Parfumerie Générale Coze (PG02): Cozy, Spiced Warmth

Source: wallpaperscraft.ru

Source: wallpaperscraft.ru

Close your eyes, and imagine that you’re lying in a field on a hot summer’s day. All around you are tall blades of fresh, green grass, but this is a very different sort of field. Your head rests on large bales of hemp, large pods of cocoa sprout up around your body next to black stalks of Madagascar vanilla, and the patchouli earth is a mix of sweetness and dryness. The sun shines on your face, but brown-red clouds shower cloves and nutmeg down on you, while a dry wind blows a soft smokiness from the ebony trees circling the field. Dotting the landscape all around are picnic tables covered by tobacco leaves that have been lightly drizzled by honey. As you doze in the warmth and golden sweetness, the scenery changes and you’re carried off in a cloud of cloves, nutmeg and chocolate, threaded through with patchouli and dry woods, and a dash of vanilla. Welcome to the special world of Coze.

Pierre Guillaume. Source: CaFleureBon

Pierre Guillaume. Source: CaFleureBon

Coze is a gorgeous, cozy eau de toilette from Parfumerie Générale that I simply loved, a fragrance that straddles the line between an oriental and a gourmand in a perfectly calibrated mix of spices, warmth, dryness, and sweetness. I’d heard a lot about Coze from a friend who strongly encouraged me to try it, raving about its patchouli aspects and its coziness, but I had held off for fear of the ISO E Super that Pierre Guillaume seemed so fond of in his other fragrances. He was right, I was unnecessarily leery, and I wish I had followed his advice sooner. Coze has neither ISO E Supercrappy nor any of the excessive, cloying, diabetic sweetness that is the hallmark of Pierre Guillaume’s Phaedon line. Instead, Coze is beautifully balanced, and the perfect sort of “Cozy Scent,” my second favorite category of fragrance. True, there are a few flaws which prevent it from being perfect, but, in the overall scheme of things and for the price, I think Coze is fantastic. It is definitely going on my “Must Buy” list.

Coze. Source: Fragrantica.

Coze. Source: Fragrantica.

Coze is the second in Pierre Guillaume’s numbered line of fragrances (02) and is an eau de toilette that was released in 2002. Parfumerie Generale describes the scent as follows:

Woody Oriental Tobacco – Spicy and Vibrant

A shortened olfactory pyramid for this first scent based on essential Canapa Sativa Seed Oil. [¶] The olfactory complexity of this new extraction, which Parfumerie Générale has the exclusive rights to, deserved a bold and original construction capable of bringing out all the facets of this rare and precious ingredient. In place of the head note, the disconcerting, captivating Canapa Sativa heralds, a rich, warm juice.

Its heart is vibrant with spices and precious wood : pepper, pimento and coffee fuse and flame to announce the sensuality of ebony, the rich, bewitching sweetness of chocolate and the infusion of Bourbon vanilla pods.

Indian Hemp, Patchouli, Spices, Blond Tobacco.

Hemp, dried out and with seeds, via Wikipedia.

Hemp, dried out and with seeds, via Wikipedia.

The succinct and complete list of notes, as compiled from that description, seems to be:

canapa sativa seed oil [Indian hemp], pepper, pimento [chili], coffee, ebony wood, chocolate, bourbon vanilla pods, Patchouli, Spices, Blond Tobacco.

Fragrantica, however, adds in cedar and sandalwood, something that I have not seen on any other sites. Luckyscent, however, omits both the patchouli and tobacco. Meanwhile, OsswaldNYC mentions both, but also brings up nutmeg as well. Whatever the specific details may be, one thing I can tell you is that Coze is reported to have been reformulated. It is something mentioned by quite a number of people, from those commenting on Luckyscent to my friend who loves Coze passionately but who mourns its change in potency and richness. (He says it is “25%” less dense.) Finally, I should add that I have no clue what “hemp” may smell like beyond its dried grass characteristics. I’ve come across hemp rope, but all I took away from it was the dried aspect.

Coze‘s opening takes me to a field of sunshine and warmth. The perfume opens on my skin with a fierce, concentrated explosion of nutmeg and cloves, then black pepper, chili flakes, and patchouli. In their trail is the sweet aroma of dried tobacco that smells like tobacco leaves drizzled with honey after being soaked in rich vanilla extract. The whole thing is lovely, but becomes even better when the cocoa arrives. It resembles rich slabs of semi-sweet chocolate, as well as dusty cocoa powder. As the Madagascar vanilla and chocolate infuse the top notes, the spicy patchouli turns earthier. It smells like sweet, slightly wet, loamy soil, but also something dustier and drier. Tying the whole thing together like a bundle are sweet grassy notes, presumably from the hemp.

Bakhoor incense. Source: darulkutub.co.uk

Bakhoor incense. Source: darulkutub.co.uk

Coze is sweet, but it’s also too dry to be a true gourmand fragrance. Nothing about it resembles dessert, despite the chocolate and vanilla elements. The fragrance is much more like an Oriental at the start with gourmand touches that have been carefully calibrated to be on the drier side, rather than the heavily sweet. There is a subtle smokiness to the notes, perhaps from the ebony wood. Tendrils of a Bakhoor-type of incense weave around the cloves, nutmeg, patchouli and chocolate, leaving me quite mesmerized by the overall effect.

Source: caffiendsvictoria.com

Source: caffiendsvictoria.com

I don’t know what is the better final touch: the honey drizzled on the blond tobacco, or the subtle traces of expresso coffee that join the festivities after 10 minutes. The whole thing is luscious, rich, smooth, and deep, a combination of notes that is utterly like catnip to me. In fact, I rather feel like a cat who — dazed and drugged — wants to stretch out in the warmth of the fiery spices, dryness, sweetness and darkness. Coze is neither light nor dark in its shadings, but a mix of both with the light tobacco and ebony woods. Yet, the predominant colours are earth tones led by the fiery, red-brown cloves. Somewhere in Tuscany, there is a painter trying to capture these exact shades of umber, burnt umber, sienna, terracotta, expresso, sun-bleached grass, and golden sunshine.

