, browsing as a customer. My sample was not given to me for the purposes of a review. I do not do paid reviews, and my opinions are my own. 

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Psychedelique is an eau de parfum that comes in a 100 ml/3.4 oz bottle that costs $180, €120, or  £100. It is available directly from Jovoy Paris which also offers a smaller 1.7 oz/50 ml bottle for €80. Some British vendors also sell Psychedelique in the smaller 50 ml size for £70. In the U.S.: Psychedelique is available at MinNYLuckyscent, and Aedes. The line is usually carried at NY’s Aaron’s Apothecary but the site had malware on it, so I didn’t risk getting a link. Outside the U.S.: In Canada, Psychedelique is available at The Perfume Shoppe for US $180, but you may want to email them to ask for the CAD price. In the UK, Psychedelique is available in both sizes from Bloom Perfumery, with the smaller 1.7 oz bottle retailing for £70. Samples are also available for purchase. The larger 100 ml size is also sold at Roullier White for £100, with a sample similarly available for purchase. Other retailers include Harvey Nichols and Liberty London. In France, the perfume is obviously available from Jovoy, but you can also buy Jovoy fragrances from Soleil d’Or. In the Netherlands, all the Jovoy line of perfumes are sold at ParfumMaria. In Italy, you can find them at Vittoria Profumi and Sacro Cuoro Profumi for €120. For Germany and the rest of Europe, the entire Jovoy line is available at First in Fragrance in Germany (which also ships worldwide and sells samples), but the price is €5 higher at €125 a bottle. Same story with Germany’s Meinduft, though the latter does offer the smaller bottles at €85. In Croatia, Jovoy is sold at Flores in Zagreb, but their website is currently undergoing construction. In Romania, Jovoy fragrances, including Psychedelique, are available at Createur5. In Russia, Jovoy is sold at iPerfume, and in Greece, the line is available at Rosina Parfumery, though the site doesn’t have an e-store. Samples: I obtained my sample while at Jovoy itself, but a number of the retailers listed above also offer vials of the fragrance for purchase.

Arabian Oud Sehr El Kalemat

Source: Gamma Parfums, Russia.

Source: Gamma Parfums, Russia.

Some perfumes are an immediate love affair, some are immediate hate, a few can result in total apathy or boredom, but many take a few tries for you to make up your mind. Personally, I tend to know what I like or don’t like pretty much right off the bat, but, occasionally, I’ll come across a perfume where I’m ambivalent and truly undecided, no matter how many times I test it. Sehr el Kalemat from Arabian Oud is one of those fragrances.

Sehr el Kalemat is a flanker to the popular Kalemat (sometimes written as Kalamet, with an “e,” and a few other linguistic variations). I love the original Kalemat, and it is only fragrance where I’ve urged people with a specific sort of perfume taste to buy a scent blindly. One of my readers, Feral Jasmine, purchased both Kalemat and its flanker, Sehr el Kalemat, and kindly offered me a sample. The caveat: I had to write honestly what I thought about it, without worrying about her feelings. I never have a problem being blunt or candid, but, in this case, I’m truly at a bit of a loss as to what I think. I’m at the end of my fourth test of Sehr el Kalemat, and I think the most accurate description of my reaction is that I’m underwhelmed. Torn, conflicted, but generally underwhelmed.

Seher KalematBefore I get to the scent itself, I have to go through the confusing issue of its name. Like many Middle Eastern fragrances, the perfume has a few alternative spellings, such as Sehr Al Kalemat (on the official, Arabian Oud website), Seher Kalemat (on eBay), or Seher Al Kalemat (on some online retailers). Some perfumistas call it Kalemat Black, perhaps because of the black box, while a few on Basenotes get confused over how Kalemat Black is actually perhaps Kalemat White because of the silver-white plates on the side. I’m going to go with Sehr el Kalemat as it is easier to type, and that is how the fragrance is spelled on Arabian Oud’s Amazon listing.

As always with anything involving Arabian Oud, it’s an utter nightmare trying to get concrete, definitive, set details on the fragrance. Arabian Oud has no description for it on its official, Middle Eastern website. Its UK one doesn’t even list the perfume! The few other retailers that do offer Sehr el Kalemat have substantial differences in the notes that they include, and completely disagree with Arabian Oud about the bottle size.

The bottle as shown on Arabian Oud's Amazon page.

The bottle as shown on Arabian Oud’s Amazon page.

