Profumum Sorriso

Source: Profumum website.

Source: Profumum website.

Everyone has a few perfume houses that they have a soft spot for, and generally like. Profumum (or Profumum Roma) is one of those for me, a brand whose focus on doing one thing in the richest way possible appeals to me very much. I like their aesthetic, even when some of their fragrances don’t suit my personal tastes or style. In fact, there has only been one Profumum scent that I found to be a massive disappointment. Well, now there are two.

Source: Profumum Roma website.

Source: Profumum Roma website.

Sorriso (the Italian word for “smile”) is the newest fragrance from the Italian niche perfume house, an eau de parfum that was released in late 2013. Profumum‘s website describes the perfume very simply:

The taste of life and the enthusiasm of
an embrace will donate her marvalous smile.

[Notes:] Bitter chocolate, bitter orange, vanilla, tropical woods

Sorriso opens on my skin with a concentrated, somewhat boozy, intensely sweetened vanilla note which is overtaken seconds later by dusty cocoa powder, a hint of musky oil, and a subtle woodiness. As the dry cocoa asserts its supremacy, the vanilla melts into it, losing its boozy undertone at the same time and turning slightly drier.

Source: Saveur.com

Source: Saveur.com

The bouquet in the first five minutes is nothing more than that of a swirled chocolate and vanilla milkshake. It’s deep, smooth, rich, and decadent. The chocolate is lovely, feeling simultaneously like the powdered, dusty, semi-sweet kind and a milk-based hot chocolate. There is absolutely no orange that appears on my skin, but there is a faint whisper of something a bit like dried roses wafting about for three or four minutes. The less pleasant aspect is the hint of a musky oiliness.It smells a lot like a sweetened, but very generic, inexpensive oil before eventually turning into the smell of a common, drugstore Shea butter.

Sorriso barely changes, except for the growing prominence of the sweetened, musky oil. Twenty minutes in, Sorriso is a simple chocolate milkshake scent whose every molecule is infused with vanilla, all enveloped in a musky, wholly artificial-smelling, common oiliness. Sorriso is sweet, yes, but it is also a relatively dry sweetness. This is not a syrupy or diabetically gooey gourmand on my skin. It is also a very soft scent that is surprisingly thin in feel for a Profumum. It lacks the heft, viscosity and potency of the other fragrances in the line, particularly Ambra AureaDulcis in Fundo, Patchouly, and Arso. It is also much thinner in feel than Fiore d’Ambre, though it is richer than the unpleasant, wholly synthetic Santalum. Sorriso’s projection is as soft as its weight, wafting out 2 inches at best from my skin with 3 massive smears. 

Source: Bath & Body Works.

Source: Bath & Body Works.

There is a woody note underlying Sorriso that is hard to place. It doesn’t smell like Australian Sandalwood or any of its generic, beige, synthetic substitutes. If I had to take a guess, I’d say it smells more like Cashmeran. I own a hand cream from Bath & Body Work‘s True Blue Spa Line called “Shea Cashmere,” and it smells a lot like Sorriso, minus the cocoa powder. None of these comparison to common products — whether drugstore Shea butter or a B&BW cream — is meant as a particular compliment, by the way. Not at Profumum’s prices.

Sorriso stays on its uninspired trajectory for eons, taking Profumum’s general singularity to a new level. I always say that there is nothing wrong with linearity if you like the notes, but the issue here is that they are so unimpressive and mediocre. The other problem is that, even by Profumum’s soliflore standards, its scents usually have more variegated layers or nuances than Sorriso. There are changes in such Profumum scents as Arso, Ambra Aurea, Acqua di Sale, Olibanum, or the like, even if they can occasionally be subtle or a question of degree. Sorriso makes Ambra Aurea look like one of Serge Lutens’ morphing, complex, twisting, bell jar masterpieces. Hell, it makes the entire rest of the Profumum line look like something out of an Amouage catalog, particularly in terms of quality.

Source: 123rf.com

Source: 123rf.com

Sorrio’s scent is a fatally boring flat-line, with the most noticeable changes being to the weight, body, and sillage. It takes a mere hour for Sorriso’s notes to fold onto themselves, and for the fragrance to turn into a relatively thin choco-musk bouquet with vanilla, a hint of woodiness, and musky, Shea-like butter. By the end of the second hour, it’s soft and not particularly deep, though it’s not exactly gauzy either. At the end of the 4th hour, Sorriso is a skin scent, though you can still easily detect the unchanging, mediocre bouquet if you sniff it up close.

The one, solitary change is the sudden appearance of the orange towards the middle of the 7th hour. Its unexpected arrival was almost shocking in the novelty of having something different finally happen! Unfortunately, the orange was both minor, hazy, and muted, doing nothing more than to underscore the continuing impression of Sorriso as a scent whose main characteristic from afar is dry-sweetness. Up close, if you sniff really hard with your nose on your skin, the perfume’s primary essence remains unchanged: a nebulous, sweetened, choco-musk bouquet, though even the cocoa is massively faded by now. In any event, the orange only lasted 20 minutes on my skin, so it doesn’t really matter anyway.

All too soon, Sorriso devolves into nothing more than an abstract, amorphous smear of musky, woody sweetness. There it remains until its very end, 9.75 hours from the start. I was thoroughly unimpressed with almost all of it, except for the opening two minutes which were relatively pleasant but still nothing to write home about. (Plus, the longevity was a big disappointment as compared to the rest of the Profumum line.)

1980s Bain de Soleil ad via Pinterest.

1980s Bain de Soleil ad via Pinterest.

I actually tested Sorriso twice, and my first experience was extremely different. These next words may not mean anything to anyone who didn’t live through the early 1980s, but I think it will definitely ring a bell for those who did: Bain de Soleil! At the time, my family and I were living in New York during the school year, and the big thing in America at the time were the commercials and print adverts for the suntan oil. The television commercials were especially catchy with their refrain, “Bain de Sole-ay/ For the St. Trop-ay/Tan.” It always amused me, because I never saw anyone IN St. Tropez or the South of France actually using the stuff. But I loved the commercials and how they mentally took me away from a place (and school) that I did not enjoy. So, I bought the damn thing, and rather liked the smell, primarily because it was nothing like the greasy, heavy, coconut aroma of the Hawaiian Tropic oils. Instead, the Bain de Soleil of my memory smelled of musky, sweetened Shea oil, with a touch of vanilla, some indistinct dryness, and a vague sense of a dried, abstract brown…. something. Dried fruits? Who knows? It was all so nebulous, except for the sweetened oil.

Bain de Soleil ad, 1983. Source: Pinterest.

Bain de Soleil ad, 1983. Source: Pinterest.

When I applied only a small quantity of Profumum’s Sorriso, the aroma on my skin smelled exactly like my memory of Bain de Soleil: sweetened, musky oil with a Shea oil-like aroma that was dry and infused with some intangible dried fruitiness. Bain de Soleil wasn’t at all tropical like usual suntan oils, and neither is Sorriso. But the similarities left me rather astounded for hours on end, transporting me back in time. With the small dosage, the cocoa was virtually nonexistent on my skin except as some sort of dusky, dusty…. something. The main aroma was… well, Bain de Soleil. There is no other way I can describe its nebulous, amorphous oddness. I couldn’t get over it. So, I was quite relieved when I tested Sorriso a second time around using the 3 massive smears, and detected chocolate from the start. Unfortunately, as I’ve already explained, it all went downhill from there.

My overall reaction to Sorriso isn’t boredom. It is more along the lines of, “Seriously??! This is it?!” My main problem is that Sorriso really lacked the luxuriousness that is Profumum’s signature, as well as the brand’s concentrated, hefty, rich elegance. Sorriso felt generic, cheap, and wholly pedestrian. I couldn’t help comparing it to Profumum’s gourmand take on vanilla, Dulcis in Fundo, which is one of the richest, most over-the-top vanillas that I’ve encountered, even if it is too much for my personal tastes. Sorriso does not do the same for chocolate.

Choco Musk perfume oil. Source: Al-Rashad and Amazon.

Choco Musk perfume oil. Source: Al-Rashad and Amazon.

In fact, I consistently found myself pondering whether the massively inexpensive Choco Musk oil from Al Rehab would be deeper and heavier. I haven’t tried it, but I’ve heard talk of Choco Musk, and I bet it is the same as (if not better than) Sorriso, especially for the price. It only costs $3.75 for 6ml on Amazon. Sorriso, in contrast, costs $265 which is either a rare exception to the usual Profumum price, or part of the company’s new, anticipated price hike for the line which was supposed to occur either sometime this month or in March. I’m going to order the Choco Musk just to compare, because Sorriso? Bah.

The blog reviews for Sorriso thus far are either ambivalent or negative. For Jessica on Now Smell This, the main problem seemed to be the longevity, though it doesn’t scream enthusiasm to me as a whole. Her short review states:

Just as Vanitas feels like a smoother, better constructed version of Confetto (minus the almond), Sorriso is an improvement on Battito d’Ali’s theme. It doesn’t have Battito d’Ali’s strange sharp after-taste; the vanilla helps to encourage the chocolate’s sweetness, without turning it into cake frosting, and the “bitter orange” note is meshed with a subtle anise and some mysterious additional aromatic-herbal note. The main problem with this fragrance, for me, is its lack of longevity — if Sorriso is a smile, it’s a fleeting one. And, as for much of the line, the price seems high for compositions that aren’t particularly innovative or complex. I like a guilty-pleasure gourmand as much as anyone, but to me, it shouldn’t cost more than a perfume from Editions de Parfums or Serge Lutens.

The Non-Blonde couldn’t stand Sorriso, though she had no longevity problems at all. She wrote, in part:

I was very excited about Sorriso, the new fragrance from Profumum. […] It sounds like a gourmand heaven for my chocolate-loving heart. The problem started right away: Sorriso greeted me with a harsh and loud saccharine confection that reminded me of dairy-free whipped desserts. It’s frothy, sweet, vanillic, and utterly artificial. The worst part? On my skin this perfume smells cheap.

No matter how much I tried, the chocolate Profumum had promised never arrived for me (neither did the bitter orange). I tested Sorriso in the cold air and while working out. No chocolate, but … I kept getting this piercing not-really vanilla foam. I did not enjoy the process. The husband’s skin was not much help, either. Sorriso on him was a bit fatty with a hint of a coconut-like suntan lotion. Not real coconut, just that manufactured oiliness. No chocolate either.

As is often the case with overly sweet perfumes that trigger my Do.Not.Want reflex, Sorriso has the tenacity and  determination of Her Majesty The Queen. […] I enjoy several Profumum creations, mostly the masculine woody ones. I guess Sorriso will join Dulcis in Fundo and Acqua e Zucchero, two other hugely popular Profumum gourmands that I simply can’t stand.

