Review en Bref: L’Artisan Parfumeur Mon Numero 10

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Perfume Review – Trayee by Neela Vermeire Créations: A Vibrant Kaleidoscope

In Rig Veda Psych4u  blogspot http://psych4u.blogspot.com/2010/05/in-rig-veda.html

I lost my heart to India many years ago. At the end of 1990, I spent about a month touring that magnificent country with some dear friends. India captivated my mind, overwhelmed my senses, and held me hostage. She brought me feelings of serenity, joy, amazement, and peace — a sense of having come “home” which was quite strange for someone utterly new to the country and who had lived the life of a wandering nomad. India was, quite simply, the most intoxicating, fascinating place I’d ever seen in my long list of travels. I fell in love and have never stopped. Among the many places in that gloriously dazzling country that stand out in my mind is Matheran. It is a hill station on the Western Ghat mountain range and a few hours outside of Mumbai. Every part of Matheran — and my trip up it — is etched indelibly in my mind. After a long drive, we arrived at the base of a giant mountain.

Source: BrooklynMeetsBombay Blog

Matheran. Source: BrooklynMeetsBombay Blog

Source: TouristLink.com

Source: TouristLink.com

Before us lay a vast, curling, climbing road covered in bright, terracotta-red dust. An endless phalanx of dark, leafy trees on either side provided shade and a green canopy above our heads through which peeked a bright blue sky. The trees were gnarled and twisted, their enormous, beige roots visible and clawing at what little remained of the dusty earth surrounding them, a victim of the battering monsoons. Everywhere, small taupe monkeys scampered around, chattering and talking a mile a minute as they ran ahead of us or leaped up on the trees.

Source: Trip Advisor

Source: Trip Advisor

Source: VirtualTourist.Com

Source: VirtualTourist.Com

You can’t drive up Matheran as it is one of the few places in the world where cars are completely forbidden, so you take donkeys or horses. Gingerly, you place yourself on their bony bodies as you slowly ride that long, winding, red trail up, up and up.

Matheran. Photo: Reza Ahmed Flickr

Matheran. Photo: Reza Ahmed Flickr

Eventually, you get to the very top to behold a canyon that seems as vast as America’s Grand Canyon — only this one is a sea of green trees and golden earth that stretches out as far as the eye can see. My friend had a large summer place at the very top, overlooking the canyon, and the sight at dawn and dusk rendered me utterly speechless. Words simply cannot convey any of it. Not even for one as verbose as myself.

Matheran. Photographer: Peter Akkermans. Site: http://www.fotoakkermans.nl/

Matheran. Used with permission from the talented photographer: Peter Akkermans. Site: http://www.fotoakkermans.nl/

Matheran is what flashed before my eyes when I first smelled Trayee (pronounced as “Try-ee’), a brilliant, complex, rich perfume from the Parisienne Indie line, Neela Vermeire Créations, Parfums Paris (“NVC”). The niche perfume house was founded in 2011 by Neela Vermeire, a lawyer born in India and educated in the UK who now lives in Paris and is a self-taught nose of enormous talent. She collaborated with the famous perfumer, Bertrand Duchaufour, to launched three perfumes paying homage to different phases in India’s history and each has garnered enormous praise. (They sent perfumistas chattering like those monkeys on Matheran!) One of them, Bombay Bling, was chosen by the prestigious perfume website, CaFleureBon, as one of their top 25 fragrances for 2011. The greatest recognition, however, came for Trayee with what would be the equivalent of a perfume Oscar when the Fragrance Foundation recognized its creative excellence and nominated it for a Fifi award in the Indie category. Trayee

The vibrant kaleidoscope that is India is at the very heart of Trayee — and it is amply demonstrated by the perfume’s long list of notes:

Madagascar blue ginger, elemi, cinnamon, ganja accord, blackcurrant absolute, basil, Sambac jasmine absolute, Egyptian jasmine absolute, cardamom absolute, clove, saffron, Javanese vetiver, Haitian vetiver, incense, Mysore sandalwood oil, patchouli, myrrh, vanilla, cedar, amber notes, oudh palao from Laos, and oak moss.

The Three VedasThe complex notes are quite intentional because Trayee is a concrete evocation of India’s Vedic period (1500 BC to 500 BC), a time of great antiquity shrouded in mystery but known to be the source for what eventually became modern Hinduism. As Luckyscent (Trayee’s exclusive U.S. distributor) explains, the perfume’s name is:

an allusion to the sacred origin of the first three Vedas, the most ancient sacred texts in India. The notes are drawn from the ingredients used in religious rituals and Ayurvedic medicine during the Vedic era. Rich in incense, myrrh and oud, the fragrance is a poignant blend of smoke, spices and resins that harks back to the very origins of perfumery – a burnt offering to the gods and an aid to meditation.

Trayee opens with a rich, potent burst of saffron, cardamom and oud. The oud was, as is often the case with agarwood, entwined with strong notes of rose. It was never synthetic or screechy, but true to the faintly medicinal, camphorous, chilly aspects of real agarwood. The combination of beautiful sweet saffron with the faintly nutty, aromatic sweetness of the cardamom provide a perfect counterbalance. Following on the heels of those notes is incense whose peppery, smoky accords provide a bit of a bite to the richness of the other ingredients.

