LM Parfums Patchouly Bohème

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

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

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

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

Source: emporium.az

Source: emporium.az

LM Parfums describes Patchouly Boheme and its notes as follows:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: taste.com.au

Source: taste.com.au

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo:  Patricia Bieszk. Source: theadventourist.com

Photo: Patricia Bieszk. Source: theadventourist.com

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

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

Source: foodgawker.com

Source: foodgawker.com

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

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

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

Source: freehdw.com

Source: freehdw.com

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

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

Source: colourbox.com

Source: colourbox.com

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

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

Dried Indonesian patchouli leaves via Dior.com.

Dried Indonesian patchouli leaves via Dior.com.

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

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

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

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

Another commentator writes:

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

The best from this house.

Longevity is more than 12 hours and sillage is strong.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: pixabay.com

Source: pixabay.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Reviews en Bref are for fragrances that — for whatever reason — didn’t seem to merit one of my detailed, exhaustive, full reviews. In the case of Irish Leather from Memo Paris, it’s because I couldn’t bear to leave it on my skin.

Source: haker.com.tr

Source: haker.com.tr

Memo Paris is a niche line based in Paris. None of its scents are sold in the U.S., but I got to try a few while on holiday, and there were two I rather enjoyed. However, my appreciation was tempered by the fact that at least one of them contained ISO E Super, which I loathe with the passion of a thousand fiery suns. The rest of the line also seemed replete with the aromachemical, so I never bothered to get a sample. Recently, Surrender to Chance began carrying the line, so I ordered Irish Leather.

Source: CaFleureBon

Source: CaFleureBon

The main reason was because of the incredibly evocative, romantic way that Memo describes Irish Leather on its website. The company’s co-founder, John Molloy, is Irish and he clearly wanted to convey the feel of his home country:

It’s one of those icy, biting mornings. The sun scarcely manages to break through the heavy grey clouds. The air is crisp and dry, and the wind slips beneath my clothes. The North wind whips the grass that sticks to my boots. I walk into the stable and swing open the wooden tack room doors, freeing the burning scent of leather, wood, amber and honey. Its age-old odor stands out sharply in the frozen morning air. My horse whinnies softly. It’s the smell of her freedom. The leather gathers in the wind, the grass warms with the wood. Irish Leather gallops off into the horizon.

According to Fragrantica, the notes in Irish Leather are:

juniper berries, amber, leather, mate and tonka bean.

Mate or Yerba Mate. Source: theplanteater.com

Mate or Yerba Mate. Source: theplanteater.com

However, the company has quite a different list:

Pink pepper, oil of clary sage, juniper berry, green maté absolute, oil of flouve, iris concrete, tonka bean absolute, leather accord, oil of birch, amber accord.

Flouve grass via en.academic.ru

Flouve grass via en.academic.ru

It might be worth a brief description of some of those less commonly known notes. According to Fragrantica, maté is a South American tree whose leaves are used for tea. They have a very herbal, bitter, and/or grassy aroma. A Google search for Flouve turned up a Wikipedia page for something called “Anthoxanthum odoratum, known as sweet vernal grass, holy grass, vanilla grass or buffalo grass.” The scent is apparently dominated by coumarin, and smells “like fresh hay with a hint of vanilla.” As for clary sage, it is a plant with a very herbal profile that sometimes smells a little lavendery. It also can have soapy and slightly medicinal tonalities. On occasion, it can have a leathery undertone as well.

All that is fine and dandy, but you’d rather expect a scent named Irish Leather to smell of the eponymous note. Not on my skin. Not on any of the numerous occasions where I tried it, only to give up in a deluge of Chamomile tea, green herbs, grass and, yes, ISO E Supercrappy. So, so, so much ISO E Super. I have now tried Irish Leather four times, and four times I have scrubbed it off. I have never gotten past the 5 hour stage before I finally succumbed, but at no point in those 5 hours did I ever smell leather.

Now, I fully realise that I am much more sensitive to aromachemicals than the average person. I also realise that the vast majority of people can’t smell ISO E Super. I really wish I were in their boat. All I can say is that, most of the time, I can put up with a lot of aromachemicals, despite my issues with them and despite the fact that they can give me a headache when an extremely large quantity is used. I will put up with it for the sake of a full, comprehensive review when the rest of the perfume’s notes have promise or are good enough to endure the misery.

Mate tea via 123rf.com

Mate tea via 123rf.com

That was not the case with Irish Leather. There is absolutely nothing that I found interesting enough to warrant a 5th attempt that would take me all the way to the end. It has nothing to do with the headache, the number of Tylenols I was popping, or my sensitivity to the aromachemical. Irish Leather is simply not all that interesting a perfume, especially for its high price and accessibility issues. There is something particularly irritating (not to mention disorienting) about wearing a scent that is meant to evoke leather and horses, only to smell of Chamomile tea, herbs and crappy chemicals.

