Stéphane Humbert Lucas 777 Khôl de Bahreïn: Ambered Iris

Photo: My own.

Photo: My own.

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

Stephane Humbert Lucas via CaFleureBon and Marieclaire.it.

Stephane Humbert Lucas via CaFleureBon and Marieclaire.it.

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

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

Source: Fragrantica

Source: Fragrantica

Blend of amber benzene.
Unguent with an intense trail.

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

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

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

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

Source: Soundcloud.com

Source: Soundcloud.com

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

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

toffee caramal nougat close up wallpaper

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

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

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

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

Photo: Crystal Venters via Dreamtime.com

Photo: Crystal Venters via Dreamtime.com

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

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

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

Source: nature.desktopnexus.com/

Source: nature.desktopnexus.com/

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: qcorrell.com

Source: qcorrell.com

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

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

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

Source: hdwallpapers4desktop.com

Source: hdwallpapers4desktop.com

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

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

Source: hdwallpapers4desktop.com

Source: hdwallpapers4desktop.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Sagma Corp.

Source: Sagma Corp.

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

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

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

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

Source: Fragrantica

Source: Fragrantica

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

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

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

Perris Monte Carlo Bois d’Oud

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

Source: Fragrantica.

Source: Fragrantica.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: picsfab.com

Source: picsfab.com

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

Source: ghulmil.com

Source: ghulmil.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: samsunggalaxy.co

Source: samsunggalaxy.co

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

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

Source: top.besthdwallpapers.info

Source: top.besthdwallpapers.info

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

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

Source: pugetsoundbites.wordpress.com

Source: pugetsoundbites.wordpress.com

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

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

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

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

Source: spicewallpaper.blogspot.com

Source: spicewallpaper.blogspot.com

Other impressions of Bois d’Oud are:

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

Source: souq.com

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

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

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

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

Suede. Source: seasonalcolor.yuku.com

Suede. Source: seasonalcolor.yuku.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Slumberhouse Zahd (Limited Edition)

Photo: Lisa Rochon at chasinghome.org.

Photo: Lisa Rochon at chasinghome.org.

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

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

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

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

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

Source: ebay.co.uk

Source: ebay.co.uk

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

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

According to Mr. Lobb, Zahd incorporates notes of:

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

Source: Pbs.org

Source: Pbs.org

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

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

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

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

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

Trisamber, via IFF.

Trisamber, via IFF.

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

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

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

Mr. Lobb also added:

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

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

Source: designerwallcoverings.com

Source: designerwallcoverings.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: primermagazine.com

Source: primermagazine.com

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

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

Image: Dejainnightmare via imgarcade.com

Image: Dejainnightmare via imgarcade.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: droiddnaforum.com

Source: droiddnaforum.com

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

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

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

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

Source:  hd4desktop.com

Source: hd4desktop.com

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

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

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

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

Review En Bref: Serge Lutens Laine de Verre

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

Fiberglass. Source: featurepics.com

Fiberglass. Source: featurepics.com

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

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

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

Source: marieclaire.fr

Source: marieclaire.fr

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: de.wallpaperswiki.org

Source: de.wallpaperswiki.org

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

Source: depositphotos.com

Source: depositphotos.com

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

Woolite Delicates via rbnainfo.com.

Woolite Delicates via rbnainfo.com.

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

Source: soap.com

Source: soap.com

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

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

Source: telshopmobile.com

Source: telshopmobile.com

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

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

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

Bounce dryer sheets.

Bounce dryer sheets.

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

Source: hdw.eweb4.com

Source: hdw.eweb4.com

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

Source: ukcurtainsandinteriors.co.uk

Source: ukcurtainsandinteriors.co.uk

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

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

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

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

LM Parfums Black Oud

The darkness of incense and an extremely refined oud, speckled with red-brown, earthy, and fiery spices. A deep woodiness that is soon married with a purple liqueured richness, before its sweetness eventually turns drier. Bold richness that moves into an intimate, gauzy whisper. Those are some of the different aspects of Black Oud from LM Parfums.

Photo: my own.

Photo: my own.

Black Oud is a pure parfum extrait that was released in 2012. LM Parfums describes the perfume and its notes as follows:

«Blend into the middle of a black and white tainted forest, be in the most obscure darkness, to deliver the fragrance of Oud.» This is my wish to take you into the depth of Indonesia.

Photo: my own.

Photo: my own.

The subtlety of the Oud fragrances, mixed to cistus gum, wrapped with nutmeg, caraway, and incense, this generous fragrance brings in its wake cedar, amber and sandalwood, embellished with a touch of musk.

Top Notes: Nutmeg, Cumin, Incense.
Heart Notes: Oud Wood, Labdamum.
Base Notes: sandalwood, Cedar, Civet, Castoreum, Vanilla, Amber.

Source: wallpaperup.com

Source: wallpaperup.com

Black Oud opens on my skin with a darkness quite worthy of its name. I’m surprised by that, since so many perfumes labelled “Noir” or “Black” don’t actually convey that sense or impression to me. Black Oud does — at least in its opening minutes. There is a burst of beautifully refined, high-quality agarwood that is thoroughly infused with a spicy, peppered sweetness. There is dusty, vaguely earthy cumin, but also the fiery bite of what feels like red, pimento chilis. A rich, very darkly resinous stickiness follows moments later, along with what feels distinctly like a jammy patchouli note. It completely throws me off, as nothing in the notes indicates patchouli, but that is what I smell. It’s a deeply purpled, velvety, liqueured richness with a vaguely fruited aspect. 

I love Black Oud’s opening. The spices are the key, adding a great depth to the smooth, refined oud. They are dusty, dusky, and dry, but never sweaty. I don’t smell the nutmeg at all on my skin, but the cumin is really lovely. For all its spiced dryness, it also smells oddly fresh in a way, and something about it evokes rye bread more than anything curried, sweaty or stale. The whole bouquet is wrapped up with a thick ribbon of billowing, black frankincense, but it is blended so seamlessly into the notes that it’s more of an overall feel of darkness than a sharp, easily delineated note.

Black in bottle, non-travel form.

Black in bottle, non-travel form.

I’ve worn Black Oud a number of times, and on each occasion in the opening minutes, my initial impression is always the same thing: a much better, more refined, drier Puredistance Black. (Puredistance insists on typing it as BLACK, but I refuse.) Black Oud was released in 2012; Puredistance’s Black in summer of 2013. They are both Extrait perfumes with spices, incense, oud, and a liqueured patchouli sweetness, though Puredistance refuses to release its exact notes for the fragrance and Black has a definite floral component. I was the only blogger out of the first lot who initially reviewed Black to say that I didn’t like it, and I received a bit of flack for it. Well, I stand by my opinion, as I still don’t like Black.

Source: quotes-pictures.feedio.net

Source: quotes-pictures.feedio.net

In the opening moments, Black Oud blows the Puredistance scent out of the water. It’s much smoother, more refined, and deeper. Unlike the Puredistance scent, the overall effect of one actually feels black in mood, perhaps because Black Oud is much smokier, drier, less unctuously sweet, and more spiced. The jammy, purple, fruit-chouli aroma is much more subtle in Black Oud’s opening phase, while the incense is much more profound. In addition, the oud note feels more luxuriously smooth and expensive. However, as we will soon see, the early differences soon fade, and I’m afraid Black Oud becomes a lot closer to Puredistance Black in nature. Several of the things in Puredistance Black that I struggled with manifest themselves here, to the point where I wonder if Antoine Lie made LM Parfums’ Black Oud a year before he made the significantly more expensive (and over-priced) Puredistance Black.