I smirked when I read about her husband’s experience and the fatty suntain oil. (I wonder if he’s ever smelled Bain de Soleil?) It does seem as though the Non-Blonde herself doesn’t like serious, heavy gourmands, though her issue here was clearly more with the total domination of a synthetic-smelling vanilla than with anything else. I don’t like hardcore gourmands, either, but Sorriso wasn’t one on my skin. It wasn’t anything, frankly, except wishy-washy and utterly mediocre, at best. If it had at least tried to be like Dulcis in Fundo, I would respect it for meeting the Profumum standard, but it doesn’t. In fact, Sorriso falls far short of it, in my opinion. And we won’t even start on how over-priced it is for what you’re getting!

On Fragrantica, there are only two reviews for Sorriso thus far, and they are widely divergent. The first is positive:

If Dulcis in Fundo can be called a magnificent orange dreamsicle, then Sorriso can sit beside it in the freezer as a magnificent Fudgesicle. [¶] It’s a prominent, yet soft, cocoa on a creamy vanilla base, tempered by a touch of popsicle stick. I get no orange here (certainly nothing like Dulcis in Fundo).

I find it gentle and appealing, something I would be happy to wear. I would be tempted to go for a full bottle if I had not already invested in Gourmand Coquin. Gourmand Coquin is *in your face* divine, while Sorriso is more reserved. They don’t serve quite the same purpose, but it would take a budget bigger than mine to justify owning both.

The second review is from “Alfarom,” a poster with whom I often seem to share the same opinion of things. In fact, his second sentence is verbatim what I wrote in my notes a few times:

What? Are they serious? Considering the name of the fragrance, I don’t think so. Italian word *Sorriso* stands for english word *Smile* but I think at Profumum they understimated the hilarious power of this stuff. It would have probably better be labelled as *Laugh* or, considering how juvenile this stuff smells, even *LOL*.

A cheap and vile concoction of cacao and hyper-sweet vanilla with a tad of the sweetest sandalwood thrown in. It would suck even in the I Tesori d’Oriente’s range. Meh!…with a laugh.

Rating: 3/10.

I quite agree. “Are they serious?” sums it up perfectly. 

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Sorriso is an Eau de Parfum that only comes in a large 3.4 oz/100 ml bottle which costs $265 (or €190, I think). Profumum unfortunately doesn’t have an e-shop from which you can buy their fragrances directly. In the U.S.: Sorriso is available at Luckyscent. While most of the Profumum Roma line is carried by OsswaldNYC, Sorriso is not included for some odd reason. Outside the U.S.: In the UK, Profumum perfumes are sold at Roja Dove’s Haute Parfumerie in Harrods. My problem in trying to give you European retail links this time around is that I can’t find a single seller who carries Sorriso online! All the traditional Profumum vendors do not show Sorriso on their website, even though it was released several months ago. I have no explanation, but if you’re reading this post much later from its original date of publication, you can generally find Profumum sold at: Osswald in Zurich, Paris’ Printemps store, Premiere Avenue in France (which also ships worldwide, I believe), France’s Soleil d’Or, the Netherlands’ Celeste, Hungary’s Neroli, and Russia’s Lenoma boutiques. According to the Profumum website, their fragrances are carried in a large number of small stores from Copenhagen to the Netherlands, Poland, France, the rest of Europe, and, of course, Italy. You can use the Profumum Store Locator located on the left of the page linked to above. Samples: Surrender to Chance carries samples of Sorriso starting at $3.99 for a 1/2 ml vial. You can also order from Luckyscent.

Parfumerie Générale Coze (PG02): Cozy, Spiced Warmth

Source: wallpaperscraft.ru

Source: wallpaperscraft.ru

Close your eyes, and imagine that you’re lying in a field on a hot summer’s day. All around you are tall blades of fresh, green grass, but this is a very different sort of field. Your head rests on large bales of hemp, large pods of cocoa sprout up around your body next to black stalks of Madagascar vanilla, and the patchouli earth is a mix of sweetness and dryness. The sun shines on your face, but brown-red clouds shower cloves and nutmeg down on you, while a dry wind blows a soft smokiness from the ebony trees circling the field. Dotting the landscape all around are picnic tables covered by tobacco leaves that have been lightly drizzled by honey. As you doze in the warmth and golden sweetness, the scenery changes and you’re carried off in a cloud of cloves, nutmeg and chocolate, threaded through with patchouli and dry woods, and a dash of vanilla. Welcome to the special world of Coze.

Pierre Guillaume. Source: CaFleureBon

Pierre Guillaume. Source: CaFleureBon

Coze is a gorgeous, cozy eau de toilette from Parfumerie Générale that I simply loved, a fragrance that straddles the line between an oriental and a gourmand in a perfectly calibrated mix of spices, warmth, dryness, and sweetness. I’d heard a lot about Coze from a friend who strongly encouraged me to try it, raving about its patchouli aspects and its coziness, but I had held off for fear of the ISO E Super that Pierre Guillaume seemed so fond of in his other fragrances. He was right, I was unnecessarily leery, and I wish I had followed his advice sooner. Coze has neither ISO E Supercrappy nor any of the excessive, cloying, diabetic sweetness that is the hallmark of Pierre Guillaume’s Phaedon line. Instead, Coze is beautifully balanced, and the perfect sort of “Cozy Scent,” my second favorite category of fragrance. True, there are a few flaws which prevent it from being perfect, but, in the overall scheme of things and for the price, I think Coze is fantastic. It is definitely going on my “Must Buy” list.

Coze. Source: Fragrantica.

Coze. Source: Fragrantica.

Coze is the second in Pierre Guillaume’s numbered line of fragrances (02) and is an eau de toilette that was released in 2002. Parfumerie Generale describes the scent as follows:

Woody Oriental Tobacco – Spicy and Vibrant

A shortened olfactory pyramid for this first scent based on essential Canapa Sativa Seed Oil. [¶] The olfactory complexity of this new extraction, which Parfumerie Générale has the exclusive rights to, deserved a bold and original construction capable of bringing out all the facets of this rare and precious ingredient. In place of the head note, the disconcerting, captivating Canapa Sativa heralds, a rich, warm juice.

Its heart is vibrant with spices and precious wood : pepper, pimento and coffee fuse and flame to announce the sensuality of ebony, the rich, bewitching sweetness of chocolate and the infusion of Bourbon vanilla pods.

Indian Hemp, Patchouli, Spices, Blond Tobacco.

Hemp, dried out and with seeds, via Wikipedia.

Hemp, dried out and with seeds, via Wikipedia.

The succinct and complete list of notes, as compiled from that description, seems to be:

canapa sativa seed oil [Indian hemp], pepper, pimento [chili], coffee, ebony wood, chocolate, bourbon vanilla pods, Patchouli, Spices, Blond Tobacco.

Fragrantica, however, adds in cedar and sandalwood, something that I have not seen on any other sites. Luckyscent, however, omits both the patchouli and tobacco. Meanwhile, OsswaldNYC mentions both, but also brings up nutmeg as well. Whatever the specific details may be, one thing I can tell you is that Coze is reported to have been reformulated. It is something mentioned by quite a number of people, from those commenting on Luckyscent to my friend who loves Coze passionately but who mourns its change in potency and richness. (He says it is “25%” less dense.) Finally, I should add that I have no clue what “hemp” may smell like beyond its dried grass characteristics. I’ve come across hemp rope, but all I took away from it was the dried aspect.

Coze‘s opening takes me to a field of sunshine and warmth. The perfume opens on my skin with a fierce, concentrated explosion of nutmeg and cloves, then black pepper, chili flakes, and patchouli. In their trail is the sweet aroma of dried tobacco that smells like tobacco leaves drizzled with honey after being soaked in rich vanilla extract. The whole thing is lovely, but becomes even better when the cocoa arrives. It resembles rich slabs of semi-sweet chocolate, as well as dusty cocoa powder. As the Madagascar vanilla and chocolate infuse the top notes, the spicy patchouli turns earthier. It smells like sweet, slightly wet, loamy soil, but also something dustier and drier. Tying the whole thing together like a bundle are sweet grassy notes, presumably from the hemp.

Bakhoor incense. Source: darulkutub.co.uk

Bakhoor incense. Source: darulkutub.co.uk

Coze is sweet, but it’s also too dry to be a true gourmand fragrance. Nothing about it resembles dessert, despite the chocolate and vanilla elements. The fragrance is much more like an Oriental at the start with gourmand touches that have been carefully calibrated to be on the drier side, rather than the heavily sweet. There is a subtle smokiness to the notes, perhaps from the ebony wood. Tendrils of a Bakhoor-type of incense weave around the cloves, nutmeg, patchouli and chocolate, leaving me quite mesmerized by the overall effect.

Source: caffiendsvictoria.com

Source: caffiendsvictoria.com

I don’t know what is the better final touch: the honey drizzled on the blond tobacco, or the subtle traces of expresso coffee that join the festivities after 10 minutes. The whole thing is luscious, rich, smooth, and deep, a combination of notes that is utterly like catnip to me. In fact, I rather feel like a cat who — dazed and drugged — wants to stretch out in the warmth of the fiery spices, dryness, sweetness and darkness. Coze is neither light nor dark in its shadings, but a mix of both with the light tobacco and ebony woods. Yet, the predominant colours are earth tones led by the fiery, red-brown cloves. Somewhere in Tuscany, there is a painter trying to capture these exact shades of umber, burnt umber, sienna, terracotta, expresso, sun-bleached grass, and golden sunshine.

Cloves, close up. Source: www.toothachesremedies.net

Cloves, close up. Source: http://www.toothachesremedies.net

I grant you, I’m both a patch head and a lover of cloves, but neither is the sole reason why I find Coze to be glorious. The more I wear it, the more time passes, the less I can decide what appeals to me most. Like a spoilt child indulged in a candy store, I’m dazzled by the array of choices, notes that feel tailor-made for me. I’ve changed my mind on the tobacco being the coup de gras, as the note is far too subtle and minor in the overall scheme of things. I settle on the chocolate for a brief moment, but, being fickle, I change my mind again. No, I think it really may be the cloves. God, they’re fantastic. Coze’s opening is like a richer, more concentrated version of Caron‘s legendary Poivre Pure Parfum which in its modern form is much weaker on the chili pepper, cloves, and fire. Coze has all that, minus Poivre’s powderiness.

The cherry on the cake is the smooth cocoa powder and the dry vanilla, mixed with the patchouli’s earthiness and the hemp’s grassy notes. They are supplemented by a touch of coffee which, unfortunately, is extremely weak, muted and muffled. Most of the time, it feels like a mere by-product of the other elements, the result of the patchouli and chocolate combined, more than actual coffee, per se. Coze would be far better with more of the note, but perhaps this is the result of reformulation. Still, the fleeting suggestion is a wonderful touch when it briefly pops up in the opening 30 minutes.