According to Arabian Oud‘s Amazon listing, Sehr el Kalemat is either a 75 ml or a 100 bottle of eau de parfum with:

Top Note: Cardamom, bergamot, pink pepper Middle Note: Saffron, coriander, Bulgarian rose Base Note: Amber, vetiver and sandal 75 ml. [Emphasis added.]

However, a different page on Amazon from the same company states:

Between Patchouli flower, violet and bottom Albergmot wonderful mixed layer through a mixture of vanilla and touches of Oud eventually subside on the bottom of musk and amber luxury.

Meanwhile, a vendor site in South Africa, Fragrances Unlimited, writes what seems to be a slightly (slightly!) closer description of the fragrance that I experienced:

Following the success of the legendary perfume, Kalemat,comes Seher Al Kalemat, the name literally mean Magic of the Words, another designer outfit pairing black and silver. This new hit from Arabian Oud is an elegant fragrance recomposed around fruity aromatic facet & delicately oriental trail. Of the 3 original facets of Seher Al Kalemat (Fruity,Woody & Oreintal) the oriental one wins thanks to the Amber, musk and vanilla base note.

Top Note: Bergamot, Rose and Saffron

Heart Note: Patchouli, Sandalwood, Violets and Guaiac Wood

Base Note: Vanilla, Amber and Musk

Size: 100 ml

Type: Eau de Parfum

Between Arabian Oud’s hot mess of a website, the sizing differences, and the big variation in notes depending on site, I’m a bit frustrated, but I would say the notes that I personally detected are something more like this:

Spices, Berries, Patchouli, Rose, Saffron, Guaiac Wood, Incense-y tonalities, something almost oud-y, Vanilla, Amber,  and Musk.

As mentioned above, I’ve tested Sehr el Kalemat a few times, using different quantities and amounts. For the most part, the fragrance is exactly the same, minus some minor variations on the opening with a lesser amount (2 sprays). I’ll give you the general development with a larger application of 4 small sprays.

Source: Dailykos.com

Source: Dailykos.com

Sehr el Kalemat opens on my skin with peppered berries, saffron, and amorphous spices, though not cardamom or coriander, per se. It is followed by patchouli, honey, a dash of a rose note, and some abstract, amorphous, dry woodiness. The berry note is interesting because, to my nose, it smells identical to the blueberry purée that the original Kalemat opens with, along with the merest whiff of something verging on raspberry. I don’t know if the notes are the result of the very fruited, purple patchouli, of the “pink pepper” berries mentioned in one list, of both elements together, or something else entirely. To me, the opening smells like Kalemat’s “bilberry” or blueberry, and I’m a bit of a sucker for it. As a whole, Sehr el Kalemat’s overall, opening bouquet on my skin when smelled from afar is that of blueberries, patchouli, and saffron.

Saffron. Source: FoodandFarsi.com (Website link embedded within.)

Saffron. Source: FoodandFarsi.com (Website link embedded within.)

All the other notes are folded within that main trio. There are hints of a dry smokiness underlying Sehr el Kalemat, but it never feels like actual frankincense. The rose is extremely muted at this stage, and so is the undercurrent of honey. The woodiness can’t be teased out as something individually distinct or specific at first. At no point, however, can I detect any violet whatsoever in Sehr el Kalemat’s development, nor any bergamot, vetiver, or sandalwood (real or otherwise).

What does appear instead, especially if a very small amount of Sehr el Kalemat is applied, is cocoa and an almost cold, metallic scratchiness. While cardamom (listed in one version of the perfume’s notes) can occasionally take on a cocoa powder nuance, I’m detecting something more genuinely chocolate-y in tone. The first time I tested Sehr el Kalemat and applied only a little, the bouquet after 15 minutes was of cocoa-dusted berries with saffron, vanilla, synthetic dryness, honeyed amber, slight smoke, and a faintly oud-y wood. The cocoa was a rich, almost buttery, thick chocolate with a nutty undertone that soon mixed with a very custardy vanilla in the base. I chalk the cocoa up to the patchouli, though the latter generally tended to be more fruited in nature on my skin than the darker, earthier variation of the note. Either way, the cocoa and vanilla accord only seems to appear in the opening phase if a small amount of Sehr el Kalemat is sprayed. Now, as I repeat often, my skin amplifies base elements and sweetness, so that is perhaps the cause, as Sehr el Kalemat is not generally a super-sweet (let alone a gourmand) fragrance for most of its life.   

