Histoires de Parfums 1828 (Jules Verne)

Jules Verne, photo by Nadar circa 1878, via Wikipedia.

Jules Verne, photo by Nadar circa 1878, via Wikipedia.

Jules Verne was one of the fathers of science fiction, and the author of such famous adventure novels as 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Journey to the Centre of the Earth. Verne was a fascinating figure who was born in 1828, and his life is the source of inspiration for an aromatic, citric, woody eau de parfum from Histoires de Parfums which uses that date as its name. With 1828, Gérald Ghislain sought to create a scent for the modern globe-trotter who wants to travel in Jules Verne’s olfactory footsteps.

Histoires de Parfums describes 1828 and the man whom it seeks to encapsulate as follows:

Source: Luckyscent

Source: Luckyscent

He was born in Nantes, at the beginning of that century of discoveries. The close ocean took him far away, inspiring in him extraordinary novels of adventure. Inspired by the father of literary science fiction, this eau de parfum for modern globe-trotters breathes its aromatic Hesperides-like scents, just as a marine breeze over a wild heath. A freshness tinted with sophistication.

Originality: spices, wood, aromatic herbs representing Jules Verne – world traveler. A group of olfactive scents assembled from trips all around the globe.
(Madagascar black pepper, Indonesian nutmeg…)
Moods: energizing, dazzling, bright, timeless.

Top Note: Grapefruit, Citrus, Tangerine, Eucalyptus
Heart Note: Nutmeg, Pepper
Base Note: Cedar, Incense, Vetiver, Pine cone

Nutmeg. Source: Kootation.com

Nutmeg. Source: Kootation.com

1828 Jules Verne opens on my skin with a strong burst of bitter nutmeg, followed by tart grapefruit, sweet tangerine, and zesty citruses. A brief hint of sourness vies with the pungency of the spices, though the sweet and fresh notes try to counter it. Touches of pepper and a fresh, mineralized vetiver ensue, briefly creating a small resemblance to a Terre d’Hermes-like cologne. As a whole, 1828’s opening feels like a very safe, more elevated version of a department store fragrance. I’m thoroughly unimpressed, and starting to reconsider my plan of going through a number of the Histoires de Parfum creations in a row.

Although the dominant bouquet is of nutmeg with hesperidic, citric elements, 1828 starts to change after 5 minutes. The tiniest whisper of eucalyptus, pine and incense slowly start to creep in. At first, they sit quietly on the sidelines, and overlook the flickers of clean musk and vanillic sweetness that stir deep down in the base. However, after 15 minutes, the pine and eucalyptus amble onto center stage, adding a very forest-like aroma to the nutmeg citrus bouquet. At the same time, the vetiver recedes to the background, while both the incense and tangerine fade away completely.

Source: kblog.lunchboxbunch.com -

Source: kblog.lunchboxbunch.com –

For the rest of the hour, 1828 is a blend of dusty, bitter nutmeg, white-yellow grapefruit, pine cones, and eucalyptus. The latter smells like the aromatic oil you get if you crumple the fresh leaves between your fingers. The pine smells similarly deep, but it’s more woody than resinous in nature on my skin. Citrus, woody scents aren’t particularly me, but 1828 underwhelms me for different reasons. It feels rather boring, but, more to the point, the elements seem to be very much out of balance on my skin. Someone on Fragrantica once described 1828 as the scent of curdled nutmeg, and, oddly enough, that description really seems to fit the opening hour.

Thankfully, 1828 Jules Verne improves with time, although the scent also turns more simplistic and minimalistic. At the end of the 1st hour, a wonderful creaminess arrives, shoots through all the notes, and smooths out the rough edges. It’s like a silky cream that is almost vaguely vanillic in nature, which is a little baffling as vanilla is not listed in the notes. The accord turns 1828 into a fragrance that is smoother, more balanced, and less crisp. The pine and eucalyptus notes are now more prominent than the nutmeg on my skin, yet the fragrance feels warmer as a whole.

Source: topwalls.net

Source: topwalls.net

1828’s sillage is very soft, though, and the scent hovers only an inch above the skin. A lot of the notes begin to overlap each other, losing clear shape and distinction. In fact, from afar, 1828 appears like a well-blended blur of creamy, aromatic, foresty woods, that are lightly flecked by an amorphous, zesty citrus, a subtle dash of sweetness, and a touch of spiciness. Up close, 1828 isn’t substantially more complex or nuanced, though you can pull out the individual notes with more ease.

Eucalyptus leaves.

Eucalyptus leaves.

1828 remains that way for hours. It turns into a skin scent just before the end of the 2nd hour, and grows increasingly abstract. At the 3.5 hour mark, it is an aromatic, woody bouquet dominated by pine with only small touches of grapefruit and eucalyptus, all atop a creamy base. There is now a small vein of cedar running through 1828 as well, though it’s very muted on my skin. However, the nutmeg has disappeared, and two hours later, so does that last remaining citrus element.

By the end of the 5th hour, 1828 Jules Verne is a blurry haze of creamy, vaguely aromatic, green woods. The pine note has vanished, and the cedar is just barely discernible if you put your nose right on your skin, inhale forcefully, and focus hard. By the start of the 7th hour, even that goes away. In its final moments, 1828 is a wisp of abstract creamy woodiness. All in all, the fragrance lasted just short of 9 hours on me, with generally low sillage throughout.

After its unbalanced, somewhat bitter start, 1828 turned into a generally pleasant fragrance. I preferred the bouquet in the middle phase with its mix of foresty woods and creamy sweetness, lightly flecked with that pretty grapefruit, but all of it left me feeling underwhelmed. None of it is distinctive or particularly interesting, in my opinion. For the most part, 1828 really feels like a more refined version of a designer scent, minus the latter’s synthetics or cheap ingredients. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’ve smelled 1828’s drydown somewhere else before, but I can’t remember which department store fragrance it was.

Still, 1828 is pleasant, even if that’s damning it with faint praise. On a more positive note, it’s definitely an easy, safe, approachable fragrance. I just wish I wasn’t so utterly bored. Surely Jules Verne of all people deserved something more interesting? A breath of saltiness, a touch of algae, or a whisper of … something…. that is unique, complex, and enlivening?

Source: Nathan Branch.

Source: Nathan Branch.

On Fragrantica, the most amusing review comes from “Cloyd42” who writes:

If nutmeg could curdle it would smell like this. The grapefruit is downright sugary and the eucalyptus is wildly unbalanced. If 1828 really smelled like this it must have been a dreary year indeed.

Sillage / 3 ft
Duration / eternal?
Fabulosity / day old sushi
Value to price ratio / poor
2/10

Speaking of his sillage and duration numbers, I want to make clear that my experience with 1828 as a weak scent doesn’t seem to be the norm. However, I fit squarely with others in terms of the longevity. The votes for both areas are:

  • Sillage: 7 for soft, 11 for moderate, 13 for heavy, and 10 for enormous;
  • Longevity: 13 for long lasting (7-12 hours), and 14 for Very Long Lasting (12+hr). [I’ve skipped over the other categories as those 2 are the majority by a landslide.]
Source: picstopin.com

Source: picstopin.com

Those two issues aside, Fragrantica posters are mixed in their views of 1828. A number of people find it to be an easy-going, refined spring scent, while others shrug and dismiss it as largely forgettable despite its pleasant nature. A small range of opinions:

  • Honestly, the most disappointing scent among HdP masculines. […] this is undoubtably well made, but also a bit boring and forgettable. You can get the same job done by other cheaper fragrances!
  • Simple, easy to like and also easy to forget… [¶] But it is quite good. [¶] I really enjoy how the nutmeg is well blended with the other notes as citrusy accords (on the beginning), the pine notes, eucalyptus and cedarwood. [¶] Nutmeg is the main note for me… Dusty, spicy and intriguing here. [¶] But even though, here we have a simple scent – easy to go everywhere, anywhere…
  • This is a terrrific blend of various scents of woods and citrus, especially the great pine scent that comes from it. [¶] I have never heard more compliments during the day at the office from a fragrance than with this.

Gucci Envy for MenOne commentator, “Alfarom,” found 1828 Jules Verne to be extremely similar to Gucci Envy for Men:

to me, 1828 is not so distant from Gucci Envy for Men.

It opens with citruses and eucalyptus immediately joined by incense. Frankincense perfectly blends with the aromatic grapefruit note adding depth and consistency to the fragrance. This accord is definitely successful and so well executed that I was ready to declare 1828 as one of my favourite compositions from this house. Elegant, masculine, fresh but not dull, with a remarkable presence but not loud…a fantastic everyday’s fragrance…but…

…but disappointment was waiting for me just right behind the corner. The eucalyptus note evaporates in couple of minutes and you can say goodbye to the “balsamic” effect. Same is for the aromatic grapefruit leaving 1828 in a sort of generic territory made of vetiver, spices and woods (mainly cedar) that’s really too similar to Gucci Envy For Men. Overall I can’t say that 1828 is unsuccessful but after the outstanding opening I definitely expected something more.