Source: hqwallpapers4free.com

Source: hqwallpapers4free.com

Everything about the darker, woodier or spice elements seems intentionally designed to ensure that Coze never becomes cloying. I generally struggle with really syrupy fragrances, and I find Pierre Guillaume’s Phaedon line (especially Rouge Avignon, but also Tabac Rouge and Pure Azure) to be well-nigh unbearable in overdoing the sugariness. Thankfully, Coze is nothing like that. Your first thought when you smell it is not about the sweetness, but cloves, spices and patchouli before you register the chocolate and vanilla. Yes, there is a gourmand, sweet base, but all the other notes beat it up, stuff it into a suitcase, then sit on it, and tell it to shut up.

Photo: Willma. Source: photocase.com

Photo: Willma. Source: photocase.com

Coze starts to slowly shift after 30 minutes. The fragrance turns drier, woodier, and softer. The patchouli moves up to the foreground, as do the chocolate and earthy elements. For all the patchouli’s strength, it feels gossamer light, almost akin to a translucent veil of heavily spiced sweetness and warmth. The earthy and hemp accords are more distinct, though the hemp is merely just dry now and no longer freshly grassy. Meanwhile, the cocoa has turned into milk chocolate. The tobacco has retreated, along with the coffee, and both vanish completely after another 15 minutes. Taking their place is a hint of cedar that dances about; perhaps Fragrantica was right in their assessment when they included it. As a whole, Coze is an equal measure of well-blended cloves, nutmeg, chocolate, patchouli, and earthiness, followed by dry, woody touches and a lesser amount of vanilla and smoke. The whole thing is cocooned in a soft warmth that feels ambered, though is an abstract amber and impression more than an actual note.

45 minutes in, the sillage drops and Coze turns much thinner. As an Eau de Toilette, there are inherent limitations in how much richness a perfume can have. After all, a far lesser quantity of essential perfume oils is used than in an eau de parfum. Still, Coze feels like a light cloud, no matter how strong its notes may be. The richness is a bit like a will o’ the wisp that starts to dart out of reach. The cloves and spices may be potent when sniffed up close, the actual perfume now is wafting only 2 inches above the skin. Coze began by projecting a good 5-6 inches with 3 moderate dabs on the skin, but the more moderate sillage isn’t the real issue.

Photo: Mikewheels. Source: burst-burst.blogspot.com/

Photo: Mikewheels. Source: burst-burst.blogspot.com/ (Direct website link embedded within.)

The problem is that the red-brown notes have turned blurry, a little too blurry for my liking. Apart from the cloves and nutmeg, and to a lesser extent the chocolate, some of the elements feel very muffled, muted and indistinct in an individual way. In fact, if you smell Coze from a distance at the end of the first 90 minutes, there doesn’t seem to be much more to the scent than those 3 elements. You have to come in closer to really detect the patchouli (which is slowly and increasingly turning into simple spiced sweetness), along with the slight smokiness, and the lingering touches of earthiness. The dry woods are wholly amorphous now as well, while the vanilla seems to have melted into the rest of the fragrance.

Source: backgrounds.mysitemyway.com

Source: backgrounds.mysitemyway.com

As time passes, Coze doesn’t change very much except to become blurrier and softer. The most significant difference is that the dry chocolate powder moves to the foreground, while the patchouli slips to the background. Coze is now primarily cloves and cocoa powder, followed by patchouli sweetness and an amorphous woodiness. Traces of vanilla and a subtle smoke linger at the edges, but they eventually fade away. About 2.75 hours into Coze’s development, it is a skin scent. After four hours, it is a soft, sheer, sweet blur of spiced, woody sweetness with muted veins of chocolate and patchouli. It’s still very pretty and wonderfully cozy, but I miss the nuances, body, and richness of the opening. In its final moments, Coze is a sheer, translucent smear of warm, sweet woodiness. All in all, it lasted just short of 9 hours which is excellent for an eau de toilette, particularly given my wonky skin.

Despite the sillage and sheerness, I loved Coze, but it is not a scent that I would recommend to everyone. You must — MUST — love cloves! You also have to appreciate the true, original sort of patchouli with all its chocolate, woody, spiced, earthy nuances. This is not the modern sort of patchouli (or fruitchouli) with its purple, fruited syrup, but it’s also not the black head-shop patchouli of the 1970s. This is a much more refined, brown-red, spicy patchouli than its hippie predecessor, but it is still patchouli nonetheless. I think the cloves may actually be a greater problem for most people, along with the dryness and fieriness of the opening moments.

Those issues explain the mixed reactions to Coze on Luckyscent. The cloves made one person think of a dentist analgesic or numbing solution for when you have pain on your gums. For another person, the problem was actually the hemp which they thought was too weird of a note, evoking something “wet and heavy.” A handful of people found Coze to give off an “ashtray” vibe, perhaps from the tobacco or the incense. For some other commentators, the problem was that Coze was not unisex, but masculine in its dryness and woodiness. Clearly, it’s going to depend on your standards, and whether something very spicy or dry seems to lack feminine softness.

Black chocolate via bioshieldinc.com

Black chocolate via bioshieldinc.com

Those commentators are in the minority though, as the majority of Luckyscent reviewers love Coze:

  • Choclate glazed donuts, mmm…..
  • Mmmmmmm–darkly sexy! Loving the hemp, and it’s loving me! Smells slilghtly like a soft amber. Luscious and very come-hither. Lacy lingerie a must!
  • This really does it for me! Heady,hypnotic,and enticing. EVERYBODY loves this one on me! It’s kinda odd when other guys comment on my frag, but it’s just that good.I’d wear it even if I didn’t like it just for the social aspect.
  • The topnotes were off-putting. I think it was too much pimento? But the middle and base are exquisite. This is not a sweet chocolate. It is dark and mysterious.
  • This fragrance has a stunning combination of notes. It gives an impression of fine grain texture, with dark spices and woods, with a touch of gourmand dark chocolate, coffee and vanilla pods. Rich but in a dry way. Outstanding.
  • warm, spicy and deep topnotes from the pimento, chocolate and vanilla. The warmth has a woody resonance about it that gives it mystery and some complexity – probably from the sativa oil. Coze has a caribbean spice Island vibe but with sort of a woody incense drydown note. Nice if you like spice! […][¶] underestimated how nice the drydown is. Exceptional! The sweetness recedes and the pepper comes out with the resin wood notes for a smoky but ethereai very dry wood + spice. Kind of magical. 

For two people, the problem was reformulation and longevity, respectively:

  • I bought my second bottle last month and I’m sad to say that it is no longer my favorite. I don’t know what the did with the formulation but it lacks the depth and punch from 2 years ago. I love the initial blast but it fades VERY quickly on me now and is gone within 4 hours. No more strong punch of pimento. Damn – this has been reduced from 5 stars to 3.
  • Love this for a summer scent — it’s woody but sunny, sweet (chocolate notes), both dry and light. It has a kind of rich European hippy vibe that seems sexy and festive to me, and not particularly masculine as some have objected. I would adopt it in an instant but on me it is terribly fleeting — I get 75 minutes at most. Heartbreaker.

Yes, Coze has definite flaws in terms of its sillage and weight, while, in a few rare cases, some people have also experienced poor longevity. However, on Fragrantica,  the vast majority of people voted by a landslide for “moderate” in both categories.  I personally was surprised at Coze’s longevity on my skin, especially given that it is an eau de toilette, though I did have to smell it up close after 4 or 5 hours to notice it fully. I suppose that makes it suitable for work, if you go easy on the amount you apply, because I have to emphasize that the opening 30-40 minutes are very strong indeed.

The more significant issue is whether Coze is unisex, since some women seem to think Coze is firmly masculine. There are some female bloggers who would firmly disagree. Back in 2006, before the perfume was reformulated to become even softer and less spicy, Marina of Perfume-Smellin’ Things wrote:

there is nothing overly masculine about this fragrance. It is my favorite of the line; with notes of Canapa Sativa seed oil, pepper, pimento, coffee, ebony, chocolate, and bourbon vanilla, this is a rich, sumptuous composition, with luxurious accords smoothly blended into a dark, spicy harmony. This is a “pitch black” perfume with woody and (very black) coffee notes being most prominent on my skin. Those, who, like me, are wary of chocolate in perfume, should not worry, the accord is very subtle and elegant here. This was without a doubt “full bottle worthy” for me.

For Angela at Now Smell This who tried the fragrance in 2013, Coze was wafer dry, but also autumnal and “firmly unisex.” Her review reads, in part, as follows:

If [Coze’s] list of notes brings to mind a Montale Patchouli Leaves café mocha, think again. Coze is as dry as a brown Necco wafer. [¶] In fact, to get a sense of Coze, imagine that Necco wafer, but crafted by Pierre Hermé. The chef has mixed a pinch of lavender with the cocoa powder, and he’s stored the wafers in an old wooden box with coffee dust in its corners. The mixture approximates tobacco, but is more minty-woody. I can’t pick out any pimento. For such a potentially dessert-like fragrance, Coze is austere.

It’s also fairly linear. What you smell after a few minutes on skin is what you get throughout the life of the fragrance. That seems to work for Coze, though. Instead of being a big, symphonic perfume … it’s an easy-to-hum folk melody you can’t believe you haven’t heard before. I find Coze firmly unisex.

Sometimes I want something interesting but not serious to wear. I can imagine spritzing on Coze in the fall for long walks. Coze would blend well with the scent of books, coffee shops, and fires, too. I could see … [it on] those days I want to smell earthy, warm, and easy, without smelling cliched or overwhelming. Coze’s biggest drawback for me is that it only lasts a few hours before I have to press my nose directly on skin to smell it.

And let me say it one more time: it doesn’t smell anything like hippies.

"Javascapes" by Photographer Daniel G. Walczyk. Source: http://devidsketchbook.com (Website link embedded within.)

“Javascapes” by Photographer Daniel G. Walczyk. Source: http://devidsketchbook.com (Website link embedded within.)

I think men who love sweet-dry fragrances with strong spices, some darkness, light gourmand touches, a hint of tobacco and incense, all wrapped up in cozy warmth will go nuts for Coze. Women who don’t like syrupy fragrances but who love spicy orientals will thoroughly enjoy it as well. As for those who don’t like dark fragrances, I truly don’t think Coze qualifies. The expresso is really the tiniest touch, the incense is subtle, and the chocolate is more like powdered cocoa for the majority of Coze’s development. More importantly, the reformulation seems to have toned down Coze’s fiery bite from the pimento in the opening, so it would be easier now for those who don’t like a strong spice mix. That said, everyone needs to be aware of the cloves and patchouli. If you can’t bear either note, you should skip Coze. 

For everyone else, I definitely think you should consider giving Coze a test sniff. It is really lovely as a cozy winter fragrance, though the light weight and airiness means you can wear it in summer, too. Even better, Coze is not hugely expensive. The smallest size (30 ml or 1 oz) costs $85 or €65, while the 50 ml bottle is $100, €92, or £81.50. The relatively moderate cost means that it’s not impractical to reapply Coze after 5 hours if you’re one of the people whose skin seems to eat up the scent. I loved it from the first sniff, and definitely plan to get a full bottle for myself. The sunny, golden warmth mixed with the rich spices and patchouli, the dusky chocolate and sweet vanilla, the light threads of honey drizzled blond tobacco and incense… fantastic!

