Phaedon Tabac Rouge, Rouge Avignon & Pure Azure

Pierre Guillaume. Source: Fragrantica

Pierre Guillaume. Source: Fragrantica

While in Paris, I had the chance to sniff fragrances from Phaedon, the Paris niche perfume house founded in 2011 by Pierre Guillaume (who also owns Parfumerie Generale and is behind Huitieme Art). The line previously had seven eau de toilettes, but, this summer, Mr. Guillaume launched seven more fragrances that are all “High Concentration Eaux de Parfums.” The new creations were all made by Pierre Guillaume in collaboration with various perfumers.

I obtained samples of three of the fragrances, thanks to the kindness of the Paris niche boutique, Sens Unique, a fantastic store which I will rave about in another post one day. The perfumes in question are: Tabac Rouge (Turkish Blend), Rouge Avignon, and Pure Azure. For reasons that will soon become clear, I’ve decided not to follow my usual course of doing a lengthy, comprehensive review for each fragrance individually. Instead, I’ll merely provide a brief synopsis and my impressions for all three perfumes in a single post.

TABAC ROUGE:

Tabac Rouge. Source: Fragrantica

Tabac Rouge. Source: Fragrantica

Phaedon describes Tabac Rouge (Turkish Blend) as follows:

Turkish Blend is a quintessentially Art Deco composition. Turkish tobacco absolute and incense make up the core accord, spare, dry and perfectly balanced. As in Tamara de Lempicka’s paintings, the “color” palette is pared-down and vibrant: ginger, cinnamon and a lick of honey. In the base notes, musks, bolstered by warm, powdery Siam benzoin, blend the scent with your skin. Androgynous, stylized and luxurious.

Fragrantica‘s list of notes, oddly enough, excludes the main ingredients in the scent which are Turkish tobacco absolute and incense. Adding those in, Tabac Rouge’s ingredients would include:

Turkish tobacco absolute, incense, ginger, cinnamon, honey, musk, powdery notes and benzoin.

Source: Basenotes

Source: Basenotes

Tabac Rouge is, in a nutshell, a simpler, slightly less forceful, lighter version of Tom Ford‘s Tobacco Vanille. The major differences to me are that the Phaedon version is fractionally less sweet than its cousin, lacks a fruited base, has weaker sillage, less density, and doesn’t quite take on the Yankee Candle Plum Pudding undertone of Tobacco Vanille.

Like Tobacco Vanille, Tabac Rouge starts with a strong blast of honeyed tobacco that is infused with incense and vanilla, and dusted with spices in a potent blend that eventually turns softer, airier, more powdered, and more vanillic in nature. The differences that exist are largely minute, and one of degree. As noted above, Tabac Rouge lacks a plum pudding undertone, but it also feels much more honeyed to me. In fact, the honey was much more pronounced on my skin than the vanilla which seemed less significant than in Tobacco Vanille. A much bigger difference is that Tabac Rouge feels much softer and lighter than the Tom Ford fragrance. It doesn’t have the latter’s dense, thick chewiness, but it does have its longevity.

In essence, it’s very sweet, it’s pretty, and it’s a much better deal than the Tom Ford fragrance at $160 for 100 ml, instead of $210 for a mere 50 ml. Nonetheless, it’s obviously treading water that’s been explored before, which is why I agree, to some extent, with Mark Behnke of CaFleureBon whose entire summation of Tabac Rouge amounted merely to this:

Tabac Rouge, travels a well-worn path of combining tobacco and incense. It is fine but it didn’t ever rise to a level of something I would be reaching for when I am in the mood for tobacco and incense. If you like these notes and want a lighter simpler take on them Tabac Rouge could fill the bill.

I like Tabac Rouge more than he did, but I too would get my incense and tobacco fix elsewhere.

ROUGE AVIGNON:

Rouge Avignon. Source: Fragrantica

Rouge Avignon. Source: Fragrantica

Phaedon describes Rouge Avignon as follows:

A Gothic composition, as opulent and dark as the shadow of the Papal Palace looming over nations and centuries… The carmine red of the papal stole is conjured with a fleshy, spicy rose facetted by ylang-ylang and raspberry. In the heart notes, waxed woods, cocoa bean, black truffle and earthy smoky vetiver lure us into the private apartments of the Supreme Pontiff. Gilt moldings and religious ornaments glint in the firelight while gray tendrils of smoke rise from a censer burning sandalwood chips mixed with musk and amber.

The succinct list of notes is:

raspberry, ylang-ylang, rose, cacao pod, hinoki wood, tuber [black truffle], vetiver, sandalwood, musk and amber.

Rouge Avignon opens on my skin with a bouquet of honeyed sweetness and delicate florals that soon turn into a fleshy, fruited, purple rose. A strong heaping of sharp, almost clean musk ensues, and deep down in the depths, there is a very noticeable dose of cocoa powder. The latter is soon overwhelmed by the syrupy, jammy rose, and doesn’t really appear again until a few hours later. I honestly don’t smell raspberry as the fruit, per se, in its own right but, instead, an amorphous, almost berry-like fruitiness.

Source: nature.desktopnexus.com -

Source: nature.desktopnexus.com –

Something about the overall combination and my skin chemistry has produced instead an accord very similar to a patchouli rose. It’s a profusion of abstract dark berries and syrupy sweetness, much like the purple patchouli I loathe so much. In fact, I’m reminded of Frederic Malle‘s Portrait of a Lady, only Rouge Avignon has a greater degree of musk that feels a little synthetic, along with extremely muted, minor hints of something dark in the base. I’m not the greatest fan of fruited, syrupy, patchouli-like roses, and I don’t like Portrait of a Lady, so I confess that I’m equally underwhelmed here.

I was surprised to see that Mark Behnke of CaFleureBon also struggled with the forceful combination. On him, the fruited element definitely seemed like raspberry in its own right, as opposed to some amorphously red-purple fruit syrup, but he still wasn’t fond of the overall effect:

I really enjoyed the foodie heart of Rouge Avignon but I must confess the strength of the rose and raspberry in the top notes took some getting used to. I think I will revisit this in the chill of the fall.

By the standards of CaFleureBon with their positive, laudatory take on everything, that simple confession speaks volumes. As for the issue of seasons, it’s almost December here, and I’d like Mr. Behnke to know that Rouge Avignon is still a painfully sweet, berried rose from start to finish.

There are only a few minor changes in the fragrance’s primary backbone and theme. After a few hours, a subtle touch of sweetened powder emerges, as does a slightly earthy, murky, brown funk with a faint undertone of cocoa. On my skin, it’s never the “foodie heart” that Mr. Behnke talks about, at least not in any dominant or substantial way. Still, there is some minor darkness deep down in the base, and that turns Rouge Avignon from a scent that begins as Portrait of a Lady into something closer to Tom Ford‘s Noir de Noir. Rouge Avignon is lighter, airier, thinner, and more synthetic in feel than both those fragrances, and it also lacks Noir de Noir’s powdered violet nuance, but the similarities struck me repeatedly nonetheless.

At the end of the day, I simply don’t find the sum-total of Rouge Avignon to be all that interesting. Actually, I grew to hate it quite intensely. The rose is painfully, almost torturously sweet for my tastes, and the perfume feels wholly unoriginal. The list of notes is fantastic, but the reality on my skin is primarily of a very fruited rose with sharp, very synthetic musk, and only a modicum of a dark, earthy heart. However, if you’re looking for something in the general vein or family of Portrait of a Lady, but much lighter and airier, then you should consider Rouge Avignon. It is a much better bargain at $160 (or €120) for a large 100 ml bottle, than Portrait of a Lady which costs $340 for that same sized bottle. The same goes for Noir de Noir which Tom Ford sells for $210 for 50 ml. Rouge Avignon has moderate sillage, turns into a skin scent after four hours, but has good longevity.

PURE AZURE:

Pure Azure. Source: CaFleureBon

Pure Azure. Source: CaFleureBon

The description and advert for Pure Azure are meant to transport you to Mykonos in summer:

This giddy balancing act of a scent carries us high above the cliffs of the Aegean Sea, where azure skies contrast with the blinding whiteness of fishermen’s villages… The fragrance of fig trees and orange blossom, the warmth of vanilla and spices, the sensuousness of jasmine rise from the shores of the Mediterranean. In the base notes, the mouth-watering warmth of tonka bean is brought out by a delicately salty note. A “Mediterranean Oriental” hovering between the radiant and the animal….

The succinct list of notes is:

fig, orange blossom, vanilla, spicy notes, jasmine, tonka bean and salt.

Orange Blossom. Photo: GardenPictures via Zuoda.net

Orange Blossom. Photo: GardenPictures via Zuoda.net

Pure Azure opens with an explosion of whiteness that is both clean and verging on the florid. There is orange blossom, tinged with hints of a more bitter, woody, spicy neroli, and then a big burst of saltiness that is truly wonderful. It’s a visual landscape of white with orange blossoms that are languid, sweet, indolic, utterly lush, and, yet, also fresh. There is spiciness and a definite sense of greenness underlying those orange blossoms, but it is the initial sprinkling of saltiness that really captured my interest.

Unripe Figs via Giverecipe.com. (For recipe on Unripe Fig Jam, click on photo. Link embedded within.)

Unripe Figs via Giverecipe.com. (For recipe on Unripe Fig Jam, click on photo. Link embedded within.)

Unfortunately, it soon fades, but it is replaced by an interesting fig note. Like the orange blossoms, the fruit is simultaneously sweet, fresh, and green. There is none of the leathery darkness that figs can sometimes take on. Instead, there is an almost milky quality that evokes a slightly unripe fruit in late Spring, before the summer heat has turned it fleshy, dark, and gooey. Deep down in Pure Azure’s base, there are touches of vanilla, but it’s never custardy, heavy, or rich.

Pure Azure has a beautiful medley of notes, but what is initially so great about it is the paradoxical mix of freshness and lushness. The orange blossoms have hints of lush, heavy, indolic ripeness, but not quite. It’s as though the sweet flowers are almost green, with a dewy, light feel that truly feels fresh.

The scent is crisp (though not like a cologne), feels very summery, and most definitely meets Phaedon’s goal of recreating the Mediterranean coast. (I actually saw Capri more than an Aegean island, but let’s not quibble about lovely places where fresh flowers bloom in the warm, salty air.) The best way I can describe Pure Azure’s feel in my mind is to refer to a crisp white shirt worn against a man’s tanned skin (à la Kilian Hennessey), instead of the more common or traditional visual associated with indolic white flowers, namely, languid courtesans reclining with ripe, white flesh and heaving bosoms.

On the negative side, however, Pure Azure’s opening has an undertone of soapiness, as well as an increasingly strong blast of white, clean musk that, unfortunately, feels very synthetic. Both elements help underscore the fresh crispness of Pure Azure’s opening, but I would have been happier without the splitting headache that the musk gave me for a few hours. Despite that, I generally liked Pure Azure’s opening stage because of the green touch to the flowers and fruit.

Agave. Source: Self.com

Agave. Source: Self.com

The freshness doesn’t last long. About 75 minutes in, Pure Azure turns into a simple, honeyed floral, as the jasmine emerges and the white musk recedes to lurk underneath. The jasmine soon becomes fully integrated into the orange blossoms, and both are completely drenched in sweetness. The honey is not heavy syrup, however, but more like agave nectar which is both sweeter and lighter. Despite the lack of density, it’s very potent, transforming even that clean, laundry, white musk into something warmer.

Pure Azure soon turns rather abstract, feeling like a soft cloud of blowsy, ripe, white florals, with heavy honey, a dollop of musk, and the faintest smidgen of salt. It’s like a floral cousin to Mona di Orio‘s Eau Absolute, only lighter, airier, and without citric elements. In its final moments on my skin, Pure Azure is a nebulous smear of honeyed sweetness with just a vague hint of something floral behind it. I like honey, which my skin tends to amplify, but I have to admit, I was taken aback by how quickly and by how much it dominated Pure Azure. I know it’s probably my skin’s fault, but it was all too much for me by the end. Too linear, too simple, too boring.

Source: picsfab.com

Source: picsfab.com

At this point, I have to bring up Mark Behnke’s review again, because Pure Azure is where we part ways a little. He loved it, finding it his favorite of the new Phaedon line. I’m less enamoured. His review reads as follows:

My favorite of the new collection was a surprise to me as with a name like Pure Azure I was expecting a variation on an aquatic theme. Instead I was treated to a fantastic summer floral which appealed to me on many levels. Fig and orange blossom open Pure Azure on a bright accord. Vanilla and jasmine turn things sweeter and deeper. Tonka and a bit of a marine accord cut the sweet without making it go away. For almost the entire time I wore Pure Azure I was in the midst of a grove of fig trees, orange trees and jasmine swirling in and out of each other. I ended up wearing this on a day the thermometer hit 100 and it was perfect for that kind of heat. It wasn’t cloying or too much it was just right.

Pure Azure was significantly less interesting on my skin than on his, but I can see why he liked it so much. I smelled pretty much all of them at Sens Unique, and Pure Azure captured my interest the most at first sniff. Nonetheless, my feelings are highly qualified because I struggle with the potency of the clean, fresh synthetics, as well as with the way Pure Azure veers so sharply to the other extreme of warm, almost indolic sweetness. I also wish Pure Azure had a more complex evolution than mere honeyed florals in its later stage.

ALL IN ALL:

My problem with the new Phaedon line isn’t that many of them seem derivative, but, rather, with their extreme sweetness. Pierre Guillaume is a chap known for having a very gourmand touch with his Parfumerie Generale fragrances, and the Phaedon line doesn’t seem to be an exception. It’s simply too, too much for my personal tastes.

I also struggled with the synthetic feel to some of his fragrances. During one test for Rouge Avignon, I became completely exhausted by the deluge of syrup and roses, and tried to scrub it off. “Tried” should be the operative word here. It took me over an hour to get most of it off my skin, using everything from rubbing alcohol (3 times), nail varnish remover (2 times), soap, dishwashing liquid (2 times), and Tide laundry detergent (2 times). Even after all that, I still could smell lingering traces of that damn fruited rose on parts of my arm later that evening. Only something with definite synthetics in the base will be that impervious to cleaning agents. (As a side note, a few of the fragrances I sniffed at the store had ISO E Super, an aromachemical that Pierre Guillaume loves to use in his Parfumerie Generale line.)

The synthetics may also help explain why the line has such good longevity on my perfume-consuming skin. The Phaedon fragrances consistently lasted over 11 hours, with some tests almost approaching 13 hours, depending on quantity. The sillage was potent at first, and the fragrances very forceful, but they are all uniformly airy in feel, lack density, and turn into something that is generally quite soft. On average, it took between 4 and 4.5 hours for them to become skin scents, though they were usually easy to detect up close.

Judging by what I’ve sniffed as a whole and tested in specific, I think the Phaedon line is generally pleasant, and good value for those who want a more affordable, lighter, softer cousin to some existing fragrances on the market. They’re not my personal cup of tea, but I can see the appeal.

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Tabac Rouge, Rouge Avignon and Pure Azure are all eau de parfums that comes in a 3.3 oz/100 ml size and which costs $160, €120, or £95. In the U.S.: you can purchase Tabac Rouge, Rouge Avignon and Pure Azure from Luckyscent, though the first two are currently sold out and can be back-ordered for December delivery. Pure Azure is in stock. Samples of all the fragrances are generally available for purchase. Elsewhere, the Phaedon line is at NY’s Osswald Parfumerie, which also offers a US-only sample program for telephone orders. 10 samples for $10 with free domestic shipping. Outside the U.S.: You can buy all three perfumes directly from Phaedon, which also offers samples of all 14 of its fragrances (7 EDP, and 7 EDT) in a Discovery Set which costs €40 for 14 x 1.5 spray vials. The set is sold out at the time of this review. I should add that Phaedon doesn’t provide any information as to the countries they ship to, and if they limit things just to the EU. In the UK, you can buy Phaedon from London’s Bloom Parfumery which sells each Eau de Parfum for £95, along with samples. In Paris, Tabac Rouge, Phaedon and all Pierre Guillaume’s other brands are carried at Sens Unique in the Marais district. They don’t have an e-Store, but they have teamed up with DesFragrances for online orders. In Switzerland, I found Phaedon at Osswald Zurich; in Russia, I found the line at Lenoma and Lesse Parfum; in Poland at Galilu; and in Italy at Profumeria Gini. For the full list of retailers carrying the Phaedon line, you can turn to the company’s Stockist page. Samples: many of the sites linked above offer samples for purchase. I obtained mine from Sens Unique in Paris. For American readers, Surrender to Chance does not carry any of the new Phaedon Eau de Parfums at this time, so your best bet is Luckyscent.

Tom Ford Oud Fleur & Tobacco Oud (Private Blend Collection)

Tom Ford recently came out with Oud Fleur and Tobacco Oud, two new agarwood fragrances to join his original Oud Wood perfume. The latter has only been re-packaged into a new bottle to match its baby siblings and has not changed. As a result, this review will focus simply on Oud Fleur and Tobacco Oud.

OUD FLEUR:

Oud Fleur via chicprofile.com

Oud Fleur via chicprofile.com

According to CaFleureBon, Oud Fleur was created by Yann Vasnier of Givaudan who has made a number of fragrances for Tom Ford. The perfume’s notes on Fragrantica are extremely limited:

rose, patchouli, agarwood (oud), sandalwood and resins.