Cloves, close up. Source: www.toothachesremedies.net

Cloves, close up. Source: http://www.toothachesremedies.net

I grant you, I’m both a patch head and a lover of cloves, but neither is the sole reason why I find Coze to be glorious. The more I wear it, the more time passes, the less I can decide what appeals to me most. Like a spoilt child indulged in a candy store, I’m dazzled by the array of choices, notes that feel tailor-made for me. I’ve changed my mind on the tobacco being the coup de gras, as the note is far too subtle and minor in the overall scheme of things. I settle on the chocolate for a brief moment, but, being fickle, I change my mind again. No, I think it really may be the cloves. God, they’re fantastic. Coze’s opening is like a richer, more concentrated version of Caron‘s legendary Poivre Pure Parfum which in its modern form is much weaker on the chili pepper, cloves, and fire. Coze has all that, minus Poivre’s powderiness.

The cherry on the cake is the smooth cocoa powder and the dry vanilla, mixed with the patchouli’s earthiness and the hemp’s grassy notes. They are supplemented by a touch of coffee which, unfortunately, is extremely weak, muted and muffled. Most of the time, it feels like a mere by-product of the other elements, the result of the patchouli and chocolate combined, more than actual coffee, per se. Coze would be far better with more of the note, but perhaps this is the result of reformulation. Still, the fleeting suggestion is a wonderful touch when it briefly pops up in the opening 30 minutes.

Source: hqwallpapers4free.com

Source: hqwallpapers4free.com

Everything about the darker, woodier or spice elements seems intentionally designed to ensure that Coze never becomes cloying. I generally struggle with really syrupy fragrances, and I find Pierre Guillaume’s Phaedon line (especially Rouge Avignon, but also Tabac Rouge and Pure Azure) to be well-nigh unbearable in overdoing the sugariness. Thankfully, Coze is nothing like that. Your first thought when you smell it is not about the sweetness, but cloves, spices and patchouli before you register the chocolate and vanilla. Yes, there is a gourmand, sweet base, but all the other notes beat it up, stuff it into a suitcase, then sit on it, and tell it to shut up.

Photo: Willma. Source: photocase.com

Photo: Willma. Source: photocase.com

Coze starts to slowly shift after 30 minutes. The fragrance turns drier, woodier, and softer. The patchouli moves up to the foreground, as do the chocolate and earthy elements. For all the patchouli’s strength, it feels gossamer light, almost akin to a translucent veil of heavily spiced sweetness and warmth. The earthy and hemp accords are more distinct, though the hemp is merely just dry now and no longer freshly grassy. Meanwhile, the cocoa has turned into milk chocolate. The tobacco has retreated, along with the coffee, and both vanish completely after another 15 minutes. Taking their place is a hint of cedar that dances about; perhaps Fragrantica was right in their assessment when they included it. As a whole, Coze is an equal measure of well-blended cloves, nutmeg, chocolate, patchouli, and earthiness, followed by dry, woody touches and a lesser amount of vanilla and smoke. The whole thing is cocooned in a soft warmth that feels ambered, though is an abstract amber and impression more than an actual note.

45 minutes in, the sillage drops and Coze turns much thinner. As an Eau de Toilette, there are inherent limitations in how much richness a perfume can have. After all, a far lesser quantity of essential perfume oils is used than in an eau de parfum. Still, Coze feels like a light cloud, no matter how strong its notes may be. The richness is a bit like a will o’ the wisp that starts to dart out of reach. The cloves and spices may be potent when sniffed up close, the actual perfume now is wafting only 2 inches above the skin. Coze began by projecting a good 5-6 inches with 3 moderate dabs on the skin, but the more moderate sillage isn’t the real issue.

Photo: Mikewheels. Source: burst-burst.blogspot.com/

Photo: Mikewheels. Source: burst-burst.blogspot.com/ (Direct website link embedded within.)

The problem is that the red-brown notes have turned blurry, a little too blurry for my liking. Apart from the cloves and nutmeg, and to a lesser extent the chocolate, some of the elements feel very muffled, muted and indistinct in an individual way. In fact, if you smell Coze from a distance at the end of the first 90 minutes, there doesn’t seem to be much more to the scent than those 3 elements. You have to come in closer to really detect the patchouli (which is slowly and increasingly turning into simple spiced sweetness), along with the slight smokiness, and the lingering touches of earthiness. The dry woods are wholly amorphous now as well, while the vanilla seems to have melted into the rest of the fragrance.

Source: backgrounds.mysitemyway.com

Source: backgrounds.mysitemyway.com

As time passes, Coze doesn’t change very much except to become blurrier and softer. The most significant difference is that the dry chocolate powder moves to the foreground, while the patchouli slips to the background. Coze is now primarily cloves and cocoa powder, followed by patchouli sweetness and an amorphous woodiness. Traces of vanilla and a subtle smoke linger at the edges, but they eventually fade away. About 2.75 hours into Coze’s development, it is a skin scent. After four hours, it is a soft, sheer, sweet blur of spiced, woody sweetness with muted veins of chocolate and patchouli. It’s still very pretty and wonderfully cozy, but I miss the nuances, body, and richness of the opening. In its final moments, Coze is a sheer, translucent smear of warm, sweet woodiness. All in all, it lasted just short of 9 hours which is excellent for an eau de toilette, particularly given my wonky skin.

Despite the sillage and sheerness, I loved Coze, but it is not a scent that I would recommend to everyone. You must — MUST — love cloves! You also have to appreciate the true, original sort of patchouli with all its chocolate, woody, spiced, earthy nuances. This is not the modern sort of patchouli (or fruitchouli) with its purple, fruited syrup, but it’s also not the black head-shop patchouli of the 1970s. This is a much more refined, brown-red, spicy patchouli than its hippie predecessor, but it is still patchouli nonetheless. I think the cloves may actually be a greater problem for most people, along with the dryness and fieriness of the opening moments.