Juniper berries.

Juniper berries.

Irish Leather opens on my skin with juniper berries that recreate the scent of gin, followed by massive, walloping amounts of ISO E Super, and green notes. There are fresh green herbs, maté which strongly resembles chamomile tea, grass, and a touch of sweet hay. The primary bouquet is of the green maté tea aroma, with fresh gin, herbs, and ISO E Super. The latter has a chemical, rubbing alcohol vibe that is so strong, it completely flattens the other grassy tonalities.

ISO E Super. Source: Fragrantica

ISO E Super. Source: Fragrantica

Irish Leather is very light and airy, but the ISO E molecules are so large and, more importantly, the quantity is so vast that I continuously have to sniff dried coffee in order to clear my nose. ISO E has the tendency to block out the nose’s smell receptors when it comes to the other molecules, the way an eclipse can block out the sun. On occasion, the size of the molecules can even prevent the nose from noticing the overall fragrance when it is smelled up close, which is why some people can’t easily detect their own perfume while others standing at a distance have no trouble at all.

Distance helps in smelling a fragrance replete with ISO E Super, but that doesn’t do much good for me if I want to detect or single out all the nuances up close. From afar, all I can smell is chamomile tea, green tonalities that are primarily herbal in nature, and the chemical. Unfortunately, up close, even after clearing my nose with coffee, that is all I smell as well. Leather? Nary a whisper of it. I feel as though I’m wearing one of Ormonde Jayne’s green scents (she likes maté a lot as well), only this one has the ISO E Super quadrupled. For the most part, I just feel as though I’m wearing chamomile tea. And I don’t like chamomile tea very much.

About 20 minutes into Irish Leather’s development, the green accords have been joined by what may be the faintest vestige of something smoky. I think. The hay element also seems stronger. I think. The perfume hovers about 2-3 inches above the skin. I think. None of this is a certainty because the ISO E Super has totally overpowered much of my ability to detect nuances, and there is nothing in the scent that is rich or dark enough to counter the chemical. My headache whenever I smell the perfume up close for too long doesn’t help either.

Somewhere in the middle of the third hour, the perfume starts to shift. It turns warmer, less crisp, green and wholly tea-like. There is a creamy and sweet element which infuses the herbal notes, along with hints of an abstract “amber” chemical. A vague suggestion of birch lurks about as well, but it is even more abstract in nature and generally feels like dry woodiness instead. Again, still no leather. None. What there is instead is a light whiff of an arid, desiccated chemical that simply becomes the very last straw for me.

I rarely last more than an hour or two past this point, though I admit that the wholly abstract, generalized, vegetal musk that creeps in near the start of the 5th hour isn’t terrible. It’s warm and slightly sweet, as though a farm’s wild grass and fresh hay have been turned creamy and golden. Unfortunately, it continues to be infused with the ISO E Super which takes on a very Ormonde Jayne lemony undertone. I still feel as though I’m wearing herbal tea, only now there is some warm cream and an abstract fake “amber” in it.

As a whole, on my skin, Irish Leather is merely random forms of vegetation — whether herbal tea, grass, Chamomile, or fresh hay — in a chemical cocktail for hours and hours. Perhaps it gets better by the end, perhaps the leather actually shows up, but I’m not being paid to undergo this experience and I draw the line somewhere.

Dried Camomile tea leaves via uniquecoffeeroasters.com

Dried Camomile tea leaves via uniquecoffeeroasters.com

Irish Leather is a European exclusive and is not cheap at a minimum retail price of €168 for 75 ml, with some vendors selling it as high as €190. At today’s rate of exchange, €168 comes to $233. I personally find that to be ludicrous, but then the degree of my irritation is extremely high at this point.

I generally don’t provide comparative reviews in my “En Bref” posts, but I will here because I am that irate and I want to show that my perceptions of this bloody fragrance are not the result of some idiosyncratic hatred for ISO E Supercrappy. On Fragrantica, the reviews for Irish Leather are not good, and I’ll start with the comment that also notes the massive amount of the bloody chemical:

big amount of iso e super…
..not very interesting to my nose..and actually no leather…only plus: lasting power
if you like the smell of gin & iso e super, I recommend escentric 01 over this one. if you like the synthetics more complicated, I recommend comme des garcons 2 man..

Then, the others:

  • disappointing, for every leather freak a major letdown!
  • I am not sure if the names matches this scent,I am almost convinced it doesn’t. Opens with a strong iris note,could be the juniper berries and dries down to a vetiver-suede combination that just doesn’t work miracles!Green,sharp,reminiscent of forests but not of horses or leather. It reminded me of Hiris by Hermes.Overall,disappointed because of my high expectations(again).More likely to suit a man,I find it too dry and harsh for a woman.Decent longevity and low sillage.

