Histoires de Parfums 1826 (Eugénie de Montijo)

1826 was a year notable for many things, the least of which was the birth of France’s last Empress, Eugénie de Montijo. 1826 is also the name of a perfume inspired by her life and passions, from a perfume house that seeks to capture history in a bottle. Histoires de Parfums is a French niche perfume house founded in 2000 by Gérald Ghislain, and many of their scents are entitled with just a simple date, the date of birth for a famous historical figure who serves as the perfume’s inspiration.

Empress Eugenie, official portrait via Wikipedia.

Empress Eugenie, official portrait via Wikipedia.

In the case of 1826, it is Eugénie de Montijo. She was born in Granada, and was a Spanish Grandee (or aristocrat) who became France’s last Empress Consort as the wife of Emperor Napoleon III. Empress Eugenie was renowned for her sophisticated style, jewellery, and fashion sense, but what Histoires de Parfums is encapsulating is her love of patchouli. Histoires de Parfums describes the perfume as a “sensual amber,” and writes:

The future and last French empress, Eugénie de Montijo, was born in Granada, the jewel of Andalusia. A sparkling beauty, her seductive nature and temperamental elegance delighted Napoleon the third. This beautiful lady who influenced the mundane life and artistic refinement of her time inspired this luminous fragrance, a sensual amber carried by the power of white flowers and patchouli, of which the empress loved the unforgettable vapor trail.

Originality: mix of anis and amber.
(Eugenie de Montijo was voluptuous, full-bodied and delicate at the same time).

Top Note: Bergamot, Tangerine
Heart Note: White Flowers, Violet, Cinnamon, Ginger
Base Note: Patchouli, Amber, Incense, Blond Woods, White Musk, Vanilla.

Source: Luckyscent

Source: Luckyscent

1826 opens on my skin with sharp, clean musk and citruses that immediately give way to a creamy, milky patchouli. It is infused with vanilla, and the tiniest pinch of cinnamon in a refined mix that glows a soft, warm brown. None of patchouli’s camphorous or minty green sides are present to any noticeable degree, at least not at first. Instead, this is a very milky, almost creamy and beige patchouli whose softness in the opening minutes calls to mind both Etat Libre‘s Nombril Immense and, to a much lesser extent, the drydown of Chanel‘s glorious Coromandel. As the momentary burst of citrus and sharp musk sinks into the base, incense rises up to take their place, adding to the tentative, small similarities to Coromandel.

Photo: puresilks.us

Photo: puresilks.us

The differences are much, much greater than any commonalities, however. The main one is the total absence of any white chocolate notes in 1826, whether powdered or mousse-like. The incense is another substantial point of departure. There is extremely little of it in 1826, whereas Coromandel has almost as much smoky frankincense as it does patchouli. Perhaps even more so. Speaking of patchouli, the note in 1826 starts to slowly reflect a quiet earthiness which the Chanel fragrance completely lacks. In less than 5 minutes, 1826 takes on a subtle undertone of damp, wet, loamy soil. Under the surface, hints of tobacco bubble up, along with the tiniest suggestion of something green and camphorous. Both accords momentarily diffuse the milky aspects of the scent, but they are muted and very short-lived.

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

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

15 minutes into its development, the creamy patchouli in 1826 turns plush and deep, feeling like velvet. The earthiness is extremely smooth and well-balanced. As a whole, the patchouli never smells musty or dusty, but turns lightly chocolate-y in nature. Thanks to the vanilla in the base, the overall effect is more akin like a dusting of milk chocolate powder infused with warm, sweet soil, a lot of milk, and hints of woodiness. Underlying that bouquet are subtle undercurrents of incense, spice, tobacco, and milky Chai tea, but the primary impression is of a vanilla-infused patchouli scent. It’s much sweeter, earthier, and warmer than the drier, incense-heavy, white cocoa Coromandel.

For the longest time, there really isn’t much more to 1826 Eugenie de Montijo on my skin. There are no fruited notes or tangerine, no ginger, no discernible florals, and very little cinnamon. The perfume is initially strong on my skin, but extremely airy, wafting in a sheer cloud that extends about 2-3 inches above my skin with 3 enormous smears. The sillage drops quickly, and it consistently takes between 2.25 hours and 2.5 hours for 1826 to turn into a skin scent.

Source: 123rf.com

Source: 123rf.com

I’ve tried 1826 a few times, and the perfume’s simplicity and linearity remains the same each time. 1826 continues as a milky patchouli scent until the 3.5 hour mark when hints of powder creep in, along with a return of the clean musk and an abstract woodiness. The musk does an odd thing to the woods, turning them cold and clean.

Slowly, the woody musk starts to take over. At first, it is an equal partner to the lightly powdered patchouli, but by the end of the 6th hour, it completely dominates the scent. 1826 is now primarily an abstract woody musk fragrance, with just a vestige of patchouli sweetness. The whole thing feels very nondescript and generic, with the tiniest hint of something soapy lurking deep in the base. In its final moments, 1826 is nothing more than a slightly sweet, woody cleanness. All in all, 1826 lasted just over 7 hours with a small quantity, and 8.25 with a heavy dose.

1826 has received mixed reviews on Fragrantica, though the majority seem to like it. One person experienced a much more complex scent than I did, as evidenced by this review:

it is quite beautiful and I wouldn’t mind owning a bottle. The top notes include orange, which complements the heart notes of cinammon and ginger beautifully. Rounding out the heart are creamy white flowers and a hint of sharp (not candied) violet. About an hour in, the base notes start to make an appearance, including a lovely, slightly sweet incense note. This is not an old medieval church type of incense, but a light, dry, modern incense, and it’s not added with a heavy hand. Instead the base notes of vanilla, patchoulli, and amber share equal footing with the incense, which I like. The combination is just right. Beautifully complex and layered, 1826 is a full blooded and heavy boned oriental in the absolute BEST sense.

Other people, however, experienced a “wisp” of a scent that barely lasted and which was far from full-blooded, though they did enjoy it greatly:

  • in my case […] definitely not a heavy oriental..it’s a beautiful wisp of a scent! The spices are very subdued, it’s a warm floral with a clean skin musk peeking out from under, thoroughly wearable. Not sweet at all nor old fashioned- very well blended as someone else mentioned.
  • 1826 starts quite heavy and spicy, reminds me of Ambre Sultan at this stage. But it only lasts a few minutes. [¶] Then it becomes more and more milky and vanillic, sweet, but stays transparent all the time. I think I smell something similar as in Clinique Simply – a bright accord of anise, which is not listed in any of them. It gives this fragrance a pale, lunar light. [¶] It’s so well blended … Absolutely nothing stands out. One light accord of patchouli, white flowers, amber, vanilla … [¶] Recently I’ve been so bored with spices and flowers shouting at me from almost every composition out there… [¶] And when 1826 touched my skin I felt like in a scented heaven. A Zen-like scent. Modest and modern at the same time.Sounds perfect? Yes, but it has 2 very serious drawbacks.
    One: there’s almost no sillage! A true skin scent. I literally have to put my nose onto my wrist to smell it. You really have to use a lot, and still only YOU will be able to smell it … Pity, considering how beautiful it is and that I’d love to share its beauty with someone around …
    Two: No lasting power! After 2 hours there’s no trail of it.

Well, I rather agree with him or her on 1826’s lack of body, not to mention the incredibly weak sillage, no matter how much you apply.

Source: Saveur.com

Source: Saveur.com

In terms of other assessments, male commentators find 1826 to be very unisex, while one woman (who clearly doesn’t like patchouli in general) found the perfume to be too masculine for her tastes. One poster thought 1826 was too earthy, another compared it to “cotton candy” mixed with a “vanilla milkshake,” while a third found the perfume “too powdery” with a soapy undertone. I can definitely understand a number of those assessments, especially the milkshake, though I think it would be a vanilla-cocoa-patchouli one that is only present for the first half of 1826’s life. As a whole, though, the general consensus on 1826 seems to be that it is not a patchouli bomb but, rather, “a very pleasant patchouli/vanilla/creamy white flowers mix with a hint of cinnamon, spice and powder.” I think that’s quite an accurate nutshell summation, even if the creaminess that I personally encountered wasn’t at all floral in nature.

I enjoyed parts of 1826 Eugénie de Montijo in its opening phase, but I find it hard to summon up a lot of enthusiasm for the scent as a whole. The clean, white musk simply ruined it for me, as did the problematic sillage and the banal drydown. On the other hand, the perfume is easy to wear, and those who enjoy lightly sweetened, milky, fuzzy, Le Labo type of scents may enjoy 1826’s approachability. It is definitely unisex, in my opinion; as one male Fragrantica poster noted, the perfume is actually more unisex than the 1969 fragrance that Histoires de Parfum categorizes as such. Obviously, you have to like patchouli to enjoy 1826, but you also have to enjoy some powderiness as well, in my opinion. So, if a milky, creamy, vanillic, slightly powdered patchouli scent with great sheerness, softness, and discreetness sounds like your cup of tea, then give 1826 a sniff.

Cost, Availability, Decant Sets & Samples: 1826 is an Eau de Parfum that comes in two sizes: 2.0 oz/60 ml for $125, £75, or €87; or 4 oz/120 ml for $205, £125 or €145. (Further decant or mini-sized options are below). Both full bottle sizes are available on the Histoires de Parfums website, which also has a great sample program (6 samples of your choice) whose $20 price goes towards the purchase of a large 4 oz. bottle. Further details are available here as to how the process works. Shipping is free for all orders anywhere in the world for purchases over $130; below that, there is a $10 shipping fee. In the U.S.: 1826 is available from Luckyscent in both sizes, along with samples. BeautyHabit sells both sizes, along with a 14 ml decant for $36. Amazon offers 1826 in the smaller $125 size, and the 3rd party retailer is Parfum1. On the actual Parfum1 website, you can buy the small 60 ml bottle of 1826 as well as a 14 ml decant for $36. MinNewYork has the whole Histoires de Parfums line in the smaller 60 ml size, including 1826, but they are currently out of stock of the latter. The Perfume Shoppe (which has a Canadian division) sells 14 ml decants of 1826 for $36, but doesn’t list the full bottle. Outside the U.S.: In Canada, Etiket carries the Histoires de Parfums, though only a few are shown on their website. 1826 is one of them. In the UK, Roullier White sells a couple of the Histoires de Parfums line for £75 for the smaller 2 oz/60 ml bottle and £125 for the 120 ml size, but 1826 is not listed or shown. Elsewhere, Harvey Nichols doesn’t carry the full line, but they do have 1826 Eugenie in the large £125 size. In Paris, the full Histoires de Parfums line is available at Jovoy for €87 or €145, depending on size. You can also find select fragrances from the line in the small size at the Nose boutique in Paris. In the Netherlands, you can find the full line at ParfuMaria. For the rest of Europe, Premiere Avenue has all the fragrances in the small 2 oz/60 ml size for €87, with a 5 ml decant available for €9. In the large 4 oz bottles, you can find 1826 at First in Fragrance for €145. In Australia, you can find 1826 on sale at City Perfume for AUD$179 for the large 120 ml bottle, or for the full AUD$190 price at Peony Melbourne. For all other countries, the vast Histoires de Parfums’ Store Locator page lists retailers from South Africa to Korea, Sweden and Kuwait. Samples: You can find samples at a number of the retailers linked to above. Surrender to Chance offers 1826 starting at $4.99 for a 1 ml vial.