That said, if you’re not familiar with Gucci Envy For Men and you are ready for a challenging price tag, you could enjoy 1828. Personally I stick with the Gucci.

All I can say is that he experienced a scent that was substantially more complex than I did, and, yet, he still found it comparable to a department store fragrance.

I could comb the web for more comparative reviews to give to you, but, honestly, I lack the motivation. Cloyd42 wrote in his Fragrantica review, “If 1828 really smelled like this it must have been a dreary year indeed.” I would replace the word “dreary” with “uninspiring,” which is the very last thing that a man like Jules Verne deserves.

DETAILS:
Cost, Availability, Decant Sets & Samples: 1828 is an Eau de Parfum that comes in two sizes: 2.0 oz/60 ml for $125, €87, or £75; or 4 oz/120 ml for $205 or €145. (Further decant or mini-sized options are below). Both sizes are available on the Histoires de Parfums website, which also has a great sample program (6 samples of your choice) whose $20 price goes towards the purchase of a large 4 oz. bottle. Further details are available here as to how the process works. Shipping is free for all order anywhere in the world for purchases over $130; below that, there is a $10 shipping fee. In the U.S.: 1828 is available from Luckyscent in both sizes, along with samples. BeautyHabit sells both sizes, along with a 14 ml decant for $36. Amazon offers 1828 in the smaller $125 size, and the 3rd party retailer is Parfums1. On the actual Parfum1 website, you can buy both sizes of 1828, as well as a 14 ml decant for $36. MinNewYork has the whole Histoires de Parfums line in the smaller 60 ml size, including 1828, but they are currently out of stock of the latter. The Perfume Shoppe (which has a Canadian division) offers the 60 ml bottle, and also sells 14 ml decants of 1828 for $36. Outside the U.S.: In Canada, Etiket carries the Histoires de Parfums, though only a few are shown on their website. Alas, 1828 is not one of them. In the UK, Roullier White sells 1828, along with a couple of the Histoires de Parfums line for £125 for the smaller 2 oz/60 ml bottle. In Paris, the full Histoires de Parfums line is available at Jovoy for €87 or €145, depending on size. You can also find select fragrances from the line in the small size at the Nose boutique in Paris. In the Netherlands, you can find the full line at ParfuMaria. For the rest of Europe, Premiere Avenue has all the fragrances in the small 2 oz/60 ml size for €87, with a 5 ml decant available for €9. In the large 4 oz bottles, you can find 1828 at First in Fragrance for €145. In Australia, you can find 1828 on sale at City Perfume for AUD$179 for 120 ml, or for the full AUD$190 price at Peony Melbourne. For all other countries, the vast Histoires de Parfums’ Store Locator page lists retailers from South Africa to Korea, Sweden and Kuwait. Samples: You can find samples at a number of the retailers linked to above. Surrender to Chance offers 1828 starting at $4.99 for a 1 ml vial.
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Histoires de Parfums 1826 (Eugénie de Montijo)

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

Empress Eugenie, official portrait via Wikipedia.

Empress Eugenie, official portrait via Wikipedia.

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

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

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

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

Source: Luckyscent

Source: Luckyscent

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

Photo: puresilks.us

Photo: puresilks.us

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

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

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

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

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

Source: 123rf.com

Source: 123rf.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Saveur.com

Source: Saveur.com

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

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

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

Santa Maria Novella Nostalgia: Drive, Baby, Drive

One of perfume’s many joys is its transformative power, its ability to take you to other worlds and points in time, or to turn you into someone else. The rather aptly named Nostalgia briefly made me feel like the racing legend, Mario Andretti, in a 1970s Alfa-Romeo Spider convertible or like the ultra-cool Steve McQueen in his Jaguar XKSS.

Steve McQueen in his Jaquar. Source: mtblabel.com

Steve McQueen in his Jaquar. Source: mtblabel.com

Close your eyes and imagine a powerful old car on a racing track set in a birch wood forest. The smell of diesel fuel is in the air, along with the cracked leather seats of the ancient vehicle, and the smell of campfire smoke from a fire in the trees beyond. Bergamot swirls its sweet juices into the mix, along with vanilla, amber and earthy patchouli. As you rev your engines, and press your foot on the pedal, you speed away so fast that you leave the diesel fuel far behind, and enter into a vanilla, amber cocoon nestled amidst the birch trees. There, you take shelter in a haze of creamy, warm, lightly powdered vanillic sweetness infused with campfire smoke. It’s a simple smell, but then, Nostalgia is a return to a simpler, more nostalgic time.

Nostalgia is a fragrance from Santa Maria Novella, an Italian niche house based in Florence and one of the oldest actual pharmacies in the world. By many accounts, Santa Maria Novella is also the real, true source for the birth of cologne as a type of fragrance. You can read the full details of their fascinating, storied history going back to the 1200s and to Dominican friars in Florence in my earlier piece on the Farmacia (and its Ambra cologne). The house has been connected to everything from Catherine de Medici on her wedding day, to a marchioness burnt at the stake as the last “witch” in France, and marauding thieves who fought off the Black Plague. It’s completely fascinating stuff, if you are a history junkie as I am.

Santa Maria Novella. Pharmacy salesroom today. Source: MuseumsinFlorence.com

Santa Maria Novella. Pharmacy salesroom today. Source: MuseumsinFlorence.com

Even cooler is the fact that many of the current fragrances in Santa Maria Novella line continue to have the exact same olfactory profile as they did several centuries ago. In fact, they are said to follow a completely unchanged recipe, thanks to Santa Maria Novella’s heavy focus on all-natural ingredients (with no animal testing).

Source: Santa Maria Novella website.

Source: Santa Maria Novella website.

Nostalgia, however, is brand new fragrance, relatively speaking. It is an eau de cologne that was released in 2002, which is a far cry from the 1600s or 1800s date of some of their other creations. By those standards, it was practically delivered yesterday.

Nostalgia is a leather scent which Santa Maria Novella describes as follows:

Santa Maria Novella’s most original fragrance for men, Nostalgia is the scent of a vintage racing car. Using mixes of rare South American woods, vegetable musk, patchouli, citrus wood, tobacco, amber and vanilla, it brings to mind the smell of benzene, tires and vintage leather for a truly unique and individual eau de cologne.

According to Fragrantica, Nostalgia’s perfume pyramid is:

Top notes: bergamot, rubber and styrax. Heart: cedar and patchouli. Base: leather, amber, vanilla and birch tar.

Nostalgia opens on my skin with diesel fuel. Yes, the smell of actual gasoline, but an extremely refined, high-class gasoline, if you can believe it. It smells like filtered, perfumed gasoline that is scented with fresh, sweetened, but somewhat zesty bergamot, and with a hint of vanilla. Something very herbal and fresh lingers in the rubbery corners, along with traces of general sweetness and the tiniest suggestion of a warm element in the base. The vanilla quickly recedes to the sidelines, and its place is immediately taken by birch tar on fire. There is smoke, more smoke, black rubber, and then, bubbling black tar, all enveloped in that refined, bergamot-scented racing fuel.

Ferrari Formula 1 rubber tire, post race, via reddit.com

Ferrari Formula 1 rubber tire, post race, via reddit.com

I find the whole thing fascinating, and, I swear to you, it’s not like an olfactory assault at NASCAR. Instead, it’s oddly and shockingly smooth. I repeat, something about the overall combination feels almost refined, or as refined as such an accord could be. One reason why is because nothing is out of balance. The racing fuel is not a barrage of anything really sharp, extreme, or chemical; I never feel as though I’m filling my car at the gas station, though the vehicle may have a tiny leak somewhere. The strong element of crisp, chilled, but sweetened bergamot definitely helps, as do the subtle hints of vanilla and amber lurking at the edges.

Source: Theatlantic.com

Source: Theatlantic.com

Thanks to the singed birch trees, there is an outdoors feel to this Grand Prix race track. At the same time, there is also an undertone of black pepper and cracked leather. The latter is not the butch, latex, fetishistic bondage leather of some fragrances, like Etat Libre‘s difficult Rien. However, it’s definitely not the well-oiled, polished leather of Puredistance M, either. Despite the birch tar commonality, this leather also has nothing in common with Caron‘s Tabac Blonde, Knize, or Cuir de Russie, at least in their current, non-vintage manifestations.

Source: blog.hemmings.com

Source: blog.hemmings.com

Nostalgia’s note is a tiny, fractional bit closer to Andy Tauer‘s Lonestar Memories, but it’s not really that either. It lacks the feeling of soldering mechanics, the sticky sweetness, the sharpness, and even the forcefulness of the birch tar in Lonestar Memories. This is much smoother, softer, and more refined. As a whole, both the birch tar smoke and its leather undertone in Nostalgia feel like a completely different take on the note for me. This is the leather of an old car with some goaty, diesel, smoky aspects. It’s rough in the untamed way of birch campfire smoke, but it is also darkly resinous with styrax, and a little bit fresh and cologne-like with bergamot.