That opening was the only consistent element in the two times that I tried Trayee. It is a perfume that is so magnificently blended that different elements peek out at different times, undulating like perfumed waves of richness, woodiness and spice. There is so much depth to Trayee that trying to pick out consistent notes is a bit of a hard task. In an interview with Bois de Jasmin, Ms. Vermeire summed up in one sentence much of my experience: “Trayee’s notes appear and reappear, keeping the wearer guessing and creating a memorable olfactory experience.” It is absolutely true. Equally true is Ms. Vermeire’s comment that:

Trayee is one of the most evocative fragrances for me. It is a rich woody composition, with sandalwood, oud, vetiver and incense lending it many facets. On me, it changes all the time.

Udaipur Market. Photo: Amos Rojter or "Brother Amos." Source: Redbubble.com

Udaipur Market. Photo: Amos Rojter or “Brother Amos.” Source: Redbubble.com

The very first time I wore Trayee, the opening was followed by hints of cassis (which is how I’ve always known “black currant”), cloves, and ginger. There was smoke that stemmed from either the incense, the myrrh, elemi, or the cedar, along with some woody elements, black pepper and sweetness. As always with Trayee, it’s hard to know what scents stem from what ingredients but it always evokes the rich kaleidoscope of India.

Saffron. Source: FoodandFarsi.com

Saffron.
Source: FoodandFarsi.com

All the notes were subsumed under the veil of saffron which is one of my favorite spices. There is a lovely floral nuttiness to the saffron due to the cardamom, and the combination calls to mind the richness of L’Artisan Parfumeur‘s Safran Troublant with its evocation of Persian Sholeh Zard or Indian Kheer desserts. Trayee, however, is like Safran Troublant heightened to the max and with a thousand more elements added to the mix for a richer, more intense, more spiced and luxurious experience.

The second time I wore Trayee, the usual beginning was followed by hefty doses of creamy, rich sandalwood mixed with the earthiness of vetiver. The sandalwood is absolutely real Mysore sandalwood, a rare thing in perfumery today given its prohibitive cost and the Indian government’s protection of this over-sourced prized wood. The expert perfume critic, Luca Turin, has often bemoaned the use of a synthetic replacement in “sandalwood” perfumes or the reliance on the very different Australian sandalwood, and he’s right. Real sandalwood is usually too expensive for most perfumers, especially if used in any significant quantity. Here, there is a significant amount of absolutely genuine, lovely sandalwood in Trayee. I smelled copious amounts of it during the dry-down in my first go-round, and even more of it in the opening hour on my second attempt.

It is remarkable and supports everything Ms. Vermeire has said regarding her goal of using only the finest raw materials and expensive essences in her perfume. In The Perfume Magazine, Ms. Vermeire said: “Trayee has a high concentration of pure Mysore sandalwood oil, nearly 1% pure oud, and two different types of jasmine.” And elsewhere, in a comment quoted by Portia of Australian Perfume Junkies (in a glowing review of Trayee for the Perfume Posse), she elaborated that the perfume was made without regard to cost:

I did not give a budget cap so Bertrand Dachoufour never had a budget – Trayee is one of the most expensive perfumes he has created. We made sure there are lots of high quality natural ingredients…. Most niche companies want to spend 150 euros or so max per kg of essence. We went more than 7 times that so the essences are expensive (and hopefully exceptional).

It shows. It really, really shows. The richness of the scent, the use of the most concentrated “absolute” form for many of the ingredients, and the pure smoothness of the notes seep out from every moment that you wear the perfume.

The quality of the ingredients is matched only by their superb blending, the sure sign of an expert hand like the famous Bertrand Duchaufour. The development of the perfume in its later stages differed on both occasions I wore it. Sometimes, the dominant note was Elemi, a tree from the Philippines that is related to those from which we obtain frankincense and myrrh. (You can read more about elemi in my Glossary but, in a nutshell, it opens with a lemony note that thereafter turns into spicy, peppered pinewoods.) At other times, one notices the tobacco leaves which combine with the patchouli and earthy vetiver to create a vaguely chocolate-mocha impression. There are times when the perfume is predominantly sandalwood and vetiver, followed by cardamom, jasmine and sweet amber. On occasion, the spices take on a dusty, earthy quality, like that red road up Matheran mountain. It’s a perpetually shifting mystery that makes Trayee intoxicating, endlessly sniffable and always entrancing.

Source: Fractal ArtistFlickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/8720628@N04/2257117100/

Source: Fractal Artist
Flickr (Click on photo for the link)

As a whole, however, the middle to end stages of Trayee are much sweeter than the dryer, spiced early stage. The perfume warms up in a way, evoking colours of soft burnished bronze and warm copper. The unctuous, creamy, luxurious sandalwood and deeply resinous, smoky amber rise like waves of molten gold and red, enveloping you in a scent that is deeply sensuous.