LM Parfums Patchouly Bohème

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

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

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

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

Source: emporium.az

Source: emporium.az

LM Parfums describes Patchouly Boheme and its notes as follows:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: taste.com.au

Source: taste.com.au

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo:  Patricia Bieszk. Source: theadventourist.com

Photo: Patricia Bieszk. Source: theadventourist.com

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

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

Source: foodgawker.com

Source: foodgawker.com

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

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

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

Source: freehdw.com

Source: freehdw.com

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

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

Source: colourbox.com

Source: colourbox.com

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

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

Dried Indonesian patchouli leaves via Dior.com.

Dried Indonesian patchouli leaves via Dior.com.

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

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

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

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

Another commentator writes:

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

The best from this house.

Longevity is more than 12 hours and sillage is strong.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: pixabay.com

Source: pixabay.com

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

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

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

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

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

Disclosure: Perfume provided courtesy of LM Parfums. That did not impact this review. I do not do paid reviews, my opinions are my own, and my first obligation is honesty to my readers. 

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

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!

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.)

Yosh Sombre Negra: Dark Shadows

Source: Wall321.com

Source: Wall321.com

Deep in the heart of the forest, where the sun never shines, there is a campfire surrounded by mighty trees. All around it, as far as the eye can see, there is vetiver forming a peaty, green carpet. It clambers up the trees, covering even the branches with a vista of green. In that clearing, though, the smoke burns as black as a panther, smelling of both the piney trees around it and of incense. Tarry and leathered, it merges with the vetiver to send a smoke signal up to the sky, announcing the arrival of “dark shadows.” But this is not Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and you should not be fooled by what’s on the surface. If you peer really hard, you can see small spots of colour: cloved umber, patchouli brown, mint, honeyed yellow, iris grey suede, and soapy white. It’s Sombre Negra.

Source: Barney's.

Source: Barney’s.

Sombre Negra (“Dark Shadow”) is an eau de parfum from the San Francisco perfumer, Yosh Han. Sombre Negra was the first in her darker line of perfumes called “M,” and has a very confusing history. It was initially a limited-edition fragrance created in 2010 exclusively for Luckyscent, and centered around dark, mushroom notes like “choya loban,” teak, cypress, vetiver and tobacco.

Then, in 2011, she made a second version that she reportedly called “M:001 Sombre Negra.” It’s completely unclear to me whether this version is also exclusive to Luckyscent. Reading Luckyscent’s description very carefully and with literal interpretation, one might think it was and that there were still two versions out there. It doesn’t help that the description for Sombre Negra on some other U.S. retailers (like Barney’s) references the old notes. I emailed Ms. Yan a few days ago to obtain clarification on the issue, but have not yet received a response.

To me, it simply doesn’t make sense that the new version remains a Luckyscent exclusive, or that there continues to be two different perfumes with the same name. Everyone who has tested Sombre Negra from late 2011 onwards seems to be talking about the second Version 2.0 with its different notes and smell. Moreover, Yosh fragrances are carried throughout Europe, and I highly doubt all the European perfumistas who talk about the new, more patchouli and clove-centered fragrance are universally obtaining their samples from Los Angeles’ Luckyscent. 

So, I’m going to assume that Version 2 has completely replaced the original, limited-edition 2010 Luckyscent exclusive. You should too, but be aware that any discussions of Sombre Negra dated before the end of 2011 are referencing a very different fragrance, one that was reportedly much darker, earthier and smokier. This review is for the new, updated post-2011 version. [UPDATE 2/3/14 – Ms. Han has confirmed that all the vendors currently selling Sombre Negra, whether in Europe or America, are selling the new version. “Lucky Scent was the only retailer to carry the original. The M:001 version is available to everyone.”]

Yosh’s website has no individual page for Sombre Negra that I can quote for its (current) description or notes, so we have to rely on Luckyscent‘s old entry:

Please note, this is a newly re-imagined Sombre Negra.
Perfumer Notes: ”I launched a Limited Edition Sombre Negra exclusively with LuckyScent in 2010. That fragrance to me was dark and edgy. Very dense. I wanted to explore the idea of shadows and their mutations so I decided to create a new edition of Sombre Negra. The new M:001 Sombre Negra incorporates citrus top notes that reflect a flash of lightening – a spark of fire that quickly vanishes but casts new and elongated shadows. Rose, tonka and orris were added to give it some depth and fullness. Nutmeg and cumin give the fragrance a kind of vegetative musk and suede element to an otherwise smokey and leathery fragrance. It is still very masculine but Sombre Negra is also the ‘boyfriend fragrance’ that women are falling in love with and keeping for themselves.

[Notes]: Vetiver, patchouli, cedar, olibanum, pink pepperberry and black peppercorn, clove, juniper, citrus, nutmeg, cumin, tonka and orris root.

Source: science.nationalgeographic.com

Source: science.nationalgeographic.com

I think Sombre Negra‘s opening is absolutely fantastic. It is a sinewy, hefty, opaque burst of peaty vetiver, campfire smoke, cloves, honey, and pepper. Trailing behind is an utterly mesmerizing, perfectly balanced, tarry aroma that is simultaneously fresh, piney, resinous, and infused with birch tar smoke. I wouldn’t be surprised if the “juniper” note in the listing were really a reference to cade oil, which is a distillation of the prickly juniper and has a particularly smoky, phenolic character. Whatever the source of the tar, I love how it plays off the peaty vetiver and the smoke.

Peat bricks in an outdoor fire. Source: freeirishphotos.com

Peat bricks in an outdoor fire. Source: freeirishphotos.com

That smoke, that smoke… my God, it’s beautiful. It’s exactly like the smell that you’d get from a campfire outdoors, but there is also incense in there as well. What makes it my favorite part of the fragrance is the way it has the most minuscule drop of honey in it, along with tobacco and leather facets. I’m guessing that those are the indirect result of the patchouli which pops its head up 5 minutes into Sombre Negra’s development. Initially, it is a subtle note that is more woody, sweet, and tobacco-like than green, but traces of the patchouli’s mentholated side are skulking around in the corners.

The whole thing is utterly glorious, and feels like a distant, non-floral, 5th cousin removed from Amouage‘s Tribute Attar. They have the same fantastic smokiness, though the Sombre Negra is more complex than an attar centered around incense and rose. Yet, Sombre Negra has its own floral component, too. The iris appears after 7 minutes, though it is a dry, rooty kind. There seemed to be a brief pop of rose, too, but both flowers are quickly overshadowed by the mint note that bursts on the scene. Whether it stems from a fresh, Haitian kind of vetiver or from the patchouli, I have no idea, but the wintergreen doesn’t really seem to fit in for me.

Tar pit bubbles. Source: Los Angeles' La Brea tar and asphalt pits. tarpits.org

Tar pit bubbles. Source: Los Angeles’ La Brea tar and asphalt pits. tarpits.org

Sombre Negra is becoming smokier, darker, and more leathered with every minute. Its tarry blackness has a distinct oily quality to it, perhaps from the undiluted, pure patchouli. Visions of oil slicks and the La Brea tar pits float around my head, alongside the image of that campfire deep in the heart of a vetiver forest. There is a muted pop of yellow from a lemon, but it’s gone in an instant. Much more noticeable, however, is the growing influence of the clove which lends big splotches of brown-umber to the colour palette. It’s spicy, deep, but also smooth and warm, and it works beautiful with the patchouli. Unfortunately, at this point in the game, the patchouli isn’t my favorite sort with its chewy, toffee’d, spiced, sweet, smoky brownness, but a very green kind. Not even the cloves can counter the growing presence of slightly camphorated mintiness that is wafting off my arm.

Art by: LordmOth on Deviant Art. (Click on photo for website link embedded within.)

Art by: LordmOth on Deviant Art. (Click on photo for website link embedded within.)

As a whole, Sombre Negra in the opening 10 minutes is a panoply of somber, dark elements, just as the name suggests, but I find a playfulness underlying it. I haven’t the foggiest notion of why. All I can say is that Sombre Negra feels like an oddly cheerful, whimsical take on blackness. Perhaps it is due to the spicy warmth of the cloves, mixed with the touch of honey (where is it coming from?!) and the dangling, distant suggestion of some sweetened warmth.

It only takes another 5 minutes for the perfume to turn smoother and softer, as the more intense elements are slowly tamed. The cloves grow stronger, but there is also a hint of powder that starts to flit about. The tobacco, tarry, and oily elements retreat, the iris steps forward, and the green patchouli moves to stand next to the vetiver on center stage. The menthol and mint remain, but, to my sadness, that beautiful, honey-tipped campfire smoke is slowly dissipating and thinning out. So is the peaty quality of the vetiver. Soon, Sombre Negra’s primary bouquet is a green vetiver-patchouli duo, infused by cloves, light cade smoke, faintly powdered sweetness, and iris.

Source: wallpaperswide.com

Source: wallpaperswide.com

The smoke is now a thin tendril that ties all the elements to each other, instead of that dense, deep, powerful wall of Sombre Negra’s start. It’s all lovely, but it isn’t quite as spellbinding as the opening minutes with its multi-faceted complexity. However, the thinner, reduced amount of smokiness will probably be a very good thing for most people, as I suspect some may find the opening 10 minutes difficult if they’re not accustomed to that degree of blackness. Certainly, Sombre Negra is a more approachable, moderated scent after 40 minutes as a whole, and it just gets mellower with every passing half hour. I’m not so enthused about that, but then, I’m someone who adores the intensity of Amouage’s Tribute.