Those issues explain the mixed reactions to Coze on Luckyscent. The cloves made one person think of a dentist analgesic or numbing solution for when you have pain on your gums. For another person, the problem was actually the hemp which they thought was too weird of a note, evoking something “wet and heavy.” A handful of people found Coze to give off an “ashtray” vibe, perhaps from the tobacco or the incense. For some other commentators, the problem was that Coze was not unisex, but masculine in its dryness and woodiness. Clearly, it’s going to depend on your standards, and whether something very spicy or dry seems to lack feminine softness.

Black chocolate via bioshieldinc.com

Black chocolate via bioshieldinc.com

Those commentators are in the minority though, as the majority of Luckyscent reviewers love Coze:

  • Choclate glazed donuts, mmm…..
  • Mmmmmmm–darkly sexy! Loving the hemp, and it’s loving me! Smells slilghtly like a soft amber. Luscious and very come-hither. Lacy lingerie a must!
  • This really does it for me! Heady,hypnotic,and enticing. EVERYBODY loves this one on me! It’s kinda odd when other guys comment on my frag, but it’s just that good.I’d wear it even if I didn’t like it just for the social aspect.
  • The topnotes were off-putting. I think it was too much pimento? But the middle and base are exquisite. This is not a sweet chocolate. It is dark and mysterious.
  • This fragrance has a stunning combination of notes. It gives an impression of fine grain texture, with dark spices and woods, with a touch of gourmand dark chocolate, coffee and vanilla pods. Rich but in a dry way. Outstanding.
  • warm, spicy and deep topnotes from the pimento, chocolate and vanilla. The warmth has a woody resonance about it that gives it mystery and some complexity – probably from the sativa oil. Coze has a caribbean spice Island vibe but with sort of a woody incense drydown note. Nice if you like spice! […][¶] underestimated how nice the drydown is. Exceptional! The sweetness recedes and the pepper comes out with the resin wood notes for a smoky but ethereai very dry wood + spice. Kind of magical. 

For two people, the problem was reformulation and longevity, respectively:

  • I bought my second bottle last month and I’m sad to say that it is no longer my favorite. I don’t know what the did with the formulation but it lacks the depth and punch from 2 years ago. I love the initial blast but it fades VERY quickly on me now and is gone within 4 hours. No more strong punch of pimento. Damn – this has been reduced from 5 stars to 3.
  • Love this for a summer scent — it’s woody but sunny, sweet (chocolate notes), both dry and light. It has a kind of rich European hippy vibe that seems sexy and festive to me, and not particularly masculine as some have objected. I would adopt it in an instant but on me it is terribly fleeting — I get 75 minutes at most. Heartbreaker.

Yes, Coze has definite flaws in terms of its sillage and weight, while, in a few rare cases, some people have also experienced poor longevity. However, on Fragrantica,  the vast majority of people voted by a landslide for “moderate” in both categories.  I personally was surprised at Coze’s longevity on my skin, especially given that it is an eau de toilette, though I did have to smell it up close after 4 or 5 hours to notice it fully. I suppose that makes it suitable for work, if you go easy on the amount you apply, because I have to emphasize that the opening 30-40 minutes are very strong indeed.

The more significant issue is whether Coze is unisex, since some women seem to think Coze is firmly masculine. There are some female bloggers who would firmly disagree. Back in 2006, before the perfume was reformulated to become even softer and less spicy, Marina of Perfume-Smellin’ Things wrote:

there is nothing overly masculine about this fragrance. It is my favorite of the line; with notes of Canapa Sativa seed oil, pepper, pimento, coffee, ebony, chocolate, and bourbon vanilla, this is a rich, sumptuous composition, with luxurious accords smoothly blended into a dark, spicy harmony. This is a “pitch black” perfume with woody and (very black) coffee notes being most prominent on my skin. Those, who, like me, are wary of chocolate in perfume, should not worry, the accord is very subtle and elegant here. This was without a doubt “full bottle worthy” for me.

For Angela at Now Smell This who tried the fragrance in 2013, Coze was wafer dry, but also autumnal and “firmly unisex.” Her review reads, in part, as follows:

If [Coze’s] list of notes brings to mind a Montale Patchouli Leaves café mocha, think again. Coze is as dry as a brown Necco wafer. [¶] In fact, to get a sense of Coze, imagine that Necco wafer, but crafted by Pierre Hermé. The chef has mixed a pinch of lavender with the cocoa powder, and he’s stored the wafers in an old wooden box with coffee dust in its corners. The mixture approximates tobacco, but is more minty-woody. I can’t pick out any pimento. For such a potentially dessert-like fragrance, Coze is austere.

It’s also fairly linear. What you smell after a few minutes on skin is what you get throughout the life of the fragrance. That seems to work for Coze, though. Instead of being a big, symphonic perfume … it’s an easy-to-hum folk melody you can’t believe you haven’t heard before. I find Coze firmly unisex.

Sometimes I want something interesting but not serious to wear. I can imagine spritzing on Coze in the fall for long walks. Coze would blend well with the scent of books, coffee shops, and fires, too. I could see … [it on] those days I want to smell earthy, warm, and easy, without smelling cliched or overwhelming. Coze’s biggest drawback for me is that it only lasts a few hours before I have to press my nose directly on skin to smell it.

And let me say it one more time: it doesn’t smell anything like hippies.

"Javascapes" by Photographer Daniel G. Walczyk. Source: http://devidsketchbook.com (Website link embedded within.)

“Javascapes” by Photographer Daniel G. Walczyk. Source: http://devidsketchbook.com (Website link embedded within.)

I think men who love sweet-dry fragrances with strong spices, some darkness, light gourmand touches, a hint of tobacco and incense, all wrapped up in cozy warmth will go nuts for Coze. Women who don’t like syrupy fragrances but who love spicy orientals will thoroughly enjoy it as well. As for those who don’t like dark fragrances, I truly don’t think Coze qualifies. The expresso is really the tiniest touch, the incense is subtle, and the chocolate is more like powdered cocoa for the majority of Coze’s development. More importantly, the reformulation seems to have toned down Coze’s fiery bite from the pimento in the opening, so it would be easier now for those who don’t like a strong spice mix. That said, everyone needs to be aware of the cloves and patchouli. If you can’t bear either note, you should skip Coze. 

