Tom Ford Violet Blonde

When Tom Ford announced the release of his Signature Collection of perfumes in the fall of 2011, his first creation seemed to complement his new make-up line. It was Violet Blonde, a fragrance that ostensibly celebrated the delicate world of the flower that it was named after. Even the print ads seemed to support that point. Appearances can be deceiving.

Lara Stone photographed by Mert & Marcus. Source: Styleitup.com

Lara Stone photographed by Mert & Marcus. Source: Styleitup.com

According to the Tom Ford press release quoted by Nordstrom, Violet Blonde is an eau de parfum meant to represent “a new era of feminine glamour.” The description goes on to read:

Tom Ford Violet Blonde is an opulent fragrance that reveals a stunning new facet of violet: ravishing, intriguing elegance. Made with some of the most precious ingredients in the world, it is crafted according to the finest traditions of European perfumery.

Top notes: violet leaf absolute, Italian mandarin and baie rose.
Middle Notes: Tuscan orris [iris] absolute, Tuscan orris butter and jasmin sambac sampaquita.
Bottom Notes: benzoin, cedarwood, vetiver absolute, silkolide and soft suede.

Photo: gardenersblog.jerseyplantsdirect.com

Photo: gardenersblog.jerseyplantsdirect.com

Violet Blonde opens on my skin with a potent burst of green, crunchy, leafy, and peppery notes. You can almost feel the fuzzy, soft leaves of a bunch of violets or pansies, except they are covered with pepper. The scent of the actual violets themselves, however, feels hidden and muffled, as though they were shielded behind the leafy green notes. On my skin, they are a whisper of a suggestion at best, feeling dewy and faintly earthy. The violets and their powerful green leaves are all nestled at the base of a dry tree, though the note doesn’t feel very much like cedar to me but more akin to an abstract woodiness. Seconds later, sweetness seeps through like a creeping puddle approaching the flowers, covering them with a delicate, thin syrup. It’s not ridiculously sweet or gourmand; it’s more like clear corn syrup than heavy, gooey honey.

Pink peppercorns. Source: spicestationsilverlake.com

Pink peppercorns. Source: spicestationsilverlake.com

The purple, green, and brown canvas is quickly splattered with splotches of pink from the pink peppercorns, and with cream from a slightly sharp musk. It’s not the clean or white variety, but it has the subtlest touch of freshness about it, serving to lift up the other notes to make them seem lighter than they actually are. As regular readers know, I’m not at all a fan of synthetic musks, and my nose is very sensitive to their strength, so I’m not a fan of this part of Violet Blonde. Thankfully, the note is relatively minor at this point, though that ends up changing later.

Deep in the base, there lurks an extremely subtle vein of fruitiness. It is indistinct and abstract, but it certainly doesn’t smell like mandarin to me. What’s interesting is how the combination of the pink pepper berries and the musk have created the feel of a general pink fruitiness that is lightly spiced. There is a subtle jamminess to the fruit, too, almost as if purple, fruited patchouli had been used.

Violet Leaf via gaertner-und-florist.at

Violet Leaf via gaertner-und-florist.at

All those notes lurk behind the peppery green leaves which are the dominant focus of the scent in the early minutes. The violet flower itself is very elusive, and it becomes even more so 8 minutes into the perfume’s development when the jasmine arrives. It is syrupy, sweet, and very heady. I love big white flowers, so I’m rather thrilled by all this, but the strength of the jasmine basically dooms the violet from every having a chance at a solo act on center stage. In fact, the violet slinks off to the sidelines with a whimper and basically sits out much of the rest of the fragrance like some sort of very embarrassed wallflower. It’s rather disappointing, but perhaps it’s a function of skin chemistry.

Trailing behind the jasmine is the first suggestion of something powdered. Orris is often used in makeup as a fixative and has a powdered aroma, as does iris. Here, there is the tiniest whisper of a rose-iris makeup powder undertone, though it is extremely subtle. Honestly, almost every note in this perfume is subtle and muted on my skin except for the crunchy, peppered leaves in the beginning, and then the jasmine and the musk.

Violet Blonde is quite potent in its opening moments. I used 3 decent sprays from a tiny atomizer, an amount which equals 2 small squirts from an actual bottle. Violet Blonde wafts about me in a billowy, potent cloud that feels as light as a feather, though it is extremely strong in smell. The airy weight of the fragrance is definitely misleading. Violet Blonde’s projection is initially good, wafting about 4 inches above the skin, though that starts to change extremely quickly. As you will see, the opening forcefulness is not characteristic of the scent as a whole.

Source: Hdwallpaperes.com

Source: Hdwallpaperes.com

The jasmine soon becomes Violet Blonde’s driving force. Within 20 minutes, its sweetness cuts through a good portion of the perfume’s greenness. Oddly, I can smell more of the actual violet flower now — as opposed to its leaves — than I did at the start, though it keeps playing a peekaboo game with me from the sidelines. On a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the strongest, I would put the violet note at a 3.5 now, perhaps a 4 for a brief moment. It had begun as a 1.5, so it is an improvement, but it’s all very relative. At the same time, the powder and cedar elements also grow stronger. As a whole, Violet Blonde smells of sweet florals dominated by jasmine and thoroughly infused with leafy, peppered, violet leaves. The main bouquet is lightly flecked by powder, cedar, the violet flower itself, pink peppered berries, and a touch of fresh musk.

Jasmine Rouge.

Jasmine Rouge.

Violet Blonde feels like a juxtaposition of contrasts: heavy but light; headily floral but crisply fresh; sweetly dewy but peppered green; a touch earthy but also a touch powdered; understated and, yet, bold as well. It has that signature Tom Ford opulence, but it is ratcheted down from the levels of many of his Private Blend fragrances. Violet Blonde is not demure, but it is also not particularly flashy or va-va-voom either. Those last two words are what I’d use to describe Violet Blonde’s sibling in the Signature Collection line, Jasmine Rouge, which was released shortly afterwards and which is spectacularly heady in its intensity and punch. Violet Blonde is not. Yet, it feels much less subdued than Tom Ford’s recently discontinued Private Blend Black Violet. On my skin, the latter was quite anemic, muted, and quiet indeed. It also had extremely disappointing projection that didn’t feel like a Tom Ford fragrance at all, never mind one of his Private Blend ones.

Violet Blonde seems to fall midway on the Tom Ford spectrum of power, heaviness, and projection, especially after 40 minutes when it turns much softer. The sillage slowly drops to about 1-2 inches above the skin. The perfume’s weight feels as though it has been cut by 30%, perhaps because the jasmine has now blended into the overall fragrance and has lost a lot of its syrupy sweetness. The powder notes are now much stronger, too.

Sketch: Walter Logeman at ThousandSketches.com

Sketch: Walter Logeman at ThousandSketches.com

At the end of the first hour, Violet Blonde turns more abstract, and the notes all blur into each other. The sillage drops even further. The overall bouquet is of a woody, slightly powdered jasmine with musk. It is only lightly flecked by green, leafy, peppered notes, and they grow increasingly weak. The powder isn’t enormous; we’re not talking Guerlainade levels by any means. It feels more like a light dusting over the jasmine than a strong, core element. One thing is for certain, the iris is not showing its strong, cold, carroty, or dank facets at all. As for the rose, it’s really a no-show on my skin, though there is sometimes a suggestion of it lurking about the powder. I suspect that is merely my mind making a mental association with the sort of powdery rose smell that some makeup or lipsticks can have.

Violet Blonde is very pretty, but I’m really not keen on the growing forcefulness of the musk which pushes aside the green leafiness, the powder, and everything else it sees. Everything but the jasmine. The musk smells sharp to my nose, and is definitely synthetic. Thankfully, it’s not the fresh, white, laundry, “clean” type, or I’d go out of my mind. Still, it grows stronger and stronger as time passes. All too soon, Violet Blonde devolves to a simple jasmine musk on my skin with some abstract woody notes.

Violet Blonde is a very linear scent whose core essence doesn’t change during the rest of its evolution. All that happens is that the jasmine and musk fluctuate in terms of their strength. At times, Violet Blonde feels as though it has turned wholly abstract, and the notes (other than that musk) have lost all individual shape or identity. To be precise, it starts to smell like nothing more than a generic “floral, woody musk” on my skin. At other times, however, the jasmine appears as a distinct element, before it sinks back down into the general cloud. At the start of the 2nd hour, Violet Blonde’s sillage hovers just an inch above the skin. 60 minutes later, the perfume turns into a complete skin scent. It’s quite a surprise to have a Tom Ford fragrance turn so discreet after 120 minutes.

Catherine Jeltes Painting, "Modern Brown Abstract Painting WinterScape." Etsy Store, GalleryZooArt, linked within. (Click on photo.)

Catherine Jeltes Painting, “Modern Brown Abstract Painting WinterScape.” Etsy Store, GalleryZooArt, linked within. (Click on photo.)

For hours, Violet Blonde continues its trajectory as a simple, sweet, powdered jasmine scent with abstract woodiness and sharp musk. By the end of the 5th hour, there are a two small changes in the base. First, a creamy undertone appears which is lovely. It’s like sweetened woods with a distinct vanillic edge. The latter clearly stems from the benzoin listed in the notes. Second, there is a subtle vein of jammy sweetness that reappears deep down. I can’t pinpoint the source, but, again, it almost feels like a touch of fruit-chouli or purple patchouli. As a whole, Violet Blonde is now an abstract floral scent on a base of creamy woods that are lightly flecked by a vanillic benzoin and strongly infused with fresh musk. The jasmine is just barely distinguishable; all the rest of the notes have faded away or turned wholly indistinct.

The musk starts to finally mellow out and pipe down by the middle of the 7th hour. To my surprise, the violet flower makes a brief, 30-minute reappearance on the sidelines. I guess it was waiting for the musk to shut up in order to make a visit, but it’s still a very shy, quiet, and muted affair. As a whole, Violet Blonde remains on its simple course: a sweet floral musk with creamy woods. The powder fades away by the middle of the 9th hour, as does a lot of the musk, leaving only creamy floral sweetness as the perfume’s dominant characteristic. Violet Blonde remains that way until the end when it dies in a blur of something vaguely floral. All in all, it lasted just over 11.25 hours with very soft, discreet sillage after the end of the 2nd hour.

Photo: Temptalia, with grateful thanks.

Photo: Temptalia, with grateful thanks.

Violet Blonde has generally received very good reviews. I’ll start with my friend, Temptalia, who isn’t even particularly into floral scents but who found Violet Blonde to be “elegant, polished, and subtly feminine–ultimately, a sophisticated, layered scent that’s not as heavy or as daunting as Tom Ford’s Private Blend Collection, but in some ways, more refined.” Her review reads, in part:

It opened with strong burst of floral notes with a sweetened, fruit-laced edge over a backdrop of peppery greens. There was an inkling of the greenness from the violet leaf when it opened, but it quickly transitioned to fragrant, floral jasmine, which was the prevailing note on my skin for some time. The jasmine blended with the rooty qualities of the orris (iris root), so it was cool and just softer than crisp; like the first few days of fall, where the air coolly caresses and you realize the seasons have just changed.

I appreciated the damp, mustiness the orris notes imparted–they enhanced the depth and added another layer of nuance.  It made it distinctly autumnal for me [….]  It’s fresh and green and lovely.

Violet Blonde encapsulates some of those qualities–the freshness and green crispness of autumn–but it is more floral than anything else.  It never turned achingly sweet, which is a direction that tends to remind me of youthfulness, and instead, it evolved to an earthy jasmine with soft, creamy woods that took away some of the edginess of the opening of the scent but made it more wearable.

We had an extremely similar experience, right down to the lovely creamy touch that arrives in Violet Blonde’s drydown. I agree fully with her sentiment that Violet Blonde feels elegant, while not being as heavy or intense as many of the Private Blend line. Where we differ is in the feeling of autumn, as I felt Violet Blonde felt more like Spring, but that’s all an emotional, subjective response. (Plus, I’m writing this at the arrival of Spring, so I’m definitely being influenced by that factor. The perfume was released in Autumn 2011, so that might have played a role in the early reviews.)

Source: shamshyan.com

Source: shamshyan.com

Autumn was also on the mind of Bois de Jasmin who gave Violet Blonde a positive review as well:

Although the perfume is called Violet Blonde, the violet in this composition figures more as a green, crunchy leaf, rather than the raspberry redolent flower. As the fragrance settles into the skin, there is a flash of soft, tender violet petals. The delicate sweetness is a very appealing counterpoint to the peppery-green layers that follow. Soon, a strong jasmine note gives its rich hue to the floral and green notes. The cool iris lends Violet Blonde its austere, earthy quality, and when contrasted with the plush jasmine, the effect is memorable and surprising.

The wet, green woody notes underpin the radiant floral core of Violet Blonde, giving it an autumnal feeling of chrysanthemum petals clinging to damp earth. While the leafy and peppery sparkle persists throughout the perfume’s development, there is a musky softness to the drydown that makes Violet Blonde less edgy than it might have appeared initially. It is both a plus and a minus, because while the softness makes the fragrance more wearable, it also reduces its character. Like Balenciaga Paris, Violet Blonde feels too timid to truly make a statement. On the other hand, even if it does not strike me as a bombshell perfume, Violet Blonde is a well-crafted composition. Elegant and polished, it would make a great daytime perfume, a comfortable silk slip of a fragrance.