I tried Oud Fleur twice, and I realised mere minutes into my first test that half of the things I was scribbling on my notepad weren’t on that list. From cardamom to ginger, apricot-y osmanthus, and more, the notes I detected didn’t match up with Fragrantica’s bare bones description. So I did some digging, and I found a much more substantial list at The Moodie Report which is presumably quoting a Tom Ford Press release. It describes Oud Fleur as follows:

Private Blend Oud Fleur is composed around an oud wood core, amplified with additional woody notes: patchouli, sandalwood, incense, styrax, cistus, a leather accord, ambergris and castoreum.

The Middle East’s Damascus Rose heritage is evoked with a blend of Rose Bulgaria ORPUR, Rose Absolute Morocco and Rose Absolute Turkey ORPUR, said to combine fresh petal, nectar and stem-like scent signatures.

This floral heart is enhanced with ginger CO2, cardamom seed oil ORPUR, cinnamon bark Laos ORPUR and pimento berry. The composition is completed with a touch of Geranium Egypt ORPUR, tagette, osmanthus, davana oil and a date accord.

So, the succinct list of notes would be:

pimento, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, three different types of rose absolutes, geranium, tagette, osmanthus, davana oil, a date accord, patchouli, sandalwood, incense, styrax, cistus [labdanum amber], a leather accord, ambergris and castoreum.

Osmanthus. Source: en.wikipedia.org

Osmanthus. Source: en.wikipedia.org

A few words about the ingredients on that list and in the Moodie press release, as they may not be familiar to everyone. “ORPUR” seems to be the name given by Givaudan, the fragrance aroma and ingredients giant, to its ultra, high-end “pure naturals.” Osmanthus is an Asian flower whose aroma can be like that of apricots, tea, and/or limpid, dewy, light florals.

Davana. Source: hermitageoils.com/davana-essential-oil

Davana. Source: hermitageoils.com/davana-essential-oil

Davana is an Indian flower whose aroma is very creamy, rich, and heady with a subtext of apricots and fruit as well. Tagette or tagete is the name of plant in the marigold family that has an odor which is “sweet, fruity and almost citrus-like.” Some sources say that, depending on type, tagette oil can be a little musky, pungent and sharp with herbaceous notes that soon turn into something very fruited, almost like green apples. As for castoreum, I’ll spare you what it is, but its aroma is animalic, very leathery and a bit sharp. On occasion, it will have a slightly civet-like urinous edge that often turns into something deeper, more rounded, sensuous, and musky. Tiny amounts are often added to non-leather fragrances to provide a plush, velvety, rich brownness in the base, and a bit of subtle “skank.” Finally, on a more familiar note, pimento is simply another name for a type of spicy red chili pepper. 

Source: impfl.com

Source: impfl.com

As always with Tom Ford fragrances, the amount you apply impacts the notes that you detect, their prominence, and their forcefulness. In addition, the potency of many Private Blend fragrances means tha it’s better starting off with a lesser amount. As a result, the first time I tried Oud Fleur, I only applied about 2 really giant smears, or about 1.5 sprays. It made the expected difference to the notes in the opening hour. Oud Fleur started with a much more creamy, mellow, soft aroma that was primarily a dewy, pale rose infused with fruited elements and strewn lightly with spices over a very creamy, sweetened wood base. Everything was creamy and soft. There was even a subtle whiff of a very creamy saffron note like an Indian rice pudding dessert lightly sprinkled with cardamom. The rose flits in and out of the top notes, while the patchouli works from the base to add a subtle touch of fruited sweetness. There was just the merest, faintest suggestion of something leathered, dark, and chewy underneath, but Oud Fleur’s main composition was of very creamy woods. 

Source: popularscreensavers.com

Source: popularscreensavers.com

It was one of my favorite parts of the perfume. With a minimal quantity, Oud Fleur’s opening stage somehow consisted of a sandalwood-like fragrance more than an oud one. It never feels like actual Mysore sandalwood, but the impression of something similar has been created through subtle augmentation via the spices and resins. It boosts what feels like a rather generic “sandalwood” base into something very much like the real thing with its spiced, slightly smoked, sweet, golden-red aroma. It’s all largely thanks to that cardamom note with the subtle saffron-like element (which probably stems from the pimento). The final result for Oud Fleur’s first hour is a fragrance that is a lovely, delicate blend of creamy woodiness with sweet, dusty spices and a subtle sprinkling of light rose petals. It’s all incredibly sheer and seems to positively evaporate from my skin within minutes.

Ginger. iStock photo via Wetpaint.com

Ginger. iStock photo via Wetpaint.com

The second time I tested Oud Fleur, however, I applied about 4 massive smears which would be the equivalent of 3 small sprays, and the perfume’s opening hour was substantially different and much more spicy. Oud Fleur began with a blast of ginger, vanilla, rose, patchouli, amorphous, vague woodiness, and a hint of slightly skanky, animalic leather. The leathery element disappeared within seconds, but the somewhat urinous, feline or civet-like edge of the castoreum hovered about for another minute before it, too, vanished. Sweet florals quickly took their place, from the ginger-infused osmanthus to the creamy davana with its fruited apricot overtones. There was a hint of light spice from the sandalwood, then heaps more from a heavy, rich dose of nutty, dry cardamom.

Source: splendidtable.org

Source: splendidtable.org

With a much bigger application, the ginger came to the foreground, but Oud Fleur’s opening hours were also heavily dominated by the pimento which was completely nonexistent during my first test. It added a fiery kick to the fragrance, feeling precisely like the sort of peppered heat of a red chili pepper. The larger application also brought significantly greater definition to the floral notes. Before, Oud Fleur was primarily a creamy wood fragrance that was initially dominated by a dewy, pale rose with some fruitedness, cardamom, and some other vaguely osmanthus-like elements. The second time, however, Oud Fleur opened mainly as fruity-floral fragrance with heavy amounts of chili and ginger, and a lot of the davana flower’s apricot-floral overtones. There was no real incense, and the woody notes were largely overwhelmed.

Damascena roseAn hour into Oud Fleur’s development, the perfume’s main bouquet is of: sharp, biting pimento; dusty, sharp ginger; creamy davana apricots; floral, apricot-y osmanthus; and a heavy burst of rose. There are slight touches of incense and oud, but little sandalwood or leather. The rose alternates between being jammy and fruited (as a result of the patchouli and other accords), and being dewy, pale, soft and fresh. It also waxes and wanes in prominence, like a small wave hitting Oud Wood’s creamy shores before retreating. On occasion, it’s also supplemented by some greenness from the geranium.

Source: taste.com.au

Source: taste.com.au

By the middle of the second hour, Oud Fleur smells like a creamy, almost custardy, almost mousse-y, airy flan infused with slightly burning spikes of chili pepper, then covered with a blanket of lightly sweetened, fruited flowers. The notes have blurred into each other, the fragrance feels increasingly soft, and hovers just an inch above the skin.

If you’ll notice, I haven’t mentioned oud or agarwood in either of my descriptions of Oud Fleur’s opening stage. There’s a reason for that. In both tests, the oud lurked completely at the fragrance’s edges, popping up like a ghost once in a while to give a little animalic “Boo” in the softest of whispers. On occasion, it took on a more musky, leathered feel (thanks to the castoreum and leather accords); at other times, it was more sweet, seeming like Indian oud instead of the Laotian kind on the list. Actually, to be honest, this doesn’t seem like real agarwood at all. It feels more synthetic than real, and it’s certainly not profoundly woody, deep, or dominant. In all cases, however, the note is really like Casper the Friendly Ghost throughout the majority of Oud Fleur’s lifespan. This is an “oud” perfume for people who actually dislike or struggle with oud. 

"Cosmic Swirls Beige" by Jeannie Atwater Jordan Allen at fineartamerica.com

“Cosmic Swirls Beige” by Jeannie Atwater &Jordan Allen at fineartamerica.com http://fineartamerica.com/featured/cosmic-swirls-beige-jeannie-atwater-jordan-allen.html

The differences in the two openings really lasts about two to three hours at most, and then the two roads of Oud Fleur merge into one. Basically, the second, more robust, spiced version of Oud Fleur takes on the soft, gauzy, creamy woodiness of the first version. It merely takes three hours, instead of just under two hours, for Oud Fleur to turn into a creamy flan-like bouquet infused with slightly fruited florals, abstract beige woodiness, the smallest flecks of oud, a tinge of incense, and some amber. Eventually, the floral elements fade away, leaving a generic, indistinct creamy woodiness with a hint of amber and some tonka vanilla. In its final moments, Oud Fleur is a nebulous smear of woods with a tinge of powdered sweetness.

Oud Fleur has decent longevity and low sillage on my skin. With 2 big smears, the perfume opened very softly, became a skin scent after about 90 minutes, and lasted a total of 7.75 hours. With 4 very big smears, Oud Fleur opened with moderate sillage that projected about 3 inches, then dropped after 2 hours to hover just an inch above the skin. It became a skin scent at the start of the 4th hour, and remained as a sheer, gauzy wisp for several more hours. All in all, it lasted just a little over 9.25 hours.

Oud wood with its "noble rot." Source: The Perfume Shrine via Dr. Robert Blanchette, University of Minnesota - forestpathology.coafes.umn.edu

Oud wood with its “noble rot.” Source: The Perfume Shrine via Dr. Robert Blanchette, University of Minnesota – forestpathology.coafes.umn.edu

I think Oud Fleur is a pretty, pleasant fragrance that has some wonderful creamy bits and can be quite lovely at times. It is more complicated than a simple, small application would lead you to believe, and veers from being sweet, sexy and feminine, to being quite cozy in an elegant manner. However, at heart, it’s really a misnamed fragrance that is more a light fruity-floral with spices and some generic woods than an actual oud fragrance. If I’m to be honest, I think Oud Fleur is very pretty, but somewhat over-priced for a fragrance that isn’t very distinctive. I also think those expecting a true agarwood perfume, or something with the heavy, woody richness of Oud Wood will be sorely disappointed. The same applies to anyone seeking a very masculine or true oud. This is not Xerjoff or Amouage territory!

On the other hand, those who liked By Kilian‘s Playing with the Devil (In The Garden of Good and Evil) would probably like Oud Fleur quite a bit. For me, Tom Ford accomplished what Kilian Hennessey failed to do, creating a fruity-floral with a bit of a fiery, spicy bite (the Devil) that turns into soft, creamy, floral woodiness (Goodness in the Garden). By the same token, women who enjoy soft fruity-florals and don’t like oud may greatly enjoy Oud Fleur. Men who are looking for a more woody twist on creamy florals with some cozy sweetness in the base may feel the same way.      

TOBACCO OUD:

Tobacco Oud via beautyscene.net

Tobacco Oud via beautyscene.net

Tobacco Oud is a fragrance that mimicked a wide range of many existing Tom Ford fragrances on my skin. I kid you not, Tobacco Oud had parts that were extremely similar to four different Tom Ford Private Blends. In order: Amber Absolute, Tobacco Vanille, Café RoseSahara Noir, then back to Amber Absolute in the drydown. Make of that what you will when you contemplate Tobacco Oud’s originality….

According to CaFleureBon, Tobacco Oud was created by Olivier Gillotin of Givaudan who made Tobacco Vanille for Tom Ford. The Moodie Report describes the fragrance and its notes as follows:

As its name suggests, Private Blend Tobacco Oud features a tobacco accord inspired by “dokha,” a blend of herbs, flowers and spice-laden tobacco that was smoked in secret five centuries ago during a ban on smoking — and retains its allure as a widely used tobacco today.

Other key ingredients include roasted Tonka organic absolute, coumarin, sandalwood, amber, cistus oil, cistus absolute, cedarwood Atlas ORPUR, patchouli and castoreum. 

So, a succinct summary of notes would be:

A ‘Dokha’ Tobacco accord, herbs, coumarin, flowers, Tonka bean absolute, sandalwood, cistus [labdanum amber] oil, cistus [labdanum amber] absolute, oud, amber, cedarwood, patchouli, and castoreum.

Labdanum compiled into a chunk. Source: Fragrantica

Labdanum compiled into a chunk. Source: Fragrantica

Tobacco Oud opens on my skin with a burst of amber and labdanum, then hints of tobacco and oud. For those of you who may mistake the two, labdanum and amber have very different smells. As one perfume nose told me in her studio, labdanum is “real amber,” while “amber” is often the compilation of various other notes to create that overall impression. Labdanum has a very particular, completely unique aroma that is dark, slightly dirty, very nutty and toffee’d with subtle, underlying nuances of honey, beeswax, musk, and/or something a bit leathery. It is almost always a deeper, richer, denser, stronger, darker aroma that is less soft, creamy, and cuddly than regular, lighter “amber.”

All of this is key, because labdanum is really at the heart of Tobacco Oud, as well as its forbearer, the now discontinued, labdanum monster, Amber Absolute, and Amber Absolute’s extremely similar replacement, Sahara Noir. On my skin, Tobacco Oud opens exactly like Amber Absolute, with hints of Tobacco Vanille. That last part can’t be very surprising given that the same perfumer also made this new tobacco fragrance.

Source: visualparadox.com

Source: visualparadox.com

After the opening burst of labdanum, other elements emerge. Joining the tobacco in second place is patchouli, adding a subtle jamminess and additional layer of sweetness to the scent. Bringing up the rear are hints of: vanilla; a smoky, very dry, very brittle cedar; a whisper of oud; and a subtle flicker of something vaguely herbal that is too faint to really place. Tobacco Oud’s main, overall bouquet is of a nutty, dirty, dark, rich, labdanum toffee infused with a fruited pipe tobacco, a jammy sweetness, strong cedar, and a hint of vanilla. The perfume is initially rich and strong in its potency, but it’s far from being dense, opaque, or thick in feel. Actually, it feels much airier than the heavy Amber Absolute, even from the start.

Source: gawallen.piczo.com

Source: gawallen.piczo.com

Ten minutes in, other nuances appear under the top notes. There is a whiff of something floral, something almost rose-like, but it’s very minor at first. Much more noticeable is the subtle aroma of burnt beeswax, along with the merest suggestion of a darkened leather coated with honey. Both are side-effects of the labdanum. My skin tends to amplify the note, but it also makes patchouli act like a bullhorn a lot of the times, and Tobacco Oud is no exception. It takes the patchouli and runs with it, bringing out a definite syrupy, fruited, almost fruit-chouli like sweetness. Less than 30 minutes into Tobacco Oud’s development, the patchouli merges into the floral note to create a jammy rose sweetness that completely overwhelms the tobacco. I’ll be honest, I was a bit baffled, but, clearly, it’s the patchouli at play and, as usual, my skin wreaks havoc with it.

As the notes begin to blur into each other and overlap, Tobacco Oud turns into a labdanum, patchouli, and sweetened rose fragrance on my skin with only the vaguest suggestion of tobacco, oud, incense smoke, or cedar. Around the 75-minute mark, Tobacco Oud’s projection drops, the notes become even softer, and the fragrance loses most of its tobacco layer. The jamminess of the rose mixed with the dark labdanum amber creates something that, on my skin, distinctly resembles portions of Tom Ford’s Café Rose.

Tom Ford advert for Sahara Noir. Source: Fragrantica.

Tom Ford advert for Sahara Noir. Source: Fragrantica.

As regular readers will know, I’m not a fan of jammy, fruit-chouli, so it’s a huge relief when it fades by the end of the second hour and Tobacco Oud changes again. Now, it’s a gauzy, sheer, relatively dry-ish amber infused with frankincense and the merest flicker of oud. In short, the third hour opens in Sahara Noir territory, only Tobacco Oud is substantially thinner and weaker in feel. As the review linked above makes clear, I found Sahara Noir itself to be a copy of Amber Absolute, only much better balanced and less bullying, but somewhat lighter, less unctuous, without quite so much frankincense intensity, and with the new (but subtle) addition of oud.

Source: openwalls.com

Source: openwalls.com

So, really, Tobacco Oud has really returned cycled back to the beginning. The main difference is in density, thickness, projection and dryness. Tobacco Oud seems much drier than Amber Absolute, much less opaque, resinous, indulgently dense and gooey in its labdanum. It’s weaker in both weight and sillage, hovering just an inch above the skin at the middle of the third hour. To me, Tobacco Oud is actually much less smoky or incense-heavy than either Sahara Noir or Amber Absolute. Yet, it also feels dryer, probably because the labdanum isn’t such a heavy, rich layer.

Source: rexfabrics.com

Source: rexfabrics.com

Tobacco Oud continues to devolve, reflecting neither of its namesake elements in any noticeable way. Near the end of the 4th hour, it loses the remainder of its incense, turning into a scent that is primarily gauzy, wispy labdanum with a hint of nebulous woody dryness that can just vaguely, barely, be made out as “oud.” Even that goes by the end of the 6th hour. From that pointon, until Tobacco Oud’s final moments, the perfume is a mere smear of soft amber. All in all, it lasted 9.5 hours on my skin with generally low sillage after the third hour.

