Ormonde Jayne Orris Noir

Source: Fragrantica.

Source: Fragrantica.

On occasion, I’ll come across a perfume whose most striking characteristic for me is a textural one. Instead of specific notes or a movement of change throughout the stages, the perfume merely evokes a lovely creaminess that is almost devoid of an actual olfactory smell. That is the case for me with Orris Noir, a fragrance from Ormonde Jayne that is meant to be so “haunting” that it “defies description.” I’m afraid it fell far short of such a description in my eyes, but, then, in all fairness, what fragrance could positively live up to that line?

Ormonde Jayne is a high-end, niche London perfume house founded by Linda Pilkington in 2002. All her perfumes are created in conjunction with Geza Schoen, and Orris Noir is no exception. The fragrance was released in 2006, and is available in two concentrations: pure parfum (with 30% fragrance oils) and eau de parfum (25%). This review is for the eau de parfum.

Black Iris via Soundcloud.com

Black Iris via Soundcloud.com

Ormonde Jayne’s website describes Orris Noir as follows:

Orris Noir – so haunting, it almost defies description.

The Iris flower is named after the Greek Goddess of the rainbow, the messenger of the Gods and the Black Iris of Amman is the Royal symbol of the Kings of Jordan. Thriving in a landscape of ample sun, it is a rich, purple black flower of smouldering beauty.

This dark, spicy Oriental scent is for those who want to leave their mark.

A spellbinding perfume, Orris Noir is a rich, seductive aria of unmistakable individuality, not for shrinking violets.

Top Notes: Davana, pink pepper, coriander seed, bergamot
Heart Notes: Iris, [jasmine] sambac absolute, pimento berries, bay
Base Notes: Incense, myrrh, patchouli, chinese cedar, gaiac.

Source: Dailymail.com

Source: Dailymail.com

Orris Noir opens on my skin with black peppered lemon and cream, followed by a touch of pink peppercorn berries and a whisper of fruit. A spectral hint of rooty iris pops up at the edges, but it is very subtle. It carries the tiniest undertone of sweet carrots, I think, but the iris note as a whole is so muffled that it may well be my imagination. Certainly, when I’ve tested Orris Noir in the past using only a small quantity, none of it showed up. Instead, the main bouquet smells to me of a very milky, creamy tea with lemon, a vague and nebulous floralacy, pink peppercorns, and a touch of something fruity.

Source: artid.com

Source: artid.com

The issue of quantity impacting notes is interesting when it comes to Orris Noir because I noted differences based on that amount of scent that I apply. When I applied only a small quantity (perhaps 1/3 of a 1 ml vial), there was a brief suggestion of something fiery or biting from the pimento chili peppers, but it was so fleeting that it too may have just been imagined. At the same time, there was a more distinct puff of black incense in the background, but you had to sniff extremely hard and long to really detect it. Both elements, however, were minor and barely lasted.

In contrast, I could definitely detect the iris when I applied a greater amount of Orris Noir. (I used about 2/3rds of a 1 ml vial.) Regardless of quantity, however, and taken as a whole, the iris feels like a tertiary, very quiet, very muted player on the sidelines. For a fragrance that is intended to be a dark homage to iris, I’m afraid that Orris Noir was really everything but that for the majority of its development on my skin.

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

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

Instead, the primary bouquet of Orris Noir in its opening hour on my skin is extremely creamy Earl Grey tea. Not milky, for the textural quality of the fragrance goes beyond a merely lactonic quality, but rich, smooth cream. It’s infused with lemon, pepper, and, after 20 minutes, by the Davana. I happen to really like the last note, and I think Davana is an element that should be used more often in perfumery. It is an Indian flower with a very lush, velvety, floral smell and a fruity undertone, most specifically of apricots. Here, with Orris Noir, the apricot tonality is extremely subtle at first and the main aroma is of a petal-soft, vaguely tropical flower with endless creaminess.

Orris Noir remains that way for the next few hours, largely unchanged except for the sillage and subtle variations in the notes. It’s all lemon-pepper cream with davana florals, and an increasingly strong sense of fruitiness. The iris lingers like a ghost in the back, as does the cedar. In fact, the two together generally impart a wholly abstract, nebulous undertone of a woody, floral musk, but neither note stands out on my skin with any individual character. I would never sniff Orris Noir and think, “Ah, Iris,” because the flower is practically a nonentity on me after the first hour.

At the start of the second hour, the sillage drops to an inch or two above the skin, though the perfume is easily detectable if sniffed up close. The only major change occurs about 2.5 hours in, when there is the first, very muffled suggestion of jasmine. Orris Noir’s main characteristic continues to be a very smooth, textural creaminess, though it is becoming increasingly difficult to pull it apart into a specific, actual olfactory note. It also now feels more nebulously woody than purely floral in nature.

Source: de.123rf.com

Source: de.123rf.com

About 3.5 hours in, Orris Noir is a creamy, lemony, floral skin scent with light touches of jasmine, soft abstract woodiness, and a slightly fruited nuance. It remains that way until the end of the 6th hour when the jasmine finally steps out of the shadows, and takes over. There are lingering traces of the davana, but Orris Noir is primarily a very sheer, blurry wisp of sweet jasmine woody musk. The perfume remains that way until its very end. It lasted 8.75 hours with a large quantity, and just over 7.75 hours with a smaller amount.

Orris Noir is very pretty, easy-going, approachable, and smooth, but it is also a bit underwhelming, if I’m to be honest. Its creaminess was its most distinctive feature for me, and something that I enjoyed a lot. Plus, to my relief, Orris Noir had only the most microscopic drop of ISO E Super, unlike some Ormonde Jayne fragrances which practically ooze it out of every pore. Orris Noir was well-balanced, had some pretty bits, and was perfectly pleasant as a whole. Yet, I really wasn’t moved; none of it sings or stands out for me.

Tania Sanchez seems to have had much greater problems with Orris Noir. In Perfumes: The A-Z Guide, she classifies Orris Noir as a “peppery cedar” and gives it a low 2 stars. Her reviews states:

The name combines two of the biggest recent trends: orris (iris-root butter) is showing up everywhere, and so are perfumes named Something Noir (or Black Thingamajig). The trouble is that there’s nothing particularly iris or noir about this. Instead, it smells like lemon and pepper with an oily-woody background, slightly chemical and faceless, a rare misstep for the excellent Ormonde Jayne line.

I really don’t think it’s that bad, not by any means, though I do agree with the “faceless” part. I think my feelings would be different if I experienced a lot (or even some) incense in the fragrance, but I did not. Like Tania Sanchez, I thought Orris Noir was lemony-pepper, albeit with davana creaminess, some jasmine, and a nebulous woody musk.

Other bloggers, however, definitely experienced more incense, spiciness, and darkness than I did. Whether you read Eyeliner on a Cat, Bois de Jasmin, or The Non-Blonde, they seem to have detected a more sultry, quasi-oriental fragrance, though no-one thinks that the iris dominates or that Orris Noir is particularly bold. The bloggers all liked Orris Noir, and Bois de Jasmin’s review is quite representative of the general consensus:

Even if Ormonde Jayne Orris Noir does not present its promised black iris, it more than makes up for it with its exquisite combination of spices, incense ashes and velvety woods. Its form crafted out of resinous and balsamic notes is nevertheless rendered as luminous and weightless, like silk, rather than wool.

The spicy notes provide an opulent leitmotif that persists as Orris Noir develops. They frame the lemony green top notes and foil the sheer floral heart. The echoes of sweet warmth of allspice can be noticed in the rich woody base. The chilly breath of iris is quite a subtle accent in this vivid arrangement, yet it lends a certain restraint. Incense, smooth and smoky, envelops the composition in its translucent dark veil.

My skin seems to have brought out more of the davana creaminess than anyone else, especially as compared to those on Basenotes. They generally like Orris Noir, though not everyone gushes enthusiasm. Take the review by “Alfarom” who writes, in part:

No iris whatsoever, not “noir” at all.

That being said, if you’re fine with a peppery-woody-incensey fragrance dominated by a nice, yet unquestionably synthetic vibe, this is a pretty decent composition. Kinda dry yet, somewhat, slightly powdery, woody and incensey with nice piquant undertones. Far from being a masterpiece yet nice.

A number of women absolutely adore the scent, though a few think they detect a “rose” note which I suspect might be the davana at play. One of the more positive reviews reads:

Three words to describe Orris Noir: Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous. Lighter than its name implies, but spellbinding nonetheless, ON skims along the surface of the skin so deftly I kept expecting it would disappear entirely any minute. Instead it became creamier as it opened up, and was still marvelously “there” hours after I first put it on. It is a beautiful blend of light spices and delicate exotic florals, the pink pepper, coriander and powdery iris (fortunately more iris than powder) definitely come through on me.

On Fragrantica, there is the same generally positive response to Orris Noir. Interestingly, a greater number of commentators picked up on the creaminess and the “candied, fruity” elements in the scent, while one reviewer, “Cohibadad,” also detected plenty of iris. Generally, a number of people seemed to think Orris Noir was quite oriental in feel, which just goes to show you the importance of one’s personal and definitional standards. For me, Orris Noir isn’t remotely oriental, even if one doesn’t use brands like Amouage as a baseline. For me, it’s a floral woody musk. I think that it is all going to depend on your skin chemistry and on your personal standards.