Wood and steel welding, via Wikitree and also jeanniejeannie.com.

Wood and steel welding, via Wikitree and also jeanniejeannie.com.

The scratchy, dry, dusty, almost metallic, steeliness in Sehr el Kalemat is a given, no matter how much of the fragrance I applied. It always appears about 15-20 minutes into the fragrance’s development, transitioning it from a very berried, fruity, saffron, honeyed amber scent into something that is distinctly drier, sharper, and smokier. Sehr el Kalemat has a definite smoke element, but it never feels like pure frankincense to me, and really verges more on the dusty, dry, almost sharp aroma of something burnt in the outdoors. Yet, it’s not the full-on sharp intensity of cade nor birch tar’s campfire smoke, either.

Photo: Jo Van Damme on Flickr. (Website link embedded within photo..)

Photo: Jo Van Damme on Flickr. (Website link embedded within photo..)

To me, it has the characteristics of guaiac wood: singed woods with an aroma like that of burnt leaves in a large autumnal bonfire. Something about it has a scratchy steeliness, which I realise makes no sense unless you’ve actually tried Sehr el Kalemat for yourself. The whole thing also feels rather synthetic in nature, if truth be told. It’s like guaiac wood’s dry smokiness on some sort of aromachemical steroids to make it extra arid, scratchy, and sharp.

What is disconcerting to me, and part of the reason why I’m so torn on Sehr el Kalemat, is that the steely burnt woods are simultaneously wrapped up with blueberry saffron compote, honeyed amber, and a touch of syrupy roses. It’s an oddly overwrought, jangling bouquet of opposites, as if Arabian Oud threw every contradictory thing that it had at the basic, original Kalemat structure. And yet… it grows on you. Sometimes. I think. Or perhaps not. Perhaps I’m merely oddly enraptured by blueberry-saffron-honey compote? Quite honestly, and in all candour, I don’t know what to make of it myself, or even how I feel most of the time about this very odd variation of Kalemat. Perhaps I merely like the parts of Sehr el Kalemat that resemble the original? One thing is definite though: I much prefer Kalemat to this flanker version.

Burnt Wood, via Docmattk on Flickr. (Website link embedded within photo.)

Burnt Wood, via Docmattk on Flickr. (Website link embedded within photo.)

At the end of the first hour, the extremely dry, occasionally searing, burnt smoke vies with the fruited, saffron, patchouli, honeyed sweetness for dominance. A synthetic, sharp, but clean, oud aromachemical adds to the dusty, scratchy aridness of the top notes. The two together cut through a lot of Sehr el Kalemat’s jamminess, diffusing the sweetness. Underneath, far down in the base, there is the first real flicker of vanilla, but it too feels a little dry. 

The change in sweetness accompanies a change in sillage and weight. Initially, Sehr el Kalemat is seriously forceful and intense in projection, though very light and sheer in weight. This isn’t a dense, opaque, molten fragrance by any means, but its notes are very powerful and Sehr el Kalemat wafts a good 6 inches off the skin in its opening minutes with 4 sprays. A smaller quantity yields a smaller cloud with about a 3 inch radius. Up close, however, Sehr el Kalemat is very powerful. As time passes, that scratchy, steely, synthetic, burnt guaiac note seems to grow in prominence even more when the fragrance is sniffed up closed. After 90 minutes, however, the dry woods cut through the heavy top notes of fruited, saffron sweetness to such an extent that the fragrance feels almost thin, weak, and light in comparison to the opening.

Wood and smoke casting. Source: www.jeanniejeannie.com -

Wood and smoke casting. Source: http://www.jeanniejeannie.com

For the next few hours, Sehr el Kalemat doesn’t change its primary focus in any major way. The notes described above vary in prominence and strength, but the fragrance’s core essence remains as berries, burnt woods, and sharp smoke, followed closely by synthetic oud, saffron, jammy roses, honeyed amber, and a touch of vanilla. There is the faintest, tiniest dusting of amorphous spices, though it doesn’t really smell like cardamom and it definitely doesn’t smell of coriander, as one list mentioned. It’s more like a flicker of something verging on chocolate powder, but it’s extremely muted.

Amouage Interlude Man. Source: Vogue.ru

Amouage Interlude Man. Source: Vogue.ru

By the start of the fourth hour, Sehr el Kalemat smells of a super dry, smoky, somewhat oud-y, burnt woods, followed by blueberry-honey that is lightly infused with saffron and amber. It hovers right on the skin, and feels very thin.