People’s reactions to Tobacco Oud seem highly mixed, and generally much less enthusiastic than the response to Oud Fleur. On Fragrantica, almost all the talk about Tobacco Oud centers on just how much of those two namesake notes are in the scent, and the degree of similarity it shares to Amber Absolute. A number of people find the two perfumes to be very similar in their opening stage, but dissimilar in overall development, weight, and feel. A few find zero similarity, no doubt because they experienced a heavy amount of tobacco. (Oddly, a number of those bring up Sahara Noir instead.) Obviously, the more the tobacco element manifests itself on your skin, the less you’re likely to think Tobacco Oud resembles Amber Absolute.

To give you an idea of the debate and divergence in opinion, here are some snippets from Fragrantica:

  • Tobacco and Oud you are looking for? Look elsewhere. This fragrance is very similar to Amber Absolute at the top of this, rich with resinous amber but not as rich and less patchouli than AA. This fragrance is slightly drier. This fragrance does not have the longevity and projection that Amber Absolute has. There is no Oud and very minimal tobacco. Once this dries down, it turns into an amber/sandalwood scent with very light spices. […] This is very similar to amber absolute but if you’re an amber absolute fan this would not be a suitable replacement. It definitely lacks the richness that AA has.
  • tobacco oud? this is more amber absolute with just a bit of spices. nice scent and good sillage and longevity.
  • The tobacco is the most prominent aspect of it (considerably more so than the oud), and the note is split between the herbal facets of tobacco leaves and a genuinely dirty smoke effect. The spices are surprisingly grungy for a Tom Ford, and I’m assuming that there’s some civet or some choyas playing up against the patchouli to get this effect. The oud is minimal […] This is all placed over a fairly stock amber base that’s got a vanillic edge, but is largely characterless. It’s the same thing you find at the base of the lifeless Rive d’Ambre. [¶] There’s no connection to Amber Absolute here whatsoever. None. [¶] There is, however, what appears to be a hint of benzoin that draws some parallels to Sahara Noir, but the similarity is minimal. […] As an oud fragrance, it’s lackluster, but it’s on par with the other non-oud ouds from similar brands [.]
  • it is a very simple scent with a deep onslaught of a pipe’a’riffic notion. kinda like a cherry black and mild before it is burnt. i like it but i can’t see myself smelling like this often. it’s more like a novelty item then a fragrance i would wear. however it is a quality product and for someone who is looking for a very specific item. this fits your pipe tobacco needs.
  • Oh dear, love tobacco vanille, love oud wood more. This is nasty

Personally, I was much more interested in what a close friend of mine thought, as she is a die-hard Tom Ford fan whose “holy grail” fragrance is Oud Wood, followed then by Amber Absolute. For her, Oud Wood and Amber Absolute are absolute perfection. She is the very talented, thorough, globally successful beauty blogger, Temptalia, and her review of Tobacco Oud reads, in part, as follows:

Tobacco Oud opens with a burst of smoke, spice, and almost reminds me of incense burning at an altar. It’s dry, like walking in the woods during autumn, when it’s chilly enough that fireplaces are crackling, but there’s no snow or rain yet. Or stepping into a dry sauna–it’s just a lot of smokiness and drier woods to me; I keep thinking cedarwood (which is a note). There’s amber in the background, somewhere, that’s fleeting initially, and then it settles in for a long stay. It morphs into a mix of smoke, spice, amber, labdanum, and the beginning tendrils of vanilla. Finally, it becomes a more comforting, warmer scent that smells of lightly sweetened vanilla with a soft smokiness and a wee bit of spice that lingers. Oud is here and there throughout the first few hours of wear; it’s not the star–the smokiness from tobacco is definitely more in the forefront. If you’re looking for a strong oud note, it’s not in this scent.

The discontinued Amber Absolute.

The discontinued Amber Absolute.

She too has noted how Tom Ford fragrances differ substantially in smell depending on the quantity applied, and I think her observations are useful, along with the ever-helpful comparisons to her beloved Amber Absolute:

I found Tobacco Oud’s metamorphosis was greatly influenced by the number of sprays; less than two, and it was very, very dry and lacked warmth, but three sprays gave me that warmth that I missed the first time I wore it, and that warmth made me understand some of the comparisons to Amber Absolute. With that being said, Amber Absolute is much, much heavier on the amber; it’s headier, thicker, warmer, cozier; when Amber Absolute opens, I get that resinous quality but not the smokiness that I wafts from Tobacco OudAmber Absolute is also sweeter throughout the wear, where Tobacco Oud turns slightly sweeter from the tonka bean after six to eight hours of wear. Even if the two had more similarities than differences, the most marked difference is that Amber Absolute is a monster–it has more projection, longevity, and overall, it is just more potent. Amber Absolute–one spray split between my wrists–is still a skin scent twenty-four hours after I’ve applied and taken a shower.

Tobacco Oud is standing in front of the hearth and warming your hands, a brief respite from the cool outdoors.  Amber Absolute is curling up in a luxurious blanket in your favorite chair and settling in for the night.

Due to differences in skin chemistry, the opening I experienced was much more ambered and sweet than hers, as well as with substantially less tobacco and dryness. Nonetheless, I think she’s absolutely right about the overall differences, and she’s summarized them extremely well. I also agree that Amber Absolute has far greater sillage, weight, and duration.

That said, my dear friend has what I affectionately call “unicorn skin,” because she gets longevity from all fragrances to a degree that is simply unique. I’ve never seen numbers (from anyone!) like what she regularly gets from a single, tiny, split spray of perfume. (Any perfume, any brand — doesn’t make a difference.) She’s in a whole other territory, beyond even “glue skin,” and verging on something completely epic. It fills me with the deepest envy, but it also requires me to caution you that you should not take her longevity numbers as the typical norm.

You should, however, listen to the die-hard Oud Wood and Amber Absolute fan when she tells you that Tobacco Oud won’t satisfy your oud itch, and that it won’t measure up to Oud Wood or Amber Absolute for anyone who is truly passionate about either fragrance. I couldn’t agree more. Tobacco Oud isn’t a bad perfume, but, as this discussion should make clear, it’s incredibly generic and wholly unoriginal.

In essence, Tobacco Oud is like a Greatest Hits remix of the Tom Ford line, only played at a much lower volume, and not in High-Definition or surround-sound. Unfortunately, the sum total effect is not equal to the originals by themselves. I’m truly not sure to whom Tom Ford is marketing this fragrance, especially at $210 for the smallest sized bottle. All the people who love ouds and/or tobacco scents will have infinitely better, richer, more opulent choices elsewhere — often for much less. And, for the exact same price, Tom Ford fans can always turn to his existing line-up (or to eBay for Amber Absolute). I know a ton of guys who own both Oud Wood and Amber Absolute (with a few owning Tobacco Vanille and/or Sahara Noir as well). Layer some combination of those fragrances, and you’ll get a more potent, richer, deeper Tobacco Oud. Why spend $210 for a less distinctive, ersatz copy? Do they really think Tom Ford aficionados are that stupid, or that unfamiliar with the rest of the line? The only possible explanation lies in the perfume industry cycle, and the pressures imposed by annual shareholder reports on large conglomerates like Estée Lauder (which owns Tom Ford). Because perfume originality, creativity, body, depth, and quality aren’t it.

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Both Oud Fleur and Tobacco Oud are eau de parfums. They come in three sizes that cost: $210, €180, or £140.00 for a 50 ml/1.7 oz bottle; $280 or £320.00 for a 100 ml/3.4 oz bottle; and $520 or €420 for a 250 ml/8.45 oz bottle. There are also accompanying bath products to go with Tom Ford’s original Oud Wood fragrance. In the U.S.: you can find the two new Oud perfumes at Nordstrom Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdales, and Luckyscent (which has just started to carry Tom Ford’s Private Blend collection). I don’t see the new Oud fragrances on the Bergdorf Goodman site, only the original Oud Wood. Outside the U.S.: In Canada, I believe Tom Ford is carried at Holt Renfrew, but they only list the old Oud Wood on their online website, not the new ones. In the UK, you can find the Oud collection at HarrodsHarvey NicholsSelfridges, or House of Fraser. All four stores sell the small 1.7 oz/50 ml size for £140.00, and the super-large 250 ml bottle for £320.00. In France, Tom Ford Private Blend fragrances are available at the Sephora in Paris, along with Premiere Avenue which sells the 50 ml bottle for €180, and the large 250 ml bottle for €420. (Scroll down the page at the link above to see the new Oud listings.) Premiere Avenue ships throughout Europe, and I believe they might ship world-wide but I’m not sure. For other all other countries, you can use the store locator on the Tom Ford website to find a retailer near you. Samples: I bought my samples of the new Oud fragrances at Surrender to Chance which sells both Oud Fleur and Tobacco Oud (as well as Oud Wood) starting at $3.99 for a 1/2 ml vial.

Téo Cabanel Barkhane: Mitzah’s Brother

Close your eyes, and imagine a river. It’s heavy, swollen with rain, and moving incredibly fast. It would be a “white-water rapids” except this water is thick, dense, chewy, and powerful. It’s not even really water at all, but more like volcanic lava flow; a turgid, toffee thickness of labdanum and patchouli, a mighty force of smoldering, spiced, slightly smoky blacks, browns, and reds that are lightly flecked with bronzed gold. The heady, potent force field of Mitzah-esque labdanum calls you like a siren. You get on a canoe, and shoot forward on the fast-moving, rich, toffee river with incredible speed and power.

Source: natures-desktop.com

Source: natures-desktop.com

Then, suddenly, abruptly, almost impossibly, after less than two hours….. you slooooow to a crawl. The chewy, dense, smoldering river water starts to dry up around you, becoming thinner, lighter, softer. Before you can blink, it’s turned into to a trickle, evaporating around you, until you’re left stranded in the middle of a dry, leathery riverbed with only the smallest pool of amber around you. A pool so sheer and so soft that you’re almost convinced it’s not actually there, and are completely shocked when you detect faint traces of it every hour when you check.

Source: grist.org

Source: grist.org

As time passes, the disbelief grows at the severity of the contrasts, and by the mere fact that this seemingly invisible drop of water actually still remains. As night falls, there is no more amber and you are alone with only by the faintest whiff of animalic leather. Then, even that remaining puddle of water vanishes, and you’re left longing for the mighty river that began your journey so many hours earlier.

Teo Cabanel logoThat story is the nutshell tale of my journey with the brand-new release from Téo Cabanel Parfums. When a small, hugely under-appreciated, relatively unknown perfume house makes one of your favorite fragrances in the world, you tend to root for it, and want to love all its creations. If the house comes with a fascinating history — complete with the notorious style icon, the Duchess of Windsor, as its most ardent fan — and if you’re a history fanatic, then you are even more compelled to want to like it. The reality, however, is that not all perfumes are created equal. And some fall short of the glory set by their siblings. That is the case with Barkhane, a lovely fragrance from the same house that created my beloved Alahine, but hardly a match for the latter’s potent, fierce, boozy, and utterly spectacular, sophisticated, spicy smolder.

The Duchess of Windsor

The Duchess of Windsor

Barkhane is an eau de parfum from the French perfume house, Téo Cabanel. It is a very old brand that was founded in 1893 in Algeria by Théodore Cabanel, a talented, very prolific perfumer who moved to Paris in 1908 where he developed well over 150 different perfume formulae. He fast came to the attention of high society, and became a favorite of the Duchess of Windsor — the woman for whom King Edward VIII famously gave up the British throne. In fact, she refused to be without two of Cabanel’s fragrances (Julia and Yasmina), ordering bottles in massive quantities, and Cabanel became her official perfumer.

Unfortunately, over time, the house faded away, but it was essentially reborn in 2003 under the direction of Caroline Illacqua who had a distant connection to Cabanel’s daughter. Illacqua brought in the perfumer, Jean-Francois Lattya very famous “nose” who created YSL for Men, YSL‘s Jazz, Givenchy III, Van Cleef & Arpel‘s Tsar and, allegedly, Drakkar Noir as well. (If so, I assume he worked alongside Pierre Wargnye who is usually credited with that famous men’s cologne). Latty now works solely as the in-house perfumer for Téo Cabanel.

Barkhane in the 50 ml bottle. Source: Téo Cabanel website.

Barkhane in the 50 ml bottle. Source: Téo Cabanel website.

This week, the two released Barkhane, an eau de parfum that is the first of the Cabanel line to include oud. The company describes the perfume (and explains its name) as follows:

Rich, warm and mysterious, Barkhane borrows its name from the smooth, velvety dunes which gently ripple under powerful desert winds. Barkhane owes its refined elegance to the very finest ingredients. All at once powerful and subtle, it develops its own fascinating uniqueness.

The press release documents describe the fragrance as a “woody-chypre,” which I find quite odd as Barkhane has the most oriental notes and smell imaginable. According to the description on Téo Cabanel’s website and on Fragrantica, Barkhane’s notes include:

bergamot, labdanum, Indonesian patchouli, geranium, cumin, curry tree, vetiver, oud, myrrh, tonka bean, vanilla and musk.

Mitzah. Source: Fragrantica.

Mitzah. Source: Fragrantica.

I sprayed Barkhane on my skin, and my response was instantaneous: I actually cried out aloud, “Mitzah!” Then, I sniffed the vial, sniffed my skin again, and almost did a happy dance. The first line on my note pad is: “Mitzah, Mitzah, Mitzah!” For those of you unaware of the name, Mitzah is one of Dior‘s elite Privée line of fragrances and a huge cult hit with a very passionate following. Or, rather, I should say, it was, since the imbeciles at Dior suddenly decided to discontinue it for reasons that no sane person (including people who work at Dior) can fathom. Mitzah is one of my favorite perfumes, still available at some Dior boutiques and Dior online, but the remaining stock won’t last forever, and one day, it will be nothing more than a ridiculously priced hot commodity on eBay. So, as you can imagine, I was thrilled that there may be an alternative out there should my giant bottle ever dry up.

Source: HuffingtonPost.com

Source: HuffingtonPost.com

Barkhane opens like Mitzah on steroids. No two ways about it. It has some of Alahine’s explosive, nuclear opening, but with the Mitzah aroma. Could there really be greater joy? When you sniff the vial, it’s all roses and labdanum, but the opening burst on the skin is purely the labdanum. It feels like a tidal wave of brown, nutty, leathery, sweet toffee with an almost caramelized undertone and richness. It’s immediately followed by incense smoke, and dark, chewy, spiced, real patchouli.

Then, the spices appear. There is a heaping teaspoon of sweetened curry, with just the merest dash of dry, dusty cumin. There is nothing sweaty about the mixture, and absolutely no trace of body odor. It also doesn’t smell like food or actual Indian curry dishes. The spices are blended seamlessly into Barkhane, never feeling very noticeable in a heavy, distinctive way, and really smelling more like the dry dustiness surrounding a spice merchant in a Moroccan souk or bazaar. Even if they weren’t so well-blended in the fragrance, the simple fact is that there is little that could possibly trump that powerful wave of labdanum toffee and slightly smoky patchouli.

Source: hdwallpaperstop.com

Source: hdwallpaperstop.com

Other notes flit about Barkhane’s edges. There is a bitter citrus note like the slightly sour peel of a lemon rind that has been dried. A subtle hint of woody, equally dried vetiver pops up in tiny doses. Underneath the heavy top notes, there are also subtle flecks of geranium’s greenness, some golden musk, and a sliver of vanilla. The geranium is the most interesting thing to me because, at first sniff on the skin, Barkhane differs from Mitzah in not having that undercurrent of rose. But it is the oddest thing: if you smell the vial, you definitely smell roses under the labdanum amber. And, on the skin, the same thing slowly starts to appear. It has to be the geranium whose flowers can often have a spicy, rose-adjacent, rich red smell. In short, something about the combination of the geranium and the patchouli seems to have recreated the aroma of deep, ruby-red roses in Barkhane, thereby completing the similarity to Mitzah.

Source: Huffingtonpost.com

Source: Huffingtonpost.com

Even if I didn’t know and love Mitzah, I would adore Barkhane’s opening. It’s a chewy, spicy, smoky fragrance that is absolutely stunning. The sweetness is perfectly balanced by the dry spices and the suggestion of woodiness. Speaking of which, to my nose, there is absolutely no “oud” that ever appears in Barkhane. There is a definite dry woodiness underlying the fragrance, but it’s wholly amorphous and lacking in distinction to me. It’s probably the subtlest part of the fragrance as a whole, because Barkhane’s real source of dryness are the spices and incense.

At first, Barkhane is massively potent. In that way, it is like all the Téo Cabanel fragrances that I’ve tried thus far (Alahine & Oha), but it’s not quite as ferocious as Alahine can be. That is a fragrance that is much better with less, especially as a heavy application can completely and utterly blow out your nose at first sniff. (It did to me the very first time I tried it.) To give you an idea of the potency of some Cabanel fragrances, my parents each applied a small dab of Alahine in solid form, and I could smell them almost across the whole length of the house. And even up a flight! (Alahine is unisex, by the way, and found an immediate fan in my father.) Barkhane doesn’t quite pack the same nuclear punch as Alahine in its opening minutes, but it certainly tries. And it’s definitely much more powerful than Mitzah at the start.

ApothCab2Thirty minutes in, Barkhane unfurls and blooms into the loveliest, deep, dark labdanum amber with a floral undertone. It really smells like that heady, powerful, concentrated, dark rose note that Téo Cabanel loves so much and which is probably their signature. The curry note is also starting to become more prominent. It is dusty, evoking an old apothecary’s cabinet from centuries past, a cabinet whose wooden drawers carry the lingering traces of spice and time. The patchouli continues to be forceful, and the smoke seems to have increased, adding yet another subtle dose of dryness to the nutty, slightly dirty, very toffee-smelling amber.