Paul Newman in his racing days. Photo: rolexblog.blogspot.com

Paul Newman in his racing days. Photo: rolexblog.blogspot.com

Less than 10 minutes in, Nostalgia shifts and starts to move away from the racing fuel. Earthy patchouli arrives, complete with both its faintly camphorous side and its sweeter, softer tonalities. The amber becomes more noticeable, too, while the bergamot takes a step back. The golden sweetness infuses the tarry, smoked woods and the old leather, softening that initial, utterly cool smell of racing fuel turned sophisticated. It’s a bit of a shame, as the opening minutes were Cool with a capital “C.” We’re talking Steve McQueen and Paul Newman cool in a Mario Andretti racing world. Instead, Nostalgia is now all about campfire smoke, tar and patchouli, lightly flecked with smoother, more refined leather, all upon a warmed, sweetened vanilla and amber base. It’s warm, smoky, masculine and sexy, but not as unique as that debut.

Source: hqwide.com

Source: hqwide.com

Something about Nostalgia mesmerizes me, for reasons that I cannot fully explain. Upon reading about it initially, I thought, “racing fuel sounds cool, but who wants to actually smell of it??!” And if you phrase it as “gasoline,” it sounds even worse. All of the descriptions seemed to entail a scent that would be too raw, tough, dry, beastly, and masculine, even by my expansive standards. Yet, somehow, Nostalgia hits that perfect sweet spot for me. It’s hardly as smoky as Profumum‘s birch tar bonanza, Fumidus, or as austerely dry as Naomi Goodsir‘s Bois d’Ascece; and it’s definitely not as rubbery or leathered as numerous scents that I’ve tried recently. It also lacks the difficult, black, mentholated, “car oil” gasoline of Patchouly Indonesiano from Farmacia SS. Annunziata, another old, Italian, “pharmacy” fragrance house.

Source: saab92x.com

Source: saab92x.com

Yet, on my skin, Nostalgia is not predominantly about diesel fuel after the first 10 minutes, and it’s not even really a birch tar leather fragrance as a whole. Both aspects are there — though the “leather” is much weaker than the singed campfire wood — but they are seamlessly blended into a bouquet that is primarily about smoky warmth. After 20 minutes, Nostalgia is so smooth, refined, ambered, and golden that I find it absolutely beautiful. (And quite addictive, too, judging by my eagerness to smear on more Nostalgia wherever I could.) I love the touches of sweet, warm, slightly spiced patchouli, with vanilla, sweet bergamot, and the balsamic resins in the base. They complement the subtle touch of leather beautifully, removing its goaty, cracked, aged facets. From the seats of an old convertible, the leather has now turned into something more akin to a well-worn leather jacket worn by a guy who spends his time around a campfire.

The accompanying notes are interesting. Tiny touches of something herbal and vaguely medicinal lurk at the edges, but they are light and seamlessly blended within the larger whole. On occasion, the patchouli even offers up a touch of fresh, green peppermint that, oddly enough, works well with the bergamot. In the base, the styrax resin offers up a smoky, dark, resinous touch with the faintest hint of leather. It’s the same resinous note that lies at the heart of vintage Habit Rouge (which had a lot of styrax in its drydown in the old days), and in Shalimar.

Source: 123rf.com

Source: 123rf.com

At the end of 30 minutes, Nostalgia is a warm, graceful, vaguely leathered scent infused with birch tar and its campfire smoke, patchouli amber, and styrax, all lightly threaded with veins of sweet bergamot and vanilla. Initially, the perfume’s sillage was very forceful, wafting about 4-5 inches above the skin, but Nostalgia never felt opaque, dense, or chewy. Now, 30 minutes in, the projection has dropped, in keeping with Nostalgia’s generally softer nature. The perfume wafts in any airy cloud about 2 inches above the skin, and feels even thinner. Up close, all the notes are potent and visible in their individual state. From afar, however, the most noticeable element is the birch with its smoked, burnt woods aroma, only this one feels sweetened, almost honeyed in nature.

Nostalgia continues to soften, turning more abstract and warm as time passes. By the end of the first hour, the perfume is a soft haze of browns and gold, dominated by birch tar amber with patchouli and bergamot, with a base that just barely nods to sweetened vanilla. It’s lovely, but very sheer and light in weight. To my disappointment, it hovers just above the skin. In fact, my voracious skin seems to be eating it up with every passing moment, no doubt because it is an eau de cologne. Still, the notes continue to be very strong when smelled up close, particularly the ambered, sweetened birch. I just wish I didn’t have to put my nose right on my arm to detect the rest of the elements.

Vanilla powder. Source: food.ninemsn.com.au

Vanilla powder. Source: food.ninemsn.com.au

The vanilla starts to rise to the surface, increasingly taking over Nostalgia’s focus to share center stage with the birch and amber. Midway during the 2nd hour, the birch’s smoke is fully subsumed within the other notes, and the impression of leather fades away. Oddly, and for reasons that I don’t understand, the bergamot briefly seems to grow stronger again, and it occurred during both my tests of the perfume. Even odder still, on one of my arms, Nostalgia remained much smokier and less citric than it did on my main (left) testing arm. Perfume doesn’t usually vary on me, from one arm to the next, but when it does, my right one always reflects a much drier, darker, or smokier version of the scent. That seems to be the case with Nostalgia, though it’s a short-lived, very minor difference as a whole.

Source: de.123rf.com

Source: de.123rf.com

At the end of the 3rd hour, Nostalgia is a skin scent centered on vanilla amber thoroughly infused with black smoke and a touch of singed woods. The patchouli and amber have melted into the base, where they add a general, indirect warmth but they no longer feel distinct or clear in an individual way. The most striking aspect of Nostalgia at this point is how creamy that vanilla is. It feels like a sweet crème anglaise sauce: thin but rich, and almost silky in the mouth.

The vanilla increasingly becomes the focus of Nostalgia’s drydown on my skin, with slowly fading levels of birch smokiness. There is a tiny touch of powderiness, in the way that tonka can generally impart, but it is not substantial on my skin. Nostalgia is a gauzy, thin blur, and it feels as though it’s about to fade away any moment now after the start of the 6th hour. To my surprise, the perfume hangs on tenaciously a little bit longer. In its final moments, Nostalgia is a simple smear of something vaguely sweet and dry, conveying the subtle sense of a note that might once have been vanillic in nature. All in all, Nostalgia lasted just short of 7.5 hours on my skin with low sillage after 90 minutes.

On Fragrantica, Nostalgia seems to be a massive hit with the vast majority of posters, with guy after guy writing how they have to buy a bottle. Or, in the case of one commentator, a second bottle:

Cigars gasoline sweet powder rubber and a bit of sweat. What could be sexier? Take that first sexual experience in a car with a bearded guy who is way too old for you, guilty, uncomfortable and exciting, wanting to run away from it and wishing it would last forever at the same time, and put it in a bottle. Nostalgia is a perfect name for this fragrance. […] Oh man I totally need another bottle of this.

"Rush" movie still, via developersaccomplice.co.uk

“Rush” movie still, via developersaccomplice.co.uk

Another commentator amusingly began his positive review by describing Nostalgia as “FERRARI AUTO REPAIR,” writing:

FERRARI AUTO REPAIR

I could also called this ‘Elegant Benzoin’. [¶] The gasoline opening is challenging yet intriguing. [¶] The other notes are present and accounted for, even if they can’t be specifically named (at least, by me). [¶] After time, the complex notes sparkle more than the Benzoin – and this fragrance keeps pulling me into it’s unique, luxurious heart.

I just may need to own this.

1967 Fiat Spider. Source: bringatrailer.com

1967 Fiat Spider. Source: bringatrailer.com

Some other impressions:

  • Rubber and leather that smell exacactly like the interiors of my grandad’s old FIAT 500 during the summertime, when odors are emphasized by the high temperatures of the season. A great fragrance if you like challenging smoky rubber/leather scents a-la Knize Ten / CDG’s Garage / Lisa Kirk’s Revolution. I do. [¶] Downside: the drydown is quite conventional if compared to the opening, but still pleasant..
  •  this juice is damn amazing and dramatic…Reason being, right out of the gate it smells really strong like racing fuel and literally 15 seconds later it begins changing..into this gorgeous blend of rubber and leather and several minutes later upon dry down remains the alluring vanilla-leatherish-Bvlgari Black blend. [¶] 10 out of 10 for uniqueness, quality, shock factor, longevity, sillage, and originality.  [Emphasis to perfume names added by me.]

For one person, it took time and repeated tries to appreciate Nostalgia. His first attempt was not positive, but then he fell in love with the opening. He writes, “I just wish this stunning opening lasted longer” — and I share his feelings. He’s going to buy a bottle, and I would too if my skin did not eat up Nostalgia.