Mysore sandalwood cross-section. Source: vk.com

Mysore sandalwood cross-section. Source: vk.com

It takes very little time for Black Oud to start to evolve. Exactly 5 minutes into Black Oud’s development, the sandalwood peaks up its head. It’s muted at first, but it’s a lovely, subtle touch of spicy, creamy, smoky red-gold woodiness that feels like real Mysore wood. Laurent Mazzone has shown his willingness with the spectacular Hard Leather to spend any amount of money on the genuine Mysore wood, no matter how costly the rare ingredient may be, and I think he must have insisted on the real thing for Black Oud as well.

A few minutes later, other changes occur. The cumin starts to slowly melt into the other notes, creating a more abstract sense of “spiciness” instead of a distinct, individual cumin note. The sandalwood grows stronger, while the labdanum suddenly starts to stir. It’s got a deliciously toffee’d, vaguely dirty, almost chocolate-y undertone. Yet, Black Oud is never skanky, raunchy, urinous or dirty in any way on my skin. I never detect the civet, castoreum, or nutmeg, though there is a subtle muskiness and earthiness that creeps in towards the end of the perfume’s development.

As a whole, Black Oud in the opening half-hour is a very smooth, delicately spiced, liqueured, black-purple oud scent that is infused heavily with smoky incense and that inexplicable jammy element, then lightly flecked with Mysore sandalwood and labdanum amber. While LM Parfums’ Hard Leather is a lusty, “skanky” take on leather, incense, oud, and sandalwood, Black Oud is the sweeter, non-animalic, more purely oud and incense sibling. Every single one of its elements feels rich, seamless, and luxuriously refined, but the whole thing is also very gauzy in feel. Surprisingly so for an Extrait concentration.

"Purple Velvet Gold Flakes" by *Will3style at Deviantart.com. http://will3style.deviantart.com/art/Purple-Velvet-Gold-Flakes-258099755

“Purple Velvet Gold Flakes” by *Will3style at Deviantart.com. http://will3style.deviantart.com/art/Purple-Velvet-Gold-Flakes-258099755

Black Oud slowly turns sweeter, as the liqueured, fruited, patchouli-like jamminess grows stronger. Unfortunately for me, there is the first twinge of something aroma-chemical that stirs in the base. I’m not a fan of it, though it’s thankfully subtle and muted at this point. What is much prettier, however, is the cumin which adds a dry, almost herbal, green-brown spiciness to the base.

At the start of the 2nd hour, the aroma-chemical in the base turns into one of the main notes. It smells like some sort of very arid, “amber” substitute, but also very woody, harsh and, to my nose, jangly with its sharp edges. I don’t like it one bit, though I realise that I have a sensitivity to aromachemicals, and that the vast majority of people can’t detect them. At least the dryness of the note (whatever it is) helps to cut through some of Black Oud’s increasing sweetness, though the jammy liqueur is still very prominent. The incense retreats to the sidelines, along with the spiciness, while the sandalwood slowly starts to fade away.

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.)

Black Oud also turns thinner and sheerer, with sillage that now projects only about an inch above the skin. By the 1.75 hour mark, the perfume is a gauzy thin blur of refined oud, the excessively dry aromachemical, incense smokiness, and the jammy fruitchouli note. There is a subtle nuance of something vaguely herbal and earthy in the base, but the overall impression is of a non-floral, woodier, drier version of Puredistance Black.

Black Oud remains largely unchanged for the next few hours. Thankfully, the harsh aromachemical note disappears by the end of the 3rd hour, and my mood improves. By the middle of the 4th hour, Black Oud is a skin scent that slowly turns drier and woodier. It’s a sheer, very pretty blend of vaguely oud-y woodiness and sweetness with tiny, subtle flickers of smokiness, earthiness, and something vaguely herbal lurking at the edges. Around the 7th hour, a touch of beeswax appears, undoubtedly from the labdanum, and a growing element of muskiness.

Source: hotguyscollection.com

Source: hotguyscollection.com

In its final hours, Black Oud also takes on sexy muskiness that has a tobacco-like undertone and a velvety earthiness that almost feels mushroom-y at times. I suspect it stems from the castoreum. As a whole, though, Black Oud’s drydown is generally just abstract woodiness with a touch of sweetness and dryness blended within. Something about it is quite seductive. Call me crazy, but this is what I imagine Tom Ford to smell like. Sweet, dry, woody muskiness with a touch of the scent of a man’s warm skin, all wrapped in a very refined, understated bouquet. Yes, I know Tom Ford is the least “under-stated” person around, but he is what I think of when I smell Black Oud’s drydown: open-shirted, bare-chested and revealing skin that carries the discreet musky sweetness of Black Oud.

As noted earlier, Black Oud is an extrait or pure parfum. It doesn’t feel like it on my skin, I’m afraid. On a few occasions when I’ve worn it, I was surprised by how quickly it faded. Two decent-sized sprays gave me between 9 and 9.75 hours in duration, but the perfume consistently became a skin scent at the start of the 3rd hour. I frequently thought that it had vanished by the end of the 5th hour, but, no, Black Oud definitely lingered, and was noticeable when I put my nose directly on my skin and smelled very hard. With 3 big sprays, Black Oud lasted a good 12 hours on my skin, but, again, it was extremely discreet.

A number of LM Parfums start strongly and then become much more intimate, as that seems to be part of the brand’s overall aesthetic. The gorgeous Sensual Orchid is one example, where the opulent, bold, narcotic sensuality slowly turns into something more romantically discreet, as though it were olfactory lingerie. I am starting to have the impression that Laurent Mazzone might feel that a subtler suggestion is better for his bolder, richer aromas, the new Hard Leather excepted. So, when seen in that light, perhaps Black Oud’s softness and subtlety makes sense, but I was still taken aback. It really didn’t feel like an Extrait on my skin, and its wispiness was another thing that made me think of the intentionally “whispering” Puredistance Black.

While I have extremely wonky, perfume-consuming skin, I’m apparently not alone on the issue of Black Oud’s subtlety and limited projection. On Fragrantica, two other people felt the same way, though their overall assessment for the fragrance was very positive. For example:

If Valentino ever produced an OUD based fragrance it would smell something like this.

Romantic and Deep are the key words here. A rich mix of delicate spices and oud emphasizing the intricate balance between eastern and western perfumery. Smooth pristine and dressed up.

It isn’t loud by any means. In fact I think it is a sleeper that will wake up at unexpected moments. It is however very durable.

Leave it on for a while before you try to decipher it….it’s one of those. […][¶]

EDIT :
Been wearing this for a full day now. I hate to say it but this has nothing to do with an Extrait as far as projection goes. […] EDIT : TWO Days later. I share the same feelings still. Nice *subtle* romantic oud scent that lasts a good amount of time as a skin scent with just minimal projection. [¶] DEFINITELY not one of the stronger Extraits/Parfums that I have sampled but what can you expect for $225 100ml Extrait.