Patchouli. Source: womenworld.com.ua

Patchouli. Source: womenworld.com.ua

There are subtle changes that begin to occur after Sombre Negra’s forceful beginning. 30 minutes in, the sillage drops, the perfume lies an inch above the skin, and Sombre Negra feels much thinner, though it is still very rich when smelled up close. 40 minutes in, the traces of leather that were so noticeable in the beginning now lurk only on the periphery. Instead, an iris-driven suede starts to become very noticeable. It’s all very pretty and soft, a nice addition to the vetiver-patchouli with its mint and quiet campfire smoke. Then, alas, 70 minutes in, Sombre Negra turns into a skin scent. If I dab on a lot, I can push that time frame to a little over 90 minutes, but Sombre Negra never projects much on me. I have to wonder what would happen if I had a spray sample, as aerosolisation definitely increases sillage.

Haitiian vetiver grass. Source: astierdemarest.com

Haitian vetiver grass. Source: astierdemarest.com

Skin chemistry is key in all this and, as you will see later, I’m not the only one who thinks that Sombre Negra may be wildly different depending on how your skin handles particular notes. It explains my greatest problem with Sombre Negra’s second stage and subsequent development. I’ve noticed that, on occasion, my skin takes vetiver — at least the fresh, green kind that is usually the Haitian sort of vetiver — and runs with it. The note becomes amplified to the detriment of much else around it, overpowering the other elements, and changing what is (on everyone else’s skin) a more balanced creation. I think that is the case here with Sombre Negra because, for the majority of its lifespan, the fragrance is green vetiver first and foremost, from top to bottom. Other elements exist, fluctuating in various degrees over the next few hours, but few of them are in proportion or change the primary vetiver bouquet. Either way, it’s a green show, not a black, smoky one. I’m rather crushed.

Source: Dreamstime.com Royalty Free stock photos

Source: Dreamstime.com Royalty Free stock photos

The one exception to the “Vetiver Supercedes All” situation is the olibanum or myrrh. Unfortunately, here again, we have another note that my skin handles oddly. On most people, olibanum translates as the smell of incense, though a cool, white sort of smoke that is usually described as “High Church.” On my skin, however, 8 out of 10 times, olibanum/myrrh = soap. Pure soap. And I am not a fan of soapiness…. With Sombre Negra, the myrrh first pops up 2.5 hours in as a subtle soapiness, and it just grows from there. Meanwhile, the patchouli fades away, the cloves retreat to the sidelines, and the iris’ suede and powder tonalities become these ghostly things that only occasionally pop up to chirp “hello.” Unhappily for me, the mint remains, which may be merely another side of the vetiver or it may stem from the patchouli. As a whole, Sombre Negra becomes a thin, gauzy blend of vetiver, followed by mint, olibanum soap, and cade campfire smoke.

Source: bioloskiblog.wordpress.com

Source: bioloskiblog.wordpress.com

It becomes even simpler from there. At the end of the 4th hour, Sombre Negra is primarily vetiver with a little soapiness and campfire smoke. At the start of the 6th hour, it is soapy vetiver and there it remains until its very end when it finally fades away as an abstract, nebulous sort of woody cleanness. All in all, Sombre Negra lasted just under 12 hours on my skin, with the majority of its time as vetiver with soapiness. If you’re one of those people for whom olibanum manifests as actual smoke, then you can read that as “vetiver incense” instead. I was not so fortunate.

The skin-determinant issue of the vetiver is something that was noted by another blogger as well. My friend, the sultry Victoria of EauMG had a similar experience with Sombre Negra. Her review reads, in part:

Sombre Negra smells pitch black, smoky, and caliginous. [¶] Sombre Negra opens as a smoky vetiver with earth. The smoky vetiver and slightly damp earth/mushrooms are held together by warm, masculine spices. It really is both damp and dry; I find this interesting. Soon an animalic leather appears that reminds me a little of the base of Tom Ford Tuscan Leather. It’s a mossy, cade leather. The leather is bound to the vetiver with masculine, overcast spices. The dry-down is dark, masculine, spicy with tonka and leather. […][¶]

I really recommend wearing this on the skin (I do with all scents, but especially with this one). On my skin, the vetiver is very pronounced and the rest is incense and leather. I seriously get vetiver from top to bottom. On others they seem to be getting more patchouli or woods. I think all versions sound good, but this one really seems to adapt to the wearer’s skin.

Sombre Negra has above average projection and longevity.

For The Scentualist, Sombre Negra is one of those fragrances that isn’t for the masses, but one which he finds to be an enchanting, dark delight that has become his second favorite incense fragrance. His positive review reads, in part:

Sombre Negra shines with a double personality, being at the same time ubiquitous and ethereal, two features that are not at hand for the majority of olfactory creations.

From the first moments subsequent to spraying some whiffs of Sombre Negra onto my wrist, I was able to detect a beguiling aroma of smoke (due to incense), juxtaposed, in no longer than one minute, to a note of myrrh that was simply divine. Then, as the top notes vanished and Sombre Negra was entering slowly into its mid development and finally the dry down, a pervading aroma of frankincense (olibanum) was filling my nostrils with joy. In the end, I loved especially the fact that, opposed to the majority of incense-based fragrance, Sombre Negra manages to deliver this fascinating note without being too conspicuous about it (like in Olibanum from Profumum, for example). [¶][…]

Overall, this is one of my favorite fragrances, which made Sombre Negra into the second spot (side by side with Keiko Mecheri’s Oliban) of my incense benchmark.

As Victoria of EauMG noted, Sombre Negra seems to change with the wearer’s skin, and that explains why she got vetiver from top to bottom while The Scentualist experienced incense.

Source: philiphartiganpraeterita.blogspot.com

Source: philiphartiganpraeterita.blogspot.com

For the same reason, accounts vary on Fragrantica, too, where reports range from campfires and gasoline, to chocolate-nutmeg woodiness or even a resemblance to a chypre. A few examples, from both men and women:

  • On my skin (female) I got alot of smoke, too much at first, which faded after an hour to reveal a manly chypre with a little smoke on top. For me this is a very masculine frag, I find it sexy in a subtle way. If it were on my man I would want to nuzzle into his neck. I thought it unremarkable at first but I couldn’t stop smelling it and wanting to wrap up into it like a blanket. I get no cloves or incense. On me it is a chypre with subtle smoke and subtle woods and some kind of manly musk under it that I am very attracted to. Sexy but not overt, not groundbreakingly different but it doesn’t obviously have to be, just simply done right. […] for me, just perfectly subtle sexy, gets you without you even knowing it. purrrr.
  • A bit masculine, although it is marketed as unisex. There are 2 versions of this and I have the latest. By the looks of the notes I would say the recent version is toned down a bit from the first (no tobacco). This settles into a woody, vaguely chocolaty nutmeg concoction after a rip snorting patchouli cedar vetiver opening.
  • Sombre Negra is fantastic. It’s smokey with clove and unmistakably manly. I love it.
  • Man up! […] smoke and spice stars in this action flick that we know as sombre negra. Like Django unchained, this will either offend or will be praised. Personally, I think this is a 5 star general.
  • This is masculine indeed and only for black scents lovers, just like having a patch of gasoline moving with you like a ghost (talking about the latest version, tobacco note gone) fizzling sizzling dark patchouli combo…. [¶] Colonnel Kurtz signature scent…
Terre d'Hermès ad. Source: Parfumo.net

Terre d’Hermès ad. Source: Parfumo.net

One commentator saw Sombre Negra to be a dark, woodier version of Hermès‘ Terre d’Hermès, writing:

I wonder if there are any fans of Hermes Terre out there who wished Jean Claude-Ellena could produce a darker version of his smash hit. A “Terre Noire” if you like. Well, this is what I imagine “Terre Noire” would be like!

With Sombre Negra we take the path away from the bright citrus orchards and into the dark, dank forest and explore the earthy side of the Terre notes. Yippee! This, for me, is a dream come true my friends. All the notes are there – Patchouli (lots of it), pepper, cedar and vetiver – but they are amped up and complemented by a favourite of mine (and this is the clincher): CLOVES! Oh yes, my fellow clove lovers, if you dig cloves then you must try this.

As the first medicinal waft of cloves hit my nostrils this was love at first sniff. It was like Yosh had taken all my favourite notes and made a fragrance just for me. Just a pity the sillage and longevity and moderate and we’re down to skin scent within three or four hours. However, this bold, distinctive, sassy, sexy perfume really deserves your attention. Check it out. (Note: this review refers to the newly reformulated version of Sombre Negra).

Source: quotes-pictures.feedio.net

Source: quotes-pictures.feedio.net

Another commentator had even more difficulty with the sillage and longevity, though, for him, Sombre Negra bore a resemblance to Caron‘s Yatagan:

The opening notes reminded me of Yatagan. After 30 minutes, it changed, and a slight sweet side was felt. It was very good, but not long-lasting, after 3 hours was almost gone.

At night I changed to Yatagan, so I could compare. They are different.
Yatagan is champagne brut.
Sombre Negra is demi-sec.    [Formatting changes to the line-by-line writing done by me for space reasons.]

The version that everyone is describing sounds amazing, and I have to confess that I’m deeply envious. My skin simply didn’t want to comply, though I have to repeat how much I loved the opening moments of Sombre Negra. I suspect that brief stage is pretty much what everyone else is experiencing throughout. If that is the case, then I cannot recommend Sombre Negra enough to those who love truly dark scents.

However, I must emphasize that this is a scent best suited to perfumistas who appreciate smoke, vetiver, cloves, and the true sort of dark patchouli. If you don’t like any of things (and I know some people who struggle deeply with vetiver, while others despise cloves), then Sombre Negra probably won’t be for you.

I also think the perfume skews masculine, though women who love dark perfumes will thoroughly enjoy it. Victoria of EauMG brought up Bvlgari Black, and while I haven’t tried it, I know enough about it to say that she’s right in putting Sombre Negra in the same category. However, by all accounts, Bvlgari Black is a very rubbery scent with leather, gasoline and tobacco notes on a vanilla base. Sombre Negra is not rubbery and, in my opinion, the presence of those other elements are extremely tangential. Instead, the core is centered on vetiver, olibanum, and patchouli, with a dash of cloves and iris. Nevertheless, the point is, if you’re a woman who likes Bulgari Black, then you may appreciate Sombre Negra as well. It definitely has the same dark, smoky feel to it.