Source: swirlydoos.com

Source: swirlydoos.com

For Now Smell This, Violet Blonde was “polished chic,” and their review reads, in part, as follows:

Violet Blonde is soft and cushy-powdery, as is the current fashion, but it’s loudly so, in keeping with Tom Ford’s aesthetic. […] The opening is a heady mix of citrus, sweet fruit, violet leaf and violet (violet fans take note: it does smell like violet in the early stages). It’s green early on, and peppery throughout. The fruit notes soften as the top notes dissipate, and the violet fades into a jasmine-heavy floral mixed with a dry, peppery iris. The jasmine is clean, with fruity undertones, and it’s strong rather than rich: the ad copy repeatedly uses the word opulence, but it’s a decidedly modern sort of opulence. The base is pale earthy woods, smooth and creamy, and mostly clean — as was the case with White Patchouli, the earthy notes are there, but they’ve been worked over with a fine-toothed comb; there’s no must or skank whatsoever. […][¶]

Violet Blonde in particular has that same feel of “polished chic” that verges on formal (formal, polished and chic also feature in the ad copy). I likened Black Orchid to a ball gown, and White Patchouli to the upscale New York all-in-black look (trousers, a black turtleneck and boots, big sunglasses, sleek hair, one big piece of jewelry). Violet Blonde, the purple-tinged advertising notwithstanding, I’d put in shades of beige and tan, something rather like the perfectly tailored ladies-who-lunch [wear.][…]

Source: Fabfitfun.com

Source: Fabfitfun.com

I very much agree with her sentiment of a polished chic that is rather in-between things. It relates back to my point on how Violet Blonde feels as though it is midway on the spectrum between something like Jasmine Rouge (or the bold Private Blends), and the more understated fragrances in the line. For whatever reason, the image which repeatedly came to my mind was that of Sharon Stone from the Oscars long ago in 1998, when she made news by pairing her husband’s simple, white, crisp GAP shirt with an opulent Vera Wang ball gown in violet.    

Lest all this sound like Violet Blonde is filled with nothing but fabulousness, let me make clear that the perfume isn’t for everyone. Obviously, you must like both jasmine and powder, and you should not expect a ton of the actual violet flower. Some people seem to struggle with the peppered, green leaves, as witnessed by a few comments on Fragrantica, while others have problems with other aspects of the scent, including its weak sillage. Some of the negative reviews: 

  • The first hour is a torture for me – can’t put up with e cold top notes? However, it becomes more and more unique as it warms up on the skin and blends into the chemistry of the skin. a dry down seems to me very similar to Chanel Allure.. Overall, very interesting and intriguing fragrance. Love it on someone else, rather than on me.
  • Its nice enough but I am slightly disappointed by this ‘mousy’ perfume – I expected Violet Blonde to smell sharp, fresh and more blueish… But its very subtle – it opens with diffuse powder and hints of muted violet. The dry down on my skin is very sweet and musky – like condensed milk. Its much better on clothing – then the violet is more detectable and it has a nice smoky quality.
  • I really really like this perfume but it is so weak… It wears like an eau de cologne on me, I must be anosmic to a fragrance for the first time in my life? [¶] Contrary to several reviewers here I adore the sharp opening. It’s a sexy car screeching to a halt, a dyed, blonde wearing something inappropriate opening the door mid-breaking. It’s awesome and exciting. [¶] After the promising beginning it stays and pleasantly tingles my senses for about 2 hours with suede and iris and a few aldehydic background notes but unfortunately fizzles out shortly after. The bodylicious Blonde becomes a shrinking violet….
  • Bananas, honey, spices, old makeup…the opening on this scent is so awful that I can’t even justify the drydown.
  • My nose does not translate this opening well at all. It just smells like nondescript perfume to me. Nothing stands out for a solid 15 minutes, it is just kind of a mish-mosh of different notes that do not really compliment or play upon each other. They all seem to be competing for first place and nothing is really winning. But if a winner must be chosen I guess it would be the pink pepper. [¶] It finally settles into a soft powdery violet/iris/jasmine that smells nice and rather polite and feminine. But it is nothing exciting or distinct. It just kinda smells like “perfume”.
  • 1972 beauty parlor top note. [¶] As an obsessed gardener, I cannot pick out a violet note at any point and the overall feeling is perfectly fine for downtown big city USA. And it’s not that I despise it, really, if I worked in an urban sophisticated environment and wanted to project the image of a confidant, don’t-mess-with-me woman, this would be perfect. As it is, it’s too mature for me at age fifty.

For every one of those negative reviews (or, in some cases, quasi-negative, mixed reviews), I can show you two more positive ones from other people on Fragrantica. Even the ones that start negatively soon turn positive. Then, there are the many who write long, gushing, rave reviews, calling Violet Blonde “classy,” or a “masterpiece.” My gut feeling about the negative reactions is that the peppered, powdered leafy notes are a stumbling block for some people, coming across as either harsh, too strong, or “beauty parlor”-like, before the jasmine’s sweetness cuts through it.

I’m also going to add that the musk (yes, that bloody musk!) creates a foundational element that feels similar to so many other fragrances out there, especially in conjunction to the creamy woods. I think that would explain the handful of comments comparing Violet Blonde’s drydown with Chanel‘s Allure. Honestly, when you’re getting into the “floral, woody musk” genre, when the florals turn abstract and indistinct, but sit upon a creamy wood base infused with that musk… well, they all end up smelling somewhat similar and generic. It’s not a positive thing in my eyes, and is one of the main reasons why I have such problems with the over-use of the musk in commercial scents.

I may not be as keen for Violet Blonde as some people out there, but I did thoroughly enjoy parts of it. While it doesn’t fit my tastes, I think people who enjoy very feminine, soft, powdered florals may want to give Violet Blonde a sniff. Those of you who love jasmine, in particular, may want to seek it out at one of the many department stores which carries the fragrance. Violet Blonde is a generally elegant, uncomplicated, feminine fragrance which is very well-priced for Tom Ford. It feels as refined as his Private Blend line, but for half the price, particularly as you can find it highly discounted at such places as Amazon or FragranceNet. As you can see in the Details section below, a 1.7 oz/50 ml bottle retails for around $110 but can be found for as low as $67. In contrast, Tom Ford’s Private Blend fragrances in that same size retail for $210, and usually can’t be found discounted at all.

 All in all, it’s a pretty scent that should suit some people very well. 

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Violet Blonde is an eau de parfum which generally comes 3 sizes: 1 oz/30 ml, 1.7 oz/50 ml, and 3.4 oz/100 ml. In the U.S.: you can find Violet Blonde at Sephora where it costs $72, $110, or $155, depending on size. Violet Blonde is also sold at Nordstrom in the larger $110 and $155 bottles. Other regular retailers include SaksNeiman Marcus, Macy’s, Barneys, and Bergdorf Goodman. Discount PricesAmazon discounts the $110 bottle for around $67 and it is supposedly sold by “Tom Ford.” Amazon also sells the tiny 1 oz/30 ml bottle for $56 through a 3rd party vendor. Another discount site is FragranceNet which sells Violet Blonde for roughly $69 and $101 in the larger sizes, with a coupon. FragranceNet has numerous different subsites by country, from Canada to Australia, the UK, EU, South Africa, and Scandinavian countries. To find the discounted price for your country, go to the little flag icon at the very, very top of the page on the far right, click it, choose your nation’s flag, and you’ll be taken to the site appropriate for you with its huge discounted rates. Outside the U.S.: You can find Violet Blonde discounted at various FragranceNet country sites. (See above.) For regular retailers: In Canada, you can find Violet Blonde at Sephora which sells it for CAD$68, CAD$120, or CAD$163, depending on size. I believe Tom Ford is also carried at Holt Renfrew. In the UK, Violet Blonde is priced at £50, £70, or £100, depending on the size of the bottle. You can buy it at House of Fraser for £70 for the 50 ml size. Violet Blonde is sold at Harrods or Selfridges in all 3 sizes. In France, you can find the entire Tom Ford line at Sephora, including Violet Blonde. Premiere Avenue sells the large size of Violet Blonde. Tom Ford is carried throughout the Middle East and Asia, but his website is currently undergoing a change, so I can’t give you his store locator guide for a location near you. SamplesSurrender to Chance sells Violet Blonde for $3.99 for a 1 ml vial. You can also go to any of the department stores listed above to give it a test sniff.

Stéphane Humbert Lucas 777 Khôl de Bahreïn: Ambered Iris

Photo: My own.

Photo: My own.

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

Stephane Humbert Lucas via CaFleureBon and Marieclaire.it.

Stephane Humbert Lucas via CaFleureBon and Marieclaire.it.

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

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

Source: Fragrantica

Source: Fragrantica

Blend of amber benzene.
Unguent with an intense trail.

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

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

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

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

Source: Soundcloud.com

Source: Soundcloud.com

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

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

toffee caramal nougat close up wallpaper

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

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

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

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

Photo: Crystal Venters via Dreamtime.com

Photo: Crystal Venters via Dreamtime.com

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

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

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

Source: nature.desktopnexus.com/

Source: nature.desktopnexus.com/

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: qcorrell.com

Source: qcorrell.com

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

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

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

Source: hdwallpapers4desktop.com

Source: hdwallpapers4desktop.com

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

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

Source: hdwallpapers4desktop.com

Source: hdwallpapers4desktop.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Sagma Corp.

Source: Sagma Corp.

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

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

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

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

Source: Fragrantica

Source: Fragrantica

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

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

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

Perris Monte Carlo Bois d’Oud

Honeyed oud, plummy fruits, the smoky smell of burnt leaves and singed wood interwoven with delicate florals, vanilla, and white creaminess, all combined in a mix that resembles some other well-known fragrances on the market before turning into its own creature — that’s the essence of Bois d’Oud, a fragrance from Perris Monte Carlo.

Source: Fragrantica.

Source: Fragrantica.

Perris Monte Carlo is a relatively new house that emerged in 2012. I’ve been curious about it for a while as it is based in my old home, so I obtained two samples of the line. The majority of the fragrances, including Bois d’Oud, were launched in 2012 in Europe, before later being released in the U.S. in 2013. I can’t find a company website to see how Perris would describe Bois d’Oud, only a lot of PR babble about how the company’s signature involves luxury, gold, and prestigiousness. It all sounds terribly nouveau riche and obnoxious, so let’s get directly to the perfume’s notes.

According to First in Fragrance, Bois d’Oud’s ingredients are:

Top Note: Bergamot
Heart Note: Peach, Plum, Jasmine, Iris, Rose, Orange Blossom
Base Note: Cedarwood, Agarwood (Oud), Patchouly, Vanilla, Ambergris, Labdanum (Rockrose), Musk

Honey and plums. Photo: Alice Carrier at Bread and Honey blogspot. (Website link embedded within photo.)

Honey and plums. Photo: Alice Carrier at Bread and Honey blogspot. (Website link embedded within photo.)

Bois d’Oud opens on my skin with the richness of honey-drenched oud, followed by plums, a patchouli rose, smokiness, and a toffee’d, dirty, labdanum amber. There are subtle strains of orange blossom, and, indeed, a light flicker of orange itself. The overall effect is of a multi-faceted, dark sweetness that is dominated by plummy fruit, oud, and honey.

Bois d’Oud’s opening immediately and instantly calls to mind Arabian Oud‘s Kalemat. The Perris fragrance is slightly different with more plums, a stronger oud presence, and the inclusion of orange blossoms in lieu of blueberries. It is also thinner, sheerer, and less opaque in feel than Kalemat’s opening. For a brief moment, Bois d’Oud also reminds me of an oud version of Serge LutensFille en Aiguilles, though there are even more differences with this one. Bois d’Oud is less plummy than that one, lacks the heavy frankincense element, has honey instead of brown sugar sap, includes a very noticeable strain of jammy rose, and its smokiness seems to stem from different sources. Throughout Bois d’Oud’s development, I kept feeling like I was smelling something akin to guaiac wood, with its aroma of burning leaves in a fall bonfire, as well as its occasional facet of stale dustiness. That’s all very different than Fille en Aiguilles. Ultimately, perhaps the combination of honeyed sweetness, slightly dirty ambered labdanum, oud and darkly plummy fruits is closer to a third fragrance that came to mind during Bois d’Oud’s development: Nasomatto‘s Black Afgano. Bois d’Oud opens like a mix of Kalemat and Black Afgano, before eventually moving closer to the latter.

Source: picsfab.com

Source: picsfab.com

10 minutes into its development, the notes in Bois d’Oud realign themselves. The plum takes a small step back, while the peach, orange blossom, and jammy patchouli rose step more to the foreground. The orange blossom adds a subtle (very subtle) soapy undertone to the fragrance, though it’s fleeting. The peach adds a different sort of fruitness, but it is the patchouli which is most prominent. It’s a purple fruitchouli that is thoroughly intertwined with the rose, but it doesn’t feel like dark molasses so much as syrup. Very sweet syrup that underscores the strong impression of honey. The oud, fruit and floral accords are quite drenched with both elements, creating the impression of stickiness, though the perfume is very airy in weight.

Source: ghulmil.com

Source: ghulmil.com

The whole bouquet is nestled in a cocoon of abstract woods and a subtle tinge of smokiness. As noted above, I keep feeling as though there should be guaiac wood listed in the notes, because something in Bois d’Oud replicates its particular form of singed dryness. It goes beyond the smell of mere cedar, though both woods can have a dusty, stale undertone like the one that appears later on in Bois d’Oud. In truth, I really don’t smell cedar in the way that I’m used to, and all the wood notes beyond the oud feel really indistinct in an individual manner. As for the oud, it is not medicinal, fecal, raw, or butch. It is merely honeyed, and a little bit musky.

Photo: TheCozyApron.com. (For a recipe for grilled cinnamon plums with honey and marscapone vanilla, click on the photo. Website link is embedded within.)

Photo: TheCozyApron.com. (For a recipe for grilled cinnamon plums with honey and mascarpone vanilla, click on the photo. Website link is embedded within.)