Women have written about Nostalgia too. One lamented that she only detected “sweet, prickly green tea,” which seems to be quite a unique experience and definitely not the norm. Another female Fragrantica poster, however, had a more typical encounter, and loved it:

I love love love this perfume. Not for the fainthearted nor the heavyhanded. Best worn on autumn as it can get too heavy for summer yet it lacks that certaint ‘warmth’ necessary for winter. Very avant-garde, surprisingly sexy. The funny thing is that my husband loves it on me but not on him.

One thing I found very interesting is that the current version of Nostalgia may have been reformulated to lose a lot of its leather heart. Almost three years ago, in July 2011, a poster called “Roan” wrote:

The re-edition doesn’t have the scent of leather.
In few words, this perfume during the opening is very very unusual…the first sniff will make you cry 🙂
It smells on tyres, pit stop, road, gas, rubber, cars, colors, like the store which has everything for the house – ‘do it yourself’. The smell is fantastic hehe, after a while it settles down and becomes powdery and sweet, very conventional, it has a lot of similarities as Le Dandy D’Orsay in the drydown. This is a must try for everyone who love perfumes and the art of perfumery!
P.S. Sillage and logivity are good enough, regarding the smell, I expected that will last for days. [Emphasis to name added by me.]

Ferrari Formula 1 Pit, practice session. Photo: Reuters via Emirates247.com

Ferrari Formula 1 Pit, practice session. Photo: Reuters via Emirates247.com

On my skin, the “pit stop” aroma was very short-lived indeed, as it seemed to have been on those who posted more recent reviews of the scent. I get the impression that the fuel note (like the leather one) may have been tamed down or reduced even further since 2011, judging by a few, more recent, comments that I’ve read on its duration. It’s rather a shame, because it’s truly lovely in its uniqueness and in its incredibly refined nature. It’s not NASCAR, but the Ferrari Auto Repair that one of the comments mentions, but it doesn’t last for very long.

There are several blog reviews for Nostalgia out there. On CaFleureBon, Ida Meister raved about the scent in a 2011 article that compared it with Lisa Kirk‘s Revolution.

Nostalgia revs you up with all the aromas of an imported vintage automobile – it reeks of luxurious leather interior, exotic woods, and benzene; what’s not to like?

I’m not a driver, and I’m mad for it.

The photo used by Ida Meister to convey Nostalgia. Inspector Morse with his famous Jaguar.

The photo used by Ida Meister to convey Nostalgia. Inspector Morse with his famous Jaguar.

Both begin with that unholy blast that sears your nostrils, it’s NOT a gentle come-hither, I’ll grant you that.

Where they differ is in the drydown.

Nostalgia is an original Sillage Monster.

It may soften a bit, but it remains fairly potent and outspoken to the last, it just won’t give up the ghost.

I’m incredibly appreciative of this bizarre quality, and keep spraying myself over and over again.

But I’ve yet to purchase a bottle; where the hell would I wear this?

She does have a point. It may not be the most versatile scent, but I would wear it at home happily as a cozy scent (yes, I know, I’m odd) if it actually were a sillage monster on my skin. I’m sure that spraying from an actual bottle would improve things a bit, but only at the start. My skin simply doesn’t do all that well in the long-term with fragrances that are colognes in strength.

I think the most interesting and useful review for Nostalgia comes from the blog, Cocktails and Cologne, which analyzes in-depth just how much the fragrance does or does not replicate the “vintage race car concept”:

I love the smell of exhaust and unburned fuel from a hot rod without a catalytic converter—I even like the way my clothes smell after I’m around it. But would I bottle it? Fortunately, Santa Maria Novella’s vintage race car concept fragrance doesn’t take it too literally.

Nostalgia’s inspiration was the metal, rubber, wood, and leather of hand-built Italian race cars. It’s a great concept for a perfectly masculine fragrance, very elemental, and very sentimental too. […][¶]

NostalgiaThat Nostalgia doesn’t have more fans may be a result of its polarizing top notes and its lackluster packaging (More on that later). I’m guessing many people never get beyond the top notes to the smooth, Bulgari Black-like vanilla and rubber stage.

The top notes are bright and utterly artificial smelling. I worked in a garage for a couple years and I’ve been around vintage cars my whole life but none of Nostalgia’s top notes quite conjure up the feeling of vintage racing to me. It’s closer to the smell of the plastic glue I used to use to build 1:24 scale models of cars as a teenager.

About an hour in, it smells a little more like Bulgari Black’s top notes: smooth and rubbery with a hint of leather and vanilla. It’s much milder than you’d expect for something that comes on with such a chemical assault. Unlike Black though, Nostalgia’s vanilla isn’t sweet; it’s more leathery with a hint of smoke. I love Black but I may prefer Nostalgia. [snip.]

The whole review is very well-done, astutely noting how the Nostalgia is suited to a specific audience, and discussing the issue of the old-fashioned packaging. (It puts some people off.) The article is definitely worth a complete read for anyone interested in the fragrance.

Source: worldfragrances.com

Source: worldfragrances.com

As you may have noticed, the subject of Bvlgari Black comes up a lot in the discussion of Nostalgia. I haven’t tried it, but the perfume is mentioned so often in other, very similar fragrances that I’ve covered that I really need to rectify that soon. At this point, though, I suspect I pretty much know how it smells, and yes, Nostalgia’s drydown is probably quite close.

I bring up Bvlgari Black for another reason. I know a number of women who love the fragrance, and have no problems wearing it. Those same women should also love Nostalgia. Yes, this is a fragrance that initially skews somewhat masculine, but that “racing fuel” opening is incredibly short-lived on me and on others, and the rest of the fragrance is much more approachable. Nostalgia should work for anyone who can handle the smoky birch tar aspects of Lonestar Memories, Profumum’s Arso and Bvlgari Black, along with the leather in Rien or Tabac Blond (both of which are significantly and substantially more leathered than Nostalgia), and smoky scents which contain touches of earthy patchouli. Those people should have absolutely no problem with all those various elements coming together in one fragrance that smooths out their rougher edges into a refined blend.

For everyone else, I’m not sure I would recommend Nostalgia. If you don’t like leather or birch tar, I don’t think you’d enjoy the scent. That said, I would like to emphasize again that all of the potentially difficult elements appear only in the opening phase of Nostalgia, since the majority of the fragrance’s life is centered on a very simple amber-vanilla with birch smoke that eventually turns to mere vanilla and smoke.

In short, if you’re even slightly tempted, then don’t let the sound of Nostalgia’s opening scare you off. It is a scent that both men and women who love birch leather, smoky fragrances, vanillic leather, and Bvlgari Black should try. Nostalgia is very affordable, utterly fascinating, and extremely well done.

DETAILS
Cost & Availability: Nostalgia is an Eau de Cologne that comes in a 100 ml/ 3.3 oz splash bottle and which costs $125 or €95. In the U.S.: Nostalgia is available directly from Santa Maria Novella’s US website which offers free shipping for orders over $150. (You may need to buy an atomizer spray that they offer to go with the bottle, as I believe it might be a dab bottle, like some of their other fragrances.) Santa Maria Novella also has numerous other sections worth checking out. All items are cruelty-free and have not been tested on animals. The Pet Section includes everything from Lemongrass Anti-Mosquito repellant in lotion form to No Rinse Cleansing Foams, and more. Santa Maria Novella also has stores in 5 U.S. cities from L.A., to New York, Chevy Chase, Dallas and Bal Harbour, Fl, and you can find those addresses on the website. Also, LAFCO, on Hudson St. in NYC, is said to carry the entire SMN line. I checked the LAFCO website, and I don’t see any Santa Maria Novella’s products on it, but I believe they carry them in-store. Other U.S. vendors: Brooklyn’s Dry Goods NY sells Nostalgia below retail for the old SMN price of $110, while NY’s Carson Street Clothiers sells it way above retail at $165. Aedes in New York seems to carry a good selection of some Santa Maria Novella products, from candles to soaps, along with Nostalgia for $125. You can order Nostalgia by phone from Luckyscent, but it is not one of the fragrances that you can order from the website. Frankly, there seems to be an odd situation with a few vendors being unable to sell SMN fragrances on their website, with one NL site explicitly saying that they received a directive from the company not to do so, but only to offer their fragrances in store. I don’t understand it.
Outside the U.S.: In Canada, a retail chain called Gravity Pope carries an extensive number of Santa Maria Novella products, from fragrances to shampoos, lotions and soaps. They show Nostalgia on their website, but for the reasons listed above, cannot sell it online but only in store. In Europe, you can turn to the Italian Santa Maria Novella website to buy Nostalgia, but I’m having a little trouble navigating the site. There is also no pricing that I can find. The SMN Farmacia has a number of European off-shoots: stores in London and in Paris. I can’t find an address for the Paris store, but the official distributor for the company’s products is Amin Kader Paris which has two stores in the Paris. Again, I can’t find Euro pricing information for the fragrance. On a side note, on a Fodor’s site, I read that Santa Maria Novella has shops in the following cities: Roma, Venice, Lucca, Forte dei Marmi, Bologna, Castiglione della Pescaia, London, Paris, and Livorno. In the Netherlands, Lianne Tio sells Nostalgia in her Rotterdam store for €95, but not on her website due to the SMN directive. Switzerland’s Osswald also carries the full SMN line, but doesn’t seem to have an e-store. In Poland, I found Nostalgia at Galilu, while in Auckland, New Zealand, it is available at Passion for Paper, though you can’t seem to buy it directly from the website. In Russia, the full SMN line, along with Nostalgia, can be ordered by phone from Ebaumer.
Samples: I obtained my sample from Surrender to Chance which carries Nostalgia starting at $3.99 for a 1 ml vial.