Orris Noir isn’t my personal cup of tea, but it’s a nice fragrance and those who like airy, creamy, discreet florals may want to give it a try. I think it skews somewhat feminine, as do some men on Basenotes, but it all depends on what you’re comfortable with. It is a very approachable scent that is versatile, and could also be worn to the office without making waves.

Disclosure: I was sent Orris Noir for review by Ormonde Jayne, but I had previously purchased my own sample from Surrender to Chance, and that is what I used for this review. In all cases, I do not do paid reviews, my opinions are my own, and my first obligation is honesty to my readers.

Cost & Availability: Orris Noir is available in a 50 ml flacon of either parfum extrait or eau de parfum. The EDP price for the regular bottle (without the gold stopper) is $126 or £80. There is also a 4 x 10 ml travel set of Orris Noir that costs $100 or £64, a body cream of the scent, and other accompanying body products. Finally, there is a full Discovery Set that costs $75 or £48 for 2 ml sample sprays of the entire Ormonde Jayne line. It comes with free world-wide shipping. Orris Noir can be purchased directly from the Ormonde Jayne website, its two stores in London, and from HarrodsIn the U.S.: Ormonde Jayne is not carried by any stores in the U.S. at the moment. You would have order from London, but unfortunately, UK postal regulations for any perfume weighing over 50 ml is extremely high. The shipping cost to the U.S. will run you over $50, though that does not apply to the sample set. Elsewhere in Europe: Ormonde Jayne fragrances are carried by Senteurs d’Ailleurs in Brussels (though it has ceased its online e-sales), and by Zurich’s Osswald. For other vendors from Spain to Italy, Norway, Germany (where a large number of different retailers carry the line) and various other European countries, you can use the Ormonde Jayne’s Store LocatorSamplesSurrender to Chance sells samples of Orris Noir EDP starting at $3.99 for 1/2 ml. They also carry the Pure Parfum version.

Atelier Cologne Rose Anonyme

Rose Anonyme via the Atelier website.

Rose Anonyme via the Atelier website.

There are some houses that simply leave you cold, generating an apathetic indifference at best, and a raging dislike the rest of the time. Atelier Cologne is one of those for me, a brand that I find whiter than rice a good portion of the time with perfectly serviceable fragrances that are burdened by an incredibly mundane, safe, pedestrian character. For me, they never stand out except, on occasion, in the absolute worst way possible. (A future review for Mistral Patchouli will make that very clear.) A few Atelier scents (like Orange Sanguine) have brief moments that are utterly gorgeous, but all of them inevitably devolve into an incredibly boring, linear singularity marked by a signature accord that drives me insane. Rose Anonyme is one of the most beloved in the line, and it is one of the better Atelier fragrances that I’ve tried. The scale is wholly relative, however, and “better” for Atelier Cologne means very little in my view in an absolute sense.

Atelier Cologne was started in 2010 by founders and romantic partners, Sylvie Ganter and Christophe Cervasel. It is the first fragrance house entirely dedicated to fragrances in the classic cologne formulation. As many perfumistas know, eau de cologne is typically the mildest, weakest form of fragrance, so the creators decided to take it one step beyond. They created a whole new formulation of perfumery called the Cologne Absolue which seeks to amplify the freshness of a cologne with the longevity of an eau de parfum through the use of a much higher percentage of essential oils. Instead of using the usual 5%-7% levels, Atelier injects between 12% to 18% fragrance oils in their creations, while still maintaining a certain freshness. In my opinion, they achieve the latter through what seems to be a signature base accord of soapy, clean, fresh white musk. It is a signature that I’ve found in all their scents, and one which perpetually gives me a headache. More importantly, it smells bloody cheap.

Rose Anonyme, 30 ml bottle via Amazon.

Rose Anonyme, 30 ml bottle via Amazon.

Rose Anonyme was created by Jérome Epinette, and released in 2012. It is an eau de cologne absolue that contains 18% concentrated perfume oils, a level which is akin to that of some eau de parfums. Atelier Cologne describes the scent quite simply: 

Rose Anonyme, a breathtaking seductress caught in a stolen affair between light and dark, Turkish Rose Absolute sparkles and intrigues beneath notes of spicy Ginger, enwrapped in sultry veil of Velvet Oud, Indonesian Patchouli, mystic Papyrus and Somalian Incense.

Atelier says that the full list of notes is:

Calabrian bergamot, Chinese ginger, Turkish rose essence, Turkish rose absolue, Somali incense, velvet oud accord, Indonesian patchouli, Indian papyrus, benzoin from Laos.

Source: nature.desktopnexus.com

Source: nature.desktopnexus.com

Rose Anonyme opens on my skin with a rose turned jammy and concentrated with the vile, dreaded, purple fruit-chouli. It is syrupy, excessively sweet, and smells strongly of grapes and fruit molasses. The duo are infused with a brief pop of crisp bergamot and, more importantly a whole lot of an arid, acrid papyrus. The latter smells both like ancient parchment paper and something wholly aroma-chemical in nature. Moments later, a soft, emasculated “oud” arrives, followed by the lightest whisper of candied ginger. Deep in the base, there are traces of a soapy tonality.

The whole thing is oddly acrid, jammy, syrupy, soft, intense, and candied, all at once. There are definite resemblances at this point to Tom Ford‘s Noir de Noir in the richness of the blood-red rose infused with a grapey darkness, purple patchouli, and the merest flicker of muffled oud. However, the Tom Ford fragrance feels infinitely more luxurious, rich, deep, and smooth. It has no jangly rough edges, or notes of aroma-chemical aridity. It is also not cloying sweet, as the purple patchouli is much better calibrated. Later, as Rose Anonyme develops, it loses that kinship even more, as Noir de Noir takes on a powdered, violet quality that makes the fragrance resemble Turkish Delight.

Papyrus plant via wikicommons.

Papyrus plant via wikicommons.

In a number of perfumes, the attempt to create a “papyrus” impression is done through the use of something called Cypriol, an essential oil (or, sometimes, a synthetic) derived from the roots of the Cyperus scariosus plant. The latter is known in English as cypriol and in Hindi as Nagarmotha, and it is a member of the papyrus family. (You can read more about it on The Perfume Shrine‘s analysis of cypriol.) The only reason why I’m bringing it up here is many fragrances that claim to have “oud” really don’t. Andy Tauer argues that the vast majority just use a drop of “oudh” in a cypriol base. On his blog, he once wrote:

Often, “oudh” is used as a tag allowing brands to charge more because somehow everybody seems to think that perfume lovers are willing to pay extra for a fragrance with oudh notes. This does not make sense as there is not much oudh in anything. Yet, consumers pay the extra$$$ and are told that they get the exclusive fragrance with this expensive ingredient. This is wrong.

Apart from a drop or two, the rest of the “oudh” is bases, often with cypriol, in varying qualities, far away from the “real thing”. The real thing does not find its way into perfumes that you buy in your perfumery.

Atelier Cologne has the honesty to admit that Rose Anonyme only contains a “velvet oud accord,” but given the inclusion of “papyrus” and the way that particular note smells on my skin, I’d bet the whole thing is one laboratory-driven concoction. You definitely smell “papyrus” in Rose Anonyme, but if you’re expecting a significant oud aroma — let alone a genuine one — you’ll be sorely disappointed. On my skin, Rose Anonyme is merely fluctuating degrees of jammy rose infused with purple fruit-chouli and synthetic, acrid “papyrus.” And I cannot tell you how sick to death I am of fragrances that are essentially rose-patchouli soliflores.

Source: dultmeier.com

Source: dultmeier.com

The things that comes to mind repeatedly in the opening hour of Rose Anonyme are candy and soap. The richest, gooey-est, chewy, almost grapey candy sitting side by site with a bar of floral soap, close enough for the candy to pick up its small traces. The two are wrapped in a dry, acrid-smelling paper that almost has a grassy whisper to it. Something about the scent gives me a headache, though I’m not sure if it’s from the cloying sweetness or the cheap white musk that I find in so many Atelier scents. It is a synthetic cleanness that is always soapy at its core and, in this particular case, smells like really strong, sweetened, car freshener aerosol. If you’ve ever gone to a car wash and gotten the “rose” spray option for the inside of your vehicle, you’ll know a bit of what I mean.

Fruit molasses or jam. Source: Shutterstock.com

Fruit molasses or jam. Source: Shutterstock.com

The sweetness is intense, though I blame some of that on my skin. It always amplifies base notes, including anything sweet, and purple patchouli in particular. That said, I’ve noticed that the more you apply of Rose Anonyme, the worse it gets. With 2 sprays from my tiny atomizer or the equivalent of one good spray from a bottle, the sweetness is far too excessive for my personal tastes, but not so much as to make me want to scrub off the perfume. With 3 tiny sprays, however, amounting to 2 sprays from a proper bottle, the perfume is utterly unbearable. And there is no escape from it either, because Rose Anonyme initialy wafts a good 4-5 inches (regardless of quantity) in a dense cloud of rose jamminess.

