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!
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Slumberhouse Ore Extrait

Well, this is certainly the best way to “drink” and drive! Pure whisky of the wonderful single-malt variety, infused with dry cocoa powder, butterscotch, smoky woods, dark resinous amber, peppermint, and a hint of green herbs. It’s hard not to think about drinking when you wear Ore, a dry, woody, sweet, and virtually alcoholic fragrance that swirls about in a rich, unctuous, deep bouquet that can be compulsively sniffable at times.

Ore is the creation of Slumberhouse, a niche, indie perfume brand out of Portland, Oregon. The company describes itself as follows:

Slumberhouse-300x154

Slumberhouse is a boutique cologne label in the heart of Portland, OR; created and inspired by urban and street culture, art, film and music – especially the new school of hiphop and graffiti artists. We are a group of young gents who march to our own beat, embracing an absolute disregard for other brands, trends and marketing cliches. Slumberhouse represents an unequivocal love for the art of fragrance making.

It’s a fascinating background, matched by the equally fascinating candour and genuine commitment shown by one of the founders, Josh Lobb, who now seems to be the sole force behind the brand as well as its perfume creator/nose. In his personal blog on the website, the 31-year old Mr. Lobb reveals his personal struggle with keeping costs down while using the best fragrance absolutes; his realisation that he was barely breaking even with many scents; and his personal journey in making some of the Slumberhouse fragrances.

Source: Luckyscent

Ore Extrait. Source: Luckyscent

Mr. Lobb is a very admired Indie perfumer, not only because he seems like a genuinely nice chap but, also, because he’s astoundingly talented for someone who is so young and wholly self-taught. He also is a perfectionist who works constantly at honing his creations, which explains why he essentially scrapped much of the original Ore perfume and re-released it this year in a new version. The reformulated Ore is not only an extrait de parfum in concentration, but, apparently, a fundamental re-working of the notes and their proportions.

Ore is classified on Fragrantica as an “oriental spicy” perfume, and the Slumberhouse website describes the new Extrait version and its notes as follows:

A swim with the caramel nettles

flooded with the dusky murk

I wish I could dream it again.

Oakwood, Cocoa, Mahogany, Guaiac, Dittany of Crete, Vanilla, Whiskey Lactone & Peru [Balsam] Resin.

Dittany of Crete. Source: mountainvalleygrowers.com

Dittany of Crete. Source: mountainvalleygrowers.com

Mr. Lobb frequently uses extremely unusual ingredients that I’ve never heard of and end up having to research (which is something I absolutely love about Slumberhouse), and Ore is no exception. Looking up “Dittany of Crete,” it seems to be a very rare, healing, aromatic shrub that only grows on the island of Crete, that was referenced in ancient legends about aphrodisiacs and wounded warriors, and that is apparently a type of oregano used for centuries for medicinal reasons, including the curing of snake bites. Who knew?! And how cool! Honestly, I absolutely love the places Mr. Lobb takes me when I review one of his fragrances.

Source: wall.alphacoders.com

Source: wall.alphacoders.com

Ore opens on my skin with a blast of pure whisky that is slightly smoky and peaty, much like a lighter version of the Islay single malt, Laphroaig. It’s swirled in with dark, dusty, dry cocoa powder flecked with hints of vanilla. It’s sweet, but it’s not cloying. It’s boozy, but never feels as though you’ve been drenched in actual alcohol. It’s not sharp or abrasive, but as smooth as satiny caramel with a dry, lightly smoked nature.

Inside the golden-brown haze are other surprises. There are flickers of a dark green freshness that is hard to describe in any way other than Slumberhouse’s own analogy to nettles. Yes, it has the feel of dark, forest-green nettles on a Scottish moor somewhere, but it’s extremely mild and muted. Underneath, there is a foundation of dark, smoky woods, dominated by guaiac wood’s whiff of autumnal burning leaves. There is a touch of peppermint which is a little surprise. I’d read that the original Ore eau de parfum had a strong aroma of Carmex medicated lip salve, but Mr. Lobb seems to have sharply tone it down in the extrait, leaving only something that smells to me like hard-boiled, pink-and-white peppermint candies.

Source: Indiamart.com

Source: Indiamart.com

Ore’s primary bouquet, however, is of whisky infused with dark cocoa powder. Not sweet chocolate, but dusky, dry cocoa. I’m an absolute sucker for the note in perfumery, and to mix it with peaty, slightly smoky whisky seems like utter genius to me. It’s such an intoxicating swirl that the opening moments of Ore leave me sniffing my arm like some sort of alcoholic in need of a fix.

Source: upwallpapers.net

Source: upwallpapers.net

There is a profound richness to the scent which is a somewhat odd mix of sweetness with dryness. Sometimes, I think Ore verges on the gourmand. The Peru Balsam, which is one of my favorite amber resins, has a dark, chewy, thick quality here, and mixes with the dry vanilla and the whiskey to create something that smells a lot like butterscotch at times. Yet, the dark woods add a subtle smokiness and strong hint of dryness to the scent as well. The dry “nettles” and the dusky cocoa contribute an additional counterbalance to the sweetness. I suppose this is my idea of a ideal “gourmand” fragrance: a dark, woody, slightly smoky, dry sweetness that doesn’t actually smell of food or dessert.