Trayee’s richness impacts its projection and sillage. This is heady, potent stuff! The perfume projected strongly for about 4.5 hours before becoming softer and less pronounced. It didn’t become close to the skin until around seven hours in — something I found to be utterly astonishing. Trayee also had remarkable longevity. On my skin which voraciously consumes perfumes and on which very little lasts for an extensive amount of time, there were very faint traces after 12.5 hours. I think that’s a new record, and one which left me utterly stunned. Granted, I did go a little crazy in the application (which is what tends to happen when I smell saffron) but, nevertheless, that ecstatic application has happened before and the perfumes never lasted anywhere remotely close to Trayee’s duration. On Fragrantica and Basenotes, however, I have read of shorter longevity with some saying Trayee lasted approximately eight hours. So, clearly, a lighter application will impact the perfume’s duration.

My one dilemma when it comes to Trayee is its cost. It is not cheap. It costs $260 for a small 1.8 oz/55 ml bottle. I was lucky to obtain my sample from a friend and fellow perfume blogger, The Scented Hound, who generously provided some from his own collection. He fell in love with Trayee, calling it “luscious, joyous, fragrant” — “like a magical day in the heart of India” — and eventually succumbed to a full bottle. I worry about the price (especially when I think of how beloved the other two perfumes in the India series are and how I’m bound to be tempted by Bombay Bling, in particular), but there is no doubt in my mind that I will try to obtain some Trayee — even if it’s only a decant. (You can read my Beginner’s Guide to Perfume to learn about perfume splits and groups that offer decants for sale.)

Summer palace on the lake Jaipur

Jaipur – Summer palace on the lake.

Despite Trayee’s cost, I honestly think you are getting what you pay for. There are many similarly priced perfumes out in the luxury market (albeit, usually for a larger sized bottle) but the quality of Trayee’s ingredients make it truly stand out. To me, it is the equal of perfumes from Ormonde Jayne and the uber-luxury perfume house, Amouage, and far surpasses those of several other prestigious houses.

Jodphur - Temple at Mandore. Source: Travel Pictures Gallery.com

Jodphur – Temple at Mandore. Source: Travel Pictures Gallery.com

At the end of the day, though, Trayee is more than just decadently sumptuous. It is elegant and evocative, mysterious and seductive, complex and quite mesmerizing. Wearing it, I was transported back to India. I was back on Matheran, but I was also in the palaces of Jaipur, the ancient temples of Jodphur, and the bustling markets of modern Udaipur. Trayee represents each part of the mysterious, complex, ancient beauty that is India. It is, very clearly, a work of love.

DETAILS:

Cost & Availability: In the U.S., Trayee is available exclusively at Luckyscent where it costs $260 for a 50 ml bottle. Luckyscent also sells a small 0.7 ml sample for $7. (And the site ships world-wide.) In addition, Trayee can also be purchased as part of a Discovery Set which includes, Bombay Bling and Mohur, Neela Vermeire’s other two India collection perfumes. The set is available exclusively on the company’s website and costs €21 for three small 2 ml vials, or €85/90 (depending on your location) for three larger 10 ml decants. Shipping is included in the price and, apparently, Ms. Vermeire writes a personal note for each order. (How lovely and rare is that?!) In Europe, Trayee costs €200 for the 55 ml bottle and is available at Jovoy Paris, the Swiss Osswald Parfumerie and Munich’s Sündhaft. You can find a few additional retailers from the Netherlands to Moscow which carry Trayee on the store’s Points of Sale page.

Perfume Review: Amouage Jubilation XXV: An Oud Fit For A Sultan

The royal perfume house of Amouage would be perfect for a fairy tale or Greek myth. It would be the story of King Midas, and all he touched would be perfume gold. It would The Arabian Nightshave Ali Baba and a cave filled with treasures of scent and spice, incense and frankincense — not stolen by thieves but given freely by the Sultan with the order to create the most luxurious scent in all the land. Or, it would be the story of “Perfume” without serial killers and death, and with a happy ending.

As the renowned perfume critic, Luca Turin, said in a 2007 German magazine article:

The story of Amouage is remarkable. Twenty five years ago an Omani prince decided that his country, renowned since Egyptian times for the quality of its frankincense, home to the unique Green Mountain rose and on whose beaches half the world’s ambergris lands at random, needed a perfume firm that would take on the world’s greatest.

So, in 1983, His Highness Sayyid Hamad bin Hamoud al bu Said was ordered to do just that by His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said, the ruler of the Sultanate of Oman. As the perfume store Aedes explains, they wanted “to tell the world about the ingredients particularly found in Oman – the rarest frankincense from Dhofar in the south of the country and the rarest rose of all, the rock rose harvested high up in the mountains of the Jebel Akhdar range towering over the Sultanate’s beautiful capital, Muscat.”

A Thousand and One Nights.

A Thousand and One Nights.