Thirty minutes in, Rose Anonyme is a syrupy rose patchouli scent, with a subtle note of biting dryness and aridity, and the merest suggestion of some eunuch, emasculated “oud.” Unfortunately for me, it is now also trumpeting that Atelier signature of clean, fresh musk which always gives me a headache. Ignoring my personal sensitivity to white musk, I always find the note to have such an incredibly cheap feel. Any number of generic, mainstream, $50 floral scents in Sephora have it, perhaps because it is a way to comply with the modern mania for “freshness” at little to no cost to the manufacturer.

Speaking of Sephora, Atelier Cologne is now carried there, which says something. And the line has increased its prices so that the small 1 oz bottle now costs $75. Atelier may pretend to be “niche,” but it really is not. Plus, Rose Anonyme has a wholly generic, pedestrian profile that imitates a million other boring rose-patchouli-white musk scents also carried at Sephora. The degree of my boredom knows no bounds.

Source: hqwallbase.com

Source: hqwallbase.com

Rose Anonyme is an extremely linear scent. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that if you like the notes in question, but, in this case, I don’t. The main changes in the perfume are one of degree. The sillage drops after 90 minutes, and the perfume feels softer, more pillowy, though it is still diabetically sweet. It is a candied rose-fruitchouli scent with a miniscule drop of bergamot atop a dry papyrus base that feels peppered and a bit acrid. The whole thing is nestled in a cocoon of fresh cleanness. None of it smells opulent, luxe, rich or special to me. The blasted concoction turns into a skin scent after 4 hours, and continues on its singular path with all the determination of a red bulldozer. I’m so utterly bored, I contemplate making a list of how many scents out there might have been a model for Atelier to copy, but there are too many choices.

The one saving grace to this endless stream of banality is Rose Anonyme’s final drydown. In its last two hours, it turns into a genuinely pretty blend of a soft, dusty rose-patchouli dusted with chocolate powder. It’s lovely, and I wish it had been the dominant heart of the annoying scent. All in all, Rose Anonyme lasted 12.5 hours with 3 small sprays from the atomizer, and 10.25 with 2 smaller ones. I gave it two full, proper, focused tests, but I’ve also worn it a few times prior just casually for myself. (Only to scrub it off after 2 hours. That syrupy sweetness is revoltingly excessive on my skin.)

My feelings about Rose Anonyme are very, very far from the common consensus on the fragrance. It seems to tie with Orange Sanguine as many people’s favorite from the line. I concede fully that skin chemistry, amplification of the purple patchouli, my dislike of the note and of white musk, and my leeriness of rose scents are all to blame. However, I refuse to change my stance on Rose Anonyme’s utterly generic, common profile. And I point to Fragrantica where the (admittedly very positive) discussion of Rose Anonyme brings up a plethora of comparable fragrances. First and foremost, Juliet Has A Gun‘s Midnight Oud. Other names that come up are Tom Ford’s Noir de Noir, Montale Red Aoud, Thierry Mugler‘s Angel La Rose, Thierry Mugler‘s Amen line, Sisley Lune or de Soir, New York Oud, and several others.

Yet, Fragrantica commentators seem to overwhelmingly adore the softness and sweetness of Rose Anonyme. Even those who note the perfume’s linearity, its soapy quality, or the “synthetic” “metallic musk, love it. The one wholly negative review comes from “Sherapop,” who had great difficulty with the papyrus element:

Atelier Cologne ROSE ANONYME “cologne absolue” (isn’t that an oxymoron?) opens with a striking resemblance to Thierry Mugler Jardin d’Etoiles entry ANGEL LA ROSE. The first word out of my mouth was actually: patchouli. Then the rose swept in and I felt as though I really was wearing the Mugler flanker for a couple of minutes.

ROSE ANONYME continues to develop, however. What I perceive next is the emergence of a very strong and dominant papyrus note. Because focal papyrus is rare in my experience of perfumes, I have a very strong memory of it, and it appears most markedly of all in Jessica Simpson FANCY NIGHTS. I’d thought that the reason why I did not take to that perfume was because it was a vat-produced Parlux juice. Now, after sniffing ROSE ANONYME, I think that it must be the papyrus which makes me less than enthused about that perfume, too.

It took me a couple of minutes to figure out what exactly it was that I was smelling, but once I did, the connection to FANCY NIGHTS seemed unmistakeable.

One negative review, and that’s it. So, I’m clearly in the minority, and that’s fine. I find Atelier’s stuff dull as soapy dishwater, but Rose Anonyme is obviously everyone else’s rose candy.

If you like Juliet Has A Gun fragrances or are looking for a very jammy, lush, slightly clean rose scent, then you may want to give Rose Anonyme a try. It has an extremely emasculated (read, virtually non-existent) oud accord, but Atelier compensates by providing instead quite a bit of dry papyrus. It’s not enough to counter the diabolical intensity of the fruit-chouli, but that seems to be what makes the rose note so “velvety” in most people’s eyes. The perfume is definitely unisex (men seem to adore it), and has good longevity. However, I’d be extremely careful with the quantity that you apply if you want to wear Rose Anonyme to work. Also, if you have any issues with clean white musks, you may want to test the perfume first. However, if you’re not a lover of rose-fruitchouli or syrupy sweetness, then you can join me in the pariah’s corner and we can yawn ourselves to sleep.

Cost & Availability: Rose Anonyme is a concentrated cologne that comes in 3 sizes: 1 oz/30 ml for $75, 3.3 oz/100 ml for $130; and a giant 6.7 oz/200 ml for $195. You can buy Rose Anonyme directly from the Atelier Cologne website. In terms of freebies, if you buy the massive 6.7 oz bottle, the company says it will give you: “a travel spray refilled with the Cologne Absolue of your choice in its leather pouch engraved with your name or initials.” The travel spray is, in fact, the 30 ml/1 oz bottle. The company also sells various Gift and Travel Sets, such as a refillable 1 oz/30 ml travel size in a box with soap, postcards, leather pouch, etc. starting at $95 for Rose Anonyme, or a travel box of 7 travel minis that are each 7.5 ml for prices starting at $95. The company sells samples (in a set of all their 11 perfumes in small vials for $20), a $3 sample of Rose Anonyme, candles, and more. I can’t find shipping information or costs. As a side note, Atelier has a few shops: at least one in Paris, and also one in New York. In the U.S.: You can find Rose Anonyme at SephoraLuckyscentBeautyBarNeiman MarcusBirchbox, and Bergdorf Goodman (which also carries soap and candle forms). Outside the U.S.: In Canada, you can find it on Sephora.Canada at prices starting at CAD$80 for the small 1 oz bottle, CAD$135 for the large 3.3 oz bottle, and CAD$205 for the massive 6.7 oz bottle. In France, you can find Orange Sanguine at Sephora.Fr for €60,50 for the small 1 oz/30 ml bottle and €100 for the 3.3 oz/100 ml bottle. Other Sephoras may also carry it, though I didn’t see it on some like Sephora Mexico or Singapore. You can use the International Sephora site to look up the branch near you, from Greece to Spain. In France, Les Galleries also carries the Atelier line. In the UK, you can find Rose Anonyme at Selfridges where prices start at £100 for the 100 ml/3.3 oz size bottle. Liberty London and Les Senteurs only have the giant 200 ml size, but the latter sells samples. In the Netherlands, the Atelier line is carried at Skin Cosmetics, in Germany at First in Fragrance or Essenza Nobile. For all other countries, you can use the Store Vendor locator on the Atelier website to find retailers near you. Atelier Cologne fragrances are sold by vendors from Etiket in Canada to those in Tokyo, Shanghai, Poland, Italy, Russia, Romania and more. However, I couldn’t find any sites in Australia or the Middle East listed on the company website. Samples: a number of the vendors listed above have samples for sale. Surrender to Chance sells vials starting at $3 for 1 ml.

Aftelier Perfumes Cepes and Tuberose: Earthy Tuberose

As it might be clear by now, I’m focusing on florals this week with a series that began by looking at various treatments of tuberose. Like Goldilocks, we’re exploring the range from the fresh, green kind represented by Carnal Flower to the warmer, creamier interpretation of Moon Bloom, and, now, the darkest one of all. This last one is a wholly original, incredibly creative twist on the great white flower, turning it earthy with all the mushrooms and earth of the forest floor. It is Cepes and Tuberose (sometimes written as “Cepes & Tuberose” by others), a perfume with very woody, resinous, chocolate, cinnamon and dried rose elements to go along with the mushrooms. 

Cepes or Porcini. Source: morelmushroomhunting.com

Cepes or Porcini. Source: morelmushroomhunting.com

Cepes and Tuberose was created by the highly respected, acclaimed all-natural perfumer, Mandy Aftel of Aftelier Perfumes. The perfume is classified as a fougère, which is a type of fragrance centered, in part, around herbs, along with more significant core components. Ms. Aftel has cleverly twisted the fresh, aromatic, herbal genre by taking a very different approach to the forest and mixing it with very different flowers. The critical component, however, are the cepes, a type of mushroom commonly referred to outside of France by its other name, porcini. Cepes and Tuberose comes in two concentrations: an eau de parfum concentration and in pure parfum. This review is for the former, the eau de parfum.