All in all, Sombre Negra would be a great fragrance on the right skin, and I think it is very well done indeed.

Cost & Availability: Sombre Negra is an eau de parfum that only comes in 50 ml bottle and costs $130 or €130. The Yosh website does not have an e-store. In the U.S.: you can buy Sombre Negra from Luckyscent, and that is the one place where you’re guaranteed and certain to get this current version. I’m truly not sure about which version other US retailers carry. They include Barney’s (which lists the old notes of “choya loban,” but that’s probably just an outdated description) and b-glowing (which offers 15% off your first order if you subscribe). There is also a San Francisco store called Veer and WanderOutside the U.S.: In Canada, Yosh is carried at The Perfume Shoppe, but Sombre Negra is not listed amongst their offerings when I clicked on the Yosh category. However, oddly enough, the company does have a separate listing for Sombre Negra that came up in a Google search. You should check with the company for availability. In the UK, I couldn’t find a retailer. In Paris, you can find Sombre Negra at Colette which also sells it via their e-shop. Germany’s First in Fragrance sells Sombre Negra for €130, with a sample for €7, and they ship world-wide. Essenza Nobile also carries Sombre Negra and ships world-wide. In the Netherlands, Amsterdam’s Perfume Lounge carries the Yosh line. In Dubai, Yosh is carried exclusively at Saks Fifth Avenue. In Russia, I think it’s available at iPerfume, but the Cyrillic translation doesn’t make it totally clear to me. For all other locations, you can look up a vendor near you on the Yosh website. It’s not easy to navigate and does not have separate pages, so I cannot give a specific link directly to their Stockist page, but they list a few retailers from Belgium, Italy and Germany, to a handful in Asia. Samples: You can obtain a sample from Luckyscent. Surrender to Chance does not have Yosh fragrances, so another alternative is The Perfumed Court which sells Sombre Negra starting at $3.99 for a 1/2 ml vial.

La Via del Profumo Milano Caffé

Source: hqdesktop.net

Source: hqdesktop.net

Have you ever tried a perfume, took a sniff, then almost fell over yourself to spray on more? That’s what happened to me with Milano Caffé, which led to an actual “ohhh” out loud, then a frenzied application all over. It is a visual plethora of dark colours from the blackness of bitter expresso and licorice, to the mahogany of deep woods, the green-blackness of patchouli and smoky vetiver, and the darkness of black chocolate. Subtle hints of goldenness flit about from amber and vanilla, but on my skin, they are mere fireflies in the dark forest.

Dominque Dubrana via the NYT. Photo by Domingo Milella.

Dominque Dubrana via the NYT. Photo by Domingo Milella.

Milano Caffé is the creation of the perfumer, Dominique Dubrana, who also goes by the name “AbdesSalaam Attar.” His perfume house, La Via del Profumo, focuses on all-natural fragrances, many of which have a Middle Eastern flair or subtext. I’m utterly fascinated by Mr. Dubrana, a man who some consider to be a genius and magician and who was the focus of a fantastic, gushing article in The New York Times  entitled “Smellbound.”

In 2013, he debuted an “Italian Series” of fragrances which sought to pay tribute to his adopted homeland. Milano Caffé (which I’ll just write without the accent as “Milano Caffe” for ease and speed) is the first of the line, and is classified on Fragrantica as an “oriental vanilla.” Personally, I would categorize it as a Woody Oriental. On his Profumo website, AbdesSalaam Attar describes Milano Caffe as follows:

This first fragrance, named for Milan, is centered on the omnipresent and most characteristic smell of the city, the aroma of coffee. It pervades the streets and workplaces; it is part of every event and encounter, professional or leisurely; and is present in every social occasion.

I have blended coffee with chocolate because that is the Milanese way: the residents of that marvelous city add Cacao powder to cappuccinos, and place a single square piece of chocolate next to your cup of coffee.

The combination of coffee and chocolate is your introduction to the city of Milan, but it is merely the start.  The original blast of coffee- chocolate melts quickly into woody-spicy notes. The body of ‘Milano cafè’ is an elegant male fragrance worthy of the sophisticated fashion that characterizes the city: Warm, dry, woody, sober and at the same time rich, with a determined, confident character.

A subdued spicy accord alludes to the multi-ethnic aspect of the city, as manifest in the Somali and Arab restaurants that have flourished there in recent years.

Milano caffè is not your usual masculine, composed of trite notes to appeal to a mass audience. It is, instead, a new and unexpected accord that will appeal to people who make trends, not those who follow them.

Milano Caffe via The Perfume Shrine.

Milano Caffe via The Perfume Shrine.

Fragrantica provides the succinct list of notes:

coffee, cappuccino, chocolate, iris, woody notes, spicy notes, opoponax [sweet myrrh], tonka bean and amber.

There are a lot of unspecified, uncategorized notes on that list, and on my skin, they dominate. What appears on my skin, after quite a few tests, would be something more like this:

Patchouli, vetiver, cedar, expresso coffee, dark chocolate, cocoa powder, licorice, sweet myrrh, iris, something phenolic and tarry that might be birch, then tonka and amber. Possibly also: coriander.

I meant what I said at the beginning about my initial reaction to Milano Caffe, but it is significant for another reason as well. In my eagerness to spray on more, I applied Milano Caffe to my second arm, instead of just to my main testing arm which is the left one. I noticed an immediate, and quite substantial, difference in smell. Perhaps it is a pH issue, or perhaps my skin is even stranger than I suspected, but there was a very different version of Milano Caffe on my right arm than on my left one.

As a result, I’ve tested the fragrance three times in all, on both arms simultaneously. The same differences occurred each time during the first few hours. The perfume’s drydown is largely the same, but one arm gives a significantly darker, drier, woodier, smokier version of Milano Caffe. The other (my main testing left arm) reflects more vanilla, amber, warmth, and sweetness. One version is slightly more unisex, the other is hardcore masculine, though I think the fragrance skews very masculine in general. So, I’ll give you both versions of how Milano Caffe appeared on me.


Source: Sodahead.com

Source: Sodahead.com

Milano Caffe opens on my skin with an intense darkness, along with earthy, woody and smoky notes. There is smoked vetiver, something that resembles smoky Lapsong Souchang tea, cedar, earthy but green patchouli, sweet green grass, and spices. There is also a whisper of sweet muskiness that smells natural, as if you’re smelling it on a flower in nature or from the earth. It’s iris, but done in a way that may be the very first time I’ve ever loved the note. It’s delicately floral, but also infused with woody and smoked tonalities. A minute later, the bitterest of expresso coffees floods in to add a truly original, intense touch to the whole combination.

Patchouli. Source: womenworld.com.ua

Patchouli. Source: womenworld.com.ua

There is zero doubt in this patch head’s opinion that Milano Caffe contains a lot of patchouli, and I love every bit of it. It’s not the revolting modern version with its purple, syrupy fruit-chouli characteristics, but the real, hardcore, original stuff. In fact, the patchouli manifests itself from the top of the plant to the bottom: there is the green, pungent, medicinal edge of the leaves, but also the sweet, wet, damp earthiness of the soil around its base. At first, it is a subtle touch, but it takes maybe 2 minutes for the patchouli to become one of the main players on my skin, injecting both a medicinal greenness and a peppermint note to the proceedings.

This is no spicy, ambered, brown-red patchouli, but a very green one. Yet, despite that, it is as chewy and dense as the common labdanum-infused, boozy patchoulis on the market. The black-green kind in Milano Caffe also sometimes reflects a distinct boozy cognac touch that appeared in a few of my tests in the opening minutes, but that aspect is incredibly brief. As a whole, the patchouli in Milano Caffe in all tests and on both arms spans the green end of the spectrum from metholated and medicinal, to peppermint.

Licorice. Source: Dylanscandybar.com

Licorice. Source: Dylanscandybar.com

Other notes are perfectly blended within. There is a definite, very strong element of licorice that appears every time I’ve tested Milano Caffe. It’s black and very chewy in feel. It counters the floral element that, in some tests, was quite noticeable in the opening minutes, but very muted and muffled in others. The same thing applies to the sweet myrrh which adds a nutty quality, but also a quiet, subdued touch of smokiness. In some tests, it was initially quite noticeable, but, in most of them, it was the tiniest of notes that barely registers.

Black chocolate via bioshieldinc.com

Black chocolate via bioshieldinc.com

Much more significant, however, is the chocolate. At first, it’s just a whisper that feels like unsweetened, black chocolate that lurks on the sidelines or under the expresso. About 20 minutes in, it grows stronger, thoroughly infusing the expresso and the patchouli’s peppermint, until the three notes are essentially one. At the same time, there is also a feeling of dusty, semi-sweetened cocoa powder sprinkled on everything.

Lurking far below in the base is something that feels distinctly phenolic and tarry, with a very leathered, smoky feel. It’s not like the birch tar in some leather fragrances, because it’s hardly animalic, fecal or raw, but there is something of birch’s smokiness about it. It’s subtle, more akin to tiny tendrils blown from a campfire in the distance, but there is definitely something deeply dark, leathered, and smoky in Milano Caffé’s base. Milan and Italy are as famous for their leathers as for their expresso, so it wouldn’t be surprising if an olfactory ode to the city gave a nod to that element.

Source: brookstone.com

Source: brookstone.com

The overall combination and effect drove me wild. Coffee’d patchouli with black chocolate, licorice, smokiness, and dark woods. Genius, pure genius. Why has no-one ever done that before? How come no-one has ever thought to mix the darkness of patchouli and its peppermint qualities with something like bitter expresso and chocolate? I haven’t had such an instant, immediate reaction to a fragrance’s opening since my Paris trip, and the perfumes I bought or singled out for samples to test on my return. I wrote in my notes, “so happy, I could scream.” You have to be a patchouli addict to understand and relate to that, because I don’t think Milano Caffe’s dark, bitter, smoky, woody opening will be for everyone. Most definitely not, and especially not for most women, in my opinion. But I loved it.