Consequently, Amouage tends to use very Middle Eastern ingredients such as oud or agarwood, rose, incense, resins like labdanum, and spices. It also hires some of the most famous “noses” in the perfume world to create its fragrances, supposedly with an unlimited budget. No expense spared. And the result is some of the most expensive perfumes in the world, even if no longer the most expensive. (It amuses me that the Amouage website describes its offerings as “The Gift of Kings” because it truly means that – both literally and figuratively.)

The Sultan of Oman with Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands in Oman.

The Sultan of Oman with Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands in Oman.

On its 25th anniversary in 2007, Amouage launched two celebratory eau de parfums Amouage 2 Jubiliationsunder the guidance of its artistic director, Christopher Chong, and created by the famous orientalist nose, Bertrand Duchaufour. (“Orientalist” is Luca Turin’s description, not mine.) The men’s version was called Jubilation XXV and the women’s version was Jubilation 25. Both versions are eau de parfum concentration and both are essentially considered to be unisex fragrances. Certainly both genders seem to wear the different versions. I have both and plan to review Jubilation 25 tomorrow. For now, let’s focus on the men’s version.

Jubilation XXV is classified as an “Oriental Fougère” fragrance for men, which essentially means its a woody, aromatic oriental. (See the Glossary for a full explanation of the Fougère family of fragrances.) Fragrantica lists the notes as follows:

Top notes are orange, coriander, labdanum, tarragon, olibanum and blackberry;

middle notes are guaiac wood, cinnamon, bay leaf, honey, orchid, rose, clove and celery seeds;

base notes are opoponax, patchouli, myrrh, cedar, musk, oakmoss, ambergris, agarwood (oud) and immortelle.

Amouage describes the perfume’s evolution as follows:

With the grandeur of a great epic, Jubilation XXV opens majestically with notes of the finest frankincense from Oman.

At its heart are elegant notes of rose, orchid and smoky gaiac wood, evoking the philosophy of the enigmatic man carrying the essence of his sophistication across all eras and cultures.

Like the magic of a spellbinding epiphany, notes of musk, myrrh, cedarwood, ambegris, patchouli and immortelle resonate in the depth of the fragrance expressing his longing to travel far, across all continents, to find the ethereal unknown.

Jubilation XXV.

Jubilation XXV.

I don’t see it. Jubilation XXV opens with a massive bear hug of oud, concentrated honey, sweet myrrh, a  touch of saffron, an almost imperceptible whisper of blackberry, and a strongly boozy amber accord — all under the strong auspices of balsam-heavy orange amber. It is incredibly reminiscent of Hermès’ Elixir de Merveilles, a fragrance I truly adore and which I reviewed here. It is all bitter Seville oranges which, just like in the Elixir, are wrapped in bitter black chocolate (compliments of the patchouli), salt, amber and woody balsam. I find barely any of the supposedly massive blackberry accord that a vast majority of the people have noted. There is a miniscule hint of it seconds into Jubilation’s opening, but it is mere seconds for me. The real fruit that I smell is, as noted, orange.

I was so astonished by the similarities that I tested it out a second time, late in the evening, with a different perfume on each arm. The only difference between the two openings is the touch of oud but — bar that — they were essentially identical. I’m extremely surprised that no-one else has noticed, but I suspect that most men don’t realise the Elixir is really unisex, and perhaps the average Elixir woman isn’t likely to try a seemingly “men’s” oud fragrance.

The oud note is extremely interesting in Jubilation’s opening hour. It is a fleeting, flickering thing; a darting ghost that pops up unexpectedly for a little while before vanishing from sight. Numerous commentators have said that Jubilation is a ghost as a whole: one minute it’s here, the next it’s gone, then it’s back again. They say the scent keeps disappearing, before reappearing. I haven’t had that experience with Jubilation as a whole, but I have had it with the oud element. Sometimes, it feels as though there is absolutely no oud in Jubilation and that I somehow accidentally sprayed on my Elixir. At other times, it appears with an almost mentholated note that cools down and cuts through the narcotic headiness of the warm, boozy resins, the rich heavy balsam-infused orange, and the peppery, smoky frankincense.

The oud in Jubilation is not the sharply screechy, metallic clang of the very synthetic-smelling Montale Aouds that I’ve tried. Nor is it the more medicinal oud of YSL‘s M7. It is slightly closer to the softer ouds in the By Killian Arabian Nights collection (though, at this early stage, not to Kilian’s Pure Oud). No, the oud in Jubilation is too tamed and softened by the smoky resins and the balsam-infused orange. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; it merely means that Jubilation’s first stage is not oud-dominant. (That comes later.)

Nonetheless, as a whole, Jubilation lacks the edge and hardness of some oud perfumes. It certainly lacks the more extreme aspect of oud scents like M7 (in its original formulation) which have resulted in descriptions like “dangerous.” Jubilation is a complex, nuanced, layered, very high quality and extremely expensive, rich scent. But it’s not dangerous, if that is what you’re looking for. And, dammit, it smells a lot like an oud version of Hermès Elixir for the first hour! It even has the latter’s unusual salty quality; a hint of the sea air mixed with saltwater taffy.