Bois d’Oud continues to shift. About 20 minutes in, the vanilla emerges in the base, along with what I can only describe as a white creaminess. It’s doesn’t feel like it comes wholly from the vanilla, though that does seep over into it. I can only describe it as something that is almost like white, honeyed beeswax, but not quite. It doesn’t smell waxy or even particularly honeyed, so perhaps it’s not an offshoot of labdanum (which can often take on those nuances), either. Whatever the source, it goes beyond a mere textural thing and is one of my favorite parts of Bois d’Oud, especially when it has that lightly vanillic flavour to it. Interestingly, as the vanilla creaminess grows stronger, the honey note that burst out of the gates grows weaker and thinner.

At the same time, the first glimmer of a dry, woody aromachemical appears. It emphasizes my early impression that the oud note is synthetic, not real. As Andy Tauer once noted in his blog, most purported “oud” fragrances on the market today use hardly any of the increasingly expensive, real ingredient, relying instead on chemical substitutes put into a cypriol base. It smells like that here with Bois d’Oud. At first, it is quite a subtle chemical twinge, thanks to the growing creaminess and soft vanilla that help to cushion the note. Later, though, it becomes a slightly different matter.

"Coffee and cream" Art Print by Shalisa Photography/ Sharon Lisa Clarke on FineartAmerica.com

“Coffee and cream” Art Print by Shalisa Photography/ Sharon Lisa Clarke on FineartAmerica.com

As a whole, Bois d’Oud at the end of 30 minutes is a well-blended bouquet of oud, patchouli rose, slightly vanillic creaminess, plum, and labdanum amber with flickers of orange blossoms, smokiness, and an abstract woodiness. Bois d’Oud still feels syrupy, but now it is from the purple fruitchouli more than from the honey. The peach lingers in the sidelines, but it is quite muted. It’s the same story with the cedar, and that subtle smokiness.

Bois d’Oud doesn’t change substantially for the next few hours. It drops in sillage at the start of the 2nd hour, hovering just 2 inches above the skin at best, and its weight feels as though it were cut by 60%. I keep having images of translucent cream tulle, splattered by plummy, purple fruitchouli and roses, then sprayed with a synthetic oud. Something in the base is taking on a faintly medicinal vibe, though it’s not the “pink rubber band-aid” smell that oud can sometimes have. Whatever it is, I’m not a fan. Equally disappointing is how that lovely vanilla and white, cream beeswax note is being increasingly overshadowed by a woody, stale dustiness that probably stems from the cedar.

Bois d’Oud turns into a skin scent about 2.5 hours in, though it easy to detect up close, thanks to the plummy, syrupy patchouli in particular. The honey, peach and orange blossoms have vanished, though the jammy rose lingers. The vanilla seems very muffled, while the aromachemical aspect is not. The focus of the scent is increasingly on oud and dry woods, infused with that creamy note and the subtle touch of abstract, stale dustiness. Bois d’Oud feels now like a Montale fragrance. You can take that how you will.

I’m obviously not enthused about this stage, but I have to say that Bois d’Oud recovers very well, changes again, and has an extremely nice drydown. Near the end of the 4th hour, Bois d’Oud takes on more ambered and earthy nuances. There is suddenly a lot of gritty, dark, golden amber lurking about the edges, creeping closer to the main stage. At the same time, there are undertones of something that smells like dry tobacco. Much more noticeable is a definite animalic muskiness that wafts about as well, adding a dirty earthiness and the tiniest, subtle touch of skankiness.

Source: samsunggalaxy.co

Source: samsunggalaxy.co

For the most part, Bois d’Oud is now a soft blend of creamy woods, oud, dirty labdanum amber, dryness, earthiness, and a tinge of animalic muskiness. The bouquet is still infused with roses and a syrupy sweetness, but both are much lighter touches that have been diffused or countered by the new elements. Unfortunately, Bois d’Oud has become very gauzy and thin, and you have to sniff really hard to detect its nuances.

The earthiness and skanky musk slowly fade away, and their place is taken by other elements. There is the faintest trace of soft, sweetened powder that briefly pops up in the base for about 40 minutes. Up to top, there is a subtle stale smokiness that flitters about. It’s not quite the smell of campfire ashes, nor the smell of burning leaves, but subtle parts of both, amidst the stronger smell of singed wood. It’s that guaiac wood impression that I talked about earlier As a whole, Bois d’Oud feels much drier at the end of the 5th hour and the start of the 6th, much more purely focused on its wood notes, though that quiet creaminess still remains.

Source: top.besthdwallpapers.info

Source: top.besthdwallpapers.info

Bois d’Oud’s notes slowly shift in terms of their prominence and order. For a few hours, the perfume consists of sweet oud, creaminess, amber, and dry woods, upon a base consisting of an aromachemical tinge and plumminess, all lightly flecked by that whisper of singed woods and dustiness. Slowly, though, the creaminess fades away and the amber takes over.

By the end of the 9th hour, Bois d’Oud is a gauzy blur of amber, followed by abstract woodiness and a lingering touch of sweetness. It’s very nice, and has almost a caramel undertone to it, thanks to the labdanum. At times, the syrupy jamminess of the patchouli rears its head, but generally the fragrance is centered on ambered woods in a mix of dryness with sweetness. That is how the perfume remains until its very end, almost 11.5 hours from the start.

Source: pugetsoundbites.wordpress.com

Source: pugetsoundbites.wordpress.com

On Fragrantica, people seem to really like Bois d’Oud. I was interested to see that the notes the people found most dominant were, in order: oud (22 votes), plum (18), vanilla (16), and patchouli (14). Several people picked up on the creaminess, which they found to be vanillic in nature. Others talk about the plums, sweetness, and, in one case, the peach. One woman compared Bois d’Oud to a Montale fragrance, a brand she says she loves, and wrote, in part:

the scent is quite a stunner. It is very similar to Velvet Aoud from Montale, only richer, sweeter and woodier. There is a plastic kind of aura which reminds me of Iris Ganache from Guerlain.

I cannot smell the bergamote they describe for the top notes. It’s had a syrupy feel, without being too sugary. The sweetness must come from the plum and the peach. I do not smell any flowers of any kind. There is a strong woody, forest-like smell, which isn’t fresh at all… Aoud is the most dominant note, along with dried fruits. Like dried plums and apricots, which have a lot of sweetness and a little saltiness in them. Lots of them! The roses and jasmine, if there, are totally hidden to my nose. Maybe the smallest amount of neroli and iris…. Cedar is listed, but cedar for me is always a “fresh” kind of wood, a little green…. I don’t smell that either… The woods in here are deep and dark. There is also a lot of ambregris which has a vanillary tone, but no distinctive vanilla. I cannot smell much musk or patchouli. No freshness here.

Overall, I would call this a fruity woody, if such a category existed…
Case and point: dried fruits + aoud + dark woods + ambregris. Great silage and longevity, fairly linear, becomes a tad fresher in the base, surprisingly. [Emphasis with bolding added by me.]

Source: spicewallpaper.blogspot.com

Source: spicewallpaper.blogspot.com

Other impressions of Bois d’Oud are:

  • one of the best Ouds on the market surpasses all Montale creations IMO, this could be a vintage M7 flanker, enough said!
  • The beginning, to me was all about the oud, not very sweet – quite earthy and musk-laden. It reminded me very much of M Micallef’s Oud Gourmet – and I didn’t find it at all fruity. About 5 hours later now, the vanilla has really come out and it feels more creamy. I’m really loving this dry down, but am sorry to not have experienced the plum notes and creaminess earlier on.
  • very special frag in a perfume world lately dominated by oud in all his forms ,this a sirupy quite sweet oud maybe one of the most feminine around ,it reminds me a lot of the first original not reformulated poison by dior ..anyway a definitely worth buying frag  7/10   [Emphasis to names with bolding added by me.]
Source: souq.com

Source: souq.com

On Basenotes, the very first review at the top of the page almost made snort with its amusing conclusion:

Perris is based in Monaco, the juice made in Italy, and the thrift store bling of the bottles is aimed straight at the Middle Eastern market.

Yes, I think the bottle’s bling definitely approaches the tacky level, and is not representative of Monaco. (I promise you, Monaco is not a vulgar place, at least it wasn’t when I lived there. This newcomer, Perris, seems to be quite a different kettle of fish, though.) The rest of the review from “Gimme Green” is interesting, and seems to reflect my perception of a stale dustiness underlying Bois d’Oud:

Dry, dark, dusty wood with touches of sweetish suede and hints of dry fruit. Faded rose petals crumble about it. Lived in and somewhat musty.
Has a shut in feel, so claustrophobics beware.
The oud is of a recognizable sort (something similar is in Dueto’s City Love) and I imagine this is one synthetic we’ll come across more and more.
It’s modest, un-fresh and a satisfying wear, if not exactly breaking new ground. An oud one can don and not be distracted by. Plumps out and opens up surprisingly in the deep drydown.

Suede. Source: seasonalcolor.yuku.com

Suede. Source: seasonalcolor.yuku.com

One commentator, “Darvant,” also detected a suede tonality, along with an incense-y rubberiness and a strong floral element that included the jasmine. He writes, in part:

So luxurious, stormy, spicy/fruity and intoxicating in its first explosion but in a while so silky, slightly powdery, delicately rubbery (almost as a golden musky/resinous suede). […] a tornado of diverse elements by soon interacting each other in an armonic olfactory orchestra as luxurious hesperides, mellow plummy/orangy fruits, sambac jasmine, exotic sweet spices and powdery iris (the latter in its heady and mastering role). By soon the spicy/fruity drama is encompassed and comforted by a soothing accord of mossy galbanum, smooth balsams, animalic resins and probably rubbery/incensey suede. The influencing iris provides hints of floral powder perfectly integrated with musks, star anise and suede. A touch of olibanum or just powdery iris, woodsy resins and velvety suede? Probably it’s the note of agarwood (as linked with iris and star anise) which provides a sort of suede/rubber (vaguely boots polish type of) boise vibe around. The sambac jasmine affords an incredibly glamour “icy” spark in the air, as well as combined with musky amber, anise, talky iris and may be aldehydes. Actually in conclusion a velvety rubbery suede type of vibe emerges from the storm with all its exotic silkiness. A dark patchouli provides structure and stableness for all the general oriental mélange.

PS. In the dry down the vanilla emerges and tames a bit the agarwood spicy “gassiness”. The agarwood resin smells slightly synthetic and some people can demur it but i add that this element does not understate the extreme sophistication of the olfactory performance and can’t veil in any way the beauty of its glamour modernity.

In sharp contrast to all those layers, a third Basenotes poster wrote that he or she detected nothing more than “dry woods… [b]ut it’s such a nice smell, that it’s more than enough. Not groundbreaking though.”

I agree with that last statement. Bois d’Oud is not a revolutionary or unusual scent, as all the perfume comparisons from me and various forum commentators should make clear, but it’s not identical like the others either. It is not as dark, dry or smoky as Black Afgano; it seems smoother, plummier, more gourmand at times, and sheerer. Despite the initial resemblance to Kalemat or to an oud version of Fille en Aiguilles, Bois d’Oud later turns into something quite different from either one. I haven’t tried Montale’s Velvet Aoud to know how it might compare, or the Micallef scent mentioned on Fragrantica, but I can say that I think Bois d’Oud differs from vintage M7. There are a few token similarities in terms of how oud is mixed with plummy, resinous, labdanum notes, but as a whole, the two fragrances are very different, in my opinion.

Perhaps the ultimate reason why Bois d’Oud stands slightly apart from similar takes on the plummy-oud genre is the inclusion of the vanilla, creaminess and dustiness. Half-gourmand, half-not. Is that enough for perfume lovers who own similar scents in the same style? I don’t know. It’s going to be an individual decision.

All in all, if you like very plummy oud fragrances with sweetness, amber and vanilla, you may want to give Bois d’Oud a sniff. It is firmly unisex, in my opinion, and has good longevity with decent sillage. The perfume is not hugely expensive per ounce at $150 or €125 for 100 ml of eau de parfum, especially as you can find it priced for less than retail. Will it blow your socks off? I highly doubt it, but Bois d’Oud has some very enjoyable parts, along with a useful, versatile easiness about it.

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Bois d’Oud is an eau de parfum that is available only in a 100 ml size. It costs €125 and £125. In the U.S., I think it costs $150, but I can’t find a ton of retailers to confirm that. The company has no website that I could find, either. In the U.S.: the Perris Monte Carlo line appears to be sold at Henri Bendel in New York, but their website only shows the Imperial Oud Black bottle. That seems to be a different fragrance entirely, but, oddly, subtext on the page also mentions Bois d’Oud. I have no explanation for that. Like Bendel, Neiman Marcus only carries the Imperial Oud and the new Rose de Taif. Elsewhere, I’ve noticed Amazon sellers offering Bois d’Oud. One sells a 10 ml decant for $35, while another has a 100 ml tester bottle for $100. Outside the U.S.: in the U.K., you can find Bois d’Oud at 10 Corso Como for £125, along with the rest of the Perris line. The perfume is also available at First in Fragrance for €125. I noticed Bois d’Oud on sale for €105 at the Parfum Center in the Netherlands, while it’s at regular price at Celeste. In Spain, you can buy it from Novento Grados, in Italy at Etos Profumeria, in Greece at Rosina Perfumery, and in Munich at Bruckner. In the Middle East, I found Bois d’Oud at Souq.com for AED 596. Kuwait’s Universal Fragrances has most of the line discounted for $99. Samples: Surrender to Chance doesn’t have Bois d’Oud in an individual form, but it has a Perris Monte Carlo Sample Set of 5 fragrances from the line in 2 ml atomizers for $38.99. You can order Bois d’Oud in an individual vial from The Perfumed Court where prices start at $4.96 for a 1 ml vial.

Slumberhouse Zahd (Limited Edition)

Photo: Lisa Rochon at chasinghome.org.

Photo: Lisa Rochon at chasinghome.org.