Others agree on the romantic, refined nature of Black Oud, including a woman commentator who offers up the first review below:

  • This perfume is a dream come true : when I wear it,I have the feeling that I smell a mysterious lover’s smell (a latin one, of course !)on my skin all day long! Very erotic ! Wonderful ! You’ll feel very sexy while wearing it (for men or women.)
  • very amazing perfume and it’s like Black Afgano but with more Oud and more sillage .. [¶] I love this perfume[.] [Emphasis to name added by me.]

On Basenotes, there are 3 reviews for Black Oud, 2 of which are positive and one is a mere “neutral.” Their views, in part or in full, are as follows:

  • Simple comfort to wear animalic oud scent.
  • It starts quite alcoholic and spiced , with a soft frankincense. Then it develops to a sweet-rosey oud .Finally it dries down towards a kind of animalic sandalwood . [¶] This reminds me of L’Air du Desert Marocain with a touch of oud .This is not dark nor black . [¶] Longevity is regular , taking into account that this is an extract of parfum . [¶] Over-priced for what it is , 200 eur . [Emphasis to name added by me.]
  • Wonderfully smooth and powerful scent [….][¶] I love it, it isn’t too powerful, very “smooth” as someone else mentioned, and it is really just what I was looking for, a sensual date scent. […]
Source: HDwallpapers.

Source: HDwallpapers.

One perfume blogger who isn’t a fan of agarwood wrote that Black Oud was the first scent with the note that she liked. The site, Esperanza Van Der Zon, wrote, in part:

Black Oud became the first oud perfume I really liked. It is a very well blended oud extrait with rich wood and incense elements. The oud is not dominating the perfume but part of the whole composition like a primus inter pares, equal amongst the other notes. It is hard to detect individual notes as they are very well blended. But I do detect rich frankincense lingering at the beginning, followed by warm dark woods to continue to labdanum and golden oud. The extrait changes its scent showing some different aspects at first but does not change very much during the day on my skin. What remains is a warm wooden resinous drydown, modern, strong, very present and with a little edge. Compared to a texture it would be soft black wool, still a bit tingling when you touch it. […][¶]

Although the Black Oud is an extrait (pure perfume), its sillage is enormous, one spitz is enough for a whole day. Some called Black Oud a sillage monster. I would say this extrait is for true sillage lovers or people who do not like to reapply during the day. You can still scent Black Oud after 24 hours so have some caution when applying !

Her sillage and longevity experiences are obviously quite different from what I or some of the Fragrantica people experienced, so skin chemistry is clearly key. What I found interesting about her review is how taken she was by Black Oud. Even though she found the perfume a “bit too masculine” by her standards, she said she would still buy a full bottle if it were cheaper:

There are cold days I really enjoy wearing Black Oud. It is a pity it only comes in 100 ml bottles for about 200 euro. If it was sold in smaller bottles I would have bought a full bottle some time ago.

That’s quite an endorsement from someone who says bluntly that she does “not like oud very much.”

Speaking of prices, Black Oud costs $225 or €195 for the 100 ml bottle. It may not be cheap, but it is substantially less expensive than Puredistance Black which costs almost $600 for a similar 100 ml size. (Both are Extrait fragrances, so their prices can definitely be compared on an equal basis.)

Source: 8tracks.com

Source: 8tracks.com

Black Oud is a much better value than the Black, and a better fragrance as a whole, in my opinion, because it feels much more refined. The oud smells more luxurious and smoother, and the perfume lacks the annoying rose-fruitchouli singularity of Puredistance Black. The latter ended up making me think of pinks and purples, fluffy clouds, and Turkish delight. It was not “Black,” let alone very smoky or woody on my skin. In fact, it smelled significantly aromachemical in nature, and was much more generic in profile, two reasons why I think Puredistance Black is badly over-hyped and over-priced for what it is.

Black Oud, on the other hand, seems darker, smokier, woodier, and drier. The opening 30 minutes are really fantastic, and the drydown is both pretty and quite sexy. The middle stage, alas, didn’t thrill me at all; I don’t like whatever amber aromachemical was used in the base, and the liqueured sweetness of Black Oud was a bit difficult for me as a whole. I’m also not enthused by the discreet, intimate sillage. However, at the end of the day, all of those things are a matter of personal tastes and skin chemistry. Black Oud isn’t very me, but I can respect it (minus that aromachemical bit) and I can completely see why people find it to be a beautifully blended oud fragrance. Puredistance Black, on the other hand, just leaves me scratching my head. At best.

In short, if you’re looking for a refined, approachable oud scent with sweetness, incense, and dryness, you may want to give Black Oud a sniff.

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. 

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Black Oud is pure parfum extrait that is available only in a 100 ml/3.4 oz bottle which costs $225 or €195. In the U.S.: Laurent Mazzone’s fragrances are sold exclusively at Osswald NYC. If, at some point in the future, you don’t see Black Oud listed at that link, it’s because Osswald takes down a perfume’s page when they’re temporarily out-of-stock, then puts it back up later. Outside the U.S.: you can buy Black Oud directly from LM Parfums. In addition, they offer large decant samples of all LM Parfums extraits which are priced at €19 for 5 ml size. LM Parfums also owns Premiere Avenue which sells both Black Oud and the 5 ml decant. It ships worldwide. In the UK, the LM Parfums line is exclusive to Harvey Nichols. In Paris, LM Parfums are sold at Jovoy. In the Netherlands, you can find Black Oud at ParfuMaria. The LM Parfums line is also available at Silks Cosmetics. In Germany, First in Fragrance carries the full line, and sells samples as well. You can also find LM Parfums at Essenza Nobile, Italy’s Vittoria Profumi, or Alla Violetta. In the 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 sell samples. In the U.S., none of the decanting sites carry LM Parfums, but 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.

Parfums de Nicolaï Sacrebleu Intense

Some perfumes have a quiet prettiness that weave their way around you over time, or that touch you with a feeling of comforting familiarity. Sometimes, they are also about a study in contrasts, contradictions that work together seamlessly in a way that becomes more important than the individual notes. Sacrebleu Intense from the Guerlain descendent, Patricia de Nicolaï, and her company, Parfums de Nicolaï, is one of those perfumes.

The 30 ml and 100 ml bottles of Sacrebleu Intense. Source: Luckyscent

The 30 ml and 100 ml bottles of Sacrebleu Intense. Source: Luckyscent

It is an eau de parfum that appealed to me the first time I smelled it, but it didn’t bowl me over and throw me into a state of maddened lust. It still doesn’t, if truth be told, but Sacrebleu Intense quietly squirreled its way into my thoughts, and I ended up succumbing to a relatively blind buy months after the fact. It has a quiet solidity and classical appeal with just enough of a nod to the past to be comforting at times.