The one quasi-positive review isn’t particularly enthused either, though the commentator does try to put a good spin on the scent:

Opens with a beautiful, albeit a short-lived forest accord; juniper berries and birch. At first, the drydown is leafy&vegetal which is presumably the mate note, reminiscent of the smell of the drink complemented by iris, sage, birch and leather. Leather is quite subdued for the first three hours, but more obvious after the mate & his veggie friends fade a bit. The latter part of the drydown is vegetal leather (very similar to Montale Aoud Leather).

Although this not my cup of tea (pun not intended), I found IL interesting and enjoyable, but not something I’d wear on a regular basis. Lovers of intense leather fragrances probably won’t enjoy this, but if you like your leather with some greenness or are looking for a scent that reminds you of a walk in Nordic forest while sipping some mate, this is worth trying. Modest projection, got 6h of wear with one spray so impressive longevity!

Yes, ISO E Super can give you impressive longevity indeed. As for the eventual “vegetal” leather scent that she experienced, it doesn’t seem to overcome the “cup of tea” from the maté for most of the fragrance’s lifespan, including its drydown, by her own admission.

I refuse to spend any more time discussing this absolutely crappy “leather” fragrance. The end.

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Irish Leather is an eau de parfum that comes in a 75 ml/ 2 oz bottle that retails for €168 or £168. The Memo line is not sold in the U.S. at this time. Outside the U.S.: you can order Irish Leather directly from the Memo website. In the U.K., you can find Irish Leather exclusively at Harvey Nichols. In Ireland, Brown Thomas sells Irish Leather for €190, which seems way over Memo’s own price for it. Below retail is France’s Premiere Avenue which sells Irish Leather for €160. The perfume is also available at First in Fragrance for €168, at Belgium’s Parfuma for €171.20. In Paris, you can find Irish Leather at Colette for €170, in Italy at Profumi Balocchi, and, in the Netherlands, at Babassu where it is sold for €163. In Moscow, you can find the Memo line at Tsum or Orental, and in Dubai, at Harvey Nicks. Memo is also sold in Seoul and Tokyo, and you can look at the Memo Store Locator guide for listings. Samples: I obtained my sample from Surrender to Chance where prices start at $6.99 for a 1 ml vial.

Tom Ford Violet Blonde

When Tom Ford announced the release of his Signature Collection of perfumes in the fall of 2011, his first creation seemed to complement his new make-up line. It was Violet Blonde, a fragrance that ostensibly celebrated the delicate world of the flower that it was named after. Even the print ads seemed to support that point. Appearances can be deceiving.

Lara Stone photographed by Mert & Marcus. Source: Styleitup.com

Lara Stone photographed by Mert & Marcus. Source: Styleitup.com

According to the Tom Ford press release quoted by Nordstrom, Violet Blonde is an eau de parfum meant to represent “a new era of feminine glamour.” The description goes on to read:

Tom Ford Violet Blonde is an opulent fragrance that reveals a stunning new facet of violet: ravishing, intriguing elegance. Made with some of the most precious ingredients in the world, it is crafted according to the finest traditions of European perfumery.

Top notes: violet leaf absolute, Italian mandarin and baie rose.
Middle Notes: Tuscan orris [iris] absolute, Tuscan orris butter and jasmin sambac sampaquita.
Bottom Notes: benzoin, cedarwood, vetiver absolute, silkolide and soft suede.

Photo: gardenersblog.jerseyplantsdirect.com

Photo: gardenersblog.jerseyplantsdirect.com

Violet Blonde opens on my skin with a potent burst of green, crunchy, leafy, and peppery notes. You can almost feel the fuzzy, soft leaves of a bunch of violets or pansies, except they are covered with pepper. The scent of the actual violets themselves, however, feels hidden and muffled, as though they were shielded behind the leafy green notes. On my skin, they are a whisper of a suggestion at best, feeling dewy and faintly earthy. The violets and their powerful green leaves are all nestled at the base of a dry tree, though the note doesn’t feel very much like cedar to me but more akin to an abstract woodiness. Seconds later, sweetness seeps through like a creeping puddle approaching the flowers, covering them with a delicate, thin syrup. It’s not ridiculously sweet or gourmand; it’s more like clear corn syrup than heavy, gooey honey.

