Reviews en Bref: Dzing! and Dzongkha by L’Artisan Parfumeur

As always, my Reviews en Bref are for perfumes that — for whatever reason — didn’t seem to warrant a full, exhaustive, detailed analysis.


L'Artisan DzingDzing! is an eau de toilette fragrance from L’Artisan Parfumeur which seeks to evoke the circus. The woody scent was launched in 1999 and created by the highly respected perfumer, Olivia Giacobetti. The company describes it as follows:

This shockingly unique fragrance, created by Olivia Giacobetti, Dzing! is a magical evocation of a circus of dreams and imagination. Everything is soft hued and slow moving, sights and sounds rolling by in the Big Top. Everything is there, the scent of saddle leather as pretty girls on horses canter by, sawdust, the rosin on the acrobats’ hands as they arc through the air, black panther fur, fire-eaters and gasoline, the vintage canvas overhead, the caramel scent of candyfloss and toffee apples. The circus as conceived by L’Artisan Parfumeur, comforting but contrasted with the occasional roar tearing through the night.

The most complete list of notes for Dzing! (which I shall call “Dzing” for the sake of convenience) comes from Fragrantica which mentions:

leather, ginger, tonka bean, musk, white woods, caramel, saffron, toffee, candy apple and cotton candy.

Dzing opens on my skin as rubbing-alcohol, candy apple. Seconds later, it explodes into a sharply synthetic cloud of artificial notes: white cotton candy fluff; dry dust; cheap leather; cheap caramel; cloying, cheap vanilla; and amorphous, cheap, synthetic gourmand notes. I’ve smelled better things a 99 Cent Store. I cannot imagine a scenario outside of testing where I’d wear Dzing for longer than a minute without shrieking.

Surrealists' Circus. Painting by Hank Grebe, 1976

Surrealists’ Circus. Painting by Hank Grebe, 1976

The truly repellant aspect is in the revolting alcohol undertones and the cheap, pink, “Made in China” plastic aspect to all the artificial, laboratory-made notes. It’s as if the Mad Scientist infected the body of P.T. Barnum with a plan for world domination through olfactory torture. As the moments pass, the cheap Chinese, mass-produced, pink plastic note rises in prominence, as does the vanilla and the overall shrill cacophony of fakeness. This may be absolutely one of the worst things I’ve smelled in a while. I’m taken back to Tijuana, Mexico, and one of the cheap, tourist shops which sell tiny, plastic dolls, plastic shoes, and every possible hodge-podge of plastic tchotchkes. I wouldn’t object to a well-executed gourmand take on the smells of a circus, but the sheer deluge of cheap plastic and synthetics goes too far. Yes, I realise that almost every word out of my mouth includes the word “cheap” or “plastic,” but you have simply no idea how terrible Dzing smells. $145 for this? It would be easier to roll around naked on the industrial, synthetic carpeting in one of those 99 Cent stores that reek of fake vanilla, cheap apple-caramel candles, and, yes, PLASTIC.

Dzing must be a joke, right? Not a tongue-in-cheek, sweetly winking, happy, positive tease but, rather, a malicious, nefarious, completely sadistic joke created by an anti-social nihilist who intends to fumigate his victims while making a symbolic statement on the decline of Western civilisation, the corruption and decadence of capitalistic ventures like expensive perfumery, and the stupidity of those who think that the Emperor is wearing clothes. People, the Emperor is naked! NAKED! I’m not going to comment any further on this Ionesco-worthy, Absurdist, olfactory scheme to make me lose my mind.


Dzongkha is an eau de toilette fragrance created by Bertrand Duchaufour and inspired by the remote Buddhist mountain kingdom of Bhutan in the eastern Himalayas. L’Artisan describes it as follows:

Rich with aromatic influences: temple stones and incense, the sweet aroma of spiced chai tea, the heat of warm leather around fires, the heart of any temple or home in snowbound lands. Vetiver and green papyrus float through soft smoke with touches of peony, lychee and delicate iris. Dzongkha tells a special story on every skin: that of Dzongkha itself, the spiritual language of Bhutan.


On Fragrantica, Dzongkha is classified as a “woody spicy” fragrance and its notes are:

Top notes are peony, cardamom and litchi; middle notes are spices, white tea, vetiver, incense and cedar; base notes are leather, iris and papyrus.

Dzongkha opens with an unpleasant note of sharp incense. It’s not smooth, rich or soothing incense, but alcohol-like, bracing, and pungent. It is followed immediately by spices, predominantly cardamom, with what also feels like saffron, too. There are dry paper notes from the papyrus that evoke the feeling of an old book. Peony swirls in the background along with leather and tea notes.

The incense note is the key to much of Dzongkha’s early start. It is odd in its bracing bitterness and unbelievably desiccated. In combination with the papyrus, the overall effect is that of dust — whether a very old library or an abandoned church. Either way, it’s not enormously pleasant. Slowly, slowly, the cardamom heats up, warming the scent a little. Now, Dzongkha feels like cardamom-infused dust, atop a sharp, synthetic, incense note that burns a little. The whole thing is very airy, sheer and lightweight in feel, with low projection, and, yet, it is quite a strong scent in the beginning. I chalk it up to the synthetic undertone to the incense.