I think the sharpness of the dry, smoky woods give Sehr el Kalemat a far greater similarity to Amouage‘s Interlude Man than the original Kalemat ever had, though I think the nature of the smoke is different. In Interlude Man, as well as in the original Kalemat, the note smells more like actual, black frankincense. In Sehr el Kalemat, it’s like burnt trees and burning leaves in an outdoor fire. The note is thinner, drier, more scratchy and sharp, and much less smooth than it is in either Interlude or Kalemat. Plus, Sehr el Kalemat has much more fruitiness than the other two fragrances. In contrast, Interlude has a green, herbal component that isn’t evident on my skin with either Arabian Oud brother. That said, in terms of how dry smoke dominates a stage of the perfume’s development, I can see some parallels between Sehr el Kalemat and the much more expensive Amouage fragrance.    

Source: middleearthadventurer.blogspot.com

Source: middleearthadventurer.blogspot.com

Sehr el Kalemat’s smokiness finally recedes at the end of the 6th hour, as the vanilla appears to soften the fragrance and return it to greater warmth. The perfume is now an abstract, dry, woody fragrance with plummy or blueberry fruits, saffron, honeyed amber, and vanilla, all in a sheer, thin gauze that coats the skin.

Increasingly, the scent turns warm and sweet, until it is merely blueberry amber with honey and vanilla. The saffron, oud, and burnt guaiac dance all around, weaving in and out in the smallest of ways, but they are increasingly hard to detect in any individual, substantial way. Once the real drydown or end-phase begins, Sehr el Kalemat is nothing more than a blurry haze of honeyed sweetness with traces of vaguely fruity, musky, and incense-like elements hovering at the edges.

Stock footage via shutterstock.

Stock footage via shutterstock.

Sehr el Kalemat’s longevity is fantastic. With four tiny squirts from the atomizer, the scent lasted just a fraction over 17.5 hours (!!!) on my perfume-consuming skin. I’ll give you a second to process that astonishing number. Yes, I didn’t quite believe it myself, and, truth be told, there were tiny, dime-sized spots on my skin that still had the faintest trace of honeyed sweetness even after that point. The sillage, in comparison, was generally moderate to low for about 13 of those hours. With a smaller dosage of two small sprays, Sehr el Kalemat’s longevity is naturally much less, but it still clocks it at over 13 hours on my nutty skin. The sillage, however, dropped to virtually nothing with that amount after 90 minutes. 

There aren’t really any in-depth, detailed reviews for Sehr el Kalemat that I can provide for comparative purposes. The Fragrantica entry for the perfume doesn’t have a single comment in it. There is a Fragrantica thread asking for additional feedback after someone fell in love with the fragrance, but the poster doesn’t describe the scent. All that they say is: “I fell in love instantly as it struck me as a hybrid between Guerlain and Amouage creations.” She hasn’t had any replies.

I did find one very succinct, brief review for the scent under the name Arabian Oud Seher Al Kalemat (aka Kalemat Black) on Notable Scents. The review reads, in part, as follows:

* Kalemat Black starts off with sweet incense grounded with dry herbs.

* The projection is powerful and massive, this one is not for the meek of heart.

* A boozy vanilla joins the top notes and the three blend together seamlessly.

* As it begins to calm down (after 3-4 hours), the vanilla dries out as the oud starts to come in.

* The base is a mild oud, nothing too gamey or aggressive.  A slightly sweet amber balances is out.

Kalemat Black is a modern-day powerhouse, lasting more than 24 hours on my skin.  Even after showering, I could still smell the base notes on my skin.  Though not office-friendly, its a really good fragrance for those who want an oud scent that is not medicinal or barnyard, but still referential to traditional Arabic perfumery.

The perfume’s Amazon page has two comments about the fragrance, but only one describes it:

Sehr el Kalemat starts out dry, austere, with something of the scent of a heated cast-iron skillet. At this stage it is very masculine. Over the next hour it evolves to a warm amber with dome fruit and spice, very different from Kalemat but equally unisex. At this point I love it on myself, so I spray an hour or so before work and let it evolve until it’s ready for the general public! But it smells good on men at every stage.

Sehr el Kalemat is slightly more expensive than the original Kalemat for American buyers. The fragrance comes in a 100 ml size (no matter what Arabian Oud may say about 75 ml on a portion of its Amazon description) and costs $89.99. Kalemat is priced in the U.S. at $59.99 price with a discount, though its retail price generally seems to be $99 worldwide.