Pink peppercorns. Source: spicestationsilverlake.com

Pink peppercorns. Source: spicestationsilverlake.com

The purple, green, and brown canvas is quickly splattered with splotches of pink from the pink peppercorns, and with cream from a slightly sharp musk. It’s not the clean or white variety, but it has the subtlest touch of freshness about it, serving to lift up the other notes to make them seem lighter than they actually are. As regular readers know, I’m not at all a fan of synthetic musks, and my nose is very sensitive to their strength, so I’m not a fan of this part of Violet Blonde. Thankfully, the note is relatively minor at this point, though that ends up changing later.

Deep in the base, there lurks an extremely subtle vein of fruitiness. It is indistinct and abstract, but it certainly doesn’t smell like mandarin to me. What’s interesting is how the combination of the pink pepper berries and the musk have created the feel of a general pink fruitiness that is lightly spiced. There is a subtle jamminess to the fruit, too, almost as if purple, fruited patchouli had been used.

Violet Leaf via gaertner-und-florist.at

Violet Leaf via gaertner-und-florist.at

All those notes lurk behind the peppery green leaves which are the dominant focus of the scent in the early minutes. The violet flower itself is very elusive, and it becomes even more so 8 minutes into the perfume’s development when the jasmine arrives. It is syrupy, sweet, and very heady. I love big white flowers, so I’m rather thrilled by all this, but the strength of the jasmine basically dooms the violet from every having a chance at a solo act on center stage. In fact, the violet slinks off to the sidelines with a whimper and basically sits out much of the rest of the fragrance like some sort of very embarrassed wallflower. It’s rather disappointing, but perhaps it’s a function of skin chemistry.

Trailing behind the jasmine is the first suggestion of something powdered. Orris is often used in makeup as a fixative and has a powdered aroma, as does iris. Here, there is the tiniest whisper of a rose-iris makeup powder undertone, though it is extremely subtle. Honestly, almost every note in this perfume is subtle and muted on my skin except for the crunchy, peppered leaves in the beginning, and then the jasmine and the musk.

Violet Blonde is quite potent in its opening moments. I used 3 decent sprays from a tiny atomizer, an amount which equals 2 small squirts from an actual bottle. Violet Blonde wafts about me in a billowy, potent cloud that feels as light as a feather, though it is extremely strong in smell. The airy weight of the fragrance is definitely misleading. Violet Blonde’s projection is initially good, wafting about 4 inches above the skin, though that starts to change extremely quickly. As you will see, the opening forcefulness is not characteristic of the scent as a whole.

Source: Hdwallpaperes.com

Source: Hdwallpaperes.com

The jasmine soon becomes Violet Blonde’s driving force. Within 20 minutes, its sweetness cuts through a good portion of the perfume’s greenness. Oddly, I can smell more of the actual violet flower now — as opposed to its leaves — than I did at the start, though it keeps playing a peekaboo game with me from the sidelines. On a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the strongest, I would put the violet note at a 3.5 now, perhaps a 4 for a brief moment. It had begun as a 1.5, so it is an improvement, but it’s all very relative. At the same time, the powder and cedar elements also grow stronger. As a whole, Violet Blonde smells of sweet florals dominated by jasmine and thoroughly infused with leafy, peppered, violet leaves. The main bouquet is lightly flecked by powder, cedar, the violet flower itself, pink peppered berries, and a touch of fresh musk.

Jasmine Rouge.

Jasmine Rouge.

Violet Blonde feels like a juxtaposition of contrasts: heavy but light; headily floral but crisply fresh; sweetly dewy but peppered green; a touch earthy but also a touch powdered; understated and, yet, bold as well. It has that signature Tom Ford opulence, but it is ratcheted down from the levels of many of his Private Blend fragrances. Violet Blonde is not demure, but it is also not particularly flashy or va-va-voom either. Those last two words are what I’d use to describe Violet Blonde’s sibling in the Signature Collection line, Jasmine Rouge, which was released shortly afterwards and which is spectacularly heady in its intensity and punch. Violet Blonde is not. Yet, it feels much less subdued than Tom Ford’s recently discontinued Private Blend Black Violet. On my skin, the latter was quite anemic, muted, and quiet indeed. It also had extremely disappointing projection that didn’t feel like a Tom Ford fragrance at all, never mind one of his Private Blend ones.

Violet Blonde seems to fall midway on the Tom Ford spectrum of power, heaviness, and projection, especially after 40 minutes when it turns much softer. The sillage slowly drops to about 1-2 inches above the skin. The perfume’s weight feels as though it has been cut by 30%, perhaps because the jasmine has now blended into the overall fragrance and has lost a lot of its syrupy sweetness. The powder notes are now much stronger, too.