Thirty minutes in, Dzongkha has turned into cardamom dust with acrid incense, tea, spicy woods, and general earthy notes atop a growing base of leather. There is a light smattering of abstract florals flittering about in the background. The peony accord is muted and does little to alleviate the arid nature of the perfume. As time passes, the latter just gets worse and by the 90 minute mark, Dzongkha has turned into the most revoltingly bitter leather, vetiver and smoke fragrance. It is a veritable dust bowl of pungent, acrid dryness. At the same time, it also feels rancid and dark green — a bit like the moments in the legendary leather perfume, Bandit, from Robert Piguet with its deluge of sharply bitter, pungent galbanum and cold black leather. Yet, Dzongkha is a thousand times dryer, thanks to the incense note. I cannot believe how closely it replicates actual household dust, only in piles and heaps.

Dzongkha continues to change with time. By the start of the fourth hour, it is soapy, dark vetiver with bitter smoke, black leather and dust. It is still acrid and abrasively bitter — and I still can’t stand it. Midway into the fifth hour, the soapy element increases and takes on a sharply synthetic, dry, bitter incense accord. The combination smells extremely similar to that in another Bertrand Duchaufour incense creation for L’Artisan Parfumeur: Passage d’Enfer. I hated the latter, so I didn’t enjoy the overlap. In fact, my misery rose exponentially with every minute of Dzongkha’s sharply acrid, cloyingly soapy, painfully dust-like, and perpetually synthetic evolution. In its final moments, Dzongkha was just some amorphous soapy musk. All in all, it lasted 7 hours — all of them unpleasant, when they weren’t complete misery.

Testing Dzing and Dzongkha in the same day — even if the Dzing was only a few hours long — was an incredibly painful ordeal. For all that Dzing was mind-bogglingly terrible, it didn’t actually bring me down and make me feel low the way the incredibly unpleasant Dzongkha did. Really bad perfume experiences can feel almost oppressive, and Dzongkha certainly felt that way. I know it has its admirers, people who find its incense, spices and leather to be pleasant, even relaxing at times. All I can say is that I’m happy for you if it works. For myself, I’d like to forget this day entirely.


Cost & Availability: Dzing and Dzongkha are both eau de toilette concentrations and cost $145, €95.00, or £78.00 for a 100 ml/ 3.4 oz bottle. Dzing is available on the L’Artisan website (where you can switch currency and sites from American to European) and Luckyscent. It should be available at Barneys, but I don’t see it listed on the website. In the UK, the L’Artisan line is carried at Harrods but I don’t see Dzing listed there. In Europe, it is available at First in Fragrance for €95. As for Dzongkha, it is available at the L’Artisan website, Luckyscent, and Barneys. In the UK, it is available at Harrods which also sells the smaller 50 ml size bottle. For the rest of Europe, it is available at First in Fragrance and other retailers. You can find a list of stores from Japan to Italy carrying L’Artisan products on the company’s Store Locator site. Samples are available at Surrender to Chance starting at $3.99 for a 1 ml vial for Dzing and Dzonghka.

Review En Bref: Qi by Ormonde Jayne (Four Corners of the Earth Collection)

As always, my reviews en bref are for perfumes that, for whatever reason, didn’t seem to warrant one of my full, exhaustive, detailed reviews.

OJ QiQi is an eau de parfum and part of Ormonde Jayne‘s 2012 Four Corners of the Earth Collection. The collection pays homage to the different parts of the world that have inspired Ormonde Jayne’s founder, Linda Pilkington, and is the result of collaboration between Ms. Pilkington and the perfumer, Geza Schoen. I had the opportunity to sample all four fragrances — Tsarina, Qi, Montabaco and Nawab of Oudh — courtesy of Ormonde Jayne, and have already reviewed TsarinaNawab of Oudh, and Montabaco.

The press release describes Qi as follows:

‘Qi (pronounced “key” or “chi”) means Breath of Life. It’s an ancient word that permeates the Chinese language and everyday life. This perfume is inspired by the Chinese people’s love for the lightest and most delicate scents. Qi is constructed to make no great statement thus offending no-one, it does not tear down any great walls but is rather something more spectacular, like an amazing dawn, a softly-scented fragile breeze, Qi is an honest, open and natural perfume, it makes its mark for those who don’t want to be too obvious but may feel unfinished without it.

The perfume’s notes include:

top: green lemon blossom, neroli, freesia.
heart: tea notes, osmanthus, violet, hedione, rose.
base: mate, benzoin, musk, moss, myrrh.

Qi opens on my skin as a lemony, soapy floral with a synthetic, white musk base. There is fizzy, green hedione, light lemon, and sweet freesia, which are eventually joined by the subtlest whisper of rose and apricot-y osmanthus. There is also the merest suggestion of orange but it is strongly subsumed by the lemon notes, both from the citrus blossom and from the hedione. 

The perfume remains that way for about 40 minutes, slowly shifting to incorporate a green tea accord. By the end of the first hour, Qi smells strongly of creamy, green tea ice cream with freesia, other amorphous florals, and synthetic musk. Later, there is a hint of a mossy undertone, but the perfume never really changes from its core essence nature: a slightly green, rather abstract, amorphous floral musk. The whole thing is light and airy, with moderate sillage for the first hour, then low projection thereafter. It was primarily a skin scent, and its longevity clocked in at just a fraction over 5 hours.

Qi is exactly as described: constructed to make no great statement thus offending no-one. And that is one of my main problems with it. But one can hardly blame the perfume for being precisely what it was intended to be. Unfortunately, being utterly inoffensive and banal are not the only problem. Even if I liked clean, fresh, soapy scents — which I most categorically do not — Qi doesn’t smell luxe to me at all but, rather, like an artificially constructed concept of “clean femininity.”