Close your eyes and imagine Paris at Christmas. It’s after midnight. In the shadow of Sacre Coeur, nestled in a warren of small streets, there is a small, private, members-only theater. It glows like a ruby jewel, decorated in velvet in shades of blood-red and black. A dry smoke lingers in the air, and cranberry mulled wine flows like a river. A buffet is set discreetly to the side, laden with Ruby red port wine, stewed plum compote, tart cherries in burgundy claret, and dark, bitter chocolate. The theatre special is a balsamic vinegar reduction, infused with butter, cranberries, plums, chocolate, smoke, and tobacco. Men in masks like Casanova sit hidden in velvet alcoves, eating spiced cranberry cake, smoking, or smearing their lovers’ skin with the chocolate-cherry balsamic glaze. When morning comes, the theatre becomes darker, the velvet curtains change to brown, the wine dries up, and all that is left is a dry, sweet woodiness. Welcome to the world of Zahd.

Photo by Catherine at @strawbeemochi, Twitter. Used with grateful thanks.

Photo by Catherine at @strawbeemochi, Twitter. Used with grateful thanks.

Zahd is the newest creation from Josh Lobb at Slumberhouse, the Portland indie perfume house. Zahd is a parfum extrait that was just released in limited quantities. Only 125 bottles were made, all of which were offered for pre-order back in Fall 2013. Such is the popularity of both Slumberhouse and Mr. Lobb himself that Zahd sold out in a mere 24 hours. The perfume was shipped out about 10 days ago, and one of my close friends, Kevin, was kind enough to share a sample with me.

Zahd is a lot more nuanced and complex than it initially appears from the outside where it deluges the wearer in the darkened delights of a semi-sweet, semi-dry cranberry molasses. I’d actually argue that it is the most subtle, well-balanced, and carefully modulated of all the Slumberhouse scents that I have tried thus far. Some of them have always been a little heavy-handed, shall we say, in their bold intensity and concentrated focus. (Perhaps I’m still recuperating from the drydown of Sova Extrait….) Zahd is different. It  feels like the incredibly talented Josh Lobb is honing his talents, and learning to appreciate the effects of a more nuanced, subtle approach, while still maintaining the Slumberhouse signature of concentrated richness. The result is a fragrance that may actually be the easiest Slumberhouse to wear, if not the best Slumberhouse to date.

Source: ebay.co.uk

Source: ebay.co.uk

As a limited edition fragrance that is now sold out, Zahd isn’t mentioned on the Slumberhouse website, but Mr. Lobb provided CaFleureBon with a wonderfully detailed analysis of the perfume, his inspiration, and even a poem he wrote on the feelings that it is meant to capture. The long piece is worth reading, but I’ll only quote Mr. Lobb’s description of the perfume and why the cost of its ingredients meant it could only be done as a one-time deal:

As I began creating the formula for Zahd, I realized I was subconsciously sculpting the scent to replicate how I felt crushed red velvet would smell if a fabric could be transformed into scent. I wanted something lush, opulent, alluring, completely gender neutral and ultimately mysterious. From this point I began incorporating other ideas involving heavier elements from traditional middle eastern perfumery to add both weight and complexity.  Over the course of these two years I created roughly 80 prototypes of Zahd in my attempts to fine tune the fragrance to the smoothest, most rounded and perfected version of itself. In curating my materials palette, I realized that the addition of lotus, mysore sandalwood and an attar I commissioned specifically for Zahd had bumped this fragrance into not only the realm of excessive cost but also into being nearly impossible to replicate. Realizing that this would be a special release that I would only be able to offer in such a limited amount, it only made sense to offer Zahd for this occasion.

According to Mr. Lobb, Zahd incorporates notes of:

cranberry, champaca flower, benzoin, plum, pink lotus, fir, cocoa, tolu balsam, gromwell, wine ether, mysore sandalwood, cherry, incense and oak to create a dark, velvety berry scent. The perfume itself is a deep ruby red color and is concentrated at 30% to create an incredibly powerful and long lasting extrait.

Source: Pbs.org

Source: Pbs.org

Zahd opens on my skin with thick wave of cranberries covered with spices that smell like cloves and cinnamon. The tart, sweet, spiced fruits are thoroughly immersed in plum molasses that has a definite liqueured undertone, one that extends far beyond mere wine and into Ruby red port territory. It’s dense, velvety, and a little bit treacly in feel. Subtle flickers of a dark, bitter chocolate lurk at the edges, along with smoky undertones, though they don’t smell like frankincense. The overall bouquet is of concentrated cranberries with plums, dark port liqueur, and spices, all shot through with a vein of darkness.

There are other elements hovering in the distance. There is the subtlest suggestion of something vaguely floral that momentarily pops up its head in the opening 15 minutes, though it is indistinct and muted. It doesn’t smell like champaca to me, and I honestly can’t place it, though it doesn’t matter much as the note is very short-lived in nature. Much more noticeable is a different sort of fruited undertone. Deep in the base are cherries, accompanied by tobacco and what feels almost like a leathered apricot. I know tobacco isn’t mentioned in Zahd’s list of notes, but something definitely creates the smell of Tobacco Absolute for me, particularly later on in the perfume’s development.

Balsamic vinegar reduction. Photo: Jenna at Eat, Live, Run. EatliveRun.com. (Website link embedded within.)

Balsamic vinegar reduction. Photo: Jenna at Eat, Live, Run. EatliveRun.com. (Website link embedded within.)

One of my favorite parts of Zahd is the strong undercurrent of something darkly balsamic in the base. For once, I don’t mean “balsamic” in the sense of a dark, thick resin. No, I mean something that is like actual balsamic vinegar that has been reduced down (with a ton of butter) to make a dense sort of glaze or demi-glace. It smells like sour cherries and chocolate, while still retaining a lingering trace of something wine-like. (If you haven’t tried a balsamic reduction, I highly recommend it. It works beautifully with everything from filet mignon and duck to fruit, especially strawberries.)

Trisamber, via IFF.

Trisamber, via IFF.

My least favorite part of Zahd is something aromachemical in the base. The first time I wore the perfume, I applied only a little bit of the burgundy juice, and the primary bouquet was of heavily spiced cranberries with an incredibly powerful, super arid, woody synthetic. It was very difficult for me, so I contacted Josh Lobb on Twitter to ask if Zahd contained any aromachemicals. Mr. Lobb was extremely gracious, and courteously walked me through Zahd’s other elements. He quickly determined that the troublesome nuances I was describing had to be something he called “Trisamber” which turns out to be an IFF creation with a very woody, dry, somewhat ambered aroma profile.

You may find Mr. Lobb’s Twitter discussion of the aromachemical interesting, as it also helps to underscore that Zahd’s core is about darkness, not sweetness:

https://twitter.com/slumberhouse/status/439494550290460674
https://twitter.com/slumberhouse/status/439496671643594753

Mr. Lobb also added:

  • The trisamber is an interesting note, to me it smells like blackness, like someone turned the lights off, a bit mysterious
  • I definitely see it as a divisive scent. Without trisamber Zahd leaned a bit too gourmand for my liking

I was extremely touched by how he took the time to so courteously and patiently explain Trisamber to me, as well as by his understanding for my particular sensitivity. I know most people have no problems whatsoever with aromachemicals, but my nose is really finely attuned to them, and a few are really difficult for me to bear when they are extremely desiccated in nature.

Source: designerwallcoverings.com

Source: designerwallcoverings.com

The thing that is interesting about the Trisamber is that it really was not as profound an issue when I applied a lot of Zahd. In my main test, I used 3 times more perfume, a little over half a 1 ml vial but less than 2/3rd, and fully expected the aromachemical to be worse. I was shocked to find it was better. Much better.

Oddly enough, the greater quantity seemed to downplay the harsh aridity, probably because it allows Zahd’s other elements to shine more brightly. As a result, the Trisamber doesn’t feel like a wave of dryness that hits you in heavy amounts from the first sniff. Instead, it slowly seeps out after about 15 minutes, and, even then, it is very well-blended within the overall bouquet, appearing mostly as a very subtle dry darkness that wafts about. It is remains an arid note (though not so much as the Norlimbanol that I’ve encountered in the past), woody, and faintly ambered, but it is counterbalanced by the other elements. Still, the Trisamber feels very jangly at times and, I have to admit, it gives me a small twinge in the head whenever I smell Zahd up close for too long a period of time.

Despite all that, I really like the dark touch that Zahd exudes. Mr. Lobb is undoubtedly correct that, without the Trisamber and the other darker touches, Zahd would have skewed too gourmand in nature. They cut through the sweetness, provide a balance, and ensure that the perfume never veers into diabetic territory. Yet, I think the dark foundation does much more than just that; I think it actually makes the perfume. It’s not merely the Trisamber, but also the liqueured, balsamic, cherry-and-dark-chocolate tonalities, mixed with that subtle suggestion of something smoky. Mr. Lobb thought of crushed velvet curtains, and he does succeed in creating that visual. He also goes beyond, to conjure up that cozy jewel-box of a theatre with dark shadows, that mystery he referred to in his discussion of Trisamber. The overall effect is to make Zahd very much of a mood fragrance for me, a mood that goes beyond the expected holiday smell of simple spiced cranberries.

Source: This Girl Can blogspot, lkng.wordpress.com.

Source: This Girl Can blogspot, lkng.wordpress.com.

At the end of 30 minutes, Zahd slowly starts to shift. The black chocolate becomes more noticeable, and is accompanied by a tobacco accord that feels a little leathery. The darkness is further underscored by a greater sense of smokiness, though it never smells like incense to me. Rather, it’s more akin to burning leaves in the fall.

As a whole, Zahd is extremely potent up close, with initially huge sillage that fools you into thinking that the perfume is very dense in weight. As it wafts about 4 inches around you, the liqueured and molasses accords make you imagine something as chewy as a red velvet cake. Yet, the sillage drops after 40 minutes to about 2-3 inches, and the perfume continues to soften with time. Zahd actually ends up feeling almost delicate and light, despite its richness and the density of its notes. To borrow the term of one of my readers, Tim, it has “weightless heaviness” at the end of the first hour.

Source: primermagazine.com

Source: primermagazine.com

I thoroughly enjoyed Zahd opening the 2nd time around, especially as the greater dosage amplified the perfume’s velvety richness. The Trisamber was not as dominant, and the overall bouquet was really pretty. I love how Zahd replicates the smell of a very expensive port wine, only made from cranberries, plums, and cherries instead of the usual grapes. I’m a sucker for port, both the Ruby and Tawny varieties, especially when served with chocolate, so the overall combination is really a hit for me. (It also makes me wonder if Mr. Lobb is a secret foodie.)

Zahd has sweetness, yes, but it is very carefully calibrated sweetness that is kept fully in check by the darker, drier elements. The subtle suggestions of tartness and of oaked woodiness also help. Those of you who are phobic about fruit scents, let me reassure you that Zahd is not some commercial fruit cocktail with diabetic syrup. It is instead a very deep, rich scent whose spiced cranberry focus is dominated by shades of burgundy and black. Speaking of which, the colour of the juice is beautiful with its mulled wine resemblance. It is also the reason why I must warn you not to wear white or light-coloured clothing if you plan on spraying on Zahd. The fragrance stained my skin to a port wine shade that remained for hours. While I love the colour in general, I imagine it would be quite difficult to get out of clothing.

Image: Dejainnightmare via imgarcade.com

Image: Dejainnightmare via imgarcade.com

The Trisamber aromachemical grows more dominant by the start of the 3rd hour, thoroughly infusing its dark dryness into the cranberry-plum cocktail. It’s a hard note to describe in-depth, but its power feels steely, hard, and jangly, almost like an abrasive roughness that is quite textural in feel. It sets up a dichotomy where you have the velvety plushness of the spiced fruit, port, and balsamic reduction accords, on the one hand, and something that is drier, tougher, and not as smooth, on the other. The contrasts make Zahd feel like some sort of avant-garde, modernist take on fruitiness that completely up-ends its usual characteristics in commercial perfumery.

Zahd is rather linear in nature, and doesn’t shift twist or turn in a massive way throughout its lifespan. Initially, all that happens is that the perfume softens even further, turning into a blur of dry-sweet port wine that hovers about 1-2 inches above the skin at the end of the 3rd hour. But slowly, very incrementally, Zahd turns drier and woodier. Over the next few hours, the plummy base feels as though it’s becoming darker and more resinous. On my skin, the cherry and plum actually seem to overtake the cranberry. As the spiced note weakens, the Trisamber woodiness increases. Zahd feels like a liquid that has evaporated to an even deeper concentration, devoid of the extra frills and embellishments. Yet, it is very soft in feel. And, about 4.75 hours into its development, it turns into a skin scent.

"Kaiser Prime Nebula" by Nethskie at nethskie.deviantart.com.  http://nethskie.deviantart.com/art/Kaiser-Prime-Nebula-177426428

“Kaiser Prime Nebula” by Nethskie at nethskie.deviantart.com. http://nethskie.deviantart.com/art/Kaiser-Prime-Nebula-177426428

The notes continue to realign themselves in fractional degrees. At the start of the 7th hour, there is as much of a dry, tobacco-like aroma as there is plum. The aroma is dark, vaguely dirty and earthy, and feels almost like raw tobacco juice that has been stewed. The cranberry now feels even more muted than before. Even the balsamic, cherry glaze feels weaker, not to mention thinner and milder. The Trisamber’s dryness and darkness remains throughout, adding to Zahd’s woody feel. At the same time, a dark golden touch appears. It doesn’t feel like amber so much as an abstract, very dry… well, goldenness. That’s about the best I can do to describe it.