Sketch: Walter Logeman at ThousandSketches.com

Sketch: Walter Logeman at ThousandSketches.com

At the end of the first hour, Violet Blonde turns more abstract, and the notes all blur into each other. The sillage drops even further. The overall bouquet is of a woody, slightly powdered jasmine with musk. It is only lightly flecked by green, leafy, peppered notes, and they grow increasingly weak. The powder isn’t enormous; we’re not talking Guerlainade levels by any means. It feels more like a light dusting over the jasmine than a strong, core element. One thing is for certain, the iris is not showing its strong, cold, carroty, or dank facets at all. As for the rose, it’s really a no-show on my skin, though there is sometimes a suggestion of it lurking about the powder. I suspect that is merely my mind making a mental association with the sort of powdery rose smell that some makeup or lipsticks can have.

Violet Blonde is very pretty, but I’m really not keen on the growing forcefulness of the musk which pushes aside the green leafiness, the powder, and everything else it sees. Everything but the jasmine. The musk smells sharp to my nose, and is definitely synthetic. Thankfully, it’s not the fresh, white, laundry, “clean” type, or I’d go out of my mind. Still, it grows stronger and stronger as time passes. All too soon, Violet Blonde devolves to a simple jasmine musk on my skin with some abstract woody notes.

Violet Blonde is a very linear scent whose core essence doesn’t change during the rest of its evolution. All that happens is that the jasmine and musk fluctuate in terms of their strength. At times, Violet Blonde feels as though it has turned wholly abstract, and the notes (other than that musk) have lost all individual shape or identity. To be precise, it starts to smell like nothing more than a generic “floral, woody musk” on my skin. At other times, however, the jasmine appears as a distinct element, before it sinks back down into the general cloud. At the start of the 2nd hour, Violet Blonde’s sillage hovers just an inch above the skin. 60 minutes later, the perfume turns into a complete skin scent. It’s quite a surprise to have a Tom Ford fragrance turn so discreet after 120 minutes.

Catherine Jeltes Painting, "Modern Brown Abstract Painting WinterScape." Etsy Store, GalleryZooArt, linked within. (Click on photo.)

Catherine Jeltes Painting, “Modern Brown Abstract Painting WinterScape.” Etsy Store, GalleryZooArt, linked within. (Click on photo.)

For hours, Violet Blonde continues its trajectory as a simple, sweet, powdered jasmine scent with abstract woodiness and sharp musk. By the end of the 5th hour, there are a two small changes in the base. First, a creamy undertone appears which is lovely. It’s like sweetened woods with a distinct vanillic edge. The latter clearly stems from the benzoin listed in the notes. Second, there is a subtle vein of jammy sweetness that reappears deep down. I can’t pinpoint the source, but, again, it almost feels like a touch of fruit-chouli or purple patchouli. As a whole, Violet Blonde is now an abstract floral scent on a base of creamy woods that are lightly flecked by a vanillic benzoin and strongly infused with fresh musk. The jasmine is just barely distinguishable; all the rest of the notes have faded away or turned wholly indistinct.

The musk starts to finally mellow out and pipe down by the middle of the 7th hour. To my surprise, the violet flower makes a brief, 30-minute reappearance on the sidelines. I guess it was waiting for the musk to shut up in order to make a visit, but it’s still a very shy, quiet, and muted affair. As a whole, Violet Blonde remains on its simple course: a sweet floral musk with creamy woods. The powder fades away by the middle of the 9th hour, as does a lot of the musk, leaving only creamy floral sweetness as the perfume’s dominant characteristic. Violet Blonde remains that way until the end when it dies in a blur of something vaguely floral. All in all, it lasted just over 11.25 hours with very soft, discreet sillage after the end of the 2nd hour.

Photo: Temptalia, with grateful thanks.

Photo: Temptalia, with grateful thanks.

Violet Blonde has generally received very good reviews. I’ll start with my friend, Temptalia, who isn’t even particularly into floral scents but who found Violet Blonde to be “elegant, polished, and subtly feminine–ultimately, a sophisticated, layered scent that’s not as heavy or as daunting as Tom Ford’s Private Blend Collection, but in some ways, more refined.” Her review reads, in part:

It opened with strong burst of floral notes with a sweetened, fruit-laced edge over a backdrop of peppery greens. There was an inkling of the greenness from the violet leaf when it opened, but it quickly transitioned to fragrant, floral jasmine, which was the prevailing note on my skin for some time. The jasmine blended with the rooty qualities of the orris (iris root), so it was cool and just softer than crisp; like the first few days of fall, where the air coolly caresses and you realize the seasons have just changed.

I appreciated the damp, mustiness the orris notes imparted–they enhanced the depth and added another layer of nuance.  It made it distinctly autumnal for me [….]  It’s fresh and green and lovely.

Violet Blonde encapsulates some of those qualities–the freshness and green crispness of autumn–but it is more floral than anything else.  It never turned achingly sweet, which is a direction that tends to remind me of youthfulness, and instead, it evolved to an earthy jasmine with soft, creamy woods that took away some of the edginess of the opening of the scent but made it more wearable.