Twenty minutes in, Milano Caffe is a seamless, rich, decadent, endlessly dark blend of notes. There is woody darkness, smoky vetiver, green patchouli, bitter black expresso, iris, smoke, licorice, black chocolate, and damp, sweet earth. Only the subtlest touch of warm amber lurks about, the iris is fading away, and both the sweet myrrh and cedar feel indistinct. In the background, there is an amorphous, indistinct touch of spiciness. I keep wondering if Milano Caffe has coriander in it because I occasionally pick up on the oddest nuance of something lemony, but dry. The whole bouquet feels incredibly dense and chewy, but Milano Caffe’s projection drops from its initial intensity to something that is only moderate at this point.

From a distance, the main bouquet is of bitter coffee infused with patchouli peppermint, licorice, chocolate and green, medicinal pungency. I’m fascinated by the interplay of notes, especially the ones you can smell if you go in close, because the notes sound like such a crazy combination. And, yet, they work so well here. The subtle ambered heart helps to counter the forcefulness of the elements, and to provide some warmth, but it never verges on sweetness.

Source: chaoswallpapers.com

Source: chaoswallpapers.com

As a whole, on my right arm which I don’t usually use for testing, Milano Caffe is a very dry, woody, greenly dark fragrance that is bitter-sweet at best. In truth, I would have preferred more of a counter-balance to that aspect of things, because my skin takes the base notes and runs with them to quite an unrelieved extreme. About 1.75 hours in, Milano Caffe is primarily a peppermint patchouli-vetiver combination. I wish it weren’t quite so dominant, as it has far overshadowed the coffee and other elements. While my skin normally amplifies sweetness and amber, it hasn’t done so here. I have to admit, this vetiver-peppermint stage was a little disappointing for me, not only because it lacked the complexity of the opening, but also because its darkness was a bit too constant for my personal tastes.

Peat bricks in an outdoor fire. Source: freeirishphotos.com

Peat bricks in an outdoor fire. Source: freeirishphotos.com

In fact, in one of my tests on this arm, Milano Caffe turned even darker. There was much more smoky woodiness, from the vetiver, the cedar, and the mysterious tarry element. The latter definitely evoked an outdoor bonfire in the way that birch tar or cade can often do, while the vetiver takes on a peaty tonality. The overall combination repeatedly called to mind Jovoy‘s Private Label, another fragrance with blackness, peppermint, woods and smokiness. There are big differences, however, as Private Label took all those elements to an extreme, while Milano Caffe is significantly better modulated and balanced. Plus, it has coffee, licorice and dark chocolate, while the Jovoy fragrance is centered on hardcore smoked vetiver and birch tar smoke with leather.

Perhaps it’s merely an odd idiosyncrasy of the skin on my non-testing arm, but Milano Caffe flattens into a patchouli peppermint with dark woods scent for the rest of its duration. I wish it hadn’t, as it was too much of the same thing for me, and the necessary counterbalance of ambered warmth was far too inconsequential on my skin to have much effect. Milano Caffe turns into a skin scent at the end of the third hour, and, in its final moments, Milano Caffe is merely dry woodiness with a vague suggestion of something patchouli about it. All in all, it lasted about 10.75 hours with 3 small sprays. Thankfully, Milano Caffe is consistently better balanced on my other arm.


Source: 123rf.com

Source: 123rf.com

Milano Caffe opens on my skin with boozy, rich cognac and amber, followed by patchouli’s green notes and expresso. Seconds later, a chewy, black licorice appears, along with dark, bitter chocolate that is simultaneously like the solid slab as well as the dusty powder. The coffee initially has the bitterness of expresso, but also the smoother, milder aspects of regular coffee. The main notes are subtly infused with earthiness, smoky vetiver, a hint of dusty cedar, and the nuttied undertones of labdanum amber. The overall combination is much warmer, less bitter and dark than it was on my right arm.

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

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

As the minutes pass, Milano Caffe continues to evolve and darken. The licorice grows much stronger, as does the pungent, medicinal sides of the patchouli. It’s not camphorated and doesn’t smell extremely mentholated, but it is very green, bitter, cool and chilly. There isn’t the musky sweetness or damp, wet earthiness of the first version, nor any of the iris floralacy either. Though there is the same smoky, woody greenness from both the vetiver and the patchouli, there is also the feel of some vanilla that was lacking the first time around.

The cognac booziness fades ten minutes into Milano Caffe’s development, and something else takes its place: peppermint. The patchouli’s green side loses its medicinal pungency, and the peppermint takes its turn on center stage next to the coffee, dark chocolate, and amber. Once again, there is something phenolic and tarry in Milano Caffe, a black, almost leathered, smokiness that appeared in both versions and in all the tests. Here, however, it is only a subtle, light touch, and far outweighed by the coffee.

Mark Rothko, ":'Magenta, Black, Green on Orange', 1947. Source: studyblue.com

Mark Rothko, “:’Magenta, Black, Green on Orange’, 1947. Source: studyblue.com

At the end of the first hour, Milano Caffe turns softer and a bit sweeter. The peppermint patchouli smooths out, as it is infused by the growing amber element. The vanilla rises to the surface and mixes with the other accords to create the impression of a dry caramel, infused with coffee. It’s an odd caramel though, as it has limited sweetness and a touch of bitterness. At the same time, the coffee and chocolate blend together to create a dry mocha accord. The patchouli is laced throughout it all. It is still primarily like peppermint, but it’s a much softer, warmer, earthier touch.

By the 3.5 hour mark, Milano Caffe is a soft coffee fragrance with slightly powdered vanilla and peppermint patchouli, nestled in a woody dryness and dusted by cocoa powder. There are lingering traces of both bitterness and smokiness, but they are subtle. The combination feels chewy in its notes, but the fragrance itself is a skin scent by now that is only hefty when you smell it up close. The notes remain easy to detect for another few hours, though they slowly lose their richness.

Mark Rothko, #20 or "Black,brown on maroon." Source: artsearch.nga.gov.au

Mark Rothko, #20 or “Black,brown on maroon.” Source: artsearch.nga.gov.au

At the start of the 6th hour, Milano Caffe is a soft, dusty cocoa powder with woodiness that vaguely translates to patchouli and a hint of something pepperminty. At the end of the 8th hour, it feels almost gone, but Milano Caffe clings on tenaciously. It finally dies away 10.25 hours from the start as a blur of cocoa powder and dry woodiness.


Regardless of arm or test, Milano Caffe never evokes an urban city for me. Instead, it takes me to the darkest of woods filled with endless vistas of patchouli, vetiver, and greenness. In a clearing at the heart of darkness is a table for two, set with an array of café treats. The scent of freshly brewed, bitter expresso fills the air, as you chew on a selection of peppermints, dark chocolate and licorice on a chair made of vetiver and cedar. A tiny cup of vanilla sits at the far side of the table, next to thimble of cognac. Fireflies of amber act as candlelight, but they are tiny vestiges of warmth in the dark forest.

Zucca coffee shop, Milan on The Perfume Shrine, via the virtualtourist.com

Zucca coffee shop, Milan on The Perfume Shrine, via the virtualtourist.com

Other bloggers, however, were taken to the heart of Milan, and experienced a scent that was driven primarily by coffee and dark chocolate, with only minor degrees of woodiness or patchouli. Take, for example, The Perfume Shrine who describes Milano Caffe, in part, as follows:

The pervading and intoxicating scent of freshly ground coffee is one small part of [the Italian sybarite’s] luxury of letting time slip by. The mingling of chocolate in the composition of Milano Caffé recalls the dusting of cocoa powder on the white “caplet” of a hearty and filling cappuccino, drunk leisurely with a view of the impressive Duomo before taking a stroll down the Via Montenapoleone for some serious window shopping. The Milanese are nothing if not sticklers for detail, from their dog’s collar to their impeccable shoes, and I can feel in Milano Caffé the vibrancy of the elegant woody and spicy background which hums underneath the culinary notes of the top. Coffee is naturally a complex smell, comprised of caramelized & smoky/acrid facets on one end, of woody, like freshly sharpened pencils, on the other.

The dry quality of the fragrance despite the tonka bean and ambery richness elevates the composition into classic resinous-balsamic level; one mistakes smelling Milano Caffé for a full-bodied vintage that peels layer after layer after layer. In fact, what is most surprising is finding a hint of the cocoa-facet of orris and something which reminds me of the fluff, the flou quality of the resin opoponax, amidst the proceedings. This caress under the dark and bitterish flavor of coffee only serves to consolidate the infiltrating appeal of that highly prized bean, that elixir of life, the coffea arabica, cutting its slightly acidic character. Although the spicy woodiness might make Milano Caffé more conventionally masculine in direction, its richness and cuddly chocolate note makes it a great choice for the woman who doesn’t follow trends but rather sets them herself.

Kevin at Now Smell This also experienced a coffee-chocolate dominated scent, though he detected the patchouli as I did. In his review, he wrote:

Milano Caffè opens with a pleasantly discordant mix of espresso beans, bitter chocolate…and perhaps a touch of real patchouli. Next up is the scent of an expensive bar of dark chocolate, scented with cinnamon/clove, and an accord that reminds me of cardamom, something “sage-y”/green and a dark, almost caramelized sweet note (the “spirit” of opoponax followed me as I wore this perfume). Milano Caffè’s character in mid-development is of an off-kilter amber fragrance, with its bits and pieces not quite fitting together. I love the fact that this is NOT a smooth, predictable, culinary take on coffee and chocolate, but more of an herbal/spice-coffee-chocolate perfume “tonic.” There is a woody vibe in the extreme dry down, and the perfume gets a tad incense-y (benzoin?) the longer I wear it. (There is also a phase that reminds me of Thai iced tea, with its cream and star anise aromas.)

On first sniff, Milano Caffè went to the top of my favorite coffee-chocolate perfumes list, and I like it more each time I wear it; the fragrance would be great to wear in autumn and winter, even on a chilly spring day. [¶] La Via del Profumo lists Milano Caffè as a masculine fragrance, but, to me, it’s unisex. Milano Caffè’s lasting power is good for an all-natural fragrance (around four hours on me); sillage is minimal.

Obviously, the patchouli wasn’t as dominant on his skin, and I clearly had a much longer time-span for Milano Caffe as a whole. In fact, the length of time for all the Profumo scents that I’ve tried thus far is quite astonishing, given that they are all natural. I consistently experience 10 hours or more, and given my wonky skin, that says something.