50 minutes in, Barkhane starts to change in weight, texture, and feel. It becomes softer, tamer, milder, dropping quickly in its heaviness, projection, and power. Now, it hovers only 3 inches above the skin, a fact that should tell you something about its opening minutes. While that is still very strong, the more significant fact is that Barkhane feels much thinner than it did at its start. It’s now more like darkened silk, rather than an opaque river of black, viscous, dense resin. The perfume continues to turn more sheer — and, then, suddenly, it drops like the wind.

Source: scenicreflections.com

Source: scenicreflections.com

Ninety minutes into its development, Barkhane is suddenly a skin scent. From a powerful Saharan sandstorm, it’s become a veritable puff of air — and it’s a shockingly fast transformation. Barkhane is now the sheerest glaze of dark, toffee’d labdanum, infused with patchouli, spices and incense. It feels amorphous, intangible, elusive, and likely to slip away at any moment. What happened?! Every 20 minutes, I sniff my arm in the expectation that Barkhane has completely vanished. My nose is right on the skin, and, at times, I have to practically inhale to detect anything beyond the amber, but it didn’t die. My notes are filled with time calculations, and the disbelieving words: “still there.” By the end of the 3rd hour, I wrote “almost all gone.” I was utterly mystified. To have that degree of drastic change is not something I’ve experienced often.

Photo: Heather A. Riggs, available at her Etsy store, ShyPhotog. (Website link embedded within photo.)

Photo: Heather A. Riggs, available at her Etsy store, ShyPhotog. (Direct website link embedded within photo.)

Even more bewildering is the fact that Barkhane seems to have come back to life, albeit in the sheerest, most translucent manner imaginable. Hour after hour, it hung on as a labdanum-patchouli-incense fragrance. To my complete disbelief, Barkhane actually seemed to get stronger around the start of the 8th hour!! It was still a skin scent, but easier to detect. I’ve never been anosmic to amber, especially not to labdanum, so I can’t explain it, but I’m currently at the end of a second full test and the same situation is unfolding. Crazily enough, Barkhane lasted just over 11.75 hours on me. In its final hour, it turned completely leathery with an animalic, musky edge that almost bordered on the subtly urinous, but not quite. The amber warmth remained, adding a faint glow of warmth, but Barkhane was primarily a nebulous, vague, dry, animalic leather fragrance that lingered in gauzy patches that were scattered across the skin.

In the end, Barkhane’s long duration is consistent with the other Téo Cabanel fragrances that I’ve tried, but the sillage issue is quite new to me. I was really convinced that Barkhane was about to die at the end of the third hour! Making matters more bewildering is that I had actually sprayed quite a lot of Barkhane, at least by my particular Téo Cabanel standards: 3 sprays that were very big and full-sized due to the large nozzle. For this generally intense line of fragrances, that is a lot for a starting test! (Do not ever try that with Alahine, for example, at least until you get used to it.) In my second test, I used 4 and 1/2 large sprays, but the situation followed the same path with only a fractional increase in the time that it took Barkhane to turn to gauze.

Barkhane is too new for there to be reviews out in the blogosphere, but I went to Fragrantica in hopes that someone may have shared their experience there. They haven’t, but I was relieved to see some early votes in the longevity and sillage sections:

    • One person gave Barkhane the lowest longevity rating which is “Weak,” and which is defined as “1h – 2h.” However, two people chose “long lasting” which is defined as “7h – 12h.”
    • For projection, 2 people gave it the lowest rating at “Soft,” while one person chose “Moderate.”

I need to make something clear: sillage is a personal preference. Some people don’t want fragrances that howl at the moon, and that’s fine. Mitzah has discreet sillage, too, but the difference is that Mitzah becomes unobtrusive after about 5 or 6 hours! The comparative difference with Barkhane — and the speed of the changes in so many areas as weight, feel, and projection — can’t be ignored. More to the point, when it feels almost certain that a fragrance is about to die after a mere 3 hours, then it has to be discussed, regardless of what the end result is or one’s personal tastes. Judging by the very early Fragrantica votes, there is clearly someone out there for whom Barkhane didn’t die at the end of the 3rd hour, but even sooner and after a mere 1-2 hours. I have to wonder if sillage played a role in that result; if a perfume’s projection seems virtually nonexistent at times, then people who can’t sniff voraciously at their arm every 20 minutes may well conclude that their perfume has vanished.

On the other hand, early votes also demonstrate that Barkhane had great longevity on some people — and it does. So, if you’re looking for something like Mitzah that is even more discreet and intimate, then you’ve got to try Barkhane. In the ways that perhaps matter most, it’s a knock-out. It’s a sophisticated amber that has been done with great finesse and, as always with Téo Cabanel, with extremely high-quality ingredients.

All in all, only one thing stops Barkhane from getting high ratings across the board. Ignoring that one (significant) issue, Barkhane is really lovely: a heady, sweet, spicy, smoky, slightly leathery, nutty and toffee’d amber with lovely decorative flourishes in an incredibly chic, smooth, seamless, refined bouquet. It’s sexy, and seductive in its dark, smoldering glow, but also comforting in its warmth and softness. It would work well on all genders, and it would be perfect for a very conservative office environment (although I would still be careful with the quantity that you apply, given the potency of Barkhane’s first hour). If you’re not looking for the mighty Saharan wind, but the lightest, sheerest, most intimate whisper of darkened amber, then you should definitely try Barkhane. 

DISCLOSURE: My sample of Barkhane was courtesy of Hypoluxe. That did not influence this review. I do not do paid reviews, my views are my own, and my first obligation is honesty to my readers.

DETAILS:
All the Téo Cabanel fragrances in a sample set. Source:  Téo Cabanel e-store.

All the Téo Cabanel fragrances in a sample set. Source: Téo Cabanel e-store.

Cost & Availability: Barkhane is an eau de parfum that comes in a 50 ml/1.7 oz size that costs $130 or €95. It is also available in a 100 ml/3.4 oz size that isn’t quite as common and which costs €120. You can order Barkhane directly from the Téo Cabanel website (which also has a French language version), along with a Sample Set of all 7 Cabanel fragrances in 1.5 ml vials for a set price of €8.50.

In the U.S.: you can order Barkhane in the 50 ml size (at $130) from Luckyscent which now carries a number of the Téo Cabanel line, including my beloved Alahine. (I should add, however, that the latter is also available from discount retailers for a cheaper price, and you can check the Alahine review for some old links.) Luckyscent also offers samples starting at $4 a vial for 0.7 ml.  (It’s a much better deal ordering directly from the company!)

Outside the US: In Canada, Cabanel’s website lists Fritsch Fragrances as its primary vendor. In the UK, London’s Bloom Parfumery carries some Téo Cabanel, but not all. You can call or email to see if they will carry Barkhane once it releases in the UK. Elsewhere, Téo Cabanel is usually carried at Fortnum & Mason’s, but I don’t see it shown online. Liberty’s states that Téo Cabanel fragrances are available only in their actual store. The Téo Cabanel line is carried at Germany’s First in Fragrance, but Barkhane is too new to be shown on the website yet. There are a vast number of perfume shops in the Netherlands and Germany which carry the Teo Cabanel line, so you can check the company’s website link for retailers that is provided down below. As a whole, for European readers, I saw Téo Cabanel online at Parfums MDP (which I think is in the UK?) for the same Euro rate as the company’s website. They say that there is “free worldwide postage” which I find to be stunning (and hard to believe)! I’ve also read  that the perfumes are available at: the Hotel George V in Paris, Les Galeries Lafayette, Douglas (France, Lithuania, Russia), Kadewe Berlin, Oberpollinger Munich, and Albrecht in Frankfurt. For all other countries or specific cities, you can use the company’s Store Locator guide on their website.

Samples: Barkhane is available to test at Luckyscent, at the link above. It is too new for it to be carried at other places, but I will try to update this post if someone other than Luckyscent offers samples. Your best bet for the next few months is the latter, or the Téo Cabanel website with their very affordable sample set.

Jardins d’Ecrivains Orlando

Tilda Swinton as "Orlando." 1992, Sony pictures. Source: Cineplex.com

Tilda Swinton as “Orlando.” 1992, Sony pictures. Source: Cineplex.com

A young aristocrat of great beauty, born at the time of Queen Elizabeth I, becomes the elderly queen’s lover. A young man of androgynous looks who goes to sleep one day and wakes up days later as a woman. Centuries pass, she lives forever with adventures high and low, but love is a constant throughout. “Love, the poet said, is woman’s whole existence.”

Tilda Swinton, Orlando. Source: moviemail.com

Tilda Swinton, Orlando. Source: moviemail.com

Virginia Woolf wrote that line, and that story. Her novel, Orlando, is the inspiration for a perfume of the same name from Jardins d’Ecrivains, a perfume house founded by Anaïs Biguine. Ms. Biguine takes her inspiration from great literature and the beauty of gardens, whether Gigi from the French writer, Colette, George from George Sand, or Wilde from one of my favorite authors, Oscar Wilde. I can sometimes seen the literary connection which is extremely clear in cases like George, a perfume I bought for myself and which I reviewed yesterday. In the case of Orlando, it was much less apparent, but I still very much like the perfume. Orlando is a strange case for me, a perfume which actually evokes no stories or images at all for much of its existence, and one whose opening I struggled with. Yet, it always stayed in my head, perhaps because I find its middle and ending stages incredibly comfortable, soothing, and addictive.

Source: ZGO.

Source: ZGO.

Jardins d’Ecrivains describes Orlando, the perfume, as follows:

Jardins d’Ecrivains puts its own interpretation on the fascinating Virginia Woolf fantasy. An androgynous character with eternal youth, Lord Orlando in the Elizabethan era becomes Lady Orlando in the 18th century.

Quirky blends with the eclectic and timeless in a spellbinding fragrance. Irrational dreams, an eastern monarchy and a sense of the divine linger in its wake.

A unusual character comes through in the first notes, before the transcendent heart of the fragrance draws you in. And the warm, soft base notes convey its delicate spirit.

Top notes : Orange – Pink peppercorn – Ginger

Middle notes : Amber – Patchouly – Cloves

Base notes : Wood of Gaiac – Musk – Balsam of Peru

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

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

Orlando opens on my skin as a mix of the sharp, spicy, clean, white, fresh, smoky, and woody. There is a powerful blast of clean, white musk infused with heavy dollops of orange, clove and ginger. The pungent spices are followed by a slightly smoky guaiac wood that carries the lingering smell of leaves burning in an autumnal bonfire. The zesty, tangy bits of orange pulp are thickly dispersed throughout, as is a dark, resinous, treacly balsam resin that is lightly smoked. Moments later, the pink pepper arrives on the scene, feeling both fruited and a little bit biting. Its sharpness adds greater pungency to the cloves, but also wakes up the ginger a little. The latter is interesting because it doesn’t smell like fresh ginger but, rather, like the tamed, warm, slightly woody, powdered, bottled kind that is sitting in my pantry. Lurking far below, in Orlando’s shadows, is a patchouli note that pops up fleetingly every now and then. For the most part, it’s pretty indistinct, adding merely a dark feel to the base than smelling of actual patchouli in its own right.  

It’s all lovely, except for the white musk which is something I struggle with in general. Here, it doesn’t smell of something that is purely soapy like aldehydes, though there is that touch of soapiness underlying it. Rather, it’s almost like a highly scented, potent, floral hairspray — but not completely. Whatever it is, it’s too much and, yet, for some odd reason, it almost works. Almost. If I liked musk more, I’d probably be more amazed at the freshness and natural crispness that it imparts to Orlando as a counterbalance to all those dark, heavy, spicy notes. Unfortunately, I really don’t like white musk, whatever its symbolic intentions and goal in the perfume.

Osmanthus. Source: en.wikipedia.org

Osmanthus. Source: en.wikipedia.org

There is something else, too, which I can’t explain or pinpoint. There is a floral note that has struck me every time that I’ve tested Orlando, but which doesn’t appear anywhere on the notes. It’s a subtle element that I really can’t put my finger on. It’s almost like a watery, dewy, pale rose, but not quite. A lot of the times, it feels like osmanthus with its somewhat nutty, apricot, tea-like undertones, but there is also a faintly powdery heliotrope suggestion as well. I have to say, it is driving me a little mad to try to place it. I certainly can’t explain it, except to say that it may be the indirect effect of the orange, the floral-smelling white musk, and some other note. But, I’m telling you, Orlando has a definite floral element on my skin.

Whatever the reasons or the cause, I think it adds an additional level of interest or complexity to a scent that, by and large, is quite simple on my skin. Orlando isn’t a fragrance that twists and morphs a thousand ways. What’s interesting though is that the overall impression of the perfume in the opening stage is of a very crisp, clean, dark, chewy set of contradictions. In fact, I’m starting to think that “contradictions” and paradoxes may be the Jardins d’Ecrivains signature. Still, the bottom line is that, from afar, Orlando’s opening is primarily and generally a bouquet of orange, cloves, and clean musk, infused with smoky guaiac, all over a darkly resinous base. You have to smell it up close to get the details, and it doesn’t seem to change for a while. 

When it does change, however, oh, how it becomes pretty! At first, the change is very subtle and minor. By the end of the first hour, Orlando merely becomes softer, smoother and creamier with a light golden hue from the amber which has risen up to the surface. With every passing moment, however, the fragrance turns even creamier, losing that clean, fresh, white, hairspray-like crispness. The musk becomes more skin-like, sweet, and golden.

Source: stonecontact.com

Source: stonecontact.com

Then, at the 2.5 hour mark, the beauty sets in. Like Lord Orlando’s metamorphosis into Lady Orlando, the perfume blooms as sheer magic. It is a warm, lightly smoked, incense-y amber that is practically fluffy and sweet. It is infused with soft ginger, guaiac wood that now feels smooth and pale, and the perfect balance of cloves, alongside a light drop of orange, a subtle layer of patchouli, and a flicker of that indescribable floral note. There is a subtle waxy element lurking deep down in the depths. More importantly, though, the Peru Balsam has transformed into a creamy cinnamon-vanilla mousse. There is almost a honeyed sweetness to it, though it never feels like actual honey.

Something about the combination turns Orlando into a scent that feels related to sandalwood. The perfume has the same sort of fragrant, spicy, smoky, sweet, golden-red aroma that is actually like a creamy gingerbread caramel at times. I found it utterly addictive, and it would have felt like perfect bedtime cocoon for this insomniac to try to relax and get some sleep, except that I found myself constantly sniffing my wrists. You all know my feelings on sandalwood, and Orlando is absolutely not a Mysore sandalwood fragrance, but the combination of the notes does evoke the same overall, sensory feel. It’s light, cozy, simple, uncomplicated, but really soothing.

Sandalwood cross-section. Source: http://vk.com/wall172858112_51

Sandalwood cross-section. Source: http://vk.com/wall172858112_51

Orlando continues to soften, turning into a silken caress. At the end of the 4th hour, Orlando’s sillage drops and the fragrance hovers right on the skin. It’s all gold, red, ginger, spices, amber and creamy guaiac wood, with a hint of smoke and sweet musk. Midway during the 8th hour, it’s merely a glaze of spiced clove-ginger-cinnamon-vanilla with a light smokiness. In its final moments, almost 13 hours from the start, it was merely a sweetened, lightly musky woody fragrance infused with a subtle hint of spices. My skin consumes perfume voraciously, but Orlando consistently lasts between 11.5 and 13.5 hours on me, depending on the quantity applied. Three large smears from my dab vial gave me 12.75 hours, with small portions of my skin continuing to chug on well past the 13th hour. I suspect the numbers would be increased if I sprayed since aerosolization amplifies longevity.

Like all the Jardins d’Ecrivains line, Orlando is a fantastic deal for the price. It is $110 or €85 for 100 ml of eau de parfum. That comes to a mere fraction more than $1 per ml. The fragrance is also easily available throughout the U.S. and Europe, as well as on various Amazon sites from Jardins d’Ecrivains itself. (See the Details section at the end.) I don’t think Orlando is as unique, interesting or complex as George, and I really don’t like the musk of the beginning, but I’ve enjoyed it each and every time after the first 2 hours.

I’m not the only fan of Orlando. Nancy of Make Perfume, Not War is wholly obsessed with the fragrance. In a review entitled Divine Duality, she writes, in part:

The fragrance opens with some prickly spices– orange, pink pepper, and ginger, according to the official notes, which smell to me like a natural version of aldehydes minus the soapiness. Usually I cannot abide aldehydes, but here the effect makes me smile; CaFleureBon describes it perfectly as “a sense of clamorous potential”… [¶]

Orlando next morphs into a strong, dark, masculine wood with spices and resinous qualities …with precious woods (according to the notes, guaiac and peru balsam) possessing simultaneously a vintage and modern feel. There is even a touch of furniture polish to my nose, one of those odd scents I find appealing, having spent a lot of time in antique shops, auction houses, and estate sales as a child. […][¶]

Eventually, Orlando warms and sweetens without ever losing the undertones of dark wood. On me, it turns into a sweet but not too sweet, clean but not too clean, warm spicy sexy wood scent, all of the previous stages still present but melting into, yes, a twilight glow. It now skews much more feminine, which is highly appropriate given that Wolff’s character starts out male and wakes up as a woman. The drydown provides contrasts of warm and cool, light and dark, and masculine and feminine that make Wolff’s theme apparent.