We had an extremely similar experience, right down to the lovely creamy touch that arrives in Violet Blonde’s drydown. I agree fully with her sentiment that Violet Blonde feels elegant, while not being as heavy or intense as many of the Private Blend line. Where we differ is in the feeling of autumn, as I felt Violet Blonde felt more like Spring, but that’s all an emotional, subjective response. (Plus, I’m writing this at the arrival of Spring, so I’m definitely being influenced by that factor. The perfume was released in Autumn 2011, so that might have played a role in the early reviews.)

Source: shamshyan.com

Source: shamshyan.com

Autumn was also on the mind of Bois de Jasmin who gave Violet Blonde a positive review as well:

Although the perfume is called Violet Blonde, the violet in this composition figures more as a green, crunchy leaf, rather than the raspberry redolent flower. As the fragrance settles into the skin, there is a flash of soft, tender violet petals. The delicate sweetness is a very appealing counterpoint to the peppery-green layers that follow. Soon, a strong jasmine note gives its rich hue to the floral and green notes. The cool iris lends Violet Blonde its austere, earthy quality, and when contrasted with the plush jasmine, the effect is memorable and surprising.

The wet, green woody notes underpin the radiant floral core of Violet Blonde, giving it an autumnal feeling of chrysanthemum petals clinging to damp earth. While the leafy and peppery sparkle persists throughout the perfume’s development, there is a musky softness to the drydown that makes Violet Blonde less edgy than it might have appeared initially. It is both a plus and a minus, because while the softness makes the fragrance more wearable, it also reduces its character. Like Balenciaga Paris, Violet Blonde feels too timid to truly make a statement. On the other hand, even if it does not strike me as a bombshell perfume, Violet Blonde is a well-crafted composition. Elegant and polished, it would make a great daytime perfume, a comfortable silk slip of a fragrance.

Source: swirlydoos.com

Source: swirlydoos.com

For Now Smell This, Violet Blonde was “polished chic,” and their review reads, in part, as follows:

Violet Blonde is soft and cushy-powdery, as is the current fashion, but it’s loudly so, in keeping with Tom Ford’s aesthetic. […] The opening is a heady mix of citrus, sweet fruit, violet leaf and violet (violet fans take note: it does smell like violet in the early stages). It’s green early on, and peppery throughout. The fruit notes soften as the top notes dissipate, and the violet fades into a jasmine-heavy floral mixed with a dry, peppery iris. The jasmine is clean, with fruity undertones, and it’s strong rather than rich: the ad copy repeatedly uses the word opulence, but it’s a decidedly modern sort of opulence. The base is pale earthy woods, smooth and creamy, and mostly clean — as was the case with White Patchouli, the earthy notes are there, but they’ve been worked over with a fine-toothed comb; there’s no must or skank whatsoever. […][¶]

Violet Blonde in particular has that same feel of “polished chic” that verges on formal (formal, polished and chic also feature in the ad copy). I likened Black Orchid to a ball gown, and White Patchouli to the upscale New York all-in-black look (trousers, a black turtleneck and boots, big sunglasses, sleek hair, one big piece of jewelry). Violet Blonde, the purple-tinged advertising notwithstanding, I’d put in shades of beige and tan, something rather like the perfectly tailored ladies-who-lunch [wear.][…]

Source: Fabfitfun.com

Source: Fabfitfun.com

I very much agree with her sentiment of a polished chic that is rather in-between things. It relates back to my point on how Violet Blonde feels as though it is midway on the spectrum between something like Jasmine Rouge (or the bold Private Blends), and the more understated fragrances in the line. For whatever reason, the image which repeatedly came to my mind was that of Sharon Stone from the Oscars long ago in 1998, when she made news by pairing her husband’s simple, white, crisp GAP shirt with an opulent Vera Wang ball gown in violet.    

Lest all this sound like Violet Blonde is filled with nothing but fabulousness, let me make clear that the perfume isn’t for everyone. Obviously, you must like both jasmine and powder, and you should not expect a ton of the actual violet flower. Some people seem to struggle with the peppered, green leaves, as witnessed by a few comments on Fragrantica, while others have problems with other aspects of the scent, including its weak sillage. Some of the negative reviews: 