LM Parfums Patchouly Bohème

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

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

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

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

Source: emporium.az

Source: emporium.az

LM Parfums describes Patchouly Boheme and its notes as follows:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: taste.com.au

Source: taste.com.au

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo:  Patricia Bieszk. Source: theadventourist.com

Photo: Patricia Bieszk. Source: theadventourist.com

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

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

Source: foodgawker.com

Source: foodgawker.com

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

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

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

Source: freehdw.com

Source: freehdw.com

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

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

Source: colourbox.com

Source: colourbox.com

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

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

Dried Indonesian patchouli leaves via Dior.com.

Dried Indonesian patchouli leaves via Dior.com.

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

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

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

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

Another commentator writes:

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

The best from this house.

Longevity is more than 12 hours and sillage is strong.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: pixabay.com

Source: pixabay.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

LM Parfums Black Oud

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

Photo: my own.

Photo: my own.

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

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

Photo: my own.

Photo: my own.

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

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

Source: wallpaperup.com

Source: wallpaperup.com

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

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

Black in bottle, non-travel form.

Black in bottle, non-travel form.

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

Source: quotes-pictures.feedio.net

Source: quotes-pictures.feedio.net

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

Mysore sandalwood cross-section. Source: vk.com

Mysore sandalwood cross-section. Source: vk.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: hotguyscollection.com

Source: hotguyscollection.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: HDwallpapers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: 8tracks.com

Source: 8tracks.com

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

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

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

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

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Black Oud is pure parfum extrait that is available only in a 100 ml/3.4 oz bottle which costs $225 or €195. In the U.S.: Laurent Mazzone’s fragrances are sold exclusively at Osswald NYC. If, at some point in the future, you don’t see Black Oud listed at that link, it’s because Osswald takes down a perfume’s page when they’re temporarily out-of-stock, then puts it back up later. Outside the U.S.: you can buy Black Oud directly from LM Parfums. In addition, they offer large decant samples of all LM Parfums extraits which are priced at €19 for 5 ml size. LM Parfums also owns Premiere Avenue which sells both Black Oud and the 5 ml decant. It ships worldwide. In the UK, the LM Parfums line is exclusive to Harvey Nichols. In Paris, LM Parfums are sold at Jovoy. In the Netherlands, you can find Black Oud at ParfuMaria. The LM Parfums line is also available at Silks Cosmetics. In Germany, First in Fragrance carries the full line, and sells samples as well. You can also find LM Parfums at Essenza Nobile, Italy’s Vittoria Profumi, or Alla Violetta. In the Middle East, I found most of the LM Parfums line at the UAE’s Souq perfume site. For all other countries, you can find a vendor near you from Switzerland to Belgium, Lithuania, Russia, Romania, Croatia, Azerbaijan, and more, by using the LM Parfums Partner listing. Laurent Mazzone or LM Parfums fragrances are widely available throughout Europe, and many of those sites sell samples as well. Samples: A number of the sites listed above sell samples. In the U.S., none of the decanting sites carry LM Parfums, but you can call Osswald NYC at (212) 625-3111 to order samples. They have a special phone deal for U.S. customers where 10 samples of any 10 fragrances in 1 ml vials is $10 with free shipping. However, they are currently out of vials until mid-March.

Masque Fragranze Montecristo

Source: opserver.de

Source: opserver.de

Welcome to the jungle, as Axl Rose would say. Somewhere, perhaps in Paraguay, Africa, or Mongolia, a leather and fur-skin clad hunter called Montecristo stalks his prey through a jungle filled with tobacco plants and Cabreuva trees smelling of lemony florals. The trees are sprinkled with red chili pepper, cumin and costus root, then heavily blanketed in honey. The ground is a soft field of creamy brown from ambrette shrubs that waft a warm, vegetal, muskiness sweetness. They too are covered with honey. Scampering through the vegetation is the fluffiest, most adorable animal imaginable. He occasionally stops to pee on all the bushes, emitting a sharp, feral “YEOOWWL” in happy relief, as his scent swirls with the honey, spices and tobacco.

Source: godlikeproductions.com

Source: godlikeproductions.com

On his heels is the hunter whose heated skin and sweat stains the rough leather of his vest. The chase is hopeless, our little rodent is too fast, and the hunter goes home. Covered with honey, he’s dirty and skanky from his exertions, and his musky skin is stained with traces of tobacco and sweaty leather. As he sips a glass of rum, his wife sponges him off lightly, leaving a mix of cleanness and animalism on his warm skin, before she takes him off to bed to make love.

The adventures of Montecristo the Hunter are the adventures at the heart of the latest masculine, niche fragrance from Milan. Montecristo is an eau de parfum from Masque Milano, or Masque Fragranze as it is written on their website. (The house is better known as Masque Milano, so that is what I shall call them from this point forward.) The company is a relatively new, and was founded in 2012 by two close friends, Riccardo Tedeschi and Alessandro Brun.

Masque Milano founders. Source: their website.

Masque Milano founders. Source: their website.

They see their fragrances as operas in several acts, even calling their brand at one place on their website: “Masque Fragranze – the Opera of life in four acts.” They add:

With Masque Fragranze, Alessandro and Riccardo do not intend to create a myth, a best-seller, a one-size-fits-all perfume for everyone. Rather, they aim at creating a collection of perfumes with a soul. Each one unique. Perfumes to wear like a second skin … the perfume behind the mask. […] The fragrances of Masque are to be created with a soul, and the nose’s appointment is to give life to our scene. Hence, every scene will have “its” nose.

Source: Luckyscent.

Source: Luckyscent.

In the case of Montecristo, an eau de parfum which was released late last year in 2013, that nose is Delphine Thierry. On their website, Masque Fragranze describes Montecristo and its operatic screenplay as follows:

I – II
MONTECRISTO
In the livingroom of an old villa, in the Tuscan countryside.
It is the close of day.

Act I scene two
Every single element of the interior contributes to the warmth and reassuring comfort. The floor of old robust wood planks, aged and worn with the use. In the massive fireplace, coals are still burning. The comfortable couch is made of the best leather, once stout and rigid, and spotlessly tanned, is now soft and worn, and the colour is fading away. A deck of used playing cards abandoned on the coffee table. The tobacco leaves of the hand rolled cigar. A glass of rum.

Head Notes
Cabreuva, Ambrette Seeds, Rum

Heart Notes
Tobacco Leaves, Celery Seeds, Cistus [Labdanum], Benzoin

Base Notes
Golden Stone [Hyrax], Styrax Gum, Gaiac Wood, Cedar Wood, Patchouli. [Emphasis in bolding added by me.]

The Cabreuva tree. Source: purenature.co.nz

The Cabreuva tree. Source: purenature.co.nz

Two of those notes leapt out at me as something totally alien, so I did some research. As it turns out, those two ingredients play a big role in terms of Montecristo’s development on my skin, so I’ll take some time to explain what they entail. Apparently, “Cabreuva” is a type of tree found primarily in Paraguay. The aromatherapy site, White Lotus Aromatics, explains its smell and perfume uses:

The essential oil of Cabreuva (Myrocarpus fastigiatus) is a pale yellow liquid displaying a delicate, suave, sweet woody bouquet with a balsamic, floral undertone of good tenacity. […][¶] It is highly valued as a low cost fixative.

“Although very delicated and apparently faint, the odor of Cabreuva oil is often under-estimated in its effect of freshness and suave floral notes. In rose, lily of the valley, cassie, ambre and in woody-oriental perfumes, Cabreuva lends teancity and distinct notes of ‘precious wood’ with a background of slightly green, dry floralness, a combination rarely found in synthetic perfume materials.” Steffen Arctander

I have absolutely no idea what “golden stone” may be as an ingredient, and Google yielded nothing that applied, but the note appears to be what Fragrantica lists as Hyrax on its Montecristo page. According to its Hyrax definition entry, the hyrax is a small, adorably cute rodent whose feces have a super useful purpose in both ancient and modern perfumery. The Hyrax is the single, most important element in Masque Milano’s Montecristo, so bear with me as I quote from Fragrantica:

Hyrax via Fragrantica.

Hyrax via Fragrantica.