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Coze is an eau de toilette that comes in a 3 different sizes on the Parfumerie General website: 1 oz/30 ml for €62, 1.7 oz/50 ml for €92, and 3.4 oz/100 ml for €130. The U.S. pricing seems to be: $85, $100, and $179, respectively. In the U.S.: Coze is available in the 1.7 oz/50 ml size from Luckyscent for $100, along with a sample. NYC’s Osswald offers Coze in all 3 sizes, including the 1 oz/30 ml bottle for $85, and in the 3.4 oz/100 ml bottle for $179. Outside the U.S.: In Canada, the Vancouver branch of The Perfume Shoppe sells Coze for $150 for the large 100 ml size. You may want to email them for the Canadian price. In the UK, Coze is available at London’s Bloom Parfumery and Les Senteurs. Both stores offer Coze in two sizes: the 1.7 oz/50 ml costs £81.50, while the large 100 ml goes for £117.50. Samples are also available for purchase. In Paris, the niche boutique store Sens Unique carries the full PG line, but they don’t seem to have an e-store on their website. Germany’s First in Fragrance only has the small size of Coze which it sells for €94, along with a sample. In the Netherland’s, the PG line is carried at Annindriya’s Perfume Lounge, while one of the many Italian retailers is Vittoria Profumi. For all other locations from Russia and Kuwait to the Sweden, Spain, Poland and the rest of Europe, you can turn to Parfumerie Generale’s website here for a list of retailers. Samples: I obtained my sample from Surrender to Chance which sells Coze starting at $4.99 for a 1 ml vial. There is also a 5 Sampler Set of your choice of PG fragrance starting at $22.99 for a 1 ml vial. (I recommend trying PG’s Indochine as well, if you go this route.)

Lorenzo Villoresi Sandalo

Lorenzo Villoresi via his website.

Lorenzo Villoresi via his website.

A trip to the Middle East became the inspiration for a lifetime in the perfume world. Lorenzo Villoresi is an Italian perfume house whose journey began in 1981 when its founder fell in love with the smells and spices of a very different world. As Mr. Villoresi explains on his website, he was so inspired that he spent many years studying the foundational elements of perfumery, from distillation to tinctures and aromatics. In 1990, he opened his perfume house to provide products to Fendi before finally releasing his own creations in 1993. In 2006, he was awarded the prestigious “Prix Coty” in Paris, perhaps the highest international perfume accolade that recognizes achievements in the perfume world. Today, we’re looking at his take on sandalwood with the “monothematic” Sandalo.

Sandalo Eau de Toilette.

Sandalo Eau de Toilette.

Sandalo is an eau de toilette that was released in 1995. Lorenzo Villoresi describes it as follows:

From the ancient Indian tradition. A rich and warm base of Sandalwood of Mysore. The tender embrace of arboreal sap. Outcomes of Rose, Opoponax and Guaiacwood. Balsamic and Tree-moss nuances.

Top note: Rosewood, Lavender, Petitgrain, Orange, Lemon
Middle note: Labdanum, Bulgarian rose, Neroli, Sandalwood
Base note: Sandalwood, Vetiver, Amber, Opoponax, Oakmoss

Petitgrain art, "Young at Heart" via aromatherapy4soul.com -

Petitgrain art, “Young at Heart” via aromatherapy4soul.com. (Website link embedded within.)

Sandalo opens on my skin with a whopping amount of petitgrain, the twigs from a citrus tree that are distilled down to a piquant, bitter, spicy woodiness. Here, their bitter aroma is infused with pungent lavender, rosewood, and very green, creamy Australian sandalwood. Whatever the company may say in its description for Sandalo, I refuse to believe that there is a drop of true, ancient, red-spicy Mysore wood in the fragrance. Not a drop. But what there is smells quite nice for the Australian version. It is followed by a bitter neroli, a dry woody vetiver, sweet myrrh, lemon and a warm musk.

Source: 123rf.com

Source: 123rf.com

Sandalo’s opening is not easy. It is dominated by bitter pungency, herbal harshness, crisp aromatics, and a very contradictory, vaguely cloying, sweetness. Something in the bouquet is oddly piercing, but the perfume is so well-blended that it is hard to pinpoint the source. When I applied a smaller quantity of the fragrance, there was a definite synthetic note lurking in the base, so perhaps it is the warm musk. Then again, the herbal elements are extremely rough, verging on the aggressive with the fiercely pungent, dried lavender or on the medicinal with the bitterness of the petitgrain. I applied about 3 small dabs of Sandalo in my main test, and the overall bouquet is airy but also very “brash and brusque.”

That description is one of the many that I’ve read about Sandalo’s opening minutes, along with “odious,” “medicinal,” “harsh top notes,” and “unpleasant.” Even a few people who love the fragrance have admitted to struggling with the opening when they tried the perfume for the very first time. I think the adjectives are all quite accurate. 15 minutes in, Sandalo feels unbalanced in its aggressive blast of lavender, petitgrain, neroli, unsweetened citruses, rosewood, vetiver, and musk atop that sandalwood foundation. The latter is wonderfully creamy, though very green in smell and visuals. Despite the thickness of the sandalwood underlayer, it’s not enough to counter the rest of the notes at first.

Pure Australian sandalwood timber. Source: tfscorporation169.en.ec21.com

Pure Australian sandalwood timber. Source: tfscorporation169.en.ec21.com

As a whole, Sandalo opens like an aromatic cologne with a very masculine, aggressive profile, but it does get better and it’s all thanks to the sandalwood. I’m generally not a fan of the green buttermilk variety of sandalwood found in Australia, but it’s nicely done here given the other green and woody notes. It definitely doesn’t smell like the very generic, simple, beige profile of some purported “sandalwood” fragrances. Here, it takes about 30 minutes for the creamy wood to infiltrate the top notes, weaving its way throughout the harsher aromatic elements and turning Sandalo smoother, softer, and more balanced.

The fragrance is masterfully blended in a way where you can smell all the notes at once, but, at the same time, you can’t really pick them out of the seamless cloud that is floating around you. Sandalo isn’t a fragrance that you can deconstruct, hour by hour. In some ways, it’s actually quite linear, shifting only minutely in small degrees. Lorenzo Villoresi described it as “monothematic” on his website, and he’s right. What happens is merely that the sandalwood grows and grows, while the other notes slowly drop in volume. It’s like playing with levers on a stereo’s amplifier, as you increase the base, you lower the top notes, and equalize things out.

Photo: my own.

Photo: my own.

The same sort of things appears to happen to Sandalo. At the end of the first hour, the sillage drops, the perfume turns thinner, and the sandalwood slowly becomes the main focal point. Sandalo is now primarily an aromatic Australian sandalwood fragrance, infused with petitgrain, lavender, citruses and woody notes. It’s a visual of rich cream and beige with splotches of green, purple, and woody browns. Those colours fade with the passing hours, as Sandalo turns into nothing more than pure Australian sandalwood with increasingly nebulous touches of woodiness and aromatics. A vague sense of something a little bit powdery stirs deep in the base at the start of the third hour, but it is muted and fleeting.

Much more significant is the soapiness that arrives in the middle of the 4th hour. Soon, Sandalo takes on a clean, soapy and somewhat synthetic vibe, probably due to the white musk in the base. Whatever the reason, the perfume soon turns into a wholly soapy Australian sandalwood scent, and it remains that way largely until its very end. In its final moments, Sandalo is a mere blur of clean woodiness. All in all, using 3 good dabs, the fragrance lasted just over 6.75 hours on me. It turned into a skin scent at the 3.25 hour mark. At all times, it felt very airy and lightweight, despite the forcefulness of its opening stage. As an eau de toilette, it’s not surprising that the fragrance doesn’t have much heft, but the longevity was a bit low.

Source: Nathan Branch.

Source: Nathan Branch.

Still, I had better luck than the blogger, Nathan Branch, who didn’t seem remotely impressed by the scent despite Sandalo’s reputation as one of the best sandalwoods on the market. In his short review, he wrote:

His Sandalo is based on the essence of Mysore Sandalwood, harvested from the Mysore region of Karnataka, Southern India and considered one of the best sandalwood essences on the market. It opens with a burst of rubbing-alcohol (lavender) and citrus, then quickly settles into a heavier, woodsy routine flanked by some medium-bodied florals (allegedly rose and neroli, but they’re so well blended that it’s difficult to really pinpoint where they sit in the mix) and underscored with loamy grasses.

Since Sandalo is predominantly (if not 100%) natural, it wears softly (too softly for my taste) and the overall effect is one of a rounded, deep forest scent, replete with a Bambi or two . . . yet for a fragrance titled Sandalo, I’m surprised at how much more I smell the musk and vetiver than the sandalwood; but not to worry, the whole thing pulls a Houdini-worthy vanishing act in well under three hours, so the sandalwood point is moot, anyway.

On Fragrantica, the reviews for Sandalo are mixed, though the majority seem to agree with the longevity issue with the largest number (8) voting for “moderate” which is defined as 3-6 hours in length. What is more interesting is another number: 99 people voted for Sandalo having a strong resemblance to Gucci‘s Rush for Men. I haven’t tried it to know, but 99 people is a hell of a lot. In terms of the actual reviews, some find Sandalo to be a lovely, solid fragrance, praising its “meditative” qualities or calling it a “holy grail.” One person calls it “vile,” a few think it lacks “oomph” or specialness, and several note the harshness of its start. Some women find Sandalo to be too masculine, while one man thought there was a note akin to the glue that you use to put down parquet.

Source: parfumneroli.hu

Source: parfumneroli.hu

On the flip-side, there is the blogger, Pour Monsieur, who seems to love sandalwood above all else and for whom Lorenzo Villoresi’s version is the “holy grail.” In his review, he writes, in part:

I own a lot of sandalwood perfumes, and all of them have qualities I love.  However, my holy grail sandalwood is Lorenzo Villoresi’s Sandalo.  This one fragrance contains everything I look for in a great sandalwood perfume, and it does it all beautifully. […][¶]

If you prefer “creamy” smelling sandalwoods, Villoresi will satisfy.  If you prefer a sharp, dry, aggressive presentation (e.g., Crabtree & Evelyn, Santa Maria Novella), it will also please you. If you love the dark, deep-growl, super manly presentation of sandalwood you get in the base accords of a lot of men’s scents, you’ll love this too.

The opening blast hits hard and aggressively, with sharp citrus, lavender and rosewood notes.  Underlying all that, you can smell the milky, creamy scent that is so often associated with Mysore sandalwood from India; because this type of sandalwood is very rare and expensive, chances are good that the creaminess here comes from Ebanol, which is an excellent synthetic sandalwood known for its creamy smell.  No matter, because it works brilliantly, never overpowering the complexity of this fragrance. The drydown smells dark and husky, with a kind of dark brown hue, both rich and rugged at the same time.  It’s an extremely masculine and deep smell, with its own sense of mystery separate from what you get from the earlier stages of the scent. Wearing Sandalo is like being on a journey.