  • The first hour is a torture for me – can’t put up with e cold top notes? However, it becomes more and more unique as it warms up on the skin and blends into the chemistry of the skin. a dry down seems to me very similar to Chanel Allure.. Overall, very interesting and intriguing fragrance. Love it on someone else, rather than on me.
  • Its nice enough but I am slightly disappointed by this ‘mousy’ perfume – I expected Violet Blonde to smell sharp, fresh and more blueish… But its very subtle – it opens with diffuse powder and hints of muted violet. The dry down on my skin is very sweet and musky – like condensed milk. Its much better on clothing – then the violet is more detectable and it has a nice smoky quality.
  • I really really like this perfume but it is so weak… It wears like an eau de cologne on me, I must be anosmic to a fragrance for the first time in my life? [¶] Contrary to several reviewers here I adore the sharp opening. It’s a sexy car screeching to a halt, a dyed, blonde wearing something inappropriate opening the door mid-breaking. It’s awesome and exciting. [¶] After the promising beginning it stays and pleasantly tingles my senses for about 2 hours with suede and iris and a few aldehydic background notes but unfortunately fizzles out shortly after. The bodylicious Blonde becomes a shrinking violet….
  • Bananas, honey, spices, old makeup…the opening on this scent is so awful that I can’t even justify the drydown.
  • My nose does not translate this opening well at all. It just smells like nondescript perfume to me. Nothing stands out for a solid 15 minutes, it is just kind of a mish-mosh of different notes that do not really compliment or play upon each other. They all seem to be competing for first place and nothing is really winning. But if a winner must be chosen I guess it would be the pink pepper. [¶] It finally settles into a soft powdery violet/iris/jasmine that smells nice and rather polite and feminine. But it is nothing exciting or distinct. It just kinda smells like “perfume”.
  • 1972 beauty parlor top note. [¶] As an obsessed gardener, I cannot pick out a violet note at any point and the overall feeling is perfectly fine for downtown big city USA. And it’s not that I despise it, really, if I worked in an urban sophisticated environment and wanted to project the image of a confidant, don’t-mess-with-me woman, this would be perfect. As it is, it’s too mature for me at age fifty.

For every one of those negative reviews (or, in some cases, quasi-negative, mixed reviews), I can show you two more positive ones from other people on Fragrantica. Even the ones that start negatively soon turn positive. Then, there are the many who write long, gushing, rave reviews, calling Violet Blonde “classy,” or a “masterpiece.” My gut feeling about the negative reactions is that the peppered, powdered leafy notes are a stumbling block for some people, coming across as either harsh, too strong, or “beauty parlor”-like, before the jasmine’s sweetness cuts through it.

I’m also going to add that the musk (yes, that bloody musk!) creates a foundational element that feels similar to so many other fragrances out there, especially in conjunction to the creamy woods. I think that would explain the handful of comments comparing Violet Blonde’s drydown with Chanel‘s Allure. Honestly, when you’re getting into the “floral, woody musk” genre, when the florals turn abstract and indistinct, but sit upon a creamy wood base infused with that musk… well, they all end up smelling somewhat similar and generic. It’s not a positive thing in my eyes, and is one of the main reasons why I have such problems with the over-use of the musk in commercial scents.

I may not be as keen for Violet Blonde as some people out there, but I did thoroughly enjoy parts of it. While it doesn’t fit my tastes, I think people who enjoy very feminine, soft, powdered florals may want to give Violet Blonde a sniff. Those of you who love jasmine, in particular, may want to seek it out at one of the many department stores which carries the fragrance. Violet Blonde is a generally elegant, uncomplicated, feminine fragrance which is very well-priced for Tom Ford. It feels as refined as his Private Blend line, but for half the price, particularly as you can find it highly discounted at such places as Amazon or FragranceNet. As you can see in the Details section below, a 1.7 oz/50 ml bottle retails for around $110 but can be found for as low as $67. In contrast, Tom Ford’s Private Blend fragrances in that same size retail for $210, and usually can’t be found discounted at all.

 All in all, it’s a pretty scent that should suit some people very well. 