Basenotes‘ official listing for Milano Caffe has no reviews yet, while, on Fragrantica, only two people have provided an actual description of the scent. The first is from “Oscar_84” who talks as much about the vanilla and amber as the coffee:

As soon as I spray Milano Caffè on my wrists, the coffee aroma and the sweetness of chocolate feel kind of intoxicating, pervading my senses. It’s very much like entering a café in a cold morning and ordering a cappuccino… the comforting aroma of freshly ground coffee that blends with the dustiness of cocoa powder over the soft and creamy drink will instantly warm you and make you feel good even in the grayest day. After top notes, that still remain perceivable through the following stages, Milano Caffè reveals its truest oriental vanilla nature with a smoothest but pretty masculine accord of vanilla and woody notes, while iris nuances provide the scent a delicate elegance: in its drydown the fragrance reveals oriental accords of amber, spices and balsamic hints that provide the fragrance it an unexpected fresh vibe. As for longevity-projection, the fragrance has a moderate lasting power (about four hours) and a pretty good sillage.

In my opinion Milano Caffè has very detectable, warm and discrete features that make it perfectly suitable not only for casual wear but also for job meetings, evening dates and any other events when one may need both an energetic and kind of cuddling scent.

The second review is from a woman who experienced a bit more of the medicinal aspects that I encountered from the patchouli, though they didn’t last long on her:

This has a very vintage feel to it, especially in the beginning. The first initial spray smell is not my favorite, it’s very harsh almost medicinal and not very pleasant. But after about 5 minutes it turns into a bitter coffee chocolate, latte smell, but not in a sweet way sugary way. This perfume is definitely not sweet, but it has a very Italian feel to it. It’s very complex, the coffee, bitter chocolate, latte smell stays around for about 1 hour, then it gets more woodsy but a bitter chocolate note shines through here and there. I also get a bit of Shalimar similarity in it, somewhere in the beginning. I wouldn’t wear this out, but I love this in the morning with when I’m having my coffee. I would say it’s a perfume for your self, and it grows on you over time. I’m glad to have it in my collection.

I suspect it is the patchouli’s green side that she finds medicinal, while the Shalimar comparison may stem from the subtle smokiness and leathery undertones in Milano Caffe.

Obviously, skin chemistry makes a difference to how Milano Caffe will appear on your skin, but I think anyone who loves coffee and real patchouli scents should try it. I don’t think the fragrance is for everyone, though. Those who love gourmands will struggle with the dryness, and I think the fragrance will feel very masculine for women who don’t enjoy the boldest and darkest of scents.

I also agree with the female Fragrantica commentator that Milano Caffe grows on you with time, so I would recommend trying it at least twice. While I loved its opening bouquet from the very first time, the subsequent drydown took a few tries for me to appreciate quite as much. One thing I’ve noticed is that Milano Caffe is perfect for layering with a warmer, sweeter scent. I sprayed Arabian Oud‘s Kalemat for a honeyed, richly ambered foundation, then applied Milano Caffe over it, and I loved the overall combination of the two.

There is something else that I think is critical to keep in mind when trying not just Milano Caffe, but every scent from La Via del Profumo. You have to keep in mind who Abdes Salaam or Dominique Dubrana is himself. In my opinion, he is very much in the vein of visionaries like Serge Lutens, perfumers who follow the beat of their own drum, with visions in their head that differ from the more conventional, approachable, easy things created by others. Regular readers know my worship of Serge Lutens, the man, so this is one of the highest compliments I can give someone. Both men have complicated depth, an intellectual nature, a fiercely passionate, unique approach to perfumery, and a deeply poetic soul.

In fact, Mr. Dubrana’s website, Profumo, is subtitled in one section as “Scents of the Soul.” If you read his writings, from the holistic and perfumetherapy parts to his blog, if you look at his calligraphy, or if you observe his beautifully philosophic quotes from Rumi in his Twitter page, you will find a complex, fascinating intellectual who stands apart. I should also state that I’ve interacted briefly with Mr. Dubrana via email correspondence, and find him to be the epitome of an Old World gentleman, in every sense of that word. I’m fascinated, enchanted, and determined to explore more of his line.

As with Serge Lutens, some of the Profumo fragrances are intensely different and perhaps rise to the level of art that is to be admired. It doesn’t mean that every scent is always approachable, wearable, or versatile. Serge Lutens’ creations aren’t always so for me, though his fragrances dominate my collection. I think Profumo scents are the same way. Mecca Balsam didn’t work for me given how badly my skin distorted it, and I don’t think Milano Caffe is for everyone either, though I personally enjoy it a lot. In all cases, however, they are fragrances to respect. They stand out with their boldness, originality, and intensity.

The average perfumista may be overwhelmed, just as many are by Serge Lutens or Amouage, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t expand your horizons and try them. When you do, keep in mind that they are meant to be different. Mr. Dubrana has sent me samples of a few of his scents, so I shall cover one or two more in the upcoming days, with the jasmine-centered Tawaf being next. I can tell you that a mere sniff of the scent in the vial blew me away, and its opening is the most beautifully intense, lush, narcotic jasmine I’ve tried in recent memory. After that, I’ll review the cool, austere, incense fragrance, Hindu Kush, the almond-leathered desert scent, Sharif, and the tobacco, Tabac.

As for Milano Caffe, it is a complicated, dark beauty. It is also quite affordable at prices that start at $44 (or roughly €37 with VAT) for the smallest size. A little goes a long way, so I definitely encourage men who love expresso or true patchouli to give it a sniff. Women who enjoy bold, very woody or dark scents may enjoy it too.

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

Cost & Availability: Milano Caffe is an eau de parfum that comes in a variety of sizes. It is available exclusively from the Profumo.it website which ships its scents world-wide. All the following prices for Milano Caffe are in Euros without VAT: €32,73 for 15.5 ml, €70,82 for 33 ml (a little over 1 oz) and €97,20 for 50 ml/1.7 oz. At today’s rate of exchange, the USD prices roughly comes to: $44, $96, and $132 for the 50 ml bottle. The site says: “Prices are without VAT and are valid for USA and all non EEC countries[;] for shipments in the EEC 22% VAT will be ADDED to the amount in the shopping cart.” There is also a Mignon Discovery Coffret which is available for any 5 fragrances, each in a glass 5.5 ml bottle. The price depends on which perfumes you pick, as the choice is up to you. The 5.5 ml bottle of Milano Caffe is €12,30. On a side note, I received my samples from Mr. Dubrana incredibly quickly, less than 4 days after he sent it. Additionally, I have the impression that, with all purchases, Profumo provides free 2 ml samples, especially of any new fragrances that he is developing, since AbdesSalaam is very interested in feedback. In short, if you’re ordering fragrance, you may want to ask for a sample of something that strikes your eye. Samples: you can order a sample of Milano Caffe from Surrender to Chance which sells the perfume at $5.99 for a 1 ml vial.

Loree Rodkin Gothic I Eau de Parfum: Cozy Comfort

Source: lewallpaper.com

Source: lewallpaper.com

Winter’s cold temperatures tend to bring out my appreciation for cozy scents. It is perhaps my second favorite category in general, after Orientals, but even more so in the dark gloom of December and January. There is something instinctive and biological about the tendency to hibernate that emerges in the cold, winter months, but I have a yearlong habit of curling up with simple, cozy scents at night. After a long day, there is nothing I love more than to toss on some comfortable clothing after a hot shower, put on perfume, and chill in front of the television. At those times, I reach for something that I will enjoy on an instinctive level, a scent that doesn’t require focus on all its details, but something simple, warm, soothing, and luxuriously deep.

Gothic I EDP original bottle on Luckyscent.

Gothic I EDP original bottle on Luckyscent.

I think Gothic I definitely qualifies. It is an eau de parfum from the jewellery designer, Loree Rodkin, and I spent more than a few nights last month and in the recent freezing days enjoying its rich warmth. It’s all thanks to one of my readers, “CC,” who wrote to me during my patchouli series to inquire if I had ever tried Gothic I (as in the number “1”), and who generously insisted on sending me a small decant. She thought I might be interested because Gothic I (which I’ll just simply call “Gothic“) has two kinds of patchouli in it, though it also has vanilla.

It turns out that, on my skin, Gothic is almost entirely a vanilla scent, but it’s a lovely one! Vanilla is not a category of fragrances that I generally seek out, and I most definitely avoid gourmands for my own, personal use. Yet, deep down, but I have a huge appreciation for a certain kind of vanilla: the rich, Madagascar, Bourbon extract type that feels simultaneously deep, heavy, dark, and somewhat dry. That’s essentially the broad profile of Gothic, which also has the benefit of strongly resembling Profumum Roma‘s much more expensive Dulcis in Fundo, but with a touch of patchouli.

Gothic was released in 2013 as the eau de parfum version of Ms. Rodkin’s earlier oils, and is considered the signature fragrance of her line. Its notes are as simple as the fragrance itself, which Luckyscent describes (with an inexplicable touch of the romance novel, in my opinion) as follows:

A moody vanilla shrouded in a mist of light woods and patchouli. Sensuous and unrepentant. We picture long hair whipping in the wind, a search by candlelight and a man driven half mad by love. Still, for all of its gorgeous drama, we could wear this everyday. It has the luxuriant skin-caressing softness of a vintage silk velvet cape. Worn over nothing. Voluptuous and mesmerizing.

Notes: Vanilla pod, Madagascar vanilla, spice accord, Tunisian patchouli and Indian patchouli.

Picture of vanillin crystalizing out to surface of Bourbon vanilla beans. Source: amadeusvanillabeans.com

Picture of vanillin crystallizing out onto the surface of Bourbon vanilla beans. Source: amadeusvanillabeans.com

Gothic is far from “moody,” in my opinion, and definitely doesn’t evoke any man driven half mad with love, but it’s definitely a voluptuous, luxurious scent. It opens on my skin with the richest, most buttery vanilla imaginable, as thick as if pots of butter and custard had been poured into it. Seconds later, it is infused by a momentary boozy sweetness, then a breath of warm patchouli. There is the merest hint of abstract spices dancing all around, perhaps a dash of cinnamon, with the tiniest pinch of nutmeg, and something woody. As a whole, though, Gothic is 3-parts Bourbon vanilla extract, and one-part patchouli. Perhaps a more accurate set of numbers would be 80% vanilla, and 20% patchouli, at least for the opening 30 minutes.