The Scented Hound had a very different olfactory journey, with a minty, mentholated stage in the opening, and a subtle “sour tang” from the guaiac wood, before Orlando turned woody with some “distant” amber. He concluded that Orlando was “mysterious, conflicted, emotional” and said:

Orlando is a strange perfume for me.  It’s a fragrance that seems to draw some very primal emotions from inside me. It’s beautiful and pensive and is not something that I could ever wear on a daily basis.  However, it’s the perfect fragrance for those quiet fall and winter days when you just want to retreat into your own private world.   

Lucas of Chemist in the Bottle had a different journey as well. In his review, he writes that Orlando began on his skin with an overwhelming amount of cloves followed by candied orange peel along with white elements. The fruit soon turned into “orange liqueur” with cloves in an aroma that was darker than the usual holiday, Christmas combination of those two notes. Then, Orlando took on

a deep and rough woody quality. Guaiac wood is a kind of dark tree and so is its smell. Powerful, intensive with balmy and resinous facets. This note somehow cuts off the earlier accords and marks the new beginning of the scent. From now on Orlando is untamed, wild and slightly unpredictable. Now is the moment when the character turns from he to she.

On his skin, the musk wasn’t clean, white or like hairspray, but “animalic, lusty and provoking[.]” The amber wasn’t significant, and the peru balsam was also different to his nose, as it “creates a feeling like you were wandering around the forest just after the rainy season. All is damp, the ground is loose and muddy.” Meanwhile, the smell of patchouli “evokes fall, with its fallen leaves, pine cones and nature preparing for a winter sleep. Moldering leaves are a quilt for the earth.” As you can see, a very different experience from both Nancy, the Hound, and myself. For Lucas, Orlando was beautiful but too complicated a scent, the “kind of perfume that I personally find difficult to wear on a daily basis. It requires more focus, more space and more attention to fully appreciate it.”

Source: ParfuMaria, Netherlands.

Source: ParfuMaria, Netherlands.

Different skin chemistry leads to different results, but it seems Nancy of Make Perfume, Not War hit the nail on the head when she talked about Orlando’s “duality.” On the one hand, there is Lucas’ dark woods and The Hound’s pensive, mysteriousness; on the other, Nancy’s “swirls of gold and red and plush textures, and contrasts of dark and light” that was much closer to my own cozy, sweet, ambered, gingerbread-sandalwood-like experience. Perhaps, Orlando the perfume represents Orlando the character better than I had thought. Either way, I think it’s an intriguing, rather different fragrance that is well-worth exploring for yourself.

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Orlando is an eau de parfum that comes in a 100 ml/3.4 oz bottle and which costs $110, €85 or £73. You can order it directly from the Jardins d’Ecrivains website, but I do not know their shipping policy. In the U.S.: You can find the line at BeautyhabitAmazon (sold by Jardins d’Ecrivains itself), and ZGO. In New York, you can find the fragrances at the new Brooklyn niche perfumerie, The Twisted Lily. In Cleveland, Ohio, it is carried at Indigo ParfumeryOutside the U.S.: In the UK, you can purchase Jardins d’Ecrivains fragrances from London’s Bloom Perfumery where it costs £73, with samples available for £2. The line is also sold at The Conran Shop, though Orlando appears to be the exception on the website. In addition, the Jardins d’Ecrivains line is available at a slight discount from Amazon UK. In Paris, the line is carried at Marie-Antoinette, my favorite perfume shop in the city, and they happily take emails or calls for overseas purchases. Jardins d’Ecrivains is also available at Jovoy. In the Netherlands, Jardins d’Ecrivains is available at ParfuMaria, while in Spain, it is sold at Nadia Parfumeria, and in Italy, at Alla Violetta. The Jardins d’Ecrivains line is sold for slightly higher than retail price at Germany’s First in Fragrance, along with samples. In Russia, you can find Jardins d’Ecrivains at Parfums Selective. For other vendors throughout France (and there are many!), as well as one in Belgium, you can check the Jardins d’Ecrivains Points of Sale page on their website. The page includes numerous headings for countries from Sweden to Japan and Kuwait, but nothing is actually listed for any of them. Samples: A few of the sites linked above offer samples for sale, but not all. In the U.S., you can find Orlando at Surrender to Chance where prices start at $3.25 for a 1 ml vial. Just as a side note, StC doesn’t carry the full line, only Orlando, George and Dame aux Camellias.

Oriza L. Legrand: Chypre Mousse, Horizon & Reve d’Ossian

Oriza logo. Sourc: the Oriza L. Legrand website.

Oriza logo. Source: the Oriza L. Legrand website.

An ancient perfume house whose fragrances have been brought back to life like Sleeping Beauty awakened with a kiss. Oriza L. Legrand (hereinafter just “Oriza”) is not a well-known house, but its perfumes have a unique character that is redolent of the past and the classic French tradition. Yesterday, I provided an overview of the brand, its history and how its fragrances have been tweaked from the 1900s to suit today’s tastes. Today, I’d like to briefly review three Oriza perfumes: Chypre Mousse, Horizon, and Reve d’Ossian. The remaining four, primarily floral fragrances — Relique d’Amour, Jardins d’Armide, Oeillet Louis XV, and Deja Le Printemps — are the focus of another post.

CHYPRE MOUSSE:

Chypre Mousse. Source: Oriza L. Legrand.

Chypre Mousse. Source: Oriza L. Legrand.

Oriza describes Chypre Mousse (at the link imbedded above in the title) as the essence of nature in autumnal woods:

After the first rainfall in September nature exude scents of humus, peat and wetland. [¶] This is the time for a promenade in the woods to enjoy the freshness after the heat of summer. [¶] Autumn encourages us to contemplate, to observate nature that gently prepares us for the coming winter and its frostbite.

The mossy paths, precious jewels of the undergrowth, are brightened by the last rays of sun. [¶] Cyprus-Moss evokes in us our surrounding nature which soon will be covered by the first fall of snow. [¶] Smell of damp undergrowth of scorched leaves and the scent of moss before picking mushrooms and chestnuts.

Chypre-Mousse, a Fragrance of the House Oriza L. Legrand launched in 1914 for the dandies of this world!

Top Notes[:] tonic & balsamic: Wild mint, clary sage, wild fennel & green shoots.
Heart notes[:] aromatic & flowing properties: Oakmoss, Galbanum, Angelica, fern, wild clover, Mastic & Violet leaves.
Backgrounds[:] Notes mossy & leathery: Vetiver, Pine Needles, Oak Moss, Mushroom fresh Humus, Roasted Chestnut Leather, labdanum & Balms.

Source: it.forwallpaper.com

Source: it.forwallpaper.com

As outlined in my earlier post on Oriza, I went to the boutique with the goal of sniffing and possibly buying a very different perfume, Horizon. I’m generally not one who buys a perfume without testing, especially given my crazy skin and how voracious it is. So, I sprayed both fragrances on my skin and on the sweater that I was wearing, walked out of the store to think about it, and headed on my way to Serge Lutens to buy my precious bell-jar. I went four blocks, sniffing myself throughout, then stopped dead in my tracks, and headed back. I had to have Chypre Mousse, then and there, without further testing. Suffice it to say, that is extremely unusual for me.

Source: photocase.com

Source: photocase.com

I’m not sure how to best describe Chypre Mousse. It’s not the typical oakmoss fragrance; it has neither the dark grey, mineralized, dusty fustiness of some oakmoss fragrances, nor the bright green, softly plush, fresh mossy feel of others. To me, it smells like the damp forest floor, wet leaves, dewy violets, earthy mushrooms, drenched forests, and a symphony of green, brown, grey, and purple. Again and again, I go back to Oriza’s description of “green shoots,” because there is something of youthful life that is pushing through the wet floor of a verdant forest.

Source: Cottage Environmentalist blog at fifthlake.wordpress.com

Source: Cottage Environmentalist blog at fifthlake.wordpress.com

Chypre Mousse opens with a pungent but sweet oakmoss that feels as though it’s sprouted right off the bark of a tree deluged by rain. There is a dark leather underlying it, covered in resinous, piney tree sap, swirled with darkened mosses, and speckled with reddish mushrooms. The strip of leather lies atop a mound of leaves whose autumnal oranges and browns have turned darker with dampness and water. All around are bunches of fresh violets, pushing out through the soil, past the green shoots, and in the wet space left untouched by the gnarled, woody roots of surrounding pine trees. The dewy, sweet purple flowers form a bright spot of colour in the dark, green forest.

Source: 123rf.com

Source: 123rf.com

The leather, wood, mushrooms, wet leaves, violets, grass, and moss are backed by traces of other notes. The sweetest black earth, the freshest of green herbs, the stoniest of grey boulders, the darkest of tree sap, and just the subtlest hint of smoky incense. The forest has come alive in a symphony that is leafy, earthy, green, woody version of Serge Lutens‘ delicate floral masterpiece, De Profundis. There is the same sort of haunting delicacy, of dewy wetness, of youthful life. The two perfumes are fundamentally different in notes, but they share a very similar feel. And, oddly, there is something of a chrysanthemum undertone in Chypre Mousse. Perhaps it’s the slightly piquant, peppered, floral greenness created by the other accords together that creates that strange impression. Whatever the cause, Chypre Mousse has the same haunting, evocative impact on me.

The most interesting aspect of Chypre Mousse may be the more unexpected notes. I have no idea what the “hummus” reference in Oriza’s list means, but the mushroom-y touch is fascinating. So is the combination of that leather note which has somehow been transformed by the other elements into something familiar, and yet not. This is leather that has been left out in the rain to have Nature and the forest absorb it, transforming it into something that is more a part of their world.

Source: modavesen.com

Source: modavesen.com

Yet, what I consistently found myself thinking about were the violets or pansies, whose tender refrain wraps its ribbons around you. The funny thing is, I never knew Chypre Mousse included them in my four or five early wearings, and I thought I was quite mad for detecting their delicate, purple hues in a scent intended to be a mossy, mushroom, earthy, forest one. In fact, long before I actually looked at Oriza’s list of notes, I sprayed Chypre Mousse on four people, and asked if they could detect violets. They merely scrunched up their eyes, responding with some form of dubious: “I guess.”

For them, Chypre Mousse was something indescribable, inexplicable, odd, but utterly mesmerizing. A swirl of unusual notes in a well-blended, seamless, elegant bouquet that they couldn’t place or categorize. One Paris fashionista who tested it took a single sniff of her arm, and immediately said, “I’ve never smelled anything like it. Where can I buy it?!” She couldn’t describe it, and neither could two others. A fourth tester was an experienced perfumista, and just looked at me with bewilderment. “What is this??!” Her initial response was uncertainty, but every passing minute changed that. She loved how she couldn’t put her finger on the scent or what lay underneath it. Even more so, she was astounded by the trails of aroma that followed in the air around her. As someone whose skin squashes both projection and longevity, she couldn’t get over it.

Source: wallpaperup.com

Source: wallpaperup.com

That brings me to Chypre Mousse’s sillage and longevity. It’s outstanding, even on my crazy, perfume-consuming skin. Two small sprays will create a large cloud all around me for the first hour, followed later by projection that extends about six inches. Later, when the sillage drops around the end of the third hour, Chypre Mousse continues to send out ribbons of scent in the air around you. And it lasts for ages. On average, I get around 10 hours with two small sprays, and well over 12 hours with more.

There are no entries for Chypre Mousse on Fragrantica thus far, but Ida Meister wrote a piece entitled Fragrant Snippets on a few of the Oriza scents. Like me, she was knocked off her feet by Chypre Mousse, and ordered a bottle right away. Her summation for the scent reads as follows:

It is Confession Time. I didn’t want to wait for another week: I ordered this edp PRONTO. 😉

Chypre-Mousse sings to me. All that lurks in the forest, humid and expectant after the first September rains. The exquisite aromas of the undergrowth; peat, mushrooms, humus. Moss and more moss; sheer delight for me, who craves that velvety green aromatic cushion beneath the nose, the feet, my fingers! A carpet of russet leaves underfoot, the seductive aroma of grilled chestnuts around the corner. Oriza may have had dandies in mind for Chypre-Mousse, but it is my ongoing intoxicating love affair with all things Green. I will wear my velvet cloak of chypre gratefully.

Chypre Mousse sings to me as well. I think it is an absolute masterpiece. To me, it doesn’t smell old-fashioned or dated for one simple reason: I’ve never smelled anything quite like it. From any age.

HORIZON:

Horizon. Source: Oriza L. Legrand.

Horizon. Source: Oriza L. Legrand.

Horizon was originally released in 1925, and Oriza describes the fragrance as the embodiment of its decade:

After World War I, the Roaring Twenties reflect the desire of the exotic and the need also through fashion and decoration. [¶] The East and particularly Asia, provide new HORIZONS. [¶] The frenzy for exotic travel and encourages artists to transcend the culture of the East in their creations: new silk, fine embroidery, pearl beads, woody scents, heady and sweet …

In the euphoria of the Roaring Twenties, the female body is revealed, it abolished the corset, the flappers open the eyes and smoking languidly.

Slumming it in the salons of Paris!

The materials, colors, shapes symbolize a new freedom and portend, at the dawn of the Roaring Twenties, the hope of a new HORIZON. [¶][…] [An] Oriental fragrance for boys and tomboys, fragrance of Precious Woods and Ambergris agreements Tabac Blond and Soft Leather.

Top Notes: Bitter orange, Tangerine Confit & Dried Rose.
Heart Notes: Cognac Amber, Aromatic Tobacco Leaves, Cocoa, Roasted Almonds, Old Oak & Patchouli.
Base Notes: Benzoin, Amber Gray [ambergris], Peat, Tabac Blond, Vanilla, Honey & Soft Leather.

Source: dailymail.co.uk

Source: dailymail.co.uk

Horizon called its siren cry to me the minute I read that long list of notes. Bitter orange and cognac? Patchouli and leather? Ambergris and tobacco? I was almost certain I would buy it, though things ended up differently when I smelled Chypre Mousse. But it was a very close thing. Horizon bloomed on my thin sweater with an explosion of Armagnac that was rich, nutty, and boozy beyond belief. I felt as though I’d actually had a bottle of aged brandy poured on me. Tendrils of smoke, patchouli, amber, and tobacco stirred underneath, but the main bouquet was a forceful explosion of booze in a kaleidoscope of reds, browns, amber, and gold.

It’s a different matter on skin. Very different, in fact, and significantly softer. I have to say that I’m glad I didn’t end up purchasing Horizon in the end for the simple reason that my skin seems to eat it up like a wolf who hasn’t seen food in weeks. I also can’t decide if Horizon is less complex on actual skin, or simply so much milder that all its layers aren’t as easy to detect. Whatever the case, Horizon is, for the most part, primarily just a boozy, cognac patchouli on me. You can definitely detect the other notes if you sniff closely and pay close attention, but, from afar, it is primarily a very soft patchouli cloud. I much prefer the deeper, more potent, robust version on fabric, alas.

Source: wallpaperswa.com

Source: wallpaperswa.com

On skin, smelled up close, Horizon opens with leather, patchouli, and cognac, followed by faint hints of bitter dark chocolate that grow stronger with the passing minutes. There are whiffs of caramelized, candied orange and something smoky. This is a true patchouli scent, in all its brown, red, amber glory, smelling spicy, leathered, ambered, and chewy, all at once. Lurking at the edges, there is subtlest hint of something nutty. It never smells almond-y to me, but more like toasted hazelnuts. The whole thing sits atop a base of ambergris that has the element’s special, unique characteristics: a very salty sweetness that is also slightly musky, marshy, sweaty, and rich.

Source: 123rf.com

Source: 123rf.com

There is a definite chewiness and earthiness to Horizon’s opening that soon changes into something lighter on my skin. For the first 25 minutes, the perfume is a dark, dense, orange-brown-black mass in visuals, but it turns creamier, smoother, gentler. There are slow stirrings of a very custardy vanilla in the base. At the 45-minute mark, Horizon seems softer and thinner in weight, with sharply reduced sillage, and a movement away from that very dark, leathery, chewy patchouli and leather opening. The orange bits have receded, the boozy cognac has started to evaporate, dark chocolate has turned into milk chocolate, and the patchouli feels infused with cream.

Source: popularscreensavers.com

Source: popularscreensavers.com

I’m consistently saddened by how quickly the fragrance becomes airy and light. It sits soft and low, with a scent trail that really only lingers for about 40 minutes before it drops to hover an inch or two above the skin. And then it drops even more. At the end of the second hour and the start of the third, Horizon sits right on the skin as a blur of creamy patchouli amber with the tiniest hints of milk chocolate, vanilla, and cognac. By the 6.5 hour mark, Horizon fades away as a blur of patchouli sweetness. It has to be me and my wonky chemistry, for Horizon feels quite potent and forceful in the first ten minutes. And a mere spray on my shirt continues to pulsate in full force days later.