As a whole, Zahd smells of dark, fruited sweetness with dry woods and darkness. You can still detect the spiced cranberry if you sniff hard, though my skin seems to emphasize the plum, but the fruited elements feel increasingly abstract. So do the dry elements, which can’t really be singled out as oak, tolu balsam, or even Trisamber in any hugely distinctive, individual way. The perfume is really well-blended, and coats the skin like a rich but gauzy coating. Zahd continues in that vein for a few more hours until it finally fades away as a mix of dry sweetness. All in all, Zahd lasted just under 15 hours on my skin with the large dose (a little more than 1/2 of a 1 ml vial, or about 2 good sprays), and about 10.75 hours with 2 small smears.

Source: droiddnaforum.com

Source: droiddnaforum.com

As I stated earlier, I find Zahd to be the most wearable of Slumberhouse’s fragrances that I’ve tried thus far. I wasn’t hugely impressed by it in my first go-around, primarily because of the way that the Trisamber was such a huge part of the scent, but I have a particular issue with aromachemicals that others don’t have. (Lucky devils.) The more important point, though, is that Zahd unfurled its subtle nuances and layers when I applied more of it, which is something you may want to keep in mind. For whatever reason, it was generally just a simple, spiced cranberry fragrance with aromachemical dryness when I used only a small amount. The lovely plum, dark chocolate, port, balsamic cherry glaze, burnt leaves, and that inexplicable tobacco tonality all shone through with the larger dosage.

Zahd feels firmly unisex to me, and it seems like something that both men and women would enjoy. I don’t know how versatile it may be for daily use, but then, Zahd is very much of a mood fragrance, in my opinion. 

I think it’s rather a shame that Zahd is a limited-edition scent. I really think it is one of the best Slumberhouse creations to date, and seems to really reflect Mr. Lobb’s personal evolution as a perfumer. I’ve said repeatedly that he has enormous talent, and that I both admire him and respect him. It’s really hard to believe that he is wholly self-taught, because he’s very good at this. He is also someone who is driven by a genuine passion to make perfumes that are outside the box, something that I always think should be applauded. On top of it all, in his interviews and interactions with others, he always comes across like a really nice guy. All of that is why I’ve always wanted to love his fragrances but, alas, none of them have suited me personally.

The primary reason is that many of them felt a little over the top with their monolithic, untrammeled intensity. (I haven’t tried Norne, which I suspect would fit my tastes much better, but I’ve tested 5 Slumberhouse fragrances thus far.) I think the best example of my point would be Sova Extrait, which I haven’t officially reviewed because it was pulled from the line soon after I bought my sample. Sova reflects something that I’ve experienced with a number of Slumberhouse fragrances, only taken to an extreme degree: a glorious, almost addictive start, but a development which just wears one down with an increasingly loud, bulldozer-ish quality and with such hyper-saturated richness that it becomes thoroughly exhausting.

Source:  hd4desktop.com

Source: hd4desktop.com

Zahd is none of those things. It still isn’t me, but this is a perfume that reflects a much more delicate touch. The Slumberhouse signature of rich boldness is still there, but it is more carefully calibrated. Even better, the richness doesn’t feel unctuous, oily, overwhelming, or cloying as it does in a few of the scents. (Pear + Olive, I’m staring at you.) You also don’t feel burnt out by linear heaviness, as though you’ve just ingested six rich cakes, when you merely asked for a single slice. (Ore, that one applies to you. How I could have loved you, if only you hadn’t force-fed me!) With Zahd, the Slumberhouse singular focus still remains, only now it is leavened with more complexity and more mature depth.

It’s as though Mr. Lobb has learned to simultaneously add more nuanced layers, while also editing himself. The best example of the latter would be the spiced nature of the cranberries in Zahd. The spices are a subtle undertone, not a full-on blast. In my review of Mr. Lobb’s Jeke, I talked about the overpowering nature of an accord made from spiced apple, mulled wine and potpourri-like elements. That spiced potpourri aroma could easily have happened here with Zahd as well, with just a different sort of fruit being the focal point. But it didn’t — thanks to very careful editing. Mr. Lobb’s growing maturity and confidence as a perfumer shows itself in the fact that he manages to express his signature voice or identity without having to resort to Rammstein-like levels of loudness.

I realise that Mr. Lobb has said it wouldn’t be cost-effective to put Zahd into general production, but I think admirers of his fragrances may want to beg him to reconsider. Perhaps he can price it a little higher than the $150 he charged for the 30 ml Extrait. I suspect really hardcore Slumberhouse fans would pay it gladly. It also seems rather a shame that those new to the line won’t get the chance to try Mr. Lobb at his best. All in all, I have to say, “Job well done!”

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Zahd is no longer in production. There was a one-time pre-order in Fall 2013 for only 125 bottles, each of which was 30 ml of pure parfum extrait which cost $150. Mr. Lobb sold out within 24 hours. He does not have any more bottles for sale, and does not have samples. There are also no sample sites which offer Zahd to test. I obtained my vial from an extremely thoughtful friend. Thank you, Kevin!

Review En Bref: Serge Lutens Laine de Verre

My Reviews en Bref are always for scents that, for whatever reason, may not warrant one of my more exhaustive, detailed assessments. This time, it’s for the brand new Serge Lutens‘ fragrance, Laine de Verre, which was released in February 2014.

Fiberglass. Source: featurepics.com

Fiberglass. Source: featurepics.com

Laine de Verre is an eau de parfum created by Christopher Sheldrake, and the third in Serge Lutens’ Eaux series. A number of people have described the L’Eau (or Water) series as anti-perfumes, and I think that’s quite accurate. It is always one of the many reasons why I struggle with Laine de Verre, a perfume inspired by fiber-glass. Yes, fiber-glass or glass wool insulation, and no, I’m not joking.

The Serge Lutens website describes Laine de Verre in the usual abstract terms:

It is only after he had been penetrated by the winter that, laying down his arms, the Lord of Glass came to place
at the feet of the Lady of Wool flowers and ferns which had frosted on him.

Source: marieclaire.fr

Source: marieclaire.fr

Luckyscent has a much more detailed olfactory assessment, along with their guess at Laine de Verre’s notes:

A fragrance named after an insulating material? That’s what “laine de verre” means: glass wool. […] His third offering in the Eaux series expresses “a domestic quarrel between my feminine and my masculine” sides, the maestro explains: the Lord of Glass, offering the ferns and flowers etched on his body by frost to the Lady of Wool.

The result is as playfully weird and avant-garde as you’d expect, with a huge aldehydic burst in the top notes – the odorant equivalent of orange soda pop bubbles fizzing in your nose. A whiff of ozone, the slightest hint of metal-tinge rose… There are shards of glass in that ball of mohair wool!

But just when you’re shivering, the “wool” half of the equation kicks in, or rather, rises in a fuzzy haze of musk and cashmeran – one of the most attractive and complex synthetic notes, musky, woody, ambery with comforting a hint of dustiness…

[Notes]: Citrus notes, aldehydes, musks, cashmeran.

I don’t agree with their characterization of the perfume as a whole, but I think their description of cashmeran is quite accurate given how the synthetic manifests itself here. As for the note list, I don’t think it is complete, especially as they themselves mention roses. They’re right, there is a very clear floral presence that lurks about Laine de Verre’s edges. It is a pale, watery, pink rose, and it is joined by other notes which that list omits as well. Very synthetic notes….

Source: de.wallpaperswiki.org

Source: de.wallpaperswiki.org

I’m going to say this as candidly and bluntly as possible, upfront: I’m the wrong target audience for a “fragrance” like this. Laine de Verre is about as much “me” as I am Marilyn Monroe or Vladimir Putin. There was always zero chance that I would like it, and I knew that from the start. I don’t like aldehydes, I can’t abide white musk, I have very limited tolerance for synthetics, and absolutely none for synthetics in massive, walloping, high doses. I don’t enjoy scratchy fiberglass, or metallic textures. I also can’t fathom the whole concept of spending a lot of money on a perfume that doesn’t smell at all of perfume, of a fragrance that is intentionally made to be an “anti-perfume.” With a niche price tag to boot. I simply cannot bear any of those elements, individually, let alone all combined into one. Which is perhaps why Laine de Verre was essentially a scrubber on me from the very first moment, though I actually stuck through with it to the bitter end.

Source: depositphotos.com

Source: depositphotos.com

Laine de Verre opens on my skin with a Wagnerian level of aggressive, soapy aldehydes. They are cold, icy, and definitely manage to convey the sensation of scratchy, glass and metallic wool shards that pierce you through the nose. One reason why is the almost equally aggressive dose of synthetic, clean, white musk. In the trail of the dominant two notes comes a bright, fresh, lemony aroma, along with a nebulous, elusive hint of floracy that feels very dewy and watery. Dust lurks in the corners, next to a sense of dry woodiness, though both are extremely subtle at this point. The whole thing feels very gauzy and translucent in colour, but extremely sharp and strong in terms of the actual notes. In fact, every single time I smell the icy cocktail, I experience a searing pain through my head, and it takes only 5 minutes for a powerful headache to be my constant companion. That clean, white musk is just a killer.

Woolite Delicates via rbnainfo.com.

Woolite Delicates via rbnainfo.com.

The aldehydes are interesting, at least on an intellectual level and at first. They initially create a very classique, slightly elegant, old-time, vintage feel to the scent, especially in conjunction with the sharp, crisp, lemony notes and the hint of something rosy. The aldehydes truly smell a lot more like actual fizzy molecules in the opening minute than anything else, but it takes less than 2 minutes for the soapy undertone to rise to the top. Before a full 3 minutes have passed, Laine de Verre takes on a definite “Woolite Delicates” aroma. I know because I went to check the bottle in my laundry room. The nebulous floral aroma is different, and Woolite doesn’t have the zesty citric element, but there is no doubt in my mind: my arm was reeking massive amounts of something not too far off from Woolite.

Source: soap.com

Source: soap.com

At first, Laine de Verre’s soapy, clean detergent smell bore the same sort of delicacy that Woolite has, but that doesn’t last for long. Exactly 15 minutes into the perfume’s development, the Woolite turned into concentrated Tide laundry cleaner. Specifically, the HE concentrated version with Febreeze. I know, because I own that too, and I compared the Lutens fragrance torturing me on my arm with the bottle in my laundry room. Tide has a much more aggressive, thickly soapy aroma than the more gentle Woolite Delicates, and Laine de Verre was painfully close. Its olfactory bouquet also wasn’t particularly helped by the slightly dusty quality that lurks in the perfume’s background, along with an abstract, dry woodiness.

Both of them are a bit of a contradiction to the very liquidy, wet feel to Laine de Verre. Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if the perfume also contained Calone, because there is a very aquatic nuance to Laine de Verre. It helps underscore the very designer feel to the scent, as if it were some sort of distant Acqua di Gio relative, or a more expensive version of the Clean brand of fragrances with their focus on white, laundry-based anti-perfumes. None of this is a compliment in my eyes, by the way….

Source: telshopmobile.com

Source: telshopmobile.com

Laine de Verre is quite potent at first, but the perfume also feels very gauzy in weight. The sillage only wafts about 2-3 inches at first, then drops at the end of the first hour to sit about an inch above the skin. It turns into a skin scent near the end of the 2nd hour, which fully in line with the goal of creating an intimate anti-perfume that is an “Eau” in nature.

Laine de Verre does improve, thankfully, though not drastically. Something happens around the start of the second hour where the aggressive quality of Tide laundry detergent softens, and the perfume takes on a more balanced, elegant feel. It feels like a super-light crystal, if that makes sense. It is still painfully soapy on my skin with a sharp, clean, white musk, but I can see how some people might now see this as a very elegant scent. An olfactory version of minimalistic, cubist art, perhaps.

I know the woman who would wear this, and it would probably be one of my best friends who is incredibly fashionable but who hates wearing perfume. She never does — ever — though the last time I saw her she casually asked what I would recommend were she ever to change her mind. Something minimalistic, sleek and elegant that wasn’t really perfume. I had no suggestions for her then, because everything I considered seemed too much like actual fragrance, no matter how light or fresh. Now, though, I finally have a name. Laine de Verre is perfect for someone who doesn’t want to smell of anything at all, while simultaneously giving off some sort of indescribable, elusively intangible, elegant vibe to match her sleek, streamlined, elegant clothes.

Bounce dryer sheets.

Bounce dryer sheets.

Laine de Verre continues its up and down trajectory. By the end of the 2nd hour, that brief moment of elegance vanishes, and the perfume turns into a skin scent which has progressed from Woolite to Tide to, now, Bounce dryer sheets. It’s all the fault of that damn white musk, which seems to take over. As a whole, Laine de Verre is a soapy, vaguely floral, dry scent with strongly synthetic “clean” notes.

Source: hdw.eweb4.com

Source: hdw.eweb4.com

Then, it gets better again, relatively speaking. The impression of Bounce dryer sheets dissipates by the start of the 5th hour, probably because abstract elements of sweetness arrive to dull the white musk. Laine de Verre is a now a nice, delicate, feminine, aldehydic floral musk. I can’t easily pinpoint the flowers. There was always a subtle touch of a dewy, pale pink rose from the start, but is it now joined by jasmine perhaps? There is something sweeter and deeper that goes beyond the rose, aldehydes and cashmeran wood accords, but it’s so muffled and muted that it’s hard to distinguish. In fact, even the rose and wood elements are hard to detect from afar, as everything is blended quite seamlessly together. None of it is my cup of tea, but at least it smells relatively elegant from afar.

Source: ukcurtainsandinteriors.co.uk

Source: ukcurtainsandinteriors.co.uk

The one thing I can genuinely say is quite nice about Laine de Verre is the drydown. In its final 90 minutes, the perfume radiates a softly creamy wood note that is very pretty. There is still plenty of that revolting white musk, but Laine de Verre now has a wonderfully soft texture that feels fuzzy, like the thinnest cream chenille blanket. It’s far too soft to feel even like wool. Actually, it calls to mind fresh cotton wisps that you see in those films about cotton plantations. In its final hour, Laine de Verre is as much about a textural sensation as an actual smell. It is a soft, creamy, wispy, woody scent with clean freshness. All in all, Laine de Verre lasted just short of 8 hours on my skin, thanks mostly to the white musk and synthetics which my skin clings onto like mad.