Source: wallippo.com

Source: wallippo.com

Thirty minutes into Ore’s development, it smooths out into a well-balanced, dark cloud of cocoa whiskey with hints of peppermint atop chewy, sweet, amber resins that are lightly flecked by dry vanilla and slightly smoky dark woods. There is finally a subtle whiff of that Carmex medicated lip salve that I’d read about in Ore’s previous incarnation, but it’s very subtle. Less subtle is the sense of something slightly synthetic in the dark woods in the base. I tried Ore twice, applying different quantities, and it was rather noticeable the first time when I applied quite a bit of the fragrance. Or, at least, quite a bit for a Slumberhouse perfume: 3 large-ish smears.

Slumberhouse is well-known to create extremely potent scents that work best with only one spray, and which can otherwise overwhelm you with their intensity, projection and longevity. I tried to approximate that amount with my dabber vial, keeping in mind that Ore, as an extrait, is the most concentrated type of perfume available. Yet, just to be sure, I did a second test where I applied only one, very big, smear. The perfume smelled the same each time, with the exception of the synthetic element in the base which was noticeable only the first time around with the larger quantity. It didn’t give me a headache, exactly, but it did bother me with a small, brief throbbing behind my eye. It was never enough, however, to detract from my enjoyment of the scent.

Vermont West Hill House B&B.

Vermont West Hill House B&B.

Ore really feels like something well-suited for a cold winter’s night. The whisky-cocoa with butterscotch undertone really transports you to a cozy room before a fireplace while the snow falls gentle outside. You snuggle with your partner, one of you sipping Laphroaig, one of you drinking dark, hot chocolate, and both of you nibbling on a peppermint candy. I can’t see anyone wearing Ore Extrait in 100 degree heat, but what a perfect scent for Winter!

Ore is fundamentally linear in nature, and never really transforms beyond its opening bouquet. It’s a glorious scent in those opening hours, especially the first time around. There were moments where I felt like rolling around in it, the way a dog does in a particularly smelly patch of grass. Then, something happened. Around the star of the fourth hour, I started feeling a little overwhelmed by it all. It was perhaps too much unleavened, unalloyed richness. The linearity of so much unctuous heaviness, without change, felt almost cloying. Now, Ore itself isn’t cloying in terms of sweetness, but the forcefulness of all that thick, gooey caramel whisky really got to me. It is the primary reason why I tested the fragrance a second time; I wondered if my feelings would change, and if Ore merely required a lot of patience. My feelings didn’t change. If anything, I was significantly less enamoured of the opening, and found it less addictively, compulsively sniffable. Was it all just the novelty of such an unusual combination? Perhaps.

Source: abstract.desktopnexus.com

Source: abstract.desktopnexus.com

I think the more accurate reason with my slight change of heart is really the linearity. I always say that there is nothing wrong with linearity if you really love the notes in question, and I really enjoy certain aspects of Ore. However, it is such an incredibly rich, heavy fragrance that the only way to describe its feel is “unctuous” — and endlessly buttery unctuousness can be a little exhausting. Perhaps the best way to describe it is in terms of food. I love Devil’s Food cake, but a really large slice of it can be a little much. Wearing Ore feels a little like you’ve eaten not a slice of Devil’s Food, but the whole damn cake! It’s gloriously wonderful in one bite, even a bite that stretches on for a few hours, but it can be too much for 10 hours on end unless you have something to balance it out.

And Ore doesn’t. Ore was hours of unchanging, heavy butteriness until the very end when it became a simple smoky sweetness. All in all, it lasted just under 11 hours, with about 8 of them feeling very rich indeed. (On some people, Slumberhouse fragrances can last for 24 hours at a stretch!) I had problems at the end of the third hour, so the full lifespan felt a little like Rammstein playing at maximum volume right in my ear. I adore Rammstein, but I can’t listen to Du Hast or Ich Will at full blast, on repeat, for 11 hours straight. (Okay, sometimes, I can, and do. But extremely rarely!) Ore’s smoked, whisky butterscotch is like my beloved Du Hast and Devil’s Food Cake.

I think my difficulty with Ore encapsulates my difficulty with Slumberhouse as a whole. I want to love the fragrances. Oh, how I want to love them! There is always something in each one that I greatly enjoy, and I have nothing but the deepest respect for Josh Lobb who seems like an incredibly nice chap, in addition to being very talented. At the end of the day, however, something above the overall, sum-total effect of each fragrance just doesn’t work for me on a personal level. I think each one is great in its own way, highly original, and always boldly creative, but I haven’t found one that I can wholeheartedly love.

I’ve struggled to figure out why, and I’ve finally concluded that it’s the unctuousness and richness of the base which seems to be a common signature to all of Slumberhouse’s fragrances. What bewilders me is that I have never once had problems with a fragrance being too rich, until it comes to Slumberhouse…. In truth, it’s not so much a question of richness or power — two things I specifically look for in fragrances for my own personal use — but rather, the unalleviated, unalloyed nature of their unctuousness. Even when applied lightly or in a small dosage, the almost buttery, viscous thickness to the base — especially in conjunction with one other, extremely dominant, element — ends up being too much for me. For example, the potpourri-like element in Jeke‘s base, or the sweetness of Pear + Olive.

It’s hard for me to compare my experience to that of others because, as noted, Ore has been completely changed from its original character, and the majority of reviews pertain to the old Ore eau de parfum. The most useful comparative explanation of the differences comes from Mark Behnke of CaFleureBon who writes:

Ore was one of the first fragrances Mr. Lobb released back in 2009. Of all the updates this one shows the evolution of Mr. Lobb as a perfumer and also the evolution of the slumberhouse aesthetic. It is by far the biggest difference between the original and the extrait of the fragrances which have undergone this re-imagining.