… this is a potent perfume.  It projects quite far, at least for the first couple of hours, and people will notice that you are wearing a very exotic fragrance.  After that, the scent stays closer to your skin, but is still noticeable by others near you.  Longevity is excellent, as it is with most sandalwoods, and I can smell this on myself for about ten hours.

Basenotes commentators are similarly enthused. Sandalo’s entry has 22 positive reviews, 3 neutrals, and 1 negative one.

MakeupAlley reviewers seem to like it as well, giving Sandalo a 4.1 out of 5 rating, with one commentator happily calling it a glorified, souped-up Tam Dao. A sample of their thoughts, which includes comparisons to other sandalwood fragrances:

  • I should start by saying I don’t really like sandalwood. This one is very nice. And ends with a lovely clean, slightly soapy drydown that I would enjoy wearing. […] I prefer the start [of Serge Lutens’ Santal Blanc], but two hours in the Sandalo wins by a olafactory landslide.
  • The best sandalwood fragrance I’ve ever smelled is Creed‘s discontinued Bois de Santal, but the best extant sandalwood is surely Lorenzo Villoresi’s brilliant Sandalo. His creations tend by hectic and brash–finally settling after several minutes. Sandalo has some of that though it quite smooth and old-fashioned compared to most of what’s out there now. Sandalo is a woody oriental based around synthetic sandalwood (along with Australian perhaps), which is adeptly navigated by natural rosewood, which is sour, sharp, medicinal, and resinous. The opening is aromatic with lavender and exotic spices and floral heart of perhaps jasmine, rose, and carnation. The base consists of sandal, rosewood, tonka bean, and Villoresi’s signature resin.
  • This fragrance opens very medicinal citrusy on my skin. When the unpleasant top notes fade, I smell the lavender and wood note with a dusty floral note in the background. This stage is definitely more pleasant to smell. The base note on my skin is a musk, amber and sandalwood mix. I would describe this fragrance as being very manly and classic.
  • I was ready to write this one off based on the odious opening, which truly would have been a mistake. After a few minutes, one of the most beautiful mysore sandalwood scents emerges. I also detect that signature Villoresi base that, to my nose, smells a lot like the woody-rose drydown of his own Musk fragrance (Sandalo and Musk do share some base notes including sandalwood, oakmoss, and rose). The opoponax gives the fragrance a lovely resinous sweetness that is just addictive. I’m simply stunned at the beauty of all the Villoresi fragrances I have recently re-discovered!  [Emphasis and bolding to names added by me.]

One reviewer. “faizanj,” has an extensive discussion for how Sandalo differs from Diptyque‘s famous Tam Dao, writing, in part:

Sandalo features a copious heart of Rosewood while Tam Dao’s first half is an excercise in hitting the senses hard with a forceful Cedarwood note. […] Initially, [Sandalo’s] excellent notes of lavender and rose do a coital dance over the underlying layer of rosewood – after a few minutes, these two notes merge and bring forth the rosewood heart in naked display. I believe that it was a design decision to use lavender and rose inconcert with rosewood to amplify the rosewood accord (a mix of lavender and rose can smell a lot like rosewood). The rosewood persists for a while before the drydown introduces amber and patchouli to “smooth things out”. […][¶]

Both Sandalo and Tam Dao smell a lot like Australian sandalwood to my nose. Theres nothing wrong with that – the sandalwood down-under may lack the medicinal depth and “magical aura” of the mysore oil, but it is a fine sandalwood blend in its own right (and easier on the nose if I may say so). Sandalo’s drydown smells the closest to the Aussie blend to my nose – its less sweet and more “tart” than the aus santal. Sandalo may disappoint if you are looking for something close to the mysore oil mixed in with the composition (although none of the fragrances duplicate the mysore smell very well – Santal Imperial perhaps comes the closest). However, by all other accounts, Sandalo succeeds. The pairing of rosewood/sandalwood with a host of other uplifting and meditative notes like lavender, lemon, rose and neroli give it a certain brightness and spark. If Tam Dao left you wanting more, give Sandalo a try.

Source: vimeo.com

Source: vimeo.com

I’m going to have to be in the minority on the issue of Sandalo. I find it hard to summon up much enthusiasm for an Australian buttermilk version, but being a sandalwood snob is not the real reason why I’m so underwhelmed by the fragrance. It’s simply not as complex on my skin as everyone else seems to describe. The cologne-like opening is unbalanced, in my opinion, and then the perfume simply becomes an uncomplicated Australian sandalwood with aromatics before ending off in a soapy, clean finish. I don’t like soapiness, nor the synthetic white musk underlying it, but it is the lack of interesting nuance that is my main problem. Perhaps the perfume has been reformulated since those 2007 or 2011 descriptions on Makeupalley, but on my skin, there was no resinous drydown, no “woody-rose,” or amber. Just Australian sandalwood with either harsh aromatics and lavender, or soapiness and clean musk. Meh. So, I shall go sit in a corner with Nathan Branch, and quietly shrug.

For everyone else, especially those not plagued with my issues with green Australian sandalwood, you may want to give Sandalo a try. I know a number of people are mourning Tam Dao’s reformulation, so this might be your answer. Sandalo is affordable at $80 for 50 ml, and it does improve after its brusque opening. Perhaps on your skin, it will turn into the woody, ambered, resinous glory that others seem to enjoy.

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Sandalo is an eau de toilette which comes in two sizes. There is a 50 ml bottle which costs $80 or €80, and a 100 bottle which costs $150 or €120. In the U.S.: The primary distributor for the Lorenzo Villoresi line is LAFCO which has stores in NYC, LA, and Dallas. The fragrances are also carried at the Beauty Bar Apothecary in Beverly Hills, but they don’t have a website. I could not find the brand on Luckyscent or the usual NYC perfume sites. Outside the U.S.: You can order the fragrances directly from the Lorenzo Villoresi website which also offers a special 100 ml Gift Bottle with a silver-engraved top. In Canada, you can find Sandalo at The Perfume Shoppe which sells the 100 ml bottle for US$150. The company is based in the US, so you can email them about their Canadian prices. In the UK, the Lorenzo Villoresi line is supposedly carried at Fortnum & Mason, but I only see the potpourri on the website. Les Senteurs also carries the line, but they seem to be out of Sandalo as they only have a sample for sale. Germany’s First in Fragrance has the 100 ml bottle of Sandalo for €120. It also carries a Sample Set of 16 Lorenzo Villoresi fragrances, including Sandalo, in 1.5 ml sprays for €45. In France, there are a number of retailers, including Paris’ niche boutique Nose, but they don’t show Sandalo on their website. The same situation applies to Amsterdam’s Perfume Lounge which carries a lot of the line. Lorenzo Villoresi’s fragrances seem to be carried at numerous, small niche boutique throughout Europe, with obvious emphasis on Italy, but you can also find the fragrances in Australia, Japan, the Middle East, Austria, Lithuania, Greece, Israeli, Russia, China, Sweden, and the UAE. You can use the Lorenzo Villoresi Distributor page to find a retailer near you. Samples: Surrender to Chance sells Sandalo starting at $3.99 for a 1 ml vial.

Yosh Sombre Negra: Dark Shadows

Source: Wall321.com

Source: Wall321.com

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

Source: Barney's.

Source: Barney’s.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: science.nationalgeographic.com

Source: science.nationalgeographic.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: wallpaperswide.com

Source: wallpaperswide.com

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

Patchouli. Source: womenworld.com.ua

Patchouli. Source: womenworld.com.ua

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

Haitiian vetiver grass. Source: astierdemarest.com

Haitian vetiver grass. Source: astierdemarest.com

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

Source: Dreamstime.com Royalty Free stock photos

Source: Dreamstime.com Royalty Free stock photos

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

Source: bioloskiblog.wordpress.com

Source: bioloskiblog.wordpress.com

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

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

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

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

Sombre Negra has above average projection and longevity.

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

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

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

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

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

Source: philiphartiganpraeterita.blogspot.com

Source: philiphartiganpraeterita.blogspot.com

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

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

Terre d’Hermès ad. Source: Parfumo.net

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

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

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

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

Source: quotes-pictures.feedio.net

Source: quotes-pictures.feedio.net

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

La Via del Profumo Hindu Kush

Hindu Kush, via smscs.com

Hindu Kush, via smscs.com

Close your eyes, and imagine yourself on the side of a mountain. It is one in a range of craggy giants on the Hindu Kush, each one stonier and more barren than the last. You stand on a narrow ledge beside large boulders, breath in the cold air, and survey a vast no-man’s land that is a vista of grey and brown, dotted with the green of pine trees. You wonder from whence comes the strong smell of cold, dusty incense that the wind wraps around you. You see no-one, feeling like the last man on earth as the dust at your feet intermingles with the crushed needles of pine trees. The austerity feels holy and serene, as if you were at the top of Mother Nature’s craggiest cathedral, and you turn inward before you drift off in a blur of myrrh and pine.

Hindu Kush via Fragrantica.

Hindu Kush via Fragrantica.

That emotional, meditative, and visual trip is the essential aroma of Hindu Kush, as well as its explicit goal and inspiration. Hindu Kush is the creation of Dominique Dubrana, who also goes by the name “AbdesSalaam Attar.” His perfume house, La Via del Profumo, focuses on all-natural fragrances, many of which have a Middle Eastern flair or subtext. Abdes Salaam Attar’s description of Hindu Kush on his Profumo website is useful because I think it really conveys a lot about the fragrance’s feel or emotional spirit, particularly the first part about the mountains:

The chain of mountains of the Hindu Kush is the natural boundary of the ancient India with Persia and central Asia. It is from here that the sacred river Indus comes down from the highest valleys with unbridled force. [¶] It’s a rough and wild land difficult to get to and populated by fierce warriors who challenge every day the intrusion of progress. This is a land the time forgot where neither people nor landscapes are contaminated by technology. Here travellers can fall in love with the air that they breathe and with the state of mind that overcomes someone until they become part of the mountain and part of the people changing clothes, habits and religion. 

The unforgettable fragrance of the Hindu Kush is made of the aroma of its forests, of its wood fires and the smells of the bazaars overflowing with oriental spices and things to eat.

Hindu Kush is the perfume that unites both the sacred and the profane. The aromas of incenses and perfumed woods are woven together with those of the sensual and appetising fragrances of oriental spices. […] Close your eyes and breathe in, Hindu Kush is like taking a walk in an Indian market, where clouds of incense smoke escape through the open doors of temples to be mixed with the perfumes of the east, ginger, cumin, nutmeg and pepper. [¶] Take a step inside and all is peace, silence and meditation, take a step outside and you find the crowd rushing here and there, noises and confusion.

For these reasons Hindu Kush is a perfume for people who feel attracted by eastern mystics, in which the sacred and the profane become confused in the everyday life, and for many people simply to smell it is an emotional experience because it generates the state of mind they are inwardly looking for.