Odor profile: essence from the small rodent hyrax’s dried up crystalline fecal matter, combining olfactory facets of musk, civet and castoreum. Invaluable in a time when animalic essences derived by cruelty are banned. [¶]

Hyraceum, or Hyrax, is an aromatic raw material of the antique perfumery. However, men used this material much before they started to use it in perfumery. The African tribesman and people of the Middle East used Hyraceum as a traditional remedy for epilepsy, kidney problems, convulsions and feminine hormonal disorders. [¶] This substance is actually the petrified and rock-like excrement formed from the urine of hyrax. Hyraceum is fairly sterile, stone-hard material that also contains pheromones[….]

Photo: Fragrantica

Photo: Fragrantica

In perfumery, we use very old, fossilized, dry and stone-heavy Hyraceum, which is typically over hundreds if not thousands of years old. It gives an animalistic, sensual and deep note that feels like a combination of musk, civet, castoreum, tobacco and agarwood. Because of its characteristic structure, this material is also known as Africa Stone. Earthy, rich and resinous[….] Last but not the least, no animals are harmed in making this material. [Emphasis added by me.]

When I smelled Masque’s Montecristo in the vial, I was struck by the softly lemony, floral musk aroma and how it glittered with drops of golden honey. Taking a deeper sniff, I could immediately see the feral yeowl in the back, but the primary impression was a lemon-infused “slightly green, dry floralness,” as quoted in Cabreuva’s description up above. When you apply a small dose of Montecristo on the skin, that bouquet continues to be very dominant, though it is not the main player by any means. It’s quite another story, however, if you apply a lot of Montecristo; in my case, about 3 good smears amounting to more than 1/4th of a 1 ml vial, or about the equivalent of one spray from a bottle. This review will focus primarily on what happens in that situation.

Amouage Opus VIIMontecristo opens on my skin with a lightly floral, woody muskiness, but the fluffy, cute hyrax rodent’s yeowl is evident from the start. The animalic notes are urinous, dirty, skanky, raunchy, and every other adjective that you can possibly imagine. I was immediately struck by the thought of vintage Kouros, and, to a much lesser extent, Amouage‘s Opus VII. Parts of what I wrote in that review apply here as well, as Montecristo’s scent is

urinous, like animal droppings, but also musky with a faint tinge of dirty hair underneath and [lemony nuances]. […] [The] sharply animalic note — often described by some as resembling “urinal cakes” — makes vintage Kouros a deeply polarizing fragrance. I suspect the same will be true of Opus VII. … [As a whole,] it is a deeply woody-leathery fragrance that feels quite smooth, with a savagely sensuous heart at its base and something that seems almost like a velvety floral.

Both vintage Kouros and Opus VII contain costus, an animalic base created by Symrise. There is no such note listed in Montecristo, but hyrax was described up above as having an aroma that combined the olfactory profiles of civet, castoreum, and real musk, presumably of the original Tonkin deer musk variety. So, if you’re familiar with any of those aromas, or with Opus VII, then you will have a definite idea of the main note in Montecristo’s opening hour. However, I should add that the costus-like aroma in Montecristo is substantially weaker than what I experienced with Opus VII. There, it was so intense and sharp that I described feeling as though a lion had peed on me and then dragged me through the Wild Cat enclosure at the zoo. Montecristo is nowhere as extreme, thank God, as I found Opus VII well-nigh unbearable. In contrast, I truly enjoy every bit of Montecristo’s raunchy dirtiness.

Source: etshoneysupliers.

Source: etshoneysupliers.

Part of the reason why is because the animalism is much better modulated in Montecristo, but the main reason is due to its combination with the other notes. Sharing center stage with the hyrax musk is deep, potent honey. It infuses every part of the scent with a further animalic touch, but also with a rich sweetness that is almost indolic. My skin amplifies base notes, so I’m not surprised that the honey is so dominant, but I wish I knew where it came from. Cabreuva wood is described as being balsamic, not honeyed, so I’m quite lost. Perhaps it’s a side-effect of the rum, though the note doesn’t feel liqueured to me but more like straight honey.

Lurking underneath it is a quiet spiciness that slowly grows more fiery. It takes less than 4 minutes for something to appear that distinctly resembles dusty cumin, followed by what smells distinctly like a fiery, red chili pepper. There is also a natural, vegetal, very warm muskiness from the ambrette (or musk mallow) stirring deep in the base. More noticeable from the start, though, are the golden leaves of tobacco which weave their way throughout the musk and feel drenched with the honey. Lightly sprinkled on top of the whole bundle is a light, boozy note of rum. The overall mixture is a plethora of warmth, feral sharpness, sharp honey, natural sweetness, tobacco, spices, and vegetal musk.

Source: thesportshole.com

Source: thesportshole.com

I find myself utterly transfixed by the animalic muskiness of the hyrax and, more to the point, all the different perfumes that Montecristo calls to mind. The urinous edge to the musk makes Montecristo different than Parfums d’Empire‘s challenging Musc Tonkin which, on my skin, opened with an extremely difficult aroma of hair, fur, fat and unwashed skin. Yet, there is a warmth underlying both fragrances, thanks to their shared note of ambrette. Montecristo feels like a more honeyed, tobacco-flecked, boozy, and ambered version of Musc Tonkin’s later, easier stages, once the fur and fat have died down. On the other hand, Montecristo is different in having the spices, as well as the lingering, extremely muted touches of the Cabreuva’s lemony, floral greenness at its edges.

Absolue Pour Le Soir, Photo pastiche: CaFleurBon

Absolue Pour Le Soir, Photo pastiche: CaFleurBon

At the 10 minute mark, the honeyed, urinous raunchiness grows stronger, as does the cumin-chili spiciness, thereby triggering similarities to other fragrances. On both occasions that I tested Montecristo and regardless of the quantity that I applied, the first parallel that arose was Absolue Pour Le Soir by Maison Francis Kurkdjian. Both scents have the same heavily honeyed focus, infused with cumin, leathered undertones, dirty musk, and ambered spiciness at the beginning. There are differences, though, as Montecristo has a chili bite (from God knows where), not to mention tobacco and booze, but no incense or strong florals. With a much lesser quantity, Montecristo’s more tobacco-centered bouquet reminded me of a distant cousin to Serge LutensChergui. A very distant cousin, as this would be an animalic, feral Chergui with spices, more amber, a thousand times more honey, darker woodiness, and no powder.

Special, limited-edition, rare bell jar bottle of Muscs Koublai Khan. Source: Serge Lutens Facebook page.

Special, limited-edition, rare bell jar bottle of Muscs Koublai Khan. Source: Serge Lutens Facebook page.

The main resemblance, however, is to another Serge Lutens fragrance: the magnificent, complicated, notorious Muscs Koublai Khan. If you apply only a small quantity of Montecristo, the musk smells similar, perhaps because the shared ambrette note, though the Masque Milano version is significantly sweeter with that powerful, animalic honey. If you use more, then Montecristo’s urinous, costus-like side is much fiercer, sharper, and rougher than it is in Musc Koublai Khan, not as smooth or refined. The more obvious, early differences are the tobacco, boozy rum, and that odd, inexplicable spice mix of cumin and chili pepper tonalities. Yet, once Montecristo’s opening mellows out and smoothens, especially three or four hours in, then the similarity to the Lutens is much closer. Perhaps the best way to sum up Montecristo’s first two hours on my skin is as a combination of Musc Koublai Khan, Absolue Pour Le Soir, and Serge Lutens’ Miel de Bois, before it eventually transitions into something more like Musc Koublai Khan mixed with lemony oud, dark resins, and leather. (We’ll get to those notes shortly.)

All this talk of Absolue Pour Le Soir brings me to another point: honey and skin chemistry. Honey — whether real or the side-effect of another note — is one of the trickier elements in perfumery. On some skin, it can turn screechingly sharp, akin to cat pee, plastic, or both. On others, however, it blooms. I happen to be one of the lucky ones, with the rather glaring exception of Miel de Bois. The one time I tested it was a rather horrific experience, though I plan on giving it a thorough, full assessment at some point in the future. My point, though, is that you may want to keep the skin chemistry issue in mind if you’re curious about Montecristo but don’t know how your skin traditionally deals with honey. And, as should obviously be clear by now, if you can’t stand any sort of animalic, dirty musk, or cumin notes in your perfumes, you will want to give Montecristo wide berth.

If the discussion of animalic honey and musk, costus, feral notes, rodent pee, cumin and the rest has you alarmed, well, Montecristo is a lot more balanced than you’d think. The perfume moves a bit like the shape of an “M” on a graph, where it opens softly, builds up mere minutes later, and feels pretty ferocious after 15 minutes. Yet, even at that point, changes are occurring to soften the impact, counter the animalic “Yeowl” that I keep referencing, and start the transition downwards to something much more approachable in nature. A quarter of an hour in, a soft, almost powdered creaminess stirs in the base. It’s lovely, reminding me of white honey beeswax butter or cream. Slowly, very slowly, it helps to take the edge of the urinous raunchiness, diffusing its slightly acidic sharpness. Also making its first appearance is a dried woodiness that, at lower doses of Montecristo, had a distinctly oud-like aroma.