Those with normal skin seem to have fared much better. Take, for example, Ida Meister whose Fragrantica piece on Horizon talks about the perfume’s longevity, along with how beautiful and modern it felt:

1925. Really???

Horizon smells utterly contemporary—it brings to mind Bois 1920’s Real Patchouly and Chantecaille’s Kalimantan. Truly well-aged patchouli is a joy, even for many who are phobic about it, having been previously traumatized by the cheap 1960-1970’s “head shop” astringent nostril-singeing variety.  😉  Horizon is as suave as it gets: ambery, boozy, honeyed and oaken. It feels utterly without gender. Horizon is a resinous silk duvet which enfolds you tenderly and possesses remarkable longevity. You can be a throwback to the Summer of Love or a CEO in an Ermenegildo Zegna couture suit; either way, it fits. It is heavenly in its own right, and a perfect illustration of classicism: if the design is excellent, it will remain so in the future. [It DID.]

On Parfumo, the lone review for Horizon is extremely positive, and talks about 12-14 hours of duration. The chap also mentions that his immediate reaction to testing the scent was “this smells like vintage Yohji Homme.” I may be remembering things incorrectly, but I believe I read somewhere that Yohji Homme was one of Luca Turin‘s favorite fragrances, and something whose loss or changes he’s mourned. Going back to the Profumo review, the commentator describes Horizon’s development, in part, as follows:

Horizon opens with a quick dash of almond before a slight powdery cocoa note emerges, mingling with a subtle dark dulled rose. As the fragrance enters the early heart the cocoa turns less powdery, blooming to full milk chocolate, as it mixes with the primary heart accord of boozy cognac and benzoin-laced semi-sweet amber. Natural woods and a touch of underlying anise join the remnants of the dull rose in support. As the fragrance enters the late dry-down, the cognac and dull rose dissipate while the relatively sweet amber remains dominant, now joined by traces of sanitized patchouli and suede-like leather. Projection is average and longevity is excellent to outstanding at 12-14 hours on skin.

You have no idea how utterly envious I am of such longevity. I loved the opening minutes of Horizon on me and, even more, the complete cognac-fest that exploded on my clothing. On the basis of smell alone, Horizon’s initial bouquet is extremely close to the ideal patchouli that I’ve been looking for since my old favorite from the 1980s, even if the subsequent development became very different. Alas, Horizon doesn’t ultimately work for me, but I’m sure that you will have better luck. It’s a lovely fragrance.

RÊVE D’OSSIAN:

Reve d'Ossian label. Source: Oriza L. Legrand.

Reve d’Ossian label. Source: Oriza L. Legrand.

The romantic, 19th-century poetic style of Ossianism with its poems of fairies, dark forests and mysterious wood are the heart of the inspiration for Reve d’Ossian. Oriza’s detailed explanation on the fragrance and its backstory reads, in part:

Reve d'Ossian bottle. Source: Oriza L. Legrand website.

Reve d’Ossian bottle. Source: Oriza L. Legrand website.

The [Ossian-style] poems achieved international success (Napoléon Bonaparte was a great fan) and many writers, painters and artists were influenced by the works, including Ingres, Schubert and Oriza L. Legrand Perfumes. […]

“Rêve d’Ossian” is a perfect perfume for those who claim a difference and the rich heritage of the History. Dark and precious essences, wooden notes filled with the mystery of the forest with fairies and pixies…

Top Notes: Frankincense and Pine woods.
Heart Notes: Cinnamon, Benzoin, Tonka Bean and Opopanax [sweet myrrh].
Base Notes: Tolu Balm, Sandalwood, Leather, Labdanum, Amber and Musks.

Reve d’Ossian opens on my skin with sharp black pepper, myrrh’s white incense, warmly sweet cinnamon, aromatic pine needles, and dust. It’s like an old monastery’s library in the middle of some German forest. For me, the dominance of the dust and incense makes the opening share some thematic similarities to Bertrand Duchaufour‘s Dzonghka for L’Artisan Parfumeur and, to a lesser extent, Heeley‘s Cardinal. I’m not generally a huge fan of High Church fragrances with olibanum or myrrh, and even less so for things with great dustiness, so I’m rather pleased when the latter quickly disappears. Less than five minutes into Reve d’Ossian’s development, it vanishes, a small soapiness takes its place, and the whole thing turns more ambered.

FrankincenseQuickly, Reve d’Ossian turns into a warmer, woodier fragrance with flitting bits of green pine needles that feel as though you’ve crushed them on your walk through the forest and on your way to church. There is a dark resinous feel underlying the white incense smoke, a pungently aromatic overtone reminiscent of a wintery forest, and the feel of crisp, sweet, piney sap. Less than 60 minutes in, Reve d’Ossian turns soft, a hazy blur of the two types of myrrh incense — olibanum and opoponax — with a touch of amber and only a hint of the great, green, woody outdoors.

Source: de.123rf.com

Source: de.123rf.com

At the 2.5 hour mark, the focus of the perfume shifts away from the incense. Reve d’Ossian is now largely an amber scent infused with nutty, warm, soft sweetness of myrrh and a hint of olibanum’s soapy whiteness. It lies right on the skin with extremely weak sillage. The fragrance turns into more of a blur, and, at the start of the 6th hour, all traces of amber and sweet myrrh opoponax fade away. In fairness to Oriza, a greater application (around 4 sprays from the atomizer) yielded far better results, just close to 7.5 hours. The sillage, however, remained moderate to soft.

Reve d’Ossian is one of the few Oriza fragrances to have a Fragrantica entry. With regard to longevity and projection, the majority of the votes put it at “moderate,” though a few also vote for “weak” in each category. The few reviews thus far are all positive in nature with the most detailed, descriptive one stating:

It’s quite close to a balsamic Baghari by Piguet.
A surprising opening, aerial and metallic (aldehydes and terpineols?) notes of pine, old wood and foam on wet stone but it’s warming gently, blowing a strange impulse to this myrrh fragrance. The smell of warm lightly ambered paper, dry almost dusty leather binder. An impression of moor in the autumn.
It is so at odds with our modern conception of the perfume he could be the last release of Comme Des Garçons: Odeur 1900, without changing anything.
Truly a beautiful work of resurrection of the house, all these completely forgotten fragrances are high quality, both modern in their treatment and completely faithful to the spirit of time: a real success.

I haven’t tried Piguet‘s Baghari or the Comme de Garcons‘ scent to be able to compare, but I do agree with much of his description, especially the parts about a dusty leather binder and the dominant role of the myrrh. I also agree that it has a high-quality smell. That said, I think Reve d’Ossian has some problems with it: it has a linear aspect, it’s not enormously complex, and it has sillage issues.

Nonetheless, I liked it, even though it’s not the sort of scent I normally go for, and I thought it was done with a lot of graceful elegance. There was something very appealing about Reve d’Ossian, very softly comforting in its amber heart. I actually don’t think it smells very dated at all, and it’s hard to believe that it was originally created in 1905, more than 107 years ago. When you think of how many scents from the early 1900s were floral orientals or chypres like Mitsouko, while today niche fragrance counters abound with a plethora of “churchy” incense, amber scents, it seems clear that Oriza L. Legrand was far ahead of its time.

Next time, we’ll visit the remaining four creations of Oriza L. Legrand which are largely floral fragrances that are centered around carnation, lily, and assorted spring bouquets.

PRACTICAL DETAILS:
WebsiteOriza L. Legrand. There is an actual e-Store that sells the perfumes and offers perfume samples. All 7 fragrances in the range are offered in 2 ml spray vials for €9. Shipping is listed as €9 extra, but a friend said he was charged only €7. The perfumes themselves are all eau de parfum in concentration, at around 18% perfume oil, and cost €120 for 100 ml/3.4 oz. Other vendors in Europe: For a few other French vendors, like Marie-Antoinette in Paris’ Marais quarter, as well as one store in Sweden and one in the Netherlands, you can check Oriza Points of Sale page. The Netherlands retailer is Parfumaria.

Arabian Oud Kalemat: Rivers of Gold & Affordable Luxury

You have to buy this! I don’t usually start my reviews with that blunt, bottom line, but stylistic rules be damned. Kalemat from the company Arabian Oud is a gorgeous amber in a rich, heady, potent, incredibly long-lasting brew that is both affordable and utterly addictive. From its start as a molten river of caramelized amber creme brulée, Kalemat turns into a heady cloud that encompasses every nuance and range on the amber spectrum: a floral amber, a slightly fruity one, a woody one, a herbal one, a musky one, a sweetly honeyed one, and a lightly pipe tobacco and oud one. It’s beautiful, I bought it for myself, and the mere scent of it on my skin led a family member to purchase a bottle moments later! There are a few practical draw-backs to the Arabian Oud system, and you basically have to order blindly, but we’ll get to those issues at the very end of this review. The thing you need to know is that Kalemat is absolutely gorgeous, and if you love opulent amber Orientals, you really should consider it.

Having started with the end of the story first, let’s go back to the beginning. Kalemat (sometimes written as Kalamet and a few other linguistic variations) is an eau de parfum from the Saudi perfume house of Arabian Oud. I’d heard a lot about the fragrance from such perfume sites as Basenotes where it is a small cult favorite, so I couldn’t resist popping into Arabian Oud‘s Paris Champs-Elysées store upon my recent trip. I’ll talk more about that store and their bewildering array of options at the end, but all you need to know now is that Kalemat was actually the third or fourth on my list of favorites. I think that tells you something about the other three, as well as the quality of this perfume house as a whole.

One downside to the brand is that it is an organisational nightmare in terms of all practical considerations as an uninformed shopper or curious, prospective perfumista. There really is no other way to put it but the phrase “hot mess” — and even that doesn’t give you the full picture. Take the issue of perfume notes, for example. It’s not exactly easy to find out what is in each of the perfumes, as the accounts vary depending on site and source. In fact, the main Arabian Oud site has no description for Kalemat at all. Luckily, I stumbled upon the UK version thanks to the company’s (totally unused) Twitter account. It’s slightly easier to navigate and substantially more informative.

Kalemat with its box that opens like a book.

Kalemat with its box that opens like a book.

According to the London Arabian Oud website, the notes in Kalemat include:

Bilberry, anise, rosemary, Kashmir wood, musk, sweet amber, honey leaves.

Fragrantica gives a slightly different list:

Top notes are blueberry and anise; middle notes are rosemary, cashmere wood and floral notes; base notes are musk, amber and honey.

Kalemat opens on my skin with an enormous burst of richness and opulence. Two small squirts from my sample vial led to a heady, billowing cloud of amber infused with a fruity berry note. I’m not generally one for fruity fragrances — and Kalemat isn’t one at its core — but the berry element works wonderfully. If I didn’t know it was “blueberry” or “bilberry” (whatever that is), I would never have guessed it. To me, it smells more like a tangy, tart, juicy touch of black currant, mixed with a hint of blackberry. It’s never cloying or syrupy, though it initially feels as dense as the rest of the perfume.

Source: fr.123rf.com

Source: fr.123rf.com

Kalemat’s opening symphony is deepened almost instantly by a touch of honey and musk, resulting in an aroma of a creme caramel whose top has been lightly singed with a cooking torch to create a delicate shell of darkened, caramelized sugar. There is a touch of some fresh, aromatic green herbs, but it’s just a light touch that is soon overtaken by a rich Ta’if-like, ruby rose. Ta’if roses are a type of Damask rose but with 30 petals, and, according to Fragrantica, have an aroma that is significantly richer and deeper than most Damascena varieties. It is very common to Arab perfumery, and to attars in specific. Within a few minutes, the rose note has turned Kalemat into the loveliest, attar-like, opaque, boozy, floral amber with just the lightest hint of honey. Its richness feels like a running river of molten lava and gold. In fact, my skin actually has a light gleam and sheen from the concentrated oils that make up the fragrance. This is serious stuff.

Ta'if rose: perfumemaster.org

Ta’if rose: perfumemaster.org

Yet, for all of Kalemat’s richness, I really don’t think it’s ultimately a heavy perfume in terms of its weight. The potent, heady, concentrated, and very narcotic cloud that billows out around one is not unctuous, gooey, or dense in mass. As an analogy, I would say that Kalemat feels less chewy or opaque than some Profumum Roma fragrances, but significantly more powerful in sillage, especially in the first two hours. At the same time, Kalemat is substantially heavier in weight to the LM Parfums line and, once again, stronger in initial projection. In short, it is very typical and representative of traditional Middle Eastern perfumes, and yet airier in feel than something like Amouage‘s concentrated attars.

Dried tobacco leaves. Source: colourbox.com

Dried tobacco leaves. Source: colourbox.com

There is a subtle undertone to Kalemat that repeatedly reminds me of Serge Lutens‘ much adored, cult favorite, Chergui, only concentrated by a thousand. Something in Kalemat feels very much like sweet pipe tobacco, even if it’s just a subtle vein running below the perfume’s surface. Tobacco is not listed in Kalemat’s notes, but the reference to “honey leaves” (honey has leaves?) makes me wonder. Chergui’s aroma is, in part, of sweetened tobacco leaves set out to dry in the sun. Perhaps that is what Arabian oud means by its term? All I know for certain is that I was walking around Paris one evening, wafting Kalemat, and repeatedly wondering why the fragrance felt so familiar when I suddenly realised: concentrated Chergui! There is much more to Kalemat — and I was reminded of many other fragrances as well, as you will soon see — but I wouldn’t be shocked if there was a bit of some tobacco in Kalemat as well.

Kalemat isn’t a twisting, morphing creature with many stages, but it’s not completely linear either. The fragrance does subtly change, but over time and without fanfare. It is such a superbly blended fragrance that it slides almost seamlessly from one stage to another, rippling as smooth as water. In its very first opening hour, Kalemat is an opulently rich, custardy smooth, silky amber that is perfectly blended with fluid swirls of ruby Tai’if rose, dry woodiness, musk, honey, and hints of tobacco, herbs, and berries. There is almost a gourmand feel to the richness of the sweet brew, but it is not an actual gourmand fragrance as a whole. Perhaps a more helpful description would be to say that Kalemat’s opening phase comes close to straddling the Oriental and Gourmand genres, but never fully tips over into the latter.

The sweet, opulently over-the-top richness of Kalemat’s first stage explains why some people think the fragrance bears a resemblance to Tom Ford‘s Tobacco Vanille. Judging by what appeared on my skin, I think the two fragrances are different. On me, Tobacco Vanille has a plum pudding feel that is heavily accented with tobacco, and an almost potpourri-like blend of spices. Kalemat lacks those elements, along with the vanilla heart underlying the Tom Ford fragrance. To me, Kalemat seems much closer to Serge Lutens’ Chergui, only without the latter’s touch of powder and, as stated, a substantially more concentrated feel. It’s also much sweeter, deeper, and creamier than the Lutens.

To me, in the opening stage, Kalemat bears a closer resemblance to another famous amber fragrance — HermèsAmbre Narguilé — than to the more heavily spiced Tobacco Vanille. If you took certain aspects of Ambre Narguilé, changed the type of fruit to a blueberry, combined it with Chergui, and reduced the overall mix down to a thicker, more dense, almost vicous-like attar, then you’d have Kalemat. I think fans of Guerlain‘s much loved Spiritueuse Double Vanille would adore Kalemat, as it shares some similarities in terms of richness, but with honeyed amber and woodiness as the focus instead of ambered vanilla.

Source: fr.123rf.com

Source: fr.123rf.com

Slowly, slowly, almost before you realise it, Kalemat turns softer, woodier and bit darker in visual hue. At the start of the third hour, the fragrance is gentler, more rounded, and a bit blurry around the edges. There is something like the most restrained touch of oud flickering just below the surface, along with a gentle, slightly fresh, green herbaceousness. Kalemat has lost more than half of its rose floral undertone, and is less sweet, less honeyed. Now, it slowly begins its second phase where it is primarily a woody amber infused with a whiff of oud, tobacco, musk, and herbs. Only the lightest fruity and floral elements remain, but they’re minor, light, and blended seamlessly into the larger whole.

Near the end of the third hour, Kalemat also feels softer in weight and projection, though that is only relative to the powerhouse opening of the first hour. Now, it hovers 2-3 inches above the skin, and is noticeable when you bring your arm near to your nose. It doesn’t announce its presence with quite as much fanfare in the space around you. Honestly, I find Kalemat to be so addictive that this lowered sillage phase always leaves me wanting to spray on more. More, more, more, until I have surrounded myself with a nuclear mushroom cloud. Luckily for me, Kalemat comes in a 100 ml/3.4 oz bottle because I have plans to lock myself in my house on the night that it arrives, insulate all windows and doors, and apply at least 10 sprays. The Mars Rover may be able to smell me in outer space, but I don’t care.

"Abstract streams of gold." Photo: Jason Tockey. Site: jstimages.wordpress.com

“Abstract streams of gold.” Photo: Jason Tockey. Site: jstimages.wordpress.com

Kalemat’s sillage continues to drop, though the perfume gives absolutely no signs of dying anytime soon. Around the 4.5 hour mark, Kalemat hovers just an inch above the skin as a woody, sweet amber. It’s as golden as a cloud, but still much richer than that comparison would imply. Oddly, I’m somewhat reminded of a honeyed, unpowdered, more opulent version of Ambre 114 from Histoires de Parfums. Kalemat has the same sort of golden aura that made Ambre 114 conjure up James Bond’s Goldfinger for me.