Generally, in my full reviews, I like to provide other people’s perspectives on a scent, but I rarely do that in the Reviews en Bref and I’m not going to do so here. You can look up the comments on Fragrantica, if you’d like. I’m simply not that enthused about Laine de Verre to spend a substantial amount of my time talking about it, though I find it less horrifying and traumatic than the equally soapy, sharp, synthetic, white musk La Vierge de Fer that was released last Fall. At least this one isn’t priced at $310. Both fragrances, however, are what I personally consider to be “scrubbers.” Serge Lutens is one of my favorite houses, and there is no-one whom I worship more on a personal level than Monsieur Lutens himself, so disliking one of his perfumes is always painful. But I’m afraid I do.

As a whole, I suspect Laine de Verre won’t impress the hardcore Lutens fan who originally fell in love with the house because of its complex, rich signature. The L’Eau series hasn’t been a hit with any Lutens lovers that I personally know, perhaps because “anti-perfume perfumes” seems to contradict the very point of buying a Serge Lutens to begin with. I don’t think Laine de Verre will make the vast majority of them change their minds. However, if you actually hate perfume, you may want to give it a try.

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Laine de Verre is a eau de parfum that comes two sizes: in a 1.7 oz/50 ml size that costs $110, €75, or £67; and a 100 ml/3.4 oz size which costs $160, €105 or £94. U.S. sellers: Laine de Verre is available in both sizes at Luckyscent. The Lutens line is also always available at Barneys and Aedes, but I don’t see Laine de Verre listed at the time of this review. The perfume is also not yet shown on the U.S. Serge Lutens website. Outside the U.S.: the International Serge Lutens website has Laine de Verre in the small and large sizes. In Canada, The Perfume Shoppe always carries the Lutens line, but Laine de Verre is too new to be listed. In the UK, Harvey Nichols implies it is the exclusive carrier of Laine de Verre which it offers in both sizes. In France, you can find the regular Lutens line at Sephora, but there is also the online retailer, Premiere Avenue, which has the large size for €105. For other countries, you can use the Store Locator on the Lutens website. Samples: Samples are available at Surrender to Chance where prices start at $4.99 for a 1 ml vial, as well as at Luckyscent.

Roja Dove Diaghilev (The Imperial Collection)

A perfume with the feel of the past, concentrated as if distilled to its richest essence through the ravages of time, and brought back to life with a price tag from the future.

Source: Paris Gallery, UAE.

Source: Paris Gallery, UAE.

It’s hard to know where to begin in discussing Diaghilev, a 2013 release from the famous Roja Dove. The perfume has a history beyond just the ballet legend whose name it bears, a history that starts at an exhibition at the Victoria and Albert museum in 2010, and indirectly goes back much further still to a Guerlain fragrance with which it shares enormous similarities for a good portion of its opening hours. Plus, Diaghilev has a huge buzz about it, and not solely because of the Roja Dove name, as you will soon see. Perhaps the real reason why I find it so hard to know where to begin is because I’m simply not moved by Diaghilev. No matter how many times I try it, I recognise its quality on an intellectual level, but it does absolutely nothing for me emotionally. From the first time I tried it last year in Paris, to repeated tests now… my emotions are always at a firm distance. 

Diaghilev is a pure parfum or extrait that was inspired by Serge or Sergei Diaghilev, the famous early 20th century ballet impresario who founded the legendary Ballets Russes. On his personal Roja Parfums website, Roja Dove describes the perfume and its notes as follows:

“Decadent Intoxicating Sophistication”

WARM, DRY, SWEET, FRUITY, SPICY, SOFT, & VERY SENSUAL

“I am immensely proud of this work. I love its rich opulence, its complexity and depth, volume, and sensuality. I was inspired by Diaghilev, one of the greatest creative forces of the twentieth century, who changed the world and totally re-wrote the rules – this creation is for exactly that type of person”. Roja Dove

Source: lth-hotels.com

Source: lth-hotels.com

INGREDIENTS
TOP: Bergamot, Lemon, Lime, Orange, Tarragon
HEART: Blackcurrant Buds, Heliotrope, Jasmine, Peach, Rose, Tuberose, Violet, Ylang Ylang
BASE: Ambrette, Benzoin, Cedarwood, Civet, Clove, Cumin, Guaiacwood, Labdanum, Leather, Musk, Nutmeg, Oakmoss, Patchouli, Peru Balsam, Sandalwood, Styrax, Vanilla, Vetiver.

Source: 123rf.com

Source: 123rf.com

Diaghilev opens on my skin with a flood of oakmoss on the most beautiful, animalic, castoreum-like base. The base is truly spectacular, especially in the opening 20 minutes. It’s like beautifully darkened, oiled leather with velvety, musky, dirty, and skanky undertones. There is no castoreum listed in Diaghilev, but it really smells like it to my nose. The raunchiness is kept in perfect balance; a touch sweet, urinous, and earthy all at once. It is not feral or fecal, but, rather, akin to the most gentlemanly dirtiness around. The musk is delicately dusted with earthy, dry, cumin, and infused with the sweetened, “fuzzy, warmed skin” characteristics of ambrette seeds (musk mallow).

"Novemthree" by Olaf Marshall. Source: vitaignescorpuslignum.blogspot.com

“Novemthree” by Olaf Marshall. Source: vitaignescorpuslignum.blogspot.com

The overall bouquet is a simply perfect base for the vista of green that lies atop it. There is the carpet of oakmoss that is dense, pungent, lightly fusty, vaguely oily and mushroomy, and wholly amazing in its viscosity. The greenness is underscored by the small bits of earthy vetiver, which dance at the edges next to an extremely bitter lime peel. I don’t know quite how Roja Dove has replicated the feel of vintage, real oakmoss so well, but he’s done it in spades with something that feels like juices from the past that have been reduced down to a darkened thickness.

Source: wallpaperuser.com

Source: wallpaperuser.com

In less than a few minutes, the colours change. A bright yellow arrives to dapple the mossy forest floor, followed by massive dabs of orange. The first is the bergamot, the second is the peach. The freshness of the former is a muted touch, while the heavy juices of the latter are quite noticeable on my skin indeed. The ripened fruit combines with the cumin to add to the fleshiness underlying Diaghilev, creating the image of musky, heated flesh that merely happens to be lying on a well-oiled leather couch made from castoreum in the midst of an oakmoss forest.

Jubilation 25. Photo: Basenotes.

Jubilation 25. Photo: Basenotes.

It’s all very lovely, and all massively familiar. This is Mitsouko parfum, in vintage form, reduced to the level of an attar in density, and thoroughly infused with Amouage‘s cumin-flecked Jubilation 25 (Women). Every minute of Diaghilev’s opening two hours on my skin feels like Mitsouko drenched with Jubilation, right down to the light dance of the very well-blended florals. At this point, Diaghilev’s florals are an abstract, seamless blur that are hard to pull apart, though the jasmine stands out the most. Again, like Jubilation. (And later, it is the ylang-ylang, which is again like Jubilation.) There is even a light flickering fizziness of something nebulous like aldehydes, the way I would experienced with old Mitsouko. By the way, if we’re talking about echoes of famous perfumes, there is also a fleeting, tiny kinship to the post-1989, cumin-y, vintage version of Femme by Rochas as well, though Diaghilev is darker, drier, greener, more leathered, and less fruited.

Most of those differences can be chalked up to Diaghilev’s substantially concentrated Extrait formulation. It is certainly explains why Diaghilev’s oakmoss is much more dense than it is in Jubilation 25. And I’m sure the skanky bits in the Amouage perfume would feel heavily leathered and resinous as well, if the perfume had been amped up by a 1000 to an extrait level the way Diaghilev has been.

Source: RebootwithJoe.com

Source: RebootwithJoe.com

That said, I loved the opening 20 minutes of Diaghilev. The perfectly calibrated degree of cumin-y, skanky, leathered, castoreum-like velvetiness that rises up to bite you on the nose is glorious. And it’s so wonderful next to the dark oiliness of the heavy oakmoss, the earthy vetiver, and the bitter lime. The perfume has a real, substantial kick to it that makes it stand out at that point.

Unfortunately, the elegant meow of animalic bitchiness soon turns much more well-mannered, sedate and restrained in nature, as the dirty accords sink into the base. You can still detect them, quite easily if you sniff up close, but they blend into the overall blur of greenness that is dominated primarily by the dark, slightly fusty oakmoss with its peachy undertones. For me, by muffling the skanky whiffs, Roja Dove has de-fanged Diaghilev of its more modern, interesting touches, and moved the perfume squarely back a century to the well-bred, distant past.

Regardless, Diaghilev is a very nice, opulent, luxurious perfume in its opening stage. It is a perfectly seamless, extremely dense blend of green chypre notes with thick oakmoss, lime, bergamot, cumin, peach, amorphous florals, and touches of vetiver atop an oily castoreum-like, leathered, skanky base. It is monumentally heavy in feel at this point, as well, much to my great enthusiasm. Two big smears feel like the equivalent of 6 very large sprays of the most potent eau de parfum around.

Yet, to my surprise, the heavy Diaghilev wafts only 2-3 inches above the skin even in its opening. Spraying improved matters, but only moderately, by maybe another 2 inch at most. A friend and reader of the blog, “Tim,” was kind enough to send me a small spray atomizer of Diaghilev which I used in my 3rd test of the perfume, and there was no monumental increase in projection that I detected. The one difference is that spraying brought out the rose note after an hour, though it was still muted and muffled in that perfectly seamless blend of what really just seems like abstract “florals” from afar.

Source: 10wallpaper.com

Source: 10wallpaper.com

45 minutes into its development, Diaghilev drops in sillage, and also turns much softer in feel. 90 minutes in, the perfume loses even more of its body, heft and density. It’s primarily an oakmoss scent with sharp lime, bergamot, amorphous florals, peach, atop a velvety dark base just lightly flecked with cumin. Part of the problem in trying to dissect Diaghilev is that it’s so perfectly melded that it is really hard to separate out its tiny details at times. You get the plethora of greenness and the chypre elements up front, but many of the other notes lurk behind, peeking out in the most polite manner. And I’m only referring to 6 or 7 of Diaghilev’s 30 ingredients. The remainder is wholly subsumed within the larger whole.

At the end of the 2nd hour, however, I noticed new elements darting about, weaving their way through the top notes. Now, there is: clove, nutmeg, guaiac wood, mossy patchouli, and cedar. For about 5 minutes, there is even a really pretty touch of soft, earthy, delicate violets. Yet, with the exception of the new spices at hand, most of the elements were mere flickers and are not really a profound presence in a strong, individual, clearly delineated way.

Ylang-Ylang. Source: Soapgoods.com

Ylang-Ylang. Source: Soapgoods.com

Much more noticeable instead is the sudden arrival of the ylang-ylang with its custardy, vaguely banana-like, rich undertones. It adds a lovely touch to the pungency of the oakmoss, and is also a great contrast to the skanky, leathered, darkly oily base. I also really like the introduction of the spices, especially the cloves which add a subtle heat to the scent, enlivening it. The guaiac adds a subtle undertone of smokiness, while the cedar brings a tiny burst of pepperiness. The overall effect is to veer Diaghilev straight back into Jubilation’s arms.

Every time that I’ve tested Diaghilev, I noticed what feels like a transitional bridge period that starts always about 2 and a half hours into the perfume’s development. Diaghilev starts to lose its purely oakmoss-chypre focus, and begins the slow move towards an oriental scent. After having reviewed a handful of Roja Dove creations at this point, I get the strong sense that he seems happiest and most comfortable when making Chypre-Oriental hybrids. Many of his best and most beloved fragrances certainly start off as Chypres before turning into pure Orientals, like, for example, Puredistance M and the two Fetish Extraits. At the very least, I think we can agree that he’s a master at the split genre.

Here, the transition is gradual. The visuals are the first to change. It’s as though an oriental autumn has hit the green, oakmoss-covered peach trees and florals in the cumin-dusted forest with its skankily leathered floor. The dark greens are now heavily covered by rich, spiced, brown-reds and by velvety, custardy, ylang-ylang yellow. Sprinkles of white appear from sweetened vanillic powder, as the benzoins and tonka stir in the base. The subtle patchouli element pops up its head to inject a wine-red colour, taking on a liqueured, sweet, jammy richness. The woods encroach on the dominant moss and peach duo, as the guaiac and cedar crowd around, casting dark shadows. Bitter nutmeg is countered by the first traces of a sheer, gauzy wisp of smooth amber. 

Source: 1ms.net

Source: 1ms.net

Technically, it’s masterful, and theoretically, it should all be right up my alley. Yet, I’m unbelievably detached and disinterested. It’s not the sense of déja vu, but something that is very hard to explain. For me, Diaghilev feels like a technically perfect evocation of the classique tradition, but without a soul or a spark of passion in its depths. It’s like listening to a cover band who is playing all the right notes in a perfect rendition of some classic hit, but it doesn’t fresh, alive, distinctive, or individual. At least, it doesn’t for me. I feel as though I’m stuck in a room listening to Stephen Hawkings giving the most technically correct elucidation of theoretical physics… in Aramaic. Diaghilev’s soul simply gets lost in its correctness, its technical mastery, and in its translation of the past.

Vintage Ballet Russe poster. Source: Pinterest.

Vintage Ballet Russe poster. Source: Pinterest.