Cepes and Tuberose, the bottle for the Eau de Parfum version. Source: the Aftelier website.

Cepes and Tuberose, the bottle for the Eau de Parfum version. Source: the Aftelier website.

On her website, Ms. Aftel describes Cepes and Tuberose as follows:

Scent Family: Fougère
Wild mushrooms, with animal undertones and one of the world’s most voluptuous florals. Wild porcini mushrooms and Italian tuberose play a mysterious and earthy duet. One of my more enigmatic perfumes, it has won many awards and fans. — Chosen as one of “100 Perfumes Every Perfumista Should Try” by Now Smell This.

Featured Notes
Top: bois de rose.
Heart: tuberose, Moroccan rose.
Base: cepes [or Porcini mushroom] absolute, benzoin.

Source: Ronny Fein. (Website link embedded within photo.)

Source: Ronny Fein. (Website link embedded within photo.)

Cepes and Tuberose opens on my skin with notes that strongly resemble sticky raisins, cinnamon infused fruits stewed in brown sugar molasses, and woods. There is also a very animalic leather component, followed by a truffle-like earthiness, then actual mushrooms with a hint of chocolate. The sweetened, plump, raisin molasses is infused with dark green herbs, aromatic but slightly smoky woods, and a mossy pungency. Within minutes, the latter takes on a medicinal, old-fashioned fougère tonality that has a very distant kinship to barber shops of old. Unlike those scents, however, Cepes and Tuberose is both sweetened and earthy.

Source: 123rf.com

Source: 123rf.com

The earthiness is interesting. Initially, it really feels more like humus (not hummus) which is the soil detritus of plants, dirt, leaves, and decaying organic matter. The mushroom tonality is subtle at first, more a suggestion than full-on porcinis. As regular readers know, one of my favorite discoveries last year was Oriza L. Legrand‘s ode to the forest floor, Chypre Mousse, an extremely green, mossy, mushroom, wet leaf and humus scent with herbal undertones, darkened resins and a wisp of leather. I love both the mushroom and earth note in Chypre Mousse, but it smells very different in Cepes and Tuberose. Here, it is not like sweet, loamy, wet soil, but a very dry one. There is sweetness, but it is of a brown sugar sap variety. Nothing in Cepes and Tuberose feels green or elfish, but dark, resinous, dry, and sweet. And the sense of something herbal, elemental and decayed feels much stronger here.

Source: Diary of a Mad Hausfrau. (Website link embedded within photo.)

Source: Diary of a Mad Hausfrau. (Website link embedded within photo.)

The rosewood adds a distinct element of dark, smoky woods, but also something that resembles pine sap. It’s a warm, not chilled, version of the note in Serge LutensFille en Aiguilles. Actually, the Lutens fragrance that Cepes and Tuberose first brought to mind was Bois et Fruits. I think it’s due to the sticky raisin and spice accords, mixed with more autumnal woods. Yet, Cepes and Tuberose is much more leathered than either of those fragrances. It has a definite animalic component in the sense of muskiness, but it is never fecal, raw, sweaty or rank. It is more earthen, and infused with a sweetness that borders on cinnamon and chocolate.

10 minutes in, Cepes and Tuberose starts to change. The fragrance feels less medicinal, herbal, and animalic. The leather note fades to the background, while the earthy one turns more mushroomy. There is a surprising meatiness to it that made me think of Portobello mushrooms, but at this stage, it’s still only a mere suggestion. The more significant change is the introduction of the florals, and this is where I start to really struggle. On my skin, the flowers are dominated by an amorphous, rose note that strongly resembles spiced, dried, pressed rose petals and potpourri. I’m not generally a fan of roses, fresh or dried, but I have particular problems with potpourri.

"Dried Rose Petals" by Tom Mc Nemar via Fineartamerica. http://fineartamerica.com/featured/dried-rose-petals-ii-tom-mc-nemar.html

“Dried Rose Petals” by Tom Mc Nemar via Fineartamerica.

As time goes by, the rose potpourri takes over Cepes and Tuberose’s bouquet on my skin. The perfume smells increasingly like a very woody take on heavily spiced, cinnamon-dusted dried rose petals with an earthy humus note. Alas for me, the latter soon turns into hardcore porcini mushrooms, to a degree that Chypre Mousse never did. Actually, to be more precise, I smell like meaty, cooked portobellos dusted with cinnamon. The herbal green element has faded, though a certain pungency remains. The leathery note feels less musky, the raisins and brown sugar resin both weaken, and so does that subtle impression of pine. Their place is taken by a pinch of sweetened floral powder, presumably from the benzoin mingling with the roses.

I never once detected tuberose in its traditional, usual way. Instead, what slowly weaves its way through the notes is something that smells like a very browned gardenia. It strongly resembles the decayed gardenia in Serge LutensUn Voix Noire. As many of you know, gardenia is one of those flowers whose smell can’t really be captured from the petals, whose scent cannot be distilled, and whose aroma has to be recreated using other essential oils. (Fragrantica has a tiny bit on this issue if you’re interested.) Tuberose is one of the ways to recreate the smell of the gardenia, which may account for why the version in Cepes and Tuberose smells more like the latter than the former on my skin. Plus, gardenias naturally have a mushroomy scent when they are very ripe or close to the edge of decay.

Source: mydecorative.com

Source: mydecorative.com

On my skin, the browned “gardenia” is perhaps the most tertiary of notes, and everything is trumped by the cinnamon-infused dried roses. The cepes are like a Jack in the Box, popping up on occasion to say “Boo” before sinking back down. They feel less meaty at the end of the first hour, and are more dirt-covered with the lightest touch of a mossy undertone. None of it is easy for me, though I enjoy the new arrival on the scene: cocoa. The initial hint of something chocolate-like in the base has now risen to the surface, but it resembles semi-sweet, dry cocoa powder more than an actual block of heavy chocolate.

At the start of the second hour, Cepes and Tuberose is a bouquet of cinnamon-rose potpourri with coca-dusted dry woods on the surface, while a dark, decayed white floral and meaty portobello mushrooms lurk down below. It is simultaneously dry, dirty, dusty, sweet, sharp, spiced, pungent and soft — contradictory as some of those things may sound. It isn’t the easiest of scents for me, though I had a moment of hope about 1.75 hours into Cepes and Tuberose’s development. There, suddenly, there was an utterly lovely drydown of spiced warmth with cocoa powder, cinnamon benzoin, dried roses and a touch of sweet powder, all nestled in a dry-sweet embrace of cocoa-dusted woods. All the edges felt smoothed out, and the result was a delicious, quasi-gourmand that felt beautifully balanced. At times, there was even a subtle patchouli vibe (and you know how I love my patchouli).

Source: the3foragers.blogspot.com

Source: the3foragers.blogspot.com

Unfortunately, this stage was very brief on me, and I can only blame my skin. Something happened, and less than 30 minutes later, Cepes and Tuberose turned into the smell of dry dirt on me. Not sweet, loamy, wet soil, but very dry, old dirt, with touches of the other elements that I’ve described above. In its final moments, Cepes and Tuberose was nothing more than a blur of dryness that smelled vaguely like old dirt and potpourri. The whole thing lasted 4.75 hours with two small sprays, and 6.25 hours with a larger quantity. Generally, the sillage was very soft after an initially strong start, but Cepes and Tuberose was quite potent when smelled up close for a number of hours. In both my tests, it became a skin scent after 1.75 and 2.25 hours, depending on the quantity that I applied.

My struggles with Cepes and Tuberose really surprised me. Not only is tuberose my favorite flower in real life, but I love dark, woody, resinous or earthy scents. I certainly have no problems with humus or mushroom notes, as regular readers know from my ravings about Oriza’s Chypre Mousse. I can only chalk things up in this instance to skin chemistry and my personal tastes.

Others, however, have had much better luck with Cepes and Tuberose. Now Smell This has the perfume on its list of 100 things that every perfumista must try, calling it “dark, earthy and sexy.” Olfactoria of Olfactoria’s Travels who doesn’t like tuberose scents was actually driven to song, dance, and music, writing that the “deliciously intoxicating fumes” of the perfume brought out a part of her soul.

Meanwhile, Victoria of EauMG thought it was both sultry and akin to a chocolate-dipped pretzel, writing in part:

Cepes and Tuberose opens with sharp rosewood and hay. After this settles, it’s a big floral with blooming tuberose and dewy rose. It’s slightly sweet and lactonic but not too sweet or lactonic. It’s balanced by a savory saltiness. Think of it as the chocolate dipped pretzel of perfumes or even better yet, a peanut butter cup – a perfect balance of sweet and salty. The dry-down is an earthy yet sweet vanilla-benzoin. On my skin, the mushroom is rather faint. In fact, it is more like the animalic richness that is naturally present in “overripe” white florals. And because of this, Cepes and Tuberose is a rather sultry fragrance.