I think Sehr el Kalemat might be a good choice for someone looking for an inexpensive, dry, woody, slightly masculine Middle Eastern fragrance that bears a microscopic similarity to Amouage’s costly Interlude Man. However, I must emphasize that I personally think the two fragrances are extremely different if you take out the smokiness issue. Interlude Man has a spectacular sandalwood drydown, for one thing, and an aggressive, sometimes difficult, pungently green, herbal start. It is also not a fragrance that I immediately think of as “fruited” or berried as one of its key, main characteristics. That element, however, is a definite part of Sehr el Kalemat on my skin. I also want to emphasize yet again that my skin amplifies base notes, and tends to increase sweeter elements in a fragrance. Those with a different skin chemistry may experience an even drier version of Sehr el Kalemat than I did, so please keep that in mind.

For me, personally, I prefer the original Kalemat. “Feral Jasmine” who sent me my sample says that Sehr el Kalemat grows on one. I can definitely see how it might, though I don’t think it will happen in my case. The things that I like about Sehr el Kalemat, I can simply get from Kalemat itself — and more of it, too. Plus, Kalemat has a lovely tobacco element that I can’t find here, the oud doesn’t smell sharply synthetic, and it doesn’t have that scratchy steeliness about the wood element. In Kalemat, it is dry cedar and frankincense, not burnt guaiac, which are at play, and that makes a difference for me personally. I think it’s also a substantially smoother fragrance that smells or feels more expensive in nature.

Ultimately though, as with everything related to perfumery, it’s a matter of personal tastes and style. I can see some men vastly preferring Sehr el Kalemat to Kalemat because of the significantly greater facade of dry, burnt smokiness, as well as the more noticeable oud element. I think most women (but not all) would have a much easier time with the original Kalemat, as it’s a warmer, more accessible, more inherently unisex fragrance. In all cases, however, if deeply dry, woody smokiness is your thing, you may want to give Sehr el Kalemat a try.  

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Sehr el Kalemat is available on Amazon (U.S.) for $89.99 for a bottle that is either 100 ml or “75 ml”, with a shipping cost of $16.48. (Arabian Oud combines shipment if two items are purchased, with a lesser price for shipping the second item.) I think Arabian Oud has a typo with the smaller size listed in the description of the perfume’s notes, as all other vendors have the perfume listed as being 100 ml. Outside the U.S.: Whatever the size, if you’re located outside of the United States, you can also find the fragrance on eBay. One vendor in Kuwait is currently selling the fragrance for $95, and ships worldwide. His eBay store is called Jawimall and carries a few Arabian Oud fragrances, so you are reading this review months from now, you can check to see if he has Sehr el Kalemat in stock. There is also the original, non-UK Arabian Oud website which sells it for (Saudi Riyal) 440 SAR which seems to come to a little over $117 or €85 at the current currency conversion rates. I believe they ship internationally. I don’t find the perfume listed anywhere on the UK Arabian Oud site, and I went through every section. (If you check there, you may want to immediately mute the volume on the site as it plays annoyingly repetitive music incredibly loudly.) Sehr el Kalemat is also not listed anywhere on the Zahras catalog for Arabian Oud. If you ever use the Zahra site, be warned that almost all their perfume notes and descriptions seem to be incorrect. Elsewhere, the fragrance is sold under the name Seher Al Kalemat by Kuwait’s Universal Perfumes in the 100 ml bottle for $115.99, and they ship worldwide. In South Africa, I found the fragrance sold under the same name at Fragrances Unlimited in a 100 ml bottle. Sehr el Kalemat is sold by a ton of Russian online sites, one of which is Gamma ParfumSamples: I obtained my sample from a reader of the blog. I could not find a single place that sold samples of Sehr el Kalemat, although I know The Perfume Court has a few others from the line, like the fragrance oils. However, it does not have the Sehr.

LM Parfums Ambre Muscadin

Ambre MuscadinAmbre Muscadin is an unusual fragrance for an amber. It starts off as the dryest, smoked woody fragrance with sharp animalic notes, before ending up as something quite different. Its progression actually reminds me of a horse race where the three dark, woody, smoky, animalic sprinters burst right out of the gate to lead the pack before, suddenly, everything changes. A small, golden, amber gelding and a powerful, creamy, vanilla stallion both surge ahead to tie, neck and neck, with the front-runners, before gradually overtaking them in a long haul. Midway during the race, like Secretariat or Barbaro in days gone by, the mighty vanilla stallion sweeps them all with a flourish.