For everyone else, I definitely think you should consider giving Coze a test sniff. It is really lovely as a cozy winter fragrance, though the light weight and airiness means you can wear it in summer, too. Even better, Coze is not hugely expensive. The smallest size (30 ml or 1 oz) costs $85 or €65, while the 50 ml bottle is $100, €92, or £81.50. The relatively moderate cost means that it’s not impractical to reapply Coze after 5 hours if you’re one of the people whose skin seems to eat up the scent. I loved it from the first sniff, and definitely plan to get a full bottle for myself. The sunny, golden warmth mixed with the rich spices and patchouli, the dusky chocolate and sweet vanilla, the light threads of honey drizzled blond tobacco and incense… fantastic!

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Coze is an eau de toilette that comes in a 3 different sizes on the Parfumerie General website: 1 oz/30 ml for €62, 1.7 oz/50 ml for €92, and 3.4 oz/100 ml for €130. The U.S. pricing seems to be: $85, $100, and $179, respectively. In the U.S.: Coze is available in the 1.7 oz/50 ml size from Luckyscent for $100, along with a sample. NYC’s Osswald offers Coze in all 3 sizes, including the 1 oz/30 ml bottle for $85, and in the 3.4 oz/100 ml bottle for $179. Outside the U.S.: In Canada, the Vancouver branch of The Perfume Shoppe sells Coze for $150 for the large 100 ml size. You may want to email them for the Canadian price. In the UK, Coze is available at London’s Bloom Parfumery and Les Senteurs. Both stores offer Coze in two sizes: the 1.7 oz/50 ml costs £81.50, while the large 100 ml goes for £117.50. Samples are also available for purchase. In Paris, the niche boutique store Sens Unique carries the full PG line, but they don’t seem to have an e-store on their website. Germany’s First in Fragrance only has the small size of Coze which it sells for €94, along with a sample. In the Netherland’s, the PG line is carried at Annindriya’s Perfume Lounge, while one of the many Italian retailers is Vittoria Profumi. For all other locations from Russia and Kuwait to the Sweden, Spain, Poland and the rest of Europe, you can turn to Parfumerie Generale’s website here for a list of retailers. Samples: I obtained my sample from Surrender to Chance which sells Coze starting at $4.99 for a 1 ml vial. There is also a 5 Sampler Set of your choice of PG fragrance starting at $22.99 for a 1 ml vial. (I recommend trying PG’s Indochine as well, if you go this route.)

Perfume Review – Parfumerie Générale (PG25) Indochine: Sweet Intoxication

Mekong River. Source: terrainfinita.es

Mekong River. Source: terrainfinita.es

Close your eyes, and imagine a pool near the Mekong River in France’s old South-East Asian colony of Indochine. The thick, sultry air swirls around you as you dive in. It’s a pool of decadent, creamy custard that is a bright egg-yellow, unctuous, thick, endlessly creamy, and sweet. As your head hits its top layer, your body is coated by dark vanilla and golden honey, but quickly you are surrounded by flecks of green. Nutty, green cardamon with its warm, toasty edge mixes with the custard. Subtle specks of dry smoky incense touch your lips, but everywhere around you is cream, cream, cream. So golden, so heady, so rich, so luxurious, you fall in deeper and deeper. A sweet milkiness swirls with the toastiness, the custard, and the nutty cardamon to create café au lait. Like a 1960s psychedelic trip, the colours have changed from golden, egg-yellow, to green, to creamy, mocha brown. You’re cocooned in warmth and sweetness, but dryness and smoke linger in the air and soon take over, until all that is left is a patina of dry, creamy, sepia-tinged vanilla that kisses your skin like the warm air of Indochine.

PG25 Indochine. Source: The Perfume Shoppe.

PG25 Indochine. Source: The Perfume Shoppe.

That is the tale of my journey with Indochine (or PG25 Indochine), the 25th creation of the French niche perfume house, Parfumerie Générale. It is an eau de toilette that is named after the former French colony in an area of South-East Asia that was once referred to as Indochina, and whose territory encompasses what is now modern Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam. Parfumerie Generale’s founder, Pierre Guillaume, is often known for creating gourmand fragrances, but Indochine doesn’t truly fall into that category. For all the perfume’s sweet touches, there are plenty of dry, smoky, woody notes to act as a counter-balance, creating a beautiful, addictive, compulsively sniffable fragrance that is extremely wearable, unisex, and cozy.

Parfumerie Generale’s website explains the inspiration for Indochine, its feel, and the characteristics of some of its notes:

1920 : a sepia-toned cruise following the course of  the mighty Mekong River, a kaleidoscope of ephemeral dawns shrouded in mist and glorious days of radiant sunshine.

Slow down, just enjoy the dampness and close your eyes. Beyond the riverbanks, our dreams of Indochina…

One of the sepia images that was the inspiration for Indochine. Source: CaFleureBon.

One of the sepia images that was the inspiration for Indochine. Source: CaFleureBon.

At once sweet, vanilla-scented, resinous, powdery, milky and spicy, Benzoin Siam is a resin of great olfactory richness that is rarely used as a central theme in Perfumery.

Drawing on rare notes such as Kampot Pepper, Burmese Tanakha, or Laos honey, Pierre Guillaume orchestrates a luminous, smooth and airy perfume, delicately reproducing each and every facet of the unprocessed balsam. [¶] This sepia-tinged balm infuses Indochine with the radiance of platinum…

The short summation of the perfume’s notes is as follows:

Benzoin Siam Resin, Kampot Pepper, Ceylon Cardamom, Burmese Tanakha, Laos Honey.

I think it’s impossible to understand Indochine without discussing a key ingredient that I’d never previously heard of, let alone smelled: Tanakha (or Thanaka, as it is sometimes written). I did some digging, and found a very useful explanation in CaFleurebon‘s review of Indochine:

In reading about Tanakha it is a native tree to Burma which is ground into a fragrant paste used in makeup. As a note in perfumery it shares a lot of similarity to sandalwood. It has the slight sweetness of sandalwood but it also has a hint of green quality which replaces the creamy quality of sandalwood.