Hindu Kush is not loved by everybody, this should teach us to be humble and make us reflect that harmony between physical and inner realities is not an aim in itself but is merely a mean to reach a much higher goal.

The Hindu Kush, Himalayan Karakorum side. Source: ecuadorciencia.org

The Hindu Kush, Himalayan Karakorum side. Source: ecuadorciencia.org

As best as I can determine, the list of notes seems to be:

Incense, perfumed or aromatic woods, ginger, cumin, nutmeg, pepper.

I have mentioned a few times that I am a hedonist, and I am undoubtedly a heathen as well, because I’m not particularly one for mysticism of any kind. Things like spiritual exercises, meditation, and enlightenment leave this sybarite feeling rather bewildered and lost. I’m all about decadent excess and hot sensuality, which is perhaps one reason why I struggled with the cool austerity of Hindu Kush.

Photo: Neil Harris. The Lowry Pass in Pakistan with the Hindu Kush in back.

Photo: Neil Harris. The Lowry Pass in Pakistan with the Hindu Kush in back.

The more specific reason is that myrrh or olibanum is a troublesome note for me, and I need to make that clear at the outset. I love incense, when it is frankincense. Myrrh, however, is difficult for me with its cool, dusty, stony, white, and, often, soapy qualities. And Hindu Kush is a largely myrrh-centered fragrance. It never evokes the usual Catholic “High Church” feeling that most olibanum fragrances do, but it does evoke Nature’s church set in piney, barren, stony, and dusty mountains. I think Hindu Kush accomplishes its express goal beautifully, and there is no doubt that it is a high-quality, brilliantly made fragrance. I deeply respect it, but it lies far outside my personal comfort zone because of the olibanum focus. You need to keep that in mind as I describe it. 

Sawdust via my-walls.net.

Sawdust via my-walls.net.

Hindu Kush opens on my skin with myrrh’s cold, dusty, white smoke, followed by an intense, pungent green that feels like galbanum with hints of moss. Then, the warm, nutty, highly honeyed touch of sweet myrrh (opoponax) arrives, followed by the aroma of old wood. The latter is fascinating as it is dry, crumbly, honeyed, dusty, but also like sweet wood all at once. In short, it’s like the most unusual, cool but warm, saw dust. I’ve never encountered a note quite like in perfumery, and it’s brilliantly original. 

Pine tree sap. Source: howtocleanstuff.net

Pine tree sap. Source: howtocleanstuff.net

There is a distinct pine aroma that becomes stronger and stronger with the passing minutes. It smells like Pine Sap Absolute, with a very honeyed, ambered tonality. It reminds me of a much smoother, softer version of the souped-up, tarry pine sap in Profumum Roma‘s Arso. This version is nowhere as sweet, let alone as coniferous, tarry or phenolic. Instead, it is dry, dusted by old woods, and infused by the stony coolness of the myrrh.

As the pine sap grows stronger, that pungent blast of green from the galbanum-like note in the opening fades away and its place is taken by an amorphous, muted, indistinct touch of spices. I’ve worn Hindu Kush a few times, and only in one of my tests was there a really powerful, distinct, clearly delineated aroma of ginger. It smells like the powdered, dry kind that you have in your pantry, not the more spicy, piquant aroma that you get from fresh ginger. In any event, most of the time, the spices are quite abstract on my skin, vaguely feeling like the peppered, dusty, combined aroma you find in a spice shop where all the odors blend into one gentle mass. The spice accord is a very subtle one, lingering on the sidelines to add a bit of depth to the woody-incense duality that dominates Hindu Kush’s main core.

Home of the Kalash tribe in the Hindu Kush, Pakistan. Source: globalheritagefund.org

Home of the Kalash tribe in the Hindu Kush, Pakistan. Source: globalheritagefund.org

Ten minutes in, Hindu Kush is a truly original, unusual blend of aromas. It reminds me simultaneously of: an old church set mostly outdoors in a pine forest clearing dusted by dry lichen mosses and filled with the aroma of myrrh incense; a carpenter’s workshop filled with dry, sweet sawdust; and the arid, dry, mountain range of a country I once lived in, where the cool winds and great heights created a solemn sparsity and austere serenity. I keep using the word “fascinating,” because it really is, but I’m not sure it’s very me.

Beeswax. Source: honey-center.gr

Beeswax. Source: honey-center.gr

Hindu Kush starts to shift around the 20 minute mark. The sweet myrrh’s honeyed beeswax rises to the surface to soften and dilute the cold, dusty dryness of the myrrh’s incense. Hindu Kush is now a blend of cool white smoke, warm honeyed beeswax, amorphous spices, dry woods, and a touch of pine resin. The pungent, galbanum-like note has completely vanished, and the only green touches left are that from the yellow-green pine resin. Deep down in the base, there is a nebulous floral note that flits about, popping up once in a blue moon from behind the two types of myrrh, then quickly fading away once again. I can’t place it, and it keeps vanishing whenever I try to pinpoint it, but it’s a very brief breath of delicate, warm floracy.

George Braque, "Woman Reading." Source: pictify.com

George Braque, “Woman Reading.” Source: pictify.com

On my skin, and in repeated tests, Hindu Kush is primarily a tale of two myrrhs: sweet and regular. They are nestled in a dry-sweet woody embrace that becomes increasingly amorphous, with only the pine sap really standing out. The spices briefly add a soft, dusty pepperiness to the top notes, but slowly lose ground less than 40 minutes in. The most noticeable thing about Hindu Kush are the contrasts: cool versus warm; sweet versus dry; dusty versus honeyed wax; and old wood shavings versus fresh, yellowed, pine sap. From start to finish, it’s a visual palette of greys, whites, taupe, and honeyed cream, with a splash of dark, pine green tossed about like something from the painter, Jackson Pollack. Actually, Pollack’s signature is of hectic frenzy and chaos — two things that most definitely are not a part of Hindu Kush — so a more accurate comparison would be to the cragginess of George Braque’s “Woman Reading” from 1911.

The greatest changes in Hindu Kush pertain to the sillage, and to the degree of the honeyed sweet myrrh. 30 minutes in, the sillage drops, and the fragrance hovers 2 inches above the skin. After 90 minutes, the sillage softens even further, and Hindu Kush lies right above the skin. In all cases, however, it is potent and rich when smelled up close. As a whole, it is primarily a blend of myrrh with piney resin and the merest hint of sweet myrrh. It is cold, a bit dusty, and very austere. In a few tests, there was a touch of soapiness at this point, but it was very minor on my skin. The pine resin has lost its sweet aspects, and feels more like the concentrated oil from crushed pine needles. It adds yet another level of coolness to Hindu Kush.

The Hindu Kush via Stanford.edu.

The Hindu Kush via Stanford.edu.

Images of a carpenter’s workshop have vanished, along with that of any church (set in nature or otherwise), or a spice store. I’m now fully atop a craggy, jagged, dusty mountain with only pine trees and their detritus around me, and the cold wind blowing olibanum my way. I would prefer more of the sweet myrrh to try to counter some of this austerity, because the creamy smoothness of the honeyed beeswax is my favorite part. Unfortunately, the note really fluctuates on my skin during the first four hours. Half the time, it hides behind the cool, stony myrrh, but occasionally it is just as noticeable and Hindu Kush turns into a triptych of myrrh, sweet myrrh, and pine sap resin.

Hindu Kush remains that way until its very end. It takes 3 hours for Hindu Kush to turn into a skin scent, though it is only hard to detect after the 4th hour. All in all, it consistently lasted between 7 and 8 hours on my skin depending on the quantity that I used. A small amount, approximately 3 small smears, gave me the lower time frame, while 3 big sprays gave me more. The sillage throughout was very discreet after the third or fourth hour, depending on the quantity that I applied.     

Hindu Kush has received extremely positive reviews on Basenotes‘ official listing for the scent (where it is also listed as “Indu Kush”). I think the description from a poster called “Quarry” really sums up one aspect of it very well:

My notion of new-sawn wood is vastly different from yours, I’m sure. I expect your experiences harken from freshly cut trees or home-improvement-center lumber or year-old firewood. Whereas the most impressionable wood from my life is much older, as are the buildings and furnishings that make up our home. Even as my dear husband renovates our house, he’s using lumber harvested generations ago and stored through most of the 1900s by my frugal father. The green vapors have dissipated from this stuff; it is tightly grained, resin-sweet, and musty-dusty in a good way. To my mind, this kind of wood is the primary ingredient in Hindu Kush. Its creator talks of “taking a walk in an Indian market, where clouds of incense smoke escape through the open doors of temples to be mixed with the perfumes of the east, ginger, cumin, nutmeg and pepper.” Not having any experiences like that, I associate HK’s secondary accord to be like walking past the open door of a Penzeys Spices store–there’s just that general melange of comforting scents–not firey, not sharp. And this, my friends, is the totality of Hindu Kush: simplicity, beauty, timelessness, and without gender. Unlike any other of the hundreds of bottled fragrances I’ve smelled, I want to draw in HK’s scent deeply, like you would steam from a pungent soup or narcotic smoke. It feels like you should breath Hindu Kush, and I suppose at least part of that is due to its being composed of natural ingredients.

When I first sampled HK from a bottle with a reducer opening, I thought the scent faded away too quickly, but once I applied it from an atomizer and allowed the overspray to hit my cuffs, I was rewarded with hours and hours of aroma. Now, having gotten to know the scent over many days, I can find only one drawback to wearing it: I am too contented. Where other fragrances may make me kick up my heals or swoon or smile, Hindu Kush will let me settle and feel lazy, wistful. So it isn’t a workday fragrance–at least not a workday where you actually want to get anything accomplished. 