If I was pressed I would’ve said the original Ore was my least favorite of Mr. Lobb’s earlier creations because it had all the subtlety of a right cross to the nose. An overpowering dry cocoa seemed to overwhelm every receptor in my brain. It took nearly an hour for me to realize there was anything else as it went through a slightly caramel aspect on top of an edgy green balsamic base. Coming to this after trying other things by Mr. Lobb made me exhibit some patience with it but it was really close to being unbearable. […][¶]

The extrait of Ore opens with the same dry cocoa but this time it is toned down enough to let other things come out to play. There is a subtle touch of thyme which picks up the less sweet aspects of the cocoa and adds some of the green quality of the original early on without being as sharp. The transition seems more smoothed out with less of an abrupt shift happening as there was in the original. The mix of woods: oakwood, guaiac and peru resin turn Ore into a creamy balsamic mix coated in cocoa. Right here is where Mr. Lobb shows his improvement as perfumer; all of this is present in the original but it collides with each other like a pinball against a bumper making an unappealing thunk. In this new extrait the notes are well-balanced which allow for a more complete picture to be presented and that picture is something to behold. A bit of vanilla added in the late going turns all of this into a slight tobacco accord that lasts for a fleeting moment.

I never tried the original Ore, but it seems to have been quite appreciated by those (other than Mark Behnke) who tried it. On Indiescents, there are raves about its “smoked Tootsie rolls” quality, although one person had problems with the medicinal element from the much talked about Carmex-like undertone. The general character of the old Ore can be seen in some of the following descriptions:

  • Earthy, sweet but not cloying, very sensuous. Amazing.
  • Dark and Boozy. I get nothing of Carmex in this scent. However, the chocolate and sage come out in this when I wear it. My husband loves it-once it dries down.
  • Since i am addicted to and love the smell of Carmex i had to buy this…i was soo pleasantly surprised, this is a super nice sexy beast of a gourmand fragrance……i can definitely pick out the cocoa absolute in the dry down and love it.
  • Very nice! If you love rich,not so SWEET gourmet scents,this is worthy of sampling! I was expecting something more off-beat,due to the Carmex comparison,but its quite feminine and soft.
  • I’m smitten. Seriously, it takes a lot to interest me and this fragrance has had me distracted all day. Delicious. What I love is that it is sweet and feminine without being cloying. It’s sexy and strong. The dry down is lovely and soft but still has strength. Beautiful.

There are similar accounts for the old Ore eau de parfum on Fragrantica where men seem to be as much a fan as the women. One commentator, “Alfarom,” described the scent as:

Balsamic chocolate. Ore opens dry and rough with a desweetened cacao note. Dark woods remark their presence right away while a boozy accord concours in adding some warmness during the middle phase and the drydown. […] This bizarre concoction between edible and inedible elements makes of Ore one of the most original takes on the gourmandic theme. Intense but barely sweet, mysterious, dark and dangerously sexy.

If you take the accounts of the old Ore and read them in light of CaFleureBon’s assessment of the new Extrait version, the result seems to be a more toned down fragrance. Better modulated, perhaps, but my experience seems to indicate a scent that is also much less dark, smoky, and balsamic than it was before. I certainly don’t think that Ore I tried was particularly smoky or dark; it seemed quite caramel, butterscotch golden — in both visuals and aromatic feel — to me, but it might well just be my skin which always amplifies the sweeter elements in a perfume’s base.

All in all, I think Slumberhouse is an incredibly original perfume house that every serious perfumista should explore for themselves, especially if they like very rich, potent scents and especially if they’re jaded about the sameness of many fragrances put out there today. Maybe you will fall in my boat or maybe you’ll find one you love, but, either way, you really should experience (at least once) the uniqueness, originality, and creativity that is Slumberhouse’s ultimate hallmark. As for Ore, it may not be to my personal tastes at the end of the day, but I strongly urge those of you who like fragrances that are boozy, rich, almost (but not quite) gourmand, and feature dark cocoa powder, to give it a try. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of you found it quite addictively delicious.

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Ore comes only in an extrait or pure parfum concentration, and is most frequently sold in a 1 oz/30 ml size which costs $125 or £95. A little goes a long way. It is available directly from Slumberhouse which also sells Ore in a large 100 ml size for $300. In addition, Mr. Lobb offers a 2ml sample of Ore for $7.50. Finally, he seems to offer overseas shipping at checkout. In the U.S.: Ore Extrait is available in the 1 oz/30 ml size from Parfum1, which also sells with a 0.7 ml sample vial for $4.50 and a Discovery Pack of 5 Extrait fragrances in a 0.7 ml vial for $17. Parfum1 offers free shipping for all domestic orders above $75, $5.95 for orders below $75, and international shipping for a (high) fee. Ore Extrait is also sold by Indiescents which offers 3 free perfume samples with every full-bottle purchase, ships to Canada, and may possibly do International shipping via the Canadian post. (I’m not too clear on this point, or how it works.) Finally, you can also purchase Ore Extrait from Luckyscent, along with a sample, and they ship internationally as well. Samples: I obtained my sample from Surrender to Chance which sells Ore Extrait starting at $5.99 for a 1/2 ml vial. Outside the U.S.: In the UK, Slumberhouse is now available at Roulier White for £95, along with 2 ml samples for sale. I have to thank the kindness of a reader, “C,” in letting me know. Roulier White carries most of the Slumberhouse line, though they’re only taking pre-orders on Ore Extrait at this time. As for other countries, it seems that you can order directly from Slumberhouse who appears to offer overseas shipping at checkout. (Thank you, again, “C.”) Finally, in an interview with Basenotes, Josh Lobb wrote “anyone who wants to order should feel free to send an email or contact Suendhaft in Germany.” You can find their website here.