Ambre Muscadin is a fragrance from LM Parfums, a French niche house founded by Laurent Mazzone. I’ve met Mr. Mazzone and he is a rather adorable man, with a passion for very classic, but bold, perfumery done with a modern twist. That philosophy is certainly visible in Ambre Muscadin, an eau de parfum (with 15% perfume oil concentration) that was released in 2011. It is unclear who was the nose who collaborated with Mr. Mazzone on the fragrance. Rumour has it that it was the late Mona di Orio, with whom I know Mr. Mazzone was quite close.

Atlas cedar. Source: sodahead.com

Atlas cedar. Source: sodahead.com

LM Parfums describes Ambre Muscadin as follows:

The opulence of the atlas cedar adorned with mystery.
A bold violet, a charmer vetyver rise up its natural elegance.
White honey, lascivious vanilla, highlights its facets flesh and velvety. Then Amber reveals its heart of a sensuous mosaic cryptic, balsamic radiates the charms of the Orient …

Top Notes: Mount Atlas cedar, vetiver java, Violet
Heart Notes: Madagascar vanilla absolute, white honey
Base Notes: Siam benzoin, amber, musk

Ambre Muscadin opens on my skin with a ferocious blast of cedar, then vetiver. The notes are all coated with the faintest sliver of vanilla, white honey, amber and a very sharp musk that veers between feeling wholly animalic and, initially, a wee bit synthetic. I must confess, I’m not a particular fan of how Ambre Muscadin begins on me, because it consistently reminds me of some murky cedar swamp, infused with mossy, peaty, smoked vetiver. Once in a while, I think of the cedar chips underlying a hamster’s cage, only this cage is also filled with vetiver, and the whole thing lies under a dome of sharp smokiness, intense dryness, and the feral, urinous whiff of a musky animal. Ambre Muscadin is a very masculine amber on my skin in these opening moments, very much a woody fragrance first and foremost, then animalic, with amber and honeyed vanilla coming in absolutely last on the list.

"Young Atlantic White Cedar Swamp" by Jason Howell. http://www.motivepicture.com/?attachment_id=138

“Young Atlantic White Cedar Swamp” by Jason Howell. http://www.motivepicture.com/?attachment_id=138

Five minutes in, Ambre Muscadin slowly begins to shift. The vetiver becomes as prominent as the cedar, and it smells just like the note in really expensive, single-malt Scotch. The mossy, peaty aroma has a slightly burnt nuance, however, and both woody elements merge together to create something definitely quite leathery in feel on my skin. For some odd reason, the overall bouquet sometime reminds me of a significantly less sweet, drier version of Profumum Roma‘s Arso, only with a slightly honeyed tone, sharp animalism, and very little amber. Ambre Muscadin is hardly as thick, dense, sweet or sticky, but there is something about the profoundly dominant cedar focus of both fragrances, along with their smoked sharpness, that feels distantly related. 

Civet. Source: focusingonwildlife.com

Civet. Source: focusingonwildlife.com

The impression is fleeting. The amber in Ambre Muscadin starts to rise to the surface ten minutes into the fragrance’s development. Trailing behind it is the honey which most definitely feels like the white, creamy kind. It is a light touch, never very strongly sweetened, and delicately coated with the sheerest breath of vanilla. Like horses in a race, the notes stalk the front-runners, trying to catch up and tame Ambre Muscadin’s sharpness. They don’t succeed for the next 15 minutes, as that pungently feral, almost civet-like, urinous edge fights with the cedar and vetiver for the lead. It’s not my favorite combination in the world, so it’s quite a relief when the fragrance finally starts to mellow about 20 minutes in. The cedar pipes down to a medium hum, the vetiver feels more woody than burnt, and that animalic pungency is lightly diffused by a sweet, golden warmth.

I frequently feel as though I should write the beginning of this review from the perspective of someone other than myself. I’ve sprayed Ambre Muscadin on a lot of people; at no time has it smelled quite so intensely masculine, dry, woody, or sharp on their skin from the opening burst. In fact, on almost everyone, the aroma bouquet which wafts from the first spray is of a dry, but slightly sweet, caramel flan. Women, men…. it’s always caramel flan. Actually, to be precise, it’s rather more like “sexy flan,” to quote my friend and fellow blogger, Caro of Te de Violetas. She deserves full credit for the term, since she was the first to label it as such. And, yes, lest you are curious, there is a difference between regular flan and “sexy” flan, which all comes down to the degree of sweetness or having a subtle heart of dry darkness amidst the golden hues.