I checked to see how many of the same ingredients they share; both perfumes have cedar, orange, patchouli, resins, ambergris and incense. Jubilation has a ton more notes than the Elixir, but many of those separate notes come very close to replicating the accords in the Elixir. The myrrh, opoponax (sweet myrrh), labdanum (resin), olbanum (frankincense) and immortelle all have sweet, smoky, incense-y notes that parallel the Elixir’s patchouli, Siam resin, caramel, sandalwood, tonka bean and incense. Immortelle, in particular, has a maple-syrup, honey, caramel aspect that is definitely echoed in the Elixir. (See the Glossary for more details and definitions of these various notes and perfume ingredients.)

The real differences between the two scents begin after the first hour. Jubilation start to lose that sweet head, and the full roar of the woods start to appear. The lingering and final traces of orange are mentholated now, not caramelized. There is also far greater smoke. I smell hints of the Guaiac wood whose scent is described by Fragrantica as “smoky, tarmac notes” and which one Basenotes commentator finds to have a “rosy, honeyed-sweet and slightly smoky and waxy-oily slightly rubbery aroma. The Guaiac wood is subtle, especially under the much more overpowering oud notes, but it’s there. I don’t smell the coriander, orchid, bay leaf, tarragon or celery seeds listed in the notes. I cook extensively, and I know what all those herbs smell like. And they’re not appearing on me.

After a few hours, Jubilation turns into an intimate frankincense and oud party. The oud is much, much stronger now. It’s as though the top notes had muzzled it but now, it’s free to soar. The smell evokes a wintery outdoors, a large stone campfire among the dark, dry woods, with a brisk, chill in the air and the smell of burning leaves. There is stone-like coldness, with sharp black pepper and a definitely leather undercurrent to this oud. As such, it is very reminiscent of By Kilian’s Pure Oud. There is also that rubbery, almost plastic-y but medicinal aspect to the oud that calls to mind the pink plastic sides of a bandaid. That part evokes YSL’s M7. I wonder at times how much of this is the oud and how much is the Guaiac wood with its tarmac, rubber, pepper and smoke notes that others have found. Perhaps it really is just the oud itself combined with the incense, smoke, and biting pepper of the frankincense.

It doesn’t matter. The final result is that the two overarching smells alternate between a gentle waltz, an intimately fiery tango, and a loud cha-cha-cha. They weave in and out of the room. Sometimes, they are snuggling in the dark shadows of the alcoves – just out of sight. At other times, they tango back into the room and the rat-a-tat-tat of their heels stomp up my arm and to my nose. Then they vanish again. It’s bewildering. If I hadn’t read all those comments about the perfume’s on-again, off-again vanishing act, I would think I was hallucinating or that my nose had gone wonky.

The ghost act makes it hard for me to assess the sillage of Jubilation. Its projection for the first hour is as big as everyone says, but then it becomes much more difficult to ascertain. More than one person has wondered if Jubilation was just so strong at the start that their nose “got used to it” for large stretches of time. I will say that, on me, Jubilation does not have the massive longevity that most report — but that is hardly anything new. All in all, Jubilation lasted about 5.5 hours on me, with the last 3 being close to the skin.

All in all, I liked Jubilation XXV, but I’m hardly tempted to share in the mass genuflection and obeisance for the fragrance. Much of the adoring, worshipful praise seems — to me — to stem from those lovely opening notes that some have compared to spices and dates (the fruit) in a Turkish bazaar. Believe me, I know how utterly divine those notes can be; I raved about them extensively for Hermès’ Elixir de Merveilles. I suspect the Elixir is precisely why I’m not more overwhelmed and passionate about Jubilation; I’ve already had the experience. But, for one who hasn’t and who is seeking an oud fragrance on top of it, then I suspect Jubilation XXV will make you rather weak at the knees. It is not an overwhelming, crushing oud fragrance but a very luxurious one that feels expensive. Which is just as well, given that it is expensive.

Bloody expensive, in fact! The usual bottle is 3.4 fl.oz/100 ml and costs $290, £170.00 or around €210. There is a smaller 1.7 oz/50 ml version that costs £140.00, but a cursory review of a few US websites shows it is not available on any of the usual or big perfume sites. I found the smaller size only at Beauty Encounter where it retails for $245. It’s not a particularly good deal, given that double the quantity (or 3.4 oz) costs only $50 more. (As a side note, the women’s version of Jubilation is slightly more expensive in general: $300 for 3.4 oz, instead of $290.)

Amouage Gold in actual gold.

Amouage Gold in actual gold.

So, is Jubilation XXV worth getting? As always, that is a subjective and personal decision, but the cost of Jubilation makes it a bit more complicated than that equation usually is. Amouage may no longer make the most expensive perfume in the world — that was Gold in 1983 — but it’s still not a walk in the park. Yet, for a large number of people, Jubilation XXV is a scent without compare, one of their all-time favorites, and completely worth every golden penny. I would suggest testing it out via a sample. If it steals your heart, wonderful. If not, then perhaps you can always layer one of your existing ouds (particularly if you already own one from By Kilian) with the significantly cheaper, but always marvelous, Elixir de Merveilles.