Perfume-Smellin’ Things found Cepes and Tuberose to be unique, and more akin to umami than to a tuberose scent. I think her umami comparison is extremely clever and astute:

Smelled on its own, tuberose absolute is as I know it, buttery, slightly mentholated and slightly rubbery. Smelled on its own, cepes absolute smells of soy sauce and red wine, a mouthwatering, “tongue-coating”, savory aroma. Smelled right after cepes, tuberose suddenly turns to me with a facet it hasn’t shown before … there is something in fact meaty there … meaty and dry and coated in earth…a certain piquant pungency that it took a mushroom to bring to light…or darkness, as it were.

The composition of Cepes & Tuberose is uncluttered. The two main ingredients are so rich, complex and charismatic, that any other notes have to be “quite simple. The cepes and the tuberose intertwined was all the star material that the perfume could aesthetically accommodate.” (M.Aftel) A little bit of citrus in the top notes brightens the fleshy dark brown of the blend; woods seem to both enhance the creaminess of tuberose and to add to the dry spiciness of porcini. This is undoubtedly one of the most unique tuberose perfumes – and much more than a tuberose perfume. It seems wrong to categorize it as a floral. But neither is it anything else really. It requires a new olfactory category of its own … Umami.

I think the review with which I agree the most is that of my friend, The Perfume Dandy, who accurately notes Ms. Aftel’s achievements in the vanguard of experimental, truly original, almost “avant garde” works in the olfactory plane. In terms of his actual experience with Cepes and Tuberose, he writes:

Cepes and Tuberose stands out for The Dandy as an idiosyncratic masterwork.

Meaty sweet mushrooms meet fleshy over ripe flowers in a carnal embrace that is splendidly earthy at the opening and morphs into an extraordinary splicing of library, forest and eccentric boudoir.

Truly original and quite remarkable.

This may not be a scent for everyone, but in a world of apparently endless choice (are there now more Angels in heaven or on the shelves of Thierry Mugler?) I, for one, am so glad that there are such creative options available.

I very much agree. Cepes and Tuberose isn’t the easiest of scents, and it isn’t for everyone. However, one must applaud Ms. Aftel for pushing the boundaries with something very unique. I have enormous respect for Ms. Aftel in general, but Cepes and Tuberose merely increases it, even if the scent did not work for me personally. To combine tuberose with fougère elements and to create an earthy tuberose with mushrooms… it is brilliantly original.

Cost & Availability: Cepes and Tuberose is exclusive to the Aftelier website, and comes in different formulations and sizes. Cepes and Tuberose is offered as: 2 ml mini of Pure Parfum for $50; 0.25 oz of Pure Parfum for $170; and 30 ml Eau de Parfum for $170. Samples are available for $6 for a 1/4 ml vial of both the EDP and the pure parfum. Samples: The Eau de Parfum version of Cepes and Tuberose is available from Surrender to Chance where prices have been discounted down to $3.99 from $9.99 for a 1/4 ml vial.

Hiram Green Perfumes Moon Bloom: Ophelia’s Tuberose

"Monna Vanna" by Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

“Monna Vanna” by Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Moon Bloom via the Hiram Green website.

Moon Bloom via the Hiram Green website.

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

Source: Fragrantica

Source: Fragrantica

The perfume’s full description reads:

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

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

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

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

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

Source: crazy-frankenstein.com

Source: crazy-frankenstein.com

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

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

White opal via swissgemshop.ch

White opal via swissgemshop.ch

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

Photo: onewomanshands.blogspot.com

Photo: onewomanshands.blogspot.com

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

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

Ylang-Ylang. Source: Soapgoods.com

Ylang-Ylang. Source: Soapgoods.com

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

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

Source: Fragrantica

Source: Fragrantica

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

Photo: mypham.us

Photo: mypham.us

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Moon Bloom bottle and decant, via Hiram Green.

Moon Bloom bottle and decant, via Hiram Green.

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

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

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

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

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

Frederic Malle Carnal Flower

The benchmark for all tuberose scents was set by the legendary Fracas, but the modern contender and favorite for the throne may be a creation by Frederic Malle: Carnal Flower. It is an accessible, easy, very fresh and, therefore, very modern take on white floral powerhouses. I’m generally not one for floral scents, but I make a particular exception for the fleshiest of white, narcotic, indolic flowers. I’m an absolute sucker for a white powerhouses, and tuberose is my favorite flower in the world. So, I should positively adore Carnal Flower, right? Hm.

Frederic Malle. Source: Paris.com

Frederic Malle. Source: Paris.com

The luxury fragrance house Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle is one of the most respected niche perfume lines in the world. It was founded in 2000 by Frederic Malle, a man who has expensive perfume in his blood. His grandfather started Christian Dior Perfumes, and his mother later worked as an Art Director for the same perfume house. In 2005, Malle teamed up with legendary perfumer, Dominique Ropion, to create Carnal Flower. It is an eau de parfum inspired by Malle’s aunt, the actress Candice Bergen, and her role in the 1971 film, Carnal Knowledge.

Source: Forty Five Ten.

Source: Forty Five Ten.

Malle’s website describes Carnal Flower as follows:

If nature offers olfactive clashes, tuberose is probably the best example of it. These pretty flowers exude an almost carnal smell, superimposing in a quasi-miraculous way flower shop freshness, camphorous violence – spicy and animalic – and milky sweetness. This mysterious equilibrium has always fascinated perfumers. 18 months were necessary for Dominique Ropion to forward a modern version of that theme, an “olfactive Everest” that only the most talented perfumers were capable of reaching.

Fragrantica lists its notes as follows:

The top notes contain: bergamot, melon and eucalyptus. The middle notes include: ylang-ylang, jasmine, tuberose, Salicylates (natural, toxic product of herbal origin, a sort of a herbal feromone which is used by plants as a warning). The base encompasses: tuberose absolute, orange blossom absolute, coconut and musk.

Source: tarrantcounty.com

Source: tarrantcounty.com

Carnal Flower opens on my skin with a tinge of bergamot and green honeydew melon, then a loud bang of tuberose and eucalyptus. The fleshy, white flower is rendered icy with the mentholated notes, but there is also a definite milky quality to the scent. It stems from the tiniest flicker of the coconut in the base. The nicest part of Carnal Flower is the cool, green vibe. From the start, almost to the finish, there is a watery quality to the scent, not just from the dewy melon, but from a sense of the tuberose stem having been cut and dripping out its green liquid into the vase water that surrounds it.

Eucalyptus leaves.

Eucalyptus leaves.

The eucalyptus adds a chilly camphorated note that cuts like a knife through the flower’s usual sweetness. In other tuberose scents, that sweetness that can sometimes verge on either bubble gum or Welch’s grape jelly, due to the salicylates. Not here. At the same time, the eucalyptus ensures a freshness that pre-empts any indolic fleshiness, over-ripe voluptuousness, and heaviness. Indoles can create an over-blown ripeness in a floral scent which, on some skin, can end up turning fecal, urinous, plastic-y or reminiscent of a cat’s litter box. That is never the case here, for Carnal Flower’s indolic richness is kept firmly in check by the freshness of the icy eucalyptus and that subtle touch of green melon.

Carnal Flower’s initial blast of eucalyptus softens in less than five minutes. The briefly camphorated undertone turns into a simple greenness that is cool and crisp. The touch of citric freshness vanishes, and its place is taken by the first stirrings of the other white flowers. The orange blossom and jasmine lurk in the base for the most part, along with the coconut, but they start to throw up a translucent white arm to wave hello once in a while before sinking back to the depths like a shy mermaid. For now, Carnal Flower is all about the tuberose, singing a solo on center stage with the eucalyptus standing a few feet behind.

Tuberose. Source: Fragrantica.de

Tuberose. Source: Fragrantica.de

The greenness in Carnal Flower is quite multi-faceted. Besides the chilliness imparted by the eucalyptus, there is an aroma that feels as though the tuberose’s green leaves, stem, and unripe buds have been crushed into a slightly bitter oil. Later, the note takes on the distinct aroma of vase water that has been left untouched for a few days. There is a murkiness to the leafy, green note, though it never really rises to the level of fetid. Still, every time I’ve worn Carnal Flower, there is always a subtle flicker of dark, watery greenness that calls to mind stale, stagnant vase water.

Jasmine via Wikicommons

Jasmine via Wikicommons

It takes 20 minutes for the jasmine to arrive, fusing with the tuberose to become the focal point of the scent. The eucalyptus’ icy chilliness slowly begins to fade away, though the green freshness remains as a strong constant throughout the life of Carnal Flower. As the mentholated undertone becomes a mere flicker, Carnal Flower turns warmer, sweeter, and deeper, less fresh and cool. Ten minutes later, the orange blossom joins the parade of white flowers, creating quite a layered lushness.

The sillage, however, is moderate on my skin. Three small sprays from my small decant gives me a soft, airy cloud that wafts a maximum of 3 inches, at most. The thin, airy weight and restrained projection are a surprise for a scent that is so strong when smelled up close for the first two hours. Interpretations of airiness and sillage will obviously depend on one’s personal yardstick, but for me, none of Malle’s fragrances have much heft. He seems to ascribe to the modern French definition of “strong,” which seems to be significantly different than that of some American and Middle Eastern fragrance houses. Or perhaps it’s just me, for I’m continually unimpressed by what Malle considers to be intense or rich, let alone “Oriental.”