All six of the other Basenotes reviews are positive, though they describe a scent that is more incense-driven than woody. A few examples from both men and women:

  • Quarry has written an absolutely fabulous commentary on Hindu Kush! For me, I get the initial blast of green – almost camphorous – which disappears almost as mysteriously as it came…yet somehow, it leaves a residual green that combines with dry woods and incense. […] it feels like the dry & cozy warmth of a small cabin whose only source of heat is a woodburner! I find this association quite charming. […] My personal preferences don’t usually run in the direction of incense based fragrances, but I find myself intrigued and impressed!
  • “Hindu Kush” is one of the most aptly named perfumes I have ever come across. It smells exactly like the Hindu Kush-mountains look like: Very sparse, stony, airy and cold, with some woods underneath the mountains. I can even smell the wind blowing! There is just a little coziness in it, like sitting by a small campfire and trying to catch at least a little bit of warmth. Together with the somewhat mysterious “Mecca Balsam” is this my favourite perfume that I have sampled from the “Scents of the Soul”-line. Whereas “Mecca Balsam” is warm, uplifting and inviting, an indoor kind of smell, “Hindu Kush” is more grounded, rough and cold, an outdoor kind of smell, and I must admit that it’s not always easy to wear ’cause it’s so austere. Although the both perfumes are totally different, they share a certain quality that is able to put me in a meditative state of mind. Awesome stuff!
  • Hindu Kush is an appealing spicy Oriental fragrance and an all-natural frankincense perfume that anyone who likes incense ought to love. It starts with a conglomoration of exotic spices, both pungent and sweet, each appearing quickly at different intervals. The incense is high-quality and rich. At the base is a thick, deep labdanum–a dark amber–smelling of wood and, in combination with the spices, a bit smoky with subtle, maple nuances. Altogether, it creates a mystical, adventurous, rather sexy fragrance.
  • Soothing, spiritual and uplifting. [¶] My favorite fragrances have resinous woods and incense, and I’m loving this. 5 stars, full bottle worthy. [¶][…] wearing this is: an experience. It’s the kind of scent I reach for when I’m in meditative or contemplative mood, or for when I want to feel calm and grounded. I have a little collection of calming resinous scents and this so far is my favorite go to of the bunch.
  • Funny how I could smell the deep green mossy undertones within minutes of application. Beyond the aromatic spices and uplifting incense, HINDU KUSH shows surprising depth, with beguiling balsamic facets that put me in a meditative, even contemplative mood. Luca Turin hit the nail on the head when he described it as ‘resinous oakmoss’.
Source: hazara.co.uk

Source: hazara.co.uk

Speaking of Luca Turin, La Via del Profumo are the only all-natural fragrances that he has reviewed and covered in his Perfumes: The A-Z Guide. Mr. Turin is on record saying that Dominique Dubrana is the only all-natural perfumer that he will bother with, because otherwise he will get “hideous crap.” His full quote to The New York Times:

There are dozens of all-natural perfumers; I don’t pay much attention to them, because every time I do I get a bunch of hideous crap. But I love his fragrances. I don’t think anyone can touch him in the field of natural perfumery.

Luca Turin has included three of Mr. Dubrana’s scents in his Perfumes book, awarding each Four Stars. The review for Hindu Kush is succinct and to the point:

If your favorite part of Mitsouko is the resinous, floor-wax-and-church-incense start, here it is in the pure state, made with only natural materials and delicious, though not particularly long-lasting. 

I’ve noticed that Profumo scents do better in terms of longevity when sprayed, rather than dabbed. One of the Basenotes commentators thought the same for Hindu Kush. That said, as an all-natural fragrance, you have to keep in mind that the longevity won’t be as great as for regular perfumes which have synthetic additives included often for the sole task of increasing a scent’s duration.

I enjoyed testing Hindu Kush, and absolutely loved the unique, visual and mental trip of being transported to that austere mountain range. Alas, I am a heathen with no spirituality, and little long-term appreciation for myrrh. I don’t own a single fragrance centered around the note, because it isn’t something I personally could wear on a regular basis. That doesn’t mean I don’t respect Hindu Kush, though. I do, and I think it’s a masterful, brilliantly original take on an incense fragrance. So, if you’re a fan of olibanum or myrrh, then you should give Hindu Kush a sniff. It is wholly unisex in nature, and suitable for the office with its discreet sillage. More importantly, it is an experience. From top to bottom, it a mood scent with an extremely meditative, contemplative feel to it. Smell it, and take a trip to the Hindu Kush in all its stark, resinous, serene beauty. 

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

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Hindu Kush is an eau de parfum that comes in a variety of sizes. It is available exclusively from the Profumo.it website which ships its scents world-wide. All the following prices for Hindu Kush are in Euros without VAT: €32,73 for 15.5 ml, €70,82 for 33 ml (a little over 1 oz) and €94,20 for 50 ml/1.7 oz. At today’s rate of exchange, the USD prices roughly comes to: $44, $96, and $132 for the 50 ml bottle. The site says: “Prices are without VAT and are valid for USA and all non EEC countries[;] for shipments in the EEC 22% VAT will be ADDED to the amount in the shopping cart.” There is also a Mignon Discovery Coffret which is available for any 5 fragrances, each in a glass 5.5 ml bottle. The price depends on which perfumes you pick, as the choice is up to you. The 5.5 ml bottle of Hindu Kush is €12,30. On a side note, I received my samples from Mr. Dubrana incredibly quickly, less than 4 days after he sent it. Additionally, I have the impression that, with all purchases, Profumo provides free 2 ml samples, especially of any new fragrances that he is developing, since Abdes Salaam is very interested in feedback. In short, if you’re ordering fragrance, you may want to ask for a sample of something that strikes your eye. Samples: you can order a sample of Hindu Kush from Surrender to Chance which sells the perfume at $6.99 for a 1 ml vial.

La Via del Profumo Milano Caffé

Source: hqdesktop.net

Source: hqdesktop.net

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

Dominque Dubrana via the NYT. Photo by Domingo Milella.

Dominque Dubrana via the NYT. Photo by Domingo Milella.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Milano Caffe via The Perfume Shrine.

Milano Caffe via The Perfume Shrine.

Fragrantica provides the succinct list of notes:

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

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

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

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

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

VERSION 1:

Source: Sodahead.com

Source: Sodahead.com

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

Patchouli. Source: womenworld.com.ua

Patchouli. Source: womenworld.com.ua

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

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

Licorice. Source: Dylanscandybar.com

Licorice. Source: Dylanscandybar.com

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

Black chocolate via bioshieldinc.com

Black chocolate via bioshieldinc.com

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

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

Source: brookstone.com

Source: brookstone.com

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

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

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

Source: chaoswallpapers.com

Source: chaoswallpapers.com

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

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

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

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

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

VERSION 2 – MAIN TESTING ARM:

Source: 123rf.com

Source: 123rf.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ALL IN ALL:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amouage Beloved Man (Special Limited Edition)

Lemon chiffon mousse with smoky dryness and woods. I don’t think I’ve ever summed up an Amouage fragrance in one short sentence, but there is a first time for everything. An even shorter synopsis might be “elemi creaminess.” That is the essence of Beloved Man, a wholly unisex fragrance that is quite lovely but extremely simple. In many ways, it feels like the anti-Amouage, or an Amouage for those who normally struggle with the perfume house’s complicated, complex creations.

Source: CaFleureBon

Source: CaFleureBon

Beloved Man (hereinafter just “Beloved“) was released in 2013 as either a limited edition or limited distribution eau de parfum that is only available in Amouage boutiques, and a handful of department stores or online vendors. Since the fragrance is no longer listed on Amouage’s own website, it’s hard to know how they describe the scent. The PR copy quoted by First in Fragrance and also summarized by sites like CaFleureBon states:

The special edition Beloved for Men by Amouage is a woody Oriental fragrance with spicy top notes accentuated by an opulent heart of floral notes. Created in Grasse under the guidance of Amouage’s Creative Director Christopher Chong, he explains “that everyone has a remembrance of a loved one and the fragrance is a nod to the 1980 movie “Somewhere in Time” starring Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour. This intimate fragrance with its selection of rich woods and resins in the base enrapture the wearer in a comforting sensation of warmth that these treasured memories bring”.

Beloved was created by Bernard Ellena, though Fragrantica mistakenly credits Alexandra Carlin and Emilie (Bevierre) Coppermann. Regardless, everyone agrees that Beloved’s notes are:

orange, grapefruit, elemi, geranium, jasmine, orris, saffron, cedar wood, guaiac wood, leather, patchouli, musk, and vetiver.

Canarium Commune tree. Source: gallery.trip.sk

Canarium Commune tree. Source: gallery.trip.sk

Elemi is a main part of Beloved on my skin, so I’m going to take a minute to go over what it is. According to The Perfume Shrine‘s wonderfully detailed explanation, elemi has a long history. It was used by ancient Egyptians in embalming, and its remnants have been found in sarcophogii. Nowadays, “elemi” apparently refers to the harvested secretions from the Canarium Commune tree in the Phillipines, and its smell can best be summed up as: lemony, clean freshness that is also peppered and smoky. Elemi shares some characteristics with frankincense, but it can also take on a green, piney aroma like that of fresh pine needles. Elemi oil can be deep, clean and citrusy in profile, while the resin version can be peppered, woody, and a little bit spicy. Like the two faces of Janus, Beloved reflects both sides of the elemi coin on my skin.

Source: hdwpapers.com

Source: hdwpapers.com

Beloved opens with a crisp, cool, chilled lemon aroma infused with elemi smokiness, as well as what also smells like actual frankincense. It is followed by a dry, faintly leathered aromachemical, then pepper, a hint of clean soapiness, and the tart, sweet freshness of a grapefruit. There are glimpses of something creamy and warm underneath, as well a hint of sweetness from patchouli. It’s all rather light in feel, and evokes very yellowed, Italianate images, as if Beloved were made for a warm summer’s night in Capri.

Lemon Mousse Parfait by  Mary Bergfeld on One Perfect Bite blogspot. (Link to website with recipe embedded within photo.)

Lemon Mousse Parfait by Mary Bergfeld on One Perfect Bite blogspot. (Link to website with recipe embedded within photo.)

As a whole, Beloved’s opening is a mix of opposites: crisp, chilled citruses with warm, creamy sweetness; dark smokiness with light, fresh cleanness; and, later, dryness with almost custardy smooth richness. It takes hardly any time for Beloved’s citruses to lose their crisp, aromatic zestiness and to turn warmer, richer, deeper, as if hanging off a tree in the warm summer sun. The aromachemical tinge departs within minutes, and the leather nuance fades to a blip on the sidelines.

What is left is primarily an extremely creamy citrus scent that is as smooth as custard, but as airy as a mousse. The faintest trace of smokiness from the elemi is diffused throughout, adding a chiaroscuro effect of darkness to dapple the yellow warmth. Beloved never seems like a smoky or incense fragrance, though. That aspect of the elemi is too muffled on my skin; it merely works indirectly from the sidelines to add subtle touches to the wood’s fresher, lemony characteristics.

10 minutes in, Beloved starts to shift. The increasing warmth takes on the faintest trace of saffron and an abstract floralacy. I don’t smell iris, jasmine, or geranium in any individual way, though something vaguely “iris-like” seems strongest. By the same token, there is no vetiver on my skin at all, and the leather never reappeared again after its initial blip. What there is, however, is a nondescript, nebulous woodiness that darts in and out of the creamy lemon mousse in the top notes. There is also the faintest trace of a musky sweetness.

Source: Polyvore.com

Source: Polyvore.com

There really isn’t a hell of a lot more to the core essence of Beloved on my skin. There are only variations in the strength of the elemi’s woody, smoky, and dry sides over the course of the next few hours, along with fluctuating degrees of ISO E-like aromachemical pepperiness. As a whole, though, Beloved is a seamless blend of the two faces of elemi, and the fragrance’s main characteristic for a good portion of its opening hours is creaminess. It’s absolutely beautiful in that way, feeling as rich, smooth, and effortless as the silkiest creation from a chef in a restaurant devoted to lemony desserts.