What I like is the feeling of contrasts that have been superbly blended into a seamless whole. There is sticky, chewy darkness, but also, airy, white sweetness. Bitter green leafiness lies side-by-side with boldly fiery, red cloves, brown cinnamon, smoky blacks, and twiggy, petitgrain, neroli orange-browns. Sometimes, the contrasts are just about the stark black and whites: black licorice and smoke, against white Church incense and spicy red carnation. Sometimes, they are about gender, as femininity collides with touches of masculinity. Often, they are about boldness and strength mixed with refined quietness; or the contradictions of weightless heaviness.

Photographer: Carl Bengtsson. Source:  fashionproduction.blogspot.com

Photographer: Carl Bengtsson. Source: fashionproduction.blogspot.com

Sacrebleu Intense is about all those things. It is fierce and potent, but understated and quietly elegant. It is a nod to the past that is also very modern. It has a simple beauty whose appeal grows stronger with time, and it manages to stay in your head, long after you’ve smelled it. At least, that was the case for me. I first encountered the perfume in Paris where I was trying the full Parfums de Nicolaï‘s line at one of her shops. (From this point out, I hope you will forgive me if I spell Nicolaï as just “Nicolai” for reasons of speed and convenience, as it takes a while to put on the dots, or Trema.)

Sacrebleu Intense stood out immediately amidst the Nicolai offerings. A few of the other scents were pretty, but too subdued or restrained. A good number felt too damn thin by half, but Sacrebleu Intense made me do a wee, tiny double-take, and I sniffed my wrists appreciatively. However, I almost never trust first impressions and needed a sample to test to see how it would develop over time, especially on my wonky skin. Unfortunately, the Parfums de Nicolai line doesn’t seem to believe in that practice, and I was always told, “I’m sorry, we don’t have any vials.” So, I skipped it. Upon my return to America, though, the memory of Sacrebleu Intense nagged away at me for months. I finally said, “to hell with it,” and ordered a bottle.

Guerlain's L'Heure Bleue via radiobresil.com.

Guerlain’s L’Heure Bleue via radiobresil.com.

I did so for one reason, and one reason only. Every time I had tested Sacrebleu Intense, the same thought rang in my head: “L’Heure Bleue. This is a definite nod to L’Heure Bleue, only it’s more modern, fruitier, with different spices, and possibly a more unisex feel.” Now, vintage L’Heure Bleue is one of my two, absolute favorite Guerlain scents. In fact, it is only fickleness and a slightly fiercer love for vintage Shalimar that prevents L’Heure Bleue from ranking as my favorite Guerlain of all. Plus, vintage L’Heure Bleue can be a wee bit powdery for my tastes, though none of it matters in the face of the reformulated modern version. Sacrebleu Intense reminds me of vintage L’Heure Bleu, though with enough differences for it to be its own scent. It feels more modern, and not as wistful in nature.

Patricia de Nicolaï, via her own website.

Patricia de Nicolaï, via her own website.

The strong connection to one of Guerlain’s masterpieces should come as no surprise to anyone who knows about Patricia de Nicolai‘s background. I’ve written about how she is part of the Guerlain family, a grand-daughter of the house’s founder, Pierre Guerlain, a niece to Jean-Jacques Guerlain, and a relative of the famed nose and current Guerlain family patriarch, Jean-Paul Guerlain. Madame de Nicolai is also on record as saying that she absolutely loves L’Heure Bleue, though she stopped just short of saying that it is the Guerlain scent that has had the most impact on her own perfumery. Still, her love of L’Heure Bleue shines through in Sacrebleu Intense, though I have to emphasize that I think they are very different scents at their heart.

Sacrebleu Intense is an eau de parfum that was released in 2008. It seems to have been intended as a bolder version of the original Sacrebleu which has now been discontinued, though I’ve also read in one place that the Intense was meant to highlight the floral notes more than the original. According to Fragrantica and Luckyscent, Sacrebleu Intense has:

Top notes: mandarin orange, red berries and fruity notes; Middle notes: carnation, tuberose, cinnamon and jasmine; Base notes: peru balsam, sandalwood, tonka bean, patchouli, olibanum [myrrh], woody notes and vanilla..

Source: CaFleureBon

Source: CaFleureBon

Sacrebleu Intense opens on my skin with massive amounts of carnation cloves, followed by cinnamon, dark resins, and green notes. There is a strong spiciness to  the scent beyond just the cloves, a sort of piquancy that makes me think of peppery, fuzzy geranium leaves, as well as of bitter neroli and petitgrain. Petitgrain is a citrus tree’s twigs, distilled down into the bitter, pungent woody, masculine notes, while neroli is a different method of distilling the trees’ orange blossoms. Honestly, on my skin, I don’t smell mandarin oranges in their traditional, sweet, sun-ripened juiciness. There is the strong bitterness of neroli, and the woodiness of petitgrain instead.

FrankincenseThere are other elements as well. Lurking in the base is a black, leathery smokiness from the styrax, the least sweet of all the resins or benzoin-like notes. There is also a heavy presence of olibanum or myrrh. It is nothing like the High Church, soapy, chilly, dusty character that it usually manifests, at least not yet. Instead, it smells like chewy black licorice with a hint of anise. There is a definite sense of smokiness, though. A sweet incense note that feels like sweet myrrh, rather than pure, dry, black frankincense.

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

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

The odd thing is the nature of the floral notes. I’ve worn Sacrebleu Intense a few times, and only once did I ever really detect tuberose. It was brief, very muted, and had a slightly rubbery, black undertone to it. However, the tuberose was so thoroughly blended into the other elements, it was extremely hard to pick out and I don’t think it lasted for more than perhaps 10 minutes at best. The main flower on my skin instead is always the carnation, though it is barely floral at all. Carnations can take on a peppered rose aroma or a clove-like one, and it is the latter which shows up on my skin. In fact, Sacrebleu Intense is heavy cloves from start almost to finish, with only a touch of actual carnation.

Geranium pratense leaf, close-up. Source: Wikicommons

Geranium pratense leaf, close-up. Source: Wikicommons

I keep imagining a clove flower with a spicy neroli heart, bitter petitgrain twigs and peppery, pungent, green geranium leaves, all dusted with cinnamon. The “flower” grows out of soil made from black licorice and the stickiest, chewiest, balsamic resin around. It’s a base that is faintly leathered and smoky, but the main impression is of bitter fruits heavily dusted with cinnamon and cloves.

For the most part, Sacrebleu remains that way for the majority of its long life on my skin. This is a fragrance that is beautifully blended, and each time I wear it, different parts seem to be emphasized alongside the clove carnation. Never the tuberose, but the green bits and the smokiness seem to fluctuate in degree. On one occasion, all that came to mind was black, chewy, resinous smokiness on a white, airy background that felt only vaguely fruited and was heavily dusted with spices instead. As a whole, Sacrebleu Intense is a scent that is very hard to pull apart. The notes move into each other seamlessly, and, as indicated, that makes the perfume a bit linear in nature. For that reason, this review will be a little different than most of mine, and will focus mainly on the perfume’s overall development and feel.

Pez. Source: Wikipedia.

Pez. Source: Wikipedia.

The one thing that does change (and is quite constant each time I wear Sacrebleu Intense) is the touch of powderiness that creeps in after a while. When it precisely occurs seems to vary, and I’ve noticed that one arm (my right, which is not my usual testing arm) reflects very little of it as compared to the other, but there is always some degree of powder. At first, it’s only a subtle touch that is almost iris-like at times. It’s definitely sweetened powder, and its combination with the bitter neroli and petitgrain-like accord creates a distinct impression of Pez candy. A sort of Sweet-Tarts or Pez powderiness, if that makes sense.