Perfume Review – Slumberhouse Jeke: Smoky Autumn

Sometimes, you come across a perfumer and you just admire them — even if you’ve only started to explore their line and even if things don’t work out perfectly for you. While it’s understandable to admire the legend that is Serge Lutens, it may seem more unusual to be incredibly impressed by an Indie perfumer after just one perfume. But that’s the case with me and Josh Lobb of Slumberhouse, a niche, indie perfume brand out of Portland, Oregon. I tried his Pear + Olive months ago, was incredibly awed by parts of it, and even more taken with the man behind it. It’s not about whether a particular fragrance works for me or not; it’s about the sheer thought, creativity, effort, and candour of the man himself. To me, Josh Lobb — a 31-year old, completely self-taught perfumer — seems like an American version of Andy Tauer, with all the same talent, approachability, originality, modesty, and honesty. 

Slumberhouse-300x154

Slumberhouse describes itself as follows:

Slumberhouse is a boutique cologne label in the heart of Portland, OR; created and inspired by urban and street culture, art, film and music – especially the new school of hiphop and graffiti artists. We are a group of young gents who march to our own beat, embracing an absolute disregard for other brands, trends and marketing cliches. Slumberhouse represents an unequivocal love for the art of fragrance making.

What’s captured my attention, however, is the fascinating genuineness of Josh Lobb. In his personal blog on the website, the talented Mr. Lobb reveals his personal struggle with keeping costs down while using the best, absolute ingredients; his realisation that he was barely breaking even with many scents; and his personal journey in making some of the Slumberhouse fragrances. And, from the start, I was intrigued by Jeke.

Jeke-Slumberhouse

Jeke is classified on Fragrantica as a “woody oriental” perfume. It was originally an Eau de Parfum but, just recently, that was discontinued and the perfume was made available solely as an Extrait de Parfum concentration. As I’ll explain later, CaFleureBon says that there are some minor alterations and difference with the new version which has significantly less smoke than the Eau de Parfum. Unfortunately, that is the version that I obtained from Surrender to Chance (which doesn’t carry the new extrait). However, the two versions seem sufficiently alike to make it worth a review of the EDP, though I’ll update it later if I ever obtain the pure parfum extrait.

Slumberhouse’s website description for Jeke is as follows:

A breath of fog in the autumnal humidor.

Benzoin, Patchouli, Tobacco, Lapsang Souchong, Vanilla, Clove

Fragrantica‘s notes are slightly different and would make the full list seem more like this:

Cade, Tobacco, Patchouli, Benzoin, Labdanum, Lapsang Souchong, Vanilla, Clove.

Source: Theatlantic.com

Source: Theatlantic.com

Cade is a very big part of Jeke, so it may be worth a brief summary of its aroma. It is an oil extracted from the juniper plant and has a very smoky, campfire, phenolic, tarry character (which explains why it is often paired with birch tar in leather fragrances). In Jeke, it dominates the opening which is an unusual mix of: burnt rubber, diesel, smoke, tobacco, patchouli, molasses, and leather. There is a slightly mentholated, eucalyptus undertone to the smoky campfire of the cade, as well as a dark, black, slightly rubbery, leather element. The tobacco smells just like the concentrated form in chewing tobacco and, at this stage, not like the sweet, fruited leaves used in pipe tobacco. Flickering all around the edges is a chewy, black, thick sweetness that is as dark as molasses and far heavier than that evoked by labdanum resin. The molasses note is infused with heavy, spicy cloves and dark, black patchouli.

Source: Bonfirehealth.com

Source: Bonfirehealth.com

Something about the opening minutes of Jeke evokes not only a very butch, hyper-masculinity but, also, Halloween. The perfume is far more than just the scent of fall; it really brings to mind Halloween night with its darkness and the feel of burning leaves in the slightly chilled air. Yet, that butch, rubbery, diesel-like nuance quickly softens from the extremely sharp, sometimes overpowering, raw beginning to something with smoother, more manageable smokiness.

Scene from Mad Max 2 via cinemasights.com

Scene from Mad Max 2 via cinemasights.com

Jeke’s tarry smokiness reminds me strongly of Serge LutensBoxeuses which I just recently reviewed, only Jeke takes the darkness, smokiness, tarry, molasses and leather character of Boxeuses and amplifies it by a hundred in a very Mad Max sort of way. For the opening minutes, at least, when Jeke lacks the smoothness and fruited softness of Boxeuses. Yet, despite its initial intensity, there is a very plummy undertone to Jeke which also reminds me of Boxeuses. In the latter, it was a much sweeter, much more multi-faceted, fruited molasses but, in Jeke, it feels very much like a dark plum purée. Stewed prunes in a light, sweet, syrup.

Source: CrownsNestPrimitiveShoppe.com (link embedded within, click on photo.)

Source: CrownsNestPrimitiveShoppe.com (link embedded within, click on photo.)

There is also something else going on, something I initially couldn’t put my finger on, but an incredibly familiar scent. It was driving me a little mad trying to pinpoint it, and then it came to me. Potpourri! Jeke has a massive element of potpourri underlying every part of its character. I actually have a bag of expensive red and purple potpourri with wood shavings and spiced fruited elements that I took out to compare — and it’s identical to Jeke! Spiced red apple with mulled wine potpourri. Once you make that mental association in your head, it’s impossible to shake off. Later, in a second test, I took my sample of Jeke, applied a hefty, double dose to my other arm, sniffed, and…. yes, spiced apple potpourri from the start.