I think it’s only fair to explain that feeling, as it bears a lot on this review and my response to Carnal Flower. When I visited one of Malle’s Paris boutiques, I went through the range of Malle fragrances which were laid out in what seemed to be a progression of strength and richness from left to right. At the far end of the scale was Musc Ravageur whose placement seemed to be presented as the most opulently oriental, extreme, heavy or rich scent that they had. It bore home to me that my definition of things varies enormously from that of Monsieur Malle. I kept asking the rather constipated, prune-mouthed sales assistant for something “stronger, heavier, richer,” because half the scents seemed to be watery, thin, translucent, or restrained to the point of aloofness.

Fracas Eau de Parfum.

Fracas Eau de Parfum.

The point of all this is that I am obviously not Malle’s target customer. Not in a million years. And I think that is especially true when it comes to his florals. If I’m going to wear tuberose, I want a sonic boom like the Fracas that I grew up with, or like an Amouage scent. I want concentrated heft, richness, and body. For me, personally, I don’t see the point otherwise. I’m not wearing an all-natural fragrance with its inherent limitations.

The problem seems to be that my benchmark for white florals was set by Fracas when I was 7 years old. Vintage Fracas is one of two perfumes that forever shaped both me and my perfume tastes. (The other being the benchmark scent for Orientals, vintage Opium.) When you are imprinted with vintage Fracas as your idea of the perfect tuberose, and then you’re faced by a very pretty, albeit watery and green, tuberose that has a fraction of its richness and little of its indolic, narcotic, heady fleshiness, you’re bound to be somewhat underwhelmed.

Source: Colourbox.com

Source: Colourbox.com

Carnal Flower definitely leaves me at a bit of a loss, especially after the end of the first hour. It becomes this translucent, diaphanous, gauzy blur of whiteness with some greenness and some creaminess. The prominence and power of certain notes vary over the next few hours, but the core essence never changes one iota. The orange blossom fluctuates in strength, but it is always in third place behind the jasmine and tuberose on my skin. In any event, it fades away about 2.75 hours into Carnal Flower’s development. The jasmine often seems to overtake the tuberose on my skin as the main note, but it’s sometimes hard to single out the specific floral components as Carnal Flower becomes an increasingly abstract veil of white flowers with some freshness. The creamy quality never translates as coconut on my skin, and is much more of a textural quality. As a whole, it’s nice, but …. eh.

While the coconut leaves me underwhelmed, I’m wholly unenthused by the white musk that pops up about 4.75 hours in. It’s a synthetic touch that consistently gives me a headache if I sniff Carnal Flower up close for too long. I don’t even see the purpose of it. It doesn’t smell fresh or clean. It’s simply… there. Eventually, Carnal Flower devolves into a vaguely musky jasmine scent with some occasional touches of tuberose and greenness. It remains that way until its end. All in all, Carnal Flower lasted 11.25 hours on me, perhaps thanks to the white musk which my skin clings onto like mad.

It is all very pretty, with enjoyable greenness and a refined handling of the tuberose, but Carnal Flower really fails to do much for me. Every single time I’ve worn Carnal Flower over the last two years, the trajectory of my reaction is always the same:

Opening: “Oh, eucalyptus. Ugh,”

10 minutes later: “Huh, this is so incredibly pretty, why don’t I wear this more often??!”

An hour after that: “Oh. Right. Now I remember why. Hm. Maybe I should put some vintage Fracas over it?”

I’ve spent so much time trying to explain my reaction to Carnal Flower for a few different reasons. First, I’m fully aware that saying Carnal Flower is insufficiently potent, indolic, rich, and full-bodied makes me sound insane to the average perfumista. For almost everyone else, it is the epitome of an indolic, opulent, white floral powerhouse. Well, maybe you had to grow up with Fracas in the 1970s, and have a taste for super-charged, bold, or Middle Eastern perfumery in general. Second, Carnal Flower is one of those legendary scents that most people have already tried and have an opinion on, so there isn’t much point in quoting other reviews. At this point, it’s merely a case of comparing experiences, and providing a context for one’s perspective. 

Source: Basenotes.

Source: Basenotes.

What may be more useful is to compare Carnal Flower to other tuberose-centered fragrances in this genre. As noted above, Fracas is the reference and gold standard, but it is a very different fragrance as a whole. It’s more fleshly, heavy, opaque, and voluptuous. Alas, the new modern eau de parfum is also syrupy, sweet, and somewhat synthetic in feel. Carnal Flower’s essence is slightly closer to Le Labo‘s 2013 Lys 41 which is a similarly fresh white floral cocktail, but again there are differences. Lys 41 has the dewy, faintly metallic coolness of lily, not the green freshness from eucalyptus. It is also substantially creamier and more vanillic, thanks to the buttery notes provided by the Tahitian gardenia or tiaré. On my skin, Carnal Flower’s coconut was neither particularly noticeable in an individual, distinct way nor tropical in nature, but Un Lys definitely had that undertone. 

Source: hdwallpaperspics.com

Source: hdwallpaperspics.com

Serge LutensTubereuse Criminelle is much more significant, as Malle and Ropion were clearly influenced by the Lutens version which preceded Carnal Flower by six years. The 1999 Tubereuse Criminelle has a heavily mentholated, rubbery, almost diesel-like and leathered blackness to its opening eucalyptus notes. It is more masculine, bold, intense, and forceful (in both body and projection), before softening and eventually turning into something very golden and warm with vanilla and styrax. It never feels green and fresh, let alone watery, and it is also a much more difficult fragrance than the easier, more accessible Carnal Flower. I suspect that is why Malle’s tuberose scent edges out the Lutens as the favorite modern tuberose.      

The Perfume Shrine has a fantastic rundown of Carnal Flower’s place on the tuberose spectrum, beginning with the reference benchmark, Fracas:

The history of tuberose in perfumery passes through that parfum phare as the French say (a “lighthouse perfume”, a landmark more like it): Fracas, conceived by the fauvist Germaine Cellier for Robert Piguet, with its fleshy, lush contradicting qualities edged upon the two extremes: creamy, candy-ish beauty and violent hystrionics leading to decay. Blonde by Versace is its poorer , aspiring -and rather successful- imitator with a flamboyant style that is very Italian, a civet come-hither innuendo and quite pleasant in calculated moderation especially in extrait de parfum. Serge Lutens Tubéreuse Criminelle presents a peculiar problem : one has to wait for the crucial first 15 minutes, when the demonic camphor note subsides, giving reign to the glorious creaminess and silky softness of the flower. Caron’s Tubereuse is very radiant , yet perfume-y although lighter and not suited to today’s sensibilities, I find. Carolina Herrera (the original one by the famous designer) is a bit too operatic, being so much infused with another bombshell : jasmine. Some of the rest (Lauder’s Private Collection Tuberose Gardenia and Do Son by Diptyque) are either more positioned towards gardenia or too light for carnal aspirations. Vamp a NY by Honore des Pres is more candied than that and with a generous helping of pink jasmine, although equally magnificent. Tuberose perfumes are a real continent: there are variations in the verdure to suit everyone. [Emphasis to names and bolding added by me.]

Candace Bergen via Pinterest.

Candace Bergen via Pinterest.

The Perfume Shrine helped me understand why Carnal Flower leaves me giving a Gallic shrug. It’s not “operatic.” I happen to love and own the Carolina Herrera scent that she mentions (I told you I loved tuberose), and its rich tuberose-jasmine duet is like Maria Callas in full aria. Though it’s increasingly hard to find now, it was once the signature fragrance of Angelina Jolie and the actress may be the perfect embodiment of the scent, while Carnal Flower fits the young Candice Bergen much better. She was lovely with fresh, golden, California girl looks, so the comparison is not intended to be an insult at all. It’s merely a difference in style.

Plus, as the Perfume Shrine says so well, Malle was clearly seeking to do something very different: “Carnal Flower was from the beginning a mission into offering something different.” He wanted not only the feel of Southern California, but Candace Bergen’s clean beauty with

a seemingly fresh scent, something that will titillate the nostrils and the mind. The camphor note, reminiscent of eycalyptus leaves, is a necessity: At once freeing the weight of the inherent indolic character of the blossom, which browns as it decays, and imitating the exhalation of tuberose in nature: greenish and somewhat mentholic from afar.  Yet the mentholated note does not make a grand appearence in Carnal Flower like it does in Tubéreuse Criminelle: the composition is therefore less striking, arguably less thought-provoking, but more wearable by more people as a result. Not a jarring note in sight; even the fruitier notes, like coconut and melon, are interspersed through sleight of hand to evoke freshness and sensuousness. Like Candice Bergen, it’s beautiful, but then again, not without wits or substance, and although undeniably sensual and sexy, it is high class and a lady, not a slut, at all times. 