I have to admit, I’m not very keen on it, and I become less keen as time passes because it turns into quite a distinct myrrh incense note that I always struggle with. It’s a spiced, slightly dusty powderiness, though much more sweetened than most High Church incense fragrances. As regular readers know, I’m not particularly enthused by High Church or Catholic Mass tonalities, let alone powder, so I must admit, I struggle a little with Sacrebleu after about 5 or 6 hours. Still, as noted earlier, the perfume is well-blended and there are enough spicy clove, carnation, and resinous elements to make up for it.

 Source: darulkutub.co.uk

Source: darulkutub.co.uk

In its final stage, Sacrebleu Intense is a blend of myrrh incense, spiciness, and sweetened Pez powder, lightly flecked with bitterness and a hint of something vaguely fruity. In its last moments, it’s powdered sweetness and myrrh. I like it… from afar and as long as I don’t smell it up close too much.

All in all, Sacrebleu Intense consistently lasts 12 hours or more on my wonky skin, depending on how much I apply. It generally becomes a skin scent about 4-5 hours into its development, though it requires absolutely no effort whatsoever to detect the perfume if you bring your nose near your arm. Furthermore, you can push both time frames if you spray on a lot. With 3 big sprays, I once experienced a 14 hour duration, even though I had to put my nose on my skin and sniff extremely hard to detect the faint traces after the 12th hour.

I’m glad I bought Sacrebleu Intense, though I have mixed feelings about the drydown stage. In fact, if some of my discussion sounds a little like blind buyer’s remorse, there is that on occasion, but only because I really don’t like Churchy myrrh incense or powder. That said, there is something about the opening moments of Sacrebleu Intense that really compensates for it all.

I can’t really explain in any logical way except to say that there is a mood and feeling which overcomes a lot of the sticky details down the road. Something about Sacrebleu Intense feels like elegant familiarity, perhaps because of that distant, tiny kinship to L’Heure Bleue. It’s such a classic, refined scent that it makes me feel as though I should sit up straighter, put on my best clothes, and get ready for a garden party. It feels like something suited for High Tea at the Plaza Athenée, or a walk through the Jardins de Luxembourg near the Louvre. It lacks the va-va-voom luxuriousness of vintage Shalimar, or the emotional power of vintage L’Heure Bleue‘s haunting melancholy, but Sacrebleu Intense has a definite, quiet charm.

Photographer: Carl Bengtsson. Source:  fashionproduction.blogspot.com

Photographer: Carl Bengtsson. Source: fashionproduction.blogspot.com

Sacrebleu Intense doesn’t take me back in time or feel dated. I don’t feel as though I belonged in the 1920s or 1950s. Perhaps because there is an airiness to the scent that seems to belie the strength and potency of its spicy, piquant notes. It doesn’t feel opulently heavy at all, to the point that I don’t think of luxuriousness when I think of Sacrebleu Intense. Rather, I think of spiciness — intense spiciness and resins. Peppered, resinous, smoky, chewy blackness and white daintiness, speckled with every shade of red, brown and green.

In some ways, Sacrebleu Intense feels a little like an attractive girl whose appeal grows stronger over time. She may not blow you away at first, and, in fact, she may not even sweep you off your feet after you’ve known her for years, either. But you’d definitely miss her if she weren’t around, and, whenever you’re with her, you enjoy the experience. Something about her stays with you — her good humoured spiciness, perhaps — and you can’t forget how comfortable she makes you feel.

Almost all the blog reviews out there are for Sacrebleu, the original, and not for Sacrebleu Intense. There is said to be a difference. It’s not only that Sacrebleu was an eau de toilette, while the Intense is an eau de parfum, but the notes seem to be different. The original is said to have included: black currant bud, peach blossom, jasmine, tuberose, vanilla, tonka bean and incense. I also vaguely remember one Parfums de Nicolai sales lady telling me that the focus of the two scents is different, though for the life of me, I cannot now recall how.

Cellists. Source: Nathan Branch

Cellists. Source: Nathan Branch

The one blog review for Sacrebleu Intense comes from Nathan Branch who writes:

For a couple of hours, Sacrebleu Intense is mesmerizingly beautiful — rich, full, deep . . . like a roomful of cellists all playing the same sad, sweet song, but then everything starts to sound (or, in this case, smell) a little off — too much noise, too many notes crammed up close together and discordantly overlapping.

It’s a shame, too, because when the stuff is pulling together it really shines, but the last half of the scent’s lifespan is a sloppy mess — well, until you hit the patchouli/balsam drydown, which deserves some praise.

Maybe the original, less pumped-up Sacrebleu is better, less messy, than this Intense version?

Source: nature.desktopnexus.com

Source: nature.desktopnexus.com

On Basenotes, one person has the following thoughts on the two versions:

Sweet but not fruity once the initial orange has departed. Close to, the jasmin is not wholly evident, but floats a nose- distance away until displaced by carnation (not cloves). The cinnamon is a mere hint (according to the assistant in PdN in Paris the ‘intense’ version has vanilla instead of cinnamon, but it’s still there to me). Overall less spicy than sacrebleu and therefore easier to wear. Intense is an edp rather than the original sacrebleu which is an edt. However the difference is not just in the concentration, they smell noticeably different, so worth trying both

As a whole, forum and website reviews for Sacrebleu Intense are mixed, with the vast majority being very positive in nature. I also think the reason for the split is that Sacrebleu Intense is a perfume best suited to those with specific tastes, starting with an appreciation for L’Heure Bleue. After that, ideally, you’d love a heaping amount of cinnamon, myrrh incense, and the bitter petitgrain and neroli aspects of orange. It might also help if you like Pez powder or Smarties, the latter being a comparison that was raised in two Fragrantica reviews.

One Fragrantica commentator, “vitabhaya,” has what I think is a good summation of Sacrebleu Intense:

Call me nuts, but the topnotes on this smell like a blend of Guerlain’s L’Heure Bleue and Smarties–you know, those colored, super-sweet candies that come in a roll. It is melancholy but energizing, sweet yet with a great mellow depth, really a mezmerizing fragrance.

After an hour or two, the tonka bean, patchouli, sandalwood and olibanum lilt along the edge of a vanilla that is neither quite sweet nor spicy. It feels rich, sensual and downright sexy. It reminds me of late afternoon sun drifting through the curtains after a lover’s rendevous. There is something hypnotic about this blend, and I find myself lingering with my arm up to my nose long enough to wonder how long I’ve held this pose. Suddenly I feel as if I enjoy the longing for past lovers for pure memories’ sake. I cannot at this point decide if it is slightly melancholy (L’Heure Bleue?) or if it is rather dusky and languid. Oooooh, how I love it!

This goes on the “must have” list.