DETAILS:
Availability & Stores: In the US, Jubilation XXV can be purchased online at AedesFour SeasonsLuckyscent or Parfums Raffy. (Google and Parfums Raffy state that it is the authorized retailer for Amouage and that it provides free shipping.) If you want the smaller 1.7 oz version, you can go to Beauty Encounter. Samples of Jubilation can be purchased from all those places, as well as from Surrender to Chance (the decant site I always use) where the smallest vial costs $3.99. In London, I’ve read that Jubilation XXV is available at Harrods, Fortnum & Mason, Les Senteurs or the Amouage boutique. In Canada, I’ve read that it’s available at The Perfume Shoppe. In Germany, at First in Fragrance. And, of course, it is available world-wide on Amouage’s own website. The website also has a “Store Locator” for about 20 countries which should, hopefully, help you find Jubilation somewhere close to you.

Perfume Review – The Enchanted Forest by The Vagabond Prince & Bertrand Duchaufour

EF light

Source: J. Chanders at DeviantArt

Imagine a sea of pine and evergreens. There is a small hole in the thick blanket of trees through which the sun hits a golden light tunneling down to the dark, damp, forest floor. The ray of light hits turns some plants bright, incandescent green. Peeking out from behind the leaves are lush, ripe black currants. A few lie crushed — spilling out a crimson hue that contrasts brightly again the pine cones and the dark, grey-green mosses. All around, hidden outside the beacon of light, are the woods. Looming dark and majestic, they are silent, mysterious, unknown, and beckoning. That is The Enchanted Forest, Enchanted F bottlea newly released perfume for men and women created by Bertrand Duchaufour for the new niche perfume house, The Vagabond Prince.

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Source: Fragrantica

Bertrand Duchaufour has been called “the new pope of niche fragrances.” The legendary nose behind many L’Artisan Parfumeur scents — including Timbuktu and Dzongha — he has also created perfumes for Penhaligon, Créations Aromatiques, Comme de Garçon Kyoto, Acqua di Parma, Eau d’Italie, and, now, The Different Company.

BDuchaufour

Source: Fragrantica

Recently, however, he collaborated with The Vagabond Prince (a new niche perfume house out of California and owned by the founders of Fragrantica) on their first perfume, The Enchanted Forrest.

His thoughts and intentions behind the scent are quite instructive. In an article he wrote for Fragrantica, he states:

Enchanted Forest is a unique fragrance for several reasons. It is the only perfume I know of that is built around blackcurrant as the sole raw material, to such an extent that one can say it is a CASSIS. Another reason why we can speak of its uniqueness is the topic, this pagan festival that is the Kupala—a Slavic tradition that continues, more festive than other things at present, as a kind of homage to nature and the mysteries of the forest.

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Source: Fragrantica

At the same time, he wanted to evoke the dark, mysterious nature of a forest. So, he “chose the balsam fir, because it symbolizes the quintessential Russian forest,” seeking to link the “earthy notes” in the fragrance with “pine and the dried pine needles covering the floor of an endless pine and fir land.” (Id.)

But his goal was far more than just black currant, earth notes and slavic forests. Duchaufour explicitly sought to bring in a pagan element: joyful abandon, but with softness and femininity.

[N]either have I forgotten the joyful pagan side of the festival, by giving—mainly in the top notes—sparkling effects of citrus and alcohol (wine, coriander seed, pink pepper and just a trace of orange) that mingle with discrete floral notes but feminize the heart of the fragrance, such as hawthorn, rose, a touch of jasmine, carnation … just to offset everything else that could have made it a little too masculine. The whole composition oscillates between the dark masculine strength of the forest, the smooth, juicy and delicious blackcurrant and some soft flowers. The seduction which emanates from the bottom of the fragrance develops power with amber notes and very sophisticated musk.

Enchanted Forest is classified as a “woody aromatic” and its notes on the sample I received are as follows:

Top notes: pink pepper, aldehydes, sweet orange (traces), flower cassis, blackcurrant leaf, hawthorn, effects of rum and wine, rosemary, davana.
Heart notes: blackcurrant buds absolute (by LMR from Grasse), CO2 blackcurrant (by Floral Concept from Grasse), Russian coriander seed, honeysuckle, rose, carnation, vetiver
Base notes: opoponax resinoid, Siam benzoin, amber, oakmoss, fir balsam absolute, Patchouli Purecoeur®, castoreum absolute, cedar notes, vanilla, musk.

Source: Fragrantica.

Source: Fragrantica.