Fifteen minutes into Jeke’s development, the perfume shifts a little. It’s even softer now, a lovely mélange of incense, smoke, prunes, spiced apple potpourri, tobacco and dark resins. There is a subtle tea note that truly does evoke the smoky nature of Lapsang Souchang tea. The clove element has relaxed, the rubber-diesel accord has receded, and the whole perfume feels significantly warmer and better-rounded. Yet, there is still a subtle singed element, along with the feel of burning leaves and campfires; Jeke still evokes Halloween; and it is still extremely potent. However, that rubbery, mentholated, diesel edge has gone, taking away the butch elements and ending my thoughts of Mad Max in the Thunderdome.

Instead, now, all I can really smell is potpourri with its mix of autumnal apples, dark fruits, smoke, and a slightly sharp, dried patchouli sweetness. Every fall, one of my neighbors would burn a particular scented candle from Slatkin, along with its scented oils, over every inch of her house — and the aroma is incredibly close to what wafted off my arm. Jeke is smokier, has a noticeable tobacco nuance and subtle flickers of black rubber, but the dominant note on me is always red apple potpourri. It’s cozy, but not quite what I had expected, if truth be told. The leather nuances vanish after the first hour, along with all traces of rubber, leaving Jeke with nothing more than that main accord, trailed by fruited tobacco and cade smoke. Then, to my surprise, Jeke becomes completely abstract at the start of the third hour: amorphous, muted, generalized spice and smoke notes. And it remains that way for the rest of its duration.

Source: Wallpaperswide.com

Source: Wallpaperswide.com

Another unexpected surprise is Jeke’s sillage. Slumberhouse perfumes are famous for being powerhouse scents of massive duration and strength, but that didn’t quite apply to Jeke’s projection on me. The perfume began with good projection that started dropping about 20 minutes into its development; Jeke became close to the skin just short of the 90 minute mark; and it became a skin scent after the second hour. It was so light on the skin that I thought it was close to dying after 3.5 hours. It didn’t, but every hour, it felt like Jeke was going to finally vanish, only to have the subtlest, faintest traces cling doggedly and stubbornly to the skin. (Votes on Fragrantica overwhelmingly put Jeke’s sillage at “moderate,” but I have to wonder if that’s for the Extrait version. Almost everyone, however, agrees that the longevity is enormous.) All in all, Jeke lasted 9 hours with a small dose and 10.25 hours with a large dose with most of that time passed as a skin scent that was primarily abstract sweetness, spice and smoke. The drydown — all 6 hours of it — was very pretty but not always easy to detect in its muted quality on my skin.

Potpourri from Scentualnature.com (Website link embedded within.)

Potpourri from Scentualnature.com
(Website link embedded within.)

Jeke ended up not being my personal style, but I think it’s a very good fragrance. My difficulty lies in the potpourri element. I didn’t see any references to it in the largely positive Fragrantica comments, but a search for Slumberhouse, Jeke and potpourri brought up a few Basenotes threads where a number of people detected “red apple potpourri” or “potpourri” in some other Slumberhouse fragrances. One example would be Rume, which a Basenotes commentator said was “a bit too literally potpourri-like for me to wear very much,” though he ended up buying a bottle because he was such a huge Slumberhouse fan. What really reassured me, however, and made me realize I wasn’t completely insane for detecting potpourri was a comment from Mr. Lobb himself. In another Basenotes thread, a commentator (“alfarom“) posted an excerpt of an email in which Mr. Lobb described Grev (another Slumberhouse fragrance) as “a kind of masculine potpourri with a slight tinge of red apple skin.” Honestly, that would be a pretty good description of Jeke Eau de Parfum, too, except I think there would be a dash of plum (or mulled wine) to go with that spiced red apple skin accord. The bottom line, however, is that “masculine potpourri” seems to be a sort of signature base for a number of Slumberhouse fragrances.

What seems to be the new Jeke in Extrait form. Source: Indiescents.com

What seems to be the new Jeke in Extrait form. Source: Indiescents.com

As noted earlier, Jeke is now available only in extrait de parfum concentration, and not in the Eau de Parfum which I’m reviewing and which is offered at decanting sites like Surrender to Chance. I once read Mr. Lobb’s explanation for the change and the differences between the two perfumes in his Slumberhouse blog, but the website is almost always down when I try to access it. So, instead, so I shall rely on CaFleureBon‘s comparison of the two fragrance formulations:

Jeke Extrait… [“seemed like a richer opulent version of the EDP”] for me as in its EDP form this is what I call a “smoke monster”. Sometimes it would eat me alive and other times it would surround me and fascinate me before leaving me unscathed. The core of Jeke in both forms is the combination of cade and tobacco over a resinous base. In the Extrait form the “smoke monster” is much more controlled and for the first time I noticed an amazingly beautiful patchouli lurking among the maelstrom. Once I had them side-by-side I really noticed the patchouli in the EDP but the whole composition seemed more balanced and when the labdanum and benzoin kick in this really feels decadent. The Extrait feels like a rough jewel which has now been cut and faceted into a brilliant gem.

It sounds to me like Mark Behnke’s experiences with Jeke EDP involved significantly more smoke than what I experienced. In fact, his comments about the patchouli in the Extrait form makes me wonder if the “potpourri” aspect is now even stronger than before. But it is the smoke issue which really leaves me feeling a bit bewildered, especially when I read the Fragrantica comments where some people find the smoke to be far too powerful. One person even compared Jeke to Andy Tauer‘s Incense Extreme, finding that the Jeke blew the Tauer out of the water. (“Tauer represents the violins. Jeke the symphony of churches.“) I have no idea if the comments about the overwhelming amount of smoke apply to the EDP or the Extrait, but judging by the dates, I would suspect they’re referring the Extrait with its milder quantity. In which case, I can only say that I didn’t find the supposedly “stronger” note in the EDP version to be overpowering at all. It certainly wasn’t a “smoke monster,” to me.