I’m also a bit dubious about continuing the old, out-dated cultural stereotypes regarding the Chinese as not wanting to make any great statement whatsoever. I saw a vast number of young people in my travels throughout China who certainly wouldn’t fit that generalization, though I concede that it may have been historically true at one time. That said, the press release language is neither here nor there.

The real problem with Qi is that it is a very generic scent. Places like Sephora, Macy’s or your average department store abound with similar offerings, from Chanel‘s Chance Eau Tendre, to floral fragrances by Estée LauderRalph Lauren, Kenzo, Marc Jacobs, and Victoria’s Secret (not to mention, numerous celebrity fragrances). In fact, Roger & Gallet has fragrances that are centered around osmanthus or green tea, while Elizabeth Arden has 12 different green tea fragrances, many of which are floral in nature and one of which (Green Tea Lotus) has yuzu citrus, osmanthus, other florals and green tea over white musk. Given the variety of similar offerings out there and Qi’s explicit goal of not making a great statement, the perfume seems enormously over-priced to me at £260.00.

Yet, the market for light, unobtrusive, “fresh, clean” scents with minimal projection is (alas) massive and never-ending. I’m sure Qi will please those who fit the target perfume profile and who want the caché of something more high-brow. 

Disclosure: My sample of Qi was provided courtesy of Ormonde Jayne. As Always, that did not impact this review. My primary commitment is, and always will be, to be as honest as possible for my readers.

Price & Availability: Qi is an Eau de Parfum which comes only in a large 100 ml/3.4 oz size and which costs £260.00 or, with today’s exchange rate, approximately $402. Neither Qi nor any of other Four Corner Collection are currently listed on the Ormonde Jayne website, but you can find all of them in the Ormonde Jayne stores, as well as at Harrods. Unfortunately, Harrods’ website says that this perfume is not available for export. Ormonde Jayne’s two London boutiques are at Old Bond Street and Sloane Square with the precise addresses listed on the website here. As for samples, none of the perfume decant sites in the U.S. currently offer any of the Four Corners of the Earth collection.

Review En Bref: Aftelier Perfumes Secret Garden Eau de Parfum

As always, my Reviews En Bref are for perfumes that — for whatever reason — didn’t seem to warrant one of my more lengthy, exhaustive, detailed reviews.

SecretGarden bookOne of the most beautiful children’s books is The Secret Garden (1910/1911) by Frances Hodgson Burnett. As a rather lonely, very isolated child whose main companions were books and animals, The Secret Garden gave me hours of comfort, joy and peace. In fact, I kept my copy of it throughout the years and am staring at it as we speak. So, as you might imagine, I was extremely excited to try its concrete, olfactory manifestation: Secret Garden by the highly respected, acclaimed perfumer, Mandy Aftel of Aftelier Perfumes.

Ms. Aftel is a perfumer who specializes in natural fragrances, seeking out only the finest in pure essences and oils. She hand-blends and bottles all the perfumes herself in small batches in her Berkeley studio. As she explains on her website:

My perfumes and products contain only the purest, most sublime botanical essences from around the world. I work with awe and passion for the alchemy that transforms these rare, gorgeous individual natural essences into a beautiful perfume. Indulge yourself in authentic luxury.

Secret Garden Eau de Parfum. Source: Fragrantica.

Secret Garden Eau de Parfum. Source: Fragrantica.

In 2011, Ms. Aftel released Secret Garden, a floral oriental fragrance that comes in Pure Parfum and Eau de Parfum concentrations. This review is only for the latter. According to the Aftelier website, the perfume’s notes include:

Top: bergamot, bois de rose, Geraniol, blood orange.
Heart: jasmine sambac, raspberry (compounded isolate), Turkish rose.
Base: civet, castoreum, vanilla, deertongue (plant), benzoin, aged patchouli.

A few words about the notes. First, I’ve read on a number of sites, including Fragrantica, that the perfume also includes Blue Lotus, which has a sweetly aquatic, watery, floral aroma. I don’t know if it is still included, since it is not listed on the Aftelier website. Second, “deertongue” is a plant and has nothing to do with any animal. There are no animal cruelty issues to be concerned about here! The plant is sometimes called the “Vanilla Plant,” and its scent is described by Ms. Aftel as a combination of “the sweet and powdery notes of tonka beans with the aromas of the countryside.” Third, Ms. Aftel clarified in a comment on Now Smell This that Bois de Rose is another name for rosewood. Lastly, as Fragrantica explains, Secret Garden “includes two historical animal essences: very old civet bought from a retired perfumer and castoreum tinctured from the beaver.” Since the civet was extremely old stock, there should be no concerns of animals being harmed to create Secret Garden, but those who seek completely vegan perfumes may want to ponder the civet issue.

Ms. Aftel describes the perfume as follows:

Like fitting a key in a lock, when you inhale Secret Garden, you enter a redolent and sensual wild garden, where the scent awakens a vitalizing force in the wearer.

Secret Garden opens into roses and wood, brightened with mixed citrus. The jasmine sambac heart of the perfume, with its spicy indolic kick, paired with the jammy raspberry, lends the illusion of spice where there is none — like the lure of a blind pathway in a garden. This intertwines with voluptuous Turkish rose absolute.

Secret Garden opens on my skin with animalic notes from the very start. There are subtle touches of geranium alongside a very heavy, rich, red rose, atop a foundation of raspberry with just the subtlest hint of citrus. But these are all extremely muted; the primary, overwhelming impression is of castoreum and civet, creating a dense musk tonality with strongly leathered, almost tarry, undertones. The castoreum is potent and, for once, the term “animalic” applies quite literally.

George Seurat: "Young Woman Powdering Herself."