Source: Fragrantica.ru

Source: Fragrantica.ru

Other Fragrantica commentators seem equally enamoured, with one saying that Sacrebleu Intense had replaced L’Heure Bleu in her heart:

  • For a very long time, since we first met in a candy-box perfumery in Salzburg decades ago, L’Heure Bleue was my absolute favourite scent of all. With all due respect and nostalgia, the Pefume Queen’s Throne in my heart is now occupied by another sovereigh: Sacrebleu. (Especially that L’Heure Bleue’s new formula does not have the perfection of its predecessor.) It is the softest, most embracing, soothing, calming scent about, and I absolutely enjoy its elegant velvety dark character. Mind you, Sacrebleu’s darkness is not menacing, it’s mistery is not dangerous. It is a peaceful night, when you know you are safe, loved and can relax without a hint of worry and care. It is related to L’Heure Bleue, but more modern, less melancholy and much more life-affirming. [¶] To my nose and mind this scent is so perfect, that while wearing it I never once try to isolate it’s notes…it is a perfect harmony, and I don’t care the least what single notes make up this wonderful olfactory symphony. Truly wonderful!
  • I think Sacrebleu Intense is one of the sophisticated and finest scents I have sniffed. Very feminine [….]  I do not get candies from Sacre Bleu, but sacred feel yess. I have also L´heure Bleue and this might be kinda sister, but they are standing quite far from each others. Sacrebleu is more sensitive…. but eaven if she is sensitive do not take her to be not strong!
  • Prepare yourself to be granted a sweet redemption, to gain a second or third youth, to leave the ground and premises in bliss… [¶] Concentrate on happiness! […][¶] Olibanum and Peru Balsam control the -harsh- tubereuse. Carnation and Tonka Bean rule over the omnipresent cinnamon. Mandarin, Jasmin and Sandal turn your face to the light! [¶] Sacrebleu Intense has lifted me with joy.
  • I got this sample from the lovely Carnation. I smell hot spice! This is warm and intense and perfect for me. There is a sweetness to it that could be vanilla but its not cloying. This is a perfect combination of the things I love, Sandalwood, Patchouli, Vanilla and Spice (must be the cinnamon) I love it!
Photo: mypham.us

Photo: mypham.us

One male commentator loved Sacrebleu as well, writing:

A fruit and floral aroma that embraces you with power, quality and exuberance.
The heart is beautifully made of jasmine and tuberose, going to a soft side of the fragrance, surrounded by peru balm, olibanum (frankincense), woods and a delightful vanilla.
It starts completely feminine and then, goes to a more unisex scent during its evolution on the skin. Fierce yet delicate, strong yet romantic…nice work!

Smarties. Source: imgarcade.com

Smarties. Source: imgarcade.com

However, not everyone was quite as thrilled, whether from the fruit or the spices. In fact, I think the following comments underscore the importance of a love for cinnamon, not to mention skin chemistry, of course:

  •  very fruity and sweet. vitabhaya mentions Smarties and L’heure Bleue. I agree about the Smarties, but feel it’s only got a nod in passing from L’Heure Bleue. I purchased a sample because I love cinnamon and hoped for more cinnamon/carnation effect – but fruit tends to overwhelm my nose. Should have checked more carefully, because the top notes are all fruity, and they tend to hang around. Altogether not bad, won’t be one of my favourits, though.
  • Sweet,juicy fruity opening,but I could not detect any spices throughout this at all. […] It’s probably one of the worst I have smelled-cloying and rubbery would describe this perfectly.
  • I get cinnamon, but the horrid thing is that on my skin it smells like a cheap cinnamon candle. [¶] You ever been to a candle store, and then felt a bit yuck after smelling a tonne of candles? That’s this scent on my skin, unfortunately.
  • Hmmm, no. Opening is sweet orange, then comes cinnamon that has a very synthetic feel to me. A whisper of flowers, then some Tonka in the dry down. Average longevity and projection. L’huere bleu made me realize that I have a strong desire to smell like carnations and I was hoping this would be an interesting, well rounded composition with a clear carnation note, but it seems to have been hidden by the cinnamon. So disappointed.

On my skin, as noted, the clove-like smell of the carnations was far more dominant, but Sacrebleu Intense has a few resins or benzoins that can manifest a cinnamon side. Given that the perfume contains actual cinnamon as well, then you bloody well better like the spice if you’re going to try the perfume!

You should also like strong perfumes. On Surrender to Chance, one person commented that they liked the juicy, fruity opening but that Sacrebleu Intense was “too strong.” Well, it is, but that’s why I gravitated towards it, instead of the thinner scents in the line. Sacrebleu Intense is definitely a scent for those who like their fragrances to be bold and full-bodied.

The 30 ml bottle. Source: randewoo.ru

The 30 ml bottle. Source: randewoo.ru

One of the big positives about Sacrebleu Intense, and the Parfums de Nicolai line in general, is affordability. There is always a small 30 ml size which is very reasonably priced. For Sacrebleu Intense, the 1 oz size costs $65 or €51. It may be too tiny for some, but it’s great if you have a vast number of scents in your collection, or if you just don’t want to spend a fortune on perfume. Plus, as noted earlier, a little Sacrebleu Intense goes a long, long way.

Lastly, I think Sacrebleu Intense skews a little feminine, but not overly so and really only at the start. The incense, resins, spices and piquant neroli certainly make it very unisex in nature. My only hesitancy is the slight powderiness of the scent. It’s not at Guerlainade levels, and is much more myrrh-based in nature, but it’s something to keep in mind.

All in all, if you’re looking for a more spicy, modern version of L’Heure Bleue that is strongly centered on carnations with orange and neroli, dark smokiness that turns to white myrrh incense, and very piquant green leafiness, you may want to give Sacrebleu Intense a sniff.

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Sacrebleu Intense is an eau de parfum that comes in two sizes. There is a tiny 30 ml/1 oz bottle that costs $65 or €51, and there is a large 100 ml/3.3 oz bottle that costs $165 or €153. As a side note, I think that there might have been a recent price increase for the Nicolai line, as I see a number of sites selling the large bottle for $185 now.  In the U.S.: Luckyscent sells both sizes of the perfume, with the large one at the old price of $165, and also offers samples. Beautyhabit sells the small and large sizes of Sacrebleu Intense at the same price. In New York, the New London Pharmacy is selling the 100 ml bottle for $150 on its website. OsswaldNY lists the 100 ml bottle as retailing for $190, which is way above retail, but is currently discounting the large bottle for $150. Parfum1 sells the large 100 ml bottle for the new price of $185. Outside the U.S.: For Canadian readers, the US-based Perfume Shoppe sells the small 30 ml size for US$65, and you can email them to ask about Canadian pricing. Their Canadian website offers Sacrebleu Intense in a 4ml travel spray for CAD$30. In the U.K., Parfums de Nicolaï has a shop in London on Fulham Road. You can check the Store Link below for the exact address. For all European readers, you can order directly from Parfums de Nicolaï which sells Sacrebleu Intense in both sizes for €51 and €153, respectively. In France, the company has numerous boutiques, especially in Paris. First in Fragrance sells the large 100 ml bottle for €152. In the Netherlands, ParfuMaria carries both sizes of Sacrebleu Intense, as does Annindriya’s Perfume Lounge. In Spain, I found the perfume listed in the 30 ml size at Ruiz de Ocenda for €52. In Hungary, you can find the perfume at Neroli, and in Russia, there are a lot of retailers but one of them is Eleven7. For other locations in France and the one store in London, you can turn to the Nicolai Store Listing. It doesn’t show any vendors outside France or the UK. I found nothing in Asia, the Middle East, or Australia. Samples: Surrender to Chance sells Sacrebleu Intense starting at $3.99 for a 1 ml vial. You can also order from Luckyscent.