Girls with Thanaka cosmetic paste. Source: netmaa.org

Girls with Thanaka cosmetic paste. Source: netmaa.org

Elsewhere, I’ve read that Thanaka paste has “a slight flowery aroma to it something akin to a fragrant light sandlewood.” It is highly popular as a cosmetic paste in South-East Asia, and a simple Google Images search brings up some wonderful photos of women or girls with beautiful, decorative, artistic swirls of Thanaka on their faces.   

Indochine blows my socks off with its stunning opening. It’s an utterly intoxicating swirl of sweetness and creaminess: rich, toasty, nutty notes mixed with vanilla and honey. Fast on their heels is a green, spicy, nutty cardamon, then a milkiness that smells a lot like the sweetened milk left in your breakfast bowl after you’ve had frosted cereal. Subtle tendrils of smoke, as light as a summer’s breeze, float at the top. Flecks of pepper with a surprisingly aromatic fragrancy dance at the edges. The combination positively makes my head spin in appreciation; I can’t stop sniffing Indochine not only because of how intoxicating it is, but also because of a quiet mysteriousness that is hard to describe.

Source: Foodival.com

Source: Foodival.com

It tugs at me, intrigues me, and leaves me scratching my head a little. I think it’s that Thanaka — which is definitely one of the more fascinating wood elements I’ve encountered — in conjunction with the other notes. To be honest, having never smelled it before, I’m not sure where the aroma of Thananka begins, where it ends, or what other factors may be responsible for what I’m smelling. Whatever the specifics, the overall result is a stunning, sweet, spicy, smoky woody creaminess. Indochine smells so warmly rich and unctuous, it’s like a custard. Yet, it is one which is infused with subtle smokiness, a green spiciness, a toasted rice and nut accord, and milky sweetness. The whole thing sits atop a rich base of Siam benzoin with its vanillic characteristics. After a few minutes, the slivers of honey melt, no longer discernible as pure honey, and become an additional layer of sweetness in that custardy richness. 

Despite all that, Indochine is not wholly gourmand in nature. I don’t like cloying dessert fragrances, and I think Indochine has an increasing dryness which helps ensure it never falls headlong into the gourmand family. The fragrance really straddles the line between that and the woody category. In large part, it’s thanks to the Thanaka wood paste which has not only a lovely dryness but, also, a slightly smoked aroma. The cardamom helps as well, even though its primary characteristic here is of toasted nuttiness subtly infused with green spiciness. 

Coconut Lime Rice Custard. Source: medifoods.co.nz -

Source: medifoods.co.nz –

Ten minutes into Indochine’s development, my primary impression is: creamy, creamy, creamy. The whole thing feels like a dessert at times, only a dry one that is surprisingly lightweight in feel. In fact, it’s almost airy, despite the fragrance’s initial headiness. Indochine is a decadent, utterly addictive, warm, sweet, rich, mellow cloud of creamy woods. A vaguely floral note dances around the edges, but what is increasingly noticeable is a milky aroma. I have no idea where it comes from, but I suspect it is yet another characteristic of the thanaka. The wood is apparently too light to be like true, creamy, Mysore sandalwood, but perhaps the more diluted aroma takes “creaminess” and translates it to “milkiness.” The Thanaka is really, really beautiful. Whether it originally smells like Mysore sandalwood, I don’t know, but the supplemental notes in Indochine have added the necessary spicy, creamy, smoky sweetness to make its aroma quite similar.

Cardamom. Source: www.kitchenheadquarters.org

Cardamom. Source: kitchenheadquarters.org

The cardamom is equally lovely. It feels simultaneously green and brown, fragrant and dry, toasted and nutty. In fact, that toasted note is an interesting characteristic, in and of itself. At first, it reminded me of toasted rice, but as the moments progress, and as Indochine grows richer, milkier, and more custardy, the note smells more like toasted rice in a milky, cardamom pudding. The whole thing is nestled in a sweet cocoon of silky smooth, soft, billowy Siam benzoin, and lightly flecked with the most subtle tendrils of dry, black smoke. The over-all effect is more than just delicious; it’s compulsively sniffable and wholly addictive.

Indochine continues like that until the end of the first hour when it becomes much drier and smokier. Some of the perfume’s richness and sweetness have receded as a result, though Indochine is still very creamy when sniffed up close. Still, the perfume feels thinner and less lushly unctuous than it did in the first 30 minutes. As a whole, the fragrance is a beautiful blend of creamy sandalwood-like woods infused with a light smokiness. A subtle cardamom nuttiness is sprinkled on top, while underneath is a delicate, thin base of milky, sweet vanilla.

Source: biggestmenu.com

Source: biggestmenu.com

As the fragrance gets drier, the visuals start to change. Two hours in, Indochine slowly begins to morph away from the custard, and into toasty, sweetened coffee. Indochine increasingly smells like a very creamy, but dry, Café au Lait sprinkled with toasted hazelnuts and vanilla. It’s an incredibly comforting, cozy, soothing scent, though it lies just a few inches above the skin. With every passing hour, Indochine fades in sweetness, strength, and projection, turning drier, woodier, and increasingly blurry in texture. By the middle of the third hour, Indochine is just a skin scent, radiating a dry, vanillic, woody sweetness that is still slightly creamy and smoky in nuance. The notes have lost any distinctive, individual form, but the abstract version of Indochine is still enormously appealing.