Photo: Samuel S.  Photo-men.com

Photo: Samuel S. Photo-men.com

It takes exactly 28 minutes for Montecristo to lose some of its ferocity on my skin, and to begin the slow transition to a smoother, less aggressively sharp fragrance. All the same elements are there as in the opening, but the raw, hard edges are being coated with a honeyed creaminess and satiny mellowness. I really think the ambrette plays a large part in all this, as its musky aroma is of the ultra-smooth, vegetal, plush variety. For me, its warmth is akin to the real scent of human skin, but clean, warm, skin the way it after a long, deep nap under a thick blanket. Montecristo’s musk isn’t at that stage yet, but it does show the first touches of a baby-soft, human fuzziness about it.

If I’m not talking loads about the tobacco, it’s because it really wasn’t the dominant note on my skin. In neither of my two tests of Montecristo did it trump the musk. In fact, the tobacco felt significantly weaker when I applied a greater quantity of Montecristo, as the honey and animalic musk were amplified.

At the end of the first hour, Montecristo turns softer in weight, density, and silage. The perfume is now a cloud radiating 2-3 inches above the skin, as soft as a baby’s chenille blanket in feel. It is primarily a warm, vegetal, sweet musk that really evokes for me the feel of human skin. It is still urinous and animalic, but the dirty side is much softer, more muted and smoother. With every passing quarter-hour, the urinous edge seems to take another tiny step back to the sidelines to join the tiny dabs of tobacco, boozy rum, and that rather nebulous whisper of woodiness.

Photo: Samuel S. via trendhunter.com

Photo: Samuel S. via trendhunter.com

As a whole, the musk feels much more velvety, deep, and creamier than it is in Serge Lutens’ Muscs Koublai Khan (“MKK“). What I can’t seem to decide is whether the note is more or less feral than it is in the Lutens at a similar stage. In other words, the degree of pee. (The MKK was never fecal on my skin as it is on some people.) At various points in my notes, I wrote that Montecristo’s urinous yeowl softens much, much sooner than the same note does in MKK. On my skin, MKK has a quieter urinous, dirty, musky note at the start, relatively speaking, but it seems to last much longer than it does with Montecristo. In fact, when I wore MKK this summer, the feral bits were very sharp on me at times as well.

Yet, every time in the first few hours that I think that Masque’s Montecristo has settled into something not as animalic, something that is closer to the fuzziness of MKK’s later stages on my skin, something happens to make me change my mind. The urinous edge fools me, repeatedly, into thinking that it has receded. To be clear, it lasts almost to the very end, but I’m talking about how dominant it is, how long it takes for it to feel less of a dominating presence, and the time it takes for Masque’s Montecristo to approach the softer, “human skin” stage of the Lutens. All I can firmly say is that, as a whole, the musk in the Lutens feels thinner, lighter, and without the creaminess that I sense in Montecristo.

At the 90 minute mark, Montecristo turns drier and darker. The honey is much less dominant, and is folded into the musky base as a whole. The urinous edge is more muffled in feel, as are the tobacco and cumin. The rum and chili pepper have completely vanished. In contrast, the abstract woodiness starts to rise to the surface, along with that growing flicker of something oud-like. After 2.5 hours, Montecristo is a soft, animalic, vaguely dirty, sweetened scent with great warmth, ambrette musk, and leathery accents, all atop an amorphously woody base. Only the lightest touch of honey and tobacco lurk in the background. The perfume also hovers just above the skin at this point, and very weightless in feel.

Leather Tanning in Morocco. Photo by Burrard-Lucas via http://www.burrard-lucas.com/photo/morocco/leather_tanning.html

Raw leather being tanned in Morocco. Photo by Burrard-Lucas via http://www.burrard-lucas.com/photo/morocco/leather_tanning.html

What is interesting throughout Montecristo’s life is the leather undertone. It is never full-on or strongly black leather, but, rather, an impression resulting from the hyrax’s castoreum-like side. And its prominence fluctuates quite sharply. In the opening minutes, Montecristo has a definite whiff of something that made me think of the raw, uncured, animalic hides in Montale‘s Aoud Cuir d’Arabie. The note was quickly subsumed with the general, costus-like, urinous swirl of dirty animalism, but the leather was a definite subtext in the first hour. By the end of the 3rd hour, however, the leather feels unbelievably supple, lurking under the warm muskiness in a way that simply magnifies the latter. The softened, leathered castoreum also makes the warm musk feel incredibly velvety, evoking the feel of heated skin, perhaps after sex. A few hours later, however, the leather regains some rawness, but it’s a rather fluctuating dance back and forth. In all cases, the leather is only an undertone on my skin, and a rather quiet one at that.

Source: imgfave.com. Artist or creator unknown.

Source: imgfave.com. Artist or creator unknown.

Montecristo is beautifully blended, and the notes feel quite seamless at times. I think that explains, in part, the variegated nature of the leather, but it’s not the only note that fluctuates. Once the intensity of the honey dies down, the cumin reappears as well, but this time it’s quite different. Instead of smelling merely like dusty powder in some Moroccan souk, the cumin smells lightly dirty. I don’t want to say “body odor,” because I don’t want to give the impression that the note smells like sweaty, hairy armpits. It doesn’t. It also doesn’t carry a stale, fetid, aroma of someone who hasn’t washed in days. I swear, it really doesn’t. But, yes, there is no getting around the light, earthy whiff of a body scent. God, I can see half of you stampeding for the door by now, as this is probably the very last straw in this whole Montecristo saga. If it makes any difference, it’s all very subtle. I mean it quite sincerely when I say that, if you can handle the cumin note in Absolue Pour Le Soir, you should have no problems with it here.

Montecristo continues to turn darker and woodier. By the end of the 5th hour, the Cabreuva’s lemony touches return, though they now feel underscored by a very fragrant, balsamic, dark resin. The slightest touch of something nebulously floral lurks at the edges, but much more noticeable is the almost agarwood-like nuance to the wood. As a whole, Montecristo increasingly smells of a lemony, slightly oud-like, vaguely dusty, resinous woodiness infused with a warm musk that is simultaneously vegetal and slightly urinous. The honey has been folded within; the tobacco briefly returns before flitting away again; and the leather fluctuates back and forth in strength, smoothness, and prominence. Montecristo remains weightless in feel, and continues to hover just above the skin, requiring little effort to detect its nuances if you bring your arm near your nose.

Source: Zavvi.com

Source: Zavvi.com

It takes about 9 hours from the opening for Montecristo to turn into truly fuzzy musk scent. It is soft, warm, and sweet with just a slight powderiness underlying it. The texture is lovely, as it feels as soft as a petal. Now, finally, it becomes harder to detect, though Montecristo had turned into a skin scent somewhere near the end of the 7th hour. Montecristo turns more and more into the scent of sweetened, slightly heated human skin with a tiny touch of powderiness. It finally fades away on the same note, just over 14 hours from the start. I thoroughly enjoyed every bit of its dirtiness and multi-layered complexity, finding its fluctuating, morphing levels to reflect great technical skill, and I remained fascinated with its nuances from start to finish.

There are already a handful of reviews for Montecristo, mostly from people who are drawn to this sort of fragrance to begin with and, as such, they are all very positive. Though I’ll get to the blog reviews shortly, I actually think the forum analysis from places like Basenotes and Fragrantica provides more useful, detailed or comparative information. One early Basenotes thread lovingly called Montecristo a “skanky, little monster,” and the poster, “Alfarom,” talked about Serge Lutens’ MKK:

The opening is literally arresting. A skank overload provided by a thick amount of hirax and other animalic musks. It immediately brings to mind of the fecal opening of MKK but whereas the Lutens morphes into a floral rosey thing, Montecristo gets all dark and moody with tobacco, resins and some of the darkest patchouli ever. Boozy / balmy notes lurk in the back providing some smoothness to an otherwise extremely challenging fragrance. The result is fascinating to say the least. The fragrance is pervaded by a warm animalic vibe throughout. Sort of a mash up between Lubin’s most oriental offerings and heavy animalic musks fragrances a-la Musk Tonkin and MKK.

On Fragrantica, there is similar talk about MKK. One commentator, “deadidol,” had a very different experience than I did with Montecristo, and you may find his wonderfully detailed review to be quite helpful. It reads, in part, as follows:

This has a super dirty opening of hyraceum and ambrette seed that could give MKK a run for its money. But whereas MKK is very civet-based, this leans more toward the sweatier side of things and will certainly challenge those who don’t fair well with hard-core musks. However, within ten minutes, it takes a massive detour into an unconventionality that’s wildly evocative and decidedly convincing in the associations it brings up.