The perfume continues its march towards Orientalism. At the start of the 4th hour, Diaghilev is primarily a spicy cinnamon, clove and nutmeg dominated, abstract “floral” scent on my skin, with earthiness and woody elements over a leathered, castoreum-like base lightly infused with skanky civet, labdanum amber, and a whisper of warm ambrette muskiness. By the middle of the 5th hour, it is almost a skin scent that feels extremely abstract. Warm, musky, earthy, sweet, and spicy are the dominant elements. Soon, there is the sense of dry earthiness like soil that has been sprinkled with cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and vetiver. Dancing at the edges is a dry, brown patchouli. The tiniest veins of labdanum amber, tonka vanilla, and musk run through it all like golden threads. Diaghilev is still strong if smelled up close with your nose on your skin, but it feels like a silken, brown-red sheath of earthy spiciness and sweetness, dappled at its base with musky skankiness from various accords.

At the start of the 7th hour, Diaghilev sets its course for the next few hours. It is primarily a gauzy, soft labdanum amber scent with abstract spices, skanky elements and a touch of vanilla powderiness. It remains that way for ages, until it finally turns into cinnamon, vanilla powder from the benzoins and tonka atop the thinnest smear of civet-y muskiness. In its dying moments, Diaghilev is merely spiced, sweet powder. All in all, Diaghilev consistently lasted over 14.5 hours on me when I applied moderate amounts, and over 16 or 17 hours with larger quantities.

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

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

It’s hard to review Diaghilev without bringing up its price. I never examine perfumes in a vacuum, but I usually state that price is an individual, wholly subjective assessment. That’s undoubtedly why most perfume bloggers rarely talk about the matter when assessing fragrances. However, when you have a perfume that costs over $1000 with tax — that retails for $990, €990 or £750 — then price becomes something more quantifiable and objectively critical. In fact, I’d argue that price becomes an integral part of the perfume’s fabric, as much as its notes or its olfactory genre. Intentionally so.

Roja Dove via his Twitter feed.

Roja Dove via his Twitter feed.

The basic bottom line seems to be that Roja Dove is aiming for a clientele that is part of the 1%. He’s aiming for the very rich, or, in the case of his special “Roja” perfume that costs well over $4,000, perhaps the super rich. He’s intentionally seeking exclusivity in a way that even Joel Arthur Rosenthal, the stratospherically expensive, legendary jeweler, isn’t trying to do with most of his JAR perfumes. It’s Roja Dove’s right to price his stuff as he sees fit, and there is no doubt that all his fragrances scream high-quality, expensive luxury. No doubt at all. But it is my right to think them over-priced at times, times like now.

I’ve pondered the issue of Diaghilev’s cost for days, and I can certainly see all the logical reasons why people would spend the money on it. But would I, even if I had the money to buy 10 Diaghilevs? I doubt it. I’ve thought about it in-depth, and I’m being honest. Diaghilev feels old in a way that never once crossed my mind when I wore Amouage’s Jubilation. I haven’t tried vintage Mitsouko in years, so I don’t know how I would feel about it now, but I never liked Mitsouko enough to be willing to spend $1000 on it. And, honestly, for me, the very best part of Diaghilev is its opening 20 minutes which are truly glorious. After that, when the skankiness subsumes itself into the base, it loses the one real spark of passion and distinctiveness that it exuded for me. It turns into a very expensive-smelling, beautifully crafted perfume that someone like Joan Collins would love. Glamourous, but dated.

Nijinsky and Pavlova, the two superstars of Les Ballets Russes. Vintage image. Source: jbtaylor.typepad.com

Nijinsky and Pavlova, the two superstars of Les Ballets Russes. Vintage image. Source: jbtaylor.typepad.com

There are quite a few reviews for Diaghilev out there, but the most fascinating one comes from The Non-Blonde. I will quote parts, but I encourage you to read the long review in its entirety, as it echoes many of my sentiments. And the opening two sentences are a doozy:

A very successful perfumer who’ll remain nameless described the perfumes from Roja Dove’s line as “belong in a museum”. After a few seconds of thought he added, “so does Roja”. I didn’t inquire further as to what specific aspect of Roja Dove’s public persona he was referring. Your guess is as good as mine. Diaghilev, a larger-than-life chypre is a perfect example for what the famous perfumer meant. Diaghilev, with its mélange of notes is so over the top that if I weren’t standing at the Bergdorf Goodman counter with the tester right in front of me when I first smelled it, I’d have thought (convinced even) that someone has mislabeled a vintage perfume sample. A very very vintage perfume. Something from the 1920s, perhaps, when leather, oakmoss, all the spices in the world, and a thick overripe floral bouquet could be thrown together and then worn in public without shame.

There’s cumin in the top notes which the husband detected immediately while my own skin smoothed it over. I can smell traces of many thick and plush perfume ideas, the ghosts of  famous perfumes the way they smelled back when Louise Brooks, Dorothy Parker, Lillian Gish and Marlene Dietrich used to wear them. Diaghilev is rich, plush, and very animalic, padded with a thick layer of oakmoss that I can smell throughout the perfume’s development. It’s everything I can ask for in a scent. In a different time and place (ok, and a different personality) Diaghilev could have easily been a contender for my signature scent.

They no longer make them like that. They no longer sell them like that. And if you want to wear this type of perfumes you probably need to run with a very specific crowd who appreciate things like that. There aren’t all that many of us around these days, which is probably the reason that Diaghilev stands out so much and feels so shocking. You just don’t smell perfumes like this unless you’re well-versed in vintage perfumes. […]

Here’s the thing: Diaghilev is a magnificent perfume. It’s a very fitting tribute to Sergei Diaghilev and his uncompromising artistic vision. But I almost feel like an oblivious Gwyneth Paltrow prattling about in her GOOPy ways as I’m writing this, because it’s nearly impossible in this case to separate the excellent perfume from its positioning at the very top of the fragrance market. Roja Dove has made sure of that. [snip]

You should read her piece in full. In my case, I doubt I would be inspired to wear Diaghilev, whether it were gifted to me or cost $100. From the very first time I sniffed it at Jovoy around the time of its release, I shrugged and moved on. “Very well done, nice, but …. eh.” I suspect my problem is the lack of strong personality, and not the very dated, “museum” feel of the perfume. I love vintage perfumes, but this feels far too well-bred, dull, and old. Plus, given how very little time I have to wear perfume for myself these days, I would never waste a precious “free day” on Diaghilev. It wouldn’t even cross my mind. (The fascinating Jubilation 25, however, would be a very different matter….)

Diaghilev, the original EDT limited-edition bottle.

Diaghilev, the original EDT limited-edition bottle.

Speaking of museums, there is an important issue I need to cover: the original Diaghilev. A few commentators to the Non-Blonde’s post brought up the fact that Diaghilev was originally released in 2010 as part of an exhibition that commemorating Les Ballets Russes at the Victoria & Albert museum. It was a limited-edition fragrance which cost £75, and supposedly only 1000 bottles were released, though there is mention of Roja Dove selling refills in huge 250 ml aluminium bottles on his website. I paused at the comments, like the one talking about “the earlier EDP version’s affordability” and how it felt like “naked manipulation of the consumer.” And I very much agreed. It seemed like bloody cheek for a man to sell a perfume for £75, but then, 3 years later, stick the exact same thing into a crystal-capped bottle and sell it for exactly ten times as much at £750. It seemed outrageous, as if he were pulling the wool over your eyes, while laughing all the way to the bank.

Except that is not what actually happened. I did some digging, and the facts are different. It’s true, as Roja Dove discusses in old blog posts on his website, he made Diaghilev for the exhibition and, yes, he did release it back the for a substantially lower price. There are two key differences, however, between the original Diaghilev and the one released in 2013. For one thing, the original was an eau de parfum, though a number of people also state that it was a mere eau de toilette. Regardless, the new one is an Extrait, and, as noted, has the dense viscosity of an oil in feel, at least in the first few hours. For another, the current Diaghilev is supposedly remastered and changed.

The website, Cosmetopica, writes about that last fact in a glowing review for the new Diaghilev where she also explains the differences between the versions. Her article reads, in part, as follows:

Why the change, I asked Roja’s PR? Because Roja visited the Kremlin, he said. Once he got to Russia, he completely reformulated his ideas about Diaghilev and his oeuvre, and the perfume had to change with it.

The immediate effect of the opening notes of the ‘new’ Diaghilev is identical to the ‘old’ Diaghilev but it only lasts a second before there is then a massive bloom of citrus like falling head-first into a vat of bergamot. You might not get out alive, but it would be a good way to go. To this untutored nose, the citrus melange smelt above all like tangerines (a note that I see is absent). It is also strong enough to knock a horse over at 20 paces.

This phase of the perfume lasts a good 30 minutes – a very long time for citrus – and is fabulously rich and oily, not light and sparkling. […] [It] has the richness of the real deal, due to its use of natural materials in abundance.

I loved this phase of the fragrance, but it got even better in the second act. The floral heart emerges over time like a full orchestra tuning up and to be honest, I found it impossible to pick out the notes. It is at this point that the fragrance morphs back into the character of the original Diaghilev – true, old-style grand perfumerie. Ten hours later, it’s still going strong, wafting up from your clothing whenever you move or sweat, but “curiously well-behaved,”[.]

The next morning, the animalic facets are still there, which I love. I like a bit of skank in a perfume […] So the base notes of civet and musk that hang around for about 24 hours on clothing are just fine by me. […]

Source: scent-intoxique.com

Source: scent-intoxique.com

As for the issue of Mitsouko, Cosmetopica writes:

Diaghilev mark 1 smells like Mitsouko should and no longer does, and that, apparently, is no accident. Having read that Diaghilev the man used to spray his curtains with Mitsouko, this is partly Dove’s interpretation of what that atmosphere must have been like.

Does it smell like Mitsouko? Well no. It smells like a Guerlain we haven’t met yet – no accident, I guess, given that Dove worked for the company before it was swallowed up, masticated and vomited back out by LVMH.

I agree that it doesn’t smell purely and wholly like Mitsouko. However, to me, it starts off strongly as a mix of Mitsouko with Jubilation 25 (Women), before eventually shrugging off the Guerlain and turning more into Amouage territory. And I’m not the only one who thinks that. On Fragrantica’s page for Jubilation, 8 people noted a resemblance to Diaghilev, while 3 voted for Mitsouko. There are the same 8 votes for Jubilation on the actual Diaghilev entry as well.

On Fragrantica, the reviews for Roja Dove’s creation are almost all uniformly admiring. The shortest, flattest comment comes from one person who writes simply, “If Mitsouko and Vol de Nuit met and had a baby, their offspring would be Diaghilev.” Others, however, wax rhapsodic. Here are two of the shorter reviews representing the general consensus:

  • As usually with Roja Dove’s fragrances, Diaghilev as well is strongly inspired by big fragrances of the past. In this case, the old-fashioned chypre structure, comes directly from huge compositions such as Mitsouko and Sous Le Vent. A wonderful fizzy citrusy opening evolving into an extremely refined floral middle phase to then turn into a fresh and rich mossy vetiver drydown which is not so distant from the latest phases of Onda Extrait. [¶] The level of appreciation of Diaghilev is strongly related to one’s personal preference towards extremely classic fragrances. That said, if you like the genre, this is one of the best chypres currently available on the market.
  • Insanely opulent and suave chypre that, hilariously, reminds me of Aromatics Elixir. A smooth oak moss flanked by top-shelf patchouli and vetiver with minuscule touches of citrus and culinary herbs floating around. Ambrette and civet are present, but highly civilized; many of the myriad fruit / floral notes are there, but not prominent enough to isolate. The whole thing is big, round, and undeniably impressive, but it’s hard not to snicker at the kind of over-the-top luxury it’s signifying. Excellent, beautiful, stunning, and a tad ridiculous. [¶] Break out your Liberace furs and bling, slap some of this on, then go stomp around the neighborhood like you *own* the damn place.
Source: 10wallpaper.com

Source: 10wallpaper.com

Both those reviews come from men, by the way, which should alleviate any concerns that you may have that Diaghilev is a woman’s fragrance. As for the price, well, a good response comes from “Tymanski,” my friend who so generously sent me a small atomizer from his own bottle:

i never EVER thought i would even contemplate spending a week’s pay on a bottle of perfume. i made the fateful step of trying this juice out the other day and over the course of the day this smell just got better & better & better. i was extremely sceptical of roja dove – tried several and thought “what’s this guy pulling here”, but with Diaghilev, i take it all back. this is just spectacular on every level. a chypre of such depth, elegance, balance, simply a perfect fragrance. i am not going to start with notes, as this is prodigiously complex; i will say that the rose middle is the finest i’ve ever smelled. the sillage is quite discrete but very solid, and longevity is where it should be for an 850 euro (!!!) parfum. the long drydown has a beguiling affinity with amouage epic man (another favouite). some say this is similar to vintage mitsouko, i really can’t say. it does embody everything i love about chypres in the end, i was seduced.

The bottom line for you is that you should seek out a sample of Diaghilev if you’re a lover of rich chypres, vintage perfumes, Mitsouko, Jubilation 25, and/or very heavy, strongly classical fragrances. Do it for the experience, particularly you’re relatively new to perfumery and want to learn about opulent chypres done in the vintage manner. (Consider it an expensive educational lesson, if you will.) For those who don’t fall into any of the aforementioned categories, I am somewhat dubious as to your reaction. I suspect that you might find Diaghilev overly heavy, very dated and museum-like indeed.

As to what will happen once you smell it, well, then the issue of price will come back to bite you squarely on the nose. You will either: be unable to separate the issue of the cost from the smell, much like The Non-Blonde; think Diaghilev is worth it and be in a quandary; or be like me and intellectually recognize Diaghilev’s quality, but be utterly unmoved nonetheless. One thing is absolutely certain, though: the price tag is the 800-pound gorilla in Diaghilev’s room. £750 to be precise.