Indochine remains that way for the rest of its duration. In its final moments, the fragrance is nothing more than a faded trace of dry vanilla with a hint of something intangibly woody underlying it. The longevity was extremely surprising to me; I frequently thought Indochine had died on my skin, only to find it clinging on tenaciously. I was sure it had died away after the seventh hour, the eighth and the ninth, but, all in all, Indochine lasted 10.75 hours on my perfume consuming skin. The sillage was extremely low after 90-minutes, and Indochine became a skin scent shortly after the 2.25 hour mark, but apparently, it’s supposed to be that way. For one thing, it is an eau de toilette, and thus, a much weaker concentration of fragrance. For another, Pierre Guillaume seems to have intended for Indochine to be a “sepia-tinged balm,” as he puts it. CaFleureBon summed it up best:

Indochine has excellent longevity and slightly below average sillage. Indochine tends to add a perfumed coating like sepia does to photographs, subtle but striking. [Emphasis in the original.]

ISO E Super. Source: Fragrantica

ISO E Super. Source: Fragrantica

I loved Indochine, and would be utterly determined to get a bottle if it weren’t for one thing: ISO E Super. As my experience with Parfumerie Generale’s Dhjenné demonstrated, Pierre Guillaume seems to love the blasted aroma-chemical, and he used it there with frenzied abandon. It’s different in Indochine; there is nothing remotely antiseptic, medicinal or even hugely peppered in feel to the ISO E Super here. However, exactly 35 minutes in Indochine’s start, there was a noticeable woody hum to the base of the perfume. It got louder and louder, until, at the 45 minute mark, its forceful thrum was matched by a sharp throbbing at the back of my head. Soon, it turned into pounding. Then, a new characteristic arose: my eyes started to feel watery.

I am not one of those people who consistently and perpetually gets migraines from ISO E Super, but I do when a hell of a lot of it is used. To avoid a complicated, gobbledygook explanation, the basic gist is that ISO E Super has extra-large molecules that seem harder for the nose to absorb. What was interesting with Indochine is that my headache initially faded after 15 minutes, but only because I didn’t bring my arm to my nose to smell all the layers in the fragrance. However, the minute I did, it was as if a searing hot poker had been rammed straight up my eyeball to the back of my head. I tested Indochine twice, and it was an utterly brutal experience each time during the first two to three hours. The moment I brought my nose to my arm, my headache returned. Instantly. I obviously had to smell the damn perfume to detect all its underlying layers, so I persisted, but it was a painful experience. And, again, I have to emphasize, I have this reaction only when a lot of ISO E Super is used. On the plus side, at least this version of ISO E Super didn’t smell like hospital antiseptic on my skin, because it certainly has happened in the past.

Indochine is so utterly addictive that I honestly tried it the second time solely to see if I could move past that headache stage. After all, no-one said I have to actually sniff it up close if I’m just wearing it for pleasure, did they? It’s an easy, versatile, incredibly cozy, comfort scent that also happens to come in a range of sizes that are quite affordable. It’s a testament to how much I — a person who rarely likes even quasi-gourmand scents, and who loathes ISO E Super with a violent passion– loved Indochine’s opening that I was willing to contemplate almost guaranteed headaches to wear it. Unfortunately, at the end of the day, I simply can’t do it. 

Most people, however, can’t detect ISO E Super if it were used to cudgel their brains out. (Lucky devils, you have no idea how much I envy you.) So, unless you’re one of those who knows they are sensitive to it (or to one of the many, many ISO E Super fragrances listed in my article), you have no need to worry. If you love sweetened sandalwood fragrances, if you’re looking for a very dry gourmand fragrance that isn’t extremely foody, or if you enjoy comfort scents, then I strongly recommend that you try Indochine.  

The lovely Suzanne of Eiderdown Press has a gorgeous, evocative, and very eloquent review of Indochine. If I could, and if it weren’t so heinously rude, I would copy it out almost in full because it really is beautifully written and moving. I’ll include the relevant parts here, but I strongly encourage you to read the whole thing on her site:

Parfumerie Générale Indochine—a contemplative fragrance that, for all its quietude, somehow manages to be arresting on an emotional level. The strong pull of nostalgia is what lends the light-wearing Indochine weight. Initially it smells like a sandalwood box in which photographs, letters and other precious mementos have been tucked away: poems copied in a lover’s hand, shells from a distant shore, partially burned incense sticks and dusty candles. As the scent develops, though, it goes through a subtle shift, and in its dry-down stage there is a sanded-smooth sweetness to Indochine that is so easy-wearing and comfortable, it makes one feel good about being in one’s own skin.

In the first half-hour of wear, there is a parched and incense-like quality to Indochine. It most resembles a smoky sandalwood scent at this early stage, and if I were to describe its character, I would call it exotic yet reserved. The tingly spiciness of cardamom and pepper intersecting with the light acridness of honey mimics the smell of tobacco, and the combination not only lends an air of aridity to the scent, but is one of the reasons I picture the fragrance in my mind as a sandalwood box, as every good box must have some hand-rolled cigarettes stashed inside. Indochine’s benzoin is more resinous than vanillic at this point, again contributing to that wooden trinket-box smell. […]

Eventually the benzoin does begin to smell more vanillic, and the smoky, incense-like character of Indochine fades considerably after about an hour into its wear. Though the fragrance loses its exoticism in the process, the your-skin-only-better scent that is left behind is not a bad souvenir—no, not bad at all. There is still enough woodiness in the drydown to keep Indochine interesting and to prevent it from edging over into the kind of sentimental sweetness that would take away Indochine’s backbone.

Suzanne says Indochine “makes one feel good about being in one’s own skin,” and I very much agree. My experience obviously differed somewhat from hers in the details, but then my skin tends to amplify basenotes along with sweetness. Still, we were both cleared swept away by what we smelled, and by the beauty of that sandalwood-like thanaka. So, whether you experience my smoky, milky, toasty rice, cardamom custard followed by nutty, dry café au lait, or Suzanne’s sandalwood box of treasures infused with spices, a subtle tobacco-y nuance, and parched incense, I think you’ll generally be in very good hands with Indochine. 

Source: antiquesandarts.com

Source: antiquesandarts.com

There is one exception, however, and no, it does not pertain to the ISO E Super. It has to do with the honey. People whose skin chemistry turns the ingredient into something sour, urinous, or animalic should test Indochine first. On Fragrantica, the handful of negative reviews all involve problems with honey. To quote one commentator, “Now I know what Tania Sanchez meant when she said ‘the rest of us are howling’ when she referred to Serge Lutens Miel de Bois.”