Out of all the reviews out there for Jeke, my favorite comes from a commentator, “42gr,” on Fragrantica who wrote, in part:

I’ve tested my way through, many fragrances.

This blows me away, away, away.
It resonates in my head. It repeats.

It is so good it feels illegal to feel this good about a fragrance.

I am drinking single malt Islay Scotch in my father’s Orthodox Church. The white bearded priest swings his silver censer of burning smoking resin. Incanting. 

It reminds me of burnt ashes from the campfire from the night before. Laphroaig, Peat, Church Resin, Medicine. And then a touch of sweet tobacco. […]

This is Etta James singing I’d rather go blind.

Jeke is completely and utterly an intoxicating fragrance.

I pay no other this homage.
Smoky, dirty, gorgeous.

I didn’t have the same experience (at all) and, yet, I can absolutely see his vision, what he felt, and why. I can especially see why he’s imagine drinking Laphroaig (my absolute favorite single malt) in an Orthodox church filled with incense. For the sake of completely accuracy, I should add that he later updated his review to add that, in time and with extensive wearing, the amount of smoke felt far, far too excessive, especially in an Australian summer. However, in all fairness to Jeke, I really don’t think it’s a fragrance to wear in 104 degree temperatures!

The bottom line is that, regardless of version, I think Jeke is a perfume that will appeal enormously to people with certain tastes. Men who adore smoky, tobacco fragrances will probably love it. And some women may greatly enjoy the smoky, campfire, fall aspects, if they don’t mind the more rubbery, diesel-like start. However, women who are used to more mainstream fragrances, or who prefer either fruity, clean, floral or gourmand offerings, will probably find Jeke to be far too masculine in nature. Those who love sweet, fruited florals with a strong gourmand undertone would probably prefer Pear + Olive. I think it all depends on what you’re used to.

As for me, I remain a huge fan and admirer of Mr. Lobb. I can’t believe he’s self-taught, and think that he’s incredibly talented. Slumberhouse is a house worth exploring, so I truly hope that more people will try out the line. 

 

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability:  Jeke is now an extrait de parfum and comes in a 1 oz/30 ml size which costs $125. It is available directly from Slumberhouse itself which also sells a Discovery Set of 4 of their perfumes in 2 ml vials for $20. (Again, the website often fails to load, so give it a few tries especially if you’re looking for samples as Slumberhouse has a great program for that and provides very generous sizes.) The perfume is also available from IndieScents, along with a sample for $5, and from Parfum1 which also sells with a 0.7 ml sample vial for $4.50. In addition, Parfum1 offers a Discovery Pack of 4 fragrances (including Jeke), each in a 0.7 ml vial for $16. Parfum1 offers free shipping for all domestic orders above $75, $5.95 for orders below $75, and international shipping for a (high) fee. I obtained my sample (of the now obsolete Eau de Parfum concentration) from Surrender to Chance which sells Jeke starting at $5.99 for a 1 ml vial. In terms of overseas availability, in an interview with Basenotes, Josh Lobb wrote “anyone who wants to order should feel free to send an email or contact Sundhaft in Germany.” You can find their website here.

Perfume Review – Slumberhouse Pear + Olive: “Strange & Unique”

Pears and olives. That unlikely combination is the essence of one of the most unusual fragrances I’ve tested in a while, the Pear + Olive fragrance from Slumberhouse, a niche, indie perfume brand out of Portland, Oregon. The company describes itself as follows:

Slumberhouse-300x154

Slumberhouse is a boutique cologne label in the heart of Portland, OR; created and inspired by urban and street culture, art, film and music – especially the new school of hiphop and graffiti artists. We are a group of young gents who march to our own beat, embracing an absolute disregard for other brands, trends and marketing cliches. Slumberhouse represents an unequivocal love for the art of fragrance making.

It’s a fascinating background, matched by the equally fascinating candour and genuine commitment shown by one of the founders, Josh Lobb, who now seems to be the sole force behind the brand as well as its perfume creator/nose. In his personal blog on the website, the 31-year old Mr. Lobb reveals his personal struggle with keeping costs down while using the best, absolute ingredients; his realisation that he was barely breaking even with many scents; and his personal journey in making some of the Slumberhouse fragrances. In one very revealing entry, he revealed the inspiration, notes, nuances and essence of Pear + Olive, his fourth perfume:

Pear + Olive.

Pear + Olive.

As I slowly made sense of my notes on how to construct this unique pairing, I knew the pear would not be the sweet and tart variety, instead a composition of vegetal/ethereal pear skin with subtle hints of dew, coupled with the rounded sweetness of pressed olive tincture (think of olive oil with its personality turned up to 10), an almost fatty oiled fresh balsam green scent that would add heft to the skeleton of pear.

[¶] The harmony between these two was so satisfying to me that I found myself wanting to end the perfume here, but with patience I began to place other elements with subtle precision: soft shades of herbal sweetness from Roman chamomile, the bitter booziness of grape tissue from French white cognac oil, the wet & earthy hues of zdravets crowned with the rich, velvety green gem of the very rare aglaia absolute. A chord of massoia bark & calamus absolute was created to provide a trace of cream.

The final product is a very personal labor of love. I smell it and am instantly back in the orchard experiencing the things that matter. A scent to serve as a reminder that the constrictions of daily routines are optional and that happiness and freedom are always yours for the taking.