Yet, for all that visual similarity, Kalemat is now primarily a woody sort of amber. The oud element waxes and wanes in how noticeable it is at the very top layer of the fragrance, but it is always there. Around the 5.5 hour mark, Kalemat is an amber with slightly musky oud, vaguely herbal dryness, an occasional flicker of rose, and a lingering whisper of tobacco. At the 7.5 hour point, Kalemat turns into a complete skin scent. The notes are almost wholly abstract: amber, a blur of sweetened wood that is barely decipherable as something oud-y, and other indistinct, dry elements. In its very final moments, Kalemat is nothing more than lightly sweetened dryness.

Kalemat’s longevity is fantastic. With two tiny squirts from the atomizer, Kalemat lasted just a fraction over 12 hours on my perfume-consuming skin, though the sillage was moderate to low for about 7.5 of them. In the past, when I’ve worn Kalemat, I’ve applied a far greater amount, and both the longevity and projection were even higher. On one occasion, I applied 5 sprays (from an atomizer that yields much less than a normal bottle would, due to a small hole), and Kalemat lasted over 16 hours on me. As regular readers to the blog know, my skin is absolutely voracious when it comes to perfume and I struggle constantly to find things that will last. If Kalemat gives me these sorts of hours, I think normal people would get astounding results.

Source: wallsave.com

Source: wallsave.com

I think Kalemat is something that people should try for a number of reasons. First, it is a completely versatile, extremely easy to wear, very cozy, comforting fragrance. It is far too powerful to wear to a really conservative, perfume-phobic office environment, but it works almost everywhere else. Second, I think Kalemat would work wonderfully on both a man and a woman. While men seem to be the ones who talk about it the most on sites like Basenotes, it was a female family member who took one whiff of Kalemat on me, and purchased it ten minutes later. If you’re a woman who likes Tobacco Vanille, Chergui, or Guerlain’s Spiritueuse Double Vanille (and there are vast numbers of you who do), then you can absolutely wear Kalemat.  

Third, Kalemat has the quality and richness of some incredibly expensive, very high-end perfumes. Kalemat is not comparable just to the prestige lines of such brands as Hermès, Guerlain, or Tom Ford, but also to such luxury perfume houses as AmouageIn fact, I’ve heard that some people think that Kalemat is very similar to Amouage’s Interlude Man, due to I think its second stage as a woody, slightly oud-y fragrance. I’m not sure I’m really qualified to speak to that, because, on my skin, Interlude Man was such a shape-shifter that it manifested itself differently on each of the 3 occasions that I tested it. It is such a complex chameleon that I could probably wear it 10 times, and experience 10 different versions.

However, judging by the three types I encountered, I think Amouage’s Interlude is different. Its herbal start can be enormously dominant, and sometimes aggressively pungent. Kalemat is hardly a herbal fragrance during any of its stages, and has only a little green touch in the background. With Interlude, its sharp greenness is then followed by a significant incense, smoky period, before ending in a stunning sandalwood drydown. Kalemat is substantially less complex. In addition, whatever smokiness it has is extremely subtle and seems merely to be the effect of other notes, instead of actual frankincense, let alone a lot of it!

Source: paradiseperfumesandgems.co.uk

Source: paradiseperfumesandgems.co.uk

There are other differences, too. Kalemat is more floral and fruited at the start; the oud is extremely mild; it has no sandalwood; but it does include some honey. I would say that all the individual elements are toned down more, and that the overall effect is substantially smoother. The elements also blend into each other more seamlessly. Yet, it does share the luxurious feel and richness of an Amouage fragrance. When you consider that you can buy 100 ml of Kalemat on Amazon at a discounted price of $59.99 (without shipping), versus the $290 retail price of Interlude Man, I honestly don’t know how you can beat this amount of richness, depth, body, and addictive opulence for the price.

The only drawback I can see to Kalemat is that the company simply does not make it easy for consumers new to the brand. I’m going to spend a bit of time on this issue because I think it’s important to understand what your retail options are, some of the practical difficulties in learning more about the line, and the reason why Arabian Oud may be a brand you’ve rarely heard discussed. I truly think that Western perfumistas are missing out in not trying some of the company’s amazing fragrances, and that easier, more straightforward access would make them a name on everyone’s lips. As it is, however, it’s an extremely frustrating situation.

In addition to Arabian Oud’s aforementioned disorganisational chaos on its website, there is no place where you can test it or sniff the perfumes outside of London, Paris, or Arabian Oud’s several hundred stores in the Middle East. The decant/sample site, Surrender to Chance, does not carry Arabian Oud. The Perfume Court offers a few of its fragrances, but not Kalemat. And Arabian Oud does not sell samples on its website.

In fact, trying to navigate Arabian Oud’s websites consistently makes me want to throw something at the monitor. The main Saudi version is in English, but it’s a hodge-podge of categories, it doesn’t list perfume notes in a particular perfume entry, and the similarity between some perfume names is confusing. The fact that “Mukallet” seems to be the term for an attar or perfume oil that is stuck on half the perfumes doesn’t help.

The real problem, however, is sheer, overwhelming quantity of selection. According to Fragrantica’s page for Arabian Oud, Kalemat is one of 160 fragrances (!!!!!) offered by the house. The fact that that long Fragrantica listing does not include three of my favorite Arabian Oud fragrances should tell you just how many fragrances we’re talking about. Fragrantica also says that the 160 perfumes were “all launched in 2012” — something which is not only highly unlikely, but also inaccurate. The 2012 mistake (along with Fragrantica’s description of the company as a “new” one) is undoubtedly yet another victim of Arabian Oud’s utterly disorganized state of affairs. While the Saudi site provides no details, the London version says the company’s history actually goes back to 1982 when it was founded by Sheikh Abdul-Aziz Al Jasser who opened his first store in the old Alzal souk of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

If you’re lucky enough to be in London or Paris, with easy access to one of the Arabian Oud stores, and want to just pop in for a sniff, you’re likely to be overwhelmed just as much as if you merely checked out the company’s website. When you go in, you’re confronted by shelves of elaborately ornate, fancy, decorated, Middle Eastern bottles which rarely seem to have an actual name on them. To give you an idea, I’ll share with you some photos I took in the store, though I need to repeat my frequent caveat that they won’t be great. As I’ve said elsewhere, my camera seems to have chosen this holiday to decide that it absolutely hates perfumery, so 6 out of every 10 perfume shots were wholly unusable. In the case of Arabian Oud, only two are decent (and a third is blurry), but a least it will give you an idea of things. Photos of just one small portion of the Paris store:

Arabian Oud2 Arabian Oud

So sorry it's blurry!

So sorry it’s blurry!

It is a testament to the quality of Arabian Oud’s products that Kalemat was actually not my favorite of the things that I tried. One of them, a perfume attar called Taj Mahal blew me out of the water. It is one of the most spectacular florientals I’ve tried in years, surpassing any and all Amouages (including Fate Woman) in its lush, deep, opulent beauty. Based on my memory of it, it was an orange blossom, jasmine, rose, sandalwood oriental oil that almost glowed in its rich sheen on my skin, and which cost (at its lowest, most affordable price) about €60 or $80 for a few drops. (Something like 4 ml. Its price on Zahras, the American-based website for Middle Eastern perfumes, is inflated to a ridiculous $371 for a tiny 6 ml bottle!) If I’d encountered Taj Mahal at the start of my trip, and had time to test it out properly on my skin, I would have bought that small vial without a qualm. As it was, I went to Arabian Oud on the last day of my holiday, after having purchased many other fragrances, and while wearing too many scents for a proper test, so the situation didn’t quite work out. The high price also made a mere sample impossible to obtain. 

It is a true sign of Arabian Oud’s disorganized chaos that Taj Mahal is not even listed on the company’s own websites. (Neither is another one of my other favorites, Dinon or Dinan, whose name the salesman wrote down for me in a scrawl to ensure that I had the correct spelling!) Happily, interested parties can always call the Paris store directly to order it, and one day, I shall have my Taj Mahal. The third one on my list of favorites was Ghroob, a concentrated perfume attar which is listed on the original Arabian Oud site without any notes, but which isn’t listed on the London version no matter what sort of spelling variation I tried. (Are you getting an idea yet of just how complicated it is to try to order a perfume from these people without pre-existing, advance knowledge?!) [UPDATE: In the comments below, you can read more about Ghroob, its floral-oriental-sandalwood notes, and its supposed resemblance to Amouage‘s $350 Homage attar. Arabian Oud has discounted it on Amazon at around $44, and offers a lower price of shipping if you purchase more than one item. Also, as a side note, if you are relying on the Zahras site that I linked up above for information, please be careful. The notes that they list are not always accurate or the same as what Arabian Oud lists for their fragrancs.]

Thankfully for my fourth favorite, and the subject of this review, Kalamet is easily available not only on all the Arabian Oud company websites, but also on Amazon (U.S.). Arabian Oud is the actual vendor and seems to have discounted the listed retail price of $99.99 by 40%, selling the 100 ml bottle of eau de parfum (really more like pure parfum extrait, if you ask me!) for an incredibly low price of $59.99. There is a shipping cost of $16.48 for a total of $76.47, but I paid no tax, and the final price is still substantially lower per ml for any analogous pure parfum extrait of that quality. You’re essentially paying about .76 cents per ml, when Amouage’s stunning Tribute attar is available from decanting sites for $14.99 for a 1/4 ml! Granted, the two fragrances have substantial differences in notes, smell, ingredients and concentration, but still!

Helping matters further, Arabian Oud’s Amazon shipping (from Saudi Arabia?) seems to be both fast and extremely professional. The company’s Amazon rating is 4.8 stars out of 5 with 48 votes, and consistently positive praise from buyers. A friend of mine purchased Kalemat blindly on the basis of my passing raves about it, and he was extremely pleased with the speed of the delivery, the packaging of his bottle, and Arabian Oud’s polite service. Another reader of this blog, “Laird Angus,” bought Kalemat blindly and his gushing review on Amazon talks about both the perfume’s original packaging, and the beauty of its smell. It’s an extremely accurate assessment and the best one I’ve seen on the scent, so I’d like to quote a large part of it.

Calling Kalemat a “reference amber,” he writes:

In ancient times, books were rare and precious objects. The learned elite treasured them. Scholars and holy men spent countless hours transcribing and illustrating them. Calligraphy held a place at the high table of the arts.

Kalemat, which means “words” in Arabic, pays tribute to this lost era in its exquisite packaging. It arrives in a beautiful oversized box designed to look like an antique arabic book. When opened, the box reveals a smaller, ribbon-bound tome which contains the bottle of perfume itself. And so even before the first spray, you know that this an oriental perfume in its full glory–dramatic, confident, mysterious, exotic, precious beyond compare.

Inside Kalemat's "book." Photo via eBay.

Inside Kalemat’s “book.” Photo via eBay.

The juice itself does not disappoint. Kalemat opens with a lush jammy berry accord, balanced perfectly by incense and a hint of dry woods. The berry note is apparently bilberry, which was new to me. It is sweet and perhaps slightly tart. Wonderful. Novel. 

After 20 minutes or so, the berry notes recede, leaving behind a sumptuous base of incense, woods, and lightly jammy rose. This is the heart of Kalemat, and it is apparently inspired by the Middle Eastern hospitality traditions around bakhoor, a household incense of dried wood and rose. It reminded me somewhat of Jubilation XXV by Amouage, but Kalemat is somehow deeper and rounder. There are no jagged edges here. Although it is not listed in the ingredients or the notes, I am convinced that there is a trace of high quality synthetic oud in this as well. It is used here not as an individual note, but as a fixative and an amplifier of the other notes. Perfect!

Over the next 8-10 hours, the rose fades out, then the incense, leaving only the driest cedar-like scent, like the inside of an ancient chest found in an old Cairo apartment.

Kalemat is everything I had hoped it would be. I’ve been searching for an authentic and wearable Arabian scent. It is no easy thing! I’ve sampled virtually every offering from Amouage, a number of rare attars, low cost oils from al Rehab, and various western “interpretations” of middle eastern fragrances. None has come close to Kalemat. It is a deeply relaxing scent, perfect for stressful days at the office. It speaks something of eternal truths, of timeless values, of the cycle of life-death-rebirth that renders all of our transient worldly concerns puny by comparison.  [Emphasis to the names added by me.]

I would hardly go so far as to say Kalemat speaks to eternal truths, but, yes, it is an absolutely gorgeous amber that is opulent, heady, full-bodied, and deeply comforting. That is why I will go to so far as to say that you should definitely consider a blind buy of Kalemat if (but only if) you’re a huge fan of any of the perfumes that I’ve mentioned in this review. If you love wispy, gauzy, sheer, light, fresh, clean scents, Kalemat is not for you. This is a fragrance for a die-hard lover of amber, oriental or oriental-gourmand fragrances, and I don’t think you will be disappointed.

You should consider a blind buy even more if some of those other fragrances I’ve mentioned have been out of your reach due to their high cost. I can’t recall if I have ever recommended that people buy a perfume blindly and untested, but Kalemat’s price is low enough that I’m breaking my usual rule. If you absolutely hate it or if your skin chemistry inexplicably makes things go wonky, I don’t think you’d have much difficulty in selling your bottle on eBay, where Kalemat is usually listed for almost double the Amazon price and rarely offered by US sellers.

If you’re located outside of the United States, I don’t know if you can purchase Kalemat at the discounted Amazon price and have Arabian Oud simply ship it to you elsewhere. I couldn’t find Kalemat on the Canadian, German or Brazilian Amazon sites, so I suspect that price is limited to U.S. buyers. Even without Amazon, though, it’s still not hugely expensive to buy Kalemat as it retails for $99, and you have several other vendor options. You can find the fragrance on the Arabian Oud site for 300 SAR which seems to come to a little over €58 at the current currency conversion rates, and I believe they ship internationally. On the UK Arabian Oud site, the perfume is offered for £52, discounted from £87. The site’s flash options don’t seem to let me use a direct, saved link to Kalemat’s specific page, but you can find it easily with a word search. (You may want to immediately mute the volume on the site as it plays annoyingly repetitive music incredibly loudly.)

For all other countries, you may can use the Universal Perfumes retailer in Kuwait that I introduced to you months ago, and which is very reliable. It sells Kalemat for $99, with a flat-rate, international shipping price of $6.99 for the first item. I’ve heard it takes about two weeks for its packages to come from Kuwait to the States, so I assume it will be around the same for other destinations. Lastly, you can always try eBay which has a number of British and Middle Eastern sellers who offer the fragrance.

At the end of the day, Kalemat is not a revolutionary, complicated, complex scent, but it is such an utterly addictive, luxurious, rich, comforting, soothing one, that I find it utterly irresistible. If you hear a bellow of joy on or around November 8th, you will know that my perfume package has arrived, that irrational amounts of spraying will follow, and that a golden mushroom cloud of amber will explode shortly thereafter from this part of the Western hemisphere. I cannot wait.

Paris Perfumers: Laurent Mazzone & LM Parfums

Fate, planning, and a little bit of serendipity gave me the chance to meet with three, very different, Paris perfumers during my trip. Actually, to be completely precise, one is primarily based in Grenoble, and one is an actual nose/creator, while the other two are more technically considered as perfume creators with their own houses. Semantics aside, I had a marvelous time with each one, and thought I’d share a little bit of the experience, each of which was very different but utterly memorable. Today, the focus will be Laurent Mazzone and some of the LM Parfums that I tried, including some gorgeous upcoming, new releases slated for November 2013 and early 2014.

LAURENT MAZZONE & LM PARFUMS:

Hotel Costes. Source: hotel-costes.semuz.com

Hotel Costes. Source: hotel-costes.semuz.com

The Hotel Costes on the Rue St. Honoré in Paris is perhaps the pinnacle of stylish, ne plus ultra, sophisticated cool. Velvet, opulence and excess are the bywords for the decor inside, but one of the main attractions is the indoor courtyard. And what a scene it is! Imagine a large, covered, indoor courtyard surrounded on high by Roman statues and greenery. At its pristine, white tables covered with crystal glasses, an array of pencil-thin, black-clad, social x-rays — draped in ennui as much as in Hermès — pose stylishly on thin, black chairs. Their fragile bones seem likely to be crushed by the great effort of lifting their cigarettes. And they’ve clearly followed the mantra and example of Anna Wintour, Vogue’s “Nuclear Winter” editor-in-chief, when it comes to haughtiness. Their male counterparts are all tanned, in dark suits with crisp white shirts that are opened a few buttons, and fixated on their cellphones as they sip a glass of chilled white wine with one well-shod limb elegantly crossed over the other. All around are a phalanx of haughty waiters, many of whom seem to be aspiring models, who look down their noses at your from their great height and seem almost offended that you’ve bothered them with a request. (Or perhaps they’ve simply got issues with people who ask for ice, or for directions to the loo? At the very least, they’ve got issues with a variety of things, and need a serious attitude adjustment.)

Hotel Costes courtyard. Source: lefigaro.fr. photo : DR.

Hotel Costes courtyard. Source: lefigaro.fr. photo : DR.

Outside the Hotel Costes. Photo: my own.

Outside the Hotel Costes. Photo: my own.