George Seurat: “Young Woman Powdering Herself.”

There are also hints of vanillic powder that lurk in the background and that become stronger with every passing moment. As it increases in prominence, less than five minutes into the perfume’s development, it softens the potent, opaque, heavy richness of the animalic tones, rendering them lighter and softer. The powder accord strongly brings to mind those extremely old-fashioned, big, powder poofs that women in the late 19th century would use to dust their décolletage to erase any suggestion of a moist sheen. Here, the note is that exact same old-fashioned, vanilla-centered, makeup powder accord. It’s light and daintily sweet, but, as time passes, it becomes one of the primary, dominant notes on my skin, overshadowing much else except the castoreum.

Ten minutes in, the perfume shifts a tiny bit. The geranium recedes to the background, to be replaced by muted hints of rose and jasmine. They are not strong. In fact, the flowers are never wholly distinct on my skin at all, and are completely dominated by the other notes. By the twenty-minute mark, the floral bouquet feels almost amorphous and abstract, just an overall suggestion in the midst of what is predominantly fruity musk, raspberry and vanilla powder. Very soon thereafter, and for the remainder of the perfume’s development on my skin, Secret Garden is merely powdery, raspberry musk. That’s it.

I tried Secret Garden twice, and it was the exact same development on both occasions. Before the start of the second test, I wondered if perhaps my skin was too dry to bring out the lush, blooming garden that I had so anticipated, so I put on some unscented lotion, waited thirty minutes, and then re-tested the perfume. I applied a greater quantity; I even applied a smear to my inner thigh as well, in case something about my arms was wonky and was throwing off the scent. But, alas, nothing worked. Just like the first time, there were minimal florals at the start, followed by almost none after the first 20 minutes. Instead, the perfume was mainly raspberry castoreum musk and old-fashioned, scented makeup powder, lying close to the skin. And Secret Garden remained that way for approximately 5.5 hours and 6.5 hours, respectively, until the last traces finally faded away. (For an all-natural perfume with no synthetics, the longevity on my voracious, perfume-consuming skin was quite impressive.)

Vintage 1930s Powder Puff Compact. Source: Etsy Boutique "ItsAGoodThing" listing 72555631

Vintage 1930s Powder Puff Compact. Source: Etsy Boutique “ItsAGoodThing” listing 72555631 (Link to the Etsy store embedded within. Click on photo.)

Given my personal style and tastes, the way Secret Garden manifested itself on my skin wasn’t my cup of tea. Something about my skin chemistry completely refused to bring out the lush garden that I kept reading about in all the reviews. Whether one reads the assessments on Now Smell This, The Non-Blonde, The Perfume Shrine, Perfume-Smellin’ ThingsOlfactoria’s Travels, or Smelly Thoughts, they are all glowing; and the vast majority talk about the rich, spicy, powerful floral heart that prevents the perfume from being too jammy or too much of a fruit cocktail. Reading Freddie’s experiences in his Smelly Thoughts review, in particular, I felt as though I was crazy and smelling a different fragrance entirely. Naturally, the tricky issue of skin chemistry will often mean that a perfume manifests itself differently. But those are usually small differences in degree, here or there, not a totally polar opposite experience.

I would have felt like a complete anomaly in the vast ocean of positive raves about the lush, floral garden if I hadn’t come across a few isolated voices whose comments reflected — just in small part — my own experience. For example, on Surrender to Chance, one person wrote: “Sadly, on me it smelled unexciting — like Juicy Fruit gum, with a little nutmeg thrown in. Next.” If we’re going by this analogy, I would compare it more to a powdery sweet, raspberry bubble gum, but I can understand the impression. On Fragrantica, one of the two (both positive) comments says “Warning: it can smell ‘grandmother-y’ to certain people used to very conventional perfumes.” I like both conventional and extremely unconventional scents, and I’m hardly a perfume dilettante, but, yes, I think Secret Garden’s manifestation on my skin was “grandmother-ly.” Without any doubt at all. It’s the overwhelming powder. It’s not bad, and it’s almost sweetly pretty, but that extremely old-fashioned, simple character is not to everyone’s taste.

Again, the minor criticisms or caveats are few and far between. Judging by the blogosphere, 99% of people seem to have had a completely different experience than I did. All perfume experiences are subjective; I repeat that again and again in my reviews. My personal experience with Secret Garden may very well be a complete anomaly. But given the overwhelming nature of those many (many) positive reviews, I thought it was important to share a dissenting opinion, especially as we’re talking about a perfume whose cost can reach $170 for a small bottle. I very much hope that Secret Garden manifests itself on your skin as a lush, blooming floral garden with a secret heart of animalic gold, a perfume that incorporates India’s heady, opulent, orientalist flowers with the best of the English countryside. But, if it doesn’t, you’re not crazy and not completely alone.


Cost & Availability: Secret Garden comes in different formulations and sizes. It is available directly from the Aftelier website as 2 ml of Pure Parfum for $50; 0.25 oz of Pure Parfum for $170; and 30 ml Eau de Parfum for $170. Samples are available for $6 for a 1/4 ml vial of both the EDP and the pure parfum. Aftelier’s shipping rates start under $5 in the U.S., and under $9 worldwide. I obtained my sample of the Eau de Parfum from Surrender to Chance where prices start at $3.99 for a 1/2 ml vial.