Pear Orchard mt-hood-orchards-of-hood-river-valley Darryl Lloyd, Long Shadow Photography

Pear orchard at Mt. Hood, Oregon. Photo: Daryll Lloyd, Long Shadow Photography via RememberingLetters.wordpress.com.

Pear + Olive is classified on Fragrantica as a “floral fruity” perfume. The most complete set of notes comes from Josh Lobb’s blog entry (linked above) for the perfume:

Notes: pear, cognac, chamomile, aglaia, olive, zdravets, massoia bark and calamus

I’m unfamiliar with a good portion of these notes, so I thought I’d share the results of my internet investigations to help you better understand the perfume. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, zdravets is geranium oil from Bulgaria or Cyprus. Massoia is a tree native to New Guinea which Fragrantica says has “[m]ilky-smelling wood note, famously used in Santal Massoia in the boutique line of Hermes, the Hermessences. […] The bark of the tree is aromatic and has a pleasant sweet, coconut-like flavor.” Calamus is apparently a type of grass that originated in India and the root of which has a “refreshing, soft spicy scent” that “resembles cinnamon.”

Aglaia or "Chinese Perfume Tree."

Aglaia or “Chinese Perfume Tree.”

Lastly, aglaia is a flowering shrub in the mahogany family that is commonly known as the “Chinese Perfume Tree.” It is said to have a “sweet smell,” but it was hard to find an explanation of what exactly that entailed. Then, I stumbled upon a poster on a gardening website, Dave’s Garden, who described it as follows:

To my nose, the fragrance is not as heady or spectacular as a gardenia or a jasmine, but it is so pure, clean and lemony-floral-spicy-tea sweet that it seems to refresh and brighten the atmosphere of any room it is placed in. It is truly one of my all-time favorite smells since there are never any “off notes” and it floats lightly yet unobtrusively on the surrounding air.

Dewy Green Pear Stock PhotoThe opening of Pear + Olive on my skin was something truly special. Spectacular, in fact. There was a dewy, wet pear note that feels simultaneously watery-fresh and, also, the most concentrated essence of the fruit’s sweet nectar. This is such a photo-realistic pear note that you expect a plate of it to magically appear before your eyes, filled with fruit that is ripe but not over-ripe, fresh and firm, and so delicately sweet that it almost feels a little like a honey-dew melon. The fresh fruit is almost dewy, as if splattered with some condensation from the fridge. It’s never too sweet, and is the furthest thing from cloying.

Green Aqua Pears via Wallpapers siteThere is a creaminess to the succulent, mouth-watering smell, along with hints of chamomile tea and coconut. It is honestly so perplexing — in the best way possible — because Pear + Olive sometimes feels like a ripe pear; a firm, green pear hanging off a tree branch; and the white, creamy pulp of a sliced pear, all in one go. The absolutely beautiful balancing act achieved here cannot be praised enough. This is the sweetest nectar you can imagine and, yet, in those opening moments, the perfume itself isn’t actually gooey sweet. Instead, it is the very essence of freshness. At the same time, Pear + Olive is also wonderfully soothing with a relaxing milkiness and creaminess atop the mildest base of delicate white woods. There is also a faintly floral aspect — beyond that sometimes associated with chamomile tea — that daintily tiptoes around the edges.

Green Olives on a BranchAnd then, there is the olive note. It fascinates me in this opening stage. It’s not actual olives, per se, but the most delicate, expensive, first-cold-pressed olive oil from Calabria. In the very opening seconds of the perfume on your skin, you can actually smell the unctuousness of the oil. Yet, there is something more than that as well. In one of the many places I lived during my nomadic existence, there was a large olive tree with its small, green fruit. On occasion, you could smell the fragrant, almost herbal aroma of the leaves. Here, with Pear + Olive, that same note appears very quietly, amidst the more predominant oil note.

As the minutes pass, other notes become more apparent. I’m not usually a tea drinker, but something about the chamomile undertone to the perfume in the opening is incredibly relaxing. Pear + Olive sometimes has the feel of a very expensive, luxurious artisanal oil that is given to soothe you. The chamomile note starts to become stronger, undercutting much of that fresh sweetness from the pear. At the same time, the coconut accord (presumably from the Massoia tree bark) starts to appear. It’s nothing like suntan oil but, rather, more like coconut milk. It’s creamy, but too milky at this stage to be truly heavy or buttery.

The whole thing most definitely evokes Mr. Lobb’s inspiration and personal experiences of sitting in a pear orchid in the summer. As he wrote on the Slumberhouse blog, he spent months

enjoying the expanse of a private pear orchard along the northern Oregon coast – relaxing in the spring sun with homemade wine and piles of books. This was my first experience truly immersing myself into a perfume project, keeping fragments of pear meat and shaved pear skin along with glass tinctures of olive. I spent these days almost exclusively outside (many nights too), forgetting the familiar and absorbing the simplicity of what life really is – with good friends, ukeleles and a garden with multiple fountains.

Chamomile flowers.

Chamomile flowers.

At the one hour mark, the perfume starts to change. It turns into a floral, woody, musk perfume. That spectacular pear note fades dramatically and recedes to the background, to be replaced by heaping dollops of olive oil, now-heavy coconut, and strong chamomile. The floral note (from what I presume is the aglaia) also becomes apparent, but it’s an unusual smell that, visually, feels very yellow. It’s not like gardenia, nor like mimosa, but seems a little between both of them. The coconut has also become stronger, verging a little on the unctuous, heavy side for my personal tastes. The whole thing sits atop a woody foundation that is faintly musky. The wood note is, simultaneously, creamy white and, oddly, quite liqueured. Pear + Olive is supposed to have cognac in it, and it definitely feels as though it’s flickering through the wood undertones.