Outside of that narrow category, however, everyone else seems to adore Indochine. Fragrantica commentators alternatively described the fragrance in dessert terms, or as something darkly smoky, resinous and peppered. (I bet that some of that “pepper” note is due to the ISO E Super, but they don’t realise it.) My favorite review is from a commentator, “meama,” who seems to love food as much as I do:

Indochine is a real melting of spices, like a chocolate fondant: dry and crisp on the outside, soft and flowing in the center. And most importantly, delicious.
Its crust pepper and cardamom crackles under the nose with a little something of toast, black and dry. Then benzoin starts slowly to pour the flood of sweet resin, vanilla, powdered, soft like white sand. Already, a first contrast between dark cold spices and enveloping milky balm. Honey is slowly making its waxy and animal facet participant in turn to a new dimension of flavor, more syrupy, which evokes a black licorice slightly aniseed, such absinthe or ageless whiskey.
On the skin, Indochine takes root, its mineral and syrupy animality clings to the skin without looking tacky, with a discreet diffusion.
Like all the PG creations the longevity and the sillage is disappointing.

On my skin, the honey melted into the base, and was never a distinct part of the fragrance after the first five minutes. Indochine was also never animalic in the slightest. That said, I agree very much with the overall feel and spirit of his experience, as I do with Suzanne’s beautiful, ancient, sandalwood box infused with something akin to parched incense, and followed by sanded-smooth sweetness. Indochine is all those things. It’s not complicated, revolutionary, edgy, or complex, but it is truly lovely and intoxicating. 

As a side note, two commentators on Luckyscent said that Indochine resembled some other fragrances. One brought up Indochine’s sibling, and another Parfumerie Generale creation, Cadjmere: “it is sooooo similar to Cadjmere, slight differences, but both are gorgeous.” I’ve never tried Cadjmere, so I can’t compare. A second reviewer found Indochine to be quite close to an Ava Luxe fragrance: “This is nearly identical to Ava Luxe Bois Exotique, but I like Indochine better because it is so smooth and rounded. The Ava Luxe is a tiny bit harsher.” Again, I don’t know the fragrance, but, if you’ve tried or own either one, you may want to keep the alleged similarities in mind. My reference points are different, so what I would add is this: those of you who love Etat Libre d’Orange‘s Fils de Dieu should definitely try Indochine. I think you’d like it because it has the same sort of vibe, even though Indochine is smoky, woody, and drier. By the same token, if you didn’t have much success with the new Dries van Noten from Frederic Malle (a perfume I really dislike, by the way), and if you love gourmands, you should also look into Indochine. The aroma of the thanaka is what I expected from the Malle fragrance, and not the unpleasant, weird, ersatz “sandalwood” that I got instead.

In short, if you enjoy sweet, but dry, woody scents that are easy, uncomplicated, infinitely cozy, and just slightly tip their hat at the gourmand category, then I’d definitely urge you to give Indochine a sniff.

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Indochine is an eau de toilette that comes in a 3 different sizes on the Parfumerie General website: 1 oz/30 ml, 1.7 oz/50 ml, and 3.4 oz/100 ml. The prices in Euros are, respectively: €60, €90, and  €125. In the U.S.: Indochine is available in the 1.7 oz/50 ml size from Luckyscent for $100, along with a sample. NYC’s Osswald offers Indochine in the 1 oz/30 ml bottle for $85, and in the 3.4 oz/100 ml bottle for $179. Outside the U.S.: In Canada, the Vancouver branch of The Perfume Shoppe carries the Parfumerie Generale line, and sells Indochine for $150 for the large 100 ml size, but they are currently sold out of the fragrance at the time of this post. You may want to check back later, or email them. In the UK, Indochine is available at London’s Bloom Parfumery and Les Senteurs. Both stores offer Indochine in two sizes: the 1.7 oz/50 ml costs £81.50, while the large 100 ml goes for £117.50. Samples are also available for purchase. In Paris, the niche boutique store Sens Unique carries the full PG line, but they don’t seem to have an e-store on their website. Germany’s First in Fragrance sells Indochine for €94 and €104, for 50 ml and 100 ml respective, and ships throughout the world. For all other locations from Dubai to the Netherlands, Sweden, Poland and the rest of Europe, you can turn to Parfumerie Generale’s website here for a list of retailersSamples: I obtained my sample from Surrender to Chance which sells Indochine starting at $5.99 for a 1 ml vial.

Perfume Review: Parfumerie Générale Djhenné

PG22 DhjenneIn September 2012, the French niche perfume house, Parfumerie Générale, released its 22nd fragrance Djhenné (or PG22 Djhenné) in celebration of its 10th anniversary. Described as an “aromatic woody soft leather,” the eau de parfum is meant to evoke the most golden of sunny, desert, oasis-like experiences. Parfumerie Generale’s website states:

Surrendering to the sun.

Lush oasis, Djhenné is a warm shadow. A Leather sheath with gold Wheat and Myrrh, protecting from the burning sun’s shroud, the delicate spearmint leaves and the heady whiteness of Seringa Blossom…

Exploring the olfactory theme of the Oasis, Pierre Guillaume gives us an aromatic, woody orchestration of leather and warm sand, wavering between the floral freshness of an accord of grey lavender, spearmint and seringa and the warmth of a “blond leather” note made up of Blue Cedar, essence of Myrrh, Cocoa Beans and Wheat Absolute.

In an interview with FragranticaPierre Guillaume, the founder and nose behind Parfumerie Generale, explained the notes in Djhenné:

I wanted to recreate the fragrance of an oasis. […] It’s just a metaphor. I meant a fresh accord surrounded by hot sand. Oasis, a lazy hot atmosphere, and a little bit of freshness in a hot desert. I started my fresh accord with three kinds of lavender—Lavandine, Lavande Pays and Lavande Barreme, enhanced the freshness with orange and artemisia, and added more green notes by including mint and the Stemone molecule. Exactly this molecule is used to create an accord on the subject of fig leaves. That is why, I guess, Djhenne reminds you of Bois Naufrage.