I was quite pleasantly shocked and pleased to receive a sample from the company, but I vowed I would always give you my blunt opinion regardless of how I obtained the perfume. And the bottom line is: I don’t think I’m the target audience for this very evocative, very well-made scent, but I’m sure it will be a hit.

prairie fruit

Source: Kayben Farms

The Enchanted Forest opens with a burst of cassis (which is the French name for black currants and what I’m used to using) and citrus. It’s the bright, zesty zing of a freshly grated lemon rind, and it’s a lovely pairing with the tart, sweet, fresh burst of cassis. Cassis doesn’t have the slightly over-ripe opulence of a purple (let alone a purple patchouli) fruit as used in perfume; it’s all tangy tartness with a touch of sweetness that is more aromatic and fragrant than actual, cloying sugariness. Cassis is often a note tasted in red wine, so it should be no surprise that the added “wine” notes simply underscore that aspect here. There are definite impressions of hot, mulled, spiced wine. In his Fragrantica article, Duchaufour attributed his “alcohol” smell to “wine, coriander seed, pink pepper and just a trace of orange.” I have to say, I don’t get any of those individual components, but I definitely get the sum total.

Seconds after opening, the heady scent of crushed pine needles and pine cones joins the party. Fir balsam absolute (natural pine fragrance in a concentrated form) is listed in the base notes of the fragrance, but it feels as though it starts at the top and runs all the way through the scent. Cassis and fir balsam are the heart and driving force behind The Enchanted Forest, and there is no way to ever forget that. In contrast, the oakmoss — a foundational element for chypre fragrances — stays at the base, as do some of the other notes like the cedar, the resins and the castoreum, to arise only later during the dry-down stage.

blackcurrant buds fruits with leaves

The black currant plant with buds, fruits and leaves. Photo Source: The Perfume Shrine

For the first 60 to 90 minutes, it’s predominantly cassis and fir that lead the show but, at the 30 minute mark, other guests start to appear. I smell the black currant leaf and some geranium, though they are fleeting. So, too, is the black currant bud absolute. The latter is an interesting ingredient and, given its greater role later on, I thought I would link to the explanation provided by the Perfume Shrine:

Black currant bud absolute is known as bourgeons de cassis in French …[and is different] from the synthetic “cassis” bases that can be cloying and which were so very popular in the 1980s and early 1990s perfumery, notably in Tiffany for Tiffany (by Jacques Polge) in 1987 and Poeme for Lancome (by Jacques Cavallier) in 1995. Compared to the artificial berry bases defined as “cassis,” the natural black currant bud absolute comes off as greener and lighter with a characteristic touch of cat. Specifically the ammoniac feel of a feline’s urinary tract, controversial though that may seem.

Black currant absolute comes from the bud… but also from the distilled leaves of the plant … and is extracted into a yellowish green to dark green paste that projects as a spicy-fruity-woody note retaining a fresh, yet tangy nuance, slightly phenolic.

I want to say up front that I do NOT smell ammoniac cat pee! Nor has anyone who has tried the scent thus far. However, in general, enough people seem to smell “cat piss” from black currant or black currant buds to warrant a surprising number of bewildered questions, articles or threads on the subject on the internet. Despite that, black currant buds are featured in a number of extremely popular, famous fragrances. A few examples are: Black Orchid by Tom Ford, Chamade and Champs Elysees by Guerlain, Gucci Rush II by Gucci, Escape by Clavin Klein, First by Van Cleef & Arpel, Beautiful by E.Lauder, In Love Again by YSL, Fan di Fendi by Fendi, and
Rock & Rose by Valentino. (Source: Fragrantica.)

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Source: Fragrantica

An hour and half in, Enchanted Forest has become a very forest green scent. The cassis is still there but this is a dappled mix of greens, from the pine and evergreen, to the fresh, almost herbal leaf of the cassis plant, to more cedar-y pine cones. I don’t smell the rosemary, vetiver, honeysuckle or a few other of the notes listed, but I get a definite hint of some sweet, nutty, amber-y resin and smoke. However, the perfume is so well blended, I can’t tell which of the resins may be the cause. It could be the Siam resin, the opoponax (sweet myrrh) resin, the amber, or, even, the patchouli.

All of this brings me to the issue of linearity. Some perfumes are called “linear” because they are essentially one flat trajectory. Others, however, don’t really deserve that slightly disparaging term because they are so well-blended that they are a harmonious whole. The Perfume Shrine has a very thorough explanation of and defense for the “deceptive simplicity” of what some may dismiss as a “linear” scent. As she explains, some scents are really not akin to a flat-line on a medical device but, rather, have prisms and shifting weights amongst several key components.

A variation on the linear scent is the “prism”/prismatic fragrance, whereupon you smell a humongous consistent effect all right, but when you squint this or that way, throughout the long duration, you seem to pick up some random note coming to the fore or regressing, then repeating again and again; a sort of “lather, rinse, repeat” to infinity. A good example of this sort of meticulously engineered effect is Chanel’s Allure Eau de Toilette (and not the thicker and less nuanced Eau de Parfum) where the evolution of fragrance notes defies any classical pyramidal structure scheme. There are six facets shimmering and overlapping with no one note predominating.
In short, the engineering of a perfume is sometimes much more technically and intelligently labored than appears at first sniff. Linear scents are never “simple”, so to speak. Preferring a perfume that takes you into a wave of highs peaks & low valleys of differing “notes” is not in itself the mark of connoisseurship that it is touted to be.