At the one hour mark, I start to struggle with the perfume. Coconut is a note with which I have some difficulties if it is too thick. More to the point, anyone who has read this blog for a while knows I also have a hard time with very sweet perfumes — and Pear + Olive turns sweeter by the minute. In fact, after a few hours, it turns into what may be one of the sweetest perfumes that I’ve tried in a long, long time. The combination of the gooey, thick coconut, the chamomile, the cognac, and that increasingly heavy feel makes Pear + Olive far too unctuous for me. It’s so rich and sweet that, for me personally, it was cloying.

The sweetness recedes by a small fraction at the start of the third hour, but the perfume is still too sweet, unctuous and gooey for me. I miss that pear note so, so much with its dewy freshness, lightness and delicacy. As the hours pass, Pear + Olive turns into a very abstract, amorphous floral, woody, coconut musk with milkiness, creaminess and flickering hints of chamomile. Sometime around the eighth hour, there is a surprising feel of vanilla, combined with powder, that appears. Almost a sort of Guerlainade accord, if you will.

The perfume remains that way for many more hours until, finally, its final traces fade away well over 15 hours later. I had heard that Slumberhouse perfumes had crazy longevity and, obviously, Pear + Olive is pure parfum, but still! The duration of the scent on my perfume-consuming skin was something quite amazing. In terms of sillage, the perfume is very strong, and will have quite a big projection if you apply too much. It won’t necessarily fell your co-worker across the room, but it does create a small perfume cloud around you. I would advise you not to apply a lot if you work in a conservative office environment, but those who appreciate sillage should be happy.

All in all, the perfume was not for me. My personal tastes and the notes I struggle with mean that it was far too unctuous and sweet for me. However — and this is a big however — I cannot begin to express my utter appreciation, awe and respect for the achievement that is Pear + Olive. To the perfumer, I give a huge, massive “Bravo!” First, it is an incredibly different, original scent made from such unusual ingredients and in such a sophisticated manner that I’m quite awed it comes from a self-taught perfumer who is only 31. Second, there is an intentional purity to the scent that is clearly intended to evoke the beauty of more innocent, simple pleasures. It really does conjure up Mr. Lobb’s experiences in that orchard, sipping wine, playing the ukelele or reading poetry. There is almost a Zen aspect to it all that I find both intellectual and impressive.

Third, for all that Pear + Olive may seem like a simple scent, there is an underlying complexity behind its creation, plan and thought. CafleureBon thought that depth made Josh Lobb put many other perfumers to shame, leading one of its main editors to rank Pear + Olive as the second best perfume of 2012:

For most of the year this was going to be my best of 2012. Josh Lobb, the man behind slumberhouse, put almost every other perfume out there to shame. Pear + Olive is as intricate a creation as you can find. The delicate complexity takes my breath away with its fragility. More than anything on my entire list if there is only one perfume you should seek out Pear + Olive is that fragrance.

I personally wouldn’t rank Pear + Olive as the second best perfume of the last year (and I certainly don’t agree with his #1 choice of Musc Tonkin by Parfum d’Empires, or much else on his top 5 list), but I do agree with parts of the statement. Pear + Olive is creative and original as hell! And its pear opening is utterly spectacular! The perfume may not morph this way and that, but it’s not intended to. It’s true to the creator’s vision. He meant to create a very Zen feeling, and a mood of simple, relaxing serenity. For many, I think he will have succeeded brilliantly at that.

Orchard Tea Gardens at Grantchester. Source: Flickr

Orchard Tea Gardens at Grantchester. Source: Flickr
http://www.flickr.com/photos/10162480@N08/4668644581/

Lastly, (and I apologise for the length of this review), perhaps the most impressive thing about Pear + Olive is the confidence with which such unusual ingredients have been crafted so elegantly and seamlessly. There is enormous imagination and creativity at work here. There is also a very clear attempt to use the richest ingredients possible to create a luxurious experience that is intentionally different. Slumberhouse’s name has the tag-line or sub-text of “Strange and Unique Fragrances,” and it definitely applies to Pear + Olive in a really positive way.

So, while the perfume may not be to my personal tastes, I strongly urge those of you who like very sweet scents and/or fruity florals to give it a try. In fact, I think anyone who wants to try something different should give it a sniff, simply because of how original, creative and unusual it is. This is out-of-the-box thinking that really should be encouraged. In short, Slumberhouse is clearly one to watch. I am truly intrigued to see what they will try next and can only repeat, Bravo! 

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability:  Pear + Olive comes only in pure parfum concentration and in a 1 oz/30 ml size which costs $125. It is available directly from Slumberhouse itself which also sells a Discovery Set of 4 of their perfumes in 2 ml vials for $20. (The website is sometimes fails to load, but give it a few tries.) The perfume is also available from Parfum1 which also sells with a 0.7 ml sample vial for $4.50 and a Discovery Pack of 4 fragrances in a 0.7 ml vial for $16. Parfum1 offers free shipping for all domestic orders above $75, $5.95 for orders below $75, and international shipping for a (high) fee. I obtained my sample from Surrender to Chance which sells Pear + Olive starting at $5.99 for a 1 ml vial. In general, Slumberhouse fragrances are available via the Los Angeles retail site, Indiescents, but Pear + Olive is not on their list thus far. In terms of overseas availability, in an interview with Basenotes, Josh Lobb wrote “anyone who wants to order should feel free to send an email or contact Sundhaft in Germany.” You can find their website here.