I agree with her fully, even if I prefer more thought-provoking or operatic scents. Carnal Flower is indeed beautiful, elegant, and refined. It’s also incredibly easy to wear, though I’m probably the lone weirdo who thinks its restraint and simplicity makes it more of a daily scent than a special occasion one. I highly doubt anyone else would think Carnal Flower is the breezy thing to quickly spray on to run errands or to visit the vet. For me, if I were to opt for tuberoses on a date night or evening out, it would always be vintage Fracas or the eponymous Carolina Herrera scent.

In my admitted skewed and distorted opinion, the only thing that would put Carnal Flower into the more “special” category is its very high price. The smallest bottle costs $240 or €160, though there are more affordable travel-sized sprays that are also available. Is it worth it? If you love fresh, green, barely indolic tuberose, then most definitely yes! If you can’t stand big white flowers, or even moderately indolic scents, then obviously you should stay away. Carnal Flower may be greener than most tuberose scents, but it’s not that fresh.

All in all, Carnal Flower is gorgeous by the average person’s (white floral) standards, and a very modern take on the tuberose opulence of old. It has decent sillage and good longevity as well. I think it skews wholly feminine in nature, but I do know men who wear Carnal Flower. In fact, one of my best friends can’t live without his “Carnal Flora” which he confidently wears to the office without a second thought. Other men, however, seem to prefer the bolder, darker Lutens’ fragrance. And I prefer to stick to the even bolder, operatic, old-school versions. In all cases, and regardless of gender, I think it’s going to come down to the sort of white flowers that you like.   

Cost & Availability: You can purchase Carnal Flower in a variety of different forms and sizes. On his website, Malle offers: a small 50 ml/1.7 oz bottle for $240 or €160; or a large 100 ml/3.4 oz bottle for $350 or €235. On the EU website, there is the option of 3 travel-sized sprays in a 10 ml size for €105. In the U.S., there is also a Carnal Flower hair mist which costs $160 for 100 ml. Finally, in EU and U.S. both, there is a 200 ml body butter cream for $215 or €140. In the U.S.: You can find Carnal Flower at Barneys which offers all the different versions of the scent, except for the EU travel spray option. In NYC, Aedes offers Carnal Flower in the 3×10 ml travel sprays for $160, along with the other versions of the scent but not the 50 ml bottle. Elsewhere, you can find it at Forty Five Ten, and there are other U.S. retailers listed on the Malle website at the store link below. Outside of the U.S.: you can find Carnal Flower at Frederic Malle’s International/EU website and in his Paris boutiques. In Canada, Carnal Flower and Malle fragrances are exclusive to Holt Renfrew which only offers the 100 ml bottle of the scent for CAD$385. In the UK, it is sold at London’s Liberty, though it only offers the 100 ml (for £210) or the body butter. However, Les Senteurs has Carnal Flower in the small and travel sizes, and sells samples. Elsewhere, you can find Carnal Flower at Skins in the Netherlands (in all versions from the travel sprays to the 50 ml bottle), Italy’s Alla Violetta, Australia’s Mecca Cosmetica (the online site only offers the 100 ml for AUD$350), Dubai’s Harvey Nichols, Saudi Arabia’s D’NA, Singapore’s Malmaison by the Hour Glass, and many others. For all other countries, you can use the Store Locator to find a location nearest you from Japan to South Africa. Samples: If you want to test Carnal Flower, Surrender to Chance sells it starting at $8.99 for a 1 ml vial.

La Via del Profumo Tawaf: Mata Hari’s Jasmine

Mata Hari, 1905, via Pinterest.

Mata Hari, 1905, via Pinterest.

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

Tawaf via the Profumo website.

Tawaf via the Profumo website.

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

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

The Ka’abah or Kaaba. Source: upww.us

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

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

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

The following is the succinct list of notes:

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mata Hari via euroxpress.es

Mata Hari via euroxpress.es

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: picsfab.com

White honey and white flowers. Source: picsfab.com

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

Source: Robert.Maro.net

Source: Robert.Maro.net

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

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

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

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

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

She also adds something else that I agree with wholeheartedly:

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

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

Source: Hdwallpaperes.com

Source: Hdwallpaperes.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mata Hari via Wikipedia.

Mata Hari via Wikipedia.

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

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

Tableau de Parfums/Andy Tauer Ingrid: Antique Florals

Ingrid is a fragrance from Tableau de Parfums, the collaboration between the Swiss perfumer, Andy Tauer, and the American, Memphis-based, indie filmmaker, Brian Pera (who is also a perfume blogger at I Smell Therefore I Am).

Women's Picture. Source: Fragrantica.

Women’s Picture. Source: Fragrantica.

There are three Tableau fragrances (Miriam, Loretta, and Ingrid) and, as the Tableau Parfums website at Evelyn Avenue explains, each one is an olfactory representation of a particular female character in Brian Pera’s film series, Woman’s Picture. According to the website, “Woman’s Picture is an anthology film inspired by classic women’s films of the thirties, forties, and fifties. The story is divided into three sections, each of which presents a portrait of a specific female character.” I’d previously reviewed the tuberose Loretta, but couldn’t wait to try Ingrid given its oriental notes.

Source: Fragrantica

Source: Fragrantica

Ingrid was released late in 2013, and is an eau de parfum in concentration. Tableau de Parfums describes the scent as follows:

A fragrant floral gem in an elegant oriental casket, Ingrid is a rich woody floral inspired by classical scents of the fifties, full of contrasts. Draperies of citrus and spices open the stage for sensual frangipani and roses, with hints of lily of the valley adding softness to the flower heart. These rich feminine notes are anchored by a chord of precious woods and resins in the base. Vanilla, tolu and sandalwood add an exotic twist, and underline with the contrasting lines of dark cistus and smoky balsamic styrax the feminine melody. […]

Andy Tauer on Ingrid: “Ingrid is unique, a strong character, yet soft and feminine. She is a beautiful woman, who developed her style, found herself, she is present and demanding, with a past full of questions, unanswered. Her flower is frangipani. I have no doubt.”

Fragrantica and Luckyscent say the notes are:

Bergamot, orange, lemon, cinnamon, clove, Frangipani [or Plumeria], rose, lily of the valley [Muguet], sandalwood, tolu [balsam], cistus, vanilla, styrax

Source: apartmenttherapy.com

Source: apartmenttherapy.com

Ingrid opens on my skin with lily of the valley and dust, followed by an oddly stale, sharp, leathered, sweetness that smells like styrax resin that has gone a bit off or turned rancid. Seconds later, there is ISO E Super, more dust, a vanillic sweetness, and powdered rose. The lily of the valley tries to add some freshness but it is such a delicate aroma and cannot counter the other elements. My overall sense is of extremely musty, fusty, sweet dust with an odd edge. It’s hard to describe but, to me, it smells like the stale air in a dusty attic that hasn’t been opened in decades. The ISO E Super is a light touch, and isn’t responsible for any of this at all.

Yet, at the same time, there is an undercurrent that is sickly sweet. I suspect the latter stems from the frangipani or plumeria, a flower whose scent I find sickly and quite difficult in general unless it’s handled very lightly. Here, the plumeria isn’t individually distinct in Ingrid’s opening moments, but I’m pretty sure it’s responsible for that particular, nauseating, cloying touch. It injects its syrup from a distance into the faintly leathered, “off” dark notes and the arid dust, creating a combination that I find quite discordant and just plain odd.

Source: wallpaper.metalship.org

Source: wallpaper.metalship.org

Other elements are smoothly blended into the background. There are flickers of cloves with a touch of cinnamon. Much more pronounced is the old-fashioned floral soapiness that dances all around. A soft touch of sweetened citruses lurks in the shadows, alongside the rose. The primary bouquet, however, is of ancient, antique dust with lily of the valley, followed by a touch of fusty greenness and soapiness, all nestled within the strong embrace of stale, somewhat rancid, dark sweetness.

I’m finding it incredibly hard to convey precisely because I can’t explain why I’m smelling what I am, or the extent of the strange combination. It’s akin to the fustiest of mineralised oakmoss, infused with styrax resin gone rancid, cloying sweetness, prickly aromachemicals, vanilla, flowers that feel dried and pressed in an ancient book, soap, and some strange dark element, all doused with the dust of ages.

There is an oldness to the aroma that reminds me of an old lady’s clothes in a closet that she hasn’t opened in years, but the dusty fabrics still carry the lingering traces of her floral perfume and the soap on her skin. I almost never find fragrances to be “old lady,” and it is a pejorative term that I find offensive, but if ever I were to use it, it would be for Ingrid. Most people give that label to heavy orientals or powdery scents, like Shalimar or L’Heure Bleue. I’ve never agreed with that and if I’m using the term here, it’s for a very different reason: the fetid dustiness of accumulated years. I’ve tried Ingrid twice, and with different quantities each time, but on both occasions, I had enormous difficulty with the opening because of that one reason.