Reviews En Bref – Maison Francis Kurkdjian Oud Mood Collection: Velvet, Silk & Cashmere

The following will be a brief assessment of the trio of new Oud fragrances from Maison Francis Kurkdjian (“MFK”) called the OUD Mood Collection. As always, my Reviews En Bref are for perfumes that — for whatever reason — didn’t seem to warrant one of my full, exhaustive, detailed reviews. In this case, it is because I think these perfumes are best suited to men who are hardcore, passionate, obsessed Oud aficionados who worship the very purest, most concentrated essence of the note. After some recent experiences, I’ve realised that I most definitely do not fall into that category.



In early 2013, Francis Kurkdjian released three new interpretations of Oud. All featured Laotian oud, the rarest of all agarwood ingredients, and all were the most concentrated type of fragrance: pure parfum (or extrait de parfum). On the MFK website, Mr. Kurkdjian explains as follows:

The OUD mood collection

Francis Kurkdjian imagined the OUD mood collection as feelings, sensations, rather like those one would have when wrapped in a fragrant stole. The play on shimmer, comfort and warmth. They are precious, intense and concentrated.


velvet-mood-masion-francis-kurkdjianMFK describes Oud Velvet as follows:

Cinamon from Ceylan – Saffron- Oud du Laos – Copahu balm [a resin] from Brazil

A majestic, enveloping fragrance that gives the sensation of density and fluidity.

Oud Velvet opened on my skin with heavily buttered saffron, sharply medicinal oud, and leathery, animalic, black resin. The saffron-leather smelled goaty, almost rancid and raw, and was tinged by an unpleasant burnt note as if singed by smoke. The combination turns the oud note almost fecal. The whole thing is underpinned by an oddly buttered note, almost like dirty buttered caramel, but there is also the feel of bitter, wet, black coffee grinds. It was a terribly rough, difficult opening.

Thankfully, about fifteen minutes in, the extremely unpleasant concoction softens into something smoother and gentler. And it continues to do so with every passing moment. Oud Velvet actually does feel like a darkly velvety take on oud with rich saffron, sweet cinnamon and dark resins. The latter is no longer so raw and animalic; all hints of anything goaty, rancid or fecal have vanished. Instead, it’s been replaced by a strongly stony, steely, cold note that replicates a little the oud in By Kilian‘s Pure Oud. The Candy Perfume Boy called the note “industrial,” and that is actually genius. Oud Velvet really does evoke the feel and scent of a large, empty, echoing, stony, industrial warehouse. And, yet, underneath, there lurks something that feels like meaty chocolate, adding some warmth to the scent. As time passes, Oud Velvet turns into a chocolate-cinnamon oud with flickers of nutty saffron, stony-cold industrial elements, and thick, darkly ambered resin. By the end, 9 hours later, it was simply oud with some lightly ambered tones.


MFK Cashmere OudMFK describes Oud Cashmere as follows:

Labdanum from Morocco – Benzoin – Oud from Laos – Vanilla

This oriental fragrance is woven with all the gentleness of a ‘‘second skin’’, soft and balmy.

Like Oud Velvet, Oud Cashmere also has a difficult opening. On my skin, it began with blasts of rancid, sharp, medicinal, metallic notes underpinned by the feel of rubbing alcohol. There is a definite smell of cheese. To be specific, a creamy chèvre-blue cheese hybrid that is infused with vanillic elements. This is not like the purely Gorgonzola blue cheese in Xerjoff’s Zafar (which also has extremely aged, rare Laotian agarwood), but something slightly different. Here, the note is creamier, less pungent, more artificial, and sweetened by a sort of candy-floss vanilla.The overall combination almost seems worse, especially when you consider the medicinal undertones with its notes of pink, rubber bandages. 

Pink candy floss or cotton candy. Source:

Pink candy floss or cotton candy. Source:

Oud Cashmere does not improve with time. With each passing moment, the goat-Gorgonzola starts to fade, and the perfume becomes more and more medicinal, antiseptic, vanilla. It smells sweet and unnatural: pink candy floss and pink, rubber bandages underlying astringent. Clearly, I am not one to handle the pure essence of oud, especially when it is from this sort of aged, Laotian agarwood. Perhaps a man with edgier tastes and a fanatical love for true, potent oud would love it. I tried Oud Cashmere three times and, all three times, I ended up scrubbing it off after a few hours. There is only so much a person can take for the sake of a review.


MFK Silk OudMFK describes Oud Silk as follows:

Bulgarian rose – Camomille from Marocco- Oud from Laos – Papyrus

A light, airy fragrance reminiscent of the rustle of silk or the soft touch of a rose petal.

Oud Silk is not a particularly inventive, original take on the conventional rose-oud combination, but it is the best of the trio in the Oud Mood Collection. It opens on my skin with the loveliest of super concentrated, rich, heady rose notes. It’s opulent, ripe and highly sweetened. The oud lingers in the back, soft and subtle, with absolutely no medicinal, astringent, antiseptic or fecal notes. Subtle chamomile wafts in and out, adding to the floral nature of the perfume. Underneath, quiet whispers of dry papyrus grass rustle. I think a commentator on Basenotes, “Buzzlepuff“, put it well when he said that the papyrus note acts like a bridge between the floral elements and the more woody oud. In fact, his assessment of the perfume mirrored much of my own:

This is a big floral rose with a very strong oud backdrop. If you have ever wondered why rose makes such a great partner with animalic medicinally zingy rotting vegetation sap – oud – specifically Laotian Oud, then you must smell this fragrance. The papyrus note enhances and magnifies the cool dry wood side of the oud in here. Bulgarian Rose is that very big red perfume rose scent and here is amplified by blue chamomile bridges to the slight floral aspect of Laotian Oud. There is a seamless flowing aspect to this. Nothing is left hanging out there from beginning to end – smooth as silk. I have tried to match this up with anything else similar in my history of sniffing things and I am at a loss. It is a little like Rose Oud By Killian but bolder and rosier and there is no saffron in this mix. […] It does read feminine to me but I could see a man wearing it too.