As I walked up to the hotel from the aristocratic, luxurious Place Vendome just around the corner, a large chauffeur-driven Rolls-Royce was idling, and a bodyguard talking into his microphone. The chauffeur stood in the middle of the road with the famous Chopard jewellers behind him. Hovering like a gaggle of geese, outside and in, were extremely tall, elegantly clad women whose clothing, looks, and attitude marked them as somehow being involved in Paris Fashion Week which was ending the next day (October 2nd).

It was into this overly hip, excessively cool, “in” scene that I arrived — sleep-deprived, with my voice half-gone from the early part of my trip, and feeling rather bedraggled, if truth be told. I was scheduled to meet Laurent Mazzone and Fabienne, the international business agent for LM Parfums, whose incredibly warm, sweet, and friendly emails had resulted in this meeting. We had begun communicating just a few days before my departure and after my enthusiastic, extremely positive review for LM Parfums‘ gorgeous Sensual Orchid.

As luck would have it, Laurent Mazzone was going to be in Paris for the fashion shows. He had greatly enjoyed the thoroughness of my review (happily, my verboseness seems to a positive thing for some people!), and invited me for drinks. When I warned Fabienne that my French was rusty and that I hadn’t spoken it consistently in almost 20 years, she offered to come along as well. (It was just as well because, despite her opinion that I wasn’t at all rusty, I most definitely am! Plus, in the fog of my exhaustion, I often blanked out on words or phrases. Merci, Fabienne, for saving my linguistic hide.)

Laurent Mazzone and Fabienne during Moscow Fashion Week 2013. Source: annarusska.ru

Laurent Mazzone and Fabienne during Moscow Fashion Week 2013. Source: annarusska.ru

I found Laurent and Fabienne easily, sitting at a couple of tables in the corner along with Laurent’s partner, and was greeted with kisses and even a hug. Laurent Mazzone is a very dapper, youngish man in his early ’30s (I think), with a cherubic face, a naughty gleam in his mischievous, warm, brown eyes, and a big grin. He has an enormously exuberant personality, which I loved, and endless passion. Yet, he is also extremely serious when it comes to the subject of perfumery, and has a true commitment to the idea of making luxurious, sensuous perfumes in the grand tradition, but with a modern feel. There was enormous sensitivity in those brown eyes when listening to my comments about some of his line, sometimes followed by a huge, infectious smile from ear to ear when he saw that I understood and appreciated their nature.

Source: uae.souq.com

Patchouli Boheme. Source: uae.souq.com

He had brought a chic, black, and black-ribboned, LM Parfums bag of what I thought would be perfume samples. They turned out to be actual, full, 100 ml bottles of 3 of his fragrances: Ambre Muscadin, Patchouli Boheme, and the new, limited-edition, Chemise Blanche. Yet, despite my patchouli and amber obsession, I never tested any of those perfumes that day and, instead, ended up trying his forthcoming, new perfume, Hard Leather.

Hard Leather will be released in November, and I can’t wait because I absolutely loved it! In fact, I think I may have yelped or cried out rather loudly upon sniffing it because, suddenly, some tables of black-clad, haughty Parisians were turning around with raised eyebrows. I didn’t care, and I think I may have hugged Mr. Mazzone at one point over Hard Leather because it was (and is) absolutely fantastic. Mr. Mazzone describes it as an “animalic leather” that, to my opinion at least, isn’t particularly animalic or aggressive after the opening 10 minutes, but, instead, much more beautifully well-rounded and warm. It might be “animalic” by French standards, but I don’t think it is generally or as a whole, and especially not by Middle Eastern or Amouage standards.

Hard Leather has its musky side to be sure, but it’s primarily woody, sweet, rich, spicy, ambered, and incredibly sensual. From the first sniff, I could instantly tell that there was oud from Laos in it, with its own very unique, aged character, but what I liked about this version of it is that it didn’t smell fecal like so many fragrances that use that particular Laotian wood. Even better, there is none of that revolting Gorgonzola or cheese undertone that very aged Laotian oud can sometimes have. Soon after the agarwood announces itself, there is a burst of pungent civet which quickly calms down (in less than ten minutes), and melts into the rich, well-blended, richly burnished whole.

In essence, Hard Leather smells like your boyfriend’s leather jacket, lightly mixed with his musky scent, along with deep, almost honeyed, slightly smoky oud, and a vague tinge of floral sweetness, atop a base of ambered warmth. At times, it seemed to share some kinship with Serge Lutens Cuir Mauresque, which is one of my absolute favorite Lutens fragrances, but there are clear differences in smell. Even apart from the oud, Hard Leather has a little more edge at first, and is significantly more woody. It also seems to have a different (and much smaller) floral vein running through it. I can’t remember the rest of the notes that Laurent later told me about, but, if memory serves me correctly, there is iris absolute in Hard Leather as well. [UPDATE 10/17/13 – I have the official press release for Hard Leather with its sleek graphics and the full list of notes in the perfume.]

I also can’t recall the name of the perfumer with whom Laurent worked, but I laughed at his description of the process whereby he kept telling the nose to put in “more. More, more, more!” Not only is such a comment completely in keeping with Mr. Mazzone’s character, intensity and passion, but the perfume really has deep richness. I was so crazy about Hard Leather that Mr. Mazzone sent his friend up to their rooms to get his own small decant to give me as a gift, which resulted in a further exuberant outburst that undoubtedly horrified the Hotel Costes’ snobs, but too bad. This is such a fantastic perfume! I will do a review closer to the perfume’s launch date, but I’m telling guys, in particular, and women who like masculine, woody or leather scents: you need to check this one out.

Source: Silkcosmetics.nl

Some, but not all, of the LM Parfums line. Source: Silkcosmetics.nl

What I love about LM Parfums is that they are luxurious, sensuous, full-bodied, and rich. Hard Leather, unlike most of the perfumes from the line, is an extrait de parfum (only three of the current LM Parfums have that concentration), and clocks in at 20% perfume oil. All the perfumes, however, have an opulence that really harkens back to the golden age of perfumery. They’re not fuddy-duddy, old or dated in smell, but Laurent is clearly driven by his love for the classic perfume greats. These fragrances all feel like actual, serious perfumes — they proclaim their richness and luxurious nature without hesitation, announce their presence, and feel no shame over the fact that they are both perfume and French in nature.

Yet, the thing I found with Sensual Orchid and Hard Leather is that their richness contrasts with a surprising airiness in feel. These are not opaque, thick perfumes by any means! Based on what I’ve tested thus far from the line, even the sillage drops after about 2-3 hours to hover somewhat discretely just an inch or so above the skin. The perfumes are potent when smelled up close and linger, but they aren’t battleships of heaviness with nuclear projection that trails you for hours. (In all honestly, I wish they were like that, but I realise that my personal tastes are not the modern style, and that ’80s-style powerhouses are rarely made today.) Still, LM Parfums are all very French in feel or spirit. Mr. Mazzone mentioned a number of the perfume legends, like Guerlain’s Mitsouko, for example, and how he wants his perfumes to reflect the same sort of sophisticated complexity with layers of nuance.

His philosophy certainly shows in Hard Leather, but also in another upcoming fragrance called Army of Lovers. It is a chypre and, honestly, this is a true chypre! None of that neo-chypre or wanna-be, pretend, quasi-chypre business. (Le Labo’s Ylang 49, I’m looking straight at you with your revolting purple patchouli!) No, this is an actual, genuine chypre with an amount of oakmoss absolute that you have to smell to believe. It’s beautiful, very elegant, and reeks of class. It was created by Mr. Mazzone with a Robertet nose (I think) whose name I have now forgotten, and the perfume name references a Swedish group that Mr. Mazzone loves. I have to wonder if there will be any trademark issues in using the same name, but the perfume won’t be released until 2014, so I’m sure he has time to work out any problems that may arise.

I wish I could recall the notes in Army of Lovers, but all I remember now is how impressed I was with its elegance. At one point, I had Hard Leather on one shoulder or bicep, and Army of Lovers on the other — and I may have uttered a rather strangled, guttural moan. I certainly did something very loudly that seemed to have (further) shocked the constipated denizens of the Hotel Costes, and I saw a very disapproving gleam in our server’s eyes when he stopped by next. At this point, I most definitely did not care. Laurent Mazzone was spraying me with glee, and then himself, and we were standing up to sniff each other publicly without the slightest bit of thought to those around. I might have entered a slight fugue state at one point as the potent chypre of Army of Lovers, and the spicy, oriental, animalic leather-oud warmth of Hard Leather billowed out around me. I may have this incorrectly, but if I recall, I think Laurent Mazzone stated that Ambre Muscadin and Patchouli Boheme are two of the main corner stones or representational fragrances from his line. I suspect that either Hard Leather, Army of Lovers, or both will be soon joining them.

In telling you all this, I’m being completely honest. Just as I am when I say that there were some things I smelled that day that were not my cup of tea at all. Very well-made, and beautifully blended, yes, but most definitely not my personal style. Mr. Mazzone sprayed me with something and — blame my usual bluntness or, perhaps, massive sleep-deprivation — I instinctively recoiled, my whole body jerked back, and I grimaced. It was some floral fragrance with purple, fruity patchouli and a synthetic element. So much purple, sweetness, and fruitiness! I had blocked out the name entirely due to my sheer horror, but, in looking over the list of names in the LM line now, I suspect it was O de Soupirs.** If I recall correctly, Mr. Mazzone described its feeling or inspiration as something a woman would wear before going to a rendezvous with her lover. Before I could stop myself, I blurted out something along the lines of “Absolutely not! This is for a 14-year old girl!” (Oh God, now that I’m remembering more of the day, I think I even tried to rub it off my arm with a napkin!)  ** [UPDATE: it turns out the fragrance I didn’t like was a new, upcoming, not-yet-released perfume called Lost Paradise. It will be launched in 2014. — Further Update 1/29/14: the name has been changed to Ultimate Seduction. ]

I usually try to be more tactful and polite, so I’m quite chagrined at my rudeness, but I really couldn’t help the outburst or my instinctive, gut-level reaction. There was a pause in the conversation, and Mr. Mazzone blinked, but he was extremely gracious about it, though there was a hurt look in his sensitive eyes. I tried to explain that I was always very honest in my opinions, and that my candour should let him know that I was quite sincere in my raves for the other two perfumes. He actually seemed to like that a lot, but he’s also incredibly polite, so perhaps I’m just hoping that he put it all into context.

Even before this incident, Mr. Mazzone had quickly caught onto my personal tastes, which strongly mirror his own, so it wasn’t a surprise when he immediately noted that I would very much dislike another perfume that he had included in the very generous “samples.” It was the new, recently released but limited-edition Chemise Blanche which — unlike its siblings — is not done in a black, velvet box imprinted with the LM Parfums logo. It’s also not in one of the black bottles that Mr. Mazzone has intentionally made almost just barely opaque, but not quite. He was concerned that perfume owners would not be able to see how much was left in their bottle if it was a solid black, so he specifically had the glass done in a way which would show how much liquid was left if the bottle was held up to the light. I loved the thoughtfulness and attention to detail involved in that, especially as the issue of remaining quantity is a problem that I always have with my old, jet-black bottle of Fracas.

Chemise BlancheInstead, Chemise Blanche is in a clear, glass bottle and in a white velvet box. The reason Mr. Mazzone was sure I would dislike it is because it is very much the opposite of my favorites from his line: it’s a perfume centered around aldehydes and citruses. To me, it very much evokes something crystalline in visuals, almost Alpine, if you will: white, pure, clear, airy, and very light in feel, despite being an extrait in concentration. According to Fragrantica, the notes include:

aldehydes, bergamot, mandarin, iris, lily of the valley, rose, benzoin, tonka, amber and musk.

To my surprise, given my loathing for aldehydes, the note was much tamer than I had expected but, alas, even Mr. Mazzone admitted that Chemise Blanche smelled of soap and dishwashing liquid on my skin. (By now, sniffing yet my another portion of my shoulder, we were really receiving some strange looks!) Chemise Blanche is not my style at all, and my skin is always a huge problem when it comes to aldehydes, but I freely admit that the perfume is very well-done. Actually, with a few wearings, I occasionally persuaded myself that Chemise Blanche might almost be something I would opt for if I were looking for a crisp, light, gauzy perfume with a citric edge. Almost. I’m wearing Hard Leather as I write this, and I doubt I would ever go for crystal white when I could have shades of richly burnished brown, red, black and amber instead!

Nonetheless, Chemise Blanche turned out to be quite a hit with my friend with whom I was staying and who has very difficult perfume tastes. It’s not only that she is someone whose tastes are the polar opposite of mine; it’s also that she finds almost everything to be “too sweet” or “too strong.” She recoils in horror at even the slightest bit of Orientalism or spice, isn’t a huge fan of most pure florals, and adores airy, light, clean and citrusy fragrances. Even in that last category, however, she thinks the vast majority are “too sweet.” (It was quite interesting going perfume-shopping with her one day! No matter what citrus fragrance I found for her, almost all were rejected and, in a few cases, deemed to be “too masculine” as well.) Chemise Blanche, however, smelled lovely on her skin, and she seemed almost convinced that it wasn’t the dreaded, verboten “sweet.” (It is not. Not even remotely!) So, I left her a large decant for her to test out while she decides if it is full-bottle worthy. 

Laurent Mazzone. Source: unique.ru.com

Laurent Mazzone. Source: unique.ru.com

All in all, I had an absolutely wonderful time meeting Laurent Mazzone, his partner, and Fabienne. They were incredibly warm, friendly, effusive, generous, and filled with life. It was truly fun, whether we were laughing over Mr. Mazzone’s astringent views on some of the Paris Fashion Week collections, sniffing each other publicly, or having passionately robust discussions about the state of perfumery in the past versus today.

You know, all perfumers talk or claim that they put a little bit of themselves or their personalities within each fragrance, but it’s not always true. Commercial perfumery certainly doesn’t have that, and neither do some purportedly “niche” lines. Yet, in sniffing the various LM Parfums, I can actually and genuinely see a little bit of Mr. Mazzone in most of them. There is a quietly refined, passionate lustiness or sensuality in the ones that I’ve tried — whether it’s the overtly sexy Sensual Orchid, the smooth, sweetened, goldenness of Ambre Muscadin, the hugely smoky Patchouli Boheme with its almost mesquite-like opening, or the more masculine Hard Leather — that really seems to epitomize different parts of the gregarious, outgoing, exuberantly passionate man I met. Chemise Blanche seems to be an anomaly, at least to me personally, in terms of that character assessment theory, but the line certainly carries something for everyone and its clean crispness should definitely appeal to some modern tastes.

I may end up doing a proper review for Chemise Blanche down the line, but I definitely plan to cover Patchouli Boheme and Ambre Muscadin. Hard Leather as well, when it is released next month. In the meantime, if you have the chance to try any LM Parfums, do give them a sniff. The line is now in the U.S., and is no longer exclusive to Europe. Plus, Osswald in New York has a very affordable deal on samples which should make testing quite easy. For readers in Europe, the line is not hard to find, and LM Parfums sells 5 ml decants at a very reasonable price (€14 or €19). As for me, I suddenly fell upon the genius idea of layering Sensual Orchid with Hard Leather on occasion, and now, I really have to get my hands on a proper decant of both. The people at the Hotel Costes are lucky they’re not around to witness my reaction….

[UPDATE: I have now reviewed Ambre Muscadin and Hard Leather, with shopping information and pricing information provided in the appropriate reviews.]

Disclosure: Some of the perfumes covered in this post were, as noted, provided by LM Parfums. There was no financial compensation for any of this. I don’t do paid reviews or posts, and my views are my own. 

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: LM Parfums always come in a 100 ml/3.4 oz bottle. The European price is generally either €120 (€125 at some online vendors), or €195 (or £195). The American retail price is either $175 or $225. In the U.S.: Laurent Mazzone’s fragrances used to be European exclusives, but the range just came to America two months ago. It’s sold exclusively at OsswaldNYC. For some strange reason, the website seems to show only two fragrances now, and not all the ones it had earlier when I reviewed Sensual Orchid. In terms of samples, none of the U.S. perfume sample sites currently carry the LM Parfums line, but Osswald has a special deal for all its perfumes for U.S. customers who telephone the store: 10 samples for $10, with free shipping in the U.S., and it’s for any perfumes that they stock! That means the full, existing, current LM Parfums line (or whatever parts they may now carry of it), and some other goodies only found at OsswaldNY, for less than a $1 a vial! The deal is only available for telephone orders, however, so you have to call (212) 625-3111. Outside the U.S.: In Europe, you can buy the perfumes directly from LM Parfums for €125 or €195. (At this other LM Parfums site, some of the bottles are priced at €120.) Samples are also available for €14 or €19, depending on the perfume in question and its concentration, and they come in a good 5 ml size. In the UK, the LM Parfums line is carried exclusively at Harvey Nichols. In France, you can find the perfumes, and 5 ml samples of each (usually about €14) at Laurent Mazzone’s own Premiere Avenue. In Paris, LM Parfums are sold at Jovoy. Germany’s First in Fragrance carries the full line and sells samples as well. You can also find LM Parfums at Essenza Nobile, Italy’s Vittoria Profumi, or Alla Violetta. In the Netherlands, you can find LM Parfums at Silks Cosmetics or Parfumaria. In the Middle East, I found most of the LM Parfums line at the UAE’s Souq perfume retailer. 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.