The famous, recently discovered Paris apartment, untouched and unopened for 70 years. Source: DailyMail.com http://tinyurl.com/cweo355

The famous, recently discovered Paris apartment, untouched and unopened for 70 years. Source: DailyMail.com http://tinyurl.com/cweo355

Twenty-five minutes in, Ingrid starts to change. The stale, sharp mustiness ceases to be the leading note, though it is still substantial and enormous. It now shares center stage with the soapiness and florals. The frangipani or plumeria makes its first appearance in a distinct way; the orange grows a whiff more noticeable; and the sweetened powder becomes more dominant. Then, the cloves rise up from the base, and… oh boy. I love cloves, passionately, but the note here takes on a medicinal undertone that strongly reminds me of American, clove-based, dentistry analgesics. At the same time, it’s pungent and, yes, dusty. In fact, it merely compounds Ingrid’s overall odd staleness, creating an aura of fusty antiques, florals with old-fashioned soap, strange sweetness, and spice.

Woman's dusty, antique dressing table and perfumes from the Paris time-capsule apartment. Source: Daily Mail.

Woman’s dusty, antique dressing table and perfumes from the Paris time-capsule apartment. Source: Daily Mail.

Ingrid finally softens about 45 minutes in, and the sillage drops. From a moderately strong opening, it now hovers two inches above the skin as a blur of powdered, sweet florals with medicinal, pungent cloves and a strong dash of vanilla powder over a slightly warm base. Nothing in the latter translates to my nose as richly ambered or darkly resinous. This is not the labdanum of Dior’s Mitzah or Serge Lutens’ Ambre Sultan. It’s not the smoky, leathered styrax resin that I’ve encountered in other perfumes either. In fact, Ingrid’s colour visuals would be powdered pastels with ribbons of brownness from the cloves, and greyness from the dust.

To my relief, the fusty staleness slowly diffuses and weakens, making Ingrid a touch easier to bear. At the 90-minute mark, Ingrid merely smells like old-fashioned, 1930s-style, feminine, powdered florals, instead of being dominated by dust from that same era. The perfume remains largely the same for several more hours to come, though the plumeria or frangipani takes the lead as the main flower, followed by the rose. The always subtle muguet has faded away completely, while the soapiness retreats to the sidelines. However, the cloves continue to blast away, though, thankfully, they’ve lost their medicinal undertone. Lurking all about is an amorphous, indistinct, dry woodiness that has the tiniest hint of something smoky about it. It’s hard to detect though, given the sweetened powder that now infuses Ingrid from top to bottom.

Plumeria or frangipani.

Plumeria or frangipani.

Ingrid’s notes slowly grow hazy and abstract, with only the plumeria and cloves really standing out. If you smell really hard and up close, the rose pops up once in a while in the background to add a very muted, muffled hint of Damask-like richness, but it’s usually indistinct on my skin. The plumeria feels unctuous, while the cloves now remind me of a Christmas baked ham. And the sweetened, vanillic powder infused them both. Yet, even those notes become blurry and nebulous around the end of the 4th hour. Soon, Ingrid turns into a soft, generalized, vaguely frangipani-like, floral powder with vanillic sweetness and cloves.

What is interesting, however, is the base which turns increasingly warm and ambered. It’s a largely abstract amber, to my nose. It doesn’t feel distinct or individual enough to separate out into labdanum amber at all, but just feels like a warm, spiced, slightly leathered, dry goldenness. Call me crazy, but the Tauerade signature seems to take on some Caronade similarities. Or perhaps the cloves in Ingrid are so dominant that, in conjunction with the growing amber, it makes parts of Ingrid resemble Caron‘s clove-based Poivre in its foundational elements. The big difference here is the plumeria with its nauseatingly sickly sweetness.

By the end of the 7th hour, Ingrid turns into a sweetened, powdery, floral oriental with plumeria nestled in a spiced ambered nest. It’s also a skin scent at this point. Oddly, the ISO E Super suddenly becomes much stronger, adding a prickly, peppered, jangling bit of dryness to the base, though it’s not enough to cut through the plumeria’s syrup. The cloves fold into the Tauer base which is actually quite nice, and well-balanced between the dry and warm elements. As a whole, though, the perfume is largely a nebulous blur of powdered, very sweet florals atop a warm base with some dryness and abstract spiciness. Ingrid remains largely unchanged until its end when, 11.25 hours from the start, it fades away as a blur of warm sweetness.

Skin chemistry is a funny thing, and I blame my own for whatever vagaries occurred with the dust, and the “off,” almost rancid, dark-sweet accord. I also need to repeat what regular readers know all too well: I don’t like scents that are either powdered florals, sweetened powder, or soapy. Having all five things together — at the same time — made Ingrid extremely difficult for me. I tried to like it, I really did, but my skin simply wouldn’t comply. The first time I wore it, with just a small amount, I came within inches of scrubbing it off after only 20 minutes, and it takes a lot for me to get to that level. To my surprise, the ISO E Super was very powerful at the lower dosage, but that wasn’t the problem at all. The difficulty was the dryness and fustiness which, in the opening 25 minutes, is excessive on my skin, regardless of the quantity used.

1930s Vancouver street photo by Foncie Pulice. Source:  chronicallyvintage.com (Link to website with a series of super cool 1930s street photos embedded within. Click on photo.)

1930s Vancouver street photo by Foncie Pulice. Source: chronicallyvintage.com (Link to website with a series of super cool 1930s street photos embedded within. Click on photo.)

In fact, the dry dustiness I experienced with Ingrid far surpassed anything in L’Air du Desert Marocain. Relatively speaking, that fragrance almost verges on the gourmand in comparison to Ingrid’s start on my skin. Plus, LDDM was never fusty or dated in feel. While Ingrid eventually loses its arid mustiness, it is simply replaced by old-fashioned floral powder and dusty cloves in a way that simply doesn’t work for my personal tastes. I kept imagining a woman from the 1930s or 1940s: older, relatively well-dressed, somewhat matronly in sensible clothing, and who had worn the same comfortingly powdered, floral scent since she was a young bride.

Others, however, seem to really like Ingrid, and had completely different perceptions or associations. The review on the blog, I Scent You A Day, reads, in part:

Ingrid is earthy and reminds me of birch or tar or dried bracken. There is winter spice too, but not in a chintzy Christmas way, you’ll be relieved to know. The Rose is prevalent, and as with other Tauer scents, no Rose is the same twice.  In this case, the Rose reminds me of dried petals in a pot pourri- they have gone paper thin and their colour has faded but their scent has gone faintly peppery. Nevertheless it can still be recognised as Rose.

Ingrid is rich and spicy, but dry rather than sweet. It left me thinking I could smell the deep dark scent of Myrrh, but it may have been the resinous Styrax which is used so beautifully.

On my skin, the base notes of Ingrid are Clove, dried Roses, Resin and Frangipani. It’s rich, dark and mysterious yet the ingredients have been used lightly enough not to overwhelm.

If further proof were ever needed for how skin chemistry makes everything different from person to person, consider the experience of WAFT… What a Fragrance Fanatic Thinks:

Andy Tauer has created a fragrance that is all  at once foody , pillowy , warm , comforting – in a word delicious . Ingrid just fits my mood and makes me want glue my nose to my wrist . Ingrid never frowns , never argues nor challenges .
This fragrance flows from sunshine and tart nectar and I loved it at first whiff . The frangipani note is so perfect…It lasts a good six hours on skin ( probably longer if you don’t cook or wash dishes – I do .) Ingrid reminds me of a fluffy whipped cream and rice confection called Glorified Rice , which has bits of tart mandarin slices in it .
If I had any complaint it would be the early drydown of Ingrid falls a little flat , but eventually smooths out .

On Fragrantica, there is only one review for Ingrid thus far:

The Cloves and Frangipani make this a great choice for Autumn and Winter. I didn’t get any Lily of The Valley: to me this is dark and full of shadows and mystery.

Ingrid wasn’t my cup of tea, but we’re all different and have different tastes, not to mention different skin chemistry. So, if Ingrid’s notes sound appealing to you, and if you enjoy either frangipani or some of Andy Tauer’s drier fragrances, then give her a sniff. 

Cost & Availability: Ingrid is an eau de parfum that comes in a 50 ml/1.7 oz bottle that costs $160 or €135, and which comes with a free DVD and movie poster. Ingrid is also available in a small 7 ml travel spray that costs $40. In the U.S.: you can buy Ingrid in all sizes directly from Tableau de Parfums, along with Luckyscent. Tableau de Parfums only ships domestically. I’ve read that the line is also sold at Portland’s The Perfume House, but it is not listed on their website. Outside the U.S.: In Europe, you can find Ingrid at Germany’s First in Fragrance which sells the perfume for €135.00 and the travel size for €39. It too carries samples. In the UK, Scent & Sensibility carries Tableau de Parfums, and sells Ingrid for £110, with the purse spray for £25. In Italy, you can find the Tableau de Parfums line at Milan’s Profumi Import, but I’m not clear about price or if they have an e-store. Tableau de Parfums fragrances are also sold at a handful of other locations in Europe, from Marie-Antoinette in Paris, to Switzerland and Lithuania. You can find that information on the company’s websiteSamples: You can get a sample of Ingrid from Luckyscent for $4 for a 0.7 ml vial, or The Perfumed Court, where prices start at $6.99 for a 1/2 ml vial. Loretta is not sold at Surrender to Chance.