On my skin, the agarwood was not such a bold, strong backdrop as it was on him, but something far more subtle. Frankly, it was an enormous relief, since I may be too plebeian for true Laotian agarwood. The subtlety of it in Oud Silk is probably the reason why I liked the fragrance the most out of the trio. It was the least brutal, the least masculine, and the least traumatic manifestation of agarwood. I suspect, however, that hardcore oud fanatics may find it to be too much of a boring, conventional take on the note.

All in all, I wasn’t a fan of the Oud Mood collection. Silk Oud was very nice, but not particularly interesting. The others were definitely…. er… interesting — in the worst way possible. I honestly can’t decide what was more of an ordeal: the abrasive opening of Velvet Oud with that rancid, animalic, raw leather note singed by smoke and almost fecal undertones; or the goat-blue cheese and vanilla, pink candy floss with pink rubber, medicinal bandages of Cashmere Oud. Given the significantly improved nature of Velvet Oud, the Cashmere has the dubious honour of winning.

The odd thing is that I love the aged Laotian oud in Neela Vermeire‘s Trayee, but these more medicinal, abrasive and, frankly, painful versions are just too much for me. For a narrow, limited (and very masculine) segment of the population, some of them may be fabulous. But even men who postulate themselves at the altar of super-powerful agarwood may hesitate at spending $375 for a 2.4 oz/70 ml bottle. Yes, the Oud Mood Collection is the most potent concentration of fragrance around — pure parfum — and the bottles are especially large in light of that fact, but…

Well, to put it charitably, better you than me, my friend, better you than me.


Cost & Availability: All three Oud Mood fragrances are Pure Parfum/Extrait de Parfum concentration and come in a 2.4 oz/70 ml bottle that costs $375, €275 or £275. You can find them on the Maison Francis Kurkdjian website which also sells samples of the perfume. In the US, you can purchase all three fragrances from Luckyscent or Neiman Marcus. I don’t see either collection listed on the Saks Fifth Avenue or Bergdorf Goodman websites. In the UK, I’ve read that you can find the collection at Selfridges, Liberty, Harvey Nichols and Les Senteurs priced at £275 each. However, I couldn’t find the collection listed on any of those store’s websites thus far except for Les Senteurs. For the rest of Europe, you can buy from First in Fragrance which has all three perfumes in the collection for €285 (which is €10 more than on the MFK website). Elsewhere, you can turn to MFK’s Points of Sale for a retailer near you, whether you are in Asia, Australia, or the Middle East. In terms of samples, the collection is available at The Perfumed Court starting at $14.00 for three 1/4 ml vials. You can buy samples of each individual fragrance starting at $4.95 for a 1/4 ml vial. The OUD Mood Collection is not yet available at Surrender to Chance (which I personally think is cheaper and better than The Perfumed Court), but will be by the first of May, I think.

Review En Bref: Montale Aoud Safran

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ll know that my personal nemesis is Montale, the French niche perfume house known primarily for their panoply of agarwood fragrances. Whenever I wear one, I feel like Sisyphus crashing down the mountain after a Herculean struggle. In fact, Aoud Lime will forever remain my kryptonite, a scent of Chernobyl proportions that astronauts in space could detect from a mere drop and which riot police really should consider using for crowd control.

Today, however, I felt that hope may not be lost and that Montale may, eventually, perhaps, win me over. It’s all thanks to Aoud Safran which took me much further up that Sisyphean mountain, though its simple linearity failed to create true love.

montale_aoud_safranMontale describes the perfume as follows:

An exceptional combination of three materials with powerful spiritual impact: the Red Gold – the Saffron – the mystical Aoud and the Roses from Arabia for a highly sensual fragrance.

The notes are as simple as that: saffron, Arabian rose and agarwood/oud. Now, saffron is one of my absolute favorite ingredients, but that is no guarantee that I’ll like a fragrance, especially if it involves Montale’s typical take on agarwood. So, I fearfully put on a few drops — far below what I usually apply — and waited to be blown to outer space by Montale’s usual, ferocious, and feral potency.

Instead, I was overwhelmed by a stunningly beautiful, warm, buttery, red saffron. It was so good that I overcame my fear, and put some on the other arm as well. (I know, it’s truly quite shocking!) The saffron was followed by a brief instance of sharp alcohol of the rubbing variety, but it vanished in few seconds. On its heels was sweet, red rose upon a backdrop of subtle oud. The rose note was rich, beefy and as fleshily red as a hunk of rare sirloin. It helped to really sweeten the agarwood which was surprisingly mild — both by the standards of an oud fragrance and for a Montale oud in particular. Even more surprising, the agarwood was not even remotely medicinal, camphorous, bitter or plastic-y like pink bandaids.

There is a great warmth to the fragrance, unlike some of the colder, stonier or screeching treatments of oud in the Montale fragrances that I’ve tried thus far. I don’t even think it’s because of how the other ingredients sweeten the agarwood; I think it’s because the oud is a completely different beast than it was in Aoud Lime and Aoud Blossom. It seems almost more like a regular woody note than actual agarwood. In fact, I wondered if it was really agarwood at all; that’s how shockingly different it is. As time progresses, the oud takes on a distinctly peppery note, as if slathered under heaps of crushed black pepper, but that fades away after twenty minutes, too. All that’s left as time progresses is a very faint impression of some amorphous “wood” note.