Source: biofarmacia.ro

Source: biofarmacia.ro

Gothic is extremely concentrated and dense in feel, but the sillage isn’t nuclear. It envelops you in a deep cloud about 3-4 inches above the skin at first. The smell is utterly delicious, but it is initially much drier and much less sweet than its very close relative, the Dulcis in Fundo. It lacks the waffle cones and caramelized sugar aspect of the Profumum fragrance, and somehow seems fractionally less gourmand in nature.

Ten minutes in, the perfume shifts a little. There is an odd, utterly unexpected touch of flour that creeps in. I have the strangest image of Gothic as a really rich, but dry, baked vanilla cake, dusted with patchouli, and with the faintest remnants of flour left in the buttered tin. Vanilla, patchouli, flour, and butter… none of it seems remotely “gothic” in nature, but the fragrance is also not as unctuous as those notes may suggest. There is nothing gooey or saccharine-like in the sweetness, nothing that makes me feel queasy by excess. One’s perceptions of “cloying” may depend on definition and on one’s personal yardstick, but, to me, Gothic isn’t cloying despite its richness because of the undercurrents of dry woodiness and spice created by the other elements. In any event, the flour, butter, patchouli and spice all retreat to the sidelines, less than 30 minutes into Gothic’s development.

Source: footage.shutterstock.com

Source: footage.shutterstock.com

They continue to impart a slight, indirect touch on the fragrance which is now almost entirely rich vanilla. And, there, Gothic remains until its very end. To my surprise, at the end of the 2nd hour, hints of caramelization and waffle cones creep in. They turn the perfume into a virtual clone of Dulcis in Fundo, only Gothic has that muted, muffled whisper of patchouli floating in the background. The incredibly smooth, rich, dense vanilla lies right on the skin, though it’s very strong when smelled up close. Once in a while, a delicious trail of richness in the air would catch me by surprise, and I’d realise it was a tendril of Gothic that had followed me. Generally, Gothic turns into a true skin scent somewhere between 5.5 and 6.5 hours, depending on the quantity you apply. With 3 medium-to-good sized sprays from the little atomizer, the perfume lasted almost 15 hours on my perfume consuming skin. With a lesser amount, it lasted around 12.5 hours.    

Gothic I EDP in the new, vertical bottle.

Gothic I EDP in the new, vertical bottle.

Nothing about Gothic’s scent is complicated, but sometimes simplicity has its own charms. I think that’s especially true if you’re looking for a comfort scent to curl up with on a cold winter day. The only complication that tripped me up in terms of the perfume was figuring out the bottles, prices, and various options. I was used to seeing the square bottle offered by Luckyscent for $140, and the first time I looked at Loree Rodkin’s site back in December, that was also what was shown. This week, however, the perfume appears on her website in a tall, narrow bottle shape which threw me off because Ms. Rodkin confusingly offers an identical looking thing that is labelled as a “room spray.” The perfume I tested was the 50 ml Eau de Parfum, but the “Ambiance” room spray is an large 4 oz bottle described as Eau de Cologne (for the room??) and priced significantly lower at $75. (It’s $25 less on Amazon, via Loree Rodkin herself.) Either way, the Eau de Parfum seems to have changed in its bottle shape to look extremely close to that of the “Room Spray,” so if you’re looking into the fragrance make sure you get the right version.

The Gothic I Ambiance "Room Spray" bottle. Source: Amazon.

The Gothic I Ambiance “Room Spray” bottle. Source: Amazon.

Then, there was the question of price. Gothic I is priced at $140 on Luckyscent, but numerous comments there talk about $250 a bottle. Obviously, the prices have dropped substantially, which is pretty unusual in the perfume world where things only go up and up. The pricing makes me even more intrigued by the Ambiance room spray. It can hardly be air freshener, and I assume that it is mere eau de cologne in strength, but $49.99 on Amazon for a huge 120 ml/4 oz (versus $150 for a 50 ml bottle of eau de parfum) seems like an excellent deal, even if one is getting the anorexic, Diet version.

Gothic I EDP original bottle shown on Fragrantica and Luckyscent.

Gothic I EDP original bottle shown on Fragrantica and Luckyscent.

Still, the best part of Gothic really is its enormous richness and depth. There is a great description of it on Fragrantica:

when I got my nose on this patchouli / vanilla bomb (sample from Luckyscent) I felt the earth move.

The vanilla here is not sickly, rather it is dark and seductive. The patchouli has been stripped of its crusty afghan coat and been given a good scrub up. It’s a delicious combination that purrs gently on the skin, but projects like a monster and lasts all day. It borders on gourmand but thankfully (I sold my Musc Ravageur as I didn’t want to smell like a cinnamon bun) stays out of the kitchen. If you find Serge Luten’s Un Bois Vanilla and its ilk just too sweet, this might be the one for you.

That review is from a man, and the only other review comes from a woman who had a very different experience:

I wish I could wax rhapsodic about this one, but its medicinal pungency overwhelms any vanilla tendencies. While retaining its earthiness, this is a less dank and more fresh and minty patchouli. The spices add to the medicinal quality that reminds me of old, plastic-y Band-Aid strips. I think this one might be too bright and sweet for those lovers of dark, brooding fragrances, but too earthy for those looking to graduate from cupcake vanilla scents.

I’m rather amazed by what skin chemistry can do. Clearly, she’s experiencing real, hardcore, genuine patchouli to a huge (and very green) degree, and she’s obviously not a fan. I am, but I experienced almost none of it in Gothic. It may have started at 20%, at best, but it quickly became a mere 5% on my skin, if even that.

I actually have to wonder if the commentator did not leave her review in the wrong place, because it sounds to me as though she’s really describing Gothic II. It is a scent which I’m now dying to try, and which seeks to really showcase the element in a strong, fierce way with notes that include:

cloves, incense, sandalwood, frangipani, indian patchouli, Tunisian patchouli, and madagascar vanilla. 

The more typical descriptions of Gothic (#1) talk about how the scent is dominated by vanilla. Consider this review on Australian Perfume Junkies, where the guest blogger, “Kymme CV,” writes:

Gothic I opens with an enormous sweet vanilla slap in the face, just like a vanilla custard-pie but more! This ‘vanilla’ is an exotic, deep, rich and velvety vanilla. But it’s really not that simple a fragrance. There’s a real depth to the Madagascan vanilla that comes alive once the spice starts to come through. Now we’ve got nutmeg on our vanilla pudding! The spice accords mixed with the vanilla give the fragrance a dramatic nuance.

When I first wore Gothic I hours passed before I started sensing the patchouli notes coming through. However, each time my body temperature rose a little the patchouli blend came storming through. At first I didn’t even realise it was me that I could smell! As soon as my body cooled again, back came the vanillas.

Skin chemistry is obviously responsible for how much patchouli you experience, and the posts on MakeupAlley seem to support that view. There, the assessments for Gothic are mixed, primarily because of the price of the Gothic oil, but also because of the degree of patchouli. Apparently, not everyone shares my love of actual, original true patchouli. I’m crushed…. Facetiousness and joking aside, here is a glimpse of the range of perspectives:

  •  I adore complex scents – especially woods, incense, spice, but sometimes I simply crave something sweet…like wanting a fudge brownie on occasion, but not daily. This is one of my fragrance equivalents to a fudge brownie. It’s an incredibly sultry, rich, sweet vanilla intensified with patchouli and woods. It layers gorgeously with other fragrances, softening all sharp edges. It’s in the same vein as Des Filles a la Vanille’s Vanille, but much longer lasting and deeper.
  • I adore this fragrance. It’s the nicest patchouli fragrance I ever smelled. I am also a big fan of Les Nereides Patchouli Antique. I love Gothic I more.
  •  While this one is pretty expensive, it’s also a lovely, warm, rich, Oriental vanilla with incredible lasting power. A dab on the back of a wrist lasts me well past 7 hours and then some. Sometimes a strong patchouli gives me difficulty, but this one is blended beautifully and gives the fragrance just enough backbone without being over-powering. Mostly I smell a sweet vanilla with amber/patchouli undertones and a good dose of sweet wood and benzoin. Heavenly!
  • A pleasant patchouli/vanilla oil that smells somewhat “chocolaty” and is unpleasantly overpriced and over-hyped about. Voleur de Roses smells patchy and gothic, this smells like a sweet girly girl with ponytails and a bar of chocolate candy in her hand –and NOT Gothic.

All those reviews date from 2005-2007, and the reference to an “oil” makes it clear that they are not talking about Gothic I Eau de Parfum at all, but the very expensive oil which predates it by about 8 years. For all I know, it may be quite different in smell, and with more patchouli essence.

I agree with them that the oil seems very over-priced at $110 for 7 ml, but the new 2013 eau de parfum might be worth it for those who love extremely rich vanillas with a dash of dry patchouli woodiness, and a microscopic sliver of spices. It’s $140 for 50 ml, and a little goes a long way. The Profumum may be cheaper per milliliter at $240 for 100 ml, but they’re both excellent fragrances. I personally like the Rodkin version more than the Profumum, because some patchouli is always preferable to none. Plus, Gothic is much less gourmand — relative as that may be for a fragrance devoted to the richest vanilla imaginable. It’s a dry, almost woody vanilla, not an unctuous, gooey one that drips sugar. And it’s fantastic on a cold winter’s night or as a bedtime scent.

I’ve always said that I have the best and kindest readers around, but “CC” went out of her way to seek me out with her generous offer. All because she knew of my passion for patchouli! Thanks to her, I’m definitely tempted to buy a bottle of Gothic, but the only thing stopping me is the possibility of a version that may have three times the patchouli, along with incense and spice. Unfortunately, Gothic II is not offered at Surrender to Chance, but I am on the hunt, and quite determined now. In the meantime, I shall treasure my little decant of Gothic I, and the sign of friendship that went along with it.

As for all of you, if you love rich, woody vanillas, and have some tolerance for real patchouli, do try Gothic I. Don’t expect a patchouli scent, or you’ll be sorely disappointed. In terms of vanilla fragrances, though, this is a lovely one.