Arte Profumi Fumoir: Campfire Smoke & Promises

The promise of Russian leather, birch tar, smoke, ambergris, and velvet-covered, opulent smoking rooms in gentlemen’s clubs lies at the heart of Fumoir, a new and expensive eau de parfum from the Italian perfume house, Arte Profumi. From the company’s elegant description right down to Fumoir’s notes (which also include pepper, cumin, and rose), the perfume sounds glorious on paper. 

Fumoir, via First in Fragrance.

Fumoir, via First in Fragrance.

Arte Profumi, whose name translates to The Art of Perfume, is based in Rome and seems to have been founded around 2013, the year when it launched all its fragrances. Fumoir is classified as a leather scent, but its name refers to smoking rooms at a gentleman’s club, as well as to a smoke house. Arte Profumi‘s website has little by way of description for the scent, and absolutely no notes: 

FUMOIR
Birch
… conversations among men,
in reserved rooms,
covered by wood, leather and velvet
surrounded by smoke.

Source: Wingtip.com

Source: Wingtip.com

First in Fragrance has much more information, and describes Fumoir as follows:

“Fumoir” by Arte Profumi is dedicated to a very special world – the world of gentlemen’s clubs and the pleasures of tobacco.

The quite, intense and distinctive fragrance takes no prisoners. Pepper and cumin are the strong vanguard. The fragrance bites wonderfully with smoky and leather notes, the rose in the heart is known only by hearsay and ambergris stays firmly in the background. The rest is pure and driven to extreme masculinity.

“Fumoir” doesn’t rely on hints. Whoever enjoys assertive smoky notes and old, creaking leather, or prefers a statement to diplomacy, will love “Fumoir”. The name in French not only means gentlemen’s room or smoking room but also smoke house. 

The notes, as compiled from First in Fragrance and Fragrantica, are:

 pepper, cumin, birch tar, tobacco, russian leather, rose and ambergris.

Talisker, an Islay single malt. Photo: Savuista at the Savuista blog.http://savuista.blogspot.com/2013_10_01_archive.html

Talisker, an Islay single malt. Photo: Savuista at the Savuista blog.http://savuista.blogspot.com/2013_10_01_archive.html

Fumoir opens on my skin with beautiful birch, manifesting itself as campfire smokiness infused with a peaty, somewhat salty, single malt, Islay Scotch. I’m quite serious when I say that I actually murmured out loud, “Laphroaig on steroids!” which is a huge compliment, as I love Laphroaig the most out of the all the Islay malts. Here, the Scotch is amplified with that gloriously burnt wood, campfire smokiness that is such a core component of birch.

Birch Tar pitch via Wikicommons.

Birch Tar pitch via Wikicommons.

Birch tar is more than just smoky, though. It is often a key element in creating the impression of leather, especially Russian leather. Back in the old days, Russian tanners cured hides with the tar, and something in the popular imagination (or perhaps just in my imagination) tends to associate the leather aroma with dashing, fierce, or untamed Cossacks. (As a side note, Chanel‘s Cuir de Russie probably helped in creating this association.)

Here, in Fumoir, the campfire aroma of scorched birch wood is soon followed by a definite note of blackened, tar-encrusted leather. At this point in the perfume’s evolution, the leather very much feels like its own distinct, individual element. Unfortunately, it later ends up being subsumed into the birch tar, which drives Fumoir from its very first moment until its end.

Source: lamag.com

Source: lamag.com

The leather is really lovely at this point. It is so black and sultry in its smoky, rugged heft. Yet, there is an odd meatiness about it that continuously reminds me of a mesquite-smoked barbecue. Fiery black pepper thoroughly covers it and the overall effect is… well, you may call me crazy, but I keep thinking of Steak au Poivre. Perhaps it’s the result of the cumin with the pepper and birch, creating a combination which my mind is translating into a big, fat, meaty steak, covered with walloping amounts of pepper, and thoroughly infused with smoke from a campfire that is burning mesquite wood. The cumin really isn’t visible in its usual way, apart from that odd impression, and I detect no rose at all at this point.

Four members of the Tsar's Imperial Russian Cossack bodyguard. Source: Pinterest.

Four members of the Tsar’s Imperial Russian Cossack bodyguard. Source: Pinterest.

Instead, Fumoir is a bonfire of darkness, singed woodiness, tar, peaty whiskey, and leather. The latter slowly takes on a slightly animalic touch, a raw, butch quality. For the first time in a long time when smelling a birch leather fragrance, I’m really transported to the steppes of Imperial Russia with its Cossacks. It never really happened with Cuir de Russie, but then, Fumoir is not as refined as that scent and it lacks the avalanche of soapy aldehydes that dominated the Chanel scent on my skin. In short, the Italian perfume has a very untamed, fierce element that the Chanel never did. At the same time, both the campfire smoke and the leather are stripped of the forest or chilly pine aroma that other fragrances with birch often carry.

My favorite part of the scent, though, is definitely the Laphroaig single malt aspect that I noted earlier. As the opening minutes pass, the note grows stronger, and its peaty smokiness works incredibly well with the meatiness of the leather, the pepper, and the birch. Scotch and a campfire steak, how perfect is that?!

Photo: Savuista at the Savuista blog. http://savuista.blogspot.com/2013_10_01_archive.html

Photo: Savuista at the Savuista blog. http://savuista.blogspot.com/2013_10_01_archive.html

Alas, my overall enthusiasm is suddenly tempered exactly 15 minutes into Fumoir’s development when a synthetic note stirs in the base. It smells of very dry tobacco but, also, of an ISO E-like aromachemical. It is wrapped up in an extremely arid woodiness, as well as with a touch of very, amorphous golden… something. I can’t pinpoint what it may be. My first thought was Givaudan’s tobacco synthetic, Kephalis, that is often used for its leathered undertones. Later, though, I wonder if it’s Givaudan’s Ambermax with its peppered, ISO E Super-like notes? The dry, ambergris substitute, Ambroxan? A combination of Kephalis and one of the ambers seems most likely. Whatever the real cause(s) may be, there is definitely something that is not right and very fake in Fumoir’s base.

As a whole, the perfume’s overall bouquet in the opening stage is of tarry birch wood charred in a campfire and infused with mesquite, pepper, Laphroaig whiskey, and meaty Cossack leather, all lightly flecked by a dry tobacco whisper and a good dose of aromachemicals.

Source: speckyboy.com

Source: speckyboy.com

Then, Fumoir slowly, very slowly, starts to shift. 40 minutes in, the perfume starts to gradually turn warmer and fractionally sweeter. The peaty whiskey fades away, while a kernel of “amber” in the base begins to bloom, seeping over the tarred leather and birch smoke. It creates a small dot of goldenness in the pitch black, but it is an abstract amber, an impression more than a clearly delineated, crisp note.