[As for the scent of hot sand] I composed it of my favorite accord of white leather (you smell it in Cuir VenenumCuir d`IrisTubereuse Couture and other my perfumes), cocoa absolute, cedar from Morocco, myrrh, cumin and caraway. And also wheat absolute, a great but rare ingredient from Robertet—it possesses a rich balsamic scent with a hint of roasted wheat flakes. […]

There is no coconut in this perfume, I guess it’s a disguise born out of combinations of some notes. I would rather say that Djhenne is a mineral fougère with a leather accent.

The short summation of the notes is as follows:

Grey lavender, mint leaves, seringa blossom, cocoa beans, blue cedar, wheat absolute, myrrh, blond leather accord.

ISO E Super. Source: Fragrantica

ISO E Super. Source: Fragrantica

I would add another one to that list: ISO E Super. Djhenné opens on my skin with an immediate blast of antiseptic rubbing alcohol. It is the first and most obvious note, followed thereafter by creamy lavender, lush wheat, some abstract floral note, sweet myrrh and lightly peppered cedar. Soon, there is a sweet note of something that smells a lot like the lightly peppered, dried tobacco leaves along with cocoa and leather. There is a definite resemblance to parts of Serge Lutens‘ wonderful Chergui, but Djhenné has a considerably more woody, peppered elements, not to mention that blast of ISO E Super synthetic and the additions of lavender.

My favorite part of Djhenné’s opening has to be the cocoa note with its impression of lightly dusted, milk chocolate powder that calls to mind a faintly milky, cocoa-sprinkled Chai. The note is never thick, gooey, or viscous, but daintily dry and sweet. Underneath it is the sweet myrrh which creates a nutty, lightly caramelized undertone. There is also an initial whiff of mint, though it quickly recedes to the background. Equally subtle is the lavender which is sweet, instead of pungently dry or acrid, and that continuous note of dried, sweet tobacco. Flickering quietly is the leather accord which, actually, feels a lot more like a very beige woody-leather accord, thanks to the beautiful richness of the wheat absolute. The overall sum-total effect is very pretty and well-balanced, in large part thanks to the many dry notes that counter any feeling of huge sweetness. I never detected coconut or anything reminiscent of dry, granular, arid sand. Unfortunately for me, it’s hard to detect — let alone enjoy — the full nuances of Djhenné because the ISO E Super rubbing alcohol accord lies above it all like a heavy cloud. I feel like a dog, sniffing at a thick lawn of grass in hopes of detecting a few drops of scent lurking underneath.

Djhenné shifts slightly as time passes, though the ISO E clings on tenaciously as the main note. At  the 25 minute mark, the abstract floral note recedes, as does some of the lavender, while the cocoa powder becomes more prominent, leaving Djhenné as a combination of: ISO E Super, cocoa, sweetly nutty myrrh, a hint of mint and a heavy dollop of cedared woods. An hour in, the peppered ISO E woods and cedar take over, followed by the cocoa, then the wheat and myrrh. There are nuances of something that feels like leather at times but, on me, it’s always just a subtle element of the wood notes and never feels like pure, individually distinct leather, per se.  Like a wave that hits the shore and then falls back, the cedar and woody elements start to ebb after an hour, leaving ISO E Super and cocoa powder, with some other light elements like the wheat and myrrh. Like Chergui, there are lightly powdered elements and something that continues to feel like dried tobacco leaves flickering in the background.

Light, natural, cocoa powder

Light, natural, cocoa powder

At the middle of the third hour, Djhenné turns into a skin scent that is primarily dusty cocoa powder and vanilla, alongside that bloody endless ISO E Super, atop a base of creamy white woods. The perfume was airy and lightweight in feel from the start without huge projection, but now, it’s even softer, more muted, and sits right on the skin. In its final stages, Djhenné turns into a cocoa powder and vanilla scent. Only at the very end does the synthetic ISO E finally vanish. In terms of longevity, Djhenné lasted 6.75 hours on my skin, but tiny spots of vanilla-cocoa scent seemed to pop up here or there for another two hours.

It’s hard for me to truly and properly assess Djhenné without the impact of the ISO E Super. The synthetic was far too powerful on my skin, overshadowing everything else for most of the perfume’s duration on my skin. Only in its final hour or so was I spared of that perpetual note of disinfectant rubbing alcohol. It tainted everything, injecting its peppered antiseptic tones even into the cocoa powder that I loved so much. To those damn lucky few who can’t detect the full nuances of ISO E Super or whose nose reads it only as “extra pepperiness” or “velvety woods” — I envy you. And I’m sure you’ll adore Djhenné.

All in all, it’s a versatile, incredibly easy perfume that is neither truly gourmand nor a truly woody oriental or even a real aromatic fougère — but a lovely hybrid of all three. I think it is firmly unisex with the cocoa powder (and the occasional similarities to Chergui) making it something that would easily captivate women as much as men. Its very soft, light sillage would also make it appropriate for a lot of offices. Lastly, it’s also quite affordable at $100 for 1.7 oz/50 ml of eau de parfum.

Alas, for me, personally, I rue the day that perfumers fell so in love with ISO E Super that they decided to inject it into seemingly half the fragrances under the sun. And without warning, en plus! If ISO E Super were a person, I would have stabbed it to death already, and declared myself to be acting by reason of insanity.

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Djhenné comes in a 3 different sizes on the Parfumerie General website: 1 oz, 1.7 oz, and 3.4 oz. The prices in Euros are, respectively: €60, €90, and  €125. You can find a list of international retailers on the company’s website hereIn the U.S., it is available from Luckyscent for $100 for 1.7 oz/50 ml, along with a sample. I’m sure it’s available elsewhere, but I’m too fed up to bother listing my usual 15-20 links to retail websites around the world. Samples: I obtained my sample from Surrender to Chance which sells Djhenné starting at $5.99 for a 1 ml vial.