Adding a dry, smoked touch to food using a chef's cloche. Photo: my own.

Adding a dry, smoked touch to food using a chef’s cloche. Photo: my own.

I end up with “sexy flan” too, but it always takes me a whole hour to even begin to reach that same point. The first step occurs around the 20-minute mark, when the flan slowly merges into the drier, woody top notes, resulting in a cedar fragrance that is still smoked, but now also softly tinged with caramel amber. It’s not a fluffy, gooey, or dessert-y amber by any means. It is light, filled with a musky, animalic edge, and flecked with creamed honey.

Then, at the end of the second hour, Ambre Muscadin finally metamorphoses into pure caramel flan that sits on a plate with a tiny sauce of dry vanilla and atop a thin layer of white honey. There are the merest lingering, smoky traces of dark cedar and vetiver at the edges. Much more noticeable, but temperamental, however, is the animalic musk which hovers around like a ghost. It rears its head from time to time behind the sweetened amber, then traipses off, before popping back in unexpectedly. The musk continues to linger as a slightly urinous, Jack-in-the-Box undercurrent before it finally gives up near the end of the fourth hour, and vanishes.

Source: taste.com.au

Source: taste.com.au

By the start of the fourth hour, I smell rather delicious, even if I do say so myself. Delicate, sheer caramel-vanilla amber coats my skin, with a subtle whisper of honey. the bouquet is still too dry and woody to be really “foodie” in nature, though. In fact, the unusual nature of the vanilla element leads me to think that the rumour may, in fact, be true, and that Mona di Orio might have created this fragrance. For one thing, she loved Bourbon Vanilla extract, but often tried to make it rather dry in nature. Something about the amber-vanilla here reminds me of her Ambre, though Ambre Muscadin thankfully never manifests that fragrance’s heavily powdered nature on my skin.

Instead, Ambre Muscadin is a sheer organza of dry, caramel-vanilla, amber flan that continues to feel smoked and somewhat woody in an abstract way. As time passes, the vanilla starts to overtake even the amber, eventually turning Ambre Muscadin into a fragrance that is primarily a dry, abstractly woody vanilla with only the mildest dusting of sweet benzoin powder. It dies away in much the same way, a full 12.75 hours from the time of the first spray.

Source: onlinefabricstore.net

Source: onlinefabricstore.net

Ambre Muscadin is very pretty in its secondary manifestation, and lasts a prodigiously long amount of time for such a sheer, airy fragrance. On my skin, it was never unctuous, heavy, thick, or very sweet. The sillage was initially moderate, despite the fragrance’s sharpness, and hovered 2-3 inches above the skin. Ambre Muscadin started to soften after the first hour, in both forcefulness, weight, and sillage. It took about four hours to turn into a skin scent on me, but the perfume clung on tenaciously despite its sheerness.

My favorite review for Ambre Muscadin comes from Caro of Te de Violetas, though I notice her detailed description sadly never mentions the utterly wonderful “sexy flan” phrase. (I absolutely love that summation, and can never think of Ambre Muscadin as anything else since the moment I heard it!) According to Caro, it is indeed Mona di Orio who is behind the fragrance. Her review also finds some thematic similarities to the late perfumer’s Ambre, and it reads, in part, as follows:

Ambre Muscadin brings instantly to mind two other fragrances that I love: Mona di Orio Ambre and Editions de Parfums Musc Ravageur. Deeper, sweeter and more intense than any of those two, it also smells less abstract.

The opening is all about cedarwood at its most opulent and resinous. For a moment, I wonder whether this should be renamed Cèdre Muscadin. A dark, velvety violet briefly peeks from underneath the coniferous greenness. Before I can even realise it, I am carried away by a whirlwind of honey, amber and vanillaAmbre Muscadin is thick and sweet but the omnipresent cedarwood note cuts through the sweetness keeping it at bay; consequently the composition never becomes cloying. The drydown is powdery and musky, slightly animalic but not excessively dirty.

There is an aura of nostalgia about Ambre Muscadin, but the result is not passé. Nothing in it smells synthetic and I find it wondefully comforting. Its tenacious vanillic embrace holds me for hours on end.