And it most certainly is not actual, very expensive ambergris, no matter what is listed in the notes. This is nothing like the scent that dominates a fragrance like Profumum‘s Amber Aurea. This is a wholly abstract construct that is nebulous, dry, and, increasingly, subject to a chemical taint, just like the equally nebulous tobacco note. The “amber” is actually why I mentioned those particular aromachemicals up above. Neither its ISO E-like jangly sharpness nor its excessive dryness is a joy.

The problem is that far too much of both synthetics have been used for them to blend well into Fumoir, though they certainly seem to help with the perfume’s projection. The perfume is very potent in the opening hour, and with good sillage that wafts out about 3-4 inches above the skin before eventually dropping at the end of the first hour. Despite the forcefulness of the birch smoke, Fumoir is quite airy in feel, and it grows thinner with time. Actually, it feels rather like an eau de toilette in nature, one which has a powerful start, but little actual body or depth.

"Gold smoke" by etafaz on deviantART.

“Gold smoke” by etafaz on deviantART.

At the end of the first hour, Fumoir is largely a two-note symphony centered on the main aspects of birch: burnt campfire smoke and leather. The pepper, whiskey, and vaguely abstract cumin element have faded away. However, the “tobacco” is finally starting to emerge in its own right, along with the “amber” in base. I don’t mind synthetics in fragrances if they are well-blended, in balanced proportions, and don’t render the scent into something that is heavily chemical in nature, but I have enormous issues when the quantity is high, especially at Arte Profumi’s prices. (More on that later.) Plus, Fumoir gives me a faint headache whenever I smell it too deeply for too long up close. That is a telltale sign that the aromachemicals are in a large quantity, as I don’t have such a reaction otherwise. Needless to say, I’m feeling rather grumpy at this point, and it only gets worse.

At the end of the 3rd hour, Fumoir smells of aromachemical amber, burnt wood in a campfire, and birch tar that is vaguely leathered, all in a warm blend infused with abstract, peppered, tobacco tonalities. It feels richer than it actually is, and it also reminds me of a very synthetic version of Naomi Goodsir‘s Bois d’Ascese, though not as interesting. Fumoir’s sillage has dropped to about an inch above the skin, but the notes aren’t hard to detect up close.

Source: Theatlantic.com

Source: Theatlantic.com

Fumoir is largely linear in nature, which is fine if you like the notes in question. Obviously, I don’t, but it doesn’t help that the simplicity of Fumoir’s bouquet is becoming increasingly boring. From afar, it really is nothing more than the birch tar’s burnt woods and some extremely arid relative of ISO E Supercrappy. For a brief period about 6.25 hours in, the rose appeared, turning Fumoir into a dry, woody rose and birch tar scent on an abstract amber base. It feels like a very distant cousin to Le Labo‘s Rose 31, only the nebulous rose is massively dominated by campfire smoke and an amber synthetic, instead of cedar woods and actual ISO E Super.

Campfire ashes. Source: dansdepot.com

Campfire ashes. Source: dansdepot.com

The resemblance doesn’t last long, and Fumoir returns to its core scent of birch tar smoked woods with aromachemical amber and aromachemical tobacco. By the middle of the 8th hour, the notes veer between acrid, smoked, and ashtray-like in their nuances. There is a subtle vein of dirtiness that lurks underneath, like really old, stale cumin, mixed with mesquite. The whole thing makes me feel incredibly dirty — in an unclean way, and not in the good, sexy, skanky way.

I’d suppressed the urge for a very soapy shower for hours, but, finally, towards the end of the 10th hour, I gave in and washed off Fumoir. It was exactly 9.75 hours into the perfume’s development, and Fumoir would probably have endured even longer as my skin holds onto synthetics like mad. In all honesty, I think it was the monotony which got to me even more than the acrid, burnt, stale, fetidness of the final hours. Fumoir is all about the birch tar first and foremost, then the two other aromachemicals. The remainder of the notes are hardly key players, and the lovely Cossack Russian leather subsumes itself into the overall scorched woods aroma in a way that renders it a mere undertone in the perfume’s overall scent.

I tested Fumoir twice, increasing the amount of fragrance that I applied, and the overall result was largely the same in both instance. The only difference is that I didn’t detect any rose note with larger quantity of Fumoir. It was just more linear, aromachemical laden, and boring. And I washed it off even sooner.

I couldn’t find any blog reviews for Fumoir, and the fragrance has no comments listed on its Fragrantica page. There isn’t even a Basenotes entry for it. However, Parfumo (which is like a European Fragrantica) has some votes for the quality, sillage and longevity of the scent. So, even if there are no actual comments posted, perhaps you may find 3 people’s numerical assessment of the fragrance useful:

  • 3 votes each for Longevity and Sillage, each coming in at an 83% ranking;
  • 3 votes for the scent as a whole, which puts it at 2.5 stars or a 50% ranking.

I think the 2.5 out of 5 rating for the fragrance is generally fair, though perhaps a bit high for me personal. Still, it’s telling that 3 people who may not be as annoyed as I am by massive amounts of aromachemicals don’t think highly of the scent either.

It doesn’t help that Fumoir is neither cheap nor easily accessible. It is exclusive to Europe at this point, though you can easily find samples at Surrender to Chance. Even if you were to order it from First in Fragrance in Europe (or Jovoy for EU-based customers), Fumoir costs €225 for the 100 ml bottle. At today’s exchange rate, that comes to roughly $308. This is not a scent worth $308 or €225! It simply is not, even if you don’t share my disdain for aromachemicals. There is none of the rich body, nuanced complexity, or interesting development that would warrant such a price. I generally liked Arte Profumi’s Ecclesiae incense fragrance, though I thought the price for that one was too high as well, but Fumoir lacks its sibling’s quality.

Photo: Narinder Nanu via washingtonpost.com

Photo: Narinder Nanu via washingtonpost.com

More to the point, if you’re an ardent fan of campfire birch scents, there are much better alternatives out there at a much better price. There is the richer, deeper, piney Arso from Profumum Roma; there is the drier, more austere, interesting Bois d’Ascese from Naomi Goodsir (which is hardcore birch, campfire smoke!); and there is also Jovoy‘s Private Label with its heavy vetiver focus amidst the peaty birch campfire smoke and Mad Max leather. They’re all significantly better fragrances.

In short, Fumoir fails to live up to its promises, and I would skip it.

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Fumoir is an eau de parfum that comes in a 100 ml/3.4 oz size and costs €225. There are no American distributors for the Arte Profumi line that I could find. Arte Profumi has a website, but not an e-shop or a Stockist/Retailers list, so your best bet in obtaining the scent is from two big European perfume sites. Paris’ Jovoy and Germany’s First in Fragrance both carry the scent. The latter also sells samples and ships internationally. I couldn’t find any retailers in the UK, the Netherlands, or outside of Europe. If you’re in Italy, however, the company has two boutiques in Rome. Samples: Surrender to Chance now sells Fumoir starting at $4.50 for a 1/2 ml vial. There is also an Arte Profumi Sample Set starting at $12.99 for 3 of its fragrance (including Fumoir and Ecclesiae which I previously reviewed) in a 1/2 ml size.