The agarwood is never the star of this show. At first, it is the saffron which is simply stunning and very heady, singing its aria of warm nutty sweetness. The rose note is there, but it shyly waits outside the limelight. After an hour, however, it joins center stage and joins with the saffron in a lovely duet.  Eventually, about three hours in, all that is left is the rose who stays to sing a solo for another three hours. And that’s about it. The perfume never progresses in any way beyond that simple duality and linearity.

With the exception of the linearity, Aoud Safran does not seem like any of the other Montale perfumes that I’ve tried thus far. It’s not only the peculiarly muted, emasculated and de-fanged nature of the agarwood (though that is pretty striking as compared to the way it manifested itself in Aoud Lime and Aoud Blossom). No, it’s also the fact that Aoud Safran is both quiet and somewhat rich smelling. There is nothing remotely synthetic, chemical, astringent, abrasive or antiseptic about the scent; and it smells as though expensive ingredients were used.

Furthermore, the potency and sillage are almost demure by the standards of the feral Montales I’ve tried thus far. Aoud Safran had good-to-moderate projection for the first forty minutes; you could smell it maybe from a foot and a half away. After that, however, it dropped dramatically. By the end of the second hour, the scent barely hovered over the skin. By the end of the third, you actually had to put your nose on your arm to smell it. After six hours, all lingering traces were gone entirely. Again, relative to the Montales I’ve tried, that is quite a volte-face.

All in all, Aoud Safran was a pretty, uncomplicated, simple saffron and rose scent. However, those seeking a real agarwood or agarwood-heavy perfume may be disappointed. On the other hand, those who have some problems with agarwood but who love saffron and rose may find Aoud Safran to be ideal.

Unfortunately, there are a plethora of fragrances on the market with saffron, rose, oud, or some combination thereof. Many of those perfumes have a lot greater depth or complexity to them than Aoud Safran. Personally, I would recommend the stunning, spectacular Trayee by Neela Vermeire Créations if you wanted a mesmerizing scent whose notes include hefty doses of all three ingredients (but with many others as well). Its range, kaleidoscopic nature and richness render it far more than a mere, simple saffron, rose and oud scent. Plus, it lasts for an astonishingly long period of time.

Nonetheless, Aoud Safran is a very approachable fragrance. And it helped Sisyphus climb just a little bit higher up the Montale mountain…

Cost & Availability: Aoud Safran is an eau de parfum and is available on the Montale website where a 3.3 oz/100 ml bottle retails for €110. (They don’t offer the cost in other currency units.) There is no smaller size than 100 ml. Montale offers a 20 ml mini-bottle of Aoud Safran for free at the time of purchase. The fragrance is also available at Parfum1 for $160 and at The Perfume Shoppe for $150. If you want to try a sample of Aoud Safran, Surrender to Chance sells vials starts at $3.99.

Review en Bref: L’Artisan Parfumeur Batucada

As always, my Reviews en Bref are for perfumes that — for whatever reason — didn’t seem to warrant a full, exhaustive, detailed analysis.

L'Artisan BatucadaBatucada is a fruity-floral fragrance from L’Artisan Parfumeur which seeks to evoke the beaches of Brazil, the Caipirinha cocktail, and Batucada itself, a type of samba dance that originated in Rio. The scent was launched in 2011 and created by perfumers, Karine Vinchon and Elizabeth Maier.

I’ve seen a variety of different notes for the perfume, but the most complete list seems to be from Now Smell This which lists:

Lime, mint, davana, tiare, ylang, amber, benzoin, aquatic notes, coconut, vanilla, sandalwood, salty skin accord, patchouli, vetiver and musk.


Batucada had a pretty opening. It was extremely effervescent, sparkly, fresh and bright  — lime, mint, sugar and fruity florals. The lime was the best part and very zesty. When combined with the sugar notes like those in cachaca — the sugar cane rum used the Caipirinha — it definitely evoked the cocktail (which I happen to love). In the background, there are hints of fresh coconut. It’s not unctuous, heavy or gooey, but it is a bit buttery and creamy, while still feeling light.

Soon thereafter, other notes start to appear. In addition to the lime, there are notes that are fruity, sweet, salty, rum-like, and with a flicker of subtle vetiver. The fruity notes are hard to place at first, but soon turn into the scent of apricots. I’m attributing that to the Davana, which a Google search tells me is an orange-y flower native to India and whose rich scent can apparently vary drastically from person to person. I’ve read olfactory impressions ranging from fruity-florals, peaches and apricots, to tea, raisins, rum-like accords, wine and vanilla. Here, to me, they evoke the soft, sweet scent of an apricot’s fuzzy skin.

Ninety minutes in, the perfume is all tropical notes. Buttery, rum-like, salty, and beachy with aquatic accords. The latter, unfortunately, have a distinctly metallic undertone to them which remains for much of the perfume’s development on my skin. There is also coconut which, along with the floral notes from tiaré (also known as frangipani), contribute to a buttery feel. It’s odd, the scent here is slightly indolic and, yet, extremely sheer and light. L’Artisan perfumes usually have that tendency, but it’s unusual to have an indolic, buttery scent not be heady or heavy.

Copacabana Beach in Rio. Source: The Guardian. Photograph: David Oziel/AP

The perfume doesn’t really smell of coconuts or suntan oil per se, but yet, there is definitely the impression of your body’s skin after a long day at the beach. You know that feeling of your sun-kissed skin that used to have suntan oil on it and which now just has the faint, lingering traces of salt and the sea? That’s what Batucada evokes in its middle to final stages. And, in its final hours, it’s just a musky, salty scent with a faint trace of fruity-florals.