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Violet Blonde is an eau de parfum which generally comes 3 sizes: 1 oz/30 ml, 1.7 oz/50 ml, and 3.4 oz/100 ml. In the U.S.: you can find Violet Blonde at Sephora where it costs $72, $110, or $155, depending on size. Violet Blonde is also sold at Nordstrom in the larger $110 and $155 bottles. Other regular retailers include SaksNeiman Marcus, Macy’s, Barneys, and Bergdorf Goodman. Discount PricesAmazon discounts the $110 bottle for around $67 and it is supposedly sold by “Tom Ford.” Amazon also sells the tiny 1 oz/30 ml bottle for $56 through a 3rd party vendor. Another discount site is FragranceNet which sells Violet Blonde for roughly $69 and $101 in the larger sizes, with a coupon. FragranceNet has numerous different subsites by country, from Canada to Australia, the UK, EU, South Africa, and Scandinavian countries. To find the discounted price for your country, go to the little flag icon at the very, very top of the page on the far right, click it, choose your nation’s flag, and you’ll be taken to the site appropriate for you with its huge discounted rates. Outside the U.S.: You can find Violet Blonde discounted at various FragranceNet country sites. (See above.) For regular retailers: In Canada, you can find Violet Blonde at Sephora which sells it for CAD$68, CAD$120, or CAD$163, depending on size. I believe Tom Ford is also carried at Holt Renfrew. In the UK, Violet Blonde is priced at £50, £70, or £100, depending on the size of the bottle. You can buy it at House of Fraser for £70 for the 50 ml size. Violet Blonde is sold at Harrods or Selfridges in all 3 sizes. In France, you can find the entire Tom Ford line at Sephora, including Violet Blonde. Premiere Avenue sells the large size of Violet Blonde. Tom Ford is carried throughout the Middle East and Asia, but his website is currently undergoing a change, so I can’t give you his store locator guide for a location near you. SamplesSurrender to Chance sells Violet Blonde for $3.99 for a 1 ml vial. You can also go to any of the department stores listed above to give it a test sniff.

Stéphane Humbert Lucas 777 Khôl de Bahreïn: Ambered Iris

Photo: My own.

Photo: My own.

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

Stephane Humbert Lucas via CaFleureBon and Marieclaire.it.

Stephane Humbert Lucas via CaFleureBon and Marieclaire.it.

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

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

Source: Fragrantica

Source: Fragrantica

Blend of amber benzene.
Unguent with an intense trail.

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

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

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

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

Source: Soundcloud.com

Source: Soundcloud.com

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

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

toffee caramal nougat close up wallpaper

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

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

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

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

Photo: Crystal Venters via Dreamtime.com

Photo: Crystal Venters via Dreamtime.com

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

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

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

Source: nature.desktopnexus.com/

Source: nature.desktopnexus.com/

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: qcorrell.com

Source: qcorrell.com

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

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

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

Source: hdwallpapers4desktop.com

Source: hdwallpapers4desktop.com

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

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

Source: hdwallpapers4desktop.com

Source: hdwallpapers4desktop.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Sagma Corp.

Source: Sagma Corp.

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

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

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

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

Source: Fragrantica

Source: Fragrantica

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

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

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

Perris Monte Carlo Bois d’Oud

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

Source: Fragrantica.

Source: Fragrantica.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: picsfab.com

Source: picsfab.com

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

Source: ghulmil.com

Source: ghulmil.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: samsunggalaxy.co

Source: samsunggalaxy.co

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

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

Source: top.besthdwallpapers.info

Source: top.besthdwallpapers.info

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

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

Source: pugetsoundbites.wordpress.com

Source: pugetsoundbites.wordpress.com

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

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

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

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

Source: spicewallpaper.blogspot.com

Source: spicewallpaper.blogspot.com

Other impressions of Bois d’Oud are:

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

Source: souq.com

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

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

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

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

Suede. Source: seasonalcolor.yuku.com

Suede. Source: seasonalcolor.yuku.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Slumberhouse Zahd (Limited Edition)

Photo: Lisa Rochon at chasinghome.org.

Photo: Lisa Rochon at chasinghome.org.

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

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

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

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

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

Source: ebay.co.uk

Source: ebay.co.uk

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

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

According to Mr. Lobb, Zahd incorporates notes of:

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

Source: Pbs.org

Source: Pbs.org

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

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

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

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

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

Trisamber, via IFF.

Trisamber, via IFF.

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

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

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

Mr. Lobb also added:

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

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

Source: designerwallcoverings.com

Source: designerwallcoverings.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: primermagazine.com

Source: primermagazine.com

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

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

Image: Dejainnightmare via imgarcade.com

Image: Dejainnightmare via imgarcade.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: droiddnaforum.com

Source: droiddnaforum.com

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

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

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

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

Source:  hd4desktop.com

Source: hd4desktop.com

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

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

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

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

Review En Bref: Serge Lutens Laine de Verre

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

Fiberglass. Source: featurepics.com

Fiberglass. Source: featurepics.com

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

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

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

Source: marieclaire.fr

Source: marieclaire.fr

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: de.wallpaperswiki.org

Source: de.wallpaperswiki.org

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

Source: depositphotos.com

Source: depositphotos.com

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

Woolite Delicates via rbnainfo.com.

Woolite Delicates via rbnainfo.com.

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

Source: soap.com

Source: soap.com

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

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

Source: telshopmobile.com

Source: telshopmobile.com

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

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

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

Bounce dryer sheets.

Bounce dryer sheets.

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

Source: hdw.eweb4.com

Source: hdw.eweb4.com

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

Source: ukcurtainsandinteriors.co.uk

Source: ukcurtainsandinteriors.co.uk

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

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

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

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