Cost & Availability: Gothic I is an eau de parfum that comes in a 50 ml bottle that costs $137 or $140. The fragrance is also available as a perfume oil in a 7 ml roll-on bottle, as well as a room fragrance called Ambiance Eau de Cologne in a 4 oz/118 ml bottle. Loree Rodkin website: Loree Rodkin sells Gothic I EDP in a tall 50 ml bottle for $137. She sells the Ambiance Eau de Cologne — which she describes as a “room spray” — for $75 for a 4 oz bottle. However, the Loree Rodkin Amazon page sells that same fragrance (which it says originally retails for $175) for $49.99. For readers in Japan, there is also a Rodkin Japan website. Other vendors: Luckyscent also sells Gothic I EDP in the original square box for $140, along with the 7 ml concentrated Gothic oil for $110. You can also buy it from Net-a-Porter. Outside the U.S.: I’ve had difficulty finding Gothic I sold at any stores outside the U.S., even though Loree Rodkin’s stuff is carried in a number of countries, from the UK to Switzerland, Greece, Austria, Taiwan, the UAE, and others. From what I’ve seen of the UK and French sites, they don’t carry her fragrances, only her jewellery. You can find the full list at her Locations page. Samples: Luckyscent sells samples, as does Surrender to Chance which offers Gothic I EDP starting at $7.99 for a 1 ml vial.

État Libre d’Orange Nombril Immense: Baby Soft Patchouli

Source: 123rf.com

Source: 123rf.com

“Baby-soft creaminess” might be one way to sum up Nombril Immense from État Libre d’Orange (hereinafter just “État Libre“). In French, “Nombril” means belly button, so the perfume’s name translates to “Immense Belly Button,” or “Enormous Navel.” It’s a name wholly in keeping with the whimsical, playfully avant-garde, often satirical, always provocative style of the French perfume house. I’ve frequently found that their attempts to shock or titillate don’t match up to the actual scent in question, and Nombril Immense is no exception. 

Source: Lenoma.ru

Source: Lenoma.ru

Nombril Immense is a unisex, patchouli eau de parfum that was created by Nathalie Feisthauer, and released in 2006. État Libre describes the scent and its notes as follows:

With ‘Nombril Immense’, the accent is on the exceptional quality of the patchouli. Exotic and precious, this fragrant wood from India literally captivates. ‘Nombril Immense’ is an invitation to introspection, to discover new emotions and open the mind to a new spirituality. Patchouli is a sacred wood in Hindu temples; it inspires meditation and leads the way to the shedding of one’s mortal coil in the effort to access timelessness. ‘Nombril Immense’ is an authentic piece of nirvana and it smells like bliss.

Composition: Patchouli, balm of Peru, vetiver, black pepper absolute, opoponax [Sweet Myrrh], bergamot, seed of carrot, kernels of ambrette absolute…

Source: howbenefitstea.com

Source: howbenefitstea.com

Nombril Immense opens on my skin with crisp, fresh bergamot and patchouli, followed by a gentle dose of sweet, nutty myrrh, all ensconced in a creamy, warm, slightly musky embrace. It’s very smooth, and is an extremely close copy of the drydown in Guerlain‘s L’Instant de Guerlain Pour Homme (which is a wholly unisex fragrance no matter what its name may say). Both fragrances have the same lemony, patchouli, creamy Chai tea accord, though Nombril Immense’s thinness and lightness renders it closer to L’Instant eau de toilette (or LIDG) than to L’Instant Eau Extreme (LIDGE). 

Source: Obsessivision Etsy Store. (Website link embedded within photo.)

Source: Obsessivision Etsy Store. (Website link embedded within photo.)

Nombril Immense feels extremely sheer, gauzy, and weak. This is no dense, chewy, molten patchouli with dark smoke, serious spiciness, leathered or toffee’d nuances. There is no cognac booziness, no earthiness, and no intensity either. A hardcore patchouli lover like myself might uncharitably call it an anorexic, socially tamed, submissive, and demure patchouli that is more suitable for a dainty tea on the Upper East Side. It certainly isn’t the rollicking, boozy patchouli of Jovoy‘s Psychedelique or Oriza‘s Horizon. However, I’m sure that those who despise actual patchouli would find Nombril Immense to be an extremely refined take on the note, and they wouldn’t be wrong. This is a baby-soft patchouli whose true, defining characteristics have been stripped out and replaced by creaminess. So much creaminess that, later on, the fragrance almost verges on the milky with the feel of a baby’s lightly musky sweetness.

Ten minutes in, new notes emerge on the scene, albeit in the most muted, muffled form imaginable. There are microscopic hints of toasted nuts, stemming in part from the sweet myrrh and the peru balsam, along with a stronger element of something vegetal that vaguely resembles carrots once in a while. The light touch of citrus remains, but there is no black pepper, vetiver, or spice. As a whole, the main bouquet is of creamy, milky patchouli with a touch of lemon in a bed of musky sweetness.

That’s really it for Nombril Immense. The perfume never veers from its core essence in any dramatic way, and the only substantial change is in sillage. Nombril Immense seemed to evaporate off my skin almost within minutes, with the weakest sillage imaginable after a mere 20 minutes. It feels like a baby scent, not only in terms of its cloud-like softness and milkiness, but also in terms of that sweet muskiness that hovers all around. Something about it really calls to mind a baby for me.

Source: vimeo.com

Source: vimeo.com

Less than 90 minutes in, Nombril Immense is a skin scent, and I felt sure it had vanished an hour later. To my surprise, however, extremely intense sniffs with my nose plastered right on the skin turned up a tenacious smear of scent. I essentially spent the next few hours looking like a crazed bloodhound as I attacked my arm to detect it, and I was consistently taken aback to find Nombril Immense was still there, chugging away as a wisp of milky patchouli with weirdly vegetal, warm muskiness. All in all, Nombril Immense lasted just a hair over 7 hours on my skin with 4 gigantic smears, but only 4.25 hours with a more normal application.

On Fragrantica, others report similar trouble with Nombril Immense’s sillage and longevity, but a few people really adored the fragrance. Let’s start with the numbers:

  • The votes for Sillage are: 11 for Soft (no skin trail at all); 6 for Moderate; 1 for Heavy; and 1 for Enormous.
  • The votes for how long Nombril Immense lasts on the skin break down to: 3 for Poor (30 min-1 hr); 5 for Weak (1-2 hrs); 3 for Moderate (3-6 hrs); and 5 for Long-Lasting (7-12 hrs).

I think the absolutely terrible sillage is partially responsible for some people thinking Nombril Immense has only 30 minutes to 2 hours of longevity. It takes a hell of a lot of work to detect it after the 2nd hour. Is it worth it? Not in my opinion.

Yet, a number of people on Fragrantica seem to really like Nombril Immense. Amidst all the talk about its total lack of sillage, a few people found the fragrance to be “soft, feminine and very comfortable,” or  a “[v]ery sexy, decadent patchouli[.]” One person wrote that Nombril Immense was “patchouli, patchouli, and more patchouli,” which is correct as there really isn’t much to the scent besides that one core note. Another found Nombril Immense to be the essence of innocence:

so unique, simply innocence. A baby. That’s what I have in mind. It just so motherly to me and it reminds me a lot of my childhood, I smell like this!! LOL. A bit of baby talcum powder and a hint of sun and sweat from playing outside for 5 hours and power nap time. LOL. I love this smell, I’m wearing it mostly night time though.

Source: funylool.com

Source: funylool.com

Others weren’t so excited. One commentator thought that Nombril Immense was pleasant, but had “that Etat drydown that IMO a number of their scents have that doesn’t thrill me – something too powdery about it (and ‘dirty’ at the same time).” A few others mentioned experiencing a baby powder note in the drydown as well. For one man, Nombril Immense took refined patchouli too far: “While some softness in a patchouli frag is appreciated by those of us who don’t want to smell like we slept in the woods for a few days, I do want some earthly edge.” In the eyes of one female commentator, Nombril Immense was a “more expensive version of Jessica Simpson‘s ‘Fancy Nights‘,” which hardly seems to be a positive endorsement.

I think how people react to Nombril Immense will depend largely on how much they love or hate hardcore patchouli. I find it hard to imagine that a true patch head will actually approve of Nombril Immense, though they may like it as a creamy, woody musk. In contrast, those who associate patchouli with dirty, sweaty, earthy hippies reeking of a head-shop aroma will probably think Etat Libre has created the best version ever. In my opinion, the average person nowadays doesn’t actually like patchouli in its true, original form, so this sort of denuded, de-fanged, baby patchouli is a much more approachable construct. However, that softness might also make the scent a little feminine in some men’s eyes, as it lacks any sort of edge.

At the end of the day, Nombril Immense is an affordable scent that’s pleasant, but has a lot of flaws. If you’re looking for a more complex version of creamy patchouli Chai Tea, I’d suggest the Guerlain L’Instant Pour Homme in eau de toilette. It has a light floral (jasmine) component which makes it wholly unisex; it’s an equally refined, creamy patchouli with discreet sillage; and you can find it for much less than Nombril Immense. If you want a more intense, serious, spicy, smoky version, then there is the superior L’Instant Eau Extreme eau de parfum version (which is also covered in that same Guerlain review). On the other hand, if you’re looking for something creamy and feminine, with a baby sweetness, milkiness, and softness, then Nombril Immense might be your comforting cup of tea.

Cost & Availability: Nombril Immense is an eau de parfum that only comes in a 1.7 ml/50 ml size and is priced at $80, €69, or £59.50. In the U.S.: Nombril Immense can be purchased from LuckyScent for $80 for a 50 ml/1.7 oz bottle, with samples for $3. It is also available from The Twisted Lily, and from MinNY. Outside the U.S.: You can purchase Nombril Immense directly from Etat Libre’s website where it costs €69.00, with samples available for €3.00. (There is also a Discovery Set or Coffret of 18 Etat Libre fragrances, all in 1.5 ml vials, sold for €39. However, Nombril Immense is not included.) The perfume is also available from Etat Libre’s London store at 61 Redchurch Street, as well as from its Paris one located at 69, rue des Archives, 75004. Elsewhere in the UK, I found Nombril Immense at London’s Les Senteurs for £59.50, with samples also available for purchase. In Germany, the perfume is available at First in Fragrance for €69. The site ships worldwide. In the Netherlands, I found Nombril Immense at ParfuMaria for €64. In Italy, it’s available at ScentBar, and in Russia, I think it’s sold at iPerfume, but I can’t read Cyrillic to see if it’s available for online purchase. For all other locations or vendors from Canada to the Lithuania and Sweden, you can use the Store Locator listing on the company’s website. Samples: you can order a sample of Nombril Immense from Surrender to Chance where prices start at $4.75 for a 1 ml vial. Samples are also available at a number of the vendors listed above.