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Diaghilev is a pure parfum or Extrait which is available in a 100 ml/3.4 oz size which costs $990, €990 or £750. In the U.S.: Diaghilev is carried by New York’s Osswald and Bergdorf Goodman. Outside the U.S.: In the UK, you can buy Diaghilev from Roja Dove at his Haute Parfumerie on the 5th Floor of Harrods London, from Harrod’s online, or from Roja Dove’s e-store at Roja Parfums. In France, Jovoy Paris seems to be the exclusive distributor for Roja Parfums and sells Diaghilev for €990. In the UAE, the Paris Gallery has Diaghilev for AED 5,175. For all other locations, you can use the Roja Dove Locations listing which mentions more stores from Poland to Germany, Switzerland, Lithuania, Russia, and the Ukraine. By the way, in Russia, Roja Dove is supposed to be at Moscow’s tsUM, but I couldn’t find the brand listed on their website when I did a search. There are no Canadian, Asian or Oceania vendors. Samples: I purchased my main, core sample. It came from Surrender to Chance which sells Diaghilev starting at $7.49 for a 1/4 ml vial.

Art, Beauty & Perfumes: The Genius of Roberto Greco

Sometimes, you stumble upon art of such great beauty that you stop in your tracks with awe. Art can move you deeply, whether it is from the sensuality that you see portrayed, the boldness of colours, the inherent drama of juxtaposed images, or the sheer talent that is involved. Last week, I came across a photographer whose works transcended mere pictures and involved actual Art. It left me speechless. In an extremely hectic week, his photographs (if one can even call them that) felt almost like a port in the storm, a place where I could seek quiet refuge to soothe my frazzled soul.

Candice Swanepoel in "Strict" by Mert & Marcus for Interview Magazine September 2011.

Candice Swanepoel in “Strict” by Mert & Marcus for Interview Magazine September 2011.

I rarely talk about my love for photography, even to my friends, but I’ve had it since childhood. Other people’s photography, to be clear, as I have no talent of my own in this field whatsoever. I started by admiring the nature photography of Ansel Adams and the photojournalism of Robert Doisneau, then developed a particular interest in fashion and art photography. I have a huge passion for the works of the late, great Herb Ritts who is my absolute favorite, though I also really like Richard Avedon, and Helmut Newton. These days, I can fall down the rabbit-hole for hours staring at the strong, sexy women of Mert & Marcus, a brilliant duo who may be aesthetic sons of both of those last legends combined and whose work I’ve used a number of time for the blog.

Last week, I was calmly minding my own business, going about my work, when I received a very lovely email. I often receive notes from perfume lovers who want to talk about some of their favorite fragrances or to occasionally ask me a question. This one was from a chap called Roberto Greco who wrote that he was a photographer and a perfume addict who really appreciated my reviews. He added that he thought he’d share a link to some small photographs that he’d taken a year ago for himself. The mention of photographs was nothing big; it was all understated, presented more like a little vanity project that he’d done privately out of his love of perfumery and that he merely wanted to share with another perfume lover.

Willem Kalf, (1619-1693)  "Still Life with Ewer, Vessels and Pomegranate." The Getty Museum. Source: Wikipedia.

Willem Kalf, (1619-1693) “Still Life with Ewer, Vessels and Pomegranate.” The Getty Museum. Source: Wikipedia.

I clicked on the link, and… GOOD GOD! In fact, those were close to the actual words that I said to myself, since I just about fell over in my chair at what I saw. The next words which blasted through my mind were “Vermeer,” “Rembrandt,” and “Dutch Old Masters.” I was captivated, and wrote back to Mr. Greco with my astonishment. He’s an incredibly sweet man with excessive modesty, if you ask me, as he seemed rather amazed at my response. He shyly shared a few more of his photos and his main website, where I discovered further treasures, both perfume-related and otherwise.

I decided that I wanted as many people to see his work as possible, and asked him if he would mind if I highlighted his photos in a post on the blog. He has generously given me permission, and let me pick the images that I wanted to use, including several that were commissioned for commercial use by perfume houses, fashion designers, magazines or the like. (I insisted that he put a watermark and his name on them, lest they get stolen. Mr. Greco has a much kinder view of human nature than I do, but he put in a tiny one so that it wouldn’t ruin your enjoyment of the images.)

I’m really so happy to be able to share his work with you, because I think the word “talented” doesn’t even begin to describe him. So, I’ll start with the very first, initial photographs that I saw and that impressed me so much with their evocation of the classical still life painting tradition.

Roberto Greco Coco

Roberto Greco Tom Ford Still Life 2Roberto Greco Coco Noir Still Life

Roberto Greco Diptyque Still LifeLook at his eye for details, from the giant beetle on the corner which matches the colour of the velvet in the next photo:Roberto Greco Tom Ford Still Life  1There is no doubt that Mr. Greco is influenced by the Old Masters and the baroque tradition of still-life paintings. Some of the commercial work on his website makes that abundantly clear. Each work has such depth, richness, and dark luxuriousness, but I also love the extremely bold, powerful imagery. It hits you right off the bat, from contrast of colours, the unexpected juxtapositions, and those tiny, minute details that you only pick up if you look closer upon a second or third viewing. Honestly, I think this is actual Art, with a capital letter, more than just a mere photograph:

"Budgie and Pomegranate."

“Budgie and Pomegranate.”

"Girl and Grapes."

“Girl and Grapes.”

Look at how the juices from the grape stain her thigh, in the photo above, and the luminescent light of her skin that speaks more to painting than photography. I think Vermeer and his Dutch brethren would be so impressed by Mr. Greco’s Girl with Grapes.

Yet, Mr. Greco doesn’t slavishly copy the classical Baroque tradition. He turns it upside down by inserting animals or unexpected details into his still-lifes.

Roberto Greco __Still life with rats

“Still life with rats.”

"Still life with Discus fish."

“Still life with Discus fish.”

Commercial work for others can sometimes require an artist to restrain himself or to edit his voice, but I think Mr. Greco’s work remains powerful and still demonstrates his overall aesthetic beautifully.

Commissioned by Les Echos magazine.

Commissioned by Les Echos magazine.

"Bloody Wood" for the perfume house, Les Liquides Imaginaires

“Bloody Wood” for the perfume house, Les Liquides Imaginaires

"Bello Rabelo" for Les Liquides Imaginaires.

“Bello Rabelo” for Les Liquides Imaginaires.

"Dom Rosa" for Les Liquides Imaginaires

“Dom Rosa” for Les Liquides Imaginaires

For fashion designer, Nunzio del Prete.

Photo commissioned by the fashion designer, Nunzio del Prete.

Commissioned by Les Restos d'Occase.

Commissioned by Les Restos d’Occase.

Photo commissioned by Oriza L. Legrand.

Photo commissioned by Oriza L. Legrand.

The funny thing about that last photo is that I actually saw it while I was in the Oriza L. Legrand boutique last fall in Paris. I distinctly remember the crown, and doing a double-take at it, thinking to myself, “What a fantastic picture. I wonder who took it?” The world is a very small, funny place at times.

Roberto Greco Cuir de RussieI asked Mr. Greco about himself. His website biography talks about the exhibitions that he’s had, or the galleries that have proudly shown his work, but it doesn’t say much about the man himself. It’s clear he was educated in Switzerland, and that he now spends his time between Paris and Geneva, but little else. So, I asked Mr. Greco to write a tiny bit about himself, how he came to love perfume so much, and his aesthetic approach. English is not his primary language, but I think he managed beautifully:

I think it all started when, as a kid, my mother sprayed her perfume on my pillow to help me wait a long holiday absence. This smell was a picture, her face.

I’m a south Italian, but I was born in Geneva, Switzerland. At 15, I made studies in horticulture, but art was never really far. Indeed, I studied in 2 different art schools in Switzerland, and nature has a prominent place in my artistic work from the beginning.

Whether plants or animals in my childhood, the smell they gave off always fascinated me. Just a look at the steam emanating of a pile of wet leaves when it’s cold outside, will make you able to capture the complexity of all these organic things that surround us. All these smells are images. I will keep forever in my mind, and now I try to transcribe them in my art.

Once, an art director told me that my way of creating was the same as a perfumer. Different intensities which punctuate the picture. Here a detail, another one there, and then the rhythm starts to give the tempo and make an harmony …much like top notes , heart notes and base notes of a fragrance.

Recently, I found interesting to add a scent during my last personal exhibition. All the space was immersed in an animal and sweat scent. I make it by mixing different scents, and hidden some manure everywhere.

Today I am often asked to photograph perfumes, and it is a joy for me to marry two passions. Interpret the world of a fragrance while playing with the codes of art is an exciting challenge!

"Eaux Sanguines" for Les Liquides Imaginaires.

“Eaux Sanguines” for Les Liquides Imaginaires.

Currently I am very attracted to odours that remind me of my past. For example, olibanum incense is quite an obsession, probably because all those years I came to the church (Bois d’Encens by Armani Privé, Wazamba by Parfum D’ EmpireOlibanum by Profumum and Sancti by Les Liquides Imaginaires ). Woods and plants are also very present (Chêne and Iris Silver Mist by Serge Lutens, Virgilio by Diptyque).

Recently, I bought a perfume because when I smelled it, it referred me immediately to my Italian grandmother. It was obvious : this blend of lilies, dusty incense, wet clothes drying in the sun… It was her ! At least her image, because she doesn’t wear any perfume, and this is exactly for this kind of situation that I love and need perfume. (It was Relique d’Amour by Oriza L. Legrand ).

Now I live and work in Paris, and for a perfume addict like me, what could I expect more? [Emphasis to names with bolding added by me.]

Like every artist with depth, there is more to Mr. Greco than just baroque images or still lifes. He doesn’t limit himself to one particular thing, because photography is, at its heart, all about self-expression, a way to reveal different sides of oneself. Some of his perfume photos demonstrate a meditative, almost mystical quality, like the Chanel Cuir de Russie above, or the Opium photo below. Perfume bottles hidden by smoke, or the mists of time, perhaps. Others reflect a very modern sensibility with sleek minimalism or an almost textural, liquid feel.

Roberto Greco OpiumRoberto Greco FahrenheitRoberto Greco Calvin Klein CK One

"Blue Armani."

“Blue Armani.”

Then, there is the joyous mood of his hyper-saturated, pastel photos. The candied simplicity of their pop cultural, Andy Warhol-like brightness is brilliantly intercut with the unexpectedness of hair — hair twisted to grow like living bushes or sculptured into sleek, architectural waves:

Photo with Olivier Schawalder, hairstylist.

Photo with Olivier Schawalder, hairstylist.

Photo with Olivier Schawalder, hairstylist.

Photo with Olivier Schawalder, hairstylist.

Photo with Olivier Schawalder, hairstylist.

Photo with Olivier Schawalder, hairstylist.

Photo with Olivier Schawalder, hairstylist.

Photo with Olivier Schawalder, hairstylist.

Valentino. Photo with Olivier Schawalder, hairstylist.

Valentino. Photo with Olivier Schawalder, hairstylist.

These are only a fraction of the multi-faceted things that Mr. Greco has done. You can see more of his artistic and exhibition work on his current website, but also on his earlier one that is devoted to some of his other projects, whether his personal perfume pictures, his fashion photography, videos, or the like.

One of my favorite things about blogging is the people who I meet, and the passions that they share with me. When I opened up that first email from Mr. Greco and diffidently clicked on the link enclosed, I had no expectations of anything. Humble, little photographs is essentially how he conveyed himself to me. I certainly didn’t expect to be blown away by Art, with a capital A. But that is what it is. Mr. Greco paints with his lens: textures, layers, moods, richness, and passion.

There is enormous depth and sensuality underlying his images, but a naughty, mischievous sense of humour, too, with the unexpected touches like the white mice in one of the still-life tableaux. (The piece is entitled “Still life with rats,” but they are cute little mice, not ugly rats, so I’m ignoring the official title.) Mr. Greco also throws in little “Easter egg” elements that reward the careful viewer who takes a second or third look, like the gigantic cicada (I thought it was a moth) hovering at the corner of the bowl of strawberries in his hanging Fish and Vegetable still-life for Les Restos d’Occase. I can look at his photos again and again, always finding new meaning or symbolism. A pink rose that drips like wax downwards, in contrast to the rigid, still, vertical legs going up of the dead bird in the corner. Or, the meatiness of the cherries that lie symbolically stabbed and bloodied by shards of glass in the photo, “Bloody Wood” for Les Liquides Imaginaires. So damn clever!

Many artists are temperamental creatures driven by ego or moods, and photographers are not necessarily an exception. I should know, as I have one in the family; a former fashion photographer who was even the legendary Helmut Newton’s assistant at one point. (If you want to talk about utterly crazy, egomaniacal geniuses, the late Helmut Newton might have topped the list.)

Yet, Mr. Greco seems to be quite a different sort of artist. Granted, I’ve only had email communication with him, but his modesty and consistently humble nature are striking. He is totally lacking in pretentious artifice or arrogance. All he sought to do in contacting me was to privately share his passion for perfumery. I’m the one who insisted on featuring him on the blog, because I thought that many of you would be as impressed as I was. And I really hope you have been. I also hope that you will share in the comments anything that struck you, moved you, or was a favorite, as well as the reasons why. If you have a message for Mr. Greco, please feel free to leave that, too. All artists love to hear feedback, or to learn about the emotional response that their creations evoke.

The great Ansel Adams once said, “You don’t make a photograph just with a camera. You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, the people you have loved.” In the case of Roberto Greco, you can add perfumes to that list as well.

Disclosure: All photos used by permission. Full rights are reserved to Mr. Greco, and nothing may be used without his express authorization. Please don’t steal and not give credit!