I can’t decide if I think the Enchanted Forest is a “prismatic” scent or not. At times, especially during the first two hours, it seems flat-out linear. All cassis and fir trees. But at other times, especially at differing times from hours two to four, it definitely seems to be a shifting prism, highlighting some aspects, then others — sometimes in as little as a few minutes time!

Which brings me to an odd thing I noticed. Two hours in, the perfume’s notes changed depending on where I had put it on my arm and when I smelled it. You see, I often place perfumes that I’m testing in various places up my arm (or arms). Usually, the scent remains the same no matter where it’s placed — pulse points or not. That was not the case here. On one wrist, I smelled ambery resin: warm, nutty, sweet. ambery and with what seemed to be the opoponax resin (a relation to myrrh) leading the way. On the inner crook of my elbow on my other arm, I smelled all pine cones, green cassis leaf, smoky incense and a dash of oakmoss. On my other wrist and the outside of my hand, it was pine, cassis and what seemed to be a dash of the rose! And, every few moments, the scents seemed to shift or alter in small degree. One minute, my wrist smelled of amber resin, a few minutes later, it smelled of pine cones, then it shifted back moments later to honey and amber. I honestly can’t understand it. I put them all on at the same time!

I think the flickering nature of the scents underscores that this is an extremely well-blended prismatic perfume, and not a purely linear one. There really is deceptive simplicity; you merely have to wait for the opening notes to subside before you realise it.

The development of Enchanted Forest went roughly as follows: the opening of cassis and pine balsam lasted a bit over an hour; the middle notes really began at hour 1.5 and lasted for about another two hours; and about four hours from when I first dabbed on the perfume, the dry-down began. It’s a resin party! All amber, smoke, incense and honeyed sweetness. It’s warm and it’s cozy.

The whole progression of the scent is extremely evocative. It’s as though you were outside in a dark forest at night, sipping mulled wine by the light of the fire. You are surrounded by crushed pine needles and cones and there is a touch of damp greenness in the air. Then, you stomp out the fire and come in from the cold, inside to the cozy warmth of a cottage with trails of smoke and cedar still lingering on your clothes. You sip some vanilla tea with honey; the fire crackles; amber is in the air. The perfume truly does evoke such a feeling.

Unfortunately, lovely as parts of this fragrance are, I fear it’s not for me. I wanted to like this smell, but I would never wear it. And it truly is me, and not the perfume. I simply am not a fruit girl. Granted, it’s not a sugary, cloying fruit by any means! It’s tart and fresh, and there are a plethora of green notes — the zing of a citrus rind; the bright, effervescent green of leaves; the dark black of a forest floor littered with pine cones and crushed needles; and the grey-green of mossy oakmoss. But, to my surprise, it’s still not for me. Despite the warm honeyed amber from the resins (I love Siam resin!), despite my love for myrrh and musk, cassis is at the heart of this fragrance. Its opening is a bit overwhelming for one who isn’t into fruit and, on me, its threads linger faintly even in the dry-down. And the thing which initially drew me to ask for a sample — the resins, myrrh and patchouli — have too subtle a character for my tastes. I have also suddenly realised that not a huge devotee of pine and fir. At least, not enough to warrant a scent with so much of it.

I know I am in a definite minority, especially judging by the comments on Fragrantica. There, the perfume was greeted with great praise by all those who received a sample. (And most actually wanted the cassis top note to last much, much longer!) I should note, however, that the perfume is made by the founders of Fragrantica itself. The Vagabond Prince is their company. I am not implying that the comments are biased, but I thought it was something I should note. That said, there is no doubt that this scent will be a crowd-pleaser, and not solely because of how well it brings to mind Christmas. It’s a charming, evocative, well-blended perfume with obviously high-quality, rich ingredients, no cloyingly over-sweet fruit, and clearly made with love. But it seems that I prefer my cassis in champagne, not on my skin.

DETAILS:
-Sillage: Very good for the first 2 hours, then there was less projection. It became close to the skin around 3.5 hours and very close to the skin from 4.5 hours onwards.
-Longevity: Very good. It lasted well over 6 hours and, as I say repeatedly, my skin consumes perfume. I think that this would last quite a while on others and initial reports on Fragrantica would seem to support that impression. However, the perfume is too new to have more detailed assessments of longevity. I will update this post when more information becomes available.
– Cost, Availability and Location: [UPDATE: This perfume has now been released in the US. You can find it on Min NewYork where it costs $180 for a 3.4 oz/100 ml bottle. ]
The perfume is now available in Paris. It’s release date was today, December 22, 2012. It costs 140 Euros for 100ml/3.4 oz. and is available at the luxe fragrance store, Jovoy Paris. The link to the Jovoy company website is: http://www.jovoyparis.com/. Full contact information is:
Parfums Rares Jovoy
4 Rue de Castiglione,
+33(0)140200619
contact@jovoyparis.com
In the US, the fragrance will be available to buy online on The Vagabond Prince website, as well as on Lucky Scent and in its retail boutique called Scent Bar (in Beverly Hills, CA). I will update this post as I get further information.