It takes less than an hour for Beloved to lose every distinct, clearly delineated trace of something other than lemon mousse with dry, woody smokiness. The abstract floral element vanishes, and the saffron turns into a vague suggestion of something vaguely spicy that hovers at the edges. Beloved’s sillage drops 75 minutes in. It had opened with moderate projection, but the fragrance now hovers 2 inches, at best, above the skin. It feels very gauzy, though simultaneously, very creamy and smooth. The sillage becomes increasingly discreet, while the perfume itself grows more subtle, abstract and hazy in its notes. I’m very impressed by how beautifully balanced it is. For a mousse-y, lemon cream trifle, it has a wonderful balance of dryness and woodiness that prevent Beloved from ever verging on a gourmand or dessert scent. And don’t mistake me, it isn’t one by any means, but the creaminess is terrific.

Source: burkedecor.com

Source: burkedecor.com

By the end of the third hour, Beloved is basically locked into its profile for the remainder of its lifespan: creamy woodiness that is infused with dryness, muted hints of smokiness, and something vaguely citrusy in nature. The ISO E Super peppered touch is speckled throughout, but it is subtle and primarily in the background. As a whole, Beloved feels almost more like a texture than a set of notes, as the latter are mostly amorphous, blurry, and hard to pick out. The fragrance is wispy, light, and a total skin scent by this point as well, though you can detect it easily for another 6 hours if you smell it up close. Beloved lingers on as a gauzy, discreet whisper until it finally dies away as a hint of dry creaminess. All in all, Beloved lasted 12.75 hours on my skin.

Source: Normann Copenhagen. (Link to blog site with recipe for lemon mousse embedded within photo.)

Source: Normann Copenhagen. (Link to blog site with recipe for lemon mousse embedded within photo.)

As I’ll discuss shortly, I don’t think my experience with Beloved Man was representative or the norm, beyond the basic commonality of citruses and woodiness. I haven’t seen anyone else describe the scent as citric creaminess, but I can only tell you how it was on my skin. Lest it was not clear by now, I really liked the lemon chiffon aspect of Beloved. As a whole, I find the perfume to be a well-balanced, easy, uncomplicated fragrance that is very enjoyable as a tame, extremely safe, very basic, approachable Amouage. I also think it is thoroughly and completely unisex.

In fact, the way Beloved Man was on my skin reminded me of Amouage‘s beautiful Ubar for Women, a fragrance that had an equally beautiful lemon custard facet to it. Ubar is a stunner that is much more complex, nuanced, floral, and rich (not to mention nuclear in projection), but Beloved Man felt like a riff on one of Ubar’s prettiest features. In essence, a drier, woodier, smokier, simpler and lighter version of Ubar’s lemon custard. I see no reason at all why women who prefer woodier scents couldn’t wear Beloved. In all cases, Beloved would work really well as a discrete fragrance that is practical and versatile for every day use. You could wear it to the office, but it also feels like an elegant, rich take on citruses that is suited for the summer.

Yet, for all that, Beloved is also linear, simplistic, and lacking much flair or ooomph. And it really needs some profound distinctiveness for the price that Amouage is asking. As a “special edition” or limited-edition fragrance, Beloved seems to have the retail cost of $425. That is a lot of money for an unobtrusive citrus scent with some smoke and woodiness! You might argue that it is an Amouage, but the problem is that Beloved seems like an anti-Amouage to a large extent. Yes, its simplicity has some definite benefits in terms of ease and versatility, but do you want to pay $425 or €340 for it? I wouldn’t.

Speaking of price, it seems to vary all over the place. I’ve never encountered a fragrance where each retailer seems to set a different figure on the same bottle. It’s not listed on the Amouage website at this time, so I have no idea what price they once gave for it. CaFleureBon mentions $425, but I’ve also read $450 and one Fragrantica commentator (probably hyperbolically) said $500. I’ve found Beloved selling for $360 in the U.S., and as low as £265 or €320 in Europe, but I repeat again: woody, citrus mousse!

As you may gather, I’m quite torn on Beloved. If I’m to be honest, it was rather disappointing for an Amouage. It has little to do with the price, but with the fact that I expect more from them. If Beloved were issued by Maison Francis Kurkdjian as a counterbalance to his tendency to create very commercial, safe, often fresh and clean scents (with the fantastic, rich, opulent Absolue Pour Le Soir as being the lone exception to the rule), then I would undoubtedly praise Beloved. It would still be simplistic, safe, and lacking much flair, but, generally speaking, I no longer expect much more than that from MFK.

However, I do expect something different from Amouage which I think is one of the best, most innovative, interesting perfume houses around. Its creations stand out and are admired because they’re complicated, complex, nuanced, and different. Should one judge Beloved in a vacuum, or by the standard of the house? Well, perhaps by both, but I suppose it depends on price as well, which brings us back full circle to that $425. I find it mind-boggling, simply mind-boggling.

Amusingly enough, a commentator on Fragrantica has a preemptive response to my criticisms, presumably because he has heard numerous other people saying the same thing. “Johnnybr0801” argues:

The more I use it, the more I love it!! 🙂 Don’t hate this because of the “lack of uniqueness” or simply because of the price tag! Yes, it is overpriced, as this is a limited edition! I don’t say that this automatically validates the price tag , however I have to tell that whenever I smell an Amouage frag, I always feel like I would pay whatever price they ask for!
Not because Im a fan of the house, but the quality, the creative process, the ingredients, etc. Everything speaks value here! I think they are one of the only houses with a clear concept what they want, and what they want to tell with their fragrances. No bullshit here. You get what you paid for. Period.
This little pricy bastard meant to light up those moments in your life when you feel like you wanna remember forever for that moment. It could be a date, a girl, a man, whatever. It still can be an everyday scent, but I feel like in heaven wearing this every time I put on! This is true ART!!! 

Well, I’m a fan of the house, too, and I agree that its fragrances are of superior quality, but that doesn’t mean that Beloved is a specific case of “true ART!!!” Blind worship is not my thing, and I don’t do it for any perfume brand. I simply cannot fathom what he’s experiencing with Beloved that makes him think it is unique enough to light up his life or to remember a special occasion forever. All the more power to him, though.

What was interesting in reading the largely critical reviews on Fragrantica was seeing the different ways Beloved can manifest itself on one’s skin. To wit:

  • This is a light fragrance that smells a bit like baby powder when applied but man o man have I receive so many compliments in just the two times I’ve worn it this far. It also lasts a while on my skin but does not seem to project that far.
  • At the start I’m smelling the grapefruit and geranium then
    I’m mainly picking up a soft sweet powdery peppery spice with jasmine, musk with a hint of leather. [¶] I don’t know what to make of this scent as all the notes seem to come at you all at once.
  • its the sweatest [sweetest?] and softest manly smell you ever can wear, deep mix and hard to describe, you cant describe it as spicy or woody, or even floral, its nicely mixed to a level where nothing truely dominate.
  • a gentleman perfume for men, with burst of citrus smells, then woodsy pencil shaving smell[.]

Though Beloved has some admirers, most assessments are quite disparaging. One person wrote that Beloved was “a concoction of nothingness not worth its price.” Another said: Beloved is “[u]nworthy of the Amouage name, tested it twice and found it so unremarkable and forgettable[.]” A handful find Beloved to be so “generic” that they couldn’t even be bothered to describe what they smelled, while many others compare it to a whole slew of commercial, department store fragrances. There are several statements to the effect of, “Oh man this is somehow what Paco Rabanne’s 1 Million tries to be.” Other perfumes mentioned are: original, vintage Gucci HommeDior Homme Sport 2012; and Escada‘s Casual Friday.

The blogger, Persolaise, brings up elements of other fragrances as well in a review that calls Beloved “less than spectacular”:

It’s not often I’m relieved to discover that a perfume is less than spectacular. I’ve got so many ‘must buy’ Amouages on my list, that … perversely, I am grateful that Beloved Man won’t tempt me to part with my cash. When compared to last year’s Beloved Woman – a far-reaching chypre composed by Bernard Ellena – it feels like something of a let-down. But taken on its own terms, it’s a solid, competent, ambery-wood masculine.

Fans of Guerlain‘s Heritage and Cartier‘s Declaration will recognise several elements of those scents here, but Beloved Man adds an ‘exotic’ twist, mainly through the use of pepper (always warm; never sneeze-inducing) and a strange, grapefruit-inflected, melting plastic note, not unlike that displayed by Interlude Woman. In combination with cardamom, the aforementioned amber and a disappointingly prominent dose of abrasive wood materials, this curious facet unsettles the wearer and diminishes the romantic effect implied by the scent’s name. But it settles down before too long and makes room for an innocuous, musky drydown. [Emphasis and bolding of names added by me.]

As you can see, his synthetic woody blend is quite different from my own experience. In fact, I seem to be the only one who had an elemi-centric cocktail of mousse-y citruses with smoke and dry woodiness.

Yet, regardless of the different manifestations of Beloved — from baby powder to sweet floral woodiness, leathered woods, or “grapefruit-inflected melting plastic” with “abrasive woods” — there seems to be a common theme in many of these assessments: disappointment. (I’ve even seen “disappointing” as a headline on a YouTube vlog review!) I think it boils down to two things: Beloved feels like quite the anti-Amouage; and it’s bloody expensive for such simplicity. I expect more than just high-quality from Amouage, especially for $425. Beloved’s citrus-woody mousse falls short of the mark, alas.

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Beloved Man is an eau de parfum that only comes in a 100 ml/3.4 oz size. It is a limited distribution scent, and isn’t listed on Amouage’s website. I can’t figure out the retail price, and I’ve seen numbers that vary all over the place: $360, $425, $450, £265, £285, €320, €325, or €340. What I’ve read on CaFleureBon is that “Beloved Man is sold exclusively in Amouage standalone stores and a select number of department stores such as Bergdorf-Goodman in New York City and retails for $425.00.” However, I don’t see it listed on the Bergdorf website anymore. Perhaps it is merely an in-store item? In the U.S.: I found Beloved for $360 on Amazon U.S. from a vendor listed as “Amouage,” but the page also puts “Rare Perfume” as the seller name on the right. Outside the U.S.: In Canada, I found Beloved at The Perfume Shoppe for what appears to be US $425. In Europe, I found Beloved Man at Essenza Nobile for €320, at Premiere Avenue and First in Fragrance for €325, at the Netherland’s ParfuMaria for €330, at Italy’s Al Sacro Cuore for €335, and at Jovoy Paris for €340. I know both FiF and Essenza Nobile sell samples, and ship world-wide, as does Premiere Avenue. In the U.K., Beloved is available at Selfridge’s for £285. It’s slightly cheaper at Fascination Perfumery at £265. Harrod’s and Roja Dove’s Haute Parfumerie normally carry all the Amouage scents, but Beloved was not listed in Harrod’s Amouage for Men page. In Australia, David Jones sells Beloved for AUD$490, while Libertine sells it for AUD$495. In Russia, you can find it at Original ParfumSamples: you can try Beloved from Surrender to Chance which sells vials starting at $5.99 for a 1/2 ml vial.