All in all, the scent lasted approximately 6 hours on me and the sillage was incredibly low. The projection of Batucada dropped to almost nothing exactly 12 minutes into my test. For me, L’Artisan perfumes frequently take sheerness, lightness and unobtrusiveness to a whole new degree — but that may be a plus for many. This eau de toilette is no exception. The longevity, however, is not incredibly high and that doesn’t just apply to my peculiar, scent-consuming skin. Others have reported poor to moderate longevity.

To be honest, Batucada not a perfume I would ever wear. A small part of me likes the mental associations, but most of me feels as though my salty, buttery, tropical skin needs a post-beach shower. For some, that sensation may be too much and may turn this scent into just a novelty act that’s fun only for a one-time sniff. That seems to be the reaction of most reviewers: Robin at Now Smell This enjoyed it in that same way, but would never buy it; Freddie at Smelly Thoughts found it “pleasant” but struggled to “write about this as a serious fragrance;” and the Candy Perfume Boy thought there were much better cocktail and/or citrus fragrances on the market, concluding that “it is by far the most disappointing of L’Artisan Parfumeur’s Les Voyages Exotiques.”

General commentators are slightly more enthusiastic about the scent. Slightly. On Fragrantica, those who didn’t feel “drunk and in desperate need of shower” liked it. But few would pay the price for a full bottle which is about $100 or $145 (depending on size) and available on the L’Artisan websiteLuckyscent and Parfum1.

I really struggle with scents from L’Artisan. I want to like them but — with the exception of the absolutely fabulous, fantastic Safran Troublant — the line simply hasn’t worked for me thus far. Batucada is no exception.

Review en Bref: L’Artisan Parfumeur Mon Numero 10

As always, my Reviews en Bref are for perfumes that — for whatever reason — didn’t seem to warrant a full, exhaustive, detailed analysis.

Mon Numero 10 is part of the perfume “By The Numbers” series that legendary perfumer, Bertrand Duchaufour, made for L’Artisan Parfumeur. In a nutshell, he created ten fragrances in 2009 as a one-time exclusive deal for customers, each of whom would essentially be getting a bespoke, unique fragrance. Only one bottle was ever made for each of the perfumes and at the cost of $10,000. (NST says it was $20,000 each!) Two years later, in 2011, L’Artisan came out with slight variations on eight of those bespoke perfumes for the general masses with certain numbers in the line being exclusive to a particular city and/or retailer. Mon Numero 10 is New York’s perfume and exclusive to Barney’s which sells it world-wide for $200 for 3.4 oz/100 ml.

Mon Numero 10 comes in eau de parfum concentration and is categorized on Fragrantica as an oriental. There, as elsewhere, no perfume notes are given; you see only leather and amber mentioned as a general sense of the perfume. I did manage to find a full list of notes on Perfume Niche (which also is the only place I found to sell samples of it, priced at $5 a vial). The perfume contains:

bergamot, fennel, cardamom, pink pepper, cinnamon leather, incense, rose essence, geranium, jasmine, musks, vanilla, Tonka bean, ambergris.

Mon Numero 10 opens on my skin with an incredibly strong note of what can only be described as Cherry Coca Cola. (Perhaps Cherry Dr. Pepper or cherry root beer? It’s something in that family.) Once you have that mental association in your mind, it’s hard to shake off. Immediately on the footsteps of that main note are incense and roses. There is also a strong presence of geranium, especially the fuzzy green, leafy parts. In the background, there is light musk and amber, with a faint touch of vanilla. The perfume is sheer but heady and strong.

As time passes, Mon Numero 10 turns into a very musky Cherry Coke with some animalic notes. There is leather, incense, musk and boozy amber, but still under the umbrella of Cherry Coke. Or perhaps it’s closer to root beer now? I can’t get the impression of an 1950s soda fountain out of my head. The perfume is — like all Bertrand Duchaufour creations, superbly well-blended — so different notes only occasionally rise to the foreground but there is no getting away from that initial soda impression. On me, the leather notes are very subtle; the incense and musk are far more predominant. During the final stage, Mon Numero 10 becomes quite lovely: incensed rose with amber that is just barely boozy but always rich. It’s like a sheer veil just touching my skin.

The perfume’s sillage is like that of all L’Artisan fragrances that I’ve tried: low. It’s sheer and has little projection, becoming close to my skin after thirty minutes. However, as an eau de parfum, it has much greater longevity and presence than many of the brand’s perfumes (which are often in eau de toilette concentration). All in all, Mon Numero 10 lasted about eight hours on me.

I enjoyed the dry-down, especially the incensed amber notes, but I wasn’t crazy about the scent as a whole. My experience was slightly similar to Angela from Now Smell This who found the scent to be “leather cola” or Coke over the leather seats of a Bentley. She found it to have the “forceful, stylized demeanor of Joan Crawford in the 1940s” — which I can partially see. Something definitely feels a little retro and stylized about it. In contrast, one commentator just found it to be like “horse liniment.” I’m not sure that’s better… And, the two reviews of the fragrance on Fragrantica, are definitely not passionate raves. On the positive end, Birgit from Olfactoria’s Travels gave a whiff to all the scents in the line at the store; as an initial impression, she enjoyed Numero 10 the most. I have no idea if she tried it beyond that and ended up loving the scent. [Update: I am informed that she subsequently ended up hating it.]

For $200 a bottle, this is not a fragrance that I would recommend.