I’m not in love with Ambre Muscadin the way she is, no doubt due to the fact that I had, quite obviously, a very different experience. From the nature of the musk to our perceptions of Ambre Muscadin’s density, to the peaty vetiver in lieu of violet, my version was substantially drier, woodier, smokier, dirtier, and more pungently animalic. There was more of a modern twist on me, with little sweetness, powder, or aura of nostalgia. Yet, I very much agree with the core of her review, and I think she summed it up well. I most definitely share her feeling that the fragrance seems, at times, to be more aptly described as Cèdre Muscadin. In fact, I wrote the exact same thing in my notes. Verbatim. (That should tell you how much the cedar dominates Ambre Muscadin’s opening phase!)

Caro’s experience seems similar to that of Juraj from BL’eauOG who writes:

Ambre Muscadin … is very powdery and woody oriental. Ambre Muscadin is very soft, thick and sweet perfume with generous amber dry down. It feels like the liquid gold on the skin. Opening of Ambre Muscadin is very woody with vetiver, cedar wood and later on, the softness takes over – vanilla, violet, honey notes. Dry down is made of gold because it has beautiful, soft amber and benzoin. For the grand finale, everything is wrapped with musk.

For Lucas of Chemist in the Bottle, things were a little different. For one thing, the musk was as dominant on his skin for the opening stage as it was on mine. It was also somewhat dirty, though it doesn’t seem to have been half as animalic as my experience. His review reads, in part:

Musk plays a significant role in this perfume. It’s sensual and erotic. Not exactly clean as it has some dirtier facets bringing to mind a view of sweaty, sporty body. Amber is luminous here. Not plastic at all but more mineral, slightly marine-salty with a noticeable tones from cedar wood. Later on vanilla and benzoin amplify the amber accord adding it more depth and weight. They add a creamy and slightly gourmand feeling to the composition of Ambre Muscadin. The notes of amber, musk, honey, entwine with each other creating a harmony of aromas.

Most of the people upon whom I sprayed Ambre Muscadin had slightly different experiences from all the above-mentioned bloggers, and even myself. To my surprise, on two of the four people’s skins, the opening had very little cedar and no animalic pungency at all. On one person, Ambre Muscadin was almost entirely a dry, slightly smoky caramel-vanilla flan from the very start. On all of them, I never detected any thickness or strong sweetness. And the sillage was incredibly discrete on two of them after a mere hour, though the longevity was excellent as it usually is for all LM Parfums. 

I generally like Ambre Muscadin, but only after its sharp opening has passed. In fairness, however, the perfume seems to be a little bit of a chameleon, with the nature of that starting phase depending largely on individual skin chemistry. While I may not be swooning over the fragrance as a whole, or tempted to reach for it frequently, I do think Ambre Muscadin is well done. If you’re a huge fan of cedar perfumes, Mona di Orio’s fragrance style, and/or dry, woody, amber-vanillas, I think it’s definitely worth a test sniff.

Disclosure: My sample of Ambre Muscadin was provided by Laurent Mazzone of LM Parfums. That did not influence 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: Ambre Muscadin is an eau de parfum that comes in a 100 ml/3.4 oz bottle. It costs $175, €125 or £125. In the U.S.: Laurent Mazzone’s fragrances are sold exclusively at OsswaldNYC. Unfortunately, none of the U.S. perfume sample sites currently offer samples of this fragrance. However, Osswald offers a special sample offer for its US customers where any 10 fragrances are available in 1 ml vials for $10, with free domestic shipping. You have to call (212) 625-3111. Outside the U.S.: In Europe, you can buy Ambre Muscadin directly from LM Parfums for €195. Samples are also available for €14, and come in a good 5 ml size. In the UK, the line is carried exclusively at Harvey Nichols which sells the Eau de Parfums for £125. In France, you can find all the LM Parfums, along with the 5 ml samples of each, at Laurent Mazzone’s own Premiere Avenue. In Paris, it’s sold at Jovoy. Germany’s First in Fragrance carries the full line and sells Ambre Muscadin for €125, in addition to samples. You can also find LM Parfums at Essenza Nobile, Italy’s Vittoria Profumi, or Alla Violetta. In the Netherlands, you can find the line at ParfuMaria. For all other countries, you can find a vendor near you from Switzerland to Belgium, Lithuania, Russia, Romania, Croatia, Azerbaijan, and more, by using the LM Parfums Partner listing. Laurent Mazzone or LM Parfums fragrances are widely available throughout Europe, and many of those sites sell samples as well.