Rum via cafekeyif.com.au

Rum via cafekeyif.com.au

There’s a booze note (rum), but it’s more like the smell of booze that’s oozing from the pores of someone who downed the bottled a few hours ago—it’s got an unnerving filtered feeling to it. […] There are some relatively undefined wood notes, but combined they smell more like old bookshelves and furniture; and there’s something here that gives the impression of an extinguished fire as well. Imagine a poorly ventilated space that’s been coated with a layer of sticky, smoky, charcoal-type residue—a slightly sweet ashy scent, but mixed with dust that’s sat for days to produce a not unpleasant staleness that’s completely comforting. Frankly, it’s quite hard to perform a technical dissection of Montecristo as it’s evoking space more than individual notes, and it’s doing so phenomenally well.

So, this is a dusty, rustic, vaguely reminiscent scent that feels as though you’re looking into its world through an opaque piece of glass. Everything in it seems peculiarly distanced, yet it all comes together in a sublime way. I don’t know how wearable this would be for most people as it almost smells stagnant, but it’s hugely compelling and surprisingly cozy. If you’ve ever been drawn to parchment type scents (or perhaps the smell of old bookstores), or you like the challenge of a good ambrette seed musk, this is absolutely sui generis, and for me, it’s the best scent of 2013 hands-down.

There are female commentators on Fragrantica who seem to like Montecristo too, though there are only a handful of them thus far. One of them initially wrinkled her nose and thought, “this is way too much” but further testing changed her mind: the “more I test “Montecristo”, the more I adore it.” She calls it “a superb example of a true niche perfumer” that is “complex and dramatic.”

Source: Dailymail.com from Tradewinds Realty.

Old trapper’s hunting cabin. Source: Dailymail.com from Tradewinds Realty.

In terms of blog reviews, one of the more detailed ones comes from Fragrantica itself, where Serguey Borisov talks at length about the hyraceum and has a very evocative description of Montecristo. The piece is long, so I’ll quote the more relevant parts beginning with the images which Montecristo evokes for him. As you will note, he had a similar experience to “deadidol” on Fragrantica in terms of the perfume’s dusty woodiness:

An old clay mug with rum or whiskey stands on the table, an old sagging leather chair with cracked, scuffed and greasy arms, an old dog lying on the bearskin in front of it. Animal head trophies are on the wall—heads with the fangs, horns and ears. An old hunting rifle is positioned next to them. The entire room smells of animal musk, clove buds and dusty mineral particles which are reminiscent of gold or diamonds.

This is what the home of a troubled man smells like. The man had to be a priest and a soldier, a hunter and his prey, a miner and a night watchman. He lived so many different lives, with every single one’s own story written on his face. […]

Montecristo has a special animalic aura. It’s goaty smell is similar to costus or Symrise’s animalic base. [Hyraceum’s] scent is elegant and reminiscent of musk, castoreum, oud and civet. […][¶] It’s a wild and animalic nuance, it’s uncivilized and dangerous and as vague as dark shadows in a nocturnal forest. Wild, intense and smelly aromas make Montecristo just as dirty and brutal as Oud Cuir d’Arabie by Montale, but more bitter and more mineralic. The opaque brown formula, the scent of goat, resins and the bitterness of patchouli—that’s what distinguishes Montecristo from conventional incense perfume. Plus, it was strengthened with Iso E Super and musk.

I truly don’t detect ISO E Super in Montecristo, and I’m usually a weathervane for the bloody note. If it’s there, I don’t think it’s responsible for that vaguely oud-like smell to the wood. Serguey Borisov says the hyrax can be reminiscent of oud, so that’s the probable cause. I don’t detect any of ISO E Supercrappy’s usual troublemaker aromas; not its “pink rubber bandages,” its lemony-woody buzz, its antiseptic notes, or its basic, simple, dry pepperiness. There is also nothing which gives me a searing headache, so if there is ISO E crap in Montecristo, it has to be the most infinitesimal drop around.

The Non-Blonde loved Montecristo passionately, calling its complexity “mind boggling” and writing, in part:

I can’t imagine the reaction of an average perfume buyer to Montecristo by new(ish) perfume house Masque Milano. I just can’t. This is not the perfume to wear in close quarters with the uninitiated, because you will get The Look, I guarantee.

There are too many perfume brands and too many perfumes on the market. Very few of them offer anything new, even fewer come up with anything exciting that gets added to my “Must.Get.Bottle.Now” list. I just ordered my third sample set of Masque Milano perfumes, but I already know that Montecristo is going to be in my life from now on. Because it’s that good. That sexy. That fascinating.

As you’ve probably figured out by now, Montecristo is an unabashedly animalic perfume. The main culprits are two: ambrette seed with its expensive but unwashed musky vibe, and hyrax or hyraceum, which is basically fossilized pee of a cute rodent (completely cruelty free). The complexity of this animalic combination is mind boggling. It reminds me of really good civet, gorgeous intimate musk, the dirtiest part of exquisite oud, and a general air of debauchery. […] Montecristo is, indeed, dirty and slightly sweaty (cumin isn’t listed anywhere, but I swear I can smell traces about four hours into its wear-time) , it’s also warm, very boozy, leathery and intimate. It holds you close and tells you its interesting life story all through the night [….][¶] Montecristo is still there the next morning.

I share her opinion on the fascinating nature of Montecristo. Even more so, on how it would make average perfume buyers run screaming for the cliffs, then jump off. (I could see the survivors later burning any clothing that Montecristo happened to touch.) Montecristo is probably not a perfume even for someone well-versed in niche perfumery, unless they have a definite taste for animalic, dirty, leathered, goaty scents that skew very masculine. In short, this is a perfume for those with very specific tastes. I personally would wear it if I owned it, without a doubt. But I am hesitant as to whether I would ever buy it for myself.

Source: Tumblr. Original source or photographer unknown.

Source: Tumblr. Original source or photographer unknown.

The reason is probably not what you would expect: it’s Hard Leather. The LM Parfums‘ animalic creation is my absolute favorite fragrance in recent years, and nothing is going to budge it from being at the very top of my list. If I have the need for honey-covered animalic, raunchy leather with muskiness, spice, oud and woodiness, I’ll turn to my precious bottle of Hard Leather. The perfume is more obviously leathered, has much more oud, and massive amounts of incense as well. Much more importantly, it has heaping mounds of almost impossible-to-find, genuine Mysore sandalwood from start all the way through to its gorgeous finish. The animalic notes in Hard Leather are much smoother, more refined and better calibrated than the Montecristo; the Masque Milano fragrance has a significantly more feral core, is much more urinous, and is also much sweeter. Plus, can I repeat my swoon over Hard Leather’s heaping, walloping, galloping amounts of genuine, rare Mysore sandalwood? Not a nary of a whiff of that in Montecristo.

For me personally, Hard Leather is also more versatile and easier to wear. Its dirty raunchiness is much more limited and refined in scope, so I would have no problems wearing it every day if it were not so expensive. In contrast, Montecristo is much more focused on the feral hyrax from start to finish. When you throw in the powerful role of the honey in Montecristo, the result is a scent that is best suited for special occasions, not everyday ones. Then again, I also think that way about Absolue Pour Le Soir, which is another fantastic scent, so that isn’t a slam.

If Hard Leather didn’t exist, I would absolutely consider Montecristo because I really think that it’s a super fragrance. It has phenomenal longevity, really good sillage, complexity, depth, and sexiness. It’s also not too bad in price: 100 ml of eau de parfum costs $215 or €150, which is substantially less than Hard Leather. So, if you ever wanted a mix of Absolue Pour Le Soir (APLS)  and Muscs Koublai Khan (MKK), with a small shout-out to Opus VII from the costus-like raunchiness and a nod to the rawness of Montale’s Aoud Cuir d’Arabie, then you should give the Masque Milano fragrance a sniff.

Otherwise, I would advise extreme caution. I have to emphasize as vociferously as I can that Montecristo is not for everyone. In fact, I think a lot people would struggle with it, unless they are APLS, MKK, and Hard Leather fans. I also think that Montecristo skews highly masculine. Women who don’t appreciate skanky, dirty, leathered or masculine fragrances will probably be repulsed by the urinous aspects evident here. For this perfume more than for most, skin chemistry is also going to be paramount. It’s really going to determine just how extreme some of the nuances are on your skin, from the hyrax’s dirtiness to the animalic honey and cumin.

If all goes well, hopefully, you’ll be taken to the jungle with Montecristo the hunter. If it doesn’t, don’t say that I didn’t warn you. 

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Montecristo is an eau de parfum that comes in a 100 ml bottle that costs $215 or €150. In the U.S.: you can buy Montecristo from Luckyscent, along with a sample. I could not find any other vendors. Outside the U.S.: Montecristo is available at First in Fragrance and Essenza Nobile, both of which sell samples. In the Netherlands, it is sold at ParfuMaria for €149. I couldn’t find any other retailers, especially in the UK. Masque has a website showing Montecristo, but it has no e-store and I could see no vendor list either. Samples: Surrender to Chance carries Montecristo starting at $3.99 for a 1/2 ml vial.